The dithering Prime Minister left it to Health Secretary Sajid Javidto announce there would be no further restrictions, sparking relief in hospitality and among revellers
Boris Johnson was tonight accused of going into hiding as the nation waited for crucial news over New Year curbs, with rising cases still rampaging.
The dithering PM left it to Health Secretary Sajid Javid to announce there would be no further restrictions, sparking relief in hospitality and among revellers.
It means New Year’s Eve celebrations can go ahead, but Mr Javid urged people to be “cautious” and would not rule out tougher curbs in January.
The PM remains at his country bolthole, Chequers. He chaired a virtual meeting today to study data, with advice from top medics.
But afterwards, his podium in the new £2.6million press room at No10 stood empty as Mr Javid revealed the outcome of the talks, leaving England an outlier after Scotland and wales announced restrictions.
Lib Dem health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said: “It comes as no surprise this Prime Minister is in hiding when this country is calling out for strong leadership. Once again, whilst our NHS is left to hope for the best but prepare for the worst, the PM is nowhere to be seen.”
England is now the only country in the union keeping nightclubs open for New Year’s Eve, despite figures showing another 98,515 Covid cases yesterday. Mr Johnson finally broke cover to comment – on Twitter.
Urging Brits to get their boosters, he wrote: “There will be no new restrictions introduced in England before the New Year.
“However, I would urge everyone to continue to act cautiously given the rising number of Omicron cases.”
The UK Health Security Agency said there had been 45,307 more confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, bringing the total to 159,932.
The UKHSA also revealed the number of people who have died in England of with the variant has risen to 39.
Hospital admissions in England for people with confirmed or suspected Omicron hit 407.
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At least 320,000 new Covid infections were diagnosed over the past three days, including daily numbers that would have been published over the festive holiday.
Another 143 deaths were reported. England hit a record 113,628 new cases on Christmas Day, with another 103,558 confirmed on Boxing Day.
Data from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland is yet to be included – meaning the real numbers will be even higher. There were today 8,474 Covid cases in hospital, the highest figure since March 5.
NHS England absences linked to the virus soared from 12,240 to 18,829 between December 12 and 19, a rise of nearly a thousand a day.
Royal College of Emergency Medicine vice president Dr Ian Higginson warned growing staff sickness rates in A&Es could “push us over the edge”.
He added: “Our members were pretty emphatic that they are suffering significant staffing issues right now.
“We’re worried that something is going to have to give.”
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said pressure was “being felt right across GPs, social care, ambulances and community and mental health services and hospitals”. But while there was fear among medical experts, hospitality chiefs roasted the absence of new curbs.
Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill said: “Following an extremely anxious few weeks for our sector, we are pleased the Prime Minister has listened to us and announced today that no further restrictions will be implemented before New Year.
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“Our industry can now start to plan with some certainty over the next week, and make up for lost time promoting one of the key nights of the year in the coming days.”
UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls added: “Losing New Year on top of December would have been devastating for businesses.”
Greg Mulholland, of Campaign for Pubs, added: “It’s great news for publicans that New Year’s Eve parties can go ahead.”
Mr Javid urged revellers to “celebrate outside if you can” and “have some ventilation indoors”.
But University College London epidemiologist Professor Andrew Hayward warned: “Going to an indoor New Year’s Eve Party is not cautious, even if it is well ventilated.
“It seems as though we’re acting on the optimistic end of the spectrum rather than the cautious end.
“In terms of hospitalisations, we are seeing increases, but not yet the sort of exponential increases in cases that we’re worrying about.
“But the key concern is, if you wait until you see those increases in hospitalisations, you may have waited too long to do much about them.”