Coronavirus latest as armed forces deployed to London hospitals; pre-departure tests scrapped for people entering UK; Novak Djokovic to wait days for deportation decision; Moderna boss says another booster vaccine may be needed by autumn; report says COVID alert system is ‘costing lives’.
The i’s education correspondent has been speaking to a headteacher in a particularly cold part of the UK right now.
He’s been told that despite snowy conditions, the school is having to keep classroom windows open for ventilation to prevent the spread of COVID.
More than 100 people have been forced to quarantine after attending a banquet with two COVID positive guests, health officials said.
Among those isolating are home affairs secretary Casper Tsui, director of immigration Au Ka-wang, police commissioner Raymond Siu and the head of the city’s Independent Commission against Corruption, Simon Peh, authorities said.
Hong Kong is currently experiencing a rise in cases and has responded by introducing tougher regulations.
Hong Kong city leader Carrie Lam said it was “a very dire situation”.
The event took place before dining in restaurants after 6pm was banned.
Ms Lam said she was “highly disappointed” that the officials had attended a large gathering.
She added that they should not be “engaging in activities that carry risks and create more work”.
None of the officials has tested positive since the party but remain in quarantine in line with the city’s COVID regulations.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been more than 200 COVID-related deaths in Hong Kong and 12,800 infections.
Authorities in the city are concerned that a health crisis would develop with just over 30% of eligible people not vaccinated.
Earlier, we brought you a breakdown of the number of staff absences across NHS hospital trusts in England.
Here’s a little more detail.
The proportion of NHS staff absences linked to COVID-19 has doubled in the week ending 2 January, compared with the first week of December.
More than two in five of all absences were either due to COVID sickness or self-isolation in the latest week for which data is available at NHS England.
This is a rise from just one in five for the first week of December.
By Ashish Joshi, health correspondent
The Omicron-driven staffing crisis in the NHS is deepening at the same time demand for services is rising.
The latest winter sitrep from NHS England shows more staff were absent this week than they were during the previous seven days.
The figure has grown from 71,000 to 80,000 – that’s an increase of 13%.
It is why at least 17 NHS trusts have declared critical incidents this week. They do not have enough staff to function normally and guarantee patient safety.
It is also the same reason why hospitals across the Greater Manchester region have been forced to postpone non-urgent care.
Almost half of these absences are because of COVID and, again, here we can see a rise in the numbers.
This week almost half of all NHS staff absences, some 44%, were because of the spike in Omicron infections. That’s up by 22% from the 36,000 staff who called in sick the week before.
So while more staff are being forced to isolate, the demand on services continues to go up.
Community infections are rising, and more people are falling sick and looking for medical help. Almost 80,000 more 111 calls were answered this week than the week before. That’s up from the 71,000 the week before and 50,000 more than this winter’s previous high of 336,000 for the week ending 19 December.
The NHS says almost 3,000 critical care and general acute beds have been closed due to COVID or norovirus over the last week and is still struggling to discharge patients who are medically fit to return home.
Some 10,000 of these are still in hospital but cannot be sent home because there is no community care available for them. Again, this is largely driven by the surge in COVID infections.
The pressure continues to build and hospitals have not even seen the first wave of winter flu cases. This might, hopefully, be mitigated by mask-wearing.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the country’s 16 state governors are considering new restrictions in response to a surge in Omicron cases.
Among steps being considered is a requirement for people with only two jabs to show proof of a negative test to enter a bar or a restaurant, in an effort to encourage more people to get a booster.
Rules on quarantine, however, look set to be relaxed to avoid having too many people in isolation at the same time, especially in critical sectors.
Currently, quarantine or self-isolation is as long as 14 days.
Omicron now accounts for 44% of coronavirus infections in the country, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease said in its weekly report.
Around 41% of people have received a booster shot.
A new paper evaluates the risk of catching or spreading COVID in different settings and under different scenarios.
In the table shared below by one of the paper’s authors, Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, the most risky settings are coloured in red and the least risky in green.
But this is Professor Greenhalgh’s summary of its findings: “Avoid the gym, choir practice & stuffy nightclub (sic).”
You can read the full paper, published in Environmental Science & Technology, by clicking the link.
James Corden has tested positive for coronavirus.
The Late Late Show host said on Instagram that he felt “completely fine” – but added the programme would be off the air for several days.
“I just tested positive for covid 19,” he wrote.
“I’m fully vaccinated, boosted and because of this am fortunate enough to say I feel completely fine.
“Stay safe everyone. All my love, James x”
Corden is the latest US TV talk show host to test positive for coronavirus after Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon and Whoopi Goldberg.
The latest data from NHS England shows the impact of the festive period on staff absences in hospital trusts.
Over the two weeks from 20 December to 2 January, absences were highest on 30 December.
On this day alone, more than 87,000 NHS workers were absent due to either sickness or self-isolation.
This was five days after Christmas, when many people would have been mixing with their families.
By comparison, absences had been hovering at around 60,000 in late November and early December.
Here’s the breakdown over those two weeks:
A total of 39,142 staff were absent for COVID-19 reasons on 2 January, up 59% on the previous week (24,632) and more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508).
The total includes staff who were ill with coronavirus or who were having to self-isolate.
One of Novak Djokovic’s fellow tennis stars has defended him to some extent.
The men’s tennis World Number One is in immigration detention in Australia waiting to find out whether he can compete in the Australian Open after a vaccine row.
Nick Kyrgios said that while he believed in “taking action” and has been vaccinated himself, the handling of Djokovic’s situation is “really bad”.
The pair have been bitter rivals previously, so this is quite an unusual comment from Kyrgios.
It looks that the worst of France’s current COVID surge may be over in just over a week.
Professor Alain Fischer, an official responsible for the country’s COVID vaccine strategy, told LCI TV: “I think we are coming to the peak of this new wave.”
He said the peak could come “primarily towards the beginning of the second fortnight of January, so if we work it out this would be in around 10 days time.”
France set a record of 332,000 cases on Wednesday, although the figure fell to 261,481 yesterday.
President Emmanuel Macron has wanted to avoid enforcing major new restrictions, instead banking on people taking up COVID booster shots.