Boris Johnson says 'further action' may be taken to combat spread of Omicron variant

Boris Johnson has said the Government reserves the “possibility of taking further action” to protect public health due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

By Press Association
Monday, 20th December 2021, 5:28 pm
Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Following a meeting of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister said they were monitoring the situation “hour by hour”.

“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,” he said.

“We won’t hesitate to take action.”

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Asked about the prospect of new restrictions including on the hospitality sector, he said: “We are looking at all kinds of things to keep Omicron under control and we will rule nothing out.

“But at the moment what I think we want people to focus on is exercising caution so ventilation, masks in the appropriate places, all the usual stuff about washing hands, but remember how contagious Omicron really is.

“I think what you’re seeing already is the British public understanding that and you can see in people’s patterns of behaviour since we went to Plan B that they are changing the way they go about their lives, they are changing some of the assumptions they make about the things that they want to do.”

Measures are already in place to help struggling hospitality businesses, Mr Johnson has said, stressing people have “naturally” decided to go out less as Omicron spreads.

In an interview with broadcasters, the PM said: “I understand how tough it must be and nobody wanted things to go this way.

“Omicron has simply exploded so fast that we have seen people naturally deciding to make sure that they protect themselves and they avoid spreading the disease.”

He added: “As I said, the benefits of that course of action we may see in the next few days and weeks in the way we are able to contain the disease.

“It is important we act cautiously but it is also important we look after the hospitality industry, the theatres and other parts of our incredible entertainment industry which have suffered and are suffering.”

Mr Johnson said financial packages to help hospitality were already in place, including business rates relief, VAT relief and funding from local councils.

He added: “Like all these things we will keep the economic side of this under review as well.”

MrJohnson said “in many ways I regret” the impact on hospitality of Plan B and people socialising less, but added: “If it can help to get down the R (rate of infection), get down the way the disease is multiplying, that can be very helpful to us and the country.

“But what really matters is for everybody to get vaccinated and get boosted above all because the booster really does give you a very high level of protection.”

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been 8,044 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 reported across the UK.

This brings the total confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 45,145.