Boris Johnson to hold 5pm press conference as Omicron concerns grow

15 December 2021, 13:09 | Updated: 15 December 2021, 15:37

Boris Johnson will address the nation from 5pm
Boris Johnson will address the nation from 5pm. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Boris Johnson will lead a press conference this afternoon as the threat of the Omicron Covid variant grows.

He will address the nation at 5pm and the PM will appear alongside Professor Chris Whitty and the Head of NHS Primary Care Dr Nikki Kanani.

The press conference is expected to focus on the progress of the booster jab programme. It is understood he will not be announcing any further coronavirus measures.

Read more: Omicron 'most significant threat since start of pandemic,' warns Dr Jenny Harries

Read more: MPs approve mandatory Covid passes despite huge Tory rebellion of nearly 100

Alex Burghart told MPs in the Commons earlier that Omicron now makes up more than 50 per cent of coronavirus cases in London - up from a third on Sunday.

Over 600,000 booster jabs were administered yesterday, according to the latest figures. The government has set a target of 1m booster jabs per day to stem an incoming "tidal wave of Omicron."

More than half a million booster jabs were given on Monday as the UK ramps up its “national mission” to fight the Omicron variant.

Government figures released earlier in the week showed a day-on-day rise of 513,722 jabs - after the country's Covid alert level rose to its second-highest - level four.

Meanwhile, in a bid to speed up the time it takes to get doses in arms, the 15-minute post-vaccination wait will also be scrapped for anyone who gets Pfizer or Moderna.

People had usually been asked to stay behind after a jab to make sure they didn’t suffer a rare allergic reaction.

But that has been dropped after huge queues built up outside vaccine centres on Sunday – demonstrating Britons’ determination to protect themselves from the Omicron variant.

It comes after Boris Johnson announced the Omicron Emergency Boost in a speech to the nation on Sunday, describing it as a "national mission unlike anything we have seen before in the vaccination programme".

Anyone aged 18 and older can book their Covid booster jab.

People are eligible for a booster three months after their second vaccine but they can now book after two months in a bid to offer every eligible adult a chance to have a third dose before the New Year.

At PMQs today, Mr Johnson defended his controversial plan for Covid passes after a massive rebellion by Tory MPs.

After 100 Conservatives opposed the measure in the Commons on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister acknowledged there were "legitimate anxieties" about the impact on civil liberties.

But during a noisy session of Prime Minister's Questions, he insisted the approach the Government had taken in the face of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant was "balanced and proportionate and right".

However, Sir Keir Starmer said the vote had exposed the weakness of a premier who had lost the trust of the public and of his own MPs following reports of parties last Christmas in No 10 in breach of Covid regulations.

"We cannot go on with a Prime Minister who is too weak to lead, so will the Prime Minister take time this Christmas to look in the mirror and ask himself if he has the trust and authority to lead this country?" he demanded.

Mr Johnson retorted: "I respect and understand the legitimate anxieties colleagues have about restrictions on the liberty of the people but I believe the approach that we are taking is balanced and proportionate and right for this country."

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief Dr Jenny Harries told the Commons Transport Committee today that reducing infections was key to protecting the NHS and that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is "probably the most significant threat we've had since the start of the pandemic".