Omicron latest news – Covid CRISIS rips through Tottenham as 6 players test positive ahead of Europa League clash

NEW rules designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus will see travellers having to take a pre-departure tests from TODAY.

All travellers will be required to take a Covid-19 pre-departure test, amid warnings that the time between infection and infectiousness could be shorter with the new strain.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid cautioned the variant was spreading within communities, rather than just being linked to international travel. And the decision on pre-departure tests followed calls from Labour to implement the process.

It will mean anyone travelling to the UK from countries not on the red list will be required to take a pre-departure test a maximum of 48 hours before leaving, regardless of their vaccination status.

He also said the Omicron variant "is continuing to spread here and around the world".

He told MPs: "According to the latest data there are now 261 confirmed cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 336. This includes cases with no links to international travel. So, we can conclude that there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England."

Read our Omicron live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Death toll could be nearly 170,000

    When looking at the overall death toll from coronavirus, official figures count deaths in three different ways, each giving a slightly different number.

    First, government figures – the ones reported each day – count people who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus. This figure is more than 145,000.

    According to the latest ONS figures, the UK has now seen more than 169,000 deaths in total – that's all those deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate even if the person had not been tested for the virus.

    The third measure counts all deaths over and above the usual number at the time of year – that figure was more than 140,000 as of 19 November.

    In total, there were 13,743 deaths registered in the week to 19 November, which was 16% above the five-year average.

    Of the total deaths, 1,088 were related to coronavirus, fewer than the previous week.

    There have been more deaths involving Covid than "excess" deaths since the start of the pandemic, meaning non-Covid deaths must be below usual levels.

    This could be down to the milder flu season last winter – due to less travel and more social distancing – and because some people who might have died for other reasons had there been no pandemic, died of Covid.

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Hospital numbers stable

    The most recent government figures show 7,268 people with coronavirus in hospital in the UK, down from 7,553 a week earlier.

    Although numbers of hospital patients with coronavirus are higher than they were over the summer, they are far below the peak of nearly 40,000 people back in January.

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Daily deaths have been falling

    There were 41 deaths within 28 days of a positive test reported on Monday.

    Of those deaths, 34 were in England, six in Wales and one in Northern Ireland. There were no deaths reported in Scotland.

    England has seen the majority of UK deaths since the pandemic began, with more than 126,000 so far.

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Vaccine rollout continuing

    More than 51 million people, 89% of those aged 12 and over in the UK, have now received a first dose of a vaccine.

    The number of people who have received a second vaccine dose is now more than 46 million, or 81% of people aged 12 and over.

    So far, more than 20 million booster doses have been administered across the UK, with 17 million in England, 1.8 million in Scotland, almost a million in Wales and 460,000 in Northern Ireland.

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Covid infection plus a vaccine helps people fend off variants, study suggests

    People are more able to fend off coronavirus variants if they have had Covid previously plus a vaccine, new research suggests.

    US experts analysed data on people who had recovered from natural infection earlier in the pandemic and found that having a Covid vaccine enabled them to produce high-quality antibodies that could act against variants.

    These antibodies were more powerful than those produced by either natural infection or vaccine alone.

    The team, from the University of California Los Angeles, said the research suggested booster jabs could help against variants by "improving not only antibody quantity, but also quality".

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Which rules changed at 4am on Tuesday?

    Travellers arriving in the UK must now have evidence of a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken in the two days before their departure.

    If your journey begins on a Friday, you could take the test any time on the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

    – What type of test is required?

    Lateral flow tests are accepted, which are cheaper and quicker than PCR tests.

    – Can I get a test from the NHS?

    NHS tests cannot be used for international travel. You must purchase a test from a private company.

    – What happens if I do not take a test?

    You may not be able to board your transport to the UK.

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Covid cases most prevalent in the South, Wales and Northern Ireland

    Credit: BBC
  • Adriana Elgueta

    10.5million Covid cases in the UK

    The average number of daily confirmed cases has bounced around since mid-July and has been rising again since early November.

    There have been 10.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK and more than 145,000 people have died, government figures show.

    However, these figures include only people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.

    So far, 89% of people aged 12 and over in the UK have had their first vaccine dose, 81% have had their second and 36% have had a booster.

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Overnight the Belfast Telegraph has broken a story that fake vaccine certificates for use in Northern Ireland are being sold in Ireland. Allison Morris reports:

    Fake vaccine cards are being sold online ahead of the introduction of fines for those in breach of the Covid certification scheme in Northern Ireland.

    Blank vaccine cards that can be filled in with personal details are being sold by a man based in the Irish Republic for €50.

    The reports are similar to claims last month that digital vaccine passes for Ireland were changing hands for €350.

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Second infections tend to be more mild

    Dr Jeffrey Barrett continued: "And a number of people including Dr Fauci (chief medical adviser to US president), as you mentioned, have hypothesised that this variant may be more mild or less likely to cause severe disease than previous variants of the virus.

    "I think what we have seen so far in South Africa, for example, is possibly consistent with that, but it's really much too soon to say, and the reason for that is that this variant seems to be able to infect individuals who either have been vaccinated or previously have been infected.

    "And we know that second infections or breakthrough infections of vaccinated individuals tend to be more mild.

    "So the fact that so far we have seen not very many severe cases of Omicron, maybe because it is infecting these individuals with some amount of immunity and that's good news that they aren't having tonnes of severe disease, but I think it is too soon to assume that fundamentally Omicron is more mild than say Delta."

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Omicron to become dominant variant?

    Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 genomics initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said he thought Omicron would take over from Delta in the UK as the dominant variant of coronavirus "within a matter of weeks".

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we can now say that this variant is spreading faster in the UK than the Delta variant at the same time, and that's something that I think was unclear until very recently.

    "I am pretty confident that it's going to take over (Delta) probably in a matter of weeks."

    Asked about the implications of that, he said: "Well, we don't know and that's the really critical question, of course, is how many of those cases of which there will likely be a large number will lead to severe disease?"

  • Adriana Elgueta

    Is Omicron more transmissible but less severe?

    Asked whether Omicron could infect more people but make fewer people sick, Professor Tim Spector, from the Covid Zoe app, told BBC Breakfast: "If early reports pan out – we don't absolutely know this, we've got hardly any data in this country where we have high rates of vaccination – but if we assume that it is not more severe and possibly milder than Delta, but it's much more transmissible…

    "So it means that perhaps twice as many people are going to pass it on from when someone gets it in a crowd.

    "That's going to be good news for the individual because we have less cases going to hospital, and partly this is due to our high vaccination rates.

    "But it's also means that eventually you will get more deaths and problems, because nearly everyone is infected or re-infected.

    "And so, this this means that for the country as a whole, it could be worse news but better for the individual. So it's absolutely no reason for complacency."

  • Adriana Elgueta

    GSK says sotrovimab antibody-based Covid-19 therapy is effective against Omicron variant

    Britain’s GSK has released new data from early-stage studies, citing that its antibody-based Covid-19 therapy with US partner Vir is effective against all mutations of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

    The data, yet to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, shows that the companies’ treatment, sotrovimab, is effective against all 37 identified mutations to date in the spike protein, GSK said in a statement.

  • Adriana Elgueta

    New rules come into place today

    People coming to the UK must show proof of a negative Covid test before they travel, as new rules to limit spread of the Omicron variant come into effect.

    UK arrivals already have to take a PCR test upon their return, and contacts of a suspected Omicron case must self-isolate for 10 days

  • Joseph Gamp

    Omicron now circulating within the community, says Sajid Javid

    The Omicron variant of coronavirus is now circulating within the community, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed.

    Mr Javid told MPs on Monday that "multiple regions of England" were seeing cases of the variant that were not linked to international travel.

    And he said he could not guarantee the variant would not "knock us off our road to recovery", as he said the "the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron".

    Earlier, Professor Paul Hunter, from the school of medicine at the University of East Anglia, had warned the Omicron variant could be spreading faster than a previous variant, Delta.

    He told BBC Breakfast: "How it's likely to spread in the UK still uncertain, but I think the early signs are that it will probably spread quite quickly and probably start outcompeting Delta and become the dominant variant probably within the next weeks or a month or so at least.

    "The big remaining question is actually how harmful it is if you do get Covid with this Omicron variant, and that's the question that we're struggling to answer at the moment."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Sajid Javid says pre-departure measures are temporary

    New rules designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus will see travellers having to take a pre-departure test before travelling to England from Tuesday.

    Mr Javid said the measures were temporary, and acknowledged they would cause disruption.

    He said: "We're taking this early action now so we don't have to take tougher action later on, and so that we can take every opportunity to prevent more cases from arriving in our country."

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government must now do "whatever it can" to lower the price of Covid-19 pre-departure tests.

    He said: "I would have liked to see the Government act more quickly. As ever, they are behind the curve. As soon as we saw the scientific evidence saying that (there) should be pre-departure tests, we called on the Government to do this last week. The Government delayed, as they always do.

    "They've done it now, that's a good thing. But the Government needs to get ahead instead of being behind."

  • Joseph Gamp

    DHSC promises to find addition space at quarantine hotels

    The Department for Health and Social Care has promised additional hotel space is being found.

    A spokesman said: "We are rapidly expanding our hotel capacity following our immediate and precautionary action against the Omicron variant.

    "We have doubled the number of hotel rooms available from Monday and will continue to increase availability on a daily basis."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Brit now stuck in South Africa for a further 11 days

    Brit Lauren Hopkins said she faces an extra 11 days stuck in South Africa, as a lack of quarantine beds means she can't get home.

    She told The Telegraph: "Flights aren't an issue – it's getting a hotel quarantine booking that's keeping us all here. They haven't put nearly enough on for the amount of us.

    "We've been trying since Nov 28 to get a booking, with no luck. At the moment, Dec 13 is the earliest availability, meaning we come out Christmas Day and have to fund an extra 11 nights in South Africa.

    "In all honesty, I am ashamed to be British. I and hundreds of other British citizens have been completely abandoned by our own government.

    "To say I feel let down is a gross understatement. It's an utter disgrace."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Hundreds of Brits are stranded in red list countries because quarantine hotels are full

    QUARANTINE hotels are full, leaving hundreds of Brits stuck in red list countries as they have nowhere to go.

    Stranded Brits are having to pay to stay in red listed countries until there is space for them at a quarantine hotel in the UK.

    Eleven countries are on the red list, including Nigeria which was added over the weekend after 21 cases of Omicron reported in England were linked to travel from the country.

    The surprise addition meant some British holidaymakers were stuck abroad when the new announcement was made.

    Anyone returning from a red listed country must quarantine in a designated hotel upon arrival back in the UK, at a cost of £2,285.

    Those who break quarantine rules may have to pay a fine of up to £10,000.

    But there are limited rooms available as the government tries to sign up extra hotels to the scheme.

  • Joseph Gamp

    No.10 'confident' in making final decision on new restrictions next week

    Mr Johnson's spokesman said yesterday that he's confident the true threat of Omicron will allow them to make a final decision on any new restrictions by the end of next week.

    He said: "We are confident we will have more data than we currently do and we will be able to update Parliament during that week [commencing the 13th]. 

    But he warned that any decisions won't be locked in and could suddenly change during the holiday period.

    The PM's spokesman said: "We do have the ability to take public health decisions in the interest of public health during recess."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Health secretary vows to crackdown on companies advertising false testing prices

    Mr Javid also vowed to crackdown on unscrupulous testing companies which advertise false prices to get to the top of the Government website.

    It has emerged firms are posting swabs for just 30p, only for customers to find they cost from £59 when they click through to order them.

    The health sec raged: "We have removed, rightly so, over 100 providers from the Government website in recent weeks.

    "Some 20 were removed this weekend for showing misleading prices and we will continue taking a tough and hard line."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Continued…

    It came after Boris Johnson admitted he couldn't rule out snap Covid restrictions over Christmas and Downing Street said the PM would make an announcement before MPs break up for their holidays on December 16.

    Sajid Javid also said Brits may need to get annual vaccinations in future, adding: "We have to find ways to continue with life as normal."

    And he warned the new mutant strain could "knock us off our road to recovery" if it turns out to be vaccine resistant.

    He told the Commons: "The Omicron variant is continuing to spread here and around the world.

    "According to the latest data there are now 261 confirmed cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 336.

    "This includes cases with no links to international travel. So, we can conclude that there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Omicron Covid strain ‘doubling every three days’ in UK

    CASES of mutant Omicron are doubling every three days in the UK and it will be the dominant strain in weeks, scientists warned last night.

    It comes after Sajid Javid told MPs the new variant is known to be spreading in the community and could "knock us off our road to recovery"

    The Health Secretary announced there are now 336 cases in the country as scientists become more confident that it spreads faster than the Delta variant.

    Experts say Omicron could become the dominant strain in “weeks rather than months”, the Times reports.

    Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, who sits on the government’s Nervtag advisory group, said early measures of Omicron cases "suggest a doubling time of three days or less”.

    Scientists at the UK Health Security Agency came to similar conclusions after finding that the number of suspected Omicron cases more than doubled in the last week of November.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Mexico reports 110 further Covid deaths

    Mexico's Health Ministry on Monday reported 110 more deaths from COVID-19 and 752 new cases.

    It brings the country's death toll since the pandemic began to 295,312 and its total of infections to 3,902,015. (

  • Joseph Gamp

    China reported 94 new Covid cases yesterday

    China reported 94 new confirmed coronavirus cases for Dec. 6, up from 61 a day earlier, its health authority said on Tuesday.

    Of the new infections, 60 were locally transmitted, according to a statement by the National Health Commission, compared with 38 a day earlier.

    The new local cases were reported by local authorities in Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Yunnan and Zhejiang.

    China reported 14 new asymptomatic cases, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, compared with 44 a day earlier.

    There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of Dec. 6, mainland China had 99,297 confirmed cases.

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