Covid latest: No new restrictions before New Year’s Eve

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The Health Secretary yesterday urged the public to be “cautious” during the rest of the festive holidays, as ministers continue to monitor the Omicron spread.

He also revealed that three-quarters of adults eligible for a booster vaccination have now had the jab.

Mr Javid said: “There will be no further measures before the new year.

“We look at the data on a daily basis, that hasn’t changed over the Christmas period.

“We won’t be taking any further measures. Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach New Year celebrations.

“Take a lateral flow test, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation indoors if you can. Please remain cautious.

“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.

“We get the very best advice from our scientists, NHS friends, and we put all that together.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty around this variant. It is growing fast. We think some 90 per cent of cases now across England are this new Omicron variant. So it shows you just how quickly it has spread.

“We have had news in recent days that it’s milder. That’s good news. But we know that it spreads very rapidly.

Cautious “We should all absolutely remain cautious.We don’t think there’s any need for any further measures until the New Year but, of course, we will keep that under review.”

Mr Javid gave the go-ahead for cautious New Year’s Eve celebrations after Boris Johnson yesterday reviewed the latest scientific evidence about the Omicron spread.

After a briefing from his scientific advisers, the Prime Minister decided no new restrictions were needed.

The PM said on Twitter last night: “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.”

Earlier, the PM repeated his appeal for everyone eligible to get their jabs.

He said: “There are over 1.5 million vaccination slots available to book in England in the coming days.

“We know two jabs do not give you enough protection against Omicron. So, whether it’s your first, second or booster jab, I urge you to book an appointment now.”

The Health Secretary also provided an update on the country’s vaccine rollout.

He said: “As a country, when it comes to vaccination, we’ve done very well. Over 90 per cent of adults have had at least one vaccine shot.

“Our focus because of this new variant has been on booster shots over the last few weeks.We want to make sure that every adult in the country has a credible opportunity to get their booster shot by the end of the year, and that commitment will be met.

“So 75 per cent of eligible adults are already boosted, but we want to get that to 100 per cent.

“And so we want people to come forward. There’s plenty of slots, there’s plenty of availability and the NHS is doing a brilliant job.” Addressing the fact that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have different and tougher restrictions than England, Mr Javid said: “It’s for each country that makes up the United Kingdom to decide how it wants to go forward.

“In England, we decided back in July that we would open up in the summer.

“I think we look back now and that has been the right decision.” Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reimposed a swathe of Covid restrictions in response to the Omicron surge.

It means England will be the only part of the UK where nightclubs are allowed to open on New Year’s Eve.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “Following an extremely anxious few weeks for our sector, we are pleased that the Prime Minister has listened to us and announced that no further restrictions will be implemented before the New Year.

“Our industry can now start to plan with some certainty over the next week, and make up for lost time promoting one of the key nights of the year in the coming days. It is important we continue to recognise our responsibility to the public health strategy, and urge our customers to play their part in ensuring that this is the start of our recovery.”

Tory backbenchers have pressed the PM to avoid any further Covid restrictions beyond his Plan B contingency measures.

Ahead of yesterday’s announcement, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, said the PM would be “very cautious before introducing further measures”.

Sir Geoffrey said the other devolved administrations in the UK were being “overly cautious”.

He said: “I think the principalities are out of step with England.

“I think they have been overly cautious. I think they are doing more damage to their economies than they need to.

“I think they are doing more damage to people’s liberties than they need to.

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“I just don’t think the evidence, unless the data coming out today looks very different, is there for any further measures.”

Sir Geoffrey said that if the PM chooses to upscale the measures, it would “not be a cop-out at all” to introduce them simply as guidance. He added: “I think that would be a very sensible way to go forward.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “After a difficult 2021, people will be relieved to see no new restrictions ahead of the New Year.”

Official figures showed 98,515 new cases and 143 deaths were reported in the UK yesterday.

Over the past week, 763,295 people had a confirmed positive Covid test result, an increase of 30.5 per cent compared to the previous seven days.

There were 1,281 Covid hospital admissions in England on December 25, up 74 per cent week-onweek and the highest number since February 16.

The total number of cases of the Omicron variant in the UK stands at 159,932.

Rules in England Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues have been in place since December 15.

This applies to indoor events with 500 or more attendees where people are likely to stand or move, such as music venues, certain outdoor events, such as music festivals, and any events with 10,000 or more attendees. Masks are compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport. If a person has tested positive or has symptoms, they can stop self-isolating after seven days if they get 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. People should work from home if they can. Rules in Wales Groups of no more than six people will be allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants. Licensed premises must offer table service only, masks will have to be worn and contact tracing details collected while two-metre social distancing rules are also in place.

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

Nightclubs have also been closed from Boxing Day. Rules will be changed to include a requirement to work from home where possible. A total of 30 people can attend indoor events and 50 at outdoor events. Rules in Scotland Events will have one-metre social distancing and will be limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 sitting indoors and 500 outdoors. Onemetre physical distancing is in place in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings. Table service is required where alcohol is being served. Employees must allow staff to work from home where possible.

Care home visits have also been limited to two households. Rules in Northern Ireland Nightclubs will be closed on New Year’s Eve. Dancing will also be prohibited in hospitality venues, but not at weddings. Mixing in a domestic setting is limited to three households.

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