No New COVID-19 Restrictions in England Before Christmas: Johnson

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 21, 2021

No new COVID-19 restrictions will be introduced for England before Christmas, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Tuesday, though he refused to rule out tougher curbs after Dec. 25.

In a video message, Johnson said that there is “no doubt” the Omicron COVID-19 variant “continues to surge with a speed unlike anything we’ve seen before” and the situation “remains extremely difficult.”

But he said “we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas,” as there is “continuing uncertainty” about the severity of Omicron and its ability to evade existing vaccines and booster shots.

Johnson said the authorities “continue to monitor Omicron very closely” and will be “ready to take action” if the situation deteriorates.

“What this means is that people can go ahead with their Christmas plans but the situation remains finely balanced and I would urge everyone to exercise caution, to keep protecting yourselves and your loved ones, especially the vulnerable,” he said.

He went on to encourage people to “drop everything” if they have yet to get a vaccine.

The UK government removed most of England’s lockdown measures in July, but it has tightened pandemic-related restrictions again following the detection of the Omicron variant.

Under the government’s “Plan B” measures, people have been asked to work from home if they can, vaccine passports have been introduced for large-scale events and nightclubs, and a mask mandate has been enforced for most indoor settings, including cinemas and theatres.

Over the weekend, members of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies recommended more restrictions.

But some British scientists have expressed reservations over the potential return to lockdown measures.

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, warned on Monday that government ministers have been focusing on worst case scenarios in COVID-19 modelling and the UK is in serious risk of “talking ourselves into annual lockdowns.”

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said on Tuesday that there is no need for a lockdown in the UK as the increase in COVID-19 cases appears to be slowing.

Lockdowns “never ultimately prevent infection” and only serve to flatten the curve and thereby prolong the epidemic, he told the PA news agency.

PA contributed to this report.