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Coronavirus - 6th January


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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 13:00

Summary for Wednesday, 6th January

  • Boris Johnson emphasises that England's third lockdown is different from the first, saying that this will be a "sprint" to the finish rather than a "marathon"
  • But the prime minister cautions that the lockdown will not end with a "big bang" and there will instead be a "gradual unwrapping" of measures
  • The lockdown legally came into force overnight, and MPs have been recalled to Parliament to vote retrospectively on it later today
  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer says the government has been "repeatedly too slow to act" and that has left the NHS under an unprecedented strain
  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will be updating the Commons at 13:00 GMT on what will happen with pupils whose exams have been cancelled this summer
  • The UK government says it is considering requiring travellers to the UK from abroad to prove they have had a negative coronavirus test
  • One in 50 people are currently testing positive for the virus in England, official statistics suggest
  • The head of the World Health Organization says he is "very disappointed" China blocked the entry of its investigators
  • The team had been due to investigate the origins of Covid-19 in the Chinese city of Wuhan
  • The US had a record number of coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, recording almost 4,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University
  • The Netherlands is set to begin offering coronavirus jabs today - but is the last country in the EU to start vaccinations

Latest headlines from around the globe:

  • Members of a World Health Organization (WHO) team due to investigate the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan have been denied entry to China. The WHO said it was "very disappointed" , and that two members had already set out on their journey when they were blocked. The probe had been agreed with Beijing after months of negotiations - but the team was denied entry due to a lack of visa clearances, the WHO added
  • The US recorded a record number of Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours. Figures released by Johns Hopkins University show that 3,936 people died of Covid-19. There were also more than 250,000 new cases
  • The European Medicines Agency will meet today to discuss approving a second vaccine. The body will consider giving the green light to the US-made Moderna vaccine. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was approved for use across the 27-member bloc two weeks ago
  • The Netherlands will begin vaccinating its citizens today, 10 days after their European neighbours and a month after the UK. Experts have criticised the delay in beginning vaccinations
  • North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has praised party workers for “ensuring stable situations against the coronavirus from beginning to end” in a party congress meeting. The country claims it has had no confirmed Covid-19 cases but has reported a number of suspected cases to the WHO. Analysts say it is unlikely North Korea has zero coronavirus cases.
  • In the US, ambulance workers in Los Angeles County, California, have been told not to transport hospital patients that have extremely low chances of survival
  • Thousands of people in the Australian city of Melbourne are being urged to get tested after a confirmed coronavirus case. The man tested positive after attending a cricket match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and going shopping in the Boxing Day sales. Authorities say he was not infectious at the time, but may have caught the virus at the cricket or while shopping

Third lockdown becomes law in England

England's third national lockdown legally came into force at midnight.
The measures, which include a stay-at-home order and the closure of schools to most pupils, were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday amid rising cases.
The number of patients in hospitals is 40% higher than during the first peak and the number of new daily confirmed coronavirus cases topped 60,000 for the first time on Tuesday.
One in 50 people in private households in England had coronavirus last week, with the rate in London one in 30. More than one million people in England had the virus between 27 December and 2 January, the Office for National Statistics suggested.
It means all of the UK is now under strict virus curbs - Wales, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland are also in lockdown.
MPs are due to vote retrospectively on the lockdown later today. It’s only the second time the House of Commons has been recalled from Christmas break, the other being for the post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

WHO investigation team denied entry to China

More now on one of the main stories this morning - members of a World Health Organization (WHO) team being denied entry to China.
The team had been due to investigate the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan - something agreed upon by Beijing in December following many months of negotiations with the WHO.
Two people had already set out on their journey – one has now turned back and the other is in transit in a third country.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the issue was down to a lack of visa clearances, and he was "very disappointed" that China had not yet finalised the permissions for the team's arrivals "given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute".
He added that he had been in contact with senior Chinese officials to stress "that the mission is a priority for WHO and the international team".
Covid-19 was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019, with the initial outbreak linked to a market.
However, observers say China has now been seeking to distance itself from its early connections to the coronavirus, instead emphasising its successes in combatting the pandemic.
Read more:

China says WHO access denial was 'not just visa issue'

An update on our main story this morning about World Health Organization investigators being denied entry to China. The WHO had said this was due to a lack of visa clearances.
However, the Chinese government now says the decision to deny the team entry is “not just limited to a visa issue but to the dates and some other details”.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told the BBC: "Chinese authorities are in close co-operation with WHO but there has been some minor outbreaks in multiple places around the world and many countries and regions are busy in their work preventing the virus and we are also working on this."
She added that China supports international co-operation and talks are continuing over “the specific date and specific arrangement of the expert group’s visit”.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said yesterday he was "very disappointed" that China had not yet finalised the permissions for the team's arrivals "given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute".
Ms Hua told the BBC there might have been "some misunderstanding" between the WHO and Beijing, but "there's no need to read too much into it... we hope the details can be determined as soon as possible".
The origins of the coronavirus remain deeply contested. The virus was first detected in humans in Wuhan in late 2019, with the initial outbreak linked to a market.

US records record daily deaths

The US has recorded a record number of daily deaths with 3,936 fatalities, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
More than 250,000 cases were also confirmed in the past 24 hours.
Some areas of the country are struggling to cope, particularly in the South and West.
California is one state struggling with the number of cases and hospitalisations following the Thanksgiving and holiday season.
On Tuesday, ambulance workers in Los Angeles County were told not to transport hospital patients that have extremely low chances of survival.
Officials say the region could soon hit over 1,000 Covid-related deaths per day, and hospitals are overrun with patients. Emergency workers have also been told to ration oxygen, which is in short supply.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 13:24

'Big increase' in numbers of UK vaccinations from next week

Vaccine rollout minister Nadhim Zahawi says there will be a "big increase" in the numbers of coronavirus jabs being delivered from next week.
"It is an ambitious plan. The prime minister is right to set an ambitious target. The NHS has a very clear plan and I am confident that we can meet it," he told BBC Breakfast.
The aim is to vaccinate the most vulnerable by mid-February.
He added there would be a "significant increase" from the 1.3 million vaccines done in the UK since 8 December.
Later speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said the manufacturing challenge was "complex" but that there would come a time when production stabilises.
And in terms of the deployment, he said there was a "very credible plan" to hit the government targets.
National vaccination centres - in places like sports halls - will be opening in the coming days, he said.
Pharmacies will also be involved, along with the private sector, in delivering the vaccines, added the minister.

UK quarantine measures 'not working properly'

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the UK's shadow home secretary, has urged the government to "get a grip on the quarantine system" and "get a grip of the situation at the border".
He told BBC Breakfast current measures were "not working properly", adding: "We are leaving a substantial gap in the nation's defences against this terrible virus."
He also said the vaccine programme needs to be rolled out "effectively" as the British people had made "huge sacrifices" so far.
"What the government must do is its part of the bargain and make sure rollout is effective, fair and speedy," he said.
"It's that that will allow us to move on from this dreadful virus."

Analysis: Can lockdown stop the new variant?

James Gallagher - Health and science correspondent, BBC News
It feels like we are back in March or April last year, when the strict controls on all our lives led to a fairly quick decline in levels of coronavirus.
But one of the crucial differences this time is the new variant, which is thought to spread between 50% and 70% faster than previous forms of the virus.
Experts warn there are now no guarantees that lockdown will be enough to bring the variant under control.
"It still would not have been easy, but it would have been a much easier situation if it had not been for the new variant," Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, told Inside Health.
"That really pushes the bounds of our ability to control the spread of the virus, even with measures that were previously relatively quite effective."
What happens to the number of cases over the coming weeks will be closely monitored. If this lockdown is less effective then we will have to live with it for longer.
Read more here

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 13:35

Why is the Netherlands last in the EU to start vaccinations?

Vaccinations are set to begin in the Netherlands on Wednesday – 10 days after its European neighbours and a month after the UK.
The Dutch government has come in for stinging criticism for the delay.
One GP told the BBC’s Anna Holligan: “We’re lacking a crisis commander in what is essentially a war-like situation.”
Mass vaccinations will be available in all 25 Dutch local health authority locations by 18 January.
The Netherlands is a proudly well-organised country, with a well-funded health service - so what's the reason for the delay?
Read more here

When will England's lockdown end?

It's possible that the end of England's lockdown could come in the middle of next month, according to a member of Sage, which advises the UK government.
Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was speaking in a personal capacity when he gave the comments to BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"I think it's possible, I mean that's obviously a government decision what they decided to do at what point," he said.
"But it really depends upon what happens over the next five weeks in terms of the infection rates - it's much like in March and April.
"We know more now but nonetheless we're still looking at the epidemic increasing and looking for that peak and hoping it happens soon."
He was also asked about comments from England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty earlier this week that restrictions could be needed next winter.
He said: "We're in for a long haul, we still (have) a long way to go in this epidemic.
"Vaccination is a way out, but I think he's right to raise that possibility that there could be - next winter or even the winter after - the possibility that we will see a resurgence of Covid to such an extent that government again has to take measures to prevent another large outbreak."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 13:37

UK arrivals 'could soon need negative test'

Travellers to the UK from abroad could soon be required to prove they have had a negative coronavirus test .
The Department for Transport (DfT) said the measure is one of several being considered to "prevent the spread of Covid-19 across the UK border".
"Additional measures, including testing before departure, will help keep the importation of new cases to an absolute minimum," the department added.
It is thought that haulage drivers coming through ports would be exempt.
However, the DfT said full details are still to be agreed and will be set out in "due course".
Any such measure would be a devolved issue, so the DfT would need to agree a path forward with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to make it UK-wide.
Currently, international arrivals from countries that are not exempt under the travel corridor programme have to isolate for 10 days.
Under the test and release scheme introduced in December, this can be shortened if they have a private test five days after their departure and it comes back negative.

Israel leads in vaccination rates - but is 'not out of the woods yet'

Tom Bateman - BBC Middle East correspondent
The top scientist advising Israel’s government on coronavirus has described the country’s early vaccination rate as “amazing” - but warned it will not be enough to overcome the disease for months yet.
So far some one-and-a-half-million people - more than 15% of the population, including half of all Israelis aged over 60 - have had a first dose.
Israel is a small country with highly centralised patient databases, and it did a quick if reportedly higher-priced deal with Pfizer-BioNtech to get the batches. All that helped.
But Professor Ran Balicer, who chairs the team of scientists advising Israel’s government, told the BBC that a surge of infections meant vaccines would not help contain the virus for months yet.
"We’re in a fierce winter wave. It’s hitting Israel, it’s hitting many countries in Europe. Vaccines will not help us to contain this in the coming months,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet. We’re not even close."

Uncertainty over vaccine rollout for Palestinian territories

Tom Bateman - BBC Middle East correspondent
Meanwhile the World Health Organization has given more details about efforts to vaccinate people in the occupied Palestinian territories.
It says the so-called COVAX programme to buy vaccines for poorer countries plus the Palestinian Authority’s procurement plans should eventually cover 60% of the population - but they don’t know when it will happen.
Human rights groups have called on Israel to provide vaccines.
But Israel says under the 1990s Oslo peace accords the Palestinian Authority is responsible.
Read more:
Coronavirus mutes Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem
Gaza health system 'days from being overwhelmed'

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 14:13

South Korea gyms reopen to protest social distancing rules

Julie Yoon - BBC Korea
A growing number of South Korean gym owners have reopened in protest against strict social distancing rules.
For weeks, indoor gyms in the capital area have been forced to close under the restrictions. However, the government allowed Taekwondo and ballet schools to open under certain limits, saying they serve as childcare providers to a certain extent.
“This is just unfair”, says Chung Tae-young, who has re-opened his fitness centre in Seoul this week in defiance of coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Chung is not opening the gym to its members, but he came to work and lit up the store sign to stand in solidarity with other gym owners.
He argues that a lack of financial support from the government is another issue.
The South Korean government plans to provide a chunk of its emergency handouts to small business owners this month. Gym owners will receive up to 3 million won ($2,759; £2,024), the highest amount available, because their facilities have been suspended under the social distancing rules.
However, he says that this money is simply not enough.
“A gym is one of the most expensive businesses to run. The rent is high because we need a large space and the rental fees for equipment add up fast. My gym has bled around 10 million won ($9,198; £6,746) every month just for the rent and utilities. I’m grateful for the extra money, but it can’t make up for the loss."

London police told to enforce Covid rules more strictly

London's Metropolitan Police officers have been told to enforce Covid regulations more strictly during the new lockdown.
People who attend large gatherings will be fined under the new instructions, not just the organisers. Those not wearing face coverings without good excuse will also be fined.
And Londoners have been warned to expect officers to be "more inquisitive" about what they are doing if they are seen outside.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said police would "act robustly".
Previously, the Met had been applying a "four Es approach", involving engaging, explaining and encouraging people, before finally using enforcement.
However, Twist said the current "critical situation" meant "we can no longer spend our time explaining or encouraging people to follow rules where they are wilfully and dangerously breaching".

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 14:19

What are England's new rules?

People have to stay at home and can only go out for limited essential reasons.
Primary and secondary schools have moved to online learning for all pupils apart from those who are vulnerable and also the children of key workers.
Reasons to leave home include:

  • Work or volunteering where it is "unreasonable" to work from home. This includes work in someone else's home, such as that carried out by social workers, nannies, cleaners and tradespeople
  • Education, training, childcare and medical appointments and emergencies
  • Exercise outdoors (limited to once a day). This includes meeting one other person from another household in an open public space to exercise
  • Shopping for essentials such as food and medicine
  • Communal religious worship
  • Meeting your support or childcare bubble. Children can also move between separated parents
  • Activities related to moving house

Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are being advised to limit the time they spend outside the home. They should only go out for medical appointments, for exercise, or if it is otherwise essential, the government says, and not for work or education purposes.

PM under pressure to give sense of how long measures will last

Jonathan Blake - BBC political correspondent
The prime minister wasted no time in emphasising the "fundamental difference" between this and previous lockdowns.
To keep opposition from his own MPs at bay he needs to demonstrate that the government's aim to vaccinate the most at-risk groups by mid-February is viable.
He is also under pressure to give a sense of how quickly restrictions might be lifted after that.
The course of the pandemic has changed swiftly at times though and may do so again, so it's unlikely we'll get any firm new timelines from Boris Johnson today.
Most Conservative backbenchers seem resigned to the need for this new national lockdown and agree the prime minister had "no choice" but to act.
But MPs on all sides are impatient to hear how soon things may start returning to something like life as normal at last.

Tory MPs 'concerned' about 31 March end-date in legislation

Former cabinet minister Chris Grayling asks for an assurance there will be a debate in the Commons before February half-term on "progress towards reducing restrictions".
He says some Conservative MPs are "very concerned" about the end-date in the lockdown legislation of 31 March.
Boris Johnson replies the Commons "should, and will inevitably" get a chance to discuss measures before the end of March.
"I hope substantially before the end of March," he says.
He adds that reopening schools will be the "priority" when restrictions are eventually eased.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 14:22

Clap for Carers returns this Thursday

Away from the Commons for now.... it looks like Clap for Carers may be making a come back - with a new name.
Neighbours applauding outside their homes and the banging of pots and pans was a familiar sight every Thursday during the first lockdown.
For 10 weeks millions of people took part in the weekly Clap for Carers.
Now, Annemarie Plas, who came up with the weekly ritual, has confirmed it will return under a new name Clap for Heroes this Thursday at 20:00 GMT.
"I hope it can lift the spirit, of all of us. Carers, teacher, homeschooling parents, those who shield and all who are pushing through this difficult time," she tweeted.

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Moderna vaccine approved for EU states

The European Union's medicines regulator has recommended the vaccine made by the US company, Moderna, for use in the bloc's 27 states.
It is the second vaccine to be given the green light by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), after it approved the Pfizer-BioNTech jab last month.
"This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency," EMA executive director Emer Cooke said in a statement.
The Moderna vaccine will need to be formally signed off by the European Commission, and this is expected to happen later today.
It requires temperatures of around -20C for shipping - similar to a normal freezer. The Pfizer-BioNTech jab, meanwhile, requires temperatures closer to -75C which makes transport logistics more difficult.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 15:35

Breaking News 

Teachers to assess grades again

The education secretary, Gavin Williamson confirms that A-levels and GCSE exams in England will not go ahead this year.
Teachers will be asked to assess grades again, he says, adding that the Department for Education department and regulator Ofqual had already worked up a range of contingency options..
"We're going to put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms," he says.

We are better placed than March, says education secretary

Gavin Williamson says England's education system is in a "far better place" to cope with the closure of schools than during the first lockdown in March last year.
"We're now better prepared to deliver online learning," he adds. "This is an important step forward in supporting children to make for progress with their education they so desperately need."

Schools Covid testing programme will continue

The education secretary says the government will continue to regularly test teachers for Covid, as well as those pupils still be able to attend school during the lockdown - including vulnerable students and children of key workers.
Gavin Williamson says it will help the government reopen schools as soon as possible.
He tells the Commons: "The testing is going to be the centre of our plans to return children back to school, back to the classroom, back to college as soon as possible."

Crucial to get system replacing exams right

Alex Forsyth - Political correspondent
Getting the system to replace exams right is crucial for the government this time round.
The problems caused by last summer’s grading algorithm before it was ditched led to one of the most politically difficult points of the pandemic, with Conservative MPs getting a real backlash from their local communities.
It’s clear ministers don’t want a repeat of that, opting for a teacher-assessment system from the outset this time round.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 15:40

Chinese province steps up restrictions amid new cases

Authorities in the northern Chinese province of Hebei, near Beijing, have tightened measures after dozens of new Covid-19 cases were reported there.
It may not sound like a lot when compared to other countries' case numbers - but the province has become the place with the highest number of new daily cases in mainland China, state media report .
Authorities have restricted travel between Hebei and other provinces in a bid to curb the virus’ spread. Inter-city bus services, and nearly 30% of inbound flights to the provincial capital Shijiazhuang, have been cancelled, local media report.
Shijiazhuang has started testing all people working in the cold-food chain industry , and authorities aim to test all of the city's residents from Wednesday, the state-run Global Times says.
The coronavirus was first detected in China's Wuhan in late 2019, where it rapidly spread. China's initial handling of the crisis was criticised - although it controlled the outbreak within its borders quickly with aggressive social distancing measures and rapid testing.
Observers say China now appears to want to distance itself from its early connections to the coronavirus , and promote the idea that China's Covid-19 success means its political model is more successful than the West's.
It comes as a team from the World Health Organisation investigating the origins of the pandemic were denied entry to China.
China claims the details of the visit, including the date, were still being arranged.
Read more: Wuhan scientist would 'welcome' visit probing lab leak theory

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 15:42

Where will the seven new vaccination centres be?

The locations of seven new vaccination centres in England have been announced. The centres, due to open next week, will be at:

  • Robertson House, Stevenage
  • Excel Centre, London
  • Centre for Life, Newcastle
  • Etihad Tennis Centre, Manchester
  • Epsom Race Course, Surrey
  • Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol
  • Millennium Point, Birmingham

NHS workers and volunteers will staff the centres. The government is calling on volunteers to come forward to help.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 16:45

US congressman tests positive despite receiving first vaccine dose

Coronavirus - 6th January 5a7f2610

A Republican congressman has tested positive for coronavirus less than three weeks after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
In a tweet posted on Tuesday night, the congressman said he was quarantining after receiving the result, adding that he would begin treatment on Wednesday.
Kevin Brady, who represents Texas' 8th District, shared a photo of himself receiving the injection on 18 December, together with a message thanking President Donald Trump for the speed with which the vaccine was produced and delivered.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective in preventing people from developing Covid-19, although two doses are needed to ensure full protection. However, data published by the US Food and Drug Administration showed that the first jab alone prevented 89% of the most severe cases.
Brady is not the first member of Congress to test positive after receiving their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine: Kay Granger, another Republican from Texas, tested positive on Monday.
"Having received the vaccine in December, she is asymptomatic and feeling great!" her office said in a statement.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 16:52

Disabled people 'have felt forgotten during pandemic'

Shadow work and pensions minister Vicky Foxcroft says she wants to focus on disabled people "who have felt forgotten in this pandemic".
The Labour MP says there has been no assessment on the impact of lockdown on this group, despite two-thirds of those who have died from coronavirus being disabled.
She says disabled people have contacted her to raise concerns about accessing food, medicines, PPE and social care, and have "faced increased cost but with no uplift to legacy benefits".
"Disabled people must be central to our decision making, not an afterthought," she adds.

Cricket fans in Melbourne urged to get tested

Thousands of people in Melbourne have been urged to get tested and isolate following a coronavirus case.
The man tested positive after attending a cricket match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and visiting a shopping centre during the Boxing Day sales.
Authorities say he would not have been contagious at the time but there is a chance he contracted the virus while at the cricket or shopping.
Authorities are now urging more than 7,000 fans who attended the cricket match on 27 December to get tested.
More than 30,000 people attended the match, one of the biggest events in the country since the pandemic began.
Australia has been praised for its response to the pandemic, locking down international and state borders quickly. It is now beginning to loosen restrictions. On Thursday, the first quarantine-free flight from New Zealand is set to land in Queensland.
More than 28,000 cases have been confirmed and 909 people have died since the pandemic began.
Read more:
Sydney outbreak linked to new cases in Melbourne
Australian advert of man eating bat sandwich investigated

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 16:55

Breaking News

UK records 1,041 daily deaths

The UK has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths from Covid for first time since April.
A total of 1,041 people died within 28 days of a positive test, according to the latest government data.
There were also a further 62,322 new Covid cases - the highest number of cases since mass testing started.
The number of cases was up from 60,916 the previous day.

What's happening in Europe?

If you're just joining us, here's a reminder of the day's top stories in Europe:

  • Portugal is one of a number of countries announcing record figures today, after the country of just over 10 million people recorded more than 10,000 daily infections for the first time
  • The news comes after the Portuguese president went into isolation after a member of his staff tested positive for the virus
  • Cases also reached a new high in the Czech Republic on Wednesday
  • There are 921 people with Covid-19 in hospital in the Republic of Ireland , the highest number since the start of the pandemic, the chief executive of the Health Service Executive has said
  • Switzerland plans to extend its lockdown until the end of February, meaning that restaurants, gyms and cultural venues will remain closed. The decision comes a day after Germany announced it would extend its own restrictions until the end of January amid rising cases

  • EU regulators have approved the Moderna vaccine - the second jab to receive the green light for use by the bloc's 27 members

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 16:59

Japan records record daily case numbers

Japan has recorded 5,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time, with the government expected to soon announce a new state of emergency for Tokyo and its surrounding areas.
The capital, which is currently at the highest of a four-stage alert warning, recorded 1,591 new cases on Wednesday.
Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato said a decision on implementing stronger restrictions is likely to come on Thursday.
It comes as the occupancy rate of hospital beds for coronavirus patients surpassed 50% in eight of the country’s 47 prefectures including Tokyo.
In Osaka, 64.4% of hospital beds had Covid-19 patients while in Tokyo, that figure was 61.4%.
Japan considers a figure of more than 50% to be stage four – the worst level on a scale that determines the degree of the virus’ spread , the Japan Times reports.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 17:28

Summary updates from The Guardian today:

Indonesia considering whether a Covid-19 vaccine is halal

The highest Muslim clerical council in Indonesia is hoping to issue a ruling on whether a Covid-19 vaccine is halal – days before the country is due to start a mass vaccination programme using a Chinese vaccine.
Public health responses in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, have in the past been hampered by controversy over whether vaccines meet the requirements of Islamic law. In 2018, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa declaring that a measles vaccine was forbidden under Islam.

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Teachers check the temperature of a pupil at a kindergarten in Banda Aceh. Photograph: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images

Indonesia is to begin its vaccination programme on 13 January, after procuring 3m doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine. “Hopefully the edict can be declared before the government starts its vaccination program,” Muti Arintawati, an official at MUI in charge of analysing food and drugs, said. She said data was still being gathered before MUI could make a final edict.
Indonesia, which has had the worst Covid-19 outbreak in south-east Asia, recorded its biggest daily rise in Covid-19 infections on Wednesday. The 8,854 new cases brought the total number so far detected in the country to 788,402, according to data from the country’s Covid-19 taskforce.
It also reported 187 new deaths, bringing the total toll to 23,296. Indonesia has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the region.

Coronavirus-infected patients in Irish hospitals pass first-wave peak

The number of patients in hospitals in Ireland who are infected with coronavirus has exceeded the peak set during the country’s first wave of the pandemic, official data has shown.
Health officials blamed increased socialising around Christmas after the government reopened most of the economy for a rapid shift to one of the fastest rates of infection in the European Union.
Previously, the country had one of the lowest rates.
Covid-19 hospital admissions are rising by about 10% a day, taking the number of patients being treated to 921 on Wednesday, compared with the mid-April peak of 881. Early on Wednesday, 76 patients were in intensive care units (ICU), having more than doubled in a week. The mid-April peak was 155.
Government ministers will meet on Wednesday to discuss measures, including stricter rules for travellers flying into Ireland and the closure of schools and non-essential construction.
The head of Ireland’s health service operator, Paul Reid, said on Wednesday that “healthy people are getting very sick”.
On Monday, Reid said the rate of infections meant the total in hospitals could hit 2,500 this month, with between 250 and 430 in ICU.
Public hospitals can increase ICU capacity safely to 375 and the health service was again seeking to take over private hospital ICU beds for Covid-19 admissions, he said.

Hungary should extend a partial lockdown due to end on Monday because of a rise in coronavirus infections in neighbouring countries, the surgeon general, Cecília Müller, said.
The measures imposed by prime minister Viktor Orbán’s government in November include a 7pm curfew, a ban on all gatherings and the closure of hotels and restaurants.
“The government has the authority to make a decision (about the protective measures),” Müller told an online briefing, adding that Hungary had not yet detected a new variant of coronavirus found in the UK.
“However, the pandemic is ongoing, and case numbers have risen sharply in neighbouring countries, which means that upholding the (existing) measures is justified.”
Hungary had received three shipments of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine so far, enough to inoculate 79,000 people, Müller said, adding further doses would arrive on a weekly basis.
As of Wednesday, Hungary had reported 331,768 Covid-19 cases with 10,198 deaths and 179,541 recoveries. More than 5,000 people are in hospital.

Helena Smith - The Guardian
In Greece, churches have opened their doors – in defiance of nationwide lockdown measures – to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany.
The decision to mark the baptism of Christ, a major holiday in the Orthodox calendar, has put the powerful institution on a collision course with the centre right government following a dramatic increase in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Police patrols could be seen imploring mask-wearing worshippers to maintain social distancing rules as services got under way. Local media reported chaotic scenes in Thessaloniki, the country’s northern metropolis, with faithful refusing to adhere to the public health measures as they attended the blessing of the waters.

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Police officers arrest a woman for trying to throw a cross into the sea in Thessaloniki. Photograph: Sakis Mitrolidis/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Greece’s public health organisation, EODY, said infections had more than doubled after 928 people were diagnosed with the virus, up from 427 on Monday. Fatalities rose by 40 bringing the death toll to 5,051 since the onset of the pandemic in March.
After easing restrictions over the Christmas period the government on Saturday unexpectedly ordered a week-long nationwide lockdown, enforcing the closure of places of worship to facilitate the planned reopening of schools next week.
Previously it had said churches could conduct liturgies on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Epiphany, which officially marks the ending of the festive season.
Infuriated it had not been consulted earlier, the Holy Synod, the Church’s governing body, announced it would not accept the restrictions with bishops telling congregations to attend services.

Ukrainian police and health officials are investigating reports that some citizens have been illegally getting inoculated against Covid-19 with vaccines that have not been officially approved, prime minister Denys Shmyhal said.
Ukraine, which has registered more than one million Covid-19 infections and 19,357 deaths so far, has yet to approve any of the newly developed vaccines, though it signed a contract in December to buy 1.9m doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine and the shots are expected to be delivered soon.
Some Ukrainian media outlets reported on Wednesday that a clinic in Kyiv had begun inoculating people, probably with the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, at a charge of up to €3,000 per dose.
The reports said the vaccine could have been brought in from Israel and that several top officials and businessmen had been vaccinated.
“None of the vaccines are currently certified in Ukraine. And I’m sure no rational person would get vaccinated with drugs of unknown origin,” Shmyhal said.
Shmyhal said last month the first shots of the Chinese vaccine could arrive in February. Ukraine also hopes in March to receive the first batch of 8m doses of vaccines under the global Covax facility, set up to provide vaccines to poorer countries.
A Ukrainian pharmaceutical company backed by a prominent Russian-leaning opposition figure said this week it had applied for state approval to make Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine.
Coronavirus infections in Ukraine began rising again in September and have remained consistently high ever since, triggering several national lockdowns.

Ireland plans to vaccinate about 10,000 people a week with the Moderna vaccine

Deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar has said, after Europe’s drug regulator gave the vaccine the green light.
The government’s current schedule is to vaccinate 135,000 people by the end of February with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the only Covid-19 vaccine approved for use in the country.

Portugal's president self-isolating after contact with Covid-19 case

Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, is self-isolating after being in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
The 72-year-old is campaigning to win a second term as the country’s president in an election on 24 January. He has several presidential debates scheduled before then.
In a statement shared on his official website, Rebelo de Sousa’s office said the contact was with a member of Casa Civil, a body of specialists who provide consultation services to the president.
Rebelo de Sousa is waiting for the health authority to decide if the exposure was high risk and for how long he will have to stay at home, the statement said.

Dozens of Bulgarian men danced and sang in the cold waters of the Tundzha river in the central Bulgarian town of Kalofer to mark the Christian holiday of Epiphany on Wednesday, ignoring curbs imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
In a popular ritual, Orthodox priests cast a crucifix into a lake or river, and it is believed that the person who retrieves it will be freed from evil spirits and will be healthy through the year.
Despite calls from authorities to cancel the celebration, about 70 men from Kalofer took part in the ritual, while dozens gathered along the river banks to watch it.

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People perform the national dance ‘Horo’ holding national flags in the icy waters of the river during celebrations of Epiphany day in Kalofer, Bulgaria Photograph: Vassil Donev/EPA

“We tried … not to have it, but there was no way. Even if we did not help them, they would have done it anyway,” said Kalofer mayor Rumen Stoyanov. “This is an important event for the community… We tried to limit the access, but we could not.”
After the crucifix was recovered, the men put their arms around each other’s shoulders, sang and danced in a circle to music played on drums and bagpipes.
The event in Kalofer sparked heated debates on social networks, where some supported it while others called for the men and the town to be fined for breaking rules they fear may fuel coronavirus infections.
Christians in Greece also defied bans on public gatherings to mark one of the most important religious days in the Eastern Orthodox Church commemorating the baptism of Christ and the revelation of the Holy Trinity.
Bulgaria, which ranks second in number of deaths per capita from Covid-19 in the EU, managed to limit the surge in new infections after closing schools, restaurants and banning large public gatherings since late November.
On Wednesday, the Balkan country reported 1,310 new cases, bringing the total to 205,390, including 7,902 deaths.

Madrid’s regional authorities have launched an investigation into a report that a care home allowed priests and relatives of workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in contravention of rules.
Only care home residents and staff are supposed to be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine under Madrid regional health authority regulations.
However, relatives of some of the staff at Casablanca Valdesur nursing home, in Valdemoro, south of Madrid, also received injections of the vaccine,, an online newspaper, reported on Wednesday.
“We have launched an investigation into the claim,” a Madrid regional government spokesman said.
Grupo Casablanca, a care home company contracted by regional authorities to administer the vaccine to 1,600 people in a series of homes, said the drug has a lifespan of two hours if not used.
To avoid wasting doses, it was used on people who were not staff or residents at the Valdesur home, the company said, adding rules were followed at all other homes.
It said in a statement:
Some anomalies have been detected in the selection of people vaccinated against Covid-19 who are not residents of the Casablanca Valdesur nursing home, but who belong to their environment.
With the sole aim of taking advantage of 100% of the doses received and protecting the elderly in our residences as much as possible, several priests who assist us spiritually in the group centres, volunteers who are in contact with the elderly and some relatives of some employees have been vaccinated.
The Casablanca group assumes responsibility for what happened and regrets the consequences that these anomalies in the selection process may have caused.

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More from The Guardian :

Travel has been restricted in a northern Chinese city of 11 million as authorities move to snuff out a Covid-19 cluster, while health officials in another province detected a new virus strain found in South Africa.
Ten major highways leading into the city of Shijiazhuang, around 300km (200 miles) south of Beijing, have been closed and a bus terminus was also shut in an attempt to prevent the virus spreading beyond the city in Hebei province.
There have been 117 cases in the city – including at least 63 more reported on Wednesday – 78 of which were asymptomatic, prompting mass testing across the affected area.
The same day, health authorities in southern Guangdong province reported a case involving a mutant virus strain found in South Africa.
The strain detected in China was isolated from a swab of a South African pilot who had entered the province in December and tested positive for Covid-19, said the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Its announcement comes days after China confirmed its first case of a new coronavirus variant detected in Britain, prompting widespread concern as both strains are said to be more infectious.
Unlike much of the world, China has largely brought the virus under control through strict lockdowns and travel restrictions. But there have been a series of local outbreaks in recent weeks, prompting mass testing and targeted lockdowns.
The village of Xiaoguozhuang within the city boundary has been classified as a “high risk” district and sealed off. Health authorities said all 40,000 residents in that district have been tested for the virus.
State TV showed villagers being tested by staff in full hazmat suits and protective wear, with roadblocks staffed by police and medical workers. All schools in Shijiazhuang have been closed.
State broadcaster CCTV showed teams of health workers spraying disinfectant across streets and said an emergency team of medical workers had been sent to the city.
More than 400,000 residents of another nearby city, Nangong, have also been tested, authorities said.
Beijing is also racing to vaccinate millions ahead of the Lunar New Year travel rush next month.

Peru and Bolivia see hospitals overflow and cases rise as fears of second wave grow

The critical care wards of major hospitals in Peru and Bolivia stand at or near collapse after end-of-year holidays, reflecting wider regional public health capacity concerns as much of Latin America struggles to secure adequate Covid-19 vaccine supplies.
While infection counts remain below last year’s peak, depleted resources, weary medical workers and a recent rush of severe cases are taxing already ailing healthcare systems from Chile to Mexico, officials say.
In Bolivia, long lines of patients seeking tests snaked along the street outside a hospital complex in the city of La Paz, prompting fears of worsening contagion amid the chaos.
Cases in Bolivia have risen in the past two weeks, with an average of 1,153 infections reported daily, around 68% of the country’s July peak, according to a Reuters analysis of official data. La Paz and Santa Cruz, two of the country’s largest cities, have been especially hard hit.
Oscar Romero, the director of the Clinicas hospital in La Paz, said the difference now was that more patients were requiring intensive care, calling the second wave “far more serious”.
In neighbouring Peru, hospitals in the capital, Lima, and nearby Callao, which together service a population of 10 million, had only 16 ICU beds with ventilators available early this week, according to a report from the Peruvian ombudsman’s office. Farther north along the coast, hospitals were full, the report said.
“We’re now paying for the behaviour of the past few weeks,” Fernando Padilla, a regional health chief in northern Peru, told reporters. He said Peruvians had become too relaxed, failing to take proper precautions to avoid contagion.
The daily caseload in Peru remains at just 20% of its August peak, but authorities say more people have been hospitalised because many are waiting until symptoms are severe to take tests.
Cases in Chile have also crept upward through the holiday season, hitting 26% of the country’s June peak.
In the Colombian capital, Bogota, where three neighbourhoods entered a 14-day quarantine to slow coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the occupancy rate of ICUs for Covid-19 patients was at 81.8%, according to local government figures.
In Mexico City, 85% of general hospital beds, or 4,630 beds, and 85% of hospital beds with ventilators, or 1,688 beds, are now filled.
The scramble for hospital beds comes in a region where many countries have been slow to lock down vaccine supplies. Bolivia and Peru have lagged well behind some wealthier neighbours, only recently signing deals to procure vaccines. Neither country has begun to vaccinate its residents.
Chile, a regional standout, was the first in South America to launch a vaccination programme, and says it aims to inoculate 80% of its population by mid-year.
The procurement issues are not unique to the region’s poorest countries. Regional power Brazil, suffering from the world’s second-deadliest outbreak, has yet to approve a single vaccine.

Portugal extends state of emergency amid record daily Covid cases

Portugal has approved an extension of a state of emergency as the daily number of Covid-19 cases in the nation of around 10 million people reached a record high of 10,027, putting increasing pressure on the health system.
Portugal, which has so far registered 446,606 cases and 7,377 deaths from the virus, eased restrictions around Christmas but cracked down again on New Year’s Eve with a ban on travel between municipalities and public gatherings.
But the number of cases is rising fast, with Portugal’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa saying over the weekend he was worried about the increase in infections after the holiday season.
To tackle the outbreak, lawmakers gave the green light to an extension of a state of emergency, which ends on Thursday, for an additional week until 15 January.
Measures now in place include an overnight curfew from 11pm to 5am and a half-day lockdown, from 1pm to 5am, over the weekend across many of the country’s municipalities.
“There’s again immense pressure on the national health service and we are trying to respond,” health minister Marta Temido said. “We need everyone’s help.”
There are more than 500 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units in the country.
To ease pressure, Temido has ordered hospitals in the Lisbon area to suspend non-urgent medical services and adopt their contingency plans to fight the outbreak. “The next few days are going to be very tough,” she said.

The European Union should send coronavirus vaccines to its Balkan neighbours and do more to combat the virus in Ukraine, 13 of the EU’s foreign ministers said in a joint letter to the bloc’s executive.
Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden said the EU would not be safe from Covid-19 until countries on its borders could also recover from the pandemic.
“We strongly support the efforts and initiatives by member states and the European commission to share the vaccines from the allocated contracts with the closest EU neighbours, such as the Western Balkan countries,” the ministers said in the 6 January letter, which was made public.
Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said separately it was “our duty to extend a helping hand to EU partners in the east, Western Balkans and other regions”.
EU countries launched a mass Covid-19 vaccination drive on 27 December, but Balkan nations – poorer than EU member states – have not been able to negotiate the same access to Covid-19 vaccines with drugmakers.
Other neighbouring governments have no clear schedule for their national inoculation programmes.
The European commission said it received the letter and would reply to those governments, telling reporters it was looking at ways to help Balkan countries and other neighbours, including Georgia and Ukraine.
The six Balkan countries of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, all of which apart from Albania emerged from the 1990s break-up of Yugoslavia, are considered future EU members.
Like much of the continent, Covid-19 infections have rocketed across the western Balkans since October, with hospitals close to being overwhelmed by incoming patients.

The head of the Swedish civil contingencies agency (MSB) is leaving his post, the agency said today, after a controversial Christmas trip denounced as a breach of Covid-19 guidelines.
Dan Eliasson, who has headed the agency since 2018, asked the government to reassign him and the government was expected to make a decision shortly, according to a statement from the agency.
The row started after the Eliasson travelled to the Canaries to spend Christmas with his daughter, a resident of the islands, which are off north Africa.
The daily newspaper Expressen reported that Eliasson had flown out a little over a week after the government had recommended people not to travel overseas unless “necessary”.
Eliasson defended the visit telling the paper, “I have refrained from a great deal of trips during this pandemic but this one I thought was necessary.”
However, the trip provoked widespread anger and led to several opposition politicians calling for his resignation.
Eliasson said his decision to resign was motivated by those reactions and the impact they would have on the work of the agency. He wanted MSB to “have best conditions to do its important mission”, he said.
“The important thing isn’t me as a person. The important thing is how we as a society handle the pandemic and that all focus is on that incredibly important task.”
Sweden made world headlines for its decision to combat the coronavirus with mostly non-coercive measures rather than enforcing the lockdowns seen across Europe.
Officials have repeatedly urged people to take responsibility, but over the holidays reports of officials not heeding their own advice emerged, angering sections of the public.
Several politicians appeared to be ignoring guidelines to avoid crowds and not to travel, even if they were not breaking the law.
Prime minister Stefan Lofven was photographed visiting a watch store in central Stockholm. Justice minister Morgan Johansson was spotted out shopping during the sales between Christmas and new year.
And finance minister Magdalena Andersson was photographed renting skis at a Swedish resort just before Christmas.

Italy reported 548 coronavirus-related deaths today, down from 649 in the previous 24 hours, the health ministry said, but the daily tally of new infections rose by almost a third to 20,331 from 15,378.
The ministry said 178,596 swab tests were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 135,106.
Italy has registered 76,877 Covid-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light on 21 February, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world. The country has reported 2.201 million cases to date.
Patients in hospital with Covid stood at 23,174, down 221 from the day before. There were 183 admissions to intensive care units, compared with 202 yesterday.
The current number of intensive care patients rose by 2 to 2,571, reflecting those who died or were discharged after recovery.
When Italy’s second wave of the epidemic was accelerating fast in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by about 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

Turkey reported 13,830 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed today, bringing the total number of cases to 2,283,931.
It reported 191 related fatalities over the same period, raising the total death toll to 22,070.
Both the number of cases and deaths were down on the previous 24 hours when the respective figures were 14,494 and 194.
Turkey has imposed curfews each weekday evening and full weekend lockdowns for more than a month in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Ireland tightens Covid-19 lockdown by closing schools and construction

Ireland has ordered the closure of most schools and construction sites for at least three weeks in an effort to curb a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, tightening a lockdown that has already closed most hospitality and retail outlets.
The government has also banned ‘click and collect’ retail services but will continue to allow deliveries, prime minister Micheal Martin told a news conference.

Swiss health authorities have added Denmark and the Netherlands to their list of areas from which travellers must enter a 10-day quarantine designed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The Czech Republic and Panama also join the list that takes effect from 15 January. Belize and the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia come off the list from Thursday.

Bolivia has granted emergency approval for use of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine against Covid-19, Russian sovereign fund RDIF said.
The vaccine was registered by the Bolivian regulator based on the results of Phase III clinical trials in Russia, without additional trials in Bolivia, RDIF said in a statement.
RDIF said on 30 December it had agreed to supply Bolivia with enough of its two-dose Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to vaccinate 2.6 million people.

Ireland is to drop a ban on travellers from Britain and South Africa from Saturday and will instead require them on arrival to provide a negative Covid-19 test from the previous 72 hours, transport minister Eamon Ryan said.
The measure will remain in place at least until the end of January and the government will consider whether to impose the same measure on other countries with high levels of Covid-19 infection, Ryan told a news conference.

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Stopping some flights is not enough - Yvette Cooper

The chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper, questions the UK government's approach to border control in light of the virus.
She raises a new variant that has come to light in South Africa, which some scientists fear could not be tackled by the current vaccines.
The Labour MP says: "I know government is worried about it but I do not understand why they are not taking urgent action to prevent the South African variant being brought into and spreading across the UK."
Cooper praises the halting of direct flights from the country, but says "the first wave shows it is not enough" with less than 1% of cases coming directly from China earlier in the year.
"So when the prime minister says we have taken strong action by stopping direct flights he is kidding himself," she says.
Calling for better border checks - such as testing before entry to the UK - and checks on people needing to self-isolate, Cooper adds: "We cannot afford further waves and have to make sure we do not make those mistakes again."

Sweden official offers to resign after Canary Islands trip

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A top Swedish official involved in the coronavirus response has offered to leave his post after facing heavy criticism for spending Christmas in the Canary Islands.
Dan Eliasson is the head of the civil contingencies agency, which earlier in December had texted all Swedes urging them to avoid travel.
In a statement published on Wednesday, the agency said he had met the country's interior minister and requested to be reassigned to a different role.
Eliasson was photographed in Las Palmas airport on the island of Gran Canaria and later defended his decision to travel, insisting it was necessary "for family reasons".
He told Swedish media that he had "given up a lot of trips during this pandemic" but thought this one was necessary because he had a daughter living in the Canaries. He added he had been working remotely while abroad.
Sweden has confirmed almost 470,000 cases and more than 8,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University - many more than its Scandinavian neighbours. The country has never imposed a full lockdown.
However, alarmed by rising numbers of cases last month, the Swedish government reversed some of its guidance and asked Swedes to avoid unnecessary travel.

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South Africa blasts tourists for defying Covid beach ban

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South Africa's Police Minister Bheki Cele has accused mostly European tourists of defying a ban on going to beaches along the country's famous Garden Route.
The new rules were introduced last month to curb the spread of coronavirus after the beaches were identified as a hotspot for infections.
Speaking to journalists following a tour of the area, Cele said that overall compliance with Covid-19 regulations was much better than he had expected, but some surfers had been arrested on the beach in Langebaan for defying the ban.
"What really irritates about those people is that they are foreign nationals - most of them come from Europe and their beaches are closed and there's lockdown there and they come here to do the mess," he added.
Cele said soldiers would be deployed to help enforce the ban as police numbers in the area were down - about 350 officers had been infected with the virus and about 800 were in isolation.
The Garden Route is one of the most scenic parts of South Africa and is popular with tourists.
The country has faced rising numbers of coronavirus infections in recent weeks, with fears growing over a new variant identified in South Africa.
Read more here

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Irish cabinet agrees raft of tighter restrictions

Shane Harrison - BBC News Dublin correspondent
The Irish government has announced a raft of measures to fight the coronavirus including school closures.
Non-essential construction will also be shut down and air passengers must have negative Covid-19 PCR tests 72 hours before flying into the state.
PCR tests are regarded as the "gold standard" of testing.
The travel restriction will apply to passengers from Britain and South Africa before an anticipated extension to all visitors.
The Taoiseach (Irish PM) has told a news conference that public compliance with the measures will reflect on how many people may die.
Mícheál Martin said he expected people to "face the coming month with steely determination and resolve."
Read the full story here.

Main UK coronavirus headlines

It’s been a busy day so far and MPs are continuing to debate the new lockdown in England in the House of Commons. We’re not expecting a vote until about 19:00 GMT, but we’ll continue to bring you the latest on our live page.
Here’s a round-up of the main coronavirus headlines in the UK:

At a glance: UK Covid cases in graphics

The UK has reported its highest daily death toll since April last year. Meanwhile, the number of Covid patients in hospitals is more than a third higher than the previous peak - recorded in the same month.
Here's a closer look at the data:

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 19:23

Breaking News

England lockdown law passes

MPs have voted to approve the law which introduced a new lockdown in England this morning.
A total of 524 MPs voted in favour of the restrictions, compared to 16 who voted against.

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Analysis: Vote passed but the pressure isn't entirely off

Helen Catt - Political correspondent
Few MPs rebelled on the new national lockdown restrictions.
Most agree they are needed now, even if they don't like them.
The start of the vaccination programme does seem to have changed the political landscape too.
This vote means the government will not have to face MPs again on these restrictions until March.
The questions from some Tory backbenchers suggest there will be pressure on the government to start lifting them long before then though - perhaps as soon as next month if the vaccination programme goes to plan.
MPs have also indicated they will be watching its progress with close attention

Lockdown guidance published for police in England

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The College of Policing and National Police Chief's Council has published its guidance on England's lockdown restrictions .
It says members of the public should first be encouraged to comply with the law.
"Enforcement can follow without repeated attempts to encourage people to comply with the law," it says.
For participation in gatherings, fixed penalty notices start at £100 and can rise to £6,400 for the sixth and subsequent offences.
There are fines of £10,000 for organisers of restricted gatherings.
It also says, in addition to businesses already closed, aquariums and zoos, including safari parks and wildlife centres, are among the attractions that must close.

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Mexican president offers to vaccinate undocumented migrants in US

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Mexico's president has said his country is ready to vaccinate undocumented migrants living in the US, after a US governor said they would be unlikely to receive an injection.
"It's a universal right," President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told a news conference on Wednesday, according to Reuters news agency. "We would do it."
He gave no details about how such a plan would be implemented, or who would be eligible to receive a vaccine.
Many undocumented migrants in the US are from Mexico.
The president's comments come after Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican, said undocumented workers at the state's meat-packing plants would probably be excluded from receiving vaccinations.
"You're supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants, so I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of that vaccine programme," Ricketts said, according to Reuters news agency.

Covid in the UK: 'Scared, sad, petrified, worried'

Fergus Walsh - Medical editor
'm standing in what should be an operating theatre - but instead it's been converted into an intensive care unit for Covid-19 patients on ventilators. This is the first time I have seen it full of patients like this.
Normally this theatre would be busy with major cancer surgery, but that's been transferred to another building.
A children's recovery area, still decorated with colourful stickers of cartoons, is once again filled with desperately sick adults. Every day, more wards are being transformed into ICU - ready for the next influx of patients.
We have been given access to University College Hospital, in central London. This is the same intensive care unit that I visited in April, during the first peak.
It is one of the busiest hospitals in the capital and intensive care here is expanding across a hospital that is under pressure like never before, from a relentless rise in Covid admissions.
I am struck by the toll the pandemic is taking on staff. It's immense - both physically and mentally. They are shell-shocked. "My emotions are all over the place. Scared, sad, petrified, worried," one ICU nurse tells me.
They have got three times as many critically ill patients in the hospital as normal. The number of Covid admissions to London hospitals has doubled in just two weeks - they're more stretched now than at the peak last April. Senior staff are worried.
Read the full story here.

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Covid patients transported in police cars, claims doctor

An NHS hospital doctor has criticised the government’s decision not to bring in a lockdown before Christmas.
Speaking on the BBC's Question Time programme, Dr Rachel Clarke said conditions in hospitals were "unimaginable".
She said: "We have ambulances queuing up outside - patients we can't get them out of the ambulances into hospitals because every single bed in intensive care, in the wards, in A&E is full."
She added: "Tonight I had messages from a doctor in London to tell me that police cars are delivering critically-ill Covid patients into his hospital in London because there are no ambulances.
"That is how bad things are. How could the government have allowed things to get so bad?"
Dr Clarke, who is also an author, said ministers should not have "ignored" the independent advisory group Sage when they suggested as early as September that a "circuit breaker" was required - and before Christmas to have a lockdown.

What's happening around the world?

Here's a reminder of the day's top international stories:

  • The EU has given its approval to the Moderna vaccine - the second to be given the green light
  • The news comes as both Portugal and the Czech Republic reported record numbers of new cases on Wednesday
  • The Republic of Ireland has agreed to close schools as part of new restrictions, as the country announced that the number of hospitalisations had reached the highest level since the pandemic began
  • A senior official in Sweden has offered to resign after spending Christmas in the Canary Islands, despite his agency urging people not to travel
  • On the eve of its third lockdown, Lebanon has recorded a record number of new cases
  • Authorities in the province of Hebei in northern China have tightened measures after dozens of new coronavirus cases were reported
  • The Grammy Awards have been postponed until March as cases continue to rise in Los Angeles

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Coronavirus - 6th January Empty Re: Coronavirus - 6th January

Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 06 2021, 20:54

What's been happening around the UK?

Coronavirus - 6th January D6d6cd10

It’s been another busy day of developments in the UK, with the prime minister, health and education secretary all addressing the Commons. The highest daily death toll since April was also recorded.
Here’s a round-up of the main headlines:

That's it for now

We're wrapping up our live updates on the coronavirus pandemic for now, but we will be back again on Thursday.

Today's updates were brought to you by Sophie Williams, Lauren Turner, Emma Harrison, Paul Seddon, Alex Kleiderman, Jennifer Scott and Victoria Bisset. The page was edited by Helier Cheung, Sarah Collerton, John Hand, Suzanne Leigh and Marie Jackson.

Thank you for joining us.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 22:23