Scottish partygoers are expected to visit Newcastle’s nightclubs and bars to celebrate the New Year without the Covid rules they encounter at home.
This comes after Scotland’s Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon ordered nightclubs to close, saying pubs can only offer table service in an attempt to curb the growing number of cases caused by the Omicron variant.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not condemned people traveling from Scotland to England to celebrate it, but instead urges partygoers to “enjoy the New Year, but in a careful and sensible way.”
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Police Scotland said it was not against the law to travel to England from Scotland, confirming that the force has no plans to set up roadblocks or checkpoints at the border.
But Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah stressed the need for people to “act responsibly” to protect the NHS as Covid cases rise.
“Newcastle welcomes visitors from all over our country and indeed the whole world and especially our Scottish and Welsh visitors,” she said.
“But with such high infection rates, we all have to act responsibly to protect the NHS and each other, no matter where we are.
“It is really worrying that the government has failed to ensure the supply of adequate lateral flow and PCR tests so that people can take reasonable steps to keep us all safe.”
Health Minister Sajid Javid has acknowledged a global lack of lateral flow, and PCR tests affected the UK.
However, the UK Health Safety Agency said nearly eight million test kits would be made available to pharmacies by New Year’s Eve.
The festive season should have given a much-needed boost to the restaurant industry, but instead it has proved to be a tough time for bars and restaurants that have been hit by cancellations.
Debrah Dhugga, chief operations officer at The Apartment Group, which owns Collingwood Street bars, La Fee, ChachaBuchi, Verano and Howlers, said the impact on the industry had been “devastating”.
Collingwood Street venues continue to see cancellations for New Year’s Eve and expect a lot of walk-in customers for their party at night.
“We are still receiving cancellations for New Year’s Eve, especially from the larger parties that have had table reservations,” Debrah said.
“A lot of people make plans at the last minute.
“I think people are almost afraid to make plans and pay deposits if they have to cancel.”
Debrah said the venues are not dependent on trade from Scottish visitors and do not expect to see people travel down in large numbers for the New Year.
“I think we need to be open and see what happens, but I do not think we can trust that business to come,” she said.
“It has not been a normal December and I do not think the New Year celebration will be the normal celebration.”
Neil Donachie, owner of Mother Mercy, in The Old George Yard, welcomed Scottish partygoers who visited the town on New Year’s Eve, but stressed that measures such as table service and no standing room will be in place to keep drinkers safe.
“Throughout the Christmas period and until New Year’s Eve, we will be working on the same policy so we feel confident that guests can enjoy Mother Mercy safely, no matter how busy Newcastle gets,” he said.
“If guests from Scotland or Wales choose to join us, we would like to welcome them to Mother Mercy and we feel confident that this will not affect the safety of other guests.”
Mike Hesketh, owner of Horticulture on Market Lane, said the nightlife in the city has become busier in the time leading up to the new year than it has been in early December and has seen an increase in bookings.
“In the last week since Christmas, there has been a solid amount of trade in the town, even without the potential Scottish influx,” he said.
“For New Year’s Eve, we see people wanting to get out and celebrate now that Christmas is over and the city’s nightlife the last few days has been busier than it normally would be.”
He welcomed visitors from Scotland, but said partygoers would most likely visit the city’s nightclubs.
“For Newcastle’s bars and nightlife, Scottish people have been coming down for the New Year for quite some time and vice versa,” he said.
“We have good relations with Edinburgh, in particular. I would welcome them.”
Cumbria police have also urged people to “remain cautious” if they plan to travel outside the area to celebrate the New Year.
A Cumbria police spokesman said: “Cumbria police want to ensure that key areas of the county – including Carlisle city center – have good resources on New Year’s Eve to help keep people safe.
“While there are no restrictions that prevent people from traveling to the county from elsewhere, in accordance with National Public Health Councils, we urge people to remain careful in making their plans and to seek to take a lateral flow test, before attending events. “
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