Boris Johnson to introduce new restrictions in England to curb Omicron unfold

UK prime minister Boris Johnson is ready to announce contemporary restrictions in England to curb the unfold of the Omicron coronavirus variant, as he confronted new questions over events held in Downing Road final Christmas.

Three senior Whitehall officers informed the Monetary Occasions that the federal government had determined to implement the so-called Plan B of additional restrictions, together with requiring vaccine passports for big venues and an order to do business from home.

Johnson’s resolution to behave displays rising concern on the speedy unfold of the Omicron variant, however authorities officers additionally stated he needed to regain the initiative after days of disastrous protection over a Downing Road Christmas celebration final yr.

One stated the transfer to Plan B — a lot sooner than anticipated — was a “useless cat” transfer by Johnson to distract consideration from the furore over a leaked video of a mock Downing Road press convention exhibiting employees laughing concerning the celebration, which breached Covid-19 guidelines.

Ministers on the Covid operations committee met on Wednesday to determine on the precise measures. One authorities insider recommended the do business from home order could possibly be applied as quickly as Wednesday evening.

Downing Road didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.

The brand new restrictions could possibly be introduced at a press convention as early as Wednesday with rules laid earlier than parliament on Thursday, in accordance with authorities insiders.

The prospect of tighter Covid restrictions pushed the pound 0.4 per cent decrease to $1.318, its weakest degree of the yr towards the greenback.

The choice comes as Johnson confronted additional strain after his shut aides had been caught on video laughing a couple of Downing Road Christmas celebration — or “enterprise assembly” — at a mock press convention.

“It seems to be very very similar to a useless cat,” one stated, a reference to a media technique to distract from unhealthy information.

Labour celebration chief Sir Keir Starmer is ready to push Johnson to elucidate the footage throughout prime minister’s questions as he grapples with rising condemnation from his personal backbenchers for the obvious breach of the foundations.

A number of sources have stated {that a} celebration occurred at No 10 on December 18 final yr, when events had been unlawful beneath strict coronavirus restrictions. Johnson has insisted that no such celebration occurred.

UK well being secretary Sajid Javid pulled out of quite a lot of nationwide broadcast interviews on Wednesday morning after the video, which was revealed by ITV Information, emerged, as No 10 grapples with how you can reply.

Javid had been as a result of talk about the UK’s vaccination efforts on the BBC and Sky Information, in addition to quite a lot of radio stations, to mark a yr because the first Covid jab was administered.

Former training secretary Gavin Williamson was additionally reported to have held a Christmas celebration in his division final December. A spokeswoman for the training division confirmed a “gathering” had taken place and apologised.

“Drinks and snacks had been introduced by these attending and no outdoors company or supporting employees had been invited or current,” she stated. “Whereas this was work-related, trying again we settle for it might have been higher to not have gathered on this means at that specific time.”

The experiences of rule-breaking by probably the most senior figures in authorities prompted fears that the imposition of additional coronavirus restrictions could possibly be undermined.

Neil Ferguson, one of many nation’s main coronavirus consultants, warned on Wednesday that if no additional measures had been launched, the height of the present wave of an infection would are available January. He stated circumstances of the Omicron variant, which he stated had been doubling “at the very least each three days”, might overtake the Delta variant by Christmas.

The interior video revealed by ITV Information was from a mock Downing Road press convention on December 22, when Allegra Stratton, then Johnson’s press secretary, was requested if any Christmas events had been held.

“I went residence,” she laughed, earlier than telling her colleagues to “maintain on”. Stratton requested aides current: “What’s the reply?” One recommended: “It wasn’t a celebration, it was cheese and wine”.

“This fictional celebration was a enterprise assembly and it was not socially distanced,” she joked.

One Downing Road official stated of the video: “It’s fairly disastrous, the federal government and PM denying it after which this footage leaks out saying in any other case.”

The Metropolitan Police stated it was reviewing the footage. “It’s our coverage to not routinely examine retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 rules, nevertheless the footage will kind a part of our issues,” it stated in a press release.

Extra reporting by Tommy Stubbington

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