Health Secretary Sajid Javid has not ruled out further lockdown restrictions amid reports of a two-week post-Christmas circuit break due to the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.
Draft regulations are reportedly being prepared which would ban meeting others indoors except for work purposes for two weeks after Christmas. Pubs and restaurants could also be limited to outdoor service only.
Leaked minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), seen by the BBC, said scientists had told ministers that tougher measures need to be brought in “very soon”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid described advice from Government scientific advisers warning of the possible impact on hospital admissions from Omicron as “sobering” and said there are “no guarantees” when asked about the possibility of further restrictions.
He told The Andrew Marr Show: “It’s a very sobering analysis. We take it very seriously.”
He added: “We do have to challenge data and underlying assumptions, I think that is appropriate, and take into account a broader set of facts.”
When it was suggested to him he was not ruling out a circuit-breaker or new restrictions before Christmas, Mr Javid said: “There are no guarantees in this pandemic, I don’t think.“At this point we just have to keep everything under review.”
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Saturday (18 December) there had been 10,059 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 reported across the UK.
The variant’s rapid spread means tougher restrictions could soon be introduced after experts warned there are likely already hundreds of thousands of new infections every day.
According to a report in The Sun, stricter measures could be imposed after Boxing Day, but the contingency plan had not yet been presented to ministers.
Both The Times and Financial Times have also detailed potential new restrictions, which could come into force for two weeks after Christmas.
It's suggested that there may be a return to pubs and restaurants only serving at tables outside, and indoor mixing with other households to be banned.