Five ways the virus has changed Netflix

Demand for online entertainment surged when the world went into lockdown earlier this year. But how is Netflix faring after that initial boost?

Netflix added just 2.2 million new subscribers in the three months ended 30 September, as the surge of demand for its services prompted by the pandemic faded.

According to its latest results, while it had warned that slowdown was likely, the final figure came in below its July forecast of 2.5 million, sending the firm’s shares down 5% in after-hours trade.

“The pandemic streaming party has come to an end,” Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, declared.

Still, Netflix reminded investors that it’s still on track for a record number of 34 million new subscribers in 2020 – or more than 200 million overall.

Netflix said 78 million member households watched The Old Guard, a Netflix original, in the first four weeks after its launch, making it the firm’s most popular title of the quarter.

Enola Holmes, Project Power and The Kissing Booth 2 were also popular, attracting 76 million, 75 million and 66 million households in the first four weeks after their debut.

Of course, those figures should be taken with a grain of salt – Netflix counts any viewing time of more than two minutes towards its tally. And the viewer numbers it shares are focused on its own original productions.

The number of international subscribers to Netflix had already eclipsed those in the US – and overseas growth continues to be critical.

In the most recent quarter, the strongest subscriber growth occurred in its Asia Pacific region, which accounted for more than one million new subscribers – almost half of the sign-ups. The firm boasted that it now claims memberships in a “double-digit” share of broadband-connected homes in Japan and South Korea.

But the firm still makes its most revenue per user in the US, so retention in its home market is key, especially as competition from rivals like Disney and HBO heats up.

On that score, Netflix sought to reassure investors, writing in its quarterly update that “retention remains healthy and engagement per member household was up solidly” compared to last year.

The shutdown in film and television productions, forced by lockdowns this spring, has placed a major focus on how Netflix and its competitors will get hold of new offerings to retain their members.

Netflix downplayed those concerns, saying it was making “good and careful progress” in production and it expected the number of Netflix productions launching next year to exceed 2020 in every quarter.

Netflix stands to benefit from the struggles of cinema operators, said Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. But as homebound audiences burn through material at a faster rate, costs will increase – and could push the company to raise prices, she warned.

“Original content might keep customers, but it costs a pretty penny, and is downright ghoulish for the bottom line,” she said. “If consumers are expected to burn through content at a faster rate, the cash flow hole will in theory get bigger.”

The firm reported a record $790 million in quarterly profit, as revenue increased more than expected to $6.4bn, thanks in part to the appreciation of the euro against the dollar.

And the firm said its profit margins have also improved, due to the temporary slowdown in production.

Covid-19: 600 Peters food factory staff being tested

More than 600 workers at a food factory are being tested for coronavirus after 19 colleagues tested positive.

A mobile testing unit has been set up outside Peter’s Food Service unit in Bedwas, Caerphilly.

The pies and pasties maker said it had been “working in a Covid environment for seven months” with safety measures reviewed on a weekly basis.

Caerphilly was the first county in Wales to be placed in a local lockdown following a spike in cases.

A total of 61 more people have just tested positive for coronavirus in the county, according to daily figures published by Public Health Wales on Tuesday.

Peter’s Food Service said as “soon as a colleague informs us that they have received a positive result they are excluded from site and we contact the local authorities to ensure that the track and trace process is implemented”.

It said any employee regarded as a direct contact of a worker who tests positive is “also immediately excluded from site”.

Last week, four staff tested positive and a further six who were excluded have since tested positive for Covid-19.

It said it had also been informed about a further nine cases, of which “we reasonably believe seven are unrelated to any other site case”.

The company said health officials wanted to “understand if there is the potential for onward transmission within the factory environment and determine if Peter’s are likely to see a greater number of cases within the coming week”.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, which manages local health services, has been asked to comment.

It has set up a temporary test centre at Senghenydd, Caerphilly, for residents by appointment only, and a “walk-up” test centre at Caerphilly Leisure Centre.

There were outbreaks affecting workers at other food firms at Anglesey, Wrexham and Merthyr Tydfil over the summer.

Coronavirus: Evidence behind NI Covid-19 response published

The Department of Health has made public the evidence used to inform its decisions on managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

The evidence includes the executive’s paper on “non-pharmaceutical options for reducing the risk of Covid-19”.

It assesses the effectiveness behind measures on travel, personal contacts and education.

The paper also outline reasons for the four-week lockdown currently in place in Northern Ireland.

This has seen the closure of hospitality businesses, with pubs and restaurants limited to takeaway only.

The paper says the closure could have a moderate impact on transmission of the virus, with a potential reduction in the R rate of transmission of between 0.1 and 0.2.

It says curfews are “likely to have a marginal impact”.

Included in the documents are papers from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, slides presented at Stormont press conferences and the weekly reports on the R number.

R is the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, on average,

The Chief Scientific Advisor Prof Ian Young said the evidence bank will help inform discussion about the pandemic response.

Earlier on Tuesday Prof Young said there was “strong evidence” that coronavirus restrictions imposed in the Derry City and Strabane council area are making a difference.

Many businesses who have had to close their doors for four weeks asked to see evidence of how ministers reached their decisions. 

The NI Executive’s paper published on Tuesday says the closure of close contact businesses like hairdressers and beauticians will have a low impact on transmission with a potential reduction of 0.05%. 

It also recognises this will have a high direct impact on staff who are losing their income which it says is “likely to disproportionately affect the poorest (and women) given employment in personal services”.

The paper also says evidence suggests masks were effective in stopping transmission in a hair dressing salon, but that there was some evidence of transmission among hairdressers in the UK.

On outdoor dining, it says allowing customers to eat outside is “only likely to be much lower risk.”

It cites a report produced by the Centre for Disease Control, the United States’ health protection agency, which suggests those who test positive are twice as likely to have eaten in a restaurant.

It also says there will be “high indirect impacts” resulting from the loss of income of hospitality workers.

Covid: London 10pm curfew should be scrapped, mayor says

The 10pm curfew should be scrapped in London to help venues deal with Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions, the Mayor of London has said.

Since 27 September all pubs, bars and restaurants in England must shut no later than 10pm.

Current restrictions also prevent Londoners from meeting friends or family in pubs and restaurants.

Sadiq Khan said the curfew does not “make sense” and extending hospitality opening hours will boost cash flow.

In a statement, Mr Khan said: “Now London and other parts of the country have moved into Tier 2 the current 10pm curfew policy makes even less sense and should be scrapped.

Scrapping the policy “would allow more sittings of single households in restaurants throughout the evening”, Mr Khan said.

This would “boost cash flow at a time when venues need all the support they can get”.

“Ministers must give businesses the support they need to survive while restrictions remain in place,” Mr Khan added.

Under the Tier 2 restrictions, household mixing is still permitted outside, including at pubs and restaurants with outdoor seating, although the rule of six applies.

The 10pm curfew is subject to a legal challenge, led by nightclub chain owner Jeremy Joseph.

Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the curfew was a “matter of policy choice” rather than driven by scientific advice.

He claimed there is “direct and approximate evidence” for the positive impact of the limits on pubs and restaurants, citing a fall in alcohol-related A&E admissions late at night.

But Mr Hancock said the government’s desire to protect education and work “as much as is possible” meant they had to take measures against socialising to try to slow the spread of Covid-19 transmission.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has been approached for comment.

Coronavirus: How are people breaking the rules?

Attitudes towards coronavirus restrictions have changed as the pandemic has gone on. But how do people feel about the future? And are they sticking to the rules?

Worried. Sad. Disappointed. Confused. Concerned.

With the clocks about to go back, winter on its way, and the Covid graphs heading in the wrong direction, the mood of those interviewed in a recent poll of more than 2,000 people paints a fairly bleak picture.

The survey, by Britain Thinks, suggests more than two-thirds of people (68%) are pessimistic about the UK’s immediate future, up 10% from when the survey question was asked in the summer of 2019. Young people are particularly gloomy about the country’s prospects, only 29% of 18-24 year olds express optimism about their future in the next year or so.

A focus group from across the UK, assembled for BBC News by Britain Thinks, echoed the melancholy tone.

“Things are quite bleak,” said Jim, a 61-year-old engineer from Belfast. “Coming up to Christmas with the dark evenings coming in and the prospect that there isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel.”

Alan, a full-time carer in Liverpool, agreed. “I think Christmas will be a write-off and I think January into February next year will be a write-off as well.”

But it wasn’t all pessimism. Michael, a decorator from Peterborough, was more optimistic. “You can’t change anything. You just make the best of what you’ve got.”

When it came to what should happen next, Molly, a 23-year-old customer services advisor from Liverpool, told us she believes the patchwork of rules across the UK is a problem. “The only way I think everyone would listen would probably be if there was a united one-rule-for-all – because everyone thinks if other areas aren’t having the same restrictions that’s unfair.”

Maureen, a retired butcher from Belfast, argues for a national lockdown. “We’re getting mixed messages and you get yourself into a muddle where you don’t know what restrictions are ‘we’ and what restrictions are ‘they’.”

But Michael disagreed with the idea of a circuit-breaker or a total lockdown. “It just doesn’t make sense to close people’s businesses, the government and politicians – it doesn’t affect them. It only affects people like us.”

Analysis of the Britain Thinks polling suggests there are four key factors shaping the country’s mood: the virus, the economy and jobs, divisions in society, and a lack of faith in government.

Some 73% of people agreed “it’s one rule for them and another for us” when it comes to the pandemic. The same proportion were pessimistic about the economy, with 89% expecting the cost of living to go up in the next year.

Almost three-quarters (74%) thought the country would become more divided, with just 12% saying that UK politicians understood people like them.

Separate polling by Ipsos MORI suggests a quarter of people admit they are not following the government coronavirus rules. That clearly means the majority are, and the survey suggests Britain’s overwhelming adherence to the rules has become stronger in the past month.

The online poll – of 1,067 adults in Great Britain between October 16 and 19 – found 73% of people questioned had followed the rules “completely” or “nearly all the time”.

Of the 27% who admitted breaking the rules, four in ten said they had broken social distancing guidelines. One in five said they had gone on prohibited visits to friends and family.

Ipsos MORI chief executive Ben Page said the number of people who say they have complied with the measures has “actually risen with the second wave of the virus”. He said: “Most people remain far more concerned about the virus than the economy.”

Back in March, as the government placed the country into lockdown, there was broad consensus on the need for blanket restrictions. This time, fierce arguments are raging over the manner and nature of the controls, disharmony that surveys suggest is feeding a sense that the government has not got a grip on the crisis.

The previous spike in infections came in the spring, with the prospect that warmer weather would make it easier to control the virus. This time the infection rate is rising as temperatures are falling, with warnings from government scientific advisors that the traditional family Christmas may be a casualty of the pandemic.

For many, the prospect of a winter without festivities adds to the sense of disappointment and despondency. Politically, economically and socially, the next few months are likely to be a huge test of the nation’s fortitude and resilience.

Covid: Heartbreak at Greater Manchester tier 3 status

Business owners in Greater Manchester fear “viable and brilliant” companies will not survive as the area is moved into the top tier of Covid-19 measures.

It is the third area to enter tier three, after Merseyside and Lancashire.

Businesses including pubs and bars, unless they serve substantial meals, as well as soft play facilities, betting shops and casinos will have to close on Friday just after midnight.

The move has been met with anger, frustration and upset by businesses.

The owner of a Menagerie Restaurant and Bar, on the outskirts of Manchester city centre, said consumer confidence has been knocked by the confusion over coronavirus restrictions.

“We have been operating under restrictions, which are close to tier three for three months now,” said Karina Jadhav.

“While we are allowed to stay open, the restrictions, the confusion and the communication coming from the government has really reduced consumer confidence.

“This has resulted – for us – in a lot of cancellations, people not booking, people wanting refunds.

“So while we are allowed to stay open, we are being restricted to the point where it is difficult to keep the business open in the current circumstances.”

The managing director of Wythenshawe-based Whitehouse Event Crockery said the situation was “heartbreaking”.

The business, which supplies goods including plates and glassware for weddings and events, will not be forced to close down in tier three.

However, the move to the toughest tier of measures would have a direct affect on the number of bookings, said Marc Gough.

“Weddings cannot take place in a tier three environment, so effectively they are stopping us from working with no financial support,” he said.

“This is a viable business – a very successful, viable business – and we have just had no support from the government.

“We have been simply forgotten and it’s heartbreaking.”

Greater Manchester recorded almost 11,000 new cases in the week to 16 October, according to data updated on Monday.

Latest figures show cases rose across most of Greater Manchester in the week to 16 October.

However, the city of Manchester has so far seen a fall compared with the week before.

Even so, it still has a high rate of new cases, with just under 404 per 100,000 people in the week to last Friday.

Rochdale recorded Greater Manchester’s highest rate with 462 cases per 100,000 residents.

Stockport and Trafford have the lowest rates in Greater Manchester, with 266 per 100,000 and 310 per 100,000 respectively.

The managing director of a bar in Burnage said it was going to be a “tough winter” as the hospitality industry adjusted to the new three-tier system.

“It’s really sad. We have done everything we can to keep safe,” said Elena Rowe, from Reasons to be Cheerful.

Reasons to be Cheerful will be among the pubs to close under tier three.

“We have regulars and a lot of them drink on their own, and the space we provide is their bubble and it’s sad that this is going to end for people.

“It’s going to be a tough winter. I’m frustrated and upset,” said Ms Rowe.

The owner of a bar in the heart of Manchester’s gay village said tier three would also force him to close.

John Hamilton, who runs Bar Pop and employees 60 members of staff, said: “I am so upset. The city centre will be like a deserted island.

“We need help. We are independent businesses but slowly and surely we are fading away.”

He said tier two restrictions were “bad enough” and his weekly takings had plummeted from £35,000 to £11,500 and he was struggling to pay the bills.

Mr Hamilton said: “I am decimated – we have nothing.”

Covid in Wales: How many cases and deaths have there been?

Ten more people have died with coronavirus and 1,148 people have tested positive, according to latest figures from Public Health Wales.

It is the highest daily increase, but testing has been ramped up with 12,455 tests carried out on Monday.

There have been 1,722 deaths reported to PHW since the start of the pandemic and 37,400 people have tested positive.

Six deaths were in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area which has been dealing with a hospital outbreak.

Cardiff has seen 225 new cases followed by Rhondda Cynon Taf with 150.

There has been 90 new cases in Swansea, with 69 in Neath Port Talbot, 66 in Wrexham and 61 in Caerphilly.

A total of 663,264 people have been tested for coronavirus in Wales, with 625,864 testing negative.

Wales will go into a “short, sharp” national lockdown from Friday until Monday 9 November in a bid to reverse the increase in cases.

People will be told to stay at home, while pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will shut.

Cardiff still has the highest case rate in Wales – 283.7 per 100,000 people over the past week – involving 1,041 cases.

It is followed by Merthyr Tydfil with 217.2 cases per 100,000 people, Rhondda Cynon Taf with 201 cases per 100,000 people and Wrexham with 200.8 cases per 100,000 people.

There were 37 deaths registered involving Covid-19 in Wales in the week ending 9 October, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday.

PHW’s figures mostly involve hospital deaths and only include cases when the virus has been confirmed in a laboratory test.

The figures do not include deaths of residents from Powys in hospitals in England, although these are included in Office for National Statistics data.

Find out how the pandemic has affected your area and how it compares with the national average:

If you can’t see the look-up click here.

The postcode search has been updated to replace data for health boards in Scotland with data for local councils. In England, data for county councils has been replaced with data for district councils. Figures for boroughs and unitary authorities remain unchanged. Last updated 4 September.

Google hit by landmark competition lawsuit in US over search

The US government has filed charges against Google, accusing the company of violating competition law to preserve its monopoly over internet searches and online advertising.

The lawsuit marks the biggest challenge brought by US regulators against a major tech company in years.

It follows more than a year of investigation and comes as the biggest tech firms face intense scrutiny of their practices at home and abroad.

Google called the case “deeply flawed”.

The company has maintained that its sector remains intensely competitive and that its practices put customers first.

“People use Google because they choose to – not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” it said.

The charges, filed in federal court, were brought by the US Department of Justice and 11 other states. The lawsuit focuses on the billions of dollars Google pays each year to ensure its search engine is installed as the default option on browsers and devices such as mobile phones.

Officials said those deals have helped secure Google’s place as the “gatekeeper” to the internet, allowing it to own or control the channels of about 80% of search queries in the US.

“Google has thus foreclosed competition for internet search,” the lawsuit said. “General search engine competitors are denied vital distribution, scale, and product recognition – ensuring they have no real chance to challenge Google.”

It added: “Google is so dominant that ‘Google’ is not only a noun to identify the company and the Google search engine but also a verb that means to search the internet.”

The suit said the deals have hurt the public by damaging search quality in terms of privacy and data protection, reducing choice and thwarting innovation.

Sally Hubbard, who works for the Open Markets Institute, a Washington think tank that has long pushed for more aggressive action against big tech firms, said focusing on Google’s search distribution deals was one of the easiest legal cases to make against the company.

On Twitter she said the lawsuit had “been so long coming but it’s wonderful to see”.

The case could be the first of many in the US that challenge the dominance of big tech firms and potentially lead to their break-up.

Other states have launched their own investigations, and said they may join the suit filed on Tuesday or file their own.

Politicians in Congress have also called for action against Google and fellow tech firms Amazon, Facebook and Apple in an effort that has united Democrats and Republicans.

The decision to file the lawsuit just a few weeks before the US presidential election has raised questions about whether it was simply a move by the Trump administration to prove its willingness to challenge the influence of the sector if it gains a second term.

But officials said they had not rushed the investigation to ensure it was filed before the election – noting that for years, many advocates have said the government was moving too slowly on such issues.

“We’re acting when the facts and the law warranted,” deputy attorney general Jeffrey Rosen said, adding that the department’s review of competition practices in the technology sector is continuing.

Google has faced similar claims in the European Union. It is already appealing against €8.2bn ($9.5bn; £7.3bn) in fines demanded by the European Commission which include:

Google parent Alphabet, which has a market value of more than $1tn, is expected to fight the allegations in the US as well. Its share price was little changed on Tuesday, despite the news.

Taking on a giant like Google will be one of biggest competition cases in decades. But the case – to decide if the California-based company abuses its market power – could last years.

European regulators have led the way in taking action against the tech giants. But this move by the US Department of Justice is a sign that the mood has turned against them at home too.

The complaint says that two decades ago Google was a scrappy innovative start-up – but now it’s the monopoly gatekeeper to the internet.

Google stands accused of using anti-competitive tactics to shut out rivals and extend that monopoly. Google says people use it because they choose to rather than being forced.

Deciding who is right won’t be a quick decision.

US election 2020: Deadline looms for crucial US coronavirus relief

White House officials and Democrats in Congress are entering last-ditch talks over a stimulus bill that could inject cash into the battered US economy.

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has set a Tuesday deadline for any agreement to be reached.

Earlier this month, Mr Trump cancelled the budget negotiations, before later directing his team to resume them.

Each side has said they want a deal passed before the 3 November election, but experts say this is unlikely.

A statement from Mrs Pelosi’s office on Monday evening said she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had made progress during a phone call earlier that day.

The negotiators “continued to narrow their differences,” her spokesman said, adding that Mrs Pelosi “continues to hope that, by the end of the day Tuesday, we will have clarity on whether we will be able to pass a bill before the election”.

In order for any deal to be finalised, it must be approved by the Democratic-controlled House and then the Republican-controlled Senate before going to the president to be signed into law.

For the few past weeks, Mrs Pelosi and Mr Mnuchin have been haggling over a stimulus package ranging from $1.8tr to $2.2tr (£1.4tr to £1.7tr), which would address both economic and health issues.

One major sticking point continues to be federal funding to cash-starved state and local governments, which Democrats insist on but Republicans label a “blue-state bailout”.

Democrats also continue to press for a clear national Covid-19 testing strategy and an expansion of childcare access. The White House is pushing for tax cuts and liability protections for businesses bringing back their workers.

The White House has wavered on how broad a package the deal should be, as key Republican lawmaker express hesitations about adding to the ballooning US national debt.

Speaking to Fox News on Tuesday, Mr Trump said he would support a relief bill that is even larger than the $2.2tr package proposed by Democrats.

“It’s very simple. I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats,” he told the programme.

“Now, not every Republican agrees with me, but they will. But I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats, because this is money going to people that did not deserve what happened to them coming out of China.”

The last of three US coronavirus stimulus packages was passed in March, and many of the funds have already been depleted.

Talks on a fourth package collapsed in August and have been on-and-off ever since. Relief measures have been proposed by both the House and Senate, but failed to gain broader traction in Congress.

Meanwhile, new daily cases in the US are trending upward. Last week, the US nearly broke its record for new infections recorded in one day.

The stimulus package has stalled, and in classic Washington fashion both sides, Democrats and Republicans, blame the other for politicising the issue.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed guarded optimism about the bill’s prospects, but remains concerned about “differences” that negotiators have.

Meanwhile at the White House, I spoke with the president’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow. He said the president has worked hard on the bill.

Mr Kudlow also sighed, loudly, and said the discussions had become ideological. “There’s a million – not a million – there’s a number of political and ideological points in that that have nothing to do with Covid,” he told me and a small group of reporters, referring to the bill.

“Once it became a mammoth bill with a lot of ideological asks in it, that’s what hurt.”

At this point, there is no resolution. Yet Republicans and Democrats both say they are doing their best – and that the other side has caused all the political drama and hobbled the bill’s progress. In other words, it’s business as usual here in Washington.

Mrs Pelosi has said that if no deal is reached by the end of Tuesday, the talks will be suspended until after the election, which is now only 14 days away.

However, she could be bluffing – as Mr Trump apparently was on 6 October when he tweeted directions to his team to “stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill”.

“I shut down talks two days ago because they weren’t working out. Now they’re starting to work out,” he told Fox News later that week, citing breakthroughs in aid for airlines and direct payments to households.

Covid: What will the Tier 3 rules for Greater Manchester be?

The highest tier of Coronavirus restrictions is expected to be imposed on Greater Manchester, after talks over financial support broke down.

It means the area will be moved from Tier 2 – ”high risk”, to Tier 3 – ”very high risk”, joining the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire.

Other parts of the UK have also introduced additional coronavirus restrictions.

Every area of England now falls into one of three categories – medium (Tier 1), high (Tier 2) or very high (Tier 3), depending on the local rate of infection.

Areas in Tier 1 are subject to the basic national rules previously in force.

You may not meet in a group of more than six people, indoors or outdoors, unless you’re in a larger household or a support bubble.

Pubs, bars and restaurants in a Tier 1 area must close by 22:00 BST.

The rules for Tier 1 also apply in Tier 2.

In addition, you are not allowed to meet socially with people you do not live with indoors – this includes private homes, as well as pubs or restaurants.

People in support bubbles can go on meeting as before and informal childcare may also be provided.

You can still meet friends and family outdoors, but only in a group of up to six people.

The areas to go into high alert restrictions most recently were:

Areas with the most rapidly rising transmission rates are placed in Tier 3.

You are not allowed to meet socially with anybody who is not part of your household, or support bubble, indoors.

You cannot meet in private or pub gardens, but can meet in parks, beaches, countryside or forests, as long as you are not in a group of more than six.

Pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals. Alcohol can only be served as part of a meal.

People are being advised not to travel into or out of Tier 3 areas, other than for work, education, youth services or because of caring responsibilities.

Extra measures for Tier 3 areas can be introduced, following discussions between central and local government.

In the Liverpool City Region, which is in the highest tier, the following premises must close:

Lancashire is also in Tier 3, and also faces these additional restrictions:

Tier 3 status is also expected to be imposed on Greater Manchester.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham had said the area would “stand firm” against plans to move it from Tier 2 to Tier 3, calling it a “flawed” and “unfair” policy.

From 18:00 on Friday 23 October until the start of Monday 9 November, Wales will go into a ”short, sharp” circuit-break, a mini lockdown in which:

Adults living alone or single parents will be able to join with one other household for support from anywhere in Wales.

Northern Ireland has introduced four weeks of restrictions. Schools have closed for a two-week extended half-term break and will reopen on 2 November.

Other measures include:

Because of higher levels of Covid infection, 3.4 million people in central Scotland are subject to tougher restrictions until 25 October.

The region affected covers 18 local council and five health board areas (Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian, Forth Valley).

In these areas, all licensed premises – with the exception of hotel bars for residents – have to close indoors and outdoors, though takeaways are permitted.

Cafes can stay open until 18:00 daily, as long as they don’t serve alcohol.

People living in these areas have been told to avoid public transport, unless absolutely necessary, and not to leave their local areas if possible (people from outside are encouraged not to visit).

Other measures include the closing of snooker halls, bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls, the suspension of non-professional contact sports and indoor group exercise for adults.

In the rest of Scotland, pubs and restaurants can only open inside between 06:00 and 18:00 daily until Sunday 25 October, and they are not allowed to serve alcohol.

They are only allowed to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks, although they can serve alcohol outdoors until 22:00.

Hotel restaurants can serve food after 18:00, but only for residents and without alcohol.

Throughout the nation, face coverings are compulsory in indoor communal settings, such as staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.

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