Minister says no more Covid restrictions needed in UK before Christmas

The UK Transport Secretary has insisted that the current restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK should “see you next year” after Boris Johnson suffered a… humiliating rebellion over his “Plan B” measures in the Commons.

Grant Shapps acknowledged that parliament would be reconvened if further restrictions were requested over the Christmas period but said he hoped no such action was needed.

His comments came after the prime minister suffered damn blow before his authority on Tuesday night, when nearly 100 Tory MPs voted against the new requirement for negative test results or vaccine certificates to participate in mass events.

The measure passed with Labour’s backing but the uprising is a warning sign that many of the Tory prime minister’s own MPs may resist any move to introduce further anti-Covid restrictions, even if the epidemic gets worse.

Despite the disagreement, the government won a raft of votes on “Plan B” measures to deal with Covid-19 – including wearing masks, working from home guidelines and requiring negative testing. vaccines or certificates to participate in mass events. But some 99 Tories defied their leadership to protest the Covid certificates.

Many Conservative MPs now fear Johnson may seek to introduce further restrictions in the near future, possibly after MPs leave Westminster on Thursday for the Christmas holidays.

“We’ve got measures in place that we believe will get us through the new year,” Shapps said. BBC Breakfast. “If we needed to do anything else, parliament would also be called to vote on it, so it wouldn’t just be an automatic thing.

“We want everyone to be able to enjoy Christmas this year. We are definitely in a better position than last year.”

Shapps defended Johnson’s leadership, saying those waiting in line for his third energy injection around the country were proof of his power.

But Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Service, on Wednesday warned MPs on the transport selection committee that the spread of the Omicron variant “probably” is the most significant threat we have faced since the beginning of the pandemic.”

She points out that infection rates have doubled in less than two days in most of the UK. “And I am sure that for example the numbers that we see on the data over the next few days will be quite staggering compared to the growth rate we have seen in the cases, for the previous variations. there.”

The rapid spread of the new variant has led to Johnson warning of a “major spike” in Covid cases, leading some Tory MPs to believe he could soon impose restrictions. new to social gatherings or in the hospitality sector.

If parliament were called to vote on the new measures over the Christmas break, it would leave the prime minister facing another potential conflict of wills in the Commons.

Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, urged Johnson to “act differently” and “change the way he operates” in the wake of the uprising.

“Instead of the prime minister giving a late-night speech on Sunday and scaring many people away, it would be better to go to the House of Commons on Monday to detail the advice he received, the thing that he thinks needs to happen, and allow members of parliament to ask questions and then let him answer them,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Wednesday.

In the same programme, Professor Graham Medley from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine warned that there was a “very real possibility” that if the number of infections continued to rise and spread to older age groups, “We can see the number of people hospitalized increasingly and certainly over a thousand, some days up to 2,000 people.”

Additional reporting by Philip Georgiades

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