Could social contact be limited ahead of Christmas? Jenny Harries warning

Britons have been urged to do their bit by limiting the number of social contacts they have ahead of the Christmas season “as the Omicron variant continues to spread”. There have been 14 confirmed cases of the new super-mutated coronavirus variant so far in the UK and now with new restrictions have come into force across England, many are curious if more restrictive initiatives could soon be rolled out. The Prime Minister will address the nation in a Downing Street press briefing this afternoon – but could he ban or limit social contact ahead of the festive season?

Dr Jenny Harries has warned the public against socialising unnecessarily amid the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.

The current head of NHS Test and Trace, who was a regular feature during the Covid daily news briefings, has said people should do their bit to reduce the spread of this new variant by reducing the number of social interactions they undertake.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “If we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually that helps to keep the variant at bay.

“Being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to, and particularly going and getting those booster jabs which, of course, people will now be able to have at a three-month interval from their primary course.”

Could social contact be limited ahead of Christmas? Jenny Harries warning
© GETTY Social contact Covid rules: Covid
Could social contact be limited ahead of Christmas? Jenny Harries warning
© GETTY Social contact Covid rules: Boris Johnson

Dr Harries said even if vaccines “appear to be effective”, the new variant is more highly transmissible and therefore could have a “significant impact” on hospitals and the NHS if it gets to very large numbers of the population.

She added: “And of course, our behaviours in winter and particularly around Christmas we tend to socialise more so I think all of those will need to be taken into account.”

The medical expert also appeared to call for people to opt to work from home where possible.

She said the advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) “has shown that if we have significant surges in Covid cases, then actually working from home is one of the key ones to implement and that’s why it is in Plan B.”

Could social contact be limited ahead of Christmas? Jenny Harries warning
© GETTY Social contact Covid rules: Face mask sign

Will social contact be limited ahead of Christmas?

Boris Johnson is due to hold a news conference later today, during which he is expected to set out plans for the Government’s booster vaccine rollout to all those aged 18 and over.

Mr Johnson will provide more detail about when people will be able to get their third jabs.

He is also likely to address criticism about people struggles with trying to book in a time to get their booster shot.

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Could social contact be limited ahead of Christmas? Jenny Harries warning
© GETTY Social contact Covid rules: Dr Harries

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Britons they could “carry on” making their Christmas plans as normal despite concerns about the Omicron variant.

He said it would be “irresponsible to make guarantees” about Christmas, but insisted it will be “great” this year.

Mr Javid called on people to plan for Christmas as “normal” and said new rules which came into force on Tuesday were helping to limit the spread of the new variant.

He told Sky News: “As for Christmas, I think people should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it’s going to be a great Christmas.”

The Health Secretary also said the Government was “nowhere near” reintroducing working from home or social distancing measures to combat the virus.

Could social contact be limited ahead of Christmas? Jenny Harries warning
© GETTY Social contact Covid rules: PM

The comments from Dr Harries came as new rules related to mask-wearing and isolation came into force.

From 4am on Tuesday, masks become mandatory in shops and on public transport in England.

They are also required in personal care and beauty salons, as well as at takeaways, estate agents, solicitors, loan providers and veterinary clinics and in taxis, private hire vehicles and driving instruction cars or vans.

Anyone without a valid exemption refusing to wear a mask in these settings could face fines of up to £200 for a first offence, rising to up to £6,400 for repeat offenders.

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