There are no additional Covid curbs for England before the New Year, Johnson decides

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Boris Johnson has given up on imposing new restrictions in England before New Year’s Eve despite a steady increase in coronavirus cases over the Christmas weekend.

The British Prime Minister decided not to act after a briefing on the latest data on infections by the Chief English Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, and the Chief Government Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

A pause in gathering information from across the UK over the holiday weekend meant the government on Monday released incomplete data for three days for England alone. But combined with initial data from Scotland, they suggested that new levels of infection on Christmas were close to the record of 122,186 infected across the UK reported on Friday.

In England alone, 113,628 new infections were confirmed on Christmas, with a further 103,558 on 26 December and 98,515 in the last 24 hours. In Scotland, the provisional figures for the three days were 8,252, 11,030 and 10,562.

Acknowledging the prime minister’s decision, Sajid Javid, the health minister, called on people in England to “stay vigilant” on New Year’s Eve, celebrate outside where possible and do side-flow tests before visiting family and friends.

“Of course, we look at the data on a daily basis – that hasn’t changed during the Christmas period – but there will be no further action before the new year,” Javid said.

“Celebrate outside if you can, have a little ventilation indoors if you can, be careful. And when we enter the new year, of course, we will see if we need to take any further measures – but nothing more until then. Javid said 90 percent of all reported cases are now a new variant of Omicron.

Johnson’s move to abandon tightening restrictions brings England into conflict with the rest of the UK, whose decentralized administrations on Sunday imposed stricter rules of social distancing to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

In Scotland, three households can socialize, and a social distance of one meter is recommended in places such as bars, restaurants and gyms. In Wales and Northern Ireland, a maximum of six people can meet in pubs, bars and restaurants, while nightclubs are closed. Northern Ireland also recommended that socializing be limited to three households.

Any move by the prime minister to impose further restrictions in England is likely to provoke a harsh political reaction from Johnson’s ministers and MPs in his party, who are skeptical of further action.

Johnson has promised to recall Parliament before it takes effect and has already reduced it to do so on New Year’s Eve, given two public holidays in England on Monday and Tuesday. It takes 48 hours to recall a representative.

Problems arose on Monday when people in England could not book PCR tests for several hours. The British Health Security Agency said the problem was “temporary” and that the service resumed on Monday afternoon.

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