Boris Johnson urged people to get vaccinated and to take up their Covid-19 booster if the UK is to control the epidemic and “avoid restrictions on our daily lives.”
It comes as the vaccination programme was extended to new age groups amid concerns over rising cases.
The Government has opened up the booster programme to those aged 40-49, as well as offering a second jab to those aged 16 and 17.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned of rising case numbers, and also issued a plea to pregnant women to get vaccinated.
What did Boris Johnson say?
Johnson said the extension of the booster programme comes as “storm clouds” gather over a “new wave” of Covid cases across Europe.
He also warned rising cases in Europe have become a concern for the Government, adding the UK cannot afford to be complacent.
He said: "We don’t yet know the extent to which this new wave will sweep up on our shores but history shows that we cannot afford to be complacent.
“Those countries with lower vaccination rates have tended to see bigger surges in infection and in turn been forced to respond with harsher measures while those countries with higher vaccination rates have so far fared better.
“It shows us that if we want to control the epidemic here in the UK and if we want to avoid restrictions on our daily lives we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.”
Alongside the message for those unvaccinated to get their jab, Johnson also put a focus on the importance of receiving a booster jab to increase protection.
He added: “It would be an utter tragedy if, after everything we have been through, people who had done the right thing by getting double vaccinated ended up becoming seriously ill or even losing their lives because they allowed their immunity to wane.
“The booster massively increases your protection – it takes it right back up to over 90%.
“As we can see from what’s happening, the two jabs sadly do start to wane, so we’ve got to be responsible and we’ve got to reflect that fact in the way we measure what constitutes full vaccination.”
Johnson also said data has shown a winter lockdown is not needed, with the vaccination programme remaining the UK’s main defence against Covid-19.
He said: “I see nothing in the data at the moment that makes me think we have to go to further measures.”
What else has been said?
Professor Chris Whitty placed a focus on pregnant women getting vaccinated, warning a vast majority of those admitted to hospital, placed in ICU or losing their life after contracting Covid-19 were unvaccinated.
He said: “I would like to pull out in particular the issue of women who are pregnant or intending to get pregnant. And I would just like to give you some fairly stark facts about this because this is a major concern.
“Based on academic data from February 1 to September 30 … 1,714 pregnant women were admitted to hospital with Covid. Of those, 1,681, which is to say 98%, had not been vaccinated.
“And if you go to those who are very severely ill in intensive care, of 235 women admitted to ICU, 232 of them – over 98% – had not been vaccinated.
“These are preventable admissions to ICU and there have been deaths. All the medical opinion is really clear that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks in every area. This is a universal view among doctors and among the midwife advisory groups and among the scientific advisory groups.
“So can I please encourage all women who are pregnant or wishing to become pregnant to get their vaccination.”
Whitty has joined Johnson in calls for those eligible to come forward for their first, second, or booster vaccination.
How many Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the UK?
As of Monday (15 November), there had been 39,705 confirmed daily cases in the UK.
Forty seven more deaths have been recorded, bringing the UK deaths total to 142,945.
Professor Whitty said cases were currently “broadly flat”, adding they currently do not support the argument for the Government to implement “plan B” yet.
He said: “There is substantial pressure on the NHS and that is widely recognised by everybody, ministers obviously included.
“But in terms of the Covid numbers, they’re not currently going up in the kind of numbers you’re seeing in continental Europe, but obviously if they did that would be a situation where we would have to look again at what the situation is at that stage.”