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Live Reporting

Edited by Emma Harrison

All times stated are UK

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  1. That's all from us

    We're pausing our live coverage of the pandemic now, thanks for joining us. We'll be back tomorrow morning. Here's a reminder of the day's top Covid stories:

    • All over-18s in the UK will be offered a booster vaccine as part of the government's efforts to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant
    • The gap between second doses and boosters is also being reduced from six to three months
    • But speaking at a news conference, the UK's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam has insisted that it is ''not all doom and gloom'' surrounding the Omicron variant.
    • Eleven cases of the Omicron variant have now been detected in the UK. Two new cases have been recorded in London and six in Scotland
    • The WHO warns that the Omicron variant poses a high risk of infection surges around the globe, and could lead to severe consequences in some regions
    • In the US, President Joe Biden has said the new strain "is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic", and that he does not foresee new lockdowns or travel restrictions
    • UN chief Antonio Guterres says he is "deeply concerned" about travel restrictions being imposed on southern African countries in response to the new variant.
    • South Africa's health minister has said there is "absolutely no need to panic" over the spread of Omicron
    JCVI press conference in Downing Street
  2. White House: No changes yet to Christmas travel

    White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a daily news briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on November 29, 2021 in Washington, DC

    Speaking now at the White House, Press Secretary Jen Psaki is asked if Americans planning for holiday travel next month should reschedule their shots.

    "Nothing has changed on our guidance at this point and time," Psaki said, adding that travellers should simply "ensure they're vaccinated, ensure they get the booster if they're not yet boosted" and take all other precautions recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    But she did not rule out changes in the future as a result of Omicron, saying new information on the variant had to be "assessed".

    The White House has said it'll have a better understanding of the new variant in two weeks - right in the middle of the Christmas season.

  3. Which UK children are being vaccinated and why?

    Children aged 12 to 15 in the UK are to be offered a second dose of a Covid vaccine, following updated guidance from vaccine experts.

    But which children are being offered jabs and why?

    The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said that 12 to 15-year-olds should be offered a second jab at least 12 weeks after their first.

    Children aged 16 and 17 are already being offered a second dose. There is no vaccine currently approved for under-12s in the UK.

    England and Scotland have already said they will act on the JCVI's advice, and it is likely to be accepted in Wales and Northern Ireland.

    If you'd like to read more about the full detail of Covid vaccines for kids, click here.

    Teenage girl being given vaccine by a nurse
  4. Miss Universe contestant tests positive for Covid in Israel

    Reigning Miss Universe Andrea Meza of Mexico visits the Holy Sites in Jerusalem's Old City
    Image caption: Reigning Miss Universe Andrea Meza of Mexico visits the Holy Sites in Jerusalem's Old City

    Organisers of the Miss Universe pageant have confirmed a contestant in Israel has tested positive for Covid-19.

    Israel recently banned foreign nationals from entering the country for 14 days in a bid to halt the rapid spread of the new Omicron strain.

    But the beauty pageant in the southern city of Eilat will still go ahead in December. The Miss Universe Organization has said that most contestants have already arrived in the country.

    The organisers did not identify the contestant or her nationality. It is not known whether she has tested positive for the Omicron variant.

    She tested positive upon arrival and was taken to a isolation facility run by the government, the organisation said.

    It added that she is fully vaccinated and was tested before leaving for Israel.

  5. WATCH: Biden urges calm, and booster shots

    Video content

    Video caption: Biden: Omicron a 'cause for concern, not panic'

    Just a couple of hours ago, US President Joe Biden provided an update on the Omicron variant.

    He urged Americans to remain calm, insisting Omicron "is a cause for concern, not for panic".

    But he used the news conference to urge Americans to seek booster shots for coronavirus vaccines. The booster has been approved for all American adults who received their second shot at least six months ago.

  6. Nearly 700 jabs delivered by torchlight after storm powercut

    Vaccines being delivered via torchlight

    A Covid jab team managed to deliver nearly 700 booster vaccinations by torchlight after being plagued by a day-long power cut caused by Storm Arwen.

    Volunteers in Easingwold in North Yorkshire said the 670 jabs were administered by the light of their phone torches over the course of eight hours on Saturday, after carrying on as if "nothing happened" when the power blew, the local vaccine programme lead Lorraine Boyd told the BBC.

    A generator was used to power the fridge at the Galtres Centre maintaining the right temperature to store the Pfizer vaccines, as they can all be rendered useless within 20 to 30 minutes if they're not kept cold enough.

    The team have said they hoped the snow in the area would shift before their next clinic on Sunday.

    Millfield Surgery, a local GP practice, thanked people for coming despite the bad weather and said the team had "pulled out all the stops" to keep the roll-out of boosters going.

    To read more about this remarkable torchlit vaccination effort, click here

    Quote Message: We already had people sat at the vaccination stations when the power went, immediately people fished their phones out of their pockets, switched the torches on and carried on as if nothing had happened from Lorraine Boyd Galtres Centre vaccination hub clinical lead
    Lorraine BoydGaltres Centre vaccination hub clinical lead
  7. We shouldn't need another wake-up call - WHO

    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

    The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier said the emergence of the Omicron variant shows the world is still confronting the most acute health crisis in a century.

    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed no region or country would be safe until everybody was - and he criticised the way the poorest nations still weren't getting enough vaccines for health workers, while rich nations were providing booster jabs to younger people.

    Dr Tedros also said travel restrictions from southern Africa may not help the flow of information about new variants in the future: "South Africa and Botswana should be thanked for detecting, sequencing, and reporting this variant, not penalised.

    "Indeed, Omicron demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics: our current system disincentivises countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores.

    "We don't yet know whether Omicron is associated with more transmission, more severe disease, more risk of reinfections, or more risk of evading vaccines. Scientists at WHO and around the world are working urgently to answer these questions. We shouldn't need another wake-up call."

  8. Quarantine hotel escapees 'could not be made to stay'

    the Ramada hotel near Amsterdam's Schipol airport
    Image caption: The couple escaped from the Ramada hotel near Amsterdam's Schipol airport

    More details are emerging about a couple who escaped from a Covid quarantine hotel.

    The pair, who were supposed to be isolating at the hotel close to Amsterdam's Schipol airport, had managed to board a flight that was about to take off when police managed to detain them.

    But the area's local mayor has told local media the couple were in the hotel voluntarily and could not be made to stay there.

    "Security guards advised the couple not to leave but there was no legal grounds to hold them," Mayor Marianne Schuurmans is quoted as saying.

    The mayor's spokesman has told AFP news agency the two are now in isolation, adding that their antics were "not really wise".

    "The ministry of justice is investigating whether what they did is a crime or not," the spokesman said. "We were hoping for people to be sensible."

  9. WATCH: Covid news 'not all doom and gloom' - Van-Tam

    Video content

    Video caption: Covid: Omicron variant 'not all doom and gloom'

    With all apologies to the excellent Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, Britain's favourite football-fan-turned-scientist made sure to emphasise earlier today that the news of the Omicron variant is "not all doom and gloom".

    Speaking at the press conference on the expansion of the booster vaccine programme, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam urged people not to panic over the strain's emergence and said experts would know more over the coming weeks.

    The ardent Boston United fan also employed one of his favoured football metaphors when he described the new strain as a "yellow card to key players" in the UK's pandemic response, but argued we are still "well in the game".

  10. Covid-19 testing under way in Brentwood

    Brentwood mobile testing

    In a quiet car park behind a leisure centre in Brentwood, Essex, potential contacts of one of the first UK cases of the Omicron variant are being screened for Covid-19.

    Around half a dozen people are turning up for PCR tests every hour. Officials at the site, which was already being used as a mobile testing unit, said that was fewer than usual.

    Most of those the BBC has spoken to had been to Brentwood’s Trinity Church, one of two locations that Essex Council had declared were sites of possible transmission, along with a popular chicken shop on the high street.

    Others, including families, came as a precaution and said they were concerned about the confirmed link to a local primary school.

    One couple told the BBC they were worried about the emergence of Omicron affecting their festive plans: “There’s a new variant. It’s right on our doorstep. We’re desperately trying to have a decent Christmas.”

  11. UN chief says he's 'deeply concerned' by Africa travel bans

    Antonio Guterres

    The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says he is "deeply concerned" by travel restrictions being imposed on southern African countries to halt the spread of the Omicron variant.

    Guterres says he's worried about the "isolation" of southern African countries as a result of the restrictions. The UK, US and EU members are among countries that have imposed curbs on travel to the region.

    "The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa - and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world," he says.

    South Africa's president says he is is "deeply disappointed" by the travel curbs, while Malawi's president has accused western countries of "Afrophobia".

  12. UK booster expansion to get ahead of possible Omicron wave

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent

    The aim of the announcement that the UK will expand its booster vaccine rollout to all adults is to get ahead of a potential wave driven by the new variant Omicron.

    If that happens – and it is an if at this stage because so much is unknown about the new variant – giving more people a booster jab will certainly help.

    While Omicron may make the vaccines less effective, the booster dose has been shown to significantly increase the immune response, which will help counter any advantages this variant may have.

    But that will only happen if the vaccine is in people’s arms. The NHS is doing around 2.5 million boosters a week on average at the moment.

    At that rate it will take three months to vaccinate all those eligible.

    Increasing that will not be easy. Around 50 mass vaccination have closed since the spring. Many GPs have also stepped back to concentrate on flu jabs and their day-to-day work.

    It means the solution is likely to lie in extending the opening hours of current vaccination clinics late into the evenings and brining in extra staff and volunteers to help.

  13. How are we detecting Omicron cases?

    As you are almost certainly aware by this point, the UK has recorded several cases of the Omicron variant, but how are scientists finding this new strain of Covid-19?

    Health reporter Phillippa Roxby has been looking into the tests for Omicron and has written a helpful explainer all about what we know so far.

    The key takeaways for you to absorb are:

    • Swabs from PCR tests are sent to laboratories so the genetic code of the virus can be examined by scientists, confirming which strain of the virus is present
    • Omicron contains a specific mutation detectable in normal tests, known as the "S-gene dropout"
    • This mutation is not present in the currently dominant Delta strain, indicating a person is likely to have the new strain, but cannot be confirmed until full genetic analysis is done
    • It is likely there are many more cases of the variant already in the UK as yet undetected, because it can take several weeks for the analysis to take place
    • Rapid lateral flow tests taken at home cannot tell you which strain of the virus you have, but it is currently thought will still return a positive result for anyone who does have Omicron

    If you'd like to read Philippa's full piece click here.

    Picture explaining the process used to identify Omicron cases
  14. Biden: 'Go get the booster shot today'

    More from the US president.

    "Most Americans are fully vaccinated but not yet boosted," he says.

    "If you're over 18 years or over, and got fully vaccinated before June 1, go get the booster shot today."

    He also calls for continued masking and for parents to vaccinate their children until more is known about the new variant.

    The president promises to put Americans first but reasserts that "we can't let up until the world is vaccinated". The US has donated 275 million vaccine doses to 110 countries, he says.

    Biden also notes his administration is in touch with officials at Pfizer and Moderna "to develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters if needed".

    The White House will put out a detailed strategy for the winter months on Thursday, he adds.

    "If you and your family are fully vaccinated, you can celebrate the holidays much more safely," he says.

    "And given where we were last year, that's a blessing. None of us should take it for granted."

  15. US President: 'A cause for concern, not a cause for panic'

    Joe Biden

    US President Joe Biden is now speaking at the White House and providing an update on the Omicron variant.

    "This variant is a cause for concern, not for panic," he says.

    He touts vaccines, medications and "more tools [available] to fight the variant than we've ever had before".

    Biden notes: "To their credit, the scientific community in South Africa quickly notified the world of the emergence of this new variant.

    "This kind of transparency is to be encouraged and applauded because it increases our ability to respond quickly to any new threats."

    The president says "immediate steps" taken to restrict travel "gives us time" to understand the variant better and "take the right protective measures".

  16. Spain detects its first Omicron case

    Spain says it has detected its first case of the Omicron variant in a man who had recently arrived from South Africa.

    The 51-year-old was tested after his flight landed at Madrid airport on Sunday after a stopover in Amsterdam.

    The man has "light symptoms" and is now in quarantine, Madrid authorities say.

  17. What's the latest?

    Here's a round-up of the latest developments if you're just joining us:

    • All over-18s in the UK will be offered a booster vaccine as part of the government's efforts to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant
    • The gap between second doses and boosters is also being reduced from six to three months
    • Eleven cases of the Omicron variant have now been detected in the UK. Two new cases have been recorded in London and six in Scotland
    • The Scottish and Welsh first ministers have urged Boris Johnson to tighten travel restrictions further, by making everyone in the UK isolate for eight days. Downing Street has rejected the call
    • The UN chief says he is "deeply concerned" about travel restrictions being imposed on southern African countries in response to the new variant
    • South Africa' s health minister says there is "absolutely no need to panic" about the new variant
    • US President Joe Biden is due to give an update about Omicron shortly
  18. US President set to provide an update on Omicron

    US President Joe Biden is due give an update on the Omicron variant shortly.

    The White House said its Covid-19 response team met in a closed session with the president and vice-president earlier today to discuss the latest developments in the pandemic.

    No cases of the new variant have yet been detected in the US, but the Biden administration has placed travel restrictions on some southern African countries.

  19. Dr Fauci: It's not the time to panic

    Dr Anthony Fauci
    Image caption: Dr Anthony Fauci

    Chief medical adviser to the US president, Dr Anthony Fauci, says it is too early to be "freaking out" about the Omicron coronavirus variant.

    "It's going to take a couple of weeks to get a good handle on it," he said, in an appearance on CBS Mornings.

    "When you look at it clinically, it appears to be spreading very readily and has a transmission advantage," he noted, adding it is still too early to know how the variant actually affects those who get infected.

    Dr Fauci also pointed out that, given the variant has not yet been detected in the US, "lockdown is not being considered right now".

    He called on Americans to get vaccinated or receive their booster shots in the mean time, and expressed hope that travel bans on southern African countries could buy the rest of the world more time.

    "It's not the time to panic," he said.

    "We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work. Rather than freaking out, rather than panicking, just do the right thing."

  20. North America gets its first confirmed Omicron cases

    Ontario's chief medical officer of health Dr Kieran Moore
    Image caption: Ontario's chief medical officer of health Dr Kieran Moore

    Officials from the Canadian province of Ontario confirmed on Sunday evening that two new cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been detected there.

    The two men had recently travelled from Nigeria to Montreal, said Dr Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health.

    At a Monday news conference, he added the duo are in isolation.

    Canada was set to scrap its PCR test requirement for fully-vaccinated travellers on short trips tomorrow - 30 November - but Dr Moore said the rule would need to be revisited.

    All provinces are now able to test travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, he noted.

    Dr Moore also suggested that testing may be broadened by handing all returning travellers take-home PCR tests.

    He said that, while the country awaits more information on the severity of the virus variant and the efficacy of vaccines against it, Canadians should continue to vaccinate and follow basic safety measures.

    "Please keep up the great work that has gotten us to this point in the pandemic," he urged viewers.