Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face new Covid curbs TODAY

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face new Covid curbs TODAY: Anger boils over as families face a raft of restrictions with groups in pubs, cinemas and restaurants limited to just SIX – as chain BANS Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford from its bars

  •  Tighter coronavirus restrictions have been introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland today 
  • Three nations have each imposed limits on the size of gatherings and requirements for social distancing 
  • Boris Johnson to be presented with Covid data as he weighs up whether to impose restrictions on England

Anger has continued to boil over after tighter coronavirus restrictions were introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland today as the nation’s leaders try to halt the spread of the Omicron variant.  

The three nations have each imposed limits on the size of gatherings, requirements for social distancing and rules for pubs, restaurants and leisure venues as Boris Johnson prepares to weigh up whether to impose fresh restrictions on England. 

From today, one metre social distancing will be enforced in pubs, bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, museums, gyms, snookers halls and all leisure settings in Scotland. 

In Wales, a maximum of six people will be allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants and a total of 30 people will be allowed at indoor events while 50 people will be allowed at outdoor events. 

First minister Mark Drakeford has also said the two metre social distancing will be required in public premises and office while nightclubs will close.  

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, nightclubs will also close and socialising will also be reduced to three households.  

Employers and employees are also being asked to work from home where possible, with two-metre social distancing a requirement in any office setting. 

The latest measures comes as hospitality boss William Lees-Jones, whose company runs a number of pubs in North West England and Wales, ‘barred’ First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and leader of the Welsh Labour Party Mark Drakeford from his venues after they imposed restrictions on nightclubs and pubs.

Mr Lees-Jones tweeted: ‘The @JWLeesBrewery Christmas gift to the UK this year is that we’re barring the following from all of our pubs – @NicolaSturgeon @MarkDrakeford @SusanMichie @Zubhaque @Peston @neil_ferguson.’ 

Tighter coronavirus restrictions were introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland today as the nation’s leaders try to halt the spread of the Omicron variant. Pictured: Shoppers take to Oxford Street for the Boxing Day sales 


Nicola Sturgeon (left) and Mark Drakeford (right) have imposed limits on the size of gatherings, requirements for social distancing and rules for pubs, restaurants and leisure venues 

Mr Lees-Jones later told The Manchester Evening News: ‘It’s a serious point. Both Scotland and Wales have locked down unnecessarily quickly.

‘If you look at the situation in London, it would appear to be more advanced than either Scotland or Wales – and as a business, we’re particularly exposed to Wales. The reshuffling of bookings and New Year, that’s going to send some businesses over the edge.’

Today, Boris Johnson is due to be presented with the latest Covid data as he weighs up whether to impose fresh restrictions on England to stem the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister is expected to be briefed by Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty – who is reportedly likely to receive a knighthood for his pandemic efforts – and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

If the figures are positive, Mr Johnson could be persuaded to stick to lighter touch measures introduced under Plan B, potentially with some extra words of guidance.

However, if cases were beginning to put unsustainable pressure on the NHS, the PM may feel the need to intervene with more stringent restrictions. 

Following the new rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, social media users took to Twitter to share their frustrations with the restrictions.

One person wrote: ‘I’m fed up with Sturgeon and Drakeford closing down their economies and expecting the English to pay for it.’

While another user commented: ‘Surprised Drakeford hasn’t tried to put restrictions on the weather.’

Meanwhile another person added: ‘You’ve ruined Christmas for thousands of Scots due to Covid restrictions.’

Yesterday football fans clashed with police at the McDiarmid Stadium in Perth, Scotland, as tensions boiled over amid stringent curbs imposed by Nicola Sturgeon. 

And charity Boxing Day dips in the sea were also cancelled in Wales as a tough Covid restrictions were reintroduced.

Llandudno Lions Club said: ‘While this is a blow to the fund-raising efforts of the club, we must make sure we comply with advice given to us.’

Carmarthenshire council said : ‘Welsh Government has announced that from Boxing Day indoor and outdoor sporting events in Wales must be played behind closed doors. 

‘The decision has affected plans for the annual Boxing Day Walrus Dip at Pembrey Country Park’s Cefn Sidan beach. The event has unfortunately been called off in line with new Welsh Government rules.

Boris Johnson is due to be presented with the latest Covid data as he weighs up whether to impose fresh restrictions on England

Some social media users took to Twitter to share their frustrations with the new Covid-19 restrictions being imposed

In Scotland, Donald MacLeod MBE, owner of the Garage and Cathouse nightclubs in Glasgow, slammed the SNP leader over the restrictions.

How do Covid restrictions compare across Britain? 

ENGLAND 

One big change which has taken place from December 22 is the rules surrounding the self-isolation period.

If a person in England has tested positive or has symptoms, they can stop self-isolating after seven days instead of 10 days if they receive two negative lateral flow test results on days six and seven.

Those who are unvaccinated close contacts of positive cases must still isolate for 10 days. 

England currently has the most relaxed rules in the UK, but a recent vote in Parliament saw some measures introduced, including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues as of December 15.

This applies to indoor events with 500 or more attendees where people are likely to stand or move around, such as music venues, outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, such as music festivals, and any events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoors or outdoors, such as sports stadiums.

Face coverings have also been made compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport, and people have been told to work from home if they can.

People aged 18 and over are able to get their third jabs from this week.

England’s guidance is that people should work from home if they can. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go in to work – but is encouraged to consider taking lateral flow tests regularly.

WALES

From December 26, groups of no more than six people will be allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants in Wales.

Licensed premises will have to offer table service only, face masks will have to be worn and contact tracing details collected and the two-metre social distancing rules are set to return in public places and workplaces.

Sporting events will be played behind closed doors to help control the spread of the new Omicron variant.

Nightclubs will also be closed from Boxing Day under the new rules, although the Welsh Government has announced a £120 million fund to support any businesses affected by the restrictions.

Regulations will also be changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.

A maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 people at outdoor events. There will be an exception for team sports, where up to 50 spectators will be able to gather in addition to those taking part.

People attending weddings or civil partnership receptions or wakes are also being told to take a lateral flow test before attending.

SCOTLAND

From Boxing Day, large events will have one-metre social distancing and will be limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors.

The following day, the one-metre physical distancing will be implemented between adults in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings, including pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and other settings where food and drink is served, gyms, theatres, cinemas, bingo and snooker halls and bowling alleys.

Museums, galleries and other visitor attractions also have the same rules in place.

Table service is also required where alcohol is being served.

Ministers at Holyrood have announced a package totalling £375 million, including £175 million of additional funding from the Treasury, to support sectors affected by the latest protective measures to combat Omicron.

Since December 14, people have been asked to reduce their social contact as much as possible by meeting in groups of no more than three households.

Allowing staff to work from home where possible has become a legal duty on employers.

Care home visits have also been limited to two households.

NORTHERN IRELAND 

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said nightclubs will be closed from 6am on December 26.

Dancing will also be prohibited in hospitality venues, but this will not apply to weddings.

While nightclubs must close, other restrictions are coming into effect on the rest of the hospitality sector. People must remain seated for table service, while table numbers will be limited to six.

Ministers also agreed that sporting events can continue with no limits on capacity, while the work-from-home message is being bolstered and legislation introduced to require social distancing in offices and similar typed workplaces.

Weddings are exempted from the latest measures.

From December 27, the guidance is for mixing in a domestic setting to be limited to three households.

 

‘The damage was done three weeks ago when Public Health Scotland started scaring everybody and saying Omicron was going to wipe out the human race,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

‘I must say I prefer the way that Boris and Westminster have dealt with it, looking at the evidence before pressing any panic buttons.

‘This will decimate the industry. And what’s really galling is that today Nicola Sturgeon said ”right that’s me off work, we’re going to be off for the holidays”.

‘Meanwhile, I’ve got 150 staff who are going to be worried sick about their jobs, as well as suppliers and freelancers who are in bits. That’s a disgrace.’

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said Ms Sturgeon’s new restrictions ‘will be another hammer blow for employers and Scotland’s economy’.

Dr Cameron added: ‘Businesses across Scotland, who have been doing everything they can to keep their employees and customers safe, will be bitterly disappointed by these further restrictions.

‘Some businesses and sectors will view this update as the equivalent of receiving a lump of coal in their Christmas stocking, further compounding the downturn in trade they have experienced in the crucial run-up to the festive period.’ 

In Scotland, the region’s hospitality bosses said pubs and restaurants will now have ‘little opportunity to trade’ over the rest of the festive period following official advice for people to limit social contact – and the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said the rules ‘will be another hammer blow for employers and Scotland’s economy’.

This week, UKHospitality Cymru warned hospitality businesses in Wales were already ‘battered and bruised and at the end of their tether’ by a collapse in customer numbers and said the new rules ‘will only make matters worse’. 

Over in Northern Ireland, the changes were branded ‘unacceptable and unforgivable’ by the Belfast Chamber of Commerce while the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation said it must now ‘try to work within this new framework’.

Meanwhile Boris Johnson is battling to avoid imposing tough Covid restrictions for the New Year.  

Downing Street is understood to be leaning towards new guidance urging people in England to be careful and limit contacts – rather than imposing new legally binding restrictions such as table service in pubs or limits on household mixing.

But this could change if data on hospitalisations suggests the NHS could be overwhelmed by a wave of coronavirus infections.

This week Mr Johnson received a warning from his own backbenchers to be ‘very cautious’ before applying restrictions.

Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, told LBC: ‘The latest figures we had before Christmas showed that the number of cases in hospital was relatively stable – and that is the main measure why we need any further lockdowns, is to deal with infectivity in hospitals, and I don’t see that before Christmas.

‘So, I hope the Prime Minister will be very, very cautious before introducing further measures.’

Possible restrictions considered by the PM will include closing pubs and restaurants indoors, bringing back the rule of six or restricting the number of households meeting indoors, and limiting capacity at mass events.  

Tory peer Baroness Stroud, a former special adviser to Sir Iain Duncan Smith when he introduced Universal Credit as work and pensions secretary, warned the Government against stricter restrictions which risk putting people ‘into poverty’.

She wrote in The Sunday Telegraph: ‘Many of these measures cause social and health damage, and have a huge, negative impact on people’s livelihoods. And they put people into poverty.

 ‘I ask the Government to ensure that as they contemplate further restrictions, they are open about the active choice they would be making to damage the lives of our most vulnerable – who are doing all they can to work their way out of poverty.’

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: ‘The New Year weekend is the last chance for our beleaguered hospitality businesses to get some much needed cash through the doors to sustain them through the quiet days of January and February.

‘We urge the PM to stick to current plans. There is still much we don’t know about Omicron but we do know about the economic and social hit of lockdowns and restrictions – so caution is right.’

This week the Campaign for Pubs wrote to Mr Johnson and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, urging them to avoid the imposition of tough restrictions.

They said: ‘We are on the brink – in many cases literally on the verge of being unable to carry on, of walking away and of going under.

‘We can’t go on like this. We cannot deal with a renewed cycle of restrictions and lockdown without proper financial support.’

Last week the Prime Minister faced significant resistance from some Cabinet ministers, who told him the existing data on Omicron did not justify calls for further restrictions after Christmas.

While Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Mr Sunak spoke out against further curbs, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries argued that they were necessary.  

Last week figures showed nearly 1.4million people — the equivalent of one in 50 — had Covid across the UK.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid infection survey estimated 1.37million people were carrying the virus on any given day during the week up to December 16 — an all-time record.

Despite the record number, it only marks a 24.9 per cent increase on the previous week (1.09million), defying Government modelling suggesting Omicron was doubling every two days.

The survey — based on random swabs of more than 555,000 people — covers the first full week in which the Omicron variant took off in the UK.

Broken down across nations, around 1.2million people were thought to have the virus in England, with 76,000 estimated in Scotland, 54,000 in Wales and 38,000 in Northern Ireland.

The ONS survey is regarded as the most reliable indicator of Britain’s Covid pandemic because it uses random sampling rather than relying on people coming forward to be tested.

Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) national flu and Covid surveillance report showed cases doubled in more than a fifth of England’s local authorities during the week ending December 19.

And a separate study by King’s College London scientists showed symptomatic cases ‘exploded’ with an estimated 144,284 new symptomatic infections per day in the week up to December 20, the most ever and a rise of up 66 per cent on the previous week.

New Year’s reprieve? Boris Johnson fights to avoid introducing ANY stricter new Covid curbs for the country’s big party night ahead of the release of crucial hospitalisation data and crunch meeting with scientists 

By Daniel Martin for the Daily Mail and David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent for MailOnline

Boris Johnson is battling to avoid imposing tough Covid restrictions for the New Year ahead of a crunch meeting with scientists today.

The Prime Minister will hold talks with advisers to discuss whether legal curbs are needed to deal with the threat of Omicron.

Downing Street is understood to be leaning towards new guidance urging people in England to be careful and limit contacts – rather than imposing new legally binding restrictions such as table service in pubs or limits on household mixing.

But this could change if data on hospitalisations suggests the NHS could be overwhelmed by a wave of coronavirus infections. 

It came as Mr Johnson received a warning from his own backbenchers to be ‘very cautious’ before applying further restrictions.

Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, told LBC: ‘The latest figures we had before Christmas showed that the number of cases in hospital was relatively stable – and that is the main measure why we need any further lockdowns, is to deal with infectivity in hospitals, and I don’t see that before Christmas. 

Boris Johnson (pictured) is battling to avoid imposing tough Covid restrictions for the New Year ahead of a crunch meeting with scientists today

Empty tables at a bar in Concert Square on Boxing Day in Liverpool’s city centre. Downing Street is understood to be leaning towards new guidance urging people in England to be careful and limit contacts – rather than imposing new legally-binding restrictions

Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty (right) and Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance earlier this year. The Prime Minister will hold talks with advisers to discuss whether legal curbs are needed to deal with the threat of Omicron

Weddings, births and funerals ‘will be exempted from any future Covid crackdowns’ after limiting numbers on previous lockdowns was blamed for causing undue distress 

Weddings, births and funerals will be exempted from any future Covid-19 restrictions after limiting numbers during previous lockdowns was blamed for causing undue stress. 

The exemptions for life events are part of all scenarios that have been drawn up by the government to deal with the threat of Omicron. 

Possible restrictions considered by the PM over the past few days include closing pubs and restaurants indoors, bringing back the rule of six or restricting the number of households meeting indoors, and limiting capacity at mass events. 

But ministers are said to be against disrupting significant life events with the restrictions, even if they opt to bring back the rule of six in indoor settings, the Times reported. 

Among the proposals are plans to prevent hospitals forcing women to attend scans and check ups – as well as give birth – without their partners.  

And ministers are ‘increasingly optimistic but very cautiously optimistic’ they will avoid reimposing draconian lockdown rules in England before the new year.   

‘It’s not just that there’s a clear gap between cases and hospitalisations, but also that when people are going into hospital they tend to be there for less time,’ a government source told the Times. 

It is a stark difference from previous restrictions, under which the number of people allowed at weddings and funerals was capped – and saw the Queen attend Prince Philip’s funeral alone in April.   

‘So, I hope the Prime Minister will be very, very cautious before introducing further measures.’

Sir Geoffrey said people were ‘taking matters into their own hands and being very cautious themselves’, adding: ‘That is the best answer in this situation – let people make their own decisions.’ 

Possible restrictions considered by the PM over the past few days include closing pubs and restaurants indoors, bringing back the rule of six or restricting the number of households meeting indoors, and limiting capacity at mass events.

Last night the beleaguered hospitality industry urged Mr Johnson to hold firm amid hopeful signs that Omicron is not as dangerous as previous variants.

Pub bosses said they were ‘on the brink’ after a catastrophic Christmas, adding: ‘The future of our world famous pubs now depends on this.’

So far Mr Johnson has resisted calls to go as far as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in introducing curbs on social mixing. Similar restrictions have also been imposed in many European countries – but not yet in England.

This morning the Prime Minister will meet chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance to consider the latest data.

Any new legally binding restrictions would need the backing of Cabinet, and would have to be rubber stamped by MPs.

But last night sources said the recall of Parliament was looking less likely than it had before Christmas – an indication that Downing Street is leaning away from stricter curbs. If simple guidance was issued, urging people to limit their contacts, this would not need Parliamentary sanctioning or the backing of the Cabinet.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: ‘The New Year weekend is the last chance for our beleaguered hospitality businesses to get some much needed cash through the doors to sustain them through the quiet days of January and February.

‘We urge the PM to stick to current plans. There is still much we don’t know about Omicron but we do know about the economic and social hit of lockdowns and restrictions – so caution is right.’

Last night the Campaign for Pubs wrote to Mr Johnson and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, urging them to avoid the imposition of tough restrictions.

They said: ‘We are on the brink – in many cases literally on the verge of being unable to carry on, of walking away and of going under.

‘We can’t go on like this. We cannot deal with a renewed cycle of restrictions and lockdown without proper financial support.’

Last week the Prime Minister faced significant resistance from some Cabinet ministers, who told him the existing data on Omicron did not justify calls for further restrictions after Christmas.

While Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Mr Sunak spoke out against further curbs, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries argued that they were necessary.

Mr Johnson also faces mounting pressure from Tory backbenchers. Earlier this month 100 of them rebelled against his plans for vaccine passports.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said: ‘Enough is enough. There must be no new unnecessary restrictions this week whether the PM sees fit to recall Parliament for an emergency session or whether he resorts simply to new guidance.’

His colleague Alec Shelbrooke added: ‘The Prime Minister must stand firm and refuse to impose new restrictions this week.

‘There is no justification for ruining people’s New Year celebrations and inflicting yet more damage on our economy.’ 

London is being battered hardest by the new variant, with one in 20 infected with the virus and ten of the worst hit postcodes in England located within a three square mile stretch between Wandsworth and Lambeth (highlighted in yellow above)

Reports have claimed ministers are watching hospitalisation numbers in the capital, with a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown set to be imposed if daily numbers surpass 400

 Graph shows: The infection rate per 100,000 in the ten worst affected postcodes in the UK compared to the general rate in the rest of England since the start of October

ENGLAND: The ONS Covid-19 Infection Survey estimates around 1.5million people had Covid on any given day in the week leading up to December 19. The figure was up 65 per cent on the previous week

Confirmed Covid case rate per 100,000 people in areas across the UK according to official UK Health Security Agency data

New Covid restrictions introduced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from today 

New coronavirus restrictions are being introduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland today as the country’s leaders try to combat rising Covid cases but politicians in England are unlikely to discuss further measures until Monday. 

The three nations have each imposed limits on the size of gatherings, requirements for social distancing and tighter rules for pubs, restaurants and leisure venues.  

The new rules mean that Boxing Day football matches in Scotland will be played in front of a maximum of 500 seated fans, while in Wales all large sporting events will be played behind closed doors. 

From today, a maximum of six people will be allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants in Wales and a total of 30 people will be allowed at indoor events while 50 people will be allowed at outdoor events.

First minister Mark Drakeford also said the two metre social distancing is being required in public premises and offices, and nightclubs will close.

The rules, in force from 6am this morning, are a revised version of alert level two.

In Scotland, large events will have one metre physical distancing and will be limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors.

A day later, up to three households can meet with a one metre distancing between groups at indoor and outdoor venues like bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms. Table service is also needed at places where alcohol is served.

Northern Ireland is also bringing in restrictions on Boxing Day and December 27, with indoor standing events no longer permitted and nightclubs closing.

Socialising will be reduced to three households while up to six people can meet in pubs, bars and restaurants. Ten people will be allowed if they are from the same household. Only table service will be available.

A two metre social distancing rule will be in place in public premises and offices.

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