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Coronavirus - 8th December

Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 10:17

Summary for Tuesday, 8th December

  • The NHS begins the "biggest vaccination programme in its history" with Margaret Keenan, 90, receiving the first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • Margaret, known as Maggie, said getting the jab was "the best early birthday present" - she turns 91 next week
  • Professor Stephen Powis of NHS England said it was "really, really emotional" and marked "a truly historic day"
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was a "long march ahead of us but this marks the way out"
  • Coronavirus vaccine taskforce's Kate Bingham says her "gut feeling" is that people will be able to take holidays next summer
  • Hospital hubs across the UK are gearing up to give the vaccine to the over-80s and some health and care staff
  • The UK is first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine after regulators approved its use last week
  • More than 60,000 people in the UK have died after being infected with Covid-19, according to government figures
  • Globally 67.59 million people have been infected and 1.54 million have died, according to Johns Hopkins University

Welcome to our live coverage.
It’s a big day for the UK today so do stay with us for all the latest developments.
Here are the latest headlines:

What’s happening around the world?

Meanwhile, here are the latest international headlines this morning:

  • The US’ top infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci has warned of another surge in coronavirus cases after Christmas - even as the country struggles to cope with the rise that followed last month’s Thanksgiving celebrations
  • The governors of the two biggest states in the US, California and New York, have warned of a crisis in hospitals
  • Israel has announced a nationwide night-time curfew ahead of one of the main festivals in the Jewish calendar, Hannukah. The rules will come into effect from Wednesday
  • Hong Kong has also unveiled a series of new restrictions, including closing restaurants from 18:00

'V-day' as roll-out of the coronavirus jab to begin

The first people in the UK are today receiving a coronavirus jab on what has been dubbed "V-Day", as the mass vaccination programme begins.
About 70 hospital hubs across the UK are to provide the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to the over-80s and some health and care staff.
The programme aims to protect the most vulnerable and return life to normal.
The UK will be the first country in the world to start using the Pfizer vaccine after regulators approved its use last week .
Vaccination will not be compulsory.
Read more

Breaking News 

Ninety-year-old becomes first to receive jab in UK vaccination programme

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Ninety-year-old Margaret Keenan from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland has become the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, outside trial conditions.
She received the injection from Matron May Parsons at University Hospital in Coventry at 06:30 GMT.
She has lived in Coventry for 60 years and worked in a local jewellery shop until she was 86.
The vaccination programme aims to protect the most vulnerable and return life to normal.

Margaret Keenan 'so privileged' to receive vaccine first

A 90-year-old grandmother who was the first person to receive a coronavirus vaccine in the UK, outside of trial conditions, has said she felt "so privileged" to receive the jab.
Early riser Margaret Keenan, known to friends and family as Maggie, turns 91 next week.
She said: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19 - it’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.”
Maggie is a former jewellery shop assistant who only retired four years ago.
She has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren and is looking forward to being able to go out again once she receives the top up dose.
Maggie had been self-isolating for most of the year and is planning on having a very small family ‘bubble’ Christmas to keep safe.
Originally from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, she has lived in Coventry for more than 60 years.
She will receive a booster jab in 21 days to ensure she has the best chance of being protected against the virus.
NHS matron May Parsons said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to a patient.
Speaking at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, she said: "I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day.
“The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
May, originally from the Philippines, has worked in the NHS for the last 24 years and been at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire since 2003.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 10:33

Who’s getting the vaccine first?

As we’ve been reporting, today marks the beginning of the UK’s mass Covid-19 vaccination programme.
But who gets the jab first and when might you be eligible to receive it?
The vaccines are being given to those deemed most vulnerable by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation .
Top of the list are frontline health staff, over-80s, and care home workers, all of whom will receive the jab from hospital hubs that are able to store the vaccine at the -70C temperatures they need to be kept at.
Residents in care homes will start to be vaccinated within two weeks and other high-priority groups will follow over the coming months.
Read more

Analysis: The world is watching vaccine rollout

Michelle Roberts - Health editor, BBC News online
Getting a safe and effective Covid vaccine from concept to approval in under a year is a staggering scientific achievement that many doubted was possible.
Now it’s arrived, there’s another mountain to climb – getting the jab to all of those who need it.
The UK has started this extraordinary immunisation drive, signposting a way out of a pandemic that has taken lives and livelihoods.
These first doses given today are for people at the highest risk from Covid-19 illness or death, and those caring for them.
Millions more will be offered the jab in the coming days, weeks and months.
It will be a major logistical challenge to get that job done, requiring thousands of extra NHS staff and volunteers working against the clock.
But experts are hopeful that by spring, the vast majority of those on the priority list will have been immunised with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, or the Oxford jab if regulators soon approve that for use too.
The world will be watching to see how well it all goes, and what lessons can be learned.

Hancock: Stick to the rules during vaccine rollout

People in the UK must "stick to the rules even while we roll out the vaccine", the health secretary has said.
Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast he was feeling "conflicted" emotions this morning - both "thrilled" at watching Margaret Keenan receive the jab and "determined" that the country "sticks together while we get through these final months".
He said it would take "several weeks" to vaccinate the first priority group, and "several months" to vaccinate all those who are vulnerable to coronavirus.
"This virus is still deadly. We've got to stick to the rules even while we roll out the vaccine."

Second person to receive vaccine: William Shakespeare

As we have been reporting, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan was the first person in the UK to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, outside medical trials.
Now, the BBC's health editor, Hugh Pym, is reporting the second person to receive the jab happens to be called William Shakespeare - and is from Warwickshire.
Of course, the playwright and poet William Shakespeare was born and died in Stratford-upon-Avon - also in Warwickshire.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 10:49

Hope for England care home vaccinations 'before Christmas'

It is hoped that vaccinations in England's care homes can begin "before Christmas", Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
He told BBC Breakfast: "We'll do that as soon as we can.
"We can't do it from today because the way that we get the vaccine physically to the care homes itself needs to be safe and secure [and] approved by the regulator."
He added: "We hope to be starting that before Christmas."
On the number of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine the UK will receive, he said the country was expecting "millions by the end of the year".
He added: "We're not putting an exact figure on it because there are so many uncertainties still."

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Many care homes in the UK have been unable to let family members visit


How do we know the vaccine is safe?

Britain's medicines regulator, the MHRA, approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine last week after finding that it met the required safety standards.
The MHRA says it hasn't identified any "serious adverse reactions".
The vaccine, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19, is given as two injections given 21 days apart. Immunity begins to kick in after the first dose but reaches its full effect seven days after the second dose.
"The safety of the public will always come first," the MHRA's head, Dr June Raine, said after the vaccine was approved.
She went on to explain that decision was made "following the most rigorous scientific assessment of every piece of data so that it meets the required strict standards of safety, of effectiveness and of quality".
Most of the side effects are very mild, similar to those sometimes experienced after any other vaccine, and usually last for a day or so, according to Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed, the chairman of the Commission on Human Medicine expert working group.
Be aware that anti-vaccine stories are spread online through social media. These posts are not based on scientific advice (or blend facts with misinformation).
Read more about what we know is true about the vaccine here .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 10:54

Looking forward to more freedom - 'I might get on public transport'

We've been hearing from people in the UK who will receive the vaccine today.
Gill Rogers is 86 and lives near Brighton. Her husband died with Covid in April and she is due to get the vaccine on Tuesday afternoon.
She told the BBC's Today programme she was "a bit pleased" to be among the first to be offered the jab.
Asked how she thought life would change once she has received the second dose of the vaccine, Gill responded: "I'm not sure, because other people won't have had it and I haven't yet worked out what difference that makes."
But she added that having the vaccine would offer her more freedom: "I shan't be so careful, I shan't be so worried. I'll go into shops more and with any luck I might get onto public transport."

NHS boss: Vaccination one of the safest forms of medicine


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Prof Stephen Powis, national medical director of NHS England, said the start of the vaccination programme felt "like the beginning of the end".
2020 had been a "dreadful" year but life would get back to "normal" in the coming months, he said.
Asked what his message would be to people who might have concerns over the vaccine, he told BBC Breakfast vaccination was "one of the safest forms of medicine".
"This one has been tested in many thousands of people in clinical trials and, of course, the independent regulator, the MHRA, has looked at it carefully, as it always does, and has given it the green light.
"And so if you get called, we'll be calling you to come and get it, then my advice is come and get it."

Nurse becomes first in Northern Ireland to receive jab

The first Covid-19 vaccination in Northern Ireland has been administered to a nurse.
Sister Joanna Sloan - who will head up the vaccine roll-out in Belfast - received the jab just after 08:00 GMT at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Sloan, 28, a mother of one, said she felt emotional and proud to be part of history.
She has been a nurse for six years and is due to get married in April.
Read more

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 10:57

Hancock has 'great hopes for summer 2021'

Coronavirus restrictions could be lifted from spring next year if the vaccine is effective in stopping transmission, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that ministers do not yet know an exact date for this yet.
And it would depend on the usual indicators - the number of Covid cases, rates in the over 60s, hospital admissions and the number of deaths.
"We've said that we think from the spring things can start getting back to normal," he said.
"I have great hopes for summer 2021 and I hope we can lift the restrictions from the spring."
Asked whether vaccine "immunity passports" could be useful for companies, Hancock said: "The problem is that we don't yet know if the vaccine stops you transmitting the virus.
"The card that people are being given is a reminder card for their second appointment."

UK still pinning hopes on Oxford vaccine

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
Today marks the first step towards protecting the vulnerable and ending many of the restrictions that have dominated our lives in 2020.
But the NHS faces a huge task in rolling out vaccination.
First there needs to be a smooth supply of vaccine - and already there are reports of manufacturing problems which means the UK is expecting less than half of the 10m doses of the Pfizer jab it was planning for by the end of the year.
The fact it needs it be kept in ultra-cold storage is an added complication.
That’s why even though today is a momentous moment, the UK is still pinning its hopes on the Oxford University vaccine which is being looked at by regulators.
That is British made and there are already millions of doses in stock in the country.
If that gets the green light for rollout there will be a genuine hope the first few months of 2021 will see the most vulnerable offered jabs, and the UK can return to something closer to normality.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 11:00

'Difficult decisions to be made in Wales in coming weeks', health secretary says


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More than a month since Wales' 17-day firebreak lockdown ended, there are more Covid-19 patients in hospitals than during the peak of the first wave in April.
The country's health secretary, Vaughan Gething, told the Today programme that since the firebreak ended "we haven't seen a significant and sustained change in our pattern of behaviour".
He said this was why the government had to make "really difficult choices" on new restrictions for the hospitality industry, and would have to make "more difficult choices over the coming weeks to keep Wales safe, and frankly to keep more people alive".
He said he did not think there would be changes to the rules over Christmas, but acknowledged it was a possibility.
He added: "I'm not convinced that changing the Christmas arrangements now would actually lead to more people doing something different."

Rising cases in Essex, Kent and London

Suppressing coronavirus during the vaccine rollout remains "absolutely critical", as there are rising cases in parts of Essex, Kent and London, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This is an incredibly important moment on the march out of this pandemic, but we've still got a long march to go this winter.
"People need to keep respecting the rules and try to live in a way that, if you have the virus, infects as few people as possible."
The UK has "got to keep this under control", he added.

Scientists looking at possibility of combining different vaccines

Scientists are looking at whether it will be possible to combine different Covid-19 vaccines to boost the results, according to the government's chief scientific adviser.
Sir Patrick Vallance told Sky News: "It's a pretty standard way of boosting the immune system, so-called heterologous prime-boost.
"What it means is that you give one vaccine to get the immune system triggered up and another one to then boost it further with a different vaccine - that's an established way of getting the immune system geed up.
He added: "But that needs to be looked at - you can't assume that it will work. It needs to be tested properly, and that's one of the things about all of these vaccines and all of the clinical trials of medicines is you need to do the trials properly, you need to make sure you test these things."
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 11:02

Which other countries have begun vaccinating?

The UK has launched mass vaccinations against coronavirus using an injection created by Pfizer and BioNTech. But it's not the only country offering vaccines outside of trial conditions:

  • Russia began large-scale vaccinations for at-risk groups over the weekend using the Sputnik V vaccine, which received emergency approval from the government in August. But clinical trials to test its safety and efficacy have not yet been completed
  • China also appears to have begun offering vaccines to the public, with hundreds queueing for an experimental jab that has not yet completed clinical trials in the city of Yiwu in October
  • In the UAE, thousands of frontline staff and even the ruler of Dubai have already been given a vaccine developed by China's Sinopharm
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is due to meet on Thursday to discuss emergency approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with a decision on the Moderna vaccine expected next week
  • The EU is expected to make a decision on whether to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of December, although it is unlikely that member states will begin offering vaccines before January


Long road ahead as Russian vaccine rolled out

Sarah Rainsford - BBC Moscow Correspondent
Its name alone speaks of Russia's ambition: Sputnik V, the country's leading vaccine against Covid-19, is meant to be a world-beater just like its cosmic namesake.
Back in August, it was the first to be registered for emergency use although it had only been tested on a few dozen people.
Now doctors, teachers and social workers are being offered Sputnik V in a mass inoculation campaign ordered by President Vladimir Putin. Its timing, just ahead of a similar launch in the UK, is unlikely to be a coincidence.
But Sputnik V is still in the midst of trials to check that it's safe and actually works, making some Russians wary of receiving it yet.
And despite a fanfare over the vaccine's grand rollout, there are still problems scaling up production.
In a sense, this is no "launch" at all. Russian health workers have been getting vaccinated in tandem with the official trials for several months. Teachers have been eligible too, and VIPs including President Putin's own daughter have had the jab. The list is said to total more than 100,000 people.
Read the full story here .
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 11:08

What's the latest around Europe?

We've been focusing a lot on the big news from the UK so far today but there is lots going on elsewhere too of course. Here is a look at some of the main news from Europe:

  • Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese has tested positive prompting two ministerial colleagues to go into isolation. She took part in a brief cabinet meeting on Monday where everyone wore masks. Lamorgese doesn’t have Covid symptoms
  • Denmark is reimposing tighter restrictions on 38 towns and cities including Copenhagen and Aarhus. As of tomorrow restaurants and bars will shut and many children will be sent home from school
  • France is still looking to relax the national lockdown conditions on 15 December, despite the aim of 5,000 maximum daily cases not being met. Cinemas, theatres and museums are set to reopen and families will be allowed to meet up for Christmas. Health Minister Jérôme Salomon says cases are down to around 10,000 a day and France must remain vigilant.
  • Europe’s second Covid wave has been more deadly than the first, Spain’s El País newspaper reports. Since the start of August the pandemic has claimed 152,216 lives while the first wave up to the end of July cost 136,176 lives
  • German Health Minister Jens Spahn says if cases don’t fall before Christmas then stricter lockdown measures may have to be imposed again. That could mean non-essential shops closing
  • And finally.... A Dutch New Year’s Day tradition of diving into the sea at Scheveningen is being cancelled because of the pandemic. Instead, the organisers are offering to send frustrated divers two tins of sea water so they don’t miss out


Deaths 20% higher than average

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
The UK passed the 60,000 mark for deaths linked to Covid last week – a sobering reminder of the toll the coronavirus pandemic has had.
But another way of measuring the impact is to look at total deaths to see what level of excess deaths are being seen - those over what would be expected at this time of year.
The data released by national statisticians for the week ending 27 November showed 14,106 deaths were registered. Nearly 3,400 involved Covid.
The total is 20% higher than the five-year average.
But one glimmer of hope is that as a proportion that is similar to the levels seen in the past two weeks – another sign that when it comes to deaths we are now at the peak of the second wave.

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Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 11:11

'Unprecedented day for transport and logistics industry'

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It’s a big day for the UK’s transport and logistics sector. The task of getting the vaccines from the factory in Belgium, across the Channel and into millions of arms is immense.
Zoe Mclernon from the trade body Logistics UK, which covers freight transport over road, rail and sea, told BBC Radio 5 live’s Wake Up to Money programme that there were a number of challenges with transporting the new vaccine.
“We know that it needs to be stored at incredibly low temperatures… there’s also the security and safety aspect - this is in such demand across the world and we need to make sure it’s secure.”
She said the industry was well prepared for today, but it could become more challenging in the next phases of rolling out the vaccine.
“We’re not hearing about capacity issues. To me that says we’re doing well so far, but I am conscious that we’re heading into second and third phases of vaccine rollout and at that point we might need to start considering additional drivers, vehicles, sub-contracting.”

Face masks 'may still be needed in late 2021'

Face masks could still be needed late into next year despite the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine, the UK government's chief scientific adviser has said.
"It's going to take quite a long time to make sure everybody in the at-risk groups - and all of the groups that are difficult to reach - get vaccinated as appropriate," he told Sky News.
He said it could take a month or longer before the vaccine gives full immunity.
"This is incredibly important and it is important that we all stick to the rules in the meantime. The rules are what's keeping the virus down now - we need to keep the virus down while we allow the vaccine programme to roll out," he said.
"It may be that next winter, even with vaccination, we need measures like masks in place - we don't know yet how good all the vaccines are going to be at preventing the transmission of the virus."
He said that although it was known that they prevented disease, it was not yet known how well they halted the spread of the virus.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 11:14

UK round-up

It's been a busy morning so far on what has been dubbed "V-Day", as the UK's Covid-19 vaccination programme begins.
Here is a round-up of the main UK stories so far:

  • A 90-year-old woman has become the first person to be given a Covid jab . Margaret Keenan, who turns 91 next week, said it was the "best early birthday present"
  • Those deemed to be most vulnerable to the virus are being given the Pfizer/BioNTech jab first in what is the biggest vaccination programme in the NHS's history. The vaccines are being administered from about 70 hospital hubs across the UK to over-80s and some health and care staff
  • In Wales, care home worker Craig Atkins was the first to receive the vaccine. The 48-year-old said he was shaking but now feels that he can smile
  • In Northern Ireland, nurse Joanna Sloan was the first to get the jab . Ms Sloan, who will head up the vaccine roll-out in Belfast, said she felt "privileged" to get the vaccine first
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited a London hospital to see some of the first people getting the jab, said getting vaccinated was "good for you and good for the whole country". Vaccinations would make a "huge difference", he said, but he warned it would take time to inoculate everyone
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the start of the rollout of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine meant there was "finally" a "way through" the coronavirus crisis
  • But Wales' health minister has warned there could be further restrictions after Christmas as Covid cases continue to rise
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 11:18

Race relations campaigner, 87, 'proud' to have vaccine


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An 87-year-old race relations campaigner said he was "proud" after becoming one of the first people in the world to be given the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine out of trials.
Dr Hari Shukla said it was a "privilege" to have taken part in the UK mass vaccination programme, adding: "I don't take this for granted because hundreds of people have worked for this vaccine day and night to make sure we've got the vaccines in good time, so the lives of people can be saved."
He and his wife, Ranjan, travelled to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

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Shukla was born in Uganda and came to this country in 1974, working in race relations, and was the director of the Tyne and Wear Racial Equality Council.
The father-of-four, who has nine grandchildren, has been honoured with a CBE for his work in race relations, and has supported numerous charities in voluntary roles.
Shukla said it was important that he and his wife took part in the programme, saying they wanted to encourage others to follow them.
His wife Ranjan said: "It is such a historic day, I didn't realise it at the time we were asked but now as time goes on, I see it is something bigger than I was expecting."
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 11:21

When will I get a vaccine?

Broadly, vaccines are being given to the most vulnerable first, as set out in a list of high-priority groups from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) .
The first people vaccinated will be the over-80s, workers in care homes and NHS staff, including the vaccinators themselves.
As soon as there is clarity on how smaller batches of the vaccine can be transported safely at ultra-cold temperatures of -70C, care home residents will be next on the list - probably from 14 December.
The nine priority groups - around a quarter of the UK population - are thought to cover 90-99% of those at risk of dying from Covid-19, according to the JCVI.
The older you are, the higher your risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus - and that risk rises sharply beyond 70. People with underlying health conditions are also vulnerable to the virus.
The second phase of vaccination, which won't start until well into 2021, will focus on the under-50s.
Read more here .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 11:33

A 90-year-old woman born in Fermanagh in Northern Ireland has made history by becoming the first person in the world to receive a vaccine for Covid-19. 
Jack Beresford - Irish Post
Margaret Keenan, who is originally from Enniskillen, was given the Pfizer/BioNTech jab at 6.45am this morning at a hospital in Coventry. 
The grandmother, who will celebrate her 91st birthday next week, has lived in the UK for the past 60 years. 
A former jewellery shop assistant who only retired in 2016, Ms Keenan will receive a second booster injection in 21 days. 
The two injections will give her the best chance possible of being protected against the virus, which has claimed more than 60,000 lives in the UK alone. 
Ms. Keenan described the jab as “the best early birthday present” and is already looking forward to spending more time with her daughter, son and four grandchildren in the new year. 
She said: "I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against Covid-19. 
"It's the best early birthday present I could wish for, because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year. 
"I can't thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it - if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too."

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May Parsons (L) walks with Margaret Keenan (C), 90, at University Hospital in Coventry, central England as Keenan is prepared to receive an injection and become the first person to get the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine  (Photo by JACOB KING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Like many around the country, Ms Keenan has been self-isolating for most of this year and is planning on having a very quiet Christmas in the company of a small family "bubble" to keep safe.

NHS nurse May Parsons said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to a patient.

Speaking at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, the nurse, said: “It’s a huge honour to be the first person in the country to deliver a COVID-19 jab to a patient, I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day.

“The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Parsons, who is originally from the Philippines, has worked in the NHS for the last 24 years and been at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire since 2003.

The phased vaccination programme will see patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, among the first to receive the life-saving jab.

Care home providers are also being asked by the Department of Health and Social Care to begin booking staff in to vaccination clinics. GPs are also expected to be able to begin vaccinating care home residents.

Any appointments not used for these groups will be used for healthcare workers who are at highest risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Health chiefs have set out how they will deliver the mammoth task ahead, using hospital hubs, vaccination centres and other community locations as well as GP practices and pharmacies.

The life-saving vaccine is typically delivered by a simple injection in the shoulder but there is a complex logistical challenge to deliver from the manufacturers to patients. It needs to be stored at -70C before being thawed out and can only be moved four times within that cold chain ahead of use.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has praised all those involved in delivering the new vaccine programme.

“Less than a year after the first case of this new disease was diagnosed, the NHS has now delivered the first clinically approved COVID-19 vaccination – that is a remarkable achievement,” Stevens said.  

“A heartfelt thank you goes to everyone who has made this a reality – the scientists and doctors who worked tirelessly, and the volunteers who selflessly took part in the trials. They have achieved in months what normally takes years.

“My colleagues across the health service are rightly proud of this historic moment as we lead in deploying the PfizerBioNTech vaccine.

“I also want to thank Margaret, our first patient to receive the vaccine on the NHS.

“Today is just the first step in the largest vaccination programme this country has ever seen. It will take some months to complete the work as more vaccine supplies become available and until then we must not drop our guard. But if we all stay vigilant in the weeks and months ahead, we will be able to look back at this as a decisive turning point in the battle against the virus.”
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 19:37

India records lowest daily case rise in five months

India reported fewer than 27,000 new cases for the first time since July on Tuesday, the government has announced.
It is a significant drop from early September, when the country recorded more than 90,000 new cases in a single day.
More than 9.7 million people in India have contracted the virus since the pandemic began - the second-highest number of any country in the world after the US.
Around 140,000 people have also died, although this figure is among the lowest in the world when compared to the size of India's population. Some experts say the true scale of the pandemic in the country may have been under-reported .

Florida police raid home of ex-Covid data scientist

Elsewhere, police in the US state of Florida have raided the home of a data scientist who has previously accused officials of attempting to cover up the true toll of the pandemic in the state.
Rebekah Jones, who says she was removed from Florida's coronavirus portal in May for refusing to censor the numbers of cases and infections, wrote on Twitter that police entered her home on Monday.
She added that officers "took all my hardware and tech" and also said that officers had pointed a gun at her children.
Tweet  Rebekah Jones:

There will be no update today. At 8:30 am this morning, state police came into my house and took all my hardware and tech. They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint. They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids..

According to the search warrant obtained by NBC News, the raid was carried out in connection with a message allegedly sent from Jones' home last month, which urged state employees to "speak out before it's too late".
"It's time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. You don't have to be part of this. Be a hero," read the message, which was sent to around 1,750 people.
Speaking to CNN on Monday night, Jones denied sending the message.
According to data from the Covid Tracking project, Florida has recorded more than one million coronavirus infections and 19,529 deaths since the pandemic began.

Fauci warns Christmas is 'greater challenge' than Thanksgiving

The US' top expert in infectious diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, has warned that the country faces another wave of cases after Christmas and New Year.
Dr Fauci, who has been asked by President-elect Joe Biden to be his Covid chief medical adviser, told CNN his concerns for Christmas were the same as his concerns for Thanksgiving, "only this may be even more compounded because it's a longer holiday".
He said nobody wanted to modify or shut down the holiday season, but "we're at a very critical time... we've got to not walk away from the facts and the data. This is tough going for all of us".
Millions defied appeals from experts not to travel over the Thanksgiving period, and the effects are still to be fully felt.
The US is seeing peak infections of close to 200,000 a day on average with record numbers of people in hospital.
Most of California is under a strict new lockdown - which will cover the Christmas holiday - with other states announcing record increases in infections..
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 19:42

Japan announces new Covid-19 stimulus

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced a fresh round of stimulus for the Japanese economy.
The 73.6tr yen ($708bn; £530bn) package is expected to include subsidies for green investment and spending on digitalisation.
The additional spending is aimed at pulling the country out of its coronavirus-induced economic slump.
Japan's economy has started to rebound in the third quarter after a dismal second quarter. But revised data released on Tuesday shows that it suffered its worst post-war contraction in the second quarter, shrinking by 8.2%.
Read more here .


Have Scotland's level-four restrictions worked?

A review of Scotland's Covid-19 levels system will be announced later.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already confirmed that the 11 council areas subject to the highest tier of restrictions will all move to lower levels on Friday.
The toughest restrictions were imposed to bring down case numbers in Scotland's Covid hotspots - but they came at a cost, with hospitality and non-essential shops required to close, among other measures.

The Scottish government has referred many times to areas of Scotland showing "stubbornly" high rates of Covid-19 - and the level four restrictions were designed to bring these rates down.
Ministers use a number of measures when deciding which level a local authority should be in, including the pressure on local hospitals and the forecast growth in cases, but a key indicator is the weekly number of cases per 100,000 people.
So, have the restrictions succeeded in driving down rates of Covid-19 over the last three weeks ?
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 19:47

Spike in London cases

London has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases, according to new figures, which show outer London now has a higher infection rate than some areas in England's top tier of restrictions.
The capital was placed in tier two of England's coronavirus restrictions when the national lockdown was lifted on 2 December.
Two-thirds of London's boroughs registered an increase in coronavirus cases in the week to 3 December, figures from Public Health England show.

Coronavirus - 8th December Ef611210

Across London, more than 15,000 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week, the highest number for any region in the country.
But between London's boroughs there is a huge variation.
Taken together all of London's outer boroughs have an infection rate of 196 cases per 100,000. This is higher than the current rate in Leicestershire, Tees Valley or Bristol, all of which are in tier three restrictions.
Officials are due to meet on 16 December to review the tier system.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 19:50

Trains between Switzerland and Italy to stop

Train services between Switzerland and Italy will be stopped from Thursday, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has said.
The SBB told Reuters news agency that the connections would be halted as it did not have the capacity to carry out the coronavirus checks required by Italian authorities, including temperature checks.
Instead, sevices will only travel to the Swiss border with Italy. It is unclear how long the suspension will last.
Italy, France and Germany have introduced new measures to prevent their nationals from travelling abroad to ski during the pandemic, but resorts remain open in Switzerland and Austria. Read more here .

Sky News presenter Burley apologises for 'inadvertently breaking rules'


Coronavirus - 8th December 491a2b10
Kay Burley presents a daily breakfast show on Sky News

Sky News presenter Kay Burley has apologised for an "error of judgment" after she "inadvertently broke the rules" around Covid-19 safety.
Posting on Twitter, the journalist said she had been celebrating her 60th birthday at a "Covid compliant" restaurant on Saturday.
She later "popped into another" venue to use the toilet. It's not clear what rule was broken through this action.
An internal review is now under way, Sky has confirmed.
Read more here.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 19:56

Thousands gather in Sri Lanka for Covid-19 ‘potion’

Maryam Azwer - BBC Monitoring
Social media users in Sri Lanka have criticised a gathering of thousands of people in the Kegalle district of the southern-central part of the island, where samples of a potion which was claimed to offer immunity from Covid-19 were being distributed.
Public health inspectors said public gatherings were a violation of Covid-19 regulations.
The potion has been developed by Dhammika Bandara, who claims to be a practitioner of the "Hela" school of indigenous medicine. It was recently sampled by government officials, including Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.
Local media have cited Bandara as saying that taking the potion would make a person "immune from Covid for the rest of their lives".
There is no scientific evidence to back claims that traditional medicines can offer immunity to coronavirus.
Rasika Jayakody, former editor of the state-run Daily News, criticised Bandara for the gathering : "People are lining up near the Kegalle residence of the witch doctor who produced a 'cure' for #COVID19. #SriLanka Health Minister took a sip of this medicine without any scientific or clinical evidence. This shows the kind of damage an irresponsible govt. can inflict on a country".
Sri Lanka, which has seen 28,580 cases and 142 deaths from the pandemic, is currently seeing a second wave.

Fresh fears in China after outbreak reported in Chengdu

Kerry Allen, BBC Monitoring
There are fresh fears in China about a widespread outbreak of coronavirus as new cases have been confirmed in Chengdu, a major city in southwestern China’s Sichuan province.
Chengdu has a population of approximately 16 million people, and the city has confirmed five new symptomatic cases of the virus since yesterday .
An elderly couple were confirmed to have the virus yesterday , but today, a couple of elderly farmers and the 20-year-old grand-daughter of the first couple have also been confirmed as having the virus . The latter had visited multiple bars and restaurants around the city, and so these have been sealed off with police tape, and recent visitors have been told to immediately get tested.
Official media say that schools and nurseries in Chengdu’s Pidu District have been suspended and
the local government has locked down the gated communities of the latest patients. Residents in these communities are also being tested.
However, state media are dismissing “rumours” online that the city is imminently going into lockdown. Global Times says that the city has entered “wartime mode” , but the official CCTV broadcaster says that Chengdu’s airports and railway stations are operating as normal .
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 19:58

What's happening with vaccines around the world?

Our Geneva correspondent Imogen Foulkes has been following a briefing by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, together with representatives from Pfizer BioNTech, Roche, Eli Lilley, and Johnson & Johnson.
She's heard there are currently 300 vaccines in different stages of development:

  • Pfizer and Moderna have shown the most promising results, and have received or are about to receive approval in a number of countries. Both expect to manufacture 50 million doses this year, with Pfizer planning 1.3 billion next year, and Moderna 1 billion. Pfizer is also working on a new formulation that will avoid the necessity to store the vaccine at such low temperatures (-70C).
  • Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is currently in phase 3 testing. It expects to have results by the mid to end of January and approval requests have already been submitted. It is a one-dose vaccine which doesn’t require storage at extremely low temperatures.

Pricing: The pharma companies present said they would be using a ‘three-tier’ pricing policy for high, middle, and low income countries, with low income countries paying either a nominal price or nothing. Pricing will not, it was stressed, be adjusted upwards because demand currently far outstrips supply.
Capacity and supply: With vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments, there are shortages. With vaccines in particular all the pharma representatives present agreed it would be the second half of next year before they were widely available. On testing, Severin Schwan of Roche said there were not enough tests to satisfy demand, and that therefore the idea of mass testing was not realistic at the moment.
Thomas Cueni, CEO of IFMPA, said that because of shortages and the challenges in ramping up production, the next few months would be difficult, and that there is no alternative, for now, to social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing.

Breaking News 

Oxford vaccine 'safe and effective', study confirms

The Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine is safe and effective, giving good protection, researchers have confirmed in The Lancet journal.
Most in the study were younger than 55, but the results so far indicate it does work well in older people too.
The data also suggests it can reduce spread of Covid, as well protect against illness and death.
The paper, assessed by independent scientists, sets out full results from advanced trials of over 20,000 people.
Regulators, who will have seen the same data, are considering the jab for emergency use.

Breaking News 

More Scottish exams cancelled next year

Highers and Advanced Higher exams have been cancelled in Scotland next year, Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney announces.
The AS and A-level equivalents will no longer take place due to disruption to learning during the pandemic.
It follows a decision to cancel National 5 exams - equivalent to GCSEs - and replace them with teacher assessments and coursework.
It was confirmed in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
Read more here.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 20:01

Four lions test positive in Spanish zoo

Four lions at a zoo in Barcelona have tested positive for coronavirus.
Three females - Zala, Nima and Run Run - and a male named Kiumbe were all tested after displaying mild symptoms. Two members of staff also tested positive for the virus last month, although it is not clear how the lions were infected.
“The lions were given veterinary care for their mild clinical condition - similar to a very mild flu condition - through anti-inflammatory treatment and close monitoring, and the animals responded well,” the zoo said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The zoo added that the animals had had no contact with other animals.
This is only the second documented case of big cats contracting the virus, after four tigers and three lions at Bronx Zoo in the US tested positive in April .


Breaking News 

UK announces 616 further deaths

The UK government has reported another 12,282 daily positive tests for coronavirus.
There have also been a further 616 deaths, within 28 days of a positive test, taking the total to have died to 62,033.
That’s up from 189 deaths announced on Monday, although there is often a reporting lag over the weekend.

Anti-vaccine activists push false vaccine rumours

Reality Check
The first Covid-19 vaccines have been administered today but some people are using this moment to spread misinformation online.
Rumours and conspiracy theories – distinct from valid questions about the speed and efficacy of the various coronavirus vaccines – have been spreading for months.
We’ve looked into the truth behind some of the most widely shared false vaccine claims, including:

  • There is no vaccine "microchip" and there is no evidence to support claims that powerful people are somehow planning to use the vaccine to track the world’s population
  • The coronavirus vaccine does not alter human DNA
  • The recovery rate for the virus isn’t 99.97%
  • Vaccines do not contain aborted fetal tissue

Read the full story
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 08 2020, 20:05

Re-cap: Latest from the UK and around the world

It's been a busy day for coronavirus news - here are the latest headlines from the UK and worldwide:


Goodbye - and thanks for joining us

That's it for our live coverage of coronavirus developments on Tuesday.
It was edited by Sean Fanning and Holly Wallis, and written by George Bowden, Katie Wright, Ella Wills, Alex Therrien and Victoria Bisset.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 21:38