this is bbc news broadcasting to viewers in the uk and around the world. i'm martine. our top stories... scientists cautiously welcome uk studies suggesting that the highly—contagious omicron covid variant is milder than previous versions. britain's health secretary warns that the sheer number of infections could still lead to hospitals being overwhelmed. we do know with omicron that it does spread a lot more quickly, it's more infectious than delta, so any advantage gained from reduced risk of hospitalisation needs to be set against that. new south wales proposes to charge unvaccinated people for covid medical costs — the doctors�* union says it's unethical.
president putin again insists the west must give russia guarantees that nato won't expand eastwards to admit ukraine; and says he's initiated high—level talks with the us. translation: if we are plunged in a conflict? i but we don't want that. it is not our choice. this is why i responded to president biden�*s proposal. the ball is in their court now and they should respond, and coming up, rescue footage emerges of two babies being pulled alive from the rubble of kentucky's tornado last week and handed over to their grandmother. praise god! hello and welcome. tighter restrictions against coronavirus have come into effect in some european countries amid concerns over the highly infectious omicron variant that continues to spread rapidly.
there's a fear that a wave of omicron infections could overwhelm health services, despite preliminary studies suggesting that omicron is milder and that the risk of being hospitalised is up to 75% lower. we'll look at mainland europe in a moment, but let's start here in the uk. according the latest official statistics, over 1.3 million british people were infected with covid in the week ending the 16th of december — the highest level of infections recorded since the pandemic began. here's our health correspondent, dominic hughes. the last few days before christmas have brought some better news. early studies of the omicron covid variant suggest it may lead to fewer hospitalisations than the previous delta wave. that's the good news — but researchers say the true number of people getting infected is much higher than the official figure and there will be some challenging days ahead.
so we're picking up asymptomatic infections as well as symptomatic infections, so a different bunch of people than may be reporting for testing through the national programme, so all that is telling us there's a lot of cases, but for any individual it might be less severe, but at the population level there's going to be very severe pressure i think on the health service. as covid infections continue to soar, health leaders have been warning of a looming staff crisis. nhs workers are just as vulnerable to the highly infectious omicron variant as the rest of us, and with staff falling ill, hospitals, ambulances and community services are all being hit. the impact of staff absences is on top of existing staff shortages and normally trust leaders would be looking to fill the gaps through bank and agency staff. that's getting harder to do. the latest data from nhs england shows what a dramatic impact the rising infections is having
on staff absence. on one day, the 19th of december, nearly 19,000 nhs staff in england were off work due to covid — that's up by 54% when compared to the week before. the biggest increase was in london, the epicentre of this outbreak, where covid—related absence, sickness or isolation almost doubled to around 3,900. the nhs workforce was already under pressure before omicron came along, we are seeing increased pressure in many workforces at the moment, especially if someone needs to isolate if they have a positive case, but some of the recent moves we have had from 10—day to seven—day isolation, i think all of this will help. between 30 and 40. these are the ages of some
of the people fighting - for the life on a covid ward. a graphic illustration of the pressure is the health service is facing from liverpool city council, filmed in the intensive care unit of the royal liverpool. it shows how every patient needing treatment is relatively young and unvaccinated. the message is clear — get vaccinated. - in wales too, where waiting lists for planned procedures have hit a record high, there are warnings, too, nearly one—fifth of staff could be off with covid in january. nhs england's top doctor says the health service is now on a war footing and the best weapons in the fight against the omicron variant remain vaccines and boosters. dominic hughes, bbc news. the uk government has ruled out introducing new restrictions before christmas. prime minister borisjohnson is yet to announce if england will see post—christmas restrictions, but other parts of the uk have announced their return. in northern ireland, nightclubs will be closed from boxing day, from the 27th of december hospitality will return to table service only with no more than six people allowed to sit together and people will be advised to reduce indoor mixing to a maximum of three households.
in wales — restrictions introduced include a return of the rule of six in pubs, cinemas and restaurants. two—metre social distancing rules will also be reintroduced in public places. nightclubs will close from boxing day. in scotland, from boxing day, there will be limits on the size of live public events. from the following day, nightclubs will close for three weeks, while pubs, bars and other hospitality venues will return to table service only with one—metre social distancing and no more than three households in each group. meanwhile — the pandemic is causing further disruption in the world of top flight football. two more premier league games have been called off due to the ongoing problems with the pandemic. liverpool's game with leeds and wolves�* match at home to watford have been postponed because the number of positive covid cases means some teams have insufficient players to fulfil their fixtures. it brings the total number of games cancelled this month in the premier league to 12. let's look at london now,
where the number of people in hospital with covid but because of something else has more than doubled so far in december and now stands atjust over 400. the number of people in hospital because of covid has also risen: by 40% to nearly 1200. let's talk to the bbc�*s head of statistics robert cuffe. roberts, the government is advised by a group of scientists call sage and they've been saying that we could expect to see 1000 to 2000 people in hospital by the end of the 3000 people in hospital at a mccrum's peak but their models have been challenged and they are forever predicting doom and gloom in getting it worse. shed some on it. well. predicting doom and gloom in getting it worse. shed some on it.— it worse. shed some on it. well, i think if you _ it worse. shed some on it. well, i think if you look _ it worse. shed some on it. well, i think if you look at _ it worse. shed some on it. well, i think if you look at the _ it worse. shed some on it. well, i think if you look at the models . think if you look at the models market to market you can certainly find examples of doom and gloom that you can also find examples of optimism. i think these models are pretty complicated and if you think about what they're trying to do a week ago and what we knew was that omicron custom designed to avoid the first line of your body's defences.
if you want to work out what it does to those cells then what does the rest of your body in your immune system to try and fight it off? you have then got to work that out for a whole population, people are sick, well, vaccinated, infected, stronger and weaker immune systems and then on top of that you have got to add, well, what is going to add over christmas and i was a mix and going to change and how was that going to change and we have heard about how bad and von might be in on top of that uncertainty you have got to add, you know, otherfactors like the weather. i will go to go out all be driven inside by vein and we have got all those bits of uncertainty and you can see huge range on these projections that they make i think one part of the omicron wave is that the peak is going to be half as bad as last january and twice as bad as last january. as last january and twice as bad as lastjanuary. the issue is really we can't use these models instead of dating can give is a sense of where we might end up but we can only use the data is like the figures we had
a couple of seconds ago what is happening in london hospitals to really tell us what is coming. which makes it aukus through the latest figures from today. —— well, talk and see the latest figures from today. the number the number is pub going up fasterfor is pub going up faster for people with covid but still the majority 75% of people in london in hospital in a covid—19 bed and there because covid—19 put them there and what we're seeing the trends and changes over time is what you might hope to see of expect to see with something like a mccrum if indeed it does cause mouth infections but still has the power to put people in hospital so you will see more people because there is loaded by this amount, loads of people who go in with a broken leg and pick up covid—19 when they are in the hospital you spot they are in the hospital you spot they have covid—19 money in there. it is not going up. and of course that does put professions on hospitals and if someone is in with
covid you have to protect women from the vulnerable people see don't get an outbreak that it is different pressure from the one in social care and you are also seeing an increase eventually as we see more and more infections that does lead to more people going into hospital because covid—19 is putting them there so we are seeing increasing pressure on both fronts. the fact it is going up slightly faster for with covid—19 rather than of covid—19 is bubbly consistent with the mild signs and some good news thereby increases all rounder for me not best news. that is the interesting _ rounder for me not best news. that is the interesting thing, that we still don't quite know what the balances between the increasing number of people getting a mccrum because it's a highly transmissible and whether they are really going to that poly with it. the and whether they are really going to that poly with it.— that poly with it. the news we had, ou that poly with it. the news we had, you know. — that poly with it. the news we had, you know, yesterday _ that poly with it. the news we had, you know, yesterday about - that poly with it. the news we had, you know, yesterday about the - you know, yesterday about the madness of a mccrum of the performance of everything is really good because the models we had that we were looking at more and more didn't have those assumptions built in. they are assuming that any fall
in. they are assuming that any fall in a mccrum severity is just because more people were immune had been vaccinated in the past and know what we're seeing is that there is the hope it might even lower than that, we might not be heading to the doomsday scenarios and some of the models and the question is why that will balance out and as a result of the omicron wave public quite a substantial one and will see exactly where we got end up and we will see more information on that in the coming days. more information on that in the coming dam-— more information on that in the cominu da s. ., ., coming days. robert, for the moment to thank you — coming days. robert, for the moment to thank you very _ coming days. robert, for the moment to thank you very much _ coming days. robert, for the moment to thank you very much that _ coming days. robert, for the moment to thank you very much that was - to thank you very much that was robert forth the bbc�*s head of statistics. never look at what is happening in europe. —— now a look at what is happening in europe. as we mentioned, amid rising infections, a number of countries are re—introducing coronavirus restrictions. aru na iyengar reports.
countries across europe are responding in different ways to the rapidly spreading omicron virus. belgium, as it emerges from a fourth wave of covid infections, is bracing for a fifth. theatres and entertainment venues will have to close their doors on december the 26th, their busiest time of the year. translation: i absolutely agree that we should not take _ risks with public health. but, with these measures, we threaten the mental health of a lot of people. in spain, the government of pedro sanchez has increased the vaccination roll—out, extending this to children under the age of 12. mask—wearing will become compulsory outdoors for the second time. and, in the netherlands, with shops, restaurants and cinemas closed by dutch people and businesses face a very bleak christmas. rising cases mean hospitals have had to cancel other types of surgery. there are now 600 at the icus. but it was at the cost of that we postponed the urgent surgeries for a lot of patients, and what we also did see in last week is that the number of people that died, the total in the netherlands
was higher than expected. italy, the first western country to be hit by the covid—19 pandemic early last year, said omicron infections now account for 28% of cases. but daily caseloads of coronavirus remain well below some other european countries, such as britain and germany. aruna iyengar, bbc news. in australia, the omicron variant is also spreading fast. in new south wales — the country's most populous state — the number of hospitalised covid patients has nearly doubled over the last week. and the state government has proposed charging unvaccinated people for their covid medical care. the idea would be a departure from australia's system of universal health care, and has been widely criticised. here's our australia correspondent, shaimaa khalil. this idea was mentioned by the new south wales state health minister, brad hazzard. he was speaking to local media, and he was saying that the new south wales state government is considering whether to
force people who are unvaccinated to pay for their medical bills if they required hospitalisation for covid—19. he did not mention any further details. he didn't say how far along they are in those conversations. but, if implemented, this is going to be extremely controversial, because it is going to be a drastic change from australia's universal health care system. it has already come under fierce criticism from australia's top medical association, the australian medical association. and its president said that this was unethical to charge people for medical care based on previous health choices, that it was a shame to deny people health care, to deny people medical care in the middle of a pandemic, and that this was a lack of compassion really, at a time when people need it the most.
and also, where do you draw the line by the same logic? do you then charge smokers? new south wales has, of course, eased its restrictions. it's come out of lockdown. it's opened both its domestic and international borders for australians and for visa—holders, and there was an expectation that these cases were going to rise, but that number has sharply risen in the last week or so. today, the state has reported more than 5,700 covid—19 cases. about 80% of that is of the omicron variant. and these are big numbers, in an australian context. so i think even if it'sjust an idea that's being floated, even if it's just being discussed, it's going to make that divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated even deeper, and i think it also shows you a certain nervousness from the state government's side about whether or not the health care is going to handle more cases. the former british prime minister gordon brown has described the failure to distribute covid
vaccines to poorer countries as a "stain on our global soul". speaking to the bbc, mr brown said that everyone will suffer without a push to get the whole world immunised next year. so far, 8 billion covid vaccines have been administered worldwide — but the vast majority have been given in high— and middle—income countries. let's talk to amelia christie, the head of advocacy at unicef uk. amelia, welcome and thank you very much forjoining us. what do you believe the global vaccine strategy should be? the believe the global vaccine strategy should be? . . ., ., should be? the crucial thing about the ulobal should be? the crucial thing about the global vaccine _ should be? the crucial thing about the global vaccine strategy - should be? the crucial thing about the global vaccine strategy is - should be? the crucial thing about the global vaccine strategy is that l the global vaccine strategy is that we cannot do it country by country. what this virus has made incredible clear is that we need to take a transnational, truly global approach so we can end this pandemic for everyone, everywhere.- everyone, everywhere. israel is lookinu everyone, everywhere. israel is looking at _ everyone, everywhere. israel is looking at a _ everyone, everywhere. israel is looking at a fourth _ everyone, everywhere. israel is looking at a fourth jab - everyone, everywhere. israel is looking at a fourth jab for- everyone, everywhere. israel is looking at a fourth jab for its i looking at a fourth jab for its citizens and nigeria yesterday had to destroy over a million vaccines.
what is your view of accidents like that? -- what is your view of accidents like that? —— actions like that? we what is your view of accidents like that? -- actions like that? we have not a that? -- actions like that? we have got a really — that? -- actions like that? we have got a really unequal— that? -- actions like that? we have got a really unequal situation - that? -- actions like that? we have got a really unequal situation at - got a really unequal situation at the moment where only 1% of global supply has ended up in low—income countries we've got a big disparity and in the case of nigeria we have a situation in nigeria well as people of received their first dose of the vaccine then say people in the uk have a see their booster dose are what we really need here is a coordinated approach where we ensure that everybody all around the world gets to be vaccinated regardless of where they live. the gets to be vaccinated regardless of where they live.— gets to be vaccinated regardless of where they live. the vaccine sharing initiative covax _ where they live. the vaccine sharing initiative covax has _ where they live. the vaccine sharing initiative covax has lowered - where they live. the vaccine sharing initiative covax has lowered its - initiative covax has lowered its target for next year, 2022. why is that if we are, what we want to see in your view, is a much better spread vaccination distribution? the, yes, a key thing about this is about having the doses available and also the equipment available to fail to get this doses out there so where we have seen in some places like
nigeria a key issue was that they didn't have enough time between when they received the vaccinations and their expiry date so we really need high income countries around the world to be donating vaccines in a way that is clear to countries that they have enough lead time to be able to pick this up in a bigger part of this issue as well as opposing countries with their health systems. we need strong health systems. we need strong health systems wheel to pick up things like this. we need transportation, health workers and equipment required to be able to get those vaccines into our hands so we are willing to support not just with the vaccine themselves but that is obviously a crucial part of it but we need support with that whole... as well. if we are not to be in the same position this time next year as we are now, why does the impetus most need to come from? we really need government to step up and realise that this isn't a national issue that they should be tackling on their own. we really
need countries to be coordinating and ensuring that we get the doses to everybody so that we do not have variants coming up like we are saying now and she's really, really a situation where we just cannot tackle this one place at a time. we also need to ensure that vaccines are just one measure that is being taken but we also continue to take measures that are needed like social distancing, mask waving, and ensuring that we are taking a holistic approach and we are sharing what we can and showing that everybody is able to have equal access. ~ ., everybody is able to have equal access. ~ . , ., ., access. media christie, head of advocacy at _ access. media christie, head of advocacy at unicef _ access. media christie, head of advocacy at unicef uk. - access. media christie, head of advocacy at unicef uk. thank. access. media christie, head of l advocacy at unicef uk. thank you very much. advocacy at unicef uk. thank you very much-— advocacy at unicef uk. thank you very much. thanks, nice to talk to ou. russian president vladimir putin has held a wide—reaching annual end—of—year press conference in moscow. in more than four hours of questions from journalists, he covered everything from covid vaccines to his thoughts on father frost — the russian version of santa claus — but there was a lot of focus on ukraine. he insisted that russia has a historical right to be
involved in eastern ukraine, and blamed nato for bringing missiles to russia's doorstop. but he said he does not want to see an escalation in conflict. translation: i've been talking about our welfare, health care l and infrastructure measures. will they mean a lot if we are plunged in a conflict? but we don't want that. it is not our choice. this is why i responded to president biden's proposal. the ball is in their court now and they should respond, and by and large we are seeing positives. let's speak to olga ivshina from bbc russia who was monitoring the news conference. that took up a lot of your time and there was lots to digests. mr putin are saying he doesn't want complex but there are still a substantial russian military build—up on the border of ukraine so what are the chances this turning into war? weill.
chances this turning into war? well, that is a good _ chances this turning into war? well, that is a good question, _ chances this turning into war? well, that is a good question, you - chances this turning into war? 1t that is a good question, you know, but we need to remember that this press conference is first of all oriented for internal russian audiences and this was exactly the message for internal audiences. in a way, we are supporting this, creating these dangerous dragons, you know, blaming it all in the western saying russia is only responding to dangerous builders from the west and then he is gloriously defeating those dragons of at least that is what he is showing for his internal audience but for external audiences it is always very important, you know, in the way he is sending a message. he said that he is looking forward for negotiations with the west which are due injanuary and definitely negotiations with the west which are due in january and definitely these military due injanuary and definitely these military build—ups of russian due in january and definitely these military build—ups of russian troops is giving him some strong positions during those negotiations and the same is with this gas prices in europe. again, you know, but it is an important gas supplier and this gives putin additional strength
during those negotiations and that is exactly what they want. he during those negotiations and that is exactly what they want.- is exactly what they want. he also addressed the _ is exactly what they want. he also addressed the issues _ is exactly what they want. he also addressed the issues of _ is exactly what they want. he also addressed the issues of the - addressed the issues of the crackdown on press freedom and political opposition in russia. tells more about what he said. for many years — tells more about what he said. fr?“ many years now during putin's press conference questions were not less important than the answer is because for most of the time, you know, it is the only chance in the year when russian audiences can hear certain things, he has certain questions. you know, for example my colleague managed to ask a question about alexei navalny and about press freedom, she said. mr putin never pronounce the name of alexei navalny and he was twist questions about press freedom and that is exactly what he did today, addressing the question about, you know, crackdown on press freedom in russia hejust said that, you know, global laws about foreign agents and many other countries including the united states. was he forgot to mention was that in the united states, for
example, this law only applies to those media organisations which get funding from the state budget of other punch countries and don't criticise their own government. in russia, those rules are way more, weigh less clear and that is why so many people are on this edge which is very devastating for any immediate organisationaljournalist immediate organisational journalist operating in immediate organisationaljournalist operating in russia at the moment. olga, thank you very much. hong kong university has defended its decision to remove a famous statue marking the tiananmen square massacre. the statue showed piled—up corpses to commemorate the hundreds, possibly thousands, of pro—democracy protesters who were killed by chinese authorities in 1989. it was one of the few remaining public memorials in hong kong commemorating the incident. the prince of wales and the duchess of cornwall will be
with the queen on christmas day, clarence house has said. the queen will be staying at windsor for her first christmas without her late husband the duke of edinburgh, rather than travelling to sandringham as usual. the queen took the decision to remain at windsor as a "precautionary" measure following rising covid—19 case numbers. footage has been released of two babies being pulled from the wreckage of a tornado last week in the us state of kentucky. the children's grandmother had tucked them into a bath with a blanket and a bible. the bath was ripped from the house by the force of the storm and ended up in the garden — this is the moment rescue teams found them. 329, can you get down here? we need help — we got someone in this debris. in the bathtub. 15 months old. hey, baby. baby cries. come here, sweetheart.
good girl. is she ok? he? what have we got? 0k. no cuts on the leg. both of them are ok. praise god, lordjesus, oh thank you, jesus! i oh, thank you, jesus. she's getting in the car getting dropped... look here. here's the little one. i told you we'd get 'em! good news there from the us state not least for that grandma who got both babies back from the tornado. don't forget you can get in touch with me and some of the team on twitter — i'm @martinebbc i'm always glad to hear from you and see what you think of the coverage and plenty more of course on the bbc
website. you're watching bbc news. that afternoon. wow, what a difference a day make. we started off today at mild but quite murky out there with outbreaks of rain. now, these weather fronts were pushing their way steadily northwards through the night and behind introduce this milder air with a southerly flow and that mile there is going to gradually displace there is going to gradually displace the cold air across much of england and wales. the exception will always sit across the far north of scotland and that means there is the potential as we go through the day today and sing a little bit of snow as you can see from the tops of the mountains. behind it, we will see some heavier rain later today into northern ireland, north—west england and the scottish borders. to the south of that, quite a lot of cloud may be thick enough some light
drizzly rain in places but it will stay male, 10—12 the high here. further north we keep the colder temperature sitting around, 5—7 c. moving out of their state was christmas eve is that where the fun continues to push its way steadily north bumping into the cold air we could see some significant snow to higher ground above 200 metres in the highland before it peters out through the night. further south, it is going to be a misty and foggy start, a mail to start and that is certainly worth bearing in mind if you are up and off travelling to see friends and family first thing on christmas eve. the fog will gradually lift into low cloud, the rain easing into scotland but by the same time down to the south—west into northern ireland, wales and south—west england we are going to see some wetter and increasingly windier weather starting to develop by the end of christmas eve afternoon. mountaineer south and greater chance of seeing some brightness and sunshine but cool into the far north—east of scotland. now, as we move out of christmas eve and christmas day is this where the
fun continues to push its way steadily northwards once again we have still got that law sitting across the far north of scotland so in the leading edge there could be a bit of a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow early on christmas day. that will ease away but it is going to be pretty nondescript christmas day with a lot of cloud around, getting in some rain into northern ireland, wales or south—west england but here it stays on the mild side and a nonpolice keep that cool air. that rain is going to sweep this way steadily northwards but hanging on for some of us for boxing day but, again, still relatively mild.
hello. i hope the year has been kind to you. the media industry is defining a new normal, and coming to terms with the second year of a global pandemic. print and distribution costs are growing pretty much everywhere. but so too are online subscriptions and targeted advertising. big tech is more dominant than ever, but governments and regulators around the world, including here in the uk, are waking up to new ways to shape these giants of global media. or at least squaring up for a fight with them. nevertheless, many of the biggest headlines this year came from more traditional media. presenter piers morgan left itv�*s good morning britain after saying that he didn't believe a word that meghan said in that interview with oprah winfrey. concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he is born.