Hospitality bosses have warmly welcomed the green light given to New Year’s parties after ministers confirmed no further Covid restrictions will be imposed in England before 2022.
Health secretary Sajid Javid instead urged Britons to “remain cautious” while ringing in the New Year and take a lateral flow test before attending any events.
Mr Javid told broadcasters on Monday: “Of course we look at the data on a daily basis, that hasn’t changed over the Christmas period, but there will be no further measures before the New Year.
"We won't be taking any further measures. Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach New Year's celebrations, and you know, take a lateral flow test if that makes sense.
“Celebrate outside if you can, have some ventilation indoors if you can, please remain cautious.
“And when we get into the New Year, of course, we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures - but nothing more until then at least.”
With pubs, bars and restaurants hard hit in the run-up to Christmas due to mass cancellations over Omicron variant fears, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the decision to not go beyond Plan B measures in England presented a “lifeline” for the sector.
Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, told the PA news agency there would “obviously be some relief” among hospitality bosses but called for help to improve ventilation in venues along with “more clarity” on the Government’s long-term vision.
It came after Boris Johnson was briefed by his top scientific advisors on Monday on the latest infection and hospital data over the festive period.
In a thread of tweets on Monday evening, the prime minister wrote: “We will continue to monitor the data carefully, but there will be no new restrictions introduced in England before the New Year.”
“However, I would urge everyone to continue to act cautiously given the rising number of Omicron cases.
“Most importantly I urge everyone to get their first, second or booster jab without delay to protect yourselves and your loved ones.”
A total of 8,474 people were in hospital in England with Covid as of 8am on December 27, according to new figures from NHS England. It marks a rise of 27 per cent in a week and is the highest number since March 5.
But that is far lower than the last winter peak of 34,336 Covid patients in hospital, which occurred on January 18, with hopes growing Omicron will prove to be milder than previous virus variants.
NHS England declared there were 1,281 Covid-19 hospital admissions in the country on Christmas Day - up 74 per cent week-on-week and the highest number since February 16.
It remains well below the second wave of the coronavirus peak, when admissions topped off at 4,134 on January 12.
A senior government source told the Daily Telegraph there was nothing in the data that showed ministers “to put on the accelerator”.
They added: “We need to remain cautious but this shows the importance of people getting their boosters.”
Meanwhile, new measures to stem the spread of the Omicron variant were brought in for those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the Scottish Government ordering nightclubs to be shuttered from Monday.
England is currently under the UK Government’s Plan B rulebook, with guidance to work from home, mask wearing in shops and other public settings, and Covid passes to gain entry to large events.
Mr Javid said that it is up to each of the nations in the United Kingdom to decide their own restrictions despite the other three nations taking a different approach.
He told Sky News: “It’s for each country that makes up the United Kingdom to decide how it wants to go forward.
“So for example in England, we decided back in July that we would open up in the summer.
“I think we look back now and that has been the right decision.”