Mark Drakeford gives update on omicron variant after Boris Johnson delivers televised UK address

First Mini ster Mark Drakeford has launched an empassioned plea for people in Wales to get their Covid booster jabs as fears intensify over the omicron variant.

The number of omicron coronavirus cases in the UK increased by a whopping 65% over the weekend – and officials are worried that the super mutated form of the virus could endanger lives as well put additional pressure on an already struggling NHS.

On Sunday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a nationwide televised address that a “tidal wave” of omicron was headed our way and that two vaccines weren’t simply enough.

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In England, Johnson said that on Monday a booster campaign will be opened up to every adult over 18 who had a second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago.

While details of what happens in Wales has not yet been revealed, First Minister Mark Drakeford has issued a new statement expressing his concerns.

He said: “This is a fast-moving form of coronavirus, which has the potential to cause a large wave of infections in Wales. This could lead to large numbers of people needing hospital treatment at a time when our NHS is under significant pressure.

“Our best defence continues to be vaccination. Emerging evidence shows the booster dose is vital.

“We are doing everything we can to accelerate our vaccination programme to increase the number of people who will receive their booster in the coming days and weeks. Older people and those at greatest risk are being prioritised at the moment.”

The ramped up plans in England will see 42 military planning teams across every region as well as “standing up” additional vaccine sites and mobile units – with clinics open 24/7.

In Wales, Mr Drakeford said his government was increasing the number of clinics and their opening hours and asked all available staff to join vaccination teams to support this national effort.

“Please make having your booster a priority. It will be one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against coronavirus and this new variant.

“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.”

Last week, Mark Drakeford rejected the notion the Welsh Government was preempting a lockdown over the festive period. He said planning was “simple common sense”.

“Planning for what might happen does not mean that it will happen – it simply means that while you have the chance to do so you should be thinking and preparing,” he added.

He also outlined four things he wants people in Wales to do to slow the spread of the omicron variant in Wales.

  • Take lateral flow tests before going out and mixing
  • Students returning from university should take a test before travelling home
  • Work from home if you possibly can
  • Follow the recently extended face covering rules

Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) from University College London, said Omicron is “much more infectious” than Delta and all previous strains.

“Maybe somewhere between twice and possibly three times as infectious,” he told LBC.

“What we can also see is that the vaccine, two doses of the vaccine, has relatively little impact on stopping that transmission.

“So putting those two together, and the fact that it’s already increasing, doubling every two or three days, what we can be pretty sure of is a very, very large wave of infections, bigger than the waves of infections that we’ve had before, so really the uncertainty is in how that’s going to translate into hospitalisations and deaths.”

Mr Johnson’s televised address came less than 24 hours after he had been accused of breaking Covid restrictions after being pictured at a Christmas quiz in Downing Street last December.

In pictures released by The Mirror, the Prime Minister can be seen sitting underneath a portrait of Margaret Thatcher as he read out questions during a virtual Christmas quiz.

The quiz is alleged to have taken place on December 15, when London was under Tier 2 regulations banning any social mixing between households – Mr Johnson was claimed to have breached these rules by mixing with the aides.

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