COVID news live: Irish PM says risk of Christmas with no restrictions 'too high' - as one in 60 people in England have virus

Coronavirus latest as UK records more than 50,000 daily cases; Omicron has 'substantial' ability to reinfect; scientist says he 'wouldn't feel safe' at a Christmas party this year; stranded Britons spending Christmas in quarantine hotels.

12/3/2021 11:19:00 PM

Will another vaccine, specifically targeted at Omicron, be necessary? Dr Claudia Paolini says 'we will all be needing boosters every year for the foreseeable future', but adds that it is 'too early to judge' when the next round of jabs might be. Live:

Coronavirus latest as UK records more than 50,000 daily cases; Omicron has 'substantial' ability to reinfect; scientist says he 'wouldn't feel safe' at a Christmas party this year; stranded Britons spending Christmas in quarantine hotels.

This family have not left home for a year...A family of four is gearing up for a second Christmas shielding at home after the father was told he had a brain tumour.Read more about their experience in lockdown below.19:41:04Merck to supply Canada with up to a million doses of COVID antiviral

Merck said on Friday it would supply Canada with up to a million courses of molnupiravir, its experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill. The government has secured access to 500,000 courses in 2022, with options for up to 500,000 more, pending Health Canada's approval. 

Merck added it had filed the final molnupiravir application seeking approval in Canada last month. Elsewhere, Pfizer said on Wednesday it had started the real-time submission of an application seeking Health Canada's approval of its COVID-19 antiviral drug candidate.

Hilary Duff's husband seizes the opportunity to make her blush

19:16:16Rapid test 'identifies antibody effectiveness against COVID variants'Researchers have created a rapid test that they say can identify antibody effectiveness against COVID-19 variants.The test can quickly and easily assess how well someone's antibodies fight infection from multiple variants of coronavirus, such as Delta and the newly discovered Omicron variant, a new study suggests.

Scientists say the test could potentially tell doctors how protected a patient is from new variants and those currently circulating in a community.It could also help doctors identify which monoclonal antibodies to treat a COVID patient with.Ashutosh Chilkoti, chairman of biomedical engineering at Duke, said:"It only took us a week or two to incorporate the Delta variant in our test, and it could easily be expanded to also include the Omicron variant.

"All we need is the spike protein of this variant, which many groups across the world, including our group at Duke, are feverishly working to produce."The test is called the COVID-19 Variant Spike-ACE2-Competitive Antibody Neutralisation assay, or CoVariant-SCAN for short.

One in six office staff would quit if denied flexible working

19:09:02Watch: PM gives thumbs-up to Christmas partiesWatch Boris Johnson's response earlier on Friday when asked if Christmas gatherings should go ahead...19:08:03PM says Christmas should go ahead 'as normally as possible'Boris Johnson tonight insisted that Christmas in the UK should go ahead"as normally as possible" when asked about festive gatherings.

His comments come after Ireland introduced new restrictions ahead of the Christmas period, with Michael Martin warning the risks are"too high" without.Mr Johnson said:"On the subject of Christmas parties, I notice there has been quite a lot of toing and froing about it, people concerned that they need to cancel their Christmas parties.

"That is not right, we are not saying that and we are not saying that nativity plays have to be cancelled."I believe very strongly that kids should be in school and I also think that Christmas should go ahead as normally as possible."What we are trying to do is cope with the Omicron variant and that means having some tough measures at the border and also some measures to make sure people isolate if they come into contact with an Omicron case."

Threat of benefit cuts to force unemployed into ‘any job now’

19:04:15Our special programme on the Omicron variant is starting nowIf you have any questions about Omicron, email or Whatsapp 0758 3000 853 and we will put them to our panel.You'll be able to watch the programme on Channel 501, or on the Sky News app. 

18:42:26Zimbabwe identifies 50 Omicron casesDeputy health minister John Mangwiro confirmed the infections on Friday, as Zimbabwe announced it would offer booster shots to those at risk from COVID.This includes frontline workers, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses.

The majority of the 50 Omicron cases were detected at a teacher training college, as well as in members of the country's under-17 football team."From the outbreak that we detected from Masvingo Teachers College and the Under 17 soccer team, we took 20 samples from the college and 22 samples from the soccer team, they all tested positive for the Omicron variant," Mr Mangwiro said.

Another eight cases were found in random samples.18:33:05Number 10 confirms Christmas parties will be held across WhitehallDowning Street have confirmed"in-person events" such as parties will be held in the lead up to the festive period as a Cabinet minister urged Britons to"keep calm and carry on with your Christmas plans".

A Number 10 spokesperson told Sky News celebrations will be held across Whitehall in the run up to Christmas despite fears over the Omicron variant of COVID-19."As the prime minister has previously made clear, these events are within the latest guidance and we do not want people to cancel them," the spokesperson said.

Read more: Sky News »

Gay couple refused south London house viewing and purchase

The sellers defended their decision to deny the viewing and purchase based on their religious beliefs. Read more >>

Jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jab jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jab jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jab jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jab jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs jabs So the manufacturers want a lifetime contract lol What a's not going to happen sorry.

Highly likely as the virus will continue to drift away from the Wuhan strain 지옥은 끔찍하고 처절한 고통의 장소입니다 지금 회개하시고 천국을 보장 받으십시요 GrandMenengaiFour Vaccines don't work

Covid booster: People denied jab due to volunteer shortageA pharmacy says its clinic is short of volunteers to process people getting Covid vaccinations. Bloody volunteers Maybe we should pay people for their work instead of relying on unpaid volunteers? Saw pm got his yesterday the look on the other people's faces as he went to the front off the queue.

Teachers in England: how do you feel about masks in schools?We would like to hear from teachers following the change to Covid restrictions in schools in England They are simple, cheap and effective, if worn properly. I cannot understand why we are not wearing masks in class already. Our European neighbours have had masks in schools without any issues. Helps protect children and teachers and fosters a caring ethos.

COVID-19: At least 50 people infected with Omicron variant at Christmas party in NorwayThe news comes as Norway joins a number of other countries trying to control the spread of the variant with tougher rules. Really...... And? Thats 50 lucky people who now have 6 mnths immunity. Where can I get it?

Western Australia, a state almost no one can visit, to pitch itself to tourists as ‘safest place in the world’WA premier says the state will loosen Covid-19 border restrictions in ‘a couple of months’, but those trying to get home are unimpressed nice It's only going to be safe provided that almost no one can visit. As cemetery.

Coronavirus news live: South Africa sees ‘exponential increase’ in Covid cases, dominated by Omicron variantThe Omicron variant has propelled a sharp rise in Covid cases in South Africa, accounting for almost three quarters of all new virus cases Extremely concerning for South Africa. Lol. good luck

UK Covid live: ‘keep calm and carry on’ with Christmas plans, says minister despite high case numbersOliver Dowden says people should keep going to pubs and restaurants, claiming the government has taken ‘sufficient’ action against Omicron Keep calm and use your brain. Screeching u-turn incoming