Boris Johnson ‘crippled’ puts decision on tighter Covid restrictions for New Years holidays on hold


Boris Johnson has suspended a decision on tighter Covid restrictions for the New Year’s holidays until after Christmas, prompting accusations he would be ‘crippled’ by internal cabinet feuds.

Time is running out for action before 2022 arrives after the Prime Minister has remained silent, even as daily UK infections topped 100,000 for the first time and the rest of the UK imposed repressive measures.

The cabinet – whose approval is needed for new measures – should “not” meet before Christmas, nor a decision on the dismissal of parliament, The independent understand.

Next Wednesday is seen as the last day when MPs can be tricked into passing legislation in time for New Years Eve, suggesting that an announcement must be made before the Christmas holidays.

The delay will be a relief for hospitality and entertainment businesses desperate not to have to “cancel the New Year” after the threat to Christmas gatherings was lifted on Tuesday.

Gillian Keegan, the Minister of Health, argued that the wait-and-see approach – with some data emerging suggesting the Omicron variant is less dangerous than feared – was “better” than restricting people’s freedoms now.

But the Premier of Wales, where the ‘rule of 6’, table service only and social distancing of 2 meters will be restored to hospitality establishments from Boxing Day, has torn the indecision at London.

“I think the UK government is in a state of paralysis about all of this,” said Mark Drakeford, as he announced the restrictions.

“We see the reports of internal struggles within the cabinet. There are, in my opinion, sane voices urging the Prime Minister to act to protect the NHS and people’s lives as he has done in previous waves. “

Mr Drakeford dismissed the claim of inconclusive evidence, adding: ‘I don’t think it’s because they don’t see the data. They see the data, but they are not ready to act on it.

Mr Johnson found himself isolated after Wales followed Scotland in their actions, a day after Nicola Sturgeon limited football crowds to just 500 fans and ordered table service only in pubs.

In Northern Ireland, nightclubs will close and only 3 households will be allowed to meet indoors from next Monday.

The case for the delay was reinforced by the first published study on the extent to which the surge in Omicron infections will trigger an increase in hospital admissions, potentially flooding the NHS.

The Scottish study said: “Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of Covid-19 hospitalization compared to Delta.”

A leaked UK Health Security Agency study is believed to echo this finding, that people who become ill with Omicron are less likely to become seriously ill than those who contract Delta, the variant it replaces.

However, the cases are not necessarily mild enough to prevent a large number of hospitalizations, the data to be released before Christmas should indicate.

Tony Blair supported Mr Johnson’s decision to delay tougher rules, but criticized his inability to be “frank with people” and said the decision was political and not based on allegations of missing data.

“It’s really because the pain of going into a full lockdown, and with this variant, it’s the only thing that would really work,” the former prime minister told Times Radio.

“If you had a purely preventive point of view, you would impose additional restrictions, probably quite drastic restrictions,” he said, but warned that “the public has simply lived too much”.

Mr Johnson has also been plagued by anger over the 10 anti-lockdown parties a year ago, which has made people less willing to accept the restrictions.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, argued that decisions about the New Year’s restrictions are still “under review”.

“The situation is changing rapidly, there is more data not only here, but also from abroad. We keep an eye on all this data and discuss it with our expert advisers, ”he said.


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