Boris Johnson raises spectre of mandatory jabs: PM hints of move towards increasing restrictions for unvaccinated Britons following similar move in Austria so wider lockdowns can be avoided
- Asked about mandatory vaccinations, PM said there will be a ‘national conversation’ about way forward
- Said ‘substantial proportion of the population’ has still not had jab and hinted they could become compulsory
- PM does not believe the Government can ‘keep going indefinitely with non-pharmaceutical interventions’
Boris Johnson last night hinted coronavirus jabs could eventually be made compulsory or Covid passes could be rolled out in wider society if a ‘substantial proportion of the population’ remains unvaccinated.
The Prime Minister announced the Government is now triggering its Plan B to reimpose work from home guidance, make masks compulsory in more indoor settings and require people to show a Covid pass to go to nightclubs.
The measures are being rolled out across England in a bid to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant of the disease.
But Mr Johnson said a ‘national conversation’ is likely to be needed in the future on how the nation will live with the virus.
He said he does not believe the Government can ‘keep going indefinitely with non-pharmaceutical interventions’ in a hint that jabs could be made compulsory or restrictions could be targeted at the unvaccinated.
New measures could include greater outreach attempts in communities where uptake is low, or an extension of Covid passes to more venues.
Boris Johnson today hinted coronavirus jabs could eventually be made compulsory or Covid passes could be rolled out in wider society if a ‘substantial proportion of the population’ remains unvaccinated
Mr Johnson said a ‘national conversation’ is likely to be needed in the future on how the nation will live with the virus
Hosting a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson was asked by a member of the public if the Government could follow the lead of some European nations by making vaccinations compulsory.
When asked a question about introducing compulsory jabs at last night’s Downing Street Press conference, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think we are going to need to have a national conversation about the way forward and the other things that we can do to protect those who… haven’t got vaccinated for one reason or another.
What are the new Covid rules in England?
Boris Johnson announced this evening that the Government is implementing its Covid Plan B.
The return of work from home guidance. People will be told to work from home in England from Monday if they are able to.
Face masks will be made compulsory in most public indoor venues including in cinemas and theatres from this Friday. They will not be required in pubs, restaurants and gyms.
The NHS Covid pass will be compulsory to gain access to nightclubs and other large venues where large crowds gather.
This will apply to all unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
Two vaccine doses will be treated as fully-vaccinated but this will be kept under review because of the booster programme.
A negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient.
This requirement will be rolled out in one week’s time to give businesses time to prepare.
Contacts of Omicron cases will be told to take daily coronavirus tests instead of having to self-isolate. They will have to quarantine if they test positive.
‘I don’t believe we can keep going indefinitely with non-pharmaceutical interventions – I mean restrictions on people’s way of life – just because a substantial proportion of the population still sadly has not got vaccinated.’
He added: ‘I said… as soon as we were really talking about vaccinations seriously that I didn’t want us to have a society and a culture where we force people to get vaccinated.
‘I don’t think that has ever been the way we do things in this country.’
But he said a ‘national conversation’ on the way forward will be needed if the vaccines are proven to be effective at tackling Omicron.
He said: ‘I think that there is going to come a point if we can show that the vaccines are capable of holding Omicron… I do think that we are going to have to have a conversation about ways in which we deal with this pandemic because, I want to be absolutely clear with you, I don’t believe we can keep going indefinitely with non-pharmaceutical interventions, I mean restrictions on people’s way of life, just because a substantial proportion of the population still sadly has not got vaccinated.
‘I think we are going to need to have a national conversation about the way forward and the other things that we can do to protect those who are hard to reach, who haven’t got vaccinated for one reason or another, medical reasons why they can’t get vaccinated, other ways of protecting them.’
Mr Johnson said he believes ‘that is a stage that I think we will come to if and when we establish… that the booster is effective against Omicron’.
He added: ‘It is at that moment that I think we will have to talk seriously about moving on from the way we, from thinking about further NPIs and thinking about other ways in which we protect people.’
Although Britain has one of the highest uptakes of Covid vaccines, more than five million people – which equates to 12 per cent of the population – has not yet had their first jab.
The Government imposed new laws in November which forced all workers in the care sector to get vaccinated if they wanted to continue in their jobs.
Up to 51,000 care home staff were set to be barred from their workplace on November 11 as England’s new rule kicked in, according to data which covered the period up to November 4.
The sector was already short of 100,000 workers before the pandemic struck and the new rule meant tens of thousands of employees were barred from their workplaces.
However, care industry bosses later said the move had little effect on boosting uptake.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group — which represents providers in Yorkshire, said making jabs compulsory only had ‘a little bit of an effect’ on the 1.5million-strong sector.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid also announced that all frontline NHS workers need to have have had jabs by April next year.
Whilst Downing Street acknowledged the policy would trigger a mass exodus from health and social care, the Government said it was needed to protect vulnerable patients.
The Government’s own impact assessment suggests 126,000 healthcare staff — across the NHS and social care sector — are likely to be sacked when the rule is enforced.
Mr Johnson’s hint that mandatory vaccinations could be imposed came just over a week after EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that it was time for the bloc to ‘think about’ making jabs compulsory.
People wait in a queue outside a pop-up vaccination centre for the Covid-19 vaccine or booster, in Hammersmith and Fulham in Greater London on December 3, 2021
In total, there are 46,000 Covid cases on average each day in the UK and data from the Covid Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) suggests the new strain is already behind around one in 66 of them, or 1.4 per cent
Infections of the highly evolved variant are doubling every two or three days. The above graph shows how the number of daily cases of Omicron could breach the 100,000 barrier before New Year’s Day, if that pace continues
Pfizer’s results are based on a laboratory study using the blood of 20 people, who were either double-jabbed three weeks earlier (left) or triple-jabbed one month earlier with its vaccine (right). The graph shows antibody levels against different strains of the virus: Wuhan (green), Beta (blue), Delta (orange) and Omicron (red). The results showed the third dose triggered a 25-fold jump in antibody levels against Omicron from 6 to 154. Pfizer said this equates to a ‘high efficacy’ based on data on other variants. The level of neutralising antibodies against Omicron after three jabs was 154, compared to 155 against the Wuhan strain after two jabs. But the figure was 60 per cent lower than levels seen for three doses against Delta (339)
Hosting a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson was asked by a member of the public if the Government could follow the lead of some European nations by making vaccinations compulsory
She said that whilst it would ultimately be up to member states to decide their own rules, it was her ‘personal opinion’ that the time was right discuss forcing people to get jabs.
‘We have one third of the population which is not vaccinated. This is 150million people – that is a lot. Not each and every one could be vaccinated… but the vast majority could,’ she said.
Boris Johnson insists Downing Street followed lockdown rules ‘as far as I’m aware’
Facing the nation at a press conference tonight the Prime Minister repeated his claim that no Covid laws had been breached when aides in No10 met over wine and cheese last December.
But after days of firm denials he added a new caveat, saying that the rules had not been broken ‘as far as I’m aware’ ahead of a probe into the affair to be led by top civil servant Simon Case.
And he vowed that if rules were found to have been broken by the probe, those responsible faced ‘proper sanctions’ – including possibly criminal investigation.
The stark nature of the allegations facing the Prime Minister and his top team were made stark by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
Standing next to the PM tonight as Mr Johnson introduced tough new Plan B restrictions, Sir Patrick bluntly said: ‘Measures only work because people follow them. It is very important everyone follows them.’
Mr Johnson told the press conference that Cabinet Secretary Mr Case’s investigation will look into ‘what took place on December 18’ rather than other alleged parties.
‘As for other events, dates … as far as I’m aware, to the best of my knowledge we have followed the rules throughout,’ he said.
‘Indeed, as far as I’m aware, the rules were followed on December 18 as well.’
The former spokeswoman for the PM announced she had quit her £125,000 a year role offering a ‘profound apology’ for appearing to ‘make light’ of Covid rules.
A coordinated EU-wide move would follow measures imposed by Austria to make vaccines compulsory for all eligible citizens in February.
Asked by a journalist whether she supported making vaccines mandatory for everyone, she replied: ‘ First of all, this is pure member state competence – it is therefore not up to me to give any kind of recommendation.
‘[But] if you’re asking me what my personal position is, two or three years ago I would never have thought to witness what we see right now.
‘That we have this horrible pandemic, we have the lifesaving vaccines, but they are not being used adequately everywhere, and thus this is an enormous health cost
‘If you look at the numbers we have 66 per cent of whole EU population vaccinated, which means we have one third of the population which is not vaccinated.
‘This is 150million people – that is a lot. Not each and every one could be vaccinated, these are very young children and people with medical conditions, but the vast majority could
‘Therefore I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now, how we can encourage and potentially think about how we can have mandatory vaccination within the European Union.
‘This needs discussion, this needs a common approach, but it is a discussion that I think needs to be had.’
Elsewhere in his announcement yesterday, Mr Johnson said that working from home guidance would return, vaccine passports will become compulsory in large venues and the wearing of face coverings would be extended to theatres and cinemas.
At the same time as the announcement, Health Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled the plans in the House of Commons.
He said the measures were necessary because cases of the new Omicron variant were doubling ‘every two or three days’ and that they could hit more than a million by the end of the month.
But Mr Javid was heckled and even urged to resign by Tory MPs who were angry at the return of restrictions which strangle the economy – and also because the move came on the same day that Downing Street faced fury over the ‘illegal’ Christmas party held in Downing Street last year.
Mandatory mask wearing will be extended to cinemas and theatres from today but will not be needed in pubs and restaurants. The guidance will also include exemptions for when eating, drinking, exercising or singing.
The Covid health certificate will apply to unseated indoor venues with more than 500 attendees, and outside where there are more than 4,000 people.
The Prime Minister added that the pass can be obtained with a negative lateral flow test or by having had two doses of a vaccine but hinted this could change, saying ‘we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out’.
The premier said it was necessary to move to Plan B to ‘buy time’ for the NHS and to learn more about the new strain.
‘It has become increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world,’ he said.
While 568 cases had been confirmed in the UK ‘the true number is certain to be much higher’ – potentially as many as 10,000.
‘Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of Omicron could currently be between two and three days.’