You might be forced to wear a mask to the pub this Christmas as Omicron variant threatens tougher restrictions

CUSTOMERS heading to the pub for a festive pint with friends may be forced to wear a mask – amid fears over a new mutant super-strain of Covid.

Boris Johnson announced face coverings must be worn in shops and on public transport during a surprise press conference on Saturday evening.

Kids in Years 7 and above must also wear them in communal areas at school too.

But experts are saying it's now time to go further and bring back masks in hospitality venues like pubs, bars and restaurants too.

It comes as nine cases of variant Omicron are confirmed in the UK, with hundreds more believed to come.

One person infected in Essex reportedly visited a KFC and school before falling ill.

Six cases in Scotland have been confirmed this morning.

Officials are desperately scrambling to stop the spread of the mutation, which is feared to be more transmissible than Delta. There are also concerns it could make jabs less effective.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told Sky News there's "good cause to be concerned".

🔵 Read our Omicron variant live blog for the latest news

Warning that it will be "impossible" to stop the spread, he said the most important action Brits can take is to get the jab and wear a mask.

"If you are in a small, poorly ventilated enclosed space, it makes sense to wear a mask," he said.

"Clearly when you are drinking and eating it's not possible to do that but if you're moving around, then absolutely.

"We know that infection happens in closed spaces indoors and of course, as it gets colder, people are more likely to be indoors and they're less likely to have the windows open.

"So if you're going to wear masks in shops, it makes sense to wear them in other places as well."

Good Morning Britain medic Dr Amir Khan said those heading out to Christmas parties should be double-jabbed.

Arguing he wants the PM's new restrictions to "go further", he said: "In terms of Christmas parties, the sensible thing is to make sure everyone is double-vaccinated.

It comes as:

  • A couple fleeing an Omicron quarantine hotel in Holland are arrested after flying in from South Africa
  • A minister says restrictions are unlikely to be tightened further over the next three weeks
  • An expert has warned that PCR costs could spiral under the Government's new Covid rules
  • Parents fear the new mutation will cause 'chaos' in schools
  • A rugby match at Twickenham 'may have been a super-spreader event'

"Do a lateral flow test if you don't have symptoms, stay away if you do, and make sure venues are well-ventilated."

And Professor Greg Towers of University College London, said failing to wear a mask could push us into lockdowns in the future.

He told Times Radio: "If we don't wear masks, and if we ignore social distancing rules, and if we just pretend it's all over, then what's going to happen is we'll get another big wave of infection, and we'll get put into lockdown again.

"If we don't want lockdown we've got to try and stop the spread by easier means like mask-wearing and social distancing."

Health minister Edward Argar said this morning the Government is not currently moving into 'plan B' restrictions.

And he defended the decision not to insist on masks in eateries and pubs, telling BBC Breakfast: "It's partly in the nature of pubs and restaurants and hospitality venues where people are eating, drinking.

"They may go to a bar to order a drink, but will often then sip the drink on their way back to their table where they will be seated. It's about striking a proportionate balance."

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is mulling plans to offer millions more Brits booster jabs under emergency measures to slow the spread of Omicron.

A decision on expanding the programme and cutting the gap before a third dose is expected as early as today.

The group's deputy chairman Professor Anthony Harnden said extending the age range for boosters and reducing the gap between second and third doses was "a sensible strategy".

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