Boris Johnson will not introduce further Covid restrictions in England before 2022, giving mass events the go-ahead and leaving nightclubs open for New Year’s Eve – in contrast with all other UK nations.
Scientists criticised the decision, which came as England recorded its highest number of Covid infections. They said it was the moment of “the greatest divergence between scientific advice and legislation” seen since the start of the pandemic.
The announcement came after advisers told Johnson that significant NHS pressures were coming from staff absences rather than overcrowded intensive care units.
Ministers are expected to continue to focus efforts on vaccination – including the booster rollout. Sources say most of the cases behind the rise in hospital admissions are people who are unvaccinated.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said people should take steps themselves to protect others:. “We won’t be taking any further measures. Of course people should remain cautious as we approach new year celebrations and take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outdoors if you can, have some ventilation indoors if you can,” he said.
The call for caution was reiterated by the prime minister in a series of tweets on Monday night. “We will continue to monitor the data carefully, but there will be no new restrictions introduced in England before the new year,” he said. “However, I would urge everyone to continue to act cautiously given the rising number of Omicron cases.”
“Most importantly I urge everyone to get their first, second or booster jab without delay to protect yourselves and your loved ones.”
England recorded 1,281 people admitted to hospital in England on Christmas Day – the most recent available figure – up from 1,020 the day before. Though it is the highest figure since mid-February, it is well below the highest in the pandemic when admissions reached 4,134 last January. Downing Street has been hopeful that if admissions in London stay below 400 a day, NHS capacity should remain stable. According to the latest data, 364 patients were admitted to hospital with Covid on Christmas Day in London, down slightly from a high of 390 admitted on 23 December.
Case rates reached a new high of 113,628 on Christmas Day and fell to 98,515 on Monday.
In simple terms:
Take a lateral flow test before you head out.
Celebrate indoors if you can, if not have plenty of ventilation such as opening windows and doors.
Get Vaccinated to protect yourself and others.