Thursday 16 December 2021 10:19 PM UTC
LONDON Dec 16: The British public are being urged to scale back their pre-Christmas parties and gatherings on Thursday to try and manage the surge in coronavirus cases due to the rapidly transmissing Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Downing Street has denied plans for further lockdown restrictions being imposed any time soon beyond the current work from home guidance where possible guidance, compulsory face masks in indoor settings and COVID vaccine certifications for large venues.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reiterated the government’s top-up vaccine “Get Boosted Now” approach as he led a team of ministers and experts to advise people to self-conduct a lateral flow test before attending events or gatherings as the UK recorded 78,610 COVID cases on Wednesday the country’s highest since the pandemic began last year.
“Think carefully before you go,” said Johnson.
“Let’s carry on giving Omicron both barrels. Let’s slow its spread and give the vaccines more time: wear face masks indoors, use ventilation, get tested if you’re going to an event where you’re likely to meet lots of people, and get tested if you’re going to meet elderly and vulnerable relatives, he said.
England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Chris Whitty, went further to urge the public not to “mix with people you don’t have to” as he ominously predicted that more Covid records would be broken in the coming weeks as the UK is undergoing “two epidemics on top of one another”, one driven by the “very rapidly growing” Omicron and the other by the already dominant Delta variant.
“I’m afraid we have to be realistic that records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks as the rates continue to go up,” he said.
The advice is particularly crucial at a time of the year when Christmas related parties and gatherings are the norm across the UK.
Health Minister Gillian Keegan urged people “make a sensible choice” and prioritise gatherings in the coming weeks to try and keep infections under some control to avoid overwhelming the National Health Service (NHS).
“Make a sensible choice. If you’re going to go to a party, take a test. If there’s lots of people there you don’t know, if that’s your priority, fine. If your priority is to make it through to Christmas Day with your family then take a different approach,” she said.
Scotland has already imposed stricter norms limiting gatherings to no more than three households mixing indoors.
Meanwhile, the UK’s hospitality sector has expressed worries of their businesses being badly hit with bookings being cancelled and called upon the government for support. The government says it is too early to say what measures might be needed for businesses and that it is working on a range of options. – PTI
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