Up to 90 per cent of the people “currently ending up” in intensive care units (ICUs) have not received a Covid booster vaccine, Boris Johnson has said, as he urged people to get their third jabs.
The prime minister used an official visit to a vaccine centre in Milton Keynes on Wednesday to admit that Omicron “continues to cause real problems”, while defending his decision not to impose new rules in England – unlike the other three UK nations – saying the Covid variant remains “obviously milder” than its predecessor Delta.
“I’m sorry to say this but the overwhelming majority of people who are currently ending up in intensive care in our hospitals are people who are not boosted,” he said. “I’ve talked to doctors who say the numbers are running up to 90 per cent of people in intensive care.”
The PM added: “If you’re not vaccinated, you’re eight times more likely to get into hospital altogether. So, it’s a great thing to do. It’s very, very important. Get boosted for yourself, and enjoy new year sensibly and cautiously.”
Mr Johnson also told reporters Britons should “enjoy” their new year celebrations but in a “cautious and sensible way”, citing extra precautions such as ventilation, regular testing and getting a booster as means of doing this.
Following its “jingle jab” campaign over Christmas, the NHS is now calling on people to have a “jabby new year” after the latest government data suggested 39,923 more cases of Omicron were discovered in the UK in the last 24-hours. It brings the UK’s total infections of the variant up to 210,122, according to the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA).
Meanwhile, new cases of Covid hit a record-high 183,037 in the UK today, with both Scotland and England recording their highest-ever daily case figures.
Mr Johnson’s warning over hospital admissions comes as the NHS highlighted research from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC), which found that at the start of last month around three out of five patients in London’s ICUs had not received a jab, a figure the health service said was rising.
The PM spent Christmas at Chequers with his family, but broke what some were referring to as his “Covid silence” with the remarks he made today in Milton Keynes – less than an hour’s drive from the famed country estate.
Despite his advice on “regular testing” in the lead-up to New Year’s Eve, the UK has again begun experiencing a shortage of both PCR and rapid lateral flow tests.
Health secretary Sajid Javid blamed the UK’s supply issues on a “global shortage” of both kinds of tests, with senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale saying Mr Javid had told him personally that a British company making them “has ramped up its production line fourfold and [the government is] buying the lot”.
“But we are competing in a global market,” he added.
Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, described the situation as “a total shambles”.
“People are trying to do the right thing, follow the government’s own advice and test themselves regularly, but are prevented by the Conservative government’s incompetence,” the Labour MP said. “They need to get a grip and provide enough tests so people can keep themselves and everyone else safe.”
Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, added it was “now or never to get Covid tests to frontline workers”.
Around 51.6 million people in the UK have received the first dose of a Covid vaccine and 47.2 million have had two, the latest data shows, while only 32.6 million have taken up a booster. More than 800,000 of those third doses were administered during the five-day Christmas period alone, after the government sent out millions of text messages urging people to “get boosted now”.
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