PM Johnson Reportedly Warned of No-Confidence Vote If Measures to Tackle Omicron Introduced
According to the newspaper, just five days before families will gather to celebrate Christmas, the prime minister is considering several scenarios to curb the spread of the new coronavirus variant, including guidelines asking people to limit contacts, a ban on household mixing indoors, a curfew for hospitality and entertainment venues (pubs, restaurants, cinemas, etc.) or their closure for several days or a lockdown.
Several ministers in the cabinet too voiced opposition to the introduction of COVID-19 safety measures, The Daily Telegraph writes. Among those who voiced opposition are reportedly Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who said authorities will first need to create a plan to lift the safety measure before they are imposed, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss who is "uncomfortable" even with the new milder restrictions that were introduced last week in Britain.
Other ministers, who are against the toughening of the safety rules, are Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, and Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg. Sources told The Daily Telegraph that around one third of the cabinet are said to be reluctant to support any restrictive measures introduced by the PM. One minister went as far as to say they will resign if coronavirus restrictions are introduced.
"The cabinet aren't stomaching any more restrictions right now. Apart from the fanatics, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, the rest of them are pretty sensible, including the PM", a source told the newspaper.
Boris the Juggler and Uncertainty Over Omicron
It appears that the prime minister will break his promise and introduce new restrictions. The Daily Mirror writes, citing government sources, that Boris Johnson has cleared his diary for 20 December and is set to have an urgent meeting with his advisers and a group of scientists who have been advising the government since the start of the pandemic.
He underscored that while information about the new variant of COVID-19 is incomplete (some reports suggest that being highly contagious the new strain causes milder symptoms), it is better to take precautions before it's "too late".
"At this point we just have to keep everything under review... We are assessing the situation. It's very fast moving. There's a lot that we still don't know about Omicron. That's the truth of the matter. The reality is there's a lot of uncertainty", he said.
Scientists have warned the authorities that if they fail to swiftly impose restrictions Britain may see the number of hospitalisations rise to between 3,000 and 10,000 and the daily death toll might reach 6,000.
Mark Woolhouse, a member of the SAGE modelling subgroup and professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh said Prime Minister Johnson has to juggle protecting the health service, saving Christmas, and avoiding lockdown.
"The critical point is that decisions need to be made very urgently indeed – that is the implication of two-day doubling time – without having perfect information, most importantly on the severity of Omicron and the effectiveness of [vaccine booster shots] against it. My view is that the maxim 'early intervention can be less drastic intervention' still holds, but the door is closing very fast. We don't want to reach the point where whatever we do is damage limitation", Mark Woolhouse said.