BORIS Johnson has tonight vowed that he will not shut the country down amid claims that plans have been drawn up for a lockdown after Christmas.
The PM has reportedly been mulling proposals for a two-week circuit-breaker, which would include a ban on meeting friends and family indoors.
But he told the nation: "We are not closing things down."
The Times reports that ministers are preparing draft plans that will prevent Brits meeting others indoors except for work purposes.
Pubs and restaurants would be limited to outdoor service only if the scheme is given the green light.
Other reports suggest Mr Johnson has been presented with a range of options for 'plan C', ranging from "mild guidance to nudge people, right through to lockdown".
Pessimistic Sage scientists have told the Government tougher measures will be needed "very soon".
Professor Neil Ferguson – dubbed 'Professor Lockdown' for his role in the first national shutdown last March – has also issued gloomy worst-case scenario predictions that there could soon be 4,000 deaths a day as a result of the variant.
Tonight's grim claims of further restrictions come amid a huge surge of cases driven by Omicron. A record 93,000 Brits were newly-infected with coronavirus on Friday.
Tens of thousands of Brits will be isolating this Christmas as a result of the spike.
Meanwhile, all close contacts of anyone specifically infected with Omicron must also isolate for 10 days – even if they're fully-vaccinated or under 18.
Mr Johnson says a "considerable wave" of cases is sweeping in – but stood firm on tougher rules this side of Christmas.
“I’ve said already that people should be cautious, but what we have also said is that people should decide what they want to do. It is a matter for their personal choice," he said.
“We are not closing things down but we do think people need to be cautious.”
It comes as:
- Covid boosters slash the risk of falling ill with severe Omicron by 86 per cent, according to reports
- An emergency Cobra meeting will take place this weekend as cases surge to record levels
- Thousands of Brits have cancelled holiday breaks to Spain this Christmas
- Christmas deliveries could be cancelled and shops may have to close early ahead of December 25
- A GP has revealed symptoms of the strain no parent should ignore
However, he urged everyone to get their booster – and warned the mutation is "a very serious threat to us now".
On a visit to a vaccination centre in Hillingdon, west London, he said: "People have got to be prepared and they have got to understand what it entails."
And he said Brits must be "prudent".
"You need to think about your budget of risk," he said.
News that pubs and bars in Ireland will have to close at 8pm from Monday will doubtless have alarmed hospitality chiefs already facing huge pressure.
Some bosses say they have had "no option" but to close during a "double whammy" of sick staff and customers staying away over concerns their festive plans could be disrupted.
🔵 Read our Covid-19 live blog for the latest updates
Rishi Sunak flew back from a work trip to California early for crisis talks with business leaders today.
In brighter news, health chiefs in South Africa say Omicron has resulted in fewer hospitalisations and deaths than in previous waves.
The country did not got into lockdown when the variant was found.
Michelle Groome, the head of Public Health Surveillance at South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said: “The hospitalisations are not increasing at such a dramatic rate.
“We are starting to see some increases, but relatively small increases in deaths.”
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