Dominic Raab Says There Are No Plans For Tighter Covid Restrictions
Dominic Raab has defended the government's "balanced" approach to Covid restrictions and said people should "enjoy" Christmas, but urged them to take up offers of a booster jab.
The Justice Secretary insisted the booster programme will give the country "more confidence" ahead of the festive period as he defended what he believed was a "proportionate and balanced" plan on restrictions.
Asked whether the government was looking at introducing further restrictions to tackle the surge in Omicron cases, Raab said the government had "none planned" after the government "ramped up plans" to provide booster jabs.
"We are doing everything to get as many people as we possibly can jabbed," he told Sky News.
But he admitted the numbers of people catching the new variant could "increase very dramatically" if transmission continues at its current rate.
Raab believed that "a proportion of those hospitalised will possibly die or have a very serious suffering due to Omicron."
"The truth is, just to be very honest, we don't know the full severity," he added.
"What we do know is the rate of transmission is so rapid that even if the severity is relatively low compared to other variants that we have seen, just because of the numbers, we need to take action now."According to NHS data, around 41% of adults have already received their booster jab, with a record 500,000 receiving their third dose on Saturday.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Raab said the booster jab would offer people 70% protection against the new variant, adding the government was "straining every sinew" to meet their target of offering jabs to all over-18s by the end of the year.
"It will allow us to go into Christmas with more confidence than last Christmas," he said.
Raab also caused confusion after initially telling the BBC there were nine people in hospital with the new variant, before telling Sky that "the last I saw was in the low hundreds, I think 250 the last time I looked – but of course, the data is being updated all of the time."
A subsequent clarification from the government confirmed there were actually 10 people in hospital with the new variant, with one patient confirmed to have died after testing positive with the Omicron variant.
The government's Plan B set of Covid restrictions is set to be voted on by MPs today, with as many as 75 Tory MPs confirmed they plan to rebel against the restrictions over concerns about the introduction of Covid certification.
Raab said the plans were a "difficult thing to do" but were "necessary" to tackle the spread, adding that concerns among his own MPs were "overstated".
"People want to see us grappling with Omicron variant in a sensible targeted proportional way," he added.
"Even if you haven't had the double jab or, in due course, the booster, you can still rely on the lateral flow test, which is why I think some of these concerns about this are overstated."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe