A “blizzard” of coronavirus cases coming from Europe could derail Christmas plans unless people in the UK take up the offer of booster jabs, Boris Johnson has warned.
The Prime Minister said there was a “storm of infection in Europe” but the top-up vaccinations offered the best form of protection for the UK.
He stressed there was nothing currently in the domestic data which suggested a need to increase restrictions in England.
Ministers have set out contingency measures – a Plan B – if there is unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
Under Plan B of the Government’s strategy for the autumn and winter, the use of face coverings could become mandatory, vaccine passports could be required for some busy venues and people could be asked to work from home where possible.
But Mr Johnson said: “We don’t see anything in the data at the moment to suggest that we need to go to Plan B, we’re sticking with Plan A.
“But what we have certainly got to recognise is there is a storm of infection out there in parts of Europe, you can see those numbers ticking up very sharply in some of our continental friends.
“And we’ve just got to recognise that there is always a risk that a blizzard could come from the east again, as the months get colder.
“The best protection for our country is for everybody to go forward and get their booster.”
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s most recent overview listed 10 countries as being “of very high concern” – Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
Across the EU as a whole, the assessment noted a “high and rapidly increasing overall case notification”.
Mr Johnson said a quarter of over-75s had not yet taken up the offer of a booster jab.
“So far, we’ve got 75% of everybody over 70 getting a booster, that’s a huge number of people, but it’s that further 25% that will make all the difference to the winter, to Christmas, to our plans going forward, because it’s that extra level of protection that we really need,” he told reporters at a medical centre in east London.
“So the message is anybody over 70 come forward, get your booster, anybody over 50 come forward to get your booster, and now, in the next week or so, anybody over 40 as well come forward and get your booster.
“And we’re also doing a second dose for the 16 and 17-year-olds.”
The Government has accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to extend the booster programme to include healthy 40 to 49-year-olds.
It has also said that 16 and 17-year-olds should come forward for a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab – which should be given at least 12 weeks after the first.