Covid measures expected to be reviewed days before Christmas

Families hoping for a normal Christmas are likely to find out whether Covid-19 restrictions could change in three weeks.

Five cases of the new Omicron ‘super-variant’ have now been detected in England, and six more in Scotland.

In response to the mutation – feared to be more infectious and less responsive to vaccines – the prime minister announced new rules on masks and travel, which come into force from tomorrow.

All adults in the UK will now also be offered a third booster doze of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, it was announced this afternoon.

The new restrictions are expected to be reviewed in three weeks but it is still unclear whether it will be three weeks from when they were announced – December 18 – or three weeks from tomorrow – December 21.

But Sajid Javid confirmed this afternoon that if Omicron is proven to be no more dangerous than the Delta variant, then ‘we won’t keep measures in place for a day longer than necessary’.

The health secretary also assured families they should ‘carry on’ with their holiday plans as ‘normal’ despite the new threat.

He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: ‘We know now those types of measures do carry a very heavy price, both economically, socially, in terms of non-Covid health outcomes such as impact on mental health.

‘So, if one was to make decisions like that they would have to be done very, very carefully and we’re not there yet, we’re nowhere near that.’

He added that the Government’s ‘proportionate and balanced actions’ will buy scientists the ‘precious’ weeks they need to assess the new variant.

The Government’s Autumn and Winter Plan for Covid-19 – last updated at the beginning of November – suggested the success of the NHS vaccination plan would prevent hospitals being overwhelmed with new cases over the holidays.

What are the new Covid-19 restrictions?

From tomorrow, face coverings will be compulsory on public transport, in shops, hair salons, post offices and banks.

People caught breaking the rules will face a £200 fine.

All international arrivals will have to take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative test.

Anyone who has contact with an Omicron case will have to self-isolate for 10 days – even if they are double jabbed.

England’s approach to dealing with the pandemic currently focuses on vaccinating the nation – nicknamed ‘Plan A’.

But in light of recent developments, Boris Johnson could unveil a ‘Plan B’ including vaccine passports and the return of working from home in the coming weeks.

But the prime minister said he is ‘absolutely confident’ that this Christmas is going to be better than last year’s.

He said: ‘We continue to be in a strong position largely thanks to the speed of the vaccine rollout, another booster rollout and I think I’m going to stick with the formula I’ve used before, which is I’m pretty confident to absolutely confident this Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas.’

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