Up and down the UK people are preparing themselves for the possibility of tougher restrictions being introduced in the future.

The number of cases associated with the Omicron variant is rising rapidly, and general cases are on the rise too. Yesterday the UK reported the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began.

England is currently under ‘Plan B’ restrictions which sees face coverings, home working and Covid passes being encouraged. Similar restrictions have been in place in Scotland and Wales for some time.

As talk of tougher restrictions is on the rise, the term ‘lockdown by stealth’ has been circulating. But what does it mean?

What does lockdown by stealth mean?

When the government does not formally tighten restrictions but urges people to stay away from public settings and gatherings, this is referred to as a ‘lockdown by stealth’.

Despite there being no official lockdown in place, this can cause businesses such as hospitality to suffer.

St Helens Star: Daily confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK (PA)Daily confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK (PA)

In a stock market update, founder of JD Wetherspoons Tim Martin urged the difficulty faced by hospitality in a ‘lockdown by stealth’.

The update read: “uncertainty, and the introduction of radical changes of direction by the government, make predictions for sales and profits hazardous".

He continued: “The repeated warnings and calls for restrictions, mainly from Sage [committee] members and academics, combined with arbitrary changes of direction from the government, invariably at short notice, affect customer sentiment and trade.

"In effect, the country appears to be heading towards a lockdown by stealth."

Will there be an official lockdown over Christmas?

At a recent Downing Street briefing, Boris Johnson noted he believes this Christmas will be better than last, but urged people to be cautious

He said people should “think carefully before you go, what kind of event is it? Are you likely to meet people who are vulnerable?… Get a test, make sure there is ventilation, wear a mask on transport.”

He also insisted that Plan B was the right course of action, along with the booster programme extension that will “provide an excellent level of protection”.

During a visit to a vaccination clinic on Monday, December 13, the Prime Minister refused to comment on the likelihood of tougher restrictions being introduced.

Made with Flourish

He commented on the importance of the Plan B restrictions and his hope that they would be enough. However, despite calls to rule out tougher restrictions, he refused to do so.

However, on Thursday, December 16, Health Minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News that the government will not be introducing restrictions between now and Christmas day and that Boris Johnson “won’t hesitate” to recall Parliament if he needed to bring in extra measures.