Coronavirus latest news: Faith leaders play 'vital role' in combating vaccine hesitancy, says Robert Jenrick

Sarah Newey
·55-min read
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

05:33 PM

Faith leaders play 'vital role' in combating vaccine hesitancy, says Robert Jenrick

Religious leaders have a "vital role" to play in combating vaccine hesitancy, the Communities Secretary has said, as he visited the UK's first vaccination centre in a mosque.

Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, is the one of dozens of new sites across Britain offering Covid-19 vaccinations.

"It is absolutely brilliant to see faith communities like this stepping up and playing their part in the vaccine programme," Mr Jenrick said.

"We have to build trust, ensure that we counter misinformation and ensure that everyone, regardless of their faith, regardless of what community they're from, gets access to the programme."

Earlier this week, Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire was fashioned into a vaccination centre which faith leaders said offered "a sign of hope" to the community.

Meanwhile, Lichfield Cathedral - Britain's oldest three-spired cathedral - in Staffordshire, was dubbed "the most glamorous vaccine centre in Britain" by the city's MP.

Mr Jenrick's comments come as daily figures show that a total of 5,526,071 vaccine doses have been administered in England, but London is still lagging behind other regions.

Since December 8 just over 600,000 jabs have been given in the capital city, compared to more than a million in the Midlands and 904,622 in North East and Yorkshire (see post at 3:51pm for a full breakdown).

05:27 PM

‘We lost our parents to Covid within seven months of each other’

A video on Nikki Fenton Keidar’s Facebook feed tells the real and harrowing story of Covid, beyond any statistics or graphs.

Called This Is, the thoughtful and understated footage charts Nikki’s grief after she lost both of her beloved parents to the pandemic in the space of seven months.

“This is a restaurant,” she says in the moving four-minute film. “It is a restaurant that my parents used to love, especially my dad. It makes me think of them. It makes me smile. It makes me sad.”

The solemn production by Israel-based photographer Dani Sarusi, watched by thousands online, could not be further removed from the last video that was recorded of Michael and Beryl Fenton in March 2020.

Showing Michael, a retired independent financial adviser, arriving at his surprise 80th party with his wife by his side, the smiling couple appear in good health as their nearest and dearest sing Happy Birthday. Only a month earlier, they had enjoyed a luxury hotel break in Oxford to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.

Yet less than a fortnight after his milestone birthday, Michael died of coronavirus, while Beryl, 71, was left fighting for her life in Watford General Hospital.

Camilla Tominey tells the haunting story here.

05:23 PM

Guernsey enters lockdown

Guernsey has gone into lockdown following the discovery of four new cases of coronavirus the island's government has said.

The States of Guernsey said in a statement that it was unclear how the individuals concerned had contracted the disease, as none was from travel or from contacts with known cases.

"Contact tracing is continuing to determine whether there is a link between the cases and whether these cases are linked or if this is a result of wider community seeding," the statement said.

The move comes after the island had been free of coronavirus estrictions since early June.

Under the latest measures, islanders have been told to stay home from midday Saturday except for essential shopping, medical care or up to two hours exercise outdoors.

Non-essential shops and restaurants have been ordered to to close, including for deliveries and takeaways.

Schools will also shut, except for children of key workers, or from vulnerable families.

05:18 PM

Matt's take

05:10 PM

Today in brief

Here's a quick summary of everything you need to know today:

  • Senior scientists have expressed disquiet that data showing an increased risk of mortality from the new UK variant of Covid-19 was published before detailed analysis of the findings took place.

  • The British Medical Association has urged the government to cut the gap between doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from 12 weeks to six, amid concerns the UK strategy contradicts international guidance.

  • A scientist advising the Government on the pandemic has called for tighter lockdown restrictions, describing the current rules as "the problem" amid rising infections and deaths.

  • Religious leaders have a "vital role" to play in combating vaccine hesitancy, the Communities Secretary has said, as he visited the UK's first vaccination centre in a mosque.

  • Just under 40 per cent of those aged over 80 in Wales have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to new figures.

  • In England, a total of 5,526,071 vaccine doses have been administered in England, but London is still lagging behind other regions.

  • As of 9am this morning an additional 1,348 fatalities were reported within 28 days of a Covid-19 positive test in the UK and 33,552 new cases.

Elsewhere in the world:

  • Italy will have to rethink its Covid-19 vaccination plans if supply problems persist, a senior health official has said.

  • Support for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has overseen the world's second deadliest coronavirus outbreak, has fallen sharply new polls show, as a brutal second wave and a lack of vaccines sours views of his far-right government.

  • Portugal reported 15,333 coronavirus cases and 274 deaths today, breaking records on both fronts as it struggles to bring a post-Christmas surge in the pandemic under control.

  • Larry King, the American broadcasting veteran who became a household name with his long-running CNN show Larry King Live, died Saturday morning at the age of 87.

  • Meanwhile in Hong Kong, thousands of people have been were ordered to stay in their homes for the city's first lockdown as authorities battle an outbreak in one of its poorest and most densely packed districts.

04:57 PM

Watch: Dog waits for owner outside hospital for days

04:48 PM

Scientists question release of 'more deadly' Covid strain figures

Senior scientists have expressed disquiet that data showing an increased risk of mortality from the new UK variant of Covid-19 was published before detailed analysis of the findings took place.

The data, presented by the Prime Minister at Friday’s Downing Street briefing, showed the new variant may be deadlier than the original strain, with the potential to kill 30 per cent more infected people.

However, several scientists said on Saturday that it was too early to draw “strong conclusions” from the suggested increased mortality rates from the new strain.

Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of Sage subgroup the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), said: "I was actually quite surprised the news had been announced at a news conference. It seems to have gone up a little bit from about 10 people per thousand to about 13, which is quite a small rise but it's based on a relatively small amount of data.

"I would be wanting to wait for a week or two more, monitoring a little bit more before we draw really strong conclusions about this. I just worry that where we report things pre-emptively where the data are not really particularly strong."

Patrick Sawer has more details on this story here.

04:35 PM

Pandemic in pictures

Tokyo, Japan:

A security guard wearing a protective face mask is reflected on the surface of an object, amid the coronavirus outbreak, at an observation deck - REUTERS/Issei Kato
A security guard wearing a protective face mask is reflected on the surface of an object, amid the coronavirus outbreak, at an observation deck - REUTERS/Issei Kato

Solo, Indonesia:

A healthcare worker injects a dose of Sinovac's vaccine to a man dressed in Indonesia's traditional human puppet costume known as 'Wayang', as Indonesia drives mass vaccination for the coronavirus at a hospital in Solo, Central Java province, - Reuters/Antara Foto/Maulana Surya
A healthcare worker injects a dose of Sinovac's vaccine to a man dressed in Indonesia's traditional human puppet costume known as 'Wayang', as Indonesia drives mass vaccination for the coronavirus at a hospital in Solo, Central Java province, - Reuters/Antara Foto/Maulana Surya

Melbourne, Australia:

People wearing personal protective equipment are seen disinfecting a tennis court after a training session at Melbourne Park - JAMES ROSS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People wearing personal protective equipment are seen disinfecting a tennis court after a training session at Melbourne Park - JAMES ROSS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Hong Kong:

A medical worker in a protective suit helps a resident to register at a makeshift community testing centre at Jordan residential area, in Hong Kong - EUTERS/Tyrone Siu
A medical worker in a protective suit helps a resident to register at a makeshift community testing centre at Jordan residential area, in Hong Kong - EUTERS/Tyrone Siu

04:25 PM

1,348 new deaths reported across the UK

As of 9am this morning an additional 1,348 fatalities were reported within 28 days of a Covid-19 positive test in the UK, which compares to 1,295 last Saturday and takes total deaths to 97,329.

The UK also reported an additional 33,552 cases - compared to 41,346 last week.

Here's what the trajectory of Britain's pandemic looks like:

Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - deaths default
Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - deaths default

04:13 PM

South African Covid variant may make vaccines 50 per cent less effective, claims Hancock

The South African Covid variant could make current vaccines 50 per cent less effective, Matt Hancock has claimed.

In video footage of a webinar with travel agents, the Health Secretary warned that the importation of the variant could ruin Britain's vaccination drive and send the country "back to square one" without tough travel restrictions.

Mr Hancock is among a number of ministers pushing for tougher travel restrictions modelled on Australia and New Zealand, which have closed their borders to non-residents and require all returning nationals to quarantine in Government-approved hotels.

Speaking ahead of a Cabinet Covid-O Cabinet meeting at which ministers will consider similar UK border closures and quarantine hotels, Mr Hancock admitted that the data showing the South African variant reduced vaccine efficacy by 50 per cent was not certain "so I wouldn’t say this in public".

Charles Hymas has the full story here.

04:07 PM

Bolsonaro's support falls sharply, but a majority reject impeachment

Support for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has overseen the world's second deadliest coronavirus outbreak, has fallen sharply, a Datafolha poll shows, as a brutal second wave and a lack of vaccines sours views of his far-right government.

However, despite his declining support, a majority of Brazilians are now against him being impeached, a second Datafolha poll found. Both were released late on Friday.

According to one of the polls, Bolsonaro's administration was rated as bad or terrible by 40% of respondents, up from 32% in an early-December survey. Just under a third of respondents rated Bolsonaro's government as good or excellent, versus 37% in the previous poll.

The results are a blow for the president. The Folha de S.Paulo newspaper said they represent the biggest drop in approval since the beginning of his government in 2019.

Brazilians have grown increasingly irate at the slow pace of Brazil's vaccine rollout, which began last weekend but remains blighted with few vaccines to inoculate the country's 210 million people and stall a snowballing second wave.

Pot-banging protests, a hallmark of the early days of the pandemic, even erupted in some cities earlier this month, and both left- and right-wing groups convened pro-impeachment marches across the country this weekend.

And to make matters worse, a new virus variant has appeared in the north of the country that researchers believe is more infectious.

Coronavirus Brazil Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Brazil Spotlight Chart - Cases default

03:43 PM

Italy to rethink vaccine rollout if supply problems persist

Italy will have to rethink its Covid-19 vaccination plans if supply problems persist, a senior health official has said.

The country had already had to cut its daily inoculations by more than two thirds because of delays in deliveries of shots from Pfizer, Franco Locatelli, the head of Italy's higher health council, told a press conference today.

Now that AstraZeneca has also warned of cuts in deliveries to its doses - even as they await clearance for use in the bloc - Italy might have to redraw its national roll out at the end of the month, he said.

Vaccinations in Italy have slowed to 20,000-25,000 a day from peaks of more than 90,000 around two weeks ago.

"The reduction calls for a rethinking of the vaccine rollout we had initially envisaged. We'll have to consider matters towards the end of January," Locatelli said.

He added that Pfizer's vaccination deliveries to Italy were 29% lower this week and would be down 20% next week, though they should return to agreed levels from February 1.

Rome has threatened to sue the Pfizer which said last week it was temporarily slowing supplies to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would boost output.

03:34 PM

Portugal reports record cases and deaths

Portugal reported 15,333 coronavirus cases and 274 deaths today, breaking records on both fronts as it struggles to bring a post-Christmas surge in the pandemic under control.

The country of 10 million people, which fared better than many others in the first wave of the pandemic, now has the world's highest seven-day rolling average of new cases and deaths per million people.

Here's a look at the trajectory of the country's outbreak:

Coronavirus Portugal Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Portugal Spotlight Chart - Cases default

03:21 PM

Vaccination rates by region

Daily figures show that a total of 5,526,071 vaccine doses have been administered in England, but London is still lagging behind other regions. Here's a breakdown:

  • North East and Yorkshire - 832,939 first doses and 71,683 second doses; 904,622 in total

  • North West - 711,594 first doses and 63,401 second doses; 774,995 in total

  • South East - 812,084 first doses and 76,229 second doses; 888,313 in total

  • South West - 571,449 first doses and 53,312 second doses; 624,761 in total

  • East of England - 611,622 first doses and 53,531 second doses; 665,153 in total.

  • London - 545,815 first doses and 54,753 second doses; 600,568 in total.

03:18 PM

Don't talk on the subway, say French doctors

Passengers on public transport systems should avoid talking to one another or on the phone in order to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus, the French National Academy of Medecine said.

"The mandatory wearing of masks on public transport, where social distancing is not possible, should by accompanied by one very simple precaution: avoid talking and making phone calls," the academy said in a statement.

Speaking to BFM TV, academy member Patrick Berche said that if there were only three people in a subway car there was no problem, but if you were only two centimetres away from the next person it made sense not to converse or talk on the phone.

"It is not an obligation, it is a recommendation," he said.

The academy is not an official advisory body. It can respond to government questions but also issues recommendations, which sometimes go against official policy. This includes criticising a recent government recommendation to wear only surgical masks in public, rather than masks made of fabric.

"The proposed tightening of regulation (on masks) is based on a precautionary principle but it lacks scientific proof," the academy said.

It said that fabric or homemade masks were efficient against the spread of coronavirus as long as they were worn correctly and that most infections took place in situations where people took off their masks.

03:04 PM

UK vaccinating roughly 5 per cent of the population each week

02:57 PM

Faith leaders play a 'vital role' in combating vaccine hesitancy, says Robert Jenrick

Faith leaders play a "vital role" in encouraging people to get a coronavirus vaccine, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said, as he visited the UK's first vaccination centre opened in a mosque.

Mr Jenrick met with the imam at Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, as well as the pharmacists and staff who run the vaccination centre and people who received their first dose of the vaccine on Saturday.

The mosque is one of dozens of new sites across the UK offering coronavirus vaccinations, with others to open at Stoneleigh Park near Kenilworth in Warwickshire, Salisbury City Hall in Wiltshire and Bath Racecourse in Somerset next week.

"We have to build trust, ensure that we counter misinformation and ensure that everyone, regardless of their faith, regardless of what community they're from, gets access to the programme," Mr Jenrick said.

Earlier this week, Blackburn Cathedral in Lancashire was fashioned into a vaccination centre which faith leaders said offered "a sign of hope" to the community.

Meanwhile, Lichfield Cathedral - Britain's oldest three-spired cathedral - in Staffordshire, was dubbed "the most glamorous vaccine centre in Britain" by the city's MP.

Mr Jenrick said he hoped to see more vaccination centres open up in cathedrals, synagogues and mosques.

Related: Long memories of 'unequal healthcare' drive vaccine hesitancy in ethnic minorities

02:41 PM

Watch: 'This might be your only chance' - couple marry in ICU while critically-ill with Covid

02:30 PM

Tracking vaccinations: 5,526,071 jabs delivered in England

According to the latest NHS England data, a total of 5,526,071 Covid-19 vaccinations took place in England between December 8 and January 22. This includes first and second doses, and is a rise of 425,596 on Friday's figures.

Of this number, 5,085,771 were the first dose of the vaccine, a rise of 424,478 on Friday's figures, while 440,300 were the second dose, an increase of 1,118.

Meanwhile in Scotland, 380,667 people have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, up by 22,213 from the previous day.

A total of 5,188 people have received their second dose of the vaccine, according to the Scottish Government.

02:27 PM

710 deaths in England and 76 in Scotland

A further 710 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 65,814, NHS England said today.

Patients were aged between 25 and 101. All except 33, aged between 28 and 93, had known underlying health conditions. The deaths were between May 27 and January 22.

There were 36 other deaths reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

Meanwhile Scotland has recorded a further 76 deaths from coronavirus and 1,307 more positive cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest figures.

It brings the total number of deaths recorded under this measure - of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days - to 5,704.

02:19 PM

Ministers urged to look at hardest hit pupils being allowed to repeat school year

Repeating a year of school should be considered by the Government for the hardest hit students, a social mobility expert has said.

The scale of disruption to education that children are now facing means that ministers “absolutely” must look at this, according to Prof Lee Elliot Major who has advised Downing Street on social mobility issues.

His intervention comes after Gavin Williamson said he “certainly hopes” schools will be able to reopen by Easter, amid increasing doubt over whether a return after February half-term will be possible.

As England emerged from the last lockdown, the Government announced it would launch a major £1 billion “catch-up” plan for children who had fallen behind. Ministers said that schools would be given money to hire in-house tutors who could run extra classes for small groups of pupils throughout the academic year.

But with many children sent home to self-isolate at multiple points during the autumn term, combined with the closure of schools this term, it is feared that the catch-up programme has not been able to get off the ground as planned.

Camilla Turner reports.

02:06 PM

American talk-show veteran Larry King dies aged 87

Larry King, the American broadcasting veteran who became a household name with his long-running CNN show Larry King Live, died Saturday morning at the age of 87.

“With profound sadness, Ora Media announces the death of our co-founder, host, and friend Larry King, who passed away this morning at age 87 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles,” reads a statement from King’s official Twitter.

While the cause of death is yet unknown, King had recently been hospitalised for Coronavirus.

“For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television and digital media, Larry’s many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster. Additionally, while it was his name appearing in the shows’ titles," the statement read.

"Larry always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs, and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and audience.

"Whether he was interviewing a U.S. president, foreign leader, celebrity, scandal-ridden personage, or an everyman, Larry liked to ask short, direct, and uncomplicated questions. He believed concise questions usually provided the best answers, and he was not wrong in that belief.”

Larry King - WireImage/Jordan Strauss
Larry King - WireImage/Jordan Strauss

01:55 PM

Vaccine delays may slow wider Irish roll-out, says PM

Ireland may have to slow the mass roll-out of Covid-19 vaccinations, including for the elderly, due to reduced supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine to EU countries, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Saturday.

The British company has told European Union officials that production problems will mean a cut in deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to the bloc by 60% to 31 million doses in the first quarter of the year.

"AstraZeneca was going to be the catalyst to be allowed to move from low level to mass vaccination," Martin told Irish broadcaster RTE in an interview, saying delivery delays would "put us in a problem".

Ireland has focused its inoculation campaign on care home residents and frontline healthcare workers so far, but Martin said the government still aimed to achieve mass vaccination by the end of the second quarter.

Deaths in the country due to Covid-19 are currently at their highest level since the pandemic began, with 44 per day on average in the past week, a senior health official said on Thursday.

The infection rate, however, has fallen sharply from a peak registered earlier in January. As of Thursday, there were an average of 2,430 new cases over the past five days, down from a five-day average of 4,473 reported a week ago.

01:44 PM

Watch: UK doctors call for cut to Pfizer vaccination gap

01:31 PM

Joe Biden warns final US death toll from Covid will be 'well over 600,000'

Joe Biden has warned the final death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States will be "well over 600,000”.

It also emerged that between 150 and 200 of the 25,000 National Guard soldiers deployed to Washington following the US Capitol riots on Jan 6 had tested positive for the virus.

"A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. We're 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000," Mr Biden said on Friday night. "Families are going hungry, people are at risk of being evicted, job losses are mounting again. We need to act.”

He ordered an expansion of government food aid to counter the worst hunger crisis the US has seen in modern times.

On his third day in the job the new president issued executive orders increasing sustenance assistance, speeding up stimulus payments, and laying the groundwork for a $15 minimum wage for government workers and contractors.

"The crisis is only deepening. It's not getting better, it's deepening," Mr Biden said. "A lot of folk are waiting hours in their cars to feed their children at a food bank. In the United States of America. This cannot be who we are as a country."

Nick Allen has more details on this story here.

01:19 PM

Wales: 28,000 more jabs delivered as deaths rise by 27

A total of 240,547 people have been given their first doses of Covid-19 vaccine in Wales, an increase of 28,230 on the previous day's figure.

According to Public Health Wales 469 second doses were also given, an increase of 54.

It comes as the country reports a further 1,079 cases, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 186,915, and an additional 27 deaths. Since the start of the pandemic to 4,486 fatalities have been reported.

01:09 PM

Pandemic in pictures

Pune, India:

Employees prepare themselves before getting inside a lab where Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's coronavirus vaccine is being manufactured, at India's Serum Institute - PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP via Getty Images
Employees prepare themselves before getting inside a lab where Covishield, AstraZeneca-Oxford's coronavirus vaccine is being manufactured, at India's Serum Institute - PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP via Getty Images

Heathrow, London:

People queue at terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, as the coronavirus pandemic continues and Britain tightens travel restrictions - PIA JOSEPHSON via REUTERS
People queue at terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, as the coronavirus pandemic continues and Britain tightens travel restrictions - PIA JOSEPHSON via REUTERS

Hong Kong:

Health workers are seen in protective gear inside a locked down portion of the Jordan residential area to contain a new outbreak of the coronavirus in Hong Kong  - EUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Health workers are seen in protective gear inside a locked down portion of the Jordan residential area to contain a new outbreak of the coronavirus in Hong Kong - EUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Lisbon, Portugal:

More than a dozen ambulances queue waiting to hand over their COVID-19 patients to medics at the Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Portugal's COVID-19 surge is continuing unabated, with a new record of daily deaths, hospitalizations and patients in intensive care. - AP Photo/Armando Franca
More than a dozen ambulances queue waiting to hand over their COVID-19 patients to medics at the Santa Maria hospital in Lisbon, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. Portugal's COVID-19 surge is continuing unabated, with a new record of daily deaths, hospitalizations and patients in intensive care. - AP Photo/Armando Franca

Beijing, China:

A man pulls a child sitting in a box on a frozen river in Beijing - WANG ZHAO/AFP
A man pulls a child sitting in a box on a frozen river in Beijing - WANG ZHAO/AFP

12:56 PM

Wales: Conservatives leader resigns amid drinking row

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives has resigned following the disclosure he was among a group of politicians who drank alcohol on the Senedd estate days after a pub alcohol ban came into force.

Paul Davies said the controversy over the events of last month had become a "distraction" and that he is standing down with "immediate effect" despite appeals from colleagues to continue.

He said in a statement: "Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday.

"However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.

"Therefore, I am stepping down as leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect."

Tory chief whip Darren Millar said he is also stepping down from his frontbench role in the Senedd.

In his statement, Mr Davies said he is "truly sorry" for his actions on December 8 and the following day when further drinking reportedly occurred.

12:46 PM

Two officers injured after breaking up Kensington party with 200 people

Two officers have been injured in London after breaking up an illegal party, involving some 200 people, in one of the capital's most expensive neighbourhoods.

In a statement police said they investigated an address in Kensington at roughly 3:30am on 17 January, following reports of a mass gathering at Beauchamp Place.

No arrests were made, despite attendees becoming hostile and injuring two police officers in an attempt to escape, but the owner of the property was given a £1,000 fine.

The party follows another event last Satruday in Ladbroke Grove, attended by roughly 30 people, while police on Friday broke up a wedding in north London with 400 guests (full story here).

Superintendent Michael Walsh said the parties were "flagrant breaches of Covid legislation and could potentially have put multiple people at risk of contracting or spreading the virus".

He added: "Attending or organising such parties during this critical period is an incredibly selfish decision to make and we will continue to take action against those who flout the rules.

"My officers continue to work incredibly hard to uphold Covid legislation in order to keep people safe. While the majority of breaches have been resolved without incident, it deeply saddens me that some individuals have chosen to assault police officers who are simply doing their part in the collective battle against this deadly virus.

"We will absolutely not tolerate assaults on police officers. It goes without saying that anyone who harms an emergency worker will face the full force of the law."

12:37 PM

Wuhan one year on: The city that appears safe from Covid-19

12:25 PM

AstraZeneca to cut Covid-19 vaccine delivery to EU by 60 per cent, in fresh blow to bloc

AstraZeneca is to cut deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to the European Union by 60 per cent in the first quarter of the year due to production problems, in a blow to the bloc’s efforts to push back against the virus.

The British firm was expected to deliver about 80 million doses to the 27 EU countries by the end of March, but now only 31 million will be delivered.

The decrease will further hamper Europe's Covid-19 vaccination drive after Pfizer and partner BioNTech slowed supplies of their vaccine this week, saying the move was needed because of work to ramp up production.

The UK will not be affected by the shortfall, insiders stressed, because the majority of doses, produced in conjunction with the University of Oxford, are manufactured in this country.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca, said: “While there is no scheduled delay to the start of shipments of our vaccine should we receive approval in Europe, initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.

“We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes.”

We have more details on this story here.

12:17 PM

'Vaccines work,' says Dame Sally Davies as she receives a jab

The former Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has received her Covid-19 jab.

"Science works, #vaccineswork," the 71-year-old wrote in a Twitter post this morning:

12:08 PM

French authorities recommend long gap between first and second vaccine dose

France's top health advisory body has recommended doubling the time between the first and second Covid-19 vaccinations to six weeks from three, in order to increase the number getting inoculated.

The gap between the first and second injection in France is currently three weeks for people in retirement homes, who take priority, and four weeks for others such as health workers.

But the Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) said spacing out the two required vaccinations of the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines would allow the treatment of at least 700,000 more people in the first month.

"The growing number of infections and the worrying arrival of new variants call for an acceleration of the vaccination campaign in order to prevent the epidemic from spiking in coming weeks," the HAS said in a statement.

The HAS said that while there is no agreement between different countries about the optimal timelag between the two shots, it seemed reasonable to delay the second injection to six weeks as the first shot would already provide protection against the coronavirus from the 12th or 14th day after the injection.

The new recommendation is in line with guidance from the World Health Organization, which supports giving a second dose up to 42 days after the first dose. It comes amid renewed debate in the UK about the policy of leaving a second jab for up to 12 weeks.

11:57 AM

'Take precautions even more seriously,' says vaccine expert

Discussion whether or not the new variant, B.1.1.7, is more lethal at this stage is "unhelpful" because data is preliminary, according to the director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Instead, the overarching message needs to be "to take precautions even more seriously" while experts analyse available evidence, Professor Beate Kampmann said:

Her comments echo those from Professor Peter Horby, head of Nervtag, earlier today, who said limited data needs to be kept in "perspective" (see 9:31am).

11:49 AM

Long memories of 'unequal healthcare' drive vaccine hesitancy in ethnic minorities

Doctors are tackling myths and misinformation in a bid to encourage people of colour to get jabs, writes Jordan Kelly-Linden. Here's an extract of her story, which you can read in full here.

When Dr Ngozi Edi-Osagie, a consultant neonatologist at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, posted a picture of herself receiving her Covid-19 vaccine to her Whatsapp profile, she didn’t think much of it. Then the notifications came flying in.

“Did it hurt?” her friends and family asked. “Did you feel any side effects? Is it true you’ve really had it?”

One type of message struck a chord. “The thing that really moved me was that some people said, based on the fact that I'd had it, they would have it too,” she told the Telegraph.

Last week a new survey looking into vaccine hesitancy in the UK threw up concerning results. The study of around 12,000 participants showed that 72 per cent of black respondents said they were unlikely to have the coronavirus jab.

People of Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent were the next most hesitant ethnic group.

“That made me really worried,” said Dr Edi-Osagie, knowing all too well the disproportionate impact Covid has had on ethnic minorities. “But I realised the reach I have as a doctor to be able to influence people positively.”

Documenting her own vaccination sent a positive message to members of her community, Dr Ngozi Edi-Osagie said 
Documenting her own vaccination sent a positive message to members of her community, Dr Ngozi Edi-Osagie said

11:38 AM

Morning news update

Let's take a look at some of the headlines to be aware of so far today:

  • The British Medical Association has called on the Government to cut the gap between the first and second doses of the coronavirus vaccine - but such a move is being resisted by officials at Public Health England.

  • Discussion about the variant found in Kent, B.1.1.7, continues to dominate. Despite criticism that the evidence that it is more lethal is "inconclusive", the head of Nervtag has defended the decision to tell the public, saying that full transparency is necessary (see 9:41am).

  • This comes as the Government released a set of hard-hitting new adverts warning people to stay home as part of a change of tack in the bid to ensure people obey lockdown rules (watch at 10:33am).

  • The BBC has reported that Ministers will discuss tightening travel restrictions further on Monday and people arriving in the country could be required to quarantine in hotels (see 10:05am).

  • Nursing leaders have called on the Government to carry out an urgent review of whether standard surgical masks offer enough protection against highly transmissible Sars-Cov-2 variants (see 9:05am).

  • Rishi Sunak has told Tory MPs that coronavirus handouts "can't go on forever" as he considers a second budget in the autumn to raise taxes.

  • Meanwhile in Hong Kong, thousands of people have been were ordered to stay in their homes for the city's first lockdown as authorities battle an outbreak in one of its poorest and most densely packed districts.

  • Norway's capital Oslo and nine neighbouring municipalities will impose some of their toughest lockdown measures yet after an outbreak of a more contagious variant,

  • In Malawi, a new crowdfunding campaign has raised $100,000 in a week and helped provide basic equipment and medicines in state hospitals to fight the pandemic.

And finally, read Sophia Yan's dispatch from Wuhan, a year after the city went into lockdown.

11:25 AM

Long queues and crowds at the UK border

11:14 AM

PHE officials resist calls to cut gap between Pfizer doses

Doctors' calls to cut the gap between the first and second doses of the coronavirus vaccine are being resisted by officials at Public Health England.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned that delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to 12 weeks after the first is not justified by the science.

But PHE medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said it is essential to protect as many people as possible to prevent the virus getting "the upper hand".

She insisted the decision to extend the gap had been taken on "public health and scientific advice" based on the need to get at least some protection to as many people as possible.

"The more people that are protected against this virus, the less opportunity it has to get the upper hand. Protecting more people is the right thing to do," Dr Doyle told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Earlier today BMA council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that while he understands the "rationale" behind the decision, no other country is taking the UK's approach.

He said the WHO recommends that the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine - which the manufacturers advise should be given three to four weeks after the first - should only be delayed "in exceptional circumstances", to a maximum of six weeks.

"What we're saying is that the UK should adopt this best practice based on international professional opinion," he told BBC Breakfast. "We think the flexibility that the WHO offers of extending to 42 days is being stretched far too much to go from six weeks right through to 12 weeks.

11:03 AM

Rishi Sunak warns MPs that Covid handouts 'can't go on forever'

Rishi Sunak has told Tory MPs that coronavirus handouts "can't go on forever" as he considers a second budget in the autumn to raise taxes.

The Chancellor has begun rolling the pitch for revenue-raising measures but is understood to want to wait until later in the year when the economic outlook is clearer and the recovery in train before making many key decisions about taxes.

His March 3 budget is expected to focus on job creation and stimulating the economy, with a warning that the public finances must be put on a sustainable footing in the medium term.

A Government source said Mr Sunak is "under constant pressure from Number 10 to be sympathetic on a case-by-case basis [to those financially affected by coronavirus], but the problem is those cases grow all the time".

The source added: "But he's pretty resilient and he's pretty clear about what needs to happen because he knows the fundamental problem we've got if interest rates go up. At the moment people are saying 'we want this, we want that'. They point to tomorrow when asked when we're going to pay for it."

Lucy Fisher and Harry Yorke have the full report here.

10:50 AM

Wuhan one year on: The city appears safe from Covid - but at what cost?

One year after the Covid-19 pandemic erupted, our China Correspondent returns to Wuhan and asks whether all is really as it seems - you can read her full report here.

10:43 AM

Half a million fewer vaccines being supplied to NHS next week

Up to half a million fewer doses of Covid vaccine will be supplied to the NHS next week as Whitehall sources admitted the target of vaccinating priority groups by mid-February was increasingly “tight”.

Deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine will be cut by between 15 and 20 per cent next week after the US firm announced delays in shipments because of work to increase capacity at its Belgian processing plant, sources said.

Boris Johnson announced on Friday that more than 400,000 people in the UK were vaccinated on Thursday in another record day for the national rollout.

But Government sources admitted that scheduled deliveries of around 2.8 million doses of Covid vaccine to the NHS will be cut next week to just over 2.3 million doses, partly due to the Pfizer delays.

Ministers also suggested that AstraZeneca was behind schedule after pushing back a target of supplying two million doses a week from the end of this month to mid-February. However sources close to the firm denied there had been any slowdown in production.

The cut in frontline deliveries threatens to take the rollout under the rate of daily vaccinations required to hit the target of vaccinating 15 million people by mid-February.

Bill Gardner, Laura Donnelly and Gordon Rayner have the full report here.

10:33 AM

'Look into my eyes': government posts hard-hitting Covid-19 advert

10:24 AM

Crowdfunding breathes life into Malawi's Covid fight

A new crowdfunding campaign in Malawi has raised $100,000 in a week and helped provide basic equipment and medicines in state hospitals to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

An appeal launched on Facebook last week has already helped secure oxygen cylinders and essential medicines at the four main public hospitals in the southern African nation, the man spearheading the campaign said.

"A friend was hospitalised for Covid-19. Then he posted an SOS call on social media asking for help as the hospital had no oxygen pressure regulators," said France-based Malawian Stanley Kenani, who oversees the project.

"Although friends put the money together and bought him one, he still lost his life. I wondered whether friends on social media could come together and contribute a little money for medical supplies and equipment that could save lives," he added.

Malawians responded enthusiastically, from students donating their pocket money to poor Malawians in the countryside pitching in.

Secretary for health Charles Mwansambo has welcomed the crowdfunding, saying the "government alone cannot meet the health needs of Malawians, let alone Covid-19".

Unlike the rest of the continent, daily life had been unaffected in Malawi since the High Court barred the government from confining citizens to limit the spread of Covid-19, saying the poor country could not afford a lockdown as people had to venture out to earn money.

But on Sunday President Lazarus Chakwera implemented Malawi's first lockdown, shutting schools and imposing a curfew as infections began to rise, linked to the new, more infectious variant detected in South Africa.

Malawi Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Malawi Spotlight Chart - Cases default

10:13 AM

Hong Kong ordered into city's first Covid lockdown after outbreak

Thousands of Hong Kongers were ordered to stay in their homes on Saturday for the city's first coronavirus lockdown as authorities battle an outbreak in one of its poorest and most densely packed districts.

The order bans anyone inside multiple housing blocks within the neighbourhood of Jordan from leaving their apartment unless they can show a negative test.

Officials said they planned to test everyone inside the designated zone within 48 hours "in order to achieve the goal of zero cases in the district".

The South China Morning Post said the measures covered about 150 housing blocks and up to 9,000 people with hundreds of police on standby to enforce the lockdown.

Hong Kong was one of the first places to be struck by the coronavirus after it burst out of central China.

Our foreign team have more details on this story here.

Government investigators wearing protective suits gather in the Yau Ma Tei area in Hong Kong - AP Photo/Vincent Yu
Government investigators wearing protective suits gather in the Yau Ma Tei area in Hong Kong - AP Photo/Vincent Yu

10:05 AM

Quarantine hotels on the horizon?

British ministers are set to discuss tightening travel restrictions further on Monday, the BBC has reported, adding that people arriving in the country could be required to quarantine in hotels.

Current restrictions ban most international travel, with new rules introduced earlier in this month requiring a negative coronavirus test before departure for most arrivals, as well as a period of quarantine.

But at the Downing Street press conference yesterday, Boris Johnson warned that the UK may need to implement further measures to protect its borders from new Sars-Cov-2 variants.

According to the BBC, one measure being considered by the government is making it mandatory for travellers to spend that 10-day quarantine period in a hotel - for which they would have to pay - as a way to enforce the quarantine rules.

09:54 AM

Matt Hancock: 'I've been really inspired by the stories I've heard'

09:41 AM

Nervtag chair defends decision to share data suggesting variant may be 30% more lethal

Professor Peter Horby also defended the Government's decision to announce the news about the increased mortality rates from the new variant, which has been criticised by some due to "inconclusive" evidence.

"I think a very important principle is transparency," Prof Horby told BBC. "Scientists are looking at the possibility that there is increased severity... and after a week of looking at the data we came to the conclusion that it was a realistic possibility.

"If we were not telling people about this we would be accused of covering it up."

But he added: "What we need to do is get that message out and put it in context. So instead of headlines saying '30% increase in risk', we need to explain this in terms of the absolute risk we may be seeing and also explain the uncertainties."

On a more positive note, Prof Horby said it was "encouraging" that B.1.1.7, the variant first found in Kent, did not appear to be more resistant to current treatments or vaccines.

"The encouraging news is that the UK variant is not affecting how the treatments work and it's not affecting how the vaccines work, so we believe the vaccines and the treatment are just as good against this virus as they've always been."

But a jab isn't a "free pass", he added.

"A vaccine is not a passport to do what you like, especially after one dose... it takes a while for protection to set in," he said. "We've still all got to adhere to the restrictions whether we're vaccinated or not."

09:31 AM

Keep data suggesting variant is more lethal 'in perspective', says chair of Nevtag

Data showing the new variant, B.1.1.7, is linke to increased mortality rates must be put "in perspective"< according to Professor Peter Horby, who chairs the Government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).

"Initial data didn't suggest that this was any more serious than the old virus. But now the data has started to come in, there are a number of streams of data that are coming in that suggest there might be a small increase in risk of death," he told BBC Breakfast.

"There are some limitations in the data so we need to be cautious with the interpretations but it is important that people understand that we are looking at this and this may be true.

"If you look at it as a relative change like 30 or 40% then it sounds really bad but a big change in a very small risk takes it from a very small number to a slightly bigger, but still very small number, so for most people the risk is very, very small."

He added that people "need to put it into perspective".

"This is a risk for certain age groups and that risk may have increased but for most people it is still not a serious disease," he said - though he acknowledged that the new data should be taken "very seriously".

"This is an unpleasant virus. It's throwing things at us that are unpleasant and we're going to have to manage them," he said.

09:21 AM

Watch: Sebastian Coe confident Tokyo Olympic games will go ahead with help of vaccines

09:14 AM

Current restrictions not stringent enough to contain new variant, experts warn

The current lockdown rules are not enough to tackle the more infectious variant of coronavirus, an adviser on the Government's Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) has warned.

Professor Susan Michie, director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at UCL, said the new Government advert urging people to stay at home, as well as talks about higher fines for rule-breakers, were made on the basis that people were not adhering to the rules.

"But actually, all the data show that the overwhelming number of people are sticking to the rules with one exception which is self-isolation," she told Times Radio. "In fact I would say that it's not so much people not sticking to the rules, but it's the rules themselves that are the problem."

She said there were twice as many people going to work and using public transport compared to the first lockdown, and more children in classrooms because the Government "has widened the definition of who's a key worker".

She described nurseries and places of worship, which are both allowed to remain open during lockdown, as "super spreading" events and that she has received many emails from people who are "really distraught" about going to work.

On what restrictions she would like to see, Prof Michie said "Do what we did in March but consider are there other things we could tighten. The better the lockdown is now the shorter it will be.

"I think we should throw everything we can at really driving transmission down to a low level."

09:05 AM

'Lambs to the slaughter': Royal College of Nurses call for review of PPE

Nursing leaders are calling on the Government to carry out an urgent review of whether standard surgical masks offer enough protection against highly transmissible strains of coronavirus.

One nurse told the PA news agency she feels staff are being treated like "lambs to the slaughter" due to the inadequacy of surgical masks.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has written to the Government and joined forces with the British Medical Association (BMA) to write to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after members raised fears they have inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

The RCN said it was aware that some NHS trusts are using higher grade face masks in all parts of their hospitals, while others use standard face masks, thereby creating a "postcode lottery" for nursing staff.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said nurses were concerned that the standard face mask may not be effective in protecting against new strains of the virus and possible airborne spread in healthcare settings.

The College is calling for a review of infection control guidance and for all NHS staff to be given the higher grade of PPE as a precaution pending the outcome.

08:50 AM

Whether variant is more deadly an 'open question' Nervtag adviser says

Graham Medley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has said it is still an "open question" whether the new variant coronavirus is more deadly.

Prof Medley was co-author of a report by the Government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) which concluded there was a "realistic possibility" that it was associated with an increased risk of death.

However he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that it was not a "game changer" in terms of dealing with the pandemic.

"The question about whether it is more dangerous in terms of mortality I think is still open. There is evidence it is more dangerous but this is a very dangerous virus," he said.

"In terms of making the situation worse it is not a game changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse."

08:48 AM

Sage expert 'surprised' by Friday's briefing and says it's 'too soon' to draw strong conclusions on variant

It is still to early to draw "strong conclusions" about whether the new variant found in Kent last autumn, B.1.1.7, is associated with increased mortality rates, according to a member of Sage subgroup the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M).

Referring to the news about the variant announced by Boris Johnson on Friday, Dr Mike Tildesley told the BBC that he "was actually quite surprised the news had been announced at a new conference".

"It seems to have gone up a little bit from about 10 people per thousand to about 13 which is quite a small rise but it's based on a relatively small amount of data," Dr Tildesley added.

"I would be wanting to wait for a week or two more, monitoring a little bit more before we draw really strong conclusions about this. I just worry that where we report things pre-emptively where the data are not really particularly strong."

Related: Are new Covid-19 variants more deadly, and will vaccines work against them?

08:36 AM

UK should follow 'best practice' on vaccine schedule, says BMA

The UK should follow "best practice" when it comes to vaccine delivery, according to Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association council chairman.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Dr Nagpual said that he understood the "rationale" behind the decision to delay the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine to 12 weeks. But he highlighted World Health Organisation analysis which recommends that second doses of the Pfizer vaccine only be delayed "in exceptional circumstances".

"What we're saying is that the UK should adopt this best practice based on international professional opinion," he said.

"Most nations in the world are facing challenges similar to the UK in having limited vaccine supply and also wanting to protect their population maximally.

"No other nation has adopted the UK's approach. We think the flexibility that the WHO offers of extending to 42 days is being stretched far too much to go from six weeks right through to 12 weeks."

He continued: "Obviously the protection will not vanish after six weeks but what we do not know is what level of protection will be offered... we should not be extrapolating data where we don't have it.

"I do understand the trade-off and the rationale but if that was the right thing to do then we would see other nations following suit."

This comes after the BMA to chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty calling for the gap between vaccine doses to be reduced to six weeks.

08:09 AM

Norway tightening restrictions after outbreak of virus variant

Norway's capital Oslo and nine neighbouring municipalities will impose some of their toughest lockdown measures yet after an outbreak of a more contagious coronavirus variant, first identified in Britain, the government said on Saturday.

Shopping centres and other non-essential stores will be closed from noon local time on Saturday, organised sports activities will be halted and schools must rely more on remote learning, the health ministry said in a statement.

Read more: Are new mutations more deadly, and will vaccines work against them?

08:02 AM

Spanish federation apologises to Tennis Australia over player quarantine

Spain's tennis federation (RFET) on Saturday apologised to Tennis Australia (TA) after complaining about the treatment of two Spanish players in quarantine before next month's Australian Open.

More than 70 players have been confined to their rooms after some passengers on three charter flights that brought them to Australia tested positive for coronavirus. Other players are able to train for up to five hours a day.

"We apologise to TA if our statement has at any time been interpreted as a criticism of their working methods, nothing is further from our intention," RFET said in a statement.

The federation had said on Thursday said two players - Mario Vilella and Carlos Alcaraz - had not been informed they would be strictly confined if they were on a flight with someone who tested positive "regardless of the physical proximity".

On Saturday RFET said its intention had been "to request the Australian Open, with utmost respect for their skills, the possibility of exploring safe training options for Spanish players affected by isolation for 14 days."

"This initiative is based on good faith and in no way calls into question the actions of the Australian Government or the Australian Open."

Read more: Murray 'gutted' to miss Australian Open despite recovering from Covid

07:41 AM

Not 'absolutely clear' new variant more deadly, says PHE medical director

Public Health England medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle has said that it is still not "absolutely clear" the new variant coronavirus which emerged in the UK is more deadly than the original strain.

Boris Johnson announced on Friday that scientists had found the variant, which appeared late last year in south-east England, may be associated with "a higher degree of mortality".

However Dr Doyle said more work was needed to determine whether that was actually the case.

"There are several investigations going on at the moment. It is not absolutely clear that that will be the case. It is too early to say," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. "There is some evidence, but it is very early evidence. It is small numbers of cases and it is far too early to say this will actually happen."

Read more: Kent Covid variant '30 per cent more deadly'

06:52 AM

Parking charges 'must be cut to help high street recover'

Parking charges must be cut to help the high street recover after Covid, the British Independent Retailers Association has said after it emerged that councils have raked in almost £900 million profit from fees.

Research by the RAC Foundation found local aurthorities made £891 million from on and off-street parking in the financial year 2019-20, just five per cent lower than the record £934 million the year before.

The vast sum was generated despite the period covering the early part of the Covid pandemic and the first lockdown.

Read the full story

Read more: Sunak warns MPs that handouts 'can't go on forever'

06:20 AM

Sri Lankan health minister who endorsed magic potions tests positive

Sri Lanka's health minister, who publicly endorsed sorcery and magic potions to stop surging coronavirus infections in the island, has tested positive and will self-isolate, officials said on Saturday.

Pavithra Wanniarachchi had publicly consumed and endorsed a magic potion, later revealed to contain honey and nutmeg, manufactured by a sorcerer who claimed it worked as a life-long inoculation against the virus.

She also poured a pot of "blessed" water into a river in November after a self-styled god-man told her that it would end the pandemic.

The island nation of 21 million on Friday approved the emergency use of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University only hours after Ms Wanniarachchi tested positive, officials said.

&#xa0;A municipal worker has his body sprayed with disinfectant after he carried a coffin of coronavirus related victim to the crematorium at the public cemetery in Colombo, Sri Lanka - CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock&#xa0;
A municipal worker has his body sprayed with disinfectant after he carried a coffin of coronavirus related victim to the crematorium at the public cemetery in Colombo, Sri Lanka - CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

05:32 AM

Call for gap between vaccine doses to be reduced

The British Medical Association has reportedly written to chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty calling for the gap between vaccine doses to be reduced to six weeks.

The private letter, seen by the BBC, said the current plans of people waiting up to 12 weeks for a second dose - which Health Secretary Matt Hancock said is supported by data from an Israeli study - are "difficult to justify".

It said: "The absence of any international support for the UK's approach is a cause of deep concern and risks undermining public and the profession's trust in the vaccination programme."

Read more: Vaccine rollout is slowest in some of England's most infected areas

05:21 AM

How shops used Covid to kill off real money

His blood sugar levels were dangerously low. James Boswell, 39, had been sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 for three hours. A long-term diabetic, he knew he had to eat something soon. He pulled into a service station, but there was one problem – no one would serve him. Why? He was trying to pay in cash.

Mr Boswell is one of millions of people who have been turned away from shops and restaurants for trying to pay with physical money.

One in three people has been blocked from spending cash because of overzealous “Covid-secure” protections implemented by business across the country, according to research from consumer group Which?. This is despite an in-depth report from the Bank of England that found the risk of banknotes and coins transmitting coronavirus was virtually non-existent.

Read the full story

02:14 AM

Mexico lets governors obtain vaccines for their own states

Mexico's pandemic cases continued at a high level on Friday as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gave state governors permission to acquire coronavirus vaccines on their own.

Officials reported just over 21,000 newly confirmed virus infections a day after the country listed a record 22,339 cases. Deaths related to virus in the previous 24 hours reached 1,440.

Mexico's federal government has received about 750,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine so far, with almost 600,000 administered. The country has 750,000 frontline medical personnel, all of whom will need two doses, or about 1.5 million shots.

That points to a long wait for Mexico's 130 million people, and state governors and the private sector have been pressing the government to allow them to acquire vaccines on their own. Lopez Obrador said on Friday that they will be allowed to do so, as long as they inform federal officials and use only approved vaccines.

Graves are seen at the Xico cemetery, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, in Valle de Chalco, in the State of Mexico - Reuters
Graves are seen at the Xico cemetery, as the coronavirus outbreak continues, in Valle de Chalco, in the State of Mexico - Reuters

01:48 AM

China reports 107 new mainland cases

China reported 107 new Covid-19 cases on the mainland on Jan. 22, up from 103 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said on Saturday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 90 of the new cases were local infections. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 99 from 119 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 88,911, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,635.

Read more: Wuhan families harassed as they fight for their day in court over China Covid cover-up

01:11 AM

Thousands of Hong Kong residents locked down

Thousands of Hong Kong residents were locked down on Saturday in an unprecedented move to contain a worsening outbreak in the city, authorities said.

Hong Kong has been grappling to contain a fresh wave of the coronavirus since November. Over 4,300 cases have been recorded in the last two months, making up nearly 40 per cent of the city's total.

Coronavirus cases in Hong Kong's Yau Tsim Mong district - a working-class neighbourhood with old buildings and subdivided flats - made up about half of the infections in the past week.

Sewage testing in the area picked up more concentrated traces of the Covid-19 virus, prompting concerns that poorly built plumbing systems and a lack of ventilation in subdivided units may present a possible path for the virus to spread.

Read the full story

&#xa0;Part of the Jordan district is being locked down - Getty
Part of the Jordan district is being locked down - Getty

12:58 AM

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