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Covid omicron news: Johnson’s plan B approved despite biggest rebellion of premiership over passes – The Independent

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Boris Johnson’s ‘plan B’ measures for England have been approved by the Commons, despite the PM facing his biggest-ever rebellion since taking office.
The introduction of Covid passes for crowded venues was passed with 369 votes in favour and 126 against – a majority of 243. Some 96 Tory MPs are understood to have voted against the measure which means that, as of tomorrow, people will have to show proof of either at least two Covid vaccine doses or a negative test to enter venues with more than 500 people, such as nightclubs, stadiums, and theatres.
MPs also retrospectively approved the extension of mandatory face coverings for most indoor venues, by 441 to 41 votes. A change to self isolation rules – dropping the requirement to self-isolate and instead do daily Covid tests for fully vaccinated people who are contacts of a positive case – was passed without a vote.
It came after it was confirmed today that an additional 59,610 Covid cases were reported in the UK – the fifth highest daily total since the Covid pandemic began.
Welcome to The Independent’s live blog covering the latest developments on the Covid-19 pandemic and the new omicron variant for Tuesday 14 December.
Mainland China reported its first case of the omicron Covid variant late on Monday in the city of Tianjin, just 130 kilometres from from the capital Beijing.
The omicron case was detected in an overseas traveller, who showed no symptoms but tested positive on Thursday, according to Tianjin’s local health commission.
It was confirmed as a case of the omicron variant after the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed the results of genome sequencing.
The patient is in isolated treatment at a hospital, the commission said.
Chinese authorities said they have “zero tolerance” strategy for Covid-19 and the country has been able to keep the pandemic under control since closing off the city of Wuhan, the original epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, in January of 2020.
However, the new variant has raised concerns again, especially with the upcoming winter olympics scheduled to be held in Beijing in February 2022.

Omicron infections in the UK hit an estimated 200,000 a day on Monday and the super-contagious variant will become the dominant strain of coronavirus in London within days, it has been revealed.
The dramatic figures came as the first UK death of a patient infected with the new variant was recorded. With omicron infection numbers believed to double every two or three days, they set the scene – if accurate – for daily infections to reach a record 1 million or more by the start of next week.
The Independent’s Political Editor Andrew Woodcock has more on this:
Cases of new variant expected to ‘dramatically increase’ in coming days, says Sajid Javid
The US Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Officials believe these airmen are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots.
The Air Force gave its forces until November 2 to get the vaccine, and thousands have either refused or sought an exemption.
Here’s the full story:
The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots

UK businesses have warned that the “tidal wave” of omicron Covid cases spreading across the country will derail their recovery and worsen an acute shortage of labour, writes Ben Chapman.
Boris Johnson has ordered people in England to work from home wherever possible in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of the new variant, with around 200,000 people now thought to be being infected with it each day.
The latest guidance does little to help large swathes of the economy, including the manufacturing and hospitality industries which fear that hundreds of thousands of workers may soon need to self-isolate.
Full story here:
Call for reintroduction of Statutory Sick Pay from day one as case numbers surge
Boris Johnson is facing the biggest revolt of his premiership from backbench Conservatives as MPs prepare to vote on “plan B” measures, write Andrew Woodcock and Ashley Cowburn.
The new rules include Covid passes for large venues, the extension of mandatory face masks and changes to self-isolation rules.
Dozens of Tory MPs have indicated they will either abstain or vote against the proposals to introduce Covid passes in England, forcing the prime minister to rely on votes from Labour MPs in order to get the measure through the Commons on Tuesday.
Read the full story:
Sajid Javid also says Covid pass rules will be tightened in new year to require two jabs and a booster
South Korea marked its deadliest day of the pandemic on Tuesday, recording 94 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Over 900 patients are in a serious or critical condition in the country, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said, with 5,567 new infections recorded.
Health experts in the country have warned that the medical system is quickly approaching its limits with rising cases — as most cases centre around Seoul — and that fatalities could worsen if the government continues to be slow and hesitant in tightening social distancing.
While the country recorded over 7,000 cases in a row last week, the numbers announced today were the highest yet for a Tuesday since daily tallies are usually smaller at the start of the week because of fewer tests on weekends.
Park Hyang, a senior Health Ministry official said medical resources are quickly running out in densely populated capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, where around 86 per cent of intensive care units designated for Covid treatment were already occupied.
A little over 80 per cent of South Korea’s population is fully vaccinated.
It would hardly be surprising if – as with petrol and loo rolls before – panic set in amongst the public.
Editorial: It would hardly be surprising if – as with petrol and loo rolls before – panic set in amongst the public
After a sharp rise in omicron cases, and the expansion of the UK’s booster jab programme, the NHS announced it had raised its Covid-19 alert category to level 4 on Monday.
The government has also raised its alert level, from level 3 to level 4, after recommendations from NHS England and the chief medical officers.
But, what is the difference? Grace Almond explains here:
NHS system is based on centrally-agreed list of definitions, whereas government’s system has five stages based on variety of factors
California has made mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public settings across the state regardless of vaccination status, citing the rise in Covid cases since Thanksgiving.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration announced the new mandate will come in force frommWednesday and last until January 15.
The order comes as the per capita rate of new coronavirus cases in California has jumped 47 per cent in the past two weeks.
“We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy. Frankly, I am too,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr Mark Ghaly said on Monday. “That said, this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and can work.”
Read more here:
California is bringing back a statewide indoor mask mandate
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