Boris Johnson has ruled out introducing new restrictions before Christmas Day, but there’s still a fear that further disruption lies just around the corner.
Johnson added that he was going to “reserve the possibility” of introducing tighter rules in coming weeks after the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggested “more stringent measures would need to be implemented very soon” to avoid overwhelming the NHS.
The UK is currently under the government’s ‘Plan B’ measures, but that might not be enough to reduce soaring Omicron infections.
So when will Johnson make a decision?
According to widespread reports, the prime minister is not expected to consult his cabinet on taking further measures until after Christmas – meaning any announcements will be delayed until at least next Monday.
Political pundits also believe Johnson would not be able to introduce any additional restrictions until December 29 at the earliest.
Will it affect New Year’s Eve?
While the prime minister promised to deliver a more normal Christmas this year – compared to 2020′s “cancelled” festivities – he has not touched on the traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations.
However, it might not even be logistically possible for Downing Street to impose new legal restrictions before December 31 as parliament is currently in recess.
MPs have to vote on stricter on measures before they can pass into law.
A senior Whitehall official told the Financial Times: “If we’re announcing [new measures] on a bank holiday like Boxing Day, given that it takes two to three working days to recall parliament, we would struggle to see regulations kick in before the new year.”
Health secretary Sajid Javid also stopped short of talking about the New Year on Wednesday.
He said: “The best advice to everyone is continue to remain cautious and keep looking forward to Christmas – as the prime minister said, no new restrictions before Christmas and beyond that we will just keep the situation under review.”
What kind of measures might be introduced for 2022?
The Financial Times also suggested that rather than restricting indoor mixing and the hospitality sector by law, the prime minister might release guidance for people to follow over New Year.
The government has admitted it is waiting for more data before making a decision about restrictions for 2022.
New findings from studies published in the UK and South Africa also suggest Omicron is milder than the last dominant variant, Delta – triggering hopes that Downing Street might hold back from imposing strict measures.
However, scientists have urged people not to pin too much on these preliminary results as Omicron is still the most transmissible variant seen throughout the pandemic.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.