Covid latest news LIVE: Boris says pre-departure test rule scrapped from 4am on Friday

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    oris Johnson has given a statement in the Commons on the situation in the UK regarding the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

    In it he announced pre-departure tests would be scrapped from 4am on Friday for travellers heading to the UK.

    The requirement to self-isolate on arrival until receipt of a negative PCR test will also be scrapped, he told the House of Commons.

    Mr Johnson confirmed that the Government would stick with Plan B measures for another three weeks.

    It comes as the PM and Angela Rayner clashed at PMQs. Mr Johnson was grilled on the cost of living crisis as Ms Rayner deputised for Sir Keir Starmer, who has tested positive for Covid-19.

    Earlier it emerged an estimated 3.7 million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending December 31.

    The latest Office for National Statistics figures show an estimated one in 15 in England had the virus last week – and one in 10 in London.

    Follow the live updates below.

    Live updates

    1641409067

    Travel industry welcomes removal of pre-departure tests

    Julia Simpson, president of the World Travel & Tourism Council, welcomed the government’s decision to remove pre-departure tests for travellers.

    She said: “The removal of pre-departure tests and replacing Day 2 PCRs with more affordable antigen testing will significantly boost the UK travel and tourism sector and help both it and the whole UK economy recover much faster than expected.

    “The testing measures being removed never actually stopped infections coming in and were a blunt policy which only damaged the travel and tourism sector.”

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    MPs to get vote on extending Plan B – No10

    Downing Street has said MPs would get a vote on extending Plan B measures ahead of their expiry on January 26 if the Government deems restrictions need to continue past then.

    The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We would ensure that any measures, should there be any requirement to extend them, that Parliament would have its say in the normal way.”

    Pressed if that is a vote in advance, he said: “Yes we will, on any regulations, you could expect, should it be required.”

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    Education Secretary: Face coverings in schools ‘help reduce transmission’

    Children having to wear face coverings in school will “help reduce transmission at a time when rates of infection are high”, the Education Secretary has said.

    Nadhim Zahawi explained why the Government had mandated that all children in Year Seven and above in school should wear a mask during lessons, saying: “I know this is something that people feel very strongly about and some people have said that we are wrong to do it. As I have always, and I am going to do this again now, follow the data.”

    Facing wails of objection from Conservative backbencher Sir Desmond Swayne, Mr Zahawi continued: “The UKHSA have said this will help reduce transmission at a time when rates of infection are so high with the Omicron variant.

    “My department has also looked at some observational data from a sample of 123 schools where face coverings had been in use in the autumn term and found that there was a greater reduction in Covid absence compared to those where students didn’t wear face coverings.”

    Describing the situation as “not ideal” and possibly “distracting for children”, the Education Secretary added he had commissioned his department to research the impact of wearing masks on children.

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    Johnson has regular Covid 19 test – No10

    Boris Johnson is undergoing “fairly regular testing” for coronavirus, No 10 said.

    The Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked how often the PM was being tested for Covid, and said: “He does receive fairly regular testing, particularly depending on where he’s going.”

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    British Chambers of Commerce: Scrapping pre-departure Covid tests ‘a welcome boost’

    The British Chambers of Commerce said travel companies would be helped by the decision to scrap pre-departure Covid tests for travellers to England.

    Co-executive director Hannah Essex, said: “The easing of testing requirements for travel should provide a welcome boost to a sector that has been among the hardest hit throughout the pandemic.

    “But urgent action is needed to address issues with the supply of lateral flow tests to make sure the workforce is not isolating unnecessarily. Too many businesses are telling us that their staff cannot get access.

    “We have been told of absence rates of more than 25 per cent at some firms this week, which is having a huge impact on their operations.

    “Many are worried this is going to critically impact on supply chains and put pressure on cash flow at a time when economic conditions were already difficult.

    “This lack of testing capacity is also adversely affecting the confidence of consumers who want to be assured that they are Covid-free before they go out and meet friends in hospitality and leisure premises.

    “The Government must do all it can to address issues around isolation and fully assess the scientific data to make sure it is kept to a safe minimum without adversely affecting infection rates.”

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    Grant Shapps announces removal of Covid border restrictions

    The Transport Secretary has tweeted about the removal of measures at the UK border that were introduced in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant last year.

    Grant Shapps wrote: “We’re removing the temporary extra testing measures we introduced last year at the border to slow cases of Omicron coming to the UK. Now Omicron is the dominant variant & is widespread in the UK, these measures are no longer proportionate.”

    He continued in a thread of tweets: “Fully vaxxed passengers & under 18s will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before returning to England if arriving after 4am Fri 7 Jan. Fully vaxxed passengers & under 18s will no longer need to self-isolate whilst waiting for post-arrival results if arriving after 4am Friday 7 Jan.

    “After arrival in England, all fully vaxxed people & under 18s will now only need to take a lateral flow test (instead of a PCR test) if they arrive after 4am Sunday 9 Jan. Free NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel, to protect NHS capacity.

    “If your post-arrival lateral flow test comes out positive, you must self-isolate & take a free NHS PCR test to confirm the result.”

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    There are more than 17,000 in hospital with Covid – figures show

    A total of 17,276 people were in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 as of January 4, Government figures show.

    This is up 58 per cent week-on-week and is the highest number since February 19.

    During the second wave of coronavirus, the number peaked at 39,254 on January 18 2021.

    There were 2,258 Covid-19 hospital admissions on December 28, the latest UK-wide figure available, up 83 per cent week on week at the highest number since February 3.

    Admissions during the second wave peaked at 4,583 on January 12 2021.

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    Can we rule out lockdowns in the future? Asks former PM

    Former Prime Minister has asked what Boris Johnson’s approach will be new variants are identified in the future.

    He responded: “We simply cannot go on as a country and as a society by reaching endlessly for lockdown which is their instinct, no matter what the cost.

    “We have to remain cautious, and of course I cannot tell the House that we can rule out absolutely everything to protect the public, but I am confident… that we can get through this wave of Omicron with the measures, with the balance and propionate approach we are taking.”

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    Breaking: More than 190,000 positive infections recorded in the UK on Wednesday

    Official data shows 194,747 Covid cases have been recorded in the latest 24-hour period.

    There were a further 334 deaths within 28 days of a positive test – but these figures may reflect the data catching up after the festive period.

    Vaccination data was not updated due to a delay in reporting England’s figures.

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    Re-cap of the new measures introduced by PM

    Passengers travelling to England will no longer be required to take a pre-departure Covid test from 4am Friday, Boris Johnson has announced.

    The requirement to self-isolate on arrival until receipt of a negative PCR test will also be scrapped, he told the House of Commons.

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