One million vaccinations a week will not bring pandemic under control, warns Sage expert

D-Day veteran Robert Sullivan, 98, is injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by Chief Nurse…

D-Day veteran Robert Sullivan, 98, is injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by Chief Nurse Pippa Nightingale - Getty Images Europe 
D-Day veteran Robert Sullivan, 98, is injected with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by Chief Nurse Pippa Nightingale – Getty Images Europe

One million coronavirus vaccinations a week will not be enough to bring the pandemic under control, according to a Government advisor. 

Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust who advises Number 10’s advisory panel Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said:  “We’re not going to be free of this pandemic by February, this is now a human endemic infection.

‘If we do manage to hit the target of a million [vaccinated] a week, frankly I don’t think that’s enough to speed that up if we wanted to get the country covered.”

The Sage member also said the arguments for reopening schools in January were “very finely balanced”.

It comes after suggestions from other Sage experts that a vaccine could see Britain achieve herd immunity by the summer. 

Respiratory disease expert Professor Calum Semple said: ” To get the wider community herd immunity from vaccination rather than through natural infection will take probably 70 to 80 per cent of the population to be vaccinated, and that, I’m afraid, is going to take us right into the summer I expect.”

Meanwhile a Government source has said that a vaccine army of “tens of thousands” of medics and volunteers have been recruited and are ready to administer millions of jabs each week from next month.

Follow the latest updates below.

Table of Contents

01:43 PM

U.S screens 1.28 million arrivals at airports

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said it screened 1.28 million passengers on today at airports across the nation, the highest number since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic slashed travel demand.

The number of U.S. air travellers is still about 50 per cent lower than the same date last year. 

Yesterday was the sixth day in the last 10 in which volume surpassed 1 million. The rise comes despite public health officials urging Americans to avoid holiday travel this year. 

01:37 PM

Teaching union calls for delay to January school reopening

A teachers union is calling for a delay to the reopening of schools in January as the Government hopes to push ahead with its new year plan.

Earlier this month, the Government said exam-year students would go back to school as normal after the Christmas holidays, but the majority of secondary school pupils would start the term online to allow headteachers to roll out mass testing of children and staff.

Officials from Downing Street and the Department for Education are due to discuss the issue on Monday amid concerns over the spread of a new strain of coronavirus.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT wrote to the Education Secretary today demanding further action on school safety.

The letter calls for Gavin Williamson to allow schools to move to remote learning for all pupils, except those deemed to be vulnerable or the children of key workers, in the highest tier areas.

01:29 PM

Thailand imposes entertainment curbs in capital to thwart virus spread

Thailand announced its first coronavirus death in nearly two months and tightened restrictions on entertainment businesses in a bid to contain an outbreak that has reached more than half of the country’s provinces.

Authorities confirmed 144 new infections today as new clusters emerged stemming from its biggest outbreak yet, prompting a ban in Bangkok on betting businesses and midnight closures for its bars, nightclubs and music venues until January 4. 

Bangkok will see its businesses and entertainment venues closed until January 4 - AFP
Bangkok will see its businesses and entertainment venues closed until January 4 – AFP

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he was undergoing two weeks of quarantine after exposure to an infected provincial governor, while house speaker Chuan Leekpai asked 29 parliamentary staffers to seek tests after meeting a person who contracted the virus.

01:25 PM

Rising number of coronavirus patients in hospital ‘extremely worrying,’ says medical chief

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, has said the rising number of coronavirus patients in hospital is “extremely worrying”.

Dr Scriven said: “With the numbers approaching the peaks from April, systems will again be stretched to the limit. 

“It is not ‘just the case’ of using the Nightingale hospital as there are simply no staff for them to run as they were originally intended (mini intensive care units).”

“They could play a role perhaps if used as rehabilitation units for those recovering but, again, where do we find the specialist staff – the NHS simply does not have the capacity to spare anyone.”

01:18 PM

Finland finds first patients with new coronavirus variant

The new coronavirus variant circulating in Britain has been detected in Finland in two people, while a separate variant spreading in South Africa has been detected in one other person, health officials said today. 

Finland imposed travel restrictions earlier this month on passengers from Britain amid concerns over the new variant, which is thought to be more contagious than previous ones. 

It comes after officials in South Korea vowed to speed up efforts to launch a public coronavirus vaccination programme after detected its first cases of the virus variant. 

12:38 PM

Ukrainians flock to local ski resort as many European resorts shut

Ukraine’s biggest ski resort Bukovel in the Carpathian mountains is fully booked until the end of year as locals  have sped to it instead of other European resorts closed by coronavirus-linked restrictions. 

Bukovel’s management said the resort had already been booked at 80 per cent capacity through January.

Ski resort Bukovel amid the outbreak of the virus near the village of Polianytsia, Ukraine - Reuters
Ski resort Bukovel amid the outbreak of the virus near the village of Polianytsia, Ukraine – Reuters

The resort which sits 920 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level and covers five mountains in western Ukraine, attracts two million visitors each year.

12:29 PM

France: Macron to review Covid-19 situation on Dec 29 amid surge in cases

President Emmanuel Macron and some senior cabinet ministers will review the Covid-19 situation on Wednesday, amid another surge in cases that has spurred fears of a third lockdown in France.

The European Union rolled out a massive Covid vaccination drive on Sunday to try to rein in a pandemic that has crippled economies worldwide and claimed more than 1.7 million lives.

Jacques Collineau, 75, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Debrou nursing home in Joue-les-Tours - Guillaume Souvant /AFP
Jacques Collineau, 75, receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Debrou nursing home in Joue-les-Tours – Guillaume Souvant /AFP

France reported 8,822 new Covid-19 infections on Sunday, sharply up from Saturday’s 3,093.

12:20 PM

Labour’s shadow education secretary accuses Government of ‘failing to be honest with parents and pupils’.

Michael Gove had indicated the government’s plan for a staggered return of England’s secondary school pupils after the Christmas holidays could yet change because of Covid transmission rates.

Now, the Labour opposition’s shadow education secretary, Kate Green, has accused ministers of “failing to be honest with parents and pupils”. She has said:

Parents, pupils and staff will be increasingly worried by the drip-feed of media reports saying scientists have advised the closure of schools in January, yet the prime minister has failed to be clear about the advice he has received.Labour has been clear that keeping pupils learning should be a national priority, but a litany of government failures – from a lack of funding for safety measures through to the delayed and chaotic announcement of mass testing – is putting young people’s education at risk.

12:10 PM

Russia delivers only first part of Covid-19 vaccine to Argentina

Russia’s first big international shipment of its coronavirus vaccine — 300,000 doses sent to Argentina last week — consisted only of the first dose of the two-shot vaccine, which is easier to make than the second dose, sources told Reuters.

Unlike most other Covid-19 vaccines, which are given as two shots of the same product, the Russian Sputnik V vaccine relies on two doses delivered using different inactive viruses, known as vectors.

The Gamaleya Institute that developed the vaccine says it is more than 91 per cent effective after the two-dose course.

But some Russian manufacturers are finding the second dose, which is administered 21 days after the first, to be less stable, two sources said, revealing a new challenge for the country’s ambitious national inoculation programme.

The decision to send doses of the vaccine to Argentina caused an outcry at home, where the lifesaving drug is still mostly unavailable to the general public outside the capital Moscow.

Russia has not said exactly how many people have received it. The Gamaleya Institute said last week 650,000 doses had been released for Russia’s domestic vaccination programme so far.

11:59 AM

Swedish government to get wider lockdown powers under proposed pandemic law

The Swedish government will have the power to close shopping centres and public transport from Jan 10 and fine people who break the rules,under a new law proposed today to help curb a rise in cases. 

Up to now, Sweden has relied mainly on voluntary social distancing measures, setting it apart from most other countries in Europe where enforced lockdowns have been used to fight the virus.

“In very serious situations, the government will be able to decide on more extensive measures to prevent crowding,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference.

“That includes the closure of shops, public transport, shopping centres, or other kinds of businesses that fall under the new law.”

11:51 AM

Covid restrictions in Wales to continue for three weeks

The current Covid restrictions in Wales will need to be in place for at least three weeks to halt the exponential growth of the virus, Public Health Wales has said.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Covid outbreak response at PHW, said the alert level 4 would need to remain even longer than that to bring cases back to “reasonably manageable levels”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, he said: “We do have to brace ourselves for an incredibly challenging couple of months in January and February.”

Shankar said the picture in Wales’ hospitals remained “incredibly concerning” with large numbers of patients suffering from Covid and other conditions – plus a “significant proportion” of staff off sick.

11:42 AM

India’s Serum Institute expects approval for AstraZeneca vaccine in days

The Serum Institute of India, the county’s maker of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, said it expected the government to approve the vaccine for emergency use in a few days.

Serum Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla also told reporters that the company had already made 40 million to 50 million doses of the vaccine. 

The country is also set commence a dummy vaccination exercise in four states today , with each state delivering does to 100 people across two districts to trial its cold chain distribution. 

After the US, India has been one of the hardest hit countries in the world with 147,901 reported deaths from coronavirus. 

11:33 AM

Pfizer to complete supply of 200 mln vaccine doses to Europe by Sept, says EU

The distribution of an initial 200 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech will be completed for the European Union by September, a spokesman for the EU Commission announced today. 

“Distribution of the full 200 million doses is scheduled to be completed by September 2021,” a spokesman told Reuters. 

He added that talks were underway to agree the delivery of a further 100 million additional doses which are optional under the contract sealed with the two companies.  

11:29 AM

Kazakhstan signs agreement with Pfizer for Covid-19 vaccine

Authorities in Kazakhstan have signed a preliminary agreement with Pfizer to potentially buy the vaccine it developed with its partner BioNTech against Covid-19.

“Today we signed a non-disclosure agreement with Pfizer, and we are ready to deal with the supplies of these vaccines on the territory of Kazakhstan by issuing special permits,” Deputy Health Minister Marat Shoranov said.

“Everything will depend on the production capacity and the company’s ability to supply the drug to our country.”

Kazakhstan has started producing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19, Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said last week.

11:18 AM

Pandemic ‘biggest hit to mental health since Second World War,’ says leading psychiatrist

A leading psychiatrist has said the coronavirus pandemic could be the “biggest hit to mental health since the Second World War”.

Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has said even when the virus is under control, there will be “profound” long-term consequences.

It is probably the biggest hit to mental health since the Second World War. It doesn’t stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in hospital. You’ve got to fund the long-term consequences.” 

Mental health charity Mind described the situation by Christmas as a “mental health emergency”, adding that “2020 has been a year of anxiety and uncertainty and more people need us than ever before”.

The charity said in November that more people have experienced a mental health crisis during the pandemic than ever previously recorded. 

11:11 AM

Japan PM says ‘virus recognises no holidays’, urges ministers’ vigilance

 Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday asked his ministers to remain ready to implement measures to prevent the further spread of coronavirus infections, after daily case numbers hit a string of record highs in recent days.

“The virus recognises no year-end or New Year holidays. I ask each minister to raise the level of their sense of urgency and thoroughly carry out counter measures,” Suga told a meeting of the government’s Covid-19 taskforce. 

11:02 AM

Scottish clinicians reveal grave fears that NHS facing winter ‘perfect storm’

Scotland’s NHS is close to breaking point and a surge of Covid-19 cases in the new year could leave the service overwhelmed, senior medical leaders have warned.

In a stark warning, members of the Scottish Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties said they feared coronavirus vaccines had come too late to save the NHS from a “perfect storm” of problems this winter.

The whole of mainland Scotland went into a level four lockdown on Boxing Day, meaning the closure of hospitality venues, non-essential shops and gyms.

However, experts are nervous about the impact a relaxation on Christmas Day will have on case numbers, after evidence emerged to suggest new strains of the virus are significantly more transmissible.

Daniel Sanderson has the full story here

10:50 AM

Trump signs $900bn coronavirus relief package

Donald Trump has signed a $900bn coronavirus relief package to help the US economy recover from the pandemic, after threatening to reject the bill last week.

The aid package was agreed by Democrats and Republicans in Congress late last Sunday, after months of negotiations.

But Trump unexpectedly demanded that the package, which had already been passed by the House and Senate and was believed to have Trump’s support, be revised to include larger relief checks and scaled-back spending on foreign aid.

Trump said: “As president, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child.”

What does the bill offer?

  • $286bn in direct economic relief, with more than half going on payments of $600 to individuals.

  • The US government will also restart pandemic unemployment benefits at $300 a week, which will last until 14 March. 

  • Additional funding for businesses, the arts, and foreign aid

10:43 AM

Germany’s death toll passes 30,000

Germany’s confirmed death toll in the pandemic has passed 30,000 as the country hopes its new lockdown will bring down case numbers.

The national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said today that another 348 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total to 30,126.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases by 10,976 to 1.65 million. That increase is much lower than a week ago, but lower testing and reporting over the Christmas period likely accounts for much of the difference.

Germany had a relatively low death rate in the first phase of the pandemic but has seen hundreds of deaths per day in recent weeks. Among major European nations, Italy, the U.K., France and Spain still have higher death tolls.

A national lockdown on December 16 with the closure of schools and most shops is scheduled to remain in place until January 10 and appears likely to be extended. 

10:33 AM

Keeping schools open is a price to pay even if it increases R number, Tory MPs say

Keeping schools open is a price that should be paid even if it increases the R number, Tory MPs have told the Prime Minister as they accuse scientists of “scaring” parents and children.

A number of backbenchers are understood to have urged Boris Johnson to him to keep schools open in the event of another national lockdown.

Their intervention comes ahead of crunch talks due to take place today between Number 10 and Department for Education officials about whether to delay the return to the classroom in January.

Downing Street has repeatedly said that keeping schools open is a “national priority” but scientists are warning that closures may be necessary to slow the spread of the new Covid-19 variant.

Camilla Turner has the full story here

10:26 AM

Thai governor of Covid hotspot infected

The governor of a province at the centre of an expanding Covid-19 outbreak in Thailand has been confirmed infected with the virus after meeting with public health officials, including the deputy prime minister.

The meeting, attended by governor Weerasak Wijitsaengsri and Deputy PM Anutin Charnvirakul was considered “low risk” because everyone wore masks, said Dr Taweesilp Visanuyotin, a spokesman for the Covid-19 response centre.

The governor did not have symptoms but would be treated at a hospital, Taweesilp said.

Anutin, who is also Thailand’s public health minister, wrote on Facebook that he has tested negative for the virus and is isolating at home for 14 days.

Thailand reported 144 new cases Monday, most of them locally transmitted, and its total has reached 6,285.

10:16 AM

Chinese citizen journalist jailed for four years over Wuhan coronavirus reports

A Chinese court sentenced a citizen journalist to four years in prison on Monday for her reports from Wuhan during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of picking quarrels and provoking trouble after a brief hearing in Shanghai, according to one of her defence lawyers, Ren Quanniu.

She had faced up to five years on the charge, which authorities regularly use to detain activists and other dissidents.  

Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old former lawyer, has been held in detention since she was arrested in May
Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old former lawyer, has been held in detention since she was arrested in May

Zhang, a former lawyer, had travelled to Wuhan in early February to chronicle the chaotic early stages and residents’ experiences of the coronavirus outbreak

She posted reports and livestreamed scenes from the city on WeChat, Facebook and Twitter, including evidence of crematoriums operating at midnight as the death toll rose. 

The former lawyer has been in detention since May and is in deteriorating health. She has been on a hunger strike for months to protest her detention, and has been subjected to force-feeding through a nasal tube, according to her lawyers.

10:07 AM

Philippines troops and ministers get Covid-19 vaccine before approval

Some Philippine soldiers and cabinet ministers have already received Covid-19 vaccine injections, officials said on Monday, despite an absence of regulatory approval. 

Interior minister, Eduardo Ano, said some cabinet members have already been inoculated and army chief, Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, said some troops had been vaccinated but the number was not large.

Neither said what brand of vaccine was administered.

The health ministry in a statement said all vaccines must first be evaluated by experts, and “only vaccines which have been approved and found to be safe should be administered”.

Food and Drug Administration head Rolando Enrique Domingo said Philippine regulators have yet to approve any Covid-19 vaccine, making any importation, distribution and sale of one illegal.

10:04 AM

Michael Gove says schools will reopen next week but warns of trade offs with wider lockdowns

Michael Gove has insisted primary pupils and some secondary schools will reopen next but warns there will be trade offs with potential wider lockdowns. 

The Cabinet Office minister said the Government was confident younger pupils and those in Years 11 and 13 in England would be able to return in the first week of January, with the rest going back later in the month.

He said: “It is our intention to make sure we can get children back to school as early as possible.  We are talking to teachers and head teachers in order to make sure we can deliver effectively. But we all know that there are trade-offs.”

Mr Gove said that children returning to school had to be a priority  as he cautioned that this had to be balanced against the new strain of the virus. 

Danielle Sheridan has the full story here

09:54 AM

South Korea detects first coronavirus variant cases

Three cases of a particularly infectious coronavirus variant that recently emerged in Britain have been confirmed in South Korea, health authorities said Monday.

The three individuals are members of a London-based family who arrived in the country on December 22, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

They have been placed in isolation since testing positive for Covid-19 on arrival, the KDCA statement said.

The new strain of the virus emerged earlier this month in Britain and has already reached several European countries, as well as Canada, Jordan and Japan.

Workers wearing PPE disinfect chairs at the arrival hall of the Incheon International Airport in South Korea - Kim Sun-woong 
Workers wearing PPE disinfect chairs at the arrival hall of the Incheon International Airport in South Korea – Kim Sun-woong

09:47 AM

Pfizer delays vaccine deliveries to eight EU nations

Pfizer has postponed the delivery of new batches of its coronavirus vaccine to eight European nations including Spain, the Spanish health ministry said Monday, a day after the EU began its immunisation campaign.

The Spanish branch of Pfizer informed Madrid on Sunday night of the delay in shipments to the eight nations due to a “problem in the loading and shipment process” at its plant in Belgium, the health ministry said in a statement.

It did not specify which European nations aside from Spain were affected.

Pfizer has informed the ministry that the problem “was already resolved” but the next delivery of vaccines “will be a few hours late” and arrive in Spain on Tuesday, a day later than expected, the statement said.

Healthworkers applaud as vials of the vaccine are delivered to the La Bonne Maison de Bouzanton care home in Mons, Belgium, - Francisco Seco 
Healthworkers applaud as vials of the vaccine are delivered to the La Bonne Maison de Bouzanton care home in Mons, Belgium, – Francisco Seco

09:39 AM

Indonesia bans international visitors for two weeks over new virus strain

International visitors will be barred from entering Indonesia for a two-week period in a bid to stem the spread of a new potentially more contagious strain of the virus, its foreign minister Retno Marsudi announced today.

The new regulation, effective from January 1, comes days after Indonesia banned travellers from Britain and tightened rules for those arriving from Europe and Australia to limit the spread of the new strain.

Earlier this year Indonesia had banned all visits from tourists all tourists with exemptions only made for business travellers.

The new restrictions will apply to all foreign visitors with the exception of high-level government officials, she said.

09:33 AM

Lag before benefits felt of Tier 4 restrictions, says medical chief

The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has said there will be a lag before the NHS feels the benefit of the Tier 4 restrictions imposed on London and the south east.

Dr Katherine Henderson told BBC Breakfast: “We will hope to start seeing the benefits in London of the Tier 4 restrictions and transmission rates but there is a big lag.

“All the people we are seeing at the moment were infected two weeks ago.”

09:25 AM

Non-urgent care paused in Scotland due to Covid-19.

The President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow said non-urgent care will have to be paused in Scotland due to Covid-19.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Dr Jackie Taylor said: “Everybody has been working over the last nine months to try and ensure that we catch up with the backlog, and we will continue to do that.

“But the harsh reality is that some places that are under pressure, some of that non-urgent work will have to be paused, we have to focus on urgent work and we have to be able to roll out the vaccination programme.”

She added: “There are hidden harms from Covid both in terms of operations and all sorts of other social and mental health and economic harms which we are all very, very aware of.”

09:20 AM

Close schools in January, warns Sage

Government scientists have told Boris Johnson in direct terms that he has to keep secondary schools closed in January and potentially order a stricter national lockdown than the one he implemented in November. 

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), delivered the new advice at a meeting last week, sources have told Politico. 

Sage’s advice was that the reproduction rate of the virus – knows as R – might be kept below 1 if schools stay closed in January.

The advisory body found that closing secondary schools would have a bigger impact than shutting primary schools.

09:13 AM

Government not ruling out all of England placed into Tier 4

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has not ruled out the whole of England being moved into Tier 4 restrictions.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We review which tiers parts of the country should be in on the basis of scientific evidence.

“The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) will be making a recommendation to ministers, but I can’t pre-empt that because it obviously has to be a judgment based on the medical situation.

“As you quite rightly point out, the NHS is under pressure and these are difficult months ahead.”

09:05 AM

‘Cost’ for allowing household mixing in Scotland on Christmas Day, warns medical chief

The President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has said there will be a “cost” for allowing household mixing in Scotland on Christmas Day.

Prof Jackie Taylor said: “When there is increased mixing we know there is likely to be increased transmission, (Scotland’s) levels have never fallen to the kind of levels that we would have wished, so we are starting from a higher base.

“In addition, the new variant strain we are seeing does appear to be significantly more transmissible and that does give us great cause for concern, when we add that to the usual winter pressures we are really very anxious for the potential of a further huge surge of cases.”

I think it is absolutely right that the restrictions were only flexed for that day but, inevitably, there will be a cost for this.

08:58 AM

Hospitals ‘wall to wall’ with Covid-19 patients on Christmas Day

The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned hospitals were “wall to wall” with Covid-19 patients on Christmas Day.

Dr Katherine Henderson told BBC Breakfast: “We see patients who are coming in who have Covid symptoms and then we have other people coming in with other symptoms who turn out to be Covid positive.

“Between that, there’s a great deal of difficulty getting those patients through into the wards.”

08:50 AM

Pfizer delays delivery of vaccine to Spain

Pfizer has postponed the delivery of a new batch of the coronavirus vaccine to Spain by one day to Tuesday due to a logistics hurdle, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Monday.

The company suffered an incident related to the control of temperature in the process of loading and sending out the vaccines, the minister said, adding the incident is now solved.

“They (vaccines) will be available tomorrow first thing in the morning in vaccination points,” Illa said in an interview to Cadena SER radio station. Spain started vaccinating people on Sunday.

He expected around 70 per cent of the country’s population to be immunised by the end of the summer.

08:43 AM

Little sign of vaccine hesitancy among elderly, says GP

Practice GP Dr Fari Ahmad has said that so far there has been little sign of “vaccine hesitancy” among the first groups to receive the Pfizer jab.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she said: “What’s really interesting is a lot of the over-80s are very happy to have the vaccine.

“I think they do understand how much of a difference it will make to them individually and they’re probably the ones that have been shielding, and it’s had a massive impact on them.

“As we move through the age ranges I certainly think there will be some vaccine hesitancy, but I would hope that people will have seen the benefits of it.”

Respiratory disease expert and Sage member Prof Calum Semple added the UK’s existing mass-vaccination programmes will help speed up the process.

“The technology for identifying people and logistics is built into our system – it’s going to have to be stepped up to do many, many more people in a shorter period of time, but that is feasible.”

08:41 AM

Reopening of schools in January to go ahead, says Michael Gove

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said the Government hopes the staggered reopening of schools in England will go ahead in January as planned.

“We always keep things under review but teachers and head teachers have been working incredibly hard over the Christmas period since schools broke up in order to prepare for a new testing regime – community testing – in order to make sure that children and all of us are safer,” he told Sky News.

“We do keep things under review but that is the plan.”

07:42 AM

Greg Norman in hospital – again – after testing positive

Greg Norman is back in hospital in Florida after the Australian golfing star tested positive for Covid-19, the 65-year-old said late on Sunday.

Norman, whose two major titles came at the British Open in 1986 and 1993,  said he tested negative at the exhibition PNC Championship in Orlando from December 19-20 but began to experience a fever and joint and muscle aches later in the week.

Greg Norman and son Greg Norman Jnr during the final round of the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida - Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Greg Norman and son Greg Norman Jnr during the final round of the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida – Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

He went to hospital on Christmas Day and returned home to self-isolate on Saturday while awaiting the results of another test.

“I hope this will be my final update on this Covid saga … back in hospital after getting a positive result,” he said on Instagram, adding he was receiving an infusion of antibodies.

“The path to full recovery. Hoping to be out later today.”

Norman said that despite being fit and strong and having a high tolerance for pain, the “hideous” virus had “kicked the crap out of me like nothing I have ever experienced before”.

“Muscle and joint pain on another level. Headaches that feel like a chisel going through your head scraping little bits off each time, fever, muscles that just did not want to work.

“Then my taste failed, where beer tastes bad and wine the same … at times struggling with memory of names and things.”

Norman’s son, also named Greg, had played with his father at the PNC Championship and confirmed he and his wife had tested positive. 

His son re-shared Norman’s Instagram post on Twitter (see below).

07:02 AM

News briefs from around the world

  • The United States government will require all airline passengers arriving from the UK to test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of departure starting on Monday.

  • Argentina will start vaccinations on Tuesday using the recently delivered Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.

  • Iran has reported the lowest daily fatalities in more than three months.

  • US President Donald Trump has signed into law a $2.3 trillion (£1.7 trillion) pandemic aid and spending package.

  • South Korea has extended social distancing measures for another six days – until January 3 – with the country reporting near-record numbers of new cases each day.

  • Brazilian vice-president Hamilton Mourão has tested positive for coronavirus.

06:42 AM

African nation records one million coronavirus cases

South Africa has logged its millionth case of Covid-19 as the pandemic shows no signs of letting up.

Global infections have raced past 80 million with nearly 1.8 million deaths, even as vaccination drives gather pace in North America and Europe, with a top US expert warning that the pandemic might get even worse in coming weeks.

The explosion of cases worldwide in recent weeks has prompted the return of many unpopular restrictions.

South Africa became the first African nation to log one million cases, official data showed on Sunday, as authorities considered reimposing restrictions to battle a second wave of infections driven by the new variant.

06:37 AM

For those who miss their grandmother’s honest truths…

“This has been the year of Granny Appreciation,” writes Shane Watson.

“Ten months without proper granny contact has left us craving those words of advice, beady observations and practical tips that we used to mildly resent.”

For those who didn’t get their granny/mum fix this Christmas, click the link below for a quick reminder of what you probably missed…

READ MORE: Granny knows best: The advice that we missed in 2020

Words of wisdom from Gran - Diamond Dogs/iStockphoto
Words of wisdom from Gran – Diamond Dogs/iStockphoto

06:29 AM

NHS staff told to prepare for Oxford vaccine​

Frontline NHS workers have been told they will soon receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, as regulators look set to approve the coronavirus treatment this week.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency could give the go-ahead for the British vaccine as early as Monday, a decision which would rapidly speed up the vaccination rollout across the UK.

Although there were concerns that the Oxford jab may not be as effective as the Pfizer version, AstraZeneca said it was due to publish new data showing efficacy is now around 95 per cent.

Read the full story here.

06:21 AM

The true cost of Covid on our nation’s retail soul

“The coronavirus pandemic, and the measures taken to try and bring it under control, have wreaked havoc across our high streets,” writes Rosa Silverman in The Telegraph.

With trade brought to a grinding halt and their life blood all but cut off, shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, hairdressers and beauty salons have struggled to stay afloat. 

“Many thousands haven’t prevailed. Shocking new figures compiled by the Local Data Company and published exclusively in The Telegraph lay bare the extent of the damage.”

READ MORE: Lost Britain: the true cost of Covid on our nation’s retail soul – revealed

We have gathered the stories of small business owners who have seen everything they had lovingly built crumble to nothing
We have gathered the stories of small business owners who have seen everything they had lovingly built crumble to nothing

06:06 AM

Volunteer army ready to distribute Covid vaccine

An army of more than 10,000 medics and volunteers has been recruited by the NHS to help deliver the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, once it is given approval. 

The Telegraph has learnt that teams are trained and ready to begin giving the jab at sports stadia and race courses across the country, with a target of vaccinating at least a million people each week. 

The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab could be approved early next week, after the final cut of data was submitted by the Government last Monday.

Officials have pinpointed January 4, 2021, as the date the rollout of the mass vaccination programme will begin. 

READ MORE: 10,000 medics and volunteers recruited to administer jab

06:02 AM

Crowds banned for New Year fireworks on Sydney foreshore

This won't be happening this year -  Rick Rycroft/AP
This won’t be happening this year – Rick Rycroft/AP

Sydney, one of the world’s first major cities to welcome each New Year with a public countdown featuring a fireworks display over its well-known Opera House, has banned large gatherings that night amid an outbreak of coronavirus.

A mid-December resurgence in the city’s northern beach suburbs has grown to 125 cases after five new infections were recorded on Monday. About a quarter of million of people there must stay in strict lockdown until January 9.

That has led to further restrictions of the already toned-down plans for New Year’s Eve.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian banned most people from Sydney’s CBD that night and limited outdoor gatherings to 50 people.

“We don’t want to create any super-spreading events on New Year’s Eve, which then ruins it for everybody across the state moving forward,” Ms Berejiklian said.

NSW Police have issued 15 notices in Sydney for breaking public health orders since Christmas Eve.

“I would say to those people half contemplating doing anything stupid in the next few days, forget it,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

05:42 AM

Cases of new strain reported in Norway and Canada

Mutant coronavirus strains spread further across the world this weekend, with new cases detected in countries including Portugal, Norway and Canada.

Health officials in Ontario said that two confirmed cases of the new and highly infectious coronavirus variant, which was first detected in the UK, had appeared in the Canadian province.

On the Portuguese island of Madeira, cases of the new strain have been found, according to local officials.

Norway confirmed that at least two people who returned recently from Britain were infected with the variant.

READ MORE: More cases of new coronavirus strain reported in Norway, Canada and Portuguese island

03:03 AM

UK variant reaches South Korea

Three cases of a particularly infectious coronavirus variant that recently emerged in Britain have been confirmed in South Korea, health authorities said on Monday.

The three individuals are members of a London-based family who arrived in the country on December 22, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

A worker sprays disinfectant as a preventative measure against the spread of coronavirus, outside a makeshift clinic in Seoul, South Korea - KIM CHUL-SOO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A worker sprays disinfectant as a preventative measure against the spread of coronavirus, outside a makeshift clinic in Seoul, South Korea – KIM CHUL-SOO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

They have been placed in isolation since testing positive for Covid-19 on arrival.

The new strain of the virus emerged earlier this month in Britain and has already reached several European countries, as well as Canada, Jordan and Japan.

READ MORE: Three cases of ‘UK variant’ of coronavirus detected in South Korea

02:26 AM

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