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Coronavirus - 8th January


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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 14:30

Summary for Friday, 8th January

  • UK approves Moderna jab - its third Covid vaccine
  • The vaccine is 94% effective in preventing disease, and the UK has ordered 17m doses in total
  • The jab will be available in spring - the UK has already vaccinated 1.5m people using Pfizer and Oxford jabs
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan declares "major incident" as hospital pressure grows
  • The UK "R number", or virus reproduction rate, is estimated to be between 1 and 1.4
  • All travellers to the UK will soon have to provide a negative Covid-19 test, though self-isolation rules will remain
  • The US has seen daily deaths pass 4,000 for the first time as the epidemic worsens
  • The European Commission chief defends the EU's vaccination strategy after buying 300m more doses
  • Sweden passes a law allowing tougher Covid restrictions
  • In Australia, Brisbane will enter a three-day lockdown after a case of the UK-detected variant was found

Good morning and welcome to our Covid live page. It's been a busy week, with plenty of grim news, but also some hope - as the UK vaccination drive picks up pace and new life-saving drugs are discovered.
We'll be bringing you all the latest here throughout the day.

UK morning round-up

If you're just starting your day, here’s a round-up of the main stories from around the UK to bring you up to speed:

  • All international travellers will soon be required to provide a negative test up to 72 hours before their journey to England or Scotland. The measure to reduce the number of imported infections will also apply to returning UK nationals and is due to be implemented next week in England and “as soon as possible” in Scotland. Similar measures are planned for Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Two more life-saving drugs to treat Covid-19 have been found in trials in the UK and five other countries. The anti-inflammatory drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab can save an extra life for every 12 patients treated - a “big effect”, say researchers
  • Waiting times for patients in ambulances are “off the scale” the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has said, as hospitals struggle to cope with the Covid-19 surge. Some people are also facing long waits when they call an ambulance, with one paramedic saying he had encountered patients who waited for 12 hours in the last week
  • Wales has extended its closure of schools and colleges until at least February half-term, unless there is a significant fall in infections. The nation’s level four lockdown will also be extended and strengthened, First Minister Mark Drakeford said
  • Northern Ireland’s stay-at-home order comes into force this morning . Due to last until 6 February with a review later this month, it means people can be ordered home by police if they are out without a “reasonable excuse”

Two new life-saving drugs discovered

As we've mentioned, trials in the UK and five other countries have uncovered two more drugs which can save lives during the pandemic .
Supplies of the anti-inflammatory drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab are already available in the UK so they can be used to treat Covid-19 patients immediately.
Lead researcher Prof Anthony Gordon, from Imperial College London, said the trials showed they could save a life for every 12 patients treated - what he called a “big effect”.
As well as reducing deaths, the treatments speed up patients' recovery and reduce the length of time that critically-ill patients need to spend in intensive care by about a week.
Both drugs appear to work equally well and add to the benefit of the cheap steroid drug dexamethasone , which was the first life-saving treatment to be discovered.
The new treatments cost around £750 to £1,000 ($1,000-$1,350) per patient, on top of the £5 course of dexamethasone. Even though that's expensive, experts say it is far less than the typical £2,000 cost per day of an intensive care bed.

The latest world headlines

A warm welcome to all our readers globally.
Here are the latest headlines from around the world:

  • The Australian city of Brisbane is to enter a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with the highly transmissable variant of the coronavirus first detected in the UK
  • Brazil has now recorded more than 200,000 deaths from Covid-19, which gives it the world's second-highest death toll, after the US
  • The World Health Organization has called on European countries to do more to curb the new variant - now present in 22 nations on the continent
  • A limited state of emergency has come into force in Japan's capital, Tokyo, and its surrounding areas as infections reach record levels
  • Global virus cases have passed 88 million and nearly 1.9 million have died during the pandemic, according to figures collated by Johns Hopkins University

Heathrow boss: Very few people will travel under new rules

As England and Scotland announce plans to require a negative Covid test for international arrivals, the boss of Britain's biggest airport has called for the government to outline how it will ease the "belt and braces" measures.
Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the airport had been calling for testing as an alternative to quarantine.
But, he said, the government had decided to introduce it in addition to the requirements that travellers self-isolate after visiting a country not subject to a safe travel corridor.
"Very few people will travel" under these circumstances, Holland-Kaye said, adding: "It can only be a temporary measure."
He continued: "We need to have a road map out of this because aviation is vital to us as a small island trading nation and a lot of our supply chain and our exports go by air, largely in the holds of passenger planes.
"Unless we can get those passenger planes moving, we are not going to be able to get the economy moving as well."

How will travel testing work?

As we've reported, passengers travelling to England and Scotland - including returning UK nationals - will soon have to provide a negative Covid-19 test result before their journey.
Here are more details.
When and where?
England is expected to bring in the requirement of a negative test next week while Scotland will implement it “as soon as possible”.
Officials are said to be working with devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland on extended similar measures to the entire UK.
How will it work?
Arrivals, including UK nationals, will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country they are in so they can show their negative test result.
"We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of Covid-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
Any exemptions?
Fines of £500 can be issued to travellers who do not comply, but there will be exemptions for groups such as hauliers, children under 11, and those travelling from countries without the infrastructure to deliver tests. Arrivals from the Common Travel Area with Ireland will also be exempt.
All passengers arriving from countries not on the government's travel corridor list must still self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their test result.

Brisbane enters snap lockdown over single infection

The Australian city of Brisbane has just begun a three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.
Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible "UK variant" and they were afraid it could spread.
Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia's first wave last year.
It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.
The lockdown began at 18:00 local time and covers five populous council areas in Queensland's state capital. People can only leave home for essential reasons.

'Great concern' over S Africa variant prompts new test rule

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has defended introducing a new requirement, 10 months into the pandemic, that travellers to the UK present a negative Covid test.
He told BBC Breakfast it was prompted by "great concern" that vaccines may be less effective against a new variant of the virus first seen in South Africa, and he wants to prevent it becoming established in the UK.
Even UK nationals will be prevented from flying home without a negative test, Shapps confirmed.
UK travellers have recently found themselves subject to more stringent border requirements in other countries after another variant of the virus, which scientists believe is more transmissible, began spreading widely throughout the country.
With the chief executive of Heathrow Airport criticising the addition of testing requirements to existing quarantine rules, Shapps said it was necessary to continue self-isolation for arrivals from areas with high infection rates, because testing could miss some cases.
"It’s only through isolation that you can be 100% sure" someone is not spreading the virus, he said.
There has been criticism that quarantine measures for returning travellers are rarely enforced and Shapps admitted that only about a quarter of passenger locator forms, which travellers fill out with details of where they will be self-isolating, are checked at the border.
With plans initially announced for testing requirements for arrivals in England and Scotland, Shapps says he believes all of the UK will adopt the measure by next week.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 14:35

A recap of yesterday's UK coronavirus data

In case you missed it, here's a quick a recap of the latest coronavirus figures published by the UK government.
A further 1,162 people have died in the UK within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test - the highest daily death toll since April.
Meanwhile, a further 52,618 new cases of the virus were reported, down on the previous day's total of 62,322 - which was the highest daily rise since mass testing began.
The government will publish updated figures later on Friday.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 14:37

Ambulance waiting times in areas of England 'off the scale'

Noel Titheradge & Dr Faye Kirkland - BBC News

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As we know, the NHS is under unprecedented pressure, with hospitals and ambulance services struggling to cope with surging numbers of Covid patients.
Now, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine says the number of hours ambulances are waiting to offload patients in parts of England is "off the scale".
Data leaked to BBC News shows ambulance waiting times at hospitals in the South East rose by 36% in December compared with the same month in 2019.
People are also having to wait longer for ambulances to arrive when called.
On one occasion, paramedics were called to attend to a young man with Covid-19 whose oxygen levels were "so low". He was given oxygen when they arrived - but that was eight hours after the ambulance was called.
A London Ambulance Service Trust spokesperson said it was "continuing to prioritise" the sickest and most seriously injured patients and its team of clinicians in control rooms were working hard to monitor and keep in contact with other patients as they wait for ambulance crews to arrive.
A South East Coast Ambulance Service Trust spokesperson said the service was doing "everything" it could to boost staff numbers to meet the rise in demand, including increasing overtime.
Read our full story.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 14:40

US sees 4,000 daily deaths for first time

As political events unfold at a rapid rate in the United States , the country's Covid epidemic continues to worsen.
The US has reported a daily record for deaths, more than 4,000, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and data cited by US media.
The virus is surging in several states, with California hit particularly hard, the Associated Press news agency reports.
The total death toll for the pandemic in the US has surpassed 365,400, according to JHU - by far the world's highest figure.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, said high daily death tolls were likely to continue. "I believe, unfortunately, that it will," he told NPR in an interview .
"As we get into the next couple of weeks in January, that likely will be a reflection of the holiday season travel and the congregate settings that usually take place socially during that period of time."
He said that while the UK had implemented a lockdown to blunt the spread of a highly transmissible new variant, he did not see "any enthusiasm" for similar nationwide restrictions in the US even though the variant appeared to be spreading there too.

Fake vaccine fraudster injects woman, 92, in London

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Police released CCTV footage of the alleged fraudster

A fraudster claiming to work for the NHS went to the home of a 92-year-old woman in London and charged her £160 for a fake injection , police say.
Detectives called it a "disgusting and totally unacceptable assault" by the man and said it is crucial he is caught as soon as possible as he "may endanger people's lives".
It is not known what substance, if any, was administered, but the woman showed no ill effects after being checked at her local hospital, police said.
The man arrived at his victim's home in Surbiton, south-west London, on 30 December, saying he was from the NHS and there to give her the Covid-19 vaccine, officers said.
The victim told police she was jabbed in the arm with a "dart-like implement" before being charged £160, which the man said would be refunded by the NHS.
He made a second visit to the woman's home on 4 January, when he asked for another £100, police say.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 14:54

Mango buying ahead of Brisbane's lockdown

Simon Atkinson - BBC News, Brisbane, Australia

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People queued up to buy groceries before the restrictions came into force

At 08:00 this morning, I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk and, because it’s summer here, a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.
When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later, it was a different story - 50 people standing in the drizzle, queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags.
"Heaps busier than Christmas," a cheery trolley attendant told me. "It’s off the scale."
Despite the "don’t panic" messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.
While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden three-day stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.
But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining. And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule.
This is the first time the so-called UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia. And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangos.

What is the risk from the 'South Africa' variant?

Michelle Roberts - Health editor, BBC News online
A new variant of coronavirus circulating in South Africa has now been found in other countries - including the UK. But what is the risk?
The South Africa variant - called 501.V2 - is different to the other newly discovered "Kent" variant scientists have been looking at in the UK.
Both variants appear to be more contagious, but there is currently no evidence to suggest that any of the mutated viruses cause more serious illness.
While changes in the new UK variant are unlikely to harm the effectiveness of current vaccines, there is a chance those in the South African variant may do so to some extent, say scientists.
It is too soon to say for sure, or by how much, until more tests are completed, although it is extremely unlikely the mutations would render vaccines useless.
But even in the worst case scenario, vaccines can be redesigned and tweaked in a matter or weeks or months to be a better match if necessary, say experts.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 14:57

What are the new UK Covid travel rules?

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As we've been reporting this morning, international arrivals will, from next week, have to test negative for coronavirus before travelling to the UK.
The government says the mandatory testing scheme is needed to protect the country against new strains of Covid-19, discovered in countries such as South Africa.
But what are the new rules?

  • All international arrivals, including UK nationals, will have to present a negative Covid test before they board a plane, train or boat heading to the UK, taken up to 72 hours before their journey began
  • Travellers will also have to fill in a Passenger Locator Form and follow national lockdown rules
  • UK Border Force will conduct spot checks, and those who do not follow the rules will face a £500 fine
  • Some travellers, including hauliers, children under 11, and people coming from the Common Travel Area (the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man) will be exempt
  • People arriving from countries which are not on the government's list of travel corridors will still have to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their test result

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says the mandatory testing scheme will be UK-wide , although non-essential travel to and from Scotland and Wales is already banned.
The Welsh government says there are currently no international passengers arriving into Wales through Cardiff Airport, but "when they do, they will be subject to the same requirements as the rest of the UK".
You can read more here .

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 15:00

How do vaccination rates compare?

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that nearly 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom had already received their first vaccine dose.
So how does that compare to the rest of the world?
Israel is leading in terms of the relative number of vaccines administered , with 19.55 per 100 people, according to Our World in Data, which is tracking the global vaccine roll-out.
It is followed by two Gulf states, the UAE and Bahrain, with 8.98 and 4.25 respectively, followed by the UK (1.91) and the US (1.79) - which were among the first Western countries to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
It's worth noting that the UK's number of doses administered per 100 people will actually be a little bit higher than reflected in the chart below because Our World in Data is yet to account for the latest update (from 1.3m to 1.5m doses given).
Some other European countries then appear in the list, starting with Denmark (1.43), followed by Italy (0.68) and Germany (0.5).
Further down the list is France with a rate of 0.07. There has been controversy in the country over the slow pace of vaccination , which has been hampered by administrative and logistical delays.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 15:03

Brazil 'needs to take virus more seriously'

Katy Watson - BBC South America correspondent, São Paulo

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The city of Manaus in the Amazon is once again struggling to cope with Covid-19 cases

History is repeating itself in the Amazon - nine months after the biggest city in the rainforest was overrun by cases, Manaus is once again struggling to cope with Covid-19.
It’s a picture that’s being repeated throughout Brazil - hospital beds filling up, medical teams working relentlessly. On Thursday, the very day Brazil passed 200,000 deaths, it also clocked another unwelcome record: nearly 88,000 new cases in 24 hours. It was the highest number since the pandemic began.
In total, nearly eight million people in South America’s largest economy have been infected.
But it feels like the pandemic’s been forgotten here - it’s peak summer, holiday season. People are relaxing and dropping their guard.
"They are not taking it seriously. The beaches, the Brazilian coast was crowded and this proves that people still need to have more awareness and take this virus more seriously," said Alexandre Nunes, a Portuguese student.
As yet, no national vaccination plan has been rolled out – and President Jair Bolsonaro has made his views clear, last month stoking concerns about their safety.
But there was a glimmer of hope on Thursday.
Results from late-stage trials showed that the vaccine being jointly developed by Chinese biotech company Sinovac and the São Paulo-based Butantan research centre was between 78% and 100% effective against Covid-19.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 15:58

The life-saving drugs coming to the NHS

During yesterday's Downing Street news briefing, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned two life-saving drugs that a trial has found can cut deaths by a quarter in the sickest Covid-19 patients .
Mr Johnson said the drugs - tocilizumab and sarilumab - will be available on the NHS “with immediate effect” .
The breakthrough couldn't come soon enough for nations facing rising hospital admissions due to coronavirus, says the BBC's online health editor, Michelle Roberts.
The drugs dampen down inflammation, which can go into overdrive in Covid patients and cause damage to the lungs and other organs.
These powerful medications are already available in some countries, such as the UK.
But they are not cheap, costing around £750 to £1,000 ($1,360) per patient, which makes them unaffordable in much of the world.
A very cheap steroid, called dexamethasone, is widely available though - and can also help save lives.

How does the Moderna vaccine compare with other jabs?

News broke an hour ago that the Moderna vaccine has become the third coronavirus jab to gain approval in the UK.
The vaccine works in a similar way to the Pfizer/BioNTech jab that is already being offered.
Both vaccines inject part of the virus's genetic code in order to provoke an immune response.
They have also shown similar levels of efficacy - both around 95%.
Moderna's vaccine is, however, easier to store and distribute, as it remains stable at -20C - the temperature of a normal freezer - for up to six months and can be kept in a standard fridge for up to a month.
Pfizer's vaccine needs ultra-cold storage at around -75C, and can be kept in the fridge for five days.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca jab is the easiest of the three to store and distribute, as it can be kept at normal fridge temperature.
All of these vaccines require a second booster shot, but a first dose is likely to be given to as many people as possible.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 16:03

UK - India flights resume, but Delhi arrivals must quarantine

Rajini Vaidvanathan - BBC News

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All travellers from the UK to the Indian capital Delhi will have to undergo at least a week of institutional quarantine in an effort to contain the spread of of the new strain of Covid-19.
The announcement comes as flights between India and Britain have resumed, following a two-week ban.
On Friday morning, a plane carrying more than 250 passengers from London landed into Delhi airport.
But the new rules from the Delhi government require all passengers to take an RT-PCR test on arrival.
Those who test positive will have to go into institutional quarantine for a fortnight - but even those testing negative will have to do a week, before isolating at home.
The guidelines will begin on a trial basis until 14 January.

How serious is the situation in London?

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said the virus is now "out of control" in the capital

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a “major incident” in the capital.
It is now estimated about one-in-30 people in London have the virus, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The fear is this will lead to even more people ending up in hospital.
The latest numbers show that:

  • 7,034 people are in hospital with Covid-19 in London – twice as many as two weeks ago and about a third higher than the previous peak in April
  • 908 patients are on ventilators – more than twice as many as two weeks ago
  • Last week, about one-in-six ambulances had to wait more than half an hour to unload patients into emergency departments.

This has created a situation where 44% of all patients in London’s hospital wards have the virus, increasing to 65% in the case of north London’s Whittington trust, BBC analysis shows.
It’s important to remember that hospitals also need space for those without the virus, ranging from heart attack patients to traffic accident victims.
Dedicating almost half of all beds to one illness can therefore create serious strains on the service.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 16:21

Breaking News

Deaths rise by record 1,325 in UK

The UK has recorded a further 1,325 deaths - an all-time high.
There were 68,053 cases, which is the highest figure since mass testing began.
Yesterday there were 52,618 cases and 1,162 deaths.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 17:24

Summary updates from The Guardian - from 6:30 GMT:

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • The world’s poorest countries can expect to start receiving their first Covid-19 vaccine doses between the end of January and mid-February, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. Vaccination is already under way in some of the world’s wealthiest nations, including the US, Britain, European Union countries and Canada.
  • Brazil passed 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic Thursday. That is the second highest total in the world. The health ministry said the country had 1,524 deaths in the previous 24 hours, rising to a total of 200,498 for the pandemic.
  • Australian city enters lockdown after UK strain detected. Australia’s Queensland state enforced a three-day lockdown in the city of Brisbane from Friday evening, after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive for the more contagious variant of Covid-19 that emerged in Britain last month.
  • Sinovac vaccine 78% effective in Brazil trial, experts call for more details. A coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech was 78% effective in a late-stage Brazilian trial with no severe Covid-19 cases, researchers said on Thursday, although a lack of data details stirred calls for more transparency.
  • Arrivals to UK will need to show a negative Covid test before entry . International travellers will need to show a negative Covid-19 test before being allowed into the UK, the government has announced, in a significant toughening of border controls to try to stem the spread of new coronavirus variants .
  • China reports 53 cases, down from day before as it seals city. The number of new Covid-19 cases reported in China’s Hebei province surrounding Beijing fell slightly from a day earlier, as authorities barred people in the provincial capital from leaving in order to curb the spread of the disease. China has sealed off Hebei’s Shijiazhuang, a city of several million in Hebei province whose surrounding areas take the total population to 11 million.
  • US faces deadly post-holiday phase of pandemic: Fauci. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, has warned the country faces the prospect of continued mass deaths from the Covid-19 crisis, predicting the situation there will worsen before it gets better. The US faced its deadliest month of the pandemic in December, and continues to post record death figures, including a record 3,854 deaths on 6 January alone.
  • Pfizer vaccine protects against new UK and South African strains – research. Research suggests that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine can protect against a mutation found in two contagious variants of the coronavirus that erupted in Britain and South Africa.

US suffers more than 4,000 deaths in 24 hours

More than 4,000 people died in the US on Thursday, Johns Hopkins University data shows – a world record daily toll, and the first time it has passed 4,000.
In 24 hours, 4,085 Americans died, according to the data, while nearly 275,000 cases were confirmed.
The virus is surging in several states, with California hit particularly hard, reporting on Thursday a record two-day total of 1,042 coronavirus deaths. Skyrocketing caseloads there are threatening to force hospitals to ration care and essentially decide who lives and who dies.

“Folks are gasping for breath. Folks look like they’re drowning when they are in bed right in front of us,” said Dr Jeffrey Chien, an emergency room physician at Santa Clara Valley Regional Medical Center, urging people to do their part to help slow the spread. “I’m begging everyone to help us out because we aren’t the front line. We’re the last line.”

Meanwhile, the number of Americans who have had their first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine climbed to at least 5.9 million on Thursday, a one-day gain of about 600,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hundreds of millions will need to be vaccinated to stop the coronavirus.

Ukraine closed schools, restaurants and gyms today as a new nationwide lockdown took effect.
Coronavirus infections in Ukraine began rising again in September and have remained relatively high, Reuters is reporting. The nation of 41 million has registered more than 1m coronavirus cases with 19,588 deaths as of 8 January.
The new measures, which include the closure of entertainment centres and a ban on mass gatherings, will be in force until 24 January.
Despite calls to ease or cancel the lockdown, which was decided in early December, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and health minister Maksym Stepanov have said the restrictions were urgently needed ahead of the usual seasonal flu period.
The number of new cases dropped in early January and this, together with the decision to leave public transport and some non-critical businesses operating, prompted local authorities and businesses to criticise the new restrictions.
The government says imposing restrictions now may help avoid the need for a stricter lockdown later that could do greater damage to the economy.
Ukraine’s economy is expected to contract by about 5% in 2020, dragged into recession by the coronavirus pandemic and a strict lockdown in March.

Russia has reported 23,652 new coronavirus cases and 454 deaths in the past 24 hours, compared with the 23,541 new cases and 506 deaths on the previous day, Reuters is reporting.

Germany is considering suspending flights from more countries, including Ireland, over concerns of a more transmissible Covid-19 variant, German broadcaster n-tv has reported, citing government sources.
The cabinet of chancellor Angela Merkel could discuss rules similar to those that are in place for Britain at a meeting next week, the report said. The rules would come into effect immediately.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has banned Iran’s government from importing Covid-19 vaccines from the US and Britain.
“Imports of US and British vaccines into the country are banned. I have told this to officials and I’m saying it publicly now,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.
“If the Americans were able to produce a vaccine, they would not have such a coronavirus fiasco in their own country,” he said.
Iran, the Middle Eastern country worst hit by the coronavirus, launched human trials of its first domestic Covid-19 vaccine candidate late last month, saying it could help Iran defeat the pandemic despite US sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.
Khamenei praised Iran’s efforts to develop domestic vaccines but said Iran could obtain vaccines “from other reliable places”. He gave no details but China and Russia are both allies of Iran.
“I’m not optimistic about France either because of their history of infected blood,” Khamenei said, referring to the country’s contaminated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s.

Indonesia reported on Friday a record daily number of new Covid-19 cases for the third successive day with 10,617 infections, bringing the total to over 800,000.
The south-east Asian country also reported 233 new Covid-19 deaths, taking the total to 23,753.

The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has reported its first Covid-19 death 10 months after initially detecting the virus and managing to keep the disease under control by largely sealing off the tourism-dependent country.
In a statement issued late on Thursday, Bhutan’s health ministry said a 34-year-old man with chronic liver disease and renal failure, who tested positive for Covid-19, had died at a hospital in the capital, Thimphu.
Bhutan has reported 767 cases of the coronavirus, having conducted just over 300,000 tests since it detected the first infection in an American tourist last March.
Taking swift measures, the country of 750,000 people closed itself to visitors and imposed a mandatory quarantine for everyone returning from abroad.
Since then, Bhutan has kept its borders sealed, enforced lockdowns twice, intensified testing and screening at entry points, including at its only international airport at Paro.
The country is reporting 13 new infections on average each day, about 56% of the peak it reached in late December, according to a Reuters tally.
An adviser to Bhutan’s health ministry said the 34-year-old had been in isolation and had twice tested positive for Covid-19 this week.
“It was not easy and clear to include this as a Covid-19 death,” Dr Tshokey told Bhutan’s Kuensel newspaper, which gave only one name. “But since he died with Covid-19, we have included the death as a Covid-19 death.”

Sri Lanka’s government insisted today on the cremation of all coronavirus victims, rejecting international pleas and recommendations from its own experts to allow the Muslim minority to bury their dead in line with Islamic custom.
The government first banned burials in April amid concerns – which experts say are baseless – by influential Buddhist monks that burying bodies could contaminate groundwater and spread the virus, the Channel News Asia is reporting.
The World Health Organization has said there is no such risk, recommending both burials and cremations of virus victims, but the Sri Lankan government has refused.
“This decision will not be changed for social, religious, political or any other personal reason,” health minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said, according to ministry officials.
The announcement came despite a government-appointed expert committee noting this week that while it felt cremations were safest, burials could be allowed under strict conditions.

A Covid-19 vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech is deemed halal, or permissible under Islam, Indonesia’s Ulema Council said today, days before the country is scheduled to start its inoculation programme using the Chinese vaccine.
Asrorun Niam Sholeh, of the council’s fatwa commission, told a news conference that the vaccine, named CoronaVac, was “holy and halal”, although authorisation still rests on the Indonesia’s food and drug agency.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has received 3m doses of CoronaVac.


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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 17:39

More from The Guardian:

Sweden passes new pandemic law

Sweden’s parliament has voted today in favour of a new pandemic law giving the government power to close certain businesses or limit visitor numbers and opening hours, which will come into effect from January 10th.
Parliament was recalled from its Christmas recess for the first time since 2005 in order to debate the coronavirus bill, reports Sweden’s English-language online newspaper, the Local .
“We know that Covid-19 is in the society and will be here for a long time to come. More precise measures are needed, that are possible to maintain over time,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren said.
The new pandemic law gives the government the possibility to shut down businesses, but Hallengren stressed that this is not the main goal of the legislation.
It also introduces extra measures, such as the possibility to introduce limits on visitor numbers or opening times in order to reduce the risk of infection spread. The new law means these measures could be applied to places including public transport, shops and shopping centres, cinemas and theatres, and public parks or beaches for example.
Any measures introduced using the new law would be legally enforced. This means people could face sanctions for violating them, which is not the case with the Public Health Agency’s recommendations, the main tool used thus far as part of Sweden’s non-coercive coronavirus strategy.
The pandemic law will come into force on Sunday January 10th and applies until September 2021.

New lockdown in Cyprus from 10 January

Hairdressers, beauty salons and large department stores will close and schools will return to remote learning in Cyprus from 10 January, as the country enters a second national lockdown in response to a rise in coronavirus infections.
The health minister, Constantinos Ioannou, told a news conference that people will be allowed to leave home just twice a day for specific reasons such as buying groceries or medicines and taking exercise. A current curfew banning movement from 9pm to 5am daily will remain in force.
Cyprus has recorded 26,208 coronavirus infections since its first case was recorded in early March 2020, and 140 deaths. There has been an aggressive spike in infections over the past month, with cases regularly exceeding 300 a day.

Sadiq Khan declares Covid emergency in London

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan , has formally declared an effective emergency in the UK capital, as it grapples with a soaring number of coronavirus cases and hospitals struggle to cope with the influx of patients, write Guardian politics reporters Peter Walker and Heather Stewart.
Khan formally declared a “major incident”, in his dual role as mayor and chair of the London Resilience Forum, after discussions with NHS London, local authorities, Public Health England and emergency services in the capital.
London has been the worst-hit area of the UK so far in the winter peak of Covid-19 cases.
Read more here

A 6pm (5pm GMT) curfew is to be imposed in Strasbourg, France, according to a wire report from Reuters.
The city in eastern France, which is home to one of the two buildings of the European parliament, will be under the new, earlier curfew from Sunday, the news agency said, citing a report on French broadcaster BFM.
The French government imposed an earlier curfew in 15 northeastern and southeastern departments at the start of January, with residents required to stay indoors from 6pm to 6am.
Jean Castex, the prime minister, had said on Thursday that the government from considering adding a further 10 local regions to the 6pm curfew rule. For now, Paris is not on the list.

High daily death tolls are putting infrastructure in the Czech Republic under pressure, with the country’s largest crematorium struggling to keep up with overwhelming numbers of pandemic victims, according to the Associated Press.
The US-headquartered news agency reports that the crematorium, in the northeastern city of Ostrava, is receiving more than 100 coffins daily, about double its maximum cremation capacity.
On Thursday, the AP said, cars from funeral companies delivered caskets every few minutes, some with “COVID” written on them.
The Czech Republic, a country of 10.7 million has registered 794,740 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 12,621 deaths from Covid-19. November was the deadliest month, with 4,937 deceased.
It was spared the worst of the pandemic in the spring only to see its healthcare system approach collapse in autumn, about the time the spike began. It has been hard-hit again with new infections reaching a record high of 17,668 on Wednesday, a record set for the second straight day.
By per capita death tolls and infection rates, the Czech Republic is now one of the worst affected countries in the world by the pandemic.

Vaccine passports are to be introduced in Denmark from this month, the country’s ministry of health and the elderly has confirmed.
Those who have had a coronavirus vaccine will be able to download the document, and to print it out for any circumstances that require them to prove their vaccination status.
It comes amid a raging debate over the human rights implications of vaccine or immunity passports, which have been previously touted as a means of restarting international travel and certain sectors of the hospitality industry.
Critics say that those who choose not to be vaccinated should not be discriminated against, a situation that would make the vaccine effectively compulsory for anyone who wanted to take part in everyday life again.
The Danish broadcaster TV2 quoted the ministry as saying:
The purpose of a Danish vaccine passport is to ensure that you as a citizen can document in a simple and safe way that you have been vaccinated, eg if you are going abroad, and documentation is required.

Greece has extended some restrictions until 18 January to contain a surge in new coronavirus cases, the government said.
The country, in lockdown since early November due to a rise in infections mainly in the north, has seen its public health system come under severe strain while infections are receding at a slow pace.
Authorities will allow kindergartens and primary schools across the country to reopen on Monday. But other sectors, including retailers and hair salons, will remain shut for another week.
The government relaxed some curbs in the run-up to Christmas, allowing bookstores and hair salons to open along with so-called “Click Away” shopping, where retailers receive online and phone orders and then book a time for customers to pick up their goods.
But it shut them down again and banned “Click Away” shopping last week.
Health authorities reported 721 new Covid-19 cases on Friday and 49 related deaths, bringing the respective totals since the first coronavirus case was detected in February last year to 143,494 and 5,195.
Greece earlier extended restrictions on international travellers arriving in Greece by two weeks.

Denmark will restrict travel from all countries from 9 January, and has advised against going abroad, to limit the spread of Covid-19, in particular the more transmissible mutations first found in Britain and South Africa .
The move follows a decision this week to further tighten an already stringent economic and social lockdown.
Foreign minister Jeppe Kofod told reporters the travel measures were “a logical consequence of the domestic measures taken by the government in the last few days”.
Danish authorities have so far found no trace of the South African coronavirus variant, but they estimate the British variant will be the dominant one in Denmark by mid-February.
From Friday, entry to Denmark will be limited to people with a credible purpose and proof of a negative coronavirus test no older than 24 hours, transport minister Benny Engelbrecht told the news conference.
The travel restrictions will remain in place until at least 17 January.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 17:45

Canadians travelling to Florida for vaccinations

Some Canadian snowbirds - retired people who travel south for the winter - are finding they are able to get vaccinations in Florida earlier than they could if they remained at home.
Florida is allowing anyone over the age of 65 to be vaccinated for no charge. That includes non-citizens.
Canada is prioritising health workers and people living in group homes.
Getting a vaccine there is like winning the lottery, one couple tell CBC News .
They say they were able to book vaccinations for other Canadian friends, who are now planning to travel to Florida for the jab after initially postponing their trip due to lack of vaccination.

Health officials expect UK daily death toll to rise

Earlier this afternoon, the UK reported 1,325 coronavirus deaths within 28 days of a positive test - the highest daily figure of the pandemic.
But Dr William Welfare, director for the Covid-19 response at Public Health England, says the daily death toll is likely to continue to rise.
He says: “Each life lost to this virus is a tragedy, but sadly we can expect the death toll to continue to rise until we stop the spread.
“Approximately one-in-three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising it.
“To protect our loved ones it is essential we all stay at home where possible. This will reduce new infections, ease the pressure on the NHS and save lives.”

Analysis: UK's record deaths is a sad and sobering figure

Philippa Roxby - Health reporter, BBC News
The number of deaths with Covid-19 reported for the UK today has hit a new high of 1,325 .
Even in the first peak of the pandemic, the daily record was 1,224 (on 21 April).
It is a sad and sobering figure – and the grim truth is that the next few weeks are likely to see even more people dying and that figure rising further.
That is because cases are continuing to rise, which means hospitals will fill up with more Covid patients, leading to the most seriously ill dying in several weeks’ time.
It is an unstoppable trend.
Of course, not all those 1,325 deaths happened today.
This figure includes deaths that happened mostly over the past few days – but some will have occurred even earlier and a few before Christmas, and will only have been reported today.
This lag in recording and reporting deaths over Christmas is why the deaths figures in the past three days have been over 1,000.
A more even spread of deaths occurring every day is likely to be seen when we look back at the figures in several weeks’ time.
But it doesn’t take away from the fact that nearly 80,000 people have now died with Covid-19 in the UK.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 17:53

New Swedish Covid law already used

Maddy Savage - BBC News, Stockholm

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Unlike many European leaders, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has so far decided against a national lockdown

As we reported at 12:01 GMT, Sweden’s parliament has agreed a new pandemic law allowing ministers to introduce stricter measures in the country.
Within hours of the law being passed, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced plans to limit numbers in gyms, swimming pools and shops in relation to how big they are. Managers will need to make sure there’s at least 10 square metres available per person.
The Social Democrat leader also says there will be a ban of more than eight people at bookable private party venues - from dining halls to common rooms in apartment blocks.
There is already a ban on holding public events for more than eight people, such as concerts, plays or demonstrations.
The law comes into force on Sunday. Those who break new rules emerging from the legislation will face a fine - with businesses told they may also be forced to close.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 18:22

Cumbria police urge people to avoid Lake District

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Derwent Isle on Derwentwater

Police in Cumbria, in north-west England, have urged residents and visitors to comply with national lockdown restrictions by not visiting the Lake District.
In a tweet , the force shared a letter - backed by Cumbria's six MPs, several local councillors, NHS and tourism bosses - which urged people not to visit the Lake District National Park and instead "stay local" for exercise and essential shopping.
It read: "Whilst it may be tempting to go out for a scenic drive in the Lake District, now is the time to stay home, look after one another and play your part to make sure that Cumbria is ready for the return of visitors when it is safe to do so."

'Follow the rules' vans to tour Surrey visitor hotspots

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As we just reported, police and local leaders in Cumbria are urging people not to visit the Lake District this weekend.
In Surrey, the council says an advertising van will tour busy areas, warning people to stick to the rules.
In recent days the car parks at places including Box Hill, popular with walkers and cyclists, have been overcrowded.
"If you’re heading out for exercise, please stay local to where you live and do not mix in groups," says Steve Owen-Hughes, chair of Surrey’s Local Resilience Forum.

Eviction ban in England extended for six weeks amid lockdown

Kevin Peachey - Personal finance reporter
England's eviction ban has been extended for six weeks, following a similar move in Scotland on Thursday.
The move will mean eviction notices - which could have started again on Monday - will not be served on tenants during lockdown.
It follows calls from charities for more financial support for tenants.
Councils are also being given extra funding to house rough sleepers during the cold winter months.
They will be asked to go back to people on the streets who had previously refused help, given the rising Covid infection rates.
Evictions were banned at the start of the first lockdown in March - and the UK government has also extended the notice period landlords must give from three to six months.
Concerns about homelessness and crowded accommodation have risen during the Covid crisis. Half a million private tenants in the UK are behind with their rent, according to research by Citizens Advice.
You can read more here .

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 21:43

Eviction ban in England extended for six weeks amid lockdown

Kevin Peachey - Personal finance reporter

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England's eviction ban has been extended for six weeks, following a similar move in Scotland on Thursday.
The move will mean eviction notices - which could have started again on Monday - will not be served on tenants during lockdown.
It follows calls from charities for more financial support for tenants.
Councils are also being given extra funding to house rough sleepers during the cold winter months.
They will be asked to go back to people on the streets who had previously refused help, given the rising Covid infection rates.
Evictions were banned at the start of the first lockdown in March - and the UK government has also extended the notice period landlords must give from three to six months.
Concerns about homelessness and crowded accommodation have risen during the Covid crisis. Half a million private tenants in the UK are behind with their rent, according to research by Citizens Advice.
You can read more here .

Which sporting events have been cancelled?

A number of sporting fixtures in the UK have been cancelled after players tested positive for coronavirus.
Among them are the FA Cup third round clash between Southampton and Shrewsbury and rugby union's Premiership game between Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers - both of which were due to take place on Saturday.
Other sides will field reserve or youth teams after their first team were forced to isolate. You can check the full list of affected fixtures, which the BBC will update, here .
Meanwhile, Newcastle boss Steve Bruce has said it is "morally wrong" for football to continue amid increasing coronavirus outbreaks at clubs.
The Magpies were the first team to have a Premier League match postponed this season, but more than 60 games in England have been called off.
"Financially it's right to play on, but for me, morally, it's probably wrong," said Bruce.
"I understand people want to see a game of football but we are just as vulnerable as everybody else."

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 21:47

Your Questions Answered: Can I go for a walk with friends?

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Throughout the pandemic, the BBC is working hard to answer your questions on everything from vaccines to the latest rules where you live.
New lockdowns are now in force in England and most of Scotland, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland.
Tina Howson from Leicester asks: My elderly mum is my support bubble but she does not live locally (about a 90-minute drive away). Am I still allowed to go to see her?
Find out how the BBC answered Tina's question - and others asked since then - here .

All but one local area in England see rise in cases

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Richmond upon Thames was the one area in England not to see a rise in cases

All but one of England's 315 local areas have seen a recent rise in coronavirus case rates, figures released today show.
Richmond upon Thames, in south-west London, was the one exception, with a fall in infections.
The figures, for the seven days to 4 January, are based on tests carried out in laboratories (pillar one of the government's testing programme) and in the wider community (pillar two).
Barking & Dagenham in London continues to have the highest rate in England, with 1,687.1 cases per 100,000 people - up from 1,150.3 in the seven days to 28 December.
Redbridge, also in London, has the second highest rate, up from 1,166.4 to 1,559.2.
Thurrock in Essex has the third highest rate, up from 1,252.1 to 1,540.1.
Richmond upon Thames has 629.7 - down from 639.3.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 08 2021, 21:49

Today's world headlines

If you're just joining us, here's a roundup of today's international headlines:

  • European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen defends the EU's vaccine strategy, as it buys another 300m doses
  • Sweden's parliament has passed a new law that allows for tougher restictions - and it has already been used
  • The head of the World Health Organization says there is a "clear problem" of poorer countries not receiving vaccines
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says more than half of all Covid infections are transmitted by people with no symptoms
  • The US and Germany report their highest daily death tolls
  • Unemployment in the US rises for the first time since April
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has banned the import of any US or British-made coronavirus vaccines
  • Brisbane in Australia begins a three-day lockdown after one case of the "UK variant" was discovered

Today's UK headlines

We're pausing our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for today. It's been a busy day in the UK - here's a roundup of the day's top headlines:

  • The UK reported a record daily number of coronavirus cases and deaths - 68,053 and 1,325 respectively
  • A third Covid vaccine received emergency approval for use in the UK . The UK has ordered 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine - but supplies are not expected to arrive until spring
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a "major incident" in the capital - requiring special measures to be brought in - warning the spread of Covid-19 is "out of control"
  • The number of fines for breaching coronavirus regulations rose sharply in November during England's lockdown. Nearly 6,500 fines were issued from the start of the lockdown on 5 November, the National Police Chiefs Council said
  • The eviction ban in England has been extended for six weeks amid the national lockdown , following a similar move in Scotland on Thursday. Councils are also being given extra cash to house rough sleepers during the winter months
  • The UK's R number, or the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, on average, is estimated to be between 1 and 1.4. The previous estimate for R on 23 December was between 1.1 and 1.3

Thanks for reading

The coronavirus live page is now closing. Thank you for reading.

The team was Alex Therrien, Mary O'Connor, Alexandra Fouche, Kevin Ponniah, Max Matza, Owen Amos, and James Clarke.

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