Officials draw up plans for two-week 'circuit breaker' lockdown

Officials draw up plans for two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown – including bans on households mixing – to curb Omicron wave as SAGE warns new curbs must come in before January 1

  • Plans for a two-week circuit breaker lockdown after Xmas are being drawn up
  • Leaked minutes from a SAGE meeting said restrictions are needed ‘very soon’ 
  • During the Thursday meeting, the experts backed a ban on indoor social contact
  • It is believed that they want fresh measures to come in before January 1
  • Plans for a two-week circuit breaker after Christmas with a ban on indoor mixing are being drawn up, it emerged last night.

    Leaked minutes of a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warn that restrictions are needed ‘very soon’ to avoid hospitalisations rising to 3,000 a day.

    During the meeting on Thursday, the experts backed a ban on indoor social contact and hospitality.

    In what could be a blow to Britons planning New Year parties, they want fresh measures to come in before January 1.

    ‘The timing of such measures is crucial,’ said the minutes, seen by the BBC.

    ‘Delaying until 2022 would greatly reduce the effectiveness of such interventions and make it less likely that these would prevent considerable pressure on health and care settings.’ 

    Officer for England Chris Whitty (L) and Britain's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance hold a press conference for the latest Covid-19 update in the Downing Street briefing room in central London on December 8, 2021.

    Officer for England Chris Whitty (L) and Britain’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance hold a press conference for the latest Covid-19 update in the Downing Street briefing room in central London on December 8, 2021.

    There are plans to introduce bans on indoor social contact before January 1 according to leaked minutes from a SAGE meeting (pictured: General view of the crowd during day two of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Thursday December 16, 2021)

    There are plans to introduce bans on indoor social contact before January 1 according to leaked minutes from a SAGE meeting (pictured: General view of the crowd during day two of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London. Picture date: Thursday December 16, 2021)

    Many business leaders have been left enraged by advice from government scientists to cut down on socialising which has led to a collapse in trade. (Pictured: A closed venue in Leeds)

    Many business leaders have been left enraged by advice from government scientists to cut down on socialising which has led to a collapse in trade. (Pictured: A closed venue in Leeds)








    Whitehall officials are preparing draft regulations that would ban meeting others indoors except for work purposes, and pubs and restaurants would be limited to outdoor service only, reported The Times. 

    According to the Sage minutes, the advisers recommended moving back to restrictions set down in Step One and Two of the roadmap out of lockdown in the spring, which involved a ban on indoor social contact and indoor hospitality.

    They warned that solely sticking to Plan B could lead to ‘at least’ 3,000 hospital admissions a day in England. Admissions have been between 800 and 900 a day in the past week. Introducing these measures early enough ‘could substantially reduce the peak in hospital admission and infections compared with Plan B alone’, the minutes said.

    Boris Johnson was presented with several options yesterday for a so-called Plan C, ranging from ‘mild guidance to nudge people, right through to lockdown’, according to the Financial Times.

    Ministers will decide this weekend whether any new Covid restrictions are needed following the latest dire warnings from scientists.

    According to the Sage minutes, the advisers recommended moving back to restrictions set down in Step One and Two of the roadmap out of lockdown in the spring, which involved a ban on indoor social contact and indoor hospitality (Pictured: an empty ChachaBuchi restaurant)

    According to the Sage minutes, the advisers recommended moving back to restrictions set down in Step One and Two of the roadmap out of lockdown in the spring, which involved a ban on indoor social contact and indoor hospitality (Pictured: an empty ChachaBuchi restaurant)

    Ministers will decide this weekend whether any new Covid restrictions are needed following the latest dire warnings from scientists. An emergency Cobra meeting will discuss if a joint response to the threat of the Omicron variant is needed across the UK. (The PM is pictured in west London on Friday)

    Ministers will decide this weekend whether any new Covid restrictions are needed following the latest dire warnings from scientists. An emergency Cobra meeting will discuss if a joint response to the threat of the Omicron variant is needed across the UK. (The PM is pictured in west London on Friday)








    An emergency Cobra meeting will discuss if a joint response to the threat of the Omicron variant is needed across the UK. The meeting will raise fears that more curbs could even be imposed before Christmas – despite the opposition of Tory MPs and Downing Street’s apparent determination to get through without them.

    Late on Thursday, the Welsh government said it would close nightclubs from December 27 and impose a two-metre social distancing rule in offices. This weekend’s Cobra meeting, involving ministers from all the devolved administrations, is the second in a matter of days.

    Mr Johnson held crisis talks with the leaders of the three devolved administrations, including Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, earlier this week.

    Any further restrictions would increase the pressure on Rishi Sunak to give more help to the hospitality sector, which has been hit by the warnings over the new strain.








    Meanwhile, ‘California Chancellor’ Rishi Sunak was pictured arriving back in the UK for crunch talks with furious hospitality bosses struggling with plummeting demand due to the Omicron mutant strain. 

    Mr Sunak had been in the US on a ‘long-planned’ Government trip to meet tech bosses but his timing has attracted criticism, with one top British executive telling the FT that he was too busy drinking ‘organic kale smoothies’.

    Pictures taken in Leeds, London and Newcastle showed once-packed nightlife venues had taken a battering as just a handful of revellers were seen enjoying festive nights out on so-called Black Eye Friday – one of the busiest nights out of the year. 

    Pubs and restaurants have already been forced to close either due to a shortage of staff or a lack of customers as Omicron continued to tighten its paralysing grip on the nation this week. 

    Any further restrictions would increase the pressure on Rishi Sunak to give more help to the hospitality sector, which has been hit by the warnings over the new strain. On Friday, the Chancellor met business leaders to discuss their concerns after he was forced to return early from a work trip to San Francisco. (Above, he is seen arriving at Heathrow)

    Any further restrictions would increase the pressure on Rishi Sunak to give more help to the hospitality sector, which has been hit by the warnings over the new strain. On Friday, the Chancellor met business leaders to discuss their concerns after he was forced to return early from a work trip to San Francisco. (Above, he is seen arriving at Heathrow)

    Industry experts fear the Government’s increasingly alarmist messages surrounding the Omicron mutant strain are affecting customer confidence over what should be a peak period for pubs, bars and restaurants. 

    Festive takings are expected to fall by up to 40 per cent in December – crippling venues that survived by a thread during previous lockdowns and expect to receive no financial support this time around.

    Mr Sunak met hospitality leaders yesterday via Zoom but had to miss one roundtable event because it clashed with a scheduled call with US healthcare bosses.  

    Many have been left enraged by advice from government scientists to cut down on socialising which has led to a collapse in trade.

    Restaurants and hospitality venues in Leeds town centre are pictured empty on Friday evening

    Restaurants and hospitality venues in Leeds town centre are pictured empty on Friday evening








    The CBI and other groups asked the Chancellor for emergency grants, 100 per cent business rates relief for retail, and for VAT to be reduced to 5 per cent for hospitality and tourism.

    It came as figures showed that footfall in London’s West End on Thursday was 32 per cent down on the same day in 2019, before the pandemic. Numbers were down 7 per cent on a week ago.

    Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said: ‘The Government must act quickly to provide temporary financial support to leisure businesses across the UK, otherwise we run the risk of further viable businesses closing their doors in the coming months.’

    The Institute of Directors’ chief economist, Kitty Ussher, said it made sense to unwind pandemic-related support schemes when business conditions were returning to normal but the Omicron variant made a rethink necessary. 

    BOOSTERS AT A RACECOURSE 

    Racecourses, Christmas markets and football stadiums will be among almost three thousand sites used as vaccination centres this weekend.

    The NHS is ‘pulling out all the stops’ to make it as easy as possible to get a booster jab, said the NHS’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis.

    And GPs and pharmacists will be offered more money to give jabs over the festive period to encourage more to work. The fee will rise from £15 to £20 a dose from December 25 to January 3. But it comes as vaccine shortages forced pharmacies in London to cancel some jab appointments yesterday.

    Boris Johnson pledged to offer all eligible adults a booster dose before the end of the year. Staff will be vaccinating at 2,900 centres this weekend, including at three football grounds – Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Wembley – and Chelmsford Racecourse.

    The Department of Health insisted there were ‘no supply issues with vaccine doses’.

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