Lifestyle

Boris Johnson Covid announcement: Sajid Javid warns of rocky weeks ahead but hope on the horizon as Omicron 90% milder

SAJID Javid has revealed today that Omicron is up to 90 PER CENT milder for boosted Brits, and cases have dropped for a third day in a row.

The Health Secretary said the NHS faces a "rocky" few weeks but remained encouraged by the latest data emerging about the variant.

A killer combination of boosters and groundbreaking antiviral drugs have put the country on a much better footing to fight Covid, he said.

Covid cases have today fallen for the third day in a row, as 178,250 more infections have been reported.

It comes as fresh data revealed that the crucial coronavirus R rate could be as high as 1.6 in some parts of England.

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

  • Louis Allwood

    'Schools must be last to close and first to open if lockdown hits'

    Professor Russell Viner, who is part of SAGE, has warned against prolonged school closures to save the health of children.

    The former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health believes that schools should be given the resources to remain open if Covid cases rise again.

    Half of the schools in England have already turned to supply teachers to get the cover they need because of staff absences.

    Prof Viner, from University College London, is an expert in child and adolescent health and claims that school closures bring “high risks” to children.

    Writing for the British Medical Journal Prof Viner said: “There is now clear evidence that pandemic related school closures harm children.

    “Prolonged school closures bring high risk of poor mental health, obesity, and child abuse, as well as loss of learning.

    “The National Mental Health of Children and Young People study showed that likely mental health disorders in English children and young people increased from 1 in 9 to 1 in 6 during the pandemic.

    “The National Child Measurement Programme found that childhood obesity in England increased by 4.5% from 2019 to 2020.

    “School closures reduce the visibility of children at risk, with medical referrals for child protection falling 36%-39% during the pandemic.

    “Due to sensitive periods of brain and cognitive development, this generation of children’s loss of learning during the pandemic cannot simply be compensated for by catch-up work at a later date and will contribute to poorer health and lower life expectancy in the long term.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Covid cases fall for third day in a row

    DAILY Covid cases have today fallen for the third day in a row, as 178,250 more infections have been reported.

    It comes as fresh data revealed that the crucial coronavirus R rate could be as high as 1.6 in some parts of England as infections continue to rise.

    It's the first time the R rate has been updated since December 23 and England's average now sits between 1.2 and 1.5.

    In December, the rate had been between 1 and 1.2 and today's figure covers the Christmas period – due to a lag of a couple of weeks.

    Today 178,250 more infections were recorded, bringing total cases in the UK to 14,193,228 and sadly, a further 229 deaths, bringing the grim total since the start of the pandemic to 149,744.

    Yesterday 179,756 infections were reported and on Wednesday, 194, 747 infections were recorded.

  • Louis Allwood

    Booster for Brits

    The PM has said: "We can keep our schools and our businesses open, and we can find a way to live with this virus."

    He added the country has a "good chance of getting through the Omicron wave without the need for further restrictions" and ruled out a full-fat lockdown.

    Mr Johnson is confident that boosters, rather than crippling Covid curbs, give Brits the best chance of beating the virus and sent up another plea for people to get jabbed.

    The Sun's Jab's Army campaign is helping turbo-charge the rollout by getting vital shots into arms.

  • Louis Allwood

    Covid miracle

    Monica Almeida, 37, was just 72 hours from her ventilator being turned off when medics had the idea to use the erectile dysfunction drug.

    The level of oxygen the mum-of-two needed dropped by half and her condition improved after a week – meaning she made it home for Christmas.

    Monica has now praised the quick-thinking doctors for using the drug, which helped opened up her airwaves.

    The specialist respiratory nurse, from Gainsborough Lincs, said: "I had a little joke with the consultant after I came round because I knew him.

    "He told me it was the Viagra, I laughed and thought he was joking, but he said 'no, really, you've had a large dose of Viagra.' 

    "It was my little Christmas miracle."

  • Louis Allwood

    Tinder date could have gone better

    TikToker Sarah, who posts with the handle @poppymoore777, said that she had only just met up with her match from the popular app when they discovered they were infected.

    The duo isolated at his place despite hardly knowing each other and couldn't see anyone else for the full seven days of quarantine.

    Sarah documented the isolation period with the new fella and shared updates with fans on social media.

    The couple made the best of the situation, ordering takeaways, watching Geordie Shore and playing Mario Kart.

    In the videos Sarah started by sharing a shot of her positive Covid test and then by displaying the empty beer crates and takeaway bags they had worked through together.

    Fellow TikTok users were enthralled by the unlikely turn of events with the videos amassing more than three million views.

  • Louis Allwood

    Hundreds have major operations cancelled

    Health bosses revealed 17 Greater Manchester hospitals could no longer provide priority services.

    Hundreds of other patients have also had major operations cancelled, with many more expected in the coming weeks.

    Three hospitals under the University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust have reduced operations thanks to their "extremely busy" urgent care services and number of staff off sick.

    And Derriford Hospital in Plymouth is facing similar issues, with almost 500 staff absences.

    Extra beds are being used at an emergency Nightingale hospital in Manchester to help deal with wards at capacity.

  • Louis Allwood

    Novak Djokovic breaks silence

    The anti-vax World No 1 thanked his supporters "around the world" who have backed his defiant stance after his controversial decision to compete Down Under before his visa was sensationally revoked.

    He was granted a vaccine exemption to compete in the Australian Open before his visa was cancelled following a six hour stand-off at Melbourne Airport and a major U-turn by Australian authorities.

    He was then banished to a filthy hotel "full of fleas and maggots" in Melbourne to isolate.

    In an Instagram post, he wrote: "Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated."

    Furious fans began to congregate outside the Park Hotel in Carlton in protest of his quarantine and having his visa stripped from him.

    They were encouraged by the tennis player's father Srdjan, who called on people to "take to the streets".

    His wife Jelena also spoke out today to applaud supporters while calling for "love and forgiveness" as tensions in the sports world rise.

  • Louis Allwood

    Key mistakes many people have been making

    Dr Nathan, an A&E doctor in London, has been producing helpful posts on his Instagram page (@expedition_doctor) to explain all about Covid lateral flow tests.

    What mistakes do people make when taking their lateral flow?

    “Failing to spot a positive test. 

    “Any positive line within 30 minutes, even if it is so faint that it is barely visible, equals a positive result. 

    “However, if a faint line appears after 30 minutes, this can be ignored.”

    What is the best way to take a lateral flow?

    “Read the enclosed instructions all the way through before you start the test. 

    “Don’t forget to avoid eating or drinking for at least 30 minutes before, to blow your nose and to wash your hands!”

  • Louis Allwood

    Can asymptomatic patients spread coronavirus?

    Asymptomatic coronavirus patients can spread coronavirus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. The website writes:

    “Infected people can transmit the virus both when they have symptoms and when they don’t have symptoms. This is why it is important that all people who are infected are identified by testing, isolated, and, depending on the severity of their disease, receive medical care.  Even people confirmed to have Covid-19 but who do not have symptoms should be isolated to limit their contact with others.  These measures break chains of transmission.”

    The Omicron variant spreads at a rate faster than the previous Delta variant and can infect vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals alike.

    However, for those who are vaccinated, symptoms are much milder.

  • Louis Allwood

    What does it mean to be asymptomatic?

    Asymptomatic means a person has been tested positive but has no symptoms, and does not go on to develop symptoms, WHO epidemiologist Maria DeJoseph Van Kerkhove says.

    She adds: “A number of people are reported asymptomatic, actually may have mild disease. They may go on to develop symptoms. They may not quite register that they are sick. They can feel just a little bit unwell or under the weather, or fatigued. Some of those individuals we would classify as pre-symptomatic.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Omicron up to 90% milder than Delta

    The Health Secretary said the NHS faces a "rocky" few weeks but remained encouraged by the latest data emerging about the variant.

    A killer combination of boosters and groundbreaking antiviral drugs have put the country on a much better footing to fight Covid, he said.

    Speaking on a visit to King's College Hospital Mr Javid begged people to come forward for third jabs with an optimistic update on most recent findings.

    He said: "There are some encouraging signs. We know now that Omicron is less severe.

    "Once you get boosted your chance of hospitalisation our latest analysis shows that is almost 90 per cent less that what it was with Delta."

    And in a sobering warning, he said 70 per cent of the patients at the ICU he visited today were unvaccinated.

  • Louis Allwood

    Covid R rate as high as 1.6 in parts

    It's the first time the R rate has been updated since December 23 and it now sits between 1.2 and 1.6.

    In December, the rate had been between 1 and 1.2 and today's figure will represent closely what the rate had been around the Christmas period – as it has a lag of a couple of weeks.

    The update comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid today revealed that Omicron is 90 per cent milder than the Delta strain.

    Omicron is now responsible for the majority of cases in the UK and has taken over from the Delta variant.

    Experts have however this week said that Omicron cases may have peaked, after three million Brits had Covid on New Year's Eve.

  • Louis Allwood

    Have cases hit a peak

    Sarah Crofts, from the ONS, said: “There are early signs of a potential slowing but we continue to see infections increase, with Omicron now the dominant variant across all four nations.”

    Relieved MPs heaped praise on Boris Johnson for “standing firm” against lockdown.

    The PM says he does not believe the country needs to be plunged into further restrictions — but he admitted the NHS would again come under huge strain.

    Mr Johnson, addressing the Commons for the first time this year, said: “I know some may ask the opposite question whether we should go even further and move towards a full lockdown but lockdowns are not cost free. They impose a devastating toll on our physical and mental well-being, on businesses, jobs and livelihoods — and worst of all, on the life chances of our children.

    “So this Government does not believe we need to shut down our country again. We simply cannot go on by reaching endlessly for lockdowns.”

  • Louis Allwood

    A fourth might be on the way

    Mr Johnson hinted NHS and social care staff would be given fourth jabs as the effect of boosters might be waning.

    He hopes the UK can follow the US and cut isolation from seven to five days if scientists can show there is a low infection risk.

    The ONS found one in ten young people were infected in the week to December 31, with nine out of ten being Omicron.

    Another 194,747 infections were confirmed yesterday, a drop from Tuesday but the second highest figure so far. There were 334 more deaths, with figures still affected by the bank holiday.

  • Louis Allwood

    Boosters provide the most protection

    It comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

    Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

    The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.

  • Louis Allwood

    ‘Unusual’ new Omicron symptom in kids

    A number of kids under five who catch the variant seem to be suffering with a bad cough.

    It's a type of cough usually associated with croup – which sounds like a harsh barking noise.

    This type of cough is generally not harmful, but is unpleasant for parents to hear and can naturally cause worry.

    Doctors in the US have said it makes sense for Omicron to be causing this sort of a cough, because the variant settles higher in the respiratory tract.

    Previous strains of the virus would head deeper into the lungs, which was why it would cause a more severe illness.

  • Louis Allwood

    Britain could face LOCKDOWN again, Sajid Javid warns

    The Health Secretary is understood to have cautioned Boris Johnson before holiday checks were eased this week – but was overruled.

    Pre-departure and PCR tests are being axed for arrivals into Britain because Omicron is now so widespread.

    The changes were signed off at the Cabinet sub-committee Covid O on Wednesday and welcomed by holidaymakers.

    But Mr Javid was dead against the easing and warned it could harm our ability to catch any new variants.

    A government source told The Times: "He said that by scrapping them you increase the risk of having to shut down the entire economy. But he lost the argument."

    An ally of Mr Javid said: "We have a decision and he's fully behind that."

  • Louis Allwood

    No need for more Covid restrictions

    Gloomy calls to impose more Covid restrictions were today swiftly dismissed by a top minister. 

    Business minister Paul Scully said the Government "doesn't see the need" for fresh measures despite soldiers being deployed to ease the load on hospitals.

    He pointed to "encouraging" signs that London was over the peak of the outbreak amid clear evidence that Omicron is far milder than previous strains.

    And thanks to the booster rollout helping keep society open he declared: "2022 will be much brighter than 2021."

    Ministers are throwing the kitchen sink at the booster programme, which The Sun's Jab's Army campaign is helping to turbo-charge.

    Covid infections are still high and yesterday hit 179,000, luckily down on the previous few days.

  • Louis Allwood

    Soldiers deployed to hospitals

    Some 200 troops have been sent to hospitals to help plug absences of staff off sick or isolating.

    Mr Scully said we still need to be "on our guard" but was optimistic no more restrictions were needed.

    He told TalkRadio: "Having the army working within our hospitals is having extra bodies to cope with NHS pressures.

    "It's not the army on the streets in combat and weapons or anything like that. It's actually just helping those staff pressures.

    "We're not over it, in terms of the fact that we're learning to live with Covid. But I'm hoping that 2022, if we get past these next few weeks of pressure, is looking far brighter than 2021."

  • Louis Allwood

    Rule change exceptions

    There are a number of other exceptions to the rule-change, outlined by the Government:

    • people who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (TTSP) will still be asked to take a confirmatory PCR so they can access financial support
    • people participating in research or surveillance programmes may still be asked to take a follow-up PCR test
    • around one million people in England who are at particular risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid are involved in new research of treatments
    • in Wales, those who are in a “clinically vulnerable” group will still need to take a PCR test.

    PCR and Lateral flow test changes

    From January 11 you won't have to do a PCR if you test positive on a lateral flow and don't have symptoms.

    The change is being brought in to relieve some pressure on the PCR tests, and to stop any potential extra spread.

    The rules are quite straightforward – if you test positive on a lateral flow, you isolate and assume you have Covid.

    If you don't have symptoms you don't need to do anything else, other than log your result on the Government website.

    Stay at home for the next week, only allowed to leave isolation if you test negative on days six and seven.

    But you have to remain isolating if you keep coming up as positive for two consecutive tests, 24 hours apart.

    • Louis Allwood

      Schools face closing in days

      Half of the schools in England have already turned to supply teachers to get the cover they need because of staff absences.

      The National Association of Headteachers have warned that the “worrying” problem is so bad many schools are already “teetering on the edge” of closure.

      Schools in England have already experienced staff absences of more than 10 per cent because of Covid.

      A poll by the NAHT revealed that 37 per cent of half the schools in England who turned to supply teachers have been unable to source the cover they need.

      Pressure is also ramping up on the Prime Minister to slash self-isolation period from seven to five days.

    • Louis Allwood

      New Omicron symptoms overtakes cough and fever

      The most reported symptoms come from Brits who have been struck with the bug in recent days, as Omicron is now the most prominent variant in circulation.

      The ZOE COVID study has been tracking symptoms since early 2020 with the help of millions of app users.

      The most frequently reported symptom is a runny nose, affecting 73 per cent of people who had a positive Covid test.

      It’s followed by headache (68 per cent), fatigue (64 per cent), sneezing (60 per cent), and sore throat (60 per cent).

      Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean it’s definitely due to Covid, as they can also occur with other illnesses. 

      However, ZOE estimates that more than half (51.3 per cent) of people experiencing new cold-like symptoms are likely to have symptomatic Covid as opposed to another winter bug.

    • John Hall

      ALL travel tests could soon be ditched

      Grant Shapps confirmed that he hopes for test-free travel in the near future, with vaccinations being the key to opening up travel without restriction.

      Speaking to Times Radio Breakfast, he said: "I think I could see a world in which you didn't need to do testing at all.

      "I can't guarantee it will be the same the other way around because that depends on what other countries around the world decide to put in place

      "I do imagine that we will, for the foreseeable future, be living in a world where vaccination status is something that countries are looking for.

      "Certainly when I speak to a lot of my opposite numbers around the world. That's what they ask about".

      The Prime Minister announced the new rule changes on Wednesday, which include the end to the pre-departure test required by all arrivals.

    • John Hall

      Omicron cases may have peaked

      Sarah Crofts, from the ONS, said: “There are early signs of a potential slowing but we continue to see infections increase, with Omicron now the dominant variant across all four nations.”

      Relieved MPs heaped praise on Boris Johnson for “standing firm” against lockdown.

      The PM says he does not believe the country needs to be plunged into further restrictions — but he admitted the NHS would again come under huge strain.

      Mr Johnson, addressing the Commons for the first time this year, said: “I know some may ask the opposite question whether we should go even further and move towards a full lockdown but lockdowns are not cost free. They impose a devastating toll on our physical and mental well-being, on businesses, jobs and livelihoods — and worst of all, on the life chances of our children.

      “So this Government does not believe we need to shut down our country again. We simply cannot go on by reaching endlessly for lockdowns.”

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