FEARS are mounting that Boris Johnson will catapult Britain back into the Dark Ages of last spring – with outdoor pints and the rule of six.
In a Groundhog Day nightmare the PM is believed to be considering a temporary return to the Step 2 measures enforced from April to May to tackle Omicron.
He is reportedly drawing up plans for a post-Christmas circuit breaker as early as December 27 to arrest the spread of Omicron.
At a crunch Cabinet meeting ministers are being presented with gloomy data showing how the super-strain threatens to swamp the NHS.
The PM will not make a decision today as Ministers are demanding more time to assess the data rather than rush through draconian curbs that would throttle businesses and cripple the economy.
In a glimmer of good news it emerged a record 1 million booster vaccines were delivered on Saturday.
Volunteers are signing up in droves to help out the campaign effort including the heroic recruits of The Sun's Jabs Army.
In key developments:
- Gloomy scientists ramped up their calls for a Christmas circuit-breaker
- Cabinet rowed over whether more measures were really needed
- Businesses begged the PM not to wreck their Christmas trading window
- The 10-day Covid isolation rule could be cut to just a week
- Schools were warned they could face disruption until Easter
STEP INTO CHRISTMAS
Mr Johnson has vowed to consult MPs before imposing anymore Covid restrictions, meaning he's running out of time to do this before Christmas.
Instead he's said to be planning a return to Step 2 would see Brits toast in the New Year under tighter restrictions and leave desperate bosses recoiling.
While Boris is still deciding the exact measures to bring back, those which featured last time included:
NO INDOOR MEETINGS
Brits could be banned from mixing inside with anyone except from their own household or support bubble.
Mixing may only be permitted outdoors – which includes gardens – in groups of six people or two households.
Pubs and restaurants could once again be closed for indoor service, forcing drinkers to have their pints outside in the winter chill.
Landlords will also have to ensure there's table service to stop punters congregating at the bar.
Scores of venues erected temporary outdoor seating areas for people to dine al-fresco – with some hardcore customers memorably pictured tucking into a full English in the pouring rain.
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GET A TRIM
Hairdressers and beauty salons should still be able to open with strict anti-Covid safeguards.
Should the PM let them continue operating, it'll be a relief to those who've not yet had a Christmas trim.
WORK OUT BUT NO SAUNA
Under Step 2 measures fitness freaks were still allowed to go to the gym to work out.
But they had to do so by themselves – so couldn't take a spotter when lifting heavy weights.
However steam rooms and saunas were seen a step too far and were forced to close.
Worshippers should be allowed to continue going to church but must not mix with anyone else.
They'll also have to wear a mask – but not to sing hymns as there's an exemption.
FUNERALS AND WEDDINGS CAP
In Step 2 up to 30 people were allowed to pay their respects at funerals.
However the maximum for weddings was 15, and it had to be in an open space with social distancing.
WORK FROM HOME
As with current Plan B guidance at the moment, Brits will likely continue to be urged to work from home where possible.
Essential staff can still go into offices but bosses are advised to set up remote working for non-key workers.
Step 2 saw a strict ban on holidays and a hefty £5,000 fine for anyone who jetted abroad for anything other than a work meeting or legitimate reason.
It is unclear if Ministers would bring back this harsh punishment in another hammer-blow to the travel industry.
Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance have this afternoon presented a rare Monday Cabinet with sobering stats about the super-strain's rapid spread.
Yet senior ministers don't want to be railroaded into signing off another draconian squeeze without properly poring over the situation.
Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng are believed to be among the Cabinet bigwigs afraid of the impact on the economic recovery.
Businesses are begging the PM not to tighten the rules in their crucial Christmas period for a second year running.
But Dominic Raab this morning warned the situation was changing "hour by hour" in the biggest hint yet more measures were on the way.
The Deputy PM said there are no "hard and fast guarantees" more restrictions won't be imposed by Christmas to tackle the Omicron tsunami.
He hoped family festivities would be better than last year's lockdown – but said ministers would pull the trigger "earlier rather than later" if forced.
And he hammered the government's plea that the best weapon in our inventory are vaccines by urging everyone to get their boosters.
Tory rebels are gearing up to vote against any more restrictions and think that more than 100 of them would revolt.
It would leave the PM in the embarrassing position of having to rely on Labour votes to ram through his measures.
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