New COVID restrictions would be a last resort, says UK health minister

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant across the United
Kingdom has sent infections to record highs, with close to 190,000 new cases
reported on Friday.

Britain has not brought in new rules for England, which
accounts for more than 80% of the UK population.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all imposed curbs
such as limits on numbers allowed to gather, nightclub closures and social
distancing measures in pubs.

“Curbs on our freedom must be an absolute last
resort,” Javid wrote in an article published in Saturday’s Daily Mail
newspaper. “We must give ourselves the best chance of living alongside the
virus and avoiding strict measures in the future.”

Javid had said on Dec 27 that no new restrictions would be
imposed in England before the end of 2021. His article suggested none were
imminent in 2022 either.

He said that while the Omicron surge meant this was a
worrying time, Britain was starting the new year in a far stronger position
than it was in 12 months earlier, thanks to the high rate of vaccination
against COVID.

“Numbers in intensive care units are stable and not
currently following the trajectory we saw this time last year during the Alpha
wave,” he wrote.

He acknowledged that due to the time lag between infections
and hospitalisations, a big increase in people needing care from the National
Health Service (NHS) was inevitable.

“This is likely to test the limits of finite NHS
capacity even more than a typical winter,” he said, urging citizens to do
everything they could to protect themselves.

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