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Sajid Javid has told Brits to “carry on” with their plans as normal this Christmas despite concerns over the new omicron variant.
The health secretary said it would be “irresponsible to make guarantees” about Christmas but insisted it will be “great” this year.
It comes after prime minister Boris Johnson last night announced new measures - including compulsory mask-wearing - to combat the new highly transmissible omicron variant of Covid-19.
Javid said people should plan for Christmas as “normal” and told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “I think it’s fair to say that the nature of this pandemic is it would be irresponsible to make guarantees.
“As for Christmas, I think people should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it’s going to be a great Christmas.”
He said new mask wearing rules for shops and public transport should come into force on Tuesday.
The health secretary said they were “nowhere near” reintroducing working from home or social distancing measures to combat the virus.
— Allie Hodgkins-Brown (@AllieHBNews) November 27, 2021
“We know now those types of measures do carry a very heavy price, both economically, socially, in terms of non-Covid health outcomes such as impact on mental health,” he added.
“So, if one was to make decisions like that they would have to be done very, very carefully and we’re not there yet, we’re nowhere near that.”
The cabinet minister also said he was expecting to get advice on broadening the booster programme from experts “imminently”.
Last night the prime minister said the restrictions, which include strict travel rules, would be reviewed in three weeks.
He told a Downing Street press conference he was confident this year’s celebrations would be “considerably better than last Christmas” when families were banned from mixing.
"I think it's going to be a great Christmas"
Sajid Javid says it would be "irresponsible to give guarantees", but says people should "continue with their plans as normal for Christmas"
Follow #Phillips live: https://t.co/tQMEm8lFogpic.twitter.com/9kyExjL7Y9
— Trevor Phillips on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) November 28, 2021
Anyone who comes into contact with someone infected with the variant will have to self-isolate for ten days regardless of their vaccination status.
Travellers will be required to take a PCR test two days after arrival in the UK and to self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
It comes after the UK Health Security Agency detected cases of the variant in Nottingham and in Brentwood, Essex.
The two cases are linked and the individuals are self-isolating while more tests and contact-tracing take place.
Labour’s Lisa Nandy said her party supports measures on mask wearing but they “desperately” want to see the government “tighten up” travel restrictions.
She added: “There is a real problem when for 18 months the government has been warned that there are holes in those defences and still hasn’t taken action to plug what you rightly suggested are just practical measures that could be dealt with in order to stop the new variant spreading around the country.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.