Coronavirus live news: France to deploy 100,000-strong force to police New Year’s Eve; UK reports 981 daily deaths

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France records highest rise in cases since mid-November

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France to deploy 100,000 police and gendarmes to stop New Year’s Eve parties

France will deploy 100,000 police and gendarmes across the country to clamp down on parties, gatherings and the traditional torching of vehicles on 31 December.

The interior minister Gérald Darmanin said the officers would also be strictly enforcing the national 8pm to 6am curfew as part of what he described as a “fight against unauthorised public gatherings and the phenomenon of urban violence”.

Police operations are to be concentrated in city centres and “sensitive” neighbourhoods. The number of police and gendarmes is the same as last year. Darmanin has also asked local chiefs of police to impose bans on the sale of fuel or alcohol in containers.

On New Year’s Eve last year a record 1,457 cars were burned across France, a 13% increase on the previous year.

Earlier today, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said the country was not planning local lockdown measures to contain the spread of Covid, although he dampened hopes for a quick reopening of cultural attractions and said curfews could be tightened.

“The rate at which the virus is circulating does not justify bringing in local lockdown measures,” he told BFM TV.

Attal said, however, that the government was keeping a close eye on some 20 French departments where cases were rising at a quicker pace, and confirmed that curfews could be brought forward to 6pm instead of 8pm in some areas if needed.

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In Scotland, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has warned the new highly infectious variant of Covid-19, known as B117, is quickly becoming the dominant strain after the country reported a record number of positive cases today, at 2,045.

She warned the Scottish government could impose even stricter Covid controls over the next few days if case numbers continued accelerating. The whole of Scotland’s mainland is already under the highest tier, Level 4.

In a statement at Holyrood, recalled from Christmas recess for an emergency vote on the Brexit deal, Sturgeon urged Scots to avoid many traditional celebrations for Hogmanay on Thursday, including “first footing” neighbours and relatives on new year’s day and holding house parties to welcome the new year.

“We should bring in the 2021 in our own homes, with our own households,” she told MSPs. “This new strain is very serious. I can’t stress that enough.”

Sturgeon said that as yet Scotland’s hospitals were not overwhelmed; many English NHS trusts have reported serious problems coping with the spike in cases.

Although the number of intensive care patients, at 69, was well below the peak in the first wave of Covid, beds were under pressure in hospitals, she said. Overall, 1,133 people were in hospital with Covid-19.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images

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