UK Covid news: Boris Johnson announces Plan B - Covid passes and work from home

Boris Johnson lifted the lid on the move to Plan B including Covid passes and work from home guidance.

The Prime Minister delivered a Covid briefing on Wednesday as he announced the Government is implementing Plan B.

The No10 Downing Street conference began just after 6pm on Wednesday.

In the Commons, Sajid Javid has warned Omicron Covid cases could exceed 1 million in a month.

It comes as Allegra Stratton quit as adviser to Mr Johnson after the PM apologised “unreservedly” for leaked footage of aides joking about a lockdown Christmas gathering.

The Prime Minister admitted he is “furious” as he faced a barrage of questions over whether he has told the truth about an alleged Downing Street Christmas party.

Downing Street has insisted “there was no Christmas party” and Covid-19 rules were “followed at all times”.

Mr Johnson has launched an inquiry into claims Downing Street staff broke lockdown rules.

We will be bringing you live updates below.

Read More

Boris Johnson ‘set to trigger Plan B measures as early as tomorrow’ as Omicron cases double every two days

Top Tories turn on Boris Johnson over Downing Street ‘Christmas Party’

Covid: What is the Plan B for winter and how is the Government planning to avoid another lockdown?

Timeline of a Downing Street fiasco — how the No 10 Christmas party scandal unfolded

That is all our coverage for today. Thanks for reading.

22:00 , Robert Dex

Conservative rebel says no evidence for Plan B and he will not vote for it

21:45 , Robert Dex

Conservative MP Ben Bradley said he would not vote for the Government’s Plan B to tackle coronavirus.

He tweeted: “I said I would not vote for vaccine passports, which I believe are ineffective & discriminatory. I also cannot vote for restrictions ‘just in case’ at a time when hospitalisations and deaths are falling.

“I don’t believe the evidence supports Plan B and I will not vote for it.”

David Davis: Party scandal leaves Government with an ‘authority’ problem

21:43 , Robert Dex

Conservative former minister David Davis suggested the Government’s ability to enforce coronavirus restrictions had been weakened by the Christmas party row.

He told ITV’s Peston “most of us think it (the party) did” take place, adding: “How are you going to prosecute people who don’t obey it given the four previous parties?

“All this stuff about the Prime Minister resigning, I don’t think that’s on the cards, I think actually he didn’t deliberately mislead the house, that would be mad. He’s scatterbrain, but he’s not stupid.

“I think the real issue is on the authority of the Government to enforce a, as it were, a new lockdown because people look at this and say why should we? It’s them and us again.”

Covid pass hits technical difficulties as Plan B announced

21:36 , Robert Dex

The NHS Covid Pass is experiencing technical difficulties, NHS Digital has confirmed.

Users reported on social media being unable to download their domestic or travel passes from the NHS England app hours after the Government revealed England would be moving into Plan B.

A statement from NHS Digital said: “We are aware of an issue affecting access to the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS App and website. We are investigating this as a priority and will update as soon as we can.”

Starmer: PM should take ‘his own guidance this time'

20:05 , Robert Dex

In a tweet, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “I welcome stronger measures to protect people from Covid.

“But Boris Johnson’s recent actions have undermined public trust. His contempt for the public won’t be forgotten. Serious times call for serious leadership.

“I hope the Prime Minister takes his own guidance this time.”

Scotland Yard says no investigation into Downing Street party claim

19:56 , Robert Dex

Police are not opening an investigation into allegations Downing Street staff broke coronavirus rules with a Christmas party last year, as Boris Johnson apologised and a senior aide was forced to quit over the scandal.

Scotland Yard said officers will not “commence an investigation at this time” in line with its “policy not to investigate retrospective breaches” of coronavirus rules despite reviewing the allegations and leaked footage showing senior No 10 staff joking about a party.

Business calls for support in face of Plan B

19:54 , Robert Dex

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak faced calls to bolster support for businesses in response to the imposition of fresh coronavirus restrictions.

The Prime Minister announced the move to Plan B, with guidance to work from home and the use of domestic Covid passports for entry to venues, in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The hospitality trade body warned that the impact of the measures could be “catastrophic” without support for the industry.

Union chiefs meanwhile called for the return of a furlough scheme to help office cleaners, hospitality staff and shop workers who will be hit by commuters staying away from their desks.

Under the plans announced by Mr Johnson in a Downing Street press conference, mandatory mask-wearing will be extended to indoor public venues including cinemas, theatres and places of worship from Friday – but will not be required in pubs and restaurants.

Guidance to work from home where possible will return on Monday.

Omicron vaccines may be ready for testing ‘within weeks'

18:55 , Robert Dex

Sajid Javid said manufacturers believe they may have vaccines ready to trial “within weeks” to combat the Omicron variant, adding to MPs: “There will have to be a trial to make sure they are safe and effective.

“But there may be cases where they could be used in emergency situations.”

Omicron vaccines may be ready for testing ‘within weeks'

18:55 , Robert Dex

Sajid Javid said manufacturers believe they may have vaccines ready to trial “within weeks” to combat the Omicron variant, adding to MPs: “There will have to be a trial to make sure they are safe and effective.

“But there may be cases where they could be used in emergency situations.”

Charity boss says Plan B leaves the disabled 'no choice but to gamble with their lives’

18:51 , Robert Dex

Louise Rubin, head of policy and campaigns at disability equality charity Scope, said: “There’s a gaping hole in the government’s plan to ask people to work from home.

“Disabled people are more likely to have jobs that cannot be done from home. Yet disabled people who were previously on the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable list are still being advised to take precautions such as avoiding crowded spaces and unvaccinated people.

“With no furlough scheme or shielding rules in place, many disabled workers will now feel they have been left to fend for themselves.

“The threat posed by the Omicron variant means the Government must urgently provide financial support and clear guidance for disabled people who cannot work from home.

“Without that, disabled people are being given no choice but to gamble with their lives.”

PM: Plan B is not a new lockdown

18:45 , Robert Dex

The Prime Minister said people needed to get their vaccine jabs and booster.

He said: “The best way to ensure we all have a Christmas as close to normal as possible is get on with Plan B.”

He said people should “keep going” with Christmas parties but with “due caution” and that children should stay in school.

He added: “This is not a lockdown”.

Asked if people might need a fourth jab next year, Professor Whitty said it was “too early to speculate” about that.

Chief medical advisor warns it is “absolutely critical” the chains of transmission are broken

18:40 , Robert Dex

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor for the UK Health Security Agency, said in a statement: “It is increasingly evident that Omicron is highly infectious and there is emerging laboratory and early clinical evidence to suggest that both vaccine-acquired and naturally acquired immunity against infection is reduced for this variant.

“It is therefore absolutely critical that we all do everything that we can to help break the chains of transmission and slow the spread of this new variant.

“Vaccination is critical to help us bolster our defences against becoming severely ill from this new variant – please get your first, second, third or booster jab without delay.

“Please also make sure to follow all Government guidance to reduce the spread of infection.

“It remains vital that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms isolates and gets a PCR test immediately.”

Professor Whitty - new variant is ‘a setback’ but does not send the country ‘back to square one’

18:38 , Robert Dex

Mr Johnson said there was “a strong possibility” that the combination of two jabs and a booster would be able to hold “Omicron in equilibrium” and the country would be able to “move forward”.

Professor Whitty said: “This is a setback but were not back to square one”.

Nightlife boss says Plan B decision “is devastating news” for the sector

18:35 , Robert Dex

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, criticised the decision to make the NHS Covid pass mandatory in England for nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather.

He said: “Today’s announcement of Plan B by the Government is devastating news for nightlife sector.

“Vaccine Passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we have seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented like Scotland – where trade is down 30% – and Wales, where it down 26%.

“The UK Government have twice ruled out Vaccine Passports before twice changing their mind. The mixed public health messages this week that have been coming out of the Government have arrived at the worst possible time – the pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector. And now it is announced damaging Vaccine Passports are to be implemented.

“Far from ‘saving’ Christmas, the Prime Minister has given our sector the horrible present of more pain for businesses desperately trying to recoup losses from earlier in the pandemic. The fact that businesses have only been given one week to make such an enormous change to their operating model is an additional insult.”

Covid-19 to become more like flu as time goes on, says scientific advisor

18:34 , Robert Dex

Sir Patrick Vallance said the virus had “mutated a lot” but that the booster vaccine is “definitely having some effect against it”.

He said: “You would expect this to become a virus that has peaks every years just like flu does but it won’t be having endless new variants .”

He said eventually the vaccine would change to combat the new variants.

Labour to support restrictions

18:30 , Robert Dex

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting confirmed Labour’s support for the new restrictions “in the national interest”, telling the Commons: “Let me reassure the Secretary of State that he doesn’t need to compromise with the interests behind him – he has the votes he needs to do what’s right by the public and that’s all the reassurance the country needs.”

Health Secretary heckled by fellow Tory MPs as he confirms Plan B

18:28 , Robert Dex

Sajid Javid was heckled by Tory colleagues as he updated MPs about the new restrictions, with William Wragg (Hazel Grove) heard shouting “resign” when he confirmed the introduction of Covid certification based on vaccines or tests in nightclubs and large events.

As Mr Javid said the measures were not something ministers wanted to take, shouts of “rubbish” and “what a load of old tripe” could be heard in the chamber.

When Mr Javid announced an extension of the legal requirement for face coverings, Labour MPs pointed at some Tory MPs who were not wearing them in the chamber.

Work from home advice is ‘a hammer blow’ for retail says West End boss

18:27 , Robert Dex

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company which represents 600 brands, restaurants and businesses in London’s West End, said: “While our top priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our customers and colleagues, and we fully support mandatory mask wearing in shops, the renewed ‘work from home’ order during the most important trading period of the year is a hammer blow for our retail and leisure tenants.

“Many businesses have committed time and money in their Christmas plans in a bid to make up for last year’s losses – vital investment that they won’t be able to recoup.”

PM: The public will take medical advice ‘to heart’ despite lockdown party claims

18:26 , Robert Dex

Asked how he could tighten the rules after the scandal over the alleged Christmas party in last year’s lockdown, the Prime Minister said the “fundamental point” was the public could see the “vital importance” of taking the medical advice “to heart”.

He said: “That point has been proved time and time again and that has never been more conspicuous in how they have dealt with the vaccination programme.”

Omicron cases to exceed 1 million by end of December says Javid

18:23 , Robert Dex

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Omicron cases could exceed 1 million by the end of this month on the current trajectory.

He said: “Although there are only 568 confirmed Omicron cases in the UK we know that the actual number of infections will be significantly higher.

“The UK health security agency estimates that the number of infections are approximately 20 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, and so the current number of infections is probably closer to 10,000.

“UKHSA also estimate that at the current observed doubling rate of between two and a half and three days, by the end of this month, infections could exceed 1 million.”

Prime Minister: I don’t want to see compulsory vaccination

18:22 , Robert Dex

Mr Johnson said he did not want to see people forced to be vaccinated and would rather rely on the “volunteerism” of the public.

But he said there would come a point where the country needed “a national conversation” about how to protect the unvaccinated.

Professor Whitty said Omicron seen most in younger people

18:19 , Robert Dex

Professor Whitty said cases were mostly being seen in younger people so he did not expect to see cases immediately reflected in hospital admissions.

Health Secretary - Omicron is ‘significantly more transmissible’ than Delta variant

18:18 , Robert Dex

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons: “We’re confident that Omicron is significantly more transmissible than Delta.”

Speaking in the Commons he said: “There is still a lot to learn, but some important data has emerged recently.”

He added: “It is far more transmissible than the Delta variant.”

Health Secretary estimates around 10,000 Omicron cases in the UK

18:16 , Robert Dex

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs there are 568 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant but the estimated current number is “probably closer to 10,000”.

PM announces Plan B for England

18:15 , Robert Dex

The Prime Minister announced England was moving to Plan B in a bid to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.

Speaking at a press conference with medical advisors Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, he said guidance to work from home would be reintroduced from Monday and masks would be worn in more venues including theatres and cinemas.

He also said the NHS Covid pass is to be made mandatory in England in a week’s time for nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather.

Irish government is planning to offer Covid-19 vaccinations to children aged five to 11

17:42 , Robert Dex

The Irish government is planning to offer Covid-19 vaccinations to children aged five to 11.

On Wednesday, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) recommended to the Government jabs should be offered to around 480,000 primary school children.

The state’s vaccine advisory body signed off on their use, with the rollout expected to take place from next month.

The dose for this age group will be lower than those given to adults.

PM to hold Coronavirus press conference

17:16 , Robert Dex

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a coronavirus press conference at 6pm, a No 10 spokeswoman has said.

He will address the public on coronavirus as ministers consider imposing new restrictions in response to rising cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.

The Cabinet’s Covid-19 operations (Covid-O) committee had been expected to meet to consider the next steps amid widespread suggestions that the further measures would be announced as Downing Street faced intense pressure over an allegedly rule-breaking Christmas party in No 10 last year.

Another 51,342 positive Covid cases in 24 hours but deaths continue to fall

16:07 , Robert Dex

Another 51,342 people have tested positive for Covid in the last 24 hours according to government figures.

That brings the total for the last seven days up to 339,861 cases - an increase of 11% week on week.

The official figures also reveal the death toll for the last 24 hours to be 161 making a total of 847 deaths overs the last seven days which is down 0.8% on the previous seven days.

Allegra Stratton resigns as an adviser to Boris Johnson and offers 'profound apologies’

15:56 , Robert Dex

Allegra Stratton has resigned as an adviser to Boris Johnson and offered her “profound apologies” in an emotional statement after footage emerged of her joking about a Downing Street Christmas party.

In a tearful statement outside her home, she said: “The British people have made immense sacrifices...I now fear my comments have become a distraction in that fight.

“My remarks seemed to make light of the rules. That was never my intention.”

Man whose father died alone after being admitted to hospital on the day of the alleged party says he is ‘crushed’ by revelations

15:34 , Robert Dex

A man whose father died alone in hospital after being admitted on the day of the alleged Christmas party at Downing Street has said the week’s revelations have left him “crushed”.

Rob Kelleher said his father Bob, 88, was admitted to hospital on December 18 last year and subsequently died on January 10, without seeing a member of his family in person again.

Mr Kelleher said his 85-year-old mother Maureen and the rest of his family are reliving it all over again because of the news about activities in 10 Downing Street on the day his father was admitted.

The 65-year-old told the PA news agency: “It was the date that triggered all of this because in our mind that is the very last day anybody’s seen my dad.

“My mam is sitting at home not watching the telly or even having the radio on because she just can’t deal with this.”

PM must resign if he misled Parliament - Scottish Conservatives leader

15:03 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson must resign if he mislead Parliament over the alleged No 10 Christmas party, the Scottish Conservatives leader has said.

Douglas Ross said he was “angry, annoyed and really disappointed” after seeing the leaked footage of Downing Street aides joking about a “fictional” Christmas party.

He said there had clearly been a party of some sort, which would have been against Covid rules.

Mr Ross added that he still had confidence in the Prime Minister to lead the country, but thought it would be “completely unacceptable” for him to continue in his role if it was revealed he had misled Parliament on the issue.

He continued: “If the Prime Minister knew about this party last December, knew about this party last week, and was still denying it, then that is the most serious allegation.

“There is absolutely no way you can mislead parliament and think you could get off with that.”

Senior civil service says she attended Department for Education party

14:48 , Elly Blake

The most senior civil servant at the Department for Education has admitted she attended a Whitehall party during lockdown instigated by the former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Answering questions from the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Susan Acland-Hood said the event on December 10 last year would form part of the inquiry launched into a gathering in Number 10 during the same month.

Ms Acland-Hood said: “While this was a work-related gathering, looking back we accept that it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.”

She then confirmed the gathering was instigated by Mr Williamson and said any Department for Education staff, including herself, who were found to have broken the rules would face disciplinary action.

Ms Acland-Hood added that the gathering in the department’s canteen was attended about two dozen people who had worked together during lockdown.

No 10 spokesman: Cabinet Office held a ‘virtual quiz’ last year

14:10 , Elly Blake

No 10 was asked if the Government was confident that no other departments had held parties.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I think we are confident that civil servants followed the rules as set out.”

Asked about BBC reports of a quiz event that allegedly took place in the Cabinet Office for No 10 aides at a similar time to the reported party last year, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said this was virtual.

The BBC reported that while some in attendance said there was an option to take part virtually, others had suggested there were groups in the room.

The PM’s press secretary said: “That was a virtual quiz.”

Downing St will not confirm whether those who appeared in mock press conference will face action

13:57 , Daniel Keane

Downing Street would not confirm whether the people who appeared in the video of the mock press conference would face disciplinary action.

Asked whether those filmed would face sanctions, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said the Cabinet Secretary would “establish the facts”.

But when it was put to her that the facts of the video were clear, she added those carrying out the investigation would be “able to speak to any staff and access any information they need”.

Tory MP says it’s ‘worrying’ that PM doesn’t know what’s happening in Downing St

13:47 , Daniel Keane

A Tory backbencher has said it is “worrying” that the Prime Minister “doesn’t appear to know” what is happening in Downing Street.

Sir Roger Gale, who is MP for North Thanet in Kent, told the BBC: “It’s worrying, isn’t it, that the man at the top of the tree doesn’t appear to know what’s going on in his own building two floors below him - I find that of concern.

“I don’t find it particularly attractive that the PM doesn’t know what’s going on in No10 Downing Street, or doesn’t ask the right questions of his senior staff to find out what’s going on.”

No further comment from No10 on 'flat party’

13:33 , Daniel Keane

No 10 repeatedly refused to issue a denial that a party took place in Downing Street, despite having done so in the past.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary, asked whether she would repeat the statement that “there was no party” in December 2020, told reporters: “You have our previous statement on this.

“Now, the Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Secretary to establish the facts.

“While that process is ongoing, it wouldn’t be right to comment further.”

“Told that her response made it sound as if Downing Street was not standing by the earlier statement, she replied: “That’s not correct.”

Man whose father died alone in hospital ‘crushed’ by Downing St party revelations

13:28 , Daniel Keane

A man whose father died alone after being admitted to hospital on the day of the alleged Downing Stret Christmas party has admitted he has been left “crushed” by the revelations.

Rob Kelleher said his father, 88-year-old Sidney Robert Keller, was taken into hospital on December 18 and died on January 10, without seeing a member of his family again in person.

“It was the date (of the alleged party) that triggered all of this because in our mind that is the very last day anybody’s seen my dad,” Mr Kelleher, 65, told the PA news agency.

“My mam is sitting at home not watching the telly or even having the radio on because she just can’t deal with this.”

He said the stories of the alleged party at Downing Street had left him “crushed” and added: “I just feel so lost and angry.”

15-minute wait after jabs ‘under review’, says PM

13:18 , Daniel Keane

Boris Johnson said the 15-minute wait so people can be observed after their Pfizer booster jabs is under review.

Conservative MP Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) told the Commons: “Speaking to clinical colleagues, one of the biggest hinderances is the 15 minutes people have to wait post-Pfizer.

“If we could reduce that or take that away it could release thousands of hours of clinicians’ time.

“So will the Prime Minister ask the MHRA and the JCVI to look to see if it is safe to do so, particularly for those people receiving their third Pfizer booster?”

Mr Johnson replied: “He makes a very good point and I can tell him that we’re in the process of reviewing the 15-minute waiting requirement for both booster doses, and we continue to be guided by the JCVI and MHRA.”

Third dose of Pfizer jab can neutralise Omicron

13:11 , Daniel Keane

A third dose of the Pfizer Covid jab can neutralise the Omicron variant, the vaccine manufacturer has said.

In their first statement on the efficacy of the jab against the new strain, Pfizer said that the third dose increased neutralising antibodies by a factor of 25.

However, a two-dose regimen was forty per cent less effective against the variant, the firm said.

It comes amid reports that ministers will give the green light for Plan B, which will involve working from home and vaccine passports.

“Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Pfizer boss Albert Bourla said.

Questions asked about potential news briefing this afternoon

12:53 , Elly Blake

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting asked the Speaker whether he has been notified that there will be a statement in the Commons on coronavirus restrictions this afternoon.

It comes after speculation that a news briefing could take place later on Wednesday, amid speculation England could move to Plan B.

In response, the Speaker Lindsay Hoyle warned the Government not to hold a news briefing on any new restrictions before the Commons is informed.

“Let us not take this House for granted,” he said.

Sir Lindsay said he will look at whether it would be feasibly possible to allow an urgent question to compel the government to come to the House of Commons and explain the reported changes on Covid rules.

Omicron is spreading much faster, go and get your booster jab - PM

12:50 , Elly Blake

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to get their booster jab as soon as they are eligible.

He told MPs that the “Omicron variant is spreading much faster, that is what we need with great respect to focus on.”

He added: “Go get your booster jab as soon as you are called forward.”

It comes amid widespread speculation that Plan B coronavirus measures, including work from home orders and the reintroduction of vaccines passports, could be introduced as early as next week.

Shadow minister questions how PM sleeps at night

12:42 , Elly Blake

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, shadow health minister and frontline NHS worker, has said the alleged Downing Street Christmas party is “an insult to everybody who wasn’t allowed to say goodbye”.

“My question is very simple - how does the prime minister sleep at night?”

Boris Johnson said he shares and understands the frustration.

PM: No decisions about Plan B will be taken ‘without consulting Cabinet'

12:40 , Elly Blake

The Prime Minister was asked by senior Conservative MP William Wragg about the widespread speculation that Plan B coronavirus measures could be introduced as early as this week.

He told Boris Johnson that “few will be fooled by this diversionary tactic”.

The Prime Minister did not deny Plan B measures were being considered, and responded: “No decisions will be taken without consulting the Cabinet”.

Boris Johnson asked about Cummings’ 'flat party’ claim

12:33 , Elly Blake

Labour MP Catherine West has asked the Prime Minister “to tell the House whether there was a party at No 10 on November 13”.

It comes after the PM’s former senior aide Dominic Cummings posted a tweet during PMQs alleging a “flat party” occurred at Number 10 on this date.

Boris Johnson insisted “no” an event did not occur on 13 November.

But he then added that “whatever happened, I’m sure the rules were followed”.

Dominic Cummings has tweeted during PMQs

12:27 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson’s ex-special adviser Dominic Cummings has tweeted during PMQs.

He said: “Will the CABSEC also be asked to investigate the *flat* party on Fri 13 Nov, the other flat parties, & the flat’s ‘bubble’ policy...?”

SNP’s Ian Blackford calls for PM’s resignation

12:21 , Elly Blake

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford has called for Boris Johnson's resignation.

He told the Commons: "We are standing on the cliff edge of yet another difficult moment in this pandemic. Tough decisions will have to be made to save lives."

"Trust in leadership is a matter of life and death.”

He continued: "Downing Street willfully broke the rules and mocked the sacrifices we have all made.

"The Prime Minister is responsible for losing the trust of the people. He can no longer lead on the most pressing issue facing these Islands.

He called on Boris Johnson to resign, saying "when can we expect it?"

Mr Johnson responded by accusing the opposition parties of "playing politics” and said: "I am going to get on with the job."

Starmer: Even ‘Ant and Dec are ahead of the PM on this!'

12:16 , Elly Blake

Sir Keir Starmer has criticised the Prime Minister over when he found about the leaked footage showing his aides laughing about an alleged Christmas Party.

The Labour leader said: “Ant and Dec are ahead of the PM on this”.

The Prime Minister told MPs that “people should not lose focus on what we are trying to do now” and discusses the importance of the vaccination rollout.

He said the new Omicron variant “is spreading much faster than we have seen before”.

Sir Keir Starmer questions when the PM found out about clip

12:11 , Elly Blake

Keir Starmer has questioned whether Mr Johnson knew about the alleged party ahead of last night when footage was leaked.

“It is obvious what happened,” the Labour leader said.

“Why not end the investigation right now by just admitting it?”

He continued: "I thought last week was bad enough.

Surely, the Prime Minister isn't now going to start pretending the first he knew about this was last night."

Boris Johnson apologises ‘unreservedly’ for leaked clip

12:07 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson has started PMQs with a statement saying that he understands the “widespread anger” from the public after a clip emerged of Downing Street aides joking about a “fictional” Christmas party.

He told MPs: "I was also furious to see that clip"

Mr Johnson continued: "I apologise unreservedly for the offence it has caused up and down the country and the impression that is gives.

“I have been repeatedly assured since the allegations emerged that there was no party.”

He said he has asked the Cabinet Secretary to “establish all the facts and report back as soon as possible.”

The Prime Minister said there would be disciplinary action for those involved if any rules had been broken.

PMQs has started

12:02 , Elly Blake

Prime Ministers Questions is beginning as Boris Johnson faces a grilling from MPs over an alleged Christmas party and widespread speculation that Plan B measures could be introduced as early as this week...

We will bring you full updates here.

Breaking: Boris Johnson left for Parliament

11:47 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson has been since for the first time since the leaked video showing Downing Street aides laughing about a “fictional” Christmas party.

The Prime Minister was seen leaving No 10 to make the short journey across Whitehall to the House of Commons, where he is set to face a grilling from MPs during Prime Ministers’ Questions.

Boris Johnson leaving for PMQs (AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson leaving for PMQs (AFP via Getty Images)

It is due to start at 12pm, with full coverage here.

Downing Street press conference could take place today

11:22 , Elly Blake

A Downing Street news conference announcing Plan B could take place later on Wednesday, according to BBC Newsnight’s Policy Editor.

It comes amid widespread speculation that further coronavirus measures could be introduced.

PM ‘minded to move to Plan B as early as this week’ - senior Government sources tell Sky News

11:15 , Elly Blake

Senior government sources revealed Prime Minister Boris Johnson is minded to move to Plan B as early as this week, Sky News reports.

This would see the introduction of COVID vaccine passports and a return to the work from home order for millions of people.

Read more about what ‘Plan B’ means here.

‘No decisions have been made’ over move to Plan B - Downing Street sources

10:55 , Elly Blake

Downing Street sources said “no decisions have been made” over the possible imposition of fresh restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Reports have suggested Plan B measures – including advice to work from home and the possible introduction of vaccine passports – may be introduced in response to rising cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.

Breaking: Government set to announce Plan B, according to the FT

10:53 , Elly Blake

The Government is set to announce a move to Plan B, reports the FT Whitehall Editor.

Three senior Whitehall officials say further Covid restrictions will be announced imminently - including vaccine passports and working from home, said Sebastian Payne.

Ministers expected sign off proposals at Covid-O meeting.

Daughter of 86-year-old woman who died on December 18 last year says leaked video ‘totally reprehensible’

10:13 , Elly Blake

The daughter of an elderly woman who died on December 18 last year after contracting Covid-19 has said she was “absolutely appalled” when she saw the leaked video showing Downing Street aides joking about a “fictional” Christmas party.

Jackie Green’s 86-year-old mother Beryl Harris died alone in hospital after catching coronavirus.

After seeing the footage in which Downing Street aides laugh about a “business meeting” and “cheese and wine” event, Ms Green said: “I couldn’t quite comprehend what I was watching, I had to watch it several times to sink in.

“I was absolutely appalled that members of the Government could laugh and joke about a party when people were losing their loved ones.

“Even if they haven’t lost loved ones, they could get severely affected by Covid.

“To put it mildly, it was inappropriate. It was totally reprehensible behaviour.”

Ms Green, from south-east London, said because her mother had been shielding they had not seen each other since February 2020.

The 86-year-old was admitted to hospital with anaemia where she caught Covid, Ms Green said, but was due to be released on December 17 after her condition improved.

However, she quickly deteriorated and died the next day.

Ms Green said she resisted the temptation to break the rules and travel to Warwickshire to see her mother.

She said: “I felt it was very important to abide by those rules. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t.

“For me, it would have been an extremely valid reason to break the rules, whereas, obviously, a party is not even in the same area as your parent dying.

“But I did choose to follow the rules and at the time I thought it was the right thing to do.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid arrives at No10

09:34 , Elly Blake

The Health Secretary has been seen entering No 10 after pulling out of the media rounds on Wednesday morning.

Sajid Javid arrives at No 10 (REUTERS)
Sajid Javid arrives at No 10 (REUTERS)

The stony-faced Sajid Javid did not stop to answer questions as to why he did not appear on the BBC, Sky News, Times Radio, and other media outlets to answer questions.

It comes after fresh allegations over a No 10 Christmas party emerged.

Broadcasters empty chair the Government as minister pulls out of media rounds

09:30 , Elly Blake

Broadcasters have ‘empty chaired’ the Government after no minister appeared for this morning’s media rounds after a leaked video showed Downing Street aides joking about a “fictional” party emerged on Tuesday evening.

 (BBC Breakfast / Twitter)
(BBC Breakfast / Twitter)
 (Good Morning Britain / Twitter)
(Good Morning Britain / Twitter)

The Government did not send a representative for broadcast interviews.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid was due to appear BBC Breakfast, Sky News, Good Morning Britain and other outlets to urge people to get their booster jabs and mark the first anniversary since the first Covid-19 jab was administered in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to appear at Prime Minsters’ Questions at 12pm on Wednesday.

Senior Tory MP says aides in leaked footage ‘should apologise'

09:14 , Elly Blake

A senior Tory MP has called for Government aides to apologise after a video emerged of them joking about a “fictional” Downing Street party in December last year.

Robert Halfon, who is chairman of the Commons Education Committee, said: “I certainly think that those who were doing the video should apologise for the insensitivity of it when people were suffering and struggling all through that time.”

But he stopped short of calling for Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself to apologise.

Mr Halfon also said the fact that the Department for Education held a social gathering of staff last December was “pretty grim”.

“I feel seriously upset about what went on in the Department for Education in my own area,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“They have admitted that there was a party. I think that’s pretty grim given that children were being sent home, schools were being shut down.

“And I think that the new Secretary of State, who cares deeply about these issues, should call those in and hold whoever was responsible… hold them accountable.”

Baroness Warsi comments on ‘Christmas party’ controversy

09:11 , Elly Blake

A Conservative Peer has called for anyone who may have attended the alleged No 10 Christmas party to be held accountable.

Baroness Warsi said that “every minister, parliamentarian and staff at the #downingstreetparty must resign NOW.

“No ifs no buts.”

She continued: “The rule of law is a fundamental value , the glue that hold us together as a nation. Once that is trashed by those in power the very essence of our democracy is at stake.”

Sajid Javid urges people to get booster jabs despite snubbing morning media rounds

08:57 , Elly Blake

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has just tweeted “booster news” after the booking system for over-40s to get their third dose opened on Wednesday.

He said: “From today millions more people can pre-book their booster jab so they can #GetBoosted 3 months after their 2nd dose.

“If you’re 40+ and it’s been at least 2 months since your second dose you can go online and book your appointment today.”

Mr Javid pulled out of a number of broadcast interviews this morning following fresh allegations that Downing Street had a Christmas party on December 18 last year, when social mixing was banned in the capital.

Downing Street ‘one of the most CCTVed places in world’ - former Met Police boss

08:50 , Elly Blake

Dal Babu, a former chief superintendent in the Metropolitan Police, has said that a police investigation into whether a lockdown breach occurred would be likely to have access to a wealth of evidence.

Downing Street is “one of the most CCTVed places in the world”, he told BBC Breakfast.

“There would have been lots of police officers booking people in and out so the evidence would be irrefutable of people being in and around and there would be CCTV footage with sound to see what people were doing,” he added.

Some police officers may decide to whistleblow and come forward to say what they saw, Babu said.

He also said the suggestion that police do not investigate issues such as this retrospectively is something he had never heard before in 30 years of police.

“There’s more and more evidence emerging that a party took place,” he said, adding that the video is “the kind of thing you do in big organisations when you anticipate difficult questions might come up”.

First person to get Covid jab urges everyone to get vaccinated

08:42 , Elly Blake

Margaret Keenan, who a year ago became the first person to have a Covid-19 jab, has urged people to get a vaccination.

Margaret Keenan was the first person in the UK to receive the Covid-19 vaccine (PA Wire)
Margaret Keenan was the first person in the UK to receive the Covid-19 vaccine (PA Wire)

The 91-year-old said: “The best Christmas present I could have is being in good health and having had the jab and feeling free from this horrible virus.”

The grandmother, who has also had her booster and flu jabs, described being a global name as “wonderful”.

Ms Keenan was received the first approved vaccination in at University Hospital in Coventry on 8 December, 2020.

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock also marked the anniversary of the first Covid-19 vaccine in England.

He said: “ One year ago today, Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to be vaccinated for Covid-19 with a clinically-authorised vaccine.

“Over 120 million doses later & 100,000 lives saved here in the UK, I want to thank everyone involved in this mammoth achievement.

We’ve made so much progress in our fight against this pandemic, but we’re not there yet.

“With vaccines, mass-testing & antivirals, we have more tools in our armoury to fight Covid this winter.

“So I urge everyone to #getboosted & #gettested to protect themselves & others”.

Attorney General has been seen arriving at No 10

08:34 , Elly Blake

The Attorney General, who is responsible for providing legal advice to the Government, has been seen arriving at Downing Street.

Lockdowns to deal with Omicron cannot be ruled out – Neil Ferguson

08:29 , Elly Blake

Introducing a UK-wide lockdown to deal with the threat of the Omicron variant cannot be ruled out, Professor Neil Ferguson has said.

Professor Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London and a member of Sage, whose data was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, said the variant was concerning but it was still unclear what its impact will be on severe disease.

He suggested people may be told to work from home in the near future as Omicron is spreading fast, with the variant set to take over from the Delta strain before Christmas.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Certainly case numbers of Omicron are doubling at least every three days, maybe even every two days at the moment.

“So it’s accelerating very fast and put that in context, it’s the same if not faster than we saw with the original strain of the virus in March of last year. So it is a concern.

“It’s likely to overtake Delta before Christmas at this rate, precisely when is hard to say.”

Read the full article here.

Boris Johnson to face MPs’ questions later

08:18 , Elly Blake

Boris Johnson will appear at Prime Minister’s Questions at 12.00pm on Wednesday, during which he is expected to face a grilling over the alleged gathering.

Join us live from 11.30am for full coverage.

‘I wasn’t invited’ says former Health Secretary Matt Hancock about alleged No 10 Christmas party

08:02 , Elly Blake

Matt Hancock has said “I wasn’t invited” to the alleged Downing Street Christmas party.

The former Health Secretary told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that he had no knowledge of what may or may not have happened at the event, said to have taken place on December 18 last year.

Downing Street has categorically denied any event took place last year, when social mixing was banned in the capital.

“I don’t know anything about the party,” he said.

“I’ve read the papers. But I don’t know anything else about it. I wasn’t invited. I wasn’t there.”

On whether he had messaged anyone in Downing Street about the allegations, Mr Hancock said: “No, because I only found out about it late last night and then I got up pretty early this morning.”

He added: “What I know is that the Prime Minister said that no rules were broken. And nobody’s suggesting that he was at this party.”

07:57 , Elly Blake

David Lammy: No 10 needs to ‘come clean’ to British public about alleged Christmas party

07:56 , Elly Blake

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has called on the Prime Minister to “come clean” with the British public about an alleged Christmas party in No 10, which would, if it did take place, may have broken Covid rules.

Mr Lammy made the comments after footage was obtained by ITV News showing the Prime Minister’s then-press secretary Allegra Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, joking about a “fictional” Downing Street party in December 2020.

He said: “He’s got to come clean with the British public.

“It really is quite unacceptable that this is seen as something that is sort of humorous, or something that isn’t serious, or something that suggests that there can be one rule for a prime minister and those in No 10 and another rule for the British public.”

Allegations of Christmas party ‘blow to morale’ while hospitlisations increasing - NHS Confederation

07:54 , Elly Blake

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS trusts, has said the news of the Downing Street Christmas party was a “blow to morale” among those working in the NHS.

He said: “In any difficult situation we all need to feel that we’re pulling together, that we’re a part of an effort and if it feels as though people have not been playing by the rules, if it feels as though powerful people are not playing by the rules, then there is a blow to morale, it does make it harder to get people to follow the advice.

“So no, it really isn’t what we need at the moment.”

He also told BBC Radio 4 that there are signs hospital admissions for Covid-19 were increasing, saying: “The overwhelming majority of NHS leaders say that the situation is extremely difficult.

“I think we’re facing the hardest winter the NHS has ever had to face, and the care system as well.

Another minister pulls out of interviews following leaked footage of aides appearing to joke about Christmas party

07:47 , Elly Blake

As well as Health Secretary Sajid Javid pulling out of national interviews in the wake of the Downing Street party video, vaccines minister Maggie Throup is understood to have pulled out of a planned round of regional television interviews.

Alleged No 10 Christmas party ‘bullet to the chest’ for bereaved families

07:36 , Elly Blake

Fresh allegations of a Downing Street Christmas party have been described as a “bullet to the chest” of families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.

Dr Saleyha Ahsan, from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said the leaked footage showing aides appearing to joke about a festive gathering was “an example of how the Government have run this from the start: One rule for them and the rest of us have to adhere to different rules.”

Dr Ahsan, who said she had been working in north Wales at the time of the mock press conference, said: “Numerous people around the country couldn’t spend those precious last few days, hours, minutes with loved ones. It was heartbreaking. In 14 years in the NHS I’ve never seen anything like it.

“And this latest revelation is just a bullet to the chest, it really is.

“It just demonstrates the lack of regard for the rest of us.”

Dr Ahsan said the saga showed why an independent inquiry into the handling of the pandemic was needed “now”.

Government minister pulls out of morning media rounds

07:30 , Elly Blake

The Health Secretary has pulled out of a number of broadcast interviews following fresh allegations of a Downing Street Christmas party during lockdown restrictions last year.

A leaked video shows Government aides joking about a festive gathering last year.

In footage obtained by ITV News and released on Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s then-press secretary Allegra Stratton and adviser Ed Oldfield, along with other aides, were filmed laughing about a “fictional” Downing Street party in December 2020.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme said Sajid Javid was scheduled to feature on Wednesday morning, but cancelled after the footage emerged.

Presenter Nick Robinson said: “We were expecting to speak to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid this morning but we were told just a few minutes after that video emerged that no minister would be available to speak on the programme today.”

He was also due to appear on BBC Breakfast, Sky News and Times Radio, but pulled out.

It is understood that media access to ministers at events taking place around the country for the first anniversary of the Pfizer vaccine being administered have also been cancelled.