CHRISTMAS is at risk unless people get their Covid booster jabs, experts say.
Cases are on the rise once again, according to a respected study, and many people will be unaware they are infected because the disease is being masked by cold symptoms.
The ZOE COVID Study estimates 76,728 new people are getting symptomatic Covid in the UK each day – 18 per cent higher than the 65,059 last week.
Professor Tim Spector, lead scientist on the study, says it’s “far too high” and it’s “up to us to save Christmas”.
He said: “Seeing cases on the rise again is really disheartening and the recent ups and downs, unlike previous waves, is making it hard to predict where things will be from week-to-week.
“However, for me, the message is that cases are still far too high. Although we appear, for now, to be faring better than some European countries in terms of case numbers, the UK continues to have relatively high hospital admissions and deaths, which is a real cause for concern.
“While the government is unlikely to enforce restrictions for Christmas, family gatherings will undoubtedly increase risk, especially for older and more vulnerable family members who haven’t yet had their third vaccine dose.
“Saving Christmas is up to us. Those of us eligible for the third jab should take it now.”
It comes after the Government has warned that those eligible for a booster have only two weeks to get it if they want full protection by Christmas Day.
December 11 is the last day that someone could get a top-up dose and expect more than 90 per cent protection against illness and hospitalisation by December 25.
State of outbreak
The ZOE study also estimates the R rate is above 1 in all countries except Scotland, which means the outbreak is growing.
In terms of prevalence, on average 1 in 66 people in the UK currently have symptomatic Covid, which does not include those without symptoms.
The current epidemic is mostly being driven by cases in those under 17 years old, with around 31,000 coming down with symptoms of the virus each day.
But Prof Spector warned adults are not immune.
A surge in cases is also being seen in the 35 to 55 age group, but cases in older people are stable, likely due to the booster doses.
Government data shows that positive Covid cases have risen by 11 per cent in a week. The ups and downs of the outbreak since July means cases have remained at a generally stable, but high level, over time.
The number of people admitted to hospital in the past seven days (5,703) is down 11.6 per cent from the week prior.
Prof Spector said everyone should be mindful that “one in four people with cold-like symptoms have Covid-19”.
Since vaccination has become widespread, experts say people more often report a runny nose, headache and sneezing than the classic triad of Covid symptoms listed on the NHS.
A new and persistent cough, loss of smell and/or taste and high temperature are not as frequent as they were when Covid first emerged.
Prof Spector suggested if cases remain stable over the Christmas period, they will likely spike again in the New Year.
He told Sky News: “It looks like it’s going to stay fairly flat – hopefully not get worse before Christmas – after that I think it will get worse again.”
The professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London said “now was not the time to portray the UK as a success story”.
It follows comments from a minister that the UK could be the first country in the world to beat Covid using vaccines.
Nadhim Zahawi, the former vaccine minister told LBC radio this week: “We will probably, I hope, without being complacent, be the first major economy in the world to demonstrate how you transition (from) pandemic to endemic using vaccines.”
A number of European countries have slapped lockdowns on citizens as the Christmas period approaches due to concerning Covid spikes.
Some nations are only restricting freedoms of the unvaccinated, such as going to restaurants or into shops.
Austria and Germany are also in the midst of proposing mandatory vaccines to get a grip on the crisis.
But the UK is not expected to spiral into an outbreak so severe that lockdown will be needed before Christmas, thanks to the rollout of second doses to teenagers and boosters to those over 40.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, however, the UK “cannot be complacent”.
Vaccine rates are considerably better than many of the European’s countries that are in despair.
For example, shocking figures show as little as 26 per cent of people have had one vaccine dose in Bulgaria compared with the UK’s 88 per cent. Cases are also twice as high per population size.
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