Coronavirus live news: US records highest daily case increase, Brisbane under lockdown as single case reported in Australia


Powered by article titled “UK deaths surpass 80,000 after 1,035 recorded – as it happened” was written by Christopher Knaus (now),Yohannes Lowe, Kevin Rawlinson, Jedidajah Otte and Nino Bucci (earlier), for on Sunday 10th January 2021 01.17 UTC

1.17am GMT

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12.47am GMT

Away from Australia, Cuba will run phase three trials of its vaccine candidate, Sovereign 02, in Iran, after institutes in the two countries signed an agreement in Havana.

Cuba’s state-run Finlay Vaccine Institute announced on Twitter the clinical trial would run in Iran to “move forward faster in immunisation against Covid-19 in both countries”.

The Sovereign 02 is the country’s most advanced coronavirus vaccine candidate, showing “an early immune response [at 14 days],” institute director Vicente Verez said last month.

It has been difficult to do phase 3 clinical testing in Cuba because its outbreak has not been as serious as those in many larger countries, he said.

The Islamic republic has reported more than 1.2m cases of the virus, including more than 56,000 deaths.

A teacher tells children about the dangers of the spread of Covid.
A teacher tells children about the dangers of the spread of Covid. Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

It comes after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, banned the importation of US and British-produced vaccines saying they were “completely untrustworthy”.

“It’s not unlikely they would want to contaminate other nations,” he said in a tweet.

Cuba has reported about 14,000 cases among its population of 11.2m, and 148 people have died. While its case numbers are lower than other countries in the region, it is seeing an increase after opening its borders. The Cuban government intends to vaccinate the whole population in the first half of this year.

Updated at 12.56am GMT

12.43am GMT

Australian summary: three cases in NSW, none in Victoria or Queensland

To summarise the latest on the situation in Australia, we now know that:

  • Three new locally transmitted cases have been recorded in New South Wales. Two are linked to the Berala cluster, and one to the northern beaches cluster. The state government has released a list of potential exposure sites in Sydney which you can find here. Dr Kerry Chant, the state’s chief health officer, says authorities are mopping up the last chains of community transmission and widespread testing and physical distancing is critical over the next two weeks.
  • In Queensland, no new cases have been recorded, despite fears over the highly transmissable UK strain. The premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has welcomed the result and praised Brisbane residents for their compliance with the snap three-day lockdown, now in its second day, and the high testing rates. Most contacts of a hotel cleaner who was infected with the UK strain have returned negative results, news health authorities have described as “fantastic”. Queensland has similarly updated its list of potential exposure sites. You can find them here.
  • In Victoria, no new locally transmitted cases were recorded. Victorian authorities are yet to speak on Sunday.
  • The three-week lockdown of Sydney’s northern beaches region is over. About 70,000 residents in the northern part of the northern beaches have been in lockdown since before Christmas, since the emergence of a major outbreak. The premier Gladys Berejiklian said the decision to lock down the region was difficult, but averted a potential “disaster”. She has praised residents for their compliance and says the risk level in the region is now commensurate with the rest of greater Sydney.
Healthcare workers at a drive-through testing clinic at Murarrie in Brisbane on Saturday.
Healthcare workers at a drive-through testing clinic at Murarrie in Brisbane on Saturday. Photograph: Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 1.07am GMT

12.26am GMT

‘Difficult’ northern beaches lockdown helped avert disaster: NSW premier

Berejiklian says the state’s imposition of mandatory mask-wearing in some indoor areas has allowed a range of businesses – like theatre and cinema – to continue.

She doesn’t want to impose unnecessary burdens on NSW residents for a day longer than necessary.

I was asked that question yesterday and I support the notion that we don’t want to impose any restrictions on our citizens a day longer than we need to. But what the mask-wearing has allowed us to do is previously we may have banned all indoor activity for theatres an cinemas and we have chosen instead to make mask compulsory to allow those activities to continue.

So as the pandemic continues, we’re learning more, we’re adjusting our settings, but let me also be clear: I don’t support having restrictions in place a day longer than we need to and if the health advice says the risk is now mitigated and gone through a certain period without community transmission, no longer do we need to wear masks in those indoor settings, well, I’ll be the first one to support that.

Berejiklian says the lockdown of the northern beaches was an incredibly difficult decision, given it was imposed just before Christmas.

A lonely walk on a lonely Avalon beach during the northern beaches lockdown.
A lonely walk on a lonely Avalon beach during the northern beaches lockdown. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

But she said it helped control what could have been a “disaster”.

That was a really difficult decision especially given the time of year but I think now when you look back, when we had, you know, in one weekend, we had about 60 people get the virus through two major events – two local events. I mean, that was a major – that could have been a major outbreak of substantial disastrous proportions.

And I just want to thank the contact-tracers, the community, because Dr Chant was polite in her response, but sometimes members of the community forget to tell us things or they don’t remember as much what they have done and they might remember subsequently and that delays our ability to get on top of issues, but given now that we have got QR codes that are compulsory in businesses and organisations, that gives us greater confidence that if there is a super spreading event, we can get on top of it quickly

But it was a mammoth task to get 60 cases from two events and then to have those spread could have been absolutely devastating and we prevented that. Well I should say, the health experts and the efforts of the community really got us to where we are today, but we need to be aware that the remnants of the disease and the virus are still there in the community and we need to be ever-vigilant.

The only difference today, fortunately for the people of the northern beaches – and again we’re very grateful – is that the risk posed in the northern beaches is no more than the risk posed in greater Sydney. That risk is still there.

Updated at 12.37am GMT

12.20am GMT

Berejiklian urges other states to take a more cautious approach to closing state borders. “Please talk to us” before closing borders.

Look, I think NSW has made its position regarding borders very clear and I would simply say to other state leaders: firstly, please talk to us in NSW before you close the border because we can explain to you the situation that’s going on.

And, secondly, that we have demonstrated our capacity in NSW – and I would never, ever be a government that would be complacent and that’s the opposite of what I’m saying – but sometimes when there is an unexpected breakout, you do have to see where it goes for the 24 or 48 hours before you make a decision like closing a border. Closing a border can affect literally tens and hundreds of thousands of people, depending on where it is, and that’s a big call.

She hopes the Victorian border may be reopened next week.

Motorists approaching the Queensland / NSW border checkpoint in Coolangatta in late December.
Motorists approaching the Queensland / NSW border checkpoint in Coolangatta in late December. Photograph: Dave Hunt/EPA

Updated at 12.24am GMT

12.16am GMT

NSW is in ‘vigilant phase’: Chant

Chant says the next 14 days will be critical in mopping up the last chains of local transmission in NSW. That means continued high rates of testing are crucial.

She says NSW is in a “vigilant phase”.

Clearly we have seen the levels of case numbers decline, but we’re always worry that we’re missing cases. And those high rates of testing and knowing that the community is turning out whenever they have symptoms gives us that assurance.

Obviously we’re pursuing the public health action … but we do need the community to come out whenever you have the symptoms, however mild, and this next 14 days is going to be pivotal in seeing those high numbers. So we need to maintain those numbers well above the 25,000 that we have been achieving, and sustain that for the next 14 days and we also need to have the community coming forward with the most minimal of symptoms.

Updated at 12.20am GMT

12.13am GMT

The three new locally transmitted cases were out in the community, rather than isolation, for some time, Chant says.

A woman is tested at a Berala testing clinic.
A woman is tested at a Berala testing clinic. Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Pleasingly those individuals have helped us and assisted us give blow by blow descriptions where they have been and we have released those venue alerts. I can also acknowledge the cooperation of business that have really been helpful in using a variety of different mechanisms to get messages out to their customers in a number of these venues as well to supplement any records we may have of visitors in these settings.

Updated at 12.22am GMT

12.08am GMT

Dr Kerry Chant, the state’s chief health officer, gives more detail on those three locally transmitted cases.

One is a young man from the southern zone of the northern beaches which who is linked to the Avalon cluster and a close contact of a previously reported case, and two are linked to the Berala cluster, a woman and man in their 30s. Both are close contacts of a previously reported case.

She says another three cases were recorded in hotel quarantine.

The current mopping up stage was crucial in identifying and eradicating any further local lines of transmission.

Testing, she said, was critical to that effort.

We need to maintain those high rates of testing for at least 14 days and I would like to see them sustained beyond that, but for the next 14 days it is critical that we mop up any unrecognised chains of transmission.

Also we all can play a part in preventing Covid spread by really just adhering to those simple messages: maintaining that 1.5-metre social distancing, wearing the mask in the settings that are required, but most importantly, if you have the mildest of symptoms, get tested, stay isolated until you have a negative result.

We are also asking people to be cautious about large gatherings and household events – hence the restrictions around the numbers of visitors that are permitted to houses each day. These settings all prevent a major super spreading event and we do not want to see that occur and so it is important as we are driving towards no community transmission that we all play a part in that.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant says we all need to play our part in driving down community transmission numbers.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant says we all need to play our part in driving down community transmission numbers. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Updated at 12.12am GMT

12.05am GMT

Gladys Berejiklian, the NSW premier, says she is happy with the testing numbers. She describes the current stage of the state’s Covid-19 response as “mopping up”.

Berejiklian also praises the northern beaches region, which is emerging from a three-week lockdown today. She says its efforts have meant the virus has not spread out of control in the rest of the state.

The boundary between the northern northern beaches and the southern northern beaches is no longer. Residents from both sides can now cross the Narrabeen bridge.
The boundary between the northern northern beaches and the southern northern beaches is no longer. Residents from both sides can now cross the Narrabeen bridge. Photograph: Lee Hulsman/Getty Images

We deeply appreciate what the northern beaches has been through in the last few weeks, especially the northern section. Today is your first day where you don’t have the stay-at-home orders applying to you.

But the case of community transmission overnight demonstrates that whilst the main threat of those clusters – both the Avalon cluster and then the related Berala cluster – the main threat has to some extent subsided, we’re still mopping up and’s why all of us have to be on high alert.

The risk in greater Sydney is the same as last week. It only takes one or two cases to get out of control or an undetected line of transmission to get out of control for all of us to be in a situation where we have to consider making things tighter, but pleasingly we are where we’re at in NSW at the moment.

I want to thank the northern beaches community for what they have gone through, for being so compliant, and for making sacrifices which have ensured that the lines of transmission did not spread in a manner which was out of control for the rest of greater Sydney and, in fact, the state.

Updated at 12.16am GMT

12.02am GMT

Three new locally transmitted cases in New South Wales

NSW has just announced three new cases of community transmission from 24,000 tests in 24 hours to 8pm Saturday.

Two are linked to the Berala cluster. One is a close contact of the northern beaches cluster.

Updated at 12.04am GMT

11.49pm GMT

We’re expecting to hear from the New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian in about 10 minutes about that state’s results. Victorian authorities will speak an hour later , although the state has already recorded zero locally transmitted cases.

While we wait, if you’re wondering what Brisbane looks like during this snap three-day lockdown, these snapshots from Saturday give you a fair idea.

Pedestrian walks through a deserted South Bank
A pedestrian walks through a deserted South Bank on Saturday. Photograph: Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images
Deserted Riverside expressway
The deserted Riverside expressway. Photograph: Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images
Police officer on a motorcycle
A police officer on a motorcycle rides through a deserted Brisbane. Photograph: Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 12.08am GMT

11.36pm GMT

Palaszczuk praised the cuts to Australia’s returned traveller cap during that press conference. But not everyone is pleased with the news.

The caps reduction means about 2,500 fewer people will be able to enter each week until at least mid-February, to help ease with fears about the UK and South African variants of the virus.

My colleague Josh Taylor reports that Australians stranded overseas view the decision as a “disheartening blow” which makes returning “near impossible”.

“I am totally disheartened and don’t even know how to tell my girls such sad news,” Mona Grebing, who is stranded in Germany with her two young children, told Guardian Australia. “So far I always felt the government was trying its best to get us all home – so this is obviously a blow in the face.”

Updated at 11.51pm GMT

11.27pm GMT

Queensland police issue 15 fines

Queenlsand police have issued 15 fines in the past 24 hours for breaches of the lockdown restrictions in force across greater Brisbane.

Police say that is an extremely low number and there has been widespread compliance.

The fines were issued for having too many people at a home, holding a party, and refusing to wear a mask.

More broadly, Palaszczuk says she is relieved by today’s numbers. The state’s capital is two days into a three-day lockdown. Palaszczuk says “so far, so good”.

A lifeguard watches seagulls instead of people at the deserted South Bank beach on Saturday.
A lifeguard watches seagulls instead of people at the deserted South Bank beach on Saturday. Photograph: Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images

Look, this is a world first, what we’re doing, the health minister said that. I saw some commentary last night as well from a senior medical officer in the UK. I think they were saying they wish that would happen in London. We have taken this decisive action, it’s the right thing to do, and let’s see what our numbers are tomorrow and then we will update Queensland about what the proposed steps forward are following on from that.

She also says she received a letter from the prime minister yesterday advising that Queensland’s returned traveller cap is being reduced to 500. That will allow the state to better manage a smaller cohort of returned travellers.

Updated at 11.38pm GMT

11.19pm GMT

The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, praises Queenslanders’ willingness to be tested. The state recorded 19,152 tests in the previous 24 hours.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is delighted with the number of people getting tested.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is delighted with the number of people getting tested. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

We saw surges in areas like Hervey Bay and Townsville; we saw people come out and get tested, and that is what we want to continue to see. So please continue keep coming out and getting tested. We have our clinics operating over the weekend, we have our Eight Mile Plains clinic open 24 hours a day, and we have seen people getting tested overnight again at that clinic.

Updated at 11.31pm GMT

11.16pm GMT

Dr Young says Queensland has strengthened its protocols around quarantine for confirmed cases. The quarantine period now lasts 14 days from when they have been exposed, instead of the 10 used previously. That is a direct consequence of the emergence of the UK strain.

Protocols, generally, yes, are currently being strengthened. So we have extended the time that we require somebody to stay in isolation when they are confirmed to have this virus. So it is now going to be 14 days, instead of the 10 days before.

Now, we’ve got to remember, and this is very complicated, so, quarantine is when you don’t have the disease. Right? And we require people to be in quarantine for 14 days from when they have been exposed. So there is that. Then, once you have been confirmed to have the infection, prior to this new variant, we required people to be in isolation for 10 days or three days after they have had no symptoms, whichever is the longer. So we put that in place, and we have not seen, in Australia, a single outbreak related to that protocol. So, early on, we had tighter protocols, till we worked out what was going on, and then we brought in a protocol and we have had no problems.

Now, we have got a new variant so we have to review all those protocols, which we have, so we’ve immediately put in place that people must remain in isolation for 14 days rather than 10 days, plus have an exit test. So that is now in place. It mightn’t stay in place indefinitely, we will review and work out, but just again, but precautionary principle, we have put in place immediately.

She also praises the halving of the returned traveller cap, which is used to restrict international arrivals.

Young also says discussions about whether the Australia-India cricket Test will go ahead in Brisbane are continuing.

Updated at 11.28pm GMT

11.12pm GMT

Young says investigations are continuing to work out how the UK Covid-19 variant escaped hotel quarantine.

We have got an investigation happening at the moment, but will go through all those issues, because of course we need to work through how this occurred.

If we can find out, so that it doesn’t happen again, if anything has happened that we can stop. We’ve got to remember, this is a very contagious virus, even before the new variant, and this variant is 70% more contagious, so I wasn’t that surprised that our first breach was because of this virus.

Updated at 11.28pm GMT

11.09pm GMT

Dr Jeannette Young, the state’s chief health officer, describes the result as “excellent news”.

She runs through a list of venues that are potential exposure sites. I’ll bring that full list to you as soon as I can.

Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young: ‘Excellent news.”
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young: ‘Excellent news.” Photograph: Jono Searle/Getty Images

Dr Young says the state is still learning about the UK variant and is taking the most precautionary approach possible.

I’m not surprised. I am relieved, and I think that it shows that Queenslanders are fantastic at responding. We acted very, very fast and people have responded and we have tested large numbers, which is really good.

It is too early to actually say what this new virus means. This is the first time we’ve seen it in our community in Australia. We know what has been going on in the UK, but it is very hard to unravel, because they came from a different position to us. So this is all about learning every single day, but taking the most precautionary approach possible, because we don’t want this to get out there. It is too early to say whether or not there will be cases.

Updated at 11.31pm GMT

11.05pm GMT

No new cases in Queensland, despite UK variant fears

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, is speaking now. She starts by praising the state’s response to the three-day lockdown.

Health authorities then confirm that no new cases have been recorded in Queensland in the past 24 hours.

Further investigations of the mystery case – a hotel cleaner who had the UK variant – have also been completed.


I can also confirm that 147 close contacts of the cleaner, the hotel cleaner, have now been identified, and 112 of those have tested negative.

Updated at 11.32pm GMT

11.00pm GMT

Hi everyone, it’s Christopher Knaus here. I’ll keep you updated with the latest Covid-19 developments for the next little while.

In Australia, we’re about to hear from health authorities in Queensland, where concerns remain about the potential spread of the highly transmissible UK variant.

Overnight, Queensland announced two new public health alerts for Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. In Brisbane, health authorities want anyone who visited Coles Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown on 5 January between 7.30am and 8am to get tested and quarantine for 14 days since attending those venues.

On the Sunshine Coast, authorities say that anyone in the following venues should monitor their health, get tested if they experience any symptoms, and isolate until they receive their results:

  • 6 January – Cappriccios Italian Pizza Restaurant in Maleny, between 6.30pm and 7pm
  • 7 January – Purple Palate Cellars in Maleny, between 4.15pm and 4.25pm.
  • 7 January – Woolworths supermarket in Maleny, between 4.30pm and 4.50pm.

The same advice is offered to anyone on flight JQ570, between Melbourne and Brisbane on 5 January, arriving at 11pm.

A full list of alerts active for Queensland can be found here.

Updated at 11.33pm GMT

10.51pm GMT


Here is a quick re-cap of recent events from the UK and around the world:

  • Pope Francis said he wishes to have a Covid vaccination as early as next week, as he urged others to get a shot in order to protect their own life as well as everyone else’s. The Vatican City confirmed it will shortly launch its own vaccination campaign against the virus.
  • Twenty-one people in Marseille have tested positive for the new Covid variant initially found in England, with officials saying the cases had been discovered within a family cluster.
  • There have been a further 1,035 people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK, bringing the total to 80,868. It is the fourth day in a row that the UK has recorded more than 1,000 daily deaths.
  • In Australia, Victoria has just announced that no new locally transmitted cases have been recorded from 23,412 tests in the past day. Elsewhere, the 70,000 or so residents living in the northern part of Sydney’s northern beaches region have been allowed out of lockdown after three weeks of living under curbs.

Updated at 10.54pm GMT

10.37pm GMT

Officials in Cuba have announced new Covid containment measures including: suspension of interprovincial transport, cultural activities and the use of public spaces, such as the famous Malecon boulevard, during night hours.

While the authorities have contained the outbreak better than most other Latin American governments, infections have more than doubled since they eased lockdown restrictions and reopened borders in November.

Francisco Duran, head of epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, resumed his daily televised news briefings this week, saying on Saturday Cuba had registered 365 new infections over the previous day.

That brought the total for the first eight days of 2021 to 1,767.

“Legal measures will be taken because we cannot jettison the sacrifice of a whole country, a whole people,” said Duran.

Updated at 10.39pm GMT

10.27pm GMT

In Sydney, the northern part of the city’s northern beaches region has finally come out of lockdown, after an outbreak just before Christmas.

About 70,000 residents in the area have been in lockdown for about three weeks. The major outbreak threw Christmas and holiday plans into disarray, shuttered local businesses during the busy retail period, and prompted less severe restrictions across greater Sydney.

From today, the northern beaches lockdown will end and the area will be subject to the same, more relaxed restrictions in force across greater Sydney.

There is still some concern about transmission in the area. The state’s health authorities are attempting to trace the source of a new infection in the area, after a man in his 40s from the locked down area tested positive on Friday.

The health minister, Brad Hazzard, said he still has some “reservations” about easing restrictions in the area, given the mystery case. NSW authorities are due to give a detailed update at 11am.

Meanwhile, the Queensland capital of Brisbane is halfway through its snap three-day lockdown, enforced to combat the emergence of the UK variant of the virus. Queensland authorities are due to give an update at 10am.

Updated at 10.44pm GMT

10.06pm GMT

Priti Patel, the home secretary, has defended the way police have handed out fines for lockdown breaches, stressing that there is a “need for strong enforcement”.

Police tactics have come under scrutiny after Derbyshire police handed out £200 fines to two women who drove separately to go for a walk at a remote beauty spot situated about five miles from their homes, in a move that has been branded “bonkers”.

Patel said:

The vast majority of the public have supported this huge national effort and followed the rules. But the tragic number of new cases and deaths this week shows there is still a need for strong enforcement where people are clearly breaking these rules to ensure we safeguard our country’s recovery from this deadly virus. Enforcing these rules saves lives. It is as simple as that. Officers will continue to engage with the public across the country and will not hesitate to take action when necessary.

Updated at 10.20pm GMT

10.00pm GMT

Victoria announces no new local cases

In Australia, Victoria has just announced that no new locally transmitted cases have been recorded from 23,412 tests in the past 24 hours. Six cases were recorded in hotel quarantine and the state currently has 45 active cases.

It’s more good news for Australia, which recorded just one locally transmitted Covid-19 case the day before. The nation has been on high alert after the emergence of the highly infectious UK variant of the virus in some states.

Updated at 10.21pm GMT

9.45pm GMT

Update on the anti-lockdown protests held in London earlier today:

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed that a total of 16 arrests were made at the Clapham Common demonstration for suspected breaches of coronavirus regulations.

A statement on Twitter added 22 fixed penalty notices were also issued by officers.

Updated at 9.46pm GMT

9.18pm GMT

A burial takes place in a new area of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery reserved for Covid-19 victims, in Manaus, Brazil.
A burial takes place in a new area of the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery reserved for Covid-19 victims, in Manaus, Brazil. Photograph: Michael Dantas/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil recorded 62,290 additional confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, along with 1,171 deaths from coronavirus, the health ministry said on Saturday.

The country has registered more than 8 million cases since the pandemic began 10 months ago, while the official death toll has surpassed 200,000.

Updated at 9.44pm GMT

8.23pm GMT

A luxury property firm has offered doctors thousands of pounds for unused coronavirus vaccines.

Updated at 8.24pm GMT

8.22pm GMT

7.38pm GMT

Aberystwyth University has told its students not to return to campus following fresh guidance from the Welsh government.

A phased return had been scheduled from 11 January, but the vice-chancellor Prof Elizabeth Treasure has now said students should only attend the university, in Ceredigion, if “absolutely necessary”.

Read the full statement here.

Updated at 7.54pm GMT

7.24pm GMT

7.00pm GMT

People walk down a street, on January 9, 2021 in Rennes, western France, amid the pandemic.
People walk down a street, on January 9, 2021 in Rennes, western France, amid the pandemic. Photograph: Loïc Venance/AFP/Getty Images

France has recorded 171 new Covid-related deaths in hospitals in the last 24 hours, with the number of new, confirmed cases up by 20,177, health ministry data indicates.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country stands at 2,767,312, while the total number of deaths stands at 67,599.

The country has the seventh biggest Covid death toll in the world.

Updated at 9.48pm GMT

6.43pm GMT

Too many children are returning to school despite the national lockdown, a union has warned, as scientists say tougher restrictions are needed.

Dr Patrick Roach, the NASUWT’s general secretary, said “further steps” were needed to “strongly” encourage parents to keep their children at home.

In a statement, he explained:

Reducing the spread of the virus in the community is critical if we are to ensure that all schools can remain open safely. However, the failure to ensure strict adherence to the national lockdown measures means that some schools are already reporting that the majority of parents are demanding places for their children during the current restrictions. That means we have many more children and adults mixing in schools than would be expected under this national lockdown and the risk of the virus being transmitted to others on their journeys to and from schools and during the school day remains high.

Updated at 6.45pm GMT

6.29pm GMT

Police forces across the country have promised to impose stricter enforcement of lockdown rules amid calls from experts for even harsher curbs to stem the number of Covid infections and deaths.

6.07pm GMT

The NHS could vaccinate the entire population in five days but is being hampered by bureaucracy, a leading immunologist has said.

Read the full story here:

6.04pm GMT

Jordan is set to start its Covid vaccination programme within days, the health minister has said, with priority being given to the elderly, health sector workers and those with underlying conditions.

The state news agency cited Nathir Obeidat as saying the rollout would begin on Wednesday following the expected arrival of the first batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Monday.

Obeidat has previously said the government intends to roll out a free inoculation programme for more than 20% of the country’s 10 million population.

Jordan, which has seen a sharp drop in infections since a second wave peaked in November, had recorded a total of 305,959 cases as of Saturday, with 4,009 deaths.

Updated at 6.09pm GMT

5.08pm GMT

Twelve people have been arrested for breaching Covid-19 restrictions during an anti-lockdown protest in south-west London, the Metropolitan Police said.

A crowd of about 30 people marched down Clapham High Street on Saturday afternoon, chanting “take your freedom back” while being heckled by members of the public.

Dozens of officers were deployed to Clapham Common to try and contain the demonstration, which was organised by the group StandUpX.

The small group of protestors eventually returned to Clapham Common park before being dispersed by police.

Updated at 5.39pm GMT

4.52pm GMT

Pope Francis poised to have Covid vaccine as early as next week

Pope Francis celebrates the Solemnity of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, Vatican.
Pope Francis celebrates the Epiphany in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Photograph: Vatican Pool/Getty

Pope Francis has said he plans to have a Covid vaccination as early as next week and urged everyone to get a shot in order to protect lives.

In an interview with Italian TV station Canale 5, the Pope, 84, said:

I believe that ethically everyone should take the vaccine. It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others.

The Vatican City, the smallest independent country in the world, has said it will shortly launch its own vaccination campaign against the virus, with the pope adding: “Next week, we will start doing it here, in the Vatican, and I have booked myself in. It must be done.”

Vatican City last week said it expected to receive enough Covid vaccine doses in the following days to inoculate all of its residents and its workers who live beyond its walls in Rome.

Updated at 5.55pm GMT

4.43pm GMT

Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photograph: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

Cuba has signed an accord with Iran to transfer the technology for its most advanced Covid vaccine candidate and carry out last-stage clinical trials of the shot in the Islamic Republic.

Soberana (Sovereign) 2 will be tested in Phase III trials in around 150,000 people in Havana after it has completed Phase II trials which started on 22 December, officials have confirmed.

Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute said late on Friday it has signed an accord with Iran’s Pasteur Institute to collaborate on testing of the vaccine.

“This synergy will enable both countries to advance more rapidly in the immunization against the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” it said on its Twitter account.

Updated at 5.38pm GMT

4.41pm GMT

Twenty-one people in Marseille have tested positive for the new variant of Covid initially found in England, the southern French city’s police department said on Saturday.

Officials added that the new cases of the variant had been discovered within a family cluster.

The news comes as Marseille joins Strasbourg and Dijon in having its curfew moved forward to 6pm from 8pm, running through to 6am the following morning.

The tighter restrictions form part of the government’s response to halt the spread of the virus.

4.14pm GMT

1,035 further Covid-linked deaths registered in the UK

In the UK, 1,035 more people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, according to government data, bringing the total to 80,868.

The government said that, as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 59,937 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, meaning the total number of cases has now exceeded three million.

Friday saw the highest number of UK deaths– 1,325- reported on a single day since the outbreak began.

There were 59,937 people in the UK that tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday, down from 68,053 the previous day.

See the official release here.

Updated at 4.27pm GMT

4.04pm GMT

A long queue has been seen in Forest Hill, south London, as people queued to receive Covid-19 vaccinations.

Maria Demetrious filmed a queue winding around several corners after dropping off her father, 85, and mother, 79, for his jab at the Jenner Practice on Friday.

Her brother, Paul, who posted the video on Twitter, said: “My parents have been isolating since February 20. On arrival for Dad’s Covid-19 vaccine time slot met this circus! They left without it!”

The Care Quality Commission commented on the video, saying the incident had been raised for review.

Updated at 4.21pm GMT

3.57pm GMT

Hi everyone, this is Yohannes Lowe. I’ll be taking over the live blog now. As always, please feel free to drop me a message on Twitter if you have any coverage suggestions.

3.51pm GMT

The UK’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said he is delighted that the Queen has had her first dose of the vaccine.

Updated at 4.21pm GMT

3.03pm GMT

Queen and Duke of Edinburgh receive vaccination

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have received their Covid-19 vaccinations, joining more than a million people in the UK who have been given the jab.

In an unusual move Buckingham Palace, which rarely comments on the private health matters of the monarch, 94, and her husband, had been given the injection.

It is understood that the Queen decided the information should be made public to prevent inaccuracies and further speculation. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said:

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have today received Covid-19 vaccinations.

A royal source confirmed to PA Media that the injections were administered by a royal household doctor at Windsor Castle.

The Queen and Prince Philip have been spending the lockdown in England at Windsor Castle, in Berkshire, after deciding to have a quiet Christmas and forgo the traditional family gathering at Sandringham.

Updated at 4.02pm GMT

2.57pm GMT

Health officials in Ireland have said they believe that three cases of the South African coronavirus variant have been contained.

The country is grappling with a surge that has exceeded the first wave of the pandemic. On Friday it confirmed its first cases of the variant in people who had travelled to Ireland from South Africa over the Christmas holidays.

Ireland’s second wave has been partly driven by the arrival of a variant first discovered in England. It was detected in 25% of positive cases that underwent further testing in the week to 3 January, up from 9% two weeks earlier.

Cillian De Gascun, the head of Ireland’s national virus laboratory, told the national broadcaster RTÉ:

The UK variant is of more concern to us purely because of the amount of virus that’s on the island, and we know that it’s transmitting in the community.

The good thing about the South African variant is we know exactly where those cases came from, they have been contained, controlled and contact-traced, and to the best of my knowledge there was no onward transmission.

The government on Wednesday announced its strictest lockdown measures since early last year, warning that a “tsunami” of infections fuelled by the UK variant and the relaxation of curbs ahead of Christmas could overwhelm the healthcare system.

Updated at 4.16pm GMT

1.58pm GMT

France is to extend its Covid-19 curfew to a further eight departments, the country’s prime minister, Jean Castex, said on Saturday, citing a “tough and necessary” response as some opposed the restrictions in several cities.

France has been increasing its anti-virus restrictions in the face of rising cases and imposed a post-New Year curfew on 15 of its 101 departments, Agence France-Presse reports.

The country has recorded about 67,000 deaths to date from some 2.7m cases and the R value is rising.

The new departments likely to be subject to an earlier curfew are primarily in the east of the country, including Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin and Côte d’Or, as well as the central one of Cher.

Castex highlighted the southern port of Marseille, France’s second largest city, where local politicians of all stripes have voiced opposition to extending the partial lockdown and questioned its effectiveness.

“In reality we are applying the same criteria to Marseille as we apply elsewhere,” he said, confirming the earlier lockdown would be extended to eight departments including the Bouches-du-Rhone, which includes Marseille.

“Everybody is conscious of the epidemic not weakening or that on the contrary it is growing stronger in some areas,” he said.

Castex also defended the government’s vaccine rollout strategy, criticised in some quarters for its slow start. “The objective is to go quickly, [but] do it in absolutely irreproachable security conditions.”

Opinion polls show around half the French population are sceptical about having the jab, notably more than in neighbouring countries.

Updated at 2.14pm GMT

1.34pm GMT

Turkey confirmed 11,749 new cases on Friday, including 1,291 asymptomatic patients, taking the tally of infections to 2.3 million.

186 further deaths were recorded, bringing the country’s total to 22,450, the Andalou Agency reported.

The figures represent a significant drop in the countrywide number of coronavirus cases from the 32,102 new infections reported on 15 December.

Health minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter that there had been a 40% drop in the caseload of both Istanbul and the Aegean province Izmir, as well as a reduction of roughly 60% both in the capital Ankara and the northwestern Bursa province.

Koca added that discussions with public health authorities in four of Turkey’s biggest cities on preparations to start Turkey’s vaccination campaign were ongoing.

A man feeds the piegeons on the empty Ulus Square
A man feeds the piegeons on the empty Ulus Square in Ankara during the weekend curfew to stop the spread of Covid-19 on 9 January. Photograph: Adem Altan/AFP/Getty

Updated at 1.48pm GMT

1.20pm GMT

A growing number of scientists are calling for tighter restrictions in England in light of surging infections in many parts of the country.

Prof Robert West, a participant in the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), said the current restrictions are “still allowing a lot of activity which is spreading the virus”.

The professor of health psychology at University College London said he, as well as other epidemiologists, medical scientists and virologists he has spoken to, think the rules should be tightened.

He told BBC News that more children were going to school than in the first lockdown and that schools were “a very important seed of community infection”.

“Because we have the more infectious variant, which is somewhere around 50% more infectious than last time round in March, that means that if we were to achieve the same result as we got in March we would have to have a stricter lockdown, and it’s not stricter. It’s actually less strict,” he said.

Some scientists have estimated that the variant could be as much as 70% more transmissible, PA reports.

Updated at 1.47pm GMT

1.00pm GMT

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine will arrive in France on Monday, French prime minister Jean Castex said, as the country steps up its vaccination drive following a sluggish start.

Castex and the health minister, Olivier Veran, visited a health centre in Tarbes, southwestern France, on Saturday as part of the government’s campaign to accelerate France’s vaccine rollout.

Vaccinations also took place in Taverny, near Paris. The French medical regulator HAS said on Friday it had approved the Moderna vaccine, having previously cleared Pfizer/BioNTech’s rival.

President Emmanuel Macron held phone conversations on Friday with German chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to discuss Europe’s vaccine strategy, Reuters reports.

US-based Moderna said on Monday the it would produce at least 600m doses of its Covid-19 vaccine in 2021, up by 100m doses from its previous forecast.

Updated at 1.41pm GMT

12.55pm GMT

There have been a further 2,373 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 168,094.

Public Health Wales reported another 62 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 3,919.

A nurse working in a hospital in the Welsh region hardest hit by Covid deaths spoke about how she felt “overwhelming fear” as 13 ambulances queued up outside its A&E department.

Senior A&E nurse Sarah Fogarasy told BBC Wales the situation at the Royal Glamorgan hospital, where there was no capacity at the unit, had left her wanting “to leave”.

Fogarasy said: “[…] It got to 13 patients outside – I had no capacity in this unit, no resuscitation capacity, no capacity to put a patient on CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] should they require that and no physical areas to put a patient in. It was overwhelming.

“This bit makes me quite emotional. For the first time I was sat trying to coordinate this department and I had that overwhelming fear that I just wanted to leave. I was just ‘I’m done. I’m done with this.’

“And it’s scary, it fills you full of fear when you have got 13 ambulances outside, queuing around the car park. Where do you go from that?”

Amanda Farrow, a senior doctor, described the pressure at the hospital in Pontyclun last Saturday as “unrelenting”.

Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board, which runs the hospital, has reported 1,091 deaths of patients with coronavirus.

Updated at 1.07pm GMT

12.48pm GMT

Hello everyone, I’m taking over from my colleague Kevin while he is on a break. Feel free to get in touch with updates and pointers, you can reach me on Twitter @JedySays or via email.

I won’t always have the time to respond individually but all messages are read and tips are much appreciated.

Updated at 1.07pm GMT

12.37pm GMT

India will start its vaccination drive from 16 January with priority given to about 30 million healthcare and frontline workers, a government statement has said. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, reviewed the programme’s preparedness on Saturday.

India hopes to inoculate 300 million of its 1.35 billion people free of charge in the first six to eight months of this year.

With the highest number of infections in the world after the United States, India is developing two vaccines. On Saturday, it reported 18,222 new cases, taking the total to 10.43m.

India’s drug regulator has approved two vaccines for emergency use, Covishield, developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, developed by a local company, Bharat Biotech, and a state-run institute.

After healthcare and frontline workers, the vaccines will be given to “those above 50 years of age and the under-50 population groups with co-morbidities, numbering around 2.7 million,” the statement said.

The statement did not say whether the federal government had signed purchase deals with Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India, the local manufacturer of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Updated at 1.08pm GMT

12.19pm GMT


Here’s a summary of the latest developments:

  • There have been calls for tougher restrictions to be imposed in the UK. Susan Michie, a government adviser and professor of health psychology at University College London, said people were generally doing as ministers had asked, but that the situation was continuing to worsen because the measures do not go far enough.
  • The UK’s second wave could have been less severe had the government taken the action it was advised to, an expert said. Prof Robert West, a participant in the UK’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, said ministers were “very much aware of the consequences of different levels of restrictions” and that the government was “making what it considers to be a political decision” in imposing those it had.
  • There have been calls to expand the state of emergency in Japan. Osaka and its surrounding prefectures asked for measures to be imposed in western cities. Yasutoshi Nishimura, the country’s economy minister, told media the situation in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo was severe and the declaration of a wider state of emergency was being considered.
  • Restrictions were imposed in China’s Hebei province to counter a cluster identified there. Its capital Shijiazhuang announced the suspension of its subway service after authorities had banned people from leaving the city.

Updated at 1.08pm GMT

12.05pm GMT

UK government accused of wasting chance to avoid current crisis

West, who is also part of Independent Sage, which shadows the government’s scientific advisory group, said ministers are “very much aware of the consequences of different levels of restrictions and obviously what it’s doing is it’s making what it considers to be a political decision”.

Asked if the level of infection and number of deaths was potentially avoidable, he told BBC News:

Yes, it was always avoidable. This is the really frustrating thing for all of us who work in public health.

This was always avoidable. When the government says – I’m going to be quite critical now I’m afraid – but when the government says ‘oh we’re in the same boat as other countries, we didn’t see this coming’, and so on, and ‘we’re acting at the right time’. That is completely false.

He said experts had advised the government to ramp up its test-and-trace system and support for people to isolate when cases had decreased in the summer.

They didn’t do this. They maintained their hugely expensive but ineffective test, trace and isolate system.

They’re not providing the kind of support that’s needed for people to feel that they’re able to do the sorts of things that the government is now saying ‘well, we’re going to punish you if you don’t do it’. So they’ve got it all the wrong way round. It’s really much, much more about support.

Updated at 12.12pm GMT

11.50am GMT

Prof Robert West, a participant in the UK’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), said that, due to the more infectious variant the lockdown should be strengthened, in order to try to get the same result as the first shutdown.

He said the current lockdown rules were “still allowing a lot of activity which is spreading the virus”. Asked if he thinks they should change, he told BBC News:

Yes, I do. Not just me. I think probably most of the people I talk to, epidemiologists, and medical scientists and virologists.

The professor of health psychology at University College London said more children are going to school than in the first lockdown and that schools are “a very important seed of community infection”.

Because we have the more infectious variant, which is somewhere around 50% more infectious than last time round in March, that means that if we were to achieve the same result as we got in March we would have to have a stricter lockdown, and it’s not stricter. It’s actually less strict.

Updated at 11.55am GMT

10.09am GMT

Brigitte Macron, the wife of the French president, tested positive towards the end of December, but resumed normal activities after a second test came back negative, French media have reported.

The Europe 1 radio station said she tested positive on 24 December. It reported that she presented no major symptoms and then had two further tests on 30 and 31 December that yielded negative results.

The president Emmanuel Macron tested positive on 17 December and was in self-isolation until his office said on 24 December that he was no longer showing symptoms and was eligible to end his quarantine period.

Updated at 10.15am GMT

10.01am GMT

Iran’s president has characterised a ban on vaccine imports from the US and Britain, imposed by the country’s’ supreme leader, as an effort to prevent foreign companies testing jabs on the Iranian people. Hassan Rouhani said:

Foreign companies wanted to give us vaccines so they would be tested on the Iranian people but the health ministry prevented it. Our people will not be a testing device for vaccine manufacturing companies. We shall purchase safe foreign vaccines.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said on Friday the US and Britain were “untrustworthy” and possibly sought to spread the infection to other countries.

Iran could obtain vaccines from other reliable places, he added, without giving details. China and Russia are both allies of Iran.

Khamenei repeated the accusations in a tweet that was removed by Twitter, along with a message saying it violated the platform’s rules against misinformation.

Iran launched human trials of its first domestic vaccine candidate late last month, saying it could help the country defeat the pandemic despite US sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have been on the rise since 2018, when the US president Donald Trump abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

Updated at 10.06am GMT

9.44am GMT

An English police force’s decision to fine two women at a remote spot for alleged Covid-19 breaches will have “damaged” the public’s perception of how the laws are enforced, a former police chief has said.

Mike Barton told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that he believed Derbyshire police would “row back” on its decision to fine the pair, who had gone for a walk five miles from their home. The former Durham police chief constable said:

I think, personally, Derbyshire will row back from this position. But, sadly, there will be some damage done here because for the public to comply with the law, they have got to think and see the police are acting fairly. It’s called procedural justice.

If police aren’t seen to be acting fairly, the public won’t comply.

It’s all very well some people in Whitehall sabre rattling and banging the table that the police are going to enforce these rules, that doesn’t bring about compliance. The public seeing fairness does.

Updated at 9.51am GMT

9.16am GMT

Prof Fenton said people doubting the seriousness of the situation needed to read and listen to the words of NHS staff and Covid-19 patients.

I would encourage people to read, look at the programmes that you’re running on TV where you’re interviewing doctors, where you’re interviewing patients who’ve had this very severe disease and are suffering from the long-term effects of it.

This is the reality and that is the truth. So the advice would be listen, read, but stay at home. Protect yourself, protect your families.

Updated at 9.24am GMT

9.01am GMT

The more coronavirus patients the NHS has to deal with, the more difficult it is to keep other services open, the London regional director of Public Health England, Prof Kevin Fenton, has warned. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today:

This is the challenge with the Covid pandemic and why we have been asking the population to really reduce mixing, to stay at home, to reduce the number of Covid infections because of the knock-on impact of this disease.

Not only do you put severe strain on the health system, but you prevent other health conditions that may also need urgent or important treatment from being able to access those services at the time.

That’s why all messages to stay home at this time are so critical for us to get over this hump, to really keep this epidemic out and begin to get back to some normalcy as we approach the spring.

Fenton said there were “things we could do better” to reduce the number of infections, including greater compliance with mask wearing and social distancing when using public transport and shopping for essential goods.

Updated at 9.04am GMT

8.58am GMT

Things are likely to get worse before they get better for hospitals, according to Dr Simon Walsh, the deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s consultants committee.

The London-based emergency care doctor said the epidemiology from the previous wave indicates the situation is likely to worsen over the next two to three weeks. He told BBC Breakfast:

I’m afraid all of us who are working on the front line believe, and this is based on the evidence I’m afraid, that it is going to get worse before it gets better.

He said critical care was having to be spread “more and more thinly”, with as many as three patients per intensive care nurse, rather than the usual standard of one-to-one care.

The government must both ramp up vaccinations and ensure the appropriate PPE is available for healthcare workers, to make sure they can continue going to work, rather than being struck down by the virus.

They need to ensure that PPE supply is there when we need it because we were let down I’m afraid in the first wave by that. And so our confidence needs to be restored by the government in vaccinating and ensuring that those PPE items are in place.

8.47am GMT

Emphasising the severity of the situation in the UK, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has said the new variant should be treated as a “new pandemic within a pandemic”.

Dr Adam Kucharski, an adviser to the UK government, told BBC Radio 4’s Today:

The early signals we’re seeing are suggesting that there is probably less movement in the population than there was in November, but perhaps slightly more than there was in April. And, obviously, that’s concerning because, with this new variant, essentially each interaction we have has become riskier than it was before.

Even if we went back to that last spring level of reduction in contacts, we couldn’t be confident we would see the same effects as we saw last year because of the increased transmission.

To some extent, we can think of this as a new pandemic within a pandemic.

From the data coming out, this is a very serious threat and new data from PHE (Public Health England) that came out yesterday suggested that that risk per contact is probably 40 to 50% higher than it was.

So, both for the UK and many other countries as well, we need to get away from this idea that we’re going to see a repeat of what happened last spring with our behaviours and really face the possibility that this is much riskier and we’re going to have to work much harder to reduce the impact.

Updated at 8.48am GMT

8.40am GMT

Fraudsters are targeting elderly and vulnerable people with a fake vaccine, the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCAA), has said.

Officers warned that the scammers are demanding bank details or cash payments for access to a jab – something the NHS would not do when administering a legitimate dose.

The National Economic Crime Centre is working with government and law enforcement to urge people to remain vigilant and follow basic advice in relation to the NHS Covid vaccination programme, which will always be free.

The NHS will never ask for payment for vaccines or bank details.

In the UK, coronavirus vaccines will only be available via the NHS in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. At the appropriate time, people will be contacted directly by the NHS, their employer, a GP surgery or local pharmacy to receive the vaccine.

The vaccine is free of charge and at no point will people be asked to pay.

Graeme Biggar, the director general of the National Economic Crime Centre at the NCA, said:

“The current level of reported fraud in relation to the vaccine remains very low but is increasing. The advice is very simple. The vaccine is only available on the NHS, and you will never be asked to pay for it or to provide your bank details. Anything that suggests otherwise is a fraud.”

Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez said:

“I am sad to say that throughout the pandemic, we have seen fraudsters adapt their methods to take advantage of covid support schemes and exploit the fears of vulnerable people when they feel at their most anxious. This latest scam, which plays on people’s hopes for a vaccine, is one of the most callous and despicable so far, which is why we want to arm everyone with the knowledge that the NHS will never ask for cash or financial details to pay for the vaccine or verify a patient’s identity.”

Security minister James Brokenshire said:

“It’s a sad reality that scammers and fraudsters are using the pandemic to fleece innocent people out of their hard-earned cash. If you receive an email, text message or phone call claiming to be from the NHS and you are asked to provide financial details, or pay for the vaccine, this is a scam.”

The public are asked to remember that the NHS will never:

· Ask for bank account or card details;

· Ask for a PIN or banking password;

· Arrive unannounced at someone’s home to administer the vaccine;

· Demand proof of identity by sending copies of personal documents such as a passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

Updated at 8.55am GMT

8.39am GMT

England’s chief medical officer is urging the public to “act like you’ve got it” in a major Covid information campaign as the daily reported death toll hit a record high and is not expected to ease for at least a month.

Amid growing concern in government over compliance with lockdown rules, Chris Whitty is fronting adverts on radio, TV and social media from Friday evening. Urging people to behave as cautiously as if they are already infected, he said:

Covid-19, especially the new variant, is spreading quickly across the country. This puts many people at risk of serious disease and is placing a lot of pressure on our NHS.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, said:

Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any other time since the start of the pandemic, and infection rates across the entire country continue to soar at an alarming rate. I know the last year has taken its toll – but your compliance is now more vital than ever.

Updated at 8.57am GMT

8.24am GMT

Staying in the UK, Birmingham’s hospitals have still not seen the full extent of patients who became infected over Christmas, the city council’s director of public health, Dr Justin Varney, has said. The former GP told BBC Radio 4’sToday:

I think we’re very worried. What we’re seeing now is in the hospital today are the people going in who caught coronavirus about two to three weeks ago.

So we still haven’t seen the impact in the NHS of the rapid rise that we saw around 28-29 December after the Christmas bubble and after we started to see the new variant arriving in the region.

It is going to get a lot, lot worse unless we really get this under control but some of that is already baked into the system and it is going to play out over the next week or two.

Updated at 8.43am GMT

8.22am GMT

UK lockdown ‘too lax’, says government adviser

In the UK, there are calls for lockdown restrictions, currently at their most stringent level since last spring, to be tightened yet further. Susan Michie, a UK government adviser and professor of health psychology at University College London, has told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

When you look at the data, it shows that almost 90% of people are overwhelmingly sticking to the rules, despite the fact we’re also seeing more people out and about.

I think one of the explanations for that is that, actually, this is quite a lax lockdown because we’ve still got a lot of household contact. People go in and out of each other’s houses.

If you’re a key nurse, a non-essential tradesperson, a nanny, you have mass gatherings in terms of religious events, nurseries being open and – really importantly – you have this wide definition of critical workers, so we have 30-50% of (school) classes full-up at the moment. And, therefore, you’ve got very busy public transport with people going to and from all these things.

It is definitely too lax because, if you think about it and compare ourselves with March, what do we have now?

We have the winter season and the virus survives longer in the cold, plus people spend more time indoors and we know aerosol transmission, which happens indoors, is a very big source of transmission for this virus.

And, secondly, we have this new variant which is 50-70% more infectious. You put those two things together, alongside the NHS being in crisis, we should have a stricter rather than less strict lockdown than we had back in March.

Updated at 8.48am GMT

8.14am GMT

Hello, I’m taking over from Nino Bucci and will be with you for the next few hours. If you’d like to draw my attention to anything, your best bet’s probably Twitter, where I’m KevinJRawlinson.

8.06am GMT

Russia has reported 23,309 new Covid-19 cases and 470 deaths in the past 24 hours (it was 23,652 and 454 the previous day), according to Reuters.

People queue outside a medical centre in Moscow
People queue outside a medical centre in Moscow. Photograph: Anton Novoderezhkin/Tass

Updated at 8.09am GMT

7.53am GMT

State of emergency could be extended to Japan’s western cities

There are calls to expand the state of emergency in Japan to contain a fresh Covid-19 outbreak.

This report just in from Reuters:

Osaka and its surrounding prefectures asked Japan to expand a state of emergency to the western cities in an effort to contain the latest Covid-19 outbreak, while Tokyo’s new daily infections keep above 2,000 cases on Saturday.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the country’s economy minister, told media the situation in the western cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo was severe and the declaration of a wider state of emergency was being considered after a request from the cities’ governors.

Japan declared a limited state of emergency in Tokyo and three prefectures neighbouring the capital on Thursday to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections, resisting calls from some medics for wider curbs due to the economic damage they would cause.

Tokyo reported 2,268 new daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, according to the public broadcaster NHK, the third straight day above 2,000.

A woman and child have lunch amid a new Covid-19 outbreak in Tokyo
A woman and child have lunch amid a new Covid-19 outbreak in Tokyo Photograph: Issei Kato/Reuters

Updated at 7.55am GMT

7.47am GMT

Forecasts of temperatures down to -9c in Britain. Good weather to be locked down in, if such a thing exists.

7.23am GMT

There has been a further tightening of the arrival cap for Australians stranded overseas, as the government seeks to control the spread of UK and South Africa variant Covid cases.

Updated at 7.28am GMT

7.12am GMT

A cluster of Covid-19 cases in Sydney’s northern beaches emerged just before Christmas and sparked an increase in cases across Australia. But from midnight tonight, local time, the lockdown in the region will end.

For those familiar with the Australian soap opera Home and Away, it is mostly filmed in Palm Beach, in the soon-to-be-liberated locked down section of the northern beaches.

Updated at 7.17am GMT

6.57am GMT

Chinese city closes subway

China has reported 33 new cases of Covid-19, mainly in Hebei province where authorities have suspended the subway service and announced tight new restrictions ahead of Lunar New year.

This report from Reuters:

Mainland China reported 33 new Covid-19 cases on 8 January, down from 53 reported a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Saturday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 14 of the 17 locally transmitted infections were in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing which entered a “wartime mode” this week as it battles a new cluster of coronavirus infections.

Shijiazhuang, Hebei’s capital, announced on Saturday it would suspend service on its subway. Earlier this week, authorities banned people from leaving the city in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

Shijiazhuang is launching mass testing across its population of 11 million. On 8 January municipal authorities told residents they must stay home for at least seven days even after they complete a nucleic acid test.

The commission also reported 38 new asymptomatic cases, down from 57 a day earlier. China does not classify these patients, who have been infected by the Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease but are not yet showing any Covid-19 symptoms, as confirmed cases.

A photo distributed by Chinese state media of a temporary Covid-19 testing laboratory built on an indoor tennis court in Hebei
A photo distributed by state media of a temporary Covid testing laboratory built on an indoor tennis court in Hebei. Photograph: Yang Shiyao/AP

Updated at 7.03am GMT

6.45am GMT

The prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, has again promoted the OECD secretary general candidacy of Mathias Cormann, his former finance minister.

The campaign has been controversial for, among other things, the use of taxpayer-funded Royal Australian Air Force planes to fly Cormann around South America and Europe, partially to protect him from contracting Covid-19.

Updated at 6.49am GMT

6.30am GMT

The prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, has received his Covid-19 vaccination.

He described it as quick and painless, and encouraged all Singaporeans to do the same.

That has to be the biggest story involving a world leader and social media today! I can’t possibly think of anything that tops it. Anyway, moving on.

6.11am GMT

Medical journal the Lancet has published research about the long-term health impacts of Covid-19.

More than 1,700 people spoke to researchers six months after they had been discharged from hospital in Wuhan.

According to the study, fatigue or muscle weakness was the most reported symptom (63%) followed by sleep difficulties (26%) and anxiety or depression (23%).

An exhibition on the fight against the coronavirus disease in Wuhan
An exhibition on the fight against coronavirus in Wuhan. Photograph: Tingshu Wang/Reuters

Updated at 6.21am GMT

5.50am GMT

Most of you reading this would have been in a Covid-19 enforced lockdown at some point in the past year. But did you have to wear a mask while driving alone in your own car?

That’s the advice in Brisbane, Australia, which just started a snap three-day lockdown. This was sent earlier today by the state’s health minister:

5.34am GMT

Speaking of Covid-19 vaccination programs, this is interesting: Indonesia is reportedly planning to start vaccinations in the contested province of West Papua next week:

Updated at 5.37am GMT

5.20am GMT

Here is a piece some of you may have missed earlier, about the countries that are waiting to see how Covid-19 vaccinations unfold elsewhere before launching programs of their own:

Updated at 5.29am GMT

5.12am GMT


Hello and welcome to our continuing coverage of Covid-19 around the world.

Here are the major developments from the last few hours:

Updated at 6.44am GMT © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

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