tv BBC News at Ten BBC News December 21, 2020 10:00pm-10:31pm GMT
tonight at 10:00, boris johnson's government under intense pressure as the new variant of coronavirus causes further chaos. france has shut its border with the uk for 48 hours, meaning no freight lorries or ferries can leave from the port of dover. and more than a0 countries have banned flights from the uk, as the spread of the new variant, causes deep concern. it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country, and i think it is likely, therefore, that measures need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced. we'll have details of the latest difficulties, the speed at which the new variant is spreading, and the pressure on hospitals across the uk. also tonight...
two men are found guilty of the manslaughter of 39 vietnamese men, women and children who suffocated inside a container, as they were smuggled into britain. 32 years after a panam flight blew up over lockerbie, us officials have charged a llibyan man with making the bomb. and a special report from china. we hear from the chinese scientist whose laboratory is suspected by some of being the origin of the pandemic. and in the sport on bbc news, two premier league games on monday night. we'll tell you about a win for burnley and how chelsea fared at home to west ham united. good evening. borisjohnson‘s government is now under intense pressure on three fronts. the new variant of coronavirus is spreading rapidly, dozens of countries have banned
travel from the uk, and britain is still set to leave the eu without a deal in 11 days‘ time. during the day, more than a0 countries banned flights from the uk, or imposed greater restrictions, and a french ban on some freight lorries is due to last 48 hours, leading to long queues on the roads of kent to the port of dover. but the government points out that most freight is getting through, although accompanied freight through dover, about a fifth of the total, is being interrupted. so far, retailers say their stocks are sufficient. talks to find a solution are continuing, as our political editor laura kuenssberg reports. you shall not pass. travel is blocked. instead of trucks flowing, stuffed with christmas parcels and supplies, the motorway is a car park with truckers stuck. this is my home, my bed. gordon's cab will be his bedroom,
living room and kitchen for the next couple of days. what do we do? just have to sit it out. hopefully, they will get their act together and let us go home. colin got stuck at dover but has now made it back to the depot. so i will be able to get home for christmas, but a lot of these people sitting on the m20 are not going to get home for christmas. the french border closed late last night. dozens of other countries are telling brits to stay at home. mr gove, should parliament be recalled? and ministers here are grappling with a new variant of the coronavirus that is hitting our health, businesses and trade with the outside world. emergency meetings have been taking place all day. we in the uk fully understand the anxieties of our friends about covid, their anxieties about the new variant, but it's also true that we believe the risks of transmission by a solitary driver sitting alone in the cab are really very low.
how confident can you be tonight that you can get the delays and disruption under control? you said you just spoke to emmanuel macron. did he give you any commitment on when he would open the border? yes, it was an excellent conversation with the french president. he stressed he was keen, i would say, to sort it out in the next few hours if we can, and our teams will be working on it flat out. but the high risk at home is increasingly clear. i think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country, and i think it is likely therefore that measures are going to need to be increased in some places in due course, not reduced. france, spain, denmark the czech republic and dozens of others have banned uk travellers, but a decision for president macron about opening the border for freight may not come until lunchtime, although late night conversations have been taking place.
president macron, himself in isolation, told his cabinet... "a problematic mutation of the virus in the uk meant exceptional measures were needed to control the border." the longer the ban goes on, the more damage and disruption it does. the government has spent months rehearsing for this kind of emergency, but not because of the pandemic but because of what might happen with brexit. the location of that... a border control centre had already been set up to manage the possible chaos, because in ten days‘ time, how we trade with the rest of the continent will change dramatically anyway. butjust because officials have practised in theory, doesn't make the practise any less painful. this is now a real emergency. we can have no more overpromising and false hope, no more confused messages and slow decision—making. we need strong, clear and decisive leadership. the disease is accelerating aggressively and even though it only affects a small proportion
of freight, other countries‘ reaction to that is creating disruption, and before too long, more of the country could be under even tighter restrictions. even despite the turbulent times we have all become accustomed to, tonight, the government is grappling with a crisis on many fronts. finding a way around is not straightforward. as the disease tightens its grip and the very end of the year approaches, political and practical problems now collide. laura kuenssberg, bbc news. highways england has confirmed tonight that more than 900 lorries are currently parked up on the m20 waiting to get into the port of dover. there have been conversatons between the french and uk governments including the possibility of testing lorry drivers and travellers crossing the channel from britain. no decision is expected until tomorrow lunchtime. currently no lorries,
vans or passengers are being allowed to sailfrom dover, and eurostar rail services have also been suspended. flights have been stopped. from dover, our transport correspondent caroline davies reports. frustration, confusion, anger. not everyone at dover this morning had heard that lorries from the uk were not allowed to cross into france. merry christmas! he wasn't the only angry driver. this man arrived in his van last night. i have a ticket at 11 o'clock. at seven o'clock, the french say, closed. it is not one day, two days ago, say, closed tomorrow at 11 o'clock, say, i come in quickly, you know, it is not make very good. for days now, we have seen queues of lorries stretching back from dover as businesses prepare both for christmas, but also for the end of the transition period, butjust take a look at dover this morning, completely empty. the port of dover usually handles
9,000 lorries a day. while goods are allowed in from france, that number has been substantially reduced today. it's a pretty significant event, yes, so we would certainly be encouraging governments on both sides of the channel to do what it takes to allow these guys to get moving again. if this goes on for a period of time, it will have an economic impact on both sides of the channel. while the port stayed closed, many waited. divine was heading home to france with his sister. iam coming here, two o'clock in the night. two o'clock, and i am here 14 hours. where did you sleep? in the van. 0ne car park in dover began to fill up. dover is just a two—minute drive over that way, but here is where many people have parked up. i've spoken to people who had to spend the night here in their cars and vans, and you can see, there are registration plates from across the eu.
ignaz is not a commercial driver, he's just trying to get home to his family in lithuania for christmas. my kids are waiting for their christmas presents and i'm stuck here in the uk. but for now, he is stranded in a car park. hopefully the government will fix that situation. hopefully. we will wait. we can wait a little bit, but not too much, you know. christmas is coming. 0vernight, part of the motorway down to the coast will be closed as 0peration brock, the new road layout, is deployed to keep traffic flowing. in drizzly and mist—covered dover, many would like to know when the way ahead will be clear. caroline davies, bbc news. british supermarkets were quick to assure customers they have enough food in stock for christmas, although sainsbury‘s has warned there could be shortages of some fresh produce afterwards, if freight routes between france and the uk are not quickly reopened. the british retail consortium says
any prolonged border closure will be a problem in the ten days before the uk ends its transition period with the eu. simonjack reports. scottish seafood, one of the crown jewels of uk exports, highly prized, highly perishable, which makes any delay to the ports very bad for businesses like this aberdeen—based exporter. today i had to phone the customer early this morning to say he wasn't going to get the product, therefore he didn't place another order for goods today. so i was unable to buy on the market today to supply my customer tomorrow, so it has a rolling effect. the uk exports £15 billion worth of food and drink to the eu annually, a third of which is perishable meat, fish and fresh produce. we import £35 billion worth, again the majority of which has a short shelf life and so is vulnerable to delay. so, does this mean we are facing food shortages? today, sainsbury said that
while we have all the food we need for christmas, if nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit, all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year. however, retail groups reassured shoppers that the uk larder is full. well, we shouldn't be worried, because at this time of year, supermarkets are as well—stocked as they are at any other point in the year, so if there is ongoing disruption, that will have an impact on limited availability and shelf life, but focused very specifically on fresh food. everything we need for our christmas dinner is sourced from this country, and retailers have got plenty of stock in their warehouses. however, this wholesaler that supplies 80,000 food businesses, 30% of their products are from the eu. mushtaq ahmed said the timing was terrible. timing could not be any worse than this. while we were just about getting ready for the 315t of
december brexit preparation, and also with the recent tier 4 lockdown situation within the london area, suddenly a port closes for 48 hours didn't help the situation at all. it takes everything out of proportion, all the preparation, all the measures we put in place has been seriously shaken, and this is the extra headache to deal with. while some may find this has disrupted their brexit preparations, sources close to the government tonight told the bbc it could be seen in some ways as a dress rehearsal for potential disruption in ten days‘ time. simon jack, bbc news. the latest government figures show there were 33,361; new coronavirus infections recorded in the latest 24—hour period. the average number of new cases reported per day in the last week is now 29,121. 1,821 people have been admitted to hospital on average each day.
215 deaths were reported — that's people who died within 28 days of a positive covid—19 test. the figures are usually lower after the weekend. it means on average in the past week, a59 deaths were announced every day. it takes the total number of deaths so far across the uk to 67,616. in wales, where the nhs is under growing pressure, the first minister mark drakeford said he wished he could have given "more notice" before limiting plans to allow families to mix over christmas. but he went on to say that some parts of wales actually ran out of intensive care beds yesterday, and that the nhs and its staff were being "stretched to the limit". well, pressure on hospitals is increasing across the four nations as a result of the sharply rising numbers of coronavirus cases, and the spread of a new variant. 0ur health editor hugh pym is here.
can we start with the pressure on hospitals? we heard mark drakeford's word's hospitals? we heard mark drakeford's words there but what is your update on the state of play? i think most hospitals around the uk are now under some kind of pressure because of covid patient numbers but remember, these are people who picked up the virus two weeks ago or more. the recent surge in cases we have seen will create yet more pressure into christmas and new year. but there is variation, certainly in england so let's take a look at one example of one region, thatis look at one example of one region, that is total patient numbers in hospital with covid—19 in the east of england and you can see a very sharp increase in recent weeks, taking the overall number above the peak during the first wave. slightly by way of contrast, now we can look at the north—east and yorkshire and you can see a big increase in overall patient numbers through november, to reach a peak above that in april but it has come back down again since then although there does
appear to be again since then although there does appearto bea again since then although there does appear to be a bit of levelling off just in the last few days. with that in mind, we have been talking again about the strength and speed of the spread of this new variant of the virus. what has been said on that and what the likely impact of that is? i think one of the most significant things we learned today was from sir patrick vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser when he said at the briefing it was now being seen in all parts of the uk, all regions, notjust primarily in london and the south—east, which was the message put out at the weekend. he also went on to say that he thought more measures might be necessary, taken asa measures might be necessary, taken as a strong hint that certainly in england, there might be more areas in tier4 england, there might be more areas in tier 4 announced at some stage soon. but slightly better news on the fact we learned today that has a million people in the uk have now had the vaccine. thank you for joining us. hugh pym, our health editor, with the latest analysis.
0ther editor, with the latest analysis. other news now. at the old bailey, two men have been found guilty of the manslaughter of 39 vietnamese men, women and children, who suffocated inside a lorry trailer as they were smuggled into britain last october. the jury also found georghe nica and eamonn harrison guilty of conspiracy to assist illegal immigration. our home affairs correspondent daniel sandford has been following the case. hello, caller, is the patient breathing? hello, no, i'm a lorry driver, and ijust lifted a trailer from the port. one of the people smugglers on the phone to the 999 operator. but mo robinson was lying. police officers found the bodies of 39 vietnamese people. robinson pleaded guilty to manslaughter, as did his boss, ronan hughes. today, another ringleader,
gheorghe nica, and another lorry driver, eamonn harrison, were also found guilty. the criminals involved in this case made their money from misery. they knew what they were doing was dangerous, but they did it anyway. their 39 victims had boarded what they'd been promised was a vip service — among them two cousins, nguyen van hung and 18—year—old hoang van tiep. in vietnam, the teenager's father still prays for him daily. his mother told us they thought they were paying £10,000 for a safe route to england. translation: nobody knew that the journey to the uk was going to be like that. if they had known, nobody would have let their children risk their lives on such a dangerous journey. the older cousin's father thinks he was tricked.
translation: i don't know what happened. but something must have changed in their plan. either that, or he was scammed. pham thi tra my died trying repeatedly to call her family. she'd only left vietnam a few days earlier, travelling via china. 0thers came through countries as diverse as russia, germany and portugal. for most, the last stage of theirjourney began in paris. first, a taxi ride to northern france. but there, they were transferred into an airtight trailer towed by eamonn harrison, who took them to zeebrugge to travel unaccompanied to essex. but there were too many migrants in the airtight box, and slowly the oxygen ran out. nguyen tho tuan left a message for his children. police found dents on the ceiling of the trailer left by those inside trying desperately to escape. mo robinson, who collected it
from purfleet docks, had received an urgent message from his boss, ronan hughes. but when he opened the doors, there was a puff of vapour and a trailer full of bodies. the "vip service" had been a death trap. ronan hughes and gheorghe nica, seen here handing over a large bag of money, led the people—smuggling gang, and there had been an opportunity to stop them. a previous run on the same route just days before was caught on cctv and reported to the police. a couple whose home overlooks the site saw around 15 people getting out of the truck and into a group of waiting cars. they called the police, but the people—smuggling gang wasn't identified until after the 39 deaths 12 days later. the bodies of those who died on the fatal run were flown home to vietnam, and the two cousins
were buried side by side. daniel sandford, bbc news. the us depatment of justice has charged a man with making the bomb which blew up pan am flight 103 above the scottish town of lockerbie in 1989, killing 270 people. adu agila masud is injail in libya, where prosecutors claim he has confessed his role in the bombing. they are hopeful libya will allow his extradition to face trial. aleem maqbool reports. the images will be seared on the minds of those who saw news of the atrocity unfolding. the massive scar on the earth where homes had been. 11 people on the ground and all 259 on board pan am 103, flying from london to new york, were killed. the worst terrorist attack in british history, though one that was seen as libyan revenge against the united states. though two men were originally
charged in connection, only an alleged libyan intelligence officer, abdel baset almegrahi, was ever convicted, in 2001. though eight years later, he was released by scottish officials on compassionate grounds because of the cancer that ultimately killed him in 2012. but now the us says it's charging this man, abu agila masud, for making the bomb that was detonated over lockerbie, alleging he confessed in an interview in libya after the fall of the regime of colonel gaddafi. the affidavit also alleges that the operation had been ordered by the leadership of libyan intelligence, and that after the downing of the aircraft, gaddafi had personally thanked masud for the successful attack on the united states. relatives of some of the 189 american victims welcomed the news. we feel very vindicated, a sense ofjustice that there is another co—conspirator that has
been named and will be hopefully brought to prosecution. in honour of those we remember... there was a socially distanced memorial held here to mark the 32nd anniversary of the tragedy. but across the atlantic, some relatives of those who died talked of being upset and sceptical about the us announcement about new charges. very thoughtless, very ill—conceived. we have become extremely cynical and suspicious of those in authority, suspicious of their integrity. these people are not to be trusted. and that's been the frustration that's meant many feel they can't fully move on — the lack of real answers about what might have been done to avert this horrific attack. something that won't be resolved with a new trial. aleem maqbool, bbc news, in washington. a leading chinese scientist, at the centre of claims that the coronavirus leaked
from her laboratory in the chinese city of wuhan, has told the bbc she is open to "any kind of visit", to rule out the theory. the statement from shi zhengli, a virologist who's spent years studying forms of coronavirus, came as a team from the world health 0rganization prepared to travel to the city next month, to start its investigation into the origins of covid—19. but as our china correspondent john sudworth reports, the chinese authorities appear to be far less keen on scrutiny. the origins of this pandemic may well lie in the jungle covered hills of china's yunnan province. but reporting here is not easy. we're constantly followed and turned back at makeshift barriers and roadblocks. the bat populations here are known to harbour hundreds of coronaviruses, some of which can pass to humans. but it's the years of scientific
research collecting those viruses in yunnan's caves that is suddenly highly sensitive. because many of the samples were taken back to this laboratory, almost 1,000 miles away, in wuhan. suggestions the virus leaked from here have so far been met with angry denials. but now the lead scientist, professor shi zhengli, when asked by the bbc whether she would welcome a formal investigation, replied by e—mail. she is correct, of course. with wuhan now back to normal, the government is busy promoting another theory, that the virus didn't come from china at all. it is unlikely to have much appetite for a lab investigation, but nor,
it seems, do some members of the who team as they prepare to begin their mission. i've yet to see any evidence at all of a lab leak or a lab involvement in this outbreak. and i have seen substantial evidence that these are naturally occurring phenomena, driven by human encroachment into wildlife habitat, which is clearly on display across south—east asia. many scientists agree that a natural origin is the most likely, with the bat virus perhaps passing to humans via another animal in a wuhan wet market. but some are starting to wonder why, one year on, china has published so little about any studies that might help prove it. of course they've done them. they have the capability, they have the intelligence, they have the resources. 12, 13 months out since the first recognised case of covid—19, and we haven't found the animal source. so, to me, it's all the more reason to investigate
alternative explanations. and i think it would be in china's interests as well, if only to, you know, rule that out. but ruling out a lab leak seems an unlikely prospect in a place where further roadblocks get in the way of even basic questions. it might seem odd thatjournalists find it so difficult to report on the science that took place in a cave somewhere down there, some years ago. but all of this may be proof that china has now decided it needs to control anything that may relate in any way at all to the question of the origin of the virus. the who says its inquiry will be open—minded. but the research done here on bats is not on the agenda. and as our visit ends with us trapped in a field for over an hour, it's clear china wants to keep it that way. john sudworth, bbc news, yunnan province. it was the rapid spread
of a new variant of coronavirus that helped convince ministers to tighten the restrictions for millions of people over christmas. the new variant was first detected in september, and more and more is being learned about how the transmission of the virus works, as our science editor david shukman reports. the virus may be changing, but it's still spreading in the same ways. either someone infected contaminates an object that someone else touches, or a cough sprays out droplets containing the virus that reach people nearby. 0r tiny virus particles emitted just by talking linger in the air and get breathed in. the result is that infections happen most easily indoors. we've known that for a while, and scientists say that even original forms of the virus can reach further and faster than expected. one study shows the critical importance of timing. in many countries, the guidance is to limit close contacts to 15