image captionSeveral of Saturday’s papers lead with the possibility that the UK could face a third lockdown after Christmas. “Lockdown 3 fear” is the headline on the front of the Daily Mirror amid warnings of a “tsunami” of coronavirus cases. “The reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks,” the PM is quoted as saying as he does not rule out a third lockdown. The R number is between 1.1 and 1.2, the paper adds.
image captionThe i weekend says scientists and medics have warned that relaxing rules for Christmas will result in 4,000 more people in Covid wards. Head teachers have criticised plans to set up mass testing for pupils as “chaotic” and “unrealistic”, the paper adds, and experts are working to determine if a new variant of the virus is putting more people in hospital.
image caption“It’s beginning to look a lot like lockdown,” says the Daily Mail. Ministers are drawing up plans for “tier 4”, the paper reports, which could see shops shut and commuters ordered to work from home. The plans are being prepared as a way to avoid a third national lockdown, although measures would see similar restrictions as previous shutdowns, the paper adds. “We are clearly in a worrying situation,” the paper cites a government source as saying.
image captionThe Oxford vaccine is expected to be approved on 28 or 29 December, the Daily Telegraph reports, citing senior Whitehall sources. In order to allow mass vaccinations, football stadia and nationwide locations will open from the first week of January, the paper adds. Some 100 million doses of the vaccines have been ordered by the government. Meanwhile, the PM has been handed “alarming” new evidence of a variant of the virus in London and the South East, the paper reports. The strain could see restrictions tightened, especially travel.
image captionElsewhere, the Times reports that Boris Johnson’s plan to post millions of testing kits to homes every week in a bid to avoid a third national lockdown is being blocked by the regulator. According to the PM and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, fast “lateral flow” testing kits will help to bring down infection rates in the worst-affected areas, the paper adds. But the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency believes the tests are not accurate enough when people test themselves.
image captionMeanwhile, customs officers will be deployed by France on Eurostar trains from London to Paris to help monitor goods entering the European Union when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December, the FT Weekend reports. Some 600 extra French customs officers have been appointed, the paper adds, and 300 more specialist inspectors at ports and other entry points. The paper says French officials are surprised at the administrative “mess” and lack of preparations on the English side of the Channel.
image captionThe Queen’s Christmas message is to be kept under wraps to make a “dramatic impact” on the nation, the Daily Express says. The Queen’s address is expected to be especially personal this year, according to the paper. For the first time, the annual speech will be available on Amazon Alexa devices.
image captionMaintaining the royal theme, the Sun says the Duchess of Cornwall will appear on the Strictly Come Dancing final on Saturday night in two pre-recorded clips. Camilla is a huge fan of the popular show, the paper adds.
image captionAnd the Daily Star leads on its “totally sane” campaign to bring back so-called bad hair in 2021, enlisting the help of Pat Sharp and Chrissie Waddle.