Boris Johnson Omicron announcement: Covid WON'T cancel Christmas but PM refuses to rule out restrictions from Boxing Day

BORIS Johnson tonight revealed Covid WON'T cancel Christmas – but warned a fresh wave of restrictions could follow shortly afterwards.

The PM this afternoon confirmed no new measures will be imposed before December 25 in what will come as a massive relief for families across the country

He said that while the outbreak of Omicron "remains extremely difficult" it did not warrant tougher restrictions on day to day living just yet.

The news comes as a top covid expert suggested Omicron "isn't spreading as fast as doomsday predictions suggest".

Cambridge professor Sir David Spiegelhalter revealed half of patients in London's hospitals were only diagnosed with Covid after being admitted for something else.

New data suggests the rate of admission "may be slowing down" with Dr Spiegelhalter claiming overall admissions should remain manageable and aren't "looking quite as bad" as once thought.

The Sun is also urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.

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

  • Joseph Gamp

    Restrictions being discussed could include rule of six

    The restrictions discussed include a return to the Rule of Six, and similar measures during Step 2 of Lockdown lifting last April that saw boozers serving outdoors only but shops and gyms open.

    However there was fury after officials admitted they have not modelled the economic impact of more Covid restrictions.

    The Sun understands that Whitehall insiders looking at imposing curbs on pubs and socialising have not analysed the devastating impact it could have on the economy.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Welsh Parliament to be recalled on Wednesday

    The Welsh Parliament will be recalled on Wednesday "to consider a matter of urgent public importance", government officials have confirmed.

    First Minister Mark Drakeford will make a virtual statement addressing the Senedd on the Covid-19 pandemic from 1.30pm and ministers will then have the opportunity to ask questions.

    It will follow a government media briefing which will be held just after midday to update the country on the Omicron crisis after Cabinet talks were held on Tuesday.

    The Senedd has been on winter recess since Monday.

    It is planned to sit again in Plenary on Tuesday, January 11 2022.

  • Joseph Gamp

    PM: Situation remains 'finely balanced'

    Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for people's Christmas plans, although he warned tougher restrictions could be implemented post-December 25.

    The Prime Minister said "continuing uncertainty" about the severity of the Omicron variant and hospital admission rates means he does not believe there is enough evidence at the moment to justify stricter measures.

    But the situation remains "finely balanced" and people should "exercise caution", Mr Johnson added.

  • Joseph Gamp

    UK totals 7,801 people in hospital with Covid-19

    A total of 7,801 people were in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 as of December 20, Government figures show.

    This is the highest number since November 23 and is up 1% from a week earlier.

    During the second wave of coronavirus, hospital numbers peaked at 39,254 on January 18.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Graphic: New restrictions to come on December 27?

    The PM is understood to be mulling a post-festive squeeze as early as December 27 to bite down on Omicron before the New Year when hospitals will feel the strain.

    But speaking today he hammered his core message for people to get boosted "to secure vital protection for yourselves, your loved ones and your communities."

    His clarion call makes it more vital than ever for vaccine volunteers to sign up to The Sun's Jabs Army campaign.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Chancellor refuses to rule out new measures before New Year

    Asked if he could rule out restrictions before the New Year, Chancellor RIshi Sunak said: "I absolutely appreciate people's frustration with all of this.

    "And I'd refer people to the Prime Minister's words yesterday.

    "And unfortunately, we're just dealing with an enormous amount of uncertainty at the moment.

    "And what the Prime Minister said is that we're reviewing the data day by day, hour by hour, keeping the situation under constant review that can't rule anything out."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Boris Johnson confirms Xmas will go ahead

    A tweet from the PM's official Twitter account reads: "I wanted to confirm that people can go ahead with their Christmas plans.

    "But we’re keeping a constant eye on the data and can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas.

    "Please continue to be cautious, follow the guidance and Get Boosted Now."

  • Joseph Gamp

    PM: No evidence to justify tougher measures before Xmas

    In a video message, the Prime Minister told the good news that Xmas will be saved.

    But he said he couldn't rule out any new measures.

    He said: "There is no doubt that Omicron continues to surge with a speed unlike anything we’ve seen before. 

    "The situation remains extremely difficult but I also recognise that people have been waiting to hear whether their Christmas plans are going to be affected. So what I can say tonight, is that naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health. 

    "But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas."

  • Joseph Gamp

    Christmas WON'T be cancelled but restrictions could follow after Boxing Day

    The PM has this evening said Christmas won't be cancelled – but Brits must brace for fresh restrictions after Boxing Day.

    No new measures will be imposed this side of Christmas – and he stressed he "we will be ready to take action" after Boxing Day if the situation spirals out of control.

  • Joseph Gamp

    Chancellor brings forward £1bn Covid support package

    Rishi Sunak has offered a £1 billion support package to businesses hit by Covid restrictions amid concerns over the "eye-wateringly high" transmission of the Omicron variant.

    The Chancellor has come forward with additional help for the hospitality and leisure sectors in England following days of urgent lobbying from MPs, firms and industry officials.

    It includes one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the affected sectors in England, which the Treasury expects will be administered by local authorities and to be available in the coming weeks.

    The Government also intends to use taxpayers' cash to cover the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for firms with fewer than 250 employees.

    Cultural organisations in England can also access a further £30 million funding during the winter via the culture recovery fund, the Treasury said.

  • Joseph Gamp

    ‘Covid boosters slash risk of falling seriously ill’

    COVID boosters slash the risk of falling seriously ill from Omicron by up to 86 per cent, top scientists have claimed.

    Researcher Professor Azra Ghani said: “Our results demonstrate the importance of delivering booster doses. We’re in a good position in the UK because booster doses were rolled out to the highest risk groups a little while ago.

    “The more they can get out and the faster they can get out, the better the impact.” 

  • Louis Allwood

    Omicron ‘isn’t spreading as fast’

    The rate of admission “may be slowing down.” a leading Covid expert revealed as half those patients in London’s hospitals were only diagnosed with Covid after admission with another condition.

    The current data has led to fears that hospitalisations are following the exponential increases seen with cases in recent weeks.

    Cambridge professor Sir David Spiegelhalter claims that overall admissions to hospital should remain manageable – as the rate “isn’t looking quite as bad” as once thought.

    Sir David told Channel 4 News: “People are going to be watching London very carefully over the next few days, which has had a huge surge in Omicron, doubling every couple of days.

    “But their admissions in London… the speed by which they are going up may be slowing down. It’s not looking quite as bad as it was in terms of the speed of increase.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Christmas is ON in Scotland

    Nicola Sturgeon today revealed fresh rules as she doubled down on advice for Scots to slash their social contact in the run up to Christmas Day.

    From Boxing Day, there will be new restrictions of the size of live events with the exception of private gatherings such as weddings for at least three weeks when rules will be reviewed.

    Under new rules, 500 people will be allowed at large outdoor events seated or standing but Mr Sturgeon said live sport would be "effectively spectator free" in a blow to footie fans.

    For indoor events, there will be a limit of 100 standing and 200 seated.

    The plug has also been pulled on large-scale Hogmanay celebrations in Scotland as Ms Sturgeon said such gatherings have the "potential to become very rapid super-spreader events".

    And from December 27, it will be table service only in boozers for up to three weeks and a one metre social distancing measure must be followed.

  • Louis Allwood

    How long does it take to recover?

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it can take anywhere from two to six weeks to recover from Covid-19.

    However long Covid is blighting many people struck down with the disease, with some still suffering months after they had the virus.

    The rate of recovery will depend on the severity of the disease as well as treatment.

    Often younger people who became less sick are the ones that will be hit with long Covid.

    Recovering patients can still spread the disease as their body discharges the virus.

  • Louis Allwood

    PM to make announcement in next 48 HOURS

    Boris Johnson is considering casting Britain back to the dark days of last spring's Step 2 curbs where pints were only allowed outdoors and indoor mixing was banned.

    Time is running out for Mr Johnson to impose restrictions before Christmas Day as the Commons needs about two days notice to be recalled from recess.

    Instead the PM is understood to be mulling a post-festive squeeze as early as December 27 to bite down on Omicron before the New Year when hospitals will feel the strain.

    But speaking today he hammered his core message for people to get boosted "to secure vital protection for yourselves, your loved ones and your communities."

  • Louis Allwood

    How long will symptoms last?

    Now that so many more Brits are vaccinated and boosted, the symptoms have also changed in people who have been jabbed.

    It also means most people will recover within about five days to a week, although the fatigue and a lingering cough might remain for longer.

    While you are much more protected from the virus if you have been vaccinated, you can still catch it and pass it on – so it's good to know the new signs.

  • Louis Allwood

    8 Key symptoms of Omicron

    Eight symptoms have been identified as key in knowing if you might have picked up the variant.

    These are: a scratchy throat, runny nose, fatigue, sneezing, lower back pain, headache, night sweats and muscle aches.

    Professor Tim Spector, who leads the ZOE Covid App Symptom study, said: “Hopefully people now recognise the cold-like symptoms which appear to be the predominant feature of Omicron.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Doc warns 9 in 10 ICU patients unvaccinated

    The capital's hospitals are now facing the start of an Omicron wave of admissions that experts say will spread across the nation.

    Professor Rupert Pearse, an intensive care doctor in London, said vaccines will have a “very important impact” in holding back more hospitalisations, even with Omicron. 

    Jabs prevent severe disease and three doses are estimated to be 80 per cent effective against the Omicron strain, figures from Imperial College London show.

    Getting the booster shot is the best way to protect against the strain that is spreading at lightning speed across the UK.

    The UK is today set to hit nearly 30million people boosted with a third dose – half of the population – while cases also hit record highs.

    Scientists are piling the pressure on ministers to take action now to prevent a large predicted wave of hospital admissions. 

  • Louis Allwood

    Rishi Sunak's statement

    Following the announcement Mr Sunak said: "We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.  

    "So we're stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the Culture Recovery Fund."

  • Louis Allwood

    Only small firms eligible

    From today the Treasury will bankroll the £96.35 a week for workers forced to take time off with Covid. Bosses can make retrospective claims from mid-January.

    Only small firms of less than 250 employees are eligible for this support package, leaving big business to cover the cost themselves.

    Boris Johnson said: "With the surge in Omicron cases, people are rightly exercising more caution as they go about their lives, which is impacting our hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors at what is typically the busiest time of the year.

    "That's why we’re taking immediate action to help with an extra £1billion in grants to these industries and reintroducing our Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme."

  • Louis Allwood

    £6k grants and SICK PAY for desperate pubs and restaurants

    The Chancellor unveiled a bumper £1billion package to stop hospitality venues going to the wall after suffering a flood of cancellations from cautious Brits.

    Strict guidance to limit gatherings has taken a wrecking ball to businesses' golden Christmas trading period and seen December profits tank by 60 per cent.

    Following a clamour for help, Mr Sunak this afternoon announced one-off £6,000 grants for 200,000 hospitality and leisure venues.

    More than £100million will be funnelled to local councils to use for other venues in need of emergency cash.

    He also said the Government would revive the Statutory Sick Pay scheme for staff forced to isolate as the super-variant threatens millions of absences.

  • Louis Allwood

    Lateral flow test accuracy

    The Department of Health says the tests have been rigorously assessed by scientists. This means they are “accurate, reliable and successfully identify those with Covid-19 who don’t show symptoms”.

    But the tests were not designed to look for Covid in people without symptoms, but for people who did have symptoms.

    It means the results are not 100 per cent correct.

    The Government website states that “when a person has low levels of virus in their system, lateral flow tests are less sensitive than some of the other tests we use, such as PCR tests”.

    Omicron cases were feared to be being missed by lateral flow tests after medics in South Africa raised concerns.

  • Louis Allwood

    Join The Sun’s Jab Army

    The Sun is urging readers to sign up to the Jabs Army campaign to make the rollout as smooth and fast as possible.

    A booster shot is the best protection against Omicron, with early data suggesting it pushes efficacy back up to 75 per cent.

    Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA Chief Executive said: “Once again, we urge everyone who is able to get a booster jab to come forward and do so. It is the best defence we have against this highly transmissible new variant.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Khans statement on cancelling New Years party

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “With infections of COVID-19 at record levels across our city and the UK, I’m determined to work closely with partners in our city to do everything we possibly can to slow the spread of the new variant and ensure our NHS services are not overwhelmed this winter.

    “This means that we will no longer be hosting a celebration event for 6,500 people on Trafalgar Square this New Year’s Eve.

    “This will be very disappointing for many Londoners, but we must take the right steps to reduce the spread of the virus.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Shop owner 'trembling' at thought of Christmas lockdown

    Businesses are begging the PM not to tighten the rules in their crucial Christmas period for a second year running.

    One fearful shop owner earlier said on LBC he was “trembling” at the prospect of another golden trading period going to the wall.

    But the PM is being pulled the other way by gloomy scientists and politicians demanding a toughening of rules.

    Leaked SAGE minutes warned that “more stringent measures would need to be implemented very soon”.

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