Ministers have reportedly rejected calls from science advisers for further action to tackle the Omicron variant before Christmas.
Confirmed cases of the faster-spreading strain have risen by more than 12,000 in the UK – and London’s cases alone have surpassed 10,000, according to the latest data on Sunday.
But around a third of the Cabinet is said to be reluctant to support further restrictions in the coming days, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak among them, according to the Times.
The newspaper reported that 10 ministers were resisting a call from the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance over the weekend for new restrictions to be introduced as soon as possible to prevent health services from being overwhelmed.
Mr Johnson was offered three options to tackle the spread of the virus, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The document reported that they range from advice asking people to limit indoor contact, to rules on mixing households, social distancing and a curfew in pubs and restaurants, and third a full lockdown. .
The Telegraph quoted an anonymous Cabinet minister as saying that the data presented by Sir Patrick and England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty on Saturday had been “just trashed by the Cabinet”.
The source said “guidelines, rather than restrictions, are very much possible.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it was time to be “more careful” and did not rule out further measures before Christmas, telling BBC One’s Andrew Marr program that there was “no guarantees in this pandemic”.
He confirmed that if new rules were proposed, Parliament would be called back to approve them, calling the approach “only fair and appropriate”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that if restrictions are not put in place quickly the NHS could be ‘on the verge of collapsing’ as the disease affects workforce levels.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi called on former teachers to sign up to deal with staff shortages in the new year, while school leaders’ unions have warned of a possible disruption in-person lessons.
Meanwhile, the Treasury announced on Sunday that additional funding to tackle Covid-19 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had been doubled to a total of £ 860million.
Mr Sunak said the push – which followed an increase in requests from the three countries for more cash support amid rising Omicron cases – was aimed at ensuring people were supported “in the face of this. serious health crisis ”.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) opinion, published over the weekend, warned that there are likely already hundreds of thousands of new Omicron infections every day in England and that hospital admissions with the UK variant are “probably about a tenth of the true number” due to a delay in reporting.
England Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May called for a “festive last bounce” for the jab program, telling people there was “no room for complacency” and to reserve their slots – which include availability on Christmas Day.
While a record 830,403 booster shots were administered in England on Saturday, a rate of around one million a day is needed if every adult is to be offered a booster by the end of the year.
Deaths in England of people with the variant rose to 12, while hospitalizations of patients with confirmed or suspected Omicron rose to 104, according to the latest figures from the UK Health Safety Agency.
Another 12,133 confirmed cases of the variant have been reported across the UK, according to data on Sunday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of Omicron to 37,101 in the four countries.
A total of 82,886 other laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases had been recorded in the UK as of 9 a.m. on Sunday, the government said.
Experts have warned of a delay in putting in place measures.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviors (SPI-B), said Omicron’s faster transmissibility means it “comes to us like an express train,” and called for a clear message to the public.
He told BBC News: “A good, clear message is more important than ever about the severity of the crisis.
He added that “good information from the government, combined with good support from the government” would probably lead people to accept “the measures necessary to bring this thing under control.”
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