NEW Year's plans have been given a fighting chance after crucial evidence showed Omicron is milder than Delta and could be flattening.
Millions are desperate to end 2021 with a big blow-out and are praying Boris Johnson doesn't drop bombshell circuit-breaker restrictions.
Despite gloomy warnings from Ministers and boffins of a fresh squeeze, revellers were today given a flicker of hope as encouraging data emerged.
Leaked findings from government scientists show people get less sick with the Omicron variant than previous mutations.
Care Minister Gillian Keegan said data on Omicron's severity was the "missing piece" the Government had been waiting for before deciding how to act.
The UK Health Security Agency report obtained in advance by the Politico website also found boosters dramatically slash the risk of infection.
It makes it more vital than ever to sign up to The Sun's Jabs Army campaign and help turbo-charge the booster rollout.
In major developments:
- The PM ruled out any restrictions before Christmas in a relief for families
- The 10-day isolation period was cut to seven days from today
- There were signs the Omicron outbreak could be fizzling out
- Ex-PM Tony Blair hit out at unvaccinated "idiots"
- Mark Drakeford prepared to announce fresh curbs in Wales
Ms Keegan said she had not seen the UKSA report but suggested the findings were a vital indicator of whether new restrictions were needed.
She said: "Well, that's one of the missing pieces of data that we've been waiting for. We ask for it every day.
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"I'm looking forward to receiving it. But we haven't received that officially yet."
Yet the top Tory cautioned that the situation was unclear and told Brits not to send out NYE party invites just yet.
Asked if hosts should start making arrangements, Ms Keegan told LBC: "There is uncertainty. So if you can't change your plans quickly, then maybe think about it.
"But there is uncertainty, we can't predict what the data is going to tell us before we've got the data.
"We're trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach so that people could see their families over Christmas to try and plan some stuff"
The PM last night said the current evidence did not "justify tougher measures" before Christmas but hinted at a post-festive crackdown.
Yet there are signs cases could be flattening after daily cases hovered around 90,000 for fifth consecutive day.
Prof Paul Hunter said: "The numbers over the last few days seem to have plateaued and maybe even be falling."
However Ms Keegan said Ministers had not yet been told that Omicron was past the peak.
Positive hospitalisation data in London also gave rise to hopes we could dodge a New Year's circuit-breaker.
Government sources told the i newspaper draconian measures may not be put in place at all if hospital admissions stay under 400-a-day in the capital.
The restrictions are being considered in a bid to keep the NHS from being overwhelmed in the coming weeks, with Omicron cases remaining high.
However Mr Johnson is set to keeping mulling over the hospital data before making a decision on what measures, if any, may be needed.
In the capital four out of five cases tested were Omicron, as the mutant bug continues to spread across the UK.
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Hospital admissions in London are not the only measure being used to assess the severity of the strain – but it a key part of the decision making.
The threat of more curbs loomed as Mr Johnson said “we cannot rule out further measures after Christmas”.
Downing Street insiders refused to rule out tougher rules immediately after the weekend.
Mr Johnson urged families holding festive get togethers to protect granny and grandpa from Covid by leaving windows open to “keep fresh air circulating”.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "It is fast-changing, the situation, there's more data not just here from home but from abroad – we keep an eye on all that data and discuss it with our expert advisers.
"As the Prime Minister has said, whilst there's no need for any further restrictions before Christmas we will certainly keep the situation under review."
Yesterday’s announcement means that Boxing Day football will go ahead with crowds in England — unlike in Scotland where games will be limited to 500 fans.
It came as it emerged that 90 per cent of Covid patients in hospital intensive care units are unvaccinated.
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