Covid: Social caution before Christmas and business support pleaon December 16, 2021 at 7:37 am

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Five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Thursday morning.

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Thursday morning. We’ll have another update for you this evening.

Be cautious if you plan to socialise in the run up to Christmas. That’s the message from the prime minister and England’s chief medical officer after coronavirus infections reached record numbers. You should “think carefully before you go” to the pub or a restaurant, says Boris Johnson, who despite the warning has not placed any further restrictions – such as limiting numbers or closing venues – on the hospitality industry. Prof Chris Whitty is urging us not to “mix with people you don’t have to” as he warned more records would be broken as Omicron surges.

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Worries about rising infections and Omicron mean some businesses within the hospitality industry are seeing a surge of cancellations. Business leaders have called on the government to help firms by providing support “in lockstep with future restrictions”, deferring business rates and extending VAT discounts. The Treasury says it has no plans to extend support. This also comes as companies brace themselves for staff shortages, with some saying they are already being affected by sickness. Read more here.

Worried chef

Image source, Getty Images

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Some children have been asked to take laptops home, classes have moved online and the overall picture is that schools are prepared if increasing numbers of pupils have to stay at home due to coronavirus. Many will be able to switch to remote learning next term if they have to but the government says it is committed to ensuring schools in England stay open in January.

Children walk into school
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Pregnant women have been among those waiting in long queues at busy vaccination centres after the government ramped up the booster programme. They haven’t been prioritised but doctors say they should be first in line for the jabs. “We are clinically vulnerable – why are we being ignored?” asks Valerie van Mulukom, who is 32 weeks pregnant. The NHS is urging people to book in advance to avoid queues.

Valerie van Mulukom
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At least one Watford fan had already arrived at Burnley when Wednesday’s game was postponed – the same day record coronavirus cases were logged. Premier League matches have been called off because of Covid outbreaks and it looks like three of this weekend’s Championship fixtures won’t go ahead, and neither will a rugby match. So how much is sport being affected by new Covid cases? We’ve looked into it.

A Watford fan at Turf Moor after their game with Burnley was postponed

Image source, Getty Images

Government statistics show 146,791 people have now died, with 165 deaths reported in the latest 24-hour period. In total, 11,010,286 people have tested positive, up 78,610 in the latest 24-hour period. Latest figures show 7,673 people in hospital. In total, 51,332,920 people have received their first vaccination

As the UK recorded the highest daily number of cases on Wednesday, our health correspondent Nick Triggle has taken a look at what that tells us.

You can find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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