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Latest Covid rules and news from UK today

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Related video: ‘A tough year’ Keir Starmer reflects on 2021 in New Year’s message

Regular boosters may be needed to maintain sufficient levels of immunity to fight off Covid through 2022, a virologist has predicted.

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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Omicron hospitalisation risk is a third that of Delta, analysis finds

The risk of hospitalisation with the Omicron variant is around a third that of the Delta variant, new analysis of more than a million cases of both types in recent weeks shows.

The analysis was published by the UK Health Security Agency, after it worked alongside Cambridge University MRC Biostatistics unit to analyse 528,176 Omicron cases and 573,012 Delta cases.

It also found that vaccines can work well against Omicron.

“In this analysis, the risk of hospitalisation is lower for Omicron cases with symptomatic or asymptomatic infection after 2 and 3 doses of vaccine, with an 81 per cent … reduction in the risk of hospitalisation after three doses compared to unvaccinated Omicron cases,” the UKHSA said.

Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at UKHSA, said the analysis was in keeping with other encouraging signs on Omicron but said the health service could still struggle with such high transmission rates.

“It remains too early to draw any definitive conclusions on hospital severity, and the increased transmissibility of Omicron and the rising cases in the over 60s population in England means it remains highly likely that there will be significant pressure on the NHS in coming weeks,” she said.

Tom Batchelor31 December 2021 15:11

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Trains removed from schedules to tackle Covid-induced cancellations

Hundreds of trains are being removed from timetables each day in an attempt to improve reliability following weeks of short-notice cancellations.

At least eight operators have either already reduced frequencies on many routes or will do so in the coming days in response to pandemic-related staff shortages.

Passengers travelling on New Year’s Eve also face major disruption due to industrial action.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said a 24-hour strike by its members employed by CrossCountry was “solidly supported”, causing the majority of the operator’s services to be cancelled.

In recent weeks rail firms across Britain have axed trains at short notice due to staff self-isolating or unwell.

Many have responded by releasing condensed timetables in a bid to create more certainty about which services they can and cannot operate.

Tom Batchelor31 December 2021 14:58

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Nearly 400,000 boosted on Thursday

A total of 397,554 booster and third doses of Covid-19 vaccine were reported in the UK on Thursday, new figures show.

More than 33.9 million booster and third doses have now been delivered in the UK, with 1.6 million in the past seven days.

Around 64 per cent of all adults in the UK have now received a booster or third dose.

The figures have been published by the UK’s four health agencies.

Tom Batchelor31 December 2021 14:42

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How has Covid changed our shopping habits?

British households splurged on online shopping, takeaways and fast food, home improvements and spoiling their pets in 2021, a review of transactions by Barclaycard has revealed.

Tom Batchelor31 December 2021 14:26

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Proportion of Covid hospital patients primarily treated for the virus

The proportion of Covid-19 patients being treated primarily for the virus in England’s hospitals has dropped slightly, new figures show.

Data from NHS England, published on Friday, shows that, of the 8,321 patients with coronavirus in NHS acute hospital trusts in England on December 28, 5,578 (67 per cent) were being treated primarily for Covid.

This is down from 71 per cent a week earlier and 74 per cent at the start of December.

But the number being treated primarily for coronavirus is still rising – up 26 per cent from 4,432 on December 21 to 5,578 on December 28.

The statistics also show that the number of patients with Covid-19 but primarily being treated for something else also rose from 1,813 to 2,743, a jump of 51 per cent.

NHS England has said that Covid patients primarily being treated for something else still have to be separated from non-Covid patients and the virus can be “a significant co-morbidity”.

Matt Mathers31 December 2021 14:03

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Covid hospital staff absence in London quadruples

NHS hospital staff absences due to Covid have nearly quadrupled in London since the beginning of December, new figures show.

A total of 4,580 NHS staff at hospital trusts in London were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate on Boxing Day [Dec 26], up 18 per cent on the previous week and nearly four times the 1,174 at the start of the month.

The new figures from NHS England, published on Friday, also show that the number reached as high as 5,994 on December 23, but has fallen over Christmas Eve to Boxing Day.

Matt Mathers31 December 2021 13:45

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Explainer: How does new Covid pill work? And will it be impacted by Omicron?

Paxlovid, a new antiviral treatment, will be given to Covid patients with mild to moderate infection who are at an increased risk of developing severe disease.

How is the treatment taken and does it work against Omicron?

Our science correspondent Samuel Lovett reports:

Matt Mathers31 December 2021 13:30

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2.3 million people in UK estimated to have had Covid in week before Christmas

Latest data showed in England, 2,024,700 were estimated to have Covid and in Wales 76,500, in Northern Ireland 47,500 and in Scotland figures reached 135,400.

Our health correspondent Rebecca Thomas has more on this story below:

Matt Mathers31 December 2021 13:13

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Welsh schoolchildren could see return of online learning

Some schools in Wales may have to return to online learning because of rising levels of the Omicron variant, the country’s first minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said the levels of staff illness would mean that some schools would not be able to have all pupils back in the classroom in January.

But those decisions would be made by individual schools and local authorities and not the Welsh government, Mr Drakeford said.

Schools in Wales are already taking two planning days next week to prepare for the new term and plan for remote learning if necessary due to rising levels of Covid-19.

Most local authorities in Wales said pupils would return to school from January 6 after the two planning days.

Powys County Council said there would be “blended learning” from 7 January but schools would be open for vulnerable children and children of key workers.

Tom Batchelor31 December 2021 13:09

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Security at UK Covid testing centres being reviewed after anti-vaxxers storm facility

Security is being reviewed at Covid testing sites across the UK after anti-vaxxers stormed a drive-through facility in Milton Keynes, The Independent understands.

Police are investigating the incident on Wednesday, where protesters called members of staff “murdering b******s” and “traitors”.

Some demonstrators threw cones and vandalised signs, while a woman was filmed appearing to steal boxes of equipment.

Tom Batchelor31 December 2021 12:53

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/covid-omicron-isolation-rules-transmission-latest-b1984880.html