NICOLA Sturgeon is due to attend a Cobra meeting on Sunday evening as ministers across the UK consider whether new coronavirus measures including a circuit breaker lockdown should be brought in before Christmas.

Further curbs have not been ruled out this week by the UK Health Secretary as the emergency meeting, which it is understood started at 5pm, takes place with the devolved nations.

Boris Johnson is not chairing the emergency session but has tasked Cabinet Office minister Stephen Barclay to do so. 

Earlier on Sunday, asked what it would take for more measures to be introduced, Sajid Javid said the UK Government was continuing to monitor the “really aggressive” spread of Omicron.

Pressed on BBC's Andrew Marr Show whether he was ruling out a circuit breaker lockdown or some new Covid restrictions before Christmas, Khan said: "There are no guarantees in this pandemic...We just have to keep everything under review."

One of the options being considered in England is understood to be a two-week circuit breaker, involving a return of the rule of six and no indoor mixing. Pubs and restaurants would only be allowed to serve customers outside. Any new imminent restrictions for England would have to be passed in Parliament which would have to be recalled from its current recess.

Ministers in Scotland and the UK fear hospitals are at risk of becoming overwhelmed amid rapidly increasing cases of the new variant.

The Scottish Cabinet will meet on Tuesday morning to discuss whether to bring in further restrictions with the First Minister due to update Holyrood on their decision later that day.

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Last week she told MSPs more protections would have been introduced for hospitality had more funding been available from the UK Government to support businesses affected.

She wrote to the PM on Thursday urging the UK Government to reinstate the furlough scheme for firms in struggling sectors.

Pressed on Sunday about more financial support for businesses Khan told Marr the Chancellor Rishi Sunak was keeping measures "under review".

UK Government scientists warned this weekend that there are now hundreds of thousands of infections every day and that the daily number could reach between 600,000 and 2 million by the end of the month if new restrictions are not brought in immediately.

The government’s SPI-M-O group of scientists, which reports to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), also warned that, based on their modelling, hospitalisations could peak between 3,000 and 10,000 a day and deaths at between 600 and 6,000 a day.

Sage urged the government to reintroduce “more stringent measures … very soon”.

The minutes of its meeting on Thursday stated: “The timing of such measures is crucial. Delaying until 2022 would greatly reduce the effectiveness of such interventions and make it less likely that these would prevent considerable pressure on health and care settings.”

The advisers suggested reintroducing measures “equivalent to those in place after step 2 or step 1 of the roadmap in England”.

Rules at that time included the “rule of six” and just two households meeting; they also barred holidays abroad, while care-home residents were allowed only one regular visitor.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney confirmed that a new update would be given on Tuesday.The National:

Deputy First Minister John Swinney

He told the BBC: “We will, of course, be updating parliament in the course of this week, on the further views that we have about any other measures that we need to take.”

The Deputy First Minister was also asked about large events such as Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations.

Swinney said the Government was not asking people to change their plans for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Boxing Day, but to “dial down” their interactions around these days.

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Meanwhile, Javid said while there remains uncertainty about the new variant, it is time to be “more cautious” amid the rapid spread of the strain.

His comments came as it was reported stricter measures could be imposed in light of the warning from experts that there are likely already hundreds of thousands of new infections every day.

Modelling from scientific advisers, published on Saturday, showed that if ministers stuck to the current Plan B measures, there could be a peak of 3000 hospital admissions in England per day.

The National:

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid did not rule out bringing in new restrictions in England when he appeared on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

Advisers also said hospital admissions with the variant in the UK are “probably around one-tenth of the true number” due to a lag in reporting.

Despite the ramping-up of the booster programme, experts said it would not help in terms of hospitals admissions in the near future, as many would be people who are infected now before immunity has had time to build.

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Javid said Omicron is “spreading rapidly” and now accounts for around 80% of infections in London and about 60% in England.

Asked about ruling out new coronavirus measures before Christmas, he said there is “a lot of uncertainty”, but that it is “time to be more cautious”.

He told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: “There are no guarantees in this pandemic, I don’t think.

“At this point we just have to keep everything under review.”

Of the advice from scientists, he said: “It’s a very sobering analysis. We take it very seriously.

“We do have to challenge data and underlying assumptions, I think that is appropriate, and take into account a broader set of facts.”

Speaking to Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, he said ministers are monitoring the data and discussing it with scientists “almost on an hourly basis”.

He confirmed that if new measures were to be proposed, the UK Parliament would be recalled to approve them, describing that approach as “only right and proper”.

The outlook comes exactly a year after Johnson brought in new measures ahead of Christmas for almost 18 million people across London and parts of England, in the face of the spread of the Alpha variant which had been first identified in Kent.

Javid insisted that factors including vaccinations, antiviral medication and other treatments for Covid-19 mean “the situation today in terms of our defences is very different”.

Professor Sir Mark Walport acknowledged this is the second Christmas which could be “significantly ruined” for people, but that he believed new measures are needed as infections are “rising fast”.

Echoing advice in recent days from England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, he said people should “be prudent and only have the social contacts which are really important to you”.

Sir Mark, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told Sky that action needs to be taken “to hold down the rate of hospital admissions, reduce the pressure on the workforce”, noting many people are off sick due to infection.

He added: “Most importantly of all, give people the chance to get vaccinated, to get boosted, and allow time for those vaccinations to have effect.”

Stricter measures could be imposed after Boxing Day, according to a report in The Sun newspaper, which said the contingency plan had not yet been presented to ministers.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who declared a major incident due to the “hugely concerning” surge in cases across the capital, said it was “inevitable” that new coronavirus measures would be brought in.

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He told Marr there “must, must, must be a major package of support for our hospitality, culture, and retail”.

Javid, defending their recent approach, said it was “not quite right to say the Government’s not doing anything at all”.

He told Marr: “I completely understand businesses now coming forward to say ‘I’m hard hit’, and they have every right to make those representations to Government.

“The Chancellor and his team are listening, I think the Chancellor has done an excellent job throughout this pandemic in dealing with this and no doubt he will keep things under review.”

The prospect of new rules comes less than a week after Boris Johnson suffered a rebellion from a large number of Conservative backbenchers who defied him to vote against the mandatory use of Covid health passes for large venues.

Brexit minister Lord Frost, who quit on Saturday, gave an indication of his belief as to the Prime Minister’s mindset, saying in his resignation letter that “we also need to learn to live with Covid and I know that is your instinct too”.