There are 250 people currently in hospital with the Omicron variant of COVID, Dominic Raab has confirmed – but the government has “no plan” to introduce more restrictions.
The deputy prime minister told Kay Burley there are “a significant number” in hospital with the variant, but could not say how many are on ventilators.
Pressed on exact numbers, Mr Raab said: “Well the last I saw was in the low hundreds, I think 250 the last time I looked – but of course, the data is being updated all of the time.”
Mr Raab later told the BBC that there were only nine people in hospital with Omicron. Yesterday, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, told Kay Burley that the number stood at “about 10”.
It was later clarified to Sky News that Mr Raab “misspoke” when he gave the 250 figure.
Mr Raab added that if the rate of transmission continues “we will see those numbers increase very dramatically” and that “a proportion of those hospitalised will possibly die or have a very serious suffering” due to Omicron.
Mr Raab, who is also the justice secretary, continued: “The truth is, just to be very honest, we don’t know the full severity. What we do know is the rate of transmission is so rapid that even if the severity is relatively low compared to other variants that we have seen, just because of the numbers, we need to take action now.”
Asked if the country will face any further restrictions, the deputy PM told Sky News there is “no plan” for this, adding that “the plan is for Plan B, coupled with the vaccine”.
He added that the Plan B measures being voted on by MPs today – including the mandatory use of face masks in some settings and the use of COVID passes for some venues – is “a targeted, proportionate approach as we find out more”.
Mr Raab also disclosed that 41% of people eligible have now received their booster vaccine.