Scots TV historian Neil Oliver became the centre of a row on his own show over a suggestion that the public should not comply with the reintroduction of mask-wearing to try and beat the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The archaeologist, author and TV presenter, who has previously branded lockdown "the biggest mistake in world history" spoke out after the Prime Minister confirmed the reintroduction of face masks on public transport and shops in England although they will not be required in hospitality venues.

The new B.1.1.529 variant, first detected in Botswana, has sparked alarm among scientists due to its high number of mutations.

The restrictions were announced after it was confirmed that two Omicron cases had been detected in Brentwood, Essex, and Nottingham. Officials said the cases were linked and connected to travel in southern Africa.

READ MORE: What lockdown critic Neil Oliver said after emerging from Covid self-isolation

But Mr Oliver suggested on his GB News show that the authorities were trying to ruin Christmas adding: "I think the pandemic is over, I genuinely do. And the government can't bear to let it go."

And he came under fire in a debate with two TV commentators after he questioned whether people should comply with new restrictions.

Jon Gaunt, an English radio talk show presenter, TV personality, newspaper columnist said: "What people should be doing is complying, not doing what you've just said, 'are you in a mood to comply', ie, don't comply."

He added: "There is a new variant. We don't know what the variant is going to do yet, but I think he's done the right thing to err on the side of caution.

"It isn't just about masks. It isn't just about having a vaccine. It's all of these things combined together.

HeraldScotland:

"And it's about us being a part of society, which I thought you'd have been in favour of Neil with your background in history and archaeology. But you seem to think it's every man for himself. And I think that is a pretty distasteful way of looking at it. And I think you're misinterpreting what the press conference was [about]."

He went to dismiss as "nonsense" Mr Oliver's suggestion that masks do not make any difference and that it was "just a badge that says I'm a good person and I'm complying with the rules".

He said: "I think now we have to wait and see what happens with this variant. I think to be just as cynical about it, as you have been about the rest of it, when you don't even know what this variant is going to do, I think is rather remiss of you, if you don't mind me saying."

The former National Trust for Scotland president who faced calls for him to be 'cancelled' after stating he would "cheerfully risk catching Covid" in the name of personal freedom returned to his GB News show over a week ago after testing positive after doing a weekly test.

He came out of mandatory quarantine on November 14 to take aim at a decision by Austria to impose a lockdown on the unvaccinated - fearing that the silence in the UK means the nation could follow suit.

Covid restrictions were tightened across the UK days before Christmas last year amid a surge in cases.

The latest restrictions, which also involve the introduction of PCR tests for everyone entering the UK, came as the average number of daily confirmed Covid cases in the UK began rising again in early November. A further 39,567 confirmed cases were announced on Saturday.

HeraldScotland:

The Renfrewshire-born 54-year-old GB News host who has previously stated that he and his wife will not let their three teenage children take the Covid vaccine had stated the latest restrictions in response to the new coronavirus Omicron variant as “manipulation and mass hypnosis”.

A heated debate began after Mr Oliver asked if "our government and the scientists losing the plot on this pandemic?"

READ MORE: Bid to 'cancel' GB News's Neil Oliver over 'I'd risk catching Covid’ in name of freedom stance

Mr Gaunt said: In terms of the announcement? I think they had no choice, did they?

Mr Oliver replied: "Why no choice surely they had a choice."

Mr Gaunt added: "I don't think they did have a choice. I was one of the people that criticised Boris nearly two years ago when he didn't close down quickly enough. He's had criticism from then. What we actually need now is clarity, absolute clarity, which I think from what I've heard he's actually given. He said this is the situation. Everyone is to wear mask on public transport. I think he had no choice but to do that otherwise he would be absolutely pilloried the other way."

Mr Oliver then asked another guest, TV and radio presenter Beverley Turner if she was "in the mood to comply with renewed restrictions, the steady march towards lockdown perhaps".

She suggested there would be a lockdown after saying: No, no, not at all. And I completely disagree with what Jon's saying in that he feels like he had no choice. I don't believe there is an emergency at the moment that the vast majority of the population need saving from. I think we have deaths going down they are already in very small numbers compared to other things which killed people every single day in this country. And I would say if we don't move on now, then when."

Mr Oliver said: "Jon, vaccines they say might not stop or Omicron, or whatever they're calling it. But then in the next breath, they say to take your boosters. Do you see any natural logic in that. That which doesn't seem to be working, take more of it?"

HeraldScotland:

Mr Gaunt replied: "Well, as per usual, you're mixing two things up. With the greatest respect to Bev, she's doing the same. What was announced tonight is not a lockdown. What was announced, unless I've misunderstood it completely, was he wants to bring about masks for three weeks, he wants people to carry on with the vaccination and he wants people to get boosted. This new variant, no one really knows what's going to happen with it.

"I don't think this necessarily means we end up in a full lockdown. No one wants to end up in full lockdown, myself included. What people should be doing is complying, not doing what you've just said, are you in a mood to comply, ie, don't comply. [Lockdown] has not been announced tonight. Don't misinterpret what's happened because that's not fair."

The Scots GB News presenter then suggested that "masks don't work".

He added: "Jon, where does your faith in mask wearing come from?"

Mr Gaunt said: "It's not just about the mask wearing. It is the mask wearing and social distancing.

"It's making sure you have the vaccine and you have the booster. Give yourself the best possible chance and the rest of the community.

"I came down the M40 today and went to Beaconsfield service station for a comfort stop, shall we call it and it was like a football stadium. It was heaving, no-one was wearing a mask, no-one was social distancing, it was completely crazy. People have not been responsible enough.

"There is a new variant. We don't know what the variant is going to do yet, but I think he's done the right thing today to err on the side of caution.

"It isn't just about masks. It isn't just about having a vaccine. It's all of these things combined together.

"And it's about us being a part of society, which I thought you'd have been in favour of Neil with your background in history and archaeology. But you seem to think it's every man for himself. And I think that is a pretty distasteful way of looking at it. And I think you're misinterpreting what the press conference was [about]."

The GB News presenter responded: "But there is no data that I'm aware of that says that the masks make any difference. And there is also at the same time data that says that the masks may actually be detrimental to health and mental health. I simply ask where you get your faith. I personally see them as theatre. I think it's just a badge that says I'm a good person and I'm complying with the rules."

Mr Gaunt repled: "That's nonsense. For you to to describe them in that way.... it was said about people being scared, well people are a bit scared, ordinary people are wearing the mask, the more you go outside of London, you'll see that and people do have faith in them, Neil. They think it's just one part of the armoury.

"And likewise, I think now we have to wait and see what happens with this variant. I think to be just as cynical about it, as you have been about the rest of it, when you don't even know what this variant is going to do, I think is rather remiss of you, if you don't mind me saying."

The presenter went on: "All across Europe there are governments contemplating everything from lockdowns for unvaccinated and mandatory vaccines in the case of Austria. Are you in favour of that? Or are these governments out of control drunk on power?

Mr Gaunt responded: "No, I don't think they're drunk on power. I think they're probably very fearful. And the first job of any government is the protection of its citizens. You put a whole host of things into the basket there.  I don't think necessarily all of those things will happen in this country."