New UK restrictions loom amid shock Omicron twist

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will decide on Monday whether to introduce new curbs due to the Omicron variant. Government scientists have indicated that the new shutdown measures could remain in place until late March, according to The Times. The new rules would include a ban on socialising with another household indoors, a return to the rule of six outdoors — which limits gatherings to six people — and pubs and restaurants only being open for outdoor service.Sky News reports that scientific advisers to the government have predicted that any new coronavirus restrictions — including a ban on indoor mixing — could be in place until the end of March in order to reduce deaths in England.In London, now regarded as the UK’s Omicron “ground zero”, there were 386 new Covid hospital admissions on December 22, according to the latest NHS data. It comes as a string of studies shows Omicron is milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.The number of deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to 29, according to government figures. It comes amid news that Omicron could be fading in South Africa, the country where the variant was initially discovered.NED-5241-UK-and-South-Africa-Covid-19-Daily-Deaths-per-millionSouth African scientists are confident the Omicron outbreak there is receding and may last a total of just a couple of months.Infections have spiralled in the past week and admissions failed to reach expected levels, as hospitals “never reached capacity”.Francois Venter, a medical professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, predicted that Omicron would “be pretty much gone” from all of South Africa by the end of January, The Times reports.Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who leads the country’s pandemic response, said he believed almost every other country would follow the same trajectory.Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

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