Coronavirus latest as Boris Johnson “apologises unreservedly” for impression leaked video gives but insists there was no party last Christmas; cabinet secretary to launch investigation; announcement on Plan B restrictions could be imminent.
Fans wanting to see Adele live in Vegas will need to be double-vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19.
The British songstress sent the internet into a frenzy when she announced her residency at Caesars Palace, dubbed Weekends With Adele, would begin in January.
With tickets now on sale, fans have been met with a notice on the Ticketmaster website detailing the COVID-19 rules they would need to follow.
Downing Street would not confirm whether the people who appeared in the video of the mock press conference would face disciplinary action.
Asked by reporters whether those filmed would face sanctions, the prime minister’s press secretary said Cabinet Secretary Simon Case would “establish the facts”.
But when it was put to her that the facts of the video were clear, she added those carrying out the investigation would be “able to speak to any staff and access any information they need”.
Criticism has been abundant for the PM today after it was alleged a Christmas party took place inside Number 10 while London was under Tier 3 restrictions.
The latest to voice her discontent is Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader.
Austrian virologist Professor Florian Krammer has offered his take on the early data on Omicron, which suggests the Pfizer vaccine is less effective at protecting against infection.
He said it is a “drastic reduction… far more than with previous variants” and therefore his guess is that vaccine effectiveness against infection will be “strongly reduced” for people who are double jabbed or have recovered from infection.
However, he believes protection will remain higher for people who contracted COVID before getting vaccinated, or who have had a booster jab.
The better news is that he predicts protection against severe disease will remain “reasonably high” for people who have some immunity.
“Now having said all of this, I still think Omicron is highly problematic,” he said. “If it spreads widely – and the signs are that it will do that – we will likely see another wave.
“The wave may be less severe in terms of number of deaths because many people will have partial immunity.”
Still, he speculated that the variant will “significantly prolong the pandemic” and warned “we have to take it serious (sic)”.
Sir Roger Gale, who is MP for North Thanet in Kent, said Boris Johnson had been “blindsided by information he was given” regarding a Christmas party alleged to have taken place in Number 10 last year.
“It’s worrying, isn’t it, that the man at the top of the tree doesn’t appear to know what’s going on in his own building two floors below him – I find that of concern,” he told the BBC.
Sir Roger added: “I don’t find it particularly attractive that the prime minister doesn’t know what’s going on in No 10 Downing Street, or doesn’t ask the right questions of his senior staff to find out what’s been going on in Downing Street, if something wrong has been going on. That’s worrying in itself.”
But fellow Tory backbencher Sir Charles Walker said he did not think the PM could be expected to “patrol every corridor and room in Number 10”.
Ruth Davidson hits out at the PM following his appearance at PMQs.
The Portsmouth Conservative party retweeted Ms Davidson’s remarks on Twitter.
Asked if Keir Starmer thinks Boris Johnson should resign, a Labour spokesperson told reporters the Labour leader “thinks the prime minister should come clean with the public and apologise”.
Asked if Allegra Stratton should still be employed, the spokesperson said: ” It’s about PM and his leadership – he sets the culture.”
We’ve been speaking to another member of the public who lost a loved one to coronavirus.
Lobby Akinnola, whose 60-year-old father died in April last year, told Sky News that “it’s hard to put into words the feeling of betrayal and hurt” after it emerged a Christmas party may have taken place in Downing Street last year.
At the time, London was under Tier 3 restrictions – meaning different households should not socialise indoors.
Mr Akinnola described how he had told his family last year he would see them in two weeks – but then the first lockdown hit in March, and he was unable to see them. The following month, his father died.
“Because I stayed at my house and followed the rules, it meant I never saw my father alive again,” he said.
He now feels a “deep, deep sense of betrayal”, and called for there to be “accountability”.
“The prime minister needs to acknowledge the pain that’s been caused [and] give a genuine, heartfelt apology,” he added.
Another small twist in this Xmas parties story: the PM’s official spokesperson has declined to confirm or deny if Simon Case, the cabinet secretary who will undertake an investigation, was at the gatherings last winter.
Instead the spokesman said: “You’ve seen what the prime minister said in light of the video yesterday, which appeared to make light of lockdown measures.
“He’s asked for the cabinet secretary to look into the details of this and establish the facts.
“That will be an independent process carried out by cabinet office staff, under the leadership of the cabinet secretary.”
Asked about the remit of Mr Case’s review, the spokesman added: “He has been asked to establish the facts on any events on 18 (December) and that’s what he will start work on.”
Pressed on how long the probe is likely to take, he added: “It is obviously right for them to dictate the timescale. I don’t have a set period but obviously we want it to be as soon as possible.”
The spokesman also said Allegra Stratton – the spokeswoman seen laughing in a mock news briefing about the party – had not been suspended and the PM had full confidence in her.
There have been allegations of three separate parties or gatherings in Downing Street – two exposed by the Daily Mirror, including the one on 18 December while London was in strict Tier 3 restrictions.
Another claim was made by the PM’s former aide Dominic Cummings earlier today – with a party allegedly taking place in the Downing Street flat on 13 November.