New COVID restrictions would be a last resort, says the UK health minister
New restrictions in England to slow the spread of COVID-19 will only be put in place as a last resort, Health Minister Sajid Javid said, stressing that while hospital admissions have increased, the number of ICU patients is stable.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK has taken infections to record highs, with nearly 190,000 new cases reported on Friday.
Britain has not enacted any new rules for England, which makes up more than 80% of the British population.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all imposed restrictions such as:
“Restrictions on our freedom must be the absolute last resort,” wrote Javid in an article published in the Daily Mail on Saturday. “We have to give ourselves the best chance to live next to the virus and avoid strict measures in the future.”
Javid had said on December 27th that no new restrictions would be imposed in England before the end of 2021. His article suggested that there would be none in 2022 either.
He said while Omicron’s surge made this a worrying time, the UK started the new year in a much stronger position than it had in the previous 12 months thanks to its high vaccination rate against COVID.
“The ICU numbers are stable and are not currently following the trend we saw around this time last year during the alpha wave,” he wrote.
He acknowledged that because of the time lag between infections and hospital stays, a sharp increase in the number of people needing treatment from the National Health Service (NHS) was inevitable.
“This will likely test the limits of NHS finite capacity even more than a typical winter,” he said, urging citizens to do whatever they can to protect themselves.