LONDON – Authorities have warned revelers in Scotland and Wales to think twice before heading to England to ring in the New Year, highlighting how the four parts of the UK are once again taking radically different approaches to restrictions on coronaviruses amid record infections and skyrocketing hospitalizations.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted tightening restrictions in England despite the rapid spread of the highly transmissible variant of omicron, instead focusing on frequent self-tests and an expanded vaccine booster program to control the spread of infections.
Meanwhile, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which set their own public health rules, this week imposed new restrictions that have closed all nightclubs and restricted social gatherings. Bars and pubs had to return to table service only. In Edinburgh, which traditionally hosts one of Europe’s biggest New Years parties, people have been urged to stay at home.
Although no formal travel ban is in place to prevent Scottish revelers from traveling to England on Friday, Scotland’s Deputy Chief John Swinney has said traveling would be the “wrong course of action”.
Opinions are divided on whether Johnson’s Tory government was taking a risky bet by not enforcing tougher coronavirus measures in England as the omicron variant leads infections to register high numbers.
About one in 25 people in England – roughly 2 million people – had COVID-19 in the week leading up to Christmas, the Office of National Statistics estimated on Friday. This figure rose to 1 in 15 in London, the capital, the organization estimated.
Figures released on Friday showed the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the UK rose to 12,395, up 68% from the previous week and the highest number since February. New daily confirmed cases hit another record high at 189,846 and the government has reported 203 more deaths.
“Although the numbers are rising and rising at an ever-increasing rate, the absence of large numbers of critically ill elderly people is a great reassurance,” Chris Hopson, NHS supplier manager, told The Times.
But immunologist and government science adviser Peter Openshaw has warned that while UK hospitals have yet to hit the “threshold” of being overwhelmed, “it looks like it will be reached quite quickly.”
Johnson urged people to take a rapid coronavirus test before going out and meeting others on Friday, or celebrating outside if possible. As the fireworks display were canceled in London for the second year in a row, there were plenty of parties going on and many revelers were yet to make it to the capital later today.
Some believe Johnson’s strategy is dangerous and that the large crowds that gather inside on New Years Eve are likely to lead to a further rise in infections.
“It’s quite risky, given that we are now approaching 200,000 cases per day – there is a high rate of infection in the community,” said Dr Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health. at Imperial College London. Radio.
Health officials said the government had met its goal of offering a vaccine booster to all adults in the country by December 31. About 82% of all ages 12 and over in the UK have received a second dose of the vaccine, officials said.
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