NHS heroes put their Christmas celebrations on hold yesterday — to get thousands of people vaccinated for the New Year.
Up to 200,000 adults will be jabbed over this festive weekend as the Government steps up its record-breaking booster campaign.
Nurses sporting Santa hats and tinsel gave life-saving shots to punters while belting out: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
Queues formed outside some centres after Boris Johnson urged all adults to get themselves protected before the end of the year.
The PM issued his urgent appeal amid grim new predictions that the fast-spreading Omicron variant could leave thousands in hospital — possibly overwhelming the NHS.
The Good Health Pharmacy in North London was among dozens of vaccination sites that stayed open to administer “jingle jabs”.
Pharmacist Fenil Lalji said the owners opted not to close in order to keep others safe after losing a family member to coronavirus.
He added: “His family have obviously had a really hard time, so his children wanted to make sure they could provide the maximum level of contribution to fighting this Covid virus. It was a very hard time for his family and we’re just trying to make sure no one has to go through that.”
Senior scientific advisers have warned the PM the number of people needing hospital treatment could be higher than last winter’s peak — despite the reduced severity of the mutant virus.
Minutes from a Sage meeting suggest fresh restrictions could be imposed before New Year and stay in force until spring. They warn Tuesday is the make-or-break deadline for imposing measures if they are to have any effect.
It came as hospital admissions in London — the UK’s Omicron “ground zero” — almost doubled.
NHS stats show 386 people were admitted on December 22 — within touching distance of the threshold of 400 for sparking lockdowns.
Downing Street played down any possibility of a three-month tightening and said the report had not yet been submitted to ministers.
A source said: “It’s all up in the air at the moment. The key to what happens next may depend on the effect the new Omicron variant is having on elderly people.”
Mr Johnson is likely to opt for offering fresh “guidance” to the public rather than mandatory rules to avoid recalling Parliament and an inevitable Commons revolt.
Analysis by Imperial College found people who catch Omicron are up to 20 per cent less likely to be admitted than those who catch Delta. It was also found the chance of having to stay in hospital was even lower — down by 45 per cent.
But the December 23 meeting of Sage’s scientific advisers warned the peak on hospital admissions may still be “comparable to or higher than previous peaks”, including the second wave in January. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine modellers warned December 28 is the last date that restrictions could be introduced before it is “too late” for lockdown measures to work.
One of its models suggests three months of restrictions until the end of March — but found there was little difference compared to restrictions ending in January.
And they stressed there is a high degree of uncertainty about the real-world impact of Omicron’s reduced severity. The warnings pile pressure on Mr Johnson to impose new curbs — potentially including the Rule of Six and a ban on households mixing.
Selfless Health service staff
The PM will decide tomorrow whether to introduce more stringent measures following a review of the latest data on Omicron.
But HOAR’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
A jabs drive opened up some 200,000 slots for vaccinations over the festive weekend in clinics across the country including in London, Eastbourne, Hartlepool and Dewsbury. And figures have revealed Britain has one of the best booster rollouts in the world.
NHS England praised selfless health service staff who were working or volunteering on Christmas Day and today.
A spokesman said: “From vaccinators to volunteers, porters to paramedics, midwives to mental health practitioners, and all other essential workers — thank you to everyone who is working over the festive period.” Health Secretary Sajid Javid added: “I would like to thank the tireless and selfless work of the NHS and volunteers for sacrificing time with their loved ones to deliver life-saving jabs through Christmas Day and Boxing Day.”
Dr Emily Lawson, of the NHS Covid vaccination programme, added it was “fantastic” to see people coming forward on Christmas Day for their “jingle jabs”.
She said: “It has been humbling to see first-hand the amazing work done at vaccination sites.”