We know the Omicron variant is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant, doubling every two to three days – risking a potentially serious rise in hospitalisations and deaths We know that the best defence is to get your vaccine. We also know that a third vaccine or booster gives up to 75% effectiveness.
That is why we have introduced proportionate and responsible measures to slow down the spread of this variant and ensure the NHS isn’t overwhelmed this winter – as we continue to ramp up our booster programme, announcing a national mission to offer every eligible adult their booster before the New Year.
While we continue to assess the Omicron variant we will keep these measures under review, our scientists are clear that vaccines remain our first line of defence and we urge everyone who is eligible to come forward for their booster jab.
More information on the measures:
• There are no business closures and no restrictions on social gatherings. Work from home is in guidance – there is no mandatory stay at home order. The only legal restrictions are mandatory face masks in most indoor public places and requiring proof of a negative test or double vaccination to enter some venues (specifically nightclubs and mass events, but not pubs or restaurants).
• We are not introducing 'vaccine passports' – a negative test is enough. We listened to concerns. Anyone will be able to attend mass events and nightclubs if they show proof of a negative lateral flow test, regardless of vaccination status. Unvaccinated people can get lateral flow tests for free from gov.uk or pharmacies and take them at home. People who have had two vaccine doses will not need to take a test.
• The regulations ensure these measures won’t be in place longer than necessary. These regulations automatically expire after 6 weeks, (on 26 January, having come into force on 10 and 15 December). We will review the measures after 3 weeks and update the House as soon as it returns in the New Year.
These measures have been called for by both the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific Adviser. We must continue to listen to the scientific advice, which in my experience as a former health minister is well thought out and measured. Cover your face when required, work from home if you can and show a negative test or vaccine data at required venues.
I therefore voted for these measures, in order to protect our NHS from becoming overwhelmed and to help stem the rapid spread of this new variant and to respond in a proportionate manner.