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Coronavirus - 3rd December

Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 09:32

Summary for Thursday, 3rd December

  • England's deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam is answering audience questions on BBC News channel and Radio 5 Live
  • He hails the vaccine approval but says "we have to take it really carefully"
  • US has record number of new daily cases - almost 200,000 - as hospitalisations double since early November
  • Los Angeles mayor issues emergency stay-at-home order after "terrifying increase" in cases in the US city
  • Pupils sitting GCSE and A-level exams in England next year will be awarded more generous grades
  • Students returning to universities in England after Christmas will have staggered start dates
  • Fans have returned to English Football League grounds for the first time in nine months

Good morning

Welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. We’ll be bringing you all the latest news from the UK and around the world.
We’ll have more reaction following yesterday’s news that the Pfizer vaccine will begin being rolled out in the UK next week.

Latest UK headlines

Here is a round-up of the latest developments around the UK:


Paper review: 'Shot in the arm for Britain'


Coronavirus - 3rd December Fc46e810

The UK front pages celebrate the news that the country has approved a Covid vaccine.
"What a shot in the arm for Britain," is the Daily Mail's reaction. The paper says officials hope to have the bulk of the most vulnerable groups immunised by the end of next month.
Metro's headline suggests Wednesday should be known as "V-Day", calling the approval of a vaccine an "historic moment" .
The Sun also evokes the spirit of the Second World War on its front page , with the V in its "Covid" headline replaced by the two-fingered V for Victory salute made famous by Sir Winston Churchill.
Read our full paper review here.

Latest world news

Here are the latest developments from around the world.

  • The mayor of Los Angeles has issued an emergency order for the city's residents to remain at home with immediate effect, following an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases
  • A US mayor who went on a family getaway to Mexico as he told people to stay at home amid spiralling virus caseloads has been accused of Covid-19 hypocrisy after flying off by private jet on holiday
  • The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned the next three months could be the most difficult in America's public health history. Dr Robert Redfield warned the country is facing a devastating winter unless public health advice is heeded
  • France's President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who has died at the age of 94 after contracting coronavirus .

What's happening around Europe?


  • Spain is banning travel between regions over Christmas and New Year with visits to relatives excepted. But it will allow gatherings of up to 10 people on specific festive days.
  • Italy is banning movement between regions from 21 December and 6 January, other than for work, health or “situations of necessity”.
  • Officials in France will give details of the country's vaccine strategy today – with enough supplies to vaccinate 100 million people.
  • Shops, restaurants and museums are reopening in the Czech Republic today after a six-week closure for non-essential business. Infection rates are at 4,563 a day, down a little on a week ago.
  • Germany has reported another 479 Covid deaths over the past 24 hours. Last night the 16 federal states agreed to extend the closure of hotels and restaurants until 10 January.
  • Portugal will also give details of its universal, free vaccine programme – the government is planning to buy 22 million doses but has warned vaccinations could take some time.
  • Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says bars and clubs can’t reopen until vaccines become available. Restaurants and shops will open gradually, he says.

Vaccine rollout 'at pivotal moment'

Earlier we heard from Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises UK health departments.
Currently, care homes are at the top of the JCVI's priority list but logistical issues mean there could be a delay in getting it to residents.
On the matter of prioritising who gets the vaccine, Prof Harnden said their remit was to decide on prioritisation groups knowing there would be "vaccine product, storage, transport and administration constraints, and individual local circumstances".
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he understood there may be disappointment for care home residents and their relatives but "one ought not to lose sight of the fact that this is a pivotal moment in our collective fight against coronavirus".
He added that "a very small degree of patience" was required to deal with the "very, very short-term practical difficulties of getting this out",
There was a possibility that care home staff could be immunised at hospital hubs, he added.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 09:55

Pregnant women 'advised not to take vaccine' - Van -Tam

Jonathan Van-Tam is asked whether pregnant woman can take the newly-approved vaccine.
He says “right now” we don’t have the data about whether pregnant women should take the vaccine and at the moment they are not advised to have it.
It isn’t a sign that we have seen “a terrible problem”, he says, it is a sign that we don’t have the data at the moment, emphasising that it’s “safety first”.
He adds that is it a similar situation for children.

When will restrictions be lifted?

England’s deputy chief medical officer says he can’t give an answer as to how many people need to have the vaccine for restrictions to be lifted.
Jonathan Van-Tam says: “I don’t tend to fudge things and I’m not going to pretend I know the answer to that.
“What we want the vaccine to do in the first instance is to stop people dying from Covid 19.”
He says the next focus is to stop people being hospitalised.
If the UK can get to the point when the NHS isn’t under “immense pressure” from the virus and is "managing it in a much more normal way than at present", he says that will give politicians the option to think about what comes next.
He adds that it’s “not his job to give a magic calendar date”.

Is the vaccine suitable for people with allergies?

England’s deputy chief medical officer is asked about whether the vaccine is suitable for people with allergies.
Jonathan Van-Tam says the ingredients will be made available as soon as they get them from the manufacturer.
He adds that he has had another question about whether someone with an egg allergy can have it, and he says he “is absolutely not aware” of anything connected with egg allergies being contained in the vaccines coming forward.

Can I hug my mum once I've had the vaccine?

Prof Van-Tam is asked how soon after having the vaccine can you hug your relatives?
He replies that the Pfizer vaccine - which has been approved for use in the UK - is a two-dose schedule that means you need one dose then another dose at least 21 days later.
He says "you should not expect the vaccine to be protecting you from infection fully until probably 7 to 10 days after the second dose".
But he warns that does not mean that "complete protection" is ensured in every single person.
"Until we are properly confident of how the vaccine works and properly confident that disease levels are dropping, that even if you have had the vaccine you are going to have to continue to follow all the rules that apply a while longer," he says.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 10:06

US hits record Covid number of cases and hospitalisations

The US has hit new records for Covid infections and hospitalisations , with fears that they will not slow in the run-up to Christmas.
The number of people in hospital passed 100,000 for the first time, a figure that has doubled since early November, Covid Tracking Project data showed.
Also on Wednesday, new cases rose by a record 195,695. The daily death toll of 2,733 was also close to a new high. Infections are closing in on 14 million, with more than 264,000 deaths.
In Los Angeles, the mayor [url=https://www.lamayor.org/sites/g/files/wph446/f/page/file/20201202 Mayor Public Order Targeted SAH Order_1.pdf]has issued an emergency order for the city's residents to remain at home[/url] with immediate effect and banned social gatherings, following an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases.
Mayor Eric Garcetti gave the new order late on Wednesday after county health officials witnessed what they described as a "terrifying increase" in cases and hospitalisations.
A similar order is already in place in Los Angeles county where some hospitals are already approaching full capacity.
On Tuesday, infections there reached a record daily high of more than 7,500, and there have been more than 400,000 cases in total.

'Stay home,' says US mayor at Mexico beach resort


Coronavirus - 3rd December 3f252210

The mayor of the US city of Austin, Texas, who flew off by private jet on holiday while urging residents to stay at home, has been accused of Covid-19 hypocrisy.
Steve Adler went on a family getaway to Mexico last month as he told people to stay indoors amid a spiralling number of virus cases.
He recorded a video from the beach resort instructing residents back home: "This is not the time to relax."
But Mr Adler, a Democrat, denied violating his own regulations.
Read more here.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 10:42

Prof Van-Tam quizzed: Here's what you may have missed

We've spent the morning hearing from Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, who's been answering questions from BBC viewers and listeners.
If you missed any of it, here's a summary of what he's shared with us:

  • He expects US and European regulators to approve the Pfizer vaccine in "not very many days"
  • The logistics of the vaccine means that it's "not viable" to take it into individual homes if people are housebound
  • He's "hopeful" the Oxford University vaccine will be approved before Christmas, although that decision is in the hands of the UK's regulators
  • For people with allergies concerned about getting the vaccine, he says the ingredients will be made available as soon as they get them from the manufacturer
  • On hugs, he says the vaccine may not give everyone "complete protection" so social distancing rules should still be followed
  • The government may look at a jobs-based priority list once the care home/age/clinical need priority list has been worked through
  • On vaccine certificates, he says there are “definite plans” to make sure we know who's had the vaccine, but could not give a firm answer on certificates
  • The vaccine should not be given to pregnant women because there's no data on its effect yet
  • The vaccine should give protection for "quite a few months as an absolute minimum - and it could be longer"
  • And Father Christmas will be front of the queue to get the vaccine (He's been made a special case by the JCVI)


Wales allows travel from England's tiers 1 and 2

The Welsh government has announced cross-border travel into Wales will be allowed for people living in tier one and two areas in England but those from tier three will remain under a travel ban.
During England’s national lockdown, which ended on 2 December, travel in and out of Wales was banned unless it was for essential reasons.
Tourism businesses in Wales were left confused over whether they could accept bookings from guests in England when the national lockdown came to an end.
The new arrangements, which come into force tomorrow, are less prohibitive than those in force before the English lockdown, which banned travel from tier two and three areas.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 10:58

Ireland now has lowest Covid-19 incidence rate in Europe Union

Rachael O'Connor - Irish Post
Ireland's strict six-week lockdown has been a success, as Ireland now has the lowest incidence rate for Covid-19 in the EU.
Six weeks of Level 5 did not place Ireland in the ideal position projected by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), who had hoped for an average of less than 100 cases a day by December.
However the country's daily number of cases has dropped significantly, from around 1,200 per day at the beginning of lockdown to the 200's.
Yesterday evening, a further 5 deaths and 270 new cases were announced by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC).
The numbers sadly brings to 2,074 the number of people who have died from the virus since the pandemic began, and there have now been 73,066 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.
At 83.8 cases per 100,000 people, Ireland's incidence rate is the lowest in the EU, however Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned this should not lead to complacency.
He said:
"It is important to keep up the progress that we have achieved in recent weeks.
"Ireland now has the lowest 14-day incidence of COVID-19 in the EU according to the latest ECDC figures and we need to hold firm to this position.
"As the country moves into Level 3, there is no room for complacency in our response to COVID-19.
"When you are out in shops and accessing services, try to avoid high risk situations and wear a face covering when social distancing is not possible on busy streets and crowded outdoor areas. When you come home from shopping or being outdoors, remember that washing your hands is your first priority.
"For those of us who cannot work from home, the wearing of a face covering is now advised when moving around busy indoor workplaces and in communal work areas. If you are planning to travel around your county, consider first whether it is absolutely necessary to travel.
"Your individual actions are vital to our national effort to suppress the transmission of this disease."
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 11:38

Sainsbury's and Aldi to hand back £540m to government

Sainsbury's and Aldi have said they will hand back a combined £540m of business rates relief they received as support during the pandemic.
These chains follow Tesco and Morrisons, who promised to repay £850m between them.
Supermarkets, whose sales have boomed in the crisis, have been criticised for taking government support while paying dividends to shareholders.
Both Sainsbury's and Aldi said the decision reflected the fact they had been allowed to stay open in lockdown.
Despite incurring "significant costs" in the crisis, Sainsbury's said its sales and profits had been "stronger than originally expected".

Czech restrictions eased as infection rate declines

Rob Cameron - BBC Prague Correspondent
The Czech Republic has moved to a lower tier of coronavirus restrictions - Tier 3.
All shops, restaurants and pubs can reopen from today - with restrictions on the number of people - as will swimming pools, gyms, museums etc. The night-time curfew has ended. Cinemas and theatres, however, will not be allowed to have audiences yet.
The numbers of new infections are declining, although perhaps not as fast as epidemiologists hoped, and some worry what lies ahead in January, after families come together at Christmas.

Hackers targeted vaccine supply chain

Gordon Corera - Security correspondent, BBC News
The international vaccine supply chain has been targeted by cyber-espionage, according to IBM.
The company says it tracked a campaign aimed at the delivery "cold chain" used to keep vaccines at the right temperature during transportation.
The attackers' identity is unclear - but IBM said the sophistication of their methods indicated a nation state.
It follows warnings from governments - including the UK's - of countries targeting aspects of vaccine research.
Read more here
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 11:58

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:
from The Guardian:

  • Former US presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have all volunteered to be vaccinated on camera in order to try to convince people to get vaccinated:
  • CDC chief warns Americans face ‘rough’ winter from Covid-19 surge. The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on Wednesday the Covid-19 pandemic, still raging with unprecedented fury nationwide, will pose the country’s grimmest health crisis yet over the next few months, before vaccines become widely available.
  • California’s agricultural workers have contracted Covid-19 at nearly three times the rate of other residents in the state , a new study has found, laying bare the risks facing those who keep a $50bn industry afloat. Farmworkers have been deemed “essential” and thus continued to work throughout the duration of the pandemic.
  • China is carrying out sweeping inspections on food importers, supermarkets, e-commerce platforms and restaurants to prevent the spread of coronavirus through imported cold chain products, the country’s market regulator said on Wednesday.
  • South Korean drugmaker Daewoong Pharma said on Thursday it had sought regulatory approval for Phase II trials of its anti-parasite niclosamide drug to treat Covid-19 patients, sending its shares up nearly 6%.
  • Localised coronavirus outbreaks in parts of South Africa have raised fears that the country could see a resurgence in cases compounded by gatherings during the upcoming festive season. Officials in Africa’s hardest virus-hit country are scrambling to contain infections after a flare-up was reported in the impoverished Eastern Cape province and adjacent Western Cape province last month.
  • Former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing died on Wednesday from complications linked to Covid-19, his foundation said. Giscard was admitted to hospital in September with respiratory problems. He recovered but was re-admitted in mid-November. He was 94.
  • Meanwhile the global Covid death toll is nearing 1.5m, with 1,488,992. Currently, the world is regularly suffering more than 10,000 deaths per day, according to Johns Hopkins University. There are 64.3m cases worldwide.
  • Eli Lilly and Co said on Wednesday the US government has purchased 650,000 additional doses of its Covid-19 antibody drug for $812.5 million. The doses will be delivered through 31 January, with at least 350,000 delivered in December, the company said. The drug has been authorised by the UUS Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, and the government bought 300,000 doses in October.
  • Brazil opens route for emergency approval of Covid-19 vaccines and outlined the requirements for companies looking to do so. Authorisations will be analysed on a case-by-case basis and that to be considered the vaccine must be in late-stage trials in Brazil. It said no requests had been received so far.
  • US suffers highest daily deaths since April. The United States has recorded 2,597 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is its worst toll since 15 April and its second-worst toll of the pandemic so far.15 April saw record deaths just shy of this week’s figure, at 2,607 dead in one day.
  • Covid vaccinations will begin next week, says Boris Johnson . Mass immunisation against coronavirus will begin next week, UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday as he moved to defuse a diplomatic row over claims that Brexit was responsible for the fast-track approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.


Record number of new cases in Russia

Hi there - this is Archie Bland picking up the global coronavirus liveblog, and beginning in Russia, where 28,145 new cases, a record high, and 554 deaths have been recorded in the last 24 hours.
Those figures compare with 25,345 new cases and 589 deaths, the latter figure also a record, the previous day.
There have now been 2,375,546 cases officially recorded since the pandemic began, leaving Russia fourth in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil. The official death toll since the pandemic began is 41,607.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 12:03

In Hungary, a record number of new deaths, 182, was reported on Thursday. The country recorded a rapid rise in new cases through November, with one of the sharpest rates of increase in Europe .
The country has meanwhile found itself at loggerheads with the EU over its decision to purchase and distribute the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which the EU views as needing more evidence before it should be deployed.
Thursday’s tally brought the total number of deaths to 5,324, while infections rose by 6,635 to 231,844. As of Wednesday, Hungary ran the European Union’s fifth-highest death rate per 100,000 people over a two-week period, based on data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Viktor Orbán’s government imposed a partial lockdown three weeks ago to slow the spread of the virus, including a 7pm curfew and closing secondary schools.



Finland’s government said on Thursday it had agreed a national strategy for Covid-19 vaccinations, planning to give them to everyone and to begin with vaccinating selected healthcare staff from January onwards.
“Finland’s goal is to protect the entire population by offering the vaccine free of charge to all those willing and who don’t have a health obstacle,” the minister of social affairs and health, Krista Kiuru, said, in remarks reported by Reuters.




Indonesia has recorded its biggest daily rise in coronavirus infections, with 8,369 new cases, the country’s Covid-19 task force has said.
This brought the total number of infections in Indonesia to 557,877. The task force data also showed 156 new deaths related to COVID-19, taking the total to 17,355.
Those figures make the country the worst affected in south-east Asia. Last month it entered recession for the first time in 22 years.




Lebanon will not have enough hospital beds to cope with increasing Covid-19 cases, the health minister in the caretaker government warned on Thursday, saying compliance with a two-week lockdown that ended this week had been patchy.
In a tweet on Thursday morning, Hamad Hassan said cases were on the rise and although more hospital beds had been added, these would not be enough.
Intensive care units were at critical capacity when Lebanon ordered the lockdown and the caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, had warned the shutdown may be extended if people did not comply.
Reuters reported that the health ministry said on Wednesday 1,842 Covid-19 cases and 22 deaths had been recorded in the past 24 hours. Recorded deaths due to Covid-19 total 1,055 in the country of 6 million, where healthcare is deteriorating.
On top of the Covid-19 pandemic, Lebanon is in the throes of a major financial and economic crisis and still grappling with the aftermath of the 4 August explosion at Beirut port.




Italy announces Christmas travel restrictions

Italy on Thursday announced national travel restrictions for the Christmas holidays designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the European country first hit by the pandemic.
The new rules, together with an existing curfew and other regulations already in place, seek to curb circulation throughout the country during the festive period by limiting the number of gatherings.
“If we let down our guard now, the third wave is just around the corner,” the health minister, Roberto Speranza, told parliament on Wednesday.
Travel between Italy’s regions will be prohibited from 21 December until 6 January, with people barred from travelling outside their own towns on 25 and 26 December and 1 January.
The decree includes the “strong recommendation” to avoid hosting those who do not live together.
Other regulations set to be signed later on Thursday are expected to mandate a 10-day quarantine for those arriving in Italy from foreign countries, beginning on December 20.
The move is in part designed to prevent Italians from travelling to ski slopes that are still open in neighbouring EU countries.
The government is expected to retain a colour-coded risk-based system that imposes varying levels of anti-coronavirus restrictions on different regions.
Bars and restaurants are expected to remain closed in regions in red or orange zones. A current 6pm closure in yellow zones may remain, as may a nationwide 10pm curfew.
In yellow zones, where eateries are open but required to shut at 6pm, the government is debating whether to allow restaurants to serve lunch on Christmas Day and 26 December.
Ski slopes are expected to be off-limits, as well as cruises.
The health ministry reported 20,709 new cases on Wednesday and 684 deaths, bringing the cumulative toll to more than 1.6m infections.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 12:06

In Russia, Moscow will open its new Covid-19 vaccination centres on Saturday

The first people to receive the shot will be teachers, doctors and social workers, mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday ordered a large-scale voluntary vaccination programme against Covid-19 to begin next week across Russia, saying teachers and doctors should be first in line to get the flagship Sputnik V vaccine.
People in Moscow will be able to register for the jab online from Friday, Sobyanin said in a statement on his website.
Russia, which has resisted imposing stringent lockdown measures, reported a record 28,145 new infections earlier on Thursday, including 7,750 in Moscow.

South Korea reaches deal to buy AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine candidate

South Korea has reached a deal with AstraZeneca PLC to purchase its coronavirus vaccine candidate as it seeks to secure supplies amid a resurgence of outbreaks, local media reported on Thursday.
The government has said it was in final talks with global drugmakers including AstraZeneca, Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson over their experimental vaccines, and launched a preliminary review of AstraZeneca’s product in October for potential fast-track approval.
The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said health authorities signed a contract with the Britain-based company on 27 November, and were nearing agreements with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, citing an unidentified government official.
“The AstraZeneca deal has been done, and a memorandum of understanding was reached with both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. But further negotiations are needed to finalise the amount of supplies and the timing of shipment,” the official was quoted as saying.
The KDCA has said 172 billion won ($157 million) was set aside to buy an initial 60 million doses this year, enough to vaccinate about 60% of the country’s population of 52 million, around the second quarter of 2021.
It has secured 20 million doses via the Covax facility, an international Covid-19 vaccine allocation platform co-led by the WHO.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 12:09

The African Union’s disease control group has set a target of 60% of the continent’s population vaccinated against Covid-19 in the next two to three years.
The continent of 1.3 billion people has recorded more than 2.2 million confirmed coronavirus infections, according to Reuters.
Some European countries expect to start rolling out vaccination campaigns in the next few weeks, but the control group said that vaccinations were unlikely to start in Africa until midway through next year.
“We hope that for that for this to be meaningful, our 60% must be reached in the next two to three years. We should be deliberate in this,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “If the delay takes us to four to five years then the virus will be endemic in our communities.”
He said there were logistical problems to overcome in Africa, including how to keep vaccines cold.
“We have a window from now to January and February to keep strengthening our systems, which is the refrigeration,” said Nkengasong.




Hannah Ellis-Petersen - The Guardian
The ink is still fresh on the British government’s stamp of approval for the rollout of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, but in India travel agents are already fielding requests from customers who want to travel to the UK to get vaccinated.
Even though foreigners are unlikely to have early access to the vaccination in the UK, regardless of age or profession, that has not stopped some Indian travel agents making plans for a possible surge in vaccine tourism to the UK in 2021.
One travel agent told Press Trust India that he was planning on arranging a three-night package to the UK for Indians who want to take advantage of the government vaccine rollout, which could start as early as next week. It is unknown if and when the vaccine would be available privately in the UK.
Another travel agent in Mumbai said after the announcement of approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, he had received multiple queries from Indians with UK visas on how and when they might be able to travel to the UK.
They were also seeking clarification whether travellers from India coming solely for a vaccination could be exempt from the two-week quarantine. “I have told them it is too early to say,” he said.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 12:11

Iran coronavirus cases pass 1m

Iran’s total number of coronavirus cases hit 1 million on Thursday with 13,922 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, as the Middle East’s worst-affected country’s death toll reached 49,348.
Reuters reported that ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV 358 people had died from the coronavirus since Wednesday and confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection had reached 1,003,494.
Iran has introduced tougher restrictions to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel curbs.



The last remaining foreign staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have left North Korea, the latest in a mass exodus of foreigners amid strict coronavirus lockdowns.
North Korea has reported zero confirmed cases of coronavirus, but the government has imposed stifling measures that in some cases go beyond the controls already in place in the politically and economically isolated country.
International ICRC staff left Pyongyang on Wednesday and the organisation’s ongoing work there will be managed by its delegation in Beijing, said Graziella Leite Piccoli, the ICRC’s deputy head of delegation for east Asia.
“They have completed their assignments in the DPRK,” she said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “They will be going to their home countries to reunite with their families.”
The ICRC office remained open with very limited activities given the current anti-coronavirus measures, Piccoli said.
The ICRC staff are among around 40 foreigners who left Pyongyang this week, including staff of several embassies and other aid organisations, according to a report by NK News, a website that monitors North Korea.
“The latest departure suggests that foreign humanitarian workers only have a skeletal presence in North Korea right now,” the NK News CEO, Chad O’Carroll, wrote.
North Korea has suspended almost all international flights and cross-border train and road traffic, with residents near the border warned that guards would shoot anyone trying to cross.
In the capital, imported goods have often become scarce as trade dwindled under the self-imposed restrictions, foreign residents said.
Many ambassadors, diplomats and others have left the country this year after enduring weeks-long lockdowns and have been unable to return.
According to the World Health Organization, as of 25 November, North Korea had identified 8,594 people as suspected coronavirus cases, but no one has tested positive.



Greece has extended a nationwide lockdown - imposed last month to contain a surge in new coronavirus cases - to 14 December.
The lockdown, the country’s second since the pandemic began, was extended by a week.
“There is a stabilisation or rather a decline in the (number of) cases but at a slower pace than expected,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.
Greece has registered a total of 109,655 Covid-19 cases and 2,186 deaths, with northern Greece hardest hit and hospitals operating at almost full capacity.
The restrictions were initially expected to end on 30 November but the government had already extended them to 7 December. Petsas said seasonal stores, selling Christmas items, would re-open next week.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 03 2020, 12:16

Switzerland cannot allow a third wave of the coronavirus, its health minister, Alain Berset, has said, calling the situation “very worrying” as infection levels stabilise at a high level. He said the country may need to tighten restrictions.
The government is due to discuss on Friday its approach to fighting the pandemic. Coronavirus infections rose by 4,455 in a day, data from Swiss health authorities showed .

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 21:42