Five things you need to know about coronavirus as outdoor gathering in Wales rises from 50 to 500

Here are the morning headlines for Saturday, December 15, as Wales begins its journey back to Alert Level Zero.

The earlier lifting of restrictions increases the number of people attending outdoor events from 50 to 500 as of Saturday.

The First Minister announced this easing of restrictions during his live coronavirus briefing on Friday, 15 December.

It is the first of many over the next fortnight that will see Wales return to alert level zero – and minimal coronavirus restrictions – if the public health situation continues to improve and cases continue to decline.

Mark Drakeford said rates had fallen to 1,200 this week from 2,300 per 100,000 of the Welsh population last Friday (7 January), giving the Welsh government “space” to start lifting restrictions.

A timetable has been shared showing which of Wales’ restrictions will be lifted on Friday, 21 January and Friday, 28 January. Read more about the time table here.

It has also been confirmed that the Six Nations will be able to proceed as planned with the crowd.

Weekly Downing Street parties reported during the pandemic

A report says no 10 regularly hosts ‘wine-time Fridays’ with Boris Johnson during the pandemic.

It is believed that the gatherings were scheduled every week between 4 pm and 7 pm in the electronic calendar of about 50 No. 10 employees, and encouraged colleagues to “let off steam”.

A photo is shown of the £142 beverage fridge he bought to keep his white wine, prosecco and beer cold from the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020 mirror report,

Sources said the gatherings sometimes went on till midnight, with two dozen associates drinking and playing games like pedia.

The prime minister is said to have attended a “handful” of gatherings at points when indoor socializing was banned under lockdown rules.

These include an incident on November 13, 2020, the day Dominic Cummings walked out at No. 10, when he stopped for a glass of wine and chatted with the team.

The report joins a host of reported parties during the pandemic, including a ‘cheese and wine’ party, ‘Social distance drinks’ in the Garden of No. 10Downing Street Christmas Party & Teawo Leaving parties on Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

Read more:The full list of government lockdown parties – and what the rules were at the time

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “An investigation is ongoing to establish the facts surrounding the nature of the gatherings, including attendance, setting and purpose, in terms of adherence to the guidance at the time.

“The findings will be made public in due course.”

English compulsory jab plans ‘no pay’ for sacked health care workers

An official document shows unaffiliated health workers in England are being sacked without pay.

Frontline staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with twice as many by 1 April – meaning they would have received their first vaccine on 3 February.

Healthcare employers have been told that from the next day – February 4 – unemployed workers should be invited to a meeting and said the possible result could be dismissal.

The guidance, published Friday and reported by the Journal of Health Services (HSJ), is for the implementation of Vaccination as a State of Immunization (VCOD).

The 24-page document says: “It is important to note that this is not a redundant exercise. In terms of regulations, there is no reduction or termination of any particular type of work.

“Employers will not be concerned with finding ‘suitable alternative employment’ and there will be no redundancy entitlements, including payments, whether statutory or contractual, triggered by this process.

“The reappointment or dismissal of workers is determined by the introduction of rules and the decision to vaccinate a person without.

“While organizations are encouraged to explore redistribution, the general principles that apply in a redundancy practice do not apply here, and it is important that managers be aware of it.”

The guidance states that employers should work closely with their trade union or staff side representatives as formal measures are being taken “with respect to possible dismissal and re-employment procedures of employees due to VCOD”.

The document states that there should be alternative options potentially available to a non-vaccinated staff member—such as any possible adjustments to their current role, restrictions on duties, or opportunities for re-employment.

It adds: “With effect from 4 February 2022, employees who remain without vaccination (except for those who are exempt) should be invited to a formal meeting, chaired by an appropriate manager, informing them that the meeting’s potential The result can be dismissal. Happens personally or virtually.”

Thousands of UK Covid-19 cases miss daily figures

The analysis shows thousands of new cases of coronavirus in the UK are not being included in the official daily figures.

According to the government’s COVID-19 dashboard, an average of 114,600 new cases were reported every day in the week till December 23.

But according to new estimates published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the true figure could be more than three times that number.

That means more than a half million new cases of coronavirus may have been missed from official figures in the week before Christmas.

High levels of under-reporting will still be affecting the government’s daily figures, meaning the current volume of cases in the UK is unclear.

The ONS has published the data as part of its weekly infection survey, which estimates both the overall spread of the virus across the country and the number of new cases.

All estimates are based on analysis of nasal and throat swabs taken from a representative sample of more than 150,000 people in private homes.

They show that there were an estimated 357,600 new cases of Covid-19 each day in the week to December 23, more than three times the 114,600 recorded on the government’s dashboard.

And in the seven days to 17 December, the ONS estimated 221,200 new cases in the UK – almost three times the number on the dashboard, which stood at 80,400.

Scotland deaths 10,000 after positive Covid test

According to the latest figures, more than 10,000 people have died in Scotland after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Scotland has recorded 41 coronavirus-linked deaths and 9,910 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, data published by the Scottish Government on Friday, 15 December = 4 shows.

This means that the death toll of people who tested positive for the virus in the past 28 days under this measure has risen to 10,038.

Scotland’s health secretary, Hamza Youssef, has said the Omicron wave of the coronavirus appears to be “slowing”, although he insisted that more data is needed for a definitive answer.

He said: “As we report the 10,000th Covid-19 death under the daily measure in Scotland, it is important to remember that this is not just a statistic.

“Each one represents a lost person, devastated families and bereaved communities. I want to send my heartfelt condolences to all those affected by the loss of a loved one.

“While we continue to navigate the difficult road ahead, I want to thank everyone for their continued efforts to help stop the spread of the virus.”

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