Politics

PM may have to impose harsher Covid restrictions at Christmas warns minister

BORIS Johnson could have to impose harsher Covid restrictions this Christmas if Omicron spreads rapidly, a minister warned today.

Gloomy business minister George Freeman said he hopes people will “be able to enjoy more freedom” this year despite the new variant.

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Business minister George Freeman
Brits are being told to wear masks on public transport and in shops

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Brits are being told to wear masks on public transport and in shopsCredit: Alamy

And he also insisted ordinary Brits can help by being “sensible” and wearing masks when on public transport and in shops.

Mr Freeman revealed the Department of Business “won’t be having a big Christmas party” adding: “Nobody would expect us to.”

Instead he and his team have decided they’ll do their festive drinks on Zoom instead “given the new variant” threat.

He said: “All of us are hoping that this Christmas we’ll be able to enjoy more freedom than we did last Christmas, but we’re in this pandemic.

“Hopefully this new variant isn’t going to sweep through the country and we won’t have to put in place those restrictions [like] last year.

“Everyone should be able to plan for Christmas but we’re going to have to be sensible.

“The more we can prevent the transmission of the virus the more we’ll be able to enjoy the freedoms we all cherish.”

Booster rollout

Mr Freeman said No 10 wants to help “make sure that people and businesses can enjoy something of a Christmas” this year.

The business minister insisted the vaccine programme “is our best defence against” a new lockdown and urged people to get their booster.

He added: “If we wear masks in shops and on public transport, we’ve got a higher chance of being able to enjoy those freedoms we all cherish.”

No 10 aims to turbocharge the rollout of third shots to 3.5 million a week in a bid to see off the threat of the new variant.

His remarks come after Sajid Javid yesterday warned there is “no guarantee” that a fresh lockdown won’t be needed to tackle Omicron.

The health secretary called on Brits to “roll their sleeves up” and get a booster jab now as part of a “national mission” to save Christmas.

He stressed that the likelihood of another lockdown is “very, very, very low” and there’s “no need” for people to change their festive plans.

But he added: “We can’t rule out any particular measure at this point in time. We always have to look at the data and do what we need to protect people.

“I don’t think there will be any lockdown over Christmas or in the future. That’s not the plan for the future.

“But you asked if anything could be ruled out, and there are no guarantees.”


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