Boris Johnson Tells People To 'Think Carefully' About Seeing People Before Christmas

But prime minister warned "workers will lose their jobs" if advice is not matched with financial help for pubs, bars and restaurants.
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Boris Johnson has told people to “think carefully” before socialising in the run-up to Christmas, but stopped short of imposing fresh stricter rules as fears about the spread of the Omicron variant grow.

Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said people should “prioritise” social events that matter to them and avoid those that do not.

The warning has triggered fears pubs, bars and restaurants could suffer huge losses if people choose to voluntarily stay away.

While the prime minister told people to be careful, there is no extra financial support for the hospitality industry.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, Johnson said: “We’re not cancelling people’s parties or their ability to mix, what we are saying is, think carefully before you go.

“Are you likely to meet people who are vulnerable, are you going to meet loads of people you haven’t met before, and get a test, make sure there’s ventilation, wear a mask on transport.”

Whitty told the briefing: “There are several things we don’t know about Omicron, but all the things we do know are bad.

“I think that what most people are doing is, and I would think this seems very sensible, is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them and, to protect those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them,” he said.

“I think that’s going to become increasingly important as we, for example, go into the Christmas period.”

Whitty added he would “strongly encourage” people to take tests before visiting vulnerable people and to meet in areas of good ventilation or outdoors if possible.

Torsten Bell, the chief executive of the Resolution Foundation economics think-tank, said: “If you’re telling people to avoid hospitality, it doesn’t matter if you’re not banning them from doing so: restaurants, pubs, bars are going to get stuffed. They’ll lose customers and workers will lose their jobs.”

Whitty said the government had to choose between “really unpalatable options”, adding that there was no clear data yet on severe disease and deaths from Omicron with two jabs, and what the picture was for those who have had boosters.

He said: “I think what most people are doing – and I think this seems very sensible – is prioritising the social interactions that mean a lot to them and, to prioritise those ones, de-prioritising ones that mean much less to them.”

He said he “strongly encouraged” that people take lateral flow tests before meeting up and ensuring there was good ventilation.

Whitty added Omicron was “moving at an absolutely phenomenal pace” and it will only be a short time until we get to “very large numbers”, adding he thought the variant was a “very serious threat”.

The expert said “all the things that we do know (about Omicron) are bad”.

He said the existence of effective vaccines and boosters were the things “going for us” but said to his NHS colleagues that there will be “substantial numbers” going into hospital and that will become apparent “fairly soon after Christmas”.


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