Covid news – live: Pharmacies ‘asked for tests every five minutes’ amid shortage as Sturgeon to give update

New Covid restrictions come into force in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Health experts have called for the self-isolation period to be cut to five days amid increasing staff shortages in the NHS.

Last week the government reduced the period from ten to seven days, but some are calling for ministers to go further.

They want to copy the US, which has cut the isolation period to five days, for the sake of the health service and the economy.

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said yesterday that chief executives within the health service think that staff isolating will be a bigger pressure on the NHS than people who need treatment for coronavirus.

Their warnings come as the Omicron variant continue to spread at a rapid speed across the globe, leading to a record-breaking surge in Covid-19 cases across Europe and the United States.

Britain recorded at least 129,471 Covid cases on Tuesday, while France reported 179,807 cases, the highest since the onset of the pandemic.

The US reported more than 440,000 news infections on Monday, according to the US Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).

“The overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron remains very high,” the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update.


Nicola Sturgeon set to give a Covid rules update today

The First Minister of Scotland is due to give an update on Covid restrictions today.

Nicola Sturgeon will speak between 2pm and 2:30pm in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

It remains unclear whether she will introduce further Covid measures.

11,030 coronavirus cases were recorded on Boxing Day, and 10,562 cases the day after.

My colleague Katherine Hay has more details about the scheduled update:

Holly Bancroft29 December 2021 09:58

Lateral flow tests could be less accurate against Omicron, US health chiefs say

Rapid lateral flow tests could be more likely to deliver a false negative result when testing for the Omicron variant, the US Food and Drug Administration has said.

In a statement the FDA said that it was working with the National Institutes of Health to study the performance of home tests.

“Early data suggests that antigen tests do detect the Omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity”, the FDA said.

This contrasts with research done by UK health body the UKHSA that found that lateral flow tests are as effective at detecting the Omicron strain of the virus as they are the Delta.

Read about the effectiveness of lateral flow tests against Omicron here:

Holly Bancroft29 December 2021 09:31

Government PCR tests run low

PCR tests are running low across all regions in England and Northern Ireland, according to the government supply website.

On Wednesday morning, dozens of people were taking to social media to complain about the lack of PCR tests available for home delivery.

The website that shows the availability of the tests was showing “not available” next to every region in England.

<p>This was the availability of PCR tests in England at 9am on Wednesday morning </p>

This was the availability of PCR tests in England at 9am on Wednesday morning

Holly Bancroft29 December 2021 09:01

UK pharmacies warn of low supplies of lateral flow tests

Pharmacies are struggling to supply the demand for lateral flow tests with many customers having to walk away empty-handed.

The chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies told Radio 4’s Today programme that people were turning up to pharmacies for lateral flow test “every five minutes”.

Leyla Hannbeck said: “What our members are telling us is that demand for the lateral flow tests is very high at the moment due to the current guidelines around self-isolation.

“Pharmacies are reporting that every five minutes, approximately, somebody comes into the pharmacy asking for a test.

“But, unfortunately, because of the issues around supply being patchy and inconsistent, it means that those who come for the test don’t always get it, which is very stressful not just for the pharmacy team but for the patient.

“The scale of the problem is huge because the demand is high, because of the current guidelines.

“We are in the Christmas area of time, and the New Year is just around the corner and people want to be with family and friends.”

There have also been reports that London health workers have been unable to get PCR tests because of a lack of priority.

Holly Bancroft29 December 2021 08:45

US reports highest daily rise in new Covid cases since pandemic began

More than 440,000 new infections were recording in the United States on Monday, according to the US Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC).

However, a CDC spokesperson told Politico website that the figure was probably an “overestimate” due to reporting delays over Christmas.

CDC officials have revised down the prevalence of Omicron in the US, saying it accounts for 59 percent of cases rather than 73 percent as previously reported.

Holly Bancroft29 December 2021 08:19

Calls for self-isolation period to be cut to five days

Scientists and MPs have called on the government to cut the self-isolation period to five days.

Up to 800,000 people are estimated to be in isolation and businesses and the health service are struggling to operate as normal while thousands are off sick.

Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said that Covid would become “effectively just another cause of the common cold”. He told the BBC: “We’re going to have to let people who positive go about their normal lives as they would do with any other cold.

“I think the whole issue of how long are we going to be able to allow people to self-isolate if they’re positive is going to have to be discussed fairly soon, because I think this is a disease that’s not going away.”

Professor Tim Spector, who runs the Zoe Covid symptom study, has said that cutting the isolation period to five days would “protect the economy”.

Kate Nicholls, from trade body UK Hospitality, said the government should copy America – who announced they would cut isolation time to five days on Monday – to “keep the economy moving”.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said he would back a reduction in isolation period for people who were testing negative.

Theresa Villiers MP said: “The government should look seriously at reducing mandatory isolation periods.”

Holly Bancroft29 December 2021 08:07

Covid closes Hugh Jackman Broadway show

A day after actor Hugh Jackman revealed that he had contacted Covid-19, performances of his Broadway show The Music Man were cancelled until the new year.

On Tuesday, the X-Men actor posted a short video of him wearing a mask, explaining that he had tested positive for Covid earlier in the day.

He said his symptoms were mild and that he was feeling fine.

Maanya Sachdeva reports.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar29 December 2021 07:02

People reinfected with Omicron variant had fewer symptoms, study finds

People who had contracted Covid-19 and had later been reinfected with the Omicron variant are likely to experience fewer symptoms, according to a small study from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study published on Tuesday looked at six people from a single household positive with Omicron. Five out of the six people were previously infected with other strains of the novel coronavirus, which causes the Covid disease.

The five reinfected members of the house said their symptoms with Omicron were similar or milder compared to their first infection

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar29 December 2021 06:51

Omicron still poses ‘very high’ risk, says WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday said the Omicron variant still poses a “very high risk” as cases continue to mount across the globe.

In its weekly epidemiological update, the UN’s health agency said: “The overall risk related to the new variant of concern Omicron remains very high”.

“Consistent evidence shows that the Omicron variant has a growth advantage over the Delta variant with a doubling time of two to three days and rapid increases in the incidence of cases is seen in a number of countries,” it added.

According to the WHO, early data from Britain, South Africa and Denmark suggested there was a “reduced risk of hospitalisation” for Omicron compared to the Delta variant.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar29 December 2021 05:34

China pushes more citizens into lockdown

Ahead of the Winter Olympics scheduled to be held in Beijing, the Chinese government has pushed millions more into lockdown as Covid cases flare up.

On Tuesday, the Asian giant imposed stay-at-home orders in many parts of the Yan’an city in the Shaanxi province.

Thousands of Yan’an residents joined the 13 million people of the city of Xi’an, that completed a week of strict lockdown on Wednesday.

According to an AFP report, Xi’an’s residents said that they were starving because of the inability to procure groceries.

“I’m about to be starved to death. There’s no food, my housing compound won’t let me out, and I’m about to run out of instant noodles… please help,” wrote one Xi’an resident on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar29 December 2021 04:55

Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.