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Big Ben’s bongs will ring in the new year
The bell will be tested to ensure it can produce its 12 bongs when the clock strikes midnight
House of Commons authorities have announced that Big Ben is to be reconnected so that it can ring in the new year.

As part of preparations for the event, the bell will also bong at 11pm on New Year’s Eve – the moment the UK leaves the European Union’s single market and customs union.

The famous bell has been largely silent since 2017 due to repairs on the clock and Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower which houses it, only being reconnected for significant occasions.

The bell, which weighs 13.7 tonnes, last rang on the 11th of November to mark Armistice Day.

Members of the public have been urged to stay away from Westminster on New Year’s Eve due to coronavirus restrictions.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

British Airways axes more than 15 long-haul routes
Customers will be offered a refund or an alternative itinerary
British Airways has cut more than 15 long-haul routes due to operate next year.

Destinations dropped by the airline include Sydney, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Calgary, Abu Dhabi and the Seychelles.

The carrier has been badly hit by the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with long-haul routes the worst affected.

Its owner IAG swung to a pre-tax loss of 6.2 billion euros (£5.6 billion) for the nine months to the end of September.

Plane passenger numbers are not expected to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

What can I do for Christmas across the four nations?
Coronavirus rules are changing over the Christmas period to allow a limited amount of increased mixing.
Boris Johnson had promised “unanimous agreement” on the restrictions across the four nations, but the guidance is now different across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

What does the law say, and what can people do in different areas of the UK?

– What is the law?

Regulations currently allow for three households to form an exclusive “Christmas bubble” for the five days between December 23 and 27 across the UK.

However, on Wednesday the Welsh government said it will do things differently and legislate to cap bubbles at two households.

Politicians in England and Scotland have said while the rules will remain the same, they have changed their advice to recommend limiting social contacts as much as possible.

– What can I do in England?

The Prime Minister has told people to “have a merry little Christmas – and I’m afraid this year I really do mean little”.

While Mr Johnson said “we don’t want to criminalise people’s long-made plans”, he warned people should be “extremely cautious” when mixing next week and should minimise contacts in the days leading up to Christmas.

Updated guidance issued on Wednesday asks people to think carefully about whether they need to see elderly friends or family, or people who are “clinically extremely vulnerable”.

But the advice did not go as far as other nations and recommend limiting bubbles to two households.

– What about in Scotland?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this week that her “strong recommendation” is for people not to mix households over the festive period to ensure what is “unequivocally the safest way to spend Christmas”.

Ms Sturgeon urged people to consider postponing their celebrations, or to meet with others only outdoors. She said if it is “essential” that gatherings take place inside, they should be for one day only with no overnight stays.

“The reality is that this Christmas simply can’t be normal. But we have every reason to hope that next year’s will be much more normal,” she said.

– What can people do in Wales?

First Minister Mark Drakeford first changed his advice for the Welsh public so “only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble” over the five-day period.

A Welsh Government spokesman later said this change would be put into law.

The spokesman said: “It makes it easier, so we don’t have the position where the law says one thing and the guidance says something else.”

Mr Drakeford said: “The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus.

“None of us wants to be ill this Christmas. And we don’t want to give coronavirus to our close family or friends.”

– What are the rules in Northern Ireland?

Health Minister Robin Swann is due to bring proposals for further Covid-19 restrictions to the Stormont Executive on Thursday, but it is not thought any new regulations will be brought in before the Christmas break.

First Minister Arlene Foster said people need to take “all and every precaution” when they come together at Christmas, and she said she could not rule out further restrictions in the days afterwards.

– Will the Tier rules in England be lifted for the five days?

No, the restrictions will still apply over the Christmas period.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will still have to be closed in Tier 3 areas.

– Do the scientists think this is a good idea?

In a rare joint editorial, two health journals asked for the “rash” policy of easing restrictions to be cancelled.

The British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal said the Government “is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives”.

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said the modelling is clear that any relaxation in the restrictions will lead to a higher death toll.

“Any kind of period where people come together in groups that otherwise wouldn’t meet leads to an increase in risks and that will lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths,” he said.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

French President Macron tests positive for Covid-19
French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19, the presidential Elysee Palace announced. It said the president took a test “as soon as the first symptoms appeared”.

The brief statement did not say what symptoms Mr Macron experienced.

It said he would isolate for seven days, adding: “He will continue to work and take care of his activities at a distance.”

It is not immediately clear what contact tracing efforts are in progress.

Mr Macron attended a European Union summit at the end of last week, where he notably had a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He met the prime minister of Portugal on Wednesday.

There was no immediate comment from Portuguese officials.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had Covid-19 earlier in the year, tweeted his support for the French president.

Mr Johnson said: “Sorry to hear my friend @EmmanuelMacron has tested positive for coronavirus. We are all wishing you a speedy recovery.”

He then repeated the message in French.

Mr Macron also held the French government’s weekly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday in the presence of Prime Minister Jean Castex and other ministers.

Mr Castex’s office said the prime minister is also self-isolating for seven days.

The French presidency confirmed Mr Macron’s trip to Lebanon scheduled for next week is being cancelled.

Mr Macron and other government officials have repeatedly said they have been sticking to strict sanitary protocols during the pandemic, including not shaking hands, wearing a mask and keeping distance from other people.

The president is following French health authorities’ recommendations that since September have reduced the self-isolation time from 14 days to seven.

Authorities said at the time this is the period when there is the greatest risk of contagion and that reducing it allows better enforcement of the measure.

French health authorities argued this week that the 14-day quarantine was not well-respected by many in the country who considered it too long.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Welsh leaders says 11,000 missing Covid tests show ‘how serious’ crisis is in Wales
** An extra 11,000 positive coronavirus tests missing from official figures in Wales demonstrate “how serious the position” in the country is, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said. **
Maintenance work on Public Health Wales systems at the end of last week meant the numbers were not included on top of 11,911 positive cases reported by the agency between December 9 and 15.

On Thursday Mr Drakeford denied the data had been “missing” from the country’s figures in recent days and was known by the Welsh Government.

He told BBC Breakfast: “This was planned upgrading of the computer system, none of the data is missing, everybody who had a positive test in Wales was told that last week, everything was uploaded on to our Track, Trace and Protect system.

“But the figures do demonstrate just how serious the position here in Wales has become and underlines why we made the decisions yesterday both in the lead-up to Christmas, during Christmas, and once Christmas is over.

“The Government was aware that there were tests that are being carried out which were not being loaded on to the system because that is what we already announced.”

A statement from Public Health Wales said its dashboard was being updated with the figures following the work on its NHS Welsh Laboratory Information Management System (WLIMS).

It said: “This means that we expect a backlog of results to come through over the coming days, and there will be a period of data reconciliation and validation that will affect our daily reporting figures for several days.

“(Thursday’s) figures and those over the following days will be higher as a result of the backlog coming through.”

The agency added: “It has not affected individuals receiving their results and the contact tracing process being commenced.

“Members of the public can be reassured that anyone who tests positive will be contacted by their local authority’s Test, Trace, Protect team in the usual way. There have been no errors in the Public Health Wales reporting.”

Welsh Conservatives health spokesman Andrew RT Davies said: “This is another staggering data cock-up during the Health Minister’s management of the Covid crisis, to add to the 13,000 shielding letters sent in error and the data breach in September that saw 18,000-odd positive test results put on a public PHW server.

“PHW calls this latest mess ‘significant under-reporting’. I call that a significant under-statement that belies the true scale of the problem.”

Mr Davies said medical professionals had contacted him to voice their concerns – which they had raised with their managers but were allegedly dismissed – as to whether the planned maintenance should have been carried out when it was.

He added: “Welsh Labour and their failing health minister have clearly lost control of the virus in Wales.

“This loss of control can only be compounded by today’s news of yet another data mix-up.

“And, bearing in mind the concerns highlighted by health professionals, an investigation into this fiasco should be launched.”

Plaid Cymru’s shadow economy minister Helen Mary Jones said: “With positive cases in Wales rising to record levels it is crucial that the reporting of data is both timely and robust.

“The public need a complete and current picture of the situation to realise the gravity of what we are facing. We need urgent reassurance that the failings have been addressed.

“I fear that the Welsh Government is losing control of the situation. The latest data saga shows that the situation is far worse than expected and tighter restrictions must now be introduced earlier in areas that have reached the Tier 4 threshold – based on the basis of rationality to reflect local levels of coronavirus cases.”

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Edinson Cavani charged by Football Association following social media post
Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani has been charged with misconduct by the Football Association over the use of a racial term in a social media post. The 33-year-old Uruguayan posted a message on Instagram on November 29 which contained the word ‘negrito’.

He deleted the post and issued an apology, but on Thursday the FA announced he had been charged.

The FA said: “Edinson Cavani has been charged with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to a social media post on November 29, 2020.

“It is alleged that, contrary to FA Rule E3.1, a comment posted on the Manchester United FC player’s Instagram page was insulting and/or abusive and/or improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.

“It is further alleged that the comment constitutes an “Aggravated Breach”, which is defined in FA Rule E3.2, as it included reference, whether express or implied, to colour and/or race and/or ethnic origin.”

The FA said Cavani had until Monday, January 4 to respond to the charge.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Britain urged to scale back Christmas as announcement on Covid tiers expected
Britain has been urged to scale back its Christmas festivities as health leaders warned the Government not to move areas out of Tier 3 measures “prematurely”. Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to announce the outcome of its review of the tier system on Thursday, with reports suggesting the number of people living under the toughest restrictions could increase.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted he did not want to “cancel” Christmas, but said people should prepare for a “smaller, safer” festive period amid fears about the spread of coronavirus.

Confirming the so-called “Christmas window” allowing three households to join together between December 23 and 27 would go ahead, Mr Johnson said people would be left to make individual judgments on whether Christmas celebrations were worth the risk, with warnings to avoid elderly relatives and a recommendation to isolate beforehand.

The latest data shows 255 (81%) of the 315 local areas in England have seen a rise in case rates and 60 (19%) have seen a fall.

The Government said a further 612 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK as of Wednesday, while a further 25,161 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported.

More than 34 million people, or 61% of England’s population, are currently living under the strictest Covid measures after London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved into Tier 3 on Wednesday.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said the Government was right to make that move in the South East, stating: “It must now urgently consider adding other areas to that tier where infection rates are similarly worrying.”

He added: “If the government is going to stick with its current approach to the Christmas regulations, it must also ensure that its decisions on which area is in which tier are as robust as possible.

“That means no delay in adding any area to Tier 3 that needs to be in that tier, and no premature removal of any area from it, either.”

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said there was a “clear case” for the region being eased into Tier 2, while the leader of Preston City Council, Cllr Matthew Brown, said he believed Lancashire will stay in Tier 3.

Despite pleas from a number of medical experts to scrap the easing of restrictions over the festive period, Mr Johnson insisted “banning” Christmas would be “frankly inhuman”.

The Government had wanted a UK-wide approach to Christmas, but Wales will now legislate to restrict mixing to two households – and will go into a tougher lockdown on December 28.

All parts of the UK are issuing tougher guidance, with a joint statement by the governments of the UK, Scotland and Wales stating: “The safest approach may be not to form a Christmas bubble.”

At a Downing Street press conference the Prime Minister:

– Stressed that the three households, five days provisions were “maximums, not a target to aim for”;

– Suggested that from Friday people mixing with others over Christmas should effectively isolate by reducing their contacts to the “lowest possible”;

– Said people should not travel from a high-prevalence to a low-prevalence area;

– Urged people to avoid staying away from home overnight where possible;

– Suggested people should avoid seeing elderly relatives until they have been vaccinated.

He added: “Have yourselves a merry little Christmas – and I’m afraid this year I do mean little.

“But with the vaccine, and all the other measures that we are taking, we do know that things will be better in this country by Easter.”

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said modelling indicated the looser restrictions would lead to more deaths, adding that his advice for the festive period was: “Keep it small, keep it short, keep it local and think of the most vulnerable people.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her “strong recommendation” was for people to stay within their own household and own home.

In Northern Ireland, First Minister Arlene Foster said the public must take “all and every precaution” at Christmas and proposals for further restrictions will be brought forward on Thursday.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Can I still celebrate Christmas with my family?
Confusion has been cast over millions of people’s Christmas plans weeks after the whole of the UK was told coronavirus restrictions would be relaxed to allow limited mixing over the festive period. The scheduled relaxation was thrown into jeopardy by rising infection rates and warnings that the freedoms would cause a spiralling death toll and the NHS to be overwhelmed.

Wales was preparing to change the law to reduce the number of households permitted to meet up, while England and Scotland were issuing advice to limit interactions as much as possible.

– So what’s the law?

The regulations currently allow for a five-day “Christmas window” from December 23-27 when people can form exclusive bubbles of up to three households across the UK.

Boris Johnson told the Commons that there was “unanimous agreement” across the four nations “that we should proceed in principle with the existing regulations”.

But the Welsh Government later ruled otherwise and said it would change the law to limit mixing to just two households at Christmas.

– What’s the advice for England?

The Prime Minister said that “we don’t want to criminalise people’s long-made plans” but issued a warning for people to be “extremely cautious” over their actions.

He later told a press conference that the public should have a “merry little Christmas – and, I’m afraid this year I do mean little” in passing the judgment on whether to meet up in smaller numbers over a shorter period to the public.

Mr Johnson insisted that the limits on meeting are maximums and “not a target to aim for”.

And he advised people to minimise their contacts with others “to the lowest possible” for five days before mixing with loved ones at Christmas.

He also recommended against travel from high prevalence areas to those not so badly affected and against overnight stays.

But he did not go as far as other national leaders in advising people to specifically limit their Christmases to only two households as others have done.

Updated guidance issued by the Government called on people to seriously think about whether they need to form a Christmas bubble or not, especially regarding people over 70 or those who are “clinically extremely vulnerable”.

The statement also stressed the need for ventilation during bubble get-togethers.

People were urged to minimise contact over Christmas and on New Year’s Eve.

The guidance also said: “You should not gather as a Christmas bubble in a hotel, hostel or B&B in any tier unless a member of your bubble lives there permanently.”

– Is it the same in Wales?

Not any more. First Minister Mark Drakeford first changed his advice for the Welsh public so that “only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble” over the five-day period.

A Welsh Government spokesman later said this change would be made into law.

“It makes it easier, so we don’t have the position where the law says one thing and the guidance says something else,” the spokesman explained.

Mr Drakeford earlier said: “The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus.

“None of us wants to be ill this Christmas. And we don’t want to give coronavirus to our close family or friends.”

Wales will then go into full lockdown from December 28 to last an initial three weeks.

– And Scotland?

Nicola Sturgeon said that her “strong recommendation” is that people do not mix households over the period in what is “unequivocally the safest way to spend Christmas”.

The Scottish First Minister said that meetings should take place outdoors if possible but if it was “essential” to meet inside then she advised people to meet for only one day and to not stay overnight.

Ms Sturgeon urged people against travelling between areas of high and low infection rates and asked people to consider “postponing” Christmas.

“The reality is that this Christmas simply can’t be normal. But we have every reason to hope that next year’s will be much more normal,” she added.

– How about Northern Ireland?

First Minister Arlene Foster said people needed to take “all and every precaution” when they come together at Christmas but could not rule out further restrictions in the days afterwards.

Health Minister Robin Swann is due to bring proposals for further Covid-19 restrictions to the Stormont Executive on Thursday but Mrs Foster said she did not expect a recommendation for new measures to be introduced before the festive break.

Mrs Foster said she noted the more stringent advice on household mixing from her counterpart in Wales, but added: “I am not going to prejudge what the minister is going to bring to us but undoubtedly we will have something to say tomorrow and over the next few days.”

– Legally speaking, will it be a normal Christmas?

Not at all. The tiered restrictions largely still do apply.

For example, pubs and restaurants in Tier 3 areas will not be open for business as usual over Christmas.

– What do the experts make of it all?

Two top medical journals have called for the Government to call off its “rash” decision.

In a rare joint editorial, the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal said the Government “is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives”.

They added that the Government had been too slow to introduce restrictions in the spring and again in the autumn, and restrictions were needed over Christmas ahead of a “likely third wave”.

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said the modelling was clear that any relaxation in the restrictions will lead to a higher death toll.

“Any kind of period where people come together in groups that otherwise wouldn’t meet leads to an increase in risks and that will lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths,” he said.

But Prof Whitty said reducing the time spent with people, and the number of households that mix, will have an “important effect” on reducing transmission and will “reduce the risk significantly further than if we didn’t do those”.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Around one in 10 care home staff ‘without regular coronavirus tests’
More than one in 10 care home staff say they are not receiving regular coronavirus tests, five months after a Government pledge, a survey has found.
Some 11% of staff working in residential care homes for people over 65 or with dementia said they were not being tested once a week, according to Unison.

In early July the Government pledged weekly testing for staff in homes for people over 65 or with dementia, regardless of symptoms.

In November this was extended to home care workers and in December to hospice staff.

Unison surveyed nearly 13,000 UK care staff, including 5,929 residential care home workers.

More than a quarter (27%) of the care staff worked in other settings such as hospices, 18% in supported living and 12% in homecare.

Of the residential care home staff receiving weekly tests, 10% waited more than 72 hours for their results.

Some experienced hold-ups of more than a week – or did not get results back at all.

A small number had to take time off unpaid or were put on to statutory sick pay because of the long wait for results, Unison said.

It is calling on the Government to set up a monitoring system to ensure staff get tests each week.

Overall, 40% of the care staff surveyed said they had been unable to get a test within the previous four weeks.

One care worker said: “My place of work is only providing regular testing for staff with symptoms. Otherwise we have to arrange our own test s.”

Another told Unison: “I’m constantly worried and stressed. I can’t take any time off because I’m on a zero hours contract. If I did , I wouldn’t be paid.”

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Regular testing is essential to protect care staff and those they look after.

“It’s a major concern they’re still being let down. A repeat of what happened during the first wave must be avoided at all costs .

“Delays and lack of access to testing is put ting workers, their families, and the people who depend on them at risk. Employers can’t afford to have staff off work – and workers can’t afford the hit financially.

“The Government must get a grip on testing, honour its promises and ensure care staff have proper access to checks. Care staff will be hoping that the rollout of the vaccine happens much more smoothly.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “This survey appears to be mixing up categories of care workers to reach its conclusions and since it was launched more than two months ago, we have rolled out further regular testing, including to hospice and homecare workers.

“From the start of the pandemic, we have been doing everything we can to keep care home staff protected, including providing free priority testing and personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Thanks to an incredible amount of hard work and planning, hospitals across the country have also already begun vaccinating care home staff as a priority.”

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “It’s hugely concerning to hear that so many care staff aren’t getting the tests they need.

“It’s so desperately important that the promised reunion of people with dementia and their families happens swiftly and safely, after months and months of tragedy – without regular testing, staff won’t know to self-isolate if they have the virus without symptoms.

“At least 70% of care home residents have dementia, 60% of those who receive care at home – people must be able to safely receive essential care in their own homes.

“Testing is one of the key ways we will defeat Covid-19, along with PPE and hygiene.”

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

** Prime Minister urges people to have a ‘smaller, safer Christmas’ due to Covid fears **
People will be left to make their own judgments on whether Christmas celebrations are worth the risk, with warnings to avoid elderly relatives and a recommendation to isolate in the run-up to the festive period.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would be “inhuman” to ban Christmas entirely and confirmed the festive bubble policy allowing households to mix would remain in place despite warnings it will lead to more deaths.

But he said people should “think hard” about what they do and a “smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas”.

The original UK-wide plans would have seen three households allowed to form a festive bubble between December 23 and 27.

But despite efforts to maintain a four-nations approach, Wales will legislate to restrict mixing to two households and all parts of the UK are issuing tougher guidance.

At a Downing Street press conference the Prime Minister:

– Stressed that the three households, five days provisions were “maximums, not a target to aim for”;

– Suggested that from Friday people mixing with others over Christmas should effectively isolate by reducing their contacts to the “lowest possible”;

– Said people should not travel from a high-prevalence to a low-prevalence area;

– Urged people to avoid staying away from home overnight where possible;

– Suggested people should avoid seeing elderly relatives until they have been vaccinated.

The Government said a further 612 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 65,520.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 81,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 25,161 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,913,277.

The Prime Minister admitted the coronavirus situation had deteriorated since the festive bubble rules were set by the four nations of the UK as the Government issued updated guidance for what has been dubbed the “Christmas window”.

Mr Johnson said: “While it would not be right, we think, to criminalise people who have made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones, we’re collectively – across the UK governments at every level – asking you to think hard, and in detail about the days ahead.”

He said the laws were remaining the same but “a smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas”.

He added: “Have yourselves a merry little Christmas – and I’m afraid this year I do mean little.

“But with the vaccine, and all the other measures that we are taking, we do know that things will be better in this country by Easter.”

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said modelling indicated the looser restrictions would lead to more deaths.

“Any kind of period where people come together in groups that otherwise wouldn’t meet leads to an increase in risks and that will lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths,” he said.

He suggested it was not worth the risk of meeting the “most vulnerable” until they have been vaccinated.

“We are tantalisingly close to the stage where anybody who gets into trouble as a result of actions this Christmas would have been protected in the very near future,” he said.

“It is very important people think about that when they make decisions over the next few weeks.”

Prof Whitty said his advice for Christmas was: “Keep it small, keep it short, keep it local and think of the most vulnerable people.”

The new guidance on Christmas came after talks involving the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford set out his decision to deviate from the previously agreed approach.

He said: “Here in Wales, the position is that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during the five-day period.

“The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus.”

The price of the relaxed restrictions will be a tougher lockdown in Wales from December 28.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The safest way to spend Christmas this year for you and for those you love is to stay within your own household and your own home.

“My strong recommendation is this is what you should do if at all possible.”

In Northern Ireland, First Minister Arlene Foster said the public must take “all and every precaution” at Christmas and proposals for further restrictions will be brought forward on Thursday.

Ministers hope that the rollout of a vaccine and improved testing availability will help life return to something closer to normal in the spring.

The first vaccination figures showed almost 138,000 people in the UK have received the jab so far.

The Government has been under intense pressure to scale down Christmas plans because of fears about a surge in cases, particularly given the experience in the US since Thanksgiving in November.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the easing was a “bad idea” and that people needed to be “incredibly cautious”.

“I think, to avoid the preventable deaths that we’re going to have in January as a result of this, we shouldn’t be doing it, but if we do do it then I think we need to do it in the most modest way possible,” she told BBC Breakfast.

The focus on Christmas arrangements came as around 10.8 million more people began living under England’s toughest restrictions as London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved into Tier 3.

With 61% of England’s population now living under the strictest measures, ministers are due to formally review which tiers are appropriate for each area.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out the new allocations on Thursday.

Published: 16/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub


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