Brits COULD be bit by miserable Xmas lockdown warns Sajid Javid despite PM ruling out restrictions

BRITS could be plunged into Christmas misery after Sajid Javid refused to rule out further restrictions next week.

The Health Secretary warned there are "no guarantees" when asked about a festive clampdown – despite Boris Johnson insisting he would not shut the country down.

England was last night warned it faced an abrupt Covid crackdown after Boxing Day under new plans being drawn up in Whitehall.

The suggestion was people would be free to enjoy next week’s festivities before limits are imposed.

But in a gloomy response to whether restrictions could be brought in sooner, the Health Secretary today insisted nothing could be ruled out.

Speaking on BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Sajid Javid said: "There are no guarantees in this pandemic.

"At this point we just have to keep everything under review."

He added: "We are assessing the situation, it's very fast-moving. We've seen with Omicron there's a lot that we still don't know about Omicron.

"That's the truth of the matter. The reality is there's a lot of uncertainty."

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In order to curb infections and save Christmas, Brits have been told to come forward and get their booster jabs either by booking on the NHS portal or by going to a walk-in centres.

It is the single best way to protect oneself, the NHS and loved ones this winter.

The Sun is also urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.

Mr Javid warned it was "time to be more cautious" as he urged people to keep testing regularly while getting their third jab.

But he said it was currently up to each individual to decide how much they socialise in the build up to Christmas.

"We know this thing is spreading rapidly," he said.

"We know already now that in London, it's around 80% of infections, in England it's around 60% of infections."

It comes after Boris Johnson told the nation on Friday: "We are not closing things down."

Meanwhile, a surge in Omicron cases threatens staffing levels in the NHS, fire services and police, with fears up to 50,000 NHS workers could be off sick with Omicron by Christmas.

There are no guarantees in this pandemic. At this point we just have to keep everything under review.

Further restrictions could see a return to limits on households mixing and numbers in shops, and table-only service in pubs.

The plan has yet to be presented to ministers but it could impact New Year celebration plans.

A source said: “A set of proposals is being worked on that would let people celebrate Christmas, but then the handbrake would be pulled.”

But former Cabinet minister David Jones said last night: “Ministers will need compelling evidence and firm data before any decisions are made. We need to take account of people’s wellbeing and the economy.”

PM Boris Johnson has called a Cobra meeting today about the disruption and response to the Omicron variant, which has a doubling time of between 1.5 and three days

Meanwhile, thousands of hospital workers are reportedly isolating at home as health bosses NHS ‘hold their breath, waiting for the storm’, reports The Mirror.

The British Medical Association has warned as many as 50,000 staff could be struck down with Covid and forced to self-isolate by Christmas Day.

BMA Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “We’re already seeing services being affected by staff absences, and these estimates show it could get far, far worse.“

It comes as the PM told Brits to get their booster jabs as soon as they can, after long snaking queues were seen at vaccine centres across the country.

🔵 Read our Covid-19 live blog for the latest updates

Yesterday, a further 90,418 daily Covid cases were reported — with Omicron cases up another 10,059 to 24,968 in total.

Ministers have been warned that hospital admissions could reach 3,000 a day without new measures.

But Britain is on the verge of a million vaccinations a day as centres open at stadiums and racecourses. More than 800,000 jabs were recorded yesterday.

A major incident was declared in London where mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “incredibly concerned” by infection levels.

He said public services will work together so the jabs programme can continue — with fire crews allowed to drive ambulances under the plan.

An extra 341 people with Covid were in hospital in London on Friday, adding to 1,193 from seven days earlier and making 1,534 in total.

Mr Khan said: “Omicron has quickly become dominant. We are already feeling the impact and while we are still learning about this variant, it’s right that London’s key agencies work closely together to minimise the impact on our city, including helping to protect the vital vaccination programme.”

Yesterday, “Professor Lockdown” Neil Ferguson said the ten-day isolation period should be cut to a week if people are made to test negative before they are released.

Meanwhile, papers from a Sage meeting on Thursday claimed the number of hospitalisations could be “one tenth of the true figure”.

The science body advisers have recommended returning to measures from earlier this year including banning indoor mixing — seen as the biggest risk of virus spread.

Other curbs could see reducing group sizes, increasing distancing, reducing duration of contacts and closing high-risk premises, said the advisers. Their papers add: “The timing is crucial. Delaying until 2022 would greatly reduce the effectiveness of such interventions and make it less likely that these would prevent considerable pressure on health and care settings.”

But they stressed there were many uncertainties.

Another group of advisers said in documents released yesterday that restrictions “similar to the national lockdown” were needed to keep hospitalisations below previous peaks.

Ministers announced £22million of spending to encourage the uptake of booster jabs in 60 areas with low uptake. Nine hundred people will form “street teams” visiting 21 areas including Liverpool One shopping centre and London’s King’s Cross station up to Christmas Eve.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We’re in a race between the virus and vaccine and doing everything in our power to get jabs in arms.”

A government spokesman last night said that it will “continue to look closely at all data and keep our measures under review”.

Firms plea for more aid

BUSINESSES will fail unless the Treasury steps in to support them amid rising Omicron cases, bosses said yesterday.

The CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chambers of Commerce put the plea to Rishi Sunak after he arrived back from the US.

They have called for the Chancellor to revert VAT for hospitality and tourism back to the emergency rate of five per cent. Demands have also been made to reinstate 100 per cent business rates relief and for additional grants.

BCC director Hannah Essex said they want answers on what should have been one of the year’s busiest weekends. She added: “Doing nothing is not an option right now or we will see businesses fail.”

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