Google has reportedly urged employees to cancel their in-person social gatherings up to 2022, following a flood of cancellations due to Omicron concerns.

Google has sent a message to its British staff asking them to cancel any plans for in-person social events until 2022 and keep them under 15 people. The Times reported.

Ronan Harris, Vice President and MD for Google UK and Ireland, reportedly told staff that face-to-face events and business meetings have to be given the go-ahead by a company director as fears increase over the Omicron variant.

MailOnline reached out directly to Google for comment.

The government’s muddled messaging has led to a wave of festive cancellations, with major companies including NatWest, Aviva and Deutsche Bank saying all staff would have to take a lateral flow test before attending their Christmas parties.

Ronan Harris (pictured), Vice President and MD for Google UK and Ireland, told staff that face-to-face events and business meetings have to be given the go-ahead by a company director

Ronan Harris (pictured), Vice-President and MD of Google UK and Ireland told staff that a company director must give the green light for face-to-face business meetings and events.

Legal & General decided in October that Christmas celebrations should be kept small and team-based; Microsoft is holding a large ‘virtual’ party’; while Lloyd’s decided to hold its annual staff bash in the summer.

According to Prenetics, a survey of more than 2,000 employees in the UK found that 52% of workplaces decided not to host a Christmas party. 

However, unless Boris Johnson alters the official guidance, businesses that spend millions to host Christmas parties for their staff will not receive a refund. 

Today, George Freeman (the Under Secretary for State for Science) shattered Christmas plans for millions in Britain by declaring that it was’sensible to restrict them to four or five staff or to eliminate them entirely.

According to him, it all depends on what business you are running. A small business with four to five people, most of whom are already working in the same place every day, is not at great risk. Gathering for a drink together doesn’t seem like a significant step up in risk. 

“But, some businesses might bring in hundreds of people from all over the globe to attend a large party. They may then decide that this is sensible considering the current pandemic. In the end I believe businesspeople know how to make these decisions.  

To party or not to party this Christmas? What Britain's biggest employers plan to do about this year's staff festive bash

Which Christmas celebration should I attend? How Britain’s largest employers will handle this Christmas party for their staff

There is growing uncertainty about the Omicron variant, which is fuelling a meteoric rise in cases in South Africa. Nationally, cases there soared to 11,535 today marking a 370 per cent rise in a week, and up a third on around 8,500 yesterday

The Omicron variant is causing a rapid rise in South African cases. There are increasing concerns about it. The national number of cases rose to 11,535 today, a 37% increase in one week and a third higher than the 8,500 that were yesterday.

He revealed that his department was cancelling its bash and would instead host drinks on Zoom.

The Prime Minister was given his booster shot just hours after he spoke live to Sky News.

He stated that people should adhere to the guidelines we have given. They shouldn’t cancel things. There is no reason to do that and that is not what we are saying. You can only do the best thing in any situation: Have your booster whenever it is available.

George Freeman is the fifth minister to give different advice about festive parties with half of businesses cancelling this year costing UK hospitality ‘billions’.

Sajid Javid caused anger at hospitality executives when he encouraged partygoers take the Covid test. 

Even the Health Secretary suggested that they wear a mask on their faces. 

Yet one of his health ministers, Gillian Keegan, urged: ‘Continue with your Christmas plans, continue with your nativity plays and your Christmas parties.’

Last night Therese Coffey sent more mixed messages on socialising after she warned people to Do not’snog under the mistletoe” during this holiday period.

More chaos ensued on Tuesday as Dr Harries advised people to limit their December socializing. Tory MPs suspected that Dr Harries had been set up to be the fall guy by Ministers, who don’t want any more restrictions. 

After hospitality executives complained that ministers’ confusing and ambiguous advice had caused a “catastrophic” 48 hour for their industry, Mr Johnson will intervene on Sky News to clarify his government’s position. 

Boris Johnson and Ministers gave different opinions on the question of whether to have a Christmas party

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association and the first person to spot the new variant in a patient, said her patients infected with Omicron reported different and much milder symptoms, including tiredness, muscle aches, a sore head and a dry cough. But none reported the tell-tale symptoms of a loss of smell or taste or breathing difficulties

Angelique Coetzee (chair of South African Medical Association) said Omicron-infected patients had different symptoms than hers. She reported a milder, more varied set of symptoms including fatigue, muscle pains and dry cough. None of the symptoms, such as loss of taste or smell, or difficulty breathing were reported by any of these patients. 

The Omicron variant is causing a rapid rise in South African cases. There are increasing concerns about it. There was a national rise of 37% in cases to 11 535, an increase of 37% over a week, and nearly a third from 8,500 yesterday. 

In just one week, it has been the most dominant strain in the country. It now makes up 75% of all sequenced samples after surpassing Delta in a fast pace. 

However, South African public health professionals and the World Health Organization insist that the cases are not severe and that the vaccines against this strain should be effective despite the lack of information. 

How are the major corporations planning to celebrate Christmas this year? 

NatWestThe lateral flow test should be taken by employees before they attend team parties. However, attendance can be made at your own discretion.

Financial Conduct Authority: No centralised Christmas parties – it is up to each team to decide whether they wish to organise a small gathering, and colleagues can make a personal choice on whether they want to attend. 

MicrosoftThere is one large virtual party and some small teams have in-person events. This was the original plan. It was not a planned in-person event. 

HSBCAlthough bosses haven’t asked employees to cancel Christmas events due to business continuity, some staff may want to hold virtual or team events. 

Legal & GeneralCovid-19: October, Bosses agreed that Christmas celebrations should not be large and team-based. 

Deutsche BankAlthough the company has not held large Christmas parties in a while, individual departments have. The rule is that all staff must take the lateral flow test prior to or they will not be allowed.

GoogleThe company has sent an email to UK employees asking them to “move any planned in person social gatherings up to 2022” and to limit them to 15 persons

BBCThe Christmas party is being held off for the staff

JP Morgan: So far, no Christmas party guidelines have been issued.  

Lloyd’sTo enjoy warmer weather, and to get feedback from staff members, the Bosses decided that the annual employee party would be held in summer. 

AvivaStaff must take the Covid test at Christmas party.

DeloitteThe staff can choose to go or not. Parties take place in teams. 

EYIt’s still possible to host Christmas parties for your team.

PricewaterhouseCoopersA smaller event, not a company-wide one is planned. 

KPMGTeams will host Christmas parties.

NHS providersSome staff at NHS trusts were told not to mix large groups of people in the lead up to Christmas. 

Today’s WHO press conference saw officials say that it is more likely to infect people with the Covid variant than Delta. That is why the disease is rapidly spreading in Guateng province, where as much as 80 per cent of residents have natural immunity. Only 25% of South Africans have been vaccinated against Covid. 

But despite this optimism, South African hospitals admissions seem to be rising despite being at a low level. 

It came as a Christmas party at the Louise seafood restaurant in Oslo saw up to 60 people contract Omicron in what is likely to be the world’s biggest outbreak of the new strain so far. 

Norwegian epidemiologists have rejected the possibility of infection by Delta variants and stated that Omicron is the most likely cause. This was because Scatec’s South African office was in Cape Town, where at least one Scatec employee was returning from.

And in another twist, Scatec has insisted only vaccinated employees were allowed to attend the Christmas party last Friday and they needed a negative test result beforehand.  

The super-spreader of the company was seen also in a Dublin bar the night after, raising concerns that more people could have been infected.

Over 71% of Norway’s citizens are fully immunized, which is higher than the 69% of Brits or 59% of Americans who had them both.

Omicron may be more aggressive or less deadly than Delta. Scientists insist they have three weeks to analyze the data. That leaves bars, restaurants, and million of Britons in suspense. 

UK Hospitality Chief Kate Nicholls urged people to not postpone festive celebrations. She told MailOnline that she was urging them to tell everyone: “Individual business will have its own booking policy and more than usual have been asking deposits for larger groups bookings.

“However, other people won’t have contingencies and will all incur substantial costs for cancellations last-minute.

“It is important to remember that hospitality operators invest heavily in safety to protect their customers and staff. They have focusing on ventilation, hygiene, and sanitation. These measures are recommended by SAGE as the best ways to prevent infection. As a result, they are more safe places to meet than home.

Sacha Lord (night-time economic adviser to Greater Manchester) said Tuesday’s advice by Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, that people shouldn’t socialize unnecessarily was ‘catastrophic’ for the sector.  

Sky News was informed by him that the industry has been suffering from a series of catastrophes in the past 48 hours. 

“We’ve had office parties cancelled, flights cancelled. This has been an enormous domino effect. 

This is not only about restaurants. This is all the ecosystem around them – the supply chain and taxis as well as the hotel rooms. 

The month of December is when many people have a lot of fun. They can earn up to 25% on their annual turnover. 

“Sadly, they were robbed of it at the last minute.”