Wales unveils plan to ease Covid restrictions over two weeks – follow live

Wales unveils plan to ease Covid restrictions over two weeks - follow live
NHS Confederation chief executive warns UK is ‘far from out of the woods’


Related video: Health secretary cuts isolation period

Mark Drakeford has set out Wales’s plan for easing Covid restrictions amid signs that the Omicron wave “may have peaked”.

The first minister said curbs will be removed gradually over the next to weeks “if conditions allow”.

“We can now look more confidently to the future and plan to start gradually removing the alert level two restrictions, starting with the outdoors measures,” Mr Drakeford said in a statement.

“But the pandemic is not over,” he warned. “We will closely monitor the public health situation – this is a fast-moving and volatile variant, which could change suddenly. I urge everyone to continue to follow the rules and have your vaccines to keep Wales safe.”

Earlier, an NHS leader warned that the Omicron wave in England has “compromised” NHS care.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, warned that, while there are positive signs in the data, the country is “far from out of the woods”.


Drakeford: Infections are falling

Drakeford told a briefing that the ONS Infection Survey showed that infections were falling.

“The increase in Wales has been smaller than in England,” he said.

“In fact, infections in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – where more protective measures were put in place – are lower than in England.

“There are some signs that the growth in infections in Wales is slowing down.”

He said the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 is now just over 1,100.

“The total number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is starting to fall and the rate of admissions has been falling gradually for more than a week,” he said.

He said that in Wales more than 1.8 million boosters and third doses have been given.

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 12:30

Full report: Wales plan for easing restrictions

Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events in Wales under plans being outlined by the first minister.

My colleague Jane Dalton has more details below:

Wales allows outdoor sporting crowds to return as Covid restrictions eased

Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events in Wales under plans being outlined by the first minister.

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 12:20

What changes are happening in Wales?

From Saturday, the number of people who can attend outdoor events will rise from 50 to 500.

From Friday 21 January Wales would move to alert level zero for all outdoor activities.

This means there will be no limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities.

Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events, outdoor hospitality would be able to operate without additional reasonable measures.

However, the Covid Pass will be required for entry to larger outdoor events.

If the downward trend continues, from Friday 28 January Wales would move to alert level zero for all indoor activities.

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 12:18

J&J booster 85% effective against Omicron hospitalisation, South Africa says

A Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is 85% effective in protecting against being hospitalised by the Omicron variant for 1-2 months after it is received, the head of South Africa’s Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said on Friday.

Glenda Gray presented the findings of a SAMRC study at a South African health ministry briefing on the COVID-19 fourth wave, which has been driven by the new variant.

“We saw an 85% vaccine effectiveness and we saw that this kind of vaccine effectiveness is maintained for up to two months,” she said. “We are very happy to report very high levels of vaccine effectiveness against Omicron.”

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 11:55

Italian police red-faced over pink COVID masks

Italian police have protested to the interior ministry after being sent pink health masks to wear on duty, saying the colour risked damaging their reputation.

“We do not understand the reason behind the purchase of masks in a colour that would appear at first sight to be unsuitable for our administration,” the police union wrote in a letter to the interior ministry.

“This purchase is puzzling,” the letter said, adding that two years into the COVID-19 health crisis it should be easy to purchase appropriate face masks.

In future, masks should only be black, white or blue, they said.

There was no immediate comment from the interior ministry.

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 11:41

26 more Covid-linked deaths in Northern Ireland

Twenty-six deaths linked to Covid-19 in Northern Ireland have been recorded in the latest weekly update.

The figure represents an increase on the 18 deaths that occurred in the previous week, according to data compiled by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).

The latest deaths, which happened in the week ending January 7, take the total number of coronavirus-linked fatalities recorded by Nisra to 4,060.

The Nisra figure is drawn from different data sources and is always higher than the Department of Health’s total, as it provides a broader picture of the impact of Covid-19.

On January 7, the department had reported 3,006 deaths.

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 11:15

Citigroup reaches 99% compliance on US staff vaccine mandate

About 99% of Citigroup Inc’s staff in the United States have complied with the company’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements, the bank’s Head of Human Resources Sara Wechter said in a LinkedIn post on Thursday.

Citi staff in the U.S. who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 14 will be placed on unpaid leave and fired at the end of the month unless they are granted an exemption, Reuters reported last week.

Wall Street banks and investment firms have been more proactive than other sectors in requiring that employees return to offices. Many of those moves have been derailed by the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 11:00

Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for US businesses

The Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job.

At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court’s orders Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant.

The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.


“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.

In dissent, the court’s three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgment for that of health experts. “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.

President Joe Biden said he was “disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law.”

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 10:45

Exemption, detention, cancellation: How Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa saga unfolded

Novak Djokovic’s defence of his Australian Open title remains in doubt after Australian immigration officials cancelled his visa for the second time.

Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to challenge the dramatic decision taken by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday, the day after the nine-time champion was drawn to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

Here’s a look back at how the saga unfolded:

How Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa saga unfolded

The saga has taken another dramatic twist

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 10:25

One in ten people with Covid still infectious after 10 days, study suggests

One in 10 people with Covid-19 may remain infectious after 10 days, research suggests.

The amount of time people who test positive for the virus have to isolate for has been cut to five days in England.

My colleague Liam James has more details:

One in ten people with Covid still infectious after 10 days, study suggests

Research comes as self-isolation period cut again in England

Matt Mathers14 January 2022 10:05