Ministers to review Omicron data to decide if tighter measures will be needed in England

By Ethan Shone
Monday, 3rd January 2022, 9:41 am
Updated Monday, 3rd January 2022, 9:43 am
Ministers to review Omicron data to decide if tighter measures will be needed in England (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Ministers to review Omicron data to decide if tighter measures will be needed in England (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The government will hold off on introducing new Covid measures, or repealing existing ones, until the latest data showing hospitalisations and the impact of Christmas mixing is released.

The current Covid rules are due to be reviewed on Wednesday (5 January) but it is likely that there won’t be any changes at that stage.

Rising hospitalisations

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Some experts have raised concerns about the rising number of Covid-related hospitalisations.

The number of people in hospital with Covid is now at its highest since February, with more than twice as many people in hospital now as when the cabinet last met to discuss restrictions before Christmas.

However, others have highlighted the relative lack of those in hospital who need to be placed on a ventilator compared with in the past.

Some have predicted that the rate of severe hospitalisations could increase as a result of intergenerational mixing over the Christmas period, with older people more likely to suffer worse infections.

The Education Secretary said “there’s nothing in the data” to suggest further coronavirus measures will be needed later this week.

Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Breakfast that Plan B measures would be reviewed on Wednesday, but added: “There’s nothing in the data that gives me any concern that we need to go beyond where we are at.

“There’s some really good data from London that it looks like the infection rates are plateauing, if not yet coming down. But we are seeing leakage into the over-50s in terms of infections, and it’s generally the over-50s who end up with severe infection and hospitalisation.”

What changes could be introduced at the next review?

The government could follow the lead of the devolved nations and introduce tighter restrictions, although this is considered unlikely by some within government.

It is also possible that the government’s next move upon reviewing the data will be to repeal the current Plan B restrictions in England.

Speaking to Sky News, Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay said: “We don’t think the data supports [tougher restrictions] at the moment. Of course, we keep the data under review, but we’ve seen significant behaviour change as a result of Plan B.”