Boris Johnson says UK cannot do away with existing Covid measures

But testing requirements for travelling to England are to be loosened

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 05 January 2022 16:13
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<p>Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)</p>

Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

Boris Johnson has said the UK cannot do away with all existing Covid measures, despite "evidence that Omicron causes less severe disease than previous variants"

The prime minister told MPs the Cabinet had agreed this morning the government would be sticking to existing "plan B" measures - as he announced on Tuesday.

The measures, which include mandatory face masks on public transport and limited immunity passports for some mass events, would last for at least three weeks, he said.

Extolling the progress of the NHS booster programme, the PM said the UK was "in a very different position than during previous waves".

But heading off calls from Tory backbenchers, he added: "I know some (MPs) might therefore ask whether this means we can now do away with measures altogether, but I'm sorry to report that hospital admissions are rising rapidly, doubling around every nine days, with already more than 15,000 Covid patients in hospital in England alone.

"We're experiencing the fastest growth in Covid cases we've ever known with over 218,000 cases reported yesterday although that included some delayed reporting and potentially of greatest concern, case rates are now rising rapidly among the older and more vulnerable including doubling every week among those over 60, with the obvious risk that this will continue to increase the pressures on our NHS."

Mr Johnson said that it was of the "greatest concern" that "case rates are now rapidly rising among the older and more vulnerable, including doubling every week among those over 60". The PM said this would lead to an "obvious risk that this will continue to increase the pressures on our NHS".

The prime minister confirmed that the government would be scrapping the requirement for pre-departure tests to travel to England from 4am on Friday. He said the measure, which was brought in to stall the arrival of the Omicron variant, "discourages many from travelling for fear of being trapped overseas and incurring significant extra expense".

He also added that the government would be lifting the requirement to self-isolate on arrival until recent of a negative PCR test. Instead, people will be required to take a lateral flow test "no later than the end of Day 2 and, if positive, a further PCR test to help us identify any new variants at the border".

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