Scotland and Wales threaten to introduce Plan C with MORE Covid curbs

Scotland and Wales threaten to introduce Plan C: Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford warn MORE Covid curbs are likely – as scientists tell Boris Johnson he should urge people to cancel their Christmas parties

  • Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford agreed to speed up jab campaigns 
  • PM demanded a higher pace to get more jabs in arms before the end of the year
  • But they both left open the door to further restrictions in coming weeks.

Scotland and Wales could face even tougher Covid measures after their leaders suggested that current restrictions may not go far enough in the fight against the Omicron variant.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford agreed to speed up their booster jab campaigns last night after Boris Johnson demanded a higher pace to get more jabs in arms before the end of the year. 

But they both left open the door to tighter restrictions being introduced in coming weeks.

Both Scotland and Wales have had mask orders, Covid passports and working from home measures for weeks, steps only now being introduced in England.

Last night Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans to offer all adults a Covid booster by the end of the year, but added: ‘Given the expected volume of cases in the weeks ahead, however, it is also possible that further, proportionate protective measures or advice will be necessary.

‘This is true even if Omicron proves to be slightly less severe than Delta.

‘The number of cases will still put significant pressure on the NHS and the economy. The government will therefore consider the latest data tomorrow ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and I will set out any decisions to parliament later that day.’

This morning Sturgeon’s health minister Humza Yousaf said that new measures were ‘inevitable’.

In a separate announcement Mr Drakeford said: ‘The cabinet is closely monitoring this rapidly changing public health situation and has moved to a weekly review cycle.

‘We are facing a very serious situation and we may need to take further steps to keep Wales safe. I will continue to keep Wales updated.’

It came as Mr Johnson was told to urge people to cancel their Christmas parties to cut down on the risk of super-charging transmission of the new variant.

Last night Nicola Sturgeon confirmed plans to offer all adults a Covid booster by the end of the year, but added: ‘Given the expected volume of cases in the weeks ahead, however, it is also possible that further, proportionate protective measures or advice will be necessary.

In a separate announcement Mr Drakeford said: ‘The cabinet is closely monitoring this rapidly changing public health situation and has moved to a weekly review cycle.

They agreed to speed up their booster jab campaigns last night after Boris Johnson demanded a higher pace to get more jabs in arms before the end of the year

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of the Government’s Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘At the moment, we’re in a situation where the new variant in effect is coming at us like an express train.

‘We’ve got to do something or else we’re in real danger of overwhelming our society and overwhelming the NHS.

‘And there’s so many things you can do. The first thing, and the most obvious thing, is that if you reduce the number of social contacts you have you limit the spread of the infection.

‘Now, nobody wants to give up their Christmas parties, and nobody wants to miss out on meeting up with people.

‘It’s a little bit like Christmas dinner – if you have too big a Christmas breakfast, then you spoil your appetite for your Christmas dinner, which is what really counts.

‘And I think, in the same way, we need to think really seriously about our contacts. How important are they? Do we really need them and is it more important to act carefully now so that the contacts we really want and we really need are still happening?’

Mr Johnson has today come under fire for his Omicron-fighting pledge to dish out a million Covid booster jabs a day, with senior Tories and Labour questioning why the Government didn’t kick off the operation months earlier.

NHS bosses have also warned that scaling up the programme now will be ‘incredibly difficult’ and inevitably have ‘consequences’, with patients once again facing the threat of cancelled operations.

In a massively ambitious move last night, the Prime Minister brought forward the deadline to offer all over-18s a third jab by New Year’s Day as he warned the country: ‘There is a tidal wave of Omicron coming.’

The Army and thousands of extra volunteers will be drafted in to achieve the target, and clinic hours extended to help dish out up to 20million jabs over the next two-and-a-half weeks.

The drive will also see 42 military planning teams across every region, additional vaccine sites and mobile units, an extension of opening hours for clinics so they run seven days a week and thousands of extra volunteer vaccinators trained.

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of the Government’s Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘At the moment, we’re in a situation where the new variant in effect is coming at us like an express train’

But concerns about whether the Government could even hit the goal were raised almost immediately after Mr Johnson’s 8pm announcement last night. Even at the height of the NHS’s vaccine drive in March, the health service never managed more than 850,000 jabs a day.

GPs fumed they found out about the goal at the same time as the rest of the nation, and NHS bosses warned it would take ‘time’ to get the scaled up programme ‘fully up and running’.

Former Cabinet minister David Davis blasted the Government for failing to ramp up the booster drive in September, saying it was always clear that Covid would become worse in the winter months.

And Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth warned the UK was already ‘behind’ on rolling out the top-up jabs, and that the ‘vaccine wall of defence was crumbling’.

In another sign of chaos, the NHS’s online booking site crashed as thousands of desperate Britons flocked onto the site to try to arrange their top-up jab.

The PM’s intervention last night comes amid the ever-growing threat of tougher restrictions in January, with the potential for a new lockdown if Omicron cases surge out of control after the UK’s Covid alert level was raised from Level 3 to Level 4.

Both Scotland and Wales have dangled the possibility of having to go even further in bid to ward off the highly-transmissible variant.

Yesterday the UK reported another 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant — an increase of 65 per cent in the past 24 hours. It was the highest daily rise and more than double the previous record, with the total number of known cases now sitting above 3,000.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said booster jabs were not rolled out earlier because it was a ‘difficult decision to make’. He also warned that elective appointments — such as hip replacements — were likely to be postponed as the NHS turns its resources to dishing out the top-up shots.

In his speech last night, the PM urged people to ‘get boosted now’ and said the UK is ‘now facing an emergency in our battle with the new variant’ and ‘we must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection to keep our friends and loved ones safe’.

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