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Covid news – live: Boris Johnson says ‘don’t cancel Christmas parties’ as adults offered booster by 31 January

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Boris Johnson has said the NHS is stepping “back into the breach yet again” as he vowed vaccination centres would be “popping up like Christmas trees” as part of the UK’s booster jab drive.

The Prime Minister, addressing the nation from Downing Street, was setting out measures to combat growing fears over the new Omicron Covid variant.

He said: “We’re going to get behind the men and women of our NHS who saved so many lives and run our vaccination programme without a break as they have, who are going back into the breach yet again.”

He added that his government would be deploying “at least 400 military personnel” so assist the NHS and the “jabs army” of volunteers.

Meanwhile, the NHS has asked for military assistance to aid its bid to more than double the current Covid vaccination booster rates.

The expansion of the vaccination programme, to include all adults 18 and over, will also see the time between second jabs and boosters cut from six to three months – meaning the NHS will have to vaccinate 13 million people in addition to the 6 million already promised during the winter.

Sources attending an NHS webinar on Monday evening told The Independent the Ministry of Defence has been contacted by NHS leaders to provide staffing support.

Follow our live coverage below

Read More

Omicron symptoms: What to look out for as doctor says new variant completely different to Delta

Will there be a new UK lockdown before Christmas as Omicron cases rise?

All adults to be offered Covid booster jab by end of January, Boris Johnson confirms

Key Points

  • Cut ‘unnecessary’ social time to reduce spread of omicron, warn health officials

  • New rules ‘proportionate and responsible,’ insists PM

  • Government ‘hoping to keep Christmas on track,’ says minister

  • Police officers to enforce face mask wearing in shops and on trains

  • ‘Boris Johnson doesn’t wear one’: Londoners react to mask return

Covid: Booster vaccine rolled out to all over-18s and gap after second jab cut to three months

Monday 29 November 2021 15:03 , Jon Sharman

Booster jabs should now be offered to all over-18s, the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations has said.

The JCVI has also said gaps between the second Covid-19 vaccine and booster shots should be reduced from 6 months to three months.

Although JCVI has advised all adults should now have their boosters it has advised the prioritisation of clinically vulnerable and older age groups as was done during the second and first phases of the vaccination programme.

Covid booster vaccine rolled out to all over-18s

Omicron a cause of heightened concern for scientists, says JVT

Monday 29 November 2021 15:08 , Jon Sharman

The new omicron coronavirus variant is a reason for “heightened” concern for scientists, Jonathan Van Tam has said.

However, England’s deputy chief medical officer warned that fears about omicron should be tempered, for now, by the lack of detailed information about it.

Much research has yet to be done to determine how dangerous it might be, though this is taking place quickly.

“There are far more things we don’t know yet than things we do know,” he told a press briefing.

The number of mutations the new variant has - nearly three dozen - gives experts cause to be concerned about its impact on vaccine effectiveness, Prof Van Tam said.

Data shows boosters increase immune response, says JCVI

Monday 29 November 2021 15:21 , Jon Sharman

While there are fears that the omicron variant might reduce the effectiveness of vaccines developed to counter the original “wild-type” Covid-19, a booster jab can help, according to the JCVI.

Wei Shen Lim, the body’s coronavirus vaccine chair, said booster jabs broadened people’s immune responses and so provided better protection even if there is a “mismatch” between the new variant and vaccine.

He made the comments as he announced the JCVI was recommending the booster campaign be extended to 18- to -39-year-olds.

Third doses should be given out in priority first to older people and those more at risk of severe disease, he added.

Two new cases of Covid variant found in England

Monday 29 November 2021 15:32 , Jon Sharman

Two new cases of the Covid-19 variant Omicron have been detected in England, making it a total of five, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed.

Both new cases have been confirmed from individuals in London, one in Croydon the other in Wandsworth. The UKHSA has said both are linked to travel from South Africa, writes Rebecca Thomas.

Two new cases of Covid variant found in England

Omicron could impact treatment for Covid-19 as well as vaccine, says Javid

Monday 29 November 2021 15:38 , Jon Sharman

Sajid Javid has warned the omicron variant of coronavirus could impact the effectiveness of the Ronapreve treatment, and there is a “reasonable chance” it will affect vaccines too.

Cases of omicron, which so far total five in England and six in Scotland, are expected to rise, he added.

The health secretary was giving an update to MPs.

MPs will vote on new mask rules

Monday 29 November 2021 15:40 , Jon Sharman

Sajid Javid has confirmed a motion on approving the government’s new mask mandate has been tabled, and says Jacob Rees-Mogg will give more details to MPs later on.

The rules will be reviewed in three weeks, the health secretary said.

He said: “We won’t keep measures in place for a day longer than necessary.”

Omicron’s emergence a failure of rich countries to share vaccines, says Hunt

Monday 29 November 2021 16:00 , Jon Sharman

The rise of the omicron variant of Covid-19 is “a symptom of the failure of Western countries to share vaccines around the world”, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The former health secretary told the Commons he backed Sajid Javid’s new measures to “buy time” in the investigation into omicron – which is a source of “known unknowns”.

He added: “Whilst I recognise the enormous contribution the UK has made through Covax, through the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and so on, is it not a moral and practical failure that richer countries have managed to vaccinate 60 per cent of their populations, when for poorer countries it’s just 3 per cent?”

Mr Javid responded: “It is important that all rich countries do everything they can to support vaccines and the donation of vaccines to developing countries.”

He said the UK has so far distributed 20 million of the 100 million doses it promised at Carbis Bay.

The WHO says 11 billion doses are needed to protect the world.

New York mayor issues ‘mask advisory’ as scientists warn of Omicron variant

Monday 29 November 2021 16:13 , Jon Sharman

New York mayor Bill de Blasio has issued a “mask advisory” for everyone in the city, urging New Yorkers to cover their faces as scientists warn of the new Omicron strain of the coronavirus, writes Nathan Place.

NYC mayor issues ‘mask advisory’ as scientists warn of Omicron variant

Health secretary agrees hospitality shutdown should be avoided

Monday 29 November 2021 16:22 , Liam James

Theresa Villiers, former environment secretary, asked if the government would avoid shutting down the hospitality sector in the event that restrictions were stepped up.

She said: “Millions of people have their livelihoods depending on this, they're just getting back on their feet.

“Please let us not knock them down again.”

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said: “I agree absolutely.”

Monday 29 November 2021 16:26 , Liam James

Tory MP Des Swayne says face coverings are “mumbo-jumbo”.

In reply, Sajid Javid said there had been a number of reports from the UK Health Security Agency showing that face coverings were effective.

Monday 29 November 2021 16:31 , Liam James

Richard Drax, Conservative MP, asked the health secretary to commit to "never, ever" returning to lockdown.

Sajid Javid will only say that “no-one wants to see those kinds of measures”.

SNP calls on Boris Johnson to hold Cobra meeting over omicron

Monday 29 November 2021 16:40 , Liam James

The SNP has called on Boris Johnson to convene an emergency Cobra meeting to show that he is “on top” of the emerging cases of omicron in the UK.

Richard Thomson, SNP MP for Gordon, asked Sajid Javid, the health secretary, if he would persuade the prime minister to hold a Cobra meeting with all four nations to show people that he is keepng abreast of developments.

Mr Javid replied: “In terms of meetings, and UK nations working together, I think that has been one of the successes of the UK response to this pandemic – the way that nations across the UK have worked together especially on vaccines, on testing, on surveillance and anti-virals – and it shows that we are stronger together.”

Booster vaccine rolled out to all over-18s

Monday 29 November 2021 16:49 , Liam James

Booster jabs should now be offered to all over-18s, the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), has said.

The JCVI has also said gaps between the second Covid-19 vaccine and booster shots should be reduced from six months to three months.

Full report from Rebecca Thomas here:

Covid booster vaccine rolled out to all over-18s

Three weeks to wait for more vaccine info on omicron, says health secretary

Monday 29 November 2021 17:07 , Liam James

More scientific evidence of how Covid vaccines and boosters jabs are able to resist the Omicron variant will be available in three weeks, Sajid Javid has said.

Tory MP Steve Brine asked the health secretary how long it would be until scientists knew more about how the variant hits vaccine efficacy.

Mr Javid said the government had set up a three-week review as it believes that more information will be available by then.

Boris Johnson and two cabinet ministers attended event linked to Covid cases

Monday 29 November 2021 17:18 , Liam James

Boris Johnson and two cabinet ministers attended a conference in central London last week at which several attendees have since developed Covid infections and been contacted by NHS test and trace, writes Anna Isaac.

Last Monday, the prime minister addressed business leaders and trade experts at think tank the Centre for Policy Studies’ (CPS) Margaret Thatcher Conference on Trade. The majority of attendees and the prime minister did not wear a face mask.

The Independent understands that there are at least five positive Covid cases linked to the event, three of which attended the dinner and one of whom was in close proximity to the prime minister.

Boris Johnson and two cabinet ministers attended event linked to Covid cases

‘No plans’ to close schools early due to omicron, says health secretary

Monday 29 November 2021 17:30 , Liam James

The health secretary said he was not aware of any plans to close schools early for Christmas break due to concerns over the new variant.

Mr Javid said: “When it comes to the risk to children from Covid in general, it is a lot less, thankfully, than it is to adults.

“With regard to the specific new variant, we just don't know enough about it yet to talk specifically about the potential impact on children.

“There are no plans that I am aware of that would require us to close schools early, I think that would be very detrimental to the education of children.”

Sajid Javid refuses to rule out return to lockdown

Monday 29 November 2021 17:40 , Liam James

Health secretary Sajid Javid has refused to rule out a new lockdown in England in response to the threat of the omicron variant of Covid-19, writes Andrew Woodcock.

Mr Javid told MPs than no-one wanted to see a return to measures of the sort deployed when the coronavirus first emerged last year.

But he was unable to give a positive response to Tory MP Richard Drax’s plea for a pledge “that he will never ever go back to locking this country down”.

Javid refuses to rule out return to lockdown in response to Omicron variant of Covid

MPs to vote on new restrictions tomorrow

Monday 29 November 2021 17:54 , Liam James

MPs will debate and vote on new Covid restrictions in England, including face coverings in shops and public transport, on Tuesday.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Commons, confirmed the scheduling in a statement to the House.

The rules will be reviewed in three weeks, by which time the government expects to have more information about the effect of the omicron variant on vaccinated people.

Thousands join virtual queue to book Covid booster vaccine

Monday 29 November 2021 18:08 , Liam James

Thousands of people have been queueing to register for a Covid booster vaccine on the NHS website after it was revealed that all people aged 18 and over are to be offered a third jab to tackle the spread of the new omicron variant.

There were reports of people waiting in a queue to access the booking page for five minutes or more, with 3,000 held in a virtual line ready to book.

Jeremy Hunt says Omicron is ‘a symptom of the failure of Western countries to share vaccines around the world’

Monday 29 November 2021 18:22 , Liam James

Latest Covid data

Monday 29 November 2021 18:40 , Liam James

A further 42,583 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were reported in the UK on Monday, down from 44,434 last Monday.

A further 35 people had died from the virus by 9am on Monday, according to government data.

Spain reports first case of omicron variant

Monday 29 November 2021 18:58 , Liam James

Spain has reported its first case of the omicron variant.

The traveller was a 51-year-old who had flown back to Madrid from South Africa, via Amsterdam, said a statement from Madrid’s regional government.

“The patient has light symptoms and is undergoing quarantine,” the statement added.

Omicron ‘not cause for panic', says Biden

Monday 29 November 2021 19:26 , Liam James

Joe Biden urged Americans not to panic over the omicron variant of Covid-19 and said the US government was working with pharmaceutical companies to make contingency plans if new vaccines were needed.

The president said the country would not go back to lockdowns this winter, but urged people to get vaccinated, get their boosters and wear masks.

“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” Biden told the press after a meeting with his Covid-19 team.

The US has yet to report a case of the new variant. It is known to be in North America though, with Canada reporting cases yesterday.

Portugal reports 13 cases of omicron variant

Monday 29 November 2021 19:55 , Liam James

Portugal has detected 13 cases of the omicron variant, all involving players and staff members of Lisbon soccer club Belenenses SAD after one player recently returned from South Africa, health authority DGS said.

Inbound tourism firms ‘skating on thin ice'

Monday 29 November 2021 20:20 , Liam James

The number of international visitors to the UK is expected to be down 75 per cent in November and December compared with the same period in 2019, refelecting a loss of tourism revenue in the billions.

In a poll of members of tourism association UKInbound, 89 per cent said the number of international arrivals would be lower than 2019 figures.

Joss Croft, boss of UKInbound, said the inbound tourism sector was already struggling but the announcement of new Covid restrictions had sent “shockwaves” through the industry.

“With annual revenues down 93 per cent and international visitors expected to be down 75 per cent during a critical part of the year, Christmas, businesses are skating on thin ice,” he said.

Omicron: Everything we know about the new Covid variant

Monday 29 November 2021 20:49 , Liam James

We’ve updated our guide on the omicron variant with the latest from today.

There’s about as much as here is to know in there, and we’re keeping it up to date as more is learned about this new variant.

Everything we know about the new ‘omicron’ variant

Closing schools ‘last possible option’, says Zahawi

Monday 29 November 2021 21:30 , Liam James

Closing schools is the last possible option in the fight against the new omicron variant of coronavirus, the education secretary has said.

Nadhim Zahawi said he does not support the return of “bubbles” in schools – where whole classes or year groups could be sent home after a positive Covid-19 test – as it reduces attendance “significantly”.

His comments came as targeted testing of pupils began in two schools in Essex and Nottinghamshire after cases of the omicron variant were detected in the local areas.

On ITV earlier he was asked if closing schools was the “last possible option”, he said: “Absolutely.”

“Keep schools open: do all the things necessary, like face masks in communal areas... to protect the education in the classroom.

“Face masks are not a panacea... these are all interventions that just help you slow the virus... from accelerating too quickly.”

Wes Streeting made shadow health secretary

Monday 29 November 2021 22:15 , Liam James

Wes Streeting has been appointed as shadow health secretary just four months after he returned to the Labour frontbench after beating cancer.

In a tweet shortly after the announcement, he said: “Delighted to have been appointed as shadow health and social care secretary.

“This year the NHS saved my life and staff across health and social care are getting us through the worst pandemic in living memory.

Hong Kong bans non-resident arrivals from 13 more countries

Tuesday 30 November 2021 03:37 , Namita Singh

Hong Kong banned the arrival of non-residents from four African countries including Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia.

In a statement issued late on Monday, the government said that while it will allow in vaccinated residents of the financial hub, those returning to the city will have to quarantine themselves for seven days at a government facility and another two weeks at a hotel at their own cost.

“Non-Hong Kong residents from these four places will not be allowed to enter Hong Kong,” the statement said. “The most stringent quarantine requirements will also be implemented on relevant inbound travellers from these places.”

The government said that non-residents who have been to Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel and Italy in the past three weeks would also not be allowed to enter the city from 2 December onwards.

It added that the fully vaccinated residents from these countries will have to quarantine in a hotel for three weeks. Hong Kong had banned non-residents from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe last week.

People leave the Regal Airport Hotel at Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong on 26 November 2021, where a new Covid-19 variant deemed a ‘major threat’ (AFP via Getty Images)
People leave the Regal Airport Hotel at Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong on 26 November 2021, where a new Covid-19 variant deemed a ‘major threat’ (AFP via Getty Images)

LA begins enforcement of strict vaccine mandate

Tuesday 30 November 2021 04:09 , Namita Singh

LA on Monday began the enforcement of one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the US, requiring proof of vaccine from everyone entering a host of indoor businesses. These will include restaurants, theatres, gyms and nail and hair salons.

While the latest order took effect from 8 November, city officials spent the past three weeks working to equip business owners with information and resources they would need to comply.

“Nobody wants to penalise anyone,” said Sharon Tso, the city’s Chief Legislative Analyst, whose office drafted the enforcement rules. “That’s why we’ve been prioritising education.”

A first offence will invite a warning, but subsequent violations could invite fines running from $1,000 to $5,000. Ms Tso said that the inspectors with the Department of Building and Safety will enforce the mandate, adding that the city might eventually get assistance from the LA County Department of Public Health.

Travellers with their luggage walk past the Covid-19 Testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, California on 23 November 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
Travellers with their luggage walk past the Covid-19 Testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, California on 23 November 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

Biden says omicron ‘cause for concern, not panic’

Tuesday 30 November 2021 04:47 , Namita Singh

President Joe Biden on Monday said that the new omicron variant is a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic”.

Making it clear that he does not intend to lock down the country, the president in his address from the White House advocated for more widespread vaccination within the country and across the world.

“We need to do more than vaccinate Americans,” Mr Biden said. “To beat the pandemic, we have to vaccinate the world as well. America is leading that effort. We’ve shipped, for free, more vaccines to other countries than all other countries in the world combined — over 275 million vaccines to 110 countries.”

Mr Biden however, reiterated his commitment to vaccinating Americans first. “Not a single vaccine shot Americans send to another part of the world will ever come at the expense of any American,” he said.

“I will always make sure our people are protected first. But vaccinating the world is just one more tool in how we need to meet our moral obligation as Americans and how to best protect Americans as well.”

South Africa says it is seeing 'very low hospitalisation' from omicron

Tuesday 30 November 2021 05:17 , Namita Singh

India’s health authorities have reportedly spoken to their South African counterparts about the situation with the outbreak of the omicron variant there, according to media reports.

South African health officials said that while they had found the new variant to be “highly transmissible”, it is also resulting in “very low [rates of] hospitalisation”, reported the Indian Express citing sources on the Indian side.

In their communication to the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Centre for Disease Control, the South African authorities reportedly said that omicron has resulted in no deaths so far and it only manifests itself in “the form of mild disease with extreme fatigue and throat irritation being the predominant symptoms”.

Patients are not experiencing symptoms like loss of sense of smell and taste or drop in oxygen levels, which was very widely observed in India and elsewhere as the delta variant spread across the world.

A healthcare worker conducts a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test  on a traveller at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on 27 November 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
A healthcare worker conducts a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test on a traveller at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on 27 November 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

CDC urges all adults to get booster shot

Tuesday 30 November 2021 05:38 , Namita Singh

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged all adults to get a booster dose if at least six months have passed since their second dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, and two months after the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Today, CDC is strengthening its recommendation on booster doses for individuals who are 18 years and older,” CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

“The recent emergence of the omicron variant further emphasises the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against Covid-19,” she added.

“Early data from South Africa suggest increased transmissibility of the omicron variant, and scientists in the United States and around the world are urgently examining vaccine effectiveness related to this variant. I strongly encourage the 47 million adults who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to vaccinate the children and teens in their families as well because strong immunity will likely prevent serious illness.”

World squash championship in Malaysia called off

Tuesday 30 November 2021 06:08 , Namita Singh

The men’s World Team Squash Championship in Malaysia has been cancelled due to concerns over the omicron variant, announced the World Squash Federation.

The tournament was scheduled to take place in Kuala Lumpur between 7 and 12 December after it was moved from Tauranga, New Zealand in May. However, several countries imposed travel restrictions following the identification of the new variant, prompting the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) to inform the WSF of the decision to scrap the upcoming tournament.

“We’re extremely disappointed to announce that this year’s WSF Men’s World Team Squash Championship has been cancelled. Together with SRAM, we have worked very hard to put the event on against the backdrop of the global Covid-19 pandemic, which had already caused us to move the event from Tauranga in New Zealand,” said WSF President Zena Wooldridge.

Australia on alert for omicron community cases

Tuesday 30 November 2021 07:03 , Namita Singh

Australian authorities are racing to track the contacts of a person suspected to be infected with the omicron variant after they spent time in the community visiting a busy shopping centre in Sydney.

The traveller arrived in Sydney last week before the latest border restrictions, and though the person was fully vaccinated, health authorities suspect they were likely infectious when they visited the shopping centre.

All passengers in the person’s flight have been directed to isolate themselves for two weeks regardless of their vaccination status. If confirmed, the total number of omicron cases in Australia will rise to six.

International travellers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) arrive at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on 29 November 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
International travellers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) arrive at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport on 29 November 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

Face masks and PCRs: Omicron measures come into force in England

Tuesday 30 November 2021 08:11 , Sam Hancock

Measures to combat the new omicron Covid variant of coronavirus come into force on Tuesday, with face coverings compulsory in England’s shops and settings such as banks, post offices, hairdressers, and public transport.

All travellers returning to the UK must also take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced that all adults aged 18 to 39 will be offered a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, in order of descending age groups, to increase their level of protection. Those aged 40 and over are already eligible for a booster vaccine.

In further advice, young people aged 12 to 15 will also be offered a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine, no sooner than 12 weeks after their first dose.

The NHS said it will shortly set out how staff will expand the booster programme.

New measures ‘proportionate and responsible,’ says PM

Tuesday 30 November 2021 08:12 , Sam Hancock

Let’s hear from Boris Johnson now, who released a statement this morning about the necessity of the new measures.

The PM said:

“The measures taking effect today are proportionate and responsible, and will buy us time in the face of this new variant.

“Based on everything we know, our vaccines and boosters remain our best line of defence, so it is more important than ever that people come forward when eligible to get boosted.

“Not only will today’s steps help us slow down the variant’s spread, but they will help us protect each other and the gains we have all worked so hard for.”

Better to ‘overreact’ than ‘underreact,’ says health minister

Tuesday 30 November 2021 08:18 , Sam Hancock

Gillian Keegan, one of Britain’s health ministers, has defended new Covid measures being enforced today as an adequate response to an unfolding situation.

After telling Sky News “the scientists need a couple more weeks” to look at the omicron variant’s potential impact, it was put to Ms Keegan that the government could be “overreacting” with their decision to make face masks mandatory once more, and reintroduce PCRs for all UK arrivals.

“I’d rather overreact than underreact at this point,” the Tory MP snapped back at Sky’s Kay Burley.

She added: “We’ve been so here many times ... and we’d rather be stronger to face any new variants.”

ICYMI: Watch Sajid Javid escort reporter to get Covid booster jab

Tuesday 30 November 2021 08:20 , Sam Hancock

Health minister: Government ‘hoping to keep Christmas on track’

Tuesday 30 November 2021 08:28 , Sam Hancock

Back to health minister Gillian Keegan now, who has repeated claims made by Sajid Javid that the government is “very much hoping we can keep Christmas on track”.

She said the position this year was much different to last due to the vaccine rollout.

“Of course Christmas is on track, and actually what everybody wants for Christmas is if you haven’t had your first jab, come and get it, if you haven’t had your second jab, come and get it, and if you haven’t had your booster, come and get it when you’re asked,” Ms Keegan told Sky News.

She added that the chances of having to stay away from family again over Christmas were “pretty low”, but did acknowledge there was a possibility some people could find themselves in self-isolation over the festive period – especially if they are exposed to the omicron variant.

Nine cases of omicron in Scotland and five in England

Tuesday 30 November 2021 08:36 , Sam Hancock

As on Tuesday morning, nine cases of the omicron Covid variant have been identified in Scotland, the country’s health secretary Humza Yousaf said.

He said there are now five cases in the Lanarkshire area and four in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, up from the six across the two areas announced on Monday.

Asked if there was any connection between Cop26 or a recent South Africa rugby match, he told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “There’s nothing that links these cases or indeed the variant back to Cop26 or indeed the rugby match.

“There’s nothing that indicates these cases or this new variant has come via the rugby or Cop26 but that work of course is still ongoing.”

Two new cases were also found in London overnight, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said earlier.

These figures bring the UK’s total number of omicron cases to 14.

Prof warns government and NHS to act ‘immediately’ against omicron

Tuesday 30 November 2021 08:49 , Sam Hancock

Let’s get some expert commentary now. Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said the UK must “act immediately and not wait” after more cases of the omicron variant were discovered across the UK.

“It is a possibility that this will not turn out to be a major problem but there are lots of signs that suggest that it might,” he warned.

“It looks like it’s quite a transmissible virus. We don’t really yet know whether it causes worse disease. It may well not do that. But the main question is whether it’s able to evade the immunity that we’ve got to some extent from the vaccine so far and the infections we’ve all had.

Prof Finn also warned that the Covid vaccination programme “is all about speed”, which means the NHS will be up against it in the race to protect as many members of the public from omicron as possible.

He told the BBC: “So the two challenges are going to be the logistics of actually delivering so much vaccine in a very short time and of course, it’s important that people come forward and receive those jabs in good time so that they can build up that extra immunity that we need to be sure that we’re protected against this new variant.

“[It’s going to be a] challenging month ahead for the NHS.”

Rumblings of ‘unnecessary socialising’ amid rule changes

Tuesday 30 November 2021 09:13 , Sam Hancock

A number of health officials have begun encouraging the British public to stop socialising unnecessarily, as the government attempts to curb the spread of the new omicron variant.

Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), plainly told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier people could do their bit by reducing the number of social contacts they have.

She said that “our behaviours in winter and particularly around Christmas [are that] we tend to socialise more, so I think that will need to be taken into account”.

Asked about working from home, Dr Harries seemed less clear. “We’ve seen that not everybody has gone back to work and I’d like to think of it more in a general way, which is if we all decrease our social contacts a little bit, actually that helps to keep the variant at bay,” she said.

“So I think being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to and particularly going and getting those booster jobs which, of course, people will now be able to have at a three-month interval from their primary course.”

Meanwhile, Prof Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), urged people to do “anything that they can do to reduce the risk” of catching Covid.

“It’s a time for people to be careful to stay at home when they can to avoid contact with others just to help us get through this difficult period,” he told Sky News, while encouraging people to take regular lateral flow tests and do all they can to “minimise the risk”.

Covid inquiry must look at NHS 111 ‘mishandling’ – bereaved families

Tuesday 30 November 2021 09:14 , Sam Hancock

The inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic should look at the “mishandling” of the NHS 111 service, families bereaved during the crisis have said.

In a scathing report, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said the service was inappropriately used to “alleviate the burden on the NHS” with “horrific” consequences, writes our policy correspondent Jon Stone.

The report, based on a survey of families, said many believed that the service “failed to recognise how seriously ill their relatives were and direct them to appropriate care”.

Covid inquiry must look at NHS 111 ‘mishandling’, bereaved families say

Watch: 12- to 15-year-olds to be offered second Pfizer dose in UK

Tuesday 30 November 2021 09:31 , Sam Hancock

Johnson insists new rules ‘buy us time in face of new variant’

Tuesday 30 November 2021 09:40 , Sam Hancock

Following my earlier post (8.12am), Boris Johnson has tweeted about the change in Covid rules today, repeating that new restrictions are “proportionate and responsible”.

Officials insist new omicron vaccine will be made if necessary

Tuesday 30 November 2021 09:50 , Sam Hancock

A leading professor has insisted scientists are prepared for the possibility of a new vaccine to fight the omicron variant, “if we get to that situation”.

Asked about the prospect of developing new vaccines, should they be needed to tackle the new Covid variant, Sage member Prof Paul Moss told Sky News: “Well, as you know, the companies have already started - the gene has been cloned, but typically talking around 100 days.

“We’ve learned so much in the last 18 months - nobody felt we would get a vaccine within a year when the pandemic started, and we did - we got several.”

He continued: “So it will be accelerated and, of course, if we were in that severe situation - but I really hope that we won’t get to, by the way - we’re very well prepared. We know what to do.”

Speaking to the broadcaster later on, Labour MP Lisa Nandy remained calm and reminded viewers there are enough vaccines in the world to inoculate every adult.

“That’s not the challenge anymore,” the new shadow levelling up secretary said. “The challenge is to get them out across the world.”

Vegan dies of Covid after refusing vaccine over animal testing

Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:08 , Sam Hancock

A vegan man who rejected the Covid-19 vaccine citing concerns about animal cruelty, died regretting his decision, his wife said.

Glynn Steel “begged for the vaccine,” his wife Emma Steel said, before he was shifted to life support. But by then it was too late for the medicine to be effective on him, she said.

“The last thing Glynn (Steel) said to me was ‘I have never felt so ill, I wish that I had the vaccine’,” Ms Steel, who is double-vaccinated, told reporters, adding that her husband “was a very gentle soul, he was a vegan and didn’t want the Covid vaccine because it was tested on animals”.

Just a week after being shifted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), a seriously ill Steel died of Covid-19 on 16 November, according to Ms Steel’s GoFundMe page set up to arrange funds for his funeral.

Arpan Rai reports:

Vegan dies of Covid-19 after refusing vaccine over animal testing

Responsibility to wear masks put back on British public

Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:15 , Sam Hancock

Last bit from health minister Gillian Keegan now, who said this morning mask-wearing will be down to “the good sense of British people”.

Asked how new rules around wearing face coverings on public transport will be enforced, Ms Keegan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, largely due to the good sense of British people who will hopefully listen to the rules, try to protect each other, and do what the right thing is.

“That’s largely how it’s always been. That’s pretty much what it’s always been, but the police do have powers to enforce.”

Ms Keegan said the UK has not been “completely draconian” with enforcement as some other countries have, but she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain it will be up to retailers and transport workers to decide whether they need police help.

“They will have to make the judgment when they should call the police or not,” she said.

Police officers to enforce face mask wearing in shops and on trains

Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:25 , Sam Hancock

Police have announced they will be on hand over the coming days to remind members of the public not wearing masks to do so.

Asst chief constable Owen Weatherill, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said in a statement:

“Police forces will increase officer visibility where possible in high risk and crowded areas, such as towns and shopping centres, and near transport hubs. If officers encounter individuals not wearing a face covering on public transport or in shops, they will engage with them, explain the risks and encourage them to comply with the new rules.

“Forces will continue to enforce coronavirus regulations where it is necessary to do so. We will support transport and retail staff in ensuring people wear face coverings in line with the regulations.

“We will work closely with businesses and will continue to respond to incidents where individuals are violent or abusive towards staff or members of the public.“

An officer speaks to a member of the public riding an e-scooter (PA Archive)
An officer speaks to a member of the public riding an e-scooter (PA Archive)

‘Boris Johnson doesn’t wear one’: Londoners react to mask return

Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:35 , Sam Hancock

Face coverings have become mandatory again on public transport and in shops in England, in an effort to slow the spread of the new omicron variant.

The rules returned from 4am on Tuesday, with those who refuse to comply facing fines of up to £200.

Londoners who spoke to The Independent this morning largely thought restrictions on face coverings should never have been relaxed in the first place.

Some, however, were adamant to continue not wearing a mask despite the threat of a fine for rule breakers.

Thomas Kingsley spoke to commuters this morning:

‘Boris Johnson doesn’t even wear one’: Londoners react to mask mandate return

‘Continue with Christmas plans, but be cautious,’ says health minister

Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:45 , Sam Hancock

Uni of Oxford insists AstraZeneca vaccine can be updated ‘if necessary’

Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:55 , Sam Hancock

Following my earlier post (just before 10am) about potential new Covid vaccines, the University of Oxford has said it can “rapidly” update its jab with AstraZeneca “if it should be necessary”.

“Due to the very recent discovery of the new omicron strain of coronavirus, there are limited data available at this time,” a spokesperson for the university said, adding:

“As with any new variant, we will carefully evaluate the implications of the emergence of B.1.1.529 for vaccine immunity.

“Despite the appearance of new variants over the past year, vaccines have continued to provide very high levels of protection against severe disease and there is no evidence so far that omicron is any different.”

They insisted scientists at the university “have the necessary tools and processes in place for rapid development of an updated Covid-19 vaccine if it should be necessary”.

Britons risk waiting up to six months for booster jabs, prof warns

Tuesday 30 November 2021 11:24 , Sam Hancock

A professor is warning that despite reduced interval time between second jabs and boosters, it will likely still be “a period of months” before some people are called forward.

Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, pointed to issues such as a number of vaccine hubs having “reverted to their everyday use” and volunteers returning to work as reason for this.

“I don’t think it’s going to be possible to get the same kind of speed and capacity as we as we saw earlier [in the year],” the academic told talkRadio.

“So allowing people to get jabs from three months after their last dose, in practice, I suspect that most, mostly it will be for four or five, even six months.”

Having said that, Prof Dingwall said he “certainly” encouraged anybody who is invited “to come forward and to take up the offer” of a booster jab.

Boris Johnson to address nation at 4pm

Tuesday 30 November 2021 11:33 , Sam Hancock

Boris Johnson will give a Covid press briefing from Downing Street this afternoon, during which he is expected to defend new measures brought in across England and encourage unvaccinated individuals to take up their jabs.

He will also encourage those who have already received two doses of a jab to accept the offer of a third, so-called booster shot when it is given to them.

The PM will speak at around 4pm.

‘Hokey cokey’: Sadiq Khan urges government to keep up mask mandate

Tuesday 30 November 2021 11:41 , Sam Hancock

The Mayor of London has warned the government against enforcing, and then changing, rules on mandatory face masks in England – as has been the custom in previous waves of Covid infections.

Said Khan said he didn’t want a “hokey cokey on mask wearing, where the government reviews and increases rules each time”.

“As far as I’m concerned, on public transport, because more often than not we’ve got to be confined and can’t maintain social distancing, let’s keep it mandatory – with the backup of the police and with the backup of fines.”

He continued that this should remain the case even if in three weeks time, omicron is discovered to be “less of a risk than people think”.

ICYMI: Watch WHO say omicron variant shows how ‘perilous’ Covid is

Tuesday 30 November 2021 12:01 , Sam Hancock

Member of public suggests face masks ‘distraction’ from Tory sleaze

Tuesday 30 November 2021 12:15 , Lamiat Sabin

Public opinion is still very much split on the use of face masks in public settings, as one man demonstrated this morning.

Marc Zinnendor, who was travelling from Paddington to Kingham, in Oxfordshire, told the PA news agency he has no intention of starting to wear a face mask again.

“I never wear them,” the 52-year-old said. “They don’t work, they’re just a distraction from the Peppa Pig World disaster and all the Tory sleaze accusations. I think [Boris Johnson] just wanted to get Covid back into the headlines, that’s my take on it. I work in strategy, that’s exactly what I would do.”

Mr Zinnendor, who works in telecommunications, described face masks as “courtesy coverings”, saying the rules on them don’t add up.

“It’s pretty pointless - you go on a train, you have to wear them, then you go to the office, you don’t have to wear them, you go to the restaurant, you don’t have to wear them, you go to a shop, you have to wear them,” he said.

“There’s no consistency in any of that.”

Commuters walk over London Bridge station on the morning face masks became mandatory once more in England (EPA)
Commuters walk over London Bridge station on the morning face masks became mandatory once more in England (EPA)

'Mask rule ought to apply to hospitality sector’ – Unite union

Tuesday 30 November 2021 12:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Trade union Unite has called for face coverings to also become mandatory in pubs, cafes and restaurants after they were not included in the rule change.

General secretary Sharon Graham said: “We must ask why hospitality is the only area in the public arena where face masks are not compulsory.

“Does the Government consider the health and safety of hospitality workers less of a priority than that of workers in other sectors?

“It is outrageous that hospitality workers are being left to police the wearing of face masks due to the lack of proper mandatory rules or effective legislation.”

New rules for travellers to Hong Kong, India, and Ecuador

Tuesday 30 November 2021 12:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Hong Kong, India and Ecuador have introduced new strict rules for international arrivals in response to the omicron variant.

The rules involve many stipulations and exemptions – depending on which country a person is travelling from, and their vaccination status – so check out the report here by Helen Coffey for the full details:

Hong Kong, India and Ecuador impose tighter entry restrictions for travellers

It comes after Japan, Morocco and Israel banned international visitors entirely amid fears that omicron could be more transmissible – and able to evade immunity – than the dominant delta variant.

Also, Switzerland has imposed a 10-day quarantine on all British travellers, while Spain has said only double-jabbed Brits will be permitted to enter the country.

PM to be joined by Javid and NHS chief exec at press conference

Tuesday 30 November 2021 12:50 , Lamiat Sabin

Boris Johnson will be joined by health secretary Sajid Javid and NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard at the 4pm press conference in Downing Street, it has been announced.

The PM is expected to defend new measures brought in across England, after the discovery of the omicron variant, and encourage unvaccinated people to take up their jabs – including those eligible for booster vaccines.

At least 14 omicron cases found in UK, says PM’s spokesman

Tuesday 30 November 2021 13:10 , Lamiat Sabin

Five more omicron Covid cases have been detected in Scotland, according to Boris Johnson’s official spokesman.

He said that UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief Dr Jenny Harries told ministers there were 14 confirmed cases in the UK involving the variant but “more were likely to be found in the coming days”.

Dr Harries, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance had updated Cabinet on the latest number of cases.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “While further time is needed to study the characteristics of this variant and with work ongoing at Porton Down to assess it, both the CMO and CSA emphasised that getting a booster vaccine was the best way to gain protection against new and existing variant.”

PM to get his booster jab ‘this week’ after ‘patient’ wait

Tuesday 30 November 2021 13:32 , Sam Hancock

Asked why he hasn’t had his booster jab yet, Boris Johnson said he was “proud” to say he was getting his third jab “this week”.

“I’m sure it will be duly recorded by the media,” he quipped.

Watch live as Sajid Javid opens debate to MPs on new Covid rules

Tuesday 30 November 2021 13:36 , Sam Hancock

Watch: PM says government ‘not changing’ Christmas guidance

Tuesday 30 November 2021 14:11 , Sam Hancock

Should government enforce lockdown 4.0? Tell us in our poll

Tuesday 30 November 2021 14:25 , Sam Hancock

A new variant of Covid-19 has emerged and is causing concern around the world given its “incredibly high” number of mutations.

UK health secretary Sajid Javid has already warned that it might be able to evade currently available vaccines, a further worrying development given that its emergence coincides with a sharp rise in coronavirus infections across Europe in recent weeks, which has prompted countries like Austria and the Netherlands to impose new lockdowns.

With winter flu season complicating the situation even further, the new variant could be the final straw that forces Boris Johnson to change his position and implement new social restrictions or even a fourth lockdown.

But, we want to know what you think. Should we have a fourth lockdown and should it be imposed before Christmas?

Tell us here:

Should the government enforce lockdown 4.0? Tell us in our poll

Sturgeon updates Scotland on omicron situation

Tuesday 30 November 2021 14:30 , Sam Hancock

Nicola Sturgeon is currently. delivering a press conference at Holyrood.

The country’s first minister says vaccine take-up is continuing to reduce the number of Scotland’s Covid cases.

However, she acknowledges there is a “potential” threat from the “emergency of omicron”.

“There is no evidence so far to suggest the disease caused by omicron is worse than other variants [of coronavirus],” she tells MSPs.

She says more data is needed before any clear judgements can be made, though.

Sturgeon addresses MSPs at Holyrood (BBC)
Sturgeon addresses MSPs at Holyrood (BBC)

Omicron cases in Scotland linked to one event

Tuesday 30 November 2021 14:38 , Sam Hancock

Sturgeon reveals that all current cases of omicron in Scotland – nine– are linked to one private event.

She says this shows “community transmission” has the potential to be strong with the new variant.

Talking about protective measures, she says Scotland already has rules around face masks that are “more stringent” than those introduced by Boris Johnson in England today.

Sturgeon also outlines suggestions she and her Welsh counterpart, Mark Drakeford, have made to Johnson about stricter border rules. They are calling for arrivals to go into self-isolation for eight days, and be forced to take PCRs on day two and eight before being released.

So far, Downing Street has not responded publicly to these suggestions.

Sturgeon says she “looks forward” to discussing them on a four-way basis.

Sturgeon encourages Scots to get vaccinated

Tuesday 30 November 2021 14:45 , Sam Hancock

Sturgeon says that while it is not yet known whether omicron evades current vaccines, it remains the case that taking up jabs will increase immunity and protect individuals and their families.

The FM says Scots should use lateral flow tests before interacting with family and friends in the run up to Christmas.

Ending on a positive note, she says whatever the outcome of current research into omicron “we are in a much better position than we have been before” due to vaccines.

She also encourages “everyone” to be extra stringent with all public health advice, including washing hands, working from home if possible, and wearing face masks in public settings.

“Please get vaccinated, get tested and comply with all the measures in place,” Sturgeon urges Scots.

The statement is now over and MSPs are asking questions.

Moderna predicts ‘drop’ in effectiveness of vaccines against omicron

Tuesday 30 November 2021 14:55 , Sam Hancock

Leaving Scotland now, Moderna’s chief has warned existing vaccines could be less effective against the new omicron Covid variant than previous strains.

Prime minister Boris Johnson will give a press conference at 4pm when he is expected to set out his government’s plan for giving extra doses to everyone over the age of 18. The gap between second and third jabs has also been slashed from six to three months, in changes confirmed on Monday.

But in a concerning development on Tuesday morning, Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, said: “There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level ... we had with [the] delta [variant]”. He also warned that it could take months for pharmaceutical companies to produce new variant-specific vaccines at the scale required should omicron become the dominant strain.

Matt Mathers has the full report:

Moderna chief predicts ‘material drop’ in effectiveness of vaccines against omicron

Watch: Tory MP claims ‘science isn’t an exact science’ amid omicron

Tuesday 30 November 2021 15:21 , Sam Hancock

Where do you think mask wearing should be enforced?

Tuesday 30 November 2021 15:40 , Tom Ambrose

The emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in southern Africa in the last week is causing concern around the world, not least because it is thought to be highly transmissible and because the 32 mutations of its spike protein suggest it might be able to resist current vaccines.

A number of people have already been taken ill with the variant in Europe, including a handful in the UK, and Boris Johnson’s government has been relatively quick to act this time, imposing the first social restrictions on the public since “Freedom Day” on 19 July.

As preventative measures against Omicron establishing a foothold, Britons are again being ordered to wear face masks in shops and on public transport, more countries have been added to the travel “red list” and new arrivals from overseas will be required to take a PCR test and potentially self-isolate for 10 days.

But what do you think? When and where should we be wearing masks as the threat of Omicron looms? Tell us in our poll here,

Where do you think mask wearing should be enforced?

Boris Johnson press conference gets underway

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:05 , Tom Ambrose

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken to the stage and the press conference is underway.

He begins by saying the “best defence against Omicron” is to get vaccinated and receive a booster jab.

PM: Everyone eligible to be offered booster jab by end of January

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:08 , Tom Ambrose

He says everyone eligible will be offered a booster by the end of January, starting with older age groups and moving down within five year age groups.

He pleads with people not to attempt to book until it is your turn.

He says: “We want to ramp up capacity across the whole of the UK to the levels we achieved in the previous vaccination effort.”

Johnson says at least 400 military personnel will be assisting the “jabs army volunteers” and that vaccination sites will be “popping up like Christmas trees”.

PM to get booster jab on Thursday

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:19 , Tom Ambrose

Boris Johnson goes on to thank “each and every” NHS staff member and said the best way the nation can show its gratitude is to get the booster when you receive the call.

He adds that he has been waiting patiently for his booster jab and that he will be getting it on Thursday.

He asks for people to urge their friends and family to do the same as a line of defence against the new Omicron variant.

PM: Let’s not give this virus a second chance

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:21 , Tom Ambrose

The Prime Minister ends his speech by calling for another great British vaccination effort and vowed to “not give this virus a second chance”.

“It’ time for another great British vaccination effort,” he says. “We’ve done it before and we’re going to do it again.

“And let’s not give this virus a second chance.”

Javid confirms 13 Omicron cases in England, nine in Scotland

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:26 , Tom Ambrose

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is speaking now and praising the UK’s effort to get booster jabs into arms, citing the 18 million milestone reached today.

He adds that there have been 150 million jabs given across the UK and that only China and the US has given out more boosters.

He confirms there have been 13 Omicron cases in England and nine in Scotland. “We expect to see these rising in the next few days”, he warns.

Javid adds that the vaccine drive to to buy scientists more time to assess the new variant.

MPs approve new Covid rules despite small Tory rebellion

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:28 , Tom Ambrose

Meanwhile, MPs have overwhelmingly voted to approve the government’s new coronavirus regulations despite a small Conservative rebellion.

Just 23 MPs voted against new rules, which include a requirement to wear masks on public transport and in shops.

434 MPs supported the move after it was backed by all parties, a majority of 411.

It comes after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) confirmed that eight further cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 have been confirmed in England, bringing the total number in the country to 13.

MPs approve new Covid rules despite small Tory rebellion

Pritchard: Booster roll-out ‘most complex’ part of vaccine programme so far

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:33 , Tom Ambrose

Amanda Pritchard says this phase of vaccination programme is the “most complex part of the vaccination roll-out so far”.

She confirms community pharmacies and GP surgeries will be offered an increased £15 standard payment per delivered jab until January.

This will include an additional £5 payment for jabs given at weekends, as well as a £30 premium payment for vaccinating people who are housebound.

She adds that they are looking to “safely reduce or even eliminate” the recommended 15-minute wait after jabs to allow people to move more quickly through the UK’s 3,000 vaccination centres.

Labour demands government introduces pre-departure Covid tests for all travellers to UK

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:35 , Tom Ambrose

Labour has demanded the government bolster Covid border measures by reintroducing pre-departure test requirements for anyone travelling to the UK in response the new omicron variant.

In a joint letter, the newly appointed shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, and shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, told the government it is an “urgent requirement” with over one million travelling through UK airports each week.

It comes after the government dropped requirements for a pre-departure test for vaccinated travellers in the autumn, but in response to the new variant at the weekend re-introduced quarantine for all arrivals until they have received a negative PCR test.

Labour demands pre-departure Covid tests for all travellers to UK

All adults to be offered Covid booster jab by end of January, Boris Johnson confirms

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:36 , Tom Ambrose

All adults will be able to get their booster jab by the end of January 2022, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister confirmed the vaccination programme will be working down in descending age groups, going down in five year bands.

He revealed four hundred military personnel are being drafted in to help with the NHS’ efforts accelerate the national vaccination programme.

He said: “England will have more than 1500 community pharmacy sites, vaccinating people near where you live. All of our sites will increase their capacity and we will stand up extra hospital hubs on top of those already active. There’ll be temporary vaccination centres popping up like Christmas trees and we will deploy at least 400 military personnel to assist the efforts of our NHS, alongside volunteers.”

All adults to get Covid booster jabs by end of January

Video: Boris Johnson reveals all over-18s to be offered Covid booster jabs by January 31

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:37 , Tom Ambrose

University of Nottingham confirms student has Omicron variant

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:39 , Tom Ambrose

The University of Nottingham confirmed that one of its students had been found to have the Omicron variant.

A university spokeswoman said: "Whilst we do not ordinarily comment on individual cases, we can confirm that a student is among the increasing number of people reporting cases of the Omicron variant nationwide.

"The student has been off campus and self-isolating throughout the period of infection. We are supporting them in liaison with the public health authorities and wish them a speedy recovery.

"This underlines the importance of everyone following the new government restrictions introduced today."

The university currently has fewer than 20 Covid-19 cases among a total student population of 35,000, with all those affected self-isolating in line with national guidance.

PM: Christmas parties should go ahead as planned

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:40 , Tom Ambrose

Mr Johnson was asked if he agreed with Dr Jenny Harries, who urged people not to socialise if they do not need to in the run-up to Christmas, and was asked if Christmas parties should be cancelled.

He replied: "So the answer is no. The guidance remains the same, and we're trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach.

"We've got the measures in place to fight Delta, which we think are appropriate, and then we're bringing in some tougher measures to stop the rapid seeding of Omicron in this country to give us the time we need to get the boosters in and of course to find out more."

He described the new measures as "the right balance".

Boris Johnson announces military called in to set up new vaccine clinics

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:45 , Tom Ambrose

PM: Restrictions won’t be in place any longer than needed

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:47 , Tom Ambrose

Boris Johnson said the Government will not keep additional Covid restrictions in place any longer than necessary.

He said: "The measures that we have put in place will not last a minute more than we think they are strictly necessary for the protection of public health."

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said she was confident that everyone eligible would be able to book a booster jab.

"It is our clear intention to ensure that everyone who is eligible has a chance to book that booster by the end of January," she said.

"This is going to build up over the next few weeks and inevitably there are going to be things that adapt and change as we go along."

PM: We don’t want to cancel nativities this Christmas

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:49 , Tom Ambrose

Boris Johnson said the Government does not want people to cancel Christmas parties or nativity plays.

He told a press conference: "We don't want people to cancel such events. We think that overwhelmingly the best thing for kids is to be in school, as I've said many times throughout this pandemic.

"What we are doing is trying to take a balanced and proportionate approach to the particular risk that seems to be posed by Omicron, or certainly is posed by Omicron, focused in particular on measures at the borders.

"And we think that's the right way to go for the time being, until we know more and until we can get more boosters, as we've been saying, into people's arms."

PM: Another lockdown ‘unlikely’ but ruling nothing out

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:51 , Tom Ambrose

The Prime Minister said he thought it "extremely unlikely" that another lockdown would required but that he was ruling nothing out.

Boris Johnson told reporters at a press briefing in Downing Street: "We haven't ruled out anything, I've got to tell you.

"I think another lockdown of the kind that we've had before is extremely unlikely, I'll be upfront with you about that. But we keep everything under constant review.

"In our fight against the Delta variant, we think it has basically been going our way or going the way that we planned, so though cases remain high or high-ish, you are seeing a decline in the number of admissions to hospital and a decline in the number of deaths, and that's the crucial thing that we've been following.

"So, at the moment, we've seen no cause to move to Plan B but, as I've said to you many times before, we've got to keep that under review.

"But the measures we are talking about to deal with Omicron are, as I've said, distinct."

Johnson’s press briefing comes to an end

Tuesday 30 November 2021 16:58 , Tom Ambrose

The press conference comes to an end with the Prime Minister making a point on Storm Arwen, saying everything is being done to restore power in the parts of the country impacted.

So, lots to digest from that briefing. None more so than the ambitious plans for all adults in the UK to be invited for a booster jab by the end of January.

Follow for more reaction as it comes.

Uncertainty ‘extremely frustrating’ for night-time industries

Tuesday 30 November 2021 17:24 , Tom Ambrose

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said uncertainty was "extremely frustrating" after Dr Jenny Harries, the head of the UK's Health Security Agency, urged people not to socialise if they do not need to in the run-up to Christmas.

"At the very moment operating costs are at their highest, we are now faced with another poorly conceived communications strategy from Government which has and will severely impact businesses," he said.

"Christmas bookings and advance ticket sales have already been hit following the announcement of the new Omicron variant.

"The Government needs to recognise that, while restrictions are not in place for the hospitality and night-time economy sectors, we are reliving the moments of March 2020 where the Prime Minister asked people not to go to pubs, bars, clubs and theatres.

"It is surreal and extremely frustrating to see healthcare advisers publicly telling people not to socialise, giving unnecessary uncertainty to our customers and workforce."

NHS booster programme will have ‘consequences’ for stretched service

Tuesday 30 November 2021 17:48 , Tom Ambrose

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said accelerating the booster programme would have "consequences" for a service that was already stretched.

"I think we can do it but to do it will have other consequences," he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

"Everybody knows our health service is under unprecedented pressure this winter. When you take a system that is already under enormous pressure and finds it difficult to cope, and you throw something else into it, then I'm afraid that it will have consequences.

"We need to be realistic about what the health service is going to be able to do when it is prioritising these booster programmes."

UK records 159 new Covid deaths and 39,716 new cases on Tuesday

Tuesday 30 November 2021 18:02 , Tom Ambrose

The Government has announced that a further 159 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 144,969.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 169,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The Government said as of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 39,716 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK.

Face masks now exempt for dancing on some forms of public transport

Tuesday 30 November 2021 18:15 , Tom Ambrose

Areas of public transport “used mainly for dancing” have been exempted from new Covid laws mandating face coverings in England.

Legislation that came into force on Tuesday makes it a criminal offence not to wear masks on trains, buses, the London Underground, ferries and aircraft.

But numerous exemptions have been written into the law, such as for eating and drinking, or medical reasons.

It states that face coverings are not legally required “where a person is in an area within a public transport vehicle which is being used wholly or mainly by people dancing”.

The Independent understands that the government intends the clause to cover party buses and boats, which are considered more akin to hospitality venues than public transport.

Face masks now exempt for dancing on some forms of public transport

Over-60s should postpone travel plans in light of new omicron variant, WHO warns

Tuesday 30 November 2021 18:46 , Tom Batchelor

Over-60s and other people at risk of developing severe Covid-19 symptoms should postpone their travel plans in light of the new omicron variant, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

New advice issued today states travellers must “remain vigilant” while scientific research is underway to understand how the variant behaves.

The WHO has also warned that blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of the new omicron variant.

Read the story here.

Ireland to bring in mandatory travel tests

Tuesday 30 November 2021 19:12 , Tom Batchelor

Ireland’s cabinet has agreed that all travellers entering the country from Friday will be required to show a negative result on a professionally administered antigen test 48 hours before arrival or on a PCR test 72 hours before arrival.

It comes as the emergence of the new omicron variant prompts concerns worldwide, while health officials in Ireland warn that coronavirus rates remain too high.

The government confirmed on Tuesday evening that the new rules on travel would take effect from Friday, with anyone who has recently recovered from Covid-19 or is fully vaccinated required to show proof of a certified negative antigen test 48 hours before arrival.

Children aged 11 and under would be exempt from the requirements.

France records highest daily Covid cases since April

Tuesday 30 November 2021 19:23 , Tom Batchelor

France has registered 47,177 new confirmed Covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Tuesday, the highest one-day tally since early April at the height of the third wave of the pandemic.

The latest data pushed the cumulative total of cases in France since the start of the pandemic to 7.67 million and the seven-day moving average of new coronavirus infections to well over 32,000.

During the third wave in the spring, the seven-day average briefly rose above 42,000. On April 8, France recorded nearly 85,000 infections.

Portugal travel test requibments begin tomorrow

Tuesday 30 November 2021 19:40 , Tom Batchelor

All air passengers arriving in Portugal must board their planes with a negative Covid test if they want to enter the country beginning tomorrow, when Portugal enacts its second state of emergency of the year.

The director of Lisbon’s airport, Rui Alves, told reporters that travelers will be given different wristbands depending on where their trip originated to ease their identification during the airport screening process.

The new entry rules were drafted before the first cases of the omicron variant were reported in the country in the last few days.

Those who fail to show a negative test face fines ranging from 300 to 800 euros. Airlines that transport untested passengers could also be fined 20,000 euros per person and, if they persist, could even lose their license.

PCR or antigen test results will be required for those arriving by land from outside of the European Union and from most EU countries considered at high or medium-high risk.

US urges against travel to Poland amid Covid concerns

Tuesday 30 November 2021 19:54 , Tom Batchelor

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urge Americans to avoid travel to Poland, Niger, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad over Covid concerns.

On Saturday, the CDC added seven southern African countries to its 'Level 4: Very High' classification after the White House announced new travel restrictions in response to the new omicron variant.

Greece to make vaccines mandatory for over 60s

Tuesday 30 November 2021 20:01 , Tom Batchelor

Residents in Greece over 60 years old will have to undergo mandatory vaccinations against coronavirus or face monthly 100 euro (£84) fines beginning next year, the country’s prime minister announced.

The Greek government decided upon the country’s first general inoculation mandate in response to a surge in new daily infections and the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The measure will take effect on 16 January and the fines will be added to tax bills, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised statement.

Not all supermarkets to enforce new face masks rules

Tuesday 30 November 2021 20:16 , Tom Batchelor

A number of UK supermarkets will not be enforcing mask wearing in their shops after face covering restrictions were reintroduced in some settings to curb the spread of the new omicron variant of Covid-19 today.

Legislation that came into force on Tuesday makes it a criminal offence not to wear masks in shops and on trains, buses, the London Underground, ferries and aircraft.

According to a report from the BBC, Iceland staff are not being asked to challenge customers who enter their shops without masks to protect them from abuse.

Here is the story:

Not all supermarkets to enforce face masks

Click here to read the full blog on The Independent's website

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