Boris Johnson has said there is “absolutely nothing to indicate” the country will enter a new lockdown this winter, although he added the government would “do whatever we have to do to protect the public”.
Mr Johnson admitted there were currently “high levels” of infection in the UK, with more than 52,000 new coronavirus cases recorded on Thursday.
But the prime minister maintained he was not yet ready to reintroduce COVID measures in England – under the government’s “Plan B” – in an attempt to dampen the rising number of infections.
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He inisisted the current rate of infections was “fully in line” with predictions made earlier this year.
Asked whether was ignoring the advice of scientists by not yet reintroducing the command for people to work from home where they can, Mr Johnson said: “We keep all measures under constant review – we’ll do whatever we have to do to protect the public.
“But the numbers that we’re seeing at the moment are fully in line with what we expected in the autumn and winter plan.
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“What we want people to do is to come forward and get their jabs.
“We also want young people, we want kids at school to be getting their jabs with complete confidence and there will be booking systems opening from tomorrow in addition to the vaccination programme in schools.
“The message is that the boosters are fantastic, the levels of protection are really very high.”
Pressed on whether a full national lockdown was out of the question, Mr Johnson replied: “I’ve got to tell you at the moment that we see absolutely nothing to indicate that that is on the cards at all.”
The prime minister also confirmed that “a lot of people are looking at” whether the time between a second vaccine dose and a third booster jab should be shortened from six months to five months for most people, as has been suggested by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
“That’s a very good question and it’s an important question. I think a lot of people are looking at that issue,” Mr Johnson said.
“I heard with great interest what Anthony Harnden of the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation)… had to say this morning about that.
“I think that people should be coming forward with the same spirit of determination to get their boosters as we saw earlier on this year. It’s a very good thing to do, it gives you a huge amount of protection.
“We always expected that we would see numbers rise right about now – that is happening. And you’ve also got into account the waning effectiveness of the first two jabs, so get your booster now.”
Earlier on Thursday, Prof Harnden, the deputy chair of the JCVI, said the independent committee would look at cutthing the timeframe between second doses and boosters.
He said six months had been shown to be the “sweet spot” for having a booster, adding the main issues in the programme were accessibility to the vaccine and persuading people to have one.