Covid UK news LIVE – Lockdown EXTENDED by 3 more weeks and schools closed in Wales as mutant coronavirus strain surges

THE coronavirus lockdown has been EXTENDED by another three weeks in Wales.

Schools will also almost certainly stay shut until at least February half term First Minister Mark Drakeford warned, adding that the pandemic had reached a ‘significant point’.

He suggested that the only way to avoid schools remaining closed and online learning continuing was a sudden unlikely fall in covid infections in the area before the next tier review on January 29th.

Extending the lockdown Mr Drakeford said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has reached a significant point. Cases in Wales remain very high and our NHS is under real and sustained pressure. The alert Level 4 restrictions we introduced before Christmas must remain in place to keep us all safe."

The news came after 1,162 new fatalities and 52,618 infections were recorded in England and Wales between Wednesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile the NHS last night revealed it is currently operating at 50% higher patient capacity than it was during the peak of the first wave of coronavirus last summer.

Follow the very latest news, updates and analysis of the coronavirus crisis in our live blog below.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Coronavirus infections are spreading across the country and while we are all aware of the three main symptoms in adults – they can differ in children and babies.

    The NHS states that the three most common coronavirus symptoms in adults include a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss and taste and smell (anosmia).

    If you have any of these symptoms you should get a test and isolate in order to prevent the virus spreading to others.

    Experts have said that the symptoms of the two new variants that have been detected aren't thought to have any different symptoms to the ones above.

    However, the variant that was first discovered in the South in September is thought to be up to 74 per cent more transmissible than those already in circulation – meaning you're more likely to catch the virus.

    For a list of the symptoms click here.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Poundland is to shut 44 of its stores temporarily from this weekend due to the third lockdown in England.

    The discount retailer said it will place a raft of its stores into "hibernation" from Saturday January 9.

    It said the vast majority of its more than 800 stores will remain open due its status as an essential retailer.

    However, Poundland said it will close the doors to 44 of its shops which have been impacted by an 80% fall in footfall across some shopping centres and high streets due to the lockdown measures.

    During the first lockdown in March, Poundland temporarily shut 120 stores but reopened these sites in May as footfall began to recover.

    The company said it has open stores nearby to the majority of sites it has temporarily closed.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Britain is expected to approve a third Covid vaccine in a boost to efforts to beat the pandemic.

    UK regulators have now recommended the use of the Moderna jab, The Sun understands – but supplies will not be available for NHS use spring.

    The Moderna vaccine was hailed as "tremendously exciting" when the US pharmaceutical company posted its phase three clinical trial results in November.

    Its trial involved more than 30,000 people, half of whom received the vaccine and the other half received a placebo.

    The vaccine demonstrated a 94.1 per cent efficacy in the trial.

    It comes a week after Britain's own Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use with the first jabs going into people's arms this week.

    GP surgeries started their roll out yesterday and community pharmacies are set to start offering jabs from next week.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Plans to require international travellers to test negative for coronavirus before arriving to England and Scotland will be "a real challenge" for some passengers due to varying testing facilities in other countries, Heathrow's chief executive has warned.

    John Holland-Kaye called on the Government to take the lead in creating a "common international standard for testing" to replace current "confusing" differences between nations.

    He said his airport had the capacity to test up to 25,000 people a day, but other airports around the world lacked such facilities.

    Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Friday he said: "So, if you're caught out in one of those countries, and you now have these new requirements, then you'll find it quite difficult to get the tests that are needed in order to come back home again.

    "And that's going to be a real challenge for a lot of passengers."

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Four in 10 adults in Britain formed a Christmas bubble to celebrate Christmas Day, figures suggest.

    Some 44% of adults in England, Scotland and Wales said they met up to two other households on December 25, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

    The same proportion said they had not done so, while 10% said this was not permitted in their area.

    Families had hoped to take advantage of a five-day relaxation of social restrictions to meet family members and friends indoors.

    But on the weekend before Christmas, this was pared back to one day, and removed entirely for 18 million people in England in Tier 4, who were not allowed to meet people outside their household or support bubble.

    Scotland and Wales also restricted Christmas bubbles to a single day.

    The ONS analysed 3,756 responses from adults aged 16 and over between December 22 and January 3, with 2,320 people asked about their Christmas Day activities, as part of its Opinions and Lifestyle Survey.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    THE vaccines minister has issued an "urgent" warning today over Covid jab scams after a cruel conman charged an elderly woman £160 for a fake shot.

    Nadhim Zahawi made the warning after a 92-year-old woman was targeted.

    Mr Zahawi wrote on Twitter: "Urgent! Please please share with elderly or vulnerable friends and relatives.

    "The NHS will never ask for bank account details or arrive unannounced at your home."

    He shared a further caution from Action Fraud, which advised people to stay vigilant and avoid being scammed.

    An elderly victim fell victim to a Covid vaccine scammer in London on December 30.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Gavin Williamson rejected an offer of free and cheap internet for kids who can't afford broadband.

    The Education Secretary turned down free wifi vouchers from broadband giant BT's because it was too difficult to hand them out "effectively".

    Students across the country have been forced to learn online again, after schools were closed in England's third national lockdown.

    Mr Williamson confirmed earlier this week kids unable to access classes remotely would be able to head into school.

    BT's chief exec revealed they had given the Government vouchers to help kids access the internet and the Department of Education had returned them, according to the Mirror.

    Officials had "struggled to distribute" the vouchers effectively.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    This interactive map reveals how much cases have changed in your local area in the days following Christmas.

    The figures paint a bleak picture of how England entered 2021, with a worsening Covid outbreak the Government are racing to halt with vaccines.

    The huge surge in cases has been blamed on a new coronavirus strain, which the government were alerted to in mid-December by scientists.

    A mutant strain spread that started in the South East has now reached all corners of the UK.

    And as a result, cases have reached record-highs and the NHS is on the brink of collapse, treating 10,000 more patients since Christmas.

    Cases are now showing very early signs of flattening in the south, including in London, despite it being the hotspot of the UK.

    For the map, click here.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    ALL international passengers coming into the UK will have to show a negative coronavirus test before they enter under new plans coming into force next week.

    Passengers – including homecoming Brits – will have to get a test up to 72 hours before they travel and show a certificate to enter the country.

    The test will be checked when they check-in with their airline, train company or ferry before they travel.

    Those who refuse won’t be allowed to travel.

    If someone does smuggle themselves into the UK they will be subject to a £500 fine.

    The Sun understands carriers will also be fined if officials find out that they have not been checking for negative test certificates.

    It means around 100,000 Brits currently away in holiday hotspots such as Dubai and the Maldives would have to find Covid tests overseas before being able to return home.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Zara Holland's boyfriend is facing jail for breaching coronavirus rules in Barbados.

    The Love Island star, 25, was slapped with a £4,500 fine after trying to flee Barbados with partner Elliott Love after he tested positive for coronavirus.

    She left the luxury holiday island immediately after her court appearance and escaping a jail sentence – leaving Elliott in a grim holding facility.

    He is still holed up inside Paragon Isolation Centre and the 30-year-old will have to test negative for coronavirus twice before he is allowed out.

    Once he has recovered, it is expected he will then be charged with breaking the strict Covid rules and could face a fine of up to £18,000 or a year in jail.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Reliving the family's ordeal, Alan told Wales Online said: "On Monday night he started to wheeze heavily and he was really struggling to breathe. He was gasping for air."

    “I thought he would be OK because you don’t often hear of young children having it, or becoming ill with it, so the message always seems to be that young people don’t really get affected by coronavirus,” he said.

    “Because of what I had read I was more concerned about Bonnie or myself getting it, so it was really shocking to see how it took hold of Jack and just how rapidly he went down with it."

    They rang for an ambulance and Jack travelled with Bonnie to the hospital where he was treated with steroids and given oxygen to help him breathe.

    Miraculously, Jack is now "on the mend" after he spent a day and a night in hospital.

    Alan, who described himself as "reasonably fit", said the virus knocked him back and even after a week of battling the virus he still feels unwell.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    A baby boy, aged just seven months, was rushed to hospital gasping for air after he caught Covid-19 from infected parents.

    Bonnie Saunders and Alan James frantically called 999 when their son's temperature soared and he began struggling to breathe.

    Bonnie, who works as a nurse at Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen had only just gone back to work after maternity leave when she caught the virus.

    After she fell ill, not long after her fiancé and Jack's dad, Alan, also tested positive.

    The pair said they had similar symptoms – a cough, temperature, flu-like symptoms, but were relieved that the children were well.

    The couple admitted they were lulled into a false sense of security and didn't think it was likely the children would catch the virus due to their age and health – but they were wrong.

    Jack developed a cough and a raging fever, prompting Bonnie and Alan to get a Covid-19 test, which came back positive.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    The coronavirus vaccine offering from Pfizer/BioNTech will protect against the two new mutant variants of the virus spreading across the UK, research has revealed.

    Experts carried out lab tests on the strains and found that the vaccine had levels of antibodies that worked against the variants.

    The variants have caused the virus to spread rapidly across the UK, resulting in a third national lockdown that officials claim will last until mid-February.

    The variant, which emerged in Kent in September, is understood to be up to 74 per cent more infectious than the strain that was dominant last year.

    The variant is called B.1.1.7 and is a version of the virus with 23 mutations, eight of which are in the spike protein the virus uses to bind to and in turn enter human cells.

    The second variant was discovered in South Africa and is called 501.V2 – experts previously warned this variant would be able to a evade testing.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said people whose jobs mean they qualify for travel quarantine exemptions will be required to take a coronavirus test before travelling.

    The Government lists dozens of jobs that qualify for exemption from completing the passenger locator form or self-isolating, including some defence personnel, elite sportsmen and women, and health workers.

    Mr Shapps told ITV's Good Morning Britain that, despite not needing the quarantine, they "won't be exempted from taking the Covid test".

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    The boss of pubs group Marston's has warned he does not expect venues to reopen until March at the earliest and even then social distancing restrictions will remain in place.

    Chief executive Ralph Findlay said the Government must step up and extend the business rates holiday beyond its current end date in April, and cut VAT when doors finally open again.

    "The pub sector has been closed for much of the last nine months and remains in a very difficult position," he said.

    "Regrettably there have been casualties across the sector and it is vital that the Government reviews urgently the opportunity to continue to support pubs as we reopen the economy in the coming weeks.

    "Pubs are viable businesses which are part of the social fabric of Britain and which make a major contribution to the economy and the communities in which they serve.

    "It is vital that they not only survive the short-term crisis but are supported in order to recover and flourish.

    "Extending the business rates holiday and VAT cut for the rest of this year is a minimum requirement."

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    The Prime Minister's father Stanley Johnson, who is due to have his second coronavirus jab on Friday, said he was "very much looking forward" to it but that he was not clear what the rules were after he had been vaccinated.

    Mr Johnson told Good Morning Britain that he would soon be "fancy free" and that he would behave "perfectly properly" after receiving the second vaccine.

    "Do we have a get out of jail free card… I think probably not. I think the rules will still have to be locked down," he said.

    He added: "I'm very reassured by the fact that we have got a grip on the vaccination programme.

    "Someone has said, 'give us the tools and we'll finish the jab'… so I'm confident that we'll get there, and we'll get there by Easter."

    Asked about his social distancing practices Mr Johnson said: "Sometimes the mask slips, as you know… I have a prominent nose and it's not always easy to keep it all covered."

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    Covid-19 restrictions in the past three months saw Marks & Spencer take a knock in sales as the retailer suffered from the November lockdown and tiering restrictions.

    Bosses at the high street stalwart revealed that sales in the three months to December 26 fell 7.6% on a like-for-like basis, with the food division growing 2.6%, but clothing and home sales dropped 24.1%.

    The national lockdown in England hit particularly hard, with both food and non-food sales down 4.5% and 40.5% respectively.

    Online sales were strong – including a new tie-up with Ocado to offer grocery deliveries for the first time – and shoppers were keen on buying sleepwear and leisurewear as they stayed indoors.

    Boss Steve Rowe also warned that, despite the UK signing a free trade agreement with the EU, new rules and regulations are set to "significantly impact" its overseas ventures in Ireland, the Czech Republic and France, although he insisted the company is "actively working to mitigate" the issues.

    However, he said that, in spite of the Brexit and Covid knocks, M&S had a "robust" Christmas period.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech protects against two new mutant variants that are causing rapid spread across the UK, according to new research.

    The pharmaceutical giant and researchers from the University of Texas carried out lab tests on the strains, one of which was found in the UK while the other originated in South Africa.

    The variants contain mutations including N501Y, an alteration in spike protein of the virus, which is a target for vaccines.

    In the new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, blood samples were taken from 20 people who received the Pfizer vaccine.

    Laboratory studies found that the samples had neutralising levels of antibodies which worked against the new strains.

    The third lockdown in England was in response to the rapid spread of the mutant strain found in the South East, which has now spread to other parts of the UK.

  • Niamh Cavanagh


    All travellers to England and Scotland from international destinations will have to test negative for coronavirus before they can enter the country, it has been announced.

    Under plans set out by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, from next week passengers arriving in England by boat, train or plane – including UK nationals – will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.

    Similar measures have been announced by the Scottish Government, while officials were said to be working closely with the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland on adopting them there.

    Mr Shapps said the move was designed to prevent new variants of the disease which have emerged in countries such as South Africa and Denmark. Failure to comply will lead to an immediate £500 fine.

    There will be a limited number of exemptions, including hauliers, children under 11, crews, arrivals from the Common Travel Area with Ireland and for those travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver tests.


  • Britta Zeltmann


    MATT Hancock has set out the four key criteria for lifting the latest lockdown in England – including how well the vaccination programme is working.

    The Health Secretary suggested that the new restrictions may run until at least March as he laid out the conditions (below) to relax the stay-at-home orders as coronavirus rips through the country.

    The Health Secretary said there were no "fixed thresholds" for any of the key criteria – but stressed ministers were always looking at the "direction" deaths and hospitalisations are travelling.

  • Britta Zeltmann


    The Treasury is finally considering a scheme to bailout up to a million small business owners excluded from previous Covid support, The Sun can reveal. 

    A team of Treasury officials are scrutinising a proposal that would see the Government pay up to 80 per cent of lost trading profits of sole directors of limited companies. 

    The Directors Income Support Scheme would pay grants of up to £7,500 to cover three months of lost trading profits and would be limited to those who earn less than £50,000 a year.

    Initial estimates have put the cost of the scheme between £2-3 billion depending on take-up. 

  • Britta Zeltmann


    More than 87.42 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,888,982 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

    Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

    Yesterday, the UK recorded 1,162 more deaths and 52,618 new infections.

    It was the second day in a row the daily death count in Britain topped 1,000.


  • Joseph Gamp


    All travellers to England from international destinations will have to test negative for coronavirus before they can enter the country, the Government has announced.

    Under plans set out by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, from next week passengers arriving by boat, train or plane will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.

    He said the move was designed to prevent new variants of the disease which have emerged in countries such as South Africa and Denmark.

    Failure to comply with the new regulations will lead to an immediate £500 fine.

    There will be a limited number of exemptions, including hauliers, children under 11, crews and for those travelling from countries without the infrastructure available to deliver tests.

  • Joseph Gamp


    Two breakthrough Covid drugs which left Boris Johnson tongue-tied can cut the risk of death from Covid by nearly a quarter, breakthrough trials have revealed. 

    Critically ill Covid-19 patients fighting for their lives in ICU will be given new drugs that can “significantly” reduce the risk of death from the virus and cut time spent in hospital by up to 10 days. 

    Read more here.

  • Joseph Gamp


    The London Eye was lit up blueCredit: PA:Press Association
    Trafalgar Square showed the special LightItBlue coloursCredit: PA:Press Association
    The Shard glows blue over central LondonCredit: PA:Press Association


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