Boris says no! PM rejects scientists’ lockdown demand -but issues fresh warning to Britons

Boris Johnson says he ‘won’t hesitate’ on more restrictions

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After an emergency meeting of the Cabinet that lasted more than two hours, the Prime Minister said there would be no change to the current rules. However, Mr Johnson said the latest Omicron information would be kept under review “hour by hour” and he would not hesitate should further restrictions be required.

The decision to hold back on introducing extra rules came after England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance provided an update to ministers on the latest data about Omicron.

The mutant variant is rapidly spreading through the UK with an additional 8,044 cases reported today.

There are around 100 people in hospital infected with the strain at present.

Mr Johnson said while there would be no immediate change to restrictions, he said the Government reserves the “possibility of taking further action” if the data made it clear that further intervention was necessary.

“We have got cases of Omicron surging across the country now.

“We have got hospital admissions rising quite steeply in London and the obvious conclusion is that it was right to go fast with Plan B in the way that we did and also right to double the speed of the booster rollout,” he said.

“In view of the balance of risks and uncertainties, particularly around the infection, hospitalisation rate of Omicron – how many people does Omicron put in hospital – and some other uncertainties to do with the severity, the effectiveness and so on we agreed that we should keep the data from now on under constant review.”

The Prime Minister said the arguments for taking action in the face of the spread of Omicron were “very, very finely balanced”.

He added: “Unfortunately I must say to people that we will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public, to protect public health, to protect our NHS.”

Ministers are hoping the accelerated rollout of booster jabs will help prevent the need for any long term restrictions being introduced.

While two doses of a Covid vaccine offers minimal safeguards against Omicron, a third injection is thought to give more than 70 percent protection.

Mr Johnson has set the ambitious target of offering a third jab to all eligible UK adults by the end of the month.

More to follow…

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