I wont have next summer let alone next Christmas

The last-minute change to Covid rules for Christmas has affected millions.

Large parts of south-east England will not have the rules relaxed at all, and the rest of England, Scotland and Wales will see them relaxed for just Christmas Day.

For some people, this news is an inconvenience. For others, it is a disaster.

For Lesley Nelson, who has terminal cancer, it is simply “not fair”.

“I am terminally ill,” she said. “This is likely to be my last Christmas.”

“I’ve spent the last two Christmases in hospital. I have a small family. We had planned a quiet Christmas as normal – just me, my two sons, my mum and my sister.

“They are all taking care not to mix for the week before. I only see my sister two or three times a year, so this Christmas is important.”

While she will still be able to see her mum and two sons, Lesley says this may have been her last chance to spend Christmas with her sister.

“I cannot say ‘never mind, there’s always next year’ because there may not be for me.

“I have no idea when I will see my sister again. She was in my Christmas bubble.

“She lives in a tier four area and is on her own. She’s been isolating for a week, so there’s no risk at all.

“I understand what the government is doing to stop the virus, but sure they must be able to make exceptions?”

Like many others who contacted the BBC, Lawrence in north London wanted to express his frustration that the announcement came without much notice.

He was due to get married on 23 December but is bracing himself for the register office telling him it can no longer go ahead due to tier four restrictions being put in place.

“My wedding is up in the air,” he said. “I have emailed the register office in north London and am waiting to see what they say.

“I’ll be upset but it won’t be the end of the world because it will take place at some point.

“The wedding not going ahead will see us out of pocket by about £500-600. It’s not the expense, it’s the inconvenience of not having it on the day we want it.

“I wish the announcement had been done earlier. It’s going to affect a lot of people. It’s going to affect the lonely and the vulnerable – they are not going to see anyone this Christmas. And what it will do for people’s mental health is another matter.

“The government could have done things earlier.”

Jonathan Barnes, 40, in Suffolk is facing the prospect of a Christmas alone following the announcement of the Welsh lockdown.

“I’m married with two young children,” he said. “Our parents live in Pembrokeshire and we live in Suffolk.

“My wife’s mum has a very short period of time left to live so they have gone down to Wales before me to spend some quality time with her.

“I was planning to join on Wednesday after work for the five days over Christmas. The new lockdown in Wales means I shouldn’t join my family and instead will be stuck at home in tier two on my own.”

His mother-in-law has terminal cancer. And while he says he wants to see her, he thinks it is important to “err on the side of caution”.

“It’s not about getting away with it,” he said. “It’s about doing the right thing.”

“I’m thinking the wisest thing to do is to spend Christmas alone.

“To announce a Welsh lockdown immediately gives no-one time to plan. The government shouldn’t have announced the relaxation of the rules over Christmas originally.

“If they’d have said Christmas is locked down people would have adjusted to that early on. I’m disappointed to be spending Christmas alone but I understand the reasons why.”

Additional reporting by: Kris Bramwell, Nat Miller, Paul Harrison, Rozina Sini & Sherie Ryder

Covid: Whats the advice on travelling over Christmas?

People in Wales have been told to stay at home in and not travel this Christmas after the country goes into a national lockdown from Sunday.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said stay-at-home restrictions come into effect from midnight on Sunday.

The new lockdown rules mean the easing of Christmas rules have been reduced to just Christmas Day from the previous plans for a five-day bubble.

People can now only form a bubble of two households in Wales on the 25 December.

An additional single person who lives alone can also join that bubble.

People are told to avoid social contact to help halt soaring Covid rates – and the lockdown will be reviewed every three weeks.

Travel is not permitted in, out or around Wales unless it is essential, so for things like education, childcare, providing care or work – when you cannot work from home.

The Welsh Government said: “If you live in Wales, you will be able to travel to meet one other household on Christmas Day anywhere in Wales.

“You can also leave Wales, subject to the local restrictions in the area you would be travelling to, and the need to be back at home by the end of the day.”

But people are not able to enter areas of England under the new tier four restrictions there, mainly in London and the south-east.

Sorry, travel is out as the Welsh Government says “going on holiday is not one of the permitted reasons to travel under the regulations at alert level 4, whether that is in Wales, elsewhere in the UK or overseas.

All accommodation businesses are to be closed, except where they provide accommodation for anybody who is living there as their main residence – or is staying there at that time and is unable to return to their main residence.

The government has told accommodation businesses they should ensure they do not unintentionally make anyone homeless as a result of closure.

Brexit: No trade deal unless substantial shift from EU, UK says

There will be no post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU unless there’s a “substantial shift” from Brussels in the coming days, a UK government source has told the BBC.

It is understood there is likely to be a decision before Christmas on whether or not a deal can be reached.

But UK sources say it is increasingly likely the UK will leave with no deal.

The two sides remain at odds over how many years it will take to phase in new fisheries arrangements.

The UK will stop following the EU’s trading rules in less than two weeks’ time.

If there is no agreement by 1 January, the two sides will rely on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules to govern exports and imports, which could see charges introduced on goods being sold and bought – and could lead to an increase in prices.

A government source told the BBC: “We need to get any deal right and based on terms which respect what the British people voted for.

“Unfortunately, the EU are still struggling to get the flexibility needed from member states and are continuing to make demands that are incompatible with our independence.

“We cannot accept a deal that doesn’t leave us in control of our own laws or waters.

“We’re continuing to try every possible path to an agreement, but without a substantial shift from the [European] Commission we will be leaving on WTO terms on 31 December.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to keep talking but warned gaps had yet to be bridged.

Senior MEPs in the European Parliament have said they will not be “rushed” into signing off a deal on their side and want to see the text of any agreement by Sunday if they are to approve it by the end of the year.

Speaking in the European Parliament on Friday, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that while there was still a “chance” of a deal, the “path was very narrow”.

The two sides have been at odds over the length of time it will take to introduce new arrangements once the UK leaves the bloc’s Common Fisheries Policy.

The UK, led by its chief negotiator, David Frost, has insisted its sovereign rights over its waters must be respected from day one and its fleets must be able to keep a much larger share of their own catch.

The EU is insisting on a much longer transition period, with guarantees on access and how catches are distributed.

The two sides are reported to have made progress in recent days on the issues of fair competition and what to do if the UK is deemed to get an unfair competitive advantage by moving away from EU rules and standards.

If a deal is reached between the two sides, it would need to be agreed by parliaments in the UK and the European Union’s member states.

UK MPs have now finished for the Christmas break, but Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said on Thursday that they could be called back to ratify a deal in the coming days, were one to be agreed.

What happens next with Brexit?

Strictly Come Dancing: Bill Bailey crowned 2020 winner

Comedian Bill Bailey has been crowned the winner of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, becoming the oldest celebrity to lift the glitterball trophy.

The 55-year-old shared his triumph with partner Oti Mabuse, the first Strictly dancer to win for two years in a row.

Bailey beat EastEnders’ Maisie Smith and singer HRVY at the end of Saturday’s grand final.

Actor Joe McFadden had been Strictly’s previous oldest winner, having won in 2017 at the age of 42.

“It feel surreal, it feels extraordinary, it feels wonderful,” Bailey said as he was crowned the winner. “I never thought we’d get this far, never thought we’d get to the final.

“But I have had the most extraordinary teacher and the most extraordinary dancer,” he added, paying tribute to Mabuse. “Someone who believed in me right from the beginning, and she found something in me and turned me into this, into a dancer.”

In response Mabuse told him: “I think you are amazing, remarkable. You just put your heart and soul into everything. Thank you for being a friend, a father figure to me, a brother, and for this [the glitterball trophy]!”

Mabuse, who has danced on Strictly since 2015, also won last year’s series with Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher.

Aliona Vilani is the only other pro dancer to have triumphed twice, having won with Harry Judd and Jay McGuinness in 2011 and 2015 respectively.

Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing also made it to this year’s final, having survived an unprecedented four dance-offs throughout the series.

Bailey is known for his appearances on QI, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and the Channel 4 sitcom Black Books.

Analysis by Steven McIntosh, entertainment reporter

In an interview last week, Craig Revel Horwood said he “really thought Bill Bailey would be the Ann Widdecombe of this series”.

And that perfectly sums up the attitude many had towards Bill at the beginning of Strictly 2020. At his age, particularly being a comedian, he would surely fall into the novelty category; hired for entertainment value rather than serious dancing.

But Bill gradually improved as the weeks went on, with his routine to Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang (who later praised his performance) proving a turning point. Viewers realised he was focused and really putting in the hours to learn complex routines.

“It makes me smile to have confounded people’s expectations,” Bailey recently wrote in The Telegraph. “I always intended to give it my all, perhaps to offset my pantomime horse role – but what I didn’t expect was to be able to dance well, certainly not with a degree of confidence.”

Bill Bailey was not the best dancer in this year’s Strictly. Until tonight’s final, he hadn’t topped the leaderboard, often trailing behind the younger, more agile, contestants like Maisie and HRVY.

But that didn’t matter. Being the best dancer is actually not what Strictly is about. Much more important is the journey a celebrity goes on over the series; their effort, their commitment, their improvement. Oti’s continuing popularity certainly didn’t hurt, but ultimately the British public loves an underdog.

Bailey became a firm fan favourite during his time on the show, particularly after his and Oti’s dance to Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang, which went viral earlier in the series.

Their Couple’s Choice routine was one of three the pair performed on Saturday night.

The pair also reprised their week two Quickstep to Bobby Darin’s Talk to the Animals, as well as a new Showdance to Queen’s The Show Must Go On.

Speaking ahead of the final, Bailey said it was “wonderful” if he had come to be seen as a role model for mature would-be hoofers.

“Blokes sometimes feel a bit self-conscious, particularly blokes of my age,” the hirsute funnyman told journalists. “They feel like they’re going to be called the dad dancer.

“I think if me showing I can get out there and look a little bit more than somebody shuffling about, then why not?”

This year’s series was shorter than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic, though that did not prevent the virus having an impact.

HRVY tested positive for coronavirus 10 days before the launch show was filmed, while boxer Nicola Adams was forced to withdraw when her partner Katya Jones tested positive.

The couple had made Strictly history by becoming the first same-sex duo to compete on the programme.

Concerns over Transatlantic travel meant Bruno Tonioli could only appear virtually, while judge Motsi Mabuse – Oti’s older sister – had to take two weeks off in order to self-isolate.

That was good news for Anton Du Beke who, having been eliminated in week two along with his partner Jacqui Smith, got to sit on the judging panel while Motsi was away.

The BBC received more than 150 complaints from viewers after three of the other professional dancers appeared in drag during a Priscilla, Queen of the Desert routine.

Claudia Winkleman, meanwhile, was forced to make an on-air apology after The Wanted’s Max George was heard uttering a profanity after one of his dance routines.

Adams and Jones made a cameo comeback appearance during Saturday’s grand final, which also featured a performance from singer Robbie Williams.

Claudia and Tess Daly will be back on Christmas Day to present a Strictly special featuring 25 of the BBC One show’s most memorable routines to date.

Covid: Queues as shops prepare for last-minute lockdown

Shop owners are rushing to get orders out to customers and shoppers are racing to pick up Christmas presents as Wales heads into lockdown.

From midnight all non-essential shops will be forced to close as a Wales-wide “stay-at-home” lockdown begins.

Following the announcement at 17:00 GMT some shops have reopened and queues have formed outside.

But First Minister Mark Drakeford urged people “not to rush” on the shops.

“As we move to alert level four in Wales most shops must close but supermarkets will remain open, and click and collect will be available,” he said.

“The best gift we can give our loved ones this year is a coronavirus-free Christmas.”

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March many retailers have seen their doors closed for months on end under restrictions.

Following Saturday’s announcement shoppers were seen queuing down the road at toy shops in Swansea, and Llandudno.

In Carmarthenshire a number of independent shops reopened their doors after their usual closing time in a bid to get customers their presents in time for Christmas.

Before the new restrictions coming into force at midnight, many had been preparing for the last few days of Christmas sales.

The Welsh Retail Consortium said it understood difficult decisions had to be made to curb the spread of the virus, but the eleventh-hour lockdown would have “severe consequences” for businesses.

Sara Jones from the group said: “Faced with this news – and the prospect of losing £100m per week in sales for the third time this year – many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk. “The Welsh Government will need to offer additional and immediate financial support to help these businesses get back on an even keel – an extension to business rates relief in 2021 is the best place to start.”

When Mair Jones shut up her shop in Carmarthen on Saturday evening she went home for dinner ahead of an expected packed day of customers ahead of the Christmas break.

But just hours later, the owner of a children’s shoe shop was back in, rushing to fit infants with their first shoes ahead of the midnight cut-off.

“I was eating my supper and then I heard the announcement,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Ms Jones, who owns Esgidiau Cic Shoes, said she was inundated with calls from customers who were scheduled for fittings in the coming days and so reopened the shop, with customers bringing in their children in their pyjamas.

“I couldn’t leave children without shoes over Christmas, especially now it would be nice for them to go out for walks,” she said.

“It’s my first year of business and we have had to shut three times already, it’s been a massive blow, and there was no warning this time.”

At Jackie James fashion boutique in Carmarthen, staff were preparing for customers to pick up thousands of pounds worth of orders for Christmas when lockdown was announced.

“The lockdown is needed to keep people safe, but don’t give me 30 seconds notice,” said Eurig Lewis, speaking from the store after opening until the cut-off at midnight.

“Worse than that it is OK for those who have millions of pounds to spend getting all their Christmas presents in one hit, but a lot of people have been buying them over months.”

Mr Lewis said the store had been bombarded with calls from customers asking if they could pick their orders up, so he decided to stay open until midnight to try and give people the chance to get their presents.

He said retailers had been struggling due to the repeated lockdowns and restrictions for months, but that they would “try” to help customers all they could.

Christmas rules 2020: What are the new rules on mixing?

The government has scrapped plans to relax Covid rules at Christmas for London and much of south-east England, where tier four restrictions will now apply.

In other regions of England – in tiers one to three – Christmas bubbles will now only be allowed on 25 December.

Similar plans have been announced in Wales and Scotland.

In tier four areas, residents will only be allowed to celebrate Christmas with members of their own household and support bubbles. They will not be allowed to travel to other tiers to see family and friends.

In areas of England in tiers one, two and three Christmas bubbles will no longer be across five days.

Instead, three households coming together will now only be allowed on Christmas Day.

People in these tiers are also being asked to stay local. They will not be allowed to host people who live in a tier four area.

In Wales (two households) and Scotland (three households up to a maximum of eight people) Christmas bubbles will also only be allowed on 25 December. In both countries, people are being advised not to form a Christmas bubble, even though they are permitted.

In Scotland, travel to and from other parts of the UK will not be allowed over the festive period.

Northern Ireland has a window of 23 to 27 December for its bubble, with days at either end for people who are travelling into or out of the nation.

Bubbles can meet each other:

In England, the government advises people to avoid travelling to other areas and only to stay overnight with someone else if absolutely necessary.

You cannot go to the pub with members of your Christmas bubble.

In England if you have formed a support bubble with another household, that counts as one household. In Scotland, guidance says any Christmas bubble should contain no more than one “extended household”.

People who are self-isolating should not join a Christmas bubble. If someone tests positive, or develops coronavirus symptoms up to 48 hours after the Christmas bubble last met, everyone has to self-isolate.

Under-18s whose parents live apart can join two Christmas bubbles, so they can see both parents without being counted as part of another household.

University students who travel home will be counted as part of their family household straight away.

But if a family has three or more grown-up children not at university, they cannot all form a Christmas bubble with their parents, in areas where mixing is still possible.

Covid-19: Foster and ONeill discuss tightening of Christmas rules in GB

The first and deputy first ministers have spoken to NI’s health officials following announcements of tighter Christmas Covid-19 restrictions in GB.

Arlene Foster said she had “a useful briefing” with the health minister, chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser.

Michelle O’Neill said they were keeping the situation “under review”.

It comes after scientists said a new coronavirus variant is spreading more rapidly.

The planned relaxation of Covid rules for Christmas has been scrapped for large parts of south-east England and cut to just Christmas Day for the rest of England, Scotland and Wales.

In Northern Ireland, a new lockdown is coming into force at 00:01 GMT on 26 December, in a bid to suppress the spread of Covid-19.

But special Christmas rules remain in place from 23 to 27 December.

People from up to three households in Northern Ireland will be able to meet during this period in so-called Christmas “bubbles”.

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement of further restrictions, First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted that it is “an evolving situation with the virus mutation”.

“Essential that we all play our part by following the regulations.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it is “a fast moving situation”.

She said discussions with health officials will continue over the weekend.

“We all need to limit our interaction with others – stay at home,” she added.

A statement from the NI Executive is imminent, BBC News NI understands.

It comes as Saturday’s figures show a further 17 Covid-linked deaths were recorded in NI and there were a further 640 cases of the virus, bringing the Department of Health’s death toll to 1,183.

A six-week lockdown has been announced for NI, which will begin on 26 December.

Covid: Christmas Tier-4 heartbreak for Londoners

Millions of people across England have been banned from meeting friends and family indoors over the festive season as they enter a new tier-four level of Covid restrictions, while indoor mixing has been restricted to Christmas Day alone for the rest of the country.

The measures were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who cited the need to try to stop the spread of coronavirus as a new variant leads to a spike in cases.

The new tier-four restrictions are being imposed in London, Kent and Essex and other parts of the South East. What has been the reaction to the news about Christmas gatherings?

Ceyda Oz, 24, told the BBC she was “heartbroken” by the news.

Ms Oz, who worked in retail until she recently fell ill, said: “I’ve had a horrible, horrible year.

“This one day was going to be a day to forget about everything, to spend time with my family who I haven’t seen in months.

“My grandparents are just as devastated. They had spent hours decorating the house and organising food, all for nothing.”

Jack, a 29-year-old marketing manager, had planned to travel from his home in Fulham, south London, to see his family in the Midlands.

He said he was “frustrated” the government had “done such a big U-turn”, after saying rules would be relaxed to allow families to meet over Christmas.

Jack said: “We’d made big plans based off of the government’s advice all last week.

“We’ve been isolating for over a week. We even paid for a private Covid test so we could be sure we didn’t have coronavirus before seeing my family.

“Now we’re pretty screwed. We don’t even have a Christmas tree.

“If we’re going to have any sort of Christmas at all, we have to go to a supermarket in the middle of a coronavirus hotspot to get our Christmas meals in. “

Mr Johnson announced the changes for England at a Downing Street briefing after scientists said a new coronavirus variant was spreading more rapidly.

Tier-four restrictions will apply in all tier three areas in the South East, covering Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings.

They will also apply in all 32 boroughs of London and the City of London. In the East of England, Bedford, Central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire and Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring) all move into tier four.

Social mixing will be restricted to meeting one other person from outside your household, and this must only be in an open public space.

An estimated 8,300 people in London tested positive for Covid-19 on 12 December – more than double the week before.

Latest figures show the infection rate in London across London was 425.65 cases per 100,000 population in the week leading up to 14 December.

Two Kent districts are among the top five in England for Covid-19 infection rates. Medway has a rate of 831.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “These further restrictions are a bitter blow for Londoners who were hoping to spend time with loved ones safely this Christmas.

“London faces its toughest Christmas since the war and the whole city will need to pull together to see us through this terrible period.

“It would be such a tragedy to lose even more people to this disease when the vaccine is now being rolled out across our city and those lives could be saved.”

Tudor Price, deputy chief of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said the new restrictions for the county were “disappointing” but “not surprising”.

Mr Price said: “It’s the worst of all possible situations from a business point of view but understandable from a public health point of view.”

Christmas Covid rules: What are the new rules on mixing?

The government has scrapped plans to ease restrictions over Christmas in London and large parts of the south-east and east of England.

In other regions of England, Christmas bubbles will only be allowed on 25 December.

Similar plans have been announced in Wales and Scotland.

So what are the new rules over Christmas across the four nations of the UK?

In London and parts of the south-east and east of England, which will enter tier four at 00:01 GMT on Sunday, a “stay at home” order will be imposed.

Residents will only be allowed to celebrate Christmas with members of their own household and their support bubbles.

The planned Christmas bubbles of up to three households coming together will now only be allowed on Christmas Day, instead of across a five-day period, in areas in England’s tiers one, two and three.

People in these tiers have also been encouraged to stay local and will not be allowed to host people who live in a tier four area.

In Wales and Scotland, Christmas bubbles will also only be allowed on 25 December.

In both countries, people will be allowed to form a Christmas bubble on Christmas Day, but are being advised not to do this. In Scotland, travel to and from other parts of the UK will not be allowed over the festive period.

Northern Ireland has a window of 22 to 28 December for its bubbles, with the days at each end for people who travelling into or out of the nation.

Bubbles can meet each other:

In England if you have formed a support bubble with another household, that counts as one household. In Scotland, guidance says any Christmas bubble should contain no more than one “extended household”.

People who are self-isolating should not join a Christmas bubble. If someone tests positive, or develops coronavirus symptoms up to 48 hours after the Christmas bubble last met, everyone has to self-isolate.

Under-18s whose parents live apart can join two Christmas bubbles, so they can see both parents without being counted as part of another household.

University students who travel home will be counted as part of their family household straight away.

But if a family has three or more grown-up children not at university, they cannot all form a Christmas bubble with their parents, in areas where mixing is still possible.

In England, care home residents should not take part in Christmas bubbles, while visits out of the home should only be considered for residents of “working age”.

However, more than a million coronavirus tests are being sent to care homes in England. This will allow family and friends to visit if they test negative, regardless of which tier they are in.

Residents should be able to receive up to two visitors twice a week, provided there hasn’t been an outbreak at the care home.

Foster and ONeill discuss PMs Covid-19 plans

The first and deputy first ministers have spoken to NI’s health officials following announcements of tighter Christmas Covid-19 restrictions in GB.

Arlene Foster said she had “a useful briefing” with the health minister, chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser.

Michelle O’Neill said they were keeping the situation “under review”.

It comes after scientists said a new coronavirus variant is spreading more rapidly.

The planned relaxation of Covid rules for Christmas has been scrapped for large parts of south-east England and cut to just Christmas Day for the rest of England, Scotland and Wales.

“This is an evolving situation with the virus mutation,” Mrs Foster tweeted.

“Essential that we all play our part by following the regulations.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it is “a fast moving situation”.

She said discussions with health officials will continue over the weekend.

“We all need to limit our interaction with others – stay at home,” she added.

A statement from the NI Executive is imminent, BBC News NI understands.

It comes as Saturday’s figures show a further 17 Covid-linked deaths were recorded in NI and there were a further 640 cases of the virus, bringing the Department of Health’s death toll to 1,183.

A six-week lockdown has been announced for NI, which will begin on 26 December.

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