Covid-19: Vaccine breakthrough, care home visits and lockdown entrepreneurs

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday morning. We'll have another update for you at 18:00 GMT.

1. Vaccine approved and ready for roll-out

A hugely positive bit of news to wake up to this morning. The UK has become the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine for widespread use. The government says the Pfizer/BioNTech jab will start being made available across the UK from next week. The UK has already ordered 40m doses - enough to vaccinate 20m people, with two shots each. About 10m doses should be available soon. Experts have drawn up a provisional priority list, targeting people at highest risk. Top are care home residents and staff, followed by people over 80 and other health and social care workers.

2. Tiers system comes into force

Lockdown in England is over, but 99% of the population is waking up to tighter restrictions than before it began. Some freedoms have returned though. Non-essential shops and other businesses such as beauty parlours, hairdressers, and gyms are able to reopen in all areas. Spectators can begin returning to sporting venues in tiers one and two, and swimming pools can reopen - although not all will, we're told. The measures were approved by MPs despite Boris Johnson suffering his biggest rebellion to date - see what our political editor thinks. Tiers will be reviewed in two weeks' time - check what you can do right now and why your area is in the level it is.

Media caption,

Laura Foster explains the new three tier system for England

3. Care home visits

The health secretary has announced that relatives of all care home residents in England will be able to visit over the Christmas period if they test negative for Covid-19. He promised more than a million tests would be sent to homes over the next month, along with extra PPE. Vic Rayner, from the National Care Forum, said it was "a huge step forward". BBC health editor Hugh Pym says the news will be welcomed by families struggling with separation, but there's a danger of hopes being raised only to be dashed again because not all facilities will be able to meet the demand for a visit in time for Christmas.

Image source, Getty Images

4. Prices falling

Retail discounts in the run-up to Christmas are now commonplace, but lockdown has left stores with an excess of seasonal stock to shift. That means prices are falling - good news for consumers at least - with the biggest discounts at fashion and DIY stores, according to the British Retail Consortium. Debenhams has launched a huge stock clearance - so big its website has been overwhelmed. The retail sector in general is having a really tough time, and it's often young retail staff who are especially hard-hit - we spoke to some feeling the strain.

Image source, Getty Images

5. Lockdown entrepreneurs

As part of our CEO Secrets series, we've been looking at businesses that have launched during this very difficult year. This week, we hear from people whose jobs are under threat in hospitality and have decided to try something new. Bruce Tate was in a bad place after the first lockdown. His business, Need Music, handled live bookings for pubs and weddings, but was forced to close. Now he's transformed his office into a cycling cafe. Read his story and others for a much-needed dose of optimism.

Image source, Bruce Tate
Image caption,
Bruce even brought in some of his old clients to play outdoor gigs during the summer

And don't forget...

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

Plus, ministers say the tougher tiers are needed to stop the NHS being overwhelmed, but is that true? Our health correspondent Nick Triggle looks closely.

Image source, BBC

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