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Coronavirus - 15th January 2021

Kitkat
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 09:57

Summary for Friday, 15th January

  • Travellers from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde are barred from entering UK, amid fears over a new virus variant
  • Scientists say its mutations seem to be associated with a rapid increase in cases
  • Minister Grant Shapps says he does not think the Brazilian variant is in the UK "as far as we are aware"
  • The health system in the Brazilian city of Manaus is said to be collapsing amid soaring infections linked to the new variant
  • The UK economy shrank by 2.6% in November as lockdown restrictions reduced economic activity, official figures show
  • US President-elect Joe Biden has announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to tackle the pandemic and revive the economy
  • Around the world, more the 93 million Covid cases have been confirmed and nearly 2 million deaths


What's happening around the world?

Thanks for joining us today. Here is an update of the latest developments from around the world.

  • President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9tn (£1.4tn) stimulus plan for the United States as the pandemic saps the economy
  • If passed by Congress, it would include $1tn for households, with direct payments of $1,400 to all Americans. The relief proposal includes $415bn to fight the virus and $440bn for small businesses
  • Hospitals in the city of Manaus, in Brazil, have reached breaking point while treating Covid-19 patients, amid reports of severe oxygen shortages and desperate staff. Health professionals warned "many people" could die due to lack of supplies and assistance
  • Experts warn a new variant of coronavirus, first detected in Manaus, could be driving a rapid rise in infections there
  • France has announced a new national curfew starting at 18:00 (17:00 GMT) on Saturday
  • Portugal has announced new lockdown measures. Remote working will be compulsory and non-essential shops and services must close, but schools will remain open
  • A man has been executed in the United States after the Supreme Court rejected a ruling that he should be allowed to fully recover from Covid-19. Corey Johnson, who was executed by lethal injection in Indiana, tested positive for the virus last month
  • Israel has now inoculated 2 million people against coronavirus
  • People from the Cook Islands can start quarantine-free travel to New Zealand next week. The Cook Islands is one of the few countries to remain free of coronavirus


What’s happening in the UK?

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


Latest around Europe


  • More than two million Covid cases have now been officially reported in Germany since the start of the pandemic and 1,113 deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours. Chancellor Angela Merkel wants a tougher lockdown, because of the spread of the more infectious UK variant, and has brought forward a Covid summit with Germany’s 16 state leaders to next week. From Monday, Bavaria will require people to wear more effective facemasks with particle filters in shops and buses - and that could be considered nationwide.
  • Elswhere, Portugal has gone into lockdown overnight, at least until 30 January. People are being told to stay at home but schools will remain open as well as outlets providing “essential” goods and services. Vets and bakeries, florists and hotels are among businesses being allowed to stay open.
  • Hungarian PM Viktor Orban is keen to start using China’s Covid vaccine and hopes to get a quick decision from the national medicine authority approving it in a few days. No other EU country has yet accepted the Chinese vaccine.
  • The Austrian ski resort at Kitzbühel is offering Covid tests for the entire district after an outbreak involving a group of 17 ski trainers, many of them British. The cases have prompted two weekends of World Cup skiing to be cancelled and moved to another area.
  • Spain has seen a steep rise in infections since Christmas with almost 19,000 people currently in hospital. But vaccinations are speeding up too in the third week of a national campaign. More than 94,000 people were inoculated yesterday, which is almost as many as in the first week alone.


UK's ban on South America travellers comes into force

Travellers from South America are no longer allowed to come into the UK, amid fears over a new coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil.
Like the variants that were first spotted in the UK and South Africa, it is thought the Brazil variant could be more contagious.
The UK's new travel ban applies to people who have travelled from, or through, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela in the last 10 days.
It also applies to Portugal - because of its strong links to Brazil - and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde off the coast of west Africa, as well as Panama in central America.
However, British and Irish citizens and foreign nationals with residence rights are still allowed to return - but must isolate for 10 days.
Read more here

How worrying are the new variants?

Michelle Roberts - Health editor, BBC News online
Travellers from South America are no longer allowed to come into the UK, amid fears over a new coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil.
It is just the latest variant to emerge that is more infectious than the original one that started the pandemic.
But how worried should we be?
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

It's not unexpected that new variants have developed - all viruses mutate as they make new copies of themselves to spread and thrive.
All three have undergone changes to their spike protein - this is the part of the virus which attaches to human cells.
As a result, these variants seem to be better at infecting cells and spreading.
The South Africa variant has more potentially important changes in the spike protein than the UK variant.
It has one of the same mutations as the UK one, plus two more that scientists think may interfere more with vaccine effectiveness. One of these may help the virus evade parts of the immune system called antibodies.
The Brazil variant emerged in July and was recently detected in four travellers arriving in Japan from Brazil. It has three key mutations in the spike protein that make it similar to the South Africa one.
Read more here.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 10:16

Brazil hospitals 'run out of oxygen' for virus patients

Hospitals in the Brazilian city of Manaus have reached breaking point while treating Covid-19 patients, amid reports of severe oxygen shortages and desperate staff.
The city, in Amazonas state, has seen a rapid rise in deaths and infections.
Health professionals, quoted by local media, warned "many people" could die due to lack of supplies and assistance.
Brazil has recorded more than 205,000 virus deaths - the second-highest tally in the world, behind the US.
Amazonas suffered heavy losses in the first wave of the pandemic but is also being badly hit by a new rise in infections linked to a new variant of the virus.
Jessem Orellana, from the Fiocruz-Amazonia scientific investigation institute, told the AFP news agency that some hospitals in Manaus had "run out of oxygen" with some centres becoming "a type of suffocation chamber" for patients.
In a widely shared video from the region, a female medical worker asks for help: "We're in an awful state. Oxygen has simply run out across the whole unit today."
"There is no oxygen and lots of people are dying," she says in the clip . "If anyone has any oxygen, please bring it to the clinic. There are so many people dying."
Read more here.

UK's ban on South America travellers 'is precautionary'

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has just been talking about the UK’s new ban on travellers from South America.
He tells BBC Breakfast the ban is “precautionary” as the UK is “so close now” with its vaccination programme. The number of people in the UK to have received the first dose of a vaccine is now approaching three million.
“We want to make sure we don’t fall at this last hurdle, so it’s really a precautionary principle,” Shapps says.
He says there is concern the variant first identified in Brazil could be more transmissible and “we don’t need more complications”.
There haven’t been any flights from Brazil to the UK in the last week, he adds, while travellers from these locations would have already had to quarantine – this is an “additional precaution”.

Brazil variant not in UK 'as far as we are aware'

The UK's transport secretary was asked on Radio 4's Today programme whether the Brazilian variant of coronavirus was in the UK now.
"Not as far as we are aware, I think, at this stage," Grant Shapps replied.
"There haven't been any flights that I can see from the last week from Brazil, for example."
He also said: "There are thousands, I think 12,000, different mutations of coronavirus, so this is not unusual in itself."
Read more here
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 10:21

Rashford and top chefs demand school meals review

Concerns about child poverty have been raised throughout the pandemic, with a focus on school food vouchers, holiday meal provision and food parcels.
Now campaigning Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford has been joined by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as well as actress Dame Emma Thompson, in backing charities' calls for a review to "fix" the free school meals policy in England.
Downing Street insists "no child will ever go hungry" because of the pandemic.
Read more here

Pupils' pizza donation leaves nurse 'in tears'

A surprise delivery of pizza from school pupils who clubbed together left staff at a hospital critical care unit in England "lost for words" .
Nurse Tina Waltho says the gift came as a welcome boost to deflated staff at the Royal Stoke University Hospital.
"The nurse who had been in charge on the day shift was in tears," Waltho says.
"She had barely eaten all day and was a little emotional."
While the act drew praise on social media, the identity and school of the pupils remains a mystery.

Breaking News 

Businesses to receive Covid insurance payouts after ruling

Kevin Peachey - Personal finance reporter
Tens of thousands of small businesses are set to receive insurance payouts covering losses in the first national lockdown, following a court ruling.
The Supreme Court found in favour of small firms receiving payments from business interruption insurance policies.
For some, it could provide the lifeline allowing them to trade beyond the coronavirus crisis.
The ruling could cost the insurance sector hundreds of millions of pounds.
In the lockdown of last spring, many small businesses made claims through these insurance policies for loss of earnings when they had to close.
But many insurers refused, arguing only the most specialist policies had cover for such unprecedented restrictions.
It was agreed that a selection of policy wordings be tested in court, setting the parameters for a valid claim.
The Supreme Court dismissed the insurers' appeals.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 10:29

Which countries are under UK travel ban?

Anyone who has been in - or transited through - South America or Portugal in the previous 10 days is now barred from entering the UK, to protect against a new, potentially more contagious variant of coronavirus in Brazil.
Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela are included in the ban.
Portugal is included because of its strong links to Brazil, as is the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde off the coast of west Africa and Panama in central America.
Travel is already banned from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola, the Seychelles and Mauritius.
The rules do not apply to British and Irish nationals, long-term visa holders or those with residency rights - but they must self-isolate, even if they would normally be exempt. Hauliers coming from Portugal are also exempt.
Read more about UK travel restrictions here.

Shapps quizzed on pre-travel test delay

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been asked about the delay in the new rule requiring travellers to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test before departure to England.
The policy was originally scheduled for come into force this morning but will now start on Monday at 04:00 GMT.
"It’s simply a matter of practicality," Shapps told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "There are over 200 countries and territories in the world they all are using different types of coronavirus tests.
"We needed to check them all in order to be able to inform people which ones would be adequate to meet our very exacting standards."
He adds that travellers "from just about anywhere" should be quarantining on arrival anyway, with the pre-departure test "only a secondary check".
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 10:32

Thailand allows visitors to play golf in quarantine

Visitors to Thailand will now be able to spend their time in quarantine playing golf, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Six resorts have been approved by the government for quarantine for foreign golfers with advance arrangements.
Quarantining visitors will be able to move around the resorts and also play golf, rather than just isolate in their rooms.
"The open-air set up and private villas make the propagation of the Covid-19 less likely while attracting a high-contribution clientele," said Benoit Badufle, a luxury tourism expert.
Thailand’s tourism industry has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The country has been attempting to re-open its borders to tourists, including by offering extended 90-day tourist visas, which can be renewed twice.
However, anyone entering Thailand must have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure as well as $100,000 worth of insurance that covers treatment of Covid-19.
Read more here.

China records highest daily infection rate since March

China has reported its highest single-day infection tally since 1 March.
A total of 144 new infections were reported by the National Health Commission on Friday, mostly in Hebei province where more than 22 million people are in lockdown.
Meanwhile, more than 20,000 rural residents in the region have been sent to state-run quarantine facilities.
There is widespread concern in China, as numbers begin to climb after it had almost completely brought the virus under control through strict lockdowns.
The latest rise appears to be down to asymptomatic cases in rural areas, experts say.
It is the highest number of new cases since the 202 cases reported on 1 March.

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State-run quarantine facilities are being built in China
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 10:36

Indonesian influencers at front of vaccine queue


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Raffi Ahmad receives his jab

While countries rush to inoculate their most at-risk members of society from coronavirus, Indonesia has put a surprising group at the front of the queue - social media influencers.
Raffi Ahmad, who boasts almost 50 million followers on Instagram, wrote: “Alhamdulillah [Praise be to God] a vaccine ... Don’t be afraid of vaccines" under a video of him receiving the jab.
While the decision to roll out jabs to the young, healthy and wealthy as a priority may raise eyebrows, Ahyani Raksanagara, head of Bandung’s health agency, told Reuters that it was in an effort to eradicate increasing scepticism around the vaccine.
The influencers would “hopefully convey positive influence and messages” about the vaccines, especially to young people, she said.
The government has not said how many influencers will be first in the vaccine line, but others due to receive the early jab have included musicians Ariel, of the band Noah, and Risa Saraswati.
Indonesia is taking a markedly different approach to others. Instead of vaccinating elderly people in the first phase, after frontline workers, it will target younger working people aged 18 to 59.
Professor Amin Soebandrio, who advises the government, told the BBC: "We are targeting those that are likely to spread the virus."
Read more: The vaccination drive targeting younger people
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 10:42

Travel ban 'behind the curve' but will still 'minimise risk'

Epidemiologist Mike Tildesley suggested the UK’s South America travel ban came into force slightly late - but he says it will still "minimise the risk" of the new coronavirus variant identified in Brazil from entering the UK.
"We always have this issue with travel bans of course, that we're always a little bit behind the curve," he told BBC Breakfast.
"With Covid we need to remember that when you develop symptoms you could have been infected up to a couple of weeks ago.
"So it's really important that these travel bans come in quickly so that we can prevent any risk.”
He also says scientists will know "in the next few days" whether the ban has had "a significant effect".
He adds that the new "more transmissible" coronavirus variant found in Brazil was "first detected in travellers going to Tokyo" before it was traced back to South America.
However, scientists "don't believe there is anything to worry about" in terms of vaccine efficacy, Tildesley says.
The higher transmissibility could mean "people potentially might end up developing severe symptoms more rapidly which could cause more issues with our health service".

Hauliers exempt from French ban on rapid Covid tests


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France will no longer accept lateral flow tests - which can give a result in about 20 minutes - for those travelling into the country from the UK, the French government says.
Instead it will require a negative result from a PCR test, carried out less than 72 hours before departure.
These types of test can take a day or longer to get a result because the nose and throat sample need to be sent to a laboratory.
But French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari tweeted that hauliers were exempt from this "pending a co-ordinated approach between European countries".
Speaking on BBC Breakfast earlier, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed lateral flow tests - rapid tests which involve a handheld kit that does not need to be sent to a lab - could still be used for hauliers.
However, he acknowledged that if this changed it could cause problems.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 10:48

First Covid vaccine which requires just one dose for immune response is deemed safe

Rachael O'Connor - Irish Post
A new coronavirus vaccine which requires just one dose to provide immunity has been deemed safe following clinical trials.
Johnson & Johnson's Ad26.COV2.s vaccine is unlike the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines in that it aims to give a good immunity response after just one dose; the three vaccines which are currently being rolled out across the world require two jabs, weeks apart, to provide full immunity.
Clinical trials in Johnson & Johnson's vaccine have so far seen promising results, with most volunteers in the study producing neutralizing antibodies within 28 days after receiving the trial vaccine.
In the study, the details of which have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers gave 805 healthy adult volunteers between the ages of 18 to 55, and 65 and older, a high or low dose of the vaccine or a placebo.

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Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine trials have given promising results

According to researchers, by day 57, all volunteers who received the vaccine instead of a placebo had detectable antibodies, regardless of their age group or the size of the dose, which remained stable for at least 71 days in volunteers up to the age of 55.
Some volunteers experienced side effects, and as with other coronavirus vaccines and flu jabs, the most common side effects reported were fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and pain at the injection sites; those in the older age group, and those who had received a lower dose of the vaccine, were less likely to experience side effects.
This data is from Phase 1 and 2 of Johnson & Johnson's clinical trial, and initial studies suggest the product is safe. The company is expected to release results from Phase 3-- which covered 45,000 volunteers-- later this month.
Earlier this week, The Irish Independent  reported that Johnson & Johnson are expected to seek EU approval for the roll-out of their vaccine across Europe next month.
Top EU lawmaker Peter Liese said that the EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told a group meeting for lawmakers that "vaccine manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is likely to submit an application for approval to the EU for their vaccine in February".
Should it be approved, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine could accelerate the vaccination programme as it requires one dose rather than the two jabs, spaced weeks apart, required from the currently EU-approved Pfizer and Moderna jabs.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 11:40

WHO's Wuhan investigation begins into origins of virus

An investigation led by the World Health Organization (WHO) into the origins of Covid-19 is beginning today with virtual meetings between a team of international scientists and their Chinese hosts in the city of Wuhan.
The virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 and investigators finally arrived on Thursday after months of negotiations between the WHO and Beijing.
The long-awaited probe hit its latest bump when two WHO team members failed Covid-19 tests in Singapore and were unable to travel to China. One of the them has since passed a test and their travel is being arranged, China's foreign ministry said
Zoologist Peter Daszak tweeted on Friday that he had arrived in Wuhan, where the investigators would start virtual meetings while in quarantine.

Tweet  Peter Daszak:
Finally here in Wuhan! Team now undergoing the mandatory 14 days quarantine & being treated very well by our hosts. Work begins today, day 1, in teleconf. mtgs w/ China team.

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China Denied Two WHO Members Entry After Failed Covid-19 Tests:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-14/china-denied-2-who-members-entry-after-failed-covid-19-tests-dj

China has been saying for months that the although Wuhan is where the first cluster of cases was detected, it is not necessarily where the virus originated.
In the early days of the outbreak, it was traced to a so-called "wet market" in Wuhan, and it was suggested that this was where it made the leap from animals to humans.
Since then, many other theories have emerged, including unsubstantiated rumours that the virus leaked from a lab there.
The US, which has accused China of hiding the extent of its initial infection, has called for a "transparent" probe.
The WHO investigation comes as China reports its highest single-day infection tally since 1 March.
A total of 144 new infections were reported by the National Health Commission on Friday, mostly in Hebei province where more than 22 million people are in lockdown.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 11:48

Breaking News

Brazil variant already in UK, scientist says

One of two variants discovered in Brazil has been detected in the UK, a leading virologist has said .
Professor Wendy Barclay, head of G2P-UK National Virology Consortium, a new project set up to study the effects of emerging coronavirus mutations, said: "There are two different types of Brazilian variants and one of them has been detected and one of them has not.
"In the databases, if you search the sequences, you will see that there is some some evidence for variants from around the world, and I believe including the Brazilian one, which probably was introduced some time ago.
"And that will be being traced very carefully."
It comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier said the Brazilian variant of coronavirus was not in the UK "as far as we are aware".

Wales to introduce test requirement for international visitors

Passengers planning to travel into Wales from abroad will have to test negative for coronavirus before their departure, the nation's health minister said.
Vaughan Gething said the requirement, which comes into force from 04:00 GMT on Monday, would help protect against new variants of Covid-19 which are circulating internationally.
The move brings it inline with England, while Scotland has introduced the rule from today and Northern Ireland will bring it in tomorrow.
It applies to inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train from countries outside the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
Tests must be taken up to 72 hours before departure - but a mandatory 10-day quarantine for arrivals will still remain in place if they're travelling from countries not on the Welsh government's travel corridor list regardless of the result .
Wales remains under alert level four lockdown restrictions so travel for a holiday into the country is not permitted and people must stay at home unless travelling for essential reasons.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 11:51

What's been happening so far today?


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The UK has banned travellers from much of Latin America over a new variant detected in Brazil

If you're just joining us here are some of the coronavirus headlines in the UK and around the world:
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 11:56

'It's terrifying not knowing when I will be able to see my partner'


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Carolina Leite, who is currently visiting family in Brazil, says she is "very concerned" about the UK's travel ban from South America.
Leite, who has lived in London for seven years, says her British partner did not make the trip with her because of coronavirus restrictions and now she does not know when she will see him again.
Leite, who has a Portuguese passport, is due to leave Brazil on 5 February but she doesn’t know if her flight will be cancelled.
"I’m already very anxious as I might not be able to return home if they ban flights departing from Brazil to the UK," she says.
"I miss my partner and not knowing when I will be able to see him again is terrifying."
Leite, who runs a cake decorating business, says she has already warned her clients that she may not be able to meet their orders.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 13:17

Breaking News

Brazilian variant in the UK 'not the one causing concern'

The Brazilian coronavirus variant detected in the UK is not the one causing government concern, a virus expert says.
Professor Wendy Barclay, G2P-UK lead and head of department of infectious disease and chairwoman in influenza virology at Imperial College London, has explained the difference.
"There are two different types of Brazilian variants and one of them has been detected [in the UK] and one of them has not," she says.
"The new Brazilian variant of concern, that was picked up in travellers going to Japan, has not been detected in the UK.
"Other variants that may have originated from Brazil have been previously found."
A ban on travel from South America to the UK is aimed at stopping the import of the new variant , which is thought to be better at attaching to human cells, and therefore more infectious.

Analysis: New variants will become common place

Rachel Schraer - BBC Health Reporter

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This Brazilian variant is not going to be the last mutation we hear about.
Expect announcements of new variants to become common place as enough time passes to allow mutations to emerge, spread and take hold in the population.
For now there's no evidence the virus is becoming more deadly.
But as long as it doesn’t become less deadly, more people catching it still means that, left unchecked, more will potentially become ill or die.
Worryingly, the Brazil and South African variants do appear to have changes which let it evade some of our natural immune response.
There's no evidence yet that it can evade the vaccine - bearing in mind it has probably been in circulation since July - but this is something that scientists the world over will be monitoring very closely.
And while mutations are mainly being picked up in areas that do lots of sequencing of the virus, it’s almost certain others are circulating unseen around the globe.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 13:23

'Until we vaccinate everyone vulnerable, the pandemic will rage on'

The Gates Foundation's managing director has been on BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast talking about the need to roll the vaccines out around the world.
"Until we reach everyone who’s vulnerable around the world, this pandemic is going to continue to rage on," Joe Cerrell said.
"So we really need to start thinking seriously about how we make sure this vaccine is made available to more people everywhere."
There are fears that poorer countries globally will wait far longer than richer nations to be inoculated.


Breaking News 

PM to hold Downing Street press conference today

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference alongside England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and the UK's chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance at 17:00 GMT.
We will bring you updates from it here.


Scottish care home workers testing brought forward

Asymptomatic testing of care home workers in Scotland will begin on Monday, the nation's health secretary says.
The Scottish government had previously said the rollout would be completed by the end of March but Jeane Freeman has told a press conference in Edinburgh this timetable is being brought forward due to the seriousness of the current situation.
She also says the fleet of mobile testing units operated by the Scottish Ambulance Service is being "significantly expanded" from 18 units to 42 by March.
This means that potentially 84 communities can be covered at one time and will play "an important part in making testing more accessible", Freeman says.
Speaking about the travel ban on countries in South America, Panama, Cape Verde and Portugal over concerns about a new variant of coronavirus found in Brazil she said: "Our basic message on travel right now is a really simple one - don't if you can possibly avoid it."
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 13:53

Downing Street acted 'as quickly as possible' on South America travel ban

Downing Street says it acted "as quickly as possible" to impose the UK ban on travellers from South America, amid concern about a coronavirus variant found in Brazil.
The prime minister's official spokesman says: "It's obviously right that we continue to look at different variants and take action accordingly.
"As soon as we identified this variant our teams were quickly working on this and, given that we know this could pose a significant risk to the UK, we acted as quickly as possible, which is why you've seen this travel ban from those countries enacted quickly."
It comes after a leading scientist advising the government said one of two coronavirus variants first detected in Brazil has been found in the UK.
But, Prof Wendy Barclay clarified, the version discovered is not the more infectious "variant of concern".
Read more here

'Significant evidence' of Covid transmission in supermarkets

There is “significant evidence” of coronavirus transmission in supermarkets, Wales' first minister has said.
Mark Drakeford announced stricter rules for shops at a press conference in Cardiff and said Wales' Test, Trace and Protect scheme showed there was “no doubt at all” that transmission was taking place in stores.
He added that while "the majority of supermarkets have worked very hard" to make their shops "as safe as possible", the visible signs of protection "have been reduced" compared to last spring.
Drakeford said it was the "responsibility of owners and managers" to make sure stricter measures were followed.
He also said the current restrictions in Wales would be reviewed on 29 January, adding that if things "continue to head in the right direction" ministers would consider whether "to begin the process of lessening the current level of restrictions".
There may be "marginal easements" to coronavirus rules in Wales if rates continue to fall, he said.

Breaking News 

UK's R number is between 1.2 and 1.3

The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission in the UK is between 1.2 and 1.3, the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said.
Last week, it was between 1 and 1.4.
The R number represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.
When the figure is above one, it means the coronavirus epidemic is growing.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 16:39

EasyJet cancels holidays through to late March

EasyJet is cancelling holidays up until the last week in March amid the tightening of lockdowns around the world and international travel restrictions.
The operator says it's in the process of contacting customers who have holidays booked up to and including 24 March to let them know they will not be able to travel.
EasyJet says customers can choose to move their trip or receive a full refund or credit to be spent in the next 12 months.
Matt Callaghan, EasyJet holidays customer director, says: "We know this news will be disappointing. But we want to give our customers as much flexibility and choice as possible so they can decide what is best for them."
The company had already cancelled breaks up to the end of February following lockdown announcements made on 4 January.

Covid patients moved from London to Newcastle

Seriously ill Covid patients have been transferred to hospitals in Newcastle from over-stretched intensive care units in London.
Fewer than five people were moved from the capital, almost 300 miles (482km) away, it was first reported by the Guardian.
Hospitals with the largest critical care capacity have been asked to take patients to help ease pressures in London and the South East.
Dr Uwe Franke, intensive care lead at Middlesbrough's James Cook Hospital, says: "Covid patients are incredibly ill, they are dependent on breathing machines, they are dependent on other machines that need organ support.
"To transfer these people across the country is quite a challenge."
Elsewhere, Northampton General Hospital - which is about 70 miles from London - has also been receiving critical care patients from outside its area.
We've got the full story here.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 16:59

Pfizer vaccine deliveries 'temporarily reduced in Europe'

Vaccine deliveries to Europe by Pfizer will be reduced "as of next week" while the company increases its production capacity, Norwegian health officials have said.
"The temporary reduction will affect all European countries," Norway's Public Health Agency (FHI) said in a statement.
"It is not immediately clear how long it will take for Pfizer to attain maximum production capacity, which will rise from 1.3 to 2 billion doses annually."
The FHI gave no data on deliveries to Europe as a whole, but said Norway would next week get 36,075 doses, down from the 43,875 previously expected.
Pfizer initially said deliveries were proceeding "according to the schedule agreed".
But it later confirmed there would be an impact on distribution in late January to early February due to changes to manufacturing processes to boost production.
The institute said there would be no delays in the rollout of the vaccines to Norwegians as it stocked reserves.
Meanwhile, the first Moderna vaccine was given in Norway on Friday.

How to keep safe in the supermarket

Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford has said there is "significant evidence" of Covid transmission in supermarkets.
With that in mind BBC health correspondent Laura Foster has put together this video to show you the small things you can do to help make sure you're safe when you go shopping.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 17:05

Why are millions still gearing up to travel in China?

Kerry Allen - BBC Monitoring, Chinese Media Analyst
For the third day in a row, China has recorded more than 100 fresh cases of Covid-19. With 144 new cases on Friday, the country reported its highest single-day infection tally since 1 March. On Thursday, its first death was confirmed since May.
There are, consequently, some fears that China may experience a more widespread outbreak, especially as millions are gearing up to travel for the Lunar New Year holiday in February.
Official media polls suggest that the majority of people aren’t that discouraged from travelling, and China is stepping up measures this week to help them do so safely - a “unified and mutually recognised health code system".
This system is similar to the UK’s NHS track-and-trace app; users scan a digital QR code on their smartphones to enter transport and buildings - however in China, it shows they are Covid-free. Companies have insisted that this system is a mandatory, rather than voluntary, requirement for travel, or entrance to sites.
Meanwhile, it is common for provincial-level health bodies to provide extensive, daily details on patients who have tested positive for Covid-19. The gender, age, and recent movements of new Covid-19 patients are posted online daily, and details of whether those patients are linked to an earlier confirmed case.
So people can see specific streets that people have tested positive on and which venues they have visited.

Analysis: R number shows UK epidemic not shrinking yet

Philippa Roxby - Health reporter, BBC News
After several weeks of a national lockdown, there were hopes the R number - or reproduction number - for the virus would be below or close to the magic figure of 1, which suggests the epidemic is shrinking.
But it’s between 1.2 and 1.3 and the growth rate is estimated to be between +2% and +5%, meaning that infections are growing by this rate every day.
Although there are very early signs that confirmed cases are falling in most age groups, this may not yet have filtered through to be reflected in the R number.
It tends to describe what’s happened in previous weeks rather than in the present.
However, there are still positive signs the lockdown is working.
There were more than 48,600 cases reported in the UK yesterday - a week ago it was around 60,000.
The tight restrictions on people’s lives, including schools being closed since December, are bound to be having an impact.
Yet hospital admissions and deaths are still rising and are likely to do so for some weeks yet.
Despite millions having been vaccinated, the current R number is telling us the second wave certainly isn’t over yet.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 17:09

Covid deaths 'likely' to peak in next 10 days

Coronavirus deaths in the UK are likely to peak in the next week to 10 days, according to a leading statistician.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, of the Statistical Laboratory at Cambridge University, told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme the lockdown measures were having an impact, with the peak in infections having passed "a good few days ago" which would lead to a reduction in the numbers dying from the disease.
"They are likely to level off in a week - 10 days maybe - at a peak which is probably going to be bigger than the first wave peak of 1,000 a day, but then should decline due the reductions in cases that we are seeing and, of course, the vaccine programme," he said.
But he warned that hospital admissions would fall more slowly.
While the government's plan to vaccinate all over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable by mid-February covered around 90% of those dying from the disease, he said only 55% of those being admitted to hospital and 25% of those in intensive care were over 70.

Has US vaccine plan been a 'dismal failure'?

Reality Check
US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to boost the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and criticised the speed of the current operation.
It “has been a dismal failure this far," said Mr Biden, who says he will oversee 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days.
About 11 million vaccines have been administered so far in the US, and almost 31 million distributed since the first inoculations on 14 December, according to official statistics.

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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 17:12

Breaking News

UK coronavirus deaths increase by 1,280

A further 1,280 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test, according to the latest government figures .
It takes the total by that measure to 87,295.
There have also been a further 55,761 cases of coronavirus confirmed.
These figures are higher than yesterday's when there were 48,682 new cases and 1,248 deaths.

What's happening in the UK?

We're expecting to hear from the prime minister at 17:00 GMT on what has already been a busy day for coronavirus news. Here are your main headlines this afternoon:
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 17:20

What's happening around the world?

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

  • The health system in the Brazilian city of Manaus is under sever pressure following a steep rise in cases linked to the new Brazilian variant
  • China has reported its highest single-day infection tally since 1 March, as a team from the World Health Organization arrives in Wuhan to investigate the origin of the coronavirus
  • US President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled a US Covid relief package worth $1.9tn (£1.4tn)
  • Hauliers are to be exempt from a French ban on rapid Covid tests, French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari has said. All other travellers will require a negative result from a lab PCR test, carried out less than 72 hours before departure


Nigerians warned over fake vaccines

Health officials in Nigeria say they are worried that fake coronavirus vaccines are being sold in the country.
Nigeria's National Agency for Food Drug and Administration Control "is pleading with the public to beware".
"Fake vaccines can cause Covid-like illnesses or other serious diseases that could kill," warned Mojisola Adeyeye, the agency's director general.
Black market coronavirus tests also reportedly appeared in April.
There has been a sharp rise in infections in Nigeria in recent weeks, and the vaccine rollout is not expected to begin until March.
Nigeria, which has a population of 201 million, has 10 million doses due to arrive in March, but it hasn't been specified which type of jab would be used.
A total of 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have already been confirmed.


Breaking News 

Travel corridors to close on Monday - PM

The PM says the closure of air travel corridors from 04:00 on Monday will apply across the UK.
This will initially happen for a month, although it will be kept under review and could be extended.
Anyone arriving in the UK must quarantine for 10 days or they have the choice of doing an extra test on day five to shorten the isolation.
Outlining the measures to come into place, he calls them "vital", as "day by day, hour by hour" progress is being made in vaccinating people.
He adds that 3.2 million people across the UK have received vaccines.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 18:06

Breaking News

Global deaths pass two million

More than two million people have now died with Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University .
The US has recorded more fatalities than any other country, with almost 390,000 deaths, followed by Brazil and India with around 200,000 and 150,000 deaths respectively.
More than 93 million infections have been recorded worldwide.

18:00

The main takeaways from the PM's press conference


Coronavirus - 15th January 2021 Dc03a710

The prime minister finished a Downing Street press conference a short time ago. He was speaking alongside England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty and the UK's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.
Here are the main takeaways:

  • All travel corridors will be closed from Monday for a month to protect the UK against new variants of Covid
  • Travellers arriving in the UK must show a negative test and quarantine for 10 days or test negative again after five days
  • Deaths will continue to rise into next week because there are more people in hospital with Covid than ever, says Prof Whitty
  • The number of cases are "extremely high" but are "levelling off", he says
  • Cases are coming down as a result of lockdown rules, but "take the lid off now and it is going to boil over for sure", says Sir Patrick
  • It is not the time for the slightest relaxation, says PM
  • A total of 3.2 million people have received a vaccine across the UK
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 18:24

How widely enforced is the travel quarantine rule?

Reality Check
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all travel corridors with the UK will be closed from 04:00 GMT on Monday.
This means all arrivals to the UK must self-isolate or quarantine for up to 10 days upon arrival to the country (most passengers will also need proof of a negative Covid test too).
When it comes to enforcement of the quarantine rules, the latest figures we have show police in England and Wales investigated around 9,000 cases – of reported breaches - in the period to 24 November 2020.
The majority – just over 7,000 - needed no further investigation.
In almost 1,400 cases, the police were unable to take any action because no-one answered the door or they had the wrong address.
Just 223 fines were actually given out. Border Force are also able to hand out fines but we can’t find any figures for this.
A survey from the Office for National Statistics in October showed that roughly two-thirds of people in England said they were following the quarantine rules.
This means the other third said they had breached the rules in some way or another.

Airlines support travel ban

Airline bosses have said they support the government's decision to close all travel corridors to the UK to prevent the import of new variants of coronavirus.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, the industry association representing UK-registered carriers, said: “Travel corridors were a lifeline for the industry last summer and the government were right to bring them in when they did.
"But things change and there’s no doubting this is a serious health emergency and ministers need to act to keep borders safe and the public protected.
"We therefore support this latest measure, on the assumption that we will work with government – when the time is right – to remove these restrictions when it is safe to do so and start to open up our sector again, to support the UK’s economic recovery.”

Portugal spends first day under new lockdown

Portugal has entered its second national lockdown, with all non-essential businesses closed.
Unlike in the previous lockdown, however, schools will remain open. Measures will also be relaxed for the presidential election, which takes place on 24 January.
The new restrictions came into force as Portugal's daily deaths reached 159 on Friday. Infections, meanwhile, were at the second-highest number since the pandemic began, with 10,663 new cases announced the same day.
Portugal has recorded more than half a million cases and 8,543 deaths from Covid-19, figures from Johns Hopkins University show.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 18:41

Temporary London mortuary 'a sobering reminder'


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A temporary mortuary that can hold up to 1,300 bodies has been opened in Ruislip, west London, as the capital faces a growing coronavirus death toll.
London recently exceeded 10,000 Covid-related deaths, a figure Mayor Sadiq Khan described as "heartbreaking".
The Breakspear Crematorium facility, which took a week to build and cost about £3m, is expected to receive bodies from Friday.
It has been called "a visual, sobering reminder" of the continuing cost of the pandemic.
Westminster City Council chief executive Stuart Love, who is leading the London-wide response, says: "We have built this really hoping it doesn't get used to its capacity.
"This just re-emphasises the message of staying at home and looking after your loved ones."

New York City 'will run out of vaccines next week,' says mayor

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned that the city may run out of coronavirus vaccines next week without a resupply.
“If we don’t get a serious supply, we’re going to have to freeze the appointment system," he told WNYC radio. "That would be insane, after all the progress we’ve made.”
He's the latest official to express concern for vaccine supplies, in a state that was once at the epicentre of America's outbreak and continues to be one of the worst-affected parts of the US.
New York State receives about 300,000 doses a week, and a third of these go to New York City, according to officials. But Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that the state would be receiving 50,000 fewer doses next week.
While New York City has historically been struggling to administer jabs at scale, the pace picked up this week due to the expansion of vaccination sites, and more people becoming eligible. Between Monday and Thursday, the city administered nearly 120,000 doses.
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Post by Kitkat Fri Jan 15 2021, 18:42

What's been happening around the UK?

We are going to be closing the live page soon so here's a recap of today's coronavirus headlines:

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference where he announced all travel corridors will be closed from Monday for a month to protect the UK against new variants of Covid
  • People arriving in the UK must show a negative test and quarantine for 10 days or test negative again after five days
  • Deaths will continue to rise into next week because there are more people in hospital with Covid than ever, says Prof Whitty
  • The number of cases are "extremely high" but are "levelling off", he says
  • Meanwhile, a leading scientist says one of two coronavirus variants first detected in Brazil has been found in the UK - but not the variant that is causing concern
  • Hospitals in the Brazilian city of Manaus have reached breaking point while treating Covid-19 patients, amid reports of severe oxygen shortages and desperate staff
  • Globally, more than two million people have now died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

That's all from the live team but we will be back tomorrow.

These updates were brought to you by Jasmine Taylor-Coleman, Sarah Collerton, Vanessa Barford, Emma Harrison, George Wright, Doug Faulkner, Jennifer Meierhans, Victoria Bisset and Joshua Cheetham.

    Current date/time is Sat Feb 27 2021, 22:28