Ministers are expected to sign off new rules to impose home working and vaccine certification across 영국 in the face of rising Covid cases, the Guardian understands.
Downing Street said no final decisions had been made but ministers and officials convened on Wednesday to move to plan B and to begin
imposing some restrictions as early as Wednesday night.
Ministers are increasingly worried about the threat of the Omicron variant, which appears to be more transmissible than Delta and scientists believe could become dominant within the next few weeks.
They are concerned that it risks overwhelming the NHS in another Covid wave even if no more serious than Delta, because of the speed with which it appears to be spreading.
The move comes as the government is under intense pressure over the Christmas party and a leaving do held in No 10 during last year’s lockdown.
Four senior ministers – Johnson; 장관, 리시 수낙; 보건장관, 사지드 자비드, and the Cabinet Office minister, Steve Barclay – met on Wednesday morning to discuss imposing fresh curbs as early as this week.
Later on Wednesday, a larger group of ministers will meet at the Covid operations committee, before the cabinet is convened to give their sign-off. A press conference will most likely be held late in the afternoon, while a simultaneous statement is made in the Commons.
Tory MPs have warned that the public may be unwilling to follow fresh Covid restrictions after a video emerged of Downing Street aides joking and laughing about a social gathering last Christmas, while limits on socialising were in force.
A Whitehall source told the Guardian: “You can say it’s a distraction but it’s necessary. My worry is that we’ve lost our hearing with the public on this and we can’t do proper comms.”
Another Whitehall insider said further restrictions were likely – and probably necessary – but thought they would not be unveiled until 18 12 월, the point Johnson said measures to tackle the Omicron variant would be reviewed.
“Officials were not prepared for this announcement coming today,” they said. Referring to the revelation about No 10’s party last Christmas, the source added: “The fact it’s happening now, some would say, is questionable.”
The move to plan B is likely to open up pressure on Johnson – already under-fire over the party – on another front. Dozens of Tory MPs are likely to revolt against the imposition of tougher restrictions.
One Conservative backbencher said it would be a “a big dead cat” – referring to the strategy of diverting attention away from a negative story – and “bring the whole Covid policy into disrepute”. They suggested Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, should “refuse to share a platform for this announcement”.