Uncategorized, US NEWS, World

Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to ‘find’ votes – US politics live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to ‘find’ votes – US politics live” was written by Oliver Holmes, for theguardian.com on Monday 4th January 2021 13.59 UTC

Here is US Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris at a rally on Sunday accusing Trump of a ‘bold abuse of power’ following the president’s call to Georgia’s secretary of state.

 

Donald Trump is reportedly set to bestow the presidential medal of freedom, the highest US civilian honour, on Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan, Republican allies in Congress who supported him in the Russia investigation, his impeachment and other Washington controversies.

Citing “someone familiar with the plans”, the Washington Post reported that Trump, who will leave office on 20 January, had settled on giving the medal to Nunes, a former chair of the House intelligence committee. Other outlets confirmed the report.

Nunes was a loyal ally during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and links between Trump and Moscow.

He rejected intelligence community findings, promoted conspiracy theories and, in March 2017, made what his Democratic counterpart Adam Schiff called an “extraordinary and peculiar midnight run” to the White House to view specially provided intelligence material.

The Post said Jordan was also likely to be honoured, although plans were not as advanced as in Nunes’ case. Jordan is a former wrestling coach who has been accused of ignoring sexual abuse of athletes by a team doctor at Ohio State, a charge he denies.

He emerged as a key “attack dog” for Trump, employing what one observer called a “style of brash, offensive conduct” during impeachment proceedings.

In 2016, Brad Raffensperger supported Trump. And in 2018, Trump repaid the favour by endorsing Raffensperger’s run to become the secretary of state for Georgia.

But Trump’s sour loss to Joe Biden broke the relationship, with the US president labelling his party member an “enemy of the people”.

A bit more background on Raffensperger here:

Kamala Harris, the Vice-President-elect, is in Georgia to help the campaign.

All eyes are on Georgia, and not just because of the Trump phone call affair.

On 5 January (tomorrow!) the state will vote on two critical Senate races that were too close to call in November.

While only two of the 100-seat Senate are up for grabs, that exactly the number Democrats need to control it and push through their agenda.

More from my colleague, Naaman Zhou:

Here is an opinion piece by New York attorney and former Department of Justice official, Lloyd Green, on the Republicans seeking to overturn the election result.

My colleague and live blog pro, Helen Sullivan, has rounded up the six key points from the leaked Trump phone call. If you’re pressed for time or prefer listicles, have a read:

Trump and Raffensperger followed up on their tense call with a good old Twitter bust-up.

The Washington Post obtained the recording of a conversation on Saturday between Trump and Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state.

Here are some of the key quotes from Trump that are leading to the accusations of election interference and intimidation:

All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.

There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.

Raffensperger, who is a Republican, is clearly uncomfortable but stands his ground.

In a reply, he says:

Well, Mr President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.

Excerpts from the call between Donald Trump and Georgia’s secretary of state– video

Good Morning

Where to start with this one?

Probably with the bombshell revelation that Donald Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn Joe Biden’s victory, leading to accusations the president broke election law by intimidating and coercing a state official.

Then there’s the fact that the spiralling death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has passed 350,000 in the US, a figure the president falsely asserts is “far exaggerated”.

Meanwhile, all of the 10 former US defence secretaries who are still living, including two who worked for Donald Trump, have warned the outgoing president may attempt to foment a crisis with the aim of triggering a military intervention in a last-ditch struggle to hold on power.

The sun has not yet risen on the US east coast. It’s going to be a long day.

Welcome to a fresh US live blog.

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World

China to overtake US as world’s biggest economy by 2028, report predicts

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “China to overtake US as world’s biggest economy by 2028, report predicts” was written by Larry Elliott Economics editor, for The Guardian on Saturday 26th December 2020 00.01 UTC

China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy before the end of the decade after outperforming its rival during the global Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research said that it nowexpected the value of China’s economy when measured in dollars to exceed that of the US by 2028, half a decade sooner than it expected a year ago.

In its annual league table of the growth prospects of 193 countries, the UK-based consultancy group said China had bounced back quickly from the effects of Covid-19 and would grow by 2% in 2020, as the one major global economy to expand.

With the US expected to contract by 5% this year, China will narrow the gap with its biggest rival, the CEBR said. Overall, global gross domestic product is forecast to decline by 4.4% this year, in the biggest one-year fall since the second world war.

Douglas McWilliams, the CEBR’s deputy chairman, said: “The big news in this forecast is the speed of growth of the Chinese economy. We expect it to become an upper-income economy during the current five-year plan period (2020-25). And we expect it to overtake the US a full five years earlier than we did a year ago.

“Other Asian economies are also shooting up the league table. One lesson for western policymakers, who have performed relatively badly during the pandemic, is that they need to pay much more attention to what is happening in Asia rather than simply looking at each other.”

China’s share of global GDP has increased from 3.6% in 2000 to 17.8% in 2019 and will continue to grow, the CEBR said. It would pass the per capita threshold of $12,536 (£9,215) to become a high-income country by 2023.

Even so, living standards in China will remain much lower than in the US and western European countries. In the US, the average per capita income is just over $63,000, while in the UK it is just over $39,000.

The CEBR said departure from the EU would not prevent the UK – likely to be the world’s fifth biggest economy in 2020 – from being one of the better performing economies in the next 15 years.

“We expect the trend rate of growth for the UK to be 4.0% annually from 2021-25 and 1.8% annually from 2026-30 and 1.8% annually from 2031-35,” the consultancy said.

“The UK is forecast to be overtaken by India in 2024 but otherwise holds its place in the league table to 2025. By 2035, UK GDP in dollars is forecast to be 40% more than that of France, its long-standing rival and neighbour.”

India, after overtaking France and the UK last year, had fallen back behind the UK as a result of a sharp fall in the value of the rupee. But the dip will be short-lived, with the world’s second most populous country on course to be its third biggest economy by 2035.

The CEBR said environmental issues would start to have a serious impact on the shape of the world economy over the next 15 years following a period in which the effects of global heating had become apparent more quickly than previously feared.

“Sea levels are expected to have risen by 45cm from the 2000 base by 2035. This compares with the smaller 20cm rise by 2030 predicted two years ago.”

With more countries making plans to make the transition to net carbon zero economy in the coming decades, the CEBR said there would be weaker demand for fossil fuels and lower oil prices. The cost of a barrel of crude would fall below $30 by 2035, it said.

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Corona Virus, Health, World

Army to take over Covid testing for hauliers trapped near Dover

 

covidPowered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Army to take over Covid testing for hauliers trapped near Dover” was written by Kevin Rawlinson and Josh Halliday, for theguardian.com on Thursday 24th December 2020 19.59 UTC

Thousands of international lorry drivers are braced to spend Christmas Day cooped up in their cabs near Dover as it was announced that hundreds of soldiers would join the repatriation effort to get them home.

It also emerged that a team of French firefighters have been sent to Dover to help clear huge queues of lorries waiting to cross the Channel after the British government failed to provide sufficient coronavirus testing capacity.

Ministers had promised to get the queues moving by Wednesday morning after drivers were left waiting in their cabs for days. But it has emerged that fewer than 100 of the thousands of waiting vehicles were able to cross the Channel that day.

The government said more than 2,000 tests had been carried out by Thursday lunchtime, but the Port of Dover said only 700 lorries had managed to begin the crossing.

While it had been clear by Tuesday that French authorities would require a negative test result from each of the thousands of drivers waiting to cross, the port said the UK testing effort initially operated only at Manston airfield, one of the sites where queues formed, and that problems getting the testing kits there had severely restricted capacity.

It took until Thursday to get the tests out to the port and the surrounding roads where many more of the lorries were waiting, it said.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said 2,367 tests had been carried out as of midday on Thursday, with 2,364 negative results and three positive. On Thursday night, he said: “We need to get the situation in Kent, caused by the French government’s sudden imposition of Covid restrictions, resolved as soon as possible. I have today sent special instructions to the Army to take control of testing and HGV management operations in the county. Our aim is to get foreign hauliers home with their families as quickly as we can. I know it’s been hard for many drivers cooped up in their cabs at this precious time of year but I assure them that we are doing our utmost to get them home.”

Shapps earlier said the border at Dover, the Eurotunnel and Calais would remain open throughout Christmas to get hauliers cleared “as soon as possible”, with the help of 10,000 more tests brought in by 26 French firefighters on Thursday morning.

Shapps promised that ferries would sail on Christmas Day and Boxing Day to help unblock the logjam caused by a 48-hour border closure imposed by France in an attempt to stop the new hyper-infective Covid variant from crossing the Channel.

France’s ambassador to the UK, Catherine Colonna, tweeted that the two countries were “neighbours, partners, allies and (yes) friends”. She posted a picture with the hashtags #StrongerTogether and #thursdayvibes showing the orange-jacketed firefighter, or pompiers, carrying out Covid tests on hauliers before dawn on Thursday.

Some drivers have already spent nearly a week stranded due to the diplomatic impasse. More than 300 soldiers will be brought in to take charge of testing and lorry marshalling to clear the backlog.

The government said catering vans would be brought in to provide complimentary hot food and drinks to stranded hauliers at Manston, with Kent council and volunteer groups providing refreshments to those stuck on the M20.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 lorries had been caught up in the queues that started forming around ports on England’s south coast when the border was closed on Sunday. The government said it believed the number to be closer to 6,000, though ministers have previously vastly underestimated it.

A Port of Dover spokesman confirmed ferry services would continue running throughout the night and on Christmas Day to help ease congestion. Traffic is moving more quickly at the Eurotunnel, where more than 1,000 vehicles left on Wednesday night, with around 2,000 more expected to depart by the end of Thursday. But many will remain there for Christmas Day, according to Duncan Buchanan, a policy director at the RHA. He said: “The most reassuring thing is that food is getting through at Manston, and I have to say a big thank you to everyone who volunteered to help drivers stick it out in cold conditions in the days leading up to Christmas.”

The Department for Transport said French authorities had been called in not because of failures on the UK’s part, saying they were there as part of a collaborative effort. The French embassy in the UK was contacted for comment.

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Corona Virus, Health, World

Coronavirus live news: ‘Highly likely’ BioNTech vaccine works against new variant; Taiwan confirms first local case since April

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: ‘Highly likely’ BioNTech vaccine works against new variant; Taiwan confirms first local case since April” was written by Matthew Weaver (now) Alexandra Topping and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 22nd December 2020 14.25 UTC

Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious disease expert, has confirmed that the US is considering testing UK travellers before they are allowed to enter the US.

But he dismissed an outright ban on travel from the UK as an “over reaction”. Asked by BBC News if the US planned to follow more than 40 countries in banning travellers from the UK, Fauci said:

At this point I am not recommending that, I think that might be a bit of an overreaction. However, I certainly respect the other countries in their decisions of what they’re going to do.

I think we should seriously consider the possibility of requiring pre-flight testing before people leave from the UK to the United States. That’s something that’s on the table that I believe needs to be seriously considered rather than an out-and-out now ban on all travel from the UK to the United States.

Speaking 45 minutes before he is due to receive the vaccination, Fauci said he hoped his jab would encourage others. He said:

I want this to be a symbol for the people in the United States to encourage them about the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine, and to get them to be enthusiastic when their time comes to get vaccinated.

A further 405 people have died in English hospital after testing positive for Covid, NHS England has announced. It brings the English hospital death toll to 46,983.

The patients were aged between 26 and 100 years old. The date of death ranged from 2 July to 21 December 2020 with the majority being on or after 18 December.

Here’s a regional breakdown:

East of England – 49

London – 53

Midlands – 82

North East & Yorkshire – 78

North West – 64

South East – 56

South West – 23

Thousands of cases of the more infectious variant of coronavirus have been detected across the UK, according to scientists, who said it had clearly spread beyond areas under the most severe tier 4 restrictions.

The latest genetic surveillance suggests the new strain spread rapidly from Kent and London in late September and reached the south-west, the Midlands and the north of England, although London, the south-east and eastern England remain by far the most affected regions.

“It is certainly not the case that this is just completely geographically constrained in what is the current tier 4 area,” said Dr Jeffrey Barrett, a statistical geneticist working on Covid-19 at the Wellcome Trust’s Sanger Institute near Cambridge.

Prof Tom Connor, a consultant bioinformatician at Cardiff University, said genetic sequencing had picked up the new variant, named B117, in north and south Wales in keeping with its spread across the country. “The sequence data shows quite clearly there are cases all around the UK,” he said.

Read more here:

Covid cases in Scotland have risen by 1,316 in the last 24 hours and further 43 people have died, the Scottish government has announced.

In Northern Ireland another 439 people have tested positive and further 16 people have died.

Testing site set for Manston airport

Lorries are parked at Manston International Airport
Lorries are parked at Manston International Airport
Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

The UK government is aiming to set up a covid testing site at Manston Airport in Kent for lorry drivers hoping to head back to France.

Industry sources said the facility, which looks set to be run with help from the military, would use lateral flow tests which give a quick response enabling drivers to travel.

However, there are concerns about what would happen to drivers who test positive, and their trucks.

It’s not clear where accommodation could be found for vehicles and sick drivers who were unable to continue their journey.

It’s also unclear whether the French government would accept the use of lateral flow tests which are seen to be less reliable than the gold-standard PCR test, which is processed in a laboratory.

Ireland will shut restaurants, pubs serving food and some shops from Christmas Eve after health officials warned the country had quickly spiralled into a third wave of infections, Reuters reports.

Prime Minister Micheal Martin said there was no evidence that a new, virulent variant of the virus that has isolated neighbouring Britain had reached Ireland, but the safest way forward was to assume it had.

Ireland has one of the lowest incidence rates in Europe after moving early in October to temporarily shut shops, bars and restaurants. Unlike much of Europe, they have largely been open again during the busy December trading period.

However daily cases were now rising at 10%, Martin said, prompting the government to scrap provisional plans to keep hospitality open until closer to the New Year and move to a modified version of its highest level of restrictions until 12 January.

Martin said:

Unfortunately in the last week we have seen extraordinary growth in the virus. This is the same pattern as we have seen in the United Kingdom and across Europe.

While we do not yet have firm evidence that the new more virulent strain of the Covid virus is in our country, the rate of growth tells me that the safest and most responsible thing to do is to proceed on the assumption that it is already here.

A claim by the transport secretary Grant Shapps on Monday evening that only 170 lorries were held up in Kent is looking increasingly dubious.

Switzerland got its first doses of vaccine on Tuesday, Reuters reports citing health officials.

Switzerland’s drugs regulator authorised use of jabs from Pfizer and partner BioNTech on Saturday in what officials called the world’s first such approval under a standard procedure.

An initial batch of 107,000 doses will go to individual cantons to start inoculating vulnerable people, including those over 75 at first and those with medical conditions.

“In the next seven days the first targeted vaccination programmes can start,” federal health agency official Virginie Masserey told a news conference in Bern.

Unlike a high-profile vaccine rollout in Britain, Swiss officials are keeping the media away from homes for the elderly where the first jabs will take place.

“Switzerland’s Maggie remains unknown,” the Blick tabloid wrote in reference to Margaret Keenan, the 90-year-old British grandmother who this month became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Margaret Keenan, 90, applauded by staff as she returned to her ward after she became the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry
Margaret Keenan, 90, applauded by staff as she returned to her ward after she became the first person in the United Kingdom to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech covid-19 vaccine at University Hospital, Coventry
Photograph: Jacob King/PA

EU recommends travel bans should be lifted

The European Commission has recommended that bans on travel from the UK should be lifted. In suggests hauliers should have rapid PCR tests, but should not be required to undergo quarantine while carrying out essential work.

“Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions”, the commission said in a press statement.

It also recommended a coordinated approach to travel and transport measures across the EU.

Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said:

Given the current uncertainties and in light of the precautionary principle, Member States should take coordinated action to discourage non-essential travel between the UK and the EU. At the same time, blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes. While precautions are needed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus variant, with today’s Recommendation, we therefore ensure that the restrictions are coordinated and provide for the necessary exemptions for citizens and residents returning home and other essential travellers.”

Commissioner for Transport, Adina Vălean, said:

Within the EU, it is crucial that transport workers are exempted from any restrictive measures, as quarantine and testing. We have to continue to maintain the supply chains intact, in line with our Green Lanes Communication.

In the eyes of the world’s media, Britain – a “Plague Island” led by a man who thinks “optimism is a substitute for hard truths and proper management” – is currently getting a good lesson in “what ‘reclaiming sovereignty’ means”.

If never quite explicit, the schadenfreude is palpable as dozens of countries, days before the end of the Brexit transition period and with no trade deal yet agreed, suspend travel from the UK in response to the new, more contagious coronavirus variant.

Much of the blame was on Boris Johnson, who’s U-turn on Christmas had “once more shown the yawning gulf between the prime minister’s airy promises and the real world,” said Germany’s Die Welt.

Read more here:

France to reopen UK border for French and lorry drivers, reports say

France is expected to reopen its border with the UK but only to its own nationals, French residents and professionals such as truck drivers, all of whom will have to provide a recent negative PCR swab test, France’s public broadcaster has reported.

Britons or other non-French nationals with a permanent residence in France will be able to return, but the border is set to remain closed to all other non-French citizens in the UK, France Info said. It was not yet clear how long the measures would be in place.

The new rules are intended to counter the spread of the new, faster-spreading variant of Covid-19 discovered in the UK and are expected to be officially announced this afternoon, France Info said, citing government sources.

It said the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, had spoken by phone on Tuesday morning about measures to ease the chaos at Britain’s ports following France’s decision on Sunday to close its border to all traffic from the UK 48 hours.

Read more here:

Lorry drivers gather at Manston International Airport
Lorry drivers gather at Manston International Airport
Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

A makeshift lorry car park at Manston airport in Kent is starting to fill up as the travel ban to France continues.

A Kent County Council spokesman said the M20 motorway remains closed coastbound from Junction 7 while Operation Stack continues to manage the thousands of lorries.

The Port of Dover and Eurotunnel are closed due to the suspension of accompanied freight and tourist traffic to France.

All freight wanting to use the Port of Dover or Channel Tunnel should now go to Manston Airport via the M2 and A299.

All non-freight traffic will leave the M20 at J7 to join the A20 and follows the yellow circle diversion route. As a result, Operation Stack remains in place on the M20 between J8 and J12 coastbound.

The M20 is currently closed coastbound from M20 J7, whilst Op Stack is changed to Op Brock with the movable barrier and crossovers being put in place.

Wales has reported another sharp rise in cases, with a further 2,761 people testing positive. It takes the total number of confirmed cases in Wales to 128,089.

Public Health Wales also reported another 24 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 3,149.

Wales was put into lockdown on Sunday with its latest seven-day Covid-19 case rate now at 623 cases per 100,000 people and rising, putting increased strain on the country’s health services.

The WHO is to meet to discuss the new variant, its European chief, Hans Kluge has said

“Limiting travel to contain spread is prudent until we have better info. Supply chains for essential goods & essential travel should remain possible,” Kluge tweeted.

The WHO has cautioned against major alarm, saying the variant is a normal part of a pandemic’s evolution and praising Britain for detecting it.

In a statement, it repeated that there was not yet enough information to determine whether the new variant could affect vaccine efficacy

Summary

Here’s a round up of the latest developments:

 

Here’s video of the chief executive of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech saying is confident its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but that further studies are need to be certain.

 

Angus Brown lands a prawn catch from Loch Long in Greenock, Scotland
Angus Brown lands a prawn catch from Loch Long in Greenock, Scotland
Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

It is now “mission impossible” to get millions of pounds worth of Scottish seafood to crucial Spanish food markets tomorrow, the chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink has warned.

In a late morning update, James Withers said that – “contrary to the upbeat assessment from the prime minister” – the situation is worse and deteriorating for food exporters. He added that any protocol for freight movements agreed today will already be too late for most Christmas orders.

For some of our shellfish exporters, the pre-Christmas sales have now been ruined. It looks like mission impossible to get products to the big markets in Spain which are held tomorrow. That is an irrecoverable loss of income and I fear about this being a fatal blow to some of the smaller businesses after the horrendous year they have already had.

With over £6.5m worth of Scottish salmon unlikely to reach the European market before Christmas, producers are now pushing to salvage the New Year market.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, said:

If negotiations can open the Channel for freight tonight then salmon may still reach markets on Boxing Day for distribution to customers, which would be helpful to meet pre-New Year demand.

As chaos around Dover continues, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has added his voice to those calling for an extension to the Brexit process and will be making the argument in Holyrood later this afternoon.

This puts him on the same side as Sadiq Khan and Nicola Sturgeon, but opposed to UK Labour leader Keir Starmer, who yesterday insisted “I don’t want an extension, I want a deal.”

Finance Minister of Slovakia Eduard Heger
Finance Minister of Slovakia Eduard Heger
Photograph: Getty Images

Slovakia’s finance minister, Eduard Heger, has become the latest politician to test positive for Covid, Reuters reports.

He become the sixth Slovak government member infected after Prime Minister Igor Matovic contracted the illness last week.

The finance ministry said Heger would remain in home quarantine. He was not showing symptoms or feeling ill.

Matovic, 47, said last Friday he had tested positive. Four other government members, including the defence minister, have since also tested positive.

Slovakia entered a partial lockdown on Saturday after cases spiked again this month.

Germany has extended its ban to travellers from Britain until 6 January, the health ministry in Berlin has announced, in an attempt to keep a new mutation of the coronavirus at bay.

Planes from South Africa are also banned from flying to Germany, after the discovery of a mutation there.

Plane, ship, train and bus travel are all affected, according to the emergency ruling by the health ministry.

Jens Spahn, the health minister tweeted the ruling on Monday evening. He said the decision was a “cautionary measure” until more is know about the coronavirus mutations which have been reported on in both countries.

On Monday the transport ministry had initially issued a ban on almost all flights from Britain to Germany, until 31 December. A ban on traffic from South Africa was also announced. The extension until January 6, will give authorities more time to investigate the mutations, Spahn said.

It will also put a stop to people coming to Germany to celebrate Christmas and the New Year as after Germans were strongly advised to stay at home.

The German post office announced yesterday that it was no longer accepting parcels destined for the UK as it could not guarantee their passage owing to border controls.

Special permission may be given for flights to Germany to go ahead from the UK, if they are registered with interior ministry authorities three days in advance and pertain to freight transport, repatriation of aircraft, ships, and crew as well as transports of medical personnel or for humanitarian reasons.

Travellers coming to Germany from Britain on Tuesday must produce a negative coronavirus test result immediately on arrival. A test carried out abroad cannot be older than 48 hours, otherwise a new test has to be carried out on arrival in Germany.

Virologist Christian Drosten, Germany’s leading coronavirus specialist, has expressed doubt about Boris Johnson’s claim that the new strain is up to 70% more transmissible.

Boris Johnson and president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke on the phone on Monday in an attempt to reach a last minute Brexit trade deal.

EU member states with the largest fishing fleets are being asked by Von der Leyen’s senior team to rethink their “final offer” after Downing Street made a significant move to break the Brexit deadlock.

France and Denmark are understood to be the most cautious about making a counter-proposal, budging from their current demand that their vessels lose only 25% by value of the fish they catch in British waters.

The European commission president spoke by telephone to Boris Johnson on Monday night to discuss a way forward, with Von der Leyen said by EU sources to be determined to find a landing zone for a deal.

Behind-the-scenes discussions were ongoing on Tuesday morning between the commission president’s most senior aides and the EU capitals most affected by the changes to fishing arrangements brought by Brexit.

Read more here:

China has suspended its visa application service in London, the Chinese embassy in the UK has announced.

In a statement on its website it said:

In accordance with the relevant pandemic prevention advice, the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre in London will suspend its operation from December 22nd, 2020 till further notice.

Meanwhile, India which suspended flights from the UK, has said the new strain of the virus has not yet been detected in India.

V.K. Paul, a senior Covid adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told Reuters the new virus strain would have no impact on vaccines being developed in India.

India has suspended all flights from Britain starting on Wednesday until the end of the year.

And Hungary has become the latest country to ban air passenger planes from Britain.

The suspension will last until 8 February.

Updated

The UK’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has reminded lorry drivers that a French travel ban remains in place in Dover.

France is expected to announce a possible solution in the next few hours.

More than 50 EasyJet passengers from Manchester will have to spend Christmas in quarantine in a hotel in Limassol, the Cyprus Mail reports.

Under a Cyprus government decree all travellers arriving from Britain will be taken to quarantine hotels for a seven-day period.

The ministry clarified that the only exception to this rule applies to people under the age of 18, who have the option to either self-isolate at home or at the hotel.

At least two of the 54 passengers will be allowed to self-isolate at home.

Vaccine scientist: virus will be with us for 10 years

More from our Kate Connelly at the BioNTech presser in Germany:

Uğur Şahin, the CEO of BioNTech, the German biotechnology company behind the first Covid 19 vaccine, was asked at a press briefing when he believed the world might be able to return to normal, following the roll out of vaccine programmes.

Şahin said:

We need a new definition of ‘normal’. The virus will stay with us for the next 10 years. We need to get used to the fact there’ll be more outbreaks.

However, a ‘new normal’ would mean not having to go into lockdown, businesses not having to close, and hospitalisations not being as commonplace. “That can happen by the end of the summer,” he said.

He said the vaccine would not change lives quickly. He said:

This winter we will not have an impact on the infection numbers. But we must have an impact so that next winter can be the new normal.

The company said it was “scouting every location” to expand its production of the vaccine as much as possible, to boost what it called the “scarcity of the vaccine”.

It said its capacity by the end of 2021 was for 1.3 billion doses.

Sierk Poetting, BioNTech’s Chief Financial Officer said:

We are trying to optimise our production capacities.

Şahin also sounded a note of caution around the often quoted figure of 60 to 70 per cent being the necessary proportion of the population which will need to be vaccinated in order for so-called herd immunity to be reached.

If the virus becomes more efficient…we might need a higher uptake of the vaccine for life to return to normal.

Özlem Türeci, his partner, and the Chief Medical Officer of the company, told the briefing that BioNTech was involved in a dedicated programme to look at whether ‘sub groups’ such as pregnant women, younger children and immune compromised individuals could be vaccinated. She said:

There is a dedicated programme with several studies planned over the next few months… which will look into the subgroups. It is being planned with the regulatory authorities.

Asked when it may be known whether the vaccine is effective in stopping the spread of the disease, Türeci said data collection was “ongoing”. She said:

We are testing the vaccinees we have (already) immunized.

Results on transmission were expected in February at the latest, she said.
As to how long people could expect to remain immune after vaccination, Türeci said they needed time to pass so they could follow up on the vaccinees.

She said the company so far has data for three months past the second dose, “and we see stability of the anti-body response in particular”. Depending on how the efficacy appeared over time, she said, they would decide “whether boosters are needed (and) at what intervals they are needed.”

She said it was not recommended to reduce the time between the two vaccine doses to less three weeks. Şahin said the company was also working on whether it could reduce the extreme temperature at which the vaccine needs to be kept. He said:

We will update at the end of January on this. We are confident we can come up with more relaxed conditions and stability, but we are waiting for the results.

Soldiers to drive ambulances in Wales to help deal with ‘extreme pressure’

Soldiers from the British Army will again partner up with ambulance teams in Wales to help deal with the “extreme pressure” on their service during the coronavirus pandemic, PA reports.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said more than 90 soldiers will be re-enlisted to drive its vehicles from Wednesday to support teams responding to emergency callouts.

Wales was put into lockdown on Sunday with its latest seven-day Covid-19 case rate now at 623 cases per 100,000 people and rising, putting increased strain on the country’s health services.

Soldiers previously answered the call to back up ambulance teams in April during he first wave of the virus as part of the Ministry of Defence’s 20,000-strong Covid Response Force, set up to put service personnel and reservists on standby to support public services in response to the pandemic.

Although unable to travel under blue lights to emergencies, their duties will include driving ambulances, lifting and handling patients and assisting paramedics with non-clinical tasks, allowing teams to split up and spread their resources across their fleet.

Among the members of the armed forces linking up with ambulance teams will be soldiers from 9 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps, who have been undergoing training for deployment at their headquarters in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

On Tuesday, the ambulance service’s chief executive Jason Killens said:

The extreme pressure on our ambulance service in the last couple of weeks has been well documented, and it’s why we’ve taken the decision to re-enlist the military, who did a superb job of assisting us earlier in the year.

Winter is our busiest period, and with the second wave of a global pandemic also to contend with, this is about bolstering our capacity as far we can and putting us in the best possible position to provide a safe service to the people of Wales.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said:

With coronavirus case rates at high levels in many areas of Wales, it’s welcome and reassuring that our armed forces will help our ambulance and NHS services during what is set to be a very busy winter period.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the military has stepped up to support health services across Wales with the distribution of PPE (personal protective equipment), construction of a temporary hospital in Cardiff, assisting community testing in the South Wales valleys and will help roll out community vaccine in the coming months.

The use of the armed forces to help with this vital work demonstrates the UK Government’s commitment to meet the needs of the whole of the United Kingdom as we continue to tackle the pandemic.

Minister of the armed forces, James Heappey, added:

The whole of the United Kingdom must pull together if we are to overcome coronavirus and get back to the way of life we know and value.

Our armed forces will do this again in Wales by joining the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust for the second time this year.

Ninety four military personnel, including medics and drivers, will support the ambulance service as they care for the most vulnerable during these challenging times.

Updated

UK has now recorded more than 84,000 deaths involving Covid-19

More than 84,000 deaths involving Covid-19 have now occurred in the UK, new figures show.

This from PA:

A total of 81,416 deaths have so far been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, according to the latest reports from the UK’s statistics agencies.

This includes 73,730 deaths in England and Wales up to December 11 (and registered up to December 19), which were confirmed by the ONS on Tuesday.

Since these statistics were compiled, a further 2,421 deaths are known to have occurred in England, plus 85 in Scotland, 193 in Wales and 83 in Northern Ireland, according to additional data published on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard.

Together, these totals mean that so far 84,198 deaths involving Covid-19 have taken place in the UK.

Three regions of England recorded a week-on-week increase in the number of registered Covid-19 deaths, the ONS said.

In south-east England, 294 deaths were registered in the week to December 11, up from 250 in the previous week and the highest number since the week ending May 22.

Eastern England had 201 Covid-19 deaths registered in the week to December 11, up from 182 and the highest since the week to May 29.

In the East Midlands 334 Covid-19 deaths were registered in the week to December 11. This is up from 323 in the previous week, but below 361 recorded in the week to November 27.

Updated

Our colleague Kate Connolly in Berlin is listening to a bioNTech press conference as we speak and brings us more detail. This is the latest from her:

The chief executive of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech has said he is confident its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but that further studies are need to be completely sure.

Uğur Şahin told a press conference that his team had been working on trying to find out whether the vaccine works on the UK variant and whether it would be necessary to adapt it. Results would be known within two weeks, he said.

“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” Şahin said a day after the vaccine was approved for use in the European Union. “But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.”

Şahin said that the proteins on the UK variant are 99% the same as on the prevailing strains, and therefore BioNTech has “scientific confidence” that its vaccine will be effective. “We believe there is no reason to be concerned or worried.”

Should the vaccine need to be adjusted for the new variant, the company could do so in about six weeks, said Şahin, though regulators might have to approve the changes before the shots can be used.

BioNTech’s vaccine, developed together with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer, is authorised for use in more than 45 countries including Britain, the United States and the EU.

The variant, detected mainly in London and the south-east of England in recent weeks, has sparked concern worldwide because of signs that it may spread more easily. While there is no indication it causes more serious illness, numerous countries in Europe and beyond have restricted travel from the UK as a result.

Addressing the current chaos at the borders. BioNTech’s chief business and commercial officer, Sean Marrett, said he did not anticipate problems in getting supplies of the vaccine to the UK. “There are not just routes through the Channel Tunnel,” he said.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated

‘Highly likely’ BioNTech vaccine works against mutant coronavirus strain

Returning to the news that BioNTech has said it was “highly likely” that its vaccine against the coronavirus works against the mutated strain detected in Britain,

Today the co-founder said even if it didn’t work, the vaccine could be adapted in six weeks.

BioNTech’s CEO Uğur Şahin (read our Berlin correspondent’s full interview with him here), said:

Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant.

In principle the beauty of the messenger technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation – we could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks.

Sahin said the variant detected in Britain has nine mutations, rather than just one as is usually common.

Nevertheless, he voiced confidence that the vaccine developed with Pfizer would be efficient because it “contains more than 1,000 amino acids, and only nine of them have changed, so that means 99 percent of the protein is still the same”.

He said tests are being run on the variant, with results expected in two weeks. He added:

We have scientific confidence that the vaccine might protect but we will only know it if the experiment is done… we will publish the data as soon as possible.

Updated

A total of 2,756 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 11 December mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is down from 2,835 deaths in the week to 4 December – a fall of 3% – the second week a in row that the number of deaths has decreased.

Nearly a quarter (22.4%) of all deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to 11 December mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

Updated

We are hearing from increasingly worried Britons who are abroad and trying to get back to the UK. This from reader Chris:

Having a nightmare at the moment with BA, trying to get back from Amsterdam to the UK for Christmas, my flight on 23rd to LHR was cancelled but they seem to have put another one on tomorrow … but warn against taking it? They are a total nightmare and I am stuck between wanting to return home and not spend Christmas alone or having the stress of travelling and not knowing if I can return to the Netherlands! Advice for expats coming home is just so unclear!!!

Here is the current advice from the UK government:

International travel to or from a tier 4 area

If you are in Tier 4, you should not be travelling abroad unless it is permitted. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.

If you live outside a tier 4 area you may still transit into or through a tier 4 area to travel abroad if you need to, but you should carefully consider whether you need to do so. In addition, you should follow the public health advice in the country you’re visiting.

If you do need to travel overseas from a tier 4 area (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.

UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.

Updated

Taiwan has reported its first local coronavirus transmission since 12 April, blaming a foreign pilot for ending 253 virus-free days.

Health authorities said a woman in her thirties had tested positive after having contact with the pilot, a New Zealander working for a Taiwanese airline who was confirmed to have been infected on Sunday having flown flights to the US.

The health minister, Chen Shih-chung, said the pilot had failed to “truthfully declare” his contacts and activities to authorities once he had been confirmed as a carrier.

Full story here:

Updated

The German biotechnology company BioNTech has said it can make a vaccine in six weeks that can combat coronavirus mutations.

More on this as we get it.

Updated

The number of Covid-19 cases in the World Health Organization Western Pacific area has passed 1m.

Covid-19 confirmed cases and deaths reported by countries and areas in the @WHO Western Pacific Region over the past 24 hours.

Updated

More from the UK home secretary, Priti Patel.

This from my colleague Josh Halliday:

The home secretary, Priti Patel, confirmed on Tuesday that the government was discussing plans to test all lorry drivers taking goods across the Channel to bring an end to the disruption at the ports.

She told BBC Breakfast:

Testing of some sort is part of the discussions that the transport secretary is having with his counterpart in France right now.

Getting those tests up and running can happen pretty quickly but in terms of the details of that, that is something that both the transport secretary and his counterpart will be discussing right now so I don’t want to speculate in terms of the nature of the testing and how soon that can be up and running.

Patel was pressed about the transport secretary Grant Shapps’ claim in a Downing Street press conference that there were only about 170 lorries waiting to cross the Channel on Monday night, only to be later contradicted by Highways England, which said there were about 900.

Patel said there were currently 650 lorries on the M20 and a further 873 at the contraflow site at Manston airfield.

She said the number of lorries stuck in Kent would “fluctuate”, adding:

So, for example, there would have been many hauliers yesterday dropping off their goods in other parts of the country and then going back down to Dover. Of course the No 1 message has been to avoid Dover.

Patel also told BBC Radio 4 Today that the government has been “consistently ahead of the curve” this year, which has provoked a, well, mixed response.

Updated

In Spain, the number of nights in hotels booked by tourists fell 84% in November from the same month a year ago as coronavirus restrictions prevented many from travelling, data from the INE national statistics office show today.

The November data showed a slight deterioration from the 83% drop recorded in October.

Updated

The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, has been doing the interview rounds this morning, and on Sky News she said said the government was “working to get a resolution” as talks continued with France on reopening full trade and transport across the Channel.

She said:

We speak to our colleagues in France constantly on a range of issues and that work has been under way over the last 24 hours and will continue today.

We’re working to get a resolution, I think that’s really important to put this into context. It’s in both our interests, both countries to ensure that we have flow and of course there are European hauliers right now who want to be going home and quite frankly it’s in both our interests to carry on those discussions and negotiations and we will see what materialises today.

Asked about the number of lorries parked up in Kent, she said:

I think it’s important to recognise the figures fluctuate. So for example there would have been many hauliers yesterday dropping off their goods in other parts of the country and then going back down to Dover. Of course, the No 1 message has been to avoid Dover. The other point to say is that of course we have our contraflow measures in place right now. It was Operation Stack, it’s now Operation Brock.

On testing at the ports, she said:

We’re considering everything and rightly so … I think at the end of the day we have to do everything we can to stop the spread of this virus, so we’re in discussions as I said with our French counterparts, Grant Shapps (transport secretary) is having those discussions and we will find a resolution and these suggestions are absolutely part of the discussion.

With debate that the UK may be heading to a full lockdown in the new year, Patel was asked whether “tier 4” measures would be increased. She said:

As this virus changes, grows, the government takes proactive measures, we’ve seen that … It is inevitable as people travel and of course we’re urging people not to travel for the sake of everybody’s health, we have to take strong measures and we’re doing that. We’re constantly reviewing these measures as well.

Of course, if the virus continues to spread then we will take stronger measures, because at the end of the day our objective is to save lives and to keep people safe, but right now it’s not for me to pre-empt any change because obviously there’ll be a natural review mechanism in two weeks’ time.

Updated

Five people arriving in India from Britain have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a government official has said on Tuesday, but it was not clear if they had a highly infectious new strain of the virus.

From Reuters:

India has the second-highest number of infections in the world after the US, with its tally rising past 10m on the weekend. More than 146,000 people have died of Covid-19 in India.

The aviation ministry on Monday announced the suspension of all flights from Britain from Wednesday until the end of the month, and made it mandatory for all passengers arriving before the ban comes into force to be tested for the virus.

Five of the 266 passengers and crew who arrived in New Delhi on a flight from Britain late on Monday had tested positive for the coronavirus but it was unclear if they had the new strain, said government official Awanish Kumar, who is helping coordinate testing at New Delhi airport.

The discovery of the new strain, just months before vaccines are expected to be widely available, sowed new panic in a pandemic that has killed about 1.7 million people worldwide and more than 67,000 in Britain.

At least two other flights from Britain have landed in India since the announcement of the flight ban, one in Mumbai and the other in the northern city of Amritsar.

Test results from the 240 people who arrived late on Monday in Amritsar were due on Tuesday afternoon, government official Deepak Bhatia told Reuters.

Updated

I’m Lexy Topping and I’ll be keeping you up to date on the latest Coronavirus news from the UK and around the globe today.

If you want to send me stories or galvanising messages – please do! The chat in the UK is that schools may have to shut again in January, and I‘m not sure I can handle looking that news in the eyes right yet.

If you want to get in touch I’m on alexandra.topping@theguardian.com or I’m @lexytopping on Twitter and my DMs are open.

Updated

Despite the fact that France and England have promised to announce plans for freight travel between the two countries later today, Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, has pointed out that time is running out.

He said the “borders really need to be running pretty much freely from tomorrow to assure us that there won’t be any disruption”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

There is a problem potentially directly after Christmas and that is really in fresh produce, so we’re talking here about things like salad, vegetables, fresh fruit, of which the vast majority come from Europe at this time.

The problem actually is empty lorries, so the empty lorries which are now stuck in Kent, they need to get back to places like Spain to pick up the net (next) consignment of raspberries and strawberries and they need to get back within the next day or so otherwise we will see disruption.

As long as it can be cleared today there’ll be minimal impact for consumers – remember the shops are shut on Christmas Day, which takes one day of buying out of the equation, but those lorries that are stuck in Kent, they do need to get back within the next day.

Updated

The full story on Antarctica now.

Once the only continent not to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Antarctica has reportedly recorded its first cases. The 36 new infections are among people stationed at a Chilean research base and include 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers.

Spanish-language media reported the outbreak at the General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme research base on Monday.

In a statement, the Chilean army said: “Thanks to the timely preventive action … it was possible to relieve said personnel, who, after being subjected to a medical control and the administration of a PCR test … turned out to be positive for Covid-19,” according to Newsweek. It reported that three crew members on a ship providing support to the base have also tested positive since returning from their mission to Antarctica.

The 36 individuals who tested positive have since been evacuated to the city of Punta Arenas in Chile, where they are reported to be under isolation and in good condition:

Updated

That is it from me, Helen Sullivan, for the year.

It has been an honour and a privilege bringing you the latest pandemic news for the last 10 months – thank you to those of you who have reached out with encouragement or updates from where you live. And thank you especially to all of you who read our rolling coverage.

The blog will shut down briefly over Christmas and I’ll be back at the helm in the new year, when I’ll be wearing another hat, too: columnist.

I will be writing what I promise will be an extremely silly and not at all pandemic-related column about animals (and insects, plants and natural phenomena).

The first in the series is below. It is about lemmings.

If you have a creature you would like to recommend let me know on Twitter here.

Updated

Summary

Here are the key global developments from the last few hours:

  • UK freight plans to be released later today. Freight measures agreed by Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron will be announced later on Tuesday, the BBC reports, and will come into effect from Wednesday, according to French Europe Minister Clément Beaune. EU member states will also be meeting again to discuss a co-ordinated response.
  • After months of Washington gridlock, Congress has passed a $900bn pandemic relief package, finally delivering long-sought cash to businesses and individuals as well as resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths. President Donald Trump is soon expected to sign the package into law.
  • Antarctica, once the only continent not to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, has reportedly recorded its first confirmed cases. The 36 new infections are among people stationed at a Chilean research base and include 26 members of the Chilean army and 10 maintenance workers.
  • Taiwan’s government on Tuesday reported its first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 since 12 April. The individual who tested positive for Covid-19 was a friend of a person who had already been confirmed to have been infected with the virus, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told a news conference.
  • The US government is considering requiring that all passengers traveling from the United Kingdom receive a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure as a condition of entry, airline and US officials briefed on the matter said Monday.
  • Virgin Atlantic to require negative Covid test. Starting on 24 December, the airline Virgin Atlantic will require proof of a negative coronavirus test for all passengers travelling from London to the US, the company announced.
  • The Vatican has urged Catholics to get vaccinated against coronavirus and said it it “morally acceptable” to take vaccines that use cell lines from aborted foetuses. Cells derived from foetuses aborted decades ago have been used by some researchers working on vaccines against Covid-19.
  • Ontario on Monday announced a province-wide shutdown because of a second wave of Covid-19 in Canada’s most populous province. The lockdown will be put in place for southern Ontario from 26 December until 23 January, but will lift for northern Ontario on 9 January. Ontario has had seven straight days of more than 2,000 cases a day.
  • Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated on Tuesday that there was no need for the country to enter a national state of emergency, even as health groups declared their own state of emergency for the medical system as coronavirus infection rates continue to rise.
  • South Korea on Tuesday moved to shut down all ski resorts and winter tourist spots in a bid to stop the novel coronavirus spreading as a third wave of the pandemic proves much tougher to contain in the densely populated region of the capital city.
  • Australian state of New South Wales reports 8 new cases. In the Australian state of New South Wales, where residents are on edge as they await health restrictions – or the easing thereof – amid a new outbreak happening just before Christmas, eight new cases today, down from 15 yesterday.
  • Denmark on Monday agreed on a temporary ban on mink breeding. The move by lawmakers retroactively creates the legal basis for its order to cull all mink in the country in November.

Updated

36 cases confirmed in Antarctica – reports

Australia’s ABC news channel reports that 36 Chileans on an army base in Antarctica have tested positive for coronavirus – which means that the continent can no longer claim to be the only one free of the virus.

ABC:

Multiple Spanish-language media outlets are reporting that up to 36 people connected with a Chilean Army base were confirmed positive for the virus on Monday.

The base is located close to the northernmost tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in West Antarctica – far from Australia’s bases in East Antarctica

The Australian Antarctic Division is seeking to confirm the reports with Chilean authorities.

More now on the new case in Taiwan:

Taiwan’s government on Tuesday reported its first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 since April 12.

The individual who tested positive for Covid-19 was a friend of a person who had already been confirmed to have been infected with the virus, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told a news conference.

More now on the freight plans, via PA media.

Talks with France on reopening full trade and transport across the Channel are ongoing as the Government’s chief scientific adviser said more restrictions may be needed at home because cases of a mutant strain of Covid were now appearing “everywhere”.

Sir Patrick Vallance gave the grim warning after more than 40 countries banned UK flights because of fears regarding the spread of the coronavirus variant.

The chief scientific adviser’s remarks followed London and parts of southern and eastern England being rushed into the new Tier 4 lockdown regime at the weekend after existing Tier 3 measures proved inadequate to control the spread of the more infectious variant.

Sir Patrick indicated a lockdown may be needed in wider areas of England, particularly as Christmas mixing may result in an increased spread of cases.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have already announced new lockdowns from Boxing Day while Wales’ tough restrictions will only be eased for Christmas Day before being reimposed.

UK freight plans to be released later today

Freight measures agreed by Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron will be announced later on Tuesday, the BBC reports, and will come into effect from Wednesday, according to French Europe Minister Clément Beaune.

EU member states will also be meeting again to discuss a co-ordinated response.

Taiwan reports first case since 12 April

The Taiwanese government has announced that a locally transmitted coronavirus case in Taiwan has been confirmed – the first since 12 April, according to Reuters. We’ll have more on this shortly.

Britain’s rail freight industry, while much smaller than the road haulage sector, might play a key role in keeping vital, but stranded goods on the move, AFP reports.

Lorries are stuck in long lines heading to and from the Channel port of Dover on England’s south coast, as companies try to stockpile goods before the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

The situation has been exacerbated by countries shutting their borders to Britain to contain a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus.

Citing concern over a new covid-19 variant and England’s surge in cases, France temporarily closed its border with the UK late Sunday, halting freight and ferry departures from the port of Dover for 48 hours.
Citing concern over a new covid-19 variant and England’s surge in cases, France temporarily closed its border with the UK late Sunday, halting freight and ferry departures from the port of Dover for 48 hours.
Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Freightliner Group, a leading rail company that picks up large containers from UK ports and transports them by train to inland terminals, is waiting in the wings.

The company could be called upon to transport extra produce across Britain should businesses caught up in the Dover queues decide to ferry their goods to other ports.

“What we may start seeing is the impact of goods being moved to other deep seaports around Britain,” Freightliner’s Head of Rail Strategy Peter Graham told AFP.

Its longest trains, which are 775 metres (2,500 feet) long and carry around 60 containers, are currently transporting goods north from the English port of Southampton.

While lockdown restrictions have sharply curtailed Britain’s passenger rail traffic, freight trains are running at around pre-pandemic levels with vital goods such as protective equipment needed by hospitals.

Covid-19 vaccines: why are some people hesitant?

Less than a year since Covid-19 was genetically sequenced, vaccinations against it have begun. Despite being a cause for celebration, the vaccines have been met with some public hesitancy. In the first of a two-part exploration into Covid-19 vaccine scepticism, Nicola Davis speaks to Dr Samantha Vanderslott and Dr Caitjan Gainty about why some people are apprehensive, and how much of a problem vaccine scepticism really is:

2020 is the deadliest year in US history

This is the deadliest year in US history, with deaths expected to top 3 million for the first time — due mainly to the coronavirus pandemic.

Final mortality data for this year will not be available for months, AP reports.

But preliminary numbers suggest that the United States is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year, or at least 400,000 more than in 2019.

US deaths increase most years, so some annual rise in fatalities is expected. But the 2020 numbers amount to a jump of about 15%, and could go higher once all the deaths from this month are counted.

That would mark the largest single-year percentage leap since 1918, when tens of thousands of US soldiers died in the first world war and hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a flu pandemic. Deaths rose 46% that year, compared with 1917.

Covid-19 has killed more than 318,000 Americans and counting. Before it came along, there was reason to be hopeful about US death trends.

The nation’s overall mortality rate fell a bit in 2019, due to reductions in heart disease and cancer deaths. And life expectancy inched up — by several weeks — for the second straight year, according to death certificate data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But life expectancy for 2020 could end up dropping as much as three full years, said Robert Anderson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Updated

Denmark bans mink breeding

Denmark on Monday agreed on a temporary ban on mink breeding, leaving little hope to rebuild the industry, which pioneered the global fur trade.

Reuters: Fearing an escalation of the coronavirus epidemic in the Nordic country, exacerbated by the discovery of a mutated virus strain, the Danish government ordered all mink culled in early November, despite lacking part of the legal basis to do so.

Mink are seen at a farm in Denmark, 6 November 2020.
Mink are seen at a farm in Denmark, 6 November 2020.
Photograph: Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters

The move by lawmakers retroactively creates the legal basis for its order to cull all mink in the country in November.

The government’s order has effectively obliterated Denmark’s mink industry, known for its top-quality mink pelts, with most farmers and industry voices saying the industry will never recover.

Authorities later admitted that the order to cull healthy mink herds had lacked a legal basis.

The move hurled the government into a political storm, as plummeting public trust coincided with resignation calls and a vote of no confidence by opposition parties, culminating in the exit of the agriculture minister.

Parliament has also decided to instigate a probe into the government’s handling of the mink crisis, including the actions of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

US Congress passes $900bn Covid-19 aid bill after months of gridlock

After months of Washington gridlock, Congress has passed a $900bn pandemic relief package, finally delivering long-sought cash to businesses and individuals as well as resources to vaccinate a nation confronting a frightening surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.

After days of furious negotiation, both legislative chambers worked deep into the night to pass the massive bill, with the House of Representatives first approving it and the Senate following suit several hours later in bipartisan votes.

Lawmakers had tacked on thousands of pages of other end-of-session business in a burst of legislation as Capitol Hill is set to close down for the year:

More on the US aid bill now, from Reuters:

At 5,593 pages, the wide-ranging bill that also spends $1.4tn on an array of federal programs through next September, is likely to be the final major piece of legislation for the 116th Congress that expires on 3 January.

Congress included a measure continuing current levels of government spending for seven days, ensuring no interruption to federal operations.

It has a net cost of roughly $350bn for coronavirus relief, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, adding that more than $500bn in funding comes from unspent money Congress had authorised.

The stimulus package, the first congressionally approved aid since April, comes as the pandemic is accelerating in the United States, infecting more than 214,000 people every day and slowing the economic recovery. More than 317,000 Americans have died.

The legislation also expands a small-business lending program by about $284bn and steers money to schools, airlines, transit systems and vaccine distribution.

The small-business loan and grant program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, would exclude publicly traded companies from eligibility.

Amid reports that the Trump Organization received past aid, the bill contains disclosure requirements for the president, vice president, heads of Cabinet departments, lawmakers and spouses and prohibits those individuals from receiving loans in the future.

State and local governments, which are struggling to pay for the distribution of newly approved Covid-19 vaccines, would receive $8.75 billion from Washington, with $300m of that targeted at vaccinations in minority and high-risk populations.

US Congress passes coronavirus aid bill

The US Congress on Monday approved an $892 billion coronavirus aid package, throwing a lifeline to the nation’s pandemic-battered economy after months of inaction, while also keeping the federal government funded for another year.

President Donald Trump is soon expected to sign the package into law.

After days of furious negotiation, both legislative chambers worked deep into the night to pass the massive bill, with the House of Representatives first approving it and the Senate following suit several hours later in bipartisan votes.

The virus relief bill includes $600 payments to most Americans as well as additional payments to the millions of people thrown out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, just as a larger round of benefits is due to expire on Saturday.

But wait, what is this? A much-needed break from pandemic news?

Read the full article here (at once!):

US could require negative Covid-19 tests for passengers from Britain – reports

The US government is considering requiring that all passengers traveling from the United Kingdom receive a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure as a condition of entry, airline and US officials briefed on the matter said Monday.

A White House coronavirus task force discussed requiring pre-flight tests after a meeting on Monday regarding the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in Britain that prompted dozens of countries to close their borders to Britain.

Airline and US officials said requiring testing for UK arrivals won backing among task force members. The White House has yet to make a final decision on the matter, they said.

Earlier, airlines operating flights from London to John F. Kennedy International Airport voluntarily agreed to a request from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that they only allow passengers who test negative to fly.

The three airlines – British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic – said they would begin screening passengers on those routes this week.
Major Transatlantic carriers, which have drastically cut flights during the pandemic, have been implementing pilot Covid-19 testing between some US and European cities as a way to create safe “travel corridors” and help reduce quarantines and government restrictions.

Malaysia has signed a deal to procure 6.4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Tuesday.

The government is also in final negotiations with China-based manufacturers Sinovac and CanSino as well as Russia’s Gamaleya Institute to procure their vaccines, Muhyiddin said in a televised address.

Malaysia expects to buy enough supplies to cover more than 80% of its population, he said.

Podcast: The new strain of coronavirus that has cancelled Christmas

Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley looks at the fast-spreading Covid variant that has prompted the prime minister to put London, the south east and the east of England into tier 4 and more than 40 countries to ban UK arrivals because of concerns about the spread:

China approved the emergency use of the Covid-19 vaccine in June and has carried out more than one million doses since July. More than 60,000 were vaccinated and went to high-risk regions and countries overseas.

Zheng Zhongwei, director of the Development Center for Medical Science & Technology, reported no severe infections so far.

Zheng Zhongwei.
Zheng Zhongwei.
Photograph: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

China announces a new plan to vaccinate key accounts and prevent imported cases as mutated coronavirus being reported in the UK.

China’s epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said on December 20 that contaminated packaging of imported cold-chain foods has formed a new pattern of environment-to-human transmission.

Feng Zijian, deputy director of the China CDC, said that from the virus sequences obtained in the country, whether it is imported goods or cold-chain products, viruses obtained from various sources are not mutated.

And the amount of pollution must be relatively large and under a long-term repeated contact to cause the infection.The new vaccine plan will include personnel working near frontline medical and epidemic prevention, border ports, and cold chains.

Virgin Atlantic to require negative Covid test

Starting on December 24, the airline Virgin Atlantic will require proof of a negative coronavirus test for all passengers travelling from London to the US, the company announced.

In a statement, Virgin said:

With the health and safety of our customers and people always our number one priority, we will require all travellers to present evidence of a negative LAMP or PCR Covid-19 test, taken up to 72 hours prior to departure, including on-site at the airport

Guatemala will restrict entry beginning on Wednesday to travellers who have recently visited Britain or South Africa in an effort to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus strain, President Alejandro Giammattei said on Monday.

The new measures will require people who have visited Britain or South Africa within 14 days to quarantine for at least a week upon arrival in Guatemala. Health minister Amelia Flores said the restrictions would initially last two months.

Mainland China recorded 15 new Covid-19 cases on 21 December, Reuters reports, compared with 23 the previous day, and will look to strengthen measures to prevent the arrival of a new strain of the coronavirus, the country’s health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in its daily bulletin that 13 of the new cases were imported. Two cases of local transmission were reported in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

Another 17 asymptomatic cases were reported on 21 December, up from 15 the previous day. China does not include asymptomatic patients in its total confirmed case list.

People wearing face masks dance in front of the St. Joseph’s Church in Beijing on 21 December 2020.
People wearing face masks dance in front of the St. Joseph’s Church in Beijing on 21 December 2020.
Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Feng Zijian, deputy director general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention told state broadcaster CCTV that no imports of a new coronavirus strain have been discovered, but the agency is closely monitoring its spread globally.

A new highly infectious strain of the virus has been detected in Britain, as well as some other countries.

Feng said the CDC is studying ways to further strengthen prevention to shield against new strains.

Mainland China has now reported an accumulated total of 86,867 coronavirus cases, with 4,634 deaths.

House passes coronavirus aid package

The US House of Representatives passed an $892 billion coronavirus aid package on Monday aimed at throwing a lifeline to the nation’s pandemic-battered economy, clearing the way for Senate approval later in the evening.

Reuters: The House in a pair of bipartisan votes also passed a $1.4tn measure that will keep the US government funded for another year, which will also go to the Senate for consideration.

The relief bill, which would become law if passed by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump, includes $600 payments to most Americans as well as additional payments to the millions of people thrown out of work during the Covid-19 pandemic, just as a larger round of benefits is due to expire on Saturday.

The White House has said Trump will sign the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, urged lawmakers to support the virus relief bill even as she complained it did not include the direct aid for state and local governments that Democrats had sought. She said they would try for it again next year after Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The bill, she said, “doesn’t go all the way but it takes us down the path.”
Republican Representative Hal Rogers, who supported the package, said “it reflects a fair compromise.”

Ontario in Canada announces province-wide shutdown

Ontario on Monday announced a province-wide shutdown because of a second wave of Covid-19 in Canada’s most populous province.

The lockdown will be put in place for southern Ontario from 26 December until Jan. 23, but will lift for northern Ontario on 9 January. Health officials criticised the delay, with one top infectious disease doctor saying it was ridiculous to wait wait until the day after Christmas to shut down.

Ontario has had seven straight days of more than 2,000 cases a day.

Modeling shows that could more than double in January. Health officials earlier said a four- to six-week hard lockdown could significantly stop the spread of Covid-19.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford holds a press conference at Queen’s Park during the Covid-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, 21 December 2020.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford holds a press conference at Queen’s Park during the Covid-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, 21 December 2020.
Photograph: Canadian Press/REX/Shutterstock

Toronto, Canada’s largest city, had already closed restaurants for indoor dining but schools remained open. All high schools in Ontario will now be closed for in-person learning until 25 January. Elementary schools will be closed until 11 January.

After Covid-19 cases surged in the spring, Canada flattened the epidemic curve with a lockdown. But as in other countries, COVID fatigue set in, restrictions were relaxed and a second wave was unleashed.

South Korea to shut ski resorts and winter tourist spots

South Korea on Tuesday moved to shut down all ski resorts and winter tourist spots in a bid to stop the novel coronavirus spreading as a third wave of the pandemic proves much tougher to contain in the densely populated region of the capital city.

From 24 December to 3 January, the government will close ski facilities and tourist attractions, popular during the year-end season, said Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, speaking during a televised briefing. Gatherings of more than four people will not be permitted, he said, while tighter anti-virus curbs will be imposed on restaurants to tamp down infections.

Ski lifts remain suspended at a ski resort in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, South Korea, 16 December 2020.
Ski lifts remain suspended at a ski resort in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, South Korea, 16 December 2020.
Photograph: YONHAP/EPA

The announcement comes after Seoul and surrounding areas banned gatherings of more than four people over the Christmas and New Year holidays with the country recording its highest daily death toll from the coronavirus on Monday.

South Korea reported 869 new coronavirus cases as of Monday midnight, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Tuesday, down from the daily record of 1,097 reported over the weekend.

The rash of new cases has shaken a country that has for months been held up as a mitigation success story. The new cases bring the nation’s tally to 51,460 infections, with 722 deaths.

The UK government’s chief scientific adviser has suggested that coronavirus restrictions across the country could be tightened in the coming weeks.

This follows a surge in cases of a new variant of the virus that is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible than the old strain.

“I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it’s likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced,” Sir Patrick Vallance told a Downing Street press conference:

 

Almost 40,000 retailers in the UK were in “significant financial distress” even before the introduction of tighter restrictions over the weekend forced non-essential shops to shut.

Research by the insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor found that 39,232 retailers – both online and bricks and mortar operations – were experiencing severe financial problems in the three months to 9 December. This was up 11% on the previous three months and 24% higher than the same period a year earlier:

Vatican says coronavirus vaccine “morally acceptable”

The Vatican has urged Catholics to get vaccinated against coronavirus and said it it “morally acceptable” to take vaccines that use cell lines from aborted foetuses.

Cells derived from foetuses aborted decades ago have been used by some researchers working on vaccines against Covid-19.

The Vatican acknowledged that the issue was a cause of concern for some Catholics but said in a note that “it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted foetuses in their research and production process”.

The use of such vaccines “does not constitute formal cooperation with the abortion from which the cells used in production of the vaccines derive”, it said:

Japan’s Prime Minister Suga says there is no need for state of emergency

And back to the news: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterated there was no need for Japan to enter a national state of emergency, even as health groups declared their own state of emergency for the medical system as coronavirus infection rates continue to rise.

Suga said on Monday evening the head of the government’s expert panel on the coronavirus pandemic had told him “we’re not there yet” with regards to calling a state of emergency. Suga was responding during an interview on national television.

Commuters walk toward their working place after dropping off from packed trains at Shinagawa railway station in Tokyo, Japan.
Commuters walk toward their working place after dropping off from packed trains at Shinagawa railway station in Tokyo, Japan.
Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Suga has been struggling with falling approval ratings, with polls showing the public disapproves of how he has handled the pandemic.
“We need to show the results of our coronavirus countermeasures. I’ll spearhead the effort with a mindset to do everything that must be done,” Suga said.
Japan has seen a rise in new infection rates in recent weeks, with a record 2,154 people hospitalised as of Monday, according to national broadcaster NHK.

A group of national medical associations called their own state of medical emergency on Monday, warning the system was under considerable strain from the pandemic.

And now for a break from pandemic news for an extremely great new column, even if I do say so myself.

Think you know about lemmings? Think again!

A Norwegian lemming looks like a larger, slightly cleverer and much more irate hamster. Their underside fur is biscuit-coloured. On top they wear a mottled calico.

The BBC, in a 2015 documentary episode in which a lemming repeatedly charges a full sized house cat – and then attacks the rock on to which the house cat has leapt in fear – called them “bloodthirsty, hairy berserkers.”

‘The platypuses were glowing’: the secret light of Australia’s marsupialsRead more

“They have been known,” we are told as the screen shows a lemming, surrounded by plum-coloured leaves, baring its rodent teeth and squeak-barking at the camera, “to kill weasels and fight off skua.” (Skua are aggressive, seagull-like birds).

Wait. Aren’t lemmings so meek and stupid that they march en masse to their deaths, throwing themselves off cliffs without a thought?

As it turns out, no: Lemmings “acting like lemmings” is a myth, as Sonia Shah explains in her book, The Next Great Migration. Lemmings do not commit mass suicide by jumping into the sea. When asked to join the death cult, they squeak-bark, “No!”. They refuse the poisoned Kool-Aid:

More than two-thirds of the extra costs facing schools as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will not be covered by the UK government’s support fund, according to a leading education thinktank.

Most schools have had to spend more cash this year in order to operate a “Covid-safe” environment. The government has provided some financial relief through its exceptional costs fund, but research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) suggests that the majority of schools’ additional costs won’t be met by the fund.

The analysis, based on a survey of more than 700 schools in November, suggests that nearly three in five (57%) are using their reserves to cover these extra costs and around half of schools do not expect to have a balanced budget by the end of the year:

Australian state of NSW reports 8 new cases

In the Australian state of New South Wales, where residents are on edge as they await health restrictions – or the easing thereof – amid a new outbreak happening just before Christmas, eight new cases today, down from 15 yesterday.

“Pleasingly we only had eight cases of community transmission,” says premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Seven of them are linked directly to the northern beaches cluster.

“The eighth one being it could actually be an overseas-acquired case. It was a transport nurse, someone who worked in transport in patients in quarantine, a nurse.”

That was from a record number of tests – 44,000. That is also up from yesterday’s previous record tests of 38,000.

Here is the video of Biden being vaccinated:

 

Joe Biden received his first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on live US television on Monday afternoon, in keeping with public officials’ efforts to show Americans such vaccines are safe.

Shortly after 3.20pm, Biden appeared before cameras at a medical facility. He rolled up his sleeve and said: “I’m ready.” After the jab, Biden thanked scientists and medical workers, saying their efforts were “just amazing”.

He also praised the White House, saying “I think that the administration deserves some credit getting this off the ground” and that the vaccine provides “great hope”.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Biden also said of receiving the vaccine. He said that his wife, Jill Biden, had already received her first dose earlier in the day:

To our US readers, here is how to escape all thoughts of the pandemic and watch tonight’s interplanetary kiss – or the best great conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter in 800 years:

Summary

Hello, my name is Helen Sullivan and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and my last blog for the year after nearly ten months of doing this eight hours a day, every day.

It has been an honour and a privilege.

You can bid me good riddance or wish me a merry Christmas on Twitter @helenrsullivan (but before you start mourning or celebrating: I will be back in earliest January).

As the global death toll passed 1.7m, US president-elect Joe Biden on Monday received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on live television as part of a growing effort to convince the American public the inoculations are safe.

The president-elect took a dose of Pfizer vaccine at a hospital near his Delaware home, hours after his wife Jill Biden. The injections came the same day that a second vaccine, produced by Moderna, will start arriving in states.

The virus has killed at least 1,700,399 people in less than a year, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Here are the other key developments:

  • Boris Johnson “working with Emmanuel Macron” to resolve border delays. The UK prime minister said he had an “excellent” conversation with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and said he was keen to get the situation at Dover sorted out “in a few hours” if it was possible. Johnson said he and Macron are working to “resolve these issues as fast as possible” so that freight traffic can get moving again.
  • There are no intensive care beds available in densely populated southern California or the state’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, together home to nearly 30 million people, amid a deadly surge of Covid-19, governor GavinNewsom said on Monday.
  • Half a million people have received first dose of vaccine in the UK. More than half a million people in the UK have been vaccinated against Covid-19, Boris Johnson said.
  • Delays at Dover affecting only small amount of freight, says UK PM. Boris Johnson insisted Channel port delays will only affect a small amount of food and medicine shipments coming into the UK. Johnson says the delays only involve “human-handled freight”, which only amounts to about 20% of the goods going to continental Europe.
  • UK supermarkets warn of food shortages if border crisis isn’t resolved soon. British supermarket group Tesco warned on Monday that there may be a shortage of some fruit and vegetables later this week if transport ties are not quickly restored with mainland Europe. The supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s has warned that some products could be missing from UK shelves due to restrictions at ports, but said food for a traditional Christmas lunch is available and already in the country.
  • Sweden one of 40 countries to ban travellers from Britain. Sweden has joined the list of countries, which include France, Israel, and Germany, that will stop allowing in foreign travellers from Britain in a bid to curb the rapid spread of a new strain of the coronavirus, the government said today. Sweden is also barring travellers from Denmark.
  • Europe’s medicines regulator approved the use of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The approval puts Europe on course to start inoculations within a week. EU countries including Germany, France, Austria and Italy have said they plan to start vaccinations from 27 December. Having gained the green light from the EMA, the final step is approval by the European commission, which is expected in the coming days. The commission typically follows the EMA’s advice.

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Animal welfare, Environment

Carrot the deer found in Ontario with arrow sticking out of his head

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Carrot the deer found in Ontario with arrow sticking out of his head” was written by Leyland Cecco in Toronto, for The Guardian on Thursday 17th December 2020 15.24 UTC

The Canadian winter can be tough for deer, as temperatures plummet and food becomes scarce. But Carrot, a whitetail buck living in northern Ontario, faces an additional challenge: he has an arrow sticking out of his head.

“It’s been really tough to see,” said Lee-Anne Carver, a wildlife photographer in the city of Kenora, who named the young animal. “I’ve been photographing animals for years and there’s something special about Carrot. He’s unlike any deer I’ve ever met.”

Now, Carver is trying to share Carrot’s plight with as many as she can, in the hopes of saving the injured deer.

For the last three years, Carrot, who was orphaned as a fawn, has been visiting Carver and her husband in their backyard. “He’s very gentle and affectionate,” said Carver.

But last week Carver’s husband saw that the deer had been injured. When she went out into the snowy yard to investigate, she saw a black arrow with bright green fletching was impaled in Carrot’s head.

Despite the shocking injury, however, the deer appeared unbothered. When he walked over to Carver to sniff her hand, she didn’t see any blood or sign of infection.

“It was very disturbing to see,” said Carver. “But he was still acting like his normal self.”

Local officials have promised Carver they won’t euthanize the injured deer, but a conservation officers and hunters have advised against any attempt at removing the bolt. Because the arrow is probably preventing bleeding, extracting it could reopen the wound in his head and cause infection.

“It’s really disturbing. I want to put my hand out there and grab it and say, ‘There, I fixed you, Carrot.’ But that’s not possible.”

Four years ago, the city of Kenora passed a bylaw permitting residents to shoot deer with bows within city limits.

With no veterinarian capable of handling large mammals in the area, however Carrot’s supporters are left with few options. Carver’s hope is that after his antlers fall off and the wound is fully healed, the arrow shaft can easily be pulled out.

Carver started a Facebook page, Carrot the Magic Deer, and has received messages from supporters all over the world.

“The internet is a place where everybody wants to argue about something. But Carrot seems to be unifying people,” said Carver. “It’s been so overwhelming so see all of this compassion, that’s sorely lacking in the world right now. There’s so much suffering out in the world these days – and Carrot’s suffering too – but he’s become bigger than that. He’s given us something to focus on right now, and something to love. And that means a lot.”

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Books, Culture

Best autobiography and memoirs of 2020

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Best autobiography and memoirs of 2020” was written by Fiona Sturges, for The Guardian on Saturday 28th November 2020 09.00 UTC

Motherwell: A Girlhood Hardcover – 23 Jan 2020 by Deborah Orr (Author) Hardback

In Motherwell: A Girlhood (W&N), the late author and columnist Deborah Orr reflects on her childhood in the eponymous Scottish steel town and her relationship with her formidable mother, Win. Alongside excoriating descriptions of Win’s controlling ways, Orr vividly evokes Scottish working-class life in the 1970s, and the shifting social and economic values that would ease her path to university and a career in the media. The author, who underwent treatment for cancer for the second time in 2019, died before the book was published, but her wish “to take charge, to take complete control, of my family, in my own words” was realised nonetheless.

Charlie Gilmour’s Featherhood (W& N) and Gavanndra Hodge’s The Consequences of Love (Michael Joseph) deal with themes of parental failure. In the former, Gilmour finds comfort in the company of an abandoned baby magpie while recalling how his father, the poet Heathcote Williams, left him and his mother when he was an infant, and subsequently rebuffed his son’s attempts to get to know him. Gilmour made headlines in 2010 when he was photographed swinging from the Cenotaph during a student protest. “It wasn’t the glorious dead I wanted to attack that day,” he writes, “but the glorious dad.” The Consequences of Love, meanwhile, is an elegant study of grief and memory that begins with the death of Hodge’s younger sister, Candy, aged nine. On becoming a mother of two girls, the author realised she had no recollections of Candy beyond the moment of her death. So she seeks to fill the “swirling, vertigo-induced void” by telling her family’s story, involving her drug-addicted father, who sold heroin to rich Chelsea layabouts, and her alcoholic mother who turned to religion to blot out her trauma.

A Dutiful Boy: A memoir of a gay Muslim’s journey to acceptance Paperback – 20 Aug. 2020

Mohsin Zaidi’s A Dutiful Boy (Square Peg) begins on the day its author brings his boyfriend home to meet the family. The story then jumps back in time to chronicle his parents’ move from Pakistan to east London and his upbringing in a conservative Muslim community. At 14, Zaidi realises he is gay and, fearful of his parents’ disapproval, resolves to keep his sexuality a secret. His book challenges Muslim homophobia as well as the racism of the London gay scene – some dating site profiles warn: “No Asians.” Yet Zaidi’s writing is underpinned by compassion and an understanding that acceptance can be a slow process, even for those who love you.

House of Glass (4th Estate) is a stunning family memoir by Hadley Freeman that examines themes of identity and belonging as it pieces together the histories of the Glass siblings, the youngest of whom was her grandmother, Sala. Their stories are varied, vivid and heartbreaking, each unfolding during one of the most traumatic periods in Jewish history.

Coming Undone- A Memoir

Terri White’s raw and remarkable Coming Undone: A Memoir (Canongate) describes her efforts to keep a lid on her childhood trauma while seeking comfort and escape in alcohol. Born in Derbyshire to a teenage mum, her early years were shaped by extreme poverty, violence and sexual abuse by two of her mother’s boyfriends. In adulthood, a job in New York sends her into freefall and White spares no detail as she recalls her unravelling.

In Hungry (Mudlark), the restaurant critic Grace Dent tells of her early life in Carlisle, and her relationship with her father, who would cook her “sketty” – his name for spag bol – when she was a child. Tender and witty, the book is both a love-letter to George, whose eventual decline from dementia she recounts, and the food that brought them together.

Broken Greek (Quercus) is Pete Paphides’s funny and evocative account of his Brummie childhood as the offspring of Greek-Cypriot parents, and his love affair with music. It starts in 1973 when the author, then aged four, stops speaking to anyone apart from close family. He never stops listening, however. Along with the sound of his parents’ bickering, he finds a new soundtrack: pop music. Paphides, a journalist and radio DJ, is brilliant on the formative impact of his favourite bands and the ways music can help us make sense of the world.

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn

Notions of home are poignantly explored in Raynor Winn’s The Wild Silence (Michael Joseph), the sequel to the award-winning The Salt Path, as the author adjusts to living with a roof over her head after a period of financial hardship followed by homelessness. Winn moves to Cornwall, where she takes on a piece of farmland for rewilding. Her evocations of weather, landscape, the sea and her love for her partner, Moth, who has an incurable neurodegenerative condition, are wonderful.

For the author Sarah M Broom, home was once New Orleans East where her widowed mother, Ivory Mae, bought a house in 1961 with her late husband’s life insurance. Broom’s award-winning debut, The Yellow House (Corsair), is a history of a house, a family and a neighbourhood brought low by neglect, racism and inequality. The youngest of 12 children, she had moved away from the city by the time Hurricane Katrina hit, but she paints a harrowing picture assembled from the memories of her family. Their heartbreak is compounded by the city’s treatment of its residents: Mae’s house was eventually demolished without her knowledge, the notification letter having been sent to the abandoned property.

A Ghost in the Throat

Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat (Tramp Press) explores the author’s obsession with an 18th-century poem by an Irish noblewoman. A genre-defying blend of memoir and translation, flights of fancy and everyday domesticity, it draws out connections across the centuries for a captivatingly original meditation on creativity and motherhood.

In Inferno (Bloomsbury), Catherine Cho documents her experience of post-partum psychosis, which led her to see devils in her son’s eyes. Cho was eventually separated from her baby and institutionalised in a psychiatric hospital, where she took copious notes on her progress and the comings and goings on the ward. Her book veers away from being a heart-warming tale of triumph over trauma; it lays out, with frightening clarity, the spiralling pressures of new motherhood and the unvarnished reality of mental breakdown.

Parenting looms large in the columnist and writer Caitlin Moran’s More Than a Woman (Ebury), which examines being a woman and a feminist in middle age. Eye-wateringly candid and wildly entertaining, it reflects on looking after elderly parents, anal sex, smear tests, Botox, big bums and the daily to-do list. But it’s the chapters on raising teenagers that provide the book’s emotional heft as they tell of her daughter’s struggle with an eating disorder, and the parental fear, panic and disorientation that ensued.

Hungover Games by Sophie Heawood

Sophie Heawood’s riotously funny The Hungover Games (Cape) looks at unplanned parenthood, from pregnancy and childbirth to the chaotic infant years, and the withdrawal from her life of her child’s father, known here as the Musician. Heawood casts herself as the hapless goofball, careering from one calamity to the next, but there is wisdom and poignancy amid the self-mockery as she contemplates a new way of living and finding love where she never knew it existed.

Five best celebrity memoirs of 2020

Mariah Carey, pictured in 2019.
Mariah Carey, pictured in 2019. Photograph: Amy Sussman/FilmMagic

The Meaning of Mariah Carey
by Mariah Carey (Macmillan)

“I have seen, I have been scared, I have been scarred, and I have survived,” writes Carey in this rags-to-riches tale that delves beneath the diamond-encrusted public persona to reveal a woman who has overcome childhood neglect, racism, mental illness and abuse. A twinkling humour underpins her account of her post-stardom years in which she acknowledges her “propensity for extraness”, and throws fabulous shade at J-Lo without once mentioning her name.

 Rupert Everett

To the End of the World
by Rupert Everett (Little, Brown)

The actor’s third memoir is both a caustic reflection on the iniquities of show business and an account of his decade-long efforts to bring Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince to the screen. The writing is as sparkling as the anecdotes are riotous: he stands up Joan Collins for dinner and throws up on Colin Firth. All the while, he channels his hero, Wilde, whom he describes as “the patron saint of anyone who ever made a mess of their life”.

No Time Like the Future
by Michael J Fox (Headline)

Life was already tough for the star of Back to the Future, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 29. Then, in 2018, he had surgery to remove a tumour from his spine. In this moving, often funny memoir he reveals how he regained his sense of optimism, and reflects on age, family and living with a disability.

Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies

Just Ignore Him
by Alan Davies (Little, Brown)

While the comedian’s first memoir was a larky look at his teens, this second one bravely tackles the parts its predecessor missed out. An intimate, open-hearted book, Just Ignore Him tells of the “quiet, librarial molestation” Davies endured by his father from the age of eight to 13, and the bullying and gaslighting that ensured his silence. Davies was 51 when he finally went to the police, by which time his father’s ill health meant he would never stand trial.

Greenlights
by Matthew McConaughey (Headline)

A gloriously bonkers effort from the Oscar-winning star of Dallas Buyers Club: it is not a memoir, he assures readers, but an “approach book”. In between anecdotes about warring parents, travelling, fame, films and debauchery, Greenlights bulges with lists, photos, poems and notes scrawled with fortune-cookie homilies, all part of his basic philosophy that he likes to call “livin’ – there’s no ‘g’ on the end of livin because life is a verb.”

• Browse the best books of 2020 at the Guardian Bookshop.

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World

One-year-old boy killed after police open fire on alleged kidnapper

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “One-year-old boy killed after police open fire on alleged kidnapper” was written by Leyland Cecco in Toronto, for theguardian.com on Friday 27th November 2020 21.20 UTC

A one-year-old infant in Canada has been fatally shot in an incident involving police officers who opened fire on a pickup truck while responding to an alleged kidnapping.

Investigators have not yet confirmed if police gunfire killed the boy.

“It’s too early for us to know why officers fired at the vehicle, and it’s too early for us to know exactly what transpired,” Monica Hudon, a spokeswoman for the province’s police watchdog, told reporters.

Early on Thursday morning, officers in the community of Kawartha Lakes in Ontario were alerted to a domestic dispute involving a firearm and the suspected abduction of the one-year-old by his father.

A resident told Global News that a woman, her son, and a therapist knocked on his door, looking for shelter.

“Some people came to the house and wanted in, for a safe haven, and there was something about the husband had left with the little baby,” said Tom Deciccio.

Police soon located the father’s vehicle along a rural country road. After police attempted to stop him, the truck collided with a police car and another vehicle. An officer who was standing near the police car was struck by the truck and injured.

Three officers then fired their guns towards the vehicle, according to the Special Investigations Unit, an arms-length agency that investigates police action that result in death or injury of civilians. The child was in the back seat of the pickup truck.

“Inside the pickup truck was a one-year-old boy,” the SIU said in a statement. “He had sustained a gunshot wound and was pronounced deceased at the scene.”

The 33-year-old father was also struck by police gunfire and brought to a hospital “in grave condition”. The officer who was hit by the truck is recovering at a Toronto hospital.

The SIU told the Guardian it had no new information to provide.

The head of the Ontario provincial police tweeted his condolences to the family of the child – but called on the public to refrain from “speculation on the events as they unfolded”.

Seven investigators, including two forensic investigators and one collision expert, have been assigned to the case, the SIU said.

“The community is in disbelief that this is happening,” the Kawartha Lakes mayor, Andy Letham, told the Canadian press, adding that he could not provide more comment because the investigation was ongoing.

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India, Sport

Australia beat India by 66 runs in first one-day international – as it happened

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Australia beat India by 66 runs in first one-day international – as it happened” was written by Adam Collins and Geoff Lemon, for theguardian.com on Friday 27th November 2020 12.14 UTC

That’s that. Steve Smith will soon be named player of the match for his brilliant ton. Thanks for your company. I’ll be back in a few hours for the next OBO on the page, the T20 series opener between South Africa and England at Newlands then Geoff will taken the baton for the first innings on Sunday. Until then, stay well.

Updated

AUSTRALIA WIN BY 66 RUNS!

50th over: India 308-8 (Saini 29, Bumrah 0) Target 375. Australia go one-up in the three-game ODI series. A dreary end, but 700-plus runs – nothing to sneeze at.

WICKET! Shami b Starc 13 (India 308-8)

Bowls him with the yorker. Something for Starc to take from his sketchy night.

49th over: India 307-7 (Saini 28, Shami 13) Target 375. Since I started this OBO, an international tour has been cancelled, I’ve had a flight to Australia finally confirmed after months of heartache and my daughter has probably taken her first steps downstairs. Josh Hazlewood, who took three wickets in the power play some weeks ago, finishes his night with 3/55. Now get some sleep, big fella.


48th over: India 299-7 (Saini 21, Shami 13) Target 375. And after that review, Starc is now running back to his mark after every ball. Sadly, the lights have remained on at 11pm – a DRS result would have been good craic after eight hours. Two to go!

NOT OUT. Not even close. Bonkers sport sometimes, cricket.

HAS STARC PICKED UP SHAMI DOWN THE LEGSIDE? Does anyone care? They’ve sent it upstairs anyway. Let’s go to the DRS.

47th over: India 297-7 (Saini 20, Shami 12) Target 375. Shami shows he has some muscle, lifting Maxwell over midwicket for a GIANT six then leaping down the track to clip him for four more. Fair play. Saini gets a boundary too, albeit off the edge. Ruining Maxwell’s otherwise tidy figures there. And… Starc to return. Sure.

46th over: India 282-7 (Saini 16, Shami 1) Target 375. Zampa finishes with 4/54. “He’s at his peak,” says Kerry O’Keefe. “And he’s very bullish about his next few years. He wants a Test cap.” Sure, his First Class numbers are poor but Australia do play a lot of cricket in the subcontinent, especially in 2022. Some chance.

WICKET! Jadeja c Starc b Zampa 25 (India 281-7)

Zampa gets a fourth – so well bowled. Forget that it comes from a Jadeja slog, pouched by Starc at long-on, he’s done a wonderful job tonight throughout.

45th over: India 273-6 (Jadeja 18, Saini 15) Target 375. Saini bombs Maxwell over his head for six, which won’t help if their goal is to wrap this up in 10 minutes! Shane Warne makes a point worth repeating: does the one-day World Cup super league includes a Net Run Rate component, so India don’t want to get bowled out.

44th over: India 264-6 (Jadeja 17, Saini 7) Target 375. And now we find out why the Australians are racing through… curfew at 11pm local time at the SCG! That’s 12 minutes away. Will they turn the lights off? Could we be so lucky?

43rd over: India 259-6 (Jadeja 16, Saini 4) Target 375. A carbon-copy effort from Maxwell, three singles again. Carey was interested in a stumping shout off Saini but they elected not to send it upstairs. TV tells me that India took four hours and six minutes to complete their 50 overs with the ball earlier today. Not good.

42nd over: India 256-6 (Jadeja 14, Saini 3) Target 375. Zampa’s turn for one of those 90-second overs, just three singles again. No intent from India at all; they’re trying to bat out the overs. As they say in AFL-speak, we’ve entered junk time.

41st over: India 253-6 (Jadeja 12, Saini 2) Target 375. Maxwell is trying to race through this over as quickly as possible – and doing it well. Fair to assume that Finch and Kohli will both be in trouble with the match ref for how long they have taken to get through their overs today. But why aren’t India trying to take it on? Have they given up? Just three singles here – how odd.

40th over: India 250-6 (Jadeja 10, Saini 1) Target 375. It shouldn’t be a relevation that Hazlewood is now a brilliant ODI bowler – he did play in a World Cup winning team five years ago – but coming in 2020 as it did after a couple of years where he was trending towards Test Matches Only territory, it’s been a fine turnaround.

39th over: India 247-6 (Jadeja 9, Saini 0) Target 375. One run and the (likely) matchwinning wicket of Pandya. When you consider where Zampa’s night started – dropping Kohli in single digits at fine leg – he’s going very well indeed now with 3/38 to his name after seven overs. With 11 to go, India require just on 12 an over.

WICKET! Zampa c Starc b Zampa 90 (India 247-6)

Pandya holes out to Starc on the long-on rope! That’s his sweet spot and he had to keep going for it but a fine innings comes to an end. With it, surely, India’s hopes.

38th over: India 246-5 (Pandya 90, Jadeja 7) Target 375. Up over ten an over for India now, Cummins in charge of this one. Pandya gets him away down the ground, a resourceful stroke where there is a man inside the circle at mid-on and getting four for it. But from here, they need better than a boundary an over.

37th over: India 237-5 (Pandya 85, Jadeja 3) Target 375. Zampa has been so impressive after Pandya got hold of him a couple of times early, still happy to attack the stumps and mix up his speeds. We see the wrong’un and a willingness to play the cat and mouse game as required. Just five from it, Zampa wins the over.

36th over: India 232-5 (Pandya 83, Jadeja 1) Target 375. Cummins pulls out a perfect over in a modern ODI defence, slamming it down and changing his pace throughout – just one run form it. With Jadeja struggling to get into the swing so far, Pandya has no choice – he has to take Zampa on. Also, an update to the Stoinis advice: it is his left side (rather than groin) causing his discomfort.

35th over: India 231-4 (Pandya 82, Jadeja 1) Target 375. CA have told us, through their spokesman, that Marcus Stoinis has a “minor groin strain” and won’t return to the field tonight. Meanwhile, Zampa finishes his successful over – four runs and the Dhawan wicket. He still has five of the 15 overs to bowl through to the death.

WICKET! Dhawan c Starc b Zampa 74 (India 229-5)

And a wicket they get! Via Zampa and Starc, two Australians who have had rollercoaster nights, but the latter on holds on at mid-off with Dhawan unable to clear him after using his feet to the spinner. That’s a big moment in this game.

34th over: India 227-4 (Dhawan 73, Pandya 80) Target 375. Cummins returns, has has five to bowl – good news for Finch. Dhawan flicks him to the rope at one stage but six runs off the over is a win for Australia. They just need a breakthrough.

Stoinis leaves the field

33rd over: India 221-4 (Dhawan 68, Pandya 79) Target 375. Two balls into his overm Stoinis is off with an injury. A leg issue? Looks to be. Maxwell finishes it off well, just three from it. A test for Aaron Finch here now – how does he stitch it together?

32nd over: India 218-4 (Dhawan 67, Pandya 77) Target 375. Three overs in a row where India have recovered an otherwise quiet set with a boundary at the end, Dhawan this time playing a glorious cut shot off Hazlewood behind point. So, 18 overs to go and a required rate of 8.7. Australia need to remember that out there – it’s a long way to the finish line with one wicket bound to change everything.

Updated

31st over: India 213-4 (Dhawan 63, Pandya 76) Target 375. Stoinis is Finch’s Mr Fixit here, this time swung around to replace Starc. Four balls into the fresh spell he has given up just one single, which is why Dhawan sets up early to pull just as Pandya did against Hazlewood in his previous set – a well-needed boundary.

30th over: India 208-4 (Dhawan 59, Pandya 75) Target 375. Hazlewood is back. The main man tonight, with three wickets to his name earlier, has four overs in the bank for Finch to carefully allocate. Pandya waits for the right ball to take a calculated punt, back deep before the ball is bowled to pull and pull for four.

29th over: India 201-4 (Dhawan 58, Pandya 69) Target 375. It makes sense that Finch is trying to get these Starc overs out of the way as soon as possible. This doesn’t go well though, Pandya up to the task of taking a length delivery over cover for four then getting off the turf to pull four more behind square later in the set. Three to finish, a clip into the gap at midwicket – that brings up the 100 stand in 97 balls. Drinks are on the field; the required rate is 8.3 for the final stanza. Game on.

28th over: India 190-4 (Dhawan 58, Pandya 58) Target 375. We’ve got to be on track for the slowest full 50-over international played without a weather intervention? This game started seven hours ago and there’s still at least two hours left if this goes all the way. Stoinis is playing is role so well, 0/19 from five.

27th over: India 185-4 (Dhawan 55, Pandya 56) Target 375. Okay, Starc again. He starts well enough but with the fourth ball, he’s well down legside again – the 50th run he’s conceded after 5.3 legal overs. But he gets to the other end of it only giving up three. He has 24 balls left and he can forget that tonight ever happened.

26th over: India 182-4 (Dhawan 54, Pandya 55) Target 375. Quality again from Stoinis, bowling it into the pitch with his range of cutters taking pace off the ball nicely. He’s bowled four overs, 0/14. Maxwell has sent down two. Stoinis might end up having to bowl a couple of Staerc’s as well if this goes to the death.

Dhawan to 50!

25th over: India 180-4 (Dhawan 53, Pandya 54) Target 375. Cummins drops one now! In fact, he barely got a hand on the Dhawan hoick, losing it in the lights at fine leg! Not at all what Starc needs when having a night like this. That’s Dhawan’s 50, too, as the ball trickles into the rope – 55 balls for him to reach the milestone; the backbone of this chase. It doesn’t any better for the left-arm quick when sending down a full toss to Dhawan that is, quite strangely, not given as a waist-high no-ball? It looked like it was referred to the third umpire? Hard to tell from the broadcast. Pandya’s turn and a top edge that… bisects two fielders! Starc is having some kind of night out there, 0/48 from his five so far. Has to keep it together.

24th over: India 173-4 (Dhawan 53, Pandya 48) Target 375. Stoinis is doing plenty right so far, both batsmen happy taking singles from him. As a bowler, his stocks have been on the rise over the last twelve months or so. Had a very good IPL.

Pandya to 50!

23rd over: India 169-4 (Dhawan 46, Pandya 51) Target 375. The answer to my rhetorical question from the previous over is… now. Pandya has taken down Maxwell to the tune of 18 from the over, pulling behind square for four then clipping over square leg for SIX then launching him for ANOTHER SIX over long-on to bring up his half-century in 31 deliveries. Will he keep the foot down or pull back an bit, picking his moments? Without a doubt he’s the key to this for India.

Updated

22nd over: India 151-4 (Dhawan 45, Pandya 34) Target 375. Stoinis is swung around to replace Zampa and it’s another beaut, just two singles. When will Pandya really pull the trigger? I’m tempted to offer a summary of the football/Maradona exchange between Warne and Waugh but I’ll leave it to your imagination.

Updated

21st over: India 149-4 (Dhawan 45, Pandya 33) Target 375. Right, so Finch has now turned to Maxwell for the second over from this fifth bowler allocation. Despite struggling in the IPL with the bat he was very handy with the ball, and did a nice job in England too at times too, so he’ll be up for this. And it’s an uneventful start, just what his captain would have wanted, five from it to the sweepers on the rope.

20th over: India 144-4 (Dhawan 42, Pandya 31) Target 375. For the second time Zampa had given Pandya some air and for the second time he’s been bombed over his head with a huge strike over long-on, that’s a BIG SIX. It should be a successful over for the spinner though, Dhawan driving straight to Maxwell at cover, but he’s put him down! That’s very rare from one of the best fielders of all time.

19th over: India 135-4 (Dhawan 41, Pandya 23) Target 375. Right, so here we are with the Australian fifth bowler, delayed until now due to those early wickets via Hazlewood. It’s Stoinis initially to play that role, with Maxwell in support with his spin if required. It takes until the final delivery to get the boundary they need from it, Dhawan holding his pose after dispatching the seamer through midwicket.

18th over: India 128-4 (Dhawan 36, Pandya 21) Target 375. Whack! That’s Hardik Pandya’s best play, launching Zampa long and high and straight, over long-on for SIX! When he hits it, as they say, it stays hit. Zampa beats him with some extra flight later in the over and wins an outside edge, but there’s no slip – four more.

17th over: India 117-4 (Dhawan 36, Pandya 10) Target 375. Pandya pulls Cummins away for four early in the over. They need these consistent boundaries, it won’t be enough to simply wait for the fifth bowler to cash in later. Speaking of Stoinis, he makes an outstanding diving stop running around from square leg later in the over, kept in by no more than an inch. The best of the modern game right there.

16th over: India 110-4 (Dhawan 36, Pandya 3) Target 375. Tidy again, Zampa – just four off it, and very close to Dhawan rolling a ball back onto his woodwork, saved by some savvy footwork to kick it away. We’ve seen the cricket/football crossover in full flight this week at Tottenham, pleasing to see it go the other away here.

15th over: India 106-4 (Dhawan 34, Pandya 1) Target 375. Finch is now ringing the changes, Cummins on for Starc; not allowing any rhythm to form in the chase. A front-foot no-ball to begin – accurately called by the TV official, what a joy it is to see excellent reform in action in Australia – but very little else. For all the runs in the first six overs, the require rate has swelled from 7.5 to 7.7 by the end of 15.

14th over: India 103-4 (Dhawan 33, Pandya 1) Target 375. Ooh, Zampa’s wrong’un goes past the edge of Dhawan, so close to that outside edge. Four runs and the wicket from Zampa’s first over. He can really relax into his work at the bowling crease now with what happened to him earlier at fine leg well behind him.

WICKET! KL Rahul c Smith b Zampa 12 (India 101-4)

Zampa into the attack and gets a bit of luck right away, KL Rahul driving a low full toss straight into the hands of Smith at short cover. And that’s drinks.

13th over: India 99-3 (Dhawan 31, KL Rahul 11) Target 375. With Gilchrist, O’Keefe and Julian now on commentary, the conversation broadens out a bit. One point from that: it’s a good thing that we have these white-ball matches ahead of the Test summer. Of course, scheduling is a nightmare – not least with an Aussie summer – but the playing Tests in early November never feels quite right. Assuming England are going to be in for three ODIs as well as Tests next summer (after the T20 World Cup, that is), I hope they find a way to slot them in before the Ashes. Meanwhile, Starc has finally pushed through an accurate over, just the one single to Rahul.

12th over: India 98-3 (Dhawan 31, KL Rahul 10) Target 375. First up in the Hazlewood’s new over and it nearly brings a fourth wicket through his short option, Dhawan not in control with a hook that hands just short of Zampa at long leg. An appeal for caught behind down the legside later in the over but an exercise in trying to avoid a wide being signalled – they aren’t successful.

“Social media has not been too kind to the Indian team so far,” emails Abhijato Sensarma. “The pitch might very well be a road, but they’ve still not been anywhere near their best. I’ve watched enough highlight reels to cross-verify that the standard of fielding has indeed been at par with its less rigorous performances of the 1990s … The batting threatens to collapse too, and there is no Sachin Tendulkar to pull it out of the hat for a retro kit-donning India anymore.”

11th over: India 93-3 (Dhawan 29, KL Rahul 8) Target 375. India’s turn to push back, and why wouldn’t they with these two stars in the middle? And why wouldn’t they try and keep Starc down after his first two overs? The returning quick gives Dhawan something to drive through cover to start his new spell and it is driven away for four, another top shot – a shame he hasn’t had more strike. At the other end, Rahul plays with such soft hands behind point to get his first boundary. 13 off the over, leaving Starc with the figures of 0/40 off three. Still has a job to do.

10th over: India 80-3 (Dhawan 24, KL Rahul 0) Target 375. Two in the over. Meanwhile, Dhawan (24 from 19) has been seen a delivery in the last four overs of the power play. The temptation will surely be to keep Hazlewood going for another couple while it is working so well. He has 3/27 from his five with the field up.

WICKET! Shreyas Iyer c Carey b Hazlewood 2 (India 80-3)

Two in the over! And once again, it’s the Josh Hazlewood bumper that does the trick, on this occasion too quick for the new man who tried to pull out of the shot but couldn’t get his blade out of way in time, ballooning up to Carey. Superb.

WICKET! Kohli c Finch b Hazlewood 21 (India 78-2)

Hazlewood gets Kohli! Pulled straight to Finch at short midwicket. Once again, he’s followed him with that accurate short ball after the Indian captain made some room – outstanding cricket from Bendemeer Bullet. And Zampa can breathe again.

Updated

9th over: India 76-1 (Dhawan 23, Kohli 20) Target 375. Good grief, that clip from Kohli! From about off-stump, he’s taken it from his hip deep into the audience at deep backward square leg. Absurd timing – he’s the best. Zampa is in the game again at short fine, Kohli turning in his direction, but he’s able to get down to it with a safe stop. So important that he’s in a good frame of mind before bowling.

8th over: India 67-1 (Dhawan 22, Kohli 13) Target 375. Hazlewood, fantastic. Again, just when Australia needed a solid over after the dropped catch he delivers. India still need 7.3 an over but if these two bat for 90 minutes that won’t be so daunting.

Zampa drops Kohli!

7th over: India 64-1 (Dhawan 21, Kohli 11) Target 375. Straight down Zampa’s throat at fine leg, Kohli’s hooked top edge straight to the spinner… in and out! OH, NO! Such super bowling from Cummins to draw the error but it is all for nothing, the Indian captain responding with a far more imposing pull for four before dancing down the track to hammer him through cover for four more to finish. What drama!

6th over: India 54-1 (Dhawan 21, Kohli 1) Target 375. What a roar as the King sprints out to the middle. But Hazlewood, after his breakthrough, is up to the task with three accurate dots then finding the inside edge of Kohli’s bat to finish. Super bowling just when Australia needed it. Watching the replay back, the best part of the wicket-taking delivery was how he adjusted to follow Agarwal, who was backing away to try and flay him over point again. Fast bowling at its best.

WICKET! Agarwal c Maxwell b Hazlewood 22 (India 53-1)

Top edge, taken by Maxwell! Short, bang on target – that’s Josh Hazlewood.

5th over: India 53-0 (Agarwal 22, Dhawan 21) Target 375. The change is made: Cummins on for Starc. But it doesn’t change a thing – a big full toss first up is helped away through cover for four more, Dhawan moving India to 50 in 25 balls. Aaron Finch won’t panic but he will know that his RCB teammate Virat Kohli is next in, the most dominant 50-over player of all time. Cummins is back into his awkward back-of-a-length channel soon enough but when he tries out a bumper to Agarwal it doesn’t work – another wide. A bit rattled? Looks it.

“Hi Adam.” Hello, Damien McLean. “Glad you and Geoff are on the OBO today with that classic Maxwellball innings, can’t wait to hear you both dissect it. Does it get any more Maxwell than that? 45 off 19 so no half century stat, that shot over first slip spinning the bat in his hand was outrageous, two switch hits in a row for 10 runs, probably was the key to getting up over 350 but will be overshadowed by Smith and Finch centuries. Totally Maxwellball for mine, was so glad to witness it. Thanks for your work.”

Indeed, Maxwellball at its best. I was watching with nine-month-old trying to explain to her why I was getting so carried away – I suspect she’s already worked it out. And lovely to be back on the OBO with Geoff, always our home ground.

4th over: India 46-0 (Agarwal 21, Dhawan 16) Target 375. Hazlewood was magnificently frugal (and effective) with the new ball in England, bowling some gorgeous spells at Manchester to set up that series win in September. Of course, there’s nothing for the hosts to be too worried about as yet, but they could do with a dot-heavy over from the giant right-armer. And that’s precisely what he’s giving them until the penultimate delivery when Agarwal opens up the off-side and lifts him over deep point for six! That’s an outrageous shot! Can play, this man.


3rd over: India 39-0 (Agarwal 15, Dhawan 15) Target 375. It continues! First ball of the new Starc over and Dhawan strokes him with class through cover point out towards the SCG members. Not much wrong with the ball, that’s a super stroke on the up. As Harsha Bhogle puts it best, India haven’t played an away game – as far as crowd noise are concerned – for 20 years. And sure enough, the fans of the boys in blue are making plenty of noise. When Agarwal gets his turn again, he’s given something short and wide but can’t put it away due to a piece of Maxwell brilliance at point. Another quality quick single to finish from Dhawan into the off-side.

2nd over: India 32-0 (Agarwal 14, Dhawan 9) Target 375. That was the second worst first over ever in an ODI, the TV tells me. By the time this is done, it could be the latest finish for a 50-over game at the SCG as well, already 7:30pm local time. Hazlewood’s turn, with whom there is no concern with his radar, but Agarwal takes advantage from a slightly overpitched offering to slam a cover drive for four. Lovely shot. Edge next, four more! India are 30 from 10 (legal) balls. A misfield to finish too, through Maxwell at cover. 12 off the over. We have a live one here.

1st over: India 20-0 (Agarwal 2, Dhawan 9) Target 375. Agarwal off the mark first ball, squeezing a quick single. Starc’s first ball to Dhawan is speered down the legside, the left-hander off the mark later in the over with a quick single of his own to midwicket. “They can’t win it in the first ten but they can certainly lose it,” says Adam Gilchrist on telly. Spot on. Later in the over, Starc goes out wide to Agarwal who tries to cut but misses. It’s called a wide – I’m not sure about that; the right-hander made it look worse than it was with his lack of footwork. Ooh, no such confusion with the next ball, waaaay down the legside – two feet down the legside! – giving Carey no chance. Wow, three wides in a row now, overcorrecting to Agarwal well outside the off-stump. It prompts a change to around the wicket. He’s bowled four all up and there are still three deliveries to come in the over. Dhawan gets the chance to clip off his pads from one of those and doesn’t miss out, tucking over Labuschagne at square leg, skipping away for four. And it has been called as a retrospective front-foot no-ball!. Another close call but that’s what the technology is there for. Free hit… back over his head for four! One ball to come in the over and India are already up to 20. He finishes with a dot but goodness me, where does that rank in terms of the worst overs that the big left-armer has sent down for Australia?

“There’s actually 3 series starting today,” writes Mani Deep. “You missed mentioning NZ vs WI that’s going on right now.” Of course! I was just reading about that before coming on. Interesting broadcast news from over there: in the absence of a TV partner in the UK, we can watch it over here for free on YouTube.

The players are back on the field! Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal for India in the absence of Rohit Sharma, rested from this series. They need to go at exactly 7.5 an over to reach the hefty victory target of 375. Mitch Starc, the most effective quick in the history of ODI cricket, has the ball in his hand for the hosts. PLAY!

Of course, this is one of two international series starting today. The other, the T20s between South Africa and England, begins later this afternoon (UK time). I’ll also be with you on the OBO for that, as it happens – can’t stop, won’t stop. Here’s Ali Martin’s preview piece from Cape Town out of Eoin Morgan’s press conference.

Thanks, Geoff. I woke up in London just when Finch raised three figures, before Maxwell enjoyed his brilliant turn. Compare that to the last time I was logging on for a one-day international shift at the SCG in March when the ground was empty and silent, with a foreboding sense of what was the come. Lovely to see.

Perhaps less enjoyable for fans of the IPL franchises where the aforementioned Victorians, and Smith at the Royals, struggled to cut through in their recently completed T20 season. A different story today in the canary yellow on home soil.

Right, housekeeping before we get into it: you can drop me a line at any time, or ping me a tweet if that’s more your thing. And as you eat your dinner and wait for India’s chase, I’ll leave you with a lovely chat Geoff and I had during the week with Pete Siddle, ten years on from his birthday Ashes hat-trick at the Gabba.

India must chase 375 to win

A big innings comes to an end – big in every sense. It’s 40 minutes past the scheduled end of the innings, meaning that the chase should have started 10 minutes ago. The Australians had about 58 breaks to change gloves, and the Indians drifted in the field.

What an impressive day with the bat though for the Australians, who haven’t played international cricket in so long. Stoinis and Labuschagne were out very quickly but everyone else went big. Warner and Finch have an opening partnership that is entering the conversation as one of the very best. They put on 156 together today. Finch got another ton. Smith got his fastest by an absolute mile. Maxwell started a surge that added 120-odd runs in 10 overs. Carey did enough at the end. Only Shami, with 3 for 59 from his full overs, came out of the day unscathed.

India love chasing, but they have a huge task ahead here.

That’s enough from me, I’ll hand over to Adam Collins for the reply.

50th over: Australia 374-6 (Carey 17, Cummins 1) Pat Cummins will bat with three balls left in the match. Hits hard down the ground for one run to long-off. Shami around the wicket to Carey bowls a perfect yorker for none. Tries the scoop from the final ball, misses it, and Cummins is fast off the mark to get through for a bye.

WICKET! Smith b Shami 105 (65), Australia 372-6

Shami to bowl the last, and he keeps Smith scoreless from the first ball, beating the bat outside off. Not from the second, driven over cover for four! A flat loft, hard and flying away. The next ball ends this marvellous day for Smith though, a low full toss curling in a bit, Smith backing away trying to get something on it, and misses as it hits middle and off stump low down on the full.

Century! Smith 100 from 62 balls

49th over: Australia 368-5 (Smith 100, Carey 17) I’ve totally lost track of the fact that Smith is gunning for a century. What a mad last few overs. He’s facing Bumrah, and he…

he sweeps it for four!

A sweep shot! Against one of the best fast bowlers in the world. Down on one knee, to a wide ball outside off, and Smith just held the horizontal bat there, at the right angle, and almost let the ball bounce off the bat behind square leg. Hit the gap. Four runs.

Next ball? Drives it through point for one, and that’s his century! Surely that’s the fastest he’s ever made. The 10th of his career. What an innings.

Carey backs away again, gets a high full toss from Bumrah, and slaps it over cover for four. Next ball, two runs for Carey becomes three with a misfield from Kohli who was backing up, the ball keeping low and scuttling through his legs in the infield.

48th over: Australia 355-5 (Smith 95, Carey 10) Saini, to Smith, and the first ball of the over goes soaring into the O’Reilly stand! Over extra cover, lofted, long, and Smith has been blazing tonight. He comes across the stumps and tries to ramp, but only gets a bit of wood on it to short fine for a single. Carey tries to pull, bottom edge into his ribs and that hurts. Left-hander facing a right-armer coming around the wicket angling it in. So Carey backs away and slaps over cover for four! That’s the trick. A couple of singles to close the over.

47th over: Australia 342-5 (Smith 87, Carey 5) Bumrah has the ball in his second-last over, and he is absolutely nailing it. Yorker, yorker, yorker. Keeps them to three singles in a row while the commentators are talking about Australia making 400. Make that four singles in a row. Around the wicket to the left-handed Carey, angled in at his boots, perfect, dot ball! Carey scoops the last ball away through midwicket and they have to do some dicey running to get back for a second. Six from the over, a triumph for Bumrah.

46th over: Australia 336-5 (Smith 85, Carey 1) Labuschagne out off the second ball of the over, Smith misses a wide down the leg side and is furious that he doesn’t glance it for four. Gets a wide yorker from Saini next ball and drives that behind point for two. Smith shapes to ramp the next ball but bails out when it’s too short to do so, and manages to bunt a single behind point. Alex Carey on strike, a ton on his last start for Australia back in September. Drives a run, slower ball, well stopped by Dhawan at backward point who is being pursued by this ball. Smith swings and misses at a wide one, not too wide. Six from the over, a good one for Saini.

WICKET! Labuschagne c Dhawan b Saini 2 (2), Australia 331-5

Labuschagne doesn’t last long. Has to go for it. Tries a big loft down the ground, and two things happen for India: Dhawan gets a catch, after a hard day in the field, and Saini takes a wicket, after a hard day with the ball.

45th over: Australia 330-4 (Smith 81, Labuschagne 2) Out comes Marnus with 31 balls to go, and gets off the mark driving two runs down the ground right away.

WICKET! Maxwell c Jadeja b Shami 45 (19), Australia 328-4

Steve Smith has been down the non-striker’s end a lot recently, so he hits the first ball of Shami’s new over for six as well. Why not! Whips it off his legs and away over deep square! Follows up with a single to give Maxwell the strike.

“Glenn Maxwell is playing like Happy Gilmore,” says Ed Cowan on ABC radio.

Shami bowls very wide of off, and Maxwell swipes and doesn’t connect. Chahal has come off the ground with the medical staff, limping a bit. Might have hurt his ankle by the look the way he’s walking.

Shami might wish he was going off injured, as Maxwell plays a reverse lap shot for four! Over slip. Reaches wide of off stump, angles the bat like a ramp, then changes his wrist grip to divert it to the off side rather than the leg. What.

Fifth ball of the over, Shami gets some relief. And funnily Maxwell falls to the most conventional shot of his stay. Tries the lofted drive down the ground, doesn’t hit it sweetly enough, and Jadeja back on the rope comes in to claim the catch.

Catch your breath while we’re catching things. What a show.

44th over: Australia 317-3 (Smith 74, Maxwell 41) Navdeep Saini to bowl, and Smith just turns over the strike immediately. Saini just places the ball up there, and Glenn Maxwell plays a pick-up shot off his pads for six! Huuuuge! Just lifts that ball away from a fullish length, and it bounces deep into the concourse of the Ladies Stand, and takes an age to be returned and disinfected by the umpires.

Maxwell has 33 runs from 12 balls.

A couple of dots pass by as Saini bowls very wide of the off stump and Maxwell can’t make contact, then there’s another near catch for Dhawan that goes for four! Full and wide, Maxwell digs out the yorker with an open face, lofting it to deep point, Dhawan sprinting in has to dive forward, and it just half-volleys in front of him and through him for four. That’s three chances that have taunted Dhawan today.

Saini bowls the same ball. Maxwell plays the same shot! But better! Places it behind point this time, splits the outfielders to perfection!

He has 41 from 16 balls.

43rd over: Australia 302-3 (Smith 73, Maxwell 27) Ok, the spinner back on so Glenn Maxwell has called for the gold cap. Get some ventilation in there. Then he decides to ventilate Yuzi Chahal, and switch-hits him for six! A left-handed slog-sweep by a right-hander, along the ground between point and backward point for four!

No worries at all. Chahal stops and thinks. Bowls slow and really wide of the off stump. Maxwell makes it become his leg stump, and SWITCH-HITS FOR SIX!

Right out of the middle and it soars down to the Members’ Stand over the rope!

#MAXWELLBALL

Fourth ball? Calmly flicked to deep mid for two runs. Fifth ball? Maxwell sweeps, gets a feather on it past his leg stump, and gets two more?

Sixth ball? Dropped, for six! Down the track Maxwell, drives long over extra cover, Dhawan running around from long-off, dives across to get a hand to it, and parries it over the rope.

21 from the over, 20 of them to G. J. Maxwell.

42nd over: Australia 281-3 (Smith 72, Maxwell 7) Bumrah to bowl, and Maxwell drives him for four!

That’s how we play Maxwellball!

Second ball he’s faced, opened his wrists at the ball, dipped through it as it arrived, hits the rope along the ground. Lovely.

Drives a run through point, Smith tucks another to the other side. Maxwell with this very open stance that he employs these days, both eyes on the bowler. Pull a short ball to the deep square sweeper. Smith adds another. Maxwell gets a bouncer from Bumrah, tries to uppercut over Rahul, misses out, then the umpire calls it a wide. Maxwell middles a drive but finds short midwicket for none.

41st over: Australia 272-3 (Smith 70, Maxwell 1) The first change in the batting order for Australia, with Glenn Maxwell coming in ahead of Marnus Labuschagne. This is pretty much Australia’s plan with Maxwell, that he can float as needed to finish an innings. He’s been getting on with Smith better than they did when Smith was captain. Now they’re batting together.

WICKET! Stoinis c Rahul b Chahal 0 (1), Australia 271-3

Marcus Stoinis to the middle. Had an amazing IPL (again), but historically he struggles to get moving early in an innings for Australia. Smith will keep things going, clearing the front leg against Chahal to slog-sweep six over midwicket. Drives a run down the ground. Stoinis on strike. Pushes at a ball outside the off stump, and he’s caught behind! Started walking before the umpire even moved.

At least he hasn’t soaked up any deliveries today.

WICKET! Finch c Rahul b Bumrah 114 (123), Australia 264-2

40th over: Australia 264-2 (Smith 63) Well, what a bizarre over. Having brought up his century, Finch is dropped! Dropped by Chahal at short fine leg. Bumrah the bowler, had Finch turning it away in the air, and Chahal shells it. Next ball? A misfield at deep square leg concedes four! Finch flicked it straight at Agarwal, who is beaten by the spin on the ball and lets it through his legs for a boundary. Bumrah’s next effort strays onto leg stump, and Finch glances four! He glances another brace, then from the last ball of the over, Bumrah goes short, Finch tries to uppercut over the keeper, and only gets a minor edge which sends it looping up for KL Rahul to take running back. Finally, Bumrah gets some reward.

Century! Finch 101 from 117 balls

39th over: Australia 252-1 (Finch 102, Smith 63) Well, Aaron Finch has all but disappeared in the last half hour. Steve Smith facing all the strike and scoring all the runs. Another boundary, as Smith cuts Chahal behind point, then gives Finch the chance to raise a hundred.

Finch takes it! Flicks Chahal away through deep midwicket for two, and starts his home season against a team that previously had his number, to raise his 17th ODI century for Australia.

Once he turns over the strike again, Smith finishes the over with six over extra cover! Ridiculous shot! A proper cover drive, only via the aerial route, and the deep cover watches it sail over his head. 14 from the over.

Fifty! Smith 50 from 36 balls

38th over: Australia 238-1 (Finch 99, Smith 52) Steve Smith is flying! Shami bowls in at the pads, decent ball, but Smith clips it over short midwicket for four! Next ball, fuller at the boot, Smith whips along the ground behind square for another boundary! He takes a single, Finch does the same. One ball to come in the over. Smith chops a run to deep third.

37th over: Australia 226-1 (Finch 97, Smith 42) Appeal for a stumping from India as Smith misses a cut shot, but his toe was grounded. He’s facing Jadeja, with a gap at deep cover, so Smith goes inside out and lofts four! Placement superb. Jadeja bowls a bit shorter next ball, so Smith back-cuts four more! Placement again, along the ground. Then to close out the over he lofts down to long on. The crowd sighs in anticipation of Shikhar Dhawan taking the catch, but the ball clears him for four! The fielder down there has been stationed well inside the rope all day, it must be said, even though the commentators are blaming Dhawan. It may have been a tactical blue rather than an individual one. No wicket, and it costs them four runs.

36th over: Australia 214-1 (Finch 97, Smith 30) Shami continues, taking a thick outside edge from Smith that squirts away for a run. Hits Finch on the pad and half appeals, but there’s a thick inside edge this time from Finch, the ball dribbling to midwicket for one more run. Finch on 97. Smith whips hard off his pads, but Kohli at short midwicket makes a spectacular diving stop, rendering them scoreless. Shami uses his bouncer, over Smith’s shoulder, but the umpire at square leg belatedly calls it wide. Not sure about that, looked a good short ball. Shami goes short again, Smith pulling away off a bottom edge to deep midwicket for one. Finch takes a leg bye straight of short midwicket. Smith keeps the strike with one.

35th over: Australia 208-1 (Finch 96, Smith 27) The batting pair just milking Jadeja here, or more accurately Smith is. Finch is batting a bit more nervously approaching his ton. A few dots, though he manages to drive two runs down the ground in between those.

34th over: Australia 203-1 (Finch 94, Smith 24) Finch with a single to start, then Smith plays the pull shot for four. Saini can’t stop bowling short balls, and it’s not working out for him. They play out a repeat version, except Smith doesn’t hit this as cleanly and gets a single to deep square. Short with width to Finch, who cuts along the ground, beating backward point for two as deep third comes around. Finch to 94, one hit away. Smokes a drive, but straight at Shreyas Iyer at cover. Smith is shadow-batting at the non-striker’s end. Course he is.

33rd over: Australia 194-1 (Finch 91, Smith 19) Jadeja is back, and has Smith down on one knee and hoicking a sweep shot away for a couple of runs. Two balls later, hit on the pad in front! Smith reviews quickly, he didn’t hit it but maybe he thinks it was high? It did strike him above the knee roll, he’s right back on his stumps but he might get this overturned here.

And he does! It is missing the bails by literally a millimetre! There is no visible gap between the ball and the bails on the ball-tracking projection, the ball is sitting right on top of those bails. A couple of pixels in it. He survives. He would have felt the contact was high, and his hunch proves right.

Smith celebrates by punting over midwicket for four!

32nd over: Australia 188-1 (Finch 91, Smith 13) Steve Smith with a bit of time to pick up the tempo: he was opening the batting at times for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, and today he’s got a full 20 overs to get himself into the game. Drives a couple of runs to deep cover from Saini, then nudges off leg stump for a single. Finch moves one run closer to a century, gets the strike back, then cuts four to move into the 90s!

31st over: Australia 179-1 (Finch 86, Smith 9) Finch turns over the strike against Chahal first ball, and Smith likes batting against spin. Down the track, to the pitch, picks it up beautifully over midwicket for four! A big gap out there with a long-on and a deep backward square only. Hits that gap easily. Turns over the strike again. Finch cuts two runs, then drives two more square of deep cover. Then runs keep flowing.

30th over: Australia 169-1 (Finch 81, Smith 4) Navdeep Saini is back with the ball, didn’t go too well for him earlier. But he gets back into things alright conceding a couple of singles and a couple of braces.

29th over: Australia 163-1 (Finch 78, Smith 1) Chahal to Finch, and we’ll see if the dismissal causes any bigger disruption to the rhythm of the batting innings. It is a tidy over, conceding two runs from six balls… but then the last delivery is an overstep! The third umpire picks it up, and that’s a no-ball! Meaning a free hit. Aaron Finch takes the opportunity, since he can’t be dismissed, of playing a switch hit! Not a shot he plays often, but he goes well outside what was his off stump, that becomes his leg stump, which is where Chahal bowls. Finch nails it along the ground past backward point for four.

28th over: Australia 156-1 (Finch 73, Smith 0) That brings Steve Smith to the middle for his first hit of the home season. He drives Shami to short midwicket to end the over with a dot.

WICKET! Warner c Rahul b Shami 69 (76), Australia 156-1

Four from Warner from the first ball of the over. That’s a dicey shot but he nails it this time: a pull shot against a ball that isn’t short, isn’t even back of a length, it’s on its way to being full. Warner goes across the line anyway, and gets it through midwicket.

Fifth ball of the over though, they go upstairs for a long DRS review. Full outside the off stump, Warner comes forward and pushes at it, and the question is whether the ball clipped the edge or whether the bat hit the ground. Snicko shows a spike, but that could be either of those contacts. In the end the third umpire rules it out, but we didn’t see a Hot Spot on that, so I’m not sure how sure the umpire could have been. Warner doesn’t seem too bothered, so perhaps he thinks he hit it. India finally get one.

Updated

27th over: Australia 149-0 (Warner 63, Finch 72) Finch takes the lead! Walks down at Jadeja, and drop-punts him over long-on for six. Bumrah was backpedalling anticipating a catch but in the end it went about 20 metres over his head and way back into the crowd. Huge hit! Finch goes along the ground next ball in a similar direction for two. Then a single to keep the strike. 11 from the over.

26th over: Australia 138-0 (Warner 62, Finch 62) Shami is back on, and looking sharp. Right-arm over the wicket, brisk. Both batsmen are using the pace and trying to chop through backward point, steering from back of a length. Shami slips in a yorker that Warner does well to keep out. He’s not a tall bowler, Shami, but gets skiddy lift from back of a length. Two singles from his first five, then Warner squeezes out two runs to third man from the last. The batsmen settle on a matching score.

25th over: Australia 134-0 (Warner 59, Finch 61) Tied down by one spinner, unleashed against the next. Warner reverse-sweeps Jadeja for four! Third man is up in the circle, and that beats him. Three in the deep on the leg side, plus a long-off for Warner. He drives two in that direction, through cover. Three dots, then a single to deep mid. This pair, they’re not flying, but they have such a good foundation at the halfway mark, this score could get huge.

24th over: Australia 127-0 (Warner 52, Finch 61) A good comeback over from Yuzi Chahal, who concedes a single from the final ball. Uses the googly a bit, didn’t give Warner room to swing. Kohli comes in to a short midwicket, which perhaps worries Warner too. He chips one shot to Kohli on the bounce, has the crowd interested for a second.

Fifty! Warner 50 from 54 balls

23rd over: Australia 126-0 (Warner 51, Finch 61) Classic late-era Warner: clips the ball square from Jadeja, perfectly into an outfield gap, and hustles a second run on the throw that looks dangerous but sees him make it back by a metre to raise fifty at just about a run a ball.

Finch goes a more direct run-scoring route, planting the front foot and launching Jadeja over midwicket for a one-bounce four.

22nd over: Australia 118-0 (Warner 48, Finch 56) Bumrah returns for his sixth, and Warner pulls him for four! Shot, rolled wrists, along the ground well in front of square. Bumrah responds with a perfume ball but Warner genuflects beneath it, angling in from around the wicket at the left-hander. The third umpire retrospectively picks up that one as a no-ball, Bumrah overstepping in the exertion. The bowler tries to angle in at Warner’s legs for the free hit, but Warner steps across towards it and misses his shot, getting some pad on it to deflect for four leg byes. Bumrah goes short again to finish the over, hitting Warner in the shoulder as the batsman misses another pull. Expensive!

21st over: Australia 107-0 (Warner 43, Finch 55) I know you’re all glued to this, so you’ll be thrilled to know that Warner and Finch have moved up one spot to become the 27th most prolific ODI partnership, passing Marvan Atapattu and Mahela Jayawardene of Sri Lanka who made 3430 together.

Four singles from Jadeja’s over.

20th over: Australia 103-0 (Warner 41, Finch 53) Nearly run out! Should have been baked and basted! Finch had given up by the time the throw came in. Finch hits straight to mid-on, to Jadeja, the worst person in the world to take a fast single to. But Jadeja misses the throw! Not from long distance either. That’s a real chance gone begging.

Fifty! Aaron Finch 50 from 69 balls

19th over: Australia 100-0 (Warner 40, Finch 51) Jadeja doing the job, three runs from his over, one of them bringing up his 28th half-century in ODIs. Next comes the team hundred.

Updated

18th over: Australia 97-0 (Warner 39, Finch 49) There’s some ground caught up by Finch! Chahal floating the ball up, Finch slog-sweeping, huge over deep mid for six! That’s a long blow into the Members’ stand at the SCG. The over costs 13 with a couple of wides into the bargain.

17th over: Australia 84-0 (Warner 37, Finch 40) It’s an ongoing curiosity that Finch is a deceptively slow scorer in 50-over cricket. He’s played some famously destructive knocks in the T20 format, but often gets bogged down in the longer form. As he gets a single from Jadeja, he’s got 40 from 60 balls. Jadeja goes up for a caught behind as Finch tries to sweep down the leg side, KL Rahul is seemingly convinced, but they don’t review when the umpire turns it down.

There’s a round of applause around the ground too as the clock ticks over to 4:08pm local time – 408 is the Test cap number of Phillip Hughes, who died six years ago today after being injured while batting at this ground.

16th over: Australia 81-0 (Warner 35, Finch 39) Almost a chance! Chahal bowls slow and very wide of off stump, it would have been called if Finch hadn’t gone after it. He gets a thick toe top-edge, and the ball loops over point. Shikhar Dhawan runs back a long way, dives, and almost fingertips it but the ball just has enough on it to elude him. Finch gets two very ropey runs. Finch eventually gets off strike with a drive down the ground.

15th over: Australia 76-0 (Warner 34, Finch 36) Ravindra Jadeja now, it’s a double spin attack. Left-arm orthodox, flat and fast. He has a couple of lbw shouts in the over against Finch, the first not a good one as Finch had advanced and may have nicked it, the second looking much more likely as it strikes in line with the off stump with Finch playing back, but the umpire has some doubt about the bounce, and the video projection suggests it would have just gone over.

14th over: Australia 72-0 (Warner 33, Finch 34) Chahal to bowl, and Warner slog-sweeps for four! Deep midwicket, hit hard and flat, he played that on the length more than anything.

The crazy part about that partnerships list is that Tendulkar has four of the top 25, including three of the top 12. Those are with Azharuddin, Dravid, Sehwag, and Ganguly.

13th over: Australia 64-0 (Warner 27, Finch 32) Saini tries a bouncer against Finch, but he’s called wide for height. The batsmen are comfortably working him into gaps in the field, not trying anything too aggressive. At the moment they have… 3403 runs in partnership together. (Not today.) Which leaves them 28th all time.

12th over: Australia 56-0 (Warner 23, Finch 30) It’s spin time, and this is so often the key contest in India-Australia matches. A shame we won’t see Kuldeep Yadav today, the left-arm wrist-spinner, but we’ve got the right-arm version in Yuzvendra Chahal. He drifts down the leg side for a wide first up against Warner, but is right on the spot thereafter. Warner just pushes a single to square leg. Finch wanders out of his crease a few times, but Chahal is teasing him through the air with flight, some drift, giving him no room for five scoreless deliveries in a row.

Updated

11th over: Australia 54-0 (Warner 22, Finch 30) The first ten overs gone, Australia not flying but haven’t lost a wicket, which sets them up beautifully with a decent platform. They’re happy to work singles from Saini’s deliveries on the shorter side.

10th over: Australia 51-0 (Warner 20, Finch 29) Shami is back for Bumrah from the Paddington end of the ground, and immediately he’s bowling well. Had such a good IPL, he’s become a top-rate bowler in the short forms. Everything is in at the hip of Finch, giving him no room to swing. Takes three balls for Finch to dink a single. Shami asks Kohli and Bumrah to inspect the ball, then they carry on. At the hip again for Warner who glances a run. Finch defends a fuller ball on off stump, then another tailing into middle.

9th over: Australia 49-0 (Warner 19, Finch 28) Saini bowls short to start again, and Finch pings another boundary through the off side, airborne into the gap at cover point. He drops a single away, then Warner gets a short ball on his hip and plays that little low pull shot that he likes, helping it away behind square leg for four more. Saini 14 from 9 balls, then he bowls fuller and very wide across Warner, who utterly tees off and can’t reach it, trying to flog it over mid-off. Saini comes back in at the body of the left-hander, tying him up for the last two balls.

8th over: Australia 40-0 (Warner 15, Finch 23) Bumrah will bowl his fourth on the trot. Warner has hardly faced in the last couple of overs. Gets the strike now via an inside edge onto pad from Finch for a run. Warner picks up a couple of runs through midwicket. A strong off-side field in the ring for Warner: point, cover point, backward point. He hits into that trap a couple of times, no runs. Quiet over.

7th over: Australia 37-0 (Warner 13, Finch 22) There’s a hold-up in play with a couple of pitch invaders. These aren’t your typical drunken-afternoon types, they’re holding signs protesting against the Adani mining company. Some tangential relevance to an India match, given the giant wealthy and extremely suspect Indian company with a terrible environmental and ethical record is currently trying to dig up half of Queensland and burn a mountain of coal to further entrench the climate crisis.

Given virus restrictions, the players stay away from the protesters, and the protesters stay away from the players, and eventually some stewards trot out to the middle and escort the uninvited guests away.

Eventually Navdeep Saini gets his chance to bowl his first ball in Australia, which Finch cuts for four. Four dot balls follow, then a brilliant dive from Jadeja at backward point stops another cut-shot boundary and keeps it to a single.

6th over: Australia 32-0 (Warner 13, Finch 17) A bouncer from Bumrah to start, which Finch can’t get anything on as it angles in at a leg-stump line. But when Bumrah goes short again, at chest height, Finch nails a convincing boundary for the first time today. Third man and fine leg are the only two fielders out, and he pulls square of the wicket along the ground for four. With a single to mid-on, Finch raises 5000 ODI runs, trailing only Warner and Ricky Ponting in terms of how many matches it has taken him to reach that mark. He’s got 15 Australians ahead of him on the all-time runs list.

5th over: Australia 27-0 (Warner 13, Finch 12) The Australians start to get going. Warner drops a single, Finch guides two from Shami. Then flicks off the pads, but the ball slows up inside the midwicket rope and forces them to run three. Another three runs as Warner goes across the line and rather miscues a shot back over the bowler’s head, flying high and stopping when it hits the ground. Finch gets a wide ball and utterly smokes it with the cut shot, but straight along the ground to third man. Ten from the over.

4th over: Australia 17-0 (Warner 9, Finch 6) Bumrah bowls, Finch drives on the up for four! A streaky shot, punched even though it wasn’t full enough, hits it flat and airborne but Agarwal diving across from extra cover can’t get a hand to it. Bumrah tries to bang in a short one but errs down the leg side. KL Rahul is the part-time keeper in this team and he doesn’t stop the ball cleanly, allowing them an extra extra (read all about it). Warner dabs behind point, and there’s his other trademark: running the first so hard that it gives him time to come back for a second. That looked like a single from the get-go, hit just square of the deep third man, but he gets back for two. His speed between the wickets saves him on the last of the over, as Warner just checks to mid-on, and Finch is so conditioned to run on everything that they go on this shot too. India’s players erupt when Saini hits the stumps direct with an underarm diving throw, but the replay shows Warner’s own dive has just got some bat into his ground.

3rd over: Australia 8-0 (Warner 6, Finch 2) Shami continues from the Randwick End, with the Clive Churchill Stand behind him. Ties up Finch for three balls in a row, right on the off stump. Four balls. At the fifth, Finch marches at Shami and tries to clout through the off side, but Shami has bowled wider this time and it beats the shot. “It’s the control of length,” says Ed Cowan on ABC radio. Shami has been back of a length throughout, making it impossible to drive. Finch has the same movement from the final ball, but walks wider of his off stump, counters the wide line, and stabs a run out to the covers.

2nd over: Australia 7-0 (Warner 6, Finch 1) Jasprit Bumrah to bowl the second, who was so, so good on his last visit to these shores. Warner gets another drop-and-run single, but this time he didn’t want it – he was standing there holding his bat up saying no, but Finch had already committed and was running to the danger end with the ball rolling back near the bowler in Bumrah’s follow-through. Warner eventually takes off for the run, and Finch does a huge slip-n-slide dive all the way down the side of the house to the end of the yard. Finch gets off the mark with his own nudge and sprint, then Warner finds the first boundary of the match, his trademark back-foot punch square of the wicket on the off side.

“Great to have you back to interrupt my Excel nightmares!” writes Rohan O’Farrell. It’s not all bad, spreadsheets are where my best stats live.

1st over: Australia 1-0 (Warner 1, Finch 0) Here we go! India take the field with the new dark-blue retro uniforms. Mohammed Shami will start us off, and he’s right on the money immediately, bowling with pace and lift for a ball that bounces away from Warner’s outside edge. Warner shuffles forward the next ball and drops a single softly into the off-side. He’s so good at that. Finch now is the batsman being troubled outside his off stump. Left-hander, right-hander, doesn’t matter for Shami.

Australians, don’t fret about the score, even for Australia games we write it in the style used by… the entire rest of the world.

Iain Bannantyne has emailed in, very excited to see things underway. “Can you explain how many fans are allowed in and is booze unrestricted?!”

The capacity today is 23,000, which is about half the usual capacity. I’m not currently in a position to be eyeing off any drinks, but the bars downstairs did seem to be ready for trading as I made my way through the ground earlier. There is probably a consumption-in-seats rule as with a lot of venues.

Things of note on those teams are: Australia with a very conventional XI, but it’s interesting that Labuschagne is listed as low as No5 when he’s done all his good work for Australia thus far at No3. Smith up at first drop has necessitated that. Labuschagne’s ability to go up through the gears will be one thing to keep an eye on. Carey and Maxwell have swapped spots from the configuration that produced their epic match-winning stand in the most recent Australian match, at Old Trafford in September when they won the series 2-1.

For India, Agarwal over Shubman Gill is one talking point, Shreyas Iyer in the middle is interesting, and Navdeep Saini will play despite some recent troubles with his back.

Teams

Australia
Aaron Finch *
David Warner
Steven Smith
Marcus Stoinis
Marnus Labuschagne
Glenn Maxwell
Alex Carey +
Pat Cummins
Mitchell Starc
Adam Zampa
Josh Hazlewood

India
Shikhar Dhawan
Mayank Agarwal
Virat Kohli *
Shreyas Iyer
KL Rahul +
Hardik Pandya
Ravindra Jadeja
Mohammed Shami
Yuzvendra Chahal
Jasprit Bumrah
Navdeep Saini

Updated

Australia wins the toss and will bat

Interesting choice given India’s prowess while chasing in ODIs, but Australian coach Justin Langer subscribes to the scoreboard-pressure school of thought more often than not.

Get in touch

You can write to us on the internet. Observations, musings, remonstrations. My email address is pretty straightforward, geoff.lemon@theguardian.com. Or if you want to send allegations of election fraud, the appropriate medium is Twitter, via @GeoffLemonSport.

Preamble

It’s been a long time coming, but the Australian men’s team is back in action on home soil. The most recent occasion was the first one-dayer against New Zealand back in March, in a series that was abruptly called off when the Land of the Long White Cloud announced imminent border closures and the team had to jet home to avoid cancelled flights and weeks of quarantine. That one match was played behind closed doors in an empty stadium, but this match today will be able to have some semblance of a crowd in, under virus restrictions naturally.

The press box here at the Sydney Cricket Ground is also sparsely populated with attendees who are spaced out (in the physical sense rather than the mental). The pitch has some green tinges on it but I suspect those will be illusory in terms of any effect on the ball, and that the pitch will be hard and true. The outfield here looks pretty parched, a fair bit of white showing through the grass.

India is the opponent today, and what a match-up that will be. Virat Kohli with a limited time to have an impact before he heads home from the tour early just before Christmas. India’s players primed after a long IPL season, though they’ll have to adjust that approach a bit for 50-over cricket. We’ll have teams and the toss for you as they happen.

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Coronavirus live news: Germany extends partial lockdown as Ukraine reports record daily cases

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Coronavirus live news: Germany extends partial lockdown as Ukraine reports record daily cases” was written by Matthew Weaver(now) and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Thursday 26th November 2020 09.17 UTC

Sadiq al-Mahdi in 2019
Sadiq al-Mahdi in 2019.
Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was overthrown in the 1989 military coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power, has died after a coronavirus infection, Reuters reports.

Mahdi, 84, had been taken to hospital in the United Arab Emirates three weeks ago.

His moderate Umma party was one of the largest opposition parties under Bashir, and Mahdi remained an influential figure even after Bashir was toppled in April 2019.

Sudan’s transitional administration, which governs under a power sharing deal between the military and civilian groups, declared three days of mourning.

Last month, Mahdi’s family said he had tested positive for Covid-19. He was transferred to the UAE for treatment a few days later following a brief hospitalisation in Sudan.

In a statement, the Umma party said Mahdi would be buried on Friday morning in the city of Omdurman in Sudan.

Updated

A man wearing a protective mask walks in front of a public tv screen showing Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, speaking at a press conference
A man wearing a protective mask walks in front of a public TV screen showing the Tokyo governor, Yuriko Koike, speaking at a press conference.
Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

Bars and restaurants in Tokyo have been asked to close early for the next three weeks as the city attempts to avoid a year-end surge in Covid-19 cases.

The governor, Yuriko Koike, said places serving alcohol, including karaoke venues, should close by 10pm from Saturday until 17 December.

Speaking to reporters she said:

To prevent a further spread of infections and protect the lives of the residents of Tokyo, we are taking brief and intensive measures. We realise this is an extremely important time of year for business owners, but if we don’t stop this now it’s just going to keep going.

Japan’s national and local governments do not have the legal powers to enforce business closures or European-style lockdowns. Businesses that comply will be eligible for a one-off payment of ¥400,000 (£2,900) from the metropolitan government.

The requested restrictions on opening hours are the first since the end of August, when Tokyo was confronted by a second wave of infections. Daily cases have been rising again in recent weeks, with 401 on Wednesday, following a record 537 last week. The city now has a total of 38,598 cases.

In addition to health ministry advice to avoid the “three Cs” – confined and crowded spaces, and close human contact – Koike has unveiled “five smalls” – precautions that should be taken when dining out.

Under these guidelines, people should eat in small groups, keep their meals brief, avoid eating from shared plates, talk quietly and observe established preventive measures such as mask wearing, hand sanitising and visiting only properly ventilated places. Koike has also asked people to avoid non-essential outings and to work remotely where possible.

Several parts of Japan have witnessed a surge in new infections, prompting the government this week to remove Sapporo and Osaka from a subsidised tourism campaign aimed at propping up regional economies during the pandemic.

Japan’s third wave has prompted warnings about the strain the rise in serious cases is placing on hospitals. Toshio Nakagawa, the president of the Japan Medical Association, said more beds were being taken up by patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms, forcing staff to scale down the treatment of other illnesses.

“We need to act urgently or we will face a nationwide crisis,” Nakagawa said, urging authorities to restrict business operations. “As medical professionals, we believe that vigorous disease prevention is also best for the economy.”

Japan has fared better than many other countries since the start of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, it had 135,400 cases and 2,001 deaths, the health ministry said.

Updated

Merkel warns restrictions may last until next year

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears a face mask before delivering a speech during a session at the Bundestag
German chancellor Angela Merkel wears a face mask before delivering a speech during a session at the Bundestag.
Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Restrictive measures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Germany will be in place until at least the end of December and possibly longer, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, has told parliament.

She said:

Given the high number of infections, we assume that the restrictions which are in place before Christmas will be continue to be valid until the start of January, certainly for most parts of Germany.

We have to say, unfortunately, that we cannot promise an easing for Christmas and New Year’s.

She confirmed that Germans will be allowed to congregate in groups of up 10 people over Christmas. But she urged the public to remember that there around 27 million vulnerable Germans who can’t be protected.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 22,268 to 983,588, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Thursday, while the death toll rose by 389 to 15,160.

Merkel said the number of Covid cases in Germany was “stagnating at a high – far too high – level”.

Late last night she agreed with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states to extend and tighten the coronavirus lockdown until December 20, but ease rules over the Christmas holidays to let families and friends celebrate together.

Merkel’s chief of staff said rules limiting social contact might be needed for longer.

“We have difficult winter months ahead of us. This will continue until March,” Helge Braun told RTL television.

“After March, I am very optimistic because we will probably be able to vaccinate more and more people and it will be easier to keep infection rates low with the spring.”

Merkel said vaccines could arrive before Christmas.

Updated

Finland’s coronavirus situation has worsened rapidly in recent days, the prime minister, Sanna Marin, has warned.

Finland’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 75.8 on Wednesday, Europe’s second lowest level behind Iceland, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control data showed.

But Marin warned the number of new cases was rising at a worrying pace.

Speaking at a press conference she said: “I strongly appeal to the local and regional authorities to work together to ensure that the disease situation is kept under control.”

Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist advising the government in France, has said the country can return to normal by autumn 2021 if more than 80% of the population can be vaccinated.

But in an interview on BFMTV he warned getting the vaccinate is no guarantee against becoming sick.

Speaking while wearing a mask he also cautioned that masks may be necessary while the virus remains in circulation. “We must be vigilant” he said.

The New Zealand government has issued the touring Pakistan cricket team with a “final warning” after six of the team tested positive following rule breaches while they were isolation in Christchurch.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health on Thursday said all 53 members of the travelling party, including players and staff, were tested on arrival on 24 November and the positive results are from those tests.

New Zealand Cricket said in a statement all players in the squad had tested negative four times before leaving Lahore. Two of the six results were “historical” infections while four were new. NZC said it had been made aware members of the squad may have breached strict biosecurity protocols on the first day of their 14-day mandatory isolation.

As part of measures to prevent Covid-19 being brought into the country, the team were not allowed to socialise, eat or train together outside their small bubbles while in isolation.

The health ministry said: the team as a whole has been issued with a final warning”. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield added:

It is a privilege to come to New Zealand to play sport, but in return teams must stick to the rules that are designed to keep Covid-19 out of our communities and keep our staff safe.

Read more here:

The UK government is facing calls to publish scientific advice on the relaxing of Covid-19 rules over Christmas amid warnings that a single infectious guest could infect a third of those at a household gathering.

Under rules revealed by the prime minister on Tuesday, up to three households can form a “bubble” for five days over Christmas.

It prompted some scientists to speak out, warning that mixing will inevitably lead to an increase in infections come the new year, leading to deaths. Some said the government should have put greater emphasis on the dangers and potential control measures.

Now experts have called for the government to release advice given by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

Read more here:

People pay tribute in Buenos Aires to one of the best footballers in history
People pay tribute in Buenos Aires to one of the best footballers in history
Photograph: Roberto Tuero/REX/Shutterstock

There wasn’t much sign of social distancing in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires last night, at the start of three days of national mourning for the footballer Diego Maradona.

 

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said he’s considering limiting Christmas celebrations to six people, Reuters reports.

Speaking on Wednesday Sánchez he said:

This is not a number we have pulled out of nowhere. It is a number which health professionals, scientists have told us is sufficiently rigorous and restrictive to prevent another surge in infections.

The central government is still negotiating the next round of restrictions with regional authorities, meaning some changes could be introduced.

The health ministry recorded 10,222 new cases on Wednesday, while the death toll rose by 369 to 44,037, slowing from the previous day’s jump of 537, which marked a record for the second wave.

Photographer Jill Mead has taken a poignant set of pictures of London during the second lockdown.

Updated

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, in Sydney.

I’m off to our socially distanced office Christmas party and am very glad to be nowhere near this Turkey:

Ukraine reports record daily cases

Ukraine registered a record 15,331 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, health minister Maksym Stepanov said on Thursday, up from a previous record of 14,580 reported on 21 November.

He said the total number of cases had climbed to 677,189, with 11,717 deaths.

Medical specialists pose for a picture in a hospital for patients infected with the coronavirus disease in KyivDoctors and medical specialists wearing personal protective equipment pose for a picture in a hospital for patients infected with coronavirus, Kyiv, Ukraine 25 November 2020.
Medical specialists pose for a picture in a hospital for patients infected with the coronavirus disease in Kyiv
Doctors and medical specialists wearing personal protective equipment pose for a picture in a hospital for patients infected with coronavirus, Kyiv, Ukraine 25 November 2020.

Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Disney to lay off 32,000 workers in first half of 2021

Walt Disney Co said on Wednesday it would lay off 32,000 workers, primarily at its theme parks, an increase from the 28,000 it announced in September, as the company struggles with limited customers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The layoffs will be in the first half of 2021, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Earlier this month, Disney said it was furloughing additional workers from its theme park in Southern California due to uncertainty over when the state would allow parks to reopen.

Disneyland Resort and Downtown Disney, Anaheim, California, USA.
Disneyland Resort and Downtown Disney, Anaheim, California, USA.
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Disney’s theme parks in Florida and those outside the United States reopened earlier this year without seeing new major coronavirus outbreaks but with strict social distancing, testing and mask use.

Disneyland Paris was forced to close again late last month when France imposed a new lockdown to fight a second wave of the coronavirus cases.

The company’s theme parks in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo remain open.
Disney did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on whether the 28,000 layoffs announced earlier were included in the latest figure, but a spokesperson for the company confirmed to Variety that the figure includes the previously announced number.

Summary

Here are the key developments from the last few hours:

  • Germany extends partial lockdown. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors on Wednesday agreed to extend a partial shutdown well into December in an effort to further reduce the rate of Covid-19 infections ahead of the Christmas period.
  • South Korea reports highest cases since March. South Korea has reported its highest daily number of Covid-19 cases since March, despite the recent introduction of stricter social distancing measuresin Seoul and other virus hotspots. The country reported 583 infections on Thursday, the first time they had topped 500 since 6 March.
  • CDC estimates only 1 in 8 infections caught. A new government report says the US is still missing nearly eight coronavirus infections for every one counted. By the end of September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that as many as 53 million Americans had been infected. That is just under eight times the confirmed cases reported at the time. Previously, the CDC estimated that one of every 10 infections were being missed.
  • Global cases surpassed 60m, according to researchers at both Johns Hopkins University. According to Reuters, the pace of new infections is accelerating and the United States is reporting its worst numbers of hospitalisations.
  • Authorities in Sicily asked Cuba’s government to send to the region about 60 health operators, including doctors and nurses, as hospitals are struggling with a shortage of medical personnel during the second wave. The request was filed this week to the Italian embassy in Cuba and consists of intensive care specialists, nurses, anaesthetists, resuscitators, virologists and pneumologists, the Italian newspaper la Repubblica reported.
  • The Americas reported more than 1.5m cases in the last seven days; the highest weekly number since the start of the pandemic, the World Health Organization regional branch PAHO said. The rapid surge of infections in the US continued and cases accelerated in countries of North, Central and South America, PAHO said. In Canada, infections were rising particularly among the elderly and indigenous communities.
  • The daily death toll in the US reached 2,157 – one person every 40 seconds. It was the first time since May that deaths had passed 2,000 in 24 hours.
  • Germany reported 410 deaths in 24 hours; its worst such toll since the pandemic began. It came as the chancellor Angela Merkel met with 16 federal state leaders to discuss restrictions for the Christmas and new year holidays.
  • Iran recorded its worst daily caseload, with the health ministry reporting 13,843 new infections. That pushed the national tally to 894,385 in the Middle East’s worst-hit country. The ministry’s spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, told state TV the death toll rose by 469 in 24 hours to 46,207.

A little more than half the 26,700 Australians stranded overseas in September who Scott Morrison suggested could come home by Christmas have returned to Australia.

Despite the prime minister boasting on Thursday that 35,000 Australians have returned home since September, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials revealed that just 14,000 of those were registered with the department.

That means of the original cohort who had registered by 18 September, more than 12,000 Australians are yet to return home:

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 22,268 to 983,588, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.

The reported death toll rose by 389 to 15,160, the tally showed.

Podcast: how vaccines lead to immunity – podcast

With a number of Covid-19 vaccines seemingly on the way, Nicola Davis talks to Prof Eleanor Riley about how they might help the body’s defence mechanisms fight the virus:

Six members of the Pakistan men’s cricket team have tested positive for Covid-19 in managed isolation in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The affected players have been moved to quarantine, the ministry of health said, and all training at outside facilities would be cancelled.

In addition, since their arrival, several team members have been seen on CCTV at the facility breaching managed isolation rules, MoH said.

All incidents of breaches occurred within the facility and there is no risk to the public, but the team as a whole has been issued with a final warning.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said any breaches of managed isolation rules were taken very seriously.

“It is a privilege to come to New Zealand to play sport, but in return teams must stick to the rules that are designed to keep Covid-19 out of our communities and keep our staff safe.”

It is unclear if the team’s match with the Black Caps on December 18 will go ahead.

India recorded 44,489 new coronavirus infections, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday, the 19th straight day that single-day cases have stayed below the 50,000 mark.

India’s coronavirus tally now stands at 9.27 million, the second-highest in the world, after the United States.

Deaths rose by 524, taking the total to 135,223.

South Korea reports highest cases since March

South Korea has reported its highest daily number of Covid-19 cases since March, despite the recent introduction of stricter social distancing measuresin Seoul and other virus hotspots.

The country reported 583 infections on Thursday, the first time they had topped 500 since 6 March.

While previous clusters were traced to large church gatherings, authorities are now battling several additional routes of transmission, including private get-togethers. The armed forces ordered a 10-day ban on leave after a series of outbreaks at military facilities, including 60 cases among recruits beginning their 18-month national service at a camp in Yeoncheon near the border with North Korea.

“Covid-19 has arrived right beside you and your family,” the health minister, Park Neung-hoo, said at a televised meeting with health officials. “In particular, the spread of infections among young generations is extraordinary.”

Some experts said the government had been too quick to ease social distancing measures earlier this year after a second wave of infections appeared to have passed.

“The easing was done because of economic concerns and growing fatigue but it was premature and sowed the seeds of complacency among the public,” Kim Woo-joo, a professor of infectious diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital in Seoul, told Reuters.

The surge in infections among younger people comes ahead of nationwide university exams on 3 December. Students have been told not to attend cram schools or take private lessons in preparation for the exams, which will involve around half a million college hopefuls.

“Infections are emerging concurrently in our daily lives including family gatherings and informal get-togethers which makes it difficult for the government to take preemptive action,” the education minister, Yoo Eun-hae, told a briefing.

Of Thursday’s cases, 553 were locally transmitted and almost 73% of those were in the greater Seoul area, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. Total infections in South Korea, which has been widely praised for its response to the pandemic, stand at 32,318, with 515 deaths.

Updated

In a global push to end violence against women, activists held rallies Wednesday and world leaders called for action to stop the abuse, which has worsened because of the coronavirus pandemic this year, AP reports.

Protests from France to Ukraine were held on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to draw attention to domestic violence in what is an uphill struggle to protect millions of women killed or abused every year by their partners and close relatives.

In Rome, the office of the prime minister was being lit in red and red banners tumbled from trade union offices in Florence to demand an end to violence against women. Italy was a hotbed for Covid-19 infections this year, forcing the government to impose lockdowns to keep the virus out. In an unintended consequence, domestic violence cases began to grow.

Even if detailed statistics were hard to come by, organizations and countries, from the United Nations to the European Union, France and Britain, all said that the pandemic had so far been an additional source for men to mistreat women.

In Ukraine, the Femen feminist activist group staged a protest outside the president’s office with a brief topless protest.

Police officers arrest an activist of Femen movement protesting outside Ukrainian President’s to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Kiev on 25 November 2020.
Police officers arrest an activist of Femen movement protesting outside Ukrainian President’s to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in Kiev on 25 November 2020.
Photograph: Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images

UN agency UNAIDS said that “evidence shows that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in significant increases in gender-based violence in nearly all countries,” especially for women trapped at home with their abuser.

“Men’s violence against women is also a pandemic — one that pre-dates the virus and will outlive it,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the UN Women agency.

“Last year alone, 243 million women and girls experienced sexual or physical violence from their partner. This year, reports of increased domestic violence, cyberbullying, child marriages, sexual harassment and sexual violence have flooded in,” she said.

In Turkey, where at least 234 women were killed since the start of the year, according to government figures, riot police in Istanbul blocked a small group of demonstrators from marching to the city’s iconic Taksim Square to denounce violence against women. The government has declared the square off-bounds for demonstrations.

Elsewhere in Istanbul, some 2,000 other women staged a peaceful demonstration calling on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government to remain committed to a European treaty on combatting violence against women.

Podcast: How the Covid-19 pandemic has increased Amazon’s dominance

As high street rivals were forced to close this year, Amazon has gone from strength to strength. But reports of conditions in some of its huge warehouses have brought a new level of scrutiny, as John Harris explains:

A recent survey conducted by the Novus polling institute suggested that 26 percent of Swedes do not plan to take any of the Covid-19 vaccines being developed and 28 percent are undecided, AFP reports.

Forty-six percent said they would get a jab.

Of those opposed, 87 percent said it was due to fears over as-yet unknown side effects.

Health authorities in the Scandinavian country in 2009 urged the public to voluntarily take the Pandemrix vaccine against swine flu, made by British drug company GlaxoSmithKline.

A woman rides an electric scooter wearing a protective mask, amid the continuous spread of the coronavirus pandemic, along Standvagen in Stockholm, Sweden, 20 November 2020.
A woman rides an electric scooter wearing a protective mask, amid the continuous spread of the coronavirus pandemic, along Standvagen in Stockholm, Sweden, 20 November 2020.
Photograph: Tt News Agency/Reuters

More than 60 percent heeded the call – the highest level in the world.

Hundreds of young Swedes suffered debilitating narcolepsy after a mass vaccination campaign against the 2009-2010 swine flu pandemic.

The experience has shaken Swedes’ confidence in any future vaccine against the new coronavirus, compounding fears about unknown long-term side effects.

In the US, national reading and math tests long used to track what students know in those subjects are being postponed from next year to 2022 over concerns about whether testing would be feasible or produce valid results during the coronavirus pandemic, the National Center for Education Statistics announced Wednesday.

AP: The biennial National Assessment of Educational Progress evaluations used for the Nation’s Report Card were slated early next year for hundreds of thousands of the country’s fourth and eighth graders. But widespread remote learning and health protocols would have added big complications and costs because the model uses shared equipment and sends outside proctors to conduct the testing in schools.

Pushing ahead with testing in 2021 runs the risk of spending tens of millions of dollars and still not getting the data necessary to produce a reliable, comparable picture of state and national student performance, NCES Commissioner James Woodworth said in a statement. By law, they would have to wait another two years for the next chance at testing.

Testing in 2022 instead “would be more likely to provide valuable — and valid — data about student achievement in the wake of Covid-19 to support effective policy, research, and resource allocation,” the leaders of the National Assessment Governing Board said in a separate statement supporting the move.

José Manuel Mireles, one of leaders of a civilian militia formed in 2013 to fight a drug cartel in western Mexico, died Wednesday, a government health agency confirmed.

Mireles was a physician who worked for the federal Institute for Social Security and Services for State Workers.

The agency confirmed his death, but did not give a cause. Those operating Mireles’ personal Twitter account said he died of the effects of Covid-19.

Leaders like Mireles and Hipolito Mora organized people in the western state of Michoacan to fight the Knights Templar drug cartel. The cartel had controlled almost every aspect of life in parts of Michoacan, extorting money systematically from residents.

Doctor José Manuel Mireles.
Doctor José Manuel Mireles.
Photograph: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP

After largely expelling the cartel, some of the vigilante-style groups eventually fought among themselves, and some came under the influence of other gangs.

The government at first channeled weapons to the self-defense militias, and then tried to disarm and demobilize them.

Mireles was arrested on weapons charges and spent nearly three years behind bars awaiting trial before being freed on bond in May 2017. He was acquitted in 2018.

Updated

Barack Obama has said part of the reason more than 73 million Americans voted to re-elect Donald Trump in the election was because of messaging from Republicans that the country was under attack – particularly white men.

In an interview with the radio show the Breakfast Club on Wednesday to promote his new memoir A Promised Land, Obama said Trump’s administration, which he did not name directly, ‘objectively has failed, miserably, in handling just basic looking after the American people and keeping them safe’, and yet he still secured millions of votes:

 

CDC estimates only 1 in 8 infections caught

A new government report says the US is still missing nearly eight coronavirus infections for every one counted.

By the end of September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that as many as 53 million Americans had been infected. That is just under eight times the confirmed cases reported at the time.

Previously, the CDC estimated that one of every 10 infections were being missed.
The latest CDC calculation is meant to give a more accurate picture of how many people actually have caught the virus since the pandemic began. Of the 53 million estimated infections, the CDC says about 45 million were sick at some point and about 2.4 million were hospitalized.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has warned Britain that its Covid-19 economic emergency has only just begun after responding to news of the deepest slump in more than 300 years by pledging a fresh £55bn to tackle the pandemic.

On the day that the daily death toll from the virus reached a new second-wave peak of 696, the chancellor said that despite borrowing a peacetime record of £394bn this year, he would need to carry on spending in order to protect lives and livelihoods.

Sunak said his one-year spending plan for the economy included the biggest sustained increase in infrastructure investment for four decades, and involved more money for housing, railways, broadband upgrades and Boris Johnson’s green agenda, totalling £100bn next year:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed hope that the arrival of the first vaccines in coming weeks would help turn the corner on the pandemic.

“A lot indicates that 2021 will bring us relief,” she said.

The country’s disease control agency released a new version of its contact tracing app Wednesday that includes reminders for people to share positive test results with people they were in close proximity to.

The app had been downloaded 22.8 million times by Friday. Its decentralized, privacy-focused design has been copied by several other European countries.

More on Germany now, with the AP:

During a seven-hour video call, federal and state officials also agreed on a number of new restrictions.

These include:

—Limiting private gatherings to five people from up to two households, not counting children under 14. Over the festive period that number will be increased to 10, to allow for small family gatherings.

—Traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks will be discouraged, and banned entirely in some popular streets and squares.

—Employers will be encouraged to let staff work from home 23 December to 1 January.

—Masks will be required in front of stores, in parking lots and in most secondary schools.

—The number of customers allowed into larger stores will be reduced.

The government also plans around 17 billion euros ($20 billion) more in aid to compensate businesses hit by the shutdown, on top of 15 billion euros provided by federal authorities in November.

Germany, which has 83 million people, was credited with a relatively good performance in the first phase of the pandemic. It still has a lower death rate than several other European countries, and its current shutdown has been relatively mild.

Germany has reported a total of 961,320 virus cases since the pandemic began, including 14,771 deaths.

Germany extends partial lockdown

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors on Wednesday agreed to extend a partial shutdown well into December in an effort to further reduce the rate of Covid-19 infections ahead of the Christmas period.

Germany embarked on a so-called “wave-breaker” shutdown on 2 November, closing restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities but leaving schools, shops and hair salons open. It was initially slated to last four weeks.

Merkel said the measures will now be extended until at least 20 December, with a goal of pushing the number of new coronavirus cases in each region below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants per week.

“We have to continue to pursue this goal,” she told reporters in Berlin.

Merkel said that while existing measures have succeeded in halting a surge in new coronavirus infections, they have stabilised at a high level.

Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 18,633 new cases over the past 24 hours — compared with 17,561 a week earlier.

“We can’t be satisfied with this partial success,” she said, noting that health officials on Wednesday also reported 410 deaths linked to Covid-19, the highest single-day total yet.

“(This) reminds us in the saddest way that behind the statistics are human fates,” Merkel said.

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

My name is Helen Sullivan, and this time last year I was in Beirut preparing to have my first ever thanksgiving. Where were you – and do you celebrate the turkey holiday?

Let me know on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

As the world reported its highest daily death toll of the pandemic so far, with 12,785 Covid deaths reported in 24 hours, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors on Wednesday agreed to extend a partial shutdown well into December in an effort to further reduce the rate of Covid-19 infections ahead of the Christmas period.

Germany embarked on a so-called “wave-breaker” shutdown on 2 November, closing restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities but leaving schools, shops and hair salons open. It was initially slated to last four weeks.

Merkel said the measures will now be extended until at least 20 December, with a goal of pushing the number of new coronavirus cases in each region below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants per week.

“We have to continue to pursue this goal,” she told reporters in Berlin.

  • Global cases surpassed 60m, according to researchers at both Johns Hopkins University. According to Reuters, the pace of new infections is accelerating and the United States is reporting its worst numbers of hospitalisations.
  • Authorities in Sicily asked Cuba’s government to send to the region about 60 health operators, including doctors and nurses, as hospitals are struggling with a shortage of medical personnel during the second wave. The request was filed this week to the Italian embassy in Cuba and consists of intensive care specialists, nurses, anaesthetists, resuscitators, virologists and pneumologists, the Italian newspaper la Repubblica reported.
  • The Americas reported more than 1.5m cases in the last seven days; the highest weekly number since the start of the pandemic, the World Health Organization regional branch PAHO said. The rapid surge of infections in the US continued and cases accelerated in countries of North, Central and South America, PAHO said. In Canada, infections were rising particularly among the elderly and indigenous communities.
  • The daily death toll in the US reached 2,157 – one person every 40 seconds. It was the first time since May that deaths had passed 2,000 in 24 hours.
  • Germany reported 410 deaths in 24 hours; its worst such toll since the pandemic began. It came as the chancellor Angela Merkel met with 16 federal state leaders to discuss restrictions for the Christmas and new year holidays.
  • Iran recorded its worst daily caseload, with the health ministry reporting 13,843 new infections. That pushed the national tally to 894,385 in the Middle East’s worst-hit country. The ministry’s spokeswoman, Sima Sadat Lari, told state TV the death toll rose by 469 in 24 hours to 46,207.

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US NEWS, World

Biden prepares key cabinet picks as Trump team cuts ties with attorney – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “GSA says transition process can begin – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh (now), Joan E Greve and Martin Belam (earlier), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 24th November 2020 03.09 UTC

2.37am GMT

Summary

From me and Joan E Greve:

  • The General Services Administration has allowed for the presidential transition to begin. After an initial delay, the agency’s head, Emily Murphy, has sent Joe Biden a letter recognizing him as the election winner – opening up access to funds, office space and classified briefings.
  • Donald Trump tweeted that he had directed Murphy to go ahead, in contradiction to her public statements that she had not consulted with the president. “In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” Trump said, though he has yet to formally concede.
  • Republican senators Lamar Alexander and Bill Cassidy acknowledged Biden as president-elect as Michigan certified election results and the GSA unblocked the transition. Still, many top Republicans have continued to side with Trump in refusing to concede.
  • Joe Biden announced several key appointments and nominations for his national security and foreign policy team. Former secretary of state John Kerry will serve as the president-elect’s special envoy to address climate change, and former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken will be nominated to lead the state department.
  • Former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will be nominated to lead the treasury department, according to multiple reports. If confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman in US history to serve as treasury secretary.
  • California senator Dianne Feinstein said she won’t seek to retain her position as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee. She faced backlash from progressives after she praised the Republican judiciary committee chair, Lindsey Graham, during the confirmation hearings for Trump’s supreme court pick Amy Coney Barrett – rather than resisting Republican efforts to ram through a conservative justice before the election. Democratic Whip Dick Durbin has said he’s interested in the position.
  • The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has an efficacy of up to 90%, according to results from the final trial. The news comes after Moderna and Pfizer both announced their vaccine candidates have an efficacy of 95%.
  • More Americans are hospitalized with coronavirus than ever before, as infections surge across the country. Public health experts are urging Americans not to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
  • A growing chorus of Republican senators are calling on the Trump administration to begin the formal transition process, as states move toward certifying Biden’s victory. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia both said today that they have seen no evidence of widespread fraud that could alter Biden’s win.

Updated at 3.09am GMT

1.57am GMT

Chris Krebs, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, on Monday reminded Americans that there’s still no evidence of significant voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Trump fired Krebs last week by tweet after the director had pushed back on the president’s baseless claims of voter fraud. Krebs’ agency was responsible for coordinating federal, state and local efforts to defend electoral systems from foreign or domestic interference. The agency had vouched for the reliability of the 2020 vote.

“All Americans should have confidence in the security of their vote,” Krebs said on Monday. “The disinfo likely won’t stop. Keep on the lookout and don’t fall for it,” he added.

1.30am GMT

Prior to the GSA’s move today, the Biden-Harris team had been raising money to fund the transition process, absent access to government-allocated funds.

In an email to supporters last week, they said: “We want to be clear: the Biden-Harris transition team will continue to steadily move forward. But, without ascertainment, we need to fund the transition ourselves, and that’s why we’re reaching out to you today.”

With the GSA’s go-ahead, the team will now have access to funds to hire and pay staff as they prepare to take office.

1.14am GMT

Reuters’ Jeff Mason reports that Donald Trump’s blessing of the GSA’s decision to unblock the transition is as close as the president might get to a concession …

Updated at 1.27am GMT

12.45am GMT

Dick Durbin, a senator of Illinois and the Democratic whip, said he’ll be seeking the top Democratic position on the Senate Judiciary Committee after California’s Dianne Feinstein said she would step back.

“I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress. I have served on the Committee for 22 years, and I am its most senior member who does not currently serve atop another Senate Committee,” he said. “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights.”


Updated at 1.27am GMT

12.27am GMT

Last week, as the Biden-Harris team attempted to begin the transition process despite the GSA holdup, they reached out to Trump administration officials who had recently left their posts, in an attempt to glean key information while being locked out of official briefings.

A current administration official also told CNN last week that some officials within the government had informally reached out to Biden’s team. “Nothing that would get us in trouble,” the official told CNN. “Just an offer to be of help. They know what we mean, and what we can and can’t do or say.”

Still, what Biden’s team members couldn’t get was any classified information. That’s something they’ll have access to now.

Updated at 12.32am GMT

12.21am GMT

The transition can officially begin – what does that mean?

Now that the General Services Administration has allowed for the presidential transition to officially begin, Joe Biden and his team will finally be able to gain access to classified briefings, meet with government officials to coordinate a pandemic response and have access to office space, as well funds to pay the transition team.

“Because of the lack of ascertainment by the GSA, my transition team hasn’t been able to get access to the information we need to be able to deal with everything from testing and guidance to the all-important issue of vaccine distribution and vaccination plan,” Biden said on Thursday. “We haven’t been able to get into Operation Warp Speed” – the Trump administration scheme for accelerating coronavirus treatment and vaccine development.

Until now, the Biden team has also lacked cybersecurity support to shield email and other communication amid concerns that Russia, China, or other foreign adversaries could intercept classified information. With the GSA’s approval, Biden’s team can move over to government email, with help from the Department of Homeland Security to protect the privacy of incoming officials as they plan out, for example, national security strategies.

Updated at 12.31am GMT

12.10am GMT

With Donald Trump refusing to concede the elections, House Democrats had demanded last week that GSA administrator Emily Murphy provide a briefing to explain why she was delaying the transition process.

In a letter sent on 19 November, Carolyn B Maloney and Nita M Lowey – both Democrats of New York – sent Murphy a letter asking her, as well as her deputy chief of staff and general counsel, to participate in a public hearing to explain themselves.

“Your actions in blocking transition activities required under the law are having grave effects, including undermining the orderly transfer of power, impairing the incoming Administration’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, hampering its ability to address our nation’s dire economic crisis, and endangering our national security,” the congresswomen said.

“We ask that you personally brief us and our Ranking Members by no later than November 23, 2020,” they wrote.

This pressure likely played into Murphy’s decision to approve the transition process today.

Updated at 12.32am GMT

12.01am GMT

The Democratic representative who chairs the House oversight government operations subcommittee said “it should not have taken the ire of Congress and the American public” for the GSA’s Emily Murphy to greenlight the transition process.

Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who leads the congressional committee with oversight of the GSA, added he was “greatly looking forward to officially transitioning to an administration that follows the law the first time, without massive public pressure”.

Updated at 12.13am GMT

11.41pm GMT

Now that the GSA has allowed a formal transition to begin, more Republicans are starting to acknowledge the reality that Joe Biden is president-elect.

Here’s Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator of Louisiana:

11.37pm GMT

Yohannes Abraham, the Biden-Harris transition director, said Emily Murphy’s decision today “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track”.

“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies. In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies,” Abraham said in a statement.

Updated at 11.42pm GMT

11.36pm GMT

It’s unclear that Murphy’s letter will earn her much sympathy from those who criticized her decision to block the transition for weeks after it became clear that Joe Biden had won the election.

Biden said the delayed transition was an “embarrassment” and his team’s inability to begin coordinating coronavirus vaccine distribution could cost lives.

Updated at 12.10am GMT

11.28pm GMT

Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, drew criticism for initially refusing to sign a letter allowing Biden’s team access to government officials, as well as office space, equipment, and millions of dollars of funding.

In her letter to Joe Biden today, she tried to defend her actions. “To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination [on whether to begin the transition],” she said. “Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism. Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-elect.”

She also said that she received “threats online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely. Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law.”

Her point, however, was almost immediately contradicted by Donald Trump, who tweeted: “In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Even as his campaign’s legal challenges fail to hold up, and Trump’s attempts to convince officials to block certification of election results falter, the president insisted, “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good … fight, and I believe we will prevail! “

Updated at 12.12am GMT

11.21pm GMT

GSA’s Emily Murphy says transition can begin

In a letter to Joe Biden, Murphy – who initially held up the transition process – told the president-elect that she will open up resources to allow the transition of power to formally begin, the Guardian can confirm.

“I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,” she said. “I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right. Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official – including those who work at the White House or GSA – with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”

Updated at 12.11am GMT

11.11pm GMT

Report: The GSA has informed Biden that the transition process can begin

Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, has sent Joe Biden a letter informing him that the Trump administration is ready to begin the transition process, reports CNN, after obtaining a copy of the letter.

10.56pm GMT

California senator Dianne Feinstein said she won’t seek to retain her position as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee.

The 87-year-old senator faced backlash from progressives after she praised the Republican judiciary committee chair, Lindsey Graham, during the confirmation hearings for Trump’s supreme court pick Amy Coney Barrett – rather than resisting Republican efforts to ram through a conservative justice before the election.

“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress,” she said in a statement.

“California is a huge state confronting two existential threats – wildfire and drought – that are only getting worse with climate change. In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues,” she said.

Updated at 11.10pm GMT

10.46pm GMT

Andrew Cuomo won’t be having Thanksgiving with his 89-year-old mother, following backlash.

The New York governor initially said during a WAMC interview that despite beseeching his constituents to refrain from gathering with family for Thanksgiving, he’d be attending an in-person Thanksgiving with his 89-year old mother and two daughters in Albany. But his office issued a statement clarifying that “plans have changed” following backlash.

“Given the current circumstances with Covid, [Cuomo] will have to work through Thanksgiving,” his senior advisor Rich Azzopardi told the Wall Street Journal’s Jimmy Vielkind.

Cuomo had been asking New Yorkers over the past few days to refrain from traveling or gathering with older relatives for Thanksgiving. “Next Thanksgiving, you’ll ask yourself: did I do everything I could to keep my community safe?” he said, just yesterday.

Although he had told reporters he’d already had a difficult discussion about Thanksgiving plans with his mother last week, Azzopardi said today that Cuomo’s mom hadn’t been told yet that their Thanksgiving was canceled.

Updated at 11.11pm GMT

10.21pm GMT

Republican senator Lamar Alexander acknowledges Biden as president elect

Alexander, a senator of Tennessee, is only the sixth Republican senator to acknowledge Biden’s victory. In a statement, he urged Donald Trump to “put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition”.

“The presidential election is rapidly coming to a formal end. Recounts are being completed. Courts are resolving disputes. Most states will certify their votes by December 8,” he said. “Since it seems apparent that Joe Biden will be the president-elect, my hope is that President Trump will take pride in his considerable accomplishments, put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed. When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do.”

Updated at 11.11pm GMT

10.03pm GMT

Elizabeth Warren, whom many progressives had picked as their top choice for treasury secretary, has lauded Biden for picking Janet Yellen.

“She is smart, tough, and principled. As one of the most successful Fed Chairs ever, she has stood up to Wall Street banks, including holding Wells Fargo accountable for cheating working families,” Warren said.

The Massachusetts senator had pushed Yellen when she served as chair of the Federal Reserve, in particular, repeatedly asking that Yellen properly censure Wells Fargo for its fake accounts scam – which Yellen eventually did, to an extent.

Though the Federal Reserve did not order the bank to remove board members, as Warren had asked, it prevented the firm from growing any larger until it improved its governance – leading to the ousting of four board members.

The bank had opened millions of fake accounts and charged hundreds of thousands of customers for auto insurance they didn’t need.

Updated at 11.12pm GMT

9.39pm GMT

Michigan certifies election results – Biden wins

The state’s board of canvassers voted 3-0 to certify that Joe Biden won the state’s election. One canvasser abstained.

Biden won by about 154,000 votes, securing the state’s 16 electoral votes.

Updated at 9.49pm GMT

9.30pm GMT

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague Maanvi Singh will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden announced several key appointments and nominations for his national security and foreign policy team. Former secretary of state John Kerry will serve as the president-elect’s special envoy to address climate change, and former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken will be nominated to lead the state department.
  • Former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will be nominated to lead the treasury department, according to multiple reports. If confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman in US history to serve as treasury secretary.
  • The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has an efficacy of up to 90%, according to results from the final trial. The news comes after Moderna and Pfizer both announced their vaccine candidates have an efficacy of 95%.
  • More Americans are hospitalized with coronavirus than ever before, as infections surge across the country. Public health experts are urging Americans not to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
  • A growing chorus of Republican senators are calling on the Trump administration to begin the formal transition process, as states move toward certifying Biden’s victory. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia both said today that they have seen no evidence of widespread fraud that could alter Biden’s win.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 11.13pm GMT

9.18pm GMT

Although Donald Trump has refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, the Secret Service has reportedly already started preparing for the president’s post-White House life.

ABC News has the story:

Secret Service agents in the president’s detail are being asked whether they’re interested in transferring to Palm Beach, Florida, sources have told ABC News.

The Secret Service’s Miami field office also has begun looking at physical reinforcements to Mar-a-Largo, the president’s golf club to which he refers as ‘the winter White House,’ the sources added. These moves are considered unofficial as Trump has yet to concede to Biden. …

Renovations to living quarters expected to be occupied by Trump and first lady Melania Trump are underway, ahead of when they’ll be living there full time after the Jan. 20 inauguration, sources familiar with the planning told ABC News.

Sources have described the renovations as ‘updates’ to living quarters, in part because the residence has been used only on a temporary basis. The Mar-a-Lago club also had been opened only seasonally, and it remains unclear how a permanent residency by Donald and Melania Trump could change that.

9.01pm GMT

Shelley Moore Capito has joined the growing chorus of Republican senators who are calling for the formal presidential transition to begin.

The West Virginia senator noted she supported Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, but she said it was now clear the country overall voted to move in a different direction.

“While some irregularities and fraud have been found and should be punished, there is no indication that these are widespread enough to call into question the outcome of the election,” Capito said in a statement.

“I have been clear that President Trump — like any candidate for office— has the right to request recounts and to raise legal claims before our courts. However, at some point, the 2020 election must end.”

Capito concluded her statement, “I believe that Vice President Biden and Senator Harris should begin receiving all appropriate briefings related to national security and COVID-19 to facilitate a smooth transfer of power in the likely event that they are to take office on January 20.”

Capito’s statement comes hours after the Cincinnati Enquirer published an op-ed from Rob Portman, another Republican senator, saying there was no evidence of widespread fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

8.44pm GMT

Gary Cohn, the former chief economic adviser to Donald Trump, praised Janet Yellen as “an excellent choice for Treasury Secretary.”

Cohn said in a tweet, “Having had the opportunity to work with then-Chair Yellen, I have no doubt she will be the steady hand we need to promote an economy that works for everyone, especially during these difficult times. Congratulations.”

Cohn served as Trump’s first director of the National Economic Council until April 2018, but the former Goldman Sachs president has since expressed some skepticism about the president’s leadership abilities.

Cohn said in September that he still had not decided whether to support Trump’s reelection campaign.

8.29pm GMT

Some progressive groups have already indicated that they consider Janet Yellen to be an acceptable choice for treasury secretary.

“Among those not named Elizabeth Warren, Janet Yellen and Sarah Bloom Raskin are high up on the list of people that progressives would find acceptable,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told CNN today.

Green added, “Janet Yellen would faithfully implement the ambitious agenda Biden campaigned on.”

8.22pm GMT

Joe Biden said last week that he had made a decision on who he would nominate to lead the treasury department.

“We’ve made that decision,” Biden said at a Thursday press conference. “And you’ll find it is someone who I think will be accepted by all elements of the Democratic party … progressive to the moderate coalitions.”

That comment intensified speculation that the president-elect had chosen Janet Yellen, given the former Federal Reserve chairwoman’s impressive credentials.

8.10pm GMT

Janet Yellen to be nominated as treasury secretary – report

Former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will be nominated to lead the treasury department, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports:

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Yellen would become the first woman to hold the job. [Joe] Biden’s selection positions the 74-year-old labor economist to lead his administration’s efforts to drive the recovery from the destruction caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms. Yellen, who was the first woman to lead the Fed, would become the first person to have headed the Treasury, the central bank and the White House Council of Economic Advisers. …

She is viewed by Biden transition officials as a credible authority on the dangers of prematurely withdrawing government stimulus and as someone who could collaborate closely with the Fed and executive-branch agencies to engineer more support if Congress remains hesitant to act.

Ms. Yellen was confirmed with bipartisan support as a Fed chairwoman in 2014 and as vice chairwoman in 2010. She received 11 Republican votes in her 2014 confirmation, including the backing of three sitting Republican senators: Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Biden said last week that he had selected his nominee for treasury secretary and would announce his choice shortly before or shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

Janet Yellen pictured in January last year.
Janet Yellen pictured in January last year.
Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Updated at 8.27pm GMT

8.06pm GMT

Biden and Harris hold virtual meeting with US mayors

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are currently holding a virtual meeting with the US conference of mayors in Wilmington, Delaware.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in virtual meeting with mayors.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in virtual meeting with mayors.
Photograph: Reuters

The president-elect spoke about the need for local leaders to work with the federal government to confront coronavirus and the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Biden said his administration “will have an open door for mayors,” promising to be a “true partner” for local leaders.

7.56pm GMT

Joe Biden dismissed a question about whether he was concerned that Senate Republicans may try to block his cabinet nominees from being confirmed.

Asked about the possibility of Senate roadblocks, the president-elect laughed and said, “Are you kidding me?”

It’s still unclear whether Republicans will still control of the Senate in January, after Georgia holds its two runoff races.

However, if Republicans do control the Senate, there is reason to believe Biden’s nominees could face a lot of resistance. Two of the cabinet nominees that Biden announced today, Antony Blinken and Alejandro Mayorkas, were previously confirmed by the Senate with little to no Republican support.

7.40pm GMT

Antony Blinken has reacted to the announcement that Joe Biden will nominate him to serve as the next secretary of state.

Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, said in a tweet, “The messages from friends and colleagues that I’ve received over the past 15 hours have been humbling.

“Honored to announce, officially, that I have been nominated to serve as Secretary of State. If confirmed, this is a mission I will take on with my full heart.”

Blinken served in a number of senior roles under the Obama administration, including working as Biden’s national security adviser during Obama’s first term.

7.22pm GMT

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden announced several key appointments and nominations for his national security and foreign policy team. Former secretary of state John Kerry will serve as the president-elect’s special envoy to address climate change, and former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken will be nominated to lead the state department.
  • The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has an efficacy of up to 90%, according to results from the final trial. The news comes after vaccine candidates from Moderna and Pfizer were shown to have an efficacy of 95%.
  • More Americans are hospitalized with coronavirus than ever before, as infections surge across the country. Public health experts are urging Americans not to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 7.42pm GMT

7.01pm GMT

Joe Biden’s transition team denied the Bloomberg News report that it has asked Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard to stay at the central bank rather than leading the treasury department.

6.58pm GMT

Federal reserve governor Lael Brainard, who was considered a top contender for treasury secretary, has reportedly been asked by Joe Biden’s team to stay at the central bank.

Bloomberg News reports:

Brainard is the only Democrat on a Fed board filled mostly by President Donald Trump’s appointments, and she may be a leading candidate for Fed chair when Jerome Powell’s term expires in 2022. …

Brainard emerged as a top contender to become the first female Treasury secretary before the election, but in recent weeks liberal figures in the Democratic party have pushed Biden to choose former Fed chair Janet Yellen for the post.

Biden said last week that he has selected his nominee for treasury secretary and would announce his decision either shortly before or shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

6.45pm GMT

Alejandro Mayorkas, who will be nominated to serve as the secretary of the department of homeland security under Joe Biden, reflected on the historic nature of his nomination.

Mayorkas, a former deputy DHS secretary under Barack Obama, will be the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the department if he is confirmed.

Mayorkas said in a tweet, “When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

6.30pm GMT

Michigan appears to be on track to certify its election results today, after a Republican canvasser indicated the state board had a “duty” to certify.

Aaron Van Langevelde requested additional time to hear public comments about the certification process, but he indicated he would ultimately support certification.

Van Langevelde’s comments came after Jonathan Brater, the director of the Michigan bureau of elections, said the state’s election this month was better run than its August primary election or its November 2016 general election.

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in Michigan by 155,629 votes, representing 2.8% of the state’s total vote.

Updated at 6.32pm GMT

6.17pm GMT

Former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro celebrated the news that Alejandro Mayorkas would be nominated to lead the department of homeland security.

“Alejandro Mayorkas is a historic and experienced choice to lead an agency in desperate need of reform,” said Castro, who served as the secretary of housing and urban development under Barack Obama.

Castro added, “As an immigrant and a creator of the DACA program, he’s well suited to undo Trump’s damage and build a more compassionate and common sense immigration agenda.”

If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead DHS.

5.58pm GMT

Joe Biden’s nominees will have to be approved by the Senate, control of which will be determined by the two January runoff races in Georgia.

However, if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Biden’s nominees could face a steep uphill climb to confirmation.

As a Politico reporter noted, both Anthony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, and Alejandro Mayorkas, who could become the first Latino DHS secretary, were previously confirmed by the Senate with little to no Republican support.

5.53pm GMT

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who will be nominated by Joe Biden to serve as the US ambassador to the United Nations, pledged to serve with “kindness and compassion.”

Thomas-Greenfield said in a tweet, “My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service – and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations.”

Thomas-Greenfield previously served as the US ambassador to Liberia and as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs under Barack Obama.

5.40pm GMT

John Kerry expressed pride after being named as president-elect Joe Biden’s special envoy to confront climate change.

“America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,” the former secretary of state said in a tweet.

“I’m proud to partner with the President-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the President’s Climate Envoy.”

As secretary of state, Kerry signed the Paris climate agreement, which Donald Trump backed out of shortly after taking office.

While campaigning for Biden’s presidential primary bid, Kerry warned Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement would cost American lives.

5.29pm GMT

Jake Sullivan offered a response to the announcement that he will serve as Joe Biden’s national security adviser.

Sullivan said in a tweet, “President-elect Biden taught me what it takes to safeguard our national security at the highest levels of our government. Now, he has asked me to serve as his National Security Advisor. In service, I will do everything in my power to keep our country safe.”

Sullivan is currently a policy advisor to the president-elect, and the senior aide served as Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice-president.

Sullivan also previously served as the director of the policy planning staff under then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, becoming one of her closest advisers.

5.21pm GMT

Biden unveils national security and foreign policy team

Joe Biden’s transition team has announced several key nominations and appointments for his national security and foreign policy team.

The president-elect’s team made the following announcements in a new press release:

  • Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, will be nominated to serve as secretary of state, as previously reported.
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of the the department of homeland security, will be nominated to serve as DHS secretary. If confirmed, Mayorkas will be the first Latino and immigrant to serve as DHS secretary.
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former US ambassador, will be nominated as ambassador to the UN.
  • John Kerry, the former secretary of state, will serve as a special presidential envoy for climate and will sit on the national security council.
  • Avril Haines, a former deputy CIA director, will be nominated to serve as the director of national intelligence. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the US intelligence community.
  • Jake Sullivan, a longtime Biden adviser, will serve as national security adviser.

4.57pm GMT

More Republican lawmakers are calling for Georgia’s recount to include signature verifications, even though that is not possible at this point.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Donald Trump’s closest congressional allies, said in a new tweet that he “completely” agrees with calls for another round of signature verifications.

Again, it is not possible to verify signatures on absentee ballots in Georgia at this point, as the president’s reelection campaign requests another recount in the state. (Georgia has already completed a full hand recount, which confirmed Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state.)

Signatures are verified on Georgia’s absentee ballot envelopes before votes are processed. Once a signature has been verified, the ballot is separated from its envelope, and poll workers cannot reunite a ballot with its envelope. Therefore, calls to verify signatures again are meaningless.

4.38pm GMT

Republican senator: No evidence of any widespread fraud in the election

Senator Rob Portman, a Republican of Ohio, wrote an op-ed saying there has been no evidence of widespread fraud that would alter Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

Portman writes for the Cincinnati Enquirer:

This process has now been going on for about three weeks. The Trump campaign has taken steps to insist that only lawful votes were counted in key states, including filing numerous lawsuits. At this point, the vast majority of these lawsuits have been resolved and most of the remaining ones are expected to be resolved in the next couple of weeks. There were instances of fraud and irregularities in this election, as there have been in every election. It is good that those have been exposed and any fraud or other wrongdoing should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but there is no evidence as of now of any widespread fraud or irregularities that would change the result in any state. …

Based on all the information currently available, neither the final lawful vote counts nor the recounts have led to a different outcome in any state. In other words, the initial determination showing Joe Biden with enough electoral votes to win has not changed.

I voted for President Trump, was a co-chair of his campaign in Ohio, and I believe his policies would be better for Ohio and the country. But I also believe that there is no more sacred constitutional process in our great democracy than the orderly transfer of power after a presidential election. It is now time to expeditiously resolve any outstanding questions and move forward.

Portman’s op-ed is the latest indication that Republican lawmakers are slowly coming around to accepting the reality of Biden’s victory and imminent inauguration, even as the president continues to peddle baseless claims of election fraud.

4.13pm GMT

Joe Biden has announced two more senior staff appointments, as the president-elect continues to build out his White House team.

The Biden transition team announced that Reema Dodin and Shuwanza Goff would serve as deputy directors of the White House office of legislative affairs.

Both Dodin and Goff come from Capitol Hill. Dodin currently serves as deputy chief of staff and floor director to Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin, and Goff was previously the floor director for House majority leader Steny Hoyer, making her the first Black woman to hold the role.

A Politico reporter said Biden has done an impressive job building out a strong legislative affairs team, as the president-elect faces the possibility of a Republican-controlled Senate:

Updated at 8.14pm GMT

3.58pm GMT

The lawyer leading Donald Trump’s legal efforts in Wisconsin could have his own ballot tossed out if judges accept his widely disputed definition of illegal voting.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the story:

Jim Troupis, a former Dane County judge and Cross Plains attorney who is representing the Trump campaign, would not answer questions about why he and his wife voted that way.

Troupis and his wife voted early using the state’s in-person absentee option — one of a group of voters whose ballots the Trump campaign has asked election officials to deem illegal.

Their names appeared on exhibits Troupis submitted to the Dane County Board of Canvassers on Sunday, during the county’s third day of retallying ballots. The exhibits include lists of voters who voted in a manner the campaign alleges is illegal, an argument the Board of Canvassers has rejected. The information was provided by Dane County to both campaigns.

Wisconsin is conducting a recount of the Democratic-leaning Milwaukee and Dane counties, as requested by the Trump campaign, after election officials reported that Joe Biden won the state by about 20,600 votes.

3.35pm GMT

More than 100 Republican national security experts have signed on to a letter calling on Donald Trump to concede and begin the formal presidential transition.

The letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post, warns that a delayed transition could pose national security risks to the country.

“We believe that President Trump’s refusal to concede the election and allow for an orderly transition constitutes a serious threat to America’s democratic process and to our national security,” the letter says.

“We therefore call on Republican leaders – especially those in Congress – to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election.”

The letter’s signers include former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, former CIA director Michael Hayden and former director of national intelligence John D. Negroponte.

“The election is over, the outcome certain,” the letter concludes. “It is now time for the rest of the Republican leadership to put politics aside and insist that President Trump cease his dilatory and anti-democratic efforts to undermine the result of the election and begin a smooth and orderly transition of power to President-elect Biden.

“By encouraging President Trump’s delaying tactics or remaining silent, Republican leaders put American democracy and national security at risk.”

3.13pm GMT

Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has up to 90% efficacy

The Guardian’s Sarah Boseley and Ian Sample report:

In case you missed it this morning: The Covid vaccine developed in the UK by Oxford University and AstraZeneca can protect 70.4% of people from becoming ill and – in a surprise result – up to 90% if a lower first dose is used, results from the final trial show.

The Oxford vaccine is the third to produce efficacy results, following Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna whose vaccines were made with a different technology. Both of those reported almost 95% efficacy and Pfizer has applied for a licence in the US and UK.

While the Oxford results may not immediately look so good, the scientists say they are not comparable, because they have included people who become mildly ill as well as seriously ill, unlike the other two. Their vaccine has some big advantages, because it is fridge-stable so easily transported and used anywhere in the world. It is also substantially cheaper, at about £3 a dose instead of more than £20 for the others.

The UK has pre-ordered 100m doses of the Oxford vaccine, which is central to its pandemic vaccination plans. Production has already begun and 4m doses have been supplied so far, which cannot be used until the vaccine is licensed.

Importantly, Oxford/AstraZeneca have already shown that the vaccine works as well in older people as in younger groups and is safe. There are early indications it might also help stop transmission of the disease.

2.57pm GMT

One Republican congressman from Georgia voiced support for Donald Trump’s request that the state conduct a recount, including signature verification, even though the state already completed a full hand recount.

Congressman Buddy Carter said in a tweet, “I fully support @realDonaldTrump request for a recount in Georgia that includes matching and verifying signatures. As I have been saying – all Georgians deserve a fair and transparent election. The state has to get this right.”

However, a Georgia recount would not include signature verifications, as that process has already been completed.

The Trump campaign has already requested a recount in Georgia, meaning the state’s nearly 5 million ballots will be tabulated for a third time by placing them through a scanner.

Georgia election officials completed their hand recount on Friday, and Joe Biden ended up with a 12,670-vote lead over Trump.

2.31pm GMT

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Martin Belam.

Here’s what the blog is keeping an eye on today: president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris will hold a virtual meeting with the US conference of mayors in Wilmington, Delaware.

Donald Trump once again has no events on his public schedule, as the president has kept a very low profile since Biden was declared the winner of the election. Even Trump’s Twitter feed has been eerily quiet this morning.

But that might change as the events of the day unfold. The Michigan board of state canvassers is scheduled to meet today to certify the results of its election, but the board’s Republican members are facing pressure to delay the certification, as the president and his allies peddle baseless claims of election fraud.

That’s all still coming up, so stay tuned.

1.55pm GMT

Nic Robertson at CNN has this analysis of Trump’s tribulations over the weekend with the G20:

As stage exits go Donald Trump’s departure was something of a whimper, the US President leaving the top table of global G20 leaders to play golf. As his time in office draws to a close, despite his refusal to publicly accept the reality of the US election results, the combined unspoken message from the world’s leaders is: don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Evidence of the shifting attitude toward the outgoing US administration came from the lips of Saudi’s Minister of Investment, Khalid al-Falih. “When the world needed leadership [to combat Covid-19] there was none,” he said. The G20 had stepped up because some nations “turned inwards towards nationalism.” Al-Falih didn’t mention Trump by name. He didn’t need to; his audience understood.

As leaders spoke of the importance of sharing and working together to accelerate Covid-19 testing, treatments and vaccines for all, the White House struck a starkly different tone. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement: “President Trump highlighted how the United States marshalled every resource at its disposal to respond to the crisis, as well as the unprecedented economic recovery.”

At the virtual public panel, previous speakers praised the 2015 Paris Climate Change Accord. Trump, on the other hand, declared it a plan to kill America. “The Paris accord was not designed to save the environment, it was designed to kill the American economy,” he said in a pre-recorded speech from the Diplomatic Room at the White House. In a room full of reporters and officials in Riyadh, as Trump’s speech was played on a massive screen almost no one paid attention

Read more here: CNN – Donald Trump has left the world stage. Few will miss him

1.40pm GMT

It has been a long time coming but Hector Rivera is hopeful that one day soon he will be able to take a day off work. The 61-year-old works as a janitor in Miami, Florida, making just over an hour. Because the pay is so low, Rivera works two janitorial jobs and scrambles to find gig jobs on the weekends in order to cover his rent and bills every month.

On 3 November Rivera, and the millions of Americans fighting for a raise for low-wage workers, were given a boost when Florida passed a resolution to increase its minimum wage to an hour.

Raising the minimum wage was a central plank of Joe Biden’s election campaign and Florida’s vote came even as the state voted for Donald Trump. But while workers and activists are cheering the victory, the road ahead for Biden and a raise in the minimum wage looks tough.

It’s been eight years since fast-food workers walked off their jobs in New York City and began calling for a minimum wage. In that time the Fight for movement grew to be the largest protest movement for low-wage workers in US history and has won some important victories.

Florida is the first state in the south and the eighth state overall to adopt such a measure. And some big corporations including Amazon, Target and Walt Disney have raised, or promised to raise, their minimum wages to .

After Biden’s win, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a longtime supporter of the movement, urged the incoming Biden administration to use all the “tools in their toolbox” to push a raise through and Biden has promised to back unions who are also pushing hard for a statewide raise for low-wage workers.

But many Republicans still oppose the rise and, without control of the Senate, Biden may struggle to pass the first increase in the federal minimum wage in 11 years. In Florida the amendment was strongly opposed by Republicans, including Governor Ron DeSantis, who claimed raising the minimum wage would eliminate jobs and hurt businesses. The Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, blocked a raise in 2019.

Read more of Michael Sainato’s report from Florida here: Fight for minimum wage boosted in Florida but Biden faces tough task

1.34pm GMT

Over at the New Yorker, Charles Bethea has written up his stint observing the Georgia recount as if it was a spectator sport. And a very dull one at that…

The counting, which began on a Friday, was a sprawling affair, a television-unfriendly November Madness occurring simultaneously across Georgia’s hundred and fifty-nine counties, from a probate court in Peach County to a former Sam’s Club in DeKalb. The main action was in Atlanta, in Fulton County, where about a tenth of the state’s votes were cast. By Saturday morning, a hundred and fifty tables at the Georgia World Congress Center—the Peach State’s Roland-Garros of recounting—were staffed with masked-up counters. Observers hung around on the sidelines, speaking in mid-match whispers. “She’s fast,” one said, pointing to a woman at Table 113, who was tallying, stacking, and re-tallying with unusual speed. “Fast isn’t the goal,” someone else said.

His report is full of wonderful littler character sketches:

Over in the nosebleed section sat Marilyn Marks, an election-integrity activist wearing a colorful scarf, who’d come down from North Carolina. She was tweeting on her laptop. “This is a Frankenstein illicit audit,” she told an observer. “A big, muddled mess.” She offered her monocular, which she used to get a closer look at the action.

A man sat down next to Marks, looking overheated. Marks was paying him to help her observe, and to capture “problems with the process” with his long-lens camera, to be used in an ongoing lawsuit about the accuracy of state voting machines. “I saw unattended ballots,” Hursti said. “They were blank. Non-malicious—but just wrong.” He compared the US to Estonia and Indonesia, where he has also observed elections. “One of the worst on earth,” he said. Marks pointed to a man hunched over a computer. She was concerned about digital security; he was inputting official table tallies. “He’s using the Wi-Fi,” Hursti noted. “Not smart.”

Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican and Trump supporter, on Friday certified the results which showed Joe Biden won the state by just over 12,600 votes after the manual recount and audit were conducted.

Read more here: The New Yorker – In Georgia, the dullest spectator sport in the world

1.11pm GMT

Kate Kelly and Danny Hakim have this for the New York Times this morning on plans afoot to try and force Donald Trump’s hand into recognising the scale of his election defeat, and to get Joe Biden’s victory recognised so that an orderly transition of power can take place. They write:

Concerned that president Trump’s refusal to accept the election results is hurting the country, more than 100 chief executives plan to ask the administration on Monday to immediately acknowledge Joe Biden as the winner and begin the transition to a new administration.

As a way of gaining leverage over the GOP, some of the executives have also discussed withholding campaign donations from the two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia unless party leaders agree to push for a presidential transition, according to four people who participated in a conference call Friday in which the notion was discussed. The two runoff elections in Georgia, which will take place in early January, will determine the balance of power in the United States Senate.

In a letter they plan to send Monday, business leaders will demand that Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, issue a letter of ascertainment affirming that Biden and vice President-elect Kamala Harris have won the election. Murphy has so far resisted calls to begin the normal transition planning, which includes providing resources and money to an incoming administration as it prepares to take control.

“Every day that an orderly presidential transition process is delayed, our democracy grows weaker in the eyes of our own citizens and the nation’s stature on the global stage is diminished,” the executives write in the letter, a draft of which was reviewed by The New York Times. “Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk.”

Read more here: New York Times – Business leaders, citing damage to country, urge Trump to begin transition

12.59pm GMT

More Americans hospitalised with Covid than ever before ahead of Thanksgiving

More people are hospitalised with Covid-19 in the US than ever before, as cases continue to rise steeply amid the countdown to a Thanksgiving holiday many fear will have disastrous effect, given mass travel and indoor family gatherings.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US recorded 142,732 new cases on Sunday, down from the record high of Friday, when more than 196,000 cases were recorded. But 83,870 people were hospitalised, a record, while 921 people died. The total death toll is now 256,589.

On Friday, 1,448 people died – the equivalent of one death every minute.

In Washington, Donald Trump has faced criticism for a lack of action. The lame duck president played golf on Sunday. On Monday he had no events on his public schedule.

In Wilmington, Delaware, where Joe Biden continues to plan for the transition of power, the president-elect was due to hold a virtual meeting with the US Conference of Mayors. Biden spoke to governors last week.

Despite news of impending vaccines, states across the US are feeling the strain. In just one example, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s front page headline on Monday was: “No beds anywhere: hospitals strained to limit by virus.” The paper reported 7,219 new cases and 41 deaths and said demand for testing was surging.

Resources are also strained in states which saw early peaks and are now experiencing a resurgence. In New York, where schools are closed again, the Wall Street Journal reported that hundreds of bodies from the spring surge were still in refrigerated morgues on the Brooklyn waterfront.

Citing the city’s medical examiner, the Journal said many of the bodies “are of people whose families can’t be located or can’t afford a proper burial”. Mayor Bill de Blasio ruled out mass burials after controversy early in the pandemic.

In Nevada, Democratic governor Steve Sisolak, having tested positive himself earlier this month, announced new restrictions on casinos, restaurants and bars and other public venues, while imposing a broader mask mandate.

“Whether you believe in the science of Covid or not,” he said, “the reality is this – Covid is filling up our hospital beds, and that threatens all Nevadans.”

Read more of Martin Pengelly’s report here: More Americans hospitalised with Covid than ever before ahead of Thanksgiving

12.55pm GMT

Julia Preston of the Marshall Project has this for us today, on the huge task facing Joe Biden to undo four years of cruel immigration policy descisions by the Donald Trump administration. She writes:

In one beating, the woman from El Salvador told the immigration judge, her boyfriend’s punches disfigured her jaw and knocked out two front teeth. After raping her, he forced her to have his name tattooed in jagged letters on her back, boasting that he was marking her with his brand.

The judge seemed moved by her testimony. In the hearing in September in the Baltimore immigration court, he found that the woman’s terror of going back to her country, where she said the boyfriend was lying in wait, was credible. But he swiftly denied her asylum claim, saying the danger she faced did not fit any definition of persecution under current interpretations of American law.

The outcome for the woman, identified in her confidential asylum case as L M, was the result of a decision in 2018 by President Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Setting aside two decades of precedent, Sessions ruled that domestic violence and most gang violence could not be the basis for asylum.

As president-elect Joe Biden moves deliberately to transition towards the White House, even while Trump refuses to accept defeat, he has laid out a fast-paced agenda to unwind Trump’s harsh immigration policies. But even if Biden quickly orders a final end to family separations and re-opens the border for asylum-seekers, his plans could stall without action at the justice department, which holds extensive power over the immigration system.

To carry out Biden’s proposals, his attorney general will have to reverse decisions by Sessions and Attorney General William Barr that sharply limited asylum, particularly for people like L M who are fleeing from Central America. Biden’s justice officials will have to contend with an immigration appeals court loaded by Barr with conservative judges known for denying asylum.

Read more here: ‘Wreckage everywhere’: can Biden undo Trump’s harsh immigration policies?

12.49pm GMT

Just a quick snap from Associated Press here that Rep. Bryan Steil has become the latest Republican lawmaker to test positive for Covid-19. He represents Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district.

The congressman said he began experiencing mild symptoms over the weekend and contacted his health care provider while at home in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Rep. Bryan Steil speaking at a campaign rally prior to the election.
Rep. Bryan Steil speaking at a campaign rally prior to the election.
Photograph: Morry Gash/AP

Steil said he spent all of last week working in Washington, DC.

“Following CDC guidelines, I am immediately quarantining and will continue serving the people of Southeast Wisconsin from my home in Janesville,” he said.

12.41pm GMT

Axios this morning are reporting that one of Trump’s close allies – Blackstone chairman, CEO and co-founder Steve Schwarzman – has said that the president has lost the election. They write:

It’s all theatrics now. Even if Trump doesn’t move on fast, you can. Schwarzman said in a statement to Axios that Biden won and it’s time to move on. “I’m a fan of good process. In my comments three days after the election, I was trying to be a voice of reason and express why it’s in the national interest to have all Americans believe the election is being resolved correctly. But the outcome is very certain today, and the country should move on.

“I supported President Trump and the strong economic path he built. Like many in the business community, I am ready to help President-elect Biden and his team as they confront the significant challenges of rebuilding our post-COVID economy.”

Read more here: Axios – Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman says Trump lost

12.34pm GMT

Grace Segers and Lacrai Mitchell have this for CBS News on the crucial Georgia Senate races coming up in the new year.

This will be the first time there’s been a Senate runoff in Georgia since 2008. According to Kantar/CMAG data, nearly 5 million will be spent on the runoffs on TV and radio ads since election day by candidates and outside groups. The candidate spending the most is Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff with more than million, followed by Republican Kelly Loeffler with million. Her opponent Rev. Raphael Warnock has spent .9m with David Perdue spending .8 million.

Joe Biden’s projected win in Georgia was the first time the state flipped blue in a presidential contest since the state voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, and gave Democrats in the state a jolt of enthusiasm ahead of the January runoffs. But it also served as a siren for state Republicans, who will now have to keep their base motivated without Trump at the top of the ticket. Although Trump has not yet conceded the election, most Republicans recognize that they will need to win at least one of the Georgia Senate races to act as a check upon the Biden administration.

In a statement to CBS News, Georgia Republican Party spokesperson Abigail Sigler said the state party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee were working with the Perdue and Loeffler campaigns to build a “massive field operation.”

“We are working around the clock to ensure voters understand they have a clear choice: they can elect radical liberals who will be rubber stamps for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s agenda or they can send two conservative outsiders to fight for their Georgia values,” Sigler said.

Read more here: CBS News – Both parties rev up campaigns for crucial Georgia Senate runoffs

12.19pm GMT

If you fancy something to get your ears around, then I can highly recommend today’s Today in Focus podcast.

Black and Latino voters overwhelmingly favoured the Democrats in the 2020 US election. Without their huge margins in key states, Joe Biden could not have won, Gary Younge tells host Anushka Asthana. By 2045, white voters will be in the minority. These changing demographics are a concern for the Republican party. In 2013, just a year after turnout rates for black voters surpassed those for white voters for the first time, the supreme court gutted the Voting Rights Act, which affected poor, young and minority voters.

It’s important to remember, Gary tells Anushka, that the US was a slave state for more than 200 years; and an apartheid state, after the abolition of slavery, for another century. It has only been a non-racial democracy for 55 years. And that now hangs in the balance. If Biden does not produce something transformative, the disillusionment among voters may grow and people may once again look for someone who can disrupt the status quo, which is how Donald Trump won in 2016.

12.17pm GMT

By the way, whoever Joe Biden ends up announcing in his cabinet this week, I think we can be fairly certain it isn’t going to be this fantasy line-up from Fox News.

12.14pm GMT

Trump planning to veto defense bill over proposals to remove Confederate names from bases – reports

While Donald Trump may be heading slowly and reluctantly to the White House door marked ‘one-term president exit’, he’s still in charge until 20 January, and NBC News are reporting on one of the things he is threatening to do before then – veto the defense bill over proposals to rename military bases that currently honor those who fought against the United States army as Confederates.

President Donald Trump is threatening to veto legislation to fund the military as one of his final acts in office unless a widely supported, bipartisan provision to rename military bases honoring Confederate military leaders is removed, according to White House, defense and congressional sources.

Trump’s stance has put in doubt legislation that had been agreed to by Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate. While some Republicans are now shifting their positions to align with Trump, Democrats are refusing to budge on the agreed-to amendment, threatening passage of the legislation.

The effort to change the names of military bases honoring Confederate military leaders has been a target for Trump for months. It was among the disagreements he had with his former defense secretary Mark Esper, who was quietly working with Congress to codify the renaming of bases in the bill before Trump fired him this month.

Both chambers overwhelmingly passed a provision that would change the names of Confederate-named bases as part of their defense bills. But the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, James Inhofe, indicated that he’s gotten the message from Trump, and he called it a “big issue” of contention in negotiations with Democrats.

Read more here: NBC News – Trump set on veto of defense bill over renaming bases honoring Confederates

12.07pm GMT

“My experience dealing with Covid-19 in South Dakota is one of failed leadership. Our governor has made it clear it’s up to the people, so we have to come up with creative ideas to help stop the spread.”

Those are the words of physician Nancy Babbitt, lamenting the heightened risks vulnerable residents are facing amid state governor Kristi Noem’s determinedly hands-off pandemic policy – including being the only state without a mask mandate to curb infection. Talli Nauman has been in Rapid City, South Dakota, for us.

South Dakota has an alarming positivity rate of almost 60% – nearly six out of 10 people who take a Covid test are infected – second only in the US to neighboring Wyoming.

More than 66,000 South Dakotans have contracted the disease and at least 644 have died, a number likely to rise as hospitals reach breaking point.

The South Dakota Medical Association has issued a statement in support of a mask mandate. The state’s largest city of Sioux Falls put one into effect, and the second largest, Rapid City, is awaiting a final council vote.

With USA Today newspaper headlines reporting earlier this month that South and North Dakota are in a situation “as bad as it gets anywhere in the world for Covid-19”, Noem held her first pandemic media availability in three months, firing back: “That is absolutely false” and citing different data sources.

Read more of Talli Nauman’s report here: South Dakota gripped by pandemic amid Kristi Noem’s no-mask approach

11.49am GMT

Several news outlets this morning are reporting case studies of families that have recently held large gatherings that have turned into Covid-spreading events. It’s a real concern in the run-up to Thanksgiving. For the Washington Post today, the case study is Enriqueta Aragonez:

Reclined on a hospital bed in Arlington, Texas, with plastic tubes snaking from her nose and pneumonia in both of her lungs, the 57-year-old had a message for everyone doubting the need for covid-19 restrictions.

“I went to my nephew’s house and loved seeing my family but now, I’m fighting against covid-19,” Aragonez said in a video message. “Please protect yourself. It’s real.”

Aragonez is one of 15 family members who contracted the coronavirus after a small indoor birthday celebration earlier this month where no one wore masks. Weeks later, in an emotional video shared by the City of Arlington, the family is begging others to avoid gathering with anyone outside their immediate household.

“Of course we regret getting together but we all have in mind that this could be a lesson for all of us,” Alexa Aragonez, Enriqueta’s daughter, told the Washington Post on Sunday. “One moment of carelessness has cost us a month of peace, has cost us sleep, has cost us laughs, has cost us a lot of money.”

Read it here: Washington Post – A birthday lunch left 15 Texas relatives battling covid-19: ‘Please don’t be like my family’

11.32am GMT

Doctors, nurses, infectious disease experts and hospital leaders have united in warning Americans against traveling or gathering in large groups for Thanksgiving, a US holiday traditionally marked by bringing extended family and friends around a dinner table.

Experts and frontline workers are fearful such events will cause an explosion of new Covid-19 cases, which could overburden hospitals struggling to recruit nurses amid an “exponential” rise in cases.

“Looking at the landscape right now and the number of people who are still set on having larger, multi-household, in-person Thanksgiving dinners, one can only assume that the current trend of new Covid cases will continue to increase,” said Dr Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

If people move forward with such Thanksgiving plans, Gonsenhauser anticipates it would extend the public health crisis “to the point of requiring strict lockdowns just in time for the Christmas holiday”. Several experts said they had canceled plans and limited their own celebrations strictly to members of their own household.

“In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly,” the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association said in an open letter to the American public. The letter urged Americans to have “scaled-back” celebrations, and to wear masks, wash hands and social distance.

“We must protect the doctors, nurses and other caregivers who have tirelessly battled this virus for months,” the letter said. “You can do your part to ensure they can continue to care for you and your loved ones.”

Read more of Jessica Glenza’s report here: Healthcare workers urge Americans to ‘scale back’ Thanksgiving gatherings

11.22am GMT

Yesterday CNN reported that the head of the US coronavirus vaccine program, Moncef Slaoui, said the first Americans to receive a vaccine could get it as soon as 11 December.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunisation sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I expect maybe on day two after approval on the 11th or the 12th of December.”

There were 142,732 new coronavirus cases and 921 more deaths recorded in the US yesterday.

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Nurses are planning today to hold a virtual press conference to brief the nation on the challenges they are facing during the current Covid surge. The online event, at 1pm ET, is being organised by National Nurses United.

They say that nurses from a number of overwhelmed, hotspot areas across the country – including Minnesota, Illinois, Florida, Michigan, and Texas – will share their current experiences and challenges caring for Covid patients. These include accessing optimal personal protective equipment (PPE), getting tested, having the resources and staffing levels they need to provide safe care, getting notified when they have been exposed, being allowed to quarantine at home without loss of income when sick or exposed, and pressuring their hospital employers to practice proper infection control.

“With the infection numbers we are seeing now, we are on trajectory to see an unprecedented – and even cataclysmic – level of death and suffering if we don’t immediately correct course,” said Bonnie Castillo, executive director of NNU. “Nurses are calling on our elected officials, government agencies, our hospital employers, and the public to implement the science-based infection control measures that we have been demanding since the beginning of this pandemic.”

11.01am GMT

It was a deceptively low-key occasion on Capitol Hill: an older man in a dark suit, talking into a TV camera about an energy report.

According to his firm’s 362-page analysis, the fastest path to California’s climate goals included continuing to rely on fossil fuels. The analysis was funded by gas companies and groups related to them, but he wasn’t a lobbyist or industry consultant. Quite the opposite, he was the Obama administration’s well-respected energy secretary, Ernest Moniz.

Ernest Moniz during a meeting.
Ernest Moniz during a meeting.
Photograph: Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

“We certainly have to get beyond … the climate deniers,” he said in the April 2019 interview with C-SPAN. “But we also have to get beyond what we think are often completely unrealistic proposals for the pace at which we can decarbonize.” Fighting climate change at the pace needed would require a “broad coalition,” he said – one that included the oil and gas industry.

Moniz was wading into a dispute that will define how the new Biden administration tackles the crisis: can oil and gas companies be part of the solution? Or have they proven, with years of disinformation campaigns and efforts to slow climate action, that they will always stand in the way?

As the Biden transition team wrestles with this question, it is already facing pressure from activists not to hire more people with fossil fuel ties, like Louisiana congressman Cedric Richmond, who will join Biden’s White House as a top adviser.

Collin Rees, a senior campaigner for Oil Change International said Moniz’s links to fossil fuels aren’t “a blip on his resume”.

“It is his entire professional career for the last couple decades, which is deeply concerning,” Rees said.

Read more of Emily Holden’s report from Washington here: Why is Joe Biden considering this man to help fight the climate crisis?

10.55am GMT

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler has this fact-checker of some of Rudy Giuliani’s most egregious claims of voter fraud.

Yesterday Giuliani tweeted “Want evidence of fraud. In 70% of Wayne County, Detroit, there were PHANTOM VOTERS. There were more votes than registered voters. 120%, 150%, 200%, even 300%.”

As Kessler points out, this claim has been throughly debunked already, and the origins of it appear to be mistakes by Trump’s own legal team. He writes:

Power Line, a conservative website, pointed out something very odd about the affidavit that made this claim. [It] pointed out that the precincts that were listed in the affidavit were from Minnesota, not Michigan. Someone had apparently mixed up two states that started with “Mi.” The precincts were not in Wayne County but in some of the reddest parts of Minnesota.

Our colleague Aaron Blake further dug into the data and found that even in those Minnesota precincts, the data in the affidavit was off. Minnesota has same-day registration and very high turnout rates. Blake determined that the number of voters matched the number of votes cast. He speculated that the affidavit might have been relying upon incomplete “estimated voters” data from the Minnesota secretary of state in the days after the election.

Finally, the affidavit has a quote from a Princeton University professor raising concerns about a particular type of Dominion voting machine, suggesting this was what was used in Wayne County. But Blake confirmed that the counties in Minnesota in question did not use Dominion machines.

Read more here: Washington Post – Giuliani keeps peddling debunked falsehoods on behalf of Trump

10.48am GMT

Nothing appears able to deter president Donald Trump from spreading disinformation about the election on social media. He was at it again overnight, promising his supporters victory after making a series of spurious claims. Twitter, as is usual for the social media platform, labelled the tweet as misleading, and then still allowed it to be retweeted over 34,000 times.

Trump was photographed at the weekend as he skipped the G20 summit’s “Pandemic Preparedness” event to visit one of his golf clubs. The event was on the same day that a record 195,500 new Covid-19 infections were reported in a 24-hour period in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins university.

Trump golfs at the Trump National Golf Club on November 22.
Trump golfs at the Trump National Golf Club on November 22.
Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

10.41am GMT

CNN have this morning published this analysis of the slight movement away from supporting Trump’s attempts to subvert democracy by a handful of Republicans. Stephen Collinson writes:

Trump’s effort to overturn the election he lost is being increasingly undermined by the inanity of his legal claims and is causing some high-profile Republicans to peel off even with most of his party mute amid his constitutional arson.

The president’s legal team, ruining time-honored traditions of a peaceful transfer of power, is firing off long-shot court challenges and heaping pressure on state election officials. The spectacle has some senior Republicans ready to call time. “It’s over,” GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan said on CNN’s Inside Politics Sunday. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a frequent Trump critic, said on CNN’s State of the Union that Trump’s behavior was akin to that seen in a “banana republic.” And even Trump’s friend, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaking on ABC News’ This Week, branded Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his cohorts a “national embarrassment.”

A critical point, however, may be nearing in the confrontation between the administration and the president-elect’s team over Trump’s refusal to initiate a transition, with vote certifications due Monday in Michigan and in most counties in Pennsylvania.

If local officials move ahead – despite the interference of a White House flinging baseless claims of mass fraud – they will effectively confirm yet again Biden’s capture of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Trump’s position will therefore become less tenable even if he refuses to back away from false claims that he won on 3 November.

Read more here: CNN – More Republicans are losing patience with Trump’s legal absurdities

10.37am GMT

Trump legal team member Sidney Powell made headlines with her statements at last Thursday’s news conference where, joined by fellow Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, she incorrectly suggested that a server hosting evidence of voting irregularities was located in Germany, that voting software used by Georgia and other states was created at the direction of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, and that votes for Trump had probably been switched in favour of Biden. All nonsense.

Much of this was over-shadowed because everybody was fixated on what was happening with with Giuliani’s hair.

Giuliani and Ellis have now distanced themselves from Powell, issuing a statement saying “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump legal team. She is also not a lawyer for the president in his personal capacity.”

Read more here: Trump campaign cuts ties with attorney Sidney Powell after bizarre election fraud claims

10.28am GMT

Israeli PM Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia to meet Mohammed bin Salman and Pompeo – reports

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and visiting US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, Israel’s Kan public radio and Army Radio said on Monday.

Reuters report that if confirmed, it would be the first publicly acknowledged trip by an Israeli leader to ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia,which has traditionally championed the Palestinian cause and shunned all official contacts with Israel.

Netanyahu was joined on his Saudi trip by Mossad director Joseph Cohen, who has spearheaded discreet diplomatic outreach to Gulf Arab states, said the Israeli media reports, quoting unidentified Israeli officials.

Riyadh has so far declined to normalise ties with Israel. But since August it has allowed Israeli airliners to overfly Saudi territory to newly available Gulf destinations and Asia.

As Donald Trump’s term winds down, Pompeo has been trying to coax the Gulf powerhouse to follow its neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in establishing formal relations with Israel.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo boards a plane at Neom Bay Airport in Neom, Saudi Arabia, on November 22.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo boards a plane at Neom Bay Airport in Neom, Saudi Arabia, on November 22.
Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AFP/Getty Images

Netanyahu’s office and the US Embassy in Jerusalem have made no immediate comment on the reports. Saudi state media made no mention of any visit by Netanyahu, and the Saudi government’s media office did not immediately respond to Reuters queries.

The rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf states is built largely on shared concerns about Iran – and, potentially, about whether president-elect Joe Biden will review Washington’s regional policies.

10.11am GMT

After reports first emerged on Sunday night that Antony Blinken would be US secretary of state in the Biden administration, one particular interview from his past began circulating on social media.

It was a September 2016 conversation with Grover, a character from Sesame Street, on the subject of refugees, directed at American children who might have new classmates from faraway countries.

“We all have something to learn and gain from one another even when it doesn’t seem at first like we have much in common,” Blinken told the fuzzy blue puppet.

After four years of an administration that has separated migrant children from their parents and kept them in cages, Blinken’s arrival at the state department will mark a dramatic change, to say the least.

While Mike Pompeo has remained a domestic politician throughout his tenure as secretary of state, giving the lion’s share of his interviews to conservative radio stations in the midwest, for example, Blinken is very much a born internationalist.

He went to school in Paris, where he learned to play the guitar and play football (soccer), and harboured dreams of becoming a film-maker. Before entering the White House under Barack Obama, he used to play in a weekly soccer game with US officials, foreign diplomats and journalists, and he has two singles, love songs titled Lip Service and Patience, uploaded on Spotify.

All those contacts and the urbane bilingual charm will be targeted at soothing the frayed nerves of western allies, reassuring them that the US is back as a conventional team player. The foreign policy priorities in the first days of a Biden administration will be rejoining treaties and agreements that Donald Trump left.

Read more of Julian Borger’s profile of Antony Blinken here: Antony Blinken – Biden’s secretary of state nominee is sharp break with Trump era

10.07am GMT

Biden to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to UN

The US president-elect, Joe Biden, will nominate the veteran diplomat Antony Blinken as his secretary of state and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the UN, moving forward on his campaign pledge to restore the US as a leader on the global stage and rely on experts.

Blinken and Thomas-Greenfield bring deep foreign policy backgrounds to the nascent administration while providing a sharp contrast with Donald Trump, who distrusted such experience and embraced an “America First” policy that strained longstanding US relationships.

Antony Blinken, pictured in 2016.
Antony Blinken, pictured in 2016.
Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Blinken could be named as early as Tuesday, according to sources close to Biden, while Axios first reported Thomas-Greenfield’s impending nomination.

Blinken’s appointment made another longtime Biden aide and foreign policy veteran, Jake Sullivan, the top candidate to be US national security adviser, a source told Reuters.

Linda Thomas-Greenfields speaking in March 2020.
Linda Thomas-Greenfields speaking in March 2020.
Photograph: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

Thomas-Greenfield, served as the assistant secretary of state for Africa under Obama, and Axios reported that her appointment was intended to restore morale and help fulfill Biden’s pledge to choose a more diverse cabinet than Donald Trump’s.

Updated at 10.12am GMT

10.01am GMT

Welcome to our live coverage of US politics. Joe Biden is setting up his cabinet in preparation for becoming president on 20 January, even while Donald Trump continues to deny the result and pledges victory to his supporters. Here’s a quick catch up on where we are, and what we can expect to see today.

  • Joe Biden to expected to nominate Antony Blinken as his secretary of state. The veteran diplomat may be named as early as Tuesday. It will mark a sharp break with the Trump era. Blinken is a longtime Biden confidant who served as No 2 at the state department and as deputy national security adviser in Barack Obama’s administration.
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield is expected to be named as ambassador to the UN, moving forward on Biden’s campaign pledge to restore the US as a leader on the global stage and rely on experts. Thomas-Greenfield served as the assistant secretary of state for Africa under Obama.
  • Israel’s Haaretz newspaper has reported that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday, and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and visiting US secretary of state Mike Pompeo there.
  • The Trump legal campaign – or at least Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis – have distanced themselves from attorney Sidney Powell after her bizarre election fraud claims. Powell’s raft of incorrect claims include that Georgia’s voting software was created at the behest of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
  • Nevertheless, overnight president Donald Trump has again been tweeting election disinformation and claiming “We will win!”. Joe Biden’s total vote lead over Trump in the popular vote is now more than six million.
  • Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have joined the ranks of Republicans breaking ranks with Trump’s attempts to undermine the election result.
  • There were 142,732 new coronavirus cases and 921 more deaths recorded in the US yesterday. Healthcare workers are urging Americans to ‘scale back’ Thanksgiving gatherings.
  • In El Paso, inmates have been used to help move bodies into morgues as Covid deaths soar.
  • A Trump supporter who exhaled over women during protests has been charged with assault. Video showed Deskins blowing air on two unidentified women after one of them asked him to get away and pointed out that he’s not wearing a mask amid the Covid pandemic.
  • President Donald Trump has no public engagements in his diary again. President-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris will meet virtually with the US conference of mayors.

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