Boris Johnson is taking a gamble with the possibility of a “significant problem of hospitalisations” after deciding to not introduce new Covid restrictions, scientists say.
Health secretary Sajid Javid has said that no new Covid rules will be introduced in England before the New Year despite the surge in cases over the festive period.
Unlike other parts of the UK that have ramped up measures to tackle the threat from the Omicron variant, taking precautions has been put in the hands of individuals in England with Mr Javid saying people should “remain cautious” and celebrate New Year outside if possible.
While welcomed by many in the business community, some scientists said it was a risk that had the potential of going badly wrong.
Simon Clarke, an associate professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, pointed out it is better to act quickly against the virus.
“While nobody wants to live under tighter controls, the public need to realise that if we end up with a significant problem of hospitalisations and mass sickness, it will be worse than if authorities had acted earlier,” he told the Guardian.
There have been 113,628 new infections reported in England on December 25, 103,558 on December 26 and 98,515 on December 27.
So far only partial Covid data for the UK has been published for the Christmas period, with full figures to be released later this month.
Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London also told the newspaper: “It does feel hard that, at a time when we need to all pull together to maximise all possible mitigations, we seem to have our greatest divergence between expert clinical/scientific advice and legislation.”
Elsewhere in the UK, tougher restrictions have been introduced including a return to table service in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
But Boris Johnson has steered away from going beyond his “Plan B” that involves face mask wearing , and Covid passports or negative tests for some venues involving crowds.
Mr Javid said on Monday: “We look at the data on a daily basis – that hasn’t changed over the Christmas period.
“But there will be no further measures before the New Year. Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach New Year’s celebrations.
“Take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation if you can.
“Please remain cautious and when we get into the new year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing more until then, at least.”