16/05/2022

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Fears for NYE as restrictions could cancel parties and ban indoor mixing

Brits may have to cancel their New Year’s Eve parties if more coronavirus restrictions are put in place to fight the spread of Omicron.

Boris Johnson told families to go ahead with their Christmas plans on Tuesday but left uncertainty around whether freedoms would be curbed after the holiday, saying the situation remains ‘finely balanced’.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has already announced the ‘rule of six’ will return for Wales from Boxing Day.

The nation will also see a return to two-metre social distancing rules and events have been limited to up to 50 people outside and just 30 people inside.

This is sure to to deal a blow to any festival or clubbing plans people had for New Year’s Eve as crowds grow to much bigger sizes and social distancing is practically impossible.

Other hospitality venues are again only allowed to provide table service to customers – limiting how punters at bars and pubs can enjoy a drink – and servers will have to wear face masks.

Of course, the economic impacts of restrictions like this will be devastating and this is a large part of why Mr Johnson is facing pushback from several MPs and ministers who do not want the rules repeated in England.

Similar rules have been introduced in Scotland with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon ruling out large-scale New Year’s Eve parties.

She told MSPs: ‘Difficult though it is, please follow this advice over New Year – minimise Hogmanay socialising as much as you can.

‘If we all follow the advice to minimise the contact we have outside our own households, we will help limit the spread of infections. This is the bedrock of our plan for the immediate period ahead.’

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is reportedly one of three Cabinet ministers pushing the Government for a ‘thorough assessment of the economic impact of further restrictions’, The Telegraph reported.

The Government has reportedly been considering implementing a two-week circuit breaker lockdown with some fearing this could be announced as early as December 27.

This lockdown could see households banned from mixing indoors and hospitality restricted to only serving customers outside, according to the MailOnline.

This would mean people would not be able to go out on New Year’s Eve or host house parties – for the second year in a row.

Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay previously told LBC that ministers were looking at ‘how Omicron leads to hospitalisations’ and this is believed to be what will determine whether more restrictions are introduced.

London’s daily coronavirus hospitalisations hitting more than 400 is believed to be the threshold for triggering more rules, the i paper understands.

Some 245 people were admitted to hospital with the virus last Sunday – the most recent date for which data are available.

The Government is under mounting pressure to provide clarity on the possibility of further restrictions.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jon Ashworth told Sky News: ‘People are anticipating that some form of restrictions will come in post-Christmas, and I think we just need to give people certainty.

‘People need to know where they stand. Businesses have got to make decisions about what stock to get in in the run-up to new year’s eve, so I think it would be reasonable for the Government to produce a road map, if you like, a plan of what they think may well be anticipated in terms of further restrictions post-Christmas so people know where we stand. We’ve still got confusion at the moment.’

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Conservative frontbencher Gillian Keegan told LBC: ‘There is uncertainty. We can’t predict what the data is going to tell us before we’ve got the data.

‘We are trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach so that people can see their families over Christmas to try and plan some stuff. But of course it is difficult to anticipate.’

She went on to say the Government’s uncertainty is ‘particularly’ around the severity of Omicron and how it will affect hospitalisations and deaths.

Despite this data gap, several scientists are pushing for restrictions to be brought in as early as possible.

‘The sooner you introduce it, the more effective any of those restrictions are going to be,’ Professor Mike Tildesley told Sky News.

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It all comes as the Government reduced the required self-isolation period from 10 days to seven, releasing thousands of Brits for Christmas day.

Omicron is still ravaging the country, with more than 90,000 new coronavirus cases confirmed on Tuesday – 15,363 of which are Omicron, bringing the total to 60,508.

However, some experts have said Omicron may have already peaked – meaning cases could start going down.

Of course, the hope is that this will translate into low hospitalisations and therefore no more restrictions, but scientists are still waiting for healthcare data to catch up with cases.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected]

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