HEALTH Secretary Sajid Javid indicated yesterday that the Tory government is set to impose new Covid restrictions, as the Omicron variant spreads around the country.
A further 10,000 Omicron cases were confirmed in the UK yesterday and a major incident was declared in London, where cases are highest.
Brexit minister Lord Frost, meanwhile, resigned from the UK government on Saturday over ‘concerns about the current direction of travel’.
In his resignation letter, Frost told PM Johnson that he hoped he would ‘not be tempted’ to introduce further ‘coercive measures’ to tackle Covid.
A WhatsApp group of Tory MPs described Frost’s resignation as ‘an absolute disaster’.
Then, after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries spoke out in support of Johnson, she was removed from the WhatsApp group by its organiser Steve Baker MP, who was credited with orchestrating last week’s ‘rebellion’ in the House of Commons, when 100 Tory MPs voted against the introduction of Johnson’s Plan B measures.
Asked about possible new rules to slow the spread, Javid said there are ‘no guarantees in this pandemic’ and described warnings from scientific advisers as ‘sobering’.
When it was put to him that he was not ruling out new restrictions before Christmas, Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘There are no guarantees in this pandemic, I don’t think. At this point we just have to keep everything under review.’
A further 90,418 daily Covid cases were reported across the UK on Saturday, after days of record highs.
And leaked notes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergency (Sage) suggest that, without intervention beyond current Plan B rules, hospital admissions could reach 3,000 a day.
On those notes, Javid said: ‘It’s a very sobering analysis. We take it very seriously.’
However, he added: ‘We do have to challenge data and underlying assumptions, I think that is appropriate, and take into account a broader set of facts.’
Current Plan B rules include Covid passes for certain events, face masks in more places and people being urged to work from home if they can.
Javid said ministers are monitoring the data and discussing it with scientists ‘almost on an hourly basis’.
He confirmed that if new measures are to be proposed, Parliament will be recalled to approve them.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said yesterday that it is ‘inevitable’ that new coronavirus measures will be brought in for England.
‘I think if we don’t bring in new restrictions sooner rather than later, you’re going to see even more positive cases and potentially public services like the NHS on the verge of collapse, if not collapsing,’ he said.
‘I think we should be able to celebrate Christmas safely. But I think sooner rather than later we’re going to look at social distancing, we’re going to have to look at household mixing. If we don’t, the number of cases is only going one way.’
Germany joined France in banning arrivals from Britain yesterday and in the Netherlands a strict lockdown was announced, set to last until 14 January.