Health secretary Sajid Javid today urged people to go to their Christmas parties but to take a lateral flow test beforehand.
Javid echoed comments from Boris Johnson that people should still party for the festive season, but said there were “sensible precautions that everyone can take”.
Asked by Sky News whether people needed to change their plans over concerns about the omicron variant, Javid replied: “I think people should continue to behave in the way they were planning to behave over Christmas.
“I don’t think there is any need to change those plans.”
And asked whether people should take a Covid test before attending Christmas parties, Javid replied: “I would.”
His comments come amid a disagreement between politicians and scientists over how people should behave in the run-up to Christmas.
On Tuesday, Jenny Harries, the head of the UK Health Security Agency, said people should try to reduce their social contacts in a bid to slow the spread of the new omicron variant, of which there are now 22 confirmed cases in the UK.
But Javid insisted that the measures the government had already introduced, such as as mask-wearing in some public places and on public transport, were “the right ones”.
“I think that we can go ahead with whatever we planned for Christmas, I think that’s absolutely fine.
“But what I will add to that is that we have always said even before this variant came along, that as we get into the colder, darker days of winter, covid likes that and that the flu virus likes that.
“So..it’s just a sensible time for everyone just to remember that and and take whatever sort of cautious measures that they can.”
As well as bringing in a raft of measures to buy time against the virus, the government has also announced a massive expansion of the booster programme by expanding it to all adults.
The government yesterday announced that 23million people will be able to get their third shot by the end of January, while the wait between the second and third jab has been slashed from six months to three.
Javid admitted that the target would be a “huge ask” but that he was confident the NHS could cope.
“It is a huge ask. It’s something I do believe that people who work in the NHS, all the volunteers, are up to it,” he told Sky News.
“But it is a huge ask and that is why I am calling it a national mission.
“This has become, from a health point of view, the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves, protect the progress that we have made.”
The latest restrictions in England are due to be reviewed in three weeks but Javid said more should be known about the omicron variant before then.
“We are confident that actually maybe within two weeks we will know a lot more about this. We may not even need to wait three weeks,” he said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.