Disruption to milestone life events, which were subject to strict limitations at various points of the pandemic, should be avoided wherever possible in the minds of ministers. Boris Johnson’s cabinet is understood to be “increasingly optimistic but very cautiously optimistic” about the impact of the new strain of coronavirus, according to information supplied to The Times.
This comes as the Prime Minister meets with senior scientific officers to discuss the initial data now available on the spread of the Omicron variant since before the Christmas weekend.
This will set the tone for New Year’s Eve celebrations across the country ahead of Friday.
Fresh restrictions have already been introduced in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, focused largely on slowing the spread of coronavirus in hospitality settings.
But the Prime Minister staved off pressure last week to look at tightening restrictions just before the festive weekend by waiting for data to come in on the Omicron variant.
It is thought that the government will pay special attention to hospitalisations and death rates as cases of the more transmissible variant skyrocket.
A government source told the paper: “It’s not just that there’s a clear gap between cases and hospitalisations, but also that when people are going into hospital they tend to be there for less time.”
Downing Street officials have been preparing various different avenues the government could take in the event of re-imposing restrictions, all of which will set aside weddings, funerals and births in any rule on social gathering, according to The Times.
This would be a change from previous periods of the pandemic, when funerals, for example, were restricted to a handful of attendees.
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A maximum of 30 people in enclosed spaces and 50 at outdoor events is now the limit, announced by the Welsh government ahead of Christmas.
This number is slightly higher in Scotland, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon limited indoor events to 100 people standing, and indoor mixing to three households.
Table service in hospitality is now required for businesses in Northern Ireland.
A possible option for the government to choose would be voluntary guidance issued to the public in England, rather than risk the political fallout of attempting to pass COVID-19 restrictions through Parliament.
Early research into the severity of illness caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus suggest that symptoms could be milder than previous strains.
University of Edinburgh scientists reported ahead of Christmas that the Omicron variant was up to 60 percent less likely to spell a hospital stay than the Delta variant.
However, the last published figures, showing infections confirmed on Christmas Eve, showed a record 122,186 new cases registered after an over 48 percent increase in the week before Christmas.
However, it is understood that the number of hospital admissions and deaths due to COVID-19 has not risen at the same pace as infections.