NEW Year’s Eve festivities have been saved after Sajid Javid announced NO new Covid restrictions will be imposed before January 1.
Millions of Brits let out a sigh of relief as the Health Secretary confirmed revellers could welcome in the New Year with their friends and loved ones.
Mr Javid urged Brits to get their booster jabs to protect their communities while he spoke to Sky News this afternoon.
He said: “While there is still a lot of uncertainty around this new variant, we do know that our very best form of defence is vaccination.”
But while there will be no new legal restrictions for England on Monday, that does not rule out country-wide “guidance” which cannot be enforced by cops.
Measures could include the non-mandatory reintroduction of the loathed Rule of Six – but cops cannot fine Brits who disobey.
The lack of legally-binding rules follows a string of hugely positive studies which show that Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
Boris Johnson has been reluctant to recall Parliament to rubberstamp legally-binding lockdown restrictions.
Over 320,000 new coronavirus infections have been recorded over the Christmas break, the latest data has revealed.
Data on hospitalisations in London – ground zero for the latest highly transmissible variant – was also discussed, as the scientists gave a positive insight into the current outlook, it is understood.
But non-enforceable guidance could still be issued on several key points.
These include a return of the Rule of Six and a re-introduction of outdoor-only dining at pubs and restaurants.
Brits will also be urged to limit social contact and keep working from home – alongside additional calls for everyone to get boosted if they are able to.
Boris Johnson is “absolutely determined” to keep every school in Britain open – but union bosses are “planning for the worst” due to Covid-related staff shortages.
Remote learning could be put in place without any country-wide lockdown restrictions mandating it, they warned.
GET JABBED NOW
There will also be no changes to the number of people allowed to attend funerals, in a marked change to the dark days of the full shutdown last year.
Tory MPs have urged caution in going beyond Plan B in England, with Conservative Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown calling for a “wait-and-see” approach to the impact of infections on hospital admissions.
Hopes that Mr Johnson will resist a circuit-break lockdown have been boosted by research which showed Brits infected Omicron are around 50 per cent less likely to end up in hospital.
And Britain is pushing on with it’s monumental jab drive – as scientists insist getting a booster jab is the best protection against the latest strain.
More than 12,000 people were vaccinated on Christmas Day, with NHS staff praising the hundreds of thousands of “jingle jab” vaccinations this December
On Boxing Day, 24,078 jabs were delivered, including 20,278 top-ups.
Taken with new figures from Christmas Eve, this means that 214,000 doses in total were delivered including 184,445 boosters.
Scores of sites were in operation over the period, with Redbridge Town Hall in Essex top of the rankings as the busiest site on Christmas Day, with more than 900 people jabbed.
NHS vaccination chief, Dr Emily Lawson, praised the efforts of staff and volunteers working through the festive period and urged those eligible for a booster shot to take up one of the 1.3 million slots available between today and January 3.
“I want to say a huge thank you to all the staff and volunteers who gave up time with their families over Christmas to protect others – as these figures show it was time well spent,” she said.
She urged anyone too busy “shopping, cooking, wrapping or visiting family and friends over Christmas to get a jab” and to “book now”.
“There are 1.3 million appointments still available between now and next week so go online and arrange one,” she said.
“You won’t need to queue and it is the best way to protect yourself, your family and your friends from Covid.
“We know that two jabs do not provide the protection you need from Omicron so, if you are eligible, book a booster without delay.”
Mr Javid added: “It’s thanks to our life-saving vaccines, treatments and testing that we’ve been able to see loved ones over the Christmas weekend.
“The enthusiasm the country has shown for our Covid-19 vaccines has been tremendous, particularly the 214,000 who have gone out of their way this holiday weekend to get their jab and secure protection from the Omicron variant.
“I want to say a big thank you to all the NHS staff and volunteers who worked over the weekend to get jabs in arms. If you’re yet to get your booster, do not delay – get boosted now.”
Research by Imperial College looked at 56,000 cases of Omicron and 269,000 cases of Delta and was taken from PCR tests from 1 to 14 December.
In other Covid-19 news:
The team led by Professor Neil Ferguson – dubbed Prof Lockdown – found those testing positive with Omicron are 15 to 20 percent less likely to need hospital care.
And they are 40 to 45 per cent less likely to end up spending a night or more as an inpatient.
Half the level of severity means cases would have to rise twice as high to reach the same level of hospital admissions, compared with Delta.
In the meantime, real-world studies from South Africa – where Omicron was first detected – show people who catch the strain are 80 per cent less likely to be hospitalised than those infected with Delta.
And the economic impact of another shotgun lockdown could devastate Britain’s already hard-hit hospitality industry.
Desperate publicans yesterday wrote to the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging against new lockdown measures.
The pair were warned a return to the rule of six, table service only or the closure of indoor hospitality would leave many on the brink of closure.
Christmas takings are already down around 40 per cent on pre-pandemic levels — and a bad New Year’s Eve could push many over the edge, pubs warned.
The letter, organised by the Campaign for Pubs and signed by publicans across the country, said: “We are on the brink — in many cases literally on the verge of being unable to carry on, of walking away and of going under.”
It partly blames the Government’s “confused messaging”.
UK Hospitality head Kate Nicholls said: “We urge the PM to stick to current plans.
“There is still much we don’t know about Omicron but we do know the economic and social hit lockdowns and restrictions have so caution is right.”
NEW YEAR SAVED
The rule of six returned in Wales, with only half a dozen people allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants.
Two metre social distancing is also required in public premises and offices, and nightclubs closed their doors ahead of New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile in Scotland, people are urged to keep one metre distance from one another.
Crowds are limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors from Boxing Day.
Only three households can socialise at indoor and outdoor venues – including bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms – with one metre social distancing enforced.
Table service is also making a comeback in places where alcohol is served.
And in Northern Ireland, nightclubs have shut, indoor standing events are banned and only three separate households are permitted to get together – with the Rule of Six returning to pubs, bars and restaurants.
But the Prime Minister is unlikely to follow suit and put in place freedom-limiting restrictions himself, it is understood.