New restrictions in Scotland and Northern Ireland come into force with all eyes on PM

27 December 2021, 10:57 | Updated: 27 December 2021, 11:06

All the devolved nations have now introduced tighter measures, with England waiting to see if Boris Johnson will do the same
All the devolved nations have now introduced tighter measures, with England waiting to see if Boris Johnson will do the same. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

New Covid-19 restrictions have come into force in Scotland and Northern Ireland to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant, with all eyes on Boris Johnson to see if he will follow suit in England.

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From Monday, nightclubs in Scotland will shut and hospitality venues will need to return to only offering table service if serving alcohol.

Bars, restaurants and indoor leisure facilities such as gyms, theatres and museums will also have to reinstate one-metre social distancing regulations.

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In Northern Ireland, there is now a strong recommendation that household mixing should be limited to three households and there will be a legal requirement for businesses to try and maintain a two-metre social distance in office spaces, although staff are recommended to work from home if they can.

The rules on face masks are also being tightened in Northern Ireland and the rule of six - or 10, if from the same household - will be implemented in hospitality venues, where people must also remain seated.

Both nations also had new rules coming into force on Boxing Day, with nightclubs closing in Northern Ireland and a ban on indoor standing events.

In Scotland, restrictions were placed on large events from Sunday with just 100 people allowed to attend a standing indoor event, and 200 if the event is seated.

Outdoor events will also be restricted to 500 - a rule which has hit football games hardest, causing the Scottish football authorities to bring forward the planned winter break.

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The two nations join Wales in tightening restrictions in response to the spread of the Omicron variant.

The country reintroduced the rule of six, closed nightclubs, restricted large events to 30 people - or 50 if the event is outside - and brought in a requirement for social distancing in public premises and offices.

Simon Buckley, who runs The Cricketers pub in Cardiff, told LBC he thinks the measures are disproportionate and said they were "the final straw".

"It is really bad," he said ahead of the new rules coming into force.

"People out there just don't know the impact it is having on hospitality."

In England any new restrictions are still yet to be announced, with some reports suggesting the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leaning more towards guidance as opposed to legal curbs.

He is set to receive a Covid data briefing from Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on Monday.

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If the data suggests the steep rise in infections is not being followed by a surge in hospitalisations, Mr Johnson may stick to the current restrictions under Plan B, although he may add some extra words of guidance.

But if the data suggests the NHS will be put under unsustainable pressure, he may need to introduce tighter measures - something that would require the backing of MPs.