PLAN-B rules will stay for another 3 weeks Boris Johnson announced today including people working from home and wearing masks indoors.

The PM today insisted the "balanced" measures were necessary to help fight "rapidly" rising Omicron cases and hospitalisations.

Another 194,747 Covid cases were recorded today, with infections spreading quickly among vulnerable older patients.

Mr Johnson told the Commons: "So in response to the latest data, the Cabinet agreed this morning that we should stick with Plan B for another three weeks, with a further review before the regulations expire on 26 January."

But in an optimistic outlook he all but ruled out returning to a full-fat lockdown and warned crippling restrictions would take a wrecking ball to livelihoods.

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

  • Milica Cosic

    Stages of Omicron

    There is a clearly established path now between when an individual is exposed to the virus and how long they may feel ill.

    Though a string of positive studies does suggest that Omicron is milder than its Delta variant counterpart, one should remain alert nonetheless.

    1. Stage one is contact with an infected person. It's likely you won't be certain when you may have picked up the virus, as just a breath of infected air is enough to catch it.
    2. Stage two is around two or three days with no symptoms presenting yet.
      Omicron is thought to be much faster working than Delta or Alpha – so you will likely see symptoms sooner, around the two-day mark.
    3. Stage three is when early symptoms start to pop up, like lower backache, night sweats, and a scratchy throat.
      Others include headaches, muscle aches, runny nose, sneezing, nausea, and loss of appetite.
    4. Stage four is test-taking – which, if you've had these symptoms is quite likely to come back positive.
    5. Stage five is isolation if you have tested positive or from when you started noticing symptoms.
  • Louis Allwood

    Latest figures

    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.

    NHS data shows Covid patients in England now total 15,659 — a rise of 50 per cent in a week.

    At least eight per cent of staff were off sick at the end of the year due to the virus, with the numbers expected to rise as children return to schools.

    But Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he hoped that by January 26 “the data will allow us to ditch masks in class”.

  • Louis Allwood

    How long can asymptomatic coronavirus carriers infect others for?

    The exact rate of asymptomatic transmission is unknown, but inferences are it’s very high.

    The CDC believes people who have been infected with Covid-19 are at their most contagious at the peak of their symptoms.

    This means the days people feel their worst ― that may include cough or a fever ― are when they’re most likely to spread the virus.

    But that does not mean it is the only time they are contagious.

    People can “shed” or emit the virus in the incubation period before they show symptoms.

    Research has found those infected with Covid-19 can take a staggering five days for coronavirus symptoms to show – and they can still appear after the quarantine period.

  • 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

    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

    Record 3million Brits had Covid on New Year’s Eve

    Weekly infections hit 3.7 million — with the total soaring from 2.3 million in the previous seven days.

    And, with the number of NHS trusts declaring critical incidents rocketing to 24 overnight, it means one in eight hospitals in England is on the brink of being overwhelmed.

    Yet the latest data, from the Office for National Statistics, suggests the Omicron outbreak may have finally slowed in the capital.

    That is despite one in ten Londoners having the bug last week.

    Warwick University’s Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group, said: “We’re getting cases very, very high but there is early evidence that things might be turning around in London.”

    Professor Kevin McConway, statistics expert at the Open University, said: “The picture is pretty grim but the slowdown in London is encouraging, given that infections increased fastest there.”

    And in another sign of hope, the number of critically ill Brits needing mechanical ventilation in intensive care fell yesterday.

    There were 769 Covid victims on breathing support in England on Wednesday, down from 797 the day before.

  • Louis Allwood

    Emmanuel Macron vows to ‘p**s off’ France’s 5million unvaccinated

    The outspoken French president hit out at the five million people who have so far refused the life-saving Covid jab as he laid out his strategy to pressure them into getting it.

    In an interview published by Le Parisien newspaper, Mr Macron – who has expressed his desire to run for re-election in April's presidential vote but is yet to formally announce his candidacy – used the vulgar French term "emmerder", meaning to rile or to bug.

    He insisted he would not "vaccinate by force" the minority who had not had a dose, but instead persuade them to get jabbed by "limiting as much as possible their access to activities in social life".

    "I am not about p**sing off the French people," Mr Macron, 44, told the outlet.

    "But as for the non-vaccinated, I really want to p**s them off. And we will continue to do this, to the end. This is the strategy."

    His remarks come as lawmakers heatedly debate new measures that would allow only the vaccinated to enjoy leisure activities such as eating out.

  • Louis Allwood

    I caught Covid and ended up in a coma, says unvaxxed student

    FFION BARNETT thought she was safe from the consequences of Covid because she was young.

    But in August, the student, from Tonypandy, Rhondda, ended up in a coma for five days, lost her hair and needed to learn to walk and talk again.

    She said: “I now want to raise awareness of how Covid isn’t just dangerous for the elderly.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Covid news you may have missed

    In major developments:

    • The PM scrapped PCR tests for people who have a positive lateral flow
    • Costly pre-departure tests for holidays are also being axed
    • Ministers confirmed around a million people are currently isolating
    • Almost 220,000 cases of Covid were recorded yesterday
    • Louis Allwood

      Ex-Real Madrid star Antonio Cassano in hospital in Italy with Covid

      Antonio Cassano has been hospitalised in Italy after contracting Covid-19.

      His wife Carolina Marcialis confirmed that the 39-year-old had tested positive for the virus over the Christmas period.

      He contracted the virus in the final days of 2021, but after spending 'several days' isolating, now requires hospital treatment after his condition worsened.

      He was admitted to hospital today, according to local outlet Genova Today.

      Cassano is receiving treatment at the San Martino hospital in Genoa due to suffering from complications due to the virus.

    • Louis Allwood

      Covid experts among New Year Honors

      Among 1,122 people receiving awards are tennis player Emma Raducanu, Olympians and Paralympians, and actor Daniel Craig.

      Leading figures of science and medicine during the coronavirus pandemic have been feted in the Queen’s new year honours list. This also includes chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, who is to receive a knighthood.

      The teenage tennis star Emma Raducanu – praised for her “remarkable achievement at such a young age” by the Queen and is to be awarded an MBE.

      Other sports personnel include Olympians and Paralympians cyclist Jody Cundy, who gets a CBE, and sprinter and cyclist Kadeena Cox, who receives an OBE. 

      Actors Joanna Lumley and Vanessa Redgrave become dames for their services to drama, entertainment and charity.

      Alongside them, actor Daniel Craig receives the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) for outstanding contribution to film.

    • Louis Allwood

      How do I report my results?

      Use this service to report your result to the NHS after using a rapid lateral flow test kit to check if you’re infectious with coronavirus (COVID-19).

      Report the result every time you use a rapid lateral flow test kit and as soon as possible after you get the result.

      You cannot report a result after more than 24 hours. You can only report one result at a time.

      You need to have the barcode on the test strip or the ID number printed under it and a mobile phone number to get a test confirming the result.

      It is the same for reporting your children’s results.

      You can also report results to NHS Test and Trace on the same day they take it, either by inputting their results online or by calling 119.

    • Louis Allwood

      How do I order and use a Covid lateral flow test?

      Head online to this website – where you can request a pack of tests to use at home.

      The testing kit comes with instructions and is fairly simple to use.

      It first involves taking a swab of the throat and nose and dipping it into a solution.

      This is then placed onto a paper pad on the device – that looks like a pregnancy stick.

      Inside the device is a strip of test paper that changes colour if coronavirus proteins are in the sample.

      Usually, one line next to the “C” means negative, two lines next to “C” and “T” means positive, and no lines or one next to “T” means the test is void.

      They often have key timelines in which the results are valid, so if you spot a change hours later it could be wrong.

      The best way to know for sure is to repeat the test to stay as safe as possible.

    • Louis Allwood

      What is a Covid lateral flow test?

      A Covid lateral flow test uses a swab from a patient’s nose or throat to quickly determine if they are infected with coronavirus.

      They are being used to check if people have the virus but are not showing symptoms.

      By catching these people it means they can isolate at home and not spread the virus.

      Around one in three people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus without knowing.

    • Louis Allwood

      Sign up to The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign

      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.

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

      Boris Johnson has begged millions of people to book their first, second or booster jabs in now to protect them from the virus, admitting that cases of omicron are still rising.

    • Louis Allwood

      Get a PCR test if you have any symptoms

      If you have Covid symptoms of any kind, you should get a PCR test and self-isolate until the results come back.

      The common early warning signs of Omicron include:

      • Scratchy throat
      • Lower back pain
      • Runny nose/congestion
      • Headache
      • Fatigue 
      • Sneezing
      • Night sweats
      • Body aches 

      20 hospital trusts declare critical incidents

      The seven-day isolation period is causing a staff shortage at hospitals – amid demands for it to be cut to five days.

      Downing Street has now confirmed 20 trusts now have "critical" status, though it is hoped this will be short-lived.

      The situation has sparked renewed calls to slash isolation for people who test positive for the virus from seven to five days to get healthy and much-needed healthcare staff back to work.

      Currently, confirmed cases are forced to stay at home for at least a week, down from 10 days before Christmas.

      Tory MPs are among a legion of voices demanding the quarantine period be cut to speed up the return to work.

      Can I walk my dog if I have Covid?

      Under the current guidance, you must stay home and isolate for 10 days if you test positive for Covid-19.

      This means that if possible, you have to let your dog out in the garden or just outside your house.

      In case this is not possible, you should ask another member of the household or someone outside of it to walk the dog, if they are not positive and have been fully vaccinated.

      If you have been asked to walk someone else's dog, you can do that as long as you are not displaying any symptoms of the virus.

      This counts as caring for a vulnerable person, which includes those self-isolating or being shielded.

      Remember to wash your hands before and after handling the dog and keep two metres away from other people and animals while walking, including when handing over the dog to the owner.

      What advice is there for pet owners with Covid?

      Battersea have a detailed guide on taking care of pets during the Covid pandemic. 

      The Canine and Feline Sector Group – made up of the UK’s leading dog, cat, and veterinary organisations – have also put together guidance for pet owners and dog walkers during the pandemic.

      The British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) advice for pet owners diagnosed with Covid-19 is:

      • If you are unwell and worried about passing anything onto your pet, wash your hands before stroking them and wear a mask while being close to them
      • If your pet shows clinical signs, please do not take it to the vet but call the practice for advice.
      • If your pet requires emergency treatment, call the practice for further advice. Do not take your pet to the surgery unless the vet instructs you to. You may need to arrange for someone else to transport your pet for treatment.

      Can I take my pet to the vet if I have Covid?

      All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided, unless someone else can take your pet for you while you are ill.

      If your pet needs urgent treatment, you must phone the vet to arrange the best approach to meet your pets’ needs.

      Can pets catch COVID?

      A 2021 study suggested that Covid is common in pet cats and dogs whose owners have the disease.

      Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been multiple reports of pets testing positive for Covid-19 following close contact with their infected owners.

      The World Organisation for Animal Health said: "Now that Covid-19 virus infections are widely distributed in the human population there is a possibility for some animals to become infected through close contact with infected humans."

      In the UK, official government lines state "There is limited evidence that some animals, including pets, can become infected with Covid-19."

      However, in line with the general advice on fighting coronavirus, pet owners who are displaying symptoms should restrict contact with pets and wash their hands thoroughly before and after interacting with their pet.

      Researchers in China discovered that cats can be infected with the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, and can spread it to other cats through respiratory droplets.

      A study has also found that pets that sleep in their infected owner's bed are more likely to catch the virus.

      • Louis Allwood

        Critical workers fast tracked

        Boris Johnson has announced that more than 100,000 critical workers will be fast-tracked for lateral flow tests to stop essential services grinding to a halt.

        Critical workers in fields ranging from food processing to transport and the Border Force will get lateral flow tests every working day from January 10, he said.

        Kits will be sent directly to organisations.

      • Louis Allwood

        Families can now save hundreds

        Travel bosses will be happy with the move towards restriction-free travel, with many previously calling for them to be scrapped to help the industry.

        Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, praised the move: "This is a hugely welcome move at a critical time in the booking season for passengers, and will provide a massive boost to those wanting to travel abroad or come to the UK this year.

        "People will now be able to book knowing that – for the fully-vaccinated – all emergency testing restrictions have been removed. 

        “Today marks an important step towards learning to live alongside the virus, helping passengers and the travel sector look ahead to what will be an all-important spring and summer season.”

      • Louis Allwood

        WFH & face masks will remain for at least 3 more weeks

        COVID rules telling people to work from home and wear masks indoors will stay for another three weeks after Boris Johnson stuck with Plan B.

        The PM today insisted the "balanced" measures were necessary to help fight "rapidly" rising Omicron cases and hospitalisations.

        Another 194,747 Covid cases were recorded today, with infections spreading quickly among vulnerable older patients.

        Mr Johnson told the Commons: "So in response to the latest data, the Cabinet agreed this morning that we should stick with Plan B for another three weeks, with a further review before the regulations expire on 26 January."

        But in an optimistic outlook he all but ruled out returning to a full-fat lockdown and warned crippling restrictions would take a wrecking ball to livelihoods.

        H praise from lockdown-hating Tory MPs, he said: "Lockdowns are not cost free.

        "They impose a devastating toll on our physical and mental wellbeing, on our 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."

      • Louis Allwood

        ‘London outbreak slows’ (Continued…)

        Sarah Crofts, Head of Analytical Outputs for the Covid-19 Infection Survey said: "We continue to see infections across the UK increase, with Omicron now the dominant variant across all four nations.

        “There are early signs of a potential slowing of infections in London in the days before New Year’s Eve. However, it is too early to suggest this is a change in trend overall.

        “The data continues to change rapidly, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

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