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Coronavirus - 18th November

Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 10:23

Summary for Wednesday, 18th November

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will conduct Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) with MPs via video link later, as he continues to self-isolate
  • The National Audit Office has accused the government of a lack of transparency over its awarding of £18bn of Covid-related contracts
  • The lifting of England's lockdown must be handled better this time round to avoid a surge in Covid cases that could overwhelm the NHS, doctors say
  • Residents of level three or level four local authorities in Scotland will be breaking the law from Friday if they make non-essential trips outside their area
  • The start of November saw Britain's highest levels of loneliness since the pandemic began, according to Office for National Statistics figures
  • The state of South Australia will enter a snap six-day lockdown to curb the spread of a Covid outbreak found days ago, with 36 cases detected
  • Tokyo sees record number of new cases with nearly 500 in one day, the biggest daily increase since the pandemic began
  • A Covid-19 vaccine developed in China has shown success in mid-stage trials, researchers say
  • Senior US Senator Chuck Grassley, who is third in the line of presidential succession, tests positive but says he is feeling well

Good morning, and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK and abroad.
If you're just joining us, here are the main headlines from the UK:

  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson will become the first prime minister in history to conduct Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) with MPs via a video link later, as he continues to self-isolate after coming into contact with fellow Conservative MP Lee Anderson, who later tested positive for coronavirus
  • The lifting of England's lockdown must be handled better this time round to avoid a surge in coronavirus cases that could overwhelm the NHS, doctors union the British Medical Association (BMA) has said. Its blueprint for easing restrictions includes replacing the "rule of six" with a two-households restriction to reduce social mixing and banning travel between different local lockdown tiers
  • Residents of level three or level four local authorities in Scotland will be breaking the law from Friday if they make non-essential trips outside their area. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs police will have the powers to enforce the new restrictions as 11 of Scotland's 32 local authorities prepare to go into level four lockdown
  • The week after the clocks went back saw Britain's highest levels of loneliness since the pandemic began, according to Office for National Statistics figures . The start of November, with darker evenings, had 4.2 million adults always or often lonely, compared with 2.6 million before the pandemic. This was the peak in levels of acute loneliness since the lockdown in March
  • The government was not transparent about suppliers and services when it scrambled to award £18bn worth of Covid-19 contracts, the public spending watchdog has said . The National Audit Office (NAO) found firms recommended by MPs, peers and ministers' offices were given priority. Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, called for ministers to "come clean" and publish all information about the contracts awarded

Latest news from around the world

Here are the top stories from across the globe so far today:

  • South Australia has announced a six-day lockdown following a new outbreak in the state. Thirty-six cases were found in the city of Adelaide on Sunday, the first community cases detected in six months
  • A lockdown has also been announced in the Canadian territory of Nunavut - this time for two weeks. More than 60 infections have been confirmed across four communities, following months with no new cases
  • The Japanese capital Tokyo has seen a record number of new cases, with almost 500 announced on Wednesday amid a nationwide rise in infections
  • France, meanwhile, has become the first European country to pass two million coronavirus cases, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University
  • In the US, major health organisations have urged President Donald Trump to share key information about the pandemic with President-elect Joe Biden
  • Senior Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who is 87 and third in the line of the US presidential succession, has become the latest politician to test positive for the virus. Over 11.3 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, while almost 250,000 people have died
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued emergency authorisation for a rapid self-testing kit to be used at home, although kits will only be available by prescription
  • A vaccine developed in China has shown success in mid-stage trials, researchers say. The announcement comes after three vaccines, developed in the US, Germany and Russia, released data suggesting efficiency of more than 90%, after trials involving tens of thousands of people
  • Globally, there have been more than 55 million infections and 1.3 million deaths since the first coronavirus case was identified a year ago


What’s happening with the quest to find a new vaccine?

As we’ve already reported, a new study has shown positive results for a new vaccine developed in China , with a quick immune response seen during mid-stage trials of around 700 people.
There are several vaccines being developed in China, some of which are already being administered, but this latest announcement follows a string of promising vaccine news from around the world in recent days.
First, a German-US vaccine by Pfizer and BioNtech was reported to be more than 90% effective based on late-stage trials with more than 43,000 people.
Then, US company Moderna said its vaccine showed nearly 95% efficiency , also after large late-stage trials. In both cases the results are preliminary and both vaccines have not yet been approved.
And a Russian Covid vaccine was reported to be 92% effective after trials with 16,000 volunteers. It was already granted approval for emergency use within Russia in August.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 10:43

Doctors spell out how to exit England's lockdown

Michelle Roberts - Health editor, BBC News online
The lifting of England's lockdown must be handled better this time round to avoid a surge in coronavirus cases that could overwhelm the NHS, doctors say.
The British Medical Association, a trade union for doctors in the UK, has published a blueprint for how it thinks England should proceed with any easing.
It includes replacing the "rule of six" with a two-household restriction to reduce social mixing and banning travel between different local lockdown tiers.
The UK government has yet to say if or exactly how England will exit restrictions on 2 December.
It will decide next week, based on whether cases have fallen enough and how much strain hospitals are under.
You can read more here .

What’s the latest around Europe?


  • French Health Minister Jérôme Salomon says the number of people suffering from depression has doubled between the end of September and November. People struggling financially or those with previous psychological problems have been particularly affected, he says. He’s urged people to keep in touch with family and friends, limit smoking and drinking and not to follow the news constantly.
  • Czech primary schoolchildren have been off for nearly a month but today the first two years have gone back to class. Face coverings are compulsory for everyone.
  • Thousands of protesters defied a ban on gatherings in Slovakia last night to protest Covid measures in several cities. They called on Prime Minister Igor Matovic to resign.
  • Spain’s Madrid region wants pharmacies to test all the capital’s 6.6 million residents for coronavirus by Christmas using antigen tests. But the national government says it could create a “false security” because of the risk of false negatives, and it says pharmacies could be put at risk.
  • The Dutch health minister wants everyone to take a Covid test on average once a month from next March, whether or not they have symptoms. That would involve 10 million tests a month, he says.
  • Italy has recorded 731 deaths, the highest daily toll since April. Lombardy in the north has seen a doubling of infections. Meanwhile an Ipsos opinion poll suggests 16% of Italians won’t use a vaccine should it become available in 2021.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 10:51

Breaking News

NHS Test and Trace boss self-isolating after app alert

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Dido Harding said she is "feeling well" and facing "many hours of Zoom"

Dido Harding, the head of NHS Test and Trace, is self-isolating after the contact tracing app sent her an alert.
Baroness Harding posted on Twitter : "Nothing like personal experience of your own products... got this overnight. Feeling well. Many hours of Zoom ahead."
It comes after the prime minister and six Tory MPs were also told to self-isolate following a Downing Street meeting, after which one MP tested positive.

‘Huge pressure’ to secure PPE for UK

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The business secretary has said he will not apologise for the government working quickly to secure supplies during the coronavirus crisis, following a critical report by the public spending watchdog .
Alok Sharma told BBC Breakfast there was "huge pressure" at the time to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers, after a report by the National Audit Office exposed transparency failings.
"We had to do an enormous amount of work very fast to secure PPE and that's what we did, and I'm not going to apologise for the fact that quite rightly we made that effort," he said.
Sharma insisted that "checks were done", in the case of a Spanish businessman acting as a go-between who the BBC reported was given £21 million of UK taxpayers' cash .
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 10:55

South Australia to enter 'circuit breaker' lockdown

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The state of South Australia will enter an immediate six-day lockdown after community cases were detected in Adelaide for the first time in six months on Sunday. There are now 36 cases in the state.
Authorities say the "circuit breaker" measures were necessary to stop the virus spreading "at the beginning".
Australia has previously also responded aggressively to small outbreaks. Various state governments have at times closed parts of the economy, enforced border restrictions and other measures to stop the virus spreading.
The lockdown, to begin at midnight on Wednesday, comes just weeks after neighbouring state Victoria beat a second wave, which caused about 800 deaths.
Under the rules, people in South Australia must stay at home and not leave for exercise. Shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs will remain closed, with schools only opening for the children of essential workers.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 10:58

Watchdog urges government to ‘come clean’ over deals

Simon Read - Business Reporter
We heard earlier from Business Secretary Alok Sharma describing how the government had to work quickly to secure supplies during the initial coronavirus crisis. He was responding to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) - who says the government was not transparent about suppliers and services when it scrambled to award £18bn worth of coronavirus contracts,
The public spending watchdog found firms recommended by MPs, peers and ministers' offices were given priority and said there was inadequate explanation of key decisions, such as why particular suppliers were chosen.
Nor was enough done to address potential conflicts of interest.
According to the NAO's report, more than 8,600 coronavirus contracts had been awarded by 31 July, ranging in value from less than £100 to £410m.
Of these, £10.5bn-worth were awarded directly without a competitive tender process, the report said.
Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, called for ministers to "come clean" and publish all information about the contracts awarded.
The government acknowledged it had procured services with "extreme urgency" due the crisis but it said it had "robust processes in place".
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 11:01

Senior US Republican senator gets coronavirus

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The US senator who is third in the line of presidential succession has announced he has tested positive for coronavirus.
Chuck Grassley, the longest-serving Republican in the upper chamber, said he would remain in quarantine.
The 87-year-old Iowan's illness caused him to skip a vote in the Senate on Tuesday for the first time in 27 years.
Mr Grassley is the sixth US senator known to have contracted the disease. The other five all recovered.
"This morning, I learned that I had been exposed to the coronavirus," Mr Grassley said in a statement, adding that he immediately began quarantining while awaiting testing.
"While I still feel fine, the test came back positive for the coronavirus. I am continuing to follow my doctors' orders and CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines."
Coronavirus is surging in the US where it has infected more than 11 million Americans and killed nearly 250,000. The country saw almost 150,000 new cases on Tuesday alone, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 11:04

Top medical bodies call on Trump to share Covid data with Biden

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It's been over two weeks since the US voted for its next president, but incumbent Donald Trump has still not conceded the election - and it's worrying the country's leading health bodies.
In a letter published on Tuesday , the heads of the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Hospitals Association warned that information on the availability of drugs and hospital capacity "needs to be shared to save countless lives" amid a rise in cases.
All information about the national stockpile, the country's coronavirus response, as well as updates about medicines and vaccines should be made available to President-elect Joe Biden's team "as quickly as possible to ensure that there is continuity in strategic planning so that there is no lapse in our ability to care for patients", they added.
The letter came after Biden warned that "people may die" if his incoming administration continues to be impeded by Donald Trump.
He and his team have been unable to receive sensitive government briefings that are normally provided to an incoming administration because of Trump's refusal to acknowledge he lost the election, despite calls to do so from both sides.
The US has seen more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country.

Joe Biden insists 'more people will die' if Donald Trump refuses to hand over power properly

Irish Post
President-Elect Joe Biden says that if Donald Trump and his administration fail to coordinate appropriately with his transition team then "more people will die".
Mr Biden is set to begin his presidency on January 20, but plans regarding coronavirus relief, national security and vaccine plans have already begun.
Mr Trump has thus far failed to acknowledge the result of this month's presidential election, despite it being universally called in favour of his opponent.
Fears are growing that a transition of power from one administration to another will be anything but smooth, and Biden warns that there will be dire consequences if that's the case.
"More people may die if we don't coordinate," Biden told reporters.
The President-Elect and his aides have stressed the importance of being briefed on White House efforts to control the Covid-19 crisis, as well as plans to distribute prospective vaccines, given that Biden's administration will soon be in charge of it, but nothing of sort has happened yet.
Trump is still refusing to concede the election, and has continually stated that he wants to bring accusations of voter fraud to the Supreme Court to challenge the result.
As of yet, however, neither Mr Trump nor his team have provided any substantial evidence of electoral foul-play.

Donald Trump fires head of election security agency after he rejected President's vote rigging claims

Irish Post
Christopher Krebs was fired from his role as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which was established in response to the Russian interference that marred the 2016 election.
A former Microsoft executive, Krebs coordinated efforts to ensure all electoral systems were protected from foreign and domestic interference in this year’s election.
He was also among the most prominent figures to push back against President Trump’s claims that the vote was rigged in Joe Biden’s favour.
Krebs is thought to have angered Trump after tweeting a report citing 59 election security experts who all stated that there is no credible evidence of computer fraud in the election outcome.
The President announced his decision to fire Krebs in a tweet, branding the security chief’s claims as “highly inaccurate”.
He tweeted: “The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud - including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, “glitches” in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”
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Many of the claims made by Trump concerning the election have already been disproven by experts while, in many cases, the President has made such accusations without providing any evidence.
Responding from his personal Twitter, Krebs said.: “Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomrorow.”
He also tweeted the phrase “Protect 2020,” - a reference to his agency’s slogan.
The sacking comes hot on the heels of the firing of defence secretary Mark Esper on November 9, though his departure was part of a broader shake-up that has seen several Trump loyalists installed in senior Pentagon positions.

Donald Trump's advisers reportedly talked the President out of a significant missile strike against Iran due to fears it may have triggered a war

According to the New York Times, Mr Trump supposedly asked his senior advisers about taking action against Iran's main nuclear site during a meeting last Thursday.
It's understood that Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were also present.
The meeting took place just a day after UN inspectors confirmed that Iran had significantly increased its stockpile of nuclear material.
Iran was found to have a collection of nuclear material 12 times larger than the limit set under the nuclear accord in 2015, which Trump himself pulled out of in 2018.
The President's advisers dissuaded him from launching either a missile strike or a cyber strike agains Iran's enrichment facility in Natanz, located around 200 miles south of the Iranian capital of Tehran.
"Trump asked for options. They gave him the scenarios and he ultimately decided not to go forward," a source told Reuters.
He was reportedly warned that any action could result in a wider conflict with Iran, just weeks before the presidency is due to be handed over to Joe Biden.
Mr Biden apparently intends to revive the Iran nuclear accord when he takes office on January 20, but any such plan could go up in smoke if tensions are escalated before then.
According to the New York Times, national security officials within the Defense Department are growing increasingly concerned that Trump may take action against Iran before the end of his term.
Since the report that Trump was talked out of a missile strike, Iran have spoken out against the US, claiming they would instigate a "crushing response" should America attack them.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 11:08

Will families be able to celebrate Christmas together?

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With little over a month to go until Christmas Day, the government is reportedly looking at plans to allow families to mix for five days over the festive period.
Some newspapers, including the Sun, say ministers are considering relaxing Covid-19 restrictions from Christmas Eve.
England is expected to come out of its second national lockdown on 2 December, with the government hoping to return to the previous system of regional tiers of restrictions.
It will decide next week , based on whether cases have fallen enough and how much strain hospitals are under.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said although he wanted his parents and family around the Christmas table, it was too early for "conclusions" on what the rules would be .
He said his view was to keep bearing down on the infection and "do our bit".
Asked when a decision would be made, he told BBC Breakfast: "We just have to see where we get to."
"I certainly would like to have as normal a Christmas as possible," he said, but warned it may not be "as normal" as previous years.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 11:43

Final decision on Christmas rests with government - Hopkins

The BBC's health editor Hugh Pym asks if the panel can confirm - subject to a final decision to be made - whether a limited form of household mixing is being considered for Christmas and how this might work.
Dr Hopkins starts by saying that we want to have a Christmas as "close to normal as possible", which requires people to "make every effort" to adhere to restrictions during the lockdown period and in December to get virus levels down to reduce the rate of transmission within households.
She said the "final decision would rest with the government".
Pressed again on whether the panel is modelling a limited form of household mixing, Prof Dame Angela Maclean says the panel "don't know what decisions have been made".
Dr Hopkins confirms that some sort of Christmas might be possible, saying that coming into Christmas "we need to be very careful about the number of contacts that we have", and then if the government "hopefully" allows some mixing over the festive period, after Christmas is over, she says we will have to "reduce those contacts again".

Powis self-isolating after household member tests positive

Prof Stephen Powis, medical director for NHS England, tells the UK government data briefing that he's self-isolating because a member of his household recently tested positive for Covid-19.
"I should say that I'm completely asymptomatic and perfectly fine but I will be staying at home until I have completed my period of isolation."
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 11:46

What do we know about the Sinovac vaccine?

Pallab Ghosh - Science correspondent, BBC News
Following the announcement of not one but two successful potential vaccines for coronavirus in the space of a week attention is understandably focused on the minutiae of the latest developments.
Under normal circumstances the results of phase 1 and phase 2 trials of a drug would not raise an eyebrow outside of the lab. These stages are to largely check if the pharmaceutical is safe and might be effective to try out in more expensive to run phase 3 trials. This is what Sinovac has announced.
Its vaccine is different from the ones announced by Pfizer/BionTech and Moderna in that it has been developed with more traditional methods, using a chemically inactivated version of the virus.
The manufacturers highlight the fact that their vaccine gives a “quick” response in the trials - developing virus-fighting antibodies within 14 days of receiving a dose. This feature would make it suitable for emergency use, they say, during an outbreak or for healthcare workers.
All promising stuff, but we should wait to see the results of the larger scale trials currently under way in Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey before drawing any firm conclusions about its effectiveness. And even then, just like the phase 3 results that have been and will soon be announced, they should be taken in with a healthy dose of caution.
Researchers won’t know how effective any of them will be in the long term until they start being rolled out in the general population. The development of vaccines does not mark the end of the pandemic, but the beginning of a long and slow return to normality.
Read more about the China vaccine trials here.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:12

Top Covid headlines as UK nations discuss Christmas rules

If you're just joining us, here are some of the main coronavirus stories making headlines today:


US approves first rapid at-home test kit

US regulators with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the country's first at-home test kit that can detect the coronavirus in only 30 minutes.
The self-administered "Lucira Covid-19 All-In-One Test Kit" is not expected to be widely available until the spring and is forecast to only cost around $50 (£38).
It will only be available by prescription at first, and only for those diagnosed with Covid-like symptoms.
US Health Secretary Alex Azar praised the development in a statement on Tuesday, hailing it as another tool in America's "expanding arsenal of Covid-19 testing options".
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:24

The Irish Government does not want to extend Level Five restrictions, according to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Irish Post
He stressed that the government has "no appetite" to keep the country in lockdown any longer than it needs to be, but refused to guarantee an exit from Level Five come December 1.
"There is no appetite to not exit Level Five in two weeks," he told RTE News.
"The next two weeks matters so much. I don't think with Covid, the Irish Government or any government anywhere can say 'no matter what' to anything.
"We are largely on course - the first three weeks were really good. The R number for last week was down to 0.6," he added.
"People have made huge sacrifices. People have really got on board with Level Five. It has worked."
Minister Donnelly did however admit that some people were beginning to lose focus in the fight against coronavirus, something he down to "fatigue" following a long period of lockdown.
"What I'm saying is and what public health doctors are saying is [that] over the last week, it's clear that people have become fatigued.
"Gathering in large groups to drink outside is one symptom of that. We're seeing more traffic on the roads.
"Six weeks is a long period of time for Level Five measures. There has been an easing off in the  last week.
"Over the next two weeks, we've got to double down because we want to open up as much as possible for December."
The plan, laid out by NPHET, is for Ireland for come out of lockdown on December 1, when the country will likely drop down to Level Three restrictions, with a view to dropping to Level Two in time for Christmas.
Though none of this is set in stone, and if case numbers do no drop significantly enough then current restrictions could well stay in place.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:27

Police to enforce travel ban in parts of Scotland

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People living in areas of Scotland under level three and level-four restrictions will be breaking the law from Friday if they make non-essential journeys outside their own council area.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs police will have the powers to enforce the new restrictions.
The legislation was announced as 11 of Scotland's 32 local authorities prepare to go into level four lockdown .
Police Scotland said officers will only use the new powers as a "last resort".
Meanwhile, Scotland's deputy minister defended the decision to keep schools open in areas which are being moved to level-four restrictions.
John Swinney said it was "absolutely central" to the wellbeing of children and young people.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:33

How is Australia balancing sports and coronavirus?

Phil Mercer - BBC News Sydney
Victoria is understandably apprehensive about international travel. Breaches in security in its hotel quarantine system for Australian citizens returning from overseas are widely thought to have allowed the virus to escape into the community, igniting a deadly second wave.
A decision on quarantine arrangements for tennis players might not come until after an official report is released, possibly in late December.
State premier Daniel Andrews says he is confident the Australian Open will go ahead in January, but if the players aren’t allowed into the country and forced into isolation until the new year, will they have enough time to prepare for the rigours of a grand slam in the furnace of an Aussie summer?
Whileworld-class sport in packed arenas might be in doubt in Melbourne, it’s a reality in Covid-confident Brisbane.
Restrictions were relaxed to allow more than 50,000 supporters to watch Queensland defeat New South Wales in a winner-takes-all State of Origin rugby league blockbuster. It was billed as the world's largest sporting event since the pandemic began.

What was behind today's Berlin protest?

Jenny Hill - BBC Berlin correspondent
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Police using water cannon are slowly pushing thousands of soaked, chanting protesters back as they begin to try to break up the demonstration around the Brandenburg gate. The protesters are packed tightly together and the vast majority aren’t wearing face coverings.
Not far away, in the Bundestag, politicians are debating a change to the infection protection law which will, in effect, give the government more power to impose corona restrictions, leaving them less vulnerable to legal challenges.
Some critics have, controversially, likened the proposed change to the so-called ‘Enabling Act’ of 1933 with which politicians handed over legislative power to Adolf Hitler.
The politics of corona have enraged a relatively small, but vociferous, number of Germans and, inflamed by right wing extremists and conspiracy theorists, they’ve taken to the streets a number of times over the last few months.
Police estimate their numbers today to be between 5,000 and 11,000.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:36

Mass testing to be rolled out to Merthyr Tydfil

Mass testing will begin in Merthyr Tydfil this Saturday , the Welsh government has confirmed.
The county is the first part of Wales to have the scheme rolled out, with the help of 165 military personnel.
It is hoped testing will find people without symptoms who may be infected, so they can self-isolate.
Merthyr Tydfil had the highest case rate in UK at the start of November and is still among the worst affected areas in Wales.
Earlier this month, a mass-testing pilot began in Liverpool.
It has found 700 cases where those infected had no symptoms.
Public Health England director Dr Susan Hopkins said nearly 100,000 people had been tested over the last 10 days.
Pilots are planned for a further 67 areas in England.

Analysis: More good vaccine news, but others will be needed for poorer countries

Naomi Grimley - BBC News
More vaccine good news is what we’ve all been waiting for. This time, it’s really encouraging to know the Pfizer vaccine seems to work on older people as effectively as younger ones
But this vaccine is still a long way off widespread use.
First, regulators need to be absolutely sure in their own minds that it’s safe - not least because Moderna and Pfizer both use an experimental technology that’s never been approved before.
That process could still take a few weeks.
Then there’s the massive issue of availability.
Pfizer is promising 50 million doses by the end of the year. But remember it’s a two-shot vaccine.
Perhaps one of the biggest problems is that wealthy countries have already swooped in to buy up the first batches that will be ready.
That’s good news for a country such as the UK which ordered 40 million Pfizer doses, but not such good news for developing countries which haven’t got the money to place bids.
That’s why so much hinges on other vaccines such as the Oxford AstraZeneca one, as they may be more scalable and there are more advanced plans to get it to low and middle-income countries through a UN-backed project called Covax.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:42

Police in Northern Ireland issue 210 tougher Covid fines in past week

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has issued 210 tougher Covid penalties of £200 since they came into effect six days ago.
On 12 November, 'COV4' fines replaced the previous minimum penalty notice of £60 for breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
The devolved government of Northern Ireland agreed on 8 October to raise the minimum fine to £200 and fines on conviction up to £10,000.
However, their introduction was delayed until 12 November because of a problem with printing the notices.
Read more

The place at the epicentre of the US outbreak

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The US had just over nine million Covid-19 cases when November began - now, just weeks later, the country is topping 11 million. And one west Texas county has emerged as the latest American epicentre.
Right on the border with Mexico, El Paso in Texas is known for its desert landscape, military complexes and plentiful sunshine. Now, it's making a name as one of the worst-hit regions in the nation.
Covid-19 patients account for more than half of all hospital admissions in the county of El Paso, and the case count continues to trend upwards.
And yet there has been no lockdown in the city, which has around as many confirmed cases as the whole of Greece.
From overflowing hospitals to mobile morgues, read more about the unfolding crisis here .
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:46

Christmas ‘will not be normal’ - PM

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson conducted Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) via video link earlier as he continues to self-isolate

Christmas this year will not be normal – but the prime minister “has been clear in his desire to try and allow families to have Christmas together”, a No 10 spokesman says.
Boris Johnson will look at the latest data to make decisions and an update would be given next week, the spokesman added.
The PM's comments follow news that the government is looking at how to relax coronavirus restrictions so families can celebrate Christmas together.
England is expected to come out of its second national lockdown on 2 December and return to the tier system of localised restrictions, with household mixing banned indoors in the top two tiers.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:49

Harvey Weinstein 'closely monitored' after developing fever

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Disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, who is serving a 23-year jail sentence for sex crimes in New York, is in isolation with a suspected case of Covid-19.
TMZ has reported the 68-year-old "is in isolation with 101-degree temperature" and may have coronavirus. The source added that the 68-year-old is "doing poorly" and that he would be moved to a prison hospital if the test comes back positive.
The producer's representatives said they could "neither confirm nor deny" he had tested positive for Covid-19.
Weinstein's legal team say he has a litany of health issues. Shortly before his February conviction, he was rushed to hospital with chest pains.
Read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:51

How does Covid-19 test-and-trace work?

Earlier on, we reported that the head of NHS Test and Trace is self-isolating after receiving a notification from the NHS mobile app.
Baroness Dido Harding tweeted that she was "feeling well", and added: "Nothing like personal experience of your own products."
She joins a host of people in the same situation. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after meeting a Tory MP on Thursday who later tested positive for Covid-19, while today NHS England's medical director, Prof Stephen Powis, also revealed he was self-isolating after someone in his household tested positive.
But how does NHS Test and Trace work?
If a person tests positive for coronavirus, they can choose to share their result with the NHS app anonymously.
The NHS then sends alerts to other app users who have spent time near them or been in "close contact" - meaning they have been within two metres for 15 minutes or more.
Anyone who gets an alert is instructed to isolate for 14 days from when they had the contact.
Read our explainer here about how the app works, how contact tracing has been carried out and other questions you might have.

Coronavirus deaths in Scotland pass 5,000 milestone

The number of people who have died with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 in Scotland has passed 5,000.
Figures released by National Records of Scotland showed that the virus had been mentioned on the death certificate of 5,135 people by last Sunday.
This included 278 people who had died in the previous week.
Scotland recorded its first confirmed coronavirus death - an elderly patient in Lothian with underlying health conditions - on 14 March.
Read more
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:56

Hospitals nearing capacity in Switzerland

The spread of coronavirus in Switzerland is leading to a shortage of intensive care beds, a senior medical official has said.
In an update on Tuesday, Andreas Stettbacher said that practically all of the country's 876 certified ICU beds were occupied, although a further 240 spaces had been created.
Sixty percent of those in intensive care are coronavirus patients, the news conference heard.
The news came as the Swiss Society for Intensive Medicine advised citizens - and vulnerable populations in particular - to decide whether they would like to receive life support if they became gravely ill.
There have been 280,648 coronavirus cases and 3,385 deaths in the Alpine nation since the pandemic began.

Governor of Iraq's Irbil dies with coronavirus

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Firsat Sofi (right) is seen here distributing face masks in Irbil in June

The governor of Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, has died of complications after contracting coronavirus, officials have said.
Firsat Sofi, 42, tested positive for the virus in mid-October and was flown to Turkey early this month after his condition deteriorated.
He passed away in the early hours of Wednesday.
Iraq has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the Middle East, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, with around 525,000 cases and 11,752 deaths.
The news comes as official figures showed that the number of infections in neighbouring Iran have passed 800,000, following a spike in cases. Almost 43,000 people have died.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 15:58

Sead Kolasinac becomes second Arsenal player to test positive this week

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Arsenal and Bosnia-Herzegovina defender Sead Kolasinac has tested positive for coronavirus, the Bosnia-Herzegovina Football Federation has announced.
Kolasinac will now miss Wednesday's Nations League match with Italy.
The 27-year-old played the full 90 minutes of Bosnia-Herzegovina's defeat to the Netherlands on Sunday.
He is the second Arsenal player to test positive this week, after Egypt midfielder Mohamed Elneny.
It means Kolasinac could now miss Arsenal’s Premier League game at Leeds on Sunday (16:30 GMT) and a Europa League tie in Norway against Molde on 26 November.
Read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 17:17

German police break up protest against Covid measures

Our Berlin correspondent Jenny Hill reported on the protests in the German capital a little earlier. About 2,000 police officers were deployed to the parliament, or Bundestag, where thousands of protesters had gathered in anger at the latest coronavirus restrictions. Police fired water cannons to disperse those gathered.
Germany is currently under a month-long "lockdown light", with restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues closed while schools, shops and workplaces remain open.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 17:24

Chinese social media users moved by bus driver’s kindness

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
China has largely seen the back of the coronavirus and is one of the few countries where life has returned to a version of normal.
But that’s not to say life is as it was before. Mask-wearing is still very much a part of people’s lives, even children. And today in the country, a bus driver has gone viral, after he was captured on surveillance footage helping a child whose mask had broken.
On-board CCTV captured a schoolgirl boarding a bus in the eastern city of Zhengzhou, and apologising, holding her broken mask up when the driver asked why she wasn’t wearing one.
“Let me give you one,” the man, surnamed He, is heard saying, and he is shown fitting a new mask on her face before letting her board.
In an unexpected twist, however, surveillance footage captured the same girl boarding the bus the following day, asking another driver if she could pass on a thank you present to him.
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Millions of social media users in the country have seen a picture that the girl drew, with a big heart, saying “thank you mister for helping me” with a bar of chocolate and a lollipop.
“For the last two days, all I’ve read is bad news, but I feel warm again after seeing this,” one user of China’s Sina Weibo platform says.

Alleged Covid fraudsters 'used relief funds for Lamborghinis'

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Lamborghinis come at a starting cost of around £150,000 ($200,000)

A group of seven people from Texas and Illinois are accused of defrauding a US government stimulus programme that was set up to aid struggling small businesses - and using the funds to purchase Porsche and Lamborghini luxury cars.
After receiving £12m ($16m) in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program of the Cares Act, they allegedly used the funds to write cheques to fake employees, including their own family members.
One defendant's 86-year-old mother allegedly received at least six different cheques, as well as unemployment benefits, from a company she had never worked for before.
“Some fraudsters create the most complicated schemes to steal money from the taxpayer," said US Attorney Ryan K Patrick of the Southern District of Texas.
"Just imagine how productive they could be if they put their creativity and effort into noble and useful work.”
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 17:28

Breaking News 

UK Covid deaths rise by 529

A further 529 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 53,274, the government has said.
There were a further 19,609 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,430,341.

Assange and other inmates 'in lockdown in prison'

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Julian Assange says he and other inmates at Belmarsh prison have been placed into lockdown in their cells after being told there was a Covid-19 outbreak in his block.
The WikiLeaks founder says a number of inmates at the London prison have received a letter from the governor notifying them that there had been a number of positive Covid-19 cases.
All prisoners and staff are to be swabbed to detect for Covid-19 at the prison in the next 24-48 hours, says Assange.
He adds that all exercise has been stopped, showers have been prohibited and meals are to be provided direct to prisoners in their cells.
Assange has been held at Belmarsh Prison for the last year and a half and is awaiting the judgement from a US extradition hearing on 4 January.
A Prison Service spokesman said: "We've introduced further safety measures following a number of positive cases."
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 17:31

Calls for Danish PM to quit over controversial mink cull

Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is facing calls to resign after her agriculture minister stepped down over an illegal order to cull the country's farmed mink amid fears about coronavirus.
The Danish government provoked outrage earlier this month when it was revealed that a decision had been made to kill up to 17 million of the animals. It later admitted there were no legal grounds for the order.
"I want the prime minister to do the same," opposition leader Jakob Elleman-Jensen said, in reference to Agriculture Minister Mogens Jensen standing down.
"I want the prime minister to acknowledge that when she makes a mistake, it's her responsibility."
The cull was ordered over concerns that a mutated form of coronavirus found in mink could potentially hamper the effectiveness of a future vaccine.
Mass graves have appeared in the Danish countryside filled with the slaughtered animals.
Denmark is home to more than 1,000 mink farms. The head of trade body Kopenhagen Fur has termed the nationwide cull a disaster.
Read more: Denmark shaken by cull of millions of mink

Famine shouldn't be inevitable side effect of pandemic, says UN

The UN has allocated $100m (£75m) in emergency aid to seven countries at high risk of famine.
The largest share of the money, $30m, will be given to Yemen, where a five-year civil war has led to the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The other recipients of the funding are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
There have been repeated warnings of the risk of famine to vulnerable countries this year due to lack of funds and the economic implications of the pandemic. These countries are also vulnerable because of conflict, economic decline and climate change.
The UN said in a statement that the money had been released "alongside a warning that without immediate action, famine could be a reality in the coming months in parts of Burkina Faso, north-east Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen".
“No-one should view a slide into famine as an inevitable side effect of this pandemic. If it happens it is because the world has allowed it to happen," the UN's humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, said in a statement on Tuesday. "Famine can be prevented."
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 17:34

US states enter lockdown 'freeze'

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An outdoor testing centre in Alhambra, California

Oregon is among several US states issuing new coronavirus restrictions as cases rise dangerously and officials warn of a higher risk over the winter months.
A "two week freeze" ordered by Oregon's governor takes effect on Wednesday. Non-essential businesses must close and social gatherings of more than six people are banned. Previously the rules were "self-enforced," but now police have been cleared to intervene.
Minnesota's governor is considering a four-week lockdown that would see gyms, bars and restaurants closed. The state recorded 5,945 new Covid cases on Tuesday, with another 26 deaths.
Los Angeles has new lockdown orders coming into effect on Friday. It comes just days after new cases there topped 3,000 for the first time on both Saturday and Sunday.
Much of Colorado has new orders coming in on Friday, after high transmission rates pushed several counties into the "red zone". The governor's order triggered confusion since "red zone" used to be the highest level of severity, but has since been superseded.
“We are adding a new level to the dial in response to out-of-control levels of Covid-19 transmission across the state,” Colorado's director of public health said in a statement, when purple was declared the highest level warning colour.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Nov 18 2020, 18:03

Global round-up

That's almost us done for the day. Here's a round-up of some of the biggest coronavirus developments from around the world:

  • The coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to protect 94% of adults aged over 65. The trial involved 41,000 people worldwide
  • The companies say they will now apply for authorisation for emergency use of the jab in the US
  • Police have used water cannon to break up a protest by thousands of people in Berlin against changes to the law on coronavirus measures
  • Top US medical bodies, including the American Medical Association, have urged Donald Trump to share Covid data with President-elect Joe Biden
  • The state of South Australia will enter an immediate six-day lockdown after community cases were detected in Adelaide for the first time in six months. There are now 36 cases in the state
  • The Danish PM is facing calls to resign after her agriculture minister stepped down over an illegal order to cull the country's farmed mink amid fears about coronavirus


UK evening round-up

And before we go, here are some of the main UK stories from today.


That's it from us for today

We're now closing our live page for the day but will be back tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

The coronavirus live page writers today were:
Mary O'Connor, Joseph Lee, Victoria Bisset, Max Matza, George Wright, Alice Evans and Alex Therrien.
The page was edited by Sarah Fowler and Suzanne Leigh.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 22:13