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More Than 100,000 Civil Servants Could Be Drafted In To "Step Up" The Urgent Booster Drive

4 min read

Exclusive: Up to 120,000 civil servants could be drafted in to assist the NHS with the UK’s national booster vaccine roll-out, which has been escalated to deal with a surge in new Covid cases.

Whitehall officials told civil servants this morning that they want to see volunteers “really step up” and help with the government’s campaign to offer boosters to all adults aged 18 and over by the new year.

The NHS has communicated to Whitehall that it believes 120,000 volunteers from the civil service will be required for support.

Of these 80,000 would be needed for non-clinical work and 40,000 for clinical assistance.   

“We are looking on the supply side to see whether the civil service can really step up and provide the volunteers that are necessary to be able to support the NHS,” a Whitehall official told civil servants this morning.

“They think they need 120,000 volunteers – 40,000 clinical and 80,000 non-clinical.”

One source familiar with the plans told PoliticsHome the national vaccine effort is a cause civil servants would be “happy” to participate in.

“It’s a duty to the public that I’m sure civil servants across the nation would be happy to take on,” they said.

This afternoon civil service CEO Alex Chisholm emailed Whitehall staff asking them to "put themselves forward to help out at their local community vaccine centres".

Whitehall workers are permitted to take five days of leave every year to engage in volunteering activities.

Chisolm wrote in his email: "We understand that giving up five days may be a challenge, however if people could even do one day, every little helps."

In a plea to civil servants to put their names forward as volunteers, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Stephen Barclay wrote in the same email: "We are turbocharging our efforts against Omicron, with an urgent national appeal calling for people to be jabbed.

"We have a target to offer boosters to all eligible adults by the end of the month – and civil servants can plan an important role in this. 

"I urge as many of you as possible to support this effort." 

In a statement broadcast to the nation on Sunday evening, the Prime Minister warned that “we must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection to keep our friends and loved ones safe”.

However, government analysis has shown that in order to hit the pace of boosters needed to fully vaccinate the population by the new year, the NHS will need to match its best vaccination day yet and then beat it day after day. 

Johnson confirmed yesterday that 42 military planning teams will be deployed across the UK to assist with booster efforts.

Alongside this, to curb the spread Omicron from today "Plan B" Covid measures have come into force, with more expected Wednesday subject to a Commons vote.

People are being encouraged to work from home where possible and facemasks are now compulsory on public transport and in public indoor spaces.

On Wednesday, subject to a vote in parliament, a negative lateral flow test or vaccine certification will be required at large events and nightclubs.

The Prime Minister has also confirmed that the new drive booster jab drive  “will mean some other appointments will need to be postponed until the New Year”.

However, Johnson warned that “if we don’t do this now, the wave of Omicron could be so big that cancellations and disruptions… would be even greater next year”.

At least one patient in the UK has now died after testing positive for the Omicron variant.

Speaking during a visit to a vaccination clinic in London this morning, Johnson said the "best thing" people could do was to receive their booster jabs as hospitalisations linked to the new variant continued to rise.

"The idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that's something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population," he said.

"The best thing we can do is all get our boosters."

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