Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that Britain's decision to impose restrictions to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant will likely prevent the need for more further restrictions in the new year.
To slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson implemented stricter COVID-19 restrictions in England on Wednesday, requiring individuals to work from home, wear masks in public areas, and use vaccine passes.
According to Javid, the Omicron variant is spreading faster than any other variant investigated and could result in around 1 million cases in the UK by the end of the month if present transmission rates persist.
The government has taken steps to ensure that the National Health Service (NHS) does not face unsustainable pressures, Javid said. "I hope most people understand that by acting decisively now, we can perhaps avoid action later," he added.
When asked if tougher measures could be implemented in January, Javid said: "no. I hope not."
Even if Omicron was able to partially escape vaccines, Javid said the steps would buy time to give more people booster doses, which he said would increase protection against severe disease.
However, during one of the busiest trading times of the year, the run-up to Christmas, businesses reacted with scepticism to a work-from-home order.
When asked if there will be further support for businesses that would lose money as a result of Plan B taking effect, Javid said that it would be kept under review, but that the measures should not be too damaging.
"While the measures we've taken under Plan B have an impact, they're designed to have the least impact possible," he explained. According to Javid, there are no plans to make a COVID vaccine mandatory for the general public.