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COVID-19: ‘Unanimous agreement’ Christmas plan will go ahead for all nations, PM says | UK News

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A member of the public takes a photograph of the Christmas light display on a house in Saxifrage Way, Worthing.

Boris Johnson has said all UK nations have reached a “unanimous agreement” to go ahead with planned Christmas bubble rules.

The prime minister added, however, that people should “exercise a high degree of personal responsibility” if they do spend time with family over the festive period.

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Christmas plans will be allowed to go ahead, amid rising coronavirus cases

It comes after a phone call between Westminster and the devolved nations, which took place amid growing pressure on the government to scrap the easing of the COVID-19 rules over Christmas.

At Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Mr Johnson said: “Although some things are unquestionably going well… we must remember that transmission takes place asymptomatically in so many cases.

“We should exercise extreme caution in the way we celebrate Christmas – we can celebrate it sensibly, but we have to be extremely cautious in the way we behave.

“We don’t want to criminalise people’s long-made plans but we do think it’s absolutely vital that people should at this very, very tricky time exercise a high degree of personal responsibility, especially when they come into contact with elderly people, and avoid contact with elderly people wherever possible.”

Under the rules, up to three households will be able to form “Christmas bubbles” for five days from 23 December in homes and places of worship.

However, while the prime minster said there had been a four-nation agreement on the Christmas advice, both Wales and Scotland appeared to be less enthusiastic.

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‘Only two households should come together at Xmas’

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford advised that only two households should be able to “form an exclusive Christmas bubble”, in a slight breakaway from Westminster.

When asked if he was breaking rank with England, Mr Drakeford said that the result of the four nations meeting has not yet been published, and cannot offer more advice until later today.

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told a briefing that she “hoped” there would be a UK-wide agreement on the rules, and that Scotland would strengthen its guidance to people on “whether and how they make use of the flexibility”.

However, Ms Sturgeon did concede that it “wouldn’t be fair at this stage and wouldn’t be realistic either” to change the regulations on Christmas mixing.

She also urged those people who are yet to make festive plans to remain at home as a single household where possible.

Boris Johnsons, alongside Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, will host a Downing Street news conference later today.

Sky’s political correspondent Tom Rayner said it was “intriguing” that Mr Johnson did not offer out the news about Christmas at the beginning of PMQs, and instead waited until he was questioned on it by the Labour leader.

“This allowed Boris Johnson to do two things: Accuse Keir Starmer of wanting to ‘cancel Christmas’, and point out that the Welsh government, which is of course a Labour government, had agreed to the position,” he said.

Over the weekend, NHS Providers expressed concern over the current Christmas plans, which it argued could lead to a third wave of infections in the new year.

Those comments were echoed by medical and scientific figures across the UK, along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

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COVID-19: Holidays to Spain could be delayed ‘until end of summer’ | World News

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reportedly said 70% of the population will need to be vaccinated

Britons hoping to escape to Spain could have their holiday plans cancelled following reports the Spanish prime minister said the country would not welcome international tourists until the “end of summer”.

Speaking at a meeting of the World Tourism Organisation, Pedro Sanchez reportedly said he did not expect holidaymakers to visit Spain until nearly all of the population has been vaccinated.

He said the country would “progressively” prepare to welcome international tourists once 70% of Spain’s population had been vaccinated, which he expected to be by the end of this summer, local media sites including Euro Weekly News have reported.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reportedly said 70% of the population would need to be vaccinated

It will be a blow for the tourism sector, which closed its worst year since the 1970s in 2020 with revenues falling by more than 75%.

Spain reported its highest daily number of coronavirus infections yet on Thursday, recording 44,357 cases.

A further 404 deaths were also reported, taking the country’s total to 55,041 deaths and 2.5 million cases.

Spain is not the only popular holiday destination closing its doors to British tourists, as Portugal has said it will be suspending all flights to and from Britain from Saturday onwards.

Only repatriation flights will be allowed between the two countries, Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference.

British tourists arrive at Gran Canaria airport
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Spain is one of the most popular destinations for British tourists

Meanwhile, the UK itself has “considered” a full closure of its borders.

Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News ministers were keeping the idea “under review” and “can’t rule anything out for now” – although they believed the current restrictions were “sufficient”.

Asked whether people should be booking foreign holidays for this summer, Home Secretary Priti Patel refused to give an answer and said it was “far too early” to speculate on restrictions.

But some Britons have already begun booking their breaks, with holiday firms saying they had seen a spike in bookings from older people planning trips following the vaccine roll-out.

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‘We need to have a spring and summer season’

The UK’s largest tour operator TUI said half of bookings made so far have been made by over-50s.

Spain ranks among the most popular countries for people planning holidays this year.

A study by travel company Club Med showed it was the fifth most popular destination, behind the Maldives, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.

Earlier, European Union leaders held an online summit to discuss potential coronavirus measures, including further border restrictions.

While a number of EU leaders said they would not rule out border closures, Spain and Greece backed an idea for a common approach to “vaccine passports”.

The system would allow people to travel if they had received the vaccine, although EU diplomats said the measure was premature as it is not yet clear if vaccinated people could still pass on the virus to others.

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Donald Trump was fooled into talking to prankster pretending to be Piers Morgan, TV presenter says | UK News

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Donald and Melania Trump

A prankster pretending to be Piers Morgan managed to fool Donald Trump into thinking he was speaking to the real TV presenter.

It happened in October while the former president and Apprentice star was on Air Force One, Morgan said.

Mr Trump, who left the White House for the final time earlier this week, only realised he had been scammed when he rang the genuine Morgan the following day while on his way to Florida, the presenter revealed.

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Donald and Melania Trump boarding Air Force One for the last time on Wednesday

Morgan told the BBC it was a “hilarious story”, adding: “Somebody had called him pretending to be me the day before and got through to him on Air Force One and they had a conversation with Trump thinking he was talking to me.”

It is not known who the prankster was.

The pair, who have known each other for more than a decade, fell out last year after Morgan, 55, criticised Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2008, Morgan won a series of Celebrity Apprentice hosted by the billionaire businessman.

He also interviewed him during his time in office for ITV‘s Good Morning Britain.

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Donald Trump’s presidency in 6 minutes

Taking about Mr Trump’s time as US president, Morgan said the 74-year-old had been a “useless leader” because of his “character flaws – the chronic narcissism, the desire to make everything about himself”.

But Mr Trump is not the only prominent person to have been fooled by a prankster.

In March last year, Prince Harry was reportedly tricked into speaking about his decision to quit the royal family by Russian hoaxers posing as the environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

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China gold mine blast: Trapped workers must wait another two weeks for rescue | World News

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Medical workers in white protective suits are also on site

Rescuers trying to free a group of miners trapped hundreds of metres underground have said it may take another 15 days to drill and clear a route wide enough to reach them.

They are desperately trying to bring the workers back to the surface following an explosion at the Hushan gold mine in Qixia, Shandong province, in eastern China on 10 January.

A total of 22 miners became trapped after the blast blocked the mine entrance.

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Medical workers in white protective suits are also on site as part of coronavirus measures

One is confirmed to have died from head injuries. Eleven are known to be alive and rescuers have made contact with 10 of them, while one is said to be in a nearby chamber. The remaining 10 are missing.

Holes have been drilled and used to pass food, medicine and other supplies to the group while they wait.

Rescuers are now drilling a new wider shaft to reach the 10 men in the middle section of the mine – more than 600m from the entrance – which they hope to use to bring the survivors to safety.

The mine shaft is blocked 350m below the surface by 70 tonnes of debris that extends down another 100m, the Yantai city government said in a statement on its social media account.

Other shafts are being drilled for communication and ventilation – to expel deadly fumes.

Rescuers work at the Hushan gold mine in Qixia, Shandong province, China, where a group of miners remain trapped underground
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Rescuers say it may take another 15 days to reach the group of miners who remain trapped hundreds of metres underground

About 600 people are involved in the rescue, with as many as 25 ambulances waiting at the scene, as well as neurosurgeons, trauma specialists and psychologists.

Medical workers in white protective suits are also on site and have been taking people’s temperatures as part of COVID-19 precautions.

Mine managers have been detained for waiting more than 24 hours before reporting the incident, the cause of which is still not known.

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