Crunch Cobra meeting taking place this afternoon to decide on extra lockdown measures

A government Cobra meeting is set to go ahead at 5pm today (Sunday, December 19) as leaders from across the UK decide on extra lockdown measures.
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Health Secretary Sajid Javid today warned he could not rule out a festive clampdown as Omicron cases surge through Britain.

England was last night warned it faced an abrupt Covid crackdown after Boxing Day under new plans being drawn up in Whitehall.

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Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford are expected to join Whitehall ministers for the emergency talks at 5pm.

Cobra meeting will take place this afternoonCobra meeting will take place this afternoon
Cobra meeting will take place this afternoon

It is understood neither Boris Johnson nor Rishi Sunak will be at the meeting, set to be chaired instead by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay.

Mr Barclay is expected to brief the UK's devolved leaders, as well as Labour, on the latest data and the Government's next steps.

Sage members have told the government that waiting until after December 25 to impose Covid measures is not an option if ministers want to stop the NHS being overwhelmed.

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They expect more than 3,000 hospitalisations a day come January, with daily infections and deaths on the rise.

Earlier today the Health Secretary warned there were "no guarantees" when asked about a festive clampdown - despite Boris Johnson insisting he would not shut the country down.

Mr Javid said: "There are no guarantees in this pandemic.

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

Mark Drakeford announced this week he would bring in tighter restrictions for Wales on December 27, adding they will be a “strengthened set of reasonable measures which will include returning to the two-metre rule for social distancing”.

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Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon urged Scots to stay at home to help limit the Omicron spread.

It comes after Sage scientists held emergency talks on Thursday to discuss the pending crisis.

Minutes from the meeting, released on Saturday, revealed that indoor mixing is "the biggest risk factor" when it comes to viral transmission.

It also suggested "reducing group sizes, increasing physical distancing, reducing duration of contacts and closing high-risk premises" to curb the spread - despite the speedy rollout of the booster vaccines.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.