The rules on face masks are set to stay in place until the new year as the government tries to fend off tougher restrictions in the lead up to Christmas, it has been reported.

Emergency laws were brought in again last week until December 21 in a bid to help slow the spread of the new Omicron variant.

But it is thought the laws around wearing masks in shops and on public transport will be in place longer - until January - with sources sayng it is likely masks would be mandatory for at least another three weeks in order to give scientists more time to analyse the Omicron threat.

Regulations around travel have also changed and are expected to be extended. These include pre-departure tests and a compulsory ten-day quarantine for anyone in close contact with an Omicron case.

Masks are currently mandatory in shops and on public transport until December 21 (

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REUTERS)

At the same time, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to reassure Brits that Christmas is still on and the government won't enforce its Plan B just yet, according to sources.

A Whitehall source told MailOnline: 'In terms of Plan B, we are not there yet. The ambition is that people can have a much more normal Christmas than last year.

'That depends on what the data shows about the new variant. But certainly the hope is that things stay as they are in the next couple of weeks.'

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has also been urging people to continue with their plans for Christmas, adding that it was 'going to be a great Christmas'.

He told Brits yesterday to “enjoy Christmas” but “continue to be vigilant”, adding: “I think it’s going to be a great Christmas. All the family, friends, loved ones being able to get together in a way we haven’t been able to do for a couple of years is really important.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has also been urging people to continue with their plans for Christmas (

Image:

Getty Images)

He also urged people to get their booster jabs as soon as they can, saying it was the most important measure in helping to stop further restrictions coming into force.

Meanwhile a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) suggested restrictions could still be needed in January.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, of the University of Cambridge, said Omicron “may actually be milder but we haven't got enough data yet to be able to say”.

Speaking to Sky News the statistician added: “Just like last year with the Alpha variant, this is a terrible time for a variant to come along.

“The next two weeks are probably some of the highest-risk periods with a lot of indoor socialising that we know is extremely high risk.

“It’s appalling timing. I’m sure the government would love not to disrupt Christmas. What happens after Christmas of course is another matter.”

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