The prime minister released a video on social media where he said: “The British people have responded heroically, voluntarily, and in almost incredible numbers to the call to get vaccinated.
“As I speak tonight on New Year’s Eve, we’ve met our target, we’ve doubled the speed of the booster rollout and it’s precisely because of that huge national effort that we can celebrate tonight at all.
“But I must, of course, urge everybody to be cautious and take a test if you’re going out, and to remember the importance of ventilation, follow the rules if you’re in Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland.
“And I want to speak directly to the people who are yet to get fully vaccinated, the people who think the disease can’t hurt them, look at the people going to hospital now – that could be you.
“Look at the intensive care units and the miserable, needless suffering of those who did not get their booster. That could be you.”
He encouraged the public to make getting the vaccine their New Year’s resolution as it is “far easier than losing weight or keeping a diary”.
The prime minister has repeatedly resisted calls to impose further restrictions on indoor mixing to curb Covid infections, instead relying on self-testing kits, also known as lateral flow tests (LFTs).
However, LFTs are now unavailable to order online as the supply is running low, as the public have been ordering the tests more frequently in line with the government’s new advice.
Positive cases can now leave self-isolation after just seven days if they have two negative LFTs in a row, close contacts of a Covid case need to test themselves daily rather than isolate and people are advised to take a LFT before socialising.
People are advised instead to go to their local pharmacists – or local authorities – to get Covid tests, although pharmacies claim they are struggling too.
Johnson’s critics have also pointed out that Covid infections are at an all-time high in the UK with 189,213 people testing positive on Thursday 30 December.
There are almost 12,000 people in hospital as well, and yet the largest night of the year is still going to go ahead on Friday.
Health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs in a letter on Wednesday evening that LFTs would be “constrained” for the next two week.
However, a spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency said: “The UK’s testing programme is the biggest in Europe with almost 400 million tests carried out since the start of the pandemic.
“We are delivering record numbers of lateral flow tests to pharmacies across the country, with almost eight million test kits being made available to pharmacies between today and New Year’s Eve.
“We have made 100,000 more PCR booking slots available per day since mid-December and we are continuing to rapidly expand capacity – with over half a million tests carried out on December 23 alone and delivery capacity doubled to 900,000 PCR and LFD test kits a day.”
The government is constructing several Nightingale ‘surge’ hubs across the country in case there is a large rise in hospitalisations, but with intense staff shortages across the NHS, the move prompted further criticism.
Still, for people with symptoms, PCR tests are now available across the UK according to the gov.uk website, despite shortages in England earlier this week.