Boris Johnson contrasted with leading scientists and a top health official advising people to limit non-essential social contact in response to Omicron, urging people not to cancel Christmas parties or Christmas plays.
The prime minister said the best thing to do to tackle the threat of Covid type is to get punches in the box, with a major NHS effort backed by the military Offer all adults one by the end of January.
In response to a question about what he would say to schools that reduce cradle plays and people drop out of them Christmas At social events, Johnson said: “We don’t want people to cancel events like this. We think the best thing for kids is to be in school, as I’ve said many times during this pandemic.”
He also stressed that current guidelines for the wearing of masks on public transport and in stores were sufficient at this point, despite Jenny Harris, chief executive of the United Kingdom. the health The agency, the security, is suggesting that people reduce their social contact as concerns grow that current vaccines will prove less effective against the Omicron variant.
“Of course our behaviours in the winter – especially in the Christmas period – we tend to be more social, so I think all of those will need to be taken into account,” the former deputy chief medical officer for England told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“So I think [the solution is] Being careful we don’t socialize when we don’t particularly need to, especially going and getting those booster punches.”
With 22 cases of Omicron confirmed, including a University of Nottingham student and nine linked to a social event in Scotland, leading scientists have suggested it would be wise for people to reduce their social activities.
Some scholars and Labor have raised concerns that the government has not gone far enough. Professor John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said: “Jenny Harris is, of course, right. Reducing our social contacts now will slow the spread of this new virus in our country. It will also help limit the spread of the virus. Delta which we still struggle with. If you intend to mingle or go to the office, the risks can be greatly reduced by doing the lateral flow test beforehand.”
Professor Andrew Hayward, associate director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare, said: “I am concerned that intensifying mixing at Christmas social events will provide a boost to transmission at a time when the Omicron variant is likely to pick up speed, potentially leading to an early-year peak This peak could seriously affect the ability of an NHS which is already struggling to provide adequate care.
“In this context, my personal view is that it is reasonable for people to reduce internal mixing but based on current evidence, I don’t want that to be enforced.”
Others demanded more clarity about the advice. Michael Keel, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said venues faced “another poorly designed communications strategy from the government that will severely impact business,” with Christmas bookings and advance ticket sales already hit.
Ruth Rankin, Director of Primary Care for the NHS, added: “Health leaders need clear and consistent messages for government and their national bodies to give the public about exactly what they are expected to do and when, about vaccinations, as well as how to keep them and those around them safe.”
Wes Streeting, the new shadow health secretary, said he was concerned about Harris’ comments because he was “clearly concerned that the government is not on the right track, not doing everything it needs to be doing”. He called for measures such as requiring pre-departure Covid tests from all travelers arriving in the UK to help “ensure that Christmas continues as we hope”.
Johnson said he wouldn’t rule out moving to “Plan B” – the order to work from home and introduce vaccine passports – but said it wasn’t necessary at this point, with data on Omicron’s unexpected effects for the last two weeks.
The threat of further restrictions and Harry’s comments sparked a backlash among some Conservative MPs, who warned of “mission creep”. Lockdown skeptic Steve Baker, Conservative MP for the Covid Recovery Group, challenged this in the House of Commons, saying it now “appears that working civil servants are no longer bound by politics” and that it was a “recipe for chaos”.
There was also concern among some governors about new isolation requirements for suspected contacts in Omicron’s cases, with 34 voting against the regulations in a vote and 24 against mandatory masks. Steve Breen, the former health secretary, said changing the isolation rule “disturbed me much more” than extending the use of masks, particularly because of its impact on schools.
He said, “We’re not just looking at an epidemic in our economy and in our business, we’re looking at a spreading epidemic that will destroy education again.”
At his press conference in Downing Street, Johnson insisted there would be no return to “pingdemic” summer, when many health contacts of Covid patients were asked to stay at home. He also insisted that a boosted program and urged the unvaccinated to come forward was the best way to defeat Omicron, with the NHS announcing it would need an army of 10,000 volunteers and 1,500 new sites to help deliver 25 million vaccines over the next two months.
But despite the prime minister encouraging principals not to cancel their cot plans, some schools are turning to virtual offerings due to concerns about infection risks and the challenges posed by the new alternative.
Jamie Barry, principal of Yew Tree Primary School in Walsall in the West Midlands, had hoped to present a live Christmas play this year with the audience, but it will now be a virtual show amid concerns about the risks of staff and pupils having to do so. isolated due to the new variable.
“Until the new release there was no risk of being isolated from close contact,” Barry said. “Now if someone tests positive with the new variant, individuals have to isolate regardless of age or vaccination status. I can’t risk losing half the staff or my children in the last week of term. Boris wants to keep schools open, but if he has to Staff to isolation, there is a national shortage of supplies [teachers] We don’t have a lot of options.”
He said 12 schools in his group had changed their plans.