UK government officials and scientific advisers believe that the danger posed by the Omicron variant may not be clear until January, potentially allowing weeks of intense mixing while the variant spreads.
Across Westminster, invitations to Christmas drinks are landing in embossed envelopes or on WhatsApp groups. Departmental staff parties are set to take place, as well as a reception for journalists with Rishi Sunak at No 11. Even Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves are hosting a joint bash.
However, minutes for the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggest there is deep concern about the threat from the new variant, particularly its transmissibility. Though there is a wariness about overreacting, one government scientific adviser said Downing Street was “putting all its eggs in one basket” by focusing its efforts on the booster vaccine drive.
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UK prime minister reported to police over lockdown breaches
The UK prime minister has been reported to the police by Labour MPs over allegations there were at least two parties in Downing Street during lockdown restrictions last year.
Neil Coyle, Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, wrote to the Met police commissioner, Cressida Dick, asking her to investigate reports that the prime minister spoke at a leaving do in November and also allowed a staff Christmas party to go ahead in December.
At the time, there were lockdown restrictions in place preventing socialising. After sending the letter, Coyle said: “I believe they broke the law. Most of my constituents followed the rules; those that didn’t faced penalties. Johnson is not above the law, despite his bloated self-entitlement.”