UK lockdown fears grow – Boris triggers emergency Cabinet meeting as PM panics on Covid

UK lockdown: Shapps says Christmas measures ‘not necessary’

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There was no meeting of the Cabinet or further discussion but ministers were given an update on the Omicron threat. The briefing comes amid growing fears of another lockdown as Omicron cases surge.

Reports have suggested officials are drawing up plans for a two-week circuit breaker lockdown after Christmas.

The Times reported that draft regulations were being prepared which would ban meeting others indoors except for work purposes, and that pubs and restaurants would be limited to outdoor service only.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported that Boris Johnson was presented with a number of options on Friday under a so-called Plan C, ranging from “mild guidance to nudge people, right through to lockdown”.

Leaked minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), reported by the BBC, said scientists had told ministers that more stringent measures need to be brought in “very soon”.

They also reportedly warned against delaying further interventions until 2022.

The UK confirmed more than 90,000 new Covid cases in another record daily total on Friday.

The Prime Minister yesterday warned that Omicron is “a very serious threat to us now”.

On a visit to a vaccination centre in Hillingdon, west London, 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, Mr Johnson 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.”

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Meanwhile, a leading Government adviser today warned a circuit-breaker lockdown after Christmas would be too late.

Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews and member of SAGE, who was speaking to Times Radio in a personal capacity, said the time to act was now.

Prof Reicher said “all the science suggests that Plan B is not going to be enough”.

He added: “The only way really, or at least the most effective way, we can have an immediate effect is to decrease the number of contacts we have.

“In many ways, the most effective way of diminishing contact is to have a circuit-breaker.

“Now, you could have it after Christmas, the problem is after Christmas it’s probably too late, it’s probably by then we will have had a huge surge of infections with all the impact upon society.

“When people say ‘look, we don’t want to close down’, of course, we don’t want to close down. But the problem is at the moment, things are closing down anyway, because of the spread of infection. So I think we need to act now.”

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