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Coronavirus - 10th December


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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 11:41

Summary for Thursday, 10th December

  • The United States records more than 3,000 deaths in the latest 24-hour period - the highest total in a single day anywhere in the world
  • The UK's economic recovery slowed in October - rising 0.4% on the month against a backdrop of rising Covid cases
  • Canada joins the UK in approving the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
  • South Africa, the worst hit country in Africa, enters a second wave of the pandemic as it registers 7,000 new cases on Wednesday
  • Ministers in Northern Ireland are due to meet later before the end of a two-week lockdown on Friday
  • The origins of many of the second wave of Covid infections in Scotland were ignited by summer holidays, a study suggests
  • There have been 68.9m cases and 1.56m deaths worldwide, figures from Johns Hopkins University show

Hello and welcome to our daily coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our teams from London and around the world will be bringing you the latest updates.
To start with, here is an overview of the stories that have been making headlines in recent hours:

  • The United States has recorded more than 3,000 deaths in the past 24 hours - the highest daily total anywhere since the pandemic began
  • The UK economy grew by 0.4% month-on-month in October but still remains 7.9% below pre-pandemic levels, amid a rise in Covid cases
  • Canada became the second country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, the day after the UK started its rollout
  • South Africa says it has entered a second wave of the pandemic, with nearly 7,000 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours
  • A study suggests the origins of many of the second wave of Covid infections in Scotland were ignited by summer holidays
  • Ministers in Northern Ireland are due to meet later before the end of the two-week lockdown in Northern Ireland on Friday

US records highest daily Covid death toll

The United States has recorded 3,054 Covid-related deaths in a single day - the highest total anywhere since the pandemic began.
The previous single-day record was 2,769 on 7 May.
More than 106,000 people are in hospital with Covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Hospitals in some states are almost full and medical experts are warning that things will get worse in the weeks ahead if people continue to ignore warnings to avoid unnecessary travel and large gatherings.
Many experts have attributed the huge spike to people relaxing their precautions at Thanksgiving.
President Donald Trump has been heavily criticised for his handling of the crisis and President-elect Joe Biden has promised to get a grip on the situation.
The US remains the worst affected country in the world with more than 15 million recorded cases and over 289,000 deaths.

Latest around Europe

  • A day after Angela Merkel made an impassioned plea for Germans to accept tougher lockdown measures, a record 23,679 cases have been recorded. Bavaria's state premier, Markus Söder, says there should be a complete lockdown from Christmas to 10 January.
  • French Prime Minister Jean Castex is set to announce a relaxation of lockdown measures today, but not as fast as planned. The government did hope daily infection levels would be down to 5,000, rather than the 14,500 announced yesterday, so cinemas and theatres are likely to stay shut after 15 December.
  • The Czech parliament has voted to extend the state of emergency again, but only until 23 December. The government had sought an extension until 11 January. Another 5,848 Covid cases were recorded on Tuesday - the highest figure for two weeks.
  • Slovakia has ordered schools and most shops to be closed for at least three weeks from 21 December. Almost the entire population took part in mass testing recently in an attempt to avoid further lockdowns.
  • A Dutch think tank has called on the government and employers to help vulnerable people who have not had help so far. It has also highlighted that between 9% and 20% of young people are at risk of becoming a “lost generation”.
  • Belarus is banning departures via its land borders to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Foreigners arriving in Belarus will have to show they have a negative test.

South Africa hit by second wave

South Africa has entered a second wave of the pandemic as it registered 7,000 new cases on Wednesday.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said "we should expect faster rising numbers with a higher peak than in the first wave".
At its peak in July, the worst-hit country in Africa was registering an average of 12,000 cases daily. By September the numbers had dropped to below 1,000 a day.
The majority of new cases have been found in the 15-19 year age group, while the south of the country has been hit hardest recently, the minister said.
More than 22,000 people have lost their lives to coronavirus in South Africa.

Teenagers drive South Africa's second wave

Andrew Harding - BBC News, Johannesburg
As a second wave is officially declared to have hit South Africa, the nation’s teenagers are being blamed for its spread.
The health minister said most of the new surge of infections were affecting those aged between 15 and 19.
It began in one crowded nightclub in Cape Town. The next super-spreader event was at a university in Nelson Mandela Bay.
And now comes a series of crowded parties to celebrate the end of school exams, and the school year.
The result, it’s now clear, is that South Africa’s teenagers are driving a second wave of infections. The health minister, Zweli Mkhize, said 15 to 19 year olds were the worst hit, and he blamed drunken parties, where people ignored social distancing rules and the need to wear masks.
The infection rate in some areas is now rising more steeply than during the country’s first wave, back in July.
Other African nations, including Zimbabwe and Kenya, are also reporting new surges of infections.
This continent, with its young population, and some tough lockdown measures, has been spared the worst of the pandemic so far. But there are concerns about a second wave, and about whether Africa will be at the back of the queue for vaccines.

Ministers meeting before Northern Ireland lockdown eases

Stormont ministers are due to meet later before the end of the two-week lockdown in Northern Ireland.
Tighter restrictions put in place on 27 November to curb the spread of Covid-19 will end at 23:59 GMT on Thursday.
That means non-essential retail, close-contact services such as hairdressers, and some parts of the hospitality sector can resume trading from Friday.
But the health minister has said Northern Ireland was entering a "potentially dangerous phase" of the pandemic.
With the easing of the restrictions, many hospitality businesses, including restaurants, cafes and hotels, can reopen their doors on Friday but must be closed at 23:00 each day.
Read more here.

'99%' of ICU beds taken in Stockholm

Intensive care unit beds in Stockholm hospitals have reportedly hit 99% capacity for the first time since coronavirus hit.
There were between five and seven beds available out of 160 in the Swedish capital on Wednesday, the local Aftonbladet newspaper reported.
“We need help,” Bjorn Eriksson, the director of healthcare for the Stockholm region, told a news conference.
There were 814 patients being treated for the virus in Stockholm on Wednesday, up from 748 last Friday, according to government data.
Sweden has never imposed a nationwide lockdown.
More than 7,200 people have lost their lives to Covid-19 in the country, a death toll far higher than its Nordic neighbours.

Virus deaths likely to rise in Germany as situation deteriorates

Virus infections and deaths in Germany are likely to rise further in the coming weeks, a senior health official has said.
Lothar Wieler, chief of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI) said: "The situation is still very serious and has deteriorated over the past week. Currently we are seeing a rise in infections."
Rises in Thuringia, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt were concerning, said Ute Rexroth, the head of RKI's surveillance unit.
While Germany has fared better than some European countries in its battle with the virus, it reported 440 new deaths on Thursday.
A total of 20,372 people have now lost their lives to the virus in the country.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 12:13

UK growth slows again in October as rebound stalls

The UK economy grew by just 0.4% in October as the recovery continued to slow against a backdrop of rising Covid-19 cases.
The economy remains well below the size it was before the pandemic began, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The UK has been recovering from a record slump earlier this year induced by the first coronavirus lockdown.
But output is expected to shrink again in November after England's second shutdown forced firms to close.
Read more here.

UK foreign secretary plays down EU travel curb report

Reports that UK travellers could be banned from visiting countries within the EU from 1 January - when coronavirus safety rules which allow free travel within the bloc stop applying to the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period - have been played down by the foreign secretary.
Responding to a Financial Times story , Dominic Raab said the reality was that leisure travel for all European nations was likely to be restricted until spring.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Between now and the spring when the vaccine will have hopefully moved matters back to something akin to normal we are going to have to keep very close eye and control over the virus - with the tiered restrictions, with the mass testing.
"Other European countries will be doing the same. And in the meantime, the travel restrictions, the quarantine rules and the rest of it, will have to track the progress we make."
Mr Raab said a post-Brexit agreement was in place allowing Britons to travel within Europe without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period.
But asked whether UK citizens would face difficulty travelling to Europe for non-essential reasons in the new year, Mr Raab said: "It all depends on the prevalence of the virus in those continental Europe countries."

Vaccine allergic reaction rare, says expert

Severe allergic reactions to vaccines are "very rare", says Prof David Salisbury, the former director of immunisation at the UK's Department of Health, amid concerns about the adverse responses in two people who had the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid jab.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said "they happen in the order of about one in a million doses "and staff who give the vaccine are trained to deal with them.
"We need to be very careful to separate out coincidence from causality," Prof Salisbury said.
He added such reactions are only discovered after clinical trials.
"When you do clinical trials, you very often screen out people who might have a reaction," he said.
"So you only discover this sort of event in the surveillance that goes on after the programme runs out."
Prof Salisbury said there could be a range of reactions as the vaccine is adopted by other countries but stressed: "There will be events after vaccination that actually have nothing to do with it."

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 12:16

What's life like in the first centre of the pandemic?

Xia Qiyun gave haircuts to more than 2,000 medical and front-line workers as a volunteer during the lockdown – even though he didn’t have his wife’s support and had to temporarily move out of their home.
For him, and for many other ordinary people in Wuhan, life has changed forever since the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in the Chinese mega-city a year ago.
While the rest of the world is still battling a second wave of infections, the city has not had any locally transmitted cases for months. So how has Wuhan changed, and what is life like for ordinary people living in the initial centre of the pandemic?


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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 12:20

In graphics: US grapples with world record numbers

As the US announces the world's highest daily death toll from the virus so far, here are some graphics outlining the situation in the country.

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More than 3,000 people lost their lives to the virus in the 24 hours to Wednesday.
While the US saw a big drop in daily deaths in the summer, the average now is around three times higher than October.

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More than 200,000 Americans are now testing positive for the coronavirus every day on average.
Many, including Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, warned that a spike was likely after large numbers travelled to be with family for Thanksgiving.

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A record 106,688 Covid-19 patients are currently in hospital in the US.
More than one-third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are running critically short of intensive care beds, according to the New York Times.
While the entire country grapples with rising cases, the biggest hot spots include Rhode Island, Idaho and Delaware.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 12:25

News giants to target vaccine disinformation

There is a "human cost" of online conspiracy theories about coronavirus vaccines, BBC director general Tim Davie has said.
Davie said 2020 has seen the "rapid spread of harmful disinformation".
It comes as the Trusted News Initiative, which includes the BBC, Facebook, Google and Twitter, announced it is to work to combat misinformation to "ensure legitimate concerns about future vaccinations are heard whilst harmful disinformation myths are stopped".
The TNI was set up in 2019 and has been focusing on disinformation during the pandemic, as well as the US election.
Facebook has already announced it is to start removing false claims about coronavirus vaccines.

Protests in Albania over killing of man who broke Covid curfew

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the Albanian capital, Tirana, on Wednesday after the police allegedly killed a man for breaking a coronavirus curfew.
The demonstrators chanted at riot police and tore down Christmas trees and other decorations around the city.
The police said Klodian Rasha, 25, refused to stop when officers asked him. They added that they had to run after him, and one of the officers shot him, thinking he was armed.
The officer accused of the killing has been arrested and an investigation has been launched.

Waiting times for routine operations surge in pandemic

The number of patients in England waiting more than a year for routine surgery has risen again - to nearly 163,000 in October - the highest level for more than 12 years.
In February, before the coronavirus crisis hit the NHS, the total number of patients waiting for procedures such as hip and knee operations was just 1,600.
Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, says the figures underline the devastating impact of the pandemic.
He told BBC there needs to be a "strategy to sort out this waiting list problem".
"A kind of new deal for surgery so we can make some impact... the idea we can some how get to normal in the summer and then, if you like, muddle through, it just won't be good enough," Prof Mortensen said.
Meanwhile, figures showing a fall in Accident and Emergency attendances at hospitals is "likely" to be a result of people staying away during the pandemic, NHS England said.
There were 1.5 million attendances recorded in November 2020, down 31% from 2.1 million a year before.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 12:44

The mask-wearing US city that bucked the trend

Reality Check
President-elect Joe Biden has said one of his first actions in office will be to call on all Americans to wear a mask, or face-covering.
More than half of US states currently have a mask mandate in place to limit the spread of coronavirus, but the issue has become highly controversial.
We've taken a closer look at one mask-wearing US city, which has diverged from the state-wide policy.
South Dakota has one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the country. Its Republican Governor Kristi Noem has not introduced compulsory mask-wearing, and has been unwilling to bring in state-wide lockdown restrictions, arguing the government has no right to do so.
However, some communities in South Dakota have chosen a different path.
The city of Brookings - fourth largest in the state - was the first to impose rules on masks inside businesses in September, along with other measures.
Brookings County now has the lowest infection rate out of the five most populous South Dakota counties.

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In September when Brookings introduced tighter Covid restrictions, including mask-wearing measures, it had the highest.
Also, as infections rose across the state in October and November, the upturn in Brookings was lower than elsewhere.
Read more here.

Around 400,000 stranded at sea, UN says

Around 400,000 seafarers are currently beyond the end of their contracts and stranded at sea because they cannot be repatriated due to coronavirus travel restrictions, the UN's International Maritime Organization says.
Some have now been working at sea for more than 18 months, well beyond the 11-month limit.
“Sadly, we have seen human rights of seafarers, fishers and other marine workers put in jeopardy during the pandemic,” IMO secretary general Kitack Lim said in a statement.
“This is a clear human rights issue. This is causing immense strain, fatigue and exhaustion and is unsustainable."
Hundreds of thousands of seafarers are stuck at home, unable to join ships and provide for their families, the IMO said.
American Captain Hedi Marzougui said that the extended period on board had a significant impact on his crew and himself.
“The longer you stay out there, the more fatigued you get physically. The hours start to add up, the weeks and months start to add up," he said.
"And you get very tired and you are not as sharp as you are when you are doing your normal stint," he said, adding that tiredness can lead to accidents.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 12:48

Covid scare on cruise ship a false alarm, Singapore says

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A Royal Caribbean ship made headlines on Wednesday when it was forced to return to Singapore on day three of a four-day "cruise to nowhere" after a passenger tested positive for Covid-19.
The cruise company said it had turned the ship around after one guest tested positive, meaning nearly 1,700 guests had to self-isolate.
But now it turns out the man did not have the virus after all.
“A final confirmatory test... has confirmed that the 83-year-old male Singaporean... does not have Covid-19 infection,” the health ministry said in a statement to Reuters.
All guests and crew now no longer need to self-isolate, the ministry added.
Royal Caribbean said it would work to “refine” its protocols.

What's been happening around the UK and the world so far?

If you're just joining us - or want a lunchtime recap - here's what's been going on so far today.

  • The UK's economic recovery slowed in October - and November's figures are set to be even worse because of the second lockdown. New figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the economy grew by 0.4%, and is still well below the size it was before the crisis
  • The US has recorded more than 3,000 deaths in the latest 24-hour period - the highest total in a single day anywhere in the world
  • The US could move a step closer to approving the Pfizer/BioNtech Covid vaccine on Thursday, as the Food and Drug Administration's advisers meet to discuss its authorisation
  • The number of patients in England waiting more than a year for routine hospital care is now 100 times higher than before the pandemic , new NHS England figures show
  • Supermarket chain Asda is the latest UK store to announce it will close on Boxing Day as part of a thank you to staff who have worked throughout the coronavirus crisis. Unions are calling on all major supermarkets to give staff the day off on 26 December
  • A union leader says she is hopeful schools in Wales will close after Friday so children can isolate before Christmas. Director of NAHT Cymru Laura Doel said she was hoping to meet with Education Minister Kirsty Williams on Thursday afternoon "as a matter of urgency"
  • And Stormont ministers are due to meet later on Thursday before the two-week lockdown in Northern Ireland ends at a minute to midnight tonight

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 13:22

What people with severe allergies need to know about the Pfizer vaccine

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Margaret Keenan was the first person in the world to receive the vaccine outside of a clinical trial

Some new guidance has been given about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people with a history of allergic reactions.
The UK medicines regulator the MHRA has now said anyone who's had a significant reaction to a medicine, food or other vaccine in the past should not have the jab yet.
This includes people who carry an adrenaline pen because of known allergic reactions.
It comes after two NHS workers who got the jab on the first day of inoculations had allergic reactions. They have received treatment and are recovering well.
Most people will not be adversely affected in any way.
The MHRA says anyone due to receive their vaccine should discuss any medical history of serious allergies with their healthcare professional beforehand.
Read more about the vaccine - and find out when people in the UK will be able to get it - here .

Warning of vaccine scam phone calls

Scammers are using the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to try to con people out of money, a council has warned .
Wirral Council told people to be on their guard after residents of New Ferry were prompted to book non-existent "vaccine appointments" in a recorded phone message.
Those receiving the calls are then asked to confirm by pressing a button on their phone - which results in them being billed by their provider.
Elderly people have been targeted by the calls, the council said.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 13:24

Morrisons and Sainsbury's to open Boxing Day - despite pressure

Many UK supermarkets are choosing to close their doors on Boxing Day as a way to say thank you to their staff for working during the pandemic.
Unions have been backing the move and urging stores to shut .
But now Morrisons is joining Sainsbury's by confirming its stores will be open on 26 December. It says working on the day would be voluntary, with staff getting double pay.
Sainsbury's is reducing hours after requests from staff and said most workers would have the day off.
Meanwhile, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Pets at Home and toy store The Entertainer have said they will be closed on Boxing Day.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 16:35

Festival staff 'useful again' in food bank drive

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Out-of-work festival staff say they are "feeling useful" once more after joining a food bank project.
The Shambala Festival team, who are mostly based in Bristol, opted to help with FoodStock 2020 after being furloughed during the pandemic.
Operations team member Christine Dent said it was "tough feeling at a loose end" since the festival was cancelled.
They are now working with FareShare South West to distribute one million emergency meals by February 2021.
The project aims to stockpile emergency food and deliver it over winter.
Read more here.

Rumours of an alcohol ban in Welsh shops is dismissed

Rumours of an alcohol sales ban in Welsh shops ahead of Christmas have been dismissed by the Welsh Government .
Pubs, restaurants and cafes in Wales are banned from serving alcohol at the moment and have to close at 18:00 GMT each day, other than for takeaways.
Welsh ministers said they were "aware" there were rumours on social media that a ban on alcohol sales was being discussed but denied that was the case.
Covid rates in 12 of Wales' 22 council areas are currently at their highest levels.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 16:50

British tourists could be barred from travelling to Ireland and other nations in the EU once the UK leaves the bloc in January.

Irish Post
Under strict coronavirus travel rules, the EU will only allow non-essential travel from countries with extremely low infection rates.
Currently, just a handful of countries meet this requirement, such as Australia and New Zealand, leaving the likes of the UK and the US out in the cold.
Despite the UK having a lower infection rate than 18 of the 27 EU member states, officials say there are no current plans to add Britain to the 'safe list'.
Even if Prime Minister Boris Johnson were to strike a last-minute deal with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels this week, it seems unlikely that the UK will be granted an exemption from the travel rules.
Despite the travel ban, essential travellers, such as those involved in medical supply chains, food supply, seasonal farm workers and diplomats will not be affected by the rule change.
Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied that the restrictions were as a direct result of Brexit.
"In terms of it linking to Brexit, I don't think that's right. The arrangements, whether we've got a free trade deal or otherwise, are that Brits can go [to Europe] for 90-days in any 180-day period," he said.
"But Covid in the rest if Europe and in the UK remains a live issue and we need to make sure we've got control of it and I'm afraid restrictions on travel is something that's quite likely to be kept under review."
As things stand, the only way Brits would be allowed to travel is if the European Council agrees to relax the rules before January 1, when the Brexit transition period ends.

Irish Government urged to stop encouraging people to fly home for Christmas

Irish Post
The Irish government is being told to tone down its advice about non-essential travel this Christmas.
Earlier this week, the Government officially gave the green light for any Irish abroad to fly home for the holidays, after weeks of discouraging people from booking flights.
They began encouraging anyone travelling home to avail of the 'traffic light system' rules, the extent of which will depend on which country they're travelling from.
"We've agreed as a Government that if people do travel we are asking them to follow those traffic light rules," Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday.
"So if you're coming from an amber light area, there are very few of them, make sure you have a test before you travel, a negative test."

Coronavirus - 10th December Gettyi55
But now it appears the advice is set to change again, with the Oireachtas Transport Committee of TDs and Senators urging the Government to take new approach.

They want the Government to work with Irish airports to bulk up Covid-testing for pre-departure travellers from regions designated 'orange' and 'red' under the traffic light system, according to the Irish Examiner.
But the committee wants the government to go further, and actually demand that passengers provide a negative Covid-test before flying, meaning that they wouldn't have to face any domestic travel or isolation restrictions when they arrive in Ireland.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Canavan from the Department of the Taoiseach has urged people not to fly home from abroad, because Ireland is "not out of the woods yet" in the fight against Covid-19.
"We are asking most people who can skip this year and come next year instead," she said.
"Looking at travel projections for the Christmas period, we expect air passenger numbers to be about 90% down on last year's figures, and ferry passenger numbers to be about 60% down."

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 16:58

Scotland's death toll passes 4,000

A further 50 people have died in Scotland within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths during the pandemic to more than 4,000, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced in her daily update.
Here are some other details from Sturgeon's statement, which took place in the Scottish Parliament ahead of First Minister's Questions.

  • A total of 5,330 people in Scotland have so far received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
  • Vaccinations have taken place in all health board areas apart from Shetland and the Western Isles
  • The virus reproduction, or R, number is expected to have fallen further below one - confirmation of why 16 local authorities will move to a lower level of restrictions from Friday
  • Risks of infection remains and everyone needs to be cautious and limit their interactions, Sturgeon says

Gift of the jab 'too late for hugs'

Elderly people given the Covid-19 vaccine are being advised by scientists not to hug their loved ones at Christmas.
Some people receiving the new Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have said they were looking forward to doing just that - but one expert said the "gift" of the jab "has not quite come in time".
Dr Simon Clarke, from the University of Reading, added: "If someone is in receipt of the vaccine today, they will have to wait three weeks to get the second jab and then another week for immunity to develop."
Dr Julian Tang, a clinical virologist from the University of Leicester, says the vaccine responses may take longer in the elderly as their immune system responds more slowly.
Data from Pfizer suggests that the efficacy of the vaccine might only be 50-60% after the first dose.
Dr Tang said no-one will have had the second jab by Christmas "so people still have to be careful despite having had one dose of the vaccine".

Cancer patient receives apology after Covid diagnosis

A cancer patient has claimed poor infection control at the Royal Gwent Hospital meant he and three fellow patients caught coronavirus.
Jim Pook is one of 69 cases linked to an outbreak at the Newport hospital which started six days ago.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said 53 patients and 16 staff had been affected on seven wards since 3 December.
The health board has apologised to Mr Pook and his family.
Mr Pook, from Newbridge, was taken to the Royal Gwent Hospital in mid-November after collapsing at home. He was later diagnosed with advanced cancer.
The 77-year-old tested positive for coronavirus three weeks later after, he claimed, being in the same bay as a patient who already had the virus.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 17:06

What’s the latest from China?

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

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The only confirmed case of the virus is in Manzhouli

China, which has a population of 1.4 billion people, has only confirmed one domestic case of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.
That was in Manzhouli, a city in Inner Mongolia, close to the Russian border, which has experienced a localised outbreak since 21 November and confirmed 27 symptomatic cases of coronavirus.
Three rounds of testing have so far been carried out in Manzhouli, and China is keen to stress that there is little risk the outbreak there could become more widespread.
However, many in China are increasingly concerned about the virus potentially entering China via Russia. Since today's statistics were compiled, another man has since tested positive in the city of Dongning in north-eastern Heilongjiang province. This is a region that, like Manzhouli, is close to the Russian border – not too far from Vladivostok.
Recently, China has recorded several small-scale outbreaks. Thousands of miles away in south-western China, the city of Chengdu has recorded seven cases of Covid-19 in the last week.
But media are keenly emphasising that China is managing to keep its outbreaks under control with swift, small-scale lockdowns at community level, and mass testing.
Increasingly as well, papers seem keen to shift blame from China being the first site of a Covid-19 outbreak in late 2019.
Today, state media is heavily emphasising that the US Center for Disease Control has a report suggesting the virus was in Italy in early December 2019.
China has critiqued people like US President Donald Trump calling Covid-19 the “China virus” over the last year after the first cases were recorded.
Papers like Global Times have increasingly started asking people to think with an open mind about whether the virus may have entered China via another country via cold-chain goods.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 17:08

Covid test vending machine launched in Latvia

Latvians can now get a Covid-19 test in a vending machine.
A machine that issues tests and stores the samples has been installed in the Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital in Riga.
It is the first of 100 planned across Latvia.
The machine dispenses swab tests. A staff member picks up the completed kits daily and results are available within 24 hours, said Didzis Gavars of the E. Gulbja Laboratory.
"The device removes the need for two to five medical workers to administer the tests, and it removes any risk of infection," he said.
The government will be funding tests for staff at the hospital, but other machines will charge €53 (£48).
A total of 288 people have died of Covid-19 in Latvia, a country of just under two million.

Nicola Sturgeon criticised over summer holiday comments

The boss of Edinburgh Airport has accused Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of "campaigning" against the aviation industry.
Gordon Dewar's comments came after Sturgeon said she would not break a summer break "right now".
Dewar, chief executive of the airport, said that without further support, the sector faced a very bleak future.
Cabinet minister Michael Russell insisted the Scottish Government was working to see the industry "flourish".
Mr Dewar was giving evidence to the Scottish parliament's Covid committee a day after Ms Sturgeon urged travellers to remain cautious.
At her daily Covid briefing on Wednesday, she warned the months ahead remained "quite uncertain" and added: "I wouldn't right now be booking a holiday."
Dewar said her comments were a further blow to the beleaguered travel industry.
He said Edinburgh Airport was currently operating at just 5% of last year's passenger numbers and had made 250 staff - a third of its workforce - redundant.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 17:15

Royal Mail blames delays on high volumes of post and anti-Covid measures

The UK's Royal Mail has acknowledged there have been delays to its deliveries amid "exceptionally high volumes" of post and anti-Covid measures.
Despite "exhaustive planning", some customers may be experiencing "slightly longer delivery timescales" than normal, the postal group said.
It came as people complained of late or missed deliveries.
Retailers including John Lewis, Boots and HMV have also blamed Royal Mail for delivery delays.
In a statement, the Royal Mail said there had been a "greatly increased uptake of online Christmas shopping", driven "in no small part" by the lockdown.
This meant all delivery companies were experiencing "exceptionally high volumes" of post, it said.
Read more here.

Breaking News 

Welsh secondary schools and colleges to close on Friday

All secondary schools and further education colleges in Wales will close from Friday in an attempt to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
Welsh Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, said the decision follows advice from the chief medical officer on the "deteriorating" Covid situation in the country.
All classes will move online from Monday in a "national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus", she adds.
You can read more on that breaking story here .

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 17:18

What's the latest in the UK?

We should be hearing from Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the next 30 minutes, but let’s take a look at the latest from the UK first...

Kay Burley to be off Sky News for six months after Covid breach

Coronavirus - 10th December 5a812d10

Veteran Sky News anchor Kay Burley will be off air for six months after breaching England's Covid-19 guidelines, the broadcaster has said.
Political editor Beth Rigby and correspondent Inzamam Rashid will be off air for three months.
It comes after they attended a party for Burley's 60th birthday on Saturday night. Burley earlier admitted she broke the rules and apologised for the "error of judgement".
Burley was part of a party of 10 people at the private members' Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue, central London. Her group took up two tables, with six people on one and four on the other.
Burley then went on to the Folie restaurant, to use the toilet, before going to a private residence where individuals from at least three households mixed.
Sky News has carried out an internal review. It says all team members are expected to "fully comply with the Covid restrictions" and "all those involved regret the incident and have apologised".
Burley said she had agreed to step back "for a period of reflection". She said: "It doesn't matter that I thought I was Covid-compliant on a recent social event. The fact is I was wrong, I made a big mistake and I am sorry."
She said she "regrets" that "dear friends and colleagues" had been "pulled into this episode".

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 17:23

US jobless claims surge

The number of people in the US making claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week as rising Covid-19 infections led to business restrictions.
Seasonally adjusted claims for state unemployment benefits surged 137,000 to 853,000 for the week to 5 December, the highest number since mid-September.
The weekly increase was the largest since March, when the US was battered by the first wave of coronavirus infections.
A jobs market that is under pressure is keeping US inflation muted, with prices rising moderately in November, other data showed.
"Mass unemployment continues to weigh on economic growth and demand," said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at global financial group MUFG in New York. "If Congress continues to sit on its hands without voting on a new relief package, the plight of the nation's unemployed is going to grow darker by the hour."
Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over a coronavirus relief package to help families and businesses hit by the pandemic have been stalled for weeks.

Vaccine approval work not delayed by cyber-attack - European regulator

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The European Union drug regulator's work assessing Covid-19 vaccines has not been disrupted by a cyber-attack, the head of the agency has said.
Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency disclosed the attack on Wednesday - but gave no further details about information compromised or when it took place.
At a hearing before MEPs, EMA head Emer Cooke confirmed the incident took place in the past two weeks but added: "I can assure you that this will not affect the timeline for delivery of vaccines and that we are fully functional."
On Wednesday, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech revealed documents related to the development of their vaccine had been "unlawfully accessed" in the hack.
But the companies said they did not believe any personal data of trial participants had been compromised and the EMA "has assured us that the cyber attack will have no impact on the timeline for its review".
The agency has said it will decide on a possible conditional approval of the vaccine, which has already been give the go-ahead for use in the UK and Canada, by 29 December.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 17:44

Christmas gatherings permitted in N Ireland

Christmas gatherings in homes in Northern Ireland will be permitted from 23 to 27 December.
Speaking at a press briefing, First Minister Arlene Foster said: "Over the next weeks and months I ask you all to be sensible, make good choices and keep yourself and others safe."
Foster also confirmed that the easing of coronavirus restrictions will take place as planned on Friday.
Restrictions on parts of the hospitality sector, non-essential retail and close-contact services will be lifted at midnight.
A maximum of 15 people will be able to take part in outdoor sports, while 500 spectators will be able to attend sport events.
"Covid ambassadors" will be on high streets to give advice, Foster added.
The first minister defended the decision to ease restrictions.
"Of course we are very disappointed to see the number of deaths this week, 73, that's a big number, and therefore when we look at these figures it's important we realise that comes after two weeks when we were out of restrictions," she said.
"People have to realise that personal responsibility is the key issue here."

Is a third wave inevitable?

At today's government briefing, ITV's Tom Clarke asks if it's inevitable we are going to see a third wave of cases, and whether ministers should be acting sooner in making a decision on restrictions.
He also asks what tests will be rolled out for secondary schools, and how effective they will be?
Matt Hancock says decisions on tiers will depend on how people behave.
He says targeted testing is being rolled out due to a particular rise in cases in a particular part of London.
"That can help us and play a part in keeping case rates down, but only as part of an overall package.
"It's individuals behaviour that can make the biggest difference," he says.
He says PCR tests will be used in the first instance in London, and then lateral flow tests will also be rolled out. "They are both effective," he says.
Prof Chris Whitty says a third wave "is not inevitable" but it can be avoided by everyone "coming together".
He says people should be "very sensible" over the Christmas period.
On testing, he says a testing programme is a "useful addition" to all the other social distancing measures. "If you add it to those things it adds an additional bit of heft," he says.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 19:01

Will rising cases in teenagers affect older people?

Ben Butcher - BBC Reality Check
Matt Hancock said that a high proportion of the cases being seen in national “hot spots” were in secondary school-aged children, rather than older people.
“We know from experience that a sharp rise in cases amongst younger people can lead to a rise amongst more vulnerable age groups,” he said.
This is certainly what happened with the recent autumn spike that led to a national lockdown. Case rates among 10-19 year olds in England started increasing at the end of August, having been broadly stable over the summer.
This trend was also seen among people in their 20s. However, it wasn’t until several weeks later in mid-September that the rates started increasing for people in their 50s or older.
Case rates for this group peaked a couple of weeks after younger groups. Part of the case rate increases by younger people could be linked to surges in testing around school time.
However, increased interactions at school (regardless of social distancing measures) will likely have played a role - and then these were passed onto parents.
This matters, because when older, more vulnerable people get the virus, hospital cases increase. In September, these didn’t start rising sharply until the older groups had caught the virus.

What happened in today's No 10 press conference?

If you're just catching up, here's what happened at the Downing Street press conference today.

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock warns that everyone must "stay on our guard now and through Christmas" as the fight against the virus is not over
  • He urges: "Help is on the horizon, so don't blow it now" - and tells people to respect social distancing rules
  • The fall in the number of cases has flattened off and is rising in some places like Essex, Kent and parts of London
  • The fastest rise in those areas is among secondary school children - those aged 11-18 - with the rate currently "broadly flat" among adults
  • But a sharp rise in cases among younger people can lead to a rise in more vulnerable age groups later, Hancock pointed out
  • As a result, mass testing is to be rolled out for children and their families in the worst-affected areas of Essex, Kent and London
  • Hancock says those case numbers are "worrying" and comes ahead of a review of tiers in England on 16 December
  • A third wave of Covid cases is "not inevitable", said Prof Chris Whitty, but people need to be "very sensible" over Christmas
  • The vaccination rollout is to be expanded, with 10 new locations in England offering the Pfizer/BioNTech jab soon, said Hancock
  • Next year, vaccination centres will open in sports centres and conference halls

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 19:10

UK Christmas rules in five South Asian languages

The four UK governments have said that families will be able to celebrate Christmas together by easing restrictions for five days over the festive period.
Between 23 and 27 December (22 and 28 December in Northern Ireland), households will be able to form "Christmas bubbles" with two other households and will be able to meet indoors and stay overnight.
BBC Asian Network have created video explainers of the rules coming into force in the UK in five South Asian languages

For further information in English, check out this explainer.

Chinese cabin crews advised to wear diapers

Cabin crews in China are being advised to wear diapers for flights to high-risk coronavirus countries and to avoid using the toilet to reduce the chance of infection.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China issued the advice for charter flights to and from areas where infections exceed 500 in every one million people.
"It is recommended that cabin crew wear disposable nappies to avoid special circumstances," it states.
The advice is in the personal protection equipment (PPE) section of its latest guidelines. It also includes disposable caps, disposable shoe covers and goggles.
Flight crew must wear masks and goggles, but will not be made to wear diapers if they do not wish.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 19:12

Today's coronavirus headlines

Thanks for joining us today as we've brought you the latest in coronavirus news from the UK and around the world.
We'll be closing the live page for the day shortly. But before we do, here's a recap of the main headlines.

  • Matt Hancock says mass testing will be rolled out for secondary school-aged children - and their families - in some of the worst affected areas of London and south-east England
  • It comes amid a "worrying" rise in London, Kent and Essex
  • Four London boroughs are among the areas with the top 20 highest rates in England: Havering (which has the eighth highest rate of any local authority area), Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, and Redbridge
  • Travellers returning to the UK from Spain's Canary Islands from Saturday morning must self-isolate for two weeks, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says
  • The number of patients in England waiting more than a year for routine hospital care is now 100 times higher than before the pandemic , figures show
  • Stormont ministers have appealed to people in Northern Ireland not to "get caught up in the Christmas spirit" with Covid-19 lockdown restrictions set to be eased at a minute to midnight tonight
  • The number of people in the US making claims for unemployment benefits jumped last week, with rising Covid-19 infections leading to business restrictions
  • As a second wave of Covid-19 is officially declared to have hit South Africa, the nation’s teenagers are being blamed for its spread. The health minister said most of the new surge of infections were affecting those aged between 15 and 19

Goodnight from us

We are now closing our live coverage.
Today's live coverage was brought to you by: Alex Kleiderman, George Wright, Lauren Turner, Jennifer Scott, Sarah Fowler and Rob Corp.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 10 2020, 20:01

London 'to be put into Tier 3 lockdown just days before Christmas'

The news comes as the Covid infection rate in London continues to accelerate

London is set to be put into Tier 3 lockdown just days before Christmas, according to reports.
Multiple reports on Thursday afternoon (December 10) reported that MPs had been briefed in a meeting with Health minister Helen Whateley.
One told Pippa Crerar, Political Editor of The Mirror : “It feels like they’re preparing us for Tier 3 decision. Decision taken on 16th, published on 17th & implemented on 19th. Data pointing that way..”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked during a Downing Street press conference when a decision might be published on London going into Tier 3, and he said the current Tiers would be reviewed on December 16.
But the reports from various political correspondents suggest that a decision on London's fate has essentially already been made.
It comes as the infection rate in the capital continues to accelerate - in contrast to many other regions in England.
The latest data published on Thursday showed there were 191.2 cases per 100,000 residents over the 7 days to December 5 - higher than some Tier 3 areas.
There were also 4,144 new infections announced in the capital and 210 more Londoners admitted to hospital, out of 1,582 being treated in total.

Above the current Tier 2 rules, Tier 3 would mean;

  • All hospitality venues would have to close - except for delivery and takeaway. Hotels and other accommodation venues would have to shut, except for specific work purposes.
  • Indoor entertainment venues would have to shut and people would be advised to avoid travelling out of London, other than "where necessary for work, education, youth services, medical attention, or caring responsibilities".
  • No overnight stays would be allowed outside of London, except when necessary for work or education.
  • Wedding receptions, currently limited to 15 guests in Tier 2, would also be banned in Tier 3.
  • No fans would be allowed into football matches in London - in Tier 2, a maximum capacity of 2,000 or 50 per cent of the stadium capacity - whichever is smaller - has been permitted.

The news is not expected to affect the relaxation of lockdown rules from December 23 where people will be allowed to form Christmas bubbles.
But the fact that London looks all but certain to be put in Tier 3 lockdown right before Christmas has been met with dismay by business representatives in the capital.
Michael Lassman, London chair of the Federation of Small Businesses said he was “extremely disappointed” that London looks likely to get tougher restrictions:
“Many pubs, hotels, restaurants and other related industries will be hard hit by these measures if it happens and will struggle to make it through to the New Year; these firms in particular will need targeted support that is proportionate to the costs facing these businesses.

“We urge consumers to continue to shop where possible with small firms, online and in person, and find supportive ways to help these businesses get through these extremely challenging times.”
The news comes as Mr Hancock announced that mass testing would be carried out on secondary school pupils in London in the coming days.
He told a national briefing that mobile testing units were “ready to roll” into London, with focus initially in the areas of high infection rates, particularly in North East London.


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