Home Breaking News Daily Covid cases hit new record of 119,789 as hospitalisations rise

Daily Covid cases hit new record of 119,789 as hospitalisations rise

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What were the key findings of the UKHSA report on Omicron? 

  • Omicron is between 50 and 70 per cent less likely to cause hospital admission than Delta
  • The new strain is also between 31 and 45 per cent less likely to result in A&E attendance
  • Immunity to symptomatic disease from boosters drops off between 15 and 20 per cent more 10 days after a jab
  • But experts predict immunity to severe disease and hospitalisation will last longer from boosters
  • Omicron causes more reinfections than Delta, with 9.5 per cent of all cases in people who had previously had the virus 
  • Of the 132 hospital patients who were infected with Omicron as of December 20, 17 had received a booster vaccine, 74 people had two doses and 27 people were not vaccinated.

A fourth jab could now be rolled out early to millions of Britons after a new study showed protection against Omicron wanes within three months of a booster. 

People infected with the contagious variant are 70 per cent less likely to end up in hospital, an official analysis of real-world cases has confirmed.

But the analysis from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) also reveals that immunity from boosters fades more quickly against Omicron compared to Delta. 

Those who received two AstraZeneca doses, plus a Pfizer or Moderna booster, have 60 per cent protection against Omicron for two to weeks after the third jab.

But after ten weeks, it drops to 35 per cent for Pfizer and 45 per cent for Moderna.

The figures are prompting officials to consider speeding up the rollout of the fourth jab to ward off a future surge in cases among those who have already received boosters.

It comes as NHS England announced third jabs will be given out on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with around 200,000 appointments for a third dose still available across the country over the festive period, in a bid to slow down the infection rate.  

It comes as daily Covid cases spiked again on Thursday, with hospitalisations rising by a fifth in a week, amid scientists’ warnings that the UK is still in the ‘danger zone’.  

Cases hit a high for the second day running, with 119,789 reported in 24 hours — up 35 per cent on last Thursday and putting a dampener on hopes that the variant could be less devastating than initially feared.

Latest hospitalisations ticked up to 1,004, marking the first time they had reached four figures since early November.  

Another 147 Covid deaths were recorded which was barely a change from last week, but these are lagging indicators because of the time taken for someone who catches the virus to fall severely ill. There were 16,817 further cases of Omicron confirmed, bringing the total to 90,906. 

In more dramatic twists and turns: 

  • Britain failed to reach the Government’s target of dishing out 1million booster shots again, with only 840,000 third doses received; 
  • MailOnline analysis of NHS figures showed two-thirds of new Covid hospital patients in England were actually admitted for a different ailment;
  • Office for National Statistics (ONS) data found 1.37million people were carrying the virus on any given day during the week up to December 16 — an all-time record; 
  • Omicron might need to be 90 per cent milder than Delta to avoid the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure, SAGE has warned despite studies showing the strain is 45 per cent weaker; 
  • Vital services across London are suffering a staffing crisis due to the variant – with staff absences more than tripling this month, one in seven doctors off sick and 500 Transport for workers absent; 
  • The Covid surge in South Africa appears to be fading after just a month, in a promising sign that Britain’s wave could be short-lived.

A fourth jab is set to be rolled out early to millions of Britons after a new study showed protection against Omicron wanes within three months of a booster. Pictured: Shona McCauley receives a booster vaccine from Alex Iheanacho at Elland Road in Leeds

52154971 10340385 image a 1 1640278261255 52154975 10340385 image a 6 1640278268889 52154973 10340385 image a 4 1640278265866 A UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) report became the fourth study to show the new strain causes less severe illness, suggesting the variant is between 50 and 70 per cent less likely to cause hospital admission and up to 45 per cent less likely to result in a person going to A&E

A UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) report became the fourth study to show the new strain causes less severe illness, suggesting the variant is between 50 and 70 per cent less likely to cause hospital admission and up to 45 per cent less likely to result in a person going to A&E

Booster rollout to carry on over Christmas

People will be able to get a Covid booster vaccine on Christmas Day, NHS England has announced as part of increased efforts to top-up protection against the Omicron variant.

The rollout will carry on during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with around 200,000 appointments for a third dose still available across the country over the festive period.

The health service said its ‘jingle jab’ campaign will see NHS staff and volunteers administer doses at scores of local vaccination sites including town halls and local pharmacies.

NHS England advised booking in advance but said there will be options available for people without appointments across the country, including in Eastbourne, Hartlepool, Croydon and Dewsbury.

Experts have warned that while a first or second dose can help, only boosters provide the maximum level of protection against Omicron.

Dr Emily Lawson, head of the NHS Covid vaccination programme, said: ‘We’ve seen record after record broken in the run-up to the festive season and I want to thank every NHS staff member and volunteer whose goodwill and determination to protect their communities will keep the booster rollout going this Christmas weekend.

‘This Christmas, before sitting down to your dinner with your family, I would encourage anyone not already boosted to come forward, book an appointment and get the gift of a jab.’

The push over the festive period comes after a bumper weekend of 1.5 million doses and a record-breaking week for booster jabs. On Wednesday, 1.06 million vaccines were administered, the highest number ever – 968,665 of which were top-up doses.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid paid tribute to NHS staff and volunteers giving up their time with family and friends to help the booster rollout over Christmas.

He said: ‘Thank-you for everything that you’ve done and everything that you’re doing – this Christmas and all year round.

‘You continue to be the very best of us – you achieve phenomenal things and I’m proud to call you colleagues.’

NHS England chief Amanda Pritchard praised the ‘extraordinary team effort’ of health service staff in the face of Omicron.

‘I know it is a worrying time professionally and personally for everyone, and that many colleagues are drained after such a gruelling period,’ she said.

‘The NHS is nothing without its incredible staff. This time, thanks to NHS staff and volunteers, we are armed with the protection offered by first, second and booster doses.’

Officials said the decline in vaccine protection against Omicron was only visible in mild symptomatic cases, The Times reported. Researchers expect protection against serious illness to last longer. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said it is ‘watching the situation very closely’ according to health officials. 

Meanwhile a senior government source told The Times there is ‘flexibility’ to run another booster campaign when necessary and protection rates will be monitored.

The source added: ‘There is obviously the possibility that we will need to have another round in much the same way we do with flu.’

Israel and Germany are already planning to introduce fourth vaccines after initial data suggested it would help the most vulnerable, while professor Danny Altmann from Imperial College said another booster is ‘pretty well inevitable’.

The new study shows that for those who received two Pfizer jabs, effectiveness against Omicron is around 70 per cent after a Pfizer booster, which drops to 45 per cent after 10 weeks.

But a Moderna booster on top of two initial Pfizer doses pushes effectiveness up to 75 per cent for nine weeks.  

In more positive news, Thursday’s government report sparked fresh hope that a New Year lockdown can be avoided after it was revealed Omicron is up to 70 per cent less likely to cause hospital admission than Delta.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid hailed the evidence from the UKHSA – the fourth study to show the strain causes less severe illness. 

The agency’s findings are consistent with studies by Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh, offering a more optimistic figure for reduced severity, but experts warned the strain does cause a steeper drop-off in immunity ten days after a booster vaccine.

Mr Javid said the emerging findings on severity were ‘encouraging’ after Downing Street confirmed that there will be no more announcements on toughening rules until next week.

But he stressed that the rapid spread of the variant will still pose a serious threat and huge numbers of cases would mean ‘significant hospitalisations’.  

Boris Johnson is leaving Britons in peace for a few days exhorting them ‘to take extra care to protect yourselves and your families’ during festive gatherings.

However, ministers are once again caught between the demands of scientific and medical advisors for caution, and businesses and Tories who want to keep the economy running.

MPs and the hospitality industry are calling for immediate clarity that there will not be more restrictions over the New Year period — which could be make or break for many bars and restaurants after a wave of cancellations in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, scientists have cautioned that Omicron still poses a serious threat to the NHS because it is so fast-spreading. Professor Andrew Hayward, a SAGE member, warned this morning that the picture is unclear for elderly people and pressure on the NHS is ‘just going to get worse’.

There has been speculation that Mr Johnson could stop short of a confrontation with his lockdown-sceptic MPs — and ministers — by issuing guidance rather than bringing in legal curbs. Even if a Parliament recall was announced on Boxing Day it would still be difficult to conduct a vote and then bring in further curbs before the end of the week. 

According to analysis by the UKHSA of 132 hospital patients who were infected with Omicron as of December 20, the risk of hospital admission for an identified case with the variant is reduced compared with a case of DeltaGraph shows: The number of Omicron cases admitted to hospital after attending A&E

According to analysis by the UKHSA of 132 hospital patients who were infected with Omicron as of December 20, the risk of hospital admission for an identified case with the variant is reduced compared with a case of DeltaGraph shows: The number of Omicron cases admitted to hospital after attending A&E

Data suggests protection against symptoms starts to wane by between 15 and 25 per cent, 10 weeks after booster vaccination. Graph shows: Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic Covid with Delta (black square) and Omicron (grey circle) after two AztraZeneca doses and either a Pfizer (middle) or Moderna (right) booster dose over time

Data suggests protection against symptoms starts to wane by between 15 and 25 per cent, 10 weeks after booster vaccination. Graph shows: Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic Covid with Delta (black square) and Omicron (grey circle) after two AztraZeneca doses and either a Pfizer (middle) or Moderna (right) booster dose over time

Omicron is believed to be infecting more people who have previously had Covid, with 9.5 per cent of people with the variant having had it before. Graph shows: The rate of reinfection (blue line) versus first infection (red line) over time

Omicron is believed to be infecting more people who have previously had Covid, with 9.5 per cent of people with the variant having had it before. Graph shows: The rate of reinfection (blue line) versus first infection (red line) over time

While booster numbers have risen in the past week No10's goal of delivering a-million boosters-a-day has remained frustratingly out of reach

While booster numbers have risen in the past week No10’s goal of delivering a-million boosters-a-day has remained frustratingly out of reach

A growing proportion of Covid patients in London's hospitals are actually being treated for a different ailment. Currently 25 per cent of 'Covid patients' originally went to hospital for a different reason, only later testing positive for the virus compared to 17 per cent a fortnight ago

A growing proportion of Covid patients in London’s hospitals are actually being treated for a different ailment. Currently 25 per cent of ‘Covid patients’ originally went to hospital for a different reason, only later testing positive for the virus compared to 17 per cent a fortnight ago

The percentage change in infection rates in areas across England in the week ending December 12 The percentage change in infection rates in areas across England in the week ending December 19

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) national flu and Covid surveillance report shows cases doubled in more than a fifth of England’s local authorities during the week ending December 19. Map shows: The percentage change in infection rates in areas across England in the weeks ending December 12 (left) and 19 (right)

NHS pressure ‘might be unsustainable’ unless Omicron is 90% milder’ 

Omicron might need to be 90 per cent milder than Delta to avoid the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure, SAGE has warned despite studies showing the strain is 45 per cent weaker.

In minutes published on Thursday, No10’s top scientists said if Omicron doubles every two days – like modelling estimates – there could still be thousands of hospitalisations this winter even if the strain is slightly weaker.

This could only be avoided, they said, with more curbs, ‘significant behaviour change’, or if the variant cut the risk of severe disease by 90 per cent.

The meeting took place on December 20, and it was possible that the scientists had not seen an Imperial College London study released yesterday showing Omicron was 45 per cent less likely to cause severe disease.

The minutes read: ‘In the absence of further interventions or significant behaviour change, intrinsic severity would need to be greatly reduced (by around 90 per cent) for hospitalisations to not reach the levels of previous peaks unless the wave peaks early for other reasons.’

Gloomy SAGE estimates have repeatedly come under fire in recent days, after the committee suggested deaths could peak at 6,000 this winter. Last year they reached 1,300 at the peak.

It comes after three major studies in England, Scotland and South Africa confirmed Omicron is milder than Delta and far less likely to put someone in hospital.

One paper by ‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson found the mutant strain was up to 45 per cent less likely to lead to hospitalisation than Delta, based on 300,000 people in England.

According to analysis by the UKHSA of 132 hospital patients who were infected with Omicron as of December 20, the risk of hospital admission for an identified case with the variant is reduced compared with a case of Delta. 

Scientists said there appears to be a biological difference between Omicron and Delta which could be behind the new variant’s reduced severity. 

Laboratory tests found the variant replicates better in the upper airways than in the deeper tissue of the lungs, which could be behind its greater transmissibility but lower severity. 

Of those admitted to hospital, 17 had received a booster vaccine, 74 people had two doses and 27 people were not vaccinated.

Omicron is believed to be infecting more people who have previously had Covid, with 9.5 per cent of people with the variant having had it before.

Vaccination is also believed to give less protection against Omicron, although a booster jab provides more protection against symptomatic disease compared with the first two doses alone.

Data suggests protection against symptoms starts to wane by between 15 and 25 per cent, 10 weeks after booster vaccination.

Experts do not yet know how well vaccines protect against hospitalisation or severe illness with the variant, but suggest immunity will not drop off as steeply for either measure. 

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UKHSA, said: ‘Our latest analysis shows an encouraging early signal that people who contract the Omicron variant may be at a relatively lower risk of hospitalisation than those who contract other variants. 

‘However, it should be noted both that this is early data and more research is required to confirm these findings.

‘Cases are currently very high in the UK, and even a relatively low proportion requiring hospitalisation could result in a significant number of people becoming seriously ill. 

‘The best way that you can protect yourself is to come forward for your first two doses of vaccine, or your booster jab and do everything you can to stop onward transmission of the infection.’ 

The agency has also warned that Omicron’s faster rate of transmission than Delta may mean that a large number of people are likely to require hospital admission, leading to a large amount of pressure on the NHS.

Mr Javid said: ‘This new UKHSA data on Omicron is promising – while two doses of the vaccine aren’t enough, we know boosters offer significant protection against the variant and early evidence suggests this strain may be less severe than Delta.

‘However, cases of the variant continue to rise at an extraordinary rate – already surpassing the record daily number in the pandemic. Hospital admissions are increasing, and we cannot risk the NHS being overwhelmed.

Hopes are high for a happy New Year! 

New Year’s Eve celebrations are likely to be free from legally-binding coronavirus curbs, sources revealed last night – as Boris Johnson used his Christmas message to reiterate a plea for people to get booster jabs.

Despite fears that England would follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales by announcing harsher restrictions for the end of the year, families now may be able to start planning ways to ring in 2022.

Multiple sources said last night that time was running out to recall Parliament, with the Government vowing to give MPs a vote if more stringent measures are needed over the Christmas recess. Preliminary data has not yet been sufficient to justify further curbs, however.

Ministers remain anxious that hospital admissions are rising and the transmissibility of Omicron could lead to the NHS being overwhelmed. But they have been buoyed by studies suggesting the variant is less severe than previous coronavirus strains.

Last night a Cabinet source said that ‘with every day that goes by, it becomes less likely’ that Parliament will be recalled before New Year’s Eve.

They said that with the post-Christmas bank holidays and 48-hour delay to recalling Parliament, it was ‘possible’ but unlikely that MPs would be ordered back.

‘Especially considering the amount of time needed for internal decisions to be made in Government before a recall is made,’ they added.

Another said: ‘Colleagues would not vote in our favour if we cut short their Christmas break.’

‘This is early-stage analysis and we continue to monitor the data hour by hour. It is still too early to determine next steps, so please stay cautious this Christmas and get your booster as soon as possible to protect yourself and your loved ones.’ 

It comes after Professor Neil Ferguson — who just last week warned there could be up to 5,000 daily Omicron deaths in the UK — said the country’s fourth wave will be ‘nothing like what we seen last year, with ICUs overflowing with patients’ on the back of the new findings.

His team at Imperial College London found that overall, Britons who catch Omicron are between 15 and 20 per cent less likely to be admitted than those who get Delta.

But the real-world analysis, of more than 300,000 people between December 1 and 14, found the chance of having to stay in the NHS overnight was even lower, with a reduced risk of between 40 and 45 per cent. 

The findings are believed to have contributed to Mr Johnson holding off Christmas restrictions despite record case numbers — with 106,122 positive tests reported on Wednesday.

Venues are desperate to know whether they will be allowed to open on what is a crucial day of trading, especially after weeks of devastation caused by the Omicron variant.

Mr Javid said the early findings on severity were ‘good, that’s encouraging news’. But he stressed it was ‘not very clear’ how much milder the variant is yet. 

‘We do know with Omicron that it does spread a lot more quickly, it is a lot more infectious than Delta, so any advantage gained from reduced risk of hospitalisation needs to be set against that.

‘If a much smaller percentage of people are at risk of hospitalisation, if that is a smaller percentage of a much larger number, there could still be significant hospitalisation.’

Mr Javid confirmed the government is not planning any further announcements this week.

‘Despite the caution that we are all taking, people should enjoy their Christmases with their families and their friends – of course, remain cautious,’ he said.

‘We will keep the situation under review. We are learning more all the time as we have done from this new data.

‘We will keep analysing that data and if we need to do anything more we will, but nothing more is going to happen before Christmas.’  

The wait-and-seen approach in England contrasts sharply with the rest of the UK, with tensions rising between Westminster and the devolved administrations over funding for bailouts. 

Wales has banned large New Year’s Eve celebrations and said nightclubs must close. In Scotland, hospitality has been hampered by rules which limit serving alcohol to table service only from December 27.

And in Northern Ireland, Stormont ministers agreed a series of restrictions due to come into force on Boxing Day, including the closure of nightclubs, and guidance to limit contacts with different households. 

Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething said he did not believe Mr Johnson would be able to hold out ‘for very much longer’. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the emerging findings on severity were 'encouraging' after No10 confirmed that there will be no more announcements on toughening rules until next week

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the emerging findings on severity were ‘encouraging’ after No10 confirmed that there will be no more announcements on toughening rules until next week

The concerns come after senior SAGE scientist Neil Ferguson — who just last week warned there could be up to 5,000 daily Omicron deaths in the UK — said the country's fourth wave will be 'nothing like what we seen last year, with ICUs overflowing with patients' on the back of the new findings Boris Johnson will wait until after December 25 to announce any post-Christmas Covid changes, after studies showed Omicron is milder and far less likely to cause hospitalisation than Delta

The concerns come after senior SAGE scientist Neil Ferguson — who just last week warned there could be up to 5,000 daily Omicron deaths in the UK — said the country’s fourth wave will be ‘nothing like what we seen last year, with ICUs overflowing with patients’ on the back of the new findings

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Researchers at Imperial College London found Omicron is 10 per cent less likely to cause hospitalisation in someone who has never been vaccinated or previously infected with Covid than with Delta. Hospitalisation is up to 20 per cent less likely in the general population — including those who have been infected or vaccinated — and 45 per cent less likely for at least a night

This graph from the Scottish paper show the age distribution of cases of Omicron (left, as 'S Negative') compared to Delta (right, as 'S Positive'). It shows that children were most likely to test positive for Delta in Scotland whereas young adults are driving the country's Omicron wave

This graph from the Scottish paper show the age distribution of cases of Omicron (left, as ‘S Negative’) compared to Delta (right, as ‘S Positive’). It shows that children were most likely to test positive for Delta in Scotland whereas young adults are driving the country’s Omicron wave

The above graphs show the rate of Omicron — S gene negative — and Delta — S gene positive — cases by vaccination status. This was unvaccinated (uv), one dose ofthe vaccine up to three weeks ago (v1_0:3), one dose more than four weeks ago (v1_4+), two doses of the vaccine up to a week ago (v2_0:1), two doses of the vaccine two to nine weeks ago (v2_2:9), two doses of the vaccine 10 to 14 weeks ago (v2_10:14), two doses ofthe vaccine 15 to 19 weeks ago (v2_15:19), two doses of the vaccine 20 to 24 weeks ago (v2_20:24) and two doses of the vaccine more than 25 weeks ago (v2_25+). The graph also includes three doses of the vaccine less than a week ago (v3_0), three doses with the third administered up to a week ago (v3_1) and three doses more than two weeks ago (v3_2+)

The above graphs show the rate of Omicron — S gene negative — and Delta — S gene positive — cases by vaccination status. This was unvaccinated (uv), one dose ofthe vaccine up to three weeks ago (v1_0:3), one dose more than four weeks ago (v1_4+), two doses of the vaccine up to a week ago (v2_0:1), two doses of the vaccine two to nine weeks ago (v2_2:9), two doses of the vaccine 10 to 14 weeks ago (v2_10:14), two doses ofthe vaccine 15 to 19 weeks ago (v2_15:19), two doses of the vaccine 20 to 24 weeks ago (v2_20:24) and two doses of the vaccine more than 25 weeks ago (v2_25+). The graph also includes three doses of the vaccine less than a week ago (v3_0), three doses with the third administered up to a week ago (v3_1) and three doses more than two weeks ago (v3_2+)

Two-thirds of new Covid hospital patients in England only tested positive AFTER being admitted for a different illness, official data shows 

Two-thirds of new Covid hospital patients in England were actually admitted for a different ailment, MailOnline’s analysis of NHS data suggests – as a growing number of studies show Omicron is much milder than Delta.

In the two weeks to December 21, hospitals in England recorded 563 new coronavirus inpatients — the majority of which are believed to be Omicron now that the variant is the country’s dominant stain.

But just 197 (35 per cent) were being primarily treated for Covid, with the remaining 366 (65 per cent) only testing positive after being admitted for something else.

Experts told MailOnline it was important to distinguish between admissions primarily for Covid so that rising numbers do not spook ministers into more social restrictions or scare the public from going to hospital.

England’s incidental hospital cases are being driven by London, which has become the UK’s Omicron hotspot and where admissions have been rising sharply.

Just over four in 10 new Omicron hospital patients in London were admitted for a different ailment, MailOnline’s analysis suggests.

There were 523 more ‘Covid admissions’ resulting in an overnight stay in the two weeks to December 21, after Omicron became dominant in the capital earlier this month.

Admission rates for Covid in the capital are one factor ministers are keeping an eye on before potentially pulling the trigger on more curbs because London is considered to be a few weeks ahead of the rest of the country in its Omicron outbreak.

Officials are reported to be considering a national two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown after Christmas if London’s daily admissions breach 400 this week — which would signal ‘unsustainable’ pressure on the NHS.

The latest data show this figure is currently just shy of this threshold, at 301 patients on Monday.

The rising number of so-called ‘incidental cases’ – people who are only diagnosed with the virus after going to the NHS for a different ailment – is in line with the picture in South Africa.

Studies in the epicentre Gauteng province have shown up to three-quarters of Omicron patients there were not admitted primarily for the virus.

Greater Manchester’s night time economy advisor Sacha Lord said it is critical the Government announces a decision for England as quickly as possible. 

He praised the Prime Minister for recognising the importance of keeping the hospitality sector open but said it is ‘in limbo’ with the threat of restrictions hanging overhead.

Mr Lord said: ‘Every operator wants to operate. But responsible operators say safety has to come first. So with how much planning goes into New Year’s Eve the second they know what they’re doing there can be no dithering around like the last few weeks, they must come out with absolute clarity, certainty and guidance.’

It comes as social care bosses called for the public to stay at home ‘as much as they can’ and limit social activities, as they declared a ‘national emergency’ due to care being rationed as staff isolate.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) said it is appealing to people to do the right thing, in the absence of any further restrictions being set out for England.

Mr Lord, who also founded Manchester’s Warehouse Project and Park Life festival, said any closures on New Year’s Eve would force people into much more contagious house parties.

Mr Lord said: ‘In Wales and Scotland it shows what they think about hospitality and the night time economy.’ He was echoed by the boss of the British Beer and Pub Association Emma McClarkin, who said: ‘New Year’s Eve and the build-up to the New Year – whether it is family meals or those wanting to toast 2022 with a pint in their hands – is a huge part of our festive trading. We have already been decimated by the Government’s announcement and are desperately hoping we can cling on into the New Year and find a way to trade our way into recovery in 2022.’

Jonathan Neame, boss of Britain’s oldest brewer Shepherd Neame, said: ‘We hope that pubs stay open and that there are no further restrictions.’

And Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin said the Government should not cancel New Year, adding: ‘Do not follow Scotland.’

Industry body UK Hospitality said businesses in Wales are being devastated by the country’s new restrictions.

Its Welsh arm’s executive director David Chapman said: ‘Hundreds of millions of pounds of business have been lost in the run-up to a very quiet Christmas and things will now get worse from Boxing Day.’

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said the latest Omicron findings show there is ‘certainly no need for any further restrictions’. 

Conservative former leader Iain Duncan Smith said the lower severity has a ‘a huge bearing on what is happening’.

‘No more restrictions. it is becoming absolutely clear that those of us who said don’t will be proved right now,’ he told MailOnline.

‘It is time for the scientists to stop Project Fear.’

Sir Iain said that Mr Johnson should come out and reassure people that they can carry on relatively normally. 

‘The public needs to feel OK. Yes they need to be careful. Yes in crowden circumstances wearing facemasks, yes use hand sanitiser… but that is not the same as stay away, don’t visit your family all that stuff.

‘The answer is, we just get on with it.’  

The reaction came after a study found that even an unvaccinated person who has never had Covid and has no immunity, there was a 10 per cent lower risk of being hospitalised with Omicron compared to Delta.

For someone how has been recently infected, the chance of hospitalisation was slashed by 69 per cent in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The finding may explain why in South Africa — where up to 70 per cent of people have immunity from prior infection but only a quarter are jabbed — is seeing daily hospitalisations stall at less than 400.

Professor Ferguson said: ‘You can see in London, we are getting a lot more people hospitalised. Not for very long, probably not with very severe illness.

‘And that’s not a reflection of Omicron versus Delta — that was already true for Delta infections, that they’re less severe than they were last year because there’s a lot of immunity in the population.

‘The challenge is, if there’s enough of them it still poses quite a challenge to the NHS. We’re not talking about anything like what we saw last year with over-flowing intensive care units and ventilator beds.’

The notoriously gloomy expert confirmed he expected the Omicron wave to be milder, with patients discharged from hospitals quicker and fewer Covid deaths, but warned there could still be significant pressure on the NHS.

He also warned that if infections are 40 per cent higher than they were with Delta then that could offset any reduction in severity. 

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Covid cases in South Africa super-mutant ground zero Gauteng are rapidly falling just a month into its outbreak 

The Omicron outbreak in South Africa is fading after just a month, in a promising sign that Britain’s wave could be short-lived. 

South Africa became ground zero for the new variant in late November and saw a meteoric rise in infections, from 670 to more than 20,000 in the space of just three weeks.

But cases appear to have peaked nationally at 26,976 on December 15, and have now fallen for the last five days in a row. Yesterday they dipped 22 per cent in a week after 21,099 were recorded.

The huge surge in infections raised fears that a deadly wave of hospitalisations would follow, but almost immediately doctors on the frontlines said patients were coming in with milder illness.

The claims were dismissed by Britain’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, who claimed South Africa was benefitting from having a younger and sparser population.

But in another promising sign hospitalisations now appear to be levelling off nationally in South Africa, hovering just below 400 admissions a day — compared to a height of 2,000 when Delta took hold.

Admissions dropped yesterday by four per cent, after another 593 were recorded. Deaths are just a fraction of the levels when Delta took hold, with just 99 yesterday.

There are 50 deaths a day on average now, up only slightly on the 20 deaths a day when Omicron was first detected in the country. For comparison, at the peak of the Delta wave there were 600 deaths a day.

South African scientist Dr Michelle Groome said in a press briefing yesterday that infections are now levelling off in three of the country’s nine provinces after peaking in Gauteng about a week ago.

Hospitalisations and deaths are expected to rise for another few weeks even as cases fall because of the lag between infection and severe illness.

Britain is four weeks into its Omicron outbreak, with cases now spiralling to more than 90,000 a day while hospitalisations are over 800 a day and deaths have risen above 100.

But three real-world studies published yesterday suggested that Omicron infections are milder than Delta, and are less likely to put people in hospital.

Scientists still don’t know if Omicron is intrinsically milder than Delta and say built-up immunity from previous infection and prior infection is probably the more likely explanation for the reduced severity.

A similar study conducted in Scotland found the risk of being hospitalised with Omicron was 65 per cent less with Omicron than with Delta.

University of Edinburgh researchers said Omicron was as severe as delta they would have seen around 47 people in hospital in Scotland, yet so far there are only 15. 

Professor Hayward, director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare and a member of the Nervtag advisory group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the emerging research showed ‘we can reasonably say, amongst mainly young adults who normally have mild disease anyway, that the severity is reduced compared to Delta’.

‘That’s reduced maybe nearly a half in terms of likelihood of being admitted to hospital and maybe by about a quarter in terms of the chance of going to accident and emergency,’ he said.

‘I think what we can’t necessarily extrapolate to is what level of reduction in severity we might see in elderly people, and we also know that in elderly people the risk of severe disease throughout the pandemic has always been massively high.’

Prof Hayward added: ‘I think we simply haven’t really seen the data in older people to know.

‘It’s undeniably good news, but I think we’re definitely not out of the danger zone – I think perhaps we can downgrade this from a hurricane to a very severe storm.’

The epidemiologist said the health service is ‘immensely overstretched, and I think that’s just going to get worse’.

He said: ‘I think it does make the public health messaging tricky – I think some of the things that we need to remember is that if you’ve got a halving of severity but in the context of case numbers of Omicron doubling every two or three days, that doesn’t buy you much extra time, you know, maybe less than a week in terms of relieving the pressure on the NHS, if you like.

‘I think the other thing is to kind of explain (that) even if your personal risk is low, then you can still do a lot to protect the most vulnerable, the elderly, those with chronic diseases – you can do a lot to protect the NHS, and you can do a lot to protect services by being much more cautious in terms of the amount of close contact we have.’

Other eminent scientists agreed that the NHS could still be under huge pressure.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT-1 programme and chair in epidemiology and public health medicine at Imperial College London, said ‘there are many many cases and sadly some of those people may get severe illness and end up in hospital.’

He told Sky News: ‘From the beginning of December we saw this very dramatic rise in prevalence across the country, but particularly across London with the R number now substantially above one.

‘This exponential increase in infections is absolutely being driven by the Omicron variant.’

Professor Elliott described it as ‘encouraging news’ that perhaps the infection when you get it might be less severe in terms of hospital cases, but he added: ‘Of course, with this very very rapid rise and increase in cases – and we have seen the national cases go above 100,000 – then more cases means more pressure (on the health service).

‘Even though a smaller proportion (of people) might get severe disease or go into hospital, that could still result in many cases and, of course, that could give pressure on the health service.’

Mr Javid admitted that the health service was already facing difficulties with staff absence, but argued that the change to self-isolation rules should help. 

London in grips of staffing crisis: 12% of ambulance staff and one in seven doctors are off 

Vital services across London are suffering a staffing crisis due to the Omicron variant – with NHS staff absences more than tripling this month, one in seven doctors off sick and 500 Transport for London workers absent.

The situation in the UK healthcare system is at its most critical in the capital, where absence levels are three times higher than at the start of the month – with Guy’s & St Thomas’ and King’s College trusts particularly badly hit.

Nearly 14 per cent doctors in London are off sick, while the London Ambulance Service has had absence levels of 12 per cent – and NHS chiefs said they were already ‘busier at this time of year than we’ve ever been before’.

But there are hopes things could improve after Ministers said people in England who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period will no longer have to self-isolate for the full ten days.

Hospitals are struggling to fill rotas and there are rising concerns that other care could suffer as staff are once again redeployed to virus wards, with the biggest issues arising in the capital which is the Omicron epicentre.

The new figures come as the Covid-19 variant continues to cause a nationwide surge in cases, with recorded case rates of Covid across the UK rising above 100,000 yesterday for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Across the UK, more than one in ten (10.5 per cent) doctors are off work and one in 24 (4.2 per cent) due to Covid. In London these figures increase to one in seven (13.9 per cent) off work and one in 13 (7.4 per cent) for Covid.

The situation is also affecting rail travel, with operators blaming coronavirus-related staff shortages for widespread cancellations during the Christmas getaway period – and Transport for London now closing a whole Tube line.

The Waterloo and City line has been shut from today until early next month so drivers can instead keep the far-busier Central line running. About 500 ‘non-office based’ TfL staff are currently absent due to Covid.

The line, which links Waterloo station with the City, had been shut since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 due to low demand before reopening in June 2021. In 2019, it was only closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Other emergency services such as police forces have also been hit by staff absences, although the Metropolitan Police insisted it was ‘continuing to provide a resilient and strong policing service to London’.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said absence rates were ‘not currently impacting on our ability to provide our normal service to the public’ – with current sickness levels said to be below the 8 per cent peak in January.

‘The NHS workforce was already under pressure before Omicron came along. There is increased pressure in many workforces at the moment, especially if someone needs to isolate if they have a positive case,’ he told broadcasters.

‘Some of the recent moves we have had, moving from 10-day to seven isolation if you take a test in the last two days, I think all of that will help.’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford yesterday declared that new Covid restrictions will return on Boxing Day, with large New Year’s Eve parties banned and the rule of six re-imposed on pubs and restaurants.

The two-metre social distancing will return in most public settings, while hospitality venues will be limited to table service-only and customers will have to wear face masks at all times apart from when seated.

Scotland has also announced stricter guidance for after Christmas but the Prime Minister has said there is not ‘enough evidence’ on Omicron to justify tougher curbs yet.

Mr Gething told Times Radio this morning that he expected England would have to impose restrictions very soon. 

‘Scotland and Northern Ireland have taken relatively similar measures yesterday – it’s England that’s out of step with the other three nations,’ he said.

‘We’ve done this because of the clear public health advice we’ve got and because we are already starting to see a rise in cases. 

Writing in the Sun, Mr Johnson entreated people not to let their guard down, and keep getting boosters.  

‘Omicron continues to surge faster than anything we’ve seen,’ he said.

‘So please keep following the guidance: wear a mask when needed, open windows for ventilation, and take a test before visiting loved ones, particularly if they are elderly or vulnerable. 

‘But the most important thing is to get a jab. While much remains uncertain, we know two does not give enough protection from Omicron. 

‘You need a booster to bolster your immune system and to protect you and your family. 

‘So please, if you haven’t already, get a booster. And if you haven’t had a jab at all, or are due a second, it’s not too late. 

‘A vaccine is the best Christmas present you can give yourself, and the best thing you can do for family and friends is encourage them to get jabbed.’ 

Business leaders in Northern Ireland have slammed its new Covid restrictions as ‘unacceptable and unforgivable’.

Stormont ministers announced yesterday that nightclubs will close from Boxing Day after its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases was recorded.  

Some 3,231 new cases of the virus were confirmed in the region on Wednesday, a jump from 2,096 cases recorded on Tuesday. 

The move to close nightclubs was agreed at a virtual meeting of the powersharing Executive on Wednesday, in which it was determined that dancing will also be prohibited in hospitality venues. It will not apply to weddings, however.

First Minister Paul Givan described the measures as ‘proportionate based on where we are today’ but added they will be kept under review.

However, the Belfast Chamber of Commerce heavily criticised the fact that no additional financial support package was agreed to accompany the measures.

Chief Executive Simon Hamilton, a former DUP minister in the Stormont Executive, said businesses had already suffered significant losses due to heighted consumers fears about the prospect of a lockdown.

‘For weeks now, businesses who have experienced a difficult 2021, have been subjected to a drip feed of speculation and scaremongering about possible lockdowns and further restrictions,’ he said.

‘As the rhetoric ramped up, the impact on businesses was very real as millions of pounds of trade disappeared, causing owners and their teams huge distress.

‘Today, the Executive has added insult to injury. As well as having to deal with the impact of additional measures, businesses haven’t been offered a single penny in financial support. That is simply unacceptable and unforgivable.

‘What sort of a message does that send to the thousands of people who rely on jobs in the affected sectors and their supply chains to heat their homes and feed their families?

It came as it emerged that Britain is considering giving out fourth Covid vaccines in a bid to stop the surge of Omicron cases, following the lead of Germany and Israel.

The rollout of a second set of boosters is being examined by experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

They will weigh up the levels of immunity granted by the extra jab as well as hospitalisation figures, The Telegraph reported.

Those with weakened immune systems are already entitled to a fourth jab but the elderly and other vulnerable groups could soon be included. 

University of Edinburgh researchers found the risk of being hospitalised with Omicron was 65 per cent less with Omicron than with Delta. Graph shows: The rate of hospitalisation in different age groups for Delta (green) and Omicron (red) cases in Scotland

University of Edinburgh researchers found the risk of being hospitalised with Omicron was 65 per cent less with Omicron than with Delta. Graph shows: The rate of hospitalisation in different age groups for Delta (green) and Omicron (red) cases in Scotland

Delta (in red) made up virtually all Covid hospital admissions in November but hospitalisations from Omicron (green) started to tick upwards in December. This is because the first case of Omicron was detected in Scotland on November 20 and it takes several weeks for people to fall ill enough to be hospitalised

Delta (in red) made up virtually all Covid hospital admissions in November but hospitalisations from Omicron (green) started to tick upwards in December. This is because the first case of Omicron was detected in Scotland on November 20 and it takes several weeks for people to fall ill enough to be hospitalised

52111363 10336781 image a 13 1640190051804 The number of Omicron cases reported in the UK is increasing slower than scientists predicted. However some experts fear that the country has hit the limit of its testing capacity and that this is throttling the data

The number of Omicron cases reported in the UK is increasing slower than scientists predicted. However some experts fear that the country has hit the limit of its testing capacity and that this is throttling the data

Britain considers FOURTH Covid vaccination: Experts will examine evidence on rolling out ANOTHER jab after Israel and Germany announced second booster to tackle Omicron threat 

Britain is considering giving out fourth Covid vaccines in a bid to stop the surge of Omicron cases, following the lead of Germany and Israel.

The rollout of a second set of boosters is being examined by experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

They will weigh up the levels of immunity granted by the extra jab as well as hospitalisation figures, The Telegraph reported.

Those with weakened immune systems are already entitled to a fourth jab but the elderly and other vulnerable groups could soon be included. 

The fourth jab would likely come four months after the third if it gets the green light and could be available in the new year. 

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, said: ‘We need to see more data. We are in different circumstances to Israel and we need to see more data on waning immunity and vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation.’

An Israeli health expert, who is sharing findings with the UK, said they are already seeing waning immunity from the third jab, prompting the extra round of vaccinations. 

Israel announced citizens over the age of 60 and medical teams would be eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine shot.

‘The world will follow in our footsteps,’ Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted. 

Bennett, who has sought to drum up higher Israeli turnout for vaccines, welcomed the decision as ‘great news that will help us overcome the Omicron wave that is spreading around the world’.

The Israeli government moved quickly against Omicron, barring foreigners from entering on November 25 and expanding a list of high-risk countries to which its citizens should not travel to include the United States this week.

The fourth jab would likely come four months after the third if it gets the green light and could be available in the new year. 

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, said: ‘We need to see more data. We are in different circumstances to Israel and we need to see more data on waning immunity and vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation.’

An Israeli health expert, who is sharing findings with the UK, said they are already seeing waning immunity from the third jab, prompting the extra round of vaccinations. 

Israel announced citizens over the age of 60 and medical teams would be eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine shot.

‘The world will follow in our footsteps,’ Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted. 

Bennett, who has sought to drum up higher Israeli turnout for vaccines, welcomed the decision as ‘great news that will help us overcome the Omicron wave that is spreading around the world’.

The Israeli government moved quickly against Omicron, barring foreigners from entering on November 25 and expanding a list of high-risk countries to which its citizens should not travel to include the United States this week.

On Tuesday, an Israeli hospital reported the country’s first known death of a patient with Omicron, before amending the statement to say a final laboratory investigation had determined he was infected with the Delta variant. 

Soroka Medical Center said the man, in his 60s and with serious pre-existing conditions, died on Monday, two weeks after he was admitted to a Covid ward.

The Health Ministry said there were at least 340 known cases of Omicron in Israel as of Tuesday. 

Israel said it will share its data with the UK on fourth doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the over-60s, healthcare workers and those with lower immunity.

The Imperial College London report 56,000 cases of Omicron and 269,000 cases of Delta over the first two weeks of the month. 

Professor Ferguson said: ‘Our analysis shows evidence of a moderate reduction in the risk of hospitalisation associated with the Omicron variant compared with the Delta variant. 

‘However, this appears to be offset by the reduced efficacy of vaccines against infection with the Omicron variant. 

‘Given the high transmissibility of the Omicron virus, there remains the potential for health services to face increasing demand if Omicron cases continue to grow at the rate that has been seen in recent weeks.’

Professor Azra Ghani from Imperial College London said: ‘Whilst the reduced risk of hospitalisation with the Omicron variant is reassuring, the risk of infection remains extremely high. 

‘With the addition of the booster dose, vaccines continue to offer the best protection against infection and hospitalisation.’

Experts said the Imperial study showed people who have had previous infection are significantly less likely to be hospitalised with Omicron.

Professor James Naismith, a structural biologist at the University of Oxford, said: ‘This study finds that previous infection reduces the risk of hospitalisation by around two thirds, indicating Omicron is milder if you have some immunity.

‘However, the study suggests there is no reduction in the severity of Omicron compared to Delta for the doubly vaccinated, indicating that it is not milder.

‘This finding is surprising but is grounded in data. There is no report on the benefit of boosting.

‘The study highlights the same risk as EAVE II, Omicron is not a harmless infection, it will cause serious illness and the more people it infects the more people will end up in hospital.

‘Decreasing the spread of the virus to give time to improve population coverage with the booster is the best strategy.’ 

Meanwhile, scientists in the Scotland-wide Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of Covid said that the early data suggested that Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in risk of hospitalisation when compared with the strain which used to be dominant in the country.

Dr Jim McMenamin, the national Covid incident director for Public Health Scotland, labeled the findings a ‘qualified good news story’, but said that it was ‘important we don’t get ahead of ourselves’.

He said: ‘The potentially serious impact of Omicron on a population cannot be underestimated. 

‘And a smaller proportion of a much greater number of cases that might ultimately require treatment can still mean a substantial number of people who may experience severe Covid infections that could lead to potential hospitalisation.’ 

MailOnline analysis of UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data shows Covid cases doubled in all but one of Omicron London's 32 boroughs last week and trebled in seven

MailOnline analysis of UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data shows Covid cases doubled in all but one of Omicron London’s 32 boroughs last week and trebled in seven

Authors of the paper, which is yet to be peer reviewed, said if the Omicron had been like the Delta variant in Scotland they would have seen around 47 people in hospital suffering from the virus but, so far, there are only 15.

But Professor Mark Woolhouse, of the University of Edinburgh, said it was heavily caveated at the moment. The data is based on a small number of cases and didn’t have much data on those most at risk, the over 65s. 

Professor Penny Ward, visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, said: ‘On a day when the UK has registered its largest ever number of daily confirmed Covid infections, some good news has emerged from Scotland and from Imperial College. 

‘Both studies suggest that infection by the omicron variant may be less severe than infection by the delta variant, when assessed by comparing the proportion of patients needing hospital admission. 

‘At this point, both studies are based on comparisons with differing follow up periods due to the more recent appearance of the omicron variant, leaving some degree of uncertainty as to the potential for more severe outcomes among subjects affected by the omicron variant that do need hospital admission to emerge later. 

She continued: ‘However, based on this preliminary information, the decision to delay imposition of greater restrictions on social mixing than are currently advised under Plan B might be more reasonable than some have suggested. 

‘This news does not detract from the extraordinary spread of this variant across the population, and the fact that even a small proportion of people needing hospital care for Covid may become a very large number indeed if the community attack rate continues to escalate, with all that implies for overstretching the already stretched NHS. 

‘It remains important for all of us to take reasonable care, test test test, and get our boosters as soon as possible. If we all do this, then we might expect a happier new year 2022 than at the same time last year.’

It comes after official data showed there were another 302 hospital admissions in London on December 20, the latest date data is available for, which was up 79 per cent in a week — but still a fraction of the peak during the second wave, when there were 850.

Ministers are said to be watching admission rates in the capital before pulling the trigger on more curbs because London is a few weeks ahead of the rest of the country in its Omicron outbreak.

Government sources say officials are considering a national two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown after Christmas if London’s daily admissions breach 400 this week — which would signal ‘unsustainable’ pressure on the NHS.      

It came as The Guardian reported that the NHS could set up ‘field hospitals’ in hospital car parks to provide ‘super surge’ capacity if Omicron causes a massive spike in hospitalisations above previous peak levels.

How Covid restrictions compare across the UK 

Stormont ministers in Northern Ireland have unveiled new measures to help combat rising case numbers of coronavirus in the nation.

On Wednesday evening, ministers agreed a series of restrictions due to come into force on Boxing Day, including the closure of nightclubs, and guidance to limit contacts with different households.

Here, we look at how the measures compare in the different UK nations.

– What is the situation in England?

One big change which has taken place from December 22 is the rules surrounding the self-isolation period.

If a person in England has tested positive or has symptoms, they can stop self-isolating after seven days instead of 10 days if they receive two negative lateral flow test results on days six and seven.

Those who are unvaccinated close contacts of positive cases must still isolate for 10 days.

In terms of restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has reassured people that no further curbs will be introduced in England before December 25. He has yet to announce a post-Christmas Covid strategy for England.

England currently has the most relaxed rules in the UK, but a recent vote in Parliament saw some measures introduced, including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues as of December 15.

This applies to indoor events with 500 or more attendees where people are likely to stand or move around, such as music venues, outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, such as music festivals, and any events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoors or outdoors, such as sports stadiums.

Face coverings have also been made compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport, and people have been told to work from home if they can.

People aged 18 and over are able to get their third jabs from this week.

England’s guidance is that people should work from home if they can. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go in to work – but is encouraged to consider taking lateral flow tests regularly.

– What are the rules in Wales?

From December 26, groups of no more than six people will be allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants in Wales.

Licensed premises will have to offer table service only, face masks will have to be worn and contact tracing details collected and the two-metre social distancing rules are set to return in public places and workplaces.

Sporting events will be played behind closed doors to help control the spread of the new Omicron variant.

Nightclubs will also be closed from Boxing Day under the new rules, although the Welsh Government has announced a £120 million fund to support any businesses affected by the restrictions.

Regulations will also be changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.

A maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 people at outdoor events. There will be an exception for team sports, where up to 50 spectators will be able to gather in addition to those taking part.

People attending weddings or civil partnership receptions or wakes are also being told to take a lateral flow test before attending.

– What about Scotland?

From Boxing Day, large events will have one-metre social distancing and will be limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors.

The following day, the one-metre physical distancing will be implemented between adults in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings, including pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and other settings where food and drink is served, gyms, theatres, cinemas, bingo and snooker halls and bowling alleys.

Museums, galleries and other visitor attractions also have the same rules in place.

Table service is also required where alcohol is being served.

Ministers at Holyrood have announced a package totalling £375 million, including £175 million of additional funding from the Treasury, to support sectors affected by the latest protective measures to combat Omicron.

Since December 14, people have been asked to reduce their social contact as much as possible by meeting in groups of no more than three households.

Allowing staff to work from home where possible has become a legal duty on employers.

Care home visits have also been limited to two households.

– What is Northern Ireland doing?

Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said nightclubs will be closed from 6am on December 26.

Dancing will also be prohibited in hospitality venues, but this will not apply to weddings.

While nightclubs must close, other restrictions are coming into effect on the rest of the hospitality sector. People must remain seated for table service, while table numbers will be limited to six.

Ministers also agreed that sporting events can continue with no limits on capacity, while the work-from-home message is being bolstered and legislation introduced to require social distancing in offices and similar typed workplaces.

Weddings are exempted from the latest measures.

From December 27, the guidance is for mixing in a domestic setting to be limited to three households.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10340385/Daily-Covid-cases-hit-new-record-119-789-hospitalisations-rise.html