People should ‘keep going’ with Christmas parties despite new measures to try and limit the spread of the Omicron variant, Boris Johnson said during a press conference today
People should not cancel going to Christmas parties or pull out of nativity plays, Boris Johnson has said, despite announcing strict new ‘Plan B’ Covid curbs amid fears over the Omicron variant and rising case rates.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday evening, the Prime Minister said the doubling time of the new strain could be “between two and three days” – meaning its spread will be rapid.
Covid vaccine passports will be made mandatory for nightclubs and large events, and rules on face masks would be “further extended” from Friday, to “most public indoor venues” including theatres and cinemas.
But the PM stressed that the new measures were “not a lockdown” and parents should not pull their children out of school before Christmas.
He said: “We don’t want kids to be taken out of school before the end of term, not that there’s a very long term to go now.
“We don’t want nativity plays to be cancelled. We think that it’s okay.”
The Department of Education has said that it is up to schools to decide if they want to host plays before Christmas.
A DfE spokesperson said: “Our guidance to schools states that schools can continue to hold events where visitors such as parents are on-site, for example, school plays. But they should take steps to improve fresh air flow in these areas, where gatherings are taking place.”
At Wednesday’s Covid-19 briefing, Mr Johnson also said Christmas parties could go ahead but that people should exercise caution.
He said: “It’s OK to keep going with Christmas parties but obviously everybody should exercise due caution, have ventilation, wash your hands, get a test before you go – give everybody else confidence they are going to be meeting somebody who is not contagious.”
It came as the PM “apologised unreservedly” over allegations of a Christmas party held at Downing Street last year when lockdown rules banned social gatherings – but he continued to deny all responsibility.
AFP via Getty Images)
He insisted he was told rules were followed and said he was “sickened and furious” at the leaked footage showing senior No 10 staff joking about the Christmas party.
Under the government’s ‘Plan B’ rules, any contact of a suspected Omicron case will be forced to isolate for 10 days.
“We will reintroduce the guidance to work from home,” Mr Johnson said. “Employers should use the rest of the week to discuss working arrangements with their employees but from Monday you should work from home if you can.
“Go to work if you must but work from home if you can.”
The prime minister said it had become “increasingly clear” that Omicron was “growing much faster” than the previous Delta variant and was “spreading rapidly all around the world”.
He continued: “We can’t yet assume that Omicron is less severe than previous variants.
“So while the picture may get better, and I sincerely hope that it will, we know that the remorseless logic of exponential growth could lead to a big rise in hospitalisations and therefore, sadly, in deaths.
“That’s why it is now the proportionate and the responsible thing to move to Plan B in England while continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the devolved administrations, so we slow the spread of the virus, buy ourselves the time to get yet more boosters into arms, especially in the older and more vulnerable people.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.