Boris Johnson addresses the public to provide an update on the Covid-19 booster programme (Photo: Getty)
When a prime minister appears on national television to give a public address, it’s usually a time to sit up and take notice. Something of massive and historic importance is about to be announced, in grave tones.
But when Boris Johnson is said prime minister, you can bet there’s an ulterior motive.
On the face of it, a decision to accelerate the booster programme would seem like a sensible and important move, coming as it did a day after scientists warned of a major wave of Omicron cases and deaths in early 2022.
But the hasty Sunday night announcement has caused chaos up and down the country, and the under-fire PM has managed to infuriate and confuse local NHS boards as well as the GPs and nurses he’s calling on to deliver a million jabs a day between now and the new year.
The official guidance is as follows: if you’re aged 30 or over, you can book online from today (Monday), and if you’re 18 or over can book online from Wednesday.
But Twitter today is full of people in their 30s asking if anyone has had any joy in booking a booster appointment (the response is usually negative).
And there are reports from across the country that local teams are struggling to follow through on this guidance.
In Bristol, for example, a spokesperson for NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group told our sister title BristolWorld that it was still only over 40s who could book today.
Another key message from the Prime Minister last night was to get tested regularly, especially if you’re planning to attend one of those Christmas parties he knows so much about.
But less than 24 hours later, and the Government website where people can request a free lateral flow home test kit says they have run out, advising people to “try again later” or book a test appointment instead.
This comes a day before new advice that says double-jabbed people identified as a contact of someone with Covid in England will be told to take a daily rapid test for seven days. Good luck with that.
While Boris Johnson’s real motive of shifting the news agenda away from the Christmas party scandal had the desired effect, the result of his address to the nation has been to sow widespread confusion and chaos.
He has a hellish week of backbench rebellions, party investigations and a losable by-election ahead.
If his plan to accelerate boosters - which has been well behind target so far - fails to deliver, it could well be another prime minister we’ll see on our screens next year.
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