Tuesday morning news briefing: Lockdown looms over Christmas

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England could remain shut beyond December 2

The spectre of a traditional family Christmas effectively being cancelled has been raised. As hospital Covid admissions and average daily deaths continue to rise, Matt Hancock admitted lockdown could carry on beyond December 2. The Health Secretary said it was "too early to know" if the current restrictions had been effective and a senior health chief warned a "strengthened" tier system would be needed to replace the measures even if they ended on schedule. Political Editor Gordon Rayner says Tory MPs demanded a "clear route out of lockdown" during a virtual meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he was warned of a revolt from dozens of backbenchers if he tried extending it. Read a reminder of current rules – and the tiered system.

It comes as scientists and MPs call for urgent changes to isolation rules, saying the confinement of Mr Johnson demonstrates the folly of the UK’s testing regime. They said the fact the PM must self-isolate for 14 days after coming into contact with an MP who later tested positive for Covid showed the system was not "fit for purpose". Many are asking: Why is Mr Johnson having to self-isolate given he has already had Covid? It has highlighted a number of quirks in Britain’s quarantine system that seem to defy common sense. Science Editor Sarah Knapton outlines the main flaws. Mr Johnson’s isolation provides the joke for Matt‘s cartoon today.

PM says Scottish devolution has been a ‘disaster’

Boris Johnson risked sparking a major row with the Conservatives’ Scottish leader after he reportedly claimed that devolution had been a "disaster north of the border". In comments immediately seized upon by Nicola Sturgeon, the Prime Minister is said to have told a group of northern Tory MPs that he believed the way powers had been handed to Scotland had been "Tony Blair’s biggest mistake". Downing Street sources suggested Mr Johnson had been referring to the SNP rather than the process of devolution. Political Correspondent Harry Yorke reports that his intervention is likely to provoke fury among Scottish Tory MPs.

Obama memoir: Queen ‘didn’t mind’ protocol breach

It was the moment the First Lady broke royal protocol by placing a hand on the Queen’s shoulder during a state visit. But ex-US president Barack Obama has waved away an old row about his wife, Michelle, writing in his new memoirs that Her Majesty "didn’t seem to mind". Meanwhile, the best (and most uncomfortable) episode of series four of The Crown is titled The Balmoral Test. It shows Margaret Thatcher making a terrible impression on the Queen, but how did others compare? From the Blairs to Meghan Markle, this is who passed – and who flunked the test.

At a glance: More coronavirus headlines

  • Vaccine | Timing of Moderna jab data release questioned
  • Deaths | Virus blamed for 10,000 extra care home fatalities
  • Volunteers | Plans to train people with no medical experience
  • Dentists | ‘Catch-22’ after 19 million appointments missed
  • Kenya | Four doctors die in 24 hours as second wave hits

Also in the news: Today’s other headlines

EU talks | The European Union will find a "creative solution" to avoid an accidental no-deal Brexit if a trade agreement with the UK is reached too late to beat the end of year deadline. A senior EU diplomat said the UK-EU trade negotiations were already running "extremely late" and that was putting pressure on the European Parliament’s ratification timetable. Brussels Correspondent James Crisp explains the efforts to clinch a deal.  

  • US election | Trump ‘considered attacking Iranian site’ after defeat
  • Motoring | ‘Blue wall’ protests against diesel and petrol car ban
  • Royals | Princess refusing to reveal location of £50m Gauguin
  • Graham Norton | Star moves to Virgin Radio (with Chris Evans’ help)
  • Herring things | BBC Today replaces ‘fishermen’ with ‘fisherpeople’

Around the world: Inside the tunnels of Gibraltar

Royal Marines have deployed new "throwbots" on a training exercise in the tunnels of Gibraltar. Read more about how the 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group has been experimenting with novel kit and technology. View a gallery of exclusive images from inside the tunnels.

Royal Marines training in tunnels that criss-cross Gibraltar

Credit: ANTHONY UPTON

Comment and analysis

  • Celia Walden | Spreading anti-vaxx lies should be made illegal
  • Liam Halligan | PM has a chance to prove what levelling up means
  • Michael Deacon | Jonathan Van-Tam slots home his latest metaphor
  • Judith Woods | Now Meghan and Harry’s Netflix deal makes sense
  • Reader letters | No sense for PM to be forbidden a Covid test

You Are Not Alone: Getting you through lockdown

  • ‘Just as hard as it sounds’ | Confessions of a second time midlife dad in lockdown
  • Too early? | How to plan the perfect Christmas decorations for your home
  • Charity appeal | MP Chloe Smith: ‘It’s easier to talk to strangers about my cancer than family’
  • Business and money briefing

    Environment | Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is investing $100m (£76m) into technology that could help develop new markets for seaweed as an alternative to fossil fuels. It is one of 16 grants the world’s richest man is giving as part of his $10bn pledge to combat climate change.  

    • Property | Thousands of interest-only borrowers risk losing homes
    • Investment tip | Sparks flying at this firm means it is time to sell
    • Alex cartoon | See our cartoonist’s latest work on world of finance

    Sport briefing

    F1 | Sir Jackie Stewart led calls for Lewis Hamilton to be knighted after he sealed a record-equalling seventh Formula One world title. Sir Jackie said there was "no question" Hamilton deserved to join him in becoming only the second world champion to receive the honour.  

    • England | Southgate fears burnout will hit Euros hopes
    • Grealish conundrum | England’s genuine game-breaker
    • Rugby Union | Wales call up Sir Ian Botham’s grandson

    Tonight’s dinner

    Baked feta with black olives, figs and chilli | A glorious tray of delicious ingredients by Melissa Hemsley. View the recipe. For more ideas, try our Cookbook newsletter.

    And finally… for this morning’s downtime

    Flying high | As SpaceX takes another leap into the unknown by carrying four astronauts to the International Space Statio, can the UK produce a challenger? Matthew Field meets the British startup companies vying to take on Elon Musk’s company.

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