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London politics latest: Boris Johnson eased restrictions to avoid party headlines, Welsh minister says

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Oris Johnson was hit by a furious row on Friday over scrapping Plan B as a Cabinet minister slammed the Welsh premier for claiming restrictions were being eased in England to avoid party headlines No. 10.

On Friday morning, the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, accused the UK government of rushing the end of Covid-19 restrictions in England to escape negative headlines around the holidays at No 10 during lockdown.

He said the contrast between his country’s approach to lifting the measures and England’s “has been quite stark this week”.

“I have to say that anyone watching what happened at Westminster will know that these announcements are not science-driven,” Mr Drakeford told Sky News.

“They are not part of a carefully considered plan, they are just an effort by British ministers to come up with a different headline to the one that has dominated the news.”

In response, Wales Secretary Simon Hart said in a tweet that Mr Drakeford’s comments were “unwarranted and opportunistic”.

He said they were also an “insult to medical advisers and the public”.

“It is thanks to the decisions of the UK (and Welsh) government, scientists, families and businesses that the UK is ahead of the world in its response to Covid,” Mr Hart said.

Live updates

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Ireland removes nearly all Covid restrictions

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin has confirmed almost all Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted from 6am on Saturday. The only rules that will remain in place will be face masks, self-isolating after testing positive for the virus and Covid passes for international travel.

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Northern Ireland health minister ‘cautiously optimistic’ on Covid

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann said he was cautiously optimistic about Covid.

Earlier this week, the Stormont executive announced a series of easing of restrictions.

From Friday, rules on table service in pubs and restaurants were relaxed and the requirement to prove exemptions on wearing face masks was removed.

“I always made the decision at the time in relation to the advice that was issued through my chief medical officer and my chief scientific adviser, so February 10, although that will be a date key, let’s make sure we get there safely and as collectively as we can,’ Mr Swann told reporters in Dunsilly, Co Antrim.

“I would always encourage people to follow the advice, to follow the regulations that are still in place and to take advantage of the opportunities to show up and get their shots and booster shots.

“There are three weeks left and I want the trajectory of this virus to continue in the same direction that it has been, and that is down.”

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PM: Let London’s recovery start now

Boris Johnson and Mayor Sadiq Khan hailed the start of a ‘great comeback’ to London on Friday as Tube figures showed more commuters were already returning to the city centre, writes Jonathan Prynn, Nicholas Cecil and David Bond.

Mr Johnson told the Evening Standard: “As we start to put the Plan B restrictions behind us, it’s great to see London getting back on their feet.

“This government’s recall plan, aided by one of the largest testing programs in the world, has allowed us to be one of the most open economies in recent months and thanks to the millions of people who have stepped up to get their third dose, we can now go even further.”

He spoke of ‘bustling high streets’ and the ‘West End coming alive again’, adding: ‘We now have good reason to hope that better days lie ahead for our great city.

Mr Khan was also optimistic about the recovery, but maintained the wearing of masks as a condition of travel on Transport for London services.

He said: “As Covid restrictions ease, I’m encouraged to see the ‘great comeback’ begin – with people returning to central London to experience all the capital has to offer, to catch up colleagues in the office to enjoy our world-class culture and hospitality industries.

“The lifting of work-from-home advice in particular is good news for businesses that have seen a devastating drop in footfall after already being hit so hard by this pandemic.”

Read our full story here.

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‘Half a million’ daily Covid cases every day over Christmas

New Covid cases in the UK averaged almost half a million a day during the week after Christmas, almost three times the official figures, according to new analysis.

An average of 173,400 new coronavirus cases per day were recorded from December 26 to January 1, according to the government’s Covid-19 dashboard.

But the true number of cases was likely closer to 479,100 a day, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates.

The ONS figures are based on analysis of nose and throat swabs taken from a representative sample of more than 150,000 people in private households.

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Isolation and masks to stay in Wales

Masks and self-isolation rules will remain in Wales despite being lifted in England, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed today.

“The next review of the coronavirus regulations, including all the protective measures we have put in place, will take place in three weeks,” he said.

“The arrival of the Omicron wave at Christmas was another unpleasant twist to this long-running pandemic.”

He did not give a date for the restrictions to be lifted, saying: ‘I am the First Minister of Wales and not a horoscope for a daily newspaper.

“It’s simply impossible for anyone to peer into the future with coronavirus with the kind of precision.”

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Dimbleby: Council tax hike could help fund the BBC

David Dimbleby has suggested that BBC licensing fees should be linked to council tax to make them fairer.

His comments come days after the government announced that the license fee funding model could be phased out by 2027.

A number of alternatives to funding the license fee have been proposed, including an opt-in subscription service similar to that used by streaming giants such as Netflix, the introduction of advertising or a broadband license fee .

Former Question Time host Mr Dimbleby told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “The licensing fee is something I absolutely believe in; I don’t think it’s possible to have public service broadcasting without paying public money this way.

“But what I think is that the BBC should recognize that £159 paid by the poorest as well as the wealthiest is just plain unfair, it’s unfair.

“And there is an easy way for the BBC to take the lead, which is to suggest that the amount of the license fee, the gross figure of £159, should not be paid as a flat rate by everyone, but the richer should pay more and the poorer. less.

“And the simple way to do that would be to attach an element of the charge to the council tax bracket.”

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France introduces the Covid pass from Monday

France will introduce a Covid vaccination pass from Monday after government plans are approved.

Anyone over the age of 16 will need a vaccination certificate to enter public places like restaurants and cinemas.

One of the conditions was that the pass would not be needed to attend political meetings.

It was decided that it should end as soon as it was no longer needed. Until now, unvaccinated people could enter public places with the results of a recent negative Covid test.

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Wales have passed Omicron’s peak, says Prime Minister

Wales has passed the peak of the Omicron wave, Premier Mark Drakeford has said.

Measures to slow the spread of Omicron are being eased in Wales on Friday, with thousands of fans set to return to sports stadiums.

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England’s R number has dropped

England’s R rate has fallen from last week and is currently estimated at between 0.8 and 1.1.

It is down from last week when it was thought to be between 1.1 and 1.5.

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A major incident stopped in London

The major incident reported in London last month as Omicron spread through the capital has been called off.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan took the decision on December 18 to declare a major incident due to the spread of the variant, an increase in patients in London hospitals and the impact of staff absences in hospitals. front-line services.

Mr Khan said he was canceling major incident status but warned the city would remain on high alert.

The mayor’s office said the decision comes following the gradual improvement in the number of cases in the capital, the reduction of pressures on the provision of essential services to manageable levels and a significant improvement in absences from the staff.

Mr Khan said: “Our NHS and our emergency services have gone above and beyond during an extremely trying time for our city.

“Anyone who wore a mask, took a lateral flow test or followed the advice to work from home where possible, played their part in reducing the pressure they were facing and allowed us to end the ‘major incident’ in London today.

“But the virus and the Omicron variant are still with us and daily infection rates are still too high.

“That’s why we all need to stay vigilant and keep doing the things that have allowed our city to reopen safely.”