Covid live: UK’s PM says Christmas should be ‘normal’; Ireland announces new restrictions

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More than half of those infected with the Omicron coronavirus variant in England were double jabbed, health officials have said, as the number of cases detected in the UK continues to rise sharply.

A further 16 cases have been found in Scotland in the last 24 hours, five times the increase recorded the previous day, with some linked to a Steps concert in Glasgow 11 days ago. Wales also announced its first case on Friday, and more cases have been discovered in England, although precise new figures remained unconfirmed on Friday evening.

The sharp rise in cases came as a new risk assessment from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the new variant is “transmitting rapidly and successfully”. A separate analysis by the agency of the first 22 Omicron cases in England also found that more than half of those infected had been double jabbed.

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Ireland announces new restrictions for bars and restaurants after warning risks are ‘just too high’

Ireland has reintroduced restrictions to combat the risk posed by the Omicron Covid variant.

However the government stopped short of cancelling Christmas but has restricted interactions in private settings to four households.

Nightclubs will be closed from next Tuesday until 9 January; strict social distancing will be required in bars and restaurants with mandatory table service and a maximum of six people allowable per table.

The measures will return the country to limits which were in force until as recently as 22 October in a blow to the night time economy.

Indoor and sporting venues will be limited to 50% capacity and sporting events must be fully seated and a Covid certificate evidence double vaccination will be required for access to hotels and gyms.

In a televised announcement, taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “Our public health experts have been exceptionally clear in their advice to government. The risks associated with proceeding into the Christmas period without some restrictions…is just too high.”

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