Covid-19: UK travel corridors to close and small firms' court win

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Friday evening. We'll have another update for you on Saturday morning.

1. UK to close travel corridors from Monday

All of the UK's travel corridors will be temporarily closed from Monday to "protect against the risk of as yet unidentified new Covid strains", Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced. Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Mr Johnson said anyone arriving in the UK would be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, taken in the previous 72 hours. It comes after new, more infectious variants were detected in South Africa and Brazil. On Friday, a further 1,280 people died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid test, according to the latest government figures.

image copyrightPA Media

2. Early signs lockdown working

The coronavirus epidemic in the UK is still officially estimated to be growing, according to the government's latest estimate of the R number - but there are signs lockdown restrictions may be working. The Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) now estimates the R number to be between 1.2 and 1.3, compared to 1-1.4 last week. But in London, where tight restrictions came in earlier, the R number is between 0.9 and 1.2. England's chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, told the Downing Street briefing there was some "levelling off" in cases "thanks to enormous efforts by so many people". What is the UK's R number and why does it matter?

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3. Insurers told to cover small firms' lockdown losses

Insurers must cover the losses of tens of thousands of small businesses during the first lockdown following a Supreme Court ruling. The court found largely in favour of small firms receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies. The ruling could offer a lifeline to some firms, allowing them to continue trading. It came as the UK economy shrank by 2.6% in November as lockdown restrictions reduced economic activity.

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4. New laws for shoppers and staff in Wales

New coronavirus laws for shoppers and staff in Wales are to be introduced following "significant evidence" Covid is being spread in supermarkets. Shops will now have to install signs reminding shoppers to socially distance. The country's first minister, Mark Drakeford, said the stricter measures were needed due to the new variant. But workers have also raised safety concerns about shoppers walking around without masks and shopping in large groups.

media captionCovid lockdown: Are supermarkets following the rules?

5. NHS Test and Trace explained in South Asian languages

With hospitals under extreme pressure and daily infections still high, the NHS Test and Trace system remains an important tool to stop the spread of coronavirus. BBC Asian Network is helping the South Asian community in the UK to understand how the system works in five languages: Gujarati, Punjabi, Sylheti, Tamil and Urdu. Below, reporter Raj Kaur Bilkhu explains how the test-and-trace system works in Punjabi.

media captionReporter Raj Kaur Bilkhu explains how the NHS Test and Trace system works

And don't forget...

If you're wondering how concerned we should be about the new virus variants, our health editor Michelle Roberts examines what we know so far.

You can find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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