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Covid latest news: 8,044 new Omicron cases recorded in UK as immediate restrictions ruled out

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A further 8,044 new Omicron cases were identified in the UK, a third lower than Sunday’s figure.

Latest figures were revealed as Boris Johnson announced there would be no immediate Covid restrictions enforced.

It comes after Cabinet met to discuss the surge in cases earlier on Monday.

Deputy prime minister and justice secretary Dominic Raab said Christmas would be “better than last year”.

It comes as confirmed cases of the highly transmissible new strain have risen by more than 12,000 in the UK – with London’s cases alone surpassing 10,000 on Sunday.

In other developments...

That’s goodbye for now

21:56 , Elly Blake

That’s the end of our live reporting this evening.

Join us again tomorrow for more Covid updates.

Biden administration may ease travel restrictions to Southern African countries - Dr Fauci

21:49 , Elly Blake

US President Joe Biden is considering easing travel restrictions to Southern African countries, his chief medical adviser said.

It comes as Omicron cases spread across the US.

 (AP)
(AP)

“We likely are going to pull back on that pretty soon because we have enough infection in our own country,” Dr Anthony Fauci said.

“We’re letting in people from other countries that have as much or more infection than the Southern African countries.

“So likely we are going to look at that very carefully to see if we can pull back.”

Breaking: London NYE celebrations cancelled

20:40 , Elly Blake

London’s New Year’s Eve celebration event in Trafalgar Square will not take place because of the surge in cases of the Omicron Covid variant in the capital, the mayor has said.

Read more about it here.

‘Question of when, not if’ restrictions come into effect, says healthcare leader

20:32 , Elly Blake

It is now a question of “when, rather than if” new restrictions will be enforced, healthcare leaders have said.

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor has suggested the introduction of stricter measures is inevitable amid the rapid spread of coronavirus fuelled by the rise of Omicron.

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would “reserve the possibility” that further action would be needed to curb the transmission of Omicron cases.

‘Jobs will be lost’ due to lack of hospitality support, says London mayor

20:03 , Elly Blake

London mayor Sadiq Khan has tweeted: “Jobs. Will. Be. Lost. The Government must understand that failure to provide immediate support to hospitality, retail and culture is a failure of leadership for the millions who depend on them for their livelihoods.

“Time is running out—they must act now.”

It comes as 100,000 retail, hospitality and leisure businesses called on the Government for more support.

Boris Johnson is yet to offer further measures for struggling businesses.

During a statement given on Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister said measures are already in place to help struggling hospitality businesses.

He also stressed people have “naturally” decided to go out less as Omicron spreads.

Some 90 cases recorded by Premier League players and staff between December 13-19

18:53 , Elly Blake

Ninety new positive Covid-19 results were returned by Premier League players and club staff between December 13 and 19, the league has announced.

It comes as Premier League clubs said they had decided against any suspension of the season as a means of bringing the latest coronavirus crisis under control.

Queen to spend Christmas at Windsor Castle this year

18:40 , Elly Blake

The Queen will not follow her usual tradition by spending Christmas at Sandringham this year, Buckingham Palace has said.

Instead, she will spend the festive period at Windsor Castle.

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Family members will be visiting Windsor over the festive period and sensible precautions will be taken.

Buckingham Palace aides described it as a personal decision and “reflects a precautionary approach”.

Last week the Queen announced that she would not be going ahead with her family pre-Christmas lunch.

Sturgeon: No changes to Covid-19 measures before Christmas

18:27 , Elly Blake

Nicola Sturgeon has suggested there will be no changes to coronavirus measures in Scotland before Christmas.

In a statement, she said: “The cabinet will discuss tomorrow and I will set out in parliament if there are any additional or wider steps necessary, but I want to be clear to individuals that the advice I gave out last week is the advice that will take us through Christmas.”

The First Minister added: “My clear message to individuals is to reiterate the message I gave last week and that is, in the run up to Christmas, please reduce your contacts, stay at home as much as is feasible right now.

“For Christmas Day and Boxing Day, we’re not asking people to cancel plans but think about keeping them as small as your family circumstances allow and make sure everyone is testing before going, and following rules around hygiene and ventilation.

“Then after Christmas, for a period, limit your contacts again, so we can suppress infection as much as we possibly can, as we speed up the vaccination program.”

Austria reports less than 2,000 new cases as country eases restrictions

18:08 , Elly Blake

Less than 2,000 new COVID cases have been reported today in Austria, as the country reopens restaurants and hotels.

The country was previously in a full-scale national lockdown after seeing record infection numbers.

Labour responds to ‘weak’ statement by Boris Johnson

18:04 , Elly Blake

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, responding to the Prime Minister’s remarks following a Cabinet meeting to discuss the rise in Omicron cases, said: “Boris Johnson is too weak to stand up to his own backbenchers, many of whom have no plan beyond ‘let the virus rip’.

“Today, while businesses across the country wonder if they can continue to trade, and families make frantic calls about whether they will see each other this Christmas, true to form the Prime Minister has put his party before the public.

“Rather than set out a clear plan for the country, he has chosen to protect himself from his own MPs by simply not saying anything. Boris Johnson is unfit to lead.”

France reports 3,025 people in intensive care due to Covid on Monday

17:33 , Elly Blake

3,025 people in France are currently in intensive care due to Covid-19, the country’s official records show.

The country also reported a further 224 deaths in hospital, taking France’s total to 94,703.

Breaking: PM says ‘we must reserve the possibility of taking further action'

17:06 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson has said the Government is keeping Covid-19 data under review “hour-by-hour” as Omicron cases surge across the country.

The Prime Minister said that after a “long discussion” with the Cabinet, ministers agreed “the situation is extremely difficult”.

He said: “We agreed we should keep the data under constant review, keep following it hour-by-hour.

“Unfortunately, I must say to people we must reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public. We won’t hesitate to take that action.”

Mr Johnson said, of further measures, that nothing was ruled out.

He also urged the public to exercise caution and “think of the guidance to protect yourselves and loved ones” as well as calling on people to get vaccinated and get booster jabs.

Boris Johnson statement expected soon

17:00 , Elly Blake

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement following a meeting of his Cabinet.

The meeting, which was called to discuss the potential for further Covid-19 restrictions, lasted around two hours.

We will bring you live updates when we hear more.

Confirmed Omicron cases are a third lower than Sunday’s figure - but still stands at 8,044

16:40 , Elly Blake

A further 8,044 cases of the Omicron variant have been reported across the UK, according to offiical figures.

This is down by a third compared with Sunday’s figure of 12,133 confirmed Omicron cases.

The total recorded now stands at 45,145, the UK Health Security Agency said.

More than 91,000 positive infections recorded on Monday

16:10 , Elly Blake

The UK has recorded 91,743 positive infections on Monday, compared with 82,886 cases yesterday.

There were also 44 further deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official figures.

This time last week, 38 deaths and 54,661 new cases were reported.

As part of their data dashboard, the UK Health Security Agency publishes a map showing infection rates by area.

Due to there being so many new cases, a new colour will be introduced tomorrow.

Novavax COVID jab approved by European Commission

15:43 , Elly Blake

The European Commission has approved the COVID-19 vaccine made by Novavax.

It comes after the jab was recommended for approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) earlier today.

The EMA recommended the jab for people aged 18 and over.

Novavax and the European Commission announced an advance purchase agreement for up to 200 million doses of the vaccine, upon it being approved, in August.

Earlier today, the company said it would be ready to start delivering doses to the EU in the first quarter of 2022.

‘I feel insulted over Downing St photos’, says mother who lost daughter in lockdown

15:21 , Daniel Keane

A woman whose daughter was forced to say her last goodbyes over Zoom calls has urged the Government to apologise to families who lost loved ones during lockdown after pictures surfaced of a gathering at Downing Street.

The photographs, published by The Guardian, show the group of 17, including the Prime Minister and his wife, in the garden in Downing Street on May 15, the same day Emma Jones lost her 18-year-old daughter Ruby Fuller to cancer.

Ms Jones said she is “insulted” and feels like the group are “trying to get off on a technicality” after Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the photographs showed “staff having a drink after a busy set of work meetings and the pressures of the day”.

Ms Jones, from south London, said: “At the time, it was so hard and so desperately sad but that’s what we had to do. It’s so insulting to see those pictures.

“We were supposed to be in it together, and it was very hard. I know other families that it was harder for. We were lucky Ruby was at home.”She added that her daughter stayed home instead of having life-prolonging treatment in case she was taken to hospital where visiting was restricted, but not everyone had those options.

GMB cancelled between Christmas and New Year over Covid fears

15:09 , Daniel Keane

Good Morning Britain will not air between Christmas and New Year due to Covid fears.

ITV said the breakfast show will go on an “extended break” next week in order the protect those involved in working on the programme.

Episodes were previously scheduled to run from Wednesday December 29 to Friday December 31 but the show will now not return to screens until Tuesday January 4.

It comes after rising case numbers and the spread of the Omicron variant have disrupted theatre and live TV productions throughout the month.

ITV did not confirm what programme will replace GMB in the daily schedules.

EU approves Novavax

14:56 , Daniel Keane

The European Union’s regulator has given the green light to Covid vaccine Novavax.

It has become the 5th vaccine for use in the 27-nation bloc, alongside the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen.

Novavax says it currently is testing how its shots will hold up against the Omicron variant, and like other manufacturers has begun formulating an updated version to better match that variant in case in case it’s eventually needed.

Watch: Lockdown can’t become annual winter event, says Prof Carl Henaghan

14:46 , Daniel Keane

Scotland records highest case rise since September

14:31 , Daniel Keane

Scotland has recorded 6,734 new Covid cases in the last 24 hours - the highest number of cases recorded in one day since September.

The test positivity rate stood at 15.2 per cent in Monday’s figures, up from 13.9 per cent on Sunday.

There were 516 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid on Sunday, up 12 on the day before, and a total of 38 people were in intensive care, the same figure as the day before.

‘No excuse for breaching guidance’ in Downing Street photo

14:15 , Daniel Keane

Mr Hammond added that there was no excuse for breaching rules and guidance” when asked about the leaked photo of Downing Street staff eating cheese and drinking wine in the No 10 garden last year.

The MP for Wimbledon told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “If any rules have been broken then a person should apologise and accept that that was a breach of the rules.

“I listened carefully to what Matt Hancock had said. And therefore, you know, it’s pretty clear what the rules were at the time to the people at the time, it may be less clear to people what the rules were at the time now.

“But, nonetheless, there’s no excuse for breaching rules and guidance, so it doesn’t matter who you are, you shouldn’t do it.”

‘I don’t see the case for another lockdown’, says ex-health minister

14:03 , Daniel Keane

Conservative former health minister Stephen Hammond, asked about whether he could envisage a full lockdown, said he would have to look carefully at the data before adding: “I don’t see the case for that at the moment.

“I think the Prime Minister would struggle to persuade a lot of us that we’re going back right down to full lockdown two years on.”

Mr Hammond stressed the need for access to better data to understand the situation, adding to BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I’m much more attracted to the Prime Minister starting off with non-legally-binding, no more than three households mixing, reducing outdoor contact if necessary.

“Because if we go down the line of curfews and other things, the question mark here is what impact is this going to have on our economy, what impact is this going to have on mental health?”

Global headlines this afternoon

13:50 , Daniel Keane

Here are the main stories from across the globe this afternoon:

- BioNTech and Pfizer said they would be providing the European Union with more than 200 million additional doses of their vaccine

- Indonesia has added the United Kingdom, Norway and Denmark to the list of people banned from entering the nation, a senior minister said

- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has returned to work after finishing a week of self-isolation due to testing positive, his office said

- US President Joe Biden is under pressure amid a surge of infections and deaths ahead of the Christmas period. Health experts have urged him to increase testing, masking and global vaccine sharing

Theatres and hospitality are ‘hurting’ amid cancellations, says Tory MP

13:34 , Daniel Keane

Theatres and hospitality businesses are “hurting” and need more financial support, ministers have been told.

Conservative MP Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) has called for urgent Government support for businesses impacted by the latest Covid restrictions.

She said: “I’m making representations to my colleagues in Government to urgently look at support for businesses impacted by further Covid restrictions.

“I was out in the West End over the weekend and it was sad to see how quiet it was. We know that these three weeks over Christmas are vital for hospitality businesses and account for some 30% to 40% of their profits across the year.

“Our theatres are hurting too, many have had to cancel their productions.”

She added: “They cannot suffer any more, they need practical and financial support be it help with business rates or an extension to VAT relief, and I look forward to hearing from ministers on this.”

South London clinic ‘closes after jabs not delivered'

13:21 , Josh Salisbury

A south London vaccine clinic was reportedly forced to close after an order of jabs was not delivered.

Dr Rosemary Leonard, a GP in Lambeth, said residents felt saddened after they were unable to get their jabs following the closure of the clinic.

Dr Leonard told BBC Breakfast: "We’ve had a vaccine clinic cancelled today because in Lambeth here we didn’t get our deliveries of vaccines late on Friday afternoon, which is hugely disappointing and a lot of patients were really upset they had booked appointments and couldn’t get their vaccinations as planned."

It was not clear which clinic or jabs were affected. There are 19 walk-in and pop-up vaccination clinics in the area and many surgeries across the borough also are offering vaccines to their patients.

The NHS said people in the capital should not be concerned, as there were enough doses for all eligible people.

Will Huxter, director of NHS London’s Covid vaccination programme, said: “We are seeing record numbers of Covid vaccinations across the capital and our focus is on ensuring these vaccines get to people as quickly as possible so they can get the vital protection they need against the virus.”

Over 650,000 vaccine doses were delivered in London last week, a record for the London vaccination programme.

Downing St insists staff were working in ‘wine and cheese’ photo

12:44 , Josh Salisbury

Downing Street has insisted that No 10 staff who were photographed in the garden last May eating and drinking wine were discussing work.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters: "These were individuals in Downing Street - officials, staff - who were meeting after the most recent press conference that day, so meeting out of hours.

"There were meetings taking place both inside and outside No 10.

"This shows colleagues who were required to be in work, meeting following a press conference to discuss work."

At the time, people were only allowed to meet one other adult from another household socially, and only outdoors.

Asked why the Prime Minister's wife, Carrie Johnson, was there, the spokesman said: "Downing Street is also a private residence for both the Prime Minister and Chancellor.

"The Prime Minister's wife has use of her garden. It is effectively her garden."

West End shopper numbers plunge days before Christmas

12:26 , Josh Salisbury

London’s West End saw shopper numbers plunge by 17% against pre-pandemic levels over the weekend as people choose to stay at home ahead of Christmas.

“With less than five days to go until Christmas day and the probabilities of a circuit-breaker lockdown increasingly on the horizon, the retail and leisure sector is now facing a huge amount of financial uncertainty when it should be enjoying a much-needed shot in the arm,” said Jace Tyrrell, CEO of the New West End Company told the PA news agency.

Meanwhile, Kate Nicholls, chief executive officer of industry group UKHospitality, told the Telegraph that as many as 10,000 sites could shut their doors without imminent support.

In a statement, she added: “Trading has already been hugely damaged by the steady stream of pessimistic news following the discovery of the Omicron variant, at a time when hospitality would normally expect to be making a quarter of its annual profits.”

The operator of Real Greek and Franco Manca restaurant chains had already called for a Government support package within 24 hours, regardless of whether new restrictions are announced.

Starmer says ‘serious questions’ must be asked over Downing St photo

12:17 , Daniel Keane

“Serious questions” need to be answered about the leaked photo of Downing Street staff eating cheese and drinking wine in the No 10 garden last year, Keir Starmer has said.

The Labour leader told Sky News: “Everybody will have looked at that photograph and to suggest that that is a work meeting is a bit of a stretch by anybody’s analysis.

“I think there are very serious questions to be answered, but just look at the photo and ask yourself is that a work meeting going on or is that a social event? I think the answer is pretty obvious.”

Asked if Labour held similar gatherings last year, he added: “I look forward to the day when I am meeting in the back garden of Downing Street, but no - the Labour Party and the vast majority of the public were complying with the rules.”

Raab ‘taking the public for fools’ over Downing Street picture

12:04 , Daniel Keane

Dominic Raab has taken the public “for fools”, Labour has said, after the Deputy Prime Minister defended an event in the Downing Street garden last year.

Responding to Mr Raab’s comments about a leaked photo of the event, Labour’s shadow justice secretary Steve Reed said: “Dominic Raab has spent hours this month taking the public for fools instead of dealing with the massive problems the Conservatives have created in the justice system.

“Raab and this high-tax, soft-on-crime Conservative government should be tackling the courts backlog and raising the pitifully low conviction rate for rape in this country.

“It is yet another slap in the face of the British public, who will rightly think that it is one rule for Boris Johnson and this Government, and another rule for everyone else.”

Moderna jab boosts neutralising bodies against Omicron, study finds

11:47 , Daniel Keane

A dose of the Moderna vaccine used in the UK’s booster programme increases neutralising antibodies against Omicron around 37-fold, the firm has announced.

Moderna said its preliminary data looking at Omicron was “reassuring”, though it will continue to develop a jab specific to the variant.

The data showed that 50mcg of the Moderna vaccine (the half-dose recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for the UK’s booster programme) increased neutralising antibody levels against Omicron approximately 37-fold compared to pre-boost levels, while a full dose increased it 83-fold.

Starmer says Labour will support further Covid measures

11:28 , Daniel Keane

Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour is ready to support further public health measures to curb spread of the Omicron variant if they are required.

Speaking in Holborn and St Pancras constituency, the Labour leader said there was an “vacuum of leadership” by the Prime Minister.

“It is for the Prime Minister to come up with a plan with support for schools, for businesses etc. So, the ball is in his court. This obsession with party management rather than public health is the wrong priority,” he said.

“What I want to see is a Government, a Prime Minster, that gets a grip, that puts a plan forward that we can all get behind. But where is he? There’s a vacuum of leadership at the moment.

“The infighting is going on in the Tory Party when the focus should really be on the public interest and public health. At the moment, my frustration is that the Prime Minister is completely absent.”

Israel announces travel ban from US & Canada

11:15 , Daniel Keane

Israel is set to ban travel to the United States, Canada and eight further countries amid the global spread of the Omicron variant.

Prime minister Naftali Bennett’s office announced the decision following a cabinet vote approving the move.

The US will join a growing list of European countries and other destinations to which Israelis are barred from travelling, and from which returning travellers must remain in quarantine. A ban on travel to the UK was introduced at midnight on Thursday.

More from my colleague Matt Watts here.

Tennis star Nadal tests positive for Covid

11:01 , Daniel Keane

Rafael Nadal has tested positive for Covid, it has been confirmed.

The tennis star said he had received a positive test upon arrival in Spain on Monday following an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi.

“I am having some unpleasant moments but I hope that I will improve little by little,” Mr Nadal said in a statement.

“I am now homebound and have reported the result to those who have been in contact with me.”

Lord Frost says he resigned over ‘coercive Covid rules’

10:51 , Daniel Keane

The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has insisted that he resigned from the Cabinet over “coercive” Covid restrictions imposed by the prime minister rather than ideological differences over Brexit.

Lord Frost, who has led negotiations with the EU, quit the Government with immediate effect over the weekend after his initial plan to resign in January - agreed with the Prime Minister - became public.

Speaking for the first time since his departure, Lord Frost expressed his “huge admiration” for what Boris Johnson has done as a leader in ensuring the UK exited the EU.

He told Sky News: “We have never disagreed in any way about Brexit policy.

“Right up to the last day we’ve been absolutely aligned on that, and Liz Truss and Chris Heaton-Harris, I’m sure are going to do a great job.

“I left the Government because, as I think is well known, I couldn’t support certain policies - most recently on Covid restrictions and Plan B.

“And if you’re a minister you have to support collective responsibility, you have to support decisions of the Government, and I couldn’t, so that’s why I had to leave.”

Explained: What restrictions could the PM introduce?

10:42 , Daniel Keane

Rumours are swirling in Westminster that Boris Johnson could announce fresh restrictions before Christmas.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the prime minister has been presented with three possible options, ranging from a full lockdown to “light-touch” guidance.

The proposals include:

- A modest set of restrictions, in which the prime minister urges families to limit indoor contacts. However, this would not be legally enforced. Nicola Sturgeon has already taken a similar approach in Scotland, asking families to limit mixing to three households.

- A second option which would legally restrict household mixing, see the return of social distancing and an 8pm curfew for pubs and restaurants.

- A full national lockdown, with all socialising banned and non-essential shops and hospitality venues shut.

Natural History Museum closes doors amid Covid shortages

10:28 , Daniel Keane

The National History Museum has been forced to close amid staff shortages caused by Covid.

The South Kensington Museum will remain closed for one week in the hope that “staffing levels will have recovered”.

In a statement, it said: “We have made the difficult decision to close our South Kensington site from Tuesday December 21 due to front-of-house staff shortages which have been impacted by Covid-19 infections and isolation requirements.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly but the safety of staff and visitors must always come first.

“If you have bought tickets for Wildlife Photographer of the Year or Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature for these dates, these will be cancelled and refunded.

“If you’ve bought tickets to one of our events we will email you with further information.”

 (PA)
(PA)

Omicron has properties that have ‘surprised’ scientists, says expert

10:14 , Daniel Keane

A member of the Nervtag advisory group has said Omicron has properties that have “surprised” scientists to some degree.

Professor Ravi Gupta told Sky News: “Some experiments that have been done in different groups are suggesting that the virus has kind of altered the way it infects cells.

“This is again potentially due to some mutations that have occurred, and there may, and this is a big caveat, there may be a slightly different profile for this virus [compared to Delta].

“Nonetheless, even if it were a little bit milder, in a very broad sense, the sheer numbers of cases would still translate into some individuals becoming quite sick.

“We’re not anticipating that this virus, because of these changes, is going to suddenly become harmless, I think that shouldn’t be the interpretation of the work that we and others are doing. But what we are saying is that we are learning about the virus all the time.”

Starmer accuses PM & Chancellor of ‘abdication of responsibility’ over missed COBRA meeting

10:04 , Daniel Keane

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak of an “abdication of responsibility” for failing to attend a COBRA meeting with the devolved nations on Sunday.

He tweeted: “It is a complete abdication of responsibility for both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to miss another vital Cobra meeting yesterday.

“They are too busy looking over their shoulders at the Conservative Party to provide the leadership our country needs.”

Watch: Raab defends photo of No10 staff holding meeting with cheese & wine

09:50 , Daniel Keane

Travel restrictions for UK travellers come into force

09:46 , Daniel Keane

Germany has become the latest European country to impose restrictions on travellers from the UK following a surge in Covid cases sparked by the Omicron variant.

Only German citizens and residents, their partners and children, can travel to the country from the UK, and they must show a negative test and quarantine for two weeks.

France last week imposed a ban on British citizens who could not provide a “compelling reason” for travel.

Israel on Monday added the United States to its “no-fly” list, citing concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant.

More on that story here.

‘We must reduce contacts’, says SAGE adviser

09:35 , Daniel Keane

On the need for restrictions, Professor Reicher told BBC Breakfast: “Well, the one thing we need to do... is to reduce our contacts.

“If we have twice as many contacts, we will spread the disease - if we were to have it - to twice as many people, so we need to reduce our contacts.”

Asked about Christmas, he said: “The safest thing is not to meet up before Christmas.

“If you want a good Christmas dinner, I would say be very careful about meeting up before Christmas.

“But you can do things to stack the odds in your favour if you ever do meet up - the first thing to do is to make sure that you have a lateral flow test.”

Photo of cheese and wine gathering ‘damaging’, says SAGE adviser

09:27 , Daniel Keane

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), said he thinks the photos of the No 10 wine and cheese gathering during lockdown are “very damaging in some ways, but not others”.

He told BBC Breakfast that “previous pictures and previous events have led to a sense of them and us” which then turns into a “more toxic thing where you think they have contempt for us”.

He added: “That is really not only very bad for trust, but it begins to bring into play much stronger emotions of contempt in return.

“And we need right now to be with the Government pulling together in order to overcome the pandemic, so I think this is damaging.”

Government ‘mindful’ of sectors ‘suffering’ due to Omicron

09:07 , Daniel Keane

Dominic Raab has said he is “mindful” of the sectors “suffering” due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

His comments come as the hospitality sector faces mass cancellations and staff shortages amid a surge in infections.

Pressed on what support is being offered to hard-hit firms, he told the BBC: “Well, the Chancellor keeps it constantly under review, but particularly, I know a lot of people talking about hospitality, there’s been extra business rate relief.

“VAT is charged at a lower rate. There’s loans, there’s an extra pot of money, I think it’s over £200 million for those that are particularly affected by the restrictions that have been applied because of Covid.”

He added: “I would also say that our economy now, as a result of the measures that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have taken, is the fastest growing in the G7. Jobs are up, wages are up.

“Of course, we’re very mindful of all those sectors that are suffering, but we have taken the action to put us in that position.”

Reeves: Government must ‘come out of hiding'

08:57 , Daniel Keane

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the Government has got to “come out of hiding” and “put in place that pathway to getting on top of the virus and the infection”.

Ms Reeves said people want the “advice and the knowledge” to know that they can spend Christmas with their families but do it in a “safe way”.

She told Good Morning Britain: “If you look at Wales, for example, they have pre-announced a package of measures that will come in just after Christmas to get a control of this virus.

“The Sage minutes, the Government got those last Thursday. Four days on now, we haven’t heard from the Prime Minister, we haven’t heard from the Chancellor and they have access to much more data and advice than any of us.

“The Labour Party are ready to support the Government in whatever measures are needed to protect public health.”

Shadow chancellor says Downing Street picture is ‘evidence of law-breaking'

08:42 , Daniel Keane

Rachel Reeves MP has told the Today programme that a photograph showing the Prime Minister, his wife and staff in the garden of No 10 during the first national lockdown was evidence of law-breaking.

She said: “I do think there is evidence of law-breaking not just on this occasion, but on multiple occasions. The country is sick of it.

“They want to see leadership from this Prime Minister and Government, and at the moment they’re hiding last year they were having a party. People are fed up with it.

“They want Government that know that the rules apply to them as well and provide leadership to protect families, protect the NHS and also to protect businesses. People are very sick and tired of this Government.”

GP says government must resist ‘talk of annual lockdowns'

08:28 , Daniel Keane

He said: “This time last year, there were over 2,000 people being admitted. So we’re in a very different place with the presence of vaccines, the presence of the boosters, antivirals on board, and you have to reflect on that information.

“We’re in deep, deep trouble here of potentially talking ourselves into annual winter lockdown. Because what happens is this is as good as it gets.”

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University and a GP, has told the Today programme “we are in deep, deep trouble of potentially talking ourselves into annual lockdowns”.

‘No guarantee’ that Government won’t introduce Christmas restrictions

08:14 , Daniel Keane

Mr Raab However, Mr Raab could not guarantee the Government will not introduce further Covid restrictions between now and Christmas Day.

However, he insisted this Christmas will be much better than last year.

When asked by Sky News if he could guarantee there will not be more restrictions between now and Christmas Day, Mr Raab said: “Well, I just can’t make hard and fast guarantees.”

He added: We will have a much better Christmas than last year because of the vaccination level, both the overall vaccination level but particularly the impact of the booster campaign, and we saw on Saturday, just in one day, 900,000 people get their booster.

“I do think of course, you have heard it from the Health Secretary over the weekend, I’d echo that, people will need to be careful and cautious.

“I do think that again, subject to the data, and it’s always under review, we’re in a better position to enjoy Christmas with loved ones this year.”

Twelve Britons have died with Omicron, says Raab

08:03 , Daniel Keane

Mr Raab said 12 people have died with the Omicron variant - though he could not confirm whether they were vaccinated or not.

Mr Raab said: “I’m not sure. (What) we do know is that a large proportion of those who are in hospital are unvaccinated.

“I don’t know the particular breakdown for Omicron but, of course, it strengthens this case for people coming forward and having the booster.”

Raab: ‘Having a drink after a long day was not against the rules’

07:51 , Daniel Keane

Mr Raab said that having a drink “after a long day or long week” was not against the rules, after the Guardian published a photo of the prime minister and 17 members of Downing Street staff drinking alcohol on May 15 last year - at the height of lockdown.

Mr Raab told Times Radio: “Downing Street used that garden as a place of work. They used it for work meetings. The photo is from a day when, I think, the Prime Minister had just done a press conference.

“And sometimes they’ll have a drink after a long day or a long week. And that’s not against the regulations.”

Under regulations at the time, Britons could meet one other person from another household outdoors - but were banned from mixing in large groups.

On Mr Johnson’s then-fiancee Carrie being there, Mr Raab said: “It is not just a place of work for all the staff that work in Number 10 and the Prime Minister, but it is also the the residence of the Prime Minister and his very young family.

“I genuinely don’t think it gets classified as a party because Carrie popped down and spent a little bit of time there with her husband.”

Raab refuses to confirm whether he questioned SAGE model

07:36 , Daniel Keane

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has not confirmed whether he is one of the 10 Cabinet ministers who reportedly questioned modelling on the Omicron surge.

He told Times Radio: “If you look at Omicron, what we actually know is that it spreads very rapidly.

“We have got 104 hospitalisations at the moment which are Omicron-based, we have had 12 deaths. But there’s a time lag in the data and so we don’t know quite how severe it will be.

“The one thing we do know is that those that get the booster jab get over 70 per cent effective protection, which is why the strategy we have got, I believe at the moment subject to being reviewed constantly, is the right one which is encouraging people to get their boosters.

“I think 53 per cent of adults have now had their booster and then proceeding with Plan B, which is encouraging people to work from home where they can and masks in particularly crowded places.”

He added: “I think that is the right strategy until we’ve got firmer, harder data.”

Around the world

07:24 , Daniel Keane

- Germany ruled out a Christmas lockdown but warned a fifth Covid wave could no longer be stopped. It will also impose quarantine on travellers from Britain from midnight on Monday and require a negative test for entry

- The Kremlin is convinced that the World Health Organisation will recognise Russia’s flagship Sputnik V vaccine within a few months, the Interfax news agency cited Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying

- Iran has confirmed its first case of Omicron, while authorities urged Iranians to get their booster doses in the Middle East’s worst-hit country

- Japan will extend a curb on foreigners entering the country beyond year-end, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing anonymous government sources

Sunak must ‘introduce support within 24 hours’, warns hospitality chief

07:15 , Daniel Keane

The operator of the Real Greek and Franco Manca restaurant chains has urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce further support for businesses “in the next 24 hours”.

David Page, the chairman of Fulham Shore, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The Chancellor, Rishi, needs to do something very, very quickly because I am not sure any of the Cabinet understands cashflow.

“And cashflow is the problem at the moment, of the last week or two and of the next ten days, near London, and near the city centres.

“These businesses have no cashflow, they are paying staff, they have got to pay their suppliers. It’s a bit of a disaster area for smaller businesses over the last two weeks. So, Rishi needs to do something in the next 24 hours, I think.”

He branded the current situation a “lockdown by stealth” as Britons avoid socialising in order to avoid catching Covid before the Christmas period.

Today's headlines

07:06 , Daniel Keane

Good morning and welcome to the Evening Standard’s live coverage of the Covid pandemic.

It’s set to be another packed day of news, with fears growing of fresh restrictions being introduced in the UK over Christmas as the Omicron variant spreads.

Here are the key stories of the day so far:

- Premier League clubs will hold talks on Monday amid the ongoing Covid crisis, with many of last weekend’s matches postponed after multiple players tested positive for the virus

- Boris Johnson is facing fresh questions over gatherings held at Downing Street during lockdown restrictions after the emergence of a photo showing him, his wife, and staff in the garden of No 10 during the first national lockdown

- Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has called on ex-teachers to sign up from Monday to help with Covid staff shortages in the new year

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