Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday morning.
1. Border opens up after France lifts blanket ban
Rail, air and sea services between Britain and France have resumed, with French citizens, British nationals living in France and hauliers among those able to travel if they have a recent negative coronavirus test. The military is being deployed to help carry out rapid tests on thousands of stranded lorry drivers. Clearing the backlog of freight will take time and the crisis has highlighted the importance of the Dover-Calais route for food supplies, as we explain. More than 50 other countries are continuing to block UK travellers, including almost all of the EU 27. That’s despite a call from the European Commission for nations to drop blanket bans.
2. Sturgeon apologises
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised for breaching Covid rules by taking her face mask off at a wake. The Scottish Sun published a photograph of her standing talking to three people indoors at a social distance, but with her face uncovered. In a statement released to the BBC, the first minister said it was “a stupid mistake”. “I was in the wrong, I’m kicking myself, and I’m sorry,” she added. The Scottish Conservatives accused her of “undermining essential public health messaging”.
3. Tiers and tests
Rapid testing will be rolled out to another 17 local council areas across England, from Lincolnshire to Bristol, to try to stem rising infection rates – here’s how the system works. It comes amid suggestions more areas could be moved up to tier four as early as Boxing Day after a meeting between ministers and public health officials on Tuesday. Sources say it’s likely those would be places immediately adjacent to current tier four areas. Stricter rules are due to come into force across the whole Scottish mainland on Boxing Day, while Wales is already in another national lockdown, with those asked to shield during the pandemic’s first wave advised to do so again.
4. Redundancy numbers
In other, slightly brighter news, British employers planned the lowest number of redundancies in November since the start of the pandemic. The figure was still more than 36,000, but that compares with a peak of 156,000 in June. Experts say the decision to extend the furlough scheme until the spring helped to prevent a bigger wave of job cuts. Read more on how furlough works and whether you could be eligible.
5. Spreading a little joy
All in all, it’s going to be a tough Christmas for many, but hopefully we can lift your spirits this morning with some stories of kindness. They include Jessica Rixon, who brought together friends to prepare Christmas dinner for 14 families who’ve been badly affected by the pandemic. And Callum Williamson, whose generous neighbour Rebecca has offered to cook him lunch after his plans fell through. Speaking of lunch, if you’ve found yourself unexpectedly cooking the Christmas meal for the first time, let us offer some tips. – or if you’re going to be alone on the day, here are some suggestions for how to cope – or even thrive.
And don’t forget…
Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.
Plus, there is mounting pressure on hospitals, with growing numbers being admitted each day. So will the Nightingales be used? Our health correspondent Nick Triggle has more.
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