Kier Starmer has called on people to ‘put the national interest first’ and not let Christmas derail efforts to contain Omicron infections (Pictures: AFP / Getty)
Sir Kier Starmer has backed moves to ramp up the roll-out of the Covid booster as he warned the NHS is in danger of being ‘overwhelmed’ by Omicron.
The Labour leader also called on people to ‘put the national interest first’ and not let Christmas derail efforts to contain infections.
Boris Johnson announced in a national broadcast yesterday that every eligible adult in England was to be offered a booster vaccine by the end of December.
In a televised address in response, Sir Keir said delivering the accelerated jab programme would be a ‘big challenge’ but that he was confident the public would rise to meet it.
He also urged people to recognise the threat Omicron posed, especially as the nation approaches the festive period.
His message was supportive of measures to combat it – but his reference to ‘sticking to the rules’ comes after days of headlines about alleged breaches of Covid guidelines in government, including parties and a Chrismas quiz.
Sir Keir said: ‘At times like this, we must all put the national interest first and play by the rules.
‘Of course I understand that sticking to the rules can be inconvenient but stick to the rules we must.
‘It would be easy to let the festivities we’ve all been looking forward to, divert us from our national duty.
‘Getting jabbed, wearing masks and working from home if we can really will help prevent infections and help prevent the NHS being overwhelmed.’
Sir Keir also used the broadcast to attack the prime minister, saying ministers should have been quicker to react to the threat posed by Omicron.
‘We may not be certain how dangerous it is but we do know that lives are at risk and again our NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed,’ he said.
‘If that happens more people will die.
‘So we must do everything that we can to protect the NHS.’
Earlier today, the prime minister confirmed at least one coronavirus patient infected with the Omicron variant has now died.
The vaccine status of the patient is not known.
At least 10 people are in hospital after testing positive for the variant.
Sir Keir has backed calls for the vaccine roll-out to be supercharged (Picture: Evening Standard)
The scientific community has suggested Omicron may be a milder version of Covid-19 but there are concerns it is more likely to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
But scientists believe that a third dose will provide significant protection which is why the booster rollout is being turbo charged, with all those eligible urged to come forward for jabs as soon as possible.
The calls come as Monday marked another new record for Omicron cases recorded, with 1,576 confirmed infections.
Most of these additional cases, 1,534, were reported across England.
There were also 27 found in Scotland and 15 in Wales, though there were no additional cases reported across Northern Ireland.
It brings the total number of cases recorded in the UK to 4,713.
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