Have yourself a 'cautious' little Christmas, minister tells LBC

21 December 2021, 08:59 | Updated: 22 December 2021, 09:01

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A minister has told LBC that people should celebrate Christmas "in a cautious way" as he insisted the Government is still "looking at the data" when it comes to possible further restrictions. 

Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay said he had personally downsized his own plans this year, with only his in-laws attending his Christmas bash.

He continued to urge people to get a booster, telling Nick Ferrari: "We're saying to people that they should continue with Christmas but do so in a cautious way.

READ MORE: No new Covid rules but PM warns 'we won't hesitate to take action to protect public'

READ MORE: Queen 'to stay at Windsor for Christmas instead of travelling to Sandringham'

"That's what I will be doing with my own family and the best way we can all protect our family and friends is through having the booster."

When asked what a cautious Christmas is, he added: "It's thinking about how many people we need to see, so some of my family won't be coming over at Christmas, others will be... my in-laws will join us but other family members will not."

He continued: "We trust the British public Nick, and each family will make their own decisions as to what is right for their family."

Mr Barclay said the Government will "look closely at the data" about whether or not to have a circuit-breaker lockdown after Christmas.

When asked if the measure was being considered, he said: "We're looking closely at the data, there is much we still don't know about the severity of Omicron, how it leads to hospital admissions.

"We're looking particularly at the London data, there’s a higher prevalence of Omicron particularly in London."

He added: "We don't think the case is there for further restrictions at his stage but as the Prime Minister set out last night we reserve the possibility that further action will be needed and we need to look very closely at that data."

It comes after a special two-hour meeting of the Cabinet on Monday, after which the Prime Minister said the Government needs to be clearer about the rate of hospital admissions associated with Omicron, and the effectiveness of vaccines against it, before imposing additional measures in England.

READ MORE: New Year's Eve: Trafalgar Square event cancelled after surge of Omicron cases

The Daily Telegraph reported that Boris Johnson was blocked by ministers from imposing new Covid rules immediately, saying at least a dozen spoke out against proposals for new restrictions.

Asked if he was among cabinet members calling for more data before new restrictions were introduced, Mr Barclay said: "I think it's right that the Cabinet has a full and robust discussion.

"That's what people would expect, it's right that we look at the balance between protecting lives and livelihoods."

Labour, which has said it would support the Government over any further public health measures that were needed, has accused the PM of putting party interests before the country.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said he was failing to set out a "clear plan" and choosing to "protect himself from his own MPs by simply not saying anything".

READ MORE: Boris Johnson mocked after claiming No10 garden drinks were 'work'

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said Mr Johnson had offered only "chaos" at a time when the country needed clarity.

"Families want to know urgently what Covid measures to expect, so they can plan for the days ahead. Ducking the difficult decisions is not a plan," he said.

Esther McVey, Conservative MP for Tatton and a former minister, tweeted to say the Government "are now listening to their backbench MPs and for once pushed back on the scaremongering by the lockdown fanatics".

Government sources reported by The Times said the focus would be on restrictions after Christmas, with a two-week "circuit breaker" banning household mixing being considered for December 28.

The latest Government figures showed there were a further 91,743 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK as of 9am on Monday, with a further 44 deaths of people within 28 days of testing positive for the disease.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been 8,044 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant reported across the UK, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 45,145.