BoJo to Hold Monday COVID Meeting Before Announcing Decision on Stricter Curbs in England
After a cabinet meeting on 20 December, Boris Johnson had held off announcing further restrictions, claiming that the arguments for and against were “very, very finely balanced”. He also reserved the possibility of taking further action without hesitation “to protect the public, to protect public health, to protect our NHS”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to “take stock” of crucial hospital data on Monday before making any new announcement on tighter COVID-19 measures
, reported The Guardian.
Buoyed by encouraging Friday data and with his ministers wary of any further pandemic-triggered legal restrictions, Johnson reportedly has no plans to recall his cabinet at this point.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) had earlier released a study showing that those catching the Omicron strain of the coronavirus are 50% to 70% less likely to need hospital care compared with previous variants.
On Monday, Johnson has a “dashboard” meeting with his coronavirus advisers, England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, and the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
25 December 2021, 10:23 GMT
The government is to study current data on duration of stay in hospitals, transition rates to intensive care units (ICU) and new coronavirus death figures, reported the outlet. However, it was added that there was a degree of concern voiced within the government about asymptomatic positive cases or those isolating after a lateral flow test whose results are not recorded by the NHS.
Downing Street sources are cited as believing that the PM is increasingly inclined against introducing stricter curbs to stop the spread of the respiratory disease in England. However, they add that this does not mean Johnson would fail to act quickly if new causes for concern were to arise.
According to sources cited
by The Times, if a decision were taken to implement new measures
, weddings, funerals and births would be exempted, to avoid the disruption that previous COVID restrictions had caused.
Positive data provided by scientists regarding Omicron’s severity proved that the cabinet had been right to refrain from introducing restrictions earlier, one minister was cited as saying, adding:
“The data so far is still struggling to be persuasive of legal changes to be required.” Another cabinet minister agreed, acknowledging that it was “right that we didn’t rush last time given positive, early data”.
Reference had been made to a lengthy cabinet meeting on 20 December when it was agreed that the situation was “extremely difficult and the arguments either way are very, very finely balanced.” At the time, Boris Johnson had said he would not be announcing further COVID-19 restrictions at the present time, but clearly hinted that such measures may be coming shortly.
“And unfortunately I must say to people we will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public ... and we won’t hesitate to take that action,” the PM had stated.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, had reportedly voiced the greatest scepticism regarding restrictions. Those urging greater caution in the face of surging COVID cases were said to have been Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.
23 December 2021, 05:51 GMT
With some Tory MPs vehemently opposed to further regulations, Esther McVey, the Tory former cabinet minister, hailed Johnson's response to the Conservative backbench opinion. She tweeted that the PM had “pushed back on the scaremongering by the lockdown fanatics”.
On 14 December, when Johnson introduced his “Plan B” for new COVID-19 restrictions designed to slow down the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, he had faced a rebellion when 99 Conservatives voted against. The measures passed through the House of Commons relying on Labour support.
‘Ludicrous’ Not to Respond
However, ministers are being urged to adopt a different approach by a hospital doctors’ trade union, arguing that implementing measures such as limits on household mixing and table service only in hospitality venues would provide invaluable help to the National Health Service (NHS).
Boris Johnson was warned by Dr Paul Donaldson, the general secretary of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA), that “it would be ludicrous” not to implement stricter measures immediately, particularly in view of the swift spread of the highly transmittable Omicron variant.
“There is a high probability we are moving too late… We will soon start to see the impact of Christmas. We are holding out hope that hospitalisations are at the lower end of projections. But given the uncertainty we face it would be ludicrous not to take additional precautions,” he was cited as saying by the outlet.
The HCSA has argued the case for social distancing measures to be introduced in retail and hospitality settings, compulsory wearing of face coverings, table spacing, limits on capacity and queueing, as well as social distancing in all schools and continued work from home (WFH) recommendations.
The NHS Confederation similarly argued the case for further steps to be introduced to try and curb the spread of the virus It cited the rising number of hospitalisations and staff off sick.
“Any new restrictions which are brought in to help ease the pressure on the NHS need to be clearly explained to the public. Confusion and complacency can make any new restrictions ineffective,” said NHS Confederation Chief Executive, Matthew Taylor.
The debate on whether or not new coronavirus measures should be introduced without delay comes as the UK has been registering record daily COVID-19 cases in succession, with 122186 new infections on 24 December.