30/12/2020 17:18 GMT | Updated 30/12/2020 17:27 GMT

Celebrate New Year's Eve At Home, Boris Johnson Tells Public

Prime minister tells people to "avoid large gatherings" amid surge in coronavirus cases.

JAMIE LORRIMAN via Getty Images

Boris Johnson has told people to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home, amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the UK.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, the prime minister old people to “see in the New Year safely at home” on Thursday evening.

He said people should avoid “meeting up with friends and family indoors” and “avoid large gatherings”.

From Thursday three-quarters of the population of England will be living under tier 4 rules.

It comes as official figures showed the deaths of 981 people who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK have been recorded in the last 24 hours.

“All of these measures in the end are designed to save lives and protect the NHS,” Johnson said.

“For that very reason I must ask you to follow the rule where you live tomorrow night and see in the new year safely at home.

“That means not meeting up with friends or family indoors unless in the same household or support bubble and avoiding large gatherings of any kind

“We are still in the tunnel of this pandemic, the light however is not merely visible … the tunnel has been shortened, we’re moving faster through it and that gives me great confidence about the future in the Spring.”

Speaking alongside Johnson in No.10, Stephen Powis, the NHS national medical director, echoed the PM’s warnings. “Covid loves a crowd,” he said.

“We know it’s the end of the year, it’s a time where people traditionally want to celebrate,” he said.

“It’s absolutely vital that, this year, everyone continues to follow the guidance by staying at home and not mixing.”

“Please leave the parties for later in the year.”

Jonathan Van Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said the situation was “a pretty grim and depressing picture at the moment”.

He warned the NHS, which is under increasing pressure, had yet to see the impact of any infections contracted over Christmas when people were allowed to mix more.

It comes as UK approved a new vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

The jab was given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on Wednesday morning.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said the vaccine is a “great British success story” and 530,000 of doses will be available for rollout from Monday.