Football fans have been advised not to attend matches in stadiums and to “prioritise” social events “that really matter to them” in the run-up to Christmas.
In the light of the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, and the emergence of the new Omicron variant, the statement around the prioritisation of socialising was made by yesterday evening during a televised Downing Street news conference hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, alongside Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, and Dr Nikki Kanani – Medical Director of Primary Care for NHS England.
Although the Prime Minister insisted that this Christmas would still be “considerably better” than the last, he told people to “think carefully” before attending social events over the next few weeks and to limit their contacts with the big day right around the corner.
Professor Chris Whitty then went even further than the Prime Minister, however, and urged the public not to “mix with people you don’t have to”.
He warned that more COVID records would be broken as the Omicron variant surges.
The news conference was held on the day that the UK recorded 78,610 new COVID cases in a 24-hour period, which broke the record for the highest daily number reported since the start of the pandemic.
The reintroduction of a legal requirement to wear face masks in “most public indoor venues”, including theatres and cinemas – with exceptions “where it’s not practical, including while eating, drinking, exercising or singing”.
NHS COVID passes for nightclubs, unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
Daily testing for people identified as a contact of a COVID-19 case – with isolation required only for people who test positive.
Plan B was drawn up before the Omicron variant emerged, and only applies to England.
Yet despite the introduction of the measures, the government has not told any businesses to close or imposed any capacity restrictions on sporting events.
Even though there are no legal limits on crowd sizes, Dr Nikki Kanani did advise supporters in yesterday’s conference to stay away from stadiums – apart from those being used as COVID vaccination sites – as the Omicron variant spreads across the UK.
“My advice would be, if you’re going to go to a stadium at the weekend, make it one where you can get your vaccine or help out to give a vaccine, rather than going to watch a match,” she said
Professor Chris Whitty echoed Dr Kanani’s comments, saying that it would be “very sensible” for people to make choices between which social events they attend, and which they don’t, adding: “I really think people should be prioritising those things and only those things that really matter to them.”
Mr Johnson added that the public were showing a “general instinct to be more cautious”.
Meanwhile, the conference last night also comes amid an ongoing conversation around the hardships once again being faced by the hospitality sector and the question of “where is the Chancellor”, as pubs and restaurants in Greater Manchester and right across the UK are hit by a surge of cancelled bookings in the lead-up to and at Christmas.
Sacha Lord – Greater Manchester’s Night Time Economy Adviser, and co-founder of Parklife and Warehouse Project – has been a prominent voice in questioning and critiquing the lack of support being offered by the government.
Mr Lord took to Twitter yesterday to ask someone to “urgently wake up Rishi Sunak”, and said the Chancellor would be “responsible for the decimation of businesses, livelihoods and mass redundancies,” in the sector.
UK Hospitality has called for business rates to be deferred, and VAT discounts extended.
Also response to the lack of government support, Wes Streeting – Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary – told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “It’s not right that businesses through no fault of their own are taking a hit.”
He added that it was “inexplicable the chancellor and business secretary are nowhere to be seen” as many businesses see incomes plunge at a crucial time of year.
‘Please help’ – plea to save one of Manchester’s oldest theatres as beautiful building falls into disrepair
A fresh appeal and Crowdfunder has been launched to try and save one of Manchester’s oldest and most beautiful theatre buildings.
The Hulme Playhouse Theatre and the Nia Centre are at risk of closing down once again as both the list of repairs and the cost of living rise.
The venue, used now as a community hub and events space operated by NIAMOS, is in ‘desperate need of repair’ and they need to raise £50,000 for the urgent work.
Without it, it’s feared that the ‘cold and leaking’ building could be lost forever and ‘another cultural institution could be turned into flats’.
At present, the historic Grade II-listed building doesn’t have a heating system, and winter has brought new pressures.
NIAMOS, a group of local residents and community volunteers, say they want to ‘honour the important legacy of this renowned venue’.
The beautiful building in Hulme was first opened in 1902 and is one of only two remaining W. H. Broadhead theatres.
At one time, Broadhead owned an empire of theatres, and designed the space to resemble a factory from the outside, hoping to help working class audiences in Manchester feel at home.
In 1956, the BBC took over and turned it into BBC Soundstage North, where The Beatles’ first-ever live radio performance was broadcast from.
Then the legendary Nina Simone opened it theas The Nia Centre in 1991, becoming the first African and Caribbean-led theatre in Europe.
The cultural significance of this building really can’t be overstated, and the NIAMOS team are desperate to save it.
They said in their Crowdfunder: “Our mission is to preserve the heritage of the Nia Centre and Playhouse Theatre, by keeping the building and the Arts it facilitates accessible to all communities, all ages and capabilities.”
NIAMOS’ message continued: “We need help to be able to keep all the incredible projects that happen in the building going and make sure the space stays open as a hub for the Hulme community and beyond! We need to honour the important legacy of this renowned venue, still independent in the heart of Manchester, and not let another cultural institution be turned into flats.
“We want to make sure the building stays open as much as possible over winter and improve the equipment that local and young artists have access to through us, including music production, sound and lighting engineering, arts workshops, film and media production and acting classes.
“The building is in desperate need of repair and a heating system which we currently do not have at all! Alongside all of this, the running costs of the building and the rising cost of living mean we are under pressure this winter.
“We rely on volunteer support to run and host events for our community and our voluntary members have worked extremely hard to keep the building afloat, but our members cannot give as much of their time as we need and with the challenge of a cold and leaking building we are in need of help to save this space from closing down!!
“When the current directorship took over the running of the building they also took on significant debts, this has meant we have been two steps forward and one step back. Despite all the hard work of the people who have been running the space voluntarily we need help over the quieter winter months.
“We need to stay open long enough to apply for further funding bids, including long term support from the Heritage Lottery fund, as we are a grade II listed building. We have an amazing programme of events and projects we want to put on this year that will build on sustaining us financially and provide opportunities for community artists and creatives.
“Keeping this building open and functional is of great importance for Hulme and the surrounding areas communities; we need your help! Developing heating solutions and doing necessary repairs in the building will enable us to stay open during the colder months and help us with our aim of making the building more conscious and sustainable.
Tim Martin is blaming ‘people drinking at home’ for UK Wetherspoons closures
It’s no secret that times are hard for hospitality right now, with pubs and restaurants shutting left, right and centre – but when UK pub giant Wetherspoons starts closing its doors you have to wonder if anyone can survive in this climate.
In September last year, the budget pub chain began listing sites for sale with 32 boozers going up as part of what it described as a “commercial decision”.
Now, it has listed even more – and arch-Brexiteer Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin is apparently blaming people ‘drinking at home’ for the closures.
After the chain suffered a £30 million pound loss, CEO Tim Martin told PA news agency that people ‘have got into the habit of staying in’ ever since Covid and that that was why sales were down on 2019.
He also blamed lockdown restrictions brought in to stop the spread of Covid during the heigh of the pandemic for the pub’s losses,
He said: “The aftermath of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions have been far more difficult than anyone thought.
“That is the picture for the whole pub and restaurant industry. People thought that after lockdown there would be a boom in people suffering from cabin fever but, instead, it has almost become the opposite situation as people have got into the habit of staying in.
“That’s the big thing that means sales are down on 2019. Things are improving now but it’s slow.”
The pub sales are being handled by CBRE and Savills. Toby Hall, senior director at CBRE, said: “The excellent mix of locations in this portfolio is rarely seen in the market.
“With more than half the portfolio located in London and the South East and other strong locations in the South West, Midlands and North we believe the pubs represent an excellent opportunity for existing pub operators and new entrants.”