This holiday season, like the last one, is marred by the dark overshadow of rising COVID-19 cases. As Christmas approaches, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the people of the United Kingdom to get the vaccine as a “wonderful” gift for the nation. 

“There is still a wonderful thing you can give your family and the whole country, and that is to get that jab, whether it is your first or second, or your booster,” he said in his Christmas Eve message, reported AFP. 

Last year, the PM had imposed a stay at home order on December 19 for London and southeast England. But this time, he has avoided placing harsh restrictions, saying, “for millions of families up and down the country, I hope and believe that this Christmas is, and will be, significantly better than the last”.

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His focus for this year is increasing vaccine protection through the booster programme drive. Over 30 million people in the nation have received the jab, and the government hopes to cover all over 18 by December end. 

Places like Scotland in the UK, however, have announced tighter restrictions such as closing nightclubs ‘to tackle the transmission of Omicron, which continues to spread rapidly’, the government said on Monday. These could remain open if they provided only table service and maintained social distancing measures, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney said, according to an AFP report.

Earlier, Edinburgh had said it would cancel the firework display for New Year’s Eve. 

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Urging people to get vaccinated and tested before meeting relatives and friends, Johnson said, “After two years of this pandemic, I can’t say that we are through it”.

Getting a vaccine, he added, would mean standing by Jesus Christ’s teaching that “we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves”.

The UK recorded a record high of some 119,789 cases on Thursday, December 23, and has reached a death toll of 147,720, making it one of the worst affected countries by COVID-19 in Europe.