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COVID-19: Wales to ban fans from stadiums to fight Omicron – but England coronavirus rule changes ‘unlikely before Christmas’

Wales is ordering sports events to take place without fans to help fight Omicron, as reports suggest new restrictions in England are unlikely before Christmas but could come in before New Year.

Indoor and outdoor events will have to take place behind closed doors from Boxing Day, said Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething.

Football sides such as Cardiff and Swansea will be affected by the change.

Welsh nightclubs are already set to close on 27 December as authorities say Omicron cases there are rising fast, with overall infections just under 550 cases per 100,000.

In England, Boris Johnson has held off on introducing new restrictions after resistance from members of the cabinet, who demanded more evidence on the severity of Omicron.

The prime minister said on Monday that he reserved “the possibility of taking further action” and that the situation was “very finely balanced”.

Mr Johnson said ministers were considering “all kinds of things to keep Omicron under control and we will rule nothing out”.

Scientific advisers are understood to favour an immediate bolstering of COVID rules to prevent a potential surge in hospital admissions.

However, after a two-hour meeting yesterday a significant number of the cabinet remained sceptical.

Government sources say a change before Christmas is now “highly unlikely” but that a two-week “circuit-breaker” could begin before New Year – possibly on 28 December, according to The Times and the Daily Mail.

It could reportedly include limits on mixing, while pubs and restaurants may also be forced to serve outside – at a time when many are already struggling with cancelled bookings.

New Year’s Eve celebrations for 6,500 people in Trafalgar Square have also been scrapped in London – the area currently worst affected by Omicron.

And it was also announced on Monday that the Queen will spend Christmas at Windsor rather than going to Sandringham as usual.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to give a statement on COVID to MSPs on Tuesday afternoon.

She has already urged people to limit socialising to three households over Christmas but didn’t make it a legal requirement.

The Northern Ireland Executive is also due to meet tomorrow to discuss further restrictions.

Another 8,044 cases of Omicron were reported on Monday in the UK – a third down on Sunday’s figure.

The daily total for all cases was 91,743 – the second highest ever – while there were 44 more deaths.

Meanwhile, around 7,500 people are in hospital with COVID, much lower than January’s peak, but there are fears that Omicron and the large rise in cases could lead to hospitals being swamped.

The booster programme has also surged, with nearly 29 million now having had a third jab after another 846,000 shots were administered on Sunday.

But former prime minister Tony Blair has called for a more robust system to help the UK “stay ahead of the curve” and prepare for a possible fourth dose in the near future.

A report for his institute recommends an infrastructure that could be mobilised in 48 hours to kick off another big booster effort if required.

Mr Blair also calls for a government task force to convince the unvaccinated to come forward for the jab.

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