The city government in Beijing has introduced new measures to deal with an outbreak of Covid-19, two weeks before the Winter Olympics begins in the city.
Nine cases were identified on Saturday, with six in the Chinese city’s Fengtai district.
Testing has been increased, with 2 million set to be checked, and authorities have asked residents from the district and other affected areas not to leave the city, and to avoid mass gatherings.
In Fengtai, some kindergartens have told parents that children who have not been vaccinated against coronavirus will not be able to attend, two parents told Reuters.
Some delegates, athletes and media personnel have already begun arriving in China ahead of the games which start on 4 February.
Russia breaks daily case total for third day in a row
Russia has again broken its record for the number of new Covid-19 cases, after reporting 63,205 new infections.
It is the third day in a row it has beaten its highest previous total, Reuters reports. More than 57,000 new cases were reported the day before. Another 679 people have died, bringing the death toll to 326,112.
WHO official cautions Omicron will not be the last variant of note
A senior World Health Organization official cautioned against countries thinking they were over the worst of Covid-19 after infection rates dipped following the Omicron variant.
Maria van Kerkhove, speaking to Sophie Raworth on BBC One said: “You may be out of the latest wave of Omicron. In many countries like the UK, that has a high population level of immunity level from infection and vaccination coverage, you will see a difference going forward. You’re in a different stage of the pandemic.
“[However] out of the 10 billion doses of vaccines that have been administered to date, there are still 3 billion people waiting for their first dose. We still have a highly susceptible population, even if there are some countries further along, the rest of the world is still in it. It’s a global problem, we need to treat it with global solutions.”
She added: “It will not end with this latest wave with Omicron, and it’s not the last variant you will hear us talking about.”
As part of a series of questions asking whether the first minister has a deadline in mind for when Covid measures will end, Raworth asks how long masks in public places will remain in Scotland.
Sturgeon replies: “I don’t want them to be in place for any longer than they should be. None of us enjoy wearing them, but they are not the biggest handicap to endure to stop transmission. While they make a difference, I think it’s something we should do. I’d suggest it’s England that’s an outlier, not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland or other countries across the world.
“An opinion poll showed that 2/3 of people think we’ve taken the right approach during the pandemic. People understand to protect ourselves, each other and our society, doing things like wearing face coverings is a small price to pay, and allows the most clinically vulnerable to live something like a normal life.”
Sturgeon: ‘England an outlier over vaccine passports, not Scotland’
Sturgeon talks about the impact on business. She said she realises that hospitality has been badly affected by the pandemic.
“It’s not about having protective measures and businesses are damaged, or having no measures and everything is fine. It’s having measures than stem transmission, or allowing things to be controlled.”
She says that vaccine passports don’t eradicate the chance of an outbreak, but reduces it. “If you do have an outbreak in one of these higher risk settings, you reduce the number of people who are likely to get very seriously ill and reduce the pressure on our health service.
“If you look across Europe right now, many many countries have Covid certification schemes in place and many countries have them in place in a much wider spread of venues than is the case here in Scotland. Of course Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have all chosen to do this… We feel as if we are being described as somehow doing things uniquely, and because England hasn’t done them we’re the outlier.
“It’s a statement of fact that in many of these cases, it’s actually England that’s the outlier – not just the UK context, but in a European context. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are actually following the path that many European countries are.”
First minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is now up on the BBC.
She says the decisions over the government easing measures in England is a matter for them, with her government taking a “cautious path” through the pandemic. “We have learnt from experience that this virus is unpredictable.”
Raworth says infection rates are roughly the same in Scotland and England, have the stricter restrictions in Scotland worth it?
“Overall throughout this pandemic, levels of infection have been lower in Scotland.
“Yes, I think they were worth it. I know that they have had a big impact on businesses and individuals. While I understand the Scotland/England comparison, it’s not the most important one.
“What’s important is are we in a better position than we would have been without these restrictions? It’s hard to absolutely prove cause and effect, but if you look at what we were predicting through our modelling, what we were on track for, 50,000 infections a day, we didn’t see that materialise.
“That was a combination of an acceleration of our booster programme, Scotland is the most vaccinated part of the UK … these sensible balanced protective measures introduced before Christmas, and the magnificent responsible response from the public who have changed their behaviour. We are hopefully now seeing Scotland very firmly on the downward slope.”
Raab: ‘PM should resign if found to have misled parliament about parties’
An interesting exchange as Raworth asks Raab whether Johnson should resign if it’s found he had misled parliament. She mentions news that emerged overnight in the Sunday Times that Sue Gray’s inquiry has been expanded to include parties in the prime minister’s flat.
Raab says it’s a significant and important development and Gray will look into it.
In response to her asking about whether the prime minister should resign if he’s found to have lied. “We’ve been clear that ministerial code of conduct is there for everyone, including the prime minister. The facts are there for Sue Gray to determine. There will be full transparency and accountability.
“The code of conduct for ministers is clear, if that you mislead parliament it is a resigning matter. I’m full square behind what the code of conduct for ministers says, it’s important for integrity in public office.”
On the BBC, Sophie Raworth is still presenting its Sunday morning politics show since Andrew Marr’s departure.
On Sunday Morning, her first guest in the studio is Dominic Raab. She asks him if he could be prime minister by the end of the week, given the upcoming publication of the Sue Gray report.
He says not and adds: “The reality is Sue Gray will report on the issues around Number 10. We take these issues seriously and it;s right they’re investigated by Sue Gray properly and there’s that transparency and due process.”
She asks if he’s preparing for a vote of no confidence. “There is a rallying of support behind the prime minister. You could feel it in the chamber. I think it’s because the booster campaign has been so successful. We’re coming out of lockdown measures. We’re coming out of Plan B, opening up the economy, and this is all because of calls the prime minister has made.”
Brown: ‘Johnson’s government will end in scandal’
Appearing on Sky, former prime minister Gordon Brown said Boris Johnson’s government will end in scandal.
He said: “My fear is that scandal is going to follow Boris Johnson as long as he is prime minister.
“We don’t just have the scandal – and all the details will probably come out later this week about partying – we have the conflicts of interest, we have the dubious appointments, we have foreign money and question marks over that, who is paying the bills for what?
“And I don’t think we are going to see this administration end in anything other than scandal.”
Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry on now.
She says that on vaccines for NHS staff or they will be sacked, the priority should be working with people within the health service.
“The principle behind [compulsory vaccinations for staff], we do agree with. The question is when should that policy deadline be implemented. There is discussion about putting off that deadline in relation to that, and if we are going to do that we need to work with the hospitals, trade union movement about how it is that we can convince as many people as possible who work in the health service to get vaccinated.
“Nobody works in the health service for the money, but it’s to help others. Arguments need to be put forward to say they’re not helping people by not getting vaccinated.”
Phillips says that partygate has made it look “grim” for the government and that it’s paralysing them. He says Dominic Cummings will be reinterviewed tomorrow by Sue Gray and another “red wall” Conservative MP has submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.
“I accept the seriousness of the issue, that’s why Sue Gray should determine who, when and how she investigates. I will point to decisions made this week, the success of the vaccine rollout, the measures that open up the economy, none of which would have happened if we’d have listened to the Labour party,” Raab says.
“All of this shows that not withstanding these all of these other issues, the PM is taking the right calls, the big decisions to take us through the worst pandemic in living memory.”
Phillips says that 73,000 health service staff will be sacked if they remain unvaccinated, and asks if it’s the right decision. The Royal College of General Practitioners has asked for it to be delayed.
Raab replies: “We’ve got 9 out of 10 NHS staff vaccinated, there’s been a big push to encourage vaccinations. It shows progress being made. We encourage anyone to come forward to get those jabs before the deadline. But we’ve also got to think about people who would be at risk if NHS staff don’t have the vaccine.”
Raab says ‘partygate’ not distracting government from big issues
We’re underway with Trevor Phillips on Sunday, on Sky.
Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab is up first.
He says that issues like partygate as a “distraction” while the government waits for the publication of the Sue Gray report. Johnson announced plan B lockdown measures will be lifted from January 26.
“This week has shown that we’re dealing with the big issues, that we haven’t been distracted. We’ve been able to ease up on the lockdown measures, that only happens because of the success of the vaccine rollout, that only happens because the prime minister held his nerve, when others including the Labour Party were encouraging him to stay in lockdown measures,” he says.
Good morning from London, I’m Harry Taylor and I’ll be bringing you coverage today, as the saga around parties in Downing Street during coronavirus lockdowns continues to unfold.
Sue Gray, the official putting the report together, is expected to publish her findings this week, and will examine the precise timings of arrivals and departures. The outcome could determine the future of UK prime minister Boris Johnson, with some of his MPs ready to submit letters of no confidence depending on what her report contains.
The issue is likely to be explored in the Sunday morning politics shows. Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister will appear on both Sky and BBC this morning. Nicola Sturgeon will also be speaking to Sophie Raworth on the Beeb, with Gordon Brown, Emily Thornberry, Rachel de Souza and Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko on Trevor Phillips on Sunday.
While the focus in the UK is over parties that went ahead, in New Zealand it’s on one that won’t be, as prime minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her wedding to fiancée Clark Gayford amid the Omicron variant. It’s expected the country will see 1,000 cases a day in the coming weeks.