Mark Drakeford makes televised address on Omicron variant and booster programme

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Wales’ First Minister has announced urgent plans to offer the booster vaccine to all eligible adults by the end of the year during a televised address.

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government is accelerating the booster programme as new evidence has emerged showing two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are not enough to offer protection against the new Omicron variant.

Omicron is expected to have become the dominant form of the virus in Wales by the end of December, Mr Drakeford confirmed.

He said this would bring “a new wave of infections and illness”.

There are currently 30 confirmed cases of Omicron in the country.

“We are still learning about this new form of coronavirus. All the information we have tells us we are facing a very serious situation.

“By the end of the month, Omicron will have become the dominant form of the virus in Wales, bringing a new wave of infections and illness.

“This could then translate into a large number of people needing hospital treatment just at a time when the NHS is already under significant pressure.”

He added: “We have already taken some steps to increase protections in Wales and we may need to take some further steps to keep Wales safe.”

Mr Drakeford said the aim was to offer all adults a booster by the end of the year.

Mr Drakeford’s statement comes a day after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced booster jabs would be rolled out to all eligible adults in England.

Long queues could be seen forming outside vaccination centres in England on Monday morning, with people reporting waiting in line as long as five hours to get their dose.

Scotland has also committed to delivering booster jabs to everyone over 18 by the end of the year.

The Royal College of Nursing’s Wales Director, Helen Whyley, said while she agrees with the expansion of the booster programme, the Welsh Government should “take every step needed to slow the spread to ensure that services, staff and the public are protected”.

Teacher’s Union NASUWT on Monday called for further educational measures to be introduced including staggering the return of pupils to all schools and colleges at the start of January and providing additional onsite testing facilities and resources for pupils between January and the February half-term.

Two councils in Wales, Denbighshire and Anglesey, have decided to end face-to-face classes early on Friday, December 17 with students expected to learn from home for the last three days of term.

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