'Profoundly wrong' to think Covid pandemic is over, says PM Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson said the latest record Covid case figures showed that those who believed the pandemic to be over were “profoundly wrong”.

Speaking at a press briefing in Downing Street on Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister said: “Our United Kingdom is in the midst of the fastest growth in Covid cases that we’ve ever known.

“Previous waves of the pandemic didn’t have a single day with more than 100,000 new cases reported, one day last week we had 200,000 people test positive.

“And the latest figure today is another 218,000, though that includes some delayed reports.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to a vaccination hub in the Guttman Centre at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, as the booster vaccination programme continues. Picture date: Monday January 3, 2022.

“So anyone who thinks our battle with Covid is over, I’m afraid is profoundly wrong.

“This is a moment for the utmost caution.”

The PM said people are dying “needlessly” because they have not been properly vaccinated against Covid-19.

“There are still almost nine million people eligible, who haven’t had their booster,” he told the news conference.

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“It’s absolutely heart-breaking that as many as 90% of those in intensive care with Covid have not had their booster, and over 60% of those in intensive care, who have Covid, have not had any vaccination at all.

“People are dying needlessly because they haven’t had their jabs, they haven’t had that booster.”

There were 1,881 Covid-19 hospital admissions in England on January 2, NHS England said.

A total of 15,044 people were in hospital in England with Covid-19 as of 8am on January 4, according to figures from NHS England.

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This is up 58% from a week earlier and is the highest number since February 18.

During the second wave of coronavirus, the number peaked at 34,336 on January 18.

In north-east England and Yorkshire, patient numbers are up 99% week on week to 2,146, the highest since February 21.

The Prime Minister said, despite the high number of coronavirus cases being recorded in the UK, there was a “chance” extra restrictions would not be needed in England.

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He said: “Our position today differs from previous waves in two crucial respects.

“First, we now know that Omicron is milder than previous variants, so while hospital admissions are rising quickly, with over 15,000 Covid patients now in hospital in England alone, this is not yet, thankfully, translating into the same numbers needing intensive care that we saw in previous waves.

“Second, thanks to the fantastic national effort to get Britain boosted, we now have a substantial level of protection, higher than any of our European neighbours, with over 34 million boosters administered, including in England reaching more than 90% of the over 70s and 86% of the over 50s.

“And so, together with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas, we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.

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“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus.”

Mr Johnson also said the Government has identified 100,000 critical workers who will be offered daily lateral flow tests to help keep essential services open.

He told a Downing Street news conference staff working in areas such as food processing, transport and the Border Force would be sent test kits for every working day from January 10.