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Coronavirus - 21st December

Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 09:35

Summary for Monday, 21st December

  • A growing number of countries are stepping up restrictions on travel to and from the UK
  • It comes after the UK reported a more infectious coronavirus variant
  • Countries including Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Turkey and Canada are suspending UK flights
  • France has closed its border with the UK for 48 hours, with no lorries or ferry passengers able to sail from the port of Dover
  • PM Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the government's emergency committee later
  • European Union member states are due to meet in Brussels to discuss a co-ordinated response on travel bans for Britain
  • The easing of Northern Ireland's coronavirus rules over Christmas will be reduced from five days to one
  • On Sunday, the number of recorded daily infections in the UK reached an all-time high of 35,928 new cases
  • Globally there have been 77m confirmed cases since the outbreak began, and 1.7m deaths


Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll be bringing you all the latest developments in the UK and around the world. Here are the main UK headlines this morning:


UK calls emergency meeting as Europe shuts doors


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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the government's emergency committee later after France closed its border with the UK for 48 hours.
The move, announced on Sunday, means no lorries or ferry passengers will be able to sail from the port of Dover.
France is among a growing list of countries to suspend travel links because of the prevalence of a new variant of coronavirus in the UK which has led to a sharp rise in cases.
The travel ban has led to warnings of possible disruption to food supplies over Christmas. But supermarkets have insisted their warehouses are well-stocked.

What else is happening around the world?

Here's a reminder of today's other global headlines:

  • Lawmakers in the US have agreed to a package of pandemic aid worth around $900bn (£660bn) after months of wrangling. The money includes support for businesses and employment programmes
  • Sydney has become cut off from the rest of Australia, as all other states and territories introduce travel bans for the city due to an outbreak
  • Thailand is seeing its worst coronavirus outbreak so far, after hundreds of cases were linked to the country's biggest seafood market
  • Denmark is to dig up four million mink that were culled because of a mutated form of coronavirus. They will now be incinerated instead to avoid pollution, the government says


UK transport secretary wants to find 'quick resolution' with France

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says it is "important" to find a resolution with France "as quickly as possible" after it banned freight hauliers and passengers from the UK entering the country.
He told BBC Breakfast that his French counterpart, who he spoke to last night, is also keen to get it resolved quickly.
He says it is also in France’s interests to find a solution and he will be speaking to the French transport minister again this morning.
Shapps adds that most goods come into the UK in containers - 80% - these are "unaccompanied freight" which are not subject to the ban. He also points out that only France have banned hauliers – other EU nations have not.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 09:40

The papers: 'French show no merci' and 'the worst noël'


Coronavirus - 21st December Bad01510

News that European countries are banning passengers travelling from the UK because of a new variant of coronavirus dominates Monday's papers.
"French show no merci," is the play on words on the front of the Sun after President Emmanuel Macron imposed a travel ban on the UK because of what the paper describes as the "mutant" Covid strain.
It says the restrictions are "stoking fears" of a massive breakdown in food and goods supplies.
The Daily Telegraph says the bans across Europe could affect the travel plans of 250,000 Britons .
"Sick man of Europe," is the main headline in the late edition of the Daily Mirror, alongside an image of Boris Johnson wearing a Union Jack hat.
It says countries acted amid fears the new variant of the virus was "running rampant" in England.
"The worst noël," is the Daily Mail's take on Matt Hancock's warning that the toughest tier four restrictions could last for months.
Read more from the papers here .

Travel bans 'won't affect' UK vaccine supply - Shapps

Testing lorries drivers could be one possible way the UK can come to a resolution with France over the banning of freight hauliers from the UK, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said.
He told the BBC's Today programme that the two countries would be looking at "all the different solutions" later, including mass testing using lateral flow kits.
However, he added that lorry drivers "actually don’t see anyone" and they are probably "the least likely people to pick up the virus” which is why other countries haven’t banned them.
Shapps also said that the UK’s coronavirus vaccine supplies wouldn’t be affected by the travel bans.
"It comes via containers and the container traffic isn't affected at all, so this isn't an issue with the vaccine at all and indeed will never be an issue for medicines regardless because we have freight contingencies in place," he said.
Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 09:43

How have other countries reacted to the new UK strain?

The EU is set to meet later today to discuss the new coronavirus strain detected in the UK, but here's how other countries have already responded:

  • In the EU, many countries - including France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Sweden and Belgium - have already announced temporary bans on flights from the UK, although several countries have allowed exceptions for freight traffic
  • Bulgaria has also suspended flights, but unlike the short-term measures in many other nations, its measures will last until 31 January
  • Turkey and Switzerland have also halted flights from the UK
  • But it's not just Europe that has acted: Canada has suspended entry of all passenger flights from the UK for 72 hours, effective from midnight (05:00 GMT)
  • Other countries introducing new restrictions on UK travel include Hong Kong, Israel, Iran, Croatia, Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, Morocco and Kuwait
  • Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has suspended all international flights for one week because of the pandemic.

Read our full guide here .

'No need' for UK shoppers to panic buy

People living in Britain have been urged not to panic buy after France closed its border with the UK for 48 hours.
Alex Veitch, from trade group Logistics UK, told BBC Breakfast the ban was only affecting outbound freight with drivers in a truck, and that inbound goods were still moving.
He said: "This is why we are saying at the current time, please, there is no need to panic buy, there are goods available in the shops, retailers are doing everything they can."
However, he said the government needed to work with EU partners to come up with a pragmatic solution "as quickly as possible" to give the French and other authorities confidence that drivers are Covid-free.
Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation also said there was no need for people to panic buy but he said there was "concern" around food supplies in the longer term, particularly after Christmas.

Calls for UK government to offer rapid testing to lorry drivers


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The UK government should offer rapid testing to lorry drivers so they will be allowed back into France, according to Logistics UK general manager Alex Veitch.
He told BBC Breakfast: "The silver lining in this very substantial cloud is that we now have measures and tools available that were not here in the first wave of the pandemic.
"Now we have testing and so we are encouraging our government to look seriously at introducing rapid testing for drivers."
He also said he was very worried about drivers who are stuck in their lorries after France closed its border, and that plans to use the defunct Manston Airport site would be an "absolute necessity" for them to get refreshments and use the toilet.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 09:48

Thailand tests thousands after seafood market outbreak


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After months of avoiding the surge in cases seen by its neighbours, Thailand has been hit by its worst Covid-19 outbreak yet.
Tens of thousands of people are being tested after hundreds of cases linked to its biggest seafood market.
It has locked down Samut Sakhon, the coastal province near the capital Bangkok, home to the market which employs mostly migrant workers from neighbouring Myanmar.
Workers have been ordered to stay home.
Thailand was the first country outside China to register cases of Covid-19. But it has recorded a relatively low virus caseload since, with just over 4,000 cases and 60 deaths before this latest outbreak.
Read more here .

Passengers stranded at German airports

Dozens of travellers who flew in to Germany from the UK on Sunday had to spend the night at the Hanover and Frankfurt/Main airports, after Germany imposed new coronavirus travel restrictions.
German NTV news says 120 passengers were kept overnight at Frankfurt/Main airport and 63 at Hanover airport.
Health officials and nurses at Hanover airport, some dressed in full PPE protection suits, started administering immediate Covid-19 tests.
Camp beds were hastily assembled in the transit lounge. Some passengers - who include women with infants - have tweeted their anger about being kept there against their will.
The emergency restriction followed the UK's tight controls aimed at stopping the spread of a new, more infectious variant of coronavirus.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 09:51

Border closure could mean shortages - Sainsbury's

UK supermarket Sainsbury's has warned that some products could be missing from shelves due to restrictions at ports.
A spokesperson said: "We are also sourcing everything we can from the UK and looking into alternative transport for product sourced from Europe.
"If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit - all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year."
They called on the UK and French governments to come to "a mutually agreeable solution that prioritises the immediate passage of produce and any other food at the ports".
However, they added that food for a traditional Christmas dinner was available and already in the country.

Refunds pledge for scrapped Christmas travel plans


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Everyone who has had to cancel a rail or coach journey in England between 23 and 27 December will be able to get a refund, the government has announced.
It comes after the planned easing of Covid rules for Christmas was scrapped for large parts of south-east and eastern England.
For the rest of England, Scotland and Wales, the relaxation of the rules now just covers Christmas Day. Northern Ireland has limited it to one day between 23 and 27 December.
The government will provide cash refunds for domestic rail and coach tickets in England booked on or after 24 November, when the now-scrapped Christmas travel window was announced.
Operators will be able to issue refunds immediately and passengers are advised to check the website of their operator for how to claim.
Read more .
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 09:58

Disused airport in UK to be opened as lorry park to ease border closure disruption

Lisa O'Carroll - The Guardian
The UK government is preparing to open a disused airport in Kent as a lorry park to ease disruption after the overnight French border closures, the Department for Transport has confirmed.
Manston airport was a back-up plan for Brexit congestion contingencies but has become a priority because construction on the lorry park the government was building in Ashford to cater for gridlock in January is not complete.
“We are currently preparing Manston ready to support Kent Resilience Forum’s plans to manage disruption in #Kent today … our message to #Hauliers is to avoid travelling to Kent until further notice,” the department said in a tweet.
The airport, near Ramsgate, has the capacity for 4,000 trucks, two-thirds of the 6,000 trucks transport secretary Grant Shapps said had been expected on Eurotunnel and the port of Dover on Monday morning.

'Urgent, hard measure' necessary, French minister says

France's deputy minister for European affairs, Clément Beaune, has been talking about the travel restrictions introduced in response to the new variant of coronavirus detected in the UK.
France, along with a number of other countries, has introduced 48-hour bans on UK flights ahead of an EU meeting at 10:00 GMT today.
"We must take an urgent, hard measure, because it is about health protection," Beaune said of the two-day restrictions in an interview with radio France Inter this morning.
"It's 48 hours to do three things: clarify scientific information and provide transparency, 48 hours to co-ordinate even better at European level."
He added that officials were also considering how to manage the situation of French nationals stranded in the UK: "We have to look for solutions for them beyond this very strict blockage of 48 hours."
"We have a very simple message for them: do PCR tests," he said, referring to the standard swab test used to identify coronavirus infections, adding that a negative test result would "surely" be required if the French government was able to organise transport for citizens to return home.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 10:04

The scene at the Port of Dover

Simon Jones - Reporter, BBC South East Today

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Here at the entrance to the port, a big sign warns drivers - the French border is closed.
But the message hasn't got through to everyone. A steady stream of lorries and cars have been arriving, only to be promptly turned away.
The port and Eurotunnel shut to traffic heading to France at around 23:00 GMT last night - in what is being described as an unprecedented situation.
One haulier who was stuck in a queue and failed to get on a ferry on time told me he turned around and went home.
But that option simply isn't available to foreign drivers. They are facing at least two days stuck in their cabs.
Part of the M20 motorway has been turned into a giant lorry park, as the government pleads with hauliers not to head to Kent.
It's set to be a challenging few day on this side of the Channel.

Hong Kong to ban all flights from the UK from midnight tonight

Hong Kong will ban all flights arriving from the UK from midnight local time on Monday, becoming the first city in Asia to announce such a halt after a new strain of coronavirus was identified in Britain.
Health secretary Sophia Chan said there was a need to launch more vigorous and targeted measures to prevent further spreading of Covid-19 in Hong Kong. Asian nations including Japan and South Korea are closely monitoring the new strain, but have not immediately cancelled UK flights.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 10:19

'The whole situation is ridiculous'

Lorry driver Rick Mayo, who is headed to Spain but is currently stuck at a motorway services in Kent, has said "the whole situation is ridiculous", after France closed its border with the UK for 48 hours due to fears over a new variant of coronavirus.
This means no lorries or ferry passengers will be able to sail from the port of Dover in Kent, south-eastern England, to France.
Mayo told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "In all honesty, truck drivers don't come into contact with people, we're in the truck on our own, we self-isolate for three or four days at a time.
"When I leave home I don't see anybody or talk to anybody for the first three and a half days and even then it's limited, with masks and with gloves on."
Lorry drivers have now been urged not to travel to ports in Kent, as vehicle queues continue to grow.
In a bid to ease congestion in the county, emergency measures known as Operation Stack are now in place on the coast-bound M20.
Read more .

New variant has 'unusual number of mutations'

The new coronavirus variant which has rapidly spread in parts of southern England has an "unusual number of mutations", according to virologist professor Wendy Barclay.
Prof Barclay, head of infectious disease at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We normally see the viruses differing from one another by one or two changes, but this one has in total 22 all at once.
"That's immediately a sort of a bit of an alarm bell... but biologically it's feasible that the virus could have changed the way it behaves because of those mutations."
She said it was now important to understand whether the vaccines were still effective against the new variant.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 10:23


  • Qatar granted emergency use authorisation for the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech and is due to receive the first shipment today, state media reported.
    A public health ministry statement said people aged 16 years and above would be eligible. Qatar has also signed an agreement with drugmaker Moderna Inc to buy its vaccine.



  • Oman will receive its first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipment on Wednesday, a health ministry official said with the initial phase would cover 20% of the population.


  • Saudi Arabia last week became the first Arab country to start inoculating people with the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.


  • Kuwait has said it expects to start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine before the end of the year.


  • The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain earlier this month rolled out a vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 10:28

Summary from The Guardian:


  • Japan and South Korea said they were closely monitoring the new strain of the virus identified in Britain, but neither immediately cancelled UK flights.
  • South Korea, which imposes a 14 day quarantine for everyone entering the country, said on Monday it was reviewing new measures for flights from the UK, and would test twice those coming in from Britain before they were released from quarantine, Reuters reports.
  • Taiwan, which also has a 14-day quarantine, said on Sunday there were no plans at present to stop flights from Britain.
  • An Indian government committee tasked with monitoring the pandemic, will meet on Monday to discuss the new strain, local media reported, but there was no clarity on whether flights to the UK would be halted. The UK is one of 23 countries that India shares an “air bubble” with.
  • Japan, where entry from Britain is already banned in principle, said it would keep in close touch with other countries as well as the World Health Organization to see how the new type of virus was spreading.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 10:38

Doctors strike in Kenya

Kenyan doctors working in government hospitals began a countrywide strike on Monday over inadequate insurance benefits and lack of protective equipment while treating Covid-19 patients, their union said.
The Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union said on Twitter late on Sunday that there had been no resolution of grievances raised over the last eight months.
“The Kenya government has neglected the Welfare, Safety & Health of health care workers,” the union said. “No provision of medical insurance, Workman injury benefits & Compensation & lack of adequate quality PPEs.”
“This greatly hampers the fight against COVID19 in a country with an acute shortage of doctors,” it added.

Tweet  KMPDU:

PUBLIC NOTICE ON THE DOCTORS STRIKE!!

Coronavirus - 21st December Eplnkr10

Kenya reported 349 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, with six fatalities, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 94,500 and the number of deaths to 1,639, the health ministry said.
The virus has been spreading to rural areas where the public health system is creaking and limited intensive care units (ICU) are full, which has led to patients being turned away, medics told Reuters this month.
Nearly three-quarters of Kenya’s ICU beds are in the two largest cities, Nairobi and Mombasa.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 10:41

Summary

The Guardian
Here are the key developments – and UK flight bans – from the last few hours:

  • Boris Johnson will hold crisis talks with ministers after France banned lorries carrying freight from the UK and countries around the world ended flights amid fears over the new mutant coronavirus strain.
  • A growing number of European and other nations have banned travel from the UK in a bid to stop a mutant strain of coronavirus crossing their borders. The full list is here .
  • France, Germany , Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Romania, Sweden, Croatia and the Netherlands have all said they will halt flights arriving from the UK.
  • The Czech Republic has imposed stricter quarantine measures for people arriving from Britain.
  • All three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – have halted all passenger flights from the UK. Lithuania will still allow flights to depart for the UK, while Estonia and Latvia have halted those as well. Latvia has also banned bus and ferry passenger traffic to and from the UK. The bans will go into effect on Monday and last until the end of the year.
  • Iran’s health ministry has ordered flights from Britain suspended for two weeks, the state news agency IRNA reported.
  • Israel said it was barring entry to foreign citizens travelling from Britain, Denmark and South Africa.
  • Kuwait has added Britain to a list of “high-risk” nations and banned flights.
  • El Salvador’s president announced that anyone who had been in Britain or South Africa in the past 30 days will not be allowed to enter the country.
  • Colombia is suspending flights to and from the UK starting Monday and Chile has introduced mandatory two-week quarantine for anyone who visited the UK in the last fortnight.
  • Turkey and Morocco have announced they will be suspending air travel from the UK.
  • The official Saudi Press Agency reports Saudi Arabia is also suspending international flights for one week.
  • Canada has halted flights from the UK for 72 hours. Prime minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that for 72 hours starting at midnight Sunday, “all flights from the UK will be prohibited from entering Canada”. He added that travellers who arrived on Sunday would be subject to secondary screening and other health measures. A follow-up statement from the government said cargo flights were not included in the ban.

In other news:

  • South Korea recorded its highest daily death toll from the coronavirus, health authorities said on Monday, as a surge in infections strains the health system and prompted police raids on venues suspected of violating social distancing rules. As of midnight Sunday, there were 24 additional deaths, bringing the country’s total to 698, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. Seoul and surrounding areas will ban most gatherings of five people or more later this week.
  • US congressional leaders have reached agreement on a $900bn package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, the Senate’s top Republican and Democrat said on Sunday, but it remained unclear when Congress would vote to seal the deal.
  • Thailand is testing tens of thousands of people for Covid-19 after an outbreak at a shrimp market led to the biggest surge in cases in the country, which had appeared to have almost eradicated the virus.
  • In Australia, Sydney’s northern beaches coronavirus cluster has spread across the city, with transmission events recorded in the CBD, north shore and inner-west . However, authorities in New South Wales are continuing to defend their decision to allow mask use to be voluntary, as the cluster centred in the locked-down northern beaches grows by 15 to a total of 83 cases, after a record 38,578 Sydneysiders were tested on Sunday.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 10:45

Christmas celebrations to go ahead in Bethlehem

Palestinian Christians are preparing to go ahead with Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem later this week despite a surge in coronavirus cases in the West Bank.
Midnight mass at the Nativity Church on Christmas Eve will take place but with no congregation.
Practice for the scout bands that lead festive processions has been disrupted by lockdowns but scouts say they still hope to bring a message of comfort and joy.

New guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable in tier four areas

Updated guidance has been issued for the clinically extremely vulnerable in tier four areas of England, strongly advising them to stay at home as much as possible.
The group includes people whose immune systems may be suppressed or people with other specific conditions such as certain cancers or respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis. Letters will be going out to all those affected by the guidance later this week.
Under the updated guidance , which is the same as was in place during England's November lockdown, they are strongly urged to:

  • Stay at home as much as possible, except to exercise or attend health appointments
  • Not to attend work, even if they are unable to work from home. People in the same household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable can still attend work, in line with the new national restrictions
  • Not to attend school during term time. Children who live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable but are not themselves should still attend school
  • Avoid all non-essential travel

The government said support would be available for those who need it, such as access to food and medicines.
Those with more general underlying health conditions or people aged 70 or over may still be more vulnerable to Covid-19 than the general population, so are advised to stay at home as much as possible, carefully follow the rules and minimise contact with others.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 11:06

US agrees long-awaited coronavirus aid deal

After months of wrangling, US lawmakers have agreed to a roughly $900bn (£660bn) package of pandemic aid, including money for businesses and unemployment programmes.
The money is set to accompany a bigger, $1.4tn spending bill to fund government operations over the next nine months.
Many Covid-19 relief programmes were set to expire at the end of this month and about 12 million Americans were at risk of losing access to unemployment benefits.
The House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to vote on the package on Monday. It will then need to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Find out more here .

FTSE and pound fall as European borders close to UK

Shares in London have fallen sharply and the pound has lost ground after several EU countries closed their borders to the UK over a new variant of coronavirus.
The FTSE 100 share index fell about 1.8%, while the main markets in Germany and France were more than 2% lower.
Sterling fell about 1.4% against the euro and dropped 2% against the dollar.
Restrictions on travel hit airline stocks, with British Airways' owner IAG and EasyJet tumbling 9%.
Read more .

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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 11:10

France seeking 'to ensure UK movement can resume'

France has said it plans to reach an EU agreeement to allow traffic to and from the UK to resume.
"In the next few hours, at European level, we're going to establish a solid health protocol to ensure that movement from the UK can resume," Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Monday.
The European Council of government representatives is meeting this morning to discuss a joint response to the spread of a new coronavirus strain in the UK.
A number of countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world have announced temporary bans on travel to and from the UK.

France's border closure decision 'odd'

Coronavirus - 21st December C2293060-8218-4892-b1ef-1c3f540ae683 BBC Radio 5 Live
The decision by France to close its border with the UK seemed an "odd" decision, said Richard Burnett, head of the Road Haulage Association, given freight had been flowing throughout the pandemic.
"Right the way through the pandemic we've had this principle where all the borders have remained open to critical freight, to ensure that food and medical supplies continue to move," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up to Money programme.
"We've had to manage different strains and different issues... We've worked very hard over the last nine months to ensure that the borders have been kept open, to keep that flow of products going.
"I understand that we want to try to contain the spread, but I think we've done that in a very practical way as a logistics industry, across Europe, throughout this year.
"It's going to be a pretty frustrating, miserable existence for the next 48 hours," he said.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 11:21

The new strain of coronavirus is probably already in NI and the Republic of Ireland

The new strain of coronavirus is probably already in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Stormont’s first minister has warned.
Arlene Foster said ministers were very concerned about the highly infectious mutation and tests were ongoing.
She told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “It is probable that it is here and likely it is in the Republic too.”
Ministers have debated imposing a temporary ban on travel from the UK mainland to Northern Ireland in response to the new variant of Covid-19 No decision has been taken but ministers are expected to return to the issue today.
Health minister Robin Swann is to consult with Northern Ireland’s attorney general about the legality of a ban on travel from Britain. He is to give a statement in the assembly at midday.

Norway suspends flights from Britain with immediate effect

Flights from Britain to Norway will be suspended with immediate effect for a minimum of 48 hours due to concerns over a new strain of coronavirus, the Norwegian health minister said in a statement on Monday.

India suspends all flights from UK

India said on Monday it was joining other countries in temporarily suspending all flights from Britain after the emergence of a new and more infectious strain of coronavirus.
“Considering the prevailing situation in the UK, Indian govt has decided that all flights originating from the UK to India shall be temporarily suspended till 31st December 2020,” the aviation ministry said in a tweet.
It said the suspension would come into effect from 11:59 pm (0629 GMT) on Tuesday.

Two cases of new strain identified in Australia

Australia has detected two cases of the new coronavirus strain identified in the UK. Two travellers from the UK to Australia’s New South Wales state were found carrying the mutated variant of the virus that Britain has said could be up to 70% more infectious, Reuters reports. Both are in quarantine, and the recent spike in infections in Sydney are not linked to this, authorities said.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 11:27

Scotland to take part in UK government Cobra calls later this morning

Libby Brooks - The Guardian
Scotland will be taking part in UK government Cobra calls later this morning to address the “desperately serious situation” for the million of pounds worth of Scottish seafood currently stuck on lorries unable to cross the Channel.
Scotland’s deputy first minister, John Swinney, told BBC Radio Scotland: “One of the things we have feared has been a conjunction of different issues, of Brexit and of Covid coming together and unfortunately over the weekend and with the travel ban for freight into France that became a reality as a consequence of decisions that have been taken.”
The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will also chair a meeting of the Scottish resilience committee, to discuss freight disruption.
Swinney also said the Scottish government would press the UK government to extend the Brexit transition period, something Sturgeon also called for last night.
Swinney said this was “absolutely necessary” for Scottish producers. “ We face very acute threats as a country right now, they became more serious over the weekend because of the information on the spread of the virus, but coupled with the threats of Brexit, the first minister’s call is absolutely correct.”
Swinney emphasised there was very limited spread of the new variant in Scotland – still only 17 cases across the country – but that the Scottish government was monitoring the situation very closely.
He added that Scotland also has “substantially lower” rates than elsewhere in the UK: 115 cases per 100,000, compared with 467 per 100,000 in London.

Passengers and hauliers advised not to travel to Portsmouth

Portsmouth International Port has advised all passengers and hauliers heading to France not to travel to the port apart from for unaccompanied freight.
The move follows restrictions placed on trade by France in reaction to the newly-identified variant of Covid-19 in the UK.
A spokeswoman for the Hampshire port said sailings have not been disrupted and they are not experiencing any queues of lorries, PA Media reports.
She added that services to Spain and the Channel Islands are operating as normal.
The port said in a statement:
Due to current travel restrictions in France, only unaccompanied freight has permission to sail.
Passengers and accompanied freight vehicles are advised not to travel to Portsmouth as they will be unable to sail as planned.
Please make sure if you are bringing unaccompanied freight you have a valid booking.
Services carrying unaccompanied freight vehicles from Portsmouth to France, and all passengers and freight from France to the UK, are unaffected.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 11:32

South Africa's virus variant causes concern

Pumza Fihlani - BBC News, Johannesburg
South Africa’s new variant of Covid-19 was discovered earlier this month, when scientists noticed a number of mutations during routine surveillance of the virus. Local scientists say that South Africa’s new variant appears to be unrelated to the new variant found in the UK.
But it does share one important mutation affecting the way the virus attaches to human cells - and scientists speculate that’s what’s behind the faster transmission of this virus.
Researchers in the UK say the mutated virus there is 70% more transmissible. But experts in South Africa say they are still gathering data on this – but expect this may be the case here too.
In South Africa the new variant was first discovered in the Eastern Cape province - it has since spread to the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The country recently entered a second wave of infections - which has led to new regulations to try to slow the spread of the disease, including the closure of some of the major beaches.
Mutations in viruses are not uncommon, experts say. It is not clear at this stage whether the new variants are more deadly. Scientists say more research is needed on this, and also on whether the mutations could lessen the effectiveness of vaccines.
Some countries have now banned flights from South Africa and the UK including Germany and Switzerland. While El Salvador has banned any travelers who were in the UK and South Africa in the last 30 days.



Oman will close its land, air and sea borders on Tuesday at 1 a.m. for one week, state television reported on Monday, Reuters reports.
The decision follows measures imposed by various countries following the outbreak of a new strain of Covid-19 in the UK, Oman TV said.



Coronavirus infections rose by 10,002 since Friday in Switzerland, Reuters reports, as the country headed toward tougher restrictions on public life starting on Tuesday to curb the spread of the disease.
The total number of confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 413,991, the death toll rose by 201 to 6,204, while 391 new hospitalisations kept pressure on the health care system.
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Eurotunnel: Testing is key to reopening border

Eurotunnel says having a testing regime in place is key to opening up the Channel ports to passengers and freight wanting to cross from the UK to France.
John Keefe, Eurotunnel's spokesman, told BBC Radio Kent all travel from the UK to France had been suspended but Eurotunnel was still open for travel and goods coming in the other direction.
"People have got to avoid travelling, but we want to be ready to restart as soon as we can," he said.
"A lot of the conversation that's going on is about how we can open up the border again and that's mostly about testing.
"It all depends on how quickly we can get the testing regime in place and how quickly we can get trucks moving again."

India, Russia add to bans on UK flights

The governments of India and Russia have both joined a growing number of countries that have announced travel restrictions to the UK after a new coronavirus strain was identified.
Other countries include:

  • Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Croatia, Finland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania
  • North America: Canada
  • Latin America: Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador
  • Middle East and North Africa: Turkey, Israel, Iran, Kuwait, Morocco. Saudi Arabia has also suspended all international flights for a week. Oman has closed all of its land, air and sea borders for a week
  • Hong Kong has also introduced restrictions

You can read more about the global travel restrictions here
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 17:20

What do we know about the new variant?

James Gallagher - Health and science correspondent, BBC News
The new variant was first detected in September. In November it made up around a quarter of cases in London. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December.
Three things are coming together that mean it is attracting attention:

  • It is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus
  • It has mutations that affect part of the virus likely to be important
  • Some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells

All of these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily. However, we do not have absolute certainty. New strains can become more common simply by being in the right place at the right time - such as London.
There is no evidence yet to suggest the variant makes the infection more deadly, and at least for now the developed vaccines will almost certainly work against it.
However, if the virus changes so it dodges the full effect of the vaccine, then "vaccine escape" happens, and this may be the most concerning element.
Read more from James

New variant present 'all over Wales'

The new variant of coronavirus "looks very likely to be the significant driver" of the growth in cases in Wales in recent weeks, the country's deputy chief medical officer Prof Chris Jones has said.
He told a Welsh government briefing: “On Monday last week, we were aware of 10 cases in Wales.
“By Friday, this had risen to 20, mainly in Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan.
"But a new analysis by the weekend, suggested this new strain is much more common and it is present all over Wales – this includes north Wales where overall rates of the virus are lower than in south Wales."

NHS staff 'stretched to their limit' in Wales

Critical care units in Wales are operating "far beyond their normal capacity" and NHS staff "are stretched to their limit", First Minister Mark Drakeford has warned.
He told a Welsh government briefing: "If we continue to see cases rise unchecked - fuelled by this new, highly infectious strain of the virus - the effect on our NHS will be profound."
He said "swift action" was needed following new information about the spread of the variant in Wales.
“As a result, we took immediate action to bring forward the alert level four restrictions and change the Christmas arrangements because of the incredibly serious turn the pandemic had taken in Wales," he said.
“I’m sorry we were not able to give you more notice about the changes."
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 17:27

Police in Scotland will 'act decisively' where laws are broken

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has said police in Scotland will "act decisively and enforce the law" where people are found to be willfully defying the latest restrictions.
Speaking at the daily briefing in Edinburgh, he said he did not consider it "appropriate or proportionate" to establish roadblocks to stop people travelling, but said there would be an increase of police patrols and a doubling of police numbers on the border between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
He said he hoped the "visible controls" would deter people from unnecessary journeys and urged the public "to continue to follow the rules".
He paid tribute to the "dedicated officers and staff" within the police and said they would continue to protect the public throughout Christmas, particularly "the vulnerable, lonely and those at risk of harm".
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says the biggest deterrent to breaking travel rules should not be "fines or police enforcement" - "it should be the risk of getting this virus".

I felt like a criminal, says stranded passenger in Germany

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Hanover airport: camp beds for stranded passengers from UK

As we have already reported, dozens of passengers flying from the UK found themselves stuck at German airports overnight, after Germany imposed new coronavirus travel restrictions.
German NTV news says 77 people had to stay overnight at Berlin Brandenburg (BER) airport and 50 at Munich airport.
Seven passengers also tested positive on arrival at Hamburg airport, police said. All those arriving from the UK have had to go into quarantine.
At Hanover airport, one passenger out of 62 who arrived from the UK on Sunday tested positive, and is now in isolation in a hotel, as are several flight attendants.
The other Hanover passengers were allowed to leave, but must stay in quarantine.
Sabrina Dinkler-Stemme described an ordeal for those who were blocked at Hanover airport.
"I felt like a criminal. I was totally surrounded by the police. I was outside in the rain...We were all exhausted, many people were crying."
Adam Etinson, a Canadian among those stuck at BER airport, said "they couldn't tell us when a test would arrive, with no news of what will happen to us".
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 17:33

UK 'urgently' trying to reduce disruption from travel bans

The UK government is working "urgently" with its international partners to minimise disruption caused by travel bans imposed by other countries on people and goods from the UK.
On Sunday evening, France shut its border with the UK for 48 hours, meaning no lorries or ferries will be able to sail from the port of Dover.
"Conversations between relevant ministers are ongoing," the prime minister's official spokesman said, adding that the government was "in close contact with the French to get this resolved".
Asked whether Brexit had anything to do with other countries' actions, the spokesman said: "No, we don't think that's the reason for this... throughout the pandemic different travel restrictions have been imposed throughout the world."
The Foreign Office regularly updated its travel advice and was on hand to assist British nationals, the spokesman added.

No EU travel decision expected today as officials meet

Gavin Lee - BBC Europe reporter
There are two meetings going on in Brussels, which could ultimately determine whether or not UK travellers will have to face the same set of restrictions no matter where they travel to in the EU.
The first is a meeting of health officials, focused on examining this new mutated virus variant, using data sent from UK scientists.
Then, officials in the EU’s crisis response team will meet to try and co-ordinate a single set of rules that every country can apply to UK travellers.
But no decision is expected today. That’s the job for EU ambassadors when they meet via video conference tomorrow morning.
One French official told me that they are desperate to reopen the borders "as soon as safely possible" and one option being put forward is to allow borders to reopen, but demand that UK travellers prove they have had a negative Covid test in the 24 hours prior to arrival in each member state. That would include tests for lorry drivers crossing the channel.
There is a hotchpotch of travel restrictions in place at the moment, with 17 European countries coming up with their own short-term solutions. Spanish, Greek, Italian and Danish officials say would like to see a common approach.
Several officials have told me they fear the stable door may have closed after the horse has bolted; that despite the measures, they may soon identify many more cases around the continent.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 17:35

What's happening in the US?

As the total number of coronavirus cases in the US approaches 18 million, here are the top stories so far today:

  • After months of wrangling, US lawmakers have agreed to a roughly $900bn (£660bn) package of pandemic aid , including money for businesses and unemployment programmes
  • President-elect Joe Biden, who at 78 is considered to be at high risk from Covid-19, is to receive the coronavirus vaccine along with his wife Jill later today. Vice-President Mike Pence and senior politicians have already received their first injection
  • The US administered more than 550,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the first week of its mass innoculation campaign, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Sunday
  • The Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive across the country after it was approved last week
  • At least 317,684 people have died in the US since the pandemic began, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University


More than 30 countries ban UK arrivals over new strain

The list of countries banning UK arrivals because of concerns over the spread of a new variant of coronavirus.
Flights from the UK have been suspended in more than 30 nations in Europe and across the world including India and Hong Kong.
On Sunday evening, France shut its border with the UK for 48 hours, meaning no lorries or ferries will be able to sail from the port of Dover.
The French government said on Monday it will establish a protocol "to ensure movement from the UK can resume", although no decision is expected before Tuesday.
Find out more here .

Breaking News 

EU medicines agency gives vaccine thumbs up

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says it recommends use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for vaccinations to start in the EU within days.
Formal approval still has to be granted by the European Commission.
Germany, France and Italy are among countries planning to start vaccinating on 27 December.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 17:42

New variant 'likely to become dominant global strain'

The new variant of coronavirus found in the UK is likely to become the dominant global strain, a scientist advising the government has said.
Prof Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) which advises the UK government, said the new strain was infecting many more people in the same amount of time than the previous variant.
Asked whether the new variant would become the dominant strain around the world, he told Sky News: "I suspect it will, or strains like it will.
"Because the virus has the evolutionary advantage in transmitting more quickly, it will out-compete all the other strains, and so it will naturally do that."
Read more about the new variant here .

Spain and Portugal latest countries to ban flights from UK

Entry to Spain and Portugal will be suspended for citizens from the UK from Tuesday, Spain's foreign affairs ministry has said.
Spanish nationals or residents will be exempt.
Border control in Gibraltar will also be strengthened, the ministry said in a tweet.
Tweet  Spain MFA:
The Government of #Spain , together with #Portugal , will suspend from tomorrow the entry into the Spanish territory of citizens from the #UnitedKingdom , except nationals or residents in our country. Border control in #Gibraltar will also be strengthened.

Macron still ill with virus as he turns 43

President Emmanuel Macron was still displaying some coronavirus symptoms, but his overall condition was stable, government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters earlier on Monday.
The French leader, whose birthday is today, tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday last week .
He is in self-isolation at the presidential retreat of La Lanterne, close to the Palace of Versailles, outside the French capital, Paris.
He presided over the government's weekly cabinet meeting via video call.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 17:46

Air travel up again in the US despite travel warnings

More than one million passengers have travelled through US airports over two consecutive days, the Transportation Security Administration has said.
The numbers from Friday and Saturday are the highest since 29 November - the end of the Thanksgiving weekend - when millions of Americans flew despite warnings from health experts.
While the figures are far lower than in previous years, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged people to stay at home during the Christmas period.
More than 18.5 million cases of coronavirus have been reported in the US since the pandemic began, while 317,686 people have died, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Decision to close UK-France border irresponsible, says MP


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Dover MP Natalie Elphicke has criticised the French government's decision to close the border with the UK as "unnecessary, unhelpful and irresponsible".
"It has caused serious traffic congestion at a time when traffic flows were already high."
"A simple conversation about virus management would have been the right way forward," she insisted.
About 10,000 lorries a day travel between Dover and Calais during peak periods such as Christmas.
But the decision by France to close its borders from 2300 GMT on Sunday means no accompanied freight can leave the area, leading to long queues on the main routes to Dover.
Tory MP Elphicke urged President Emmanuel Macron's government to reopen the border.
"The longer that this goes on, the longer it will take to unwind, meaning that there could be queues past Christmas unless the French reopen the border soon," said Ms Elphicke.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 17:50

'High confidence' new variant spreads more easily

The government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) has upgraded its confidence that the new variant spreads more easily, the group's chair has said.
Prof Peter Horby told a Science Media Centre briefing: "We now have high confidence that this variant does have a transmission advantage over other virus variants that are currently in the UK."
Minutes from a meeting on Friday said the group, which advises the UK government, had "moderate confidence" in this.
Another Nervtag member, Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, told the briefing there was strong evidence the new variant is 50% more transmissible than the previous virus.
He also said there was a "hint" the new variant infects children more.
"There are other epidemiologically interesting trends with the virus, there is a hint that it has a higher propensity to infect children... but we haven't established any sort of causality on that, but we can see that in the data," he said.

Vatican says coronavirus vaccines 'morally acceptable'

The Vatican has said the use of Covid-19 vaccines developed using cell lines derived from aborted foetuses is "morally acceptable" in the absence of an alternative jab.
"All vaccinations recognised as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal co-operation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive," the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced in a statement on Monday.
The text, which was approved by Pope Francis, also said there was “a moral imperative” to ensure that poorer countries were able to access effective vaccines, the Vatican News website reports.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is among those developed using cells derived from foetuses aborted decades ago, although no foetal cells will be present in the vaccine itself.

Sweden confirms UK travel ban

Travellers from the UK will be banned from entering Sweden, Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg has confirmed. The ban excludes Swedish citizens and comes into effect at midnight (23:00 GMT), reports the BBC's Maddy Savage.
Sweden will also close its border with Denmark to stop the spread of the new coronavirus variant - where it has also been detected - with the exception of Swedish citizens and those crossing into Sweden to live or work allowed to make the journey.
Mr Damberg suggested on Sunday night that a travel ban was imminent, telling Swedish television network SVT that he hoped the measure would take effect “as soon as possible”. The move followed lobbying from opposition centre-right parties, the Moderates and the Liberals.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 17:53

16:32

PM's press conference expected in 30 minutes

We’re expecting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lead a UK government briefing at around 17:00 GMT.
He will be joined by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and the UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
Here’s a quick recap of the main stories from the UK while we wait:


Frustration grows at Port of Dover

Simon Jones - Reporter, BBC South East Today

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As the day has gone on, it seems the frustration of some hauliers has grown.
Many have been sounding their horns - after being refused entry to the Port of Dover. A few have been brandishing paperwork at the officials keeping them out.
The reality is, whatever documentation they may have, they aren't being allowed to leave the UK today.
The only journey they're being told to make is to the back of the ever-growing queue that makes up Operation Stack .
That will mean spending tonight, and all day tomorrow in their cabs - when all they want to do is get back home.
It's a depressing situation in the run-up to Christmas.
And if France does insist that all drivers need to be tested before being allowed to cross the Channel, it's likely some won't make it back before the big day.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 18:10

Further 215 deaths and 33,364 cases in the UK

A further 215 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the UK total to 67,616, according to the latest government figures .
There have also been a further 33,364 cases of coronavirus recorded.
It's lower than the number of cases reported yesterday - 35,928 - which was an all-time high and nearly double the number recorded the same day the previous week.

Analysis: The battle to control a sprawling crisis

Laura Kuenssberg - Political editor
It's normal for Westminster and Whitehall to have fallen almost silent by this time of year.
Parliament has normally packed up by now, and although government doesn't exactly stop, it certainly quietens down.
While it's pretty much deserted today, that's because people who live and work in this part of the country have been told to stay at home because of tighter restrictions to curb the new variant of the virus.
But behind closed doors, and online, officials and ministers are frantically trying to manage different aspects of what seems now a sprawling crisis.
As one official said: "It's a Covid diagnosis with transition symptoms."
Read more from Laura

Analysis: Tougher restrictions inevitable

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
It is clear the new variant will lead to tougher restrictions being introduced.
The UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, admitted so in the TV briefing.
There is now a high degree of confidence it is leading to faster transmission - although there is no evidence it causes more serious illness or would disrupt the effectiveness of the vaccine.
But with infection rates rising rapidly, there is already talk behind the scenes of more areas in the southern England going into tier four.
But with the new variant seeded across the country it only seems a matter of time before other regions follow suit.
Questions are also being asked about schools. The prime minister said he wanted to keep them open "if we possibly can".
The race to vaccinate the vulnerable just got even more pressing.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 18:17

Pakistan bans UK travellers

Pakistan has joined dozens of countries in introducing UK travel restrictions following the idenitification of a new strain of coronavirus.
The week-long ban on travel to or from the UK begins on Wednesday and applies to all travellers coming from the UK or who have been in the country over the past 10 days.
Some exceptions do apply, however, with Pakistani nationals in the UK on visitor or temporary visas permitted to return if they provide a negative test 72 hours before travel, undergo another test upon arrival and quarantine at home for seven days afterwards.
Other countries that have introduced UK travel restrictions include:

  • Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Croatia, Finland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Luxembourg, Malta
  • North America: Canada
  • Latin America: Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador
  • Middle East: Turkey, Israel, Iran, Kuwait, Jordan. Saudi Arabia has also suspended all international flights for a week. Oman has closed all of its land, air and sea borders for a week
  • Africa: Morocco, Sudan
  • Asia: India, Hong Kong

Find out more about the restrictions here .

Main takeaways from today's Covid briefing

The prime minister hosted a press conference a short time ago, alongside Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and the UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
Here are the key points:

  • Boris Johnson says he and French President Emmanuel Macron are working to unblock the border "as fast as possible". He said they hoped to ease the flow of trade in the "new few hours".
  • The PM said only 20% of freight was affected by the border closure with France and supermarket supply chains remained "strong and robust".
  • Johnson said he understood the anxieties of those nations which have closed their borders to the UK - but added the risks of transmission from a solitary lorry driver "were really very low".
  • Shapps urged people not to travel to Kent. He said queues of 500 lorries, caused by the border closure, had been reduced to 170.
  • The coronavirus variant is in every area of the UK, not just in London and the south-east of England, said Vallance. He said people should "stay local", stressing measures to reduce were now "even more important" given the variant's "fast transmissibility".
  • Vallance said case numbers are likely to go up after the Christmas period and that will lead to tougher restrictions. Both he and the PM reiterated that there is no suggestion vaccines will not be effective in combatting the new variant.
  • Johnson said 500,000 people across the UK have now received the initial dose of the Pfizer/Biotech vaccine and he had "every reason" to believe the country would "bounce back" next year.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 18:21

Quarantine for Brits who arrived in Switzerland after 14 December

Imogen Foulkes - BBC News, Geneva
The Swiss government has said all UK citizens who arrived in Switzerland after 14 December must immediately quarantine.
Entry for UK citizens by air or land is now prohibited, following a suspension of all air connections at midnight last night.
The government says the measures are intended to prevent, as much as possible, the spread of the new strain of Covid-19.
Thousands of UK citizens have arrived in Switzerland over the last few days, primarily to take advantage of the open ski slopes over the holiday season.
Geneva airport registered 10,000 UK arrivals this last weekend alone.

In charts: Cases rising fast in the UK

Coronavirus cases are now rising fast again in the UK, driven by a new variant of the virus thought to be much more easily transmissible than other strains.
As we heard earlier, a further 33,364 confirmed cases have been announced by the government today.
You can see how many cases there are in your area here .

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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 18:29

What's happening to the numbers in Africa?

Peter Mwai - BBC Reality Check
With some of the most populous countries across Africa seeing increases in Covid-19 cases, there've been concerns that the continent is facing another spike in infections.
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has talked of a "second wave" arriving.
And there's evidence that a new variant of coronavirus in South Africa may be driving increases there. The country now accounts for more than 60% of daily new cases detected in sub-Saharan Africa.
But there are significant variations across the continent, with some countries seeing small or localised spikes, others witnessing more sustained increases and some not yet past an initial rise in cases.
Find out more here .

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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 18:31

Singapore gets Asia's first Pfizer-BioNTech delivery

Singapore has received Asia's first delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
It is the latest country in the world to have approved and received doses of the vaccine, after the US, the UK and a few others.
It plans to inoculate its population of 5.7 million within weeks, starting with health workers, the elderly and the medically vulnerable.
"It's been a long and arduous year, I hope that this news will give Singaporeans cheer this festive season, and reason to be optimistic for 2021," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as he welcomed the consignment.
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Post by Kitkat Mon Dec 21 2020, 20:06

Main Covid headlines

We're finishing our live coverage shortly. Before we leave you, here are the main Covid headlines of the day:

  • More than 40 countries have now closed their borders to the UK amid fears over the spread of a new variant of coronavirus. Spain, India, Hong Kong and Pakistan are among the latest countries to ban UK arrivals.
  • At a press briefing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he and President Emmanuel Macron were hoping to unblock the border between the UK and France in the "next few hours". France shut its borders to UK hauliers for 48 hours due to the new variant.
  • Retailers have played down fears of food shortages due to the French-UK border closure, but they warned of "serious disruption" without a resolution.
  • Further restrictions are "likely" to be introduced in England to control the new variant, the UK's chief scientific adviser has said.
  • The European Union's medicines regulator has given the green light to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for vaccinations to start in the EU within days.
  • People travelling from tier four areas to other parts of England are being asked to "assume" they have the new variant of coronavirus and self-isolate .
  • US President-elect Joe Biden is to receive the coronavirus vaccine along with his wife Jill later.


That's all for now

We're finishing our live coverage for the day now. Thank you for joining us.

Today's coverage was brought to you by Sarah Collerton, Sarah Fowler, Katie Wright, Becky Morton, Victoria Bisset, Alexandra Fouche, Victoria Lindrea, Justin Parkinson and Kate Whannel.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 22:26