Covid UK news – Tier 3 HELL for London as capital plunges into new coronavirus lockdown but schools ordered to stay open

LONDON has officially entered Tier 3 restrictions today after a worrying spike in cases.

Parts of Essex and Hertfordshire have also been plunged into tougher restrictions following the virus boom.

Later today, No 10 will discuss other areas of the UK which stand to drop down – or be bumped up – a Tier, depending on transmission rates and cases in that region.

It follows fears that relaxed measures around Christmas could be scrapped as Boris Johnson held crunch talks with devolved leaders last night, although a decision was not reached.

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news, reaction and updates on the lockdown plans…

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    'EASTER CAN BE NEW CHRISTMAS' AS GOVERNMENT CAUTIONS OVER EASING OF COVID RULES

    The Government is to press ahead with the easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas even though it will lead to an increase in the infection rate, a senior minister has said.

    Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that it would be up to people to make a "personal judgment" whether they wanted to meet up with vulnerable family members over the holiday period.

    He suggested that some people may decide to "keep it small" and put off larger gatherings until the spring, saying: "Easter can be the new Christmas."

    Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is resuming talks over the plans for up to three households to mix between December 23 and 27 with leaders of the devolved administrations.

    A UK Government source has acknowledged the four UK nations may take differing approaches but insisted there would be no change in the law in England.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    UK COMPETITION REGULATOR TO INVESTIGATE AIRLINES OVER REFUNDS FAILURE

    Britain's competition regulator said on Wednesday it would investigate whether airlines had breached consumers' legal rights by failing to offer cash refunds for flights they could not legally take during a COVID-19 lockdown.

    The regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, said the new inquiry was part of its ongoing work in relation to holiday refunds during the pandemic.

    COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of thousands of flights. Consumer groups have accused the airlines of being slow to issue refunds and misleading passengers into accepting flight vouchers instead of cash, flouting rules.

    Airline finances have been choked by COVID-19, with restrictions suppressing travel since March. EasyJet and British Airways-owner IAG have had to ask shareholders for new funds and take on new debt to survive.

    But the CMA said that despite the strain airlines were under they had a responsibility to treat consumers fairly and abide by their legal obligations.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    GREATER MANCHESTER MAYOR SAYS THERE'S A 'CLEAR CASE' FOR REGION TO BE MOVED TO TIER 2

    Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said there was a "clear case" for his region being moved down to Tier 2 as the Government is due to formally review what tiers are appropriate for each area.

    Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday, Mr Burnham also said he would understand if the Government wanted to "err on the side of caution".

    He added: "We have seen steady decreases across all of our boroughs pretty much ever since the last tiering decision, to the point where we are now essentially below the England average across the 10 boroughs – we are at 150 cases on average per 100,000 people, England averages 180.

    "We are below London and below Liverpool when they went into Tier 2 originally.

    "I accept the national mood has changed since those decisions were taken and I can also understand if the Government were wanting to err on the side of caution.

    "There is a clear case for Greater Manchester, or a large part of Greater Manchester, to be placed in Tier 2."

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    HOUSING SECRETARY SAYS FAMILIES CAN MEET VIRTUALLY OVER CHRISTMAS

    Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said families can meet virtually over Christmas, highlighting that other faiths have held celebrations online during the pandemic.

    After reiterating that the public would use their own judgment within the restrictions, he told BBC Breakfast: "In my experience, those conversations are happening across the country.

    "I've been struck by how many people have actually concluded that, on this occasion, Christmas will be altogether different, will be much smaller and potentially meeting up with elderly relatives just over the marvels of technology.

    "We've seen throughout the year that's perfectly possible, other faiths, for example, have done it, whether it's for Diwali, Ramadan, Passover, and made a success of it, so there's no reason to believe that Christians and members of the public can't do the same."

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    HOSPITAL BEDS RUN SHORT IN ST PETERSBURG AS COVID VACCINE DELIVERED ACROSS RUSSIA

    St Petersburg is running dangerously low on hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, city authorities said, as deliveries of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine began on Wednesday across the country.

    Biotech group Biocad, licenced to produce Sputnik V, said it was supplying the shot nationwide to help fulfil a large-scale inoculation plan.

    In comments to local television late on Tuesday, deputy St. Petersburg governor Oleg Ergashev said just 4% of the beds allocated to patients infected with the coronavirus were vacant.

    "We understand that additional capacities need to be deployed," he said.

    The Kremlin has resisted imposing a national lockdown, saying targeted measures to contain the coronavirus were enough, though it warned last week that St Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city and President Vladimir Putin's hometown, was close to crossing a "red line".

  • Abe Hawken

    'PERSONAL JUDGMENT'

    Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said people will need to use their “personal judgment” in deciding whether to meet up with family over Christmas.

    Mr Jenrick said the Government would not be changing the “legal framework” which allows people to form household “bubbles” over five days of the holiday period.

    “We all need to use our own personal judgment thinking about our own families whether we have particularly elderly or clinically vulnerable relatives who might be round the Christmas table, and also looking at the fact that the rates of the virus are rising in many parts of the country,” he told Sky News.

    “Thinking of some of the examples we can see internationally like Thanksgiving, for example, where lots of people coming together did have consequences after the event.

    “I would just urge people to use their personal judgment and to think carefully whether this is the right thing for their family.”

  • Abe Hawken

    SCHOOL ROW

    A row over closing schools in London is in full flow after two councils retracted advice to shut early ahead of Christmas amid threats of legal action from the Government.

    But two other authorities continue to support a move to online learning to avoid potentially spreading coronavirus before the end of term.

    The Labour-run Greenwich and Islington councils rowed back on their advice for pupils to be taught at home in the last few days of term amid rising Covid-19 cases in the capital.

    Waltham Forest Council, also under Labour control, said schools in the north London borough had been threatened with potential legal action by the Government if they followed the council’s advice to shift learning online.

  • Abe Hawken

    VACCINE ACCESS

    Almost a quarter of the world’s population will not have access to a Covid-19 vaccine until 2022, according to new research.

    Experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore in the US said high-income countries have already secured billions of doses, with uncertainty around access for middle and low-income countries.

    Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), they noted that, of the 48 Covid-19 vaccines currently approved or in development, 13 manufacturers have entered into agreements for at least 7.48 billion doses.

    “High-income countries, including the European Union bloc, have reserved 51% of these doses, or around 3.85 billion doses, though they comprise only 13.7% of the world’s population,” they said.

    “Of the 13 manufacturers, only six have sold to low and middle-income countries.”

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    UK COVID-19 DEATHS AND CASES PER DAY

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    COVID CASES UP BY 50 PER CENT IN ONE WEEK

    Coronavirus cases have shot up by 50 per cent in one week.

    It comes after a further 18,450 people tested positive in the past 24 hours.

    Another 506 fatalities were recorded, bringing the UK's grim death toll to 64,908.

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    AREAS AT RISK OF TIER 3

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    LONDON ENTERS TIER 3

    London will enter new Tier three restrictions in the next few minutes.

    It means hospitality venues must close, as well as tougher restrictions on socialising.

    It comes after a worrying uptick in coronavirus cases in the capital.

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    WELSH GOVERNMENT STATEMENT ON TONIGHT'S TALKS

    Leaders across the UK spoke tonight after medics demanded an emergency review of relaxed coronavirus measures over Christmas.

    A spokesperson for the Welsh government said tonight: “Nothing’s been decided.

    "We discussed Christmas and the arrangements over the period and we are going to reconvene tomorrow to confirm the position or any changes to the current position.”

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    LONDON MEASURES WILL SEE 5M PINTS POURED AWAY

    As London moves into Tier 3 restrictions tomorrow scores of pubs, bars and restaurants will be forced to scrap their Christmas plans.

    Tomorrow's closures will force pubs to pour five million pints down the drain.

    The wasted ale is expected to cost boozers in London about £25million.

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    HOW EUROPE IS SHUTTING DOWN FOR XMAS

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    TOM CRUISE IN FURIOUS RANT AT FILM CREW OVER COVID RULES

    Tom Cruise flew into a rage after spotting two Mission Impossible crew members standing within two metres of each other, The Sun can reveal.

    An audio tape captured Cruise shouting: “If I see you do it again, you’re f***ing gone. And if anyone in this crew does it, that’s it — and you too and you too. And you, don’t you ever f***ing do it again.”

    Fifty members of staff at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, Herts, were left stunned by the angry outburst.

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    LATEST COVID HEADLINES TODAY

    • Top doctors at the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal published a joint editorial calling on the Government to stop Christmas household mixing to protect the NHS
    • Schools were ordered to remain open until the end of the week and Greenwich council bowed down to pressure from Government to u-turn
    • London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will be plunged into Tier 3 tonight
    • Matt Hancock revealed yesterday that a fresh strain of coronavirus could be spreading more quickly, and helping lead to an increase in cases in the South East
    • A new poll showed half (49%) of Britons believe that the new coronavirus rules over Christmas are not strict enough

    XMAS TALKS DEADLOCKED ON SCRAPPING BUBBLES

    Christmas plans for millions of Brits were tonight still under threat as the four nations failed to agree a deal – with crunch decisions delayed until tomorrow.

    Michael Gove held an emergency call this evening with the representatives of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about whether to toughen up Christmas rules over fears the relaxation could cause a huge spike in cases.

    Under plans previously agreed across the UK, up to three households will be able to form a "Christmas bubble" and meet between 23 and 27 December.

    The talks threaten to throw the UK's Christmas plans into chaos, leaving desperate families unsure of whether to make plans or not.

    Sources close to the talks said that nothing firm was agreed on the call, with decisions expected tomorrow.

    CURRENT LOCKDOWN TIERS

     

    PEOPLE WILL BE ALLOWED TO TRAVEL ACROSS TIERS OVER XMAS PERIOD

    People will be able to travel out of their current tiers during the Christmas period.

    The planned five-day "Christmas window" would allow three households to mingle between December 23-27.

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We have set out the guidance for the Christmas bubbling arrangements.

    "But… we obviously keep all advice under constant review."

    AREAS IN OXFORD AND HERTS MOVING INTO TIER 3

    From 12.01am on Wednesday December 16, 11 local authority areas in Essex and four in Hertfordshire will be moving into Tier 3.

    All of these areas have seen a week-on-week rise in rates, along with every other local area in the region – with three exceptions: North Norfolk, South Norfolk and Stevenage.

    Data from King's College London shows that there have been 23,115 daily new cases of Covid in the UK on average over the two weeks up to 11 December 2020.

    • Chiara Fiorillo

      NHS COULD BE OVERWHELMED IF TOO MANY PEOPLE MIX AT XMAS, EXPERT WARNS

      The NHS will be overwhelmed at the time when it needs to deliver the coronavirus vaccine if large numbers of people mix at Christmas, a scientist advising the Government has warned.

      Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the scientific pandemic insights group on behaviours, told Channel 4 News: "One of the problems is the messaging has been extremely poor so I think the relaxation of the rules sent a message to people not only that they could meet up but that it was safe to meet up.

      "As a consequence of that, the polling showed that the proportion of people that intended to meet up went up from one in six to two in five.

      "The simple matter is if that many people mix, and if even more mix, then the consequence will be more infections, it will be more hospitalisations, it will mean the NHS being overwhelmed, as the BMJ and Health Service Journal said, precisely at the point where we need the NHS to roll out the vaccine."

    • Chiara Fiorillo

      ISLINGTON BACKS DOWN ON SCHOOLS CLOSING BEFORE XMAS

      Islington Council has become the latest London authority to back down on closing schools before Christmas.

      On Monday, Islington Council had advised schools to move to online learning from the end of Tuesday because of a rise in coronavirus cases across the capital.

      But council leader Richard Watts reversed the advice on Tuesday evening, following a similar move by Greenwich Council which said it had "no choice" but to ask schools to remain open following threats of legal action from the Government.

      Islington Council has suggested schools arrange an inset day on Thursday if possible with Friday already scheduled to be an inset day.

    • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

      STURGEON: 'WE COULD TIGHTEN XMAS RESTRICTIONS'

      Nicola Sturgeon has said there is a "case" for strengthening previously relaxed restrictions over the festive period.

      Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament: "I do think there is a case for us looking at whether we tighten the flexibilities that were given any further, both in terms of duration and numbers of people meeting.

      "And I will consider the views of the other nations – if we can come to a four-nations agreement, I think that would be preferable.

      "If that is not possible, then of course we will consider within the Scottish Government what we think is appropriate."

    • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

      OXFORD, EAST & WEST SUSSEX AND BRIGHTON AND HOVE SEE UPTICK IN INFECTIONS

      Oxfordshire, East and West Sussex, Brighton and Hove and Northamptonshire and all seen an uptick in infections.

      Oxfordshire is currently in Tier 2 and data from the app shows that the area has 188 cases per 100,000 and 50 cases per 100,000 people in the over 60s.

      Walk-through Covid test sites opened in the area today in a bid to get more people tested – allowing more people to isolate who have contracted the virus.

      A new app has also predicted that East and West Sussex, Brighton and Hove could be moved into Tier 3.

      The data suggests that the area has 232 cases per 100,000 people and 63 cases per 100,000 in those over the age of 60.

      Earlier this week it was revealed that some schools in Brighton were forced to close due to outbreaks of the virus.

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