PM opening statement at COVID-19 press conference: January 4, 2022
Previous waves of the pandemic have not had a single day with more than 100,000 new cases reported.
One day last week, 200,000 people tested positive.
And the latest figure today is another 218,000, although that includes some delayed reports.
So anyone who thinks our battle against Covid is over is deeply wrong, I’m afraid.
This is the time for the greatest caution.
But our position today differs from previous waves in two crucial respects.
First, we now know that the Omicron is smoother than the previous variants,
as hospital admissions increase rapidly
with more than 15,000 Covid patients now hospitalized in England alone –
thankfully, this is not yet translating into the same numbers of people needing intensive care that we have seen in previous waves.
And second, thanks to the fantastic national effort to boost Britain,
we now enjoy a substantial level of protection, higher than that of any of our European neighbors,
with more than 34 million reminders administered,
including in England reaching over 90 percent of over 70s,
and 86 percent of those over 50.
And so with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas,
we have a chance to ride this Omicron wave without closing our country again.
We can keep our schools and our businesses open, and we can find a way to live with this virus.
But the coming weeks are going to be tough, both here in the UK and around the world.
It is clear that some services will be disrupted by staff absences,
but we worked until Christmas to prepare for it as much as possible.
What if we all play our part to contain the spread of this virus
the disruptions we face may be far less severe than a national lockdown, with all the devastation that it would cause to our children’s livelihoods and life chances.
The government therefore acts to protect essential national services,
keep supply chains open,
and strengthen our NHS to withstand the pressures to come.
We have identified 100,000 critical workers,
in areas ranging from food processing to transportation to our border force –
and from January 10, we will be deploying lateral flow tests for all these workers, available every working day.
We will send test kits directly to these organizations and liaise with them for logistics.
We have asked qualified teachers who have left the profession to return and help fill temporary absences,
and I would like to thank them as well as all the teachers, parents and students for having taken the precaution of testing you and wearing a mask in class, thus allowing the essential face-to-face teaching to continue.
We are increasing the capacity of the NHS by building Nightingale hospitals on site,
as well as the creation of 2,500 virtual beds where people can be treated safely at home.
We bought more antivirals per person than anywhere else in Europe, these are the pills that reduce your chances of going to the hospital once you’ve caught Covid.
We mobilize our volunteers
– the emerging territorial army of the NHS –
and we are working to identify which NHS trusts are most likely to need real military support, so that can be prepared now.
As our NHS goes on a war footing, I will recommend to Cabinet tomorrow to continue with Plan B,
because the public reacted and changed their behavior, your behavior, gaining precious time to get gun boosters and help the NHS deal with the Omicron wave.
Please continue to observe these measures for the time being.
Work from home if you can.
Wearing face coverings in public transport and indoor public places,
and get tested before going to a high-risk location or meeting elderly or vulnerable people.
And follow the rules that apply if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Above all, if you haven’t already, please get yourself this booster.
Since I launched the Get Boosted Now campaign on December 12:
we delivered an additional 10 million boosters across the UK;
we have doubled the immunization rate from 450,000 doses per day to a peak of over 900,000;
we tied the previous NHS record day, then beat it again and again;
and we achieved our goal of offering a reminder to every eligible adult one month earlier.
The freedoms that we are able to maintain in the teeth of this Omicron wave
were made possible by the number of people boosted,
and I want to thank once again everyone who contributed to this extraordinary national effort over Christmas.
Our GPs and their teams, pharmacists and everyone in our fantastic NHS,
the thousands of volunteers,
the ingenious initiatives of local authorities,
like the one at Redbridge Town Hall which vaccinated 1,700 people on Christmas Day –
and each one of you that came forward and did your part by getting stung.
But there are still nearly 9 million eligible people, who have not had their recall,
And it’s absolutely heartbreaking that up to 90% of people in intensive care with Covid haven’t had their recall,
and over 60% of people in intensive care, who have Covid, have not received any vaccinations.
People are dying needlessly because they have not had injections,
they did not have this recall.
And there are 2 million booster slots available this week alone.
It is already true that to travel to certain countries, you need a booster to be considered as fully vaccinated,
and it is likely that within a few weeks this will become more and more the norm.
So if you haven’t already, give yourself a boost this month.
Exactly one year after the UK administered the first AstraZeneca vaccine,
a British invention that has allowed 2.5 billion jabs in the world –
the best way to contain this virus, help our NHS and keep our country open,
is to be boosted, so please get boosted now.