‘D-Day’ for New Year’s Eve celebrations as pubs, clubs and restaurants face anxious wait over possible new Covid restrictions

Monday marks D-Day for New Year’s Eve celebrations as pubs, clubs and restaurants face an anxious wait over possible new Covid restrictions.

As hospitality chiefs warned against the introduction of new curbs, Boris Johnson will receive crunch Covid-19 data which could boost or derail festivities.

The Prime Minister is expected to be briefed by Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

If the figures are positive, Mr Johnson could be persuaded to stick to lighter touch measures introduced under Plan B, potentially with some extra words of guidance, reports The Mirror.

However, if cases were beginning to put unsustainable pressure on the NHS, the PM may feel the need to intervene with more stringent restrictions.

Manchester city centre

Weddings and funerals, however, are likely to receive exemptions from any new coronavirus rules imposed.

Opponents of tighter measures hope statistics will show the surging wave of Omicron infections has not yet led to huge growth in the number of patients admitted to hospitals.

But scientists have warned that even though the variant appears to cause less severe illness, the sheer number of cases and its higher transmissibility mean that even a small increase in sufferers needing hospital treatment could overwhelm the NHS – piling pressure on Downing Street to impose stricter rules.

Manchester council has already decided to cancel its New Year’s Eve fireworks display this year.

The decision has been taken due to current government guidance regarding the use of vaccine passports for large outdoor events which would prove ‘extremely challenging’ to manage due to the public nature of the event.

But New Year’s Eve remains one of the busiest nights of the year for Greater Manchester’s hospitality network.

The Prime Minister, who is at his country retreat Chequers, will chair a virtual meeting of top officials to study vital figures collected over the past week.

Boris Johnson will be briefed on the data today

It comes as the latest NHS figures showed that more than 10,000 patients waited 12 hours before being admitted to hospital in November, up from 2,148 the same time last year.

Hospitality bosses, meanwhile, have urged the PM To rule out tougher curbs and bolster the struggling industry, which has been hit by a string of cancelled bookings after cautious families and would-be revellers shelved planned gatherings.

Campaign for Pubs campaign director Greg Mulholland told the Mirror: “This is an extremely anxious time for publicans and staff in England, not knowing if they will be able to open this week and for New Year.

“New Year’s Eve is very important for many pubs and with December trade already badly hit by previous announcements, further restrictions would be devastating, including the nonsensical suggestion of outdoor only opening in midwinter.

“Plus, the reality is, if the Prime Minister bans people from meeting in pubs, many thousands of people will instead attend illegal parties which will be much less safe than controlled, ventilated pubs.

“So we hope that the data is positive and that pubs can continue to open to the benefit of everyone.”

New Year’s Eve in Manchester

Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill urged the PM to ‘to ‘act with clarity and decisiveness, and firmly reject calls for further draconian measures’.

He added: “Once again our sector has suffered enormous damage as a result of the Government response to the pandemic in recent weeks.

“It’s likely that thousands of our businesses will never recover from this damage.

“Most of these are small and medium-sized owner-run businesses that play a vital part in the cultural, social, and economic lives of our towns and cities.

“And if that is not bad enough, we now face the possibility that major parts of our sector may face further curbs, and, in the case of nightclubs, total closure in the coming days.”

UK Health Security Agency data published just before Christmas showed patients infected with the strain are 50 per cent to 70 per cent less likely to need hospital treatment compared with people with the Delta mutation.

Caroline Clarke, the chief executive of London’s Royal Free Hospital, believed the capital’s NHS ‘will cope’ with the latest onslaught.

But she admitted the health service was ‘planning for the worst and hoping for the best’.

The PM, however, faces opposition to any new rules from Tory backbenchers – 99 of whom defied him this month over imposing tighter restrictions.

Legally-binding curbs impacting on New Year’s Eve would need to be agreed at an emergency Cabinet meeting.

Parliament would then be recalled this week so MPs could vote.

One option the PM has is to stop short of legally-binding measures but issue guidance instead – leaving it to people to decide how much risk they are comfortable with.

Mr Johnson was said to be ‘absolutely determined’ that schools should reopen after the Christmas break – despite rocketing case numbers.

Daily publication of data on cases, deaths and vaccinations was suspended for two days over Christmas.

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