NYE

Sajid Javid Says New Restrictions Unlikely as England Wakes Up With Hangover

The Health Secretary has said additional Covid restrictions are unlikely this year. Let’s hope that’s not wishful thinking on his part. MailOnline has more.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Javid insisted any fresh curbs on freedoms must be ‘an absolute last resort’, adding that the country is in ‘a far stronger position’ at the start of 2022 than it was 12 months ago.

Although Scotland and Wales had strict Covid rules, people living in other home nations flocked across the border for a chance to enjoy the New Year in style and in their best outfits.

In London thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames to watch the capital’s fireworks and drone display, while Piccadilly Circus was packed despite calls for caution around social distancing.

Thousands of revellers of all ages gathered in nightclubs, bars and pubs in Leeds as they brought the New Year in with huge smiles.

And in one Manchester nightclub, some 10,000 people partied until 4am, although there were some skirmishes in Newcastle, with one man being led away by police.

Meanwhile, after being forced to close under last year’s lockdown restrictions, many bars and clubs in Liverpool were pictured crammed with thousands of partygoers yesterday evening.

The wild celebrations came as Sajid Javid vowed today to do everything in his power to avoid a lockdown this year.

There were heightened fears about the spread of the virus as U.K. had another daily record of 189,846 cases yesterday and 203 deaths.

The Office for National Statistics reported an estimated 2.3million people in the UK had Covid in the week ending December 23rd, setting another pandemic record.

Downing Street sources indicated that the Government’s work from home guidance is likely to be extended when it comes up for review next week because infections and hospitalisations are continuing to rise across the country.

While coronavirus cases are continuing to rise due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, official figures showed yesterday that in parts of Britain up to four in 10 hospital patients with Covid were actually there to receive treatment for something else. The figure nationally is one in three.

Mr Javid said the numbers in intensive care units remained stable, meaning “we have welcomed in 2022 with some of the least restrictive measures in Europe”.

Mr Javid added: “Curbs on our freedom must be an absolute last resort and the British people rightly expect us to do everything in our power to avert them.”

You can read Sajid Javid’s piece here.

A Hogmanay Tale From Central Edinburgh

We’ve been sent a semi-autobiographical, satirical short story by one of our Scottish readers who, for understandable reasons, wishes to remain anonymous. We hope you enjoy it.

It was the night before Hogmanay 2021 and all through the silent Edinburgh streets bored tourists walked past closed pubs, shuttered nightclubs and barely-filled restaurants. Lured by promoters’ tales of “legendary” Scottish hospitality in the alcohol-fuelled, self-styled capital of the New Year party world, they had risked quarantine at an airport hotel with a daily diet of Tunnocks tea cakes in the hope that the spontaneous Princes St kiss with a hairy highland stranger as the bells struck midnight might not turn out to be a snog with another South East Asian tourist under a wee Jimmy wig. Too late, these disappointed visitors, who in a parallel world might have contributed to the needy coffers of the Caledonian economy in fair exchange for “a guid time”, had come to realise that the entire country was under the iron, liberty crushing, control of one woman, Scotland’s very own Old Nic.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge, favoured residential suburb of precious professionals seeking proximity to the cathedral of lockdown virtue-signalling, Waitrose, the McAllister family returned home from the last of the annual Christmas visits to Ma McAllister’s relatives which Pa McAllister and daughter, Dotty, had for once been unable to avoid as their conveniently essential prior engagements had been cancelled by Old Nic. “Please tell me I don’t need to see any more of these people for another year,” came the cry as they stumbled through their own front door adorned with its tasteful, homemade holly wreath. “That’s definitely it,” Ma assured them, yet at the back of her mind was the niggling doubt that someone had been missed, somebody, or indeed several somebodies, who had come to play such a central part in their lives that it would be shocking if, as the year drew to a close, Ma did not let them know how much, for good or ill, they meant to the McAllisters.

It was then that Ma noticed Pa slipping off up the stairs into the bedroom with that dreamy smile on his face, softly closing the door behind him. Of course, how could she have forgotten…

It had all started about 21 months ago. Alarmist news flashes were warning of an apocalyptic illness sweeping the globe, as journalists salivated that the rerun of the Spanish flu story they had been preparing for (some might say longing for) every time an exotic bird sneezed, could finally keep them all gainfully employed. In Pa’s study it was business as usual. “How do I save a document again?” he was asking for the 156th time. “Click on File, then on Save,” replied Ma without drawing breath as she continued the daily rebalancing of the McAllister’s global equity portfolio whilst making two rounds of french toast. There was silence from Pa. Then: “It says on my phone that Boris is closing the country for three weeks, no one is to move, shops and schools will shut, but you’re allowed out for an hour to exercise or get essential food.” “Don’t be ridiculous,” said Ma, as she recalibrated the chain saw whilst mentally debating the risks and benefits of a small cryptocurrency position. “Only a mad man would do that, and anyway, we don’t live in North Korea.” But for once, Ma was wrong.

Boris Warns of ‘Challenges in Coming Weeks’ in NYE Message Hinting at New Restrictions Next Week

We’re not out of the woods yet. According to MailOnline, tonight may be our last night of freedom for some time as the usual doom-mongers warn Boris he must impose new restrictions.

Johnson is expected to make a decision in the first week of the New Year on whether to restrict mixing indoors in England…

The Prime Minister opted not to impose new curbs between Christmas and New Year’s Eve but rising Covid case numbers are fuelling fears that new measures could be on the horizon.

A further 189,213 coronavirus cases were recorded across the UK yesterday – a new record high – while the number of hospital patients with Covid in England rose to 11,452, a rise of 61% in just one week.

Johnson said in his New Year’s Eve message that the nation’s position in the battle against the disease is now “incomparably better than last year” thanks to the vaccine rollout.

It came as NHS bosses warned that the Government “needs to be ready to introduce tighter restrictions at real speed should they be needed”.

Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, said new curbs “may be needed at pace if the evidence warrants it” as he said health bosses “still don’t know” if there will be a surge in elderly hospitalisations which could trigger Mr Johnson to act.

Meanwhile, a Government scientific adviser today warned it is likely the NHS will be overwhelmed by the spread of the Omicron variant.

Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: “I think we haven’t quite reached the threshold that was set by Government in terms of the NHS being overwhelmed, but it looks like that will be reached quite quickly.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Spectator has published a handy guide for Scots hoping to celebrate New Year’s Eve in border towns.