U.K. PM Boris Johnson Says No Need to Tighten Restrictions Due to 'Milder' Omicron

Though COVID-19 cases are increasing in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson said current restrictions are sufficient without implementing more.

"At the moment, we don't see any data to suggest that further restrictions would be the right approach, given we know it is important to strike the right balance between protecting lives and livelihoods," Max Blain, a spokesman for Johnson, told reporters Tuesday.

Currently, the U.K. has mask mandates in place for stores and proof of vaccination or negative test requirements for public venues like nightclubs. The country's booster program has also been accelerated, with about 60 percent of the population over the age of 12 having received a third vaccine dose.

However, some politicians and health experts have argued that more must be done to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. Daily infections across the U.K. have spiked to a record high of 218,274, which is 15 percent higher than last month's peak.

Also, the number of hospitalizations in England has hit its highest level since February 2021 at 14,210. Though Blain pointed to the fact that the number of people on ventilators has stayed steady at 777 as a positive sign.

"We know that admissions and occupancy are increasing significantly at the moment—we're not seeing that same jump in beds requiring ventilation, which is pleasing, and almost certainly a function of both the nature of Omicron and our successful booster program," he said.

Boris Johnson, COVID-19, booster
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there are no plans to tighten COVID-19 restrictions beyond what has already been implemented, but the government is monitoring the situation. Above, Johnson speaks during a virtual news conference in the Downing Street briefing room in central London on January 4. Photo by Jack Hill/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Amid indications that Omicron may produce "milder" illness than earlier variants and the success of a nationwide vaccine booster program, the government believes the existing level of controls is still appropriate, Max Blain told reporters in London. The government continues to monitor the data and is prepared to respond if the situation changes, he said.

But soaring infection rates are putting pressure on the National Health Service, schools and businesses across the country as workers are forced to stay home after testing positive for COVID-19 or having close contact with someone who has. On Tuesday, Blackpool NHS Trust was the latest to declare a critical incident due to demand and staff shortages.

"Because of the pressures the trust is under, we have made the decision to declare an internal critical incident which means staff across the trust will be working together today to take actions immediately to attempt to alleviate the pressure we are under," said Natalie Hudson, the CEO of the trust.

Government agencies are considering whether the military should be called in to help the NHS.

The government has already pledged to rush air ventilation units and COVID-19 test kits to schools to ensure they can reopen on time. Secondary school students in England will be required to wear face masks as they return to classes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report