Britons have shared their fears of another Christmas under Covid lockdown after Boris Johnson claimed he was ‘absolutely confident’ that this year’s would be ‘considerably better than the last’ – as the country faces the new Omicron variant.
At a gloomy Downing Street press conference tonight, the Prime Minister announced a clampdown on travel, and plans to increase testing and facemask wearing to fight off the super-mutant virus.
Mr Johnson also refused to rule out a lockdown at Christmas when pressed by reporters, warning that Omicron will ‘reduce the protections of our vaccines over time’.
But in a bid to avoid panic over cancelling Christmas, he added: ‘I’m pretty confident… or absolutely confident, that this Christmas will be considerably better than the last one if that will do for the time being.’
Britons quickly took to social media following the PM’s comments, with some saying he had ‘jinxed’ any hope of a normal festive season.
Mark Foley commented: ‘Johnson says Christmas isn’t cancelled… so Xmas is surely cancelled.’
Linzi added: ‘That Downing Street Briefing about the #Omicron variant feels awfully familiar… merry f****** Christmas.’
Britons have shared their fears of another Christmas under Covid lockdown after Boris Johnson claimed he was ‘absolutely confident’ that this year’s be ‘considerably better’ than the last – as the country faces the new Omicron variant
Another person joked that Boris was optimistic about Christmas because he ‘hadn’t invited the in-laws’ around to No10.
Others pointed Mr Johnson’s plans to tighten rules on mask-wearing in shops and on transport by sharing photos of the PM maskless on trains and in the company of NHS nurses.
Earlier today, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that two cases of the strain were detected in Nottingham and Brentwood in Essex. Both are linked to travel to southern Africa, the suspected origin of the mutation.
The infected individuals and all members of their households have been told to self-isolate after the UK Health Security Agency confirmed the sequencing.
The Prime Minister said: ‘We’re not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that, we’re not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.
‘Second, we need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK, because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together.
Mr Johnson refused to rule out a lockdown at Christmas when pressed by reporters, warning that Omicron will ‘reduce the protections of our vaccines over time’
‘We will require all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of your vaccination status. We will also go further in asking all of you to help contain the spread of this variant by tightening up the rules on face coverings in shops and on public transport.’
Speaking to reporters today, Mr Javid hinted at a return to further restrictions, saying the Government has ‘always been very clear that we won’t hesitate to take further action if that is what is required’.
Another 39,567 Covid cases and 131 deaths were recorded in the UK today. Department of Health officials posted nearly 40,000 daily infections – down 3.36 per cent from 40,941 last Saturday – while the number of people who have died 28 days after testing positive for Covid has also fallen by 12.7 per cent from 150 last week.
The EU, US and Canada all followed Britain’s move to impose travel restrictions on visitors from southern Africa ahead of the WHO adding the strain, also known as B.1.1.529, to its highest category for concerning variants.
Britain’s first two Omicron infection came as a spate of cases were found across Europe, with at least 61 new cases of Covid entering the Netherlands from South Africa this morning. Authorities are currently sequencing the tests for the new variant.
Another 39,567 Covid cases and 131 deaths were recorded in the UK today. Department of Health officials posted nearly 40,000 daily infections – down 3.36 per cent from 40,941 last Saturday – while the number of people who have died 28 days after testing positive for Covid has also fallen by 12.7 per cent from 150 last week
Cases of Omicron have already been picked up in the UK, South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. It is not yet known whether the variant arrived in the Netherlands yesterday but Dutch authorities are sequencing passengers’ tests. There are also suspected individual cases being sequenced in Germany, the Czech Republic and Australia
New Covid restrictions to fight Omicron variant
At a Downing Street press conference this evening, the Prime Minister announced a raft of new restrictions.
Two cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in Nottingham and Brentwood, Essex.
Flanked by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, Mr Johnson said:
- All arrivals to UK must take a PCR test on day two after landing and isolate at home until they get the result;
- All contacts of someone infected with the Omicron variant must self-isolate for 10 days;
- Facemasks and coverings in shops and on public transport will be compulsory;
- Seven countries in southern Africa have been put pon the UK’s red list. Those who arrived in the UK from those countries must go into hotel quarantine.
The Prime Minister also refused to rule out a lockdown at Christmas when pressed by reporters.
Sir Patrick also hinted at the need for more restrictions if the Omicron variant is very transmissible.
And Prof Whitty said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will now need to decide whether to extend the booster vaccine down to adults age 18, and whether a second dose should be offered to children aged 12-15 who decided with their families to get the first dose of the vaccine.