The Prime Minister has refused to back another lockdown, despite daily cases soaring to 218,724
Boris Johnson has refused to back new lockdown curbs, saying England will “ride out the Omicron wave” sweeping Britain without new restrictions.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference today, the Prime Minister said claims the pandemic was over are “profoundly wrong” despite daily cases climbing to 218,724.
But he squarely rejected calls for the Government to go beyond ‘Plan B’ restrictions, saying lockdowns were “not cost free for lives, for livelihoods and for life chances”.
The PM, who promised to do whatever it takes to stop the NHS being overwhelmed, admitted “different trusts in different places will at times feel temporarily overwhelmed”.
But when asked about fresh rules he said he “clearly can’t rule anything out”, adding: “And to be absolutely frank with you I think it depends on whether the virus will behave in the way perhaps it’s behaved in South Africa – whether it peaks, how quickly it blows through.
“But if you asked me to guess, I would say we have a good chance of getting through the Omicron wave without the need for further restrictions and without the need certainly for a lockdown.”
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He underlined that the Omicron strain was milder than the previously dominant Delta and Alpha variants, adding: “First, we now know that Omicron is milder than previous variants, so while hospital admissions are rising quickly, with over 15,000 Covid patients now in hospital in England alone, this is not yet, thankfully, translating into the same numbers needing intensive care that we saw in previous waves.
“Second, thanks to the fantastic national effort to get Britain boosted, we now have a substantial level of protection, higher than any of our European neighbours, with over 34 million boosters administered, including in England reaching more than 90% of the over 70s and 86% of the over 50s.
“And so, together with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas, we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.
“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus.”
He admitted the UK was “in the midst of the fastest growth in Covid cases that we’ve ever known”, and added: “Previous waves of the pandemic didn’t have a single day with more than 100,000 new cases reported, one day last week we had 200,000 people test positive.
“And the latest figure today is another 218,000, though that includes some delayed reports.
“So anyone who thinks our battle with Covid is over, I’m afraid is profoundly wrong.
“This is a moment for the utmost caution.”
Flanked by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance the PM urged people to get their booster jab for extra protection.
He said: “There are still almost nine million people eligible, who haven’t had their booster,” he told a Downing Street news conference.
“It’s absolutely heart-breaking that as many as 90% of those in intensive care with Covid have not had their booster, and over 60% of those in intensive care, who have Covid, have not had any vaccination at all.
“People are dying needlessly because they haven’t had their jabs, they haven’t had that booster.”
There were 1,881 Covid-19 hospital admissions in England on January 2, NHS England said today.
This is up 37% week on week but is below the 2,370 admissions recorded on December 29.
During the second wave of coronavirus, daily admissions peaked at 4,134 on January 12.
In London, 347 admissions were reported on January 2, down 7% week on week.
The number of Covid-19 admissions includes people admitted to hospital in the previous 24 hours who were known to have Covid-19, plus patients diagnosed in hospital with Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours.