this is bbc news — i'm lukwesa burak with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. after the glimmer of hope — more gloom — with the highest daily recorded cases of covid since the pandemic began. millions of travellers around the world face disruption over christmas, as the surge in omicron cases means cancelled flights and staff shortages. a packed ferry catches fire in southern bangladesh — at least 39 people are killed. the queen is expected to give a very personal christmas message this year — her first since the death of her husband prince philip. a christmas midnight mass is celebrated at the church of the nativity in bethlehem — built on the spot where it's believed jesus was born.
and he's checked his list, and now santa claus is coming to town! we'll have an update on his progress a little later. he is currently just he is currentlyjust leaving iceland. hello and thanks forjoining us. merry christmas from the uk. the united kingdom has again recorded its highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began — more than 120,000. it's the third day in a row that cases have topped 100,000 — with 122,186 cases recorded on friday. a separate survey from the office for national statistics found that on december 19th, an estimated 1 in 35 people in the uk, had covid 19 —
the equivalent of 1.74 million. in london, the ratio is much higher — one in 20 people were likely to have tested positive for covid. but despite soaring cases, early findings suggest that the 0micron variant is milder than delta, and leads to less hospitalisation — the head of the uk health health security agency, drjenny harries, called it a "glimmer of christmas hope". european countries also reported record numbers of cases on friday — 94,000 in france, and more than 50,000 in italy, which hasjoined greece and spain, in introducing mandatory face coverings outdoors. elsewhere, thailand has reported its first 0micron cluster — 21 infections —
an outbreak traced to a belgium couple who had travelled to the country earlier in the month. let's get the very latest from our health editor, hugh pym, on the situation here. london is the epicentre of the surge, and new figures suggest that one in 20 people in the city now have the virus, either the omicron or delta variants. the data comes from the office for national statistics, which tests people from tens of thousands of households, picking up those who don't have symptoms. its latest survey points to a faster spread around the uk. well, we are seeing a really quick increase in prevalence right across the country and across all ages, significantly for the very first time, all of the numbers are at the moment very, very small in the over 70s. this chart shows how rapidly infections in the uk were rising as measured by the 0ns at the end of last week and into the weekend — to more than 1.7 million people
with the virus. there were differences around the uk, though, in england, it was one in 35 people, in northern ireland one in a0 in wales, one in a5. while in scotland, it was one in 65 people with the virus. 0micron cases are rising rapidly, but it's less likely than delta to put people in hospital according to new research, and officials say that's reassuring. there is a glimmer of christmas hope in the findings that we published yesterday, but it definitely isn't yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat. i think the findings have showed on some very, very preliminary analysis and very small numbers, which i want to reinforce, that individuals compared to delta are around 30—a5% less likely to attend a&e. but it's finely balanced, if there are a lot more omicron cases that will still make some people ill enough for hospital treatment as well as increasing staff sickness, adding
to the already considerable pressure on the nhs. there is the increase in absence rates, the cueing at hospital, the hearing our control staff call out for any ambulances that are available, and there just aren't any left, that is taking its toll on front line staff. while ministers work out what further steps to take them efforts are being made to get the booster programme into the heart of the local communities here in an asian restaurant in bradford. we are creating access where our communities are, so a resturant is the best place for the time of year to come and bring the vaccines to make it as easy and as accessible as we can. boosters will be available on christmas day and boxing day in england, though not in the rest of the uk. and in basingstoke today, there was no shortage of takers for a christmas eve jab. it's an interesting one, but i want to get it done because i want to see family. it'sjust easy peasy, it's around the corner.
it's good, yeah, it made sense to do it, so i did my bit for the community and everybody else. but as people enjoy christmas attractions, the prospects for new year and beyond remain highly uncertain. hugh pym, bbc news. the uk government is relaxing immigration rules, so that social care workers from abroad can help to alleviate staff shortages in britain. the temporary measures are expected to take effect in the new year and will be in place for at least 12 months. care providers are experiencing high vacancy rates and turnover — and pressure on staffing is being made worse by the recent spread of 0micron. the 0micron variant is spreading fast in parts of europe. as we heard a little earlier, on thursday, france reported a new record high in the number of daily infections. and in spain, where the wearing of facemasks outdoors is compulsory again — the 73,000 cases recorded on thursday represented
the third consecutive high, in as many days. so a curfew is in force in catalonia in northeastern spain, where residents are banned from leaving their homes between one o'clock and 6 in the morning. dr quique bassat is a research professor at the barcelona institute for global health and has with more on what the situation is like there. we are very concerned about the situation. we are witnessing an unprecedented increase in the number of cases, with 25,000 more cases today than we had two days ago, with more than 100 points in the incidence increased between two days ago and today. with increasing pressure to the health system, we are getting warnings from the emergency departments, the intensive care units, that we are seeing many more cases being admitted. even if this new variant is predominantly less severe, because we also have a predominately very well
vaccinated population, with over 80% of the population having received two or more shots, we are seeing lots of pressure to the health system and lots of cases that require hospitalisation. what is happening is that this huge increase in the number of cases, even though the new cases may be less severe, it is having a toll in the cases that end up being severe. we do recognise that the vaccine is protecting against severe disease, but because of the enormous amount of new infection that we are seeing, there is a small proportion of those infections that do require hospitalisation. so it is important that the population understands that even though we are safer with the vaccines, we are not completely safe and we are not completely protected against hospitalisation. coronavirus has thwarted many christmas plans this year, and it's continuing to wreak havoc on international travel. more than 2,000 flights around
the world have been cancelled, due to staff shortages. 0n the first christmas in two years that australians could travel between states over the holidays — more than 100 domestic flights from sydney and melbourne were cancelled. as were hundreds of us flights — with united airlines saying that 0micron cases had had a �*direct impact on theirflight crews and the people who run their operation�*. passengers flying with the airlines, delta and lufthansa, have also been affected. at boston's international airport, people expressed mixed feelings about boarding their flights. well, i'm glad to be back with people doing what we do, it kinda feels good. i mean, i'm still worried about the variants, omicron and all of that, but at the same time, i'm just like, you know what, let's get back to living our lives a little bit. i'm very scared to be flying, to be honest. i'm glad to see everyone looks pretty masked up, ijust hope people on the plane
are respectful of those around them. those are the facts from boston international airport. our correspondent, nomia iqbal, has the latest from the us. well, airliners are trying their best to inform passengers of what's happened. delta and united, the main airliners, said that they did send text messages and they're trying to help passengers who are stranded. but 0micron has really taken hold in this country — so it's three weeks ago when it was first detected, and now it counts for more than 70% of new coronavirus cases, as well. and so, there was a warning to americans by dr anthony fauci, america's top infectious disease expert, that this very into it spread very quickly. it is transmissible, we know that and we are now seeing that, and it's had a huge impact on travel. and i think many americans, like people across the world, were hoping that christmas 2021 would not be the same as christmas 2020.
millions had plans to travel notjust by plane, but also by car — and that's now been all upended because of this variant. and, as you heard that, some people are trying to be cautious about it, and there are lots of restrictions now back in place — but it does look like this christmas will be a repeat of last christmas. at least 39 people have been killed after a packed ferry caught fire in southern bangladesh. the ferry had sailed from the capital, dhaka, and was bound for the southern town of barguna, with hundreds of passengers on board. at the time of the fire, the ferry was near the town othala kati. the bbc�*s akbar hossein reports from dhaka. the fire is believed to have started in the engine room at around three o'clock in the morning, when most of the passengers were sleeping. it spread quickly as the ferry travelled along the sugandha river in the early hours of friday. the fire went on for hours before it was doused. as many as 500 people were reportedly on board. some of the victims drowned
afterjumping into the water. translation: my father, | myself, my six-month-old nephew and my sister were travelling together. when the fire broke out, i gave the baby to a man, he was trying to save the baby, but now we can't find them. please, let us know if you learn their whereabouts. i was on the first floor of the ferry. suddenly, the rear side caught fire. the engine had problems earlier. the ferry's windows had curtains, and these curtains trapped the smoke, which killed most of the people. ferry accidents are not uncommon in bangladesh, with mishaps blamed on poor maintenance, lax safety standards and overcrowding. the accident was the latest in a string of similar incidents in the delta country — hundreds have drowned in the country's rivers in the past ten years — but the fire that engulfed this ferry adds a new layer of horror to the story.
akbar hossein, bbc news, dhaka. stay with us on bbc news, still to come... the pope holds the traditional catholic christmas eve mass — with a serious message for his flock. the world of music's been paying tribute to george michael, who's died from suspected heart failure at the age of 53. he sold well over 100 million albums in a career spanning more than three decades. the united states troops have been trying to overthrow the dictatorship of general manuel noriega. the pentagon said it's failed in its principal objective, to capture noriega and take him to the united states to face drugs charges. the hammer and sickle was hastily taken away. in its place, the russian flag was hoisted over what is now no longer the soviet union, but the commonwealth of independent states. day broke slowly over - lockerbie, over the cockpit
of pan am's maid of the seas nose down in the soft earth. i you could see what happens when a plane eight storeys i high, a football pitch wide, falls from 30,000 feet. i christmas has returned to albania after a communist ban lasting more than 20 years. thousands went to midnight mass in the town of shkodra, where there were anti—communist riots ten days ago. this is bbc news, the latest headlines... new records for covid in the uk. the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began millions around the world face travel disruption over christmas, as the surge in 0micron cases sees more than 2,000 flights cancelled globally due to staff shortages. the queen is expected to give a very personal christmas message on christmas day — her first since the death of her husband, prince philip. she'll speak beside a framed photograph of the couple taken
during their diamond wedding anniversary in 2007 — and she'll wear the same sapphire brooch that she wore on her honeymoon. there are some flashing images in this report from our royal correspondent, nicholas witchell. rehearsing at windsor for their part in the queen's christmas broadcast, the central band of the royal british legion will play the national anthem which begins the broadcast. this year's christmas message — a still from which has been issued by buckingham palace — will be an unusually personal one. the queen is wearing a brooch which she wore on her honeymoon, and on the desk beside her, a photograph of her and prince philip taken in 2007, when they celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary. it's eight months now since philip's death. so far, the queen has not spoken publicly in any detail about how much he meant to her. her broadcast will be an opportunity for her to do so.
within the royal family, mindful that this will be the queen's first christmas without her husband, arrangements have been adjusted so that she won't be alone. the prince of wales on the duchess of cornwall will be with her at windsor, other members of the family, the wessexes and the gloucesters will also be there. absent, of course will be the duke and duchess of sussex. from their home in california, they've issued this photograph wishing their supporters happy holidays. it shows harry and meghan with their son, archie, and their daughter, lilibet, pictured for the first time. and so, at the end of a year touched by personal sadness, and some family tensions, thoughts will start to look ahead to next year and the celebrations to mark the queen's 70 years on the throne. uppermost in the minds of the palace planners, of course, will be the question of the queen's health. it's always a sensitive matter. it has particular significance after the recent concerns, and given that next year
is the year of her platinum jubilee. the queen will certainly want to be involved in thejubilee as fully as possible, and there will be another event of special significance to her — a service of thanksgiving for the life of the duke of edinburgh, which, it has been announced, will take place at westminster abbey in the spring. nicholas witchell, bbc news. midnight mass celebrations have benn taking place in the west bank city of bethlehem. the annual procession is being led by the head of the roman catholic church in the region. international tourists have been mainly kept away during the pandemic in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. the re—introduction of covid measures have left local businesses disappointed. the procession is being held in the city where christians revere as the birthplace ofjesus christ.
to the vatican where the pope has been holding the traditional catholic christmas eve mass. the head of the catholic church urged vatican cardinals and bishops to embrace humility this christmas season, saying their pride, self—interest and the "glitter of our armor" was perverting their spiritual lives and corrupting the church's mission. here's a taste of events at taking place there. they sing the duchess of cambridge has performed at her own christmas carol event, taking to the piano at a special service
from westminster abbey broadcast on christmas eve in the uk. kate hosted the carol service as a thank you to he sings. kate hosted the carol service as a thank you to people who supported their communities during the pandemic. she accompanied tom walker on the piano during a performance of for those who can't be here. the singer described kate as an "amazing musician", and said the pair got together for top—secret rehearsals in a recording studio ahead of the concert. it was amazing! it went so well. i was very impressed. we were in rehearsal and practice the song about eight times and she went away and rehearsed it for a few days on she went away and rehearsed it for a few days on her she went away and rehearsed it for a few days on her own and when she came back to do the performance, it was absolutely stunning. it's not easy to jump in with, like, five musicians you've never met before and the
camera crew and then doing life takes to camera at westminster abbey. it's not like your everyday thing you just jump into. like i'm going to be great at this. i think we were both nervous, but, yeah, honoured to have been asked to be a part of it and to play with her. it wasjust fantastic. now — the clock�*s struck midnight here in the uk, you should be tucked up in bed, all happy and gay. the stockings are hung, the turkey�*s in brine, don't worry about timings — the food will be fine! but alas its' all true — tests are showing bold lines of two. many will spend christmas apart, missing loved ones from the bottom of their heart. but whilst this year may differ, i do guarantee, santa is leaving presents under your tree. and if you listen up close, perhaps you can hear, prancer, vixen, and rudolph are near. so as santa makes his way from leeds to osaka. let's check in on his progress via
the norad santa tracker. he has across latin america at the moment. us army major bryen freigo gave me an update a little earlier. we haven't detected any problems as we have been tracking him around the world. ee do know that international travel has been hit by everything that's going on, illness, are the elves immune? that i don't know. we don't know anything about how santa does his day—to—day business. we use the same capabilities that we use to protect the north american continent in order to be able to track santa around the world. i mean, hejust does amazingly, doesn't he? this is a very special christmas of course, particularly if you are indoors and so many people have been kept indoors and will be kept indoors this year. just tell us what goes into tracking santa and some of the capabilities that
you do have. well, we start planning for this in thejune—july time frame. it is a very large undertaking outside of covid, we would normally have about 1500 volunteers that would come in and take phone calls throughout the day. due to covid, that's been reduced to about 500 at our call centre, and we have looked at ways to increase our calls through virtual means, through amazon web services. and where does santa actually finish his deliveries? what is the end spot? we don't know. he does keep a secret, doesn't he? his route is different every year. that is very clever. keeps you on your toes as well. any help from the white house this year? yes, ma'am. i believe the president and first lady did take some calls earlier today. ok, that is fantastic.
and when is he due? 0bviously he will be coming your way at some point. when is he due in the us? between nine and midnight our time. laughter. all we can do is continue to track him and that works through our radar system and our satellites and we ultimately send up an aircraft to get visual verification. my goodness, that is using a lot of high—tech resources, isn't it? how many satellites? laughter. that i don't have the number, ma'am. well, all i'm going to say is that santa does a very good job of keeping things very secret. any idea on how many presents he's delivering? so far, he's at about 4.1 billion. goodness me. 4.1 billion. wow. yes, ma'am. that's incredible. i think he usually ends up somewhere around the seven or 8 billion mark. wow, fantastic. did you get your letter in?
nw, i did not. no, i did not. my kids did. 0h, 0k. all right. very last question, actually, a lot of discussion in the news here in the uk about what should be left out for rudolph, for example, because of his nose, you know, there are a lot of vessels going through there. what is the best food to be left out for him? we know that santa, you know, he's all right with his diet, in terms of the reindeer. honestly, i'm not 100% sure, maybe some christmas cookies for the reindeer as well. 0k. we will do that. us army major, breyen, oh, you have been a blast. thank you very much indeed and good luck with the rest of your tracking. happy holidays. he didn't know what hit him, did he? there he is. they are
santa and his reindeer. that's coming up to king edward pointe in south georgia. yeah, very busy night for santa claus, very busy night. wonderfully tracked by norad as well. hope you get everything you asked for if you are good. a caller has pranked us presidentjoe biden by dropping an anti—biden taunt into their chat during a white house christmas event. mr biden and first ladyjill biden were hosting the festive call for families when a father told the president: "let's go, brandon." apparently unaware of the gibe, mr biden said he agreed. among some conservative groups, the term is code for an insult directed at mr biden. don't forget you can get
in touch with me and some of the team on twitter — i'm @lukwesaburak you are watching bbc news. have a lovely christmas. hello there. merry christmas to you. some of us will see some snow during this christmas period, mainly across the hills of the northern half of the uk. further south, it'll tend to be milder, so any precipitation will be rain. and we've got areas of low pressure pushing into the south west, and they're weather fronts bringing outbreaks of rain. as these weather fronts slowly push north—eastwards into that stubborn area of colder air which is sitting to the north—east of the country, then this is where we're likely to see some of that rain turn to snow. so, we're starting christmas day morning off on a very cold, frosty note across scotland, the far north of england, but less cold, milder for northern ireland in towards wales and the south west. but here, we have more of the cloud, outbreaks of rain, which will be slowly spilling northwards and eastwards through the course of the day. quite a bit of cloud for most of england, but the far north of england, scotland off that cold, frosty start, will be dry
and sunny throughout the day. maybe just the odd wintry shower around, some patchy cloud, but it will be windy, particularly across the northern half of the country, as you can see here. these are the mean wind speeds. so, when you factor in the wind with that cold air, it really will feel chilly, colder than these temperatures suggest, 3—5 degrees in the north, seven to maybe 11 degrees across the south and south west. now, as we head through christmas day evening, it looks like the rain will start to push its way northwards and eastwards, and overnight, as it bumps into that cold air, we could see a bit of snow for north wales on the hills first, and then into northern england, central, southern scotland, mainly over the pennines, across the southern uplands and the higher ground of central scotland. quite a covering here, maybe even some down to lower levels for a time. you can see it's going to be another cold night here, less so further south and west. so, some places on boxing day starting off with that snowfall, across the north pennines, into the southern uplands, perhaps into central scotland, but through the day, any snowfall will become reserved to the hills of northern scotland as the milder air begins to push its way northwards.
quite a lot of cloud generally across the country. we could see some brightness, a few showers pushing into northern ireland, wales and the south—west quadrant of england, where it'll be mild again. but still chilly across the far north east. then, as we move out of boxing day to the run—up to new year's eve, we can see some really mild air starts to move in, and right across the uk on a south—westerly wind, pushes all that cold air well away from the uk. so, it turns milder even. very mild for a time in places in the run—up to new year's eve. but with that, it will be unsettled, some areas seeing some spells of wet and windy weather.
the headlines — the uk has again recorded its highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, with more than 120,000 new infections. european countries reported record numbers of cases, with italy, greece and spain introducing mandatory face coverings outdoors. but 0micron appears to result in serious illness than delta. millions around the world face travel disruption over christmas as the surge in 0micron variant cases sees 2000 flights cancelled due to staff shortages. united airlines says it's contacting impacted passengers before they arrive at the airport. china and the us are the worst affected countries. christmas celebrations have taken place in bethlehem, including an annual procession led by the head of the roman catholic church in the region. now on bbc news, review 2021 —