Downing Street has slapped down advice from a senior health boss today after she warned people not to socialise unless necessary.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said people should abide by official guidance after Dr Jenny Harries suggested people could limit their social contacts to curb the spread of the new covid variant.
Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, also said working from home would be a “good thing to do” if cases of omicron to surge.
Asked if her view on people avoiding socialising over the Christmas period was shared by the prime minister, his spokesman said: “No. Our advice to the public is as set out at the weekend.
“We have put advice out on face coverings and on inward travellers and those who are identified as having the Omicron variant of coronavirus. Beyond that we haven’t set out any further guidance to the public.”
Asked if people should follow the PM or Harries’ advice, the spokesman said: “The public should follow the guidance as set out by the government and indeed the prime minister at the weekend.”
Harries told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that even if the current vaccines proved to be effective against the new variant, if it is highly transmissible then it could still have a “significant impact” on hospitals.
And she said that people’s “behaviours” around winter and Christmas, when there is more socialising, “need to be taken into account”.
“We’ve seen that not everybody has gone back to work and I’d like to think of it more in a general way, which is if we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually that helps to keep the variant at bay,” she said.
“So I think being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to and particularly going and getting those booster jobs which, of course, people will now be able to have at a three-month interval from their primary course.”
Fourteen cases of the omicron variant have now been detected in the UK, prompting ministers to introduce a raft of new measures in England such as mask-wearing in some public places and on public transport.
However, the government has so far resisted introducing stricter guidance such as home working, and have also signalled that Christmas is “on track” — demonstrating the difference of opinion between scientists and politicians.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.