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Boris Johnson has issued a stark warning to the over-40s and said that booster coronavirus jabs will likely be needed to allow adults to travel without quarantine or restriction – but refuses to rule out a Christmas lockdown.

The Prime Minister today revealed that eight million adults over the age of 40 will be offered the third jab in a bid to reduce the risk of Covid restrictions this winter and allow passengers to travel without needing to quarantine.

Mr Johnson warned of a Covid ‘blizzard from the East’ as ministers refused to rule out re-imposing tough travel restrictions on Europe amid fears over surging cases. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said all adults over the age of 40 should be offered a booster, six months after their second dose as new data shows the booster cuts the risk of infection by more than 80 per cent.

Since September all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable – 32million Britons in total – have been eligible for third doses. Yesterday this was extended to all those aged 40 to 49, who can book their jabs from Monday.    

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said: ‘If we want to control the epidemic here in the UK and if we want to avoid restrictions on our daily lives we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.’

Boris Johnson has issued a stark warning to the over-40s and said that booster jabs will likely be needed to travel without quarantine or restriction

Boris Johnson has issued a stark warning to the over-40s and said that booster jabs will likely be needed to travel without quarantine or restriction

Boris Johnson has issued a stark warning to the over-40s and said that booster jabs will likely be needed to travel without quarantine or restriction

Boris Johnson today admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards. He warned 'storm clouds' of infection were gathering over Europe and forcing nations back into restrictions, which highlighted how the UK 'cannot afford to be complacent'

Boris Johnson today admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards. He warned 'storm clouds' of infection were gathering over Europe and forcing nations back into restrictions, which highlighted how the UK 'cannot afford to be complacent'

Boris Johnson today admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards. He warned ‘storm clouds’ of infection were gathering over Europe and forcing nations back into restrictions, which highlighted how the UK ‘cannot afford to be complacent’

Since September all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable – 32million Britons in total – have been eligible for third doses. Yesterday this was extended to all those aged 40 to 49, who can book their jabs from Monday

Since September all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable – 32million Britons in total – have been eligible for third doses. Yesterday this was extended to all those aged 40 to 49, who can book their jabs from Monday

Since September all over-50s and the clinically vulnerable – 32million Britons in total – have been eligible for third doses. Yesterday this was extended to all those aged 40 to 49, who can book their jabs from Monday 

Mr Johnson admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards as he made a desperate plea for Britons to get their booster jabs and the UK’s daily Covid cases continued to rise. 

The PM — who appeared to be suffering from a cold — warned ‘storm clouds’ of infection were gathering over Europe and forcing nations back into restrictions, which highlighted how the UK ‘cannot afford to be complacent’. 

He said people should get a booster if they want to ‘avoid restrictions on daily lives’, adding that it would be an ‘utter tragedy’ if double-vaccinated people died from Covid because they didn’t get one. 

Mr Johnson also admitted people might need proof of a booster jab to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ in the future, in a move which could cause fresh chaos for Britons’ travel plans. 

The warnings came as Britain recorded another 39,705 daily coronavirus infections, which were up nearly a quarter on last Monday’s figure. But deaths and hospital admissions – both lagging indicators – fell week-on-week.

There were 47 Covid victims registered today, down 18 per cent on last week, and latest hospital data shows there were 976 admissions on November 9, down 7.5 per cent.

The PM issued his warning at a Downing Street press conference, where he also confirmed that people in their forties will be offered a booster jab and older teenagers will get second doses. 

Asked if a lockdown would be necessary if cases continue to rise, the PM said ‘clearly we cannot rule anything out’ but insisted he didn’t ‘see anything in the data that says we have to go now’.

The comments came after Austria announced a draconian new lockdown on the unvaccinated, after a dramatic increase in infections, and the Netherlands imposed a curfew on pubs and restaurants to deal with rising cases. 

Germany, France and Italy have also been seeing a significant uptick in their outbreaks. The PM was joined today by his chief scientists Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance at the Government’s first Covid briefing of the month.  

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation earlier approved the booster vaccines to an extra 8million Britons in their forties. It said people could come forward for them ‘with the confidence that they are safe and effective’. A total of 12m top-up doses have already been administered. 

Data published today by the UK Health Security Agency revealed that people who get a third shot are 80 per cent less likely to get symptomatic Covid than those who had their second dose in spring. 

There has not been enough time to measure the effect on hospitalisations and deaths but officials claimed protection is expected to be ‘even higher’.

Mr Johnson admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards as he made a desperate plea for Britons to get their booster jabs and the UK's daily Covid cases continued to rise (stock image)

Mr Johnson admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards as he made a desperate plea for Britons to get their booster jabs and the UK's daily Covid cases continued to rise (stock image)

Mr Johnson admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards as he made a desperate plea for Britons to get their booster jabs and the UK’s daily Covid cases continued to rise (stock image)

Professor Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, told today’s press conference that even though the Covid numbers are ‘broadly flat’, there was ‘substantial pressure on the NHS and that is widely recognised by everybody, ministers obviously included.’

‘But in terms of the Covid numbers, they’re not currently going up in the kind of numbers you’re seeing in continental Europe, but obviously if they did that would be a situation where we would have to look again at what the situation is at that stage.’

Mr Johnson said there was nothing in the data to suggest the country needed to move to Plan B of Covid measures — but accepted it nothing could be taken off the table.

He told a press briefing: ‘Clearly we cannot rule anything out and the most important thing people can do to prevent further NPIs from being taken is to – non-pharmaceutical interventions that is, further restrictions – get the boosters.’

The booster programme was today expanded to over-40s. Previously, it had only been open to the top 9 priority groups. People are only eligible if they had their second shot at least six months ago

The booster programme was today expanded to over-40s. Previously, it had only been open to the top 9 priority groups. People are only eligible if they had their second shot at least six months ago

The booster programme was today expanded to over-40s. Previously, it had only been open to the top 9 priority groups. People are only eligible if they had their second shot at least six months ago

Could Covid ‘blizzard from the east’ blow away holiday hopes? Boris warns on ‘storm of infection’ and surging cases in Europe as ministers refuse to rule out re-imposing tough restrictions on travel 

Boris Johnson today warned of a Covid ‘blizzard from the East’ as ministers refused to rule out re-imposing tough travel restrictions on Europe amid fears over surging cases.

The PM raised fears that a ‘storm of infection’ on the continent could derail the UK’s emergence from the pandemic – pleading with Britons to come forward for booster jabs.

The comments came after Austria imposed a draconian new lockdown on the unvaccinated, after a dramatic increase in infections.

Germany, France and Italy have also been seeing a significant uptick in their outbreaks.

Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to a medical centre in east London, the PM stressed he did not see any need currently to switch to ‘Plan B’, of compulsory masks and working from home.

‘But what we certainly have got to recognise is there is a storm of infection out there in parts of Europe, you can see those numbers ticking up very sharply in some of our continental friends,’ he said.

‘And we’ve just got to recognise that there is always a risk that a blizzard could come from the east again, as the months get colder.

‘The best protection for our country is for everybody to go forward and get that booster.’

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He said ‘GPs are hitting it out of the park again’ delivering booster vaccines with numbers rising.

He added: ‘It’s starting to build a lot of momentum, but we need to see those 50-plus groups and the 60-plus groups – who can also wind up in hospital very, very easily – getting their booster as soon as you’re called forward to get it. That’s the best protection we can have.

‘But to repeat, I see nothing in the data at the moment that makes me think we have to go to further measures.’

The PM warned there were ‘storm clouds’ gathering over parts of Europe with a ‘new wave’ of the virus sweeping through central Europe and now affecting western Europe.

‘We don’t yet know the extent to which this new wave will sweep up on our shores but history shows that we cannot afford to be complacent,’ he said.

‘Those countries with lower vaccination rates have tended to see bigger surges in infection and in turn been forced to respond with harsher measures while those countries with higher vaccination rates have so far fared better.

‘It shows us that if we want to control the epidemic here in the UK and if we want to avoid restrictions on our daily lives we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.’ He admitted that boosters could soon be required for a person to constitute being fully vaccinated.

‘On boosters, it’s very clear that getting three jabs – getting your booster – will become an important fact and it will make life easier for you in all sorts of ways, and we will have to adjust our concept of what constitutes a full vaccination to take account of that. And I think that is increasingly obvious.

‘The booster massively increases your protection – it takes it right back up to over 90 per cent. As we can see from what’s happening, the two jabs sadly do start to wane, so we’ve got to be responsible and we’ve got to reflect that fact in the way we measure what constitutes full vaccination.’

Professor Whitty said that were were ‘beginning to see a winter respiratory effect’ of other viruses impacting on the coronavirus pandemic.

England’s chief medical officer added: ‘There has already been a very significant increase in eastern Europe which is still ongoing, with significant numbers of people dying, in particular among the unvaccinated.

‘That has now moved westward and, as you can see, is now increasing significantly, also in many western European countries.

‘We all knew – everywhere in Europe we knew – that as we went into winter, into the typical respiratory virus/flu season, that the risks would be greater, and I think this is a demonstration of the fact that we’re beginning to see a winter respiratory effect.’

Meanwhile, Professor Whitty urged hesitant women who are pregnant or wishing to get pregnant to get their Covid vaccine, highlighting data which showed their risk of severe Covid.

‘I would … like to pull out in particular the issue of women who are pregnant or intending to get pregnant. And I would just like to give you some fairly stark facts about this because this is a major concern.

‘Based on academic data from February 1 to September 30 … 1,714 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid. Of those, 1,681, which is to say 98 per cent, had not been vaccinated.

‘And if you go to those who are very severely ill in intensive care, of 235 women admitted to ICU, 232 of them – over 98 per cent – had not been vaccinated.

‘These are preventable admissions to ICU and there have been deaths. All the medical opinion is really clear that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks in every area. 

‘This is a universal view among doctors and among the midwife advisory groups and among the scientific advisory groups. So can I please encourage all women who are pregnant or wishing to become pregnant to get their vaccination.’

Earlier, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, told a separate Downing Street conference today that high uptake of boosters this winter could ‘massively reduce the worry about Covid hospitalisations’ this Christmas.

Chris Whitty urges pregnant women to get vaccinated as 98% of mothers-to-be in ICU are unjabbed 

Nearly every pregnant woman admitted to intensive care is unvaccinated, England’s chief medical officer warned today as he urged expectant mothers to get jabbed.

Professor Chris Whitty shared ‘stark’ figures that just 33 vaccinated pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid over eight months this year, compared to 1,681 unvaccinated expectant mothers.

And just three infected pregnant women admitted to intensive care were vaccinated, compared to 232 infected unvaccinated women, he said.

Professor Whitty told a Downing Street press conference this afternoon that the hospitalisation of unvaccinated pregnant women is ‘preventable’ and it is ‘clear the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks in every area’.

There is no evidence that the Covid jabs harm fertility or are unsafe for pregnant women.

Professor Whitty said: ‘I would … like to pull out in particular the issue of women who are pregnant or intending to get pregnant. 

‘And I would just like to give you some fairly stark facts about this because this is a major concern.

‘Based on academic data from February 1 to September 30 … 1,714 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid. 

‘Of those, 1,681, which is to say 98 per cent, had not been vaccinated.

‘And if you go to those who are very severely ill in intensive care, of 235 women admitted to ICU, 232 of them – over 98 per cent – had not been vaccinated.

‘These are preventable admissions to ICU and there have been deaths. 

He added: ‘All the medical opinion is really clear that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks in every area. 

‘This is a universal view among doctors and among the midwife advisory groups and among the scientific advisory groups.

‘So can I please encourage all women who are pregnant or wishing to become pregnant to get their vaccination.’

There is no evidence vaccines are unsafe for women who are pregnant, because the side effects reported are similar to those seen among women who are not pregnant.

And real world data shows the virus is a bigger risk for pregnant women, especially if they catch it in their third trimester or have underlying conditions, because there have been more cases of premature and stillbirths among this group.

Data also shows there is no evidence the jabs harm unborn babies and there is no ingredient in the vaccines that can infect a child.

The Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists and the British Fertility Society has reassured women there is ‘absolutely no evidence’ or mechanism that would allow the jabs to affect fertiliy. 

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Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden warned a ‘decent’ Christmas was ‘in our hands’ as he urged the nation to take up their booster jabs. 

It was also announced today that 16 and 17-year-olds will be offered a second dose of their Covid vaccine.

They will be given the second vaccine 12 weeks following their first jab because evidence suggests the longer gap reduces the risk of side effects. Officials had delayed a decision on second doses while they investigated reports of heart inflammation in young people. 

Eligible people can pre-book their vaccine five months after their second dose, but they will only get their booster after six months have passed. Over-40s will be offered either a dose of Pfizer or Moderna as a booster, regardless of which jab they were initially vaccinated with. 

All over-50s were invited to get their third doses in September after data showed immunity levels had started to wane. 

Over-40s will be invited for their third dose from January, about six months after when second doses were dished out in the age group.

Professor Wei Shen Lin, who chairs the JCVI, told a Downing Street press conference that under-40s may also be invited for a top up shot at ‘some point’.

He said: ‘We don’t know whether that is definitely the case yet. We are looking very closely at the data all the time and should there be sufficient signal to warrant a third dose, so a booster dose for this age group, then certainly we will announce that and advise that accordingly.’

Professor Van-Tam urged Britons to get their third shots to ensure the country could have an ‘as safe and disruption-free winter as possible’.

He told the briefing: ‘People keep asking me about Christmas. 

‘I think for Christmas and the winter period, we can expect respiratory viruses to be around and we are particularly concerned that flu will come back and add to our problems, and it could be quite a bumpy few months ahead.

‘But everyone has a key role to play in achieving as safe and disruption-free a winter as possible.

‘Wear face coverings in crowded places if it is practical to do so, increase indoor ventilation whenever you can, make sure you are vaccinated and, like any medicine, make sure you finish the course.

‘And when you are called for your booster please come forwards at pace so that we as a whole UK can get on and finish this job.’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he had accepted the JCVI’s advice to expand the booster programme to younger age groups, and to offer 16 to 17-year-olds a second dose.

He said the NHS has already been asked to prepare to offer the vaccine to these age groups.

‘We know immunity to Covid begins to wane after six months and new data published today shows a third dose boosts protection against symptomatic infection to more than 90 per cent — this highlights just how important it is that everyone eligible gets their top-up jabs as soon as possible.

‘The JCVI will keep under review whether the booster programme should be extended to all people under the age of 40 and I look forward to receiving their advice in due course.

‘This is a national mission – the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones and I urge everybody to get your jabs as soon as you can.’ 

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA — the UK’s drug regulator, said: ‘This further strengthens our ability to ensure people are protected against Covid and saves lives.

‘Our safety monitoring to date shows that Covid vaccines continue to have a positive safety profile for the majority of people. 

‘The vast majority of reactions which are reported relate to expected side-effects such as injection site reactions and flu-like symptoms, as was seen in our initial assessment.’

The booster programme was accused of being too sluggish last month, with hundreds of elderly people saying they could not find out where to book their appointment.

Repeat Covid jabs could be offered for ‘years to come’, says SAGE adviser 

Britons could be offered top up doses of the Covid vaccine for years to come, a SAGE adviser said today.

Professor Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), said that repeat vaccinations could keep Covid at bay. 

He told Sky News: ‘In the longer term, Covid is likely to become endemic and we probably are going to have to manage it with repeated vaccination campaigns for years to come.’

Asked whether he felt confident about a ‘normal Christmas’, Prof Tildesley added: ‘I’m cautiously optimistic.

‘If we look at (the trends) we can see that although there has been quite a lot of variation over the past few weeks, and we’re still reporting very high numbers of cases, the total number of daily hospital admissions and the total number of deaths are quite a long way below where we were in November last year, which should give us some level of confidence.’

He added: ‘The booster vaccination campaign is going far better than it was a few weeks ago, but there’s still quite a lot of eligible people who have not yet had their booster jab.

‘So it’s really important if we do want to avoid restrictions ramping up that we get as many of those people out to get their booster jabs as possible over the next few weeks.’

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Ministers tweaked the booking system to allow people to book their booster from five months after their second dose, to help them get it in the diary. 

But many elderly people are still being left without adequate protection after NHS staff noted down the date of their second dose incorrectly.

Retired taxi driver Michael Kelly, 70, from Gateshead, told the Telegraph he received his second jab almost seven months ago on April 23. But NHS staff noted it down as June 18 — two months later, leaving him spending hours on the phone to 119 trying to book his follow-up appointment. 

Some 360,000 boosters are being dished out every day on average, up about a third from 270,000 a fortnight ago. Three quarters of over-75s have already got their boosters.

Calling on Britons to get their top up doses today, Mr Dowden warned that Christmas was ‘in our hands’.

He told Sky News: ‘If you get the booster when the call comes that is the biggest wall of defence that we have against Covid.

‘I am confident that if we stick the course, people take the boosters when they are asked to do so, that vaccine wall will hold up and we will be able to have a decent Christmas this year.

‘There are no plans to stop Christmas happening. The huge difference this time is the vaccine.’

He cautioned however that controls could be needed if the situation changed dramatically, such as the emergence of a new Covid variant.

‘We haven’t ruled it out. If the situation change dramatically we would have to review that again.’

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson — who advises SAGE — told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme at the weekend: ‘I see no reason why we shouldn’t be rolling them out to younger age groups once we’ve got through the priority groups: over-50s and the clinically vulnerable.

‘Our modelling suggests that, yes, it could make quite a big difference to driving transmission down to low levels.’

It comes after official data published today showed Covid booster jabs gave more than 90 per cent protection against symptomatic infection among over-50s.

The UK Health Security Agency — which took over the reigns from the now defunct Public Health England —  found that two weeks after getting the top up protection was 93.1 per cent for AstraZeneca recipients, and 94 per cent for those who got the Pfizer shot. 

After two doses of either vaccine, effectiveness against symptomatic disease appears to wane over time.

While experts say vaccine effectiveness against severe outcomes, such as hospital admission, remains high for several months after completing the primary course, researchers have seen greater waning in older adults and those with underlying medical conditions compared with young, healthy adults.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UKHSA, said: ‘Our findings demonstrate the protection provided by the booster dose against symptomatic infection in those at highest risk from developing severe Covid.

Elderly Britons can’t get boosters because staff wrongly recorded the date of their second dose 

Elderly Britons are being left without adequate protection against Covid because NHS staff wrongly recorded when they had their second dose.

Over-50s are invited to get a booster dose from six months after their second jab.

But many are now being blocked from getting their top up jab because records suggest they had their second dose later than was the case.

NHS England said it was unable to confirm how many people eligible for boosters were being blocked from getting their jab, but it admitted there had been reports of the problem.

Michael Kelly, 70, a retired taxi driver suffering from a chronic lung condition, told the Telegraph he had received his second jab on April 23 — seven months ago.

But an error on the system has left him unable to book his booster.

Mr Kelly said: ‘It’s so frustrating, the amount of times I’ve had to phone 119.’

He added: ‘There’s some people who are saying you’ve got very little protection (left after six months) and my GP is saying I should be alright, so then why are they telling me to get the booster if I’m going to be ‘alright’?’

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‘We know that in older age groups, protection from the first two vaccines is beginning to wear off, leaving millions that need extra protection as we head into winter.

‘That is why it is critical that you come forward for your booster as soon as you become eligible so we can drive down hospitalisations and deaths over the winter.’

A SAGE adviser says that repeated Covid vaccinations may be needed to offer protection against the virus and any further restrictions for ‘years to come’. 

He told Sky News: ‘In the longer term, Covid is likely to become endemic and we probably are going to have to manage it with repeated vaccination campaigns for years to come.’

Asked whether he felt confident about a ‘normal Christmas’, Professor Tildesley added: ‘I’m cautiously optimistic.

‘If we look at (the trends) we can see that although there has been quite a lot of variation over the past few weeks, and we’re still reporting very high numbers of cases, the total number of daily hospital admissions and the total number of deaths are quite a long way below where we were in November last year, which should give us some level of confidence.’

He added: ‘The booster vaccination campaign is going far better than it was a few weeks ago, but there’s still quite a lot of eligible people who have not yet had their booster jab.

‘So it’s really important if we do want to avoid restrictions ramping up that we get as many of those people out to get their booster jabs as possible over the next few weeks.’

It comes as strict rules that force those who test positive for Covid to self-isolate are set to be scrapped.

Last September, MPs extended laws that force those who catch the virus – as well as unvaccinated people who may have been exposed to it – to self-isolate for ten days.

But Government officials now assume that mandatory self-isolation will be ditched in March when the legal powers expire.

‘Working assumption [is] that legal duties will cease after March,’ a document written last month states.

A scheme that pays out £500 to those on low incomes who are self-isolating is expected to be axed at the same time to save cash. The Test and Trace Support Payment has paid out £167.9 million to 335,000 low-income workers during the pandemic.

Officials are also drawing up plans to slash the costs of the NHS’s contact-tracing system, which attempts to find those who might have been exposed to coronavirus.

The Treasury handed the NHS a further £94 million to bankroll its tracing service until the end of this month, but officials are now poring over ‘potential cost savings, including reducing staff numbers’.

Currently, those who self-isolate are called at home by NHS Test and Trace staff, who check they are complying with the rules. Officials, however, are preparing to recommend to Ministers that these calls be axed.

‘We are undertaking a review of the future approach to tracing to improve cost efficiency,’ one of the documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday states.

Unvaccinated travellers who arrive in the UK from abroad also have to self-isolate for ten days and are called every day. Those calls may also be ditched, it is suggested.

In the longer term, the UK Health Security Agency is planning to end the entire nationwide ‘trace’ regime as part of its ‘rampdown’ strategy as the country comes to live with Covid.

Instead, the responsibility could be handed over to local authorities, the documents suggest.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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