New limitations in England to slow the spread of COVID-19 would only be implemented as a last resort, health minister Sajid Javid stated while noting that although hospitalisations were on the rise, the number of patients in intensive care remained consistent.

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The Omicron variant’s rapid spread across the United Kingdom has pushed infection rates to new highs, with nearly 190,000 new cases confirmed on Friday.

England, which accounts for more than 80% of the UK population, has not been subjected to new laws.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have all enacted restrictions, such as limiting the number of people who can gather, closing nightclubs, and instituting social distancing measures in pubs.

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In an article published in the Daily Mail on Saturday, Javid wrote, “Curbs on our freedom must be an absolute last resort. We must give ourselves the best chance of living alongside the virus and avoiding strict measures in the future.”

On December 27, Javid stated that no further limitations would be implemented in the UK before the end of 2021. None was expected in 2022, according to his article.

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While the rise in cases of omicron infections was worrying, he noted that Britain was starting the new year in a far better position than it had been a year before, thanks to a high rate of coronavirus immunisation.

“Numbers in intensive care units are stable and not currently following the trajectory we saw this time last year during the alpha wave,” he wrote.

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He acknowledged that, due to the time lag between illnesses and hospitalizations, a significant rise in persons requiring NHS care was unavoidable.

“This is likely to test the limits of finite NHS capacity even more than a typical winter,” he warned, asking individuals to take all precautions possible.