Public warned to stay at home on New Year's Eve as Covid cases reach all-time high

31 December 2020, 08:01 | Updated: 31 December 2020, 15:38

File photo: Pedestrians walk next to information poster with 'Stay at home' message as tier 4 coronavirus restrictions are in place
File photo: Pedestrians walk next to information poster with 'Stay at home' message as tier 4 coronavirus restrictions are in place. Picture: PA

By Megan White

People are being urged to stay at home to celebrate New Year's Eve on Thursday after coronavirus cases across the UK reached an all-time high.

Everyone in England is being be encouraged to welcome the New Year at home as part of a public information advertising campaign, 'See in the New Year safely at home.'

The advertising reiterates people should not meet up with friends or family indoors, unless they are in the same household or support bubble, and they should avoid large gatherings of any kind.

Read more: Which new areas have entered Tier 4 in England?

Millions more Brits woke up to tighter Covid restrictions on Thursday, with an additional 20 million people in almost total lockdown from one minute past midnight, taking the total number to 44 million - 78% of England's population.

On Wednesday, the UK recorded a further 50,023 cases and 981 deaths, the highest death toll since 24 April.

Construction workers put up fencing around the statues in Parliament Square, London, ahead of New Year's Eve
Construction workers put up fencing around the statues in Parliament Square, London, ahead of New Year's Eve. Picture: PA

The new strain of the virus spreads even faster than before and NERVTAG’s early analysis suggested it could increase R by 0.4 or greater.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “With our NHS under pressure we must all take personal responsibility this New Year’s Eve and stay at home.

“I know how much we have all sacrificed this year and we cannot let up. Over 600,000 people have now been vaccinated and we are close to beating this virus.

“Now more than ever, we need to pull together to save lives and protect our NHS. If we continue to do our bit by staying at home, we can get through this together.”

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England's national medical director, also said staying at home and seeing in 2021 "within the rules" will reduce infections and relieve pressure on hospitals.

He told a Downing Street press conference: "We know it's the end of the year, it's a time where people traditionally want to celebrate.

"But it's absolutely vital that this year, everybody continues to follow the guidance by staying at home and not mixing."

Prof Powis added: "We can all play a part in fighting this terrible virus: stay at home, mark the New Year with just nearest and dearest within the rules.

"This action will reduce infections, relieve pressures on hospitals, and that's how everybody can help to save a life.

"Covid loves a crowd, so please leave the parties for later in the year."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also urged people to follow the rules on December 31.

He said: "I must ask you to follow the rules where you live tomorrow night and see in the New Year safely at home.

"That means not meeting up with friends or family indoors, unless they're in the same household or support bubble, and avoiding large gatherings of any kind."

The Metropolitan Police issued a warning to potential revellers to "celebrate the New Year in the comfort of their own homes, not the homes of family and friends".

Commander Paul Brogden, who is leading this year's operation, said: "I would urge everyone to exercise caution, listen to government advice and celebrate the New Year in the comfort of their own homes, not the homes of family and friends.

"The public can expect to see officers deployed across the capital, supporting communities and focusing strongly on the few people intent on breaching and ignoring the guidance put in place to keep everyone safe.

"Officers will also be paying attention to parts of London that are experiencing the highest infection rates.

"As we have throughout the year, if we become aware of planned events that breach Covid regulations, we will engage with organisers or venues to make them fully aware of the legal consequences and encourage them to cancel.

"Failure to cancel such events, like unlicensed music events, will likely see the organiser facing a very significant fine.

"Although the New Year is almost upon us, now is not the time for complacency or to meet with others and hold parties of any kind.

"If people insist on gathering and breaching regulations, then officers will attend and encourage people to disperse.

"Where necessary, enforcement action, including fines starting at £100 and working their way up to £10,000, will be considered."