The signs of lifting remaining Covid restrictions in England at the end of this month are “encouraging”, a Cabinet minister has said.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden spoke optimistically about the easing of rules ahead of the Plan B review on 26 January.
The current measures, which include work from home guidance, mandatory face masks and use of Covid passports, are due to expire in less than two weeks, and it is expected that the Prime Minister will not renew rest.
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 added that there has been “some very promising data” on infections and hospital admissions from the Omicron variant, which “gives us pause for hope and optimism that we may be emerging from the worst of Omicron”.
Covid cases starting to plateau
A government health adviser has said Covid-19 cases now appear to be “plateauing” in parts of the UK.
Dr Susan Hopkins, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief medical adviser, said on Saturday (15 January) that London, the South East and East of England were all seeing the number of infections flatten.
Her comments come as former chairman of the Vaccines Taskforce Dr Clive Dix called for an end to mass Covid vaccinations, after saying the Omicron variant is “a relatively mild virus” and to continue vaccinating people again and again is “now a waste of time”.
Dr Dix instead argued for a “highly-focused approach” to keep infections under control, and recommended targeting vulnerable people for vaccinations.
He 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.
Speaking to Tom Swarbrick on LBC on Sunday, he explained: “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.”
“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.”
When could an announcement on Plan B rules be made?
Boris Johnson could reportedly make an announcement on easing Plan B restrictions in England ‘within days’.
The announcement would come as part of a blitz of new policies as the Prime Minister looks to survive the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into alleged lockdown-breaking parties at Downing Street.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he hopes current rules can be lifted “as soon as possible”, but warned Mr Johnson 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.”