Boris Johnson delivers press conference on Omicron variant
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Although a lockdown wasn’t discussed by the Prime Minister yesterday evening, there are concerns that one might not be too far away. At last night’s Downing Street press conference, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, warned that the public may need to “face up” to more Covid restrictions if the spread of the new Omicron variant can’t be contained.
Last night the PM revealed that a number of Covid restrictions would be introduced across the UK.
The announcement comes after the emergence of the new Omicron strain, last week, which the UK reported its first two confirmed cases of yesterday.
Measures that are to be imposed include compulsory wearing of face masks for people whilst in shops or on public transport and mandatory self-isolation periods for those who are close contacts of suspected Omicron cases, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.
However, the PM stopped short of fully implementing his ‘Plan B’ and did not mention introducing a new lockdown. So, is one likely to happen any time soon?
Although Boris Johnson was coy on the topic of a lockdown, one of his top advisers, Sir Patrick Vallance, spoke more openly about the potential for further restrictions.
He said: “I think we’ll get more information on transmissibility, we’ll get more information on the ability of the vaccines to protect against the virus, but that’s going to take a little bit of time.
“At the moment, the models are more ‘if it spreads very fast, of course it’s going to spread very fast and go into a lot of places, and if it spreads less fast it’s going to do so less’.
“But if it’s very transmissible and does cause a big escape, then clearly that’s a major issue we have to face up to.”
Also in attendance alongside the PM and Sir Vallance, at yesterday’s press conference, was the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, who expressed his own concerns over whether the public would accept new restrictions.
He said at a local authority meeting earlier in the week: “If we need to do something more muscular at some point, whether it’s for the current new variant or at some later stage, can we still take people with us?”
However, despite his worries he did add that he thought the UK public had shown “extraordinary” ability with “very, very small exceptions” to accept and adapt to Covid restrictions to date.
So far during the course of the Covid pandemic the UK has endured three national lockdowns.
The latest of these officially ended on June 21 when the final limits on social contact were removed.
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Under plans unveiled by the PM yesterday the following restrictions are poised to come into effect across the UK.
Every individual who enters the UK – other than those arriving from the Common Travel Area that includes the Channel Islands and Ireland – will have to take a PCR test by the end of the second day following their arrival and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
All contacts of suspected Omicron cases will have to self-isolate regardless of their vaccination status.
Face coverings will become compulsory to wear in shops and public transport. However, bars and restaurants will be exempt.
The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has revealed that this particular rule will come into play in England from Tuesday.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face coverings are already mandatory on public transport and many indoor areas.
Mr Javid has also been asked by the PM to explore, with his advisers, the possibility of rapidly extending the rollout of booster jabs.
This includes reducing the gap between the second dose of the vaccine and booster.
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