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The health secretary has said it is going to be a “great Christmas” as he defended not imposing stricter restrictions to combat the new COVID variant.

Sajid Javid told Trevor Phillips On Sunday it would be “irresponsible to make guarantees” but the measures announced this week in reaction to the Omicron variant will “buy us time” to enable scientists to assess it.

“People should continue with their plans as normal for Christmas, I think it’s going to be a great Christmas,” he said.

Mr Javid said he did not think stricter measures needed to be imposed just yet as social distancing and work from home directives “carry a very heavy price, economically, socially, in terms of non-COVID health outcomes”.

“If one was to make decisions like that they’d have to be made very very carefully, we’re not there yet, we’re nowhere near that,” he added.

The new measures are:

• Anyone arriving in the UK will have to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they get a negative result

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• From Tuesday, face coverings will also be compulsory in shops and on public transport in England

• Those who come into contact with someone who tests positive for the Omicron variant will need to self-isolate for 10 days, even if they are fully vaccinated – this will be introduced “as soon as possible”

• South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are now on the red list so arrivals will have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days at a cost of £2,285.

Challenged on whether people will listen to the mask mandate given a drop in the public wearing masks, Mr Javid said: “This is about protecting the progress we’ve made.

“You said in your estimation about a third of people don’t wear masks but I would think you probably haven’t been taking those soundings since people have begun to understand more about this new variant and why the government has thought these new measures are appropriate.

“I do think people will take this more seriously and I think that will apply to public transport, it will apply to shops, it will be a regulation as it has been before.

“But it’s important to react in a proportionate, and also a temporary way, I hope this is something we can remove within weeks.”

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Hong Kong regulator blocks access to two crypto entities, warning of fraud




Hong Kong regulator blocks access to two crypto entities, warning of fraud

The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) of Hong Kong has issued a warning related to suspected fraud involving crypto entities Hong Kong Digital Research Institute and BitCuped.

In a Dec. 6 notice, the SFC said the Hong Kong Police Force had blocked access to the websites of BitCuped and Hong Kong Digital Research Institute — also known as HongKongDAO — claiming users could be fooled into making illegitimate investments. The regulator also issued cease-and-desist letters to the firms’ website operators.

“The SFC suspects HongKongDAO may be disseminating false and misleading information about itself and its business through online channels,” said the Dec. 6 notice. “The SFC notes that BitCuped claims on its website that ‘Laura Cha’ and ‘Nicolas Aguzin’ serve as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer respectively, when in fact none of them has any affiliations with BitCuped.”

Related: Hong Kong authorities say 145 victims, $18.9M lost in Hounax scam

According to the SFC, the “misleading” information related to HongKongDAO could encourage individuals to believe its services were “properly licensed and legitimate” and invest in the HKD token. The securities regulatory added that Cha and Aguzin were executives with the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong rather than connected to BitCuped.

In October, the SFC announced it planned to update its policies on digital currency sales and requirements, citing market developments and industry feedback. Starting in June 2024, exchanges operating within Hong Kong must have a virtual asset service provider license with the SFC.

Magazine: Another $18.9M Hong Kong exchange scandal, HTX ‘sorry’ airdrop: Asia Express