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Boris Johnson said he must “reserve possibility of taking further action” in the face of the surging cases of the Omicron variant.
The Prime Minister has ruled out immediately setting out new measures on Monday after meetings with cabinet ministers and scientific advisers.
Scientists have warned the Prime Minister that he must intervene now to stop the NHS becoming overwhelmed.
Whitehall officials have drawn up three possible plans to limit the spread of the highly transmissible variant, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The Standard looks at which one ministers could adopt.
Option one – Guidance on limiting social contacts
Mr Johnson’s first option would be to advise Britons to limit socialising indoors, according to reports.
However, unlike during the last three national lockdowns, this would not be legally enforced.
It is not known how many households would be allowed to mix under such proposals.
The measures would bring England in line with Scotland after Nicola Sturgeon last week advised citizens to limit indoor socialising to a maximum of three households.
This would be the plan favoured by those in Mr Johnson’s cabinet who have consistently expressed opposition to harsh interventions – including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, foreign secretary Liz Truss and Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has already urged Britons to limit their socialising over the festive period.
Option Two – Legal limit on indoor mixing and hospitality curfew
A second option reportedly being considered by ministers would legally restrict household mixing.
It would also see the return of social distancing as well as an 8pm curfew for restaurants, bars and pubs.
The measures would bring the UK roughly in line with Tier 2 restrictions last year, in which venues were subject to a 10pm curfew and socialising with another household was only permitted outside.
It would likely stoke further anger in the hospitality and retail industries who have called on the Chancellor to introduce urgent financial support for businesses amid a raft of cancellations.
Option Three – A full national lockdown
The most severe course of action available to Mr Johnson is a full national lockdown.
It would be the fourth national lockdown.
This appears to be the least likely option, with government sources briefing various media outlets that Mr Johnson favours a less restrictive approach.
It would also spark fury among Tory backbenchers who delivered the biggest defeat in Mr Johnson’s premiership so far last week in the vote on Plan B measures.
Ministers have also pointed to the success of the booster campaign as a reason not to lock down, stressing vaccines should prevent the virus from overwhelming hospitals.
However, the data on the severity of the Omicron variant is not yet conclusive enough to be certain.