Today's news: Latest headlines for the UK on Wednesday 23 December

Matilda Long
·4 min read

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Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock attends a remote press conference to update the nation on the status of the Covid-19 pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street in central London on December 23, 2020. - Britain on Wednesday introduced restrictions on travel from South Africa over the spread of another new variant of coronavirus, UK Health Minister Matt Hancock said. "We're placing immediate restrictions on travel from South Africa," Hancock said, adding that two cases of the "highly concerning" new virus strain had been discovered in Britain. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Matt Hancock announced more areas would be put in Tier 4 (Getty)

— Today's top story in 60 seconds —

Millions more moved into Tier 4 from Boxing Day

What happened?

Millions more people in England will be subject to the most severe Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, Matt Hancock has confirmed. The health secretary acknowledged mounting concern about the spread of the new coronavirus variant as he placed Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire – including Portsmouth and Southampton but with the exception of the New Forest –into the highest lockdown tier.

Which other areas are moving tier?

Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including the North Somerset council area, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire as well as Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to Tier 3. Cornwall and Herefordshire move from Tier 1 to Tier 2.

'Everything is much harder'

Hancock warned that the new variant was spreading at a “dangerous rate”. He said: “This Christmas and the start of 2021 is going to be tough. The new variant makes everything much harder because it spreads so much faster. But we mustn’t give up now, we know that we can control this virus, we know we can get through this together, we’re going to get through it by suppressing the virus until a vaccine can make us safe.”

Read more about it

How long will Tier 4 last? (The Independent)

What are the Tier 4 lockdown rules? (Evening Standard)

The big coronavirus stories today—

South Africa variant found in UK

Two cases of another new strain of COVID-19 have been identified in the UK. Matt Hancock said the latest variant, which is linked to South Africa, “is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further” than the mutated virus previously identified in the UK. Read the full story here

UK records 744 more virus deaths

A further 744 people have died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19. It is the highest one-day figure reported since 29 April during the first peak of the virus. A further 39, 237 new cases have been confirmed, the highest ever daily figure. Read the full story here

Sturgeon sorry for COVID rules breach

Nicola Sturgeon has apologised in the Scottish Parliament after being photographed in a bar not wearing a face mask. A picture published in the Scottish Sun shows the first minister chatting to three women while standing at a distance but without wearing a mask. Read the full story here

R rate rises across UK

The UK’s coronavirus R rate is continuing to creep up. The value, which measures how many people an infected person passes the virus to on average, is now at between 1.1 and 1.3. The figure has a lag of around three weeks, meaning the actual current range could well be much higher.Read the full story here

Lorry drivers clash with police at Dover

A man has been arrested after lorry drivers stranded by the French travel ban clashed with police in Kent. More than 5,000 HGVs are being held in the county, with drivers being tested for COVID-19 before they are allowed into France. Read the full story here

Oxford jab approval ‘just after Christmas'

Regulators could approve the Oxford University and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine shortly after Christmas, an expert has said. Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he expects approval “pretty shortly”. Read the full story here

— Have your say —

— What else happened today? —

Brexit deal 'within hours'

Agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal appears likely to be announced within hours. A meeting of EU ambassadors has been pencilled in for Christmas Eve to start the ratification process. Sources in Brussels and London confirmed they believed the talks were coming to a successful conclusion. Read the full story here

Stella Tennant dies suddenly aged 50

Scottish model Stella Tennant has died aged 50. The supermodel died five days after her 50th birthday on 17 December. Police Scotland said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death. Read the full story here

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