Dec 22 round-up: Mutant strain spreads; January school doubts; House prices may fall

Time 6:59 am, December 22, 2020

  • Here are the headlines on Tuesday, December 22

Talks to ease freight curbs ongoing as mutant strain spreads

Talks with France on reopening full trade and transport across the Channel are ongoing as the government’s chief scientific adviser said more restrictions may be needed because cases of a mutant strain of Covid were now appearing ‘everywhere’.

Sir Patrick Vallance gave the grim warning after more than 40 countries banned UK flights because of fears regarding the spread of the coronavirus variant.

Sir Patrick indicated a Tier 4 lockdown may be needed in wider areas of England, particularly as Christmas mixing may result in an increased spread of cases.

Pupils returning to school ‘under constant review’

Boris Johnson has said he wants schools in England to reopen as planned at the start of January, but he said measures were being kept ‘under constant review’.

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference that the government wants secondary school pupils to return to face-to-face lessons in a staggered way in the new year if they ‘possibly can’.

Johnson said the ‘commonsensical thing to do’ was to follow the path of the epidemic. His comments came after Britain’s largest teachers’ union called on the government to allow schools to move classes online for most pupils for a fortnight in January to allow Covid-19 cases to fall.

Half a million people have received Covid-19 vaccine

More than half a million people in the UK have been vaccinated against Covid-19, Boris Johnson said.

The Prime Minister said more than 500,000 people in the UK have now received their first dose of the two-part vaccine since British grandmother Margaret Keenan became the first patient in the world on December 8 to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 jab following its clinical approval.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a tweet it was ‘such good news’.

PM tells Brussels UK would prosper with or without a trade deal

Boris Johnson continued to take a tough stance with the EU over talks on a post-Brexit trade agreement, insisting the UK would prosper without such a deal.

The Prime Minister’s bullish tone came as he insisted he would not give in to calls to extend the Brexit transition period despite the coronavirus crisis, Downing Street said.

The UK leaves the single market and customs union on December 31 and will face tariffs and quotas on trade with the European Union unless a deal is reached.

Border issues could cause gaps on supermarket shelves

Salad leaves and citrus fruits could be missing from supermarket shelves as a result of restrictions on UK-France trade, Sainsbury’s has warned.

The supermarket giant said France’s ban on freight hauliers from the UK could affect food supplies but assured customers that crucial Christmas dinner supplies are available and already in the country.

Thousands of lorries that were meant to travel across the English Channel on Monday have been told to stay away from Kent ports.

Stock markets and sterling take heavy hit

Traders reacted with concern over the latest restrictions announced by the government on Saturday and the increased fears of a no-deal Brexit.

The FTSE 100 blue chip index had fallen by more than 1.7 per cent when trading finished yesterday.

The FTSE 250, which is generally made up of UK-focused businesses, took a heavier fall and was down 2.11 per cent. French and German counterparts also saw falls on their respective stock markets.

Halifax says house prices may fall in 2021

Possible house price falls in 2021 may not be significant enough to wipe out the strong gains already made this year, according to experts.

The ending of the current stamp duty holiday on March 31 2021, the tough jobs market and a lack of low deposit mortgages are expected to curb housing market demand next year.

It follows a ‘mini boom’ seen in the second half of this year, as the reopening of the housing market following coronavirus restrictions and households’ desire to move to homes with more space unleashed a wave of pent-up demand.

Frasers Group issues profit warning over Tier 4 shutdown

Mike Ashley’s Frasers retail empire has issued a profit warning, saying publicised guidance of a 20 to 30 per cent boost in profits this year is unlikely to be achieved.

The retailer, which includes high street names including Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Evans Cycles and Game Digital, had only made the commitment earlier this month.

But the new Tier 4 rules introduced over the weekend have hit the business, with many stores forced to close to customers – although staff in stores are still expected to go in to fulfil click-and-collect orders. Shares fell 10 per cent.

Third of UK motorists have driven without fully de-icing their cars

A third of motorists in the UK have admitted to driving without properly de-icing their vehicles, a new survey has revealed.

Annoyed at having to wait for their windscreens to clear, more than a quarter of drivers say that they have even driven with more than half of their windscreens covered in ice.

Drivers cited reasons such as lateness for stopping them properly clearing their screens, while 14 per cent said that the ice melts faster on a windscreen from the heat of the engine when driving.

North south weather divide

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The BBC says that after a chilly start for many northern areas it will be a fine day with just some patchy cloud and showers for western Scotland. In the south it will be dull and mild with drizzle at times.

Tonight will be cloudy and wet for much of Wales and southern England. Further north, skies will be clear, but further showers in the north-west; patchy fog will develop in places in the early hours.

Tomorrow, much of England and Wales can expect further wet and windy conditions, with some particularly heavy outbreaks at times. It will be bright and breezy for N Ireland and much of Scotland.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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