Coronavirus UK news – Lockdown BOOST with Britain 90% free of flu and millions of grandparents vaccinated by Christmas

HOPES of life returning to normal have been boosted by the news that UK flu cases are 90% down on a normal year.

The numbers, largely due to increased flu jabs and the same social distancing measures that have reduced coronavirus infections, are great news for hospitals hoping they won't be overwhelmed this winter.

Further good news came with the suggestion that millions of grandparents will be vaccinated within weeks as the first Covid jabs arrived in Britain.

The “game-changing” jab from Pfizer/BioNTech will be distributed to 50 hospital hubs.

And officials are increasingly confident millions of elderly people — including those in care homes — will get it by Christmas.

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

  • Chris Bradford

    'RISING TIDE' OF INFECTIONS IN WALES

    Coronavirus cases increased in 20 of Wales's 22 local authority areas on Thursday, with a "rising tide" of infections seen in both urban and rural areas, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said.

    He told Good Morning Britain that the Welsh Government is acting on scientific evidence in imposing a ban on pubs, restaurants and cafes serving alcohol from 6pm on Friday.

    He said a £340 million package, in addition to measures taken by the UK Government, is being provided to support hospitality businesses that will be "hard hit" by the restriction.

    "I won't pretend this won't have a really significant impact on those businesses, at pretty much the worst time of the year for them as well, and I really do recognise that," Mr Gething said.

    "But if we don't act on the evidence, then I'm afraid we won't be meeting our responsibilities to keep Wales safe and to keep people alive."

    Punters got their 'last orders' in before the ban on pubs serving alcohol in Wales was imposedCredit: Matthew Horwood

     

  • Chris Bradford

    'A DISASTER FOR THE INDUSTRY'

    The decision to ban Welsh pubs from serving alcohol has been branded a "disaster" by brewers.

    First minister Mark Drakeford introduced the nationwide booze ban in a bid to tackle a rise in coronavirus cases.

    As part of the new measures, pubs are also unable to open to clients beyond 6pm.

    Brewer Sarah John, of Swansea, said: "It's a disaster for the industry.

    "I mean lots of pubs won't open anyway but as you say, we can't sell alcohol so all of our pub clients, pub customers have gone sort of overnight."

    Health minister Vaughan Gething said he understood people's concerns but admitted "there is no perfect balance" between protecting health and businesses.

  • Chris Bradford

    FIRST VACCINE DOSES TO BE ADMINISTERED ON TUESDAY

    Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the first doses of the vaccine will be administered on Tuesday.

    He said it will be "a marathon, it's not a sprint", telling BBC Breakfast: "We're looking forward to the race starting on Tuesday."

    The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was given the green light by UK health regulators on Wednesday as Britain became the first western country to approve a coronavirus jab.

  • Chris Bradford

    BULK OF VACCINE ROLLOUT WILL TAKE PLACE NEXT YEAR

    The "bulk" of the vaccine rollout will take place in 2021 with the Oxford AstraZeneca jab likely to considerably boost supply, a government minister has admitted.

    Business secretary Alok Sharma said: "We will expect more (Pfizer vaccine) by the end of the year but what we have always said is that the bulk of the vaccination programme will take place next year.

    "We've, of course, got the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that we're talking about for deployment right now but AstraZeneca is also being reviewed by the MHRA.

    "We'll see what they pronounce and then, of course, we've got 100 million of those on order, and a lot of that is being manufactured – and the fill and finish – in the UK."

  • Chris Bradford

    SECOND NATIONAL LOCKDOWN WIPES £430M OFF PRIMARK

    The second lockdown in England wiped off an estimated £430million from Primark's balance sheet as the pandemic decimates high street retailers.

    Associated British Foods chair Michael McLintock will reveal the grim economic projection at its annual general meeting later today.

    The figure is worse than expected as last month ABF predicted a loss of £375million as a result of the four-week shutdown.

    Primark has refused to bolster trading with an online presence.

    ABF said all stores in Ireland, France, Belgium, Wales, Catalonia and Slovenia were temporarily closed – representing 62 per cent of its total selling space.

  • Chris Bradford

    SHOPPER FOOTFALL PLUMMETS IN NOVEMBER AMID SECOND LOCKDOWN

    Shopper numbers plummeted last month as England's second national lockdown piled pressure on troubled high street retailers, according to new figures.

    The BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor for November revealed that footfall across UK shopping destinations dived by 65.4 per cent compared with the same month last year.

    It said this was 31.9 per cent lower than footfall in October after England entered a four-week lockdown period.

    High streets were particularly badly affected by lockdown measures, reporting a 63.9 per cent slump compared with November 2019.

    Shopping centres were also hit hard, with the figures showing they saw a 61.8 per cent year-on-year decline.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    CAPTAIN TOM MOORE'S WALK VOTED HIGHLIGHT OF 2020

    Captain Tom Moore’s epic £32million charity walk around his garden has been voted the highlight of a miserable year.

    The 100-year-old’s NHS fundraiser topped a poll of 50 things Brits most enjoyed during the pandemic.

    Second was the reduction in air pollution, followed by a new appreciation for key workers.

    Nearly a third of those polled hailed Man United star Marcus Rashford’s efforts to make sure hungry children are fed.

    Other entries included saving money, enjoying homes, gardens and families more and a slower pace of life.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    $1,500 COULD BE GIVEN TO AMERICANS GETTING COVID VACCINE

    A bold new proposal would give Americans a $1,500 stimulus check just for getting a Covid vaccine.

    The idea, brought forth by former Democratic Maryland Sen John Delaney, comes as 42percent of Americans in a recent poll said they would not get a shot.

    “We have to create, in my judgment, an incentive for people to really accelerate their thinking about taking the vaccine,” Delaney said in an interview with CNBC.

    The former Senator said people do have a right to choose not to get the shot– but would lose out on the health benefits and faster herd immunity with more widespread vaccination.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    BRITAIN ALMOST 'FREE OF THE FLU'

    Britain is almost free of flu with a 90 per cent drop in cases boosting hopes the NHS will escape a winter crisis.

    It comes as Covid infections rates are also falling amid signs the peak of the second wave may be over.

    The figures suggest hospitals will avoid being overwhelmed by a feared double blow from Covid and flu over winter.

  • Hana Carter

    'HIGH FLYING' EXECS EXEMPT FROM QUARANTINE AFTER TRAVEL

    Britain took its first steps to tear up quarantine rules after high flying businessmen were handed an exemption.

    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed business execs would be among those who don’t have to self-isolate when coming into the UK from high-Covid areas.

    Foreign CEOs visiting branches of their companies, British executives who left the UK on a business trip and investors from abroad will all be exempt from 14 day self-isolation.

    Business travel is worth £7.5bn to the economy every year – around 26 per cent of the global spend.

    Sports stars, performing arts professionals, Journalists and TV production staff will all be exempt from Saturday.

  • Hana Carter

    MILLIONS OF GRANDPARENTS TO BE VACCINATED WITHIN WEEKS

    Hopes rose last night that millions of grandparents will be vaccinated within weeks after the first Covid jabs arrived in Britain.

    Lorries loaded with the vaccine travelled from Puurs, Belgium, to a warehouse in the north of England yesterday.

    The “game-changing” jab from Pfizer/BioNTech will be distributed to 50 hospital hubs.

    And officials are increasingly confident millions of elderly people — including those in care homes — will get it by Christmas.

    Last night regulators indicated they will allow packs of 975 doses to be split so they can be taken to individual homes.

  • Hana Carter

    CALIFORNIA LOCKDOWN FOR THREE WEEKS

    California is ready to issue a “stay home order” for up to three weeks in some regions where bars will shutter – but schools can stay open.

    The governor announced on Thursday that in regions where ICU capacity falls below 15 percent, the area will be subject to a lockdown with bars and hair salons shuttering for three weeks.

    Newsom confirmed that bars, wineries, personal services and hair salons will be closed for the three week period as he said the effects of Thanksgiving "will be felt in a number of weeks."

    The ICU bed capacity in the Bay Area is set to fall later this month Newsom said as he announced his regional stay at home order in-state, which will effect four out of five regions "as early as next week."

  • Hana Carter

    CHEF MAKES A 'SUBSTANTIAL MEAL' FROM SCOTCH EGG

    Chef Jon Fell made the world’s biggest Scotch egg, weighing 21lbs and 18 inches across.

    He used an ostrich egg, 7lbs of sausage meat, four pints of milk and five loaves of bread.

    Ministers including Michael Gove have been accused of mixed messages over whether Scotch eggs count as substantial for tiered pub drinkers.

    Asked if they count, Jon, 48, of Egremont, Cumbria, said: “It’s no secret that I love a good scotch egg, as to whether I think they can be classified as a substantial meal?

    "If they’re as big as our 11.2kg Goliath, then yes. But, I don’t think so really.

    "If I’m being honest, I’m really feeling for many in the industry at this moment in time."

  • Debbie White

    US DEATH TOLL TOPS 3,100 IN SINGLE DAY

    The US recorded over 3,100 Covid-19 deaths in a single day, obliterating the record set last spring.

    The shocking surge has swamped hospitals and left nurses and other health care workers shorthanded and burned out.

    “The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times.

    "I actually believe they are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” says Dr Robert Redfield, head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

     

  • Debbie White

    MASK THE ISSUE

    Premier League fans MUST wear masks in their seats when top flight turnstiles reopen tomorrow – in a bid to get up to 20,000 supporters in grounds by the end of the season.

    The 20 Prem clubs agreed new Covid regulations to cover the first crowd attendances in the League since March.

    While Government guidelines indicated fans would only have to wear masks on entry and in concourses, the club chiefs agreed to enforce the tougher measures.

    By mandating mask wearing except when fans are eating or drinking, clubs would be able to seat supporters at 1m distance in the most modern grounds.

    And that could allow up to one third of total capacities – 20,000 or more for the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Newcastle, Spurs, Arsenal and West Ham – before the campaign finishes.

    Read more HERE.

  • Hana Carter
  • Hana Carter

    'SANTA TO GET FIRST VACCIINE'

    Santa will get the coronavirus vaccine first and will have an air corridor with the UK to deliver Christmas presents, politicians and experts said today.

    Jonathan Van Tam today promised Father Christmas would be “right at the top of the list” for a vaccine – and Jacob Rees Mogg stressed there would be no travel disruption as he’d have an air corridor.

    The deputy chief medical officer told BBC 5 Live that Santa is “right at the top of the list” for getting his jab.

    “The JCVI made a very special case for Father Christmas,” he added.

    Meanwhile Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs in the Commons today that Santa wouldn’t need the vaccine to come into the UK.

    Click HERE to read more

  • Hana Carter

    2021: THE SUMMER OF WEDDINGS

    Boris Johnson vowed tonight that by next summer Britain will be in a "different world" as he hinted at tax cuts to help bounce back from coronavirus.

    The PM insisted that it's his "strong hope and belief" that by next summer a combination of the vaccine and mass testing means the country will be returning to their lives and people will be "getting hitched as normal".

    When he was grilled this evening during his People's PMQs session by wedding planner Lara, he said: "If you're thinking about the summer, I think you'll be alright.

    "By summer, one way or another, we'll be in a different world.

    "Plan for a much more active summer and lots of happy nuptial events all over the UK".

    And he added: "The New year brings with it new hope. We have to stick at it."

  • Hana Carter

    BIG BROTHER STAR THROWS PARTY IN LOCKDOWN

    A Big Brother star has been slammed for flaunting her Covid lockdown birthday bash with 30 pals in Italy’s worst hit region – where the bug has killed 22,000.

    Italian influencer Elisa de Panicis has followed in the controversial footsteps of Rita Ora by hosting a party, with guests not wearing masks.

    Elisa, 28, shared pics of the mask-free party at an exclusive luxury hotel in the centre of Milan on December 1.

    The big bash came despite strict lockdown measures currently in place across the region of Lombardy.

    TGCom2 says that despite anti-Covid rules banning parties and gatherings there was "champagne flowing, [guests at] one long table and no masks: the images she posted on social media sparked controversy".

  • Hana Carter

    HOW VACCINE TRIALS WORKED

  • Hana Carter

    PUBLIC URGED TO IGNORE COVID CONSPIRACIES

    The public has been warned to ignore dangerous myths about the Covid jab spread by anti-vaxxers.

    It comes as the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine yesterday.

    For months theories have circulated questioning how scientists could produce a vaccine in such a short period of time, with some accusing experts of "cutting corners".

    One expert has blasted these dangerous myths, which include sceptics claiming that the jab is the "next Thalidomide".

    The editor of independent fact-checking charity Full Fact, Tom Phillips said the authorities and vaccine makers need to garner the trust of the public.

  • Hana Carter

    HOW COVID'S SECOND WAVE HIT THE NORTH HARDER

    England has now re-entered a tier system after a second national lockdown, with most Northern areas in the toughest Tier 3 restrictions.

    Experts have now revealed that the North may have been hit harder by the pandemic due to factors such as seasonality, employment and age.

    Just a handful of areas escaped Tier 3 restrictions after driving infection rates down.

    Liverpool, Cumbria, as well as Warrington and Cheshire are in Tier 2 along with the City of York and North Yorkshire.

    The rest of the North is in Tier 3 restrictions and this includes areas such as Blackburn with Darwen as well as the whole of the North East.

  • Chris Bradford

    TRAVEL CORRIDOR UPDATE

  • Chris Bradford

    REES-MOGG ACCUSED OF PEDDLING ‘FAKE NEWS’ OVER VACCINE BREXIT CLAIMS

    Jacob Rees-Mogg has been accused of peddling “fake news” after he claimed the Pfizer vaccine was approved quickly because of Brexit.

    UK health regulators approved the Pfizer vaccine yesterday, and a mass rollout will begin next week.

    Mr Rees-Mogg said that “we could approve this vaccine so quickly because we have left the EU”.

    Shadow leader of the Commons Valerie Vaz branded this as “fake news” and claimed it had “nothing to do with Brexit”.

    MHRA chief June Raine confirmed that the approval of the vaccine was made under the provisions of EU law.

  • Chris Bradford

    BOOZE CRUISE PLANS TO TIER 1 ISLE OF WIGHT SLAMMED

    Council bosses have criticised suggestions of revellers embarking on "booze cruise" trips to the Isle of Wight to take advantage of its Tier 1 freedoms.

    Dave Stewart, the Conservative leader of the Isle of Wight Council, has branded the idea as "irresponsible" and said council officers would be ensuring venues stick to Covid-secure measures during the coming weekend.

    The Isle of Wight and Cornwall, along with the Isles of Scilly, are the only areas within England's Tier 1 which allows pubs to open without the Tier 2 requirement of acting as a restaurant by serving a "substantial meal" or being closed altogether in Tier 3.

    He said: "Suggestions of so-called 'booze cruises' visiting the island are completely irresponsible and, I hope, ill-founded.

    "We are working hard with the police and the ferry companies to put out messages that such behaviour is totally irresponsible and we will be supporting local businesses in managing any groups in a Covid-secure way that arrive with this intent."

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