What will new Covid restrictions be? Options to halt Omicron spread explained and when they could be enforced
Scotland and Wales announce tough restrictions around attending sporting events from Boxing Day
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As the Omicron variant continues to spread across the UK, discussions are ongoing around what measures - if any - the government should take as it looks to get a handle on Covid cases.
A two week circuit breaker to stem the tide of Omicron infections has been mooted while Boris Johnson has refused to rule out introducing further restrictions in a bid to control the virus.
Devolved nations Wales and Scotland have already announced a tightening up of restrictions ahead of Christmas, with pressure mounting on the prime minister to follow suit in England.
Here’s a look at what new restrictions could be used and when they could be enforced…
What new Covid restrictions will there be?
Less than a fortnight after Plan B rules were announced - the wearing of face masks indoors, work from home guidance and Covid pass entries - infection rates continue to soar to new highs.
Health experts are worried over the current high level of cases and hospitalisations brought on by the Omicron variant, as concern grows over the impact it could have on the NHS this winter.
Options being discussed involve a full scale lockdown, limits on households mixing and social distancing rules, as well as guidance around numbers gathering and hospitality curfews.
When will new Covid restrictions be enforced?
While the government refuses to rule out introducing new measures before Christmas, it is being reported that restrictions could be announced as early as Boxing Day and enforced from 27 December.
Uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant has led to many people prioritising their festive calendars, and initiated a wave of cancelled bookings in the hospitality sector.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £1 billion support package to assist leisure and hospitality sectors, with an extra £30 million set aside for theatres and museums.
What new Covid restrictions has Scotland brought in?
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a string of strict Covid rules to come into force from Boxing Day.
Outdoor events will be limited to just 500 people, indoor events limited to 200 people seated or 100 people standing for at least three weeks.
It means sports events, including the Old Firm between Celtic and Rangers will effectively be spectator-free, while Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party has been cancelled.
Social distancing of 1m will also need to be adhered to for all events, table service reintroduced at pubs and hospitality venues - but no limit on how many people can meet up for Christmas.
What new Covid restrictions has Wales brought in?
Scotland’s new rules announcement came just a day after Welsh ministers outlined its own restrictions in a bid to halt the spread of Covid.
Indoor and outdoor events in Wales, including football matches, will have to take place behind closed doors from Boxing Day.
Wales had earlier instructed that all nightclubs will close from 27 December as social distancing, barriers and one way systems in businesses would also be introduced.
Both the Wales first minister Mark Drakeford and Scotland first minister Nicola Sturgeon have gone on record urging people to downsize their festive plans this year.
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