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Portrait of the week: Tiers, Scotch eggs and a devastated high street

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The Commons voted by 291 votes to 78 for new coronavirus regulations putting 55 million people in England into the restrictive Tier 3 or the little less restrictive Tier 2, apart from the 700,000 or so folk of Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles. There were 55 Tory rebels, whom the government had attempted to placate by publishing a 48-page dossier, generally regarded as thin stuff. There would, they were also assured, be a review on 16 December of the areas put into tiers. ‘We do want to be as granular as possible,’ Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, told the Commons encouragingly. Labour let the regulations go through by abstaining, though 15 Labour MPs voted against. Wales prohibited pubs from selling strong drink and made them close at 6 p.m. In England, pubs in Tier 2 could sell drink if it was with a ‘substantial meal’. George Eustice, the agriculture minister, said: ‘I think a Scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal if there were table service.’

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for use from the coming week. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 29 November, total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 58,243, including 3,617 in the past week, compared with 2,860 the week before. The elusive R number, estimated as the number each infected person infected, fell below 1. The number of people thought to have Covid-19 had fallen by 30 per cent in the last week of November, during which the numbers with the disease also declined in England’s hospitals. Nadhim Zahawi was appointed as a new health minister to oversee Covid vaccination in England.

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