Boris Johnson announcement still expected before New Year as No10 fears Christmas mixing could drive rise in cases

BORIS Johnson IS expected to make a Covid announcement before New Year's Eve, as No10 fears Christmas mixing could drive a rise in cases.

The PM has given the go-ahead for Christmas celebrations this December, ruling out any tougher restrictions this side of the festive break.


But The Sun understands that a public announcement of some form from the PM is likely by next week.

Thousands fear a circuit-breaker lockdown come January, amid concerns over Christmas gatherings sparking a surge in Omicon cases.

Insiders stressed that parliament could still be recalled to introduce a change in lockdown law at any time, meaning the hated Rule of Six or a ban on indoor dining could be enforced by cops.

However, the pressure for another lockdown is easing today, after a string of hugely positive studies showed Omicron IS milder than other strains.

And insiders have raised the prospect of downgrading any tough proposed laws to "guidance" instead in a win for New Year parties – unless the data says otherwise.

A Government source told The Sun: "Our position is still the same, there isn't anything currently to justify more restrictions, but we are keeping it under constant review.

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"If we need to act quickly next week, we can.

"It's better to wait for the data and be sure of the need to be tougher , rather than act early and not be proportionate."

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Brits are being urged to get their boosters fast, as thousands sign up to The Sun's Jabs Army campaign.

A further 119,789 people tested positive for Covid today, 16,817 of which were Omicron.

But two studies have this week revealed that Brits infected with the new variant are around 50 per cent less likely to end up in hospital.

The findings showed Brits who have had two doses have a substantially reduced risk of hospitalisation compared to those who were unvaccinated and infected with Delta.

The UK yesterday hit the major milestone of 30million booster jabs in a record-breaking week for vaccines.

A major report from the UK Health and Security Agency is due today with more data.

Sajid Javid said the data was "good, encouraging news" but the studies are "not very clear yet how much that risk is reduced".

He told Sky: "There could still be significant hospitalisation…. but people are behaving sensibly and much more cautiously since they've learned about this variant.

"People should enjoy their Christmases with family and friends, of course, remain cautious and we will keep the situation under review.

"If we need to do anything more, we will, but nothing more is going to happen before Christmas."

A Whitehall source told the Financial Times that any new measures that come in after Christmas could be guidance rather than law, in a boost for millions to be able to celebrate next week.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, told the Daily Telegraph: "This new evidence means steady as she goes. Let's keep hospitality open.

"Let's say to the public be sensible but go out. And no more of this doom and gloom which is going to kill us.

"If we don't resist lockdown this time, we will be locking down every winter. Boris can gain from this by being decisive. Here is his chance to show the Scots and Welsh are ridiculous administrations."

Tim Loughton, a former minister, said: "If we don't have a surge of hospital admissions, there is no basis for a tightening of lockdown measures." 

OMI-NOUS

And scientists said any new rules may not need to be in place for long either, as the Omicron peak may fall quickly.

Prof Andrew Heywood told the BBC: "I don't think we are talking about the prolonged periods of restrictions we were talking about before.

"The speed this is going up means it's relatively fast up, fast down. We have a short term problem here."

He said the findings from an Imperial College study which appeared to show that the Omicron variant was weaker could lead to the conclusion that elderly people would be less badly affected, "but that needs to be balanced against the fact that the risk of that severe disease is innately much higher in older people anyway".

"I think we simply haven't really seen the data in older people to know.

"It's undeniably good news, but I think we're definitely not out of the danger zone – I think perhaps we can downgrade this from a hurricane to a very severe storm."

He warned against big mass gatherings taking place on New Years' eve as thousands go out to celebrate the start of 2022.

No10 stressed that no decisions have been made and Government is still waiting for more real-world data to come in on how the new variant affects hospitalisations and older people.

The Sun understands Downing Street will not make any announcements ahead of Christmas, which would ruin plans for millions of people.

However, Parliament could be recalled as early as Monday if ministers believe there is enough to warrant tougher restrictions.

The PM has put the nation on notice he won't hesitate to act if necessary, but is keen not to put England back into lockdown unnecessarily.

Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have all announced their own curbs to come into place after Christmas.

Nightclubs are to shut, the rule of six will return inside venues, and social distancing will return too.

The economy minister for Wales said today he thinks England is "out of step" with the other three UK nations on its Covid response.

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Asked about plans in Wales to curb the spread of the virus, Vaughan Gething told Times Radio: "Scotland and Northern Ireland have taken relatively similar steps yesterday – it's England that's out of step with the other three nations.

"We've done this because of the clear public health advice we've got and because we are already starting to see a rise in cases."

He added: "We are a little more cautious certainly than England is – but that's because we think it's the right call."

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