New Year's invasion! Revellers to swarm England as Boris keeps nightlife open

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Images circulated earlier this week of emptied hospitality venues after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announced new restrictions, effective as of Boxing Day, in an effort to curb the rampant spread of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron. Four days ahead of Christmas, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that public New Year’s Eve festivities in Scotland would be cancelled, including the annual Hogmanay celebrations.

Ms Sturgeon said last Tuesday that, “unfortunately, […] large scale Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) celebrations, including that planned here in our capital city, will not proceed”.

She told Holyrood: “We know from experience that if we wait until the data tells us conclusively that we have a problem for example, with hospital admissions, it will already be too late to act to avoid that problem.”

She added: “Even though we are all thoroughly fed up with the impact of Covid on our lives, it is really important that over the new year period we follow guidance to help slow the spread of the virus while we complete the accelerated booster programmes.”

In Wales, the rule of six was put back in place as of Boxing Day, meaning just six people can meet in indoor spaces like pubs and cinemas.

Nightclubs are now forced to remain shut in all three devolved nations – a blow to nightlife businesses ahead of the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

A maximum of 30 people are permitted to gather in enclosed spaces and 50 at outdoor events.

This number is slightly higher in Scotland, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon limited indoor events to 100 people standing, and indoor mixing to three households.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said the measures were necessary as they “are facing a very serious situation in Wales”.

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“Scottish hospitality, retail, leisure and live music sectors have all been destroyed over the last three weeks.

“We really have been kicked in the knackers unnecessarily.”

However, the UK government is holding off on any restrictions, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid reiterating that New Year’s Eve celebrations can still go ahead in England as planned.

England is the only UK nation to have staved off pressure to reimpose some limitations on social mixing in the wake of the festive weekend.

Mr Javid warned that people ringing in 2022 in groups should “remain cautious” and test themselves before attending any gatherings.

However, the Government is continuing to pay particular attention to the number of unvaccinated people ending up hospitalised with COVID-19, and the staff shortages striking down emergency services and the NHS.

Most recent data released on Monday showed that 98,515 people had returned a positive test in one day, but the numbers over the Christmas weekend had reached even higher.

A record number of cases was reported in England on Christmas Day itself, with 113,628 infections confirmed on 25 December and 103,558 on Boxing Day.

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