Sat. May 28th, 2022

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has predicted that Britons will enjoy “a wonderful Christmas” amid hopes in Downing Street that no new Covid-19 restrictions in England will be needed before the new year to deal with the Omicron variant not.

Ministers believe new and existing anti-Covid measures – including the planned expansion of the vaccine enhancer program and a new requirement for travelers to the UK to perform a coronavirus test before departure – will be sufficient for the time being.

Raab hit a bullish note on Sunday, saying this Christmas will be “completely different” from the previous one and that people should confidently plan to spend time with family and friends.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful Christmas,” the Secretary of Justice told the BBC. “I think people should enjoy Christmas, get their loved ones around them, celebrate it in a way we could not do in the past.”

Asked whether companies should proceed with plans to hold large Christmas parties, he said employers can be “trusted to follow a common sense approach to the conditions in their businesses”.

Johnson and his team are expected to review the latest data on Omicron around December 16, but one ally of the prime minister ignored the prospect of any additional restrictions before Christmas, saying: “Our ambition is that nothing new will be needed on this side of not the new year. “

Ministers stressed the need for vigilance and did not take any options off the table, but Johnson is informed that Omicron is unlikely to cause massive disruption before Christmas.

Experts believe it will take at least two weeks before there is clarity on the extent to which Omicron could possibly evade immunity acquired by previous infection, or reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

While early evidence of South Africa, where Omicron was first identified, suggested that the majority of people suffer from mild symptoms, scientists are cautious about whether this will continue and whether these initial findings will apply to the UK. Britain, compared to South Africa, has a much older – though much heavier – vaccinated population.

The government has made great efforts to successfully enhance its Covid-19 vaccine enhancer program, and has set a goal that all older than 18s will be given a supplement by 31 January.

Health leaders have been reassured by a surge in recent days of people requesting both first and booster doses, according to one person who was briefed on the situation.

But these leaders fear that a bad flu season, on top of Covid and the other issues, could not enable the NHS to cope.

Professor Mark Woolhouse, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modeling, suggested that travel restrictions be tightened on Saturday – with the addition of Nigeria to the government’s red list and the resumption of pre – departure tests for those entering the UK – perhaps a case of “closing the stable door after the horse has bolted”.

Meanwhile, Raab said any “formal party” in Downing Street last December would have violated Covid’s leadership, adding it would have been “the wrong thing to do”.

Johnson insisted that all Covid guidelines in Downing Street be adhered to, following media reports that a “boozy” party was held by staff on December 18, while London was under strict so-called level 3 restrictions on social interactions.

Raab said: “Let us just be clear what we are talking about here, something that happened a year ago, unfounded anonymous claims made.

“It is impossible to answer the charge on that basis, only that we are clear that the rules were followed.”

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