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CM echoes Johnson’s message to ‘get boosted now’ as concern mounts over Omicron variant

RAF crew are pictured unloading the latest batch of Covid-19 vaccines, which arrived in Gibraltar on Saturday on a military transport plane. Photo by Eyleen Gomez

People were urged on Sunday to take up the offer of a booster vaccine as evidence showed that two doses are “simply not enough” to protect against the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The message came first from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a televised message on Sunday night, but was echoed in Gibraltar by the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo.

Both the UK and Gibraltar are ramping up their vaccination programs. In Gibraltar, the vaccination centre at the Children’s PCC will be open on a drop-in basis Monday to Friday from 9am to 8pm for anyone eligible for a booster or first or second dose of the vaccine.

Last night in a pre-recorded address to the nation, Mr Johnson said Britain “must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection” as he set the new deadline of jabbing everyone over 18 by the new year.

He said scientists had discovered that two doses of a vaccine is “simply not enough” to prevent the spread of the new variant and that, without a lightning speed mass booster campaign, the NHS could be overwhelmed.

Mr Johnson said: “To hit the pace we need, we’ll need to match the NHS’s best vaccination day so far – and then beat that day after day.”

“This will require an extraordinary effort.”

“And as we focus on boosters and make this new target achievable, it will mean some other appointments will need to be postponed until the new year.”

“But if we don’t do this now, the wave of Omicron could be so big that cancellations and disruptions, like the loss of cancer appointments, would be even greater next year.”

In a statement issued in Sunday night, Mr Picardo said Mr Johnson’s message to ‘Get Boosted Now’ applied in Gibraltar as much as in the UK.

He said Gibraltar had received enough vaccines to provide third doses to Gibraltarians and cross-border workers.

The latest batch of 10,000 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrived on Saturday, just as the Gibraltar Government confirmed three cases of the omicron variant had been detected in Gibraltar, two involving cross-border workers, the third in an individual believed to have picked up the virus at a social event in Spain.

“Christmas is the time for caring, so please show you care for your friends, family and the whole community by ensuring your immunity adds to all of ours. Do not delay your booster shot because you are put off because you might get side effects,” Mr Picardo said.

“We now have evidence that two doses are simply not enough to give us the protection we all need.”

“We need the third, booster jab and we need it as soon as possible to avoid our GHA being overwhelmed or having to take more drastic measures to protect our health services.”

“The Omicron variant is highly transmissible so get your booster shot to bring our level of immunity back up and protect our GHA.”

“Even if most of us do not get severely ill, we sadly know from bitter experience how these exponential infection curves can develop, and the pressure that puts on our essential services.”

“Just like the UK, we are therefore also expanding our vaccination programme this week.”

“The COVID-19 Vaccination Centre at the Children’s PCC will be open on a drop-in basis from Monday- Friday from 9am to 8pm for anyone eligible for a booster or first/second dose of the vaccine.”

“So let’s act to protects ourselves, to protect our families and to protect our friends, our livelihoods, and our freedom to enjoy the festive season together.”

“By getting all of us boosted, we can really see omicron off and be an example to other nations - but we will not achieve that if some decide to not take up our offer of the vaccine for 'diary planning' purposes.”

“It's a risk we cannot afford to take collectively as a people.”

“So if it is more than three months since you had your second jab, get your booster.”

Saturday's delivery of vaccines means Gibraltar now has sufficient jabs to complete its booster programme.

“As at close of play on Thursday 9th December our vaccination teams have delivered over 103,000 doses of vaccine, a truly remarkable effort," said Samantha Sacramento, the Minister for Health.

"Over 22,000 people have now received a booster dose."

"Whilst this is good progress, it does mean that only just over half of the people that had the initial two doses of vaccine have received a booster."

“These additional supplies means we now have enough vaccine in Gibraltar to complete our booster programme and to continue to offer first/second doses of the vaccine to those who wish to take up the invitation, the public are of course encouraged to do so, especially before the Christmas period”.

In the UK, the mission to administer millions more jabs by December 31 will see 42 military planning teams deployed across every health region.

Extra vaccine sites will be opened and additional mobile units deployed, clinic opening hours are to be extended to allow people to be jabbed around the clock and at weekends, while thousands more vaccinators will be trained.

The highest number of vaccinations reported in one day in the UK was 844,285 on March 20 2021 – equivalent to vaccinating the entire population of Liverpool in one day, according to the Government website.

In a direct plea to GPs, doctors, nurses and others on the NHS front line, who he said had “worked incredibly hard” throughout the pandemic, Mr Johnson said: “I must ask you to make another extraordinary effort now, so we can protect you, and your colleagues, and above all protect your patients from even greater pressures next year.”

NHS England said GP teams will be asked to “clinically prioritise their services to free up maximal capacity” to support the Covid-19 vaccination programme, alongside delivering critical appointments such as cancer, urgent and emergency care.

It said this “might mean that for some people, routine appointments are postponed as part of the national mission to roll out boosters”.

Meanwhile, the UK Covid alert level was raised to Level 4, up from Level 3, following a rapid increase in the number of Omicron cases being recorded.

The recommendation was made to ministers by the country’s four chief medical officers and NHS England’s national medical director following advice from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The UK, as of Sunday, recorded a further 1,239 confirmed cases of the Omicron mutation, bringing the total number of cases to 3,137 – a 65% increase from Saturday’s total of 1,898.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the actual number was likely to be 10 times as high.

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