Britain records 12,330 Covid infections in lowest Monday toll since September

Britain today recorded just 12,330 Covid-19 infections in the lowest Monday toll since September, as Boris Johnson faces a growing rebellion over his draconian new tier system amid mounting evidence that the second wave is retreating.

Department of Health figures show today's recorded coronavirus cases are 20 per cent lower than this time last week. And the rolling seven-day average has dropped 41 per cent in a fortnight, after peaking at around 25,000 on November 16.

Deaths – which lag several weeks behind infections because of how long it takes for infected patients to become severely ill – are also continuing to plateau. Just 205 Covid victims were declared today, down slightly on the 206 posted last Monday.

It comes as the Prime Minister is desperately scrambling to defuse a massive Tory revolt by offering a series of concessions, including a February renewal date, detailed impact assessments, and more money for pubs and restaurants, ahead of a crunch Commons vote tomorrow.

Whips are trying to talk round 100 Conservatives on the verge of joining the mutiny, with fury that just 1 per cent of England is being been in the lowest level of restrictions from Wednesday, even though many areas in Tier 3 have seen few or no infections. Dozens are waiting for the findings of impact economic and social assessments, which are set to be published within hours.

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Environment Secretary George Eustice raised questions about how long tough restrictions will be needed for this morning, suggesting that 'we can see a way out of this during the course of early next summer' — whereas Mr Johnson has previously voiced hope that the crisis will be largely past by Easter.

Backlash was further fuelled with Imperial College's huge monthly React survey finding a dramatic fall off in cases, in line with the daily figures being released by the government.

The study of 105,000 people found cases fell to 72,000 infections per day between November 13 and 24, from around 100,000 per day at the end of October. This means cases are down a third in England and have halved in the North West and North East – boosting hopes that much of the North could be moved down into Tier Two.

Labour is set to save Mr Johnson's bacon by refusing to help kill off the measures, but being forced to rely on Sir Keir Starmer's support would be devastating for the premier's authority.

Mr Eustice underlined the complexity of the new rules in a round of interviews this morning, suggesting a Scotch Egg could constitute a 'substantial meal' - which is required to be allowed to order alcoholic drinks in pubs in areas subject to Tier 2.

In other coronavirus twists and turns today: 

Welsh pubs will be forced to close at 6pm and banned from selling alcohol drinks from Friday as the country is plunged into a new lockdown just weeks after the last one ended; Some High Street shops will open 24 hours a day in December in a desperate bid to offset the £900million a day economic hit of the new tier restrictions;  The Prime Minister announced a £20million boost for medicine manufacturing in the UK in a bid to strengthen the country's response to future pandemics;  A further 215 people who tested positive for Covid died in hospital in England in the last 24 hours with another 12,155 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. Professor Peter Openshaw, of Imperial College, a member of an official virus advisory group, said a Covid vaccine could be available 'as early as next week'. Under new guidelines, Santa's grottos can open but with Father Christmas in a mask and children banned from sitting on his knee.

Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street this morning) is battling to quell a Tory revolt, unveiling a series of concessions in a bid to persuade backbenchers to back a tougher tiers system

George Eustice

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Environment Secretary George Eustice (right) raised questions about how long restrictions will be needed for, suggesting that 'we can see a way out of this during the course of early next summer' - whereas Boris Johnson (left) has previously voiced hope that the crisis will be largely past by Easter 

Imperial College's monthly React survey of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24, published this morning, found that coronavirus cases fell to 72,000 infections per day from around 100,000 new infections per day at the end of October. This graph shows how cases have largely fallen everywhere in the past month, particularly in the north-east and north-west. The darker the blue colour the larger the fall

Imperial College's monthly React survey of 105,000 people between November 13 and 24, published this morning, found that coronavirus cases fell to 72,000 infections per day from around 100,000 new infections per day at the end of October. This graph shows how cases have largely fallen everywhere in the past month, particularly in the north-east and north-west. The darker the blue colour the larger the fall

Sharp decline: Based on its October survey it was estimated that there were around 100,000 new infections per day (right) --the new data shows that in November (left), after lockdown began, this then fell to 72,000 infections per day. The darker the brown colour the higher rate of cases

Sharp decline: Based on its October survey it was estimated that there were around 100,000 new infections per day (right) --the new data shows that in November (left), after lockdown began, this then fell to 72,000 infections per day. The darker the brown colour the higher rate of cases

At a glance: Key findings of the React study 
Covid-19 cases fell to around 72,000 infections per day in England towards the end of November, from around 100,000 at the end of October; Prevalence has halved in the North West and North East – boosting hopes that millions of people living in the North could be moved down into Tier Two; But prevalence — the number of people infected at one time — has remained 'almost unchanged' in London and the Midlands; However, the rapid growth of Covid seen in the South of the country before the national lockdown was imposed was 'no longer apparent'; England's R rate could be as low as 0.71 but is thought to stand at 0.88 — meaning the outbreak is shrinking and is below the crucial level of one across the country; Despite the low R rate, the outbreak is still only halving in size every 37 days, prompting Matt Hancock to say 'we cannot afford to take our foot off the pedal just yet'; Covid prevalence rates dropped among adults of all ages, including those who are most vulnerable to severe complications of the disease; But rates started to increase slightly in school-aged children, according to the results of the study that swabbed 105,000 people between November 13-24; Covid was more prevalent in deprived areas, bolstering evidence that societal inequalities may contribute to the spread of the disease.

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The Prime Minister is battling to quell a Tory revolt as he unveiled a series of concessions in a bid to persuade backbenchers to back a tougher tiers system.

Downing Street will publish an analysis of the health, economic and social impacts of coronavirus later and the measures taken to suppress it. 

The move is an attempt to limit the scale of a rebellion which has been growing since last week.

The document will include forecasts from the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility. 

Mr Johnson yesterday dangled the prospect that some areas facing the harshest curbs in Tier Three could see them eased as part of a review before Christmas.

He also announced the new rules would be scrapped altogether in February unless MPs vote in the New Year to keep them in place until Easter. 

But in a letter to MPs, the he conceded: 'These will not be easy decisions. With Christmas round the corner, and the difficult months of January and February ahead, we will need to continue to exercise caution.'

Mr Johnson insisted 'no prime minister wants to impose restrictions which cause such harm to society, the economy and people's mental health'.

But he warned that the 'tougher tiers' are needed 'if we are to keep the virus under control and avoid either overwhelming the NHS or another national lockdown which is far more damaging and restrictive than these tiers'.

The government is also planning extra cash for bars and restaurants hit by upper-tier closures. 

However, Mark Harper, chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown sceptic Tory MPs, warned that the details would dictate whether they push ahead with the rebellions.

'I welcome the fact that the Government has recognised our concerns about the enormous impact that its proposals will have on the hospitality industry and has suggested further support,' he said. 

'We look forward to seeing the detail of the support proposed being set out before the vote on the restrictions tomorrow evening, along with the cost-benefit analysis we've been asking for. I am particularly concerned about some of the non-Covid health implications these restrictions have been having. 

This needs to be published as soon as practically possible, so that MPs have a chance to digest it ahead of tomorrow's vote.' 

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay told MailOnline that the React survey suggested the previous, less dramatic tiers were already bringing down cases, together with people in higher infection areas taking matters into their own hands by being more careful. 

Sturgeon says she won't have 'indoor Christmas' with family this year  

Nicola Sturgeon has revealed she will not be celebrating Christmas indoors with family this year.

Despite signing off on a UK-wide loosening for the festive season, the Scottish First Minister said she did not want to put her family 'at risk'. 

'Normally, Christmas, my husband and I would have both our families here in our own home. We will not be doing that this year,' she said.

'I've not seen my parents since July and I would dearly love to see them today and at Christmas, but I don't want to put them at risk when a vaccine is so close.

'We might go and have a family walk somewhere, but the idea ... of an indoors Christmas dinner is something we will not do this year.' 

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Mr Mackinlay said 'obviously lockdowns work' and there was a lot of 'conjecture' around the data.  

'Was it the lockdown that has caused the numbers to drop, or were they on the way out already?' he said.

'It seems to me that the plateau was reached resulting from the tail end of where we were before, rather than directly attributable to the lockdown.'

He added: 'The React one is suggesting we are on a nice downward path, is a new system required? It is very difficult to know.'  

In interviews this morning, Mr Eustice admitted up to 100 Tory MP had 'concerns' about the new Covid restrictions for England.

He told Sky News: 'The chief whip, obviously, will be talking to those MPs who have got concerns. I've seen suggestions that there could be up to 100 or so people that have got concerns.'

He added: 'I think there is great frustration with the emergency measures that we have had to take to deal with this pandemic.

'We haven't taken them lightly. We have had to take these to get the virus under control.

'What we need to show to those MPs and to the country at large is that we have got a clear route towards fixing this problem and turning the corner.'

Mr Eustice was refused to give a timeframe for how long tiered restrictions are expected to last, but said he believes local lockdowns were working.

He said: 'We do know that in some of those areas that have gone for this restriction, that the R rate has started to come down.

'The difficulty with this is we know what happened in the last lockdown, but that was in March and April as we're going into spring and summer, and this virus, like many viruses, is very seasonal, and wet winter nights and days are quite conducive to the spread of the virus.'

Mr Eustice admitted that there were loopholes and inconsistencies in the new rules, but insisted that was unavoidable. 

'Sometimes you will have measures and they may look like they are not perfectly consistent with others, that's going to be in the nature when you do emergency short-term measures like this,' he told Good Morning Britain on ITV.

'We are trying to strike a balance here and doing this over Christmas people want

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