The Health Secretary advised that people should undergo a Covid screening before attending Christmas parties.
Sky News’ Kay Burley interviewed Sajid Javid about precautions revellers need to make before attending festive parties, amid growing concern over Covid.
However, he stated that there is no need for people to cancel Christmas plans. He also dismissed fears about a new ‘pingdemic’ resulting from large numbers of people who have been infected by the Omicron strain being instructed to isolate themselves for 10 days.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister asked people not to cancel their Christmas celebrations or schools nativity shows during a press conference. In that speech, he pledged to throw everything at the booster vaccination campaign.
His government is now being accused of using’mixed messages’, after Dr Jenny Harries from the UK Health Security Agency recommended that people lessen their socializing this winter.
The December hammering of their industry by another group of hospitality executives is now a concern for them. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said that the Saturday press conference and return of restrictive measures such as self-isolation and compulsory facemasks had had an ‘effECT on consumer confidence. In the lead up to Christmas, she warned of the ‘threat of a stop-start economy again’.
New curbs on global travel including the addition of 10 countries from southern Africa to the UK’s so-called ‘red list’, a return of testing rules, and quarantine hotels have also spooked travellers – and sparked a wave of cancellations of bookings at airport hotels.
According to the Arora Group, travellers who book December flights and stay in hotels at Heathrow or Gatwick airports are being asked to cancel their bookings. Surinder Arora (chairman of Arora Group) stated that the group is suspending events for corporate clients at Fairmont Windsor, a four-star hotel in Windsor. This was due to increasing uncertainty regarding the spread of Covid.
Sky News asked Mr. Javid if people should undergo a Covid screening before they attend Christmas parties. He replied: “I would.”
He said, “I believe people should continue to act in the same way that they planned to behave during Christmas.” I do not believe that there should be any changes to those plans.
When asked if he anticipated another “pingdemic”, the Health Secretary replied that the number of cases was very low at this time. The numbers will rise, but they are still low. It should stay that way, I hope. It’s not something I worry about.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, visits Christmas Market stalls outside 10 Downing Street.
In the face of an unprecedented wave of cancellations this year, hospitality leaders accused the Government of using’mixed message’
Because of increasing uncertainties about the spread and impact of Covid variant, travelers are cancelling events booked at Fairmont Windsor for corporate functions.
Boris Johnson maintained that he already had a number of ‘balanced measures and proportionate actions’ to counter the danger posed by Omicron. Omicron has now been reported in 22 countries.
Surinder Arora is chairman, Arora Group. Right, UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls
Hospitality chiefs warned that there was a rising sense of trepidation among their customers about the possibility of Christmas plans being disrupted again for the second consecutive year.
UKHospitality’s Ms Nicholls stated to Today: “I believe you are witnessing once more a return to uncertainty.
“It’s clear that the message over the weekend affected consumer confidence. We are now seeing a few cancellations. We are seeing a small trickle of cancellations at this point, but we are happy that yesterday’s Prime Minister and Health Secretary stated that they were confident that Christmas party bookings could be made and people would feel comfortable with them.
“But, we must reinforce that message more to end the uncertainty and threat of a stopstart to the economic system again during the Christmas season.
“I believe it is driven in large part by the consumer being confident. It’s possible to feel a bit nervous about their plans being interrupted once again. That, regardless of any government control, is having an undoubtedly cooling effect on hospitality.
We already noticed that this year’s bookings have been lower than they were in the pre-pandemic period. We expect this to have further negative effects on our businesses.
According to Mr Arora, it has been quite a ride. We had quarantine hotels in the beginning of year. Then, over the last few weeks, as we tried to get back to normality, many of the hotels are now operating commercially.
“And then we got hit by this virus last week, so it’s unfortunate that all has changed. Since the Government now has 10 additional countries on its red list, they’ll need to add a few more hotels to their quarantine program.
“Over the last weeks, after the quarantine was over we were grateful for some normalcy. This latest update has seen a significant increase in cancellations, rather than new bookings.
‘We obviously have a lot of transient, a lot of leisure business, with guests flying out of the country – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted – normally tend to spend a night with us before they travel, especially early morning flights. These flights are often being cancelled.
“And that’s not only for leisure, we were seeing quite a lot of cancellations for events and meetings. I know, for instance, some of the larger bookings – we just recently opened our new flagship at the Fairmont in Windsor, and they actually had big large corporates who had bookings in January who are saying ”actually, we may want to push it back to further, later in the year to get some more clarity on where we’re heading”.’
Hugh Osmond is the founder of Punch Taverns. Hugh Osmond sued the Government earlier this year over the ban on indoor hospitality.
“What they do actually accomplish is that they temporarily reduce the number of infected young people and it ultimately means more elderly people contract the disease, as the Sage model demonstrated from the start.
“We are aware that, according to the current studies, once infected you can have no other variants.
The overall number of infections in Britain continued to drop, with 39,000 positive test results recorded within the past 24 hours. The figure was 6.5% lower than the 42,484 recorded on Tuesday. This marked the fourth straight day that cases dropped. On Friday, the number of patients dying from the virus dropped by 3.6% to 159. Hospitalisations fell 6.1% to 718.
‘They do a little with vaccines, but variants will come and go – it’s very, very normal that viruses mutate, and variants will come and go.’
He told the Today programme: ‘You’ve got to remember that social interaction – after food and water – is the most important thing for a human being’s mental health.
‘If you want to do something bad to human beings, after starving them and depriving them of water – the worst thing you can do to a human being in terms of affecting their health, and eventually physical health, is depriving them of social contact.’
Boris Johnson maintained that he has already implemented a number of ‘balanced measures and proportionate actions’ to address the threats posed in Omicron’s new variant. Omicron cases reached 22 across the UK.
Yesterday, the English government mandated that all facemasks be worn in public places and shops. It also introduced stricter requirements regarding international travel, including tighter testing and self-isolation of contacts with confirmed Omicron cases.
It is however the booster campaign that the Government considers to be the best line of defense against this new variant. The Prime Minister has promised everyone who qualifies that they will receive a booster jab before the end of January. At least 400 military personnel are expected to help the NHS. Vaccination centres are ‘popping out like Christmas trees.
Omicron cases could rise and Mr. Javid stated that Omicron transmission is likely.
Dr Harries stated earlier that although vaccines seem to work, we found that this variant was more transmissible and has a low-grade infection. However, it could still have a major impact on hospitals.
“But, also, I believe our winter behavior, especially around Christmas, is more socialized, so it will be important to consider all these, she said.
“If all of us reduce our social contact a bit, that actually helps keep the variant at bay.”
She recommended ‘being cautious, not socializing when we don’t need to’ as well as getting a booster shot.
These comments caused panic in the hotel industry, and helped to fuel a Tory backbench rebellion that saw Conservatives revolt over new restrictions.
When asked if parties or Nativity plays should cease, Johnson replied: “We don’t want people cancelling such events. We think that it is best for children to attend school. As I have stated many times during this pandemic.
As a response to Omicron concerns, he rejected any suggestion that home-based work advice should be reinstated for England.
Omicron may be more transmissible that the dominant Delta variant, according to scientists. This could make vaccines less effective due to the severity of Omicron’s mutations.
After the press conference Johnson visited Downing Street’s festive food market. He will again be asked questions about the Government’s strategy during Prime Minister’s Questions.
In the Commons on Tuesday, 19 Tories – with two rebel tellers – opposed the mask-wearing measures.
A total of 32 Conservatives rebelled against self-isolation rules, while two others acted as tellers. Both measures were passed comfortably.
Sir Graham Brady who is chair of the strong Conservative backbench 1922 Committee said that there were serious concerns about the “efficacy” and cautioned against’mission creep.
Steve Baker, a former minister, stated that he was removing the public’s freedom to decide what it does based upon flimsy evidence. Sir Christopher Chope, a Tory veteran and critic of the regulations as ‘oppressive and authoritarian’.
As the Daily Mirror published allegations that Johnson and Downing Street employees had violated Covid rules, Mr Johnson and Downing Street staff were accused of attending parties at Number 10 just before Christmas.
A Downing Street spokeswoman stated: “Covid rules have always been observed.”