Furious MPs have demanded answers from Boris Johnson after it was reported he is poised to announce Covid Plan B restrictions today.
Government sources briefed some media outlets that Brits would have to work from home and use vaccine passports as early as tomorrow morning.
But it comes on a torrid day for the government as it was engulfed in a scandal about a Christmas party allegedly held in No10 last year.
The angry MPs included Conservative William Wragg who even accused the government of using a “diversionary tactic”.
Wragg quizzed Johnson during prime minister’s questions, saying: “There are major reports of a Cabinet meeting and press conference this afternoon to initiate Covid winter Plan B without reference to this house
“Covid passes or not increase uptake of the vaccine, but will create a segregated society.
“Is the prime minister aware that very few will be convinced by this diversionary tactic?”
Mr Johnson replied: “No decisions will be taken without consulting the Cabinet.”
Downing Street sources insisted “no decisions have been made” but there is widespread speculation that further measures could be imminent due to rising cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.
In a separate exchange, Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting asked the House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle: “Have you been notified by the government of their intention to make a statement today from the department of health and social care?
“Because if media reports are to be believed, there will be a Cabinet meeting this afternoon followed by a Downing Street press conference to announce the introduction of new restrictions.”
Streeting also hit back at Johnson’s earlier comments about Labour “playing poltics” during the pandemic, saying they always put public health first and had voted with the government “time and again” during the crisis.
He added: “Do not abuse that trust in the way that the public trust has been abused. We will always put public health first, but we expect that announcement to be made here.”
Hoyle also vented his fury and raised his voice, replying: “I can confirm that I’ve had no request from the government to make a statement.”
The speaker has grown increasingly angry over the government making statements to the public or briefing journalists before covid measures were officially announced to MPs in the Commons.
He told the government they must make statements to the chamber first, adding: “This chamber is where statements are made. It goes against the ministerial code.
“I don’t want to fall out with the prime minister but it is a not a good way of getting Christmas cards between us because I take it and find it very, very offensive.
“What I do not want is statements to be made outside. I want the respect of this house, I expect government to make sure they respect their own backbenchers – because I do if he doesn’t.”
Hoyle said he hoped they could hear his voice from Downing Street, adding: “Please, let us not take this house for granted and I stand firmly behind all the members of this house that it must be here first.”
The Cabinet’s Covid-19 operations (Covid-O) committee was expected to meet on Wednesday to consider the next steps.
It comes as a prominent member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned that a full UK-wide lockdown to deal with the threat of Omicron could not be ruled out, although the current threat posed by the strain remains unclear.
The Government has so far insisted it is not time to activate its Plan B – restrictions that would be brought in to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed this winter.
Johnson told his Cabinet on Tuesday that “early indications were that it was more transmissible” than the Delta strain.
Restrictions could play a role in slowing the spread of the variant in order to allow more time for the booster jab vaccination campaign to progress.