Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted imposing further Covid restrictions on England over Christmas and New Years.
This in view of the super-fast spread of the Omicron variant that was swept across the UK. reports the Liverpool Echo.
Another 162,572 laboratory-confirmed Covid cases were registered in England on Saturday at 9 a.m. – a new record for daily reported cases in England.
Across the UK, there were 1,915 Covid hospital admissions on December 27th, up 62% from the week and the highest number since February 8th, according to government figures.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, stricter rules were introduced in response to the new variant.
Ministers today decided that after the Christmas break, secondary school students in England must return to wearing face masks in class by at least January 26th.
Nadhim Zahawi, Minister of Education, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “There can be no excuse for our children not learning face to face in the classroom where they want and need to be.”
Meanwhile, the government is working out plans to counter a massive wave of workers sicknesses, with scenarios including a quarter of the workforce missing.
When will there be another announcement?
So far, there has been no formal indication that there will be any kind of announcement or press conference about the rise in Covid infections over the Christmas period.
In the past, many announcements came quickly and without notice, and there have been some reports that the Prime Minister is considering reintroducing “Step Two,” which would introduce rules for indoor mixing.
Throughout the pandemic, press conferences or important updates were usually held in the early evening around 5 p.m.
What could new Covid restrictions look like?
In a letter to the Daily Mail on January 1, Health Minister Sajid Javid said: “Restrictions on our freedom must be the absolute last resort.
He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges our healthcare system has ever faced, and our historic vaccination program has helped us meet that challenge.
“Please be careful and when we get into the new year we will of course see if we have to take further action, but at least nothing until then.”
Full ‘Step 2’ – with no indoor gatherings
Government advisors have modeled a return to both full “Step 2” restrictions and a more lenient Step 2 “Lite”.
Step 2 marks the transition from England’s lockdown on April 12, 2021. Indoor gatherings between different households, pubs and restaurants that serve indoors have all been banned – and a six-person limit for outdoor gatherings has been introduced.
Overnight stays with people outside your household or your bladder were also banned. And people in England were not allowed to go abroad on vacation.
Close night clubs
Nightclubs have already closed in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and they have usually been the first and last to put restrictions.
However, Boris Johnson has so far refused to do the same in England. Instead, nightclubs, large venues and places that open after 1am must request “Covid Passes” to be displayed. And – following a rebellion among Conservative MPs – the Prime Minister agreed to allow unvaccinated people to participate if they have a recent negative Covid test.
However, this may mean that a full shutdown is easier to enforce than taking liberties away from unvaccinated people.
Rule of six
Wales and Northern Ireland have already reintroduced the “rule of six” for indoor gatherings between households in public places such as pubs and restaurants.
Scotland has not reintroduced the rule of six, but has urged people to limit gatherings to three or fewer households at a time.
And Whitehall officials have reportedly tried to bring back the Rule of Six in England, both indoors and out.
Limiting the number of venues and events
Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all have restrictions on the number of people who can attend events.
In Wales, indoor gatherings are limited to 30 people – and outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people. And in Scotland there are capacity limits of 200 people for indoor events or 100 people for standing events – while restaurants must maintain a distance of one meter between all groups in a venue.
Meanwhile, indoor gatherings in Northern Ireland are limited to 30 people by law.
These restrictions are less stringent than the April Step 2 measures.
Table service in pubs
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all instructed pubs and bars to return to table service. This is less strict than Step 2 in April when pubs and bars could only serve outdoors.
Weddings and funerals
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have decided not to put size restrictions on weddings or funerals this time around. And “major life events” – such as weddings and funerals – are exempt from tougher measures in England, according to The Times.
Guidance or legal restrictions?
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have a mixture of guidelines and laws in place. However, Boris Johnson has vowed, due to opposition within his own party, to debate all laws in parliament before putting them into effect.
Parliament is not expected to return until January 4th, which means January 5th is the earliest start date for legal restrictions – unless it calls the House of Commons back early.