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tv   BBC News  BBC News  December 20, 2021 4:00pm-4:31pm GMT

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this is bbc news — broadcasting to viewers in the uk and around the world. i'm matthew amroliwal. our top stories: pressure on borisjohnson, as the british government is urged to set out plans to tackle surging coronavirus cases. a virtual cabinet meeting is under way — sources tell the bbc three options of increasing severity have been prepared. we'll get the latest from westminster. european stock markets fall, as investors eye new restrictions. the netherlands goes into national lockdown with switzerland, france, denmark and ireland bringing in stricter measures. cafes, bars, restaurants, museums and gyms are now closed and there's no christmas shopping either. england's premier league clubs say they will carry
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on with fixtures as planned — despite covid forcing a series of games to be cancelled. the chinese tennis star peng shuai retracts an accusation of sexual assault but critics still fear she may have been speaking under duress. also ahead — pleas for urgent supplies in the philippines, as the number killed by a super typhoon is now at 375. hello and welcome. countries around the world are scrambling to track the omicron variant and deciding when and if more measures are needed. here, the british cabinet has been meeting to discuss how to deal with the surge in cases. the uk has the highest number of confirmed omicron cases in europe. the bbc has been told civil servants have prepared
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three different options ranging in severity — with boris johnson likely to face strong opposition to further restrictions from within his own party. new rules have been announced in other parts of europe — more on that in a moment — but first, the latest on the pressure on borisjohnson. here's jonathan blake. boosterjabs are still the main hope in the battle against omicron. but as cases of the new variant continue to rise, ministers won't rule out taking further measures. we're accelerating the booster roll—out in various different ways, from halving the time between second and third doses, increasing the throughput through the vaccination centres, they're going to be open longer hours. and of course, if we need to change the approach, we can't rule it out definitively, but that would be reliant on the data that comes through. with just a few days to go until christmas, there is anxiety that plans may have to change. labour are calling for clarity.
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here we are with a variant that everyone is very, very concerned about, what i want to see is a government, a prime minister, that gets a grip, puts a plan forward, that hopefully we can all get behind. but where is he? there is a vacuum of leadership at the moment. the infighting is going on in the tory party, when the focus should really be on the public interest and public health. the prime minister has a choice. officials have drawn up three different options for further restrictions, ranging in severity from low to medium to high. the decision to implement restrictions will never be an easy one but the political pressure on borisjohnson right now, particularly from his own party, will make it harder than ever. the former brexit minister lord frost resigned at the weekend, in part, over the current covid restrictions. i can't speak for anybody else, i can only say what i think, which is i don't support coercive policies on covid. the prime minister has got some very difficult decisions to take, and i am sure he'll be thinking very
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hard about them. his concerns are shared by many conservative mps, deeply wary of any further measures. i just don't think at the moment there is anyjustification for further measures. of course, people must be sensible. they only need to meet the where is reasonable to do so, and they must consider getting the vaccination. but i think we're asking the good sense of the british people to do that, rather than further government edicts at the moment. and there is this. a picture of the prime minister and staff in the garden of number ten in may last year. when restrictions on mixing were in place. wine, cheese board. a work meeting, says downing street. labour say that's a stretch. there are differences of opinion in government about what action, if any, is needed now. ministers are meeting this afternoon to review the latest data. we willjoin we will join jonathan in just we willjoinjonathan in just a moment but i want to bring the lid is dated from the british government
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in the last few seconds. new numbers coming out, 91,715 new covid cases on monday compared with 82,886 on sunday. those at the second highest number of cases are reported with 44 deaths of covid—i9 compared with 45 one day earlier. that's the new data just coming in in the last little while, 91,715 new covid cases on monday. let's bring you some live pictures now from downing street, where the cabinet is holding their meeting on the covid measures. that started a couple of hours ago and we understand it's still going on but no exact word in terms of what is been decided butjonathan blake is across the story for us. jonathan, are you getting any indication at all about any sort of
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decision? . . indication at all about any sort of decision? ., , decision? the fact the cabinet meetin: decision? the fact the cabinet meeting is _ decision? the fact the cabinet meeting is going _ decision? the fact the cabinet meeting is going on _ decision? the fact the cabinet meeting is going on as - decision? the fact the cabinet meeting is going on as long i decision? the fact the cabinet| meeting is going on as long as decision? the fact the cabinet i meeting is going on as long as it has done, going on for two hours now, is indicative that there is clearly discussion and debate and differences of opinion being aired. and a keenness from ministers to scrutinise the data they have available to them and question the officials advising the government about the best course of action. we know not everyone sitting virtually around that table agrees, and some are indeed resistant to restrictions being imposed at this point or in the nearfuture, without more comprehensive data about the severity of the omicron variant. i think at this point, if we were expecting a big announcement, perhaps a news conference from the prime minister, we would know about it by now, make of that what you will. the pressure remains to say
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something, to update the public on what the government is thinking at this point and whether there is going to be a change of approach from the government between now and christmas. so far they have said the most important thing is for people to get their boosterjab, plan b restrictions are in place as well. meaning masks in public places and more people working from home. in the last hour we had the senior conservative backbencher mark harper, former chief whip and one of the chairs of the covert recovery group —— covid recovery group, he said not telling the public what is going on is unacceptable, there are big decisions affecting the lives of everyone and people's livelihoods and mental well—being across the country are being affected and we deserve to see the data ministers see. show us your workings, she says. conservative backbenchers
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ratcheting up the pressure on the government, labouras ratcheting up the pressure on the government, labour as well calling for clarity and saying the prime minister needs to come forward and explain his thinking. so we hope will get an update at some point in due course today but at the time to act before christmas, it's safe to say this point, is rapidly shortening because you have to factor in a couple of days to get mps back to westminster to vote on the measures in debate and also to implement them. that's the cabinet meeting, we spoke earlier and making the point the chief scientist was also talking and briefing conservative backbenchers. that meeting started also a couple hours ago, is anything emerging in terms of those communications, the message and how that's been received? in fact since we last talked about that, those meetings with backbench mps, they were due to be happening on both labour and conservative sides, have been postponed. due to
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scheduling constraints, it seems. the chief scientific adviser patrick vallance perhaps his time has been taken up with updating the cabinet this afternoon and mps will have to wait for briefing later on but there is certainly a clamour from wait for briefing later on but there is certainly a clamourfrom mps wait for briefing later on but there is certainly a clamour from mps to see as much as possible as they can of the data that is available and to hear from the scientists advising the government as well. politically speaking for borisjohnson that's more important than ever now because he needs as many of them onside before he makes any announcement, it's possible to stop the sort of rebellion he so recently in the house of commons, when around 100 mps voted against the government for the imposition of vaccine passports. jonathan, we will keep our eyes across what is happening in downing street, if there is more people turn to you. thanks very much for now.
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well, let's see how different countries hit by the omicron variant have been dealing with the virus, in the run up to christmas. in a moment, we'll hear from our correspondents in washington and johannesburg, but first — europe. germany plans to limit the number of private gatherings to ten fully vaccinated people from december 28th, according to drafts of the plan. for more on the situation in europe, here's our correspondent anna holligan in the hague. and here is a snapshot of life under lockdown. the cafes and bars and restaurants and museums and gyms are closed. there is no christmas shopping, all the nonessential shops have been shut although the off—licences and florists are open, so essential is open to interpretation. the schools closed early for christmas, people asked to work from home, and is timing here is telling here, because these rules were introduced a week before christmas, throwing holiday plans into disarray, and it highlighted
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the urgency and the fears still swelling around omicron and the uncertainty about things like the transmissibility and the potential to evade people's immunity. across the border in germany, travellers from the uk have been banned from entering unless they are german residents or germans flying in from the uk. those who do go had to show a negative test and enter quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status, and similar restrictions are in france. what this all shows is that along with omicron, the emergence of the realisation that coming together this christmas will be harder and more risky than anyone had anticipated. let's cross to gary o'donoghue in washington. scientists here are warning of a viral blizzard about to hit the country as omicron starts to take over as the dominant variant of covid—19. it is in 45 of the 50 states already and it's spreading rapidly. it is already having an impact
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on sporting events such as the national hockey league, which has cancelled several dozen matches, the nba, the nfl as well, even the famous hamilton musical on broadway had to cancel some shows. in terms of the vaccination rates, they are going up very slowly, only 85% of people in the country have had a single dose, only 72% are double vaccinated. of the double vaccinated, only 30% have had that booster shot so far. shocking statistics — only 1.6 million doses of any kind, be that a first, second or booster, are being given each day at the moment put on that rate it will take a year at least to get the population boosted. joe biden is going to make a speech tomorrow announcing more help for under—served communities, urging people to get
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their vaccinations, but plans to have vaccine mandates for employers had been mired in the courts. now let's look at the situation in south africa with andrew harding in johannesburg. thank you, gary. south africa is the place - where omicron was first detected so there was a lot of interest - in how things are unfolding here, and so far, the outlook- is broadly very encouraging. hospital admissions l are still a tiny fraction of what they were at the same point as in previous waves. _ the same goes for the official death rate from omicron - which is dramatically lower than for delta. _ the latest figures suggest this - fourth wave, which rose so steeply, is already starting to dip in south africa _ but we still need to be cautious. for a start, the official death toll is probably. a significant underestimate, | perhaps by a factor of three, and we still don't know why omicron
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seems to be leaving this _ country relatively unscathed. is it a sign that the variant - is less severe or could it be that so many south africans were exposed to previous variants and enjoyed - some immunity as a result? even if vaccination levels here remain pretty low. i or simply the fact that this . is a much younger population, the average age of about 13 years younger than britain. _ either way, mask wearing remains . strictly enforced here in public. but no other major restrictions have yet been brought— in by the government. well, germany has followed france in imposing restrictions on travellers from the uk. while germany still has lower case numbers in comparison, the number of deaths following a positive covid test is rising. earlier i spoke to kai zach—arowski, who is head of the intensive care unit at the university hospital frankfurt — i asked him if he shared the german helath minister's fears of omicron unleashing another wave
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of the pandemic. we have the problem that it rapidly spreads, so fast that even though it might not be causing so much sickness, but the amount of people being infected, we will have a massive wave of patients being expected in hospital, as we saw in the fourth wave. and what are you seeing on the ground in intensive care? because you have had such a terrible delta wave to deal with, now you've got this on top. yes. so at the moment, we only see rare cases of omicron but if you look around at the borders of germany, you mentioned the netherlands and some others, we are expecting the worst. in terms of the restrictions that i was referring to that germany has announced, does that make any sense once infection is there in the community and spreading in the community? well, it makes always sense to stop the spreading,
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regardless what you're planning to do, it will have an impact. but obviously, if you do it too late, probably it doesn't help much. so restrictions are helpful, that's for sure. ijust had some news from germany, we will have from the 28th of december, there will be massive restrictions in germany, in terms of contact. so people are not allowed to meet any more. so there will be some further restrictions coming. that's interesting that that is what the german government is considering because, of course, here in the uk, that is exactly what the british cabinet are currently looking at. when you look at the number of cases here, does it make sense to you not to impose restrictions as soon as possible? or is there still time to actually sit and see how this develops? well, i would not wait, to be fairly honest, because if you wait, your health system will be
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hit hard and it's not only the health system, it's the people behind. so the health care providers. and if they are being hit, if they have to stay at home, who is caring for the patients? so i think this needs to be considered. now, germany's new chancellor has had a very tough message for the unvaccinated. do you think that is a nettle that all governments are going to have to grasp in the new year? because if you have 15 or 20% that refuse any sort of persuasion about getting jabbed, do you have to make the consequences much tougher, otherwise, in a sense, the tail wags the dog? yes. i think there are two important things we need to consider. first, when we talk about vaccination, true vaccination is if you've had three jabs. so, including the booster. that is vaccination, in terms of covid—19. the second thing is people are saying, well, i have been vaccinated twice. but when rare is the second vaccination? is it more than six months ago?
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if yes, it does not count as a vaccination. so we might have more people who started to be vaccinated but the gap is so long that they do not count any more. so we have a true problem and the sad thing is, what you just mentioned is... yes, there's two ways. either you have more restrictions for those who are not vaccinated and at some stage have said i want to have a normal life, so i'll do it. or the second thing, some countries are doing a completely different approach. they say, ok, we do not force you. however, when you are sick with the disease, you have to pay for it. premier league bosses have decided to carry on with their fixtures following emergency talks with all 20 clubs today. the christmas period is one of the busiest times of the football season, with 30 matches scheduled into the new year. let's get more on this, olly fosterjoins me live from the bbc sports centre. no pause, tell me more. the premier
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league ploughs on, over the past fortnight, a number of games have been called off but it reached crisis point over the weekend, six out of the ten fixtures called off, one at very short notice between burnley and aston villa. a lot of consternation among premier league managers as to the welfare of their players. there was a virtual meeting between all 20 senior representatives at all the premier league members, and the premier league members, and the premier league says we carry on, if you have 13 fit players including a goalkeeper as well you will have to fulfil that fixture. there are some managers and clubs wanting this circuit breaker, clubs hit very hard by a covid over the past fortnight, especially over the weekend, wanting the circuit a couple of weeks, the trouble is you mentioned the trouble is you mentioned that festive fixture we've got, fixtures coming up, the traditional thing in england, that the league doesn't stop, many clubs will play at least
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three or four over the next week and a half. all that it will the circuit breaker but where would those fixtures be played? lily carries on. what will they discuss is where they can make up for these lost fixtures —— in the league carries on. perhaps discussing the third and fourth round of the fa cup, when the premier league clubs come into play, to scrap those replays, that would free up some time during midweek. perhaps also the league cup semifinal, having that played as a one—off match rather than two legs. they are desperately trying to work out where to play these fixtures but it was felt to be a no go to have this pose on proceedings to the premier league carries on as we hit this a very busy time over the next fortnight. did they indicate any additional precautions or are we going to see judgments match to match, trying to work out if clubs have enough
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players to continue? the clubs are already operating a very strict covid protocols but it because this variant seems to be so aggressive that it is affecting squads so much. from there we just gone there were extra protocols for fans. fans are still allowed into the stadium, you have to make a declaration you are fully vaccinated and be able to show that and there were spot checks at those matches that went ahead. or a show at recent negative test. what is going on in england, you got the perspective from germany, i spoke to a german colleague, and they are looking at what is happening in england with some surprise. it's very handy a lot of the major european leagues are going into a natural circuit break, they have their winter breaks coming up they have their winter breaks coming up but some of them, and the perspective from germany is they cannot believe the premier league is carrying on, especially in front of fans being allowed in as well. very interesting. thank you for that
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update. rafa nadal has tested positive for coronavirus in a development that could put his participation in the australian open in doubt. the 20—time grand slam champion, only returned to competition last week, after more than four months out with a foot problem. posting on social media, nadal said he is suffering from minor symptoms. the 35—year—old is fully vaccinated and has been a vocal critic of other players who have decided not to receive a vaccine. police in the philippines say the number of people who've died after a super typhoon hit last week, has risen to more than 375. the red cross says, it's "carnage" in many areas, with no power, no communications, and very little water. thousands of military, coast guard and fire service personnel, have been deployed, to help in the relief operation. with the latest from the capital manila, here's howard johnson. four days on from super typhoon rai's first landfall in the philippines the extent of the damage it caused is finally becoming clear.
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nine different islands separated by a distance of more than 800 kilometres all experienced sustained ferocious winds and heavy rain, flattening thousands of homes and flooding vast tracts of land. translation: we appeal for at least some small help to come to us. - now is the time we need a government, a government that is ready to help us in our current situation. we are waiting for whoever has a kind heart. i hope they will help us. the breadth of the destruction and the lack of communication lines, is causing logistical delays in humanitarian support. food, water, fuel and electricity are in limited supply on numerous islands. today, the british government committed nearly $1 million to an appeal by the international federation of the red cross to help the relief effort. the ifrc are hoping to raise a total of more than $20 million. howard johnson, bbc news, manila.
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elections in hong kong, which allowed only candidates vetted breaking news from winchester crown court and the new thomas schreiber has been jailed for life to serve a minimum of 36 years for the murder of the millionaire hotelier sir richard sutton and attempted murder of his own mother. jailed for life, thomas schreiber, to serve a minimum of 36 years for the murder of richard sutton and attempted murder of his own mother. that musicjust coming in to us. —— that newsjust coming in to us. —— that newsjust coming in. in a joint statement britain, the united states, canada, australia and new zealand rebuked the new system. the five allies said �*these changes eliminated any meaningful political opposition'. pro—china candidates claimed victory in the elections which saw an historic low turnout.
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the chinese tennis star pung shwai appears to have retracted an accusation, of sexual assault that she made against a former chinese vice premier. in a video interview, she said, the comments she'd made on social media had been misunderstood. after making the claim last month, she disappeared from public view for three weeks. the women's tennis association says it's still concerned about her well—being. bbc monitoring china analyst kerry allen explained more about the article. this interview was carried out by a newspaper in singapore called the lianhe zaobao. there is some sketchy details about how the journalist, or even if they are a journalist, managed to secure this interview, given that there's been so much silence around her in mainland media. but in this video that's appeared, which again, i should say, lianhe zaobao has not posted within china. it's appeared on its website and it's appeared on social media platforms like twitter, which are blocked in china. she says that she's has never said or written any allegations of sexual assault and that she's always
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been very free. that's it for now. i am back with headlines and just a moment or two. hello. we are in that important run—up to christmas now where some of you may have plans to get on the move through this week. what can we expect weather—wise? well, not much changes through today and tomorrow. maybe a little bit more sunshine tomorrow. but some milder weather coming our way midweek. some rain at times but could the cold air fight back as we head towards christmas day? more on that in a moment. as for the rest of today, don't expect a huge amount of sunshine, best of the breaks for north west wales and through some parts of western scotland. turning quite chilly here as we head into the evening. elsewhere, temperatures in the mid single figures. it's a rather cool day and it will be through tonight. there could be a few more breaks around. chiefly across parts of western wales and scotland. the odd one elsewhere, especially on high ground. and if you do see that,
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you can see the blue colours here on the chart, an indication most likely to see temperatures drop below freezing. it will be a cold start to tomorrow, and of course tomorrow is the winter solstice. we've got around five hours and a0 minutes of daylight in lerwick, but tomorrow signifies the change. from there on, the day length starts to draw out that little bit more. not a huge amount of sunshine on the winter solstice, a bit more than we've had today, particularly across wales, south—west, western parts of england. far north of scotland should have a brighter day, just one or two showers here. elsewhere, plenty of cloud, a bit misty, maybe one or two spots of drizzle first thing but many will have a dry day. temperatures still on the chilly side. but changes are afoot as we go into the middle part of the week. this big area of low pressure in the atlantic starts to exert more of an influence, strengthening the breeze across western areas, helping to break the cloud up a bit more. actually, especially in the east, it may be a bit sunnier on wednesday. but the cloud in the west will thicken up. so outbreaks of rain for northern ireland, western scotland, maybe western wales and the isle of man by the end of the day. temperatures lifting here.
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a chilly day, though, still across those eastern parts. maybe a little bit colder than we have at the moment. the milder air works northwards as we head through into thursday. another bout of rain pushes northwards through thursday itself. wettest conditions will be across scotland, proceeded by a little bit of snow on the hills. but more sunshine developing across the south. and look at the split in temperatures. six or 7 celsius in northern scotland, compared to 11, 12, 13 in the south. much milder air is with us. it will be there for friday, christmas eve. but as we head in towards christmas day, a bit of a battle taking place between mild air trying to push in across southern areas, cold air trying to push in from the north. snow? well, the best chance of that in the cold air but where that dividing line lies will be crucial.
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this is bbc news.
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the headlines... the uk has reported 91,7113 new covid cases in the last 2a hours — that's an increase of 60% on the previous week. but over the same period, the number of people in hospital with covid rose by 6%. premier league clubs in england have decided not to pause matches because of a surge in covid cases. they've been told that as long as they have 13 fit players plus a goalkeeper, games should go ahead. at least 375 people are now known to have died after a powerful storm struck the philippines on thursday, with many more made homeless. the chinese tennis star peng shuai has told a reporter that she never claimed a former leading official in beijing sexually assaulted her. the womens�* tennis association says it is still concerned she is being censored by the state. now on bbc news, it's the travel show, with a look back at 2021.


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