How the Covid omicron rules will affect your New Year’s Eve plans

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Prof Chris Whitty has said people should prioritise events that matter most to them, but that parties are still allowed

How the Covid omicron rules will affect your New Year’s Eve plans
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Family gatherings are still on, although Prof Chris Whitty has said people should prioritise the events that matter most to them CREDIT: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP

During the Prime Minister’s national address on December 15, he warned of the fast-spreading new omicron variant. 

Warning that in some areas of the UK, the double rate was under two days, Boris Johnson said: “I’m afraid we’re also seeing the inevitable increase in hospitalisations up by 10 per cent nationally, week on week, and up by almost a third in London.”

Despite assuring the nation that there were also “signs of hopes” and that a “great national fightback has begun”, the UK officially reported a further 129,471 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases on Dec 28.

The nation is already under Plan B’s work-from-home guidance from the Prime Minister, as well as seeing the introduction of mandatory Covid passports in large venues and the extension of mask rules.

And, following the recent surge in Covid cases, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced on December 20 that the capital’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in Trafalgar Square had been cancelled, meaning around 6,500 key workers and members of the public will now miss out on their New Year’s Eve plans in London.Advertisement

But senior Government sources said on December 22 that Britain should not be subjected to further Covid restrictions, as the first UK real-world data revealed that people infected with omicron are up to two thirds less likely to end up in hospital.

While he did not impose any new rules, in his address on December 12, Mr Johnson warned of a “tidal wave” of omicron and suggested further restrictions may have to be enforced after New Year’s Eve if the target to administer the third dose to one million people a day until the new year was not met. 

“Get boosted now for yourself, for your friends and your family. Get boosted now to protect jobs and livelihoods across this country. Get boosted now to protect our NHS, our freedoms and our way of life,” he said. 

Here is everything we know so far about the impact of Covid restrictions on New Year’s Eve celebrations.

What measures have been introduced in England?

As of December 10, face coverings are compulsory in most public indoor venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship. However, there are exemptions for hospitality venues.

The Prime Minister also advised “those who can” to work from home from December 13.

And from December 15, the NHS Covid Pass became mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees.

However, it has also been confirmed that people who test positive for coronavirus must now only isolate for seven days rather than 10, under new rules that allow positive cases to “test to release”, amid concern that the Government’s 10-day isolation rules have had a crippling effect on the NHS because so many staff are off work with the virus

When will the measures be reviewed?

The Prime Minister said that the measures will be reviewed on January 5 and will automatically expire on January 26.

He said his aim was for restrictions to be in place “no later than early January and possibly before, if we start to get some of that really granular information [on the omicron variant], but we need to see the data and work on it pretty hard”.

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What the new rules mean for New Year’s Eve parties:

Prof Whitty said people needed to “prioritise what matters” and therefore “deprioritise other things”, particularly in the run-up to the new year.

He added you “don’t need a medical degree to realise that is a sensible thing to do with an incredibly infectious virus”.

“I think that what most people are doing is, and I would think this seems very sensible, is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them and, to protect those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them,” he said. 

He added he would “strongly encourage” people to take tests before visiting vulnerable people and to meet in areas of good ventilation or outdoors if possible.

Previously, the Prime Minister said on December 8 that people should not cancel parties, but he suggested that they should take a Covid test before attending any events.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference earlier in December, Mr Johnson said: “We think that it is OK currently, on what we can see, to keep going with… parties, but obviously everybody should exercise due caution, have ventilation, wash your hands, get a test before you go – (it is) a sensible thing to do to give everybody else at the party the confidence that they are going to be meeting someone who is not contagious.”

What the Covid restrictions mean for Church services:

As of December 10, face coverings became compulsory in places of worship.

However, the Prime Minister said that people who are “singing” are exempt from face masks, meaning those attending services are able to remove their face coverings when joining in hymns. 

What they mean for hospitality:

In England, face coverings were already required in shops and shopping centres.

But hospitality settings are exempt from face mask rules, meaning people attending meals in pubs or restaurants are not required to wear a face covering.

What about the new restrictions in Wales?

The First Minister previously announced new regulations as part of a “two-phase plan” that have since come into force.

As of Dec 27, two-metre social distancing became mandatory in shops and businesses, alongside measures including one-way systems and physical barriers to protect customers and staff. Nightclubs are also closed. Regulations have also been changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.

Covid-19: Self-isolation cut from 10 to 7 days with a negative test in England

What do the rules mean for travel?

The Prime Minister did not announce any extra international travel restrictions at the Downing Street press conference or during his national address. 

In fact, on December 14 it was announced that 11 countries on the UK’s travel red list would be removed, ending the requirement for arrivals from the likes of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Nigeria to spend 10 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285.

Ministers accepted the red list was no longer required to protect the UK from the import of the omicron variant as it is already becoming the dominant strain in the UK.

Travel testing rules had also already been tightened: anyone travelling to the UK must now take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival, and self-isolate until they have received a negative result – regardless of the country they are travelling from, or their vaccination status. 

Additionally, all people aged 12 years and over must take a PCR or lateral flow test before they travel to England from abroad.

On December 13, the Prime Minister announced that the NHS Covid Pass would be rolled out to children aged 12-15, for travel purposes.

Can I go on my ski holiday to France?

France has announced a ban on non-essential travel to and from Britain to slow the spread of the omicron Covid variant, meaning tourist trips will not be possible.

From midnight on December 18, there has been the “requirement to have an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated”. 

“People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons,” the French Government said, adding that French citizens and EU nationals could still return to France from the UK.

People arriving from Britain for essential reasons will be required to show a negative Covid test that is less than 24 hours old, to test again upon arrival and self-isolate for seven days, although that can be reduced to 48 hours if the second test is negative.

Travelling to the Netherlands from the UK: lockdown rules, travel restrictions and Covid cases

Travel restrictions are increasing across Europe for UK holidaymakers, as the Netherlands entered a nationwide lockdown on December 19.

Set to last until at least January 14, according to Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the closure applies to all but essential stores, as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places.

According to the UK Government, due to the UK being marked as a “very high risk country”, only those who are fully vaccinated Britons can enter the Netherlands. 

However, a negative test (PCR or antigen) will need to be provided upon arrival and visitors must undergo 10 days’ home quarantine – regardless of the test result. Should a negative test result be obtained on Day 5, the quarantine period can be reduced.

Can I travel to Germany?

Germany is one of the latest European countries to announce a travel ban on UK visitors – with measures taking effect from midnight December 19.

Under the new travel restrictions, only German citizens and residents are able to return to the country from the UK. Even then, those who are allowed to enter the country will be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

Transit flights through German airports will still be allowed, however, for those travelling to another country via Germany.

This article is being kept updated with the latest news and Government guidance daily.  

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