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Coronavirus 1) Rising infections put millions more on brink of Tier 4

“Millions more people could enter Tier 4 restrictions this week as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Yesterday the government said that as of 9am there had been a further 30,501 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, an increase of 30 per cent in a week. Analysis by The Times shows that 99 out of 128 areas in Tier 3 recorded a rise in case numbers over the week to December 23. The largest rise was in the Isle of Wight, which moved into Tier 3 on Boxing Day. The number of weekly cases per 100,000 residents there went from 56 to 174, a 213 per cent increase. Cases rose by more than 80 per cent in a week in Gateshead and the Derbyshire Dales.” – The Times

  • Doctors in London said that their hospitals were beginning to resemble a “war zone” and those in Wales put out an urgent call for anyone with experience working in intensive care to come forward to help – The Times
  • Covid poses ‘greatest threat to mental health since second world war’ – The Guardian
  • Israel becomes the first country to have third Covid lockdown – The Times

Today

Coronavirus 2) Frontline NHS workers prepare for AstraZeneca vaccine, as approval looks imminent

“Frontline NHS workers have been told they will soon receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, as regulators look set to approve the coronavirus treatment this week. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) could give the go-ahead for the British vaccine as early as Monday, a decision which would rapidly speed up the vaccination rollout across the UK. Although there were concerns that the Oxford jab may not be as effective as the Pfizer version, AstraZeneca said it was due to publish new data showing efficacy is now around 95 per cent. The Oxford jab is around 10 times cheaper than the Pfizer vaccine and much easier to distribute because it only needs to be kept in normal freezer conditions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • 10,000 medics and volunteers recruited to administer jab – Daily Telegraph
  • Germany, Slovakia and Hungary issued their first jabs on Saturday, amid fears of possible delays and shortages caused by the Brussels vaccine purchasing strategy – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Pupils due back at school next week may be told to stay home

“Downing Street and the Department for Education will decide today whether schools can reopen after the Christmas holidays in the face of calls for a delay to act as a circuit-breaker. Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, is understood to be pushing for schools to be kept open but officials are concerned by modelling that suggests that the virus cannot be brought under control without school closures. Boris Johnson has previously refused to rule out school closures next term. The armed forces are helping to introduce testing in secondary schools and most of their pupils are expected to be taught remotely until January 11.” – The Times

  • Keeping schools open is a price that should be paid even if it increases R number, Tory MPs say – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 1) Tory hardliners ask for more time to make sure of support

“Conservative Brexiteers are preparing to back the EU trade deal on Wednesday as some MPs call for more time to scrutinise its contents in the new year. Members of the European Research Group (ERG) have spent the weekend poring over the 1,246-page agreement with their legal advisors. Most are keeping their counsel before this so-called star chamber, led by the veteran Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash, delivers its verdict on the deal today or tomorrow. They are understood to have not had any objections so far. Several senior Tories have called on the government to allocate more time for parliament to scrutinise the contents of the agreement in early January after they give it provisional approval next week.” – The Times

  • Tory Brexiteers want a Brexit debate in the Commons – not Zoom – Daily Telegraph
  • Starmer urges Labour MPs to back Brexit deal – The Times
  • SNP will vote against Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in the Commons as Ian Blackford brands it an ‘unforgiveable act of economic vandalism and gross stupidity’ – Daily Mail

Today

Brexit 2) Raab: Let’s look forward and embrace, as a united country, global opportunities

“On Christmas Eve, after years of wrangling, the UK and EU reached an historic new deal which delivers on the democratic mandate from the referendum and general election, preserves trade with our European partners, and marks the beginning of a bright new chapter for our country. The Prime Minister secured a deal that enables the UK to take back control over our laws, borders, money, fisheries and trade policy – as any self-confident, independent, democracy would expect. It delivers a zero-tariff, zero-quota, free trade deal with the EU – the largest in the world. It has also confounded the sceptics. There is no role for the European Court, and we are free to implement our points-based immigration system.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 3) Gove warns of Brexit red tape from January 1

“Michael Gove has warned of disruption from January 1 as he urged businesses to seize their last chance to prepare. Companies and travellers have been urged to make their “final preparations” for the end of the transition period on Thursday night after details of the government’s deal were finally unveiled over the weekend. From January 1 there will be new processes at the UK border, new rules on importing and exporting food and Britons will need to take action before travelling to the bloc. Mr Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, hailed the “fantastic free trade agreement” the government had struck but warned that “with big change comes challenge and opportunity”.” – The Times

Brexit 4) We’ll make City best for business post-Brexit, vows Sunak

“Rishi Sunak promised to make London the best place in the world to do business yesterday after Boris Johnson admitted that his deal fell short on provisions for the City. The prime minister said that his agreement with the European Union “perhaps does not go as far as we would like” on financial services, compounding fears about the impact of Brexit on the sector. Banks, insurers and other financial firms based in Britain will not be granted automatic access to operate in EU markets. Instead they will have to be deemed by Brussels to be governed by rules as robust as those within the bloc.” – The Times

MPs and peers told to share under parliament revamp plan

“MPs and peers could be housed in the same building under a cut-price parliament renovation plan that it is hoped will breathe new life into the stalled multibillion-pound project. The final cost of complete refurbishment is likely to far exceed initial estimates of about £4 billion. One informal assessment by a government body suggests it could be between £10 billion and £20 billion. Despite legislation committing Britain to the project, many MPs fear that it is politically impossible to ask taxpayers to foot the bill at a time when cuts and tax rises will be needed to pay debts incurred during the pandemic. Concerns about the original plan, which include relocating MPs and peers during the work, forced a rethink in the spring.” – The Times

Britons overseas have no right to our help, says Foreign Office

“British citizens arrested overseas through no fault of their own have no right to the government’s assistance or protection, even if they are tortured or held as diplomatic leverage against their country, the Foreign Office has said. That stark assessment was delivered in a letter to lawyers for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who asked the department to lay out the government’s view of its obligations towards her. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother of one child, was arrested at Tehran airport in 2016 and sentenced to five years on trumped-up charges of sowing dissent against the Iranian regime. A second case, that Iran has sought to justify with inaccurate comments made by Boris Johnson, was raised against her in October.” – The Times

Trump signs pandemic aid and spending bill

“US President Donald Trump on Sunday signed into law a $2.3 trillion (£1.7 trillion) pandemic aid and spending package, officials said, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and averting a partial federal government shutdown. Mr Trump, who leaves office on Jan. 20 after losing November’s election, backed down from his threat to block the bill, which was approved Congress last week, after he came under intense pressure from lawmakers on both sides. The Republican president, who golfed on Sunday and remained out of public view even as the potential government shutdown loomed, had demanded that Congress change the bill to increase the size of stimulus checks for struggling Americans to $2,000 from $600.” – Daily Telegraph

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