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.
Another update on the availability of coronavirus tests in the UK.
You can now book PCR home tests and lateral flows to be delivered to your home.
As we reported earlier, there are still PCR testing slots available to book across the country at walk-in and drive-through sites.
Mikel Arteta will be absent from the New Year’s Day clash with Manchester City after testing positing for coronavirus.
The Spaniard, who also contracted the virus in March 2020 prompting the shutdown of football at the start of the pandemic, is now isolating.
A club statement read: “Mikel Arteta will miss our match against Manchester City on New Year’s Day after testing positive for COVID-19.
“Mikel is isolating in line with government guidelines and we wish him well.”
All regions now have availability at walk-in and drive-through sites. An hour ago, the gov.uk website showed these to be unavailable in England and Northern Ireland.
However, there are still currently no PCR tests available for home delivery for members of the public and essential workers.
Lateral flow tests are also unavailable to order for home delivery.
As we reported earlier, the World Health Organisation has noted an 11% rise in global coronavirus cases in its latest weekly epidemiological report.
The table below shows where COVID infections are increasing by comparing two-week infection rates, which are shown as number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people.
Over four weeks, the largest change was noted in Denmark, followed by Malta, the UK and Ireland.
Most coronavirus cases in Wales are now the Omicron variant, according to the deputy chief medical officer.
Dr Chris Jones told BBC Radio Wales that another 12,000 COVID cases were reported in Wales over the Christmas period.
He added: “Omicron has been increasing in Wales with a doubling time of less than three days.
“During the last two to three weeks it has gradually replaced Delta and is now the dominant variant, and because of that I expect we will see a further acceleration as Omicron continues its exponential growth.”
Sir Roger Gale, the Conservative MP for North Thanet, has confirmed a lack of tests in his area, as PCR and lateral flows continue to be unavailable to order online.
He said: “The Secretary of State in charge is not answering his phone, whilst I am trying to get help for constituents.”
We reported earlier as it emerged that PCR and lateral flow tests were unavailable to order and book online across most of the UK.
As of now, this has not changed.
Responding to these reports, Labour’s Wes Streeting said: “The failure to make enough tests available weeks after they became a requirement is a total shambles.
“People are trying to do the right thing, follow the government’s own advice, and test themselves regularly, but are prevented by the Conservative government’s incompetence.
“They need to get a grip and provide enough tests so people can keep themselves and everyone else safe.”
People aged 30 to 39 can now get a COVID-19 booster vaccination, Ireland’s Health Service Executive has confirmed.
Those who are double vaccinated, are three months on from their last dose, and have not had coronavirus in the intervening period can get their booster jab at walk-in clinics, by booking online, or by appointment from Wednesday.
Boosters are also available to those aged 16 to 29 who received the one-shot Jansen vaccine, in line with guidance from the National Immunisation Advisory Council (Niac).
An HSE statement said: “We encourage everyone to avail of your booster dose when offered as it gives you the best protection from serious illness caused by COVID-19.”
Global coronavirus cases increased by 11% last week compared with the previous seven days, with the biggest jump noted in the Americas.
The World Health Organisation said in its weekly epidemiological report that there were nearly 4.99 million cases reported between 20 and 26 December.
Europe accounted for more than half the total, with 2.84 million, though that amounted to only a 3% increase over the previous week.
It also had the highest infection rate of any region, with 304.6 new cases per 100,000 residents.
New cases in the Americas were up 39% to nearly 1.48 million, and the region had the second-highest infection rate with 144.4 new cases per 100,000 residents.
The agency said that “the overall risk related to the new variant … Omicron remains very high”.
It cited “consistent evidence” that it has a growth advantage over the Delta variant, which remains dominant in parts of the world.
Asked about reports of people travelling across the border from Wales and Scotland into England to celebrate, Mr Johnson said: “I think everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way.
“Take a test, ventilation, think about others – but above all, get a booster.”
Mr Johnson urged people to think about the risk they are running with their own health if they fail to get a booster jab.
He said: “We’re looking at the data and what we’re seeing is that we’ve got cases certainly going up, we’ve got a lot of cases of Omicron.
“But, on the other hand, we can see the data about the relative mildness of Omicron. What we can also see is the very, very clear effect of getting those jabs, getting those boosters in particular – and that’s what’s making a huge difference.”