5. 40am AEDT05: 40
Early evening summary
Theresa May, the former prime minister, has joined the ranks of Conservative MPs expressing concern about the prospect of further Covid restrictions being introduced. (See 6.01pm. )
Downing Street has denied that a party took place in Downing Street last December and said it was a “statement of fact” that no Covid rules were broken. (See 2pm. )
For further coronavirus coverage, do read our global live blog.
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5. 31am AEDT05: 31
The Javid statement has been closed. The Independent’s John Rentoul argued on Twitter earlier that MPs were missing an obvious line of attack.
Nobody has yet asked Sajid Javid what is the point of border controls now he accepts community transmission here pic.twitter.com/OlPd0PVDsa
5. 27am AEDT05: 27
Asked by Labour’s Angela Eagle how much more he would be able to tell MPs in the update next week about the threat posed by Omicron, Javid said there would still be “many unanswered questions” at that point. He replied
As each day passes, we are gathering more information. However, I believe that next week will bring more information with the arrival of the samples at Porton Down and other laboratories around the world.
I will admit that I cannot guarantee how much information we will have. There will be many questions that remain unanswered at that point.
Andrew Bridgen (Con) said that he was glad to hear that no Omicron cases are in hospital (see 6. 13pm) and that he thought Theresa May was right to say virus variants become more transmissible but less harmful. He expressed hope that this would mean that all restrictions will be lifted next week.
Javid replied: “Let’s wait and see what next week brings.”
5. 21am AEDT05: 21
Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former chief adviser, who is now one of his fiercest critics, says that No 10 is now lying about the December party last year.
V unwise for No10 to lie about this but PM set the course of lying on covid in spring when he decided to start rewriting history, deny herd immunity plan etc. NB some lobby hacks were also at parties in No10 flat so trying to bury this story… https://t.co/pYMRiOgULV
He also suggests the government is being complacent about Omicron.
Highly recommended, much more useful/reliable than info from UK government minsters & their tame hacks https://t.co/wbBQxL04KN
“There is going to be a period early in 2022 when … it will be difficult to remain uninfected and it will likely be *difficult to get any kind of medical treatment at a hospital*.” If true of US prob true here too, NHS already creaking…
5. 17am AEDT05: 17
Kate Osamor (Lab) says the Nigerial high commissioner has described his country’s inclusion on the red list as “travel apartheid”. She believes that Delta may lead to more severe illness. However, countries in Europe with high numbers are not included on the red-list. She urges government to take an international approach and not discriminatory.
Javid says southern Africa is the epicentre of Omicron. He says at least 21 Omicron cases in the UK are linked to Nigeria. (See 5.43pm. )
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5. 13am AEDT05: 13
Javid says he is not aware of any confirmed UK Omicron cases so far leading to hospitalisation
Sir Desmond Swayne (Con) asks how many of the infected cases are ill.
Javid say, of the the 336 cases, some may be asymptomatic, some are ill, but none are in hospital, as far as he knows.
5. 09am AEDT05: 09
Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, says the travel industry has been “devastated” by uncertainty and constantly changing Covid rules. He questions what criteria ministers will use to determine when the most recent rules should be lifted.
Javid says next week’s update will be an important moment.
5. 05am AEDT05: 05
Mark Harper (Con) asks for an assurance that MPs will be recalled during the Christmas recess if the government needs to implement further measures during the holiday period.
Javid says people would expect the government to take action over the recess if it has to. Harper’s point about parliament being recalled will be brought up by him, he says.
5. 01am AEDT05: 01
Former PM Theresa May warns against further Covid restrictions
In the Commons Theresa May, the former prime minister, said it would be a mistake for the government to respond to every new variant by closing down the economy.
Omicron is more easily transmissible than other viruses, but it could cause less severe illness. This is the normal progression of a virus. Variants will continue appearing year after year.
When will the government accept that we all will have to learn to live with Covid and that we can’t respond to new variants of Covid by stopping or starting segments of our economy, leading to jobs being lost and businesses going under?
In terms of the severity, I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions, we simply don’t have enough information.
It isn’t going away… for many, long years. Perhaps it will lead to annual vaccines. But we need to continue living as normal.
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4. 55am AEDT04: 55
In response to Streeting’s point about the No 10 party, Javid said the rules of course apply to everyone.
4. 51am AEDT04: 51
Streeting backs prosecution of people for breaking lockdown rules and says No 10 should come clean about its party
Wes Streeting, the new shadow health secretary, is responding for Labour.
He said that he, like Jonathan Ashworth, wants to take a constructive approach.
He said he was glad that the government implemented the preflight tests Labour had demanded.
He questions what is being done about vaccine hesitancy.
He believes sick pay should be greater for those who are isolated.
And he ends with a reference to the No 10 party last December. People must have faith in the people who set the rules. He says two residents in Ilford (Streeting is MP for Ilford North) were punished for holding an indoor gathering against lockdown rules on 18 December last year. Streeting states, “And rightly so.” Streeting says that the government will be open about what happened. Or is there one rule for all?
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4. 43am AEDT04: 43
Javid says new analysis suggests that the gap between being infected and being infectious may be shorted for Omicron than it is for the Delta variant.
We are constantly learning about this new variant.
Recent analysis from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant than for the Delta variant, but we don’t yet have a complete picture of whether Omicron causes more severe disease or indeed how it interacts with the vaccines.
We don’t know if Omicron could cause us to lose our way on the road to recovery.
We are not leaving anything to chance. Our strategy is to buy ourselves times and to strengthen our defences while our world-leading scientists assess this new variant and what it means for our fight against Covid-19.
He now summarises the measures that were announced this weekend.
He says Nigeria has been added on the red list. He says at least 21 of the Omicron cases in England are linked to Nigeria. He also stated that there are strong links between Nigerian and South African travel.
Analysis from UKHSA [Health Security Agency] shows that at least 21 Omicron cases in England alone are linked to travel from Nigeria, and there’s a strong indication that Omicron is present there. Nigeria has strong links to South Africa.
He claims that more hotel rooms have been set aside for arrivals who do not need to go through quarantine.
I know there has been an increase in demand for these facilities because of the rapid expansion and some people have had issues returning home.
We are increasing this capacity as fast as we can. In the last few days, we have already added several hotels to the ship and we plan on increasing the number of rooms available by at least two this week.
Because the distance between infection and infectiousness with Omicron may be smaller, pre-flight screening is being used for arrivals.
He says that these measures will continue to be reviewed and that MPs will receive an update next week.
He also confirmed that the vaccination program is being re-evaluated.
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4. 35am AEDT04: 35
Javid says there is community transmission of Omicron ‘across multiple regions of England’
Javid says the new figures mean there is “community transmission across multiple regions of England”.
The Omicron variant is continuing to spread here and around the world. According to the latest data there are now 261 confirmed cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases across the UK to 336. These cases include those without international travel links. We can therefore conclude that there is now a community transmission in multiple parts of England.
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4. 34am AEDT04: 34
Javid tells MPs there are now 336 confirmed Omicron cases in UK
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is making a Commons statement on Covid.
He says there are now 261 confirmed Omicron cases in England, 71 in Scotland, and four in Wales. That makes 336 in the UK in total, he says.
4. 27am AEDT04: 27
The UK has recorded 51,459 new coronavirus cases, the goverment has disclosed on its dashboard. The number of new coronavirus cases in the UK has increased 9.1% over the previous seven days. Hospital admissions and deaths continue to decline week-on-week by 0.8% and 0.2%, respectively.
Covid dashboard Photograph: Gov.UK
4. 03am AEDT04: 03
Zahawi confirms review into child protection failures in case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes
Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, has confirmed that a review will be set up to investigate how child protection failures contributed to the death of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.
He stated that the whole nation was “disappointed” by the “tragic, horrific” death Arthur. He went on: “We across this house and across this country find it impossible to imagine how any adult could commit such evil acts against a child.”
Zahawi said that the national child safeguarding practice review panel was set up in 2017 to investigate cases like this and that Annie Hudson, its chair, will “work with leaders in Solihull to deliver a single, national, independent review of Arthur’s death to identify what we must learn from this terrible case”. He continued:
I look forward to the review’s suggestions in due course. In any complex system, it is important – imperative in my opinion – to investigate thoroughly in order to learn and improve the system.
My mantra is that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Because if we want to improve services, we need to share data …
According to the court, Arthur’s death was caused by the cruelty of his father. The world’s governments cannot legislate for the evil of others. We will not allow this to happen again. Because we must do more. I’d like to close my statement by appealing to all citizens of our country.
Zahawi said also that Arthur was being investigated by many agencies. He had asked Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, HM Inspectorate of Probation, HM Inspectorate of Fire & Rescue services, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue services and Ofsted to conduct a joint targeted area inspection. This would examine how they collaborate in the Solihull region.
3. 42am AEDT03: 42
Government announces PS780m funding for drug treatment
At the weekend the governmen briefed the punitive aspects of the 10-year drugs strategy. Boris Johnson gave an interview to the Sun on Sunday, which led to a story about how he was planning to unleash “an all-out war on drugs”, and it was announced that class A drug users could lose their passports or driving licences under the proposals.
But the Department for Health and Social Care and the Home Office have now published a joint news release about the strategy and it implies that drug treament is getting more priority than the crackdown on drugs gangs, at least if spending is used as a yardstick.
It says PS300m is being spent on action against criminal gangs, but that PS780m is being invested in drug treatment. These amounts are part of a total PS3bn spent on drug enforcement and treatment in the next three-years.
The government claims that the money will be used to fund a variety of measures, including better drug treatment in general, more drug treatment services for offenders, and more housing support for those who are at risk of becoming homeless. Also, it will help with employment support for individuals suffering from a drug addiction.
It also states that the role of justice and healh partnership coordinators will continue to be expanded. It states:
The role of dedicated justice and health partnership coordinators who act as liaison between prisons and probation will be expanded to include all regions in England and Wales. This will allow for better coordination between prisons and communities and ensure that offenders receive consistent treatment plans. This will help them stay on track and end the cycle of reoffending.
A pilot program will test a new way for courts to deal with drug-abusers with a history. They will be regularly seen by the same judge who can order mandatory drug testing and other sanctions. Regular testing can only be done on offenders who have agreed to participate in treatment programs.
The announcement has been welcomed by Dame Carol Black, who led the independent review of drugs policy. (See 3.18pm. In a statement in the government’s press release, she stated that she was pleased by this “very significant investment” in drug treatment and recovery services.
3. 11am AEDT03: 11
Reform UK has announced a defection to it ahead of the North Shropshire byelection on Thursday week. It says Mark Whittle, a town councillor in Market Drayton and a member of the local Conservative association’s executive, has joined the party. Whittle stated that he is changing because Neil Shastri–Hurst, the Tory candidate for byelections, is too far away.
Reform UK, the new name for what was the Brexit party, has made very little impact since the 2019 general election. The Tories can’t ignore it. It is trying outflank the party’s libertarian right party, and it won 6.6% of the vote at the Old Bexley and Sidcup byelections last week.
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