Javid rules out Covid measures for now – but hints at restrictions after new year

27 December 2021, 16:49 | Updated: 27 December 2021, 21:05

Sajid Javid has ruled out new Covid restrictions in England between now and the new year.
Sajid Javid has ruled out new Covid restrictions in England between now and the new year. Picture: Alamy

By James Morris

No further Covid restrictions will be enforced in England before the new year, health secretary Sajid Javid has said.

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However, Mr Javid refused to rule out the possibility of measures being introduced at the start of January.

He said today: "Of course we look at the data on a daily basis... but there will be no further measures before the new year.

"We won't be taking any further measures [but] of course people should remain cautious as we approach new year celebrations."

He urged people to take lateral flow tests "if that makes sense" and celebrate the new year "outside if you can".

But he added: "When we get into the new year, of course we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures – but nothing more until then at least."

The decision came after Boris Johnson was presented with the latest data in a meeting with his top Covid advisers, Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance.

As the Omicron variant of the virus rapidly spreads, restrictions have already been imposed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr Javid, asked why the Westminster government is not introducing measures in England now, said: "It's for each country that makes up the United Kingdom to decide how it wants to go forward."

He cited the lifting of all restrictions in England in July and added: "I think we look back now and that has been the right decision."

Read more: People urged to start New Year by getting Covid jab with millions of slots available

Read more: Schools could send entire year groups home as Omicron threatens staff shortages

It comes as a further 98,515 daily cases were announced in England today.

New government figures also revealed there were 103,558 confirmed cases recorded on Boxing Day, with a record 113,628 in England registered on Christmas Day.

Comparable data for the other UK nations are not yet available due to the Christmas holidays.

Responding to Mr Javid's announcement, Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told LBC: "No one wants restrictions and no one wants to see restrictions before the new year. But the reassurance people need is that this is the right decision being made for the right reasons."

Mr Johnson continues to face vehement opposition to further restrictions from dozens of his own backbenchers.

Mr Streeting added: "I think the key information the government needs to publish and reassure us about is the [latest possible] data on hospitalisations and NHS staff absence rates, because those are the key measures which are going to determine whether the NHS can cope into January."