Dominic Raab says he cannot make “hard, fast guarantees” that more restrictions won’t be imposed in the run-up to Christmas.
However, the deputy prime minister said he believes Britons will have a “much better Christmas than last year”.
It comes as scientists and advisers to the government called for “significant action” to tackle the rapid spread of COVID cases amid fears of a “real collapse” of the NHS.
Mr Raab told Kay Burley: “I think we will have a much better Christmas than last year because of the vaccination level – both the overall vaccination level and particularly the impact of the booster campaign.
“People will need to be careful and cautious.
“But I do think, again subject to the data – and it’s always under review – that we’re in a better position to enjoy Christmas with loved ones this year.”
Asked if more restrictions would be imposed between now and Christmas Day, Mr Raab said: “I just can’t make hard, fast guarantees.”
Twelve people infected with Omicron have died – Mr Raab said 104 people with the variant are in hospital.
He added he did not anticipate parliament being recalled to vote on new restrictions before Christmas.
The cabinet minister said there was a time lag in the data and “we don’t yet know the severity” of the Omicron variant, adding that “it comes through day-by-day”.
He said regardless of modelling by scientific advisers, the government would “test the data in real-time against real cases”.
‘It is of serious concern’
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of NERVTAG which advises the government on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory viruses, said “significant” action needs to be taken to tackle the growing number of COVID cases.
He said: “It is of serious concern. We have an escalating number of cases that really has reached levels that we haven’t seen before in terms of the rate of increase.
“The action that’s needed really is going to be quite significant.”
Dr Gupta added: “The sheer numbers that are going to be infected because of the increased transmissibility of this virus is going to potentially overwhelm our health service.
“So that’s a really critical situation that we’re facing.”
Calls to protect NHS from ‘real collapse’
Patricia Marquis, a director at the Royal College of Nursing, urged the government to listen to “whatever the scientific advisers are saying in both the pattern of spread of Omicron, and the effect that it’s having on people, their health and the health services” to ease off the pressure on the NHS.
She said the science needs to guide what comes next to protect the NHS from what could be a “real collapse” – and warned it was a “very bleak picture” for nursing staff over the next few weeks.
There are continuing fears among health staff throughout the country that without further restrictions and with people mixing during Christmas, the spread of the Omicron variant will get out of control and put unsustainable pressure on the health system.
‘What we need now is action’
Professor Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist from the University of St Andrews, has said Omicron is possibly doubling “every one and a half days”.
Speaking to Kay Burley, he said that despite there being “some uncertainties” about the new variant, what “we know about it for sure is that it is doubling at least every two days, and possibly once every one and a half days”.
He added that this means “every two days you do nothing, every two days you make vague statements about what you might do, you have twice as much virus, twice as big of a problem, and you’ll probably have to do twice as much to overcome it”.
“Time is of the essence and what we need now is action,” he added.