No new Covid rules in England before new year, Health Secretary says – at odds with Wales and Scotland
There will be no new Covid restrictions in England before the New Year, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed.
The news means that England will go into 2022 out of step with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have introduced new restrictions over the past few days.
While health is devolved in Wales the lack of restrictions in England will have a knock-on effect on restrictions here, as it means the UK Treasury is unlikely to release new money that could be used to bail out businesses should the Welsh Government feel the need to impose sricter rules.
Sajid Javid said that people should remain cautious over the New Year.
“When we get into the new year, of course we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing more until then at least,” he said.
The Prime Minister had been facing pressure from his own backbench Conservative MPs not to go forward with new restrictions before more data showing whether Omicron will overwhelm the NHS becomes available.
Boris Johnson received his first comprehensive data briefing since before Christmas today, with a focus on hospitalisations in London where the Omicron variant has been most prevalent.
The meeting included the chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser.
But today he only reiterated his message for the public in England to get a booster jab, saying: “There are over 1.5 million vaccination slots available to book in England in the coming days.
“We know two jabs don’t give you enough protection against Omicron so whether it’s your first, second or booster jab I urge you to book an appointment now.”
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already introduced some restrictions, including a ban of crowds at sporting events in Wales.
In Northern Ireland, as in Wales, nightclubs have been closed, table service is required in pubs and restaurants, and a maximum of six people can sit together at hospitality venues.
In Scotland, indoor events have been limited to 100 people standing or 200 people seated, and groups meeting inside must be limited to three households.
Yesterday Public Health Wales announced that there was now a total of 1,689 confirmed Omicron cases in the country.
Dr Chris Williams, Consultant Epidemiologist for Public Health Wales, said: “Public Health Wales is today (Sunday 26 December) confirming 304 new cases of Omicron variant in Wales, bringing us to a total of 1,689 cases.
“As we have indicated previously, a rapid increase over the coming days and weeks is expected.”