Scotland axes New Year's Eve street party due to Omicron

London (AFP) – Edinburgh's hugely popular New Year's Eve street party has been cancelled because of the surge in coronavirus cases driven by the Omicron variant, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Tuesday.


Tens of thousands of revellers from around the world typically descend on the Scottish capital on December 31 for Hogmanay, which is marked by live music and fireworks above Edinburgh Castle.

But this was the second successive year that the festivities have been axed, as Scotland and the rest of Britain grapple with spiralling Covid-19 infections.

Britain reported another 90,629 cases on Tuesday as the new variant rages and hospitalisation rates in London climb.

Daily case rates have frequently broken records over the last week as the country -- one of Europe's worst-hit by the virus, with more than 147,000 deaths during the pandemic -- struggles to contain Omicron.

Sturgeon told lawmakers in the devolved Scottish Parliament that crowds would be capped at 500 for outdoor public events, and 100 standing or 200 seated indoors, for at least three weeks from December 26.

That means football matches and other live sports events in Scotland will also be "effectively spectator-free", she added.

Earlier Tuesday, the Welsh government announced that sporting events there would be played behind closed doors from December 26.

It also emerged that officials in Wales, which has advised people to work from home if possible as virus cases rise, can now fine people for failing to do so.

Monday's change from mere guidance to a legal requirement to homeworking could see people fined £60 ($80, 70 euros) unless they can offer "a reasonable excuse".

Employers could be hit with penalties of £10,000 for repeatedly failing to allow people to work from home.

In England, where Omicron cases are particularly concentrated in the capital London, the UK government has so far opted against imposing restrictions like limiting spectators.

It enacted so-called "Plan B" curbs earlier this month, mandating mask-wearing in certain settings and advising people to home-work if possible, while also introducing a Covid pass system for large events.