Tougher pandemic measures could be brought in to help stop the spread of the Omicron Covid variant, including a two-week circuit breaker lockdown after Christmas, reports have suggested.
The Financial Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was presented with a number of options on Friday (17 December) under a so-called Plan C.
Leaked minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), seen by the BBC, also said scientists had told ministers that tougher measures need to be brought in “very soon”.
Draft regulations are reportedly being prepared which would ban meeting others indoors except for work purposes for two weeks after Christmas, with pubs and restaurants limited to outdoor service only.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently flew back early from a work trip to California for crisis talks with business leaders concerned about the impact of measures, especially on the hospitality sector.
A Cobra meeting is set to be held over the weekend with the leaders of the devolved nations.
The UK reported more than 90,000 new Covid cases in another record daily total on Friday (17 December).
According to the Government’s latest figures, a further 93,045 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK as of 9am on Friday, which is the highest daily total recorded since the pandemic began, and a rise of 4,669 on the previous record set on Thursday.
Across the UK, 7,611 people are in hospital with the virus, which is a rise of 163 patients (2%) on the previous week.
'A very serious threat to us now'
A Government spokesperson said: “The Government will continue to look closely at all the emerging data and we’ll keep our measures under review as we learn more about this variant.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also warned that the Omicron variant is “a very serious threat to us now”.
On a visit to a vaccination centre in Hillingdon, west London, on Friday, he said: “We are seeing a considerable wave coming through and people have got to be prepared and they have got to understand what it entails.”
Asked about conflicting messages from the Government and its advisers on socialising over the Christmas break, the Prime Minister said: “What both Chris Whitty and I are saying is that there is a big wave of Omicron coming through.
“People need to be prudent. You need to think about your budget of risk.”