PM says UK doing ‘incomparably better’ against Covid in new year message

The Guardian
The Guardian
The prime minister also urged those who had not been vaccinated or boosted to get their jabs.

Britain is in an “incomparably better” position in the fight against Covid than it was at the end of 2020, Boris Johnson has said in his new year’s message, while Keir Starmer stressed his belief in a brighter future but said the virus remained a real threat.

Both party leaders focused on the effect the pandemic had had on the country in their messages. The prime minister admitted there was anxiety about the Omicron variant and growing numbers of hospital admissions, and urged those who had not been vaccinated to get their jabs.

There was “one overriding reason” that tougher restrictions were not needed in the face of daily case numbers hitting record levels, he said – people “heroically, voluntarily and in almost incredible numbers heeding the call to get vaccinated”.

Johnson was buoyant about the speed of the booster rollout, saying it was “precisely because of that huge national effort that we can celebrate tonight at all”.

He still urged everyone in England to be cautious, take a test if going out and remember the importance of ventilation, and he told those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – who face tougher measures – that they should follow the respective rules in force across each nation.

He also called people who were still unvaccinated or unboosted to get their jabs. “Look at the intensive care units and the miserable, needless suffering of those who did not get their booster. That could be you,” he said.

“So, make it your new year’s resolution – far easier than losing weight or keeping a diary – find a walk-in centre or make an online appointment.”

The Labour leader also called on people to “make the right choices, to come together” and forge a new sense of direction that he said would lead to a brighter future.

Buoyed by a boost in the polls while the Conservatives’ vaccine bounce diminished, Starmer promised to set out “the ideas that I believe can build a new Britain” over the next 12 months.

“Given the last two years our country has been through it would be all too easy to lose heart. But, like you, I believe in Britain. I believe the best still lies ahead for Britain,” he said.

“That – if we make the right choices – together we can seize the future and make it work for every family in every part of Britain. That must be the true legacy of all the sacrifices and pain of the past two years of the pandemic.”

Patriotism was not enough for success, he said, stressing the UK needed a leader who “can translate that pride into the action we need”.

He said the events he was most looking forward to next year included the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the Queen’s platinum jubilee and – as a football lover – the World Cup.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, used his new year message to stress he hoped 2022 would be “the year we will finally beat Covid” – but said it would begin with “many worries”.

He said a potential “cost of living crisis” was already brewing, with heating bills on the rise and the threat of inflation, a “staff shortage crisis” with people off work isolating and a “political crisis” with the government divided and distracted at a crucial point in the pandemic.

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