Boris Johnson and government 'to delay announcing post-Christmas COVID restrictions' with claims 'Omicron is milder than Delta'

Boris Johnson won’t announce post-Christmas Covid restrictions this week, says Health Secretary

How will your plans be affected by the 'delay'?

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Boris Johnson will delay any announcement of new COVID restrictions until after Christmas Day.

The Prime Minister and his government are under fire for not offering certainty to hospitality bosses planning New Year’s celebrations.

But the Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said “there’s no need for any further restrictions of any type before Christmas”.

This contrasts sharply with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where leaders have not deferred decisions as Omicron continues to spread.

Yesterday (Wednesday December 22) saw infection cases exceed 100,000 for the first time and 140 deaths reported.

Boris Johnson COVID restrictions: The booster rollout continues
The booster rollout continues (Credit: ITV News YouTube)

What are the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

In Wales, nightclubs will close. The ‘rule of six’ will return to pubs and restaurants, as will the two-metre social distancing in most public settings.

In Scotland, venues serving alcohol will be table service only from December 27.

Read more: New Year restrictions in UK: Will New Year’s parties be banned as Boris Johnson to impose new rules?

And in Northern Ireland, restrictions due to come into force on Boxing Day include the closure of nightclubs and guidance to limit contacts with different households.

On Thursday, Mr Javid told Sky News: “We’re clear that there’s no need for any further restrictions of any type before Christmas but of course we will keep the situation under review.

“We’re not planning any further announcements this week.”

He added: “We will keep analysing that data and if we need to do anything more we will, but nothing more is going to happen before Christmas.”

Meanwhile, MailOnline claims new research has a link to any announcement delay.

Are claims about Omicron ‘being milder’ than Delta true?

Reports now claim research indicates Omicron may be ‘milder’ than Delta.

Omicron infections are between 15 and 20 per cent less likely to hospitalise than those with Delta.

Further Imperial College London analysis of over 300,000 people reportedly found the chance of having to stay in the NHS overnight was even lower.

There remains the potential for health services to face increasing demand.

The report claims this comes with a reduced risk of between 40 and 45 per cent.

The tabloid claims: “The findings are believed to have been the reason Mr Johnson pumped the brakes on tougher Christmas restrictions despite case numbers rising to record levels — with 106,122 positive tests recorded today.”

Boris Johnson COVID restrictions
‘I would urge everyone to exercise caution’ (Credit: ITV News YouTube)

What have politicians said?

Health Secretary Sajid Javid says reports of Omicron producing milder illness than previous strains are under assessment.

He told ITV News: “The government has issued guidance, that’s been the Plan B. But we’ll keep it under review. But the best advice to everyone is to continue to remain cautious and keep looking forward to Christmas.”

And on Tuesday (December 21), Boris Johnson indicated people can go ahead with their Christmas plans.

He also suggested exercising caution as he appealed for everyone to get a booster jab.

Mr Johnson said: “The situation remains finely balanced and I would urge everyone to exercise caution, to keep protecting yourselves and your loved ones, especially the vulnerable.”

He added: “Remember to keep following the guidance. Wear a mask indoors when required to do so, keep fresh air circulating, and take a test before you visit elderly or vulnerable relatives.”

Has Boris Johnson delayed COVID restrictions due to these findings?
Has Boris Johnson delayed COVID restrictions due to these findings? (Credit: ITV News YouTube)

What have scientists said?

Professor Ferguson of Imperial College London reflected: “Our analysis shows evidence of a moderate reduction in the risk of hospitalisation associated with the Omicron variant compared with the Delta variant.

“However, this appears to be offset by the reduced efficacy of vaccines against infection with the Omicron variant.”

He added high transmissibility meant health services could face increasing demand if Omicron cases continue to grow at such a fast rate.

And Professor Azra Ghani from Imperial College London said: “Whilst the reduced risk of hospitalisation with the Omicron variant is reassuring, the risk of infection remains extremely high.

“With the addition of the booster dose, vaccines continue to offer the best protection against infection and hospitalisation.”

Professor James Naismith said Omicron infections are less likely to hospitalise those who have previously had Delta.

However, he added there is no reduction in the severity of Omicron for those with two vaccinations.

What could New Year restrictions in England look like?

Reports claim plans are drawn up for a two-week circuit breaker after December 25.

Read more: Snow forecast UK: It WILL be a white Christmas for some Brits on December 25, weather experts confirm

The measures could include a ban on indoor mixing, with only outdoors service for pubs and restaurants.

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