Restrictions could remain in place into the New Year, says NHS executive

Georgina Hayes
·51 min read
The gates to Princess Square Shopping Centre in Glasgow are closed as new restrictions come into place until at least December 11 - PA
The gates to Princess Square Shopping Centre in Glasgow are closed as new restrictions come into place until at least December 11 - PA

Lockdown restrictions are expected to be in place into the New Year to get us through the "hump" of winter, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

Saffron Cordery told BBC Breakfast the NHS workforce was now "incredibly tired" as they treat coronavirus patients as well as trying to keep regular services open.

She added that the main priority for hospital chiefs "is to look after their staff so they can look after patients effectively," adding "they are acutely aware of how tired their staff are".

"There's this huge hope (of a vaccine) among staff and among the general public and this sense of 'oh we can take our foot off the peddle now'," she said.

"But actually we can't, we need to hold on just a little while longer until all of the elements are in place."

Ms Cordery said she expected the restrictions to remain in place into the New Year to make sure we are through the "hump of winter-meets-coronavirus".

Follow the latest updates below.

05:29 PM

Today's top stories

Good evening. Here are some key developments from around the world today:

  • Lockdown restrictions are expected to be in place into the New Year to get us through the "hump" of winter, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

  • The UK recorded 19,875 new Covid-19 cases today and 341 deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus within 28 days.

  • Families will be allowed to meet for up to a week at Christmas – but tough restrictions could remain in place until then under Government plans to be announced early next week.  

  • An antibody cocktail that gives immediate protection against coronavirus and could bring outbreaks on cruise ships and in care homes to a halt is being trialled in Britain.

  • A tiny fraction of people could be behind the vast majority of the UK’s coronavirus cases, a study from the Government’s former nudge unit suggests, raising doubts about the effectiveness of Britain’s approach to contact tracing.

  • An ancient coronavirus epidemic 25,000 years ago could help us treat current Covid-19 sufferers, a study has found.

  • Scores of people have turned up at a pilot scheme of mass coronavirus testing in Merthyr Tydfil. Rapid Covid-19 tests are being offered to the area's residents and workers even if they do not have symptoms, a week after the town registered the highest rate of new cases in the UK.

  • Russia reported a daily record of 24,822 new coronavirus infections, including 7,168 in the capital Moscow, bringing the national tally to 2,064,748.

  • Similarly Turkey reported that 5,532 people had been diagnosed with Covid-19 symptoms in the previous 24 hours, representing the highest daily number of new patients since the pandemic started.

  • The number deaths in the Czech Republic linked to the coronavirus doubled in November and passed the 7,000 mark, health ministry data showed today.

05:20 PM

Berlin picks sites for vaccination centres and calls for volunteers

Germany has identified six sites in the capital Berlin to be used as centres to administer the new coronavirus vaccination, an official at the civil protection agency said today, calling for volunteers to carry out the work.

The sites, which include Berlin's trade fair as well Tempelhof and Tegel airports, will be set up by mid-December, said Albrecht Broemme, project manager for vaccination centres at the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW).

"We'll have centres that are easily reachable by public transport," he said, adding that volunteers would be needed to get the work done.

He added that although some volunteers would require a medical background, "...we don't need chief physicians and such highly qualified people."

Germany is scouting trade fair halls and airport terminals to use as potential mass vaccination centres, as it draws up plans to inoculate the nation as soon as the first coronavirus shot gains European approval.

05:15 PM

Xi says China ready to boost global Covid-19 vaccine cooperation

President Xi Jinping said today that China is ready to step up global Covid-19 vaccine cooperation, and called for better international coordination on policies to facilitate movement of people.

China has five home-grown vaccine candidates undergoing Phase III trials.

"China is willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries in the research and development, production, and distribution of vaccines," Xi told the G20 Riyadh Summit via video link.

"We will fulfill our commitments, offer help and support to other developing countries, and work hard to make vaccines a public good that citizens of all countries can use and can afford," he said.

He also called for stronger international policy coordination to establish travel "fast tracks" that would facilitate orderly global movement.

With that in mind, Xi said China would propose the creation of a mechanism by which travellers' coronavirus test results were recognised internationally through digital health codes. 

05:07 PM

Italy reports 34,767 new coronavirus cases and 692 deaths

Italy registered 34,767 new coronavirus infections in the space of 24 hours, the health ministry said today, slightly down from 37,242 the day before.

The ministry also reported 692 Covid-19-related deaths after 699 on Friday.

The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy's financial capital Milan, remained the hardest-hit area today, reporting 8,853 new cases, down from 9,221 the day before.

04:56 PM

MPs draw up plans to ensure golf can resume after second national lockdown

Plans to ensure golf was the first sport to return after the second national coronavirus lockdown were being drawn up by MPs on Saturday ahead of a parliamentary debate on the “ridiculous” closure of courses.

The Telegraph Sport revelation that gyms and leisure centres would be allowed to reopen after December 2 sparked calls for outdoor grassroots and children’s sport to be cleared to resume as well.

That included golf, a debate on which will be staged in Westminster Hall on Monda afternoon after a petition to exempt courses from the list of venues required to close due to Covid-19 attracted more than a quarter of a million signatures.

Craig Tracey, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, told Telegraph Sport there was “unlikely” to be a U-turn from Boris Johnson on the current restrictions.

Ben Rumsby has more here. 

04:45 PM

UK: Cases up by 19,875 and 341 further deaths

The UK recorded 19,875 new Covid-19 cases today and 341 deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus within 28 days, official data showed.

Both figures marked a drop from Friday's data which showed a daily rise in cases of 20,252 cases and 511 deaths. 

04:37 PM

Just 8pc of people account for 60pc of Covid transmissions

A tiny fraction of people could be behind the vast majority of the UK’s coronavirus cases, a study from the Government’s former nudge unit suggests, raising doubts about the effectiveness of Britain’s approach to contact tracing.

Eight per cent of individuals accounted for over 60 per cent of transmission risk in a study conducted by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), now independent of the Government but founded by the Cabinet Office in 2010 to apply behavioural science to public policy.

The findings suggest that identifying the superspreaders who infected a person in the first place – as opposed to getting in touch with their contacts – could be a more effective approach to stopping the spread of coronavirus.

BIT asked over 3,700 Britons at the end of October how many people they had met outside of their household – including their support bubble – in the last seven days.

Alex Clark has more here. 

04:25 PM

'People need mountains': Swiss ski resorts buck Alpine lockdowns

Blue skies over the Matterhorn drew skiers and snowboarders to Zermatt today, as well as police to break up crowds, as Switzerland's modest coronavirus restrictions allowed near-normal operations while other Alpine resorts keep their lifts shut.

France, Italy, Austria and Germany have all ordered even the high-altitude lifts that could be running this early in the winter to remain closed for now in the hope that all resorts can benefit at peak-season, if and when the infection rate slows.

Switzerland, despite being a second wave coronavirus hotspot with 5,000 infections a day and mounting deaths, is hoping that a middle way of social distancing, limits on gatherings and mask-wearing on lifts can prop up pillars of the economy such as tourism without fuelling the pandemic.

"If it's open, I'll definitely ski," said Swede Max Ahlstedt, on the glacier where Zermatt offers year-round skiing. "You just have to ... accept wearing a mask."

Over the border in Cervinia, on the Italian side of the glacier, the lifts have been closed indefinitely since October 25.

Some Swiss resorts, including Davos to the northwest, boast of "cold-fogging" equipment to blast the interiors of gondolas and "kill 99.9 per cent of viruses, bacteria and spores in a minute".

04:15 PM

Police make several arrests following anti-lockdown protests in Liverpool

Police have made 15 arrests following an anti-lockdown protest in Liverpool, which saw crowds gathering in the city centre from around 1pm this afternoon.

Those arrested were held on suspicion of breaches of coronavirus regulations and committing public order offences, said Merseyside Police.

Chief Superintendent Ngaire Waine said: "The vast majority of people in Merseyside have made huge sacrifices since March, missing weddings, funerals and family celebrations in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus.

"We have seen infection rates driven down in Merseyside thanks to the commitment of so many people, and already more than 140,000 have taken part in a mass testing pilot here in Merseyside to help the national effort to protect life and get back to normality. They are a credit to this county.

"So it will be incredibly frustrating for all those people to see that a minority of selfish individuals chose to flout laws brought in to protect the lives of people, putting our communities and themselves at risk.

"Their actions have posed a significant risk to public health and we will continue to study CCTV and bodycam to identify offenders and bring them to justice."

04:02 PM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

Orthodox clerics perform a liturgy next to the casket of late Serbian patriarch Irinej during his funeral service at Belgrade's Saint Sava temple, after he died of Covid-19 - AFP
Orthodox clerics perform a liturgy next to the casket of late Serbian patriarch Irinej during his funeral service at Belgrade's Saint Sava temple, after he died of Covid-19 - AFP
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz gives a virtual speech during an opening session of the 15th annual G20 Leaders' Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Reuters
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz gives a virtual speech during an opening session of the 15th annual G20 Leaders' Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Reuters
People donate blood during the blood donation camp for corona warriors at Indian Red Cross Society. Cases in the country recently surpassed 9 million - Shutterstock
People donate blood during the blood donation camp for corona warriors at Indian Red Cross Society. Cases in the country recently surpassed 9 million - Shutterstock
Social distancing and facemasks were in short supply this afternoon as more than 1,000 anti-lockdown protesters marched through the streets of Bournemouth, Dorset - Getty Images Europe
Social distancing and facemasks were in short supply this afternoon as more than 1,000 anti-lockdown protesters marched through the streets of Bournemouth, Dorset - Getty Images Europe

03:55 PM

Labour urges Sunak to use spending review to prevent return to 'fragility'

Chancellor Rishi Sunak must not allow the coronavirus recovery to return the nation to the "fragility and instability" of before, Labour has urged.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has urged Mr Sunak to use his spending review this week to prevent a return to the conditions that allowed the UK to be "so badly hit by the pandemic".

She said the Chancellor "must lay the foundations for that recovery" in his set-piece financial update on Wednesday to prevent protective equipment stocks dwindling, local services returning to being "on their knees", and families being left with little savings and "struggling with the cost of living".

"And that must include working together to build a better, more secure future for our country, so that we do not go back the fragility and instability of the way things were," she told the Co-operative Party's local government conference.

She also called for an acceleration of £30 billion of capital spending over the next 18 months to invest in high growth and clean technologies to create 400,000 jobs.

Ms Dodds also called for more help for workers to retrain and for a clear strategy for the next six months, allowing businesses to rebuild.

03:39 PM

Government must not return to 'shambles' seen before lockdown, says Shadow Chancellor

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has urged the Government not to return England to the "shambles" seen before the current lockdown.

She told the Co-operative Party's local government conference: "It's extraordinary that the lockdown is due to lift in just 11 days, and we still haven't heard a peep from Government as to what comes next.

"We need clarity about what economic support package will go alongside different types of restrictions.

"We can't go back to the shambles we had before this lockdown.

"And of course we need central Government making good on its promises of support when it comes to funding for local government and the reimbursement of lost income as well as the cost incurred because of Covid."

03:25 PM

Sturgeon warns national lockdown could be imposed if Christmas shoppers flout travel ban

Nicola Sturgeon has warned that she is prepared to impose a national lockdown if shoppers in the West of the country flout lockdown restrictions by travelling in large numbers to Edinburgh to do Christmas shopping.

On Friday, tier four restrictions in 11 council areas, affecting more than two million people in west and central Scotland, came into force meaning the closure of non-essential shops while pubs, restaurants, cafes, gyms and hairdressers have also been forced to temporarily shut.

While there is a legal ban on non-essential travel out of tier three or four council areas, police have said this will not be pro-actively enforced, raising the prospect of people taking the 50 minute train journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh, which is not in the highest level, to visit businesses that remain open in the capital.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she believed people would stick to the rules, but raised the prospect of bringing in harsher measures if they did not.

Daniel Sanderson has more here. 

03:15 PM

Hospital deaths in England up by 316

A further 316 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 38,112, NHS England said today.

Patients were aged between 28 and 102. All except five, aged between 64 and 96, had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths were between June 3 and November 20.

Twenty-two other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

03:07 PM

Police impose dispersal zone in Liverpool in attempt to clear anti-lockdown protesters

Police have imposed a dispersal zone in Liverpool until midnight as they attempt to clear the street of anti-lockdown protesters.

According to the Liverpool Echo, about 200 protesters were marching through the streets of the city this afternoon, chanting “freedom” as they were shepherded by police. Several arrests have been made, the paper reports.

In a statement on the Merseyside police website, chief supt Ngaire Waine warned that anyone taking part in an unlawful gathering of more than two people could face arrest and prosecution or a fine.

"Such gatherings in Liverpool in recent weeks have involved several hundred people showing a lack of social distancing with many not wearing face coverings, and last weekend we brought in a Section 34 dispersal zone to disperse an unlawful gathering that formed at the Bombed Out Church," it read.

"We arrested a number of people on suspicion of breaching the dispersal zone after they had returned to the area, and investigations are ongoing. If people continue to gather unlawfully, we will not hesitate to take the same course of action."

02:56 PM

Russia ready to provide other countries with Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, says Putin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin told G20 leaders today that Russia was ready to provide its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to other countries who need it.

Russia is also preparing its second and third vaccine, Putin said, adding that creation of vaccine portfolio was "our common goal".

02:42 PM

Hundreds of Danish mink breeders stage tractor demos

Hundreds of Danish farmers and mink breeders demonstrated with tractors today against a government decision to cull their minks to halt the spread of a coronavirus variant.

More than 500 tractors, many decked out with the Danish flag, drove past the government's offices and parliament in Copenhagen to the port. Another 400 staged a similar protest in the country's second city, Aarhus.

Prime Minister Frederiksen's government has acknowledged that its decision to cull more than 15 million minks had no legal basis for those not contaminated by the Covid-19 variant, infuriating breeders.

Denmark, a country of around 5.8 million people, has been the world's leading exporter of mink fur for several decades.

The mutated version of the new coronavirus detected in Danish minks that raised concerns about the effectiveness of a future vaccine has likely been eradicated, the health ministry said Thursday.

Raadhusparken in Aarhus, Denmark - Ritzau Scanpix/Bo Amstrup
Raadhusparken in Aarhus, Denmark - Ritzau Scanpix/Bo Amstrup

02:28 PM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

Mask-clad pedestrians walk past closed shops in Iran's capital Tehran as the Iranian government announced new coronavirus restrictions - AFP
Mask-clad pedestrians walk past closed shops in Iran's capital Tehran as the Iranian government announced new coronavirus restrictions - AFP
The medical kit used to perform a lateral flow test includes a sterile swab, sterile fluid, sterile vial, barcoded paperwork, marker pens for marking timings and the lateral flow immunoassay diagnostic device, which shows the presence of SARS-CoV-2. The kit is being used on the public, at Rhydycar leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil - PA
The medical kit used to perform a lateral flow test includes a sterile swab, sterile fluid, sterile vial, barcoded paperwork, marker pens for marking timings and the lateral flow immunoassay diagnostic device, which shows the presence of SARS-CoV-2. The kit is being used on the public, at Rhydycar leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil - PA
Visitors line up to enter a Community Testing Centre in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government set up four such centres around the territory where people can be tested for Covid for a fee of HK$240, (euros 26), and obtain the result within 24 hours - Shutterstock
Visitors line up to enter a Community Testing Centre in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government set up four such centres around the territory where people can be tested for Covid for a fee of HK$240, (euros 26), and obtain the result within 24 hours - Shutterstock

02:23 PM

Coronavirus epidemic 25,000 years ago could help treat current Covid-19 sufferers, study finds

An ancient coronavirus epidemic 25,000 years ago could help us treat current Covid-19 sufferers, a study has found.

Scientists have identified a set of 42 genes which were altered after coming into contact with coronavirus some 900 generations ago.

The adaptations were caused by a "multigenerational coronavirus epidemic" among East Asian populations, the researchers from the USA and Australia concluded.

This likely triggered an "arms race", similar to today's worldwide rush to find a vaccine against Covid-19, the study suggests.

Phoebe Southworth has more here. 

02:10 PM

Revealed: The best place to work from home in the UK

Harrogate has been named the best place to work from home due to fast internet speed, good schools and lots of green space.

The Victorian spa town in Yorkshire boasts 60Mbps broadband, which falls into the "superfast category", making it ideal for being productive when away from the office, according to Uswitch's remote working index.

Situated on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and next to Nidderdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it has the most green space when compared to more than 100 other areas of the UK.

It also has among the highest average Ofsted ratings for its schools and one of the lowest crime rates, the index by the price comparison service and switching website reveals.

Read more here. 

01:58 PM

SNP responds to Boris Johnson's comments on independence

The SNP has responded to the Prime Minister's comments (see post 1.26pm) on how the coronavirus pandemic means that it is not the time for "constitutional wrangling" over independence.

SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: "This was a nothing speech that demonstrates exactly how much thought and consideration the Prime Minister really gives to Scotland.

"Zero effort, zero consideration, zero thought, just 10 minutes of hollow nothingness beyond more weasel words of deflection from his blunder in revealing he thinks devolution has been a disaster.

"Instead he should have apologised for insulting the democratic choice of the people of Scotland and for the litany of toxic Tory policies, from austerity to a disastrous Brexit in the midst of a devastating pandemic.

"Once again, untrustworthy Johnson has demonstrated the Tories don't care about the needs of the people of Scotland. The only way to properly protect Scotland's interests is to become an independent, European country."

01:39 PM

Saudi King Salman: G20 leaders must work towards equitable access to Covid vaccines

Saudi Arabia's King Salman said in his opening remarks to G20 leaders today that they must work towards affordable and equitable access to vaccines and other tools to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Although we are optimistic about the progress made in developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics tools for Covid-19, we must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples," he said, opening the meeting of the leaders of the 20 biggest world economies. 

01:26 PM

PM tells SNP Covid means now is not the time for 'constitutional wrangling'

Boris Johnson has told the SNP that the coronavirus pandemic means the Scottish and UK governments need to work together to "rebuild from its ravages" and give people a "better, brighter future".

With the UK and much of the world dealing with the ongoing health crisis, he insisted "frankly" that this was not the time for "division or distraction about our national constitution".

The Prime Minister, who was addressing the Scottish Conservative virtual conference, told Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP: "To tackle the shared and common threat that is Covid-19, the focus on separation has got to stop."

His speech came just days after he was said to have told Tory MPs in the north of England that devolution to Scotland had been a "disaster".

Mr Johnson - who is currently self-isolating - insisted that his remarks had been reported "not entirely accurately".

01:05 PM

Thousands in Pakistan defy ban on large gatherings for funeral or hardline cleric

Tens of thousands of people in Pakistan defied a government ban on large gatherings today to attend the funeral of a hardline cleric in Lahore, according to Reuters.

Khadim Hussain Rizvi, 54, died of a heart attack on Thursday, just days after leading a violent protest march to the capital, Islamabad, against the publication in France of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

With coronavirus infections rising, the government this month declared the country was experiencing a “second wave” of contagion and banned large events and meetings.

In spite of the restrictions, tens of thousands turned out to mourn Rizvi, and organisers of the funeral said the government had not told them to limit the gathering.

Government officials did not respond to a request for comment about the funeral, which wreaked havoc in Lahore as cellphone services were shut down and major roads blocked for security reasons.

People chant slogans as they gather near an ambulance carrying the body of Khadim Hussain Rizvi - Reuters
People chant slogans as they gather near an ambulance carrying the body of Khadim Hussain Rizvi - Reuters

12:46 PM

Mass testing begins in Merthyr Tydfil

Scores of people have turned up at a pilot scheme of mass coronavirus testing in Merthyr Tydfil.

Rapid Covid-19 tests are being offered to the area's residents and workers even if they do not have symptoms, a week after the town registered the highest rate of new cases in the UK.

Merthyr Tydfil has since seen the biggest drop in cases in Wales from around 770 cases per 100,000 to now below 260 as the effect of the country's 17-day firebreak begins to work.

The test scheme was launched on Saturday morning at the town's Rhydycar Leisure Centre, with more sites due to open through Merthyr Tydfil County Borough throughout November.

People huddled under umbrellas to avoid the rain as they lined along the leisure centre, with the first in line waiting more than an hour-and-a-half to be let inside at around 10.30am.

Last minute plans included using voting booths intended for use at the May 2021 Welsh Parliament instead being used to self-administer test swabs, after dedicated booths supposed to be sent by the UK Government failed to show - Getty Images Europe
Last minute plans included using voting booths intended for use at the May 2021 Welsh Parliament instead being used to self-administer test swabs, after dedicated booths supposed to be sent by the UK Government failed to show - Getty Images Europe

12:35 PM

The perfect Christmas Day dinner menus for two, four and six

There's no doubt about it: Christmas 2020 will be one to remember. And no matter what size your festive bubble, cooking something special remains an important part of the big day. Large, whole turkeys may be out of the equation but treat this as a prime opportunity to enjoy alternative main-course centrepieces, such as Georgina Hayden's festive pork with Marsala sauce, or John Gregory-Smith's turkey pilaf, which uses only the thigh of the turkey.

For vegetarians, Melissa Hemsley's wild mushroom, leek and cheese tart is a glorious addition to the table, not to mention delicious eaten cold the next day.

And Christmas-pudding haters rejoice: a bowl of Claire Thomson's stunning Black Forest trifle is a celebratory and indulgent replacement. 

So whether you're cooking a delicious dinner à deux or looking for a festive fix for six, make this Christmas one to remember for all the right reasons – starting with the fantastic food below. 

Our journalists have all you need to know here. 

12:12 PM

Nigeria slips into recession, weighed down by Covid and oil prices

Nigeria has slipped into a recession after its gross domestic product contracted for the second consecutive quarter, according to data released by the statistician general today.

Africa's biggest economy was last in recession in 2016, its first in a generation, and emerged the following year.

But growth had been fragile and the coronavirus pandemic hit the economy hard, as did low oil prices. The continent's top oil exporter relies on crude sales for 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.

"Q3 2020 Real GDP contracted for second consecutive quarter by -3.62 per cent," Yemi Kale said on Twitter.

"Cumulative GDP for the first 9 months of 2020 therefore stood at -2.48 per cent," he added.

The government had previously said it expected the economy to contract by as much as 8.9 per cent this year in a worst-case scenario without stimulus. 

12:01 PM

Iran tightens Covid-19 restrictions, but some streets still busy

Iran introduced tougher restrictions today to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel curbs, but state media reported widespread flouting of the rules.

“Tehran streets are crowded despite the restrictions,” state TV said this morning. It said some non-essential businesses were open, but later showed mostly empty streets and shuttered shops.

The semi-official ISNA news agency posted photos of crammed metro trains with the hashtag “Coronavirus kills.” Other media sites posted photos of packed buses.

Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said the 10 per cent of people who ignore the health regulations could spread the virus to 80 per cent of the population, adding that family gatherings were the main cause of infections.

To encourage people to stay at home, the government has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and services in 160 high risk “red” towns and cities, where more than 53 million people live, as well as a ban on cars leaving or entering these locations.

11:47 AM

How London is avoiding a second Covid wave

At the Government's Covid data briefing this week, alarming graphs revealed rapidly growing infection rates nationwide, from one in 2,200 people in August to one in 85 now. 

The number of people in hospital with Covid in England over the same period reflected that dramatic rise, going from a few hundred to more than 14,300.

But a closer look, by region, showed something else. As might be expected, the South was faring far better than the North. Fewer people were going to hospital across the South-East, South-West and east of England combined than in Yorkshire, where 376 people were admitted on Sunday.

One region, above all, appeared to be thriving – London, where new ONS figures showed that, in contrast to every other part of the country, there are currently no "excess deaths" at all compared to previous years. 

The percentage of those testing positive in the capital, at 0.71 per cent, is lower than any other region bar the East. Not only that, the infection rate in London is trending noticeably down from its peak of 0.85 per cent about three weeks ago.

Harry de Quetteville has more on why this may be the case here. 

11:39 AM

Grieving 82-year-old woman becomes first to take part in mass Covid test pilot in Merthyr Tydfil

The first member of the public to take part in the mass coronavirus test pilot in Merthyr Tydfil was 82-year-old Shirley Jones.

Her partner of 20 years, Desmond Rogers, 83, had died at the town's Prince Charles Hospital the previous day from cancer.

She told the PA news agency: "I couldn't say goodbye to him. I couldn't tell him that I love him or that the Lord will be with him. I couldn't give him comfort.

"I've got to do this because I think it's right that we should all come up here and support the Government and get this test. It's very important that we do it.

"I could've stayed in this morning and not come because I was grieving, but I knew I had to do the right thing in coming up here for myself, for our community, and I pray to God that everybody comes up and has a test like I have.

"I think it's our duty to come up and protect the community. If you don't do it then we're never going to get rid of this coronavirus."

11:24 AM

Poland's PM urges population not to travel over Christmas

Poland’s Prime Minister has asked people in the country not to travel over Christmas, and announced that while shops would reopen most coronavirus restrictions would be extended.

“Please do not plan any trips,” Mateusz Morawiecki said at a press conference, adding that the government was looking at ways of imposing movement restrictions.

Morawiecki said theatres, bars and restaurants would remain closed until after Christmas, and schools would continue to be on distance learning.

“The situation is still very serious,” he said, voicing concern about Poland’s high death rate but pointing out that the number of new cases had stabilised.

The health ministry reported 574 deaths over 24 hours today, bringing the total toll to 13,288. The number of new daily infections in Poland was 24,213.

The number of coronavirus-related deaths in Poland over the past week has been the third highest in the EU after Italy and France, according to an AFP tally.

11:10 AM

ICYMI: Vaccine candidates 'far more protective' than anyone predicted, says expert

Prof Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is a microbiologist who has spent the majority of his career studying viruses including Ebola and HIV.

Here he talks to the Telegraph about vaccines, the origins of Covid-19 and why he spoke up about his persistent symptoms after contracting the virus in April. 

On what he thinks about the latest news around vaccines, Prof Piot said it's the "beginning of the end" of the pandemic.

"The news confirms that a vaccine really is possible and is far more protective than scientists, including myself, thought. That's good news, because without a vaccine I am not sure I can see the end of the epidemic," he said.

Sarah Newey has the full interview here. 

11:00 AM

'Surprising' amount of cold storage available for vaccines

Prof Semple also said it was "surprising" how much cold storage was available for vaccines that needed to be kept at minus 70C or minus 80C (minus 94F to minus 112F).

He also told BBC Breakfast there was evidence these vaccines could be kept out of cold storage for a short period without damaging their effectiveness.

"There's good news here as well because along with developing the cold chain for minus 70C or minus 80C freezer system throughout the country, there's now growing evidence that the last, not quite the last mile, but if you think 'the last day' can actually be done at a lower temperature without damaging the vaccine's effectiveness," he said.

"But it's a really surprising fact about how much cold storage there is actually available nationally, and there's many sources of very-low temperature storage capacity.

"We can be quite inventive with this kind of stuff because you can use dry ice facilities, the availability of dry ice is actually quite ubiquitous throughout society.

"There's a large number of places you can get these products from, from breweries all the way through to specialist plants that produce it for other purposes, so I don't see that as a problem."

10:46 AM

North West to have a 'cracking Christmas'

Prof Semple, from Liverpool University, said if he had a crystal ball he would say the North West was going to have a "cracking Christmas".

He compared Tier 3 restrictions to slowing a supertanker while lockdown was "putting the brakes on".

He told BBC Breakfast: "What I have seen in Liverpool is that the Tier 3 system was like taking the power off the supertanker so instead it's just gliding, but the lockdown is putting the brakes on - that's the big difference.

"So that's why we can be really confident that the North West is coming out of this earlier, and if I had a crystal ball I think the North West is going to have a cracking Christmas."

10:36 AM

Sage member feels 'completely safe' to have coronavirus jab

Prof Semple said that he had "rolled up his sleeve" to be part of coronavirus vaccine trials because he had confidence in the science.

When asked if he had felt completely safe to have a jab, he told BBC Breakfast: "Absolutely yes and I have confidence in the science and the people who are doing this."

GP Dr Sarah Jarvis said that people with suppressed immune systems should still be able to have vaccines because there was very little of the virus in them.

"What we do know is these are not live vaccines and that means that for instance, as with flu, we actively encourage people who had their immune system supressed to come forward for vaccination because there is no greater risk for them," she said on BBC Breakfast.

"This is not the whole virus you're getting, it is a little teeny tiny bit of it and therefore it cannot cause an infection and you have even more to gain if you are vulnerable."

10:29 AM

Mass testing will make process less 'punitive', says Sage member

Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University, said the daily testing processes being trialled in Liverpool will make the process less "punitive" and allow people to see loved ones.

The member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told BBC Breakfast: "For the the first time testing will no longer just be seen as a punitive action where you're forced into isolation.

"We are going to be using testing to enable visiting to care homes and starting on Tuesday we will be piloting this in 12 care homes so that we can make visiting loved elderly relatives much safer."

When asked if the tests were accurate enough Prof Semple said: "The lateral flow tests are not perfect but they are probably catching at least four out of five people who are in the early stages of incubating the virus, so they could spread it but haven't shown symptoms, so that's better than doing nothing.

"The false positives could be as high as one in two depending on community prevalence, but we can get around that by very quickly doing a confirmatory PCR test locally, and that knocks that issue down as well."

10:18 AM

'Don't go towards Christmas and let everything loose', says Burnham

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has denied he wants to see a "relaxing" of Covid-19 restrictions, saying he would rather see a "proportionate approach".

"I don't think you can ask people to do things that aren't going to make a difference," he said.

"We are very conscious of what's happening in the NHS and we of course we will do whatever is needed, and of course restrictions will still be needed."

He told BBC Breakfast: "I would also say to the Government, don't just go towards Christmas and let everything loose.

"What you need to do is keep a steady approach that will keep the numbers going in the way they are currently going in the North West and in Greater Manchester, and that will relieve the pressures on the NHS come January.

"I'm not saying let everything loose and lift all the restrictions, I just think we need a proportionate approach."

10:08 AM

Coronavirus in the USA, in pictures

A resident watches as a drone delivers a Covid-19 self collection test kit to her home, after being ordered from Walmart, in Texas - Getty Images North America
A resident watches as a drone delivers a Covid-19 self collection test kit to her home, after being ordered from Walmart, in Texas - Getty Images North America
People line up in their cars for hours at the newly opened In-n-Out burger in Aurora, Colorado  - Reuters
People line up in their cars for hours at the newly opened In-n-Out burger in Aurora, Colorado - Reuters
A shopper browses merchandise beside bare shelves at a Target store in Pennsylvania - Reuters
A shopper browses merchandise beside bare shelves at a Target store in Pennsylvania - Reuters

10:01 AM

Covid deaths in Czech Republic doubled in November

The number deaths in the Czech Republic linked to the coronavirus doubled in November and passed the 7,000 mark, health ministry data showed today.

Recorded fatalities reached 7,021, compared with the 3,523 recorded by the end of October, according to the figures. According to the Worldometers website, the country has a rate of 655 coronavirus-related deaths per million inhabitants, and 45,495 infections per million.

The country has seen a fall in the number of new cases and hospitalised patients in recent weeks, allowing the Government to ease some curbs.

The health ministry reported 5,809 new cases for Friday, less than a half the peak numbers seen at the turn of October and November. The number of hospitalisations dropped to 6,307 compared with a peak of 8,283 recorded on November 6.

09:55 AM

PM urges those self-isolating to social distance from those they live with

The Prime Minister has urged people who are self-isolating to keep themselves socially distanced from those they live with, in a video update from Downing Street.

Boris Johnson has been self-isolating for six days after a meeting with Tory MP Lee Anderson, who later tested positive for Covid-19.

In a video message, Mr Johnson said he wanted to "reach out" to other people forced to self-isolate.

"NHS Test and Trace, which is getting ever better, has achieved what so many of my political foes have wanted to achieve for many years, put me under house arrest," he said.

"I know how frustrating it can be, so I just wanted to say to everybody else who is in my shoes, don't forget that, of course, the isolation doesn't necessarily apply to the people you share your home with - your partner can still go out shopping or whatever."

09:46 AM

'No evidence' that 10pm curfew brings infections down, says Burnham

Mr Burnham has also called for "evidence-based" restrictions following the end of the current national lockdown in England.

"Yes I accept that restrictions will continue to be needed but make them proportionate and evidence-based, and there's no evidence that the 10pm curfew brings infections down."

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: "There's no point having restrictions just to be seen to be doing something - make sure they are things that will actually bring the number of cases down.

"As the World Health Organisation says, you can't ask people to live under perpetual lockdown. If you do you are going to have a mental health crisis on top of a pandemic.

"I'm not saying relax things, I'm saying make sure whatever you do is proportionate given that people (in Greater Manchester) have already lived under four months of restrictions.

09:35 AM

Burnham urges Government to avoid blanket closures after lockdown

Mr Burnham has asked he Government to avoid blanket restrictions on certain areas of the economy when the English national lockdown ends.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, the Mayor of Greater Manchester said: "The view we've put to the Government is 'please don't just make blanket closures happen', we think it's much better to look at a targeted approach.

"I would say, 'let the gyms open, let the leisure centres open' - they are going to be so important to people, particularly when it is harder to exercise outdoors.

"The 10pm curfew, I don't think that was working early this year and I am absolutely certain it won't work in the run-up to Christmas. It will get more and more difficult to implement.

"What we are saying to the Government is bear in mind what everyone has been through and make judgments based on how manageable the situation will be.

"We need simpler, clearer messages to the public, but also something that is not going to make their life very, very hard to manage, particularly as we run into Christmas."

09:19 AM

Andy Burnham urges Government to keep mental health of general public in mind

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has urged the Government to keep the mental health of the general public in mind when planning the next phase of Covid-19 restrictions, as he hailed an improved picture in terms of infections across the North West.

"This week, for the first time since June, we were able to say that infection rates were dropping in all 10 boroughs (of Greater Manchester), with similar improvements throughout the North West, he said on BBC Breakfast.

He said he would remind the Government to understand that people in many parts of the North West have been under severe restrictions since late July.

"People can't live under perpetual restrictions, it's too much - of course it really damages people's mental health," he said.

09:14 AM

'No reason' to expect a coronavirus vaccine would have long-term side effects, says expert

Sir Mark Walport, the former government chief scientific adviser, said that from a "long history" there was "no reason" to expect that a new coronavirus vaccine would have long-term side effects.

"There's no reason to expect long-term side effects emerging. If there are going to be side effects there are the immediate ones," he told Times Radio.

Sir Mark added that UK lockdown measures appeared to be working but that people should continue to follow the rules.

"It's absolutely clear that if you were to stop everything and take the brakes off completely, then infection would start growing again and so the question is what measures will come in after December 2?" he said.

"I'm sure there will need to be continuing measures of some sort.

"Surely now, when there is the prospect of a vaccine, is not the time to give up."

09:03 AM

Hong Kong reports 43 new coronavirus cases as Singapore travel bubble beckons

Hong Kong reported 43 new coronavirus cases today, one day before an arrangement with Singapore to allow a limited number of passengers to fly both ways without having to go through quarantine kicks in.

Hong Kong has been spared the dramatic escalation of coronavirus cases seen in other major cities, but the rise was big by its standards, with daily cases having mostly been in the single-digits or low double-digits in recent weeks.

Out of the 43 cases, 36 were locally transmitted.

The rise comes as a travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore is due to begin on Sunday.

Under the arrangement, people would be allowed to travel between the two cities without observing quarantine but must take a Covid-19 test before departure and upon arrival. There would be no restrictions on the purpose of travel.

Hong Kong has recorded over 5,500 coronavirus cases and 108 deaths since the pandemic began.

08:57 AM

Russia reports record new cases and deaths

Russia reported a daily record of 24,822 new coronavirus infections today, including 7,168 in the capital Moscow, bringing the national tally to 2,064,748.

Authorities also reported 467 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, also a record, taking the official death toll to 35,778.

08:47 AM

NHS executive expects restrictions to remain in place into the New Year

Ms Cordery has also said she expects lockdown restrictions to be in place into the New Year to get us through the "hump" of winter.

Saffron Cordery told BBC Breakfast the NHS workforce was now "incredibly tired" as they treat coronavirus patients as well as trying to keep regular services open.

She added that the main priority for hospital chiefs "is to look after their staff so they can look after patients effectively," adding "they are acutely aware of how tired their staff are".

"There's this huge hope (of a vaccine) among staff and among the general public and this sense of 'oh we can take our foot off the peddle now'," she said.

"But actually we can't, we need to hold on just a little while longer until all of the elements are in place."

Ms Cordery said she expected the restrictions to remain in place into the New Year to make sure we are through the "hump of winter-meets-coronavirus".

08:44 AM

NHS has already seen 12-hour A&E waits and slow handover times

Saffron Cordery also said that it is important to consider the amount of pressure the NHS is under before lockdown restrictions are eased.

She told BBC Breakfast the health service had already seen increases in 12-hour waits in A&E and admissions, slow handover times from ambulances and long waits to transfer people out of hospital.

She said the lockdown was "absolutely critical" at the moment because it is currently the only way to control the spread of the virus.

Ms Cordery said the NHS was looking for the "holy trinity" of a vaccine, more effective therapies to treat existing Covid-19 patients and rapid turnaround testing for the public and NHS staff.

"We are looking to bring down the R rate significantly enough for it to translate into fewer hospital admissions," she said.

08:37 AM

NHS executive warns against easing restrictions too early

The deputy chief executive of NHS Providers has warned that despite community transmission rates slowing, it is too early to think about easing coronavirus restrictions.

Saffron Cordery told BBC Breakfast that a drop in infection rates in some part of the country hasn't yet translated into a drop in hospital admissions.

"There is a lag in the spread reducing in the community and it actually reducing in terms of hospital admissions, because when someone contracts coronavirus it would probably be 10 days to two weeks before the become a hospital admission," she said.

Ms Cordery said the reproduction number - the R value - of coronavirus was reducing most sharply in the areas that had the strictest lockdown measures before the English national lockdown was imposed, but that increases had been seen in the South and South West.

"I think it would be really tempting to say 'OK this lockdown is working, let's lift all restrictions on December 2 and go back to where we were' but I think that could put us in danger in terms both in controlling the spread of the virus and what it means for the NHS," she said.

08:12 AM

A week of Christmas freedom on the cards

Families will be allowed to meet for up to a week at Christmas – but tough restrictions could remain in place until then under Government plans to be announced early next week.  

Boris Johnson is preparing to announce a UK-wide relaxation of rules from December 22 to 28, allowing several families to join in one "bubble",  The Telegraph can reveal. 

But the Prime Minister will say that the strength of the restrictions for the rest of next month will depend on how well the public complies with the current lockdown, which expires on December 2. 

READ MORE: Families set for week of freedom in Christmas easing of Covid restrictions

08:04 AM

South Australia back on track after pizza parlour lie

South Australia was on track on Saturday to end its hard lockdown three days early, recording only one new infection, while other states marked weeks of no new cases or deaths.

The lockdown, which kept people in South Australia at home and the majority of businesses shut, was imposed earlier this week after false information provided to contact tracers by a man who tested positive raised fears of mass infections.

READ MORE: South Australian man linked to outbreak 'lied' to contact tracers

The lockdown, planned for six days, was to be lifted as of Sunday, although a range of measures were to remain to limit big crowds.

Saturday's case brought the latest cluster linked to a returned traveller from the UK to 26 infections.

Neighbouring Victoria, for months Australia's epicentre of the pandemic, on Saturday posted its 22nd consecutive day of no new infections and no deaths.

07:43 AM

Infections in New Delhi are particularly alarming

Indian women perform rituals inside an artificial pond on Chhat Puja festival in Mumbai - Rajanish Kakade/AP
Indian women perform rituals inside an artificial pond on Chhat Puja festival in Mumbai - Rajanish Kakade/AP

India has reported 46,232 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, with the situation particularly alarming in New Delhi.

Intensive care wards and the capital's main crematorium are near capacity, and health officials this week found the prevalence of infections in markets much higher than expected.

The city has added an average of 6,700 cases each day in recent weeks.

The total number of deaths has reached 132,726.

While the pace of new cases in the country of 1.3 billion people appears to be slowing, experts have cautioned that official figures may be offering false hope since many infections are undetected.

07:34 AM

Another record number of cases in Japan

The number of confirmed Covid cases in Japan reached a record for the third straight day at 2,418. 

Japan, with less than 2,000 deaths, has been relatively successful at containing the damage from the pandemic with social distancing and the widespread use of masks. But concern is growing about another surge over this three-day weekend.

A government coronavirus panel met on Saturday to make a decision about scaling back the "GoTo" tourism campaign, which offers discounts for domestic travel and eating out. 

Japan has announced that it will suspend the domestic travel campaign in areas where coronavirus cases are especially high.

Pedestrians wait at a crossing in the Shibuya district in Tokyo - PHILIP FONG/AFP
Pedestrians wait at a crossing in the Shibuya district in Tokyo - PHILIP FONG/AFP

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has been aggressive in keeping the economy going while balancing health risks.

Tokyo's Haneda Airport was packed on Saturday with vacationers. Spots popular for holiday travel, such as the northern-most main island of Hokkaido and urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka, have seen cases jump recently.

Tokyo confirmed a record 539 new coronavirus cases on Saturday - beating its previous high of 534 cases, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Saturday marks the third day that the daily number of cases has topped 500, according to the public broadcaster NHK. 

06:53 AM

'A normal Christmas is right out of the question'

Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada's hospital system could be overwhelmed by a possible quadrupling of new Covid cases by year end as its biggest city, Toronto, prepares to impose a lockdown.

The Prime Minister implored his fellow Canadians to stay home as much as possible as a second wave tears across the country, forcing several of the 10 provinces to reimpose curbs on movement and businesses.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - LARS HAGBERG/AFP
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - LARS HAGBERG/AFP

Cases continue to spike and authorities complain some people are being more careless about taking precautions.

"A normal Christmas is quite frankly right out of the question," Mr Trudeau said.

"Cases across the country are spiking massively ... we're really at risk of seeing case loads go up and hospitals get overwhelmed."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday that Toronto and the nearby region of Peel would enter into lockdown on Monday.

Canada has recorded a total of 315,751 cases and 11,265 deaths.

06:03 AM

North Macedonia declares its first nationwide state of emergency

North Macedonia has declared its first-ever nationwide state of emergency, allowing authorities to more easily use the armed forces as well as private resources to fight the pandemic.

The 30-day order, the first of its kind since the Balkan nation became independent in 1991, takes effect on Saturday and was imposed after Covid-19 treatment capacity reached its limit.

The army will be used to help civilian authorities transport patients and build field hospitals.

Government-imposed restrictions have failed to curb a rise in infection rates.

A total of 1,462 people have died from the pandemic in the landlocked country of around two million people - with 39 deaths recorded in the past 24 hours and an estimated 20,000 cases still active.

05:04 AM

China to test three million people

China is starting mass testing on three million people in a section of the northern city of Tianjin and has tested 4,015 people in a hospital in Shanghai after the discovery of a few cases on Friday.

The National Health Commission recorded seven new domestically transmitted cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, with five in Tianjin and two cases in the city of Shanghai.

Tianjin on Friday reported a case of community transmission involving four individuals. In response, local authorities sealed off the residential community where the individuals lived as well as a hospital and a kindergarten.

Authorities on Saturday will start testing all residents in Binhai district in Tianjin city.

In Shanghai, authorities sealed off a hospital after a husband and wife in the Pudong New district tested positive on Friday night after visiting the hospital for a diagnosis.

China's total number of confirmed cases is now 86,414.

04:09 AM

US could approve first coronavirus vaccine 'within weeks'

United States regulators were set to begin the first steps in approving a Covid-19 vaccine on Friday with the submission of an emergency use authorisation request by vaccine developers Pfizer/BioNTech. 

This is the first time that regulators anywhere in the world will start the approval process for a vaccine that many hope will turn the tide on the coronavirus pandemic. 

The emergency authorisation is temporary or conditional and is granted by the US Food and Drug Administration in response to a situation such as a pandemic.

Read the full story here.

02:56 AM

And another of Donald Trump's sons tests positive

US President Donald Trump's eldest son Donald Trump Jnr has tested positive for Covid-19 and is quarantining without symptoms.

President Donald Trump watches as his son Donald Trump Jnr speaks at a campaign event - Morry Gash/AP
President Donald Trump watches as his son Donald Trump Jnr speaks at a campaign event - Morry Gash/AP

The 42-year-old is the latest in a long list of infections among those with links to the White House.

"Don tested positive at the start of the week and has been quarantining out at his cabin since the result," his spokesman said.

"He's been completely asymptomatic so far and is following all medically recommended Covid-19 guidelines." 

READ MORE: Donald Trump Jnr tests positive for coronavirus

02:47 AM

Rudy Giuliani's son tests positive

Andrew Giuliani, a White House aide and son of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said on Friday that he had tested positive for coronavirus.

"This morning, I tested positive for Covid-19," the younger Giuliani, who joined the Trump White House's Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs in 2017, said on Twitter.

"I am experiencing mild symptoms, and am following all appropriate protocols, including being in quarantine and conducting contact tracing."

Andrew attended his father's press conference on Thursday at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, according to multiple reports.

The elder Giuliani and other Trump campaign lawyers spoke without masks from an indoor podium, to an audience of dozens of people.

READ MORE: Trump's legal team stages press conference to make unsubstantiated accusations of vote rigging

Jenna Ellis, another Trump lawyer who spoke at the press conference, said on Twitter on Friday that she and Rudy "have both tested negative for Covid-19".

"The entire legal team will continue to follow the advice and protocols of our doctors," she wrote.

02:33 AM

South Korea may have to reconsider restrictions

South Korea has reported 386 new cases of coronavirus in a resurgence that could force authorities to reimpose stronger social distancing restrictions after easing them in October to spur a faltering economy.

The figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the national caseload to 30,403, including 503 deaths.

South Korean officials in royal guard uniforms perform during the changing of the guard ceremony at Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul - JEON HEON-KYUN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
South Korean officials in royal guard uniforms perform during the changing of the guard ceremony at Gyeongbokgung palace in Seoul - JEON HEON-KYUN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

More than 270 of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where health workers have struggled to track transmissions in schools, private tutoring academies and religious facilities.

Infections were also reported in other major cities including Busan, Daejeon, Gwangju and Asan.

02:12 AM

Today's top stories