Omicron: England ‘nowhere near’ introducing tougher Covid restrictions, Sajid Javid says

England is “nowhere near” introducing tougher Covid restrictions, Sajid Javid says, despite the return of mask-wearing and PCR tests for travellers.

The health secretary rejected stricter curbs – such as social distancing, or a working from home rule – arguing they “carry a very heavy price” and are not necessary now, despite the arrival of the Omicron variant.

Mr Javid also said people should “continue with their plans as normal for Christmas”, although warning it would be “irresponsible to make guarantees”.

Asked about moving to harsher restrictions, including social distancing, Mr Javid told Sky News: “We are not there yet – we are nowhere near that.”

He pointed out the measures announced by Boris Johnson on Saturday night, within hours of the first two Omicron cases being detected in the UK, would be reviewed after 3 weeks.

“I hope this is something we can remove within weeks. In terms of making progress, we want life to go back towards normal,” the health secretary said.

Mr Javid revealed that, from Tuesday, mask-wearing will be compulsory again in shops and on public transport in England – a rule never dropped in the rest of the UK.

But a date for the tougher border restrictions is yet to be agreed, pending discussions with the devolved governments.

The health secretary rejected a warning that people will disobey the mask rule, arguing that – because it will now be a “government regulation” – “people will take it seriously”.

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