Priti Patel has announced new £800 fines from next week for anyone attending an illegal house party of more than 15 people.
The home secretary said the fine will double for each repeat offence to a maximum level of £6,400.
She told a Downing Street press conference: “The science is clear: such irresponsible behaviour poses a significant threat to public health. Not only to those in attendance, but to our wonderful police officers who attend these events to shut them down.”
Boris Johnson has suggested England could stay under lockdown restrictions through the spring and into summer.
The prime minister said it was “too early to say” when asked whether rules could be relaxed in the spring or continue for longer.
His remarks came as scientists said infection levels in England may have risen at the start of January, with swab tests indicating the highest figures were in London.
They also follow an announcement by health secretary Matt Hancock that the NHS is vaccinating people against Covid-19 at a rate of 200 jabs each minute.
Pfizer-BioNTech agree to supply Covax vaccine scheme, according to sources
Pfizer and BioNTech have agreed to supply their Covid vaccine to the World Health Organisation co-led COVAX vaccine access scheme in lower-income countries, two sources familiar with the deal have told Reuters.
The deal is expected to be announced on Friday, according to the sources, who declined to be named due to the confidentiality of the agreement.
Details on the size of the deal or the price per dose COVAX would pay were not immediately clear, but the sources said the allotment would likely be relatively small.
One source said the reason for the limited volume was that the doses were primarily meant for healthcare workers in the countries COVAX serves.
Electronic tags considered to enforce Covid quarantine
Compulsory electronic tags for people arriving in the UK from overseas were considered in a Home Office paper looking at methods for enforcing the coronavirus quarantine.
The move was floated as one of a range of options for improving levels of compliance with the 10-day self-isolation order for international arrivals, but was not recommended.
Political editor Andrew Woodcock has more details below:
Biden vows to move ‘heaven and earth’ to get 100 million vaccinated in 100 days
President Joe Biden has vowed to move “heaven and earth” to administer 100 million vaccines to Americans in 100 days while unveiling his national Covid-19 plan today – all while calling the Trump administration vaccine plan a “dismal failure”.
Follow our breaking news story for more updates:
US Covid death toll will probably top 500,000 next month, says Biden
US president Joe Biden has said America’s death toll from the coronavirus will probably top 500,000 next month, painting a grim picture of what he said will be a difficult battle.
In a White House event, Mr Biden said the rollout of the Covid vaccine has been a “dismal failure so far.”
“Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” he said.
France to recommend people wear surgical masks in public
The French government will recommend that people wear surgical masks in public because fabric masks do not provide enough protection from Covid-19 transmission, the country’s health minister has announced.
France already requires masks to be worn in public places, but until now has not made recommendations about the type of masks that should be worn in that setting.
Olivier Veran, speaking to French broadcaster TF1, also said it was unlikely restrictions on ski resorts would be lifted next month, effectively ruling out a return to skiing in time for the February school holidays.
Spanish health minister to step down
Spanish health minister Salvador Illa will resign next week to campaign in regional elections in Catalonia, an official from his party said, while national authorities reported a record 44,357 new daily coronavirus cases.
“By Thursday of next week at 12 midnight, he will have given up his portfolio,” Miquel Iceta, the secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party, said in a news conference.
Mr Illa, who has overseen Spain’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, had said he would step down when campaigning got underway for the election.
Spain has been routinely reporting record daily coronavirus infections since the end of December, but a top health official said the recent surge appeared to be stabilising.
North Sea platform shut down after Covid outbreak
A North Sea platform has been shut down due to a number of coronavirus infections.
The first crew member tested positive for Covid-19 after displaying symptoms on board Ithaca Energy’s FPF-1 Floating Production Facility – around 150 miles (240km) east of Aberdeen – on Tuesday.
A further three workers were then found to have been infected with the virus and close contacts of all cases have been told to self-isolate.
One worker dead and 95 isolating after Covid outbreak at Müller factory
A worker at a Müller factory in Bridgwater has died after contracting coronavirus and 95 others are self-isolating.
The company said of those self-isolating, 47 had tested positive for the virus.
The outbreak has affected nearly one-third of the workforce at the dairy in Market Way near North Petherton, Somerset.
Samuel Osborne has more details:
Thousands of Covid vaccine doses go to waste in US
Strict federal and state guidelines for who should first receive the limited vaccine available in the US has caused thousands of doses to end up in the bin.
Danielle Zoellner takes a look at how many doses have gone to waste in this piece:
London and eastern England lagging behind in vaccinating over 80s
London and eastern England are lagging behind other regions in vaccinating those aged 80 and over, provisional data from NHS England shows.
Around two-thirds of people in the age group in northern England have now received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to figures for the period up to January 17.
North-east England and Yorkshire have vaccinated the highest percentage, with 67% inoculated, while just 50% of Londoners aged 80 and over have received the jab – the lowest of all NHS regions.
It comes as the Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported that the North East and Yorkshire would have its vaccine supply cut next week to ensure other regions catch up with the vaccination programme.