New Year's Eve

Boris Johnson Tells the Public to Have a “Cautious and Sensible” New Year’s Eve

The Prime Minister has admitted that the Omicron strain is “obviously milder than the Delta variant” and told the public that they should enjoy New Year’s Eve, burdened by as few restrictions as possible. However, Boris has also urged people to be “cautious and sensible” and urged everyone to get jabbed. MailOnline has more.

Boris Johnson today gave the green light for people to celebrate on New Year’s Eve but urged the nation to be “cautious and sensible”. 

The Prime Minister said he believes “everybody should enjoy New Year” despite the spread of the Omicron variant. 

He said the strain ‘continues to cause real problems’, with hospitalisations rising, but the data shows it is ‘obviously milder than the Delta variant’. 

Johnson said the booster jab rollout means England does not currently need new Covid restrictions, despite Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all imposing new rules on socialising.

The premier today repeated his plea to the nation to get boosted as he warned that 90% of Covid patients in intensive care units across the country had not received the top-up dose…

Johnson has promised that there will be no new Covid rules in England before New Year’s Eve. 

His decision not to roll out extra curbs is in contrast to the actions taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where additional restrictions have been imposed after Christmas.  

The Prime Minister said this morning during a visit to a vaccination centre in Milton Keynes that the vaccination programme meant “we are able to proceed in the way that we are”. 

He said: “The Omicron variant continues to cause real problems. We are seeing cases rising in hospitals but it is obviously milder than the Delta variant and we are able to proceed in the way that we are.

“But there is one reason and one reason only why we are able to do that and that is because such a huge proportion of the British public have come forward to get vaccinated and particularly to get boosted.

“We have done about 32 and a half, maybe more, million booster jabs now and that is allowing us to go ahead with New Year in the cautious way that we are.

“But I cannot stress too much how vital it is for everybody to get that booster jab, particularly the 2.4 million people who have had two jabs but haven’t yet had their booster, they had two jabs more than six or seven months ago, so they are eligible for their booster but they are not yet coming forward to get it.

“So I would say to people, come forward and get your booster, it is a fantastic thing to do, it makes a huge amount of difference to you, it protects you, and I’m sorry to say this but the overwhelming majority of people who are currently ending up in intensive care in our hospitals are people who are not boosted.

“I have talked to doctors who say the numbers are running up to 90% of people in intensive care who are not boosted.

“If you are not vaccinated you are eight times more likely to get into hospital altogether.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Boris Johnson said that 90% of Covid patients in ICU are unvaccinated, a claim that may be true but isn’t supported by any of the publicly available date. Read Will Jones’s recent piece looking at what the published data says about the ratio of unvaccinated to vaccinated patients in hospital here.

SNP Tells Scots Not to Dodge Covid Restrictions by Celebrating New Year’s Eve in England

John Swinney, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, has called on Scots not to cross the border into England to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Doing so goes against the “spirit” of the Scottish Government’s Covid restrictions, he says. (No, really?!?) BBC News has more.

Scots have been urged not to travel to England for New Year celebrations to get around the more stringent Covid restrictions north of the border.

There is no travel ban currently in place to stop people going to England, where nightclubs are still open.

But Deputy First Minister John Swinney said doing so would go against the “spirit” of Scottish Covid measures.

He said travelling would be “the wrong course of action” due to the “serious situation” with the Omicron variant.

Case numbers in Scotland hit “alarming” record highs over Christmas and Boxing Day, with the faster-spreading strain now accounting for the majority of all infections.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is to update MSPs in a virtual sitting of the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, said she expected the figures to rise even more in the days ahead.

Scots have been encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, and to limit any social gatherings to no more than three households.

Large events such as Edinburgh’s traditional Hogmanay street party have been cancelled, with extra curbs in hospitality settings and nightclubs shut down entirely.

Clubs remain open south of the border, where no new restrictions are being imposed, but Swinney told BBC Breakfast that he would “discourage” anyone from travelling to England to see in the new year.

He said: “People are free to make their own judgments. But what we have got 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 we have in place.

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

People in England have been urged to be “cautious” while socialising, by taking lateral flow tests and sticking to well-ventilated areas.

Ms Sturgeon is to update MSPs on the latest data and plans when Holyrood is recalled from recess for a virtual sitting at 14:00.

Worth reading in full.

Head of UKHSA Says New Year’s Eve Events May Still Be Cancelled

Dr. Jenny Harries, the Head of the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that, although the Omicron variant appears to be milder than the Delta strain, New Year’s Eve festivities could still be banned in an attempt to curb its spread, citing her concern that an influx of positive Covid tests is leading to staff shortages. MailOnline has the story.

New Year celebrations could be axed to stave off staff shortages and protect the vulnerable even if hospitalisations stay low, a health chief warned today.

Jenny Harries, head of the UKHSA, said the “impact on society” of Omicron will be crucial despite mounting evidence that it is generally milder than the Delta strain.

Dr. Harries pointed to the “very high” levels of absence among workers, with an extraordinary one in 35 having contracted the variant in London.

She cautioned that it is still not clear whether the new version of the disease will be milder for older people, or how long people who do have to go to hospital will need to stay.

Asked whether ministers will be able to make a decision on Monday about whether restrictions will be needed before December 31st, Dr. Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Ministers will look at all of the data that we have available – and that isn’t simply what the epidemiology is saying, it’s how it’s impacting society.

“So, for example, we have very high rates of individuals off sick – we know that particularly in London, around one in 35 have currently got Omicron.

“Now that’s having an impact on the workforce. So these are not simply about hospitalisation rates.”

Worth reading in full.

Care Minister Says New Year’s Eve Celebrations Could Be Cancelled

Concerned about the spread of the Omicron variant and a lack of understanding surrounding how dangerous the new strain is, Gillian Keegan, the Care Minister (the Minister of State responsible for mental health), has declared that New Year’s Eve festivities might have to be cancelled. In addition, Keegan mentioned that the Government was being lenient with the public in allowing Christmas to go ahead with the current restrictions in place, but that this leniency may end following Christmas Day. The Guardian has the story.

Plans for New Year’s Eve parties in England may have to be scrapped, a minister has admitted, as she said there remained uncertainty over the severity of illness caused by the Omicron variant of Covid.

Gillian Keegan, the Care Minister, refused to rule out lockdown measures being introduced in England shortly after Christmas and said 129 people had been hospitalised and 14 had died with Omicron in the U.K.

“There is uncertainty. So, if you can’t change your [New Year’s Eve] plans quickly, then maybe think about it. There is uncertainty. We can’t predict what the data is going to tell us before we’ve got the data,” she said.

She told LBC Radio that the Government’s approach in England had been to try to allow people to go ahead with Christmas plans, but that the same could not necessarily be said of the following holiday.

Boris Johnson has said no new measures will be put in place in England before Christmas Day, but the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales are introducing some new restrictions before and after the holiday.

Keegan told Sky News: “We do not have all the information that you would like to have at your fingertips, in particular… the severity of the disease. So it is a difficult balance but we think we’ve got the balance right. You know, saying to the country we wanted to lock down etc, when you’ve got those kind of figures wouldn’t look proportionate.”

She said the decision that was taken on further restrictions was “difficult”. Asked whether there was any chance a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown might be avoided if the country continued on its current path, Keegan said: “We are waiting for data on the severity, we’ll still have to wait to see where we land on that, but we can’t really say, you know.

“What we’ve said is: up to Christmas, we’re fine, looking at the data, looking at the numbers we have at the moment. But, of course, we have to look at where this virus goes, where this variant goes, so we have to look at that data. I can’t tell you in advance of getting that data, but you should be cheerful because we’re doing a lot more than we could last year. We’re able to see our families.”

Keegan acknowledged that Johnson was refusing to act based on the same data that had led first ministers elsewhere in the U.K. to take preventive measures, but she claimed this was not a result of indecision or political calculation.

She was asked on Times Radio if the issue was not Johnson’s “own political judgment and that he doesn’t want to do anything with the data that all the leaders are seeing”.

Keegan said: “If we see large jumps in the data, large jumps in hospitalisation… then of course we’ll react. But we don’t actually have that yet. So what [Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon and Wales’s Mark Drakeford are] doing is… they’re looking at the risk and they’re coming up with a different answer.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Lockdown zealot Mark Drakeford, Wales’s swivel-eyed First Minister, has banned New Year’s Eve celebrations and ordered pubs and restaurants to re-impose the rule of six from Boxing Day. MailOnline has more.