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Covid cases soar above 90,000 again as Christmas hangs in the balance


Britain’s daily Covid cases have barely moved in four days despite Government scientists insisting they are doubling every 48 to 72 hours.

Department of Health figures showed 91,743 infections were recorded today, up two-thirds on last Monday and a tenth on yesterday.

It also marked the third time they had breached 90,000 cases a day, after a record 93,045 were announced last Friday and 90,418 on Saturday. But this was still lower than the estimated doubling time would suggest.

Covid testing does not appear to be the issue, with a record 1.5million Britons now swabbing themselves every day for the virus. 

In epicentre London 22,750 cases were recorded today, which was marginally up on yesterday’s 21,594 but down on the highs of 25,000 from the weekend. A record 250,000 tests a day are also being done in the capital.

In other good news hospitalisations stayed flat with 919 recorded on December 14, the latest available, which was barely a change on 926 from seven days earlier.

Another 14 deaths from the virus were also announced by health chiefs, up 15 per cent in a week.

Britain’s Omicron death toll has now risen to 12, with 104 patients suffering from the variant hospitalised. But Professor Chris Whitty has warned that the delayed in testing samples suggests there are likely already many more patients hospitalised with the virus.

It came as Boris Johnson today put off a decision on whether more Covid curbs should be imposed before Christmas, with angry Tory MPs demanding the Prime Minister tells the nation whether festive plans can go ahead.

Mr Johnson hosted an emergency meeting of his Cabinet this afternoon on whether further measures were needed. But no final decision was reportedly madae at the meeting, which means it now seems unlikely that more restrictions will be imposed before Christmas. 

This graph shows London's daily Covid cases by date reported. It reveals that they now appear to be stayng level despite predictions that Omicron infections are still doubling every two to three days

This graph shows London’s daily Covid cases by date reported. It reveals that they now appear to be stayng level despite predictions that Omicron infections are still doubling every two to three days

Boris Johnson has been presented with three options to slow the spread of the Omicron variant with the PM reportedly clearing his diary today for crunch meetings with scientists and advisers

Boris Johnson has been presented with three options to slow the spread of the Omicron variant with the PM reportedly clearing his diary today for crunch meetings with scientists and advisers

The number of confirmed cases of Omicron in England increased by 69 per cent on the previous day's total - up 9,427 to 23,168, figures from the UKHSA showed today

The number of confirmed cases of Omicron in England increased by 69 per cent on the previous day’s total – up 9,427 to 23,168, figures from the UKHSA showed today

The Prime Minister convened a virtual meeting of his top team at 2pm as he faced a growing Cabinet revolt over a potential further crackdown. 

The PM had been presented with three options to tackle the variant amid surging case numbers, with the lowest level of intervention consisting of advice to limit household mixing indoors, according to The Telegraph.

The second level would see mandatory restrictions on household mixing, the return of social distancing and an 8pm curfew for pubs and restaurants while the third and toughest level would see a return to something close to a full lockdown. 

Why it’s easier to believe in Father Christmas than SAGE’s 6,000 Covid deaths a day 

Modelling by SAGE was today slammed as ‘fictitious’ after projecting 6,000 daily Covid deaths and 10,000 hospitalisations this winter in a worst-case scenario. 

In advice to ministers published this weekend, the Government’s scientific advisers said there could be astronomical casualty numbers without more ‘stringent measures’.  

The 6,000 deaths a day figure was calculated by Warwick University scientists and made similarly pessimistic assumptions about vaccine effectiveness, as well as that current curbs reduce transmission by just 20 per cent. 

If both of these predictions were to come true, it would mean that 60 per cent of people who get admitted for Covid at the peak of the Omicron wave will die.

By comparison, at the peak last January there were on average 4,000 admissions a day and 1,300 deaths giving a hospital-fatality rate of 32.5 per cent. Warwick said it factored in ‘extreme pressure’ put on the NHS by Omicron. 

However, SAGE noted that the most likely scenario would be 2,000 hospitalisations per day this winter, half of the previous peak, but the group said there were still key unknowns about Omicron.

The worst-case scenarios were presented despite 48.8 per cent of over-12s being boosted, 81 per cent being double-jabbed, and reports from South Africa that the mutant strain is milder.  

Crucially, the modellers did not look at any scenario in which Omicron causes milder disease than Delta or if people start to change their behaviour in the coming weeks in response to the variant.  

SAGE’s chief modeller Professor Graham Medley from LSHTM revealed this weekend that the committee does not consider optimistic scenarios because ‘that doesn’t get decisions made’. 

An ex-Government scientist who wished to remain anonymous today told MailOnline that the numbers are ‘fictitious’, adding: ‘Models have to simplify the world to predict the future, but clearly that’s an absurd future.’

They said the doomsday scenarios were comparable to ‘science fiction’, adding: ‘But we don’t tend to question it because we worship numbers’. Professor Keith Willison, a chemical biologist at Imperial College London, slammed the models as ‘widely pessimistic’ and ‘fraudulent’.

 

Mr Johnson is now considering his next move, knowing that any decision to tighten Covid rules will spark a furious Tory backlash. 

Downing Street at lunchtime refused to be drawn on the proposals which are reportedly under consideration, with the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman telling reporters: ‘At this point we are still monitoring the data and keeping a very close eye on it… we would update if any decisions are taken.’

MailOnline understands that there are currently no plans for the PM to hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon. 

Meanwhile, The Times reported that Mr Johnson and the Cabinet delayed a decision because they were not yet convinced the latest Omicron data justified announcing new restrictions. 

However, the newspaper said the Government could opt to impose a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown in England after Christmas, potentially starting on December 28. 

It was reported on Saturday that Whitehall officials had drawn up regulations which would effectively re-impose ‘Step 2’ of the PM’s lockdown exit roadmap for two weeks.  

That would mean a ban on indoor socialising and a return of the rule of six for outdoor gatherings. Bars, pubs and restaurants would be banned from serving people indoors.  

The lack of clarity sparked an angry response from Tory former chief whip, Mark Harper, who tweeted: ‘Not telling the public what’s going on is unacceptable. These are big decisions affecting everyone’s lives, people’s livelihoods and mental wellbeing across the country. 

‘We all deserve to see the data Ministers see. Show us your workings. We can do so much better than this.’

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University and a GP, said this morning that ‘we are in deep, deep trouble of potentially talking ourselves into annual lockdowns’ as he argued the question should be ‘when are we going to treat people like adults?’. 

But Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews and a member of government advisory body the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), said ‘we need to reduce our contacts’.

Asked about Christmas, he said: ‘The safest thing is not to meet up before Christmas. If you want a good Christmas dinner, I would say be very careful about meeting up before Christmas.’ 

At least 10 Cabinet ministers are said to be resisting further curbs because they have concerns about the accuracy of expert modelling on the spread of Omicron. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is one of the ministers to have expressed concerns about the projected numbers, according to The Times, after SAGE warned there could be 3,000 patients a day in need of hospital treatment without urgent action. 

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, told the Cabinet on a call on Saturday that curbs should be rolled out as soon as possible but one third of senior ministers are said to be against the move.  

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab this morning refused to rule out additional restrictions before Christmas Day as he said he could not make ‘hard, fast guarantees’. 

Mr Raab said the Government is aiming to take ‘informed decisions and of course we want to take them earlier rather than later’.

The warnings came just 24 hours after Lord Frost, up to now a close ally of Mr Johnson, dramatically quit as Brexit Minister slating ‘coercive’ Covid curbs and high taxes.  

Lord Frost walked out with a parting shot at the ‘direction of travel’ and saying he had hoped the end of lockdown would be ‘irreversible’. His departure was described as a ‘watershed moment’ in what had been an extremely damaging week for Mr Johnson.

SAGE's modelling team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found there could be 10,400 hospitalisations in England per day at the peak of the outbreak in February in a worst-case scenario. They assumed that Omicron will continue to grow exponentially even under Plan B curbs, two jabs offer just 50 per cent protection against severe disease from the mutant strain and boosters just 80 per cent

SAGE’s modelling team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found there could be 10,400 hospitalisations in England per day at the peak of the outbreak in February in a worst-case scenario. They assumed that Omicron will continue to grow exponentially even under Plan B curbs, two jabs offer just 50 per cent protection against severe disease from the mutant strain and boosters just 80 per cent 

The 6,000 deaths a day figure was calculated by Warwick University scientists and made similarly pessimistic assumptions about vaccine effectiveness, as well as that current curbs reduce transmission by just 20 per cent . If both of these predictions were to come true, it would mean that 60 per cent of people who get admitted for Covid in the coming months will die. The different coloured lines show changes in the peak depending on when more stringent measures are introduced. These are December 19 (blue), December 26 (orange), January 3 (yellow) and January 10 (purple)

The 6,000 deaths a day figure was calculated by Warwick University scientists and made similarly pessimistic assumptions about vaccine effectiveness, as well as that current curbs reduce transmission by just 20 per cent . If both of these predictions were to come true, it would mean that 60 per cent of people who get admitted for Covid in the coming months will die. The different coloured lines show changes in the peak depending on when more stringent measures are introduced. These are December 19 (blue), December 26 (orange), January 3 (yellow) and January 10 (purple)

SAGE's modelling team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine presented projections on infections (purple), hospitalisations (red) and deaths (black) under different scenarios between now and August 2022. The top graph shows hospital admissions from the beginning from the pandemic. They estimated there could be 10,400 hospitalisations in England per day at the peak of the outbreak in February in a worst-case scenario (far right red graph), if Omicron escapes immunity from vaccines and previous infection and the boosters have a low efficacy. They assumed that Omicron will continue to grow exponentially even under Plan B curbs, two jabs offer just 50 per cent protection against severe disease from the mutant strain and boosters just 80 per cent

SAGE’s modelling team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine presented projections on infections (purple), hospitalisations (red) and deaths (black) under different scenarios between now and August 2022. The top graph shows hospital admissions from the beginning from the pandemic. They estimated there could be 10,400 hospitalisations in England per day at the peak of the outbreak in February in a worst-case scenario (far right red graph), if Omicron escapes immunity from vaccines and previous infection and the boosters have a low efficacy. They assumed that Omicron will continue to grow exponentially even under Plan B curbs, two jabs offer just 50 per cent protection against severe disease from the mutant strain and boosters just 80 per cent

Warwick University scientists calculated there would be 6,000 deaths a day if Plan B alone remains implemented and there is 'extreme pressure' on the NHS. The graph shows death estimates if Plan B has low effectiveness (top row of graphs) to high effectiveness (bottom row), while the columns show death projections based on Omicron's severity (low to high, left to right)

Warwick University scientists calculated there would be 6,000 deaths a day if Plan B alone remains implemented and there is ‘extreme pressure’ on the NHS. The graph shows death estimates if Plan B has low effectiveness (top row of graphs) to high effectiveness (bottom row), while the columns show death projections based on Omicron’s severity (low to high, left to right) 

Ten-day isolation for people who catch Covid could be slashed to one week within DAYS to avoid crippling economy 

Covid-infected Britons may only have to stay at home for a week after catching the virus, as ministers consider reducing the current 10-day rule due to fears Omicron will cripple the economy.

According to Government modelling, up to 2million people could be catching the ultra-transmissible variant per day during the peak this winter.

There are growing fears it could push the country into a de facto lockdown with so many isolating with mild illness, even if hospitals aren’t overwhelmed. 

Sources say the change in policy is ‘being looked at’ and Health Secretary Sajid Javid is thought to be eager to shorten the isolation timeframe as hospitals and businesses struggle due to absent workers.

He has asked experts for urgent advice on whether knocking three days off the requirement is possible, in hopes of implementing the change within days.

The change would likely be met with a requirement for those exiting their seven-day isolation to take daily lateral flow tests.

Under the current rules, people must self-isolate for 10 days from when their Covid symptoms started — or from their positive test if they are asymptomatic.

But more than half a million Britons tested positive in the last week alone and infection rates are expected to keep claiming over the coming weeks, with officials warning of 1million new cases every day.

And a third of NHS staff in London, where mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident over the weekend due to Omicron’s impact on the city, could be stuck at home by January.

Health experts, MPs and business leaders said case numbers coupled with the 10-day rule could trash the economy by leaving shops, bars and restaurants with too few workers and customers while emergency services would also be understaffed.  

It came as SAGE modelling was slammed as ‘fictitious’ after projecting 6,000 daily Covid deaths and 10,000 hospitalisations this winter in a worst-case scenario. 

In advice to ministers published this weekend, the Government’s scientific advisers said there could be astronomical casualty numbers without more ‘stringent measures’.  

The 6,000 deaths a day figure was calculated by Warwick University scientists and made similarly pessimistic assumptions about vaccine effectiveness, as well as that current curbs reduce transmission by just 20 per cent. 

If both of these predictions were to come true, it would mean that 60 per cent of people who get admitted for Covid at the peak of the Omicron wave will die.

By comparison, at the peak last January there were on average 4,000 admissions a day and 1,300 deaths giving a hospital-fatality rate of 32.5 per cent. Warwick said it factored in ‘extreme pressure’ put on the NHS by Omicron. 

However, SAGE noted that the most likely scenario would be 2,000 hospitalisations per day this winter, half of the previous peak, but the group said there were still key unknowns about Omicron.

The worst-case scenarios were presented despite 48.8 per cent of over-12s being boosted, 81 per cent being double-jabbed, and reports from South Africa that the mutant strain is milder.  

Crucially, the modellers did not look at any scenario in which Omicron causes milder disease than Delta or if people start to change their behaviour in the coming weeks in response to the variant.  

SAGE’s chief modeller Professor Graham Medley from LSHTM revealed this weekend that the committee does not consider optimistic scenarios because ‘that doesn’t get decisions made’. 

An ex-Government scientist who wished to remain anonymous today told MailOnline that the numbers are ‘fictitious’, adding: ‘Models have to simplify the world to predict the future, but clearly that’s an absurd future.’

They said the doomsday scenarios were comparable to ‘science fiction’, adding: ‘But we don’t tend to question it because we worship numbers’. Professor Keith Willison, a chemical biologist at Imperial College London, slammed the models as ‘widely pessimistic’ and ‘fraudulent’. 

Professor Anotida Madzvamuse, a maths expert at Sussex University, warned SAGE’s estimates were at best ‘highly unlikely’, with current data not supporting ‘such a grim forecast’.

He told MailOnline: ‘From my point of view, these figures are highly unlikely, the numbers to-date seem to suggest very low deaths due to Covid and even the number of hospitalisations are nowhere near what we experienced last winter. 

‘The data on the ground does not support such a grim forecast. All these assumptions are pretty much hypothetical, they are not inferred from the data as we normally do with our modelling.’

Professor Keith Willison, a chemical biologist at Imperial College London, slammed the models as ‘widely pessimistic’ and ‘fraudulent’.

He told MailOnline: ‘Well, the chairman of the SAGE modelling (Graham Medley) committee admitted at the weekend: “We model scenarios that are useful to decisions”.

‘These worst case ‘scenarios’ are produced so the behavioural group in SAGE can frighten the UK population into submission and further lockdown.

‘The Covid death scenarios are wildly pessimistic, I would say fraudulent. The Omicron variant symptoms are also mild. I think we are arriving at a good place where Covid is an endemic but controllable disease.’

Today, in an unprecedented move, ITV announced it has cancelled flagship show Good Morning Britain between Christmas and New Year

Today, in an unprecedented move, ITV announced it has cancelled flagship show Good Morning Britain between Christmas and New Year

BA passengers are today facing pre-Christmas travel 'chaos' at Heathrow Airport with cancelled flights, queues at the border and a sea of stranded luggage strewn across baggage reclaim

Astonishing pictures and video show unattended suitcases scattered around conveyor belts at Heathrow's Terminal 5 last night, with one passenger describing it as 'complete chaos'

BA passengers are today facing pre-Christmas travel ‘chaos’ at Heathrow Airport with cancelled flights, queues at the border and a sea of stranded luggage strewn across baggage reclaim.

It comes as London's Natural History Museum (pictured) and Edinburgh Castle have had to shut due to a surge in Covid cases among staff

It comes as London’s Natural History Museum (pictured) and Edinburgh Castle have had to shut due to a surge in Covid cases among staff

Vulnerable Covid patients to be given GSK’s antibody drug on the NHS

Covid staff shortages are today bringing Britain to a grinding halt, sparking huge disruption for airline passengers, shutting key attractions and taking one of the nation’s best-known TV shows off air. 

Staffing shortages at BA – blamed on Covid and self-isolation rules – have today caused pre-Christmas travel ‘chaos’ at Heathrow Airport.

The shortages, combined with weather-enforced delays, have resulted in cancelled flights, queues at the border and a sea of stranded luggage strewn across baggage reclaim.

It comes as London’s Natural History Museum and Edinburgh Castle have both had to shut due to a surge in Covid cases among staff.

And today, in an unprecedented move, ITV revealed its flagship show Good Morning Britain has been cancelled between Christmas and New Year. 

Bosses of the channel say there will be no episodes aired of the breakfast show between Wednesday, December 29 and Friday, December 31 ‘due to the pandemic’.

A string of West End shows, including the Lion King, Wicked and Moulin Rouge! have also been forced to cancel pre-Christmas performances due to Covid, with cast and crew members testing positive in recent days. 

Royal Mail chiefs are warning of potential delays to postal services this Christmas, while councils fear disruption to bin services over the holiday period due to Covid-related staffing issues.

The UK’s staffing shortages come as ministers are today considering slashing the quarantine period for people who test positive for Covid from ten to seven days. 

Health experts, MPs and business leaders have called for a change, warning that the current rules risk crippling healthcare and the economy.  

Today Boris Johnson is holding an emergency meeting of his Cabinet as he decides whether to impose new coronavirus curbs before Christmas.

The Prime Minister convened a virtual meeting of his top team at 2pm as he faced a growing Cabinet revolt over a potential further crackdown to slow the spread of Omicron.

Yesterday confirmed cases of the variant yesterday rose by nearly 50 per cent to 37,000 in just 24 hours. London is the worst-hit area, sparking the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan to declare a ‘major incident’.

Covid staff shortages are today bringing Britain to a grinding halt, sparking huge disruption for airline passengers, shutting key attractions and taking one of the nation’s best-known TV shows off air. 

Staffing shortages at BA – blamed on Covid and self-isolation rules – have today caused pre-Christmas travel ‘chaos’ at Heathrow Airport.

The shortages, combined with weather-enforced delays, have resulted in cancelled flights, queues at the border and a sea of stranded luggage strewn across baggage reclaim.

It comes as London’s Natural History Museum and Edinburgh Castle have both had to shut due to a surge in Covid cases among staff.

And today, in an unprecedented move, ITV revealed its flagship show Good Morning Britain has been cancelled between Christmas and New Year. 

Bosses of the channel say there will be no episodes aired of the breakfast show between Wednesday, December 29 and Friday, December 31 ‘due to the pandemic’.

A string of West End shows, including the Lion King, Wicked and Moulin Rouge! have also been forced to cancel pre-Christmas performances due to Covid, with cast and crew members testing positive in recent days. 

Royal Mail chiefs are warning of potential delays to postal services this Christmas, while councils fear disruption to bin services over the holiday period due to Covid-related staffing issues.

The UK’s staffing shortages come as ministers are today considering slashing the quarantine period for people who test positive for Covid from ten to seven days. 

Health experts, MPs and business leaders have called for a change, warning that the current rules risk crippling healthcare and the economy.  

Today Boris Johnson is holding an emergency meeting of his Cabinet as he decides whether to impose new coronavirus curbs before Christmas.

The Prime Minister convened a virtual meeting of his top team at 2pm as he faced a growing Cabinet revolt over a potential further crackdown to slow the spread of Omicron.

Yesterday confirmed cases of the variant yesterday rose by nearly 50 per cent to 37,000 in just 24 hours. London is the worst-hit area, sparking the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan to declare a ‘major incident’.

It comes as ITV today announced it is axing GMB’s Christmas live shows due to concerns over Covid. The show, which has been broadcast weekday mornings on ITV since 2016, was scheduled to be broadcast between Christmas and New Year. 

But today bosses announced they had  decided to pull the mid-Christmas shows. It comes just days after one of its presenters, Sean Fletcher, tested positive for Covid,

A spokesperson for ITV told MailOnline: ‘GMB was due to be on air from Wednesday 29 December to  Friday 31 December but due to the pandemic and to protect our teams, we have decided to give them an extended break.

‘GMB will not broadcast next week, but will be back on air on Tuesday, January 4, 2022.’ 

According to The Sun, staff at the show have agreed to ‘gingerly soldier on until the end of this week’ with the planned broadcasts.

However presenters of the show, which features regular host such as Susanna Reid, Charlotte Hawkins and Kate Garroway and temporary anchors such as Adil Ray and Richard Madeley, have reportedly been asked to do their own make-up.



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