Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised today to end new travel restrictions imposed this week as soon as possible.
Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing, the PM said the Government is still waiting to find out from the scientists what sort of threat the new COVID variant Omicron poses to the UK.
In the meantime, he said attempts to prevent the seeding of the variant ‘focused particularly on tough measures at the borders’.
He added: “We think that the chances are the boosters will continue to give you protection against every variant, protection of some degree, that is why it is vital to get the boosters, but we need to check that so we are waiting to see what the science tells us.
“What I can certainly tell you is that the measures that we have put in place will not last a minute more than we think they are strictly necessary for the protection of public health.”
So far, there have been 13 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in England and nine in Scotland. Those in England include a family who had travelled from South Africa, said Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who added: “We expect to see these numbers rising in the next few days.”
The World Health Organisation has described Omicron as ‘a very high global risk’, but Mr Johnson said he was confident the UK is taking a ‘proportionate and balanced’ approach with the introduction of mandatory PCR tests for UK arrivals and home quarantine until the results are known, plus mandatory face coverings in shops and on public transport, and the reintroduction of mandatory self-isolation for those who come into contact with Omicron.
The PM said he didn’t see any need to reintroduce working from home, or for companies to cancel Christmas parties.
While he said the Government hasn’t ruled anything out, he said another lockdown ‘of the kind we have had before is extremely unlikely’.
When asked if regional restrictions could be reintroduced, Mr Johnson rambled a little but said: “As far as we possibly can moving together is the way to do it.”
Addressing fears of another ‘pingdemic’, which could prevent a large number of people from travelling over Christmas and New Year if they’re told to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with the Omicron variant of COVID, Mr Johnson said this was ‘not likely’, adding: “So far, the number of cases are small, but we will have to wait and see and we will have to keep that constantly under review.”