Coronavirus UK news – Christmas covid surge WORSE now than any time during 1st wave, expert warns as mutant strains rage

THE Christmas covid surge is worse than any spike seen during the first wave of the virus, a SAGE expert has warned.

Speaking of the astonishing 744 covid deaths yesterday, Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and Government's SAGE advisory body member, tweeted "Heartbreaking & tragic. Situation worse than 'Wave 1".

He pointed out that with medical treatment massively improving and mortality rates now much lower among those hospitalised with covid, a death toll of 744 really shows how out of control the virus currently is.

His comments come as analysis of another mutant strain found in the UK – this time from South Africa – showed it to be even easier to transmit that the current mutant strainsurging in south east England.

In the meantime you can follow all the latest news and analysis of the new covid crisis in our live blog below.

  • Shayma Bakht

    LIST OF EUROPEAN COUNTRIES RESTRICTING TRAVEL TO/FROM UK

    • France
    • Belgium
    • Germany
    • Ireland
    • Netherlands
    • Spain
    • Switzerland
    • Italy
    • Italy
    • Austria
    • Denmark
    • Sweden
    • Norway
    • Croatia
    • Bulgaria
    • Malta
    • Finland
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Hungary
    • Czech Republic
    • Slovakia
    • North Macedonia

    BREAKING: CHINA LATEST TO BAN UK FLIGHTS

    China will suspend flights to and from the UK, joining a growing list of countries who have implemented travel bans on Great Britain.

    This is in response to a new variant of the coronavirus, which originated in the south east of England

    Its Foreign Ministry made the announcement today.

    A CHRISTMAS EVE BAN

    From 9am today any visitors arriving into England who have been in or travelled through South Africa in the previous 10 days will not be permitted entry and direct flights will be banned.

    The Department for Transport saycargo and freight without passengers will be allowed.

    British and Irish nationals, visa holders and permanent residents will also be allowed entry to England.

    They will, however, be required to self-isolate for 10 days along with their household.

    • Ellie Cambridge

      KEEP ON TRUCKIN'

      Lorries have been moving overnight on the M20 and outside Dover port.

      The Army and police have worked with drivers all night to get the backlog of trucks cleared.

      There is still a way to go but drivers are now crossing the border after showing their negative tests.

      But many will still not get home in time for family festive celebrations, as many in Europe celebrate on Christmas Eve.

    • Ellie Cambridge

      ROYAL FIRST

      Prince William, Kate Middleton and other royals won't attend their usual Christmas Day service in Norfolk for the first time in 32 years. 

      The royal family will not take part in the traditional service at St Mary Magdalene Church on the Queen's Sandringham estate due to the coronavirus pandemic, Norfolk Police revealed

      It will be the first time in decades that the Royal Family have not visited the church on December 25.

      The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will also stay away, despite spending the festive break at their country home in Anmer Hall just two miles away. 

    • Ellie Cambridge

      NEW VACCINE HOPE

      Oxford's coronavirus vaccine has been sent to regulators for approval in a huge boost in the fight against the coronavirus.

      Matt Hancock yesterday announced the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab developed in Britain has been sent for sign off – with approval expected in just days.

      The British jab is expected to make waves in curbing the spread of Covid-19 across the world if approved, as it is cheaper and easier to distribute than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

      The British government has ordered more than 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine and roughly 40 million of these will be available by the end of March.

    • Jon Rogers

      WIDESPREAD BOXING DAY LOCKDOWN LOOMS AS UK BANS SOUTH AFRICA TRAVELLERS

      Millions more people will be under the toughest coronavirus restrictions from Boxing Day as the UK implemented a travel ban on South Africa amid concerns over another new strain of Covid-19.

      Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the "highly concerning" new variant is believed to be more transmissible than the mutant strain that resulted in the creation of the new Tier 4 restrictions.

      It is believed to be behind an increase in cases in South Africa, and has been discovered in two people in the UK thought to be contacts of those who travelled between the two countries in the last few weeks.

      From 9am on Christmas Eve, visitors arriving into England who have been in or travelled through South Africa in the previous 10 days will not be permitted entry and direct flights will be banned, the Department for Transport said.

      The ban excludes cargo and freight without passengers, and also does not include British and Irish nationals, visa holders and permanent residents, who will be able to enter but are required to self-isolate for 10 days along with their household.

    • Jon Rogers

      RAPID-RESULT TESTS IN LIVERPOOL 'MISSED 60% OF KNOWN CORONAVIRUS CASES'

      A mass community testing pilot in Liverpool using rapid-result tests failed to detect 60% of known positive coronavirus cases, an evaluation shows.

      A quarter of Liverpool's 498,000 residents were tested using lateral flow device tests (LFTs) between November 6 and December 9, with 897 positive results.

      And a third used the LFTs or PCR tests, with 2,902 positive results, according to the evaluation, led by the University of Liverpool.

      Scientists have defended the rapid tests as a "useful public health tool".

      Professor Louise Kenny, of the University of Liverpool, said there was no perfect test, adding: "Do not let perfection be the enemy of good."

    • Jon Rogers

      SOUTH KOREA SIGNS DEAL FOR COVID VACCINE

      South Korea has signed deals with Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnsons Janssen to secure coronavirus vaccines for 10million people and 6million, respectively, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a televised briefing on Thursday.

      The government had previously signed deals with four companies, including Janssen and Pfizer as part of a programme that will provide coronavirus vaccines for 44 million people.

    • Jon Rogers

      KEY WORKERS ON DUTY ON CHRISTMAS DAY DESERVE BETTER PAY AND CONDITIONS – TUC

      Key workers who have kept the country going during the pandemic this year will be on duty on Christmas Day and deserve improvements to their pay and conditions, union leaders are urging.

      The TUC said its analysis of official figures showed that one in five care workers and one in six nurses will not have a day off on Friday.

      Workers such as social care staff are on low pay and insecure contracts, while many others who will be on call, including police officers and firefighters, face a pay freeze in 2021.

      TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Key workers have cared for us during this crisis and continue to care for us. It's time we cared for them.

      "Many working over Christmas are on low pay and insecure contracts, especially in sectors like social care."

    • Jon Rogers

      SHAPPS CALLS FOR 'PATIENCE' AS THOUSANDS OF LORRY DRIVERS REMAIN STRANDED

      The Transport Secretary has called for "patience" from thousands of lorry drivers stranded outside the Port of Dover following the French travel ban.

      More than 6,000 HGVs are being held in Kent with some facing a fourth night in their cabs since the border was temporarily closed on Sunday night.

      Trucks began entering the Eurotunnel again on Wednesday after the French government agreed to allow drivers through provided they had a negative Covid-19 result, but it is feared it could take days to carry out tests on the hauliers.

      Mr Shapps said work continues to "get traffic rolling", but added drivers needed to "follow instructions" from British officials in order to leave.

      It comes after some drivers clashed with police in Dover on Wednesday, while others protested by blocking roads near the lorry holding facility at Manston Airport, where there have been complaints over a lack of food and toilets.

    • Jon Rogers

      PM PAYS TRIBUTES TO ARMED FORCES PERSONNEL IN CHRISTMAS CALL

      Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid tribute to armed forces personnel for their work tackling Covid-19 during 2020.

      In a video call with troops overseas in Mali, Estonia, Somalia and Afghanistan, as well as those deployed in the UK, Mr Johnson thanked them all for being "our number one export".

      In the call, Mr Johnson said: "I want to salute all of you, our fantastic armed services, all our men and women in uniform, for everything that you do.

      "You represent in my view the very best of our country, our number one export, the thing people really want to see around the world.

      "You do good, you keep the peace, you promote our values around the world and you fly the flag for our country in the way that few other institutions can manage.

      "That's why this Government has just announced the biggest uplift in spending on the armed services since the end of the Cold War – because we believe passionately in you and in what you are doing.

      "It's not just abroad that this has been an amazing year for the armed services. So many of you have been responsible for doing extraordinary things here at home, thousands of you helping to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

      "Building the Nightingales, delivering PPE, testing people, and now leading the way and helping the country to get vaccinated.

      "Thank you for your sacrifice and your effort. You're bringing hope and encouragement to the entire country. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas."

    • Jon Rogers

      STARMER: COVID CRISIS HAS SHOWN THE BEST OF BRITAIN

      The coronavirus crisis has shown the "very best of Britain", Sir Keir Starmer has said in his Christmas message.

      The Labour leader thanked key workers for their role in the pandemic and warned that NHS staff and carers "will have to step up again, one more time, this Christmas".

      Sir Keir said the Covid-19 vaccine offers a "light at the end of the tunnel" but acknowledged the difficulties many families face with "an empty space around the Christmas table" this year.

      He urged people to capture the spirit shown during the crisis to "rebuild a better future for our country".

    • Jon Rogers

      BOND STARS NARRATE POEM WITH CHARLES AND CAMILLA FOR ACTORS' CHARITY

      James Bond stars Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench have joined the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in recording a much-loved festive poem in aid of charity.

      Charles and Camilla have been filmed narrating 'Twas The Night Before Christmas with a host of performers to raise awareness about the Actors' Benevolent Fund (ABF) which has received more requests for help this year than ever before.

      The actors who took part included Tom Hardy, Dame Maggie Smith, Joanna Lumley, Ncuti Gatwa and the ABF's president Dame Penelope Keith.

      The heir to the throne read the famous opening lines of Clement Clarke Moore's poem: "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

      Charles is the ABF's patron and came up with the idea of gathering a group of actors for the reading after being approached by the charity to help following Covid-19's major impact on the acting profession.

    • Jon Rogers

      US TO SHIP 4.7M VACCINES NEXT WEEK

      The US government and its partners will distribute 4.67 million doses of Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc's Covid-19 vaccine next week, bringing the total number of doses slated for shipment this year to around 20million, US Army General Gustave Perna said on a Wednesday press call.

      Perna said that some of the deliveries of the first 20m doses will drag on until the first week of January.

      Administering all those doses to patients could take even longer, US Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Dr Moncef Slaoui said.

    • Jon Rogers

      MODERNA EXPECTS VACCINE TO PROTECT AGAINST NEW VARIANT

      Moderna Inc said on Wednesday it expects that the immunity induced by its Covid-19 vaccine would be protective against the coronavirus variants reported in the UK, based on data to date.

      The company said it plans to run tests to confirm the vaccine's activity against any strain.

    • Jon Rogers

      SOUTH AFRICA SET TO PASS COVID'S FIRST WAVE PEAK

      The rate of coronavirus infections in South Africa will soon surpass the peak hit in the first wave earlier in the year, the health ministry warned on Wednesday, as the country battles a new, faster-spreading variant of the respiratory disease.

      Positive cases increased by 14,046, pushing total infections to 954,258, the ministry said.

      The positivity rate – or the percentage of all coronavirus tests performed that are actually positive – was at 26 per cent, around double the average rate of infection the country had seen before December, when the virus showed signs of waning.

      South Africa's health department on Friday said it identified a new virus mutation, variant 501.V2, saying it was likely behind a recent surge in infections. A number of countries have responded by barring travel to and from South Africa.

      Local and World Health Organization (WHO) officials say the variant is different from one identified in Britain, though both carry mutations that make them more transmissible than previously circulating dominant strains.

    • Jon Rogers

      COMPENSATION NEEDED FOR BUSINESSES HIT BY PORT DISRUPTION, SAYS MINISTER

      Compensation is urgently required for businesses that have suffered losses as a result of the closure of French ports, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has said.

      France announced a ban on hauliers taking freight across the Channel on Sunday night amid fears over the spread of a more infectious strain of coronavirus.

      Crossings from Dover have resumed but thousands of HGVs are still being held in Kent, with drivers being tested for Covid-19 before they are allowed into France.

      In a letter to the UK Government, Mr Ewing has reiterated calls for the prioritisation approach for fresh and live seafood and day-old chicks, which would reduce food wastage and loss of profits.

      His letters ends with a call to extend the end of the Brexit transition period with the EU, to provide companies with time to adapt and eliminate any further disastrous disruption at ports affecting UK businesses and consumers.

    • Jon Rogers

      NORTHERN IRELAND CONFIRMS MUTANT COVID CASE

      Northern Ireland's Department of Health has confirmed a positive test for the new variant of Covid-19 first detected in Britain.

      Health Minister Robin Swann said the confirmation underlines the need for everyone to “redouble our efforts to stop the virus spreading”.

      The variant is likely to have been present in Northern Ireland for a period of time, the department said.

    • Jon Rogers

      SCHOOLS & COLLEGES TO GET COVID VACCINE ON JANUARY 4

      The first deliveries of up to 1,000 starter test kits with tests and PPE will arrive at secondary schools and colleges on January 4.

      The new guidance said the amount of funding available to each school or college to enable mass testing would depend on its size, as this impacted the number of extra staff needed.

      It said a mainstream secondary school outside of London with 2,000 pupils and staff would need 24 people for testing and would receive around £28,000.

      Schools would be able to use the funding in the way that worked best for them, and would be available to cover relevant staffing costs regardless of the number of volunteers schools used.

      PPE would also be directly provided, the DfE said.

    • Jon Rogers

      GOVT ANNOUNCES £78M FUND TO SUPPORT TESTING COSTS IN SCHOOLS & COLLEGES

      Schools and colleges will receive a share of a £78 million fund to support them with mass testing costs, the Government has said.

      The Department for Education (DfE) published guidance to schools on Wednesday, ahead of mass asymptomatic testing due to be rolled out at the start of term.

      Schools and colleges will be able to offer students two rapid tests three days apart on the first week of term as part of the rollout of testing.

      Testing will be optional but strongly encouraged, particularly in areas with a higher prevalence of the virus.

      The Government previously announced that most secondary school and college pupils' return to class in England would be staggered in the first week of January to help rollout the mass testing of students.

    • Catriona Graffius

      HEALTHY STUDENT, 20, SUFFERS HEART FAILURE CAUSED BY COVID TWO WEEKS AFTER SHE 'BEAT "MILD" CASE'

      A healthy 20-year-old student shockingly suffered heart failure caused by Covid two weeks after she "beat a 'mild' case."

      Maddie Neville initially experienced loss of taste and smell, as well as a cough, when she was diagnosed with Covid in October.

      But she was later admitted to hospital after suffering from intense chest pain and shortness of breath.

      She was then diagnosed with congestive heart failure brought on by complications of Covid.

      Her heart was left pumping at just 10 percent of its normal capacity after suffering severe inflammation.

    • Jon Rogers

      COSTA RICA TO GET ITS FIRST COVID VACCINES

      The first delivery of Covid-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer is expected to reach Costa Rica on Wednesday night, with vaccinations set to begin on Thursday, President Carlos Alvarado told a news conference.

      The shots are due to be allocated first to workers at healthcare centres and elderly care facilities.

    • Jon Rogers

      ALITALIA TO RESTART FLIGHTS TO AND FROM LONDON

      Alitalia will restart daily flights to and from London on Thursday after getting clearance from the Italian health ministry, the flagship carrier said on Wednesday.

      The Italian flag carrier said passengers travelling from London would have to be residents of Italy or have urgent reasons for their journey, and would have to present negative Covid-19 tests carried out within the past 72 hours.

      Flights to London had been suspended after the Italian government called for a halt to try and stop the spread of a new mutation of the coronavirus circulating in Britain.

    • Jon Rogers

      FRANCE REPORTS 15,000 NEW COVID CASES

      France registered 14,929 new confirmed Covid-19 cases and 276 more deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours, according to French health ministry data published on Wednesday.

      France now has a total of around 2.5million confirmed Covid-19 infections and 61,978 deaths from the respiratory disease since the pandemic began early this year.

    Source: Read Full Article