A DRACONIAN circuit-breaker to bite down on Omicron is still on the cards after Christmas as ministers watch the data like hawks.
The post-festive squeeze could catapult Britain back to Step 2 restrictions like outdoor pints and the hated rule of six.
Boris Johnson last night held off announcing any new restrictions but warned he was monitoring the situation "hour by hour" and "reserved the possibility" to act.
Time is running out for the PM to impose curbs before December 25 – as he needs to consult Parliament – and is believed to be mulling a December 27 tightening.
A December 27 crackdown would also need to be announced in the next couple of days so MPs can be recalled to vote.
Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay this morning declined to rule out temporary measures to arrest the rapid spread of Omicron.
Asked on LBC if the Government was considering a circuit-breaker he said: "We are looking closely at the data, there is much we still don't know about the severity of Omicron, how it leads to hospital admissions.
"We are looking particularly at the London data, there is a higher prevalence of Omicron particularly in London."
Mr Johnson yesterday bowed to pressure from Cabinet Ministers to press pause on fresh restrictions until there was clearer evidence about the Omicron threat.
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Hawkish Ministers like Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Mr Barclay are understood to be among those fearing the economic damage of Christmas restrictions.
Grilled on the splits in the PM's top team Mr Barclay said: "I think it is right that the Cabinet has a full and robust discussion.
"That is what people would expect. It is right that we look at the balance between protecting lives and livelihoods."
Mr Sunak is today expected to announce support measures for desperate firms hit by a deluge of cancellations.
And there's fears the PM is considering a temporary return to the Step 2 measures endured last April in a Groundhog Day nightmare.
A total revival of Step 2 would see the closure of hospitality indoors, a ban on indoor mixing and a maximum of six people outdoors.
In a flicker of good news a top scientist today said restrictions are not yet needed.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, a former member of Sage, said: "Omicron is spreading unbelievably fast. It is a phenomenal variant transmission.
"There is great uncertainty about what is it going to lead to in terms of pressure on the health system, people going to hospital, particularly people dying, but also what impact is it going to have on the broader society, staff absences, the ability to have functioning other services, so there is great uncertainty.
"My personal view is that I think we can wait at the moment until there are more restrictions formally placed."
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