Time running out for MPs to impose fresh curbs on party season for NYE

Hopes are high for a happy New Year! With Parliament away, time is running out for MPs to impose fresh legally-binding curbs on party season

  • Multiple sources say time is running out to impose new restrictions ahead of NYE
  • No 10 is awaiting more data before making final decision on further restrictions
  • It is thought they could instead issue guidance as done for Christmas festivities 

New Year’s Eve celebrations are likely to be free from legally-binding coronavirus curbs, sources revealed last night.

Time was running out to recall Parliament to impose fresh restrictions before the end of the year, multiple sources said.

The Government has vowed to give MPs a vote if more stringent measures are needed over the Christmas recess – but preliminary data has not yet been sufficient to justify further curbs.

Ministers remain anxious that hospital admissions are rising and the transmissibility of Omicron could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed. But they have been buoyed by studies suggesting the variant is less severe than previous coronavirus strains.

Last night a Cabinet source said that ‘with every day that goes by, it becomes less likely’ that Parliament will be recalled before New Year’s Eve. They said that with the post-Christmas bank holidays and 48-hour delay to recalling Parliament, it was ‘possible’ but unlikely that MPs would be ordered back.

‘Especially considering the amount of time needed for internal decisions to be made in Government before a recall is made,’ they added. Another said: ‘Colleagues would not vote in our favour if we cut short their Christmas break.’

New Year’s Eve celebrations are likely to be free from legally-binding coronavirus curbs, sources revealed last night. Pictured: Women celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31, 2019

Pictured: Revellers out in Newcastle City Centre in the early hours of January 1, 2020

Downing Street is awaiting more data before making a final decision on whether to impose further restrictions, but could instead issue guidance – as it has done for Christmas.

A Government source said last night: ‘It is more complicated to put things in law, but it is still possible – though you would obviously need quite strong data to justify doing that.’

In a video message, Boris Johnson will today say: ‘After two years of this pandemic, I can’t say that we are through it. How can I? When Omicron is surging… we must together try to stop the spread of this new variant.

‘We must test ourselves and take extra care when meeting elderly or vulnerable relatives. We know that things remain difficult.

‘But for millions of families up and down the country, I hope and believe that this Christmas is, and will be, significantly better than the last, in this vital respect.’

He praised those who are ‘selflessly self-isolating’ over the festive period to keep others safe and added: ‘Though the time for buying presents is theoretically running out, there is still a wonderful thing you can give your family and the whole country… and that is to get that jab, whether it is your first or second, or your booster.’

There had been speculation that ministers could impose a ‘circuit breaker’ bank of measures after Christmas, but Tory MPs last night urged the Prime Minister (pictured) to resist the move

Ministers reportedly remain anxious that hospital admissions are increasing and the transmissibility of Omicron variant could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed in the new year

Former Sage scientist Sir Jeremy Farrar said yesterday it was ‘very reasonable to pause, assess updated data after Christmas before deciding what if any measures are needed to ensure NHS, schools, work places, infrastructure can function through January’.

There had been speculation that ministers could impose a ‘circuit breaker’ after Christmas, but Tory MPs last night urged him to resist such a move.

Former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers said: ‘Whilst people need to exercise caution and common sense over New Year, it is not clear further restrictions are needed.’

Another contrasted Mr Johnson’s position to that of Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford, who has introduced fresh restrictions from Boxing Day. ‘At the moment it looks relatively encouraging. If he holds his nerve, we could be okay.

‘That, of course, is very much unlike what is happening here in Wales, where Drakeford is in a complete flap,’ the MP said.

Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have all announced extra restrictions to tackle Omicron.

The Scottish government has closed nightclubs for at least three weeks from December 27. They have been told they can open with social distancing and table service, meaning they would be operating more like bars.

The change will infuriate the hospitality sector north of the border. The rules will affect about 150 clubs.

At football matches in Scotland fans chanted abuse at first minister Nicola Sturgeon over rules that will effectively ban them from games. A crowd at a game between Hibernian and Aberdeen chanted, ‘Sturgeon, get tae f***’.

Others held a banner saying ‘open your homes for COP26, closed doors for fans, f*** SNP’ – a reference to the climate change conference, which some blame for fuelling Covid cases.

Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said Miss Sturgeon’s restrictions ‘will be another hammer blow for employers and Scotland’s economy’.

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