Home » Covid Live: Queen Changes Christmas Plans Over Omicron; EU Drug Regulator Approves Novavax Vaccine

Covid Live: Queen Changes Christmas Plans Over Omicron; EU Drug Regulator Approves Novavax Vaccine

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00:10

Omicron is now dominant Covid variant in US, officials say

Omicron is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the US, federal health officials said on Monday, racing ahead of Delta and other variants and accounting for 73% of new infections last week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in Omicron’s share of infections in only one week.

In much of the country, omicron’s prevalence is even higher. It’s responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections in the New York area, the south-east, the industrial midwest and the Pacific north-west.

Since the end of June, the Delta variant has been the main version causing US infections. As recently as the end of November, more than 99.5% of coronaviruses were Delta, according to CDC data.

Read the full story here.

23:47

Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you taking over from my colleague Léonie Chao-Fong.

First up, some numbers out of Australia.

New South Wales has recorded 3,057 new Covid cases – another record number. Sadly, there have also been two deaths.

Victoria’s numbers have remained relatively stable, with 1,245 Covid cases today. But there have been six lives lost overnight.

Tasmania recorded four new Covid cases.

According to Seven News prime minister Scott Morrison is supportive of an indoor mask mandate in light of the Omicron variant spreading throughout Australia, but not further lockdowns.

23:31

Summary

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, for today. Before I hand over to my colleague Samantha Lock, here’s a quick roundup of what’s been happening so far:

  • The UK government held off announcing further Covid restrictions but its prime minister, Boris Johnson, warned further measures remain on the table, with data on the threat of Omicron monitored “hour by hour”. Johnson was accused of failing to follow scientists’ advice on the need for immediate restrictions while leaving millions of people and businesses in limbo after a two-hour cabinet meeting ended with no decision on Monday.
  • Schools, bars, gyms and cinemas in Quebec will close as of Monday as public health officials race to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. All non-essential workers are being asked to work from home and restaurants will have to reduce their capacity to 50% and limit their hours from 5am to 10pm.
  • London’s New Year’s Eve celebration event in Trafalgar Square will not take place because of the surge in cases of the Omicron Covid variant in the capital, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said.
  • The European Union’s drugs regulator has given the green light to a fifth Covid vaccine for use, granting conditional marketing authorisation to the two-dose treatment made by the US biotech company Novavax.
  • Donald Trump was greeted with boos from a live audience after revealing he has received a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot. The former US president dismissed the crowd’s negative response and claimed his administration was responsible for developing the coronavirus vaccines.
  • Moderna said a booster dose of its Covid vaccine appeared to be protective against the fast-spreading Omicron variant in laboratory testing and that the current version of the vaccine would continue to be Moderna’s “first line of defence against Omicron”.
  • Britain reported 91,743 new Covid cases on Monday, the second-highest figure since the start of the pandemic, as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly. The number of deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test was 44.
  • Queen Elizabeth will celebrate Christmas at Windsor instead of her usual choice of Sandringham over Covid safety fears, according to a palace source. The monarch usually spends the festive holiday at her estate in Norfolk and sources have said the decision was “a personal one after careful consideration and reflects a precautionary approach”.
  • The Russian maker of the Covid Sputnik V vaccine is due to submit its latest data by the end of December, with manufacturing site inspections expected to follow in February, a World Health Organization official said.
  • Panama has detected its first case of the Omicron variant of Covid, the Central American country’s health ministry said.

Updated

23:25

Omicron accounted for 73% of infections in the United States for the week ending 18 December, federal health officials have said.

A week ago, data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Omicron had caused some 3% of recent infections in the US.

In the New York area, the Southeast, industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, the variant is responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections.

22:52

Staff at one UK hospital have been told they may not be able to take any annual leave as the Omicron variant causes soaring hospitalisations, the Independent has learned.

In an email seen by the paper, University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust was forced to tell staff last week they could not make any new holiday requests and that current leave may be cancelled as it is experiencing “significant pressures”.

Doctors at Barts Health Trust, which runs three hospitals in London, have also been warned it may have to cancel “some or much” of its planned operations in January to cope with the coming Covid surge.

The trust suggested it will have to rely on staff volunteering for extra shifts to avoid cancelling leave and redeploying workers.

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21:46

Premier League clubs in England have discussed driving up vaccination rates in their squads by creating separate rules for players yet to get a Covid-19 jab. On a day when it emerged that 16% of top-flight players are unvaccinated and a record 90 positive tests had been recorded among players and staff in the week up to last Sunday, a two-tier system was raised at an emergency meeting.

Proposals include unvaccinated players travelling separately to games, facing an additional check to get into stadiums and having meals away from vaccinated teammates. The moves are designed to guard against more fixtures being cancelled as the clubs decided to press on with the season.

A complication for the league is that under government guidelines unvaccinated players must isolate for 10 days if deemed a close contact of anyone who has tested positive, even if they produce negative results. This increases the likelihood of postponements by reducing the pool of players available to a club.

On Monday the league said that 77% of its players were double-jabbed and that 84% had received one, two or three vaccinations. On Friday Serie A said that 98% of its players had received two jabs.

Read the full article by my colleagues Jacob Steinberg, David Hytner and Paul MacInnes here:

20:40

London’s New Year’s Eve celebration event in Trafalgar Square will not take place because of the surge in cases of the Omicron Covid variant in the capital, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has said.

At least five UK national attractions including the Natural History Museum and Edinburgh Castle have closed during the Christmas school holidays, usually one of the busiest times of the year.

Updated

20:20

The approval of a new protein-based Covid-19 vaccine by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has led to hopes that it could play an important role in persuading millions of people in Germany who have refused jabs from existing vaccines to get protection against the disease this winter.

The EMA approved the two-dose Novavax vaccine on Monday afternoon. The German government’s vaccination advisory board is expected to follow suit and allow for its use soon, a move that would be welcomed by health experts who are bracing for a huge and imminent wave of infections caused by the new Omicron variant.

The first doses of Novavax are expected to be administered in Germany in the new year. The EU has secured 100m doses of Novavax and 60m doses of Valneva, with 4m Novavax doses immediately destined for Germany.

Across Europe, but in particular in Germany, experts are hoping that both vaccines will have the effect of persuading those who have so far turned down the offer of a vaccine to change their minds, at a time when raising immunity levels by vaccination is one of the key weapons against halting the virus’s spread.

So far, just over 70% of Germans are fully vaccinated. Unless this figure climbs to between 80 to 90%, the nation’s immunity will not be high enough to dampen the virus.

Read the full article here:

19:45

Donald Trump revealed he has received a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot during a live interview show with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly confirmed he also received a booster shot, though neither said which one they received.

The former US president was booed by a portion of the audience but he appeared to dismiss the crowd’s negative reaction. “Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t!” he said. “That’s all right, it’s a very tiny group over there.”

During the same show, Trump said his administration was responsible for developing the coronavirus vaccines. “Look, we did something that was historic,” he said. “We saved tens of millions of lives worldwide when we, together, all of us, we got a vaccine done.”

“This would have been the Spanish Flu of 1917 … This was going to ravage the country, far beyond what it is right now. Take credit for it,” he added.

His comments come as a relatively large percentage of Republicans have refused to get even initial doses of the vaccines. A recent study by the New York Times showed approximately 60% of Republican adults have received their first shot, compared with 91% of Democrats.

Updated

19:11

Good evening from London. I’m Léonie Chao-Fong, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next few hours.

In Quebec, Canada’s second-most populous province, schools, bars, gyms, casinos and cinemas will be closed as of Monday in order to combat the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

All non-essential workers are being asked to work from home and restaurants will have to reduce their capacity to 50% and limit their hours from 5am to 10pm. The new measures will come into effect at 5pm local time on Monday.

The province’s health minister, Christian Dubé, urged Quebecers to cut down their personal contacts after a record 4,571 new cases were recorded.

“The situation is critical. The explosion of cases is overwhelming,” he said in a press briefing today.

Updated

18:59

Summary

Here is a round-up of all the top Covid headlines today from the UK and around the world:

  • The European Union’s drugs regulator has given the green light to a fifth Covid vaccine for use, granting conditional marketing authorisation to the two-dose treatment made by the US biotech company Novavax.
  • The Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is causing infections in people already vaccinated or who have recovered from the Covid disease, the head of the World Health Organization said on Monday.
  • Moderna said on Monday that a booster dose of its Covid vaccine appeared to be protective against the fast-spreading Omicron variant in laboratory testing and that the current version of the vaccine would continue to be Moderna’s “first line of defence against Omicron”.
  • Bereaved families and friends who lost loved ones to Covid have criticised Boris Johnson over a photo that has emerged showing the prime minister at a gathering in the Downing Street garden with wine and cheese alongside his wife and up to 17 staff in an apparent breach of lockdown rules.
  • Britain reported 91,743 new Covid cases on Monday, the second highest figure since the start of the pandemic, as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly. The number of deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test was 44.
  • In the UK, at least five national attractions including the Natural History Museum and Edinburgh Castle have closed because of a surge in Covid cases.
  • Belgium’s health ministers have agreed to start vaccinating children aged between five and 11 against coronavirus.
  • Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will celebrate Christmas at Windsor instead of her usual choice of Sandringham, a palace source said on Monday, as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.
  • Italy reported 137 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday against 97 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 16,213 from 24,259.
  • Israeli ministers on Monday agreed to ban travel to the US, Canada and eight other countries amid the rapid, global spread of the omicron variant.
  • The Russian maker of the Covid Sputnik V vaccine is due to submit its latest data by the end of December, with manufacturing site inspections expected to follow in February, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Monday.
  • Panama has detected its first case of the Omicron variant of Covid, the Central American country’s health ministry said on Monday.
  • China must be more forthcoming with data and information related to the origin of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, the head of the World Health Organization has said.
  • Royal Caribbean Group has said 48 people on its Symphony of the Seas cruise ship tested positive for Covid.

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, for today. I’ll be back tomorrow morning but for now I shall leave you with my colleague Léonie Chao-Fong, who will keep you across all the Covid news throughout the evening. Goodbye.

18:32

Queen Elizabeth won’t go to usual Sandringham family Christmas gathering

Queen Elizabeth will celebrate Christmas at Windsor instead of her usual choice of Sandringham, a palace source has said, as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.

“The decision was a personal one after careful consideration and reflects a precautionary approach,” the source said. “There will be family visiting Windsor over the Christmas period and all appropriate guidelines will be followed.”

Chris Ship, ITV News’s royal editor, tweeted that the decision taken by the monarch was a “personal one”.

Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv)

Palace aides say the Queen’s decision reflects a “personal one”.And is a precautionary measure.
It follows the rise in Covid #Omicron cases.

December 20, 2021

Updated

18:20

Panama has detected its first case of Omicron, the Central American country’s health ministry has said.

A 50-year-old who worked in mining and recently travelled to South Africa was found to have contracted the variant, said Luis Sucre, the health minister.

A medical worker administers a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine at the El Chorrillo health centre in Panama City. Photograph: Bienvenido Velasco/EPA

Updated

18:06

The Russian maker of the Covid Sputnik V vaccine is due to submit its latest data by the end of December, with manufacturing site inspections expected to follow in February, a World Health Organization has said.

Rogério Gaspar, the WHO’s regulation director, gave the new timelines for the vaccine made by the Gamaleya Institute at a WHO briefing for journalists in Geneva.

A healthcare worker prepares a one-dose Sputnik Light vaccine at a vaccination centre in Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia. Photograph: Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

Updated

17:58

Coronavirus cases surged in New York City and around the United States over the weekend, dashing hopes for a more normal holiday season.

In New York, new Covid cases rose 60% in the week that ended on Sunday as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly around the US northeast. New York has set records for the most new cases reported in a single day since the pandemic started for three consecutive days.

The rise in cases has set off alarm bells for public health officials, who see Omicron fast becoming dominant in the United States and fear an explosion of infections after holiday gatherings., Reuters reported.

With the new variant in circulation, the number of Covid cases is now doubling in one and a half to three days in areas with community transmission, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.

17:20

China must be more forthcoming with data and information related to the origin of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus, the head of the World Health Organization has said.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there had been “many failures” during the pandemic because of a lack of rules or obligations under the WHO’s current 2005 International Health Regulations.

“We need to continue until we know the origins, we need to push harder because we should learn from what happened this time in order to [do] better in the future,” Tedros told a news briefing for Geneva journalists.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, at a press conference in Geneva today. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Updated