- Here are the headlines on Monday, December 21
Johnson holds crisis talks as Europe countries close borders to UK
Boris Johnson will hold crisis talks with ministers after France banned lorries carrying freight from the UK and countries around the world ended flights amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain.
The PM will chair a meeting of the government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee today amid warnings of ‘significant disruption’ around the Channel ports in Kent.
Countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Bulgaria announced restrictions on UK travel following the disclosure that the highly infectious new strain is widespread across south-east England.
Further lockdown for months
More of the country could be placed in Tier 4 – effectively the same as the November lockdown – until spring.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted the new variant coronavirus was ‘out of control’ and said the new restrictions may have to remain in place for months.
Concerns about the rapid spread of the disease have been underlined with the publication of the latest official figures showing there had been a further 35,928 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Sunday – double that of last week.
Sturgeon calls for Brexit delay
Nicola Sturgeon has said it is ‘imperative’ that the Prime Minister tries to get an extension to the Brexit transition period after the discovery of a faster-spreading coronavirus strain.
Scotland’s First Minister said the UK faces a ‘profoundly serious situation’’ because of the virus mutation and warned it would be ‘unconscionable’ to leave the European Union at the end of the year.
The Brexit transition period is due to end on December 31 but Ms Sturgeon has called for an extension amid strict new lockdown measures to try to tackle the new coronavirus strain.
Post-Brexit trade talks resume
Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal look set to continue after another weekend of tense negotiations failed to achieve a breakthrough.
After lead negotiators Michel Barnier and Lord Frost met in Brussels yesterday, a UK government source said the discussions had been ‘difficult’.
Call for ‘extraordinary’ additional support for businesses
Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to provide an ‘extraordinary package of support’ from business, tourism and hospitality leaders.
A joint letter from the chief executives of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, UK Hospitality Scotland, Scotland Food and Drink and the Scottish Chamber of Commerce calls for a ‘swift and committed response’ to the financial impact of the new lockdown.
Retailers ‘staring into the abyss’ in Tier 4
Retailers in England are now ‘staring into the abyss’ after Boris Johnson announced tougher Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions across parts of the country the week before Christmas.
Business bosses have criticised the decision – which forces all non-essential shops to close – and suggested that ‘thousands’ of jobs could be lost due to the measures.
British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said: ‘Christmas was already cancelled for many businesses, but even more will now suffer as a result of this last-minute decision.’
Costcutter sold to new owners
The owner of Costcutter has agreed the sale of the convenience store chain to Bestway Wholesale, the UK’s largest independent wholesalers.
Bibby Line Group said it had agreed to sell Costcutter Supermarkets Group to Bestway Wholesale, with the deal expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2021.
CSG will continue to operate as before under the new ownership.
Rapid Covid-19 testing rolled out for John Lewis staff
John Lewis has said it will launch rapid Covid-19 testing centres in select stores and Waitrose supermarkets in a bid to protect its 16,000 staff.
The John Lewis Partnership, which runs the John Lewis department store business and Waitrose grocery arm, said testing will be available at 40 sites following a trial last month.
Up to 1,000 workers and agency staff volunteered to be tested up to three times a week.
US lawmakers reach deal on huge Covid-19 relief package
Capitol Hill negotiators have sealed a deal on an almost 1 trillion dollar Covid-19 economic relief package.
The agreement delivers extra help to businesses and individuals and provides money to deliver vaccines across the US.
The agreement, announced by Senate leaders, would establish a temporary 300 dollar per week supplemental jobless benefit and 600 dollar direct stimulus payments to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, healthcare providers and renters facing eviction.
The BBC says it’ll be an overcast day for all, with showery rain moving northwards through the day. Rain will ease in most areas this afternoon, but Scotland will have further rain and the south coast will see showers.
Tonight, it’ll be mostly cloudy over central and southern parts of the UK with showery rain. Turning dry, clear and chilly for much of the northern UK.
Tomorrow, the southern half of Wales and central and southern England will be cloudy with further showery rain. It will be drier and brighter further north with sunny spells. A few showers in the far north.