As Omicron surges and infections reach record highs the prospect of a Covid-free Christmas is becoming less likely.
Records were broken yesterday as an enormous 106,122 confirmed cases were reported – the highest daily figure since the pandemic started.
Despite the huge numbers, all four UK nations have avoided rolling out harsh measures for Christmas Day itself – but this is expected to change after Boxing Day.
Brits are still being asked to be cautious on December 25 and there are rules in place to keep families safe over the festive period.
Devolved powers have already rolled out some measures in a bid to stay one step ahead of the mutation before hospitalisations rise to critical levels.
As Wales reported another 300 cases of Omicron, bringing the total to 901, First Minister Mark Drakeford issued warnings of new rules from Boxing Day – claiming ministers had to act due to a “state of paralysis” in Westminster.
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Scotland saw 11 deaths from Covid as infections rose to 2,500 for the 24-hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Scots are being geared up for incoming fresh rules, with large scale events already cancelled.
Meanwhile, more records were broken in Northern Ireland where three more deaths and 3,231 new cases were confirmed – the country’s highest single figure since the pandemic started.
Here is what you can and can’t do in each of the UK nations this Christmas:
Many Brits prefer to avoid the cooking (and mess) of a Christmas dinner, opting instead for a slap-up dinner at a restaurant or pub without any of the hassle.
And although meeting in public venues is not banned, Government and health agencies have urged caution.
They have advised the public to choose venues with good ventilation and strong social distancing enforcement.
Since Boris Johnson’s Covid Pass was rolled out earlier this month, many establishments are asking punters over 18 to show proof of vaccination or exemption, or a negative test taken up to 48 hours before entry.
Working from home is still being advised for anyone who is working over the festive period.
Isolation rules for the fully vaccinated have loosened slightly, with 10 days dropping to a week.
People isolating can leave after seven days if they have two negative lateral; flow tests on days six and seven.
It has also been revealed that vaccination centres will even stay open on Christmas Day, allowing Brits to take up the offer of a free booster to further guard against Omicron as it wreaks havoc this festive period.
It’s now a legal requirement for people to wear a mask in indoor settings.
Police and rail cops have the power to issue a £200 spot fine for the first offence, which drops down to £100 if paid in two weeks.
The fine doubles for each subsequent offence.
People who feel ill during the festive period are being advised to isolate themselves and test over Christmas – meaning many Brits will spend December 25 alone.
Those who experience Covid symptoms should wear a face covering in large crowds or in poorly ventilated, enclosed spaces.
After Christmas Day, things are likely to change – Boris Johnson has warned.
Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)
Health Secretary Sajid Javid mirrored the PM’s comments about looming strict rules for the New Year on a hospital visit.
“It is fast-changing, the situation, there’s more data not just here from home but from abroad – we keep an eye on all that data and discuss it with our expert advisers,” he said.
“As the Prime Minister has said, whilst there’s no need for any further restrictions before Christmas we will certainly keep the situation under review.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised no new restrictive measures before December 25.
Scots can spend the big day with family and friends, but have been asked to be careful to not invite too many people for Christmas dinner.
Though there will be no limits on the day itself, Scots are being asked to have no more than three people in their homes on the days leading up to the big day.
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Pubs, bars and restaurants will be open to punters looking for a festive night out after Boxing Day on December 27, but there will be a snap back to previous measures as customers will be asked to order from their table.
People in a group can ignore social distancing measures and be closer to each other while in public.
Social distancing measures in the form of the one-metre rule will force Scots to keep a distance deemed safe by health authorities.
The range of measures for hospitality venues – which are considered “higher risk” settings – will be rolled out on December 27.
From Boxing Day, Scots will be unable to attend indoor standing events with a capacity exceeding 100.
For indoor seating events, the limit will be 200 and outdoor events will only allow 500 to enter.
“This will of course make sports matches, including football, effectively spectator-free over this three week period,” Ms Sturgeon said.
Scots will be unable to attend Edinburgh’s much-anticipated Hogmanay event for New Year’s Eve.
Wales is still at Alert Level 0 which was first implemented on August 7.
Up until Christmas Day people can meet anywhere with no limits to how many. Businesses and premises are also open.
But come 6am on Boxing Day morning there will be a sharp change as many social and leisure venues ban return to previous measures.
One exemption has been made, with groups of less than 50 allowed to watch kids playing sport.
New measures were announced last week which are to come in from Boxing Day.
Nightclubs are set to close as ministers create a separate offence which will bar gatherings of 30 or more indoors, or in excess of 50 people outside, in private homes and gardens.
A return to the “Rule of Six” will bar groups of six people from meeting in hospitality, cinemas, and theatres.
Face coverings will also be required in pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues at all times, apart from when seated.
Punters won’t be able to order from the bar as staff return to table service.
Two-metre social distancing will again be enforced in all public spaces and the workplace.
From Monday, workers will receive a £60 fixed penalty notice and companies hit with fines of £1,000 if they go to work when they could work from home.
Hospitality venues in Northern Ireland will be welcoming customers after Christmas Day, but staff will be returning to similar measures from previous lockdowns.
A return to the “Rule of Six” and table service are designed to keep people safe while celebrating.
As social distancing returns to offices, workers will be able to take a test in the workplace.
Similarly to the other nations, people will be able to spend Christmas Day with families, but it’s likely to change leading up to the new year – though Stormont ministers are yet to confirm exact dates.
Tighter restrictions in hospitality, like table service and limits on table numbers, are expected.
Last week, health officials warned that a “significant intervention” could be needed after Christmas.
Nightclubs will shut down as Omicron cases rise and guidance on limiting household mixing will also be offered.
Social distancing will again be enforced in the workplace, as retail centres put limits on the amount of people entering the stores and roll out one-way systems and screening.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.