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Health Minister Is "Not Anticipating" Tighter Covid Rules In The Run-up To Christmas

2 min read

Health Minister Edward Argar has insisted that the government is not planning to introduce even tighter coronavirus rules in the run-up to Christmas to contain the spread of the Omicron variant.

On Saturday the government moved to curb the spread of new variant by reintroducing compulsory mask wearing in shops and on public transport for a period of at least three weeks.

Contacts of people who catch the Omicron variant will have to isolate regardless of their vaccination status, while all travellers to the UK will be required to take a PCR test under the beefed up rules which will come into effect on Tuesday.

But Argar said that heightening rules before the end of the year is "not something [he's] anticipating".

While there is an expectation that the number of Omicron cases in the UK will rise in the coming days, Argar told Sky News "we don't know by what speed or by what numbers" and urged people not to panic.

Nine cases of the new variant have so far been identified in the UK, with six confirmed in Scotland earlier this morning. 

Argar has insisted the package of measures brought forward by the government formed a "proportionate, measured response to a new variant that we don't yet understand" that would "just buy us time" to ascertain information about the Omicron variant.

"Once the scientists have done their work over the next few weeks, hopefully it'll not prove to be more dangerous or vaccine resistent, but we have got to to give them time to do that work," he told LBC.

On Sunday Health Secretary Sajid Javid urged people to "carry on" with their Christmas plans despite the new variant. 

"I think it’s going to be a great Christmas,” he told Sky News. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to officially advise today that the booster programme should be expanded to all eligible people over the age of 18.

The package of measures, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled at a press conference on Saturday, is designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant and give scientists time to learn about its properties, like its contagiousness and how the vaccines perform against it.

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