THE Scottish Government has been accused of being “out of step” and “overly cautious” as it was confirmed there would be no new virus restrictions in England before the New Year.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said “people should remain cautious” and urged those marking the start of 2022 to consider testing themselves beforehand and to celebrate outside, with the Omicron variant growing so fast that it now accounts for 90 per cent of all new Covid-19 cases.
The decision not to impose restrictions beyond the Plan B measures already in place in England comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was briefed on the impact Christmas mixing had had on coronavirus infections and hospital admissions.
Mr Javid told broadcasters yesterday: “We look at the data on a daily basis – that hasn’t changed over the Christmas period.
“But there will be no further measures before the new year.
“Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach New Year’s celebrations. Take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation if you can.
“Please remain cautious and when we get into the new year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing more until then, at least.”
The decision leaves England at odds with Scotland and other parts of the UK, where post-Christmas restrictions have been deployed.
Conservative MPs have urged caution in going beyond Plan B in England, with veteran Tory Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown calling for a “wait-and-see” approach to the impact of infections on hospital admissions.
The latest UK infection data currently in the public domain dates back to Christmas Eve, when more than 122,000 people tested positive in the previous 24 hours, while hospital data on the Government dashboard has not been updated since December 20.
Sir Geoffrey said he hoped the Prime Minister would be “very cautious before introducing further measures” as he pushed for people to be able to “make their own decisions” when it came to taking precautions against infection.
The comments come as curbs on hospitality and large events were brought in for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the Scottish Government ordering nightclubs to be shuttered completely from yesterday, while hospitality businesses will need to return to offering only table service if they are serving alcohol.
England is currently under the UK Government’s Plan B rulebook, with guidance to work from home, mask-wearing in shops and other public settings, and Covid passes to gain entry to large events.
Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey, asked whether he was concerned that England was “out of step” with the rest of the UK in terms of Omicron restrictions, was critical of the decisions taken by the devolved administrations.
New measures came into force in Scotland yesterday, including the return of social distancing.
The treasurer of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives told Times Radio: “I think the principalities are out of step with England.
“I think they have been overly cautious, I think they are doing more damage to their economies than they need to.
“I think they are doing more damage to people’s liberties than they need to. I just don’t think the evidence is there for any further measures.”
Meanwhile Andrew Bowie, Tory MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, claimed the UK Government move for England was “sensible” – but it was “not the same story” from the Scottish Government.
He posted online: “Relying on personal responsibility and people taking sensible steps eg testing instead of imposing new restrictions.
“A sensible step by the UK Govt for England. In Scotland, not the same story. Nightclubs are closed, mass gatherings banned & no more than 3 households to meet up.”
He later added: “Please follow the rules for wherever in the UK you are.”