While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 20

As Britain fights new virus strain, PM Johnson imposes tighter curbs

Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed an effective lockdown on over 16 million people in England and reversed plans to ease curbs over Christmas, saying Britain was dealing with a new coronavirus strain up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original.

Although Johnson and his scientific advisers believe vaccines will still be effective, and the new strain is not more deadly or more serious in terms of the illness caused, he said on Saturday the government had to take urgent action.

The number of cases in England has soared in the last two weeks because of the virus variant.

Johnson tore up plans to allow three households to mix indoors for five days over the festive period, and said London and south-east England, which are currently in the highest level of a three-tier system of rules, would now be placed in a new Tier 4 level, similar to those of a recent national lockdown.

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Trump downplays massive breach of US government systems

US President Donald Trump in his first comments about a widespread data breach across the US government downplayed the seriousness and impact of the cyber espionage campaign, and questioned whether Russia was to blame.

“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality,” Trump said on Twitter on Saturday. “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!).”

Trump’s assertion that China may be behind the hacking spree, which has so far affected more than a half dozen federal agencies including the Commerce and Treasury Departments, runs counter to comments by his own Secretary of State and multiple lawmakers briefed on the matter.

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Netanyahu gets coronavirus jab, starting Israel rollout

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a Covid-19 vaccine jab on Saturday, kicking off a national rollout over the coming days.

Netanyahu, 71, and Israel’s health minister were injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine live on TV at Sheba Medical Centre in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.

“I asked to be vaccinated first, together with Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, to serve as personal examples and encourage you to be vaccinated,” Netanyahu told the television audience.

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Football: Messi equals Pele’s record of goals for a single club

Lionel Messi scored his 643rd goal for Barcelona on Saturday to equal Pele’s record of goals for a single club as the Spanish giants were held 2-2 by Valencia.

Messi headed in from Jordi Alba’s cross after his first-half penalty was saved to equal the mark set by the Brazilian great for Santos.

But Messi was left frustrated as a dogged Valencia forced a draw that leaves Barcelona eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who beat Elche 3-1 earlier in the day.

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Football: Liverpool thrash Palace 7-0 to go six points clear

Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah each netted twice in a scoring masterclass as the visitors thrashed Crystal Palace 7-0 on Saturday to record their first away win in the Premier League since September and move a provisional six points clear at the top.

It marked the first time the Reds had won away in the top-flight by a margin of seven goals and was their biggest league victory since they hammered Palace 9-0 at Anfield in 1989 when they won the old top-flight First Division title.

The result put the defending champions on 31 points after 14 games ahead of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who host Leicester City on Sunday.

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