Last night, ministers, MPs, and experts in health demanded more data about Omicron’s impact amid disagreements over how the modeling was used to support the new Covid curbs.

During an emergency Cabinet meeting that lasted more than 2 hours, Rishi, Liz Truss, and Grant Shapps are among the ministers reported to have asked for additional information about the possible impact of this variant.

Jacob Rees Mogg, Alister Jack, and Nigel Adams are also believed to have opposed any reintroduction punitive curbs.

Shoppers, some wearing face coverings, walk in Manchester on December 20. Ministers, MPs and health experts demanded better data on the impact of Omicron last night

Manchester, December 20, saw shoppers, many wearing masks or face covers, stroll through the streets of Manchester. Health experts, MPs and ministers demanded last night more information about Omicron’s impact.

Experts are increasingly challenging the “pessimistic” modelling and the “implausible” predictions of thousands more deaths and higher hospital admissions.

The opposition came after a growing dispute over predictions presented by Sage, the government’s scientific advisors, to the Cabinet on Saturday. They claimed that Covid death rates could rise as high as 6,000 per day without any restrictions.

BBC received details about the modeling.

Publicly, MPs and experts questioned several assumptions that Sage scientists had made. This suggested that Sage scientists should be able to demonstrate their abilities before they could use it to justify any new restrictions.

They pointed out that – amid growing evidence that Omicron causes ‘milder’ illness – there was still huge uncertainty over what proportion of cases end up in hospital and how effective vaccines are at preventing infection, serious illness and death.

Professor Carl Heneghan of Oxford University’s evidence-based medical department condemned an apparent fixation on ‘worst cases’. He said that vaccines had made the nation a much better place than it was last year.

Mark Harper, Chairman of the Tory backbench Covid Recovery Group said that these are major decisions that will affect everyone’s life, livelihood, and mental well-being across the country.

All of us deserve to be able to see what data ministers are doing. Please show us what you are doing. You can achieve so much more than that.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak (pictured) didn't show up to a Cobra emergency committee convened over the weekend

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak (pictured) didn’t show up to a Cobra emergency committee convened over the weekend

Ministers have provided evidence to show that London hospitalizations rose in recent weeks. London has more Omicron infection cases than any other place in the UK.

Professor David Spiegelhalter from Cambridge University suggested that this could be due to the transmission of the variant and not its severity.

Yesterday’s virtual Cabinet meeting saw several ministers stating that they would not allow restrictions to be imposed until they have better data.

But, Michael Gove (Levelling Up Secretary) was among those who argued for tough action. Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, backed him.

Before making any decisions, ministers will wait for the latest modeling from Imperial College London. This is expected to be available tomorrow.

Esther McVey, a former cabinet minister, praised Boris Johnson’s decision to hold off on tightening restrictions last night.

Tweeted that she was happy the Cabinet and PM were listening to backbench MPs, and had reacted positively to the “scaremongering” by lockdown fanatics.

Labour was unable to decide which other curbs it would support, and were caught up in confusion.

On Good Morning Britain, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves answered that Labour wouldn’t be imposing any restrictions. We do not have this information.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves (pictured) told Good Morning Britain that if the Labour party was in charge, it would follow Sage advice

Good Morning Britain: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves (pictured), said that, if Labour was in power, they would follow Sage advice

Then she said that the party would be following Sage’s advice. She added: “At this moment Sage don’t call for any specific actions, but they do say more is required.

Miss Reeves referred to the Cobra emergency meeting that was held over the weekend, at which decisions were made on increasing funding for Omicron. She said, ‘If you were in government, I would be at the Covid meetings yesterday. To get all the evidence and make a determination.

“The Prime Minister, and the Chancellor did not even show up. They won’t listen to the advice.

“If we were in government we would be there to put the measures in place and attend these meetings.”

Omicron has been shown to be far more deadly in South Africa than Delta.

Dr Pieter Streicher, from the University of Johannesburg, said the case fatality rate – the number who test positive and die – has fallen by a factor of 19 – from 3 per cent to 0.16 per cent, meaning only 16 deaths in every 1,000 infected.

The Omicron epidemic was at its epicenter in Gauteng. He stated that the number of Omicron-related cases is falling rapidly there.

Professor Heneghan said that Britain could be in danger by imposing annual lockdowns if it was too pessimistic about its modelling.

According to him, the introduction of vaccinations, booster jabs, and antivirals has reduced the chance of death and hospitalisation. People should have the freedom to decide what risks they are willing to accept.

Graham Medley is the chair of the modeling group that feeds into Sage. He suggested that they don’t consider optimistic scenarios as it doesn’t lead to decisions being made.

Imperial chemical biologist Professor Keith Willison criticized the models for being ‘widely optimistic’ and said they were used to terrorize the UK population. 


By Eleanor Hayward 

Boris Johnson, who was resisting the pressure to impose more draconian restrictions on Omicron last night, insisted that he was still monitoring Omicron data ‘hour after hour’.

Downing Street officials will continue to spend the remaining four days before Christmas looking at hospital admissions figures and studying studies from all over the globe.

The data we have will decide if New Year’s Eve can be celebrated with family and friends.

People queue at a Covid vaccination centre in London this Monday. Ministers remain hopeful Omicron may be less severe than previous variants

This Monday saw people queue up at London’s Covid vaccination center. The ministers are optimistic that Omicron will be less severe than other variants. 

The Government scientists argue for additional safeguards to keep the NHS from collapsing under Omicron patient waves, but the Prime Minister (and his staff) remain skeptical.

They claim there is insufficient evidence to warrant locking Britain up for a fourth time, and all of the economic and social harm it would cause. 

With the situation being’very finely balanced,’ the government is waiting to see more evidence about three important issues.


Omicron is, without doubt, more contagious. Although the mutant strain has only arrived in Britain about a month earlier, it already outcompetes Delta and is now dominant. 

With 102,297 positive test results recorded on Wednesday, infection rates are at an all-time high. It is the first day that daily infections have exceeded 100,000.

This ferocious growth at any point during the pandemic would have almost certainly been followed up with new restrictions.

But ministers remain hopeful Omicron may be less severe than previous variants – and there is some evidence that this will prove to be the case.

South African scientists claim Omicron patients have a 29% lower chance of needing hospital treatment than previous versions.

Study of 211,000 Covid Patients also showed that the percentage of patients who required intensive care was only half as high, with most recovering at home within 3 days.

Two studies, however, have shown that Omicron has a lower risk of lung disease and severe illness.

Ravi Gupta and a team of researchers from Cambridge University discovered signs Omicron was less effective than the other varieties in infecting cells deep in the lungs.

The University of Hong Kong also found this, and it suggests that the variant can replicate at one-tenth of Delta’s rate in the lungs. Thus, the severity of illness is reduced.


Ministers insist that another lockdown will not be considered if there is a tsunami of Covid hospitalisations in the NHS, which would lead to other types of care being rendered unsustainable.

The Prime Minister said yesterday that the question of how many Omicron patients Omicron will admit to their hospital is a key issue.

Last week, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies informed ministers that hospital admissions per day would exceed 3,000 by January. Sage stressed that crisis prevention requires prompt action.

Their modeling assumed that Omicron was no less severe than other variants.

If – as hoped – vaccines provide a good level of protection, a lockdown may prove unnecessary.

South Africa’s admissions have fallen to 57% from the peak, despite similar numbers. The latest NHS data also shows that hospitalizations are stable.

Although weekly admissions rose by six percent, they are still up 61% in comparison to the increase in cases.

An average of 864 Covid patient are admitted per day. That’s down from 4,200 in January and more than 2000 this time last.

And on January 18, a record 39,254 Covid patients were in hospital beds across the UK – five times yesterday’s figure of 7,482.


Politicians and government scientists can all agree on one point: The UK without vaccines would be in “massive, huge mess”.

Omicron is protected by existing vaccines and boosters. There is a lot of uncertainty as to whether the increased vaccinations will be enough to eradicate the variant.

According to the UK Health Security Agency, two doses do not suffice in preventing Omicron infection. A booster of Moderna or Pfizer increases protection by around 75% compared to the unvaccinated.

A person receives a Covid vaccine in London this Sunday. With 50 per cent of Britain's over-12s now boosted, vaccines provide the strongest argument against new restrictions

This Sunday, a person in London receives the Covid vaccine. Immunizations are the best argument against any new restrictions, as 50% of Britain’s aged over-12s have been boosted.

The likelihood of three doses offering greater protection against severe diseases is higher, which will keep hospitalisation and deaths low.

The strongest argument for new restrictions is vaccines.

On average, eight in ten UK citizens have been double-jabbed. This may not protect you from infection but it can help to reduce the risk of severe illness.