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Coronavirus - 22nd December


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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 12:31

Summary for Tuesday, 22nd December

  • More than 1,500 lorries are stranded in Kent waiting for the UK-French border to open
  • Talks to reopen the crossing are ongoing, after France shut the border amid fears of a new Covid variant in the UK
  • Measures agreed by PM Boris Johnson and President Emmanuel Macron will be announced later and come into effect from Wednesday
  • Retailers warn unless the border is opened soon there may be disruption to supplies of fresh produce by the end of the week
  • EU member states are meeting in Brussels to discuss a joint response, including pooling expertise about the risks posed by the new variant
  • Growing international alarm over the new Covid variant has seen more than 40 countries ban UK arrivals so far
  • Government borrowing hit £31.6bn last month, the highest November figure on record, as spending to mitigate the pandemic continues
  • US Congress has passed a long-awaited $900bn (£660bn) package of coronavirus pandemic aid after months of political wrangling
  • Sydney has recorded its fewest number of new cases in several days, raising hopes the Australian city may contain a recent outbreak
  • A Chinese scientist at the centre of claims coronavirus leaked from her lab in Wuhan says she is open to "any kind of visit" to rule it out

Welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK and around the world.
Here's a quick round-up of the main UK and world headlines this Tuesday morning:

  • Lorry drivers in Kent have spent a second night sleeping in their vehicles waiting for the border with France to reopen - as politicians thrash out a plan to restart trade and travel. Measures agreed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron will be announced later and come into effect from Wednesday
  • There is growing international alarm over a new variant of the coronavirus in the UK, more than 40 countries so far blocking flights or travel links with the UK, as the EU continues talks on forming a common policy
  • Government borrowing soared in November as the UK continued to support the economy during the pandemic. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said borrowing hit £31.6bn last month, the highest November figure on record . It was also the third-highest borrowing in any month since monthly records began in 1993
  • A Chinese scientist at the centre of unsubstantiated claims that the coronavirus leaked from her laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan has told the BBC she is open to "any kind of visit" to rule it out. The surprise statement from Prof Shi Zhengli comes as a World Health Organization (WHO) team prepares to travel to Wuhan next month to begin its investigation into the origins of Covid-19.
  • US President-elect Joe Biden has received his first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on live TV, saying he was getting the jab to show Americans it is "safe to take"
  • The US Congress has passed a long-awaited $900bn (£660bn) package of coronavirus pandemic aid after months of political wrangling. Senators approved the bill late on Monday, hours after it was passed by the House of Representatives

More than 1500 lorries waiting in Kent for French border to reopen

It appears there are many more vehicles stranded in Kent than the government estimated yesterday.
The home secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there were more than1500 lorries waiting for the French border to reopen, after drivers spent a second night sleeping in their vehicles. She said there were "currently 650 lorries on the M20 and 873 lorries" at Manston Airport.

'Deadline of tomorrow' - retail chief

Today Programme - BBC Radio 4
Food retailers have given a deadline of tomorrow for the borders to reopen if we are going to avoid disruption.
"The problem actually is empty lorries," said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium.
"Empty lorries which are now stuck in Kent need to get back to places like Spain to pick up the next consignment of raspberries and strawberries and they need to get back within the next day or so, otherwise we will see disruption."
Mr Opie said as long as the jams were cleared on Tuesday then there would be minimal impact for consumers, due to shops closing on Christmas Day.

Here are the key global developments from the last few hours:

The Guardian

  • UK freight plans to be released later today. Freight measures agreed by Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron will be announced later on Tuesday, the BBC reports, and will come into effect from Wednesday, according to French Europe Minister Clément Beaune. EU member states will also be meeting again to discuss a co-ordinated response.
  • After months of Washington gridlock, Congress has passed a $900bn pandemic relief package , finally delivering long-sought cash to businesses and individuals as well as resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths. President Donald Trump is soon expected to sign the package into law.
  • Antarctica, once the only continent not to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, has reportedly recorded its first confirmed cases. The 36 new infections are among people stationed at a Chilean research base and include 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers.
  • Taiwan’s government on Tuesday reported its first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 since 12 April . The individual who tested positive for Covid-19 was a friend of a person who had already been confirmed to have been infected with the virus, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told a news conference.
  • The US government is considering requiring that all passengers traveling from the United Kingdom receive a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure as a condition of entry, airline and US officials briefed on the matter said Monday.
  • Virgin Atlantic to require negative Covid test. Starting on 24 December, the airline Virgin Atlantic will require proof of a negative coronavirus test for all passengers travelling from London to the US, the company announced.
  • The Vatican has urged Catholics to get vaccinated against coronavirus and said it it “morally acceptable” to take vaccines that use cell lines from aborted foetuses. Cells derived from foetuses aborted decades ago have been used by some researchers working on vaccines against Covid-19.
  • Ontario on Monday announced a province-wide shutdown because of a second wave of Covid-19 in Canada’s most populous province. The lockdown will be put in place for southern Ontario from 26 December until 23 January, but will lift for northern Ontario on 9 January. Ontario has had seven straight days of more than 2,000 cases a day.
  • Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated on Tuesday that there was no need for the country to enter a national state of emergency, even as health groups declared their own state of emergency for the medical system as coronavirus infection rates continue to rise.
  • South Korea on Tuesday moved to shut down all ski resorts and winter tourist spots in a bid to stop the novel coronavirus spreading as a third wave of the pandemic proves much tougher to contain in the densely populated region of the capital city.
  • Australian state of New South Wales reports 8 new cases. In the Australian state of New South Wales, where residents are on edge as they await health restrictions – or the easing thereof – amid a new outbreak happening just before Christmas, eight new cases today, down from 15 yesterday.
  • Denmark on Monday agreed on a temporary ban on mink breeding. The move by lawmakers retroactively creates the legal basis for its order to cull all mink in the country in November.

Covid cases recorded in Antarctica for first time – reports

Once the only continent not to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic , Antarctica has reportedly recorded its first cases. The 36 new infections are among people stationed at a Chilean research base and include 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers.
Spanish-language media reported the outbreak at the General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme research base on Monday.
In a statement, the Chilean army said: “Thanks to the timely preventive action … it was possible to relieve said personnel, who, after being subjected to a medical control and the administration of a PCR test … turned out to be positive for Covid-19,” according to Newsweek . It reported that three crew members on a ship providing support to the base have also tested positive since returning from their mission to Antarctica.
The 36 individuals who tested positive have since been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are reported to be under isolation and in good condition.
Read more

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 13:00

Lorry drivers stuck in Kent given 'one cereal bar' overnight

Lorry drivers stuck in Kent for a second night as they wait to cross the Channel have apparently been offered just a single cereal bar each.
Rod McKenzie, managing director of the Road Haulage Association, told BBC Breakfast that drivers' morale was "very poor".
He said: "Many of them are European drivers trying to get home for Christmas.
"Yesterday Kent County Council offered each of them one cereal bar, which is a pretty poor effort, I think in terms of maintaining their morale, and their spirits."
McKenzie added that toilet facilities were also a "big issue" with concerns over health and cleanliness.
Home Secretary Priti Patel later told the programme that the government had been diverting lorries to Manston airport, where there were support and welfare services available for lorry drivers.

'No one is safe until everyone is safe'

Travel bans to contain the spread of the mutant variant of the coronavirus are "prudent", the World Health organization's European chief has said.
Hans Kluge said the WHO's European member states would be meeting to discuss the UK strain and said "no one is safe until everyone is safe".
He tweeted: "Limiting travel to contain spread is prudent until we have better info. Supply chains for essential goods & essential travel should remain possible."

Breaking News 

Slight fall in Covid deaths registered in UK

Robert Cuffe - BBC head of statistics
There were 3,062 Covid-19 deaths registered in the UK during the week of 11 December, very slightly down from 3,160 the previous week.
This brings the total number for deaths that involved Covid-19, according to death certificates, to more than 79,000.
There were 13,910 deaths were registered in the UK in the week of 11 December, 13% more than would be expected normally.
That is down slightly from 15% the week before and 20% the week before that.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 13:04

Military enlisted to help Welsh Ambulance Service

The military has been re-enlisted to support the Welsh Ambulance Service as it contends with a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 90 soldiers will assist the trust by driving ambulances from Wednesday.
Welsh Ambulance Service chief executive Jason Killens said: "The extreme pressure on our ambulance service in the last couple of weeks has been well documented, and it’s why we’ve taken the decision to re-enlist the military, who did a superb job of assisting us earlier in the year.
"Winter is our busiest period, and with the second wave of a global pandemic also to contend with, this is about bolstering our capacity as far we can and putting us in the best possible position to provide a safe service to the people of Wales."
More than 20,000 military personnel have been supporting public services across the UK during the pandemic as part of a Covid Support Force.

Council leader warns hauliers to stay away from Kent

As the number of lorries stranded in Kent continues to grow, the leader of Kent County Council has urged hauliers to stay away to avoid a backlog before Dover.
Cllr Roger Gough told BBC Breakfast that about 800 vehicles were on the M20, and another 900 were at Manston airport.
He said there had been very "strong messages" for lorry drivers to stay away from Kent where possible, but he warned it was having less of an effect today as officials have seen more vehicles coming in.
He said: "Clearly the longer anything goes on, the more difficult it becomes."

Breaking News 

Eurotunnel bosses estimate up to 2500 freight vehicles inbound

Lauren Moss - Political editor, BBC South East Today
Bosses at Eurotunnel estimate that 2000 to 2500 freight vehicles are expected inbound today and again tomorrow.
Currently none are leaving via the same route or the Port of Dover while discussions continue regarding reopening France's border to the UK.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 13:08

Hungary bans UK flights until 8 February

Hungary will ban UK flights from landing there until 8 February to limit the spread of coronavirus, Reuters News reports.

EU joint response expected this afternoon

Almost every EU member state has now stopped travel from the UK amid fears over the virus mutation, and the EU is currently holding talks about how to form a united response.
The EU Commission is set to devise a set of technical recommendations later on how to coordinate the flow of goods and key cargo between the UK and other countries.
It will also make recommendations on how best member states can repatriate their nationals who are trying to get home.
As expected, the commission won't recommend a common restrictions policy for member states to follow.
The announcement, expected this afternoon, will be followed by a meeting of EU ambassadors, who'll continue discussions on travel restrictions.

Seven ways to get through (and enjoy) Christmas on your own

Millions of people across the UK have seen their festive plans severely restricted or scrapped , as tighter restrictions were brought in to combat a surge in coronavirus cases.
For many people, that means spending the festive period alone. The BBC's John Harrison has spoken to experts, a mental health charity and someone who spends Christmas on her own every year - and loves it - to find out what tips they would offer someone preparing to be on their own on this Christmas Day.
Have a read of some our tips below:
[*]It's OK to be angry: Acknowledge any negative emotions arising from ruined plans, rather than suppressing them, says Helen Russell, journalist and author of the book How to be Sad
[*]Change your expectations: You may have wanted the picture-perfect Christmas but that's not going to happen now, so re-write the rules and enjoy having the day to yourself, says Martha Mills, who spends Christmas on her own every year
[*]Plan, plan, plan: Don't wake up on Christmas Day not knowing what you are going to do, instead make sure you have a plan for the day, Mills says
You can read more here .

Drinkers in York fined for crossing over tier boundaries

A "shocking" number of fines have been handed out to people moving from tier 3 to tier 2 areas to drink in pubs and bars , a police force says.
North Yorkshire Police said of more than 160 fines handed out in tier 2 York over the weekend, most went to people living in tier three areas.
All areas of England have been placed in one of four tiers of coronavirus restrictions , depending on factors such as how fast Covid is spreading and pressure on hospitals.
York is near areas under stricter Covid rules like West and South Yorkshire.
The force said it would continue to patrol the city for anyone drinking illegally.
Officers visited pubs in the city from Friday and the force said they found large numbers in breach of the regulations.
Some of the drinkers dispersed and left when spoken to by officers but action was taken against others who stayed, the force said.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 13:21

Salmon exports: 'Nothing is moving'

Losing access to European markets in the run up to Christmas is "really, really difficult" for Scottish salmon producers, says Tavish Scott, of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation.
He told BBC News the week running up to Christmas and the week after were crucial for the sector.
"We look to export 150 tonnes a day, £1m of business every single day, 20 trucks of fresh salmon going across the Channel and that is simply not happening," he said. "This is the crucial week in terms of the whole year, with the premium prices obtained at this time of year in the run up to Christmas, and nothing is moving."
Mr Scott said the industry had spoken to the government about setting up a testing regime on Sunday but so far nothing had happened.
"Christmas is on Friday, the Christmas market now looks like it is gone for our sector, what we are now focusing on is how quickly we will be able to get back into the European marketplace after Christmas," he said.

'Disappointed and afraid' we will miss Christmas with our families - haulier

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The BBC's Simon Jones is in Dover and has been speaking to Florian, a lorry driver from Romania who has been caught up in the queues at Dover.
After a second night trying to sleep in his vehicle, he said he and other drivers were "disappointed and afraid" they will miss Christmas with their families.
"We don't know what to do, I have called everywhere if they can help us and no answer, nobody knows. We have to wait."
He says his family - including his wife and seven-year-old daughter -are waiting for him to return home for Christmas.
He says he told his daughter that is stuck in Kent because the border is closed, "but she doesn't know what the border is, she says 'you have to come, I wait for you, we have to make the tree for Christmas'".
Florian adds that he has asked about getting a coronavirus test, and was told he would not be able to get one of the quick turnaround tests, but would have to wait three days for a PCR test.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 13:28

Five people arriving in India from Britain have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a government official has said on Tuesday, but it was not clear if they had a highly infectious new strain of the virus.
From Reuters:
India has the second-highest number of infections in the world after the US, with its tally rising past 10m on the weekend. More than 146,000 people have died of Covid-19 in India.
The aviation ministry on Monday announced the suspension of all flights from Britain from Wednesday until the end of the month, and made it mandatory for all passengers arriving before the ban comes into force to be tested for the virus.
Five of the 266 passengers and crew who arrived in New Delhi on a flight from Britain late on Monday had tested positive for the coronavirus but it was unclear if they had the new strain, said government official Awanish Kumar, who is helping coordinate testing at New Delhi airport.
The discovery of the new strain, just months before vaccines are expected to be widely available, sowed new panic in a pandemic that has killed about 1.7 million people worldwide and more than 67,000 in Britain.
At least two other flights from Britain have landed in India since the announcement of the flight ban, one in Mumbai and the other in the northern city of Amritsar.
Test results from the 240 people who arrived late on Monday in Amritsar were due on Tuesday afternoon, government official Deepak Bhatia told Reuters.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 14:08

Testing a 'necessity' for lorry drivers - Calais port chief

Testing lorry drivers for coronavirus is a "necessity", the president of the Port of Calais has said.
Jean-Marc Puissesseau, who is president and chairman of the ports at Calais and Boulogne, said he hoped testing could start "very soon" and hoped a solution could be found in a matter of hours to the closure of the border.
He told BBC News: "I do hope really that something will be found and the hauliers will be able to spend Christmas at home."
He said 1200 lorries had travelled from Calais to Dover on Monday with a further 600 making the journey as of midday.

Singapore bans travellers who have been in UK in last 14 days

Travellers who have been in the UK in the last 14 days will be banned from entering or travelling through Singapore, its government has announced.
The ban will come in just before midnight on Wednesday.
Singapore citizens and permanent residents are still able to enter Singapore, but must undergo a Covid-19 test upon arrival and at the end of their mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

Warnings for drivers heading to ports

While Dover is a major route to the continent there are several other ports which serve the European market.
Both Harwich International Port, in Essex, and Felixstowe, in Suffolk, are reported to be busy.
Officials at Harwich have warned drivers without bookings not to come to the port as there is "no prospect of travelling" without a pre-arranged booking.
A spokesperson said: "We are seeing a build-up of lorries without bookings diverting to Harwich International as a result of the closure of the short straits routes.
"We would urge drivers without bookings not to come to the port as there is no prospect of travelling without a pre-arranged booking and drivers with bookings not to arrive before the time of the booking."
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has warned hauliers not to travel to Kent, as the border there remains closed.
"You will be unable to cross and may become stuck," he tweeted.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 14:11

Uzbekistan bans entry of British nationals travelling from UK

British nationals who have been in the UK in the last 14 days will not be able to travel to Uzbekistan until 10 January.
More than 50 countries have now banned UK arrivals because of concerns about the spread of a new variant of coronavirus.

'Ludicrous to send our drivers to join two-day queue' - haulier

Rob Hollyman, director of haulier firm Youngs Transport, told BBC News he had been forced to stop sending any of his lorries to the Continent due to the huge queues building up - and would not resume doing so until after Christmas at the earliest.
"On Sunday we had to make the decision not to send anything over to mainland Europe," he said.
"At Purfleet, we're on the border of Essex and Kent, so to send a truck to drive half an hour and then join a two-day queue - minimmum - seemed ludicrous and so we made the decision not to send them."
Mr Hollyman added the knock-on effect of the delays would mean "we probably won't send any more trucks [to Europe] this side of Christmas" because of the fear staff would not be able to return before 25 December.

Breaking News 

Compulsory Covid tests likely for lorry drivers entering France from UK

Hugh Schofield - BBC News, Paris
President Macron and Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke on Monday, and it is understood that the French side gave an undertaking to find a rapid solution to the blockage.
Most likely it will include compulsory negative Covid tests for lorry drivers coming into France from the UK, and authorisation for European nationals wishing to travel home from the UK for Christmas.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 14:16

More than 50 countries now banning UK arrivals

The number of countries banning UK arrivals amid fears about the new Covid strain found in England has now risen above 50.
Among the UK's European neighbours to close their doors are: France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal, while others such as Greece have strengthened their safety protocols for UK arrivals.
Further afield, India, Pakistan, Sir Lanka, Canada, Argentina and Chile are among dozens of non-European countries to take similar steps.

'Trickle, not flood' when border traffic resumes - Eurotunnel director

Radio 5 Live
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Even if a solution is found to the UK-France border problem, it's likely to be a slow process getting through the backlog of vehicles waiting to cross the Channel, according to director at Eurotunnel, John Keefe.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up to Money programme earlier, he said: "If everyone arrived at the same moment, it would be difficult. We run six departures per hour, each one carries 32 trucks... somewhere between 180 and 200 trucks per hour.
"From what we're seeing, there might be some form of testing, so if people have to go through testing first, then it looks like it might start as a trickle rather than a flood."
The service carries up to 7,000 lorries on a normal day and an average of 60,000 passengers. Eurotunnel says a quarter of all UK trade passses through the tunnel.
"Hopefully, it's just 48 hours and hopefully those trucks will eventually go through because the trucks have to get back to their base, the drivers have to get home.
"The logistics and transport process is a circuit; it keeps on running in both directions. Goods are brought in, goods are taken out, so it's in everybody's interest that that starts up again soon."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 14:19

Restaurants and hairdressers in Republic of Ireland to close on Christmas Eve

Restaurants, hairdressers and gastro pubs in the Republic of Ireland will close at 15:00 GMT on Christmas Eve, when new restrictions are introduced.
People in Ireland may travel beyond their own county until the end of 26 December, the Irish Cabinet said.
But there will be no new inter-county travel allowed after 26 December, and household visits will be reduced to one other household from 27 December.
Travel restrictions from Britain will remain until 31 December under the new rules, and the number of wedding guests in Ireland will be reduced to six, from 2 January, RTÉ reports.
You can read more abour restrictions in Ireland here

Dozens test positive in Glasgow Royal Mail office

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As if the Christmas period was not busy enough for postal workers, dozens of people at a Royal Mail office in Glasgow have tested positive for Covid-19.
The postal service confirmed 38 workers at the mail centre in Springburn have contracted the virus.
A deep clean of the site, where around 1,000 staff are employed, has been carried out.
In a statement, Royal Mail said a number of preventative measures have been put in place. A spokeswoman said: "We wish them a speedy recovery. We have carried out an intensive clean of the site and have organised additional cleaning of key touch points and all communal areas."
Royal Mail said it had put in place a range of measures to protect staff and customers in relation to parcel delivery including contact-free delivery and not handing over handheld devices for signatures.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 16:05

Sturgeon confirms a further 43 deaths in Scotland

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is now updating MSPs on the Covid situation in Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon confirms a further 1,316 people have tested positive for Covid-19. That is 7.5% of the total number of tests carried out.
This takes the total number of positive cases in Scotland to 114,366.
1,045 patients are in hospital with a confirmed case (down 33), with 60 being treated in intensive care (up one).
A further 43 people who tested positive in the last 28 days have had their deaths registered in the last 24 hours. This takes the total to 4,326 deaths in Scotland by that measure.
There's been plenty of focus on the surge in cases in England in rcent days, but the first minister says they are rising north of the border too
"After a sustained period of decline, our case numbers are now more volatile, and have risen by around 15% in the last couple of weeks," Ms Sturgeon tells MSPs
The number of people with Covid who are in hospital and ICU have also risen slightly again, confirms the first minister.

Breaking News 

Non-essential travel to and from UK 'should be discouraged' - EU

The European Commission has published its draft recommendations on UK-EU travel, following concerns over the new variant of coronavirus. These will be confirmed by EU ambassadors later.
They include a recommendation that all non-essential travel to and from the UK "should be discouraged until further notice".

What has the European Commission recommended on UK travel?

Here's some of the key recommendations from the European Commission to member states on travel between the UK and the EU:

  • All non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged until further notice
  • Union citizens and UK citizens travelling to their Member State or country of residence as well as third-country nationals that enjoy EU free movement rights should be exempted from further temporary restrictions provided that they undergo a test or quarantine
  • People travelling for essential reasons, for instance medical staff, should be required to undergo a test within 72 hours prior to departure, but should not be required to quarantine
  • Transport staff within the EU should be exempted from any travel ban across any border and from testing and quarantine requirements when they are travelling across a border to and from a vessel, vehicle, or aircraft
  • Where transport workers are required to take a rapid Covid test, this should not lead to transport disruptions
  • Prohibition of transport services, such as flight or train bans, should be discontinued
  • Cargo flows need to continue uninterrupted, not least to ensure the timely distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

The recommendations are not binding and will be discussed by EU ambassadors in Brussels later.

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Breaking News 

Top tier rules in Scotland may need to be strengthened - Sturgeon

The top level of Covid-19 restrictions in Scotland may need to be strengthened further to contain the new strain of the virus, Nicola Sturgeon has warned.
The whole Scottish mainland is to move into level four from Boxing Day due to concerns about the new Covid variant.
The first minister said this was "essential" to protect the NHS and contain the faster-spreading virus.
And she said consideration must be given to whether the current level four rules were sufficient to do the job.
The government is to narrow the definition of "essential retail" - forcing hardware shops and garden centres to close - while guidance urging people to stay at home as much as possible may be put down in law.
You can read the full story here.

'At least 4000 lorries' could be impacted by France ban

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At least 4,000 lorries could be impacted by the French travel ban and subsequent blockage at Dover, a food industry chief has told MPs.
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), told the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee: "I don't think the number of trucks in the queue or other areas is the relevant number.
"We reckon about 4,000 on their way to Dover at various points.
"Anyone seeing this all happening in the run-up would have parked somewhere else, somewhere more congenial and in a better state."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 16:13

Fauci: US considering testing UK passengers before flying

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US infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, says testing travellers from the UK before they arrive in the US should be considered.
Speaking on BBC News, Mr Fauci said he would not recommend a complete ban on arrivals from the UK.
He said an outright ban “might be a bit of an overreaction”.
“However, I certainly respect the other countries in their decisions of what they’re going to do,” he said.
Passengers flying from the UK to New York with Delta airlines, Virgin or British Airways will have to test negative, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced.
“It’s bigger than just New York, we have been worried about a mutation of the virus,” he told CNN on Monday.

Did Thanksgiving lead to a spike in US cases?

Reality Check
Concerns that family reunions over Christmas could spread coronavirus have led to much tighter restrictions in many parts of the UK.
Some have pointed to the US, claiming family gatherings at Thanksgiving - at the end of November - led to an increase in cases.
The Sunday of the Thanksgiving weekend, 29 November, saw the largest number of people pass through US airports since the start of the pandemic.

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But, while there was a flattening of cases, due to reporting delays over the holiday and then a catch up period, the overall rate of growth of infections across the US has remained about the same as it was in the weeks before the holiday.
Prof Megan Murray, an epidemiologist at Harvard University, says: "It may be the case that Covid would have started to level off in some places but didn't because of the Thanksgiving travel - but we will never really know that."
You can see more detailed analysis from our Reality Check team here .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 16:17

UK facing 'very serious' supply chain disruption

Duncan Buchanan, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association, said he was "very disappointed" with how the government presented the levels of freight disruption on Monday evening, saying they were "seeking to minimise the nature of the problem".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a briefing on Monday that the number of lorries waiting on the M20 had been reduced from 500 to 170, although Highways England later said there were 900 lorries parked on the M20 as of 18:00 GMT.
Mr Buchanan said the UK was facing "a very serious problem".
"This is a very different level of supply chain disruption, of the like we have probably never experienced," he told MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee.
"Many of the retailers are saying... we will be fine until Christmas at least, but we must recover very fast to keep the shops fully stocked after Christmas. It's a big worry."

Breaking News 

Ireland extends UK travel ban

Ireland has announced it has extended its UK travel ban until 31 December.

India sees infection rates decline

India has recorded its lowest infection rate since the beginning of July.
The country has recorded the second highest number of infections since the pandemic began, with 10 million cases. More than 146,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
But the rate of infection has slowed since a September peak. On Tuesday, the country recorded 19,556 infections and 301 deaths.
With news of the new strain in the UK, India has announced it plans to locate everyone who arrived in the country from the UK over the past month.
Eight people arriving from Britain tested positive for Covid-19 this week, officials told Reuters.
The country has not recorded a case of the new strain.
India is suspending flights to the UK from Wednesday. The suspension is set to last until the end of December.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 16:30

Netherlands cancels non-urgent healthcare as cases rise

Hospitals in The Netherlands have cancelled all non-urgent healthcare in the next few weeks to help deal with the rising number of Covid-19 patients.
Infections in the country rose by 42% to 83,240 over the past week, according to the National Institute for Public Health.
Medical care minister Tamara van Ark said on Tuesday that hospitals should expect to deal with a peak in admissions in January.
“It is all hands on deck in the coming weeks,” she said.
Urgent treatment such as cancer related operations and organ transplants will go ahead as planned , Dutch News reports.
Ms Van Ark said some patients will also be moved to Germany.
The Netherland has discovered two Dutch patients infected with the new strain of the virus, which was first discovered in the UK.

'We don't know when we will get home'

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Greg Mazurek was making a delivery to the UK with another driver

More than 1,500 lorries are waiting to leave the UK while the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel remain closed to traffic leaving the country.
Polish lorry driver Greg Mazurek, 36, said he arrived in the UK with another driver to deliver a respirator to a medical centre on Sunday.
"We were not prepared for such a long trip. It was supposed to be a fast delivery, two or three days, then go back home for Christmas with our families," he said.
"Now we don't know if we will get home in time. We know nothing.
"All we are doing is waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting for information. Watching the port. Waiting to get back home to our families.
"They miss us, we miss them. We don't know when we will be able to get home."
Read more .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 16:35

Is the mutant Covid variant already in the US?

Public health experts in the US have been weighing in on the UK's discovery of a new mutant variant of Covid-19, with many saying that there is a solid likelihood that the virus is already present in the US.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US disease researcher, told ABC News this morning that it is "certainly possible" that the mutant strain is already present in the US.
"I mean, when you have this amount of spread within a place like the UK that you really need to assume that it's here already," he said. "It may not - and certainly it's not the dominant strain, but I would not be surprised at all if it was already here."
The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the regulator tasked with approving vaccines and medicines, said the new strain “is already in the US.”
“I don’t think a travel ban [on the UK], at this point, is going to prevent this mutated strain from coming into the United States,” Scott Gottlieb told CNBC.

Marquess charged with breaking Scotland's Covid laws

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The Marquess of Bute has been charged with allegedly breaking coronavirus laws after reportedly travelling to Scotland from London .
Police Scotland launched an investigation following reports on Monday that he and six others travelled to the Isle of Bute.
The marquess has a home in London as well as his ancestral home of Mount Stuart on Bute, an island in the Firth of Clyde.
Scotland's cross border travel curbs have been in place since November.
Also known as John Colum Bute, the 62-year-old marquess is a former F1 driver who raced under the name Johnny Dumfries.
The Bute family has been contacted for comment.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 16:37

Where are lorries queuing to get to Dover?

While some of those hoping to cross the Channel to mainland Europe are queuing on the M20, others have been diverted around eastern Kent, via Manston.

Coronavirus - 22nd December 970ec310

Breaking News 

Further 691 Covid deaths reported in UK

A further 691 people have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test in the UK, the Department of Health has reported.
There were 215 deaths reported on Monday.
It takes the total deaths by this measure since the start of the pandemic to 68,307.
A further 36,804 people have tested positive for Covid-19 across the country, up from a rise of 33,364 on Monday.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 16:41

China suspends London visa application service

China has suspended its visa application service in London.
In a statement, the Chinese embassy did not reveal how long the suspension would last.
“In accordance with the relevant pandemic prevention advice, the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre in London will suspend its operation from December 22nd, 2020 until further notice,” the statement said .
The announcement came after a new strain of Covid-19 was revealed in the UK. More than 50 countries have banned travel from the UK so far.
Last month, the Chinese embassy announced the temporary suspension of entry into China by non-Chinese nationals in the UK holding Chinese visas or residence permits.

No need to introduce caps on shoppers baskets - supermarket executive

Simon Jack - BBC Business Editor
A senior supermarket executive has told the BBC that while some shelves are empty there is plenty of stock to replenish them overnight.
The company said they felt no need to introduce caps on the number of items shoppers can buy as although customers were spending heavily they were doing so “rationally”.
The executive added that much of the buying was down to a change of Christmas plans, saying “there are a lot more Christmases than people were expecting due to the new restrictions on households mingling and shoppers are buying accordingly – but hoping to do it once”.
The company said that if the problems at the border did not start to improve within the next 48 hours then shortages of fresh food would begin to bite from 27 December.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 16:53

Outbreak worsens among US death row prisoners

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An outbreak of Covid-19 at a federal prison in the US state of Indiana has worsened and - in a bizarre twist - could wind up saving the lives of several prisoners sentenced to death.
According to the New York Times, at least 14 of the approximately 50 death row inmates at the prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, have been infected.
Among the infected are two men scheduled to die next month. Federal executions had been on hold for 17 years before President Trump ordered them to be resumed earlier this year.
President-elect Joe Biden, who takes over the White House on 20 January, has said he would seek to halt federal executions.
Lawyers for the two condemned men have already asked the courts to delay their sentences. Another inmate scheduled to die before Biden takes office - Lisa Montgomery - has already had her sentenced postponed after her two lawyers tested positive for the virus.
According to a survey last month from The Marshall Project and The Associated Press , approximately one in five US prisoners is infected with Covid-19.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 17:30

Breaking News

Now nearly 3,000 lorries held in Kent

Lauren Moss - Political editor, BBC South East Today
There are now almost 3,000 lorries being held in Kent as they wait to cross to the continent, the leader of Kent County Council has said.
Roger Gough told the BBC that 2,220 vehicles are now at the airport in Manston.
A further 632 are still being held on the M20 motorway.

'Few toilets and little food to eat' at Manston

The situation is "serious" at Manston in Kent where hundreds of lorry drivers are stranded due to the closure of the border.
The Road Haulage Association's policy and public affairs managing director Rod McKenzie tweeted that "drivers have few toilets and little food to eat".
The trade body is calling on the government to act quickly to tackle the situation.
Manston Airport is being used as a temporary lorry park.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 17:35

US teen who broke Cayman Islands quarantine asks Trump for help

The family of a US teenager sentenced to four months in prison for violating quarantine rules in the British Cayman Islands has asked President Donald Trump to intervene in the case.
Skylar Mack, an 18-year-old from Georgia, broke the 14-day quarantine last month after two days by removing a government geo-tracking bracelet and attending a jet ski event where her Caymanian boyfriend was competing.
According to the judge in the case, Mack had swapped out her bracelet for one that was more loose one day before her violation, so that she would be able to slip out of it more easily.
"She’s terrified. She called me last night, she couldn’t sleep," her grandmother Jeanne Mack told Fox News on Monday.
"She knows she did wrong," she said, calling the incident "a total lapse in judgement of an otherwise brilliant young lady."
According to the Cayman Compass newspaper, Mack did not wear a mask or socially distance while watching the jet ski event for approximately seven hours.

Analysis: Deaths will continue to climb in coming weeks

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
The daily government figures on coronavirus are very sobering. Deaths linked to the virus are beginning to climb, with another 691 deaths reported on Tuesday.
But deaths happening now are people who would have been infected at the start of the month. Since then we know cases have risen rapidly.
The 36,804 new confirmed infections reported today are a daily record since mass testing began in the early summer – although it is likely there were more cases in the spring peak but a lack of testing meant we were not spotting them.
The jump means we are now seeing twice the number of daily cases than we were at the start of the month on average.
That means deaths will, sadly, continue to climb in the coming weeks.
As will hospital admissions. The figures show there are nearly 19,000 patients in hospital, bring the NHS ever closer to the spring peak when just over 21,000 were being treated for Covid at one point.
Hospital bosses are warning the next 10 to 15 days are going to be crucial.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 18:37

Tesco re-introduces limits on essential items

Tesco has re-introduced a cap on the number of some items customers can buy.
In an email to customers the supermarket giant said stock levels were good and reminded them to shop normally so that everyone was able to get what they need.
Tesco said it had temporary purchasing limits in place on certain essential items to help all customers have access to these products.
These are understood to include toilet roll, eggs, rice, soap and hand wash.
Earlier, an executive at (another) supermarket told the BBC's business editor Simon Jack that they did not feel the need to introduce caps on any items shoppers could buy at their stores.

Thanks for joining us...

We're bringing our live coverage to a close for the evening now.
Here's a recap of the main stories today:

Today’s live page was edited by Julian Joyce and written by Doug Faulkner, Hamish Mackay, Becky Morton, Mary O’Connor, Max Matza and Sophie Williams.

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Coronavirus - 22nd December Empty Late evening updates:

Post by Kitkat Tue Dec 22 2020, 21:33

Later evening updates:

(from The Guardian)

French and EU citizens will again be allowed to enter France from Britain from midnight on Tuesday provided they have a negative Covid test that is less than 72 hours old, the French prime minister’s office has confirmed.
British citizens or citizens from third countries who have residence in France or the European Union can also enter the country or transit through it from Britain as long as they have a negative Covid test, the prime minister’s office said in a statement, according to Reuters.
UK citizens or people from third countries with legitimate professional or other reasons for travelling from Britain will also be allowed into France, provided they test negative.
The government listed several categories of people to whom this would be applicable, including those in transit for less than 24 hours in international zones, diplomats and their families, health workers, airline staff and bus or train operators.
The new rules will be in place until 6 January, unless reviewed following bilateral UK-France or EU-wide talks.

France has reported 11,795 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, up from 5,797 on Monday and nearly unchanged from 11,532 last Tuesday, and taking the total to 2.49 million cases.
On Mondays, the number of cases usually drops because of weekend reporting lags.
French authorities also registered 802 new coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours, including 381 hospital deaths, compared with 351 on Monday.
They reported 421 deaths in retirement homes over the past four days.
Total deaths from the respiratory pandemic now stand at 61,702.
The number of people in intensive care with Covid-19 in France fell again by 18 to 2,728, while the number hospitalised with the virus fell by 269 to 24,964.

Tunisia will ban all events including celebrations for the new year and extend its night curfew until 15 January to help combat the spread of coronavirus, the health minister has said.
The government imposed the night curfew in October and banned travel between regions in the North African country.
On Monday, Tunisia said it had recorded a total of 121,718 coronavirus infections, including 4,199 deaths.
Tunisian authorities said they had ordered vaccines from US drugmaker Pfizer.

Canada is introducing extra measures to screen people who have spent time in Britain to check for a fast-spreading mutated Covid-19 variant, public safety minister Bill Blair has said.
Separately, health officials said they had seen no sign yet of the variant, which has emerged in Britain and prompted many countries to introduce travel bans.
Although Ottawa imposed a 72-hour block on flights from Britain on Sunday, Blair said more steps were needed to handle people who had been in the country and then flown to Canada via Europe or the US.
Visitors to Britain during the previous two weeks prior to arrival in Canada will be referred to health officials for additional assessments, screening and questions. They will also have to go into quarantine for 14 days.
“We believe (these measures) are among the strongest in the world,” Blair said, adding those who lied about having not been in Britain could face imprisonment and big fines.
Fewer than 2% of coronavirus cases in Canada have been linked to international travel, Blair said.
A second wave of coronavirus is sweeping across Canada and authorities have only just begun to inoculate the population using Pfizer’s vaccine. Health minister Patty Hajdu said a decision on whether to approve Moderna’s vaccine should come very soon but gave no details.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, on Monday announced a partial shutdown of some businesses starting 26 December and banned most indoor gatherings.
Cases continue to rise steadily and chief public health officer Theresa Tam said she was particularly worried about the increasing number of people being hospitalised at a time when health care workers are exhausted.
“It’s going to be much more difficult for us to manage in the next few months,” she said.

Malawi has announced it will seal its land borders for 14 days after a new surge in coronavirus cases, almost three months since most preventative measures were ditched and life had returned to normal.
Making the announcement in the capital Lilongwe, information minister Gospel Kazako also confirmed one of the Covid taskforce members, minister of labour Ken Kandodo, had been admitted to hospital with the virus.
Only those bringing essentials like fuel and drugs will be allowed to come into the country, and football matches and other public gatherings have been restricted to no more than 100 people. More restrictions might be introduced soon, he said.
Malawi’s total number of infections now stands at 6,248, with 187 deaths.

Britain to begin testing truck drivers to reopen France border

British transport secretary Grant Shapps said stranded truck drivers would begin receiving Covid tests on Wednesday that, if negative, would allow them to return home to France.
“We’ll be making sure that tomorrow we’re out there, providing tests,” Shapps said, but he cautioned the process would take time. “This will take two or three days for things to be cleared.”

A Sikh humanitarian organisation has been delivering hundreds of hot meals to lorry drivers stuck in Kent due to the French travel ban designed to stop the spread of a new strain of coronavirus.
Volunteers from Khalsa Aid received an escort from Kent Police as they drove from Gravesend to the M20 to provide 800 meals to the stranded truckers.

Tweet  ravinder singh:

We are working with the Kent Sikh community & Kent Police to provide 800 hot meals for the truck drivers who are stranded due to Borders being closed !

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Coronavirus - 22nd December Ep2j4_10

In footage shared on social media, Khalsa Aid founder Ravinder Singh revealed the Coast Guard and Highway Agency also helped them to distribute their cargo.
“The Khalsa volunteers have been out all day and we’re thankful for the Gravesend Sikh temple, gurdwara, for assisting in making this meal - 800 meals and we’ve got much more to do,” said Singh, speaking from the M20.

California has recorded a half-million coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, overwhelming emergency rooms across the state.
The state could be facing a once-unthinkable scenario of nearly 100,000 hospitalisations within a month, the governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday.
Newsom, himself quarantined for the second time in two months, said a state projection model shows previously unfathomable hospitalisation numbers. He is likely to extend his stay-at-home order for much of the state next week.
Dr Mark Ghaly, California’s health secretary, said it is feared entire areas of the state may run out of room even in their makeshift “surge” capacity units “by the end of the month and early in January”.
In response, the state is updating its planning guide for how hospitals would ration care if people cannot receive the treatment they need, Ghaly said. “Our goal is to make sure those plans are in place, but work hard to make sure no one has to put them into place anywhere in California,” he said.

Here’s a quick recap of the latest coronavirus developments from across the globe over the last few hours:

  • Britain to begin mass testing truck drivers as France reopens border. A mass Covid-19 testing programme for lorry drivers is to get under way to alleviate congestion at British ports following an agreement to reopen the border between France and the UK. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said lateral flow tests, which take about 30 minutes, could be used to test those able to cross the French border .
  • Relatives of Italian Covid victims to file lawsuit against leading politicians. Relatives of coronavirus victims in Italy are taking legal action against the prime minister, health minister and the president of the Lombardy region for alleged criminal negligence over their handling of the pandemic .
  • Biden will seek new Covid-19 relief package next year and says “darkest days” are ahead. US president-elect Joe Biden said his administration will put forward another Covid-19 relief package next year, including a new round of stimulus payments. “Here is the simple truth: our darkest days in the battle against Covid are ahead of us, not behind us,” he said.
  • South Africa struggles to contain second Covid wave with new variant. South Africa is struggling to contain a second wave of Covid-19 infections which appears to be driven by a new and more infectious variant of the disease , similar to that in the UK.
  • NHS leaders raise concerns over pace of Covid vaccine rollout. NHS leaders in England have raised concerns about the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, with more than half of hospital trusts and two-thirds of GPs yet to receive supplies amid growing alarm over the new fast-spreading variant.
  • Covid could shorten US life expectancy by up to three years, experts say. The US could see a decline of two to three years in life expectancy in 2020 due to the coronavirus, the steepest drop since the second world war and with Covid-19 poised to become the third-leading cause of death in America.
  • California records half a million Covid cases in two weeks. The state could be facing a once-unthinkable scenario of nearly 100,000 hospitalisations within a month , overwhelming emergency rooms across the state.
  • Weekly Covid-19 cases hit record fuelled by Americas. Weekly Covid-19 cases rose by the highest amount since the pandemic began, the World Health Organization said, with the Americas accounting for half of them.
  • Nicola Sturgeon apologises for breaching Covid rules. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised after she breached Covid rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake.
  • AstraZeneca says its vaccine should be effective against new coronavirus variant. British drugmaker AstraZeneca told Reuters its Covid-19 vaccine should be effective against the new coronavirus variant, adding studies were underway to fully probe the impact of the mutation.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 20:58