R rate in the UK is down to 0.8, suggests symptom study

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Dominic Penna
·35 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Rugby fans wearing masks to a Worcester Warriors match on Saturday - PA
Rugby fans wearing masks to a Worcester Warriors match on Saturday - PA

The R rate in the UK has fallen to 0.8 with daily symptomatic coronavirus cases at around 19,000, a study has suggested.

The study is based on data collected via an app from the health science company ZOE in partnership with King's College London.

Tim Spector, the principal investigator of the study, said today that cases are falling in all age groups, including among more vulnerable over-60s, with the most pronounced decreases in the Midlands, the North-East, and Yorkshire.

"Wales and Northern Ireland are not doing so well," he noted, "suggesting possibly that short sharp lockdowns not so effective."

It comes as half of Britons say they are likely to carry on wearing face masks even after vaccination.

Some 25 per cent (512) of those surveyed will stop covering their face when they have had the vaccine, according to a poll of more than 2,000 people by ORB International.

However, 50 per cent (1,042) don't want to throw away their masks immediately and think we could be wearing them for at least another year.

 

07:00 PM

What happened today

Good evening. Here is a round up of today's major coronavirus developments:

Follow the latest news in Monday's live blog

06:48 PM

Pfizer Covid vaccine: Four million doses will arrive in UK this month, NHS leaders say

Britain will receive up to four million doses of the Pfizer vaccine before the end of the year, NHS leaders promised amid fears that many people would miss out in the first wave of vaccination because of short supplies.

Last week, NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said it only had confirmation of 800,000 doses and did not know when further jabs would be available.

The shortage led to a hasty reappraisal of who would get the vaccine first, with care home residents and staff, and the over-80s, now prioritised over NHS workers.

But on Sunday, Saffron Cordery, the deputy CEO of NHS Providers, said it was now assured far more doses and told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "We know that the first batch of 800,000 is making its way to the country now.

"We know that many of the 50 hospital hubs up and down the country have already received their allocation and more is expected today, so we know that that consignment is here. "

Read the full story here.

06:36 PM

Scotland exams: Swinney urged to 'stop dithering' as opposition seek to force decision over cancellation

John Swinney has been urged to stop “dithering and delaying” over next year’s Higher exams and tell pupils and teachers this week whether they will be axed, reports Daniel Sanderson.

The Education Secretary had said Higher and Advanced Higher tests would go ahead in spring, but has raised the prospect of a u-turn over recent days due to fears that traditional exams would be unfair on teenagers who had repeatedly missed school due to orders to self-isolate.

SNP handout photo of Education Secretary John Swinney at his home in Woodside, East Perthshire  - SNP/PA Wire
SNP handout photo of Education Secretary John Swinney at his home in Woodside, East Perthshire - SNP/PA Wire

The Scottish Tories are set to bring forward a Holyrood debate on education this week in an attempt to force a decision, with the first set of tests currently due to take place on May 13.

Scotland’s National 5 exams have already been cancelled for next year, with pupils instead to be assessed on the basis of teacher assessment and coursework.

Jamie Greene, education spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said “urgent clarification” was needed with school staff and pupils being left “in limbo”.

06:17 PM

Covid is even infecting our dreams - with more now linked to 'cleanness' and 'contamination'

The coronavirus pandemic is even affecting our dreams, a new study has revealed.

Researchers found that more people are having sad or angry dreams during the pandemic which relate to "contamination" and "cleanness" and can be linked to social isolation.

They say that has led to "new challenges" in dealing with mental suffering related to social distancing and in quickly learning new social habits designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Study author Dr Natalia Bezerra Mota, of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil, said: "Overall, our results are consistent with the hypothesis that dreams during the lockdown period reflect the waking challenges presented by the Covid 19 pandemic.

"Consistently with the Emotional Regulation Theory, negative emotions such as anger and sadness are more prominent during the pandemic period, reflecting a higher emotional load to be processed."

Read more from our reporters here.

06:11 PM

Zoe Strimpel: I don't normally 'do' Christmas - but this year is different

Normally, she says, Zoe Strimpel is not much of a Christmas person.

This is partly to do with being Jewish, of course, but it’s also to do with my natural reaction to anything that is massively hyped. It rather makes me want to play dead. Or to just go where the wind takes me: to a friend’s, to a relative’s or, as in the past, to a partner’s family.

Sometimes I’ve just had a peaceful day in with myself, munching smoked salmon blinis and watching TV.

This year feels different. After weeks of deliberation, and grimly watching Covid cases soar in the US, I decided to buy tickets back to Boston so that I can finally see my parents. I haven’t seen them since February, a last minute visit just as the pandemic was gathering speed.

This is not going to be a convenient journey and will, I hope, be unlike any other trip back to see them ever again.

06:02 PM

Jonathan Van-Tam: how a lover of metaphors became an unlikely cult hero

On the face of it, Jonathan Van-Tam appears an unlikely cult hero, writes Robert Mendick, but the nation has taken England’s deputy chief medical officer to its heart.

With his deployment of metaphors – often involving football or trains – Professor Van-Tam has earned the public’s trust, single-handedly explaining the current state of play in tackling Covid-19 far better than any senior minister, Boris Johnson included.

It’s no wonder that ‘JVT’ merchandising is booming, including ‘neon unisex’ t-shirts with his photo emblazoned on them, retailing at £7.99 (and which are selling like hot cakes in the Department of Health, or so it's claimed), and a Jonathan Van-Tam Appreciation Society on Facebook with 2,100 members and climbing. 

Professor Van-Tam was at it again recently. 

“If you want me to do a football analogy,” he told a BBC phone-in, “I would say it is clear in the first half the away team gave us an absolute battering [but] in the 70th minute we've got an equaliser.

05:47 PM

Coronavirus vaccine: The Queen will not jump the queue, say palace sources

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will not jump the queue for a coronavirus vaccine, Buckingham Palace sources have insisted.

The monarch, 94, and the Duke, who turns 100 in June, are eligible to be vaccinated in the first wave, alongside older care home residents and workers.

But although the Queen is expected to receive the vaccine, royal sources have insisted that it will be entirely up to her whether she then decides to let it be known in public that she has had it.

In a handout picture released by Buckingham Palace on December 4, 2020, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle, west of London, speaks to His Excellency Dr. Ferenc Kumin, Ambassador of Hungary - Buckingham Palace/AFP
In a handout picture released by Buckingham Palace on December 4, 2020, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle, west of London, speaks to His Excellency Dr. Ferenc Kumin, Ambassador of Hungary - Buckingham Palace/AFP

A royal source said: “The royals are royals but medical matters are private. If they do decide to have the jab it is a matter for them. If they decide to then go public, again that is their call, but they certainly do not want to be seen to be jumping the queue and will not be doing so.”

Downing Street is thought to be hoping that both the monarch and the Duke reveal they have had the jab, giving the vaccine a royal seal of approval that would encourage others to follow suit.

Victoria Ward has the full story.

05:32 PM

Pfizer applies for emergency authorisation of vaccine in India

Pfizer has applied for the emergency usage of its coronavirus vaccine to be authorised in India, a top government health adviser has said in a television interview.

The US company, whose vaccine was approved in the UK on Wednesday morning, made the approach to Indian officials last night, according to V.K. Paul.

"We welcome interest from Pfizer to seek emergency licensure in our country," he told NDTV, amid hopes that India's regulator could take less time than the usual 90 days to make a decision on the application.

"This will be decided, I hope, sooner than later," he said.

India is hopeful that five locally-tested vaccines, including one being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, will help it to control the virus. The country has been hit hard by the pandemic, recording 9.67 million infections and 140,590 deaths to date.

05:20 PM

Pfizer vaccine: Matt's unique spin on this week's news

Matt Cartoon I'm a little, old, vulnerable grandmother. Any chance you could get me the Pfizer vaccine
Matt Cartoon I'm a little, old, vulnerable grandmother. Any chance you could get me the Pfizer vaccine

 

05:02 PM

A slow recovery beckons for the UK's scarred economy

Rishi Sunak may have declared that the UK’s “economic emergency” has only just begun thanks to Covid-19, but the new guardian of the nation’s public finances has seen a lot worse.

Richard Hughes, the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility since October, produced an avalanche of terrifying forecasts to accompany Sunak’s spending review, ranging from a £394bn deficit to the biggest collapse in growth for 300 years.

It was a fraught debut, but even those numbers wilt besides his stint in Zimbabwe in 2009 working for the International Monetary Fund and advising on the rebuilding of an economy destroyed by inflation, which peaked at an estimated 89 sextillion pc (a number with 21 noughts after it).

UK GDP is predicted to lag behind its pre-pandemic size for at least another year, while the Chancellor is expected to unveil a new framework next year when the path of the virus and the scale of the repair job becomes clearer.

04:46 PM

Covid-19 vaccine Q&A: As the roll-out begins, here's what you need to know

The coronavirus vaccine roll-out is expected to begin on Tuesday, with 50 'hospital hubs' starting to immunise the most vulnerable.

Vaccine supplies will be arriving Monday ahead of the first patients receiving the jab. Initially the government was hoping to vaccinate care home residents and staff, as well as the over-80s. But when the Pfizer jab won the race to be the first approved vaccine, the emphasis shifted to NHS workers as it was believed it would be too hard to distribute the jab to care homes, because it needs to be kept around -103F (-75C).

A Covid-19 test cabin at St.Thomas's Hospital in London, Britain  - Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A Covid-19 test cabin at St.Thomas's Hospital in London, Britain - Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

However supply issues have forced another rethink and care home residents and staff will now be targeted first. NHS Providers is working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to find a safe way to deliver doses to care homes.

Our Science Editor Sarah Knapton has the answers to all your vaccine questions.

04:29 PM

UK coronavirus deaths rise by 231

Official figures show the UK has recorded 231 new coronavirus-related deaths among people who have tested positive for the disease within the last 28 days.

A further 17,272 new cases have been confirmed across all settings.

The UK has now logged 61,245 deaths with coronavirus according to the Government's total toll, while cases now stand at 1,723,242.

04:16 PM

Italy coronavirus deaths pass 60,000

Italy's coronavirus death toll has today passed 60,000, according to its health ministry, after the confirmation of a further 564 deaths with the virus, down from 662 the previous day.

Italy, which has also reported 18,887 new infections within the last 24 hours, is the sixth country to have surpassed 60,000 deaths, and is the second European nation - after the UK - to do so.

Faithfuls wearing protective masks and maintaining social distance attend a mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere - Remo Casilli/Reuters
Faithfuls wearing protective masks and maintaining social distance attend a mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere - Remo Casilli/Reuters

Confirmed cases in Italy now stand at more than 1.72 million, with Italians anticipating a bleak Christmas which will see stringent limits continue to be placed on various freedoms including a ban on family gatherings.

03:58 PM

Sadiq Khan: 'We need to make sure we keep our shops open'

Visiting Regent Street on the first post-lockdown weekend, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan urges the public to "keep our shops open". 

"Unless we support our shops, we can't be surprised - due to a combination of Covid, but also lack of business - shops close and people lose their jobs."

The Mayor visited the popular shopping destination yesterday as thousands flocked to the street, many not wearing masks. 

 

03:43 PM

R rate in the UK down to 0.8, suggests symptom study app

The R rate in the UK has fallen to 0.8 with daily symptomatic coronavirus cases at around 19,000, a study has suggested.

The study is based on data collected via an app from the health science company ZOE in partnership with King's College London.

Tim Spector, the principal investigator of the study, said today that cases are falling in all age groups, including among more vulnerable over-60s, with the most pronounced decreases in the Midlands, the North-East, and Yorkshire.

"Wales and Northern Ireland are not doing so well," he noted, "suggesting possibly that short sharp lockdowns not so effective."

03:35 PM

Matt Hancock: 'I can't wait to get us back to living by personal responsibility'

"I will tell you where I was standing when I found out the vaccine was approved. Here! I was standing on this point." A grinning Matt Hancock clenches his hands into two fists to demonstrate how he reacted.

It is Friday night, and the Health Secretary is still in buoyant mood in his top floor office at the Department of Health and Social Care on London's Victoria Street.

And well he should be. After the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last week, Britain will become the first country in the world to start administering the drug. The global fightback against coronavirus will start in an NHS hospital.

Matt Hancock recreates the moment he heard about the vaccine - Eddie Mulholland
Matt Hancock recreates the moment he heard about the vaccine - Eddie Mulholland

Leaning forward on his white office sofa, Mr Hancock says emphatically: "Tuesday is V day. We are going to vaccinate right across the country, right across the whole UK.

He is also happy to speculate that one day he will be able to set a date for a "liberation day" when Britons will be freed of Covid restrictions.

Christopher Hope has an exclusive interview with the Health Secretary.

03:22 PM

Islands of hope: How Shetland forced coronavirus into retreat

It had one of the highest infection rates - but is now almost Covid-free.

So, how did Shetland become a pandemic poster child?

Shetland has become the poster child for handling the Covid outbreak - Simon Townsley
Shetland has become the poster child for handling the Covid outbreak - Simon Townsley

In this long read, our senior features writer Joe Shute has the story.

03:06 PM

'Covid's forced me to choose between my mother and my disabled son'

Last week, Kathy Lette joined the distraught ranks of people the world over who have felt the true cruelty of Covid-19 - with her mother Val in intensive care as Australia, while Kathy couldn't get home.

There are currently 36,875 Aussies stranded abroad, so the Department of Foreign Affairs told the Australian Parliament last week, with another 100,000 desperate to get home to see their families for Christmas.

Kathy Lette at home with her mum - David Harn
Kathy Lette at home with her mum - David Harn

She then had a difficult decision to make. Should she stay in Australia to look after my 88-year-old widowed mum or boomerang back to Britain to care for her 29-year-old autistic son? In her piece, Kathy says that it was "a harrowing and heartbreaking choice".

She was painfully aware that if her beloved mother caught the virus, her chances of survival were pathetically slim. How could she abandon her now?

Read the full piece here.

02:50 PM

England coronavirus deaths in hospitals rise by 195

A further 195 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in English hospitals, NHS England has said, which brings the total number of reported hospital deaths with coronavirus to 42,389.

The UK's current caseload and death toll across all settings will be confirmed later today.

02:40 PM

Comment: 'Stop trying to make Christmas "work" – let's just celebrate in April instead'

Faced with the circumstances of coronavirus, Anna Hart has decided that Christmas will feel far more Christmassy in March, or April, anytime when we can all gather and do what Christmas is actually about: hugging people we like, sharing platefuls of food, having lengthy, animated conversations right in each others’ faces, passing boxes of chocolate around as we watch TV, going on fun excursions to places that are actually open, and forgetting whose glass of champagne belongs to whom and taking a big swig anyway.

She is thoroughly to be missing her family this Christmas, she writes, but if there is one thing to be grateful for in 2020, it’s that many of us had certain old habits smashed to smithereens. We all had to change our routines, scramble out of certain ruts, and bin entrenched expectations.

I am looking forward to this strange Christmas. But I am also looking forward to Christmas’s second wave in March or April, or whenever restrictions loosen and we are all able to gather and celebrate as we please.

02:23 PM

Italy coronavirus news: 70,000 more officers deployed to enforce Covid curbs

Italy's Interior Ministry has announced plans to deploy an additional 70,000 law enforcement officers to monitor Italy's borders, airports, train stations and main roads as strict, new anti-Covid regulations come into force over the holidays, reports Andrea Vogt.

All who enter Italy between December 10 and January 15 from another EU country, as well as Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Principality of Monaco, and the UK, will be required to show evidence they have tested negative for the virus within 48 hours of travel.

In the restricted holiday period of December 21- January 6, only those coming into the country for work, health, study, urgent matters or to return to their homes, will be allowed to pass after showing a negative test. All others, Italian or not, who arrive in Italy during this period for other reasons, will be required to quarantine for 14 days.

Police monitor people walking in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall  - Mourad Balti Touati/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Police monitor people walking in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall - Mourad Balti Touati/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Travel between regions in Italy is banned between December 21 - January 6 and those traveling for permitted reasons must carry a filled out self-declaration form from the Interior Ministry.  Extra security checks are also expected on December 24, 25 and 31 when Italians are banned from leaving their residential hometowns.

The government passed the restrictive decree earlier this week in an effort to head off a feared third wave of contagion in the New Year. Nearly 60,000 deaths in Italy have been attributed to coronavirus since the outbreak began in February.

02:05 PM

Christmas 2020 is an opportunity to totally reinvent the wheel

Every year, as we near Christmas, most of us feel the same things – excitement, but also anxiety, writes Lucy Cavendish. Will things live up to our expectations? Will the turkey cook in time? Will everyone like their presents? Will the little children find it magical? Will the teenagers get totally bored?

But this will be a Christmas like no other. Not only is there the usual tension, there is also an extra layer of ‘coronanxiety’. Most of us aren’t even sure if we should be ‘doing’ Christmas at all. At the time of writing, we are all thinking through the ramifications of three households coming together for five days.

In many ways, this December encapsulates what many of us feel the entire year has been about; fear, confusion, anxiety. We are muddled about the rules. We are not sure who is in our bubble and who isn’t. Yet this is Christmas and I’m convinced it can still be memorable. In future, when we look back at this time, we might well have made some memories that feel worth treasuring, despite the difficulties.

In many ways this can be seen as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to restructure Christmas in a way we might have liked it to be anyway, it’s just that we’ve never dared suggest it. This year, we can go back to basics, and think about what Christmas really means.

01:42 PM

Christmas market in Nottingham shut after 'pent-up demand'

The Mellors Group, which organised a Christmas market in Nottingham yesterday at which people were seemingly shown packed together in photographs, said it had decided to temporarily close the market today "in light of the unprecedented high footfall seen up and down the country for retail nationally".

It said in a statement: "The pent-up demand for a city-centre offer was far higher than normal and we feel this is the most appropriate way forward.

"This will allow us to monitor footfall in the city-centre today and ensure that our activities support residents and local businesses in an appropriate fashion."

01:34 PM

Flu season 'should bring lockdowns on the health establishment's dystopian logic'

Do you believe in life after lockdown? asks Madeline Grant. If so, what does it look like?

In the tussle between normals old and new, some recently-acquired habits are well worth keeping. People with colds should wear masks on public transport. Improved hand hygiene is a no-brainer; as is staying fit and healthy. Beyond that, it’s Old Normal all the way.

But a telling exchange between the Prime Minister and his Deputy CMO revealed a new divide. At last week’s press conference, Jonathan Van-Tam suggested that mask mandates and social distancing could persist for years. The PM disagreed - but doubtless many in the health and political establishments will not.

Having adopted the collectivist mindset and lockdown’s underlying logic once, it will be far harder to argue against it a second time. Lockdown was sold as a means of protecting the health service from inundation; which is by no means confined to Covid.

In extremis, the logic of lockdown and recent precedent could justify other intolerable interferences and cultural changes; children with mild colds being kept off school, the arts sector annihilated by continuing social distancing and mask requirements, weddings and other large events cancelled at the last-minute.

Read more: The Covid surveillance state may never be fully dismantled

01:20 PM

Vaccine passports, Pfizer and exam grades: Today's letters page

In today's Telegraph letters page, readers have shared their thoughts on a private sector success in the work of Pfizer, the ongoing impact of grade inflation amid cancelled classes - and the idea of 'vaccine passports', which one reader says must not be the preserve of any freedom-loving leader:

SIR – I read with horror the suggestion by Peter Leon (Letters, December 3) that vaccination passports could be required to access certain public and private spaces (care homes, entertainment venues, flights). These are the tactics of despots.

To paraphrase Boris Johnson himself, writing in The Daily Telegraph in 2004 during the debate over national identity cards: I am a freeborn Englishwoman. I refuse to carry papers to show evidence of a medical procedure.

Read today's Letters to the Editor here.

12:59 PM

Harrods: Arrests and 'mayhem' as crowds large crowds gather outside

Four people were arrested as a large crowd tried to enter Harrods in London's West End on the first weekend after England's national lockdown was lifted.

Hundreds of young people were photographed gathering outside the famous department store on Saturday afternoon, with some onlookers complaining that they were not wearing masks or social distancing.

The Metropolitan Police said it had been called to the shop on Brompton Road at around 1pm to "reports of a large group of people attempting to enter a shop".

A large crowd of young people has built up outside Harrods as London remains in Tier 2  - Elliott Franks
A large crowd of young people has built up outside Harrods as London remains in Tier 2 - Elliott Franks
Shoppers on Oxford Street during the first weekend after lockdown in London - Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Shoppers on Oxford Street during the first weekend after lockdown in London - Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The pre-Christmas rush during the first weekend since shopping rules were lifted  - Elliott Franks
The pre-Christmas rush during the first weekend since shopping rules were lifted - Elliott Franks

 

12:29 PM

No deal Brexit would not affect vaccine roll-out, says head of medicine regulator

Dr June Raine has said that a no-deal Brexit would not disrupt the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine, which is to begin in the coming days.

Dr Raine, the head of Britain's medicines regulator the MHRA, was asked about the potential impact of no trade agreement being reached between the UK and the European Union as negotiations go to a final throw of the dice.

“We’ve practised, we are ready, we are fully prepared for any possible outcome,” she told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

The Chief Executive of the MHRA, Dr June Raine, at a press conference last month - Pippa Fowles/No10 Downing Street
The Chief Executive of the MHRA, Dr June Raine, at a press conference last month - Pippa Fowles/No10 Downing Street

She said that the intention of the MHRA was to "make sure that whatever the outcome, whatever the deal, that medicines and medical devices and vaccines reach anyone in all parts of the country in the same way, without any disruption at all."

George Eustice, the environment minister, said "Brexit won't disrupt the vaccine" when asked a similar question earlier today on Sky News.

12:14 PM

Coronavirus vaccine news could led to looser tier system in months, says Hancock

The fast-track approval of the coronavirus vaccine means restrictions could be loosened before the end of March, the Health Secretary has said.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Matt Hancock said he "can't wait to scrap this tiered system altogether" and for the country to "get back to living by mutual respect and personal responsibility, not laws set in Parliament".

A photo from showing Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, at the Department of Health during his interview with Christopher Hope. - Eddie Mulholland
A photo from showing Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, at the Department of Health during his interview with Christopher Hope. - Eddie Mulholland

It marks a change in rhetoric and tone from Mr Hancock, who until now has been seen in Whitehall as one of the strongest proponents of the strictest possible measures.

Asked whether the start of administering the vaccine to Britons this week could bring about a quicker end to the restrictions in the first three months of next year, Mr Hancock said: "Yes it will."

Christopher Hope, our chief political correspondent, has the story.

12:08 PM

How do the new Covid tier rules affect me? Everything you need to know

Ninety-nine per cent of England has been placed under tougher Tier 2 and Tier 3 rules, as the country returns to the three-tier system now lockdown has ended.

Under the new rules, non-essential retail, gyms and places of worship can reopen in all tiers, whilst concerts and spectator sports can now take place in Tiers 1 and 2.

The hospitality industry faces the toughest measures under the new system, as pubs and restaurants close to the public in Tier 3 unless operating as takeaways. In Tier 2 areas, such as London and Liverpool, pubs and bars must close unless operating as restaurants that serve substantial meals.

Harry Yorke has all you need to know.

11:35 AM

Primary schools fight to stage their Christmas shows

It’s time to get into the marquee and open the frankincense-and-myrrh hand-gel. 

Nearly half of primary schools in Britain feel unable to put on a Christmas show or carol concert in light of Covid restrictions on singing and live performances. 

Yet up and down the country, determined teachers are devising ways for the show to somehow go on, even if Away in a Manger is out (no singing in large groups is allowed indoors), Mary and Joseph must remain socially distanced, and the audience cannot watch productions in the usual way.

he three Magi at the microphone at Kilgraston School - Chriss Watt
he three Magi at the microphone at Kilgraston School - Chriss Watt

With Zoom carol concerts and drive-by nativities, schools are getting creative - here's how Britain’s schools are celebrating Christmas.

11:17 AM

Environment Secretary: Vaccine will be 'personal decision' for the Queen

When asked on Times Radio if he would like to see the monarch take the vaccine and then announce publicly that she had done so, Environment Secretary George Eustice has said: "It will be a personal decision for the Queen, as it is for everyone.

"But it is very important that we try to make sure that people are reassured about this vaccine. It has been rigorously tested, it's been through a very rigorous authorisation process and it is safe.

"It is very important that we get those vulnerable groups, some of the older population, those over the age of 80, to take the vaccine early."

10:34 AM

Vaccine 'will help us turn the corner'

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which approved the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, has said there "should be no doubt whatsoever that this is a very safe and highly effective vaccine".

Asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show about how important the public health message is to make sure that people actually take the vaccine, she said: "It's vitally important.

"And I would really like to emphasise that the highest standards of scrutiny, of safety and of effectiveness and quality have been met, international standards. And so there should be real confidence in the rigour of our approval."

"It will help us turn the corner. There's really not one of us who hasn't been affected by this pandemic, and our organisation, like every other, has been completely focused on doing our job to be able to help defeat this terrible disease."

10:17 AM

Search for your area

Public Health England release a daily update on how many confirmed cases of coronavirus there are in each English local authority.

Type in your postcode in the tool below to find out how many Covid cases there have been in your area.

 

09:51 AM

How to have a happy, stress-free Covid Christmas

It's safe to say this will be a Christmas like no other. Not only is there the usual tension, there is also an extra layer of ‘coronanxiety’. Most of us aren’t even sure if we should be ‘doing’ Christmas at all. 

This year’s festive season may feel strange, but it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to break with tradition and reinvent the holiday. 

From a festive Zoom quiz to socially distanced walks, there are easy ways to make this Christmas stand out in a good way. Here, we've rounded up the best Covid-safe activities the whole family will enjoy. 

07:26 AM

England cricket players await test results in South Africa

Breaking news: England cricket players are awaiting coronavirus test results after hotel staff tested positive, according to the South Africa's cricket board.

"Cricket South Africa and the @englandcricket have agreed to delay the start time for today’s One-Day International match, which is due to take place in Paarl," the cricket board tweeted at 7.10am GMT.

"The England players and management underwent an additional round of PCR tests on Saturday evening, after two members of the hotel staff testing positive for Covid-19.

"Whilst the ECB awaits ratification of those test results the decision has been taken to delay the start of today’s ODI match."

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

England’s one-day series against South Africa was plunged into serious doubt on Friday when the first ODI at Newlands was postponed an hour before it was due to start after it emerged a third South Africa player had tested positive for the virus. 

It sparked a frantic track-and-trace operation by the South Africa management to work out which squad members had been in close contact with the unnamed player. 

The delayed one-day series was due to start today after all players tested negative for Covid-19.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

READ MORE: 

05:39 AM

Pooches prepare to take on pandemic

Dogs could be used in the fight against Covid-19 - by being trained to sniff out infected people.

Researchers in Australia have started training 14 dogs in a feasibility study and the animals could become part of the screening process for incoming visitors if successful.

Studies have previously shown dogs can detect particular odours - known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) - which are produced by humans when they are suffering with a viral infection.

Dr Anne-Lise Chaber of the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences said the current training - in Adelaide and at the Australian Border Force's National Detector Dog Program Facility - will test the accuracy of dogs detecting VOCs in sweat samples from people infected with coronavirus.

The research will not involve the dogs directly sniffing people who have tested positive.

She said: "Dogs could be deployed in airports and also be used to screen staff in hospitals and travellers in quarantine."

04:15 AM

Japan reportedly considering welcoming overseas tourists

Japan's government is considering the resumption of inbound tourism on a limited basis from spring as Tokyo prepares to host a delayed summer Olympics, Asahi newspaper reported on Sunday.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's administration is leaning towards allowing small tour groups from Asian countries where coronavirus infections are well under control, such as China and Taiwan, Asahi reported.

Japan is struggling with a third wave of coronavirus infections and new cases have spiked to record highs in Tokyo and Osaka. The number of serious cases nationwide has also risen to a record.

Under the new plan, tourists would have to test negative for the virus and submit a detailed travel itinerary before entering, Asahi said. They would travel only by hired coach and be separated from other travellers at their hotel and sightseeing destinations.

Tourists would also be required to use a tracing app and give daily updates on their health, the report said.

03:22 AM

Royal Train tour: William and Kate's whistle-stop trip

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had carried on with online engagements even after most people had "Zoomed" out, writes The Telegraph's Camilla Tominey.

William and Kate - Chris Jackson/Getty Images
William and Kate - Chris Jackson/Getty Images

But in the end William and Kate came to the conclusion that a mini-tour of the UK might bring some Christmas cheer in the wake of the most miserable 12 months in recent memory.

The decision to take their first journey aboard the Royal Train came after discussions with aides about how to highlight the impact of public generosity during the Covid pandemic. 

Both William and Kate expressed a desire to pay tribute to those who have gone "above and beyond" this year.

According to one well-placed source, lockdown has taught the couple not only the value of the Royals in times of crisis but also the importance of their power to be agents of the nation's gratitude. 

READ MORE: William and Kate have taken it upon themselves to keep spirits up

02:23 AM

Don't talk while eating in restaurants: researchers

Don't talk while eating in restaurants, a study has warned, as it claims people can be infected by Covid-19 more than six metres away.

Diners should refrain from having "conversation during meals" as well as avoid "loud talking or shouting", according to researchers in South Korea.

Their study claims that people who are 6.5m apart can still infect each other, and the window of transmission can be as little as five minutes.

Restaurants should consider installing dividing walls between tables to prevent this happening, they argue.

Read the full story here.

02:18 AM

Passengers await test results after two travellers fail to quarantine

Public health concerns eased in Australia after two travellers who returned from Germany - bypassing quarantine in Sydney to travel straight to Melbourne - returned negative Covid tests.

All passengers on the Saturday afternoon domestic flight between the two cities and some airport staff must remain in self-quarantine until the results from a second test arrive on Monday, a health official said.

Australia recorded seven new cases overnight, all returned travellers.

The country has all but stamped out coronavirus through strict quarantine measures, particularly in Victoria, the second-most populous state, which in early August logged as many as 700 daily infections.

01:44 AM

Aussie hotspot prepares for a 'Covid-safe' summer

The Australian state of Victoria eased Covid-19 restrictions on Sunday after the country's pandemic hotspot recorded 37 days without any new infections, moving towards a "Covid-safe" holiday season.

From midnight on Sunday (local time), up to 100 people will be able to attend public gatherings such as weddings, with density rules of one person per two square metres remaining in place, while 50pc of office workers will be able to return to workplaces by January 11, the state's premier said.

"Today we can take some big steps, not to normal, but to a Covid-safe summer, (but) we all need to remain vigilant and we all need to play our part," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Masks will remain mandatory at indoor venues and on public and ride-share transport.

A 12m-tall inflatable sculpture of the chimpanzee David Greybeard by Australian artist Lisa Roet, in Melbourne. The work commemorates the 60th anniversary of Jane Goodall's pioneering research into chimpanzee behaviour in Tanzania and is designed to raise questions about humanity's relationship with nature and our closest animal relative - WILLIAM WEST/AFP
A 12m-tall inflatable sculpture of the chimpanzee David Greybeard by Australian artist Lisa Roet, in Melbourne. The work commemorates the 60th anniversary of Jane Goodall's pioneering research into chimpanzee behaviour in Tanzania and is designed to raise questions about humanity's relationship with nature and our closest animal relative - WILLIAM WEST/AFP

01:01 AM

Today's top stories