COVID news latest – live updates: UK coronavirus hotspots published – as flight cancelled after passenger refuses to wear face mask – Sky News

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Coronavirus latest as Health Secretary Sajid Javid says COVID could be with us forever; ‘game-changing’ X-ray can detect virus in minutes; unjabbed Chelsea players could miss Champions league match in France; builders are among professions with lowest vaccination rate, ONS says.
Thank you for following today’s coronavirus liveblog. Be sure to come back tomorrow for more updates.
In the meantime, here are some of our top coronavirus stories from today.
The Irish government has been given the green light by the state’s health chiefs to remove the majority of COVID restrictions.
It is understood that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended restrictions around hospitality can be lifted, live venues and sport venues can return to full capacity and Covid passes should only be required for international travel.
The wearing of face masks is recommended to continue on public transport and in retail settings.
Government ministers will meet on Friday to assess the advice before the Taoiseach makes an announcement.
Ireland’s Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe told RTE it is reasonable to expect that the state will be able to exit regulations at a faster pace than would have looked likely a number of weeks ago.
He said: “What we have done at all points in this pandemic is been guided by public health advice. We have looked to deploy timings that get the balance right between the needs to our economy and society and that of public health, and that is what we will continue to do.”

Nightclubs are on track to reopen and social distancing and rule of six requirements will be ended by the end of the month in Wales, the first minister has confirmed.

Mark Drakeford said Wales would complete the move to alert level zero on 28 January unless the coronavirus situation deteriorates.
The phased plan to gradually relax the alert level two measures and move back to alert level zero will continue, Mr Drakeford said.
The latest public health data suggests Wales has passed the peak of the Omicron wave and coronavirus cases are falling back to levels similar to those seen earlier in the autumn.
There have also been reductions in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital.
Sheila Yates is in agony. The pain is etched on her face and she groans as she is lifted onto her bed by the paramedics who have brought her here, writes Sky’s health correspondent Ashish Joshi.
Sheila is the 120th emergency patient to be seen by The Royal Preston Hospital. And it is only 2pm.
She has ongoing issues with her spine and needs chronic pain management. Not far from Sheila is Muriel Hargreaves.
Muriel tells me she is 88-and-a-half years old. The half, she says, is important. Muriel has been admitted to hospital with high blood pressure. It is giving her problems with her heart.
“It’s a certain problem that I’m having with my heart,” she says. “They’ve not named it yet because they’ve not come to a final conclusion. But they’re doing everything possible to get to the bottom before… before I go home.”
Muriel has been here for more than 24 hours. She should be in a bed on a ward. But there’s no space. That means all the investigations to find out what is wrong with her have to be carried out in the emergency department. It is not ideal but it is the only way to make sure she receives the same care and treatment.
Andy Curran is a consultant in emergency medicine and he began his career here at the Royal Preston Hospital 25 years ago. In that time he has seen many difficult winters. But this is one of his most challenging.
“Each time that we think things can’t get any harder they seem to do, and the patients that have been coming through have been coming through in increasing numbers,” he says. 
Mr Curran tells me the patients who are coming in are much sicker because they had delayed treatment. These patients, he said, were “going up and up”. 
Eleven-year-old Katrina Ward is typical of the patients who are presenting later. She has suspected appendicitis and has been in pain for the last month. She came into hospital when she fell sick at school this morning.
“I was going to school,” Katrina said. “But it was already painful before I went. It was just like a normal morning, and I got to school and it got really painful so I decided to call my mum.”
On the hospital grounds, construction for one of the regional Nightingale surge hubs is continuing. It will provide extra capacity in case of a surge in Omicron admissions. 
That surge did not materialise in numbers that could overwhelm the NHS and the prime minister has lifted Plan B restrictions because of the falling COVID infections. 
Planning for a pandemic-resistant future makes sense, but for patients like Muriel the present matters just as much.
In case you were wondering what happened to the Delta variant, this data offers a pretty good answer. 
According to the latest information from the Sanger Institute, 1.7% of sequenced cases were Delta on 8 January. 
All the rest of the cases were Omicron, which quickly became dominant after emerging in November last year. 
A week before, 4.2% of cases were Delta. 
An NHS doctor has hit out at the government’s lifting of Plan B measures, saying it is “entirely the wrong time”. 
Speaking to Sky News, Dr Dan Goyal said the decision is a “disaster from a healthcare perspective” and is “not based on data, science, certainly not based on healthcare provision in the UK”. 
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen the healthcare provision in the UK,” he said. 
The medical consultant argued the timing is “terrible” as the country likely could have got through in the Omicron wave within “a few more weeks”. 
All adults in Austria will legally have to get vaccinated after the country’s parliament voted for the measure to go ahead.

It makes Austria the first country in Europe to introduce mandatory vaccination.
Politicians voted 137 to 33 in favour of the mandate, which will apply to everyone over 18.
Exemptions will be made for pregnant women, people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons, and those who have recovered from a COVID infection in the last six months.
Officials said the mandate is necessary because vaccination rates are still too low. 
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said the COVID situation is now starting to move in the right direction, meaning restrictions could be lifted next month. 
From Monday, France is bringing in tougher measures on COVID passes. 
Currently, people need proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter many public spaces such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains. 
But next week people will only be able to enter these places if they are fully vaccinated. 
The current measures could be lifted earlier than planned, Ireland’s Taoiseach has said.

They were due to stay in place until the end of the month but officials are meeting to discuss whether they can be dropped next week.
It’s expected that the 8pm curfew for the events and hospitality sector will be removed.
“The situation is positive. We have come through Omicron better than we might have expected prior to Christmas,” Micheal Martin told RTE Morning Ireland.
“The combination of the booster campaign and vaccination and the fact that Omicron does not seem to be as virulent as Delta and previous waves, has meant that the impact on people, in terms of severe illness and death and ICUs, has been much less.
“So, therefore, I think people can be positive, we can be positive.”
He is expected to set out Ireland’s plans tomorrow. 

Jayne Connery from the Care Campaign for the Vulnerable has been speaking to Sky News this afternoon about the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. 
She said the care sector is “on its knees” and the government needs to “get a real grip”. 
“We have got to look at the commitment that has been shown by the government today since the start of the pandemic,” Ms Connnery said. 
“It is absolutely atrocious that we are in this position and also the vulnerable people that are living in care homes and their dedicated care workers. 
“I think this government needs to get a real grip of what’s going on within the care sector and we really need to address how it is going to cope. 
“It is on its knees as it is, and we need a government that’s prepared to listen to it. ” 
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