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tv   BBC News at Six  BBC News  December 14, 2020 6:00pm-6:31pm GMT

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11 million more people in england are placed under greater restrictions as a new variant of coronavirus is identified in the uk. it may be what's driving the rise in cases as the government puts london and parts of essex and hertfordshire into tier 3. initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants. we've currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant, predominantly in the south of england. bars, pubs and restaurants will be forced to close, except for takeaways. owners say it's a blow just before christmas. we are going to lose business, we will lose money. i don't know how we are going to those rents. the health secretary says the new covid variant has been identified in other countries, and a vaccine is likely to be effective against it. also tonight...
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two london boroughs close their schools, despite the government saying they should stay open. we will leave the six o'clock news and go to a briefing from downing street led by the health secretary matt hancock. kevin fenton. sadly, the news on the spread of the virus is not good. the latest number of cases is rising once more and we have seen an increase of 14% in the last week. and the number of patients admitted to hospital across the uk has risen again, too. the average number of new cases reported each day is 18,023. which is up on last week. and today, there are 16,531 covid patients in hospitals gci’oss 16,531 covid patients in hospitals across the uk, which is also up. and
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sadly, on average each day over the past week, 420 deaths have been reported. 0nce past week, 420 deaths have been reported. once again, the spread of this disease is not even across the country. and there have been sharp rises in south wales, london, kent, essex and parts of the east and south east of england. in some areas, the doubling time is now seven days. and this rise has been amongst people of all age groups, not to school age children. and i am particularly concerned about the rise in rates of the over—60s and the number of people in hospital, which is also rising. and that is even before we factor in the increase in the last week's rates. and we know through painful experience that more cases leads to more hospitalisations and, sadly, more hospitalisations and, sadly, more deaths. to think that this link and this chain is broken is wrong
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and this chain is broken is wrong and dangerous. we have seen it time and dangerous. we have seen it time and time again elsewhere this year. when cases rise, pressure on hospitals mounts and so then sadly do the number of people who die from coronavirus. to stop this, we need to act fast. and i can tell you that because of the testing and surveillance system that we have built, we have also identified a new variant of this virus, which may be associated with the faster spread in some areas. now, associated with the faster spread in some areas. now, we associated with the faster spread in some areas. now, we deal with this variant just like we some areas. now, we deal with this variantjust like we do with all the others. and this underlies how important it is for us to be vigilant. the vaccine is being rolled out and it is wonderful to see that tens of thousands of people have already had theirjabs, diverse jabs. it is also very good to see that the vaccine is now being rolled out as today across, by gps in
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england and also to care homes in scotland. help is on its way. but we are not there yet. to control this deadly disease, while the vaccine is being rolled out, we all have a role to play. everyone should minimise their social contact. because that is how we can control the spread of this disease. and turning to london and south and west essex and south hertfordshire, in these areas where we have seen these sharp exponential rises in the past week, we have taken rises in the past week, we have ta ke n swift rises in the past week, we have ta ken swift and rises in the past week, we have taken swift and decisive action to protect the nhs and to save lives. even head of the formal review point on wednesday. we must act now. —— ahead of. from one minute past midnight on wednesday morning, these areas will move into tier 3, the very high alert level. i know that this news is not what people want to
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hear. it is a blow to so many people who had made plans and to businesses who had made plans and to businesses who will be adversely affected, but we know from experience that the best thing to do in the face of this virus is to act fast, not to wait to see its growth continue, and we do not rule out further action. this rise in transmission, as well as this new variant of covid, should be a warning to was all that even after such a difficult year, we must stay vigilant. people of all ages can spread this disease. around one in three people don't display any symptoms at all, but they can still spread it. and we should never lose sight of each of our own roles in this. our personal responsibility, each and every one of us, to respect the rules where you are, don't ease up the rules where you are, don't ease up on the simple things that keep us safe like hands, face and space, the social distancing that we need, and to come forward and get a test. this
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moment is a salutary warning for the whole country, this isn't over yet. please play your part and do all you can to stop the spread of this disease. i will now turn to professor whitty to go through the data and the details. thank you, secretary of state, i wanted to show two sides. the first is the case rates, the number of new cases in london and the parts of essex, kent and hertfordshire that the secretary of state was talking about. we have here the number of cases over the last several weeks. a gradual drifting up took place before the lockdown period, not as fast as in parts of the north east, north west and east and west midlands previously. but in those areas, many of which are now in tier 3, the rates came down. in london, they came down more gradually and they came down more gradually and the surrounding areas. in parts of
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kent, they continued to rise and you can see here that over the last few days, the rate of increase has started to accelerate very substantially. and as the secretary of state said, there are some areas now which are increasing at a rate of seven days or even fewer than that. and that means if you just think about from now until christmas, that that is just under two doubling times for many areas, so these rates could go up really very rapidly. next slide, please. and this is on a background of their having been a drifting up on the number of cases of people in hospital with covid in london and the surrounding areas, again, the secretary of state has laid out already. so this uptake, which has not fed through yet into hospitals but will start to over the next week to ten days, that is on the background of already rising rates that already are putting some
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pressure on some hospitals and considerable pressure on others. and this will lead inexorably not only to covid deaths, directly, but it also leads importantly to displacing other health activity, that means that other diseases are not being treated if we do not get on top of this quickly. so it is very important we take rapid action to try and pull this back down again. i think the final point i would like to make is just think the final point i would like to make isjust think think the final point i would like to make is just think what was achieved in the north of the country and in the midlands when people really did decide to pull things down in an equivalent of the tier 3 at the moment and communities came together to try and achieve that. the rates came down. look at what happened for example in liverpool and look at what has happened in manchester and parts of the north east. it is possible to turn this around
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with the tools we have but that does mean moving into tier 3, as the secretary of state has said.|j mean moving into tier 3, as the secretary of state has said. i will now ask professor fenton to set out the actions being taken in london and surrounding areas and critically, the point about what we are asking people to do to get this under control. absolutely, thank you, secretary of state. this is a pivotal moment for london and the south east of finland, numbers and rates of infection are increasing exponentially in parts of the south east. this means that quick and decisive action is needed. there is a strong connection between the increases we are seeing in london and parts of the south east of essex, the south of essex, as well as the south west region. it really is important that we are working together, coordinating carefully across the region is to ensure that we act to control the infection now. specifically in london, we have seen increases in
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rates especially in the north east of the city connected to south essex. as well as in the south east connected to kent. but more recently, we are seeing exponential rises in a number of boroughs across the city. this is of concern because we know that as we see general increases in rates, it will follow that we will see increasing rates in those aged 60 and over at high risk of being hospitalised and staying from this infection. 0ver of being hospitalised and staying from this infection. over the past week, we have been escalating our efforts in london, increasing testing availability, strengthening campaign messages, working with community organisations to really engage with the hearts and minds of londoners and people living across the south east to both take this escalation seriously and to act, putting in place of the things that we all know we need to do. keeping our hands clean and avoid touching our hands clean and avoid touching our face, ensuring that we are wearing face coverings, especially in crowded or enclosed spaces,
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especially during the busy holiday period. and ensuring we are socially distanced as well, especially outside. and most importantly, because of the increasing rates of disease, getting tested and isolating if possible, is —— if positive, remains critical. 0verthe coming days, you will see more about coronavirus across the city as we increase campaigns and messages to all of us as londoners, all of us living in the south east to take heed. to follow the rules and to follow the guidance for tier 3 and to prepare for the holiday season ahead. thank you. thank you very much indeed, the first question is from ryan panic, who comes to us from, by video. thank you for letting me ask my question tonight. my question is, with the current infection rate, the death rate on the increase, after the mixing of
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households over the christmas period, will we see a firebreak in january? and also, i work as a nurse in a&e and we are seeing an increased demand with their coronavirus pandemic, is there any plans on tackling this? well, thank you, ryan. ishould plans on tackling this? well, thank you, ryan. i should say ryan, from cannock. i appreciate your questions and thank you very much for the work you do in a&e as a nurse, we really appreciate it, and thank you to all your colleagues. we are seeing increased pressures as you described and we are seeing that across many, many parts of the country, especially london and the south east, but also some other parts of the country, too. i would say two things. the first is that it is incredibly important that people are careful and cautious, especially ahead of christmas and especially if they want to see loved ones at christmas and that we are very vigilant about our own
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responsibility, as well as, of course, abiding by the rules. secondly, in terms of the increased pressure you mentioned on our hospitals, that is why we are taking the action that we are today in london and surrounding areas. and then on wednesday, we will look as planned across the whole country to see which areas need to be in which tiers so that we can try to keep this virus under control and suppressed until the vaccine can be rolled out to enough vulnerable people that we protect life. i will ask the chief medical officer also to answer, especially your question about christmas. thank you, secretary of state. the first thing to say is, extraordinary tribute to everybody, or my colleagues in the nhs, in particular in a&e who are absolutely in the front line of all of this —— to all my colleagues. what everybody in a&e is saying and
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his writing is that this is going up in very many parts of the country, not everywhere, but many parts, particularly now in the southern parts of the country. and we absolutely must get on top of this because if we do not, the period after christmas, the most difficult period for the nhs, which is january and february in every year, is going to be extremely difficult for every area of a&e, general practice and the rest of the health system and that will have a big impact. in terms of the impact of christmas, they think we have repeatedly said to everybody and i think it is, in a sense, common sense to everybody, is the fact that some relaxation has been made not to the tiering but the ability of people to meet the families over christmas does not mean that they should go to the top of the license of that and they should do everything that is possible. the point of this is under certain circumstances, for families who wish to to get together, but they really have to be very careful
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and, in particular, incredibly careful around people who are vulnerable and who are very —— at very high risk of this virus. in the medium term, the vaccine will give usa medium term, the vaccine will give us a way out, but it is not going to give us a way out between now and christmas or, indeed, for the two months following that. and we need to be really conscious of the fact that only by protecting one another and particularly protecting the vulnerable over this period are we are going to get through to the point where people are being properly protected and we can return to having the kinds of relationships with family all of us want. thank you very much indeed. the next question is from becky from gateshead, who comes to us by text. asa gateshead, who comes to us by text. as a young couple hoping to start a family, how can we be assured any covid—19 vaccine will not affect our fertility if the long term side effects have not been researched? thank you, becky, there is no better person to answer this question than
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professor whitty. thank you. so there is no current evidence of any impact on fertility and i think it is important that people are aware of the fact that obviously, lots of concerns are there and people want to start families. of course, they have concerns, very reasonably, about any kind of drug or vaccine. but there is no evidence currently of any of the vaccine is having any impact on fertility and it would be quite surprising if any of them did do, this is always something raised with new vaccines and this is not something which has been seen as a major problem for vaccines. so this is not an area where i think people should be concerned at this point in time. second point to make of course is that the first several tiers of this which had been laid out are people in the ‘80s and 70s, health ca re people in the ‘80s and 70s, health care workers with significant problems, then people in their 60s and 50s. and for them, this is absolutely not something for most of them they will be thinking about.
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what we need remember is there is there is a very substantial risk from this virus, particularly in these groups. what we have is one vaccine that has already been given authorisation for emergency use. and two others under consideration at the moment. for emergency use. at different stages of the process. and we must get these vaccines out to those most at risk. because if we don't do that, the situation where older and more vulnerable people can get sick and end up in hospital and in some cases sadly day is going to bea in some cases sadly day is going to be a continual process, so we really must concentrate on trying to do that —— sadly day. must concentrate on trying to do that -- sadly day. when the nhs calls, having the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and to protect those around you and to protect those around you and to protect your community. so i hope when they call, you take up the offer. thank you very much indeed, becky. the next question is from hugh pym from the bbc. it is from
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vicki young! it is, hugh is not with us at the moment. given the rapid rise in cases we are seeing in some areas of the country, should you be rethinking plans to relax the rules over christmas? and a question to post—covid, are you comfortable with the plans for christmas —— professor whitty. and secondly, news today of a new variant of coronavirus will sound an alarm to lots of people watching at the moment, could you tell us more about it and some of the possible repercussions from it? thanks very much. as i said in the response to ryan, i think it is important that all of us are cautious ahead of christmas and very careful in terms of the contact that we have, especially people who we know are vulnerable to this disease, which of course includes older
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people and those who have clinical conditions that make them vulnerable. so it is our personal responsibility to make sure that we follow that. but at the same time, we do understand, especially after such a difficult year, why people wa nt to such a difficult year, why people want to get together with their families and their loved ones over christmas. chris. i will make families and their loved ones over christmas. chris. iwill make a brief comment on christmas, professor fenton might want to add to that, then i will talk about new variants and that new information today. on christmas, i think all of us know and there is no secret about this that christmas is a period of greater risk. and the festive season more generally is a period of greater risk. but at the same time, what we have tried to do, all of us asa what we have tried to do, all of us as a society, is try to find this really difficult balance between doing things that are the least damaging we can achieve whilst keeping the virus under control, walking that really narrow path. and there was a strong sense i think for
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many people that allowing those who wa nted many people that allowing those who wanted to to get together at christmas, provided they understood the risks involved in that and provided we really take this seriously before christmas, reduce the risk as much as possible going into it during the christmas festive season, and then afterwards, that this is something which in a sense tries to strike that balance. but of course, it is a period at risk and thatis course, it is a period at risk and that is the reason we want people to ta ke that is the reason we want people to take it very seriously and go no further than they have to. in terms of the new variant, the reason this has been picked up is because there isa has been picked up is because there is a good surveillance system in the uk, wider than is a good surveillance system in the uk, widerthan in is a good surveillance system in the uk, wider than in many other countries. and it does appear to be in an area of the country, particularly kent and bits of london, which are increasing rapidly. we don't know what is causing this, is it getting more frequent because it is in a part of the country which the rate of increase is going faster anyway and therefore, inevitably, it is a higher proportion, or is it that
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this virus itself is possible to transmit more frequently? that is not yet clear. there are two things you want to worry about with a new variant. three things, actually. the first is, is there any evidence this is more dangerous? there is no evidence of that at the moment and that if you catch this variant, you are more likely to have severe disease than if you catch different variants. the second question is, is it invisible to the tests we have? short answer is, no, the current tests work against this variant. they might have, some of them might have one bit of the testing which is slightly less effective, but most tests work completely normally and most of the other ones work we think anomaly as well. the third question, given that we now have a vaccine around the corner, would we expect this to reduce the effectiveness of a vaccine? and i think the thing to remember is we don't yet have a vaccine deployed. and there is relatively little, but still quite a
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small proportion of the population currently who have immunity due to prior infection. so there is not a huge selection pressure on this virus. therefore, it would be surprising, not impossible, but pretty surprising, if this would actually have evolved to be able to get around the virus. as time goes by with any infection, selection pressure, when a very high proportion of the population has been vaccinated, at that point, the new variants that emerge and new ones emerge the whole time, they are more likely to be ones which actually are able partially to escape from a vaccine. but there is no reason to think that will be happening at the moment, but that is being tested at the moment and put specialist centres. and we will be able to give more hard data on that relatively soon and we will obviously do so once we have it. —— at porton down and other specialist centres. thank you very much, professor fenton. thank you, i
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wanted to reinforce we are now exactly two weeks away from the christmas holiday period. so the actions we take now are going to have a huge impact on a risk of acquiring the coronavirus before the holidays and our ability to have a safe, a much safer christmas period. so taking care now both of our families and ourselves, the actions we take will be important. the christmas period is not a time to relax the rules. the restrictions in the tiers will still be in place. but the christmas period allows us to make, meet those who are our nearest and dearest, but taking the ca re nearest and dearest, but taking the care to prevent transmission to them as well. so using these next two weeks will be critical for londoners and those across the south east to reduce our risk of acquiring the infection and of course passing it on to us. thank you very much indeed, thanks, vicki young. the next question is from sam coates at sky. you are today begging everyone
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to minimise the number of people they meet and we have just been told january and february are the most difficult periods for the nhs, are you not undermining your own warning messages by going ahead with christmas relaxation, are there any circumstances in which he would rethink it? professor whitty, circumstances in which he would rethink it? professorwhitty, could the government to be resistant to putting areas in tier 3 when you suggest and should this not have happened in london a week or several weeks ago? thanks very much. our message around christmas is really clear, which is that we understand why people want to see their loved ones, especially at this time of year, especially after this year. and we all feel that. but it also must be done in a way that is careful and responsible. and i think people understand that, too. and thatis people understand that, too. and that is why we have taken the approach that we have. but if you are planning to meet up with loved
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ones at christmas, then being careful now, two weeks ahead, and making sure that you minimise the chance of both catching the disease and passing it on, is the right thing to do. actually, that is the right thing to do all the time. because whatever the rules in your area, more that you can restrict your social contact and your ability and likelihood of passing on the disease, the more that you will help us all to get through this together and to get through this and keep the rates down until the vaccine can protect enough of the vulnerable to save life. so, that is the approach and christmas. and i will ask to a nswer and christmas. and i will ask to answer the second question. that is obviously never going to be a perfect time to go into any tier, the reality is that doing so reduces the reality is that doing so reduces the transmission of the virus, but that does require everyone to buy into that. at the same it does a lot
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of social and economic damage and thatis of social and economic damage and that is really clear. at the same time, it does. trying to balance those two is what the government century and local leaders, it is important to understand these are very much discussion is discussed between central leaders and local leaders, they have to make these tough decisions which harm both sides. go into late and too late and the virus takes off, go into early and you damage large numbers of social and economic activities without huge benefits. trying to get that rate is very hard and the idea of perfection when you are choosing between two bad situations should be avoided —— get that right. there is no perfect time. but everybody is trying to do, local government, local directors of public health you have been outstanding throughout this and central government, is to try and get a balance which is reasonable between these two very difficult directions. i would just add one more thing before asking 62
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macro to comment particularly on the london point, which is that because we have increased the turnaround times of testing, we now get the results in faster and so we have been able to take this action today based on the sharp increase in the case numbers that you saw in professor whitty‘s side which started six days ago. so being able to go from spotting it to take the action in a very short period of time, from cases that were only tested six days ago and then to be able, over the weekend, to have the discussions and take the action this morning. professor fenton. ithink one of the other reflections is that londoners have been fantastic in responding to the pandemic. from emerging from the first wave to keeping rates of infection low throughout the summer period. and then over the autumn, we have had gradual and sustained increases in rates. but at each time, we have
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moved deliberately and early to be appropriate here to help keep infections at bay. the fact that we now have early signals of exponential increases in infections means that now, once again, we are asking londoners to pull together to help us get ahead of the curve, to help us get ahead of the curve, to help us get ahead of the curve, to help us to ensure that as we move into the holiday period, that we have all the tools and the power that we need within the tier to help control the rate of spread of infection. so it's difficult because at any given time, we are managing individual health, the health of the public, as well as the economy and those discussions are never easy. but what is most important is that we are making direct discussions at the right time, which i believe we are doing well for with tier 3. just the right discussions. ben kentish, from lbc. becky, secretary of state, one uk suffered so much in the first wave of this pandemic was because the virus was across the country in
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so many separate incidents —— thank you. is there not a real risk that could happen again because of christmas and what does sage modelling tell us about the size of the rise in infections we should expect to result from that? professor whitty particularly, london has been in tier 2 for almost two we e ks london has been in tier 2 for almost two weeks and cases have soared, kent has been in tier 3 for almost three weeks and cases have soared, is it time to accept the current tiers are possibly not enough to control this pandemic? thanks very much. 0n the modelling around christmas, it all depends on people's behaviour. the most important thing is that people are cautious and careful, ahead of christmas. and during christmas. hence, we are saying that so clearly. and i think it is said to me, from talking to people, the response i get, this is how most people are thinking about christmas isa time people are thinking about christmas is a time can to see loved ones who
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we may not have been able to see for a long time, but to do so really carefully. and so it isn't about doing the maximum that the rules allow, it is about taking personal responsibility. the tears are an attempt to find a balance between the things that suppress the virus and the things that do minimal damage to peoples livelihoods and lives whilst achieving that. —— the tiers. there is not a perfect solution. in terms of the tiering, many parts are particularly north of england and the midlands have come down and stayed down using things which are very similar to tier 3 from a high level, and at several places have managed to hold the line with things that are very similar to tier 2, so
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