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Snow hits East Anglia as Met office issues AMBER weather warning for the South East

Up to three inches of snow fell in parts of the UK today and left some rural villages ‘cut off’ after the Met Office warned of road closures and power cuts. 

Drivers described ‘horrendous’ conditions on Britain’s roads as the wintry weather hit the Home Counties in the early hours and forecasters are now predicting snow will be replaced with torrential rain across the UK next week, as temperatures rise. 

A Met Office forecaster said: ‘Atlantic low-pressure systems are expected to cross the south of the county at times, bringing rainfall and periods of slightly milder temperatures, and there will be a risk of snowfall on the boundary between the mild and cold airmasses.’

An amber alert was in place for road closures and power cuts in Eastern England between 5am and 2pm covering Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk. Snow was expected this morning in London, Kent, Sussex and further north across East Anglia and the East Midlands. 

The South East of England and East Anglia saw snowfall between 0.8ins and 1.6ins with up to 3.2ins in parts of East Anglia. The lowest temperature was -5.4C at Redesdale Camp, Newcastle upon Tyne, with highs of 52.5F (11.4C) in Gosport Fleetlands, Hampshire. 

But Londoners were left disappointed when only a smattering of snow settled before melting away by 9am, and those in west London saw no snow at all.  

Londoners were left disappointed when only a smattering of snow settled before melting away by 9am, and those in west London saw no snow at all. Pictured: Runner in London 

Forecasters are now predicting snow will be replaced with torrential rain across the UK next week, as temperatures rise. Pictured: People in London

Forecasters are now predicting snow will be replaced with torrential rain across the UK next week, as temperatures rise. Pictured: People in London 

Heavy snow hit Hertfordshire early this morning. Radlett, Bushey, Watford, Borehamwood and Elstree all suffered

Heavy snow hit Hertfordshire early this morning. Radlett, Bushey, Watford, Borehamwood and Elstree all suffered

Heavy Snow at Hampstead, north London, as some parts of the UK were blanketed in snow and freezing conditions today

Heavy Snow at Hampstead, north London, as some parts of the UK were blanketed in snow and freezing conditions today

An amber weather warning was issued in Eastern England between 5am and 2pm covering Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk. Pictured, snow in London

An amber weather warning was issued in Eastern England between 5am and 2pm covering Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Norfolk and Suffolk. Pictured, snow in London

Drivers on the roads in the early hours warned of treacherous conditions on the M40 towards London. One Twitter user wrote: 'Horrendous journey into London. Crashed car across carriageway north of Cherwell Services on M40. (Called police). Further south, carriageway surface dangerous with falling snow.' Pictured, a snow-covered London street

Drivers on the roads in the early hours warned of treacherous conditions on the M40 towards London. One Twitter user wrote: ‘Horrendous journey into London. Crashed car across carriageway north of Cherwell Services on M40. (Called police). Further south, carriageway surface dangerous with falling snow.’ Pictured, a snow-covered London street

Heavy snow at Hampstead, north London, as large parts of the UK were blanketed amid an amber weather warning and freezing conditions

Heavy snow at Hampstead, north London, as large parts of the UK were blanketed amid an amber weather warning and freezing conditions

Parts of Kent woke up to the white stuff this morning. Yesterday the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for snow and ice and warned motorists to take extra care on roads

Parts of Kent woke up to the white stuff this morning. Yesterday the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for snow and ice and warned motorists to take extra care on roads

A car had an accident and skidded off the road in the snow in Snetterton, Norfolk, as the weather caused treacherous driving conditions on Saturday morning

A car had an accident and skidded off the road in the snow in Snetterton, Norfolk, as the weather caused treacherous driving conditions on Saturday morning

People walk in the rain over Millennium Bridge in London. Parts of eastern England saw up to three inches of snow

People walk in the rain over Millennium Bridge in London. Parts of eastern England saw up to three inches of snow

Drivers on the roads early this morning warned of treacherous conditions on the M40 towards London. One Twitter user wrote: ‘Horrendous journey into London. Crashed car across carriageway north of Cherwell Services on M40. (Called police). Further south, carriageway surface dangerous with falling snow.’

Highs of 7C (44.6F) are expected across London today after freezing temperatures overnight, with the mercury only dropping three degrees to stay around 4C (39.2F) tonight. The temperature could be about 0C in areas of eastern England and parts of Scotland for much of Saturday.

The Met Office said: ‘A band of rain, preceded by some snow, will clear quickly eastwards this morning, leaving a covering of snow across East Anglia. Brighter weather following, with showers affecting northwestern parts. Windy for many, with temperatures closer to average than recently.’  

Temperatures plummeted as low as -11.8C (10.8F) at Ravensworth, North Yorkshire, as the mercury took a dip in northern areas with lying snow yesterday. It was the coldest temperature recorded in England since January 31, 2019, when -13.2C (8.2F) was recorded in County Durham. 

The Met Office warns some rural communities – even in the South – ‘could become cut off’ and that there could be further treacherous travelling conditions today.   

Weather warning today

Weather warning tomorrow

The Met Office issued warnings for ice today (left) and another three including an amber alert for snow tomorrow (right)

An early morning runner in the snow in Sevenoaks, Kent, looks flushed as she exercises in freezing conditions

An early morning runner in the snow in Sevenoaks, Kent, looks flushed as she exercises in freezing conditions

People walk in the rain over Millennium Bridge in London as heavy rain struck the capital on Saturday afternoon

People walk in the rain over Millennium Bridge in London as heavy rain struck the capital on Saturday afternoon

Snow covered streets in Enfield, London, early this morning, as an amber weather warning was put out by the Met Office

Snow covered streets in Enfield, London, early this morning, as an amber weather warning was put out by the Met Office

Heavy snow followed by freezing conditions left motorists facing treacherous driving conditions on the A1 in Northumberland today, with cars skidding off the A1 northbound at Stannington and crashing into a farmers field

Heavy snow followed by freezing conditions left motorists facing treacherous driving conditions on the A1 in Northumberland today, with cars skidding off the A1 northbound at Stannington and crashing into a farmers field

A patio and garden was completely covered in the white stuff in Enfield, London, early Saturday morning

A patio and garden was completely covered in the white stuff in Enfield, London, early Saturday morning

A snow covered street in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Parts of eastern England could see up to four inches of snow on Saturday as forecasters warned of the potential for 'significant disruption'

A snow covered street in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Parts of eastern England could see up to four inches of snow on Saturday as forecasters warned of the potential for ‘significant disruption’

Horse riders head through a waterlogged Wimbledon Common on a cold morning due to heavy rain this morning

Horse riders head through a waterlogged Wimbledon Common on a cold morning due to heavy rain this morning

The weather warning, which lasts until the evening, extends as far as Kent and the North Downs, and also includes Oxfordshire and the Chilterns.

Grahame Madge, Met Office spokesman, said: ‘We have a weather front moving across through the day, which will fall as heavy rain further west, where there is mild air, and turning to snow when it hits cold air in the East.’ 

But Londoners were left disappointed this morning when they woke up to ‘sneeze in the flour’ levels of the white stuff, after forecasters suggested there could be up to four inches.

One took to Twitter to write: ‘I am very jealous of all the snow in Leeds. We’ve had about 10 snowflakes on North London.’

Another said: ‘I genuinely woke up early so I could see some of the alleged “heavy snow” as I didn’t expect it to lie on the ground. Either it was over when I woke up or it never happened.’ 

One penned: ‘Very wet and but not so windy in London too – way before dawn today I was biking in fine snow drops, then it sleeted and finally turned to icy rain, which it’s still doing and sadly set in for the day.’

One added: ‘I was up at 7am in NE London and it was full on snow. Gone by 9am.’

‘This London snow looks an awful lot like your average day to day rain not gonna lie… my kids are furious, taking them hours to finish building this rain man,’ another said.   

Londoners were left disappointed this morning when they woke up to ‘sneeze in the flour’ levels of the white stuff

A postman braves the snow in his shorts as he made his deliveries in Maldon, Essex, this morning

A postman braves the snow in his shorts as he made his deliveries in Maldon, Essex, this morning

One took to Twitter to write: ‘I am very jealous of all the snow in Leeds. We’ve had about 10 snowflakes on North London’

A man jogs down a snow covered street in Catterick, North Yorkshire, as the north of England woke up to a blanket of snow

A man jogs down a snow covered street in Catterick, North Yorkshire, as the north of England woke up to a blanket of snow

Cars were coated in snow in Chesham

Houses are covered in a layer of snow in Chesham

Cars and houses were coated in a layer of snow in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, as cold weather continued south last night 

A Twitter-user in Enfield, London, took out a ruler to measure almost a centimetre of snow this morning. He wrote: 'It’s tried its best to settle on gritted roads but intensity is lowering now to 4/10 EN4 #uksnow ..embarrassingly this is probably the most snow here in almost 2 years (since early Feb 2019)'

A Twitter-user in Enfield, London, took out a ruler to measure almost a centimetre of snow this morning. He wrote: ‘It’s tried its best to settle on gritted roads but intensity is lowering now to 4/10 EN4 #uksnow ..embarrassingly this is probably the most snow here in almost 2 years (since early Feb 2019)’

Walkers shelter underneath the hoods of their coats and umbrellas as they head through heavy rain on Wimbledon Common

Walkers shelter underneath the hoods of their coats and umbrellas as they head through heavy rain on Wimbledon Common

Meanwhile, highway chiefs in Hampshire refused to stop salting icy roads in the New Forest despite a litany of tragedies including one in which four ponies were killed.

The ponies were eagerly licking freshly-laid salt on the B3078 Roger Penny Way, near Brook, when they were hit by a Land Rover Discovery. Three were killed instantly and the fourth died a few minutes later after being lured to their deaths by salt laid on the icy road. 

Horse and ponies love the tast of salt, and Hampshire county councillor David Harrison urged the authority to ‘look at the wisdom’ of treating New Forest roads, saying grit might be less likely to lead to tragedies.

But the council’s deputy leader, Coun Rob Humby, said salting would continue – to protect motorists. He said: ‘I fully recognise the uniqueness of the New Forest environment but the county council has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to keep the roads clear of snow and ice.’

The Met Office has warned drivers to accelerate their cars ‘gently’ and to leave a large gap between surrounding vehicles.

Parts of Wales and Northern Ireland will be mostly cloudy, with some bands of rain in the northern regions.

Greg Dewhurst, a Met Office forecaster said: ‘Areas in eastern England and around the M25 could see up to 8cm of snow, especially as Saturday progresses. Other areas in England and Scotland will see some snowfall here and there, with Saturday being the colder of the two days over the weekend.

‘Temperatures are unlikely to rise above 10C, with a lot of areas closer to freezing.’

There were also 25 flood warnings across England on Saturday, stretching from the South East to the North East, meaning ‘immediate action is required’, according to the Environment Agency.

This is expected to clear up in the evening, going into Sunday, when southern and eastern parts of the UK will see dry, sunny spells.

North-western regions are expected to see showers, with a ‘spell of more persistent rain’ later on in the day.

A garden was covered in a light coating of snow in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, early Saturday morning

A garden was covered in a light coating of snow in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, early Saturday morning

A dog walker braved the wet weather on Wimbledon common this morning. While snow coated parts of Hertfordshire and north London, other areas of the capital only saw rain

A dog walker braved the wet weather on Wimbledon common this morning. While snow coated parts of Hertfordshire and north London, other areas of the capital only saw rain

Snow in Enfield, London, as the sun started to rise early Saturday morning ahead of a day of wet and wintry weather

Snow in Enfield, London, as the sun started to rise early Saturday morning ahead of a day of wet and wintry weather

Mark Millins, of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, urged people to ‘take extra care’ when out walking or driving. 

Hold your horses… lots more snow on the way 

Heavy snow brought transport chaos but at least some had the horsepower to cope.

For Stephanie Anderson it was a chance for a gallop with Clydesdale horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders.

The Clydesdales are working horses and help plough the land for her family’s market gardening business, and they are also used for events such as weddings.

On the hoof: Stephanie Anderson out for a gallop with her horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire

On the hoof: Stephanie Anderson out for a gallop with her horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire

A Met Office spokesman said: ‘The highest accumulations of snow were in North East England, where 15cm (6in) was recorded at Copley, County Durham.’ He said snow was recorded as far south as Lakenheath and Marham, in Suffolk.   

Main roads in Scotland were brought to a standstill on Thursday, particularly in areas with an amber ‘be prepared’ weather warning. In Dunblane, Perthshire, one resident said the only traffic was sledges.

In Renfrewshire, drivers abandoned their cars after a number of accidents blocked local roads. 

One motorist thanked locals on Church Road in Giffnock for bringing her tea following a dramatic three-car crash. She wrote on social media: ‘Don’t think I will see my car again.’

On the Stewarton Road, linking south Glasgow with Newton Mearns, cars were abandoned, while police used their vehicles to block off roads.

Train services between Glasgow and East Kilbride were suspended for a while after a vehicle crashed into a railway bridge in Busby.   

Heavy snowfall blocked the A9 southbound at Dunblane, with traffic being diverted through the town. Those aged over 80 had been invited to get their Covid vaccination in the town’s Victoria Hall but many thought it unsafe to leave the house.

Twenty Perthshire primary schools and nurseries closed and were unable to accommodate the children of key workers.

One Dunblane resident said: ‘We feel we have been cut off. There’s almost a foot of snow here. The only traffic moving on our street are the sledges.’ 

Traffic Scotland warned drivers of ‘difficult driving conditions’ on the A82 between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy. An accident on the M9 closed the Friarton Bridge, with traffic being diverted through Perth.

Police Scotland’s road policing unit has warned against drivers travelling in the wintry weather.

Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock said: ‘Government restrictions on travelling remain in place across Scotland because of the ongoing pandemic.

‘People should not leave their homes unless for essential purposes and work from home where possible. The best way to stay safe is to stay at home.

‘In the current wintry weather please consider if your journey is exempt under the regulations and also if it really is essential and whether you can delay it until the weather improves.’  

The North has borne the brunt of heavy snowfall so far this week – but the wintry weather is set to hit the Home Counties today. Pictured: West Yorkshire yesterday

The North has borne the brunt of heavy snowfall so far this week – but the wintry weather is set to hit the Home Counties today. Pictured: West Yorkshire yesterday

The Met Office has issued a snow warning for South East England which will run from 3am to 8pm on Saturday

The Met Office has issued a snow warning for South East England which will run from 3am to 8pm on Saturday

After the latest weather front passes, Atlantic-dominated weather will become established, bringing moister and warmer air with rain dominating. This will confine snowfall to the highest elevations in the north.

Nick Silkstone, deputy chief meteorologist, said: ‘During Monday and Tuesday we will see large rainfall totals across the high ground of western Britain. This rainfall combined with snowmelt will lead to a high volume of water moving through river catchments in these regions.’

During Wednesday, an area of low-pressure anchored in the North Sea will establish a northerly air flow coming into the UK, heralding a return to colder conditions, with wintry showers over higher ground.

Those fearing a return of the Beast from the East – the Siberian weather system that brought heavy snow in February and March 2018 – can rest easy after the Met Office said it is unlikely to roar back in the coming weeks. 

Group of residents in snow-bound Yorkshire build 10ft fall snowman near their homes

A group of residents in snow-bound Yorkshire have spread a bit of joy by building a 10ft tall snowman near their homes.

Gemma Younger, 34, and her neighbours spent three hours building the ‘tallest snowman’ she’d ever seen in their shared garden on Thursday. The snowman, which was the first she had ever built, made her feel like she was ‘reliving her youth’.

A team of five people, including her neighbours Dawn, Darren and Jack Roberts, as well as her son Alfie, ten, moulded the snowman limb by limb in a joint effort in Catterick, North Yorkshire.

Jack, who is 6ft 3in, was tasked with completing the snowman’s head and was hoisted up in the air by his mother who held a small step ladder by the base of the snowman.

Gemma Younger, 34, and her neighbours spent three hours building the 'tallest snowman' she'd ever seen, in Catterick, North Yorkshire

Gemma Younger, 34, and her neighbours spent three hours building the ‘tallest snowman’ she’d ever seen, in Catterick, North Yorkshire

The friendly neighbours wore masks and maintained a 6ft (2m) distance between them at all times to comply with social distancing measures. Ms Younger said Alfie played in the snow for the whole day, from 9am until 6pm.

Ms Younger, who is originally from Brighton, said: ‘We saw the snow once we woke up, my son was straight out the doors making snowmen. My neighbour was clearing the path and my son started launching snowballs, as you do.

‘He said he was going to make a snowman, if we could help we were more than welcome to. It was challenging but fun. It was a team effort. It was just reliving our youths. It’s the first snowman I’ve ever made.’

The hotel barmaid and married mother-of-two said: ‘There was so much snow, that’s all just from our back garden. Down south we never had snow like this, but moving up north I’ve seen more snow in three years than I’ve ever seen. 

‘It’s the most snow they’ve ever seen. My son didn’t come back in until 6pm, he was just playing with the snow all day. It was just a good laugh. We used a tape measure and he’s about 10ft tall. It’s the tallest snowman I’ve ever seen it.’  

 

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UK weather: Travel chaos warning over icy roads and freezing fog

Snow will fall in London tomorrow with up to four inches across the South East as Britons endured another day of icy chaos and temperatures plunged to nearly -12C (10F) on England’s coldest morning of the winter so far.

The Met Office has issued a weather warning from 3am to 8pm tomorrow covering the capital, with 1in (3cm) expected to fall widely over the South East with up to 4in (10cm) possible in East Anglia and over higher ground.

Covered by the warning are London, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey, Rutland, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.  

Today, people travelling during the lockdown were told to expect more ‘tricky’ conditions as ice and freezing fog brought further hazards one day after heavy snowfall caused major disruption in northern England and Scotland.

The Met Office also put out an ice warning this morning for all of Scotland and most of England with the mercury plunging to -11.8C (10.8F) in the North Yorkshire village of Ravensworth by 9am today.

Forecasters said the rain, sleet and snow would be dying out, leaving icy surfaces and difficult travel conditions amid concerns of people falling over on slippery pavements and motorists skidding on untreated roads.

People across Britain awoke to a widespread frost and temperatures hovering around freezing this morning, with the mercury unlikely to get above 5C (41F) in London today before dropping back to 0C (32F) tonight.

A runner goes for a job in the snow in Leeds this morning as the country experiences further sub-zero conditions

A van stops in the snow in Leeds this morning as hazardous conditions continue to affect motorists in West Yorkshire

A van stops in the snow in Leeds this morning as hazardous conditions continue to affect motorists in West Yorkshire

Flooding at St Ives in Cambridgeshire this morning for the second time in a month after the River Great Ouse burst its banks

Flooding at St Ives in Cambridgeshire this morning for the second time in a month after the River Great Ouse burst its banks

The A1058 Coast Road between North Shields and Newcastle was closed after multiple crashes this morning amid black ice

The A1058 Coast Road between North Shields and Newcastle was closed after multiple crashes this morning amid black ice

Vehicles queue on the M61 southbound near Bolton in Greater Manchester this morning after a collision in the freezing fog

Vehicles queue on the M61 southbound near Bolton in Greater Manchester this morning after a collision in the freezing fog

Nearly 200 areas of the country remain on flood watch as well, with the Environment Agency issuing 144 flood alerts and 43 more serious warnings for England – while Natural Resources Wales has put out two alerts.

A further 18-hour weather warning for snow and ice has been issued for most of Scotland and northern England tomorrow, from 3am until 9pm, with the Met Office warning up to 8in (20cm) could fall on higher routes.

An area of rain pushing eastwards will turn to snow, with forecasters warning of travel delays of roads with some stranded vehicles and passengers, along with delayed or cancelled rail and air travel and a chance of power cuts.

The rain will turn to snow as it encounters colder air across Scotland and parts of northern and eastern England, and at first the main hazard may be rain falling onto frozen surfaces leading to ice.

Snow will become more likely during the early morning, with heavier snowfall most likely above 650ft (200m) in Scotland and northern England, where 2in (5cm) to 4in (10cm) may accumulate, possibly 8in (20cm) even higher.

At lower levels and further south, up to 2in (5cm) may accumulate in places, but the Met Office said situation was ‘finely balanced’, with the chance that most lower-lying areas, especially in the east, will see rain or sleet. 

Vehicles being towed away and cars on the side verges in the Wallsend area of North Tyneside this morning

Vehicles being towed away and cars on the side verges in the Wallsend area of North Tyneside this morning

A beautiful misty sunrise behind Winter Hill and over low lying fog near Chorley in Lancashire this morning

A beautiful misty sunrise behind Winter Hill and over low lying fog near Chorley in Lancashire this morning

A van on a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning as nearly 200 areas of the UK remain on flood watch

A van on a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning as nearly 200 areas of the UK remain on flood watch

A horse in a frosty field on a cold morning in the countryside at Dunsden in Oxfordshire today

A horse in a frosty field on a cold morning in the countryside at Dunsden in Oxfordshire today

A Land Rover Defender drives through a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning

A Land Rover Defender drives through a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning

The A1058 Coast Road between North Shields and Newcastle has been closed today following multiple crashes

The A1058 Coast Road between North Shields and Newcastle has been closed today following multiple crashes

A car on a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning as the country continues to experience severe weather

A car on a flooded road in Bottesford, Leicestershire, this morning as the country continues to experience severe weather

Met Office meteorologist Becky Mitchell said: ‘Saturday is the next day we could potentially see some snow.

2020 was the second hottest year on record 

Most of us didn’t manage a foreign holiday last year, but at least there was one consolation – it was the second hottest 12 months on record.

Global temperatures in 2020 were on average around 1.28C above those in the second half of the 19th century.

It was just a fraction of a degree below the record hottest year of 2016, when average temperatures were 1.29C above pre-industrial levels.

Under the international Paris Agreement, countries have pledged to limit warming to 2C above 1800s levels.

The analysis was carried out by the Met Office, University of East Anglia and the UK National Centre for Atmospheric Science. 

Dr Colin Morice, from the Met Office, said: ‘It is a sign of the continued impact of human-induced climate change.’

‘We may even see some temporary snow across parts of the South East, towards East Anglia but at the moment we’re not expecting to see the same amount of snowfall as we have had.’ 

Ms Mitchell continued: ‘Into next week it’s quite uncertain but it looks like temperatures will be around average to start with – so not particularly cold.

‘But, towards the end of the week there are signs we could potentially see further snowfall across northern parts of the country.’

It comes after up to 6in (15cm) of snow fell in the North of England yesterday, leading to picture postcard scenes but also crashes, skids and prangs. 

A double decker bus slid across a road in Halifax, West Yorkshire, while a car ended up wrapped around a pole in nearby Outlane.

More than 600 schools had to close and the weather brought havoc to the Covid vaccination drive, with some centres forced to shut or postpone appointments.

But for some it was a chance for a little fun in the snow, with youngsters leaping on toboggans in Penicuik, Scotland. Flurries fell as far south as Suffolk.

South eastern areas too mild for snow were not spared, as heavy rain led to flooding. Rivers including the Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire burst their banks.

Severe weather closed more than 600 schools which had stayed open for key workers’ children, mostly in West and South Yorkshire. 

Staff at the Fenn Bell Inn in Hoo, Kent, battled to salvage furniture after it was flooded. 

Connor Gordon, one of those trying to save the pub’s possessions, said: ‘The building is ruined, nearly a foot of water inside, it’s even deeper outside. The ditches are full and bursting, the roads are flooded and getting worse.’

Weather warning today

Weather warning tomorrow

The Met Office has issued weather warnings for ice this morning (left) and another for snow and ice tomorrow (right)

Elderly patients due to receive Covid jabs at Newcastle’s Centre for Life mass vaccination hub were advised to rebook their appointments to avoid the bad weather.

Hold your horses… lots more snow on the way 

Heavy snow brought transport chaos yesterday but at least some had the horsepower to cope.

For Stephanie Anderson it was a chance for a gallop with Clydesdale horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders.

The Clydesdales are working horses and help plough the land for her family’s market gardening business, and they are also used for events such as weddings.

On the hoof: Stephanie Anderson out for a gallop with her horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire

On the hoof: Stephanie Anderson out for a gallop with her horse Davie near their home at Westruther in Berwickshire

The Newcastle NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust tweeted: ‘It’s easy to do by calling 119. No need to risk travelling in the bad weather.’ 

And all vaccinations at the Priory Campus in Barnsley had to be postponed from 3pm, with patients advised not to travel. 

Snow caused problems for ambulance services in Yorkshire who struggled to keep up with the high demand.

Mark Millins, of Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, urged people to ‘take extra care’ when out walking or driving. 

A Met Office spokesman said: ‘The highest accumulations of snow were in North East England, where 15cm (6in) was recorded at Copley, County Durham.’ He said snow was recorded as far south as Lakenheath and Marham, in Suffolk. 

Main roads in Scotland yesterday were brought to a standstill, particularly in areas with an amber ‘be prepared’ weather warning. In Dunblane, Perthshire, one resident said the only traffic was sledges.

In Renfrewshire, drivers abandoned their cars after a number of accidents blocked local roads. 

One motorist thanked locals on Church Road in Giffnock for bringing her tea following a dramatic three-car crash. She wrote on social media: ‘Don’t think I will see my car again.’

On the Stewarton Road, linking south Glasgow with Newton Mearns, cars were abandoned, while police used their vehicles to block off roads.

Train services between Glasgow and East Kilbride were suspended for a while after a vehicle crashed into a railway bridge in Busby.   

Heavy snowfall blocked the A9 southbound at Dunblane, with traffic being diverted through the town. Those aged over 80 had been invited to get their Covid vaccination in the town’s Victoria Hall but many thought it unsafe to leave the house.

Twenty Perthshire primary schools and nurseries closed and were unable to accommodate the children of key workers.

One Dunblane resident said: ‘We feel we have been cut off. There’s almost a foot of snow here. The only traffic moving on our street are the sledges.’ 

Traffic Scotland warned drivers of ‘difficult driving conditions’ on the A82 between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy. An accident on the M9 closed the Friarton Bridge, with traffic being diverted through Perth.

Snow and black ice on the roads in Leeds this morning is causing hazardous conditions for people in West Yorkshire

Snow and black ice on the roads in Leeds this morning is causing hazardous conditions for people in West Yorkshire

Icy conditions this morning on the M1 in West Yorkshire as motorists were warned to take extra care on the roads

Icy conditions this morning on the M1 in West Yorkshire as motorists were warned to take extra care on the roads

Much of yesterday's snow in Leeds had frozen over by this morning bringing black ice on the roads for motorists

Much of yesterday’s snow in Leeds had frozen over by this morning bringing black ice on the roads for motorists

Police Scotland’s road policing unit has warned against drivers travelling in the wintry weather.

Chief Superintendent Louise Blakelock said: ‘Government restrictions on travelling remain in place across Scotland because of the ongoing pandemic.

‘People should not leave their homes unless for essential purposes and work from home where possible. The best way to stay safe is to stay at home.

‘In the current wintry weather please consider if your journey is exempt under the regulations and also if it really is essential and whether you can delay it until the weather improves.’ 

Sunday should be mostly dry with isolated showers, but more snow could be on the way next week followed by a cold and unsettled remainder of the month.

However, those fearing a return of the Beast from the East – the Siberian weather system that brought heavy snow in February and March 2018 – can rest easy after the Met Office said it is unlikely to roar back in the coming weeks.

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Open Mouth Reading Aloud World Championship to be held in London

The first qualifying stage will take place on January 16

“Open your mouth” – this is the name of the championship in reading aloud in Russian, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2021. Amateurs of reading aloud from 200+ cities of Russia and 18 foreign countries take part in the championship. The winners of the qualifying rounds in cities advance to the conference finals. Conference champions – “East”, “Siberia”, “Ural”, “Povolzhye”, “Center”, “South”, “North”, “Moscow” and “Zagranitsa” go to the Superfinal of the Championship, which will be held on Red Square in Moscow …

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t become a big handicap for reading enthusiasts and literature lovers. Last season, the Open Your Mouth reading aloud championship was brought online and hosted over 150 events on the Zoom platform. The Internet has made it possible for hundreds of Russian-speaking people around the world to take part in the project.

The first qualifying round of the conference ABROAD of the World Open Mouth Reading Championship will take place in London, 16 january at 15:30 BST (18:30 Moscow time) in online format. To participate, you need to register at otkroyrot.com/join Age limit – 18+. Participation in the championship is free.

Mikhail Faustov, the founder of the Open Your Mouth Reading Aloud Championship, says: “London is a special city for the championship. I happened to hold the first London Open Mouth in 2018, it was in the Pushkin House. Six months ago, when we were all tired of the pandemic and quarantine, the London match, thanks to the efforts of Rita Baskakova, took place online. Now, in the midst of quarantine, we really wanted to support our friends in the UK. We have long wanted to create something like a separate conference or league for Russian-speaking readers here, so that not only Londoners, but also residents of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and other British cities take part in Open Roth. And I’m sure we can do it. So this season’s Open Mouth London is just the beginning. “

The organizer of the Open Your Mouth Championship is the Interregional Reading Federation Association, the official partners of the 2020-2021 season are the Russian online library MyBook and the online store Myshop.ru. Media partners: Gorky-Media and the Year of Literature. The GlobalSiberia project is also a partner of the championship.

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Elderly Britons are REFUSING Pfizer’s vaccine because they’d rather ‘wait for the English one’

Elderly Britons are refusing the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine because they’d rather ‘wait for the English one’ and failing to turn up for appointments as ministers scramble to turbo-charge the jab’s roll out.

Over-80s have turned their noses up at the Belgian-made shots in Stockton-on-Tees and insisted on having the Oxford jab, according to Dr Paul Williams who is administering the vaccine to residents.

And missed appointments led to up to 10 police officers receiving their first doses in Nottingham to prevent vital supplies going to waste. Once defrosted from -78C (-104F) doses of Pfizer’s jab must be used within days, official guidance from the UK’s regulator says.

Only 1.3million Britons have been vaccinated in the first month of the critical programme, as the sluggish roll out fails to gather steam. It has been plagued by supply and staffing shortages, logistical problems and bureaucratic barriers that have strangled the scale-up. 

Boris Johnson is tonight expected to unveil a new Army-led plan designed by senior military battlefield planners to distribute the jabs, as he seeks to put drastically speed up the roll out.

Ministry of Defence chiefs were instructed to devise the plans to hit the Prime Minister’s lofty target of vaccinating 13million — including over-70s, care home residents, NHS staff and extremely vulnerable adults of all ages — and ending lockdown by mid-February. 

The NHS operation, considered the biggest vaccination drive in British history, will involve more than 100 soldiers next week with almost 1,500 reserve troops on standby, The Telegraph reports. It comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said last week there were 250 six-man tams were ‘standing ready’ to deliver 100,000 doses a day, if there was a request for more boots on the ground support from the Army. 

Mr Johnson is expected to be joined at the dispatch box by Brigadier Phil Prosser as well as Sir Simon Stevens. The NHS England boss will likely face questions about a decision to tell GPs to ‘stand down’ routine appointments so they can prioritise Covid vaccinations. 

As many as seven mass vaccination centres are set to open in England to aide the roll-out, set up in locations including sports stadiums and London’s ExCeL centre. But critics have warned the target is over-ambitious and said the Prime Minister should not make promises he won’t be able to meet.

It emerged last night that guidance had been sent to doctors explaining the jabs should be their ‘top priority’ – with other ‘non-essential’ activities postponed, potentially for weeks. NHS England has already advised surgeries to focus on the delivery of the vaccine by prioritising jab appointments over anything else. 

Elderly patients have been refusing the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Stockton insisting they would rather ‘wait for the English one’. Above are Britons arriving at the Epsom Downs Racecourse vaccination centre in Surrey today

Dr Paul Williams, left, said patients in Stockton were refusing the Pfizer vaccine. He was previously the Labour MP for the area

Nottinghamshire's police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping, right, said police officers were not being pushed to the front of the queue in the county

Dr Paul Williams, left, said patients in Stockton were refusing the Pfizer vaccine. He was previously the Labour MP for the area. Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping, right, said police officers were not being pushed to the front of the queue

The PM is expected to announce the new  vaccination strategy — drawn up by senior military battlefield planners — at a Downing Street press conference at 5pm tonight. Government sources said troops are not being drafted in to help

The PM is expected to announce the new  vaccination strategy — drawn up by senior military battlefield planners — at a Downing Street press conference at 5pm tonight. Government sources said troops are not being drafted in to help

ENGLAND VACCINE PROGRAMME SCALES UP 27% IN LAST WEEK OF PFIZER-ONLY PLAN

NHS England figures today showed that 1,092,885 people were vaccinated against Covid-19 between December 8 and January 3.

654,810 of them were over the age of 80 – the highest priority group – meaning that around one in five of all people in that age bracket have now been immunised. There are an estimated 3.4m over-80s in England.

A further 438,075 people under the age of 80 received a vaccine during the first 3.5 weeks of the programme. Most or even all of them will have been health and care workers, who are also high up the priority list.

The NHS said 308,541 were people were vaccinated in the week ending January 3, which was up 27 per cent from 243,039 the week before, up to December 27.

None of the statistics so far include people vaccinated with the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine, which came into use this Monday, January 4. 

The Government is aiming to immunise 13.9million of the country’s most vulnerable people by mid-February so it can start to lift national lockdown rules.

To hit this ambitious target it will have to accelerate its vaccine programme at breakneck speed to hit an average 2million per week, including this week.

Part of helping this process is a controversial plan to only offer people the first dose to begin with, postponing the second for up to three months later. NHS data, however, shows that 19,981 people have already received a full two doses.

During the first phase of vaccinations, jabs were given out at 107 hospital hubs and 595 local vaccination sites. The Government said this will be increased to more than 1,000 vaccination stations by the end of this week, with 730 already operational.

In other coronavirus news:

  • Problems with the coronavirus vaccine rollout to GPs were laid bare as a surgery visited by Health Secretary Matt Hancock to promote the initiative is yet to receive supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca product;  
  • Two-thirds of GPs don’t believe Number 10 will be able to achieve the grand aim of vaccinating 2million people a week against Covid, according to a poll; 
  • Sir Keir Starmer said there was a ‘national duty’ to get people vaccinated against coronavirus, as the Labour leader told broadcasters: ‘This is a way out. This is the light at the end of the tunnel’;
  • Police quiz drivers outside Tesco and demand to know where they are going to enforce lockdown;
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel says police are right to challenge those sitting on park benches and lockdown’s stay-at-home message is clear;
  • London’s hospitals will be overwhelmed by Covid patients in two weeks in a best case scenario, stark NHS briefing warns;
  • Hospitals may have to start using beds in care homes to take the pressure off hospitals;
  • Parents are urged to report schools to Ofsted if online lessons aren’t up to standard during lockdown;
  • B&M Bargains boss gives himself £30million bonus due to soaring Christmas retail sales; 

Dr Williams, who is also the former Labour MP for Stockton, vented his fury at those saying they will only have the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab today.

‘Some local patients have turned down an offer this weekend of getting a Covid vaccine when they found out it was the Pfizer one. “I’ll wait for the English one”,’ he wrote on Twitter. 

‘People at risk of death in the depths of a pandemic. 

‘A lesson that nationalism has consequences.’

He added: ‘Please take care everyone. This is real and this has just got more serious.’  

Nottinghamshire Police has confirmed some of its officers working at vaccine centres received jabs but added there were no plans to roll it out across the force.

The leader of a borough council in the county, John Clarke, told Nottinghamshire Live he was ‘appalled’ people were failing to attend appointments.

‘There is a lot that has gone into this and it disturbs me that people are not taking full advantage of it,’ he said.

‘The NHS needs to tighten up the wastage because we are all so desperate for this injection.’

Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping said no one was pushing officers to the front of the queue. 

‘But if it is available we don’t want to destroy it and it is best we use it in a positive and constructive way. Police are delighted to have been asked.’

He added there were ‘two problems’ with the vaccine roll out in the county.

‘You can get more out of a vial than is allowed – so you can get an extra dose out and that should not be wasted,’ he said. ‘Getting people through the door has also proved problematic. Some people don’t turn up to appointments.’

Boris Johnson (pictured today) will unveil a new Army-led plan to distribute Britain's coronavirus jabs this evening

Boris Johnson (pictured today) will unveil a new Army-led plan to distribute Britain’s coronavirus jabs this evening

Last week Defence Secretary Ben Wallace hinted that the military had plans ‘for up to 250 teams of mobile, medically trained personnel who could go out and administer the vaccine around the country’. He said those staff were capable of delivering ‘over 100,000 a day if that is requested by the NHS’.

It follows mounting concern over the slow start to Britain’s vaccination drive, with only 530,000 Oxford jabs cleared for use this week. This was a tiny fraction of the 30million doses the UK was initially promised would be ready in time for the vaccine to be approved.

Testing of the initial doses of vaccines has taken 20 days – with only one batch tested until that number was doubled yesterday.

Officials have now moved to tackle the problem, cutting the time taken to approve each batch to four days, with regulators now able to test more than one at once.

But a rapid acceleration is needed if Britain is to vaccinate the vast numbers required to ease Covid restrictions.

Eight months ago, when the nation was still in the grip of the first wave, Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted sufficient doses would be ready.

He announced that the Government had struck a deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture 100million doses of the Oxford vaccine, of which 30million would be ready by September.

By the end of November the results were delivered – the vaccine worked. And AstraZeneca insisted it could deliver enough vaccine to fill 20million injections by the end of 2020.

While slightly down from the 30million Mr Sharma had promised, it would still be a strong start, although the firm admitted only 4million of those would be in vials and ready to go.

Two Britons arrive at the Covid-19 vaccine centre in Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey, today. The roll out is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks

Two Britons arrive at the Covid-19 vaccine centre in Epsom Downs Racecourse, Surrey, today. The roll out is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer visited a vaccination centre at the Sir Ludwig Guttman Health and Wellbeing Centre in Stratford, east London, today to view the roll out

The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer visited a vaccination centre at the Sir Ludwig Guttman Health and Wellbeing Centre in Stratford, east London, today to view the roll out

Patients have been missing Covid-19 vaccination appointments in Nottingham. Pictured above is the vaccination centre in Carlton, in the county

Patients have been missing Covid-19 vaccination appointments in Nottingham. Pictured above is the vaccination centre in Carlton, in the county

 

Police officers getting leftover doses of Covid vaccines so they don’t go to waste 

Ten police officers in Nottingham have been given their first doses of coronavirus vaccines despite not being on the priority list because of people failing to attend their appointments. 

Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping said the vaccine programme had been ‘problematic’ with people missing their scheduled jabs.

Once defrosted from -78C (-104F) doses of the Pfizer jab must be used within two days, official guidance from the UK’s regulator says. 

The police officers were given the vaccine so the extra doses were not wasted.

Mr Tipping told Nottinghamshire Live: ‘There are two issues around the Pfizer vaccine – you can get more out of a vial than is allowed – so you can get an extra dose out and that should not be wasted.

‘Getting people through the door has also proved problematic. Some people don’t turn up to appointments.

‘A number of police officers for Nottinghamshire have been to the Queen’s Medical Centre and had an injection.

‘It is about five or 10. People are keen to use it if it is available. Nobody in Nottinghamshire is putting police officers to the front of the queue for the vaccine.

‘But if it is available we don’t want to destroy it and it is best we use it in a positive and constructive way. Police are delighted to have been asked.’ 

It took another month for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to confirm that the vaccine was safe and effective.

But when that authorisation was finally announced, just over a week ago, the four million doses had somehow shrunk to 530,000. With at least 25million people in the Government’s priority groups for vaccination, such a figure was paltry. 

AstraZeneca slightly over-promised – it manufactured enough to give Britain an initial 15million doses – down from the 20million it had previously said could be delivered. But it produced the four million vaccines in vials it had pledged. The main delay, rather, has allegedly been the MHRA batch testing programme. Quality control requirements mean every single batch has to be tested separately both by AstraZeneca and the MHRA.

Quality control is run at the MHRA’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control lab in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. The NIBSC receives samples from each batch of vaccines and does a number of tests.

One complex element is ensuring each vial contains the right dose. Scientists also need to make sure the jab does what it is meant to. AstraZeneca does one set of tests and the NIBSC, in parallel, performs its own tests. When the two are completed they ensure the results match and, if they align, a batch-test certificate is issued.

Until yesterday that had happened only once – on December 29 – when the initial batch of 530,000 doses was approved. If Britain is to vaccinate the 13million most vulnerable people in the top four tiers of its priority list by mid-February this process needs to accelerate rapidly.

Meanwhile, a third vaccine from US pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, which requires only one dose, is thought to be just weeks from approval. The UK has ordered 30million doses of the jab by Janssen – Johnson and Johnson’s Belgium-based pharmaceutical arm – with the option of 22million more.

Sir John Bell, regius professor at Oxford University and an adviser to the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, said the vaccine was ‘highly likely to work’.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is due to hold a press conference this afternoon to unveil a new distribution plans for the jabs devised by the Army.

Ministry of Defence chiefs have been instructed to come up with plans for even distribution of the jabs to boost chances of jabbing 13million by the middle of next month. The Sun reports that troops will not be involved at this stage.

Vaccination drive FINALLY starts accelerating: Approval time for doses is cut from twenty days to to five 

Approval of Covid vaccine batches is to be sped up drastically in a huge boost to the jab campaign.

Amid growing concern over the slow pace of the rollout, sources told the Mail that testing would be cut from up to 20 days to just four.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for the checks, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme.

It has just approved a second consignment of 500,000 doses of the Oxford jab – taking supplies beyond one million.

It comes as the jab, produced together with AstraZeneca, starts to be rolled out from GP surgeries today.

The expansion today comes amid hope that more than 700 sites will be delivering vaccines by the end of the week.

Seven mass vaccination centres will open next week in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.

The vaccine is crucial because it is much easier to distribute than the Pfizer version, which needs storage at minus 70C.

MPs have questioned why only half a million doses of Oxford’s jab were available in the first week – despite promises that 30million would be ready last September.

Coronavirus deaths yesterday surged past 1,000 for the first time since April, while cases soared to another record high of 62,322.

The Mail has highlighted a string of issues with the vaccine rollout, which is critical to reducing the toll of the pandemic and ultimately lifting coronavirus restrictions.

A Government source acknowledged yesterday that the initial rollout of the Oxford jab had gone ‘slowly’, but promised a big acceleration toward the end of this week.

The MHRA, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme.

It has just approved a second consignment of 500,000 doses of the Oxford jab – taking supplies beyond one million.

The expansion comes amid hope that more than 700 sites will be delivering vaccines by the end of the week.

Seven mass vaccination centres will open next week in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.

The vaccine is crucial because it is much easier to distribute than the Pfizer version, which needs storage at -70C (-104F).

MPs have questioned why only half a million doses of Oxford’s jab were available in the first week – despite promises that 30million would be ready last September.

Coronavirus deaths yesterday surged past 1,000 for the first time since April, while cases soared to another record high of 62,322.

The Mail has highlighted a string of issues with the vaccine rollout, which is critical to reducing the toll of the pandemic and ultimately lifting coronavirus restrictions.

A Government source acknowledged yesterday that the initial rollout of the Oxford jab had gone ‘slowly’, but promised a big acceleration toward the end of this week.

Meanwhile vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said Public Health England was ‘on a footing’ to administer doses every day of the week.

Further details will be revealed this evening when NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens appears at a Downing Street press briefing.

Doubts about the plan to inject 13million vulnerable people by the middle of February have been growing since Boris Johnson plunged the country into lockdown on Monday night.

Issues included the bureaucracy faced by volunteer vaccinators, supplies of jabs to care homes, the distribution network and the length of time it took for each batch to be approved.

Until now the MHRA’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control has checked batches one at a time at its site in Hertfordshire.

That time-consuming process has been blamed for slowing down the deployment. Only 530,000 of four million available doses of the Oxford jab had passed the assessments before last night.

Appointments for Covid-19 jabs are being AXED because GPs have not received supplies of the vaccine on time 

Elderly people are having desperately-needed Covid vaccination appointments cancelled because doctors have not received their stocks on time.

Patients around the country who had been booked in to get their first jab have since been contacted to be told they must wait longer.

Many GPs say they have still not got their first batch of the vaccine despite been promised them before Christmas. Some say they have had several cancelled deliveries.

Frontline NHS staff are also missing out on vaccinations. In one case, workers queued for hours outside a hospital only to have their appointments cancelled due to a scheduling blunder.

It has prompted fresh fears that Boris Johnson will be unable to keep his promise of getting 13 million of the most vulnerable Britons protected by the middle of next month. Last night Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We need to be delivering upwards of 2million vaccinations a week – this is a challenging but necessary target.

‘Last-minute changes to vaccine delivery schedules, as some GPs are reporting, only create confusion amongst patients and a lot of hard work for practices that need to swiftly adapt their plans, and must be minimised.’

Senior Labour MP Kevan Jones told how a group of doctors in his North Durham constituency were promised a delivery on December 16.

The GPs in Chester-le-Street were then told the supplies would not arrive until January 4 – and now expect them today ‘at the earliest’.

Even when the delivery does arrive, it will only include one 975-dose batch of the Pfizer vaccine and ‘a possibility’ of 400 doses of the AstraZeneca one. This is not sufficient for all local care home residents.

Mr Jones warned vaccines minister Mr Zahawi in a letter last night: ‘Local GPs have put in place extensive plans to administer the vaccine, but this is not being helped by vaccines that do not arrive, or by the Government’s raising of expectations that cannot be met.’

In Sussex, Meads Medical Centre had to cancel appointments booked for next week after a planned delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, due to provide second jabs to over-80s, was cancelled. Only a small amount of the AstraZeneca vaccine is now expected.

Castle Medical Centre and Abbey Medical Centre in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, had to cancel appointments for over-80s last week because not enough doses arrived. A similar story was told by a GP in south London, Dr Rosemary Leonard. She wrote on Twitter: ‘We are raring to go, but have no vaccines. WHY?’

Meanwhile in Scotland, NHS staff were left standing for hours in the cold outside Glasgow Royal Infirmary to get jabs because no staff were on duty to administer them.

Some left without being vaccinated amid the chaos on Tuesday. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has apologised.

Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘This is the largest vaccination programme in NHS history.

‘It is being accelerated every day and vaccinations will be taking place at over 1,000 sites by the end of this week.’

The process has been changed so that more than one batch can be assessed at a time, cutting the timescale from up to 20 days to as little as four or five.

An MHRA spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with the manufacturer, AstraZeneca, to ensure batches of the vaccine are released as quickly as possible.

‘Biological medicines such as vaccines are very complex in nature and independent testing, as done by the National Institute, is vital to ensure quality and safety.

‘The institute has scaled up its capacity to ensure that multiple batches can be tested simultaneously, and that this can be done as quickly as possible, without compromising quality and safety.’

Delivery of the Oxford jab to 775 GP surgeries, which will take place from today, is another crucial step.

It will allow a significant acceleration of vaccination within care homes, where only 10 per cent of residents have received the jab so far.

Until now only hospitals have received the Oxford vaccine. In the Commons yesterday, Tory MPs urged Mr Johnson to accelerate the rollout of the vaccine so lockdown restrictions could be lifted as soon as possible.

Huw Merriman, member for Bexhill and Battle, said: ‘Every vaccination jab in the arm should be viewed as a pupil who can return to the classroom.’

Mr Zahawi said Public Health England had agreed to distribute the vaccine seven days a week despite fears they would not work on Sundays.

He told talkRadio: ‘If they need to deliver on a Sunday, they will deliver on a Sunday. They’ve been delivering up until now six days a week as the NHS has requested the vaccines to go out.

‘They are on a footing to go seven days a week as we get more vaccines. The head of PHE has said they have always been on a seven-day footing as they are requested to be, and they will continue to do that.

‘That is absolutely the priority for them, and for the whole of the NHS.’

Meanwhile, elderly people are having desperately-needed Covid vaccination appointments cancelled because doctors have not received their stocks on time.

Patients around the country who had been booked in to get their first jab have since been contacted to be told they must wait longer.

Many GPs say they have still not got their first batch of the vaccine despite been promised them before Christmas. Some say they have had several cancelled deliveries.

Frontline NHS staff are also missing out on vaccinations. In one case, workers queued for hours outside a hospital only to have their appointments cancelled due to a scheduling blunder.

It has prompted fresh fears that Boris Johnson will be unable to keep his promise of getting 13 million of the most vulnerable Britons protected by the middle of next month. Last night Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We need to be delivering upwards of 2million vaccinations a week – this is a challenging but necessary target.

‘Last-minute changes to vaccine delivery schedules, as some GPs are reporting, only create confusion amongst patients and a lot of hard work for practices that need to swiftly adapt their plans, and must be minimised.’

Senior Labour MP Kevan Jones told how a group of doctors in his North Durham constituency were promised a delivery on December 16.

The GPs in Chester-le-Street were then told the supplies would not arrive until January 4 – and now expect them today ‘at the earliest’.

Even when the delivery does arrive, it will only include one 975-dose batch of the Pfizer vaccine and ‘a possibility’ of 400 doses of the AstraZeneca one. This is not sufficient for all local care home residents.

Mr Jones warned vaccines minister Mr Zahawi in a letter last night: ‘Local GPs have put in place extensive plans to administer the vaccine, but this is not being helped by vaccines that do not arrive, or by the Government’s raising of expectations that cannot be met.’

In Sussex, Meads Medical Centre had to cancel appointments booked for next week after a planned delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, due to provide second jabs to over-80s, was cancelled. Only a small amount of the AstraZeneca vaccine is now expected.

Castle Medical Centre and Abbey Medical Centre in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, had to cancel appointments for over-80s last week because not enough doses arrived. A similar story was told by a GP in south London, Dr Rosemary Leonard. She wrote on Twitter: ‘We are raring to go, but have no vaccines. WHY?’

John Elphinstone receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, administered by practice nurse Marianne Stewart, at Pentlands Medical Centre in Edinburgh

John Elphinstone receives the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, administered by practice nurse Marianne Stewart, at Pentlands Medical Centre in Edinburgh

Meanwhile in Scotland, NHS staff were left standing for hours in the cold outside Glasgow Royal Infirmary to get jabs because no staff were on duty to administer them.

Some left without being vaccinated amid the chaos on Tuesday. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has apologised.

Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘This is the largest vaccination programme in NHS history.

‘It is being accelerated every day and vaccinations will be taking place at over 1,000 sites by the end of this week.’

Meanwhile, NHS England figures today showed that 1,092,885 people were vaccinated against Covid-19 between December 8 and January 3.

654,810 of them were over the age of 80 – the highest priority group – meaning that around one in five of all people in that age bracket have now been immunised. There are an estimated 3.4m over-80s in England.

A further 438,075 people under the age of 80 received a vaccine during the first 3.5 weeks of the programme. Most or even all of them will have been health and care workers, who are also high up the priority list.

The NHS said 308,541 were people were vaccinated in the week ending January 3, which was up 27 per cent from 243,039 the week before, up to December 27.

None of the statistics so far include people vaccinated with the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine, which came into use this Monday, January 4.

The Government is aiming to immunise 13.9million of the country’s most vulnerable people by mid-February so it can start to lift national lockdown rules.

To hit this ambitious target it will have to accelerate its vaccine programme at breakneck speed to hit an average 2million per week, including this week.

Part of helping this process is a controversial plan to only offer people the first dose to begin with, postponing the second for up to three months later. NHS data, however, shows that 19,981 people have already received a full two doses.

During the first phase of vaccinations, jabs were given out at 107 hospital hubs and 595 local vaccination sites. The Government said this will be increased to more than 1,000 vaccination stations by the end of this week, with 730 already operational.

Think Britain has vaccine problems? You should see the mess we’ve made of it here in the EU, writes ALEXANDER VON SCHOENBURG, editor-at-large of Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper Bild

Britons may understandably be feeling more than a little frustrated with their leaders right now during this new and more vicious phase of the pandemic.

Covid infections are soaring in the UK, there are more patients hospitalised than at the peak of the first wave and, tragically, daily deaths yesterday topped the 1,000 mark.

Then there is fury over your school closures, a developing row over who should get the vaccine — young or old — and problems with supply and distribution.

Yes, you may feel things look grim, but let me tell you that many of us here in Europe are looking across the Channel with envy.

The sclerotic and sluggish EU machine has, unforgivably, botched the roll-out of the vaccines, and the consequences are likely to prove fatal to many thousands of our citizens.

The pandemic is almost a year old and EU leaders could have and should have seen the need for a swift, effective vaccine policy a mile off. 

Instead, delays, in-fighting, national self-interest and sheer bungling bureaucracy have combined to cripple the EU’s vaccine efforts.

Now a growing fury is spreading as we watch independent countries — particularly Britain, Israel and America — ramping up their vaccine distribution with tremendous efficiency in comparison to our efforts, saving lives, protecting the vulnerable and moving towards ending this terrible crisis.

Numerous EU countries are facing delays and criticism over their handling of the vaccine rollout, with the bloc lagging behind Britain and America in protecting its 450million people against Covid-19

Numerous EU countries are facing delays and criticism over their handling of the vaccine rollout, with the bloc lagging behind Britain and America in protecting its 450million people against Covid-19

Europe's top vaccinators: These countries have given out more than 10,000 doses so far, according to figures from Our World In Data - but others including France are lagging behind, with governments hoping that the Wednesday approval of the Moderna vaccine will speed things up as officials blame shortages in the Pfizer/BioNTech supply for the delays so far

Europe’s top vaccinators: These countries have given out more than 10,000 doses so far, according to figures from Our World In Data – but others including France are lagging behind, with governments hoping that the Wednesday approval of the Moderna vaccine will speed things up as officials blame shortages in the Pfizer/BioNTech supply for the delays so far 

Don’t believe me? Let me take you through the numbers.

More than 1.3 million people in Britain have now received either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the more recently approved Oxford/AstraZeneca version.

Vaccine doses given out by EU countries 

Germany – 316,962

Italy – 182,442

Spain – 139,339

Poland – 92,220

Denmark – 51,512

Romania – 41,609

Portugal – 32,000

Greece – 16,233

Hungary – 15,000

Croatia – 13,798

Czech Republic – 13,000

Slovakia – 7,201

Austria – 6,000

Slovenia – 5,934

Finland – 5,445

France – 5,000

Bulgaria – 4,739

Ireland – 4,000

Estonia – 3,188

Latvia – 2,923

Lithuania – 2,270

Malta – 1,400

Luxembourg – 1,200

Belgium – 700

Started today: Netherlands

No data: Cyprus, Sweden 

Source: Our World In Data 

As of yesterday, France, your closest neighbour, had vaccinated just 7,000 people. During the first week of its vaccination programme, France immunised a pitiful 516 individuals: Britain managed 130,000 in the first seven days and started doing so weeks earlier.

From his bunker in the Elysee Palace, the beleaguered President Macron admits that this paltry figure is ‘not worthy of the French people,’ adding, with Gallic understatement, ‘things aren’t going well’. You can say that again.

But France’s record is in fact just one of a shameful litany across the continent. In Holland, the first Covid-19 vaccines were administered only yesterday — almost a full month after Margaret Keenan, now 91, became the first British patient to receive the jab on the NHS.

In the Polish capital Warsaw, one hospital has attracted widespread criticism for reportedly opting to give the vaccine to celebrities and politicians before vulnerable older citizens, sparking a government investigation there.

My home country of Germany had, by Tuesday, vaccinated some 317,000 people — by far the most of the EU27.

Yet what a bitter irony it is that we who were crucial to the development and manufacturing of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab — BioNTech is a start-up based outside Frankfurt — must now watch lorry loads of supplies travelling to Britain while our own roll-out is beset by delay, uncertainty and fears about future supply.

Our health minister has warned that Germany will not be vaccinating at Britain’s rate until at least the summer, thanks to distribution problems and the EU’s ill-considered ‘cap’ on the number of doses that can be distributed to the various member states.

So why, despite frequent warnings throughout last year from both the private sector and individual health ministries, and despite the limitless resources at its disposal, have things gone so horribly wrong for the EU?

The seeds were sown as far back as March when the pandemic began to engulf the continent.

I was in northern Italy at the time, reporting for my paper Bild on what was the first region in Europe to be hit hard by coronavirus. I saw for myself the military lorries in Bergamo transporting coffins to mass graves, and I will not soon forget it.

Alarmed at the horror that was unfolding, Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn ordered German manufacturers of PPE and other clinical equipment to stop selling abroad.

Understandably, Italy was shocked by the export ban and a chorus of EU commentators demanded ‘solidarity’.

Scarred by that experience, and ever desperate to portray herself as a pan-European, Chancellor Angela Merkel — who never wastes an opportunity to surrender her own country’s interests to those of the EU — handed over Germany’s vaccination policy to the European Commission.

It’s now all too clear that many Germans will die needlessly because of that decision and the desperately slow roll-out that has followed. 

The Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, is known for her bossy, power-grabbing tendencies.

These may have served her well in the closing weeks of the Brexit negotiations last month, but they have helped to plunge Europe into its vaccination crisis.

Over the summer, under Mrs von der Leyen and the Commission’s health chief, the Cypriot Stella Kyriakides, the EU made a series of devastating strategic errors. It ordered 300 million doses of a vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline-Sanofi, a drug that then stumbled in trials.

It spent the summer haggling over the price for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, ordering sizeable shipments only in November.

Britain, meanwhile, ordered 40 million doses of the same vaccine in July; America put in for 600 million.

Disgracefully, the EU has still not approved the ‘game-changing’ Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine — which is both cheap and can be stored in a standard refrigerator — that Britain began rolling out this week after securing 100 million doses.

(I should acknowledge that yesterday the EU did approve another vaccine, manufactured by Moderna, on which Britain has yet to sign off.)

Though the EU has now signed contracts to buy six different vaccines, its regulators have approved just two.

This terrible stasis will prove fatal — in every sense — for the EU’s population: time is running out for its healthcare systems as new and more infectious variants of the virus take hold.

Amid this chaos, it’s perhaps no surprise that some European lawmakers are desperately trying to shift the blame. 

Disgracefully, Belgium’s deputy prime minister, Petra De Sutter, accused other countries of using sub-standard vaccines.

‘The UK and Israel, as well as Russia and China, are vaccinating people with vaccines that are not of the same standard as the ones we use,’ she said this week.

Yes, the U.S. and the UK gained a head start by invoking emergency powers that mean drug manufacturers are less exposed should problems with a vaccine later surface.

But that is the kind of rapid, vital and timely decision a sovereign country can make in a crisis.

It is impossible to make the same decision when you have 27 countries arguing with one another, all overseen by a remote and unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels.

So what conclusions can we draw? First, nation states are far more effective in a crisis than unwieldy groupings of different countries.

But the most bitter irony for Europe is that the one foreign politician our liberal commentariat have most mocked for years — Boris Johnson — is also the one who acted swiftly and decisively when it came to securing the vaccines. The number of doses you have speaks for itself.

And it was the ‘sensible’ federalist Europeans who have failed so miserably.

Anyone who still doubts the wisdom of Brexit needs only to look at the vaccine chaos unfolding across the Channel — and think again.

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Vaccine approval is finally cut from TWENTY days to five

Approval of Covid vaccine batches is to be sped up drastically in a huge boost to the jab campaign.

Amid growing concern over the slow pace of the rollout, sources told the Mail that testing would be cut from up to 20 days to just four.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for the checks, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme.

It has just approved a second consignment of 500,000 doses of the Oxford jab – taking supplies beyond one million.

The vaccine is crucial because it is much easier to distribute than the Pfizer version, which needs storage at minus 70C.

MPs have questioned why only half a million doses of Oxford’s jab were available in the first week – despite promises that 30million would be ready last September.

Coronavirus deaths yesterday surged past 1,000 for the first time since April, while cases soared to another record high of 62,322.

The Mail has highlighted a string of issues with the vaccine rollout, which is critical to reducing the toll of the pandemic and ultimately lifting coronavirus restrictions.

A Government source acknowledged yesterday that the initial rollout of the Oxford jab had gone ‘slowly’, but promised a big acceleration toward the end of this week.

Meanwhile vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said Public Health England was ‘on a footing’ to administer doses every day of the week.

Further details will be revealed this evening when NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens appears at a Downing Street press briefing.

The plan is expected to include:

  • Hundreds of GP practices receiving their first Oxford vaccines today, which will speed up the rollout to care homes; 
  • Seven huge vaccination centres opening next week in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Hertfordshire; 
  • Community pharmacies joining the vaccination scheme within days, despite fears they would be excluded; 
  • Superdrug being used as part of the NHS vaccination effort; 
  • Drive-through vaccinations in the car parks of Morrisons stores from Monday; 
  • 1,000 vaccination centres – including hospitals and GP centres – being in operation by the end of the week; 
  • Doctors being told to prioritise jabs over other treatments, according to a report last night.

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for the checks, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme

The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency, which is responsible for the checks, is also to increase staffing in a bid to accelerate the mass vaccination programme

Doubts about the plan to inject 13million vulnerable people by the middle of February have been growing since Boris Johnson plunged the country into lockdown on Monday night

Doubts about the plan to inject 13million vulnerable people by the middle of February have been growing since Boris Johnson plunged the country into lockdown on Monday night

A nurse administers the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to a patient at Pontcae Medical Practice on January 4 in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was administered at a handful of hospitals before being rolled out to hundreds of GP-led sites across the country

A nurse administers the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to a patient at Pontcae Medical Practice on January 4 in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was administered at a handful of hospitals before being rolled out to hundreds of GP-led sites across the country

Jabs axed as GPs are hit by hold-ups to supplies

Elderly people are having desperately needed Covid vaccination appointments cancelled because doctors have not received their stocks on time. Patients around the country who had been booked in to get their first jab have since been contacted to be told they must wait longer.

Many GPs say they have still not got their first batch of the vaccine despite having been promised them before Christmas. Some say they have had several cancelled deliveries. Frontline NHS staff are also missing out on vaccinations. In one case, workers queued for hours outside a hospital only to have their appointments cancelled due to a scheduling blunder.

It has prompted fresh fears that Boris Johnson will be unable to keep his promise of getting 13million of the most vulnerable Britons protected by the middle of next month. Last night Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We need to be delivering upwards of two million vaccinations a week – this is a challenging but necessary target. ‘Last-minute changes to vaccine delivery schedules, as some GPs are reporting, only create confusion amongst patients and a lot of hard work for practices that need to swiftly adapt their plans, and must be minimised.’

Doubts about the plan to inject 13million vulnerable people by the middle of February have been growing since Boris Johnson plunged the country into lockdown on Monday night.

Issues included the bureaucracy faced by volunteer vaccinators, supplies of jabs to care homes, the distribution network and the length of time it took for each batch to be approved.

Until now the MHRA’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control has checked batches one at a time at its site in Hertfordshire.

That time-consuming process has been blamed for slowing down the deployment. Only 530,000 of four million available doses of the Oxford jab had passed the assessments before last night.

The process has been changed so that more than one batch can be assessed at a time, cutting the timescale from up to 20 days to as little as four or five.

An MHRA spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with the manufacturer, AstraZeneca, to ensure batches of the vaccine are released as quickly as possible.

‘Biological medicines such as vaccines are very complex in nature and independent testing, as done by the National Institute, is vital to ensure quality and safety.

‘The institute has scaled up its capacity to ensure that multiple batches can be tested simultaneously, and that this can be done as quickly as possible, without compromising quality and safety.’

Delivery of the Oxford jab to 775 GP surgeries, which will take place from today, is another crucial step.

It will allow a significant acceleration of vaccination within care homes, where only 10 per cent of residents have received the jab so far.

The 25 per cent of deaths caused by Covid-19 (shown graph right) is the highest proportion so far during the second wave, and it means that the total number of people to have died in that week is significantly higher than at the same time in previous years (graph left)

The 25 per cent of deaths caused by Covid-19 (shown graph right) is the highest proportion so far during the second wave, and it means that the total number of people to have died in that week is significantly higher than at the same time in previous years (graph left)

NHS statistics show that it is rare for people under the age of 40 to die of Covid-19, with 100 of the 17,572 fatalities in November and December in that age group

NHS statistics show that it is rare for people under the age of 40 to die of Covid-19, with 100 of the 17,572 fatalities in November and December in that age group

Until now only hospitals have received the Oxford vaccine.

In the Commons yesterday, Tory MPs urged Mr Johnson to accelerate the rollout of the vaccine so lockdown restrictions could be lifted as soon as possible.

Huw Merriman, member for Bexhill and Battle, said: ‘Every vaccination jab in the arm should be viewed as a pupil who can return to the classroom.’

Mr Zahawi said Public Health England had agreed to distribute the vaccine seven days a week despite fears they would not work on Sundays.

He told talkRadio: ‘If they need to deliver on a Sunday, they will deliver on a Sunday. They’ve been delivering up until now six days a week as the NHS has requested the vaccines to go out.

‘They are on a footing to go seven days a week as we get more vaccines. The head of PHE has said they have always been on a seven-day footing as they are requested to be, and they will continue to do that.

‘That is absolutely the priority for them, and for the whole of the NHS.’    

Appointments for Covid-19 jabs are being AXED because GPs have not received supplies of the vaccine on time

Elderly people are having desperately-needed Covid vaccination appointments cancelled because doctors have not received their stocks on time.

Patients around the country who had been booked in to get their first jab have since been contacted to be told they must wait longer.

Many GPs say they have still not got their first batch of the vaccine despite been promised them before Christmas. Some say they have had several cancelled deliveries.

Frontline NHS staff are also missing out on vaccinations. In one case, workers queued for hours outside a hospital only to have their appointments cancelled due to a scheduling blunder.

Patients around the country who had been booked in to get their first jab have since been contacted to be told they must wait longer

Patients around the country who had been booked in to get their first jab have since been contacted to be told they must wait longer

Many GPs say they have still not got their first batch of the vaccine despite been promised them before Christmas

Many GPs say they have still not got their first batch of the vaccine despite been promised them before Christmas

It has prompted fresh fears that Boris Johnson will be unable to keep his promise of getting 13 million of the most vulnerable Britons protected by the middle of next month. Last night Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘We need to be delivering upwards of 2million vaccinations a week – this is a challenging but necessary target.

‘Last-minute changes to vaccine delivery schedules, as some GPs are reporting, only create confusion amongst patients and a lot of hard work for practices that need to swiftly adapt their plans, and must be minimised.’

Pharmacies pledge

Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has insisted pharmacists will help give jabs, following criticism that they were being ignored.

Pharmacy staff across the country administer flu jabs every winter, so should have the skills to deliver Covid injections.

The president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Sandra Gidley, yesterday told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There are more than 11,000 pharmacies. You have got an army of trained vaccinators ready, willing and able.’

Mr Zahawi said there would be a ‘massive acceleration’ in jabs and ‘we will make sure community pharmacies and the independent sector are involved’.

Senior Labour MP Kevan Jones told how a group of doctors in his North Durham constituency were promised a delivery on December 16.

The GPs in Chester-le-Street were then told the supplies would not arrive until January 4 – and now expect them today ‘at the earliest’.

Even when the delivery does arrive, it will only include one 975-dose batch of the Pfizer vaccine and ‘a possibility’ of 400 doses of the AstraZeneca one. This is not sufficient for all local care home residents.

Mr Jones warned vaccines minister Mr Zahawi in a letter last night: ‘Local GPs have put in place extensive plans to administer the vaccine, but this is not being helped by vaccines that do not arrive, or by the Government’s raising of expectations that cannot be met.’

In Sussex, Meads Medical Centre had to cancel appointments booked for next week after a planned delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, due to provide second jabs to over-80s, was cancelled. Only a small amount of the AstraZeneca vaccine is now expected.

Castle Medical Centre and Abbey Medical Centre in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, had to cancel appointments for over-80s last week because not enough doses arrived. A similar story was told by a GP in south London, Dr Rosemary Leonard. She wrote on Twitter: ‘We are raring to go, but have no vaccines. WHY?’

Meanwhile in Scotland, NHS staff were left standing for hours in the cold outside Glasgow Royal Infirmary to get jabs because no staff were on duty to administer them.

Some left without being vaccinated amid the chaos on Tuesday. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has apologised.

Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘This is the largest vaccination programme in NHS history.

‘It is being accelerated every day and vaccinations will be taking place at over 1,000 sites by the end of this week.’

Routine appointments must go on hold in the battle to vaccinate against coronavirus, doctors are told

by Ben Spencer and Victoria Allen for the Daily Mail

GPs are being urged to ‘stand down’ routine appointments so they can prioritise Covid vaccinations, it was claimed last night.

Guidance sent to doctors says the jabs should be their top priority – with other ‘non-essential’ activities postponed, potentially for weeks.

NHS England has already advised surgeries to focus on the delivery of the vaccine by prioritising jab appointments over anything else.

The British Medical Association, the trade body for doctors, is also telling GPs to ‘re-prioritise and postpone other activities’ in the coming weeks, The Daily Telegraph reported last night. Its guidance suggests health workers should ‘stand down non-essential work’ – unless urgent – to accelerate the pace of the rollout.

Guidance sent to doctors says the jabs should be their top priority ¿ with other ¿non-essential¿ activities postponed, potentially for weeks. Pictured, a patient is given the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at Pontcae Medical Practice on January 4

Guidance sent to doctors says the jabs should be their top priority – with other ‘non-essential’ activities postponed, potentially for weeks. Pictured, a patient is given the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine at Pontcae Medical Practice on January 4

It follows mounting concern over the sluggish start to Britain’s vaccination drive, with only 530,000 Oxford jabs cleared for use this week. This was a tiny fraction of the 30million doses the UK was promised would be ready in time for the vaccine to be approved.

Use pubs, polling stations and offices, urges Blair 

Tony Blair urged Boris Johnson to open up thousands of polling stations and empty offices as coronavirus vaccination centres.

The former prime minister (pictured below) said there was a need to dramatically accelerate the vaccine programme to ‘save our economy’.

He called for a shake-up at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and for the Government to step in to assist the production of glass vials which are needed for the vaccines.

The former prime minister said there was a need to dramatically accelerate the vaccine programme

The former prime minister said there was a need to dramatically accelerate the vaccine programme

Mr Blair demanded much greater transparency on who was due to get jabbed when – to maintain public confidence. And he called for more pharmacists and GP surgeries to deliver jabs.

Mr Blair said his plan would see 5million a week being delivered by the end of March – meaning more than half of the population would have been vaccinated by then. ‘No one doubts the monumental scale of the Covid-19 challenge, nor the specific task of rolling out mass vaccinations,’ the former leader said in a foreword to a report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

‘The NHS has done an extraordinary job to get this many people vaccinated so far. But the reality is… we need to go on to an entirely new footing and accelerate this programme dramatically.

‘Public confidence would also be greatly boosted by being fully transparent about the plan to achieve this.’

Mr Blair said there were 50,000 polling stations which should be used, as well as empty offices and even pubs. He said surgeries should operate for longer hours and called for red tape to be cut to allow 5,500 pharmacists to provide the vaccine.

Testing of the initial doses has taken 20 days – with only one batch tested until that number was doubled yesterday. Officials have now moved to tackle the problem, cutting the time taken to approve each batch to four days, with regulators now able to test more than one at once.

But a rapid acceleration is needed if Britain is to vaccinate the vast numbers required to ease Covid restrictions.

Eight months ago, when the nation was still in the grip of the first wave, Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted sufficient doses would be ready.

He announced that the Government had struck a deal with AstraZeneca to manufacture 100million doses of the Oxford vaccine, of which 30million would be ready by September.

By the end of November the results were delivered – the vaccine worked. And AstraZeneca insisted it could deliver enough vaccine to fill 20million injections by the end of 2020.

While slightly down from the 30million Mr Sharma had promised, it would still be a strong start, although the firm admitted only 4million of those would be in vials and ready to go.

It took another month for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to confirm that the vaccine was safe and effective. 

But when that authorisation was finally announced, just over a week ago, the four million doses had somehow shrunk to 530,000. With at least 25million people in the Government’s priority groups for vaccination, such a figure was paltry. So why were so few vaccines available?

AstraZeneca slightly overpromised – it manufactured enough to give Britain an initial 15million doses – down from the 20million it had previously promised. But it produced the four million vaccines in vials it had pledged. The main delay, rather, has been the MHRA batch testing programme. Quality control requirements mean every single batch has to be tested separately both by AstraZeneca and the MHRA.

Quality control is run at the MHRA’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control lab in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. The NIBSC receives samples from each batch of vaccines and does a number of tests.

One of the most complex elements is ensuring that each vial contains the right dose. Scientists also need to make sure the jab does what it is meant to.AstraZeneca does one set of tests and the NIBSC, in parallel, performs its own tests.When the two are completed they ensure the results match and, if they align, a batch-test certificate is issued.

But when that authorisation was finally announced, just over a week ago, the four million doses had somehow shrunk to 530,000. With at least 25million people in the Government’s priority groups for vaccination, such a figure was paltry. So why were so few vaccines available?

AstraZeneca slightly overpromised – it manufactured enough to give Britain an initial 15million doses – down from the 20million it had previously promised. But it produced the four million vaccines in vials it had pledged. The main delay, rather, has been the MHRA batch testing programme. Quality control requirements mean every single batch has to be tested separately both by AstraZeneca and the MHRA.

Eight months ago, when the nation was still in the grip of the first wave, Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted sufficient doses would be ready. Pictured, a dose is administered to Pat Hier at the Poncae Medical Practice in Merthyr Tydfil

Eight months ago, when the nation was still in the grip of the first wave, Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted sufficient doses would be ready. Pictured, a dose is administered to Pat Hier at the Poncae Medical Practice in Merthyr Tydfil

Quality control is run at the MHRA’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control lab in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. The NIBSC receives samples from each batch of vaccines and does a number of tests.

One of the most complex elements is ensuring that each vial contains the right dose. Scientists also need to make sure the jab does what it is meant to.AstraZeneca does one set of tests and the NIBSC, in parallel, performs its own tests.When the two are completed they ensure the results match and, if they align, a batch-test certificate is issued.

Until yesterday that had happened only once – on December 29 – when the initial batch of 530,000 doses was approved. A second batch was certified yesterday, doubling the available doses. But if Britain is to vaccinate the 13million most vulnerable people in the top four tiers of its priority list by mid-February this process needs to accelerate rapidly.

Changes have been made so the NIBSC can start assessing several batches simultaneously.

Manpower at the lab – which in normal times is staffed by 300 scientists – has also been ramped up. Government officials believe that these changes will cut the time it takes to assess each batch from 20 days to four or five. If that is achieved, vaccines will start to flow. 

Show us the proof that just one dose does work, says BARRY JONES 

by Barry Jones, surgeon and covid vaccine volunteer, for the Daily Mail 

As a plastic surgeon who specialises in reconstructing the facial features of children affected by birth defects, I see daily the differences that hi-tech medicine can make to young lives.

But since volunteering to help with the Covid-19 vaccination programme, I’ve been reminded of how something as simple and as quick as a jab can also be of huge benefit.

At the centre set up at a London hospital where I gave up to 80 vaccinations in a day, I saw many elderly people who have not left their homes since last March.

For them, the jab offers some hope that this may change and they are so grateful to the dedicated staff and volunteers who work from 8am to 7pm with a break of only half an hour.

Barry Jones (pictured) is a consultant plastic surgeon and volunteered to help with the vaccination. Ever since the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at the beginning of December, we have been told that its 95 per cent efficacy rate depends on two doses being given, three weeks apart

Barry Jones (pictured) is a consultant plastic surgeon and volunteered to help with the vaccination. Ever since the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at the beginning of December, we have been told that its 95 per cent efficacy rate depends on two doses being given, three weeks apart

But I am concerned that their efforts may be undermined by the sudden about-turn in vaccination policy outlined by Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, earlier this week.

Ever since the UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at the beginning of December, we have been told that its 95 per cent efficacy rate depends on two doses being given, three weeks apart.

But now it has been decided that the priority will be to give as many people as possible a first dose, with the second dose not needed until as many as 12 weeks later.

In explaining the strategy, Professor Van-Tam has asserted that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 89 per cent effective in the period from 15 to 21 days after the first dose. This rises to 95 per cent after the second dose.

His argument, eloquently put as always, goes as follows: ‘If a family has two elderly grandparents and there are two vaccines available, isn’t it better to give both 89 per cent protection, rather than to give one 95 per cent protection with two quick doses and the other grandparent no protection at all?’

I understand the wish to vaccinate as many people as soon as possible and if these figures are correct, you would have no argument from me.

However, both Pfizer and BioNTech, the manufacturers, have stressed that the only trial to date of the new vaccine used a regime of two doses separated by 21 days. This clearly showed that maximum immunity (95 per cent) was not reached until seven days after the second dose.

There is no data for any other regime and the only figure for interim immunity quoted in Pfizer/BioNTech’s paper (published in the New England Journal of Medicine) was 52 per cent approximately 14 days after the first dose.

There is a big difference between 52 per cent and 89 per cent. Although a subsequent analysis of the figures from the US Food and Drug Administration does quote an efficacy of 88.9 per cent after the first dose, it also states: ‘This cannot support a conclusion on the efficacy of a single dose of the vaccine, because the time of observation is limited by the fact that most of the participants received a second dose after three weeks.

‘The trial did not have a single-dose arm to make an adequate comparison.’

With the greatest respect to everybody concerned, the 89 per cent figure is an assumption based on retrospective analysis of data – and yet it is repeated in the paper published by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on December 31, the very document on which the new change in policy has been based.

I am far from alone in questioning this. Indeed, the FDA itself has demanded that the vaccination protocol should not be changed without another clinical trial.

‘Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk,’ FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said last week.

And the European Medicines Agency has also demanded more clinical data before such a change is made.

As a clinician who has conducted many trials myself, I agree.

The only way we can be sure that the change proposed by Professor Van-Tam is the right move is to commission a new study comparing the efficacy of a second dose given at 21 days to that delivered at 12 weeks.

Until more is known, there is the possibility that the proposed variance from the stated dose will provide inadequate immunity to many patients and frontline workers and, worse, may potentially waste the first dose completely.

In addition, patients who have already had a first dose gave their consent specifically for a two-dose regime separated by 21 days.

It was emphasised to them how important it was that they returned for the second dose. Now it is proposed that the second appointment be cancelled.

Informed consent is a cornerstone of medical practice and it would not usually be considered ethical or lawful to vary from it without very good reason.

Yes, it is important that we roll out the vaccine programme as quickly as possible, but over the last nine months, we have been told time and time again that we should follow the science.

And the science in relation to this vaccine says two doses separated by 21 days.

It may be that Professor Van-Tam and his colleagues have access to data that the rest of us do not. If so, they should publish it.

Until then, I remain concerned that we are in danger of doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons. 

  • Barry Jones is an Honorary Consultant Craniofacial Surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital
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The jet engine inventor’s idea to help the RAF was ignored by minsters

A proposal by the future inventor of the jet engine for an interceptor fighter plane was ignored by the British government two years before the Blitz, a newly discovered memo has revealed.

Sir Frank Whittle described how his design for powering aircraft would allow the RAF to combat Luftwaffe bombers if they attempted to take over Britain’s skies.

In a 1938 letter to the Air Ministry, Whittle even estimated the speeds that an aircraft powered by his engine would achieve at sea level as well as 10,000ft and 20,000ft.

‘The primary function of the interceptor fighter is to carry a pilot and his machine guns to within the vicinity of a raiding bomber for a sufficient length of time to enable him to achieve its destruction, preferably before it has reached its target,’ he said at the time.

A proposal by Sir Frank Whittle (bottom right), the future inventor of the jet engine for an interceptor fighter plane, was ignored by the British government two years before the Blitz

He believed the new fighter would have ‘so substantial an advance in performance’, that it would double the chances of a successful interception of an enemy aircraft.

But there is no record of the Air Ministry ever replying, and Britain’s ‘faffing about’ meant a six-year wait until the project, which could have saved hundreds of lives in the Blitz, being fully realised.

Now a new book detailing Whittle’s extraordinary life also looks into the missed opportunity by officials to turn a groundbreaking invention into a decisive weapon in the Second World War. 

‘It’s quite a startling piece,’ Duncan Campbell-Smith, author of Jet Man, told The Times of the memo discovered in Whittle’s archive at Churchill College, Cambridge.

‘[Whittle] definitely sent it but I don’t think he ever received a reply. It encapsulates the whole story. The Brits faff about. They don’t get into it until too late in the war. The more I read, the more I realised how very badly he had been treated.’

Whittle described how his design for a new type of aircraft would allow the RAF to combat Luftwaffe bombers if they attempted to take over Britain's skies

Whittle described how his design for a new type of aircraft would allow the RAF to combat Luftwaffe bombers if they attempted to take over Britain’s skies

Though once rejected from the RAF on physical grounds, Whittle later made a successful application to the force and joined as an apprentice at RAF Cranwell in 1923. 

Academically gifted, he was recommended for a cadetship and began RAF College at Cranwell, where students would write a scientific thesis every six months.

While studying, Whittle suggested the idea of a jet engine, which sucked in air, compressed and ignited it, then blasted it out of the back, propelling the plane forward.

He believed that the idea was the future of aviation and would propel planes, capable of flying at around 200mph at the time, at speeds of up to 500mph. 

Even his lecturers found it difficult to comprehend, with one writing: ‘I couldn’t quite following everything you have written Whittle. But I can’t find anything wrong with it.’

The Blitz began on September 7, 1940, and was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen

The Blitz began on September 7, 1940, and was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen

But Whittle struggled to attract any interest in the inter-war period of the late 1920s, and so made his designs public by registering a patent in 1930.

Yet the RAF refused to put it on the secrets list so when the patent was granted in October 1932, engineers from the Third Reich were free to analyse the plans. 

Famous German engineer Hans von Ohain would later tell him: ‘If your government had backed you sooner the Battle of Britain would never have happened.’

But the Ministry of Aircraft Production was sceptical and regarded it as a distraction from the urgent need to put enough fighters into the air to drive back the Nazis.

They did however give the project to the Rover car company, Campbell-Smith said, because some ‘very high-up people’, including Winston Churchill, had seen it and couldn’t ignore the idea completely.

But Rover never produced a engine that made it into the air. 

Finally, Wilfrid Freeman, vice-chief of staff for the RAF, intervened and arranged for Rolls-Royce to take on the project. By early 1944 its engine was in the air, powering a Gloster Meteor which would reach speeds of 600mph.

Those present at a test flight were astonished to see a plane without a propeller take to the skies, and Sir Winston Churchill was said to have been so impressed that he said: ‘I want 1,000 Whittles’. 

Eventually it was the Americans who would seize on the opportunities provided by the jet engine, and he would be forced by the British Government to hand over the technology.

Whittle’s son Ian, 86, recalled that his father threw everything into his work when war came.

‘When the war started he got very serious. He would disappear in his uniform in the morning and get back after I went to bed. He got so used to the British government sticking the knife into him. By 1948 his health was so destroyed that he resigned from the RAF.’ 

Whittle retired with the rank of Air Commodore on the grounds of ill health in 1948 and was finally recognised for his achievements.

He was knighted and awarded £100,000 (equivalent to £3.3million today) by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors and later married American Hazel Hall and emigrated to the US, where he died in 1996. 

How the Blitz was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen – claiming more than 40,000 lives

A boy retrieves an item from a rubble-strewn street after German bombing raids in the first month of the Blitz, September 1940

A boy retrieves an item from a rubble-strewn street of East London after German bombing raids in the first month of the Blitz, September 1940

The Blitz began on September 7, 1940, and was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen.

Named after the German word ‘Blitzkrieg’, meaning lightning war, the Blitz claimed the lives of more than 40,000 civilians.

Between September 7, 1940, and May 21, 1941, there were major raids across the UK with more than 20,000 tonnes of explosives dropped on 16 British cities.

London was attacked 71 times and bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights.

The City and the East End bore the brunt of the bombing in the capital with the course of the Thames being used to guide German bombers. Londoners came to expect heavy raids during full-moon periods and these became known as ‘bombers’moons’.

More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and of those who were killed in the bombing campaign, more than half of them were from London.

In addition to London’s streets, several other UK cities – targeted as hubs of the island’s industrial and military capabilities – were battered by Luftwaffe bombs including Glasgow, Liverpool, Plymouth, Cardiff, Belfast and Southampton and many more.

Deeply-buried shelters provided the most protection against a direct hit, although in 1939 the government refused to allow tube stations to be used as shelters so as not to interfere with commuter travel.

However, by the second week of heavy bombing in the Blitz the government relented and ordered the stations to be opened. Each day orderly lines of people queued until 4pm, when they were allowed to enter the stations.

Despite the blanket bombing of the capital, some landmarks remained intact – such as St Paul’s Cathedral, which was virtually unharmed, despite many buildings around it being reduced to rubble.

Hitler intended to demoralise Britain before launching an invasion using his naval and ground forces. The Blitz came to an end towards the end of May 1941, when Hitler set his sights on invading the Soviet Union.

Other UK cities which suffered during the Blitz included Coventry, where saw its medieval cathedral destroyed and a third of its houses made uninhabitable, while Liverpool and Merseyside was the most bombed area outside London. 

There was also major bombing in Birmingham, where 53 people were killed in an arms works factory, and Bristol, where the Germans dropped 1,540 tons of high explosives and 12,500 incendiaries in one night – killing 207 people. 

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Tories slam Sadiq Khan’s £1.5million New Year’s Eve light show

London Assembly members have blasted Sadiq Khan’s £1.5million BBC-backed ‘woke’ pro-EU, NHS and BLM firework and drone display over the Thames.

Viewers were quick to criticise the taxpayer-funded New Year’s Eve event, claiming it was ‘ruined by politics’ after Thames bridges were turned blue and yellow in a tribute to the EU as the UK finally left the bloc.

The display – which the London Mayor cooked up in secret with Scotland Yard to avoid crowds gathering in Greenwich – also saw 300 drones make the shape of a BLM fist and a turtle with Africa on its shell during a climate change lecture by Sir David Attenborough.

Politicians have now piled in on the show – with Conservative London Assembly member Tony Devenish slamming it as a ‘disgusting waste of money’.

MailOnline today revealed that City Hall had a £1.5million budget with Mr Khan having the ‘final sign off on the content of the display’. 

Mr Devenish wrote: ‘Disgusting waste of money Sadiq Khan. More of a sick joke by the week.’ 

Former UKIP leader Henry Bolton added: ‘Stop politicising New Year’s Eve Mr Khan. It’s for everyone.’  

Brexit Alliance Assembly member Peter Whittle said: ‘So, an organisation that wants to defund the police, dismantle the family, sweep away capitalism and deconstruct British history gets celebrated in the middle of what should be a harmless New Year ritual.

‘Predictably disgraceful from this Mayor.’

His criticism was echoed by fellow Assembly member and independent mayoral candidate David Kurten, who wrote: ‘It is deplorable that London’s New Year fireworks display contains a Marxist/BLM fist. If you want to celebrate British culture and not destructive ideologies, vote me for London Mayor on May 6.’ 

And Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Daily Mail: ‘A Left-wing politician uses his position and taxpayers’ money to make blatantly political statements – I hope the taxpayers of London remember that the next time they’re asked to vote for a mayor.’

 On the other end of the spectrum, former-Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods heaped praise on the left-wing mayor, writing: ‘Impressed with London firework/light display. Congrats to Mayor Sadiq Khan and his team for getting such an appropriate tone and content of messages.’

Councillor and former-Labour MP  Emma Dent Coad wrote: ‘I was so utterly fed up with 2020 that I went to bed early. And missed this! So beautiful and full of hope. Thank you Sadiq Khan it was superb!’ 

Viewers have slammed Sadiq Khan and the BBC for ‘forcing politics’ into London’s controversial New Year’s Eve light show after 300 drones made the shape of a Black Lives Matter fist (pictured)  and shone in EU colours over London’s skies costing taxpayers’ up to £1.5m

Viewers slammed the display as 'ridiculous' after the drones made the shape of a BLM fist and a turtle with Africa on its shell (pictured) - alongside the NHS logo and a depiction Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky

Viewers slammed the display as ‘ridiculous’ after the drones made the shape of a BLM fist and a turtle with Africa on its shell (pictured) – alongside the NHS logo and a depiction Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky

Politicians have now piled in on the New Year's Eve show - with Conservative London Assembly member Tony Devenish slamming it as a 'disgusting waste of money'

Politicians have now piled in on the New Year’s Eve show – with Conservative London Assembly member Tony Devenish slamming it as a ‘disgusting waste of money’

On the other end of the spectrum, former-Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods heaped praise on the left-wing mayor, writing: 'Impressed with London firework/light display. Congrats to Mayor Sadiq Khan and his team for getting such an appropriate tone and content of messages'

On the other end of the spectrum, former-Labour MP Roberta Blackman-Woods heaped praise on the left-wing mayor, writing: ‘Impressed with London firework/light display. Congrats to Mayor Sadiq Khan and his team for getting such an appropriate tone and content of messages’

The 300 drones lit up the night's sky writing NHS with a green heart around it as fireworks erupted by The Millennium Dome in London

The 300 drones lit up the night’s sky writing NHS with a green heart around it as fireworks erupted by The Millennium Dome in London

During the display, a bird appeared in the sky - in reference to the building of the Nightingale hospitals - after a clip of a news broadcast states: 'Buildings were lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS'

During the display, a bird appeared in the sky – in reference to the building of the Nightingale hospitals – after a clip of a news broadcast states: ‘Buildings were lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS’

Many also pointed out that the EU-inspired opening lights (pictured) and the first shape which appeared above The Millennium Dome - a blue and yellow bird

Many also pointed out that the EU-inspired opening lights (pictured) and the first shape which appeared above The Millennium Dome – a blue and yellow bird 

London's light and firework show also featured a reference to online video calls which became a popular option for the swathes of Britons working from home in lockdown

London’s light and firework show also featured a reference to online video calls which became a popular option for the swathes of Britons working from home in lockdown

During the display at Greenwich, rockets were fired from a barge in the river and 300 drones flew above the O2 Arena in south-east London. 

10.8million locked-down Britons, forced to celebrate New Year at home and eager to bid farewell to a miserable 2020, tuned into BBC One to watch the display. 

The BBC helped with the planning of the broadcast, which the Mayor’s office said: ‘Looked ahead in hope to 2021, including sending a message to European Londoners that they will always have a home in our city’.

Mr Khan also defiantly tweeted critics this morning by sharing a MailOnline story and saying: ‘Anyone else think it was pretty good?’, leading to a mixed reaction of those enjoyed it and others who blasted him including one who replied: ‘No. You made a NYE celebration political. Disgraceful’. Another wag tweeted sarcastically: ‘Apart from the BLM & EU images, the commentary, the god awful singing and mostly dodgy musical taste…….I really liked it’. 

Last night’s controversial display was curated by Mr Khan with the help of the BBC, Titanium Fireworks, SKYMAGIC drone displays, Durham Marenghi Lighting, Signify audio and Jack Morton, a London media agency. The Mayor of London has also thanked the Met, The Port of London Authority, and the Civil Aviation Authority for their help in putting it on.

One critic tweeted Mr Khan directly and said: ‘This was a opportunity to unite, yet you continue to want to divide us all, disgraceful’. Another wrote: ‘Even making firework political now spoilt it for me’, and one angry BBC viewer said: ‘It was a disgrace. The whole thing. Propaganda to fireworks, lights and music. Wish we hadn’t watched it, like many others I know’. 

One irate viewer, who pointed to Mr Khan’s previous pro-EU displays, tweeted: ‘Had my London fireworks ruined by politics again. Turned off after four minutes.’ Another said: ‘The symbolism was incongruous and divisive. Disgraceful’.

A spokesman for the Mayor said: ‘It reflected some of the defining moments of what has been a very challenging year for our city and country, including the significant impact of Black Lives Matter, Captain Tom’s incredible fundraising efforts and our appreciation for the NHS’. 

A Greenwich resident shocked by the unannounced fireworks said it ‘sounded like the Blitz’ while another local tweeted: ‘I live a 3 minute walk along river from it. We weren’t even told it was happening. Hence our traumatised pets!’ 

Outraged Britons said the show was 'ruined by politics' after the drones made the shape of a BLM fist and beamed EU colours alongside the NHS logo and a depiction of Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky

Outraged Britons said the show was ‘ruined by politics’ after the drones made the shape of a BLM fist and beamed EU colours alongside the NHS logo and a depiction of Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky

Who was involved in the NYE display cooked up by Sadiq Khan and the BBC 

The Greater London Authority and the BBC worked with:

Jack Morton Worldwide marketing agency

On the Sly

Titanium Fireworks

Durham Marenghi Lighting

Signify 

SKYMAGIC 

The Metropolitan Police

City of London Police 

Westminster City Council 

The City of London Corporation 

Transport for London 

The Port of London Authority 

The Civil Aviation Authority

Another wrote: ‘The irony of David Attenborough voicing over that our planet is fragile and we need to look after all the inhabitants during the London fireworks. All whilst a shed load of explosive go bang, polluting that fragile environment and frightening the c**p out of most the inhabitants’. 

Labour’s Mayor of London Mr Khan was involved in curating the firework display, which began with a bang at midnight when a nightingale bird in European Union colours appeared over the O2 Arena just after Britain’s trade deal with Brussels kicked in. 

A raised fist – which became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement this year – first appeared as spoken-word artist George the Poet read an extract of his poem Coronavirus: The Power of Collaboration. 

The writer – who turned down an OBE last year due to the ‘pure evil’ of the British Empire – read: ‘The future holds unexposed danger, but no stress. Humankind is no stranger to progress. And as we have proven, when we collaborate, progress follows fast.’ The NHS logo and Captain Sir Tom Moore were also depicted in the show, which was produced with the help of the BBC. But the display also lacked a performance of Auld Lang Syne, with just a few notes from the Hogmanay classic being played before host Alicia Keys instead launched into her song New York from a concert streamed from Los Angeles. 

 

Another Twitter user said the show was ‘going well’, but said organisers ‘just had to force politics into it’ while someone else commented: ‘Well, the London celebrations were a little bit political weren’t they! Could’ve just set off fireworks and had a bit of music, but no.’

One viewer added: ‘Can’t believe the London firework display. BLM, all about change, new ways… never seen so much politicized bulls***.’ 

It is unclear exactly who curated the lightshow, which will have been signed off by officials at Sadiq Khan’s City Hall and paid for by London’s taxpayers.  

The display also featured an extract from a poem written by New Zealand-born Tomos Robertson – who goes by the name Tom Foolery – titled The Great Realisation.

As fireworks lit up the sky, a narrator read: ‘In 2020, a new virus came our way. We knew what must be done and so to help we hid away.

‘Old habits became extinct and they made way for the new. And every simple act of kindness was now given its due.’  

The drones also formed the words 'love together' in the sky over London on New Year's Eve. The show was broadcast on BBC One

The drones also formed the words ‘love together’ in the sky over London on New Year’s Eve. The show was broadcast on BBC One

London's New Year's Eve display also featured a depiction of Captain Sir Tom Moore in lights as fireworks erupted

London’s New Year’s Eve display also featured a depiction of Captain Sir Tom Moore in lights as fireworks erupted

Towards the end of the show, the shape of a turtle appeared in the sky. As Sir David Attenborough speaks, the turtle (pictured) changes colour and the shape of Africa appears on its shell

Towards the end of the show, the shape of a turtle appeared in the sky. As Sir David Attenborough speaks, the turtle (pictured) changes colour and the shape of Africa appears on its shell

Many have wondered why the bird (pictured) also featured yellow in its wings on the night the UK left the European Union for good

Many have wondered why the bird (pictured) also featured yellow in its wings on the night the UK left the European Union for good

The fist - which became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement which swept the globe this year - first appeared as spoken-word artist George the Poet (pictured) read an extract of his poem Coronavirus: The Power of Collaboration.

Towards the end of the show, the shape of a turtle appeared in the sky as Sir David said: 'Happy New Year. Our planet is unique. A living world of diversity and wonder. It's also fragile'

The fist – which became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement which swept the globe this year – first appeared as spoken-word artist George the Poet (left) read an extract of his poem Coronavirus: The Power of Collaboration. Towards the end of the show, the shape of a turtle appeared in the sky as Sir David (right) said: ‘Happy New Year. Our planet is unique. A living world of diversity and wonder. It’s also fragile’

Fireworks erupted on Tower Bridge in London tonight as the scaled-down display brought in the New Year in the capital

Fireworks erupted on Tower Bridge in London tonight as the scaled-down display brought in the New Year in the capital

Mr Khan confirmed that the traditional fireworks show would not go ahead back in September, saying that 'we can't afford' to have large numbers of people congregating amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: The alternative celebrations involved a light show and fireworks over the Millennium Dome and Tower Bridge

Mr Khan confirmed that the traditional fireworks show would not go ahead back in September, saying that ‘we can’t afford’ to have large numbers of people congregating amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: The alternative celebrations involved a light show and fireworks over the Millennium Dome and Tower Bridge

Revellers gathered by London Eye tonight. The area would normally be jam-packed with Londoners keep to get a glimpse of the fireworks - which were cancelled this year

Revellers gathered by London Eye tonight. The area would normally be jam-packed with Londoners keep to get a glimpse of the fireworks – which were cancelled this year

‘Why is Alicia Keys singing about New York for London’s New Year?’ Viewers slam BBC for using US singer as music act to welcome in 2021 as they criticise ‘out of tune’ performance 

Viewers slam BBC for using Alicia Keys to welcome in 2021 as they criticise her 'out of tune' performance

Viewers slam BBC for using Alicia Keys to welcome in 2021 as they criticise her ‘out of tune’ performance

Viewers have slammed the BBC for using Alicia Keys to welcome in 2021 instead of British singers as they criticise her ‘out of tune’ performance.

The singer, from New York, performed a concert from Los Angeles on BBC One last night to bring in the new year.

However, people watching were left unhappy with the fact an American singer was performing instead of some UK talent.

The 39-year-old was also criticised for being out of tune, with many claiming they changed the channel during her performance. 

Ratings for the evening showed that Jools Holland had more people tuning in on BBC2, with 5.4million. 

The performance on BBC One, from 11.45pm to midnight, saw 5.2million viewers tuning in. After the fireworks from 12.15am to 12.30am, Jools had 5.4million viewers to Alicia Keys’ 4.2million.   She also performed hits such as Empire State of Mind, a song about New York, for London’s New Year. 

Viewers took to social media to express their dismay about her performance, with many saying it had got their 2021 off to a bad start.

One user wrote: ‘The BBC letting Alicia Keys sing on NYE has bummed me out before the new year even starts.’

Just seconds later, a bird appeared in the sky – in reference to the building of the Nightingale hospitals – after a clip of a news broadcast states: ‘Buildings were lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS’.

But many have wondered why the bird also featured yellow in its wings on the night the UK left the European Union for good. 

Towards the end of the show, the shape of a turtle appeared in the sky as Sir David Attenborough said: ‘Happy New Year. Our planet is unique. A living world of diversity and wonder. It’s also fragile.

‘With a new year comes the opportunity for change. And if we act, in 2021 we can make a world of difference.’

Fireworks were also seen over Tower Bridge in the capital. 

As he continues, the turtle changes colour and the shape of Africa appears on its shell. 

‘Together, we can turn things around. Together, we can restore our fragile home and make it a happy new year for all the inhabitants of planet earth.’ 

Mr Khan shared a clip of the BLM segment of the show with the caption: ‘Our New Year’s Eve show just sent a loud, proud message to the world: London stands together against racism – tonight and always.’ 

He tagged George the Poet, whose real name is George Mpanga, in the tweet. Mr Mpanga opened the BBC’s coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding with one of his poems and his work has won the support of the Duke of Sussex.

Mr Khan confirmed that the traditional fireworks show would not go ahead back in September, saying that ‘we can’t afford’ to have large numbers of people congregating amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He dubbed the alternative celebrations ‘something that people can enjoy in the comfort of their living room’ at the time.   

Earlier in the evening, fireworks lit up the sky over Newcastle in an incredible display watched by thousands from their windows. 

Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted as the clock struck midnight with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away. 

But some Londoner’s appeared to push their luck earlier in the evening with crowds gathering in Piccadilly Circus and on Westminster Bridge. 

Under Tier 4 rules only two people from different households can meet outdoors, but police were seen speaking to crowds of at least five.

Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate ‘responsibly and in line with the restrictions’.

She added: ‘To be clear, and I take no pleasure in saying this, that means no gatherings, no house parties, no first-footing. Instead, we should bring in 2021 in our own homes with just our own households.’  

While many heaped criticism on the display, others praised its inclusion of the BLM movement and climate change

While many heaped criticism on the display, others praised its inclusion of the BLM movement and climate change

Sadiq Khan shared a clip of the BLM segment of London's light show with the caption: 'Our New Year's Eve show just sent a loud, proud message to the world: London stands together against racism - tonight and always'

Sadiq Khan shared a clip of the BLM segment of London’s light show with the caption: ‘Our New Year’s Eve show just sent a loud, proud message to the world: London stands together against racism – tonight and always’

As the new year was welcomed in, crowds were seen flouting Covid lockdown rules by gathering along the river. The capital is in Tier 4

As the new year was welcomed in, crowds were seen flouting Covid lockdown rules by gathering along the river. The capital is in Tier 4

Police officers were seen speaking to a man during an anti-lockdown protest demonstration in London on New Year's Eve

Police officers were seen speaking to a man during an anti-lockdown protest demonstration in London on New Year’s Eve

LONDON: The brightly-lit Christmas tree in Trafalgar square in the capital stood alone as large barriers blocked off rule-breaking pedestrians

LONDON: The brightly-lit Christmas tree in Trafalgar square in the capital stood alone as large barriers blocked off rule-breaking pedestrians

LONDON: Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away

LONDON: Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away

EDINBURGH: Scotland's traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year leaving streets deserted (pictured), with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate 'responsibly and in line with the restrictions'

EDINBURGH: Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year leaving streets deserted (pictured), with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate ‘responsibly and in line with the restrictions’

EDINBURGH: The city was nearly-empty today as traditional celebrations were moved online. Just a handful of people walked the streets

EDINBURGH: The city was nearly-empty today as traditional celebrations were moved online. Just a handful of people walked the streets

The Mall in London last year
LONDON: Images of the deserted streets of London this year (The Mall, pictured) were a stark contrast to the bustling crowds last year

LONDON: Images of the deserted streets of London this year (The Mall, pictured) were a stark contrast to the bustling crowds last year (left)

In 2019 a large Christmas Market was in Princes Street Gardens n Edinburgh and several live music stages were erected on the city streets
This year, however, the same streets were almost empty due to Covid rules

EDINBURGH: In 2019 a large Christmas Market was in Princes Street Gardens n Edinburgh and several live music stages were erected on the city streets (left). This year, however, the same streets were almost empty due to Covid rules (right)

The street opposite the London Eye was jam-packed last year with revellers keen to get a glimpse of the fireworks
But with the display cancelled this year, those same streets were empty

LONDON: The street opposite the London Eye was jam-packed last year with revellers keen to get a glimpse of the fireworks (left). But with the display cancelled this year, those same streets were empty (right)

Birmingham on New Year's Eve in 2019
The streets of Birmingham were empty tonight

BIRMINGHAM: The streets of Birmingham were empty tonight (right) in stark contrast to scenes this time last year (left)

EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh this evening resembled a ghost town as weary Scots followed Government advice and stayed at home

EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh this evening resembled a ghost town as weary Scots followed Government advice and stayed at home

LONDON: A man holds a sparkler in front of the London Eye, in what would normally be a ticket-only area filled to capacity waiting for the annual fireworks display

LONDON: A man holds a sparkler in front of the London Eye, in what would normally be a ticket-only area filled to capacity waiting for the annual fireworks display

LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty tonight as revellers stayed at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty tonight as revellers stayed at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

LONDON: London's China Town was nearly empty tonight as New Year's Eve celebrations were cancelled amid the Covid pandemic

LONDON: London’s China Town was nearly empty tonight as New Year’s Eve celebrations were cancelled amid the Covid pandemic

LONDON: A mask-wearing couple kiss while holding a sparkler in front of the London Eye. The annual firework display will not go ahead this year due to coronavirus

LONDON: A mask-wearing couple kiss while holding a sparkler in front of the London Eye. The annual firework display will not go ahead this year due to coronavirus 

BLACKPOOL: Blackpool - a traditional New Year's Eve hotspot - was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home

BLACKPOOL: Blackpool – a traditional New Year’s Eve hotspot – was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home

LONDON: Rows of police vehicles stand guard near to the London Eye, where this year's fireworks display has been cancelled to avoid crowds gathering

LONDON: Rows of police vehicles stand guard near to the London Eye, where this year’s fireworks display has been cancelled to avoid crowds gathering 

BIRMINGHAM: The streets of Birmingham were deserted tonight as New Year's Eve celebrations were canceled due to Covid

BIRMINGHAM: The streets of Birmingham were deserted tonight as New Year’s Eve celebrations were canceled due to Covid

BIRMINGHAM: The street's of Birmingham were lit up by lights on New Year's Eve as revellers remained at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

BIRMINGHAM: The street’s of Birmingham were lit up by lights on New Year’s Eve as revellers remained at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

LONDON: Police officers were seen on the streets of London in what should be a quiet New Year's Eve with most people staying indoors

LONDON: Police officers were seen on the streets of London in what should be a quiet New Year’s Eve with most people staying indoors

LEEDS: The Tier 3 city was left deserted this year with only takeaways from bars and pubs permitted. Revellers will be celebrating New Year's Eve indoors this year

LEEDS: The Tier 3 city was left deserted this year with only takeaways from bars and pubs permitted. Revellers will be celebrating New Year’s Eve indoors this year

LEEDS: The streets of Leeds were bare this evening as locals stayed at home. Lockdown rules mean New Year's Eve will look very different for countless Britons this year

LEEDS: The streets of Leeds were bare this evening as locals stayed at home. Lockdown rules mean New Year’s Eve will look very different for countless Britons this year

LEEDS: Leeds locals were forced to welcome the new year in with alcohol bought from off licenses as pubs and bars remained shut

LEEDS: Leeds locals were forced to welcome the new year in with alcohol bought from off licenses as pubs and bars remained shut

LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty this evening as revellers were banned from attending raucous New Year's Eve parties due to Covid

LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty this evening as revellers were banned from attending raucous New Year’s Eve parties due to Covid 

LONDON: A busker performs to a handful of people in Covent Garden on New Year's Eve this year as lockdown rule put a halt to normal gatherings

LONDON: A busker performs to a handful of people in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve this year as lockdown rule put a halt to normal gatherings

EDINBURGH: The streets of the Scottish city were empty tonight. Strings of Christmas lights and brightly-lit shops cast an eerie glow over the pavement

EDINBURGH: The streets of the Scottish city were empty tonight. Strings of Christmas lights and brightly-lit shops cast an eerie glow over the pavement

LONDON: Soho's normally-bustling streets were nearly empty this evening as London's bars, pubs and restaurants remain shut

LONDON: Soho’s normally-bustling streets were nearly empty this evening as London’s bars, pubs and restaurants remain shut

EDINBURGH: Locals walked past a shut pub in Edinburgh as Hogmanay celebrations take place online this year

EDINBURGH: Locals walked past a shut pub in Edinburgh as Hogmanay celebrations take place online this year

LONDON: Buckingham Palace in London was deserted tonight - in stark contrast to last year - as revellers opted to stay at home instead

LONDON: Buckingham Palace in London was deserted tonight – in stark contrast to last year – as revellers opted to stay at home instead

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff were empty tonight - in contrast to last year - as the country remains under its highest alert level

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff were empty tonight – in contrast to last year – as the country remains under its highest alert level

LONDON: Police officers stand guard in London to deter rule-breaking revellers on New Year's Eve while the city remains under Tier 4 lockdown

LONDON: Police officers stand guard in London to deter rule-breaking revellers on New Year’s Eve while the city remains under Tier 4 lockdown

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff are usually a hotspot for eager New Year's Eve revellers. They were empty this year due to lockdown

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff are usually a hotspot for eager New Year’s Eve revellers. They were empty this year due to lockdown

LONDON: A trio of police officers keep watch over Leicester Square this evening, with two pedestrians seen walking past. The Government hopes eople will stick to Tier 4 rules and celebrate New Year's Eve at home

LONDON: A trio of police officers keep watch over Leicester Square this evening, with two pedestrians seen walking past. The Government hopes eople will stick to Tier 4 rules and celebrate New Year’s Eve at home

LONDON: Parliament Square is empty, except for a few police officers standing guard near a gate. People around the country are celebrating New year's Eve differently this year, holding their festivities at home

LONDON: Parliament Square is empty, except for a few police officers standing guard near a gate. People around the country are celebrating New year’s Eve differently this year, holding their festivities at home

LONDON: Two police officers speak to a group of people this evening as Tier 4 restrictions mean New Year's Eve celebrations must be held in people's own homes rather than out partying

LONDON: Two police officers speak to a group of people this evening as Tier 4 restrictions mean New Year’s Eve celebrations must be held in people’s own homes rather than out partying

LONDON: The London Eye cuts a lonely figure in the centre of London this evening, with the usual New Year's Eve crowds advised to stay home and celebrate safely

LONDON: The London Eye cuts a lonely figure in the centre of London this evening, with the usual New Year’s Eve crowds advised to stay home and celebrate safely

NEWCASTLE: A number of people stand around outside a restaurant on Newcastle's Quayside this evening. Some of them are seen holding and enjoying drinks

NEWCASTLE: A number of people stand around outside a restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside this evening. Some of them are seen holding and enjoying drinks

LONDON: Police officers and stewards are seen in Piccadilly Circus in a near-deserted London on New Year's Eve

LONDON: Police officers and stewards are seen in Piccadilly Circus in a near-deserted London on New Year’s Eve

LONDON: People stand outside a pub that is open for takeaway drinks during the New Year's Eve. London is in Tier 4 meaning pubs are takeaway-only

LONDON: People stand outside a pub that is open for takeaway drinks during the New Year’s Eve. London is in Tier 4 meaning pubs are takeaway-only

LONDON: The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace in London was nearly-deserted as New Year's Eve parties were banned under Covid lockdown rules

LONDON: The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace in London was nearly-deserted as New Year’s Eve parties were banned under Covid lockdown rules

GLASGOW: Party hotspot Glasgow was also empty tonight as revellers were urged to celebrate at home this year

GLASGOW: Party hotspot Glasgow was also empty tonight as revellers were urged to celebrate at home this year

GLASGOW: Hogmanay in Scotland has moved online this year to ensure that huge crowds don't gather in breach of Covid lockdown rules

GLASGOW: Hogmanay in Scotland has moved online this year to ensure that huge crowds don’t gather in breach of Covid lockdown rules

ISLES OF SCILLY: In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, locals on the Isles of Scilly were pictured enjoying a New Year's Eve drink in the only three pubs in England which are open tonight

ISLES OF SCILLY: In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, locals on the Isles of Scilly were pictured enjoying a New Year’s Eve drink in the only three pubs in England which are open tonight

ISLES OF SCILLY: There are normally around a dozen pubs on the archipelago but a number have closed this year, leaving punters with few options for welcoming in 2021 (some revellers pictured), but more than those on the mainland

ISLES OF SCILLY: There are normally around a dozen pubs on the archipelago but a number have closed this year, leaving punters with few options for welcoming in 2021 (some revellers pictured), but more than those on the mainland

ISLES OF SCILLY: The islands' 2,000-strong population (some revellers pictured) is the only part of England still in Tier 1, with all other parts of the country having moved into Tiers 3 or 4

ISLES OF SCILLY: The islands’ 2,000-strong population (some revellers pictured) is the only part of England still in Tier 1, with all other parts of the country having moved into Tiers 3 or 4

Blackpool – another traditional New Year’s Eve hotspot – was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home.

Leeds, Birmingham and Cardiff also saw nearly-empty streets as Covid-conscious locals stayed indoors. 

Meanwhile in Primrose Hill, revellers gathered outdoors in their household groups to watch people’s back-garden fireworks erupt across the city’s skyline.

In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, locals on the Isles of Scilly were pictured enjoying a New Year’s Eve drink in the only three pubs in England which are open tonight. 

The islands’ 2,000-strong population is the only part of England still in Tier 1, with all other parts of the country having moved into Tiers 3 or 4.

There are normally around a dozen pubs on the archipelago but a number have closed this year, leaving punters with few options for welcoming in 2021, but more than those on the mainland.

Even though the rules are clear in banning gatherings, thousands still plan on attending illegal raves and street parties. But 96 per cent of Britons plan to stay home tonight, according to a YouGov poll. 

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Birmingham Glasgow Headlines UK Leeds London Newcastle

London’s New Year light display is slammed for BLM fist salutes

Viewers have slammed the BBC for ‘forcing politics’ into London’s controversial New Year’s Eve light show after 300 drones made the shape of a BLM fist and shone in EU colours over London’s skies.

Thousands of revellers eager to bid farewell to a miserable 2020 tuned into BBC One to watch the highly-anticipated pre-recorded display. 

But outraged Britons slammed the show as ‘ridiculous’ after the drones made the shape of a Black Lives Matter fist and a turtle with Africa on its shell – alongside the NHS logo and a depiction Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky.

The fist – which became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement which swept the globe this year – first appeared as spoken-word artist George the Poet read an extract of his poem Coronavirus: The Power of Collaboration.

The writer – who turned down an OBE last year due to the ‘pure evil’ of the British Empire – read: ‘The future holds unexposed danger, but no stress. Humankind is no stranger to progress. And as we have proven, when we collaborate, progress follows fast.’ 

Many also pointed out that the opening lights and the first shape which appeared above The Millennium Dome – a blue and yellow bird  – was in European Union colours, on the day Britain officially left the EU.  

Several viewers took to Twitter to voice their ciritcism, with one person writing: ‘Can’t believe the London firework display. BLM, all about change, new ways… never seen so much politicized bulls***.’ 

Viewers have slammed London’s controversial New Year’s Eve light show as ‘politicized bulls***’ after 300 drones made the shape of a BLM fist and shone in EU colours over London’s skies

Viewers slammed the display as 'ridiculous' after the drones made the shape of a Black Lives Matter first and a turtle with Africa on its shell - alongside the NHS logo and a depiction Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky

Viewers slammed the display as ‘ridiculous’ after the drones made the shape of a Black Lives Matter first and a turtle with Africa on its shell – alongside the NHS logo and a depiction Captain Sir Tom Moore in the sky

The 300 drones lit up the night's sky writing NHS with a green heart around it as fireworks erupted by the Millenium Dome in London

The 300 drones lit up the night’s sky writing NHS with a green heart around it as fireworks erupted by the Millenium Dome in London

During the display, a bird appeared in the sky - in reference to the building of the Nightingale hospitals - after a clip of a news broadcasts states: 'Buildings were lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS'

During the display, a bird appeared in the sky – in reference to the building of the Nightingale hospitals – after a clip of a news broadcasts states: ‘Buildings were lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS’

Many also pointed out that the opening lights (pictured) and the first shape which appeared above The Millennium Dome - a blue and yellow bird - was in European Union colours, on the day Britain officially left the EU

Many also pointed out that the opening lights (pictured) and the first shape which appeared above The Millennium Dome – a blue and yellow bird – was in European Union colours, on the day Britain officially left the EU

Another said the show was ‘going well’, but said organisers ‘just had to force politics into it’.

While it is unclear who organised or arranged the show, criticism has been levied at both London Mayor Sadiq Khan and at the BBC.

The display also featured an extract from a poem written by New Zealand-born Tomos Robertson – who goes by the name Tom Foolery – titled The Great Realisation.

As fireworks lit up the sky, a narrator read: ‘In 2020, a new virus came our way. We knew what must be done and so to help we hid away.

‘Old habits became extinct and they made way for the new. And every simple act of kindness was now given its due.’

Just seconds later, a bird appeared in the sky – in reference to the building of the Nightingale hospitals – after a clip of a news broadcasts states: ‘Buildings were lit up in blue, the colour of the NHS’.

But many have wondered why the bird also featured yellow in its wings on the night the UK left the European Union for good.  

Sadiq Khan shared a clip of the BLM segment of the show with the caption: ‘Our New Year’s Eve show just sent a loud, proud message to the world: London stands together against racism – tonight and always.’  

Sadiq Khan shared a clip of the BLM segment of London's light show with the caption: 'Our New Year's Eve show just sent a loud, proud message to the world: London stands together against racism - tonight and always'

Sadiq Khan shared a clip of the BLM segment of London’s light show with the caption: ‘Our New Year’s Eve show just sent a loud, proud message to the world: London stands together against racism – tonight and always’

LONDON: The brightly-lit Christmas tree in Trafalgar square in the capital stood alone as large barriers blocked off rule-breaking pedestrians

LONDON: The brightly-lit Christmas tree in Trafalgar square in the capital stood alone as large barriers blocked off rule-breaking pedestrians

LONDON: Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away

LONDON: Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away

EDINBURGH: Scotland's traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year leaving streets deserted (pictured), with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate 'responsibly and in line with the restrictions'

EDINBURGH: Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year leaving streets deserted (pictured), with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate ‘responsibly and in line with the restrictions’

EDINBURGH: The city was nearly-empty today as traditional celebrations were moved online. Just a handful of people walked the streets

EDINBURGH: The city was nearly-empty today as traditional celebrations were moved online. Just a handful of people walked the streets

The Mall in London last year
LONDON: Images of the deserted streets of London this year (The Mall, pictured) were a stark contrast to the bustling crowds last year

LONDON: Images of the deserted streets of London this year (The Mall, pictured) were a stark contrast to the bustling crowds last year (left)

In 2019 a large Christmas Market was in Princes Street Gardens n Edinburgh and several live music stages were erected on the city streets
This year, however, the same streets were almost empty due to Covid rules

EDINBURGH: In 2019 a large Christmas Market was in Princes Street Gardens n Edinburgh and several live music stages were erected on the city streets (left). This year, however, the same streets were almost empty due to Covid rules (right)

The street opposite the London Eye was jam-packed last year with revellers keen to get a glimpse of the fireworks
But with the display cancelled this year, those same streets were empty

LONDON: The street opposite the London Eye was jam-packed last year with revellers keen to get a glimpse of the fireworks (left). But with the display cancelled this year, those same streets were empty (right)

Birmingham on New Year's Eve in 2019
The streets of Birmingham were empty tonight

BIRMINGHAM: The streets of Birmingham were empty tonight (right) in stark contrast to scenes this time last year (left)

EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh this evening resembled a ghost town as weary Scots followed Government advice and stayed at home

EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh this evening resembled a ghost town as weary Scots followed Government advice and stayed at home

LONDON: A man holds a sparkler in front of the London Eye, in what would normally be a ticket-only area filled to capacity waiting for the annual fireworks display

LONDON: A man holds a sparkler in front of the London Eye, in what would normally be a ticket-only area filled to capacity waiting for the annual fireworks display

LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty tonight as revellers stayed at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty tonight as revellers stayed at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

LONDON: London's China Town was nearly empty tonight as New Year's Eve celebrations were cancelled amid the Covid pandemic

LONDON: London’s China Town was nearly empty tonight as New Year’s Eve celebrations were cancelled amid the Covid pandemic

LONDON: A mask-wearing couple kiss while holding a sparkler in front of the London Eye. The annual firework display will not go ahead this year due to coronavirus

LONDON: A mask-wearing couple kiss while holding a sparkler in front of the London Eye. The annual firework display will not go ahead this year due to coronavirus 

BLACKPOOL: Blackpool - a traditional New Year's Eve hotspot - was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home

BLACKPOOL: Blackpool – a traditional New Year’s Eve hotspot – was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home

LONDON: Rows of police vehicles stand guard near to the London Eye, where this year's fireworks display has been cancelled to avoid crowds gathering

LONDON: Rows of police vehicles stand guard near to the London Eye, where this year’s fireworks display has been cancelled to avoid crowds gathering 

BIRMINGHAM: The streets of Birmingham were deserted tonight as New Year's Eve celebrations were canceled due to Covid

BIRMINGHAM: The streets of Birmingham were deserted tonight as New Year’s Eve celebrations were canceled due to Covid

BIRMINGHAM: The street's of Birmingham were lit up by lights on New Year's Eve as revellers remained at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

BIRMINGHAM: The street’s of Birmingham were lit up by lights on New Year’s Eve as revellers remained at home amid the Covid-19 pandemic

LONDON: Police officers were seen on the streets of London in what should be a quiet New Year's Eve with most people staying indoors

LONDON: Police officers were seen on the streets of London in what should be a quiet New Year’s Eve with most people staying indoors

LEEDS: The Tier 3 city was left deserted this year with only takeaways from bars and pubs permitted. Revellers will be celebrating New Year's Eve indoors this year

LEEDS: The Tier 3 city was left deserted this year with only takeaways from bars and pubs permitted. Revellers will be celebrating New Year’s Eve indoors this year

LEEDS: The streets of Leeds were bare this evening as locals stayed at home. Lockdown rules mean New Year's Eve will look very different for countless Britons this year

LEEDS: The streets of Leeds were bare this evening as locals stayed at home. Lockdown rules mean New Year’s Eve will look very different for countless Britons this year

Earlier in the evening, fireworks lit up the sky over Newcastle in an incredible display watched by thousands from their windows. 

Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted as the clock struck midnight with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away. 

But some Londoner’s appeared to push their luck earlier in the evening with crowds gathering in Piccadilly Circus and on Westminster Bridge. 

Under Tier 4 rules only two people from different households can meet outdoors, but police were seen speaking to crowds of at least five.

Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate ‘responsibly and in line with the restrictions’.

She added: ‘To be clear, and I take no pleasure in saying this, that means no gatherings, no house parties, no first-footing. Instead, we should bring in 2021 in our own homes with just our own households.’  

LEEDS: Leeds locals were forced to welcome the new year in with alcohol bought from off licenses as pubs and bars remained shut

LEEDS: Leeds locals were forced to welcome the new year in with alcohol bought from off licenses as pubs and bars remained shut

LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty this evening as revellers were banned from attending raucous New Year's Eve parties due to Covid

LONDON: Piccadilly Circus was nearly empty this evening as revellers were banned from attending raucous New Year’s Eve parties due to Covid 

LONDON: A busker performs to a handful of people in Covent Garden on New Year's Eve this year as lockdown rule put a halt to normal gatherings

LONDON: A busker performs to a handful of people in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve this year as lockdown rule put a halt to normal gatherings

EDINBURGH: The streets of the Scottish city were empty tonight. Strings of Christmas lights and brightly-lit shops cast an eerie glow over the pavement

EDINBURGH: The streets of the Scottish city were empty tonight. Strings of Christmas lights and brightly-lit shops cast an eerie glow over the pavement

LONDON: Soho's normally-bustling streets were nearly empty this evening as London's bars, pubs and restaurants remain shut

LONDON: Soho’s normally-bustling streets were nearly empty this evening as London’s bars, pubs and restaurants remain shut

EDINBURGH: Locals walked past a shut pub in Edinburgh as Hogmanay celebrations take place online this year

EDINBURGH: Locals walked past a shut pub in Edinburgh as Hogmanay celebrations take place online this year

LONDON: Buckingham Palace in London was deserted tonight - in stark contrast to last year - as revellers opted to stay at home instead

LONDON: Buckingham Palace in London was deserted tonight – in stark contrast to last year – as revellers opted to stay at home instead

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff were empty tonight - in contrast to last year - as the country remains under its highest alert level

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff were empty tonight – in contrast to last year – as the country remains under its highest alert level

LONDON: Police officers stand guard in London to deter rule-breaking revellers on New Year's Eve while the city remains under Tier 4 lockdown

LONDON: Police officers stand guard in London to deter rule-breaking revellers on New Year’s Eve while the city remains under Tier 4 lockdown

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff are usually a hotspot for eager New Year's Eve revellers. They were empty this year due to lockdown

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff are usually a hotspot for eager New Year’s Eve revellers. They were empty this year due to lockdown

LONDON: A trio of police officers keep watch over Leicester Square this evening, with two pedestrians seen walking past. The Government hopes eople will stick to Tier 4 rules and celebrate New Year's Eve at home

LONDON: A trio of police officers keep watch over Leicester Square this evening, with two pedestrians seen walking past. The Government hopes eople will stick to Tier 4 rules and celebrate New Year’s Eve at home

LONDON: Parliament Square is empty, except for a few police officers standing guard near a gate. People around the country are celebrating New year's Eve differently this year, holding their festivities at home

LONDON: Parliament Square is empty, except for a few police officers standing guard near a gate. People around the country are celebrating New year’s Eve differently this year, holding their festivities at home

LONDON: Two police officers speak to a group of people this evening as Tier 4 restrictions mean New Year's Eve celebrations must be held in people's own homes rather than out partying

LONDON: Two police officers speak to a group of people this evening as Tier 4 restrictions mean New Year’s Eve celebrations must be held in people’s own homes rather than out partying

LONDON: The London Eye cuts a lonely figure in the centre of London this evening, with the usual New Year's Eve crowds advised to stay home and celebrate safely

LONDON: The London Eye cuts a lonely figure in the centre of London this evening, with the usual New Year’s Eve crowds advised to stay home and celebrate safely

NEWCASTLE: A number of people stand around outside a restaurant on Newcastle's Quayside this evening. Some of them are seen holding and enjoying drinks

NEWCASTLE: A number of people stand around outside a restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside this evening. Some of them are seen holding and enjoying drinks

LONDON: Police officers and stewards are seen in Piccadilly Circus in a near-deserted London on New Year's Eve

LONDON: Police officers and stewards are seen in Piccadilly Circus in a near-deserted London on New Year’s Eve

LONDON: People stand outside a pub that is open for takeaway drinks during the New Year's Eve. London is in Tier 4 meaning pubs are takeaway-only

LONDON: People stand outside a pub that is open for takeaway drinks during the New Year’s Eve. London is in Tier 4 meaning pubs are takeaway-only

LONDON: The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace in London was nearly-deserted as New Year's Eve parties were banned under Covid lockdown rules

LONDON: The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace in London was nearly-deserted as New Year’s Eve parties were banned under Covid lockdown rules

GLASGOW: Party hotspot Glasgow was also empty tonight as revellers were urged to celebrate at home this year

GLASGOW: Party hotspot Glasgow was also empty tonight as revellers were urged to celebrate at home this year

GLASGOW: Hogmanay in Scotland has moved online this year to ensure that huge crowds don't gather in breach of Covid lockdown rules

GLASGOW: Hogmanay in Scotland has moved online this year to ensure that huge crowds don’t gather in breach of Covid lockdown rules

ISLES OF SCILLY: In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, locals on the Isles of Scilly were pictured enjoying a New Year's Eve drink in the only three pubs in England which are open tonight

ISLES OF SCILLY: In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, locals on the Isles of Scilly were pictured enjoying a New Year’s Eve drink in the only three pubs in England which are open tonight

ISLES OF SCILLY: There are normally around a dozen pubs on the archipelago but a number have closed this year, leaving punters with few options for welcoming in 2021 (some revellers pictured), but more than those on the mainland

ISLES OF SCILLY: There are normally around a dozen pubs on the archipelago but a number have closed this year, leaving punters with few options for welcoming in 2021 (some revellers pictured), but more than those on the mainland

ISLES OF SCILLY: The islands' 2,000-strong population (some revellers pictured) is the only part of England still in Tier 1, with all other parts of the country having moved into Tiers 3 or 4

ISLES OF SCILLY: The islands’ 2,000-strong population (some revellers pictured) is the only part of England still in Tier 1, with all other parts of the country having moved into Tiers 3 or 4

Blackpool – another traditional New Year’s Eve hotspot – was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home.

Leeds, Birmingham and Cardiff also saw nearly-empty streets as Covid-conscious locals stayed indoors. 

Meanwhile in Primrose Hill, revellers gathered outdoors in their household groups to watch people’s back-garden fireworks erupt across the city’s skyline.

In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, locals on the Isles of Scilly were pictured enjoying a New Year’s Eve drink in the only three pubs in England which are open tonight. 

The islands’ 2,000-strong population is the only part of England still in Tier 1, with all other parts of the country having moved into Tiers 3 or 4.

There are normally around a dozen pubs on the archipelago but a number have closed this year, leaving punters with few options for welcoming in 2021, but more than those on the mainland.

Even though the rules are clear in banning gatherings, thousands still plan on attending illegal raves and street parties. But 96 per cent of Britons plan to stay home tonight, according to a YouGov poll. 

Categories
Glasgow Headlines UK London Newcastle

New Year’s Eve fireworks start early across Britain

Britons have kicked off their celebrations for a New Year’s Eve like no other as early fireworks are set off across the country to bid good riddance to 2020. 

Eager revellers are saying goodbye to a trying year from the comfort of their living rooms as nearly all of the country is under the harshest two lockdown tiers.

All of England – except 2,000 residents on the Isles of Scilly – have faced Tiers 3 and 4 since midnight last night, forcing all bars and pubs to shut except for takeaways.

Restrictions have also cancelled traditional celebrations and firework shows, forcing Britons to set off their own back-garden displays.

Fireworks lit up the sky over Newcastle tonight in an incredible display watched by thousands from their windows. 

Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away. 

Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate ‘responsibly and in line with the restrictions’.

She added: ‘To be clear, and I take no pleasure in saying this, that means no gatherings, no house parties, no first-footing. Instead, we should bring in 2021 in our own homes with just our own households.’  

BLACKPOOL: Blackpool – another traditional New Year’s Eve hotspot – was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home

LONDON: The brightly-lit Christmas tree in Trafalgar square in the capital stood alone as large barriers blocked off rule-breaking pedestrians

LONDON: The brightly-lit Christmas tree in Trafalgar square in the capital stood alone as large barriers blocked off rule-breaking pedestrians

LONDON: Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away

LONDON: Normally-bustling Trafalgar Square in London was eerily deserted with officials putting up barriers to keep rule breakers away

EDINBURGH: Scotland's traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year leaving streets deserted (pictured), with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate 'responsibly and in line with the restrictions'

EDINBURGH: Scotland’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations have been moved online this year leaving streets deserted (pictured), with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon earlier warning people to celebrate ‘responsibly and in line with the restrictions’

EDINBURGH: The city was nearly-empty today as traditional celebrations were moved online. Just a handful of people walked the streets

EDINBURGH: The city was nearly-empty today as traditional celebrations were moved online. Just a handful of people walked the streets

The Mall in London last year
LONDON: Images of the deserted streets of London this year (The Mall, pictured) were a stark contrast to the bustling crowds last year

LONDON: Images of the deserted streets of London this year (The Mall, pictured) were a stark contrast to the bustling crowds last year (left)

In 2019 a large Christmas Market was in Princes Street Gardens n Edinburgh and several live music stages were erected on the city streets
This year, however, the same streets were almost empty due to Covid rules

EDINBURGH: In 2019 a large Christmas Market was in Princes Street Gardens n Edinburgh and several live music stages were erected on the city streets (left). This year, however, the same streets were almost empty due to Covid rules (right)

EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh this evening resembled a ghost town as weary Scots followed Government advice and stayed at home

EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh this evening resembled a ghost town as weary Scots followed Government advice and stayed at home

LONDON: A busker performs to a handful of people in Covent Garden on New Year's Eve this year as lockdown rule put a halt to normal gatherings

LONDON: A busker performs to a handful of people in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve this year as lockdown rule put a halt to normal gatherings

EDINBURGH: The streets of the Scottish city were empty tonight. Strings of Christmas lights and brightly-lit shops cast an eerie glow over the pavement

EDINBURGH: The streets of the Scottish city were empty tonight. Strings of Christmas lights and brightly-lit shops cast an eerie glow over the pavement

EDINBURGH: Locals walked past a shut pub in Edinburgh as Hogmanay celebrations take place online this year

EDINBURGH: Locals walked past a shut pub in Edinburgh as Hogmanay celebrations take place online this year

LONDON: Buckingham Palace in London was deserted tonight - in stark contrast to last year - as revellers opted to stay at home instead

LONDON: Buckingham Palace in London was deserted tonight – in stark contrast to last year – as revellers opted to stay at home instead

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff were empty tonight - in contrast to last year - as the country remains under its highest alert level

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff were empty tonight – in contrast to last year – as the country remains under its highest alert level

LONDON: Police officers stand guard in London to deter rule-breaking revellers on New Year's Eve while the city remains under Tier 4 lockdown

LONDON: Police officers stand guard in London to deter rule-breaking revellers on New Year’s Eve while the city remains under Tier 4 lockdown

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff are usually a hotspot for eager New Year's Eve revellers. They were empty this year due to lockdown

CARDIFF: The streets of Cardiff are usually a hotspot for eager New Year’s Eve revellers. They were empty this year due to lockdown

LONDON: A trio of police officers keep watch over Leicester Square this evening, with two pedestrians seen walking past. The Government hopes eople will stick to Tier 4 rules and celebrate New Year's Eve at home

LONDON: A trio of police officers keep watch over Leicester Square this evening, with two pedestrians seen walking past. The Government hopes eople will stick to Tier 4 rules and celebrate New Year’s Eve at home

LONDON: Parliament Square is empty, except for a few police officers standing guard near a gate. People around the country are celebrating New year's Eve differently this year, holding their festivities at home

LONDON: Parliament Square is empty, except for a few police officers standing guard near a gate. People around the country are celebrating New year’s Eve differently this year, holding their festivities at home

LONDON: Two police officers speak to a group of people this evening as Tier 4 restrictions mean New Year's Eve celebrations must be held in people's own homes rather than out partying

LONDON: Two police officers speak to a group of people this evening as Tier 4 restrictions mean New Year’s Eve celebrations must be held in people’s own homes rather than out partying

LONDON: The London Eye cuts a lonely figure in the centre of London this evening, with the usual New Year's Eve crowds advised to stay home and celebrate safely

LONDON: The London Eye cuts a lonely figure in the centre of London this evening, with the usual New Year’s Eve crowds advised to stay home and celebrate safely

NEWCASTLE: A number of people stand around outside a restaurant on Newcastle's Quayside this evening. Some of them are seen holding and enjoying drinks

NEWCASTLE: A number of people stand around outside a restaurant on Newcastle’s Quayside this evening. Some of them are seen holding and enjoying drinks

LONDON: Police officers and stewards are seen in Piccadilly Circus in a near-deserted London on New Year's Eve

LONDON: Police officers and stewards are seen in Piccadilly Circus in a near-deserted London on New Year’s Eve

LONDON: People stand outside a pub that is open for takeaway drinks during the New Year's Eve. London is in Tier 4 meaning pubs are takeaway-only

LONDON: People stand outside a pub that is open for takeaway drinks during the New Year’s Eve. London is in Tier 4 meaning pubs are takeaway-only

LONDON: The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace in London was nearly-deserted as New Year's Eve parties were banned under Covid lockdown rules

LONDON: The Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace in London was nearly-deserted as New Year’s Eve parties were banned under Covid lockdown rules

GLASGOW: Party hot-spot Glasgow was also empty tonight as revellers were urged to celebrate at home this year

GLASGOW: Party hot-spot Glasgow was also empty tonight as revellers were urged to celebrate at home this year

Blackpool – another traditional New Year’s Eve hotspot – was equally abandoned by rule-abiding citizens who stayed at home. 

Meanwhile in Primrose Hill, revellers gathered outdoors in their household groups to watch people’s back-garden fireworks erupt across the city’s skyline.

Even though the rules are clear in banning gatherings, thousands still plan on attending illegal raves and street parties. But 96 per cent of Britons plan to stay home tonight, according to a YouGov poll. 

Getting a head start on the stay-at-home festivities, countless Twitter users have shared hilarious memes as they bid farewell to 2020. Others shared pictures of their quiet New Year’s Eve indoors.

EDINBURGH: The icy streets of Edinburgh reflected the light from streetlamps tonight as the pavements remained empty

EDINBURGH: The icy streets of Edinburgh reflected the light from streetlamps tonight as the pavements remained empty

EDINBURGH: A salt spreader is seen on the streets of Edinburgh tonight as temperatures plummet in the Scottish city

EDINBURGH: A salt spreader is seen on the streets of Edinburgh tonight as temperatures plummet in the Scottish city

EDINBURGH: Snow is seen on the pavement in Edinburgh as Covid lockdown keeps locals inside on New Year's Eve

EDINBURGH: Snow is seen on the pavement in Edinburgh as Covid lockdown keeps locals inside on New Year’s Eve

EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh was empty except for a few New Year's Eve walkers who braved the icy weather

EDINBURGH: The Royal Mile in Edinburgh was empty except for a few New Year’s Eve walkers who braved the icy weather

NEWCASTLE: The council set off an amazing firework display over Newcastle on New Year's Eve. The fireworks erupted from five secret locations so as to avoid crowds forming to watch them

NEWCASTLE: The council set off an amazing firework display over Newcastle on New Year’s Eve. The fireworks erupted from five secret locations so as to avoid crowds forming to watch them

NEWCASTLE: Fireworks lit up the city's skyline tonight as countless Britons looked on from the comfort of their own homes due to lockdown restrictions. The fireworks were set off from secret locations at 6pm

NEWCASTLE: Fireworks lit up the city’s skyline tonight as countless Britons looked on from the comfort of their own homes due to lockdown restrictions. The fireworks were set off from secret locations at 6pm

NEWCASTLE: Britons have kicked off their celebrations for a New Year's Eve like no other as early fireworks are set off across the country to bid good riddance to 2020. Newcastle City Council set off the display from secret locations

NEWCASTLE: Britons have kicked off their celebrations for a New Year’s Eve like no other as early fireworks are set off across the country to bid good riddance to 2020. Newcastle City Council set off the display from secret locations

NEWCASTLE: Fireworks lit up the sky over Newcastle tonight in an incredible display watched by thousands from their windows

NEWCASTLE: Fireworks lit up the sky over Newcastle tonight in an incredible display watched by thousands from their windows

LONDON: A large group of people appear to start celebrating New Year's Eve together at Piccadilly Circus only moments after police officers and stewards leave the area to patrol other parts of the capital

LONDON: A large group of people appear to start celebrating New Year’s Eve together at Piccadilly Circus only moments after police officers and stewards leave the area to patrol other parts of the capital

LONDON: A few people stand around a large Christmas tree in Covent Garden, central London, as thousands prepare to celebrate seeing the back of 2020 from their own homes, rather than out partying or enjoying normal celebrations

LONDON: A few people stand around a large Christmas tree in Covent Garden, central London, as thousands prepare to celebrate seeing the back of 2020 from their own homes, rather than out partying or enjoying normal celebrations

LONDON: A single pedestrian crosses the road in Soho, central London, this evening. The area which is normally full of life is completely empty this New year's Eve with people celebrating the end of the year from home

LONDON: A single pedestrian crosses the road in Soho, central London, this evening. The area which is normally full of life is completely empty this New year’s Eve with people celebrating the end of the year from home

LONDON: Two police officers stand guard in central London this evening to ensure people stick to the Tier 4 restrictions and stay at home this New Years Eve

LONDON: Two police officers stand guard in central London this evening to ensure people stick to the Tier 4 restrictions and stay at home this New Years Eve

LONDON: A cyclist makes their way down a street in Soho, London, tonight as a small number of others wander along the pavement

LONDON: A cyclist makes their way down a street in Soho, London, tonight as a small number of others wander along the pavement

LONDON: A single car is see parked on a deserted Frith Street in Soho this evening. The area is normally packed with people celebrating the end of the year, but at the end of 2020, the streets are quiet

LONDON: A single car is see parked on a deserted Frith Street in Soho this evening. The area is normally packed with people celebrating the end of the year, but at the end of 2020, the streets are quiet

NEWCASTLE: A man carrying a crate of beer walks down an abandoned street in the heart of Newcastle tonight. The city centre usually boasts large crowds on New Year's Eve but this year, thanks to lockdown restrictions, the area is a ghost town

NEWCASTLE: A man carrying a crate of beer walks down an abandoned street in the heart of Newcastle tonight. The city centre usually boasts large crowds on New Year’s Eve but this year, thanks to lockdown restrictions, the area is a ghost town

NEWCASTLE: The city centre which normally hosts thousands on New Year's Eve is completely deserted. Tier 4 restrictions in the city mean people are staying home to welcome the new year

NEWCASTLE: The city centre which normally hosts thousands on New Year’s Eve is completely deserted. Tier 4 restrictions in the city mean people are staying home to welcome the new year

NEWCASTLE: A lone person walks down an abandoned street in the heart of Newcastle city centre, which is being patrolled by police to ensure people don't break lockdown rules

NEWCASTLE: A lone person walks down an abandoned street in the heart of Newcastle city centre, which is being patrolled by police to ensure people don’t break lockdown rules

NEWCASTLE: Streets such as Grey Street (pictured) at the centre of Newcastle usually see thousands of people out celebrating to welcome in the new year, but at the end of 2020, the streets are empty

NEWCASTLE: Streets such as Grey Street (pictured) at the centre of Newcastle usually see thousands of people out celebrating to welcome in the new year, but at the end of 2020, the streets are empty

NEWCASTLE: A single police officer wanders the streets in Newcastle city centre to ensure people stick to the Tier 4 lockdown rules during New Years Eve

NEWCASTLE: A single police officer wanders the streets in Newcastle city centre to ensure people stick to the Tier 4 lockdown rules during New Years Eve

It was a different story across the world, however, as nations who avoided the worst of the pandemic were able to have a more-normal celebration.

In New Zealand, where only 25 people have ever died of Covid-19 and restrictions are virtually non-existent, crowds of partygoers packed into Auckland streets for midnight fireworks. 

In Australia, which has also fended off the worst of the pandemic, life was normal enough for some revellers to gather in Melbourne and Sydney.

And in Wuhan – where the virus first surfaced at the very end of 2019 before spiralling catastrophically around the globe – hundreds gathered at landmarks around the city to welcome in the new year. 

In what is sure to spark envy in many countries still subject to strict lockdown measures, party-goers were filmed crowding into a live music event in the former-Covid epicentre.

Many opted to go mask-free inside the venue where revellers danced just inches from each other.

But for most of the world’s seven billion people, a grinding year is ending with typically muted festivities, with fireworks, pyre burnings and live performances set to be watched from home or cancelled altogether.  

From France to Latvia to Brazil, police and military personnel are being deployed to enforce night-time curfews and bans on large gatherings are enforced, with much of the world still in lockdown and the vaccine race only just beginning.  

WUHAN: Balloons were released into the sky in an incredible display in Wuhan. Huge crowds gathered in the city which was the Covid-19 epicentre less than a year ago

WUHAN: Balloons were released into the sky in an incredible display in Wuhan. Huge crowds gathered in the city which was the Covid-19 epicentre less than a year ago

WUHAN: Amazed locals took photos of balloons being released into the sky to bring in 2021. The crowds weren't socially distanced but many opted to wear face masks

WUHAN: Amazed locals took photos of balloons being released into the sky to bring in 2021. The crowds weren’t socially distanced but many opted to wear face masks 

WUHAN: In what is sure to spark envy in many countries still subject to strict lockdown measures, party-goers were filmed crowding into a live music event in the former-Covid epicentre

WUHAN: In what is sure to spark envy in many countries still subject to strict lockdown measures, party-goers were filmed crowding into a live music event in the former-Covid epicentre

WUHAN: Partygoers, mostly wearing protective face masks, gathered in the streets of Wuhan to welcome 2021

WUHAN: Partygoers, mostly wearing protective face masks, gathered in the streets of Wuhan to welcome 2021

WUHAN: Partygoers posed for a selfie in front of buildings lit up in bright colours. Wuhan had a more-normal New Year's Eve than many others across the globe

WUHAN: Partygoers posed for a selfie in front of buildings lit up in bright colours. Wuhan had a more-normal New Year’s Eve than many others across the globe

WUHAN: Huge crowds were seen on the streets of Wuhan on New Year's Eve. Once the virus epicentre, lockdown rules have since been significantly relaxed in the city

WUHAN: Huge crowds were seen on the streets of Wuhan on New Year’s Eve. Once the virus epicentre, lockdown rules have since been significantly relaxed in the city

WUHAN: Crowds of people were seen on the streets of Wuhan tonight. Many looked overjoyed to say goodbye to 2020

WUHAN: Crowds of people were seen on the streets of Wuhan tonight. Many looked overjoyed to say goodbye to 2020

WUHAN: Vast crowds were seen gathered on the streets of Wuhan as a new year countdown ushers in 2021

WUHAN: Vast crowds were seen gathered on the streets of Wuhan as a new year countdown ushers in 2021

WUHAN: Huge crowds attended a live music event in Wuhan. Many people were seen dancing along to performers on New Year's Eve

WUHAN: Huge crowds attended a live music event in Wuhan. Many people were seen dancing along to performers on New Year’s Eve

WUHAN: Incredible images of the huge crowds of people gathered on the streets of Wuhan were shared to social media

WUHAN: Incredible images of the huge crowds of people gathered on the streets of Wuhan were shared to social media 

WUHAN: Women wearing masks hold up balloons as the Chinese city which shot to infamy in 2020 after giving the world the coronavirus counted down to 2021

WUHAN: Women wearing masks hold up balloons as the Chinese city which shot to infamy in 2020 after giving the world the coronavirus counted down to 2021 

WUHAN: Thousands gathered at popular landmarks across the city centre for the countdown to 2021. Some revellers said they were being cautious but were not particularly worried

WUHAN: Thousands gathered at popular landmarks across the city centre for the countdown to 2021. Some revellers said they were being cautious but were not particularly worried

WUHAN: In Wuhan, where the virus first surfaced at the very end of 2019 before spiralling catastrophically around the globe, revellers partied to welcome the new year in

WUHAN: Revellers were seen dancing - with several not wearing masks - to welcome the new year in

WUHAN: In Wuhan, where the virus first surfaced at the very end of 2019 before spiralling catastrophically around the globe, revellers partied to welcome the new year in 

WUHAN: People pose for pictures on the banks of the Yangtze River on New Year's Eve in the city which became synonymous with the virus in the early weeks of the outbreak

WUHAN: People pose for pictures on the banks of the Yangtze River on New Year’s Eve in the city which became synonymous with the virus in the early weeks of the outbreak 

VIETNAM: Pyrotechnics explode over Turtle Tower on Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi amid the coronavirus pandemic

VIETNAM: Pyrotechnics explode over Turtle Tower on Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi amid the coronavirus pandemic

IRAQ: People gather at Tahrir square before the New Year celebrations in Baghdad this evening

IRAQ: People gather at Tahrir square before the New Year celebrations in Baghdad this evening

THAILAND: Fireworks erupt over Chao Phraya river during the fireworks show for New Year's Eve in Bangkok

THAILAND: Fireworks erupt over Chao Phraya river during the fireworks show for New Year’s Eve in Bangkok

INDIA: Delhi police officers patrol at a checkpoint near Connaught Place ahead of night curfew from 11pm to 6am to avoid gatherings for the New Year celebrations due to the pandemic

INDIA: Delhi police officers patrol at a checkpoint near Connaught Place ahead of night curfew from 11pm to 6am to avoid gatherings for the New Year celebrations due to the pandemic

DUBAI: Dubai celebrates the New Year in India by reflecting its national flag on the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. India and the United Arab Emirates share close ties in many sectors

DUBAI: Dubai celebrates the New Year in India by reflecting its national flag on the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. India and the United Arab Emirates share close ties in many sectors

INDONESIA: Celebrations tonight in Jakarta, as an array of red and yellow fireworks light up the sky

INDONESIA: Celebrations tonight in Jakarta, as an array of red and yellow fireworks light up the sky

SINGAPORE: Crowds gathered in Singapore to welcome in the New Year. Many took photographs while wearing their protective face masks

SINGAPORE: Crowds gathered in Singapore to welcome in the New Year. Many took photographs while wearing their protective face masks

SINGAPORE: Crowds were seen gathered along a bridge to usher in the new year. There was no firework show this year, but many opted to head outdoors to see the lights

SINGAPORE: Crowds were seen gathered along a bridge to usher in the new year. There was no firework show this year, but many opted to head outdoors to see the lights

HONG KONG: Two women wearing light-up head bands pose for a photograph in Hong Kong as they bringin the new year

HONG KONG: Two women wearing light-up head bands pose for a photograph in Hong Kong as they bringin the new year

HONG KONG: Crowds of people - all wearing face masks - gathered along the water front in Hong Kong to welcome 2021

HONG KONG: Crowds of people – all wearing face masks – gathered along the water front in Hong Kong to welcome 2021

HONG KONG: Amazed onlookers snapped pictures of the city lights in Hong Kong. The amazing skyline lit up the night's sky

HONG KONG: Amazed onlookers snapped pictures of the city lights in Hong Kong. The amazing skyline lit up the night’s sky

TAIWAN: Huge crowds gathered to watch the new year fireworks in Taipei on New Year's Eve. The spectacular shower of lights erupted from the sides of a building

TAIWAN: Huge crowds gathered to watch the new year fireworks in Taipei on New Year’s Eve. The spectacular shower of lights erupted from the sides of a building

AUCKLAND: In scenes unthinkable in most of the world, 2020 ended with crowds of revellers packed into Queen Street in New Zealand's largest city, as the country became one of the first to greet the dawn of 2021

AUCKLAND: In scenes unthinkable in most of the world, 2020 ended with crowds of revellers packed into Queen Street in New Zealand’s largest city, as the country became one of the first to greet the dawn of 2021 

MELBOURNE: These two partygoers started the new year with a kiss as revellers greeted the dawn of 2021 with a party at Federation Square in Australia's second-largest city today

MELBOURNE: These two partygoers started the new year with a kiss as revellers greeted the dawn of 2021 with a party at Federation Square in Australia’s second-largest city today 

QUEENSLAND: Partygoers in Queensland paused for a snack while wearing 'Happy New Year' hats. Australia managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic

QUEENSLAND: Partygoers in Queensland paused for a snack while wearing ‘Happy New Year’ hats. Australia managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic

MELBOURNE: Vast crowds of people sat on the grass in Melbourne as they waited to welcome in the new year. Some wore masks while many others didn't

MELBOURNE: Vast crowds of people sat on the grass in Melbourne as they waited to welcome in the new year. Some wore masks while many others didn’t

MELBOURNE: Two women sat on other people's shoulders as they celebrated New Year's Eve on a beach in Melbourne. Several onlookers filmed to festivities

MELBOURNE: Two women sat on other people’s shoulders as they celebrated New Year’s Eve on a beach in Melbourne. Several onlookers filmed to festivities

MELBOURNE: Huge crowds gathered on a beach in St Kilda, Melbourne, on New Year's Eve. Many didn't wear masks

MELBOURNE: Huge crowds gathered on a beach in St Kilda, Melbourne, on New Year’s Eve. Many didn’t wear masks

MELBOURNE: Partygoers went mask-free as they danced the last few moments of 2020 away in St Kilda, Melbourne, tonight

MELBOURNE: Partygoers went mask-free as they danced the last few moments of 2020 away in St Kilda, Melbourne, tonight

AUCKLAND: Fireworks streamed from the SkyTower in New Zealand in the first moments of January 1, 2021 as an exhausted world started to put a year of disease, death and unparalleled restrictions on normal life behind it

AUCKLAND: Fireworks streamed from the SkyTower in New Zealand in the first moments of January 1, 2021 as an exhausted world started to put a year of disease, death and unparalleled restrictions on normal life behind it 

QUEENSLAND: One couple kissed to welcome in the New Year in Queensland. Australia has fended off the worst of the pandemic

QUEENSLAND: One couple kissed to welcome in the New Year in Queensland. Australia has fended off the worst of the pandemic

MELBOURNE: A woman was seen posing for pictures on the streets of St Kilda, Melbourne, as she welcomed in the new year

MELBOURNE: One woman poses for the camera on New Year's Eve

MELBOURNE: A woman was seen posing for pictures on the streets of St Kilda, Melbourne, as she welcomed in the new year

QUEENSLAND: A crowd of revellers dressed in matching white outfits and wearing 'Happy New Year' crowns pose for a photo

QUEENSLAND: A crowd of revellers dressed in matching white outfits and wearing ‘Happy New Year’ crowns pose for a photo

QUEENSLAND: One group posed for a picture with their arms around each other as they welcomed in the new year in Australia

QUEENSLAND: One group posed for a picture with their arms around each other as they welcomed in the new year in Australia

SYDNEY: The fireworks were as spectacular as ever at Sydney Harbour Bridge but there were few spectators in the harbour to greet the opening moments of January 1, 2021 

MELBOURNE: In In Australia, which has also fended off the worst of the pandemic, life was normal enough for small crowds to gather in Melbourne and Sydney

MELBOURNE: In In Australia, which has also fended off the worst of the pandemic, life was normal enough for small crowds to gather in Melbourne and Sydney

Huge crowds in Auckland

Revellers mark the new year in Auckland

AUCKLAND: In New Zealand, where only 25 people have ever died of Covid-19 and restrictions are virtually non-existent, crowds of partygoers packed into Auckland streets to mark the new year

SYDNEY: Fireworks explode over Sydney's opera house and harbour bridge as celebrations begin in the first seconds of 2021

SYDNEY: Fireworks explode over Sydney’s opera house and harbour bridge as celebrations begin in the first seconds of 2021

AUCKLAND: Fireworks went off as New Zealand became the first major country to cross the invisible threshold and enter 2021, after a year in which it became a rare success story during the global coronavirus pandemic

AUCKLAND: Fireworks went off as New Zealand became the first major country to cross the invisible threshold and enter 2021, after a year in which it became a rare success story during the global coronavirus pandemic 

MELBOURNE: Two people take a selfie in front of a neon Happy New Year sign in the last hours of December 31 in Australia

MELBOURNE: Two people take a selfie in front of a neon Happy New Year sign in the last hours of December 31 in Australia 

A well-dressed woman in Melbourne

Two people on the streets of Melbourne

MELBOURNE: Some revellers were seen in the city on New Year’s Eve, in a part of Australia which saw a major outbreak in the Southern Hemisphere winter but has since returned to very low levels of infection 

SYDNEY: New Year revellers enjoyed drinks at the Opera Bar in Sydney as midnight approached, with the firework display shortened and crowds kept to a minimum because of coronavirus

SYDNEY: New Year revellers enjoyed drinks at the Opera Bar in Sydney as midnight approached, with the firework display shortened and crowds kept to a minimum because of coronavirus 

VLADIVOSTOK: Fireworks explode over the city centre as Russia's far east became one of the first places to see 2021

VLADIVOSTOK: Fireworks explode over the city centre as Russia’s far east became one of the first places to see 2021 

WUHAN: In the city where the coronavirus first surfaced a year ago, a light show was projected on buildings by a river on New Year's Eve as China holds low-key events to mark January 1 in a country where the Lunar New Year is more prominent

WUHAN: In the city where the coronavirus first surfaced a year ago, a light show was projected on buildings by a river on New Year’s Eve as China holds low-key events to mark January 1 in a country where the Lunar New Year is more prominent 

NEW YORK CITY: A stage was put up in Times Square where the famous ball drop will take place at midnight, but police will block spectators from gathering to get a glimpse 

Although New Zealand is still isolated by international border closures, months of zero recorded cases in the community have allowed life to return to relative normality – with crowds gathering for fireworks in Auckland in scenes which would seem unthinkable to most of the world.   

In Sydney, fireworks lit up the glittering harbour with a dazzling display at midnight, but few spectators were there to watch in person.  

Plans to allow crowds were scrapped amid a cluster of around 150 new infections that have seen travel to and from Sydney severely restricted.  

People were only allowed in Sydney city centre if they have a restaurant reservation or are one of five guests of an inner-city apartment resident. People will not be allowed in the city centre without a permit. 

‘I think everybody is looking towards 2021 as a fresh beginning and a fresh start,’ Karen Roberts, among the lucky few who were allowed past checkpoints around the area, said at a bar near the Sydney Opera House. 

Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide cancelled their displays to avoid large gatherings and possible community transmission of the virus. 

Kiribati and Samoa were the first to cross the threshold of 2021 at 10am GMT, with the last Pacific islands set to follow them 26 hours later. 

Although the Pacific islands were spared the worst ravages of the pandemic, border restrictions, curfews and lockdowns meant this New Year’s Eve was still a little different. 

At the palm-fringed Taumeasina resort in Samoa, manager Tuiataga Nathan Bucknall was pleased to be open without a limit on guest numbers, but thanks to a state of emergency stopped serving alcohol at 11 pm.

In harder-hit countries such as Italy – where shocking images of makeshift morgues and exhausted medics first awoke the world to the horror of the pandemic last spring – curfews and lockdowns are still in force.

In London, American singer-songwriter Patti Smith will ring in the New Year with a tribute to NHS workers who have died from Covid-19, projected on the screen at Piccadilly Circus and streamed on YouTube. 

And in New York, the famous ball drop in Times Square will unfold this year without the usual throngs of cheering revellers. Police will block off the area so that spectators cannot even get a glimpse.   

LONDON: Fencing was put up around parts of Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square ahead of New Year's Eve, with London and most of the UK's population effectively back in lockdown because of resurgent coronavirus cases

LONDON: Fencing was put up around parts of Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square ahead of New Year’s Eve, with London and most of the UK’s population effectively back in lockdown because of resurgent coronavirus cases 

AUCKLAND: A spectacular firework display erupts from the SkyTower as the first major nation to cross the threshold in to 2021 became almost the only one to hold full-throated New Year festivities

AUCKLAND: A spectacular firework display erupts from the SkyTower as the first major nation to cross the threshold in to 2021 became almost the only one to hold full-throated New Year festivities 

AUCKLAND: Crowds begin to gather by the waterfront in New Zealand, which sealed its borders early in the pandemic and has suffered only 2,162 infections and 25 deaths all year, numbers which seem miraculous in most of the West 

MELBOURNE: People walk past Flinders Street station during Australian New Year's Eve celebrations in the last hours of 2020

MELBOURNE: People walk past Flinders Street station during Australian New Year’s Eve celebrations in the last hours of 2020

SYDNEY: People have dinner on the waterfront in Australia, one of the first nations to cross the threshold of 2021 and also one of the few where the country's relative success against the pandemic means that some degree of festivities can take place