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Swathes of southern England plunged into Tier 3
Large swathes of southern England will be placed under Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday due to rising coronavirus levels. Health secretary Matt Hancock set out the findings of the first full review of England’s tier allocations, with very little good news for areas already under tough restrictions. Instead he was forced to place more areas under the toughest measures, closing pubs, restaurants and cinemas.
The areas moving into Tier 3 are: Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey with the exception of Waverley, Hastings and Rother on the Kent border of East Sussex, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire. The changes mean a total of 38 million people will be living in Tier 3 from Saturday – 68% of the population of England.
Any good news?
Just two areas of England were brought out of the most severe Tier 3 restrictions with Bristol and North Somerset moving to the less restrictive Tier 2. Hancock said it was possible because infection rates have dropped from 432 cases per 100,000 people to 121 “and falling”. Herefordshire will go down into Tier 1, although the county’s public health director raised concerns about the relaxation of measures there.
Read more about it
Swatches of southern England under new measures (Yahoo News UK)
COVID-19 cases rise in all but one region of England (Sky News)
Tough restrictions 'to last until February at least' (Guardian)
What are the Tier 3 COVID lockdown rules – and which areas are included? (Yahoo News UK)
—The big coronavirus stories today—
Furlough scheme extended for a month
The furlough scheme will be extended for another month, Rishi Sunak has said. The scheme was due to expire at the end of March. The extension suggests the government believes lockdowns may still be in place in late spring. Read the full story here (Evening Standard)
French president tests positive
French president Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for coronavirus. His office said he was showing early symptoms, and will now isolate for seven days while continuing to work and carry out his activities remotely. Read the full story here (Sky News)
Staggered return for secondary schools
Secondary school pupils’ return to class in England will be staggered in the first week of January following the Christmas holidays. Exam-year students will go back to school as normal, but the majority of secondary school pupils will start the term online. Read the full story here (HuffPost)
Tory MP 'broke rules with dinner'
Priti Patel has accused a Tory MP of breaching COVID-19 rules after he attended a Christmas dinner for 27 people at a private members’ club. Former minister Tobias Ellwood claimed the event was a "business meeting" and was permitted at the time. Read the full story here (The Guardian)
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— What else happened today? —
EU sets Sunday deadline for post-Brexit trade deal
Michel Barnier has raised hopes of a weekend Brexit deal after persuading the European parliament to stretch its deadline to last thing on Sunday – even as UK ministers put the chance of an agreement at less than 50%. Read the full story here (The Guardian)
Two arrested after girl feared abducted is found
Police have found an eight-year-old girl feared to have been abducted in Bristol "safe and well", as two people are arrested. Tiolah, known as Tille, is believed to have been with a family friend and an unknown man. Read the full story here hyperlink (The Telegraph)
Zoom lifts call limits over Christmas
Free accounts are normally limited to 40-minute-long calls, which abruptly end at the time limit. Zoom has announced that those limits will be removed for two weeks over the holiday period. Read the full story here (PA)
MP: Focus on race and gender 'tools of the left'
Liz Truss has branded race, sexuality and gender issues as “tools of the left” in an overhaul of the government’s equalities brief, claiming they “do nothing to fix systems”. Read the full story here (HuffPost)