Further restrictions triggered by COVID must be an “absolute last resort,” and the UK must now live “alongside” the virus in 2022, Sajid Javid said.
The Health Secretary said the wave of Omicron infections will “test the limit of finite NHS capacity even more than a typical winter” with reports suggesting a return to work could be introduced in England in January Spread of. to stop the variant.
On Friday, government numbers showed an additional 189,846 confirmed COVID cases – another new record for daily reported cases.
But the actual number of daily cases could be closer to half a million, according to a government adviser amid an “unprecedented wave” of infections.
Mr Javid wrote in the Daily Mail that England “wants to be greeted with some of the least restrictive measures in Europe in 2022”.
He said: “Restrictions on our freedom must be the absolute last resort and the British people rightly expect us to do everything in our power to avert them.
“Since I took on this role six months ago, I’ve also recognized the enormous health, social, and economic costs of lockdowns.
“That’s why I was determined to give us the best chances to live alongside the virus and avoid strict measures in the future.”
He added that it was “inevitable that we will still see a big surge” in COVID patients over the next month, warning that the pandemic is “far from over”.
Hospital admissions in England are at their highest level since January 2021 – with 2,370 COVID patients in hospitals on December 29, a 90% increase from the week.
It comes after the Daily Telegraph reported that the work from home guidelines – part of England’s Plan B measures to combat Omicron – could last for much of January.
The restrictions introduced last month are expected to expire on or near Tuesday.
Boris Johnson had initially said that he wanted to lift the measures “by early January at the latest and possibly sooner”.
Cambridge University statistician and government adviser Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said daily COVID cases in the UK could be closer to 500,000 due to an over-the-top testing regime and reinfections not factored into the data.
He told the BBC: “It looks like we are going to have a huge wave of cases and that is going to cause great disruption, of course in hospitals and other services, but in terms of the very serious results, I think we can pretty much.” be optimistic.
“Things are going to get worse, but nothing like the previous waves.