COVID: Boris Johnson not expected to announce more coronavirus restrictions for England today amid spread of Omicron

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  • Boris Johnson
    Boris Johnson
    Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 2019

Boris Johnson is not expected to announce any further coronavirus restrictions in England today, Sky News understands.

The prime minister met with England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and England's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance today to talk through the latest COVID data.

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But Sky News understands the briefing has concluded and there are no plans for the prime minister to make an announcement on tightening restrictions.

Calls to resist imposing new rules

In other parts of the UK, post-Christmas restrictions have already been deployed.

But Mr Johnson is under pressure from some of his own Conservative MPs to resist further measures and to instead stick with Plan B, perhaps with some extra words of guidance.

One Tory MP Andrew Bridgen accused both the Welsh and Scottish governments of an "over reaction" to rising case numbers.

Plan B, which is what England is currently following, means guidance to work from home, mask wearing in shops and other public settings, and COVID passes to gain entry to large events.

However, some experts have warned that if the latest figures show rising infections are starting to put unmanageable pressure on the NHS, it may be necessary for the PM to intervene with more stringent restrictions.

According to a report in The Times, weddings and funerals would be allowed to go ahead regardless of any wider restrictions.

Early positive signs

Meanwhile, the chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson told Sky News there could be some early positive signs that this wave will not be as bad as last January, when the country was plunged into lockdown yet again.

"[Hospitals are] not seeing the numbers of older people who've got real respiratory problems, needing critical care, needing very large amounts of oxygen support," he said.

"We're just not seeing those numbers at this point that we saw in January 2021."

However, Mr Hopson said it was "too early" to tell whether these numbers could increase after intergenerational mixing at Christmas.

Vaccine drive

The PM has been urging people to "get boosted now" as the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus drives up infection numbers, prompting fears the NHS could become overwhelmed.

More than 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccination appointments are now available between today and 3 January.

Over 60% of UK adults have now received a top-up, but the NHS's top doctor has put out a fresh call asking those yet to get a booster to come forward for their third dose.

"The evidence is clear that two COVID jabs is not enough, and with the Omicron variant, there is no time to delay getting your booster," said Professor Stephen Powis.

The rules across the rest of the UK are as follows:

Northern Ireland

A limit of six people, or 10 from a single household, are allowed in indoor hospitality settings in Northern Ireland from today.

Weddings and civil partnership celebrations are exempt from these rules and children not counted in the total.

It is also being "strongly recommended" from today that household mixing should be reduced to a maximum of three households, while businesses are being told to take "reasonable measures" to implement two-metre social distancing in office spaces.

Rules in place from 26 December also see indoor standing events and dancing in hospitality settings banned, with nightclubs also forced to close.

Scotland

Further restrictions have been placed on the hospitality sector in Scotland from 5am this morning.

The new rules force nightclubs to shut their doors and allow only table service in places that serve alcohol.

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They also ask people to maintain a one metre distance from one another in hospitality and leisure settings.

From Boxing Day, only 100 people may attend indoor events where people are standing, or 200 for seated events inside.

A limit of 500 people is imposed on outdoor events.

Wales

Nightclubs are now closed in Wales and only six people are allowed to meet in pubs, restaurants and cinemas from 26 December.

Indoor events are capped at 30 people, while outdoor events are limited to 50 people.

Social distancing of two metres must be observed in public places and offices.

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