England is unlikely to see more COVID-19 restrictions imposed this week, ministers have indicated, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to review the rules on Wednesday.
The UK government, which is responsible for public health policies in England, brought in its “Plan B” measures before Christmas, including reviving the indoor mask mandate and introducing mandatory COVID Passes for nightclubs and large venues, citing concerns over the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19. Secondary school pupils were also told on Sunday that they will have to wear masks in classrooms until Jan. 26.
Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a vaccination hub in Buckinghamshire on Monday, Johnson said the government will “keep everything under review,” but added he believes the cocktail of restrictions currently in place is “the right one.”
“I think the way forward for the country as a whole is to continue with the path that we’re on,” the prime minister said. “We will keep everything under review.”
“The mixture of things that we’re doing at the moment is, I think, the right one,” Johnson added.
“So, number one, continue with Plan B, make sure that people take it seriously, do what we can to stop the spread, use the Plan B measures, work from home if you can, wear a mask on public transport … take a test before going out to meet people you don’t normally meet, think about the requirements under Plan B, but also get the booster.”
The prime minister rejected the suggestion that the pandemic is “all over,” calling it “absolutely folly,” but said the Omicron variant is “plainly milder” than other strains.
Speaking to “BBC Breakfast” on Monday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said “nothing in the data” had given him “any concern that we need to go beyond where we are at.”
“There’s some really good data from London that it looks like the infection rates are plateauing, if not yet coming down. But we are seeing leakage into the over-50s in terms of infections, and it’s generally the over-50s who end up with severe infection and hospitalisation,” he said.
Cabinet minister Steve Barclay also said on Sunday that data did not support further restrictions at this stage.
According to official data, London has 1,720.5 cases per 100,000 population, 21.6 percent higher than the rate across England, which stands at 1,414.3.
England reported 123,547 new CCP virus cases on Sunday, a drop after five days of increase, although the numbers reported on Sundays are typically lower.
The increase in the number of patients in England’s hospitals with COVID-19 has shown signs of slowing, with 13,151 inpatients on Sunday. NHS data, updated until Dec. 28, showed just over two-thirds, or 67 percent, of COVID-19 patients in Acute NHS Trusts were primarily treated for COVID-19.
The number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds with COVID-19 in England remained stable at 769 on Sunday, while 59 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported on Sunday.
By Saturday, 58.8 percent of England’s population aged 12 and over has had a booster shot of a CCP virus vaccine, which is offered to people aged 16 and over.
Following one of the world’s largest vaccination campaigns, the UK government has shifted its main focus from lockdowns.
Two new antibody and antiviral treatments, sotrovimab and molnupiravir, have also been approved recently and are available for people in high-risk groups.
No other early treatment for COVID-19 is currently recommended on the NHS website, except for taking paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat high temperature and honey for coughs.