Sajid Javid has today vowed to do everything in his power to avoid another lockdown this year – as people in England partied late into the night to welcome in 2022.
Writing in the Daily Mail, the Health Secretary says 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 2022 than it was 12 months ago.
Coronavirus cases are continuing to rise due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant. But official figures showed yesterday that in parts of Britain up to four in ten hospital patients with Covid-19 were actually there to receive treatment for something else. The figure nationally is one in three.
Mr Javid says the numbers in intensive care units remain stable, meaning ‘we have welcomed in 2022 with some of the least restrictive measures in Europe’. Mr Javid went on: ‘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.
His assurances come as millions of Britons enjoyed the final few hours of 2021 in bars and nightclubs across England – with thousands of people crossing the border from Wales and Scotland which had cancelled the celebrations.
In one Manchester nightclub, some 10,000 people were expected to party until 4am, although there were some skirmishes in Newcastle, with one man being led away by police.
In London, Mayor of London Sajid Javid said this evening’s fireworks spectacular will not be visible from the ground or from any major attraction.
He suggested those looking to watch the light show should watch it on television.
‘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.’
In other developments:
- A further 189,846 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were reported in the UK yesterday – another record for daily reported cases. There were also 203 more deaths.
- Office for National Statistics data showed an estimated 2.3million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending December 23, the highest on record.
- 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.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured, said Britons will have to get used to living with Covid-19
Thousands of people were in Leeds City centre hours before midnight, such as these three ladies outside a city bar
Large numbers of Scots travelled south to Newcastle where they were determined to have a good night out after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon clamped down on Hogmanay parties
In Liverpool, these young ladies in fancy dress were probably quite thankful by today’s record-breaking temperatures
Revellers such as these two ladies in Leeds were out early for New Year’s Eve, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather conditions ahead of tonight’s party
Friends took advantage of the lax Covid-19 restrictions in England to meet up and celebrate the end of 2021 in pubs and nightclubs
In Newcastle, a man was led away by police after scuffles in the city centre as people enjoyed the festivities
The man’s light-coloured top and his jeans were covered in mud as he was led away in handcuffs by five police officers
This lady was swigging from a bottle of Rose outside Przym nightclub in Leeds. English venues are still allowed to open as long as they require patrons to show a Covid cert or a recent antigen Covid-19 negative result
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured left, said he has not ruled out a further lockdown but said any move would be a ‘last resort’
He warned that due to a lag between infections and hospitalisations, ‘we will still see a big increase in people needing care from the NHS over the next month’
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
Britain was also one of the first places to reopen, pictured people in Soho on April 16
The hottest New Year’s Eve on record allowed revellers to stand outside without suffering from the cold conditions normally associated with the end of December
The Newcastle Arms Hotel in Coldstream on the Scottish borders was very quiet as it was just north of the border, pictured owner Robin Lees
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.
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.’
Young people across England were determined to welcome in the New Year in style despite the ongoing pandemic which infected almost 190,000 people yesterday
Pubs and clubs in Newcastle were busy on New Years Eve with large numbers of revellers from Scotland joining the Geordies
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 has cancelled the city’s traditional firework display because of the threat of Covid-19 and the Trafalgar Square party has also been scrapped.
Courtney and Francis Green, pictured at Bristol Temple Meads station with an inflatable crocodile
The scenes of enjoyment across England were not replicated across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, were there were stricter Covid-19 restrictions
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.
Despite the cancellation of the Trafalgar Square party, Leicester Square was packed with people from the early evening
In Cardiff, bars and streets which would have normally been packed were empty as a result of stringent Covid-19 rules
Thousands of Scots headed south to towns and cities in England such as Newcastle and Blackpool to celebrate Hogmanay
This group of friends left Scotland early to celebrate the end of 2021 in a Newcastle bar or nightclub
Newcastle bars are expecting a busier than normal night with the number of Scottish people who have crossed the border
The unusually warm weather was welcomed by revellers in Newcastle who did not need to carry heavy coats or an umbrella
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.
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.
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.
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
Some people stood outside the iconic French House in Soho, pictured, enjoying a glass of wine
A hoarding has been erected around Eros to save him from revellers ringing in the New Year in a few hours’ time
Some people were out early to beat the crowds that are expected to flock into town and city centres across England
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said the imposition of draconian restrictions in England would be a ‘last resort’
After being forced to close under last year’s lockdown restrictions, many bars and clubs in Liverpool looked busy with revellers this evening.
Castle Street, 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.’
In Manchester, people seeking to enter Depot Mayfield in Manchester had to show their Covid 19 passes to access the venue
Depot Mayfield has a capacity of 10,000 people. Clubbers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were asked to stay at home
Up to 10,000 people are expected in Depot Mayfield nightclub in Manchester where revellers will party until 4am
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged caution for people going out this evening suggesting they should have an antigen Covid-19 test before meeting up with friends
In Deacon Brodies Tavern in the centre of Edinburgh, there was plenty of room as most Scots remained at home
Victoria Street in Edinburgh would normally be packed on New Year’s Eve, but Covid-19 forced authorities to cancel the party
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.