Today's news: Latest headlines for the UK on Friday 18 December

Matilda Long
·5-min read

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament, London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street.

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Boris Johnson refuses to rule out third national lockdown

What happened?

Boris Johnson has indicated England may go into a third national lockdown as COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations spiral. The prime minister was asked whether England would be forced to follow Northern Ireland in imposing stringent restrictions after Christmas. He said: “We’re hoping very much that we will be able to avoid anything like that. But the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks.”

How likely is another lockdown?

Infections are increasing across England, with steep spikes in London and parts of the South East. Data from the Office for National Statistics compiled in England’s first full week back in the three-tier system shows an 18% increase across the country. The UK's R number is now above 1.0, meaning the epidemic is growing. These numbers, paired with the inevitable spike following the easing of the rules over Christmas, paints a concerning picture.

Is the Christmas easing still going ahead?

Yes, but many are warning that it shouldn't. The prime minister said this week that the plans to allow bubbles of three households would go ahead, but stressed that this was an "upper limit" and people should have smaller gatherings if possible. One nursing chief warned that the plans could bring an “unrelenting tsunami” of cases to an already stretched health system. Dame Donna Kinnair said: “Travelling and family visits associated with this time of year will undoubtedly lead to more cases, more pressure on NHS and care services, and more deaths. By turning the second and third waves into an unrelenting tsunami, we would begin 2021 in the worst possible way.”

Watch: What are the new Christmas rules?

Read more from our partners

Half of Brits plan to form a Christmas bubble (Yahoo News UK)
Third lockdown 'may have to be toughest yet' (The Independent)
Number of people testing positive for the coronavirus rises sharply in the South (Sky News)

The big coronavirus stories today—

UK R number back above 1

The UK’s coronavirus R rate has jumped back above 1, meaning the epidemic is growing. The R number is now between 1.1 and 1.2, up from between 0.9 and 1.0 last week. R represents the average number of people each COVID-positive person goes on to infect. Read the full story here (Yahoo News UK)

PM: 'Vital' to cut contacts from today

Boris Johnson has told people forming Christmas bubbles it is "vital" that they minimise contact with others from outside their household from today. The PM said: "Everyone must take personal responsibility to avoid passing the virus on to loved ones this Christmas. Read the full story here (Sky News)

Schools testing plan close to collapse

The government's plan to roll out mass testing in secondary schools is close to collapse after a backlash from teachers and unions. A joint statement from all the major education unions said the proposals, rushed out on the last day of term were “inoperable”. Read the full story here (Telegraph)

WHO: Stay at home for Christmas

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned people to stay at home for Christmas, saying mixing was “not worth the risk” of catching and spreading COVID-19. “The safest thing to do right now is to remain at home,” the WHO’s regional director for Europe, Dr Hans Kluge said. Read the full story here (Independent)

— Quiz of the week —

— What else happened today? —

Meghan Markle settles privacy claim

The Duchess of Sussex has settled a claim against Splash News and Picture Agency, with the agency agreeing not to take any photos of her, her husband the Duke of Sussex or their son Archie. Meghan Markle brought the claims over long lens photographs of her and her son. Read the full story here (Evening Standard)

Brexit stockpiling sparks ports gridlock

Queues of lorries stretching miles have formed in Kent as businesses stockpile goods ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period. Lorries without the proper paperwork could face being turned away from the border from 1 January. Read the full story here (Yahoo News UK)

Greater Manchester chief constable quits

The chief constable of Greater Manchester Police has resigned after the force was placed in special measures over its failure to record more than 80,000 crimes in the space of a year. A watchdog said it was “deeply troubled” by how cases handled by GMP were closed without proper investigation. Read the full story here (PA)

MP sacked over leak of letter about leaks

Downing Street has sacked a ministerial aide after an investigation into the leaking of a letter warning Conservative MPs not to leak. Andrew Lewer was dismissed as a parliamentary private secretary at the Home Office after a “canary trap” probe led by chief whip Mark Spencer. Read the full story here (Guardian)

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(Yahoo News)
(Yahoo News)