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Coronavirus - 31st December


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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 11:08

Summary for Thursday, 31st December

  • More than three quarters of England's population are now living under the strictest tier four Covid rules
  • People across the UK are being urged not to celebrate the New Year with anyone outside their household
  • Secondary schools across most of England are to remain closed for an extra two weeks for most pupils
  • In a few areas with the highest infection rates, primaries will also remain closed temporarily
  • The New Year honours list has recognised hundreds of people for their work during the pandemic - including scientists and NHS staff
  • The UK recorded another 50,023 new Covid cases on Wednesday, as well as 981 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of coronavirus developments in the UK and around the world.
Here are the latest headlines:

Newspaper headlines: 'Jabs for freedom by Easter'

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The approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is the focus of many of Thursday's front pages. The Times predicts "freedom by Easter" while the Sun hails: "One giant hope for mankind." But the Daily Mirror reports the vaccine announcement came hours before the UK announced its highest daily death toll since April, while the Daily Telegraph notes the decision to keep secondary schools in England closed for another two weeks is a "major reversal by the government".
Read the headlines here .

Latest from around the world

Here's what's happening around the world:

Stay home this New Year's Eve

The public is being urged to "take personal responsibility" by acting like they have Covid-19 and staying at home this New Year's Eve.
People are being told they should not mix with other households indoors and that they should avoid large gatherings of any kind.
A government advertising campaign to "See in the New Year safely at home" is running throughout Thursday, reminding people how easily the virus can spread and that about one in three people who has the infection has no symptoms and so could pass it on without realising.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "With our NHS under pressure we must all take personal responsibility this New Year's Eve and stay at home.
"I know how much we have all sacrificed this year and we cannot let up. Over 600,000 people have now been vaccinated and we are close to beating this virus.
"Now more than ever, we need to pull together to save lives and protect our NHS. If we continue to do our bit by staying at home, we can get through this together."

What are other European nations doing for New Year's Eve?

We reported earlier that France plans to crack down on any significant New Year's Eve gatherings. Around Europe and elsewhere, countries have also been implementing their own measures to restrict the celebrations:

  • Ireland will move to its highest level of restrictions on Thursday, banning all household visits, closing all non-essential retail and limiting travel to 5km (three miles)
  • Germany is currently under lockdown until 10 January. The government has banned the sale of fireworks and put in place tight restrictions on the number of people who can gather in public. Health Minister Jens Spahn said he expects the country to have the "quietest New Year's Eve" in living memory
  • The Netherlands is currently under a lockdown which is set to last until 19 January. Its usual countdown will take place behind closed doors at a football stadium in Amsterdam
  • Turkey will begin a four-day-long lockdown on New Year's Eve

Read more here.

Covid rule-breakers 'have blood on their hands'

People who do not follow social distancing rules or wear masks "have blood on their hands", an intensive care doctor has warned.
Prof Hugh Montgomery told BBC Radio 5 Live hospitals were facing a "tsunami" of Covid cases and he feared it would get worse after New Year's Eve.
He urges people to accept that it is going to be a "miserable" occasion this year and not to gather in groups.
You can read more here

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 11:16

Sydney prepares to usher in new year amid outbreak

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2019 vs 2020: The New Year's Eve Sydney crowds in 2019 compared with the lack of onlookers this year

Australia’s largest city, Sydney, will mark New Year’s Eve with pared-down celebrations amid a further tightening of restrictions.
This year's fireworks display will run for approximately seven minutes instead of its usual 12. And crowd numbers will be limited in areas that typically would draw thousands of viewers to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The city precinct will be restricted to those with restaurant, cafe and hotel bookings while prime harbourside viewing spots will be set aside for health workers.
Households will now be limited to only five guests, and outdoor gatherings have been cut to 30.
Every other state and territory in Australia maintains a travel ban on people from Sydney. The city is battling a worsening outbreak after months of nearly no local cases.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 11:22

Trump's call for $2,000 virus aid cheques blocked in Senate

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Mitch McConnell (C) heading for the Senate floor on Tuesday

US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has rejected calls from an unlikely alliance of President Donald Trump, congressional Democrats and some Republicans to boost coronavirus aid.
The House of Representatives, held by the Democrats, had voted to increase aid cheques to Americans to $2,000 (£1,460).
Dozens of House Republicans, reluctant to defy Mr Trump, backed the increase.
But Mr McConnell's objections mean there will not be a direct vote on a revised Covid aid bill in the Senate.
McConnell said raising aid cheques would be "another fire hose of borrowed money".
The move could in effect kill off Mr Trump's demands for bigger cash handouts to help the economy recover, correspondents say.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 11:27

Where are the new tier four areas and what are the rules?

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More areas of England have been placed in tiers three and four overnight and people living there face stricter coronavirus restrictions for socialising, travel and hospitality.
You can find all the rules here

Concerns over vaccine rollout in UK

Experts have raised concerns over the rollout of coronavirus vaccines in the UK.
Deepti Gurdasani, epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, tells BBC Radio 5 Live there appears to be a "bottleneck" in the delivery of the jabs.
"The government has stated that their target for rollout is two million per week," she says.
"At the moment they're about six times lower than the target."
She adds: "We really need to speed up rollout by investing in local authorities, in primary care services, in pharmacies."

Meanwhile, Dame Clare Gerada, former Royal College of GPs chairwoman, says GPs won't be able to handle the vaccination programme on their own.
She tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We really now need a massive operational system. We need a 24/7 GPs, mass vaccination centres, hospitals, this needs to be scaled up.
"If we can really get a mass operational system up and running, then I can't see why we can't be getting the whole population - and the whole population - immunised by the spring.
"It's got to be football stadia, all these large venues that we've got currently lying dormant."

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 11:32

Boy who read 50 books in lockdown writes own book

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Milan Kumar

An eight-year-old boy praised by the Duchess of Cornwall for completing a marathon lockdown reading challenge has written a book of his own.
Milan Kumar, eight, from Bolton, has self-published Covid Christmas Parade, about a young boy spreading festive cheer during the pandemic.
Proceeds will go to the National Literacy Trust and his fundraising efforts have seen him recognised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Milan said it was "a great honour".
Read more here

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 12:00

New Year celebrations scaled down around the world

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In China, the annual New Year light show in the capital, Beijing, has been called off

Restrictions are being placed on New Year festivities around the world as many countries struggle to curb new spikes in coronavirus cases.
Fireworks displays and other public gatherings have been cancelled from Sydney to New York.
Festivities are being particularly muted in Europe, amid fears over a new more contagious strain of the disease .
More than 1.8 million people have died with the virus across the world since the start of the pandemic a year ago. More than 81 million cases have been reported.
Read more here.

Record weekly Covid total in England

A total of 232,169 people tested positive for coronavirus in England at least once in the week to 23 December, according to the latest NHS Test and Trace figures.
This is up 33% on the previous week and is the highest weekly total since NHS Test and Trace began in May.
Of the 211,914 people transferred to the test-and-trace system in the week to 23 December, 85.8% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.
This is down from 88.6% in the previous week and is the lowest percentage since the week to 28 October.
Some 12.8% of people transferred to NHS Test and Trace in the week to December 23 were not reached while a further 1.3% did not provide any communication details.
Meanwhile, just 16.9% of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending 23 December at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit - a so-called "in-person" test - received their result within 24 hours.
This is down from 34.1% in the previous week and is the lowest percentage since the week to 14 October.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 12:44

Alcohol banned in some parts of France

As we reported earlier , France is also planning restricted New Year's Eve celebrations - to the point where some departments have banned the sale of alcohol.
Earlier this week, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin recommended that the sale of takeaway alcoholic drinks on New Year's Eve be restricted.
Several departments have now issued an order prohibiting the sale of alcohol for New Year's Eve. In the southern Pyrénées-Orientales, this measure came into force on Wednesday evening.
The measure has now been taken in several departments for the evening of 31 December and aims to avoid festive gatherings, French media report

Schools are 'not medical facilities'

The UK government has been accused of living "in a parallel universe" by a teaching union over its plans for schools and colleges to set up mass Covid testing in England.
Earlier, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was confident schools would be ready to test pupils returning to the classrooms from 11 January, with the help of extra funding and support from the military.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says schools are being asked to recruit and train large numbers of staff and set up testing centres “in an incredibly short timeframe”.
"The support it has announced is nowhere near being sufficient," he adds.
"Ministers need to remember that schools and colleges are educational institutions, not medical facilities, and it has to support this testing programme properly."

Government 'misleading parents' over schools mass testing

Other teaching unions have also criticised the government’s plans for mass coronavirus testing in schools in England.
Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of NASUWT union, says a reliance on military support is "not a credible way to deliver a robust and reliable programme of mass testing" at schools.
He says the government is "in danger of misleading parents and the public into believing that it has a system of mass testing".
"It is putting the responsibility on to thousands of individual schools and colleges to develop the infrastructure and to recruit an army of willing volunteers who will also need to be vetted, trained and supervised to deliver a competent and consistent programme of testing."
And Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary NEU union, says there are also concerns about whether the testing will provide accurate results.
He says: "There are questions about the effectiveness of these tests in identifying Covid infection in young people who are highly likely to be asymptomatic, with the tests being supervised by non-medically trained volunteers.
"We do not think it likely that these tests alone can make our schools Covid-secure nor protect the communities they serve."

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 14:01

Uri Geller 'snaps spoon' while getting jab in Israel

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Uri Geller performs the spoon-bending trick while receiving his vaccine in Jaffa

TV magician and illusionist Uri Geller has joined Israel's drive to vaccinate its elderly population, performing his trademark spoon-bending trick while he received his shot.
The self-proclaimed psychic claims to be able to bend spoons with his mind.
"I did it!" the 75-year-old said after the spoon appeared to snap in his hand as he was being injected in the other arm, Reuters reports.
"Everybody who is over 60 should get it [the vaccine] immediately," said Geller, who is Israeli-British. "This is very, very important for the whole planet."
Israel launched its campaign on 19 December and hopes to have administered all required shots to the quarter of its nine million people who are vulnerable by late January. They are those over 60, those who are considered high risk, or medical workers.
The country is currently administering more than 150,000 doses a day.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 14:14

New Zealand rings in 2021 with fireworks

New Year's celebrations have kicked off in the southern hemisphere with New Zealand, one of the first countries to mark the end of 2020.
Large crowds gathered in the city of Auckland to watch a fireworks display.


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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 14:24

Isles of Scilly fears 'selfish people' fleeing lockdown

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People living on the Isles of Scilly - 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall in south-west England - say they fear "selfish people" travelling there to escape stricter restrictions elsewhere.
The islands, which haven't recorded a Covid case since September, are the only place in England under tier one rules, with everywhere else in tier three or four.
This means the population of 2,200 can visit pubs and restaurants , with the rule of six and table service in place.
Linda Thomas, 69, from St Mary's, said: "Having seen our family and friends in Cornwall go from a tier one to a tier three in under a week because of mindless selfish people from higher tiers travelling down is very disturbing," she said.
"We know that some of these people were heading to the islands and I have no doubt that some made it."
Another islander, Barbara Simpson, 78, said: "Those who freely admit they have come to Scilly to get away from the virus obviously have no idea - or don't care - of the risk they pose to us."

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 14:44

BrewDog offers closed bars as Covid vaccine hubs

Craft beer company BrewDog has offered to use its closed bars as coronavirus vaccine hubs.
The firm's co-founder James Watt tweeted Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock with the suggestion.
Tweet  James Watt:

Hi @MattHancock & @NicolaSturgeon We would like to offer our closed @BrewDog venues to help with a quick roll out of the vaccine. For free. We have waiting areas, huge refrigerators, seperate rooms for vaccinatations and an ace team who can help organise. We want to help.

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Sturgeon replied: "Thank you. I'll pass this on to our vaccination team."
A spokeswoman for BrewDog told the PA news agency: "We are excited to work with the government to do all we can to help with a fast and effective vaccine rollout and we would like to thank Nicola Sturgeon for getting in touch so quickly."

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 14:47

Doctors get £10 for each care resident vaccinated

GPs are being offered £10 for every care home resident they vaccinate in a drive by NHS England to reach the majority of those seen as top priority by the end of next month.
Latest figures showed 786,000 people received a Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 jab between December 8 and Sunday December 27, NHS England said.
About two-thirds, some 524,439, were delivered to people aged 80 and above - about one in five people in that age group.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said: "As we head into the new year with a second vaccine that is also more versatile, we will be able to expand the programme and ensure that the majority of care home residents are protected within the next four weeks or so.
NHS staff will now also be prioritised following the approval of the Oxford vaccine, the health service said.

US hospital employee 'intentionally discarded vaccine vials'

A US hospital where more than 50 vials of the Moderna vaccine were discarded earlier this week has said the employee who removed the vaccines did so “intentionally” and was no longer employed by the hospital, local media report.
On Monday, hospital officials said 57 vials of the vaccine had to be thrown away because of human error.
The vials being discarded led to 500 doses of the vaccine being thrown out, according to the statement from the Advocate Aurora Health medical centre in Grafton, Wisconsin.
“We immediately launched an internal review and were led to believe this was caused by inadvertent human error," the hospital said in the statement on Wednesday.
"The individual in question today acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.
“We are more than disappointed that this individual’s actions will result in a delay of more than 500 people receiving their vaccine. This was a violation of our core values, and the individual is no longer employed by us."

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 14:49

Nightingale hospitals getting ready for use

Nightingale hospitals across England are being "readied" for use if needed as Covid patient numbers continue to rise.
They are the network of emergency field hospitals which were built during the spring to look after coronavirus patients when hospitals could not – although most were not used.
The NHS in London has been asked to make sure the Excel centre site is "reactivated and ready to admit patients" as hospitals in the capital struggle.
The spokesman said the Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Bristol and Harrogate were in use currently for non-Covid patients.
However, concerns have been raised around the already-stretched health service's ability to staff Nightingale facilities.
Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: "It is not 'just the case' of using the Nightingale hospital as there are simply no staff for them to run as they were originally intended (as mini intensive care units)."

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 14:52

Fantasy football managers hit by Covid postponements

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Tottenham's game against Fulham was called off on Wednesday because of positive Covid-19 tests

The coronavirus outbreak hasn’t just caused problems for real-life football managers - but also the millions of people who play Premier League fantasy football.
This week the late postponement of two matches because of positive Covid tests left many fantasy football managers – who have to select their players before deadline – reeling.
Managers earn scores for each round of fixtures based on the players they pick being awarded points for things such as goals, assists, saves and clean sheets. But if their players don't play, they get nothing.
BBC football commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball, writing in his fantasy football column, said: “Fellow fantasy managers, I feel your pain.
“I think the advice has to be, just keep calm and carry on.
“You can't predict the postponements so make your selections based on the information you have available, make those decisions as close to the deadlines as possible to allow for any changes to the schedule and just roll with the punches.”

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 15:01

Murray skips Florida event 'to minimise Covid risk'

Britain's former world number one tennis player Andy Murray has pulled out of an event in Florida next week over coronavirus concerns.
"Given the increase in Covid rates and the transatlantic flights involved, I want to minimise the risks ahead of the Australian Open," said the Scot.
The tournament in Melbourne starts on 8 February after being pushed back three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Players will have to pass a series of Covid tests during a 14-day quarantine in Melbourne before the Grand Slam.

Warning over Brighton New Year's Eve 'freedom' party

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The city saw anti-lockdown protests before Christmas

People have been warned by police to stay away from a New Year's Eve party on Brighton seafront .
A group called Protest Everywhere has advertised the "freedom protest street party" and asked people "to bring a bottle, drums, music, firewood, love and joy".
Independent councillor Nichole Brennan said it was "madness" and Sussex Police said Covid rules would be enforced.
The BBC has been unable to contact the organisers.
The event comes after anti-lockdown protests were held in the city in the run-up to Christmas.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 15:04

Covid case rates still rising in all regions of England

Coronavirus case rates are continuing to rise in all regions of England, according to the latest weekly figures from Public Health England.
London's rate of new cases stood at 735.5 per 100,000 people in the seven days to 27 December, up from 711.9 in the previous week.
Eastern England saw the second highest rate (551.3, up from 510.8) followed by south-east England (450.6, up from 427.4).
Yorkshire and the Humber had the lowest rate: 188.3, up from 172.4.
Public Health England medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said: "The Christmas week saw a worrying rise in cases across every region of the country, particularly among adults in their 20s and 30s.
"We must not now add further fuel to the fire, as meeting in close and large groups this New Year's Eve risks further transmission.
"The way we can beat this virus remains the same, whatever the variant. Reduce close contact with others and follow the guidance."

China approves Sinopharm vaccine for general use

China has given conditional approval for a coronavirus vaccine developed by state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm to be given to the general public.
The decision came a day after the firm said interim data showed its vaccine had a 79% efficacy rate in phase three trials.
Several Chinese-made vaccines at a late trial stage are already in use in China after being granted emergency licences.
Beijing hopes to inoculate tens of millions of people by mid-February, the start of the Chinese New Year.
Some experts have given a cautious welcome to the Sinopharm vaccine however, pointing out that the firm has not made public any detailed data from the trials.
You can read more on this story here .

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 16:08

Czech Republic reports 16,939 Covid-19 cases, highest number to date

The Czech Republic reported a record high 16,939 daily cases of Covid-19 for the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Thursday.
The central European country of 10.7 million people has been one of the hardest hit in the region, with its total number of detected cases reaching 718,661, and 11,580 deaths, Reuters reports.

Japan considering declaring a state of emergency as Covid-19 cases surge

New coronavirus infections in Tokyo hit a record high of more than 1,300 on Thursday raising fears of an explosion in cases, local media reported.
The Japanese prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, has urged people to celebrate New Year quietly, and avoid non-essential outings, amid the twin crises.
Japan has been battling a third wave of Covid-19 infections in recent weeks and on Monday started barring the entry of non-resident foreign nationals after detecting variants of the virus from Britain and South Africa.
The economy minister, Yasutoshi Nishimura, said on Wednesday the government may have to consider declaring a state of emergency if the number the Covid-19 cases grows.

France begins its vaccination campaign

France will not fail in its Covid-19 vaccination campaign, its European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, said on Thursday, after coming under fire for the slow start of its roll-out compared with its European neighbours.
Beaune told France’s LCI television that the vaccination campaign was just beginning in the country.
France, which is primarily targeting the most vulnerable people in nursing homes for the first phase of the campaign, administered doses to about 140 people on Wednesday.
That was well below the 42,000 who received shots in Germany, for instance.
Meanwhile, France has also announced it would deploy 100,000 police and gendarmes to clamp down on parties, gatherings and the traditional torching of vehicles on 31 December.
The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said the officers would also be strictly enforcing the national 8pm to 6am curfew as part of what he described as a “fight against unauthorised public gatherings and the phenomenon of urban violence”.
The Guardian's Kim Willsher reports:
As well as deploying 100,000 police and gendarmes across France this evening, other measures aimed at deterring large New Year celebrations include closing 200 Paris Metro stations at 9pm and shutting down half the lines.
Travellers and others will need a sworn declaration attesting to the necessity of being out if they are stopped by police after the curfew at 8pm.
The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, has told police chiefs to break up “clandestine” parties and gatherings and impose instant fines on organisers. Officers will also clamp down on the New Year “tradition” among youths of torching cars.
While it is not illegal to invite friends and family to your home, there is a recommended limit of six adults per gathering.

Slovakia reports highest daily number of coronavirus cases so far

Slovakia reported 6,315 new cases of coronavirus, the highest daily number so far, the government said.
The country of 5.5 million has recorded 179,543 cases so far, and 2,138 deaths, Reuters reports.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 16:24

Elderly nursing home coronavirus patients in South Korea transferred to hospitals

Dozens of elderly South Korean coronavirus patients were transferred from nursing homes to hospitals this week after criticism that government policy had led to a spike in deaths among the vulnerable residents.
South Korea’s total tally of infections passed 60,000 on Thursday, as 967 additional cases were reported.
At least 486 of South Korea’s 900 reported deaths were people over the age of 80. Only 40 deaths have been reported among people younger than 60.
At least 316 residents of nursing hospitals or nursing homes have died, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Thursday. When the KDCA reported a record 40 deaths in one day on Tuesday, 70% of them were residents of nursing homes or nursing hospitals.
Meanwhile, some 792 people had been infected at a Seoul prison since 27 November, the Ministry of Justice said earlier on Thursday, leading the ministry to minimise inmate contact and limit access to lawyers amid criticisms that it had inadequately dealt with the infection.
Kim Dong-hyun, president of the Korean Society of Epidemiology, said the government was repeating mistakes it had made during waves of infections earlier in the year, similar to mistaken steps in the United States and Europe.
“Even if they separate the infected patients to other floors and rooms, transmission is inevitable,” he said.

Wuhan one year on: normality returns, but pain over handling of Covid outbreak endures

It’s been one year to the day that health authorities in Wuhan, China reported an unknown pneumonia outbreak to World Health Organization (WHO) colleagues in Beijing.
Read more here for a look back at what’s happened since in the city where it all started.

Ireland moves to the highest tier level five

Rory Carroll - The Guardian
Ireland has toughened Covid-19 restrictions by closing non-essential retail and imposing a 5km travel limit to try to tame surging infections.
The taoiseach, Micheál Martin, announced the move to the highest tier level five on Wednesday night, saying the country’s third lockdown since March was the only way to save lives and stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed.
:Left Quotes:  The truth is, that with the presence of the new strain and the pace of growth, this is not a time for nuance in our response. We must apply the brakes to movement and physical interaction across the country.
Ireland recorded 1,718 new infections on Wednesday, a record high. The R number is now between 1.6 and 1.8.
A six-week lockdown that ended at the start of December had driven infection rates to the lowest in the EU but socialising before and during Christmas let the virus roar back, the chief medical officer, Tony Holohan, told RTE .

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 16:36

Singapore has recorded more than 58,000 infections and 29 coronavirus-related deaths

Singapore reported five locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Thursday, its highest number in nearly three months, and was seeking to verify two others suspected of being infected by a highly contagious variant first discovered in Britain.
The two individuals believed to be infected with the B117 variant, which has prompted new travel curbs worldwide, had both arrived from Britain this month and had earlier tested negative, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
Those included a commercial airline pilot who developed coronavirus symptoms despite a negative test last week, and an individual who had tested positive despite earlier completing two weeks of quarantine.
“Epidemiological investigations are in progress,” the health ministry said on Wednesday.
“All the identified close contacts of the cases have been isolated and placed on quarantine, and will be tested at the start and end of their quarantine period so that we can detect asymptomatic cases.”
Though Singapore has recorded more than 58,000 infections and 29 coronavirus-related deaths overall, many were in outbreaks in crowded migrant dormitories.
Its locally transmitted cases have typically been less than a handful each week, with larger numbers imported and detected in quarantine. Singapore reported 25 new imported cases on Thursday.
It last week confirmed its first case of the variant first found in Britain and preliminary tests indicated 11 others in quarantine were also infected with it.

Guineau begins vaccinating with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine

Guinea began vaccinating against Covid-19 with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine on an experimental basis, starting with government officials, authorities said.
Guinea has ordered only 55 doses of the Russian vaccine, said Dr Sakoba Keita, the director-general of the National Health Security Agency.
“We requested a small quantity of the vaccine, 55 doses precisely. This is the beginning of an order,” Keita said.
“Yesterday we vaccinated in this pilot phase 25 senior officials of the state. There are 30 doses left and we will continue with the vaccination.”
Guinea is one of the first African nations to vaccinate its officials.

China reports first case of UK variant

China has reported the first imported case of the new variant of the coronavirus that was detected in the UK earlier this month, according to the China CDC publication.

Norway announces new test rules for visitors

All travellers entering Norway will have to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival, or up to 24 hours after, from 2 January, the country’s justice ministry said.
To stop the spread of the coronavirus variant first detected in Britain, travellers from any point of origin will need to enter Norway at designated entry points where testing is available, with smaller border crossings to be closed, it added.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 16:40

Scotland records its highest number of cases

Scotland has recorded the highest number of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began for the third day in a row.
A total of 2,622 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, following 2,045 cases reported on Wednesday and 1,895 on Tuesday.
Another 68 fatalities were also reported on Thursday, bringing the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 4,578.
Seven Covid-19 deaths were recorded between 25 and 29 December 25 and December 29 – though the government noted that register offices had been closed over the public holidays – with a further 43 deaths on Wednesday.
The latest statistics also show a total of 127,453 people have tested positive in Scotland, up from 124,831 the previous day, with the daily test positivity rate at 10.1%. On Wednesday it was at 11.3%.
There are 1,174 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, with 70 in intensive care.
All of mainland Scotland and Skye remain under level 4 restrictions, while the other islands are in level 3.
Police Scotland and the Scottish government have warned people against Hogmanay gatherings to mark the new year as they could break restrictions and potentially spread the virus further.

Portugal records unprecedented number of cases

Portugal’s daily number of coronavirus cases reached a record high of 7,627 on Thursday as the country prepared for a subdued New Year’s Eve, with an 11pm curfew and no travel between municipalities.
The country, which has so far registered 413,678 cases and 6,906 deaths from the virus, eased restrictions around Christmas but has cracked down again on New Year’s Eve, with a ban on public gatherings, an 11pm curfew tonight and a 1pm curfew from 1-3 January.
Cases had risen to 6,049 on Wednesday from 3,336 on Tuesday, but the prime minister, António Costa, said it was too early to say if this was a result of the Christmas easing of rules.
“In the second week of January we will be able to evaluate the impact of Christmas,” Costa said.
“We happily lightened the restrictions but now we need a period of containment to evaluate the results.”

France detects first case of South African variant of Covid-19

France has detected its first case of the South African variant of coronavirus, the health ministry said.
The 501.V2 Variant was detected by South African authorities in mid December.
Cases have since been found in Japan and Britain among others.
The variant, believed to be more easily transmitted like another version found in Britain, was discovered in France in a man who had returned from South Africa to his home in the Haut-Rhin region which borders Switzerland.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 16:50

The Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has elected to spend the last day of the year on Lesbos, site of the ongoing refugee drama amidst the pandemic.
Helena Smith - The Guardian
The island - and other eastern Aegean outposts – is among the ten top regions in Greece with the highest coronavirus caseloads.
Following the devastating fires that destroyed Moria, Lesbos’ notoriously overcrowded holding centre in September, some 7,500 asylum seekers are being temporarily housed in a controversial tent camp outside the port capital Mytilene.
Visiting the installation Mitsotakis said plans were on course to replace the facility with a permanent structure in the New Year.
The current camp has been described as a disaster by local NGOs with Covid-19 restrictions - in place for most of 2020 – exacerbating what psycho social support experts have described as a mental health crisis among refugees on Greece’s frontline isles.
We had said we would close Moria. Of course we didn’t expect it to close in the way it did but it finally did close and it was for the best,” said Mitsotakis describing the facility as a vast improvement on Moria.
We had made the joint decision with the president of the European Commission to find a [new] location that local actors would agree on – or at least most would agree with - and I am happy that this has been achieved … so we can move ahead with a permanent structure, that will be much better than this.”
Refugees have been especially hard hit by government measures aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus with only a limited number allowed out of camps hosting asylum seekers at any one time.

Moderna has confirmed it will supply 40m doses of its Covid vaccine to the South Korean government, with deliveries starting in May.
The vaccine, which is authorised for emergency use in the US and Canada, is not currently approved in South Korea.
The company said it would work with regulators to pursue an approval prior to the distribution of the vaccine.

The Mexican president, Andres Manuel López Obrador, said the main part of the vaccination drive against coronavirus in Mexico will be completed by April.
I think that by April, the majority of us Mexicans, the most vulnerable, will have been vaccinated,” he told a regular government news conference.

Crowds of people filled the main square in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, to watch a concert and fireworks show marking the new year, state media said, amid restrictions aimed at preventing a coronavirus outbreak.
State television showed participants wearing face masks but standing close together as they waved glowing lights and balloons in Kim Il Sung Square.
Performers – none of the them wearing protective masks – sang and danced on a stage decorated with a large, colourful “2021” sign. Costumes included traditional Korean “hanbok” dresses and sequined dance suits.
Giant snowmen characters clapped along as performers sang songs with patriotic refrains such as “glory to the general Kim Jong-un” and “I like my country the best”.
The event appeared to be smaller in scale than past years, said Colin Zwirko, a correspondent with Seoul-based NK News, which monitors North Korea.
Definitely a much smaller event than last year, judging by the low-key presentation and smaller crowd,” he wrote on Twitter.
North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases of coronavirus, though it has tested thousands of people, and the government has imposed near total border lockdowns and other strident measures to prevent an outbreak.
Officials in South Korea and the US have cast doubt on the claim that North Korea has had no cases.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 16:53

Italy reported 555 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 23,477 from 16,202.
There were 186,004 swab tests carried out in the past day, the ministry said, up from a previous 169,045.
Italy has seen an official total of 74,159 COVID-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light on Febuary 21, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.
Italy has also reported 2.107 million cases to date, the health ministry said.
Patients in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 23,151 on Thursday, down by 415 from the day before. There were 202 new admissions to intensive care units, compared with 175 on Wednesday.
The current number of intensive care patients rose by 27 - the first increase for at least a month - to 2,555, reflecting those who died or were discharged after recovery.

Turkey’s coronavirus death toll rose by 239 in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed on Thursday, bringing the total number of deaths to 20,881.
The number of new cases stood at 14,380 over the same period, bringing total cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,208,652.
Ankara has imposed full weekend lockdowns and weekday curfews to curb infections.
Turkey will also be on lockdown from 9 p.m. on December 31st to 5 a.m. on January 4th as part of the measures.

Breaking News 

UK records another 964 deaths

The UK has reported another 55,892 daily cases of coronavirus, up from 50,023 on Wednesday.
It also recorded a further 964 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, compared with 981 yesterday.

UK surpasses 73,000 deaths

The UK government said a further 964 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, bringing the UK total to 73,512.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 89,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The government said that, as of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 55,892 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 2,488,780.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 16:59

Belgium care home loses 26 residents to Covid-19

A retirement home in Belgium has been hit by a major coronavirus outbreak, which has seen at least 26 residents lose their lives and more than 100 test positive.
The outbreak was detected a few days after the 5 December visit to the Hemelrijck home in Mol of a volunteer dressed as Santa Claus.
The visitor has since tested positive for Covid-19, although a health official has told the AFP it is not yet certain that he is the source of the outbreak.
Regional health spokesman Joris Moonens said there was no suggestion the visitor knew he was infected when he attended the home, and in the absence of a formal complaint no inquiry has been launched.
Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst tweeted last Friday that most of the infected residents carried the same variant of the virus as the volunteer.
The home itself said its staff were continuing “to work in very challenging circumstances to give the residents all the necessary care and to keep the outbreak under control”.

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Post by Kitkat Thu Dec 31 2020, 18:04

What's happened in the UK today?

We'll shortly be pausing our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for the day - and for 2020. Here's a round-up of the day's main headlines in the UK:

What's happening around the world?

Here are the latest headlines from around the world:

  • Australia and New Zealand have welcomed in the New Year with their traditional firework displays, although restrictions were in place in Sydney to prevent crowds from gathering
  • New Year’s Eve celebrations have been restricted or cancelled in many other countries as they struggle to stem the spread of the virus
  • China has conditionally approved a vaccine for general use , developed by state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm
  • The US has acknowledged it has not met the goal of vaccinating some 20 million people by the end of 2020. The Centers for Disease Control said some 2.7 million people had so far received their first dose
  • A Belgian retirement home has lost 26 residents to Covid-19 after a visit by a volunteer dressed as Santa Claus who has since tested positive for the virus

Goodbye and thank you for joining us

We're ending our live coverage for the day but we'll be back tomorrow so please join us on the first day of a new year.
Today's live coverage was written by Ella Wills, Alexandra Fouche, Katie Wright and Penny Spiller. The BBC will continue to bring you all the latest news here .

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 21:18