Young people partied on in Newcastle but central London looked eerily quiet for this time of year (Picture: North News & Pictures / w8media)
Towns and cities across the UK looked eerily quiet last night as fewer Brits braved a pre-Christmas night out due to rising Omicron infections.
Images show London’s usually-bustling Soho looking deserted with bars, restaurants and theatres mostly empty.
While no new restrictions have been imposed, many people are choosing to stay at home to avoid catching the highly infectious Omicron variant.
The UK recorded another daily record today with almost 120,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Theatre mogul Andrew Lloyd Webber confirmed his production of Cinderella had been postponed until next year due to Covid disruption while productions of Hamilton and The Lion King have also been called off.
Christmas shopper numbers in central London have also tumbled, with fewer people seen rushing out to buy last-minute gifts on Oxford Street and Regent Street.
Towns and cities across the UK looked eerily quiet last night (Picture: w8media for Mailonline)
London’s Soho is normally packed this time of yeat (Picture: w8media for Mailonline)
There was also a drop in footfall around Oxford Circus and Regent Street (Picture: w8media for Mailonline)
According to data from the New West End Company, the West End footfall declined on Tuesday by 27% compared with the same day in 2019.
Jace Tyrrell, the firm’s chief executive, said businesses need more support than the packaged announced by the Treasury earlier this week.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced an extra £1bn in financial support for the hospitality and leisure sectors, with every business able to claim a cash grant of £6,000 to help them survive the Omicron crisis.
The Treasury is also providing a £30m top-up to the Cultural Recovery Fund – which supports venues such as museums and theatres, and reintroducing the statutory sick pay rebate scheme which allows small and medium-sized companies to claim compensation for the cost of their employees’ sick pay.
But entertainment businesses have blasted the pledge as ‘inadequate’ to deal with the impact that rising Covid cases is having on the sector.
A survey by Ipsos MORI revealed the majority of Brits are now taking matters into their own hands to reduce their chances of catching Covid, with 58% saying they have avoided public transport or plan to do so and 57% saying the same about going to pubs and restaurants.
Not everyone let Omicron spoil their Christmas fun (Picture: North News & Pictures)
Brits braved the cold for a pre-Christmas night out in Newcastle (Picture: North News & Pictures)
Newcastle was quieter than usual but there were still groups of young people out (Picture: North News & Pictures)
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said that while every pound helps ‘this package is far too little and borders on insulting’.
But not everyone is letting Omicron ruin their Christmas plans.
While the streets of Newcastle may not have been as busy as pre-Covid times, there were still groups of young people out in full force determined to make the most of their night out.
And thousands across England kept their cool and hit big events last weekend after Covid passes were introduced.
Many people are choosing to make the most of their freedom amid speculation new restrictions could be announced.
Ministers have said they will not be making any announcements about future Covid measures in England before Christmas, but there could be a tightening of the rules after Boxing Day.
Many Brits are choosing to stay indoors to avoid catching Omiron (Picture: North News & Pictures)
The UK recorded another 120,000 Covid cases today (Picture: North News & Pictures)
The Government has urged people to be cautious and take a test but it has not restricted social gatherings yet (Picture: North News & Pictures)
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned the NHS is in danger of being ‘overwhelmed’ by the surge in Omicron cases, despite further evidence it causes less severe illness than earlier Covid-19 strains.
He said officials were monitoring the data ‘hour by hour’ after new figures showed the Covid infection rates in the UK reaching record levels with an estimated 1.4 million people with the virus.
The warning came as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) estimated someone with Omicron was between 31% and 45% less likely to attend A&E and 50% to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with the Delta variant.
The findings are broadly in line with studies published on Wednesday by Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh.
Mr Javid said that, while the UKHSA conclusions were ‘promising’ Omicron cases were continuing to rise at an ‘extraordinary rate’.
‘Hospital admissions are increasing, and we cannot risk the NHS being overwhelmed,’ he said in a statement.
‘This is early-stage analysis and we continue to monitor the data hour by hour.
‘It is still too early to determine next steps.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.