- Omicron cases now found in hospital, reveals minister
- All Covid contacts to take daily lateral flow tests
- Covid alert levels explained: What Level 4 means for you
- Vulnerable children risk falling into crime ‘if schools not reopened in January’
- Dozens of Tory MPs to oppose Covid vaccine passports
Boris Johnson has launched an “emergency” Covid booster campaign to try to head off a “tidal wave” of cases of the omicron variant and avoid the risk of a New Year lockdown.
The Prime Minister unveiled a plan called “Get Boosted Now” to offer a Covid booster jab to every eligible adult by the end of the month – four weeks earlier than planned.
To hit this target No 10 said the National Health Service would have to offer jabs to 18 million people at a rate of around one million a day.
Mr Johnson said that the huge effort – which will see the Army divide the country into regions – was necessary to preserve the country’s hard-won freedoms from the coronavirus pandemic.
In what Mr Johnson described as the “omicron emergency boost” programme, the Prime Minister said: “No one should be in any doubt: there is a tidal wave of omicron coming.
“And I’m afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need.”
The new national emergency effort was required to protect Britons from the new omicron Covid-19 variant and stop the need for more lockdown-type restrictions next month, he said.
Doctors and nurses will be transferred from non-urgent work in hospitals to assist with the booster programme.
The Army was assisting with 42 military planning teams across every region in England to help with “standing up additional vaccine sites and mobile units”.
He said that clinics would be “extending opening hours so clinics are open seven days a week, with more appointments early in the morning, in the evening, and at weekends”.
Mr Johnson ended his televised address from 10 Downing Street explicitly linking future freedoms with receiving a Covid-19 booster.
Mr Johnson said: “Get boosted now for yourself, for your friends and your family; get boosted now to protect jobs and livelihoods across this country; get boosted now to protect our NHS, our freedoms and our way of life.”
That’s all for today
A booster for every British adult by the end of 2021: That is the ambitious target set out by Boris Johnson on Sunday night in the wake of the omicron variant.
The Prime Minister warned of a “tidal wave” of infections in the coming weeks as he confirmed boosters will be open to all over-18s from Wednesday, at the expense of some non-urgent hospital work.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking omicron can’t hurt you,” Mr Johnson said, as he referred to data showing that two doses of a vaccine are significantly less effective against preventing infection than a course of three doses.
“Get boosted now for yourself, for your friends and your family; get boosted now to protect jobs and livelihoods across this country; get boosted now to protect our NHS, our freedoms and our way of life.”
With the UK now back up to Covid Alert Level 4, the second-highest level, Mr Johnson will now hope that, after one of his most difficult weeks politically, a third dose rollout that aims to reach around a million people per day will stave off both the spread of the virus and the need for any further restrictions.
South African president tests positive for Covid
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has tested positive for Covid, writes Peta Thornycroft.
According to the presidency, Mr Ramaphosa started feeling unwell after today’s memorial service in Cape Town for South Africa’s last white president, FW de Klerk, who died last month.
The Omicron variant – first identified in South Africa last month – is massive in South Africa with a positivity rate of more than 28 per cent according to statistics released earlier this evening. But statistics show that the omicron death rate and hospital occupation are less than 10 per cent the rate of the Beta and Delta variants.
NHS website hit by technical difficulties amid rush to book boosters
The NHS website which allows Britons to book their booster jabs experienced technical difficulties as soon as the Prime Minister gave his address this evening.
Boris Johnson urged people to book their third vaccine as soon as they were eligible to do so. Those eligibility criteria will widen to include all over-18s from Wednesday onward.
A statement on the website said: “The NHS website is currently experiencing technical difficulties. We are working to resolve these issues. Thank you for your patience.”
Vulnerable children risk falling into crime ‘if schools do not reopen in January’
Further school closures will result in thousands of vulnerable children slipping through the net and being drawn into violent crime, drug dealing and sex abuse, campaigners have warned.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, has said he will do everything in his power to keep schools “protected and open”, but on Sunday was unable to guarantee that pupils would return to the classroom in January following the Christmas break.
There is growing concern that the anticipated spike in Covid-19 numbers will result in schools being closed once again and children being home schooled.
However, child welfare campaigners and the police have warned that doing so will once again expose children to a whole range of hidden dangers such as crime, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation.
Unvaccinated workers must come clean to employers under new Covid rules
Unvaccinated workers will have to declare their vaccination status to their bosses for the first time, as new rules mean they cannot test themselves daily to avoid self-isolation.
All close contacts of Covid cases must take lateral flow tests for seven days to avoid quarantine under measures that come into place on Tuesday in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
However, adults who have not been vaccinated with two doses must still self-isolate for 10 days if they are identified as a close contact of someone who has the virus.
This could lead to employees in offices and factories being “shamed” when they have to disclose that they have chosen not to have a vaccine.
The testing and isolation rules will apply regardless of whether the case is the omicron variant or the delta variant.
‘Two doses is not enough’
There are new advertisement posters to accompany the NHS and Government’s joint Get Boosted Now campaign.
“Every adult in the country now needs to get a Covid-19 booster vaccine, because two doses of the vaccine is not enough to give the level of protection against infection we all need.”
Here’s Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, doing his bit to spread the word after the Prime Minister’s speech tonight.
More from Sir Keir Starmer
“I urge everyone to get boosted as soon as you can,” the Labour leader has said.
“So much has been asked of the British people time and again you have risen to the challenge. So let’s keep our foot on the pedal- get Britain boosted to protect our families, friends and NHS.”
‘More important than ever to get Britain boosted’
Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour, has said it is “more important than ever to get Britain boosted” to protect the NHS and save lives.
“The arrival of the new worrying variant is a reminder that the pandemic is not over and vaccines are the best weapon in our fight,” Sir Keir said.
“The vaccine is safe and effective, it protects us and those around us. We will always support the NHS and act in the public interest.
“We’ve come so far since those darkest of days at the start of the pandemic.”
‘Get boosted now’: Boris Johnson’s plea to the nation
If you haven’t yet had a vaccine at all, then please get yourself at least some protection with a jab as quickly as possible.
If you’ve already had your booster, encourage your friends and family to do the same.
We are a great country. We have the vaccines to protect our people.
So let’s do it. Let’s get boosted now. Get boosted now for yourself, for your friends and your family.
Get boosted now to protect jobs and livelihoods across this country. Get boosted now to protect our NHS, our freedoms and our way of life.
Get boosted now. Thank you very much.
‘Do not make the mistake of thinking omicron can’t hurt you’
“Do not make the mistake of thinking omicron can’t hurt you, can’t make you and your loved ones seriously ill,” Boris Johnson says, highlighting that hospital admissions in South Africa have doubled within a week.
“The NHS Booking System will be open for these younger age groups from Wednesday, and that’s the best way to guarantee your slot, but in some places you can walk in from tomorrow,” he adds.
The Prime Minister also confirms that there will be 42 military planning teams deployed across every region, additional opening hours so clinics are open second days a week, and additional vaccine sites and mobile units
He says it is because of the omicron variant that the Government pivoted to its Plan B measures earlier in the week, including Covid certification for large events and mask mandates plus a return to working from home.
Boosters for all adults by New Year confirmed by Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson confirms the launch of the Omicron Emergency Boost, “a national mission unlike anything we have done before in the vaccination programme”.
He confirms that everybody aged 18 and over will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year, bringing the previous target of boosting all adults by the end of January forward by an entire month.
Bookings for those groups will open on Wednesday, he confirms.
“This will require an extraordinary effort. And as we focus on boosters and make this new target achievable, it will mean some other appointments will need to be postponed until the New Year,” he says.
“But if we don’t do this now, the wave of Omicron could be so big that cancellations and disruptions, like the loss of cancer appointments, would be even greater next year.”
‘Tidal wave’ of omicron on its way, warns Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson says that over the past year vaccination has proven “the key to beating Covid”.
But he warns of a “tidal wave” of omicron, which is more resistant to vaccines and says from “bitter experience” the situation could deteriorate rapidly.
“No-one should be in any doubt: there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming, and I’m afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need,” he says.
“But the good news is that our scientists are confident that with a third dose – a booster dose – we can all bring our level of protection back up.”
Covid alert levels explained: What Level 4 means for you
The UK Covid alert level has been raised following a rapid increase in omicron cases being recorded.
The country’s four chief medical officers and NHS England’s national medical director have recommended to ministers that the UK go up to Level 4 from Level 3.
It comes as Boris Johnson prepares to address the nation at 8pm about the booster vaccine programme.
The message – that will not see new restrictions announced – will be pre-recorded.
Alert Level 4: The full joint statement
Here is what the UK’s four chief medical officers and Stephen Powis, the NHS England national medical director, have said about this evening’s move to Alert Level 4:
Following advice from the UK Health Security Agency and in the light of the rapid increase in Omicron cases, the UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director have recommended to Ministers that the UK Covid Alert Level should increase from Level 3 to Level 4.
Transmission of Covid-19 is already high in the community, mainly still driven by delta, but the emergence of omicron adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services.
Early evidence shows that omicron is spreading much faster than delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from omicron is reduced. Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly.
When vaccine protection is reduced in the way that is happening with omicron it is essential to top up that protection with a booster. Both booster vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) increase the immune response substantially and show good effectiveness although with some reduction compared to Delta.
The NHS is currently under pressure mainly driven by non-Covid pressures. With a variant spreading with increased transmissibility and reduced vaccine effectiveness, we are likely to see this pressure rise soon.
It is extremely important that if you are eligible, you get your Covid vaccination now – whether this be your first, second or booster dose.
People should continue take sensible precautions including ventilating rooms, using face coverings, testing regularly and isolating when symptomatic.
Covid boosters for over-30s as ‘race’ to limit omicron stepped up before Christmas
Covid booster jabs will be offered to 30-year-olds from Monday as the Government launches a desperate dash to jab “as many people as possible” before Christmas.
In a massive push to protect millions more people in the face of the new omicron variant the NHS has announced the booster will be available to everyone aged 30 to 39 three months after their second dose.
More age groups are expected to be included in the coming weeks, with ministers determined to “massively expedite” the booster roll out.
The Telegraph understands that several billion more pounds is to be poured into expanding the roll-out.
Tenfold increase in patients waiting over eight hours to be transferred from ambulance to A&E
The number of patients waiting more than eight hours to be handed over from an ambulance to A&E has increased almost tenfold this year compared to pre-pandemic.
Some 218 patients waited eight hours or more outside English hospitals in 2021, compared to just 23 patients in 2019, information obtained by The Telegraph, through Freedom of Information requests, reveals.
Experts said “patients are dying every day” due to the delays, which they said are caused by infection control procedures limiting bed capacity, the social care crisis leaving patients stuck in hospitals and widespread staffing problems.
‘British politics has turned into a toxic spectator sport with no winners’
This week has included an especially horrible turn of the wheel. And the fairground attraction of Boris’s Number 10 suddenly seems to have lost all of its amusement value. It can even turn a party into a portion of the horrible, destructive game, writes Douglas Murray.
Earlier this week the front pages blazed out images of the weeping Allegra Stratton, made to carry the can for Number 10.
Stratton was hired away by Number 10 a year ago from her highly successful career in the media. She never even spent a day in the job she was hired to do, but was instead shunted aside (some say on the insistence of the Prime Minister’s wife) and given the booby prize of the Cop26 summit. Now she has been thrown off completely.
When the footage was leaked showing her laughing with others at Number 10 over how to answer certain questions it was especially ugly because so many people in the media and politics had worked with Stratton, yet helped speed this cycle along.
They pretended that Stratton had been laughing at the public, when she had been doing no such thing. But the outrage spin-cycle is so attractive. Everybody wants to be a part of, and make it go faster and faster until it throws them off in turn.
Christmas survival guide: What the new Covid data means for your holiday plans
A paper published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) in August warned there was a “realistic possibility” of a nasty new variant coming along and so it has unfortunately proved.
Omicron has established itself in the UK, with an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 cases already present across the country. For the moment it is London and 20 to 25 year-olds who are most affected, but experts predict it will explode across all geographies and age cohorts in the next few weeks.
If you are suffering a feeling of Déjà vu, take heart from the fact you are not alone. This very much feels like December 2020 and the rise of the “Kent” or alpha variant all over again.
Of course, the big difference this time around is that this time most of us are vaccinated – and that creates some cause for optimism.
What is the UK Covid Alert Level system?
The UK Covid Alert Level system was introduced by ministers in May 2020 as the nation took its first tentative steps out of lockdown. The levels are as follows:
- Level 5: As Level 4, and there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed
- Level 4: A Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially
- Level 3: A Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation
- Level 2: Covid-19 is present in the UK, but the number of cases and transmission is low
- Level 1: Covid-19 is not known to be present in the UK
Last May, Level 4 correlated with the restrictions of the time, although tonight’s address by the Prime Minister will be about the UK’s booster jabs programme and vaccines have changed the calculation in that far more people are now protected from severe disease.
Israel imposing Britain travel ban over spread of omicron
Israel has announced that it is adding the UK to its “red list” of countries that residents are banned from visiting amid its concern over the spread of omicron.
The measures will be in place from Wednesday, and a senior Israeli health official confirmed the ban would also apply to Denmark and Belgium.
UK Covid Alert Level increases
The UK’s Covid Alert Level has been increased from Level 3 to Level 4 after the emergence of the omicron variant.
Level 4 means that the epidemic “is in general circulation; transmission is high and direct COVID-19 pressure on healthcare services is widespread and substantial or rising”.
Level 3 had meant the epidemic was in general circulation, but with no mention of pressure on health services.
Scottish Tory leader struggles to defend Boris Johnson over Covid lockdown quiz
Asked whether he was angry with the Prime Minister, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said: “I’m angry with everyone. I mean just look at these pictures, look at people laughing about parties in Downing Street and how they would cover it up.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, he was asked four times to list one of the Prime Minister’s attributes, but failed to do so.
After being asked for a fourth time, Mr Ross replied: “Obviously, good enough qualities to have an 80-seat majority, but that 80-seat majority does not allow you to do whatever you want with your officials in Number 10.”
Covid cases alone are not an accurate measure of NHS pressure, says health chief
Coronavirus cases alone are not representative of the overall pressures on the health service at a time when it is “busier than ever”, the executive of NHS Providers has said.
Chris Hopson observed a “universal” pattern of pressure across the entire health and social care system, adding that while the NHS currently has a lower Covid caseload it is experiencing “more extended and universal pressure”.
He wrote on social media: “We need to stop just looking at Covid caseload and pretending that, by itself, this is an accurate measure of NHS pressure. And we should stop comparing January 2021 with December 2021. All the evidence suggests that the NHS is under unprecedented pressure for this time of year.
“The January 2021 Covid peak was significantly dealt with by delaying elective activity we can no longer afford to delay. The January peak was really tough but came and went relatively quickly. This is pressure for months on end.”
“[In] summary, the NHS is experiencing significantly higher pressure than we have ever seen before at this time of year. This is putting pressure on staff, quality of care and patient safety. But everyone in the NHS is working flat out to deliver best possible care to all those who need it.”
1,239 further omicron cases confirmed
A further 1,239 sequenced cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed by the UK Health Security Agency.
This represents a day-on-day increase of 65 per cent. There are now 3,137 confirmed cases of omicron.
The Department for Health today predicted that omicron will become dominant by the middle of this month. Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, had previously said it would become dominant by the end of December.
Under ‘Plan B’ omicron could lead to 75,000 Covid deaths in five months
The omicron variant could cause more hospitalisations and deaths than were recorded at the peak of last winter’s Covid second wave unless restrictions are tightened further, new modelling suggests.
A projection by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine predicts that in the most optimistic scenario – taking into account the Government’s Plan B measures – there could be about 2,400 daily hospital admissions in England in January alone.
However, the most pessimistic scenario projects peak admissions of twice as high as last January, when hospitalisations were just over 3,000.
The projections also suggested there could be anywhere between 25,000 and 75,000 deaths over the next five months.
Boris Johnson broke no lockdown rules with Zoom quiz, insists minister
Boris Johnson broke no rules after a picture emerged of him taking part in an online Downing Street quiz flanked by colleagues, a minister has insisted.
The image, reported by the Sunday Mirror, showed a screen with the Prime Minister sitting in front of a laptop in the No 10 library, while one of his colleagues is draped in tinsel.
The event happened on December 15, the Sunday Mirror reported. Downing Street said the Conservative Party leader had “briefly” taken part “virtually” in the quiz.
The festive event is said to have taken place only three days before an alleged Christmas party in No 10, which is currently being investigated by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.
Breaking: New record set for booster vaccines
A new daily record has been set for booster vaccines, with 530,086 jabs administered across the UK yesterday.
It puts the daily average for booster vaccinations above 400,000 for the first time.
Some 483,361 of these were in England, while 40,144 doses were given in Scotland and 6,581 in Northern Ireland.
The previous record was set on Friday, December 3 when 448,975 vaccines were given out.
All Covid contacts told to test daily from Tuesday
All coronavirus contacts will be told to take new daily lateral flow tests from Tuesday in new measures to try and curb the UK’s rising caseload.
Anyone who is identified as a contact of someone with coronavirus must test themselves for the next seven days, regardless of whether it is the omicron or delta variant.
Unvaccinated adults must still self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who has the virus.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said: “We are taking this proportionate and more practical measure to limit the impact on people’s day to day lives while helping to reduce the spread of Omicron.
“Vaccines remain our best defence and I urge anyone yet to get a first and second jab to come forward and those eligible for a booster to get boosted as soon as possible.”
French fishermen plan to ruin Christmas for millions of Britons with blockade
French trawlermen are drawing up plans to ruin Christmas for millions of Britons by blockading Calais and other key ports in response to the resolution of the post-Brexit dispute over fishing licences.
Industry sources told the Telegraph on Sunday that they will attempt to snare up cross-Channel trade over the festival period because many of their colleagues were refused permits to operate in Britain’s waters.
“We have made it clear: protests are planned, following on from the blockade of Breton and Norman ports that took place on November 26,” said Oliver Lepretre, head of the Hauts-de-France regional fisheries committee.
“Actions will target the import of British products. French fishermen are more than ever united against adversity and don’t intend to take it lying down faced with so much bad faith.”
Boris Johnson’s deputy spokesman accused of hypocrisy in relation to alleged Downing Street party
Boris Johnson’s deputy spokesman was accused of hypocrisy as he was unmasked as one of the officials joking about an alleged illicit party at Downing Street, having attended the event a day after warning the country to “abide by the rules”.
Jamie Davies, a senior civil servant, can be heard joking that the December 2020 event “wasn’t a party, it was cheese and wine”, on the leaked recording of a mock press conference that led to the resignation of Allegra Stratton, Mr Johnson’s senior press adviser, last week.
At the time of the exchange, Mr Davies was the Prime Minister’s acting official spokesman. In a question and answer session with journalists on the day before the internal Downing Street event on December 18, he pointed to Priti Patel’s condemnation of an “egregious” breach of Covid rules by a Tory MP who attended a “Christmas party” at a private members’ club in London days earlier, when the capital was under less stringent measures than at the time of the alleged No. 10 party.
Steve Baker: Overreaction to omicron is squandering the trust of voters
Two years ago today, the Conservative Party celebrated our biggest majority at an election since Margaret Thatcher, writes Steve Baker.
Millions of people across the country were inspired by our message of hope and unity and they placed their faith in us – in many instances for the first time in a generation. I am filled with sorrow to see us squandering this goodwill and trust.
Across a range of issues, today’s Conservative Party is in the wrong place and heading in the opposite direction of Conservatism.
Conservatives know that state interventions of any kind can have harmful consequences – this is precisely what makes us Conservative in the first place. Conservative governing is about unleashing and enabling the vast potential, generosity, wisdom, energy and talent of individuals in the community.
Yet before knowing the extent to which the omicron variant will escape vaccines or cause harm, the Government is panicking and rushing to impose restrictions again, causing mental anguish and precipitating huge damage to swathes of our economy that bring meaning to our lives, our families and our friendships.
Johnson’s authority on vaccine passports ‘really eroded’ among backbenchers
Boris Johnson’s former director of legislative affairs has said his political capital on the issue of vaccine passports has been “really eroded”.
Nikki da Costa, who worked at Number 10 until a couple of months ago, told Times Radio: “In addition to what we’ve talked before about rebelliousness in general, on this particular policy, capital has really been eroded.
Musings on Plan B votes. There are two on Tuesday. One on the face masks regulations which came into force on Friday which require a voted within 28 days. A separate vote on “vaccine (or negative lat flow) certification” for large events and nightclubs. 1/
— Nikki da Costa (@nmdacosta) December 11, 2021
“My role was to amplify the concerns of those within the Parliamentary party and make sure those were heard. My concern is twofold – is a policy proportionate to its end, and how far does it need to go? I’m anti, very much, the wider policy of vaccine passports for access to a whole range of venues.”
Ms da Costa suggested the Government had been “prudent” in not pursuing a mandatory vaccination policy.
PM accused of ‘culture of disregard’ for Covid rules as quiz photo emerges
Boris Johnson has been accused of presiding over a “culture of disregard for the rules” after a picture emerged of him taking part in an online Downing Street quiz flanked by colleagues.
The image, reported by the Sunday Mirror, shows a screen with the Prime Minister sitting in front of a laptop in the No 10 library.
One of his colleagues is draped in tinsel. Downing Street said the Conservative Party leader had “briefly” taken part “virtually” in the quiz.
The Sunday Mirror reported the event happened on December 15. The festive event is said to have taken place only three days before an alleged rule-breaking Christmas party in No 10, which is currently being investigated by Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, today rebuked suggestions by Sir Keir Starmer that Boris Johnson had broken the rules.
Leader of Scottish Tories refuses to name single Boris Johnson attribute
The leader of the Scottish Tories has refused four times to name a single one of Boris Johnson’s attributes, as he told of his “anger” at Number 10 over Downing Street parties, writes Daniel Sanderson.
Douglas Ross was pressed repeatedly to name one of his party leader’s “qualities”, but the senior Conservative failed to do so, instead answering by describing him as the “Prime Minister” and the “leader of the main party in the United Kingdom”.
While Cabinet ministers on Sunday morning sought to downplay a picture published by the Sunday Mirror, which appears to show Mr Johnson presiding over a festive online quiz for staff last Christmas, Mr Ross said the image raised “many serious questions that we need answers to”.
He demanded “serious answers” to questions over what went on at Number 10 last year and said he shared public fury at alleged rule-breaking. Asked whether he was angry with the Prime Minister, he said: “I’m angry with everyone. I mean just look at these pictures, look at people laughing about parties in Downing Street and how they would cover it up.”
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, he was asked four times to list one of the Prime Minister’s attributes but failed to do so. After being asked for a fourth time, Mr Ross replied: “Obviously good enough qualities to have an 80 seat majority but that 80 seat majority does not allow you to do whatever you want with your officials in number 10.”
I’m immensely frustrated by vaccine passports, says MP who shouted ‘resign’ at Javid
Will Wragg, the Conservative MP for Hazel Grove who shouted “resign” at Sajid Javid in the Commons this week over vaccine passports, has expressed his “immense frustration” at the policy.
“What I think is the wrong route for us to take is this coercive work which will not yield the results the Government hopes for,” he said on Times Radio this morning.
“The overall package is a jumping of the gun in terms of the new variant. On this occasion [the Government] is going too fast. Working from home has very much been the preserve of the middle classes, it’s not something everyone can do. It’s really an appeal to take a slower response and see where this is going.”
He added that his demand for Mr Javid’s resignation was shouted “in the heat of the moment”.
He went on to accuse Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, of pursuing an “unwanted conversation” with him in the Commons tearoom about unvaccinated hospital patients after sending a late-night tweet about a “haranguing” earlier in the week.
Dominic Raab’s Human Rights Act overhaul could remove restrictions on police and Army
Police work and military operations could face fewer restrictions under plans to remove the legal obligation on judges to “take into account” European human rights rulings.
An overhaul of the Human Rights Act being prepared by Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, includes ending the duty on British courts to adhere to precedents set by the European Court of Human Rights. The plan, due in a consultation document this week, would go further than earlier proposals by amending Section 2 of the Human Rights Act.
This is likely to prove controversial. Last week, Joanna Cherry, the QC and Scottish National Party MP, told Mr Raab that such a move would “take the guts out” of the Act, which allows courts to apply the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The proposals have been drawn up after the Armed Forces warned that troops were being put “in harm’s way” due to a fear of facing legal action under European human rights laws, and the Metropolitan Police said that judgments meant officers’ time had been wasted investigating cases that will “never reach the threshold for prosecution” in case victims later made a complaint.
Boris Johnson faces Cabinet revolt over Covid rules
Boris Johnson is facing his first major cabinet revolt, with senior ministers pledging to “resist” a “Plan C” of further Covid-19 restrictions, the Telegraph can disclose.
A Cabinet source warned that, in the absence of data showing the impact of omicron on hospitalisation and death rates, a series of concerned members of Boris Johnson’s top team will block the “slippery slope” of further curbs.
At least six cabinet members are understood to have concerns about the Government’s movement towards more draconian measures.
The warning came as senior sources said that Downing Street had been “spooked” by data on the effectiveness of vaccines against the omicron variant prompting fears that Mr Johnson could back more stringent restrictions as soon as this week.
Two moderate former senior ministers are considering joining more than 60 Conservative MPs in voting against Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus restrictions this week. Robert Buckland, the former justice secretary, and Tobias Ellwood, a former defence minister, have voiced their concern about the new Covid certification measures that come into force on Wednesday.
‘Everything under review’ including Plan C – but protect the economy too, says Zahawi
Asked about speculative raft of tougher ‘Plan C’ measures, Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary and former vaccines minister, said: “We have to keep everything under review.”
He told Times Radio that the priority should be the booster campaign as part of a “national endeavour, especially the most vulnerable but all adults who are eligible”.
On large gatherings, which the Scottish Government and World Health Organisation are advising people to stay away from, Mr Zahawi called for a “proportionate approach”.
“If you’re double vaccinated it does protect you against severe infection,” he said. If you have had a lateral flow test and you’re negative, that is also a great protection against the spread of omicron in that particular gathering.
“Let’s be proportionate about this, let’s protect people, deal with omicron but let’s protect the economy as well.”
Boris Johnson has lost his authority, says Sir Keir Starmer
Boris Johnson has lost his authority in the wake of recent reports around Christmas parties and social occasions in Downing Street, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
Sir Keir insisted in an interview with the Andrew Marr Show that Labour will support the Government’s Plan B measures in the Commons on Tuesday to “provide the leadership that the Prime Minister can’t”.
The Labour leader said: “This is very important because he’s damaged his authority, he’s now so weak his party is so divided. He’s the worst possible leader at the worst possible time.
“He has so damaged his authority that without Labour votes on Tuesday he is unable to discharge the basic function of Government, keeping the public safe.”
Sir Keir said Labour was against mandatory vaccination measures, although there “may be a case in the NHS”, while he said negative tests were “important, if not more important” than vaccination status with regards to attending mass events.
No guarantee all schools will be open in January
The Education Secretary could not confirm this morning that all schools would be open everywhere in January.
Nadhim Zahawi told the Andrew Marr Show: “We are absolutely working to make sure that all schools are open, that they’re protected.
“I will do everything in my power. We are still learning about this variant. We know that a booster works. Get boosted, protect yourself, protect your community and let’s get through this and transition this from pandemic to endemic.”
Asked about whether masks would be introduced in classrooms, Mr Zahawi pledged to keep the measure “under review” but said he had correspondence from MPs and the National Deaf Society “that it does impede learning in the classroom”.
‘Save the soul’ of the Conservative Party
Steve Baker has called on Boris Johnson to “save the soul of the Conservative Party” as he plans to relaunch his Conservative Way Forward group in the New Year.
Mr Baker said ministers must pivot to dealing with the pandemic by “counting the cost of remote bans and restrictions… rather than having this endless tunnel vision just on the disease. We actually can’t go on like this.”
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Baker predicted at least 60 Tory MPs would actively vote against the Government’s vaccine certification measures in the Commons on Tuesday.
“Let me be clear, I’ve been down this road once before viewers will know and I have absolutely no intention this time round of trying to remove a Prime Minister,” he said. “I want to see Boris turn this situation around, I want him to rescue this, but he’s not going to do it by paying lip service to rules and being incautious about how his staff behave.
“Now that we’re vaccinated, what kind of society we want to live in? In the future I want one which is free, which is prosperous, which is joyful in which young people can have a hope of a better future.”
Partygate: ‘I think people can make their own minds up’
Nadhim Zahawi used his broadcast round this morning to defend Boris Johnson after a picture emerged of him taking part in an online Downing Street quiz surrounded by colleagues.
Labour criticised the Prime Minister over the reported event, which the Sunday Mirror claims happened on December 15. Downing Street said the Conservative Party leader had “briefly” taken part “virtually” in the quiz.
Mr Zahawi told Sky News: “What do we see in that picture? We see a Prime Minister on a virtual quiz night for 10 to 15 minutes to thank his staff who, by the way, had no choice but to come in every single day, sitting in his office with the two people who are closest working with him. Many people would have had similar Zoom quiz nights around the country.
“The Prime Minister said to the best of his knowledge, there were no parties, any parties. He also said that the rules were followed, and you saw that in the picture today it’s a virtual Zoom call not anything else. I think the nation will understand that now because the hype around it was these parties here where people were mixing and lots of drinks was were flowing.”
Mr Zahawi went on to double down on his defence of the Prime Minister in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, as he added: “On a virtual call, on a Zoom meeting, thanking his team… There’s no drink here, I don’t think there’s a rule against recognising Christmas with tinsel or a hat.
“Ten or 15 minutes to thank his team, who were working all hours, on a screen in a virtual pub quiz. I think people can make their own minds up.”
Omicron cases now found in hospital, reveals Education Secretary
Omicron cases have now been found in hospital, a minister has revealed, as he said the UK is in a “race” against the variant to give out as many booster jabs as possible.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, warned of the danger of tens of thousands of hospitalisations with omicron even if it were to prove “half as severe” as delta because it is so infectious.
“I can confirm to you this morning [there are] cases in hospital with omicron,” Mr Zahawi told Sky News. “We’ve been able to test people who are in hospital over the past two weeks, and there is a lag to hospitalisation.
“It is a race between the booster and the protection and the omicron barrier. It is now a race to get all adults who are eligible for their booster jabs to be boosted as quickly as possible. And the Prime Minister will be saying more about this later today.”