- Relaxation of Christmas Covid rules scrapped for much of south-east England
- PM says spread in cases 'being driven by the new variant of the virus'
- The PM held a Covid briefing after a rise in cases in south-east England
- Boris Johnson announces tier four restrictions for London and the South East
- Wales brings forward lockdown to start from midnight
- Relaxation of festive rules in Scotland and Wales also restricted to just Christmas Day
- Nicola Sturgeon announces travel ban between Scotland and rest of UK
- Northern Ireland has announced a post-Christmas lockdown
- A second vaccine is being rolled out in the US after regulators approved a jab developed by Moderna
- Italy has ordered a nationwide lockdown over much of the Christmas and New Year period
With just one week to go until a Christmas like no other, let's take a look at the main coronavirus headlines today.
In the UK:
- Boris Johnson will host a press conference later amid a rising number of Covid infections in England.
- Before that, cabinet ministers are holding talks on what action to take. Our political correspondent Nick Eardley says it feels like a "fast-moving situation".
- Hospitals in Kent are postponing non-urgent procedures as coronavirus cases in the county rise beyond figures seen in the spring.
- Government scientists are continuing to evaluate the spread of a new variant of Covid in south-east England as there are "growing concerns" about its transmission.
- Fake "Covid-19 immunity boosters" are being sold over the counter in London shops, a BBC investigation has found .
Around the world:
- Italy has ordered a nationwide lockdown over much of the Christmas and New Year period in an effort to combat a rise in coronavirus cases.
- The US government has approved the Moderna vaccine , making it the second in the country to get the green light.
- India has become the second country to record 10 million coronavirus cases, but the rate of infection in the second-worst affected country is continuing to slow.
Virus spreading at 'alarming rate' in London and South EastJessica Parker - BBC political correspondent
The virus is spreading at "an alarming rate" in London and the south-east of England, a government source says.
It's understood there was also call with ministers last night, where the idea of travel restrictions was discussed.
New measures are said to be under discussion today - although what they may be hasn't been specified.
PM to hold press conference this afternoonThe prime minister will hold a press conference later this afternoon, Downing Street says, as cases continue to rise in England.
He'll be joined by the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, and the UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
US gives go-ahead for second Covid-19 vaccineThe US government has approved a second Covid-19 vaccine, clearing the way for millions of doses to be released.
Moderna was given authorisation by the Food and Drug Administration, a week after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved.
The US has agreed to purchase 200 million doses of Moderna, and six million may be ready to ship now.
The country has been the worst hit by the virus, with more than 313,500 deaths and some 17.5 million infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
You can read more on this story here .
New virus variant 'can spread more rapidly', UK tells WHOThe UK has informed the World Health Organization that the new variant of coronavirus can spread more quickly, the chief medical officer for England says.
Prof Chris Whitty says the decision came as a result of preliminary modelling data and the rapidly rising incidence rates of the virus in the South East.
But he says: "There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments, although urgent work is under way to confirm this."
Analysis: Why Covid-19 variant is causing concernNick Triggle - Health Correspondent
Viruses do mutate - so the development that there is a Covid-19 variant should not come as a complete surprise.
There is nothing to suggest it causes more serious illness or would impact the ability of the vaccines to work.
But preliminary investigation suggests it is leading to faster transmission.
That clearly is causing concern, especially ahead of Christmas when relaxing restrictions mean there is more opportunity for the virus to spread.
It may well explain why infection rates started increasing in London during lockdown - something that has baffled experts.
All indications are the prime minister will issue new advice on Christmas.
Hospital admissions are increasing - with the number of available beds in parts of the south-east England falling almost by the day.
Italy is latest European country to order Christmas lockdownItaly has become the latest European country to announce tighter restrictions over the Christmas and New Year period in an effort to curb a rise in coronavirus cases.
‘Red zone’ restrictions will be in place over the public holidays, during which Italians will only be allowed to leave their homes for work, health and emergency reasons. Limited home visits will be allowed.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said it was "not an easy decision" but health experts were "seriously worried that there would be a jump in cases over Christmas".
Italy has recorded the highest Covid death toll in Europe, with close to 68,000 fatalities.
Both the Netherlands and Germany have also imposed lockdowns until January and Austria plans to enter its third lockdown after Christmas.
You can read more on the restrictions European countries are imposing over the Christmas period here .
PM expected to announce tier 4 and tighter Christmas rulesLaura Kuenssberg - Political editor
The prime minister is expected to announce a tightening of Covid restrictions and a tier four for London and the South East as well as several other counties, cabinet sources have told the BBC.
There is also expected to be a tightening of the plans to relax the rules around households gathering during the Christmas period.
The cabinet was also briefed on the risks from the new variant of the disease by the government’s top medics at lunchtime.
Kent hospitals postpone non-urgent treatmentHospitals in Kent are postponing non-urgent procedures after coronavirus cases rose beyond figures seen in the spring.
East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust had 357 cases on Wednesday, almost twice its spring peak of 187 on 20 April.
The NHS in Kent confirmed urgent operations would go ahead as normal.
Average NHS bed occupancy in England reached almost 89% for the week ending 13 December , with 59 out of 126 NHS trusts reporting bed occupancy of higher than 90% - which is above the recommended safe level.
Macron 'stable and carrying out duties' after positive Covid testFrench President Emmanuel Macron is in a stable condition and his tests results are reassuring, his office has said, a day after he announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
He was "still presenting the same symptoms", fatigue, coughing and stiffness, but was not prevented from carrying out his duties, the statement, signed by his doctor, said.
President Macron is self-isolating at an official residence outside Paris.
Other officials and foreign leaders have had to go into self-isolation after meeting him at a number of high-profile events in the past week. But his office strongly denies he acted recklessly.
Did Macron break his own Covid rules? You can more on this story here.
More action may be needed to stop virus variant - SturgeonMore preventative action may be necessary to stop a faster spreading variant of coronavirus taking hold, Scottish First Nicola Sturgeon says.
Ms Sturgeon says the Scottish cabinet will meet on Saturday afternoon to discuss the new variant.
Scottish ministers will also consider Christmas arrangements and the first minister is expected to announce any changes in a press conference later this afternoon.
Earlier, representatives from the UK's four nations discussed the new strain and how to handle it.
After the meeting, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted that it was "very concerning" and stressed how important it was to follow the guidelines to contain the virus.
Read more here .