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Covid UK news – live: Warning of five-year threat amid omicron fears as Met reviews complaint over No 10 party

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Boris Johnson receives Covid booster vaccine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London

The government has been warned “it will take a long time” for Covid to stop having a potentially damaging effect on festivities such as Christmas, amid concerns over the new omicron variant.

A report prepared by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (Spi-M) claims it will take “at least a further five years for Covid-19 to settle to a predictable endemic state” – where the virus lingers in the background but does not threaten to cause widespread infection and overwhelm the NHS.

The analysis – produced before omicron was detected – came as 75 additional cases of the new variant were detected in England on Friday, doubling the UK total in a single day to at least 150.

Elsewhere, the Metropolitan Police has announced it will “consider” complaints from two Labour MPs that Boris Johnson and his No 10 staff held Christmas parties last November and December, while the rest of the country was in lockdown. “It is our policy not to routinely investigate retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 regulations; we will however consider the correspondence received,” the force said in a statement.

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Met considers complaints No 10 parties broke Covid rules

Following my earlier post (2.57pm), here’s Andy Gregory with more detail on complaints being considered against the PM and his staff.

Labour backbenchers Neil Coyle and Barry Gardiner each wrote to Scotland Yard asking police to investigate reports in the Daily Mirror that two parties were held in the run-up to last Christmas – at a time when such gatherings were banned.

In the first instance, Boris Johnson is alleged to have given a speech at a packed leaving-do for a senior aide during England’s second lockdown, last November.

Members of his team then held their own festive party in the days before Christmas, while London was under Tier 3 restrictions, according to the paper.

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 15:50

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Watch: Nicola Sturgeon receives her booster jab

Nicola Sturgeon receives her booster jab

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 15:39

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No 10 parties: Barry Gardiner’s letter to Cressida Dick

Following my last post, here’s the letter one of the complainants – Labour backbencher Barry Gardiner – wrote to Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick:

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 15:27

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BREAKING: Met ‘considering’ complaints about No 10 Christmas parties

Police say they are considering complaints from Labour MPs that Boris Johnson and his No 10 staff held Christmas parties last December, in breach of Covid regulations.

Labour backbenchers Neil Coyle and Barry Gardiner have each written to Scotland Yard asking the Metropolitan Police to investigate reports that two parties were held in the run-up to last Christmas at a time when such gatherings were banned.

Mr Johnson has not denied the events took place but said no rules were broken, though he has repeatedly refused to explain how that could be the case.

In a statement, the Met said that while it did not routinely investigate “retrospective” breaches of the Covid regulations, it was considering the correspondence it had received. It added:

“The Metropolitan Police Service is aware of widespread reporting and has received correspondence relating to alleged breaches of the health protection regulations at a government building on two dates in November and December 2020. t is our policy not to routinely investigate retrospective breaches of the Covid-19 regulations; we will however consider the correspondence received.”

As well as the letters from Messrs Coyle and Barry, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner previously wrote to Cabinet secretary Simon Case to ask whether he was considering referring the matter to the Met.

Johnson has continually denied to clarify how the parties adhered to Covid guidelines when under the rules, parties were banned

(PA Wire)

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 14:57

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Further 14 Covid-linked deaths and one new omicron case in Scotland

Scotland has recorded 14 coronavirus-linked deaths and 1,257 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the Scottish government.

One case of the new Omicron variant has been confirmed in that time, in NHS Grampian, taking the total people infected with the variant in Scotland to 30.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has the most of the new variant cases at 11, followed by NHS Lanarkshire with nine, five in NHS Forth Valley, three in NHS Highland and two in NHS Grampian.

Scottish ministers said Public Health Scotland is “aware of a processing issue with UK government lab tests contributing to lower than expected cases and tests” in the daily figures and investigations are ongoing to resolve the problem.

The death toll under the daily measure, of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, is 9,648.

There were also 605 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19 as of Friday night and, of these, 50 were in intensive care.

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 14:46

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In images: Covid in the UK

Scotland’s FM Nicola Sturgeon receives her Covid booster vaccine on Saturday

(Getty)

A woman walks past signage outside a pop-up Covid vaccination centre in Hammersmith, London

(AFP via Getty Images)

Shoppers walk along Oxford Street, in central London, as face masks return in some public spaces

(AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson arrives at St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Thursday to receive his booster jab

(Getty)

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 14:32

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Thousands protest over Dutch Covid restrictions

Over to the Netherlands now, where several thousand people gathered in the central Dutch town of Utrecht on Saturday to protest against new coronavirus restrictions that came into force last weekend.

Protesters walked through the streets of the town carrying banners saying “Medical Freedom Now!” and waving Dutch flags. A heavy police presence was visible along the route of the march.

It is the first major demonstration in the Netherlands against the measures, which include a nighttime closure of bars, restaurants and most stores to stem a record-breaking wave of Covid cases that is threatening to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.

Pepijn van Houwelingen, a member of the conservative populist party Forum for Democracy, addressed a crowd of hundreds at the event.

The Netherlands saw violent protests two weeks ago after the government announced plans to ban most people who have not been vaccinated from public places. Those plans face widespread opposition in parliament, including from parties in the governing coalition and have not been put into place yet.

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 13:59

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Opinion: ‘Inclusive recruitment schemes needed to meet challenge of Covid’

Salvatore Nigro, chief executive of JA, one of Europe’s largest education providers, writes about the need for businesses to adopt a culture of learning amid the threat of new Covid variants.

Britain and continental Europe’s labour markets are at a critical point. The number of UK job vacancies has continued to rise significantly and in October, reached the highest number since records began 20 years ago.

Despite this, 69 per cent of companies across Europe are currently reporting talent shortages. This vacancy paradox is occurring at a time when over 140 million full-time jobs have been lost across the world, and more than 3 million under 25s are currently unemployed. This reflects skill shortages which are already having adverse consequences on the productivity and competitiveness of European enterprises.

Now, with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warning that the new Covid variant could mean severe global consequences, it begs the question of whether omicron will further hamper business recruitment, particularly in the wake of the “great resignation”?

Read Salvatore’s thinking in full:

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 13:34

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Watch: PM receives booster vaccine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London

Boris Johnson receives Covid booster vaccine at St Thomas’ Hospital in London

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 13:25

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Omicron symptoms: What to look out for

Doctors in South Africa have suggested that the symptoms of the omicron Covid variant could be milder than those caused by the globally-dominant delta variant, though the WHO warns it is still too early to draw conclusions about the fast-spreading new form of Sars-CoV-2.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, a South African doctor and chair of the South African Medical Association, who was one of the first people to suspect the emergence of a different virus variant there, said she noticed seven patients at her clinic who had symptoms different from those typically seen with delta.

“What brought them to the surgery was this extreme tiredness,” she told AFP, adding that the patients had mild muscle aches, a “scratchy throat” and dry cough.

But what else differentiates omicron from delta? Alisha Rahaman Sarkar and Celine Wadhera take a closer look.

Sam Hancock4 December 2021 13:00

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