Friday briefing: Angry tiers – Tory outcry as 55m face toughest curbs

Warren Murray
·8-min read
<span>Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Top story: ‘Hug and kiss elderly relatives? I would not’

Hello, I’m Warren Murray and you’re very welcome here.

Tough new restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic will cover 99% of England’s population from next week, with government scientists warning that there is little prospect of any real changes for possibly months to come. Boris Johnson faces a potentially perilous battle to get the new tiers structure through parliament after dozens of Conservative MPs protested, with predictions that on Tuesday when the vote takes place as many as 70 could vote against it or abstain. Find out here which tier you will be in.

In a Downing Street press briefing, the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, underlined the size of the challenge still facing the country when he urged people to be cautious during the coming temporary relaxation of restrictions over Christmas. “Would I encourage someone to hug and kiss their elderly relatives? No I would not,” he said. “You can do it within the rules that are there – but it does not make sense, because you could be carrying the virus.”

COVID-19: 'Don't hug your gran at Christmas' - Prof Chris Whitty's message as Boris Johnson warns of possible New Year lockdown

Much of northern England and the Midlands, as well as Kent, Bristol and Slough, are to enter the top coronavirus restrictions tier, a move that has prompted concern from local leaders and businesses anxious about the social and economic impact of the rules – while those in tier 1 worry of an influx of visitors from the more affected areas. Liverpool and London will be in tier 2, but Greater Manchester, which has been subject to restrictions of one kind or another since late July, will remain in tier 3.

In total 23.3 million people, more than 41% of England’s population, will be in tier 3, while 32.2 million, more than 57%, will be in tier 2. Boris Johnson has said the allocation of tiers will be reviewed every 14 days from 16 December, suggesting mass testing could make households exempt.

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Trump grumps that he will leave – Donald Trump has said that he will leave the White House when the electoral college votes for Joe Biden: “Certainly I will. And you know that. If they do, they made a mistake.”

In ill-tempered scenes during which he attacked journalists for asking questions, the president went on to repeat unfounded claims of fraud – but it is still the closest he has come to conceding defeat.

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Mixed-up dosing error – The Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus researchers are taking their vaccine to a further global trial after claims that it could be 90% effective were questioned. The vaccine’s overall efficacy has been put at 62-70% in trials in Brazil and the UK. But amid 3,000 people in the UK who were given a lower dose regime, partly by accident, efficacy rose to 90%. AstraZeneca has said it will use the lower-dose regimen in the next trial. The timeline for approval and rollout of the vaccine in the UK and Europe should not be affected. Full results from the original trial are expected to be published in the Lancet soon. Keep track of global coronavirus developments at our live blog.

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Airlines petitioned over deportations – Eighty-two black public figures have written to airlines that have worked on deportation charter flights urging them not to carry up to 50 Jamaicans the Home Office wants to deport next week. Signatories include the author Bernardine Evaristo, model Naomi Campbell, historian David Olusoga and actors Naomie Harris and Thandie Newton, as well as lawyers, broadcasters, NGO chiefs and leading Windrush campaigners. The letter has been sent to six airlines urging bosses to refuse to operate the flight on 2 December, the second Jamaica deportation flight this year, if approached by the Home Office to do so, and to pause any deportation flights to Commonwealth countries for the foreseeable future.

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Bid to rein in big tech – A new regulator called the Digital Markets Unit will work to limit the power of Google, Facebook and other tech platforms, the government has announced, in an effort to ensure a level playing field for smaller competitors and a fair market for consumers. The business secretary, Alok Sharma, said: “The dominance of just a few big tech companies is leading to less innovation, higher advertising prices and less choice and control for consumers.” Meanwhile a report by the New Weather Institute thinktank and the charity We are Possible says the advertising industry needs to be controlled and changed to reduce its impact on the climate. As consumers prepare to spend billions on Black Friday, researchers say the promotion of consumerism, materialism and a work-and-spend cycle, and the industry’s role in pushing sales of beef, tobacco, high-polluting SUVs and flights, are all part of the problem.

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Hope of cancer ‘gamechanger’ – NHS England is to trial a blood test that may help identify more than 50 forms of cancer years before diagnosis, in what it hailed as a potential “gamechanger”. The test known as Galleri will be offered from mid-2021 to 165,000 people aged 50-79 in England, the majority of whom have no signs of the disease. The NHS hopes it can spot early signs of cancers that are hard to spot and so have worse survival rates, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancer. If the trial succeeds the test will become routinely available later this decade.

Today in Focus podcast: Gerald Marie – fashion’s Weinstein?

Wendy Walsh was 17 when she moved to Paris to be a model. Within weeks of arriving, Walsh alleges, she was raped by Gérald Marie. She is one of 16 women who have spoken to the investigative reporter Lucy Osborne, who has spent the past year looking into whether Marie was a sexual predator.

Lunchtime read: The xx’s Romy Madley Croft

Her forthcoming solo album is a love letter to formative years of queer clubbing and 00s Euro-dance, as the singer swaps black clothes and bleak moods for Technicolor euphoria.


Diego Maradona, the Argentinian football legend, has been buried in a small, private ceremony in Buenos Aires – a stark contrast to chaotic scenes earlier in the day when tens of thousands of weeping fans gathered in the capital to pay their respects. Tributes continue to flow, with fans across the world – from Buenos Aires to Bedford – explaining what the football great means to them. His former Argentina teammate Jorge Valdano, writes: “There is something perverse about a life that fulfils all your dreams and Diego suffered the generosity of fate like no other. The terrible journey from human to myth divided him in two.” Meanwhile, Scott Murray takes a look at the best and worst moments of his turbulent career.

Watch: Diego Maradona - The Highs & Lows

England have named George Ford at fly-half in their only change for Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup game with Wales at Parc y Scarlets. Lewis Hamilton has insisted that Formula One has a “consistent and massive” problem it must address with human rights abuses in countries it visits. Fans will next week return to the Emirates, the London Stadium and Twickenham in limited numbers but many grounds, including at half of all Premier League clubs, will remain closed. The UK’s cybersecurity agency is assisting Manchester United over a cyber attack earlier this month which has left the football club unable to yet fully restore their computer systems. Tottenham took a big step towards qualification from Group J of the Europa League with a 4-0 win over Ludogorets. And Jamie Vardy’s stoppage-time equaliser earned Leicester a 3-3 draw at Braga and with it a place in the knockout stage.


Britain’s economy is approaching a turning point amid hopes for a rapid recovery fuelled by an early coronavirus vaccine, despite renewed lockdowns pushing the country into a double-dip recession. Despite a gloomy November, a Guardian analysis of eight key indicators shows that the economy may not have been as badly hit as during the first lockdown in the spring. A leading economist explains why the vaccine provides reasons to be cheerful. Stock markets have flatlined a bit overnight, not helped by Wall Street being closed for Thanksgiving. The FTSE 100 is expected to dip 0.2% this morning while the pound is on $1.337 and €1.121.

The papers

Our Guardian print edition leads with “MPs’ fury as 55m people face months in top tiers” while the Mail has “Tiers of anger and disbelief” and the Mirror goes with “Tiers of despair”. “All Wight for some” says the Sun, as that isle, as well as Cornwall and places like the Isles of Scilly, dodge the toughest measures.

The Times has “Millions in tough tiers until end of January”; the Telegraph renders the situation as “34 million worse off than before lockdown”. The i imparts experts’ advice: “Don’t hug gran this Christmas”. The Metro has “The north sees red” with a map showing the extent of each tier. Meanwhile in the state-aligned press, the Express says “Boris: there’s an escape route, let’s not blow it!”.

In the FT, some diversion: “EY’s Wirecard work scrutinised by prosecutors for criminality” – here is the background. There’s a Covid story too on the FT’s front, about EU governments’ wrangling over whether to permit a ski season.

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