Coronavirus live news: London council leaders say school closures have ‘no logic’; Japan considers state of emergency

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Councillor Ian Ward, Birmingham City Council leader, told the West Midlands combined authority Covid briefing: “The decision on tiering systems, it’s not surprising that Birmingham enters tier four today.

“In fact, it was entirely predictable over a week ago. The government’s failure to act and move Birmingham into tier four on Boxing Day now means we will be dealing with the consequences, over the coming weeks.

“There remains a great deal of pressure on the NHS across the city and the rates of infection continue to increase.”

He added: “On the Birmingham specific data, the seven day case ranking Birmingham is now 318.1 cases are 100,000 of the population that compares to 210.3 that we reported on the 18th of December.

“This data does not yet reflect the changing of restrictions. Over Christmas cases for all age groups have increased in the weekend the 27th of December, apart from the zero to 19 age group, which has remained the same.

“Cases have increased across all ethnic groups since the weekend the 25th of December. Asian ethnic group has the largest proportion of cases, with 44% of all cases.”

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During the West Midlands combined authority Covid briefing in England, Dr Lola Abudu, deputy director health and wellbeing at Public Health England Midlands, said:

And the last seven days there have been 110,419 new cases in England with 15,355 of these in the West Midlands. The total number of cases in the West Midlands since the pandemic began is now 222,497 cases and tragically 7,872 people have died in the region.

Tonight, people want to celebrate the end to this really awful year. I know that I would want to do that, but I really want to urge everybody to remember that Covid is the ultimate party animal, it spreads when people come together and it knows how to work the room.

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Test in trace in England records highest weekly total of positive tests

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Ireland has toughened Covid-19 restrictions by closing non-essential retail and imposing a 5km travel limit to try to tame surging infections.

The taoiseach, Micheál Martin, announced the move to the highest tier level five on Wednesday night, saying the country’s third lockdown since March was the only way to save lives and stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

The truth is, that with the presence of the new strain and the pace of growth, this is not a time for nuance in our response. We must apply the brakes to movement and physical interaction across the country.

Ireland recorded 1,718 new infections on Wednesday, a record high. The R number is now between 1.6 and 1.8.

A six-week lockdown that ended at the start of December had driven infection rates to the lowest in the EU but socialising before and during Christmas let the virus roar back, the chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, told RTE.

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As well as deploying 100,000 police and gendarmes across France this evening, other measures aimed at deterring large New Year celebrations include closing 200 Paris Metro stations at 9pm and shutting down half the lines.

Travellers and others will need a sworn declaration attesting to the necessity of being out if they are stopped by police after the curfew at 8pm.

The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, has told police chiefs to break up “clandestine” parties and gatherings and impose instant fines on organisers. Officers will also clamp down on the New Year “tradition” among youths of torching cars.

While it is not illegal to invite friends and family to your home, there is a recommended limit of six adults per gathering.

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Slovakia reports highest daily number of coronavirus cases so far

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