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England’s nightlife industry demands New Year’s Eve clarity from Boris Johnson

More COVID restrictions after Christmas have not been ruled out

By Joe Goggins

Clubbers enjoy UK nightlife venues
The NTIA have pleaded with Johnson not to shutter nightlife on New Year's Eve. (Photo: Pexels)

UK nightlife bosses are demanding clarity from Boris Johnson as rumours about a post-Christmas lockdown continue to swirl.

The prime minister has held off on instituting further COVID restrictions in England before Christmas as the Omicron variant has sent case numbers sky-rocketing across the country. However, he has not ruled out new rules coming into place before New Year’s Eve, one of the hospitality industry’s biggest nights of the year.

Michael Kill, the Chief Executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), has shared an open letter to Johnson, pleading with him to allow nightlife to operate as usual on December 31. He made reference to reports this week from numerous sources that infection with Omicron could be up to 70% less likely to require hospitalisation, as well as to his belief that it has “been clear for some time that late-night economy venues, particularly nightclubs, with the appropriate measures in place, are not a major source of virus transmission”.

In a nod to rules in place since December 15 that all concert and nightclub attendees must shot a valid NHS COVID Pass or proof of a negative lateral flow test, Kill continued: “Given the extended restrictions including COVID certification recently enforced by you, this should be enough to give people the confidence in your leadership and assure them that they can, in fact, participate in nightlife safely, through these measures.”

Kill had already been critical of Rishi Sunak’s £1 billion relief package for nightlife and hospitality, and reiterated in the open letter his belief that it is “simply not enough for many businesses to survive”. In a concluding plea for Johnson to provide assurances that revelry can go ahead on December 31, Kill wrote: “We urge you to act with clarity and decisiveness, as soon as the data allows, to firmly reject calls for further draconian measures against our sector as we fear that they will be unnecessary and will not contribute to the fight against the virus. Every hour of uncertainty condemns thousands of businesses to failure with all the human, social and economic consequences that entails.” 

“Let’s not end this year as we did last. End the uncertainty and Let Us Dance on New Year’s Eve.” In the other home nations, tougher curbs on nightlife have already been confirmed. Nightclubs will be closed for three weeks from December 27 in Scotland, with concerts with standing crowds of more than 100 people banned. Restrictions in Wales from the same date go further, with indoor gatherings of more than 30 forbidden. In Northern Ireland, nightclubs and indoor standing events are outlawed as of 0600 GMT on Boxing Day.