Whitehall insiders reportedly say that MPs could be recalled next week, while restrictions could once again be brought in as early as December 27 or 28 due to the variant tearing through the UK
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Indoor meetings with people you don’t live with could once again be banned after Christmas in a desperate bid to slow Omicron, it is claimed.
Plans are reportedly being drawn up which would see a return to restrictions which were in place earlier this year for a two-week “circuit breaker”.
Sources told The Times that ministers will be shown the plan “imminently”.
It comes as the UK recorded a record number of Covid cases for the third day in a row, with 93,045 confirmed infections in just 24 hours.
The newspaper reports that under a new “Step 2” set of rules people would only be allowed to meet indoors for work purposes.
Meanwhile pubs and restaurants would once again have to serve customers outdoors.
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The “rule of six” rule would be reintroduced for outdoor meetings, while shielding would return to protect the most vulnerable.
However schools and shops would not be shut under the plans, The Times reports.
Insiders said the measures could come into place as soon as December 27 or 28, with plans underway to recall MPs next week.
Leaked minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), seen by the BBC, reportedly said scientists had told ministers that tougher measures need to be brought in “very soon”.
The BBC reported that the advisers had recommended moving to restrictions seen in step one and two of the easing of lockdown restrictions in the spring. This included a ban on indoor mixing and indoor hospitality.
And they reportedly warned against delaying further interventions until 2022.
The total number of Omicron cases confirmed in the UK currently stands at 14,909, but experts believe up to 400,000 people could be catching it every day.
Professor Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College London predict there could be around 3,000 daily Omicron deaths a day in January without further restrictions.
The alarming figures, much higher than the previous record of around 1,800 deaths in one day during the second wave of the pandemic, have prompted calls for more curbs in the New Year.
The Prime Minister has maintained that people should not cancel plans, even as medics urged caution amid fears the NHS could be overwhelmed.
Today modelling released by Imperial College London found no evidence of Omicron having lower severity than Delta, but data on hospital admission was very low at the time of the study.
According to the data, boosters are vital in controlling Omicron, but they may lose some effectiveness over time.
Researchers estimated the proportion of Omicron among all Covid cases between November 29 and December 11 was doubling every two days up to December 11.
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Based on this they also estimate the reproduction number (R) of Omicron was above 3, over the period studied.
Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London said: “This study provides further evidence of the very substantial extent to which Omicron can evade prior immunity, given by both infection or vaccination.
“This level of immune evasion means that Omicron poses a major, imminent threat to public health.”
The PM will hold a COBRA meeting this weekend to draw up plans to support the hospitality sector as cautious Brits avoid crowded places and social meetings.
The UK’s eight worst Covid hotspots are now in London as Omicron rips through the capital, causing the overall cases to double in just a week.
Alarming data released today reveals an explosion of cases in London, where the variant has become the dominant strain.
Lambeth has the highest rate in the UK after the number of people testing positive grew by 131 per cent in seven days.
It is closely followed by Wandsworth and Southwark, which saw increase of 105 per cent and 128 per cent respectively.
The figures – which cover the seven days to Monday – were released as the Department of Health released record case figures for the third day in a row, with 93,045 confirmed in 24 hours.
Thurrock, in Essex, has the highest rate outside of London, the data reveals.
Of the 377 local areas in the UK, 241 (64%) have seen a week-on-week rise in rates, 134 (36%) have seen a fall and two are unchanged.