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“Hug and kiss elderly relatives? I would not.”

We cover uproar over the new tiering system, Donald Trump, vaccines, Turkish politics, The xx, and a cancer 'game-changer'.

That’s our man Prof Chris Witty talking (chief medical officer for England for the uninitiated). He underlined the size of the challenge still facing the country and urged people to be cautious when the rules are relaxed for Christmas. “You can do it within the rules that are there – but it does not make sense, because you could be carrying the virus.” 

Meanwhile, the tough new restrictions that will cover 99% of England’s population from next week are causing an uproar in the Commons, as dozens of Conservative MPs protested against the new tiers structure. Will PM Boris Johnson manage to get it through parliament? The vote takes place on Tuesday, and it’s thought that as many as 70 MPs could vote against it or abstain. In total 23.3 million people, more than 41% of England’s population, will be in tier 3, while 32.2 million, more than 57%, will be in tier 2. Boris Johnson has said the allocation of tiers will be reviewed every 14 days from 16 December, suggesting mass testing could make households exempt.

Oh, how the not-so-mighty fall 

The big orange across the pond is getting closer to conceding defeat. Donald Trump has said that he will leave the White House when the electoral college confirms Joe Biden on December 14th: “Certainly I will. And you know that. If they do, they made a mistake.” Meanwhile, he continues to spin unsupported theories of widespread election fraud – and also attacked journalists for asking questions in an ill-tempered press conference. 

Dosing mix-up

So, it looks like that AstraZeneca vaccine developed by Oxford University might need a little more testing before it’s good to go. Turns out the jab’s 70% efficacy rate was actually achieved by pooling the results from two groups on different dosing regimens, one of which contained no over-55s (the group most at risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms). BUT any anti-vaxxers should take stock – all of that means is the firm is likely to conduct an additional efficacy trial. 

Life sentence for 300 Turks 

Remember the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey? Well, now a Turkish court has handed down life sentences to more than 300 people found guilty of participating in it. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, had accused Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric, of orchestrating the putsch, which was followed by a purge of more than 100,000 supposed Gulenists from Turkish institutions. Mr Gulen denies involvement.

Cancer “game-changer”

NHS England is trialing a new blood test that could help identify more than 50 forms of cancer years before diagnosis. The test, known as Galleri, will be offered from mid-2021 to 165,000 people aged 50-79 in England, the majority of whom have no signs of the disease. The NHS hopes it can spot early signs of cancers that are hard to spot and so have worse survival rates, such as ovarian and pancreatic cancer. If the trial succeeds, the test will become available to the likes of you and me later on this decade. Looks like Covid-19 vaccines aren’t the only wonderful health tech developments this year. 

“I can now write about loving a woman and not feel afraid”

The xx’s Romy Madley Croft has gone solo and her new album, Lifetime, is a love letter to her formative years of queer clubbing and 00s Euro-dance. And you know how we all remember her – dressed in black, carrying a guitar, expression a little pensive? Well, now she’s swapped that all in for glorious Technicolour – and we couldn’t be happier.