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WHO says Europe could be headed for pandemic ‘endgame’ – follow live


U.K. Lifts COVID-19 Restrictions

The Omicron variant has moved the Covid-19 pandemic towards an “endgame” in Europe, the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Europe director said on Sunday.

“It’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” Hans Kluge told news agency AFP in an interview, adding that Omicron could infect 60 per cent of Europeans by March.

Meanwhile, WHO’s technical lead on coronavirus, Maria van Kerkhove, said it would be “premature” to end the requirement to self-isolate when infected.

The UK government is likely to lift the legal mandate in the coming weeks. Current isolation rules expire on 24 March but Boris Johnson said he would bring the date forward if Covid data was encouraging.

Asked about the change in a BBC interview, Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on coronavirus, said: “I think it’s premature. I think there needs to be a clear reason of why it’s being dropped.

“If you don’t isolate cases then the virus will spread between people.”

Follow live updates below

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India reports over 300,000 cases for fifth day as Omicron becomes dominant variant in big cities

India has reported 3,06,064 new Covid cases on Monday, less than the numbers reported a day before, data released by the government showed.

However, the daily tally has crossed the 300,000 mark for the fifth straight day.

The total caseload of India, — the second worst-hit country after the US — now stands at 39.2 million.

The daily positivity rate — the share of coronavirus tests that return positive and considered a key marker of the pandemic’s status — is up from 17.78 per cent to 20.75 per cent, while the weekly positivity rate was recorded at 17.03 per cent.

439 people have died of Covid during the past 24-hour period, according to the latest figures. At least 60 per cent of the patients who died during the current wave of Covid pandemic were either partially or fully unvaccinated.

The Omicron variant is in the community transmission stage in the country and has become dominant in several metros where new cases have been spiking exponentially, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) the Centre’s research body, said in its latest bulletin.

Stuti Mishra24 January 2022 05:09

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China lifts month-long lockdown from Xi’an

China has lifted the month-long lockdown in the northern Chinese city of Xi’an and its 13 million residents. The announcement on Monday followed the restart of commercial flights from the city the day before. Xi’an has been a cornerstone of the ruling Communist Party’s “zero tolerance” strategy toward Covid-19 that mandates lockdowns, travel restrictions and mass testing whenever a case is discovered. Xi’an is about 1,000 kilometres southwest of Beijing, where the Winter Olympics open 4 February. Access to the city was suspended 22 December following an outbreak attributed to the delta variant of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the 2 million residents of one Beijing district have been ordered to undergo testing following a series of infections. The government told people in areas of the Chinese capital deemed at high risk for infection not to leave the city after 25 cases were found in the Fengtai district and 14 elsewhere. On Monday, Mainland China has reported 57 new Covid-19 cases on 23 January up from 56 cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said. Local infections stand at just 18.

Stuti Mishra24 January 2022 04:28

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Airline bosses call for end to Covid travel restrictions

The chief executives of the UK’s largest airlines have written to the Government to demand an end to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

In the letter, they ask that restriction-free travel is restored “at the very least” for those who are fully vaccinated.

They say that Omicron is in retreat and evidence shows that travel restrictions have a “limited effect” in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

The UK Government was already due to review travel requirements for England next week.

Luke O’Reilly has more:

Stuti Mishra24 January 2022 03:40

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What is ‘Plan A’ ?

Boris Johnson said he plans on removing self-isolation rules for positive cases in the near future as he announced England would relax its “Plan B” set of measures.

He hailed a return to “Plan A” – but what is this? Holly Bancroft takes a look:

Zoe Tidman23 January 2022 23:57

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What are self-isolation rules now?

Self-isolation rules for people who test positive for Covid also recently changed, when they were reduced to five with negative tests.

Zoe Tidman23 January 2022 23:25

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Boris Johnson on plans to change self-isolation rules

Here is a reminder of what Boris Johnson told parliament about plans for changes to self-isolation rules earlier this week:

“As Covid becomes endemic we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others.

“The self-isolation regulations expire on 24 March, at which point I very much expect not to renew them.

“Indeed were the data to allow, I would like to seek a vote in this House to bring that date forwards.”

Zoe Tidman23 January 2022 22:48

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ICYMI: WHO Covid chief on England’s plans to drop self-isolation rules

The head of the World Health Organisation’s Covid chief said today it would be “premature” to end self-isolation requirements for Covid cases.

Asked about plans to drop the rule in England, Maria van Kerkhove, said: “I think there needs to be a clear reason of why it’s being dropped.”

She added: “If you don’t isolate cases then the virus will spread between people.”

Zoe Tidman23 January 2022 22:08

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B.1.640.2 variant

And scientists are also examining a new strain of Covid-19, first discovered in France last year, to determine whether it could go on to become a “variant of concern” in the same way Delta and Omicron did before it.

Sam Hancock has more on this strain, called B.1.640.2:

Zoe Tidman23 January 2022 21:40

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More analysis needed over BA.2

UK health officials said further analysis will be carried out into BA.2 to determine its characteristics and better understand how it make shape Britain’s epidemic in the weeks to come.

Our science correspondent, Samuel Lovett, has more on the Omicron subvariant:

Zoe Tidman23 January 2022 21:10

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ICYMI: New Omicron subvariant ‘under investigation’

More than 400 cases of a new Omicron subvariant – called BA.2 – have been identified in England, with officials describing it as a “variant under investigation”.

Laurie Churchman has the full story:

Zoe Tidman23 January 2022 20:37


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