Boris Johnson announcement – Covid WON'T cancel Christmas, experts believe; plus major update on Omicron hospital cases

Boris Johnson announcement – Covid WON'T cancel Christmas, experts believe; plus major update on Omicron hospital cases

December 21, 2021

CHRISTMAS is unlikely to be cancelled as a result of surging Omicron cases, ministers believe.

With Boris Johnson saying he is monitoring data "hour by hour", Cabinet officials are understood to believe they have convinced the Prime Minister to "step back" from introducing measures that would have ruined Christmas.

The news comes as a top covid expert suggested Omicron "isn't spreading as fast as doomsday predictions suggest".

Cambridge professor Sir David Spiegelhalter revealed half of patients in London's hospitals were only diagnosed with Covid after being admitted for something else.

New data suggests the rate of admission "may be slowing down" with Dr Spiegelhalter claiming overall admissions should remain manageable and aren't "looking quite as bad" as once thought.

The Sun is also urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.

Read our Covid-19 live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Louis Allwood

    Thousands still out shopping despite Omicron risk

    Thousands of shoppers pack the streets in the search for last- minute gifts — as the threat from Omicron gets worse by the day.

    Regent Street in London’s West End was rammed — just as PM Boris Johnson was meeting experts to discuss the possibility of introducing tighter restrictions.

    Elsewhere, Terminal 5 at Heathrow was filled with passengers getting away for the festive season.

    And in Soho, in central London, drinkers enjoyed a few pints while they were able to — as landlords warned they did not know how much beer to buy in as they were left in lockdown limbo.

  • Louis Allwood

    “Sajid has woken up to the reality of the situation"

    Sore from the resignation of his key ally Lord Frost last week over Covid measures, Mr Johnson gave his top team the chance to air their views — admitting afterwards their opinions were “finely balanced”.

    One source said: “Sajid has woken up to the reality of the situation and anyone who remembers last year from the front line knows you have to act quick.”

    But an ally of the Foreign Secretary told The Sun Ms Truss is “deeply uncomfortable” with any further measures coming in and wants “incontrovertible evidence that they are needed and would work”.

  • Louis Allwood

    Boris Johnson warns he could slap Covid restrictions on Christmas

    Boris Johnson warned he could slap Covid restrictions on Christmas at any moment.

    The PM said he “will rule nothing out” in the fight against Omicron, following a testy virtual Cabinet meeting.

    As Mr Johnson mulled over a cap on indoor mixing and forcing pubs to only serve outside, there was a ray of hope for celebrations as booster jabs hit the million-a-day target.

    The PM said he must “reserve the possibility” of festive restrictions for a second year running. But he warned he ruled nothing out in the coming days if incoming data showed mutant Covid risked overwhelming the NHS.

  • Louis Allwood

    Boosters 'far improve' protection

    Dr Simon Clarke, of the University of Reading, said evidence so far indicated boosters “far improved” protection against infection and serious disease from Omicron.

    However, psychologist and SAGE adviser Prof Stephen Reicher warned: “If you want a good Christmas dinner, I’d say be very careful about meeting up before Christmas.”

    The jabs booking system opened yesterday for second doses for the 12-to-15 age group.

  • Louis Allwood

    Latest figures

    Another 91,743 Covid cases and 44 deaths were counted in the UK yesterday, with 8,044 cases confirmed as Omicron — but the variant could be responsible for as many as 69 per cent of the total.

    UK Health Security Agency figures say it is behind 129 hospital admissions so far and 14 deaths.

    Yet almost half of adults are now boosted and, research shows, the Moderna booster also provides the jabbed with excellent protection.

    Moderna’s chief medical officer Dr Paul Burton said: “It’s highly effective and it’s extremely safe.”

    It adds to promising findings on the antibody-creating properties of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster.

  • Louis Allwood

    Weekend boosters close to two million

    Sunday saw 33,151 first vaccine doses, 39,904 second ones and 846,466 boosters — making a total of 919,521 jabs in one day.

    However, NHS medical director Prof Stephen Powis warned that there was still much to do.

    He said: “We’ve seen a remarkable response in the past week as people surged forward for boosters.

    “A record week has been topped off with a ‘blockbooster’ weekend but the job is not done. My message to the country is book your top-up — it’s the best weapon in the arsenal against Omicron.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Omicron ‘isn’t spreading as fast'

    The rate of admission "may be slowing down." aleading Covid expert revealed ashalf those patients in London's hospitals were only diagnosed with Covid after admission with another condition.

    The current data has led to fears that hospitalisations are following the exponential increases seen with cases in recent weeks.

    Cambridge professor Sir David Spiegelhalter claims that overall admissions to hospital should remain manageable – as the rate "isn't looking quite as bad" as once thought.

    Sir David told Channel 4 News: "People are going to be watching London very carefully over the next few days, which has had a huge surge in Omicron, doubling every couple of days.

    "But their admissions in London… the speed by which they are going up may be slowing down. It's not looking quite as bad as it was in terms of the speed of increase."

  • Milica Cosic

    'People most infectious in the first 5 days'

    “People are most infectious in the first five days, after which time infectiousness falls”, said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, according to MailOnline.

    “Some people are no longer infectious after three days and it makes no sense to keep them locked up.

    “Isolating people for ten days when they are no longer infectious will harm the economy and leave vital public services, such as the NHS, short-staffed. 

    “People could perhaps take a daily lateral flow test and be allowed to leave quarantine if they test negative for two days in a row.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Calls to CUT Covid isolation

    The current law says that you have to self-isolate for 10 days following the start of your symptoms or a positive test result.

    However, experts are now backing a change to self-isolation rules that would limit the impact of Covid on the economy.

    If ministers take advice from one of Britain’s leading Covid scientists, the isolation period could be shortened to just seven days.

    Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Saturday, Prof Neil Ferguson said: “I think it's always a tradeoff between effectiveness of those things, and peoples adherence to them.

    “I think if it could be coupled with lateral flow testing – so testing negative to release, and this was looked at some months ago, even a year ago in terms of these rules – all the modelling and analysis would suggest its not going to reduce the effectiveness of the measures that much.

    “If it's just a simple change of 10 to seven days with no testing, you have a slightly bigger impact on the effectiveness of the measures.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Holiday havoc

    The requirement for all people aged 12 and over to be vaccinated has destroyed holiday chances for many British families, as teens in the UK may not have had the chance to get their second vaccine due to the UK's vaccine schedule.

    So families with kids under 18 might not meet the requirements to enter the country.

    Additionally, all travellers returning to the UK must take a pre-departure test, which can cost as much as £100pp – boosting the price of a holiday for a family of four by £400.

    Brits must also do a PCR test when they arrive back in the country, and self-isolate until they get their result, adding additional cost and time to the trip.

  • Milica Cosic

    Help & join The Sun's Jab Army

    The Sun is urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.

    A booster shot is the best protection against Omicron, with early data suggesting it pushes efficacy back up to 75 per cent.

    Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant."

  • Milica Cosic

    Another blow to Spanish holidays 

    The Spanish prime minister has warned that more Covid travel rules could be brought in to try and slow the spread of Omicron.

    Therefore, Brits with plans to go on holiday to Spain could face tougher Covid restrictions as more travel rules are expected.

    rime Minister Pedro Sanchez fears that is not enough, and more may have to be done to protect Spanish citizens.

    He spoke at a conference yesterday, and, as reported by Express.co.uk, he said: "The virus is still with us and fighting it must be a priority.

    "The figures in the last few hours, with a cumulative incidence rate of 511 positive tests for every 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, pose a real risk to the health of our citizens.

    "I've decided to call an emergency meeting for Wednesday, December 22 to analyse the evolution of the pandemic and study measures with which to face it."

  • Milica Cosic

    3 options being presented to the PM

    Three options are being presented to the PM, according to The Telegraph.

    The first option involves urging the public to limit the number of people they socialise with indoors in England, reports claim.

    The second option includes the above – as well as mandatory social distancing and an 8pm pub and restaurant curfew.

    Option three is a full, country-wide lockdown,

    Any new legal restrictions would require the recall of MPs to Parliament to vote them through, but Mr Johnson is facing a huge rebellion.

  • Milica Cosic

    Major developments

    In major developments:

    • Gloomy scientists ramped up their calls for a Christmas circuit-breaker
    • Cabinet rowed over whether more measures were really needed
    • Businesses begged the PM not to wreck their Christmas trading window
    • The 10-day Covid isolation rule could be cut to just a week
    • Schools were warned they could face disruption until Easter

    There's a cost to closing and reopening businesses

    UK Hospitality chief Kate Nicholls urged MPs not to back more Covid restrictions before Christmas.

    She said: “The costs of closing and reopening on top of losses we have already suffered in Christmas takings would be a double whammy for beleaguered businesses.

    "Thousands of pubs and restaurants may never reopen, and it’ll take months to repair consumer and business confidence.”

    • Milica Cosic

      Raab: No 'hard & fast guarantees' more restrictions won't be imposed

      Dominic Raab has warned today that there are no "hard and fast guarantees" more restrictions won't be imposed by Christmas to tackle the rise of Omicron cases.

      The Deputy PM hoped family fest

      Laying bare the Covid picture, Mr Raab revealed there were now 104 Omicron hospitalisations and 12 deaths.

      And hecontinued to hammer home the government's plea that the best weapon in our inventory are vaccines by urging everyone to get their boosters.

    • Milica Cosic

      Backbenchers could rebel against further restrictions

      Tories warned up to 120 backbenchers could rebel and vote against further restrictions.

      This would be the biggest revolt the PM has ever suffered, and leave him relying on Labour votes to get restrictions through.

      One minister said: “It would be a huge rebellion. If you look at the revolt on vaccine passports it came from all sides of the party.”

    • Milica Cosic

      Explained: Can you buy a Covid lateral flow test?

      Yes, you can buy Covid lateral flow tests online.

      However, the accuracy of an online test kit that has not been approved by a regulator cannot be guaranteed and a test result could be incorrect.

      There are plenty of free kits available through the Government site or even possibly through your employer, so you shouldn't have to buy your own.

    • Milica Cosic

      How do I order and use a Covid lateral flow test?

      Head online to this website – where you can request a pack of tests to use at home.

      The testing kit comes with instructions and is fairly simple to use.

      It first involves taking a swab of the throat and nose and dipping it into a solution.

      This is then placed onto a paper pad on the device – that looks like a pregnancy stick.

      Inside the device is a strip of test paper that changes colour if coronavirus proteins are in the sample.

      Usually, one line next to the "C" means negative, two lines next to "C" and "T" means positive, and no lines or one next to "T" means the test is void.

      They often have key timelines in which the results are valid, so if you spot a change hours later it could be wrong.

      The best way to know for sure is to repeat the test to stay as safe as possible.

    • Milica Cosic

      Sadiq Khan backs stricter restrictions

      Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan backs stricter restrictions, which he says are “inevitable”.

      But he believes the PM should wait, saying: “Christmas is important, even for those of us that don’t celebrate religiously. You get time off, you get to see your family.

      "So I think we should be able to celebrate Christmas safely.

      "But I think sooner rather than later we’re going to have to look at social distancing, we’re going to have to look at household mixing.”

    • Milica Cosic

      'Whole households should isolate'

      Experts who feed into Sage say that if one person has Omicron, their household probably does too.

      They suggest that if a single person gets a positive lateral flow test before an event, such as a family gathering, the whole group should avoid going – even if they are negative.

      In a document published Saturday that discusses Covid interventions in light of Omicron, the groups say: “High household and secondary attack rates mean that if one person in a close-knit group (for example household, work team) tests positive, there is a significant chance that others are already infected. 

      “Therefore, if one person from a group tests positive prior to an event or gathering then none should attend. 

      “This is especially important in the festive season when family events may increase the risk of infecting the elderly or vulnerable.”

    • Milica Cosic

      How accurate is a Covid lateral flow test? (Continued…)

      But Dr Jenny Harries, the UK Health Security Agency's (UKHSA) chief executive, said that data coming in shows that lateral flows can detect Omicron and other variants.

      She said: "This is very encouraging. As we all work to limit the high levels of transmission of this variant over the Christmas period, we are urging people to test regularly, particularly before attending social gatherings.

      “As always, the booster vaccine remains the best protection against infection. Please come forward to receive your booster as soon as possible.”

    • Milica Cosic

      Brits banned from Germany

      Germany is the latest country to ban people from the UK over fears of the variant spreading.

      The rule came in at 11pm UK time – midnight German time – Sunday night.

      Any travellers from the UK apart from German nationals, residents and transit passengers are banned. 

      Everyone entering Germany from Britain, whether vaccinated or not, needs a negative PCR test and is required to be quarantined for 14 days.

      The country's public health authority, the Robert-Koch-Institut, said the restrictions could last until January 3. 

    • Milica Cosic

      How accurate is a Covid lateral flow test?

      Lateral flow tests are not as reliable as the PCR tests used by the NHS.

      The Department of Health says the tests have been rigorously assessed by scientists. This means they are "accurate, reliable and successfully identify those with Covid-19 who don’t show symptoms".

      But the tests were not designed to look for Covid in people without symptoms, but for people who did have symptoms.

      It means the results are not 100 per cent correct.

      The Government website states that "when a person has low levels of virus in their system, lateral flow tests are less sensitive than some of the other tests we use, such as PCR tests".

      Omicron cases were feared to be being missed by lateral flow tests after medics in South Africa raised concerns.

    • Milica Cosic

      Join The Sun's Jab Army

      The Sun is urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.

      A booster shot is the best protection against Omicron, with early data suggesting it pushes efficacy back up to 75 per cent.

      Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant."

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