The prime minister said another lockdown was “unlikely” but the government will keep “everything under review” during a No 10 press conference on the variant and plans to expand the booster vaccine rollout.
“On Christmas parties and nativity plays, we don’t want people to cancel such events,” Mr Johnson said, adding: “We think that overwhelmingly the best thing for kids is to be in school.”
Asked if he agreed with top government health chief Dr Jenny Harries – who urged people not to socialise if they do not need to in the run-up to Christmas – the prime minister said: “So the answer is no.”
Mr Johnson said the guidance “remains the same”, and insisted that the government will not keep newly-reintroduced mandatory mask restrictions for shops and public transport in place any longer than necessary.
“The measures that we have put in place will not last a minute more than we think they are strictly necessary for the protection of public health,” the PM said.
He added: “We’ve got the measures in place to fight delta, which we think are appropriate, and then we’re bringing in some tougher measures to stop the rapid seeding of omicron in this country to give us the time we need to get the boosters in.”
Earlier on Tuesday Dr Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, said it was right to be “careful” about socialising at Christmas “when we don’t particularly need to” – sparking a backlash from Conservative MPs.
Tory backbenchers accused their party leader of introducing a “scaremongering propaganda campaign” to restrict social interaction and warned of another “pingdemic”.
Sir Christopher Chope MP said the new mask rules – and change in regulations which mean travellers returning to the UK must take a PCR test and self-isolate until they have a negative result – were “authoritarian and dictatorial”.
Asked about the possibility of a new pingdemic – given close contacts of Omicron cases are being asked to self-isolated for 10 days, even if vaccinated – Mr Johnson replied: “I don’t think that is likely to happen, in the sense that, so far at least, the numbers of cases of Omicron are small.”
Mr Johnson said all adults will be able to book their booster jabs by the end of January 2022, and confirmed the programme will be working down in descending age groups – going down in five-year bands.
He also revealed 400 military officers are being drafted in to help with the NHS’ efforts accelerate the national vaccination programme.
The expanded vaccination programme to include all adults 18 and over will also see the time between second jabs and boosters cut from six to three months.
It comes as eight further cases of omicron were confirmed in England on Tuesday – taking the total number of cases involving the variant to 13.
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