Coronavirus latest as the NHS launches a fresh booster vaccine drive; Pharmacies report being asked for lateral flow tests “every five minutes”; Hundreds of children in England were admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in week to Boxing Day.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was monitoring 89 cruise ships that have reported COVID-19 cases.
An additional 38 ships are being investigated, while another 48 are “under observation”, according to an update from the health body.
The ships include those from Disney, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival.
The Cruise Lines International Association said in a statement that its members are taking part in “very productive dialogue and are working together with the CDC in the interest of public health and safety”.
Performances of Heathers the Musical, at the Other Palace in Victoria, have been cancelled until 2022 due to coronavirus cases in the company.
This is the latest in a raft of cancellations which has seen much of London’s Theatreland shut down over the typically busy Christmas period.
A total of 10,462 people were in hospital in England with COVID-19 as of 8am on 29 December – an increase of 916 on Tuesday.
This is up 48% from a week earlier and is the highest number since 1 March, according to figures from NHS England.
During the second wave of coronavirus, the number peaked at 34,336 on 18 January.
In London, 3,310 people were in hospital with COVID-19 on 29 December, up 63% week-on-week and the highest number since 16 February .
The second-wave peak for London was 7,917 on 18 January.
The definition used to identify a hospital admission with COVID is that someone either tested positive for the virus in the 14 days before their admission or during their stay in hospital.
It could mean that someone goes into hospital for a non-COVID reason, and subsequently tests positive.
We typically receive the latest data from the government at 4pm detailing coronavirus cases and deaths over the last 24 hours.
This update has been moved to 5pm due to “a delay in receiving data for Northern Ireland”.
We’ll bring you the latest figures as soon as they’re released.
Another 39,923 cases of the Omicron variant were detected in the UK on Wednesday, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
This brings the total number of infections to 210,122.
Reigning champion Gerwyn Price has called for the tournament to be postponed following a number of cases linked to the event.
Dave Chisnall became the latest player to withdraw from the tournament on Wednesday after testing positive.
His positive test saw him follow Michael van Gerwen and Vincent van der Voort out of the competition prematurely.
Mr Price wrote on Instagram: “Tournament needs to be postponed”.
He later added: “I’ve been in their position so I feel for the players that have had to withdraw, there’s a lot of hard work gone into getting events like the World Championships on so postponing probably isn’t the best option but an option I wouldn’t disagree with, time to keep myself safe and out of touch … keep safe all”.
Greece will introduce new coronavirus restrictions on the hospitality sector from Thursday, bringing forward measures planned for early January.
The decision came a day after authorities announced a new daily record of 21,657 cases, more than double that confirmed on Monday.
Bars, nightclubs and restaurants will be forced to close at midnight, with no standing customers and no music, with the exception of New Year’s Eve when then can stay open until 2am.
“These measures, if they are applied in our entirety, will allow us from mid January to go back to our normal lives,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris told a news conference.
Restrictions were previously tightened last week, when a mask mandate was introduced in open spaces.
Christmas and New Year celebrations were banned in public spaces.
France reported a “tsunami” of COVID cases on Wednesday as the country surpassed the European record with 208,000 infections.
“This means that 24 hours a day, day and night, every second in our country, two French people are diagnosed positive,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said.
“We have never experienced such a situation,” he said, describing the increase in cases as “dizzying”.
The World Health Organisation warned earlier that global coronavirus infections have soared 11% in a week, with half the total cases found in Europe.
“We have two enemies,” Mr Veran said, referring to the two main variants. “As for Omicron, I would no longer talk about a wave. This is a groundswell, where several waves combine to form one massive wave.”
More than 800,000 booster and third vaccine doses were recorded across the UK during the past five days, figures show.
A total of 33,091,891 extra doses had been delivered as of 28 December – the first time a UK-wide figure has been available since 23 December, when the number stood at 32,290,487.
It means 801,404 booster and third doses have been recorded from Christmas Eve to 28 December.
Around 62% of all adults in the UK have received a booster or third dose.
The figures were published by the UK’s four health agencies.