UK prime minister Boris Johnson ruled out introducing tougher coronavirus restrictions in England for the time being, but said the government would not hesitate to introduce further measures and had ruled nothing out.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Johnson said on Monday that ministers agreed to keep coronavirus data “under constant review”, and that the government reserved the “possibility of taking further action”.
“Arguments either way are very finely balanced because we have cases of Omicron surging across the country now, we have got hospitalisations rising quite steeply in London and the obvious conclusion is that it was right to go fast for ‘Plan B’,” he told ITV News.
“We are looking at all kinds of things to keep Omicron under control and we will rule nothing out, but at the moment what I think we want people to focus on is exercising caution,” he said.
Any introduction of further restrictions in coming days will probably put Johnson on a collision course with his cabinet ministers, at least 10 of whom have reportedly voiced concern over coronavirus modelling and extending curbs.
Former Brexit minister Lord David Frost, who resigned from cabinet on Saturday, said the possibility of further coronavirus restrictions was one of his reasons for departing from the government.
“I left the government, as I think is well known, because I couldn’t support certain policies,” he told Sky News earlier on Monday, referring to recent Covid restrictions and Plan B. “If you’re a minister, you have to support collective responsibility, you have to support decisions of the government, and I couldn’t so that’s why I had to leave.”
More than 24m boosters have now been administered across the country, with more than 1m on Saturday, as the NHS races to meet the government’s deadline of offering a booster to every adult in England by the end of the month.
According to the latest figures from the UK Health Security Agency, on Monday, 8,044 new Omicron cases were reported across the UK, bringing the total number of confirmed cases involving the variant to 45,145.
Johnson urged the public to continue to come forward for their booster jabs. “I say to all those people who are unvaccinated whether out of apathy or whatever reason, please, please, please think of this as a great thing to do for yourselves, your family and for your community. Get boosted now.”