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Coronavirus - 24th November

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 09:57

Summary for Tuesday, 24th November

  • The UK nations are "very close" to agreeing co-ordinated restrictions over Christmas, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says
  • Each nation is in a "slightly different phase of locking and unlocking”, he said, but an announcement would be made this week
  • It comes after Boris Johnson set out a toughened sets of regional tiers for when England's lockdown ends on 2 December
  • People arriving in England will be soon able to reduce their quarantine period if they pay for a Covid test
  • The rules will come into force from 15 December and the tests from private firms will cost between £65 and £120
  • The world's most vulnerable must not be "trampled in the stampede" for vaccines, the World Health Organization warns
  • Spain's King Felipe VI has begun ten days of quarantine after coming into contact with a person who tested positive


Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of developments in the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are the main stories in the UK so far:


Key global developments from the last few hours:

  • International virus sleuths expected to go to China soon: WHO. The World Health Organization said Monday it had received reassurances from Beijing that international experts would soon be able to travel to China to help investigate the animal origins of Covid-19. “We fully expect and have reassurances from our Chinese government colleagues that the trip to the field... will be facilitated, and as soon as possible,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual press briefing.
  • The WHO also said Monday that avoiding family gatherings would be “the safest bet” over Christmas, insisting there is no zero-risk option for traditional holiday merry-making during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • England to cut quarantine period for arrivals from abroad. Travellers arriving in England from abroad face a shorter spell in quarantine from mid-December if they test negative for coronavirus five days after their arrival, the UK government announced Tuesday. It hopes the new rules will revive the ailing travel industry, particularly aviation, which has suffered a steep drop in ridership because of restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic.
  • Japan’s government is preparing to pause its domestic travel campaign in two cities following sharp rises in Covid-19 cases, the minister handling the government’s coronavirus response said on Tuesday.
  • Border restrictions ease in Australia. The border between NSW and Victoria (the worst affected state in the country) opened earlier this week, and this morning, Queensland has announced its barrier to NSW will come down on December 1. NSW and Queensland have been isolated for most of this year, the first time the country’s internal borders have been closed since the Spanish Flu.
  • Daily Covid-19 cases in France at near two-month low. France reported 4,452 new Covid-19 infections on Monday, the lowest daily tally since 28 September, suggesting a second national lockdown is having an impact.
  • UK aims to inoculate those most at risk from Covid by Easter. The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, said he hoped almost all Britons at high risk from Covid-19 would be vaccinated against the disease by Easter. He also said people will not be forced to have vaccinations against Covid-19.
  • Spain’s king self-isolating after virus contact. Spain’s King Felipe VI has started 10 days of quarantine after coming into close contact with someone who later tested positive for Covid-19, the palace said.
  • Pope says anti-maskers stuck in ‘their own little world of interests’. Pope Francis has taken aim at protests against coronavirus restrictions , contrasting them with the “healthy indignation” seen in demonstrations against racism after the death of George Floyd.
  • New infections in Gaza spiralling out of control. The mounting number of coronavirus infections in densely populated Gaza is spinning out of control, Palestinian health officials warned. Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official, said the health ministry “expects the worst if the epidemiological situation remains the same” citing “a health system at the end of its rope”, “severe drug shortages” and “extreme overcrowding”.


Half of England could be placed in tier 3, minister says

Half of England could be placed into the highest level of coronavirus restrictions - tier 3 - after the national lockdown ends on 2 December, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said.
The government will announce on Thursday which tiers areas are being placed into.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out the revised rules for the three tiers.
Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast the government will decide which tier each region in England is placed into based on the number of cases in each area, but particularly the numbers of people aged over 60 testing positive for the virus.
He said that although half the country may be placed in the strictest tier three alert level, this will still allow for more freedoms than the national lockdown currently in place for England.
Mr Shapps said: "I think it is the case that we do need to be a bit tighter on the tiers - tier three in more places is a strong possibility - but there's still a difference between that and what we're doing now.
"For example, in terms of the number of people that can meet outside in a public place, and a number of other things.
"We've been living through this nightmare for a long time now, we all know the only way to defeat this virus is, I'm afraid, to keep people apart and separate from the most natural thing, which is human contact.
"You can only breach that in a certain number of places and I think we've made our decisions as a country that that has to be for things like education and work whilst we get through this winter."

UK Christmas rules announcement 'could be made on Thursday'

An announcement about Covid restrictions over Christmas for the UK could happen on Thursday, Grant Shapps has said.
The transport secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was likely this would happen at the same time as the government sets out which tiers areas will be placed into when national restrictions in England end on 2 December.
However, Mr Shapps said it was possible an announcement about Christmas could be made earlier if the devolved nations came to an agreement before Thursday.
"Stand by your radios" for any news, Mr Shapps said.

Ryanair chief questions test to cut quarantine times

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has questioned plans to allow travellers arriving in England to end their Covid-19 quarantine early if they get a negative coronavirus test five days after arrival.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think the idea is not very well thought out.
"I think the problem with this system in the UK is that you only have to isolate for five days. And we know that people simply don't isolate."
He said it would be better if there were tests for people before they boarded planes and before they arrived at airports in England.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said "at the moment the medical evidence doesn't justify it".
"If it were possible to do as Mr O'Leary describes we would have done it, because we want people to move around."


Australia's Queensland to open border in time for Christmas

In Australia, there's relief for residents of states of Queensland and New South Wales after news that the border between the neighbouring regions will open on 1 December.
Queensland barred visitors from New South Wales, home to the city of Sydney, on 1 August to control a rise in coronavirus cases.
But now New South Wales has met the criteria of going 28 days without an untraceable case of Covid-19, meaning that Queensland will allow the borders to open again.
The closure had caused political tension between the governments in each state - but now the move means Sydney residents will be able to travel home to Queensland for Christmas.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 10:19

UK minister urges people to consider not travelling at Christmas

The UK transport secretary has urged people to "look very carefully at the transport route they take" home for Christmas - and even consider not travelling.
Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast: "We have got to understand there are limitations to the [train] network caused by, for example, things like the need on some trains to pre-book tickets at this time, in order to prevent overcrowding.
"So we are going to be appealing to people to look very carefully at the transport route they take and of course even making a choice about whether they travel at all.
"It is the reality of the situation we're in, we will try to do everything we can with the network to make it as good as possible, but I think it is worth people being aware that busy times of travel is a problem."
He added he is in "close contact" with transport leaders of the devolved governments in the UK to make Christmas travel plans, which he expects will be finalised "later this week".
Shapps later told the Today programme that when the national lockdown ends on 2 December, people in tier 3 locations should avoid travelling outside of their areas, unless it's for education or work.
However, people in these areas can travel abroad.

Covid outbreak shuts world's top latex glove factories

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Latex gloves are in huge demand globally

Latex gloves are a core piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) used in medical care and naturally the pandemic has seen huge global demand for the items.
Now more than half the factories of the world's largest maker of latex gloves will close after almost 2,500 employees tested positive for the virus.
Twenty-eight of Malaysia's Top Glove plants will shut in phases as the company tries to control the outbreak, authorities said.
The company faces allegations of exploitative labour practices and poor working conditions - in July, the US banned the import of gloves from two of the company's subsidiaries over these concerns.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 10:24

Christmas plans and more bans: Europe round-up

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Berlin's Christmas lights are up and now German leaders have to agree what families can and cannot do for the holiday


  • It's not just in the UK that rules for the Christmas break are being finalised. Germany's 16 federal states plan to allow gatherings of up to 10 people (that number doesn't include under 14s) for Christmas and New Year festivities, according to a draft proposal to be decided on on Wednesday. The partial lockdown would continue until 20 December and schools would shut the day before.
  • In France President Emmanuel Macron is set to announce a loosening of restrictions in a TV address this evening, after a meeting of the country's defence council. An easing of lockdown could start with non-essential businesses such as bookshops and clothing stores reopening on 1 December, along with places of worship and sport clubs, then there might be a greater easing ahead of Christmas and again in January.
  • Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova has warned that hospital capacity in six regions has become critical and the general situation is getting worse. Another 24,326 cases have been reported in the past 24 hours with a record 491 deaths. Golikova says Russia's Sputnik V vaccine has now been circulated to 117,000 people and mass vaccinations could start in the new year.
  • A ban on public events of more than eight people has come into force in Sweden, to try to slow the spread of Covid-19. Last week a ban on serving alcohol after 22:00 was imposed. Private gatherings of more than eight people are still allowed. But Sweden has the highest infection rate among the Nordic countries.
  • Back to Germany where the anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein has accused Covid-denying movement Querdenken ("outside the box thinkers") of mocking Holocaust victims by likening restrictions to persecution of Jews. On Saturday a woman calling herself Jana was widely condemned for telling a rally she felt like executed anti-Hitler Resistance hero Sophie Scholl because she was challenging Covid measures.
  • Spain's King Felipe VI has gone into self-isolation for 10 days after having close contact on Sunday with someone who tested positive. He will spend the time in private at Zarzuela palace in Madrid while the Queen and their daughters will continue their official activities.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 10:28

Breaking News 

Nearly 3,000 Covid deaths in UK in a week

There were 2,838 Covid-19 deaths registered in the UK in the week starting 13 November.
This is up by 612 in a week, latest official figures show.
In all, there were 13,972 deaths in the UK in the week of 13 November, up by 542 on the previous week and 19% above the five year average for this week.
"Excess" deaths are the difference between the deaths seen this year and the average over the previous five years for the same weeks.

Many regions in England 'facing tier three restrictions'

"A lot" of areas of England are likely to be placed into the highest tier of restrictions when the national lockdown ends, a science adviser to the government has said.
Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), told BBC Breakfast there was "fairly good evidence" that measures on areas in tier thee [the highest tier] were "probably sufficient" to take the R number below 1.
If the R number is lower than 1, the disease will eventually stop spreading, because not enough new people are being infected to sustain the outbreak.
He said: "I would expect that probably initially quite a lot of regions may find themselves in tier three but we may find some kind of stepwise move out of that."
Dr Tildesley added: "It may be initially we might see slightly more severe tiers but then when we start to see the effect of the lockdown, one to two weeks after the lockdown finishes on 2 December, we might see some regions stepwise dropping down the tiers."

Few changes expected in Scotland's Covid tiers later

Scotland's local Covid-19 alert levels are due to be reviewed later, although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she does not expect "much, if any, change" .
Where each local authority area sits in the five-level system is reviewed every Tuesday. No areas are expected to be moved up a level, with 11 central belt councils to remain in level four until 11 December.
Sturgeon said the "overwhelming majority" of areas were likely to remain at their current level.
She is, of course, also engaged in discussions with the other nations of the UK, about how to handle Christmas - an announcement on which will be made later this week.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 10:32

Millions defy warnings against Thanksgiving travel in US

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Airports are busier than they have been since March

As politicians in Europe focus on how to allow people to spend Christmas together, in the US millions are already travelling home to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday. The celebration is traditionally a large family get-together that rivals Christmas in size.
Despite warnings from health officials that travel and family parties are risky as the US faces a significant wave of coronavirus cases and deaths, reports indicate that airports and planes are packed with travellers.
Three million people are reported to have travelled through US airports from Friday to Sunday - the highest since mid-March - although the number is around half the usual figure for Thanksgiving travel.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious diseases expert, told CBS News that people in airports "are going to get us into even more trouble than we’re in right now".
On Monday the US recorded a further 150,000 cases of coronavirus, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
The rolling seven-day average number of deaths has been rising for almost two weeks - reaching 1,500 on Monday. And the number of people admitted to hospital with the virus has increased by nearly 50% in the past two weeks.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 10:35

Cleric falls ill after performing funeral for Serbian church leader

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Mourners kissed the coffin of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church on Sunday

For a number of days, we've been reporting on several religious leaders in the south-eastern Europe falling ill with Covid-19.
Following the funeral of the head of Serbian Orthodox church Patriarch Irinej on Sunday, the cleric who led the service has now contracted the disease. Bishop David of Krusevac is in hospital in Belgrade, state media reports.
Hundreds of mourners at Patriarch Irinej's funeral did not wear face masks and many kissed his coffin. He himself was thought to have become infected at the funeral of the most senior cleric in Montenegro who also died with coronavirus.
Church authorities in the region have struggled to respond to the pandemic. Last week, a funeral was held in Greece for a senior cleric who insisted on maintaining communion ceremonies, including offering a shared spoon to congregations, claiming there was no risk of infection.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 10:37

Analysis: Excess death figures highlight regional differences

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
The total number of deaths being seen is nearly a fifth above normal levels, latest figures show.
Data from the UK's national statisticians show there were almost 14,000 deaths seen in the week ending 13 November.
Some 2,838 of the deaths involved Covid - 600 more than the preceding week, according to the analysis of death certificates.
The North West and Yorkshire saw the most excess deaths.
Both regions were more than a third above expected levels.
By comparison, the number of deaths in the South East was just 2% above the five-year average.
But there is hope the rise in deaths may soon start slowing.
The daily figures published by government - which rely on positive tests - show deaths are not rising as quickly as they were and may be levelling off.
And unlike in the first wave in the first half of the year, when the lack of testing meant the government figures under-estimated the number of Covid deaths, the two sets of data are mirroring each other.

Oxford vaccine raises hopes in hard-hit India

Yogita Limaye - Mumbai correspondent
The announcement that the Oxford Astrazeneca's vaccine is highly effective against Covid-19 has raised hopes in India, the world's second-worst affected country.
Forty million doses of the vaccine have already been manufactured by the world's biggest vaccine-making company, Serum Institute of India, based in Pune. And they hope to make 100 million doses by the end of the year.
Given that the vaccine is cheaper than those from Pfizer and Moderna, and can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures, so far it seems to be the only feasible option for a populous and vast country like India.
Serum's Chief Executive Adar Poonawala has said India will be given first priority once the vaccine is licenced.
The Indian government has said it expects 250-300 million people to be vaccinated by the end of September 2021. But many are warning that a lot of work needs to be done quickly to ensure mass and equitable distribution of the doses.
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India has recorded more than nine million infections, second only to the US
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 11:07

World's poorest must not be 'trampled' in vaccine race, WHO says

With the recent news that four vaccines are potentially viable and could be rolled-out in the coming weeks and months, the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that poorer countries should not be disadvantaged in the race to secure the drugs.
Governments globally are keen to get their hands on millions of doses of vaccines to immunise their populations and kick-start their economies. But those with more money and resources are likely to have an advantage.
WHO head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said successful vaccines must be distributed equitably and that $4.3bn (£3.2bn) was needed to help fund a sharing scheme.
India, the EU, the US, Canada and the UK are among the countries which have reserved the most doses, according to the latest data.
Our colleague Alice Cuddy spoke to experts about the main concerns about how to distribute vaccines around the world and whether efforts to come up with a fair system will actually work.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 11:11

London Chambers of Commerce welcomes quarantine testing plan

Coronavirus - 24th November F4da9710

The government's plans to introduce testing to cut the quarantine period of travellers arriving in England has been welcomed by the London Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
People arriving in England from abroad will, from 15 December, be able to reduce their quarantine by more than half if they pay for a Covid test after five days.
Richard Burge, chief executive of the LCCI, said the measure would provide a boost to the aviation sector as people might be more likely to book holidays.
But he said it was unlikely to increase inbound visits and business travel, adding that the government should be looking to provide testing either before flight departure or on arrival.
"To really recover the capital’s economy and its global influence, we need the policy to rapidly evolve further to ensure either pre-departure testing, or on arrival," Burge said.
Earlier, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that "at the moment medical evidence doesn't justify" such a policy.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 11:25

Families can meet at Christmas as travel restrictions in Ireland set to be scrapped ... but no physical contact is allowed

Irish Post
Domestic travel restrictions in Ireland are set to be lifted in time for Christmas, but physical contact between different households will not be permitted, according to reports.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin met with Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar as well as Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on Monday to discuss how the country should approach Christmas in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
An announcement on their decision is expected at the end of the week.
While Ireland is expected to move to Level Three restrictions on December 1, domestic travel will be allowed in order to let families see each other during the festive season.
But according to reports, no physical contact will be allowed with anyone not in your immediate family.
A key theme of the three party leaders' meeting was to try and keep inevitable Christmas gatherings in people's homes safe - and this includes the physical contact ban.
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Families will be able to meet at Christmas but won't be allowed to hug each other!

It's also expected that the public will be asked to keep rooms well ventilated throughout any gatherings that might occur.
Sources indicate that Level Two restrictions might be put in place instead during Christmas, which would allow six people from two different households to meet indoors - where they would be allowed to hug one another!
But this plan has been scrutinised because it will leave many families with difficult decisions to make as to which family members they can seen during the festive season.
"The discussion is whether we focus on the number six, or whether the number of households is the key factor," one source told the Irish Examiner.
"But we do not want parents to be in the position of having to choose their favourite child. Larger family gatherings are unlikely."

Suspected migrants found hidden in back of truck in Dublin

Three have been found concealed in the back of a lorry in Dublin.
The three men, believed to be migrants trying to make their way into the country, were discovered in Dublin at around 4.30pm yesterday.
According to RTÉ News, the driver of the truck became suspicious and believed there may be people smuggled and concealed inside the container he had just picked up.
According to Gardaí, the trailer had travelled from abroad into Rosslare Port before being picked up by the driver.
At around 4.30, the container was checked at Oak Close in the Park West area of Clodalkin, and the three men were found hidden inside.
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The container arrived into Rosslare Europort from abroad before the driver picked it up. The driver of the lorry then became concerned that there may be people concealed within the container, and upon checking discovered three men hidden inside. They are now receiving medical attention

They are understood to be safe and well, and are receiving medical attention.
Gardaí have confirmed that all three men were arrested and taken to Ballyfermot Garda Station where an investigation has been launched to determine their ages, nationalities, country of origin and how they made it into the Republic of Ireland.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 11:47

Hong Kong to shut bars and nightclubs to combat Covid rise

For the third time this year, Hong Kong will shut its entertainment venues as authorities try to contain a coronavirus outbreak.
Bars, nightclubs, as well as dance and karaoke halls will close for seven days until at least 3 December.
On Tuesday the Chinese territory reported 80 new cases, bringing it to a total of 5,782 infections and 108 deaths this year. Of the recent cases, more than 180 are linked to dance clubs.
A temporary treatment hall near the airport is also being opened.
Hong Kong, as well as most of China, has largely been spared the huge outbreaks seen in Europe and the US, often using strict quarantine and extensive test-and-trace programs to control infection surges.
Earlier this week, a travel corridor launch was postponed for two weeks between Hong Kong and Singapore.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 15:47

EU reaches deal for supply of Moderna vaccine

The European Union will sign a deal with US biotech firm Moderna for the supply of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, according to the head of the European Commission.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Ursula von der Leyen said the deal to be signed on Wednesday would allow the bloc to buy up to 160 million doses of the vaccine.
"According to the results of clinical trials this vaccine could be highly effective against Covid-19. Once the vaccine is indeed proven as safe and effective every member state will receive it at the same time on a pro rata basis at the same conditions," she said.
It will be the sixth vaccine contract that the Commission - the EU executive - has put in place. Details about roll out have not yet been announced.
Moderna says its vaccine is nearly 95% effective.

Russian vaccine 'to cost less than $20 per person'

The developers of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine say it will sell internationally for less than $20 (£15) for two doses. That's cheaper than its American rivals, but more expensive than the Oxford University jab.
For Russian citizens it will be free of charge.
The Sputnik V vaccine, developed at the National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, is currently going through phase III clinical trials in Belarus, UAE, Venezuela and India.
The makers say interim analysis of data for the vaccine indicates that it's 95% effective. Russia plans to make more than a billion doses and about 50 countries have expressed an interest in buying.
The team say they hope to produce a dry form, which would simplify transport and administration as the liquid drug must be kept at -18C.
Moscow has been criticised by some scientists in the West for allegedly cutting corners in an attempt to try to rush out the vaccine - claims Russia strongly denies.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 15:52

Minks and masks: World round-up

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A domestic campaign subsidising travel to Osaka, Japan has been suspended due to a rise in cases


  • In Poland scientists have discovered the first cases of coronavirus in minks at a breeding farm in Pomerania, the Medical University of Gdansk said. The university said studies indicated the "possibility of the transmission of the virus from humans to minks".
  • The Czech Republic is set to follow Slovakia's lead in mass testing. Voluntary, free antigen testing will be available to the whole nation in the run-up to Christmas, according to the prime minister's plans.
  • Portugal's second consecutive 15-day state of emergency begins on Tuesday. A new four-tiered system of restrictions will apply depending on the region's case numbers. Across the country, masks are compulsory outdoors where social distancing is not possible, and in the workplace. Portugal's 14-day rate of new cases is one of the highest in Europe.
  • New restrictions have been imposed in the southern province of Sindh in Pakistan. All indoor gatherings including marriages have been cancelled and wearing a face mask in public places is compulsory. Pakistan registered the highest number of new cases on Tuesday.


Say no to ski holiday this year, Italians urged

Italians keen to spend their Christmas break out on the snow are being advised to think again. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country, which on Monday became the sixth nation to surpass 50,000 deaths in the pandemic, "can't afford" the risk of further infections from ski holidays.
Many areas of Italy are currently under partial lockdown, but the lucrative ski sector hoped to make up losses when restrictions are projected to lift on 3 December.
One third of ski resorts annual revenue comes from visits at Christmas and New Year, according to Reuters.
In the northern regions of the Alps and Dolomites, resorts have introduced protocols such as limits on daily passes, but Conte has suggested it is not possible "to allow holidays on the snow".
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 15:57

Texas Senator tells Americans 'not to give up Thanksgiving'

We reported earlier that despite warnings against travel during the current severe coronavirus outbreak, millions of Americans are flying across the US for Thanksgiving on Thursday.
Now Texas Senator Ted Cruz has caused controversy by suggesting Americans should flout health officials' advice to celebrate virtually with families instead of in-person. The Republican tweeted a picture of a turkey with the words "come and take it", adding "we’re not willing to give up Thanksgiving. Wait till they find out we won't give up Christmas either".
In Texas, morgues in the state become overwhelmed with bodies, and huge queues have formed at food banks following the economic fall-out of the pandemic.
In other US news:

  • The pressure of Covid-19 patients in the city of Los Angeles means that some hospitals could soon run out of beds
  • A large Pentecostal church in California ignored public health orders on Sunday by staging packed indoor services with conservative activist Charlie Kirk. Very few wore masks at the event


Scientist whose advice contributed to lockdown 'looking forward' to spring holiday

The scientist whose advice contributed to the first UK lockdown has said he is hopeful of booking a spring holiday once measures are eased.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to a complete shutdown in March and April, said he was confident vaccinations would lead to social distancing being lifted.
He told a symposium hosted by the Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA) at Imperial College, where he works, that there was likely to be a "very difficult two or three months ahead" in the UK and much of Europe.
Similar measures as those in place now would be needed until the end of March, he said, while vaccines are rolled out.
"At that point, both because of seasonality but also because a lot of the most vulnerable people will hopefully then be protected [vaccinated], we will be able to relax social distancing measures and current restrictions quite nicely.
"I'm certainly hoping so. I'm looking forward to going on holiday myself in late April, maybe May."
However, Prof Ferguson said it would still take many months after that "to get truly back to normal" as vaccines are rolled out across the whole population.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 16:28

NI retailers can operate click-and-collect during lockdown

Chris Page - BBC News Ireland correspondent
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Retailers will be able to operate a click-and-collect service during the two-week lockdown which is coming into force on Friday, Northern Ireland’s devolved government has decided.
At a meeting this morning, ministers also agreed places of worship could open for private prayer, and drive-in church services would be permitted.
They have confirmed outdoor visitor attractions will be closed during the period of tightened restrictions.

608 more Covid deaths in UK

The daily Covid stats have arrived.
A further 608 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus. That brings the UK total to 55,838.
And the number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has risen by 11,299.
The seven day average for daily deaths continues to rise but the numbers for those testing positive has dropped.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 17:04

News from Europe

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Germans have been warned not to cross into Austria to ski


  • Not only the Italians are being warned against taking ski holidays this year, as we mentioned earlier. The leader of the German state of Bavaria plans to keep slopes shut in his region, and has called for a temporary Europe-wide closure of ski areas. Markus Soeder warned German skiers that if they tried to cross to designated risk areas such as neighbouring Austria, they'd face a 10-day quarantine on their return
  • Nursing home residents and workers will be the first to get vaccinated in Spain, the country's health minister has announced. Salvador Illa said a national inoculation plan would start in January aiming to cover most of Spain's 46 million residents in six months. Nursing homes were particularly badly-hit by Covid-19 in Spain earlier this year
  • Austria too has announced the first stages of its vaccination plan. Elderly, at-risk groups and health professionals will be the first in line. Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said the country had acquired more than 16 million doses and expected to start in January. Non-priority groups will receive the jab from April
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 17:08

US seeing 'uncontrollable spread' of Covid, Biden advisor says

An advisor to US President-elect Joe Biden on Covid-19 has warned that the US remains in a phase of "uncontrollable spread" of the virus which will take weeks to reverse.
Dr Atul Gawande told the BBC there would soon be 2,000 deaths a day, which could have been avoided by enforcing basic safety measures. He said many hospitals were overwhelmed and critically short of staff, just as infections were exploding.
However, Dr Gawande said behaviour was starting to change and the US was now on a path to recovery.
This week millions of Americans are defying warnings against travel and instead are flying across the US to join family or friends for Thanksgiving on Thursday. The travel has prompted concerns the pandemic will further worsen.
On Monday the country reported a further 150,000 cases, according to the Covid Tracking Project. How to manage the pandemic has become a strongly politicised issue. On Tuesday Republican Senator Ted Cruz caused controversy by suggesting Americans defy advice to celebrate Thanksgiving virtually.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 17:12

Restrictions end Canadian bubble 'success story'

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Visitors to Newfoundland from most of Canada will be required to quarantine for 14 days

While residents in most of Canada were required to quarantine when travelling to other regions, low cases in four Atlantic coast provinces meant they could avoid the measure and form a bubble in July.
But now rising cases in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have put an end to the arrangement. The remaining two areas, Newfoundland and Labrador, are imposing a two-week quarantine for anyone crossing their borders from Tuesday. The combined provinces have a population of 2.4 million people.
“The Atlantic bubble has been a source of pride,” Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said. “Implementing this change for a two-week period is an effort to avoid a full lockdown,” he added.
As of Monday, Nova Scotia had 89 active cases of coronavirus, and New Brunswick had 51. Newfoundland had 23 and Prince Edward Island two, respectively. No-one in the regions is currently in hospital with the virus.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 17:18

'Vaccine passports' may become mandatory for long-haul flights with passengers required to provide proof of anti-Covid jab

Harry Brent - Irish Post
Passengers may be required to prove they have had a Covid-19 vaccine before flying, going forward.
Special 'vaccination passports' could be introduced so that airlines can be sure that none of their passengers are spreading coronavirus.
It would be an official certification that someone has been vaccinated for Covid-19, and could be accessed online, so the passenger wouldn't necessarily need to carry it around like their original passport.
The initiative is being considered by Australian airline Qantas, but could well be rolled out for all major international airlines if it's deemed successful.
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Qantas are considering implementing a vaccine passport system whereby only passengers with proof of a coronavirus vaccination may board their flight

"We are looking at changing the terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft," said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce.
"What we are looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electric version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, and if it is acceptable to the country you are travelling to."
It's understood the initiative would be implemented on long-haul flights only. So domestic flights and short trips wouldn't require a vaccination passport.
Anyone flying from Ireland to the UK would likely be exempt from the measure, but those flying from Ireland to US may have to provide proof of their vaccinations.
Australia has had some of the strictest border restrictions throughout the pandemic, so it's no surprise that an Australian company should come up with such a strict measure, but if it reduced the risk of spreading Covid around the world then who'd be against it?
"For international visitors coming out and people leaving [Australia], we think that's a necessity," Joyce added.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 17:41

'Three households can meet for five days' under Christmas deal

Three households will be able to meet for five days from the 23 December to 27 December, says BBC Scotland chief political correspondent Glenn Campbell.
He says they can meet in each other’s homes, at a place of worship and in an outdoor public space. These groupings must be “exclusive”, meaning you cannot get together with people from more than two other households.
Can you book Christmas dinner with family or friends at a restaurant? Not necessarily, he says. People must comply with whatever the hospitality rules are in place in their area under Scotland's levels system.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 18:02

Breaking News

What has been agreed?

The four nations of the UK have reached a deal on allowing people to meet over Christmas. Here is what they have agreed:

  • Up to three households can meet between 23 - 27 December across
  • The households can meet in private homes, outdoor pub spaces and places of worship
  • They cannot meet in hospitality settings or other entertainment venues
  • Current social bubbles in England will count as one household - but this may differ in the other nations
  • You can continue to meet people outside of your "Christmas bubble" but only in line with the tier rules where you live


Don't mix if you don't have to, says Sturgeon

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the relaxation would not apply to Hogmanay

Talking about the plans, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged people to try to limit their interaction.
She said there would be some people who felt the need to come together over Christmas and “we want to allow that” but “just because this can be done”, it is not the case that people should feel “they should do it if they don’t have to”.
Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that travel restrictions would be lifted to allow people to visit families in other parts of the UK within the three-household bubble.
She said the three-household bubble was a “fixed bubble for that five-day period - you can’t see two households one day and another two households the next day”.
The first minister confirmed the relaxation would not apply to Hogmanay, saying “we can’t do everything here”.
"The last thing we want to do right now is set our progress back,” she added.
On the matter of hugs, she cautioned people against doing things that allow the virus to spread.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 18:19

Drakeford: 'This is not an instruction to meet other people'

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Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said the approach to Christmas was "not a choice between relaxation or no relaxation" but a plan to allow celebrations "in a controlled way".
He stressed this is "not an instruction to travel" and "not an instruction to meet with other people". Asked if he had any concerns about relaxing the restrictions, he said "misgivings happen either way".
Mr Drakeford said: "It is having a form of relaxation where there are rules that people will recognise, that will allow people to enjoy Christmas, but will do it in a controlled way."
He admitted he had "hesitation" - because of the state of the virus in Wales and the UK as a whole - but added: "It is better that we have a common set of arrangements that give people a framework that they can manage within and act responsibly within as well."
Asked about what plans and preparations are being made for the opening months of 2021, he replied: "What I am keen on is that we don't, on a four nation basis, simply think about five days of Christmas.
"We think of a common approach to Christmas and a common approach to dealing with the consequences of Christmas as well."

Christmas deal a 'message of hope' for Northern Ireland

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NI First Minister Arlene Foster said she hoped the announcement gave people time to plan

First Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the announcement of Christmas arrangements and said she hoped it would give people space to plan.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said it was a "message of hope" but urged people to be responsible, safe and mindful of healthcare workers.
“Think, can you meet up differently, can you go for a walk, for example, with a family member?” she said.
Arlene Foster said the relaxations would apply in people's homes, in non-essential retail and places of worship but not in hospitality.
She said people should stick to the regulations on hospitality concerning the number of households allowed to meet together at the time.
Northern Ireland is due to begin a two-week lockdown from this Friday until 11 December, in a bid to curb the spread of the virus before Christmas.

Northern Ireland granted bigger window for Christmas travel

Three households can meet over a five-day period (23 - 27 December) in the UK.
However, those in Northern Ireland have been granted a bigger window (22 - 28 December) to allow for any additional travel time to and from the region.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 18:48

Over-65s in care homes can't join Christmas bubbles

We've had some more detail about what the Christmas announcements will mean for different groups:

  • People aged over 65 living in care homes will not be able to join their families for Christmas
  • Shared households in England - such as friends sharing a flat - will be able to split up to join another household for the five-day period
  • But in families where, for example, three children live away from home, they would not all be able to return for Christmas
  • University students returning from halls of residence at the end of term would automatically rejoin their family household and therefore not be counted as a separate household


'It's the only time of the year I get everybody together'

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Sam says she wants to get together "even if it's just for one day"

Families are now facing a big choice about whether to take advantage of the freedom to meet up at Christmas - or whether to play it safe.
Sam in Devon is building a grotto in her garden ready for a small family gathering.
She told the BBC: "It’s the only time of the year I get everybody together, it's very important, it's special.
"It’s not the presents or anything else, it’s having my family. Even if it’s just for one day."
But she said people "have to be sensible otherwise we’re going to have a really rotten January".
But others said they would not be travelling. Father and daughter Naomi and Roy said they would not be making the trip between Devon and South Wales this year.
"I would love to do it, but no," Naomi said. "Especially with the vaccine development, it just seems like too high risk regardless of what we're allowed to do."
"The only thing that’s missing is the physical contact," said Roy, adding that he missed the grandchildren, "If that has to be, I would rather miss out in 2020 if it means we can do what we normally do in 2021."
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This year, Naomi and dad Roy will spend Christmas apart
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 19:48

Evidence of Covid mutations in ferrets, Sage says

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The mutations observed in coronavirus isolates from mink have also been observed in ferrets, according to the latest minutes from the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) .
Sage said preliminary evidence suggested ferrets could pose a risk to those who are most vulnerable to the virus, but were low risk otherwise.
Unlike mink, they are normally not kept in high-intensity farms.
Sage said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is currently assessing the risk to people in the UK and is developing messaging for ferret owners.
There are fears mutations of the virus in animals could hamper the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines.
Earlier this month, Denmark culled all its mink - up to 17 million animals - because of the spread of coronavirus in the animal .
Sage said coordination was needed across academic groups and relevant bodies on the risks of human to animal transmission and the intensive rearing of animals.
The Sage minutes said the UK's vaccine taskforce would note potential implications for vaccine targeting of variants including those that are mink-adapted.
What's the science behind mink and coronavirus? We take a look here
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 19:52

Ghislaine Maxwell quarantined after jail worker's Covid diagnosis

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Ghislaine Maxwell is due to go on trial in 2021

Ghislaine Maxwell has been quarantined after staff tested positive for Covid-19 at the jail in New York where she is awaiting trial, US prosecutors say.
Maxwell is accused of helping her former boyfriend, late financier Jeffrey Epstein, traffic and sexually abuse underage girls and of perjury for denying involvement in such a scheme when she gave her deposition under oath. She has pleaded not guilty.
The staff tested positive last week and Maxwell, 58, was checked for the virus on 18 November using a rapid test which was negative, the prosecutors said in a letter to US District Judge Alison Nathan.
She will go on trial next year, and is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 20:01

UK's highest daily death toll since May includes 10-year-old boy

A 10-year-old boy was among those who died in hospital as the UK recorded its highest daily death toll for over five months.
The 608 people reported to have died within 28 days of a positive test is the largest total since 12 May, when 614 deaths were recorded.
The parents of Fehzan Jamil, who lived in Bradford and is one of the virus's youngest UK victims, told Channel 4 News of their “indescribable” pain.
Tayyaba and Mohammed Jamil said their son, who had epilepsy and other health problems, was a “really brave fighter” and a “soldier”, who was always cheerful.

France passes 50,000 deaths but eases lockdown

With another 458 deaths reported today, France has become the latest European country to record more than 50,000 deaths during the pandemic.
Italy and the UK had already passed that milestone.
But France's death toll of 50,237 comes against a background of falling cases, with 9,155 infections today - compared to 45,522 last Tuesday.
The number of people in hospital fell by 859 to 30,622, the sharpest fall since the country's lockdown began on 30 October.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced a phased end to the lockdown, with shops allowed to reopen on Saturday. Other restrictions will remain in place.
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 20:03

Catch-up on headlines around the world


  • An advisor to US President-elect Joe Biden on Covid-19 has warned that the United States remains in a phase of "uncontrollable spread" of the virus which will take weeks to reverse. The country reported around 150,000 cases on Monday
  • Meanwhile millions have crowded in airports and on planes to travel across the US for Thanksgiving - health officials had advised people to celebrate the holiday virtually
  • The developers of Russia's main coronavirus vaccine - Sputnik V - say it's proving to be up to 95% effective. They also say it will be cheaper - and easier to store and transport - than its competitors in the US. Some critics have suggested the vaccine is being rushed through but Moscow rejects this
  • France became the third country in Europe where the death toll now exceeds 50,000. But with cases and the number of patients in hospital falling sharply, President Macron announced a phased easing of the country's lockdown
  • A number of politicians including Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte have said Europe's ski resorts should close over the winter and that it's too risky to spend the Christmas holiday on the snow
  • Austria and Spain both announced vaccination plans. Nursing home residents and workers in Spain will be first in line to be vaccinated, while in Austria elderly, at-risk groups and health professionals will be prioritised. Both countries hope to start in January
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Post by Kitkat on Tue Nov 24 2020, 20:06

Christmas gatherings confirmed and school attendance drops - UK summary

We are bringing our live page coverage to an end shortly. Before we do, here's a summary of today's headlines from the UK:



Thanks for joining us

We will be back with more coronavirus coverage on our live page tomorrow.

Today's updates have been brought to you by: Hugo Bachega, George Bowden, Marie Jackson, Joseph Lee, Emma Owen, Georgina Rannard, Alex Therrien, Lauren Turner and Kate Whannel.

    Current date/time is Wed Jan 20 2021, 03:41