People across the city are being urged to get jabbed and put on their masks to save Christmas.

New rules have come into force to stop the spread of the new Omicron variant by the government including face coverings on public transport and shopping centres, shops and other businesses including banks and hairdressers.


They are not yet mandatory in pubs and restaurants which has been met with relief from some Norwich publicans with fears the introduction of face coverings would "devastate" the industry this festive season.

The government has also announced a major expansion of the booster jab rollout as part of efforts to help stop a potential wave of infection with the jab being offered to all over-18s in the UK.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District, said: "I would encourage anyone to follow the national guidelines and get their booster and wear a face covering.

"From a business perspective, this is a really important trading time for the city. I would encourage people to help the local businesses. We want to keep the city open."

He added that trading conditions had been difficult over the past year.

"Hopefully wearing a mask isn't too difficult to support the local economy. Norwich and Norfolk has had some of the lowest rates throughout the pandemic. We are following the guidelines and hoping the city remains safe," said Mr Gurney.

Dawn Hopkins, owner and landlady of The Rose Pub and Deli, in Queens Road, also backed the new rules but did not want the face covering rules to be extended into the hospitality industry.

She said: "I'm hoping this is the extent of it. If we go back to restrictions within hospitality that is going to be devastating for trade over the Christmas period. I wouldn't want it to change. Another lockdown would not be good.

"Everyone is looking forward to Christmas and this is when people in hospitality take their money for the next year.

"The government have acted fairly quickly."

Ms Hopkins was keen on the widening of the booster programme and hoped the rule change on face masks in certain areas would protect hospitality from further restrictions.

Phil Cutter, landlord of The Murderers, in Timberhill, said: "It is better to have the vaccine than not. The vaccine is for the safety of people around you."

He was pleased hospitality had been exempt from face covering rules because it would limit capacity for many businesses.

But he added: "The priority for us is the safety of our staff and customers."

The landlord also confirmed he would take on new rules imposed by government if they were brought in.

"I would rather be open with restriction than closed because of the rates going out of control.

"We thought we were out of the woods. I'm hoping this is minor diversion."

Norwich Evening News: Christian Hodgkinson, landlord of the Fat Cat and Canary in Thorpe RoadChristian Hodgkinson, landlord of the Fat Cat and Canary in Thorpe Road (Image: Steve Adams)

Christian Hodgkinson, landlord of the Fat Cat and Canary, in Thorpe Road, said it made business sense to not introduce masks for hospitality but the rules overall were confusing.

He said: "Boosters are a good idea. It seems the way forward."

The landlord said he would "make the best of the situation" if pubs faced future restrictions.

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, said: "I encourage everyone to get their jab or their booster jab as soon as offered. We are in a strong position as a country but it’s important to be sensible and proportionate in the face of any new circumstances.”

And Norwich South MP, Clive Lewis, added: "Throughout the pandemic, I've been in touch with worried licensees across the city. So, I'm pleased for them that this announcement reduces the chances of firmer hospitality and leisure sector restrictions.

"The UK still has one of the worst overall Covid death records in the global North. I support measures which reduce the likelihood of yet more people in our city having to mourn the loss of loved ones."