Boris Johnson announcement – No covid lockdown needed as UK 'can ride out' Omicron as PCR 'double check' rule scrapped

BORIS Johnson has insisted a UK-wide lockdown simply isn't needed and says the country can "ride out the Omicron wave".

Speaking at a Downing Street conference last night, Mr Johnson said: “Together with the Plan B measures, we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country again.

“We can keep our schools and our businesses open and find a way to live with this virus.”

The Prime Minister also made clear that we can "enjoy our freedoms in the teeth" of Omicron "thanks to boosters" – and urged unvaccinated Brits to get jabbed.

It comes as Brits who test positive with a DIY lateral flow test will no longer need a follow-up PCR check under imminent rule changes.

Instead, they will be told to self-isolate for a week as long as they are negative on day six and seven.

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

  • Milica Cosic

    BREAKING: PM to announce full Covid plan to MPs TODAY

    BORIS Johnson will today unveil his full Omicron battleplan to MPs after vowing not to impose any new crippling restrictions.

    After a Cabinet meeting, the PM will confirm to the Commons he is sticking with Plan B measures to work from home, wear masks indoors and vaccine passports.

    Cabinet Ministers are meeting this morning to rubber-stamp the extension of Plan B measures, which are up for review today.

    Extending the controversial curbs do not require a vote in Parliament but Mr Johnson is bracing for more anger from Tory MPs who oppose them.

    Read more here.

  • Milica Cosic

    The red tape

    The PCR rule change has been delayed by red tape around sickness payments.

    As it stands, Brits who are self-isolating after catching coronavirus can apply for financial support as Covid rules are ramped up amid the Omicron variant spread.

    No 10 yesterday refused to rule out rationing Covid tests in the coming weeks.

    The Prime Minister's spokesman said: “We would obviously need to keep under review, as prevalence is incredibly high, what the right approach might be and we continue to take advice on whether that is necessary.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Lateral flow will ‘no longer need follow-up PCR check’

    BRITS who test positive with a DIY lateral flow test will no longer need a follow-up PCR check under imminent rule changes.

    Instead, they will be told to self-isolate for a week as long as they are negative on day six and seven.

    Officials hope a change in testing rules will also reduce infection spread, as Brits will no longer leave home to get an extra test.

    A health source said: “The overwhelming likelihood is that if you have a positive lateral flow, then you are infectious.

    “So there is no need for an extra PCR check when testing is already under huge strain.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Around 100,000 critical workers to have daily tests

    The PM said: “The weeks ahead are going to be challenging. There is no escaping the fact that some services will be disrupted by staff absences.

    “We’ve been working through Christmas to prepare for this where possible.

    “The Government is acting to protect critical national services to keep supply chains open and fortify our NHS to withstand the pressures ahead.

    “We’ve identified 100,000 in areas from food processing, to transport, to border force and from January 10, we’ll be rolling out lateral flow testing to all these workers on every working day.

    “We’ll be sending testing kits directly to these organisations and liaising with them on the logistics.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Our position now is much better than previous waves

    Mr Johnson said: “Our position today differs from previous waves in two crucial respects.

    “First, we now know that Omicron is milder than previous variants, so while hospital admissions are rising quickly, with over 15,000 Covid patients now in hospital in England alone, this is not yet, thankfully, translating into the same numbers needing intensive care that we saw in previous waves.

    “Second, thanks to the fantastic national effort to get Britain boosted, we now have a substantial level of protection, higher than any of our European neighbours, with over 34 million boosters administered, including in England reaching more than 90% of the over 70s and 86% of the over 50s.

    “And so, together with the Plan B measures that we introduced before Christmas, we have a chance to ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again.

    “We can keep our schools and our businesses open and we can find a way to live with this virus.”

  • Milica Cosic

    ‘Starving’ Chinese residents ‘trade Nintendo consoles for noodles’ 

    CHINESE residents have been reportedly trading £260 Nintendo consoles for instant noodles amid fears of food shortages during the world’s toughest lockdown.

    Now posts on the Chinese social media platform Weibo claim that locals trading cigarettes and expensive gadgets for groceries.

    Shared footage showed some allegedly exchanging cigarettes for cabbage, dishwashing liquid for apples, and even a Nintendo Switch for instant noodles and steamed buns.

    A resident surnamed Wang told Radio Free Asia: “People are swapping stuff with others in the same building because they no longer have enough food to eat.”

    According to the outlet another man wanted to trade a smartphone and tablet for rice.

  • Milica Cosic

    Major developments you may have missed

    • Millions of pupils will wear masks in classrooms today as they return
    • Scientists were “cautiously optimistic” that Covid was flattening in London
    • Ministers played down fears the booster rollout was slowing down
    • A vaccines guru said the worst days of pandemic are “behind us”.

    Omicron can spark lung swelling

    OMICRON can cause pneumonia to develop in rare cases, making the lungs swell.

    Pneumonia refers to a swelling of the tissue in one or both of your lungs. While it can severely affect people of any age, it’s more likely and can be more serious among the young or elderly.

    While it is rare, if you are struggling to shake your Omicron infection and feeling it’s getting worse, pay attention to if you have some of the listed symptoms below.

    Common symptoms include a dry or phlegm-y cough – and breathing may be rapid and shallow, you may feel breathless all the time, and experience chest pain.

    Fever, sweating and shivering, loss of appetite and a rapid heartbeat are all also symptoms.

    Less common symptoms include coughing up blood, headaches, tiredness, feeling or being sick, wheezing, muscle pain and confusion.

    People who develop pneumonia often make a full recovery without any extra complications.

    Boris Johnson will NOT impose more Covid restrictions

    BORIS Johnson will hold his nerve by NOT imposing more crippling Covid restrictions at a crunch Cabinet meeting today.

    Despite rising cases of the super-strain, ministers are increasingly confident that hospitals will not become overwhelmed as feared.

    Ahead of the announcement Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup told Sky News this morning: "Plan B is working, as you can see from the number of hospitalisations, it's far, far fewer than this time last year and that's so important as well, that the vaccines are working, the measures for people to work from home are working.

    "The Prime Minister said that Plan B is working and there'll be a Cabinet meeting today, and I don't see any reason why we need to change. It's important we do follow the data."

    • Milica Cosic

      'As urgent as Covid itself' to keep schools open

      Ministers have also been told to draw up back up plans to bring in the military if the return to work and school does descend into chaos.

      Conservative backbenchers have expressed their fury at the restrictions being imposed on the nations schoolchildren.

      Former party leader Iain Duncan Smith said it was "as urgent as Covid itself" to keep schools open and pupils at their desks.

      He added: "We saw how much damage it did to the poorest in our society when they shut.

      "I am also very sceptical over how masks will help when studies show that ventilation and testing is far more effective.

      "I question if these measures are necessary to deal with Omicron. There is no evidence schools were the epicentre of outbreaks."

    • Milica Cosic

      'We can’t jab the whole planet every 6 months'

      Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), says society must soon reopen fully.

      Sir Andrew told the Telegraph: “The worst is absolutely behind us. We just need to get through the winter.”

      He said there should never be another lockdown, telling the publication: “At some point, society has to open up.

      "When we do open, there will be a period with a bump in infections, which is why winter is probably not the best time.

      “But that’s a decision for the policy makers, not the scientists.

      "Our approach has to switch, to rely on the vaccines and the boosters. The greatest risk is still the unvaccinated.”

      And he cautioned against endless booster roll-outs.

      “We can’t vaccinate the planet every four to six months," he said.

      "It’s not sustainable or affordable. In the future, we need to target the vulnerable.”

    • Milica Cosic

      Schoolkids could be sent home within WEEKS

      Schools could also be forced to close entirely because of the staff shortages due to the isolation period – meaning children may have to go back to virtual learning.

      Head teachers have warned that areas with higher cases could struggle with finding enough supply teachers to cover gaps caused by isolating teachers -piling pressure on Boris Johnson to slash the self-isolation period from seven to five days.

      Caroline Derbyshire, executive head at Saffron Walden County High School in Essex, said: “This sort of mass of supply teachers that are supposed to be there — that’s not happened, has it?

      “So if we have got shortages, it’ll be colleagues who are in school who’ll be doing most of the covering.

      “If you hit a certain point with staff absences in a big school, you’re talking about maybe ten members of staff being off.

      “You’ve suddenly got the inability to run a year group — that’s when you start having either year groups or whole parts of schools having to go online.

      "That’s when you’re going to have that mixed economy of some students being in school and some at home.”

    • Milica Cosic

      Find a walk-in centre & get jabbed

      Boris Johnson suggested unvaxxed Brits make it their New Year's resolution to get jabbed.

      In a stark warning he said: "I want to speak directly to all those who have yet to get fully vaccinated. The people who think the disease can’t hurt them – look at the people going into hospital now, that could be you.

      “Look at the intensive care units and the miserable, needless suffering of those who did not get their booster, that could be you.

      “So, make it your New Year’s resolution – far easier than losing weight or keeping a diary – find a walk-in centre or make an online appointment."

    • Milica Cosic

      PM vows kids won’t wear face masks ‘more than is necessary’

      BORIS Johnson yesterday vowed that kids will not have to wear face masks “a day more than is necessary” as pupils and teachers face uncertainty as schools go back today.

      Mr Johnson said he would do his best to remove the new schools guidance as soon as possible, adding: “I don’t like the idea of having face masks in the classroom any more than anybody else does.”

      Most parents are desperate to get children back to school, but there are fears it could cause a spike in infections as youngsters from different household mingle.

      All secondary schools pupils will be tested today and then twice a week, while some classes will be merged to help deal with staff off sick.

    • Milica Cosic

      Five stages of an Omicron infection

      The good news is that Omicron is much milder illness than past Covid infections, as long as you've had your booster dose.

      It's thought there are five stages of Omicron, all of which we have outlined for you.

      1. Stage one is contact with an infected person.
      2. Stage two is around two or three days with no symptoms presenting yet.
      3. Stage three is when early symptoms start to pop up, like lower back ache, night sweats and a scratchy throat.
      4. Stage four is the 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.
    • Milica Cosic

      'The best New Year’s resolution is to get vaccinated'

      This is a comment piece by Sajid Javid

      ONE year ago today, the UK made history by becoming the first country in the world to deploy the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

      Since then, around 50 million Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines have been administered in the UK, saving millions of lives and reducing the pressure on health services.

      The vaccine is a brilliant example of British innovation and scientific excellence, backed by government investment.

      Despite rising cases and hospitalisations, curbs on our freedom must be a last resort and vaccinations are the best way to protect people and to help us to live with this virus. 

      If you haven’t already, the best new year’s resolution you can make is to play your part and join this national mission by getting vaccinated as soon as you can to protect yourselves, your loved ones and the health services we all rely on.

      Read the article in full here.

    • Milica Cosic

      T-cell attack

      The new study was conducted by the University of Melbourne and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST),

      Due to Omicron’s huge number of mutations, it can sometimes slip past the antibodies created by vaccination or infection.

      There is an abundance of mutations in its spike protein – the spike enables the virus to attach and enter cells in humans.

      Scientists analysed fragments of proteins called epitopes in the spike protein of Omicron, and these have been found to be recognised by T-cells in recovered Covid-19 patients or after vaccination.

      But among the epitopes that had the Omicron mutation, more than half were predicted to be visible to T-cells, study co-lead Ahmed Abdul Quadeer said.

      The team’s findings, published in the peer-reviewed journal Viruses, suggest the immune system is capable of mounting a T-cell attack against Omicron.

    • Milica Cosic

      Ministers confident hospitals WON'T become overwhelmed

      Despite rising cases of the super-strain, ministers are increasingly confident that hospitals will not become overwhelmed as feared.

      The PM yesterday said Omicron is "plainly milder" than previous variants following studies showing it is up to 70 per cent less severe.

      Sajid Javid is expected to stick to the plan of working from home, indoor masks and Covid passports – and boosters – when Parliament returns tomorrow.

      Ahead of the announcement, Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup told Sky News this morning: "Plan B is working, as you can see from the number of hospitalisations, it's far, far fewer than this time last year and that's so important as well, that the vaccines are working, the measures for people to work from home are working.

      "The Prime Minister said that Plan B is working and there'll be a Cabinet meeting today, and I don't see any reason why we need to change. It's important we do follow the data."

    • Milica Cosic

      Join The Sun's Jab Army

      Although Omicron is markedly milder than previous variants, the sheer number of cases have left up to a million people self-isolating and threatening widespread disruption to schools and the economy.

      Ministers also say the combination of boosters and Plan B measures are "working" and are not expected to announce fresh measures.

      A third jab also significantly slashes the risk of falling seriously ill – and The Sun's Jab's Army campaign is helping get vital boosters in people's arms.

    • Milica Cosic

      Plans to call in ARMY

      SOLDIERS may be deployed to ease the wave of crippling key worker absences fuelled by Omicron.

      Government departments covering crucial industries have modelled worst-case scenarios for shortages.

      They have even been told to map out when they are likely to need the help of the military, according to The Times.

      Troops could be asked to drive ambulances or beef up Border Force personnel if the situation gets so bad.

    • Milica Cosic

      Killer immune cells CAN mount robust attack against Omicron

      KILLER immune cells can mount a robust attack against Omicron and will fight the strain when antibodies fail to, new findings show.

      Scientists said the super-spreading variant was unlikely to evade T-cells, which are white blood cells produced after infection or vaccination.

      They form part of hidden defences against the virus which are not as easily studied like antibodies are. 

      Various studies have shown that antibodies, the body’s first line of defence against Covid, are not as strong against Omicron as they would be against other strains.

      However, today’s findings add to a string of hugely positive studies about Omicron, including those that say it is milder.

      Read more here.

    • Joseph Gamp

      The rules around face masks

      Mr Johnson also urged Brits to continue wearing face masks in public spaces.

      Ministers reintroduced mandatory face coverings in some areas, most notably public transport, on November 30.

      But in December the PM extended that to more settings amid concern over the rapid spread of Omicron.

      Brits are still required to wear face masks in the following places:

      • While on public transport including trains, buses, and the London Underground
      • At transport hubs like train stations and airports
      • All retail shops such as clothes stores and supermarkets
      • Large entertainment venues like cinemas, theatres, and bowling alleys
      • While in all places of worship
      • At hairdressers, beauty parlours, tattoo studios, and nail bars
      • When visiting the post office or bank
      • In the offices of estate agents
      • At vet surgeries
      • Whilst waiting for orders at takeaway restaurants
      • In pharmacies and medical settings like hospitals
      • At auction houses
      • Whilst taking a ride in a taxi
      • During driving lessons and tests

      Omicron milder than other strains, studies show

      The UK is fighting to stop a rapid rise of Omicron cases crippling the country as workers are forced into isolation or struggle to access a test.

      But 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.

      PM: We can ride out this Omicron wave without total shutdown

      Speaking tonight, Mr Johnson said: "This is a moment for the utmost caution, but our position today differs from previous waves.

      "We know now Omicron is milder than previous variants, and while hospital admissions are rising quickly, with over 15,000 patients in hospitals in England alone, this is not yet thankfully translating into the same number needing intensive care."

      He said there's a chance we can "ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again".

      "We can keep schools and businesses open and find a way to live with this virus, but the weeks ahead are going to be challenging, both here in the UK and across the world," he said.

      Lockdown ruled out by PM

      Boris this evening confirmed that he has ruled out another lockdown.

      The PM yesterday said Omicron is "plainly milder" than previous variants following studies showing it is up to 70 per cent less severe.

      A third jab also significantly slashes the risk of falling seriously ill – and The Sun's Jab's Army campaign is helping get vital boosters in people's arms.

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