Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to be presented with Omicron data from over the Christmas period before taking the decision on whether restrictions in England will be tightened.
Early data released by the UKHSA before Christmas showed a promising outlook on the situation, with lower hospitalisation rates compared to previous strains of Covid-19.
However, there are warnings that, despite the encouraging data, the NHS may still be stretched due to the high transmissibility of Omicron.
Mr Johnson is understood to have been presented with three options to help minimise the spread of the Omicron variant, with reports suggesting another lockdown could potentially be on the cards after Christmas.
When is Boris Johnson’s next announcement?
Mr Johnson released a statement on Tuesday, 21 December, confirming that the UK government will not be asking people in England to follow any additional rules ahead of the festive celebrations.
However, he did warn that more restrictions may come after 25 December.
Mr Johnson will be presented with Omicron data from over the Christmas period on 27 December, ahead of a decision on whether further measures are required to limit the spread of the strain.
The PM is facing increasing pressure to act after tougher COVID-19 rules have been set out in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which will come into effect from Boxing Day.
Nightclub closures, stricter social distancing rules, and limits on social mixing are among the measures being put in place.
Any new announcement will be expected to be made from 27 December onwards, and with Parliament taking around two days to recall, any new measures announced would unlikely come into effect until around 29 December.
And with 27 and 28 December both being bank holidays, the process of bringing in new measures will likely be a slower process.
As it stands, the government does not currently have any scheduled Covid announcements, but previous announcement have tended to come at short notice.
What has Boris Johnson said about new COVID rules?
In a pre-recorded clip earlier this week, Mr Johnson said the government reserves the “possibility of taking further action” to protect public health due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
The Prime Minister said that he and his Cabinet are monitoring the situation “hour by hour”.
He said: “Unfortunately I must say to people that we will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public, to protect public health, to protect our NHS.
“We won’t hesitate to take action.”
Asked about the prospect of new restrictions including on the hospitality sector, he explained: “We are looking at all kinds of things to keep Omicron under control and we will rule nothing out.
“But at the moment what I think we want people to focus on is exercising caution so ventilation, masks in the appropriate places, all the usual stuff about washing hands, but remember how contagious Omicron really is.
“I think what you’re seeing already is the British public understanding that and you can see in people’s patterns of behaviour since we went to Plan B that they are changing the way they go about their lives, they are changing some of the assumptions they make about the things that they want to do.”
Mr Johnson said that he regrets the impact on hospitality of Plan B and people socialising less, but added: “If it can help to get down the R (rate of infection), get down the way the disease is multiplying, that can be very helpful to us and the country.
“But what really matters is for everybody to get vaccinated and get boosted above all because the booster really does give you a very high level of protection.”
What restrictions could be announced?
Reports suggest Mr Johnson is considering implementing a two-week circuit breaker lockdown just after Christmas to curb the spread.
It is thought that an announcement has been post-Christmas, with the new measures then to come into effect around the 28 or 29 December.
The Telegraph has also reported that the Prime Minister has been presented with three possible options to tackle the Omicron spread, each varying in severity.
Option one would see families in England asked to limit the number of people they meet indoors over the festive period, without legal enforcement.
The second option would mandate restrictions on household mixing, as well as see the return of social distancing and an 8pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.
Option three, which would be the strictest of all, would see a full lockdown put in place, most likely after Christmas.
However, around one third of the Cabinet are understood to be reluctant to support the introduction of new restrictions, including Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, according to The Times.