Despite the mounting costs of tackling the pandemic, the Treasury has already indicated that huge sums will be spent on health, unemployment, and infrastructure.

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1606294397Sage expert warns of hospitalisations and further lockdown measures in the New Year

Professor Graham Medley, an expert in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions at Christmas could lead to more people being admitted to hospital and further lockdown measures in the New Year.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) attendee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we’re in a process now whereby the population’s risk of filling up the NHS is really being passed down to us as individuals.

“For other diseases like flu or hepatitis B, the Government doesn’t get involved in helping or determining what our risk is and it is really, I think, for this Christmas up to us as individuals and families to think about what our risks are and how we are going to mitigate them.

“I think it is inevitable that if a lot of people do take that risk, even if it is a small risk, then we will end up with a lot of people in hospital and potentially having to take measures in January to lock down again.”

Prof Medley advised people to isolate before visiting relatives, to consider the amount of time they plan to spend with them, to remain “completely faithful” to any social bubble arrangements and to weigh up the risk of spreading Covid to those who are vulnerable.

But he said, even with mitigations in place, social interactions come with risks that “could play out very badly for some people”.

1606292956‘Think carefully about how far you travel for Christmas’, warns Welsh First Minister

People should “think carefully” about who they meet and how far they travel over Christmas and use the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions “sensibly and responsibly”, the First Minister of Wales has said.

Mark Drakeford told BBC Breakfast: “Coronavirus has not gone away and although Christmas is a very special time and it was important to give people a sense that there was some modest relaxation, it’s still relaxation to be used carefully and responsibly.

Mr Drakeford described the agreement between the UK nations on Christmas as “about as good as we could make it” and said it was clear the choice was not between no restrictions or all restrictions.

“Had we asked people simply to live with the current level of restrictions, there was a real risk that people simply wouldn’t be able to go along with that,” Mr Drakeford said.

He told the BBC that Tuesday’s Cobra meeting was “led by the science” and first heard from the chief scientific officer and chief medical officers of the four nations.

1606292040New cases are falling in 18 London boroughs

It is becoming increasingly likely that the capital saw its peak five days ago

1606291027Christmas easing ‘not headline seeking’, says Drakeford

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has denied that the agreement to allow three households to meet for Christmas is “headline seeking”.

He told GMB: “Our decision is based on the calculation that this is the safest way – not a completely safe way, not a risk-free way – but the safest way that we can offer.

“By giving people a limited amount of freedom, a set of rules that we think people can operate within, we will have a Christmas where people will be able to have an opportunity to see people they haven’t seen for months and months in the toughest year they’ve ever been through, but to do it in a way that does not mean that people will simply feel that the restrictions are so severe that they will take no notice of them.

“Most people in Wales would want to abide by the rules, but in coronavirus you only need a small minority of people who decide that they’re not prepared to do that and that means the virus spreads again.”

1606290597Christmas easing to avoid ‘free for all’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the decision to agree a relaxing of restrictions over Christmas was to avoid a “free for all”.

“I think it was very clear to us from the advice we received at the Cobra meeting, but also from what we hear in Wales, that unless we found a formula that allowed people to get together over Christmas, people were very unlikely to be willing to stick to the current level of restrictions that we have here in Wales,” Mr Drakeford told GMB.

“So the choice was between a guided form of meeting over Christmas or people simply making their own solutions.”

Mr Drakeford said it was “not a matter of encouraging people” to gather over the festive period.

“It is finding a set of rules that give us a guided way to Christmas – without the rules that we’ve agreed, I think the risk was very high that people would simply make up the rules for themselves,” Mr Drakeford said.

1606289796Lender Virgin Money post a 77 per cent plunge in full-year underlying profits after booking £501 million charge for loan losses amid the pandemic

The Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank owner reported underlying annual pre-tax profits of £124 million, down sharply from £539 million the previous year.

The group – formerly known as CYBG – said its “substantial” charge for bad debts comes as it prepares for a surge of borrowers falling behind with repayments due to the fallout from the coronavirus crisis, although it said it has not yet seen significant arrears.

On a statutory basis, the group saw pre-tax losses narrow to £168 million, from losses of £265 million the previous year.

David Duffy, chief executive of Virgin Money, said: “While we are yet to see any material impacts of the pandemic on the credit quality of our loan book, our results reflect a cautious and conservative approach to the coming period as we refine our assessment of the uncertain economic outlook and the impact of the second lockdown.

“Although the vaccine news is a strong cause of hope for the future, the economic benefits are still some way off when considering the immediate reality of current restrictions and so have not yet been factored into our near-term forecasts.”

1606287912Household mixing branded ‘mockery’ of restrictions that will remain in place for pubs

Plans to relax rules on household mixing over the Christmas period have been branded a “mockery” of restrictions that will remain in place for pubs and the wider hospitality sector.

According to Government guidance published on Tuesday, people cannot meet up with their Christmas bubbles of up to three households inside pubs, hotels, retail, theatres or restaurants between December 23 and 27.

This is despite those within Christmas bubbles being able to visit each other’s homes and stay overnight during that period.

Rules covering meeting inside hospitality settings will depend on what tier of restrictions in England a venue is in.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “These plans for Christmas make a mockery of the extra restrictions being placed on pubs and the economic devastation they are facing this Christmas.”

1606287851Malala Yousafzai asks the UK Government not to cut the overseas aid budget

Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai has asked the UK Government not to cut the overseas aid budget in Wednesday’s Spending Review.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce that he is suspending the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, with a cut to 0.5% thought likely.

Ms Yousafzai, an education campaigner, tweeted: “Covid-19 could force 20 million more girls out of school. To keep girls learning, we need leaders to prioritise education. @BorisJohnson & @RishiSunak: the U.K. pledged 0.7% in aid last year.

“When you announce spending priorities tomorrow, I hope you’ll deliver on that promise.”

1606287810Sage member warns of third wave caused by Christmas

A member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has warned the planned relaxation of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas could lead to a third wave of the pandemic.

Professor Andrew Hayward told BBC2’s Newsnight: “Effectively what this will be doing is throwing fuel on the Covid fire.

“I think it will definitely lead to increased transmission. It is likely to lead to a third wave of infection, with hospitals being overrun, and more unnecessary deaths.

“We are still in a country where we have got high levels of infection with Covid, particularly in young people.

“Bringing them together for hours, let alone days, with elderly relatives, I think, is a recipe for regret for many families.

“With the vaccine on the way, if we are not very careful over Christmas we are really in danger of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on this one.”

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