Published:

Christmas cancelled by surging ‘mutant coronavirus’

“Christmas plans for millions of families were in chaos last night after tougher coronavirus restrictions were introduced to contain a more infectious strain of the virus. Boris Johnson unveiled tier 4 restrictions for London, the southeast and parts of eastern England that will prevent 16.4 million people from mixing indoors over the festive period. The decision to scrap the planned relaxation of Covid rules for Christmas was blamed on the spread of the mutant strain, which has sent infection rates spiralling. Minsters alerted the World Health Organisation to the outbreak and expect other countries to stop UK residents from passing through their borders. The strain, VUI2020/12/01, is thought to account for the majority of new infections in London, where intensive care units are already operating at full or nearly full capacity, and non-essential outpatient care is being cancelled.” – Sunday Times

More:

  • London stations ‘like a war zone’ as thousands race to flee capital – Sun on Sunday
  • ‘Thousands’ vow to ignore new rules – Mail on Sunday
  • Sturgeon bans travel between Scotland and rest of UK – Sunday Telegraph
  • High streets dealt multi-billion pound blow – Sun on Sunday

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Johnson – “When the science changes, we must change our response.” It’s a new lockdown for much of the South-East.

Britain’s Pfizer Covid vaccine will run out in weeks with no new stock until March, Hunt warns

“Britain’s Pfizer Covid vaccine will run out in weeks – with no new stock until March, Jeremy Hunt has warned today. Mr Hunt today claimed the vaccine stocks would only last until the end of January, with hopes we will have the Oxford/Astrazeneca jab by then to cover the shortfall. Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Hunt said: “It (the Oxford jab being rolled out) will make a massive difference because the doses that we have of the Pfizer vaccine will keep us going until the end of January and I think we’re not getting another shipment until March. If we could have the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine ready to go in January then we could keep the roll-out going at the current pace.” But Pfizer today insisted that deliveries were on track and progressing according to the agreed schedule.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Injections will run through next week as hopes rise the Oxford formula will be approved within days – Sunday Times
  • Labour and unions criticise Hancock over delays to NHS pay rise – The Observer

Comment:

  • The vaccine will not save us from the effects of oppressive government policy – Jonathan Sumption, Sun on Sunday

>Today: Mario Creatura in Comment: A pandemic pregnancy – and the stess, anxiety, and guilt of being barred from my wife’s side at hospital.

Tories threaten revolt if they do not get vote on new Covid-19 lockdown

“Senior Conservative MPs have demanded that Boris Johnson set out a “clear exit strategy” from the “nightmarish cycle” of Covid-19 restrictions as they signalled they could rebel over the latest measures. After 16.4 million people were plunged into a new Tier 4, Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, called on ministers to begin drawing up a “clear road map” back to “normal life” in the new year. With Christmas plans dashed for people across the country, he said that the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines must be closely linked to the relaxation of restrictions, with easements taking place at each stage of the immunisation programme. The former chief whip also called for the latest changes to the rules to be put to a vote in Parliament at the “earliest opportunity”, even if doing so meant recalling MPs just days after they rose for the Christmas recess.” – Sunday Telegraph

More:

  • Police to patrol railway stations to stop passengers fleeing Tier 4… – Sunday Times
  • …but say Tier 4 rules ‘don’t make sense’ – Sun on Sunday

Comment:

  • We need to know how many lives lockdown is destroying – Mark Harper and Steve Baker, Mail on Sunday

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Emergency proxies and postal votes: how the Government intends to ensure the local elections go ahead in May

Tim Shipman: Cavalier Johnson is now a sad, sober Roundhead

“There was a moment during yesterday’s No 10 news conference when Johnson began to shake his head, stumbling over his words, scarcely able to believe what he was saying: “It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned … [and] people must not break the rules at new year.” The prime minister’s refusal to use an Autocue meant that his face was literally downcast at his notes. Last week Johnson pronounced such a move “inhuman” and mocked Sir Keir Starmer for suggesting it. Yesterday he said: “When the virus changes its method of attack we must change our method of defence.” It was not exactly, “We shall fight on the beaches …” The most bullish and ebullient politician I know was transformed from buccaneering Cavalier into a Cromwellian Roundhead.” – Sunday Times

  • Prime Minister had no choice but to tighten restrictions – Paul Nuki, Sunday Telegraph
  • It was herd thinking that left the West defenceless against Covid – Matthew Syed, Sunday Times
  • Climbdown is a disaster for his personal credibility – Ross Clark, Sunday Telegraph
  • New coronavirus strain is the biggest imaginable nightmare before Christmas – Simon Clarke, Sun on Sunday
  • Crisis has searingly exposed Johnson’s flaws as a leader – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer
  • Eleventh hour Christmas bombshell has left the country’s goodwill in tatters – Judith Woods, Sunday Telegraph

Editorial:

  • How many more times must we suffer this dimming of the light with Covid-19 restrictions? – Mail on Sunday
  • A monumental U-turn that devastates us all – Sunday Telegraph
  • Johnson has belatedly done the right thing on Christmas – Sunday Times

Britain and EU can agree ‘mini’ deals to ease chaos of no-deal, says Gove

“Britain and the European Union can agree on a series of “mini unilateral” deals to ease any chaos if no trade deal can be agreed by the end of this month, Michael Gove has said. Any trade deal is also “realistically” unlikely to be signed off until after Christmas, Mr Gove said, which will mean MPs are likely to vote on any deal just hours before the end of the Brexit transition period. Any teething problems at the border in the event of a trade deal not being agreed would “resolve themselves to a normal relatively early in the new year,” he said. Mr Gove also declared that after the transition period Britain and the EU could be as close as the UK and the US, describing it as a new “special relationship” with the EU’s remaining 27 member states.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Johnson warns Brussels must get real and see some ‘sense’ on post-Brexit fishing demands – Sun on Sunday
  • Brussels infighting explodes as EU fishing chiefs lash out at Barnier’s Brexit ‘sell-out’ – Sunday Express
  • Macron has one eye on presidential election as he acts tough on EU deal – Sunday Times
  • Britain not ready for no deal, says Brexit select committee – The Observer

Comment:

  • Johnson would regret trying to bounce Parliament into a deal – Mark Francois, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: It is hard to see how a recalled Parliament would have now have time to consider a Brexit Trade Bill properly

>Yesterday: David Gauke’s column: Whether there’s a deal or none, Brexit still will not be done

Row as Johnson ally ‘lined up for top job at Office for Students’

“Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership campaign manager has been named as the government’s preferred candidate to take up a leading role in an independent watchdog charged with regulating universities. The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said James Wharton, a former Tory MP who ran Johnson’s 2019 campaign to succeed Theresa May as party leader, would bring “strategic direction” to the post of chair of the Office for Students (OfS). But Labour questioned Lord Wharton’s qualifications for the role, which he can take up after his nomination is confirmed by the education select committee and he is appointed by the OfS board… However, there appears to be little in his CV that lends itself specifically to the post at the independent regulator of higher education in England. The organisation also describes its role as championing equality and diversity.” – The Observer

Starmer ‘caves to Sturgeon as he promises more devolution’

“Keir Starmer has caved into Nicola Sturgeon’s demands for Scottish independence as his plot to promise more devolution has been exposed. The Labour leader will reveal his plans to undermine the Prime Minister in a keynote speech on Monday. He will say the party’s next manifesto will set out a programme to win power “in order to push as much power as possible away from Westminster”. This will go against Mr Johnson’s insistance that Westminster will not back Scotland’s second bid for independence, as the First Minister continues to push for Scotland to have more power and control away from the rest of the UK. Sir Keir will add that he is offering “a positive alternative to the Scottish people” while at the same time seeking “to preserve and renew the United Kingdom”. His speech will be the first on the subject of the Union, as he will set the tone for the party’s campaigning for next year’s elections to the Scottish Parliament as well as more broadly across the UK.” – Sunday Express

  • Labour leader will announce plans to push power away from Westminster in keynote speech – The Observer

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