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The UK has hit a new daily record of Covid-19 cases with 189,846 reported in the latest 24-hour period, up more than 600 on the previous day.
A further 203 people have also died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid.
The latest official figures have come after a virologist predicted regular boosters may be needed to maintain sufficient levels of immunity to fight off Covid through 2022.
Professor Andrew Easton, of the University of Warwick, said while any new curbs to tackle the spread of the virus would likely be short-lived, the vaccine programme is probably here to stay.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “I think it’s very likely the protection offered by boosters is going to be short lived. We’re in a situation now where getting regular vaccines will be what allows us to go about our normal lives.”
Elsewhere, an estimated 2.3 million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending 23 December, up from 1.4 million in the week to 1 December, which was the highest number since autumn 2020, the Office for National Statistics said.
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More than 60% of critical care patients with Covid in England not jabbed
More than 60 per cent of patients admitted to critical care in England with confirmed Covid-19 in December were unvaccinated, the latest figures show.
A report from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC), published today, said the percentage had begun to rise again in November, after decreasing in the previous months.
It stated that in May, 75 per cent of patients admitted to critical care with the virus were unvaccinated, falling to 47 per cent in October “consistent with the decreasing proportion of the general population who were unvaccinated”, but rising to 50.8 per cent in November and 60. per cent in mid-December.
The figures were for patients admitted from 1 May to 15 December this year.
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 21:43
Larges crowds gather in central London to see in new year
Large crowds have gathered in central London to see in the new year.
Pictures show scores of people, some wearing face coverings, packed into Leicester Square this evening.
The traditional fireworks are expected to go ahead in nearby Trafalgar Square, but people have been urged to stay away and watch from their TV screens amid surging Omicron cases.
A tricycle taxi rides through central London ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations
People gather in large numbers in Leicester Square, central London, to celebrate New Year’s Eve
Crowds form around a street performer ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations in Leicester Square, central London
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 21:14
France faces ‘difficult’ weeks ahead, says Emmanuel Macron as country reports more than 230,000 cases
French president Emmanuel Macron has said the next few weeks will be difficult as the country heads into subdued new year celebrations after registering 232,200 new Covid cases over the last 24 hours, its highest-ever recorded total.
“The weeks to come will be difficult, we all know that”, he said in a broadcast new Year’s eve address.
New infections over the last 24 hours were above 200,000 for the third day running, making France one of the epicentres as a wave of infections linked to the Omicron variant sweeps across Europe.
Infections in France, one of the countries carrying out widespread testing, stood well above the tally recorded in Italy and the UK, which also reported new records on Friday.
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 20:40
Revellers enjoy New Year’s Eve celebrations
Revellers have been out enjoying New Year’s Eve celebrations across the UK this evening, including in Liverpool, London and Edinburgh.
Restrictions vary across the UK, but there are none affecting the festivities in England.
London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks are going ahead tonight after previously being cancelled, however people are being urged to watch the display on their TV screens rather than heading down in person this year.
Revellers during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Liverpool
Revellers enjoy a drink ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations at a bar in Soho, central London.
Arthur Grace and Lynsey Gray, from Fife, take a selfie on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill ahead of the bells on New Year’s Eve
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 19:39
New year revellers urged to ‘behave responsibly’
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, asked the public to “behave responsibly” and encouraged new year partygoers to take a test and “avoid taking unnecessary risks”, while also voicing support for the call for NHS workers to be prioritised for coronavirus testing.
He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “If we have the lateral flow tests, then people can get back to work earlier and that is vital for NHS workers and other essential workers, so yes, I would absolutely prioritise those workers because, without them, really important systems are in danger of grinding to a halt.”
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 19:19
Next few weeks will be ‘pretty tough’ for health service, says NHS boss
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said it was looking “pretty tough” for the health service over the coming weeks due to the rising number of Covid infections and hospital admissions.
He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “We must not underestimate the dangers we face over the next few weeks.
“The health service is always under a lot of pressure in winter, the middle of January is normally the very most busy time, and we are facing that time with this twin challenge of rising numbers of people coming into hospital, we’re getting on for a doubling of the number of people in hospital over the last two or three weeks, and also this very high rate of staff absence as a consequence of staff having the virus.
“So getting through the next few weeks is going to be pretty tough.”
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 18:55
UK daily Covid cases could be closer to 500,000, says expert
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a leading statistician, said the UK’s daily Covid-19 cases could be closer to 500,000.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) adviser told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “The case data that has just come out today shows around about 190,000 (new cases) but even that we should take with a pinch of salt because we don’t actually count reinfections… and testing is limited – people are finding it more difficult to find tests – so normally the number of cases are around half the number of infections, so we could be talking about half a million new infections per day.
“This is a huge unprecedented wave of infection and very daunting. It does look encouraging that London cases look like they may have peaked.”
The Cambridge University academic added that, while hospital admissions are around a third of what they were at the same time last year, they are “rising fast and will continue to do so as older cases are now rising”.
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 18:38
Covid hospital admissions ‘sadly’ starting to rise ‘particularly in over 60s’, said Sajid Javid
The health secretary has said hospital admissions are “sadly” starting to rise as a result of record coronavirus infection numbers, “particularly in over 60s”.
Sajid Javid told broadcasters: “Fortunately we have some of the strongest defences this country has ever had during this pandemic, that includes our huge vaccination programme, our juggernaut of a testing system and also our world-leading antivirals programme.”
As he encouraged “more people to come forward” to join the 75 per cent of eligible adults in England who have received a booster vaccination, he added: “We’ve got new data from UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) that suggests you are eight times more likely to be hospitalised if you are unvaccinated, so it can never be more important now to get vaccinated if you haven’t been so already.”
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 18:21
People urged to limit contacts in Northern Ireland amid record daily cases
People have been urged to limit their contacts over the coming days after Northern Ireland recorded its highest ever number of daily Covid cases.
A further 7,215 positive cases were notified by the Department of Health today, while one further patient who had previously tested positive for the virus has died.
Health minister Robin Swann has urged people to limit their contacts over coming days amid growing concern over the spread of the Omicron variant.
He said: “This is a time when everyone can play a crucially important part in protecting ourselves, those we care for and our essential health services which are under unrelenting pressure.”
“Each of us can make a difference by making the right choices. Let’s limit our contacts, prioritise those people who mean most to us and take all the precautions we can before we meet.”
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 17:44
UK Covid hospital admissions rise
Across the UK, there were 1,915 Covid-19 hospital admissions on 27 December, up 62 per cent week and the highest number since 8 February, according to government figures.
During the second wave, UK admissions peaked at 4,583 on 12 January.
There were 11,918 people in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 on 29 December, up 44 per cent week on week and the highest number since 2 March.
The second-wave peak was 39,254 on 18 January.
Chiara Giordano31 December 2021 17:00