Nicola Sturgeon today insisted large-scale New Year’s Eve parties in Scotland are still cancelled as English border pubs brace for as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers to cross into England to celebrate on Friday. 

The Scottish First Minister announced a ban on large gatherings last week which torpedoed Hogmanay festivities and this afternoon she insisted the crackdown is necessary to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. 

Ms Sturgeon said it is ‘prudent’ and ‘essential’ to take action to reduce transmission of the disease in order to ‘avoid the sheer volume of cases overwhelming us’. 

Some 15,849 positive cases were recorded in Scotland yesterday – the highest number of the pandemic ‘by some margin’ – while 679 people were in hospital, 80 more than the previous day. 

Ms Sturgeon’s comments came as Boris Johnson said ‘everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way’ as he stressed the data on Omicron shows it is ‘obviously milder than the Delta variant’. 

Meanwhile, one of Mr Johnson’s ministers suggested Scots are welcome to come to England on December 31. 

Chloe Smith, the Work and Pensions Minister, said that ‘we are one country and people are more than free to move around inside our country under the general law’. 

Her remarks are likely to prompt a furious row with Holyrood after Deputy First Minister John Swinney this morning told Scots not to make the journey.     

Mr Johnson confirmed on Monday that England will not see additional Covid measures introduced before New Year’s Eve despite nightclubs closing and curbs being placed on large gatherings in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.      

The restrictions on events in neighbouring nations are expected to prompt a flood of people crossing into England to celebrate.    

Greg Mulholland, at the Campaign for Pubs, said as many as 100,000 could cross the borders for a ‘normal’ New Year’s Eve without table service-only or mask wearing requirements.  

He told The Sun: ‘We need a more coordinated, common sense approach. It’s confusing for the many thousands of people who live near a border, and frustrating for publicans in Scotland and Wales.’

Social media was flooded with people saying they planned to head to England on Friday to bring in the New Year in the face of stringent restrictions on clubs and bars in their own nations. 

Furious Tory MPs and hospitality bosses in Scotland and Wales yesterday demanded Ms Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, publish figures justifying their Covid crackdowns. 

City centres in the principalities, including Northern Ireland, were pictured desolate and lifeless last night amid the introduction of new Covid restrictions for pubs and clubs, which included the rule of six and social distancing for thousands of venues.

Meanwhile, revellers let their hair down in England after Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed no new rules would be put in place before the end of the year.

Nicola Sturgeon today insisted large-scale New Year's Eve parties in Scotland are still cancelled as English border pubs brace for as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers to cross into England to celebrate on Friday

Nicola Sturgeon today insisted large-scale New Year's Eve parties in Scotland are still cancelled as English border pubs brace for as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers to cross into England to celebrate on Friday

Nicola Sturgeon today insisted large-scale New Year’s Eve parties in Scotland are still cancelled as English border pubs brace for as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers to cross into England to celebrate on Friday

English border pubs could see as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers cross into England for New Year's Eve where there are no restrictions on festivities. Pictured: Glasgow nightlife after restrictions were imposed in Scotland this weekend

English border pubs could see as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers cross into England for New Year's Eve where there are no restrictions on festivities. Pictured: Glasgow nightlife after restrictions were imposed in Scotland this weekend

English border pubs could see as many as 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers cross into England for New Year’s Eve where there are no restrictions on festivities. Pictured: Glasgow nightlife after restrictions were imposed in Scotland this weekend

Pictured: Empty tables at Revolucion de Cuba on December 27, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales as a result of Covid restrictions

Pictured: Empty tables at Revolucion de Cuba on December 27, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales as a result of Covid restrictions

Pictured: Empty tables at Revolucion de Cuba on December 27, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales as a result of Covid restrictions

People living in areas where venues have been shut down have revealed their plans to cross the border and enjoy a night out on the town in cities like Bristol and Newcastle.

Pubs in such areas are already preparing for an influx of customers, with one venue admitting they are expecting coaches full of revellers to arrive on New Year’s Eve. 

Ms Sturgeon delivered a Covid update to MSPs at Holyrood this afternoon as she insisted cancelling large-scale events is necessary. 

She said: ‘All in all, I would expect that within the next couple of weeks we will have a clearer picture and that this will then help us reach informed judgements about the most proportionate response going forward.

‘In the meantime however, while we better understand the impact and while more and more of us get the added protection of booster vaccinations which will of course help reduce the impact of Omicron, we must try to avoid the sheer volume of cases overwhelming us.

‘That is why it is prudent, indeed I would say it is essential, that we do act to slow transmission at this stage as much as possible.

‘Indeed, that is why additional protections were announced last week and are now in force… and it is also why over Hogmanay and New Year’s Day and for at least the first week of January we are advising everyone to stay at home more than normal, to reduce contacts with people outside our own households and to limit the size of any indoor social gatherings that do take place so that they don’t include people from any more than three households.’

Mr Johnson had been asked this morning during a visit to a vaccination centre in Milton Keynes for his opinion on people crossing the border to come to England on New Year’s Eve. 

He said: ‘I think everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way. Take a test, ventilation, think about others, but above all get a booster.’ 

Mr Swinney had told BBC Breakfast this morning that he would ‘discourage’ Scots from making such trips to England. 

‘Well, people have got to make their own choices, they have got to follow the advice that we have put in place,’ he said. 

‘We have the power in Scotland to put in place certain restrictions and we have done those on what we consider to be a proportionate and an appropriate basis.

‘I would discourage people from doing what you have suggested to me. I don’t think it is in the spirit of the rules that we are putting forward.

‘But people are free to make their own judgements. What we have got to recognise is that Omicron is a serious threat to absolutely everybody within our society and we have all got to take measures to protect ourselves by limiting our social contacts and connections and by complying with the restrictions that we have in place.’

Asked if the Scottish government will be policing the border to stop people from crossing, Mr Swinney said: ‘No, people are free to take those decisions but I would discourage them from doing so. 

‘I think it is the wrong course of action for people to take because we have a serious situation that we have got to manage and we encourage everybody to play their part in addressing that.

‘The best thing people could do is limit their social connections and to wear face coverings, to get vaccinated and to make sure they get their booster before Hogmanay and with all of these measures we can all play a contribution in ensuring that we tackle the issues and the serious challenges that we face.’ 

Ms Smith was later asked about Mr Swinney’s remarks and she told the BBC’s World at One programme: ‘I think perhaps I should just add the obvious constitutional point here which is we are one country and people are more than free to move around inside our country under the general law, obviously, but also at this time in terms of any Covid restrictions, as I understand it, there are of course slightly different points of guidance and regulation operating in the different parts of the UK.

‘But given the general point that I think people could hear from all of the administrations in the UK, is that it is time to be cautious.

‘The best thing to do is to get boosted and make use of lateral flow testing so that you can keep yourself healthier and crucially keep those around you, wherever you are, healthier and safer too.’ 

Hospitality firms and opposition politicians in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been left furious by the new rules, particularly over the lack of figures published to justify the decisions.

Tory MP Fay Jones, whose constituency sits on the border between England and Wales said: ‘I’ve been inundated with messages from worried businesses in Brecon and Radnorshire, particularly for those who have competitors across the border. We really must see the evidence.’

Andrew Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, added: ‘As businesses struggle in the run up to the new year, we still haven’t seen any scientific evidence or advice from the Welsh Government on these new restrictions. Another example of why we need to see a Wales-specific inquiry into their handling of the pandemic.’ 

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told Nation.Cymru: ‘Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have let Scotland and Wales down badly and shown their true authoritarian nature.’  

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, told Sky News there has already been a significant difference in trading levels in English venues compared to those in Scotland and Wales, and warned that imposing the rule of six and table-only service can see firms lose up to 70% of their regular takings.

She said: ‘We welcome the fact that this is a pragmatic step, it’s a cautious step but it does allow our businesses to continue trading and opening their doors. 

‘We can see already the impact hospitality restrictions are having in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are devastating their level of revenue and ability to trade. It’s very welcome that in England at least we have that ability to continue to trade. 

 

 

Business leaders call for more help despite no new restrictions 

Business leaders have issued a fresh call for support for the beleaguered hospitality sector, after fears around the new Omicron variant led to a sharp drop-off in trade in the run-up to Christmas.

The industry broadly welcomed the announcement there will be no new Covid restrictions in England before the new year, beyond the Plan B measures already in place.

However British Chambers of Commerce president Baroness McGregor-Smith warned it would not make up for the business lost during what should have been the busiest time of the year, as people stayed away from pubs and restaurants.

While the Treasury has announced grants of up to £6,000 for businesses affected, she said that some were losing more than that each day.

‘In January, February, March we have increasing labour costs and increasing energy costs, among many other costs. The list goes on for businesses, particularly in hospitality,’ she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘I am delighted to see that we are protecting New Year’s Eve, but it just won’t go far enough.’

Lady McGregor-Smith urged the Government to extend the business rates relief and the emergency rate of VAT beyond the end of March, and to bring back a ‘focused’ furlough support scheme.

She said that businesses in the sector also needed flexibility over the repayment of loans which they had taken out to support them through the pandemic.

‘Many, many have got more debt than they ever had before.

‘They are now in a position where they are going to have to pay that back and I think the Treasury needs to look very carefully at the repayment schemes for many loans across the UK,’ she said.

She was backed by Andy Wood, the chief executive of Adnams brewery, who said there had been a 50% drop in visitors to pubs and hotels after the chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, urged people to be cautious about socialising following the emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

‘More than half of Christmas has been lost. This is a sector that has the economic equivalent of long Covid.

‘There is going to need to be support for the sector through the dark months of January, February and March,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

While there is relief among business that New Year’s Eve celebrations will be able to go ahead in England, some scientists have expressed concern about the lack of new restrictions following the surge in Covid cases.

The decision announced by Health Secretary Sajid Javid leaves England out of step with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which have all brought in new post-Christmas controls.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said that, while ministers continued to monitor the data closely, the early evidence suggested Omicron was not leading to a big increase in hospital admissions, as happened in previous waves.

‘There is early encouragement from what we know in South Africa, that you have fewer hospitalisations and that the number of days that they stay in hospital, if they do go into hospital, is also lower than in previous variants,’ he told Today.

‘At the moment we don’t think that the evidence supports any more interventions beyond what we have done.

‘But obviously we have got to keep it under very close review, because if it is the case that we started to see a big increase in hospitalisations then we would need to act further.’

While hospital numbers are up, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said staff absences could pose a bigger challenge to the health service than patients needing treatment for Covid.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We’re now seeing a significant increase in the level of staff absences, and quite a few of our chief executives are saying that they think that that’s probably going to be a bigger problem and a bigger challenge for them than necessarily the number of people coming in who need treatment because of Covid.

‘So what we’re seeing is in some hospitals, we’re now having to redeploy staff to fill the gaps that are being left in critical and essential services by staff who are off with Covid-related absences.’

Government figures showed there were a record 113,628 new Covid cases in England on Christmas Day, with 1,281 new Covid-19 hospital admissions – up 74% week on week and the highest number since February 16.

As of 8am on December 27, there were 8,474 people were in hospital in England with Covid-19 – the highest number since March 5.

 

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‘This is the last big weekend that our businesses have before we go into those quieter periods in January and February where they make a loss, even in a good year. This is the last weekend to get some much-needed cash into the tills so it’s very welcome they can remain open and trading.

‘The trading levels in the devolved administrations are down 70, sometimes 80% in city centres and for those businesses like nightclubs that are closed, they are back to earning no money at all. In England we’re still seeing supressed levels of trading but there’s about 40-50% of normal trade we’re seeing.

‘We would appeal for [the government] to continue with the pragmatic, cautious approach they’ve adopted, to balance the economic cost of restrictions against the need to protect the NHS and deal with rising cases, but to err on the side of caution by not imposing restrictions unless they are absolutely necessary.’

British Chambers of Commerce president Baroness McGregor-Smith said the hospitality sector needs further financial support.

‘I am delighted to see that we are protecting New Year’s Eve but it just won’t go far enough,’ she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘We have called for looking at focused support on furlough and also looking to increase grants as well, also making sure that the emergency rate of VAT continues beyond March as does the business rates relief again to continue beyond March.

‘We don’t have flexibility on any loan repayments yet and for many businesses which took out loans, which they did do last year – many, many have got more debt than they ever had before – they are now in a position where they are going to have to pay that back, and I think the Treasury needs to look very carefully at the repayment schemes for many loans across the UK.’

Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams brewery, said there had been a 50 per cent drop in visitors to pubs and hotels after the chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, urged people to be cautious about socialising.

He said: ‘More than half of Christmas has been lost. This is a sector that has the economic equivalent of long Covid. There is going to need to be support for the sector through the darks months of January, February and March.’

The Prime Minister held crunch talks with his chief scientific advisers Professor Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance over the spread of Covid variant Omicron on Monday.

Mr Johnson has 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.’

It came as Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said he backed the Government’s decision not to impose new Covid restrictions in England before the New Year.

Sir John said the public had been ‘pretty responsible’ in its response to the spread of the Omicron variant.

‘The health minister has taken advice and looked at the data. I think his judgment where we should go in the next few days is probably fine,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

‘There are a lot of people who are aware that we are in the face of this large wave of disease. The behaviour of people in the UK, in England in particular, has been pretty responsible in terms of trying not to go out and spending a lot of time exposing yourself to the virus.

‘You look at the people on the streets, the roads are quiet, all that stuff. I think that’s likely to continue for the next week as we see how this thing evolves.’ 

Sir John said since the rollout of the vaccination programme there had been no increase the incidence of severe illness and death from the disease.

‘The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago – intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely – that is now history in my view and I think we should reassured that that’s likely to continue,’ he said.

While there is relief among business that New Year’s Eve celebrations will be able to go ahead in England, some scientists have expressed concern about the lack of new restrictions following the surge in Covid cases. 

Environment Secretary George Eustice said that, while ministers continued to monitor the data closely, the early evidence suggested Omicron was not leading to a big increase in hospital admissions, as happened in previous waves.

‘There is early encouragement from what we know in South Africa, that you have fewer hospitalisations and that the number of days that they stay in hospital, if they do go into hospital, is also lower than in previous variants,’ he told Today.

‘At the moment we don’t think that the evidence supports any more interventions beyond what we have done.

The Live Lounge bar in Cardiff, Wales, sits deserted after new coronavirus restrictions were introduced on Monday

The Live Lounge bar in Cardiff, Wales, sits deserted after new coronavirus restrictions were introduced on Monday

The Live Lounge bar in Cardiff, Wales, sits deserted after new coronavirus restrictions were introduced on Monday

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

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

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

How do Covid restrictions compare across Britain? 

ENGLAND 

One big change which has taken place from December 22 is the rules surrounding the self-isolation period.

If a person in England has tested positive or has symptoms, they can stop self-isolating after seven days instead of 10 days if they receive two negative lateral flow test results on days six and seven.

Those who are unvaccinated close contacts of positive cases must still isolate for 10 days. 

England currently has the most relaxed rules in the UK, but a recent vote in Parliament saw some measures introduced, including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues as of December 15.

This applies to indoor events with 500 or more attendees where people are likely to stand or move around, such as music venues, outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, such as music festivals, and any events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoors or outdoors, such as sports stadiums.

Face coverings have also been made compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport, and people have been told to work from home if they can.

People aged 18 and over are able to get their third jabs from this week.

England’s guidance is that people should work from home if they can. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go in to work – but is encouraged to consider taking lateral flow tests regularly.

WALES

From December 26, groups of no more than six people will be allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants in Wales.

Licensed premises will have to offer table service only, face masks will have to be worn and contact tracing details collected and the two-metre social distancing rules are set to return in public places and workplaces.

Sporting events will be played behind closed doors to help control the spread of the new Omicron variant.

Nightclubs will also be closed from Boxing Day under the new rules, although the Welsh Government has announced a £120 million fund to support any businesses affected by the restrictions.

Regulations will also be changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.

A maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 people at outdoor events. There will be an exception for team sports, where up to 50 spectators will be able to gather in addition to those taking part.

People attending weddings or civil partnership receptions or wakes are also being told to take a lateral flow test before attending.

SCOTLAND

From Boxing Day, large events will have one-metre social distancing and will be limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors.

The following day, the one-metre physical distancing will be implemented between adults in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings, including pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and other settings where food and drink is served, gyms, theatres, cinemas, bingo and snooker halls and bowling alleys.

Museums, galleries and other visitor attractions also have the same rules in place.

Table service is also required where alcohol is being served.

Ministers at Holyrood have announced a package totalling £375 million, including £175 million of additional funding from the Treasury, to support sectors affected by the latest protective measures to combat Omicron.

Since December 14, people have been asked to reduce their social contact as much as possible by meeting in groups of no more than three households.

Allowing staff to work from home where possible has become a legal duty on employers.

Care home visits have also been limited to two households.

NORTHERN IRELAND 

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said nightclubs will be closed from 6am on December 26.

Dancing will also be prohibited in hospitality venues, but this will not apply to weddings.

While nightclubs must close, other restrictions are coming into effect on the rest of the hospitality sector. People must remain seated for table service, while table numbers will be limited to six.

Ministers also agreed that sporting events can continue with no limits on capacity, while the work-from-home message is being bolstered and legislation introduced to require social distancing in offices and similar typed workplaces.

Weddings are exempted from the latest measures.

From December 27, the guidance is for mixing in a domestic setting to be limited to three households.

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‘But obviously we have got to keep it under very close review, because if it is the case that we started to see a big increase in hospitalisations then we would need to act further.’

While Covid hospitalisation numbers are up, NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said staff absences could pose a bigger challenge to the health service than patients needing treatment.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘We’re now seeing a significant increase in the level of staff absences, and quite a few of our chief executives are saying that they think that that’s probably going to be a bigger problem and a bigger challenge for them than necessarily the number of people coming in who need treatment because of Covid.

‘So what we’re seeing is in some hospitals, we’re now having to redeploy staff to fill the gaps that are being left in critical and essential services by staff who are off with Covid-related absences.’ 

Meanwhile, hospitality boss Jonathan Greatorex took aim at the Welsh First Minister, who he claimed had ‘broken’ the sector.

In a Twitter video, he said: ‘Boxing Day 2021, I’ve finished work and I’ve got to be honest today’s been f***ing s***. Mr Drakeford, the first minister of Wales, decided to implement new rules – somewhat bewildering new rules – and I spent my day explaining them to people.

‘He’s so arrogant he thinks everyone listens to his broadcasts and they don’t. The reality is it falls upon people like me to explain to a rather bewildered public that they’ve got to wear face masks, they can’t walk up to the bar, they can’t order a drink. What is that about sitting down? I don’t know what to say anymore.

‘Welsh Hospitality is f***ing broken because of that f***ing a****** Mark Drakeford. He’s destroyed this country, he’s got no interest whatsoever in economy, anything other than Covid which gives him a mandate to exist.’ 

University of Brighton virologist Dr Sarah Pitt, said it does not make sense for UK nations to have different Covid restrictions, and that she expected there would be a rush of revellers travelling to England instead. 

It came as people took to social media to share their plans as a result of the disruption, with one writing: ‘I’ll probably go to Bristol to go out clubbing considering night clubs are closed in Wales. Genuinely the government between England, Scotland and Wales need to be working together because it’s become points scoring and who can do better.’

Another said: ‘Regrettably just cancelled our restaurant and hotel bookings for 12 in Cardiff and rebooked for Bristol for NYE.’

A third added:  ‘Well, Bristol, Liverpool and Newcastle will do well on NYE. Any English city on the border of Wales and Scotland will be a magnet for NYE revellers. There is no scientific basis for restrictions in Wales and Scotland.’ 

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.

The number of people in hospital with Covid in England is less than half the same time last year – despite cases being three times higher. 

And 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.  

Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford have faced accusations of ‘jumping the gun’ and of ‘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 deserted. 

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. 

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 in venues 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 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’ and 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. 

Yesterday’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.

Meanwhile, the Health Secretary took to Twitter yesterday to blast Welsh leaders for banning Parkrun outdoor exercise events which ‘helped so many’ amidst some Covid restrictions returning.

In a statement on its website Parkrun, an international weekly community running club, said it had to cancel its events in Wales because of new guidance.

Sajid Javid responded to the announcement with a tweet saying: ‘Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK.

‘I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.’

Parkrun’s statement said: ‘Unfortunately, the Welsh Government has announced a gathering limit of 50 people, from 26 December onwards.

‘Whilst this does not include children, and therefore does not impact junior parkrun, it does mean that we have no choice but to suspend all our 5k events from 1 January onwards.

‘We know that some Welsh parkrun events regularly have fewer than 50 people attending, however it would take a very small influx (at what is typically a very busy time of year) for them to exceed the limit’  

Sajid Javid took to Twitter to blast Welsh leaders for banning Parkrun outdoor exercise events which 'helped so many' amidst some Covid restrictions returning

Sajid Javid took to Twitter to blast Welsh leaders for banning Parkrun outdoor exercise events which 'helped so many' amidst some Covid restrictions returning

Sajid Javid took to Twitter to blast Welsh leaders for banning Parkrun outdoor exercise events which ‘helped so many’ amidst some Covid restrictions returning

Sajid Javid jogging near Downing Street in October. He earlier today tweeted: 'Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK. I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.'

Sajid Javid jogging near Downing Street in October. He earlier today tweeted: 'Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK. I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.'

Sajid Javid jogging near Downing Street in October. He earlier today tweeted: ‘Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK. I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.’

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

Fay Jones

Fay Jones

Andrew RT Davies

Andrew RT Davies

Tory MP Fay Jones (left) and Andrew RT Davies (right), leader of the Welsh Conservatives, have called on ministers to publish evidence justifying new lockdown restrictions

But while New Year’s Eve plans have been given the go-ahead in England, many hoping to mark the celebration face chaos after lateral flow tests were unavailable for home delivery for a second day running. 

Pharmacies across the country have reported shortages of LFTs and many are unable to replenish their kits as the supply chain has been affected by Christmas and New Year holidays, with ministers urging families and friends to take tests before they socialise.

Some pharmacies reported they have not had stock since last Monday and it could take three days for new supplies to arrive.

As revellers in England celebrated on Monday, though, Mr 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.’ 

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

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.

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