Covid LIVE: London hospitalisations in terrifying spike – 'Other regions will follow'

Tom Evans

Nicola Sturgeon warns of Omicron ‘tsunami’

Omicron has replaced Delta as the dominant Covid strain in Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has said as she warned of a “tsunami” of cases hitting the nation.

The SNP leader told a briefing that the Omicron R rate is possibly above 4 in Scotland, adding that 51.4 per cent of cases in the country are likely the new variant.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The tsunami is now starting to hit us.”

She added: “Stay at home much more than you normally would,” and reminded Scots she was strongly advising them to limit their socialising to three households before and after Christmas.”

Tom Evans

Boris Johnson speaks with Nicola Sturgeon over Omicron variant

The Prime Minister has spoken with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon over the ongoing response to the Omicron variant.

In a Tweet, the PM announced: “This afternoon I have spoken to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the ongoing response to the Omicron variant.”

He added: “We discussed the shared challenges including economic disruption and will continue to work together.”

Both England and Scotland have seen sharp rises in the Omicron variant.

Reported cases breaks record again

The 93,045 reported cases have broken the record for COVID-19 cases for the third day in a row.Another 3,201 new cases of Omicron have been recorded, taking the total number to 14,909 as it becomes the dominant strain in parts of the country, including Scotland and London.There were 1,691 new Omicron cases reported yesterday

Tom Evans

Latest UK COVID-19 figures released

Figures have been released with today’s COVID-19 statistics.11,190,354 people in the UK have tested positive, with 93,045 new cases.111 COVID-19 related deaths have now been added to the new national total of  147,048.

Olivia Stringer

Risk of reinfection from Omicron more than five times higher that of Delta

The risk of reinfection from the Omicron variant is more than five times higher than that of Delta, researchers at Imperial College London have found. 

Researchers found that Omicron had a reinfection rate 5.4 times higher than Delta, meaning that protection against Omicron from past infection could be as low as 19 percent.

The data also found no evidence of Omicron being less severe than Delta, ut there was very little data on hospital admissions at the time of the study. 

Olivia Stringer

UK travel ban disaster for French ski resorts

The ban on UK tourists travelling to France is a “disaster” for French ski resorts, the director of a resort has said. 

The ban came into force on Friday, just as the holiday season was about to begin. 

Christophe Lavaut, director of the popular Val d’Isere resort said: “It’s an economic disaster.

Mr Lavaut said that in Val d’Isere, the bulk of the clients come from Britain.

“No business in any sector can make it, losing 42% of its clients in two days.”

Olivia Stringer

Be kind to eachother, says Sturgeon

Sturgeon said this is the time to be kind to one another and to drop a line to friends. 

She said we must all support each other in the hard times ahead. 

Olivia Stringer

Stay at home as much as you can, says Sturgeon

Sturgeon said her fundamental ask is for Scots to stay home as much as possible in the period up to Christmas. 

She said she knows all of this is awful and that many people are finding this harder than last Christmas. 

She said she is not immune from these feelings. 

Sturgeon said we must hold onto hope.

She said: “Every booster is another brick in this wall of protection”. 

Olivia Stringer

Best way to support businesses is to get virus under control, says Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has said the best way to help businesses is by stopping the spread of the virus.

She said the best way to do this is vaccination. 

Ms Sturgeon said that boosters provide a good level of protection from serious illness from Omicron. 

She said: “We want as many people as possible to get boosted before the bells strike on Hogmanay.”

“It’s never too late to get vaccinated.”

Olivia Stringer

If we don’t act now NHS will become overwhelmed says Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon said that if we don’t act now to curb the spread of the virus the NHS will become overwhelmed. 

She said that even mild infection will have a massive impact as people isolating will mean staff shortages which will affect the economy. 

She said the hospitality sector has been hit the hardest yet again by restrictions. 

Olivia Stringer

Sturgeon says 696 confirmed Omicron cases in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon said there are currently 696 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Scotland but that the real number is likely much higher. 

She said Omicron is now the dominant strain in Scotland. 

Ms Sturgeon said Omicron’s R number may be over 4. 

She said: “the tsunami that I warned about a week ago is now beginning to hit us”.

Olivia Stringer

Snap 10 day LOCKDOWN needed to stop Omicron – fears erupt at new warning

A snap 10 day lockdown over the Christmas period is needed to stop the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 experts have warned.

On Thursday, the UK recorded 88,376 new Covid cases, the highest number since the pandemic began. In an emergency statement, the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said: “Christmas is 10 days away – that’s 5 doublings at its current growth rate, making the situation potentially 32 times worse by then. Even if growth slows, the situation would still be much worse than now. We now call for an immediate circuit break to then enable limited mixing from the 25 to 28th December. All measures should be re-evaluated over that period to determine what needs to happen after Christmas.”

Olivia Stringer

Booster jab immune response quicker than thought, say scientists

The immune response time for booster jabs is quicker than initially thought, say, scientists, in a major Omicron breakthrough.

Experts have stated that booster jabs provide immunity in a matter of days, not weeks. 

Gary McLean, a professor in molecular immunology at London Metropolitan University, said: “The immunity generated after a booster jab will rise much quicker than the first immune response.”

The effects can reportedly start to work in just two days because crucial memory cells activated after the first vaccine dose are still present in the body and therefore “do not require the two-week activation and instruction phase they initially go through”.

READ MORE 

Olivia Stringer

Germany considers classifying UK as ‘virus variant area’

The German Government is considering classing the UK as a ‘virus variant area’. 

A spokesperson for the Health Ministery said they will come to a decision on the matter later on Friday. 

Travellers returning to Germany from virus variant areas have to quarantine for two weeks, regardless of their vaccination status.

The UK is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, following the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. 

Olivia Stringer

Data from South Africa shows deaths from hospitalisations 2/3 lower in Omicron wave

Data from South Africa shows that across all age groups, deaths from hospitalisations are two thirds lower in the Omicron wave than in previous waves. 

The below graph shows that in the second wave of the virus, the percentage of over 80s hospitalised due to COVID-19 that led to deaths was above 50 percent, whereas in the current wave it is below 30 percent. 

For 50-59-year-olds, in the second wave the percentage of hospitalisation leading to deaths was around 30 percent and in the current wave it is arounf 10 percent. 

Finally, what we’ve been waiting for: age-controlled data on Omicron severity, courtesy SA health ministry.

Across all ages, deaths among hospitalized pts are 2/3 lower in Omicron wave.

If more mild cases are admitted, this # goes down, but doesn’t seem likely that’s the reason pic.twitter.com/BRDY8BQyCZ

u2014 Michael Lin, PhD-MD ud83euddec (@michaelzlin) December 17, 2021

Olivia Stringer

Welsh Government prioritising pregnant women for booster jabs

The Welsh Government has said that it is now prioritising pregnant women for booster jabs. 

The news comes after the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations deemed pregnant women a risk group. 

A statement said: “For any mother-to-be, getting their first, second and booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine is one of the most important things they can do to protect themselves and their unborn baby against coronavirus and, particularly against the new omicron variant.

“New advice from Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) reinforces this message.

“The number of pregnant women coming forward for vaccination has been lower than we would want it to be, and this places mothers and their babies at risk.

“Based on the data about safety, together with the increased risk from Covid-19 the JCVI has advised that pregnant women should be considered as a clinical risk group and prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination.”

Olivia Stringer

New guidance for Scottish businesses comes into force today

New guidance for Scottish businesses comes into force today, to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant. 

From Friday, Scottish businesses are legally required to take ‘reasonable measures to minimise virus transmission. 

These include app-based ordering, one way systems and table services. 

Anyone over the age of 12 is now legally required to wear a mask in all businesses unless they are exempt. 

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said following the new advice was ‘crucial’. 

She said: “All of these layers of protection will help to limit the spread of Omicron, especially as we approach the festive period.

“I am also making a plea to be considerate to staff who are doing their best during this challenging period.”

Olivia Stringer

South Africa says vaccines and prior infections contributing to mildness of Omicron

South Africa has said that vaccines and prior infections have contributed to the mildness of Omicron cases. 

Speaking at a news conference, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said: “We believe that it might not necessarily just be that Omicron is less virulent, but … coverage of vaccination (and) … natural immunity of people who have already had contact with the virus is also adding to the protection.”

44 percent of South Africa’s adult population have received at least one vaccine dose, more than many African countries but well short of the government’s year-end target. 

 Michelle Groome from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases told the same news conference that there has been an increase in COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths.

She said: “Starting to see a slight increase in deaths nationally, but once again this level is very much lower even than the baseline period we were seeing between the second and third waves,” Groome said.

Mr Phaahla said early indications suggested that the infection rate may have reached its peak in the most populated Gauteng province, where cases initially surged.

He also stated that next week the health department will that in report back to the National Coronavirus Command Council on whether restrictions should be tightened. 

Olivia Stringer

Holidays ruined as Macron’s ‘ridiculous’ travel crackdown on UK begins TODAY

Christmas getaway plans to France have been ruined – with Emmanuel Macron’s “ridiculous” ban on UK tourists taking effect today.

Brits travelling will have to have a “compelling reason” for entering the country and will have to show proof of a negative Covid test. The crackdown is in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK. On Thursday, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said the mutation is spreading at a “phenomenal pace”. Members of the French public have lashed out at Macron over the new rules. Twitter user Daffy McDuck said: “That is ridiculous. You really suck. We will remember that.”

Olivia Stringer

American sports leagues suffer from Covid outbreaks

Teams in North America’s sports leagues are struggling to contain a mass of Covid-19 outbreaks, as fans prepare for a disruptive holiday season. 

The National Football League, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association have all faced a surge in positive tests in the past few days, which has led to the postponement of some matches. 

The Christmas period in the US and Canada, is normally packed with sports games with everything from college football Bowl games to the NBA’s Christmas Day showcase.

At present there is no indication that any holiday games will be postponed but with Covid-19 spreading through the players, fan favourites may have to isolate.  

On Thursday, the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens hosted the Philadelphia Flyers without fans after receiving a request from Quebec public health officials due to the “spiraling rise of COVID-19 cases in the region”.

In a statement, the Canadiens said: “We have obtained assurances that beginning with our games in January, we will return to a partial capacity scenario and be able to host fans once more.”

Olivia Stringer

Sweden to introduce support measures for businesses

Sweden is set to introduce support measures for businesses to help them get through the pandemic, amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.

News agency TT, quoting opposition Moderate Party finance spokeswoman Elisabeth Svantesson said on Friday that the measures have been agreed by the Social Democrats and the opposition and will include: “support for lost income for very small firms and subsidies for workers on shorter hours.”

Olivia Stringer

UK has appropriate support in place for businesses, says Conservative chairman

The UK has appropriate support in place for businesses, the chairman of the Conservative Party said on Friday. 

Businessess in the hospitality sector have been calling on financial support from the Government after many people cancelled their bookings following the emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Speaking to Sky News, Oliver Dowden said: “We have already put support in place, of course, we watch this hour by hour, day by day, and I know the chancellor is very closely engaged but at the moment we have appropriate support in place.”

Olivia Stringer

Good morning

Good morning, I’m Olivia Stringer and I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments on Coronavirus, for the next eight hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.

Email: olivia.stringer@reachplc.com 

Twitter: @Livstringer_

Harry Byrne

Harry Byrne

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