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Coronavirus - 15th December

Kitkat
Kitkat

Posts : 10085
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 09:42

Summary for Tuesday, 15th December

  • Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is to discuss festive rules with leaders of devolved nations, amid pressure to scrap the easing of restrictions
  • Two leading medical journals say the UK plan to ease Covid rules over Christmas is a "rash decision", which "will cost many lives"
  • No 10 says Christmas plans are under constant review but it still intends to allow people to meet
  • The Moderna vaccine has been found to be safe and 95% effective by regulators in the US
  • London's Greenwich council faces legal action from the government if it pursues a plan to move classes online
  • The council says changing plans that have already been put in place before Tuesday would be "impossible"
  • It comes as London, Essex and South Hertfordshire prepare to enter the highest level of restrictions on Wednesday
  • No 10 rejected suggestions it should review Christmas guidelines, but one minister said people should do "the minimum" they can
  • A new strain of the virus has been identified which may be linked to rising cases in south-east England
  • Meanwhile, redundancies in the UK rose to a record high of 370,000 in the three months to October amid the Covid crisis
  • US death toll from Covid rises above 300,000, as the country begins its long-awaited vaccine programme
  • And the Netherlands enters a strict five-week lockdown, with schools, non-essential shops and public venues closing


Welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK and around the world - it's Mary, Alex, Helier and Holly with you this morning.
If you’re just joining us, here is a quick round-up of the top headlines in the UK:

  • Millions more people in England will move into the toughest coronavirus restrictions after ministers warned that a new Covid-19 strain may be linked to a rise in infections. London, most of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire will join tier three at 00:01 GMT on Wednesday. Under tier three rules, pubs and restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery, and indoor entertainment venues such as theatres, bowling alleys and cinemas must remain shut
  • The government has threatened legal action against Greenwich Council , in south-east London, after it wrote to head teachers asking all schools to move classes online amid a rise in coronavirus cases. The Department for Education said if the Labour-led council did not withdraw its advice by later this morning, the government would seek an injunction at the High Court to keep schools open
  • Having to isolate because of Covid-19 is having a detrimental effect on children's education and well-being , England's chief inspector of schools has warned. Amanda Spielman says periods of repeated isolation have "chipped away" at progress since September's return. In a set of reports looking at the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on children, the Ofsted boss said: "Remote education is better than nothing, but it's no substitute for the classroom”
  • Redundancies rose to a record high of 370,000 in the three months to October as coronavirus continued to batter the UK economy, official statistics show. The unemployment rate rose to 4.9% for the same period, up from 4.8%, the Office for National Statistics said. Firms laid off more staff in anticipation of the end of the furlough scheme, which was originally supposed to finish in October, but has since been extended until March


Lockdown in the Netherlands and first US vaccination

Here are the latest developments around the world.

  • Dutch PM Mark Rutte has announced that the Netherlands will go into a strict lockdown for five weeks from 15 December until 19 January. All schools, non-essential shops and many other public venues and spaces will close. Citizens have been told to refrain from booking non-essential travel abroad until mid-March
  • South Africa has announced new restrictions to try to contain a second wave of Covid-19. President Cyril Ramaphosa said a sharp rise in new infections was a cause for great concern as he announced plans to close some beaches and limit mass gatherings over the holiday period
  • The first Covid-19 vaccination in the US has taken place , as the country gears up for its largest ever immunisation campaign
  • Kenya has ordered 24 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, reports say. The Kenyan government will spend 10bn Kenya shillings ($89m; £66m) for the vaccines


Latest in Europe: French lift lockdown as Dutch start theirs


  • The Dutch go into their strictest lockdown yet with non-essential shops, theatres, gyms and hairdressers shutting today until 19 January and schools closing tomorrow. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the 9,000 daily infections were like filling the Feyenoord football stadium in under six days.
  • France’s lockdown has ended but strict restrictions are still in place – there’s a curfew from 20:00 to 06:00 which will be lifted for Christmas. Theatres and cinemas stay shut.
  • The German government is pushing for Europe’s EMA medicines regulator to green-light the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine by 23 December, tabloid Bild reports. The DKG hospital association also wants it brought forward from the current 29 December deadline.
  • Italy’s daily death toll is still close to 500, so the government and its scientific advisers are considering a further tightening of measures over Christmas. A type of lockdown could come into place between Christmas night and New Year which PM Giuseppe Conte describes as a “new squeeze”.
  • Spain has seen a rebound in infections and top health official Fernando Simón has warned of a “delicate” situation ahead of Christmas.
  • The lord mayor of Copenhagen has spoken of a frightening increase in infection rates – with 786 infections per 100,000 people. That’s a fourfold rise in the past four weeks.
  • An outbreak at a Belgian care home is being blamed on a visit by a “superspreader” St Nicholas – 75 cases including staff and residents in Mol in Antwerp were reported after the man fell ill.


London council ordered to keep schools open

As we've reported, England's Department for Education has told the Labour-led council of Greenwich that it will seek an injunction at the High Court to enforce its powers to keep schools open - after the council told head teachers to switch to online learning from today given a surge in infections in London.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Using legal powers is a last resort but continuity of education is a national priority."
In Islington, north London, and Waltham Forest, east London, schools were also asked to move lessons online from the end of Tuesday.
It comes as London is due to move into tier three restrictions from Wednesday .
Under tier three rules, schools can remain open, but pubs and restaurants must close, except for takeaway and delivery, and indoor entertainment venues such as theatres, bowling alleys and cinemas must remain shut.

Keeping schools open ‘right thing to do’ – Ofsted boss

Keeping schools open is the “right thing to do” to protect children’s long-term education and well-being, England’s chief inspector of schools has said.
Amanda Spielman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that keeping schools open was preferable over taking "short term decisions to close”.
As we've been reporting, the government has given Greenwich council in south-east London until 10:00 GMT to withdraw its advice to schools to teach online for the rest of the week, before the Christmas break.
The Ofsted boss said it was a “really difficult situation” where people were having to “weigh up short term concerns about health risks and long term concerns about children’s education”.
Speaking as Ofsted unveiled a set of reports into the effects of the pandemic on children , Spielman said: “We’ve had children yo-yoing in and out of school throughout the autumn and really suffering as a result. We need clarity and consistency, not last minute decisions.”

People should do the 'minimum' over Christmas to stay safe - minister

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay says the relaxation in coronavirus restrictions over the Christmas period should not be "misinterpreted" and that people should do "the minimum" they can in order to stay safe.
He told BBC Breakfast: "It's not that the restrictions are being lifted in their entirety - we're not going from tier three to some sort of tier zero.
"What we're saying, in a limited sense, is that many families who have not been together all year, who will want to see each other, three households can come together for that Christmas period.
"It's not that all restrictions are being lifted."
Barclay acknowledged that it had been a "very difficult" year for families and that many would want to meet up to celebrate together.
He added: "We've got to trust the British people to act responsibly and do the minimum that is possible for them in their family situation."
The government has said that it "has no plans to review the Christmas guidelines" , while scientists warn the easing could cause a spike in infections.

New coronavirus 'variant' identified

A new variant of coronavirus has been found - and it is growing faster in some parts of England.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at least 60 different local authorities had recorded Covid infections caused by the new variant.
The World Health Organization has been notified and UK scientists are doing detailed studies - but Hancock said there was "nothing to suggest" it caused worse disease or that vaccines would no longer work.
Over the last week there have been sharp, exponential rises in coronavirus infections across London, Kent, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire.
"We've currently identified over 1,000 cases with this variant predominantly in the south of England although cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas," Hancock said.
Read more about the new variant here.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 11:24

Breaking News

UK nears 80,000 excess deaths

Robert Cuffe - BBC head of statistics
A further 1,820 excess deaths in the UK in the week ending 4 December brings the total excess deaths seen since the pandemic started near to - but not past - 80,000.
Covid deaths fell in this week, as did the excess deaths.
The total number of deaths was basically flat (down from 14,106).
The number of deaths registered in the UK in the week ending 4 December 2020 was 13,956.
That was 1,820 deaths higher than the five-year average.
Of the deaths registered in the UK in Week 49, 3,160 deaths involved Covid-19, 211 deaths fewer than in Week 48.

Tuesday's front pages: 'Is Christmas in jeopardy?'


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The new variant of the virus and the capital going into the top level of restrictions dominate today's newspapers.
Will the rise in coronavirus cases in the south of England put "Christmas in jeopardy?" asks the Daily Mail in its front-page headline.
Urgent talks are said to be taking place in Whitehall, with one source telling the Mail the rules could change - a suggestion dismissed by Downing Street.
The i's front-page headline also suggests the prime minister is being urged to rethink the three-household Christmas bubbles.
Other papers focus on the new coronavirus strain - dubbed "Mutant Covid" by the Metro - and which is causing what the Sun calls the "nightmare before Christmas".
You can read the rest of our paper review here.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 11:31

Desperation for 'unproven' Covid-19 treatment

Vikas Pandey - BBC News, Delhi
Desperate calls for blood plasma to treat Covid-19 patients continue to appear on India's social media platforms even as doctors have mixed views about the experimental therapy.
When people have Covid-19 or other viral diseases, their immune system responds by creating antibodies, which attack the virus. Over time, the antibodies build up and can be found in plasma - the liquid portion of the blood.
India's health authorities, like many around the world, have allowed the use of plasma to treat severely ill patients as Covid-19 continues to claim lives. The therapy also requires the consent of patients and their families.
But doctors and researchers remain divided over its efficacy. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recently warned against its indiscriminate use.
Read more here.

Greenwich schools closure deadline passes

We are waiting for further developments after the government gave Greenwich council in south-east London until 10:00 GMT to withdraw its advice to schools to teach online for the rest of the week , before the Christmas break.
The leader of the borough council wrote to all head teachers in the area on Sunday, advising them to shut from this evening and citing an "extreme risk" from a surge in coronavirus cases.
The education secretary said using legal powers was a last resort but added that continuity of education was a national priority.
This morning, the council doubled down on its position, issuing a new statement saying it had made the decision based on public health information. The council said Greenwich was currently seeing the highest rates of coronavirus since March.
Two other councils have since followed suit.
Ofsted said it was right to keep schools open as children were "suffering" from "yo-yoing in and out of school".

Government should review Christmas easing of Covid rules - Khan


Coronavirus - 15th December E0e1b110

We've also been hearing from London mayor Sadiq Khan, who has called on the government to look again at the five-day easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas .
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We heard from [Health Secretary] Matt Hancock yesterday that it appears the government is looking at this again. I would encourage them to do so if they are.
"The concern is this - the rules have been relaxed for five days, allowing household mixing for up to three different households and inevitably when people are in their own households, they tend to be less vigilant.
"And my concern is that many people may have the virus and not realise it. They could pass the virus on to older relations."
Asked if Greenwich council should “defy” the government’s order to keep schools open, Khan said: “No. I think what should happen is the Department for Education should look at the evidence and provide urgent clarity and guidance.
He added that schools that have community testing and are Covid-safe can provide a secure environment for pupils and staff, but his concern was that in "too many schools that haven’t got mass testing... the virus is spreading really fast” between children and teachers, but also from children to their parents "who could give it to grandparents next week when the restrictions are lifted even more”.
Khan continued that Greenwich council should "get around the table" with the Department of Education to "avoid court action and provide clarity to their parents and children who urgently need it".
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 11:35

Canada kicks off vaccination campaign

As we reported earlier, the first Covid-19 vaccination has taken place in the US, but Canada was another country which also saw its first vaccination on Monday.
It kicked off its campaign by targeting front-line healthcare workers and elderly nursing home residents first.
"It's a great relief. Clearly, it may only be the beginning of the end, but we sense nevertheless that there will be an end to this pandemic," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He said he would not be pushing to have his shot immediately.
Canada is the latest nation in the world to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine alongside the US and the UK.
Read more: How does the Pfizer vaccine work?


Breaking News

Medical journals call for tightening of Christmas Covid rules

The British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal have issued a joint call for Christmas guidelines to be tightened to avoid excessive pressure building on the NHS.
At Christmas, coronavirus restrictions across the UK are to be eased over a five-day period from 23 to 27 December, which will allow three households in a "Christmas bubble" to mix indoors and stay overnight.
But in a joint editorial authored by HSJ editor Alastair McLellan and BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee, they say the plans are a "another major error that will cost many lives".
They write: "Members of the public can and should mitigate the impact of the third wave by being as careful as possible over the next few months. But many will see the lifting of restrictions over Christmas as permission to drop their guard."
The medical journals called the Christmas easing of Covid restrictions was a "rash decision", adding: "We believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives."
They added: “With the number of hospital patients with Covid-19 again on the rise, and a third wave almost inevitable, the new year is likely to see NHS trusts facing a stark choice: be overwhelmed or stop most elective and non-urgent work.
"Rather than lifting restrictions over Christmas as currently planned, the UK should follow the more cautious examples of Germany , Italy and the Netherlands.”
These countries have limited household mixing to a very few visits over two or three days .

Breaking News 

Greenwich council will keep schools open

Greenwich council has said it will comply with the Department of Education's request for schools to reopen, after the government threatened it with legal action .
The government had given the Labour-led council in south-east London until 10:00 GMT to withdraw its advice to schools to teach online for the rest of the week , before the Christmas break.
The leader of Greenwich council has said he has "no choice" but to ask schools to remain open following threats of legal action from the government.
In a statement, Cllr Danny Thorpe said: "Yesterday the council received a directive from the government that schools in the borough must remain fully open until the end of term.
"With COVID-19 cases rising rapidly in the borough, I cannot agree that this is the correct choice for our schools.
"However, I also cannot justify the use of public funds to fight the decision in the courts.
"Consequently, I have no choice but to ask our schools to keep their doors open to all students rather than just continuing with online learning."
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 11:42

Vaccinations under way in GP surgeries in England

GPs have begun giving Covid vaccinations to patients from their surgeries in England as part of the next stage of the rollout of the programme.
GP practices in more than 100 locations received their first deliveries of the vaccine on Monday, the NHS said.
Some began vaccinating yesterday afternoon, with the majority getting under way today.
Tens of thousands of people in the UK received the Pfizer-BioNTech jab last week in hospitals.
Like last week, GP practices are prioritising over-80s, along with health and care staff.


'Quarter of US reluctant to get vaccinated'

As we reported earlier, a massive coronavirus vaccination effort is under way in the US, with vaccine shipments sent to all 50 states and territories.
Healthcare workers were the first Americans to get the jab on Monday morning.
However, according to a new survey , a quarter of people in the US say they probably or definitely do not want to get vaccinated, even if it is free and recommended by scientists.
Republicans, those aged 30-49, rural residents, and Black adults are more likely to be hesitant about the vaccine, the survey by the KFF, a non-profit focused on health issues, found.
Reasons included concerns over possible side effects, fears the vaccine is too new, and a lack of trust in the government to ensure the vaccine's safety, KFF added.
The BBC's James Gallagher has looked into vaccine safety and what you need to know about it .

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 11:47

High UK death rate 'may be starting to fall'


Coronavirus - 15th December 5d572d10

As we mentioned earlier, in the week ending 4 December, there were 13,956 deaths in the UK - 15% above the five-year average. But that is down on the previous week when deaths were 20% higher.
Just over 3,100 of the deaths involved Covid - down by 200 on the week before. It brings the total excess deaths seen since the pandemic started close to 80,000.
People dying from Covid in this period are likely to have caught the infection in the first half of November after cases peaked.
Since then cases continued to drop, before starting to climb again over the last week or so, particularly in the South East, which prompted the government to move London and some surrounding areas into tier three.
That suggests the next few weeks could see Covid deaths going down and then up again in the coming weeks.
Read the full story here.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 11:51

South Africa tightens restrictions to curb second wave

South Africa has announced new restrictions to try to contain a second wave of Covid-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said a sharp rise in new infections was a cause for great concern as he announced plans to close some beaches and limit mass gatherings over the holiday period.
The nation’s teenagers are being blamed for fuelling a second wave of infections with crowded, drunken parties.
President Ramaphosa said nearly 1,000 young people had tested positive for the coronavirus after just one day-long beach party.
In response, he said, beaches in several provinces - but not those around Cape Town - would be shut during the holidays.
A longer curfew from 23:00 (21:00 GMT) to 04:00 (02:00 GMT) would also come into force.
Numbers at social gatherings will be capped at 100 people per indoor event, and 250 people at an outdoor event. All post-funeral gatherings will be prohibited.
Alcohol sales will now only be allowed between 10:00 and 18:00 from Monday to Thursday.
Mr Ramaphosa warned the second wave could prove deadlier than the first, if people failed to behave responsibly.
But the government is reluctant to take tougher steps that could further threaten the country’s precarious economy.
Read more:



Singapore relaxes business travel rules

Singapore is to allow a limited number of business travellers and visiting officials from other countries to enter from next month.
The new scheme marks a significant easing of travel restrictions into the city-state.
On Monday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the country had no choice but to ease restrictions: "Trade and travel are our lifeblood."
"The longer our own borders stay closed to travellers, the greater the risk of us permanently losing out as an international hub, consequently hurting our livelihoods."
There had been plans to open a travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong, but those are currently postponed because of an increase in cases in Hong Kong. They are due to reassess their plans at the end of the month.
Read more about Singapore and the pandemic:
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 12:46

South Africa restrictions draw mixed reaction

Pumza Fihlani - BBC News, Johannesburg
South Africans are in for a holiday season like no other.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said beaches would be closed in one of the infection hotspots, the Eastern cape from 16 December to 3rd January, to help curb the spread of the disease there.
During this period, hundreds of thousands of South Africans typically gather at the country’s beaches, and officials are concerned that these gatherings would become so-called “super spreaders”.
Mr Ramaphosa made an impassioned plea to South Africans to continue to follow prevention measures such as the wearing of masks in public and practicing social distancing, adding that the country’s health system had taken a battering over the last few months and citizens needed to proactive in protecting themselves and each other.
The regulations have been met with mixed reaction - while some have welcomed the measures as a sign of the times, other including many businesses are concerned about the impact of the restrictions on the local tourism industry during what would normally be the busiest time of the year.
Those in the industry had been hoping to use this time to try and recoup some of the year’s losses and help get the economy going again.

London's tier 3 move shows system 'not working', says MP

Conservative MP Steve Baker - leader of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown sceptics - has said London's move to the highest level of restrictions - tier three - shows the PM's strategy to combat Covid "clearly isn't working".
"If it was, we would today be talking about areas moving down the tiers, or developing an exit strategy from repeated lockdowns," he said, and called for an end to the "devastating cycle of repeated restrictions and lockdowns".
However, other MPs feel the issue is that London was not placed under England's toughest measures sooner.
Cat Smith - Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood - tweeted: "It’s almost as if London should have been put into Tier 3 at the end of national lockdown 2... you know, when many London boroughs had higher infection rates than what we had in North Lancashire."

Italy PM says country needs new restrictions to avoid third wave

The Guardian
Italy’s government will need to impose new restrictions during the holiday season to rein in contagion and avoid a third, devastating wave of the coronavirus, the prime minister said in an interview published on Tuesday.
“Further, new restrictions are now needed … we must avert at all costs a third wave, because this would be devastating, also from the point of view of the loss of lives,” Giuseppe Conte told La Stampa.
Conte’s coalition government is considering more stringent nationwide rules for the Christmas and new year holidays after crowds flocked to city centres over the weekend just after Rome had relaxed some restrictions put in place last month.
Italy is the European nation with the worst death toll, with more than 65,000 people dying since the outbreak in February.

Conte said a vaccination campaign would have to target 10-15 million people in order to “have an effective impact on immunity”, and that such a goal would be reached by the end of the spring or before the summer at the latest.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 13:30

Man who rode jetski from Scotland to Isle of Man to see girlfriend jailed for Covid breach

A Scottish man has reportedly been jailed for breaching coronavirus rules after he rode a jetski from Scotland to the Isle of Man to see his girlfriend.
Dale McLaughlan, 28, from North Ayrshire, met his girlfriend in September while working as a roofer on the Isle of Man, the BBC reported.
On Friday, determined to see her despite coronavirus rules banning non-residents from entering the island without special permission, he made the four-and-a-half-hour journey by jetski despite never having driven a personal watercraft before. He had expected the journey to take 40 minutes, prosecutors said:
Read more

Russia reports 26,689 new cases

Russia on Tuesday reported 26,689 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, including 5,418 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 2,707,945. Authorities said 577 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 47,968.

Germany pressuring EU authorities to speed up vaccine approval

Germany is pressuring EU authorities to speed up the approval of a coronavirus vaccine as it battles a surge in infections and Britain and the US begin mass inoculations, reports have said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and Germany’s health ministry want the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to bring forward the approval date for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 23 December from 29 December, German newspaper Bild said, citing unnamed sources.
The delay in approval was raising questions over “the European Union’s ability to act”, Bild quoted a source as saying.
Berlin’s irritation is more acute as BioNTech is a German firm and the country is preparing to go into partial lockdown from Wednesday, with non-essential shops and schools to close.

European medical watchdog set to issue positive verdict on Pfizer vaccine

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is set to issue a positive verdict on the first Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine on 23 December, a German government source told Reuters on Tuesday, putting EU countries on track to catch up with the United States and Britain, where immunisation campaigns are underway.
“Yes, the EMA will be done on 23 December,” the source said, referring to the watchdog’s review of the vaccine.
Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn also told a news conference that he hoped European Union approval for the vaccine would be in place before Christmas, clearing a path for inoculations before the end of the year.
The EMA said in early December it planned to issue its view on the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine by 29 December, and on the Moderna vaccine by mid-January.
The Pfizer vaccine is already being rolled out in countries including the United States, Britain and Canada, following positive verdicts by regulators there.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 13:36

Tokyo Olympics torch relay to go ahead as planned


Coronavirus - 15th December 3d218510
The Tokyo Skytree is illuminated with the colour of the Olympic torch to mark 100 days until the torch relay starts

The organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have confirmed that they will go ahead with a nationwide, socially distanced torch relay.
The Olympic flame will still visit all of Japan's 47 prefectures during the relay which is due to begin in March next year, despite the ongoing pandemic which led to this year's games being postponed.
Officials believe it can still be held safely. "We want to make sure that everyone's health is secure - the spectators, the torchbearers, the officials and the citizens in the local areas," said Tokyo Games Vice-Director General Yukihiko Nunomura.
"We want the runners to smile, and we want the spectators to smile as they welcome the torch. We want to generate excitement so that people really feel that the Tokyo Olympics are coming."
The Tokyo Games were originally due to start in July, but were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Read more about the Tokyo Olympics:



School attendance slumped to 77% in some English regions

Hannah Richardson - BBC News education and social affairs reporter
School attendance plummeted after half term in England, with rates as low as 77% in one region, newly published data reveals.
The Department for Education statistics shows how the spread of the coronavirus pandemic around the country has hit education in every region this term.
The West Midlands - where attendance fell to a low point of 77% - Yorkshire and the North East took the biggest hit, before starting to recover in late November.
Now schools in London and the South East are on a downward trajectory.
Attendance in all state schools started off well at the beginning of term, with a rate of around 88%. It rose slightly over the next month, then dipped to about 83% in mid-November, before beginning to climb again.
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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 15 2020, 16:45

Hong Kong: Vaccines face 'malicious rumours' and controversy

Lam Cho Wai - BBC Chinese
Hong Kong has secured 15 million shots of the Covid-19 vaccines and will start mass vaccinations next month.
The city of seven million is battling its forth wave of the pandemic, reporting more than 1,400 cases since 1 December. Schools are closed and restaurants cannot offer dine-in services after 6pm - so some see vaccines as their key to resuming normal life.
The vaccines will be offered by two mainland Chinese firms: Sinovac Biotech and Fosun Pharma, which have collaborated with Germany’s BioNTech.
Hong Kong has seen growing distrust in the government and increased anti-mainland sentiment since large anti-government protests last year. Some netizens have been calling for the boycott of Chinese-made vaccines.
Some local experts have also raised concerns about the safety of Sinovac vaccines, which are still under the last stage of clinical trials.
Dr Arisina Ma Chung-yee, president of the Public Doctors’ Association, questioned whether political considerations were involved in picking vaccines made or distributed by mainland Chinese firms.
Carrie Lam, the city’s Chief Executive, denied such accusations on Tuesday and said that the procurement of vaccines was based only on prevailing scientific evidence.
She criticised what she called the "malicious spreading of rumours" and "people stigmatising and politicising the vaccine procurement".
Read more:


13:10

'Intention' to allow Christmas gathering 'remains' - No10

"intention" to allow up to three households to mix over the Christmas period, Downing Street has said, after two leading medical journals said the plan was "rash" and would "cost many lives".
The prime minister's official spokesman said data would be kept "under constant review" but that the government wanted to "give families and friends the option to meet up".
He told a Westminster briefing: "As we always have done throughout the pandemic, we keep that under constant review but our intention to allow families and friends to meet up over the Christmas period remains."
The spokesman said he was "not aware of any calls" between Boris Johnson and the leaders of the devolved nations about reviewing the UK-wide Christmas plan.
Downing Street also declined to give a cut off date after which people could be confident the Christmas arrangements are no longer under review.

Labour calls for review of Christmas rules

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has joined the calls for the prime minister to review the Covid measures in place for Christmas, after two leading medical journals said they would "cost many lives".
At the end of November, leaders of the four UK nations agreed to allow some coronavirus rules to be temporarily relaxed over the festive period.
Travel restrictions will be eased to allow up to three households to form a bubble and stay overnight at each other's homes from 23 to 27 December.
But after a rise in cases in the South East, Sir Keir said: “I understand that people want to spend time with their families after this awful year, but the situation has clearly taken a turn for the worse since the decision about Christmas was taken. It serves no-one for politicians to ignore this fact.
“It is my view that you should now convene Cobra in the next 24 hours to review whether the current relaxation is appropriate given the rising number of cases.”
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England offers to help Covid-hit Welsh hospitals

UK ministers have written to Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford to offer "mutual aid" in England if Welsh hospitals become unable to treat non-Covid patients.
It could see coronavirus patients being moved to hospitals in England to ease the pressure on Welsh hospitals.
Two Welsh health boards have suspended some non-urgent care in response to increased coronavirus cases.
Wales is already in breach of some key indicators used to determine future lockdowns, including current coronavirus case rates and the rate of positive tests.
Concerns over hospital capacity is also a key indicator for Wales' new alert level four - which would introduce restrictions equivalent to a lockdown.
Read the full story.

13:25

Gove to call devolved nations over Christmas plans


A government source has told the BBC that Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove will hold a call with the devolved nations this afternoon about the plans to ease coronavirus restrictions over Christmas.
It comes as ministers are under pressure to change course, with two medical journals warning that any relaxation of rules would be a "major error" that would lead to many deaths.
The prime minister's spokesperson said this lunchtime that the government still intends to relax the measures from 23 December but stressed that the guidance was being kept "under constant review".

Hospital Covid cases could be back to April peak by 1 January - BMJ editor

The World at One - BBC Radio 4
Earlier, the Health Service Journal and British Medical Journal said people might see the lifting of Christmas restrictions "as permission to drop their guard" - and that could reuslt in "many lives" being lost.
They are calling for a rethink of the rules that would permit households to gather for Christmas
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World at One, the editor of the BMJ - Fiona Godlee - said it was "obviously a very difficult decision" for the government but "the data are not helping them".
"They would like to have seen hospital admissions and cases and deaths going down, sadly the data show the opposite," she said.
"What we will see, even on the current trend if nothing is done, by New Year's Day, there will be as many people in hospital with Covid-19 as there were at the peak of the first phase in April."
She added: "That's even without the Christmas relaxations."
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Tiers need to be kept over Christmas, and strengthened - BMJ editor

The World at One -BBC Radio 4
A bit more from BMJ editor Fiona Godlee now, who tells the BBC the combination of the rising Covid-19 cases and the usual winter pressures on the NHS would mean "a worrying scenario" of people "not being able to get the care they need, whether they are Covid patients, or patients with other conditions".
The BMJ is calling for a rethink of Christmas rules that would see people across the UK being allowed to meet up indoors between 23-27 December.
Asked whether another week of tight restrictions would work as a "trade-off" to allow people to meet indoors over Christmas, Godlee said that "sadly" the tiered system had not succeeded in supressing the virus in some areas.
Not only should the tiers be maintained throughout Christmas, but they should be strengthened, Godlee added.

Breaking News 

FDA finds Moderna vaccine safe

The US' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says it has found Moderna's vaccine to be safe and 95% effective.
The move clears the way for US emergency authorisation.
Read more here.

Poland urges Christmas caution and outlines vaccine strategy

Adam Easton - Warsaw Correspondent
Poland’s Health Minister Adam Niedzielski has said people should stay at home for Christmas, New Year and the winter holiday that ends in mid-January to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking at a news conference following the government’s adoption of a national vaccination programme, Niedzielski said a third wave of the pandemic was a real risk for Poland.
Under the current rules, families can invite a maximum of five people from other households for Christmas.
The government has already reserved around 3bn zloty ($820m, £610m) for the programme, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the news conference.
He said the government had bought 60 million doses of the vaccine from six suppliers. People will start receiving the vaccination in January. The procedure will be voluntary and free of charge.
The first to receive it will be healthcare workers, the uniformed services and senior citizens.
Mr Niedzielski said the most important and biggest challenge facing the government was to convince enough Poles to have the vaccination.
Two opinion polls this month found that close to half of people were thinking of not having the vaccination, with many expressing concerns about side effects.
Niedzielski said an information line would operate from Wednesday to clear up people’s doubts about the vaccine. Poland has recorded a total of 1,147,446 cases and 23,309 deaths from the virus.
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UK lunchtime round-up

It’s been a busy day, so if you’re just getting the chance to catch up, here’s a summary of the latest developments:


Ministers should listen 'very carefully' to calls for Christmas review

Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary and chair of the health select committee, said it is "encouraging" that Downing Street has said it is keeping the planned relaxation of rules over Christmas under review.
He told BBC Radio 4's The World At One that ministers needed to listen "very, very carefully" to the two medical journals which warned easing the rules would lead to more deaths.
January is "always the nightmare period" for the NHS and having the same number of beds taken up by Covid patients as the UK did at the peak of the pandemic in spring would be a "very, very precarious situation", Hunt warned.
He questioned whether the country wanted the NHS focused on dealing with the pressures of surging numbers of Covid patients, "or do we want them to focus on giving out vaccines which is the number one priority?"
"I don’t think we should criticise people for changing their minds in a pandemic as the data change," Hunt added.

Drakeford: 'Grim choice' for governments over Christmas rules

Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford says the four nations' approach to Christmas is a "hard-won agreement" and he will "not lightly put it aside", amid mounting pressure on the UK government to review its plan to ease Covid rules.
Drakeford told the Welsh Parliament that "no doubt this issue will be discussed" when he talks to Michael Gove and the other devolved nations later.
"The choice is a grim one, isn't it," he said. "I have read in my own email account over the last couple of days heart-rending pleas from people not to reverse what we have agreed for Christmas.
"People who live entirely alone, who have made arrangements to be with people for the first time - they say to me that this is the only thing that they have been able to look forward to in recent weeks.
"And yet we know, if people do not use the modest amount of additional freedom available responsibly, then we will see an impact of that on our already hard-pressed health service.
"So I think the choice is an incredibly difficult one. At the moment we have a four-nation agreement. I will discuss that later today, we will look at the figures again together."
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Sri Lanka 'hopes to bury Covid victims in Maldives'

Maryam Azwer - BBC Monitoring
The Maldives says it has received a request from Sri Lanka to have Muslim Covid-19 victims buried on its soil .
This comes because current regulations in Sri Lanka stipulate that all Covid-19 victims need to be cremated on the grounds that burials could pose a threat of groundwater contamination. However, this has been widely challenged by rights activists, and the Muslim community, who say it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
There have been widespread calls from opposition politicians and rights groups to allow burials of Muslim Covid-19 victims in Sri Lanka.
The Maldives says it is considering the “special request” from Sri Lanka’s president, based on "close longstanding bilateral ties" between the two countries.
The assistance “will also offer solace to Sri Lankan Muslim brothers and sisters grieving over burial of loved ones”, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said in a tweet.
However, politicians in the two countries have criticised the request, and the Sri Lanka cabinet has said it doesn't know anything about the request.
Former Maldivian president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom tweeted that he "cannot support" the burial of foreign Covid-19 victims in the Maldives while Sri Lanka’s former foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera also tweeted that Sri Lankans "must have the right to carry out the last rites according to their respective beliefs on the soil they were born and bred."
Sri Lanka is currently experiencing its second wave of Covid-19, and has reported 9,015 active cases out of a total 33,478, while 154 deaths have been recorded.
Meanwhile, the Maldives has recorded a total 13,379 cases, including 593 active cases and 48 deaths,

How will the UK vaccinate millions of people?

The UK has begun the mass rollout of a vaccine against Covid-19, aiming to inoculate tens of millions of people within months.
With the military called on to help and sports stadiums and conference centres being converted to temporary vaccination centres, what does it take to deliver the biggest such programme the country has ever seen?
Here, the BBC's visual journalism team has taken an in-depth look at the vaccine's journey from continental Europe to the arms of Britons
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Restrictions to tighten in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and East Lothian

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and East Lothian will move to level three of the nation's coronavirus restrictions.
It means they face a ban on alcohol sales in hospitality venues, premises must close at 18:00, all other leisure and entertainment venues are closed and there are restrictions on travelling out of the area unless it is for essential purposes.
Both East Lothian and Aberdeen City had seen cases rise by 50%, Sturgeon said.
She said the changes were "essential to get and keep the virus under control".

Nine cases of Covid-19 variant in Scotland - Sturgeon

Referring to the new variant of coronavirus identified in parts of England , Ms Sturgeon says that nine cases of this new variant have been identified in Scotland.
All of these were in the Greater Glasgow & Clyde area.
The first minister stresses there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that this new variant is likely to cause more serious illness in people.
Ms Sturgeon added: "While the initial analysis of it suggests that it may be more transmissible, with a faster growth rate than existing variants, that is not yet certain.
"It may instead be the case that it has been identified in areas where the virus is already spreading more rapidly."

Four nations to consider if Christmas plans should change

Scotland's first minister said that the call between Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the devolved nations this afternoon was at Scotland's request.
Sturgeon said they would be "considering whether there should be any change in the Christmas plans".
She has previously warned people to "think really carefully" before gathering indoors at Christmas when the rules are eased, due to the risk of transmitting the virus.
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Police dog tests positive in Hong Kong

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst

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14 police dogs in Hong Kong were tested (file photo) after airport officers tested positive

Hong Kong media today say that a police dog is to be sent to an animal quarantine centre after oral samples from the dog tested positive for Covid-19.
According to the South China Morning Post, the dog is a German shepherd that works with police officers covering airport security. It was tested along with 13 other police dogs after six police officers covering Hong Kong’s airport district tested positive for the virus.
There have been multiple cases since the beginning of the year in Hong Kong of dogs receiving oral samples and testing positive. In each instance, they have been linked to their owner or handler.
However, no symptoms have yet been observed in any dog on the island, and media have not ruled out the possibility that the dogs may have simply picked up the virus via a contaminated surface.
Back in February, a 17-year-old Pomeranian made headlines internationally after it tested “weak-positive”. The dog was thought at the time to be the first case of human-to-animal transmission of Covid-19.
However, no symptoms were observed, and at the time, the WHO said there was no evidence suggesting dogs or cats could be infected with the coronavirus.
Nevertheless, the Pomeranian’s subsequent death – the cause of which has never been determined but is widely thought to be old age - led to the island’s authorities warning pet owners against kissing their pets.

What's happening in the rest of the world?

It's also been busy in the rest of the world, so here are the latest global developments:

  • The Moderna vaccine has been found to be safe and 95% effective by regulators in the US , clearing the way for US emergency authorisation
  • The US death toll has risen above 300,000, as the country's vaccine programme gets under way
  • The Netherlands has begun a strict five-week lockdown ahead of Christmas, with schools, non-essential shops and public venues closing. Many European countries have been tightening restrictions ahead of Christmas
  • The European Medicines Agency has said it now plans to hold a meeting to discuss the authorisation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the EU earlier than planned, on 21 December
  • South Africa has announced new restrictions to try to contain a second wave of Covid-19. President Cyril Ramaphosa said a sharp rise in new infections was a cause for great concern
  • Singapore has said it will allow a limited number of business travellers and visiting officials from other countries to enter from next month, in a significant easing of travel restrictions
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Ireland hopeful over vaccine rollout

A Covid vaccine should be available to anyone who wants to get one in Ireland by the middle of next year, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said.
After Ireland's government approved a plan for the vaccine rollout, Coveney told national broadcaster RTE: "I think certainly by the middle of next year, we will be very hopeful that the vaccine will be available for anyone who wants it."
Once the EU's drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), has approved the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, Coveney said vaccinations in Ireland should be able to start seven to 10 days later.
The EMA has brought forward a decision on the vaccine to 21 December, meaning vaccinations could start in Ireland before the end of the year.

'Applying for 300 jobs was disheartening'

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All day on BBC Radio 5 live, listeners are sharing their stories about Covid .
Two young women have told presenter Rachel Burden how it felt to start claiming universal credit for the first time during the pandemic.
Although there has been a widespread increase in the number of people claiming benefits since the start of the pandemic, women under 30 have been particularly hard-hit .
Danielle Owen, aged 27, from Swindon, was furloughed from her recruitment job at an international company, and was eventually made redundant in July.
She receives £408 per month in Universal Credit, which leaves her with £7 spare after paying her mortgage.
Danielle is paying for bills and food using her redundancy pay-out until she starts in a new role next year. Before that, she had written more than 300 job applications.
"There was so many people applying for them that three quarters of them, I never heard back from. It was very disheartening," she said.
Rosalyn is 23 and lives in north London. She was an actor and a front-of-house theatre worker when Covid hit.
"I remember getting an email from my boss saying, 'That's it, there's no more shifts.'
"I wasn't entitled to furlough either," she said.
It took about two months for Rosalyn's Universal Credit to come through. She said it was "definitely" a low time: "Sitting, twiddling your thumbs, waiting to be able to pay your rent".
Listen live on BBC Sounds or join the debate on social media #MyCovidYear
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Biden and Harris 'should get vaccinated ASAP'


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US President-elect Joe Biden (right) and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris

US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris should be vaccinated as soon as possible "for security reasons", America's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said.
"You want him [Biden] fully protected as he enters into the presidency in January,” Dr Fauci told ABC News.
And he added that outgoing President Donald Trump, who was treated for Covid back in October, should also get the jabs to be "doubly sure", although he may still have antibodies.
“You still want to protect people who are very important to our country right now,” Dr Fauci said.

Who are you allowed to see at Christmas?

Eleanor Lawrie - BBC News
As we know, coronavirus restrictions are to be eased over the festive period to allow people to travel anywhere in the UK - no matter what tier they are in - to form "Christmas bubbles" of three households over a five-day period.
But health experts have urged people to think carefully about who they mix with, amid fears more mixing could cost lives.

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Earlier, two leading medical journals - The Health Service Journal and British Medical Journal - said easing the rules was a "rash decision" that would "cost many lives" .
Several scientists and health advisers have also cautioned the public about the risks.
"Even though we're permitted to do this, I think people have to think very carefully whether they can see loved ones outside or do it in a very, very modest way," public health expert Prof Linda Bauld said.
Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, agrees that it's not just about sticking to the rules, but considering the risk we are causing others.
"Extra social contact over Christmas - particularly with those who are vulnerable to the virus - actually is very risky," he says.
No 10 said the rules were "under constant review" but it still intended to allow families to meet up.
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Breaking News

UK reports another 506 deaths

The UK government has reported another 18,450 daily cases of coronavirus.
It has also announced a further 506 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, taking the total number by that measure to 64,908.

Clashes in Ukraine leave 40 police officers injured


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Injuries were reported on both sides during the clashes

Riot police in Ukraine have fired tear gas to try to disperse thousands of people in the capital Kyiv protesting against stricter lockdown measures.
About 40 police officers were injured in clashes with small business owners and activists on the Independence Square in the heart of the city, police said in a statement (in Ukrainian).
It said the officers suffered chemical burns to the eyes after some in the crowds also used tear gas.
Injuries were also reported among the protesters, who had tried to set up tents to camp overnight.
They are angered over a recent move by the Ukrainian authorities to impose additional lockdown restrictions and taxes for small business owners.
Between 8-24 January, all non-essential businesses will be shut across the country.
Ukraine has reported more than 900,000 confirmed infections since the outbreak began, with over 15,000 deaths.
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'It's a mess' - Londoners on tier 3 restrictions and Christmas

As London prepares for tougher coronavirus restrictions from tomorrow, Christmas shoppers give their verdict on the change.
"I don't plan on changing anything at all," one man told the BBC. Another woman said: "It's a mess, they don't know what they're doing, we don't know what we're doing."
Few said they planned to make any changes to their Christmas arrangements, with the rules on households mixing due to be relaxed for five days from 23 December.
"Christmas is about family, it's about friends," said one woman.

Healthy Americans 'could get vaccines by April'

Healthy Americans without underlying conditions could get the vaccine by the end of March or in early April, according to US infectious disease chief Dr Anthony Fauci.
Dr Fauci, who has become the face of the US response to the pandemic, told MSNBC he hopes the country will have herd immunity by spring or early summer, but that depends on the "efficiency of the rollout".
"By the time we get to the fall, we can start approaching some degree of relief where the level of infection will be so low in society we can start essentially approaching some form of normality," Dr Fauci said.
He also added that as soon as it's his turn to get the vaccine, he'll do so publicly, "so that people can see that I feel strongly that this is something we should do".
Read more: Second Covid vaccine nears US approval
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Belgium warns Nederlanders against 'cross-border shopping'

As we mentioned earlier, the Netherlands has started a strict five-week lockdown, with schools, non-essential shops and public venues closing.
It has left its neighbour Belgium a bit nervous - with towns near the border expecting a possible rush of Dutch shoppers scrambling to get their Christmas shopping done.
Belgian leader Alexander De Croo spoke to Dutch PM Mark Rutte on Tuesday, stressing that recreational shopping is “forbidden” in his country, Brussels Times reports .
The Netherlands has also reminded its citizens not to cross the border unless absolutely necessary.
There are reports that the coastal town Knokke-Heist could close streets to reduce tourists' access. By contrast, the mayor of Essen has stressed that the authorities "should not forbid" visitors from shopping - but should make sure they follow local virus prevention rules.

Support for tighter UK Christmas rules as talks held

A majority of people think ministers should abandon plans to relax the coronavirus rules over Christmas, an opinion poll suggests.
In a survey of 3,856 adults in Great Britain by YouGov, 57% said the current restrictions should be maintained, with 31% supporting the plan to relax the rules.
Older people appeared to be more strongly in favour of tighter restrictions, with 70% of over-65s saying the temporary relaxation should be scrapped, and 61% among those aged between 50 and 65.
It comes as urgent talks are taking place between the leaders of the devolved administrations and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove - to discuss the easing of Covid-19 restrictions over Christmas.

New variant of Covid 'probably home-grown'

Michelle Roberts - Health editor, BBC News online
UK experts who identified the new variant of Covid that appears to be spreading fast in some parts of England say the infection is probably home-grown rather than imported.
Prof Nick Loman, an expert in microbiology from the University of Birmingham and part of the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (CoG), says it seems to have appeared spontaneously "out of nowhere" in late September.
The small number of cases soon grew to many more and got the experts concerned. So far, 1,000 confirmed cases have been discovered in the UK.
They are predominantly in the south of England, but cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas, including parts of Scotland and Wales.
Prof Loman says as well as the "striking growth" on a wide geographical scale the "sheer number of mutations" - 17 in total - that made up the variant was more than they expected to see and set alarm bells ringing.
While "none of those things are smoking guns", he says there is "sufficient circumstantial evidence to think this is something that urgently needs following up".
The CoG team says, as yet, there is nothing to suggest the new variant causes worse disease or that Covid vaccines would no longer work. And it will take weeks to monitor whether it might truly be more infective than other versions of Covid.
In that space of time, there's also a chance the new variant could burn itself out and disappear as quickly as it arrived.
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Breaking News

Update on Christmas rules 'expected on Thursday'

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has been discussing the UK's plan to ease Covid rules over Christmas with leaders in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales - amid mounting pressure for a rethink.
Following the meeting, the first signs of movement came from a spokeswoman for Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.
She said that ministers would "discuss the current situation with medical and scientific advisers".
"It is expected that an update will be brought to the (NI) Executive on Thursday," she added.

England's testing system for travellers hits problems on day one

The new testing system intended to cut quarantine times for travellers arriving in England has faced problems on its first day , with one company asking to withdraw from the programme.
Travellers are now allowed to end self-isolation early if they pay for a coronavirus test and test negative five days after arriving.
The government picked 11 firms to carry out the private tests, but a number have hit problems.
One company, SameDayDoctor, has asked to be withdrawn from the programme.
It posted a message on its website saying it has been "so overwhelmed" with requests for test-to-release that it cannot answer any more emails or take any more bookings.
Downing Street says it is working to approve more test providers.
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US could roll out Moderna vaccine next week

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expects to authorise Moderna's vaccine sometime this week, US media report.
This means that by Monday, there could be two Covid vaccines available for Americans.
The Moderna vaccine can be shipped at -20C, while the jab from Pfizer/BioNTech must be kept at a trickier -70C.
The US has agreed to purchase 200m doses of the jab, and 6m could be ready to ship as soon as the vaccine gets FDA approval. The vaccines will be provided at no cost to Americans.
In Canada, the government plans to get two million Moderna doses by March.
On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 168,000 doses should be available before the end of the month. The country is also expecting 200,000 more Pfizer vaccines by next week.
The UK has already pre-ordered 7m doses of the Moderna jab and 40m of the Pfizer/BioNTech version.
Also on Tuesday, the FDA issued emergency authorisation for the US' first fully at-home Covid-19 test. Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the tests can be sold in chemists and patients will be able to get results "in as little as 20 minutes".
Read more: Covid vaccine: Moderna seeks approval in US and Europe


Breaking News 

'Further talks planned' over UK's Christmas rules

Nick Eardley - Political correspondent
Further talks between the four nations over the UK's plan to ease Covid rules over Christmas will take place on Wednesday.
No decisions were made during a conversation tonight.
A source said: "There was broad recognition that a commitment has been made to people and they will expect us to honour it - but there is a need to be stronger and clearer in guidance and messaging."
The source said there were discussions on travel over the Christmas period, but no decisions made.
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UK figures: Daily deaths remain high


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Turkey sees record daily deaths

Turkey has recorded 235 Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours - the highest number since the outbreak began.
This brings the country's overall death toll to nearly 17,000, according to the the Turkish health ministry.
The authorities have imposed weekday curfews and weekend lockdowns, as the nation struggles to deal with the pandemic.

More talks about Christmas rules on the way

So we've been hearing tonight about the call between Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and the leaders in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on what to do about Christmas.
The joint plans to ease Covid restrictions for a few days over the festive period have been discussed.
No decisions were made tonight, and further talks on the possible easing of rules around meeting up in the UK will take place on Wednesday.
A government source said there was "recognition a commitment has been made to people" in the existing plans, but also that there's a need to be "stronger and clearer in guidance and messaging".
Travel was discussed, the source added.
Read more here.

Europe's nations to co-ordinate vaccination efforts

Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland have said they will co-ordinate the start of their vaccination campaigns.
They pledged to rapidly share information on how vaccination was proceeding, Reuters reports, quoting a joint statement by the countries' health ministries.
In Germany, there is growing impatience that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine - developed by German scientists and currently being rolled out in the UK and US - has yet to be approved for use in the European Union, says the BBC's Jenny Hill in Berlin.
It was reported earlier that Europe's medicines regulator EMA will meet sooner than had been planned to consider approving a vaccine

Breaking News 

'No plans to change England Christmas rules'

Nick Eardley - Political correspondent
There are no plans to change regulations covering Christmas in England, the BBC understands.
Talks with devolved administrations - that have been taking place this evening - will continue tomorrow and it's still hoped a common approach can be agreed.
There is likely to be tougher guidance in the coming days to reflect the current situation.
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More Christmas talks planned and rapid tests for schools - UK summary

Here's a look back at today's main stories from the UK:



We're pausing our live coverage

This brings to an end Tuesday's live coverage - thanks for staying with us.
Here are the key developments worldwide in the past 24 hours:


This live page was brought to you by our teams in the UK and US. The writers were Alexandra Fouche, Mary O'Connor, Joseph Lee, Katie Wright, Hamish Mackay, Yaroslav Lukov and Ritu Prasad, and the editors were Helier Cheung, Holly Wallis and Claire Heald.


You can still follow all the latest developments on this and other stories on the BBC News website.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 22:34