Restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus may not not come in even after the New Year, the government has said.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced yesterday that there would be no new rules in place before December 31, ending speculation that New Year’s Eve celebrations would have to be scaled down.
He said the government would continue to analyse the data around the pandemic to decide whether to reintroduce restrictions.
‘Whilst of course, yes there is still a lot of uncertainty around this variant, it is growing fast, we think some 90% of cases now across England are this new Omicron variant… we have had news in recent days that it is milder.’
The health secretary added: ‘Whilst 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.’
He said: ‘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.’
Boris Johnson also announced this, tweeting yesterday: ‘We will continue to monitor the data carefully, but there will be no new restrictions introduced in England before the New Year.’
The decision came after ministers were briefed on the latest Covid data by chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.
It means nightclubs will be able to remain open for Friday’s partying and there will be no limits on numbers in pubs in England.
Covid passes will be mandatory for large events, however, as per Plan B rules, which also includes work from home guidance and increased mask wearing in public places.
In January 2021, a new national lockdown was introduced on January 6 following mot of the country already being under strict Tier 4 restrictions.
Coronavirus case numbers are currently high, with a record of 113,628 cases recorded in England on Christmas Day.
NHS England declared there were 1,281 Covid-19 hospital admissions in the country on Christmas Day – up 74% week-on-week and the highest number since February 16.
It remains well below the second wave of the coronavirus peak, however, when admissions topped off at 4,134 on January 12.
A total of 8,474 people were in hospital in England with Covid-19 as of 8am on December 27 – the highest number since March 5.
But that too is far lower than the last winter peak of 34,336 Covid patients in hospital, which occurred on January 18, with hopes growing Omicron will prove to be milder than previous virus variants.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts in England, said there had been a growing number of Covid hospital admissions but ‘not precipitately so’.
Trusts are not reporting large numbers of patients arriving with Covid-type breathing problems like last January, Mr Hopson added.
But he warned that a high number of staff absences in the NHS – with Omicron-enforced isolation seen as a major cause – are creating such pressures that ‘even relatively small numbers of extra Covid cases may bring difficult decisions’.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at email@example.com.
For more stories like this, check our news page.
Sign Up for News Updates
Get your need-to-know
latest news, feel-good stories, analysis and more
Not convinced? Find out more »