Health Minister Is Not Expecting Covid Restrictions To Tighten In The Next Few Weeks

Edward Argar told Sky News: "That's not something I'm anticipating."
Edward Argar, health minister, speaking on Sky News
Edward Argar, health minister, speaking on Sky News
Sky News

Health minister Edward Argar told Sky News that he does not expect the government to tighten up the social restrictions in the next few weeks despite the discovery of the new Omicron variant.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed that the new Covid mutation, first identified in South Africa, is a “variant of concern” on Saturday.

Downing Street quickly held a press conference hours later and said face masks would now be mandatory in some indoor settings and that contacts of Omicron will now have to isolate even if they are vaccinated.

PCR tests are now obligatory for travellers returning from abroad, too.

The current restrictions will come into place on Tuesday and are set to be reviewed in three weeks.

Presenter Kay Burley asked: “Could we possibly find ourselves in a position where you tightened up the rules even further in the next three weeks?”

Argar told Sky News: “That’s not something I’m anticipating.”

The health minister also echoed the health secretary Sajid Javid’s message from the weekend that he was still looking forward to a regular Christmas with family and friends unlike the cancelled festivities of last year.

Argar added that the variant is “concerning but it’s early days”, and claimed the government has reacted in a “proportionate and measured” way.

The health minister then told Times Radio that “huge work is being done by our scientists” to see how dangerous and transmissible the new variant is and how it reacts with the vaccine, but it’s “too early to say that with certainty” what kind of threat Omicron poses.

The government does not have an idea of how many cases of Omicron there might be in the UK at the moment, according to Argar.

He anticipates the current numbers rising, but “wouldn’t want to speculate” just how many cases there might be in Britain.

He also told LBC that he was not expecting a return to “social bubbles” either.

Still, WHO warned on Monday morning that the Omicron variant could cause future surges of Covid which could then have “severe consequences”.


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