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Boris Johnson announcement – Covid CHAOS as lateral flow tests still unavailable but New Year revellers told 'party on'

BORIS Johnson has urged people to get swabbed before enjoying New Year celebrations despite lateral flow tests and PCR test appointments still unavailable.

The prime minister called for Brits to get tested before heading out to NYE parties and celebrations as we head into the fourth day of test supply chaos.

Ministers have acknowledged a worldwide supply issue has hit the UK as people yesterday and this morning struggled to get tests through pharmacies or delivered to their home.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid set out the issues in a call with a Tory MP, acknowledging there is not a quick fix to a problem caused by global demand.

The Government website showed no PCR tests were available for home delivery – even for essential workers – in England or Northern Ireland, with "very few" in Scotland, while Wales had availability only in some regions. Home delivery slots for lateral flow tests were also unavailable this morning.

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

  • Louis Allwood

    Keep an eye on your skin

    It's an idea to keep an eye on your skin, while infection rates are still high – as the variant can cause rashes, sufferers have reported.

    According to the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App, people who have caught the variant say they experience skin rashes.

    The experts have described them as "key" symptoms to notice.

    There are two different kinds of rashes logged by Brits who test positive.

    The first is more like a hive-type rash that appears suddenly.

    It can show up in the form of raised bumps and is very itchy – it can often start with intense itchy palms or soles.

    The second is more like a prickly heat rash that pops up all over the body, although more common on the elbows, knees and the backs of hands and feet.

  • Louis Allwood

    What does a faint positive line mean?

    Supplies of lateral flow tests have been running low this week as people scramble to get hold of them ahead of New Year.

    London-based A&E doctor Nathan explained what a faint line could mean, before and after the 30 minute window.

    He said: “Essentially, if *any* line appears before the end of the interpretation window (check leaflet, usually this is 30 minutes), then this is a *positive* test and you must isolate and book a PCR. 

    “However, if a line appears *after* the interpretation window then this does NOT count as a positive test. You do not need to isolate and you do not need to book a PCR.”

    But if you have symptoms, regardless of the lateral flow test result, you should isolate and book a PCR test, he said.

  • Louis Allwood

    4,000 extra hospital beds to help Omicron Covid surge

    Up to 4,000 extra beds will be created in eight “Nightingale hubs” across England, under the plans.

    Health chiefs are already equipping eight temporary wards in preparation for a spike in pandemic cases, with dozens more on standby.

    It comes as the number of patients being treated for Covid on NHS wards hit 10,462 in England yesterday.

    Hospital occupancy is up 48 per cent from a week earlier and the highest number since March 1.

    However, it is still significantly down from the January peak, when more than 34,000 beds were filled.

  • Louis Allwood

    Patients being treated for Covid on NHS wards hit 10,462

    The number of patients being treated for Covid on NHS wards hit 10,462 in England yesterday.

    Hospital occupancy is up 48 per cent from a week earlier — the highest since March 1.

    However, it is still significantly down from the January peak, when more than 34,000 beds were filled.

    And in a further sign vaccines are protecting against the worst effects, the number of patients taken to intensive care and placed on ventilators remains almost unchanged throughout December.

    The first major study into Omicron mortality data has also suggested it causes less than 25 per cent of the number deaths as previous Covid waves.

  • Louis Allwood

    Omicron variant now represents 90% of community cases

    The Omicron variant now represents 90 per cent of community cases in England, the UK Health and Security Agency said yesterday.

    The Department for Health and Social care announced another £30million funding boost for care homes for the next month to try and help ride out the mutant wave and tackle staff shortages.

    Hospital car parks and gyms will be transformed into Covid surge wards as the NHS goes on a “war footing” against Omicron.

    Up to 4,000 extra beds will be created in “Nightingale hubs” across England, under the plans.

  • Louis Allwood

    Latest figures

    The UK yesterday recorded a whopping 183,037 new Covid cases — the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic.

    However, the figures included up to five days of uncounted cases from Northern Ireland, where they had not reported them over the Christmas period.

    Last night, the PM continued to resist bringing in any more restrictions ahead of the weekend’s celebrations, despite hospitalizations also continuing to creep up.

    He urged people to enjoy the holidays “with caution” by getting tested, boosted and keeping areas ventilated where possible.

  • Louis Allwood

    PM vows booster jabs will save New Year’s Eve

    Boris Johnson said doctors had told him up to 90 per cent of new Covid patients had not received their third jab.

    He said the rollout of the first two vaccinations plus the take-up of the booster had been key to saving the chance for partygoers to “cautiously” see in 2022 tomorrow night.

    And the PM said he was confident everyone would be offered one by his New Year deadline.

    But he warned the “overwhelming majority” of Brits in intensive care had not had three jabs.

    Some 2.4 million double-jabbed people are yet to take up the offer of a booster.

  • Milica Cosic

    What counts as a positive result on a lateral flow test?

    Taking regular lateral flow tests is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from Covid as it helps stop the spread of the virus.

    Posting a photo of a vaguely positive lateral flow to Instagram, London-based A&E doctor Nathan explained what it could mean.

    He said: “Essentially, if *any* line appears before the end of the interpretation window (check leaflet, usually this is 30 minutes), then this is a *positive* test and you must isolate and book a PCR. 

    “However, if a line appears *after* the interpretation window then this does NOT count as a positive test. You do not need to isolate and you do not need to book a PCR.”

    But if you have symptoms, regardless of the lateral flow test result, you should isolate and book a PCR test, he said.

  • Milica Cosic

    A new wave of infections after New Year?

    Professor Peter Openshaw, an immunologist at Imperial College London and SAGE scientist, told MailOnline: "There are many reasons for the apparent decline, a genuine decline being amongst them.'

    "I hope this is good news, but really urge caution."

    He warned, however, data backlogs from Christmas and New Year partying could result in another wave of cases in London.

    Professor Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at The Open University, added it is "difficult to say" if cases peaked in London, as testing patterns changed over Christmas

    But he said: "London cases will certainly begin to fall eventually, as the virus runs out of people to infect.

    "It's reasonably clear that case numbers in London are at least rising more slowly, but we just can't be sure when the peak is reached – not yet anyway."

  • Milica Cosic

    Four key Omicron numbers that could spark more restrictions

    Infections have continued to rise but many people who catch Omicron are reporting cold-like symptoms.

    At the start of this month Boris Johnson revealed the four key numbers that he said would determine if England needed more restrictions.

    1. Vaccines – In a bid to stop Omicron, millions of booster vaccines have been rolled out across the country and health officials have warned that two doses won't protect you – which is why it's imperative everyone gets a booster jab.

    2. Omicron – Cases of the Omicron variant have surged in the last months, but data coming out of South Africa, where it was first detected, indicates that infections have started to slow.

    3. Speed of spread – This is one of the most concerning numbers to look out for as more cases ultimately lead to higher rates of hospitalisations.

    The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been 17,269 additional confirmed cases Omicron reported across the UK yesterday and it is now believed to be responsible for 90 per cent of cases in the UK. In total, there are 177,201 cases of the virus.

    4. Hospitalisations – The number of deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to 49, according to the UKHSA.
    Hospital admissions in England for people with confirmed or suspected Omicron rose to 668.

  • Milica Cosic

    Covid-19 news you may have missed

    • Thousands of Scots prepare to cross the border on New Year’s Eve to escape Nicola Sturgeon’s Covid clampdown;
    • UK daily Covid cases hit record high with 129,471 positive tests – but deaths fall to 18;
    • Third of cancer patients are waiting more than two months to receive treatment;
    • Travel bosses are demanding an end to expensive Covid tests for Brits returning from holidays as Omicron "has already spread".

    A return of the travel traffic light system?

    Previous restrictions saw countries placed on a red, amber and green travel list depending on the Covid-19 spread on their shores.

    The levels saw different lengths of isolation imposed – with the harshest involving mandatory quarantine in a hotel.

    Countries often jumped between list levels at the last minute, sparking chaos for travellers stuck abroad.

    Currently, fully-jabbed passengers have to take a test two days before travel to England – and another expensive PCR test up to two days after landing. 

    Red list hotel quarantine is still enforced.

    Covid restrictions that could return in January

    BORIS Johnson made the decision all Brits were waiting for on Monday – when he confirmed that New Year's Eve could go ahead lockdown-free.

    But Downing Street has been reticent to rule out a lockdown post-January 1, with seven key rules still on the cards.

    These include the return of the dreaded Rule Of Six for indoor mixing, table service at pubs – and a law forcing Brits to work from home if they can.

    Calls to cut Covid isolation from 7 to 5 days

    Ministers have now been urged to further slash the isolation time to five days.

    Before the Christmas break, health secretary Sajid Javid cut the number of isolation days from 10 to seven.

    This week officials in the US have cut their isolation requirements from 10 days to five, prompting calls from Brits to further slash isolation.

    The calls for a cut in isolation days comes after it was discovered that the Omicron variant – which is now responsible for 90 per cent of cases in the UK, is milder, with most people suffering cold-like symptoms.

    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.

    • Milica Cosic

      Your BED might have the first symptoms of Omicron

      ONE of the first symptoms of the Omicron Covid variant may creep up on you in the night.

      Night sweats have commonly been reported by those infected with Omicron.

      It can leave your bedsheets and nightwear damp, or even soaking wet, even if the room you are sleeping in is cool.

      Speaking to ITV's Lorraine, Dr Amir Khan said patients were experiencing "those kind of drenching night sweats where you might have to get up and change your clothes".

      He said it was important people knew symptoms like night sweats could be the Omicron variant, as it would drive them to get tested.

    • Milica Cosic

      Prof backed Boris Johnson's plan to save New Years

      Professor Sir John Bell backed Boris Johnson's decision to save New Year's Eve and introduce NO new lockdown rules yesterday.

      The regius professor of medicine at Oxford University said last year's "horrific scenes" at hospitals where thousands suffered painful deaths from Covid-19 will remain a thing of the of the past.

      Sir John said Britain's vaccine drive is responsible for keeping hospitalisation and death rates low – as the latest analysis shows admissions are DOWN more than 50 per cent in a week.

    • Milica Cosic

      Covid 'isn't going away'

      One expert has said that Covid isn't going away and that in order to live with the virus, isolation should be scrapped.

      Professor Paul Hunter said that while Covid is "not going away", it is "just one virus" that won't be a cause for concern by April 2022.

      Omicron's less-severe symptoms mean infected Brits will eventually "go about their normal lives" with no quarantine at all, Professor Hunter said.

    • Milica Cosic

      'We want one set of rules for everyone'

      A UK-wide lockdown is still on the cards and measures under consideration include the loathed Rule-of-Six for indoor mixing, The Daily Telegraph reports.

      Other reinforced measures could include outdoor dining only for pubs, restaurants and cafés.

      A Government insider told The Times: "There are big downsides to doing anything regionally and we saw the difficulties they posed when we did it last time.

      "It is difficult for people to understand because of different sets of rules.

      "We want one set of rules for everyone in the country, which is easier to understand."

    • Milica Cosic

      Local lockdowns WON'T return

      Government insiders claim that local lockdowns will NOT be making a comeback but a decision on national restrictions could still be just DAYS away.

      Downing Street has ruled out imposing loathed regional lockdowns – which saw cities' rules change depending on their own Covid data.

      But a UK-wide lockdown is still on the cards, meaning London's rising Covid hospitalisation figures could doom the rest of the UK to a shut down.

      Measures under consideration include the loathed Rule-of-Six for indoor mixing, The Daily Telegraph reports.

    • Milica Cosic

      Brits urged to get boosted NOW

      BORIS Johnson told the nation yesteday to celebrate New Year "sensibly and cautiously" – and get a booster if they want to keep their freedoms.

      Speaking on a visit to a vaccine centre yesterday morning, the PM insisted: "We're able to proceed in the way that we are. But there is one reason, and one reason only why we're able to do that.

      "And that's because such a huge proportion of the British public have come forward to get vaccinated and particularly to get boosted.

      "We've done about 32 and a half, maybe more million booster jabs. And that is allowing us to year in the cautious way that we are."

      He vowed that everyone in the country will have been offered a booster as promised by the end of the year.

    • Milica Cosic

      Table service and outdoor pints could return

      Pubs and restaurants could once again be closed for indoor service, forcing drinkers to have their pints outside in the January chill.

      Landlords will also have to ensure there's table service to stop punters congregating at the bar.

      Scores of venues last year erected temporary outdoor seating areas for people to dine al-fresco – with some hardcore customers memorably pictured tucking into a full English in the pouring rain.

      But the economic impact of another shotgun lockdown could devastate Britain's already hard-hit hospitality industry.

      Desperate publicans have written to the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging against new lockdown measures.

      The pair were warned a return to the Rule of Six, table service only or the closure of indoor hospitality would leave many on the brink of closure.

    • Milica Cosic

      Has Omicron already peaked in London?

      Analysis of infections in the week before Christmas shows the rise started to flatten off.

      Around 30,000 people in London tested positive on December 20, before that number started to fall.

      This continued for the next two days, forcing the average infection rate to flatten, with cases now already falling in some boroughs.

      The most recent case data, from December 27, showed around 5,000 Londoners had tested positive, although this set is still incomplete.

    • Joseph Gamp

      Table service and outdoor pints could return

      Pubs and restaurants could once again be closed for indoor service, forcing drinkers to have their pints outside in the January chill.

      Landlords will also have to ensure there’s table service to stop punters congregating at the bar.

      Scores of venues last year erected temporary outdoor seating areas for people to dine al-fresco – with some hardcore customers memorably pictured tucking into a full English in the pouring rain.

      But the economic impact of another shotgun lockdown could devastate Britain’s already hard-hit hospitality industry.

      Desperate publicans have written to the PM and Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging against new lockdown measures.

      The pair were warned a return to the Rule of Six, table service only or the closure of indoor hospitality would leave many on the brink of closure.

    • Joseph Gamp

      PM: Everybody should enjoy New Year with caution

      During a visit to a vaccination centre in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, Mr Johnson urged people to get tested before New Year's Eve festivities.

      He told reporters: "Everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way – take a test, ventilation, think about others but, above all, get a booster."

      Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "The failure to make enough tests available weeks after they became a requirement is a total shambles.

      "People are trying to do the right thing, follow the Government's own advice, and test themselves regularly, but are prevented by the Conservative Government's incompetence.

      "They need to get a grip and provide enough tests so people can keep themselves and everyone else safe."

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