People planning to celebrate New Year’s Eve have been warned “Covid loves a crowd” – amid advice to put off any parties until later in the year.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said welcoming 2021 “within the rules” will reduce infections and relieve pressure on hospitals.
He said: “We know it’s the end of the year, it’s a time where people traditionally want to celebrate. We can all play a part in fighting this terrible virus: stay at home, mark the New Year with just nearest and dearest within the rules.
“Covid loves a crowd, so please leave the parties for later in the year.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also advised people to follow the rules on December 31.
He said: “I must ask you to follow the rules where you live and see in the New Year safely at home. That means not meeting up with friends or family indoors, unless they’re in the same household or support bubble, and avoiding large gatherings of any kind.”
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police also warned potential revellers to “celebrate the New Year in the comfort of their own homes, not the homes of family and friends”.
Commander Paul Brogden, who is leading this year’s operation, said: “I would urge everyone to exercise caution, listen to government advice and celebrate the New Year in the comfort of their own homes, not the homes of family and friends.
“The public can expect to see officers deployed across the capital, supporting communities and focusing strongly on the few people intent on breaching and ignoring the guidance put in place to keep everyone safe.
“Officers will also be paying attention to parts of London that are experiencing the highest infection rates.
“As we have throughout the year, if we become aware of planned events that breach Covid regulations, we will engage with organisers or venues to make them fully aware of the legal consequences and encourage them to cancel.
“Failure to cancel such events, like unlicensed music events, will likely see the organiser facing a very significant fine.
“Although the New Year is almost upon us, now is not the time for complacency or to meet with others and hold parties of any kind.
“If people insist on gathering and breaching regulations, then officers will attend and encourage people to disperse. Where necessary, enforcement action, including fines starting at £100 and working their way up to £10,000, will be considered.”