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'Lifeline' for hospitality sector as PM confirms no new Covid restrictions before new year
28 December 2021, 11:29 | Updated: 28 December 2021, 11:35
Hospitality bosses in England say the sector's been given a "lifeline" after Boris Johnson confirmed there'd be no new Covid measures before the new year.
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The sector has warmly welcomed the green light given to New Year's Eve parties as the Government announced its decision to not go beyond Plan B measures despite a rise in Omicron cases.
The decision not to introduce new restrictions before 2022 puts England at odds with the three other UK nations where further rules have been brought in such as the rule of six and the closure of nightclubs.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has urged people to "remain cautious" and take lateral flow tests ahead of any events on Friday to prevent the disease spreading.
He has also refused to rule out the possibility of further measures being introduced in England at the start of January.
The decision on restrictions, which came after the Prime Minister had been briefed on the latest Covid data by chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, means nightclubs can remain open for Friday's partying and there will be no limits on numbers in pubs.
Covid passes will be mandatory for large events, however, as per Plan B rules, which also includes work from home guidance and increased mask wearing in public places.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the decision to not go beyond Plan B measures in England presented a "lifeline" for the sector.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the decision has been a "welcome relief" but the "damage has already been done".
We will continue to monitor the data carefully, but there will be no new restrictions introduced in England before the New Year. 1/2— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 27, 2021
"Many of the businesses who have been faced with so much uncertainty, a lot of anxiety, are now able to plan over the next week," he said.
He called on the government to give them a "clear pathway" in terms of the country's longterm Covid strategy to allow businesses to plan ahead.
He said many businesses have already lost a lot of trade during the Christmas period as people have been cancelling their social events in the run-up to the festive season and said more support is needed.
British Chambers of Commerce president Baroness McGregor-Smith warned the announcement would not make up for the business lost during what should have been the busiest time of the year, as people stayed away from pubs and restaurants.
While the Treasury has announced grants of up to £6,000 for businesses affected, she said that some were losing more than that each day.
While there is relief that New Year's Eve celebrations will be able to go ahead in England, some scientists have expressed concern about the lack of new restrictions following the surge in Covid cases.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said that, while ministers continued to monitor the data closely, the early evidence suggested Omicron was not leading to a big increase in hospital admissions, as happened in previous waves.
"There is early encouragement from what we know in South Africa, that you have fewer hospitalisations and that the number of days that they stay in hospital, if they do go into hospital, is also lower than in previous variants," he told Today.
"At the moment we don't think that the evidence supports any more interventions beyond what we have done.
"But obviously we have got to keep it under very close review, because if it is the case that we started to see a big increase in hospitalisations then we would need to act further."