A weekend of speculation about whether Christmas would be allowed to go ahead culminated in a Cabinet meeting of more than two hours this afternoon, where Ministers decided to not enact any additional measures for now, however, Mr Johnson said that the Government “will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action” to stem the rapid increase in infections.
Mr Johnson urged people to exercise caution in the coming days, but has been facing calls from his own backbenches for clarity on support that may be available for businesses who have been particularly hard hit by people choosing to stay at home to try and avoid infection.
Speaking to broadcasters after the meeting today, he said: “Unfortunately I must say to people that we will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public, to protect public health, to protect our NHS,” he said.
“We are looking at all kinds of things to keep Omicron under control and we will rule nothing out.
“But at the moment, what I think we want people to focus on is exercising caution – so ventilation, masks in the appropriate places, all the usual stuff about washing hands, but remember how contagious Omicron really is.”
One day last week saw more than 100,000 positive cases of Covid across the UK, according to Government data.
Confirmation of infections can sometimes lag by a number of days on the data dashboard, however, today’s update shows that December 15 saw 102,297 cases nationwide.
Labour accused Mr Johnson of putting “his party before the public” by “not saying anything” with last night’s statement.
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: “Today, while businesses across the country wonder if they can continue to trade, and families make frantic calls about whether they will see each other this Christmas, true to form the Prime Minister has put his party before the public.
Meanwhile, experts warned the public against too many social meetings in the coming days if they want to have “a good Christmas dinner”.
Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of government advisory body the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group, told BBC Breakfast: “The safest thing to do is not to meet up before Christmas. If you want a good Christmas dinner, I would say be very careful about meeting up before Christmas.
“But you can do things to stack the odds in your favour if you ever do meet up – the first thing to do is to make sure that you have a lateral flow test.”