Confusion reigns this Christmas. Boris Johnson is being urged to bring clarity to the weekend and New Year as plans were thrown into limbo amid uncertainty over new restrictions.
The Prime Minister was blocked by his Cabinet from immediately tightening the Covid rules further as at least a dozen ministers spoke out against proposals for new curbs during a two-hour meeting.
Chief Political Correspondent Christopher Hope has the inside story on how ministers stood their ground against the scientists.
Mr Johnson later said that, although there would be no new restrictions now, he wanted to “reserve the possibility”.
After the PM addressed the nation, the Queen announced she was cancelling her trip to Sandringham for the second year running and will instead stay at Windsor Castle.
And Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, said that the Trafalgar Square New Year’s Eve celebrations will not take place.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of GPs has warned that NHS staff shortages will “inevitably” slow down the booster roll-out.
Vaccine clinics reported staff numbers are beginning to drop after those testing positive are forced to isolate for 10 days.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, is said to be “very keen” to reduce the self-isolation period to seven days.
And, after Mr Javid said the unvaccinated are damaging society, Guy Kelly investigates how battlelines between colleagues, friends and family are being drawn in the great vax divide.
In other developments:
- Covid hospitalisations fell sharply in South Africa;
- new antiviral medication is now available on the NHS;
- and an ex-Ofsted chief has returned to the classroom.
Finger of blame at Treasury for photo leak
Downing Street insiders are pointing the finger of suspicion at Treasury officials for the damaging leak of a photograph showing Boris Johnson, his wife Carrie and advisers enjoying cheese and wine during lockdown. Sources inside Number 10 have pointed out that the picture appears to have been taken from a veranda reached from a first-floor function room that was being used by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s team and which overlooks the Prime Minister’s garden. Chief Reporter Robert Mendick reports who is in the picture that triggered accusations from both sides.
‘My parents have ditched me for Christmas’
The cancellation of last Christmas was tough and bitterly disappointing, but it was supposed to be a one-off. This year, to save us from tears, we’d spend it with someone special. Or so we thought. The reality is proving somewhat different. With a lack of clarity on the rules, people are taking matters into their own hands. While some are ready to press “go” on festivities, others have begun to pull back. Rosa Silverman and Eleanor Steafel speak to people caught in the Covid conundrum whose loved-ones are cancelling their plans “just to be on the safe side”.
Daily dose of Matt
Also in the news: Today’s other headlines
Brexit brief | Boris Johnson has been accused of “downgrading” Brexit by adding the task of leading the negotiations with the EU to the Foreign Secretary’s workload. Senior members of the European Research Group met privately to express concern about the replacement for Lord Frost, who has quit the Government. Liz Truss and Chris Heaton-Harris, the newly appointed Europe minister, have responsibility for the Northern Ireland Protocol talks. In this feature, Katy Balls explains why Ms Truss’s new role could make or break her Downing Street future.
- Rachel Riley | Countdown star wins libel case against ex-Corbyn aide
- Police Federation | Chairman accused of sexually touching woman
- Ghislaine Maxwell trial | The New York judge deciding socialite’s fate
- Bonnie Prince Charlie | Site of final defeat linked to slave trade
- Claire Foy | Filming sex scenes is the ‘grimmest thing you can do’
Around the world: ‘Patriots only’ Hong Kong elections
Western allies have condemned the first elections to be held in Hong Kong since a sweeping crackdown, saying the vote further eroded democracy in the former British colony. China imposed a national security law in the city state that criminalised much dissent and introduced political rules that vet the loyalty of anyone standing for office. The foreign ministers of Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand voiced their “grave concern” at the “patriots only” elections.
Comment and analysis
- Sherelle Jacobs | Conspiracy of silence has left us trapped in fear
- Tim Stanley | Prepare for a very long – and indecisive – Christmas
- Celia Walden | It is time to give teachers what they deserve
- Suzanne Moore | We are all in denial about what we have lost
- Reader letters | Vaccine capacity could have been prepared sooner
- Christmas shopping | Left it until the last minute? Here is what not to buy…
- ‘Your friendship gave me wings’ | How Strictly 2021 was life-changing for pro dancers
- Emily in Paris, series 2 review | Now as offensive to the British as it is to the French
Sport briefing: Clubs shut out fans over Covid fears
Three English Football League teams are set to play behind closed doors from Boxing Day after players and managers turned on the Premier League and their clubs for rejecting a “festive firebreak”. The prospect of returning to empty stadiums poses a shattering financial blow to the league and its clubs. But Chief Football Correspondent Jason Burt says the Premier League had little choice but to keep calm and carry on.
Business briefing: Hospitality’s £1.5bn Christmas bill
Pub and restaurant chiefs are braced for a wave of bankruptcies as a £1.5billion rent bill is due on Christmas Eve after Covid restrictions triggered a steep drop in festive trading. Businesses are scrambling to make their quarterly payments to landlords following a collapse in sales of up to 60pc at the busiest time of year. Meanwhile, the hospitality industry warned of the worst January on record to come.
Your great escape in books
Gardening books | If you are looking for gift inspiration for the plantsperson in your life, Tim Richardson has skimmed off the cream of this year’s crop to shortlist the top 20 gardening guides of 2021.
And finally… for this morning’s downtime
‘We’ve no intention of removing anything from display’ | Museums are under attack in the culture wars. Now, as Chief Art Critic Alastair Sooke finds, leading directors are staging a defence.