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Coronavirus latest as New Year’s parties set to go ahead in England; people infected with Omicron develop more immunity to Delta, according to small study; Christmas Day saw England’s highest-ever daily COVID cases as hospital patients are now the highest since March.
New Year’s parties given the green light in England as no new restrictions expected for now
People infected with Omicron develop more immunity to Delta, early study suggests
No new restrictions will be ‘lifeline’ for hospitality sector

‘Horrific scenes’ we saw in previous COVID wave are unlikely to be repeated, says scientist
Christmas Day saw highest number of daily cases reported so far in England
England has highest number of hospital patients since March, though they remain some way behind January 2021 peak
Live reporting by Emily Mee
Modelling by London South Bank University has suggested a huge number of NHS staff in the capital could be off sick soon – largely due to the impact of COVID. 
Professor Alison Leary, chair of workforce modelling at the university, told Sky News this would be a “worst-case scenario” but she has already been in contact with organisations who have staff sickness levels of between 25 and 28%. 

She said sickness rates at usually between 4 and 5%, but they are now at 8 or 9% and are “creeping upwards”. 
The NHS could see problems “well into the New Year” because of issues including mental health and long COVID, she added.
Experts have been hitting out at the CDC’s decision to cut self-isolation for COVID patients from 10 to five days. 
But Dr Leana Wen, a public health professor and emergency physician, has said the move was “necessary to prevent [the] collapse of critical infrastructure”. 
She warned the US could top one million new cases per day amid the spread of the Omicron variant. 
Nurses will be given an extra €100 a month from January as it aims to improve working conditions for exhausted staff.

“This is about improving attractiveness, training, qualification, working conditions in intensive care units, acknowledging the skills of those who work there,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
A broader set of measures will be unveiled next week to tackle staff shortages on the NHS frontline. 
Professor Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, has said we should get to a point where self-isolation rules are not needed.

Asked on BBC Breakfast about NHS staff shortages due to workers having to isolate, he said: “This is a disease that’s not going away, the infection is not going away, although we’re not going to see as severe disease for much longer.
“Ultimately, we’re going to have to let people who are positive with COVID go about their normal lives as they would do with any other cold. And so, at some point, we’ve got to relax this.
“If the self-isolation rules are what’s making the pain associated with COVID, then we need to do that perhaps sooner rather than later. Maybe not quite yet.”
As we mentioned in our last post, some experts are not happy with US plans to cut the self-isolation period for COVID cases from 10 to five days without the need for a negative test. 
Erin Bromage, an associate professor in comparative immunology, said he was “baffled” by the decision, sharing photographs of a positive lateral flow test taken on day eight of infection. 
He said he oversees thousands of tests each week as part of workplace surveillance programmes. 
Some experts have been hitting out at the new isolation policy in the US, which means that those who test positive can exit self-isolation after five days. 
Unlike the UK’s policy on isolation, the early exit does not need a negative test. 
Epidemiologist Michael Mena said the lack of negative test is “reckless” as people can stay infectious for up to 12 days. 
“I absolutely don’t want to sit next to someone who turned Pos 5 days ago and hasnt tested Neg,” he wrote on Twitter.
He added he is “100%” behind ending isolation early, but only with a negative test. 
“Someone KNOWN to be Pos for 5 days is, in my view, still one of the highest risk individuals in society for onward spread,” he said.
Sourav Ganguly, who heads India’s cricket board, has been admitted to hospital in Kolkata after testing positive for COVID.

“Sourav has got COVID but he is feeling fine,” his brother Snehasish said.
The 48-year-old tested positive last night.
Ganguly, one of India’s most successful captains, underwent an angioplasty at the start of this year after suffering from chest discomfort. 
Some scientists are calling on the government to tighten restrictions, but one has backed the decision not to impose new measures ahead of the New Year.

Professor Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said that since the vaccination programme there has been no increase in the incidence of severe illness and death from COVID.
“The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago – intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely – that is now history in my view and I think we should reassured that that’s likely to continue,” he told BBC radio.
Sir John said the public has been “pretty responsible” in its response to the Omicron variant.
“The health minister has taken advice and looked at the data. I think his judgment where we should go in the next few days is probably fine,” he said.
“There are a lot of people who are aware that we are in the face of this large wave of disease. The behaviour of people in the UK, in England in particular, has been pretty responsible in terms of trying not to go out and spending a lot of time exposing yourself to the virus.
“You look at the people on the streets, the roads are quiet, all that stuff. I think that’s likely to continue for the next week as we see how this thing evolves.” 
As we reported yesterday, the government has confirmed no new restrictions will be announced for England before the New Year – meaning parties can still go ahead.

With pubs, bars and restaurants taking a huge hit in the run-up to Christmas, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the latest decision would be a “lifeline” for the sector.
“Hospitality businesses will be raising a New Year’s toast to celebrate the government’s pragmatic and proportionate approach,” she said.
A spokesperson for the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) agreed it was “good news” as the festive trade is “very important” for the sector.
But they added they wanted to see “more certainty going forwards” so that businesses can plan ahead. 
Omicron infection enhances neutralising immunity against the Delta variant, a small South African study has suggested.

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, looked at 33 vaccinated and unvaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant.
Neutralisation of Omicron increased 14-fold over two weeks, but there was also a 4.4-fold increase of Delta virus neutralisation.
The scientists said it could mean Delta is less likely to reinfect people who have had Omicron. 
Omicron has been taking over in the UK, although fairly high levels of the Delta variant still remain. 
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