Covid UK news live: Latest omicron updates as cases of new variant rise by 50% in one day

Sage professor says omicron precautions ‘shutting stable door after horse has bolted’

It is “too late” to make a “material difference” to a potential wave of omicron cases in Britain, a government adviser has said, stressing the current travel bans and pre-departure tests will do little to help.

“If omicron is here in the UK, and it certainly is, if there’s community transmission in the UK, and it certainly looks that way, then it’s that community transmission that will drive a next wave,” said Professor Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh.

Asked about new travel rules announced by health secretary Sajid Javid last night, including forcing all travellers attempting to enter the UK to take a pre-departure Covid test, Prof Woolhouse said that the measures were akin to “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”.

It came as a further 86 omicron cases were reported across the UK – bringing the total to 246 and representing a rise of more than 50 per cent in just one day.

Meanwhile, Dominic Raab urged the British public to exercise a “common-sense approach” to Christmas. Describing allegations of parties within No 10 last year as “unsubstantiated rumours”, the justice secretary accepted that, if true, they would represent a clear breach of the rules at the time.

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Everything we know about the new Covid variant

You can find details on the spread of the new omicron variant, its emergence, and what scientists are saying about it in this explainer:

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 21:07


Putin voices hopes for speedy WHO approval of Sputnik vaccine

Russian president Vladimir Putin has voiced hope for a quick approval of the country’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In a video call with the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Mr Putin said receiving the WHO’s vetting is necessary to spread the Russian vaccine more broadly around the world, including free supplies.

“We intend to expand such assistance,” Mr Putin said.

The Russian leader also argued that WHO’s approval should open the door for Russians and others who have had the Sputnik V vaccine to travel more freely around the world. He said about 200 million people worldwide have received Sputnik V.

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 20:29


Continued travel bans against southern African nations ‘disappointing’, WHO chief says

The director-general of the World Health Organisation has repeated his disappointment that countries – including the UK – continue to enact travel bans against countries in southern Africa in response to the discovery of the omicron variant by scientists in South Africa.

It remains uncertain in which country – or continent – the variant first emerged. It has now been detected in scores of countries around the world.

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 19:49


Scottish government advisor denounces ‘cynical fatalism’ regarding omicron wave

Professor Devi Sridhar, who sits on the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Advisory Group, has rejected the idea that “there’s nothing we can do about another large omicron wave”, saying: “Our micro-behaviours matter. Think of the NHS.”

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 19:33


Here’s a little background on the creation of the coronavirus dashboard on the government’s website, from its technical and development lead Pouria Hadjibagheri:

He also revealed that the site recently had visitors from 152 countries around the world in a single day.

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 19:14


The government’s guidance is “too muddled”, a scientist on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has said.

You can listen to the comments from Henry Potts of University College London here:

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 18:59


Pandemic has weakened China’s power in the Indo-Pacific, think-tank claims

The coronavirus pandemic has weakened China’s power in the Indo-Pacific, and the region’s deepening security uncertainties present a “significant” risk of war, a Sydney-based foreign policy think-tank has claimed.

In a report on Sunday, the Lowy Institute said the impact from the pandemic has undermined the overall region’s prosperity, weakening China’s comprehensive power.

“Beijing is now less likely to pull ahead of its peer competitor in comprehensive power by the end of the decade – this suggests that there is nothing inevitable about China’s rise in the world,” the report said.

“It appears very unlikely China will ever be as dominant as the United States once was.”

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 18:40


Fauci hopes US travel bans against southern African nations can be lifted in ‘reasonable period’

Top US infectious disease official Anthony Fauci has said that he hopes the ban on travellers from southern African countries can be lifted in a “reasonable period of time” as more information is gathered on the omicron variant.

The new variant has been discovered in nearly a third of US states and at least 38 countries across the world.

Dr Fauci told CNN on Sunday that US authorities are mindful of the hardship the travel ban is causing and are constantly re-evaluating the policy.

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 18:09


Fierce anti-Covid protests again reported in Brussels

A fortnight after tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Brussels to protest against new mask and home-working mandates, the Belgian capital has again witnessed fierce demonstrations.

Thousands gathered again on Sunday, facing tear gas and water cannon to show their objection to new measures brought in by prime minister Alexander De Croo on Friday, which included the early holiday closure of day care centres and primary schools, and limits on indoor events with more than 200 people.

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 17:48


Nearly 450,000 receive booster jabs and third doses

A further 25,679 first vaccine doses were reported in the UK on Saturday, bringing the total to nearly 51.1 million.

More than 46.5 million second doses had also been delivered by Saturday – an increase of 35,719 on the previous day.

A combined total of 20.2 million booster jabs and third doses have also been given – representing a day-on-day rise of 448,975.

Andy Gregory5 December 2021 17:30

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