Office Christmas parties are being axed across the country as employees are encouraged to resume home working amid the surge of the highly mutated Omicron variant. First detected in South Africa less than four weeks ago, the Omicron variant is rapidly becoming the dominant variant of coronavirus in South Africa.
The new heavily mutated variant, which has been classified as a “variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has now been found in two dozen countries, including Spain, Canada, Britain, Australia and Portugal.
UK cases of Omicron have risen to 32 as the WHO claimed it will know more about the new variant “within days”.
However, Christmas office parties have been shrouded in uncertainty after Boris Johnson, 57, announced tightened coronavirus restrictions.
Despite the newly enforced restrictions, the Prime Minister said during the Downing Street news conference Christmas would be “considerably better” than in 2020.
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The measures were “temporary and precautionary”, he added.
However, fears an outbreak at a Christmas work event will force workers to self-isolate over the festive period are encouraging companies to cancel, postpone or move events online, the Times has found.
Both Mr Johnson and Sajid Javid, the health secretary, have stated there is no need to cancel the celebrations, but have urged precaution.
Mr Javid said this morning that it was “absolutely fine” for people to “go ahead with whatever we’ve planned for Christmas”.
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He told Times Radio: “If I was going to a party with 300 or 400 people for Christmas, I would take a [lateral flow] test before I go.
“I think it’s just a sensible precaution to take.”
The health secretary's warning followed Mr Johnson's statement there was no need to cancel Christmas parties, nativity plays and other seasonal festivities, which contradicted Dr Jenny Harries', his top public health official, advice.
Professor Andrew Hayward, who has attended the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, issued similar words of advice: “One of my concerns is that there is an intensification of social mixing just in the run-up to Christmas and the timing of that is a bit unfortunate, given these circumstances.
“I’m not saying that those events should be stopped or banned, but I think people might think about spending more time outside, trying to keep more of a distance, etc, wearing masks at them, potentially taking tests before they go and after they’ve been to one and before they go and visit their relatives at Christmas.”