England’s Covid cases breached 160,000 for the second time in as many days today, official statistics show as ministers continue to avoid enforcing new restrictions.
UK Health Security Agency data shows there were 162,572 new infections over the last 24 hours, an increase of 33 per cent on the number recorded on Christmas Day when there were 121,880.
It is the highest total reported on a day in England ever, with 160,276 cases recorded yesterday.
Some 154 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded across the nation, up 83 per cent from the 84 recorded in the UK last week.
Figures were not available for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland because of differences in reporting schedules over the New Year weekend and hospitalisation data was also not updated.
The figures come after millions of Britons partied into 2022 at late night venues across restriction-free England on New Year’s Eve.
Revellers joined boozy celebrations from Newcastle to Portsmouth and Manchester to Brighton on the final day of 2021 as they ignored the threat from Omicron and marked the end of a tumultuous 12 months.
Partygoers packed into pubs, bars and clubs until the early hours of the morning despite heightened fears about the spread of the Covid after the UK recorded 189,846 new cases yesterday and 203 deaths.
The Office for National Statistics reported an estimated 2.3million people in the UK had the virus in the week ending December 23, setting another pandemic record.
But in a fresh boost for the nation’s businesses, Health Secretary Sajid Javid hinted tighter restrictions on our everyday lives remain unlikely as he implored the nation to ‘try to live’ alongside the virus.
UK Health Security Agency data shows there were 162,572 new infections over the last 24 hours, an increase of 33 per cent on the number recorded on Christmas Day when there were 121,880. Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, hinted that no fresh restrictions would come into force in England as he said Britons will have to get used to living with Covid
On another day of coronavirus chaos:
- Britain’s coronavirus heroes are recognised in the New Year Honours today, including knighthoods for Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance;
- More than a dozen hospitals across the country temporarily banned visits in an effort to protect patients and staff amid rising Covid infections;
- The number of Covid patients in mechanical ventilation beds in the UK has decreased over the past month, from 931 on November 30 to 868 on December 29;
- Pressure grew for England’s isolation period to be cut from seven to five days after Greece became the latest country to make the move;
- South Africa lifted its night-time curfew for the first time in 21 months after the Omicron wave peaked without overwhelming hospitals;
- Britain became one of the first countries in the world to approve a second pill that can treat Covid at home – this time a Pfizer antiviral.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Javid insisted any fresh curbs on freedoms must be ‘an absolute last resort’, adding that the country is in ‘a far stronger position’ at the start of the new year than it was 12 months ago.
Mr Javid said the numbers in intensive care units remained stable, meaning ‘we have welcomed in 2022 with some of the least restrictive measures in Europe’.
Although Scotland and Wales faced strict Covid rules, people living in other home nations flocked across the border for a chance to enjoy the New Year in style and in their best outfits.
In London thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames to watch the capital’s fireworks and drone display, while Piccadilly Circus was packed despite calls for caution around social distancing.
Thousands of revellers of all ages gathered in nightclubs, bars and pubs in Leeds as they brought the New Year in with huge smiles.
And in one Manchester nightclub, some 10,000 people partied until 4am, although there were some skirmishes in Newcastle, with one man being led away by police.
LEEDS: One woman can barely contain her excitement and starts drinking from a bottle of rose while in the queue for Przym nightclub in Leeds as the clock ticked down to midnight
NEWCASTLE: A group of glamorous girls pose for the camera as they saw the new year in together in Newcastle
BIRMINGHAM: Revellers hit the dance floor at Players Bar in Birmingham as they ensured 2022 was brought in in style
BLACKPOOL: A trio of young partygoers stagger home from their New Year’s Eve celebrations amid concern fresh Covid restrictions could come into force
NHS boss warns next few days ‘are crucial’ in fight against Omicron surge
A health boss has warned the ‘next few days are crucial’ in the fight to reduce the impact of the Omicron variant, and said the Government ‘must be ready to introduce new restrictions at pace if they’re needed’.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said staff were working ‘flat out’ and that the NHS was under ‘arguably more pressure’ compared with this time last year.
It came after Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, warned restrictions on freedom ‘must be an absolute last resort’.
Figures showed that hospital admissions in England have risen to their highest level since January 2021, while the number of NHS hospital staff absent due to the virus nearly doubled in a month.
A further 189,846 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK on Friday, another new daily record, as the British Medical Association called for further public health measures ‘urgently to prevent the health service being completely overwhelmed’.
Mr Hopson wrote on Twitter: ‘NHS preparing for worst & hoping for best. Staff flat out, esp. given level of staff absences.
‘We will need to ask them to perform flexible heroics again if hospital covid numbers continue to rise.
‘We can’t keep doing this. Long term NHS capacity issues must be addressed.’
He said the booster vaccination campaign was ‘significantly more resource-intensive’, and said staff absences meant the NHS was ‘beyond full stretch’.
NHS England data showed 24,632 staff at NHS hospital trusts were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate on Boxing Day, up 31% from 18,829 a week earlier and nearly double the 12,508 at the start of the month.
Mr Hopson wrote: ‘Govt must be ready to introduce new restrictions at pace if they’re needed.
‘Positive news is that we are still not seeing the large numbers of severely ill older people that we have seen in previous peaks. Vaccine effect very pronounced.’
The Daily Telegraph reported that work-from-home guidance, which is in place as part of England’s Plan B measures that also include widespread mask-wearing in public places and mandatory Covid passes for large events – could be set to roll on for another three weeks.
The most recent restrictions are set to expire six weeks after implementation, with a review after three weeks, which is expected on or close to Tuesday January 4.
But the newspaper said the review, likely to be timed for when MPs return to Westminster on Wednesday, could see the work-from-home guidance remain in place into the latter half of the month.
Meanwhile, after being forced to close under last year’s lockdown restrictions, many bars and clubs in Liverpool were pictured crammed with thousands of partygoers yesterday evening.
Downing Street sources indicated that the Government’s work from home guidance is likely to be extended when it comes up for review next week because infections and hospitalisations are continuing to rise across the country.
While coronavirus cases are continuing to rise due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, official figures showed yesterday that in parts of Britain up to four in 10 hospital patients with Covid were actually there to receive treatment for something else. The figure nationally is one in three.
Mr Javid added: ‘Curbs on our freedom must be an absolute last resort and the British people rightly expect us to do everything in our power to avert them.’
It comes as NHS bosses warn that the ‘next few days are crucial’ in the nation’s fight against coronavirus as Britain continues to battle with a record-setting number of new cases.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said staff were working ‘flat out’ and that the NHS was under ‘arguably more pressure’ compared with this time last year.
Mr Hopson warned that the present situation was unsustainable amid staff absences across multiple NHS trusts as he added: ‘Long term NHS capacity issues must be addressed’.
Earlier this week Boris Johnson, unlike the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, decided against imposing additional restrictions in England, despite record-breaking Covid infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.
It led to thousands crossing the border from Wales and Scotland to party into 2022 in England, a move welcomed by English hospitality chiefs.
Although there were rumours Boris Johnson may impose restrictions to curb the spread of the virus as early as next week, Whitehall sources said no new measures are expected when Plan B is reviewed next week.
The Prime Minister will most likely ‘maintain the status quo’ of wearing masks indoors, working from home if possible and using vaccine passports where necessary, Whitehall sources told the Sun.
It came after Mr Johnson warned this week that New Year’s celebrations should be ‘cautious and sensible’.
MANCHESTER: Revellers queue to enter Depot Mayfield, a 10,000 capacity club in Manchester, north-west England on New Year’s Eve
NEWCASTLE: A trio of young women pose for the camera after enjoying a night on the town in restriction-free England
LONDON: Huge crowds turned out in Piccadilly Circus to see fireworks go off around the city as the country welcomed in the New Year
GLOUCSTERSHIRE: The driver of this overturned vehicle was arrested after Cotswolds Police discovered they had been drink-driving in the tourist hotspot of Bourton-on-the-Water
LEEDS: A young woman takes a short break from partying by sitting on the pavement as she stares at her friend’s phone in Leeds’ city centre on New Year’s Eve
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured left, said he has not ruled out a further lockdown but said any move would be a ‘last resort’
Mr Javid said the government had introduced among the least stringent Covid-19 restrictions in Europe, pictured shoppers on Regent Street in London on Christmas Eve
Mr Javid has not ruled out another lockdown and government sources said they were still awaiting critical data on the impact of Christmas on the spread of Covid, although according to The Sun, PM Boris Johnson will not alter the existing Plan B rules when they are reviewed next week.
What are the latest Covid figures for the UK?
A further 189,846 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were reported in the UK yesterday.
It was another record for daily reported cases.
There were also another203 deaths in the UK.
Office for National Statistics data showed an estimated 2.3 million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending December 23.
That again was anothe record for the UK.
The Health Secretary warned: ‘Due to the time lag between infections and hospitalisations, it’s inevitable that we will still see a big increase in people needing care from the NHS over the next month. This will likely test the limits of finite NHS capacity even more than a typical winter.’
However, NHS England figures show the number of patients in hospital ‘with Covid’ is growing almost twice as quickly as the number who are there ‘because of’ the disease.
There were 8,321 patients with coronavirus in NHS hospitals in England on December 28 – but only 5,578 of them were being treated primarily for the disease. It means one in three Covid patients were actually in hospital to receive treatment for another condition, such as a broken leg.
This is up from one in four on December 12. In the Midlands, 40 per cent of hospital Covid patients are now there with the virus, rather than because of it.
The number of patients being treated primarily for Covid in hospitals in England rose by 26 per cent from 4,432 on December 21 to 5,578 a week later.
But the number of patients with Covid but primarily being treated for something else leapt 51 per cent in the same period, from 1,813 to 2,743.
Separate figures show the proportion of adult acute and general hospital beds occupied by patients with any condition has decreased over the past week from 93 per cent to 87 per cent, easing pressure on the NHS.
Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said: ‘I am worried these figures for people in hospital with Covid – rather than because of it – could bounce us into a lockdown or further restrictions in January.
‘The high numbers create anxiety in government and the public based on erroneous conclusions.
‘Accurate statistics on true Covid cases hospitalised are required to back up the reassuring data on intensive care admission, which has remained stable, and verify that this variant is not making a large proportion of people severely ill.’
NHS England has pointed out that Covid-positive admissions being treated primarily for something else have to be separated from non-Covid patients, and that the virus can be a ‘significant’ secondary condition. It added: ‘The majority of inpatients with Covid-19 are admitted as a result of the infection.’
Millions of revellers headed out for an early New Year’s Eve party, with their numbers boosted by Scots and Welsh people fleeing domestic Covid-19 restrictions.
The party goers were able to enjoy the hottest New Year’s Eve since records began – with the temperature hitting more than 60f.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had cancelled the city’s traditional firework display because of the threat of Covid-19 and the Trafalgar Square party was scrapped.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to get tested before meeting up for the New Year Eve festivities. However, many have decided to stay at home to avoid possible exposure to the Omicron variant.
He said: ‘Everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way – take a test, ventilation, think about others but, above all, get a booster.’
Those travelling by taxis or public transport should wear a mask, although they are not required in bars, restaurants or nightclubs.
Anyone in England going to a nightclub has been warned the will have to show their NHS Covid pass.
The PM, unlike the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, decided against imposing additional restrictions in England, despite record-breaking Covid-19 infections fuelled by the Omicron variant.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney criticised those planning to travel to England to celebrate Hogmanay, claiming it was the ‘wrong course of action’ and against the ‘spirit’ of the regulations.
In Scotland, events have one-metre social distancing and are limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors, with one-metre physical distancing in place in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings. These restrictions include gatherings for Hogmanay celebrations.
Where alcohol is being served, table service is also required.
The Scottish Government has urged people to ‘stay at home as much as possible’, with any meet-ups to be limited to a maximum of three households.
Since December 14, people have been asked to reduce their social contact as much as possible by meeting in groups of no more than three households.
Fireworks light up the sky over the Old Royal Naval College after the normal New Year’s Firework display was cancelled due to the pandemic
Fireworks lit up the sky in front of the London Eye at midnight with a smaller display than normal, although thousands still turned out to watch
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had urged Londoners to watch the display on television and claimed there would be few vantage points to view the display from
Eren Saygilier (left) and Kerri Patterson, from Berwick-upon-Tweed, went north to Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve, despite official festivities having been cancelled by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
In Northern Ireland, nightclubs are closed this evening and dancing has been banned in hospitality venues.
For those venturing out to restaurants, table numbers must be limited to six people and diners must remain seated for table service.
How the world welcomed in 2022
Billions around the world rang in 2022 last night.
The Brandenburg gate in Berlin was closed to visitors while it was illuminated with a light show and fireworks flew over the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
One of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve gatherings took place in North Korea, where thousands gathered in the main square in Pyongyang for a fireworks show.
New Zealand, the first major country to see the New Year, kicked off the celebrations after easing its rules on public gatherings, while Australia had a firework display that lit up Sydney’s harbour.
In Wales, current rules say groups of no more than six are allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants, while licensed premises can offer table service only.
In pubs and other licensed premises, face masks should be worn, with contact tracing details collected, and customers should observe two-metre social distancing rules.
Nightclubs have been closed since Boxing Day in Wales. A maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 people can be present for outdoor events.
On Castle Street in Liverpool, Mathew Street and Concert Square were all full of life after another year punctuated by restrictions and uncertainty for businesses.
In Bristol, Jake Cotter, Tyler Calder and Morgan Drewson all caught an early evening train from Swansea to Temple Meads station.
Jake said: ‘We’re all heading to Bristol because of cause Wales is in lockdown.
‘We all want to go out and celebrate New Year’s Eve so we headed to the nearest place to use which is Bristol.’
Tyler added: ‘Considering all the regulations inside Wales in the clubs and pubs, the having to sit down and the table service, you can’t really have a good night out.
‘The regulations are a bit ridiculous. I like watching football and if I could travel to Bristol on Saturday and watch the football but I can’t go to a nightclub at home.
‘If I stay at home I am effectively restricted to my own house.
‘Given the fact that we are all 20, we are at that sort of party age, and it’s boring. We’ve had nearly two years of lockdown and if we have the opportunity to go to a rave or somewhere in England, we are going to go for it.
‘We’ve missed out on some much already. We want to go out and do normal things and meet people.’
SAJID JAVID: ‘I’m acutely aware of the cost of curbs – we must try to live with Covid’
We made major breakthroughs in 2021, but it was also a year where we faced new threats, especially the Omicron variant which continues to spread rapidly across the world.
Despite this new adversary, the steps we took, especially the expansion of this country’s booster programme, meant we saw in the New Year in a far stronger position than we were at the end of 2020.
Even so, this is still a worrying time: according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, last week one in 25 people in England would have tested positive for Covid-19, and hospitalisations are also steadily rising.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, said today that the number of patients in intensive care units are stable and not currently following the trajectory of this time last year with the Alpha wave
Recent data from the UK Health and Security Agency shows that unvaccinated people are between three and eight times more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19
However, numbers in intensive care units are stable and not currently following the trajectory we saw this time last year during the Alpha wave.
As a result, we decided not to put further measures in place ahead of this New Year and we have welcomed in 2022 with some of the least restrictive measures in Europe.
Curbs on our freedom must be an absolute last resort and the British people rightly expect us to do everything in our power to avert them.
Since I came into this role six months ago, I’ve also been acutely conscious of the enormous health, social and economic costs of lockdowns. So I’ve been determined that we must give ourselves the best chance of living alongside the virus and avoiding strict measures in the future.
To help us achieve this, we’ve built up three lines of defence which, when taken together, are some of the deepest and the strongest in the world.
First, of course, is the vaccination programme, and we’ve now met our highly ambitious target that we would offer every eligible adult in England the opportunity to get a booster by the end of 2021.
We’ve now met our highly ambitious target that we would offer every eligible adult in England the opportunity to get a booster by the end of 2021
Recent data from the UK Health and Security Agency shows that unvaccinated people are between three and eight times more likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19, depending on their age, and so every jab counts and can help keep someone out of hospital.
Second, we’ve built up a huge testing infrastructure. Over Christmas, we saw how regular tests can give us the confidence to see loved ones and live our lives. Although it has been a time of massive global demand, we almost tripled distribution of lateral flow tests in December, to 300million, and we’re also tripling the supply for January and February compared to our pre-Omicron plans.
Our third line of defence is treatments, and we have the most advanced antivirals programme in Europe. Yesterday, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved Paxlovid, a cutting edge antiviral treatment. We’ve secured almost three million courses, and Paxlovid will join an array of Covid-19 treatments that we’re making available.
These three lines of defence will keep huge numbers of people out of hospital. However, even though we’ve seen some encouraging research about the severity of Omicron, its increased transmissibility means it can still lead to significant numbers of hospitalisations.
Due to the time lag between infections and hospitalisations, it’s inevitable that we will still see a big increase in people needing care from the NHS over the next month. This is likely to test the limits of finite NHS capacity even more than a typical winter.
I’ve been working closely with the NHS, to make sure it is ready and resilient for what lies ahead. We’ve recruited almost 20,000 more clinical staff since September 2020 and we’re boosting bed capacity too, including through new Nightingale surge hubs within hospital grounds.
As we begin 2022, we also enter our third year in a global pandemic – a pandemic that is still far from over. While we face it in a stronger position because of all the incredible work that’s been done this past year, we all have a part to play in making sure we get off to the best possible start: by keeping each other safe, testing ourselves regularly, and if we’re eligible, by getting the jab.