UK's Johnson faces calls to tighten virus curbs over Omicron

By: AFP      Published: 05:24 PM, 20 Dec, 2021
UK's Johnson faces calls to tighten virus curbs over Omicron
UK's Johnson faces calls to tighten virus curbs over Omicron

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday faced pressure to tighten coronavirus restrictions to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, despite opposition to do so before Christmas.

The UK reported 82,886 cases on Sunday as the new variant rages, with the highest number of infections in London. 

"We have got 104 hospitalisations at the moment which are Omicron-based, we have had 12 deaths," Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News.

"There's a time lag in the data and so we don't know quite how severe it will be," he said.

The UK is one of Europe's worst-hit by the virus, with 147,128 deaths in the country.

The government has brought in measures such as Covid passes and made masks mandatory in various settings and has given more than 28 million people third jabs in a race to outpace the virus.

But after Johnson was forced into introducing curbs on indoor mixing last Christmas, he is facing intense political pressure not to do the same this time round.

Last week, nearly 100 of his own MPs rebelled against tougher measures to stop the spread of Omicron, assessing them to be a step too far and a curb on public freedoms.

There has also been public anger at claims that Johnson and his staff broke social-distancing rules in place last year, by holding parties at Downing Street and other government departments.

Unlike in some of Britain's nearest neighbours on the European mainland, there has been no official guidance to restrict socialising yet.

The Daily Telegraph on Monday reported the possibility of tightening the rules had led to "heated debate" among ministers.

The Times said 10 ministers were at loggerheads with scientific advisers who want new restrictions, questioning the accuracy of their modelling. 

Health minister Sajid Javid said Sunday he did not rule out new measures and Raab on Monday said measures were "always under review".

But he said that, with vaccines, "we're in a better position to enjoy Christmas with loved ones this year".

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.