Scotland is to toughen its guidance on Christmas gatherings while keeping regulations the same, advising people to mix households only for one day, not to stay overnight if possible and to meet outside if they can.
Northern Ireland's health minister Robin Swann backed the PM's call for smaller, safer celebrations and urged people to think of the impact on frontline health workers as hospitals come under severe pressure
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for the UK to
celebrate a “little Christmas”. But the UK isn’t the only country grappling
with surging cases as the year nears its end. Here’s a round up of the headlines
from around the world:
The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging Europeans to
wear face masks during family gatherings this Christmas as it warns of a
further rise in infections early next year. "It may feel awkward,” WHO
advice said, “but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone
remains safe and healthy”
It comes amid a rise in cases in several European countries.
Germany entered a lockdown on Wednesday after reporting a record daily rise in
deaths, while Italian officials fear the country is headed for its worst annual
death toll since World War Two. You can read about European Christmas lockdown
Flakefleet Primary School's choir were finalists on the show in 2019 but were prevented from appearing in the 2020 special due to the pandemic.
So head teacher Dave McPartlin - no relation to presenter Ant - contacted Walliams, a judge on the show, to ask him to narrate the school play.
Flushed with confidence when the star agreed, the school asked others including Gaby Roslin and Piers Morgan. "Our motto is dare to dream," the head says. "Pretty much everyone said yes."
This Morning's Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, BGT judge Amanda Holden, comedian John Thomson and BBC Breakfast's Mike Bushell are also among those who recorded remote contributions for the performance.
The nativity, which also includes three socially-distanced wise men dressed as Elvis and Mary riding on a Blackpool donkey, is expected to be available to watch on the school's Facebook page from Monday.
Tanzania chooses ‘local herbs’ over vaccine
Tanzania has reportedly said it has no plans to import
Covid-19 vaccines, instead pinning its hopes on research into “local herbs”.
In an interview with The East African newspaper, health ministry spokesman Gerald Chami went on to cast doubt on the safety and
efficacy of imported vaccines. He claimed that development has been too rapid
for effective testing.
There are long-running suspicions that African countries are
used as a testing ground for vaccines, along with concerns that developing
countries are at the back of the queue for deliveries.
Tanzania’s approach to Covid-19 has been at odds with its
east African neighbours, who have seen a recent surge in cases.
The country stopped reporting new cases at the end of April,
and President John Magufuli claimed that the country is virus-free.
It was also one of the first countries to order Madagascar's
self-proclaimed plant-based Covid-19 remedy in May, despite warnings that its
efficacy was unproven.
Slovakia to return to lockdown after mass testing failure
BBC Prague Correspondent
The Slovak government has decided the country will return
to lockdown from Saturday, amidst a sharp rise in new Covid cases. Most shops
will be closed, and there will again be a daytime curfew, with exceptions for
going to work. The lockdown will last until the new year. A maximum of two
households will be able to meet over Christmas.
Slovak Health Minister Marek Krajci told reporters
that the virus was spreading uncontrollably and harsh action was needed. The
decision was taken on the day the authorities reported 7,962 new cases for
Tuesday and 58 deaths - a sharp rise.
It comes after Slovakia was feted around the
world for its mass antigen testing in late October and early November. Prime
Minister Igor Matovic said at the time that the antigen testing would remove
the need for lockdowns, and that Slovakia was showing the way forward.
However, there have been problems in sourcing enough
antigen tests to keep the scheme going in the pre-Christmas period. Matovic has
blamed his coalition partner Richard Sulik, who is economy minister. President
Zuzana Caputova has called on Matovic to hand the Covid response over to
someone else in government - he has accused her of seeking to "sabotage" the
mass antigen tests back in the autumn.
Listen to health workers on Christmas gatherings, says NI minister
Northern Ireland's health minister Robin Swann has joined in urging people to have a smaller and safer Christmas.
He told a Northern Ireland Executive press conference that it was "a big ask" for people to limit their social contacts over the festive period.
But with some hospitals under severe pressure, Swann said: "Listen to the message that comes from our frontline workers who really need you to do what we are asking at this moment in time."
He urged the public to "simply walk away" from gatherings if something "makes you feel uncomfortable" in terms of the risk of spreading the virus.
PM will have to go further on toughening Christmas rules - Labour
Labour says that the government should have toughened up the regulations surrounding mixing households at Christmas, as Wales has said it will.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC News: "We would have liked to have seen a toughening up today from the prime minister - perhaps something like what we've seen in Wales, reducing households.
"I think he's going to have to go further in the coming days."
But Ashworth stopped short of recommending a specific set of restrictions, saying Labour needed access to the scientific modelling and would consider the different options.
Watch: Whitty warns virus is like 'icy and treacherous' road
Prof Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, said that people should do the minimum possible amount of social mixing over Christmas, even if the regulations allowed them to do more.
"You wouldn't drive at 70mph if there was a very icy road," he said, even though the law allows it.
"People have got to take a lot of care on this. This is the equivalent of us saying, these are icy and treacherous conditions."
Watch: Johnson urges a 'smaller but safer Christmas'
Boris Johnson has urged everyone to have a "smaller but safer Christmas" this year to reduce the spread of the virus.
The prime minister asked people to "think hard and "exercise extreme caution" around Christmas plans because the epidemic was getting worse.
He suggested people should consider delaying meeting elderly relatives until they had been vaccinated.
US vaccine rollout is bittersweet, says Fauci
Top US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci has spoken about the "bittersweet" rollout of a vaccine against the coronavirus, as the US passed 300,000 deaths from the pandemic.
Speaking to CBS This Morning, Dr Fauci said it's "extraordinary" that science has rapidly delivered a vaccine, but urged Americans to continue following public health measures.
US mayor quits after backing mask order
A mayor in the US state of Kansas has resigned after receiving threats for backing an order to wear face masks.
Joyce Warshaw, the Republican mayor of Dodge City, stepped down after she was quoted in a news article supporting a city commission decision to impose a mask mandate. Commissioners voted 4-1 last month in favour of the move.
"I don't feel safe anymore due to some people's actions and words," she wrote in a Facebook post, adding that she has "no regrets" over any decisions she took as mayor.
"I wish all of Dodge City the very best and understand that 2020 has been challenging for all of us and perhaps is the source of some of the hate," she concluded. "So let's put it behind us and bring on a better year in 2021."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will go into quarantine after coming in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
Mr Pompeo tested negative for the virus. A spokesperson for the state department said he was being monitored closely by their medical team.
The name of the person close to Mr Pompeo who tested positive was not revealed. But dozens of staffer, politicians and aides close to US President Donald Trump have tested positive in the last few months - including, memorably, the president himself in October.
The prime minister highlighted Kent as one of the areas seeing “worrying rises” in coronavirus infection.
The case rate hit a high on 10 December - the latest day we have official figures for.
There are currently 452 cases per 100,000 people and in Medway the rate reached 640 cases per 100,000 , the highest for a county or metropolitan area in England.
The cases rate is the number of people testing positive relative to the size of the area’s population.
What’s concerning is that the national lockdown – from 5 November to 2 December - only appears to have had a small, very short-term impact. The rate fell for four consecutive days up to 23 November and then started increasing again.
Being placed in tier three, when the national lockdown ended, has not affected the rise in cases either.
As ever, we need to look at other data; case rates can be impacted by mass testing which is often deployed in areas with high coronavirus infection and that means more cases are found, driving up the rate.
Looking at hospital cases, these show the same pattern: a small, short-lived dip midway through the lockdown before the cases in Kent and Medway hospitals reached their peak on 6 December – the latest day we have data for.
In fact, their daily admissions are now four times higher than they were on 5 November.
News conference ends as Wales announces new Christmas law
PA MediaCopyright: PA Media
The news conference has ended.
Boris Johnson used the briefing to repeatedly urge people to exercise "personal responsibility" over Christmas.
While Chris Whitty urges people to keep gatherings small, not to travel too far and to avoid travelling from high prevalence areas to low prevalence areas.
But as the briefing was ending, the Welsh government announced it would change its regulations so that people will now only be able to meet two households over the festive period by law.
This comes despite earlier reports that the four UK nations had agreed to allow three households to meet.
BreakingTwo household limit at Christmas in Wales to be made law
People will only be able to meet two households plus an additional single person household in Wales over the festive period by law.
The Welsh government has clarified that guidance set by the first minister on Wednesday will be set out in regulations.
It comes despite earlier reports that the four UK nations had agreed to allow three households to meet.
The relaxation in the rules have been planned for 23-27 December. You can read more about the change here
PM and Whitty leave no doubt about the message
Deputy Political Editor
There's no doubt what the message is from Boris Johnson and Chris Whitty.
The law allows you to meet up with elderly relatives for Christmas - but we’d rather you didn’t.
When will the Oxford vaccine be available?
Tim Ross, from Bloomberg, asks whether the prime minister hopes the Oxford/AstraZeneca will be available by the end of this year, adding: "When will all over 50s be vaccinated?"
Johnson replies that he has "always been in the worried, sceptical camp on vaccines" and worried that he "shouldn't over-promise".
He says it is "incredibly exciting" about the coronavirus vaccines, adding: "I don't want to jinx things by over-promising at this stage."
Whitty says the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca this is in the hands of the regulator the MHRA and it is "very important we let them do their job free of any pressure".
Whitty says there is a "fair chance" that by "early in the new year" the regulator will be able to says whether the vaccine is effective and safe.
"With AstraZeneca, if it comes through, it does make it a lot easier - not only is the volume going to be greater," he says, as the Pfizer vaccine is limited because of global demand - "but it is easier to deploy because it doesn't have the -70C requirements the Pfizer one has".
He says if the vaccine is approved "it will speed up substantially the period when those in the highest risk groups can all be vaccinated".
Should we visit care home residents?
PA MediaCopyright: PA Media
Hannah Rodger of the Herald asks what the advice is for people planning to visit care home residents.
She also asks the prime minister if he thinks Scotland has enough funding to manage the end of the Brexit transition period and what Christmas gift he has got for Nicola Sturgeon.
Chris Whitty takes the first question. He says the guidance is slightly different between four nations but in essence it is to take the risk down as far as we can - this includes using testing as well as complying by the tier rules.
"None of these are perfect solutions," he says and adds "we are never going to get the risk down to zero."
He says the decisions on visiting have to be made by the individual care homes in consultation with the local directors of public health.
On the other questions, Boris Johnson says Scotland will have enough money to manage the end of the transition period.
And on a gift for Nicola Sturgeon he suggests that due to Brexit Scotland will become "the proud possessor of hundreds of thousands of tonnes fish, shellfish and crustaceans".
"She [Nicola Sturgeon] will have more fish than she could possibly consume herself for a very long time to come," he says.
Johnson: 'You cannot constrain people too much' over Christmas
PA MediaCopyright: PA Media
Gordon Rayner from the Telegraph asks whether lockdowns are the best way to respond to Covid-19?
Referring to England's Christmas guidance, Johnson replies: "We are saying very clearly you can't meet in more than three households for more than five days.
"What we are saying is we do recognise the human spirit will want to celebrate Christmas that you cannot constrain people too much.
"So what we are also saying is if you want to stop the spread of the disease we need to work out how we can minimise the amount of contact."