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Coronavirus - 22nd November

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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 11:13

Summary for Sunday, 22nd November

Here are the key pandemic developments from around the world:
as reported in The Guardian:


  • Donald Trump appears to admit Covid is ‘running wild’ in the US. Donald Trump appears to have admitted that coronavirus is “running wild” across the US , in contrast with his statements throughout the election campaign that the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.
  • US Senator Kelly Loeffler is quarantining after receiving mixed results from recent coronavirus tests. A spokesperson for the Georgia senator’s campaign said in a statement Saturday night Loeffler took two rapid Covid tests on Friday morning which came back negative.
  • Japan may reimpose attendance limits for sports and other large events to curb a spike in Covid-19 infections, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Sunday. The limits would be applied in areas of the country seeing a sharp increase in cases, Nishimura said on a talk show on public broadcaster NHK. The government imposed attendance limits earlier in the year but relaxed them in recent months.
  • South Korea reported more than 300 new coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day on Sunday, as officials warned that stricter rules could be imposed if the trend continues to threaten the highly populated capital of Seoul and surrounding areas.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued emergency use authorisation for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Covid-19 antibody therapy, an experimental treatment given to US President Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.
  • England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the national lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said . Boris Johnson is expected to detail his plan for winter, which includes details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas, to MPs on Monday.
  • Leaders of the 20 biggest economies on Saturday vowed to ensure a fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, drugs and tests around the world and do what was needed to support poorer countries struggling to recover from the pandemic.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday it recommended that all people avoid cruise ship travel as the risk of Covid-19 on liners is very high.It advised passengers who decide to go on a cruise to get tested three to five days after their trip and stay home for seven days after travel, even if they test negative.
  • Portugal is to ban domestic travel and close schools around two upcoming holidays to try to halt the spread of coronavirus ahead of Christmas.
  • In the UK, 341 more people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 , bringing the death toll to 54,626.
  • The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, and there were 276 new deaths reported in hospitals over 24 hours.
  • Rapid Covid-19 tests were offered to hundreds in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales as part of a pilot scheme of mass coronavirus testing. On Saturday evening, 560 people had attended the testing centre on its first day, with 554 negative tests and six positive recorded.
  • Russia reported a daily record of 24,822 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the national tally to 2,064,748. The official death toll is 35,778.

In Australia:

  • Victoria in Australia has recorded zero new cases and deaths for the 23rd day in a row, with expectations this morning that restrictions will be further eased, including relaxing of mask use.
  • South Australia on Sunday came out of its six-day lockdown a few days early after it was determined the risk of an outbreak was greatly reduced.
  • New South Wales reported zero new local coronavirus cases overnight, and 11 in hotel quarantine. 12,000 tests were done. The border between NSW and Victoria will open at midnight on Sunday after being closed for three months.


England to enter stronger three-tier system after lockdown

England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the national lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said. Boris Johnson is expected to detail his plan for winter – which includes details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas – to MPs on Monday.
The “Covid winter plan” is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said. And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.
The cabinet is expected to discuss and sign off the plan on Sunday before Johnson announces it to parliament the following day:
Read more

South Korea reports more than 300 cases for fifth straight day

South Korea reported more than 300 new coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day on Sunday, as officials warned that stricter rules could be imposed if the trend continued to threaten the highly populated capital of Seoul and surrounding areas.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 330 new daily coronavirus cases as of midnight on Saturday, a drop from 386 reported the day before, a level not seen since August.

Officials warned that unless the number of infections drops substantially, they may raise the level of social distancing regulations.
On Saturday, a KDCA official said the country was at “a critical juncture” and could be facing a large nationwide outbreak that surpasses two earlier waves of infections if it fails to block the current spread.
Last week South Korea tightened prevention guidelines ahead of highly competitive annual college entrance exams scheduled for 3 December, and prime minister Chung Sye-kyun called for all social gatherings to be cancelled.
Bars, nightclubs, religious services and sports events continue to be permitted with attendance restrictions, but that could change if officials impose more social distancing measures.
South Korea has employed an aggressive tracing, testing and quarantine effort to stamp down outbreaks without imposing lockdowns. But the country has been dogged by a persistent number of small infections, bringing the total number of cases to 30,733 with 505 deaths.

China reports 17 new Covid cases on Saturday

Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on 21 November, up from 16 the previous day, with three cases of local transmission and nine cases originating overseas, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.
The commission said in its daily bulletin that two of the local transmissions took place in Inner Mongolia and one in Shanghai.
Inner Mongolia’s health authority said on Saturday it had confirmed two new coronavirus cases in Hulunbuir city on the Chinese border with Russia.
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 11:34

England’s three Covid ‘tsars’: key questions that must be answered

Toby Helm - Guardian
On 7 May, when England was still in its first national lockdown and the crisis over shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) was its height, a Tory peer called Dido Harding was thrust suddenly to the centre of the fight against Covid-19.
Harding was well known in the business community and, partly thanks to her marriage to Conservative MP John Penrose, in top Tory circles too. But her professional reputation had little to do with any great medical knowledge. Since 2017 she had been chair of NHS Improvement, a management post overseeing foundation trusts, but her career heights were as boss at the telecoms firm TalkTalk, and before that she had been in senior roles at the supermarket chains Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Matt Hancock , the health secretary, knew Harding, however, and shared an interest in horse racing with her. She was also a good friend of former prime minister David Cameron.
With the Covid crisis raging, there was little time to waste. Because of her management abilities and as she was available and willing to serve, Hancock placed her in charge of England’s new Covid-19 NHS test-and-trace system without putting the unpaid position out to open competition.
Read more here

US Senator quarantining after mixed Covid test results

US senator Kelly Loeffler is quarantining after receiving mixed results from recent coronavirus tests.
The Georgia senator’s campaign said in a statement on Saturday night that Loeffler took two rapid Covid tests on Friday morning which came back negative.
She did another test on Friday evening and the results came back positive. Loeffler tested again Saturday morning and the results were inconclusive.
Her campaign says she doesn’t have symptoms and she is following CDC guidelines and informing those with whom she was in direct contact.
Loeffler appeared at a campaign event with vice president Mike Pence and senator David Perdue in Georgia on Friday.
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 11:43

Online Black Friday will be a stiff test for the virtual high street

Zoe Wood - The Guardian
In the UK, coronavirus may be doing its best to cancel Christmas but, for the time being anyway, shoppers are carrying on regardless, with this week’s Black Friday online sales expected to reach new heights.
In previous years, store chiefs have agonised about the impact on their high street chains of the US-inspired discount event, which arrived on British shores with a bang in 2013 . But come this (Black) Friday, selling online will – for anything other than essentials – be the only game in town for retailers, whose shops may by then be closed in three of the four home nations.
Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy Retail Economics, says lockdown 2 means a “seismic shift” towards online shopping this Christmas. About 23m Britons are expected to do most of their gift buying on the internet, in a development that will starve struggling high streets of much-needed business.
“I think people are well aware that this Christmas is going to be completely different,” he says. “They are not going to be able to go to their local town centre or shopping mall and have the same pleasant experience as they had last year.”
The virtual high street has already gone into overdrive: online sales are up 58% in the second week of November compared with the same period last year, according to internet industry body IMRG. It predicts that sales during Black Friday week will end up being between 35% and 45% higher than in 2019.
Read more

Rise in coronavirus cases in Germany

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 15,741 to 918,269, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Sunday.
The reported death toll rose by 138 to 14,022, the tally showed.

Japan may limit event attendance as Covid-19 cases surge

Japan may reimpose attendance limits for sports and other large events to curb a spike in Covid-19 infections, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Sunday.
The limits would be applied in areas of the country seeing a sharp increase in cases, Nishimura said on a talk show on public broadcaster NHK. The government imposed attendance limits earlier in the year but relaxed them in recent months.
The government is also considering how to refund cancellation fees for customers who booked trips via a domestic tourism campaign that was partially suspended on Saturday, Nishimura said.
New coronavirus cases across Japan climbed to a record 2,596 on Saturday, according to NHK. In Tokyo, the daily infection rate was an all-time high 539 cases.
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People enjoy illuminated autumn leaves at the Eikando temple in Kyoto on Saturday, 21 November 2020. Photograph: Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO/REX/Shutterstock
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 11:51

Christmas in lockdown preferred by UK public over new restrictions in January

Michael Savage - Guardian
Most of the British public would rather have a locked-down Christmas than have a new lockdown imposed in January, a new poll suggests.
With the government considering the extent to which restrictions should be lifted to limit the impact on Christmas family gatherings, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that the public opted for a locked-down Christmas over new January restrictions by a margin of 54% to 33%.
This split is almost identical across all party groups and demographics, with older voters in particular preferring to lock down over Christmas rather than in January.
There was also strong support for banning people from posting conspiracy theories about the vaccine online, with 64% supporting the idea.
The public are split on whether coronavirus vaccinations should be mandatory, with 42% in support and 45% opposing. Two thirds (66%) of adults in the UK would take a vaccine if it became available and were recommended by the government for people like them
Read more

Boris Johnson under pressure as scientists back tight rules for Christmas

Boris Johnson will meet his cabinet remotely on Sunday to decide how people will be able to gather with loved ones at Christmas, before the announcement of a new Covid winter plan.
The prime minister, who is self-isolating, will then confirm by video to parliament on Monday that national restrictions will end on 2 December and be replaced by the three-tier regional system , with even tighter controls in some areas.
The Observer understands that ministers are keen to agree a set of UK-wide rules that can be adopted for the Christmas period in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Talks with the devolved administrations were also taking place this weekend to try to agree a united approach that will apply for a limited period during the festive season.
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 12:08

Boris Johnson ‘acted illegally’ over jobs for top anti-Covid staff

Toby Helm and Michael Savage - The Guardian
Boris Johnson and his health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted “unlawfully” when appointing three key figures – including the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding – to posts in the fight against Covid-19, according to a legal challenge submitted by campaigners to the high court.
The Observer has seen details of documents from those pursuing the case – and initial responses from government lawyers – relating to the call for a judicial review into the appointment of Baroness Harding , who is a Tory peer, and into those of Kate Bingham to the post of head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce and Mike Coupe to the role of director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.
The case has been lodged jointly by the not-for-profit Good Law Project headed by Jolyon Maugham QC, and the UK’s leading race equality thinktank, the Runnymede Trust. If it is successful, it would represent a further serious blow to the credibility of the government’s handling of the pandemic and support claims that ministers have been running a “chumocracy”.
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 12:17

Russia reports daily increase of 24,581 new infections

Russia on Sunday reported a daily increase of 24,581 new coronavirus infections, taking the national tally to 2,089,329.
Authorities also reported 401 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 36,179.
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Medical workers and patients are seen in the treatment hall of a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients in the Krylatskoye Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 12:51

Swiss doctors message to those vulnerable to Covid-19 complications

Swiss doctors have urged those vulnerable to Covid-19 complications to record their wishes for end-of-life care in advance to help ease pressure on intensive care units, drawing criticism from an advocacy group.
Reuters: Pro Senectute Schweiz, an organisation for the elderly, said the doctors’ appeal was premature and excessive but medics insist such patient decrees are necessary in the heart-wrenching reality of caring for critical patients during this pandemic.
As health systems grapple with soaring infection rates, medical professionals working with limited resources and finite space in ICUs can at times face agonising dilemmas, and ethical questions around treating Covid-19 patients have spawned a government review in Britain and a court fight in Germany.
Warning that Switzerland was running low on intensive care beds, the Swiss Society for Intensive Care Medicine (SGI) called this week on the “especially imperilled”, including people over 60, or with health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, to put their wishes on paper in case the worst should happen.
“This will support your own relatives, but also the teams in the ICUs, as they make decisions so the treatment can be done in the best possible manner according to the individual patient wishes,” SGI said in a statement.

‘Let us disobey’: Churches defy lockdown with secret meetings

Harriet Sherwood
It sounds like the build-up to an illegal rave. Invitations are passed by word of mouth to trusted people. Minimal information – time, directions – is quietly given with pleas for discretion. Once everyone is assembled in a barn on a remote farm – “away from prying eyes,” says the organiser – it begins.
This is no rave, but an English church service under lockdown, and the organiser is a Protestant pastor. The Christians who will gather illegally in the west of England on Sunday morning – as they have for the past two Sundays – will pray, read from the scriptures, sing hymns and listen to a sermon.
“We’ve been holding clandestine services since this lockdown began,” the pastor told the Observer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It feels weird for us to act this way. People have said it feels more like an underground church in China.
“The fact that we have to sneak around to worship God, in fear of criminal prosecution, is alarming. But we do what we have to do.”
According to church leaders, the Observer has spoken to, an increasing number of congregations are breaking the law in order to worship together, an activity banned under current restrictions. Some are moving to different premises, others meeting covertly in regular church buildings.
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 13:00

France to start easing restrictions in coming weeks

France will start easing lockdown rules in coming weeks, carrying out the process in three stages so as to avoid a new flareup in the pandemic, the government said on Sunday.
On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation about the virus situation and may announce a partial relaxation of restrictions which have been in place since 30 October, Reuters reports.
“Emmanuel Macron will give prospects over several weeks, especially on how we adjust our strategy. What is at stake is adapting lockdown rules as the health situation improves while avoiding a new flare up in the epidemic,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Le Journal du Dimanche.
“There will be three steps to (lockdown) easing in view of the health situation and of risks tied to some businesses: a first step around 1 December, then before the year-end holidays, and then from January 2021,” Attal added.
Macron has said that France’s second national lockdown, which started on 30 October, would last at least four weeks. Curbs include the closure of non-essential stores, restaurants and bars.
But with recent data showing France on track to rein in a surge in coronavirus infections, the government is under pressure from shops and businesses to ease restrictions in time for the Christmas shopping season, when many retailers make the bulk of their annual turnover.
“We had committed to allow them (shopkeepers) to reopen around 1 December if the health situation improved, which seems to be the case,” Attal said. Bars and restaurants however “will continue to experience restrictions,”, he added.
The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, lower than the 22,882 reported on Friday while the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 dropped for the fifth day in a row and was down at 31,365.

Why the race to find Covid-19 vaccines is far from over

Laura Spinney
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Despite the promising experimental vaccine news from Pfizer and Moderna, other efforts – which may be even more effective – continue around the world, the Observer reports, as the race for an effective vaccine continues.
Read more here
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 13:06

El Paso inmates help move bodies into morgues as Covid deaths soar

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An inmate from El Paso county detention facility prepares to load bodies into a refrigerated temporary morgue in Texas on 16 November. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

In footage that spread rapidly on social media, nine inmates wearing the striped jumpers of the El Paso county jail helped move bodies into mobile morgues , Trisha Garcia reports from El Paso.
“Having to use inmates tells the story of how short-handed we must be,” El Paso county judge Ricardo Samaniego told local media, as he struggled to cope with the rising tide of Covid-19 in the west Texas city on the border with Mexico .
The sheriff’s office said the use of the inmates began on 9 November, on a volunteer basis. El Paso county said the inmates were tested and provided with personal protective equipment by the medical examiner’s office, and would face a two-week quarantine once the program was over. They were being paid $2 an hour.
“It was just a temporary focus, and we’re waiting for the Texas national guard to help us out with that,” said Samaniego, in response to outcry on social media over the use of inmates rather than trained medical professionals.
A spokeswoman for the El Paso county sheriff’s office told the Guardian the inmates’ work would “end when the national guard arrives”. Samaniego, however, wasn’t sure those troops were coming.
“It has not been confirmed that they would be able to take over the demand that we have at this time,” he said.
Read more here
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 13:15

United Arab Emirates reports 158,990 coronavirus cases and 552 related deaths

Dubai’s health regulator said on Sunday that children aged between three and 16 could be tested for Covid-19 by providing a saliva sample instead of the widely used nasal swab.
The saliva test had been permitted following a research study by the regulator and a local university, the Dubai health authority said on Twitter.
The United Arab Emirates has reported 158,990 coronavirus cases and 552 related deaths.
The government does not disclose where in the seven emirates they occur.
Tweet   هيئة الصحة بدبي:
To provide convenience and ease to children between 3 to 16 years old, who need a #COVID19 test, DHA  has adopted the saliva test as an alternative to the nasal swab for PCR testing after a large research study by @MBRUniversity and DHA.
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 13:20

What do we know about the planned new Covid tier system for England?

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is expected to announce proposals on Monday for how the lifting of England’s coronavirus lockdown will work.
Here’s the latest on what we know about the planned new Covid tier system for England.
Read more here

Coronavirus: Mainland China

Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on Nov. 21, up from 16 the previous day, with three cases of local transmission and nine cases originating overseas, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.
The Commission said in its daily bulletin that two of the local transmissions took place in Inner Mongolia and one in Shanghai, Reuters reports.
Inner Mongolia’s health authority said on Saturday it had confirmed two new cases in Hulunbuir city on the Chinese border with Russia.
According to a report from the official Xinhua news agency, the positive case in Shanghai was found after mass testing following infections of a security inspector at Pudong International Airport and his wife.
Shanghai’s health authority later reported two new locally transmitted cases in the city on Sunday, both connected to the Pudong cases.
Mainland China reported another 11 asymptomatic cases on Nov. 21, down from 18 on the previous day.
It has so far reported an accumulated total of 86,431 Covid-19 cases, with the official death toll at 4,634.
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 17:17

Here are some of the key pandemic developments from around the world today:

  • G20 leaders will pledge to “spare no effort” in ensuring the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide and reaffirm support for debt-laden poor countries, according to a draft communique seen by AFP on Sunday.
  • Donald Trump appears to admit Covid is ‘running wild’ in the US. Donald Trump appears to have admitted that coronavirus is “running wild” across the US , in contrast with his statements throughout the election campaign that the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.
  • Thousands of mourners paid homage on Sunday to Patriarch Irinej, leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), who died of Covid-19 during the country’s record surge in new cases.
  • England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the national lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said . Boris Johnson is expected to detail his plan for winter, which includes details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas, to MPs on Monday.
  • In the UK, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a potential “existential threat” to central London because many people may in future choose to work in the suburbs rather than in the heart of the capital, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan , said on Sunday.
  • Rishi Sunak , the UK chancellor, has effectively confirmed that this week’s spending review is likely to feature a pay freeze for many public sector workers in England, saying it was “entirely reasonable” to consider pay policy in the context of the Covid-hit economy.
  • Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on Nov. 21, up from 16 the previous day, with three cases of local transmission and nine cases originating overseas, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.The Commission said in its daily bulletin that two of the local transmissions took place in Inner Mongolia and one in Shanghai, Reuters reports.
  • A sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip could overwhelm the Palestinian enclave’s meagre medical system by next week, public health advisers said on Sunday.
  • Iran has recorded 13,053 new cases of coronavirus and 475 related deaths over the past 24 hours, after tougher coronavirus restrictions came into force in the country.
  • Japan may reimpose attendance limits for sports and other large events to curb a spike in Covid-19 infections, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Sunday. The limits would be applied in areas of the country seeing a sharp increase in cases, Nishimura said on a talk show on public broadcaster NHK. The government imposed attendance limits earlier in the year but relaxed them in recent months.
  • South Korea reported more than 300 new coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day on Sunday, as officials warned that stricter rules could be imposed if the trend continues to threaten the highly populated capital of Seoul and surrounding areas.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued emergency use authorisation for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Covid-19 antibody therapy, an experimental treatment given to US President Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday it recommended that all people avoid cruise ship travel as the risk of Covid-19 on liners is very high.It advised passengers who decide to go on a cruise to get tested three to five days after their trip and stay home for seven days after travel, even if they test negative.
  • Portugal is to ban domestic travel and close schools around two upcoming holidays to try to halt the spread of coronavirus ahead of Christmas.
  • In the UK, 341 more people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 , bringing the death toll to 54,626.
  • The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, and there were 276 new deaths reported in hospitals over 24 hours.
  • Russia reported a daily record of 24,822 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the national tally to 2,064,748. The official death toll is 35,778.
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 17:30

British ministers endorse 'limited additional household bubbling' over Christmas

Ministers from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have endorsed a shared UK objective of allowing “some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days” over Christmas, the Cabinet Office has said just now following a meeting.
However, they “reiterated the importance of allowing families and friends to meet in a careful and limited way, while recognising that this will not be a normal festive period and the risks of transmission remain very real”. It was unclear how many households would be permitted to mix over Christmas and for how many days restrictions will be relaxed.
The proposals are likely to split opinion, with some fearing that relaxing lockdown could risk lives, and others believing that the dangers of households mixing are not significant. Some, it must be said – one-in-four, suggests a poll this weekend – would likely go about their Christmas as usual even in spite of government restrictions if they were maintained.
There was no loosening of lockdown for the Hindu, Sikh and Jain festival of Diwali last week, nor for the Muslim festival of Eid in May.
On Saturday, Michael Gove, the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, met the first ministers of Scotland and Wales and the first and deputy ministers of Northern Ireland to discuss shared arrangements for the festive period.
The Cabinet Office said in a statement:
Welcoming the good progress made by all administrations over the past few days to design a single set of arrangements that can apply across the UK, ministers reiterated the importance of allowing families and friends to meet in a careful and limited way, while recognising that this will not be a normal festive period and the risks of transmission remain very real.
As such, ministers endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days, but also emphasised that the public will be advised to remain cautious, and that wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact.
In respect of Northern Ireland, ministers also recognised that people will want to see family and friends across the island of Ireland, and this is the subject of discussions with the Irish Government. Work is continuing to finalise the arrangements, including relating to travel. The UK government, Scottish government, Welsh government and Northern Ireland executive hope to conclude this work this week, subject to agreement by each administration.
Most of the public would rather have a locked-down Christmas than have a new lockdown imposed in January, a poll for the Observer this weekend suggests.
The government’s key scientific committee, Sage, is expected to publish further papers on Monday setting out its advice that the previous tiers were not strong enough , and that a tougher regional approach is now required.
Boris Johnson under pressure as scientists back tight rules for Christmas
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 17:38

Joe Biden's inauguration to be scaled down due to the coronavirus pandemic

US president-elect Joe Biden will have a scaled-down version inauguration due to the coronavirus pandemic, the incoming White House chief of staff has said.
Ron Klain said: “I think it’s going to definitely have to be changed ... Obviously, this is not going to be the same kind of inauguration we had in the past.”
Its worth remembering here that Donald Trump, the outgoing president, had something akin to a scaled-down inauguration in 2017 due to remarkably low attendance, though his then press secretary Sean Spicer falsely claimed it was “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”.
Presidential inaugurations traditionally featur a swearing-in and speech by the new president before crowds backed onto the national mall, as well as lunch with lawmakers and a parade to the White House.
Biden’s team is consulting with leaders in the House of Representatives and Senate on details and best practices, said Klain. The result will likely be a “scaled down versions of the existing traditions,” he told ABC.

“We know people want to celebrate. There is something here to celebrate. We just want to try to find a way to do it as safely as possible.”
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Post by Kitkat on Sun Nov 22 2020, 19:43

Covid-19: Strengthened tier system for England after lockdown


A tougher three-tiered system of local restrictions will come into force in England when the lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said.
Boris Johnson is expected to set out his plan - including details of how families can see different households at Christmas - to MPs on Monday.
More areas are set to be placed into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control, No 10 said.
And some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard lockdown progress.
Some local measures will be the same as those in the previous three-tier system, which was in place in England until the current lockdown began .
But the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is expected to publish research on Monday saying the previous restrictions were not strong enough.
The government will identify the tiers that each area will be placed into on Thursday.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the BBC's Andrew Marr the 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants was one of the things it was looking to "refine".
It is understood rules will be relaxed to give people an extra hour to finish their food and drinks after last orders at 10pm.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said this would help businesses - but would be "meaningless" unless people were allowed to socialise with friends and family, particularly over the crucial Christmas period.





English tier system - at a glance

Pre-lockdown, there were three tiers of restrictions - medium, high, and very high :

  • Medium / Tier 1: Rule of six if meeting indoors or outdoors; pubs and restaurants shut at 10pm
  • High / Tier 2: No household mixing indoors; rule of six applies outdoors; pubs and restaurants shut at 10pm
  • Very high / Tier 3: No household mixing indoors or in some outdoor spaces; pubs and bars not serving meals are closed





Newspaper reports suggest rules could be temporarily relaxed UK-wide over Christmas. Several families could be allowed to join in one "bubble" and mix between 22 and 28 December, according to the Daily Telegraph .
Ministers have made clear the festive season will be different to normal - with some restrictions expected to remain in place.
BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said conversations about Christmas between the different nations of the UK were ongoing.
Sources believe a deal is probable later next week - but it is unlikely to be signed off before the prime minister's announcement on Monday.
The four nations have different Covid rules but ministers are hoping to agree a joint approach for the festive period.




Analysis by Nick Triggle - BBC Health correspondent
Government ministers and advisers have been hinting about new tougher tiers over the past week.
Before lockdown there was some evidence that tiers two and three were having an impact, but not tier one.
Crucially, both the top two tiers involved banning mixing inside homes, so one option being discussed behind the scenes is introducing a ban across all the tiers until winter is over.
The exception will, of course, be Christmas.
That is a move that divides opinion. But the government sees it as a necessity, believing significant numbers of people will ignore any attempt to ban gatherings over the festive period.
It is also a recognition the public needs a break from the long hard slog of the pandemic.
Infection rates will of course rise, but that will be offset to some extent by a wider boost to wellbeing.





Prof Calum Semple, from the University of Liverpool, said he hoped it would be possible to relax rules over Christmas if the new tiered system worked but warned "there will be a price", including tighter restrictions in the future.
However, Prof Semple, who is a member of Sage, told Sky News's Sophy Ridge there was "a lot to be optimistic about".
He said he expected mass vaccination of the general population to happen towards next summer, which would give "broad immunity" and allow a "return back to normal".

MPs are expected to vote on the new tier system in the days before it comes into force.
Many Conservative MPs are opposed to stricter measures, with 70 signing a letter coordinated by the recently-formed Covid Recovery Group (CRG), saying they cannot support a tiered approach unless they see evidence measures "will save more lives than they cost".
Earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled by voting against the current lockdown and 17 more, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, abstained.
In a letter to the prime minister on Saturday, the CRG, led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, warned against inflicting "huge health and economic costs".
The letter said: "We cannot live under such a series of damaging lockdowns and apparently arbitrary restrictions, and expect our constituents to be grateful for being let out to enjoy the festive season, only to have strict restrictions imposed on them afterwards that cause them health problems and destroy their livelihood."
Asked whether he would publish a cost-benefit analysis of any future measures, as called for by the CRG, the chancellor told Sky News it was "very hard to be precise" on the economic impacts of individual restrictions.

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