Boris Johnson rules out new Covid measures for Christmas – but may act before New Year

The Prime Minister used a video message to say “people can go ahead with their Christmas plans” but the government stands “ready to take action” if Covid worsens

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Boris Johnson delivers update on Christmas period restrictions

Boris Johnson has ruled out new Covid curbs before Christmas – as he gave the strongest signal yet he will act before New Year.

In a video message, the Prime Minister said “people can go ahead with their Christmas plans” as the situation was “finely balanced”.

He said, despite Omicron driving up Covid case numbers and hospitalisations, there was not “enough evidence” to justify tougher restrictions before Christmas.

But he added the Government stood “ready to take action”, prompting fears England will be facing new restrictions after Boxing Day.

The PM said the “situation remains extremely difficult” and that there is “no doubt that Omicron continues to surge with a speed unlike anything we’ve seen before”.

He said: “So what I can say tonight, is that naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.

“But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas.

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“We continue to monitor Omicron very closely and if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.”

He urged people to “get boosted now”, adding: “What this means is that people can go ahead with their Christmas plans but the situation remains finely balanced and I would urge everyone to exercise caution, to keep protecting yourselves and your loved ones, especially the vulnerable.

“And remember to keep following the guidance – wear a mask indoors when required to do so, keep fresh air circulating, and take a test before you visit elderly or vulnerable relatives.”

Cabinet ministers are rowing over what lockdown curbs to put in place after Boxing Day, with reports suggesting they are looking at a sliding scale ranging from a full firebreak lockdown to lighter social distancing regulations.

Figures from NHS England show that 1,904 people were in hospital in London with Covid – the highest number since March 2 and is up 41% from last week.

During the second wave of coronavirus, the number peaked at 7,917 on January 18.

The PM was speaking after after Chancellor Rishi Sunak offered a £1 billion bailout to hospitality and leisure businesses whose trade has been hit by the emergence of Omicron.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said today there has been 15,363 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant across the UK.

It brings the total confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 60,508.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced new measures for after Christmas north of the border from Boxing Day.

Mass gatherings banned in Scotland and pubs reverting to table service.

Football matches and other outdoor events will be limited to only 500 spectators from December 26, meaning Boxing Day games will effectively be fan free.

Indoor standing events will be limited to 100 people, with 200 punters allowed at indoor seated events- and outdoor events it will be 500 seated or standing.

Large Hogmanay gatherings will be scrapped under the new rules, including Edinburgh’s world-famous celebrations.

These measures will be in place for three weeks.

From December 27, pubs and hospitality venues serving alcohol will only be able to operate table service.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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