British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should work from home from Monday and they will need to wear masks in public place and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter nightclubs and other venues.
The stricter measures, he added, aim to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“From Monday, you should work from home if you can,” Johnson told a news conference late on Wednesday.
“(We) will also make the NHS COVID pass mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather.”
At the same time, scientific advisors to the government provide a stark outline of what the consequences of inaction could be.
In a consensus statement the advisory committee predicted: “If initial estimates of transmission advantage and immune escape from South Africa are applicable to the UK population, there is the potential for a very substantial peak of infections much larger than occurred during the winter wave of January 2021.”
Even if the severity were half that of Delta, this could be outweighed by the sheer number of infections, the scientists said.
The government’s Sage advisory committee noted that Omicron is on a steep upward trajectory in the UK, with probably thousands of daily infections already occurring and a projection for Omicron to become the dominant variant within a few weeks.
Without any changes to measures in place, the number of hospitalisations from Omicron could reach 1,000 per day or higher in England by the end of the year, with a peak likely to be higher than 1,000 to 2,000 Omicron hospital admissions per day.