Covid live: Boris Johnson broke the law, says Keir Starmer; UK records…
People in the UK may no longer be legally required to self-isolate after catching Covid, according to unsourced reports in the Telegraph. Official advice to self-isolate will keep in place but there will be no fines if it is ignored. The report claims plans will be worked up over the coming weeks, with an announcement possible in the spring, as Boris Johnson is keen to permanently revoke emergency coronavirus laws.
This comes as the health secretary, Sajid Javid, cuts the self-isolation period from seven days to five days if someone tests negative twice in England. This change applies from tomorrow.
Updated at 5.45pm EST
The Omicron covid wave has reached a new high in France, according to Reuters. The average number of new infections has risen to 297,019 – the highest daily average reported so far.
There have been 13,894,255 infections and 126,869 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.
Updated at 4.09pm EST
The French parliament has approved a range of measures including a vaccine passport. The new law, which will come into force in the coming days, will require people to have a certificate of vaccination to go into public places like restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.
This comes after President Emmanuel Macron, said he wanted to “piss off” unvaccinated people by making their lives so complicated they would end up getting the COVID vaccine.
France is in the grips of its fifth COVID-19 wave with daily new situations regularly hitting record levels over 300,000. Nonetheless the number of serious situations putting people in ICU wards is much lower than the first wave in March-April 2020.
Updated at 4.09pm EST
While the latest daily UK covid case numbers are certainly encouraging, they are not completely unexpected. Since the 11 Jan people who test positive with a lateral flow test (LFT) no longer need a confirmatory PCR test. Although LFT results are supposed to be registered, it is possible not everyone is officially logging them. This could be contributing to daily case rates hitting their lowest point since mid-December.
Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, the chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, warned earlier this month before the change came into force: “It will become much more important that people report positive lateral flow tests otherwise nobody will know what’s going on. There’s already a problem with daily situations, with people not getting tested or not reporting results.”
However, it should be noted that some experts believe situations could be plateauing. Dr Susan Hopkins, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief medical adviser, said situations appeared to be “plateauing” in parts of the country. Meanwhile, Prof Linda Bauld, a professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh and chief social policy adviser to the Scottish government, said Omicron situations in the UK appeared to be “stabilising”.
Covid infections are rising fast again in US nursing homes. About 32,000 situations have been identified in nursing homes in the week ending 9 January – a near sevenfold increase month on month. A total of 645 covid related deaths among residents were recorded in the same week. This is leading to a range of measures including new restrictions on family visits and renewed efforts to vaccinate residents and staff.
Nursing homes were the lethal epicentre of the pandemic early on, before the vaccine allowed many of them to reopen to visitors last year. But the wildly contagious variant has dealt them a setback.
Updated at 4.09pm EST
UK records 70,924 new situations
Latest daily case numbers from the UK show they are at their lowest point since mid-December, but Sunday’s figures do not include new Scottish infections.
A total of 70,924 people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland tested positive for coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the government reported on Sunday. The figures typically include situations from Scotland. This is a fall from the 81,713 on Saturday.
The last time new case numbers were this low was 14 December. Since then, more than 4 million positive tests in the UK have been reported, as Omicron took keep up.
Another 88 people have died with 28 days of a positive Covid test, taking the death toll to 151,187.
A total of 174,233 people have died with Covid-19 on their death certificate.
Updated at 11.30am EST
I’m Tom Wall. I’m taking over the blog now. Get in touch about anything you think we should be covering.
It’s been another day where the controversy about parties in Downing Street, the home of the UK government in Westminster, has led the headlines.
The highlights include:
- The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, accused chief minister Boris Johnson of breaking the law, saying that “industrial extent partying” had taken place during lockdowns (see 9:52).
- Starmer himself rejected accusations that he had broken Covid restrictions when he was photographed eating and drinking with others in late April 2021, saying “there was no party, no breach of the rules. There is absolutely no comparison with the chief minister.”
- The Conservative party co-chair Oliver Dowden appeared on both BBC and Sky to say the chief minister should not resign, that he was sorry, and it was “totally wrong” that parties took place. He said the “party culture” in No 10 would be changed. Sky also saw an emotional account from presenter Trevor Phillips, who talked about when his daughter died during the spring 2021 lockdown.
- Dowden said current restrictions in England could be lifted by the end of January.
- The former UK chief minister Tony Blair has said he could understand how rule-breaking parties in No 10 could happen, but that they were nevertheless inexcusable.
From outside the UK, Covid news includes:
- World tennis No 1 Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia after court threw out an popularity against his vaccination position, and his visa was cancelled.
- Authorities in Thailand have reported the country’s first death from the Omicron variant, an 86-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.
- Amnesty International has urged Italy to change its strict anti Covid-19 restrictions to avoid discriminating against unvaccinated people. Vaccination is now compulsory for people over 50, in order for them to use some sets and public transport.
- The billionth Covid-19 vaccine as part of the global Covax scheme was delivered in Rwanda on Saturday night.
- The Austrian government has hypothesizedv setting the minimum age for Covid-19 vaccinations at 18, and rolling out the latest restrictions from 1 February, Reuters reports.
- Protests continued in Europe against restrictions on unvaccinated people. In Malta hundreds of people marched in the capital Valletta, the biggest demonstration in the country so far.
- Farmers joined protesters in Amsterdam against stringent Covid curbs which average hospitality in the Netherlands is closed until at the minimum 25 January.
- Italian police have arrested a nurse in Palermo for allegedly pretending to give Covid vaccines to anti-vaxxer activists so they could assistance from official health certificates.
Updated at 11.08am EST
A sign on a tractor reads ‘back to normal now’ as thousands of people march by Amsterdam in protest against the Dutch government’s coronavirus lockdown measures. Photograph: Peter de Jong/AP
Thousands of people have demonstrated in Amsterdam city centre in opposition to Covid-19 measures and the vaccination programme.
Infections in the Netherlands have hit new heights in recent days, 36,000 situations were confirmed on Sunday, as protesters turned out and marched with banners and yellow umbrellas.
The country has seen protests in other cities – and Sunday’s demonstration saw farmers join the march in the capital, parking tractors along the central Museum Square.
The crowd played music, chanted anti-government slogans and then marched along thoroughfares, blocking traffic, Reuters reports.
The Dutch have faced some of the strictest lockdown measures in Europe. A new lockdown was introduced in mid-December as the health system came under pressure.
Amid growing public opposition, chief minister Mark Rutte on Friday announced the reopening of stores, hairdressers and gyms. Bars, restaurants and cultural venues will stay closed until 25 January.
Updated at 11.08am EST
Novak Djokovic’s family has spoken after the tennis star was deported from Australia on Sunday.
In a statement they said they were disappointed.
“Despite the scandalous behaviour towards Novak, we believed that the sport would win,” they said.
They claimed the court ruling was related to “politics and all (other) interests”.
Updated at 9.48am EST
Italian police have arrested a nurse in Palermo for allegedly pretending to give Covid vaccines to anti-vaxxer activists so they could assistance from official health certificates to travel and access bars, restaurants and public transport in the country.
Investigators used a hidden camera to film the nurse, a 58-year-old woman working at a major inoculation centre in the Sicilian capital. The clip, released on Saturday on Twitter, shows the health worker seemingly loading up a measure of Covid-19 vaccine and then emptying the syringe into a tissue before injecting it into the arms of anti-vaxxers.
Police said the woman’s own booster measure was fake and arrested her on charges of forgery and embezzlement.
The number of patients in hospital in Ireland has fallen week-on-week for the first time since the Omicron variant triggered a sharp rise in situations.
Ministers have said they are increasingly hopeful they will be able to end restrictions around hospitality and entertainment, and it will depend on whether pressure on hospitals eases.
According to official figures, there were 965 Covid-19 patients in hospital on Sunday, down from 984 a week before and a peak of 1,063 the past Monday.
The number peaked a year ago, when more than 2,000 people were receiving hospital care.
The number of patients needing intensive care treatment is 88, down from a peak of 221 a year ago.
“I’m very keen to see the reopening happen at an ambitious speed over the next few weeks,” deputy chief minister Leo Varadkar told the national broadcaster RTÉ.
Curbs introduced in December include the closure of nightclubs and a cut to the capacity of indoor events, with closing times for bars and restaurants at 8pm, Reuters reports.
Updated at 8.56am EST
There are fresh protests in Malta against Covid rules on Sunday – and they’re the biggest however, according to Reuters.
Hundreds of people were marching in the capital Valletta against new measures requiring a Covid certificate to go into entry most venues including restaurants, gyms and bars.
Malta’s take-up of the Covid jabs has been one of the best in the EU. Almost three-quarters of adults would have taken the additional booster jab by Sunday, according to health ministry data.
But a health minister said the new rules, which come into force on Monday, are needed to defend against the Omicron variant of the virus, now accounting for well over 90% of new situations.
Sunday’s protest was organised by a group of small political parties, but the main opposition Nationalist party has also criticised the new rules, saying they do not strike the right balance between public health and people’s freedoms especially when there has been a high take-up of the vaccine.
Since the start of the pandemic, 502 people have died with Covid in Malta. The island has recorded a vaccination rate of some 95%.
Updated at 8.56am EST
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