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tv   BBC News  BBC News  December 20, 2020 8:00pm-8:31pm GMT

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this is bbc news — the headlines at eight: millions of people in england and wales are told to stay at home on the first day of tough, new coronavirus restrictions — as action is taken on a new variant of the virus. the new variant is out of control and we need to bring it under control and this news about the new variant has been an incredibly difficult and frankly an awful end to the year. the health secretary labels crowded scenes at london stations last night as ‘irresponsible' — the transport secretary says extra police officers will be deployed to enforce the rules. france and germany become the latest countries to ban travel with the uk, as european officials prepare to discuss a coordinated travel
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response on monday morning. long waits for some shoppers, as only essential retail can now open in england's tier 4 and in wales. it's my son's first christmas and he won't be able to see his grandparents. it's just ruined, really. we're going to try and make the best out of it. as much as possible, eat, celebrate. and you may not be able to travel much around the uk this christmas, but this week's travel show, the team soak up a bit of festive spirit in lapland and follow a couple who are reunited after months of enforced separation. that's in half an hour. good evening. the health secretary, matt hancock,
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says the new mutant variant of coronavirus is out of control, as new restrictions enter into force for millions of people in parts of england and in wales. all previous tier 3 areas in the south east and east of england — including london, kent and most of essex — have moved into a new tier 1l the public is being asked to stay at home, and non—essential shops have closed, along with gyms, beauty salons and hairdressers. there will be no ‘christmas bubbles' and household mixing is restricted to meeting one person in an open public space. christmas rules have changed in the rest of england, where the planned bubbles can now gather only on christmas day. all of wales has gone into lockdown with restrictions easing only for christmas day. that will also be the case in scotland and will be followed by the highest level of restrictions for mainland scotland from boxing day. all travel to the rest of the uk is banned for the festive season.
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northern ireland had already announced a new lockdown, coming in from the 26th of december. government officials and other political parties meet tonight to review that advice. ourfirst report is from our political correspondent nick eardley. what a difference a day can make. london's oxford street — normally one of the busiest for shopping in europe, deserted today, as parts of england entered a new lockdown and millions more faced up to a significantly scaled back christmas. people like michaela mccann, who works as an occupational therapist in surrey and now can't get home to northern ireland. everybody had made their plans and itjust seems like it's just a bit too late. it'sjust really difficult to accept. and i feel like, myself, my resilience has sort of depleted through the year and i think this wasjust one, like, final kick. the government said it was forced to act because of a new variant of the virus that's thought to spread much quicker.
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the new variant is out of control and we need to bring it under control. and this news about the new variant has been an incredibly difficult end to, frankly, an awful year. wales entered lockdown again at midnight. in scotland and northern ireland, new restrictions are coming just after christmas. and new tier 4 restrictions mean in london, the south east and the east of england, people are being urged to stay at home. we don't know how long these measures are going to be in place. it may be for some time, until we can get the vaccine going. that isn't an easy thing to say. it all feels very different to wednesday, when the four nations agreed that there would still be a relaxation of the law over christmas. but ministers here say they were given new evidence on friday about how the new variant of the virus spreads, and that they had to act quickly. others think they were too slow. how could the government allow people to go on as they were?
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labour's leader this morning said that the prime minister had waited until the 11th hour because he was reluctant to make an unpopular decision. england, scotland and labour—run wales all took pretty drastic action yesterday after being briefed by the experts. so what makes you think, in terms of this new variant, that the government should have acted sooner? to put all of this on the new variant is wrong. the infection was out of control and that's why the government, the prime minister, should have grasped this, instead of flippantly on wednesday simply saying, have a merry little christmas. it was obvious that the indicators were all in the wrong direction. the government says that's wrong, that when the data changed, their approach had to as well. but for many, the last couple of days mean a heartbreaking end to what's already been a uniquely difficult year. nick eardley, bbc news. so how has the coronavirus mutated and what do we know about how infectious this new variant is? here's our health
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correspondent catherine burns. since the pandemic started, we've learnt a lot about coronavirus, but it's been learning about us too. it's had practice at dealing with our immune systems and has developed an extra way of fighting us — this new variant. it's changed 23 times. many differences are linked to the all—important spike protein — the part of the virus that lets it bind onto human cells. so, the worry is that this mutation could make it easier for the virus to infect us. doctors think this new variant could spread up to 70% faster, although that figure is just an estimate. scientists advising the government also say it could increase the r number, which shows how the virus can spread, by between 0.4 and 0.9. when we find the virus, we're finding the virus in the nose and throat. the higher amount of virus means that people are likely to be more infectious than they would otherwise
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be, and this means that we need to reiterate the social—distancing measures, keep your distance, reduce your contacts. one key question is, will vaccines still work against this? well, the vaccine trains our immune systems to recognise and react to the spike protein in the virus, and it has changed. but we're talking about tweaks, rather than huge differences. it's early days, but scientists think the vaccines are now, more than ever, the key to getting this under control. there's no evidence to say this variant will cause more severe illness in any one person, but it's thought that somewhere between one in 100 and one in 150 people who have coronavirus end up dying from it. this variant is more infectious, so more people could get it, which could lead to more deaths — and, of course, more pressure on the nhs. we're already in a situation where we're seeing ambulances queueing for hours outside of hospitals, others are cancelling routine surgery, and on top of that comes this
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new variant — how worried are you? we're 11,000 beds fewer than we were last year because of infection control. and of the remaining beds, 16,000 of them are occupied by covid patients. that's 2,000 more than eight days ago. so, what chief executives are saying to us is, it's going to be a nail—biting week to ten days for them whilst they see whether these new measures will have the desired impact. until enough of us have been vaccinated, the best way to stop this virus spreading is to stick to social distancing, wear our masks, wash our hands, and to cut contact with other people. catherine burns, bbc news. let's speak to dr emma hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at the university of bern. dr hodcroft, thanks for being with us. dr hodcroft, thanks for being with us. let's start with the basics. why and how does a virus mutate?
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imitation is a very normal part of the virus life cycle. they have to replicate so many times when you are infected, there are literally millions in your body, and so when they copy your genetic material, which isjust they copy your genetic material, which is just the same as you are me, they might make a mistake. because they do this much more than humans, they are much more likely to make a mistake, and that is how a mutation arises. one thing to remember is that they don't change how the virus react at all, but there is very fickle chance that one of these mutations might change how the virus behaves and those of course are the ones that we are a lwa ys course are the ones that we are always on the lookout for stoplight and in this case, what we were hearing from the government and some of its scientific advisers this morning, is that it has changed, in one—way, very importantly, in that it appears to appears to be a virus that the mutant is easier to contract? yes, so the idea right now is that the virus might have acquired a mutation that allows it to transmit more easily, which means it is easierfor to transmit more easily, which means it is easier for it to move from one
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person to another. we can see this mostly in the fact that this variant has only existed for a couple of months, but it has really risen to prominence, particularly in the south—east of england. normally, we do see different variants of the virus arrive, but they tend to just go along, we don't really notice them, and they might die out or get a little bigger, but with this variant, we actually see that it has increased quite significantly over the past few months, even though it has had to compete with other strains of covid—19. has had to compete with other strains of covid-19. at what point will we be clear whether this variant, which kind of as you said seems to be one of the more effective mutations of this virus, andi effective mutations of this virus, and i think i heard earlier today that there had been quite a lot of mutations of the covid—19 virus, at what point will be no whether or not it is more or less dangerous? at the moment, from what i have heard from british scientists, there is no indication that this variant has a different clinical outcome. so that means there is no indication that the moment that you are more or less
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likely to go to hospital or to die, and of course that is a really important question. there are still scientists gathering information on this to make doubly sure that there seems to be the case. what about, then comedy question that everybody will be concerned about, given the amount of hope that has been attached to the discovery and authorisation of the different vaccines so far, what are the risks that the vaccines are some of them might not be so effective against this variant? de help with the vaccines is that they work by teaching your body to recognise the entire spike protein, that part of the virus that sticks out and is really easy for the body to recognise, is because you are going to recognise the parts of that spike the hope is that even if the virus has a couple of mutations, you will still be able to recognise all the other areas of spike. that is definitely hope that scientists have right now. with this new variant, i
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have heard that early information seems to suggest we do think the vaccine will still work, but of course scientists will continue to check this because it is something you certainly want to make sure you have the best information on. this is then a cautious and precautionary approach that there will be a critical debate about whether or not we should have done it sooner, given as you said that the variant has been known about for some time. that is not one for you and it would not be appropriate for is to ask that and for utility judgment on be appropriate for is to ask that and for utilityjudgment on that, given that it is now cases being reported in italy and also cases of this in denmark and in australia, is it possible that this variant, while it possible that this variant, while it may be out of control in parts of england, is already replicating itself in other parts of the world and therefore, in a sense, kind of isolating the uk isn't going to be a solution? i do think it is still worth trying to contain the spread here. in the uk, the situation is particularly difficult because, of course, it is almost impossible to draw lines and prevent transport and
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movement from one area of a country to another. that is just intrinsically quite difficult. it is true that this variant does seem to have moved at least a couple of times to other countries. one thing thatis times to other countries. one thing that is important to keep in mind, the uk is actually much better at sequencing that most other countries in europe, and so in other countries it may be that the variant is already there, we just haven't picked it up yet. still, in other countries, like in switzerland, where i am, there mightjust be a fee people with this variant right now, and if they are wearing masks and you can isolate them and quarantine them, you might be able to stop this from really taking hold and spreading in switzerland, so i do think that it is definitely not too late to try to keep those numbers of the new variant low, because it is much easier to contain a pen and we certainly would have a much harder time trying to contain it with hundreds of people with that variant in the country. dr hodcroft, thank you for that very clear exposition. really useful information for people watching and
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for me, come to that. thank you. let me bring you some breaking news. this will not come as any great surprise because we have already informed you that the eurostar is stopping its journeys informed you that the eurostar is stopping itsjourneys between belgium and the uk late tonight, probably around midnight tonight, but you can confirm that if you go on their website. eurotunnel have now announced that they will stop all of their passenger and freight traffic from 10pm gmt on sunday. customers with bookings after this timei customers with bookings after this time i told not to travel to the terminal. they will not be able to cross to france. you can amend your booking online using the eurotunnel app, or if you have booked a take you can request a refund or a cancellation online. so it is going to be for at least 48 hours. it is midnight central european time but 10pm gmt. this is fronted by the french have meant announcing that it will not accept anyone coming from
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the uk within the next 48 hours and this will be superseded by any decisions at the european council ta ke after decisions at the european council take after their meeting on monday morning, when he will be discussing whether or not the case should be subject to a europe—wide or european union wide travel ban. we will keep you up—to—date on any further developments tonight. and here on the bbc news channel during the course of monday. the latest government figures show, there were 35,928 new coronavirus infections recorded in the latest 24—hour period to sunday, which means an average number of 27, 249 new cases per day in the last week. there were 1,821 people admitted to hospital on average each day in the week to last wednesday. 326 deaths have been reported for the last 24 hours — that's people who died within 28 days of a positive covid—19 test.
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it means an average of 462 deaths per day in the past week. the total number of uk deaths is now 67,401. the tougher tier 4 restrictions in england have meant all non—essential shops having to close. today people have been heading to supermarkets to do their remaining christmas shopping, as our business correspondent katy austin has been finding out. after hearing that his gift shop in north london would have to close, owner ian started a click—and—collect service overnight, trying to salvage something from what should have been his busiest week of the year. our christmas stock obviously will have to go in a sale,
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there's nothing else we can do with it. we plan christmas from january onwards, so this is a culmination of ten months of work. beauty salons and hairdressers say being forced to shut under the new tighter restrictions was particularly ugly news. if we could have just limped through to the new year, then we would have understood the lockdown. but, you know, the last crucial week of the year to be closed, it'sjust wrenching. i will not lie, there were tears and tears from clients and staff when that announcement was made yesterday. you know, we've lost that last crucial week, and we needed it. even for businesses who do online delivery, the closure of some stores follows a festive season already beset by problems beyond their control. we've also had the knock—on effect of the ports being absolutely jammed up. we've got several borders being closed across europe. you know, trying to bring orders
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in early because of the concerns around the brexit extra documentation, and this has of course meant that some orders have not got through, and it is a dire time. in tiers 1 to 3, all stores can open, and supermarkets can still welcome customers in tier 4. today, people outside one in south east london said they had already changed their christmas plans. well, we'll get a much smaller turkey. we'll still have presents. because i thought i was going up there, i haven't got any food, so i've just come out to try and get some sort of christmas dinner together. it's my son's first christmas and he won't be able to see his grandparents. you just have to work around it, isuppose. it shouldn't stop. christmas shouldn't stop. the shutters have now come down at major shopping destinations like oxford street, here in central london, and they'll stay down through the traditional boxing day sales period as well. it's a painful end to the year for thousands of businesses, who were desperately hoping for some festive cheer. katy austin, bbc news.
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the new restrictions and the changes to the rules for christmas in england, wales, and scotland have thrown many people's travel plans into disarray. and several european countries have either banned travel from the uk or are considering doing so. here's our transport correspondent caroline davies. today at euston station, with suitcases packed, passengers rushing for a train from london to manchester, despite the fact that rules against leaving tier 4 came in last night, other than for legally permitted reasons. the operator said the service was socially—distanced and below capacity. some passengers at euston were desperate to leave. i'm terrified that i'm going to spend christmas alone, so i'm going to go. others coming back to london had mixed feelings. i don't really understand. i don't know if i'm going to get to my mum's for christmas, which is tier four. i mean, i live alone, so i could say they're my support bubble. i don't know. london train stations that operate
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longer—distance routes — like king's cross and here at euston — say that this weekend has been noticeably busier than a normal pandemic weekend, but that it is still relatively quiet. train operators are keen to point out that it is not the job of their staff to enforce these rules, that's for the police, but how heavy—handed will they be? british transport police have said there'll be more officers at major transport hubs, and that officers will only use enforcement if absolutely necessary. in scotland, the police have said that they will double their presence in the borders area, but that it wasn't appropriate for officers to establish checkpoints or roadblocks. others are worried that many will have left already for christmas. speaking today, the health secretary reacted to these pictures of queues last night for a train from london to leeds. those scenes were totally irresponsible and, as of first thing this morning, the new law came in. i actually was up before five o'clock this morning ensuring that that new law has been in place. and we've all got a responsibility.
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international travel is banned from tier 4, and other tiers are advised to carefully consider whether it's needed. but the netherlands, belgium, italy and ireland have decided to temporarily suspend flights from britain, citing concerns about spreading the new strain of the virus. those in the travel industry are worried more countries will follow suit. caroline davies, bbc news. france has become the latest to impose restrictions on travel. from 11 o'clock this evening, all passenger transport and human—handled freight between the uk and france will be suspended for 48 hours. that explains the eurotunnel announcement i gave you just a moment ago. the prime minister's office says the suspension will be used to agree on a new testing regime, before borders are reopened. meanwhile the european council has confirmed that there have been discussions
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on the latest developments on the new covid strain and the european travel restrictions in response to it. the council will meet tomorrow to discuss a coordinated response. now, i have a tweet, which if you are on twitter you'll see from simon jack, our business editor, who has just put this tweet. he has actually been talking to some of the freight companies about this. france blocks lorry movement from uk for 48 hours due to the new coronavirus strain alarm. the cabinet meeting means that you can bring in all of the other departments. the usual volume is 9000 lorries a day going in both directions, although often slower on a sunday. a ledge industry chiefs have told him thatjust when you thought it couldn't get any worse,
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disaster on top of disaster. they fearfor disaster on top of disaster. they fear for supermarket supply chains. although freight coming from france is still allowed to come into the uk, simon has been told by haulage chiefs that many will be reluctant to make the crossing to the uk is they can't get back, given there is already congestion. so a rather worrying development. unless the uk can get this logjam unblocked in discussions with the european council tomorrow in behalf of eu members, clearly if there is a problem in terms of getting agreement, if countries agree, then that could make this even more difficult in terms of the supply of material to the uk. anything that is coming in, particularly perishable goods, of course, that may be coming in refrigerated lorries. the latest we have is an announcement from the health minister in turkey that it is halting all flights from the uk and
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from denmark and the netherlands because of the coronavirus mutation. remember, cases have been reported in both denmark and australia of the new variant. not clear how many cases, likely not to be many. certainly denmark and the netherlands believe that the source of those infections is british. in other words, it is people who have travelled, either are british or an denmark or holland, or indeed just danish or dutch nationals who have gone back home and brought it with them. so turkey latest to suspend flights. i should also say that a little earlier, one of the central american countries, ecuador, its president announced that anyone who had been in the uk in the last 20 whatever is was going to be ordered to go into isolation and they wouldn't be allowed into the country if they weren't already in it. so some people who perhaps are on long hole flights may well find themselves not able to get into ecuador when they land tonight or
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tomorrow. clearly, other countries around the world will be taking notice of the developments here. we know there are extensive transport links between a number of airports, obviously heathrow and gatwick, but also manchester and some other regional airports internationally. certainly the long hole destinations that are served by places like manchester, heathrow and gatwick. they will all be reviewing, of course, whether or not they want uk nationals, people coming on holiday or perhaps nonnationals who are returning home for christmas and new year, whether they want them, so the best is to please check with your carrier as soon best is to please check with your carrier as soon as you are best is to please check with your carrier as soon as you are able. keep an eye on the website for whatever advice is coming out from the different airlines and indeed from the uk foreign office. well, the capital is of course one of the areas which is now in tier 4. ayshea buksh has been finding out how londoners are adapting to the new changes.
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trained actor natalia richards came to london to pursue his dreams, but his latest rules have been working ata his latest rules have been working at a market still and a second testing centre, and he will be spending christmas on his own. testing centre, and he will be spending christmas on his ownm testing centre, and he will be spending christmas on his own. it is my own decision to spend christmas on my. i could make the rules if i wa nted on my. i could make the rules if i wanted and but i am not going to do that because i am notjust looking out for myself, but by my family and my friends and the people around me. this nhs doctor had also hoped this year to have a big family christmas out of london. she will still be working over the holidays on awards at st mary's's hospital in paddington. i work with the nhs, so it is normal for us, business as usual, really, is a one day after day and back to work tomorrow. it is what we have to do, all of us. we just have to get on with it and you a better protecting the children and ourselves and anyone else. already this year, so many others have had to change our plans so frequently, put our hopes and dreams on hold, while still celebrating different festivals such as heat, diwali, and
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passover in a unique way. christmas will be no different. but of course for children across clear for and beyond comedy show must go on. other many are well aware even santa has been forced to adapt. itten social distance with his reindeers. he might be making masks. ikan stay—at—home, so christmas won't be as different as i thought it would be. people are doing all sorts of creative things this year and it is pushing back against the idea that this is a bleak midwinter into the idea that this can be something meaningful, we can do something together for a neighbours and ourselves, and make this a time of year where we look back and have positive memories as well as sadnesses. and so the strangeness and struggles of this year and fire many with a scaled—back christmas, but nevertheless a festive celebration to remember. now it's time for a
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look at the weather. good evening. after a weekend of sunshine and showers, there is a bit more rain in the forecast over the next couple of days. not great news for those parts of england and wales where flood warnings are currently in force, but as we had through the week towards christmas, it will turn drier but colder. so, through this evening and tonight, rain will push its way up from the south across southern england, wales, into the midlands. some showers further north, also some clear skies in northern areas. so a little bit chilly here. but by the end of the night, it will be turning very, very mild, indeed, down towards the south, 11 celsius in plymouth by five o'clock in the morning, and then as we go through the day, this wet weather pushes its way northwards across much of england and wales, into northern ireland, southern scotland, some rain will linger down towards the south as well. some heavy showers across parts of northern scotland. these could start to turn wintry later. temperatures here just 6—7 degrees, compare that with 15 in parts of southeast england. and then as we look further ahead, more rain to come, particularly in the south on tuesday and wednesday. by christmas eve and christmas day,
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it should be drier, but it will feel rather chilly.
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hello this is bbc news. the headlines... millions of people in england and wales are told to stay at home on the first day of tough, new coronavirus restrictions — as action is taken on a new variant of the virus. the new variant is out of control and we need to bring it under control and this news about the new variant has been an incredibly difficult and frankly an awful end to the year. crowded scenes outside london last night. extra police officers ——


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