Coronavirus latest news: UK records highest daily tally of infections since pandemic began

Lizzie Roberts
·57-min read
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

The UK has recorded the highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Cases surged by 35,928 on Sunday, official data showed, the previous highest tally - 34,404 - was recorded on December 14.

A further 326 deaths were also recorded within 28 days of a positive test, lower than the 534 recorded on Saturday.

The latest government figures also show 90 per cent of local authorities in England have reported a rise in cases in the last week.

Thurrock, in Essex, has the highest rate in the country after seeing the largest week-on-week jump in England, with 1,841 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 16 - the equivalent of 1,056.0 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up from 387.2 in the seven days to December 9.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, warned the new Tier 4 restrictions may be in place for a “couple of months” because keeping the new coronavirus variant under control until the vaccine is rolled out will be “very difficult”.

Matt Hancock said infections in the areas placed under Tier 4 have “absolutely rocketed in the last few days”.

"Essentially we have got to get that vaccine rolled out to keep people safe. Given how much faster this new variant spreads it is going to be very difficult to keep it under control until we have the vaccine rolled out,” he told Sky News's Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

​Follow the latest updates below.

05:34 PM

What happened today?

That's it from us at Telegraph HQ today. Join us bright and early tomorrow morning for all the latest.

Here's a summary of what happened today:

05:27 PM

A Christmas message from Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall, to you

In case you missed it, the Duchess of Cornwall has written a special message about loneliness, The Silver Line charity and Christmas time in today's Stella magazine:

"During this hugely challenging year, The Silver Line has been needed more than ever. Demand for its helpline increased by around 31 per cent when the pandemic began, and remains high. Age UK research shows that, in this country, just under a quarter of a million older people go for a whole week without talking to anyone – unimaginable to those of us who have family and friends at the end of a line.

"Feelings of isolation and loneliness can, of course, be particularly acute at Christmas. Last year, it was estimated that 850,000 older people would be spending Christmas on their own. Sadly, that number is expected to rise this year...

Read her full piece here.

05:09 PM

Germany plans to impose UK travel restrictions

A spokesman for the German government has now confirmed the country plans to impose restrictions on flights from and to Britain and South Africa after the two countries reported identifying a new coronavirus strain.

He said that the government was working on new travel rules and was in contact with European Union partners.

Read more: 

05:01 PM

90 per cent of local authorities see rise in cases

Here is Sunday's update of the rolling seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 for local authority areas in England.

Of the 315 local areas in England, 285 (90 per cent) have seen a rise in case rates, 29 (9 per cent) have seen a fall and one remains unchanged.

Thurrock has the highest rate in the country after seeing the largest week-on-week jump in England, with 1,841 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 16 - the equivalent of 1,056.0 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up from 387.2 in the seven days to December 9.

Havering in London has the second highest rate, up from 513.6 to 1,021.8, with 2,652 new cases.

Basildon in Essex is in third place, where the rate has risen from 619.7 to 995.2, with 1,863 new cases.

The areas with the biggest week-on-week jumps other than Thurrock are: Rochford (up from 266.7 to 864.2, with 755 new cases); Epping Forest (up from 382.7 to 956.8, with 1,260 new cases); Havering; and Castle Point (up from 289.9 to 787.8, with 712 new cases).

All these areas are in the new Tier 4 announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday.

London Covid-19 cases and tier map
London Covid-19 cases and tier map

04:55 PM

Skating Santa makes the most of London's empty streets...

A roller skater dressed as Santa glides down Regent on the first day of Tier 4 restrictions, all non-essential shops are closed and residents are ordered to stay home. - Jeff Gilbert 
A roller skater dressed as Santa glides down Regent on the first day of Tier 4 restrictions, all non-essential shops are closed and residents are ordered to stay home. - Jeff Gilbert

04:44 PM

Expert reaction: 'We cannot simply stand by and wait for vaccines to rescue the situation'

Dr Stephen Griffin, Associate Professor in the School of Medicine, University of Leeds, said the new variant is a "cause for significant concern, but added the Government has "failed to make good on the sacrifices" of the first lockdown.

“It is clear that failure to make good on the sacrifices made during the first lockdown, suppress infection rates over summer, and replace the failed corporate TTI system has led directly to the resurgence seen since September, the need for a second (and likely a third) lockdown, and ultimately an environment in which SARS-COV-2 is able to thrive and evolve.

"Half-baked policies neither restore socio-economic harms, nor suppress infections, and the reactionary, fragmented and confusing implementation of Tiers along with their obscure criteria has led to public favour eroding day by day.  

"We are left at the mercy of misinformation and fringe viewpoints."

He added that if it takes the new variant to "finally convince our leaders" to implement a an "effective suppression strategy", as well as "the long-recommended safeguarding on TTI, quarantine and internal travel, then so be it".

"We cannot simply stand by and wait for vaccines to rescue the situation, the human cost has already been far too high," he said.

04:28 PM

Rise in cases 'of serious concern', PHE says

Commenting on the latest rise in cases, Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England (PHE), said:

“This sharp and sudden increase is of serious concern. Most of the new cases reported today are concentrated in London and the South East, although it is too early to tell if this is linked to the new variant.

“What we do know is that the way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant. It simply will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts.

“By working together we have tackled this virus before. By holding the line over the next few weeks, it is possible we can do so again, as we continue to roll out the vaccine to the most vulnerable."

04:18 PM

UK cases rise by 35,928

An additional 35,928 positive cases have been reported in the UK, the latest Government figures show, and 95 per cent of those tests were carried out in the last four days.

The total number of people who tested positive in the last seven days is 190,744, up 51 per cent on the previous week.

326 additional people have now died of Covid-19 in the UK, their deaths have been recorded within 28 days of a positive test.

Map of UK's seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority
Map of UK's seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority

04:11 PM

Five stories to read this afternoon

Here are five stories from across The Telegraph to get you up to speed this Sunday afternoon.

  1. Vaccine vs Variant: Scientists race to ensure vaccine works against new variant

  2. Tougher rules: Police will make 'no apology' for enforcing new Christmas lockdown rules

  3. Readers react: 'There isn't a word for how angry I feel'

  4. Logistical pressures: Covid-Christmas is testing the strength of UK logistics ahead of Brexit

  5. Comment: 'The PM's flip-flopping could cause a Labour government'

03:59 PM

Ireland expected to restricts flights and ferries from Britain

The Irish Government is set to impose travel restrictions on flights and ferries from Britain to Ireland.

It is understood the restrictions will come into force later on Sunday and last for 48 hours.

The Government is to make a formal announcement on the latest measures in the next few hours.

The restrictions are to be reviewed during Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.

It follows the decision of a number of European countries to imposed bans on flights from the UK over fears the new more-transmissible variant of coronavirus in England could spread.

03:52 PM

People hit the supermarkets in Tier 4

Supermarkets have reassured customers they have adequate stocks and there is no need to panic buy, as many households may now be faced without Christmas dinner supplies following the latest rule changes.

But despite this, pictures show people in Tier 4 areas flocking to the shops on the first day of the new restrictions.

A source for Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, told The Telegraph: “We will not run out of food. There is no reason to panic buy.

There are the same number of shoppers out there as there were before any new announcement and we have enough stock to supply them all, even if more now come into our stores because online delivery slots are full.”

People queue outside Tesco superstore in Chingford, north London, on Sunday morning -  Marcin Nowak/LNP
People queue outside Tesco superstore in Chingford, north London, on Sunday morning - Marcin Nowak/LNP
Shoppers queuing on Sunday morning at Rushden Lakes Shopping Centre in Northamptonshire which is in Tier 2. The shopping centre is in East Northamptonshire and approx one mile away from Bedfordshire which is in Tier 4 where all but essential shops are closed. - Geoff Robinson 
Shoppers queuing on Sunday morning at Rushden Lakes Shopping Centre in Northamptonshire which is in Tier 2. The shopping centre is in East Northamptonshire and approx one mile away from Bedfordshire which is in Tier 4 where all but essential shops are closed. - Geoff Robinson
People enter and depart the food hall of Harrods store, which can remain open, as London entered Tier 4 this morning  - REUTERS/Toby Melville
People enter and depart the food hall of Harrods store, which can remain open, as London entered Tier 4 this morning - REUTERS/Toby Melville

03:38 PM

Tories threaten revolt if they do not get vote on new Tier 4 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, Harry Yorke reports.

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.

Read the full story here.

03:25 PM

Archbishop warns Christmas churchgoers: Don't mingle and steer clear of the choir

Places of worship will remain open over the Christmas period in all tiers, but the Most Rev Justin Welby said people must take precautions, Gabriella Swerling reports.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned people not to mingle after church services and to avoid contact with choirs following the Government’s new Christmas rules.

The Most Rev Justin Welby also said that Christmas is not cancelled and that the public should take practical measures to avoid loneliness.

The head of the Church of England’s comments came hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new Tier 4 level of Covid-19 restrictions for London and the South East, amounting to a full lockdown. 

Even in areas in Tier 4, the toughest level of restriction in England, places of worship will remain open over the Christmas period.

Read the full story here.

03:13 PM

How have infection rates risen in Tier 4 areas?

03:03 PM

WHO calls in Europe to 'redouble' controls in wake of new strain

The World Health Organization is calling on its members in Europe to step up measures against coronavirus in the face of the new variant circulating in Britain, its European branch said Sunday.

Outside Britain, nine cases of the new strain have been reported in Denmark, as well as one case in the Netherlands and another in Australia, according to the WHO.

"Across Europe, where transmission is intense and widespread, countries need to redouble their control and prevention approaches," a spokeswoman for WHO Europe told AFP.

The UN agency urged its members worldwide to "increase the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses where possible and sharing of sequence data internationally, in particular, to report if the same mutations of concern are found," she said.

Several European countries decided Sunday to suspend all flights from Britain after the discovery of the new strain which London said was "out of control".

02:52 PM

New variant contributing to rapid rise of cases in Wales, minister says

The new variant of coronavirus currently sweeping across parts of England is also a factor in the rapid rise of cases in Wales, Wales' health minister Vaughan Gething told BBC News On Sunday.

He also said that the decision to place the country immediately into lockdown ahead of Christmas was due to the information that the new strain was leading to faster spread of the virus.

Mr Gething added: "Unfortunately our rates are around about 600 per 100,000, they are very high across the country with large concentrations in the south of Wales but also north-east Wales has been particularly affected as well...

"We have already moved ahead of the rest of the UK in changing our rules about Christmas mixing when new information about the new variant, and the fact it does appear to be generating a much more rapid growth of the virus, really does mean that we need to act."

When asked if the new variant was in Wales as well as the London and parts of the south east and east of England, Mr Gething said: "I'm afraid the new variant is here in Wales as well.

"The undoubtable truth is this new variant is effectively seeded across the country, so acting now takes account of the fact that this new variant is undoubtedly a factor, we can't say how much of a factor, in the rapid growth in cases across south Wales despite the measures we have taken."

02:29 PM

Ireland considers UK travel ban as Spain asks EU Commission to coordinate response

Ireland's health minister said there will be an announcement today on potential restrictions on passengers travelling from Britain to Ireland.

Stephen Donnelly said that he and party leaders are looking at flights and ferries coming from Britain.

Spain said that in response to the moves by some of its European Union partners, it had asked the European Commission and the European Council for a coordinated community response to the new situation.

But it's been suggested the variant is already likely to be in other countries. 

The WHO said it has been identified in Australia and The Netherlands so far.

Kait Kupferschmidt, as journalist at Science Magazine, tweeted that he understood the idea of cancelling all incoming flights from the UK in light of the new strain, but added:

"This may quickly become untenable as virus carrying this mutation is picked up in other countries. The UK has arguably the world’s best genomic surveillance of #SARSCoV2. You would expect to find it there first even if it is many places."

Read more: Europe shutting its borders to UK travellers to protect against Covid mutation

02:14 PM

266 further deaths reported in England

A further 266 people, who tested positive for Covid-19 have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 46,388, NHS England has said.

The figure is down on the 339 report deaths yesterday.

The patients were aged between 42 and 101 years old. All except seven (aged 53 to 90 years old) had known underlying health conditions.

Copy of Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - deaths default
Copy of Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - deaths default

02:10 PM

Police won't be 'interrogating' travellers, former BTP head says

A member of the British Trasport Police patrols the main concourse at Waterloo Station in London -  Niklas HALLE'N / AFP
A member of the British Trasport Police patrols the main concourse at Waterloo Station in London - Niklas HALLE'N / AFP

The former head of the British Transport Police, Andy Trotter, has said he doesn't expect officers will be "interrogating" people travelling, despite the new Tier 4 rules.

"If you think of how many people were travelling last night through St Pancras, Euston, Leeds, and Kings Cross, it will be impossible for them to go checking everybody scrambling onto those trains is the last thing they would possibly do," he told LBC Radio.

"It's about helping people through this, it's about dealing with very serious breaches of the law, but it's not about, in my opinion, it's not about trying to interrogate people about the purpose of their journey and where they're going".

He added that BTP officers will be dealing with pressures in transport hubs, people protesting, and "enforcement will be the last thing they want to do".

"I certainly don't see their primary role today as putting in road checks, or putting in checks stations, to say where are you going, I think the sheer practicalities of that, even if they wanted to, would defeat them in all of this," he said.

01:54 PM

Senior Tory MP suspects Govt knew it would cancel Christmas last week

A senior Conservative MP has accused the Government of delaying the announcement of new coronavirus controls until the House of Commons had broken up for Christmas.

Sir Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, said he believed ministers knew before Friday that they would be cancelling Christmas for millions of people.

"I suspect the Government knew they were going to cancel Christmas on Wednesday and Thursday when they were still telling the House of Commons they planned to press ahead," he told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.

"I think many colleagues find that extremely egregious. The Christmas period was passed into law by the House of Commons in a vote after a debate.

"The view of most colleagues was that to be changed, another vote would be required in the House of Commons. So I suspect a decision was delayed until we were safely away back to our constituencies."

He added: Surely at some stage a senior Government minster has to say 'I have offered my resignation to the Prime Minister' and the Prime Minister has to say 'Sadly I have had to accept it'?"

01:45 PM

In pictures: 16 million people enter Tier 4

New Bond Street is deserted of shoppers at opening time, the morning after tier 4 restrictions were imposed on London, to stop the spread of COVID-19.  - Ben Cawthra/LNP
New Bond Street is deserted of shoppers at opening time, the morning after tier 4 restrictions were imposed on London, to stop the spread of COVID-19. - Ben Cawthra/LNP
British Transport Police speak to people at Waterloo Station this morning after London entered Tier 4 -  NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP
British Transport Police speak to people at Waterloo Station this morning after London entered Tier 4 - NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP
Deserted Oxford street on Sunday morning after non-essential shops were ordered to close  - Jeff Moore 
Deserted Oxford street on Sunday morning after non-essential shops were ordered to close - Jeff Moore

01:30 PM

Lunchtime summary

Good afternoon, if you're just joining us here's the latest coronavirus news from the UK:

01:13 PM

Eurostar tickets sell out on Sunday morning

Despite people now living under Tier 4 restrictions being told not to travel unless essential, Eurostar tickets sold out in less than hour on Sunday morning, amid suggestions France was likely to ban UK travellers.

At 11.50am there were seats available on the three Eurostar trains leaving London for Paris on Sunday, at 12.24pm, 13.31pm and 7.01pm.

Less than an hour later, no tickets were available for purchase on any Eurostar train leaving London on Sunday.

Read more: Travel latest news: Millions banned from travelling in 'disastrous' end to 2020

01:03 PM

Supermarkets insist they don't expect panic buying

People queuing to get into Tesco, on Western Avenue, Cardiff, after the First Minister Mark Drakeford announced last night that all non essential retail is to close by midnight - Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans/Shutterstock 
People queuing to get into Tesco, on Western Avenue, Cardiff, after the First Minister Mark Drakeford announced last night that all non essential retail is to close by midnight - Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans/Shutterstock

Supermarkets are insisting they are not expecting an influx of panic buying shoppers and say there has been no mad rush since the new restrictions were introduced yesterday, Victoria Ward reports.

Tesco said it has not seen any “significant” changes to the volume of trade it would expect to see today.

A spokesperson said: "In the run-up to Christmas we want to reassure our customers that we have good availability, so there’s no need for customers to buy more than they need. We will do our best to make sure our customers can enjoy themselves this year and encourage everyone to continue shopping safely and responsibly.”

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “We expect that customers will take the weekend to figure out what this means for their festive plans and it will be next week before we see any impact.  

“However, at this late change we are not expecting a profound change in shopping behaviour.”

Read more from Patrick Sawer and Phoebe Southworth on the impact on supermarkets after Christmas plans were plunged into disarray yesterday:

Supermarkets urge shoppers not to panic buy after Christmas bubbles collapse

12:48 PM

Scotland doubles police on English border to enforce travel ban

The number of police officers patrolling the order between Scotland and England will be doubled to deter people breaking the new travel ban, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has said.

Last night Nicola Sturgeon banned cross-border travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK in the hope of stopping the spread of the new more transmissible strain of Covid-19.

Mr Livingstone said: “I remain clear I do not consider it appropriate or proportionate for officers to establish check points or road blocks to simply enforce travel restrictions.

“These restrictions are a preventative measure to halt the progress of Covid and Police Scotland will support this approach with a strong operational profile to deter those who would put others at risk.

“Today, I have authorised the doubling of our operational presence in the Border areas of Scotland.

“These highly visible patrols will be proactively deployed on our road networks to continue our operational activity to ensure drivers and vehicles are in a fit condition to drive. The patrols will also deter anyone who might be considering breaching the coronavirus travel restrictions."

He added: "Though the rules have changed often and, at times, quickly, officers and staff will continue with common sense, empathy and discretion to work with our fellow citizens to help keep everyone safe."

Read more: Scotland shuts borders in face of new virus strain, as Wales brings forward lockdown 

12:34 PM

Hong Kong police search for Covid patient who fled quarantine

Police in Hong Kong on Sunday renewed a plea for information on the whereabouts of a Covid-19 patient wanted for fleeing from a hospital isolation ward, Louise Watt reports.

The 63-year-old man, previously identified by police as Li Wan-keung, ran away from one of the city’s biggest hospitals on Friday evening wearing a mask and a coat over a hospital gown. He had been admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s isolation ward at the beginning of the week after testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Staff gave chase but were unable to stop him fleeing via a stairwell.

Health workers wearing protective gowns and masks organise visitors' queue lines at a Community Testing Centre to tackle the spread of Coronavirus at a public state building in Hong Kong - Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency
Health workers wearing protective gowns and masks organise visitors' queue lines at a Community Testing Centre to tackle the spread of Coronavirus at a public state building in Hong Kong - Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu Agency

Police said on their Twitter that they were investigating the case, and that anyone who escaped quarantine and isolation in the city's hospitals, nursing homes and similar facilities was breaking the law and faced a fine of 5,000 HKD (475 GBP) and two months in prison. 

While Hong Kong has so far managed to avoid a large-scale coronavirus outbreak, it has been grappling in recent weeks with a surge in cases. Authorities have limited most public gatherings to two people and more than doubled fines for failing to wear a mask when required to 5,000 HKD. 

Some commentators on the police’s Facebook page expressed anger at the patient’s “selfishness”. 

12:26 PM

Germany considers limiting UK flights

The German government has described the possibility of limiting flights from the UK as “a serious option” on the back of news that a mutation of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly through parts of Britain, Jörg Luyken reports.

The news agency AFP has learned from sources inside the German government that Berlin is considering reducing flights from the UK, a move that would follow a halt on all flights from the UK announced by the Netherlands early on Sunday.

The government source told AFP that Berlin was evaluating data on the new mutation “at full tempo” in order to understand whether the measure of stopping inward travel from the UK would be necessary.

According to Christian Drosten, a virologist at Berlin’s Charite hospital, the new VUI-202012/01 mutation has not yet been seen in Germany.

12:17 PM

Good news klaxon! Moderna vaccine on its way to US patients

Shipments of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine began leaving warehouses early this morning, heading for healthcare facilities around the United States in a push to distribute the second approved coronavirus vaccine.

A statement from distributor McKesson Corp said it had begun shipping Moderna’s Covid-19 shots and ancillary supply kits to administer the vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday.

The distribution of Moderna's vaccine to more than 3,700 locations in the United States will vastly widen the rollout started last week by Pfizer Inc. The US government plans to deliver 5.9 million Moderna shots and 2 million Pfizer shots this week.

But an ambitious target to get 20 million Americans started with their first shot of the two-dose vaccine regimen before the end of the year could slip into the first week of January, US Army General Gustave Perna told reporters on Saturday.

Moderna on Saturday moved vaccines from its manufacturing plants to warehouses operated by McKesson to be packed into containers and loaded on trucks. Shipments will start reaching healthcare providers as soon as Monday, Perna said.

Read more: Latest updates on Oxford, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines

12:09 PM

Postcode tool: Which tier is your region now under?

From midnight millions of people were placed under Tier 4 restrictions in England. Use our postcode tool below to check which restrictions your local area now falls under.

Which Covid tier am I in?
Which Covid tier am I in?

12:03 PM

Travel confusion: Trainline awaits guidance on ticket refunds and exchanges

People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, after the announcement that London will move into Tier 4 Covid restrictions from midnight. - Stefan Rousseau/PA 
People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, after the announcement that London will move into Tier 4 Covid restrictions from midnight. - Stefan Rousseau/PA

Trainline says it is awaiting guidance from the rail industry about those whose travel plans have been thrown into disarray, Victoria Ward reports.

Currently, anyone with an advance ticket can change their journey for free within the next six months. 

Those with flexible tickets can get a refund.

Whether those who did not book flexible tickets on the assumption they would be able to travel next week will just have to wait and see if help will be offered.

11:57 AM

61pc say Government has handled Christmas rule change badly

Over three quarters of the public say they support the new Tier 4 restrictions.

But more than three in five (61 per cent) say they think the Government has handled the rules around Christmas badly.

According to the latest YouGov snap poll, of more than 4,000 UK adults, only a third of people believe the Government has handled Covid-Christmas restrictions "well".

More than two thirds of people (67 per cent) support the changes to the Christmas rules, with just a quarter opposed to them. 

11:49 AM

Prime Minister should apologise for handling of restrictions, Sir Keir says

Sir Keir issued a warning to the PM that 'We cannot go on like this' - Aaron Chown/PA Wire
Sir Keir issued a warning to the PM that 'We cannot go on like this' - Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to apologise to the public for the way the latest coronavirus restrictions had been handled.

The Labour leader told an online press conference: "I think the Prime Minister should apologise. This is not just one mistake when he has otherwise got things right. It is the same mistake over and over again.

"At the heart of the problem here is a Prime Minister who simply doesn't want to be unpopular and therefore won't take the tough decisions that are necessary, until he is forced into them at the 11th hour.

"We can't go on like that. I think that it is very important that the Prime Minister does apologise to people for his handling of this episode of the pandemic."

11:43 AM

How do the new restrictions impact your Christmas?

Have you had to cancel Christmas plans in light of the new restrictions announced yesterday?

Will you be cancelling your turkey order, spending Christmas alone or now unable to travel to visit relatives you'd desperately hoped to see?

The Telegraph would love to hear from you, please contact Cara McGoogan, Telegraph features writer, at: cara.mcgoogan@telegraph.co.uk

Read more: Christmas cancelled for 16m as coronavirus mutation takes hold in South

11:37 AM

Belgium suspends flights and trains from Britain

Belgium is suspending flight and train arrivals from Britain from midnight (2300 GMT) Sunday after the UK detected a coronavirus variant suspected to be more infectious.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told Belgian television channel VRT the ban will be in place for at least 24 hours.

Belgium's travel suspension from the UK would affect flights and the Eurostar train service that runs from London.

Read more: Travel latest news: Millions banned from travelling in 'disastrous' end to 2020

11:33 AM

In pictures: Tier 4 chaos ensues

After the new Tier 4 measures were announced last night, thousands of people flocked to buy last minutes gifts or travel home to be with families.

People panic buying last minute toys at Smiths toy shop in Cardiff just before 8pm on Saturday, following the announcement by first minister Mar Drakeford that Wales will go into lockdown with all non-essential retail to close.  - Wales news service 
People panic buying last minute toys at Smiths toy shop in Cardiff just before 8pm on Saturday, following the announcement by first minister Mar Drakeford that Wales will go into lockdown with all non-essential retail to close. - Wales news service
Shoppers on Regents street on Saturday night ahead of the closing of non-essential retail - Maciek Musialek/NurPhoto
Shoppers on Regents street on Saturday night ahead of the closing of non-essential retail - Maciek Musialek/NurPhoto
People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, after the announcement that London will move into Tier 4  - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, after the announcement that London will move into Tier 4 - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
People queuing on Oxford Street in central London on the last Saturday before Christmas, following the announcement that the capital will move into Tier 4 - Stefan Rousseau/PA
People queuing on Oxford Street in central London on the last Saturday before Christmas, following the announcement that the capital will move into Tier 4 - Stefan Rousseau/PA

11:26 AM

'Please don't lose faith', Sir Keir says

Sir Keir says he is "truly sorry" to everyone who has had to cancel plans "who can’t see an end to the gloom and the bad news, or who are having to spend Christmas alone".

"But please don’t lose faith," he said. "This winter will pass. This pandemic will end.

"And when it does we will be reunited with our loved ones, and with the places and the things we miss.

"And we will build a better country, together."

11:23 AM

British people 'paying the price' for Boris Johnson's 'incompetence'

Sir Keir says the Government has committed an "act of gross negligence" by changing the rules around Christmas mixing so last minute.

"How could the Government allow people to go on as they were, when they knew they had lost control of the virus?

"It is an act of gross negligence by a Prime Minister who once again has been caught behind the curve.

"Who once again offered confusion, not clarity. Who undermined public confidence. Who always over promises and under delivers.

"And who is now asking the British people to pay the price for his incompetence."

11:19 AM

Sir Keir questions the Govt's claim the new strain has 'only just emerged'

Sir Keir has said blaming the changing in Christmas rules on the new strain does not "stand up to scrutiny".

"On Monday last week, the Health Secretary told the House of Commons about a new strain of the virus," he said.

"On Tuesday, medical professionals warned the lifting of restrictions over Christmas would be a ‘major error’ and I called for a review.

"On Wednesday, I challenged the Prime Minister to toughen up the restrictions.

"We have known about rising infections and the NHS reaching capacity in many parts of the country for weeks.

"The new strain was actually first spotted back in September. The alarms bells have been ringing for weeks, but the Prime Minister chose to ignore them.

"A virus of this sort demands early action. Decisive action. A clear plan and a clear message. Yet we have had none of that."

11:16 AM

Keir Starmer blasts Government's 'eleventh hour decision' to cancel Christmas

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, is holding a press conference following last night's news.

"This has been such a difficult year for everyone, the British public have been asked to make so many sacrifices and now, with just days to go, millions of families are having to tell children and loved ones that their plans for Christmas cannot go ahead.

"I know just how devastating that is. I know the hurt that people are feeling and the anger because Christmas is more than just a holiday, it's part of who we are as a nation.

"Sadly the measures the government announced yesterday are necessary and we will support them."

He added: "But there is no getting away from the fact - and what angers people the most and frustrates me the most is that – yet again – the Prime Minister waited until the eleventh hour to take this decision.

"It was blatantly obvious last week that the Prime Minister’s plan for a free-for-all over Christmas was a risk too far.

"And yet, rather listening to concerns and taking them seriously the Prime Minister did what he always does, dismissed the challenge, ruffled his hair and made a flippant comment."

11:10 AM

Worldwide summary

While attention has been on the latest shock announcement of Christmas effectively being cancelled for millions in England, here's a summary of what's been happening around the world.

  • South Korea reported 1,097 new coronavirus cases, a new daily record for the country, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Sunday. This brings the total infections to 49,665, with 674 deaths.

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has refused to take any coronavirus vaccine, said that he did not think the world's rush for a vaccine was justified because the pandemic is in his view coming to an end. But new coronavirus cases have not indicated the pandemic is ending. In recent days, several countries including Brazil have reported record numbers of daily cases.

  • Sydney's coronavirus outbreak grew to around 70 on Sunday, forcing authorities to introduce stricter social distancing rules across the city, and more states to close borders or impose quarantine measures on its residents. The neighbouring state of Victoria will close its border to Sydney from midnight Sunday. South Australia state introduced a 14-day quarantine for all Sydney arrivals on Sunday and banned travellers from the affected suburbs.

  • Netherlands will ban flights carrying passengers from the United Kingdom from Sunday as Britain detected a new coronavirus strain. A travel ban will remain in place until Jan. 1, the government said in a statement early Sunday, adding that it is monitoring developments and is considering additional measures regarding other modes of transport.

10:55 AM

Extra police brought in to patrol train stations

Extra transport officers will be deployed to ensure people who need to take essential journeys can "travel safely", the Transport Secretary has said.

"It is incredibly important that people follow the guidance, stay at home and do not attempt to travel. Our focus must be stopping the spread of this virus, protecting lives and our NHS," Grant Shapps said in a statement.

"If you are in Tier 4, the law means you must stay at home and you cannot stay overnight away from home. Across the rest of the country, you must stay local.

"Follow the guidance and please do not come to a station unless you are permitted to travel.

"Extra BTP officers are being deployed to ensure only those who need to take essential journeys can travel safely."

Sir Peter Hendy, the Government's Christmas transport tsar, said people must follow the guidance and "stay at home".

"At stations we will be deploying extra staff, announcements will make the law clear, and additional BTP officers are in place to ensure that only essential journeys take place," he said in a statement.

"People considering driving should also stay at home or stay local. The new restrictions mean that people should not travel into or out of Tier 4 areas, and across the country you should stay local.

"You should play your part in tackling the spread of this virus."

10:52 AM

The strain is 'out of control', Hancock says

Mr Hancock has said the new variant coronavirus is "out of control" and that he is "really worried" about how the NHS will cope.

"It is out of control and we need to bring it under control," the Health Secretary told The Andrew Marr Show.

"I am really worried about the NHS. There are currently just over 18,000 in NHS hospitals with coronavirus.

"That is only just below the number there were at the first peak. It is another reason why everybody needs to follow the new rules and take that personal responsibility."

Mr Hancock said the Government did not know how long the new measures announced on Saturday would be required.

"We don't know how long these measures are going to be in place. It may be for some time until we can get the vaccine going," he said.

He said that there would "not necessarily" be a new national lockdown because the travel restrictions the Government had put in place were designed to stop the new variant spreading around the country.

"We know that Tier 3 works for the old variant. But we know that it doesn't work with the new variant because the new variant spreads more easily, so that is why there are movement restrictions to try to stop this new variant from spreading," he said.

Read more: Tier 4 lockdown: What are rules and which areas are affected?

10:48 AM

UK knew about new strain in September, WHO says

The new coronavirus variant in the South East was identified in September, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said.

Appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 technical lead at WHO, said: "The UK had picked this up in September and seeing that this has been circulating in south-east England since September."

She said that "there are mutations that are identified all the time", adding: "What is really important is that there's a process in place to understand what these variants do and how they behave."

Ms Van Kerkhove said the variant had also been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia - with there being one case in the latter that did not spread further.

She added: "And so more sequencing that can be done will be helpful to help us determine if this variant is circulating elsewhere.

"Sequencing will also help us understand any changes in the viruses that are being identified.

"The longer this virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change.

"So we really need to do everything we can right now to prevent spread, and minimising that spread will reduce the chances of it changing."

Read more: New coronavirus strain ‘moves fast’ and is becoming the dominant variant

10:42 AM

Health Secretary only learned of new variant last Friday

Matt Hancock has said he only learned of the new variant last Friday.

"In October they spotted the new variant from a sample that was taken in September, just over a week ago this pattern was spotted in Kent where it was growing fast," he said.

On the back of that knowledge, the Government brought in further restrictions in the area.

"Then we only knew that there was a new variant and it was in the parts of the country where things were growing fast, that there was a correlation.

"On Friday afternoon, the scientists came and said we now know there is a causality and that it spreads up to 70 per cent faster," he told the Andrew Marr show.

10:21 AM

Police expected to enforce new restrictions, Hancock says

Asked if the police will use road blocks and question people on trains, Matt Hancock said he has spoken to the Home Secretary and the British Transport Police has the responsibility to police the transport system.

Mr Hancock told the Andrew Marr show he hoped the new restrictions would be enforced by consent, but added: "Of course it is the police's responsibility to police the law and the law came into force in the early hours of this morning".

10:16 AM

ICYMI: Boris Johnson announces Tier 4 restrictions for Christmas

10:00 AM

Opposition reaction: 'It just cannot continue like this'

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said she was "angry" about the sudden increase in coronavirus restrictions for large parts of the country that were announced on Saturday afternoon.

"I've been watching like everyone else the case rates rising for several weeks and every day this week we have raised with the Government the fact that surely Christmas plans need to be revised?" she said.

"Every day that concern has been dismissed, ridiculed by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons on Wednesday, only to find yesterday that people have made plans over the last week that now lie in tatters with very little time to sort that out before Christmas."

Speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday, she added: "Over and over again we've seen the same pattern, a Prime Minister that rejects the evidence, who ridicules and mocks concerns, who dithers and delays and then ends up having to change his mind at the 11th hour.

"This is how a country that has pioneering scientists and a health care system that is the envy of the world ends up with the worst number of deaths in Europe and the worst recession of any major economy.

"It just cannot continue like this."

09:54 AM

'Unlikely' new variant will impact vaccine

Dr Hopkins said in terms of the vaccine it is "unlikely" the vaccine response will "completely gone" as a result of the new strain.

But she added that studies would need to be carried out to see if it has any impact of the vaccines efficacy.

09:48 AM

New variant was first identified in October, PHE says

Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said the new variant was identified in the middle of October through genome sequencing.

The variant continued to spread and in December, while trying to establish why Kent and Medway's infections continued to rise despite the restrictions, they found a cluster that was "growing very fast" which had spread from the south of England into London and Essex.

"We still did not understand what the difference in transmissibility was and this week the modellers and academics that we work with... demonstrated that it was indeed more transmissible than other variants circling," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

Read more: New coronavirus strain ‘moves fast’ and is becoming the dominant variant

09:32 AM

The new variant must be controlled to reduce chances of it changing, WHO says

The new variant has also been identified in The Netherlands, Denmark and Australia, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 Technical Lead at the World Health Organization has said.

Speaking to the BBC Andrew Marr show she said sequencing will help scientists to understand the virus and how it spreads.
"The longer this virus spreads, the more opportunity it has to change, and minimising that spread will reduce the chances of it changing," she said.

The new variant is understood to have started in South East England or London, she added.

09:28 AM

It will take 'three to four months' to vaccinate enough people, BMA says

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said that doctors were working flat out to distribute the coronavirus vaccine but it would take three to four months for enough of the population be vaccinated.

He told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "We are working flat out. We have been working seven days a week, 8am to 8pm.

"It will take, unfortunately, three to four months for enough of the population to be vaccinated.

"Therefore there's light at the end of the tunnel. I hope people, the public, can understand and be patient, carrying on being responsible, follow the rules and measures because we will, if all goes well, in a few months, be able to mix with family, friends and relatives."

He added  doctors were reporting being overwhelmed by a massive surge in coronavirus patients.

"One in three are seeing even more than during the first wave, but also a massive surge in non-Covid patients, so they are saying they don't have the capacity to manage both," he said.

He said the biggest "limiting factor" to increasing NHS capacity was workforce constraints and added: " Unfortunately, we entered the pandemic with a shortage of doctors and nurses."

09:23 AM

Five-day Christmas 'did not follow the science', says BMA council chair

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, said the planned five-day Christmas relaxation had not followed the science.

When asked on Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday how concerned he was about the new strain of coronavirus, Dr Nagpaul said: "We were concerned at the time the Prime Minister announced the five-day relaxation for Christmas because the science told us then that the virus was spreading week-on-week.

"It just did not follow the science to relax the rules.

"Last Wednesday, before the new variant was announced, it was obvious that the infection was spreading at a dangerous level, the NHS was in a dangerous state, and again, the science wasn't followed when in fact we should have reversed the Christmas relaxation rules.

"So whilst there is a new variant, we didn't need the new variant to reverse this rule and the public could of course have been given greater notice, but there's no doubt it was the right and necessary decision."

09:11 AM

Londoners fleeing the capital were 'irresponsible", says Hancock

Asked about the scenes of passengers fleeing London by Sophy Ridge, the Health Secretary let out a deep breath.

"This was clearly totally irresponsible behaviour, the Chief Medical Officer was absolutely clear that people should unpack their bags," he said.

"I think that it's relatively small numbers and the large vast majority of people throughout this whole pandemic have followed the rules, been responsible and played their part".

He added: "It is more important than ever that people are responsible, not only follow the rules but restrict social contact as much as possible".

Watch his full comments below:

09:07 AM

New strain is 'very difficult' to control

Given how fast the new variant spreads, Mr Hancock said it will be "very difficult" to control it until the vaccine rollout.

"We want to try and restrict the spread of this and the spread within those Tier 4 areas," he said.

09:05 AM

New variant does not produce worse outcome for patients

Mr Hancock said there were over 1,000 cases of the new variant identified over the last week.

But he added the Government has "confidence" that the new variant does not produce a worse health outcome for patients.

08:58 AM

Society has 'personal responsibility' to get virus under control, Hancock says

Asked why the Government promised Christmas mixing in November, Mr Hancock said: "I understand how important Christmas is to people who have been looking forward to it all year, and thankfully in many parts of the country it is going to be possible to have a restricted, very careful Christmas break on Christmas day itself".

He added that the new variant is still being analysed by scientists to understand it. 

"As a society we need to stop this new variant from spreading and we can only do that... if we all take personal responsibility to act in a way to get  the virus under control," he said.

08:53 AM

New strain is 'out of control', says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has said the new strain of coronavirus is "out of control" which has lead to the  "difficult" decision to impose tighter restrictions ahead of Christmas.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sunday on Sky News he said: "We don't want to do any of this, but it's necessary.

"This has been an awful end to what has been an incredibly difficult year and on Friday when we were presented with that new scientific evidence about the new variant it was out duty to act...

"With just the strength of how easy this new variant finds it to transmit from one human to another, we acted very quickly and decisively with the annoucenments the Prime Minister set out yesterday".

He added that everybody watching would feel "disappointment" ahead of Christmas but that, "unfortunately this virus, the new strain was out of control, we've got to get it under control, the way we can do that is by restricting social contact".

Everyone, especially in Tier 4 areas, "needs to behave as if they might well have the virus and that is the way we can get it under control and keep people safe," he said.

08:45 AM

Five stories to read this Sunday

Good morning from Telegraph HQ.

After the devastating news last night that Christmas is cancelled for millions of families in England, we're here to bring you all the latest you need to know.

Here are five top stories to read this Sunday morning to get you up to speed.

  1. Tier 4: Christmas cancelled for 16m as coronavirus mutation takes hold in South

  2. Holidays in ruins: International and domestic travel banned in Tier 4

  3. Border bansSturgeon bans travel between Scotland and rest of UK to try to stop new Covid strain

  4. Analysis: Boris Johnson had no choice but to tighten restrictions

  5. Comment: Eleventh hour Christmas bombshell has left the country's goodwill in tatters

08:38 AM

Londoners fleeing the capital 'may be taking the virus to elderly relatives', mayor warns

Mr Khan was also asked about scenes at London's railway stations on Saturday night, where hundreds of people sought to leave the capital before the tier rules were tightened.

He told Breakfast: "What you saw yesterday was a direct consequence of the chaotic way the announcement was made.

"I understand why people want to return to see their mums, dads, elderly relations, but I think it's wrong.

"Let me tell you why I think it's a mistake either going yesterday or thinking about going today. Yesterday, technically speaking, you may not have been breaking the rules but you may well have the virus and not realise you have got the virus.

"You may be taking that virus with you from London to your mum, dad, elderly relations.

"We now have a vaccine being rolled out, you can see light at the end of the tunnel. How are you going to feel if you pass the virus on to an elderly relation, somebody you love, whose life could well be long and fruitful because of the vaccine, who may catch the virus and, God forbid, lose their life?"

People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, after the announcement that London will move into Tier 4  - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London, on the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas, after the announcement that London will move into Tier 4 - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

08:33 AM

'Stop-start' of rule changes makes it 'difficult' for people to listen, says London mayor

London mayor Sadiq Khan said the introduction of Tier 4 restrictions was "devastating".

He told BBC Breakfast: "This 11th-hour announcement is a bitter blow for families who were looking forward to spending time with their families, to businesses who had planned for a decent few days, particularly in the retail sector because of the awful year they've had.

"It's the chop-change, stop-start, that's led to so much anguish, despair, sadness and disappointment and I'm afraid it makes it really difficult for people like me to ask people to listen to us when we keep on changing our minds.

"The concern isn't with the decision taken - I think it's the right thing to do; it follows the science and the medical advice.

"Our criticism and concern as Londoners, people looking forward to having a decent Christmas after an awful year, is as recently as two days ago the Government was saying that we would still have the rules relaxed."

07:58 AM

Israel begins inoculation drive

Israel on Sunday began its coronavirus inoculation drive, aiming to vaccinate some 60,000 people a day in a bid to stamp out the illness that is once again surging among its population.

The country will first immunize health workers, followed by the elderly, high-risk Israelis and those over 60 years old. Israel says it has secured sufficient doses for much of the country's 9 million people from both Pfizer and Moderna.

With public opinion polls showing many Israelis are reluctant to receive shots right away, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would set a "personal example" and insisted on being the first Israeli vaccinated. He received the shot Saturday night.

Israeli Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a coronavirus vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel  - Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu receives a coronavirus vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel - Reuters

07:38 AM

Home workers who saved heavily must go on spending spree, Sunak says

Home workers who have saved heavily during the coronavirus lockdown need to start spending heavily next year to restore the UK's economy, Rishi Sunak has said.

The news came as Parliament's spending watchdog warned that nearly three million people may have been excluded from the Treasury's two schemes to support the employed and self-employed during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Sunak, the Chancellor, told an online event for Conservative party members last weekend that he "felt good" about the prospects for the UK recovering strongly after the coronavirus pandemic has eased.

He said: "I feel good about the bounceback – I think people have been sitting at home, building up some savings hopefully and we would like to go and spend them when we get back."

Read the full story

07:06 AM

US Congress poised to vote on $900b aid package

The US Congress appeared poised to vote on Sunday on a $900 billion (£665.5 billion) coronavirus aid package after senators struck a late-night compromise to clear one of the final hurdles, a dispute over Federal Reserve pandemic lending authorities.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters at the US Capitol late on Saturday night: "If things continue on this path and nothing gets in the way, we'll be able to vote tomorrow."

Congressional leaders plan to attach the coronavirus aid package, which includes $600 direct payments to individuals and a $300 per week unemployment compensation supplement, to a $1.4 trillion spending bill funding government programmes through September 2021.

But they face a new government funding deadline of midnight on Sunday (0500 GMT Monday), risking a government shutdown without action.

US President Donald Trump, whose administration has largely left negotiations up to congressional leaders, complained early on Sunday morning that a deal had not been reached.

07:02 AM

Face masks in schools create 'a climate of fear'

Face masks are being used in schools in a way that breaches the World Health Organisation guidelines, senior medics have warned.

The use of masks in classrooms has led to a "climate of fear" in schools, according to an open letter to the Prime Minister signed by a hundred academics, medics, paediatricians and clinical psychologists.

They have urged the Government to withdraw its advice on the use of face masks in school corridors "as a matter of urgency", adding that masks should "play no part in the life of healthy children".

Read the full story

05:18 AM

Australia to push ahead with Test despite outbreak

Cricket Australia on Sunday said they were pressing ahead with plans to the hold the third Test against India in Sydney despite a growing coronavirus outbreak in the city.

The Test is due be held from January 7 and CA interim chief Nick Hockley said they were watching the situation closely, with contingency plans in place.

"We have made no changes to our schedule and our preference remains to play the match at the Sydney Cricket Ground," he said in a statement as speculation mounted that it would be moved.

"CA has prepared for the possibility of Covid-19 hotspots and state border closures over the course of the summer.

"The protocols that we have put in place have been effective in ensuring the safety and success of the men's and women's domestic and international programs to date.

"We will continue to work closely with all relevant parties to make the right decisions in the appropriate timeframes," he added.

Read more: New restrictions plunge grassroots sport into chaos 

05:08 AM

Moderna says CDC panel recommends its vaccine for adults

Moderna said on Saturday the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the use of the company's Covid-19 vaccine on people 18 years of age and older.

The panel voted 11-0 in favor of the vaccine, the company said in a press release.

The vote result came a day after the Food and Drug Administration's authorisation for emergency use of Moderna's  vaccine.

"ACIP recommendation is another step forward in our quest to address this devastating pandemic with a vaccine," Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel said in the release.

Read more: Moderna's vaccine approved for emergency use in the US

04:13 AM

Thailand records country's highest daily tally

Thailand reported more than 500 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the country's highest daily tally.

The 548 new cases, most of them connected with an outbreak at a wholesale seafood market on the outskirts of Bangkok, come after the country saw only a small number of infections over the past several months due to strict border and quarantine controls.

Health officials said 516 of the new cases, most of them migrant workers from Myanmar, were found in connection with the outbreak at the Klang Koong shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province.

All of those infections were linked to a 67-year-old seafood vendor who tested positive earlier, the director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences, Opas Karnkawinpong, said in a news conference broadcast to all TV channels on Saturday night.

The first case at the market was confirmed on Thursday, followed by 13 more on Friday.

Members of the fire department prepare to spray disinfectant at a shrimp wholesale market in Samut Sakhon -  DIEGO AZUBEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Members of the fire department prepare to spray disinfectant at a shrimp wholesale market in Samut Sakhon - DIEGO AZUBEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

03:27 AM

Brazilian President says rush for vaccine not justified

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has refused to take any coronavirus vaccine, said on Saturday that he did not think the world's rush for a vaccine was justified because the pandemic is in his view coming to an end.

New coronavirus cases have not indicated the pandemic is ending. In recent days, several countries including Brazil have reported record numbers of daily cases.

"The pandemic is really reaching its end, the numbers have showed this, we are dealing with small rises now," said Mr Bolsonaro. "But the rush for the vaccine is not justified because you are playing with people's lives."

Dr. Jean Gorinchteyn, Sao Paulo state Health Secretary, Governor of Sao Paulo Joao Doria and Director of Butantan Institute Dimas Covas hold boxes of one of the 2 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine arrived from China to the capital Sao Paulo - Getty
Dr. Jean Gorinchteyn, Sao Paulo state Health Secretary, Governor of Sao Paulo Joao Doria and Director of Butantan Institute Dimas Covas hold boxes of one of the 2 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine arrived from China to the capital Sao Paulo - Getty

03:22 AM

Prison outbreak adds to South Korea's woes

South Korea reported a record 1,097 new cases on Sunday, including an outbreak in a Seoul prison that infected 185 as the country's latest wave worsens.

With daily infections over 1,000 for a fifth consecutive day, some medical experts criticised the government as being slow to introduce tighter social distancing rules.

The daily total exceeded Wednesday's record 1,076, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). Of the new cases, 1,072 were locally transmitted and 25 were imported, bringing the totali nfections to 49,665, with 674 deaths as of Saturday midnight.

A  prison in southeastern Seoul recorded a major outbreak, with 184 inmates and one worker infected, a Justice Ministry official said.

People wait in a line to undergo a test at a site which is temporarily set up at City Hall Plaza in Seoul - Reuters
People wait in a line to undergo a test at a site which is temporarily set up at City Hall Plaza in Seoul - Reuters

03:16 AM

Australian cluster continues to grow

Sydney's outbreak grew to around 70 on Sunday, forcing authorities to introduce stricter social distancing rules across the city, and more states to close borders or impose quarantine measures on its residents.

The neighbouring state of Victoria will close its border to Sydney from midnight Sunday. South Australia state introduced a 14-day quarantine for all Sydney arrivals on Sunday and banned travellers from the affected suburbs.

The island state of Tasmania took a similar step on Saturday, while Western Australia state imposed a hard border closure.

About a quarter of a million people in Sydney's northern beach suburbs where the outbreak has occurred have been put into a strict lockdown until Christmas Eve.

Long lines of passengers are seen trying to depart Sydney Domestic Airport - DEAN LEWINS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Long lines of passengers are seen trying to depart Sydney Domestic Airport - DEAN LEWINS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

03:11 AM

Northern Ireland urged to consider one-day Christmas bubbles

Christmas bubbles should be as small as possible, and people in Northern Ireland should consider forming them for December 25 only amid an "aggressive new strain" of Covid-19.

First Minister Arlene Foster, deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Health Minister Robin Swann met with chief medical officer Michael McBride and chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young on Saturday as rules were tightened in other parts of the UK.

Ms O'Neill said: "Christmas bubbling arrangements are in place for those who feel they need to come together.

"If you must avail of them, then please consider doing so for one day only, Christmas Day.

"Keep your bubble as small as possible and meet for the shortest amount of time you can.

"We are clearly very worried about the Covid-19 situation that is unfolding. The speed at which this variant strain of the virus is spreading is deeply concerning."

03:09 AM

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