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Live Reporting

Edited by Emma Owen and Claire Heald

All times stated are UK

  1. Thanks for joining us

    We're drawing coverage of today's busy coronavirus news to a close. But do join us again tomorrow.

    Updates were brought to you by Joseph Lee, Becky Morton, Doug Faulkner, Richard Morris, Jennifer Scott, Nathan Williams, Sophie Williams, Dulcie Lee, Alex Kleiderman, Joshua Cheetham and Mal Siret.

    And the page was edited by Emma Owen, Claire Heald and Kevin Ponniah.

  2. What's been happening today?

    Allegra Stratton announces her resignation

    It's been an eventful and fast-moving day of developments in the coronavirus pandemic.

    Here's a round-up of the main stories:

  3. More research needed on Omicron impact - WHO

    Imogen Foulkes

    BBC News, Geneva

    WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

    At its weekly Covid 19 briefing, today the World Health Organization (WHO) said there was some initial evidence that the Omicron variant was more infectious, that vaccines could be somewhat less effective against it, but that its health effects might be less severe.

    But officials stressed that more research is needed, and warned again that countries must act now to prepare for another pandemic wave.

    A priority must be vaccinating the unvaccinated, and reliable public health measures such as mask wearing, testing, and social distancing.

    The head of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told governments waiting to act until hospitals started to fill up would be too late.

    WHO officials also said booster vaccines should not be a priority - saying all the evidence shows existing vaccines provide good protection against severe illness, hospitalisations, and death.

    Governments must instead make every effort to reach vaccine hesitant people, and ramp up mass vaccination in largely unvaccinated countries.

  4. Venues call out new Covid rules

    Audience members wearing face masks

    The new rule for some venues to introduce Covid certification is an "unfair double standard" the live music industry says.

    Pubs and bars will not have to ask for Covid passports "whilst live music venues get hit with certification", according to industry trade association Live.

    Covid health certificates will be required for people to enter English unseated indoor venues with more than 500 attendees.

    Meanwhile, The Theatres Trust said the rise of the Omicron variant and the new measures will "have a big impact on the willingness of people to travel and go to theatres over Christmas".

    The organisation's director Jon Morgan said: "This will have a knock-on effect on theatres’ viability at a vital time of year for the industry and Christmas shows that are just emerging from the significant loss of revenue in 2020 and early 2021."

  5. Tory backbenchers oppose Plan B

    Mark Harper
    Image caption: Mark Harper and other Tory backbenchers expressed opposition to Plan B

    Back to the announcement of Plan B restrictions for England - and there is an indication that some backbench Tory MPs will not support the government when it puts them to a vote.

    The Workington MP Mark Jenkinson says the rules are "divisive, discriminatory and are unlikely to stop spread".

    In a tweet, he adds the health secretary, who addressed MPs at the same time the prime minister made his announcement, "offered no evidence for further restrictions... just as businesses desperately need a good Christmas".

    Instead, vaccination was key in the response to the Omicron variant he said.

    East Devon MP Simon Jupp says Plan B will cost jobs in many sectors, including hospitality. While working from home won’t help social or economic recovery.

    And former chief whip Mark Harper suggests the "initial evidence on Omicron doesn't support these measures".

  6. A step back - but not to square one

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent

    Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty
    Image caption: Prof Chris Whitty says vaccines are a useful way to prevent serious infection

    Introducing more restrictions in England just before Christmas for the second year running is, of course, depressing.

    But this is vastly different from last year. Then, large parts of the country were put into what was effectively lockdown with tier four.

    A full national lockdown followed in the new year.

    This time, with these latest Plan B measures, society is being kept open - just with extra precautions being taken.

    As England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty said, we are in an immeasurably better position now.

    That is down to immunity built up by vaccination and previous infection.

    This variant can dodge some of those defences - but not all.

    A step back, but by no means a return to square one.

  7. 'It's so important to get the jab'

    Dominic Hughes

    Health correspondent, in Preston

    Angela Roberts
    Image caption: Angela Roberts got her booster jab this morning

    There's been lots going on today but one important thing to remind you of is that people aged 40 and over in England can now book their booster jab for three months after their second dose.

    Angela Roberts, who lives in Hutton, just outside Preston, was one of the first to get a booster at the vaccination hub in the town centre this morning.

    “Everybody needs to have it done, it’s important that you protect yourself," she said.

    Around 700 people will get a jab here today – although there have been days when 1,000 vaccines were delivered.

    Reflecting on the fact that it’s a year to the day since the first Covid vaccine jab was given to Margaret Keenan, Angela said lots had changed.

    “It is just amazing, we just need it carrying on and to get us all protected.”

  8. Passport plan 'devastating' say nightclubs

    Images of women having Covid passports checked

    As the government announces new "vaccine passport" requirements for night clubs, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has warned of a "devastating impact" on the sector.

    It's also questioned whether the move was an attempt to distract attention from a "damaging story about the Downing Street Christmas party".

    From 15 December, NHS Covid passes will become mandatory for indoor unseated venues holding more than 500 people, and outdoor venues with a capacity of more than 4,000.

    Two vaccine doses will be sufficient for the pass, but this will be kept under review.

    A negative lateral flow test will also be acceptable.

    Read more here.

  9. Where will I need a Covid vaccine pass and how do I get one?

    A woman shows her Covid pass to door staff

    People in England will soon need to show their Covid status to get into nightclubs and many other large venues.

    What are the new rules?

    In England, people will need to use their NHS Covid Pass to gain entry to:

    • Nightclubs
    • Indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people
    • Unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people
    • Any venue with more than 10,000 people

    People can also show proof of a negative result from a recent lateral flow test.

    Businesses have a week to introduce the measures.

    How do I get a Covid passport?

    You can get the pass if you're 18 or over, registered with a GP, and meet any one of the following:

    • it's been two weeks since your second vaccination (or single Jansen dose)
    • you've had a negative PCR or lateral flow test result in the past 48 hours, and reported it on the NHS website (the pass lasts for 48 hours after the result)
    • you've had a positive PCR test result in the past six months, and finished self-isolating (this pass lasts for 180 days)

    Get the full details across the UK here.

  10. Covid Germany's biggest challenge - new leader

    Olaf Scholz (L) and Angela Merkel
    Image caption: Olaf Scholz says goodbye to his predecessor Angela Merkel at the chancellery in Berlin

    The Covid crisis is the biggest challenge facing the country, Germany's new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, says.

    After formally taking power from Angela Merkel following her historic 16 years as leader, Scholz acknowledged that he had taken control of Europe's largest economy in the middle of an aggressive fourth wave of Covid infections.

    "We know that the transition that we are making here now is taking place in the middle of a large, ongoing crisis that calls for continuity and community and I think we will manage that," he said in Berlin.

    Scholz said, however, that it would only be possible to fight the virus if the public got vaccinated and received their booster shots as soon as possible.

    The soft-spoken 63-year-old also said that restrictions such as mask wearing and social distancing needed to be followed.

  11. France looks to fourth vaccine shot

    France's Secretary of State and Government's spokesperson Gabriel Attal
    Image caption: French government spokesman Gabriel Attal says Covid is spreading quickly in the country

    France's fifth wave of Covid infections has not yet peaked and so a fourth vaccine shot might be needed to help keep things under control, officials have warned.

    "It's still spreading quickly and will continue to do so in the coming weeks," government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

    Meanwhile, government adviser Jean-Francois Delfraissy said: "For now, there's a call for one booster shot. Will that be enough? I don't know. Maybe we'll need a fourth shot."

    Last week, French health authorities said the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was likely to become the most prevalent variant in the country by early next year.

    Health Minister Olivier Véran said France's fifth Covid wave was spreading fast and having a big impact on hospitals, with a patient admitted to intensive care on average every 10 minutes.

  12. France records highest Covid cases amid Europe surge

    People wearing face masks walk in front of a Christmas tree carousel in Nantes
    Image caption: France recorded more than 59,000 cases on Wednesday

    Away from events in the UK, France has recorded its highest daily Covid cases since November 2020.

    The country reported 59,019 Covid cases on Wednesday with 168 Covid deaths.

    Europe’s Covid rate has been rising rapidly in recent weeks and new restrictions have been imposed in a number of nations.

    Austria, which is back under lockdown, has announced mandatory vaccinations while Germany is also mulling making jabs compulsory.

    Belgium has tightened rules on face masks and Italy has introduced a "green pass" which is required at workplaces, venues and on public transport.

    Last month The World Health Organization said it was “very worried” about the spread of Covid-19 in Europe.

    Speaking to the BBC, regional director Dr Hans Kluge warned that 500,000 more deaths could be recorded by March unless urgent action is taken.

  13. Analysis

    PM emphasises his trust in the people - but is it mutual?

    Iain Watson

    Political correspondent

    Boris Johnson

    Armed with a hastily arranged inquiry and the resignation of his former spokesperson Allegra Stratton, the prime minister could demonstrate at his press conference that that he wasn't hiding from questions on the Downing Street party of last year.

    There were caveats to his "guidance was followed" mantra - such as "as far as I am aware" - and he was pushed to broaden the remit of the cabinet secretary's inquiry.

    But in replying to Laura Kuenssberg's question on trust, he emphasised his trust in the British people rather than fully addressing whether they could trust him.

    As many of the Plan B measures won't be introduced until next week, questions will inevitably be asked about whether the public health message would have landed with more impact had the press conference been held on a different day.

    His critics - and that includes some Conservatives - say he was indulging in a "dead cat" strategy to divert attention from whatever had been going on behind the black door of Downing Street.

    But it seemed at this press conference that the feline was still alive and prowling around the prime minister.

  14. Working from home a blow, say small firms

    David Abramovitch
    Image caption: Christmas trade is incredibly important, says restaurant owner David Abramovitch

    While some companies, such as delivery firms, thrived under England's working from home rules, others fear more uncertainty from the government's latest Plan B guidance.

    David Abramovitch, co-founder of Grind, says his chain of nine café restaurants in London were just starting to get back on their financial feet after the previous lockdown.

    It will be "painful" to go into "reverse gear again", he tells the BBC. "Already we've seen a big drop-off in Christmas party bookings since the Omicron variant emerged."

    Meanwhile Ruth, a dentist, says she feels like people have learned enough to keep working as they are.

    "With the vaccinations and the [personal protective equipment], we have to learn to live with these things. If you lock people down constantly, they're not going to behave themselves."

  15. BreakingMet Police will not probe No 10 party video

    Allegra Stratton
    Image caption: Allegra Stratton made a tearful statement earlier today after a video of her joking with colleagues emerged

    The Metropolitan Police will not launch an investigation into the video of No 10 staff joking about holding a Christmas party when London was under Tier 3 restrictions last year.

    They say the video "does not provide evidence of a breach" of health regulations and instead "restates allegations made in the media".

    In a statement, the force says it had received "a significant amount of correspondence" over the video, obtained by ITV.

    It adds that any evidence found as part of the Cabinet Office inquiry will be passed to the Met for further consideration.

    Read our full story here.

  16. Reality Check

    What were the rules on Christmas parties last year?

    Four people make a toast at a Christmas party

    The prime minister maintained at his press conference that: “To the best of my knowledge, we have followed the rules throughout.“

    He had been questioned about why the cabinet secretary had been asked to look into the Downing Street party on 18 December last year and the Department for Education party, but not a number of other parties that have been reported to have taken place.

    At the time, the government’s guidance specifically said that there should not be Christmas parties.

    London was in Tier 3 restrictions on 18 December 2020 and the law said that there should not be indoor gatherings - unless they were “reasonably necessary” for work.

    You can read more details about what the Covid rules were at the time here.

  17. Watch: Kuenssberg challenges PM on new rules

    Video content

    Video caption: Laura Kuenssberg challenges PM over new restrictions

    Amid fallout from the row over a Christmas party at Downing Street in 2020, the BBC's Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg asked Boris Johnson how he could tell people they must now follow new restrictions.

  18. At least 50% of Covid cases will soon be Omicron - report

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent

    Why all these changes announced today?

    A fresh analysis published by the UK Health Security Agency suggests the Omicron variant will be responsible for at least 50% of Covid cases within two to four weeks.

    The prediction is based on the number of cases judged to be suspected Omicron from testing data.

    That shows around 2% of daily cases are being caused by the new variant. If that is correct it would mean there are about 1,000 Omicron cases every 24 hours.

    What is more, the cases are thought to be doubling every two or three days.

    What is not yet known is whether Omicron will completely replace Delta, the variant that is currently dominant.

  19. What are the new Plan B rules for England?

    if you missed all that, the government has announced new Covid rules for England, in response to concern over the Omicron variant.

    Here's a sum-up of the latest rules and you can read more here in our guide.

    Graphic showing Plan B measures in England
  20. Watch: PM announces winter Plan B

    Video content

    Video caption: Omicron: Boris Johnson announces Plan B Covid rules for England

    In that press conference from Downing Street just now, Boris Johnson unveiled the "Plan B" Covid rules for England.

    This means that people should start working from home where necessary from Monday.

    Mask wearing is going to become a more common sight again, as indoor public venues such as cinemas and theatres will require masks from Friday.

    An NHS Covid pass, proving vaccination or a negative test, will be requires for nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather from a week's time.

    Daily testing will be a requirement for those who come into contact with a positive case of Covid.