Government ministers have conceded that “Christmas cannot be normal” this year amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but what does this mean?
Just how different will the festive season be for the UK public?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday set out the government’s COVID Winter Plan – which includes the new “tougher” three tier system – in an address to MPs in the House of Commons, and is today expected to be providing further information on the proposed ‘Christmas break’.
This is predicted to include how many households will be able to bubble together at Christmas, and how long the break in restrictions will last.
At present, no official confirmations have been made, although government ministers are reportedly believed to be working on plans for three households and a five-day break – from Christmas Eve to 28th December – subject to agreement from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed these intentions yesterday.
He told Sky News yesterday that the government will “confirm it when we have that agreement across the four nations”, and added: “We’ve agreed in principle that there should be a set of rules that applies across the board that is balanced, that allows a little bit more freedom, but is still safe.”
Touching on the subject of Christmas in his address to MPs in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Johnson said: “I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.
“We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it [and] we certainly feel we deserve it.
“But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.
S”o to allow families to come together, while minimising the risk, we are working with the Devolved Administrations on a special, time-limited Christmas dispensation, embracing the whole of the United Kingdom, and reflecting the ties of kinship across our islands.
“But this virus is obviously not going to grant us a Christmas truce, it doesn’t know it’s Christmas and families will need to make a careful judgement about the risk of visiting elderly relatives.”
He also provided an insight into how rapid testing will aim to enable families to come together over the festive period. He said: “By the end of the year, this will allow every care home resident to have two visitors, who can be tested twice a week.
“Care workers looking after people in their own homes will be offered weekly tests from today, and from next month, weekly tests will also be available to staff in prisons, food manufacturing, and those delivering and administering COVID vaccines.
“We are also using testing to help schools and universities stay open, and testing will enable students to know they can go home safely for Christmas and indeed back from home to university.”
Mr Johnson closed out his address yesterday stating: “2020 has been in many ways a tragic year when so many have lost loved ones and faced financial ruin. This will be still a hard Winter, Christmas cannot be normal, and there is a long road to Spring, but we have turned a corner,
“And the escape route is in sight.
“We must hold out against the virus until testing and vaccines come to our rescue and reduce the need for restrictions.
“Everyone can help speed up the arrival of that moment by continuing to follow the rules, getting tested and self-isolating when instructed, remembering hands, face and space, and pulling together for one final push to the Spring, when we have every reason to hope and believe that the achievements of our scientists will finally lift the shadow of the virus.”
The COVID Winter Plan can be accessed in full here.
For the latest information, guidance and support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK, please do refer to official sources at gov.uk/coronavirus.
Eurovision 2023 grand final to be screened live in cinemas across the UK
The grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest is to be screened live in cinemas across the UK for the first time ever.
With fans from across the globe set to descend on Liverpool in a couple of months time as the UK hosts the 2023 edition of the world’s biggest song competition on behalf of last year’s winners Ukraine, those who weren’t lucky enough to secure tickets will instead by able to head to their nearest cinema to experience the action on the big screen.
Distributor CinemaLive has announced it will be broadcasting the Eurovision grand final show live in cinemas nationwide for the first time ever.
It means that Eurovision fans up and down the country who missed out on grabbing tickets to the final – which sold out in under 40 minutes after going on sale earlier this month – will be able to come together to celebrate what is set to be the “biggest, brightest, boldest music party of the year”.
500 cinemas across the UK, including several here in Greater Manchester, will be screening the grand final on Saturday 13 May.
Vue, Odeon, Cineworld, and Everyman are just some of the cinema chains taking part.
Vue Manchester Printworks, Odeon Great Northern, and Everyman Manchester are the Manchester city centre venues lined-up to screen the event – with cinemas in the The Lowry Outlet Mall, Trafford Centre, Didsbury, Heaton Moor, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, and more also set to welcome Eurovision fans through their doors.
Event organisers say the screenings will encourage singalongs and fancy dress.
“We’re delighted to be working with the BBC to bring Eurovision’s grand final live into cinemas across the UK for the first time ever,” said John Travers from CinemaLive.
“We want audiences to enjoy themselves, so get your fancy dress on, and come together to enjoy this historic occasion on the big screen.”
With an illustrious entertainment career spanning over four decades, O’Grady may have been most well-known and loved by British audiences as a comedian, presenter, broadcaster, actor, writer, and the former drag queen Lily Savage – but he was also one of the nation’s most-famous dog lovers and animal rights advocates.
O’Grady was a longtime supporter and Ambassador of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, and helped raise the profile of the shelter to millions around the world through the hugely-popular ITV series Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs.
Battersea says there’s “no doubting” that O’Grady’s influence has helped thousands of rescue animals find new homes over the years.
Over several series of the show, O’Grady would make an effort to spend quality time with these animals and show-off all of their quirks and loveable qualities, which went a long way to proving that rescue animals “really are the best pets”.
Paying an emotional tribute to O’Grady following his passing today, Peter Laurie – Chief Executive of Battersea – said: “To many, Paul O’Grady was the immensely popular TV and radio presenter and comedian who lit up their screens with his razor-sharp humour and perpetual generosity and warmth [but] Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres.
“Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.
“Paul had an extremely hands on approach as a Battersea Ambassador and has been fundamental in helping our charity to communicate important campaign messages.
“He was a champion for the underdog and would do anything to ensure all animals live a healthy and happy life.
“He will be dearly missed.”
Since the news of O’Grady’s passing was announced, touching tributes have been pouring in in their hundreds from right across the world of entertainment and on social media.
Countless famous names have shared supportive messages and memories.
Emotional tributes to O’Grady have been flooding in all morning, both from those who knew and had worked with him in the past, and from those who admired his work and all that he achieved and had stood for throughout his respected career.