Relief for night-time economy as New Year's Eve events can go ahead
- Credit: PA
Night-time businesses in Suffolk have expressed their relief after the government decided not to introduce any further coronavirus restrictions in England before the new year.
The government's decision, which came after ministers reviewed the latest data, paves the way for New Year's Eve events and parties to go ahead as planned around the county.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said "people should remain cautious" and urged those marking the start of 2022 to consider testing themselves beforehand and to celebrate outside - with the Omicron variant growing so fast that it accounts for 90% of all new Covid-19 cases.
The decision not to impose restrictions beyond the Plan B measures already in place in England comes after prime minister Boris Johnson was briefed on the impact Christmas mixing had had on coronavirus infections and hospital admissions.
Mr Javid told broadcasters on Monday: "We look at the data on a daily basis - that hasn't changed over the Christmas period.
"But there will be no further measures before the new year. Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach New Year's celebrations.
"Take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation if you can.
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"Please remain cautious and when we get into the new year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures, but nothing more until then, at least."
Gareth Harper, who runs Bar Twenty One in Ipswich, said he was now looking forward to New Year's Eve following the government's decision.
"We're really pleased it's going ahead and welcoming everyone, we're not charging on the door, it's free entry," he said.
"We were mega concerned [that restrictions might come in] and we put measures in place. Unfortunately we have to close at 1am to comply with current measures but we're fully aware of what's going on and we're going ahead."
Leyla Edwards, co-owner of The Club in Ipswich, said she was "relieved" but added that it felt "bittersweet".
"I'll be relieved for our New Year's event to go ahead after the outlay and the young staff relying on their wages," she said.
"It's a bittersweet feeling as I'm not wanting to spread Covid or host any unsafe events but people need music and dance. People's mental health is suffering too."
A further 98,515 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK as of 9am on Monday, the government said. All were reported in England.
On Christmas Day 113,628 cases were recorded in England with a further 108,893 recorded on Boxing Day - 103,558 in England and 5,335 in Wales.
The government said a further 143 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, who has been vocal about his opposition to any further Covid restrictions, said "we need to put trust in the good sense of the British people".
He said: "I welcome the decision by the government to introduce no new restrictions this year. I hope we can permanently turn our backs on the kind of illiberal rules that are currently in place in Scotland and Wales.
"We need to put trust in the good sense of the British people and move away from state mandated rules and restrictions on how we live our lives.
"I will not vote for any further restrictions on the lives and livelihoods of my constituents without an extremely strong justification.
"In my view, at this point in time, no such justification exists for a set of restrictions that would be extremely damaging for business and the mental health of millions."
But Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said Omicron was a "highly infectious" strain which would likely put pressure on hospitals due to the number of people infected.
"Early data suggests that the Omicron variant is less likely to cause serious disease and death in those who have been vaccinated. This is good news," he said.
"However, omicron is a highly infectious strain of the virus and the sheer number of people infected is likely to put significant pressure on hospitals through increased admissions.
"No-one wants further restrictions, and I hope that I am wrong, but they look increasingly necessary to protect our parents and grandparents from the virus as well as to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed.
"I also urge everyone to do their bit by getting their Covid booster as vaccination remains the best protection against severe disease and death."