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Coronavirus - 13th January 2021


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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 11:04

Summary for Wednesday, 13th January

  • Many hospital staff treating the sickest patients during the first wave of the pandemic were left traumatised, a study suggests
  • Nearly half of intensive care staff at King's College Hospital in London reported mental health repercussions
  • In the UK, the Department of Health is considering a pilot scheme to offer 24-hour Covid vaccinations
  • China's CoronaVac vaccine has been found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials
  • World Health Organization experts are due to arrive to China's Wuhan city to begin investigating the origins of Covid
  • Globally, there have been more than 91 million registered Covid cases and almost two million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some of the latest developments in the UK:

  • Many hospital staff treating the sickest patients during the first wave of the UK’s epidemic were left traumatised by the experience, a study suggests . Nearly half of the 709 participants reported symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or problem drinking
  • Caterers must "urgently" improve the quality of food parcels being provided to the poorest pupils in England while schools are closed during the national lockdown, a minister has said . It comes after footballer Marcus Rashford shared images of some parcels online, calling them "not good enough"
  • Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities are calling for teachers in special schools to be vaccinated against Covid-19
  • And customs operators have pleaded with the government to prioritise vaccinations for staff they insist are key front-line workers, in the effort to keep vital supplies flowing into the UK

China's vaccines, record US daily deaths and other world headlines

And here are the main world headlines:

The latest from across Europe

  • Portugal's government is set to announce tough restrictions starting tomorrow that will go on for at least a month. Under the lockdown due to be agreed by ministers today, people will be told to stay at home but primary schools children will still go to school. Portuguese will, however, be allowed to go and vote in presidential elections this month. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is campaigning for reelection - he was initially given a positive Covid test earlier this week, but has now been told he's negative.
  • German Health Minister Jens Spahn has appealed to all bosses to allow working from home. He says Germans are moving around more than they were during the first lockdown and, on a day that more than 1,000 further deaths have been announced, he says social contacts will have to be reduced over the next two to three months.
  • Italy's government is facing crisis, after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's cabinet backed a plan on how to spend €222.9bn (£200bn) in EU Covid recovery funds. Ex-PM Matteo Renzi is considering whether to pull his ministers out of the government because he fears the money will be squandered.
  • Albania’s government is refusing to divulge the source of coronavirus vaccines that have arrived in the country. PM Edi Rama was among the first people to be vaccinated on Monday - and says an EU country donated 1,000 doses on condition it was not identified.

Mexico registers record daily death toll

Health officials in Mexico say 1,314 Covid-related deaths were registered on Tuesday. It's the highest figures since the start of the pandemic.
Mexico is the country with the fourth-highest number of deaths worldwide, after the US, Brazil and India.
The country has begun a vaccination drive but with more than 127m inhabitants, health officials say they are facing a mammoth task.
On Tuesday, almost 440,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Mexico City - the fifth shipment so far - and will now be distributed to 25 Mexican states.
Health officials there are also expected to decide this week on whether to authorise Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. The government said that if Sputnik V is authorised it would plan to buy 24 million doses.

UK government considers 24-hour vaccine pilot

Adam Fleming - Chief political correspondent
The Department of Health and Social Care is considering a pilot scheme to offer Covid vaccinations 24 hours a day at some locations in the UK.
This would be aimed at NHS workers who do night shifts or other shift patterns rather than the general public.
We'll bring you more information as we get it.

‘The guilt is just too much’: NHS workers on intensive care trauma

Sima Kotecha - BBC News
More now on one of the top stories in the UK this morning – that many hospital staff treating the sickest patients during the first wave of the pandemic were left traumatised by the experience.
That's according to a study by King's College London, which found nearly half of the 709 intensive care workers that took part reported symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or problem drinking, as the first wave eased.
One in seven had thoughts of self-harming or being "better off dead". Just over half reported good well-being.
Nursing staff were more likely to report feelings of distress than doctors or other clinical staff in the anonymous web-based survey, which was carried out in June and July last year.
Victoria Sullivan, an intensive care nurse at Queen's Hospital in Romford, said she often can't sleep because she's thinking about what is happening at the hospital.
Her worst moment was breaking the news of a death on the phone, she said, adding that the screams from the patient's relatives "will honestly stay with me forever".
"Telling someone over the phone and all you can say is 'I'm really sorry', whilst they're crying their heart out, is quite traumatising," she said.
"Although you're saying how sorry you are, in the back of your mind, you're also thinking: 'I've got three other patients I've got to go and see, the infusions need drawing up, and meds need to be given and a nurse needs support'.
"The guilt is just too much."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 11:15

Brazil data shows Chinese vaccine 50.4% effective

A coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac company has been found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials, according to the latest results released by researchers.
It shows the vaccine is significantly less effective than previous data suggested - barely over the 50% needed for regulatory approval.
Sinovac, a Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company, is behind CoronaVac, which is an inactivated vaccine.
It works by using killed viral particles to expose the body's immune system to the virus, without risking a serious disease response.
Read more here

South Korea's sect leader not guilty of breaking virus law

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Lee Man-hee was accused of hiding information from authorities - but was later cleared

The leader of a South Korean religious sect has been found not guilty of breaking virus control laws.
Lee Man-hee, who heads the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was however found guilty of embezzlement and given a suspended sentence.
The church was at the centre of South Korea's first major Covid-19 outbreak last February, and was the target of public anger.
At one point it was linked to 36% of cases in the country.
In March last year, the Seoul city government filed a legal complaint to prosecutors against Mr Lee and 11 other leaders of the sect. They were accused of homicide, causing harm and violating the Infectious Disease and Control Act.
Read our full story

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 11:18

Most people 'really playing their part' with lockdown rules

There's been much discussion in recent days about how well people are complying with coronavirus rules during the latest lockdowns across the UK - with police "moving more quickly" to fine rule-breakers.
But a study looking at the rules, and which are the most likely to be broken, suggests compliance is up to the same levels as last May.

The study's lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, from UCL's Institute of Epidemiology and Health, told BBC Breakfast: "One of the things we were most struck by is actually how good compliance is at the moment. Whilst we hear the stories of rule-breakers, actually the majority of the population are really playing their part."
She said only a "very tiny" percentage of people are flouting the rules by, for example, holding house parties.
But the study shows "a bit more" evidence of people pushing boundaries, finding loopholes or bending the rules, she added.
"That's risky because this is a very complicated virus and some of those behaviours that perhaps we might have got away with a few months ago with the last strain, we're not necessarily able to get away with now."

Teacher helps children tackle Asian vaccine myths

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Neetal Parekh said she was determined to help after hearing about how some people "are scared of the vaccine"

A teacher is making online videos with children to tackle myths in South Asian communities about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Neetal Parekh, 36, from Preston, believes the language barrier is one reason some people have been scared to have the vaccine. She said many were being misled "simply because they do not know enough".
A study recently found some ethnic minorities were targeted with inaccurate anti-vaccination messages.
The Royal Society for Public Health found 57% of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds said they would take a Covid vaccine, compared with 79% of white people.
To combat this, Parekh has created a collection of short videos of young children urging their grandparents to have the vaccine in a variety of South Asian languages such as Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.
Read more here.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 11:27

Tunisia orders nationwide lockdown

Rana Jawad - BBC North Africa correspondent, Tunis
Tunisia will be going into a four-day nationwide lockdown on Thursday to stem the spread of Covid-19 infections.
The north African state has been struggling to reduce the number of infections since September. It has so far confirmed over 160,000 cases since the pandemic started with more than 5,000 deaths.
The government has been avoiding a nationwide lockdown for months, opting instead for a nightly curfew that has been in place since October.
But the infection rate has not decreased with at least 300 new cases being confirmed daily.
Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi told a news conference that new measures will include extending the night curfew, which will now start from 17:00GMT to 05:00GMT.
Schools will also be closed from Wednesday until 24 January.
The lockdown starts on a day that marks a decade since the toppling of former autocratic ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali following mass protests.
The country’s economy has been struggling over the years and the pandemic has contributed further to its downturn.

Analysis: Is this the peak?

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
There are very early signs that coronavirus infections in the UK may have peaked – although, as always, we should be careful about reading too much into a few days’ worth of data.
The past two days have seen newly-diagnosed cases hover around the 46,000-mark. Up to the weekend, the average was close to 60,000.
The drop has largely been driven by falls in new cases in London, the South East and East of England.
The national picture does mask some regional differences. Cases are rising in north-west England, which is causing particular concern.
It is too early for the vaccination programme to be having any significant impact, so a combination of the tier four rules imposed in some parts of England before Christmas, and the more recent national lockdown, may be beginning to have an impact.

There is also some evidence the new variant may not be quite as fast-spreading as first feared – a Public Health England study suggested rather than being 70% more transmissible it may actually be somewhere between 30% to 50%.
And, if it does represent the start of a continuous fall, it is important to remember it will still take some time to translate into fewer hospital cases – people being admitted at the moment are those who would have caught the virus a week or two ago.
But after six weeks of pretty sustained rises, it is at least an encouraging sign.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 11:31

Bolivia's ex-leader Evo Morales tests positive

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Evo Morales (waving a flag) has been diagnosed with Covid-19

Bolivia's former president, Evo Morales, has coronavirus. His office said he was stable and that he was receiving treatment to combat the symptoms, but didn't give further details as to what those symptoms were.
The 61-year-old returned to Bolivia from exile in November after one of his allies, Luis Arce, was elected president.
Mr Morales, who is the leader of the governing Movement Towards Socialism party, has had a busy schedule since his return, attending gatherings with followers and party faithful ahead of local elections in March.
While Bolivia has had far fewer confirmed cases of coronavirus than its neighbours Brazil, Chile and Peru, some of its critical care units are reportedly close to collapse.

Breaking News 

Food vouchers to replace UK free school meal lockdown parcels

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says a national lockdown food voucher scheme will be launched next week for children eligible for free school meals.
Answering questions from MPs on the education committee, Mr Williamson said it was important there was "local flexibility", so his department would reimburse councils for any local voucher schemes they offer as an alternative to the national scheme.
Parents, doctors and opposition MPs have been calling for vouchers to replace parcels after photos of meagre food parcels sent to families were shared online.
Mr Williamson said he was "absolutely disgusted" by some of the images, and such packages "will not be tolerated".
"From next week the national food voucher scheme will be available to all schools," Mr Williamson said.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 11:35

GCSE and A-level pupils could sit mini exams to aid grading

A-level, AS and GCSE students in England could be asked to sit mini external exams to help teachers with their assessments, after formal exams were cancelled last week.
In a letter to the exams regulator, Ofqual, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said this would help teachers to decide "deserved grades".
He promised not to use an algorithm which led to controversy last summer.
A consultation on plans for this year is being launched later this week.
The letter was published on Wednesday, ahead of Mr Williamson's appearance this morning at the Education Select Committee.
Read more

Breaking News 

'School staff should be 'priority' for next phase of jab rollout' - Williamson

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson tells MPs on the education committee he would "make no apology" for pushing to have all those who work in schools prioritised for vaccination.
The government is aiming to offer vaccinations to around 15 million people in the UK - the over-70s, older care home residents and staff, front-line healthcare workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable - by mid-February in the first wave of immunisations.
But Mr Williamson told MPs he believed school staff were the "top priority" for the next phase of the vaccine rollout.
He told the Education Select Committee: "There's a school workforce of a million and it is absolutely vital that we do not forget support staff in this because it is often the support staff that are the most exposed.
"I think there is a special need in the area of special schools as well where there is often a crossover between not just an education setting but also as a care and health setting as well.
"It is quite understandably right that the government has chosen to prioritise those that are most at risk of being hospitalised (for vaccination).
"But... in that next wave where we have to prioritise others, I will make no apology for the fact that I see the top priority as all those who work in schools.
"Not just teachers, but all those that work in schools because every single one of them is absolutely vital for delivering education."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 11:38

Die Hard actor Bruce Willis in Covid mask row

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Bruce Willis played police detective John McClane in the Die Hard film series

US actor Bruce Willis has admitted "it was an error in judgment" after being spotted without a mask in a pharmacy in California over the weekend.
"Be safe out there everyone and let's continue to mask up," the star of the Die Hard films series told America's People website.
Willis, aged 65, was reportedly asked to leave the pharmacy in Los Angeles by one of the employees.
California - which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak - has strict anti-Covid rules.
The US state now requires people to wear masks not only in public places - but also when they leave their homes.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 12:26

Breaking News

London's virus death toll exceeds 10,000

More than 10,000 Londoners have now died with coronavirus, official figures show .
A total of 10,122 people in London have died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, according to Public Health England's latest data .
Currently 7,607 patients are in the capital's hospitals with Covid - including 1,085 people on ventilation.
It comes after a doctor warned Covid admissions had surged by more than 6,000 in six weeks .

AstraZeneca 'on track' to soon deliver two million jab doses a week

AstraZeneca is "on track" to deliver two million doses of its coronavirus vaccine "imminently", the company's UK president has said.
Tom Keith-Roach told the Commons Science and Technology Committee that 1.1 million doses of the company's Covid-19 jab, developed with Oxford University, had been released to date.
He said: "We are scaling up very rapidly and this will happen imminently to releasing two million doses a week.
"We're absolutely on track to do that and therefore deliver tens of millions of doses in the first quarter of the year.
"If we average two million a week through the course of the year, that gets us to the 100 million doses that we're committed to to the UK through the course of 2021."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 12:42

What does latest data on China’s vaccine mean?

Philippa Roxby - Health reporter, BBC News

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Earlier, we reported that a coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac has been found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials , according to the latest results released by researchers.
The figures show just how difficult it is to compare vaccines.
On the face of it, the 50% effectiveness figure isn’t as good as Oxford’s 70% or Pfizer and Moderna’s 95%.
But trials are run very differently in different countries – the numbers of volunteers enrolled varies wildly, as does the criteria used to test how much protection the vaccines offer.
A figure for efficacy is reached by looking at how many people went on to develop Covid after being given the vaccine, compared with how many were affected after being given a dummy injection.
Normally, that is based on people developing obvious symptoms but in this Brazilian trial, people with no symptoms also appear to have been included.
So it’s only when the full data from all trials of this vaccine are published that scientists can analyse its real efficacy, and compare like with like.
Only limited data for this Sinovac vaccine is currently available – and experts say that is confusing the picture.
In the long term, many vaccines against Covid are needed to vaccinate the world and, inevitably, some will perform better than others – but giving as many people as possible some protection is the priority.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 12:45

Breaking News

Scotland to tighten lockdown restrictions

Speaking to MSPs Nicola Sturgeon says she must announce a further tightening of lockdown restrictions.
"The situation we face remains very precarious and extremely serious," she tells the first First Minister's Questions of 2021.
She says today's numbers of cases and deaths in Scotland are heartbreaking.
There have been 1,949 positive cases bringing the total cases to 155,372.
She says 191,965 people have received the first dose of vaccine.
There are 1,794 people in hospital, which is 77 more than yesterday.
There have been a further 79 deaths following a positive coronavirus test in the last 28 days.

Six lockdown changes announced in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has announced six changes to take effect in Scotland from Saturday

  • Non-essential click and collect purchases must stop
  • Take-away services must operate from a serving hatch or doorway, no one can go inside a premise to collect food or drink
  • Alcohol will be illegal to drink outdoors in public
  • Statutory guidance will be given to employers to allow staff to work from home wherever possible
  • Work inside people's houses only allowed if it is essential maintenance
  • People must not leave and remain outside the home other than for an essential purpose

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 15:53

Summary of global news
from The Guardian
Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

The deadliest day in the US

The death toll in the US has hit a new daily record of nearly 4,500, the first time it has topped 4,000.

Highest infection rate

Ireland’s infection rate is the highest in the world with 1,288 cases per million people as the government demands all travellers test negative within 72 hours of arrival.

Jokowi jab

Indonesian president Joko Widodo – who is known as Jokowi – has received the country’s first jab live on television as the nation of nearly 270 million people kicks off a mass vaccination drive.

Japan emergency expands

Japan is set to expand a state of emergency in greater Tokyo to seven more regions including the major cities of Osaka and Kyoto.

Ontario lockdown

Canada’s most populous province orders residents to stay home as projections showed the number of cases could soon explode, overwhelming hospitals.

Chinese province restricted

Heilongjiang province – home to the sealed-off city of Suihua and with a population of 37.5 million people – tells residents not to leave the region unless absolutely necessary and to cancel gatherings.

Lebanon aid

The World Bank has approved a $246m aid package to help 786,000 vulnerable Lebanese reeling under the pandemic and the country’s worst economic crisis in decades.

Nearly 2 million dead

The pandemic has killed more than 1,963,557 million people worldwide, according to a tally compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT using official sources and information from the WHO.
The US is the country most affected with more than 380,821 deaths, followed by Brazil (204,690), India (over 151,569), Mexico (135,682) and Britain (83,203).
The number of deaths globally is broadly under-estimated. The toll is calculated from daily figures published by national health authorities and does not include later revisions by statistics agencies.

London mayor pleads for tighter restrictions in the capital

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London's mayor has written to the prime minister pleading for tighter lockdown restrictions as the covid death toll in the capital surpasses 10,000.
He tells the BBC: "They are not numbers or a statistic, every one of these lives lost is a tragedy and my thoughts and prayers are with their family and friends.
And speaking on LBC he says: "This epidemic is far worse than it was in spring, the pressures on the NHS are far higher, yet the lockdown measures are much lighter."
Khan says he and the leader of London Councils, Georgie Gould, have written to the prime minister "pleading with him to have additional restrictions on our city".
"We think that's the best way to save lives and stop the NHS being overwhelmed," he adds.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 16:20

Sweden reports 5,337 new coronavirus cases

Sweden has registered 5,337 new cases since Tuesday, health agency statistics show. The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 167 new deaths, taking the total to 9,834. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and weeks with many from the Christmas period being registered with a significant delay.
Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours, but lower than several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Group planning ski holiday in Switzerland prevented from boarding Eurostar in London

A group attempting to travel to Switzerland for a ski holiday were prevented from boarding a Eurostar train at London St Pancras in breach of coronavirus restrictions.
Train manager Justin, who did not give his surname, posted on Twitter that French border police deployed at the station had turned the travellers away on Wednesday morning. A photograph shows the group was carrying at least one large bag of winter sports equipment.
Justin wrote that a ski trip “does not count as essential travel” and there are “very limited reasons for travel to France”.
He added: “I really fancy a trip with my family to eat chips in Brussels but there’s a global pandemic on right now.
“If we all do our bit and are patient for this final push, then hopefully we can get back to doing all of those things we love.”
Last week, a Eurostar passenger trying to travel to a yoga class in Paris was also turned away from London St Pancras. France only permits a limited group of people to arrive from the UK, such as transport workers, people delivering goods or those who normally live in France.

Breaking News

Further 1,564 coronavirus deaths in UK

A further 1,564 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 - the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the outbreak began.
It takes the total number of deaths under that measure to 84,767.
Before today, the highest number of deaths was recorded as 1,325 on Friday 8 January.
A total of 47,525 people have tested positive for Covid in the past 24 hours.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 17:05

All passengers arriving in Ireland will now need proof of negative Covid-19 test to enter

Harry Brent - Irish Post
As of Saturday, January 16, all passengers arriving in Ireland will need to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test in order to enter the country.
Passengers will need to be tested within a maximum of 72 hours prior to their arrival, whether they're arriving by plane or by ferry.
In order to ensure proper adherence to the new rules, An Garda Síochána and the Border Management Unit at Dublin Airport will be ramping up their checks, and turning away those who don't meet the appropriate criteria.
According to RTÉ News, certain groups will be excluded from the new requirements though, including children under the age of six, international transport workers, and gardaí members carrying out their duties.
The new rules come just a few days after Ireland announced that anyone travelling from the UK or South Africa had to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test, in an attempt to try and reduce the risk of spreading mutant strains of the virus.
Currently, those arriving from the UK wand South Africa must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Ireland, even if they produce a negative Covid-19 test result.
It's understood that the UK variant is 70% more transmissible than the original strain of coronavirus.
Earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin revealed that the UK variant accounted for nearly half of all Covid-19 cases currently in Ireland.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 17:08

Analysis: UK death figures - darkest days of pandemic so far

Nick Triggle - Health Correspondent
Perhaps the most distressing element about the latest Covid deaths is that the numbers are almost certainly going to rise from here.
People who are dying now are likely to have been infected around three weeks ago. That was at a point when infection rates were rising quite steeply, so in the coming days and weeks we should, sadly, expect to see more deaths than this.
Today’s figures are affected by the weekend, which sees delays reporting deaths that tend to translate into higher figures from Tuesday onwards.
Currently around 800 to 900 people a day on average are dying once you take this into account. But the figures also provide some hope.
For the third day, in a row the number of newly diagnosed infections are well below 50,000. There had been several days where they have exceeded 60,000.
If that trend continues, and the number of new cases keeps coming down, that will eventually translate into the number of deaths falling. But it is going to take some weeks for that to happen. These are, as many have been saying, the darkest days of the pandemic so far.

Breaking News 

More deaths in second wave than first, Public Health England says

There have now been more deaths in the second wave of the pandemic than the first, Public Health England's medical director has said.
Dr Yvonne Doyle was reacting to the new record of 1,564 deaths within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus in the UK that have been announced this hour.
She said: “With each passing day, more and more people are tragically losing their lives to this terrible virus, and today we have reported the highest number of deaths on a single day since the pandemic began.
"There have now been more deaths in the second wave than the first.
“About one-in-three people with Covid-19 don’t show symptoms, but can still pass it on to others so it is essential that we stay at home, minimise contact with other people and act as if you have the virus.”

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 17:11

Brazil's variant: Two 'spike' changes flagged up

Rachel Schraer - BBC Health Reporter
As MPs have been mentioning today - a coronavirus variant has been found circulating in the Amazonas state of Brazil, and was picked up in Japan in travellers from the region.
It’s different from the UK and South African variants, but it contains common mutations - two changes to the virus’ "spike" in particular which have been flagged as potentially making the virus more infectious.
This is not going to be the last mutation we hear about.
At the moment changes are mainly being picked up in areas that do lots of genetic tracking of the virus - it’s almost certain there are other mutations already circulating unseen in other parts of the world.
And the virus will continue to mutate - it’s just a question of how, how much and how fast.
For now there’s no evidence the virus is becoming more dangerous - but if more people catch it then, left unchecked, more will potentially become ill or die.
But the vaccines, which target several different areas of the virus’ spike, should still work - though that’s something that scientists the world over will be monitoring very closely.

Swiss ski race scrapped after outbreak linked to UK tourist

Imogen Foulkes - BBC News, Geneva
Switzerland’s iconic Lauberhorn ski race has been cancelled because of rising cases of Covid-19, many of them, Swiss health officials say, spread by one British tourist.
The resort of Wengen, where the famous race is held, had recorded no cases of the virus until October, and only ten until mid-December.
After that, cases began to shoot up, and, worryingly, sequencing revealed many of them were the new highly infectious variant first detected in the UK.
Contact tracers found that 27 of the cases alone could be linked to one British tourist who recently stayed in a Wengen hotel.
Wengen desperately tried to save the race, offering to close off the resort to everyone but competitors, and even closing its schools. At first Swiss health officials agreed, but when, at the start of this week yet more Covid-19 cases were recorded, they pulled the emergency break.
Wengen is devastated. The Lauberhorn is not just any race, but one of the top competitions on the Ski World Cup circuit. It is dearly loved by the Swiss, who have watched with delight as some of their own home-grown talent - such as Beat Feuz and Carlo Janka - triumphed there.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 17:14

Analysis: Why are the restrictions tightening in Scotland?

Lisa Summers - BBC Scotland Health Correspondent
We heard earlier from Nicola Sturgeon that restrictions in Scotland will tighten from Saturday.
The Scottish government is acting now because of the strain on the health service.
Its experts are warning the NHS could be overwhelmed even under a 'stay at home' scenario .
We've already seen two health boards postponing all non-urgent surgical procedures as an increase in Covid cases puts growing pressure on the system.
The action from NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Ayrshire and Arran is showing how the numbers of Covid patients in hospital is really starting to impact on wider care.
Wards that would usually treat people recovering from hip or knee replacements for example may need to be converted into Covid wards.
Theatres, usually busy carrying out multiple routine surgeries will become high dependency or intensive care facilities. When staff need to be redeployed to work with Covid patients, it is not safe to carry out other routine work.
These are the difficult choices many health boards will face over the coming weeks. Action required now to deal with this health emergency will have consequences later.

DUP MP says donated kidneys discarded in pandemic

The DUP’s Ian Paisley has failed to trigger an emergency Commons debate on the discarding of donated kidneys during the coronavirus pandemic.
The MP for North Antrim said he had heard some viable organs had been discarded, and called for transplant operations to continue, perhaps using private facilities.
Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing later told him it would be not be allowed, but said a health minister was present and listening to his request.

Furlough fraud: Tax authority receives more than 21,000 tip offs

BBC Radio 5 Live
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been a major plank of the government's support during the pandemic.
Under the furlough scheme, the government pays up to 80% of employees' wages up to £2,500.
But it has been found to be open to abuse.
New figures from HMRC given to BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up to Money programme show the department is handling more than 21,000 reports of suspected fraudulent use of the furlough scheme, 5,000 of which are under formal investigation.
The money is either due to fraudulent claims, or is being paid out in error.
The number of tip offs has spiralled since last April , from 3,000 to 21,378 reports of suspect payments by early January.
HMRC told the BBC: "This is taxpayers' money and fraudulent claims limit our ability to support people and deprive public services of essential funding."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 17:22

Variants could make second year of virus tougher, warns WHO

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A highly contagious strain of coronavirus first detected in South Africa has spread to 20 countries, the WHO says

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern about the spread of new coronavirus variants.
A highly infectious strain, which originated in the UK, has now spread to 50 countries and territories, the WHO said.
Since the strain was first detected late last year, it has driven a spike in coronavirus infections and deaths linked to the disease in the UK.
A strain first identified in South Africa, meanwhile, has spread to 20 other countries, the WHO said.
Health experts say both new variants appear to be more transmissible than previous strains but not necessarily any more dangerous. They have also played down the possibility that vaccines will not be as effective against these variants.
Still, the increased transmission of these variants is taking its toll.
"Going into a second year of this [pandemic] could even be tougher given some of the transmission dynamics," WHO expert Mike Ryan said during an event on social media.
There are also concerns about a third new strain the Japanese authorities have identified in four people who are thought to have caught it in Brazil.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 17:43

Record daily deaths, Florida vaccination and other US headlines

The US has been by far the world's worst-hit nation in the pandemic, with Johns Hopkins University reporting late on Tuesday a record 4,470 Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours.

Here are the latest key developments in America on Wednesday:

  • From 26 January, anyone arriving to the US will need to show a negative Covid test, taken within three days of departure from their place of origin
  • People from Canada, Argentina and other nations are considering travelling to Florida, amid the state's effort to vaccinate people who are 65 and older - regardless of where they live
  • US college campuses are at risk of becoming Covid super-spreaders for their entire county, a new study warns
  • More than 9.3 million Americans - or less than 3% of the country's population - have received their first shot of a vaccine

The US has had more than 22 million confirmed infections since the start of the outbreak, according to Johns Hopkins.
The overall Covid-related death toll has now exceeded 380,000, and is closing in fast on the number of American soldiers killed in World War Two, at about 407,000.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 17:59

Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow dies after Covid infection

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The Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow has died after contracting Covid-19 shortly after Christmas.
Philip Tartaglia, 70, was one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church in Scotland.
The Church said his cause of death was not yet clear.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she felt "deep sadness" to hear of Archbishop Tartaglia's death.
She told Scottish Parliament: "I'm sure that is sadness shared by everybody across this chamber - and to send my deepest condolences to his loved ones and of course everybody in his community."
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said he had "many fond memories" of conversations he had shared with the archbishop.
Philip Tartaglia was born in Glasgow in 1951 and was appointed Archbishop of Glasgow in 2012.
He died on 13 January, which is the Feast of St Mungo - the patron saint of Glasgow.

Government to discuss Covid Brazil strain

Gavin Stamp - BBC political reporter
The UK government’s Covid O committee is expected to discuss the new variant of coronavirus that has emerged in Brazil tomorrow.
The prime minister hinted to MPs that there could be restrictions on travel from Brazil to the UK - but a final decision has not been taken.
Speaking to MPs he said: "We are taking steps to ensure that we do not see the import of this new variant from Brazil."

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 18:15

What are the rules for face masks in the UK?

There's been focus this week on whether people are adhering to the rules around wearing face coverings in shops.
Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have become the latest supermarkets to say they will deny entry to shoppers who do not wear face masks , unless they are medically exempt.
It follows a similar move by Morrisons, while Sainsbury's says it will challenge those who flout the rules.
So what protection do masks offer, what sort can be worn, and what are the rules across the UK?
Read our explainer here

Jordanians urged to register as vaccination programme begins

Jordan has launched a Covid-19 vaccination programme intended to protect more than 20% of the kingdom’s 10 million population.
The government has said the first stage will focus on people over the age of 60, those with chronic illnesses, and medical personnel. It aims to administer 5,000 shots a day at 29 centres.
Health Minister Nazir Obeidat told the state news agency Petra that the first day had gone “smoothly”.
But the head of the ministry’s epidemics and communicable diseases department, Wael Hayajneh, urged more people to register for the free vaccines , with only 200,000 reportedly signed up since late December.
The government has purchased vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and China's Sinopharm. The latter was granted an “emergency licence” on Saturday.
Jordan has seen a sharp fall in the daily number of new infections since mid-November, when restrictions that had been eased during the summer were reintroduced.
More than 309,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 4,076 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic.

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Post by Kitkat Wed Jan 13 2021, 18:20

Coronavirus headlines from the UK and around the world

There's been a lot of coronavirus news around today - here are some of the main headlines:

  • The UK and Mexico have recorded their highest daily death tolls from coronavirus since the start of the pandemic
  • Today's figures show a total of 1,564 people died within 28 days of a positive test in the UK. In Mexico the total is 1,314.
  • Scotland announces tighter lockdown restrictions including a ban on click and collect for non-essential purchases
  • Footballer Marcus Rashford calls for a review of free school meals after photos of meagre food parcels were shared by parents online
  • Meanwhile, Boris says 24/7 Covid vaccination hubs will open as soon as supply allows
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is concerned about the spread of new coronavirus variants
  • A new coronavirus variant has been found circling in the Amazonas state of Brazil - it's also been picked up in Japan in travellers from that region of Brazil
  • Meanwhile, Tunisia has announced a four-day nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19 infections

Thanks for joining us

Our coverage is now drawing to a close for the day, but do join us again tomorrow.

Updates were brought to you by Alex Therrien, Alice Evans, Claire Heald, David Gritten, Jennifer Meierhans, Joshua Nevett, Lauren Turner, Paul Seddon, Richard Morris, Vanessa Buschschluter, Vicky Baker and Yaroslav Lukov.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 21:30