Boris Johnson delivers Christmas message to the nation
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Boris Johnson, 57, will bring together his Cabinet as the Prime Minister considers whether he should introduce new coronavirus restrictions over the New Year. The meeting, set to be held virtually, is also expected to be attended by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, 55, and the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, 61.
Mr Johnson has said he will act to impose greater restrictions if the data suggests such measures are needed to halt the Omicron variant.
But the Prime Minister could face pressure inside the Conservative Party after his backbenchers led a rebellion over his coronavirus Plan B measures.
Mr Johnson has had a challenging few weeks after the Tory Party lost the once-safe seat of North Shropshire to the Liberal Democrats in a recent by-election contest and some of his MPs were reported to have handed in letters of no confidence to the chair of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, 54.
Sir Graham Brady told the Observer it was time “to move on from the lazy assumption that Government has the right to control our lives” and suggested Brits should “take responsibility for our own lives once again”.
Writing for the Mail on Sunday, the Altrincham & Sale West MP added: “Even with new concrete evidence that the Omicron variant will not cause the devastation first predicted, there are very real fears that, if this year’s Christmas has been reprieved, New Year could be cancelled instead.
“It must not happen.”
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Conservative MPs tipped to succeed Mr Johnson in No10 have been warned to avoid backing tougher Covid measures or risk damaging their chances to take on the top job.
Currently, people in England are required to wear face masks in confined spaces.
They are also obliged to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test result to enter large events and nightclubs.
This is less than the rules imposed by the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
During the last Cabinet meeting, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, 41, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, 46, and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, 53, were reported to have voiced opposition to stricter measures.
Those sceptical about restrictions would have been buoyed by data published last week about the Omicron variant.
According to the UKHSA, the newest coronavirus strain leaves people 50 to 70 percent less likely to be admitted to hospital once infected compared to variants such as Delta.
The latest data from the UK Government found 122,186 people had contracted coronavirus on December 24, resulting in 1,171 daily hospitalisations and 137 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
But the Mirror reports Mr Johnson is faced with four Covid options, including a full lockdown.
It is believed it could take until December 29 at the earliest for measures to be introduced.
The Prime Minister’s first option will be to introduce so-called ‘Step 2’ measures which could see the rule of six be brought in for outdoor and indoor gatherings.
But Mr Johnson also faces the suggestion of a circuit breaker lockdown.
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The circuit breaker, which could be introduced as early as December 28, is believed to be under consideration to help reduce the pressure on the NHS.
Bringing in ‘Plan C’ measures, which include table service at pubs and restaurants, are believed to be another option for the Government as the Mirror reports SAGE as warning a “large wave” of coronavirus hospitalisations are expected soon.
SAGE minutes add: “The earlier interventions happen, and the more stringent they are, the more likely they are to be effective.
“Earlier interventions can produce the same or greater effect at lower stringency and applied for a shorter duration than interventions that come late.”
However, as Mr Johnson continues to monitor the situation “hour by hour”, the Prime Minister could be forced to bring forward the unlikely measures of yet another national lockdown.
Mr Johnson said over Christmas: “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.”
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