Ministers to decide on new Covid restrictions for England on MONDAY amid Omicron surge

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Sources told the Guardian leaders are expected to assess new modelling from the University of Warwick which was given to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) in documents published on Thursday. On Friday, Britain saw 122,186 new COVID-19 cases, making it the highest ever since the pandemic began.

Models from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed one in 35 people in England had Covid last week, with 1.7 million people testing positive across the UK.

A senior Government official told The Guardian: “We are worried about workplace resilience.

“That’s a key reason to reduce the isolation days [from 10 to seven] but a decision will have to be taken in the round, taking in hospitalisations and severe illness, which should be clearer over the weekend.”

Senior health experts have hinted the country might return to step 2 restrictions from December 28 or January 1.

This may last either for two weeks, four weeks or three months until March 28.

However, No 10 officials told the Guardian the data had not yet been considered by ministers.

Step 2, which was part of last year’s roadmap, includes a ban on indoor social mixing, a return of the rule of six, and bars and restaurants only able to serve outdoors.

A Whitehall source said any restrictions based on workplace concerns would probably be targeted at sectors rather than being applied to all but ministers have not ruled out legal guidance coming in next week.

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Pat Cullen, head of the Royal College of Nursing, told the BBC there was a “very, very depleted workforce” due to the number of staff forced into isolation.

Dr Jenny Harries, the head of UK Health Security Agency, said there were a number of factors as well as the variant’s severity which would be taken into account when ministers convene after the Christmas weekend to discuss further restrictions for England.

Dr Harries said ministers would need to take a holistic approach about how widespread the impact of case rates was on essential services, as well as numbers being hospitalized.

“Ministers will look at all of the data that we have available – and that isn’t simply what the epidemiology is saying, it’s how it’s impacting society,” she told the BBC.

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She said: “So, for example, we have very high rates of individuals off sick – we know that particularly in London, around one in 35 have currently got Omicron.

“Now that’s having an impact on the workforce. So these are not simply about hospitalisation rates.”

She added that ministers are being kept updated daily and that will continue throughout the Christmas period.

She said: “I don’t think we do know yet that this is going to be a significantly less serious disease for the population – the older population – that we are normally most concerned about in relation to serious disease and death.”



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