UK not ruling out pre-Xmas restrictions: minister

Asked if British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was too weak to bring in further restrictions, Javid said: "No, I don't think that's the case... if the government felt that further action had to be taken of course we would present that to parliament and it would be for parliament to decide."

The number of all new COVID-19 cases reported in official data on Saturday was 90,418.

Cases were up 44.4% over the seven days to Dec. 18 compared with the previous week.

Asked whether he could rule out restrictions before Christmas, Javid told BBC Television: "We are assessing the situation, it is very fast moving."

"There are no guarantees in this pandemic I don't think. At this point, we just have to keep everything under review."

Javid said the government was taking the "sobering" advice of its scientists seriously, was watching the data on an "almost hourly basis" and would balance that against the broader impact of restrictions on things such as businesses and education.

He said that there was a still a lot that is not known about Omicron but waiting until data is clearer may leave it too late to react to it.

More than 100 of Johnson's own Conservative lawmakers voted against the government's latest measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 earlier this week and Johnson is facing the biggest crisis of his premiership after a litany of scandals and missteps.

The number of Omicron cases recorded across the country hit almost 25,000 as of 1800 GMT on Friday (December 17), up by more than 10,000 cases from 24 hours earlier, the UK Health Security Agency said.

Javid said the government believed around 60% of new COVID-19 cases in England were now Omicron.

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