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COVID-19: Boris Johnson says case for tier system is ‘compelling’ and promises £1,000 payment for ‘wet pubs’ | UK News

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COVID-19: Boris Johnson says case for tier system is 'compelling' and promises £1,000 payment for 'wet pubs' | UK News

Boris Johnson has said there is a “compelling case” for further coronavirus restrictions – as he promised pubs which do not serve food a one-off payment of £1,000 in December.

Pubs which only sell drinks, or “wet pubs”, will be unable to open if they are in Tier 2 or Tier 3 areas under the new system of restrictions from tomorrow.

The prime minister made the announcement after saying the hospitality sector has been hit disproportionately hard in the pandemic.

Mr Johnson has spoken in the House of Commons ahead of a showdown with rebel Tory MPs over his post-lockdown plan.

Around 50 of Mr Johnson’s own MPs are predicted to come out against the government in a vote to approve the tier system of coronavirus restrictions, in which 99% of the population face the toughest measure of Tier 2 and Tier 3.

Pubs will only be allowed to open in Tier 2 if they can act as a restaurant, while those in Tier 3 will only be permitted to serve takeaway.

Mr Johnson told MPs on Tuesday: “We will do everything in our power to support our hospitality sector throughout this crisis.

“We’ve already extended the furlough scheme for all businesses until the end of March… we’ve allocated £1.1bn for local authorities to support businesses at particular risk, and today we’re going further with a one-off payment of £1,000, in December, to wet pubs – that’s pubs that do not serve food.”

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PM slips over date of tier ‘sunset’ clause

The prime minister is assured of victory in the Commons vote this evening after Sir Keir Starmer said Labour will abstain.

Sir Keir said that while his party has “serious misgivings” about restrictions, it would not be in the national interest to vote them down when the virus still poses a “serious risk”.

Labour’s move will likely shine a spotlight on the size of the Tory rebellion, with many backbenchers furious that their constituencies face stricter controls than before the latest lockdown.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “With the spread of the epidemic varying across the country there remains a compelling case for regional tiers in England and indeed a compelling necessity for regional tiers.”

The prime minister also told the Commons: “All we need to do now is to hold our nerve until these vaccines are indeed in our grasp and indeed being injected into our arms.

“So I say to the House again, let us follow the guidance, let us roll out mass testing. Let’s work to deliver mass testing to the people of our country.

“Let’s work together to control the virus, and it is in that spirit that I commend these regulations.”

Keir Starmer has accused the prime minister of not "levelling with the public
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Keir Starmer has accused the prime minister of not “levelling with the public

Sir Keir told MPs the government’s plan to control the virus so far has not worked.

He said: “We’ve been here before. On 10 June the prime minister told us, for the first time, of his whack-a-mole strategy to control local infections – 10 June.

“He told us it would be so effective that restrictions would only be for a few weeks or even a few days. That was far from reality.

“Leicester, for example, has just gone into the 154th day of restrictions. And by the time these regulations run out on 2 February, Leicester will have been in restrictions for 217 days. So that didn’t work, that 10 June proposal.”

Sir Keir added that both the government’s rule of six and initial three-tiered system also “didn’t work”.

He also said that the prime minister hasn’t been “levelling with the British public”, adding: “He’s been fuelling a promise that within two weeks or so local areas have a real prospect of dropping to a tier below the one they’re in.

“We need to level – in my view, that is highly unlikely and we might as well face that now. It’s obvious that the new Tier 1 may slow but won’t prevent a rise in infections, it’s far from certain that the new Tier 2 can hold the rate of infection.

“I hear the mutterings, but let’s just see where we are in two weeks – I look across to members in the House who think that perhaps in two weeks their area will have dropped down a tier just before Christmas. Let’s see.”

One Conservative MP muttered Sir Keir was demonstrating “hindsight”, to which the Labour leader replied: “This isn’t hindsight. I’m telling you what’s going to happen in two weeks.

“We know where we’ll be in two weeks, and I’ve no doubt there will be (Conservative MPs) getting up and saying ‘I thought my area was going to drop a tier just before Christmas’. That’s not levelling, that’s not being straight, because that’s not going to happen.”

He added: “I hope I stand here and I’m wrong about this, and I think all members hope I’m wrong.”

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<a href='https://news.sky.com/story/divided-states-podcast-insurrection-impeachment-inauguration-12189011' target='_blank'>Insurrection, impeachment, inauguration</a>

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<a href='https://news.sky.com/story/divided-states-podcast-insurrection-impeachment-inauguration-12189011' target='_blank'>Insurrection, impeachment, inauguration</a>

<a href='https://news.sky.com/story/divided-states-podcast-insurrection-impeachment-inauguration-12189011' target='_blank'>Insurrection, impeachment, inauguration</a>

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COVID-19: Second variant from Brazil ‘likely’ already in the UK, SAGE scientist says | World News

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COVID-19: Second variant from Brazil 'likely' already in the UK, SAGE scientist says | World News

The second of two new coronavirus variants from Brazil is likely to already be in the UK despite the government imposing a travel ban, a leading epidemiologist has warned.

Eight cases of the first variant, which has a small number of mutations, have been identified in the UK.

The second, which has been detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus and in travellers arriving in Japan, has not been detected in the UK so far.

However, Professor John Edmunds has said he would it “unusual” if the second variant was not present here.

Profressor Edmunds, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In terms of the South African one, we had imported cases already by the time we put in additional restrictions for South African travellers.

“For the Brazilian one… I don’t think there is evidence that we’ve imported cases of the Manaus strain, as far as I’m aware at least, but it is likely that we probably have quite honestly.

“We are one of the most connected countries in the world so I would find it unusual if we hadn’t imported some cases into the UK.”

The government banned flights from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde on Thursday after the emergence of the new variants, having previously banned travel from South Africa because of a new coronavirus mutation.

In addition, all quarantine-free travel into the UK will be suspended on Monday in a bid to keep out other variants.

The new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.

Labour accused the government of “closing the door after the horse has bolted”, saying the announcement was too late to have stopped the arrival of “worrying” strains.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told ministers to get a “comprehensive plan and to act in a proper, strategic way, not in the short-term chaotic way we’ve seen over the past twelve months”.

But aviation minister Robert Courts insisted that the new action amounted to “toughening up already tough requirements”.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said there would be lots of new coronavirus variants this year but the current vaccines should protect against the strains circulating in the UK.

He said that new variants were being detected early, and stressed: “If indeed we do need to make new vaccines we will be able to stand those up really quickly.”

More than 3.2 million people have now received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine in the UK – around double the number compared to last week.

The government has set a target of vaccinating 15 million of the most vulnerable people in the UK by mid-February.

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But Prof Edmunds cautioned against removing coronavirus restrictions at that point, saying to do so would be a “disaster” that would place “enormous pressure” on the NHS.

He said: “I think it would be a disaster if we removed restrictions in, say, the end of February when we have gone through this first wave of the vaccination.

“First of all vaccines aren’t ever 100% protective, and so even those that have been vaccinated would be still at some risk.

“Secondly, it is only a small fraction of the population who would have been vaccinated and if you look at the hospitalisations at the moment, about half of them are in the under 70s, and they are not in the first wave to be vaccinated.

“If we relaxed our restrictions we would immediately put the NHS under enormous pressure again.”

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Keeping track of kids lost to lockdown

In other developments:

  • The global death toll from COVID-19 has passed two million, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University in the US
  • Boris Johnson said 45% of the over-80s and almost 40% of care home residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
  • Government scientists put the latest reproductive number – the R rate – for the UK at 1.2 to 1.3, for data examined up to 11 January

Elsewhere in the UK, toughened lockdown restrictions have come into force in Scotland – with new rules on takeaway food and drink, and the end of non-essential click-and-collect services.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced new measures for supermarkets due to “significant evidence” that coronavirus is spreading among customers and staff.

And in Northern Ireland, Stormont health minister Robin Swann said it was “highly unlikely” restrictions will be eased when their six-week lockdown ends.

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Uganda presidential election: Incumbent Yoweri Museveni declared winner | World News

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Bobi Wine's trademark red beret has become a symbol of opposition to longtime President Yoweri Museveni.

Yoweri Museveni has been declared the winner of the Uganda presidential election with 58.64% of the total votes, according to the country’s electoral commission.

The incumbent will now serve a sixth term as president of the east African nation following some of the worst pre-election violence since the 76-year-old took office in 1986.

His man opposition, singer Bobi Wine, has alleged vote rigging throughout the process and had strong support in urban centres where frustration with unemployment and corruption remains high. He won 3.48 million votes, or 34.8% of the total, according to the commission.

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Opposition candidate Bobi Wine was assaulted and arrested several times during the election campaign

Mr Wine and other opposition candidates were often harassed, and more than 50 people were killed when security forces halted riots in November after he was arrested.

Although Mr Museveni holds on to power, at least 15 of his cabinet ministers including the vice president were voted out, with many losing to candidate’s from Mr Wine’s party, according to local media.

Mr Wine, real name Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, claimed victory on Friday and said he had video evidence of vote-rigging and insisting “every legal option is on the table” to challenge the election results.

He was beaten up and arrested several times during the election campaign but was never convicted of any charge. He later wore a flak jacket and said he feared for his life.

On Saturday, Mr Wine said his home in the capital Kampala had been surrounded by soldiers and the military was now allowing him to leave.

The army’s deputy spokesman, Deo Akiiki, told Reuters security officers were assessing threats to Mr Wine if left his home.

Monitoring of the elections has been hit by the arrest of independent observers and the denial of accreditation for members of the UN observer mission.

Tibor Nagy, the top US diplomat for Africa, tweeted on Saturday that “Uganda’s electoral process has been fundamentally flawed”, adding that the “US response hinges on what the Ugandan government does now”.

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