Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged the government to trust people to do the right thing rather than impose restrictions as the Omicron variant continues to surge.
Prime minister Boris Johnson refused to rule out further action if Covid cases continue to climb, including banning large-scale events or bringing in a two-week circuit-breaker that could start as early as next week, banning household mixing.
The Cabinet is reportedly split on the introduction of new measures, with health secretary Sajid Javid and Michael Gove outliers in backing further action.
Those against such moves include Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and the leader of the Commons.
Discussing the issue, Rees-Mogg is reported to have said the government should trust people to do the right thing rather than introduce further restrictions.
He said many people had voluntarily changed their behaviour as the threat posed by Omicron became clear.
The prime minister said Rees-Mogg’s argument was interesting but asked how he would justify his approach at a press conference.
Rees-Mogg is understood to have responded: “I would stand up and say I respect them for doing the right thing.”
The prime minister is reported to have suggested that this would not be enough if the NHS were at risk of being overwhelmed.
Rees-Mogg is also understood to have criticised official modelling suggesting that without further action 3,000 Omicron patients a day could need a hospital bed.
He asked if Johnson had read an article by Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, questioning the assumptions behind the data.
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