As Omicron continues to spread across the UK, with 218,724 positive cases reported in total on January 4, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to hold another televised coronavirus briefing.
The televised Covid briefing, in which Mr Johnson will provide an update on the latest Omicron statistics and overall Covid situation, comes ahead of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s next Covid briefing for Scotland.
The continued rise in coronavirus cases has seen England alone report 148,725 positive cases in the last 24 hours, with concerns over the impact of the fast-spreading variant on the NHS mounting as the extent of Omicron’s transmission over the festive period becomes apparent.
While Number 10 has recently stressed that further restrictions should not be required to curb the spread of Omicron in the UK, officials in Whitehall are keeping an "extremely close eye" on hospital capacity, with admissions and occupancy "increasing significantly" according to Downing Street.
Here’s what time Boris Johnson will make his Covid announcement today, how to watch live and what he could say.
When is Boris Johnson speaking today?
The Prime Minister is set to take to the Downing Street podium to brief UK citizens on the latest statistics and insights into the spread of the Omicron Covid variant at 5pm today (January 4).
Mr Johnson will be joined by chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty and the government’s chief scientific officer, Sir Patrick Vallance.
The announcement comes as Nicola Sturgeon is urged to cut Scotland’s 10 day self-isolation period to bring Covid rules in line with England and other countries which have recently reduced self-isolation periods.
But it is understood that Boris Johnson is not expected to announce any new restrictions in England, despite the dramatic rise in Omicron cases across the nation.
How can I watch Boris Johnson’s announcement?
The Prime Minister’s Covid announcement at 5pm today will be broadcast on BBC News and Sky News, as well as live streamed on the Prime Minister’s own official Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch channels.
Boris Johnson's Covid briefing will be also available to watch live online via BBC iPlayer or on Sky News’ YouTube channel.
What will Boris Johnson say in today’s Covid announcement?
While there is concern that the rising number of hospital admissions and occupancy of people with Covid-19 has led sceptics to suggest that Plan B restrictions might not be sufficient in stemming the tide of Omicron cases, the Prime Minister is not expected to introduce new Covid restrictions in today’s announcement.
Despite fears that staff shortages and rising cases could lead to further struggles for the NHS, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said there was nothing in recent data to suggest that England needs to move beyond the current Plan B restrictions.
"I think Plan B, implementing that, has been the right approach and also being absolutely focused on the vaccination programme," he told reporters during a visit to a vaccination centre in south London.
Officials in Whitehall are keeping an "extremely close eye" on hospital capacity, with admissions and occupancy "increasing significantly", Downing Street said.
But the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We're not seeing that same jump in beds requiring ventilation, which is pleasing, and almost certainly a function of both the nature of Omicron and our successful booster programme."
He added that the vaccinations and "evidence that Omicron may be milder" means "we are not seeing those huge waves in cases translate into those needing the most serious care that we saw perhaps in previous waves, but that still puts the NHS under significant pressure".
The latest NHS England figures show 14,210 patients with Covid-19 were in hospital on January 3, including 777 requiring mechanical ventilation.
Meanwhile, Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney said there is ‘strong evidence’ that restrictions introduced on events and hospitality in Scotland, which took effect on Boxing Day, are having a positive impact.
"I think there's a very important distinction in the data in Scotland with the data in England, and that's demonstrated by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) infections study which came out last week which demonstrated that, whilst one in 40 individuals in Scotland are likely to have Covid-19 just now, one in 25 are likely to have an England,” Mr Swinney told Good Morning Scotland on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by PA reporters David Hughes, Jane Kirby and Martina Bet