A near-normal Christmas would only ‘throw fuel on the fire’ and put older generations in harms way, a top scientist has warned, as ministers admit they ‘don’t want to be grinches’ and Number 10 says it will let families meet indoors over five days but the country will then face a 25-day
Professor Andrew Hayward, a
‘My personal view is we’re putting far too much emphasis on having a near normal Christmas,’ he said. ‘We know respiratory infections peak in January, so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this.’
Adding to protests over the proposed festive break in restrictions, Professor of public health at Bristol University Gabriel Scally warned there was ‘no point in having a very merry Christmas and then burying friends and relations in January and February’.
‘We need to thin very seriously about Christmas and how we’re going to spend it,’ he said. ‘It’s too dangerous a time and opportunity for the virus to spread.’
The Prime Minister has also said it is his ‘desire to try and allow loved ones to have Christmas together’ after a tumultuous year that has seen families kept apart for months on end.
The warning comes as Oxford University reveals its Covid-19 vaccine triggers a ‘robust’ response from the immune system and appears to work in older people, based on results from second-phase trials.
It marks another breakthrough in the race to develop a vaccine after jabs made by Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech were both revealed to be around 95 per cent effective within the past week.
The NHS could start dishing out the vital jabs to healthcare workers and the elderly as early as December, with further shots expected to be administered to wider sections of the population in the new year.
Britain recorded 19,609 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, down from 2.2 per cent on the 20,051 announced on Tuesday and 14.6 per cent lower than the 22,950 figure last Wednesday. There were also 529 deaths, which is 11.5 per cent less than the 598 on Tuesday and 11.1 per cent smaller than the 595 a week ago.
Warning against relaxing the rules over Christmas, Professor Andrew Hayward, an infectious diseases expert at University College London, said mixing at Christmas posed a ‘substantial’ risk to the elderly. And Professor Gabriel Scally, an expert in public health at Bristol University, said there was no point celebrating Christmas to ‘bury’ family and relations next year
PFIZER SAYS ITS VACCINE IS 95 PER CENT EFFECTIVE AND WORKS IN OLDER PEOPLE
Pfizer and BioNTech yesterday revealed they can prove their coronavirus vaccine is safe, up to 95 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19 and effective in elderly people, who are most at risk of severe Covid-19.
Their announcement came just days after rival firm Moderna claimed its own jab was 94.5 per cent effective, and is an improvement on Pfizer’s early estimate that the vaccine was 90 per cent effective.
Pfizer made the newest claim about its vaccine in a statement confirming the third stage of the trial has been running for long enough that it can submit the required two months’ worth of safety data to regulators, and that it would do so in the US and UK ‘within days’.
Britain has already pre-ordered 40million doses of the vaccine and could be set to get 10million of those next month, with the NHS gearing up to start a major Army-backed operation to deliver it from as soon as December 1.
UK drug regulator the MHRA has been doing a ‘rolling review’ of the vaccine and could, as a result, complete the approval process within days of receiving the company’s application.
Final trial results showed that only eight people out more than 20,000 who got the vaccine caught coronavirus in the study, compared to 162 who were given a fake jab. A total of 10 people got severe Covid-19, one of whom had been given the real vaccine.
An independent safety committee ‘has not reported any serious safety concerns related to the vaccine’ since the final stage trial began in July, Pfizer said. Side effects were limited – the most common was fatigue, which 3.8 per cent of people got, and headaches (2 per cent). The company said side effects were less common in older people and insisted that the vaccine works just as well for over-65s, who are known to be most vulnerable to the disease.
Questions were raised when Moderna announced its results on Monday about whether the UK had hitched its wagon to the wrong project, ordering 40m doses of Pfizer’s jab – then thought to be 90 per cent effective – but none of Moderna’s.
In other coronavirus developments:
- Conservative MPs pile pressure on the Government not to extend England’s lockdown, saying ‘freedom is not just for Christmas;
- China says a Covid-19 study clears it of any blame over the pandemic because it found the virus was circulating in Italy in September last year;
- Families of Royal Marines veteran, 89, and retired registrar, 88, killed by Covid-19 sue the Government claiming the rapid discharge of elderly patients from hospital caused deadly outbreaks;
- Jaguar Land Rover orders staff to turn off NHS Covid-19 app at work to stop them having to self-isolate ‘unnecessarily’;
- It emerges SAGE used data from Wikipedia to model Covid-19 outbreak in the spring and did not have a single Covid-19 expert in its ranks;
- Danish study finds face masks do NOT protect the wearer from Covid-19 but will stop them from infecting other people.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Hayward said it would be ‘tragic’ to throw away the opportunity to protect those we love through vaccination and the gains made during lockdown by ‘trying to return to normality over the holidays’.
When asked whether the festive freedom would equal weeks of tighter restrictions for Britons, he said: ‘Well, I’m not a mathematical modeller but that’s the process that’s done.
‘One looks at the contact rates across society and works out how many infections that would lead to and how many less contacts you would have during lockdown in order to achieve a normal Christmas.
‘I think there is a cost but when policy is undulating between stay at home to save lives, eat out to help out, the tier system, the second lockdown and now proposals for an amnesty on social distancing, it’s a highly inconsistent message.
‘Whereas, in fact, the things that people need to do to stay safe, and to keep their loved ones safe, are relatively simple.
‘Avoid, as far as possible, indoor closed contact with people outside of your household, avoid crowded places and protect the most vulnerable by not putting them at unnecessary risk.’
But suggesting a glimmer of hope for some relaxation of rules over Christmas he said the ‘economy’ also needed to be considered by policymakers.
‘I think to a large extent it is, it is a very difficult balance.
‘We need to be very mindful of the fact that this last period of the year is absolutely critical economically for many businesses, so I think we do need to find a way of allowing them to function but in a responsible way that is highly socially distanced.’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace signalled on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today that the Government did not want to steal Christmas, but also wanted to protect people’s lives.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said today he didn’t want to be the ‘Grinch that stole Christmas’, but added the Government remained focused on ‘protecting’ people’s lives from the virus
He said: ‘I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas – I’m not campaigning for that.
‘I would love all of us to be able to have a Christmas, but more than anything I want us to get through this Covid and try and get this country back to normal and I want to protect lives.’
A health chief has warned England could face 25 days of extra restrictions for just five days of festive freedom in which Britons could throw off the lockdown shackles and gather indoors for celebrations.
Under plans being considered by ministers, churches are also expected to be allowed to hold Christmas Day services, with the Church of England saying ‘the message of light shining in the darkness’ is urgently needed.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, Public Health England’s top doctor Susan Hopkins said she believes ‘it is possible’ — though she warned that for every day measures are loosened, it will require five days of tighter restrictions to reverse the damage.
But one Tory MP warned it would be better for the Prime Minister to cancel Christmas and be branded the ‘Grinch’ rather than risk a spike in Covid-19 deaths that could paint him as the ‘Grim Reaper’. They said: ‘He’s going to be blamed for it (a rise in deaths). It is always in mid to late January you get the NHS winter crisis.’
Speaking at a Downing street briefing yesterday, PHE’s top medic Dr Hopkins said: ‘We are very keen that we have a Christmas as close to normal as possible. That requires all of us to make every effort over this national restriction period, and even in early December, to get the cases as low as possible and to reduce the risk of transmission within households and between families.
‘TIER THREE WORKED’: TOP ADVISERS BACK MEASURE THAT IS LESS RESTRICTIVE THAN A FULL LOCKDOWN
Two senior Government advisers have yesterday signalled their support for Tier Three, insisting it was curbing the spread of coronavirus infections in the worst affected regions of England before the national lockdown.
The measure – which has previously been backed by experts – is less restrictive than the blunt tool of a national lockdown because it allows restaurants, shops and, in some cases, gyms to remain open.
In a Downing Street press briefing Dr Susan Hopkins, a senior doctor at Public Health England, and deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean both said Tier Three had driven down infections.
Dame Angela revealed she was confident that the measure had successfully reigned in Covid-19 transmissions.
She told the briefing: ‘When I look at the North West and the North East, when I look at what’s happened with the ONS surveys there, I see interventions that have worked, I see epidemics that are flattening. There is some good news there.’
And Dr Hopkins also bolstered support for the Tiered system – and especially Tier Three – as a way to curb infections.
Explaining Government graphs showing falls in coronavirus cases in formerly Tier Three North West, North East and Midlands regions, she said: ‘What you see is, even before national restrictions were brought in, in the parts of the country where the amount of infections was already very high the progress of the epidemic had already flattened off – that’s the North West and Yorkshire and Humber.
‘Those also happen to include the parts of the country that were under Tier Three restrictions, so that’s good news that some parts of the country have already flattened off.’
‘A final decision, of course, will rest with the Government and we look forward to hearing what those plans are.’
Deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean said SAGE had also been examining the potential relaxation of measures over Christmas. She told Wednesday’s conference: ‘We did send some advice in over the weekend. But we genuinely don’t know what decisions have been made.’
The intention in Number 10 is clearly to deliver a Christmas as close to normal as possible, with Mr Johnson’s official spokesman telling the briefing: ‘I think the PM has been clear in his desire to try and allow families to have Christmas together. We accept it won’t be a normal Christmas but as I say the PM has been clear in his desire for families to be able to see each other.
‘I think the point I would make is we are taking the tougher measures now to drive down the level of transmission, to drive down the number of patients admitted to hospital and then ultimately, those who end up on ICU and sadly die.
‘We are taking these tougher measures now so that, as I say, the PM has given his clear intent to allow families to spend Christmas together.’
Emphasising the importance of driving down infections before Christmas in order to allow the relaxation of restrictions, Dr Hopkins said Britons should be ‘very careful’ about the number of contacts they have in order to reduce transmission before the festive period to ‘Get our cases as low as possible’.
Asked about what Christmas may look like, she told the Government data briefing: ‘This is a decision that will be made by Government and I know that they’re working hard to develop an outline of what that will look like and what the new tiers will look like post-December 2 and what Christmas will look like.’
She added: ‘Hopefully the Government will make the decision that will allow us to have some mixing but we will wait and see what that is.
‘And then I think, once we have got past the Christmas period, if there’s been a release and some socialisation we will all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again.’
An insider told the
The source said it was ‘more likely’ the Government would decide to allow multiple households to get together ‘for fear of people being left out.’
It added: ‘There’s very much a hope that there can be a UK approach because there’s a realisation that people have families in all four corners of the UK.
‘It’s important to give people hope as well after what has been a very difficult year for everyone.’
These graphs, shown yesterday at a Downing Street press briefing, reveal Covid-19 hospitalisations have already started to fall in parts of the UK, offering a glimmer of hope that England’s lockdown will not be extended beyond December 2
BARONESS HARDING TOLD TO SELF-ISOLATE BY NHS COVID-19 APP
Testing tsar Baroness Harding revealed yesterday that she had been ordered to self-isolate by her own coronavirus contact tracing app.
The peer posted an image of the notification saying ‘you need to self-isolate’, saying she was ‘feeling well’ but remarking ruefully that she had ‘many hours Zoom ahead’.
Lady Harding’s husband, Tory MP John Penrose, has previously been told to self-isolate after potentially coming into contact with someone who was infected.
But the timings will spark speculation over whether there is a link to Boris Johnson’s quarantine.
The notification shows that Lady Harding should be freed from the restrictions at midnight on the morning of November 27, hours after the PM is due to be allowed to leave his Downing Street lockdown.
Mr Johnson went into isolation at his No11 flat after a mask-free meeting last Thursday with Tory MP Lee Anderson, who later tested positive. A series of other Tories are also in quarantine due to the gathering.
Lady Harding was pictured going into Downing Street on Friday morning.
It is likely the total number of households, which has not been confirmed, would be at least three to include both sets of grandparents.
Graphs wheeled out at Wednesday’s Government press conference showed hospital admissions for Covid-19 have dropped in the North West, North East and the Midlands, in another promising sign that the three-tiered approach was managing to curb the spread of the virus – especially Tier Three.
Dr Hopkins signalled her support for the localised approach at the conference, saying the largest falls in infections were being recorded in areas previously under these restrictions which is ‘good news that some parts of the country have already flattened off’.
Tier Three is considered the best way to drive down infections without sacrificing all sections of the economy because it allows restaurants, shops and, in some cases, gyms to remain open. This means it is far less restrictive than a full national lockdown.
Government data revealed the daily number of patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 had peaked in three regions of England where Tier Three had come into force.
The measure is less strict than a crude national lockdown, which sees restaurants and, in some cases, gyms also forced to close.
In the North West – which had been at the centre of England’s outbreak – hospitalisations peaked on October 26, when the average number of admissions over the previous seven days peaked at 308.4 per day.
This has since fallen by 13 percent to 267.1 per day in the seven-day spell to November 12, the latest date for which data is available.
In the Midlands – where swathes were placed under Tier Three restrictions – hospitalisations peaked on November 11, when their seven-day average reached 382 admissions per day. It had fallen to 377.4 the following day.
Although the average hasn’t been calculated for the other days, each has lower admissions than the day before suggesting the figure will continue to drop.
The Prime Minister (pictured doing PMQs via Zoom as he self isolates) said yesterday it was his ‘desire to try and allow loved ones to have Christmas together’ after a tumultuous year that has seen families kept apart for months on end
And in the North East and Yorkshire the highest number of hospitalisations was recorded on November 10, when 464 people were admitted with Covid-19. This had dropped to 376 on November 15.
Dame Angela said she was confident in the measure which had successfully reigned in coronavirus transmission.
She told the Government briefing: ‘When I look at the North West and the North East, when I look at what’s happened with the ONS surveys there, I see interventions that have worked, I see epidemics that are flattening.
‘There is some good news there.’
Dr Hopkins also signalled her support for the tiered-system – especially Tier Three – as a way to put the lid on spiralling infections.
Explaining the Government graphs, she said: ‘What you see is, even before national restrictions were brought in, in the parts of the country where the amount of infections was already very high the progress of the epidemic had already flattened off – that’s the North West and Yorkshire and Humber.
‘Those also happen to include the parts of the country that were under Tier Three restrictions, so that’s good news that some parts of the country have already flattened off.’
The five day period has reportedly been chosen because Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday this year. It will mean many, but not all workers, will then have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, followed by Sunday, December 27, and a planned Bank Holiday on Monday, December 28
Millions of Britons have been given a major boost that their number one Christmas wish – to be with their family over the festive period – could be granted. Pictured: Pedestrians in Oxford Circus, London, yesterday
BORIS JOHNSON REFUSES TO APOLOGISE FOR £18BILLION ‘CASH FOR CRONIES’ SCANDAL
Boris Johnson refused to apologise after a devastating report laid bare the Government’s £18billion rush to source PPE during the coronavirus crisis and claims Conservative cronies were given VIP access to lucrative contracts.
Mr Johnson has denied his ministers wasted ‘mindblowing’ amounts of taxpayers’ money, claiming that he is ‘very proud’ of the scramble to buy lifesaving clothing for the NHS at the start of the pandemic and through the first wave.
He told the Commons in the first virtual Prime Minister’s Questions: ‘We shifted heaven and earth to get 32 billion items of PPE into this country. I’m very proud of what has been achieved.’
A review by Britain’s spending watchdog the National Audit Office of 8,600 contracts has revealed that officials had signed agreements for hundreds of thousands of facemasks which turned out to be unusable – wasting hundreds of millions of pounds.
As coronavirus swept across Britain, a £12.3billion ‘Wild West’ opportunity emerged for any firms able to provide the NHS with protective equipment as hospitals and care homes ran out. Many companies with zero experience of supplying PPE won multi-million pound Government deals while suppliers with political contacts were ten times more likely to get business.
The NAO said it will launch an urgent investigation into one extraordinary deal for surgical gloves and gowns with a Florida-based jewellery designer where a Spanish businessman who served as a middleman was paid an astonishing £21million in UK taxpayers’ cash.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked Mr Johnson in the Commons: ‘Does the Prime Minister think that £21million for a middle man was an acceptable use of taxpayers’ money?’
The Tory leader, who is self-isolating for 14 days in Downing Street, said Sir Keir initially urged for the removal of ‘blockages’ in the procurement process to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) and called him ‘Captain Hindsight’, adding: ‘We were facing a very difficult situation where across the world there was not adequate supplies of PPE. Nobody had enough PPE’.
Despite throwing their support behind Tier 3, there are rumblings of a revamped four-tier system when England finally comes out of its national shutdown on December 2, which could see pubs forced to stay shut and a new 9pm alcohol curfew in Covid hotspots.
Ministers and experts reportedly want to review the direction of Covid-19 death figures and infection numbers across the UK before green-lighting any proposals for families to meet over Christmas.
Under the proposals, reported in the Sun, households would be allowed to mix for up to five days, starting on Christmas Eve. The five day period has reportedly been chosen because Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday this year.
It will mean many, but not all workers, will then have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, followed by Sunday, December 27, and a planned Bank Holiday on Monday, December 28.
Ministers reportedly want to make the Christmas rules standard across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – all of which have recently had varying levels of Covid restrictions in place.
According to the Times, the period for easing of restrictions could be much shorter – between two or three days.
The paper also reports that the number of households able to mix in ‘bubbles’ could be limited to just two or three households.
Scientific advisers have reportedly urged the Government against easing rules too much, with some warning case numbers could double or quadruple over the Christmas period.
Talks between the four nations are set to take place at a later date, with ministers in the devolved nations said to be keen to wait for more data before making a decision.
At her coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: ‘We are all desperate for some normality around Christmas and I absolutely include myself in that.
‘The Scottish Government right now is working very closely and well with the other UK nations to try to agree a way for that to happen – we want to have the same position across the UK given family patterns that exist.
‘But we know that people coming together when a virus is circulating will increase the risks of it spreading.’
The First Minister again said that meeting at Christmas requires the prevalence of the virus to reduce in the coming weeks.
At the Downing Street press conference, Dr Hopkins also said that every lower tier local authority will have local contact tracing in place by the end of November.
‘NHS Test and Trace has increased its testing capacity, that has been a very important intervention and that has allowed us to try and work on decreasing turnaround times for those people who get tested,’ she told the Downing Street data briefing on Covid-19.
‘We’re also working very hard with local authorities to enhance the contact tracing system and by the end of this month, almost every lower tier local authority will have local contact tracing in place so that’s really allowed us to step up.
‘That’s an amazing achievement – in the summer where we were having 1,000 cases a day we were contacting on average 2,000 to 3,000 people per day.
‘Right now, with almost 30,000 cases a day across the UK, we are managing to contact over 100,000 people per day.’
England’s deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean said she did not expect for hospital admissions to halve every three weeks as they did during the first lockdown in March.
The proposals could see the UK celebrating a more normal festive period, before restrictions come back into force
Downing Street said yesterday Boris Johnson wanted to ‘ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas’
A Whitehall source said Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured left) and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove were attempting to ‘rein in everything’ and allow only a modest loosening of restrictions after December 2. But other senior ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured right), are said to be gearing up to push for a wider reopening
She told the Downing Street data briefing: ‘During the March lockdown – the number of hospitalisations which was really all we could keep track of at that time – was halving every three weeks.
‘I don’t think we’re going to achieve that – I do not think we will halve before the second of December.’
It comes amid a split between cabinet members over plans for a ‘strengthened’ Covid tier system, which could see indoor socialising banned across much of the country for months.
Ministers are preparing for a bitter fight over the details of a beefed-up system of ‘regional’ restrictions which are due to be published next week.
A Whitehall source said Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove were attempting to ‘rein in everything’ and allow only a modest loosening of restrictions when the current lockdown rules expire on December 2.
However, other senior ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Trade Secretary Liz Truss, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Home Secretary Priti Patel, are said to be gearing up to push for a wider reopening to allow businesses to salvage part of their Christmas trade.
The new restrictions are expected to last for months, with only the short break over Christmas to allow more contact with family and friends.
Downing Street yesterday insisted that Boris Johnson, who is in self-isolating having been in contact with a fellow Tory MP who tested positive for Covid, remains determined to end the current restrictions on December 2.
Though households could be banned from mixing when the lockdown ends in a bid to ‘save Christmas’, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The paper says the ban could last until ‘close to Christmas’ to allow for a festive ‘bubble’ system.
However no decisions have been taken about exactly what structure of tiered restrictions will replace it.
Plans for an ‘end of lockdown package’, including more details on the country’s vaccination programme, is expected to be announced next week.
On Monday, Public Health England director Susan Hopkins, warned that the tier system would have to be ‘strengthened’ to avoid a resurgence in the virus when the lockdown ends.
She said Tier One – the only level that allowed for indoor socialising – had had ‘very little effect’.
Documents released last week from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which reports to the Scientific Advisory Committee for Emergencies (Sage) said that although there was a ‘clear effect’ on infection rates from strict Tier Three interventions, there was ‘much less from Tiers One and Two’.
The SPI-M group believes infections will rise at the same rate as before if the same three-tier system is brought back in on December 2.
But many ministers fear the economy would face another heavy blow if huge numbers of businesses are forced to remain closed in the run up to Christmas.
Tory MPs are also gearing up for a fight over the issue, with one warning that up to 100 could rebel next week if the new restrictions are drawn too tightly.
A Whitehall source acknowledged that the Government would face ‘political difficulties’ if the hospitality sector is unable to reopen in the run-up to Christmas.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said yesterday that he hoped to see most hospitality firms allowed to reopen.
But he acknowledged that restrictions were likely to be only ‘somewhat easier’ after the current lockdown ends.
In a round of broadcast interviews, Mr Jenrick said any extension of the lockdown would require a vote of Parliament.
‘It is our hope and expectation that that won’t be the case and that people in England will be able to move back into the tiered system,’ he said.
Sir John Bell, a member of the Government’s vaccines taskforce, said the Government would not be able to ‘take our foot off the brake completely’ when the lockdown ends.
But he said developments in mass testing could help ease restrictions. ‘I am optimistic that we won’t have to go into the Christmas period in a lockdown,’ he said.
Professor Neil Ferguson (pictured), whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said reopening pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas would likely re-kindle a rise in infection levels
How could the new Tiers look?
Ministers insist no final decisions have been made on the Tier system after December 2, but there have been hints at the kind of measures it could feature.
It also seems clear that in future the rules will be applied on a wider regional basis, rather than to specific towns and cities.
The Rule of Six looks set to continue, and the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants would still apply.
However, there is speculation that households could be restricted from meeting in homes after health chiefs said the base level was proving ineffective.
Tier 2 previously involved all the curbs in the first level, plus a ban on mixing with other households in any indoor setting – including pubs and restaurants.
Tier 3 is the highest set of restrictions currently available in the system
There is a ban on socialising indoors and in private gardens. Pubs and bars must shut unless they are able to operate as eateries.
There are restrictions on staying overnight in other parts of the country unless it is for essential work.
Ministers have been hinting at another bracket of restrictions above the existing highest level – as is already the case in Scotland.
There are suggestions it could ’embed’ some of the bolt-ons to the Tier 3 restrictions already being deployed in some areas.
For example, Nottinghamshire has imposed a ban on alcohol sales after 9pm, while other areas have shut gyms and leisure centres.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said reopening pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas would be likely to lead to rising infection levels.
He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘The big question is can we reopen… pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas and still avoid infection levels increasing?
‘I suspect we can’t, but the decision may be made to do so anyhow on the basis that any increase will be slow and may be able to be counteracted later.’
The British Medical Association last night called for the ‘rule of six’, which allowed mixing of up to six households, to be replaced with a ‘two households’ rule.
It comes as Britain last night recorded 1.7 per cent fewer coronavirus cases compared to last week in yet another indication the UK’s second wave is slowing.
The Government announced 20,051 new lab-confirmed Covid cases in the UK on Wednesday, down from the 20,412 infections confirmed last Tuesday.
The figure is also a fall from the 21,363 cases confirmed on Monday, with the total number of infections in the UK now at 1,410,732 since the start of the pandemic.
The Department of Health announced a further 598 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday – up 12.4 per cent from the same point last week, when 532 deaths were recorded.
Yesterday’s death toll is the highest recorded in Britain since May 12, when 614 deaths were confirmed. The latest death figure brings the UK total to 52,745.
However, separate data from the UK’s statistic agencies suggest there have been more than 68,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
These include deaths where the virus has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days.
Meanwhile, figures released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday showed the number of people dying with Covid-19 rose by 40 per cent in the first week of November – when the virus was to blame for one in every six deaths in England and Wales.
It was not explained last night why deaths have risen sharply, though it could be a delayed spike following a rise in Covid cases last week.
The figures comes as Nicola Sturgeon last night announced that parts of Scotland that are home to millions of people will be moved into its toughest coronavirus level at the end of the week as she warned infection rates remain ‘stubbornly high’.
The First Minister said 11 council areas, which include the city of Glasgow, will be subject to Level Four restrictions from 6pm on Friday. The areas have a combined population of approximately 2.3million people.
People living in Level Four areas are banned from meeting with other households indoors while all non-essential shops must close.
In an announcement to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon told people in those areas is that they ‘should not be going out and about’ while the measures are place for the three weeks – until December 11.
The SNP leader also announced she is making it illegal for people to travel into or out of Level Three and Level Four areas ‘except for certain essential purposes’.
There is already guidance in place urging people not to make such journeys, but Ms Sturgeon said the advice will become law from Friday.
It means rule-breakers face the prospect of enforcement action from the police.
Nicola Sturgeon announced 11 local authority areas are being moved into the toughest coronavirus level from Friday
The council areas in Scotland moving to Level Four from Friday are the City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.
Ms Sturgeon said there was ‘grounds for continued and significant concern’ in all of the areas being moved into Level Four.
As well as the 11 areas being elevated to the top tier, two areas are being moved from Level Three to Level Two while 19 will experience no change.