A summary of today’s developments
- Germany is tightening restrictions on travel from the UK in an attempt to curb the spread of the Omicron variant. From midnight on Sunday – or 11pm UK time – there will be a ban on carriage from the UK to Germany, except for German nationals, residents and transit passengers.
- The Netherlands will go into a new lockdown from Sunday morning to try to limit Covid-19 infections because of the Omicron variant, prime minister Mark Rutte said. All non-essential shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas, museums and theatres must shut from Sunday until January 14, while schools must close until at least January 9.
- More than 90,000 new cases of coronavirus have been reported across the UK and 125 more people have died from Covid-19, according to the latest official figures.
- The number of deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to seven, the UK Health Security Agency said, from the previous figure of one.
- Brazil on Saturday recorded 153 new Covid-19 deaths and 3,323 new coronavirus cases, the country’s health ministry said. However, the data is still not up to date, as the ministry is still struggling to reconcile its figures after a cyber attack on its systems over a week ago, Reuters reports.
- The UK’s Brexit minister Lord Frost has resigned from the cabinet. In his resignation letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, he wrote he was sad the unlocking from Covid restrictions had not proved “irreversible” as promised, and added: “I hope we can get back on track soon and not be tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.”
- The mayor of London has declared a “major incident” over rapidly rising numbers of coronavirus infection in the capital that threaten to place strain on public services. Sadiq Khan took the decision, which allows for closer coordination between different public agencies, after consulting with leaders from NHS London, local authorities and emergency and other essential services.
- A leading UK government adviser has said that a “circuit breaker” lockdown after Christmas would be “probably too late” and “we need to act now” to head off a huge surge of infections. Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it was clear that plan B measures alone would not be enough to stop the spiralling numbers of cases.
- The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading significantly faster than the Delta strain in countries with documented community transmission, with a doubling time of 1.5 to three days, the World Health Organization said.
Brazil on Saturday recorded 153 new Covid-19 deaths and 3,323 new coronavirus cases, the country’s health ministry said.
However, the data is still not up to date, as the ministry is still struggling to reconcile its figures after a cyber attack on its systems over a week ago, Reuters reports.
Nearly 618,000 Brazilians have died from Covid-19, the second highest total in the world after the US.
Police officers have suffered minor injuries during “scuffles” at an anti-vaccine protest in Parliament Square in London, the Metropolitan police said in a statement.
The officers were injured while attempting to escort a police motorcyclist through the area.
Video footage from the protest posted on social media shows shoving between police and protesters.
Later at around 3pm a group of protesters began “directing abuse” at people inside and egging the shop until police intervened, the Met added. No injuries were reported.
A further incident occurred when beer cans and flares were thrown at officers on Whitehall.
The force said that their officers were also subjected to abuse and physical violence elsewhere on Whitehall, leading to several more officers sustaining minor injuries.
No arrests have been made.
As coronavirus has wreaked havoc with the Premier League fixture list in England, the Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp outlined a future whereby a vaccine refusenik could be more trouble than he is worth: as a threat to his teammates, creating a two-tier system when he has to be separated from the rest of the squad and a logistical nightmare as the need to quarantine could rule him out of many a game.
Germany tightens restrictions on travel from UK
Germany is tightening restrictions on travel from the UK in an attempt to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
From midnight on Sunday – or 11pm UK time – there will be a ban on carriage from the UK to Germany, except for German nationals, residents and transit passengers.
Everyone entering Germany from Britain, whether vaccinated or not, will need a negative PCR test and is required to quarantine for 14 days.
The country’s public health authority, the Robert-Koch-Institut, announced the new rules on Saturday evening as it classified the UK as an area of variants of concern due to Omicron.
It said the restrictions could last until at least 3 January, PA reports.
You can follow the latest Covid developments in Australia here:
The UK’s Brexit minister, Lord Frost, has resigned from the cabinet, the Mail on Sunday reports.
Lord Frost, who has led negotiations with the EU, is said to have handed in his resignation letter to Boris Johnson last week. But the Mail on Sunday reports he had been persuaded to stay on until January.
The newspaper says it was the introduction of plan B coronavirus measures, including the implementation of Covid passes, that prompted Lord Frost’s decision.
Iran is evacuating its envoy to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement after he contracted Covid-19, Iran’s foreign ministry said.
“In order to transfer him (Irlu) to our country for treatment, the Foreign Ministry conducted consultations with some regional countries to prepare for his transfer, which is currently under way,” ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told state media.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said on Twitter: “Under an Iranian-Saudi agreement reached through contacts with Iraq, the Iranian ambassador in Sanaa was transferred on an Iraqi plane due to his health condition,” Reuters reports.
France will compensate ski resorts hit by the ban on British tourists and will try to steer more French tourists to the mountains to make up for lost earnings, the tourism minister said.
Under new rules taking effect on Saturday, meant to protect from importing the Omicron variant, holiday travel from Britain is not allowed and only French nationals and their partners, as well as foreigners with a permanent residence in France, can enter the country from the UK.
Tourism minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said on BFM TV that British tourists accounted for about 15% of French ski resort customers overall, but the percentage was much higher in some resorts such as Val d’Isere, Courchevel and Meribel.
“Last year the government has provided 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) of support for the sector and we will continue to stand by the industry,” Lemoyne said, without specifying what measures could be implemented.
He added that because of a new lockdown in the Netherlands, Dutch tourists, who account for about 5% of the customers in French ski resorts, may also be more scarce this season, Reuters reports.
Here is more on UK government scientists’ stark warning there are now hundreds of thousands of infections every day.
The daily number could reach between 600,000 and 2m by the end of the month if new restrictions are not brought in immediately, they said.
The government’s SPI-M-O group of scientists, which reports to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), also warned that, based on their modelling, hospitalisations could peak between 3,000 and 10,000 a day and deaths at between 600 and 6,000 a day.
US president Joe Biden will deliver a speech on Tuesday addressing the Omicron variant of coronavirus, NBC News reported.
Biden is expected to go beyond his “winter plan” with additional steps to help communities in need, Reuters reports.
France hopes that a planned new vaccine pass that will be required to enter public places will persuade more people to get inoculated against Covid-19 as the country faces a rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the health minister said.
The government does not want to impose new curfews or lockdowns on people who have been vaccinated, but the threat of Omicron means authorities have to increase pressure on those refusing vaccination, Olivier Veran said on France Inter radio.
“We cannot continue to say that the choice of not getting vaccinated is a choice that has no consequences,” Veran said.
Prime minister Jean Castex said on Friday the government will propose a bill in parliament in January to change France’s “health pass” into a “vaccine pass”, meaning only vaccinated people will be allowed to enter indoor public places such as bars, restaurants and cinemas.
Veran said the government would ask MPs to also consider making the vaccine pass a requirement on trains and planes, and to make it mandatory to show proof of identity along with the pass. “There is too much fraud,” he said.
Veran said Omicron was currently suspected to account for up to 10% of new coronavirus cases and that could rise to more than 50% early next year, Reuters reports.
Australia could take until well into next year to hit an 80% booster vaccination rate, with the rollout currently ranking almost last out of 70 countries, Guardian analysis shows.
Boosters are now available to anyone who has had a second dose of a Covid vaccine more than five months ago.
However, Australia’s slow initial vaccine rollout meant that more than half of all second doses were administered in the final four months of 2021. So with a five-month dosing interval, the people who received their second doses late in 2021 won’t be eligible for a booster until February.
France has reported 58,536 new coronavirus cases and a total of 94,404 Covid-related deaths in hospital, up by 85, Reuters reports.