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Britain records 12,330 Covid infections in lowest Monday toll since September

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Britain records 12,330 Covid infections in lowest Monday toll since September

Britain records 12,330 Covid cases in lowest Monday toll since September and deaths continue to plateau with 205 fatalities as ministers warn it may be summer before UK gets back to normal

  • Department of Health figures show today’s recorded coronavirus cases are 20% lower than this time last week
  • Deaths – which lag several weeks behind infections – are also continuing to plateau, official statistics show
  • Country will face a national lockdown if MPs reject new local limits, PM has warned to stave off a rebellion
  • But Imperial study shows that Covid cases have fallen by a THIRD since second national lockdown began 
  • Survey of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24 found 72,000 infections per day, down from 100,000
  • Rebels demanded ‘hard evidence’ to convince them that the crackdown will save more lives than it costs 

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Britain today recorded just 12,330 Covid-19 infections in the lowest Monday toll since September, as Boris Johnson faces a growing rebellion over his draconian new tier system amid mounting evidence that the second wave is retreating.

Department of Health figures show today’s recorded coronavirus cases are 20 per cent lower than this time last week. And the rolling seven-day average has dropped 41 per cent in a fortnight, after peaking at around 25,000 on November 16.

Deaths – which lag several weeks behind infections because of how long it takes for infected patients to become severely ill – are also continuing to plateau. Just 205 Covid victims were declared today, down slightly on the 206 posted last Monday.

It comes as the Prime Minister is desperately scrambling to defuse a massive Tory revolt by offering a series of concessions, including a February renewal date, detailed impact assessments, and more money for pubs and restaurants, ahead of a crunch Commons vote tomorrow.

Whips are trying to talk round 100 Conservatives on the verge of joining the mutiny, with fury that just 1 per cent of England is being been in the lowest level of restrictions from Wednesday, even though many areas in Tier 3 have seen few or no infections. Dozens are waiting for the findings of impact economic and social assessments, which are set to be published within hours.

Environment Secretary George Eustice raised questions about how long tough restrictions will be needed for this morning, suggesting that ‘we can see a way out of this during the course of early next summer’ — whereas Mr Johnson has previously voiced hope that the crisis will be largely past by Easter.

Backlash was further fuelled with Imperial College’s huge monthly React survey finding a dramatic fall off in cases, in line with the daily figures being released by the government.

The study of 105,000 people found cases fell to 72,000 infections per day between November 13 and 24, from around 100,000 per day at the end of October. This means cases are down a third in England and have halved in the North West and North East – boosting hopes that much of the North could be moved down into Tier Two.

Labour is set to save Mr Johnson’s bacon by refusing to help kill off the measures, but being forced to rely on Sir Keir Starmer’s support would be devastating for the premier’s authority.

Mr Eustice underlined the complexity of the new rules in a round of interviews this morning, suggesting a Scotch Egg could constitute a ‘substantial meal’ – which is required to be allowed to order alcoholic drinks in pubs in areas subject to Tier 2.

In other coronavirus twists and turns today: 

  • Welsh pubs will be forced to close at 6pm and banned from selling alcohol drinks from Friday as the country is plunged into a new lockdown just weeks after the last one ended;
  • Some High Street shops will open 24 hours a day in December in a desperate bid to offset the £900million a day economic hit of the new tier restrictions; 
  • The Prime Minister announced a £20million boost for medicine manufacturing in the UK in a bid to strengthen the country’s response to future pandemics; 
  • A further 215 people who tested positive for Covid died in hospital in England in the last 24 hours with another 12,155 lab-confirmed cases in the UK.
  • Professor Peter Openshaw, of Imperial College, a member of an official virus advisory group, said a Covid vaccine could be available ‘as early as next week’.
  • Under new guidelines, Santa’s grottos can open but with Father Christmas in a mask and children banned from sitting on his knee.
Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street this morning) is battling to quell a Tory revolt, unveiling a series of concessions in a bid to persuade backbenchers to back a tougher tiers system

George Eustice

Environment Secretary George Eustice (right) raised questions about how long restrictions will be needed for, suggesting that ‘we can see a way out of this during the course of early next summer’ – whereas Boris Johnson (left) has previously voiced hope that the crisis will be largely past by Easter 

Imperial College's monthly React survey of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24, published this morning, found that coronavirus cases fell to 72,000 infections per day from around 100,000 new infections per day at the end of October. This graph shows how cases have largely fallen everywhere in the past month, particularly in the north-east and north-west. The darker the blue colour the larger the fall

Imperial College’s monthly React survey of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24, published this morning, found that coronavirus cases fell to 72,000 infections per day from around 100,000 new infections per day at the end of October. This graph shows how cases have largely fallen everywhere in the past month, particularly in the north-east and north-west. The darker the blue colour the larger the fall

Sharp decline: Based on its October survey it was estimated that there were around 100,000 new infections per day (right) --the new data shows that in November (left), after lockdown began, this then fell to 72,000 infections per day. The darker the brown colour the higher rate of cases

Sharp decline: Based on its October survey it was estimated that there were around 100,000 new infections per day (right) –the new data shows that in November (left), after lockdown began, this then fell to 72,000 infections per day. The darker the brown colour the higher rate of cases

At a glance: Key findings of the React study 

  • Covid-19 cases fell to around 72,000 infections per day in England towards the end of November, from around 100,000 at the end of October;
  • Prevalence has halved in the North West and North East – boosting hopes that millions of people living in the North could be moved down into Tier Two;
  • But prevalence — the number of people infected at one time — has remained ‘almost unchanged’ in London and the Midlands;
  • However, the rapid growth of Covid seen in the South of the country before the national lockdown was imposed was ‘no longer apparent’;
  • England’s R rate could be as low as 0.71 but is thought to stand at 0.88 — meaning the outbreak is shrinking and is below the crucial level of one across the country;
  • Despite the low R rate, the outbreak is still only halving in size every 37 days, prompting Matt Hancock to say ‘we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal just yet’;
  • Covid prevalence rates dropped among adults of all ages, including those who are most vulnerable to severe complications of the disease;
  • But rates started to increase slightly in school-aged children, according to the results of the study that swabbed 105,000 people between November 13-24;
  • Covid was more prevalent in deprived areas, bolstering evidence that societal inequalities may contribute to the spread of the disease.
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The Prime Minister is battling to quell a Tory revolt as he unveiled a series of concessions in a bid to persuade backbenchers to back a tougher tiers system.

Downing Street will publish an analysis of the health, economic and social impacts of coronavirus later and the measures taken to suppress it. 

The move is an attempt to limit the scale of a rebellion which has been growing since last week.

The document will include forecasts from the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility. 

Mr Johnson yesterday dangled the prospect that some areas facing the harshest curbs in Tier Three could see them eased as part of a review before Christmas.

He also announced the new rules would be scrapped altogether in February unless MPs vote in the New Year to keep them in place until Easter. 

But in a letter to MPs, the he conceded: ‘These will not be easy decisions. With Christmas round the corner, and the difficult months of January and February ahead, we will need to continue to exercise caution.’

Mr Johnson insisted ‘no prime minister wants to impose restrictions which cause such harm to society, the economy and people’s mental health’.

But he warned that the ‘tougher tiers’ are needed ‘if we are to keep the virus under control and avoid either overwhelming the NHS or another national lockdown which is far more damaging and restrictive than these tiers’.

The government is also planning extra cash for bars and restaurants hit by upper-tier closures. 

However, Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown sceptic Tory MPs, warned that the details would dictate whether they push ahead with the rebellions.

‘I welcome the fact that the Government has recognised our concerns about the enormous impact that its proposals will have on the hospitality industry and has suggested further support,’ he said. 

‘We look forward to seeing the detail of the support proposed being set out before the vote on the restrictions tomorrow evening, along with the cost-benefit analysis we’ve been asking for. I am particularly concerned about some of the non-Covid health implications these restrictions have been having. 

This needs to be published as soon as practically possible, so that MPs have a chance to digest it ahead of tomorrow’s vote.’ 

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay told MailOnline that the React survey suggested the previous, less dramatic tiers were already bringing down cases, together with people in higher infection areas taking matters into their own hands by being more careful. 

Sturgeon says she won’t have ‘indoor Christmas’ with family this year  

Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she will not be celebrating Christmas indoors with family this year.

Despite signing off on a UK-wide loosening for the festive season, the Scottish First Minister said she did not want to put her family ‘at risk’. 

‘Normally, Christmas, my husband and I would have both our families here in our own home. We will not be doing that this year,’ she said.

‘I’ve not seen my parents since July and I would dearly love to see them today and at Christmas, but I don’t want to put them at risk when a vaccine is so close.

‘We might go and have a family walk somewhere, but the idea … of an indoors Christmas dinner is something we will not do this year.’ 

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Mr Mackinlay said ‘obviously lockdowns work’ and there was a lot of ‘conjecture’ around the data.  

‘Was it the lockdown that has caused the numbers to drop, or were they on the way out already?’ he said.

‘It seems to me that the plateau was reached resulting from the tail end of where we were before, rather than directly attributable to the lockdown.’

He added: ‘The React one is suggesting we are on a nice downward path, is a new system required? It is very difficult to know.’  

In interviews this morning, Mr Eustice admitted up to 100 Tory MP had ‘concerns’ about the new Covid restrictions for England.

He told Sky News: ‘The chief whip, obviously, will be talking to those MPs who have got concerns. I’ve seen suggestions that there could be up to 100 or so people that have got concerns.’

He added: ‘I think there is great frustration with the emergency measures that we have had to take to deal with this pandemic.

‘We haven’t taken them lightly. We have had to take these to get the virus under control.

‘What we need to show to those MPs and to the country at large is that we have got a clear route towards fixing this problem and turning the corner.’

Mr Eustice was refused to give a timeframe for how long tiered restrictions are expected to last, but said he believes local lockdowns were working.

He said: ‘We do know that in some of those areas that have gone for this restriction, that the R rate has started to come down.

‘The difficulty with this is we know what happened in the last lockdown, but that was in March and April as we’re going into spring and summer, and this virus, like many viruses, is very seasonal, and wet winter nights and days are quite conducive to the spread of the virus.’

Mr Eustice admitted that there were loopholes and inconsistencies in the new rules, but insisted that was unavoidable. 

‘Sometimes you will have measures and they may look like they are not perfectly consistent with others, that’s going to be in the nature when you do emergency short-term measures like this,’ he told Good Morning Britain on ITV.

‘We are trying to strike a balance here and doing this over Christmas people want to be able to want to come together.’

He delivered a thinly-veiled warning that opposing the tiers could lead to another full lockdown.

‘Provided we maintain the tiered approach for as long as necessary I don’t think it will be necessary to go back into another full lockdown,’ Mr Eustice said.

Pressed to rule out another lockdown in the New Year, the Cabinet minster said: ‘You can’t rule anything out because this is a rapidly developing situation.’ 

Mr Eustice also tried to cool a row over whether people can continue to drink in Tier 2 pubs after they have eaten a ‘substantial meal’. 

Asked if people will have to leave a pub or restaurant as soon as they finish eating, Mr Eustice said: ‘I think you can finish your drink provided you are at a table and you have had a drink with a meal then, of course, you can finish your drink as well.

‘What you probably couldn’t do is have a small meal and then sit at the table all night ordering drink.’

But he risked more confusion as he tried to explain on LBC radio whether a Scotch egg would count as a substantial meal.

‘I think a scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal if there was table service,’ Mr Eustice said. 

‘Often that might be as a starter.’ 

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

The Imperial study shows the prevalence of Covid in each region of England since May. The purple line shows the path cases were on in the autumn and the blue line shows where it is going based on what has happened in the second lockdown with a downward trajectory in every area apart from the south-east

Tiers could cost £900m a day 

The economic case for the new tier system will be set out by ministers today – after experts predicted it could cost the country £900million a day.

Amid threats of rebellion from Tory MPs, Downing Street will publish impact assessments to reveal how they decided what restrictions each area of the country will face when the tier system comes into force on Wednesday. More than 34million people are facing tougher restrictions than before the national lockdown.

The Centre for Economics & Business Research estimates the restrictions will cost the economy in England £900million a day, with high street shops and the hospitality industry bearing the brunt of the losses, caused by controls on trading.

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Government sources have made clear that support for pubs and restaurants will be bolstered in a bid to curb opposition.  

But there is growing fury about the strict rules when cases are falling fast.

Today’s Imperial College London research, commissioned by the Department of Health, was based on random swab testing of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24.

Overall, one in 100 tested positive compared with one in 80 during the previous round of testing between October 16 and November 2. The study estimated that the crucial R number – the average number of people infected by someone with the virus – could now be as low as 0.71.

Researchers found that cases were rising rapidly before the second lockdown began on November 5. But since then, cases have fallen by 30 per cent.

The study said: ‘This fall in prevalence covers a period of nearly three of the four weeks of the second national lockdown… the decline in prevalence was especially large in the North where it fell by over 50 per cent in the two regions that had experienced the highest levels in the country.’

However, the study found that cases had remained stable in London and the Midlands, and infection levels are now higher in the Midlands than in the North of England.

Overall, 1.55 per cent of people in the West Midlands tested positive, compared with 0.72 per cent in the North East and 1.08 per cent in the North West. Infections among children increased.

The study warned ‘absolute levels remain high’ and that a tiered approach with continued monitoring ‘remains essential until… widespread vaccination’.  

Mr Johnson has sent a separate letter to around 70 Tory MPs in the Covid Recovery Group, which has led opposition to the tiers system. He insisted he was listening to their concerns as he pleaded for unity.

The PM wrote: ‘I do believe the strategy is a balanced approach, which helps protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, keeps children attending school, and lets the economy open up in a safe way, and the best way forward.

Wales announces new lockdown measures 

Welsh pubs will be forced to close at 6pm and banned from selling alcohol drinks from Friday as the country is plunged into a new lockdown just weeks after the last one ended.

First Minister Mark Drakeford outlined a raft of measures for the hospitality sector this afternoon following a sharp uptick in coronavirus infections, especially among the under-25s.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will only be allowed to remain open until 6pm from Friday, and operate as takeaways afterwards. And they will not be allowed to serve alcoholic drinks under a scheme like that in place in Scotland for weeks.

Under the new programme, cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will also close, but non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres can stay open.

The move follows the previous ‘firebreak’ lockdown between October 23 and November 9. But coronavirus cases have risen from 160 per 100,000 to 210 per 100,000 in the past 10 days, an increase of 31 per cent.

Mr Drakeford told a Welsh Government press conference that coronavirus was ‘accelerating across Wales’ and the gains achieved during the country’s 17-day firebreak lockdown were being eroded.

He said that unless action was taken now, the number of people with coronavirus in Welsh hospitals could reach 2,200 by January 12. The restrictions will be formally reviewed by December 17 and then every three weeks.

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‘There is every reason to believe that the worst is nearly behind us, so now more than ever is the time to demonstrate unity and resolve. The prospects offered by vaccines and testing mean we can begin the process of recovery in earnest.’

Mr Johnson also promised the CRG it would receive a briefing on the evidence on how Covid is being spread in hospitality venues. 

MPs will vote on the new system of tiers that will come into effect when the national lockdown is lifted on Wednesday.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly will be under the lightest Tier One controls. Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier Three.

In total, 99 per cent of England will enter Tier Two or Three, with tight restrictions on bars and restaurants plus a ban on households mixing indoors.  

Meanwhile, Welsh pubs will be forced to close at 6pm and banned from selling alcohol drinks from Friday as the country is plunged into a new lockdown just weeks after the last one ended.

First Minister Mark Drakeford outlined a raft of measures for the hospitality sector this afternoon following a sharp uptick in coronavirus infections, especially among the under-25s.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will only be allowed to remain open until 6pm from Friday, and operate as takeaways afterwards. And they will not be allowed to serve alcoholic drinks under a scheme like that in place in Scotland for weeks.

Under the new programme, cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will also close, but non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres can stay open.

The move follows the previous ‘firebreak’ lockdown between October 23 and November 9. But coronavirus cases have risen from 160 per 100,000 to 210 per 100,000 in the past 10 days, an increase of 31 per cent.

Mr Drakeford told a Welsh Government press conference that coronavirus was ‘accelerating across Wales’ and the gains achieved during the country’s 17-day firebreak lockdown were being eroded.

He said that unless action was taken now, the number of people with coronavirus in Welsh hospitals could reach 2,200 by January 12. The restrictions will be formally reviewed by December 17 and then every three weeks.

Researchers estimated how the prevalence of Covid in England has dropped since the lockdown was enforced, based on the results of 105,000 swab tests. GRAPH A: The different coloured curves represent different rounds of the REACT study, with light blue being the most recent — carried out between November 13-24. GRAPH B: Results are shown in batches of the rounds, with the most recent decline being in round 7a

Researchers estimated how the prevalence of Covid in England has dropped since the lockdown was enforced, based on the results of 105,000 swab tests. GRAPH A: The different coloured curves represent different rounds of the REACT study, with light blue being the most recent — carried out between November 13-24. GRAPH B: Results are shown in batches of the rounds, with the most recent decline being in round 7a

Prevalence of Covid in England was estimated over time, using the results of the swab tests. The Imperial team's best guess is the solid line. The vertical lines on different days signal the range of possible numbers

Prevalence of Covid in England was estimated over time, using the results of the swab tests. The Imperial team’s best guess is the solid line. The vertical lines on different days signal the range of possible numbers

This map shows how prevalence has changed across the country between the previous round of REACT and the most recent one. Purple indicates a decline - red shows a rise

This map shows how prevalence has changed across the country between the previous round of REACT and the most recent one. Purple indicates a decline – red shows a rise 

Data also revealed how prevalence varies across the age groups, and how it has changed over time. Dark blue bars represent the most recent round of testing, while the other coloured bars are for previous rounds of the REACT study carried out before lockdown

Data also revealed how prevalence varies across the age groups, and how it has changed over time. Dark blue bars represent the most recent round of testing, while the other coloured bars are for previous rounds of the REACT study carried out before lockdown

The Imperial team were able to break down the prevalence between age groups for the different regions of England

The Imperial team were able to break down the prevalence between age groups for the different regions of England

Downing Street will publish an analysis of the health, economic and social impacts of coronavirus and the measures taken to suppress it

Downing Street will publish an analysis of the health, economic and social impacts of coronavirus and the measures taken to suppress it

Dr Ben Spencer, Tory MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, said: ‘I agree MPs must take responsibility for difficult decisions.

‘That’s why MPs need the harm/benefit analysis and the predicted impact of these restrictions on NHS capacity for their local areas.’ Greg Clark, chairman of the Commons business committee, said he was not persuaded by the promise of a ‘sunset clause’ that will give MPs a vote in February on keeping the tiers system.

Mr Clark is Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, which will be in Tier Three with the rest of Kent but has a lower rate of infections.

He told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday programme: ‘February is a long time away for my constituents who feel this is not just an injustice but is hitting the livelihoods of people in pubs and restaurants.’

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday warned that England could face a third wave of Covid infections if ministers fail to ‘get the balance right’ with the curbs.

He insisted places will still be put into the tiers on a county-wide basis, not at a more local level.

Mr Raab also suggested some areas could move before Christmas but it was ‘more likely’ to be from Tier Three to Two.

Show us the evidence NHS can’t cope, Gove is told 

Ministers are facing a furious backlash from MPs over claims the NHS will be unable to cope unless a near-lockdown continues for months.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove insisted that every hospital in England will be overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients without draconian restrictions.

But Tory rebels called for ‘hard evidence, not hyperbole’ and said Mr Gove must publish the evidence for his assertion. The Government faces a Commons showdown tomorrow, when MPs will vote on the new tier system which bans 99 per cent of the population from socialising indoors.

Mr Gove said over the weekend that without tough curbs the NHS would be ‘physically overwhelmed. Every bed, every ward occupied’. He added: ‘With every NHS bed full, the capacity of the health service to treat new emergency cases – people who had suffered serious accidents, heart attacks, strokes – would go.’

However, a growing number of Conservative MPs, led by former chief whip Mark Harper, are sceptical about the claim.

Mr Harper told the BBC: ‘Show us the evidence… the last time we were debating lockdown a slide was leaked from the Cabinet Office – the department which Michael Gove runs – which suggested that hospitals would be overwhelmed. We now know that the information on that slide was not correct. I’m saying to Michael that if he genuinely thinks that hospitals would be overwhelmed, then show us the modelling and the evidence that he’s seen.’

 

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