How do Covid restrictions compare around the UK for New Year’s Eve?

Brits will bid a not-so-teary farewell to 2021 tonight, but celebrations will be vastly different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with different restrictions in place in each country

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Boris Johnson delivers New Year’s message for 2022

2021 will come to an end tonight as Brits bid farewell to a troubled 12 months and usher in what will (hopefully) be a better year.

Although tens of thousands are expected to party across the country, celebrations are expected to be more muted in all parts of the UK.

But rules vary dramatically between the four countries, with stricter restrictions and limits on the number of people allowed to gather in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Edinburgh’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations were scrapped for the second year in a row, while nightclubs are shut in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Yesterday a record number of Covid cases were announced again, with 189,213 people testing positive and 332 lives lost to the virus.

Hospitalisations have risen by nearly 33 per cent in the past week, Department of Health data shows.

Earlier this week PM Boris Johnson urged people to “enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way”.

Here we look at how rules are different in each country in the UK.

This year’s celebrations will be much more muted than in previous times


AFP via Getty Images)

How will New Year’s Eve be different in England this year?

Partygoers hoping to watch the traditional firework display for New Year’s Eve in London will be disappointed as mayor Sadiq Khan cancelled the Trafalgar Square event due to the surge in Omicron cases.

Revellers have been asked to watch a live TV broadcast on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, which organisers say will celebrate the city and highlight defining moments from the past year.

From December 15, Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues have been in place, and this also applies to indoor events with 500 or more people, where they are likely to stand or move around, such as in music venues.

Face coverings been made compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport.

Security guards outside Trafalgar Square in central London



The Government has also said that those celebrating in Scotland are free to travel south of the border to take advantage of looser restrictions in England, where nightclubs remain open.

Work and Pensions Minister Chloe Smith said people are “more than free to move around” the UK over the New Year on Thursday.

Asked if it would be wrong for people from Scotland to travel across the border into England to celebrate the New Year, Ms Smith told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “Well, I think perhaps I should just add the obvious constitutional point here, which is that we are one country and people are more than free to move around inside our country under the general law, obviously.”

But the Government has also urged caution.

During a visit to a vaccination centre in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to get tested before New Year’s Eve festivities.

He said: “Everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way – take a test, ventilation, think about others but, above all, get a booster.”

Thousands are believed to have travelled from Scotland to England


Elliott Franks)

What will the celebrations be like in Scotland?

In Scotland, events have one-metre social distancing and are limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors, with one-metre physical distancing in place in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings. These restrictions include gatherings for Hogmanay celebrations.

Where alcohol is being served, table service is also required.

There is also guidance against travelling south of the border, contradicting England’s approach.

On Wednesday, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that while there was nothing to stop people heading across the border to England, where nightclubs are still open, it would be the “wrong course of action” and would go against the “spirit” of the regulations.

The Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh have been scrapped for a second year in a row

The limit on the number of people who can take part in events has seen New Year’s Eve street parties cancelled, including the one planned for Edinburgh.

The Scottish Government has urged people to “stay at home as much as possible”, with any meet-ups to be limited to a maximum of three households.

Since December 14, people have been asked to reduce their social contact as much as possible by meeting in groups of no more than three households.

What will celebrations look like in Northern Ireland?

It has already been announced that nightclubs will be closed on Friday for New Year’s Eve, while dancing is banned in hospitality venues.

For those venturing out to restaurants, table numbers must be limited to six people and diners must remain seated for table service.

Strong restrictions are in place in Wales


Getty Images)

What is happening in Wales?

Current rules say groups of no more than six are allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants, while licensed premises can offer table service only.

In pubs and other licensed premises, face masks should be worn, with contact tracing details collected, and customers should observe two-metre social distancing rules.

Nightclubs have been closed since Boxing Day in Wales. A maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 people can be present for outdoor events.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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