Starmer takes dig at Boris saying 'we must all stick to the rules'

Sir Keir Starmer takes dig at Boris Johnson saying ‘we must all stick to the rules… however inconvenient’ as he uses Covid address to describe Labour’s ‘patriotism’ and insist Britain needs ‘leadership we can trust’

  • Sir Keir Starmer has announced the Labour Party is supporting the Government’s new Covid crackdown
  • In a pre-recorded televised address, he accused Ministers of acting too slowly in the face of Omicron 
  • The Labour leader insisted people should ‘stick to rules’ – a nod to allegations of No10’s Christmas parties 
  • Boris Johnson announced all eligible adults in England are to be offered a third dose by the end of the month

Sir Keir Starmer has announced he is supporting the Government’s new Covid crackdown and efforts to ramp up the booster jab programme as he urged people to ‘stick to the rules’ to help prevent the NHS from being ‘overwhelmed’ by the Omicron variant.

In a pre-recorded televised address to the nation this evening, the Labour leader accused Ministers of acting too slowly in the face of the threat from the fast-spreading strain and said the country needs ‘leadership we can trust’.

Sir Keir also insisted that people should ‘stick to the rules’ – in what is likely to be regarded as a thinly-veiled refence to allegations of rule-busting Christmas parties at Downing Street last year.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that all eligible adults in England are to be offered a third dose of the vaccine by the end of the month.

In the BBC One broadcast, Sir Keir urged people to get their top-up injections and confirmed that the Labour Party would be supporting the Government’s so-called ‘Plan B’ measures tomorrow, which include orders to work from home, compulsory facemasks and controversial Covid passports for large venues. 

This means the restrictions will sail through the Commons tomorrow despite Tory murmurings of a large rebellion against the Covid crackdown.

The Labour leader pleaded: ‘At times like this, we must all put the national interest first and play by the rules. Of course I understand that sticking to the rules can be inconvenient but stick to the rules we must.

‘It would be easy to let the festivities we’ve all been looking forward to, divert us from our national duty. Getting jabbed, wearing masks and working from home if we can really will help prevent infections and help prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.’

He added: ‘We may not be certain how dangerous it is but we do know that lives are at risk and again our NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed. If that happens more people will die. So we must do everything that we can to protect the NHS.’

Sir Keir Starmer has announced he is supporting the Government’s new Covid crackdown and efforts to ramp up the booster jab programme as he urged people to ‘stick to the rules’ to help prevent the NHS from being ‘overwhelmed’ by the Omicron variant

Sir Keir also insisted that people should ‘stick to the rules’ – in what is likely to be regarded as a thinly-veiled refence to allegations of rule-busting Christmas parties at Downing Street last year

People queuing outside the St Thomas vaccination centre in Westminster, London

 

 

The entire NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March today after the UK’s Omicron outbreak surged by 50 per cent in a day and the first death with the mutant strain was confirmed.

Health service bosses have raised the alert to level four meaning they believe there is a real threat that an influx of Covid patients could start to force the closure of other vital services.

The move comes as the NHS was told to put non-urgent care on the backburner once again and lead the country’s mammoth Omicron-busting booster vaccine drive which aims to offer all 53million adults a third dose by the end of January — a goal that would require the programme doubling its current daily rate.

It came as officials confirmed another 1,576 cases of the highly-evolved Omicron variant over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 4,713 — however this is believed to be a vast underestimate with the true number several times greater because not all positive tests are analysed for variants.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said the best estimate was that there are currently 200,000 overall daily infections across the country, with Omicron expected to become dominant in London by tomorrow and nationally within days.

Yet, the Department of Health’s daily update revealed that there were only 54,661 overall Covid cases in the past 24 hours, marking a rise of just 6 per cent week-on-week. 

No10’s scientific advisers have warned this could rise to an astronomical 1million per day by the end of the month if Omicron continues to spread at its current pace. The DOH also recorded another 926 daily hospital admissions, up 14 per cent in a week, and 38 deaths, down 7 per cent.

Sir Keir said delivering the accelerated booster jab programme would be a ‘big challenge’ but that he was confident the public would rise to meet it.

‘Time and time again the British people have risen to the challenge so let’s pull together now and do the right thing once more,’ he said.

The NHS will need to exceed 840,000 booster jabs per day in a bid to fight Omicron, which is causing around 200,000 new infections per day, the Health Secretary has said.

Sajid Javid told MPs that every adult across England could expect to be offered a ‘chance to get boosted by the end of this month’ though he suggested not everyone would get a dose in December.

He said: ‘It is asking a huge amount of our colleagues in the NHS. And it’s our joint view that we can try to offer adults a chance to get boosted by the end of this month. And that does not mean every single person necessarily can get that booster, it requires them to come forward and to take up this offer as well, as well as everything going right in this huge expansion plan.’

It follows confusion over whether the Government has promised that people can all have a jab in their arm by the December 31 deadline, or whether they will just have an offer of a future vaccine.

Earlier, Boris Johnson announced the first UK death with Omicron during a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington in west London.

The Prime Minister said: ‘Sadly, yes, Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron. So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters.’

Mr Johnson repeatedly declined to rule out further coronavirus restrictions ahead of Christmas but stressed the urgency of people getting boosters.

‘Throughout the pandemic I’ve been at great pains to stress to the public that we have to watch where the pandemic is going and we take whatever steps are necessary to protect public health,’ he added.

In England a booster is available to everyone aged 18 or over from this week as long as the second dose was at least three months ago. Over-30s can already book a booster online and, from Wednesday, this will be extended to over-18s.

Mr Johnson said MPs thinking of rebelling against Plan B measures needed to recognise there was ‘no room for complacency’ in dealing with Omicron.

Asked about support among his backbenchers ahead of Tuesday’s vote, the Prime Minister told broadcasters: ‘I think that what everybody needs to recognise is a couple of things, that Omicron is a very serious risk to public health, and that it’s spreading very fast, and I think there’s no room for complacency.

‘But we have the vaccines, our position remains incomparably better than it was last year.

‘And I hope that people will also understand, colleagues in Westminster, around the country, will also see that the measures we’re putting in place are balanced and proportionate.’  

Tories are particularly opposed to making NHS Covid passes, displaying vaccine status or a negative lateral flow result, mandatory for entry to large venues such as nightclubs. The measures are expected to be approved with Labour’s support, but that would be a significant blow to Mr Johnson’s leadership, as he faces anger for allegedly rule-breaking parties in the run-up to Christmas last year.

Three jabs for a Covid passport, warns Sajid: Health Secretary says booster jabs will be needed for Covid passes once Brits have had a ‘reasonable chance’ to get them – as new laws reveal £10,000 fine for faking proof to get into nightclubs or events 

Sajid Javid tonight warned that booster jabs will soon be required to be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’.

The Health Secretary told the Commons that the government intends to change the definition as soon as all adults have had a ‘reasonable change’ to get a booster.

The comment came after Boris Johnson’s bid to ramp up the rollout risked descending into shambles, with booking websites crashing and huge queues at walk-in centres.

Mr Javid ran the gauntlet of Tory anger at the new ‘Plan B’ restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant in the Commons this evening. More than 70 MPs are threatening to rebel in crunch votes on the plans tomorrow.

He pointed out that the incoming rules on Covid passes meant that from Wednesday people will need to show a negative lateral flow test to go to nightclubs or large events.

Mr Javid said that those who are double-jabbed will be exempt – but added: ‘Once all adults have had a reasonable chance to get their booster jabs we intend to change this exemption to require a booster dose.’

The Cabinet minister significantly refused to give an exact timeline, amid criticism that the government is not being clear about whether all adults will get dates for jabs that fall before January 1 – or whether the bookings will be merely made before New Year’s Day.

Westminster was on watch for the resignation of ministerial aides, with up to 10 parliamentary private secretaries reported to be preparing to quit to rebel against the plans.

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to to a vaccination clinic near Paddington, west London, the Prime Minister said: ‘I think what everybody needs to recognise is a couple of things: that Omicron is a very serious risk to public health, and that it is spreading really fast and there’s no room for complacency.’

He said the vaccines mean the country is in an ‘incomparably better’ position than last year, adding: ‘And I hope that people will also understand, colleagues in Westminster and around the country, will also see that the measures we’re putting in place are balanced and proportionate.’

Mr Johnson said the vaccine rollout means ‘we actually have an economy and a society that is more open than virtually any other in Europe’.

He added: ‘I will make my case to my friends, to the public, to everybody – what drives me in this is concern for public health, and what I think is absolutely obvious to everybody who studies the data is if we can get boosted now, protect ourselves now, then we will have a much, much better chance of having a protected NHS going into next year.’

The Plan B restrictions also include compulsory mask-wearing indoors in most public places, and guidance for people to work from home where possible.

NHS Covid passes showing full vaccination or a recent negative test will be required for entry to indoor venues containing more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people, from Wednesday.

Mr Johnson’s landslide victory in the 2019 general election left him with a Commons majority of about 80 MPs.

If around 75 Tories who have indicated their opposition vote against the measures rather than abstain, they would deliver an even bigger revolt than was seen against the strengthened tiered system of coronavirus restrictions in December last year, when 55 Tories voted against the measures.

There are expected to be ‘a number of votes’ on the different regulations, Downing Street said.

Conservative MP Marcus Fysh, one of the rebels, was criticised for comparing the plans to the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

‘We are not a ‘papers please’ society. This is not Nazi Germany,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live. ‘It’s the thin end of an authoritarian wedge and that’s why we will resist it.’

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, responded: ‘It is completely unacceptable to compare the proposed vaccine passports with Nazi Germany.

‘We urge people, particularly those in positions of authority, to avoid these highly inappropriate comparisons.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘We are facing a tidal wave of Omicron and these Plan B measures are a vital part of enabling us to buy time so that we can get more of these booster doses in arms and provide the protection that will protect both lives and livelihoods.

‘On the issue of certification, as I said, it requires proof of a negative test unless you are double vaccinated, and it allows us to keep some of these settings open, which is vital for hospitality, where otherwise we would have had no choice but to close them, which no one wants to see.’

It comes as the UK recorded its first death involving Omicron, and 10 people are in hospital with the variant. Most of these 10 have received two vaccines and range in age from 18 to 85, though there are no details on whether they have underlying conditions.

Mr Javid told the Commons: ‘Until now the highest number of jabs that we’ve delivered in a single day in the UK was over 840,000. We’ll not only need to match that but we will need to beat that every day. But we can and we’ve got a plan to try and do it.

NHS England was put on the highest level of alert for the first time since March. Level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that an expected influx of Covid patients could start to force the closure of other vital services

Two Covid jabs should still slash risk of dying from Omicron or being hospitalised by 84% even if they offer virtually zero protection against symptoms, SAGE estimates 

Two Covid jabs should still slash the risk of dying from Omicron by up to 84 per cent but a booster is twice as good at preventing someone from falling ill, according to official estimates.

SAGE modelling published over the weekend worked off the assumption that two Pfizer doses give 83.7 per cent protection against hospitalisation and death from the highly-evolved strain.

A two-dose course of AstraZeneca’s vaccine was estimated to reduce the risk of severe disease from Omicron by 77.1 per cent. However, both vaccine brands were assumed to wane within three to six months.

At that point, the Government’s scientific advisers believe protection from two AstraZeneca jabs could be as low as 61.3 per cent and 67.6 per cent for Pfizer.

A booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was estimated to top-up immunity to over 93 per cent, regardless of which jab someone was originally given — providing a similar level of protection as two doses did against Delta.

The estimates were presented in modelling by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) on Saturday and are based on lab studies looking at antibodies. The model warned that the vaccine-resistant Omicron variant may lead to more hospitalisations than England’s second wave last January, when up to 4,000 infected patients were being admitted to NHS facilities every day.

Scientists have been racing to work out how effective existing vaccines will perform on the Omicron strain since it was first discovered on November 24. There was huge concern that it would be unrecognisable to jabs because of the 30-plus mutations on its spike protein.

‘We’re opening more vaccination sites including pop-up and mobile sites that’ll be working seven days a week. We are training thousands more volunteer vaccinators, we’re asking GPs and pharmacies to do more and we’re drafting in 42 military planning teams across every region of our country.’

Mr Javid said he acknowledge that ‘our national mission comes with some difficult trade-offs’, meaning some non-urgent appointments and surgery in the NHS may be cancelled.

He added: ‘These are steps that no Health Secretary would wish to take unless they were absolutely necessary, but I am convinced that if we don’t prioritise the booster now the health consequences will be far more grave in the months that lie ahead.’

Mr Javid told MPs there are now 4,713 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, adding that the UK Health Security Agency estimates that the current number of ‘daily infections are around 200,000’.

He added: ‘While Omicron represents over 20 per cent of cases in England, we’ve already seen it rise to over 44 per cent in London and we expect it to become the dominant Covid 19 variant in the capital in the next 48 hours.’

Mr Javid also urged people to have boosters as a way of protecting children.

Robert Halfon, Conservative chairman of the Education Select Committee, asked Mr Javid to ‘make sure schools are kept open in January’.

Mr Javid said: ‘One of the reasons to take the measures we’ve said, especially around expanding the booster programme, is to make sure we can prioritise our children.’

Downing Street has indicated schools will be kept open unless there is an ‘absolute public health emergency’ and warned local authorities against deciding to close early for Christmas as a precautionary measure.

‘There are certainly no plans to put in any restriction on schooling, we know how vital education has been and how detrimental the pandemic has been towards children and young people who, in many cases, have borne the brunt of this,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Responding to the fact the Government website said on Monday ‘there are no more home tests available’ when people tried to order lateral flow kits, the Prime Minister said there was a ‘ready supply’ of tests.

The UK Health Security Agency said earlier that ‘due to exceptionally high demand, ordering lateral flow tests on gov.uk has been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders’.

It added: ‘Everyone who needs a lateral flow test can collect test kits, either at their local pharmacy, some community sites and some schools and colleges.’

But Labour shadow health minister Wes Streeting described Covid testing as a ‘shambles’.

He told MPs that pharmacies across the country are out of stock, ‘and even here in Parliament there are no home-testing kits available from Portcullis House’.

He said an increase in demand should have been foreseen and said: ‘This is a serious problem.’

It comes as Wales’ First Minister announced urgent plans to offer the booster vaccine to all eligible adults by the end of the year during a televised address.

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government is accelerating the booster programme as new evidence has emerged showing two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are not enough to offer protection against the new Omicron variant.

Omicron is expected to have become the dominant form of the virus in Wales by the end of December, Mr Drakeford confirmed. He said this would bring ‘a new wave of infections and illness’. There are currently 30 confirmed cases of Omicron in the country.

In a message, broadcast to the nation on BBC Wales at 6.30pm, and on social media at 7pm, he said: ‘We must be prepared for Omicron cases to rise quickly and very steeply – just as they have in other parts of the UK. We are still learning about this new form of coronavirus. All the information we have tells us we are facing a very serious situation.

‘By the end of the month, Omicron will have become the dominant form of the virus in Wales, bringing a new wave of infections and illness. This could then translate into a large number of people needing hospital treatment just at a time when the NHS is already under significant pressure.’

He added: ‘We have already taken some steps to increase protections in Wales and we may need to take some further steps to keep Wales safe.’

Mr Drakeford said the aim was to offer all adults a booster by the end of the year.  Scotland has also committed to delivering booster jabs to everyone over 18 by the end of the year.

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