Get vaccinated or wear face masks and take weekly tests, Joe Biden tells workers in the US

Workers in America have been told to get vaccinated by January 4 or face having to take weekly tests and continue to wear face masks.

The plans from Joe Biden, the US president – which cover all healthcare workers and businesses with more than 100 employees – aim to push tens of millions of people into getting Covid-19 vaccines.

The new regulations will affect more than two-thirds of the country’s workforce, according to the Biden administration

Mr Biden said: “Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic. And while I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good.”

It comes as ministers in the UK prepare to announce compulsory jabs for healthcare staff.

But on Wednesday night, health chiefs claimed the policy would fuel a staffing crisis which would leave the NHS unable to clear record backlogs. 

Up to one in five NHS staff at some hospitals are not fully vaccinated, official figures show.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospital managers, said: “There are 93,000 vacancies across the NHS and at a time of increased demand for healthcare services, we simply cannot afford to see staff leave or be removed from frontline care.

“The Secretary of State has made it clear that tackling the treatment backlog is his key priority but if he is not careful, this policy could end up restricting the NHS’s ability to continue to do that effectively.”

A record 5.4 million people are currently on NHS waiting lists.

Latest figures show that more than 100,000 NHS workers have yet to have a first jab, while 146,000 have not had their second.

Mr Taylor, who recently called on ministers to implement Plan B, urged ministers to publish their risk assessment of making jabs compulsory, and to set out how it would mitigate problems caused by short-staffing.

Latest NHS data show that at some major hospitals in London and Birmingham, as many as one in five healthcare workers are not fully vaccinated.

The Government recently held a public consultation on making jabs mandatory, which said such a move would protect patients and doctors during winter.

But on Wednesday, The Telegraph revealed that ministers are considering delaying enforcement until March 31.

Discussions over the spring timetable come despite warnings that rising cases could see the public put under greater restrictions.

Is the UK on track to hit vaccination targets?

The new data shows that across England, one in 10 healthcare workers have yet to have both jabs, while seven per cent have had neither.

Barts Health Trust in London, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust and North Middlesex University Hospital trust are among the major hospitals where more than 20 per cent of staff have yet to have both jabs.

Similar figures are seen at Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health trust, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust, East London NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

On Wednesday, campaigners for the elderly said patients should be given the right to know if the medics treating them had been jabbed.

Dennis Reed, from Silver Voices, a campaign group for the elderly, questioned why patients were not given the right to know if their medic had been vaccinated.

He said: “I think there is a really strong case for this: the public should have a right to know whether they are being treated by someone who is more likely to infect them.”

One in 10 care workers still not vaccinated

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has said he was “leaning towards” making jabs compulsory for NHS staff, with an announcement expected next week.

The measure has already been introduced across the care sector, and will take effect from November 11.

When a public consultation was launched in September on compulsory jabs for NHS staff, the need to protect staff and patients in winter was emphasised.

However, ministers are understood to be discussing plans which would delay implementation until March 31.

Mandatory jabs were announced for the care sector five months ago, and since then, the uptake of vaccines has risen sharply. 

When the announcement was made, just 71.4 percent of such staff had received both jabs. Latest figures for the week ending October 14 show the figure is now 88.9 per cent. But this still leaves more than 60,000 care workers – more than one in 10 – without a second jab ahead of the deadline next Thursday. And the figures show 31,902 are yet to have their first dose. 

The statistics suggest that 13,204 staff have left the sector since June 20, the date when compulsory jabs for care homes was announced.

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