this is bbc news, with the headlines... new records for covid in the uk — the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began, and an estimated 1.7 million people are reported to have had the virus on a single day last week. millions around the world face travel disruption over christmas, as the surge in omicron cases sees more than 2,000 flights cancelled globally due to staff shortages. at least 39 people are killed after a packed ferry caught fire in southern bangladesh. the queen is expected to give a very personal christmas message this year, her first since the death of her husband prince philip. and pope francis delivers
the traditional christmas eve mass from st peter's basilica. hello, and welcome if you're watching in the uk, on pbs in the us, or around the world. the uk has again recorded its highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began — more than 120,000. it's the third day in a row that cases have topped 100,000, with 122,186 cases recorded today. a separate survey from the office for national statistics found that on 19 december, an estimated one in 35 people in the uk had coronavirus — that's1.74 million people. in london, the ratio is much higher
— one in 20 people were likely to have tested positive for covid. but, despite soaring cases, early findings suggest that the 0micron variant is milder than delta and leads to less hospitalisation. the head of the uk health security agency, drjenny harries, called it a "glimmer of christmas hope". european countries are also reporting record numbers of cases today — 94,000 in france, and more than 50,000 in italy, which hasjoined greece and spain in introducing mandatory face coverings outdoors. elsewhere, thailand has reported its first 0micron cluster — 21 infections, an outbreak traced to a belgium couple who had travelled to the country earlier in the month. here's our health editor hugh pym. london is the epicentre of the surge, and new figures suggest that one in 20 people in the city now have the virus, either the omicron or delta variants. the data comes from the office for national statistics, which tests people from tens
of thousands of households, picking up those who don't have symptoms. its latest survey points to a faster spread around the uk. well, we are seeing a really quick increase in prevalence right across the country and across all ages, significantly for the very first time, all of the numbers are at the moment very, very small in the over 70s. this chart shows how rapidly infections in the uk were rising as measured by the 0ns at the end of last week and into the weekend. to more than 1.7 million people with the virus. there were differences around the uk, though, and england, it was one in 35 people, in northern ireland one in a0 in wales, one in a5. while in scotland, it was one in 65 people with the virus. 0micron cases are rising rapidly, but it's less likely than delta to put people in hospital according to new research and officials say that's reassuring. there is a glimmer of christmas
hope in the findings that we published yesterday, but it definitely isn't yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat. i think the findings have showed on some very, very preliminary analysis and very small numbers, which i want which i want to reinforce, that individuals compared to delta are around 30—a5% less likely to attend a&e. there is the increase in absence rates, the cueing at hospital, adding to the already considerable pressure on the nhs. there is the increase in absence rates, the cueing at hospital, the hearing our control staff call out for any ambulances that are available, and there just aren't any left, that is taking its toll on front line staff. while ministers work out what further steps to take them efforts are being made to get the booster programme into the heart of the local
communities here in an asian restaurant in bradford. we are creating access where our communities are, so a resturant is the best place for the time of year to come and bring the vaccines to make it as easy and as accessible as we can. boosters will be available on christmas day and boxing day in england, though not in the rest of the uk, and in basingstoke today, there was no shortage of takers for a christmas eve jab. it's an interesting one, but i want to get it done because i want to see family. it'sjust easy peasy, it's around the corner. it's good, yeah, it made sense to do it, it for the community and everybody else. but as people enjoy christmas attractions, the prospects for new year and beyond remain highly uncertain. hugh pym, bbc news. and earlier, hugh explained whether england would follow the other uk nations into tighter restrictions after the festive period. there are two directions of travel
at the moment for the data, which makes it really hard to read the overall picture. first of all, as we've been hearing, cases arising — there was a surge picked up by the 0ns at the end of last week and into the weekend, described as "sobering" by the head of the 0ns. really quite a sharp increase there. but then, as we've been hearing through this week, various pieces of research pointed to the fact that it's less severe in terms of the number of people who end up in hospital than delta. now it seems that in government, the picture is very much "leave it till early next week" — no decisions yet about meetings or whether there needs to be any further announcements about restrictions. nothing has been ruled out, they need the data — that is actually why the office for national statistics is updating its very authoritative survey. but what is causing a concern is the continued rise of hospital numbers with covid in the london, and also the prospect of more absences across the nhs, social care, and other bits of the public sector. those factors are being watched very
closely by ministers. the uk government is relaxing immigration rules so that social care workers from abroad can help alleviate staff shortages in britain. the temporary measures are expected to take effect in the new year and will be in place for at least 12 months. care providers are experiencing high vacancy rates and turnover, and pressure on staffing is being made worse by the recent spread of 0micron. as we've been hearing, the 0micron variant is spreading fast in parts of europe. on thursday, france reported a new record high in the number of daily infections. and in spain, where the wearing of facemasks outdoors is compulsory again, the 73,000 cases recorded on thursday represented the third consecutive high in as many days. so a curfew will be in force from tonight in catalonia in northeastern spain, where residents are banned from leaving their
homes between 1—6am. dr quique bassat is a research professor at the barcelona institute for global health, with more on what the situation is like there. we are very concerned about the situation. we are witnessing an unprecedented increase in the number of cases, with 25,000 more cases today than we had two days ago, with more than 100 points in the incidence increased between two days ago and today. with increasing pressure to the health system, we are getting warnings from the emergency departments, the intensive care units, that we are seeing many more cases being admitted. even if this new variant is predominantly less severe, because we also have a predominately very well vaccinated population, with over 80% of the population having received two or more shots, we are seeing lots of pressure to the health system and lots of cases that require hospitalisation. what is happening is that this huge increase in the number of cases, even though the new cases may be
less severe, it is having a toll in the cases that end up being severe. we do recognise that the vaccine is protecting against severe disease, but because of the enormous amount of new infection that we are seeing, there is a small proportion of those infections that do require hospitalisation. so it is important that the population understands that even though we are safer with the vaccines, we are not completely safe and we are not completely protected against hospitalisation. coronavirus has thwarted many christmas plans this year, and it's continuing to wreack havoc on international travel. more than 2,000 flights around the world have been cancelled today due to staff shortages. 0n the first christmas in two years that australians could travel between states over the holidays, more than 100 domestic flights from sydney and melbourne to other cities were cancelled. as were hundreds of us flights, with united airlines saying that
0micron cases had had a "direct impact on ourflight crews and the people who run our operation". passengers flying with delta and lufthansa have also been affected. 0ur north america correspondent nomia iqbal has been giving us the latest from the us. well, airliners are trying their best to inform passengers of what's happened. delta and united, the main airliners, said that they did send text messages and they're trying to help passengers who are stranded. but 0micron has really taken hold in this country — so it's three weeks ago when it was first detected, and now it counts for more than 70% of new coronavirus cases, as well. and so, there was a warning to americans by dr anthony fauci, america's top infectious disease expert, that this very into it spread very quickly. it is transmissible, we know that and we are now seeing that, and it's had a huge impact on travel. and i think many americans, like people across the world,
were hoping that christmas 2021 would not be the same as christmas 2020. millions had plans to travel not just by plane, but also by car — and that's now been all upended because of this variant. and, as you heard that, some people are trying to be cautious about it, and there are lots of restrictions now back in place — but it does look like this christmas will be a repeat of last christmas. absolutely, nomia, disappointing for many people who thought, "well, we got past the disruption caused by restrictions and travel bans, now we are allowed to travel again, but then we have got this spanner in the works." do we have a sense of how much longer this disruption will continue, and when people can feel that it is safe to travel without being at risk of their travel plans being upended? it's really one of those situations which is hard to really guess at. because many people thought, "well, 0k, we got vaccinated, we've got our second vaccination,
we are now being boosted, so we're masking up and doing everything that we're being told to do." so i think people thought — and certainly when i chat to people here in dc, which has now returned to its mask mandates, they thought that everything would be ok. but his 0micron variant did people bash take people by surprise, as i mentioned, dr fauci warned that it would be highly transmissible — and he warned that it is going to be a rocky few months. president biden is still confident that america will come through this. he is still imploring people to get vaccinated — bear in mind that there are still many people in this country who do not want to be vaccinated, let alone get a booster shot. they don't even necessarily, you know, stick to the restrictions. you go to different states in america, everyone seems to have their own rules. but there is a warning that this was going to happen. and so, as i say, it's really disappointing for americans and people across the world that
christmas and new years plans which have not been scuppered. at least 39 people have been killed after a packed ferry caught fire in southern bangladesh. the ferry had sailed from the capital, dhaka, and was bound for the southern town of barguna, with hundreds of passengers on board. at the time of the fire, the ferry was near the town othalakati. bbc�*s akbar hossein reports from dhaka. the fire is believed to have started in the engine room at around 3am in the morning, when most of the passengers were sleeping. it spread quickly as the ferry travelled along the sugandha river in the early hours of friday. the fire went on for hours before it was doused. as many as 500 people were reportedly on board. some of the victims drowned afterjumping into the water. translation: my father, | myself, my six-month-old nephew and my sister were travelling together. when the fire broke out, i gave the baby to a man, he was trying to save the baby,
but now we can't find them. please, let us know if you learn their whereabouts. i was on the first floor of the ferry. suddenly, the rear side caught fire. the engine had problems earlier. the ferry's windows had curtains, and these curtains trapped the smoke, which killed most of the people. ferry accidents are not uncommon in bangladesh, with mishaps blamed on poor maintenance, lax safety standards and overcrowding. the accident was the latest in a string of similar incidents in the delta country — hundreds have drowned in the country's rivers in the past ten years — but the fire that engulfed this ferry adds a new layer of horror to the story. akbar hossein, bbc news, dhaka. the authorities in russia have reported another successful test of the country's hypersonic missile weapon system, known as zircon. president vladimir putin
announced the news at a government meeting on friday. it's said to be the first time that a salvo of several missiles was launched simultaneously. he described it as a big event in strengthening russia's security and improving its defence capability. to the vatican where the pope has been holding the traditional catholic christmas eve mass. the head of the catholic church urged vatican cardinals, bishops and bureaucrats to embrace humility this christmas season, saying their pride, self—interest and the "glitter of our armor" was perverting their spiritual lives and corrupting the church's mission. here's a taste of events at taking place there. they sing images from the vatican there. the queen is expected to give a very personal christmas message tomorrow —
her first since the death of her husband, prince philip. she'll speak beside a framed photograph of the couple taken during their diamond wedding anniversary in 2007 — and she'll wear the same sapphire brooch that she wore on her honeymoon. there are some flashing images in this report from our royal correspondent, nicholas witchell. rehearsing at windsor for their part in the queen's christmas broadcast, the central band of the royal british legion will play the national anthem which begins the broadcast. this year's christmas message — a still from which has been issued by buckingham palace — will be an unusually personal one. the queen is wearing a brooch which she wore on her honeymoon and on the desk beside her, a photograph of her and prince philip taken in 2007, when they celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary. it's eight months now since philip's death. so far, the queen has not spoken publicly in any detail about how much he meant to her. her broadcast will be an opportunity for her to do so. within the royal family, mindful that this will be
the queen's first christmas without her husband, arrangements have been adjusted so that she won't be alone. the prince of wales on the duchess of cornwall will be with her at windsor, other members of the family, the wessexes and the gloucesters will also be there. absent, of course will be the duke and duchess of sussex. from their home in california, they've issued this photograph wishing their supporters happy holidays. it shows harry and meghan with their son, archie, and their daughter, lilibet, pictured for the first time. and so, at the end of a year touched by personal sadness, and some family tensions, thoughts will start to look ahead to next year and the celebrations to mark the queen's 70 years on the throne. uppermost in the minds of the palace planners, of course, will be the question of the queen's health. it's always a sensitive matter. it has particular significance after the recent concerns, and given that next year is the year
of her platinum jubilee. the queen will certainly want to be involved in thejubilee as fully as possible, and there will be another event of special significance to her — a service of thanksgiving for the life of the duke of edinburgh, which, it has been announced, will take place at westminster abbey in the spring. nicholas witchell, bbc news. christmas eve celebrations have been taking place in bethlehem, including an annual procession led by the head of the roman catholic church in the region. the events will culminate in a mass starting in a little under two hours' time at the church of the nativity, built on the spot where it's believed jesus was born. 0ur middle east correspondent tom bateman reports. in manger square, they wait for the biggest night of the year — a christmas procession that will follow the route believed to have been taken by mary and joseph. it's a march of faith. but this season's greetings are mainly between the locals.
the scout bands are a fixture of christmas in manger square and you can feel the energy. but what is missing are the international visitors and pilgrims that would usually be thronging the square here, and that is a devastating blow for the second year running because bethlehem needs tourism to keep surviving. the glimmers of tourism restarting last month have gone derailed by border closures due to the new covid variant. people trying to find joy and happiness from nothing. so it's very interesting, very impressive to see such a gathering. since the beginning of 2020, everything is closed, hotels are empty. it's very, very difficult, - especially those who are working in the tourism sector. the characters of christmas come to life.
in this factory, ibrahim is the only worker here today. normally, he'd be joined by four more. for palestinian christians in this part of the west bank, life has been a challenge, says nabeel, whose family has run this shop for decades. we could keep our workers till the moment, but i don't know. you know, it's hard. i have two shops, one is here, the one on the manger square. it's been like 2a months, zero income. it's sad, it's not normal to see bethlehem this way. but at christmas, there's always light to look up to. as this town celebrates, it remains a year of hope against the odds. tom bateman, bbc news, bethlehem. the most powerful telescope ever to be launched into space blasts off from french guiana tomorrow. it's travelling 1.5 million kilometres from earth, and it will look back in time to the first luminous glows after the big bang. 0ur science editor
rebecca morelle has more. it's taken 30 years to develop, cost more than $10 billion and has involved thousands of scientists. now the james webb space telescope is finally ready to launch to begin the most ambitious astronomy mission ever attempted. this telescope is absolutely the biggest and most complex and most powerful telescope that we've ever attempted to send to space. all of us astronomers are extremely eager to get this telescope into space. but i think it's going to work and i think it's going to, again, just completely revolutionise how we understand the cosmos. the telescope is a successor to hubble, which has given us amazing images. butjames webb is much more powerful. its mirror is almost three times bigger, which means it can reveal parts of the cosmos we've never seen before. gazing up into the heavens can help us to answer some of the biggest questions like where we come from and how did we get here?
this space telescope will help us to look further back in time than ever before to 13 and a half billion years ago, revealing the light from the very first stars to shine. we'll be able to see the earliest galaxy formation and whether they spiral into space like our own milky way, and other planetary systems will also come into view, allowing us to discover whether life could exist on other worlds. scientists will be able to study every phase of cosmic history. we think that the first stars might actually be really huge and they will be burning really hot and really brightly and would die very quickly, possibly with a huge explosion. but we haven't seen it yet and we really hope that this is something that we're going to find with the webb telescope. but before it can take any images, there's the most difficult task ahead. the telescope's so huge, to get it into a rocket, it's been folded up like origami.
for it to unfurl in space, more than 100 release mechanisms need to fire at exactly the right time in the right order. if anything goes wrong, it's game over. we know there are many ways that it could fail. so that means to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. we've unfolded it an folded it many times. we've examined it carefully. every time we say, well, that's not quite right, we'd better fix that. and it's extraordinarily challenging. the final preparations have been under way. it's an incredibly tight fit, as the rocket is tentatively lowered over the folded telescope. this is high stakes science, but if it works, it could lead to discoveries that scientists haven't even dreamt of. rebecca morrelle, bbc news. ladbaby has made uk chart history by becoming the christmas number one for a record fourth consecutive year. proceeds from the parody track "sausage rolls for everyone",
will go to the trussell trust food banks, and the single features appearances from a few well—known faces — as our entertainment correspondent lizo mzimba reports. ed sheeran and sir eltonjohn! # it's christmas time... two of music's biggest names helping ladbaby cover one of their songs and helping him make history with his fourth christmas number one in a row. it's amazing that once again the great british public have backed us this year and our song and raised an incredible amount of money and shone a light on the trussel trust and the food banks of the uk. and just — thank you, i genuinely can't believe that we've been able to do it again, it's incredible! the trussel trust's network of food banks provides thousands of emergency food parcels every day to people living in crisis. they'll receive all the profits from the single, something that started back in 2018 when ladbaby and his wife had the idea of giving
a famous song a sausage roll—themed makeover for charity. # we built this city on sausage rolls! it continued the year after that... # i love sausage rolls, so put another one in the oven, baby! and the year after that. # don't stop me eating # 0h, sausage roll feeling! # it's christmas time, sausage rolls and wine... now, ladbaby has exceeded the record of consecutive christmas number ones that he shared with the spice girls and the beatles. and, at the same time, he's helped raise tens of thousands of pounds for those most in need. it's christmas! lizo mzimba, bbc news. we wa nt we want to bring you a very important update on the whereabouts of someone who's got a very busy night ahead. it's the big man in red himself, santa claus. that is
norad's himself, santa claus. that is norad�*s santa tracking, and that shows us where he's heading. he's apparently heading to zambia, just passing the drc. you're watching bbc news. hello. not everybody wants a white christmas, believe it or not. some would preferjust some crisp winter sunshine. there won't be much of that on offer this weekend, but it is northern scotland that has seen some today, and will again for christmas day. furthest away from weather fronts coming in from the southwest with mild atlantic air. it is the case throughout the christmas weekend that the further southwest you are, the milder the weather will be. the further northeast you are, even though you may well see some sunshine, it will feel coldest here. and as we get on into tonight, it's the clear skies which become more widespread across scotland which will deliver the lowest temperatures, quite a hard frost setting in and places, especially in the highlands.
and as we look to england, wales, and northern ireland, it's cloud, mist, fog, outbreaks of rain — but this is where temperatures will be staying above freezing, maybe a few spots in the far north of england could see temperatures getting close to freezing with a touch of frost. so for christmas day, then, scotland, after that cold frost, starts to see some sunshine. northern ireland, england, wales here with cloud and optics of rain edging further north and east, turning what are certainly in northern ireland during the afternoon. we could well see a bit of snow developing towards snowdonia and the peak district later in the day. now it is mild in the far southwest, but it's rather chilly elsewhere and a freshening breeze — it's coldest in scotland despite the sunshine. so on through saturday night, christmas day night into boxing day, this wet weather pushes north and meets cold air — and particularly in northern england and southern scotland, and especially the higher ground. we get some snow out of that, it may start blowing around in strong winds, as well, because this is where we've clearly got the coldest weather going into boxing day.
now, that snow may be relatively low as we start off on boxing day, but the higher accumulations will be to the hills. what's left of the system delivering some mostly hills snow as it pushes further north across scotland during boxing day. behind it, plenty of cloud around, a few showers, the brightest skies in the far southwest, where it is still mild. elsewhere, it's still on the chilly side. now as we go through the week ahead, there'll be some significant changes on the way. no more a battle between mild and cold air, it's the mild air that will win out, and some spots becoming very mild, but also wet and windy.
the headlines: new records for covid in the uk — the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began and an estimated 1.7 million people are reported to have had the virus on a single day last week. millions around the world face travel disruption over christmas, as the surge in 0micron variant cases sees flights cancelled due to staff shortages. united airlines says it's contacting impacted passengers ahead of them coming to the airport. at least 39 people have been killed after a packed ferry caught fire in southern bangladesh. the number of casualties is likely to increase as many of the passengers have severe burns. and the queen is expected to give a very personal christmas message this year, her first since the death of her husband prince philip. the annual broadcast was recorded last week, before the queen's decision to stay in windsor castle because of concerns about the pandemic.