British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will encourage people across the UK to get their booster jabs in his Christmas message this year, describing it as a “wonderful” gift to their families.
Mr Johnson will also say that the pandemic is far from over, as “Omicron is surging”, and will pay tribute to the work of National Health Service staff.
“Though the time for buying presents is theoretically running out, there is still a wonderful thing you can give your family and the whole country," he will say on Friday.
"And that is to get that jab, whether it is your first or second or your booster, so that next year’s festivities are even better than this year’s."
A total of 119,789 new daily cases as well as 147 new deaths were reported on Thursday, taking the total number of fatalities to 147,720.
It is the highest number of new cases since the pandemic first reached the UK in early 2020 and is the second consecutive day of record new cases.
About 1 in 45 people now have Covid-19 in England, official figures show. In Wales, the figure is 1 in 55 people, Northern Ireland is 1 in 50 and Scotland is 1 in 70. In London, 1 in 30 people have the disease.
Mr Johnson will also describe Covid-19 vaccines as “an invisible and invaluable present”, according to an early release of his Christmas message.
“We have been getting that vaccination that protects us and stops us infecting others," he will say.
“And I hope I can be forgiven for taking pride in the immense spirit of neighbourliness that the people of this country have shown, getting jabbed not just for themselves, for ourselves, but for friends and family and everyone we meet.
“And that, after all, is the teaching of Jesus Christ, whose birth is at the heart of this enormous festival, that we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
“And so let’s think of all those who are being good neighbours and thinking of others, all those in the NHS working over Christmas, our care workers, everyone involved in the incredible vaccination campaign.”
This week, Mr Johnson confirmed no further Covid-19 restrictions will be put in place before Christmas.
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But the government has said the situation is finely balanced and remains difficult across the country, with the Omicron variant continuing to surge and cases at an all-time high.
The government said it would continue to monitor the data closely and would not hesitate to act after Christmas if necessary.
As he opens his message, the Prime Minister will refer to the spread of Omicron, saying: “After two years of this pandemic, I can’t say that we are through it. How can I?
“When Omicron is surging, when we all know we must together try to stop the spread of this new variant, we must test ourselves and take extra care when meeting elderly or vulnerable relatives.
“We know that things remain difficult.”