Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday evening. We’ll have another update for you on Thursday morning.
1. Northern Ireland to shut schools and bars
With almost every area of Northern Ireland now seeing “hotspot” levels of Covid transmission, the nation’s political leaders have responded by announcing tighter restrictions, including closing all schools for two weeks from Monday (which does include the existing half-term break of course). Other new measures will last four weeks and include the closure of bars and restaurants except for those offering takeaways, a ban on supermarkets and off-licences selling alcohol after 20:00, and the closure of hairdressers and beauty salons.
2. Wales plans to shut the door to people from high-Covid areas
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that people from areas of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland with high rates of coronavirus will be banned from travelling into Wales from 18:00 BST on Friday if the prime minister does not bring in UK-wide travel restrictions. He told the Welsh Parliament he had asked for work on a ban to be brought forward after Boris Johnson failed to reply to two letters requesting he introduce such a measure. Some of the details are still to come, such as what counts as “high”, what exceptions there will be and whether the same fines system currently in place for people transgressing movement restrictions inside Wales will be applied to unwelcome visitors.
3. Johnson defends regional approach in England
Meanwhile in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been defending his approach to tackling the resurgent Covid threat with a region-by-region system of restrictions. At Prime Minister’s Questions, he was challenged by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to introduce a nationwide “circuit-breaker” – a short period of tough restrictions to bring the virus under control that the government’s own scientific advisers suggest could halve the number of coronavirus deaths between now and the end of the year. The PM said his “logical” three-tier strategy would “suppress the virus where it is surging” – but added that he ruled nothing out. Here’s the Commons exchange between the two men:
4. Liverpool’s ‘shameful’ last night out
Just two hours before becoming the first English area to move into Tier 3 restrictions – meaning the closure of any pubs that cannot operate as a restaurant – footage widely circulated on social media showed crowds gathering in the city centre as bars emptied out. Merseyside Police Chief Constable Andy Cooke said he was “absolutely livid” at scenes of revellers dancing and surrounding a police car, while Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said the pictures “shame our city”. Boris Johnson said in the Commons the Liverpool measures are being implemented because its Covid transmission rate is currently 20 times higher than that in Cornwall.
5. Little Mix TV show on hold but Niall plans gig
And finally, some contrasting news for two X Factor alumni. Little Mix will be off your BBC One screens this Saturday evening because filming on their talent show has been halted after a “small number of people” involved in the series tested positive for coronavirus. But Niall Horan has announced a live streamed show at London’s Royal Albert Hall – specifically so that he can donate all proceeds to members of his road crew who have missed out on earnings from a cancelled six-month world tour. He explained the plan to the BBC’s Mark Savage:
And don’t forget…
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