Three households to be allowed to meet indoors for five days at Christmas

A man wearing a face mask passes Christmas decorations in the Burlington Arcade, London, as England continues a four week national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus
A man wearing a face mask passes Christmas decorations in the Burlington Arcade in London, as England nears the end of its four week national lockdown. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

The UK has agreed on arrangements for during the Christmas period in a deal agreed between Michael Gove and the First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Three households will be able to meet indoors between December 23 and 27, while people in Northern Ireland can travel to or from Northern Ireland for an extra day either side.

Once Christmas bubbles are formed they will be fixed and cannot change at any point according to the new rules, which were agreed at a COBRA meeting this afternoon.

Bubbles will be able to gather in private homes, go to outdoor public spaces and attend places of worship together but cannot meet up in bars, restaurants or other entertainment venues.

People will still be able to meet others from outside of their Christmas bubble according to the rules in their tier, with support bubbles counted as one household.

"We realise this isn't going to work for everyone but we need to avoid the virus spreading in a significant way again," the Prime Minister's spokesman said.

"This is a balance between increasing some social contact and the need to keep transmission of the virus as low as possible."

What happened today

Good evening. Here are all the major global health developments from today:

'The definition of purgatory: a never-ending select committee with Matt Hancock'

I’ve never actually met Matt Hancock, writes Michael Deacon.

Yet over the course of the pandemic I feel as if the Health Secretary and I have spent an unhealthy amount of time together. Because for the past eight months, he seems to have spent his every waking moment answering questions. And I seem to have spent my every waking moment watching him answer them.

It just never seems to end. Since March, Mr Hancock has been sent out to answer more questions than any other minister by miles. The man’s never off the airwaves. His life has become one long, non-stop inquisition.

If he isn’t being sent to answer questions at the despatch box, he’s being sent to answer them at news conferences, or on the Today programme, or Sky or LBC or GMB. On Monday in the Commons  he was even made to answer the questions the Prime Minister was meant to be answering, because the Prime Minister’s video link had gone down.

Sitting through all these questions must take remarkable stamina. And I should know, because I’ve had to sit through them all too.

Read more: Our torment continues with interminable committee session

Rishi Sunak to unveil £4.3 billion package to get one million back into work

Rishi Sunak will on Wednesday unveil a £4.3 billion New Deal-style package to get one million people back into work amid warnings that unemployment could continue rising until next summer, writes Gordon Rayner.

The Chancellor will promise that no one will be left "without hope or opportunity" after redundancies reached record levels.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, the Treasury's watchdog, is expected to predict that unemployment, currently at 4.8 per cent, could go as high as eight per cent by the summer before it starts to fall.

Rishi Sunak seen working on his Spending Review speech in his flat above 11 Downing Street, Credit: Simon Walker/HM Treasury

Public service spending is on course to reach 60 per cent of GDP this financial year, a level not seen since the Second World War, with the cost of Covid predicted to rise to £400 billion by the end of the year.

Mr Sunak's decision to find billions of pounds for jobs support in Wednesday's Spending Review will be seen as an acknowledgement that the unemployment crisis has a long way to go.

A Covid Christmas: What the new rules will mean

  • There will be some limited scope for care home residents aged under 65 to go to relatives' homes for Christmas. This will be subject to a risk assessment, the agreement of the care home, and socially distancing as much as possible.
  • Over 65s in care homes will not be able to go home for Christmas.
  • Couples can join different bubbles - so if a husband and wife want to see their blood relatives each can do so, although they cannot switch between these.
  • However in Scotland, people living in the same house can't join different bubbles.
  • University students travelling back home at the end of term will count as part of their parents' household.
  • People flying home from red listed countries will still have to quarantine.
  • Children of divorced parents will be allowed to split their time between two bubbles.
  • As for carol singing, guidance is expected later this week on whether Christmas will be riven with singing, or if we will have to withstand a silent night.

Gove: 'Christmas will offer hope for families and friends'

This from Michael Gove, who has struck the deal with the rest of the UK:

The UK-wide agreement reached today will offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year.

We know that the Christmas period this year will not be normal, but following constructive discussions between the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations, families and friends will now have the option to meet up in a limited and cautious way across the UK should they wish.

In coming to this agreement, we have listened to scientific and clinical advice on how best to minimise the risk and reach a balanced and workable set of rules that we hope will allow people to spend time together at this important time of year.

The plan to save Christmas: UK agrees arrangements for festive period

The UK has agreed on arrangements for during the Christmas period in a deal agreed between Michael Gove and the First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Three households will be able to meet indoors between December 23 and 27, while people in Northern Ireland can travel to or from Northern Ireland for an extra day either side.

Once Christmas bubbles are formed they will be fixed and cannot change at any point. Bubbles will be able to gather in private homes, go to outdoor public spaces and attend places of worship together but cannot meet up in bars, restaurants or other entertainment venues.

People will still be able to meet others from outside of their Christmas bubble according to the rules in their tier, with support bubbles counted as one household.

"We realise this isn't going to work for everyone but we need to avoid the virus spreading in a significant way again," the Prime Minister's spokesman said.

"This is a balance between increasing some social contact and the need to keep transmission of the virus as low as possible."

End of Covid nightmare seems in sight as Boris puts reputation on the line

Admittedly Boris Johnson had a difficult message to sell with much clarity, writes Janet Daley.

We have had spectacular, wonderful, splendid news: not just a couple of brash American vaccines but now a nice, civilised British one and we’ve already ordered lots and lots of it. Hooray!

But don’t get too excited. Boris Johnson drew a fine distinction between optimism and over-optimism which you may have found difficult to calibrate. But I think we got it.

This is all looking really, really good and we really, really want to let you have the kind of Christmas that will be humanly palatable.

Even with all the warnings not to go off the rails, and all the reservations, and the mitigating predictions about what a mammoth operation this was going to involve, it was impossible not to conclude that even the most cautious experts believed that the end was well and truly in sight.

Read the full story here.

Social distancing measures can go when over-50s have had Covid vaccine, says Hancock

Social distancing restrictions cannot be lifted until everyone over 50 has had a Covid vaccine or enough have been administered to stop the virus spreading, Matt Hancock has said.

The Health Secretary said he hoped the most damaging restrictions could be lifted by Easter, but said that depended on everyone on the first 10 groups of the vaccine priority list  having been offered the jab  by then.

He told a joint session of the health and social care committee and the science and technology committee: "After Easter, we think we will be getting back to normal.

"But those damaging social distancing interventions that have down sides, whether economic or social in terms of our well-being, I should hope that we can lift those after Easter if these two vaccines are approved by the regulator, which of course is an independent decision for the MHRA."

The Health Secretary said there would be a shift to an emphasis on "personal responsibility" rather than social distancing after Easter once vaccines have reached the most vulnerable people.

Laura Donnelly has the story.

Covid 'doesn't care if it's Christmas', says Edinburgh professor

Coronavirus "doesn't care if it is Christmas", a top public health expert has told ministers.

Professor Devi Sridhar's comments came as officials from the four UK nations try to concoct a coherent plan to allow families to reunite at Christmas.

Prof Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said it was "risky" for people to meet indoors especially around older relatives and with alcohol involved.

However she said recent vaccine breakthroughs could mean that the country is in a "fundamentally different" position in March.

"People emotionally want to hear reassuring messages," she told a joint meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee.

"I guess I have to speak bluntly - the virus doesn't care if it's Christmas. We still have pretty high prevalence across the country."

Italy coronavirus deaths highest since March

Italy reported another 853 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday - the highest daily toll since the end of March, when the country was in the grip of the first wave of the pandemic, Nick Squires reports from Rome.

The total was high even by the grim standards of the last few days, where each day has seen around 600 new deaths.

The authorities reported another 23,000 new coronavirus cases, up marginally from the day before. The country's death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 50,000 on Monday.

Cars and ambulances queue for available beds outside the Cotugno Infectious Disease Hospital in Naples Credit: Salvatore Laporta/IPA/Shutterstock

The northern region of Lombardy, which includes Milan, remains the hardest hit part of the country.

Italy's death toll is the second highest in Europe after that of the UK.

Covid tests offered at a discount by airlines and travel agents

The most sought-after travel accessory this winter is a Covid-19 test, writes Hazel Plush. No longer just essential for gaining entry to most destinations, it is now your key to reducing quarantine – from 14 days to five – when you return home from a non-‘travel corridor’ country. 

It comes as little surprise, then, that travel companies have started partnering with testing providers in a bid to boost consumer confidence.

Less than 24 hours since the UK Government announced its ‘test and release’ rethink on quarantine, airlines and travel agencies have begun offering exclusive discounts on testing services. 

And it’s good news: testing for travel is quickly becoming competitively-priced, with reductions of up to 30 per cent in the offing already.

Scenes like this swab test at Heathrow are becoming the norm at airports as travellers look to and reduce isolation periods. Credit: -/LHR Airports Limited/AFP

Wizz Air today unveiled a partnership with PCR provider Confirm Testing – which sees a Covid test price reduced from £110 to £85 when customers use a promotion code. 

World's poorest risk being 'trampled in stampede for vaccines', warns WHO

The same urgency with which Covid-19 vaccines have been developed must be used to distribute them fairly, the World Health Organization chief said, as he urged countries not to leave the most vulnerable behind, writes Jordan Kelly-Linden.

“The light at the end of this long, dark tunnel is growing brighter”, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing on Monday. "There is now real hope that vaccines – in combination with other tried and tested public health measures – will help to end the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The WHO head called for the international community to set new standards for vaccine access Credit: Francis Mascarehnas/Reuters

However, the WHO head called for the international community to set new standards for access before getting carried away with thenews that the Pfizer-Biotech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines have all proven to be efficacious.

“Every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people,” he said. “But there is now a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines.”

Read the full story here.

UK coronavirus deaths up by 608

A further 608 deaths with coronavirus have been recorded within 28 days of patients testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the Government's death toll to 55,838.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies for deaths and additional data covering recent days show there have now been more than 71,000 deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate.

The number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus has risen by 11,299, which brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,538,794.

This is the lowest number of daily cases since October 2, and down by 44 per cent on the same time last week.

Coronavirus vaccines won't be enough to cure 'long economic Covid'

The vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca are a superb scientific achievement, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, with 10 years’ work packed into ten months.

Yet the vaccines come too late to stop Wave Two of Covid-19 sweeping through the G7 economic bloc this winter. They will not avert a certain double-dip recession in Europe, or a partial double-dip in America, or clear away the legacy cost of soaring corporate and public debt ratios.

Nor do they change the market calculus significantly. Most banks and hedge funds had already priced a successful vaccine into their models for early 2021. Equity investors have already pocketed much of the implied relief.

Joe Biden’s grand reflation plan is dead. The Senate will not finance the green deal or Mr Biden’s “war economy”.

But the much greater problem is Europe. IHS thinks the bloc will regain no more than half of the lost GDP by the end of next year, regardless of vaccines.

Read more: The cost of Covid and lockdowns will be a slow-motion banking crisis

Icelandic Prime Minister: Third wave 'under control' amid very low case rates

 

Covid tests should be before flights not after, says Ryanair CEO

Michael O'Leary, the CEO of budget airline Ryanair, welcomed the news that travellers will be able to reduce their quarantine by getting a test, but said that should happen before flying and not after.

People arriving in England from a destination not on its coronavirus safe list will from next month be able to reduce the time they have to quarantine themselves if they test negative for the virus five days after arriving.

 

The Queen's new defence against coronavirus – antimicrobial gloves

A pair of pristine white gloves has long helped to protect the Queen from catching coughs and colds during Royal walkabouts, writes Camilla Tominey.

Now, in the wake of the  The Queen's new defence against coronavirus – antimicrobial gloves , the HM’s official glove maker has taken matters into its own hands by launching a new antimicrobial range.

The Queen pictured during an investiture ceremony, in pre-pandemic times. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Cornelia James, which has carried a Royal warrant since 1978 having supplied the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Princess Royal and Princess Diana with gloves, has partnered with a Swiss technological textile firm to make a new pair which breaks down viruses on touch.

It is thought the atelier in East Sussex has sent the cotton and merino wool gloves, enhanced with a substance called HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03, to Buckingham Palace.

Read more: Hand coverings break down viruses when touched

Matt Hancock 'overruled officials to order millions of extra Oxford Covid vaccines'

The Transport Secretary has said that Matt Hancock overruled officials in insisting that the UK ordered an extra 70 million Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccines, Laura Donnelly reports. 

Regulators are about to start their assessment of the vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, amid hopes that a roll-out programme could begin next month. 

The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine, which are set to stretch even further after a half-dose for the first jab was found to be even more effective then the full amount. AstraZeneca has said 20 million doses should be available by the end of this year.

It today emerged that Mr Hancock, the Health Secretary, persuaded Government officials to buy far more stocks of the AstraZeneca jab than had been intended. 

The vaccine offers advantages over its key rival by Pfizer/BionNTech because it is much cheaper, at about £3 a jab rather than £15, and can be stored at normal fridge temperatures. 

Read more: Health Secretary 'took vaccine decision against officials' advice'

Revealed: The five key metrics that will determine your area’s new lockdown tier

The controversial plan to break England into three tiers is based on five secretive measures, which experts are now rushing to analyse.

Though the Prime Minister's 'Covid Winter Plan' stops short of revealing exact lockdown triggers, it does give the key indicators determining how tough rules will be in different parts of the country from December 2.

Case rates and surges, particularly among the over 60s, as well as pressures on the testing and health systems will all be taken into account by No 10 when the new tiers are announced on Thursday. 

Yet the Government is also considering "broader economic and practical considerations", according to documents released by the Cabinet Office. 

Here is how local areas in England compare on these five key lockdown metrics. 

Christmas will lead to 'inevitable' spike in cases, says Welsh First Minister

Another note of caution from another regional leader as Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, describes it as "inevitable" that looser rules over Christmas will lead to more infections.

Mr Drakeford said: "The Cabinet will meet again before the end of this week to see whether there are lessons for us to draw from what is happening elsewhere and a common approach across the United Kingdom in the lead-up to the Christmas period.

"And importantly as well, in the way in which we will all have to deal with the inevitable consequences of the relaxation, which will drive a rise of coronavirus.

"That is inevitable and we need to prepare together to cope with the consequences."

Nicola Sturgeon: Important for governments to be 'candid' over Christmas

Nicola Sturgeon says the Scottish Government will continue to publish evidence and modelling "that we think is helpful and appropriate".

Ms Sturgeon says it is important for authorities to be "candid" with people about the trade-offs that Christmas will entail.

"What we are not saying is we are encouraging everybody to go out and use that. If we are all very careful we can minimise the spread of the disease."

Ian Blackford has done "the right thing", she says, by apologising for a tweet he sent which signalled out a private citizen from England who is moving to Scotland.

'Use any flexibility carefully' over Christmas, Sturgeon urges Scots

Nicola Sturgeon confirms that the student testing scheme in Scotland will be operational from next week, with students offered two tests before they return home.

She strongly recommends that students get tested "to make Christmas as safe as possible for them and their families".

"I know everyone has a desire to see loved ones over the festive period," she says. "However there is a very real and very legitimate anxiety that doing so could put those we love at risk, set back our progress as a country and result in unnecessary deaths and suffering.

"It is perhaps especially acute when we know that we might be within weeks of being able to vaccinate a significant proportion of the population."

Ms Sturgeon says any easing of rules over Christmas will be "temporary, limited and accompanied by advice" while asking Scots to "use any flexibility carefully".

Nicola Sturgeon: 'We must do all we can' during 'difficult winter'

Ms Sturgeon says while there have been recent case rises in Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen city, these do not require a change to the restrictions in these areas.

She confirms that 41 deaths have been recorded in the last 24 hours, with 85 people currently in intensive care.

The First Minister congratulates the team at Oxford University on the "exceptional" progress that has been made, and says "the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter".

But, she says, "for now we must do all we can through what will be a difficult winter."

Scotland coronavirus cases fall 'grounds for cautious optimism'

Nicola Sturgeon says that she now has "grounds for cautious optimism" that cases, hospitalisations and ICU admissions are declining across Scotland, with the R number estimated at between 0.8 and 1.

"The national picture which is positive masks some regional variations," she says. "That is why we took action last week to put 11 local authorities into the toughest local restrictions."

She says no changes are planned for those areas, which include West Lothian and the City of Glasgow, next week, with residents asked to stay at home as much as possible until December 11.

How do the new Covid tier rules affect me? Everything you need to know

Boris Johnson signalled yesterday that social distancing could finally end in the spring.

Spectator sports, concerts and business conferences will resume for the first time in nine months under the revamped tiers system.

Meanwhile, hairdressers, beauty salons, nail bars and massage parlours will reopen their doors in all areas of the country, as will gyms, non-essential retail and places of worship, which will again be permitted to conduct communal services. 

The pub curfew will be extended to 11pm, with last orders called at 10pm to give people more time to leave. Restrictions on socialising at home and outdoors will remain largely the same as before. 

However, Mr Johnson also announced a tightening of several restrictions, warning that, without "sensible precautions", Covid remained at risk of "escalating into a winter or New Year surge".

Harry Yorke has all the details.

Boris Johnson's Covid tier system could spark 'major revolt' once lockdown ends

Boris Johnson’s new “toughened” tier system risks reigniting the north-south divide, Tory MPs have warned, amid a mounting rebellion over the latest lockdown measures.

Conservative WhatsApp groups have been lighting up with “fury” and “anger” over the post-lockdown plan, according to one senior Tory who said: “The idea seems to be to move everybody up, Tier 2 becomes a shady Tier 3, Tier 3 is lockdown. Tier 1 is all but abolished. 

“There’s fury and anger at Boris Johnson on the backbenches about this. He doesn’t seem to care about the economic impact all of this is having. There’s going to be a major revolt.”

London MPs are pushing for the capital to be placed into Tier 1 because of the city’s economic significance but this risks angering Conservatives in “Red Wall” seats facing an “inevitable” return to Tier 2 and 3.

Whitehall sources have indicated that only very few, mostly rural areas will be put in Tier 1 - the only level where indoor socialising with other households is allowed.

Camilla TomineyDanielle Sheridan and Tony Diver have the story.

Christmas travel should be done carefully - if at all, says Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has urged the public to consider whether to travel over Christmas due to pressures placed on train services.

Due to social distancing restrictions fewer people can travel on a service at one time.

Watch Mr Shapps' comments below:

 

Christmas lockdown rules: Europe debates whether to lift curbs for Christmas

Governments across Europe are debating whether to lift coronavirus lockdowns so people can celebrate Christmas.

Germany is set to ease travel and contact restrictions for a week from December 21 so families can meet, according to leaked details of government talks.

But proposals to limit the number of people allowed at a family Christmas have been described as “nonsensical” and “inhumane”.

Chocolate Santas with face masks on sale in Germany Credit: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

In France, there is relative optimism after the government let it be known that small shops will be able to re-open around December 1.

While in Italy the government wants to dissuade Italians from getting together with large numbers of friends and family for Christmas celebrations.

Read the full dispatch from our European correspondents here.

'New tier rules will collapse unless No 10 learns its lessons'

As England prepares to move out of a blanket lockdown, there can be no return to the chaos of the early autumn, writes Matthew Lynn.

This time around, we should make sure that every restriction can be justified on the science, and that there is a proper assessment of its economic impact. 

Over the course of the last month, it might have been hard to work out the logic behind some of the decisions – I am still trying to get my head around why wine shops are essential but book shops aren’t – but at least the lockdown was clear.

The whole of England was on the same rules. Before that, it was a mess. Manchester ratcheted its way through the tiers despite the protests of its Mayor Andy Burnham.

This time around, it should be very different. We need to have a completely open process, and base any local restrictions on rising infection rates, using the most up-to-date figures available.

Read more: Transparent tiers needed as England leaves lockdown

‘Operation Moonshot’ Covid home testing contract goes to Royal Mail 

Royal Mail has been awarded a multi million-pound contract to deliver Covid home testing kits seven days a week as ministers prepare to ramp up capacity in the coming weeks, writes Oliver Gill.

Completed tests will be collected from 35,000 postboxes six days a week and from 15,000 locations on Sundays. 

The award, part of Boris Johnson’s “Operation Moonshot”, marks a key victory for Royal Mail in its battle with Amazon to spearhead mass testing.

The selection of Royal Mail sends a signal to Amazon that its grip could be slipping. Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP

Royal Mail chairman Keith Williams has previously said mass testing “is an opportunity for Royal Mail to show what we can do”. 

Both companies have been involved with delivery and collection of testing kits from care homes and regional test centres since April.

Italy coronavirus travel on thin ice as ski resorts revolt

Italy’s ski resorts are in revolt after being told it is highly unlikely they will be allowed to open for the Christmas holidays, writes Nick Squires.

The government is desperate to avoid the mistakes of the summer, when the end of Italy’s strict lockdown and the reopening of beach resorts and nightclubs contributed to the country’s second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Italy yesterday surpassed the grim milestone of 50,000 dead from the pandemic.

Giuseppe Conte, the prime minister, wants not only Italian ski resorts closed, but also those of neighbouring countries such as Austria, Slovenia and France.

He said that unless those countries followed Italy’s example there would be unfair competition.

Read the full story here.

Rules after lockdown: Hancock will not publish reasons behind tiers

There will be five different indicators determining the tier system after lockdown, Matt Hancock says, "but we can't credibly put a set of statistics on those".

Some circumstances would make it unreasonable to followed a fixed automated process of deciding which areas are in which tiers, he adds. 

Mr Hancock says that the Government will publish "all of the data that underpins the decisions that we make", but will not publish a cost-benefit analysis for each region.

"These decisions are not political, but they are ministerial in that they take into account all necessary considerations."

NHS Test and Trace app now has more than 20 million downloads

Matt Hancock reveals that the NHS Test and Trace app now has 20 million unique downloads and describes this as "superb".

He says that it is critical that a "long-term diagnostics strategy" is in place along with "better, more appropriate data-sharing in the healthcare system".

"People are far more engaged with their health and we can use some of the technology that we've had to build to make sure patients are more engaged with their healthcare and can easily access the data around their healthcare".

'We think we will get to normal after Easter'

Matt Hancock says "we will get to the point where we are protecting the most vulnerable", and a point of "personal responsibility" instead of wider restrictions.

It is this thinking that underpins us saying that we think we will get back to normal after Easter.

The risk and the problem with the big student outbreaks was that it gets into the wider community and that's exactly what happened in places like Nottingham.

But once you have protected or given the opportunity to protect older people or more vulnerable people, then obviously the public health rationale - particularly for strict and damaging measures - is reduced.

Of course there is long Covid too, and we may get to a point if the vaccines reduce transmission of the virus where the vaccine means enough people are vaccinated that the virus stops transmitting. And then the virus won't be able to take hold and you won't even get the long Covid consequences.

There's an even better option that we don't know if it will come to pass - on its own with basic hygiene and the 'no-regrets' NPIs, the vaccine gets R below one. If that happens - and I'm not projecting or predicting that - that's brilliant for everyone.

Hancock asked about high disabled death rates

Matt Hancock is asked about the high Covid rates of deaths among people with learning disabilities, who statistics suggest are up to six times more likely to die with the virus.

Jeremy Hunt points out that under current JCVI guidance, all older people - including healthy 65-year-olds - have to get the vaccine before anyone with learning disabilities under the age of 65. He asks the Health Secretary to look into this.

Mr Hancock says he has already asked Jonathan Van-Tam to consider this question, but JCVI is "rightly an independent group".

Matt Hancock confirms he had seen Vallance's horror Halloween graph

Matt Hancock confirms to Greg Clark that he had seen Sir Patrick Vallance's Halloween slide which forecast 4,000 daily deaths as a possible outcome of the second wave of Covid.

Greg Clark says the slide was already "out of date" and questions why it was presented to the public.

"I thought that it was a reasonable judgement for the chief scientific officer," Mr Hancock says. "I thought presenting a set of options was important. It made it crystal clear that these things are not certain."

Greg Clark: Public must see economic assessments

Greg Clark asks why the economic assessments of lockdown and other coronavirus-related measures are not being published.

Matt Hancock says Sage papers are "the result of the discussion of a scientific community".

"On the economic front, whilst it is harder to put the figures on it on the economic impact, you also need to consider the counterfactual," he says.

"The counterfactual is even harder to work out than the direct impact of the measures."

"All the more reason to see the assessments that have been made," Mr Clark cuts in.

Mr Hancock says there is a "longstanding convention" of such papers being published and the Government considers the economic impact of all measures. He says that the Government is "trying to pull off the set of measures that will get R below one".

Mental health coronavirus impact 'very serious', says Hancock

Matt Hancock says there are "some quite serious mental health impacts" of both lockdown measures and Covid-19 in itself.

"It's a very serious challenge. We're putting in extra funding to support colleagues in the mental health field." 

He says 'long Covid' is "really serious for some people", adding that treatment is also being supported through additional funding and new NHS services.

Mr Hancock has previously said that up to one in 10 people under the age of 50 who catch coronavirus are likely to have long-term symptoms of the virus.

Coronavirus should be 'hit hard, hit early', says Hancock

"The decisions impinging on me weigh heavily on me and certainly on the Prime Minister," says Matt Hancock.

"The economic impacts are obvious. The reason I can say 100 per cent is that the measures have been necessary is that we also know if the cases go up, if R is above one then ultimately that is exponential.

"The inevitable consequence of that is we will bring in stronger NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions). The lesson of 'hit it hard, hit it early' is an important one."

Eat Out to Help Out defended by Matt Hancock

Asked if Eat Out to Help Out was a mistake, Matt Hancock says that the "needs of the economy have to be balanced" with the direct impact of testing outcomes.

"Supporting the hospitality industry has been a very important part of having to go through this," he says, claiming cases were "incredibly low" in August when the scheme was rolled out.

Matt Hancock says case rates were "incredibly low" during the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Mr Hancock says he will "defend to the death" spending almost £50,000 on Bong Bong's Filipino takeaways for Department of Health staff, which was reported at the weekend.

He says that the idea he claimed for anything himself is "completely wrong", and he has "no personal interest in any of this other than saving lives".

Asked for a third time if he will publish risk impact assessments, Mr Hancock says decisions are made on a difficult balance and concedes the evidence base is "imperfect".

Self-isolation could be reduced depending on trial outcomes

Asked about Christopher Hope's revelations of a planned reduction in the length of self-isolation thanks to the regular mass testing of close contacts, Matt Hancock says:

We can only do this because of the enormous testing capability that we have built, thanks to these unbelievable private sector companies that have done amazing science and produced these testing capabilities.

We do have the test capacity. We need to make sure we get the tests to the right people, which is currently being trialled this week in Liverpool, then we'll roll it out to NHS staff, then should those pilots go well we'll roll it out nationally.

The hard bit is the logistics. The point about identity insurance is very important as we want to know that people are doing the test. The evidence is that when people test positive, they are much more likely to isolate.

Dr Jenny Harries says all of the data from positive tests will be linked back to the national PHE system, and that all data has to comply with the UK's standards. She says pilots have been put to "particularly good use in care home settings".

'Increasing proportion' of contacts traced by local teams

Mr Hancock says an "increasing proportion" of contacts are now traced by local teams.

"You need the massive central system and the boots on the ground who really know the local area.

Matt Hancock speaking at the Health and Social Care Committee hearing Credit: -/PRU/AFP

"The local system does care homes, and the local system does schools. In schools everybody else in that bubble is a contact."

He says private sector and council comparisons are unhelpful.

Matt Hancock: 'I want a change in the British way of doing things' over testing

Matt Hancock says the UK now tests more people than any other country in Europe, and that the newly-built testing infrastructure must be used beyond the pandemic.

I want to have a change in the British way of doing things, where 'if in doubt, get a test' doesn't just refer to coronavirus but refers to any illness you might have.

Why in Britain do we think it's acceptable to soldier on and go into work if you have a flu symptom or a runny nose, thus making your colleagues ill?

I think that's something that's going to have to change. If you have in future flu-like symptoms, you should get a test for it and if you need to stay at home to protect others, you should do so.

We are peculiarly unusual outliers in soldiering on and going to work and that should change.

'I very much hope not to' introduce third lockdown, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock says he "doesn't yet know" what Christmas will look like across the UK.

"I'm not leading on the discussions with the devolved authorities on what Christmas will be."

He says the Government considered "the impact of other faiths and none" of the various other religious festivals place in lockdown, which Christmas will not because "it is the biggest national holiday that we have".

Asked if he will introduce another lockdown before the "significant" resumption of normality at around Easter, Mr Hancock says: "I very much hope not to."

Tier three needs to be tougher on end of lockdown, says Matt Hancock

Keeping schools open is one of the "key lessons" that the Government has learned throughout the coronavirus pandemic, says Matt Hancock.

"We've done that based on a rigorous analysis of the impact of schools being open on the impact on the disease," he says. "There are the wider societal benefit of schools being open, not least for education.

"The scientific advice was schools are lower risk than we thought. We didn't really know first time round, it was very hard to know. Added to that are the social benefits, and that's one of the things that we learned."

He says it would have been "disproportionate" to introduce a national lockdown in lieu of the tier system that was introduced earlier in autumn.

"We went for a four-week lockdown but returning to a tier system that is better calibrated having learned the impact of the tier system... where the third tier wasn't strong enough. We need a slightly tougher third tier so we have confidence we can bring infections done."

Matt Hancock: We followed the science on lockdown

Matt Hancock says the Government "absolutely listens to a broad range of advice" from a range of scientists.

The SNP's Carol Monaghan asks Mr Hancock if lockdown should have been introduced earlier in light of what was happening across Europe.

"This was a point at which we did directly follow the science," he responds. "We followed the scientific advice that was given, we based our scientific evidence on that.

"There are times when that wasn't the case. There's many examples when I can remember the scientific advice being different."

He cites the example of forcing tourists from China to quarantine, which he said scientists advised against.

Self-isolation incentives incredibly important, says Hancock

Jeremy Hunt's final question focuses on the importance of compliance when people are asked to isolate, and highlights low rates in the UK of between 20 and 54 per cent.

"I do think that the incentives to self-isolate are very important," says Matt Hancock.

"I'm sceptical of some of the very high numbers, likewise I'm highly sceptical of the very low numbers. What matters is the radical reduction in the number of contacts."

Mr Hancock says it is the job of law enforcement, the Treasury, and Test and Trace to work together in a "cross-government effort" to ensure compliance.

I got the best advice my advisers could give me, says Matt Hancock

Mr Hancock says that a "ministerial judgement" is still being made and that the Government is being "guided by the science", rather than "following the science".

He says that the science consulted at the start of the pandemic was "the best we had available at the time".

Jeremy Hunt highlights that Sage did not model Test and Trace as a response, and that different advice was given in South Korea where testing and tracing was modelled.

Mr Hunt says that the Government advice was very clear to stop community testing, which went against general WHO advice to test widely.

Mr Hancock says stopping community testing "was a consequence of having to focus the tests on people in hospital", and claims that South Korea was able to move to a test-and-trace system so quickly due to its experiences of Sars.

"I think I got the best scientific advice that my scientific advisers could give me," says Mr Hancock. "There is no doubt that we can, we should and we must learn from all of the international examples and from our own experience here."

Hancock 'hopes' social distancing can be lifted after Easter

"Washing your hands more and some parts of social distancing are no regrets things which I think will become commonplace," Mr Hancock says.

"But the damaging social interventions which have downsides, I should hope that we could lift those after Easter if these two vaccines are approved by the regulator which of course is an independent decision."

The Health Secretary says "after Easter, we will be getting back to normal". 

Matt Hancock taking questions from Health and Social Care Committee

Matt Hancock is asked what social distancing will look like after Easter.

Mr Hancock says: "It depends on the impact of the rollout of the vaccine on the spread of the disease and the number of people who have a serious morbidity or indeed die of coronavirus.

"The same data and tools we use to judge what happens to the social distancing interventions now are essentially the same measures because they are the things we're trying to protect against - cases, hospitalisations and deaths from coronavirus."

Russia claims its vaccine is 95 per cent effective  

Russia says that its Sputnik V vaccine was 95 per cent effective 42 days after the first dose was administered, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund which is backing the development of the vaccine at the Gamaleya Centre in Moscow said in a statement on Tuesday that their calculations are based on the trial of 18,794 volunteers who received both the first and second doses of the vaccine and placebo at the second control point.

It said that there were “no unexpected adverse events during the trials”.

The interim analysis of clinical trial data previously reported a 91.4 percent efficacy 28 days after the first dose.

The Gamaleya Centre has vowed to publish the full clinical trial report once Phase III clinical trials are completed.

40,000 volunteers are taking part in the Phase III trials of the Sputnik V vaccine, half of whom have received two doses of the vaccine.

The statement released by the RDIF on Tuesday quoted Mikhail Murashko, Russia’s health minister, as saying that the “data demonstrating high efficacy of the Sputnik V vaccine give us hope that we will soon obtain the most important tool in the fight against the pandemic of the novel coronavirus infection".

Gamaleya researchers were previously criticised for not releasing sufficient data to back up the claims of the successful trials.

Read more: Covid-19 vaccine: Latest updates on Oxford, Moderna and Pfizer breakthroughs

WATCH: Quarantine cut to 5 days for travellers and holidaymakers

'Tis the season to be jolly...careful', says PM

As the country gears up to unlock from lockdown next week, Britons are awaiting news as to whether they will be able to meet up with family for Christmas. 

Boris Johnson warned on Monday night that Britain is entering "the season to be jolly careful" as he announced new coronavirus restrictions that will last until the end of March.

People should consider not travelling by train at Christmas due to the rail network's "limitations", Transport Secretary Grants Shapps has said this morning, but that people should "stand by their radios" for news.

While they wait, some Britons have found Covid-secure ways to see their loved ones and enjoy some early Christmas cheer.

Tim Porteus and his friend Sheila who decided to meet for a tea and a catch up on the border of Edinburgh and East Lothian as the two can't cross council areas due to Covid restrictions.  Credit: Katielee Arrowsmith, SWNS 
Shirley and Freddie Lowe reunited at King Charles Court care home, Falmouth, for the first time in eight months. The couple have been married more than 60 years. Credit: Melissa Jones / SWNS 
A woman passes Christmas decorations at Covent Garden in London, as Britons await the news of whether families can spend Christmas together  Credit: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

P&O Cruises extends cancellations until April 2021

The UK's biggest cruise line P&O Cruises has extended the cancellation of its sailings until April 2021 "in response to the current uncertainty around European ports of call".

President Paul Ludlow said: "With hopeful news headlines clearly we do not want to extend our pause in operations any further than absolutely necessary, but given the ever-changing guidance around international travel and the varying regulations in many European ports of call we felt it prudent to cancel these additional dates.

"In addition, as the final payments are due for these cruises very soon we felt it was the right thing to do for our guests.

"We are so sorry to disappoint those who were due to travel but really hope they will rebook for later in the year or for our new programme of 2022 holidays which went on sale earlier this month with strong demand, showing great confidence in cruising in the future."

Read more: Travel bosses welcome testing plan to cut quarantine period to five days

ONS: More than 71,000 deaths involving Covid-19

More than 71,200 deaths involving Covid-19 have now occurred in the UK, new figures show.

A total of 68,524 deaths have so far been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the latest reports from the UK's statistics agencies.

This includes 62,162 deaths in England and Wales up to November 13 (and registered up to November 21), which were confirmed by the ONS on Tuesday.

Since these statistics were compiled, a further 2,432 deaths are known to have occurred in England, plus 80 in Scotland, 128 in Wales and 91 in Northern Ireland, according to additional data published on the Government's coronavirus dashboard.

Together, these totals mean that so far 71,255 deaths involving Covid-19 have taken place in the UK.

ONS: Weekly Covid deaths highest since May

The number of weekly registered deaths involving coronavirus has exceeded 2,000 in England and Wales for the first time since May, official figures show.

There were 2,466 deaths involving Covid-19 registered in the week ending November 13 in England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics said (ONS).

This is the highest number since the week ending May 22, when 2,589 deaths were registered, and a rise of 529 deaths (27 per cent) from the previous week (ending November 6).

The Covid-19 deaths made up a fifth of the overall deaths in England and Wales in the week ending November 13.

More than 85,000 Americans hospitalised with Covid

More than 85,000 Americans are currently in hospital with Covid-19, the highest figure since the start of the pandemic and a total that is likely to continue to rise, Ben Farmer reports.

The figures reported by the Covid Tracking Project came as millions of Americans are flouting medical advice and travelling around the country for Thursday's Thanksgiving celebrations.

The United States reported 169,190 new coronavirus cases and 889 virus-related deaths on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University, taking the overall total of deaths to at least 257,701 according to the university's tally.

Meanwhile a survey suggested widespread hesitancy among ethnic minorities to use any vaccine that may become available, the Washington Post reported. The survey found fewer than half of Black people and two-thirds of Latino people said they would definitely or probably take a free vaccine if it became available.

'Tiers need to be tougher to get R down'

Former chief scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport said more stringent tiers need to "be tougher" to get the R number down.

He said that when national restrictions in England end, people must not "return to a free-for-all in terms of our behaviour".

Sir Mark told Sky News: "We've learned from the tier system as has been operated so far and also what happened in Wales and Northern Ireland when they introduced much more strict restrictions.

"What is clear is that at the end of this period of national measures that we can't simply return to a free-for-all in terms of our behaviour. And so we do need to maintain social distancing.

"The natural reproduction number of this virus is 3. We've got it down at the moment to around 1, and we do need to get it below 1, so we do need measures to continue after this period of lockdown ends.

"What we learned was that Tier 3 with its additional measures did seem to be being effective and we can see real changes in the North West."

He added that the Government "constantly needs to learn from experience", and that the tougher restrictions will "hopefully do the trick".

"At the moment there is still great pressure on the NHS, and the levels are high in many parts of the country, and if the R number maintains at 1, then those numbers will remain high so we have got to get case numbers down," he said.

Hong Kong to shut bars, nightclubs for third time as cases rise

Medical workers in protective suits attend to people at a makeshift community testing centre for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hong Kong's Yau Tsim Mong district, China November 24 Credit: REUTERS/Joyce Zhou

Hong Kong will close bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues for the third time this year, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Tuesday as authorities scramble to tackle a renewed rise in coronavirus cases.

Authorities are also reopening a temporary Covid-19 treatment hall near the city's airport.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 80 new coronavirus cases, taking the total since late January to 5,782 Covid-19infections and 108 deaths.

The area has so far managed to avoid the widespread outbreak of the disease seen in many major cities across the world, with numbers on a daily basis mostly in single digits or low double digits in the weeks prior to the spike.

Over 180 of the latest cases are linked to dance clubs.

"There are multiple transmission chains in the community," Chan told a news conference.

"We need to tighten all social distancing measures, because the pandemic is severe."

'A lot of regions will find themselves in Tier 3'

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) which advises the Government, said he expected a lot of areas of England to emerge from lockdown into the highest tier.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We have fairly good evidence from Tier 3 that it was probably sufficient to take the R number below 1, the lower tiers it seemed that that wasn't the case and so what we might expect, I would expect that probably initially quite a lot of regions may find themselves in Tier 3 but we may find some kind of stepwise move out of that."

Dr Tildesley noted that there is usually a lag in seeing the effect of any control policies on the rate of infection, and said he expected that a fortnight after the current lockdown in England ends there may be more movement in the tiers.

He said: "It may be initially we might see slightly more severe tiers but then when we start to see the effect of the lockdown, 1-2 weeks after the lockdown finishes on December 2, we might see some regions stepwise dropping down the tiers."

Tiers will be informed by 'number of cases' in over 60s

The Government will decide which tier each region is placed in after December 2 based on "the number of cases" in each area, but particularly the numbers of people aged over 60 testing positive for the virus, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

He told BBC Breakfast that although half the country may be placed in the strictest Tier 3 alert level, this will still allow for more freedoms than the national lockdown currently in place for England.

Mr Shapps said: "I think it is the case that we do need to be a bit tighter on the tiers - Tier 3 in more places is a strong possibility - but there's still a difference between that and what we're doing now.

"For example, in terms of the number of people that can meet outside in a public place, and a number of other things."

Read more: What are the new tier system rules after Covid lockdown ends?

Consider your Christmas travel plans carefully, says Shapps

People in Britain will need to consider their Christmas travelling routes carefully if Covid-19 restrictions are temporarily relaxed for a fixed period over the festive season, the transport minister said.

"I want to be completely up front with you. We are going to have to ask people to take a close look at any proposed journey and think about the routes that they're taking," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast.

The government said on Sunday that restrictions could be eased across Britain over Christmas to allow families to get together for a period of up to five days, leading to forecasts of gridlock as people all set off on the same day.

Christmas is always a busy time to travel, said Mr Shapps, but the pandemic will add extra congestion, particularly on the railways with the need to social distance.

Mr Shapps said he would do all he could to minimise planned Christmas engineering works on the rail network, but said some would have to go ahead as they had been scheduled two years in advance.

Priced out on tests: 'It's up to companies to innovate', says Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said the new tests to reduce the quarantine period for travellers returning from places not on the Government's travel corridor list are "for anybody who travels" and not just business travellers, despite them costing between £65 and £120.

From December 15, travellers will be able to use the negative test results to come out of quarantine after five days.

Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast: "I expect what will happen as this market gets going is we'll see the cost of tests being driven down.

"Particularly as some of these new types of tests have come around, and rather than specifying - people have heard terms like PCR tests and lab tests and lateral flow - rather than specifying a type of test we've specified a specification standard for these tests - medical experts have.

"It's up to companies to innovate if they can produce a test for much less money, or indeed much faster turnaround, then they're welcome to do that as long as it meets the very exacting standards."

Read more: Amazing winter destinations that will be unlocked by the end of a 14-day quarantine

Worldwide summary

  • Russiahas reported a record 491 deaths linked to coronavirus today, bringing the official death toll to 37,031. Authorities also reported 24,326 new infections in the space of 24 hours, including 5,838 in the capital Moscow, bringing the national cumulative tally to 2,138,828.

  • Australia will lift more internal state border restrictions in a boost for tourism as new coronavirus infections slow to a trickle, while the first vaccines could be available in March, a government minister said on Tuesday.

  • A new round of social distancing rules took effect on Tuesday in the South Korean capital of Seoul, dealing a blow to small business owners despite brighter hopes for economic recovery after earlier success in battling the coronavirus. The measures range from closures of nightclubs and karaoke bars and curbs on eating in cafes and restaurants to fewer nighttime public transit services and limits on religious services, weddings and funerals for the next two weeks.

  • Germany's 16 federal states plan to allow gatherings of up to 10 people for Christmas and New Year festivities, a draft proposal showed on Tuesday. The premiers of the states are due to discuss their plans with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday.

  • The Japanese government is preparing to pause its domestic travel campaign in two cities following sharp rises in Covid-19 cases, the minister handling the government's coronavirus response said on Tuesday.

  • Brazil has gathered enough infection data from a late-stage trial of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech and expects to have interim results on its efficiency in early December, trial organisers said on Monday.

'It ain't perfect', Shapps says on Test and Trace

On Test and Trace, Mr Shapps acknowledged there had "clearly been issues with the system".

"It ain't perfect," he told Sky News. "We want to make it better, and that happens when we all contribute towards the system and do what we're asked to do by NHS Test and Trace."

He added there are now 155 areas which have local test and trace in place and another 100 local authorities which have applied to do tracing locally. 

Tier system will be 'tougher', says Shapps

 Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps Credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty

On the strengthened tier system, Mr Shapps said additional data will be released tomorrow which will inform which areas go into which tiers.

"It will on the basis of the number of cases, for example the number of cases in the over-60s where it is much more possible it could be fatal," he told Sky News.

He added that the tiers will be "tougher" than before and that some rules will be familiar, such as the rule of six. 

But it is important that the country can "drive down" the R rate further as we come out of lockdown. 

Other countries will be sure to follow UK travel plan, says Shapps

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said the UK now has a system for travel quarantines which other countries will be sure to follow. 

From December 15, the UK will move towards quarantine-free travel with the introduction of a single test-and-release scheme on the fifth day after arriving in the UK.

Questioned on Sky News how many travel industry jobs the delay to introducing this plan may have cost, Mr Shapps said the complexities of the system, including the science behind day five being chosen as the release day, took time to iron out. 

Read more: New Year travel could be saved as Transport Secretary urges daily testing in place of quarantine

Today's top stories

Ghislaine Maxwell in 14-day quarantine 

Ghislaine Maxwell has been quarantined after jail staff tested positive for coronavirus  Credit: Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty 

Ghislaine Maxwell has been quarantined after staff tested positive for coronavirus at the jail where she is awaiting trial on charges she aided late financier Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of girls, US prosecutors said in a letter on Monday.

The staff tested positive last week and Maxwell was checked for the virus on November 18 using a rapid test which was negative, the prosecutors said in a letter to US District Judge Alison Nathan.

Maxwell was placed in quarantine at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for 14 days, said the letter.

Maxwell has not shown any symptoms of Covid-19 and will be tested again at the end of her two-week quarantine.

The British socialite is allowed to leave her cell three times a day for thirty minutes during which she can make personal phone calls.

Legal calls to her counsel are permitted for three hours a day in a room where she is alone without a jail staff.

Maxwell, 58, has pleaded not guilty to helping Epstein recruit and groom underage girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sexual acts in the mid-1990s, and not guilty to perjury for having denied involvement in such a scheme when she gave her deposition under oath.

Her trial is scheduled for July 2021.

Macron to address France over restriction changes

France is expected to loosen its coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday.

Hopes over Covid-19 vaccines have given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe, but the disease remains rampant and world leaders are urging people to be patient.

French President Emmanuel Macron will address the country - currently under lockdown - to announce a reworking of the rules following a drop in nationwide infections.

Mr Macron's televised speech comes a day after Boris Johnson said thanks to a major vaccine breakthrough, "the escape route is in sight" from the coronavirus crisis.

Airport workers test positive in Shanghai

China has reported new coronavirus cases in the cities of Shanghai and Tianjin as it seeks to prevent small outbreaks from becoming bigger.

The National Health Commission said on Tuesday that there were two new locally spread cases in the previous 24-hour period, one in each city. It also reported 20 cases among people who had arrived from overseas.

In Shanghai, the mass testing of 17,719 workers at the city's Pudong airport found one infection - a Fedex employee. Everyone else tested negative.

Three UPS workers at the airport have also tested positive in recent days, along with the wife of one worker. In all, Shanghai has reported eight non-imported cases since Friday.

Police and security officers stand guard as airport workers wait to get tested at Shanghai Pudong International Airport Credit: AP

In Tianjin, where 2.3 million people had been tested as of Monday, the city reported one case in a person who developed symptoms after testing positive earlier. China does not include people without symptoms in its confirmed case count.

To date, the health commission has recorded 86,464 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths.

Wedding plans a nightmare for couples

A wedding industry worker says a lack of certainty over restrictions in the UK during the pandemic is a key factor behind people postponing the planning of their nuptials, leaving people like her "to rot".

Couples say they have been "let down and deflated" after being allowed just 15 wedding guests while sports prepare to welcome back thousands of fans.

Boris Johnson warned on Monday night that Britain is entering "the season to be jolly careful" as he announced new coronavirus restrictions that will last until the end of March.

Outdoor sporting venues in tier one areas will be permitted to admit up to 4,000 spectators to an event, while the caps were 2,000 and 1,000 respectively for indoor venues in tiers one and two.

Collective worship and weddings however will resume with a cap of 15 guests and receptions will be banned in tier 3.

"Limiting to 15 just doesn't make sense when I can go to the local pub with 100 plus (people), or now visit a sporting event with 2,000 plus," Hannah Wilkin, 30, from Norwich said.

READ MORE: Couples 'deflated' as coronavirus restrictions mean wedding plans are 'left to rot'

Biden wants to work with mayors to cope with pandemic

President-elect Joe Biden says he wants to work closely with the nation's mayors to help Americans cope during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris met on Monday with the US conference of mayors virtually, from a theatre in Wilmington, Delaware. They each sat at a low table and spoke to a screen displaying a video grid of 49 mayors.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listens during a meeting with members of the US Conference of Mayors and President-elect Joe Biden Credit: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Mr Biden told the mayors that "the quality of life falls on your shoulders" and said that working with them and getting input from local officials would be "a priority for me as president".

He added that "we're here for you, and we're gonna listen to you, and we're gonna work with you," regardless of party.

Ms Harris told the mayors that Americans "look to you for confidence, look to you for a sense of security that everything's going to be okay" and said that they're "carrying an enormous burden of responsibility" during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has finally directed his team to cooperate with an incoming Biden administration after the General Services Administration ascertained the Democrat as the "apparent election winner".

READ MORE: Donald Trump agrees to begin formal transition to Biden presidency

 

Spain's king in isolation

Spanish King Felipe VI is self-isolating after being with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

The royal household said the 52-year-old monarch was "in close contact" the previous day with someone infected with coronavirus.

Credit: JAIME REINA/AFP

Felipe will self-isolate for the mandatory 10 days and has cancelled his official duties for that period.

The royal household gave no information about the state of his health.

Meet the women leading the Oxford vaccine team

The Telegraph's Alice Hall goes behind the scenes to explain more about the women leading the Oxford University vaccine team - and about to make history...

In the days before coronavirus (remember those?) it was celebrities and influencers who dominated the limelight. But these are strange times we live in.

As we sit cooped up in our homes seeing out a second nationwide lockdown, it is those in the science community who are emerging as the public's new heroes. 

 

And who would fail to be impressed by the efforts Professor Sarah Gilbert and Professor Catherine Green, two of the latest brains to emerge from the pandemic and, arguably, some of the most important.

Both women are at the forefront of the race to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, leading a team of dedicated researchers from the Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group. 

And it looks like success could be on the horizon for the team.

Read the full story here.

Airlines consider 'vaccination passport' for travellers

The boss of Australia's largest airline has said that once a coronavirus vaccine becomes widely available, it may require passengers to use it before they can travel abroad.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said he had been talking to his counterparts at other airlines around the world about the possibility of a "vaccination passport" for overseas travellers.

"We are looking at changing the terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft," Mr Joyce said.

Australia has imposed some of the most severe border restrictions in the world since the pandemic began. It has closed its borders to most international visitors and only allowed its own citizens to travel internationally under special circumstances.

Those restrictions have helped the nation of 26 million people tame its outbreak. Australia has reported nearly 28,000 cases and just over 900 deaths since the pandemic began, fewer than many other nations of its size.

READ MORE: Passengers will need vaccine proof for international flights, warns Qantas boss

'Chaos': Postal deliveries delayed as workers told to self-isolate

Postal deliveries are being delayed as Covid "chaos" at depots sees scores of staff forced to self-isolate.

Some people have reported not receiving any mail for more than a week, with postal service sources telling The Telegraph that whole offices were being taken out by Test and Trace.

The problems stem from postal staff in sorting offices working at close quarters, meaning one infection can lead to dozens of people being told to self-isolate for up to 14 days.

Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP

A senior Royal Mail source told The Telegraph that "whole buildings" were being emptied when a postal worker tested positive because staff worked "side by side", while another said: "It is absolute chaos is the bottom line. It is a complete and utter disaster out there, and the parcel traffic is unbelievable."

Read the full story here.

More than half of England set to be in highest tiers

More than half the country will be put into tougher restrictions when the national lockdown ends, Boris Johnson has announced.

Under the new tier system, more parts of England are expected to be placed into higher measures than they were before the national lockdown, which ends on December 2, was imposed.

 

Mr Johnson conceded it was "likely that more of the country is placed into tiers 2 and 3 at first" in order to "control the virus effectively". 

Following the Prime Minister's announcement, a number of MPs urged the Government to put London in the lowest tier or risk economic havoc.

Read the full story here.

Crowds of up to 4,000 allowed back into sport stadiums

Spectator sports, concerts and business conferences will resume for the first time in nine months under the revamped tiers system as Boris Johnson signalled on Monday that social distancing could finally end in the spring.

Under the Government's winter plan, thousands of fans will be allowed back into stadiums from December 2, when the second lockdown ends.

Crowd sizes will be determined according to the tiers areas are placed into, although stadiums will remain empty in Tier 3 areas.

Indoor and outdoor amateur sports will also resume in all three tiers.

English Football League officials are also discussing moving all fixtures from Tuesday to Wednesday so cash-starved clubs can start immediately clawing back matchday revenue.

GAME ON: Crowds of up to 4,000 allowed back into sport stadiums next week

Today's top stories