THE UK Government is “out of step” with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales on Covid rules, a public health expert has argued after Conservatives attacked the nations’ approaches.

The three nations have brought in tighter public health measures in recent days in an effort to curb the rapid increase in cases linked to the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Nightclubs are closed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while hospitality venues face distancing restrictions and people are urged to limit their social contacts.

At the same time, England will not be bringing in any new restrictions.

The National:

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced late on Monday that while people should “remain cautious” and consider doing lateral flow tests before interacting with others, there would be no further measures over the Christmas and New Year period.

“Take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation if you can,” he told the public.

“Please remain cautious and when we get into the new year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing more until then, at least.”

England will remain under the UK Government’s Plan B rulebook until at least January 1, with guidance to work from home, mask wearing in shops and other public settings, and Covid passes to gain entry to large events.

Asked why the UK Government had arrived at a different conclusion to the devolved administrations despite using the same data, Javid said it was “for each country that makes up the United Kingdom to decide”, and pointed to the decision to release restrictions at different rates during the summer.

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Tory politicians later complained that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were not following England’s lead.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee, described the nations as “principalities” that are “out of step with England”.

“I think they are doing more damage to people’s liberties than they need to,” he said. “I just don’t think the evidence, unless the data coming out today looks very different, is there for any further measures.”

And Conservative MP for Aberdeen and West Kincardine Andrew Bowie also made his views clear on social media.

“Relying on personal responsibility and people taking sensible steps eg testing instead of imposing new restrictions. A sensible step by the UK Govt for England. In Scotland, not the same story. Nightclubs are closed, mass gatherings banned & no more than 3 households to meet up,” he tweeted.

READ MORE: Covid in Scotland: Cases to keep rising and peak in January, Jason Leitch says

Speaking to BBC News on Tuesday morning, Professor Andrew Watterson, of the faculty of health sciences at the University of Stirling, wanted to make clear that it is England which is “out of step” with the rest of the UK.

Asked what he made of the Government’s approach, the professor laughed and said: “The Government in England, you mean?”

He went on: “They really are out of step. If we’re looking at evidence about transmission, which is clearly what Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland did, they’ve come to very different conclusions about what the risks are and what the figures are telling us.

“England has the highest seven-day positivity rate just before Christmas across the whole of the UK. And therefore one would have expected a more precautionary and preventative approach.

“But that’s not what we have seen. So I think there’s a real mismatch between some of the data … and what is happening in terms of policy and prevention.”

The BBC journalist added that Omicron is not leading to the same number of hospitalisations as other waves of Covid. “Hence, perhaps, their reluctance to take measures that would be very restrictive on day-to-day life and economically, if it’s not merited by the hospitalisation numbers,” the presenter said.

“Yes,” replied the professor. “But the hospitalisation numbers are rising. And there is the issue then about how Omicron might affect the various people who provide the service. So it’s not just hospitalisation. It’s about the people there who are going to care for those who are ill.”

He added that a large number of people self-isolating also causes problems for the haulage sector, transport industry, retail and other areas.

On whether the divergence between England and the other nations might cause people in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland to be less compliant, the professor argued the opposite may also be true.

“People in England may say well why in the other three countries are they taking these actions,” he said. “But mixed messaging is a really big issue. What we’ve heard from the Government in England is ‘well be careful and open a few windows’. Well that’s not very good messaging … so I think there’s a real problem across the UK now about muddled messaging primarily created, I think, in England.”