December 17 2021

Covid records continue to tumble and will go on doing so for a while. Well over 1.5 million tests were done on the last two days, which has resulted in 93,045 positive results today. This means the positive rate has also risen with 535 per 100,000 of the population testing positive. London has been relatively badly hit and the case rate there is 702.8/100,000

The death rate remains stable, it will be two weeks’ time when we see this start to rise again. There were 146 deaths yesterday and 11 reported today. Remember these figures reflect when the death was registered and not the day it happened.

Admissions follow cases and we have seen the Omicron variant for 3 weeks now, so it is not surprising hospital data is beginning to show more pressure on hospitals The daily admission figure was 849 on 12th December and 900 on 13th December. The total number of Covid patients in hospital was 5,579 on 15th December and 7,611 on the 16th. The number needing a ventilator has hovered below 900 for some days now. Next week I fear that will start to rise.

Vaccination data confirms that we are still doing some first jabs. Most I think are children reaching a birthday at which they qualify, but a few have finally agreed to have their jabs in the national interest. I thank them for that and urge more of you to follow their good example.

Over 25 million have now had a booster or 3rd jab, over 741,000 were given today. To get all the rest done in the last two weeks of December is not impossible but an enormous task. Lets give those tasked with doing it the greatest praise and encouragement.

The UK has withdrawn its Red List as the Omicron variant is so widespread, we have moved beyond the phase of keeping it out. The campaign moves towards immunising everyone fully and restricting spread using hand hygiene, masks, and social distancing.

British tourists have been banned from entering France as from Saturday. You can only travel for essential reasons or are domiciled in France. If you do gain admission you will have to self-isolate but under police supervision for a week.

The ONS believe that Omicron is the dominant variant now in Scotland. They also consider that the official figure of 3,201 omicron cases identified today are a considerable underestimate, and so is the total number of cases at 14,909. Remember because many are asymptomatic or only have vague symptoms, the only way to detect cases is to test for them.

Just in case you still hope to get away for the Christmas period here are the situations in the more popular resorts. Things change quickly and frequently. Please keep checking with your carrier and the Gov web site, so as to avoid problems being suddenly being forced to isolate or travel just cancelled.

To go to Spain including the Canary and Balearic Isles you need to be fully vaccinated to gain entry and the last dose must be at least 14 days before you leave. Unvaccinated children aged 12-17 will not be allowed in. You must have completed the passenger locator form and have a QR code to show at border control.

If Italy is your destination, they require all UK arrivals to have a negative PCR test taken within the 48 hours prior to departure. If you are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated you will require to self- isolate for 5 days and then do a further test, either PCR or LFT. You will need the passenger location form, and QR codes at the border. Children under the age of 18 are exempt from quarantine if travelling with fully vaccinated parents. If over 6 a negative test is required, but no tests if aged 5 or under.

Portugal requires proof of a negative test if aged 12 or over whatever their vaccination status. If the test is a PCR test it must be within 72 hours of travel and if it’s an LFT test it must be within 48 hours of travel.

Greece requires a negative PCR test done 72 hours or less before arrival or a LFT test within 48 hours of departure. They also need proof of full vaccination or of having had a Covid infection between 30 and 180 days previously if over the age of 12.

Cyprus. You must spend £15 on one of their PCR tests and self-isolate until you have a negative result. The unvaccinated need a negative PCR less than 72 hours before arrival and a second test on arrival at the airport.

Switzerland say you must have full vaccination and a negative PCR test on boarding. You must report your arrival within 2 days and do a further test (either will do) 4-7 days after arrival in Switzerland. The under 18s are allowed entry if accompanied by fully vaccinated adults.

Please remember, these outline rules are liable to instant change. I cannot be held responsible if you come unstuck trying to travel over Christmas. You must keep checking the arrangements both for flying out and returning.

For now, we must be patient, stay very sensible, do a risk assessment before attending gatherings, particularly large ones, indoors with people you do not know well. You may decide to lessen your social contacts over Christmas and restrict them to close family and friends.

It is valuable to have your continued comments or contribution to the various debates we have regularly. We need science not politics to see ourselves out of this pandemic. I am going to be submitting evidence to the latest Parliamentary Enquiry so please comment to me about the way the pandemic has been handled. How should we prepare for the next? I think we have realised it involves a lot more than just health.

Have a joyous weekend and keep safe.

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