Three thousand darts fans crammed into London‘s Alexandra Palace today to watch the world championship – as the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan warned people living in the capital to tone down their New Year’s Eve celebrations due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Pictures showed several fans wearing ‘Where’s Wally’ stripy red and white long-sleeved t-shirts and holding pitchers of beer as they enjoyed the darts inside the North London venue on Sunday afternoon.
Whilst some were wearing masks, many spectators had chosen not to, including a group dressed as Vikings who had their arms in the air as they cheered the competitors.
It comes as cases of the Omicron variant in the capital surged to 10,092 today.
The fans had gathered for the fifth day of the William Hill World Championship. Yesterday, three-time champion Michael van Gerwen reached round three after losing the first set against opponent Chas Barstow.
But the packed scenes at Alexandra Palace came as Mr Khan pleaded with the public to ‘err on the side of caution’ for their New Year’s Eve celebrations – saying they should only go to pubs and restaurants if it can be done ‘safely’.
Speaking on the BBC‘s Andrew Marr show, Mr Khan gave a grim picture of the ‘existential’ threat facing hospitality businesses as people bunker down and cancel events over Covid fears.
Three thousand darts fans crammed into London’s Alexandra Palace today to watch the world championship – as the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan warned people living in the capital to tone down their New Year’s Eve celebrations due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant of coronavirus
Whilst some were wearing masks, many spectators had chosen not to, including a group dressed as Vikings who had their arms in the air as they cheered the competitors
But the packed scenes at Alexandra Palace came as Mr Khan (pictured At BBC Broadcasting House today) pleaded with the public to ‘err on the side of caution’ for their New Year’s Eve celebrations – saying they should only go to pubs and restaurants if it can be done ‘safely’
Mr Khan called on the Government to bring forward a package of support to keep venues afloat during the latest crisis.
But he also gave a clear indication that people should not be engaging in revelry in the current climate.
Asked whether New Year parties should be going ahead, Mr Khan said: ‘I think it depends what sort of parties you are planning. If it is with your family, your direct family at home of course that is fine.
‘I think what you have got to recognise, if you are meeting with strangers, if you have not had your lateral flow test on that day, if you can’t keep your social distance, if there is not good ventilation, you may be passing the virus on if you have got it without showing symptoms.
‘Or you may be getting it. Err on the side of caution.’
Told that chief medic Chris Whitty was urging people to be selective about the events that were important to them personally, Mr Khan said: I’ve not had the benefit I’m afraid of listening to Chris Whitty directly, but I trust Chris Whitty… if that is the advice from the chief medical officer I would rather listen to him.’
Asked whether people should still be going to bars and restaurants, he said: ‘If they can do so safely.’
Mr Khan yesterday declared a major incident due to the ‘hugely concerning’ surge in cases across the capital, as he voiced fears about staff absences in vital public services including the NHS, the fire service and police due to infection.
In a dire warning, the Mayor of London said the rapid spread of the Omicron variant had left him ‘incredibly worried’ that the capital could run out of police officers, NHS workers and firefighters.
‘The surge in cases of the Omicron variant across our capital is hugely concerning, so we are once again declaring a major incident because of the threat of Covid-19 to our city,’ he said.
Boris Johnson has so far refused scientists’ pleas for a last-ditch Christmas lockdown to quell the spread of the Omicron mutant variant
‘The Omicron variant has quickly become dominant with cases increasing rapidly and the number of patients in our hospitals with Covid-19 on the rise again.’
But a Government source angrily accused Mr Khan – who announced a similar major incident in January – of politicising Covid-19.
Omicron is the dominant variant in London and it is thought it has also replaced Delta across England and Scotland.
The number of people in the capital’s hospitals with the virus has risen 28.6 per cent week on week, according to official figures released on Friday.
It comes amid fears that a normal Christmas Day may be under threat after Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned the Government must act on Omicron before it is ‘too late’.
SAGE experts have raised the alarm that the number of infections could soon reach two million by the end of the month unless tougher restrictions are imposed.
Medical and science chiefs Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance are believed to have briefed the Cabinet yesterday that more measures are required to stop hospital admissions rising above 3,000 per day in England.
The fans had gathered for the fifth day of the William Hill World Championship. Above: A man dressed as the Grinch inside Alexandra Palace yesterday
Yesterday, three-time champion Michael van Gerwen reached round three after losing the first set against opponent Chas Barstow. Above: Fans sit down inside the packed venue on Saturday
General view of the crowd during day four of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace, London
However, there is deep resistance among ministers about putting millions of people back into lockdown with Christmas just around the corner.
There are also fears that Boris Johnson may not have the political capital to push through new restrictions after the massive revolt against Plan B last week and the bombshell resignation of Brexit minister Lord Frost last night.
However, this morning Mr Javid hinted at possible new restrictions.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said that in his former career as a trader the ‘most important decisions’ were taken when data was ‘early and patchy, but a trend was emerging’.
‘Once that trend leads to a clear outcome, it may be too late to react to it,’ he wrote.
In interviews this morning, Mr Javid said the government is watching the evidence closely and ready to ‘do what is necessary’ – but insisted the calls from SAGE will be ‘challenged’.
He also gave a firm commitment that parliament will be recalled if any action is going to be taken.
Pushed on whether a circuit breaker could be ruled out before Christmas, Mr Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ‘There are no guarantees.’
SAGE papers from a meeting on Thursday showed how advisers warned that delaying new curbs until 2022 could ‘greatly reduce the effectiveness of such interventions and make it less likely that these would prevent considerable pressure on health and care settings’.
Darts fans cram into Alexandra Palace for World Championship