Mark Drakeford: 'Think hard' about New Year's Eve plans as 'tough month' is ahead

'Make a conscious assessment of the risks', First Minister warns ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations

The First Minister has urged people in Wales to "think hard" about the impact of their New Year's Eve plans, as he warned of a "tough month" ahead.

Mark Drakeford advised people consider the risks of travelling across the border to England - the only UK nation where nightclubs remain open - for their celebrations.

Nightclubs in Wales have been shut since Boxing Day, and social distancing, the 'rule of six' and table service have been reinforced in pubs and bars.

It comes as scientists warn that there will be another peak of Covid cases in January, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the UK.

People have been urged to take a lateral flow test before socialising for New Year's Eve. Credit: PA Images

While Mr Drakeford said hospital admissions have not yet reached their peak, "we have a third more people in a hospital bed in Wales today than we did a week ago."

But he offered some hope, adding that scientific modelling also suggests case numbers will "fall away quickly" after the peak.

"So the best I can say to people is we're in for a tough month in January, but if we can get through it and get through it together, then maybe things will improve reasonably rapidly after that as well," he said.

The warning comes as he also delivered his new year message, reflecting on the past 12 months and thanking frontline workers and NHS staff for helping keep the country safe.

New Year's Eve celebrations will look different this year, with restrictions in place across the UK. Credit: PA Images

Speaking about people crossing the border for New Year's Eve, Mark Drakeford said: "The advice in Wales always is to think hard about what you are doing and to make a conscious assessment of the risks that will be there.

"So it is for individuals to do that, but please do it with your eyes open.

"Think about the risks, think about what you can do to mitigate them, make sure you take a lateral flow test before you go anywhere, and if you're returning think about the people you may meet the next day."

People have been urged to take a lateral flow test before socialising for New Year's Eve, but many have struggled to get them, with pharmacies across Wales running out.

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


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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England is the only UK nation where nightclubs will be open.

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

Since 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.

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Nightclubs are shut 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 to attend nightclubs.

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.

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Northern Ireland

Nightclubs will be closed, 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.

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Mr Drakeford also urged people to "pull together" and make getting a booster vaccine one of their resolutions for the beginning of 2022.

"Once again, our incredible frontline workers and NHS staff have gone far beyond the call of duty, working day in and day out to care for and protect us in our times of need. Thank you. Diolch o galon i chi gyd (many thanks to you all)," Mr Drakeford said.

"Our thoughts are now turning to the year ahead – a new year which will bring new possibilities with it for us all.

"At this time of year, a great many of us will be making resolutions. If you haven’t done so already, please put having your booster vaccine at the top of the list.

"As we look forward to 2022, we do so knowing the weeks ahead will be difficult. Omicron is here in Wales and is moving quickly through our communities.

"There will be better and brighter times ahead. Time to spend with friends and family – and time to make new memories. So please, let’s all pull together again as we head into the new year."

There are serious concerns over the impact of rising Omicron cases on hospital workers. Credit: PA Images

But scientists and healthcare professionals have warned of the impact the Omicron variant will have on hospitals.

A leading scientist said it is likely that the NHS will be overwhelmed by the spread and he is worried about how healthcare staff will cope.

Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told BBC Breakfast: "I think we haven't quite reached the threshold that was set by government in terms of the NHS being overwhelmed, but it looks like that will be reached quite quickly.

"What I'm very concerned about is our NHS staff, my dear colleagues who have worked so, so hard all through the repeated waves of this infection.

"How are they going to cope?

"We need to really extend our care to them and give every support and do everything we can to make the NHS a great place to work, which of course it is in the main, but I'm really very concerned indeed for NHS staff."