Party-goers urged not to travel across UK as omicron surges
LONDON (AP) — Officials have warned revellers in Scotland and Wales to think twice before travelling to England to ring in the new year, highlighting how the four parts of the U.K. were again taking starkly different approaches to coronavirus restrictions amid record-high infections and soaring hospitalizations.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted tightening restrictions in England despite the rapid spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant, instead focusing on frequent self-testing 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, imposed new restrictions this week that closed all nightclubs and limited social gatherings. Bars and pubs have had to return to table service only. In Edinburgh, which traditionally hosts one of Europe’s largest New Year’s Eve parties, people have been urged to stay at home.
While no formal travel ban is in place to stop Scottish party-goers from making their way to England on Friday, Scotland’s deputy leader John Swinney said travelling would be the “wrong course of action.”
Opinions have been divided on whether Johnson’s Conservative government was taking a risky gamble in not enforcing tougher coronavirus measures in England as the omicron variant drove infections to record high numbers.
Figures released Thursday showed the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.K. jumped to 11,898, up 44% from a week earlier. Confirmed new daily cases hit a record of 189,213 on Thursday, and the government reported 332 deaths, the highest figure since March.
While the data is patchy due to delays in reporting over the holidays, the figures suggest there have not been large numbers of seriously ill patients.