Raab gets numbers wrong twice in an hour as officials clarify Omicron hospital figures

UK

There are currently 10 people in hospital with the Omicron variant of COVID – not 250, as Dominic Raab told Sky News.

The deputy prime minister later told the BBC that there were nine people in hospital with the variant.

But officials have clarified that Mr Raab “misspoke” on both occasions by getting his figures wrong and that there are currently 10 people in hospital with Omicron.

Mr Raab, who also acts as justice secretary, told Kay Burley there are “a significant number” in hospital with the variant, but could not say how many are on ventilators.

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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.”

In the same hour, the deputy PM revised his figure for the number of people in hospital with Omicron down from 250 to nine during the latter part of his broadcast round.

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Following his prior remarks on Sky News, Mr Raab told BBC Breakfast: “I know we’ve had one death. I think we’ve got nine people who are in hospital with it.”

Officials later clarified that this was incorrect too and there are in fact 10 people in hospital with the new variant at present.

Yesterday, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, told Kay Burley that the number stood at “about 10”.

Mr Raab also told Sky News 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.

He 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 and that there is “no plan” for more restrictions.

Pressed on Christmas, the deputy PM said: “I think people can go into this Christmas, enjoy it and we’ve got an opportunity to spend time with loved ones in a way that we didn’t last year.

“At the same time, I do think it is right to encourage people to get the booster vaccine.”

Asked if any future restrictions are in the pipeline for beyond the festive period, Mr Raab added: “We’ve got none planned.”