Paramedics in full PPE prepare an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in east London – BEN STANSALL / AFP
A further 1,325 people have died of Coronavirus within 28 days of testing positive – the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the outbreak began.
The number of cases reported in the past 24 hours was 68,053.
It comes as London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” over the increase of cases in the capital’s hospitals.
Mr Khan said: “The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.”
“I have declared a major incident in London because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point.”
“One in 30 Londoners now has Covid-19. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”
Follow the latest updates below.
05:26 PMWHO expects to fix dates for China Covid-19 mission ‘as soon as next week’
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing on Friday he expects to fix travel dates as soon as next week for a long-awaited mission to China to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus.
Tedros had said earlier this week he was “very disappointed” that China had still not authorised the entry of a team of international experts to probe early cases of Covid-19.
The virus is believed to have first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. It has since spread globally, infecting nearly 88 million people and killing around 1.9 million, Reuters calculations show.
05:22 PMRussia accidentally hands out exploding gifts
By Theo Merz in Moscow
A Russian governor handed out thousands of camping lanterns as New Year presents to top students and the children of coronavirus doctors, only for several of the gifts to explode later.
The lanterns were part of a gift package presented to some 4,000 young people, including disabled children, in the Murmansk region of the Russian Arctic.
“Sharp, small plastic debris were everywhere…the force of the blow struck a flower pot that was nearby,” Olga Diringer, the mother of one of the children, wrote on social media. “It’s a blessing that nobody was in the living room.”
Other parents had since come forward to complain of similar incidents, the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported.
Authorities said they were aware of two explosions and were looking into the matter. The products had the necessary safety papers, they said.
The region spent the equivalent of more than £100,000 on the gift packages, according to a state website.
Ms Diringer said the lantern had come without instructions and when she searched the product online she found it on a Chinese website, retailing for around £5.
“I am writing this asking you to be careful…so that no one gets hurt,” she added. Ms Diringer posted pictures of plastic shards lodged in the wall of her living room, which she said she had to pick out “like seeds.”
Other gifts included travel kits and mini globes, all emblazoned with the slogan: “Live in the North!”
05:18 PMIsrael forced to tighten lockdown measures despite world-beating vaccine drive
Israel tightened its national lockdown restrictions on Friday amid a soaring number of cases, despite a deal being struck with Pfizer that aims to have all over 16s inoculated by the end of March.
Cases have risen to over 8,000 a day this week, the highest since a record of 9,000 in September, proving that even a lightning vaccination drive will not necessarily outpace coronavirus.
All schools and non-essential businesses have been ordered to close and more police checkpoints have been set up across the country. Israelis have so far largely ignored previous travel and social distancing restrictions limiting them from venturing more than a kilometre from their homes, except for essential reasons.
Leading the global race with their vaccination campaign, Israel had hoped to stamp out the virus by spring. Almost 18 per cent of the population had been inoculated within just three weeks, rising to over 70 per cent among those older than 60 receiving.
But that plan was quickly dashed as the country began to face vaccine shortages, forcing the government to announce it would be pausing first shots for three weeks in January to prevent Pfizer stocks running out within 10 days.
Abbie Cheeseman reports
05:14 PMSpain’s Covid-19 tally sees biggest jump since October
Spain added 25,456 coronavirus cases to its tally on Friday in the biggest one-day jump since October, health ministry data showed, as the infection rate continued to accelerate in the wake of the holiday season.
Total cases since the start of the pandemic rose to 2,050,360, while the death toll climbed by 199 to 51,874, the data showed. The virus’ incidence jumped to 350 cases per 100,000 people from 321 cases on Thursday.
05:07 PMCzech crematoriums struggles to cope with Covid-19 surge
Staff at the crematorium in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava are working around the clock to cope with the number of bodies they have taken in during December, a sign of the surging number of coronavirus cases and Covid-19 deaths across the country.
Many hospitals were also nearing capacity, officials said on Friday, as the Czech Republic, with a population of 10.7 million people, remains one of the worst-hit nations globally with 12,800 deaths and 809,601 identified cases.
The Ostrava crematorium received 1,570 bodies in December, more than 50 per cent above normal levels.
It installed two container freezers outside and operated through the night even during the Christmas holidays and on New Year’s Eve, director Ivo Formancik said, but was still unable to keep up.
“Ostrava crematorium is the only one located in the Moravskoslezsky region and provides these services to about one million inhabitants,” he told Reuters.
“The total number of remains transported for cremation is now higher than the capacity of the cremation ovens.”
The Interior Ministry said crematoriums in half of the country’s 14 regions were at or near capacity, and Formancik said they would have to share the burden and that a plan for redistributing some bodies was being prepared.
A casket is placed in a hallway at a crematorium in Ostrava, Czech Republic – Petr David Josek / AP04:59 PMWHO: ‘clear problem’ poorer nations not getting Covid-19 vaccines yet
The head of the World Health Organization said on Friday there is a “clear problem” that low- and middle-income countries are not yet receiving supplies of Covid-19 vaccines.
“Rich countries have the majority of the supply,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing in Geneva, adding that he urged countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility.
The WHO said earlier this week the COVAX facility had raised $6 billion of the $7 billion that it has sought in 2021 to help finance deliveries to 92 developing nations with limited or no means to buy vaccines on their own.
Until now, wealthier nations including Britain, European Union members, the United States, Switzerland and Israel have been at the front of the queue for vaccine deliveries from companies including Pfizer and partner BioNTech , Moderna and AstraZeneca.
04:50 PMSituation in London hospitals ‘dire’, says nurses
A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing London branch said the situation in the capital was “dire”.
The spokesman said: “Today’s announcement is needed to protect London’s health and care system, and hopefully, it will alleviate some of the enormous pressure nursing staff are under.
“Nursing staff across the capital are now beyond breaking point and they are running on empty. Yet, they are continuing to lead the charge in the battle with Covid-19.
“It’s vital for all Londoners to practise social distancing, wear face coverings, and stay at home. Don’t let the sacrifice of nursing staff be in vain.”
04:30 PMBiden plans to release all coronavirus doses to speed up US vaccination efforts
President-elect Joe Biden will aim to release every available dose of coronavirus vaccine when he takes office, a departure from Trump administration strategy of holding back doses to make sure second doses are available, CNN reported on Thursday.
“The President-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible. He supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now,” said TJ Ducklo, a spokesman for Biden’s transition, told CNN.
04:30 PMWarnings over coronavirus vaccine scams used to steal personal data
Police and banks are warning that vaccine scams are emerging as a “top threat” as criminals are using jab promises to steal bank details.
Bodies including Trading Standards and Natwest Bank have issued warnings over a scam in which criminals send emails or text messages with a link to a fake NHS website purporting to be for vaccine registration.
Those who enter their personal details could be targeted by fraudsters, they warned.
Sam Meadows has more.
04:24 PMCorrection: Scottish vaccination figures
The Scottish government has got in touch to point out an error in yesterday’s blog – we said there had been 13,000 vaccinations so far in Scotland, and the actual figure is 113,459. We have now amended that figure.
This was a typo and we are happy to put the record straight.
04:01 PMLagos battles indifference as virus ‘tsunami’ looms
Hospitals in Lagos are facing a tidal wave of Covid as the authorities warn of the dangers from a new viral strain, yet many people in Nigeria’s mega-city seem indifferent.
The New Year’s break saw thousands of people gathered on the city’s beaches for fun and relaxation, and social distancing was as rare as mask-wearing.
The city’s government and medical community have multiplied warnings, urging people to wear masks, respect social distancing and obey the curfew.
“We are well into the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yesterday, Lagos scarily recorded its highest number of infections in one day,” Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said on Tuesday.
“This second wave comes with severe symptoms and (a) higher number of positive cases,” he said. “2021 will only work for us if we take #COVID19 seriously.”
According to official figures, Lagos – a city of around 20 million souls – has so far notched up 33,329 cases of coronavirus, of which 250 have been fatal, in a national tally of 94,369 cases, 1,324 of them fatal.
But these figures, in a population of around 200 million, Africa’s largest, are likely to be far short of the true tally, given the paucity of testing.
03:58 PMEngland reports 715 additional deaths
A further 715 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 54,445, NHS England said on Friday.
The deaths were between December 15 and January 7.
There were 40 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
03:20 PMWales reports 2,487 cases and 56 new deaths
There have been a further 2,487 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 165,721.
Public Health Wales reported another 56 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 3,857.
03:19 PMAround 1 in 18 secondary school children in London tested positive on Christmas day, data shows
New ONS data infection Survey shows infection in children peaked on Christmas Day.
By Dec 25, 1 in 27 secondary school children and 1 in 40 primary school children tested positive for the virus.
In London, where cases are far higher, 1 in 18 secondary schoolers and 1 in 23 for primary tested positive
03:13 PMVirus hotspots emerge in Southeast Asia ahead of vaccine roll-out
Every country has its Achilles Heel when it comes to a deadly virus adept at finding any back door to sneak through. Southeast Asian nations that were praised for their relative success in containing Covid-19 last year are now discovering vulnerabilities in the most unexpected of places.
After generally keeping the coronavirus at bay, and even celebrating 100 days of no local transmissions last September, Thailand is now in the grip of an outbreak that is sweeping through cockfighting arenas and illegal gambling dens.
The surge began when more than 1,000 people were infected in a seafood market in Samut Sakhon, southwest of the capital Bangkok, which employs thousands of migrant workers from Myanmar.
Despite Thailand’s best efforts at maintaining strict border controls and entry restrictions, the virus reportedly took hold among those who entered illegally.
In a similar way, porous borders and people smuggling proved to be the breach in Vietnam’s defences in August, when the country was taken by surprise by a sudden outbreak in the coastal city of Danang, that it has since brought under control.
Nicola Smith has the full story.
Medical personnel take a nose swab at a Covid-19 coronavirus testing centre at a private hospital in Bangkok – LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP02:59 PMUkraine imposes virus lockdown
Ukraine on Friday imposed a broad lockdown aimed at containing surging coronavirus infections, but some cities appeared to be largely ignoring the restrictions and critics said the move was worrisomely tardy.
The government had made plans for the lockdown in December, when 12,000-14,000 new infections were being recorded daily in the country of 42 million.
But the measures, which include closing schools, entertainment venues, gyms and restaurant table service, weren’t implemented until after the holiday period; predominantly Orthodox Ukraine observed Christmas on Thursday, when AP journalists saw maskless worshipers crowding some churches.
Health Minister Maxim Stepanov said the restrictions would help reduce the burden on the health care system, weakened by the reform and the shortage of doctors.
But others say the moves were late.
“For two weeks people hugged, kissed, went to church and to the Christmas tree, sat at the same festive table. The government decided to close its eyes to this and not to anger the people (during) the holidays, but we, doctors, will have to pay for this,” said Dmitry Golovchenko, a 47-year-old doctor.
A woman wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus walks past a closed shop in Ivano-Frankivsk, Western Ukraine – Evgeniy Maloletka / AP02:47 PMIran leader bans import of US and UK-made Covid vaccines
Iran’s supreme leader on Friday banned the import of American and British-produced vaccines against Covid-19, saying they were “completely untrustworthy”.
“Importing vaccines made in the US or the UK is prohibited,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a tweet, accompanied by the hashtag #CoronaVaccine.
“It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” he added.
The Islamic republic has reported more than 1.2 million cases of the novel coronavirus, which have caused over 56,000 deaths.
Iran has accused the US of hampering its access to vaccines through a tough sanctions regime.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said last month that Washington had demanded that Tehran pay for the drugs through US banks, adding that he feared the United States would seize the money.
Khamenei also tweeted that “given our experience with France’s HIV-tainted blood supplies, French vaccines aren’t trustworthy either.”
That was a reference to a scandal in the 1980s in which blood infected with HIV was distributed in France, and later abroad, even after the government became aware of the problem.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – AFP02:44 PMItaly’s Lombardy health chief leaves office after Covid-19 criticism
The health chief in Italy’s wealthy Lombardy region, one of the areas of the world hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, left office on Friday after months of criticism over his handling of the medical crisis.
Giulio Gallera is a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and was part of a local government headed by the far-right League, which is led by Matteo Salvini.
His departure comes as Lombardy struggles to ramp up its vaccination campaign against Covid-19, with latest figures showing it had used just 22 per cent of the vaccines at its disposal while other regions, such as Veneto and Tuscany, were close to 60 per cent.
Gallera defended the sluggish start by saying he did not want doctors to interrupt their New Year holidays to help out. His comments drew widespread criticism in a region that accounts for a third of Italy’s 77,300 registered Covid-19 deaths.
“In these months, Gallera has done a very tough job. He is extremely tired and agreed to this change,” said regional head Attilio Fontana, who has also been criticised for failing to bring the virus under control.
Gallera will be replaced by Letizia Moratti, a former mayor of the regional capital Milan. “Our aim is to relaunch Lombardy,” Fontana told reporters.
02:43 PMPolice officers to begin driving ambulances in London as virus gets ‘out of control’, says Mayor
Cornavirus is “out of control” in London, Sadiq Khan has said as he explains why a major incident has been declared in the capital.
The Mayor told Sky News hospitals were at risk of running out of beds in the next couple of weeks, with one in 30 people being infected, rising to one in 20 in some parts.
Firefighters have been redeployed to drive ambulances already, and police officers would be joining them in a few days, he added.
Mr Khan called on Boris Johnson to end collective worship, noting he had decided not to take part in Friday prayers today. He also called for better financial support for low paid workers who should be self-isolating
02:40 PMNew surge in cases ‘biggest threat’ to London yet
Londoners’ actions have “never been more important” than now as a major incident is declared in the capital amid surging coronavirus cases, the city’s regional director of Public Health England has said.
Professor Kevin Fenton said: “This is the biggest threat our city has faced in this pandemic to date.
“The emergence of the new variant means we are setting record case rates at almost double the national average, with at least 1 in 30 people now thought to be carrying the virus.
“Our NHS services are under immense pressure and currently another 800 people are being admitted to our hospitals every day. We know this will sadly lead to large numbers of deaths so strong and immediate action is needed.
“In order to ease the burden on our hospitals, we must first stop the spread. That means we have to stay at home. Cut your contacts, reduce your movements, do as little as possible.
“A lot has been asked of Londoners over the past 12 months but your decisions and actions right now have never been more important.”
02:31 PMLondon NHS staff ‘like being in a theatre of war’, says Sadiq Khan
There has been a 47 per cent increase in the number of people requiring ventilators in London since Christmas, Sadiq Khan has said.
There has also been a 38 per cent increase in general and acute admissions to the capital’s hospitals.
He told Londoners: “You need to understand this is serious. I have never been more concerned that I am now… You should be staying at home unless you have a good reason to leave and if you do, please wear a face mask.”
He praised frontline hospital workers, saying: “They are stressed, they are strained they are heroic. Many of them are traumatised, saying it is like being in a theatre of war.”
Mr Khan noted that unlike other major incidents, such as Grenfell or the 7/7 terrorist attacks, this was more concerning because of the long period of time it stretched over.
Paramedics in full PPE prepare an ambulance outside the Royal London Hospital in east London – BEN STANSALL / AFP02:25 PMEU secures contract for another 300 million doses of Biotech Pfizer vaccine
Western Balkan states are falling behind in the race to vaccinate citizens against coronavirus, leaving the EU’s poorer neighbours facing the stark choice of waiting months for globally accredited jabs or turning to potentially unsafe options from Russia.
While the EU began its vaccination program on December 27, most of the remaining Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – will not be starting properly until spring.
“Whenever I mention vaccines to people, they say, ‘Maybe in the next two years.’ People are not optimistic here,” said Bosnian student Bakir Ovčina.
“The handling in general has been fairly shambolic. It’s very clear that we are lagging behind and our leaders aren’t doing that much to catch us up.”
Venetia Rainey has more on this story here.
A man visits the graves of his parents in law, who died of Covid-19 complications, in Zenica, Bosnia – Almir Alic / AP02:15 PMEU secures contract for another 300 million doses of Biotech Pfizer vaccine
By James Crisp, Brussels Correspondent
The president of the European Commission warned EU member states they would break the law if they tried to negotiate their own side deals to secure coronavirus vaccines.
Ursula von der Leyen said the EU had agreed a “legally binding framework” that would prevent individual countries from cutting their own vaccination deals, after Brussels came under increasing criticism over the slow pace of the vaccination roll-out.
The Commission has negotiated with pharmaceutical companies on the behalf of the EU member states. Negotiating as a bloc had driven down the price of the vaccines, Mrs von der Leyen said.
She said: “The only framework is, we do this together, and no member state on this legal binding basis is allowed to negotiate in parallel, or to have a contract in parallel.”
“The path that we have taken together in Europe is the right one. We want to proceed together,” she said, “”I’m very much convinced that this European course of action was the right one. And I think that will be proven in hindsight.”
Mrs von der Leyen announced that the commission had agreed to buy a total of up to another 300 million doses of the Biotech Pfizer vaccine, potentially doubling the 300 million already secured by the bloc. Mrs von der Leyen said 75 million doses were available from quarter two of this year, with the rest being delivered in the third and fourth quarter.
02:02 PMLunchtime summary
It’s been a busy day, so here’s a quick recap of what’s happened so far…
The UK medicines regulator has approved the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for use in the UK. The vaccine is 94 per cent effective in preventing disease, including in the elderly, and will be available from Spring.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has declared a “major incident” over the increase of Covid-19 cases in the capital’s hospitals.
The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK is now between 1 and 1.4, meaning on average, every 10 cases infected will infect between 10 and 14 other people.
Around eight in 10 recent positive cases of Covid-19 in London and eastern England could be the new variant of Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Lockdown measures will continue in Wales and will “intensify even further”, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said. It comes as the number of people in critical care reach “the highest point in the pandemic.”
A Singaporean woman was sentenced to five months in prison on Friday for lying to contact tracers.
China has sealed off two cities and imposed travel restrictions on 18 million people Friday in an effort to eliminate fresh coronavirus clusters.
Australia’s third-largest city is also taking an ultra-cautious approach to the pandemic, with Brisbane announcing a lockdown over a single infection.
01:49 PMCyprus goes into new lockdown from Jan 10
Cyprus will introduce a new lockdown to quell rising Covid-19 infections from Jan. 10, its health minister said on Friday, the country’s second since the start of the pandemic.
Retail businesses such as hairdressers, beauty parlours and large department stores will shut until Jan. 31, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou told a news conference.
People will be allowed to leave home just twice a day for specific reasons such as buying groceries or medicines and taking exercise, while a current curfew banning movement from 2100 to 0500 daily will remain in force.
Distance learning will be re-introduced in schools, currently shut for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Kindergartens will remain open, he said.
Cyprus has recorded 26,208 cases of Covid-19 since its first case was recorded in early March 2020, and 140 deaths. There has been an aggressive spike in infections over the past month, with cases regularly exceeding 300 a day.
People wearing protective face masks walk at Ledra street in Nicosia, Cyprus – KATIA CHRISTODOULOU/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock01:45 PMScottish police issue 7,000 fines to coronavirus rule breakers
Police Scotland has issued more than 7,000 fixed penalty notices to people breaking coronavirus rules and made 550 arrests since the start of the pandemic, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has revealed.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Mr Livingstone also said officers have had more than 100,000 interactions with the public about complying with the restrictions, intervened at 350 business premises and closed 90 of them.
Stressing that the force will act in a “proportionate, reasonable and fair” manner, Mr Livingstone added: “Officers and staff overwhelmingly discharge these new responsibilities and duties with compassion, common sense; explaining the rules and helping people to do the right thing.
“But be assured, be very very clear, where officers encounter wilful and blatant offences, we will continue to act decisively to enforce the law as the public would expect.”
01:43 PMFrench medical regulator approves Moderna Covid-19 vaccine
French medical regulator HAS said on Friday it had approved the coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna for rollout in France, after the European Medicines Agency gave its go-ahead this week.
Alain Fischer, the immunologist coordinating the French vaccination strategy, said earlier on Friday that the first shots of the Moderna vaccine should arrive in France in the coming days.
01:40 PMUK R-rate between 1.0 to 1.4
The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK is between 1 and 1.4, the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said.
When R was last updated on December 23 2020, it was between 1.1 and 1.3.
R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect.
When the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially.
An R number between 1 and 1.4 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 10 and 14 other people.
Sage has said the estimates published on Friday represent the transmission of Covid-19 over the past few weeks rather than the present situation.
The overall R estimates for England, and the UK are broadly similar to estimates from 23 December. However, there is currently less regional variation. See below:
The UK estimate of R is the average over very different epidemiological situations – DHSC01:36 PMSadiq Khan appeals for more financial support for isolating Londoners
The mayor of London said that he has written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for more financial support for Londoners who need to self-isolate and unable to work, and for daily vaccination data.
Sadiq Khan is also asking for the closure of places of worship and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in crowded places and supermarket queues.
Major incidents have previously been declared in London for the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and the terror attacks at Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.
01:26 PMBoris Johnson hails ‘excellent news’ about Moderna vaccine approval
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted it was “excellent news” the Moderna vaccine had been approved for use.
He said: “Our national vaccine effort is accelerating to vaccinate priority groups with our existing two vaccines, and the Moderna doses will add to that when they become available in spring.”
Excellent news the @MHRAgovuk has approved the use of the @moderna_tx vaccine.
Our national vaccine effort is accelerating to vaccinate priority groups with our existing two vaccines, and the Moderna doses will add to that when they become available in spring. https://t.co/yt43dxGuGS
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 8, 2021
01:04 PMPeople in critical care reaches ‘highest point in pandemic’, says Wales First Minister
Coronavirus rates have begun to “creep up again” in Wales, with the number of people in critical care reaching “the highest point in the pandemic,” First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
“On Monday, there were around 440 cases per 100,000 people in Wales. Today, this is more than 20 points higher,” Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff.
“It is still the case that around one in four tests is positive for coronavirus, and that demonstrates that we still have very high levels of this virus circulating in the community in Wales.”
Mr Drakeford said the new strain of coronavirus was “undoubtedly adding to the pressures that our NHS is experiencing at the moment”.
More than 2,700 coronavirus-related patients are in Welsh hospitals, with 143 people with Covid-19 in critical care beds.
01:04 PMMajor of London declares ‘major incident’
According to the BBC’s global affair’s correspondent, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has just declared a ‘major incident’ due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus across the capital and the increase of Covid-19 cases in hospitals:
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has just declared a ‘major incident’ due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus across the capital and the increase of Covid-19 cases in hospitals.
ONS estimate 1 in 30 in the capital have the virus.
— naomi grimley (@naomigrimley) January 8, 2021
01:00 PMEU to squeeze six doses out of Pfizer vial
The EU’s medicines watchdog said Friday that six doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus jab can be extracted from each vial if the correct needles are used – increasing the number of people who can be vaccinated with available supplies.
The European Medicines Agency said that if low “dead-volume” syringes were used – a specially-designed syringe that has less space between the needle and the plunger – a sixth dose could be squeezed out of each vial of the vaccine.
“If standard syringes and needles are used, there may not be enough of the vaccine to extract a sixth dose from a vial,” the EMA said in a statement.
The watchdog warned that if a full 0.3-millilitre dose is not left in the vial after the fifth dose, “the healthcare professional must discard the vial and its contents”.
Healthcare workers should not mix the leftovers from “multiple vials to make up a full dose”, it stressed.
12:55 PMSingapore jails woman for lying to coronavirus contact tracers
A Singaporean woman was sentenced to five months in prison on Friday for hiding her meetings with a male friend from coronavirus contact tracers as she did not want her family to think she was having an affair.
Oh Bee Hiok, 65, met a close friend, 72-year-old Lim Kiang Hong, five times in the weeks before testing positive for Covid-19 in February, but deliberately withheld the information from the health ministry’s contact tracers, court documents said.
“She did not want her family or Lim’s family to find out that they were going out so frequently, as she thought that their family and friends would suspect that they were in a romantic relationship and spread rumours about them being in an extra-marital affair,” court documents said.
Officials found out about the meetings after reviewing parking records, CCTV footage, call records and credit card transactions.
After she was admitted to hospital with coronavirus, Ms Oh spoke to Mr Lim on the phone and asked him to keep their outings secret. He then tested positive for Covid-19 in March.
In sentencing Ms Oh, Judge Marvin Bay said her reasons for withholding information were “selfish… within the pressing public interest need to control the pandemic”, according to broadcaster CNA.
“In this regard, the court must send a clear message that any act of withholding information likely to mislead contact tracers is totally unacceptable”, he added.
12:41 PMChina and Australia shutdown cities after virus detection
China sealed off two cities and imposed travel restrictions on 18 million people Friday in an effort to eliminate fresh coronavirus clusters.
Authorities in the two cities south of Beijing cut transport links and instituted mass testing after 127 infections were recorded in the region over the past week.
They joined Australia’s third-largest city in taking an ultra-cautious approach to the pandemic, with Brisbane announcing a lockdown over a single infection.
In Brisbane a cleaner at a quarantine hotel was reported to have contracted a strain of the virus imported from Britain that is thought to be more infectious.
It prompted the local government to order more than two million residents in the Greater Brisbane area stay home for at least three days from Friday evening.
Meanwhile in China, the northern cities of Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, home to more than five million people, were effectively sealed off.
Long-distance passenger vehicle transport in both cities was suspended as of Friday, and highways were closed. Flights to and from Shijiazhuang were cancelled, and trains suspended.
Orders to remain in their local areas were placed on everyone in Shijiazhuang and Xingtai, as well as surrounding regions.
Brisbane Police officers patrol the Southbank precinct as a three-day lockdown begins – Jono Searle/ Getty12:34 PMNew variant behind 80 per cent of new cases in London and eastern England, data suggests
Around eight in 10 recent positive cases of Covid-19 in London and eastern England could be the new variant of Covid-19, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
In London, 81 per cent of positive cases from December 28 to January 2 were estimated to be genetically compatible with the new variant, while in eastern England the estimate is 78 per cent.
Two other regions had estimates above 50 per cent: south-east England (67%) and south-west England (53%).
For England as a whole, the ONS estimated 61 per cent of new cases could be the new variant.
All figures are for people in private households.
12:32 PMModerna jab not expected until Spring
Unlike the previous jabs, the Moderna vaccine will not be available for use straight away, with the first doses not expected to arrive until the spring.
The MHRA accepted the recommendation of the Commission on Human Medicines and authorised the Moderna vaccine following months of rigorous clinical trials.
The vaccine is 94 per cent effective in preventing disease, including in the elderly.
The Government has also agreed to purchase an additional 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine on top of its previous order of seven million, taking the total to 17 million.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.
“We have already vaccinated nearly 1.5 million people across the UK and Moderna’s vaccine will allow us to accelerate our vaccination programme even further once doses become available from the spring.
“While we immunise those most at risk from Covid, I urge everyone to continue following the rules to keep cases low to protect our loved ones.”
12:29 PMNumber of Covid patients in English hospitals over takes Spring peak in most NHS trusts
More than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus, new analysis shows.
In two regions – eastern England and south-east England – more than three-quarters of trusts are above their first-wave peak.
Other trusts have seen their numbers rise so rapidly that they could pass their first-wave peak within days.
The analysis by the PA news agency found that of 139 acute hospital trusts who reported figures for January 5, 84 – or 60 per cent – had more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave in spring 2020.
12:17 PMBREAKING: Moderna coronavirus vaccine approved for use in the UK
The UK medicines regulator has approved the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for use in the UK
12:10 PMGreece extends international travel restrictions
Greece has extended restrictions on international flights by two weeks to help rein in the spread of Covid-19, its civil aviation authority said on Friday.
The requirement that all passengers flying to Greece must receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 72 hours prior to their arrival and undergo random testing for the coronavirus has been extended until midnight on Jan. 21, the authority said in a statement. The order had previously been due to expire on Jan. 7.
Under renewed restrictions, foreign travellers will also be quarantined for seven days, instead of three days, while all travellers from Britain will also have a rapid test upon their arrival, the statement added.
Greece has been more effective than many European countries in containing the coronavirus pandemic, despite its struggling health services, which were badly hit by years of financial crisis.
The country has confirmed 142,777 infections since it detected its first case in February and 5,146 related deaths. In recent weeks it has been fighting significant Covid clusters in northern Greece and western Attica near the capital Athens.
A medical staff member of the National Health Organization (EODY) conducts a COVID-19 rapid test on a municipal employee at a drive-through testing site in Athens – Thanassis Stavrakis /AP12:02 PMComing up: Welsh first minister to chair press conference at 12:15pm
We’ll bring you updates here.
12:00 PMUK set to approve Moderna vaccine as soon as Friday
UK health regulators may grant emergency use authorization to Moderna Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine as soon as Friday, making it the third vaccine to receive approval in the country, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc and the University of Oxford received approval in December followed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE’s shot.
The two-dose Moderna vaccine has already been rolled out in the United States, Canada. Earlier this week, Israel granted authorisation for the shot.
It was about 95 per cent effective at preventing illness in clinical trials that found no serious safety issues.
11:58 AMCars swallowed by sinkhole outside Italy hospital
Patients had to be evacuated from a hospital in Naples on Friday after a huge section of the carpark collapsed, causing water and electricity to be cut off.
Nobody was hurt in the incident although several cars fell into the sinkhole measuring about 500 square metres (5,400 square feet), firefighters said.
“Intervention in the car park of the Ospedale del Mare for a sinkhole,” Italy’s fire service tweeted, adding that several parked cars had fallen inside and dog units were on site.
Vincenzo De Luca, the head of the Campania region that includes Naples, said “fortunately it has not caused any damage either in terms of systems engineering or especially in terms of human lives”.
He blamed a “hydro-geological problem”.
The hospital was a centre for coronavirus patients during the first wave of infections last year, although only six were being treated there on Friday.
The ward was “temporarily closed because of the absence of hot water and electricity”, the local health service said.
A aerial view shows a sinkhole in the Ospedale del Mare hospital car park, where people come for Covid-19 testing, on the outskirts of the city of Naples, after the ground collapsed – CIRO FUSCO / AFP11:46 AMMeet the scientists using TikTok to tackle vaccine misinformation
Since the start of the pandemic, wild claims about Covid-19, including suggestions that Bill Gates has bugged vaccines with microchips, have troubled the internet.
It’s become such a concern that Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation, has repeatedly warned that a duel pandemic of disease and misinformation has infected the world.
Now these experts are using TikTok to debunk some of the world’s wildest coronavirus conspiracy theories.
Jordan Kelly-Linden has more on this story here.
11:38 AMFour in 10 Britons formed a Christmas bubble, ONS figures show
Four in 10 adults in Britain formed a Christmas bubble to celebrate Christmas Day, figures suggest.
Some 44 per cent of adults in England, Scotland and Wales said they met up to two other households on December 25, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The same proportion said they had not done so, while 10 per cent said it was not permitted in their area, despite Boris Johnson announcing just days before taht 18 million people who lived in England’s Tier 4 could not meet people outside their household or support bubble.
Families had hoped to take advantage of a five-day relaxation of social restrictions to meet family members and friends indoors.
Outside of Tier 4 areas, people in England were allowed to meet for one day. Scotland and Wales also restricted Christmas bubbles to a single day.
11:28 AMSwedish parliament grants government wider shutdown powers
Swedish lawmakers on Friday passed a bill that gives the government the temporary power to shut shopping centres and public transport and to fine people who break social distancing rules as it struggles to slow the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unlike most European countries, Sweden has, up to now, adopted mainly voluntary measures to limit the spread of the virus, partly because the government has lacked wide-reaching legal powers to act.
The new law will allow the government to restrict shop opening times and, if necessary, shut private businesses and public transport and limit the number of people in public spaces like parks.
“This is first and foremost about measures to hinder the spread of the virus, but without imposing unnecessary limits on things that can be done without risking infection,” Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said during the parliamentary debate.
The government will however not be able to impose curfews or a domestic travel ban under the new legislation.
Sweden registered 12,536 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, covering the period since Jan. 5, Health Agency statistics showed. Deaths now total 9,262, a rate per capita several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours’, but lower than in many European countries that opted for lockdowns.
Some passengers onboard an underground train wear masks to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, in Stockholm, Sweden – Jessica Gow/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock11:16 AMPfizer vaccine effective against new variant, early study suggests
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in Britain and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the US drugmaker.
The study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralising virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.
The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralisation elicited by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists.
The first results of tests on the variants offer a glimmer of hope while more studies are carried out as Britain and other countries try to tame the more infectious variants which authorities believe are driving a surge in infections that could overwhelm healthcare systems.
Scientists said the results of the study would help calm concerns that people will not be protected by vaccines being given to millions of people around the world in the fight against the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.8 million people and roiled economies.
11:01 AMUK travel ban on Southern Africa
Amid good news that the Pfizer vaccine might be effective against the new South African strain of coronavirus, the Government is cracking down on an arrivals ban from several southern African countries.
All arrivals who have travelled to or transited through Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, eSwatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, the Seychelles and Mauritius in the past ten days will be prohibited from entering the UK.
The measure will be in place for a provisional two weeks, and apply to all travellers except British/Irish nationals.
Read more here: UK to ban travel from 11 more countries amid South African variant fears
10:46 AMPassengers could be ‘caught out’ abroad with new travel testing rules
Passengers arriving in England and Scotland from next week, including UK nationals, will be required to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving their country of departure.
Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, has warned that it might be a “real challenge” for some passengers due to the differing testing facilities in other countries.
While Heathrow has the capacity and facilities to test up to 25,000 travellers daily, other airports lack such a capacity.
Mr Holland-Kaye has urged the Government to create a “common international standard for testing” to replace the current “confusing” differences in airports around the world.
On Friday’s BBC Breakfast he said: “if you’re caught out in one of those countries, and you now have these new requirements, then you’ll find it quite difficult to get the tests that are needed in order to come back home again.”
Failure to comply with new testing rules will lead to an immediate £500 fine – Daniel Leal-Olivas/ AFP
10:30 AMUrsula von der Leyen: EU countries cannot negotiate separate vaccine deals
The president of the European Commission said on Friday that EU countries are not allowed to negotiate separate vaccine deals with pharmaceutical companies.
“The only framework we are negotiating in is as 27. We do this together and no member state on this legal binding basis is allowed to negotiate in parallel or to have a contract in parallel,” von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels.
“The whole portfolio covers 2.3 billion doses of vaccines so this is more than enough to vaccinate the whole European population,” she said.
10:12 AMBoris Johnson’s ‘race against time’ as hospital staff become ‘shattered’ and ‘scared’
In Thursday evening’s Downing Street briefing Boris Johnson announced a goal of administering hundreds of thousands of vaccines a day by 15 January.
He called it a “race against time” while assuring that “battle preparation techniques” are in use to keep up the pace.
The Chief executive of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, said during the briefing that there are now 50 percent more inpatient covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave.
Nurses and doctors caring for the critically ill coronavirus patients describe feeling “shattered”, “scared” and “in tears” by the end of their shifts.
“There’s only so much you can come in and see an unprecedented number of healthy people die before that affects you,” says Tori Cooper, head of nursing in the emergency department.
Read more: Inside a Covid intensive care ward where staff are on a war footing
09:58 AMPoll: Only 3% take part in Clap for Heroes
You can still have your say below, but after just over two hours, here are the results.
09:41 AMEU reaches deal with Pfizer for 300 million additional doses
The European Union will get an additional 300 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.
This will double the amount of doses from these producers.
“The European Commission today proposed to the EU Member States to purchase an additional 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by BioNTech and Pfizer, with the option to acquire another 100 million doses,” it said in a statement.
“This would enable the EU to purchase up to 600 million doses of this vaccine, which is already being used across the EU,” the statement said.
Von der Leyen said 75 million of the additional doses would be delivered in the second quarter of this year.
09:33 AMGrant Shapps: Even those whose jobs allow travelling exemptions will have to test
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that even those whose jobs qualify them for exemptions in travel quarantine rules will be required to take a coronavirus test before travelling.
There are currently dozens of jobs listed by the Government that qualify for exemption from completing the passenger locator form or from self-isolating, including health workers, elite sportsmen and women and defence personnel.
Mr Shapps said that despite not needing the quarantine, they “won’t be exempted from taking the Covid test”.
See Mr Shapps on Good Morning Britain below:
‘Why has it taken 10 months to put it in place?’
People travelling to the UK will now have to provide evidence of a negative coronavirus test.
Transport Sec @grantshapps explains why it’s being put in place now.
He says they are bringing it in now because of the new variants. pic.twitter.com/Hi2aR9sTj7
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) January 8, 2021
09:17 AMPolice hunt fraudster who injected woman, 92, with fake vaccine
A fraudster claiming to work for the NHS jabbed a 92-year-old woman with a fake Covid-19 vaccine.
Detectives hunting the suspected conman, who charged the victim £160, say he “may endanger people’s lives”.
The victim allowed him into her home in Surbiton, south-west London, on the afternoon of Wednesday December 30 after he said he was from the NHS and there to administer the Covid-19 vaccine.
She said she was jabbed in the arm with a “dart like implement” before being charged £160 which the fraudster said would be refunded by the NHS.
Read the full story here.
09:06 AMSymptomatic cases increase by 27 percent, study shows
Data from the Zoe Covid Symptom Study UK Infection Survey run by King’s College London shows that there is a 27 percent increase in daily new symptomatic cases from a week ago in the UK.
Tim Spector, lead scientist on the study, said: “The UK is now worryingly at 70,000 new daily cases and around 800,000 infected individuals, and the worst-hit areas continue to be Wales, London and the South East.”
Regional R values are 1.1 in England, 1 in Wales and 1.3 in Scotland.
Spector said: “One in 42 people in London has symptomatic Covid now, so those living in the capital must take care.”
08:53 AMUK fourth in the world for vaccinations
Here, Oxford-based company Our World In Data present the global leaders in Covid vaccine rollout.
[Updated] Total vaccine doses administered per 100 people:
🇮🇱 Israel 19.6
🇦🇪 UAE 9.0
🇧🇭 Bahrain 4.2
🇬🇧 UK 1.9
🇺🇸 US 1.8
🇩🇰 Denmark 1.4
🇮🇸 Iceland 1.4
🇮🇹 Italy 0.7
🇨🇦 Canada 0.6
🇸🇮 Slovenia 0.6
🇷🇺 Russia 0.6
🇩🇪 Germany 0.5
🇭🇷 Croatia 0.5
More countries: https://t.co/03pQ8rRViP pic.twitter.com/hrclrU9V2d
— Edouard Mathieu (@redouad) January 8, 2021
08:50 AMNo vaccine targets for Wales, First Minister says
First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales is unable to give targets for administering coronavirus vaccines because of uncertainty over how much will be given to the country by the UK Government.
Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales: “I don’t think it’s sensible to have a target if you don’t know how much vaccine you’re going to get. We’re not yet in a position beyond the next two weeks after this week to know the supply of vaccine that we will be getting here in Wales.
“When we know how much vaccine we have, then our targets will be to maximise the use of that supply in every part of Wales.”
He also told Sky News that the vaccine rollout should not be a sprint. Watch below.
08:36 AMNo need for border tests in Wales because airport is shut
First Minister Mark Drakeford has said he “strongly supports” plans to require all travellers to England and Scotland from international destinations to test negative for coronavirus before they can enter the country.
“We don’t have anybody coming into Wales at the moment,” Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast. Our airport is closed to passenger traffic and the people who come in to the Welsh ports are all coming from the common travel area and these rules don’t apply to people in those circumstances.
“So at the moment, this doesn’t apply in Wales because nobody is coming into Wales in the way that people are still coming into England and Scotland, but I strongly support what is being done. When people start travelling into Wales from other parts of the world, we will expect exactly the same rules to apply.”
08:34 AMLondon hospital drafts in triple number of consultants
Here’s the state of affairs in the capital.
Normally we have three intensive care consultants (senior doctors) working on our intensive care unit at any one time. Today we have ten, each leading an entire ICU team. The response is inspirational but the need is just awful. So please, #HandsFaceSpace. Help us help you. 💙
— Rupert Pearse (@rupert_pearse) January 8, 2021
08:25 AMCurfews not being considered in Wales
Wales is “not yet in a position” where measures such as curfews need to be imposed to control the spread of Covid-19, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
“It’s important for me to say that numbers in Wales have been improving and we are not in the position we were before Christmas, where Wales had the most difficult figures everywhere in the United Kingdom,” Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast.
“We’re below the figures in Northern Ireland, we’re below the figures in England. So we’re not yet in a position where we would need to take measures such as curfews but the continuation of the current lockdown regime is necessary in order to relieve the pressure on the NHS.”
He added: “We’re not in a position where curfews are – at this point – part of the repertoire of actions we are considering.”
08:24 AMPrime Minister’s father has second jab cancelled
The Prime Minister’s father Stanley Johnson, who is due to have his second coronavirus jab on Friday, said he was “very much looking forward” to it but that he was not clear what the rules were after he had been vaccinated.
Mr Johnson told Good Morning Britain that he would soon be “fancy free” and that he would behave “perfectly properly” after receiving the second vaccine.
“Do we have a get out of jail free card… I think probably not. I think the rules will still have to be locked down,” he said
08:19 AMHeathrow welcomes testing travellers
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye welcomed plans to require all travellers to England and Scotland from international destinations to test negative for coronavirus before they can enter the country, but said they were a “temporary” measure.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “We have always argued for pre-departure testing as an alternative to quarantine and because we’re now going to have both this is a really belt and braces approach. And it can only be a temporary measure, very few people will travel with this in place.
“Now, of course, we’re locked down currently, so very few people are travelling, but we need to have a roadmap for how we get out of this because aviation is vital to us as a small island trading nation and a lot of our supply chain and our exports go by air largely in the holds of passenger planes.
“And unless we can get those passenger planes moving, we are really not going to be able to get the UK economy moving as well.”
08:18 AMWales lockdown to ‘intensify even further’
Lockdown measures will continue in Wales and will “intensify even further”, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
“It means bringing schools into line with the rest of the lockdown regime, so schools in Wales will now remain on remote learning until January 29 at the earliest,” Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast.
“We are looking at the workplace with our trade union and other colleagues to see if there are further safeguards that we can put in place to make sure that workplaces are safe, given the fact that the new variant is so much easier to catch than the previous version of coronavirus.
“And we’re looking at supermarkets and other places where people leave their homes and go to, to make sure that they are organised in a way that keeps their staff and their customers safe.”
08:09 AMUK lockdown, in picturesEllen Prosser, known as Nell, who is 100 years old, receives the Oxford vaccine from Dr Nikki Kanani at the Sunrise Care Home in London – Kirtsy O’Connor/PAHaving faced criticism for the crowded seafront Southend Borough Council have closed the seafront car parks to deter visitors – AlamyThere were no such warnings in Brighton and Hove – Andrew Hasson/Alamy08:01 AMWill Wales and Northern Ireland follow suit on borders?
Grant Shapps said that he is “pretty certain” that Wales and Northern Ireland will also introduce the requirement, adding: “I suspect it will be a UK-wide requirement from some point next week.”
He defended the Government against allegations it should have closed the border before, saying the UK as an island needs the movement of goods and people.
“Look what happened in the United States, for example, where they did last March entirely closed the border,” he added.
“It hasn’t helped them at all, not one iota.”
08:00 AMGrant Shapps: Border checks urgent because of new strains
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said introducing the requirement for passengers to have a negative test before arrival into England and Scotland became “much more urgent” because of new coronavirus strains.
He told Sky News: “This is an extra check and we’re doing this now because there are these variants that we’re very keen to keep out of the country, like the South African variant, for example.
“There are the concerns about the South African one in particular about how effective the vaccine would be against it so we simply cannot take chances.
“So today because of that variant it has become much more urgent.”
07:56 AMMinister shares warning of Covid scam
Fraudsters are using the coronavirus vaccine to scam the vulnerable.
The minister in charge for the national rollout of the jabs has this message for the public.
URGENT! Please please RT and share with elderly/vulnerable friends and relatives SCAM ALERT @NHSuk will NEVER ask for Bank Account details or arrive unannounced at your home. 👇🏾💉💉💉 https://t.co/ZoMkiZ1qyc
— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) January 8, 2021
07:44 AMAnd just to compare…
Did you take part in March?
07:38 AMDid you clap for heroes last night?
It seems the support for the 8pm clap has petered out. Did you take part?
07:30 AMBorder testing ‘too slow’, says shadow home secretary
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds tweeted: “The Government decision to introduce mandatory testing before UK entry has been too slow given the risk of Covid-19 variants entering the country, including the strain that emerged in South Africa.
“Too often, Ministers have gone from one crisis to another, lacking strategy & grip.”
07:21 AMTest and isolate NHS patients, care homes warn
Carers have called for effective testing and isolation of NHS patients they take on in the sector in order to reduce the burden on the health service as coronavirus cases surge.
National Care Association chairwoman Nadra Ahmed told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s no way that providers can go back to April when we were told everything was OK and people were being discharged out of hospitals. Of course we want to help the NHS if we can, but we want to do that safely.
“The only way that can be safely done is if we’re absolutely clear that the person is no longer shedding the virus. We also have to remember that care homes are also struggling with staffing. The risk to the sector is enormous if we don’t do it in a safe manner.”
07:16 AMToday’s front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph on Friday, Jan 8.
dt06:23 AMAustralia battles to contain UK Covid strain
Australia is nearly halving the number of passengers allowed to arrive by plane in a bid to prevent the spread of a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain.
A cleaner at a Brisbane quarantine hotel diagnosed with Covid-19 on Wednesday is the first person infected with the variant found in the Australian community. Other cases have been detected among travellers while in hotel quarantine, where there is little risk of community spread.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Friday – EPA
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state leaders had agreed that international arrivals to New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia state airports would be halved until Feb. 15. Arrivals at Victoria were already relatively low and would remain unchanged.
Authorities in Brisbane are locking Australia’s third-most populous city down for three days beginning tonight to contain the spread.
Read more: Brisbane enters three-day lockdown as Australia tries to contain new UK Covid strain
05:53 AMStudy suggests Pfizer vaccine effective against new variants
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in the UK and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the US drugmaker.
The not-yet peer reviewed study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.
The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists.
Read more: Pfizer vaccine works against new Covid mutations, drugmaker says
05:32 AMLondon landmarks light up blue for NHS
Iconic landmarks in London lit up blue last night in a renewed gesture of thanks to the NHS and frontline workers.
Well-known buildings and sporting and entertainment venues across the capital illuminated in blue to celebrate the hundreds of workers who have put their lives on the line during the pandemic to help others.
Trafalgar Square, Wembley Arch and the London Eye along the South Bank were among several landmarks that joined the £LightItBlue campaign which began last year.
Blue lights beamed from the spires of The Shard, as well as the globe atop Madame Tussauds.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is a very challenging time for our city and nation, and we owe a great debt to our NHS and key workers who are working so incredibly hard to serve our city.
“By lighting up buildings in blue in their honour, our capital is again standing together to thank them for their tremendous efforts.”These workers deserve our praise and our thanks, and I urge Londoners to continue following the lockdown rules so they can play their part in supporting the NHS and save lives.”
The London Eye in Southbank, London – PAThe Trafalgar Square fountains in London – PAThe Shard in London – PA
04:42 AMToday’s top stories