Lord Frost quits the Cabinet as Boris Johnson considers Christmas Covid lockdown

But Cabinet members were said to have warned that the country risked falling into a cycle of annual winter restrictions if the Government continued to resort to draconian measures, even when much of the population has received a Covid-19 vaccine. 

Another of those on the call said: “There is a feeling that we don’t have the information that we need for further action. Scientists on the one hand are telling us we need to go into lockdown. But we can’t make the right decision either way without the right data.” 

Health officials have suggested that definitive data on the link between omicron and hospitalisations is not expected until the New Year.

However Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, is said to have suggested that some new data may be available in a few days.

Mr Javid warned that more time is needed for the rollout of booster jabs, which provide “strong protection against omicron”.

‘Circuit breaker’ or longer lockdown?

On Saturday, it emerged that officials were drawing up plans for a two-week “circuit breaker” which would ban people from meeting members of other households indoors. 

Senior government sources insisted that, as of last night, no specific plans for new measures had been submitted to Cabinet ministers or Mr Johnson. Ministers were believed to be sceptical about whether the benefits of locking down for just a fortnight would outweigh the damage caused by draconian restrictions. 

Senior government figures are understood to believe that a longer lockdown would have a significant effect on reducing transmission and preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed, but many ministers and MPs are fiercely opposed to locking down for a third time.

On Saturday, Downing Street aides were discussing options for slowing the spread of omicron in the face of calls by SAGE and warnings about the potential for the NHS to be overwhelmed.

The Chancellor is said to be concerned that much of the current alarm in Whitehall is based on only one set of modelling.

‘We have to be clear-eyed about the challenge omicron presents’

In his article for The Telegraph, Mr Javid insisted that introducing Plan B restrictions last week “brought me no joy” because “promoting individual freedom and opportunity is one of the reasons I got into politics”.

“But we have to be clear-eyed about the challenge omicron presents,” he added. 

“Our strategy since it emerged has been and remains to buy time for our scientists to assess the threat and build up our defences.”

“The reality is, there is much we still don’t know about omicron. We are faced with uncertainty and we do not have all the data we would want but as policy makers we have to work with what we have and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. 

“The most important trading decisions I made in my past career were when the data was early and patchy, but a trend was emerging. Once that trend leads to a clear outcome, it may be too late to react to it.

“So let’s look at what we do know. We face a tsunami of infections in the coming days and weeks. Omicron spreads at a pace we have never seen before and has been doubling around every two to three days.”

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