PM Johnson Reportedly Warned of No-Confidence Vote If Measures to Tackle Omicron Introduced

© REUTERS / POOLBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference, in London
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference, in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.12.2021
UK media outlets earlier reported that SAGE, an independent body of scientists who have been advising the government since the start of the pandemic, has urged the PM to immediately impose restrictions, warning that the number of hospitalisations may jump to 10,000 a day due to the new strain, which the WHO designated as a "variant of concern".
MPs from the UK Conservative Party have warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson of a no-confidence vote if the government decides to introduce restrictive measure in order to tackle the Omicron strain of COVID-19, that is spreading quickly in Britain and other parts of the world, The Daily Telegraph has reported, citing its sources.

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.
One MP told the newspaper that if parliament was recalled to vote on imposing new restrictions "at least as many of us that voted against last time will do so again". The lawmaker emphasised that Tory rebels will write letters to the 1922 Committee, which oversees no-confidence votes.
Fifteen percent of sitting Conservative MPs (54 individuals) need to write to the committee for it to trigger the motion, which may see Boris Johnson resign. The last Tory leader to face a no-confidence vote was former UK Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018. She won the vote.

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

The government of Boris Johnson came under intense pressure last year when it made an unpopular decision and introduced restrictive measures during the holiday period, effectively cancelling Christmas for millions of people in Britain. Earlier this year, when the UK was coming out of its lockdown the PM stated that the lifting of restrictions would be "irreversible".
This was before the world learned about Omicron, the new strain of COVID-19 that is said to be even more contagious than the Delta variant.

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.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said that new safety measures could be introduce within days in order to curb the spread of Omicron.

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.

The UK Health Security Agency said on 19 December that cases of the Omicron strain jumped by 50 percent in 24 hours, with over 82,000 individuals testing positive on Sunday.

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.

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