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Covid latest news: Boris Johnson considering cutting isolation period to five days

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Boris Johnson has confirmed ministers are considering reducing the self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people who test positive for Covid.

Asked about cutting the isolation period from seven days to five days, the Prime Minister said: “We’re looking at that.”

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a vaccination clinic in Uxbridge, the Prime Minister said: “There’s a similar argument to be had about the quarantine period - whether to come down from seven days to five days.

“The thing to do is to look at the science. We are looking at that and we will act according to the science.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove earlier said it would be for the Prime Minister and Health Secretary to decide whether to cut the period of Covid isolation to five days from seven.

But he added: "We always keep things under review because we’re always guided by the facts, by the science, and by changing circumstances.”

Join us tomorrow for more Covid live updates

20:05 , Josh Salisbury

Thanks for tuning in to today’s coverage of all the coronavirus developments throughout the day - that’s all our coverage for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with all the latest live Covid news as it happens.

More than 100 Downing St employees invited to lockdown drinks, claim reports

18:59 , Josh Salisbury

Labour have accused Boris Johnson of having disregard for the "rules he puts in place for the rest of us" after a leaked email appeared to show his private secretary arranging a lockdown-busting drinks in the garden at No 10.

Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister's principal private secretary, sent an email to more than a hundred Downing Street employees asking them to "bring your own booze" for an evening gathering, ITV has reported.

Mr Reynolds said they should "make the most of the lovely weather", despite England being under tough Covid-19 restrictions in May 2020.

The Prime Minister imposed England's first lockdown to combat Covid-19 in March 2020 and it was not until June 1 that groups of up to six people were allowed to meet outdoors.

The email from Mr Reynolds relates to an event said to have taken place on May 20 2020.

Allegations of that gathering, said to have been attended by 40 people, emerged last week when Dominic Cummings, a former senior aide to Mr Johnson, said he had warned at the time the "socially-distanced drinks" would likely be against the rules and "should not happen".

Sturgeon: Scotland must ask what adaptations are needed to live with Covid

18:19 , Josh Salisbury

Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland will have to ask itself "what adaptations to pre-pandemic life" might be needed so the country can live with coronavirus.

The Scottish First Minister made the comments to STV's Scotland Tonight ahead of her update to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday about current Covid measures.

"Sometimes when you hear people talk about learning to live with Covid, what seems to be suggested is that one morning we'll wake up and not have to worry about it anymore, and not have to do anything to try to contain and control it," she said.

"That's not what I mean when I say 'learning to live with it'. Instead, we will have to ask ourselves what adaptations to pre-pandemic life - face coverings, for example - might be required in the longer-term to enable us to live with it with far fewer protective measures."

Earlier on Monday, the Scottish Government said it had recorded 11,827 new cases of Covid-19 but no deaths in the last 24 hours.

Teachers warn staff absences having ‘major impact’ on education

17:27 , Josh Salisbury

Nearly one in four teachers say staff absences due to Covid-19 are having a major impact on their schools, according to a new survey.

Almost half (46%) of teachers have been asked to cover lessons for absent colleagues, according to the poll by NASUWT teaching union.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, has warned that higher rates of staff absence are making "a very challenging situation much worse", adding that teacher shortages are likely to rise.

The findings came as pupils began returning to class last week after the Christmas break, with new advice for secondary school and college students in England to wear face coverings in classrooms.

British tourists in Tenerife face tough new rules

16:42 , Josh Salisbury

Brit holidaymakers hoping for winter sun in Tenerife will be subject to a raft of new restrictions after the authorities there raised the coronavirus alert level to “very high risk”.

A ‘level 4’ alert came into operation at midnight, meaning increased regulations in pubs, hotels, restaurants and on public transport.

The maximum number of people allowed to meet up indoors or outdoors is set now at six and Covid passports have to be shown to get inside establishments.

Pubs and restaurants will now have to close at midnight under the tough new rules.

Further 140,000 cases recorded in latest daily figures

16:39 , Josh Salisbury

A further 142,224 people tested positive for Covid on Monday, according to the latest government stats.

The figure, while higher than Sunday’s total of 141,472, is down on last Monday’s total of 157,758.

In London, the seven day case rate of 1,679.8 per 100,000 for the week ending January 5 was a 5.6 per cent decrease on the previous week.

The data also shows a further 77 deaths across the UK within 28 days of a positive test were recorded on January 10.

Ex-chief whip warns of rebellion against Covid measures

15:53 , Daniel Keane

Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper, leader of the Covid Recovery Group of Conservatives, has warned that if Boris Johnson sought to extend Plan B measures he could face a revolt even larger than the 100 Conservatives who defied him when they were first introduced in December.

Mr Harper said: “The Prime Minister sort of wants to agree with us on the backbenches, that we have to be realistic about living with Covid forever...then he says he wants to keep restrictions in reserve or won’t rule them out.

“This is becoming an unsustainable position.”

Spain to limit retail price of lateral flow tests

15:30 , Daniel Keane

Spain’s government is working on rules to limit the retail price of Covid lateral flow tests, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday.

It comes after prices surged as people raced to get their hands on tests amid a wave of Omicron infections.

“The debate we had before and during the Christmas season was the supply of tests, there was a bottleneck,” Sanchez said in an interview with Cadena SER radio station.

“Now, we will get into the control of the tests’ prices.”

Antigen tests sell for about £2.50 in neighbouring Portugal while they cost around £8.35 in Spain, where they are only available in pharmacies, centre-right opposition leader Ines Arrimadas has claimed.

More than two-thirds of UK adults have had booster

15:08 , Daniel Keane

More than two-thirds of all UK adults have received either a booster or third dose of Covid vaccine, new figures suggest.

An estimated 67 per cent of people aged 18 and over had received the extra jab as of January 9,

This is up from 64 per cent at the start of the month.

The figure of 50 per cent of adults was passed on December 16.

Just under 35.7 million booster and third doses have now been delivered in the UK, with 1.4 million in the past seven days.

Scotland records over 11,000 new cases - but no deaths

14:44 , Daniel Keane

Scotland has recorded 11,827 new cases of Covid but no deaths in the last 24 hours, according to figures.

It means the death toll under this measurement, of people who tested positive for the virus in the past 28 days, remains at 9,934.

The daily test positivity rate was 29.5 per cent, according to figures published by the Scottish Government on Monday, up from 23.2 per cent the previous day.

Starmer: Labour will back cutting isolation period if backed by scientists

14:24 , Daniel Keane

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he would back a cut in the length of the self-isolation period if it was supported by scientists.

Sir Keir, speaking to reporters via Zoom as he is self-isolating following a positive Covid test last week, said: “I’ll be guided by the science on this.

“If the scientists and the medical experts say that it is safe to reduce the period of self-isolation then I would be inclined to support it.”

There were “many, many people in isolation - including myself - who will be watching that science very, very carefully”.

Starmer: PM has ‘lost authority’ over alleged parties

13:56 , Daniel Keane

The Labour leader added: “The Prime Minister has lost huge authority with the public because of these allegations of parties in Downing Street.

“To stand at a press conference, instructing the country to comply with restrictions - which really impacted families across the country - whilst at the same time there’s emerging evidence of parties in Downing Street does diminish his authority, his moral authority, to ask others to comply with those rules.

“That’s why it’s so damaging - it’s not just a matter of history, it’s a matter of the here and now.”

PM has ‘serious questions to answer’ over Downing St ‘party'

13:27 , Daniel Keane

Sir Keir Starmer said Boris Johnson would have “serious questions to answer” if found to have attended a lockdown-breaking party.

Asked whether Mr Johnson would have to resign if he was found to have attended a party during lockdown, Sir Keir said: “We need to let the inquiry take its course, see what the findings are.

“The Prime Minister has insisted he broke no rules so if the finding is that he did then he will obviously have very serious questions to answer.

“Let’s let the inquiry play out, let’s see what the findings are and then go from there.”

Immunity from cold could help fend off Covid, study finds

13:08 , Daniel Keane

Some of the body’s defences generated after an infection of the common cold could help to ward off the virus that causes Covid, researchers have said.

A small study found that people with high levels of T cells - generated after infection with other coronaviruses such as the common cold - were less likely to catch the disease.

Dr Rhia Kundu, first author of the study, from Imperial’s National Heart & Lung Institute, said: “Being exposed to the Sars-CoV-2 virus doesn’t always result in infection, and we’ve been keen to understand why.

“We found that high levels of pre-existing T cells, created by the body when infected with other human coronaviruses like the common cold, can protect against Covid-19 infection.

“While this is an important discovery, it is only one form of protection, and I would stress that no one should rely on this alone. Instead, the best way to protect yourself against Covid-19 is to be fully vaccinated, including getting your booster dose.”

‘Too early to say’ when Covid will become endemic, says Downing St

12:52 , Daniel Keane

It is “too early to say” when the coronavirus pandemic will move to being endemic, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was “certainly our expectation of that at some point that is where we will get to”.

But he said: “Exactly what point we’re on, that is probably still too early to say.

“We are seeing early signs of cases falling in England and indeed even hospital admissions are starting to fall, but it’s still too early to draw conclusions.”

Lateral flow test will remain free for ‘as long as necessary'

12:36 , Elly Blake

No 10 said lateral flow tests were a “vital line of defence” and would remain free for “as long as necessary”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “There’s no doubt that the use of lateral flow devices are both interrupting chains of transmission and saving lives.

“We’ve got 425 million tests coming on in January, as we set out.”

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

He said the Government’s Covid autumn and winter plan had set out that “at a later stage, as the Government’s response to the virus changes, universal free provision of these tests will end and I think that’s what the public would expect”.

But he said it was “too early to say specifically when we will have moved from the point where we’ve got extremely high prevalence currently, and when it will be right to consider a different approach”.

He added: “It’s right that we adapt along with the virus.”

China locks down parts of Tianjin after Omicron cases detected

12:12 , Elly Blake

China has plummeted parts of the northern city of Tianjin into lockdown in a bid to contain a local outbreak of Covid-19.

The country, which is pursuing a zero-Covid strategy, has divided the city of 14 million people into three levels of restrictions.

In the locked down parts of the city, people are not allowed to leave their homes at all, according to the state broadcaster.

In control areas, one member of each household is allowed to leave to buy essential shopping every other day, while in prevention areas, people are forbidden from leaving their immediate neighbourhoods.

The city started a mass testing regime on Sunday after 20 children and adults tested positive for the virus.

A least two from the cluster were identified as having the Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, a further 0 people tested positive on Sunday, bringing the total to 40.

As part of its swift zero-Covid strategy, buses and and trains from Tianjin to nearby Beijing have been cancelled.

People are being warned not to leave the city unless they have urgent business.

Sweden imposes further Covid curbs

11:59 , Elly Blake

Sweden is set to introduce more Covid rules to ease pressure on the country’s healthcare system.

Limits to how many people can attend public events, work from home orders and curfew on bar and restaurant opening times as part of the more stringent measures being imposed.

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a news conference: “The situation has deteriorated, without doubt.

“The level of infections in Sweden is at a historically high level.”

Frontline workers blast unvaccinated doctor for challenging Sajid Javid over mandatory jab policy

11:52 , Elly Blake

Senior healthcare professionals have spoken out against an unvaccinated intensive care doctor who challenged the health secretary over his policy of mandatory Covid jabs for NHS staff, with one saying his comments were “an anti-vax wet dream”.

Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist at Kings College Hospital in London, last week told Sajid Javid “the science is not strong enough” to insist on compulsory vaccination for healthcare workers.

His comments have been criticised by some of his NHS colleagues, with one arguing that he should be suspended.

One neurologist blasted Dr James, saying: “If an individual like that worked for me, they would be suspended pending an investigation.”

PM dodges question over lockdown ‘party'

11:33 , Daniel Keane

Boris Johnson dodged a question on whether he attended a May 20 2020 party in Downing Street during the lockdown.

It follows a report in The Sunday Times which claimed the PM’s private secretary, Martin Reynolds, emailed officials with an invite adding “BYOB”, meaning bring your own bottle to the gathering.

Asked if he and his wife Carrie attended, Mr Johnson said: “All that, as you know, is the subject of a proper investigation by Sue Gray.”

Pressed on whether he had been interviewed by Ms Gray, he said: “All that is a subject for investigation by Sue Gray.”

Lateral flow tests will be available ‘for as long as possible’, says PM

11:15 , Daniel Keane

Boris Johnson has said the Government will continue to make lateral flow tests available “for as long as is necessary”.

“We are going to have to make sure we continue to use testing as one of our most important lines of defence for as long as is necessary,” he said.

“The other line of defence in addition to testing is of course getting vaccinated. The boosters are going well.

“We have now done 36 million boosters - 90 per cent of people over 50 - but clearly there is an opportunity for people who have not been boosted.”

Ministers ‘looking at’ reducing isolation period, PM confirms

10:59 , Daniel Keane

Ministers are looking at reducing the self-isolation period for those who test positive for Covid to five days, Boris Johnson has confirmed.

Asked about cutting the isolation period from seven days to five days, the PM said: “We’re looking at that.”

But he added that the government would follow the science.

“We’ve got to make sure that we see off Omicron. We’re making great progress,” Johnson said in a broadcast clip.

“(But) the 18,000 people with COVID currently in hospital... that’s massively up, and the numbers are increasing,” he said, adding that perhaps 30 per cent of those people had been infected in hospital.

London cases top 2 million

10:40 , Daniel Keane

More than two million Londoners have tested positive for Covid in just under two years, official figures have revealed.

They show that 2,003,245 people have been recorded for the capital as having had the virus, according to the official statistics which date back to February 11, 2020.

This equates to between one in four and one in five Londoners testing positive out of a population of some nine million.

The real figure is significantly higher, partly as so many people have the disease asymptomatically.

Read our full report by our political editor Nic Cecil here.

India begins booster rollout

10:23 , Daniel Keane

India began administering Covid vaccine boosters to front-line workers and vulnerable elderly people on Monday.

It came as the Omicron variant fuelled an almost eight-fold rise in daily infections over the past 10 days.

The health ministry said only 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the infected have been hospitalised, compared with 20 per cent to 23 per centduring the Delta wave that peaked in May.

Authorities in the cities of Delhi and Mumbai say most people have shown no or only minor symptoms and have recovered quickly at home.

10:07 , Daniel Keane

Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid, told Sky News that Covid tended to follow a pattern of surging “every three to four months”.

He said: “It’s difficult to use past behaviour to predict the future. And I don’t like doing that too much.

“But I would agree that the pattern, I think, that is going to happen with this virus is continued surges, and living with Covid means being able to prepare for these surges and to react and really quickly when they occur.

“Life can go on, we can get the economy going again in many countries, but we just have to be really respectful of the virus and that means having really good plans in place for dealing with the surges.”

Swab your throat and nose when taking LFTs, say Israeli scientists

09:53 , Daniel Keane

People self-testing for Covid should swab their throat as well as their nose when using lateral flow test kits to increase the chances of detecting the Omicron variant, a top Israeli health official has said.

Many kits being sold in the UK only require people to swab their nose to pick up traces of the virus.

On Israeli Army Radio, Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel’s public health chief, said antigen tests, used widely in the country, are less sensitive than PCR tests in detecting illness.

“In order to increase their sensitivity we will from now on recommend swabbing the throat and the nose. It’s not what the manufacturer instructs but we are instructing this,” she said.

NHS likely to be under pressure for ‘2 to 3 weeks'

09:39 , Daniel Keane

The NHS is likely to be under real pressure for “the next two or three weeks, perhaps longer”, Michael Gove said.

The Cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Our first responsibility at the moment must be to support the NHS, but you quite rightly legitimately ask if we get through - and at the moment I hope and pray that we will get through this difficult period - then there will be better times ahead.

“And I think one of the things that we do need to think about is how we live with Covid, how we live with this particular type of coronavirus.

“There are other coronaviruses which are endemic and with which we live, viruses tend to develop in a way whereby they become less harmful but more widespread.

“So, guided by the science, we can look to the progressive lifting of restrictions, and I think for all of us the sooner the better. But we’ve got to keep the NHS safe.”

‘The end is in sight’, says WHO boss

09:19 , Daniel Keane

Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid, said the virus is going to pose a very difficult situation for the next three months “at least” but “we can see the end in sight”.

He told Sky News: “I’m afraid we are moving through the marathon but there’s no actual way to say that we’re at the end - we can see the end in sight, but we’re not there.

“And there’s going to be some bumps before we get there...I can’t tell you how bad they’re going to be, but I can at least tell you what I’m expecting.”

He said the world was likely to see new variants emerge, leaving politicians facing “tough choices”.

Archbishop of Canterbury urges Britons to get vaccinated

09:03 , Daniel Keane

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to get vaccinated “to look after their neighbours” but said the UK should “encourage” not condemn those who refuse the jab.

Asked what society’s attitude to the unvaccinated should be, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we need to be encouraging rather than condemnatory, because condemning people doesn’t do much good, apart from anything else, but also it increases the general sense of anger that comes at a time of insecurity and fear and grief.

“I think we need to be encouraging to people to look after their neighbours.”

He quoted Jesus as saying “love your neighbour as yourself”, and added: “So, if you do that, it seems to me you go and get vaccinated.”

Tests ‘allow people to manage their risks'

08:43 , Daniel Keane

Pressed on free tests, Prof Medley said: “I think that the value of the moment of getting free tests is that it does allow people to manage their risks.

“And we have seen since July, the number of submissions was roughly constant, sort of just under 1,000 a day, up until the beginning of December.

“That can really only come about if people are managing their risks and the free diagnostics have enabled that.”

Government ‘can make cost-effective decisions about virus once it becomes endemic'

08:29 , Daniel Keane

The Government will be able to make “cost-effective decisions about how it’s going to manage Covid to improve public health” once the virus has become endemic, a scientist has said.

Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said ministers would no longer need to “manage the disease to try and reduce its own risk of hospitals being overcrowded”.

Asked whether that could mean an end to free mass testing and free mass vaccinations, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The decisions that the Government makes about vaccinating, for example against measles, are based upon decisions in terms of public health, but also the costs.

“And I think to some extent that approach will become more and more likely as we go forward. Vaccines are really the things that are changing the landscape, both in terms of public health and in terms of decision making.

“As ever, Government has to make a decision, balancing all these different views and different industries’ perspectives, to come up with what it feels to be the correct policy.”

Spanish PM says it ‘may be time to track pandemic differently'

08:11 , Daniel Keane

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has claimed it may be time to track the pandemic differently as Covid’s lethality has decreased due to vaccination.

“We have the conditions to gradually, with precaution, open the debate at a technical level and European level, to start evaluating the evolution of this disease with different parameters than we have until now,” Mr Sanchez said in an interview with radio station Cadena SER.

It follows a report in El Pais newspaper which suggested that Spain could use a method similar to how it follows the flu, without recording every case and without testing all people presenting symptoms.

Lateral flow tests will be free ‘for as long as we need’, says Gove

07:54 , Daniel Keane

Lateral flow tests will be free for “as long as we need”, Michael Gove has said.

The Levelling Up Secretary told Sky News it was “impossible to predict” how long that would be.

But he said: “But it is the case that in this country lateral flow tests are free, unlike in many other jurisdictions, they’re a vital tool in making sure that we can curb the spread of the infection and also that people who are needed to isolate do so.”

He said: “We are moving to a situation - we’re not there yet - but we are moving to a situation where it is possible to say that we can live with Covid and that the pressure on the NHS and on vital public services is abating.

“But it’s absolutely vital to recognise that we are not there yet and as the Health Secretary has reminded us, there will be some difficult weeks ahead and that is why we all need to continue to test, continue - if we are positive - to isolate and continue broadly to support the NHS as it goes through a challenging period.”

Gove: Modelling worst case scenario is ‘not scaremongering'

07:39 , Daniel Keane

Michael Gove has denied that scientists modelling a worst-case scenario for Covid amounts to “scaremongering”.

The Levelling Up Secretary was asked on Sky News whether it was wrong for scientists to warn that the worst-case scenario was that deaths from the Omicron variant could reach around 75,000, when in reality there have been just 14.

He said: “I don’t think it’s scaremongering at all and no-one is setting out to scaremonger.

“What we are always setting out to do is to ensure that we are in a position to model a range of scenarios and to be ready for those different outcomes.

“I think it would be a mistake not to model some scenarios where the NHS is under very severe pressure so that we can make sure that the resources are there.”

Hospitals will be able to use spare capacity in private sector

07:26 , Daniel Keane

Hospitals will be able to use spare capacity in the private sector under a new deal struck with the NHS, while hospitals have been told to find extra beds.

The three-month agreement will see private healthcare staff and facilities put on standby to support the NHS should hospital admissions or staff absences due to Covid threaten the provision of urgent care.

Patients that can be referred include some of those waiting for cancer surgery.

The NHS has also been asked to look at using spare capacity in gyms and education centres to create “super surge” wards on top of their usual surge capacity.

Nightingale hubs are already being created in the grounds of some hospitals as part of a move to create up to 4,000 extra beds.

Djokovic wins appeal against visa cancellation

07:12 , Daniel Keane

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

World number one men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic has won an appeal against a decision to refuse him a visa in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia ahead of the Australian Open.

The Australian government cancelled his visa shortly after he arrived in Melbourne late Wednesday because officials decided he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption to an entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated for Covid.

Djokovic, who court documents say is unvaccinated, argued he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with Covid in December.

Read our full story here.

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