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Covid news – live: PM poised to announce ‘Plan B’ rules as UK omicron cases climb to 568

Omicron more transmissible but milder than delta variant, initial research suggests

Boris Johnson is expected to announce further Covid restrictions, including advice to work from home, as soon as this afternoon, according to reports.

The PM is said to be drawing up the Plan B measures, which could also include vaccine passports for large venues, in response to rising cases and the spread of the omicron variant. However, No 10 sources said “no decisions have been made” over the possible imposition of fresh restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Johnson told MPs today ministers would be consulted before any such decision is made, with reports claiming a cabinet meeting is due to take place this afternoon – followed by a Downing Street press conference.

It comes after experts warned Covid cases could hit 90,000 a day by Christmas, as hospital admissions begin to increase even before the more transmissible omicron variant takes hold across Britain.

Follow our live coverage below

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Further 51,342 Covid cases and 161 deaths in UK

An additional 51,342 cases of Covid-19 have been reported across the UK in the latest 24 hour period.

The same government data shows a further 161 people have died in Britain within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, taking the total to 145,987.

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Will there be a Downing Street Covid briefing today?

There have been whispers of a No 10 press conference, set to take place at around 5.30pm today, at which new Covid measures will likely be announced.

However, official confirmation of it is yet to be provided by Downing Street.

Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle earlier told MPs he had “repeatedly” asked Boris Johnson and his government to make announcements to the House before the media - and implored them to do so today.

It is so far unclear which route, if any, Mr Johnson will take today, after he told MPs earlier that a decision on enforcing harsher Covid measures would only be announced after consultation with his cabinet.

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Watch: Sobbing Allegra Stratton resigns over No 10 party video

Sobbing Allegra Stratton resigns over No 10 party video

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Selfie-taking tourists risk giving orangutans Covid, say scientists

Tourists in countries such as Indonesia are endangering wild orangutans by getting too close to the primates, researchers have found.

Humans can transmit Covid-19 and other viruses to primates such as orangutans and gorillas.

Lucy Thackray has more on this:

Humans can pass coronavirus on to primates, say conservation biologists

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Boris Johnson has said his cabinet will be consulted before any move to Plan B measures

Boris Johnson has said the cabinet will be consulted before new coronavirus restrictions are imposed in response to rising cases and the spread of the omicron variant.

The prime minister is believed to be considering measures including guidance to work from home and the introduction of domestic vaccine passports for events and large venues.

The cabinet's Covid-19 operations (Covid-O) committee is expected to meet today to consider the next steps.

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UK omicron infections rise to 568 after first cases found in Northern Ireland

There have been four additional cases of the omicron variant in Wales, the UKHSA said, and the first three cases reported in Northern Ireland.

Across the UK in total, there have been 131 additional cases, bringing the total number of confirmed omicron cases in the UK to 568, the agency said.

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England records 115 more omicron cases

A further 115 cases of the Covid-19 omicron variant have been reported across England, the UK Health Security Agency said.

It brings the total number of confirmed omicron cases in England to 448, the agency said.

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Kuwait detects first omicron case

Kuwait has detected its first case of the omicron variant of coronavirus, according to a state news agency.

The variant was detected in a European traveller who arrived in Kuwait from an African country where the variant had been detected, KUNA reported, citing the health ministry's spokesman.

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Downing Street refuses to be drawn on Plan B measures

Downing Street is still refusing to be drawn on whether Plan B measures are due to be put in place.

The prime minister's official spokesman said Boris Johnson had taken part in a "standard meeting" today, where he was presented with the latest data on coronavirus.

He said: "We would set up any changes should they be required in the normal way."

Asked whether people should go into work on Thursday, he added: "The restrictions are as set out, there are no restrictions on that, and as we have throughout we will update should any changes be necessary."

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Almost half of Scotland’s omicron cases in 20-39 age group

Scotland’s confirmed cases of omicron have been in "relatively younger" people, with almost half in the 20-39 age group, according to the latest figures.

As of 5 December, there had been 71 confirmed cases of the new variant of coronavirus in Scotland.

The Public Health Scotland (PHS) data shows 48 per cent of omicron cases were in people aged 20-39, well above the 25 per cent of all Covid cases in that age group.

It said the "somewhat younger age profile" of the omicron cases reflects the "early detection of a large number of cases in events that typically attract people in these age groups".

Last week, the Scottish government said several omicron cases were linked to a Steps concert at the Hydro in Glasgow on 22 November.

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