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NATIONAL NEWS ROUNDUP: Fewer in hospital despite rising case rates AND high demand on the roads

RISING CASE RATES: Here are your national headlines now.

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is less likely to result in severe disease and hospital admission, Government public health experts have said.

Publishing preliminary findings of its research into the new variant, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said Omicron appears to result in less severe disease for those infected with it.

However, the agency warned that the new strain is more transmissible than previous variants such as Delta, and could still lead to significant numbers of people needing hospital treatment over coming weeks.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid welcomed the latest data as “promising” but urged the public to remain cautious over the Christmas break, adding it was “still too early to determine next steps”.

The announcement comes as the UK experienced yet another record-breaking number of daily reported Covid cases, with 119,789 reported as of 9am on Thursday.

The results of the research are consistent with that of two other early studies into Omicron by Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh, both released on Wednesday.

According to analysis by the UKHSA, the risk of hospital admission for an identified case with Omicron is reduced compared with a case of Delta.

Someone with Omicron is estimated to be as much as 45% less likely to attend A&E compared with Delta, and as much as 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital.

However, Omicron is believed to be infecting more people who have previously had Covid, with 9.5% of people with Omicron having had it before.

The first Christmas getaway for two years has led to high demand for leisure journeys by road, rail and air. Coronavirus restrictions meant many people missed out on such visits twelve months ago. A poll suggested the majority of those planning a getaway this year intend to travel by road, with only one in ten using public transport.

A charity is giving out seven thousand five hundred presents to families who 'can't afford' Christmas". Families can choose from a catalogue of seventy six gifts and also get a stocking filler with wrapping paper, sticky tape and gift tags. The charity's manager, Donna Pariser, said they don't want anyone to go without on Christmas Day.

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