Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*

  • Britain too attractive to migrants, say French
  • Blue Wallers could give Tories bloody nose in Bexley 
  • £200 fine for mask non-compliance from tomorrow
  • Action on NHS waiting lists expected as omicron spreads
  • London’s rivals abandon hope of post-Brexit City exodus
  • Live Covid news: Omicron ‘spreading in community’ in Scotland

The announcement of booster jabs for all over-18s is expected in the “next few hours” as the health minister said vaccines mean that the UK is in a better position than last year.

Edward Argar said that while he did not want to “pre-judge” the findings of an urgent review by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), he was hopeful the advice will follow later today.

“Sajid Javid has asked the JCVI for advice urgently on bringing down the gap, potentially, between second and booster jabs but also in terms of age range,” Mr Argar told Sky News.

On whether it will be extended to 18 year olds, he said: “I think that’s what they’re looking at, we’d expect that in the next few hours.”

The vaccine rollout means that the UK is in a “hugely different place” from the emergence of the alpha or delta variants, after the emergence of the former effectively saw Christmas cancelled in 2020.

“The vaccination programme has made a huge difference in protecting our citizens, protecting our society and enabling us to open up,” he said. “The measures we’re putting in place now are proportionate, measured, I’m looking forward to a Christmas spent with family and friends.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

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10:41 AM

Scots must ‘significantly step up’ compliance with Covid measures

Scots must “significantly step up” their compliance with existing Covid rules after six cases of the omicron variant were confirmed, Nicola Sturgeon has told a press conference.

“Over the past few days a new risk has emerged in the form of the omicron variant,” the First Minister said. “We have stepped up our surveillance in recent days and I want to thank our public health teams for the work they are doing.

“Increased community transmission underlines the importance of all of us keeping to the restrictions that are in place. We also need to consider what steps are necessary and proportionate to reduce transmission here.”

Ms Sturgeon observed that some of England’s new measures, such as masks on public transport and in shops, already exist to a greater extent in Scotland.

She reminded people to work from home and, as of today, asked employers to “maximise the importance” of this measure, while also urging Scots to test themselves regularly and before they socialise with others.

10:34 AM

Essex school found to have link to omicron variant

Pupils and staff at a primary school in Brentwood in Essex are being tested for coronavirus after the school was found to have a link to the new omicron variant.

Essex County Council said it had taken “necessary precautionary action”, including switching to remote learning for one class at Larchwood Primary School, in Pilgrims Hatch.

10:32 AM

UK and Israel join forces to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons 

The UK and Israel’s foreign ministers have declared that they will work “night and day” to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon as they sign a “historic” 10-year plan for deepening ties.

In a joint article for The Daily Telegraph (see below), Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, and Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign affairs minister, preview their new “memorandum of understanding”.

The agreement, which will be signed on Monday, will enable the UK and Israel to work more closely on issues such as cybersecurity, technology development, defence, trade and science. 

It will see Israel become one of the UK’s most trusted allies in thwarting cyber attacks, according to a Foreign Office insider. Talks on a trade deal are also set to begin early next year.

Ben Riley-Smith has the story

10:17 AM

All states should back global vaccination effort, urges WHO

The World Health Organisation has called on all states to support a target to vaccinate 40 per cent of all countries’ populations by the end of the year.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, told a press conference: “Vaccine equity is not charity, it’s in every country’s best interests. No country can vaccinate its way out of the pandemic alone.

“The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more opportunity this country has to spread and evolve in ways we cannot predict not prevent… The fabric of multilateralism has been frayed.”

Lockdowns should only be seen as “a last resort in the most extreme circumstances”, Dr Tedros added, calling for a delicate balance between civil liberties and protecting the most vulnerable.

It comes after Joe Phaahla, the South African health minister, told LBC the world would be “more protected” if it were to focus on vaccinating the world rather than border restrictions.

“As soon as you can share with others, as more people get protected, less variants will be coming,” he said.

10:08 AM

Channel crisis talks were ‘not anti-English’, insists French minister

Yesterday’s Channel crisis talks were not “anti-English” despite Priti Patel being disinvited last week, the French interior minister has said after Gérald Darmanin.

A number of European ministers met to discuss what more could be done to prevent further tragedies after the deaths of 27 people who were trying to reach England last Wednesday. But Ms Patel had her invite revoked by Ms Darmanin after Boris Johnson made public his letter to President Macron calling for a returns agreement.

Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*
© Louis Witter/Getty Images Gérald Darmanin also called on the UK to make itself

“I’ve had extremely intense exchanges with my British counterpart, but you will have heard what the French president had to say about this after the public remarks that the British government wanted to make. We consider that this wasn’t a serious way of working.

“This reunion was not anti-English, it was pro-European and we should work with our British friends and tell them certain things.”

For her part, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary – who met the Dutch migration minister yesterday – insisted the UK will “not shy away from the challenge we face” with the possibility of “even worse scenes” in the Channel in the coming months.

09:55 AM

Gordon Brown: Britain’s record on vaccinating developing world ‘not very good’

Gordon Brown has taken aim at the Government’s record on vaccinating the developing world as he condemned a “collective failure” to ensure vaccine supply in Asia and Africa.

The former Prime Minister noted only seven per cent of Africans had received a vaccine and “hardly any tests” had been done across the continent.

“Boris Johnson said on Saturday that Britain was leading the way [but] we offered 100 million vaccines. We’ve provided only 11 per cent of them so far,” Mr Brown, now a global financing ambassador at the World Health Organisation, told Sky News.

Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*
© AP Photo Boxes of vaccines donated by wealthier countries as part of the Covax scheme being offloaded in Kenya – AP Photo

“America has offered a billion vaccines and provided 25 per cent and even that’s not enough, so Britain’s record is not very good.

“And when Boris Johnson said on Saturday that the real problem in Africa was that people were not taking up the vaccines, he was wrong because the real problem in Africa, the biggest problem, is the lack of supply.”

09:40 AM

‘As allies, Britain and Israel can be trade and tech superpowers’

Many fear the skies are darkening worldwide due to the pandemic, the threat of terrorism and hostile actors seeking the upper hand.

But Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, and her Israeli counterparty Yair Lapid believe that freedom and democracy can still prevail with the right approach.

“That is why Israel and the United Kingdom are today coming together in London to take a major step forward,” they write for The Telegraph today.

Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*
© Paul Grover Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, has emphasised the importance of Britain’s links to Israel – Paul Grover

“We believe that a democracy rooted in freedom – which empowers citizens with the opportunity to innovate, create, and fulfill their dreams – is the finest form of government.

“As outward-looking, patriotic nations, we know that the best way forward lies in building stronger economic, technological and security ties with like-minded partners.”

Liz Truss and Yair Lapid: As allies, Britain and Israel can be tech superpowers

09:25 AM

Essex omicron patient ‘well’ and does not require hospitalisation

A patient infected with the omicron variant in Essex is “well” and isolating with their family, according to the county’s director of public health.

“Most importantly with the confirmed case is that they are well, they are isolating with their family,” Dr Michael Gogarty told BBC Breakfast.

“When I say they are well, I mean they are not seriously ill. They have some symptoms but they do not require hospitalisation.”

Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*
© Stephen Huntley/HVC Test and Trace workers have become a common sight on the streets of Brentwood after an omicron case was confirmed there – Stephen Huntley/HVC

Ministers have been at pains to insist that it is not yet known how serious omicron is compared to more well-known variants.

In news that appeared to offer a glimmer of hope, the first South African doctor to alert the authorities about patients with the omicron variant told The Telegraph at the weekend that the symptoms of the new variant were unusual but mild in the younger patients she has treated.

South African demographics are very different from those in the UK, meaning that older individuals who are more vulnerable to the virus may take some time to present.

09:19 AM

Let us vote on new Covid restrictions, restless Tory backbenchers urge PM 

Tory lockdown critics are demanding a vote on the new Covid restrictions after Sajid Javid said MPs might not be given a say until mid-December, reports Ben Riley-Smith.

The changes to regulations that will bring back a mask mandate for certain sectors and tighten the border will be laid before Parliament today and come into effect at 4am tomorrow.

However, because of a quirk in parliamentary procedures, MPs and peers do not have to vote through the measures before they are adopted, unlike usual laws. 

Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*
© Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo Londoners wearing face masks on Regent Street ahead of the introduction of a new mask mandate in shops and on public transport – Alberto Pezzali/AP Photo

Mark Harper, the Tory MP who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Conservative politicians, called for a debate and vote to be held on Tuesday. 

Mr Harper told The Telegraph: “I think it’s important that MPs get the chance to debate and vote on that legislation at the earliest possible opportunity. 

“So I would expect ministers to enable us to have a debate of proper length and detail on Tuesday and a vote.”

Full story: MPs may not be allowed a say on Covid restrictions until mid-December

09:01 AM

Covid Booster jabs to be offered to all adults in bid to beat omicron 

Booster jabs are to be offered to all adults, with a recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation expected within days, The Daily Telegraph understands.

The Prime Minister announced on Saturday that he had asked scientists to consider extending the rollout of third jabs to everyone aged 18 and over.

He has also asked the JCVI to consider cutting the wait for a booster jab from six months to five and whether 12 to 15-year-olds should now be offered a second dose.

The committee is expected to recommend in favour of the mass expansion of boosters to all adults, meaning a further 13 million people would be eligible, a health source said.

Yesterday, the deputy chairman of the JCVI said offering boosters to younger groups and cutting the interval between second jabs and boosters would be a “sensible strategy”.

​Laura Donnelly has the story

08:53 AM

Angela Rayner: Current MP regulatory bodies ‘not really independent’

As the fallout from the sleaze scandal continues the Commons Committee on Standards will today publish its report into the MP code of conduct and is expected to cover the thorny issue of parliamentarians’ second jobs.

Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, has described the current investigatory bodies as “not really independent” because their recommendations can be vetoed by the Prime Minister. Her party is calling for drastic reform to the system and will give a speech on standards at the Institute for Government at 11am. 

Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*
© Rob Pinney/Getty Images Angela Rayner has claimed the current existing bodies that oversee MPs’ conduct are

“We want to bring in a new independent ethics commission which is overseen by the permanent secretary, so that where ministers do break the code or former ministers use the revolving door and contacts for contracts, we tighten up the rules so this doesn’t happen,” Ms Rayner told the Today programme.

“We want people to have absolute confidence that ministers are doing their job and there for the people they represent, not just lining their pockets.”

Yesterday Sir Geoffrey Cox spoke for the first time since the row over him earning more than £1 million outside of Parliament last year and voting by proxy from the British Virgin Islands during lockdown, as he insisted his constituents get “full commitment at all times”.

08:42 AM

Plan B: Health minister rejects calls for more new Covid rules

The health minister has flatly rejected calls for the Government to adopt its full package of ‘Plan B’ measures such as vaccine certification and working from home.

“I don’t think Plan B and those measures… you drew out some of those reasons, they are hugely and significantly disruptive,” Edward Argar told the Today programme. “What we actually saw last time when we were seeing infection rates still high is the number of people in hospital with Covid going down and the number of deaths going down.

“We don’t see that Plan B in the current circumstances is needed at this point because there is no evidence yet that the vaccine is ineffective with this variant. I don’t think we are in a position yet to understand impact on vaccines and hospitalisations.

Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*
© Stephen Huntley/HVC Test and trace workers out in Brentwood High Street yesterday – Stephen Huntley/HVC

“Rather than automatically going to what some will call for which is very, very heavy restrictions, or what others will call for which is nothing at all and wait and see, we’ve struck a reasonable and proportionate balance while we try to understand it which we hope will only take a few weeks.”

On demands from Labour to enforce working from home, Mr Argar said he never gave “100 per cent guarantees on this virus because we never know how it’s going to behave”.

He insisted mask-wearing in classrooms would not fall into “measured and proportionate” restrictions at this time in response to calls from Dr Mary Bousted, president of the National Education Union, to reintroduce a face covering mandate “because Covid will not recognise the difference between a corridor and a classroom”.

08:31 AM

More detail given on new Scotland omicron variant cases

Four of the new Covid cases in Scotland (see 8.01am) have been identified in the Lanarkshire area with a further two infections in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, officials have said.

“This will be a worrying time for the six people now identified as having the new variant,” said Humza Yousaf, the Scottish health secretary.

He confirmed that all of the cases will receive support and that Public Health Scotland is to carry out enhanced contact tracing for each of the six patients.

Politics latest news: Reducing booster dose gap could 'maximum chance' of avoiding omicron cases in vulnerable, says vaccine adviser*
© Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via Reuters Nicola Sturgeon will give further details on the Scottish omicron outbreak at 10.30am – Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via Reuters

“This will help establish the origin of the virus and any further individuals they have come into contact with in recent weeks.

“There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant. Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and response to treatments or vaccines and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information.

“Until more is known we must be cautious and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.”

08:20 AM

Government concerned by omicron variant but still ‘early days’, says health minister 

The Government is concerned by the spread of the omicron variant but it is still “early days”, the health and social care minister has said.

Edward Argar described the 50 mutations found in the variant, 32 of which are in the spike protein, as “concerning” but it will be weeks until scientists understand how it reacts and whether the impact of vaccines will be affected.

“The moment you make an announcement like this there are calls for you to delay it, there are others saying do it immediately. I think we struck the right balance here in providing that response,” he said.

After criticism over the lethargic pace of the vaccine rollout in developing countries, Argar said the UK “can do more and ramp it up” but insisted the Government is on track to meet its target of distributing 100 million doses by the middle of next year.

08:16 AM

Labour calls for sick pay reform and return to working from home

The deputy Labour leader has called on the Government to reform its Covid sick pay regime and reintroduce working from home.

“If we’ve got infections rising in the UK, and we know that it’s much more infectious and easier to catch, then working from home is a good thing,” Ms Rayner told Sky News.

“I hope employers can be more flexible and it’s actually good for work-life balance as well, so I would encourage people to work from home where possible.”

On sick pay, Ms Rayner said: “We’ve had this problem during the pandemic and the Government needs to take action so that people can do the right thing. We’ve been living with this virus for a very long time now and many people fall through the loopholes when it comes to sick pay.”

She conceded that the Government was “right to have acted swiftly” by putting South Africa and nine other countries on the red list in a bid to stem the spread of the omicron variant.

08:09 AM

Go ahead with your holidays but consider ‘element of risk’, says minister

Britons should go ahead with their holidays but price in an “element of risk”, the health minister has said.

Edward Argar said he was sympathetic towards families who will have to pay thousands for quarantine hotels, but claimed the addition of 10 African countries to the revived red list was justified.

“What we’re saying is follow rules around the red list countries, and for other countries we’ve said PCR tests et cetera,” he told Sky News. “we’re not saying cancel your holidays to France but we have put into place that proportionate measure.

“We cannot say what will happen over the coming weeks [and] in travelling at the moment there is an element of risk for people. We need to have the three weeks in order to understand how this new variant works. I hope that the scientists will get information more quickly and we were as open as we could be with the British people.”

Mr Argar hailed South Africa, which has criticised travel bans as punitive, as “exemplary” in sharing all that it knows about the variant with other countries.

08:01 AM

Breaking: Six omicron cases confirmed in Scotland

Six cases of the omicron variant have been identified in Scotland, the Scottish Government has announced.

It takes the number of confirmed cases of the variant in the UK to nine, after cases were confirmed in Essex, Nottinghamshire and a third individual who is no longer in the country but was in Westminster while they were.

More to follow

08:00 AM

Good morning

The announcement of booster jabs for all over-18s is expected within hours, as the health minister said vaccines mean that the UK is in a better position than last year.

Here’s the front page of your Daily Telegraph.

TELEGRAPH: Curbs on omicron will cause ‘chaos’ in schools #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/JxOLOo75Eg

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) November 28, 2021

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