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City centres in Scotland and Wales have been pictured desolate and lifeless amid the introduction of new Covid restrictions on hospitality – all while revellers let their hair down in England after Sajid Javid confirmed no new rules would be put in place before New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Nightclubs were closed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland under new restrictions on Monday, while the rule of six and social distancing have been reintroduced for pubs and restaurants.

It leaves England as the only part of the UK where party-goers will be able to celebrate New Year’s Eve without restrictions after Boris Johnson opted to heed the pleas of hospitality bosses and resist fresh Covid curbs.

The Prime Minister held crunch talks with chief advisors Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance over the spread of Covid variant Omicron on Monday. However, Mr Johnson confirmed he will rely on guidance to limit socialising over the New Year, rather than legally binding rules.

He said: ‘We will continue to monitor the data carefully, but there will be no new restrictions introduced in England before the New Year. However, I would urge everyone to continue to act cautiously given the rising number of Omicron cases.

‘Most importantly I urge everyone to get their first, second or booster jab without delay to protect yourselves and your loved ones.’

Official coronavirus statistics appeared to justify No10’s reluctance to resort to economically-crippling curbs, with the number of cases recorded in England having fallen every day since Christmas.

Today’s confirmed infections were up just 7 per cent in a week to 98,515 but the figures were for England only, and did not represent Britain’s situation as a whole.

Scotland’s cases, meanwhile, spiralled to record highs during the festive break, but the tallies won’t be included in the UK-wide update until Wednesday, at the same time as Northern Ireland. Wales’ tolls for over Christmas are set to be logged officially tomorrow. 

First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford were also today accused of ‘jumping the gun’ and ‘devastating the hospitality industry’ by bringing in tougher restrictions.

And on the first day of the new rules on Bank Holiday Monday, traditionally busy streets in Cardiff, Swansea, Edinburgh and Glasgow were pictured arid and glum. 

In England, conversely, alcohol-fuelled crowds in London and Leeds remained in the festive spirit – braving the wet weather on Bank Holiday Monday to make the most of looser hospitality restrictions. 

A quiet High Street in Cardiff on Monday night after new Covid curbs were introduced in Wales placing restrictions on the hospitality sector

A quiet High Street in Cardiff on Monday night after new Covid curbs were introduced in Wales placing restrictions on the hospitality sector

A quiet High Street in Cardiff on Monday night after new Covid curbs were introduced in Wales placing restrictions on the hospitality sector

The normally busy Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow is desolate with only a handful of revellers amid the introduction of new Covid rules

The normally busy Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow is desolate with only a handful of revellers amid the introduction of new Covid rules

The normally busy Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow is desolate with only a handful of revellers amid the introduction of new Covid rules

A woman walks past a closed Winter Wonderland in Cardiff, which was forced to close earlier than planned due to the new measures

A woman walks past a closed Winter Wonderland in Cardiff, which was forced to close earlier than planned due to the new measures

A woman walks past a closed Winter Wonderland in Cardiff, which was forced to close earlier than planned due to the new measures

worker fastens a model Santa and sleigh to the back of a vehicle at Winter Wonderland in Cardiff

worker fastens a model Santa and sleigh to the back of a vehicle at Winter Wonderland in Cardiff

worker fastens a model Santa and sleigh to the back of a vehicle at Winter Wonderland in Cardiff

An empty Church Street in Cardiff after a revised version of alert level two measures were brought onto place on Boxing Day

An empty Church Street in Cardiff after a revised version of alert level two measures were brought onto place on Boxing Day

An empty Church Street in Cardiff after a revised version of alert level two measures were brought onto place on Boxing Day

Empty chairs and tables on High Street outside Castle Arcade in Cardiff after First Minister Mark Drakeford introduced new Covid measures

Empty chairs and tables on High Street outside Castle Arcade in Cardiff after First Minister Mark Drakeford introduced new Covid measures

Empty chairs and tables on High Street outside Castle Arcade in Cardiff after First Minister Mark Drakeford introduced new Covid measures

Wind Street, an area usually busy with revellers, remains relatively quiet in Swansea after nightclubs were closed for three weeks from December 27

Wind Street, an area usually busy with revellers, remains relatively quiet in Swansea after nightclubs were closed for three weeks from December 27

Wind Street, an area usually busy with revellers, remains relatively quiet in Swansea after nightclubs were closed for three weeks from December 27

The interior of the normally very busy Campus bar in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, which has been affected by hospitality restrictions

The interior of the normally very busy Campus bar in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, which has been affected by hospitality restrictions

The interior of the normally very busy Campus bar in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, which has been affected by hospitality restrictions

City centres in Scotland (pictured: Glasgow city centre) and Wales have been pictured desolate and lifeless amid the introduction of new Covid restrictions on hospitality

City centres in Scotland (pictured: Glasgow city centre) and Wales have been pictured desolate and lifeless amid the introduction of new Covid restrictions on hospitality

City centres in Scotland (pictured: Glasgow city centre) and Wales have been pictured desolate and lifeless amid the introduction of new Covid restrictions on hospitality

A quiet Wind Street in Swansea amid the introduction of new Covid rules which included the closing of nightclubs in Wales

A quiet Wind Street in Swansea amid the introduction of new Covid rules which included the closing of nightclubs in Wales

A quiet Wind Street in Swansea amid the introduction of new Covid rules which included the closing of nightclubs in Wales

In Scotland, up to three households can meet, with one-metre distancing between groups at indoor and outdoor venues such as bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms. 

Table service is required at places where alcohol is served, and nightclubs are now shut for at least three weeks. 

In Wales, a maximum of six people are allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants and social distancing is back while only 30 people will be allowed at indoor events with this being increased to 50 if it is outdoors

Northern Ireland has also restricted socialising to three households, while up to six people can meet in pubs, bars and restaurants. 

Nightclubs will be closed on New Year’s Eve and dancing will be prohibited in hospitality venues, although this will not apply to weddings.

Residents, though, reacted with fury at having plans to celebrate the New Year scuppered as Mr Johnson gave the green light to England on Monday.

Eileen Queen branded the decision an ‘utter disgrace’.

She tweeted: ‘An utter disgrace that sturgeon has all of us having 3 weeks of this. 500 football fans a game, hospitality hit dreadfully, and all the rest.

‘England doing nothing on advice, and heeding it. sturgeon enjoys all this control of us, never detested a politician so much in my life.’  

Another resident said: ‘So Boris has wrong-footed Sturgeon because he followed the science and she followed her own flawed nationalist political agenda.

‘She has single-handedly devastated the Scottish hospitality industry and ruined the country’s New Year festivities’   

A third person tweeted: ‘Drakeford and Sturgeon jumped the gun. They should fund the damage they have done to Welsh and Scottish businesses. 

‘They cannot look to the UK to fund their unnecessary authoritarian behaviour.’   

Ms Sturgeon was also met with uproar earlier this week after refusing to reduce the current requirement to self-isolate for ten days – avoiding bringing it in line with England’s approach, where it has now been cut to seven with two lateral flow negative tests on days six and seven.

One nightclub owner in Glasgow described the Scottish National Party as ‘Grinches’, while Twitter users posted memes of Mr Drakeford and Ms Sturgeon’s faces over posters of the 2000 movie How the Grinch Stole Christmas. 

Revellers pictures queuing outside a nightclub in Leeds after Boris Johnson confirmed no new rules would be introduced before the New Year celebrations

Revellers pictures queuing outside a nightclub in Leeds after Boris Johnson confirmed no new rules would be introduced before the New Year celebrations

Revellers pictures queuing outside a nightclub in Leeds after Boris Johnson confirmed no new rules would be introduced before the New Year celebrations

Party-goers braved the wet weather to make the most of looser hospitality restrictions in England on Bank Holiday Monday

Party-goers braved the wet weather to make the most of looser hospitality restrictions in England on Bank Holiday Monday

Party-goers braved the wet weather to make the most of looser hospitality restrictions in England on Bank Holiday Monday

A large crowd in Leicester Square, central London, on Monday evening

A large crowd in Leicester Square, central London, on Monday evening

A large crowd in Leicester Square, central London, on Monday evening

Party-goers remain in festive spirit as they brave the rain to queue outside a nightclub in Leeds

Party-goers remain in festive spirit as they brave the rain to queue outside a nightclub in Leeds

Party-goers remain in festive spirit as they brave the rain to queue outside a nightclub in Leeds

A crowd of people, many wearing masks, inside a venue in Leicester Square, London, where new restrictions have not been introduced

A crowd of people, many wearing masks, inside a venue in Leicester Square, London, where new restrictions have not been introduced

A crowd of people, many wearing masks, inside a venue in Leicester Square, London, where new restrictions have not been introduced

Today’s much-anticipated Covid statistics gave a breakdown of the situation on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in the UK, when no figures were publicly released. 

On Christmas Day, 113,628 positive tests were recorded in England. 

A further 108,893 were logged on Boxing Day – 103,558 in England and 5,335 in Wales.

Equivalent figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to trickle through into the Government’s own system over the coming days.

Separate hospitalisation figures for England showed there were 1,281 Covid admissions on December 25.

This was up 74 per cent week-on-week and the highest number since February 16.

During the second wave of coronavirus, admissions peaked at over 4,100 on January 12.

As revellers in England celebrated on Monday, though, Health Secretary Sajid Javid continued to dangle the threat of tightening restrictions in 2022 to bring England in line with the rest of the home nations, urging revellers to ‘remain cautious’.

Following the release of the daily Covid statistics, Mr Javid told broadcasters: ‘We look at the data on a daily basis – that hasn’t changed over the Christmas period.

‘But there will be no further measures before the new year. Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach New Year’s celebrations.

‘Take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation if you can.

‘Please remain cautious and when we get into the new year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing more until then, at least.’ 

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon imposed tougher restrictions for the country, scuppering plans for Hogmanay celebrations

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon imposed tougher restrictions for the country, scuppering plans for Hogmanay celebrations

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon imposed tougher restrictions for the country, scuppering plans for Hogmanay celebrations

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford speaks during a press conference at the Welsh Government Building in Cathays Park on December 22

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford speaks during a press conference at the Welsh Government Building in Cathays Park on December 22

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford speaks during a press conference at the Welsh Government Building in Cathays Park on December 22

Mr Johnson received praise within his own party for deciding against following the rest of the UK into fresh Covid rules.

Tory backbencher Brendan Clarke-Smith, who was one of the Tories who rebelled to vote against Plan B restrictions before Christmas, said: ‘This is great news and will be welcomed by everybody wanting to get on with their lives and to be able to enjoy the New Year.

‘Not such great news for scaremongerers, Covid socialists and mask sellers. Now let’s hope there’s no need for any more restrictions again afterwards.’

Possible restrictions considered by the PM for England over the past few days included closing pubs and restaurants indoors, bringing back the rule of six or restricting the number of households meeting indoors, and limiting capacity at mass events.

But beleaguered hospitality bosses have welcomed the decision to opt against their introduction, providing much needed respite following a Christmas period which was dogged by cancellations due to fears over Omicron.   

New Covid restrictions introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from today 

New coronavirus restrictions are being introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland today as the country’s leaders try to combat rising Covid cases but politicians in England are unlikely to discuss further measures until Monday. 

The three nations have each imposed limits on the size of gatherings, requirements for social distancing and tighter rules for pubs, restaurants and leisure venues.  

The new rules mean that Boxing Day football matches in Scotland will be played in front of a maximum of 500 seated fans, while in Wales all large sporting events will be played behind closed doors. 

From today, a maximum of six people will be allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants in Wales and a total of 30 people will be allowed at indoor events while 50 people will be allowed at outdoor events.

First minister Mark Drakeford also said the two metre social distancing is being required in public premises and offices, and nightclubs will close.

The rules, in force from 6am this morning, are a revised version of alert level two.

In Scotland, large events will have one metre physical distancing and will be limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors.

A day later, up to three households can meet with a one metre distancing between groups at indoor and outdoor venues like bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms. Table service is also needed at places where alcohol is served.

Northern Ireland is also bringing in restrictions on Boxing Day and December 27, with indoor standing events no longer permitted and nightclubs closing.

Socialising will be reduced to three households while up to six people can meet in pubs, bars and restaurants. Ten people will be allowed if they are from the same household. Only table service will be available.

A two metre social distancing rule will be in place in public premises and offices.

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New Year’s Eve is ON as Boris holds his nerve: Sajid Javid rules out any new Covid restrictions this week after hospital admissions hit highest level since February but failed to break key lockdown threshold in London and cases rise by just 7% to 98,515 

By Stephen Matthews Health Editor and Chay Quin and David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent for MailOnline

England’s New Year’s Eve celebrations were today given the green light after weeks of being hung in the balance as Boris Johnson held his nerve in the face of grim Omicron warnings from his own advisers and avoided bringing in tough new restrictions. 

The Prime Minister wants to rely on guidance urging people to limit socialising, rather than impose legally binding curbs like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland woke up to today.

Mr Johnson held crunch talks with his chief advisers Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance today, which raised fears that No10 would unveil fresh restrictions in time for the last social hurrah of the year. But he has so far refused to cave into demands for tougher action.

Confirming England would be going it alone in its decision to hold fire on hitting the panic button, Sajid Javid declared: ‘There will be no further measures before the New Year.’ He told Sky News: ‘It’s for each country that makes up the UK to decide how it wants to go forward.’

But the Health Secretary still dangled the threat of tightening restrictions in 2022 to bring England in line with the rest of the home nations, urging revellers to ‘remain cautious’.

Official coronavirus statistics appeared to justify No10’s reluctance to resort to economically-crippling curbs, with the number of cases recorded in England having fallen every day since Christmas. 

Boris Johnson (pictured) is avoided imposing tough Covid restrictions for the New Year following a crunch meeting with scientists today

Boris Johnson (pictured) is avoided imposing tough Covid restrictions for the New Year following a crunch meeting with scientists today

Boris Johnson (pictured) is avoided imposing tough Covid restrictions for the New Year following a crunch meeting with scientists today

Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty (right) and Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance earlier this year. The Prime Minister will hold talks with advisers to discuss whether legal curbs are needed to deal with the threat of Omicron

Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty (right) and Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance earlier this year. The Prime Minister will hold talks with advisers to discuss whether legal curbs are needed to deal with the threat of Omicron

Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty (right) and Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance earlier this year. The Prime Minister will hold talks with advisers to discuss whether legal curbs are needed to deal with the threat of Omicron

Today’s confirmed infections were up just 7 per cent in a week to 98,515 but the figures were for England only, and did not represent Britain’s situation as a whole. 

Scotland’s cases spiralled to record highs during the festive break but the tallies won’t be included in the UK-wide update until Wednesday, at the same time as Northern Ireland. Wales’ tolls for over Christmas are set to be logged officially tomorrow.

However, other data laid bare the threat the NHS faces from Omicron in the New Year. Covid hospital admissions in England hit the highest level since February on Christmas Day, with 1,281 coronavirus-infected patients placed on wards, up 74 per cent in a week.

But the same grisly data, which reflects how the ultra-infectious variant has triggered spiralling infection rates all across the country, also shows daily hospitalisation figures in Omicron-hotspot London are still below the crucial figure thought to be No10’s trigger point for imposing fresh England-wide restrictions. Promising official data also suggests that London’s outbreak is flattening off.

Meanwhile, deaths have more than trebled with 143 logged today compared to 44 last Monday. But this was down to a recording lag, which saw no fatalities registered on Christmas Day and just three on Boxing Day. 

Full legal curbs would require Parliament to be recalled, which can be done within 48 hours, and would trigger already furious Tory backbenchers and cause serious problems for the hospitality industry.

But Mr Johnson was praised from within his own party for holding firm today, with Conservative MPs saying the data didn’t support acting even tougher. Andrew Bridgen called the steps taken in Scotland and Wales an ‘over-reaction’.

It came as: 

  • Tensions boiled over as tighter coronavirus restrictions were introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland today as the nation’s leaders try to halt the spread of the Omicron variant;
  • ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson described how he had become ‘something of a marmite figure’ as he admitted he ‘made mistakes’ and ‘oversimplified things’ during the pandemic;
  • Entire year groups of school students could be sent home by headteachers if the Omicron variant leads to staffing crises when schools return next month, union bosses warned; 
  • Beijing has ordered roads, buildings and open spaces to be disinfected in the Chinese city of Xian as it upgraded lockdown restrictions to their ‘strictest level’.

Weddings, births and funerals ‘will be exempted from any future Covid crackdowns’

Weddings, births and funerals will be exempted from any future Covid-19 restrictions after limiting numbers during previous lockdowns was blamed for causing undue stress. 

The exemptions for life events are part of all scenarios that have been drawn up by the government to deal with the threat of Omicron

Possible restrictions considered by the PM over the past few days include closing pubs and restaurants indoors, bringing back the rule of six or restricting the number of households meeting indoors, and limiting capacity at mass events. 

But ministers are said to be against disrupting significant life events with the restrictions, even if they opt to bring back the rule of six in indoor settings, the Times reported. 

Among the proposals are plans to prevent hospitals forcing women to attend scans and check ups – as well as give birth – without their partners.  

And ministers are ‘increasingly optimistic but very cautiously optimistic’ they will avoid reimposing draconian lockdown rules in England before the new year.   

‘It’s not just that there’s a clear gap between cases and hospitalisations, but also that when people are going into hospital they tend to be there for less time,’ a government source told the Times. 

It is a stark difference from previous restrictions, under which the number of people allowed at weddings and funerals was capped – and saw the Queen attend Prince Philip’s funeral alone in April.   

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Following the release of the daily Covid statistics, Mr Javid told broadcasters: ‘We look at the data on a daily basis – that hasn’t changed over the Christmas period.

‘But there will be no further measures before the new year. Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach New Year’s celebrations.

‘Take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation if you can.

‘Please remain cautious and when we get into the new year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing more until then, at least.’

Tory backbencher Brendan Clarke-Smith, who was one of the Tories who rebelled to vote against Plan B restrictions before Christmas, praised the Government’s move.

He said: ‘This is great news and will be welcomed by everybody wanting to get on with their lives and to be able to enjoy the New Year. 

‘Not such great news for scaremongerers, Covid socialists and mask sellers.

‘Now let’s hope there’s no need for any more restrictions again afterwards.’

Today’s much-anticipated Covid statistics also gave a breakdown of the situation on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when no figures were publicly released.

On Christmas Day, 113,628 positive tests were recorded in England.

A further 108,893 were logged on Boxing Day – 103,558 in England and 5,335 in Wales. 

Equivalent figures for Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to trickle through into the Government’s own system over the coming days.  

Separate hospitalisation figures for England showed there were 1,281 Covid admissions on December 25.

This was up 74 per cent week-on-week and the highest number since February 16.

During the second wave of coronavirus, admissions peaked at over 4,100 on January 12.

In London, 364 admissions were reported on Christmas Day, up 73 per cent week-on-week. But it was still below the 390 admissions reported on December 23. 

It was also below the 400-a-day figure that Government advisers have estimated could be used as a trigger point for bringing in national restrictions.

Admissions during the second wave peaked in London at 977 on January 6.

Possible restrictions considered by the PM for England over the past few days included closing pubs and restaurants indoors, bringing back the rule of six or restricting the number of households meeting indoors, and limiting capacity at mass events.

Last night the beleaguered hospitality industry urged Mr Johnson to hold firm amid hopeful signs that Omicron is not as dangerous as previous variants. 

Pub and restaurant owners have cautiously welcomed the Government’s announcement that no new restrictions will be implemented before New Year’s Eve.

The move gives beleaguered hospitality venues respite after a Christmas period which was dogged by cancellations due to fears over the Omicron variant of Covid.

Daniel Farrow, owner of the Gatherers bar and restaurant in Norwich, said that his business has seen 60% of bookings cancelled in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Mr Farrow, 26, said: ‘It’s really good news, that really helps people.

‘But you know, having a good New Year’s will just be one good day out of a whole month that should have been us trading at full capacity. In reality, we traded at 20%. 

Meanwhile, from today Scottish nightclubs will be shuttered and hospitality businesses will need to return to offering only table service if serving alcohol.

Bars, restaurants and indoor leisure facilities such as gyms, theatres and museums will also have to reinstate one-metre social distancing regulations.

The restrictions come after caps were placed on large events from Sunday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced last week that just 100 people would be able to attend a standing indoor event and 200 seated.

Outdoor events will also be restricted to 500 – a rule which has hit football games hardest.

Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leach appeared to criticise Mr Johnson’s approach this morning, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This virus has never reached well to delay, it has never reacted to soft, slow responses, it has always reacted best to hard, fast responses.’  

 

 

  

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