By BBC News
Image caption, Early data suggesting that the Omicron variant of coronavirus may be less severe than previous variants is picked up on many front pages including the Daily Telegraph’s. The paper says senior government sources have said that Britain should not be subject to further Covid restrictions following the findings. It also reports on the story that the UK is pondering rolling out a fourth round of coronavirus vaccinations – following Israel and Germany announcing they would do so.
Image caption, The Daily Mail says the research vindicates Boris Johnson’s refusal to bring in new curbs. It says that Omicron is “officially” 50% less severe than other variants, and says the findings reduce the likelihood of another lockdown in January.
Image caption, The I also reports on the study but says cases have hit a new record after more than 106,000 infections were reported on Wednesday. Experts remain concerned that the sheer number of infections could still overwhelm the NHS, the paper says.
Image caption, The Guardian’s headline says data shows the risk of a hospital stay is 40% lower with Omicron. It points out that, with Wales and Northern Ireland announcing stricter measures, England is the only country in the UK not to have announced post-Christmas curbs. The paper quotes epidemiologist Prof Neil Ferguson who says that while the study is “good news” it does not substantially change modelling by experts which pointed to 3,000 daily hospitalisations in England at the peak next month.
Image caption, The Times quotes senior government sources saying that the decision not to impose further restrictions in England will be reviewed after Boxing Day. It reports that ministers are also hopeful about two antiviral drugs which it is believed could be “vital tools” against Covid.
Image caption, The Daily Express has a message for those who have not had their coronavirus vaccination. “Dear unjabbed…give Britain the best gift this Xmas” it says, adding book your vaccination now!”
Image caption, The Daily Mirror has a similar plea from frontline Covid staff. “Young people are dying in intensive care… they haven’t had their jabs” is the stark headline.
Image caption, The Financial Times leads on a warning from energy companies that gas price rises threaten a “national crisis”. The paper says they are increasing pressure on ministers to protect customers and suppliers from volatile markets.
Image caption, The Daily Star channels Chris Rea as it says that with train drivers preparing to strike. “I’m driving er, slowly home for Christmas” is the headline.
Preliminary UK studies suggesting that people with the Omicron variant of Covid are at lower risk of being admitted to hospital make the lead for most of Thursday’s papers.
The Times says they offer early support for Boris Johnson’s decision to pause further restrictions in England.
Similarly, the Daily Mail says the eagerly awaited findings vindicate his decision to hold fire.
Image source, PA Media
Image caption, Several papers say early studies on Omicron, which suggest it is milder, vindicate Boris Johnson’s decision not to impose further measures in England
According to the Daily Telegraph, cabinet ministers and Tory MPs say the research “weakens” the need for more restrictions.
One cabinet minister is quoted as saying that if hospital numbers do not grow, it could represent a “killer blow” against those in the government who support more rules.
Emergency cabinet meetings and the possible recall of parliament early next week are now thought to be increasingly unlikely, the paper adds.
But the i says researchers believe it is too early to say categorically that Omicron is milder than Delta because there may be other factors affecting the situation such as age and the relative levels of vaccinations.
The Guardian adds that as daily Covid cases topped 100,000 for the first time yesterday, experts warned that high transmissibility meant the NHS was still at risk of being overwhelmed.
It says prices remain at unprecedented levels – and ministers are understood to be considering a number of options to mitigate the impact of the jump in household bills.
The Sun reports that people who cross the Channel in small boats could be fitted with electronic tags to monitor their whereabouts.
It says the measure – being drawn up by the Home Office and a Cabinet Office task force – aims to deter others from making the dangerous crossing.
The paper’s leader column says whether the idea survives contact with human rights judges and activist left-wing lawyers is another matter entirely.
British Overseas Territories have for the first time become eligible to apply for city status, in a competition for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – and the Telegraph is optimistic about their chances.
It points out that Port Stanley in the Falklands – with a population of about 2,500 – might seem small for a city, but St Davids, in Pembrokeshire, is a city with a population hundreds smaller.
And like St Davids – it adds – Port Stanley is suitably fitted out with an Anglican Cathedral.
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Stanley – which is making a bid for city status – already has a cathedral
Finally, Uber has revealed the most popular destination for its passengers in the whole of Europe during 2021.
According to the i, it was Selfridges, the department store on Oxford Street, as people raced to go shopping and clubbing in the area following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
The paper says more than half a million Uber trips were made there, beating the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
In the UK, the second most popular journey was to the London Eye, followed by Buckingham Palace.