LIVE updates as UK records 35,928 positive coronavirus cases

Almost 36,000 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the UK on Sunday as a new Tier 4 Covid alert level comes into force in parts of South East England.

Sunday, 20th December 2020, 5:18 pm

Government figures released on Sunday, December 20 confirmed that 35,928 new positive tests for coronavirus were reported – with Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, saying the “sharp and sudden increase” is of serious concern.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that new Tier 4 restrictions – which order people to stay at home in areas with rapidly rising levels of Covid-19 infections – would come into play across large parts of South East England, while the Christmas bubble rules set out for the rest of the country would also be changing.

Up to three households may still form a Christmas bubble outside Tier 4 areas, but can only now meet on Christmas Day (December 25) instead of over a five-day period from December 23.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a news conference in response to the ongoing situation with the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Toby Melville/PA Wire

He made the announcements on Saturday.

LIVE updates in aftermath of Government’s Christmas U-turn as Tier 4 Covid restrictions begin

Last updated: Sunday, 20 December, 2020, 17:41

  • Tier 4 restrictions begin for millions in South East England.
  • Reaction to new Christmas bubble rules for the rest of the country.
  • Criticism of Government’s handling of pandemic by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
  • New variation seen in other parts of the UK

5.30pm: Travellers have booked last-minute Eurostar tickets out of the UK amid flight cancellations, closing international borders and a tightening of Covid-19 restrictions.

A long, snaking line of passengers formed inside St Pancras station in central London on Sunday as they waited to board one of the afternoon’s sold-out Eurostar trains.

One 23-year-old Frenchman, who only gave his name as Francois, said he booked his ticket to Paris in the morning after changing it from next week.

He told the PA news agency: “I know that it’s not really good to leave and go back to France. I haven’t seen my family for four months and a half.

“I tried to isolate myself as much as possible.

“I booked my train this morning, not really reasonable because of the evolution of the virus.

“It’s a pretty personal choice, I don’t feel proud about that.”

The sales management student admitted he was “worried” ahead of seeing his family, adding that he planned to self-isolate and take a test first.

Miguel Gallego, 32, from the Netherlands, said he booked his train ticket “half an hour” before speaking to PA.

Travelling to Brussels in Belgium, he had seen both a flight and Eurostar train to Amsterdam cancelled.

Mr Gallego, who works in aerospace engineering, explained he was moving for work and his house was now empty.

4.20pm: The Government said a further 326 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the UK total to 67,401.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 83,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 35,928 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 2,040,147.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said: “This sharp and sudden increase is of serious concern. Most of the new cases reported today are concentrated in London and the South East, although it is too early to tell if this is linked to the new variant.

“What we do know is that the way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant. It simply will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts.

“By working together we have tackled this virus before. By holding the line over the next few weeks, it is possible we can do so again, as we continue to roll out the vaccine to the most vulnerable.”

Of the 32,155 new positive cases reported for England on Sunday, the overwhelming majority (95%) were tests conducted in the last four days.

4pm: The Irish Government is set to impose travel restrictions on flights and ferries from Britain to Ireland. I

It is understood the restrictions will come into force later on Sunday and last for 48 hours.

The Government is to make a formal announcement on the latest measures in the next few hours.

The restrictions are to be reviewed during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

It follows the decision of a number of European countries to imposed bans on flights from the UK over fears the new more-transmissible variant of coronavirus in England could spread.

12.35pm: Police Scotland will double its presence along the border with England after the First Minister announced tighter coronavirus restrictions.

In a statement on Twitter, Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said “highly visible patrols” on roads will be used to “deter anyone who might be considering breaching the coronavirus travel restrictions”.

He said: “I remain clear I do not consider it appropriate or proportionate for officers to establish checkpoints or roadblocks to simply enforce travel restrictions.

“These restrictions are a preventative measure to halt the progress of Covid, and Police Scotland will support this approach with a strong operational profile to deter those who would put others at risk.

“Today, I have authorised the doubling of our operational presence in the Border areas of Scotland.

“These highly visible patrols will be proactively deployed on our road networks to continue our operational activity to ensure drivers and vehicles are in a fit condition to drive.

“The patrols will also deter anyone who night be considering breaching the coronavirus travel restrictions.”

He added that “where officers encounter wilful, persistent or flagrant breaches we will act decisively to enforce the law”.

12.15pm: The new variant of coronavirus sweeping London and the South East has spread to other parts of the UK, a public health leader has warned.

But Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said that while many regions had cases of the new strain, these were in much smaller numbers than in London, Kent and parts of Essex.

She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “It has been detected in many other parts of the country.

“Every region has cases but with very small numbers.

“It has also been detected in Wales, in Scotland, we have not had any detected in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Hopkins also said that she hoped people who had crammed onto trains out of London after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday the capital was one of the areas going into the new Tier 4 would reduce their contacts.

Dr Hopkins said: “I understand people’s wish to get home to their families and loved ones that they may live with on a normal day-to-day basis and wanted to get out of London last night.

“I hope that when they go to wherever they are moving to they reduce their social contacts and don’t contact anyone outside their household for the next 10 days, as that will help minimise the risk of transmission to other parts of the country.

“We know it’s in other parts of the country in small amounts but what we are trying to do is prevent more spread and rapid increases across the rest of the country.”

12.15pm: The new variant of coronavirus sweeping London and the South East has spread to other parts of the UK, a public health leader has warned.

But Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said that while many regions had cases of the new strain, these were in much smaller numbers than in London, Kent and parts of Essex.

She told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “It has been detected in many other parts of the country.

“Every region has cases but with very small numbers.

“It has also been detected in Wales, in Scotland, we have not had any detected in Northern Ireland.”

Dr Hopkins also said that she hoped people who had crammed onto trains out of London after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday the capital was one of the areas going into the new Tier 4 would reduce their contacts.

Dr Hopkins said: “I understand people’s wish to get home to their families and loved ones that they may live with on a normal day-to-day basis and wanted to get out of London last night.

“I hope that when they go to wherever they are moving to they reduce their social contacts and don’t contact anyone outside their household for the next 10 days, as that will help minimise the risk of transmission to other parts of the country.

“We know it’s in other parts of the country in small amounts but what we are trying to do is prevent more spread and rapid increases across the rest of the country.”

12.00pm: Calls for PM to apologise to public - Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to apologise to the public for the way the latest coronavirus restrictions had been handled.

The Labour leader told an online press conference on Sunday: “I think the Prime Minister should apologise. This is not just one mistake when he has otherwise got things right. It is the same mistake over and over again.

“At the heart of the problem here is a Prime Minister who simply doesn’t want to be unpopular and therefore won’t take the tough decisions that are necessary, until he is forced into them at the 11th hour.

“We can’t go on like that. I think that it is very important that the Prime Minister does apologise to people for his handling of this episode of the pandemic.”

Sir Keir Starmer also said Labour supports the latest coronavirus restrictions but he accused Boris Johnson of “gross negligence” in failing to act earlier.

“Yet again, the Prime Minister waited until the 11th hour to take this decision,” the Labour leader continued.

“It was blatantly obvious last week that the Prime Minister’s plan for a free-for-all over Christmas was a risk too far.

“And yet, rather listening to concerns and taking them seriously, the Prime Minister did what he always does: dismissed the challenge, ruffled his hair and made a flippant comment.

“We have known about rising infections and the NHS reaching capacity in many parts of the country for weeks.

“The alarms bells have been ringing for weeks, but the Prime Minister chose to ignore them.

“It is an act of gross negligence by a Prime Minister who, once again, has been caught behind the curve.”

11.40am: Check out our reminder on the rules following Saturday’s announcement

North East England remains under Tier 3 restrictions as large parts of the South East are placed in a new Tier 4 Covid alert level from this morning.

The Government has also made changes to its planned relaxation of Christmas rules, which affect all tiers in England.

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