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Coronavirus - 12th January 2021


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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 09:56

Summary for Tuesday, 12th January

  • Last year saw the largest increase in UK deaths in a single year since 1940, according to provisional ONS figures
  • In 2020, nearly 697,000 deaths were registered, compared with an average of nearly 606,000 each year between 2015 and 2019
  • Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, says everyone must be aware of the need to follow Covid rules
  • UK police chiefs are under increasing pressure to enforce the lockdown laws
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said tighter measures in England cannot be ruled out
  • The Scottish government's cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday to discuss restrictions
  • There are more than 32,200 people in hospital in the UK with coronavirus, data shows
  • In the US, two Congress members have tested positive after hiding in a crowded room during the Capitol riot
  • Malaysia has declared a nationwide state of emergency to combat a rise in cases
  • Globally, almost two million people have died with Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University

What's happening in the UK?

Good morning and welcome to our live page. Here are the main UK coronavirus headlines this morning:

The latest from around the world

Here is round-up of some of the latest coronavirus developments from around the globe:

  • Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin has declared a nationwide state of emergency, which will last until 1 August. The government says it is due to combat a rise in Covid-19 cases, but critics say it is an attempt by the prime minister - who took office in March last year - to cling on to power
  • Two members of Congress in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus, and others are quarantining, after the Capitol riot last week
  • The Palestinian Authority has said it has signed contracts with four coronavirus vaccine providers, including Russia's Sputnik V, and it hopes to inoculate 70% of the population in two months
  • Lebanon will enforce a 24-hour hour curfew from Thursday to try to contain the virus. The curfew will initially last for 11 days, but could be extended
  • Japan PM Yoshihide Suga has said he will declare a state of emergency for the prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo to stop the spread of the virus, local media reports
  • Several gorillas at a zoo in the United States have tested positive for Covid-19. Some experienced systems at the San Diego zoo safari park, in what is believed to be the first cases of their kind among gorillas in captivity

Members of US Congress test positive after Capitol riot

Two members of Congress have tested positive for coronavirus after the pro-Trump siege on the Capitol last week.
Bonnie Watson Coleman, 75, and Pramila Jayapal, 55, both Democrats, tested positive after being forced to lockdown in a small room with many others as pro-Trump supporters broke into the building.
Some of their Republican colleagues refused to wear masks when sheltering, Jayapal said, calling such behaviour “selfish idiocy”.
"Only hours after President Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum Covid-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic - creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack," she said in a statement.
She also linked to a video of Delaware Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester pleading with a group of Republicans to put on the masks she was offering them during the riot, as they refuse.
“I’m not trying to get political here,” a Republican Representative from Oklahoma, Markwayne Mullin, says in the clip as he appears to turn down the offer.

Malaysia announces controversial state of emergency

Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin has declared a nationwide state of emergency, which could last until 1 August.
The government says it is due to combat a rise in Covid-19 cases, but critics say it is an attempt by the prime minister - who took office in March last year - to cling on to power.
Yassin announced nationwide travel restrictions, as well as stricter lockdowns in the capital and five states. In these areas, people will only be allowed out of their homes to buy groceries and must stay within 10 kilometres of their homes.
The number of new coronavirus cases has been averaging 2,000-a-day in recent weeks, and there have been 71 deaths since 1 January.
The move allows for the suspension of parliament and political activities, such as local elections. It comes as Muhyiddin's unstable government faces challenges from within the ruling coalition.
The prime minister has said there will be no military rule or curfew under the state of emergency.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 10:05

First known virus case found in apes at US zoo

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One of the gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

As many as eight gorillas have tested positive for Covid-19 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, in what is believed to be the first cases of their kind among apes in captivity.
Some of the gorillas have shown symptoms, including coughing, but none appear seriously ill.
While there has been one definitive positive test, all eight are presumed to have been exposed to the virus. It is presumed that the gorilla contracted it from a human handler.
"Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well," Lisa Peterson, executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said in the statement.
"The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery."
The zoo has been closed since the beginning of December due to the pandemic.
Though this is thought to be the first known case in apes, the virus has shown up in some other animals, including domestic cats and dogs.

Police officers to be trained to drive London ambulances

Today Programme - BBC Radio 4
A total of 75 police officers will be trained "in the next couple of days" to drive ambulances in London, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick says.
The UK's most senior police officer tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme she believes it is "the right thing to do" given the current situation.
Asked about her comments in The Times , that rule-breakers are "increasingly likely" to be fined , she says officers will "move more quickly to enforcement".
She says over the weekend there have been house parties and gatherings in London. More than 300 penalty notices were issued within a 24-hour period, she says.
She says it is "really important" that people try "as hard as they can to comply with the rules".

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 10:09

More firefighters to be trained to drive London ambulances

As we've reported, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick says 75 police officers in London will be trained to drive ambulances.
The London Fire Brigade says it has 125 firefighters already helping the London Ambulance Service by driving ambulances, with a further 60 set to be trained and dispatched this week.
Firefighters have responded to 100,000 incidents as drivers since April, it says.

Disneyland turned into Covid test site

Disneyland in California is to be turned into a coronavirus testing centre.
The resort will be the first of five regional POD (point-of-dispensing) sites in Orange County.
“The Disneyland Resort, the largest employer in the heart of Orange County, has stepped up to host the county’s first Super POD site - undertaking a monumental task in our vaccination distribution process,” county chairman Andrew Do said in a statement.
Supervisor Doug Chaffee, whose district includes Disneyland, told the Los Angeles Times that large-scale vaccination sites were “absolutely critical in stopping this deadly virus”.
Vaccinations are expected to start at the park this week.

Customers 'must wear a mask and shop alone', says Sainsbury's boss

Sainsbury's chief executive Simon Roberts has emailed customers this morning to say shoppers "must wear a mask or visor" unless they have a medical exemption.
"You should also shop on your own," he writes.
Roberts says security guards will support staff at the front of the store in enforcing these rules and customers not wearing masks or shopping in groups will be challenged.
We reported yesterday that Sainsbury's and Morrisons have banned maskless shoppers .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 10:12

South Africa closes land border

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that its land borders will be closed to most travellers until 15 February, in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
President Ramaphosa said the pandemic in South Africa is currently at its most devastating, with infection numbers far exceeding the peak experienced in the first wave.
He said there have been nearly 190,000 reported infections since New Year’s Day, and there are currently more than 15,000 people in hospital with Covid-19.
Many restrictions put in place at the end of December will be extended.
The ban on alcohol sales remains in force, beaches and parks in hotpots remain shut, and social gatherings are still banned.
Ramaphosa warned that funerals continue to be super-spreader events.
“Funerals have become a death trap for many of our people,” he said, as he urged people to stay at home.

Breaking News 

Worst excess deaths in the UK since WW2

Last year saw the largest increase in deaths in a single year in more than 70 years, according to provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics.
In 2020, nearly 697,000 deaths were registered, compared with an average of nearly 606,000 each year between 2015 and 2019.
This is the largest increase, or “excess”, in a single year since 1940.
It is likely to return death rates in the UK to levels last seen in the mid-2000s.
Last year saw an increase above the five-year average number of deaths of about 15% - nearly 91,000 registered deaths.
But what does "excess deaths" mean?
It means the number of deaths above what we might expect to see in normal circumstances.
To work it out, you take the number of people who have died from any cause in a given period of time - a week or a month, say. You can then compare that with the average number of deaths that occurred in the same period usually over the previous five years.
It is one of the best measures of judging the death toll from coronavirus.

What powers do police have if people break Covid rules?

We've already heard this morning from Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who says a "small minority" of people are not following the rules. Officers broke up house parties and gatherings in basements over the weekend, she says.
The police have a legal duty to make sure the rules are enforced, alongside council, environmental health and trading standards officers.
If you break coronavirus regulations, you could get a fixed penalty notice, the Covid equivalent of a traffic offence like speeding.
Our home and legal correspondent Dominic Casciani takes a look at police powers in more detail here .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 10:20

Malawi president apologises after meeting Madonna

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Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera has taken personal blame for being among those responsible for the recent rise in Covid-19 cases in the country.
There's been a "collective sense of relaxation in adherence to Covid prevention measures among many Malawians including myself," Chakwera said in a radio address on Sunday.
The president was heavily criticised last week when images and videos circulated showing him and visiting pop superstar, Madonna, shaking hands and posing for pictures without wearing masks or observing social distancing.
Malawi has seen a sharp rise in deaths and positive tests for Covid-19 in recent weeks with high-profile personalities, including singer and broadcaster Maria Chidjanja Nkhoma and the administrative head for the Ministry of Information Ernest Kantchentche, among those who have succumbed to the disease.
More than 200 Malawians are known to have died of Covid-19, with at least 30 of them dying within the past two weeks alone.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 10:23

Ireland's daily Covid-19 infection rate is the worst in the world, new figures have confirmed.

Earlier this week, Ireland was named as having the worst Covid-19 infection rate in all of Europe, with more than 45,000 new cases of the virus in one week; but with cases continuing to spike exponentially in almost every county, Ireland is now the worst-hit country in the world with the disease.
Ireland's health service, test and trace scheme and public hospitals are under immense strain with the sheer volume of people being confirmed to have the disease, and younger, healthier people becoming ill with the virus, some requiring hospitalisation.
Over the weekend, a hospital in Donegal was forced to apologise after patients were treated inside ambulances which were queuing outside the emergency department for several hours as there were no beds available; it is expected that the hospital crisis will get worse before it gets better.
According to research by Our World in Data, Ireland's seven-day rolling average is 1,394 cases per million, far ahead of the UK with 810, and Portugal on 735.
While the United State has long been considered the epicentre of the disease, Ireland's current 7 day average is more than double that of America, which has a seven day average of 653.
Just weeks ago, Ireland was being praised for having the lowest incidence rate in Europe, but opening shops, hospitality and allowing household visits in the lead-up to Christmas, as well as inter-generational mixing on Christmas Day has led the country to a very new place.
The new UK variant of the disease, and ten of thousands of Irish people returning home from abroad for Christmas, are also highly likely to have contributed to the explosion in cases.
Speaking on Newstalk yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he did not accept that the Government had sent out 'mixed messages' in the run-up to Christmas, and said the easing of restrictions in December had been responsible.
The new UK variant of the disease is now accounting for approximately 45% of all new cases identified in Ireland.
Yesterday evening, Ireland recorded a further 4,929 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total to 152,539 after the denotification of 3 cases.
8 more people have died with the disease, bringing the death toll to 2,352.
As of 2pm yesterday, 1,582 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 146 are in ICU. There have been 156 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said:
"While we are seeing the first glimmer of hope in respect of our daily case figures and positivity rates, the situation in hospitals and ICUs around the country continues to worsen day on day.
"We know that hospitalisations occur some weeks after a confirmed case is notified, and mortality after that again.
"That means we are unfortunately set for a period of time where the situation in our hospitals gets worse before it gets better."

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 11:02

China WHO trip to start on Thursday

China says experts from the World Health Organization will begin their mission to investigate the origin of Covid-19 on Thursday after repeated delays by Beijing.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman says the team of international experts will travel to China from Singapore. They will have to remain in quarantine for two weeks after their arrival.
Experts are expected to visit Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in late 2019.
They will be analysing ways in which the virus may have jumped from animals to humans. Experts have made it clear the trip is not about pointing fingers at China.
Chinese authorities say the number of new cases reported on the mainland on Tuesday almost halved from a day earlier. However, they introduced more restrictions in areas surrounding Beijing following an increase of infections there.

Royal Mail lists areas hit by Covid postal delays

Royal Mail is warning some areas will see a reduced service because of workers being off sick or self-isolating due to Covid.
The postal service has published a list of 27 areas in England and one in Northern Ireland that are affected.
Problems with deliveries over Christmas had prompted shoppers to complain about parcels not arriving on time.
For the full list, read our story here

Rules before Christmas 'weren't effective' - NHS Confederation boss

Coronavirus restrictions in the run-up to Christmas "weren't effective", the chief executive of NHS Confederation, which represents NHS leaders, says.
Danny Mortimer told BBC Breakfast earlier that hospitals are "dealing with the consequences now of many, many weeks of the spread of the virus".
"I think what we're seeing right now is the fact that actually the steps that were taken in the autumn and before Christmas weren't effective," he said.
"Our following of the rules in November time was much, much weaker than it was in March."
He adds the NHS felt the benefit of the March lockdown within a few weeks and it is expected "that it will be another week or two until we feel the full benefit" of current measures.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 11:04

Fire on Mexico City metro causes overcrowding

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There has been concern in Mexico City after a fire on the capital's metro system took out a number of lines, causing severe overcrowding on the remaining lines and the city's buses.
Many of the city's 20m inhabitants rely on the metro for their everyday transport. Six lines remained suspended on Monday following Saturday's fire and with commuters forced to squeeze on to fewer trains, social distancing soon became impossible.

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More than 1.5m coronavirus cases have been reported in Mexico since the pandemic started, with Mexico City one of the worst affected places.
There has been a recent spike in the number of cases, with a record 16,105 daily cases reported nationwide on Saturday.
Mexican health authorities say more than 75,000 people have been given the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine so far and a first consignment of AstraZeneca vaccines is due to arrive shortly.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 12:06

'Patience wearing thin' over Covid breaches in football

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Images of players celebrating inside tightly packed dressing rooms were an unwelcome feature of FA Cup third-round weekend - while crowds of fans gathering outside cup ties drew criticism and caught the attention of government ministers.
On the back of players from all levels of the game apologising for various coronavirus rule breaches, the case for football to continue while the rest of society is locked down is coming under increasing scrutiny.
English Football League chief executive Trevor Birch wrote to all clubs on Monday warning them that "now is not the time for complacency" over Covid protocols, adding: "We will come under extreme governmental pressure if we continue to flout the rules and guidance in place.”
BBC sports editor Dan Roan says while elite sport is not yet in the "last-chance saloon", there are "no guarantees", with the government’s "patience wearing thin".
“The optics of on-field hugs and handshakes, and fans gathering outside grounds, beamed into millions of homes at a time when the government is desperate for the public to stay at home and avoid contact with other households, is highly unhelpful to those making the case for professional sport to be allowed to continue,” our sports editor says.
“Having warned sports bodies of their responsibilities last week, the government does now expect to see the football authorities in particular redouble their efforts, and for players' behaviour to reflect the privilege they enjoy in being able to continue to work when there has been so much disruption in so many people's work and lives.”
Read more here

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 12:10

'Tough measures in Germany until Easter': Latest in Europe

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of another 8-10 weeks of "tough measures" to defeat Covid-19, according to Bild newspaper. It says she's told officials that if the British variant of Covid-19 isn't kept at bay, there'll be a 10-fold increase in German cases by Easter. Germany has reported another 891 deaths in the past 24 hours - and another 12,800 cases.
  • Portugal’s outgoing President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has tested positive for Covid-19 and cancelled all his engagements. The 72-year-old is described as asymptomatic and he’s having a second test to confirm last night’s result. Portugal has presidential elections on 24 January and the other candidates have taken part in recent TV debates with Mr de Sousa.
  • A day after Johns Hopkins University figures indicated Ireland had the world's highest number of confirmed new Covid-19 cases per million people, public broadcaster RTÉ says 13 hospitals have been listed as having no intensive care beds free. But new cases fell last night to 4,929 and Prof Philip Nolan of Ireland's virus modelling group says there are signs the country is "beginning to turn a corner".
  • The EU's medicines regulator says it could decide whether to authorise the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine on 29 January. The EU is trying to ramp up vaccinations after a slow start. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said earlier this week he had asked Israel to help supply vaccines.
  • Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reportedly wants the EU to back a pan-European vaccination certificate to enable free movement for those who’ve had the jab. Politico has seen his letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Taiwan reports rare locally transmitted cases

Taiwan has reported its first locally transmitted cases of coronavirus since 22 December, the second and third of their kind since April.
A doctor in a hospital who was treating an infected patient contracted the virus along with a nurse who is the doctor's girlfriend.
Until last month's domestic transmission, the island had not reported any local cases for around eight months, with the vast majority of infections coming to Taiwan from overseas.
Taiwan has been one of the most successful places in the world in dealing with Covid-19.
It has reported 839 cases, including seven deaths, with 101 in hospital being treated.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 12:15

Downing Street defends Johnson bike ride

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Boris Johnson - pictured here in 2013 - is a keen cyclist

No 10 Downing Street has defended UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for riding his bike seven miles from home, saying he complied with Covid rules during his trip.
Labour has accused the prime minister of having double standards, after it was reported he had been spotted in the saddle at east London's Olympic Park.
Government guidance says daily outdoor exercise is allowed but people should not travel outside their local area.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the trip had not been "against the law - that's for sure".
People should go for exercise "from your front door and come back to your front door", she said, adding: "That's my view of local."
Policing minister Kit Malthouse told BBC Breakfast that Johnson was taking his once-a-day exercise, saying as long as people are “staying local within their own mind” and are not mixing “then that is reasonable”.
Read more in our story here

Nigerian hospitals 'running short of oxygen supplies'

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More than 1,300 people have died of Covid-19 in Nigeria

Nigeria's Centre for Disease Control says hospitals are running short of oxygen supplies because of the increase in coronavirus cases.
It warned health workers would be forced to make tough decisions.
In the commercial hub of Lagos, a new oxygen plant has been activated to supply about 30 cylinders per day to treatment centres.
Last week President Buhari ordered the building of at least one oxygen plant per state.
The country has so far recorded more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 1,300 deaths.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 12:17

UK records 93,030 deaths with Covid on death certificate

The UK has registered 93,030 deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the latest reports from its statistics agencies.
This includes 84,449 deaths in England and Wales up to 1 January, confirmed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday.
These figures are slightly different to other official totals you might have seen.
Good question. It's because they include all deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate, even if the person had not been tested for the virus.
This is a different measure from the one used to produce the figures on the government's coronavirus dashboard, which counts people who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus. The latest figure by that count is 81,954.
For more information on the different ways of counting coronavirus deaths, click here.

Home secretary to host Downing Street press conference later

It's just been confirmed that Home Secretary Priti Patel will host a press conference in Downing Street this afternoon - the timing is to be confirmed.
We'll bring you the latest here on our live page.
It comes after the UK's most senior police officer, Cressida Dick, said lockdown rule-breakers are more likely to be fined as Covid laws will be enforced "more quickly" .

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 13:01

Breaking News

Covid deaths in Scotland pass 5,000

More than 5,000 people have now died in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19.
A further 54 deaths have been recorded in the past 24 hours - bringing the total to 5,023.
Speaking as she announced the latest figures, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says they are a reminder of the toll the virus had taken.
She says: "Once again, I want to send my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one during this pandemic".
The first minister also says 153,423 people have tested positive in Scotland, up from 151,548 the previous day.

Staff shortage could prevent hospital taking Covid patients

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A shortage of staff could prevent the opening of the NHS Louisa Jordan in Glasgow to Covid patients if capacity is exceeded elsewhere, a leading doctor has said.
The temporary hospital at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) - named after a Scottish nurse who died during service in World War One - was set up in April at the start of the pandemic.
It is currently being used for outpatient services, including Covid vaccinations.
President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, Prof Mike Griffin, said the increasing numbers off work was a "major problem" and the hospital could be dependent on retired or former staff.
The number of Covid patients in hospital across Scotland is now higher than it was in April, although the numbers in intensive care are lower.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 13:06

'We often lose patients due to lack of electricity' - DRC doctor

BBC Afrique
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Dr Maurice Kongoto is director of the Kisangani general hospital in Kinshasa

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a doctor has told the BBC Covid patients frequently die because of the intermittent electricity supply in the country.
"On Saturday, we had a patient with respiratory distress who needed oxygen; very unfortunately, there was no electricity, and with the time it took to get ready to transfer, the patient had left us [had died]," Dr Maurice Kongoto told BBC Afrique.
"We had to call here and there, power was restored in the afternoon, but the patient had already died," he said, speaking from Kinshasa, the capital.
"We often lose patients because we do not know how to use this [respiratory] device, which of course requires energy," Dr Kongoto, who is director of the Kisangani general hospital, added.
"We are helplessly witnessing the deaths of patients who should not actually die," he adds.
Read full report here (in French).

Care providers urged to take more discharged patients

Alison Holt - Social affairs correspondent
Urgent talks have been taking place to try to get more care homes to accept discharged Covid-positive patients to ease pressures on hospitals.
In one meeting, involving government and NHS officials as well as care provider organisations, the situation is said to have been described as war-like.
Since September, 136 homes in England have been signed up as so-called hot homes - far fewer than originally hoped.
The homes have to pass significant additional infection control checks and have dedicated staff.
Along with existing local authority run homes and NHS facilities, there are just over 2,500 beds available for people who need low-level support.
Between 70% and 80% of those beds are already full and up to 2,000 patients are waiting to move out of hospital.
Most care homes can’t get insurance if they take someone with coronavirus, so the government is said to be looking at ways to provide cover.
But after so many deaths during the first wave of the pandemic, many care homes say taking Covid patients is out of the question as their first duty is to protect existing residents.
In addition, the sector is struggling with a growing number of staff off sick or self-isolating.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 16:53

Covid-19 deaths pass 5,000 in Wales

There have now been more than 5,100 deaths in Wales involving Covid-19 since the pandemic began.
The latest weekly figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 310 deaths in the week ending 1 January, which is 32 more than the week before.
This is nearly 42.6% of all deaths.
The ONS figures report where doctors mention Covid-19 on death certificates, including confirmed and suspected cases.
The total number of Covid deaths in Wales, up to and registered by 1 January, was 4,963.
But when deaths registered over the following few days are included, there was a total of 5,169.
The ONS urged caution when interpreting this week's figures, due to the Christmas and new year holidays, which will affect the number of registrations.
Read the full story here.
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Fears that Chinese New Year celebrations may be called off

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
In China, people are gearing up for the annual Lunar New Year holidays on 12 February.
But as hundreds of cases of Covid-19 have now been recorded in multiple north-eastern provinces since the start of the year - including many in the city of Shijiazhuang - there are some fears the country will soon introduce strict measures to prevent people from travelling.
Every year in China, hundreds of millions of people travel for the Lunar New Year holiday, making it the biggest migration worldwide.
A number of local authorities across the country have already urged residents not to make ‘unnecessary’ trips to their hometowns for the festivities.
But in the weeks leading up to the holiday, people still crowd train stations to secure their tickets.
Railway tickets in China are generally only available 30 days in advance of the departure date, so China is anticipating a surge of activity at train stations in the coming days.
The government has polled thousands of people on how they plan to spend the holiday, and many saying they are cancelling their plans. But the majority are still keen to go ahead with what they see as the most important festivities of the year.
National newspaper Global Times says that there has also been a “surge in demand” for Covid-19 tests “in many Chinese cities” ahead of the holiday.
In the capital Beijing, “the number of people coming for a Covid-19 test is 20 to 30 times more than usual”, it says.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 16:58

Lebanon to impose round-the-clock curfew as cases spike

Lebanon is to enforce an 11-day curfew as its hospitals struggle to cope with a spike in new coronavirus infections.
People will be forbidden from leaving their homes from 05:00 (03:00 GMT) on Thursday, with few exemptions. They will be unable to shop in supermarkets and will need to rely on deliveries.
The country's only airport will remain open, but the number of passengers will be cut.
The authorities say that without drastic action, the country's fragile health system will be overwhelmed.
Compared with other countries, Lebanon had until now coped relatively well with coronavirus.
Read more here.

Families 'struggling to pay for funerals'

Kevin Peachey - Personal finance reporter

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Families in the UK are struggling to pay for funerals of loved ones killed by Covid as their own finances are stretched by the economic effects of the pandemic.
Average funeral costs have risen slightly - but this masks a widening gap in different parts of the country, a survey suggests.
According to the Cost of Dying report by insurer SunLife, a funeral in the South East of England had risen by 9.8% in the past year, to £5,007, while in Northern Ireland the cost dropped 7.4% to £3,222.
In London, the cost was the highest at £5,235. Other regions which recorded rising costs were in north-west England, up 5.2% to £3,785, Scotland, which saw a 5.7% rise to £4,064, and the Midlands, up 3.9% to £4,488.
It comes amid the largest rise in excess deaths in more than 70 years.
Find out more about this story here.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 17:04

Husband on leash breached Quebec's Covid curfew

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Residents of Quebec are allowed to walk their dogs after curfew, but not their husbands

A couple in Canada have been fined for breaking Covid curfew rules after the woman was caught "walking" her husband on a leash, according to local media.
The woman reportedly told police that she was just out "walking her dog" near their home in the city of Sherbrooke, in Quebec.
On Saturday the province imposed a nightly curfew between 20:00 and 05:00.
Walking a dog close to home is one of the only acceptable reasons to be outside between those times.
The pair were spotted by police at around 9pm on Saturday night, just a short while after the new rules came into effect.
They reportedly told police that they were following the rule for pets. Isabelle Gendron, of the Sherbrooke Police Department, told the local newspaper La Tribune the couple "did not co-operate with the police at all".
They were each fined CA$1,546 ($1,212; £893).
Police across Quebec issued 750 tickets for violations during the first weekend of the curfew.
Canada has seen a recent surge in Covid-19 infections, nearing 670,000 total cases since the pandemic began.

Williamson promises 300,000 extra laptops

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Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says an extra 300,000 laptops and tablets have been bought to help disadvantaged children in England learn at home during lockdown.
The Department for Education says its data shows more than 700,000 devices have been delivered to schools so far during the pandemic - 100,000 of which were delivered last week.
There has been mounting criticism over the huge number of pupils not having access to digital devices, nine months into the pandemic.
It comes as research says children from poorer families are likely to struggle more with remote learning.
Read more on this story here

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 17:08

Tesco and Asda to clamp-down on maskless shoppers

Tesco and Asda have become the latest UK supermarkets to say shoppers who do not wear masks will not be allowed into their shops, unless they are medically exempt.
The announcement follows similar action by Morrisons and Sainsbury's who said they would challenge people who do not wear a mask or were shopping in groups.
A Tesco spokesperson said the action was being taken "to protect our customers and colleagues", adding it would have "additional security in stores to help manage this".
Customers are also being asked to shop alone, unless they are a carer or with children.
Asda said it would continue to offer customers a free face covering if they forgot to bring one.
But the supermarket said if customers refuse to wear a covering without a valid medical reason or are in "any way challenging to our colleagues about doing so" they will be refused entry.
Wearing face masks in supermarkets and shops is compulsory across the UK and enforcement is formally the responsibility of police.

Peak for NHS could come in February - Hunt

The NHS is "under more pressure than it’s ever been in our lifetimes" and the peak could come in February, Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the health select committee and former health secretary, has said.
“Because of this new strain, infections are not coming down as fast as they did in the first wave. That means that the peak for the NHS may be pushed back into February, which is a much longer period of sustained pressure," he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One.
Asked whether he thought there was a danger the NHS might collapse before February, Mr Hunt said “there is a danger" but added: "I think the NHS will, in the end, find intensive care - critical care beds for all those that need it - but it is on an absolute knife edge.”

More than 14,000 Armed Forces personnel involved in UK Covid response

More than 14,000 Armed Forces personnel have been involved in the UK’s Covid response so far, the Ministry of Defence says.
This includes about 5,300 personnel who are involved in winter tasks including the vaccine rollout, NHS support and community testing.
The Ministry of Defence says it is the “the largest peacetime resilience operation ever undertaken by the UK Armed Forces”.
A further 1,600 military medical professionals, including intensive care nurses and specialist surgeons, are working in the NHS.
“Our country faces an unprecedented challenge and our Armed Forces are working hand in hand with the NHS,” says Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
“We will continue to bolster those on the front line as they protect and care for the most vulnerable.”

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 17:13

Supermarket staff: 'We're lucky if people wear masks'

With the news that some supermarkets will be challenging those who do not wear masks in store, BBC Newsbeat's Annabel Rackham has been speaking to staff about their experiences working during the pandemic.
"People did take the first lockdown a lot more seriously - in this lockdown we're lucky if people are wearing masks," says 23-year-old supermarket worker Skye Henson.
She says now is definitely the toughest time to be working as people are no longer respecting rules such as social distancing.
"A good 30% of the people that come into our shop don't wear masks and just outright don't think it's an issue," she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
"They don't consider us to be in any kind of danger, so for me I do think a lot of it is the public putting us at risk."
Read more here

Sweden hits 500k cases as hospitals struggle

Sweden has now hit 500,000 coronavirus cases.
The country has registered more than 17,000 new cases since Friday, and its hospitals are struggling to cope with a rampant second wave of the virus.
More people are being treated for coronavirus at hospitals in Sweden now than at any time during the pandemic.
"It's quite obvious that the healthcare system is as strained now (as during the spring)," Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell tells a news conference.
"We are near the limit for what the healthcare system can handle."
Sweden, which has never imposed a full lockdown, has seen more than 500,000 cases and 9,667 deaths - many more than its Scandinavian neighbours.
Instead of relying on legal sanctions, Sweden appeals to citizens' sense of responsibility and civic duty, and issues only recommendations. There are no sanctions if they are ignored.
But support for the government's approach is dwindling.
In December 47% of Swedes said they had relatively high or high confidence in the strategies, down from 52% in November.

Cases surge in Cornwall town

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Cornwall Council and local health officials are urging residents in the Newquay area to take extra care - saying the number of people testing positive has "skyrocketed".
They say Covid-19 case numbers in one part of the town are comparable with some areas of London.
The latest seven-day rate in Newquay West was 878 cases per 100,000 people - after having tipped over 1,000 the previous week.
Case numbers have also been high in Truro, Penzance, Bodmin, Falmouth and Saltash in recent weeks, Cornwall Council says.
Cllr Sally Hawken said: "Everyone needs to do everything they can to stop more people being infected and our health services becoming overwhelmed."
You can read more about the way the pandemic is impacting on tourism in Cornwall here.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 18:11

What did we learn from today's No 10 briefing?

Today's UK government press conference has ended. Here's what happened:

  • Home Secretary Priti Patel announced another 1,243 people had died in the UK, saying the "horrifying" toll emphasised the need for people to stick by the rules
  • But she said a "minority" are putting people at risk by not following them
  • Patel said the government is looking at prioritising frontline workers such as police for the coronavirus vaccine once the most vulnerable groups had the jab
  • She said the lockdown measures in England were "clear" and insisted they were working
  • Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council said 45,000 fixed penalty notices have been issued in the UK during the current lockdowns
  • He said there would be more officers on patrol but acknowledged mistakes could be made in enforcing the rules in such an "unprecedented" situation
  • Dr Vin Diwakar, the medical director for the NHS in London, said there were "absolutely rigid standards" of infection prevention control at vaccine centres

A further 1,243 UK deaths

Priti Patel mentioned the latest government statistics on coronavirus during the briefing this evening.
A further 1,243 people have died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test in the UK, according to the latest figures on the government's coronavirus dashboard.
That brings the UK total to 81,960.
The UK has also recorded a further 45,533 positive coronavirus test results.
And 2,431,648 people have now received the first dose of a vaccine in the UK.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 19:09

'Reckless' Christmas easing of rules blamed for Ireland Covid surge

Country has world’s highest rate of infection with critics blaming socialising over festive period

Rory Carroll - Ireland correspondent, The Guardian

Ireland emerged from a six-week lockdown in early December with the European Union’s lowest coronavirus infection rate.
It eased restrictions in belief it could contain a rise in the virus over Christmas unlike, say, Germany and the UK, countries that had more than four times the level of infection. Then all hell broke loose.
From mid-December, the virus started ripping across Ireland , gaining a speed unimagined in the worst-case scenarios and forming an almost vertical line that rushed up, up and up to give Ireland , on Monday, the world’s highest rate of Covid-19 infection.
The country’s seven-day rolling average is 1,394 cases a million – outstripping the UK on 810, Portugal on 735, the US on 653 and Germany on 248. On 12 December Ireland recorded 52.31 cases for every million people. By Sunday the figure was 1,322.92.
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization on Monday named Ireland as having the most infections per capita over the past seven days, followed by the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the UK.

Tweet  Rory Carroll:

That vertical green line is Ireland leading the world in infections.

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Ireland’s vertiginous infection-rate swoop overtook the US on 5 January and the UK on 6 January and has continued climbing. Some 46,000 people have been infected in the past seven days – more than the total infected in the eight months from March to October.
The explosion has shocked and confounded the government and wider society, with theories, explanations and blame struggling to catch up with the grim daily updates.
“It’s staggering,” said Seán L’Estrange, a social scientist at University College Dublin who has written about Ireland’s response to the pandemic.
Socialising in households over Christmas, the opening of restaurants and gastro-pubs and the appearance of the more transmissable variant of the virus first identified in England all contributed to the surge.

Tweet  Sebastian Boyd:

Ireland reported more cases per capita than any other country in the past week.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 19:19

Netherlands extends lockdown as Merkel warns of longer restrictions

The Guardian

Germany’s tough anti-Covid measures are likely to last a further eight to 10 weeks, Angela Merkel has warned, while the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has extended the Netherlands’ national lockdown into next month.
As Europe struggles to stem the number of cases and deaths and concerns mount about the new, more contagious UK variant, the German chancellor said infections could rise 10-fold by Easter if the country did not succeed in containing the virus’s spread.
Germany’s lockdown, under which schools and non-essential shops and services have closed, was due to last until 31 January, but Merkel reportedly told a working group of her Christian Democratic Union: “We still need eight to 10 weeks of hard measures.”
The country has been recording record daily case numbers and deaths in the 900-1,000 range but the figures remain skewed due to under-reporting over the Christmas holiday and a true picture is not expected to be available until 17 January.
With new variants believed to be in Germany , including the B117 variant from the UK and N501Y from South Africa, the health minister, Jens Spahn, has ordered labs to test every 10th sample for variants compared with every 900th sample previously.

The Dutch government, meanwhile, on Tuesday extended the country’s lockdown by three weeks to the end of the first week of February. Rutte said in a televised address he had no alternative since the number of positive tests, while it had declined for the second week in a row, was not falling fast enough.
The government was also “extremely worried” by the potential consequences of the British variant, Rutte said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel with the arrival of the vaccines, but we are asking you for final effort – this is tough, I realise, but we can reach the finishing line,” he said.

The government would consult its public health experts on the possible introduction of a night time curfew, Rutte said, and hoped to allow primary schools in the Netherlands to reopen from 25 January if infection numbers continued to fall.
After a rise in the number of infections in the past few days, neighbouring Belgium may also face a sustained increase over the coming weeks as more people undergo tests after returning from holiday, health ministry spokesman Yves Van Laethem said.
“The situation remains fragile,” Van Laethem said, adding that the country had last year recorded its highest annual mortality rate since the Spanish flu and the end of the first world war in 1918.

The EU, meanwhile, will have all the vaccine doses it needs from April when larger deliveries are made to the 27 member states, the bloc’s chief negotiator with the suppliers said in response to criticism.
In evidence to the European parliament’s environment committee, Sandra Gallina, the director general for health and food safety in the European commission, said the bloc had purchased as much vaccine as had been possible.
“The contracts we have agreed include schedules that will be much richer starting from April onwards – quarter two is going to be the quarter with the many doses,” she said. “The first quarter doses … are of course not as abundant as many would like.”
The commission has faced criticism for not buying enough vaccines. While it has secured up to 2.3bn doses from the most promising vaccine candidates, only two – BionTech/Pfizer and Moderna – have as yet received European regulatory approval.
“I may say to you that we went really very far with the quantities and we bought all that could be bought,” Gallina said. “I am not sure why this debate is there, because the numbers are there, production is ramping up.”

In a reminder of the serious economic consequences of the virus crisis, the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, called for the creation of an EU-wide vaccination certificate to help restore cross-border travel devastated by the pandemic.
Greece , which relies on tourism for a fifth of its economic output and is keen to revive travel before the summer season, has already created its own standardised certificate to prove an individual has been vaccinated.
But in a letter to the commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, Mitsotakis proposed extending the scheme to all 27 countries in the EU. The certificate could be used when embarking on all forms of transport, he said.
“While we are not going to make vaccination compulsory or a prerequisite for travel, persons who have been vaccinated should be free to travel,” he said. “It is urgent to adopt a common understanding on a vaccination certificate.”

As Portugal’s president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, tested negative for the virus after a positive test led to him cancelling all public engagements, it emerged that the tourism-dependent Algarve region had suffered its worst tourism year on record.
Business made €800m (£704m) less in 2020 than the year before – a 65% drop – as the pandemic kept visitors away from the region’s beaches and golf courses. The Algarve hotel association AHETA said hotel stays fell 75% and occupancy was just 28%, compared with 63% in 2019.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 19:28

Three lawmakers who sheltered during Capitol attack test positive for Covid

Ankita Rao - The Guardian
Three US lawmakers who had to shelter for safety during the US Capitol riot have tested positive for Covid-19.
Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, announced her positive result early on Tuesday, while chastising Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks while they waited in a secured room for more than five hours.
The New Jersey representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, also a Democrat, said she decided to get tested because of the possibility of exposure and tested positive. She also tweeted that she was receiving monoclonal antibody treatment – which is still being investigated – on the advice of her doctor. Coleman, 75, is a cancer survivor.
Later on Tuesday, Brad Schneider, another Democrat, from Illinois, announced he too had tested positive.
Read more here

Mass vaccination campaign to begin in Indonesia on Wednesday

Indonesia will start a mass vaccination campaign on Wednesday, with the president, Joko Widodo, to receive the first shot. The ambitious vaccination drive is being launched amid record deaths in one of Asia’s most stubborn epidemics.
The campaign aims to inoculate 181.5 million people, the first of whom will receive the CoronaVac vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech, which Indonesia authorised for emergency use on Monday, with an efficacy rate of 65.3%.
The president, who is known as Jokowi, will be given a CoronaVac shot on Wednesday morning, his office said, in a sign of the priority placed on immunisation in a country that has done far less than its south-east Asian neighbours to track and contain the virus.
The minster of health, Budi Gunadi Sadikin, told parliament on Tuesday that nearly 1.5 million medical workers would be inoculated by February, followed by public servants and the general population within 15 months.

France reports 19,753 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours

The Covid-19 death toll was up by 362 over 24 hours at 68,802, the seventh-highest in the world.
The country’s cumulative total of cases stands at 2,806,590.
The number of people hospitalised for the disease stood at 8,805 over the last seven days, including 1,350 in intensive care units.

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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 19:33

Outbreak at Cornwall care home

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Eleven ambulances were sent to a care home in Cornwall at the weekend after a coronavirus outbreak, it has been confirmed.
Coronavirus rapidly spread to 25 residents at Trengrouse care home in Helston and many staff were off sick or self-isolating despite best efforts to prevent the spread, bosses said.
Three residents were taken to hospital. Others needed oxygen and are being looked after at the home.
Bosses said staff and residents were being "tested very regularly" and "we'll never know how it came into the home".
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Post by Kitkat Tue Jan 12 2021, 19:40

Today's main headlines - and goodbye for now

We're going to bring our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic to an end now. We'll be back again tomorrow.
Before we go, here are some of the main stories from the day:

Today's live coverage was written by Hazel Shearing, Emma Harrison, Alex Kleiderman, George Wright, Alexandra Fouche and Gavin Stamp, and edited by James Clarke, Rob Corp and Vicky Baker.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 22:03