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Coronavirus 1) London plunged into Tier 3 as Hancock warns of mutant strain

“From midnight on Tuesday, London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will enter Tier 3, meaning pubs, restaurants and theatres will have to close amid warnings of “catastrophic” economic consequences. The move means 34 million people in England will be in Tier 3 (more than 61 per cent of the population) with a further review of the tiers to be announced on Thursday. The Health Secretary said the new strain was more contagious and causing an “exponential” rise in infections in the south east, leaving ministers with no option but to take “swift, decisive action” three days before the completion of the review of the current tiers.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Covid mutation a stark reminder that disease not beaten yet – Daily Telegraph
  • New strain ‘driving up cases’ – The Times
  • Sixty per cent of England to be in Tier 3 – Daily Mail
  • Cases rise by a third in a week – Daily Mail
  • Rural areas to be ‘delinked’ from hotspots – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers discuss tightening Xmas rules – Daily Mail
  • Pressure grows on No 10 to stop Covid surge – The Guardian
  • Travel chaos as Government fails to announce approved testing firms – Daily Telegraph
  • PPE suppliers now vetted by intelligence agencies – Daily Telegraph
  • UK jobs could disappear as Covid puts automation on ‘steroids’ – FT
  • Inequality led to UK’s high infection rate, says health chief – The Guardian
  • How did Johnson’s Covid change him? – The Guardian
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>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Williamson orders councils not to close schools early

“The government has overruled local councils and issued an order compelling them to keep schools open, despite widespread fears in London boroughs and other badly hit areas that pupils were driving the pandemic. After the Royal Borough of Greenwich, in southeast London, wrote to its head teachers urging them to switch to home learning for the final week of term, the government used new legal powers to force schools to stay open. Gavin Williamson, education secretary, issued a Temporary Continuity Direction, a new type of order under the coronavirus legislation, forcing the council to retract the letters and tell schools to keep all pupils in class for the remainder of term.” – The Times

  • Government launches legal action against school closures – The Guardian
  • Schools to get New Year testing blitz – The Sun

EU negotiations 1) Hopes rise for ‘Brexmas miracle’

“Hopes for a Brexit trade deal were rising last night after the EU softened its stance on tariffs. Sources involved in the talks said Brussels had dropped demands for the power to impose instant ‘lightning tariffs’ if the UK diverges from the bloc’s rules. In signs of a breakthrough, the two sides are now attempting to thrash out the details for an independent arbitration system for future complaints from either side. The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier claimed the UK had made the first move, accepting ‘for the first time’ that Brussels should have the right to take action if the independent UK strays too far from the single market’s ‘level playing field’.” – Daily Mail

  • Barnier says Brexit deal could be agreed this week if the UK compromises over fishing – Daily Telegraph
  • EU hints at tentative progress in Brexit negotiations – The Times
  • Major part of deal collapses – Daily Express
  • Defence Secretary supports using Royal Navy ships to protect fishing waters – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson has ulterior motive in talking up risk of No Deal – The Times
  • Furlough scheme could support firms hit hardest by No Deal – Daily Telegraph
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>Today:

EU negotiations 2) Andrew Neil: No Deal would be nail in coffin of Western democracy

“The mood music emanating from the Brexit talks has turned cheerier. Let’s hope the tune continues to be upbeat in the few days remaining to clinch a deal. For No Deal won’t just have serious, negative consequences for Britain and the European Union. It would be a setback for the West and democracies everywhere. The 21st century was meant to clinch the ultimate triumph of democracy. Instead, its first two decades have been marked by the rise of authoritarianism. From Beijing to Moscow through Ankara, Riyadh and other major capitals of the world, we’ve witnessed the rise of the strongman and retreat of democratic progress.” – Daily Mail

Unconscious bias training to be scrapped

“Whitehall “unconscious bias” training will be scrapped for all civil servants after a Government review found little evidence that it works, The Telegraph has learnt. The Cabinet Office will confirm the move on Tuesday after an assessment of the training found no conclusive proof that it changes behaviour or improves workplace equality in the long term. Such courses have even been found in some cases to lead to unintended negative consequences, said a Government source familiar with the review. Unconscious bias training is intended to alert people to hidden prejudices they may harbour that influence their behaviour and decision-making.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour general secretary quits five months before Holyrood election

“Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has suffered a blow after his party’s general secretary announced his resignation. Michael Sharpe quit five months before the Holyrood election. Sharpe, who is considered to be on the Left of the party, has been Scottish Labour’s top official for over a year. However, in a shock statement on social media, he wrote: “After deep consideration and discussion with my family, I will be leaving my post as Scottish General Secretary.” – Daily Record

Biden attacks Trump’s refusal to ‘accept the will of people’

“President-elect Joe Biden delivered a forceful rebuke on Monday to President Donald Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of his victory after the Electoral College confirmed him as the next president. In his first extended attack on Mr Trump since the election, Mr Biden said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, that the president and his allies “refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honour our constitution”. Mr Biden was referring to a Republican lawsuit, supported by Mr Trump, that sought to overturn the results in several key states, before it was rejected unanimously by the Supreme Court last Friday.” – Daily Telegraph

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