No New Covid Restrictions After Marathon Cabinet Meeting
Boris Johnson has decided against introducing further Covid restrictions in England for now after a lengthy Cabinet meeting on Monday, but warned that he might have to do so soon.
The Prime Minister said the government would keep the situation under "constant review" on an "hour by hour" basis as the Omicron variant continues to quickly surge across the country in the run up to Christmas.
There is believed to be a Cabinet split over whether to introduce restrictions on top of partial measures that are already in place, with Johnson describing the arguments between ministers as "very, very finely balanced".
"It was long discussion in Cabinet for a couple of hours," he said following the meeting.
A senior government source familiar with the two-hour-plus discussion said "everyone was trying to pipe in with an opinion".
Scientific advisors have warned that failure to introduce more stringent measures now could soon lead to the National Health Service being overwhelmed by hospitalisations.
The Prime Minister warned that he might have to implement further restrictions in the coming days, with Omicron already causing hospitalisations to rise "quite steeply" in London.
"Unfortunately I must say to people we we will have to reserve the the possibility of taking further action to protect the public, and to protect public health to protect our NHS, and we won't hesitate to take that action," he said.
"But in the meantime, what I would say to everybody is please exercise caution as you go about your lives."
Johnson also urged people to get a booster vaccine if they had not already. "Please get a vaccination," he insisted.
"It could not be more urgent, there are still millions of people in this country who haven't got a vaccination, let alone a booster and it makes such a difference."
The Prime Minister made an emphatic plea to those who had so far not taken a vaccine at all, "whether out of apathy, or for whatever reason".
"Please, please, please think of this as a great thing to do for yourself and for your family for your community: get boosted," he added.
Wes Streeting, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, accused the Prime Minister of failing to take a decision because he is "too weak" to stand up to his own Conservative MPs, many of whom vehemently oppose further measures, as was demontrated bluntly by last week's rebellion over "Plan B".
"Today, while businesses across the country wonder if they can continue to trade, and families make frantic calls about whether they will see each other this Christmas, true to form the Prime Minister has put his party before the public," he said.
"Rather than set out a clear plan for the country, he has chosen to protect himself from his own MPs by simply not saying anything. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead."
The government is also coming under growing pressure to provide additional financial support to hospitality businesses as more and more people cancel bookings due to surging Covid cases.
The Prime Minister following the Cabinet meeting said the government would "keep the economic side of this under constant review.”
However, Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, earlier today told Sky News that the industry had already lost 40-to-60% of December trading, due to cancellations and people socialising less.
She said businesses needed extra support "right now" and warned that 10% of premises could close for good without urgent government intervention.
Dehenna Davison, the Tory MP for Bishop Auckland, tweeted that pubs and restaurants had contacted her asking if they should accept orders, adding: "We really need some certainty."
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