Health minister Gillian Keegan has insisted Christmas remains “on track” despite the introduction of new restrictions to help curb the spread of the new Omicron covid variant.
Keegan said the UK was in a different place to last year due to many more people being vaccinated — but she urged people to come forward for their jabs and their booster shots to help keep cases under control.
In an update to MPs on Monday, health secretary Sajid Javid said the best defence against the variant was to “put the booster programme on steroids”.
As of yesterday the booster programme was expanded to all those aged 18 and over, while children aged 12 to 15 will be invited for a second jab.
The reintroduction of the restrictions has led to speculation that Christmas could once again be disrupted.
However, at the weekend Javid urged people to “carry on” with their Christmas plans, insisting it would be “great” this year.
Watch: Labour: Govt need to do 'everything' to ensure normal Xmas
And asked on Sky News whether it was right that Christmas would be able to go ahead, Keegan replied: “Of course Christmas is on track, and actually what everybody wants for Christmas is if you haven’t had your first jab, come and get it, if you haven’t had your second jab, come and get it, and if you haven’t had your booster, come and get it when you’re asked.”
From today masks will once again become mandatory in a number of public settings in England, including in shops, hairdressers, in post offices and on public transport.
However, they will not be compulsory in pubs and restaurants in England.
The measures have been brought back in an attempt to put the brakes on the spread of the new variant, which was first detected in South Africa. So far, 14 cases have already been found in the UK.
As well as introducing new public health measures, the government has also expanded its restrictions around travel in response to the variant reaching UK shores.
People coming to the UK from anywhere abroad will have to take a PCR test within two days of their arrival and will have to self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
Ten countries have also been added to the travel red list, meaning travellers coming from these areas must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
Keegan was also asked whether the government was in danger of “overreacting” to the emergence of omicron, given that much remains unknown about the variant.
The minister admitted it was“difficult” to get the balance of restrictions against the new variant of coronavirus right, but she added: “I would rather overreact than underreact at this point.
“We’re trying to get that balance and proportion and it is difficult because it’s unknown.”
Keegan later told LBC: “All we want for Christmas is for everyone to get their jab.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.