Daniel Jaines

Local Democracy Reporter

Daniel Jaines has been working as a journalist in Lincolnshire for over a decade. He joined Stonebow Media in 2018 as a Local Democracy Reporter, covering local authorities across Greater Lincolnshire for the BBC Local News Partnerships scheme.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed the Government’s plans to enact its Plan B measures in response to the growing numbers of new Omicron COVID-19 cases.

In a press briefing on Wednesday Mr Johnson said: “It’s become increasingly clear that Omicron is growing much faster than the previous Delta variant and it’s spreading rapidly all around the world. 568 cases have been confirmed through genomic sequencing across every region of the UK, and the true number is certain to be much higher.

“We can’t yet assume that Omicron is less severe than previous variants. So, while the picture may get better and I sincerely hope that it will, we know that the remorseless logic of exponential growth could lead to a big rise in hospitalisations so, therefore, sadly, in deaths.”

The latest changes include:

  • Vaccine-only COVID passports becoming mandatory for entry to nightclubs and venues of more than 500 indoors, 4,000 unseated outdoors and any venue of more than 10,000 capacity. A negative lateral flow test would also be sufficient. This will come into effect in a week’s time.
  • Face masks becoming a legal requirement in most indoor venues, including pubs, restaurants, bars and theatres from Friday
  • Asking people to work from home, if they can, from Monday
  • Daily tests for contacts instead of isolation

We will give businesses a week’s notice so this will come into force in a week’s time, helping to keep these events and venues open at full capacity, while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others,” said Mr Johnson.

Face masks are already a legal requirement in shops, banks, post offices, hairdressers and on public transport as of November 30.
However, the latest round of restrictions tightens the rules further.

There were 51,342 new Covid cases confirmed in the UK on Wednesday and 161 new deaths.

A further 131 Omicron infections were also reported across the UK.

The latest COVID stats for Greater Lincolnshire on Wednesday are:

  • 821 new cases of coronavirus with 560 in Lincolnshire, 136 in North East Lincolnshire and 125 in North Lincolnshire.
  • Two further deaths were recorded in the government figures including one Lincolnshire and one North East Lincolnshire resident
  • No further hospital deaths were recorded in the latest NHS figures

Greater Lincolnshire has seen its coronavirus infection rates bounce up again but continues sit below the national average in terms of infection rates for the past seven days, with a figure of 474.6 per 100,000. The England national rate is 483.7.

Before the announcement today, council and business bosses had said more clarity was needed on support for businesses across the UK if Plan B was enacted.

The latest announcement comes amid controversy surrounding alleged Christmas parties held at 10 Downing Street in the middle of lockdown last year. Many have responded to the scandal by saying they won’t carry on complying with restrictions if the country’s leaders cannot lead by example.

In a busy news day, it was also confirmed that over 40s can book now book booster jabs after three months — as the NHS celebrates one year of the vaccination programme.

Coronavirus data for Greater Lincolnshire on Wednesday, December 8

164,016 (up 821)

  • 109,883 in Lincolnshire (up 560)
  • 26,289 in North Lincolnshire (up 125)
  • 27,844 in North East Lincolnshire (up 136)

2,524 deaths (up two)

  • 1,846 from Lincolnshire (up one)
  • 341 from North Lincolnshire (no change)
  • 337 from North East Lincolnshire (up one)

of which 1,512 hospital deaths (no change)

  • 933 at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (no change)
  • 45 at Lincolnshire Community Health Service hospitals (no change)
  • 1 at Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust (no change)
  • 533 in Northern Lincolnshire (NLAG) (no change)

As national media reports the government’s Covid “Plan B” could be announced sooner than expected, a senior Lincolnshire County Councillor has called for businesses to have certainty over Christmas and the New Year.

National news outlets including BBC and Sky News have said Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet are this afternoon meeting to discuss whether to implement measures which could include COVID vaccine passports and a return to the work from home order for millions of people.

If agreed, further statements could be made as early as today (Wednesday).

Lincolnshire County Council’s executive portfolio holder for economy Councillor Colin Davie said the challenges of COVID-19 had not gone away, adding: “it’s quite clear to me that as a global society we’re going to have to live with COVID for many years.”

However, he said there needs to be a “better system than, every winter, going into a period of uncertainty and potential lockdowns and restrictions”.

“If we do go into a further period of restrictions it’s not going to help business confidence in terms of the future.

“Businesses need certainty, we all need certainty, so we can plan our lives and live our lives in the way we wish.”

He understood, he said, the need to stop the NHS being overwhelmed in the face of the Omicron variant, but added: “We’re putting so much money into the NHS now, we’ve got to have a better system”.

“Government needs to be very clear, whether that’s for the whole period or whether it’s a short break, or whether new variants might come along that sends us back to square one.

“Because if that was to happen, then I think we will be living in a very different world going forward and that will be very challenging indeed.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic more than 900 businesses in Lincolnshire, which didn’t qualify for government help or support, have been funded and supported with around £11.5million of funding which has been made available.

Councillor Davie said the council had “stepped up to the plate”, but warned there will still be tough times to come.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Federation of Small Businesses has also called for clarity.

Lincolnshire Development Manager Katrina Pierce said today: “The tremors warnings […] are already causing concerns for Lincolnshire’s small businesses.

“After 21 months of on and off limitations on their ability to trade, make a living, retain jobs and keep motivated, they will be heavy-hearted today to learn that they may yet again have to spend time and money – money that they don’t really have – to comply with yet more rules.

“Of course responsible business owners across the county will do what is asked of them to keep their staff and customers safe, but it will be difficult.

“In return they need urgent clarity on what Plan B really means for them and indeed if there is a Plan C that features strong and relevant business support should the Government feel they need to go further in the coming weeks and months.”

Over 40s can book now book booster jabs after three months — as the NHS celebrates one year of the vaccination programme.

The online booking system for vaccines was updated this morning to also include the most vulnerable and details will be updated on the system throughout the day.

People in those groups no longer have to wait six months after their second dose to top up their protection.

Margaret Keenan, 91, was the initial vaccine recipient last year and has urged people to have the jab adding “it’ll save your life and the life of your friends and family – and the NHS as well of course”.

So far nationally, there have been 42,900,000 first doses, 36,100,000 second and 17,500,000 top-ups.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The biggest and most successful vaccination drive in health service history is entering its most complex phase and is continuing at speed in the run-up to Christmas.

“NHS staff continue to work flat out to protect their communities and are now once again working to expand the programme at scale.”

It comes as Pfizer and BioNTech have released a study which said three doses of their vaccines could be an effective defence against the new Omicron variant, providing the same level of anti-bodies as two doses against other variants.

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