© UK Parliament sajid-javid.jpegMr Javid told MPs than no-one wanted to see a return to measures of the sort deployed when the coronavirus first emerged last year.

But he was unable to give a positive response to Tory MP Richard Drax’s plea for a pledge “that he will never ever go back to locking this country down”.

Mr Javid was speaking as he outlined new requirements to wear face-coverings in shops and public transport in England, as well as 10 days’ isolation for anyone coming into contact with a known carrier of the Omicron strain.

The restrictions, coming into effect from 4am on Tuesday, will be reviewed in three weeks’ time on 21 December, with the possibility that they will be lifted in time for Christmas, Mr Javid told the Commons.

But some Conservative lockdown sceptics raised doubts over the move, with Sir Desmond Swayne telling the Commons that the evidence for the efficacy of face-coverings was “mumbo-jumbo”.

Swayne later said he was “exempt from wearing a mask due to my genetic predisposition for liberty”.

And Mr Drax told the health secretary: “Covid is not going to go away. It’s here for the rest of our lives. The country has to learn to live with this disease now. It is the only way forward.

Read More: Sajid Javid refuses to rule out return to lockdown in response to Omicron variant of Covid