BRITAIN is facing a “difficult few weeks” as Omicron spreads rapidly and businesses struggle with new Covid restrictions, a minister has admitted.
Business minister Paul Scully conceded “it’s going to be tough” for bars and restaurants with many reporting mass cancellations of Christmas parties.
And he acknowledged the scandal over lockdown-breaking festive bashes in No 10 last year has made it harder to ask Brits to obey the new rules.
His remarks come amid reports ministers are already drawing up more draconian ‘Plan C’ rules for after Christmas.
They could include tough new curbs on bars and restaurants like scanning in to enter and a return to table service only.
Mr Scully said he accepts measures already in place like mask wearing will be “very difficult” for many small businesses to police.
He said members of staff shouldn’t “put themselves at risk” of violence by confronting customers who refuse to follow the rules.
But he expressed hopes the vast majority of Brits will “do the right thing” to help avoid the need for even tougher restrictions in future.
The business minister said: “None of us feel comfortable having to restrict people’s freedoms.
“But we do have a difficult situation to get through over the next few weeks.
“This is a proportionate amount of measures to give us the breathing space to work out what’s happening with the Omicron variant.”
Vax passports rebellion
Mr Scully said a very rapid spread of the strain could risk the “swamping of the NHS” and the need for “further restrictions”.
He added: “That’s the last thing small businesses want to see.”
But he also acknowledged it’s “difficult” bringing in new restrictions at a time when there’s a row over alleged rule breaking within No 10 last year.
He said: “We’ve announced Plan B, we’ve got the situation now where we are asking people to again have restrictions on what they can and can’t do.
“So it’s important that we are respectful of people that have gone through so much over the last 19 to 20 months.”
Boris Johnson is facing an enormous rebellion over the introduction of vaccine passports, which are included in Plan B.
As many as 100 Tory MPs could vote against the new measures, meaning the PM would be relying on Labour votes to get them through.
Mr Scully said he hopes many colleagues will reconsider and pointed out the Government has changed its plans due to concerns.
Brits will now be able to provide proof of a negative lateral flow test to enter large venues.
Originally the plan was for only fully vaccinated people to be covered by the scheme.
The business minister also admitted it has been a torrid few days for the Government and the PM in particular.
There has been increasingly loud talk within Tory ranks that Boris may be coming to the end of his time in No 10.
Mr Scully conceded: “I don’t feel comfortable about the fact that it’s been a difficult week for the government.”