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Matt Hancock has urged people to shop their neighbours if they fail to follow coronavirus rules (Credit: PA)


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Matt Hancock has urged people to report their neighbours for flouting coronavirus rules as he announced heavy new penalties for those who fail to self-isolate when asked.

The health secretary said he would not hesitate to alert the authorities if he became aware of anyone breaking the new “rule of six” restrictions and that “everybody should” do likewise. 

It comes after the government revealed new legal powers to hand out £10,000 fines to people who do not quarantine if they test positive for the virus, rates of which are rising rapidly across the country.

The measures also include a £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who have to self-isolate and cannot work from home, and a penalty for employers who punish employers for doing so.

Mr Hancock said the UK was at a “tipping point” and could face tougher national restricions if people fail to heed new guidelines.

“I don’t want to see more measures but unfortunately if people don’t follow the rules that’s how the virus spreads,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge.

“Everyone faces a choice and it comes down to individual moments – should I go to that party where there might not be social distancing? 

“The answer is no, you should not.”

Mr Hancock said local lockdowns had brought cases “right under control” in parts of the country, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned the capital could be placed under additional curbs as soon as Monday.

And the health secretary said he would “not rule out” Londoners being asked to work from home, as he prepared to meet City Hall officials on Sunday.

He told Times Radio: “I’ve been talking to the Mayor of London over the weekend about what’s needed in London and that’s an example of local action in the same way that I was talking about the councils in the north east.  And then we took action in Lancashire…and we had to bring in more measures in Wolverhampton.

“The conversation is…an ongoing one with the mayor.”

PoliticsHome is maintaining a live map of local lockdown restrictions across the UK, which is viewable here.

A source close to the mayor said on Saturday: “It’s clear that cases in London are only moving in one direction, we are now just days behind hotspots in the North West and North East.

“We can’t afford more delay. Introducing new measures now will help slow the spread of the virus and potentially prevent the need for a fuller lockdown like we saw in March, which could seriously damage the economy once again.”

Mr Hancock promised the UK has “got the cavalry coming over the next few months; the vaccine, the mass testing and the improvement in treatments”.

“But we’ve got to all follow the rules between now and then to keep people safe,” he told the BBC.

Asked what he expected the death rate could be if people failed to do so, the health secretary said: “It’s unknowable, because it depends on the behaviour of every single person in this country.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned new legal powers were not a “silver bullet” and urged ministers to fix the struggling test and trace programme.

He said Boris Johnson should apologise to the nation for the system’s failings and restart daily press briefings “so everybody knows what’s going on”.

“I don’t think a national lockdown is inevitable.  I think it’s more likely because testing is all over the place,” he told Sky News.

“I think one of the conerns I have and a lot of people have is because the government has lost control of testing, it doesn’t know where the virus is.”

He added: “We are in this position just when we need testing to be at its best.”

The Labour leader also called for schoolchildren to be prioritised for testing to avoid mass school closures, with tests and results offered within a 48-hour period.

 

 

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Sen. Blunt deflects on calling Biden ‘president-elect’

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“Well, the president-elect will be the president-elect when the electors vote for him. There is no official job of president-elect,” the Missouri Republican said.

Blunt referred to Donald Trump as “president-elect” in a statement released the day after the 2016 election when he congratulated Trump on his win over Hillary Clinton.

A small but growing number of Republican senators, including Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have publicly conceded in recent weeks that Trump lost, even though Trump’s campaign has continued to mount — and lose — legal fights challenging states’ election results with claims of widespread voter fraud. Many other Republican leaders have not acknowledged Biden’s win, drawing criticism from those who say they’re enabling the president as he undermines confidence in American institutions.

Blunt, who previously oversaw elections when he was Missouri’s secretary of state, declined to say whether he had seen evidence of fraud in November’s election, but said Trump’s team of lawyers had failed to present evidence “that was acceptable to any court.”

“I think the system, frankly, was more secure than it’s ever been before. And the president deserves some credit for that,” Blunt said.

Blunt said that while he hasn’t had any conversations with Trump about Biden’s inauguration ceremony in January, he hopes the president will attend.

“I have certainly encouraged his staff to look at the transition now, look at the opportunity in Georgia to help us win these Senate seats, look at what the president can do, if the president is leaving the White House, as he says he will do if he loses the Electoral College vote, to help us win back the House in 2022,” Blunt said. “I think there is a big role for President Trump. And I hope he embraces that and looks at how you move to whatever comes next for him, assuming that this election works out the way it appears it will.”

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Nagorno-Karabakh: The boy who swapped his piano for a gun

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The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is over, but some families are still waiting for news of their missing relatives.

Bodies are still being counted and identified, and there is no clear information on what has happened to the missing.

Twenty-two-year-old Soghomon was fighting on the Armenian frontline against Azerbaijan. The last time his family heard from him was 1 October.

He was a soldier, but also an artist and a talented piano player.

His father and sister say they can’t give up hope that he will return.

Video by: Sofia Bettiza, Gabriel Chaim and Aren Melikyan

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Afghan car bomb kills at least 40 soldiers

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An attacker detonated an explosive packed vehicle in front of a security base in the Deh Yak district of the province.

According to a statement from the Afghan Ministry of Defense, the attacker was confronted by security forces as he tried to enter the base. No group has claimed responsibility yet.

The blast targeted a compound of the public protection force, a wing of the Afghan security forces, local officials told Reuters. It damaged civilian residences around the compound, and there could be more casualties from there, they said.

Interior ministry spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed that there had been a car bomb blast but did not provide further information on the target or possible casualties.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, when contacted by Reuters, did not confirm or deny responsibility.

Afghanistan has seen a spate of car bombings over the last few months, despite peace talks being under way between negotiation teams of the insurgent Taliban and the government in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Violence in the country, at war for two decades, remains unacceptably high, foreign governments and institutions say, calling for an immediate ceasefire between the Afghan government and Taliban.
Afghan President orders resumption of offensive operations against the Taliban in blow to Trump's deal

Another bombing on Sunday, in the eastern province of Zabul, targeting a top provincial official, killed at least one person and injured 23, said Gul Islam Syaal, the spokesman for the province’s governor.

Haji Ata Jan Haqbayan, head of the provincial council of Zabul, suffered minor injuries in the attack on his convoy.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack on Haqbayan, an outspoken critic of the Taliban.

The Trump administration’s peace deal with the Taliban was dealt a blow in May as the Afghan government announced it was resuming offensive operations against the insurgent group following a spate of deadly terrorist attacks.

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