Coronavirus latest as Wales to introduce new coronavirus restrictions; Tory chairman defends PM’s May 2020 meeting as ‘appropriate’; restrictions to remain the same before Christmas due to ‘key’ booster rollout.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said a spike in cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant is “scary”.
It comes as the country’s top medical official said the healthcare system could soon be swamped as case numbers continue to rise.
“I know the record numbers we’re seeing in parts of the country are scary – but I also know we can get through this,” Mr Trudeau tweeted, urging Canadians to get vaccinated and keep their distance from other people.
From next month, France will reduce the time between second and third COVID-19 vaccine injections from five months to four, amid concern about the spread of the Omicron variant.
People will also be required to show proof of vaccination to enter some venues, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday.
Mr Castex said that big public parties and fireworks would be banned on New Year’s Eve and recommended that people – even if vaccinated – test themselves before attending year-end parties.
To persuade people to get vaccinated, the government will present a bill early next year to change the French health pass to a vaccination pass – which means people will need the jab to enter restaurants or use some public transports. Under the current rules, a negative test can serve as a health pass.
“We cannot allow that the refusal of a few French people to get vaccinated affect the life of the entire country,” Mr Castex said in his televised speech.
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There were empty shelves in parts of New York City ahead of the Christmas period on Friday, while people queued for rapid tests in the face of the Omicron variant.
The country confirmed it had detected three cases of the coronavirus variant in a statement on Friday.
“Two cases are not showing any symptoms, while the third suffers mild symptoms,” Egypt’s Health Ministry said.
More from Angela Rayner, who said the number of alleged parties that were reportedly held in lockdown now looked “endemic”.
Labour’s deputy leader said: “At the moment, people are saying ‘which department didn’t have a party?'”
She added: “It’s incredibly disappointing because we all know what was happening when these parties were going on, people couldn’t see their loved ones who were dying, and were making incredible sacrifices.
“So I do think that the investigation has to get to the bottom, but I think that the evidence already is showing that Boris Johnson has set a tone for this government and has allowed this to happen under his watch.
“And I think it’s incredibly disappointing when we see day after day, newsline after newsline, saying that people in senior positions, who make the law were breaking the law and breaking the rules, and people are rightly upset and angry about that.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has said it is “incredibly hard to believe that no one in government knew that these parties were happening”.
Speaking to broadcasters following Simon Case recusing himself from the investigation into Whitehall parties during coronavirus restrictions, Ms Rayner said: “I do believe that the investigation that Sue Gray is going to be leading up, there’s the evidence there, they need to carry that investigation out very swiftly to restore the public trust and then hand over that evidence to the police because nobody’s above the law.”
Ms Rayner said she was “incredibly disappointed” in Mr Case.
She said: “I wrote to him and obviously had asked for this investigation and the fact that he didn’t come right away and say ‘actually, I can’t do that investigation because of the implications of my actions’ I find disappointing.”
The Labour deputy said public trust had taken a “very big dent” and it was up to Sue Gray – who was appointed to replace Mr Case – to restore that.
She added: “This is now a question of whether or not this government can act in a way that restores public trust, and I think that’s took a very big dent, we saw that with the (North Shropshire) by-election results.
“And I do think now that Boris Johnson has completely undermined his position.”
A raft of new coronavirus measures were confirmed for Ireland earlier tonight, including an 8pm curfew for bars and restaurants.
The restrictions, which also limit numbers for indoor and outdoor gatherings, will come into effect on Sunday and last until 30 January.
It has now been confirmed that the Irish government will announce financial support for companies impacted by the rules on Monday.
“Government will help and we will stand by you,” deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar told a news conference.
He warned that between 50,000 and 70,000 people could lose their jobs due to the latest round of restrictions, which are aimed at curbing the spread of the Omicron variant.
By Tom Clarke, science and technology editor
The popular musical had already cancelled several performances throughout this week due to coronavirus-related absences.
It has now been confirmed that three shows scheduled to take place at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London this weekend will not go ahead.
A statement added: “We will provide further information on scheduled performances from Tuesday 21 December as soon as possible.”