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Coronavirus - 14th January 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 10:53

Summary for Thursday, 14th January

  • A total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November - the highest since records began
  • The World Health Organization team arrives in Wuhan as China announces its first death from Covid-19 in eight months
  • More than a dozen scientists will interview people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market linked to the initial outbreak
  • Most people who have had Covid-19 are protected from catching it again for at least five months, says Public Health England
  • Six High Street pharmacies in England will start vaccinating people from priority groups from Thursday
  • Andy Murray has tested positive for coronavirus, putting his participation in the Australian Open in doubt.
  • Patients in packed hospitals in England's busiest intensive care units were 20% more likely to die, University College London research shows
  • New rule requiring anyone arriving in England to have pre-departure testing is pushed back from Friday to 04:00GMT on Monday
  • UK ministers to discuss whether to stop flights from Brazil amid concern over another new variant of coronavirus that has emerged there
  • Some 270m doses of vaccines have been secured for the African continent - on top of 600m already promised - but it is still not enough for the whole region
  • Globally, there have been more than 92 million registered Covid cases and almost two million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s a quick summary of the main stories in the UK this morning:

  • Most people who have had Covid-19 are protected from catching it again for at least five months, a study shows
  • Six High Street pharmacies in England will start vaccinating people from priority groups today, with 200 providing jabs in the next two weeks
  • A new rule requiring arrivals to England to show proof of a negative test has been pushed back from Friday to Monday to give travellers more time to prepare, the government has said
  • Meanwhile, a government committee is meeting today to discuss whether to stop flights from Brazil coming to the UK because of concern about a new variant of the virus believed to have emerged there
  • People travelling by rail during lockdown are being urged to double-check train times, as services are being reduced
  • Covid-19 patients in England's busiest intensive care units in 2020 were 20% more likely to die, new research has found

Latest from around the world

Here are some of the coronavirus stories making headlines around the world:

  • After months of negotiations, a team from the World Health Organization has finally arrived in the Chinese city of Wuhan to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Some 270 million doses of vaccines have been secured for the African continent , on top of 600 million already promised, but is still not enough to vaccinate everyone who needs it
  • US President-elect Joe Biden is due to unveil his coronavirus relief plans, which are expected to include $2,000 (£1,467) stimulus payments for families that Donald Trump had called for
  • Around 1,200 international tennis players have begun arriving in Melbourne to quarantine for two weeks ahead of next month’s Australia Open
  • From today, people in Lebanon are under a 24-hour curfew preventing them from leaving their homes for the next 11 days, with few exemptions. Shopping in supermarkets is no longer allowed, with people having to rely on deliveries

Past Covid-19 infection may provide 'months of immunity'

Most people who have had Covid-19 are protected from catching it again for at least five months, a study led by Public Health England shows.
Past infection gave people 83% protection from reinfection, compared with those who had never had the virus, scientists found.
But experts warn some people do catch Covid-19 again - and can infect others.
And officials stress people should follow the stay-at-home rules whether or not they have had the virus.
Read more .

WHO team arrives in Wuhan to investigate virus origin

After a number of hold-ups and delays, a team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in the Chinese city of Wuhan to investigate the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
The group of 10 scientists will quarantine for two weeks before interviewing people from research institutes, hospitals and the seafood market linked to the initial outbreak in late 2019.
China has faced criticism – notably from the US – over whether it was fully transparent when the virus first emerged there. For months now, Beijing has insisted the origins of the virus came from elsewhere.
Professor Dale Fisher of the WHO told the BBC he hoped the world would consider this a scientific visit. "It's not about politics or blame but getting to the bottom of a scientific question," he said.
Prof Fisher added that most scientists believed that the virus was a "natural event".
You can read more on this story here .

Latest around Europe


  • Former Italian PM Matteo Renzi has triggered a political crisis in the middle of the pandemic, by pulling his ministers out of the government in a row over how to spend billions of euros of EU Covid recovery funding. The current Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte now has to find a way to prop up his coalition.
  • Germany’s public health agency has reported a new daily high of 1,244 deaths in a 24-hour period. The south-western state of Bavaria will next week try to reduce the spread of cases by requiring shoppers or anyone going on public transport to wear an FFP2 facemask, which is both thicker and more expensive.
  • The Dutch cabinet is considering imposing a first Covid curfew to reduce the spread of the virus. A lockdown was imposed last month but a 20:00 to 04:00 ban on movement could come into effect from the weekend, particularly with the aim of stopping young people moving around.
  • Tight curfews are already in place in 25 areas of France, beginning as early as 18:00, and French ministers will consider later whether that should be extended. Prime Minister Jean Castex will reveal the latest strategy at 17:00 GMT today.
  • Spain last night registered a record 38.869 new infections in 24 hours – 53% higher than the day before. The Balearic Islands, Extremadura and Madrid are among the areas with high rates of infection. Heavy snow has added to the crisis in recent days, with staffing problems and increased medical emergencies.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:09

Pharmacies in England start Covid vaccinations

Some High Street pharmacies in England will start vaccinating people from priority groups today, with 200 providing jabs in the next two weeks.
Six chemists in Halifax, Macclesfield, Widnes, Guildford, Edgware and Telford are the first to offer appointments to those invited by letter.
But pharmacists say many more sites should be allowed to give the jab, not just the largest ones.
More than 2.6 million people in the UK have now received their first dose.
The vaccines - made by either Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech - are already being administered at hospitals, care homes, GP surgeries and vaccination centres.
Read the full story here or our explainer has more on how the vaccine is being rolled out in the UK.

Virus-hit Brit blamed for cancellation of famous ski race

Imogen Foulkes - BBC News, Geneva

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The Lauberhorn course is the longest downhill run in the world

A British tourist has been blamed for a spike in coronavirus cases that led officials to cancel Switzerland's famous Lauberhorn ski race.
The resort of Wengen, where the race is held, had recorded only 10 cases of the virus by mid-December.
But the number soon began to rise and many cases have since been linked to the new highly infectious variant of Covid-19 first identified in the UK.
At least 27 cases are connected to one British tourist, contact tracers say.
The tourist stayed in a hotel in Wengen over the holiday period.
The Lauberhorn course is the longest downhill run in the world, and racers can reach speeds of 160km/h (100 mph).
Read more here .
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:16

Africa secures 270m Covid-19 vaccine doses

The African Union (AU) says it has secured a provisional 270 million doses of vaccines for Covid-19 for the continent.
This is on top of 600 million doses expected through the WHO’s global Covax effort which aims to provide vaccines to lower-income countries.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, current AU head, said there were fears the doses coming through Covax would only be enough to inoculate a fifth of the continent's population.
But it may be a while before any of them get to Africa with negotiations ongoing over the procurement of the vaccines and questions around the continent’s readiness to receive them, the BBC’s Senior Africa correspondent Anne Soy notes.
Although infection numbers and death rates are comparatively lower across most of Africa, cases are spiking again in some areas.
A new variant of Covid-19 in South Africa is causing particular alarm and makes up most of the new cases.
You can read more on this story here .

'Grace period' for new England travel rule


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Regulations requiring arrivals to England to show proof of a negative test will still come into force on Friday as planned, but there will be a "grace period in terms of fines being administered over the weekend", a minister says.
"We’ve listened to the concerns that people have voiced about people returning home not knowing what the rules are," Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins tells BBC Breakfast.
Asked about what the government is doing to prevent the spread of a new Brazilian variant of the virus, she says "steps are in progress to control that variant as decisively as we have in relation to other variants we have seen from Denmark and South Africa".
A government committee is meeting later today to discuss whether to stop flights from Brazil coming to the UK because of concerns over the new variant.
You can read more about changes to rules over travelling to the UK here.
Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:21

Frank Turner's renewed fight to save the 'magic of live music'


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"Drinking a beer and watching some live music is a magic, magic thing and I miss it terribly," says Frank Turner

Music venues across the UK have remained largely silent for the past nine months as the coronavirus pandemic has forced them to keep their doors closed. As the unwanted anniversary of a year without live music approaches for some, musician Frank Turner is once again picking up his guitar to help.
"If you had told me back in March last year that this issue was going to go on for this long I would have been very depressed," says Turner.
When amplifiers and microphones fell silent in 2020, the folk-punk singer livestreamed 14 free gigs from his home in aid of small independent venues he has performed at in the past - raising nearly £200,000 in donations.
Now, as the third lockdown bites, Turner is restarting his weekly shows in support of the Music Venue Trust's #Savethe30 campaign to help UK venues identified "at imminent danger of permanent closure".
Read the full story here.

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Turner performed to a socially distanced audience at the Clapham Grand in July 2020
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:25

Pharmacies 'ideal' for getting vaccine locally


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Six High Street pharmacies in England are starting to vaccinate people from priority groups today, with plans for 200 to provide jabs in the next two weeks .
Derek Mersh was the first person to be vaccinated at a Superdrug store in Guildford this morning, along with his wife Irene.
He says he was pleased to get the opportunity to get the jab, telling BBC Breakfast: "It’s tough because we’re bored and fed up with sitting at home with nowhere to go. But most importantly we’re doing as we’re told.”
Irene, whose granddaughter works as a doctor on an intensive care unit, says it is "vitally important" people realise "this is a very serious disease" and are vaccinated.
She says a pharmacy setting is ideal for some people.
"They won’t have very far to go… they’ll know the pharmacy and I think that’s more reassuring," she says.
"Obviously the big centres are very important where a huge number of people get done, but for people who don’t want to travel or can’t drive this is ideal.”
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:27

Circus star Gerry Cottle dies with coronavirus


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Gerry Cottle (centre), pictured in 1994, found fame in the 1970s with the touring Gerry Cottle Circus

Circus owner Gerry Cottle has died aged 75 after contracting coronavirus, his agent says.
He found fame in the 1970s with his touring Gerry Cottle Circus and also presented the Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus in Britain.
His agent Mark Borkowski says he was "the last of the great circus showmen".
Cottle, who died in hospital in Bath earlier in the week, retired from the circus in 2003 and bought the Somerset tourist attraction, Wookey Hole.
Borkowski says in a statement: "Gerry was a loving family man who is survived by his wife Betty and three daughters and a son, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren."
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:30

Lebanon begins round-the-clock curfew

Martin Patience - BBC Middle East correspondent, Beirut

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Beirut's Corniche was empty after the start of the curfew at 05:00 local time

For the next 11 days at least most of Lebanon will be in complete lockdown, after the number of new infections in the country surged to among the highest rates in the world.
Schools, restaurants and even supermarkets will be closed - instead customers will have to rely upon deliveries.
The authorities say the drastic action is needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has overwhelmed Lebanon’s healthcare system.
However, the curfew will worsen the country’s economic collapse.
Charities are warning that almost half the population do not have enough cash to buy food to see them through until the end of the lockdown period.
Lebanon’s dire economic situation has also affected the importation of medical supplies.
So far, more than 1,600 Lebanese have died from Covid-19. The toll is expected to rise sharply in the coming days.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:33

Breaking News

Numbers waiting for hospital treatment in England hit record high

A total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November 2020, the highest number since records began.
The figure is up from 4.42 million in November 2019 and 4.45 million in October that year - the previous highest number since the data was first recorded in August 2007.
The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England was 192,169 in November 2020 - the highest number for any calendar month since May 2008 - according to the figures from NHS England.
In November 2019, that number stood at just 1,398.
And the total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 27% in November compared with a year ago.

Covid has 'calamitous impact' on operation wait times

Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said the record number of patients waiting for hospital treatment showed "the calamitous impact of Covid-19 on wait times for operations".
"For thousands of people in this country a corrective operation is the best way to relieve debilitating pain and get them back up on their feet, back to work and enjoying life again," he said.
"A huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown.
"When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment to treat all those who have been waiting patiently for treatment."

Ambulance wait times in England rise


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More than 5,000 patients waited longer than an hour to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff at hospitals in England last week, according to figures from NHS England.
In the week to 10 January, a total of 5,513 delays of over 60 minutes were recorded across all acute trusts.
It is the highest weekly figure so far this winter, up slightly from 5,318 delays in the previous week.
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust reported the highest number for an individual trust that week (291 delays of more than 60 minutes), followed by Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (254) and the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (180).
A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance. They may have been moved into an A&E department, but staff were not available to complete the handover.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:37

Brazilian mayor elected while in coma dies of Covid

The Brazilian city of Goiânia is mourning the death of its mayor, Maguito Vilela, from complications related to Covid-19.
Fellow politicians and members of the football club he supported have expressed their condolences on social media.
Vilela was elected in November while he was in an induced coma on a ventilator in hospital. He did not find out he'd won the election until his son told him once the 71-year-old had woken up from the coma.
Maguito Vilela's family had already been hit hard by coronavirus when he was taken to hospital in October. His two older sisters had died from Covid-related complications within 10 days of each other.
Brazil is one of the worst-affected countries in the world with the second highest death toll after the United States.

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Brazil has the second highest number of Covid-related deaths worldwide

Brazilian health officials are expected to meet on Sunday to decide on whether to allow two vaccines - the one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and another by China's Sinovac - for emergency use. If approved, vaccines could be offered three to five days later, health officials said.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:39

Breaking News

Positive test for Andy Murray puts Australian Open hopes in doubt


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Andy Murray has tested positive for coronavirus, putting his participation in the Australian Open in doubt.
The British tennis star was supposed to travel to Australia for the grand slam, which starts on 8 February, on a charter flight put on by the tournament's organisers.
But he is currently self-isolating at home, says our sports news correspondent Chris McLaughlin.
It's understood the former world number one is in good health and is hoping to be able to travel to Australia at a later date.
Murray recently pulled out of an ATP tournament in Florida to reduce the chance of catching the virus ahead of the Australian Open.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 11:46

Birmingham hospital trust temporarily suspends kidney transplants

One of England's largest hospital trusts has temporarily suspended kidney transplants due to Covid pressures.

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The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust's renal transplantation team said in a tweet : "Due to the critical situation with Covid-19 in our area, we are temporarily suspending our waiting list patients for 14 days and pausing kidney transplantation in Birmingham.
"We will keep this under regular review and update when we have more information."

China sees surge in Covid-19 cases and first death for months

As we mentioned earlier, a team of scientists from the WHO has arrived in China to investigate the origins of Covid-19 – and it comes as the country is tackling a surge of new cases.
The National Health Commission reported 138 new infections on Thursday, the highest single-day tally since March last year, the AFP reports.
A woman with underlying health conditions also became the first person for several months to die from the virus in China.
The infections are centred on the north-east provinces of Hebei, just outside Beijing, and Heilongjiang, which borders Russia.
While the numbers are small compared to cases overwhelming many other countries, they have sparked concern in China – particularly as the rise comes weeks before hundreds of millions of people are due to travel for the Lunar New Year.
Meanwhile, the WHO says two of its scientists were unable to travel to Wuhan because they tested positive for virus antibodies before boarding the flight from Singapore.
The team of 13 were met by Chinese officials in hazmat suits and tested for the virus upon their arrival. They are now undergoing a two-week quarantine in a hotel before beginning their work.

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The WHO scientists have to quarantine for two weeks
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 12:12

Woman picks nans as bridesmaids after Covid rules hit wedding


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Mary Kennedy (left), 90, and Gillian Holloway, 80, played a big part in their granddaughter Megan's wedding in October

When Megan Kennedy and Thomas Cahoon got engaged, they got straight into planning a big wedding.
They sent out the invites, excitedly booked red buses to take their guests to the venue and Megan picked her bridesmaids. All ten of them.
But coronavirus meant they had to postpone the celebration - and eventually invited just 15 guests.
So Megan scrapped her original plans and had her two nans as bridesmaids instead.
When she first asked them, Gillian Holloway, 80, and Mary Kennedy, 90 said the idea was "a bit stupid".
"They were like, 'we're too old to be bridesmaids'", Megan told Radio 1 Newsbeat.
The bridesmaids didn't wear matching dresses, but they did have bouquets and walked down the aisle together.
Read the full story here .

And if Mary and Gillian's story made you smile, here are a few more articles you might enjoy:
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 12:15

Exercise alone, says Patel - despite rules allowing meet-ups


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The home secretary has said people should exercise alone during England's current lockdown - a harsher restriction than the current rules allow.
The government's stay at home rules for England say you can exercise in a public outdoor place once a day, in your local area, and can be:

  • by yourself
  • with the people you live with
  • with your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one)
  • in a childcare bubble where providing childcare
  • or, when on your own, with one person from another household

Asked whether the rules were clear, Priti Patel told ITV's This Morning: "The clarity is exercising on your own and not socialising.
"The point to make about any exercise - yes, it should be local, people exercise differently. But exercise on your own and don't use it for a social meeting."
She added that "cycling is fine" to do but "you should not be cycling with other cyclists", and running and walking were also fine if "on your own".
Earlier this week Patel misspoke about another aspect of the rules around exercise. At a Downing Street news conference she said "outdoor recreation" was allowed in a "restricted and limited way". Aides later said she meant to say "exercise", not "outdoor recreation" - which is currently prohibited.

Patel also reiterated the government wants to focus on enforcing the UK's current coronavirus lockdown measures, rather than bringing in further restrictions.
It comes after a tightening of rules was announced for Scotland - with new measures including a ban on click-and-collect shopping for non-essential retailers.
Asked whether further restrictions could include a three-metre social distancing rule or the requirement to wear masks outside, she said: "The plans are very much to enforce the [current] rules... we are not thinking about bringing in new measures today or tomorrow."
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 12:19

'One in 10' US lawmakers have had Covid-19


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Members of Congress had to evacuate the chambers when the rioters broke in

At least 60 members of the US Congress – more than one in 10 – have either tested positive or are believed to have had coronavirus since the pandemic began, the New York Times reports .
The list includes 44 Republicans and 16 Democrats in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
The newspaper calculates that the overall infection rate among the lawmakers surpasses the national known infection rate of 6.5%, although that does not include cases likely to have gone undetected in the general population.
At least three US Democrat lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus since sheltering for hours with colleagues during last week’s deadly assault on the Capitol.
They have accused some Republican lawmakers of refusing to wear masks while they were huddled together.
Video footage has emerged that appears to show several lawmakers refusing facemasks offered to them. Pictures also show one of the lawmakers who tested positive - Pramila Jayapal – without a mask at one point.
The New York Times says most Congress members who have tested positive have done so since the 3 November election, as coronavirus cases surged across the US.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 12:23

More than 330,000 in England waiting more than six weeks for key tests


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More than 330,000 patients in England had been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in November - compared with just 31,104 in the same month the previous year.
A total of 330,346 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy.
However, the number has fallen in recent months, after peaking at 571,500 in May last year.
You can read more on the NHS figures released this morning here.

Over-50s rush to book holidays as vaccine boosts confidence

Simon Browning - Business Reporter

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Coach and tour operators have seen an unexpected growth in bookings in the past fortnight.
Industry figures have put the rise down to growing "vaccine confidence" about 2021.
It is a small amount of sunshine for the travel industry, which has had a tough year, with tens of thousands of jobs lost in the UK.
TUI, the UK's largest tour operator, says 50% of bookings on its website are currently by over-50s, which was previously a smaller market for the company.
National Express's coach holiday businesses say bookings made by those 65 and over have increased by 185% in the last fortnight compared with last year.
Read more .
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 12:27

Hospitals in Wales' hardest-hit area pause some urgent surgery

We've heard a lot about pressure on hospitals in England this morning, but the area of south Wales with a higher Covid death rate than anywhere else in either of the two nations is reporting problems too.
Cwm Taf Morgannwg's hospitals in are only coping by postponing urgent surgery such as cancer operations, the local medical director says.
Cwm Taf Morgannwg had already suspended some non-emergency services but it has now paused some urgent procedures as well.
Cwm Taf covers Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil, which have the highest and second highest Covid death rates.
It comes as NHS bosses said the number of Covid patients in Welsh hospitals is double April's peak.
Read more .


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Analysis: Brazil Covid variant will not be the last

Rachel Schraer - BBC Health Reporter
Ministers are meeting to decide whether to ban travel to the UK from Brazil - and possibly other South American countries - after the discovery of a coronavirus variant in the Amazonas state.
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.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 13:10

Numbers testing positive reach record levels in England

A total of 388,037 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in the week to 6 January, according to the latest NHS Test and Trace figures.
The number is up 21% on the previous week and is the highest weekly total since the service began in May last year.
Just 31.5% of people who were tested that week at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit - known as "in-person" tests - received their result within 24 hours.
This compares with 33% the previous week and 64.9% in the week to 2 December.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had promised that by the end of June 2020 the results of all in-person tests would be returned within 24 hours.
Of the 388,257 people transferred to the Test and Trace system that week, 86.6% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts - slightly up from 85.8% in the previous week.

'It's not 100% protective'

A study has found that most people who have had Covid-19 are protected from catching it again for at least five months.
The research, carried out by Public Health England, says past infection gives individuals 83% immunity.
Prof Susan Hopkins, who led the study, says the results are encouraging but protection was by no means absolute. Some people do catch Covid-19 again - and can infect others.

Scotland reports 64 further Covid deaths

A further 1,707 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland, with 64 more deaths in the past 24 hours.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who shared the figures at her daily coronavirus briefing, said the number of people in hospital with Covid has risen to 1,829, "significantly above" the peak of around 1,500 patients during the first wave of the virus.
While there are early signs that case numbers may be beginning to stabilise, the first minister asked everyone to go further than simply adhering to the rules.
The question we should ask ourselves, she said, is not "can I do this?", but "should I?".
Follow more live updates from the briefing here.
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WHO team 'using quarantine to plan investigation'

The 13 scientists who have arrived in China as part of the WHO investigation into the origins of Covid-19 will spend their two weeks in quarantine planning who they will need to talk to.

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The WHO team will visit the Wuhan market where the outbreak was first detected

Professor Fabian Leendertz of Germany’s public health body, the Robert Koch Institute, is also part of the wider WHO team and said he would participate in video calls from his home in Berlin.
“The Wuhan market [where the virus was first detected] is obviously on the list," he told BBC World TV. "They will meet Chinese colleagues working on these viruses.”
He said the aim of the mission is to establish what data is available and what is still needed to “have all parts of the puzzle ready to develop a good picture of how the jump of the virus from animal to human happened”.
He said everybody was interested in finding out what happened “because it is only when you know how this epidemic started can you also identify ways to reduce the risk of these things happening again in future”.

Moscow to reopen schools as 'kids tired of being at home'

Sergei Goryashko, BBC Russian, Moscow
The mayor of Moscow has announced that secondary schools in the Russian capital will reopen from 18 January. School children will have their travel cards unblocked and will be able to take the underground and other means of public transport at concession rates.
Mayor Sergei Sobyanin pointed out that with fewer people travelling across the city over the long New Year and Christmas holiday period, “many chains of infection have been broken”. At the same time, he says, hospital admissions of Covid patients remain high.
“It was not an easy decision to take. But the kids are tired of staying at home,” the Moscow mayor said.
Secondary schools will be closely monitored; if at least one pupil in a class tests positive, the rest will be switched to online studying.
A mass vaccination programme is underway in Russia with over 1.5 million Sputnik V doses administered. The number of daily increases in cases has dropped somewhat since late December and is hovering around 25,000 new infections per day.
According to official data, nearly 64,000 people have died from Covid in Russia since the start of the pandemic.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 16:56

Wales reports 54 more virus deaths

A further 54 people have died with coronavirus in Wales, Public Health Wales has reported.
It takes the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic to 4,117.
There were also 1,644 new Covid infections reported in Wales in the past day, taking the total number of cases to 176,056.
Public Health Wales is now also providing daily updates of the number of people who have had a vaccine, which currently stands at 112,973.


Australia to kill racing pigeon that survived 8,000-mile journey


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A pigeon that travelled across the Pacific Ocean is to be put down after running afoul of Australia's strict quarantine rules.
The bird reportedly went missing during a race in the US state of Oregon in late October, before turning up in Melbourne almost two months later.
But officials say the pigeon, which has been named Joe, poses a "direct biosecurity risk" to Australia's bird population and poultry industry.
The bird will be caught and euthanised.
It is not clear how the bird managed to make the 8,000-mile journey from the west coast of the US to southern Australia, but officials believe he is likely to have hitchhiked on board a cargo vessel.
Read more on the story here
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'World's largest human gathering' begins in pandemic


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Coronavirus restrictions are in place as thousands of Hindu pilgrims gather on the banks of India’s Ganges river for one of their most auspicious events, the Kumbh Mela.
The event, billed as the world's largest human gathering, normally attracts tens of thousands of Hindus to bathe in the river - a ritual to help them attain "moksha", setting them free from the cycle of birth and death.

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This year officials have tried to limit numbers by warning people they must have had a negative Covid test before travelling, wear masks and maintain social distancing. Elite National Security Guard commandoes have been deployed.
But observers at the event in the northern holy town of Haridwar in Uttarakhand state said few people were following the rules as they gathered to bathe on the first day.

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India has the second highest number of Covid cases in the world after the US but far fewer fatalities than other nations, and is not in lockdown.
You can read more on this story here .
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 17:09

Students prepare to strike over accommodation rent


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Bangor student Michelle Francis says students have hardly used rooms and are not able to use facilities on campus

Hundreds of university students in Wales are preparing to take part in rent strikes after paying for "hardly used" rooms during the pandemic.
Some universities have already offered refunds to students who have been living away due to Covid-19 , but students in Cardiff, Swansea and Bangor claim they are being treated unfairly and are threatening to withhold rent.
Growing numbers of students in England have also pledged to withhold rent .
Some have said they should not have to pay full fees with so much of their learning being forced online - while others have described getting no support or feedback from lecturers.
Lawyers warned students in Wales that they could face legal action for not paying - with long-term implications possible if they lose.

'Will I be one of thousands of cancer patients who will die before their time?'

The number of people facing year-long waits for routine treatments is now more than 100 times higher than it was before the pandemic.
Cancer experts are warning the disruption to their services was "terrifying" and would cost lives.
Paul, 57, from Manchester, told the BBC his radiotherapy treatment for cancer was cancelled at the start of January.
His tumour - between his lungs and above his heart - cannot be operated on because it is being fed by two arteries so doctors can only stop it growing.
He had been waiting for radiotherapy since 2020.
"Will I be one of thousands of cancer patients who will die before their time because the NHS is prioritising Covid-19 over cancer patients?
"I'm a strong person but I've been broken down. My family are all rooting for me but I can't see them.
"Because it's cancer it's stressful. I'm just constantly feeling anxiety."
More on this story.
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Latest from the UK and around the world

If you're just joining us, here's a quick summary of the main stories so far today:


Covid case rates fall in most areas of England - PHE

Covid-19 case rates have fallen in most regions of England, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England (PHE)
In London, which continues to have the highest rate of any region, the rate of new cases was 864.9 per 100,000 people in the week to 10 January, down from 1,043.9 in the previous week.
The other regions recording a week-on-week fall are the East Midlands, eastern, north-east and south-east England and Yorkshire & the Humber.
However, north-west and south-west England, along with the West Midlands recorded a week-on-week increase.
Case rates are falling among all age groups except for people aged 80 and over, PHE said.
The highest rate continues to be among 20 to 29-year-olds - at 879.7 cases per 100,000 people.
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Gatwick: Norwegian axes 1,000 jobs at airport in long haul cuts

Budget airline Norwegian says it has axed its long-haul network due to the "profound" impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry.
The move will lead to the loss of 1,100 pilot and cabin crew jobs based at Gatwick Airport.
Norwegian's chief executive Jacob Schram says: "By focusing our operation on a short-haul network, we aim to attract existing and new investors, serve our customers and support the wider infrastructure and travel industry.
"Our focus is to rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible."
A Gatwick spokeswoman says the airport will remain "an important part" of Norwegian's future plans.
"The demand for slots at Gatwick - both long and short-haul - remains very strong," the spokeswoman adds.
We've got some background into Norwegian's journey and our expert analysis here.

What’s happening in China’s Hebei?

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
We mentioned earlier that cases were rising in China. In the last 24 hours, the north-east province of Hebei has confirmed that it has registered more than 500 symptomatic cases of Covid-19 since cases were first detected on 2 January.
Hundreds more have also tested positive without symptoms.
The first 12 patients in this localised outbreak have already been cured and discharged . However, Hebei has also recorded the first death in China since 17 May – a woman with underlying health conditions.
Top government meetings have been cancelled as a result of growing cases in the region, and in recent days, three cities have gone into lockdown.
As transport in and out of the province is now severely restricted, emergency hotlines are now being set up across Hebei that people can call if they are stranded or in need of emergency assistance.
The majority of Covid-19 cases are in the city of Shijiazhuang, which has a population of some 11 million people. And the city is anticipating more cases in the coming days; work has now begun to build 3,000 makeshift housing units , which will “be used as quarantine venues for Covid-19 patients”.
Aid is also increasingly being sent from outside the province. At least four provincial-level regions have donated food and medical supplies in the last week. And there has been a surge of people outside the province visiting blood banks after Shijiazhuang announced that the outbreak had left its hospitals in urgent need of blood platelets, which have a short lifespan.
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Hospital arranges Covid couple's 'final meeting'


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An elderly couple with coronavirus have been helped by a hospital to say their last goodbyes to each other.
Gerry and Barbara Jarrett, from Bracknell, Berkshire, are in separate wards at Frimley Park Hospital, Surrey.
Posting a picture of their reunion on Twitter, their daughter Chloe Keljarrett says it was arranged due to her mother's deteriorating condition.
Mrs Keljarrett says her parents, who have been together for 50 years, were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 two weeks ago.
She says: "Dad was wheeled in, crying, touched her hand and her eyes flew open. She was awake and bright and could talk.
"We got a precious extra hour or two before her breathing got worse again and got to say what we wanted.
"All thanks to the staff who made these meetings possible. In current times I just find that incredible."
You can read more on this story here.

'Stay home' appeal as cases rise on Isle of Barra


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About 1,000 people live on the Isle of Barra, in the Outer Hebrides

People on the Isle of Barra, in Scotland's Outer Hebrides, have been urged to leave home only if "absolutely essential", amid a rising number of coronavirus cases.
NHS Western Isles has confirmed 10 positive cases on the island - which has a population of around 1,000 - with two of the people affected receiving hospital treatment.
Chief executive Gordon Jamieson said it was a "rapidly developing situation", adding: "We would appeal to everyone, particularly the residents of Barra, to limit their contact with other households and only to leave home if absolutely essential."
As part of the Western Isles, Barra is currently under level three coronavirus restrictions, meaning in-house socialising is not allowed, but people can currently meet one other household indoors in a public place such as a café or restaurant, and outdoors in a private garden or in public area such as a park.
Read the full story here.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 17:43

Opening of Nintendo's first theme park delayed by Covid-19

The opening of Nintendo's first theme park has been delayed because of rising coronavirus cases in Japan.
Super Nintendo World, modelled on levels of the company's Mario games, had been due to open on 4 February.
But Japan has expanded its state of emergency, due to last until at least 7 February, beyond Tokyo to include Osaka prefecture, where the park is located.
The opening, at Universal Studios Japan, had already been postponed from mid-2020 because of the pandemic.
Read more on the story here .

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An aerial view of Super Nintendo World

Hundreds of Met Police officers offer to drive London ambulances

Police officers are being trained to drive ambulances to help the London Ambulance Service cope with unprecedented demand caused by the pandemic.
Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick says although only 75 officers were needed initially, hundreds have offered to volunteer.
"They are skilled police drivers, they’re good decision makers and I'm really pleased that we are able to help the LAS at this incredibly difficult time in this way," she adds.

LAS confirmed the officers began training yesterday.
It added all of the officers have basic first aid skills and know the streets of London well - making them "ideal" volunteers.
The officers will join 185 firefighters to help drive ambulances in the capital.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 17:53

Belfast St Patrick's Day parade cancelled for second year in a row

Belfast's annual St Patrick's Day parade and concert have been cancelled due to the pandemic, the city's council has confirmed.
It is the second year in a row festivities - celebrated on 17 March - have been called off due to coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Derry City and Strabane District Council said St Patrick's Day celebrations are currently "under review". Both councils cancelled their parades in 2020.
A Belfast City Council spokesman said members had agreed to develop an "alternative programme of activity" to mark the day, which would depend on restrictions at the time, adding that "the delivery and format of these events is being kept under review".
Read more .

Breaking News 

South America-UK travel ban after discovery of Brazil variant

Travel from most of South America to the UK has been banned following the discovery of a new coronavirus variant in Brazil.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the move was an "urgent decision" and would take effect at 04:00 GMT tomorrow.
We'll bring you more information as we get it.
Tweet  Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP:

I’ve taken the urgent decision to BAN ARRIVALS from ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, BOLIVIA, CAPE VERDE, CHILE, COLOMBIA, ECUADOR, FRENCH GUIANA, GUYANA, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PERU, SURINAME, URUGUAY AND VENEZUELA – from TOMORROW, 15 JAN at 4AM following evidence of a new variant in Brazil.
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Snow causes Covid vaccine and testing centre closures

A coronavirus vaccination centre in Yorkshire has closed along with hundreds of schools as heavy snow hit the region.
Patients awaiting a jab at the Priory Campus in Lundwood, Barnsley, were urged not to travel and to await new appointments.
Testing centres in Kirklees and Bradford also suspended operations due to the weather.
A yellow Met Office warning for snow and ice is in force until 21:00 GMT.

Tweet  NHS Barnsley CCG:

URGENT, SNOW IMPACT: Priory Campus Vaccination Service Thursday 14/1/21 Due to the significant amount of snow across the borough, appointments at the vaccination service at Priory Campus, Lundwood have been cancelled from 3pm today.
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UK travel ban to contain Brazil variant extends to Portugal


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Portugal was one of dozens of countries to impose a ban on UK arrivals in December over concerns about the UK's new coronavirus variant

More now on the news that ministers have decided to ban people from travelling from South America to the UK, in response to the new coronavirus variant discovered in Brazil.
On top of the 13 South American countries included in the ban, the transport secretary says arrivals will also be banned from Cape Verde, Panama and Portugal.
Grant Shapps says Portugal was on the list "given its strong travel links with Brazil".
Shapps says hauliers travelling from Portugal would be exempt from the rules, to allow transport of essential goods.
The new rule also does not apply to British and Irish nationals, and third country nationals with residence rights, he says, but passengers returning from those destinations - and members of their household - will have to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival.
Read our breaking news story here.
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First refugee vaccinations commence in Jordan


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Anyone living in Jordan, including refugees, is entitled to receive a vaccine free of charge

Jordan has become one of the world's first countries to start Covid-19 vaccinations for UN-registered refugees.
Raia al-Kabasi, an Iraqi refugee living in Irbid, was the first refugee to receive the vaccine.
“We just want life to be back to normal. The vaccine is the right way of doing this,” she said.
More than 750,000 refugees are registered with the UN in Jordan - the second highest number in the world in comparison to its population. The vast majority are from Syria, but there are also thousands of Iraqis, Yemenis and Sudanese.
As part of Jordan’s national vaccination programme which started on Wednesday, anyone living there, including refugees and asylum seekers, is entitled to receive a shot free of charge.
“Once again Jordan has shown exemplary leadership and solidarity in hosting refugees. The country has included refugees in every aspect of the public health response to the pandemic... proving how it should be done if we are to keep everyone safe,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

How worrying are the UK, South Africa, and Brazil Covid variants?

Michelle Roberts - Health editor, BBC News online
New variants of coronavirus are emerging that are more infectious than the original one that started the pandemic.
Experts' concerns currently focus on a small number of new variants of coronavirus:

  • A UK variant that has become dominant in much of Britain and has spread to more than 50 other countries
  • A South Africa variant that has also been found in at least 20 other countries, including the UK
  • A new variant from Brazil

There is currently no evidence to suggest that any of them cause more serious illness.
The current vaccines were designed around earlier variants, but scientists are confident that they should still work against the new ones, although perhaps not quite as well.
Even in the worst case scenario, the vaccines could be redesigned and tweaked to be a better match - in a matter or weeks or months, if necessary, say experts.
I've put together a guide of everything you need to know about the new variants and what is being done to fight them.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 18:16

New variant 'of concern', Brazilian expert says

A new coronavirus variant discovered in four people who had travelled from Brazil's Amazon region to Japan is "of concern", a Brazilian expert say.
Felipe Naveca, the lead investigator for the new variant at the state-run Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, said that its origin "undoubtedly was in Amazon state".
He told the BBC's South America correspondent Katy Watson that it had evolved separately from those in the UK and South Africa, but that it showed some of the same mutations.
"Some of these mutations have been linked to increased transmission and that is of concern."
Naveca said that there was not yet any data to suggest that existing vaccines would be any less effective on the new variant. "We have to do a lot more sequencing of samples to answer that question."
As for stopping its spread, Naveca's advice is simple: "We have to stop the virus from circulating, because we're giving it the opportunity to evolve," he said, urging people to wear masks and wash their hands.

France announces 6pm curfew

France has just imposed a 6pm nationwide virus curfew.
Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference that the curfew will remain in place for at least 15 days.
Most of France was subject to an 8pm curfew imposed in mid-December.
From Monday, travellers arriving in France from non-European Union destinations will have to present a negative Covid test less than 72 hours old, the PM also announced.
Those returning must self-isolate for seven days.

UK reports 48,682 further Covid cases

By this point in the day we would normally expect to have heard the UK's daily coronavirus figures - on new cases, deaths, hospital admissions and vaccinations.
However, the latest update has been delayed due to an "issue with the processing of deaths data", the government dashboard says.
Public Health England has therefore published data on the new confirmed cases of the virus in the UK itself - today's figure is 48,682.
That's up on yesterday's figure of 47,525.
The seven-day average for daily new cases was, as of yesterday, 53,539.
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 18:27

'Wall to wall with people' on London underground

Tom Edwards - Transport Correspondent, BBC London

Tube drivers in London are becoming increasingly concerned at the number of people using the network during the current lockdown.
I was sent footage of a busy platform at Canning Town station, in east London, this morning (see above).
Transport for London (TfL) says today's overcrowding was because of trains being cancelled due to staff absence, and that incidents like this are not common.
But overcrowding incidents during the pandemic have happened before, including earlier this week, and east London is the busiest part of the Tube network first thing with many construction workers who live there needing to travel - legitimately - to sites in central London.
TfL is trying to encourage construction companies to stagger their starts.
The Tube is running at 20% pre-pandemic passenger levels, but as the government continues to allow building sites to stay open, pinch points remain a big issue.
Commuters tell me the Jubilee line was horrendous this morning and action is needed to stop it being repeated.
The RMT union for transport workers adds that its members are being put at risk and there should be better crowd management at pinch points.


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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 20:12

'Being stranded is not a nice feeling'


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A ban on travellers to the UK from South America has left one family fearing it could leave them stranded abroad for months.
The restriction comes into force at 04:00 GMT on Friday amid fears of a new Covid variant identified in Brazil.
British and Irish citizens and foreign nationals with residence rights will still be able to travel but must isolate for 10 days.
However many flights have now been cancelled.
Jon Den travelled to Brazil with his wife Carla, 32, in October so that her family - who live in Goiania - could meet their one-year-old daughter Luiza for the first time.
The couple, who live in Wolverhampton, are due to fly back to the UK on 6 February but Jon now fears they may be stuck out there for months due to the travel ban.
"We had planned to visit in February 2020 but we had to postpone because of the lockdown and that was rough on my wife, she suffered a lot," the 31-year-old says.
"Now I think my mum is suffering as she's expecting Luiza to be back, but who knows now?
"My initial reaction was worry because it's so unknown. The thought of not being able to return home and being stranded is not a nice feeling.
"I'm hoping British residents will be able to get home but I don't know if the government will organise flights. I think it's a long shot. I hope we can get home and not be stranded out here for months.
"We've got to be patient but at the same time flexible."
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Post by Kitkat Thu Jan 14 2021, 20:16

A recap of the day's events

We're going to wrap up the live page soon so here's a brief recap of some of today's coronavirus headlines.

  • Travel from most of South America and Portugal to the UK will be banned from 04:00 GMT Friday after the discovery of a new variant in Brazil
  • Globally, there have been more than 92 million registered Covid cases and almost two million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University
  • A total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November - the highest since records began
  • The Royal College of Surgeons says the newly-released figures show the calamitous impact of coronavirus
  • Footballer Marcus Rashford has joined celebrity chefs and charities in writing to the prime minister to call for a wider review into the government's free school meals policy
  • It comes after government said food will be provided to children in February half term by councils using the Covid Winter Grant Scheme, rather than through schools
  • A team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in the Chinese city of Wuhan to investigate the origins of coronavirus as the country sees another surge in cases
  • In France a new national evening curfew will begin on Saturday - starting at 6pm
  • And in happier news, a mother who gave birth 10 days after discovering she was pregnant says she mistook her growing baby bump for lockdown weight gain


Thank you and goodbye

That's it for now.
Today's live page was brought to you by Alice Evans, Becky Morton, George Wright, James Clarke, Jennifer Meierhans, Penny Spiller, Sarah Fowler and Suzanne Leigh.

Join us tomorrow for more coronavirus updates.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 21:02