Boris Johnson has already been forced to introduce social restrictions to tackle the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus and the spike in the number of infections in January could finally see him forced to tighten them even further.
The Prime Minister has already reinstated the compulsory wearing of masks on public transport and in shops, cinemas, theaters and places of worship, asked citizens to work from home where possible and made an NHS Covid Pass or negative lateral flow test a necessary requirement for entry to crowded venues and to events involving mass gatherings.
However, so far Mr Johnson has stuck to his guns and has refused to impose stricter restrictions on England for the time being despite the record of infection in the New Year, most recently insisting on January 3 on the fact that the current ‘Plan B’ measures in place remained the ‘right’ course of action, adding: ‘The way forward for the country as a whole is to continue on the path we are on.
“We’ll keep everything on the review course, we’ll keep all the measurements under review, but the mix of things we’re doing right now is, I think, the right one.”
He had previously pledged not to introduce further measures until the Christmas weekend, but fears persist that they may still be needed to push back Omicron, with government science advisers pushing for further restrictions as soon as possible to stop the spread and encountering opposition from senior ministers reluctant to compromise the economy and impose new constraints on public freedom.
The PM would wait for more concrete data on Omicron to become available and for the high number of cases to start translating into a wave of massive hospitalizations before calling for ordering a stricter crackdown, a position which has seen him accused to “procrastinate” by the opponents.
His next Downing Street press conference to inform the British public of the pandemic is scheduled to take place on Tuesday January 4 at 5 p.m.
The precise characteristics of the new strain of the virus are still unclear at this early stage of its development, although there are concerns that it will soon usurp the Delta variant as the dominant strain of Covid-19 given its high transmissibility.
Mr Johnson warned the public in December that a “tidal wave” of infections could erupt on these coasts unless people adhere to current measures, exercise extreme caution and get their booster shots urgently.
The deployment of the third shots has therefore been significantly expanded to include all over 18s to deal with the Omicron threat, putting additional pressure on the NHS to administer them.
The move came in response to the UK Health Security Agency’s findings that two injections do not offer strong protection against symptomatic Omicron infections, as the current vaccine series is less effective against it than it was. against Delta.
However, this same analysis also concluded that those who received a booster remained protected up to 70%, underscoring the importance of receiving a third injection as soon as possible.
The UK has so far recorded 246,780 confirmed cases of the strain and at least 75 deaths.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a major incident on the extent of the Omicron outbreak in the capital as NHS England has announced a return to its highest level of emergency preparedness, a national level four incident , meaning that the health services response will be coordinated as a national effort, rather than led by individual trusts.
So far only 59.5% of UK adults have received their booster shot, although demand is high so this figure is expected to continue to rise rapidly as more people book and turn up. their sleeves.