Following Boris Johnson’s announcement that there will be no new COVID-19 measures introduced in England before January, residents of Wales and Scotland are being urged by government officials not to cross the English border to see in the New Year.
As it stands, England is the only country in the United Kingdom that’s allowing nightclubs to remain open as the Omicron variant of coronavirus spreads.
Before Christmas, Wales reintroduced its rule of six in pubs, cinemas and restaurants which were also restricted to table service only for three weeks. Large events were also banned, with no more than 30 people allowed at an indoor event and 50 at an outdoor event. The Welsh government has also shut down nightclubs and ordered pubs to impose 1-metre social distancing.
And on Boxing Day, Scotland imposed a limit on the size of public events – including its traditional Hogmanay celebrations. Indoor events are currently limited to 100 guests standing or 200 seated, while only 500 will be allowed at outdoor events. Nightclubs were also forced to close from 27 December, while pubs and bars returned to table service only.
With no travel ban between the countries though, some people are expecting an “invasion” of Scottish and Welsh revellers with reports that hotels in English border towns like Chester, Bristol, Carlisle and Newcastle are already fully booked on New Year’s Eve.
Who the hell does @JohnSwinney think he is telling Scot’s not to go to England? It’s one country we are British and I’ll go where I like. Wasn’t planning to but now booked for Darlington. Get it up ye! 🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧
— Hootin Nanny (@lauriestonlass) December 29, 2021
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that crossing the English border would go against the “spirit” of the restrictions, and he would “discourage” anyone from doing so.
“I think it is the wrong course of action for people to take because we have a serious situation we have got to manage and we encourage everybody to play their part in addressing that,” he said.
He went on to add: “People are free to make their own judgments. But what we have to recognise is that Omicron is a serious threat to absolutely everybody within our society and we have all got to take measures to protect ourselves by limiting our social contacts and connections and by complying with the restrictions we have in place.”
Everyone popping into England for a rave up then??? https://t.co/Dwg77g5JkQ
— Sezzy 🌸 (@magsophazjon) December 28, 2021
Nick Newman, the chair of the Cardiff Licensees Forum, told The Guardian of the likelihood of a large exodus of revellers from Wales to England.
“It’s 40 minutes from Newport to Bristol and it’s easy to get from north Wales into Manchester or Liverpool,” he said. “English businesses are going to benefit.
“We’re hugely disappointed with the stance the Welsh government is taking, especially not presenting the evidence that links the virus to the hospitality industry.”
University of Brighton virologist, Dr Sarah Pitt, said the opposing measures across the nations did not make sense and would be unlikely to stop the virus from spreading.
“If people can’t go to a New Year’s Eve party in Wales or Scotland, they’ll just tip over the borders into England, won’t they, thus potentially taking the virus and spreading it… and then taking it back home,” Pitt told LBC.
“So it makes sense to have one set of measures across the whole country, and I think it does make sense to have some measures to try and stop the spread of the virus at this point.”
The lack of new restrictions in England follows pressure from the hospitality industry to let venues and nightclubs remain open on New Year’s Eve, with Michael Kill, the Chief Executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) writing an open letter to Johnson, urging him not to shutter the industry on the typically busy night.
“Let’s not end this year as we did last. End the uncertainty and Let Us Dance on New Year’s Eve,” said the letter, which you can read in full here.
Kill went on to praise the decision and said: “Our industry can now start to plan with some certainty over the next week, and make up for lost time promoting one of the key nights of the year in the coming days,” but also called for a long term plan. “It is clear that the open, close strategy, which has had a huge impact on our industry, is not sustainable.”
He also warned that partygoers from Wales and Scotland could be tempted to attend packed house parties or illegal raves in their own nations. “People will push the boundaries and would be safer in regulated settings with safeguards in place,” he added.
It comes as music venues and nightclubs found themselves “on the brink of collapse” as the spread of the Omicron variant decimated the hospitality sector in December.
A £1billion support package was announced in response but has been called “pointless” and “bonkers” by struggling music venues and clubs, while the Music Venue Trust has said it was “a woefully inadequate response to the reality of the position.”