Terming the availability of two vaccines and the UK moving out of the EU’s embrace from 11 pm on Thursday – when the Brexit transition period ends – as an “amazing moment,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he remained confident about the country and the future as it enters 2021.
Johnson released an upbeat New Year message as the UK’s health officials announced another high in the number of daily new deaths and Covid-19 cases: 964 and 55,892, as of Thursday evening, with 23,813 patients in hospitals and 1,847 of them on ventilators.
The government launched a public information campaign, appealing to the people to usher in the New Year at home and not to join any gathering outside. Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, described the situation as “grim, depressing and perilous”.
The Big Ben, which is undergoing repair since 2017, will come alive at midnight to herald the New Year, but there will be none of the iconic fireworks around it that would normally be watched by tens of thousands along the Thames and telecast live to millions across the globe.
‘Covid-19 loves a crowd, cancel parties’ was the key message on a public information campaign on Thursday, urging Britons to usher in the New Year at home. Millions more Britons moved to the top Tier 4 Covid-19 alert system with the toughest restrictions on Wednesday night.
Johnson said: “(As) as the sun rises tomorrow on 2021 we have the certainty of those vaccines. Pioneered in a UK that is also free to do things differently, and if necessary better, than our friends in the EU. Free to do trade deals around the world”.
“This is an amazing moment for this country. We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it. Leading both the G7 and the COP 26 climate change summit in Glasgow, And an open, generous, outward looking, internationalist and free trading global Britain, that campaigns for 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world”.
He added: “2021 is the year we can do it, and I believe 2021 is above all, the year when we will eventually do those everyday things that now seem lost in the past. Bathed in a rosy glow of nostalgia, going to the pub, concerts, theatres, restaurants, or simply holding hands with our loved ones in the normal way”.
Johnson, however, insisted that the UK is still a way off from that situation and warned that there are “tough weeks and months ahead”.
Meanwhile, the Brexit agreement reached with Brussels last week received royal assent and became law. Several aspects of everyday life are likely to change as new post-Brexit realities unfold.
This will include higher prices in supermarkets and changes to Britons visiting EU member-states. There will be a 90-day limit to their stay in any 180-day period, using queues for non-EU citizens at airports, and being asked by immigration officials to show return tickets and funds for their stay.