Omicron: Sturgeon urges Johnson to ‘do what’s necessary’
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English ministers have insisted that, while people should take some precautionary measures over the festive period, it is important that they should also still “enjoy Christmas”. The SNP leader has, on the other hand, urged Scots to limit the number of people they choose to spend their Christmas with.
She told the Scottish Parliament earlier this week that, while she is not asking anyone to “cancel Christmas”: “We are asking that you limit the number of households represented in your group to a maximum of three.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has since offered a more merry message, telling listeners of Times radio on Wednesday morning: “We’re not asking people to do anything differently this Christmas.
“We’re in a much better position than last year with the testing, the jabbing.
“People should be able to enjoy their Christmases in a way which just wasn’t possible last year.”
English ministers agree with the Scottish First Minister that family members, or wider friendship groups should test before enjoying the festivities together this Christmas.
Mr Raab added, in support of this message: “I’m not aware of any other major economy in the world that makes lateral flow tests freely available to all its citizens.”
But the line has been drawn there – for now.
Scots, on the other hand, have been urged to cut down on socialising “as much as possible”.
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Ms Sturgeon argued that this was a proportionate response to Omicron, despite the negative impact on mental health and social wellbeing.
Mr Raab said he was confident Englishmen and women will not be asked – never mind urged – to do the same.
He said: “I think that, with some confidence, we can say that people are going to be able to enjoy their Christmas get-together with their friends and families.”
Data from South Africa, where Omicron first emerged, suggest the variant may be more transmissible but, significantly, milder than previous strains of the virus.
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Even before Mr Johnson introduced new measures in response to the reporting of two Omicron cases across the UK, top scientific advisers had made attempt to play down fears.
Professor Calum Semple from the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) told BBC Breakfast: “This is not a disaster, and the headlines from some of my colleagues saying ‘this is horrendous’ I think are hugely overstating the situation.”
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, added on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that, despite Omicron: “It is extremely unlikely that a reboot of a pandemic in a vaccinated population like we saw last year is going to happen.”
While Mr Johnson’s position on Christmas mixing is more relaxed than that of Ms Sturgeon, reports suggest that the Prime Minister is considering introducing further restrictions in the New Year.
Mr Johnson could move from ‘Plan B’ to ‘Plan C’, which could see vaccine passports extended further to include pubs and restaurants, along with the return of table service.
Industry heads have warned of the dire consequences this would have on businesses already struggling with the impacts of previous lockdowns and restrictions.
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