How to stay COVID-safe this New Year's Eve

·6-min read

Watch: Did COVID ruin your new year's plan? Celebrate at home and have fun

In the past, it was pretty simple to organise New Year's Eve. You either had your plans sewn up well in advance - party, pub, nightclub - or you were staying in with snacks and Jools Holland.

This year, however, COVID-19 is still raging, and it's been almost impossible to make plans.

Friends are ill or self isolating, advice appears to be completely conflicting, and nobody really wants to kick off the New Year with a case of Omicron, 'mild strain' or otherwise. Still, plenty of us are still hoping to spend the evening celebrating, albeit 'cautiously', as the government suggests.

But with England's new 'have fun but remain cautious' advice entirely at odds with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose governments have all limited socialising, how can you ring in the New Year and make sure you're as safe as possible?

Read more: New Year’s Eve: What are the Covid rules as millions prepare to see in 2022

Of course, nobody can guarantee you won't catch the highly infectious Omicron strain, no matter how careful you are - but there are ways to minimise the chances and avoid the nasty colds, norovirus and flu that are all currently doing the Winter rounds too.

Here's how to stay as safe as possible this New Year - no matter how you celebrate.

Happy multiracial senior people cheering with red wine at dinner while wearing surgical face mask for coronavirus
Dinner outside? You might want to bring a thermal hat... (Getty Images)

Before you meet anyone or go out:

Take a Lateral Flow Test- if you can get one

COVID-19 rapid test kit is a qualitative lateral flow immunochromatographic assay for the detection of IgM and IgG antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in human whole blood, serum or plasma samples
An LFT works best with Omicron if you swab your throat too. (Getty Images)

Many are having trouble accessing them at the moment, but if you do have access to LFTs, the government advises that you take one before you head out or meet people from other households.

Some data suggests that Omicron may not always show up with nose-only LFTs, so swab your tonsils as well - and remember, they aren't infallible.

If you don't feel well, get a PCR test as soon as possible, and don't mingle with others.

Party outdoors - or open windows

Friends drinking and toasting with beer at pub brewery - Beautiful young woman looking at camera and raising her pint glass - Lifestyle and drink concepts in London
Do your drinking outdoors for safety's sake. (Getty Images)

Of all the times of year for an outdoor party, the fag-end of December isn't ideal. But if you have people mingling, and a garden, it makes sense to host it outside. Chimineas, barbecues, outdoor heaters and fire pits may all be handy. Provide an open-sided gazebo if possible, in case it rains, and plenty of hats and scarves.

"Go to well-ventilated areas. I’ve been to a couple of outdoor parties actually,” said Gillian Keegan, minster for Care and Mental Health, on Wednesday.

Read more: Eight Million Covid Tests To Be Made Available By New Year’s Eve Amid Anger Over Shortages

“People have moved things to outside, so just be cautious."

If you can't do this - or your guests won't - remember, COVID-19 is airborne, and opening windows at both ends of the room or house/flat, to create a through draught, is essential. Think of it as smoke - open windows let it out, closed windows keep it circulating indoors.

Go the extra mile

Female friends practicing alternative greeting to avoid handshakes during COVID-19 pandemic, elbow bump
Don't hug, just bump (Getty Images)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has imposed certain measures to minimise infections over New Year, as have the Welsh and Northern Irish governments.

If you're not in the devolved areas, however, you can still abide by the new plans, which as designed to limit the spread of Omicron and keep people safe.

In Scotland, a maximum of 500 people can attend outdoor events where physical distancing of one metre is in place. Indoor standing events are limited to 100 spectators, and indoor seated events to 200.

"Stay at home more than normal and reduce contact with people outside own household. and limit the size of indoor social gatherings to three households," says the Government.

So if you are going out, keep the venue small - and if you're hosting, limit numbers, and ask guests to take a lateral flow just before arrival.

Social Distance, too - if you're hosting, sit guests at least a metre apart, and don't hug or kiss. Keep a space around yourself, don't shout to be heard, and avoid singing indoors.

Wear a mask

Woman wearing medical protective mask outdoor during dusk. Young woman wearing face mask against pollution standing outdoors on winter evening. Girl with gray earflap in winter city street during coronavirus outbreak.
Wear a mask on public transport. (Getty Images)

It's now compulsory to wear a mask on public transport and in shops and taxis.

If you're in a restaurant, pub or nightclub, however, you can take it off. Using a medical-grade mask dramatically reduces the chances of you giving COVID to anyone else, and also reduces the chance of you catching it. Always have a mask with you when you're out, and dispose of used single-use masks carefully.

Get your booster

Close up portrait of beautiful young woman wearing mask getting vaccinated.
Didn't feel a thing. Time to get boosted. (Getty Images)

Being triple-vaccinated (two doses and a booster) hugely reduces your chances of being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19. You're fully vaccinated two weeks after your booster.

If you haven't yet been triple vaccinated, it's unwise to go out and mingle on New Year's Eve as you could pass on the virus more easily, and be more ill if you catch it.

Find out more here: Booster dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine

Isolate if necessary

Nobody said it would be fun... (Getty Images)
Nobody said it would be fun... (Getty Images)

If you have covid symptoms you should stay at home and self-isolate immediately.

The NHS advises: "You should arrange to have a PCR test as soon as possible. If this PCR test result is positive, you must continue to self-isolate.

Get a free PCR test to check if you have coronavirus (COVID-19)

"If you don't have covid symptoms, but you have a positive PCR test result, you must stay at home and self-isolate. If you are aged 18 years 6 months or over and are not fully vaccinated, and you live in the same household as someone with covid, you are legally required to stay at home and self-isolate."

If you are fully vaxxed, or under 18.6, and live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, you're not legally required to self-isolate. Instead, take a lateral flow test every day for seven days, and self-isolate if any results are positive.

If you're positive, you must self isolate for seven days, but can now re-emerge after a week, following two negative lateral flow tests taken 24 hours apart. (The first test should not be taken before the sixth day.)

Your isolation period starts immediately from when your symptoms started, or, if you don't have any symptoms, from when your positive LF or PCR test was taken. Your isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day your test was taken if you do not have symptoms), and the next 10 full days.

Watch: Infectious disease expert weighs in on how to stay safe at large NYE events

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