1.26pm GMT

More on the Covid press conference going on in Cardiff right now.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford has said it is not the Welsh Government’s “intention” to allow for schools to close on December 11 to ensure that pupils and teachers will not have to self-isolate on Christmas Day.

“We will do everything we can to keep our schools working up until Christmas, we’ll do that alongside the unions, headteachers and the local education authorities.

“It is more important for our children not to miss out further on the education that is planned for them for the whole of the rest of this term and that’s what we will be working to achieve.”

The Welsh Government will “finalise the detail” of new measures affecting the hospitality industry and put in place a “further major package of financial support” over the weekend, he added.

Drakeford said he would give further information at a press conference on Monday but confirmed that non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres would continue to operate as they are currently in Wales.

“The new arrangements will apply to the whole of Wales,” Drakeford said. “That is necessary because we need a further national effort to bring down the rates in those parts of the country where they are high and to protect those areas from getting any worse where we have sustained the advantages of the firebreak for longer.

“A national approach can continue to protect us all. None of us wants to see further restrictions in our daily lives or our economy,” he added.

1.16pm GMT

Suzi Quatro has revealed she has had coronavirus.

The singer told BBC Radio 2 she had “never felt anything like it”. “It’s like somebody came into my room and hit me over the head with a sledgehammer,” she added.

Quatro said she was “reluctant” to talk about catching the virus but she hoped that sharing her experience would “help other people who maybe are pooh-poohing this and making little of it”.

Quatro, 70, added that coronavirus took “every bit of energy that I possess”. “I’m just this side of hyper, if not hyper, and I slept 18 out of 24 hours for the first five days and I had to get up for two naps per day.”

Suzi Quatro in concert at the Palace of Culture in Dresden, Germany, last year. Photograph: Action Press/Rex/Shutterstock

at 1.19pm GMT

1.12pm GMT

The prime minister’s official spokesman has said he did not know if Boris Johnson was planning to see any elderly relatives this Christmas.

Asked whether Johnson agreed with the chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty’s assessment that people should not hug their elderly relatives over the festive period, the spokesman said: “The PM has said on multiple occasions that Christmas is going to be different this year and we all have to be careful, particularly around elderly relatives.

“I’m not aware of the PM’s plans for Christmas but you’ve seen what the prime minister said on this earlier this week. We’ve always said that we wanted to allow families to meet up over Christmas but it remains important for people to be careful.”

Asked whether the prime minister was planning to hold any conversations with disgruntled Tory MPs before next week’s vote on the new tiered approach, his spokesman said: “The PM is in regular contact with MPs and that will be no different as we move through this process.

“But the prime minister and the health secretary [Matt Hancock] have set out the need for the regionalised tiered approach and we’ve been clear in the Winter Covid Plan of the reasons, in terms of reducing the transmission rate of the virus.”

Pressed on whether the government could look to use the Civil Contingencies Act if the vote on the tiers does not pass through the Commons, the No 10 spokesman said he would “not get into speculation”.

The spokesman said he was not aware whether Johnson had spoken to opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer about the planned post-lockdown measures, following speculation he could need to rely on Labour votes.

at 1.21pm GMT

1.03pm GMT

Drinkers visiting pubs in England’s tier 2 regions will have to leave the premises once they have finished eating.

Under the new post-lockdown guidance, pubs in tier 2 areas can only stay open if they can function as a restaurant and alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal.

Asked how long drinkers can stay in the pub after purchasing a substantial meal, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ve been clear that, in tier 2 I believe, you need to have a substantial meal if ordering any alcohol and it remains the case that the guidance says that once the meal is finished, it is at that point [you must leave].”

at 1.13pm GMT

12.54pm GMT

Downing Street says there are ‘no plans’ to print union flag on Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine doses

Downing Street has said there are “no plans” to have the union flag printed on the Oxford and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, following reports that No 10’s union unit had asked for the flag to appear on packaging.

The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “There are no plans for the union jack to be on doses.

“We’ve said previously, the manufacturing for some of the leading potential vaccines is already under way so they can be rolled out quickly if and when approved,” he added. “Manufacturers are well versed in the best ways to package products like this.”

at 1.14pm GMT

12.41pm GMT

Wales announces new restrictions and closes cinemas, bowling alleys and indoor entertainment venues

The Welsh first minister has announced new restrictions for Wales which will involved the closure of cinemas, bowling alleys and indoor entertainment venues.

There will also be fresh restrictions on pubs and restaurants in a week’s time, Mark Drakeford announced. Non-essential shops, hairdressers and gyms will remain open. The restrictions will cover the whole of Wales. “It’s a national approach because we need a national effort,” he said.

Drakeford said some of the advantages gained during the “firebreak” lockdown were beginning to “fade”. He expressed particular concern about the rise in the number of under-25s with Covid.

He said the R rate in Wales could be as high as 1.4 and that hospitals were under sustained pressure, with more than 1,700 people with coronavirus in hospitals in Wales. In September it was below 400.

Drakeford said: “We too now have to use the coming weeks to reduce the spread of the virus and create more headroom for the Christmas period.

“This does not mean a return to the firebreak arrangements but the cabinet has agreed to take further specific and targeted action to reinforce the current national measures we have in place.”

at 12.49pm GMT

12.25pm GMT

The chairman of the highly influential 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, Sir Graham Brady, said he opposed the new tiered coronavirus restrictions because they impacted on human rights.

“My concerns are two-fold,” he said. “The first is that the restrictions in tiers 2 and 3 are a massive restriction of people’s fundamental human rights: telling them when they can see their children, their grandchildren, preventing people from meeting their partners, and stopping people from visiting vulnerable relatives in care homes.

“Secondly, the tiers have been applied in an unjust and unfair way – putting whole counties into lockdown when significant areas have very low levels of infection.”

at 12.28pm GMT

12.15pm GMT

David Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator, has insisted a trade deal “is still possible”.

He tweeted: “I look forward to welcoming Michel Barnier and his team to London and to resuming face-to-face talks tomorrow. We are glad all are safe and well.

“Some people are asking me why we are still talking. My answer is that it’s my job to do my utmost to see if the conditions for a deal exist. It is late, but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it’s clear that it isn’t.”

He added: “But for a deal to be possible it must fully respect UK sovereignty.
That is not just a word – it has practical consequences. That includes: controlling our borders; deciding ourselves on a robust and principled subsidy control system; and controlling our fishing waters.

“We look to reach an agreement on this basis, allowing the new beginning to our relationship with the EU which, for our part, we have always wanted. We will continue to work hard to get it – because an agreement on any other basis is not possible.”

David Frost

1/4 I look forward to welcoming @michelbarnier and his team to London and to resuming face-to-face talks tomorrow. We are glad all are safe and well.

November 27, 2020

at 12.29pm GMT

12.04pm GMT

Around a quarter of adults in Great Britain believe it will take more than a year for their lives to return to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic, a survey suggests.

Seventeen per cent of people think it could take between four to six months, while 18% believe it may take between 10 and 12 months, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Only 2% of respondents thought it would be between one and three months, compared with 24% who said they expected it to be more than a year.

Meanwhile, 18% thought their household’s financial situation would get a little worse in the next 12 months, while 4% said it would get a lot worse.

The ONS questioned adults about their behaviour between 18 and 22 November as part of its opinions and lifestyle survey, receiving 3,631 responses.

The weekly survey aims to understand the impact of the pandemic on households and communities in Great Britain.

at 12.31pm GMT

11.49am GMT

Face to face Brexit talks resume

Top-level, face-to-face Brexit talks are to resume in London, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.

However, Michel Barnier warned before a meeting with his UK counterpart, David Frost, that “significant divergences” remain.

In-person negotiations in Brussels were suspended a week ago after a member of Barnier’s team contracted coronavirus. But Barnier has now said “physical negotiations” can resume.

Michel Barnier. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

He is briefing EU member states today before travelling to London this evening for talks with Lord Frost. Areas such as fishing rights remain major obstacles to a deal before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of next month.

Michel Barnier

In line with Belgian rules, my team and I are no longer in quarantine. Physical negotiations can continue.

I am briefing Member States & @Europarl_EN today. Same significant divergences persist.

Travelling to London this evening to continue 🇪🇺🇬🇧 talks w/ @DavidGHFrost + team.

November 27, 2020

Prior to Barnier’s announcement there had been uncertainty about when the face-to-face talks would resume, amid reports that the EU chief negotiator would only head to London if there was a significant shift in the UK’s position.

at 12.34pm GMT

11.40am GMT

Different age groups may get different Covid vaccines, experts say. Oxford/AstraZeneca are planning a new trial of a lower-dose jab to see how well it works in older people.

at 12.45pm GMT

11.13am GMT

Johnson said more mass coronavirus testing is in the pipeline and the supply of quick-result tests is not an issue, with the UK set to make its own within months.

“We’ve got tens of, perhaps hundreds of, millions of lateral flow tests coming into this country. We already have a huge stockpile,” he said.

“The difficulty is not the supply at the moment, the difficulty is actually working with local government, local communities, to get them doing it.

“Liverpool already showed the way. We’re now looking at Barnsley, Doncaster and other places around the country where they want to pull together and do it.

“Just now, in this lab here in PHE [Public Health England] in Porton Down, I’ve been talking to some scientists – we are seeing real progress on a UK-made lateral flow test.

“We’re now quite there yet, but in the months ahead we’ll be making them in this country as well.

“So the supply, I don’t think, is going to be the problem. The issue is going to be getting everybody mobilised to understand the potential advantages of mass community testing.”

at 11.36am GMT

10.56am GMT

Johnson defends government’s latest tiered controls

The prime minister acknowledged that many people felt “frustrated”, particularly if they were in an area with low infection rates, but said they were essential to get coronavirus rates down.

“I know it is frustrating for people when they are in a high-tier area when there is very little incidence in their village or their area. I totally understand why people feel frustrated,” he said during a visit to a public health laboratory in Wiltshire in a pooled clip for broadcasters.

Boris Johnson visiting the Public Health England site at Porton Down science park near Salisbury. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

He added: “The difficulty is that if you did it any other way, first of all you’d divide the country up into loads and loads of very complicated subdivisions – there has got to be some simplicity and clarity in the way we do this.

“The second problem is that, alas, our experience is that when a high-incidence area is quite close to a low-incidence area, unless you beat the problem in the high-incidence area, the low-incidence area I’m afraid starts to catch up.”

at 11.38am GMT

10.46am GMT

Northern Ireland has started a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown to curb Covid-19 infection rates that have remained stubbornly high and piled pressure on a struggling health system.

Pubs, restaurants, non-essential retail, gyms and close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauty salons, closed on Friday until 11 December, mirroring many restrictions that will cover 99% of England’s population from next week.

Indoor household visits have been banned in Northern Ireland since 22 September. Schools remain open and pubs, restaurants and cafes can offer takeaway and delivery services.

The deputy first minister, Michelle O’Neill, defended the restrictions, announced last week, saying they were difficult but right.

The region recorded eight more Covid-related deaths on Thursday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 962. There were 442 new confirmed cases, raising the total to 51,118.

The R rate was just below 1, said Arlene Foster, the first minister. Hospital bed occupancy was at 99%. Of 431 people being treated for the virus, 39 were in intensive care and 33 were on ventilators.

The government in the Republic of Ireland, where infection rates are much lower, will ease restrictions next week. Public health experts said the lack of an all-island strategy was undermining the fight against the pandemic.

at 10.53am GMT

10.35am GMT

Wales had the highest percentage of extra deaths in the winter of 2019-20, at 19.2%, followed by the north-west of England, at 19.0%, and London, 18.6%.

The excess deaths mortality index for these areas was “statistically significantly” higher than the England average of 16.8%, the ONS said.

In comparison, Yorkshire and the Humber (15.7%), the east of England (15.6%), the south-west of England (15.2%) and the north-east of England (13.8%) were statistically significantly lower, it said.

The excess winter mortality index is calculated so that comparisons can be made between sexes, age groups and regions, and shows the percentage of extra deaths that occurred in the months between December and March.

at 10.55am GMT

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