Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Monday evening. We'll have another update for you tomorrow morning.
1. UK and France hope for 'fast' border solution
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he and French President Emmanuel Macron hope to ease the flow of trade between the two nations "in the next few hours", after France shut its borders to UK hauliers for 48 hours due to the new coronavirus variant. The variant, which is thought to transmit at a faster rate, is being blamed for a surge in UK cases - and has caused concern among other nations. But, speaking at Downing Street on Monday evening, the PM said a solution would be found "as fast as possible". It comes after more than 40 countries banned arrivals from the UK due to the new strain. Mr Johnson also revealed 500,000 people in the UK had received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. He added the UK could "look forward to a very different world from Easter". You can learn more about when you will be in line for the vaccine here.
2. English rules 'likely' to be tightened
London and large swathes of south-east England were placed in tier four restrictions to control the new variant of coronavirus over the weekend, but much of England remains relatively free. When asked why the whole country was not in lockdown, the government's chief scientific adviser - Sir Patrick Vallance - said it was likely measures across the country would be tightened in the coming weeks. He told the Downing Street briefing: "The evidence on this virus is that it spreads easily, it's more transmissible, we absolutely need to make sure we have the right level of restrictions in place. I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it's likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced." You can read more about the new strain of the virus here.
3. Supermarkets try to calm food shortage fears
Retailers have played down fears of food shortages despite issues at Dover. The Channel is a vital trade route, with about 10,000 lorries a day travelling between Dover and Calais in peak periods such as Christmas, largely bringing in the freshest produce. The Food and Drink Federation said the border closure had the "potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies". But Sainsbury's said all of its Christmas lunch products were "already in the country and we have plenty of these". It added, however, that "if nothing changes" in the coming day there could be "gaps" of items such as lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit - "all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year".
4. Refund promise for cancelled Christmas journeys
Meanwhile, everyone in England who has had to cancel a rail or coach journey between 23 and 27 December will be able to get a refund, the government has announced. It comes after the planned easing of Covid rules for Christmas was scrapped for large parts of south-east England. For the rest of the UK, the relaxation of the rules now applies only to Christmas Day. "Passengers will not be left out of pocket for complying with the new Christmas rules," the government said. You can read more about the new rules on Christmas mixing here.
5. 10,000 attend 'Covid-safe' wedding
The pandemic has put paid to many couples' dreams of a large wedding. But one Malaysian duo has managed to dodge restrictions which would have limited the guest list to 20 and welcomed a reported 10,000 people to their nuptials, all in a Covid-secure manner. Can't be done, you might say. But it can, if you make your wedding a drive-thru event. The newly-weds were seated outside a grand government building in Putrajaya, south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, while guests slowly drove past in their cars. The windows had to remain rolled up and guests only got a socially distant wave from the wedding party.
And don't forget...
Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.
Plus, those of us lucky enough to get together with relatives on Christmas Day might find ourselves dealing with some who believe in coronavirus conspiracy theories. So how can you deal with it without ending up in an argument?
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