Will there be another lockdown in 2022? What new Covid restrictions could look like if Omicron cases rise
England has not followed the rest of the UK in tightening Covid lockdown restrictions but Plan B rules will be reviewed in the first week of 2022.
England kept its Plan B Covid restrictions in place until the dawning of 2022 despite the rise of the Omicron variant.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all tightened measures between Christmas and New Year’s Eve amid rising coronavirus case rates.
Boris Johnson, who was briefed on the latest Omicron data on Monday, urged people in England to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a “cautious and sensible way,” but opted not to introduce stricter curbs.
When Plan B was introduced in mid-December, it was under the proviso that the restrictions would be reviewed after three weeks – here’s how likely England is to face stricter rules, or even a full lockdown.
Will there be another lockdown in 2022?
Among all the options that could follow Plan B restrictions, a full lockdown is considered the unlikeliest, argue both Jane Merrick, i‘s Policy Editor, and Hugo Gye, i‘s Political Editor, in their in-depth analyses.
Even before the Omicron variant emerged, the Government was keen to quash fears of lockdown (albeit without entirely ruling it out), with Mr Johnson describing the prospect as “extremely unlikely” on 30 November.
Lockdown measures, which would limit when people can leave their homes and force all hospitality and retail businesses to close, would only be considered if cases begin to rise exponentially again and hospitals are unable to cope.
The Government has promised that schools would be the last sector to close, so even under stringent lockdown measures it is highly unlikely that children’s education settings would be shut.
The Times also reported previously that weddings and funerals would be exempt under any new rules.
At the other end of the spectrum from lockdown is the possibility that Plan B restrictions will be eased when they are reviewed in the first week of January.
However, the removal of compulsory face mask rules and easing of requirements around the NHS Covid Pass would require extremely positive data to emerge, and appears similarly unlikely.
Instead, it is looking increasingly probable that Plan B will remain in its current form.
A source told i that changes are currently unlikely, adding: “We are cautiously optimistic for now, but things could change in a single day.”
The delay to any further measures appears likely because of uncertainty over how hospitals are coping with the current wave.
While hospitalisations have risen rapidly, officials have been surprised that the number of people who are so ill they require ventilation has barely increased at all.
Asked whether tougher rules were needed, Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay told Sky News: “We don’t think the data supports that at the moment.
“Of course, we keep the data under review, but we’ve seen significant behaviour change as a result of Plan B.”
The Cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday 4 or Wednesday 5 January, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid likely to make a Commons statement on Wednesday announcing the result of the Plan B review.
If the situation worsens, it is possible that restrictions in England could be brought more in line with those elsewhere around the UK.
Measures could include limits on the size of larger events, the closure of nightclubs, the return of social distancing measures and curbs on social mixing (such as the rule of six).
Such measures would reflect the rules brought in to combat Omicron in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland since Christmas.
The original version of this article was first published on INews
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