Coronavirus latest amid fears over data showing a subvariant has become dominant in the original Omicron epicentre; hospitals chief in France suggests unvaccinated patients should pay for treatment; virus hits one of last uninfected places on Earth.
Truckers arrived in Ottawa on Friday to protest a coronavirus vaccine mandate for cross-border drivers in Canada. Many had travelled from Toronto, with supporters lining the roads with banners and flags.
The seven-day rolling average for daily new COVID-19 deaths in the US has been climbing since mid-November, reaching 2,267 on Thursday and surpassing a September peak of 2,100 when Delta was the dominant variant.
Now Omicron is estimated to account for nearly all the virus circulating in the nation. Even though it causes less severe disease for most people, the fact that it is more transmissible means more people are falling ill and dying.
“Omicron will push us over a million deaths,” said Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine.
“That will cause a lot of soul searching. There will be a lot of discussion about what we could have done differently, how many of the deaths were preventable.”
By Thomas Moore, science correspondent
One of Britain’s key vaccine suppliers is preparing an autumn COVID booster that will protect against both Omicron and Delta.
In a rare interview, Moderna’s chief medical officer told Sky News that the Omicron wave had peaked in many countries and we are “coming out of the pandemic phase”.
Dr Paul Burton warned the BA.2 subvariant that is already dominant in Denmark needs to be closely monitored, but the spring should bring relative stability.
However, he predicted Omicron would return as a significant threat next autumn – and Delta must not be forgotten.
He said: “We think Omicron will still be here. This is a virus we can’t eradicate anytime soon.
“Delta caused a lot of hospitalisation and death. Omicron causes a lot of that as well but it’s more through bulk of infection.
“So what we have to do is be ready with a vaccine that can protect against all of that.
“Right now we’re going with an Omicron booster but we think we may need to combine it with some Delta protection too.”
Updates on the Sue Gray report are coming in fast tonight.
Sky News understands that Boris Johnson will be handed a report by the senior civil servant in the coming hours or days, with publication likely next week.
This will be compliant with the Metropolitan Police request that there is “minimal reference” to the alleged parties it is investigating.
The head of Aviva said it is important that companies create the “right environment for everyone to flourish” following lockdown, with equal opportunities for men and women.
Amanda Blanc told the BBC that employers need to “think” about how the workplace would be organised “because if what you see is that all the men come back into the office and the women don’t, then obviously the women are not around when some of the conversations are being had and they could miss out on opportunities”.
She added: “I am really keen that we do have some physically presence in the office even though I think the way we work in the office will be different than how it was pre-COVID.
“I don’t want that to happen.”
There’s been a development in the situation surrounding the Sue Gray report this evening…
The Metropolitan Police has said it is not seeking to delay its publication, despite earlier calling for “minimal reference” to be made to the alleged parties it is investigating.
In a statement on Friday evening, Commander Catherine Roper said: “We have not delayed this report and the timing of its release is a matter for the Cabinet Office inquiry team.”
Scotland Yard also confirmed they have received the information requested from the Cabinet Office to support the investigation into potential breaches of COVID regulations in Westminster.
The force said: “For the events the Met is investigating, we asked for minimal reference to be made in the Cabinet Office report.
“The Met did not ask for any limitations on other events in the report, or for the report to be delayed, but we have had ongoing contact with the Cabinet Office, including on the content of the report, to avoid any prejudice to our investigation.”
Drivers were photographed parked at the Argentine border with Chile on Friday as they waited to be tested for coronavirus before entering the country.
Chile has recently tightened its entry protocols, causing a significant backlog in Mendoza.
Interested in reading more about the status of the Sue Gray report into alleged lockdown-busting Downing Street parties?
Our political reporter Alan McGuinness has all the latest below…