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Live Reporting

Edited by Vanessa Barford and Sarah Fowler

All times stated are UK

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  1. Thanks and goodbye

    Thanks for joining us. Updates were brought to you today by Claire Heald, Vanessa Barford, James Clarke, Doug Faulkner, Becky Morton, Mary O’Connor, Jasmine Taylor-Coleman, Jen Meierhans, George Wright, Katie Wright, Victoria Bisset and Sarah Fowler.

  2. Quick recap: What did the PM say on England's new lockdown?

    We're about to close the live page now, but before we go, here's a quick re-cap of the key points from Boris Johnson's speech:

    • Hospitals are under "more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic" and the number of Covid patients in England's hospitals increased by almost a third last week
    • England must enter a new national lockdown. People must stay at home except for specific reasons allowed under law, such as essential shopping and going to work
    • The government will advise those clinically extremely vulnerable people who previously shielded to do so again
    • Primary and secondary schools must move to remote learning from tomorrow, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. However, early years education such as nurseries, will still be accessible
    • The school closures for most pupils might mean it is "not possible or fair" for all exams to happen this summer "as normal", and the education secretary will work with the exams regulator Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements
    • If "things go well", the government expects to have offered a first Covid vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups - all care home residents and their carers, everyone aged 70 and over, all frontline health and social care workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable - by mid February
    • If the vaccine roll-out continues to be "successful", deaths begin to fall, and people follow the rules, the PM said he hoped we can "steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after half term and starting, cautiously" to move regions down England's tiered system of restrictions.
  3. Unions call for support to avoid more job losses

    Business leaders are reacting with concern to the fresh lockdown announced by Boris Johnson amid fears that companies may not last until the spring.

    British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall says: "Businesses will understand why the prime minister has felt compelled to act on the spiralling threat to public health, but they will be baffled and disappointed by the fact that he did not announce additional support for affected businesses alongside these new restrictions.

    Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, says: "The Government must now extend business rates and VAT relief throughout 2021 and stand ready to pump further direct support to businesses forced to close."

  4. PM allowed 'confusion and chaos' to build up on schools - union

    Now for some more reaction to the news that schools will be moving to remote learning for most pupils under England's new lockdown measures.

    Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union: “No one wanted schools and colleges to be shut again but the evidence clearly pointed to the necessity for this to happen weeks ago.

    "Why Boris Johnson allowed such confusion and chaos to build up around school openings before making this belated, blindingly obvious decision is beyond belief.

    "Government must take responsibility for this closure because it has allowed Covid-19 to become, again, out of control.”

  5. Reality Check

    Has the UK vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe?

    Boris Johnson said that the UK has vaccinated more people than the rest of Europe combined.

    As of 27 December, 944,539 people in the UK had received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.

    The latest data from 22 of the EU's 27 member states, collected by Our World in Data, shows 682,279 vaccinations have been carried out so far.

    As each EU member state publishes its own statistics, some of this data goes up to early January but some only to late December.

    Germany is leading the EU, having vaccinated 265,610 people as of 3 January. France though had only vaccinated 516 citizens by 1 January and the Netherlands won't begin vaccinations till 8 January.

    The UK started vaccinating citizens with the Pfizer jab on 8 December, while the EU vaccine rollout began on 27 December.

  6. Egypt denies deaths due to oxygen shortages

    Yolande Knell

    BBC Middle East correspondent, Jerusalem

    The Egyptian authorities are denying claims that at least six Covid-19 patients died in two government hospitals over the past two days due to a lack of oxygen.

    It follows anger after a video of nurses in intensive care units struggling to keep patients alive was widely shared on social media.

    At one point, a nurse in blue PPE can be seen crumpled over on the floor in apparent shock. The voice of the person filming repeats: “All those in the intensive care are dead... there is no oxygen.”

    Screengrab of video purportedly showing an Egyptian nurse wearing PPE huddled next to a hospital bed

    In a statement on Facebook, Egypt’s health ministry spokesman said there were sufficient oxygen supplies at all hospitals treating Covid-19 patients.

    He said that most of the deaths at two hospitals in the north of the country - Al-Husseiniya and Zefta - were patients already suffering from chronic diseases.

    The ministry spokesman called on the media not to spread “inaccurate or false information that may cause panic among people".

    In Egypt, there have been 142,187 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 7,805 deaths. However, many experts suspect the actual figures are far higher.

  7. What are the new rules in England?

    The government has now published full guidance on what people are allowed to do in England under the new national lockdown.

    Here's a quick summary of the new rules:

    • People cannot leave their homes except for certain reasons, like the first lockdown last March
    • These include essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work for those who cannot do so from home
    • You can exercise in a public outdoor place by yourself, with people you live with or your support bubble, or on your own with one person from another household
    • All schools and colleges will close to most pupils from Tuesday with remote learning until February half term
    • Early years settings such as nurseries will stay open
    • End-of-year exams will not take place this summer as normal
    • Elsewhere, most university students should not return to campuses and will be taught online
    • Restaurants can continue to offer delivery for food, but takeaway alcohol will be banned
    • Outdoor sports venues - such as golf courses, tennis courts and outside gyms - must close
    • Amateur team sports are not allowed, but elite sport such as Premier League football can continue
  8. Where else has reported the UK variant?

    Cyprus and Brazil have become the latest countries to identify the new coronavirus variant, which was first discovered in the UK.

    In total, more than 30 countries around the world have seen cases involving the new strain, including:

    • Europe: Netherlands, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Germany, Iceland, Belgium, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Ireland
    • North America: Canada, US
    • Latin America: Chile
    • Asia and Australia: Japan, Singapore, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Australia, Vietnam, China,
    • Middle East: Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, UAE, Jordan
  9. Starmer: 'We must rekindle the spirit of March and comply'

    Sr Kier Starmer

    Sir Keir Starmer said the most important thing is the messaging about 'stay at home' and going back to the spirit of March "because a lot is now going to depend on the willingness of people to comply and I urge everyone to comply".

    He adds: "We have to rekindle that spirit and I think that in a way we need to remake that contract with the British people, in return for you enduring these measures now for the coming weeks the vaccine must be rolled out at speed. We need this to be mission critical. We were the first country to get the vaccine and we need to be the first country to have the vaccine programme rolled out."

  10. Reality Check

    Are restrictions more severe than March?

    We know that the UK is going to threat level 5, the highest level, which means there is a danger of the NHS being overwhelmed within 21 days.

    When the prime minister announced these threat levels in May he was clear that during the first lockdown the country had only been in level four.

    At the time he also said: “The higher the level, the tougher and stricter we will have to be.”

    So on that basis should we have expected tighter restrictions in England than we saw during the first lockdown in March?

    If anything, the restrictions appear slightly less severe. For example, support bubbles and childcare bubbles exist this time. Also, outdoor playgrounds will be open when they were closed last time.

    Communal worship is still allowed as long as social distancing is observed.

    One significant change since March is that face coverings are compulsory in indoor public settings such as shops, public transport or places of worship.

  11. 'Achieving vaccination goals requires a lot to go right'

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent

    The lockdown announcement contained the clearest indication yet of how quickly the government hopes to vaccinate the at risk groups.

    A target of mid February for vaccinating all the over 70s and those deemed extremely clinically vulnerable and frontline health and care staff opens up a pathway to a significant easing of restrictions by the start of March.

    But it will require a rapid acceleration in vaccination rates.

    So far nearly one million people have been vaccinated.

    By the end of the week that number is expected to double.

    The hope is that later in January two million doses a week will be given.

    That will be the minimum needed – there are around 12 million in those priority groups.

    By vaccinating them, there is the potential to prevent close to nine in 10 deaths.

    But achieving that requires a lot to go right.

    There is enough vaccine in the country to vaccinate that many people, but not all of it has been through the final “fill and finish” process which involves packaging it in glass vials (and there is a shortage of those) and then the batches have to be checked and signed off by the regulator – a process that is taking weeks at the moment.

    And all of that is before it is sent out to the NHS vaccination centres to inject it into people’s arms.

  12. Sir Keir Starmer: 'It's time to pull together'

    Sir Kier Starmer

    The Labour leader say it's time for everyone to pull together.

    Sir Keir Starmer says: "The situation we are in is obviously very serious, the figures are very stark and these measures are necessary, sadly, and therefore we support the packages of measures that the prime minister has just outlined.

    "And I think whatever our criticisms and challenges of the government we've all got to pull together now to make this work over the next few weeks and months.

    "It's going to be a very, very difficult period, there are questions about the timing of decisions etc but now is the time to support this package, pull together and try do everything we can to try and make this work."

  13. 'There is hope amidst the gloom'

    Jessica Parker

    BBC political correspondent

    It’s a familiar mantra but one that many hoped had been left in the past. Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. That was the key, simple message when the first lockdown was introduced back in March. It was well understood and big news in England when the government decided to modify it. But now, it’s back. And, as in Tier 4, the Stay at Home message will be legally enforceable.

    While saying that the new variant means there needs to be another lockdown, the prime minister is also trying to emphasise a hope that didn’t exist before, back in March.

    Specifically, the vaccine. Significantly, he’s outlined an ambition that the top four priority groups will have received their first dose by mid-February. However, as we’ve learnt so many times, caution can be the watchword when it comes to coronavirus. But ministers do want to keep emphasising that there is hope, amidst all the gloom.

  14. 'I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown'

    The prime minister says by the middle of February, "if things go well", the government expects to have offered a first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups.

    This includes vaccinating all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70 and all frontline health and social care workers

    If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups “we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus", he says.

    "That will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we have endured for so long."

    Johnson stresses there will remain a time lag of two to three weeks from getting a jab to receiving immunity, and there will be a further time lag before the pressure on the NHS is lifted.

    "So we should remain cautious about the timetable ahead," he adds.

    "But if our understanding of the virus doesn’t change dramatically once again, if the rollout of the vaccine programme continues to be successful, if deaths start to fall as the vaccine takes effect, and, critically, if everyone plays their part by following the rules, then I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting, cautiously, to move regions down the tiers."

  15. PM: 'The weeks ahead will be the hardest'

    The PM says the weeks ahead "will be the hardest yet".

    "But I really do believe we are entering the last phase of the struggle because with every jab that goes into our arms we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people," he says.

    "Thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight but we know exactly how we are going to get there."

  16. 'Now more than ever, we must pull together' - PM

    The PM addresses people across the UK, saying he knows how "tough this is" and how "frustrated" people are.

    But he says "now, more than ever, we must pull together".

    Mr Johnson says people should follow the new rules from now, which will become law in the early hours of Wednesday morning and parliament will meet remotely later that day.

    He says the governments of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland share his "conviction" that this is a "pivotal moment" and were taking similar steps to contain the spread of the virus.

  17. 'Threat to the NHS forces ministers hand'

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent

    Once again it is the threat to the NHS that has forced the hand of ministers.

    In England there has been a 50% rise in the number of patients in hospital with Covid since Christmas day.

    To put that into context, it equates to 18 hospitals being filled.

    Currently around three out of 10 beds are occupied by patients with the disease.

    In some hospitals it is more than six in 10.

    But what is worrying ministers and NHS leaders is that the number is just going to increase.

    In the spring it took nearly three weeks after lockdown for hospital cases to peak.

    The last six days have seen in excess of 50,000 new infections confirmed each day across the UK – a number of these infections are next week’s hospital admissions.

    It is why the UK’s chief medical officers were warning there was a “material risk” of some hospitals being overwhelmed if something did not change.

  18. UK must move to Covid alert level 5, but vaccine rollout gives hope

    The PM repeats the advice of the UK's chief medical officers that the nation's Covid alert level should move to level 5 - "meaning that if action is not taken, NHS capacity may be overwhelmed within 21 days".

    He adds though, that there is "one huge difference" compared to last time, saying the UK is "rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in its history" and had so far "vaccinated more people than in the rest of Europe combined".

    He says the "pace of vaccination is accelerating" thanks to the arrival of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which patients began receiving earlier today.

  19. Schools may act as 'vectors for transmission'

    The prime minister says he "completely understands the inconvenience and distress" the disruption to education will cause parents and pupils.

    But he says the government has been doing "everything in our power to keep schools open” because of the importance of education to children’s life chances.

    "The problem is not that schools are unsafe for children," he says, adding that children are still very unlikely to be severely affected even by the new variant of Covid.

    But he says schools may act as "vectors for transmission", causing the virus to spread between households.

  20. We must go into a national lockdown - PM

    The prime minister adds that given the alarming figures, it had become "clear that we need to do more" to bring the new fast-spreading coronavirus variant "under control" and help the vaccination roll-out in the UK.

    He says we must therefore go into a national lockdown, with the government once more telling people to stay at home, except for specific reasons, including essential shopping, to work, if you cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical help, and to escape domestic abuse.

    He says the government will be advising clinical extremely people to begin shielding again.

    Primary and secondary schools must move to remote learning from tomorrow, except for vulnerable children and those of key workers, he adds.

    Given this, it is not "fair" for all exams to go ahead this summer, he says.