Sajid Javid has refused to rule out more restrictions next week, putting Britons' Christmas in jeopardy. When asked about a festive lockdown, the Health Secretary warned that there are ‘no guarantees,’ despite PM Boris Johnson's assurance that the country will not be shut down.
Under new plans being worked up in Whitehall, England was told last night that it could face an abrupt Covid lockdown after Boxing Day. Boris Johnson has organised a Cobra meeting today to discuss the disruption caused by the Omicron variant, which has a doubling time of 1.5 to three days.
Locked down Christmas
According to an earlier proposal, people were supposed to be free to enjoy next week's festivities before any restrictions are implemented. However, when asked if limitations may be implemented sooner, the Health Secretary said today that nothing could be ruled out. On the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Sajid Javid remarked,
There are no guarantees in this pandemic. At this point, we just have to keep everything under review.
We are assessing the situation, it's very fast-moving. We've seen with Omicron there's a lot that we still don't know about Omicron. That's the truth of the matter. The reality is there's a lot of uncertainty.
Further Whitehall limitations might include a return to limits on household mixing and numbers in stores, as well as table-only service in pubs. Although the idea has not yet been proposed to ministers, it may impact New Year's celebrations.
Mandatory to pull the brakes
The best defence against Omicron is a booster shot right now. According to preliminary data, it increases efficacy to 75 per cent, however with the soaring Omicron cases as many as 50,000 NHS workers are expected to be affected by Christmas. The Health Secretary advised that it was time to be more careful this morning, urging individuals to continue testing while having their third vaccination.
He further added that it was now up to each person to decide how much they socialised in the run-up to Christmas. He warned people and said,
We know this thing is spreading rapidly. We know already now that in London, it's around 80% of infections, in England, it's around 60% of infections.
Yesterday, 90,418 daily Covid cases were reported, bringing the total number of Omicron cases to 24,968. It is expected that without new measures, hospital admissions might approach 3,000 per day. Scientists have advised reverting to the regulations that were in place earlier this year as it becomes mandatory to pull the brake at some point to curb the spread of the virus.