New variants may 'get round' vaccines, warns Sir Patrick Vallance
The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has warned some of the new variants may be able to “get round” the vaccines. However, he told a No 10 news conference that it was “really quite easy” to adjust the vaccines to deal with mutations in the virus. It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the closure of all air travel corridors from Monday to protect the UK against new strains, ending the quarantine exemption for arrivals from selected nations.
He told the Downing Street press conference: “It’s precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country.” More than 3.2 million people have now been vaccinated across the UK, a two-fold increase in the numbers from last week. This includes 2.8 million in England, 225,000 in Scotland, 126,000 in Wales and 115,000 in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile the global death toll from Covid-19 passed two million as countries launched mass vaccination programs to curb the second wave of infections. Follow the latest updates in Saturday’s live blog.
Roundup of today’s top stories
- The UK is to close all travel corridors from Monday to “protect against the risk of as yet unidentified new strains” of coronavirus.
- The worldwide coronavirus death toll surpassed two million today as nations around the world launch mass vaccination drives and detect new Covid-19 variants.
Vaccinating even half as many people overnight at the current daytime rate could mean protection for all adults against Covid-19 by June, the latest data on the UK’s rollout suggests.
Anxiety levels are now at their highest since the peak of the first lockdown, figures have shown.
Angela Merkel focuses on pandemic legacy as her party considers whether to break with her.
Jury trials should be halted for two weeks because of the risks from the new Covid variant, the body representing solicitors in England and Wales has said.
Hundreds of thousands of struggling businesses hit by coronavirus restrictions including bars, restaurants and nail salons could be entitled to a payout following a landmark court ruling.
Drinking alcohol before or after having the coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to impact the effectiveness of the jab, experts have said.
Elite sport will be exempt from travel corridor closures
The Champions League and Six Nations avoided being thrown into chaos on Friday night after elite sport was granted an exemption from the UK’s month-long closure of air travel corridors. But Arsenal’s Europa League tie with Benfica next month was plunged into doubt after a separate, indefinite, ban on those travelling from Portugal came into force amid fears over a new coronavirus variant.
Boris Johnson announced that anyone allowed into the UK from 4am on Monday must now quarantine for 10-days or take a Covid-19 test on day five to shorten their isolation. Ben Rumsby has the full story here
Watch: Rio de Janeiro beaches crowded as Brazil tackles new variant
French coronavirus death toll rises to nearly 70,000
The cumulative death toll from coronavirus in France rose by 636 to 69,949 on Monday as the country added a three-day batch of retirement home deaths to the tally, health ministry data showed on Friday. France reported 280 deaths in hospitals, down from 282 on Thursday, and 356 deaths in retirement homes.
National statistics institute INSEE said France’s overall mortality rate in 2020 – inflated by the pandemic – was nine per cent higher than in the previous two years, with a total of 667,400 deaths from all causes, or 53,900 more than in 2019.
Rise in serious incidents involving children surged after lockdown
The number of reported incidents involving children who died or were seriously harmed following suspected abuse or neglect, and children in care, rose by a quarter after England entered its first lockdown, figures show. The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel received 285 serious incident notifications between April and September last year. This is an increase of 27 per cent from the same period the previous year.
Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, numbers had fallen. The largest increases were seen among young children, the figures show. More than a third of the notified incidents (102) involved children under the age of one.
Covid hospital admissions to peak in next 10 days, Sir Patrick Vallance warns
The number of patients being admitted to hospital with coronavirus is set to peak within the next 10 days, England’s chief medical officer has said.
Professor Chris Whitty said he hoped the peak in infections had already happened in the South East, East and London, where there was a surge in the Kent variant. But he said it will be later elsewhere – while the peak in deaths will be later still. A further 1,280 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, while there were another 55,761 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
The number of hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 in England was 3,840 on January 13, according to the latest figures from NHS England.
Terrible situation in Manaus an ‘alert’ for the world, says WHO
The catastrophic situation unfolding in Manaus, Brazil, should be a warning for other countries all over the world not to let their guard down, Dr Mariangela Simao, assistant director-general to the World Health organisation’s access to medicine and health product team, has warned.
Cemetery workers carry the remains of 89-year-old Abilio Ribeiro at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in ManausCredit:Edmar Barros/AP
“Manaus in Brazil is actually an alert for many countries right now, because you have a resurgence [of cases]. But at the same time we have an enormous breakdown of the health system,” she said. Manaus put in place emergency infrastructure during its first wave of cases, but that was then taken down after cases dipped.
Now they face a “terrible situation,” she said, and this should serve as a warning for countries elsewhere. “Don’t let a false sense of security. Don’t Bring your guard down,” she said. “If you had built up infrastructure to ICU beds and oxygen distribution points.
If you had put that up. Don’t shut it up.”
UK coronavirus variant found in 10 U.S. states
A new, more transmissible variant of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain has been detected in 10 U.S. states, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday, warning that it could become the dominant circulating variant in the United States by March.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, is believed to be twice as transmissible as the current version of the virus circulating in the United States. Its rapid spread will increase the burden on health resources at a time when infections are surging, further sapping strained healthcare resources and increasing the need for better adherence to mitigation strategies, such as social-distancing and mask-wearing, the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease. It also increases the percentage of the population that needs to be vaccinated to achieve protective herd immunity to control the pandemic, the organisation added.
Brazil: Next wave of infections could be ‘catastrophic’, warns WHO
There has been a rapid case of hospitalisations reported across Brazil’s Amazon states since the middle of December, Dr Mike Ryan warned.
“Clearly if this continues, we’re going to see a wave that was greater than what was a catastrophic wave in April, May,” he told a press conference on Friday. “ICU occupancy in Manaus is 100% over the last two weeks. This is the health system under extreme pressure,” he warned.
There is a shortage of supply of oxygen, gloves and basic PPE. Front line workers are struggling and aboratory staff have also been struck by the recent surge in community transmission, which is holding up testing, he said. The worrying epidemiological situation isn’t just a problem in Brazil, other countries are also fighting a jump in cases and people need to take “responsibility” for their recent actions which are clearly driving the spread, he added.
Sir Keir Starmer welcomes travel restrictions but says PM was slow to act
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has welcomed the decision to suspend travel corridors but criticised the Government for being slow to act. “I think many people will say ‘Why on earth didn’t this happen before?’ Many countries have taken this step before we did. Right step, but slow again,” he said.
“We are still in a very serious situation, the infection rates are going up, the NHS is really struggling. Therefore everybody has to comply with the Government guidance.” Sir Keir called for greater Government support for the aviation sector following the latest restrictions.
“They have been hit time and time again. They were promised support months ago but that package hasn’t been put in place. The Government now needs to urgently address that.”
Nearly 40 per cent of care home residents in England have had vaccine
Almost 40 per cent of care home residents in England have received a coronavirus vaccine, the Prime Minister has said.
Boris Johnson said 45 per cent of the over-80s and almost 40 per cent of care home residents have received at least one dose. Mr Johnson paid particular tribute to vaccine teams in north-west Lincolnshire, Sunderland and Morecambe Bay, where more than 80 per cent of care home residents have been given a vaccine. The majority of care home residents in England are expected to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of the week, health officials have said.
NHS England has told GPs that it “expects” care home residents and staff at homes across England to be vaccinated by the end of this week, or by January 24 “at the latest”.
Global deaths from Covid-19 passes two million
The global death toll from Covid- 19 passed two million today while countries rolled out mass vaccination programs. The milestone was reached just over a year after the coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The number of dead, compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Brussels, Mecca, Minsk or Vienna.
While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and the many fatalities that were inaccurately attributed to other causes, especially early in the outbreak. It took eight months to hit one million dead but took less than four months after that to reach the next million.
Patrick Vallance stresses the ease of virus transmission indoors
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance stressed that coronavirus spreads more easily indoors. “It is indoors where most of the transmission occurs, it is indoors where the biggest risk occurs, and it is indoors where we have all got to be really careful about not mixing with people, not getting into crowded situations, keeping a distance, making sure we look after hand hygiene and of course … ventilation.”
Chris Whitty: ‘Very likely’ for situation to improve by spring
Professor Chris Whitty has said it is “very likely” that the situation will improve by the spring but cautioned that it would not be completely back to how it was before the pandemic.
“What no-one thinks is that suddenly in spring it is all over and that is the whole thing done. What we expect is things to be substantially better than they are at the moment,” he told a No 10 press conference. “The hope is that is a kind of reasonable timeframe to be thinking about.
But if we try to put a hard stop on this we will be caught out by events. “But I think that broad timeframe still feels to me a reasonable one, provided what we are not expecting is completely back to two springs ago.”
Boris Johnson: Aims for 12 mln in England to be given vaccine by Feb 15
The aim is for 12 million people in England to be offered a first vaccine by February 15, Mr Johnson has said. Whitty comments that generally things could very likely have improved by the spring.
“With everybody working together, we can beat the virus, and increasingly the vaccine will take the heavy-lifting,” he says. It won’t be all over in the spring, but we expect things to be substantially better, he says, with deaths down and the NHS not under pressure. Vallance said Sage has produced papers on workplace safety and how to optimise conditions to reduce the spread of the virus.
Johnson reminds people the virus is also transmitted by handling and touching things touched by somebody who has been infected, why hand-washing is key.
Boris Johnson: ‘Tentative, early signs’ of pressures easing in hospitals
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there were some “tentative, early signs” that pressure may be slightly easing in London’s hospitals. He said: “We are seeing some tentative early signs that the pressure may be slightly easing in London now. “But it’s far too early to be remotely confident about that and we need to make sure that we keep the discipline and focus of the lockdown.”
Boris Johnson: Hopes to have vaccinated care home and staff by end of January
Asked on what is being done to suppress outbreak in care homes Boris Johnson said that health workers are “working flat out” to vaccinate all care home staff and residents.
The aim is to have completed the care homes by the end of the month, he added. Sir Patrick Vallance said it would be “very surprising” if current rollout of vaccines did not have a positive effect on reducing transmission rate.
Patrick Vallance: Second wave is a ‘suppressed peak’ that could ‘boil over’
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance stressed that the current wave is a “suppressed peak” that would “boil over for sure” if controls are eased. He said: “This is not the natural peak that’s going to come down on its own, it’s coming down because of the measures that are in place.
“Take the lid off now and it’s going to boil over for sure and we’re going to end up with a big problem. “And that’s a lesson about making sure it’s all cooled down enough before you get to that position. “So I don’t think we should view the point as a natural turning point in the disease, it is a suppressed peak that we need to keep on top of.”
Boris Johnson: One quarter of Covid patients admitted are under 55
Boris Johnson said that once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated by mid-February “we will think about what steps we could take to lift the restrictions”.
He continued: “What we can’t have is any false sense of security so that we, as it were, lift the restrictions altogether and then the disease really runs riot in the younger generations.” The Prime Minister said around one third of Covid patients admitted to hospital are under 65, while a quarter are under 55. “So it can affect and does affect huge numbers of younger people as well, often very badly, and the risk is that those numbers would be greatly inflated if we let go too soon in circumstances where the disease was really rampant.
“That is not to say that I don’t want to try to get to relaxations as soon as we reasonably can – but there are a lot of things that have to go right.”
Chris Whitty: Peak of infections may have already happened in parts of England
Whitty says they expect the peak of infections has already happened in some parts of the country, especially London and the South East. For parts of the country that went into lockdown later, the peak will be later, he says. The peak of hospitalisations and deaths will both come later in the future, he says.
The peaks are expected over the next week to 10 days for most places in terms of people in hospital, he says. Vallance says this is not a natural peak; it’s only coming down because of the measures in place; it’s a suppressed peak that we need to keep on top of.
Patrick Vallance: New variants may ‘get round’ vaccines
The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said some of the new variants may be able to “get round” the vaccines. However, he told a No 10 news conference that it was “really quite easy” to adjust the vaccines to deal with mutations in the virus.
“It is possible that the variants will get round vaccines to some extent in the future and some of them that are out there in the world now may well have more of an effect to bypass some of the existing immune system that has come up in response to a vaccine or previous infection,” he said. “I think it is likely that the vaccine we have now is going to protect against the UK variant and is going to provide protection I suspect against the other variants as well. The question is to what degree.”
Chris Whitty outlines cautious route out of lockdown
Responding to a question from the public on what will the death and infection rates have to be for the Government to lift lockdown restrictions, Mr Johnson said they aim for all vulnerable groups to be vaccinated by February 15.
It depends on the effectiveness of the rollout and where the disease is in terms of new variants, he said. Younger people are ending up in hospital now too, so we can’t relax restrictions too soon, he said, the disease has to be under control. Whitty said we can’t move from lockdown to nothing; it will be walking backwards by degrees depending on what works.
Indirect effects could contribute to putting the NHS under pressure, which need to be reduced as well as the direct effects, he added
Patrick Vallance: Variants likely over all the world
Boris Johnson defending the new travel restrictions said: “We cant have new variants with unknown qualities coming from abroad,” he said. Patrick Vallance added that he suspects there are different variants likely all over the world.
Chris Whitty: Hospitalisations set to rise
Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty praised the “enormous efforts by so many people” as the growth in the number of confirmed cases has slowed. He told the press conference: “We were not sure this was going to be possible with this new variant, but this demonstrates with the actions everyone has taken we are now slowing this right down and we are hoping that in due course it will start to drop.”
But he warned that hospitalisations are still rising and this is set to continue. Prof Whitty explained: I’m afraid in the next week we do anticipate the number of people in the NHS and the number of deaths will continue to rise as the effects of what everyone has done take a while to feed through.”
Boris Johnson: I want to get relaxations as soon as reasonably can
The Prime Minister has said “he wants to get to relaxations as soon as we reasonably can. However he cautioned that any relaxations would be dependant on the “vaccine program working well” and “no new big changes in the virus as well as the results from the current lockdown.
Travel corridors closed from Monday, announces Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered the closure of all travel corridors from Monday to protect the UK against new coronavirus strains, ending the quarantine exemption for arrivals from selected nations.
He told the Downing Street press conference: “It’s precisely because we have the hope of that vaccine and the risk of new strains coming from overseas that we must take additional steps now to stop those strains from entering the country. “Yesterday we announced that we’re banning flights from South America and Portugal and to protect us against the risk from as-yet-unidentified strains we will also temporarily close all travel corridors from 0400 on Monday. “Following conversations with the devolved administrations we will act together so this applies across the whole of the UK.”
Patrick Vallance: Possible some future variants will ‘get round’ vaccines
Asked about the new variant of the virus and plans to contain a new strain, Mr Johnson said that the Government has made great progress and “we don’t want to see that progress undone by a new variant,”
Tough measures at borders and airports will reduce the risk, Mr Johnson said. Commenting on the effectiveness of vaccines with regards to the new variant, Patrick Vallance said: There is nothing to suggest a big change in disease severity with the new variant despite an increased risk of transmission. However he said it is possible that some future variants will “get round” vaccines.
Chris Whitty: Number of admissions into hospital rising across England
Chris Whitty says the number of people entering hospital us still rising across England along with the number of people currently in hospital.
He said: “There are very large numbers of people in hospital and they will continue to rise until next week.” However he did urge for those with any serious health problems to should contact the NHS and hospital.
No of hospital admissions higher than ever5:07PM
Boris Johnson: Praises vaccination teams with nearly half of over 80s immunised
The Prime Minister has praised vaccination teams working across the UK.
45 per cent of over 80s have now been vaccinated with 40 per cent of care homes also vaccinated, he said. “We are steadily protecting those most at risk,” Mr Johnson added.
Boris Johnson: All travel corridors closed from Monday
Boris Johnson has said that all travel corridors across the UK will be closed starting from Monday.
Visitors must demonstrate a negative Covid test 72 hours before arrival.
Boris Johnson: Not the time for the slightest relaxation
Boris Johnson is addressing the nation, he said it “would be fatal if this sense of progress were now to breed complacency.” He added that the pressures on the NHS are extraordinary. “We are seeing cancer treatments postponed and intensive care units spilling over into adjacent wards.”
“Not the time for the slightest relaxation of our national resolve and individual efforts.”
Boris Johnson press conference due shortly
The prime minister Boris Johnson is holding a Downing Street press conference at 5pm alongside England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty and chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance. It’s due to begin shortly.
Four-year-old girl runs marathon for NHS
The parents of a four-year-old girl running a marathon over a month for the NHS have said they are “so incredibly proud”. Peyton, from Buckinghamshire, is running around one mile a day from January 4 to February 8 in a bid to raise money for the health service.
She took on the challenge after asking her parents what she could do to help health workers, and her efforts have already raised more than GBP1,000. On her GoFundMe page, Peyton said: “I have chosen to wear my Arsenal shirt when I run. I aim to run really fast like my favourite players Aubameyang or Leah Williamson.”
Her father Jack Davis said: “We’re so incredibly proud of her and what she’s set out to achieve. “”We’ve been amazed at both the response to the appeal and by Peyton’s daily commitment to running a mile every day, or similar, as she will be taking rest days occasionally as she needs to do at her age.
West Midlands hospitals admissions to peak in 10 days
Covid-positive hospital admissions in the West Midlands are not expected to peak for another 10 days as “struggling” frontline doctors and nurses lose sleep dealing with cases, a hospital chief has said. Professor David Loughton also said the military will be arriving in the region to help NHS trusts in Birmingham and the Black Country “next week”.
“We’ve got to take the pressure off and also say people have got a part to play in this,” said Prof Loughton, chief executive of The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust which runs the city’s New Cross hospital. Speaking on Friday, Prof Loughton also charted the huge emotional toll being taken on NHS staff telling how even seasoned doctors were “having trouble sleeping” after 10 months dealing with the pandemic’s human cost.
“The most difficult thing for staff within the NHS; nobody – but nobody – went to medical school, went into nurse training or came into the health service to watch people die.
Covid transmissions linked to supermarkets, Mark Drakeford says
Stricter rules for supermarkets are needed in Wales due to “significant evidence” that coronavirus is spreading among customers and staff, the First Minister has said. Mark Drakeford said retailers will now be legally required to display signs for social distancing, provide sanitiser for hands and trolleys, and limit the number of customers allowed inside at any one time.
The new rules announced on Friday are part of a package of new measures introduced following concerns that a faster spreading variant of Covid-19 is behind a spike of transmissions across Wales. Essential retailers like supermarkets have already been subject to guidance measures in order to protect the public’s health, but things like ensuring one-way systems are used and managing the flow of customers will now be put into law. Mr Drakeford said the move was in response to concerns that the “visible signs of protection” in stores had reduced in recent weeks, and to give confidence to both staff and shoppers.
Patients feel they cannot afford to miss work despite Covid fears, doctor says
A common feeling that Britons cannot afford to miss work “sums up why we have failed to manage the pandemic”, a doctor has said.
Dr Nishant Joshi, 32, a GP trainee in Luton, went viral with a tweet about a complaint he receives on a daily basis – that many patients feel unable to take time off even if they have coronavirus symptoms. “‘But doctor, I can’t afford to take time off work…”‘ he wrote on Twitter. “I hear it every single day. This is the single sentence that sums up why we have failed to manage the pandemic.”
“But doctor, I can’t afford to take time off work…”
I hear it every single day. This is the single sentence that sums up why we have failed to manage the pandemic.
— the palpitations | dr nishant joshi (@ThePalpitations) January 11, 2021
Dr Joshi said it appeared some employers were also “bending the rules”, including one case where an isolating patient had been asked to return to work “sooner than they otherwise would have”.
Oxygen arrives in Brazilian state overwhelmed by Covid-19
Brazil’s Air Force delivered emergency supplies of oxygen in the early hours of Friday to the jungle state of Amazonas, which is being overwhelmed by a second wave of Covid-19 cases, with reports of patients dying of suffocation in hospitals. The Air Force flew six cylinders with 9,300 kilograms of oxygen from Sao Paulo state to Amazonas state capital Manaus in northern Brazil, where it will be distributed to hospitals, according to a statement from the Brazilian branch of the military.
A truck is loaded with oxygen to fill the local hospitals, after it arrived on a Brazilian Air Force airplane in Manaus airport, Credit:Bruno Kelly/Reuters
Another cargo is being loaded in Sao Paulo on Friday, destined for Manaus, it said.
The Air Force is also evacuating patients to relieve pressure on the health system there, saying a first flight carried nine patients and five doctors from Manaus to Teresina in northeastern Brazil. Evacuations are set to continue with two planes taking patients to six cities.
Thousands of new road signs built to direct people to vaccination centres
Journeys to get a coronavirus vaccine in locations such as disused nightclubs and historic mansions will be eased by a firm offering free signage. The AA said it is willing to install up to 5,000 signs directing people to every temporary vaccination centre opened in the UK this month.
Around 500 such sites are expected to be launched. Locations include Batchwood, a disused nightclub in Hertfordshire; Nonsuch Mansion, a historic house in south-west London; and The Staddy, a function centre five miles outside Plymouth. The AA believes that while the locations of hospitals, pharmacies and GP surgeries are well known to local communities, temporary vaccination sites could be harder to find for many people.
Man charged after 92-year-old woman tricked into paying GBP160 for fake vaccine
A man has been charged after allegedly tricking a 92-year-old woman into paying GBP160 for a fake Covid-19 vaccine.
David Chambers, 33, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to face two counts of fraud by false representation, common assault and two allegations of breaching coronavirus regulations. Chambers, from Surbiton, south-west London, was remanded in custody and will next appear at Kingston Crown Court on February 12, the City of London Police said. His alleged victim is said to have allowed him into her home in Surbiton on the afternoon of December 30 after Chambers allegedly said he was there to administer the Covid-19 vaccine.
Chambers is alleged to have charged her GBP160 before returning on January 4 to ask for another GBP100.
Italy ski resorts closed until Feb 15
The opening of Italy’s ski resorts has been postponed until mid-February, as the country remains in the grip of a pandemic that has killed more than 80,000 people, Nick Squires reports. Ski resorts were originally meant to open on January 7 but that was postponed until January 18.
A closed chairlift is seen at the ski resort of Passo Tonale in the Dolomites which has become a virtual ghost town Credit:Reuters
The government decreed on Friday that they will not be allowed to open until February 15 and even that may not be set in stone. “I think it is unlikely that the ski season will resume on February 15,” said Valeria Ghezzi, the president of a national association of lift operators.
There is an all too real risk that the entire season will be lost.
We will only start to recover next Christmas. It is a disaster without precedent.
Stolen covid vaccine documents have been ‘manipulated’, says EU watchdog
Hackers who stole documents from the EU’s drug regulator have leaked some online and “manipulated” them in a bid to damage public trust in coronavirus vaccines, the watchdog warned today. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) revealed in December that it had been targeted in a major cyber attack that illegally accessed information relating to the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna jabs.
The Amsterdam-based EMA said ongoing investigations showed that “some of the unlawfully accessed documents related to Covid-19 medicines and vaccines have been leaked on the internet”. These included confidential internal emails from November “relating to evaluation processes for Covid-19 vaccines”, the agency said in a statement. “Some of the correspondence has been manipulated by the perpetrators prior to publication in a way which could undermine trust in vaccines,” it added.
Military called in to help hospital with ‘significant’ staff sickness levels
An NHS hospital is bringing in military personnel trained in healthcare roles as it struggles with staff sickness amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Erika Denton, medical director of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “We have some help coming from military colleagues, with 30 military personnel who are trained a bit like our healthcare assistants – slightly different role. “They will be coming in to support our clinical staff.” Speaking on BBC Radio Norfolk on Friday, she said the hospital currently has three times as many Covid-19 patients as at the height of the first wave.
“We’ve got a lot of staff off sick with Covid-19 or self-isolating because somebody in their family has it and that’s put us under even greater pressure,” she said, adding that current sickness levels were between 13 and 14 per cent.
Paraguay approves emergency use of Sputnik vaccine
Paraguay has become the latest Latin American country to approve emergency use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against coronavirus, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) said on Friday. The green light from Paraguay does not require additional clinical trials in the country, RDIF said in a statement. Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia have also approved use of the vaccine while Chile is in talks about doing so.
“We expect that more countries in the region will approve it soon and are ready to create new partnerships to pool efforts in the fight against the pandemic,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the fund, said in the statement. Efficacy of Sputnik V is more than 90 per cent effective, with full protection against severe cases of Covid-19, the Dimitriev said with “more than 1.5 million people already vaccinated.”
Opening of West Midlands’ mass vaccination centre ‘imminent’
The opening of the West Midlands’ second mass vaccination centre at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley is “imminent”. Prof David Loughton, chief executive of Wolverhampton’s hospital trust, said: “As far as the Black Country Museum is concerned, it’s opening is fairly imminent, I believe it’s about (January) the 25th.
“Most importantly, we are in the final stages of identifying a number of other sites and that will be rolled out as quickly as possible. “We’re also confident in terms of hitting the (vaccination) targets that we need to hit by the middle of February.”
R rate remains steady as infections appear to fall in London and South-East
The coronavirus R number in the UK has remained largely unchanged since last week and is now estimated to be between 1.2 and 1.3. Figures released by the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) also put R between 1.1 and 1.3 in England.
Last week R was between 1 and 1.4 in the UK, and between 1.1 and 1.4 in England. The R rate refers to the number of people that an infected person will pass the virus on to, with an R rate above 1 meaning the epidemic is still growing. But experts advising the Government have said that areas that have been under tougher restrictions for a longer period of time – including east of England, London, and the south east – are showing “a slight decline in the number of people infected”.
Scottish Health Secretary apologises for publishing ‘sensitive’ vaccine details
Scotland’s Health Secretary has apologised to Matt Hancock after her vaccine deployment plan mistakenly published “sensitive” details about supplies from manufacturers.
Jeane Freeman said she regrets publishing the figures for weekly supplies, information which UK Government ministers consider to be commercially confidential. The Scottish Conservatives have accused her of breaching the ministerial code, citing the figures in the deployment plan and Ms Freeman’s mention of a vaccine storage location in England which the Scottish Government later said “should not be reported”.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane FreemanCredit:Reuters
Scotland’s vaccine deployment plan was temporarily taken offline after UK ministers raised concerns, but it has since been republished without the figures relating to expected weekly supplies from manufacturers Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna.
Comment: ‘The Government will not be forgiven for repeating its tragic care home mistake’
Despite clear progress in many areas, there are worrying signs that the national effort against this foul plague has sprung a serious leak, writes Patrick O’Flynn. For the great British public to have responded with such discipline to the indignities of a third lockdown, so much so that infection rates are now tumbling and the R value is judged to have dropped below one in many places – despite the presence of the new more infectious strain – is little short of astonishing.
And yet there are still worrying signs that the national effort against this foul plague has sprung a serious leak. Unsurprisingly it is in the most unglamorous and under-resourced part of the system: the care sector. New figures show that Covid outbreaks in care homes have shot up again, trebling in a month and approaching the levels that occurred during the disastrous first wave that saw tens of thousands of fatalities in such settings.
Public Health England data shows 739 confirmed outbreaks of coronavirus in care homes in the week to January 14.
There are so many signs of Britain finally getting on top of the Covid pandemic and of being able to rout it by the spring that it would be an immense tragedy were defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory. Allowing the diseaseto rip through the residential care sector once again, clocking up tens of thousands more deaths to its name, would be unforgivable.
South African and Brazilian variants ‘may allow virus to escape immune response’
Some of the mutations seen in coronavirus variants from Brazil and South Africa appear to allow the virus to escape some of people’s immune responses, a leading virologist has said. Professor Wendy Barclay, who is advising the Government’s Covid-19 response, said that as natural immunity becomes dense in certain parts of the world, some variants have got a “fitness advantage” and are therefore more likely to spread.
She explained that the mutations themselves are not becoming more concerning, but are slightly less controlled by previous immune responses so are going to be the fitter variants. Prof Barclay, G2P-UK lead and head of the department of infectious disease and chairwoman in influenza virology at Imperial College London, said: “It’s not that the mutations themselves become more concerning. “It’s likely that the viruses which have some mutations – which mean that they’re slightly less well controlled by our previous immune responses – are going to be the more fitter viruses, the ones that can spread to more people.
Suspending kidney transplants during pandemic will see organs wasted, says patient
The temporary halt in kidney transplant operations taking place will result in missed opportunities as organs are “wasted”, said a man waiting on the transplant list.
Earlier this week, the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Trust announced a 14-day pause to kidney transplants as its doctors and nurses struggled to cope with a surge in Covid-19 patients
Ian Matthews, 49, from Shropshire has been waiting for a kidney for 18 months Credit:Ian Matthews/PA
Ian Matthews, 49, from Shropshire, and who has been waiting for a kidney for almost 18 months, told the PA news agency: “There is a feeling of missed opportunities. “Every day there are kidneys that will become available when people sadly pass away, but people who could have had a transplant won’t be able to get one now. That is an opportunity that may not come around again for a number of years.
“You wonder how long they are going to have to suspend them for if they are suspending them now.
I don’t think we have seen the worst of what is going to hit the NHS yet.”
Covid deaths to peak in the next seven to 10 days, says expert
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter of the Statistical Laboratory at Cambridge University has said coronavirus deaths are likely to peak in the next week to 10 days. Sir David said 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 told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One.
He warned, however, that hospital admissions would fall more slowly.
Concerning Brazilian variant ‘should not affect vaccines’, No 10 says
The concerning Brazilian variant of coronavirus does not appear to affect vaccines, Downing Street has said, after a top virologist suggested a separate strain from Brazil is already in the country. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said scientists at the Government’s Porton Down research facility are currently investigating the new concerning strain, which has been detected in travellers to Japan. The PM’s spokesman said: “As with some of the other variants we’ve seen, the Kent (UK) variant and the South Africa variant, evidence does suggest that it may be more transmissible.
More research is required to confirm this and Porton Down will conduct that research but current evidence does not suggest that the strain causes any higher mortality rate or that it affects the vaccines or treatments.
Coronavirus vaccine centre opens in historic cathedral
A Covid-19 vaccination service has begun administering jabs at Lichfield Cathedral after being set up along its medieval nave.
Britain’s oldest three-spired cathedral, in Staffordshire, was dubbed “the most glamorous vaccine centre in Britain” by the city’s MP.
Audrey Elson, 84, leaves with her daughter after receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at Lichfield CathedralCredit:Jacob King/PA
Field hospital-style facilities and waiting areas have been set up inside the cathedral, including along its central aisle. The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Rev Adrian Dorber, said people working at the centre were “buzzing” – with volunteers glad to help out. He said of the centre: “It’s great, it’s a real glimmer of hope after a very dark year, and we are delighted to be able to offer the place as a nice, airy, socially distanced space in which this can take place.
“I hope it’s a symbol of how all the communities can come together to facilitate the rollout of this amazing vaccine.”
Watch: Imam warns Muslim community against Covid vaccine conspiracies
French mortality rate nine per cent higher in 2020 due to Covid-19
France’s overall mortality rate in 2020, inflated by the Covid-19 pandemic, was nine per cent higher than in the previous two years, provisional data released by statistics intitute INSEE showed on Friday. INSEE said that on January 15, a total of 667,400 deaths from all causes had been registered for 2020 in France, which was 53,900 more than in 2019.
Nigeria warns against ‘fake vaccines’ as 10 mln doses expected in March
Nigerian authorities have warned on Friday against the circulation of fake coronavirus vaccines in the country, where 10 million real doses of the shots are expected in March. “There are reports of fake vaccines in Nigeria,” the Director General of Nigeria’s National Agency for Food Drug and Administration Control (NAFDAC), Mojisola Adeyeye said during a virtual press conference.
“NAFDAC is pleading with the public to beware. No covid vaccines have been approved by NAFDAC,” she added. “Fake vaccines can cause covid-like illnesses or other serious diseases that could kill.”
Nigeria’s anticipated vaccines add to 100,000 expected doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine although it wasn’t specified which type of jab would be used for the 10 million doses arriving in March.
Wales receives 300,000 vaccine doses
Around 300,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been delivered to Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed. Mr Drakeford said the figure “in very broad terms” was made up of 50,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and 250,000 of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. “We will be using all the Oxford vaccine that we get as we get it, the Pfizer vaccine has to last us until into the first week of February,” Mr Drakeford said.
“So we have to provide it on a week-by-week basis. What you can’t do is to try and stand up a system which uses all the vaccine you’ve got in week one and then have nothing to offer for the next four weeks.
“We won’t get another delivery of the Pfizer vaccine until the very end of January or maybe the beginning of February, so that 250,000 doses has got to last us six weeks.
R value now between 1.2 and 1.3 across the UK
The reproduction number, or R value, of coronavirus transmission across the UK is between 1.2 and 1.3, the Government Office for Science and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said. Last week, it was between 1 and 1.4.
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 1.2 and 1.3 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 12 and 13 other people.
London surfers fined and turned back from Devon
Police have turned back surfers who were in a parked campervan having driven from London to a beach in Devon.
Devon and Cornwall Police said they were found parked in a layby above Saunton Sands at about 03:00 GMT and fined for breaching lockdown rules. Officers tweeted that it “beggars belief” that they drove about 200 miles “as they fancied a surf”.
Beggar’s belief- despite all the messaging- a campervan load travelled down from London last night as they fancied a surf. Tickets given and turned back!
Marginal easing in Wales of restrictions possible if cases keep falling
There may be “marginal easements” to coronavirus rules in Wales if rates continue to fall, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said. Mr Drakeford said the incidence rate was “well above” 400 cases per 100,000 people a week ago but had now dropped to 365 cases per 100,000 people.
“We are definitely seeing progress being made but some of those figures will not move as quickly,” Mr Drakeford said. “We certainly won’t see reductions in hospital occupation moving as fast as the community falls because we know there’s always a delay. The other thing I think it’s important to remember is that even within levels, it is possible to make some adjustments.
So even if you’re not able to go from Level 4 to Level 3, within Level 4 it may be possible – and it’s a may, I really want to stress that it’s a may – to have some marginal easements and that would demonstrate to people that the efforts they are making are making a difference.”
China allows one British expert from WHO investigation team
China said on Friday that it has arranged for the entry of one British expert from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Covid-19 probe team after re-testing negative for the disease.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was speaking at a regular news briefing without clarifying when the expert will arrive. Two members of a WHO-led team that arrived on Thursday in the city of Wuhan to investigate the origins of COVID-19 remained behind in Singapore after testing positive for coronavirus antibodies, the WHO said.
Sweden registers 4,703 new Covid-19 cases and 138 deaths
Sweden, whose unorthodox pandemic strategy placed it in the global spotlight, registered 4,703 new cases since Thursday, Health Agency statistics showed on Friday. The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 138 new deaths, taking the total to 10,323.
The deaths registered have occurred over several days and weeks with many from the Christmas period being registered with a significant delay. Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours but lower than several European countries that opted for lockdowns.
easyJet to refund holidays booked until last week of March
Budget travel provider EasyJet has begun cancelling holidays up until the last week in March amid the tightening of lockdowns around the world and international travel restrictions, the firm has said. The operator said on Friday that it was in the process of contacting customers who have holidays booked up to and including March 24 to let them know they will not be able to travel.
It said this was due to ongoing restrictions as well as the ever-changing rules on international travel. The announcement comes on the same day as a ban on travel to the UK from all of South America as well as Portugal came into force
Solicitor’s leaders warn two-week ‘pause’ of court work needed to stem infection
A two-week suspension of almost all court hearings, including jury trials, may be needed amid rising fears about the spread of coronavirus, solicitors’ leaders have warned. Protecting court workers and users from the virus is of the “utmost importance” and measures such as a temporary pause are the “least bad option” to ensure courts can operate safely, the Law Society of England and Wales said.
In a letter to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), the Society said it has maintained throughout the pandemic that it is “essential” for justice to continue to be delivered, but said there are concerns about safety in light of the more transmissible Covid-19 variant circulating in recent weeks. The Society’s president, David Greene, said if the current situation continues, it is “almost certain” that there will be a “significant loss of capacity” due to court closures caused by outbreaks of the virus. The organisation suggests a two-week “pause” of all Crown and magistrates’ non-custodial work to allow those involved in court work to assure themselves about the safety of attending court, and to discuss measures to ensure safety.
Long-standing distrust of polio shots threatens Covid vaccine campaign in Pakistan
Vaccine scepticism is prevalent throughout Pakistani society amid bizarre claims jabs cause infertility or contain mind control implants, writes Ben Farmer
For the past three months it has been Dr Mohsin Ali’s job to hear volunteers’ concerns about taking part in a coronavirus vaccine trial and he’s worried by what he has heard. From accusations of mass sterilisation schemes to shots that cause autism or even contain mind control implants, he has heard the dizzying breadth of vaccine conspiracy theories sweeping Pakistan. After more than 7,000 interviews, he now fears the same bizarre rumours and hearsay which have threatened to derail the nation’s polio vaccination campaigns also jeopardise a roll out of Covid-19 jabs.
Armed guards in Islamabad, Pakistan accompany polio vaccinators Credit:Shutterstock
His fears are shared by many health officials, who worry public distrust over polio drops sets a precedent for stamping out the coronavirus pandemic.
“If you are not going to win the argument about vaccinating your kids against a deadly disease like polio, then it doesn’t bode well for a Covid vaccine,” explained one international official.
New Braziliant variant may be more transmissible
Downing Street has said evidence currently suggests that the concerning new Brazilian variant of coronavirus may be more transmissible but does not affect vaccines. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that scientists at the Government’s Porton Down research facility are investigating the new strain. “As with some of the other variants we’ve seen, the Kent variant and the South Africa variant, evidence does suggest that it may be more transmissible,” he added.
“More research is required to confirm this and Porton Down will conduct that research but current evidence does not suggest that the strain causes any higher mortality rate or that it affects the vaccines or treatments.”
Boris Johnson to hold press conference at 5pm
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference alongside England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance at 5pm, No 10 said. No 10 said it acted “as quickly as possible” to impose the ban on travellers from South America, with the concerning Brazilian strain possibly posing a “significant risk to the UK”. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “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.”
Mark Drakeford says ‘responsibility of owners and managers’ to enforce rules in supermarkets
First Minister Mark Drakeford has said it is the “responsibility of owners and managers” to make sure stricter rules are observed in Welsh supermarkets. Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff: “Regular announcements over Tannoys, markings on floors, notices that are up, all of those things are things that the managers can make sure are in place. “To be completely clear, it is entirely unacceptable that retail staff who have done so much to help us all during this pandemic – going into work every day to make sure that there’s food we can put on the table – it is entirely unacceptable that those people should face abuse in the workplace.
“We’ve worked closely with the trade unions in reaching the conclusions that I’ve outlined. None of this is designed to put those people at any greater risk.”
Medics must keep feeding dementia sufferer diagnosed with Covid-19
Medics should keep feeding and treating a pensioner who has dementia and was diagnosed with Covid-19 after going into hospital, a judge has ruled. Specialists caring for the woman, who is in her 70s, said she should be moved to a palliative care regime and allowed to die.
Her husband and adult children disagreed. Mrs Justice Judd ruled in favour of the woman’s family on Friday, after analysing evidence at an urgent hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered. Bosses at the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust have responsibility for the woman’s care and had asked the judge to decide what moves were in her best interests.
Angela Merkel eyes stricter curbs as German virus cases pass two million
Chancellor Angela Merkel will host fresh crisis talks next week on tougher measures to slow Germany’s infection rate, her spokesman said Friday, as the country crossed two million coronavirus cases.
Merkel will discuss restrictions with leaders of Germany’s 16 states on Tuesday, bringing forward a meeting initially scheduled for January 25. “The number of new infections remains far too high,” spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin, stressing the need for Germans to further reduce their social contacts. He also said the government was taking “very seriously” concerns over a new virus strain that has emerged in Britain and is considered more contagious
Pfizer temporarily reduces Covid vaccine deliveries to Europe
Pfizer will temporarily reduce its deliveries to Europe of its vaccine against Covid-19 while it upgrades its production capacity, the company and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said on Friday.
“We received this message today a little before 10am (0900 GMT). We had expected 43,875 vaccines doses from Pfizer in week 3 (next week). Now it appears that we will get 36,075 doses,” the FHI said in a statement.
The reduction in deliveries is due to Pfizer limiting output so that it can upgrade production capacity to 2 billion vaccine doses per year from 1.3 billion currently. The FHI said: “This temporary reduction will affect all European countries. It is as yet not precisely clear how long time it will take before Pfizer is up to maximum production capacity again.”
Brazilian variant detected in the UK is not the one causing concern.
Professor Wendy Barclay, G2P-UK lead and head of department of infectious disease and chairwoman in influenza virology at Imperial College London, said the Brazilian variant detected in the UK is not the one causing the concern. She explained: “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.”
Stricter rules for supermarkets in Wales to be introduced
Stricter rules for supermarkets are to be introduced in Wales to help prevent the spread of the new strain of coronavirus, the First Minister has announced. Mark Drakeford said regulations would be strengthened to make sure retailers offer sanitisers for hands and trolleys, limit the numbers of people inside stores, and ensure people keep their distance from others. The new rules announced on Friday are part of a package of measures introduced following concerns that a faster spreading variant of Covid-19 is behind a spike of transmissions across the country.
Specific Covid-19 risk assessments will now also have to be carried out by any business which employs five or more people to help prevent the spread of the new strain. They include things like making sure there is adequate ventilation, making sure people are physically distancing and using PPE, and to consider whether their employees can work from home.
1,808 new cases in Wales
There have been a further 1,808 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 177,864. Public Health Wales reported another 54 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 4,171.
In addition a total of 126,375 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had been given by 10pm on Thursday, an increase of 13,402 from the previous day.
Calls mount for tighter UK border controls amid concerns of ‘gaping hole’ in pandemic response
The UK has relied too heavily on voluntary isolation in arrivals, experts have warned, amid concerns that international travel is a “gaping hole” in the UK’s pandemic response. According to a report published on Friday, there is an “urgent need” to tighten border restrictions to prevent re-importations of Covid-19 from other countries, including highly infectious new variants. It comes after the Government yesterday banned international travel to Latin America and Portugal amid concerns that a contagious variant – which emerged independently from those identified in South Africa and the UK – is spreading widely in northern Brazil.
In the paper, compiled by Independent Sage, experts suggest that the UK has until now “been unusual in the minimal extent to which it has curbed personal travel” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Sarah Newey and Jennifer Rigby have the full story here
Shadow education secretary calls for Gavin Williamson to resign over free school meals row
Shadow education secretary Kate Green has called for Gavin Williamson to resign over the latest free school meals scandal, saying he “plainly isn’t up to the job”. There was a public outcry earlier this week when images of boxes containing just GBP4 or GBP5 worth of food intended to last a week were shared online.
Mr Williamson said on Wednesday that companies will be “named and shamed” if they fail to deliver against food standards, and has urged schools to cancel contracts where necessary. But Ms Green said the public had “run out of patience” with the Education Secretary. Speaking to Good Morning Britain, she said: “I think patience has completely run out with Gavin Williamson and I do think it is time for him to go.
Our children’s future, our children’s education, our children’s well-being, is too important to be left in the hands of someone who plainly isn’t up to the job and I think it’s time for him to go.
British travel ban is ‘absurd,’ Portuguese foreign minister says
Britain’s decision to suspend flights from Portugal because of concerns about a new coronavirus strain in Brazil is “absurd”, Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said.
Santos Silva told the state-owned news agency Lusa late on Thursday he had requested a meeting with British foreign minister Dominic Raab to clarify the situation. Britain’s transport minister announced on Thursday that Portugal had been added to a list of South American countries from which arrivals were being banned because of its close travel links to Brazil. “This is an absurd measure, and we don’t understand what it is based on,” Santos Silva said.
There is no evidence that the Brazilian strain is present in Portugal, according to health authorities.
Experts counter charity advice not to drink for two weeks after Covid jab
Drinking alcohol before or after having the coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to impact the effectiveness of the jab, experts have said. It comes after Drink Aware issued guidance from its independent medical advisory panel warning people not to drink “at least two days before, and at least two weeks after” being vaccinated, “to ensure your immune system is at its best to respond to the vaccine and protect you”. The comments were made by Dr Fiona Sim, the panel chair, Senior Clinical Adviser at NHS England and a visiting professor at the University of Bedfordshire.
But other experts have said this is not necessary and is not recommended in the labelling of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jabs. “It wouldn’t affect the immune response to be honest,” Dr Gillies O’Bryan-Tear, of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, said. Lizzie Roberts has the full story here
Russian to reopen schools as covid cases pass 3.5 million
Russia will fully reopen schools across the country from next week and the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak may have passed its peak, authorities announced today, with the national case tally passing the 3.5 million mark.
Teenage schoolchildren were switched to remote, online learning in October as part of a set of targeted restrictions to curb the spread of the virus that stopped well short of a stringent lockdown. All schools are now reopening apart from 10 of them that have been specially quarantined, Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said.
Russian police raid a bus in Novosibirsk to enforce compliance with face mask rulesCredit:Kirill Kukhmar/TASS
Russia, which has the world’s fourth-highest number of cases, plans to begin mass vaccinations next week. The country has two registered vaccines and is expected to approve a third one in the next several days.
Watch: Grant Shapps details South American and Portugal travel ban to UK
Student defends lockdown-breaking snowball fight
A university student has defended a snowball fight in Leeds which saw hundreds of young people break England’s lockdown rules, saying it was “a laugh people needed”.
The wintry gathering in Hyde Park on Thursday afternoon was organised on Facebook, but was widely criticised on social media amid concerns over coronavirus infections. Footage shows many of those involved not appearing to social distance and the crowd was later dispersed by police.
— BBC Yorkshire (@BBCLookNorth) January 14, 2021
Adam, a 20-year-old student who did not wish to give his second name, said students from various universities were involved and non-students also took part.
“I think a lot of people were just in the park anyway enjoying the snow and joined in,” he said. “It was a very welcome relief… a welcome laugh that people needed. I know many students who are extremely depressed, and stressed with online exams and have had little support.
Anxiety at highest level since April, ONS finds
Anxiety soared and happiness and life satisfaction fell as Britain entered its third national lockdown, figures have shown.
Levels of anxiety are at their highest since last April, when the first wave of coronavirus was at its peak, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Some 42 per cent of adults reported high levels of anxiety, the highest proportion since April 3 to 13, when 46 per cent reported this. People surveyed between January 7 and 10 also said they were less happy, less satisfied with their lives overall and were less likely to feel things they are doing are worthwhile.
Levels of anxiety have risen to an average of 4.6 out of ten, the highest seen since April last year.
‘Don’t let a coffee cost a life,’ new Government anti-covid slogans arriving soon
Dramatic language could be used in hard-hitting new anti-coronavirus adverts, warning that going for a coffee could kill. A national campaign is to be unveiled within days as the Government eyes tougher restrictions amid a surge in infections. One of the slogans being considered is “Don’t let a coffee cost a life”, it is believed.
Another message in the campaign is “Covid takes the train too”. The move is aimed at presenting a stark message to the public to try to ensure compliance with tough lockdown measures as Britain battles mutant strains of the disease.
Brazilian variant found in UK
Professor Wendy Barclay, head of G2P-UK National Virology Consortium, a new project set up to study the effects of emerging coronavirus mutations, said one Brazilian variant of coronavirus has been detected in the UK. She said: “There are two different types of Brazilian variants and one of them has been detected and one of them has not.”
She added: “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.”
Judi Dench: Acting on Zoom ‘unnerving and disconcerting’
She has conquered the stage and screen, but Dame Judi Dench says it is acting on Zoom that is “unnerving”. The veteran actress, 86, makes a cameo in Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s virtual lockdown show, Staged.
She said that filming on Zoom means being watched by other actors. “(Acting) on Zoom is very unnerving,” Dame Judi told Zoe Ball, on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show. “On stage, actors never really look at each other – they do a bit if they’re doing a bit of a scene.
But on Zoom, everybody’s looking at you.” And she added: “It’s very, very disconcerting.”
No change from France on truck tests
French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said on Friday there would be no change for now in provisions requiring truck drivers entering France from Britain to prove that they do not have Covid-19, reports our France Correspondent Henry Samuel. “The provisions applicable to road hauliers coming from Britain are maintained while waiting for a coordinated plan between European countries,” Djebbari said in a tweet.
France had announced on Thursday that people travelling from non-EU countries would no longer be able to enter the country by presenting a negative result from a quick, readily-available COVID-19 test
R rate 0.9 in England and Wales, study shows
There is a decrease of 23 per cent of daily new symptomatic cases on average, according to new ZOE Covid Symptom Study UK Infection Survey figures, India McTaggart writes. The data is based on swab tests data from up to five days ago, which show 53,528 daily new symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average, which compares to 69,958 a week ago. This week’s ZOE figures show cases are slowly starting to fall in England and Wales as the UK’s R number falls to 0.9.
The R value for England and Wales is 0.9 and Scotland is 1.0. Despite cases starting to trend down, London is still the highest risk place in the UK with 1 in 44 active cases. The worst affected areas are Redbridge, Enfield and Greenwich.
The survey also shows that cases have plateaued in most age groups, which is good news for the over 60s, who are linked to more hospital admissions.
Watch: Healthcare workers save thousands of vaccines after power cut
Supreme Court ‘substantially allows’ FCA appeal on Covid insurance claims
The Supreme Court has “substantially allowed” an appeal brought by the Financial Conduct Authority in a landmark GBP1.2 billion legal battle over businesses’ ability to claim on insurance for coronavirus-related disruption. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last year brought a test case, which could affect around 370,000 businesses, over the wording of business interruption insurance policies, which some insurers argued did not cover the Covid-19 pandemic. The City watchdog previously said it was bringing the legal action following “widespread concern” over “the lack of clarity and certainty” for businesses seeking to cover substantial losses incurred by the pandemic and subsequent national lockdown.
Border testing delayed until Monday
Grant Shapps said the implementation of new rules requiring people to have a negative test before boarding a flight to the UK had been delayed until Monday to give time to draw up a list of acceptable tests.
The Transport Secretary told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Knowing that Brits returning, for example, would want to be able to see which version they could legally use, up to the correct specification, it turns out there are so many different ones, we didn’t want to make criminals out of people just because they weren’t able to guess which one had the right, what’s called sensitivity and specificity. “So, we have just given a small grace period until Monday morning to let people safely return, and not create some sort of repatriation crisis.”
UK lockdown, in pictures
NHS staff demanding pay raise stage a protest outside Downing StreetCredit:Anadolu Supermarket shoppers walk past rows of empty shelves in Tescos in BelfastCredit:Charles McQuillan/Getty People queue for their appointments outside the Cullimore independent community chemist in Edgware, LondonCredit:Leon Neal/Getty9:40AM
Germany passes 2m cases
Germany has reported 22,368 new cases of coronavirus, taking the country over the two million mark. There have been 44,994 Covid-related deaths.
Israel to begin vaccinating Palestinian prisoners
Israel will begin vaccinating Palestinian prisoners next week after caving into pressure from campaigners and the country’s president, who warned it was a violation of human rights, reports James Rothwell in Jerusalem .
Yuli Edelstein, the health minister, said the government would start giving the jabs on Monday or Tuesday to all prisoners. It comes after Reuven Rivlin, the president of Israel, rebuked the country’s public security minister, who initially said Palestinian prisoners should not receive vaccines until further notice. “Preventing life-saving medical treatment from people in prison, whether due to a sentence imposed on them by the court or due to detention prior to sentencing, is inconsistent with our values, the values of the state, Judaism, and democracy,” Mr Rivlin said. Five human rights groups in Israel had also handed a petition to the High Court of Justice, demanding a change in policy.
Israel has given jabs to more than two million people in just a few weeks – some 20 per cent of the population – as part of the world’s fastest vaccinations drive.
Tighter lockdown needed, Sage member warns
Professor Andrew Hayward told Times Radio that the increase in activity compared to in the first lockdown concerns him, reports India McTaggart. He said that three times as many people are now using the London Underground and twice as many people using cars and buses. Asked if further lockdown measures were necessary, he said: “I do”, adding it needed to be possible for “those people who can’t afford to work from home to work from home with the right financial packages to support that”.
Asked about nurseries and churches being open, he said there “is a risk where wherever you bring people together” but said it was “probably OK” in large spacious venues with people “extremely socially distanced”. Prof Hayward said he was not aware of the new Brazilian variant being in the UK but “I wouldn’t take that as gospel”.
Population split between those who can afford to stay at home and those who can’t
Professor Andrew Hayward, director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care and a member of the Sage advisory committee, said last week’s case numbers “probably relates to the lockdown measures”, reports India McTaggart. But he said: “My concern is that what we’ve really got going on here is we’ve more or less split the population in two – those who can afford to stay at home and work and those who can’t.
“I suspect what we’re really seeing is a very fast decline in those who are staying at home, and either a levelling off or potentially even a continuing increase in those who are continuing to work.” He told Times Radio the national picture was also being impacted by the two different strains of the virus.
Healthcare in Manaus ‘in collapse’
Healthcare in the hard-hit Brazillian city of Manaus is in “collapse” the health minister has said as hundreds wait for hospital beds and the region deals with a second wave of cases, reports Ben Farmer. The resurgence of Covid-19, in an area where the first wave was so intense, has led to fears a new Brazillian strain is bypassing existing antibodies.
‘Don’t take travel advice from me’, says Transport Secretary
Pressed on whether it was wise for pensioners who have had the vaccine to book summer holidays, Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am the last person you should take travel advice on this from.
“I remember about this time last year, or a little bit later, being asked whether I would book a summer holiday. We then had the travel corridors and I did book, I went to Spain with my family. “And, within an hour of getting there, I, myself, put Spain… took them out of the travel corridor, meaning that I needed to come home and start my quarantine, leaving my family there.
“So, don’t take any travel advice from me.”
Watch: Shadow education secretary’s criticism of food parcels
Shadow education secretary Kate Green has criticised the Government’s food boxes scheme for wasting taxpayer cash without helping the families they are supposed to support.
‘Parents have said they could do a better job, get better value for money than we saw in the food parcels.’ Labour is calling for families to receive free school meals money directly rather than vouchers or parcels. Shadow Education Sec @KateGreenSU joins us. pic.twitter.com/6CjBCWn6uj
Poll: Did you Clap for Heroes?
The days of standing on our doorsteps or at our windows in the spring in a chorus of appreciation for key workers seem a distant memory.
Last week we asked you, the Telegraph reader, if you had taken part in the renewed call to clap for heroes at 8pm – a subtle tweak from the Clap for Carers campaign in March. More than 2,000 of you answered. And the result was as follows:
- Yes: 3%
- No: 97%
So how about this week?
Brazilian strain not in the UK, minister believes
Asked if the Brazilian mutant of coronavirus was in the UK now, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Not as far as we are aware, I think, at this stage.
“There haven’t been any flights that I can see from the last week from Brazil, for example.”
South America travel ban ‘a little late’
Epidemiologist Dr Mike Tildesley suggested the South America travel ban which came into force at 4am on Friday is slightly late but will still “minimise the risk” of the new coronavirus variant found in Brazil from entering the UK. Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Dr Tildesley said: “We always have this issue with travel bans of course, that we’re always a little bit behind the curve. “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. My understanding is that there haven’t really been any flights coming from Brazil for about the past week, so hopefully the immediate travel ban should really minimise the risk.” He added that scientists will know “in the next few days” whether the ban has had “a significant effect”.
Williamson should resign over food parcels, says shadow education secretary
Shadow education secretary Kate Green has called on Gavin Williamson to resign following the latest row over food parcels provided to families in need of support during the pandemic.
The Government was forced to U-turn on a policy of providing goods instead of cash or vouchers when images of boxes containing just GBP4 or GBP5 worth of food instead of the promised GBP30 were shared online, sparking a public outcry. When asked if she thought it was time for the Education Secretary to quit, Ms Green told Good Morning Britain: “Yes I am going to say that, because I think patience has completely run out with Gavin Williamson and I do think it is time for him to go. “Our children’s future, our children’s education, our children’s well being, is too important to be left in the hands of someone who plainly isn’t up to the job and I think it’s time for him to go.”
It is the first time Ms Green has called directly for Mr Williamson to quit.
Imams to use Friday prayers to dispel Covid vaccine fake news
Around 100 mosques are using Friday prayers to raise coronavirus awareness and dispel myths around vaccinations. The campaign, run by the Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), will also include Imams and community leaders filming themselves being vaccinated to reassure communities the jabs are permissible and vital to defeat the virus amid reports some were turning the jab down due to beliefs it contained pork or alcohol. Leeds-based Imam Qari Asim, who is chair of MINAB, said strongly recommended people to take the vaccines – assuring the Covid vaccines administered in the UK are halal and “permissible from Islamic perspective”.
Imam Asim has written a special sermon which tackles some of the “fake news” about the vaccine which is circulating on social media. “It is our ethical duty to protect ourselves and others from potential harm,” he said.
Schools unlikely to reopen after February half term
Schools are unlikely to open after the February half term and could be closed for “much longer”, the chair of the Education Select Committee has warned. Robert Halfon MP said: “The schools are closed and I don’t think it’s very likely that they’re going to open, very sadly, after half term as has been suggested.
“I think it’ll be much longer before they are open.” It comes as England and Manchester United striker Rashford joined TV chefs Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the actress Dame Emma Thompson to press ministers to develop a strategy which could help end child food poverty. In a letter to the Prime Minister, backed by more than 40 NGOs, charities and education leaders, they welcomed the “robustness” of his response to the “inadequate” meal parcels being provided by some private companies, but said it was the right time to “step back and review the policy in more depth”.
‘No one should be going to France,’ says Grant Shapps
Asked about reports France would not recognise the “red circle” antigen test for people trying to enter the country from Monday, Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast: “I think this is in reference to the French requiring what they call the PCR test.
“First of all, no one should be going to France. No one should be travelling. “Secondly, we have a particular arrangement with the French regarding the hauliers, this is the lorry drivers, with tests which are called the lateral flow tests.
“And that remains in place at the moment.”
Hospitals crisis grows as thousands catch Covid in wards
The Government is this morning under growing pressure over the crisis in hospitals as the number patients surges and the NHS is battling to treat the most vulnerable. On Thursday the Telegraph revealed that nearly as many patients caught Covid-19 in England’s hospitals in the past month as over the previous four combined, according to official data. Hospitals in London are among the worst-affected.
Some seriously ill patients were transferred from wards in the capital to intensive care units in Newcastle, nearly 300 miles away, the Guardian reported. It comes as outbreaks of Covid-19 in care homes have more than trebled in a month, with levels of infections now similar to the peak of the first wave, figures show.
Portugal and South America travel bans needed to help vaccine rollout
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted the ban on travellers from South America and Portugal is needed to help with Covid vaccine measures in the UK. He said the move was to combat a new strain of coronavirus found in Brazil, telling Sky News: “Scientists aren’t saying that the vaccine won’t work against it.
“But we are at this late stage now, we have got so far – we have got jabs into the arms of three million Brits now – that’s more than France, Spain, Germany, Italy put together, and we do not want to be tripping up at this last moment. “Which is why I took the decision, as an extra precaution, to ban those flights entirely.” Mr Shapps added: “Everybody coming from anywhere not on a travel corridor must, by law, quarantine.
“And there are not exceptions to that and you can end up with a criminal record if you don’t.”
R rate drops below 1 in some regions
The number of Covid-19 infections across England is falling as a whole, with the reproductive rate – the R – below 1 in some regions, University of Cambridge researchers have said. The Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit Covid-19 Working Group said the current estimate of the daily number of new infections occurring across England is 60,200. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is due to release its own figures later, while Government scientists will release their own R rate, which refers to the number of people an infected person will pass the virus on to.
The Cambridge researchers said regions with a current R rate below 1 are the East of England, London, the South East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber. They say it is above 1 in the South West, North West, North East and East Midlands.
UK economy shrinks after six consecutive months of growth
The UK economy shrank by 2.6% month-on-month in November after England was placed in lockdown for a second time, according to official figures. The Office for National Statistics said UK gross domestic product at the end of November was 8.5% below its pre-pandemic peak.
November’s decline came after sixth consecutive months of growth, with a 0.6% improvement in October.
Supreme Court to rule on GBP1.2bn Covid insurance claims
The UK’s highest court will rule on a landmark GBP1.2 billion legal battle over businesses’ ability to claim on insurance for coronavirus-related disruption. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last year brought a test case, which could affect around 370,000 businesses, over the wording of business interruption insurance policies, which some insurers argued did not cover the Covid-19 pandemic. The City watchdog previously said it was bringing the legal action following “widespread concern” over “the lack of clarity and certainty” for businesses seeking to cover substantial losses incurred by the pandemic and subsequent national lockdown.
The Supreme Court is due to give its ruling at 9.45am.
Today’s front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph on Friday, Jan 15.
Travel ban comes into force
Travellers from across South America have been banned from entering the UK amid growing concerns about a mutant coronavirus strain which has emerged in Brazil. The ban which, also covers the Central American state of Panama and Portugal – due to its strong travel links with Brazil – and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde, came into force at 4am on Friday. Scientists analysing the Brazilian variant believe the mutations it shares with the new South African strain seem to be associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where there have already been large outbreaks of the disease.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described the ban as a “precautionary” move to ensure the vaccination programme rolling out across the UK was not disrupted by new variants of the virus. “We don’t want to trip up at this late stage. We don’t have cases at the moment but this is a precautionary approach,” he told BBC News.
“We want to make sure that we do everything possible so that vaccine rollout can continue and make sure that it is not disturbed by other variants of this virus.” Read more: UK bans travel from South America and Portugal to block spread of Brazilian Covid strain
Denmark leads EU in vaccinations
Denmark leads the EU in vaccinations against the coronavirus and even more people would have got the jab if it had more available doses, the Government has said. So far, 2.2 per cent of Denmark’s population of 5.8 million has been vaccinated since the campaign began on December 27.
Unlike other countries which have, amid delivery concerns, set aside half their vaccine allotment to ensure patients get their second dose, the Scandinavian country has barrelled ahead and used up its first Pfizer-BioNTech doses. “The government’s clear position is that the moment the vaccines touch Danish soil is the moment they have to be used,” said Denmark’s Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.
Biden sets out plan to fight Covid
Joe Biden has unveiled a £1.9 trillion plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, boosting financial aid for Americans and businesses, Nick Allen writes. His plan would plough money into speeding up the delivery of vaccines and reopening schools.
The president-elect said: “A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight and there’s no time to waste. We have to act and we have to act now.” Mr Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” would have to be passed by Congress.
It involves administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his presidency.
Mr Biden said he wanted to reopen most schools by the spring.
Read more: Joe Biden unveils Covid stimulus package
Mr Biden pledged £1,400 cheques for Americans on top of £600 provided in the most recent stimulus packageCredit:AP2:20AM
Today’s top stories
- Outbreaks of Covid-19 in care homes have more than trebled in a month, with levels of infections now similar to the peak of the first wave, figures show
- Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of putting the UK’s vaccination programme in jeopardy after the Scottish Government was forced to retract its jabs delivery plan amid a transparency row
- The UK population may have fallen by as much as 1.3m – the biggest decline since the Second World War – in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, academics have said
- Boris Johnson has been warned by a senior Conservative MP that his leadership will be “on the table” if the Government fails to set out an exit strategy from the coronavirus restrictions
It was set up by the NHS to help direct the elderly and vulnerable to the nearest vaccination centre as quickly as possible – but the 119 vaccination helpline has been accused of giving out confusing and “robotic” advice and even cutting off housebound pensioners in the middle of their calls
Nearly as many patients caught Covid-19 in England’s hospitals in the past month as over the previous four combined, according to official data