NEW Year's Eve parties are hanging in the balance as pressure piles on Boris Johnson to bring in fresh Covid restrictions before the end of the year.
A draconian circuit-breaker lockdown to clamp down on surging Omicron cases is still on the cards as ministers monitor the situation "hour by hour".
Gloomy scientists have urged the Government to impose tighter restrictions at the PM last night held off announcing any new measures.
But a post-festive squeeze could catapult Britain back to Step 2 restrictions like outdoor pints, a ban on indoor mixing and the hated rule of six – putting NYE bashes under threat.
The country could even be plunged back into lockdown as Covid cases rapidly rise in a blow for the already struggling economy.
Brits have been urged to get their booster jabs as the infection rate spirals with readers join up for The Sun's Jabs Army campaign – with record numbers of jabs dished out in recent days.
Despite the vaccine rollout success, Rishi Sunak has today refused to rule out extra restrictions being enforced before December 31.
"I absolutely appreciate people's frustration with all of this. And I'd refer people to the Prime Minister's words yesterday," the Chancellor said.
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"And unfortunately, we're just dealing with an enormous amount of uncertainty at the moment.
"And what the Prime Minister said is that we're reviewing the data day by day, hour by hour keeping the situation under constant review that can't rule anything out."
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Time is running out for the PM to impose curbs before December 25 – as he needs to consult Parliament – and is believed to be mulling a December 27 tightening.
A December 27 crackdown would also need to be announced in the next couple of days so MPs can be recalled to vote.
Tory rebels are preparing to oppose fresh measures and warn more than 100 of them could revolt and trigger resignations.
Anxious families and businesses remain in limbo after the PM warned he could slap Covid restrictions on Christmas at any moment.
He said he “will rule nothing out” in the fight against Omicron, following a testy virtual Cabinet meeting.
Mr Johnson said he must “reserve the possibility” of festive restrictions for a second year running. But he warned he ruled nothing out in the coming days if incoming data showed mutant Covid risked overwhelming the NHS.
That left millions in limbo over festive travel plans and desperate pub landlords begging last night to be told how much beer to order for the coming weeks.
Fearful boozers and restaurants have seen their lucrative Christmas takings fall off a cliff – and fear New Year's Eve could be wrecked too if new restrictions are imposed.
But desperate businesses were today thrown a lifeline as Rishi Sunak pledged £6,000 emergency grants and Government-funded sick pay to soften the blow of Omicron.
The Chancellor unveiled a bumper £1billion package to stop hospitality venues going to the wall after suffering a flood of cancellations from cautious Brits.
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