- Staff absences and the new Covid variant are creating a "challenging situation" in hospitals, NHS bosses say
- London hospitals say they are under huge pressure, with whole floors being converted to intensive care wards
- Imperial College London analysis confirms the new variant of the virus has a much faster rate of transmission than the original strain
- Experts defended the UK's new strategy to give more people a first dose of the vaccine, while delaying the second
- The four chief medical officers said giving one jab to as many vulnerable people as possible was "much more preferable"
- Eight London boroughs have urged ministers to delay the re-opening of primary schools as some move to online teaching
- It comes as the nation saw in the New Year without traditional parties, amid warnings for people to stay at home
- A record 55,892 daily cases of coronavirus were reported in the UK on Thursday, with a further 964 deaths
Good morning and a cautious welcome to 2021. Here's a look at some of the main stories from the UK as we start the new year:
- The UK’s four chief medical officers have defended a decision to delay the injection of the second doses of the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines, in order to give more people a first dose sooner. The British Medical Association said it was “grossly unfair” to cancel appointments for a second dose
- Much of the UK saw in 2021 under lockdown restrictions , with people told to ring in the New Year at home and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations cancelled. Fireworks and light shows were broadcast on TV instead
- It came as the UK reported a record daily total of 55,892 cases of coronavirus on Thursday, with another 964 deaths within 28 days of a positive test
- Almost 180,000 jobs in retail were lost in 2020 as the High Street saw its worst trading year for a quarter of a century amid the pandemic, retail analysts say. The Centre for Retail Research predicted up to 200,000 more retail jobs would be at risk in 2021 as retailers face a cash flow crisis
- Pupils over primary school age in Northern Ireland will have to wear face masks in classrooms during the new school term, the Department for Education has said. Masks are already expected in corridors and communal areas
Latest from around the worldHere are the latest developments from around the world.
- New Year celebrations were distinctly muted this year with restrictions being placed on festivities around the world as many countries struggle to curb new spikes in coronavirus cases. Fireworks displays and other public gatherings were cancelled from Sydney to New York
- In New York, just a handful of people were allowed into Times Square to watch the traditional crystal ball drop at midnight. The streets were largely empty and the audience almost entirely watching on television
- China has conditionally approved a vaccine for general use , developed by state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm
- More than 1.8 million people have died with the virus across the world since the start of the pandemic a year ago. More than 83 million cases have been reported.
- Portugal’s daily number of coronavirus cases reached a record high of 7,627 on Thursday as the country prepared for a subdued New Year’s Eve with an 11 pm curfew and no travel between municipalities.
- All travellers entering Norway will have to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival, or up to 24 hours after, from 2 January, the country’s justice ministry said. To stop the spread of the coronavirus variant first detected in Britain, travellers from any point of origin will need to enter Norway at designated entry points where testing is available, with smaller border crossings to be closed, it added.
- Turkey’s coronavirus death toll rose by 239 in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed on Thursday, bringing the total number of deaths to 20,881. The number of new cases stood at 14,380 over the same period, bringing total cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,208,652.
- Scotland has recorded the highest number of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began for the third day in a row. A total of 2,622 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, following 2,045 cases reported on Wednesday and 1,895 on Tuesday.
- France has detected its first case of the South African variant of coronavirus, the health ministry said. The 501.V2 Variant was detected by South African authorities in mid-December.
- Slovakia reported 6,315 new cases of coronavirus, the highest daily number so far, the government said. The country of 5.5 million has recorded 179,543 cases so far, and 2,138 deaths, Reuters reports.
Police report 'quite quiet' New Year's Eve for LondonPolice say they did not face many of the anticipated gatherings over New Year's Eve in London, adding that the public appear to have realised the serious situation the capital is in.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, told BBC Breakfast that it was "quite quiet" with sporadic gatherings that were quickly dealt with by officers.
“I think the public have really cottoned on that this is really serious, the position that we are in, and we did not see the numbers we thought we would," he said.
He said that around 1,300 officers were now off work with Covid-19 or self-isolating, and that the number was predicted to double over the next couple of weeks, putting "massive strain" on the force.