Sajid Javid promises Parliament will be recalled if further restrictions are needed

19 December 2021, 15:34 | Updated: 19 December 2021, 15:37

Sajid Javid has said restrictions would not change without the approval of Parliament
Sajid Javid has said restrictions would not change without the approval of Parliament. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has refused to rule out the possibility of introducing stricter coronavirus restrictions but promised any new measures would need to go through Parliament.

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Speaking to various broadcasters on Sunday morning, Mr Javid said there were "no guarantees" when asked about the possibility of further restrictions.

But he said that any changes must be "backed up by the data" and would need to be "a decision for Parliament", promising to recall MPs if further restrictions were needed.

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The last tightening of coronavirus restrictions passed despite a huge Tory rebellion - the largest since Prime Minister Boris Johnson came to power in 2019.

It saw the approval of Plan B measures including vaccine passports in certain situations, an expansion of the mask mandate and a return of work from home guidance.

It passed because Labour decided to support it, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calling it his "patriotic duty" to vote in favour of the plans.

As a result, it is likely Labour support would be key to any further tightening of coronavirus measures.

The new measures are in response to the Omicron variant of coronavirus, which first emerged in South Africa in November but has since spread to at least 89 countries.

In the UK, it is a key driver behind a recent surge in infections - particular in London, where a major incident has been declared as a result.

There are worries that, because of the number and type of mutations for this particular strain, it could evade immunity given by vaccines or prior infection.

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Despite this, Mr Javid said on Sunday that around nine in 10 people needing hospital treatment because of Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

He said people who had not got jabbed were having an enormous impact on society, and said they needed to "think about the damage" they were doing by 'taking up hospital beds' that were needed by others.

A number of European countries have tightened measures in response to the Omicron variant, which is thought to be much more transmissible than Delta.

The Netherlands entered a strict lockdown from Sunday, with schools, universities, non-essential shops, bars and restaurants all closed until January 14.

Elsewhere, France, Cyprus, Austria and Germany all tightened travel restrictions, and theatres, concert halls, amusement parks and museums in Denmark were ordered to close.

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In the UK people are being urged to come forward to get their booster jabs, as early data suggested a third dose was crucial in preventing infection from Omicron.

The Government needs to administer around one million vaccines a day in order to meet its goal of offering a vaccine to all adults by the new year.