HEALTH chiefs are confident more restrictions are not yet needed – but warned they could be imposed 'at real speed' if Omicron puts the strain on hospitals.

NHS leaders have been reassured that despite a rise in hospital admissions across the UK, the threshold for new rules has not been crossed.

Yesterday, the number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals in England jumped to 11,492 – the highest number since February.

But it comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.

Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, told the BBC: "We know that the government has set a high threshold on introducing extra new restrictions.

"So on that basis, trust leaders can see why the government's arguing that in the absence of a surge of seriously ill patients coming into hospital, that threshold hasn't yet been crossed.

"But we still don't know if the surge will come and indeed we're exactly talking about the preparations that we're making or that surge right now.

"So in terms of restrictions, I think we're in exactly the same place we've been in for the last fortnight, which is the government needs to be ready to introduce tighter restrictions at real speed should they be needed."

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Boris Johnson is due to decide next week on whether Covid-19 rules should be introduced that ban indoor drinking in pubs.

He today hailed the booster campaign for putting us in an "incomparably better" position to fight Covid than last year.

The PM is unlikely to recall Parliament to rubberstamp legally-binding lockdown restrictions such as the loathed Rule of Six, sources claimed on Monday.

But that does not rule out country-wide "guidance" which cannot be enforced by cops and does not need Commons approval.

On Thursday cases in the UK reached a new record-high for the second day in a row after 189,213 cases were reported.

However, the record-breaking figures include a backlog of cases from before December 25.

A further 332 people died in Britain from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours bringing the total to 148,421.

Yesterday new data revealed that coronavirus infections are slowing, amid a spread in Omicron cases in older age groups.

But experts have warned that there has been a worrying rise in cases in Brits aged 55-75, which could put pressure on the NHS.

Omicron is now responsible for 90 per cent of cases in the UK and has taken over from the Delta variant.

Data from the ZOE Symptom Tracker app showed that infections are slowing in the 0-55 age groups.

Dr Claire Steves, scientist on the ZOE Covid Study app and reader at King’s College London said: “The number of daily new symptomatic Covid cases are more than double what they were this time last year and we are just a day or two away from hitting over 200,000. 

"However, the exponential growth in cases appears to have stopped, and the rise is more steady.

"Hospitalisation rates are thankfully much lower than this time last year, but they are still high, especially in London.

"The ZOE data is showing that cases are still on the rise in 55-75-year-olds so unfortunately, it’s likely that this will translate into more hospital admissions in the New Year."

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