As Omicron cases rise rapidly across the UK, Boris Johnson has reportedly been presented with options for further restrictions – including a full lockdown.
The prime minister held an unscheduled cabinet meeting on Monday where his senior ministers were presented with Omicron data by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.
Downing Street denied it was an emergency meeting after the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned daily hospital admissions could reach 3,000 without further restrictions.
But they did not deny reports a number of ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, are against imposing stricter measures without more evidence of the new strains’ impact.
Scroll down for options the PM was presented with
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Mr Johnson said he was not announcing any further restrictions on Monday after the cabinet meeting but “reserved the possibility” to do so as ministers keep the data under review “hour by hour”.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News he could not make “hard, fast guarantees” that more restrictions would not be needed before Christmas.
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He added he did not anticipate parliament being recalled to vote on new restrictions before Christmas.
Mr Johnson is understood to have been presented with options to tackle the growing number of cases by officials as well as another option, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Option one: Guidance asking people to limit indoor contacts
Families would be asked to limit indoor contacts by the government.
This would be similar to Scotland after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked people last week to limit socialising to just three households.
As it would just be guidance, it would not be legally enforceable.
But, that means parliament would not have to be recalled for Mr Johnson to make an announcement so it could easily happen before Christmas.
Option two: Rules on household mixing, social distancing and a curfew
Households would be limited from mixing – this could mean a return of the rule of six or people from different households not being able to mix indoors at all.
It could also mean a limit on mixing outdoors as well.
Social distancing and an 8pm curfew on pubs and restaurants would also return under this option.
As these would be mandated rules, parliament would have to vote on them which would mean MPs being recalled to Westminster from their Christmas break, which started on Friday.
This is unlikely to happen before Christmas as 48 hours is needed to recall parliament and millions of people have already started travelling back home across the country to family and friends.
However, Sky News has been told House of Commons authorities believe MPs could be recalled to return to parliament on 29 December to vote on restrictions.
Option three: Full lockdown
This also is unlikely to happen before Christmas as MPs would have to vote for it.
Ministers are said to also be considering imposing restrictions from Boxing Day, which could see pubs and restaurants having to close.
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