Sometimes the government gets Covid response right!

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covi

The government's response to the emergence of the Omnicron variant has been proportionate and speedy - but it's up to the individual if you take Boris Johnson's advice about Christmas parties! - Credit: PA

Over the last couple of years I've often been critical of the government's response to the coronavirus crisis - but sometimes you have to give credit where it is due.

And the fact is the UK government response to the emergence of the Omicron variant appears to be swift and proportionate.

Maybe it's not perfect - it might have been wise to extend the mask-wearing mandate to hospitality settings except when people are sitting down to eat or drink - but overall it seems broadly sensible.

We don't yet know how serious the Omicron variant is going to be. The early signs from South Africa suggest the symptoms are comparatively mild in fit, young people and that is hopeful.

But the fact is that we don't know how transmissible, or how seriously it will affect the vulnerable yet. And we don't know how effective vaccines will be against it.

Until there are answers to some of those questions, and they should start to come through over the next few weeks, we have to approach this with caution.

Therefore it is vital that we all take steps to prevent its spread and limit social contacts until we know more about it.

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Many of us feel it was unwise of the government to lift all mask-wearing mandates in the summer - it really is not a great hardship to take this simple act to protect others.

What is concerning is the number of normally-loyal government supporters who have taken to social media to suggest that Sajid Javid and Boris Johnson have given in to some woke blob by mandating masks in shops and on public transport for the next three weeks!

My personal decision is always to wear masks in indoor settings like shops, trains and when moving about in cafes or restaurants. I wish more people felt the same way because it is a fact that masks provide more protection to others than they do to the wearer.

But I've had to accept that many people either don't believe that, aren't aware of that, or simply feel that it isn't up to them to worry about the health of others.

I'm not sure the conflicting advice from Dr Jennie Harries and the Prime Minister on the wisdom of going to Christmas parties is that relevant. Those looking for advice will look hard at where it has come from and who is saying what.

I really don't think there will be many who were thinking: "I had planned to cancel going to the work Christmas do after hearing Dr Harries, but Boris has told me its okay so I'm going!" It's an issue we all have to decide for ourselves.

I realise the changes have caused a great deal of angst to people who were planning to travel abroad - especially those hoping to see families overseas for Christmas - but the fact is that we are not the only country imposing restrictions, and even if we kept everything open people may well be prevented from reaching their destination at the other end anyway.

One thing the rise of the Omicron variant of Covid has proved is that it is vital for governments across the planet to co-operate to get as many people jabbed globally as possible,

As long as there are significant numbers of unvaccinated people anywhere there is the danger that the virus can mutate. This mutation may be more virulent and/or transmissible or it may be less dangerous - but whatever happens it causes great anxiety and uncertainty around the world as scientists try to work out what they are dealing with.

I don't really accept the World Health Organisation's hypothesis that my getting a booster Pfizer jab in the UK is denying someone in Botswana a first Astra Zeneca jab - we really ought to have the capacity to jab the world.

What is needed is for wealthy countries like us to give financial support to the big pharmaceutical companies to ensure they distribute their vaccines to every poor country in the world.

Some companies, especially Astra Zeneca, have been very good at this and the fact their vaccines can be stored at near room temperature is a great advantage in less well-developed countries - but there still needs to be much more produced and injected into arms.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter made exactly that point earlier this week. I can't help feeling the government would do well to swallow a bit of pride and ask former Labour PM Gordon Brown who has become an expert in this subject to take on an official role to try to get governments across the world to work together to get vaccines sorted.

That way there should be far fewer Omicrons in the future.       

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