US registers over 587,564 cases in day, shatters own record – follow live

US registers over 587,564 cases in day, shatters own record – follow live
Covid Omicron news latest updates


Related video: WHO warns world faces ‘tsunami’ of Covid-19 infections

NHS bosses are warning that the number of Covid patients in hospitals is expected to keep rising for 10 days before admissions hit their peak, telling health leaders to “prepare for the worst but hope for the best”.

With the latest data showing there were 11,452 people with coronavirus in hospitals in England this morning – up 61 per cent from last week and the highest number since 26 February – fears around new year celebrations on Friday continue to mount, made worse by a shortage of rapid tests.

Earlier, health secretary Sajid Javid admitted in a letter to MPs that lateral flow supplies would continue to be “constrained” for two weeks to deal with “huge demand”. He also announced the government was upping a pre-Omicron order of 100 million rapid tests for January and February to 300 million per month.

His warning came hours before the UK Health Security Agency announced there had been another record-breaking number of daily Covid cases reported in Britain, with today’s 189,213 topping Wednesday’s 183,037.


Covid restrictions around the UK for New Year’s Eve: A comparision

The New Year’s celebrations around the country will remain muted on Friday as authorities have implemented different set of restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

While Mayor Sadiq Khan cancelled the Trafalgar Square event due to the surge in Omicron cases, events in Scotland will have one-metre social distancing and are limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors, with one-metre physical distancing in place in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings.

Here’s how the restrictions compare in the different UK nations, reports Catherine Lough.

Arpan Rai31 December 2021 07:09

No curbs in Sydney for New Year’s celebrations even as cases spike

Australia’s worst-affected city Sydney will bring in New Year’s Eve with celebrations in public as officials asked people to come out and enjoy, even as the city’s Covid-19 cases are soaring.

The first country to bring in New Year will have thousands out in the open at the prime harbourside spots to watch the traditional fireworks celebrations at midnight in the 12minute pyrotechnic display.

People will be lining up at the vantage points from early in the day.

This could prove to be a grave threat as Omicron variant of coronavirus is being seen as highly transmissible and infects a large number of people.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked people to “enjoy the evening” and New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said everyone should head and enjoy New Year’s.

As the threat of hospitals getting overwhelmed looms, a little over a month after Omicron was announced as a ‘Variant of Concern’ by the World Health Organizations, several nations have resorted to curfews and restrictions to prevent a mass spread of the infection.

More than 32,400 new cases were recorded on Friday on the island nation, a new record daily high, pushing the cumulative count close to 400,000. More than 135,000 active cases remain in Australia, out of which 127 people are in intensive care, officials said.

Australia has recorded a total of 2,239 deaths from the infection since the pandemic began.

Arpan Rai31 December 2021 05:35

CDC warns against cruises: ‘Chance of getting Covid-19 on cruise ships very high’

The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has warned people of onboard infections and not attend cruises as the Covid-19 infections triggered by the Omicron variant reached record high in the country.

“The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting Covid-19 on cruise ships is very high,” even if people are fully vaccinated and have received a booster, the CDC said.

The US saw nearly 600,000 new cases — a world record high of daily infections — on Thursday.

More than 90 cruise ships have come under scanner due to ongoing Covid-19 infections, and the total number of cases was not clear immediately.

This comes at the time Covid has wreaked havoc globally with a dominant variant which is highly transmissible as the pandemic clocks two years and hundreds of economies are entering 2022 in a battered condition.

Arpan Rai31 December 2021 04:07

Govt criticised for failing to respond to damning report on Covid

The government has been criticised for failing to respond to a damning report by MPs that accused ministers of mishandling the early stages of the pandemic.

The report, compiled by the Health and Science and Technology Committees, found the government’s initial response to Covid-19 “amounted in practice” to the pursuit of herd immunity, with the delayed decision to lock down ranking as one of the “most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.

More than 50 witnesses contributed to the cross-party report, including ministers, NHS officials, government advisers and leading scientists, with the authors saying it was was “vital” that lessons were learnt from the failings of the past 18 months.

Our science correspondent Samuel Lovett has the full report:

Government criticised after failing to respond to MP’s damning report on Covid

Ministers yet to respond to findings of cross-party inquiry after 12 December deadline passed

Sam Hancock30 December 2021 23:58

Watch: UK international flights drop 71% from pre-Covid levels

UK international flights drop 71% from pre-pandemic levels
Sam Hancock30 December 2021 22:42

‘Prepare for the worst’, NHS bosses warn amid rising hospitalisations

The number of Covid patients in hospitals is expected to keep rising for 10 days before admissions hit their peak, NHS bosses have warned as they told health leaders to prepare for the worst.

With the latest data showing 2,082 hospital admissions on 28 December, the highest since February, and another record rise in infections on Thursday, NHS chiefs and clinicians are concerned the spread on wards could lead to mass outbreaks among patients and staff.

Meanwhile, there are fears that – added to the lateral flow test shortage in England – new year celebrations on Friday night could also see a further spike in the number of cases.

Our health correspondent Rebecca Thomas and science correspondent Samuel Lovett report:

Covid hospital admissions not expected to peak for 10 days, NHS bosses warn

Mixing over Christmas will have worsened hospital admissions over next few weeks, top epidemiologist has said

Sam Hancock30 December 2021 22:11

Ministers call for NHS staff to be ‘front of queue’ for Covid tests

The government is facing calls to give NHS staff priority for lateral flow tests amid the ongoing shortage.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) bosses, and the British Medical Association (BMA), said health workers should come first when trying to access the rapid Coronavirus tests in a bid to ease staffing issues.

The BMA said there are more than 18,000 staff absent from acute hospital trusts in England, either with Covid-19 or because they are self-isolating, adding it expected that figure to be much higher when the most recent data is published later this week.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said: “Being unable to get the tests means staff may not be legally allowed to work, and at a time of acute workforce shortages and winter pressures this could be devastating for the care that can be given right across the NHS.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said he had written to Mr Javid urging him to make sure NHS staff were at “the front of the queue”.

It follows the Welsh government’s decision to lend England 4 million lateral flow tests as ministers scramble to stock up. The full story on that is here.

Sam Hancock30 December 2021 21:59

Opinion: ‘Questions about where Covid came from won’t go away’

An international conference offering advice on the importance of biosafety measures, including how to avoid lab leaks during research and experiments involving animals, was held this month at an institute of virology – in Wuhan.

The event, advertised on the Chinese government-owned lab’s website, did not get much international publicity. It was, however, a success, according to the Institute, with more than 200 people – mostly students – signing up from a number of countries.

There is, of course, a strong element of irony in the lab accused of being the source of Covid-19, allegedly from manipulation of bat coronavirus, offering guidance on safety – just as another virulent strain of the pandemic spreads across the world. But then again, it may, for that very reason, be the ideal place to do so.

Read our defence and security editor Kim Senguptas thinking in full:

Questions about where Covid came from are not going away any time soon | Kim Sengupta

Beijing has continued to claim, against all evidence, that the virus did not originate in China

Sam Hancock30 December 2021 21:25

Watch: WHO warns world faces ‘tsunami’ of Covid infections

WHO warns world faces ‘tsunami’ of Covid-19 infections
Sam Hancock30 December 2021 21:00

UK breaks daily Covid cases record again with 189,213

The UK reported a record-breaking 189,213 new Covid infections in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.

It follows Wednesday’s similarly record-breaking 183,037 positive tests.

A further 332 people died from Covid-related causes on Thursday, up from 57 the day before.

The news comes amid a shortage of Covid tests in the UK, which has sparked concerns over New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Sam Hancock30 December 2021 20:56