Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said that no new coronavirus restrictions will be implemented in England before the new year, but has urged people to ‘remain cautious’.
The announcement means that many New Year’s Eve celebrations will be able to go ahead, and that England is currently the only country in the UK set to allow nightclubs to be open as the public welcomes in 2022.
Government ministers have been reviewing data on the Omicron variant of COVID-19 to decide whether new restrictions are needed to reduce pressure on the NHS. Senior ministers have not ruled out the possibility of new measures being imposed from January, though have said that restrictions will not be added before the weekend.
Announcing that no new restrictions would be brought in for the remainder of 2021, Mr Javid said;
“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.”
“People should remain cautious as we approach new year celebrations and take a lateral flow test, if that makes sense, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventiliation indoors if you can – please remain cautious”.
While no new restrictions are set to be brought in over the coming days, some restrictions are already in place in England. The country is currently under the Government’s ‘Plan B’ restrictions for tackling the virus, which include guidance to work from home, increased mask-wearing in most indoor settings and the use of COVID-19 passes at some large events to display vaccination or a recent negative lateral flow test.
Elsewhere in the UK, restrictions are tighter, with nightclubs currently closed in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Significant restrictions are in place in Wales and Scotland limiting the number of people allowed at events, and restrictions have been tightened for hospitality settings.
Data in recent days has indicated that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is weaker than the Delta variant, though is more transmissible. Many countries have opted for a precautionary approach of implementing new restrictions while more is learnt about the variant and how serious a threat it may be to public health.
Across the UK, 98,515 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the latest 24-hour period – though the accuracy of this number may be affected by the festive period.