By Connor Steel
MILLIONS of voters in England received another cautious festive boost as Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that Government officials won’t be implementing new Covid-19 restrictions over the upcoming New Year period, following an urgent data briefing between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his two Chief Advisors earlier on Monday lunchtime.
The update was released just before 5pm as Javid gave an interview with broadcasters, confirming that the data hasn’t changed over the Christmas period and there was still no further evidence that any new restrictions are needed at this stage as 2021 concludes. This was down to a number of details that were presented on Government websites earlier this evening.
It appears that forecast data presented by chief advisors Chris Whitty (medical) and Sir Patrick Vallance (scientific) showed a potentially difficult January for the NHS, but not one that would overwhelm in same way that past waves could have done without further restrictions like lockdown rules seen throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021 ending in July.
Partly down to Plan B measures and cautious behaviour, it is also reported that cases have slowly began to level out despite high figures and new hospitalisations. It has been stated that over 8,000 patients remain in English hospitals, the largest amount since March, although far below the peak of 34,000 seen back in January 2021 as Delta surged.
Javid also confirmed that Downing Street is focusing on the ongoing vaccination programme which saw 12,000 jabs given on Christmas Day, including over nine hundred first jabs as texts were sent out encouraging Britons to ‘Get Boosted Now’. This means that 57& of UK residents over 18 years have now been tripled-jabbed as of December 27.
Combining all these positives together it means that voters and businesses can start preparing for New Years Eve celebrations this weekend after uncertainty. Pubs and restaurants are expected to enjoy their business weekend as people bring in 2022, with gatherings of friends and families expected following the recent Christmas celebrations.
Although major events such as the London fireworks display have been cancelled, there is many local events in both Gosport and Fareham to celebrate the New Year. Tickets are still available for parties at locations such as Artys in Clarence Marina, Gosport; whilst bookings are open for events at Slug & Lettuce and the Holiday Inn in Fareham.
But despite assurances that New Years’ celebrations can go ahead as planned, Javid did give guidance on how voters can protect themselves during this upcoming weekend. This includes the taking of lateral flow tests, celebrating in an outdoor environment, wearing face masks and reducing contact in a bid to combat a potential rise in cases next week.
Further urging caution over New Year, the Health Secretary stated the Government will keep potential restrictions ‘under review’ and that Omicron is still a threat to the public; accounting to ‘some ninety percent of cases’ in England at present. It comes as 113,628 cases were confirmed on Christmas Day with 103,558 on Boxing Day and 98k detected on Bank Holiday Monday.
These figures don’t include those from the devolved administrations as they haven’t released this data at the time of writing; with all three fellow UK countries implementing measures from Boxing Day. There is further warnings that this data is outdated due to the festive period and the number of positive cases is actually higher due to limited testing last weekend alongside a lag in figure reporting.
After the announcement from his health secretary, PM Boris Johnson echoed the message on a tweet released at 7:38pm on his twitter page. He said: “We will continue to monitor the data carefully, but 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. Most importantly I urge everyone to get their first, second or booster jab without delay to protect yourselves and your loved ones”.
Neither Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Liberal Democrat chief Sir Ed Davey have responded to the Government announcement so far this evening; with decision to postpone the decision to introduce further measures into 2022 meaning that Parliament will not be recalled early following a Christmas recess for debates or any decisive votes.
PICTURED BY SKY NEWS: Fireworks won’t rise above capital despite Government assurances that New Year’s celebration can go-ahead as planned following a data briefing on Monday lunchtime