Raab disagrees with Frost’s concerns over coercive Covid rules | Coronavirus

Dominic Raab has said he disagrees with the concerns of the former Brexit minister David Frost that Covid restrictions are too coercive, saying it was too early to know how damaging the rapid spread of the Omicron variant may be.

Amid speculation that Boris Johnson could be considering further restrictions for England before Christmas given the risk of thousands of hospitalisations a day, Raab said it was correct to respond robustly to an “unprecedented” pandemic.

The prime minister has promised a Commons vote on any tougher formal rules, and could face a rebellion from his MPs and dissent from some ministers.

On Sunday, Lord Frost announced he had stepped down from his Brexit role, saying this was because of concern about government policies including the introduction of “plan B” coronavirus measures, such as Covid passes.

On Monday, Frost told Sky News he “never disagreed in any way” with Johnson about Brexit policy, but that “I don’t support coercive policies on Covid”.

He added: “And if you’re a minister you have to support collective responsibility, you have to support decisions of the government, and I couldn’t, so that’s why I had to leave.”

Asked about Frost’s view, Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister, said he was sorry to see him depart. He said: “I’ve got great respect for him. I’m afraid I don’t agree with his analysis. I think we’ve just been discussing that we’re dealing with an unprecedented global and historic pandemic, something we’ve not seen on that scale before.”

Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we hadn’t taken the measures that we have to support public health, to support businesses, to support livelihoods, to support whole communities, we would have seen much more damage done, economic and social scarring, as well as the public health damage.”

Speaking earlier on Sky News, Raab said it was impossible to rule out further Covid restrictions before Christmas.

“I just can’t make hard, fast guarantees,” he said. “We’re in a much stronger place because of the resilience of our communities because of the high take-up of the vaccine.

“But of course there is this time lag in the data. We know Omicron is spreading fast, we don’t yet know the severity. We’re reliant on seeing that data come through, and it comes through day by day.”

He added: “I think we will have a much better Christmas than last year because of the vaccination level, both the overall vaccination level but particularly the impact of the booster campaign.”

Raab said it was normal for the modelling and projections of government scientists to be challenged: “We always, all of us, question the advice. And I don’t think that should be presented as a sort of tectonic opposition to scientists. The scientists will tell you that they are constantly testing the evidence and the advice amongst themselves, let alone politicians.”

He added: “What I don’t do is have those rigorous discussions, which rightly take place in private, in the cabinet, and then bandy them around.”

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