Tightened restrictions on the coronavirus were announced on Saturday after an initial analysis of a new variant of the virus in England showed that it « is growing faster » than the existing variants « .
It prompted Boris Johnson to convene an unscheduled meeting of senior ministers on Friday evening to discuss how to contain the new variant, which was largely confined to London and the south-east.
Experiments with the new strain have confirmed ministers’ fears that it is far more contagious than the original strain.
Much of the southeast was rated Tier 3 by the government on Thursday, but the new information on the mutant strain’s portability is so worrying that ministers fear immediate action.
Travel restrictions are among the measures under discussion. One source suggests that the government could restrict travel between the southeast and other parts of the country.
An alternative would be to forbid commuters from traveling to London after the Kentish mutant tribe quickly spread to London and then home countries.
The Swiss drug authority Swissmedic has approved the Covd-19 vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech, the agency announced on Saturday.
« According to the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, the level of protection seven days after the second injection of the vaccine is over 90 percent. This is the world’s first authorization using the normal procedure, « said Swissmedic on its website
In an intensive care unit that treated Covid-19 patients in southern Turkey, a fire broke out on Saturday after an oxygen cylinder exploded and killed eight people, state media reported.
The Anadolu News Agency said the fire took place in the privately owned department of Sanko University Hospital in Gaziantep. A hospital statement was cited in which the victims were identified as being between 56 and 85 years old. The fire was quickly brought under control.
The statement said 14 patients undergoing intensive care were transferred to other hospitals. An investigation was underway.
The provincial governor’s office later said 19 patients were in the unit when a « high pressure oxygen device » exploded at 4:45 am. m. . Apart from the fatalities, no others were injured in the fire, it’s sad.
Intensive care units across Turkey currently have a bed occupancy rate of 74% due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to government data, although medical associations say the number is higher and their hospitals are overcrowded with Covid-19 patients.
PPE en route to the UK were at risk of being stolen as they traveled across Asia at the height of the pandemic. The ministers have been warned.
Suppliers told this newspaper that they had warned government officials that critical equipment could be skimmed off and sold to other countries and companies if used on indirect flights over the Middle East, Thailand and Vietnam.
Officials then advised suppliers to only use British Airways or Virgin Atlantic flights from China for fear of piracy, as they instead flew direct to the UK.
The chairman of the Royal College of GPs, Professor Martin Marshall, said he will accelerate the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccination program in nursing homes if the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is approved by regulators.
« Right now we are dealing with this Pfizer vaccine, which is difficult, » he told BBC Radio 4 Today.
« Assuming we get approval for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is much more familiar because it is much more similar to the flu shot, I think we will be able to roll out much faster, but certainly expect we in the next few weeks and months that all nursing homes are covered. «
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government is facing a « very difficult, balanced judgment » on whether to strengthen coronavirus rules.
Mr Hunt, who now chairs the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said if ministers did not want to change the law, they should consider strengthening social distancing guidelines.
« It’s a very difficult, balanced judgment. The biggest concern is what happens at indoor family gatherings and the risks increase there, « he told BBC Radio 4.
« You have to react to what is happening on the ground. I think they can be clearer about what is advisable and what is not because it would be an enormous tragedy if we had a spike in deaths in late January / February for taking our foot off the pedal so close to the vaccine. «
Mr Hunt said it was « razor sharp » whether a third national lockdown was needed after Christmas.
« Given the numbers, it’s difficult to judge at the moment, as infection rates are increasing in the northeast and northwest, but are still much lower than before, and the second strain of the virus is not. « It doesn’t seem to have spread as widely in the north as it has in the south. At the moment I would say it’s razor sharp. «
Anada’s health regulator said she expected to complete its review of the Moderna mRNA coronavirus vaccine in the coming weeks, according to Reuters.
« There is still information and data to be provided by Moderna for review, » the regulator said in a statement released after the US Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use on Friday.
Health Canada announced that there cannot be an exact timeline for vaccine approval, but expects the process to be completed in the coming weeks.
Canada also announced an agreement on Tuesday to deliver the Moderna vaccine ahead of schedule as numerous new cases emerge, forcing new health restrictions nationwide.
Last week, the Canadian Department of Health approved the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. approved, which was developed with the German BioNTech SE.
Professor Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist from the University of St. Andrews told Times Radio: « Christmas is a gift to the virus. If you want the perfect conditions for viruses to spread, you should be indoors, in a place that is not well ventilated, in a place where there is alcohol, so that we can forget our inhibitions and describe Christmas dinner perfectly. «
Prof. Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviors (SPI-B), which advises the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage), added, « Obviously we don’t want to give gifts to this virus. We want to take care of ourselves, and I think Unfortunately, the best way to do this is to postpone it if we can.
« I realize that it makes sense for some families to meet. I mean, if you have an elderly relative who may not see another Christmas, or if someone is suffering badly, there will be exceptions.
« But if we make the exception the rule, and if a lot of people meet, then we really are facing disaster. «
He argued that the people who met during the five days of relaxed measures over Christmas were « too long » and that mixing households from different regions of the country « could restart the pandemic ». .
Thailand has nine new local coronavirus infections, the largest one-day increase in local transmissions in more than seven months, health officials said on Saturday.
The nine cases are related to a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province near Bangkok, where four infections were reported on Friday.
The cases began with a 67-year-old woman selling shrimp in the market and confirmed to be infected before three of her family members also tested positive.
Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the Thai Covid-19 Task Force, said a lockdown was not yet needed, but steps would be taken if cases continued to increase.
« If tomorrow or the day after the number of cases does not go down and becomes a cluster of unfounded origins, we will choose measures from mild to strong to deal with, » he said.
Local cases have largely been found in people who observe quarantine after being in close contact with an infected person. Most of the recent cases in Thailand have been imported.
An author of a withdrawn World Health Organization report on the Italian coronavirus response warned bosses in May that people could die and the UN agency could suffer « catastrophic » reputational damage if political concerns suppressed the document, according to emails from The Associated Press.
The comprehensive report examined how the Italian government and health system reacted after the country became the epicenter of the European outbreak in late February – with real-time data and case studies of what was working and what was not targeting other countries help prepare while the virus spreads.
The agency shut it down the day after it was posted on their website and asked the officer who coordinated the work to come and see it on Jan.. May to address WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus directly and warn that the disappearance of the report undermines WHO’s credibility. He warned that further attempts at censorship would jeopardize the agency’s independence and its relationships with the donor countries that funded the research.
Concern about the missing report has grown in recent weeks, fueling criticism of WHO leadership over the global response to the pandemic, which led the agency to agree to an independent investigation into its performance.
In Manila, some moviegoers in the Philippine capital are fed up with the protracted Covid restrictions, which is why they opt for a foretaste of Venice – in socially distant gondolas in front of the big screen.
Gondoliers in striped uniforms steer and position each boat in an outside canal to watch full-length films. This is a rare opportunity to go to the movies after a nine month lockdown.
« Driving a boat made it a unique experience, » patron Violet Gatchalian told Reuters at the Venice Grand Canal-themed mall in Manila.
With more than 456. 000 infections and 8. With 875 deaths, the Philippines are the hardest hit country in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.
The government started the gradual reopening of the economy in June, but most non-essential businesses remain closed – in Manila, the gondola cinema and drive-through theater are the only movie locations.
Gondola cinema-goers sit in pairs on a boat, with up to 10 guests per show, and the boats are meters apart. Entry is 500 pesos (£ 7. 40), roughly the minimum daily wage in the capital.
Guests bring their own headphones and listen to audio broadcasts at a radio frequency that is only available on board the gondolas.
Around a quarter of a million people in Sydney’s northern beach suburbs were sentenced to a strict lockdown Saturday through Wednesday midnight to contain a coronavirus cluster that authorities fear could spread to the city.
Authorities will announce on Sunday whether further restrictions will be placed on the rest of Sydney, Australia’s most populous city.
The outbreak is now 39, with two more cases still under investigation. The authorities do not know the origin, which according to genome tests is a US virus strain.
As of this week, Australia had had no local broadcast for more than two weeks and had lifted most restrictions before Christmas. The Sydney outbreak caused states and territories to reintroduce border restrictions, throwing vacation travel plans into chaos for thousands.
The Sydney lockdown means people in the designated area will only be allowed to leave the home for one of four main reasons: grocery shopping, work, compassionate reasons including emergency medical treatment, or visiting an isolated relative.
People at higher risk of complications from Covid-19 should avoid going to the Christmas service in person and watching them online instead, the Archbishop of Canterbury said.
Since the 2nd. December, places of worship may be opened on all levels. Between the 23. and 27. December believers can attend church services with members of their Christmas bubble.
Worship services, including Christingle and midnight masses, can be held as long as social distancing requirements are met.
Speaking to the Times, the venerable Justin Welby was asked about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request that people « think » about Christmas, what they should do.
« Or go online. If you are vulnerable when you are at higher risk, it has to be online. «
Thousands of shipping containers with excess personal protective equipment were taken from ports to train stations after the closure.
Photos posted on social media showed that thousands of PPE containers had been deposited next to the Melton rural train station in Suffolk.
Additional images from ITV news show that the several thousand shipping containers of masks, gloves and aprons were being transported from Felixstowe to Tilbury Port, raising concerns that the government had overordered and overpaid for medical equipment.
READ MORE: Â Thousands of shipping containers with excess PPE were brought to the train station after ports were closed
According to health officials, Hong Kong authorities are looking for a Covid-19 patient who fled one of the city’s largest hospitals while on treatment.
The 63-year-old male identified as patient 7379 was born on Jan.. Admitted to the isolation ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on December 23 after it was confirmed that he had coronavirus.
South Korea’s Covid-19 surge continued on Saturday and the shortage of hospital beds was a cause for concern in a country where deaths have been kept low despite a third wave of the disease.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported Jan.. 053 infections, a record day of more than 1. 000 cases in a row.
South Korea recorded 659 deaths out of 48. 570 infections. This is a comparatively low death rate due to aggressive tracking and testing during much of the year. This minimized the burden on the hospitals and allowed them to concentrate on seriously ill patients.
The mitigation efforts made the country a global success story as many nations experienced soaring infections that resulted in sweeping lockdowns.
But the recent surge – which is due to widespread clusters rather than the large, isolated outbursts of the first two waves – has resulted in severe hospital bed shortages.
RELATED NEWS: « Our backs are leaning against the wall »: South Korea is considering lockdown amid brutal third wave of Covid-19
In the greater Seoul area, an area with almost 26 million inhabitants, only four intensive care beds were available as of Friday.
Six people with Covid have died waiting for beds in South Korea this month and hundreds cannot be admitted as infections overwhelm the health system, officials and the media said on Friday.
The number of seriously ill patients reached 275 on Saturday compared to 97 on May 1. December.
Despite the surge, the government has failed to raise social distancing restrictions to the highest level, which would mean ordering 1. 2 million companies to cease operations.
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Friday that, given the stress on businesses, a « social consensus » was required for such a move.
China will aim to vaccinate all « key groups » – including workers in the cold chain industry, customs, healthcare, markets and public transport – during winter and spring, a senior health official said on Saturday Briefing with.
The country will use the vaccination program to create a « group protection » that gives the public active immunity, said Zeng Yixin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission and director of the vaccine research and development working group.
Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine was the second to receive emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday. This is welcome news for a nation staggering over 307. 000 fatalities after Covid-19.
The biotech company worked with the US government to prepare for the distribution of 5. 9 million recordings this weekend.
The FDA’s decision is based on results from a late-stage study at age 30. 000 volunteers who found the vaccine to be nearly 95 percent effective against Covid-19 with no serious safety concerns.
« Getting Moderna’s vaccine approved means we can accelerate the vaccination of frontline health workers and Americans in long-term care facilities and ultimately end this pandemic faster, » said US Health and Welfare Secretary Alex Azar.
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