- A stringent new Covid lockdown has come into force in London, parts of east and south-east England and Wales
- Twenty-one million people who entered new restrictions at midnight are being told to stay at home, while non-essential shops and businesses have to close
- The new tier four was introduced after a new variant of coronavirus caused cases to soar
- In the rest of England, Scotland and Wales relaxed indoor mixing rules are cut from five days to Christmas Day only
- A Wales-wide lockdown has been brought forward to Sunday with festive plans cancelled for all but Christmas Day
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said tough rules were needed after scientists said the new virus variant was spreading more rapidly
- Labour has attacked the government's "dither and delay" of the past week and the length of time it took to recognise what "people could see coming"
- The World Health Organization says it is in "close contact" with UK officials over the emergence of the new variant
Hello and welcome to our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday December 20. Here are the main headlines so far:
- Twenty-one million people around the UK are waking up to tougher restrictions. A new Tier 4 has been introduced across areas of south and south-east England, including London.
- Meanwhile Wales has brought forward its own lockdown , and Scotland will only relax its rules on Christmas Day . No changes have been made in Northern Ireland , where a lockdown will start on 26 December
- The World Health Organisation has said it's in "close contact" with UK officials over the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus, which it believes to be behind a rise in cases around the country. The new variant is spreading more rapidly than the original version, but is not believed to be more deadly.
- Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that clergy and others who are shielding should not feel compelled to attend public worship, even though it is allowed
- Some 78% of those surveyed in a Savanta ComRes poll after the PM's announcement said they would change their Christmas plans, with 11% saying they will disobey the tighter restrictions
Today's Newspaper headlines
- The Telegraph, like the majority of today’s papers, leads on the new restrictions. The paper says the PMs last minute announcement “effectively cancelled Christmas for 16 million people”
- The Daily Star's headline this morning reads ‘Bozo Stuffs Xmas’ and refers to the PM as a ‘Turkey Clown’, visualised with a photo of the PM's head superimposed on the body of a turkey.
- The Sunday Express says a virulent mutant form of the virus has thrown the country into chaos and has forced a “bitterly disappointed” PM to axe festivities.
- The Daily Mail poses the question “Will this nightmare ever end?” The paper says despite his efforts to blame the U-turn on the new variant, Mr Johnson is facing fury from Tory MPs, one of whom said "heads must roll" if scientists had not provided enough warning to ministers.
Hancock: Virus 'was out of control'Health Secretary Matt Hancock is appearing on a number of different outlets this morning.
He’ll be on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme shortly but has already been speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge.
He defends Saturday’s announcement of tough new restrictions across London, the South East and East of England.
The government had a “duty to act”when presented with data on Friday showing the rapid spread of the new Covid variant, he says, and had responded “quickly and decisively”.
“The virus was out of control and we have to get it under control.”
He says everyone in Tier 4 areas, who will not be allowed to mix with any other households over Christmas, should “act as if they have the virus to stop spreading it to people”.
While he acknowledges the news has proved a huge disappointment to people, he says the curbs are necessary and points out that people living elsewhere in England will still be able to see one other household on Christmas Day.
He says he has personally been affected, revealing he had called his mum last night to tell her he wouldn’t be able to see her over the festive period.
“This has been an awful end to what has been a difficult year.”
Hancock 'very worried' about state of NHSThe health secretary says the UK will not be closing its borders, saying UK citizens living abroad need to be allowed to come home.
But he repeats the government's advice against international travel except on limited work grounds.
Asked if the UK is inexorably heading to another national lockdown, he replies "not necessarily" and says he hopes the travel restrictions now in place across most of south-east England will limit the spread of the new variant.
He also says he is "very worried" about the health service's capacity to deal with the current crisis, saying there are 18,000 Covid patients in hospital at the moment, just below the peak seen during the first wave in March and April.
Who has the worst number of Covid deaths in Europe?Reality Check
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that - when it comes to coronavirus - the UK has “the worst number of deaths in Europe”.
In fact, the UK is second in Europe behind Italy in the cumulative number of Covid deaths.
You can compare coronavirus figures from across the world in this piece from BBC News.
It’s important to remember, though, that not all governments are recording coronavirus deaths in the same way.
In deaths per 100,000 people, the UK comes ninth in Europe - behind countries such as Belgium, Italy and Spain.