Boris Johnson has warned he could implement coronavirus restrictions at any moment as the Omicron variant continues to spread.
The prime minister has claimed he is following the data ‘hour by hour’ to determine whether further restrictions need to be brought in, and urged members of the public to exercise caution on the run-up to Christmas.
Arguments for and against the introduction of restrictions are said to be ‘very, very finely balanced’ either way, according to Johnson, with the ‘extremely difficult’ situation prompting officials to keep the data ‘under constant review’.
Speaking after an unscheduled cabinet meeting this week, Johnson said the government has to ‘reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public, public health and our NHS.’
His comments came as a further 91,743 coronavirus cases were reported across the UK on Monday, December 20, and hospital admissions for coronavirus cases spiked in London. The PM stressed that ministers are not imposing any further restrictions yet but are looking at ‘all kinds of things to keep Omicron under control and […] will rule nothing out.’
He added: ‘There are still some things that we need to be clearer about before we decide to go further.’
The news of potential new measures comes after Johnson introduced stricter guidelines for international travel, guidance to work from home and face mask mandates in a bid to stem the spread of the new variant. Johnson has also repeatedly urged members of the public to further protect themselves by getting the coronavirus vaccine and booster shot.
Noting that millions of people still have not had their first vaccine, Johnson said: ‘It makes such a difference, the evidence is overwhelming, it’s such a positive thing to do. Those who are unvaccinated, whether out of apathy, for whatever reason, please think of this as a great thing to do for you and your family.’
Scientists have condemned Johnson’s decision to hold out on restrictions for now, claiming that waiting until the new year to introduce new measures would ‘almost certainly be too late to have a material impact on the epidemic’, The Guardian reports.
Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, commented:
If we implement control measures now, they are unlikely to be sufficient to reverse the growth, only slow it. But there may still be benefits in slowing the peak, in terms of flattening the curve.
Government sources cited by the publication have hinted that further restrictions are likely after Christmas.
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Topics: News, Boris Johnson, Coronavirus, government, Now, Omicron, Restrictions