The “signs are encouraging” for lifting Covid restrictions in England at the end of the month, a Cabinet minister has said.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden made the comment as the Prime Minister prepares to review the Plan B rules on mandatory mask-wearing, working from home and Covid passes on January 26.
Mr Dowden told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme: “It has always been my hope that we would have the Plan B restrictions for the shortest period possible.
“I’m under no doubt the kind of burdens this puts hospitality, wider business, schools and so on under, and I want us to get rid of those if we possibly can.
“The signs are encouraging but, clearly, we will wait to see the data ahead of that final decision.”
Mr Dowden also said there has been “some very promising data” on infections and hospital admissions from the Omicron variant.
He said: “That gives us pause for hope and optimism that we may be emerging from the worst of Omicron”.
It comes after a Government health adviser said coronavirus cases appear to be “plateauing” in parts of the UK.
Dr Susan Hopkins, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief medical adviser, on Saturday said that London, the South East and East of England were seeing the number of infections flatten.
Boris Johnson could reportedly make an announcement on easing restrictions within days as part of a blitz of new policies as he looks to survive the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into alleged lockdown-busting parties at Downing Street.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he hoped the rules could be lifted “as soon as possible”, but warned the Prime Minister not to make the move just to distract from so-called partygate.
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, Sir Keir said: “I think the sooner we can lift the final restrictions, the better. I think that’s what the whole country want.
“So, if it’s the right thing to lift those restrictions, we will vote to lift those restrictions. But we’ll be led by the science as we always have been, not by the politics of propping up a broken Prime Minister.”
Meanwhile, the former chairman of the Vaccines Taskforce Dr Clive Dix called for an end to mass Covid vaccinations.
Speaking to Tom Swarbrick on LBC on Sunday, he said: “The Omicron variant is a relatively mild virus. And to just keep vaccinating people and thinking of doing it again to protect the population is, in my view, now a waste of time.”
He argued instead for a “highly-focused approach” to vaccinate vulnerable people.
Dr Dix said that even when the booster campaign was announced, he was “critical” of boosting everybody as he is not convinced “it was needed or is needed” for younger people.
He added: “I think the thinking of the time was very much to stop infection and transmission where clearly these vaccines don’t do that.
“We’ve seen that because we’ve seen these huge, huge levels of infection but what they (boosters) do do, and it’s absolutely clear, they stop people getting seriously ill and dying. 85% of the people who get seriously and dying are the vulnerable and the elderly, so they’re the ones we should focus on.”
He said the Government should be “very focused” on how to educate themselves for the “future vaccination programme” next winter, arguing there should be a study to understand the status of the public’s immunity.
“So, by next winter, we can really have a policy of vaccination that’s educated, using the right vaccines at the right time for the right people.”