UK Covid news LIVE: ‘Enjoy New Year’s Eve but be cautious’ says minister as doctors warn NHS could be ‘overwhelmed’

·18-min read
UK Covid news LIVE: ‘Enjoy New Year’s Eve but be cautious’ says minister as doctors warn NHS could be ‘overwhelmed’

People can enjoy themselves but be cautious when celebrating New Year, care minister Gillian Keegan has said.

She advised taking a lateral flow test before going out, and socialising in well-ventilated areas - mimicking the advice of Health Secretary Sajid Javid to consider socialising outdoors on New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, environment Secretary George Eustice said the Government is keeping the level of Covid hospital admissions under “very close review” after ministers decided there would be no new restrictions in England before the new year.

His comments came as medical groups voiced concern that hospitals could be overwhelmed with Covid patients.

The Doctors’ Association UK warned if the current situation is left to continue, there could be “severe consequences for both patients and NHS staff”

Hugh Jackman tests positive for Covid

21:15 , Daniel Keane

Hugh Jackman has said he is suffering “mild symptoms” after testing positive for Covid-19.

The Greatest Showman star, 53, has said he is “looking forward” to getting back on stage after his Broadway show, The Music Man, was cancelled until the new year.

It was reported that his co-star Sutton Foster tested positive days earlier on Christmas Eve, forcing the show to postpone performances.

In a 30-second video posted on Instagram, Jackman, wearing a black face mask, said: “I tested positive this morning for Covid, my symptoms are like a cold, scratchy throat and a bit of a runny nose, but I’m fine.”

Good morning

08:30 , Michael Howie

Good morning and welcome to today’s live blog. We’ll keep you updated on all the main developments through the day.

Hospitality bosses hail no new pre-NY curbs ‘lifeline’

08:35 , Michael Howie

Hospitality bosses have warmly welcomed the green light given to New Year’s parties after ministers confirmed no further Covid restrictions will be imposed in England before 2022.

Read our wrap on Monday’s announcement from Sajid Javid and reaction to it here.

Public ‘pretty responsible’ in its response to Omicron - Prof Sir John Bell

08:37 , Michael Howie

Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, has backed the Government's decision not to impose new Covid restrictions in England before the new year.

Sir John said the public had been "pretty responsible" in its response to the spread of the Omicron variant.

"The health minister has taken advice and looked at the data. I think his judgment where we should go in the next few days is probably fine," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"There are a lot of people who are aware that we are in the face of this large wave of disease. The behaviour of people in the UK, in England in particular, has been pretty responsible in terms of trying not to go out and spending a lot of time exposing yourself to the virus.

"You look at the people on the streets, the roads are quiet, all that stuff. I think that's likely to continue for the next week as we see how this thing evolves."

Sir John said since the rollout of the vaccination programme there had been no increase the incidence of severe illness and death from the disease.

"The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago - intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely - that is now history in my view and I think we should reassured that that's likely to continue," he said.

But another expert says ‘a few measures’ are needed...

08:38 , Michael Howie

University of Brighton virologist Dr Sarah Pitt has called for "a few measures" to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The microbiology lecturer said the "seriously infectious virus" is "putting some people very seriously in hospital, and some people are dying".

She told LBC Radio: "I know personally more people who've been off sick with Covid in the last month than the whole of the pandemic put together.

"So although there is a balance between the economy and health, they're not mutually exclusive - it's not one or the other.

"We've actually got to take the virus seriously, and I'm not talking about full lockdowns, I'm just talking about a few measures for some things to just try and stop the spread of this really horrible, nasty virus, just at this moment."

More from the Doctors’ Association UK

08:48 , Michael Howie

In a statement carried on Sky News, the Doctors’ Association UK spoke of fears among staff that the NHS would be “overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients requiring critical care beds, along with the rising rates of staff sickness”.

It added: “Despite the vaccine roll-out booster programme, DAUK believe that current restrictions are not sufficient and are very concerned that if the current situation is simply left to continue, there could be severe consequences for both patients and NHS staff.”

NHS: staff absences could pose a bigger challenge to the health service than Covid

09:58 , Barney Davis

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said staff absences could pose a bigger challenge to the health service than patients needing treatment for Covid.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We’re now seeing a significant increase in the level of staff absences, and quite a few of our chief executives are saying that they think that that’s probably going to be a bigger problem and a bigger challenge for them than necessarily the number of people coming in who need treatment because of Covid.

“So what we’re seeing is in some hospitals, we’re now having to redeploy staff to fill the gaps that are being left in critical and essential services by staff who are off with Covid-related absences.”

Thousands clash with German police after NYE cancelled

10:02 , Barney Davis

Thousands of people demonstrated after Germany imposed restrictions on private gatherings and barred spectators from public events ahead of New Year celebrations.

The German parliament also approved a vaccine mandate for medical staff earlier this month.

In recent weeks, demonstrations against COVID measures have flared up across Germany — and often turned violent, with police officers injured and protesters arrested.

Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dresden (REUTERS)
Police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dresden (REUTERS)

Nicola Sturgeon barred from Scottish pub chain

10:13 , Barney Davis

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and leader of the Welsh Labour Party Mark Drakeford have been blacklisted by William Lees-Jones, whose company runs JW Lees venues. in North West England and Wales, after they targetted nightclub venues in an effort to curb the spread of Omicron.

William Lees-Jones tweeted: “The @JWLeesBrewery Christmas gift to the UK this year is that we’re barring the following from all of our pubs - @NicolaSturgeon @MarkDrakeford @SusanMichie @Zubhaque @Peston @neil_ferguson.”

The joke tweet was accompanied by a gif of a man being forcibly thrown from a pub and rolling into the gutter sending a pretty clear message that restrictions are not welcome by the industry.

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston and infectious disease expert Neil Ferguson also landed on the list.

Nicola Sturgeon announced the changes earlier this week (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)
Nicola Sturgeon announced the changes earlier this week (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)

Covid hospital admissions under ‘very close review'

10:27 , Michael Howie

Environment Secretary George Eustice has said the Government is keeping the level of Covid hospital admissions under “very close review” after ministers decided there would be no new restrictions in England before the new year.

Mr Eustice acknowledged that infection rates from the new Omicron variant were rising but said there was evidence it was not resulting in the same level of hospital admissions as previous waves.

“There is early encouragement from what we know in South Africa that you have fewer hospitalisations and that the number of days that they stay in hospital if they do go into hospital is also lower than in previous variants,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“At the moment we don’t think that the evidence supports any more interventions beyond what we have done.

“But obviously we have got to keep it under very close review, because if it is the case that we started to see a big increase in hospitalisations then we would need to act further.”

45% increase in Covid patients hospitalised in London

10:55 , Barney Davis

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said there has been an increase in the number of Covid patients in hospital, but warned against misinterpreting the data.

He told BBC Breakfast there had been a 27% increase in the number of hospital admissions nationally over the past week, and a 45% increase in London.

He said: “In the previous peaks, we’ve had some very seriously ill older people who’ve got really significant respiratory problems and… they had to go into critical care.

“The difference this time is we’ve got quite a few patients who are coming in – they might have fallen off their bike and knocked their head or broken their leg – and what’s happening is they’ve got no symptoms but when they arrive, they’re actually testing positive for Covid.

“Interestingly, the statistics that we use don’t actually distinguish between those two. So we just need to be careful about overinterpreting the data.

“The key bit… is that we still don’t know exactly what’s going to happen at the point when Omicron meets the older population, and clearly we’ve had a lot of intergenerational mixing over Christmas, so we all are still waiting to see, are we going to see a significant number of increases in terms of the number of patients coming into hospital with serious Omicron-related disease.”

15 pregnant or new mothers have died with Covid over the past 8 months

11:42 , Barney Davis

More than 500 women who were pregnant or had just given birth have been treated in intensive care in the last eight months in England analysis by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre found.

Of the 588 women admitted between May and Christmas Eve, 118 ended up on a ventilator within 24 hours of being in hospital. They had an average age of 32.

Fifteen women died and 24 are still believed to be in intensive care.

The vaccines are safe and effective for both pregnant women and their babies and are urged to come forward to get the jab.

London doctor issues warning over faint lines on LFTs

11:51 , Barney Davis

People walk along Westminster Bridge this morning wearing face masks

11:58 , Barney Davis

It has been announced that in England no further coronavirus restrictions will be introduced before the new year. (PA)
It has been announced that in England no further coronavirus restrictions will be introduced before the new year. (PA)

United States halves isolation period for asymptomatic Covid-19 from 10 to five days

12:00 , Barney Davis

U.S. health officials on Monday cut isolation restrictions for asymptomatic Americans who catch the coronavirus from 10 to five days, and similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said the guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

The decision also was driven by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, propelled by the omicron variant.

US halves isolation period for asymptomatic Covid from 10 to five days

Rule of Six could be back in New Year- report

13:43 , Barney Davis

The Telegraph is reporting that the return of the “rule of six”, which would limit gatherings to six people or two households could be put in front of ministers.

The government has said no new restrictions will be introduced before the New Year, but a tightening of measures in January has not yet been ruled out.

It is not clear whether any rule of six would include outdoor gatherings as well as indoor events.

 (PA)
(PA)

Minister: ‘Enjoy yourself but be cautious on New Year’s Eve'

15:02 , Josh Salisbury

People can enjoy themselves but be cautious when celebrating new year, care minister Gillian Keegan has said.

She advised taking a lateral flow test before going out, and socialising in well-ventilated areas - mimicking the advice of Health Secretary Sajid Javid to consider socialising outdoors on New Year’s Eve.

The government has ruled out further restrictions in England before 2022, unlike in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ms Keegan told the BBC: “We do watch very carefully all of the data ... Do be cautious, take a lateral flow test before you go out, go to well-ventilated areas.

“I’ve been to a couple of outdoor parties actually, people have moved things to outside, so just be cautious, but do try and enjoy yourself as well - but cautiously.”

No home deliveries of lateral flow tests currently available

15:11 , Josh Salisbury

No at-home deliveries of lateral flow tests appeared to be available on the Government website as of Tuesday afternoon.

Those attempting to book a home delivery of the tests reported being hit with a message saying: “Sorry, there are no home delivery slots left for rapid lateral flow tests right now”.

One Twitter user said: “Heard 3 adverts within 30min on the radio reminding me to make sure I take a lateral flow test prior to meeting people… for love nor money I cannot get hold of any!?!”

Another added: “No home delivery lateral flow tests, once again”.

Lateral flow tests can still be picked up from pharmacies and other outlets where available.

The UK Health Security Agency advises that people regularly check the website for home delivery, as availability is regularly refreshed.

Brits turned away at Austrian airport over Covid rules

15:39 , Josh Salisbury

Innsbruck airport in Austria refused to let around 110 Brit tourists into the country because they hadn’t followed new Covid rules.

Many appeared to have been caught out by new rules on Saturday which required a negative PCR test within 48 hours alongside proof of booster vaccination.

One passenger described the situation as an “absolute shambles” as the new requirements were reportedly not updated on the government’s website.

Most of the tourists were flown home immediately but 40 were put up overnight in a hotel, reports the BBC, citing local police.

‘More than 17,000 additional Omicron cases in UK' - UKHSA

15:51 , Josh Salisbury

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said Tuesday there had been 17,269 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant across the UK.

This brings the total confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 177,201 although no case numbers have been reported in Scotland or Wales since December 23.

The number of confirmed deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to 49, according to the UKHSA.

Hospital admissions in England for people with confirmed or suspected Omicron rose to 66, the agency added.

More than 9,500 people in hospital with Covid in England, says NHS

16:35 , Josh Salisbury

A total of 9,546 people were in hospital in England with Covid-19 as of 8am on December 28, according to new figures from NHS England.

This is up 38% from a week earlier and is the highest number since March 3. During the second wave of coronavirus, the number peaked at 34,336 on January 18.

In London, 3,024 people were in hospital with Covid-19 on December 28, up 59% week-on-week and the highest number since February 19.

The second-wave peak for London was 7,917 on January 18.

Over 1,000 hospital admissions on Boxing Day, NHS figures show

17:00 , Daniel Keane

There were 1,374 Covid hospital admissions in England on December 26, NHS England said.

This is up 48 per cent week-on-week and is the highest number since February 11.

During the second wave of coronavirus, admissions peaked at 4,134 on January 12.

In London, 374 admissions were reported on December 26, up 53 per cent week-on-week but slightly below the 390 admissions reported on December 23.

Admissions during the second wave peaked in London at 977 on January 6.

The number of Covid admissions includes people admitted to hospital in the previous 24 hours who were known to have Covid-19, plus any patients diagnosed in hospital with Covid in the previous 24 hours.

Greece reports daily record of Covid cases

17:23 , Daniel Keane

Greece reported a new daily record of 21,657 Covid infections on Tuesday, more than double the level of the day before.

“Omicron prevails, so we should be prepared and this should not cause panic,” Greek health minister Thanos Plevris told state TV ERT.

The country had reported 9,284 cases on Monday, when the government announced tighter curbs would be put in place from January 3 to January 16 to contain infections, targeting mainly night-time entertainment venues.

UK reports over 129,000 cases

17:44 , Daniel Keane

The UK reported 129, 471 cases and 18 deaths on Tuesday, according to the latest daily figures.

It marks a significant rise on Monday’s infection tally but includes data from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland from the festive holiday period.

The rise in cases brings the total to 12,338,676, while a total of 148,021 fatalities have been recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.

People with Covid ‘shouldn’t need to isolate’, says professor

18:19 , Daniel Keane

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said people with Covid should be allowed to “go about their normal lives” as they would with a common cold.

Asked on BBC Breakfast about NHS staff shortages due to workers having to isolate, he said: “This is a disease that’s not going away, the infection is not going away, although we’re not going to see as severe disease for much longer.

“Ultimately, we’re going to have to let people who are positive with Covid go about their normal lives as they would do with any other cold. And so, at some point, we’ve got to relax this.

“If the self-isolation rules are what’s making the pain associated with Covid, then we need to do that perhaps sooner rather than later. Maybe not quite just yet.”

Latest vaccination figures

18:38 , Daniel Keane

Some 47,289,628 second doses have been delivered, an increase of 18,965.

A combined total of 32,696,064 booster and third doses have also been given, a day-on-day rise of 215,703.

Separate totals for booster and third doses are not available.

A total of 51,679,435 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been delivered in the UK by December 27, Government figures show. This is a rise of 16,357 on the previous day.

Hospitalisations rise in London but remain under crucial threshold of 400 admissions a day

19:16 , Daniel Keane

Covid daily hospital admissions are continuing to rise in London – but remain under the crucial figure of 400 per day which ministers see as a threshold for new restrictions.

A total of 374 Covid patients were admitted to hospital in the capital on Boxing Day as Omicron infections continue to surge.

It represents a rise of 52 per cent in a week, with 245 patients admitted on December 19.

Sturgeon urges Scots to stick to rules

19:40 , Daniel Keane

Nicola Sturgeon has renewed her call for people to stick to the latest Covid restrictions as case numbers continue to reach record levels.

The First Minister said she expects case numbers will rise further in the days to come and urged the public to not “underestimate the impact of Omicron.”

“These figures serve to underline the importance of people continuing to get ‘boosted by the bells’ and following the guidance to help slow the spread of Covid while we complete the accelerated booster programme,” she said.

“I know it is hard, but it is really important people continue to comply with the guidance over the new year period.”

Business chief calls for shortening of self-isolation period

20:00 , Daniel Keane

The president of the CBI has said people who test positive for Covid-19 should be required to self-isolate for as little time as possible.

Lord Bilimoria welcomed the decision by Health Secretary Sajid Javid to reduce the isolation time in England from 10 days to seven if people test negative on days six and seven.

He pointed out that in South Africa where the Omicron variant was first identified, the requirement to self-isolate has been dropped altogether when people are asymptomatic.

“We have got to do everything we can to stop the disruption to our lives and to our livelihoods and to the economy in as safe a way as possible,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

“We need people to isolate for as little time as possible.”

France reports 179k daily Covid cases

20:27 , Daniel Keane

France reported a record high of 179,807 new confirmed Covid cases in a 24-hour period on Tuesday.

It is one of the highest one-day tallies worldwide since the start of the pandemic.

It is the highest number of new daily infections in Europe, according to data on Covidtracker.fr.

Since the start of the pandemic, only the United States and India have reported average daily new cases above 200,000.

On Monday, the United States reported more than 505,000 new cases.

Over 3,000 people in hospital with Covid in London

20:52 , Daniel Keane

There were 3,074 patients in hospital with the virus as of December 28, according to the latest government figures.

It is the highest figure since February 19 - but remains 61 per cent lower than the peak of 7,917 recorded on January 18.

Admissions during the second wave peaked in London at 977 on January 6.

There were 216 patients in mechanical ventilation beds as of December 28 – a rise of 7 per cent in a week.

Thank you for following today's live coverage

21:56 , Daniel Keane

We will be back from tomorrow morning with all the latest news on the Covid pandemic.

Thank you for following today's live coverage

21:56 , Daniel Keane

We will be back from tomorrow morning with all the latest news on the Covid pandemic.

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