Covid Omicron news latest updates
Covid Around The World: How Omicron Is Impacting The Holidays
Omicron is less likely than the Delta variant to lead to severe disease and hospitalisation, two new studies have suggested.
Research from Imperial College London found that people who test positive for Omicron are up to 20 per less likely to be admitted to hospital. They also have at least a 40 per cent lower chance of needing to stay for one night or longer.
However, Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist involved in the study, tempered the finding – which is yet to be peer-reviewed – by cautioning that Omicron’s ability to evade the vaccine could “offset” the lower risk of hospitalisations.
Meanwhile, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, warned that we still don’t have “conclusive” data on the impact of Omicron on hospitalisations.
“We have some very early studies, but it’s a bit like trying to predict the result of a football game when you’re only a third of the way through,” he said.
His comment comes as the UK announced a record 106,122 daily coronavirus infections on Wednesday, increasing pressure on the government to impose further restrictions.
Tony Blair admits it was ‘undiplomatic’ to call unvaccinated people ‘idiots’
Tony Blair caused a stir yesterday by calling unvaccinated people “idiots”.
He subsequently admitted that his choice of wording was “undiplomatic”.
Data on Omicron and hospitalisations not ‘conclusive’, warns NHS leader
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, has said we still don’t have “conclusive” data on the impact of Omicron on hospitalisations.
“We have some very early studies, but it’s a bit like trying to predict the result of a football game when you’re only a third of the way through,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He said that staff absences threatened the ability of the NHS to deal with the Omicron wave, adding that 12 per cent of London Ambulance Service staff are currently off sick.
‘Paralysed’ PM delays decision on further Covid measures
Boris Johnson will not make a decision on further coronavirus restrictions until after Christmas, leading some to blame cabinet infighting for the impasse.
This comes amid spiralling infection rates in the UK, which have soared after the arrival of the new Omicron variant.
“I think that the UK government is in a state of paralysis about all of this,” Welsh minister Mark Drakeford said, as he announced that tougher measures would come into effect in Wales from Boxing Day.
Here’s a report from our deputy political editor Rob Merrick:
Time running out to act before 2022 arrives, with no announcement planned this side of Christmas
UK, US and EU receive more vaccines in six weeks than Africa has this year
The UK, the US and the EU have received more Covid-19 jabs in the past six weeks than all the countries in Africa combined in 2021, according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA).
The charities-led initiative said 513 million new doses reached the UK, US and EU between 11 November and 21 December, while only 500 million doses were available in Africa this year.
Anna Marriott , health policy manager at Oxfam and PVA, said the decision of wealthy countries to block a vaccine patent waiver is “prolonging the pandemic and all its suffering for every one of us”.
“Rich countries are banking on boosters to keep them safe from Omicron and future variants of Covid-19. But boosters can never be more than a temporary and inadequate firewall,” she said.
“Extinguishing the threat of variants and ending this pandemic requires vaccinating the world. And that means sharing vaccine recipes and letting developing countries manufacture jabs for themselves.”
Omicron is milder than Delta, studies suggest
Two studies have suggested that Omicron causes less severe disease than the Delta variant.
Accordingly, those with the new variant are less likely to need hospitalisation.
But the Imperial College team warned that the NHS was still at risk because of Omicron’s ability to evade vaccines.
Our health correspondent Samuel Lovett has more details:
Milder illness could still be cancelled out by ‘alarming’ rate of infection, scientists warn
House majority whip Jim Clyburn tests positive for Covid
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said he has tested positive for Covid-19, though he is fully vaccinated with a booster and has no symptoms.
“America is in a new phase of this pandemic,” Mr Clyburn, 81, said in a statement. “No one is immune.”
“On Sunday, my entire family took at-home tests as a precaution prior to my granddaughter’s wedding, which took place today,” he said. The home test was inconclusive, he said, and he quarantined and took another test Monday.
Mr Clyburn said it took 56 hours to get results, which came back positive. He remains quarantined and missed the wedding.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says he has tested positive for COVID-19, though he is fully vaccinated with a booster and has no symptoms
China expects ‘certain number’ of Covid-19 cases due to Olympics arrivals
A Beijing Winter Olympics official said there was a high possibility of a “certain number” of Covid cases in China due to foreigners arriving for the event.
“A large number of people from different countries and regions will come to China and the flow of people will increase. Consequently, a certain number of positive cases will become a high probability event,” Han Zirong, vice president and secretary-general of the Beijing organising committee said at a press briefing.
The games are set to run from 4 February to 20 February with all athletes and related personnel and staff in a “closed-loop” in order to contain the spread of the virus.
“We firmly believe these Covid prevention measures can reduce the risk of infection spreading, and can ensure the health of the athletes and other games personnel,” said Huang Chun, another official with the organising committee.
China has so far managed to curb infections with some of the strictest restrictions in the world.
Covid testing debacle not a ‘failure’, says Biden
“I think it’s — you could argue that we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago,” Mr Biden said, adding: “I wish I had thought about ordering” 500 million at-home tests “two months ago”.
Biden says he wishes he thought of ordering 500 million test kits ‘two months ago’
Australia reintroduces curbs in two states
Two of Australia’s most populous states have re-introduced Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday following a spike in daily infections led by the Omicron outbreak.
New South Wales state, home to a third of Australia’s 25 million population, said it was again making it mandatory to wear masks indoors in public places, while venues were told to limit visitors and re-activate customer check-in via QR code.
Victoria state, which has nearly the same population, also re-introduced a mask mandate, citing the need to reduce the stress on the health system.
The changes two days before Christmas are a stumble in the country’s plans for a permanent reopening after nearly two years of stop-start lockdowns as the new variant rages through the community in spite of double-vaccination rates of more than 90%.
“Today’s changes are modest, cautious and take a precautionary approach as we move through this holiday period to the end of January,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters.
US supreme court to hear Biden’s vaccine mandate
The US supreme court said on Wednesday it will hold a special session in January to weigh challenges to two Biden administration vaccine mandate for millions of workers.
Republican-led states, conservative organizations and businesses had challenged the requirement after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration published the rule in early November. The rule was to go into effect on 4 January.
In a statement late on Wednesday evening after the court announced it would hear arguments, the White House defended its policies and said that especially with the rise of the coronavirus’ omicron variant, “it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed.”
“We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and (the Justice Department) will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court,” the statement said.