Thousands head out to ring in new year in England as Covid restrictions leave celebrations muted elsewhere

Thousands of revellers headed out to ring in the new year in England, while Covid restrictions left celebrations more muted elsewhere in the UK.

Partygoers descended on city centres in their droves to enjoy the hottest new year’s eve on record, with temperatures hitting more than 15C in some parts.

London’s annual fireworks display was cancelled for the second year running, with Sadiq Khan instead urging people to watch a “special broadcast” on TV, but nightclubs remained open for revellers to celebrate together.

Images showed crowds packed into Covent Garden and Leicester Square in central London from early evening, while groups of friends appeared in good spirits as they headed to bars and clubs in Liverpool and Newcastle.

Prime minister Boris Johnson urged caution as he told those celebrating to take a Covid test and “remember the importance of ventilation”.

But he decided against imposing tougher restrictions, unlike his counterparts in Scotland and Wales, despite record numbers of Covid infections as the Omicron variant continues to spread.

Thousands of people were expected to travel across the border from Scotland and Wales to escape the countries’ tighter Covid restrictions.

People gather in large numbers in Leicester Square, central London, to celebrate New Year’s Eve

(James Manning/PA)

As pictures emerged of empty-looking pubs north of the border, so did those of people posing with Scottish flags and suitcases outside Newcastle’s main railway station.

New limits on large public gatherings forced the cancellation of new year’s eve street parties in Scotland, including the one planned for Edinburgh, as first minister Nicola Sturgeon urged people to stay home.

Nightclubs in Scotland and Wales are currently not allowed to open, and the rule of six is in place for pubs and restaurants in Wales.

In Scottish pubs, a one-metre distance must be maintained between tables, groups of people meeting are limited to three households, and alcohol must be served at the table.

Some of the UK’s top scientists, including England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, have been recognised for their contribution to the Covid effort in the new year honours list, revealed on Friday, while Buckingham Palace also announced former prime minister Tony Blair would be knighted.

Friday saw temperatures reaching 15.8C in Merryfield in Somerset and Nantwich in Cheshire, which beat the previous record of 14.8C.

Somerset House in London confirmed it would be closing its ice rink on New Year’s Day due to warmer temperatures.

Forecasters at the Met Office said temperatures may also reach record highs on new year’s day.


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