Chief medical officer warns ‘lots of people’ will get sick
Boris Johnson has urged people to cut back on Christmas partying and “think carefully” before going out during the festive season, as omicron cases hit record levels
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon the prime minister urged people to get booster jabs but suggested they might want to avoid unnecessary social gatherings.
But he declined to impose any new formal restrictions, despite a record number of new cases and warnings of a spike in hospitalisations to come.
“What we are saying is think carefully before you go, what kind of an event is it, are you likely to meet people who are vulnerable, are you going to meet loads of people you haven’t met before, and get a test, make sure there’s ventilation, wear a mask on transport,” Mr Johnson said.
“We’re in a different environment thanks to the boosters from where we were last year but we’ve got to be cautious and think about it while we wait for the benefits of the boosters to really kick in.”
Speaking alongside the prime minister, Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical officer, warned that “lots of people” were going to get sick.
He said people would have to make their own decisions about what to do over the festive season, but that he would be scaling back his Christmas plans.
“Realistically, I think there’s a high chance that my original Christmas plans with my family are going to be interrupted,” Professor Whitty said, adding that people should prioritise only attending gatherings that mattered to them.
Responding to the same question, Mr Johnson added: “I think the way things are looking I expect a lot of us are going to be working during the period. My own plans, as you can imagine, are pretty modest at this stage.”
Professor Whitty had said earlier in the press conference that records would be broken in terms of infections.
It was “reasonably nailed on” to suggest that many people would be hospitalised after Christmas after contracting the virus, he said – adding that any suggestion the new omicron variant was milder should be treated with extreme caution.
The prime minister’s reticence to impose new restrictions despite spiking cases comes after a bruising rebellion at the hands of his own MPs over vaccine passports.
Speaking after the press conference, Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid-19, told Sky News:
“This is a very serious situation indeed. The rise that you’re seeing in the UK today is just the beginning of an extraordinary acceleration.
“There are two epidemics going on delta and omicron, and it is an emergency situation for the British health service. It will get extremely serious within the next two weeks, perhaps quicker.”
He added: “I have never been more concerned than I am tonight, not just about the UK but about the world.”