Concerned about the spread of the Omicron variant and a lack of understanding surrounding how dangerous the new strain is, Gillian Keegan, the Care Minister (the Minister of State responsible for mental health), has declared that New Year’s Eve festivities might have to be cancelled. In addition, Keegan mentioned that the Government was being lenient with the public in allowing Christmas to go ahead with the current restrictions in place, but that this leniency may end following Christmas Day. The Guardian has the story.
Plans for New Year’s Eve parties in England may have to be scrapped, a minister has admitted, as she said there remained uncertainty over the severity of illness caused by the Omicron variant of Covid.
Gillian Keegan, the Care Minister, refused to rule out lockdown measures being introduced in England shortly after Christmas and said 129 people had been hospitalised and 14 had died with Omicron in the U.K.
“There is uncertainty. So, if you can’t change your [New Year’s Eve] plans quickly, then maybe think about it. There is uncertainty. We can’t predict what the data is going to tell us before we’ve got the data,” she said.
She told LBC Radio that the Government’s approach in England had been to try to allow people to go ahead with Christmas plans, but that the same could not necessarily be said of the following holiday.
Boris Johnson has said no new measures will be put in place in England before Christmas Day, but the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales are introducing some new restrictions before and after the holiday.
Keegan told Sky News: “We do not have all the information that you would like to have at your fingertips, in particular… the severity of the disease. So it is a difficult balance but we think we’ve got the balance right. You know, saying to the country we wanted to lock down etc, when you’ve got those kind of figures wouldn’t look proportionate.”
She said the decision that was taken on further restrictions was “difficult”. Asked whether there was any chance a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown might be avoided if the country continued on its current path, Keegan said: “We are waiting for data on the severity, we’ll still have to wait to see where we land on that, but we can’t really say, you know.
“What we’ve said is: up to Christmas, we’re fine, looking at the data, looking at the numbers we have at the moment. But, of course, we have to look at where this virus goes, where this variant goes, so we have to look at that data. I can’t tell you in advance of getting that data, but you should be cheerful because we’re doing a lot more than we could last year. We’re able to see our families.”
Keegan acknowledged that Johnson was refusing to act based on the same data that had led first ministers elsewhere in the U.K. to take preventive measures, but she claimed this was not a result of indecision or political calculation.
She was asked on Times Radio if the issue was not Johnson’s “own political judgment and that he doesn’t want to do anything with the data that all the leaders are seeing”.
Keegan said: “If we see large jumps in the data, large jumps in hospitalisation… then of course we’ll react. But we don’t actually have that yet. So what [Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Wales’s Mark Drakeford are] doing is… they’re looking at the risk and they’re coming up with a different answer.”
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Lockdown zealot Mark Drakeford, Wales’s swivel-eyed First Minister, has banned New Year’s Eve celebrations and ordered pubs and restaurants to re-impose the rule of six from Boxing Day. MailOnline has more.