Sajid Javid says Omicron cases ‘could hit 1,000,000 after Christmas’
Sajid Javid has warned that the number of Omicron cases in the UK could top one million by the end of this month.
The Health Secretary said that while there are currently only 568 confirmed cases, ‘we know that the actual number of infections will be significantly higher’.
He told MPs the new variant is ‘significantly more transmissible’, with cases doubling every two to three days compared with ‘around seven’ for the Delta strain.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Javid said: ‘This has made the virus an even more formidable foe.’
He said the UK faces a ‘perilous winter’ as cases continue to rise despite the protection offered by the vaccine rollout.
The Health Secretary said: ‘When we set out Plan B, we said that we would act if the NHS was likely to come under unsustainable pressure and with that risk of being able to provide the care and treatment that people need.
‘The Omicron variant has given us cause for concern.’
He added: ‘The UK health security agency estimates that the number of infections are approximately 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, and so the current number of infections is probably closer to 10,000.
‘UKHSA also estimate that at the current observed doubling rate of between two and a half and three days, by the end of this month, infections could exceed 1 million.’
Mr Javid was heckled by Conservative colleagues as he announced the move to Plan B, with William Wragg (Hazel Grove) heard shouting ‘resign’ when he confirmed the introduction of Covid certification based on vaccines or tests in nightclubs and large events.
As he said the measures were not something ministers wanted to take, shouts of ‘rubbish’ and ‘what a load of old tripe’ could be heard in the chamber.
When Mr Javid announced an extension of the legal requirement for face coverings, Labour MPs pointed at some Tory MPs who were not wearing them in the chamber.
He was heckled further by Tory MPs when he said: ‘We take these steps with a heavy heart, but we do so confident that we’re doing everything in our power to keep our nation safe this winter.
‘We’ve come so far over the course of this year thanks to the defences we’ve built against this deadly virus.
‘Now, as we face this new threat, we must draw on the same spirit that has got us here, strengthening our defences and thinking about what we can do to help get this virus under control.’
Mr Javid said the new restrictions will be reviewed on January 5.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting confirmed Labour’s support for the new restrictions ‘in the national interest’.
He told the Commons: ‘Let me reassure the Secretary of State that he doesn’t need to compromise with the interests behind him – he has the votes he needs to do what’s right by the public and that’s all the reassurance the country needs.’
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