Brits enjoyed a boozy night out in towns and cities across the UK last night – as uncertainty reigns over how long they will be allowed to do it.
People in England’s Tier 2 areas are still allowed to enjoy outdoor drinks with friends, as long as they order a substantial meal.
Revellers were seen dancing in the streets in London, which is feared to be on the brink of being upgraded – forcing pubs to shut – due to swelling Covid-19 rates.
Last night the streets of Soho appeared busy, in spite of desperate attempts to bring down the capital’s infection rate.
And there were joyous scenes in York as friends met up for a Saturday night drink, some donning festive costumes as they made the best of an unusual year.
Friends were seen hugging outside bars as they caught up following weeks of lockdown across England.
This week the government is set to review whether to put more areas into Tier 3, which would mean pubs and restaurants can only stay open if they offer a takeaway service.
Parts of London, as well as Bath, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Swindon and parts of Essex are desperately trying to keep infection rates down in a bid to remain in Tier 2 over the festive season.
A review of the country’s tier system is likely to take place next week, with any changes being announced on Wednesday, 16 December.
The decisions made on that day would then remain in place for two weeks, until December 30, although it is unlikely that any clampdowns will be relaxed for New Year’s Eve.
In its latest weekly update, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which has been helping to guide the Government through the pandemic, said it is “no longer confident” R in every English region is below 1.
The crucial number could be as high as 1.1 in London, the South East and the East, with new infections rising by as much as 1-2% each day in those regions, less than a week before the Government decides whether to move cities and towns out of their current tiers.
England’s overall R number, between 0.8 and 1.0, was unchanged from a week ago.
London now has one of the highest infection rates in the UK, over taking the North of England.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan is said to be drafting in more police officers and marshals to patrol the streets, looking for any Covid-19 rule breaches.
Thousands of extra tests will be provided in London in the next few days, with 100,000 test kits being sent to schools in worst hit areas.
Mr Khan said: “Tier 3 restrictions would be catastrophic for our pubs, bars, restaurants and culture venues.
“But with cases rising we are now at a tipping point, which is why we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to get on top of the virus.”
Earlier this week, Professor John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for North West England and author of Blinded by Corona, stressed that urgent action was needed.
He told the Guardian: “[The government] needs to decide in the next 48 hours whether to move London into Tier 3 otherwise they really risk a terrible situation for London, with deaths going up during the Christmas period.
“They might have to go to complete lockdown.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, the London regional director for Public Health England, said he was also concerned by the figures.
He said: “The latest data shows case rates are on the increase again in most London boroughs, including in the at-risk over 60s.
“We’ll need to work together to prevent a big surge in cases in London ahead of the festive period so we must all do our bit and limit the spread over the coming days and weeks.”