The Government’s Plan B will be enough to get the country through Christmas, the Deputy Prime Minister has said, though he did not rule out future restrictions to tackle Omicron.
Dominic Raab said the current set of measures, which include working from home and increased mask-wearing, will enable people to have the ability to spend the festive season “with loved ones” across England.
Discussing the accelerated booster rollout, he told Times Radio: “It’s a demanding target but … the facts are that we will go into this Christmas with the ability to spend it with loved ones in a way that was impossible last year.”
He did not rule out further measures being considered for Christmas or new year, saying: “These issues are always discussed but we have got Plan B, that’s what we think is required over the Christmas period.”
I think people can look forward to spending Christmas with loved ones in a way that we couldn’t last yearDeputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab
Pressed if Christmas will be safe, Mr Raab replied: “Yes, I think it is. I want to give that reassurance. I think people can look forward to spending Christmas with loved ones in a way that we couldn’t last year.”
Later, speaking to Sky News, the Cabinet member did not rule out new restrictions being brought in after Christmas but said: “We’ve got none planned.”
The booster programme alongside Plan B is “where all our focus is”, he added.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) believes the Omicron variant is causing around 200,000 new infections per day.
There is exponential growth, with cases doubling at least every two to three days.
It comes as Boris Johnson is facing the biggest rebellion of his premiership, with dozens of Tory MPs set to vote against the latest Covid restrictions.
More than 70 backbenchers are threatening to defy the whips and oppose the Government’s Plan B for England, brought in in the face of the fast-spreading variant.
It is reported that up to 10 ministerial aides could resign to oppose the controls, with up to four votes on the measures expected to take place on Tuesday evening.
The measures – including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues – are expected to pass the Commons with the support of Labour, who back tighter controls.
Elsewhere, as queues for booster vaccinations began forming on Tuesday morning, lateral flow tests were unavailable to be ordered via the Government website for the second day running.
A message on the site said no tests are available for home delivery, although they can still be collected from pharmacies.
On Monday, the UK Health Security Agency said that “due to exceptionally high demand, ordering lateral flow tests on gov.uk has been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders”.
Meanwhile, Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said there must be clear messaging to the public on what is defined as an urgent health need while GPs focus on the Covid-19 booster rollout.
He told Good Morning Britain: “We need to have very clear public messaging that helps the public to differentiate between what is urgent, what is a necessary condition to look after, and what can wait for a few weeks.
“That isn’t easy, I don’t think anybody’s pretending that.
“Let me be clear what kinds of things we’re talking about here which are urgent, which do require general practice to focus on alongside the booster programme
“So, if somebody potentially has an infection; if they have symptoms that might be cancer; if they have a long-term condition like diabetes that is poorly controlled; if they are young and maybe have a high temperature or if they’re vulnerable, perhaps if they’re elderly; mental health problems as well.
“If they have conditions like that, they need to come forward.
“If they have routine problems – a bit of an ache or a pain; a little bit of a rash if you’re known to have eczema; a cough and a cold; if you’ve got high blood pressure that’s well controlled – then that isn’t urgent, in comparison with general practices’ role in the programme.”
Whilst we all support the booster campaign, and I urge all employees to get their booster, the unintended consequence has been a really rather chilling effect on demand in a lot of sectors in our economyTony Danker, CBI
Speaking earlier, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director-general Tony Danker said the current messages from Government have had a “chilling effect” on certain sectors of the economy.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It seems to us that whilst we have measures to keep the economy open, we have messages that have ended up closing much of it down.
“People should be worried enough to go and get a booster urgently, but not so worried to stop going to shops, restaurants or airports.
“That’s what’s not working, you have a double whammy for businesses in those sectors, hospitality, retail, leisure or travel, where demand is collapsing and there’s no support to recover.
“So, whilst we all support the booster campaign, and I urge all employees to get their booster, the unintended consequence has been a really rather chilling effect on demand in a lot of sectors in our economy.”
NHS England said more than 650,000 booster bookings were made on Monday – the second highest day for such bookings.