ORDINARILY, Britain’s last day in the European organisation it has been a member of for nearly 50 years would be the subject of this column, but the virus is now bigger than Brexit.

More than three-quarters of England is today ordered to stay at home, including all of those who live between Tees and Tyne. We are back to where we were in March, and we fear for the economic consequences.

Sadly, because of the fast spreading new variant of Covid-19, we understand the need for these measures, especially as the slides shown at the Downing Street briefing reveal that the variant arrived in our region shortly before Christmas.

Indeed, it is a relief that the Government has belatedly announced the delay in the start of the school term. The virus loves crowds and, just as everyone could see how misplaced was the well-intentioned desire to keep Christmas open for five days, it seems sending hundreds of kids to mingle in corridors is a recipe for them to bring the infection home.

But if we are demanding that children should sacrifice their education, so adults should sacrifice their New Year celebrations. The safest place to spend the last minutes of the awful 2020 is asleep in bed rather than out toasting the arrival of 2021.