Are Christmas celebrations at risk this year from Covid?

That is the question on many people's minds as rising daily infection rates have led to concerns from health experts.

Some scientists believe numbers are already out of control - averaging 40,000 daily infections every day this past week.

While hospital admissions and daily deaths are much lower than at the peak in January, there are fears this could change in future weeks, tipping the NHS over the edge due to intense pressure.

Despite these concerns, Boris Johnson has rejected calls for tighter restrictions and has insisted that "vaccines are our way through winter".

%image(14189696, type="article-full", alt="Boris Johnson has said there is "nothing to indicate" a lockdown could be on the cards this winter")

Will there be another lockdown this Christmas?

The prime minister has insisted there is "absolutely nothing to indicate this is on the cards at all".

On Monday health secretary Sajid Javid said Christmas should be "normal" this year, although he suggested this was contingent on people getting their jabs.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also added that the vaccine rollout and booster jabs make any lockdown or "significant economic restrictions" unlikely.

However, government advisor Professor Peter Openshaw has said that he fears "another lockdown Christmas if we don't act soon".

He said: "We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There's no point in delaying.

"If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later. The immediacy of response is absolutely vital if you're going to get things under control.

"We all really, really want a wonderful family Christmas where we can all get back together.

"If that's what we want, we need to get these measures in place now in order to get transmission rates right down so that we can actually get together and see one another over Christmas."

What is Plan B?

Currently the government hopes the vaccine programme will be successful and the country won't have to return to Covid restrictions.

Plan B is alternative action which could see mandatory face mask coverings indoors, guidance to work from home, and vaccine passports.

The plan is designed to protect the NHS from "unsustainable pressure" - though there is no agreed definition of what that means.

The government said the NHS is currently not under unsustainable pressure but health leaders disagree.

%image(14137245, type="article-full", alt="Sajid Javid has said Christmas should be "normal" this year, providing people get their Covid vaccines and booster jabs")

How many cases are too many?

The health secretary has warned that recorded cases could hit more than 100,000 a day over winter.

At the moment deaths are far from previous peaks at 136 per day.

But the risk to the NHS being overwhelmed is not just from Covid cases.

Seasonal flu hospital admissions, the usual winter trips and falls, and the mammoth task of continuing to clear the care backlog caused by the pandemic will likely cause sustained pressure upon the NHS this winter.

Dr Nick Scriven, former president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: "Areas of the NHS are currently experiencing conditions outside of anyone's experience and this comes hot on the heels of two years of unrelenting pressure."

The government has said it is keeping track of data on a daily basis including Covid-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths.

What do pubs and restaurants think?

UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls has warned the Christmas season is "desperately important" for the survival of pubs, bars and restaurants and she has resisted calls for Plan B to be brought in.

She said: "A lot of businesses are still fragile. Any knock at this point in time could have an impact on viability. People will just go to the wall."