Critically ill patients are being “evacuated” from hospitals in the south of England as they struggle to provide enough critical care beds.

It is understood that NHS England will announce plans today to reopen the Nightingale Hospital, in east London’s Excel conference centre, on 4 January.

Meanwhile, police have warned that large New Year’s Eve parties “should not be happening”, with the vast majority of the population reminded that indoor mixing between people from different households will be illegal. The organisers of gatherings of more than 30 people could be punished with £10,000 fines.

It comes as more than three quarters of England’s population has been ordered to stay at home to stop then spread of the virus, with large areas of the country placed under tier 4 restrictions overnight.

It leaves a total of 44 million people, or 78 per cent of England’s population, in tier 4, where non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers have to remain shut.

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1609406190Return to school in Northern Ireland delayed

A return to school in Northern Ireland after the Christmas holidays has been delayed by a week due to spiralling Covid-19 infection rates.

For years eight to eleven in secondary schools, remote learning will continue throughout January, education minister Peter Weir announced.

Childcare settings, including those attached to schools, pre-school facilities, nurseries and special schools, will open as usual next week.

Schools will also accommodate vulnerable children and those of key workers next week.

Samuel Osborne31 December 2020 09:16

1609404856There won’t be another national lockdown, Cabinet minister Gavin Williamson says

There will not be another national lockdown despite rocketing Covid-19 cases across the UK, the education secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson said he was “confident” the tier system would remain in place in England, describing it as “robust” and preferable to nation-wide measures.

Policy correspondent Jon Stone reports:

Samuel Osborne31 December 2020 08:54

1609404015Education secretary outlines reasoning behind plans to reopen primary schools

The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, outlined some of the reasoning behind the government’s plans to reopen a proportion of primary schools, with more than 85 per cent due to open next week.

He told Sky News: “The work that was done with the Department of Health who identified areas where it was either a very high rate or, using their latest data, were seeing very sharp increases in the number of cases or equally the pressures on hospitals in that area and the clinical needs.

“These were all the considerations that were taken into account but what I want to say, and this will come as no surprise to you whatsoever, I want to see schools, any school, that’s closed for those first two weeks, opening at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Asked whether he apologised to parents, teachers and children for the notice given for the measures, Mr Williamson said: “I think we all recognise that if we go back a few weeks where there was no new variant of Covid, none of us would have been expecting us to be having to take the actions, whether it’s in regards to schools, whether it’s in regards to tier 4 moves that the government has had to make, but it’s the government that’s having to respond at incredible pace to a global pandemic and then a new variant of that virus.

“It’s not what any of us would want to do, it’s not a decision that any of us would be wanting to have to implement, but we’ve had to do that because circumstances have dictated it.

“I think the British public expect the government to do what is right and even though that is sometimes uncomfortable, it is taking the right actions, dealing with these extraordinary times.”

Samuel Osborne31 December 2020 08:40

1609403184New Year’s Eve parties ‘should not be happening,’ police warn

Large New Year’s Eve parties “should not be happening,” police have said as the government tightens coronavirus restrictions across England.

Home affairs correspondent Lizzie Dearden has the full report:

Samuel Osborne31 December 2020 08:26

1609402388Secondary school return delayed for mass testing, education secretary says

The education secretary has said he is “absolutely confident” that secondary schools will be able to run a mass testing regime with an extra week to prepare.

Gavin Williamson told Sky News: “In terms of secondary year groups, the reason that we have moved that back is so we give all schools, every single school, every single college that teaches secondary-age pupils the opportunity to roll out a mass testing regime, making sure we root out this coronavirus.

“It’s not just about making it safer for pupils, it’s not just about making it safer for those who work in schools, but actually it’s about rooting out coronavirus in our communities and we did need to give schools a little bit extra time.”

Asked if a week was enough time to prepare for a functioning mass testing system, Mr Williamson said: “We are absolutely confident that it is, we’ll be seeing all the testing equipment that is needed for schools being delivered on the 4th January, schools have already had notice of the guidance of what they need to do, they’ve also had notification of the extra £78 million that we’re offering.”

The Education Secretary added that 1,500 members of the armed forces will be supporting schools in “exceptional cases” who are facing problems.

He added: “At every stage we’re making sure that children are able to benefit from getting a brilliant education that we want all our children to get.”

Samuel Osborne31 December 2020 08:13

1609401674Critically ill patients ‘evacuated’ hundreds of miles as fears grow London could run out of beds

Critically ill patients are being “evacuated” from the south of England to hospitals hundreds of miles away as NHS bosses in London revealed data showing the capital is set to run out of critical care beds within a week, health correspondent Shaun Lintern reports.

There were 50,000 positive cases reported across the UK for the second day running on Wednesday, with figures showing London – now the centre of the crisis – with 5,524 patients in hospital, more than its first-wave peak in April. 

Samuel Osborne31 December 2020 08:01


Good morning, here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

Samuel Osborne31 December 2020 07:43

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