But indoor socialization is still allowed, leading some experts to call for more mandatory lock-in-type restrictions on how many people can meet and mingle under one roof.
Mr Johnson’s hope is that people will mingle less voluntarily without the need for a government mandate – and that that might be enough, along with the rampant booster-jab campaign, to stifle omicron’s progress.
âOmicron just blew up so fast that we’ve seen people make a natural decision to make sure they protect themselves and avoid spreading the disease,â he told Sky News. âThe benefits of this action plan that we can see in the coming days and weeks. “
But it has also proven to be controversial. Because all of this cancellation of Christmas parties and other festive activities is voluntary and not mandatory, the government has leeway to extricate itself from any compensation.
Mr Johnson has made a point of emphasizing his support for the besieged hospitality, entertainment, travel and arts sectors, which are experiencing foreclosure-like effects on their businesses.
“It is important that we act with caution, but of course it is also important that we take care of the hospitality industry, theaters and other parts of our incredible entertainment industry that are suffering and will suffer,” a- he declared.
Mr Johnson’s approach over the past six months has echoed that of NSW, based on the premise that people can exercise personal responsibility rather than having their social and economic lives micromanaged by government regulation.
But as his Health Secretary Sajid Javid and his scientific and medical advisers have grown increasingly concerned about the scale of the omicron outbreak – which could overwhelm the NHS in volume even if the new strain doesn’t is not particularly virulent – he was pushed to take pre-preventive action.
But first, he should watch the growing crowd of lockdown skeptics in his own party, and also resist the relentless drip of stories about lockdown violations in Downing Street during earlier phases of the pandemic.
The most recent photo shows Mr Johnson, his wife and a dozen employees mingling in the Downing Street garden, drinking wine and eating cheese, at a time when social gatherings of this size were banned.
Government spokesmen said it was a working meeting, as evidenced by their formal attire; reporters asked why there were no laptops or pens, only alcohol and canapes.
These stories have undermined Mr Johnson’s credibility and authority, making it politically more difficult to order tighter social restrictions.
There were 91,473 new cases of COVID-19 recorded on Monday, just below the UK pandemic record set last Friday. The number of cases in the seven days to December 15 was 41% higher than the week before.
There were 7,492 people with COVID-19 in hospital on December 17, still within the limits of recent weeks and below early November. But government modelers don’t expect to see any impact from the omicron surge until this week at the earliest.
In London, where omicron arrived earlier and now dominates, there are twice as many people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 as at the end of November.
Britain gave a third dose of the vaccine to 5.4 million people in the last week alone, and 50% of people aged 12 and over have now received the booster.
The Office of National Statistics estimates that 95% of Britons have COVID antibodies, whether through a jab or an infection.
The median age of people who test positive for COVID-19 in Britain is 31, and those under 40 represent well over half of new COVID cases in the past week.