Boris Johnson announcement – Covid-ravaged UK falls SILENT as 1,000s cancel Christmas pub & party plans over Omicron

Boris Johnson announcement – Covid-ravaged UK falls SILENT as 1,000s cancel Christmas pub & party plans over Omicron


TOWNS and cities across the UK fell silent this morning as the threat of Omicron saw thousands of Brits work from home after the PM issued a stark warning.

This morning, roads London were at their quietest during rush hour since the summer today – with cities deserted and pubs & lunch spots empty.

According to data from TomTom, congestion between 8am and 9am in Londontoday was 49 per cent – the lowest figure for that period since the end of the summer holidays on September 3, excluding October half-term.

It comes after Professor Chris Whitty called for limits on meeting friends last night despite the prime minister insisting festive plans should not be cancelled over Omicron. 

He advised the public to 'prioritise' Christmas socialising during Wednesday's Downing Street press conference.

Read our Covid-19 live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Joseph Gamp

    Heathrow given green light to raise passenger charges by 50%

    Passengers travelling through Heathrow Airport could be hit by an increase in charges of more than 50% from next month.

    The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the cap on the west London airport's price per passenger will be £30.19 from January 1.

    The current charge is £19.60.

    Charges are paid by airlines but are generally passed on to passengers in air fares.

    A decision on a long-term cap which is expected to begin in summer 2022 and run to 2027 is due to be announced early next year.

    A spokesman for Heathrow, which had called for the cap to range from £32 to £43, said it was "extremely disappointed" with the interim figure of £30.19.

    He claimed it "relies on rushed analysis and will undermine passenger experience" at the airport.

    He went on: "There are material and basic errors in many aspects of the CAA's assessment.

    "Uncorrected, this risks leaving Heathrow without sufficient cash flow to support investment in improving passenger service and resilience."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Chancellor under pressure to offer urgent financial support

    Rishi Sunak – currently away in California – is under enormous pressure to offer urgent financial support to stop firms being forced to shut.

    Tory MP Anne Marie Morris said: "If we're effectively telling people not to visit hospitality venues this Christmas, then this needs to be accompanied by immediate sector specific financial support from the Treasury."

    Labour's shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: "There is an urgent need to stop businesses closing by stealth and workers paying the price."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Covid news: The latest

    • The Queen cancelled a Christmas lunch for fear of Omicron
    • The number of Omicron hospitalisations rose to 15
    • Mr Johnson vowed to do "whatever I have to to protect the public"
    • France banned British tourists citing the spread of the variant
    • Milica Cosic

      PM ‘won’t hesitate’ to impose MORE Covid restrictions

      BORIS Johnson "won't hesitate to act" if more Covid restrictions are needed before Christmas, a minister said today.

      Health minister Gillian Keegan insisted the Government is "not intending" to bring in new curbs before December 25.

      But she admitted the severity of measures is "always kept under review" and they could be cranked up if required.

      And she added we could be "through the other side" of the Omicron crisis "quite quickly" when protection from third shot kicks in.

      She said: "We're not intending to make any more restrictions. But of course the PM said if we need to act, he won't hesitate to act

      "And if that means recalling Parliament then that's what we have to do."

      "Obviously things are always kept under review but there isn't a plan to have a Plan C or bring in further restrictions."

      Read the article in full here.

    • Milica Cosic

      Can I still have the Covid booster if I have a cold?

      The short answer is yes.

      If you are certain it is not Covid you are suffering with and you are well enough to leave home, you can get your third shot with confidence.

      It might make you feel a bit rougher than if you weren’t ill, but overall it’s perfectly safe – and you can emerge from your sickly funk safe in the knowledge you are protected against coronavirus.

      A cold shouldn’t have an effect on your body’s ability to build an immune response to the flu, even though it is fighting an illness.

      NHS guidance says you should still attend your appointment even if you have a mild illness, including a common cold.

    • Milica Cosic

      Doom & gloom

      In the most downbeat assessment since lockdown was lifted earlier this year:

      • PROF Whitty said there would be a dramatic hike in hospital admissions shortly after Christmas and the worst is still to come;
      • THE PM insisted he was sticking with Plan B for now, saying it is the right thing to do, and;
      • MINISTERS refused to say that schools would reopen in January despite previously promising to battle to keep them open.

      January lockdown threat

      Furious MPs also called on Rishi Sunak to cough up or see businesses go under.

      Tory Anne Marie Morris said: “If we’re effectively telling people not to visit hospitality venues this Christmas, then this needs to be accompanied by ­immediate sector specific financial support from the Treasury.”

      Fears of an impending January lockdown were heightened dramatically as Prof Whitty warned there would be “unpalatable choices” to make in the coming weeks and Boris Johnson admitted he would be “working through” Christmas.

      Asked if it was time for more restrictions, Prof Whitty said: “This is a really big threat at the moment.

      "There are lots of things we don’t know, but all the things we do know are bad.”

      Brits urged to limit pub trips

      PEOPLE were last night urged to cut down on drinking with pals and colleagues if they want to see their family at Christmas — as Covid cases soared to a record high.

      Infections hit 78,610 confirmed cases yesterday — up more than 10,000 on January’s peak.

      Omicron infections also nearly doubled overnight, leaping from 5,346 to 10,017.

      In the gloomiest No 10 briefing in months, Chief Medical Officer ­Professor Chris Whitty and a glum-looking Prime Minister urged people to “prioritise social interactions that really matter to them” or risk catching the mutant Omicron strain and missing Christmas.

      They said those choosing to party could help stop the spread with “good ventilation, meeting outdoors and following sensible rules”.

      Explained: Can I get the booster quicker if I volunteer?

      You are not promised to get the booster jab if you volunteer, but now it is available for anyone over 18.

      You can book your booster here.

      As of December 16, there is very high demand for a booster jabs with a queuing system in place.

      • Milica Cosic

        Do I get paid to be a vaccine volunteer?

        NHS Professionals, the flexible workforce provider for the NHS, is recruiting up to 10,000 people for paid roles for the vaccine rollout.

        You can register your interest on the NHS Professionals website, and if accepted you will be asked to make a full application.

        Some jobs will also be advertised by local NHS employers, so you may also want to keep an eye on NHS Jobs for roles in your area.

      • Milica Cosic

        How can I apply to be a vaccine volunteer?

        There are currently almost 3,000 vaccine sites across the country, staffed by over 90,000 volunteers.

        The Sun is appealing for 25,000 readers to give their time as steward volunteers at vaccine centres as part of the effort to make sure every adult has the booster jab by the end of January.

        NHS Volunteer Responders, a partnership between the NHS, Royal Voluntary Service and GoodSAM, is currently recruiting to up to 30,000 additional steward volunteer roles.

        The NHS announced a recruitment drive for 10,000 paid vaccinators, 4,500 people have registered their interest while 13,000 have come forward as volunteer stewards.

        St John Ambulance is also currently working through its networks to mobilise and reengage existing vaccination volunteers – if you’re an existing volunteer, you will be contacted by the re-engagement programme or you can reach out to your volunteering lead.

        If you’re new to St John Ambulance you can find out more on the St John Ambulance website.

      • Milica Cosic

        BREAKING: British tourists banned from France this weekend

        France will ban non-essential travel to and from Britain from this weekend.

        The new rule is being brought in to slow the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant that is causing record numbers of cases in the UK, the French government said.

        From midnight Saturday (11pm Friday UK time) there will be a: "requirement to have an essential reason to travel to, or come from, the UK, both for the unvaccinated and vaccinated.

        "People cannot travel for touristic or professional reasons," the government said in a statement, adding that French citizens and EU nationals could still return to France from the UK.

        Those who have essential reasons for travel will need to present a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of travel.

        They will also need to self-isolate for seven days, but the quarantine period can be cut to 48 hours with a negative test.

      • Joseph Gamp

        Working on Xmas Day likely for NHS workers and the PM

        Working on Christmas Day is likely for those leading the effort to tackle coronavirus, as the threat posed by the Omicron variant increased, England's chief medical officer has said.

        Professor Chris Whitty said the situation was "pretty depressing" to think about the gaps on rotas that would be seen in the health service, and that he expected his plans to be cancelled.

        Boris Johnson said he has "pretty modest" arrangements, adding: "I think the way things are looking I expect a lot of us are going to be working throughout the period."

        It comes as Prof Whitty urged people to deprioritise some social interactions in order to make sure the meetings they wanted to keep could be met.

        He said it was likely his Christmas plans this year with family will be interrupted.

        He told a Downing Street press conference: "Realistically, I think there's a high chance that my original Christmas plans with family are going to be interrupted. I hope it's not completely but we shall see."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Footie fans told to prioritise jabs over matches at stadiums

        A national health chief has urged football fans to go to a stadium this weekend to get their booster "rather than going to watch a match".

        Dr Nikki Kanani, director of primary care at NHS England, offered the advice during a press conference in Downing Street on Wednesday night amid surging cases of the Omicron Covid variant.

        Dr Kanani said: "This is our chance to make choices for each other and for our NHS, so my advice would be if you're going to go to a stadium at the weekend, make it one where you can get your vaccine or help out to give a vaccine, rather than going to watch a match.

        "And to that point, if you're a role model in society, please get your vaccine because actually it's dependent on all of us to show the way right now and to make decisions that help to protect society."

        Downing Street earlier announced mass vaccination centres would open at Wembley Stadium and at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC, within days.

      • Joseph Gamp

        PM brushes aside Tory calls for change

        Boris Johnson brushed aside calls to change from Conservative MPs after a record rebellion against his coronavirus restrictions left the opposition parties questioning his authority to lead the country through the pandemic.

        The Prime Minister said he "would respectfully suggest" the public are focused on jobs and the booster vaccines roll-out in response to the Omicron variant after 100 Conservatives opposed the mandatory use of Covid health certificates during a Commons vote.

        After the biggest Conservative rebellion since he entered No 10, backbenchers called for Mr Johnson to change his approach.

        One senior Tory said a leadership challenge had to be "on the cards" if the Prime Minister did not alter the way he dealt with his own MPs.

        Mr Johnson was pressed on how he would change in response to Tory anger, during a Downing Street press conference after the UK recorded the highest daily total of lab-confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

        "I'm certainly not going to change the policies that have led to the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, the fastest booster campaign in Europe now and delivered 500,000 more people in jobs now than there were before the pandemic began," he responded.

        "Those are the things I would respectfully suggest the public are also keen to focus on."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Long line of Government slogans

        "Get boosted now" is just one in a long line of slogans used by the Government through the course of the pandemic.

        When the UK first went into lockdown in March 2020, the Prime Minister introduced the slogan "Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives" as non-essential businesses were instructed to shut.

        The messaging then changed in May that year to "Stay alert, control the virus, save lives", in a move to help ease the UK lockdown but not end it immediately.

        In June 2020, the public were urged to remember the slogan "hands, face, space" to encourage people to wash their hands, cover their face in indoor settings and to continue to observe social distancing.

        "Eat out to help out" hit headlines in August 2020 for a month-long scheme which saw Britons eat more than 100 million discounted meals to bolster the hospitalist industry.

        Then, in September 2020, the slogan of "Rule of six" was used after a rise in coronavirus cases across the UK prompted the Government to ban gathering of more than six people in England, significantly reducing the then-legal limit of 30 people.

        In January 2021 "Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives" saw a revival, and two months later, in March, "hands, face, space" was amended to add "fresh air" as a reminder that ventilation was also a crucial element in reducing the risk of Covid transmission indoors.

        July saw the introduction of "keep life moving", a slogan the PM said emphasised "the need to continue to progress cautiously", but which drew criticism in the Commons from Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer.

      • Joseph Gamp

        'Get boosted now' logo compared to Hula Hoops

        The Government's latest Covid slogan, "Get boosted now", has been made the subject of online jokes – with many comparing the new accompanying logo to a Hula Hoop.

        The phrase featured in the Prime Minister's address to the nation on Sunday, and was then emblazoned on the front of podiums during the subsequent Downing Street press conference on Wednesday.

        Social media users compared the yellow "O" in "now" to the circular salted snack.

        One user wrote: "Why is there a KP Hula Hoop in the 'Now'? And what is it meant to represent?"

        Another chimed in, remarking of the diagonal lines also incorporated into the design: "Now I'm no graphic design expert but this looks like a sign from a hula hoop themed laser quest."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Over-40s can book Covid booster jabs next week

        Those aged 40 and over will be able to book a Covid-19 vaccine booster from next week, the minister from health has said.

        Stephen Donnelly also said that the 15-minute wait after receiving the jab is to be waived to allow more to receive it.

        On Wednesday evening, he said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) made the recommendation, which he has accepted.

        "Particularly for our GP and our pharmacists, what they signalled was that it would be very very useful in terms of being able to vaccinate more people," he told RTE.

        "It's something we looked at again with the impending threat of Omicron to get as many people boosted as possible."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Chris Whitty warns against over-interpreting Omicron data

        England's top medic has warned that early data from South Africa on the Omicron variant should be treated with caution as there is a danger people have over-interpreted it to mean there is no problem.

        Professor Chris Whitty said what is lacking currently is "clear data on some of the really key questions".

        The chief medical officer said even if the new variant is milder, its ability to spread faster means there could still be an issue.

        He told Wednesday's Downing Street press conference: "The first caution on this is simply a numerical one – if the rate of hospitalisation were to halve but you're doubling every two days, in two days you're back to where you were before you actually had the hospitalisation.

        "If the peak of this is twice as great, then halving of the size of the hospitalisation rate, you still end up in the same place. And this peak is going very fast."

        He said it is also important to note that immunity in South Africa is "far higher" in the face of this wave, due to a prior Delta wave and the country's vaccination programme, adding that that makes their lower hospitalisation rate so far "unsurprising".

      • Joseph Gamp

        Greece demands negative PCR tests from UK travellers

        Travellers to Greece from Britain and Denmark will need a negative PCR COVID-19 test to enter the country, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

        The measure will be in effect from Dec. 19 as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry said. The tests will need to be no more than 48 hours old.

        The quickly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant is expected to become the dominant strain in Denmark this week. In Britain, at least one person has died after contracting Omicron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday, the first publicly confirmed death globally from the variant.

      • Joseph Gamp

        Get jabbed before next term, PM tells schoolkids

        Boris Johnson has called on schoolchildren eligible for the coronavirus vaccine to be jabbed before the new term as bookings open for 12 to 15 year-olds to get their second dose.

        Appointments for children in this age group for their follow-up jab can be made from Monday in England, the Prime Minister said.

        He encouraged all young people entitled to a vaccine to take up the offer before they return to their desks after Christmas.

        He told the Downing Street press conference: "From Monday, 12 to 15-year-olds can book in for a second jab and we know how crucial it is to keep children in school, so let's all make sure our children and young people are vaccinated before they go back next term."

        Last month, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a second dose of the vaccine 12 weeks after the first jab.

        The rollout for first doses to this age group in England began on September 20, and the figure stood at 54% unvaccinated up to December 5.

      • Joseph Gamp

        PM defends No.10 staff or working 'blindingly hard' during pandemic

        The Prime Minister said staff in No 10 had worked "blindingly hard" throughout the pandemic.

        He told a Downing Street press conference: "We'll, of course, hear from the Cabinet Secretary about what he believes has happened, and, indeed, if the police think there's anything to follow up I'm sure that they will.

        "If I may say so, I think that the public can readily … as I think colleagues have said … the public can readily distinguish between these types of reports and these types of accounts, and the overwhelming imperative that we have now together to tackle this disease in the two-pronged way that we are.

        "I think those are the messages that I'm seeing the public understand very, very loud and clear, and really responding magnificently."

      • Joseph Gamp

        NHS staff will 'keep going whatever else happens nationally'

        Medical director of primary care for NHS England Dr Nikki Kanani said staff would "keep going, whatever else happens nationally", when asked about parties and gatherings.

        She told a Downing Street press conference: "We're here to look after our patients and our public, and that's what drives me every day no matter what else is going on, and that's what my teams and my colleagues will continue to focus on."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Chris Whitty warns the worst 'is yet to come'

        The UK can expect several more weeks where Covid cases hit a record high, England's chief medical officer has warned, as Omicron continues its exponential rise across the country.

        Professor Chris Whitty told a Downing Street briefing there were "two epidemics on top of one another" as the UK recorded 78,610 new cases of coronavirus, including cases of the new variant.

        He said: "I'm afraid we have to be realistic that records will be broken a lot over the next few weeks as the rates continue to go up.

        "What we've got is two epidemics on top of one another – an existing Delta epidemic, roughly flat, and a very rapidly growing Omicron epidemic on top of it."

        Prof Whitty said the Government had to choose between "really unpalatable options", adding that there was no clear data yet on severe disease and deaths from Omicron with two jabs, and what the picture was for those who have had boosters.

        He said: "I think what most people are doing – and I think this seems very sensible – is prioritising the social interactions that mean a lot to them and, to prioritise those ones, de-prioritising ones that mean much less to them."

      • Joseph Gamp

        Italy reports 129 new Covid-related deaths today

        Italy reported 129 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday against 120 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 23,195 from 20,677.

        Italy has registered 135,178 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth-highest in the world. The country has reported 5.28 million cases to date.

        Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 7,309 on Wednesday, up from 7,163 a day earlier.

        There were 84 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 93 on Tuesday. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 870 from a previous 863.

        Some 634,638 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 776,563, the health ministry said. 

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