New Covid restrictions 'could be in place until March' with a decision as early as Monday 4 months ago

New Covid restrictions 'could be in place until March' with a decision as early as Monday

Merry Christmas and a happy new lockdown?

New Covid restrictions could be announced as early as Monday and could be in place until late March, reports suggest.

Advertisement

Boris Johnson is due to be presented with the latest figures on Monday, prompting fears that curbs could be in place before New Year's Eve.

On Friday, the UK recorded 122,186 daily Covid cases -  setting a new record for the third consecutive day - the highest number since the start of the pandemic. But the figures also come as major studies this week revealed that the Omicron variant is milder than other strains and the risk of hospitalisation is 50-70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Latest modelling by experts from Warwick University considered a number of measures including a ban on socialising with another household indoors and a return to the rule of six outdoors, in line with restrictions in place in April.

Advertisement

A consensus paper published on Christmas Eve by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (Spi-M-O) said that enacting Step 2 measures would reduce the peak of hospital pressure to about half its level under Plan B restrictions.

The research looked at imposing Step 2 restrictions on either December 28 or New Year’s Day and keeping them in place until January 15, 28, or March 28.

It also included a model examining what impact “non-mandated behaviour change” would have if it reduced mixing by half the amount that Step 2 would achieve.

Related Links

Advertisement

The Spi-M-O summary of the Warwick modelling said: “A reduction in mixing equivalent to half that of Step 2 results in only a very small reduction in severe outcomes compared to Plan B alone.

“Step 2 has a much larger effect, reducing the number of deaths up to 31st May by 39% (24-54%) if kept in place from December 28 until March 28, and 18% (12-27%) if kept in place until January 15.”

Ministers are yet to see the Warwick modelling - which was completed before the latest data showed Omicron was less severe than Delta - but are expected to be presented with it next week. Reports on Saturday suggested they could see it as early as Monday.

Advertisement

Any move to return to the kind of lockdown restrictions in Step 2 would likely be met with fierce resistance from Tory backbenchers who earlier opposed Johnson's move to Plan B.