BORIS Johnson tonight told Brits to work from home and use vaccine passports for nightclubs and footie matches in a fresh Covid squeeze.
At a gloomy press conference the PM pulled the trigger on the Government's Plan B to tackle the rising tide of Omicron cases ripping across Britain.
He announced he was toughening the rules as scientists warned the NHS could be swamped by 1,000 daily patients infected with the super-strain.
Flanked by top docs Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the PM relayed sobering evidence that the mutation is doubling between every 2.5 and three days.
Giving a Commons statement at the same time Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs there are 568 confirmed cases variant – but the estimated current number is "probably closer to 10,000".
To stem the spread new rules include:
- Compulsory face masks in all indoor settings from FRIDAY
- Working from home except key workers from MONDAY
- Vaccine passports for crowded venues from NEXT WEDNESDAY
It means people will be required to show they're either double-jabbed or provide a negative test for crowded gatherings.
It applies for nightclubs, indoor events with 500 attendees or large outdoor gatherings like sports games.
From Monday the guidance – but not the law – will change asking all but key workers to work remotely as they did from March last year to July's Freedom Day.
Mr Johnson said: "I know this will be hard for many people, but by reducing your contacts in the workplace, you will help slow transmission."
And from Friday urrent mask requirements will be extended from just shops and public transport to cover all enclosed spaces – but not in pubs.
Lockdown-hating Tory MPs are threatening to rebel when the measures go to a vote in Parliament – but won't derail it as Labour are backing the changes.
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They also want any measures ruled out after video emerged of No10 aides joking about holding an allegedly lockdown-breaking party last Christmas.
The Institute of Economic Affairs think tank has claimed Plan B would wipe £4billion of the UK economy each month.
Cabinet Ministers met earlier today to rubber-stamp the move to Plan B, which only yesterday was being balked at by ministers.
Just last week the PM was urging Brits to press ahead with their Christmas plans for parties and nativities.
🔵 Read our Omicron variant live blog for the latest news
He had hoped to hold off reviewing the restrictions until the three-week check-up on December 18.
At present there are around 680 people a day being admitted to hospital with the bug.
Leaked minutes from Sage seen by the BBC show that if extra restrictions aren't implemented, then there will be a rise in hospitalisations.
The minutes from the meeting state: "With the speed of growth seen, decision makers will need to consider response measures urgently to reduce transmission if the aim is to reduce the likelihood of unsustainable pressure on the NHS."
Only days ago the Government was urging Brits to press ahead with festive party plans and said they had no intention to push the panic button.
But rapidly rising cases of the mutation – and evidence vaccines may not be as effective – have bounced the PM into rapid action.
Scientists warn that up to 1,000 Brits each day could now be catching the highly contagious form of the virus — with new cases doubling every three days.
And Prof Neil Ferguson, the scientist whose grim modelling prompted the initial lockdown, today warned a FOURTH squeeze can't be ruled out.
The expert said this morning: "Clearly, if the consensus is it is highly likely that the NHS is going to be overwhelmed then it will be for the Government to decide what what he wants to do about that, but it’s a difficult situation to be in of course."
Pushed on whether lockdowns might be possible, he said: "It certainly might be possible at the current time."
Mr Johnson has so far kept faith in the booster programme and aims to offer all adults a third jab by January.
Yet gloomy early evidence is that our current crop of jabs are not as effective on Omicron.
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