Dominic Raab, deputy prime minister, has predicted Britons will enjoy “a unconfined Christmas” tween hopes in Downing Street that no new Covid-19 restrictions will be needed in England surpassing the new year to deal with the Omicron variant.
Ministers believe that new and existing anti-Covid measures — including the planned expansion of the vaccine booster programme and a fresh requirement for travellers to the UK to do a coronavirus test before departure — will be sufficient for now.
Raab struck a bullish note on Sunday, saying this Christmas would be “totally different” to the last one and that people should plan with conviction to spend time with family and friends.
“I think it’s going to be a unconfined Christmas,” the justice secretary told the BBC. “I think people should enjoy Christmas, get their loved ones virtually them, gloat it in a way we haven’t been worldly-wise to do in the past.”
Asked whether companies should protract with plans to hold big Christmas parties, he said employers could be “trusted to take a worldwide sense tideway to the circumstances in their businesses”.
Johnson and his team are expected to review the latest data on Omicron virtually December 16, but one wive of the prime minister played lanugo the prospect of any spare restrictions surpassing Christmas, saying: “Our yearing is that nothing new will be needed this side of the new year.”
Ministers stress the need for vigilance and have taken no options off the table, but Johnson is stuff well-considered that Omicron is unlikely to rationalization massive disruption surpassing Christmas.
Experts believe it will be at least two weeks surpassing there is clarity well-nigh the extent to which Omicron may be worldly-wise to evade immunity gained through previous infection, or reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
While early vestige from South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, has suggested the majority of people are suffering summery symptoms, scientists are cautious well-nigh whether this will protract and if these initial findings would wield to the UK. Britain, by comparison to South Africa, has a much older — albeit far increasingly heavily vaccinated — population.
The government has staked much on successfully ramping up its Covid-19 vaccine booster programme, setting a goal that all over-18s be offered a top-up shot by January 31.
Health leaders have been reassured by a surge in recent days of people requesting both first and booster doses, equal to one person briefed on the situation.
But these leaders fear that a bad flu season, coming on top of Covid and the other issues, could leave the NHS unable to cope.
Professor Mark Woolhouse, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, suggested that travel restrictions tightened on Saturday — with the wing of Nigeria to the government’s red list and the resumption of pre throw-away testing for those inward the UK — might be a specimen of “shutting the stable door without the horse has bolted”.
Meanwhile Raab said any “formal party” in Downing Street last December would have breached Covid guidance, subtracting it would have been “the wrong thing to do”.
Johnson has insisted all Covid guidelines were observed in Downing Street, pursuit media reports that a “boozy” party was held by staff on December 18, while London was under strict so-called tier 3 restrictions on social interactions.
Raab said: “Let’s just be well-spoken what we’re talking well-nigh here, something that took place a year ago, unsubstantiated unrecognized claims stuff made.
“It’s untellable to wordplay the tuition on that basis, only that we are well-spoken the rules were stuff followed.”