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Coronavirus - 11th December

Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:10

Summary for Friday, 11th November

  • AstraZeneca says it is recruiting people for trials combining its own vaccine with Oxford University with Russia's Sputnik V
  • The self-isolation period for travellers and contacts of those with Covid has been cut from 14 days to 10 in the UK
  • Medical experts in the US recommend emergency approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine
  • An Australian candidate for a vaccine is abandoned after some trial participants return false HIV positive results
  • Businesses reopen in Northern Ireland, and also in Glasgow and other parts of western Scotland as rules are eased
  • EU leaders strike a deal over the bloc's budget and Covid recovery fund
  • The Royal Shakespeare Company and arts organisations hit by the pandemic share £165m ($220m) in UK government loans
  • The response to the pandemic has driven the biggest annual fall in CO2 emissions since WW2, say researchers
  • There have been 69.5m cases and 1.58m deaths worldwide, figures from Johns Hopkins University show

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our teams from London and around the world will be bringing you the latest updates and analysis throughout the day.

What's happening in the UK?

Here's an overview of the stories that have been making headlines in the UK in recent hours:

  • The public spending watchdog has found that in the early stages of NHS Test and Trace in England, some call handlers were busy for only 1% of their paid hours
  • Non-essential shops across much of western Scotland - including Glasgow - are re-opening today for the first time in three weeks
  • In Northern Ireland, non-essential shops, close contact services such as hairdressers and most hospitality businesses are reopening
  • A report says measures put in place to help NHS England cope with the pandemic have benefitted towns and cities more than rural areas
  • The Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre and English National Opera are among the arts venues to share £165m in government loans


What's happening around the world?

Here are the latest headlines from around the world:

  • Medical experts advising the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recommended emergency approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. The decision comes after a 23-member panel met to determine whether the drug’s benefits outweigh the risks
  • In Australia, a promising vaccine candidate has been abandoned after trial participants returned false HIV positive results . Australia had previously agreed to buy 51 million doses of the vaccine being developed by Australian firm CSL and the University of Queensland. The government said orders of other vaccines would now fill the shortfall
  • EU leaders have struck a deal over the bloc’s €1.8tn (£1.64tn; $2.2tn) budget and Covid recovery fund, after reaching a compromise with Hungary and Poland. The two nations had threatened a veto over a clause that tied funding with adherence to the rule of law
  • Pharmaceutical giants Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline say a Covid-19 vaccine they were developing has showed an insufficient immune response in clinical trials. They say they will research other options with a view to coming up with an effective product by the end of next year
  • France is tightening its restrictions over the Christmas period due to rising case numbers, Prime Minister Jean Castex said. The nightly curfew that comes into force on 15 December has been brought forward by an hour to 20:00 and will be enforced on New Year’s, Eve ruling out public celebrations
  • A coronavirus adviser to President-elect Joe Biden has told Americans not to attend Christmas parties. Dr Michael Osterholm has urged people to refrain from seeing anyone from outside their immediate households. He warned of high numbers of cases in the coming weeks. "The next three to six weeks at a minimum are our Covid weeks," he told CNN.


German pandemic hits new peaks: Latest from Europe


  • Germany has this morning reported a record number of 29,875 daily coronavirus cases and 598 deaths - bringing the total to 20,970. The latest figures have added to pressure to bring in tighter measures fast. The head of Germany's medical association Klaus Reinhardt wants to shut down public life between Christmas and 10 January. The south-western state of Baden-Württemberg will later announce its plans for tougher measures for the start of next week, and Berlin Mayor Michael Müller believes a hard lockdown should start on 20 December.
  • Additional measures have come into force in Cyprus today until 31 December, shutting shopping centres and catering establishments and barring worshippers from church services.
  • Last night's EU deal to unblock a €750bn (£685bn) coronavirus stimulus fund across the 27-country bloc will be welcomed in Spain and Italy in particular. It still has to go before the European Parliament, but it'll mean €140bn in grants and loans for Spain alone.
  • Ukraine has reported its highest daily Covid-related death toll of 285, with 13,514 infections.
  • The deaths of four patients in a Swedish hospital's cardiac intensive care unit (ICU) could be linked to an ICU Halloween party, Expressen newspaper reports. Vaxjo Central Hospital Operations Manager Thomas Aronsson is quoted as saying he would have banned the party had he known about it. Eleven staff in the cardiac intensive care unit reportedly became ill afterwards.
  • Italian health officials say a 26% fall in case numbers in the past week confirms that the Covid curve is "freezing", despite a surge of 887 deaths reported yesterday. Covid commissioner Domenico Arcuri has appealed especially to young Italians to take care over Christmas and to act responsibly.

Russia reports record Covid deaths

BBC Monitoring - The world through its media
Russia has reported a record rise in daily Covid-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic - and for the first time the daily death toll has exceeded 600.
Over the past 24 hours, 613 coronavirus-related deaths have been confirmed, up from 562 deaths reported on the previous day, the country's Moscow-based coronavirus headquarters said on its Telegram account on 11 December.
Russia's total Covid-19 death toll now stands at 45,893. A total of 28,585 new cases were reported over the past 24 hours, up from 27,927 reported yesterday, with the highest numbers in the capital Moscow (7,215), St Petersburg (3,779) and Moscow Region (1,370).
The number of active cases currently stands at 491,978.
Overall, Russia has officially recorded 2,597,711 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. According to Russia's coronavirus headquarters, a total of 2,059,840 people have recovered from the illness.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:17

Shops reopen in Scotland as toughest restrictions eased

Non-essential shops across much of western Scotland - including Glasgow - are reopening for the first time in three weeks.
Retailers in the 11 council areas that had been been under the country's toughest lockdown rules were able to welcome customers from 06:00 GMT.
But pubs, cafes and restaurants will have to remain closed until Saturday.
It comes as the areas move from level four to level three in the country's tiered system of Covid restrictions.
More than two million people had been subject to the level four restrictions since 20 November.
Read more here.

Wales secondary schools moving online again

All secondary schools and further education colleges in Wales will move classes online from Monday, the education minister has announced.
Kirsty Williams said it was part of a "national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus".
However, the Children's Commissioner for Wales has criticised the decision as disruptive to education.
A number of counties have also said primary schools will close earlier, including Cardiff and Swansea.
The latest data shows the infection rate across Wales is averaging more than 370 cases for 100,000 people, with 17% of tests now coming back positive.
It means the reproduction (R) number in Wales has now reached 1.27, with infections doubling in 11.7 days.
State schools in Wales closed after the first lockdown began in March and only reopened for pupils in September.
Read more here.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:26

US prepares for vaccine rollout

As we mentioned in our roundup, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended emergency approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
The drug still needs to be formally approved by the FDA's vaccine chief, which is expected in the coming days.
The US has recorded 292,179 deaths and more than 15.6 million cases.
Operation Warp Speed, the federal government's vaccine distribution programme, has said that vaccine deliveries will begin with 24 hours of approval.
Plans to rollout the vaccine are already underway. The United Parcel Service and FedEx are working with the government to send the vaccine to distribution staging areas.
The vaccine needs to be kept in a cold freezer and must be used quickly once it has thawed.
Pfizer hopes to have 6.4 million doses ready for the US in its first rollout round in late December. Because two shots are required per person, that is enough for three million people, out of a total US population of 330 million.
Dr Michael Osterholm, an advisor to President-elect Joe Biden, has warned that large quantities of the vaccine will not be made available to the public before March or April. Healthcare workers and nursing residents will be at the front of the queue.

Canaries holidaymakers face UK Christmas isolation

Britons holidaying on Spain's Canary Islands say their Christmas plans have been thrown into jeopardy after quarantine rules were imposed.
Travellers returning to the UK will have to self-isolate for 14 days from Saturday due to rising infection rates, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
Steve Hay, from Bournemouth, arrived in Lanzarote on Thursday evening for a seven-day break with his family.
They now face cutting it short to avoid a quarantine period that could potentially run until New Year's Eve - effectively cancelling their Christmas plans in the UK.
"How will we do our Christmas shopping?" Mr Hay said. "I think it's shocking and doesn't appear much thought has gone into it.
"Why is it being implemented so quick, this only gives us tomorrow to get back."
Read more here.

GSK/Sanofi vaccine delayed due to low immune response

The British pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline and its French partner Sanofi have said their vaccine against the coronavirus will not be ready until the end of next year.
Interim test results showed only a low immune response in older adults, the companies said.
They will now begin a second-phase study in February, in the hope of rolling out a more effective vaccine in 2021.
The "protein adjuvant vaccine" is based on the technology used by Sanofi to produce a flu vaccine, as well as GSK's established pandemic technology.
Research showed an immune response comparable to patients who recovered from Covid-19 in adults aged 18 to 49 but an "insufficient response" in older adults.
The companies said this was "likely" to be due to older people having an insufficient concentration of the antigen - the protein that stimulates the body's immune response against the virus.
The UK has secured access to 60 million doses of the GSK/Sanofi vaccine.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:28

Taiwan urges caution over vaccines

Authorities in Taiwan have warned that even as vaccinations begin, the world should remain extremely vigilant against the virus.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said scientific data on the vaccines' lasting effect was still insufficient.
"During the first vaccination periods, people should continue with the safety measures," he told the BBC.
Taiwan has been one of the most successful places in the world in dealing with Covid-19. So far, it has had only 724 confirmed cases and seven deaths and has never had to go into lockdown.
The health minister does not question the vaccines' safety or whether they provide immunity, but rather stresses that it was not clear to which extent and how long they would protect people.
Read more on this story here .

Covid testing of students finds few positive cases

Sean Coughlan - BBC News, education correspondent
The mass Covid testing of students before Christmas has so far found 0.2% testing positive at one of the universities taking part.
The University of Portsmouth is reporting "very low numbers" of positive cases from its Covid testing.
"We are seeing fewer than two per day on average at present," said vice-chancellor Graham Galbraith.
He criticised a "blame culture" in which students had been accused of spreading infections.
"Prevalence in students is now very low indeed," said Prof Galbraith.
Read more here.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:31

World sees biggest annual fall in CO2 emissions since WW2

The global response to the pandemic has driven the biggest annual fall in CO2 emissions since World War Two, researchers say.
According to the Global Carbon Project team, carbon emissions have declined by about 7% this year - or by 2.4 billion tonnes.
A large number of countries around the world enforced lockdowns in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
France and the UK saw the greatest falls, mainly due to a second run of shutdowns in response to a rise in the number of infections.
France saw a fall of 15% and the UK went down by 13%, according to one analysis.
China, by contrast, has seen a large rebound from coronavirus that overall emissions may grow this year.
Read more about the findings here .

AstraZeneca recruiting volunteers for vaccine trial with Russia

Sarah Rainsford - BBC Moscow Correspondent
AstraZeneca has announced that will begin recruiting people aged 18 and over for trials combining the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine with Russia's Sputnik V, produced by the Gamaleya Institute research facility in Moscow.
The aim is to see if this helps to boost people's immune response and improve protection from the virus.
The company told the BBC that the trials would be held in Russia, but it's not clear when they would start or how many people would be involved.
In a press release, AstraZeneca said: "Scientific collaboration with Gamaleya Research Institute is important to explore the potential of vaccine combinations unlocking synergies in protection and accessibility through a portfolio approach."
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:34

Covid tests for pupils in hotspots not mandatory, says head


Coronavirus - 11th December 1587ca10

A head teacher has urged pupils to take a Covid test as part of a mass testing scheme for secondary school children in parts of London, Kent and Essex.
Ges Smith, head teacher at Jo Richardson Community School in east London, said extra tests for schools in the worst-affected areas of the three counties had been "a long time coming".
East London and the parts of Kent and Essex that border it have become one of the major Covid hotspots in England.
Mr Smith said tests were not mandatory.
"As far as I know we have got no mandate on forcing students to take that test," he told BBC Breakfast.
However, he added that he would be writing to students at his school in Dagenham to inform them of the testing process and "strongly encourage them to take that test".
Read the full story here.

Situation in Japan 'tense', says PM

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has described the situation as tense after the country recorded its highest daily case total yet.
On Thursday, the number of cases hit 2,848, the highest daily tally since the pandemic began.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato has urged people in Japan to have a "quiet year-end and New Year".
There are fears that gatherings to welcome the year 2021 will put people at a greater risk of exposure.
However, despite the rising infection rate and fears of gatherings around New Year, the government says it will continue with its tourism promotion programme, which provides subsidies to increase domestic tourism in the country, over the festive period.
Suga said he is not considering a halt to the campaign despite claims from the country's media that a pause was being considered.
Last month, the promotion was suspended for inbound and outbound trips from Sapporo and Osaka to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed with virus patients. That suspension is set to last until mid-December , the Japan Times reports.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:36

Test and Trace under fire in watchdog report

In the early stages of the NHS Test and Trace programme in England, some contact tracers were busy for only 1% of their paid hours, a report by the public spending watchdog has found.
More than £700m was spent on staff who provided minimal services, the National Audit Office (NAO) said.
The NAO added that even in October, after staff cutbacks, some were occupied for fewer than half their shifts.
The NAO says the the average number of tests carried out up until October was only 68% of capacity. And management did not plan for a sharp rise in testing demand in September.
The Department of Health and Social Care points out that more than two million people had been contacted and told to self isolate and that recent performance figures had improved.
You can read the report in full here.
And take a look at our long read on how test and trace struggled to get on track.

Germans 'not doing enough' to prevent infection spread

Jenny Hill - BBC Berlin correspondent
There are few joyful tidings for Germany this Christmas.
The country that so successfully brought the first wave of the pandemic under control is struggling to contain the second.
Today, Germans woke up to two miserable new records; the authorities registered 29,875 new cases - the highest daily number yet - and 589 deaths were recorded in the same period - again higher than ever before.
A so-called "lockdown light" - which includes the closure of bars, restaurants, leisure and arts facilities, but is implemented to different degrees in different parts of the country - may have flattened the curve, but it's done nothing to reduce the numbers.
The days when Germany's relatively low death toll was the envy of other countries are gone; it’s rising fast and this week exceeded 20,000. So what's gone wrong?
Scientists say Germans are simply not doing enough to reduce their social contacts.
But many also point the finger at regional leaders, who for months have dithered, bickered and resisted Chancellor Angela Merkel's calls for a tougher, countrywide response to the outbreak.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:39

Christmas a 'difficult balancing act', says scientist

Ensuring Covid cases in the UK do not surge after Christmas will be a "very difficult balancing act", a leading scientist believes.
Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, said there is "bound to be some effect" because of the easing of rules over the festive period will allow more mixing.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he acknowledged there were regional differences in cases numbers and there may only be a "brief blip". But he said: "It depends crucially on people's behaviour. And, how much they obey the rules and are sensible."
Speaking on the same programme, the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said Christmas could be the "fillip" needed "to see us through the hard months until the vaccine is rolled out sufficiently to mean that regulations can relax more generally".
"I think people will by and large be sensible," he added.

Greece to reduce quarantine and open churches over Christmas

Greece will cut its quarantine time and reopen churches as part of its Christmas regulations, the government has announced.
Travellers entering the country from 18 December until 7 January will have their mandatory quarantine reduced to three days and will be required to take a rapid antigen test at the airport and produce a negative result, according to local media.
Churches will open on Christmas Day and Epiphany Day, which falls on 6 January.
Up to nine people will be allowed in churches and 25 in cathedrals on Christmas Day and Epiphany, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said.
Greece is set to go under a national curfew from 13 December until 7 January. People will have to remain in their homes from 22:00 until 05:00. They will have to apply for government permission by text in order to leave their house .
Despite a slight relaxation of the restrictions, Greece's healthcare system is under pressure.
Petsas said 80% of intensive care beds across the country were occupied.
Greece has recorded more than 121,253 cases and 3,370 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:42

Covid measures in England hitting rural areas hardest - report

Dominic Hughes - Health correspondent
NHS patients in rural areas of England face extra long waits for treatment, according to a study.
The Nuffield Trust think-tank says urban areas benefited most from measures put in place to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Researchers found rural hospitals now faced an uphill challenge when it came to restoring services to normal.
NHS England says that funding reflects the higher costs of delivering care in rural communities.
The Nuffield Trust report says while the number of Covid cases in rural areas was lower than in big urban centres, the pandemic's impact on services has been much greater.
Read more here.

School mass testing areas in south-east England revealed

Mobile testing units will be deployed in or near secondary schools and colleges in parts of London, Kent and Essex so that staff, students and their families can be checked under a new mass testing scheme, the government has announced.
The areas have become one of the major Covid hotspots in England.
The government says the testing will take place in Barking and Dagenham; Hackney and the City; Havering; Newham; Redbridge; Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest in the capital, and Southend; Basildon; Canvey Island; Harlow, and Brentwood in Essex. It has not yet specified which areas of Kent will be included.
The scheme will see:

  • 44,000 home test kits for school staff
  • 15 mobile testing units in London, providing approximately 75,000 additional tests over and above existing sites
  • 10 mobile testing units in Essex
  • 12 mobile testing units in Kent
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:44

South Korea to deploy army in Seoul to help trace infections

South Korea is deploying hundreds of army and police personnel to help support the tracing effort in Seoul as cases in the capital rise.
The country recorded 689 cases on Friday, 75% of those cases were from the greater Seoul area , the Korea Herald reports.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said: "We will dispatch 800 personnel of military, police and civil servants to each region of the metropolitan area to support epidemiological investigations."
He warned the country's entire virus response system could break down if efforts in the area end in failure.
Chung has urged people to undergo testing at one of the capital's 150 virus testing centres.
According to local media, hospitals across the country are near full capacity for patients with severe cases of the virus. Of 583 critical care beds, only 52 are available.
South Korea has recorded more than 40,786 cases and 572 deaths since the pandemic began.

Why are Oxford and Sputnik vaccines being trialled together?

As we mentioned earlier, UK and Russian scientists are teaming up to trial a combination of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines to see if protection against Covid-19 can be improved.
Mixing two similar vaccines could lead to a better immune response in people.
The trials, to be held in Russia, will involve over-18s, although it's not clear how many people will participate.
AstraZeneca said it was exploring combinations of different adenovirus - a virus that usually causes the common cold - vaccines to find out whether mixing them leads to greater protection.
The British-made Oxford vaccine, developed in partnership with AstraZeneca, and the Russian Sputnik vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow, are similar because they both contain genetic material from the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein.
Early results from late-stage trials of the Sputnik vaccine have shown promising results.
Read more on this story here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:46

Breaking News

UK cuts self-isolation period from 14 days to 10

The contacts of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK are to be allowed to isolate for 10, rather than 14, days, from next week, the UK's chief medical officers have announced.
The changes, which already began in Wales this week, will apply to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 00:01 GMT next Monday, 14 December.
People instructed to quarantine after returning from high-risk countries will also be able to self-isolate for 10 days.
And it means people who have already been self-isolating for 10 days or more will be able to end their quarantine on Monday.
In a statement the chief medical officers stressed self-isolation was "essential to reducing the spread of Covid as it breaks the chains of transmission".
But they said: "After reviewing the evidence, we are now confident that we can reduce the number of days that contacts self-isolate."
People who test positive for coronavirus are already required to self-isolate for 10 days from onset of symptoms or 10 days from point of taking a positive test if asymptomatic.
Experts say people are most infectious around the time they first develop symptoms and by day 10, only about 2% will still be capable of passing on the virus to others.

The latest from around the UK and the world

If you're just joining us, here's a round-up of the latest developments from the UK and around the world.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:57

'Not a safe Christmas party in the country right now' - US expert

A coronavirus adviser to President-elect Joe Biden has urged people to celebrate Christmas within their household and avoid gathering with others.
Dr Michael Osterholm told CNN there was "not a safe Christmas party in the country right now" unless everyone present had isolated for 10 to 14 days.
"I don't care if I'm being accused of being the Grinch that stole Christmas. But you know what? I want you to be around for the next Christmas and the next Christmas after that," he said.
He added that if students were coming home from university, they were classed as outside their household and should quarantine.
The US is seeing peak infections of close to 200,000 a day on average with record numbers of people in hospital.
There are concerns that the situation will worsen after millions of people defied appeals from experts not to travel over Thanksgiving last month. Osterholm said the country could "be just picking up the beginning of the Thanksgiving surge, but surelyin the following week we're going to see it ”.
Top US diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci has warned of another surge in cases after Christmas and said the longer Christmas/New Year period may be even more of a challenge.

Wales facing post-Christmas lockdown, first minister warns

A post-Christmas lockdown will happen in Wales if the number of coronavirus cases does not begin to fall, First Minister Mark Drakeford said today.
A five-day relaxation of rules begins on 23 December, but with more than 1,900 Covid patients in hospital there is pressure for tougher rules from the 28 December.
Although Mr Drakeford said a new lockdown was “not a foregone conclusion”, he said: “Our NHS will not be able to cope if we continue to see this level of coronavirus-related admissions in the coming weeks, on top of the normal winter pressures.”
Secondary schools in Wales are moving to online learning next week, with some primary schools following suit.
And a new announcement today will see outdoor attractions also being closed.
Mr Drakeford said: “I must be clear with you – if the strengthened measures of last week and the extra actions of this week, together with the efforts of each and every one of us do not succeed in turning the tide of the virus – then it is inevitable that we will have to move to alert level four after Christmas.”
Alert level four is the highest level under the Welsh Government’s so-called traffic light system.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 13:59

A further 1,001 Covid-19 cases announced in Scotland

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirms a further 1,001 people have tested positive for Covid-19, and a further 31 people have died.
The total number of positive cases recorded in Scotland now stands at 104,306.
Ms Sturgeon says the number of cases was the highest in Scotland for a while and the first time in some days that it had been over 1,000.
But she says she is encouraged that the test positivity rate is now below 5%, the level at which the WHO determines whether an outbreak is under control.
However, the larger number is a reminder that the virus is still circulating and still very infectious, she adds.

How many people in the UK have the virus?

Coronavirus cases in England are still falling - but they are estimated to have increased in London, and there are early signs rates may be up in eastern England, the Office for National Statistics has said.
The ONS figures for the week to 5 December show 1-in-115 people had the virus in England.
It added that 1-in-120 people in Scotland and Wales were infected.
Scotland figures were stable but it means Wales is seeing a rising numbers of people infected.
The infection rate in Northern Ireland is falling, with 1-in-235 people affected.

Nigeria prepares for vaccinations amid fears of second wave

Chris Ewokor - BBC News, Abuja
The Nigerian government has said preparations have been made to receive 20 million doses of one of the Covid-19 vaccines under development globally by early next year.
It comes after Health Minister Dr Osagie Ehanire ordered all isolation centres across the country to reopen, in light of the rising number of daily confirmed cases.
Africa's most populous nation says the priority would be for workers in the health sector and vulnerable citizens to receive any vaccines first.
At a Covid-19 media briefing in the capital Abuja on Thursday, head of Nigeria's Primary Health Care Development Agency Faisal Shuaib said the country would be using its polio vaccination system to ensure effective delivery of the vaccines.
Shuaib said that Nigeria was one of 92 countries that formed an international coalition set up to ensure access to safe vaccines, known as the Covax scheme.
This week a senior Nigerian Army officer reportedly died of complications relating to Covid-19 in Abuja.
Over the past week, Nigeria has seen an upsurge in the number of daily confirmed cases, sparking fears there will be a second wave of the pandemic.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 17:02

US drugs agency to approve vaccine 'within days'

The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has said it will proceed with emergency use approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine - and that it should be authorised within a couple of days.
In a statement, the FDA said it would "rapidly work toward finalisation and issuance" of the authorisation .
"The agency has also notified the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Operation Warp Speed [the federal government's vaccine distribution programme], so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution," the FDA statement said.
US Health Secretary Alex Azar said the US would work with Pfizer to get the vaccine shipped out, so that it could be administered to the most vulnerable people by Monday or Tuesday.

Tweet  Secretary Alex Azar:

BREAKING: The @US_FDA has informed Pfizer that it will rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an emergency use authorization.

Coronavirus - 11th December 7flxq510

FDA Statement on Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting

The Pfizer vaccine has already been approved for the public in the UK, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Read more on this story here .

Regional restrictions a possibility for Wales

Wales could see different restrictions in different areas, depending on the prevalence of Covid-19, First Minister Mark Drakeford said.
A plan setting out the Welsh Government’s approach to lockdowns will be published on Monday and debated in the Senedd on Tuesday.
"We will also set out how, if it were to be the case that some parts of Wales established themselves in a reliable and predictable and sustainable way as having a different level of the virus to other parts of Wales, it would be possible to have more than one level in Wales," he said.
"That is not the position we are in in Wales today - the virus is rising everywhere."
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 17:52

Nottinghamshire NHS staff 'abused' by people wanting Covid-19 jab

Gavin Bevis - BBC News
Health bosses in Nottinghamshire have said some people have been abusive to NHS staff after being told they cannot have the Covid-19 vaccination yet.
Dr Andy Haynes, head of the city and county's Integrated Care System, said people needed to understand the vaccine was being rolled out in a set order based on prioritisation of risk.
He said: "It's important people don't swamp our phone lines by seeking to get the vaccine. We've had one or two people this week who have been rather frustrated and abusive to staff when they've not been able to obtain a vaccine.
"When it's your turn to be vaccinated you'll be notified by letter and that letter will contain all the information you need."

Sky right not to sack presenter over Covid breach - minister


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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has backed Sky News's decision not to sack presenter Kay Burley and political editor Beth Rigby over Covid rule breaches.
"I have great respect for Kay Burley and Beth Rigby as journalists," he told Times Radio . "They've apologised, they've come off air."
He added: "I think that is a suitable response."
Burley will be off air for six months following an internal inquiry, while Rigby and correspondent Inzamam Rashid will be absent for three months.
The channel described them as agreed absences, rather than suspensions.
Sky's inquiry concluded that the trio broke Covid regulations on a night out for Burley's 60th birthday at the weekend.
It is believed that 10 people went to a restaurant in London, split over two tables, which Burley said she believed at the time was "Covid-compliant".
She then briefly went into another restaurant before some members of the group moved on to a private residence, where individuals from at least three households mixed, the BBC has been told.
Read the full story here.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 17:54

When will you be eligible for the Covid vaccine?

Philippa Roxby - Health reporter, BBC News
In the UK, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was found to be safe and effective by the medicines regulator and has been approved for mass use in over-16s.
Two other vaccines - developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna - could also be approved soon and ready for widespread use.
Vaccines are initially being given to the most vulnerable, as set out in a list of high-priority groups , covering about a quarter of the UK population.
The second phase of vaccination will focus on the rest of the population, mainly the under-50s, who are much less likely to be ill with Covid-19.
Teachers, transport workers and the military could be prioritised at that point, but more data on how well the vaccines are working will be needed before that decision is made.
It could be well into 2021 before this phase begins, by which time more Covid vaccines could be approved for use.
Find out more here .

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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 17:57

Northern Ireland health minister warns of more restrictions

Northern Ireland's health minister has warned that more restrictions are "inevitable" at the start of 2021.
Speaking on Friday, Robin Swann said the severity of those restrictions would "depend on people's actions over the next few weeks".
A two-week national lockdown ended at 23:59 on Thursday.
Swann has urged people to not be careless as restrictions ease.
The number of Covid-related deaths registered in the country has risen. A total of 98 deaths were registered in the week up to Friday 4 December, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).
That is 17 more deaths than the previous week.
Read more here .

Germany facing calls for second lockdown before Christmas

We mentioned earlier that Germans woke today to the miserable news that daily Covid cases and deaths had reached record highs.
Well the country is now facing calls for a second lockdown before Christmas.
"We have to act urgently. We have to do more than was previously planned," warned Economy Minister Peter Altmaier.
Germany has been under partial lockdown since early November, shutting bars, restaurants and entertainment venues, and a relaxation had been planned over Christmas.
But the rise in infections has increasingly alarmed top officials, with Lothar Wieler, head of Germany's public healthy body, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), describing the situation as "extremely fragile".
Chancellor Angela Merkel made an impassioned speech in the Bundestag (parliament) this week calling for tighter measures, saying that "500 deaths a day is unacceptable".
Read more on this story here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 18:03

Heathrow Terminal 4 to stay shut until end of 2021


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UK airport operator Heathrow has said it will keep Terminal 4 closed until the end of next year as the pandemic continues to affect travel.
The company said passenger numbers at the airport - usually one of the busiest in the world - fell 88% in November "as travel restrictions and a second lockdown took their toll".
Based on forecasts and current traffic, it said it would extend the closure of Terminal 4 until the end of 2021.
Heathrow shut the terminal in May during the first national lockdown.
It led to airlines such as Air France, Etihad and KLM moving to Terminal 2.

China cracks down on online food imports

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
A number of people in central China have been fined and told to self-isolate after they bought imported pork online that could potentially have been contaminated with Covid-19.
According to the national Global Times newspaper, 24 residents in Huanggang, central Hubei province, have been fined 200 yuan (£23; $30.50) for buying imported pork from Brazil via the Meituan shopping platform.
The pork should have been destroyed rather than sold because, as the newspaper notes, batches had already tested positive for Covid-19 . An investigation is now being carried out into the shopping platform.
One of the big concerns in China is how imported food might carry the virus, and so the country is stepping up regulation to prevent ordinary consumers from directly getting their hands on such goods.
This week, China's top court announced that e-commerce platforms could be "held legally responsible for food safety issues related to products purchased on their platforms".
China says that many of its localised Covid-19 outbreaks over the last year have been linked to imported cold-chain goods, and there are regular news stories about coastal regions discovering the virus on overseas goods. Many of the first patients in cities that have experienced outbreaks have been workers who handle such products.

Stockholm students to switch to remote learning

Students aged 14 to 16 will switch to remote learning in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, local authorities have announced.
Lessons should be switched to online as soon as possible, they added.
"We need to dramatically reduce the amount of contact between one another, " said Maria Rotzen Ostlund, the region's infectious diseases doctor .
She said that distance learning would not be enough and stressed the importance of limiting social contacts to as few people as possible.
Ostlund also recommended that employers allow their staff to work from home where possible.
Stockholm is one of the worst affected regions in the country, accounting for a third of Sweden's confirmed Covid-related death toll, according to Reuters news agency.
The Swedish government is aiming to offer the vaccine to all of those over the age of 18 during the first half of 2021.
Sweden has recorded 312,728 cases and 7,354 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 18:07

Analysis: The UK's epidemic is shrinking, but very slowly

Pallab Ghosh - Science correspondent, BBC News
The latest estimate of the R number for the UK is 0.9 and 1 – up very slightly on the previous week – according to the latest Office for National Statistics infection survey
This means that the epidemic is still shrinking after lockdown measures, but very slowly.
The survey indicates that cases continued to fall in most of England and Northern Ireland last week.
But the view of the government’s scientific advisors is that the situation is fragile.
Cases are increasing in London and the East of England – especially among secondary school age children – and previous experience indicates that a surge among older age groups will inevitably follow.
The advisors believe that it will be important to keep infection levels as low as possible in the run up to the holidays.
That’s because the relaxation of restrictions that permit families to meet over Christmas will accelerate any increase in cases – and lead to another sharp spike in infections early in the New Year.

How New Zealand's film industry thwarted a pandemic

It might be found at the bottom of the globe, but New Zealand has been at the top of the movie industry in 2020.
Thanks to its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country is enjoying an unprecedented boom in film production, with directors seeking safe conditions, and that most elusive thing this year - a normal life.
International blockbusters including James Cameron's Avatar sequels, Amazon's Lord of the Rings series and Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog - starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst - all managed complex film shoots in New Zealand this year.
The country's home-grown movies have also received a boost at the box office by Kiwis supporting their industry, leading one local filmmaker to joke that they're now living in "the Hollywood of the Pacific".
New Zealand, like so many other countries, did experience a lockdown in March, But because it managed to eliminate community transmission of the virus, apart from an incident in Auckland in August, film production could resume by summer, with Avatar one of the first projects to start up again.
Read more on this story from the BBC's Emma Jones here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 18:10

Virus spreading rapidly in Canada, officials warn

Coronavirus is still spreading rapidly across Canada, the country's Public Health Agency has warned.
In projections released on Friday, the agency predicts at least 90,000 more cases by Christmas Day - but says this figure could reach 135,000. It also estimated that there could be between 1,300 and 1,800 deaths in the weeks leading up to by 25 December .
More than 445,000 cases have been confirmed in Canada and 13,130 people have died since the pandemic began.
Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said "a stronger response is needed now in all large provinces to slow the spread of Covid-19".
Canada's health regulator approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the day after the UK became the first country in the world to roll it out.
Health Canada said the vaccine met its "stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements".
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will receive up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine this month. The Canadian government has purchased 20 million doses of the vaccine - enough to inoculate 10 million people - with the option to buy 56 million more.

Bus driver's care home detour 'right thing to do'


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When Jacqueline Mason accidentally got on the wrong bus on her way to visit her mother in a care home in Belfast, she broke down in tears because she thought she would miss her visiting slot.
But the bus driver took a detour to get her there on time, saying it was "just the right thing to do".
Alec Bailey told his other passengers he would take a detour to get her as close to the home as possible.
"When the woman said to me she hadn't seen her mum in a long time, it just hit my heart," he said.
"A lot of people have suffered this year and you've seen on the news, people not able to see their mother or their father in the homes and it just struck a chord with me.
"I just said to myself, I have to get this woman as close as I can to that home."
Read the full story here.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 18:14

Liverpool honours Army test centre troops


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About 2,000 troops were deployed to Liverpool in November

Army regiments that helped set up and run a mass coronavirus testing pilot in Liverpool are to be given the Freedom of the City - the city's the highest civic honour.
Around 2,000 troops were deployed to Liverpool in November, where they helped carry out 200,000 tests at almost 50 centres.
The city's coronavirus infection rates have since dropped from 680 cases per 100,000 people to fewer than 100.
It enabled the city region to move down from tier three to tier two when the national lockdown ended.
Brigadier Joe Fossey, commander of the 8th Engineer Brigade, which led the operation, said he was "extremely proud of what we have all achieved in such a short time and how warmly we have been received by all those in the city".
"To receive Liverpool's highest civic honour crowns an extraordinary six weeks for all of us and marks an important moment in the continuing fight against Covid-19," he added.
Read full story here.

Genes hold clues to why some Covid patients become seriously ill

A study of coronavirus patients in intensive care has found that some people become more susceptible to severe Covid-19 symptoms than others.
Scientists looked into the DNA of more than 2,200 patients in UK hospitals. They looked at each person’s genes, which contain the instructions for every biological process – including how to fight a virus.
Their genomes were then compared with those of healthy people to pinpoint any genetic differences.
The findings shed light on where the immune system goes wrong, which could help identify new treatments.
You can read more about the findings here
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 18:18

South Africa's top judge expected criticism over vaccine comments


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South Africa's top judge says he is unconcerned about criticism after a video showing him falsely suggesting that Covid-19 vaccines could alter people's DNA and insert satanic elements within them was widely shared online.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said he expected a backlash for the comments he made on Thursday at a prayer event.
He told reporters that he was concerned about a report he saw that suggested that the Covid-19 vaccine would be mandatory.
"It must be voluntary... You can't impose a vaccine on people. Why should you?" news site EWN quotes the judge as saying.
His opinion on Covid-19 vaccines has divided South Africans.
There have been concerns that rich countries may be buying up most of the newly developed vaccines, not leaving enough for countries in Africa, although both Nigeria and Uganda have said they have ordered millions of doses.


What are the current quarantine rules?


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From Saturday, most people returning from the Canary Islands will have to self-isolate upon entering the UK.
Quarantine restrictions now apply to the majority of those arriving in the UK - requiring people to isolate for 14 days (this changes to 10 days from Monday 14 December) .
From 15 December, however, travellers to England will be able to pay for a test that could cut the number of days further.
Our team has put together a guide on what the current quarantine rules are, who is exempt and where you can go without having to quarantine.
Read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 18:25

Ski resorts in Spain to reopen ahead of Christmas break

Ski resorts in Spain have announced that they will be opening ahead of the Christmas break despite concerns among European countries about the possible spread of infections.
Many resorts have delayed their opening due to the pandemic, but resorts in Catalonia are set to open on Monday 14 November, according to AFP news agency.
Special measures are in place in Spain's resorts, such as reduced capacity on lifts and in restaurants and bars.
Other countries such as France, Germany and Italy will keep its resorts closed over the Christmas period.
Italy, supported by Germany, wanted a European agreement to close all ski resorts over the holiday. However, ski resorts in countries including Spain, Switzerland and Austria all released plans to open.

Here's what happened around the world today


  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended emergency approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine . The drug still needs to be formally approved by the FDA’s vaccine chief, which is expected in the coming days
  • The global response to the pandemic has driven the biggest annual fall in CO2 emissions since World War Two, researchers say. According to the Global Carbon Project team, carbon emissions have declined by about 7% this year – or by 2.4 billion tonnes
  • China’s aviation regulator has recommended cabin crew wear disposable nappies and avoid using the toilet to cut the risk of Covid-19 infection. The regulator said the recommendation applied to charter flights to high-risk Covid-19 destinations
  • AstraZeneca has announced that it will begin recruiting people aged 18 and over for trials combining the AstraZeneca and Oxford University vaccine with Russia’s Sputnik V, produced by the Gamaleya Institute research facility in Moscow. The aim is to see if this helps to boost people’s immune response and improve protection from the virus
  • Greece will cut its quarantine time and reopen churches as part of its Christmas regulations. Travelers entering the country from 18 December until 7 January will have their mandatory quarantine reduced to three days and will be required to take a rapid antigen test at the airport and produce a negative report, according to local media. Churches will open on Christmas Day and Epiphany Day
  • Canada’s Public Health Agency has warned that Covid-19 is still spreading rapidly across the country. In projections released on Friday, the agency predicted at least 90,000 more cases by Christmas Day – but said this figure could reach 135,000.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Dec 11 2020, 18:28

The latest UK headlines

We're getting ready to wrap up for the day, and for the weekend. Here's what you need to know about the pandemic in the UK before we do:


Thanks for joining us

That's us done for the day.
Today's live page updates were written by Hazel Shearing, Alex Kleiderman and Sophie Williams.
The editors were Hamish Mackay and Mal Siret.
Our live coverage of the pandemic will be back on Monday morning.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 21:35