UK Officials Reportedly Planning For 2-Week 'Post-Christmas Lockdown' Over Omicron Variant Concerns
The current Plan B introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus in England following the rapid spread of the Omicron variant includes such measures as COVID health passes for certain events, compulsory face masks in "most public indoor venues", including theatres and cinemas, and people being urged to work from home if they can.
UK ministers are drawing up proposals for a post-Christmas two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, reported The Times.
Under these measures, England would return to a ban on indoor social contact except for work purposes, while pubs and restaurants would be limited to outdoor service, similar to the rules imposed this April.
The ministers are allegedly acting on advice from scientific advisers, who have warned that measures are urgently needed beyond the currently in place Plan B, According to cited leaked minutes of a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
According to Sage experts, modelling indicates that hospital admissions could peak at "at least" 3,000 a day in England unless the restrictions come in before 1 January.
“The timing of such measures is crucial. Delaying until 2022 would greatly reduce the effectiveness of such interventions and make it less likely that these would prevent considerable pressure on health and care settings,” the leaked minutes of the meeting are cited as saying.
The measures proposed by scientific advisers hail back to those introduced this spring in Step One and Two of the UK “roadmap out of lockdown”. At the time, a ban was installed on both indoor social contact and indoor hospitality.
The current Plan B for dealing with COVID-19 infections this winter involves mandatory introduction of health passes - proof of double-vaccination or a recent negative test - to enter nightclubs, big sports matches and other large events. However, experts reportedly insisted that adhering to just Plan B could result in “at least” 3,000 hospital admissions daily across England. Throughout the past week, admissions have been between 800 and 900 a day.
Introducing a “circuit-breaker” soon “could substantially reduce the peak in hospital admission and infections compared with Plan B alone,” according to the report.
14 December 2021, 16:54 GMT
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who faced the largest Tory rebellion of his tenure in the Commons on 14 December over “Plan B” tougher COVID-19 rules for England, with measures passed by MPs 369 to 126 thanks to Labour support, was allegedly presented on Friday with several options for a so-called Plan C. These range from “mild guidance to nudge people, right through to lockdown,” according to the Financial Times.
According to UK media reports, ministers will decide over the weekend whether tougher coronavirus restrictions are needed. Whether or not a joint response to the threat of the Omicron variant is needed across the UK will be considered at a Cobra meeting with the devolved nations over the weekend, according to Downing Street.
In the wake of the reports of a possible “Plan C” in the pipeline, a Treasury spokesperson was cited as saying:
"We recognise how important the festive period is for so many businesses and the government will continue to engage constructively on how it can best provide ongoing support to the businesses and sectors affected."
This comes as on Friday a further 93,045 COVID-19 cases were recorded in the UK - the highest daily total recorded since the pandemic began. Amid concerns over the Omicron strain of the virus, thought to be much more transmissible than Delta, a total of 26.3 million people aged 18 and over half of adults in the UK have now had a COVID-19 booster dose.
Of the daily figure of cases, 3,201 were of Omicron compared to Thursday's 1,691. This takes the UK's total for the new surging variant to 14,909, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).