After Boris Johnson ended days of speculation by announcing that festive family celebrations could go ahead, the Daily Telegraph sums up the nuance of his message in its main headline: “Glad tidings for Christmas (but perhaps not New Year)”.
It is “Xmas Cheer And Fear” in the Daily Mirror, while the i’s front page headline is “Christmas is happening. Now UK waits on London hospital data”. The paper reckons that if the number of daily hospital admissions in the capital remains below 400, the prime minister may hold off introducing new restrictions after Christmas.
The Sun pictures the comedian, Matt Lucas, impersonating Mr Johnson and saying: “Have a good Christmas.. but er, don’t have a good Christmas.” The paper – sceptical about Covid restrictions – declares the 25 and 26 December “saved” – but says there are now fears for the new year.
The Daily Mail is more bullish. It speaks of Britain being given a “Double Boost For Christmas”, with the self-isolation period being cut from 10 to seven days.
The Times says the change will free thousands from isolation at Christmas, and reflects growing scientific confidence that lateral flow tests pick up the most infectious people and are just as accurate as PCRs in spotting the Omicron variant.
According to the paper, a million lateral flow packs are being sent out every day; and scientists increasingly believe that widespread use of the devices is one of the most effective ways of controlling infections.
The Daily Star says Santa has been swamped with letters from children pleading for this year’s “bizarre must-have toy” – a luxury box of lateral flow kits.
The Guardian observes that the Christmas decision follows deep splits within the cabinet, and contrasted it with moves made by the governments in Edinburgh and Cardiff.
Scotland cancelled Hogmanay street parties for tens of thousands of people; and both Scotland and Wales announced that, from Boxing Day, sporting events would be held behind closed doors.
The Times Scotland reports that festival organisers have cancelled concerts as far ahead as February, because of fears that the new restrictions will last beyond their current three-week timetable.
The Telegraph says the Welsh government is to make going to work a crime, by introducing a £60 fine for anyone travelling unnecessarily to their office. Critics have pointed out, it adds, that people will still be able to legally visit a restaurant or pub.
The Financial Times highlights a warning from hospitality businesses that the £1bn of new support, promised by the chancellor for companies hit hard by Omicron, falls far short of what firms need to survive a plunge in bookings
The chief executive of Gaucho Restaurants, which suffered the equivalent of 10,000 cancellations last week, is quoted as comparing the package to a “sticking plaster”.
A publican tells the Mirror: “It’s sickening – like lockdown on the cheap.”
Finally, it’s emerged that the fast-food chain McDonald’s Japan has joined the unfortunate ranks of Toyota, Sony and other titans of industry in falling prey to a supply crisis affecting chips.
Except, reports the FT, these aren’t computer chips – but potato ones. The result: an emergency plan to ensure a “continuous supply of French fries” – by offering only the smallest servings at its nearly 3,000 outlets nationwide.