Majority of people in UK support two-week lockdown to combat omicron, poll suggests

British public ‘braced for another Christmas of disruptions and restrictions’, says pollster

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 15 December 2021 15:20
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Related video: UK could see ‘staggering’ omicron numbers, says health agency chief

The majority of UK adults would support the idea of a two-week national lockdown starting in December to combat omicron, new polling suggests.

Some 51 per cent backed the idea of lockdown over Christmas to halt the Covid variant’s rapid spread across the country, according to the latest Savanta ComRes survey.

One third of adults (32 per cent) were opposed to a new lockdown, rising to almost two in five Conservative voters (38 per cent) – although almost half of Tory backers do support the idea (48 per cent).

Downing Street insisted on Wednesday that Boris Johnson has “no plans to go beyond” current plan B measures and impose tougher curbs – despite warnings from health chiefs that the NHS could soon be overwhelmed by omicron hospitalisations.

But pollsters at Savanta ComRes said the prime minister would appear to have “the public on his side” if he did bring in further restrictions. The poll findings came from a Savanta ComRes survey of 1,004 UK adults online on 14 December 2021.

Of specific restrictions polled, the closing of nightclubs (63 per cent support) and halting large crowds at sporting and entertainment events (64 per cent) have the highest levels of backing, with just one in five opposing each.

A return to the “rule of six” that would place strict limits of the number of people who could gather indoors is supported by 55 per cent of the public.

And restrictions such as the closing of pubs and restaurants (44 per cent support), no indoor mixing of different households (44 per cent) also have relatively high levels of support.

“The omicron variant looks set to force the hand of the government and, as things stand, it seems the public are braced for another Christmas of disruptions and restrictions,” said Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta ComRes.

He added: “With half appearing in support of a lockdown amid rising cases, the prime minister again appears to have the public on his side if he does decide to make last-minute changes to the festive period.”

Mr Johnson will hold a press conference at 5pm today alongside chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, who has warned has warned a “significant increase in hospitalisations” is coming from omicron.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief Jenny Harries warned on Wednesday that omicron was “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic” and the NHS could be in “serious peril” because of the new wave.

Although no firm proposals for a plan C have yet been circulated to cabinet ministers, government officials are reportedly considering contingency plans for further restriction.

The Savanta ComRes pollster noted that the popularity of restrictions over the holiday had dropped slightly from last year, where two-thirds supported the reduction in “Christmas bubbles” from five days to one. “Some are definitely less keen this year than they were last,” said Mr Hopkins.

Almost half of UK adults (48 per cent) told the pollster they are likely to cancel planned Christmas gatherings or other social occasions in the next two weeks because of omicron. Only two in five say that they are not likely to do this (42 per cent).

This article was amended on 20 December 2021. The headline and article previously stated inaccurately that half of UK adults supported a lockdown. It should have made it clear that this was an extrapolation based on polling. We also added more detail about the poll, including the size of the sample.

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