UK records 90,629 new daily cases as PM says not enough evidence for new curbs – as it happened – The Guardian

Boris Johnson says there will be no fresh restrictions before Christmas; daily statistics show a further 172 Covid-related deaths
A further 90,629 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the UK as of 9am on Tuesday, the government said.
The government said a further 172 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 173,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
A total of 51,537,827 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been delivered in the UK by December 20. This is a rise of 39,793 on the previous day.
Some 47,102,814 second doses have been delivered, an increase of 50,938.
A combined total of 29,876,223 booster and third doses have also been given, a day-on-day rise of 897,979. Separate totals for booster and third doses are not available.
That is all for today from the UK blog but do join me as I continue our Covid coverage on our global live blog below:
With no further Covid restrictions expected before Christmas, the focus is now turning to whether the prime minister will instead impose restrictions in the run-up to new year.
The Daily Mirror’s Pippa Crerar reports ministers are considering bringing in a “circuit breaker” lockdown lasting between two weeks and a month from 27 December.
As we’ve reported, new ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions expected after Christmas.

PM: “Naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and… we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.”
From the Financial Times’ Jim Pickard:
not sure why the Boris Johnson comments about no restrictions *before* Christmas Day are surprising to anyone, the question has been – for a long time – whether they'll do a clampdown a few days later
Rishi Sunak has been accused of failing to do enough to help embattled hospitality businesses through the Omicron wave after refusing to bring back furlough for the hardest-hit firms.
Succumbing to intense pressure to offer financial support amid a collapse in pre-Christmas trade for pubs, restaurants and hotels, the chancellor announced a £1bn bailout package on Tuesday consisting of business grants and help with sick pay.
However, it drew an angry response from bosses who told Sunak he was failing to grasp the severity of the Omicron shock to the economy and that a lack of clarity from the government over the need for further pandemic restrictions was making matters worse.

Comparing the plan to a “dud cracker on Christmas Day”, Tim Rumney, the chief executive of the Best Western hotel chain, which employs 10,000 staff in the UK, said a return to furlough was vital if the current Covid wave continues.
“It’s just so disappointing and underwhelming in every sense. It doesn’t go far enough in our opinion, it doesn’t go deep enough and it’s too little too late,” he said.
Read the full article here:
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has criticised Boris Johnson’s “dither and delay” approach to Christmas plans.
I hope everyone will have the best Christmas they can.

But lurching from announcement to announcement isn't governing. The job of Government is to plan and prepare, not dither and delay.

Boris Johnson doesn't have a grip and our country is paying the price.
Sky News’ Tamara Cohen reports that during yesterday’s two-hour cabinet meeting, chancellor Rishi Sunak was among those ministers most opposed to bringing in new measures.
The PM did not put a specific proposal to cabinet y’day eg banning indoor mixing.
But the chancellor, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, transport secretary Grant Shapps and Alister Jack were, I was told, most opposed to restrictions.
Javid, Gove and Nadine Dorries in favour.
Here’s a roundup of the key events from today:
I’m signing off for the day now. Thanks so much for joining me today and for all your comments and tweets.
The prime minister has confirmed no further Covid restrictions will be put in place in England before Christmas.
He said there was currently not enough evidence on the severity of Omicron, the hospitalisation rate and the impact of the booster programme to justify tougher measures before Christmas.
However, No 10 say the prime minister is clear the situation is “finely balanced and remains difficult across the country”, with the Omicron variant continuing to surge and cases at an all-time high.
The government has said it will continue to monitor the data closely and will not hesitate to act after Christmas if necessary.
In a video message released on Tuesday afternoon, the prime minister urged people to exercise caution and to continue to follow the guidance, including by wearing a mask indoors when required, keeping fresh air circulating and taking a test when visiting vulnerable and elderly relatives. He also urged everyone yet to do so to get a booster of the Covid vaccine.
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:
People will be asking “why should we bloody well listen now” if the government tries to implement new Covid restrictions, a Conservative MP has said.
But while Sir Roger Gale warned of a potential public “backlash”, he also stressed it would be “dangerous” to ignore the scientific advice, and raised concerns that the government may be “missing the boat” on implementing further public health measures in response to rising Covid rates.
Meanwhile the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, the Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, said she believed people would accept more public health measures, but that it was “outrageous” the government did not hold a press conference and lay out the latest data on Monday because people needed the information to make decisions.

I’m not averse to further measures based upon sound science. My worry is that we may be once again missing the boat because of the pressure the prime minister has been put under by his own backbench and as a result in part of course of his own folly, and that he may be reluctant to take action that is actually necessary.
The Conservative MP for North Thanet stressed the need for adequate support for business and said without formal restrictions the hospitality industry is “between a rock and a hard place”.
Gale told the PA news agency:

I have been highly critical of many things that the government and the prime minister have done, but I wouldn’t wish to stop them doing the right things now.
I think – there’s no doubt about this – there is a public reaction against being told what to do simply because, and I’m afraid this is true, people feel the government didn’t do themselves what they told us to do last time so why should we bloody well listen now.
And I think there will be, if they were to try to do much before Christmas, I think there would be one hell of a backlash, and people would just say get stuffed I’m afraid – dangerous though that certainly would be.
There’s no doubt the infection rates are rising alarmingly and there’s no doubt in my mind that fairly soon the health service is going to have even more real problems than it’s got now.
Responding to rumours of some kind of circuit-breaker akin to a brief lockdown after Christmas, Moran said it would be “absolutely devastating for the country” and a sign of “government failure” to take the appropriate measures earlier, but she said she would back measures suggested by the scientific advisers to save lives.
The only thing that could ease the threat to the NHS is a short circuit breaker to limit indoor social interaction, Christina Pagel, director of UCL’s Clinical Operational Research Unit has said in an opinion piece for the Guardian.
She writes:

The risks to the NHS come from three sides. First, Omicron has grown faster than any variant seen to date – including the original spread of Covid-19 in March 2020. The UK Health Security Agency reports that cases of Omicron have been doubling every two days in most regions of the UK. A certain percentage of newly infected people will need hospital treatment – even if Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta. Let’s say that the risk of hospitalisation with Omicron is half that of Delta, although the analysis from Imperial College London suggests this may be optimistic. With a variant that is doubling every two days that gives us only a two-day advantage. Whatever the eventual percentage of people with Omicron who will need NHS care, the absolute number seeking care will also double every two days.
Because it takes seven to 14 days from infection to needing hospital, this rapid increase in demand for NHS services will not be seen immediately – probably not until after Christmas – but it will happen. Modelling by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group – which reports to the Sage committee – suggests that by the time we see this impact, four doublings may have passed. This means much higher levels of pressure on the NHS which we can’t do anything about if we wait for hospitalisations to rise before we act.
Last Thursday, Sage estimated that without reducing transmission further (over and above plan B), there will be at least 3,000 daily admissions to hospital in England (equivalent to the first wave in 2020), and it could be much worse even than last January. So the question is not whether it will be bad for the NHS, but whether it will be just dreadful or catastrophic.
Read more here:
There have been 15,363 additional confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 reported across the UK, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said.
This brings the total confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to 60,508.
A further 90,629 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the UK as of 9am on Tuesday, the government said.
The government said a further 172 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 173,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
A total of 51,537,827 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine had been delivered in the UK by December 20. This is a rise of 39,793 on the previous day.
Some 47,102,814 second doses have been delivered, an increase of 50,938.
A combined total of 29,876,223 booster and third doses have also been given, a day-on-day rise of 897,979. Separate totals for booster and third doses are not available.
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on Tuesday afternoon that, while her core advice remained to limit socialising, additional protections were necessary including all outdoor events limited to just 500 people, and indoor events including concerts limited to 200 people seated, or 100 standing, with one-metre physical distancing required for any events still going ahead.
The new rules will hit the Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers on 2 January and large-scale Hogmanay street parties: Edinburgh’s was planned to proceed at a reduced capacity of 30,000.
A total of 897,979 booster and third doses of Covid-19 vaccine were reported in the UK on Monday, new figures show. The is the second highest figure on record, behind 940,606 doses on Saturday 18 December.

More than 29.8m booster and third doses have now been delivered in the UK, with 5.8m in the past seven days.
The figures have been published by the UK’s four health agencies.
The coming weeks “paint a very bleak picture” for exhausted nursing staff as coronavirus infections increase, a union has said.

The Royal College of Nursing said nurses are “already physically and emotionally exhausted” by the pandemic but staff shortages due to Covid-19 mean they are now wondering “What is coming?”

London’s biggest health trust, Barts Health NHS trust also warned that some of its operations may need to be cancelled in the new year due to rising coronavirus cases and staff absences.

A spokesman for the trust said services are running as normal, but a contingency plan has been put in place in case staff need to be redeployed. Alistair Chesser, group chief medical officer, said: “Our hospitals are currently running as usual, but we have plans in place to redeploy staff in the coming weeks, should we need to.

“We are only able to respond to this next challenge because of our dedicated staff who are prepared to do all they can to care for our patients, with many taking on extra shifts.”
Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, called for further support for performers.
He said: “This is a particularly busy time for our members and many musicians will have been relying on the festive period and the new year to provide much-needed funds following the devastating effects of lockdown and the well-publicised difficulties.
“It is absolutely crucial to their survival that the government recognises the economic abyss that our world-class players, performers, writers and teachers are facing. They need support and they need it now.”
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair Julian Knight welcomed further support for the arts but called for clarity on the likelihood of a lockdown, given its impact on the events sector.

He said: “While we await the detail, the announcement of additional financial support for the entertainment and hospitality sectors is welcome. It will be important for this funding to help all those whose livelihoods depend on thriving theatres and live venues, whether they be on the stage, behind the scenes or front of house.”
The acting artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company echoed the call for support across the sector, following news that 30 million will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund.

Erica Whyman said in a statement: “The theatre industry has once again been hit hard by Covid-19. All RSC current productions are impacted, as are so many across the country. We welcome the additional support through the Culture Recovery Fund and wait to hear further news about the 30 million boost.

“Thanks to existing government support in the form of repayable finance, the RSC can weather some losses for a short period, although those losses will have a substantial impact on our future plans.

“Not all theatres can survive this fresh wave, even in the short term, and the significant financial impact of ongoing cancellations means that additional support is urgently needed to sustain the brilliant recovery the sector has made.

“Many of our most important cultural organisations are again in peril, and our freelance workforce are at particular risk, and remain essential to the success of our industry.”
The chancellor’s announcement of £1bn for UK businesses losing trade because of the Omicron surge gives “welcome breathing space” to the industries struggling this winter, the CBI has said.
Rain Newton-Smith, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) chief economist, said: “The chancellor has provided welcome breathing space to boost confidence and provide support for hospitality and leisure businesses to keep their doors open through tough disruption to their crucial winter trading.
“The latest targeted package offers a fair variety of support to help keep businesses open, with new central grants, flexibility on time to pay and sick pay support for SMEs. All this and more will help keep the economy open as we learn to live with the virus.
However, Newton-Smith was critical that the travel sector was still “disappointingly out of scope” of the funding. She added: “If infection and hospitalisation rates continue to grow across the country, the potential of further measures will weigh on firms. The government must monitor the situation closely and ensure that any new restrictions go in lock-step with further targeted cashflow support to those firms most in distress across sectors impacted.”
Scotland’s Hogmanay street parties are cancelled, while sporting events will be spectator-free for the next three weeks, as the Scottish government moves to reduce the risk of super-spreader events in the face of the far more transmissible Omicron variant, which now accounts for 62.9% of all cases.
Nicola Sturgeon reassured the Scottish public they will not have to change their Christmas Day plans as she appealed to everyone to reduce contact and to stay at home as much as possible in advance of 25 December and after Christmas weekend
The new rules will hit events such as Edinburgh’s annual Hogmanay street party, which was going ahead at a reduced capacity of 30,000.
Sturgeon told MSPs that Omicron cases had increased by more than 50% in the past week – from more than 3,500 a day to almost 5,500 a day. While there were increases across all age groups the biggest – of 161% – was in 20- to 24-year-olds
Sturgeon’s statement included some other changes:


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