Will we follow Europe with a lockdown, and is booster doing its job?
Q Why are some European countries now going into lockdown, and will we follow suit? A Covid infection rates in parts of Europe are rising sharply, forcing some countries to take drastic steps. Austria tomorrow begins a ten-day lockdown, which could be extended if infections don’t start to fall. The country already had a lockdown in place for unvaccinated people, and from February it will be a legal requirement for all residents who qualify for the Covid jab to get it. Meanwhile, Germany and Greece have hinted at tougher measures as their own rates creep up. Austria’s infection rate had soared to 971 per 100,000 people. The UK’s rate is now about 350. Experts say a key factor behind the upsurge in Austria and elsewhere seems to be low vaccine uptake. Just under 65 per cent of Austrians have had two doses, one of the lowest rates in Europe. In the UK it’s about 80 per cent. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to rule out another lockdown here, but it’s likely the Government would first implement some of its Plan B measures, such as compulsory mask-wearing on public transport and in shops, banning those without a Covid vaccine pass from certain crowded venues, and encouraging more people to work from home again. Mr Johnson also warned that Europe’s ‘storm of infection’ could cause cases to shoot up in the UK. Many scientists disagree, saying Europe is experiencing the spike that the UK saw last month. Q Has our booster campaign affected infection rates? A New evidence from Imperial College London shows that an extra jab reduces the risk of infection by two-thirds compared with having just two jabs. The study, which tested 8,000 people after their booster, found that just 0.3 per cent contracted the virus. A separate analysis by the Office for National Statistics recently found that triple-jabbed patients are 80 per cent less likely to catch Covid than those who have had no jabs at all. Experts believe this is largely why infections appear to be falling in the UK. Some experts have warned that it is vital to speed up the UK’s booster campaign to keep Covid rates in check over winter. More than 14million Britons have now had their top-up jab – 24 per cent of those who need it.