Theresa May issues warning over ‘stop and start’ policy
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Theresa May insisted the Government must now recognise the UK will need to learn to live with recurring waves of coronavirus rather than “starting and stopping” whenever a new variant emerges. The former Prime Minister hit out at Health Secretary Sajid Javid for the latest travel restrictions announced, which will require all arrivals into the country to take a test ahead of their entry and again on day 2. Ms May said: “The early indications of Omicron are that it is more transmissible but potentially leads to less serious illness than other variants.
“I understand that will be the normal progress of a virus. Variants will continue to appear, year after year.
“When is the Government going to accept that learning to live with Covid, which we all have to do, means we most certainly have an annual vaccine?
“And that we cannot respond to new variants by stopping and starting sectors of our economy which leads to businesses going under and jobs being lost?”
Mr Sajid agreed Mrs May had made an “important set of points” but he defended his decision to reintroduce stricter measures as the best way to protect the UK while further data on Omicron is being reviewed.
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The Health Secretary said: “And she is right about the early data about transmissibility – we’re certainly seeing that in the UK and in the reports from our friends across the world.
“In terms of the severity of this, we shouldn’t jump to any conclusion, we just don’t have enough data.
“Most of the data that is available at this point in time comes from South Africa, that’s where most of the cases are.
“It is important to remember it’s a younger population and they also had the Beta wave, and Beta is a much closer to this variant.
“Whilst it’s quite possible there will be a difference in terms of the clinical outcome, it’s too early to jump to conclusions.”
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He continued: “She is right about her final point. Of course, we have to learn to live with this virus.
“It is not going away for many, many years, and perhaps it will lead to annual vaccinations.
“But we have to find ways to continue with life as normal.”
The exchange between the Health Secretary and the former Prime Minister came as Mr Sajid updated the Commons on the Omicron variant.
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Mr Sajid said more information about how long new pre-departure Covid testing measures will last could be revealed next week.
He said: “I think we all understand why the actions have been taken but we must not forget it is a really important part of the economy, a hugely important sector that has been hit again and again.”
The Health Secretary added that information from scientists due for next week’s Covid update will help inform an end date for the restrictions, saying: “That information will certainly help to give more certainty.”
The Health Secretary added: “As for whether Parliament should or should not be recalled, that is something I will take back to the Prime Minister.”
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