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Coronavirus - 23rd December

Kitkat
Kitkat

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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 12:38

Summary for Wednesday, 23rd December

  • France eases its travel ban on the UK, with French citizens, British nationals living in France and hauliers allowed to travel as long as they test negative for Covid-19
  • Soldiers are joining NHS Test and Trace staff in Dover, Kent, to carry out rapid tests on stranded lorry drivers
  • Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick warns it could take "a few days" to clear a backlog of lorries stuck at Dover port
  • They have been stranded since the France-UK border shut on Sunday amid fears over a new variant of coronavirus
  • The Netherlands lifts a ban on entry from the UK as long as travellers present a negative rest
  • Singapore stops entry or transit from the UK, joining more than 50 countries to impose such travel restrictions
  • UK ministers are considering extending tier four curbs to more parts of England, with changes coming as early as Boxing Day
  • Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologises for not wearing a face mask while talking to people at a wake


Good morning


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Nearly 3,000 lorries have been stuck in Kent since the border shut on Sunday

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are the latest stories from the UK:


UK-France services return as travel ban eased

Rail, air and sea services between the UK and France are resuming this morning after the French government agreed to ease its travel ban.
Under the agreement between the UK and France, those travelling for urgent reasons, including hauliers, French citizens, and British citizens with French residency will be allowed into France.
But in order to travel, they will need to have received a negative test result less than 72 hours before departure.
Soldiers have joined NHS Test and Trace staff in Kent to carry out rapid tests on the thousands of lorry drivers who have been stranded since the border shut on Sunday.
More than 50 other countries, including Italy, India and Pakistan, are continuing to block travellers from the UK amid concerns over a new variant of coronavirus.
Read more .

France worked ‘as quickly as possible’ to reopen border

French politician Alexandre Holyroyd, who is a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party, has defended his country’s handling of a travel ban with the UK.
The MP, who represents French expats living in northern Europe, said he had an “enormous amount of sympathy” for those who were stuck in the UK but said the French and UK governments had worked “as quickly as possible” to reopen the border.
He also denied any political motivations for imposing a travel ban with the UK.
“This is about protecting against the spread of the virus and against the spread of a dangerous new strain of the virus. It is the only reason which is behind those measures,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 12:45

Headlines from around the world

Here's the latest headlines from around the world today:

  • Authorities in Sydney have extended Covid restrictions on social gatherings across Christmas in a bid to curb an outbreak. Most Sydneysiders will be able to have 10 adult visitors to their home during the festive period . Sydney reported eight cases on Wednesday
  • US President Donald Trump has condemned a Covid-19 stimulus bill passed by Congress. In a video released on Twitter, he demanded that direct payments to individuals to help them through the pandemic be tripled to $2,000 each (£1,488)
  • President-elect Joe Biden told the American people on Tuesday that the darkest days of the battle against Covid-19 still lie ahead. In a televised address, he shared his coronavirus response plans
  • Mexico will start vaccinating people against the virus on Thursday. Authorities approved the Pfizer-BioNTech jab last week and the first shipment will arrive on Wednesday. Mexico is set to receive 7.5 million doses by March
  • The organisers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics say they have had to change their plans for the opening and closing ceremonies due to the pandemic. The delay has already added nearly $3bn to the cost of the Games


Travel ban eased from UK: Latest across Europe


  • EU member states have begun lifting temporary bans on travellers from the UK over the new variant of coronavirus described as more transmissible than before. France is requiring a negative test before travel; Italy has begun allowing residents to come back, but Spain has reportedly halted non-residents of Gibraltar from crossing from the Rock after a case of the new variant emerged there. The Netherlands is requiring a negative test before travel.
  • Germany has recorded a new high of 962 deaths in the past 24 hours. In the eastern state of Saxony, bodies are being temporarily stored outside a crematorium in Zittau because of the area’s high death rate.
  • The first 107,000 coronavirus vaccines have arrived in Switzerland and two cantons, Lucerne and Appenzell Innerrhoden, plan to start vaccinating today. The rest of the country isn’t starting vaccinations until at least next week and a leading doctor has appealed for cantons not to compete with each other.
  • Danish health experts say restrictions on movement that came in on 7 December have begun to halt the curve of infection. Health Minister Magnus Heunicke says the reproduction rate has also fallen from 1.2 to 0.9, so each person infected is passing on the virus to less than one person.
  • Lithuania has recorded a record 54 Covid deaths in 24 hours. Almost all 812 Covid hospital beds have been filled in the main Vilnius region.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 12:48

Ministers meeting to consider tougher measures for England - Jenrick

The government is considering whether England's tier system is "sufficiently robust" to deal with rising coronavirus rates, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said.
He told BBC Breakfast the Covid Operations Committee, chaired by the prime minister, would meet in a couple of hours to see whether further steps needed to be taken.
Reports have suggested ministers are considering extending the toughest tier four restrictions to more parts of England, with changes coming as early as 26 December.
While he said he would not pre-judge the outcome of the meeting, Jenrick added: "The virus is rising in a worrying way in many parts of the country and the new variant which has really been a significant game-changer is now prevalent outside of just London and the south-east.”
However, he said there was "absolutely no plan" to change restrictions before Christmas.
Read more here

Schools will reopen in January

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said schools in England will open in January, despite scientists investigating the possibility the new variant of coronavirus spreads more easily in children .
“We’ve made it our long-standing priority to reopen schools," he told BBC Breakfast.
However, he said the government was also taking a number of steps to protect young people and teachers, including working with schools to encourage them to introduce testing schemes in the new year and staggering the return of pupils.

Clearing lorry backlog will take 'a few days'

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has urged lorry drivers not to travel to Kent, saying it will take "a few days" to clear the backlog of vehicles that have been stuck there since the border shut on Sunday.
The French government has agreed to ease its UK travel ban but hauliers must have a negative Covid test result less than 72 hours before departure to enter France.
Jenrick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme truck drivers would be offered a rapid lateral flow test and their result, which takes around 30 minutes, would be texted to them.
If they test negative, he said they will be able to proceed across the Channel but if they test positive they will be offered a PCR test, which can take over 24 hours to turn around, and will have to self-isolate in their cab while they wait for their result.
If they test positive again then they will be offered Covid-secure hotel accommodation nearby where they will have to self-isolate, he said.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 12:50

Sydney outbreak has 'nation on edge'

Phil Mercer - BBC News Sydney
Australian authorities say coronavirus restrictions will be eased slightly for three days over Christmas as a cluster of infections continues to grow in Sydney.
Lockdown orders will remain in place for some coastal suburbs over Christmas, but the rest of the city will enjoy “modest changes” over the festive period with small gatherings allowed for three days.
The cluster in Sydney, the state capital of New South Wales, has grown to 97 cases.
Australia has recorded 28,200 Covid-19 infections since the pandemic began, and 908 people have died.
The outbreak has the nation on edge.
All Australian states and territories have imposed travel bans on residents from Sydney.
Police checkpoints have been put in place on the border of New South Wales with Victoria and Queensland. Many flights have also been suspended.
Australia’s coronavirus strategy has relied on mass testing, sophisticated contact tracing, strict lockdowns and the closure of its international borders to foreign travellers.

'Irreparable damage' - Italy's ski resorts deserted

Italy could end 2020 as the country with the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe.
Amidst a devastating second wave, the government has tightened restrictions, including closing ski resorts over Christmas.
The province of Bergamo – home to the city that was Italy's original Covid epicentre – is enduring the economic blow of losing its most important ski season.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 12:56

Truck drivers scuffle with police at Dover


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Truck drivers trying to enter the port of Dover in England have scuffled with police.
Thousands of drivers have been stuck at the port after the border with France was closed on Sunday.

Clearing lorry backlog will take 'a few days'

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has urged lorry drivers not to travel to Kent, saying it will take "a few days" to clear the backlog of vehicles that have been stuck there since the border shut on Sunday.
The French government has agreed to ease its UK travel ban but hauliers must have a negative Covid test result less than 72 hours before departure to enter France.
Jenrick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme truck drivers would be offered a rapid lateral flow test and their result, which takes around 30 minutes, would be texted to them.
If they test negative, he said they will be able to proceed across the Channel but if they test positive they will be offered a PCR test, which can take over 24 hours to turn around, and will have to self-isolate in their cab while they wait for their result.
If they test positive again then they will be offered Covid-secure hotel accommodation nearby where they will have to self-isolate, he said.

150 passenger vehicles crossed Channel overnight - Eurotunnel

Simon Jones - Reporter, BBC South East Today
Eurotunnel says around 150 passenger vehicles crossed the Channel overnight, carrying people who have had a negative Covid test.
However, no freight has crossed the Channel yet.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:00

Taiwan president calls for calm amid new local case

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has told people not to panic after it confirmed its first locally transmitted case of the virus since April.
Taiwan has been praised for its response to the virus. It has recorded 770 cases and seven deaths since the pandemic began.
The new local case was a woman who is friends with a New Zealand pilot who tested positive earlier this week. About 170 of her contacts have been tested.
“Please don’t panic excessively,” Ms Tsai told reporters. She urged people to follow official health guidance and not spread fake news.

Singapore, the Philippines and South Korea announce new rules on UK travellers

Singapore, the Philippines and South Korea are the latest countries enforcing new rules on travel from the UK following news of the new strain of Covid-19.

  • The Philippines government is suspending all flights from Britain starting from 24 December until the end of the month.
  • All passengers who were in the UK over the past two weeks, including transiting, will also be restricted from entering the country from Thursday. Those already on their way will be required to undergo stricter quarantine rules.
  • South Korea has suspended all flights until the end of the year.
  • Singapore has banned people from the UK arriving or transiting through the country. The ban includes anyone who has been to the UK over the past 14 days – even those who have transited through the country.
  • Permanent residents and Singapore citizens are still allowed to enter Singapore however must quarantine and take a Covid-19 test.


The Philippines sees lockdown baby boom

In the Philippines, the lockdown has meant hundreds of thousands of women have been unable to access birth control, resulting in numerous unplanned pregnancies.
It is estimated that an extra 214,000 unplanned babies will be born in the next year, according to projections by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund.
Hospitals in the country are already overwhelmed by 1.7 million births a year.
Read more about the Philippines’ lockdown baby boom
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:05

'Wear your mask, or else...', Mexican wrestlers warn


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Would you say "no" if this wrestler told you to put on a mask?

Visitors to a market in the Mexican town of Irapuato were made an offer they could not refuse on Tuesday.
Five Mexican wrestlers were challenging anyone not wearing a mask to "do the right thing" and don one. The wrestlers, in full disguise and make-up, handed out hundreds of facemasks to those "who still come up with excuses as to why they're not wearing one".

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Shoppers who didn't have masks were handed some for free

The performance was organised by the local health authorities which argue that the extreme measures are warranted as it's "in everyone's interest" that shoppers wear face coverings.
Mexico has recorded the fourth highest number of coronavirus-related deaths after the US, Brazil and India,
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:11

Frustration from lorry drivers waiting to cross Channel

Simon Jones - BBC Reporter at the scene at Manston Airport in Kent
There's a lot of frustration here this morning and we’ve been hearing lorry drivers sounding their horns.
What we’ve heard from people above all is there is a lack of information - the waiting, the not knowing what’s going to happen.
This morning a lot of people have been turning up on spec, people from Romania and Bulgaria who are in vans, hoping they might be able to get a test.
I think they will be told they have to go and join the back of the queue on the M20 or potentially if they’re a lorry be allowed on to the site here at Manston Airport, which is being used as a holding facility.
This morning there have also been some scuffles in Dover where lorry drivers are just so frustrated they’ve been gathering near the entrance of the port. They simply want to be allowed to go home.
But if they’re parked up illegally in Dover or in lay-bys or on verges, they are not going to be the number one priority for getting a test.

Situation at Dover is 'chaos'

Rod McKenzie, from the Road Haulage Association, has described the situation in Dover as "chaos", saying facilities for lorry drivers are inadequate.
“The government has said the borders are open but actually they’re not. And unfortunately that message having gone out, a lot of lorry drivers have started heading for the ports again," he told the BBC.
“The testing regime hasn’t started yet and without that starting, the borders can’t effectively open for traffic heading back to France.”
He said information for lorry drivers on the ground had been "extremely poor" and food provision "very inadequate".
There are also not enough toilet facilities for the thousands of trucks waiting at Kent's Manston Airport, he added.

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A disused airport in Manston, Kent, is being used to store freight lorries



'Truck driver asked for a loaf of bread'

Richard Lloyd, director of a UK firm which imports farm machinery from Poland, said he'd been called by the family of a driver who had no food.
They asked whether he could "somehow get food to the lorry, even a loaf of bread".
"I have customers around that area and they tell me there's plenty of electric lights running to keep the place alight but no facilities to wash, toilet and find something to eat," said Richard.
"I mean, he didn't want to go anywhere because of the security of the truck, and obviously a place in the queue, so it was a desperate situation and, in this day and age, in 2020, somebody's asking for a loaf of bread. Terrible."
France has agreed to allow entry to its own citizens and some others, including truck drivers, on the condition that they test negative for Covid-19.
But Richard fears the backlog will take ages to clear and will mean many drivers won't get back home in time for Christmas.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:14

Norway extends ban on UK flights

Norway’s health ministry says it will extend its ban on flights from the UK for at least three days.
It will then decide on 26 December whether to extend the ban into the New Year.
A large number of countries have issued bans on travel from the UK following news of a variant of coronavirus spreading quickly in the south and south east of the country.

Supply issues expected for some fresh goods - British Retail Consortium

The British Retail Consortium says it is expecting supply issues for some fresh goods until the backlog of lorries at Dover is cleared.
Andrew Opie, the organisation's director of food and sustainability, said: “It is good news for consumers as the French borders have now reopened, however it is essential that lorries get moving across the border as quickly as possible.
"Until the backlog is cleared and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods.”

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Perishable goods, including Scottish salmon, have been stuck in Dover for days

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation Scotland said companies face a "black Christmas" due to delays at the French border.
David Thomson told the BBC: "For those people who export fresh and perishable goods, particularly seafood and salmon in Scotland, it's been an absolutely disastrous few days and it will lead to a black Christmas for those businesses.
"The deal will be far too late for many people who are delivering perishable goods to the continent."
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:17

How dependent is UK on food from the EU?


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France's decision to close the border with the UK to stop the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus has highlighted the importance of the Dover-Calais route for food supplies.
About 30% of all the food we eat in the UK comes from the European Union, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) industry group.
Britain imports nearly half of its fresh vegetables and the majority of its fruit, both mainly from the EU - and that's where the potential problem was.


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During the summer months, the UK can grow plenty of its own produce like lettuces and soft berries such as raspberries and strawberries, but when the weather turns colder Britain is forced to rely much more on imports from the EU.
In January, for example, the UK imports 90% of the lettuces it needs from the EU. But in June, Britain produces 95% of its own salad leaves.
You can read more here
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:21

Approval for Oxford vaccine expected 'shortly after Christmas'

The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine could be approved by regulators just after Christmas, according to a medical scientist.
Professor Sir John Bell said he expects the vaccine - which has been developed by Oxford University researchers - to get the green light "pretty shortly".
He told the Today programme that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has received "multiple sets of data" about the vaccine.
"So we are getting to be about prime time now, I would expect some news pretty shortly," he added.
"I doubt we'll make Christmas now, but just after Christmas I would expect.
"I have no concerns whatsoever that the data looks better than ever."
The government has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with around 40 million to be made available by the end of March.
Approval of the vaccine would help boost the UK's battle against Covid-19 as it is easier to distribute than the Pfizer/BioNTech jab - which is currently being administered to certain groups across the UK.

How does mass testing work?

Jack Goodman - BBC Reality Check
Mass testing is seen as a key tool to reduce the spread of coronavirus and identify contagious people with and without symptoms.
Regular testing can be used in targeted ways to prevent outbreaks in hospitals or care homes and to keep places open such as schools and universities where the virus can spread.
Two types of tests have been offered in pilot schemes. The “gold standard” PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test which can take up to a day or longer to return results, and the lateral flow test which has a faster turnaround of about 20 minutes.
Anyone who tests positive will be asked to self-isolate for at least 10 days and their contacts will be traced by NHS Test and Trace.
The government would like to expand mass testing into areas with high infection rates. This follows a successful trial project in Liverpool where everyone was offered a voluntary test and the city saw a fall in the number of cases.
Read more about mass testing here.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:25

Testing of lorry drivers has begun, UK government says

The coronavirus testing of lorry drivers wanting to cross the Channel into France has begun, the Department for Transport said.
As of 09:30 GMT, more than 5,000 lorries are being held in three traffic management operations in Kent, the department said in a statement.
"We continue to urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice as we work to alleviate congestion at ports," the statement said.

Arrest at Dover as drivers scuffle with police


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A man has been arrested for obstructing a highway in Dover, according to Kent Police.
It comes as truck drivers trying to enter the port scuffled with officers.
Kent Police said it had received reports of "disturbances involving individuals in both Dover and at the DfT-run lorry holding facility at Manston who are hoping to cross the Channel".
"One man has been arrested for obstructing a highway in Dover and remains in custody," it added.
Thousands of drivers have been stuck at the port after France closed its border with the UK on Sunday.
It has since agreed to allow entry to its own citizens and some others, including truck drivers, on the condition that they test negative for Covid-19.
Kent Police said it is working with other agencies to make sure drivers hoping to travel into Europe "adhere to the latest government travel requirements regarding Covid testing".
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:28

Hunt for British tourists in Swiss ski resorts

Imogen Foulkes - BBC News, Geneva
There’s something of an awkward hunt going on in Switzerland: for British tourists.
Thousands have been arriving to spend Christmas here, taking advantage of the controversial Swiss decision to keep slopes open.
The upmarket resort of Verbier is especially popular with Brits. But now the new Covid 19 strain – and evidence it could be much more infectious - has changed things dramatically.
Swiss health authorities have told UK citizens arriving after 14 December to "render" themselves into quarantine or risk a 10,000 franc (9224 euros, £8374) fine.
Airlines must hand over passenger lists and hotels should, it seems, confine guests to their rooms. But in Verbier things seem relaxed, its well-heeled visitors don’t seem concerned about the fine.
Some interviewed by Swiss newspapers are circumspect about when they actually arrived, others are defiant. "We brought tourism here," one young man, snowboard under arm, said. "Verbier is lucky."

Lufthansa airlifts food to Britain amid ports chaos


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Despite assurances that plenty of food will be available, some shoppers have found empty shelves

Germany's Lufthansa is airlifting fresh fruit and vegetables to Britain as firms seek to beat the lorry chaos at sea ports.
The airline is carrying 80 tonnes of food from Frankfurt to Doncaster Sheffield Airport in a Boeing 777.
Thousands of lorries remain stuck in Kent despite moves to re-start cross-Channel access from Dover.
Some supermarket aisles are looking bare, while Tesco has introduced purchasing limits on products including eggs and rice.
Read more
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:31

Irish minister tests positive

:shamrock:  An Irish minister has tested positive for Covid-19.
Members of the cabinet are self-isolating while awaiting a Covid test and result, the government said.
The minister has not been identified.
Ireland’s cabinet last met on Tuesday where they decided on stricter measures that include the closing of restaurants, pubs and some shops on Christmas Eve. Ministers said the restrictions could last for at least two months.
The country has recorded 81,228 cases and 2,171 deaths since the pandemic began.

Scotland: 47 Covid deaths in past 24 hours

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed a further 1,190 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of cases in Scotland to 115,566.
1,025 patients are in hospital with Covid (down 20), with 56 being treated in intensive care (down four).
A further 47 people in Scotland, who tested positive in the preceding 28 days, have died.
The National Records of Scotland (NRS) figures indicate 203 people died in the week ending 20 December, a decrease of 23 from the previous week.

'Don't come to Port of Dover without negative test'

Lorry drivers are being told they should not attempt to travel directly to the Port of Dover until they've had a negative Covid test.
The Port of Dover said all freight drivers in Kent who need a test must head to Manston to get one - unless they're already queuing on the M20.
Those already on the motorway will be "tested in situ", it added.
Officials said drivers will not be permitted to enter the Port unless they've had a test which has come back negative.
"Please have your email or text message certificate issued by the testing facility ready for inspection," they added.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 13:55

Irish Post

More than 20 flights arriving into Ireland from London this month contained at least one person who later tested positive for Covid-19.

According to figures published by the Irish Examiner , between December 1 and December 18, one or more confirmed cases of the coronavirus were confirmed on 24 different flights coming into the country from the Irish capital. 
The worrying numbers come after Ireland joined the growing list of EU countries to halt direct air travel to the UK following the emergence of a new strain of the virus. 
It has sparked calls for the government to arrange for anyone who has travelled from London to Ireland in the past fortnight to be tested for the virus in a bid to halt the spread of the new strain. 
The Department of Health has yet to clarify the total number of inbound flights to Ireland this December which have led to confirmed cases of the virus. 
According to the Irish Examiner, contact tracers are only managing to contact passengers in the three or four rows in front or behind a confirmed onboard case.

Ireland is on the verge of being plunged back into lockdown and Leo Varadkar has warned that the restrictions could last until Spring-time.

On Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced that the country would once again be implementing Level Five restrictions - just weeks after exiting lockdown at the start of the month - due to a "gravely concerning" recent surge in Covid-19 case numbers.
As per yesterday's announcement, Ireland is moving to Level Five of the Living with Covid plan, with a "number of specific adjustments".
On Christmas Eve, pubs and restaurants will be shut, then on Boxing Day, inter-county travel will be banned, as will meeting with more than one other household.
The UK travel ban has been extended to New Year's Eve, religious services will be moved online and personal services such as hairdressers and beauticians will close.
These restrictive measures will run until January 12, unless stated otherwise, when a Government review will take place.
Though Tánaiste Varadkar has warned that they could last until as late as March.
"It will probably be towards the end of February or early March before a critical mass of the population is vaccinated and I think we need to operate on the basis that these restrictions will be in place until then," he said.
Varadkar went on to say that no one expected closures to happen so quickly, and that the shutting down of the hospitality sector for the third time this year was devastating for both businesses and staff.
"While there may have been an expectation they may have to close for a certain period in January, nobody, as recently as this weekend, thought it would happen so soon," he added.

More than 350 Irish residents were safely brought home last night after getting stranded in Britain following the implementation of Ireland's UK travel ban.

"Repatriation flights", operated by Ryanair and Aer Lingus, were chartered by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to bring everyone home.
A "smaller number" of passengers were also brought back to Ireland on ferry routes.
Returning passengers were met at the arrival gate by joyous and relieved relatives, as for a period, it looked as if they might not make it back for Christmas.
On Sunday, Ireland imposed a 48 hour travel ban on all flights and ferries from the UK following the emergence of the 'new strain' of Covid-19 currently ripping through London and the south-east of England.

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Passengers wearing face masks at Dublin Airport as the Irish government yesterday confirmed that flights will not be coming from Britain and only ferries carrying haulage will be permitted.

On Tuesday, this ban was extended to December 31, and the Government confirmed that the ban will be "kept under constant review in the light of unfolding information and circumstances."
Speaking about the measures yesterday, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan referred to it as a "transport crisis", adding that action needed to be taken.
"I think it's appropriate for us to run it to the end of this month because we still need clarity on what's exactly happening with this variant and on that basis I think it was the right decision," he said.
Under advice from the HSE, anyone arriving from the UK into Ireland should self-isolate for two weeks, regardless of whether they have recently received a Covid-19 test or are experiencing symptoms.

Leo Varadkar has confirmed there will be a garda presence on county borders, as well as Ireland's border with the North, from St. Stephen's Day.

The move is to ensure travel restrictions - which will come into effect on December 26 - are followed by the public.
On Tuesday, the Government announced that inter-county travel won't be permitted from Boxing Day, and that the travel ban from the UK will be extended to December 31.
Because of this, gardaí will be needed to make sure the rules are being followed.
Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time yesterday evening, Tánaiste Varadkar spoke about the possibility of people circumventing the UK travel ban by travelling to Belfast and making their way south.
Asked if there would be road blocks at the border to stop this from happening, Varadkar said: "I wouldn't say roadblocks, but there will be a police presence and the Taoiseach will be speaking to the Garda Commissioner about that."
Asked whether there will be gardaí on the M1 motorway, Varadkar replied: "There will, there will be a garda presence between counties because we'll be going back to a system that says on the 26th you're supposed to stay in your county except for essential reasons."
From Christmas, Ireland will be effectively heading back into lockdown, with travel restrictions running until January 12.
The UK travel ban will remain in place until December 31, but will be reviewed before New Year's Eve and could be extended.
The ban was put in place in the wake of the new strain of Covid-19 currently ripping through London and the south-east of England.
There are concerns that Northern Ireland has become a "funnel" in the past few days for those desperately trying to get into the Republic following news of the travel ban.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 14:03

Police block entrance to Port of Dover

Amanda Akass - Reporter, BBC South East Today

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The entrance to the Port of Dover is currently closed with a line of police officers is blocking it.
They told me they will not start allowing vehicles through until “protesters” move from the roundabout at the entrance.
The “protesters” are several dozen drivers standing outside their vans and trucks, some shouting, but they are largely peaceful.
They told me they will not move as they do not want to go to the back of the queue and cannot move anyway as the road is blocked in both directions. Central Dover is completely gridlocked.

Macron 'showing signs of improvement'

France’s President Emmanuel Macron is doing better following his Covid diagnosis last week.
His office said he is “showing signs of improvement”.
After testing positive on Thursday, the 43-year-old was said to be showing symptoms of fatigue, coughing and muscle aches.
He is currently self-isolating in an official residence on the outskirts of Paris. Mr Macron has conducted meetings via video calls.
France has recorded more than 2.5million cases and 61,821 deaths since the pandemic began.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 14:06

Takeover of Welsh pubs in bid to save jobs

Hundreds of pubs in Wales will be taken over by Marston's in a bid to save 1,300 jobs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The pub operator will take over the running of about 150 SA Brains pubs.
Brains said restrictions during the pandemic had put the business under "significant financial pressure".
Chairman John Rhys said the agreement would secure the future of Brains' pubs.
Brains closed more than 100 of its pubs after the Welsh government announced an alcohol ban in pubs and restaurants at the start of December.
Last month the 138-year-old firm suggested the previous firebreak lockdown in November had cost it £1.6m.
Mr Rhys said the decision had not been "taken lightly" and he was confident the pubs would continue to thrive under the new owners.
Read more on this story here .

Czech Republic announces new measures

The Czech Republic has extended its state of emergency and announced a new raft of measures.
From 27 December, non-essential shops will close and public gatherings are limited to two people. A curfew will be in place from 21:00 until 05:00. Previously, the curfew began at 23:00.
Bars, restaurants and museums already closed last week.
It is thought that the new measures will stay in place until 10 January.
Health Minister Jan Blatny has called on people to spend New Year’s Eve with their immediate family only.
The Czech Republic has recorded more than 635,000 cases and 10,562 deaths.

New variant 'almost certainly' in majority of Europe

James Gallagher - Health and science correspondent, BBC News
The new variant of coronavirus is almost certainly in the majority of European countries already, according to Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London.
He was giving evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee alongside other experts from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises government.
The variant has already been detected in other countries such as Denmark, but is likely to have spread much wider.
Prof Ferguson said: “I’m almost certain in my view, that this virus has been introduced into the great majority if not all European countries at this time.”
The UK has sequenced 45% of all the genetic codes of coronavirus in the world and it is still not certain whether it originated in the south east of England or was just first detected there.
This has raised concerns the UK is being punished for discovering the variant.
At the same hearing, Prof Peter Horby, from the University of Oxford, said: "I think it's fair to say countries that have more extensive and rigorous science and are more transparent do expose themselves to important information being made available to others.”
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 15:48

Today's main stories so far


Coronavirus - 23rd December F4d2c210
Thousands of lorries are stranded in Kent

If you're just joining us, here's a quick recap of the main stories so far today:


UK R number between 1.1 and 1.3

The UK's R number - or reproduction number - is now estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.3, the latest government data suggests .
That's a slight rise from last week when it was estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.2.
R is the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, on average.
Cases will continue to grow as long as the rate is above 1.0.
The figure is highest in the East of England and in London, with an R value of 1.2 to 1.5.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 15:55

Breaking News

More areas to enter tier 4 on Boxing Day

More of the east and south east of England will enter the toughest Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.

German ambassador tries to reach truck drivers

The German ambassador to the UK, Andreas Michaelis, says he has tried - and failed - to reach some of the German truck drivers who have been stranded since France closed its border on Sunday.
Mr Michaelis says he was unable to access the disused airfield in Manston, Kent, which is currently a holding facility for the thousands of stranded lorries.
Tweet  Andreas Michaelis:

Went to Manston Airport today. Scheduled to meet up with German truck drivers. Last stretch difficult. Could not reach the airfield. Could only speak to them on the phone. Still very difficult situation for them. Too little information.

New restrictions should 'flatten curve' in UK

While the new variant of coronavirus is now "everywhere" in the UK, restrictions over Christmas should slow its spread, a scientist advising the government has said.
Prof Neil Ferguson told the Commons Science and Technology Committee: "Schools are now shut, we are in a near-lockdown situation across the country, contact rates are lower over Christmas.
"I expect, though I hesitate to make any sort of predictions, we will see a flattening of the curve in the next two weeks. We will see at least a slowing of growth."
However, he said the "critical question" was what happens in January, "and the extent we want to make public health measures more uniform across the country if the new variant is everywhere".
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 15:58

Army to carry out rapid tests at UK border with France


Coronavirus - 23rd December 57e5df10
Nearly 3,000 lorries have been stuck in Kent since the border shut on Sunday

The military has been drafted in to help carry out rapid tests on thousands of stranded lorry drivers.at the UK border with France.
From Wednesday, 170 personnel will support NHS Test and Trace staff in Kent.
Around 50 countries imposed a ban on British travellers after the UK warned of a new, fast-spreading variant of coronavirus .
France has since ended its ban on UK arrivals - but those wishing to travel can only do so if they can provide a recent negative coronavirus test.
With more than 5,000 lorries being held in Kent, the military has been called in to help speed up the testing process and get hauliers stuck in Kent on their way again.
The work is not new to the soldiers. Many were previously called upon to adminster lateral flow tests in Liverpool, Medway and Merthyr Tydfil.

Countries resuming UK flights

Many countries have banned flights to the UK but a number of nations have now announced plans to reinstate them:

  • Switzerland will allow flights to Britain to resume on Thursday
  • Bulgaria is permitting flights from the UK from Wednesday in order to help those wishing to return home. Travellers from the UK will be tested for the virus and will have to observe a 10-day quarantine

Separately, France and Britain have resumed cross-channel travel as long as those entering France can show a negative Covid test less than 72 hours old, AFP reports
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 16:03

Ministers urged to declare 'state of emergency' in Kent

The UK government has been urged to declare a "state of emergency" in Kent, where more than 5,000 lorries remain stranded following the closure of the French border.
The Liberal Democrats, the fourth largest party in the UK Parliament, said ministers should invoke powers in the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act to stop the situation "spiralling out of control" and to ensure lorry drivers were able to get food and wash.
Its leader Ed Davey said action was also needed to roll out testing at Dover, to unblock the road network and support local residents.
"Boris Johnson must recognise the crisis in Kent has got out of control and show some leadership," he said.
“Without food and access to sanitation, people are in real trouble. If ministers fail to act now and commit the resources needed now, they risk things spiralling further out of control."

More areas to enter tier 4 on Boxing Day

More of the east and south east of England will enter the toughest Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
Matt Hancock says tier three is not enough to control the new variant.
From 00:01 on Boxing Day, Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts in Essex not already in tier four, Waverley in Surrey, and Hampshire - including Portsmouth and Southampton but with the exception of the New Forest - will be escalated to tier four.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset (including the North Somerset area), Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, as well as Cheshire and Warrington, will be escalated to tier three.
Cornwall and Herefordshire will be escalated to tier two.

Breaking News 

Another new variant is in the UK

Hancock now says there are two cases of another new variant in the UK.
Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa.
"We are incredibly grateful to the South African government for their science," he says.
"This virus is yet more transmissible and appears to have mutated further than the new virus."
He says the UK is quarantining new cases, and placing restrictions on travel from South Africa.
Anyone who has been in South Africa in the past fortnight and anyone who is a close contact of someone who has been in South Africa in the last fortnight must quarantine immediately, he says.
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Analysis: Questions remain over Christmas mixing

Jessica Parker - BBC political correspondent
How quickly things have changed, again.
Further swathes of England have been moved up into tier four, the tightest level of restrictions.
Many other areas will see tighter rules as well, including where rates were seen to be relatively low.
Ministers are obviously anxious not to change arrangements around Christmas any further so the new restrictions will kick in on Boxing Day.
Given how serious Matt Hancock has said the situation is, he may face questions as to whether any household mixing should be allowed in just two days' time.

Hospitalisations nearing April's peak - Harries

While the number of cases attributable to the old variant is holding steady or tailing off in some areas, Dr Harries says there has been a very sharp rise in cases of the new variant.
This is translating into rising pressures on hospitals, she says.
The number of hospital beds currently occupied by Covid patients across England is nearing April’s peak of about 21,000, Dr Harries says, including in London.

'Don't give in to temptation over holidays', says Hancock

In response to a question from Sky's Rob Powell, the health secretary reiterates that the old system of three tiers was sufficient to keep the old variant of Covid under check - but things have now changed.
Asked how the success of tier four will be measured, Matt Hancock says a lot will "depend on how people behave" in sticking by the rules and minimising social interactions - something the vast majority of people have done up to now, he adds.
Mr Hancock urges people to "stick at it and not give in to temptation" over Christmas and the New Year.
"This is a partnership. There is something that every single person should do," he says. "It is on us all."
Dr Harries says it is not inevitable the sharp rise in cases will continue if people adhere to the rules.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 16:13

Analysis: Ministers try to stick to local approach

Jessica Parker - BBC political correspondent
Will all of England end up in tier four? The health secretary says he wants action to be "proportionate" and that the current tiers system is working.
So that suggests more of a hopefully not, rather than never.
Wales has brought forward a lockdown. Northern Ireland will enter one on Boxing Day. At the same time, mainland Scotland will go into the tightest level of restrictions.
Ministers in England are still trying to keep a more local approach but, on future national measures, they’re certainly not ruling anything out.

What we learned at today's press briefing

Today's Downing Street briefing has now come to an end.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged that 2020 had been "a hard year" and despite all our efforts, the new variant of Covid-19 made further action "difficult but necessary".
Here's what we learned at the press conference:

  • Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire will move into tier four - meaning they will be under England's toughest restrictions - from 00:01 GMT on Boxing Day
  • The parts of Essex not currently in tier four, along with Waverley in Surrey, and Hampshire - including Portsmouth and Southampton but not the New Forest - will also be escalated to tier four
  • Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset (including North Somerset), Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, as well as Cheshire and Warrington, will move to tier three
  • Cornwall and Herefordshire, which "have seen sharply rising rates", will enter tier three restrictions
  • Covid cases have risen by 57% over the past week and hospital admissions are at 1,909 a day - the highest figure since mid-April
  • Two cases of another new variant of coronavirus have come to light in the UK. Both patients had contacts who travelled from South Africa; they are currently in quarantine. New restrictions will be imposed on travellers from South Africa to the UK - and their contacts
  • Vaccinations have begun for residents in care homes. In addition, care home staff will receive two rapid tests a week alongside their weekly PCR tests
  • The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has submitted its full data package to the MHRA for approval
  • Mr Hancock said everyone will be vaccinated "as fast as we possibly can"
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 16:31

Ireland's Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has tested positive for Covid-19.

Irish Post
According to a spokesperson for the government minister, McConalogue on Tuesday for the virus, returning a positive result 24 hours later.
He is said to be self-isolating at home following the result.
Despite the positive result McConalogue is said to be well and is not experiencing any symptoms.
McConalogue had been in Brussels on government business over the past few days and tested positive for the virus upon his return to Ireland.
A Government statement has confirmed that all Cabinet ministers are now restricting their movements in the wake of the positive test.
In line with public health advice, all ministers are now awaiting the results of their own tests for Covid-19.
They have been ordered to restrict any and all movements for a minimum of 14 days to minimise the potential spread of the virus.
McConalogue attended a full Cabinet meeting earlier this week.
The meeting lasted several hours, making the chances of another minister being infected realistic, to say the least.
McConalogue’s positive test is the first example of a known minister contracting the potentially deadly virus in Ireland.
It also marks the end of an extraordinary six months. for Agriculture Ministers in Ireland.
In June Barry Cowan succeeded Michael Creed in the role, but was sacked within a month after being convicted of drink driving.
His replacement, Dara Calleary, also resigned after just over a month in the job after it emerged he and 81 others attended an Oireachtas Golf Society dinner the previous day, in breach of Government Covid-19 guidelines.

Ireland's Health Service Executive is advising anyone who travelled from the UK after December 11 to eat their Christmas dinner by themselves in their bedroom.

Public health advice notes that anyone arriving from Britain should self-isolate for 14-days, which means they shouldn't be sharing a room with any members of their family - unless it's absolutely necessary - until their isolation period ends.
Speaking on told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE Dr Colm Henry described the advice as "painful but necessary".
"Self-isolation means staying in your room in so far as possible, except for essential purposes," he said.
"You should stay in your room to ensure you are not the means of transmission of this more transmissible form of the virus within the house.
Asked if that meant eating Christmas dinner in your room, Dr Henry said: "yes, sadly it did mean that.
"It is difficult, it is painful, we have learned to our cost that delay in taking action to prevent spread, the transmission of the virus, we will pay for it if we do so," he added.
"We appreciate how inconvenient this is, how painful this must be for people who have waited so long to come home, but we know this is a highly transmissible form of the virus.
"Perhaps it is inevitable that it is here, we must act as if it’s here."
Dr Henry added that there will be "enhanced checks" on the 30,000 or so passengers that have arrived in Ireland from the UK in the last couple of weeks.
The new strain of Covid-19, which has effectively locked down London and the south-east of England, has become a real concern for the rest of Europe, with countries all over the continent temporarily suspending flights and ferries from the UK.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 16:38

Breaking News 

Record number of positive cases recorded in UK

The number of daily positive cases in the UK has hit another record high, with 39,237 positive cases reported in the past 24 hours.
However, cases were thought to be higher in the UK during the spring peak when testing was much more limited.
Government data shows a further 744 people have died within 28 days of a positive test. The total death toll now stands at 69,051.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 16:43

California hits two million Covid cases

In the last two weeks, California has seen half a million new coronavirus cases.
On Tuesday, America's most populous state hit two million Covid-19 cases and more than 23,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Officials now predict hospital admissions could reach 100,000 in January if the spread continues.
The spike has left the state's health system overwhelmed. A number of intensive care facilities have been operating at over-maximum capacity, with less than 2% bed availability statewide. In Southern California, there is 0% ICU availability, local media report.
The state is also seeing a shortage of medical staff - and is now turning outside the US, to places like Australia and Taiwan, to seek temporary medical workers, the AP reports.
Health experts have continued to urge residents to practice social distancing during the rest of the holiday season, emphasising that hospitals may not be able to handle any further strain.

Italy death toll surpasses 70,000

Italy reported 553 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday against 628 the day before, taking its total toll past 70,000, the health ministry said.
The daily tally of new infections increased to 14,522 from 13,318. Italy becomes the fifth nation in the world to surpass 70,000 deaths, with an updated total of 70,395, the highest in Europe .
It has also registered some 1.991 million cases to date.The number of swab tests carried out in the past day rose to 175,364 from a previous 166,205, the health ministry said.
Patients in hospital with Covid-19 stood at 24,546 on Wednesday, down by 402 from the day before. There were 216 new admissions to intensive care units, compared with 201 on Tuesday.

Israel confirms four cases of new variant

Israel has detected four cases of the new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that emerged in the UK, the Israeli health ministry said.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 16:50

A summary of the increased restrictions for England:

  • A further 10 million people in England will face stricter restrictions from Boxing Day, following an announcement from health secretary, Matt Hancock, this afternoon. More than 6 million people, equating to 11% of the population of England, will be added to tier 4. Those living in Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Waverley, Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton will move to the highest tier.
  • While a further 4.3 million people will move into tier 3, including those living in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset including North Somerset Council, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire and Warrington. Cornwall and Herefordshire will also move up to tier 2.
  • Almost 9 in 10 people in England will be under tier 4 or 3 restrictions once the changes come into effect, with 42% of the population in tier 4 and 44% in tier 3. Only the Isles of Scilly now remain in tier 1.


New York City to enforce quarantine order for travellers from the UK

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said members of the city Sheriff’s office would start paying home visits to enforce a quarantine order for travelers from the UK in an effort to stop the spread of the new COVID-19 variant.
De Blasio said all international travelers to New York City would start receiving a Department of Health Commissioner’s order to quarantine, delivered via certified mail, and travelers could face a $1000 fine per day for violating the rules.
The city Sheriff’s office will check on travelers from the UK at their homes or hotels to ensure compliance, de Blasio said, taking extra precaution out of concern that those travelers could bring a new, highly transmissible variant of the virus to New York.
“We’re going to provide them with that commissioner’s order, but then there’s going to be a follow up, direct home visit or hotel visit from the sheriff’s deputy to confirm that they are following the quarantine,” de Blasio said.

Analysis: Another variant to worry about?

Philippa Roxby - Health reporter, BBC News
Just as we’ve got used to the idea of one worrying variant of this coronavirus, another one comes along.
The newest one, which has been brought from South Africa in recent weeks and infected two people in the UK, is “highly concerning”, says Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
It comes hot on the heels of the discovery of another variant in Kent causing sharply rising cases in the south and east of England, which will mean strict tier four restrictions being introduced in more areas of England on Boxing Day.
These are two different variants, but they have some similarities and share a mutation.
Crucially they are both concerning, leading to large increases in cases in South Africa and the UK.
UK scientists are skilled at genomic sequencing - the technique used to track mutations of the virus. That’s the main reason these variants have been found quickly and acted upon, but just because other countries haven’t detected them yet doesn’t mean they aren’t present.
The faster they can be found, the more quickly they can be squashed. With hospital admissions rising to near levels of the spring peak and deaths increasing daily, ministers have no choice but to act quickly.
Cutting social contact between people, tighter rules on travel and rapid testing – which is being rolled out to workers in care homes and is planned in schools and many local authorities – are the tools they are using to fight the virus on all fronts.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 17:13

France rewards front-line immigrant workers with fast-track citizenship

Hundreds of immigrants in France working on the coronavirus front line have been recognised with fast-track citizenship.
The interior ministry invited residents helping with efforts against Covid-19 to apply for accelerated naturalisation.
More than 700 people, including healthcare professionals, cleaners and shop workers, have already been granted citizenship or are in the final stages of receiving it.
Read more here

Covid variant found in South Africa 'highly concerning'

The health secretary has described the new variant of coronavirus which came to light in South Africa as " highly concerning".
Matt Hancock said the variant was "more transmissible and appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK".
In consequence, he said the government was quarantining the two cases found in the UK, as well as their close contacts.
The UK government is also placing "immediate restrictions" on travel from South Africa.
Mr Hancock said anyone who had been in South Africa in the past fortnight, or who had had contact with someone who had been in South Africa in the last two weeks, "must quarantine immediately".

Charities send food to stranded truckers


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Volunteers from KhalsaAid provided more than 800 meals to stranded drivers

Teams of volunteers have delivered hundreds of meals to lorry drivers stranded in Kent.
Members of Maidenhead's KhalsaAid travelled 80 miles (130km) to take food to drivers hit by delays at the border.
On Tuesday, some of the Sikh charity's LangarAid members travelled almost double the distance, from Coventry, to bring water and food.
KhalsaAid founder Ravi Singh said: "It's horrible for [the drivers], there's nothing here - no food, no shops - it's like a prison for them.
"We can't sit back and do nothing."
Read more .
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 17:18

Turkey records further 259 deaths

Turkey’s coronavirus death toll rose by 259 in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 18,861.
Turkey also recorded 19,650 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. Total cases since March, when the first Covid-19 case was identified in Turkey, stood at 2,082,610, the data showed.
The government has imposed full weekend lockdowns and weekday curfews to curb infections.

Irish Minister for Agriculture tests positive for Covid-19


Coronavirus - 23rd December 698d4210

Irish government ministers are restricting their movements after a Cabinet member tested positive for Covid-19.
Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue received a positive test result on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the minister said he is not displaying symptoms.
McConalogue, who attended a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Dublin Castle, recently travelled back from Brussels from an EU meeting on fisheries.
As an essential worker he was not required to self-isolate on his return but he did have to undergo a series of Covid tests.
It is understood the minister tested negative before leaving for Brussels and again on his immediate return. His positive test was returned after he undertook a required follow-up test on Tuesday.
A spokesman for the minister said: “He is displaying no symptoms and is in good health. He is now self-isolating.”

Breaking News

Lorries prepare to leave Kent, finally

The first trucks have started leaving a temporary lorry park in Kent after France reopened its border with the UK.
It follows clashes with between frustrated hauliers and police, as drivers have become increasingly impatient to get home for Christmas.
France has lifted its ban on some UK arrivals, but only if they can show proof of a negative Covid test taken less than 72 hours before departure.
"We are very tired. We're staying in cars, we don't have a lot of food, no money," one lorry driver told the BBC.
"We just want to do the test and just go straight home," said another.
A huge backlog of traffic remains. It all adds to the pressure on the authorities to get as many tests done as quickly as possible.
Read more.
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 17:35

Summary of some of the key developments:

The Guardian

  • 39,237 new cases have been recorded in the latest reporting period in the UK, the highest daily rise so far. A further 744 Covid-related deaths have been reported, which is the highest number since 29 April. It comes as all data on the Oxford vaccine has been submitted to the UK’s medicine regulator for approval.
  • Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said another new strain of Covid-19 has been detected in the UK which has originated from South Africa with two confirmed cases. Hancock also announced Essex, Norfolk, Sussex, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Hampshire will enter Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day. Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Swindon, Isle of Wight, New Forest, Northamptonshire, Cheshire and Warrington will go into Tier 3, Hancock announced.
  • Italy reported 553 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday against 628 the day before, taking its total toll past 70,000, the health ministry said. The daily tally of new infections increased to 14,522 from 13,318. Italy becomes the fifth nation in the world to surpass 70,000 deaths, with an updated total of 70,395, the highest in Europe . It has also registered some 1.991 million cases to date.
  • Turkey’s coronavirus death toll rose by 259 in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 18,861.
  • Israel has detected four cases of the new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that emerged in the UK, the Israeli health ministry said.
  • The Czech Republic will shut non-essential shops and services and enforce a stricter curfew from Sunday.
  • The African continent will struggle to access vaccine supplies amid the global race for doses, an African Export-Import Bank official warned.
  • Switzerland started its Covid-19 vaccine rollout on Wednesday, with a care home resident in her 90s becoming the first person to receive an approved shot.
  • The evidence suggests the outbreak of this variant started in Kent, Prof Horby said during a session with the science and technology committee regarding the new coronavirus variant.
  • Prof Ferguson said evidence suggests that “almost certainly” this virus has already been introduced to the “great majority if not all” of European countries.
  • China’s biggest airline became the latest company to halt direct flights to and from London after the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus variant.
  • Philippine Airlines and Norway also announced extensions to their flight bans.
  • Meanwhile, Bulgaria announced it would resume flights from the UK from 10 am on Wednesday.
  • Scuffles broke out between truck drivers stranded outside the English port of Dover, Reuters reports, after France’s ban on entry was lifted on the condition of a negative test.
Kitkat
Kitkat

Posts : 10085
Join date : 2011-03-19
Location : Around the bend

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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 17:40

Officers to check on Brits quarantining in New York

Members of New York City’s Sheriff’s office will conduct home visits to ensure people from the UK are quarantining, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
International visitors to the city will be handed an order to quarantine and could face a $1,000 (£740) a day fine if found not complying with the rules.
“We cannot take chances with anyone who travels, particularly folks traveling in from the U.K.,” de Blasio said.
New York was the epicentre of the outbreak in the US earlier this year.
The US state of New York has recorded 36,724 deaths since the outbreak began.

What are the restrictions in tier 4?

BBC News Analysis
Several counties in southern England will be put under tier four restrictions from Boxing Day.
Other areas were also moved into a higher tier as the government tries to contain the spread of the new variant of Covid-19.
All parts of England have been placed in a tier depending on factors such as the speed at which the virus is spreading or the strain on hospitals – four being the highest.
Restrictions in these areas include:

  • Residents should stay at home, unless they have a "reasonable excuse" such as work or education
  • All non-essential shops must close
  • Hairdressers and nail bars must close

The whole of Wales has entered another lockdown. Mainland Scotland and Northern Ireland start new lockdowns on Boxing Day.
Read more here .
Kitkat
Kitkat

Posts : 10085
Join date : 2011-03-19
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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 17:53

First approved vaccines arrive in Mexico

The first formally approved batch of COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in Latin America was met with ceremonies fitting a VIP on Wednesday: flags, television cameras and Cabinet-level dignitaries lined up along the runway.
A DHL flight touched down at Mexico City’s international airport and ground crew unloaded the first batches of ultra-cold vaccines produced by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.
“Today is the beginning of the end of that pandemic,” said foreign secretary Marcelo Ebrard.
The first vaccines were due to be given to health workers in Mexico City and the northern city of Saltillo starting on Thursday.

Curfew to be imposed in Karnataka, India

Karnataka state in India will impose a night curfew starting today over fears of the new virus mutation.
Home to the country’s technology hub, the ban by the southern state will focus on gatherings and non-essential travel from 10 pm to 6 am and is set to last until January 2.
The new agreement came into place after the national government reported that nine states had found positive cases of coronavirus amongst travellers coming from the UK.
Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa called on the public to respect the curfew to “prevent the spread of the new Covid strain”.
Currently, India is the world’s second most-infected nation, with more than 10 million cases and over 146,000 deaths.

US and Canada continue with vaccine roll out

In North America, vaccine rollouts are moving forward.
Canada's health agency authorised the Moderna vaccine on Wednesday, saying in a release that "after a thorough, independent review of the evidence, it has determined that the Moderna vaccine meets the department’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements".
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada will have 168,000 doses by the end of the month.
In the US, where the Covid case count has topped 18 million, the federal government has agreed to a $1.95bn deal with Pfizer for 100m doses. At least 70m will be delivered by 30 June.
The US Centers for Disease Control reports that 4.6m doses have been delivered as of Monday, and more than 614,117 have been administered.
Kitkat
Kitkat

Posts : 10085
Join date : 2011-03-19
Location : Around the bend

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Post by Kitkat Wed Dec 23 2020, 17:55

Thanks for joining us

Thanks for tuning into our coverage today.
Here are the latest headlines from the UK and around the world:

  • More of the east and south east of England will enter tier four on Boxing Day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced. Areas moving up to tier four include Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire
  • Two cases of another “more transmissible” variant of coronavirus from South Africa has been detected in the UK
  • France has eased its travel ban on the UK, with French citizens, British nationals living in France and hauliers allowed in as long as they test negative for the virus
  • Members of New York City’s Sheriff’s office will conduct home visits to ensure people from the UK are quarantining
  • Hundreds of immigrants in France working on the coronavirus front line have been recognised with fast-track citizenship
  • Taiwan’s president has called for calm after the first local transmission was reported since April
  • The US state of California has surpassed two million cases. Half a million of those were over the past two weeks


Today's live page was brought to you by Sarah Fowler, Victoria Lindrea, Becky Morton, Ritu Prasad, Gavin Stamp, Lauren Turner, Kate Whannel, Sophie Williams and Cherry Wilson.

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    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 22:30