England's pubs and restaurants are preparing for a bumper New Year’s Eve, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out introducing new restrictions ahead of December 31.

Nightclubs, bars and restaurants are to remain open over the coming days in England, putting it at odds with the rest of the United Kingdom, which has introduced new COVID-19 restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the Omicron variant.

Are masks required in England's restaurants and pubs? 

It had been anticipated that the government would bring in measures to discourage people from gathering in large groups around New Year's Eve, however the decision was made to allow hospitality to remain open. Currently in England, masks are not required in restaurants, bars or pubs; but masks are expected to be worn in shops and on public transport and in venues like cinemas and theatres.

Where do I have to show my NHS COVID-19 pass in England now? 

Since December 15 anyone entering a nightclub or unseated venue that holds more than 500 people is required to show a National Health Service (NHS) COVID-19 pass or negative lateral flow result.  

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A planned Trafalgar Square event on New Year's Eve is now closed to the public © Geoff Stringer / Lonely Planet

Commenting on the decision, UK health secretary Sajid Javid, said: "We won’t be taking any further measures. Of course, people should remain cautious as we approach new year celebrations and take a lateral flow test if that makes sense, celebrate outdoors if you can, have some ventilation indoors if you can."

New Year's festivities canceled in England

In London however, the annual fireworks display on the banks of the River Thames which draws thousands of people to the South Bank each year had already been canceled by the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan, due to concerns over the virus spreading. The mayor has also canceled a ticketed event at Trafalgar Square which was to be attended by 6500 frontline workers. It is still to go ahead as a televised event with music performances, without any members of the public present. 

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Updated COVID-19 isolation terms 

One change introduced by the UK government surrounds the requirement for self-isolation. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 now needs to self isolate for seven days, previously it was 10 days.  In the US, the CDC just this week recommended it be reduced to five days. The affected person in England can come out of isolation if they receive a negative antigen (lateral flow) test on days six and seven of isolation. 

England is at odds over the holiday period with the rest of the United Kingdom which has put limits on numbers who can gather and closed nightclubs. 

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Edinburgh Fireworks
Fireworks over Edinburgh for Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) in the past drew thousands to the city © Getty Images

Scotland takes a more cautious route

In Scotland, public New Year’s Eve celebrations have been canceled including Edinburgh’s annual Hogmanay festival. Nightclubs have been shut, and only table service is allowed anywhere serving alcohol. People are being asked to maintain a one-meter distance from each other in hospitality settings. Only 100 people can attend indoor seated events, 200 people in outdoor seated events. These restrictions are in place for three weeks. 

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Wales limits indoor gatherings 

Nightclubs have been closed in Wales, and groups of no more than six are allowed in pubs and restaurants. A maximum of 30 people are allowed to attend indoor events and 50 people at outdoor events. Two-meter social distance is required in all public places. 

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Northern Ireland temporarily bans dancing

Nightclubs were closed in Northern Ireland on December 26. Groups of no more than six are allowed in pubs and restaurants, with only table service permitted. Indoor parties of no more than 30 people can go ahead, although outdoor sporting events are not affected by the new restrictions. Dancing has been banned at public events, excluding weddings. 

For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.

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