Jonathan Van-Tam to give Downing Street Covid briefing as Christmas lockdown fears erupt

COVID-19: All of us will 'have our day' with virus says expert

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The deputy chief medical officer for England will be joined by colleagues from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to announce their plans for responding to the new Omicron variant. The scientists are expected to approve the rollout of third Covid jabs for all adults as well as reducing the gap between jabs two and three from six months to five.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the scientists to urgently review their decision to only recommend top-up jabs for those aged 40 and above due to the mutation currently spreading in the UK.

There are fears Omicron is less susceptible to vaccines than the other variants seen so far, and a third injection will be needed to increase protection.

Nine cases of the strain, which was first detected in South Africa, have been found in the UK so far.

Mr Johnson’s plea for the scientists to reconsider their advice of booster jabs came at the same time as he announced fresh Covid restrictions, including the reintroduction of face masks in shops, in a frantic bid to stave off another Christmas like last year.

The Prime Minister said he was “confident” that this year’s Christmas will be “considerably better than last” when he announced the changes on Saturday night.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said this morning it was “almost inevitable” the new variant would continue to spread, but that further vaccination could help ease the flow.

He said: “I think it’s almost inevitable that we’re going to see many, many more cases than we’ve seen before.

“The key question is whether this virus has a transmission advantage over the Delta, which is the prevalent virus at the moment.

“Vaccines can do heavy lifting, but they can’t do all the lifting and actually social distancing measures – that’s wearing face masks, distancing, ventilation, and measures like that – are important as well.

“So I think we will see some more of these measures and I know the Government have announced face masks in public transport already and that may be extended, but we’ll just have to wait and see whether this Omicron virus takes a big hold in this country and how big a problem it actually is.

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“It’s obviously a worrying development, but I don’t think there’s any need for anyone to panic.

“What they do need to do, though, is get vaccinated.”

Professor Jeremy Brown, who also sits on the JCVI, added that the reason for the six-month gap was to jab those who had waited the longest period of time since their first course of vaccine first.

However, he conceded that the UK is in a different race, now needing to give as many people as possible maximum antibodies.

He told Times Radio: “The reason for the gap is to ensure that we target the most susceptible people first for a booster vaccination.

“The logic for maybe changing the gap, this variant the Omicron variant is now present in the world, it hasn’t reached the UK in high numbers, and if possible it will be good to boost a lot of people’s antibody levels to high levels to give them the maximum chance of not getting infected with this new variant.

“So that might be a reason for reducing the gap. Between the second dose and the booster dose.

“And so basically vaccinate people ahead of a possible Omicron wave which will be coming at some point.”

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