No 10 defends vaccination rollout despite London lagging behind

Max Stephens
Queues for the Covid-19 vaccine at the mass vaccination hub at Robertson House in Stevenage, north of London - Joe Giddens/AFP
Queues for the Covid-19 vaccine at the mass vaccination hub at Robertson House in Stevenage, north of London - Joe Giddens/AFP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

07:01 PM

Roundup of today's top stories

Here is a roundup of today's top stories:

06:51 PM

Marcus Rashford and Jamie Oliver write to PM demanding review of free school meals during pandemic

The England and Manchester United striker has joined TV chefs Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to urge the Government to develop a strategy to end child food poverty.

In their letter, backed by more than 40 NGOs, charities and education leaders, they said the review should consider eligibility thresholds to ensure disadvantaged children are not excluded and how schools can be supported to deliver the best quality meals.

"This review would provide the Government with the opportunity to future-proof its policy on school food, and to carefully consider how best to support low-income children and families in the aftermath of the pandemic," they said.

"School food is essential in supporting the health and learning of our most disadvantaged children.

"Now, at a time when children have missed months of in-school learning and the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of our health, this is a vital next step."

06:47 PM

Majority of children failed to meet recommended exercise levels in 2020

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children’s inactivity has been laid bare in a major new report, which shows that more than half of the nation’s schoolchildren are failing to meet recommended daily activity levels.

Underlining the urgency of Telegraph Sport’s Keep Kids Active campaign, Sport England’s annual Active Lives survey also detailed the specific impact of lockdown restrictions between May and July, when more than a million fewer children took part in sporting activities.

It specifically found that around 200,000 more boys were failing to meet the chief medical officer’s guidance of averaging at least an hour of daily activity compared to that same period in 2019.

Girls' activity levels, however, increased compared to the previous year, as they were statistically less impacted by organised team sport being so restricted, even if an overall gender gap did remain and fewer girls than boys were still active through the year.

Jeremy Wilson has the full story here

06:37 PM

Almost 100,000 NHS staff off sick as number absent due to Covid doubles

Nearly 100,000 NHS staff are now off sick, with a doubling of the number absent because of Covid, new figures show.

Official figures reveal that 99,934 NHS workers were on sick leave last week – one in 10 of the workforce. Of those, 49,704 were either sick with Covid or forced to self-isolate because of contact with a positive case. The figure is almost twice the 27,593 recorded a month ago.

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals, said the numbers were "worrying".

She said: "The data shows that, across England, almost 100,000 NHS staff were absent from work, with almost 50 per cent linked to Covid-19 related sickness or self-isolation, on January 6.

Our Health Editor Laura Donnelly has the full story here

06:32 PM

Universities should consider fee refunds where teaching falls short says watchdog

Universities should consider offering tuition fee refunds to students where teaching has not been delivered as promised amid the pandemic, England's higher education watchdog has said.

The Office for Students (OfS) has urged universities in England to review whether they provided students with "sufficiently clear" information about what teaching and assessment would look like in 2020-21.

If an institution concludes students were not adequately informed, the OfS says universities will be expected to consider their "obligations under consumer law for refunds or other forms of redress".

The warning came as most university students in England have been told to stay at home and not return to campus until at least mid-February, which has sparked calls for greater financial support for students.

A number of universities have taken the decision to move lessons online until even later in the year amid the tighter restriction due to the pandemic.

06:23 PM

Twitter restricts account of Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine website

Social media platform Twitter restricted access to the official account promoting the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, the website showed on Thursday.

"Caution: This account is temporarily restricted...because there has been some unusual activity," a statement on the Twitter page for the vaccine showed, though it still permitted users to click through and access the page.

"We are looking into the reasons for this," the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which runs the account and markets the vaccine abroad, said in a statement. "We ask all our subscribers to write to Twitter asking them to restore our access.

06:17 PM

Labour MP accuses the Government of incompetence with 'rushed announcement' over travel ban

Labour's shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds welcomed the South America travel ban but accused the Government of incompetence with another "rushed announcement".

"It is a necessary step that arrivals from Brazil, neighbouring countries and Portugal will be banned," he said.

"However, this is yet another example of Government incompetence, lurching from one crisis and rushed announcement to another.

"The failure to put in place an effective policy on testing before entry and a quarantine system that is checking only one in 100 people is putting lives at risk."

06:12 PM

Stormont's leaders criticise Irish government for not sharing passenger data during pandemic

Stormont's leaders have criticised the Irish Government for failing to share information on travellers arriving on the island during the pandemic.

First Minister Arlene Foster said repeated attempts by the Executive to access data on passenger locator forms filled out by people arriving in the Irish Republic had proved unsuccessful.

Her comments came after the Stormont Executive agreed new restrictions on international travel into Northern Ireland that will require arriving passengers to produce a negative Covid-19 test undertaken within 72 hours of departure for the region.

Decisions to introduce similar measures have already been taken in the Irish Republic as well as in England and Scotland.

06:02 PM

Spain's Covid-19 rate rises above 500 cases per 100,000 people

Spain's Covid-19 rate measured over the past 14 days has risen to 523 cases per 100,000 people, health ministry data showed on Thursday, just shy of the record high of 529 cases per 100,000 people recorded in November.

The ministry added 35,878 new infections to its tally, in a slowdown from the previous day's record rise of nearly 39,000, which pushed the cumulative total to 2,211,967 cases.

The death toll from the virus rose by 201 to 53,079.

Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default

05:55 PM

Tennis: Andy Murray's plans for Australian Open thrown in doubt after positive test

Andy Murray's participation in the Australian Open has been thrown into doubt after it was revealed on Thursday he had tested positive for coronavirus.

The British former world number one was due to travel to Australia on one of a series of charter flights laid on by tournament organisers but is still isolating at home in London.

It is understood that Murray, apparently in good health, is hoping to be able to arrive in Australia at a later date.

Australian Open organisers wished the 33-year-old a speedy recovery but it was unclear whether he would still have a chance to take part.

05:48 PM

France to carry out at least one million Covid-19 tests per month in schools

France will carry out at least one million Covid-19 tests per month in schools as part of a strategy to keep them open during the pandemic, Prime Minister Castex said on Thursday,

He also told a news conference that from Jan. 25 first-year students in higher education will be allowed to attend courses on campuses in small groups.

From January 18 people with high-risk illnesses, regardless of age can get vaccinated.

05:38 PM

France moves up start of coronavirus curfew to 6 pm from 8pm.

France will move up the start of its daily nationwide curfew to 6 p.m. from 8 p.m. from Saturday for at least 15 days to better combat the spread of coronavirus Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday.

Castex also told a news conference that there was no need for a new national lockdown for now but and that if the pandemic gets out of hand, France will lock down again.

The virus has claimed more than 69,000 lives in France, the seventh highest death toll in the world.

Coronavirus France Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus France Spotlight Chart - Cases default

05:30 PM

Anne Hathaway races to release 'Locked Down' Covid-19 rom-com

As the rest of the world was shutting down to stave off Covid-19, U.S. star Anne Hathaway found herself starting up a whole new movie project - a rom-com heist caper set in the pandemic still raging around her.

"I don't think either of us quite know how we pulled it off," Hathaway told Reuters as she sat down with her co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor to talk about "Locked Down", the result of their labours that started streaming on HBO Max on Thursday.

Anne Hathaway on the set of HBO's Locked Down - Susie Allnutt
Anne Hathaway on the set of HBO's Locked Down - Susie Allnutt

The film tells the story of a co uple on the verge of breaking up, until coronavirus restrictions leave them stuck together in London.

The frustration from their forced cohabitation and a series of plot twists boil over into a scheme to steal a diamond from Harrod's department store.

Filming began in the autumn when Britain was ramping up restrictions again after a relative lull with the two actors agreed to do the film after seeing only an incomplete script.

05:21 PM

Boris Johnson warned leadership will be 'on the table' unless Covid restrictions eased

Boris Johnson has been told by a senior Tory backbencher that his leadership will be "on the table" if the Government does not back off on Covid restrictions.

Steve Baker of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group has written to members urging them to put pressure on the Tory chief whip over the issue.

Mr Baker, who played a prominent part in Theresa May's downfall, warned that unless the issue was dealt with now it would become a matter of leadership.

He stated in the letter to colleagues: "I am sorry to have to say this again and as bluntly as this: it is imperative you equip the Chief Whip today with your opinion that debate will become about the PM's leadership if the Government does not set out a clear plan for when our full freedoms will be restored, with a guarantee that this strategy will not be used again next winter."

Railing against the prospect of increased coronavirus restrictions, Mr Baker said: "If we continue forward with a strategy that hammers freedom, hammers the private sector, hammers small business owners and hammers the poor, inevitably the Prime Minister's leadership will be on the table: we strongly do not want that after all we have been through as a country."

05:14 PM

Waning immunity may mean annual Covid jabs are needed, says Cambridge professor

People may have to be vaccinated against Covid every year because of waning immunity against the virus, a leading researcher has said.

Sharon Peacock, professor of public health and microbiology at Cambridge University, said that immunity against Covid-19 is likely to tail off over time, therefore repeated vaccinations will be needed.

“Going into the future we’re looking at repeated immunisation because we'll need to keep boosting our immune response. There’s still quite a lot to learn in that regard but what we do know from the common cold for example is that immunity does wane,” she told an online seminar organised by the Royal Society of Medicine.

“And from early studies of SARS-Cov-2 [the virus that causes Covid] there's a similar signal coming through in the data. It's not going to be a one shot and I think that we're going to keep coming back in the same way that people get their flu jab every year,” said Prof Peacock.

Anne Gulland has the full story here

05:08 PM

Frontline workers who get long Covid should get compensation, MPs suggest

MPs have called for long Covid to be classed as an "occupational disease", with a compensation scheme set up for sufferers who were infected during their work on the frontline.

Long Covid, where people experience symptoms for weeks or even months, could affect up to one in 10 people who get the disease, according to data from the Office for National Statistics.

In the first parliamentary debate on the issue, Layla Moran MP said the condition needed more research and recognition.

"Long Covid sufferers feel that they are forgotten in this pandemic, and their plight needs recognition by both the state and employers," she said.

Ms Moran, chair of the coronavirus All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), called for a national register of cases as well as a compensation scheme, similar to that for the armed forces.

Jennifer Rigby has the full story here

05:01 PM

Medical expert seeks to debunk myths that Covid-19 affects fertility

Covid-19 vaccines do not affect fertility, according to a medical expert who is urging women not to be duped by "rumours and myths" about the jabs.

Professor Lucy Chappell, a consultant obstetrician specialising in women with medical problems in pregnancy, says it is understandable that there have been questions about the new vaccines but notes that fearful claims which can be easily found online have never been substantiated.

She told PA news agency: "I dug into all those sources and I can see absolutely no basis for concerns about any of the Covid-19 vaccines that are licenced in the UK and fertility."

She described the claims as "spurious" because they relate to similarities between some aspects of the proteins involved in fertility and the Covid-19 vaccines but these are "very speculative and entirely not supported by any of the data".

04:56 PM

Most reported Covid-19 outbreaks are in care homes, new data shows

Most outbreaks of Covid-19 reported to Public Health England (PHE) surveillance teams are taking place in care homes and have risen, new data shows.

There were 977 suspected outbreaks in care homes reported to PHE in the seven days to January 10, where 739 had at least one linked case that tested positive for coronavirus.

This is up from 749 suspected outbreaks the week before.

While the data does not show a full picture of where coronavirus transmission is happening, it does suggest an issue in care homes and in some hospitals.

Coronavirus excess deaths - by location (hospital, care home, private home)
Coronavirus excess deaths - by location (hospital, care home, private home)

04:52 PM

British tourist blamed for surge of covid cases in Swiss skiing competition

An unnamed British tourist has been blamed for a surge in coronavirus cases that led to the cancellation of a famous ski race in Switzerland, Justin Huggler reports.

The Lauberhorn race was supposed to take place this weekend but was cancelled following a spate of infections in the Alpine resort of Wengen, in the Bernese Oberland.

Swiss officials say they have linked at least 27 infections to the unnamed Briton, who stayed at a hotel in the resort over the New Year period.

He is believed to have tested positive for the new mutation of the virus which was detected in the UK late last year.

Authorities in Switzerland have angered their neighbours by insisting on keeping their ski slopes open to tourists. Germany and France have both closed their resorts and Austria requires all foreign residents to quarantine.

04:45 PM

Union defends postal delivery workers amid delays

The postal workers' union has asked for people to be patient amid delays in some areas because of staff shortages caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The Communication Workers Union said postal services were not immune to the challenges being faced across the country by the ongoing pandemic.

Deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: "Our members have done an absolutely incredible job throughout the pandemic to keep the UK connected.

"There have been and will continue to be some delays in areas of the UK due to the impact of Covid."

What we will not stand for is criticism of our members, who are going above and beyond to keep the service going.

04:38 PM

Use facial recognition cameras to identify people refusing to wear masks, says former commissioner

Facial recognition cameras should be used to spot people who refuse to wear face masks, the Government's former surveillance camera commissioner has said.

Tony Porter said the cameras had a high success rate for identifying people whose faces were 50 per cent covered as they would be with a Covid mask or covering.

With the appropriate safeguards, they could be used either to identify an individual without a mask in locations where Covid regulations required their use or on an anonymised basis to check compliance and pinpoint a "blanked out" face without a covering.

The facial recognition system that identifies people even when they are wearing masks demonstrated in Japan earlier this month - Reuters
The facial recognition system that identifies people even when they are wearing masks demonstrated in Japan earlier this month - Reuters

Mr Porter, whose post as commissioner has been merged by the Government with the biometric commissioner, said: "Say you have 100 people in a location moving around and there is an absolute requirement for people to wear masks, then this technology can identify a subject without a mask.

Charles Hymas has the full story here

04:30 PM

Planet Normal podcast: Sir Graham Brady MP on lifting 'ludicrous' lockdown measures

04:27 PM

UN urges governments to use Covid-19 stimulus to adapt to climate threats

Spending to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic will determine whether countries are better able to adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas as the planet warms - a challenge they have failed to meet so far, top U.N. officials have said.

In the fifth edition of its Adaptation Gap Report, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said some progress had been made on planning to protect economies and societies from the worsening impacts of climate change.

But not enough work had been done on the ground as funding fell far short of needs, with only an annual average of $30 billion available for adaptation in 2017-2018, compared with an estimated requirement of about $70 billion a year in developing countries alone.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said that, in 2020, floods, droughts and storms had affected 50 million people and wildfires had devastated forests and communities, even as countries struggled to deal with the pandemic.

"The only way to minimise these costs and damages is to race to adapt," she said. "While we may be gathering pace, we are still losing this vital race."

She and other leaders of U.N. agencies stressed that adaptation needed to happen in tandem with stepped-up efforts to reduce climate-heating emissions, as curbing global warming would lower the human and financial losses it causes.

04:19 PM

Travel to UK from South America and Portugal banned over Covid variant

Travel to the UK from all of South America as well as Portugal will be banned from 4am on Friday because of concerns over the Brazilian variant of coronavirus, the Government has said.

Panama and Cape Verde will also be included in the ban decided by ministers on the Government's Covid-19 committee on Thursday after Boris Johnson said he was "concerned" about the new strain.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the "urgent decision" to halt flights from the nations in an attempt to reduce the potential spread of the variant, with experts uncertain how effective existing vaccines will be against it.

He said travel from Portugal was being suspended because of its "strong travel links with Brazil", but there will be an exemption for hauliers travelling from Portugal to allow the transport of essential goods.

Head to our live travel blog for all the latest news on Grant Shapps announcement

04:15 PM

Comment: The gap between independent and state schools has never looked wider or more shameful

The pandemic has revealed that children educated privately are having more opportunities than their state school peers, writes Georgina Fuller.

During the most recent lockdown, the discrepancies between socio-economic groups were huge.

A survey by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, published earlier this month, showed the educational gap between affluent families and those whose children were in ‘digital poverty’ with limited access to technology was growing.

A study by UCL Institute of Education, published in June 2020, found that a fifth (20 per cent) of children on free school meals had no access to a computer at home, compared with seven per cent of other children.

Gaps in the provision of online lessons were also prevalent. Around a third (31 per cent) of private school pupils received four or more lessons daily, compared with just six per cent in state schools.

Put simply, many children in the state sector had their education put on hold whereas things carried on largely as normal for families who could afford it. Will it be the same this time around?

04:07 PM

Tom Cruise introduces ‘intimidating’ Covid-secure robots to patrol Mission: Impossible set

The Mission: Impossible films are teeming with handy gadgets, from the famous masks and voice-changers to gloves that let you scale a Dubai skyscraper.

Now, Tom Cruise has introduced the latest in Covid technology: two state-of-the-art robots that will patrol the set of Mission: Impossible 7.

According to The Sun, Cruise paid “huge sums” for the robots.

They will not only be an intimidating reminder to obey the Covid safety rules when filming resumes this week at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, but can also administer on-the-spot tests to staff.

A source on the film set said: “Tom is so serious about making sure the shoot isn’t shut down that he’s splashed out on these robots as he can’t be everywhere to ensure people are behaving themselves”

“The robots are really sophisticated and rather intimidating. It’s like the Terminator only not as violent.”

04:00 PM

Comment: 'Vaccinating teachers is vital, but it can’t be the sole strategy to get children back to school'

It's hard to argue that vaccinations for teachers aren't vital, but there's more that can be done to keep schools safe, writes Leah Hardy.

I believe it is possible to make schools safer. Ideas from teachers that would permit proper social distancing include a half-in, half-out strategy, with half the children in school for half the week for in-person teaching, followed by working independently at home, or hiring temporary teachers and using community buildings for teaching.New timetables offering staggered start and end time would allow crammed corridors to be relatively empty. Open windows are helpful but freezing.Air purifiers in classrooms could filter viruses, and masks must surely be worn by older children in class.

03:51 PM

More than a third of over-80s vaccinated against Covid-19

More than one third (34.6 % of 1,036,605) of people aged 80 and over in England have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of January 10, new surveillance data from Public Health England (PHE) shows.

A further 960,699 people under 80 have also undergone their first round of vaccination.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said: "To have vaccinated over a third of all over-80s by this point in the programme is a great achievement and I want to pay tribute to all those across the health system who have made this happen.

"Although this sets us on the right path to getting back to normal life, we are not there yet and people must continue to follow the guidance that is in place to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“These data will help us to evaluate the protection from the vaccine and to effectively target the roll-out of the programme to help control the virus and save lives.”

03:44 PM

Plumbing firm considers making vaccine mandatory for staff

A firm of London plumbers is looking at changing its employment contracts to include a requirement for workers to have a Covid-19 vaccine, its founder said today though he added that no one would get fired for refusing to have the jab.

Pimlico Plumbers, with a workforce of more than 400, has been talking to its lawyers about making the vaccine mandatory for new hires within a few months, founder Charlie Mullins said.

The firm was also exploring how it might modify existing staff contracts, he said, although he insisted no one would be forced to receive a vaccine or be fired over the issue.

"We wouldn't dream of forcing anybody but I'm pretty much certain that 99 per cent of our staff would jump at the opportunity," Mullins told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"Who in their right mind would turn down one needle or one jab that could save your life?" he added.

03:40 PM

Germany passes record for daily Covid deaths

Germany reached a new record number of deaths from coronavirus on Thursday, prompting calls for an even tighter lockdown.

While Germany's total deaths per capita since the pandemic began remain far lower than the United States, its daily per capita mortality since mid-December has often exceeded that of the United States.

Germany's daily death toll currently equates to about 15 deaths per million people, versus 13 U.S. deaths per one million.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 25,164 new cases and 1,244 fatalities, bringing Germany's total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 43,881.

The country initially managed the pandemic better than its neighbours with a strict lockdown last spring, bu has seen a sharp rise in cases and deaths in recent months, with the RKI saying people were not taking the virus seriously enough.

Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - deaths default
Coronavirus Germany Spotlight Chart - deaths default

03:34 PM

Swiss nursing home hit by British Covid-19 variant outbreak

Three-quarters of a nursing home's residents and half its workers have been infected with the coronavirus variant first found in Britain, a Swiss regional government said today.

The Italian-speaking canton of Ticino said a series of infections occurred in rapid succession as well as a re-infection. This prompted health officials to conduct genetic sequencing, which confirmed the British variant was circulating.

"This sweep test had confirmed a rapid spread of the outbreak, with around half the staff and three-quarters of the guests positive, despite the protective measures put in place," the cantonal government said in a statement.

Switzerland has reported dozens of cases of the highly infectious British variant, including in the mountain town of Wengen.

There, a single British tourist is thought to have brought the mutated virus into the region, resulting in the cancellation of World Cup ski races this weekend.

03:29 PM

Brazilian Covid variant may infect people who have recovered from virus

The Brazilian coronavirus variant may infect people who have already recovered from Covid, scientists said as they called for urgent investigations into whether the new mutation can escape previous immunity.

Britain is preparing to ban travel to Brazil over concerns about importing the new variant. The move follows a huge rise in cases in Manaus, a city that had been believed to be close to herd immunity from the first wave.

Research published last year suggested that 76 per cent of people in Manaus had contracted coronavirus by October, which should have severely limited onward spread of the virus.

However, the city saw an unexpected surge of new cases last month and has now declared a state of emergency, with hospitals reaching 100 per cent capacity.

Our Science Editor Sarah Knapton has the full story here.

03:25 PM

Grey pound holidays booking surge as vaccines rolled out

Holiday firms have attributed a spike in bookings from older people to the development of coronavirus vaccinations.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the UK's travel industry, with demand plummeting and thousands of jobs being lost. Leisure travel is currently banned due to lockdown rules.

But the launch of Covid-19 jabs has led some people who will be prioritised for the vaccine to book long-awaited trips.

Tui, the UK's largest tour operator, said half of bookings so far this year have been made by people aged over 50.

National Express said its coach holiday business - which predominantly caters for pensioners - has seen bookings nearly triple for spring and summer trips compared with the same point last year.

03:01 PM

Lebanon enters full lockdown to stem virus uptick

A full lockdown has started in Lebanon today, with residents barred even from grocery shopping and dependent on food deliveries, in a bid to slow a surge in cases.

The new restrictions were only loosely respected in some areas of the country, however, after mass protests in recent years against a political elite held responsible for a deepening economic crisis.

The lockdown, ordered after some hospitals started to run out of intensive care beds, includes a 24-hour curfew until January 25.

Policemen control cars at a checkpoint in the capital Beirut, as Lebanon enters its first day of strict lockdown - AFP
Policemen control cars at a checkpoint in the capital Beirut, as Lebanon enters its first day of strict lockdown - AFP

Non-essential workers are barred from leaving their homes, and supermarkets are supposed to operate delivery services only.

Those wishing to request an emergency exemption - to see a doctor for example - can do so by sending a mobile phone text message or by filling in a form online.

02:50 PM

London Underground workers fear for safety during second wave

A rail worker and trade union activist has said they feel they and their colleagues working from London Underground stations currently are "unsafe" and that the number of commuters is "worse now than it was the first time around".

The worker, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the PA news agency: "If you're on the Underground system... people are touching the seats, the handrails. The majority of people who are travelling are wearing masks, over their nose and mouth, but a train is not a big place on the Tube.

"There's too many people who shouldn't be travelling, (who) are still travelling. Look at the roads, where's everyone going? There's traffic everywhere.

"What we should have done, especially the first time around... is man the (station) gates from outside. Close the gates and man them from outside. If their idea is to stop people from travelling who are non-essential workers or whatever, then that's the only way to do it. How else can you do it?"

02:44 PM

Sweden reports record daily number of Covid-19 deaths, but infection rate may have peaked

Sweden, whose unorthodox pandemic strategy placed it in the global spotlight, reported a record number of Covid-19 deaths for a single day on Thursday, taking the total toll above 10,000, although new infections appear to be easing.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 351 more deaths since Wednesday according to statistics from the Public Health Agency with 6,580 new coronavirus cases recorded.

Yet the daily number of cases has been trending lower since late December. Some 10,185 people have now died in Sweden from Covid-19 since the pandemic began, the agency said.

The latest number of deaths are likely to have occurred over several days and weeks, with many from the Christmas period being registered with a significant delay.

Public Health Agency official Karin Tegmark Wisell said that while the number of new cases showed some signs of having plateaued, the death toll would continue to mount.

"We sadly expect that the increase will continue given the high level of contagion in the country," she said.

Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default

02:37 PM

Covid case rates fall across most of England

Covid-19 case rates have fallen in most regions of England, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.

London's rate of new cases stood at 864.9 per 100,000 people in the seven days to January 10, down from 1,043.9 in the previous week.

London continues to have the highest rate of any region.

The other regions recording a week-on-week fall are the East Midlands, eastern England, north-east England, south-east England and Yorkshire & the Humber.

Coronavirus Cases By Tier
Coronavirus Cases By Tier

02:31 PM

Poll: Teachers should be prioritised for vaccine, Telegraph readers say

Teachers are leading the way in this Telegraph poll.

You can still have your say.

02:22 PM

UK over-50s celebrate coming vaccination with holiday bookings, TUI says

Holiday company TUI has said the vaccine roll-out in Britain had boosted summer bookings from those aged 50 and over, with that age group accounting for 50 per cent of all web bookings since the end of last year.

Amid the highly transmissible new variant of the virus surging across Britain, AstraZeneca has aimed to deliver over two million vaccinations a week

The elderly, the vulnerable and frontline workers - around 15 million people - are due to be vaccinated by mid-February, with those aged between 50 and 70 expected to follow in the months after, putting summer holidays back on the agenda.

"We're seeing more interest in holidays from an age group that wasn't coming through before, with the over 50s starting to book, we assume, on the back to the positive vaccine news," TUI UK managing director Andrew Flintham said.

02:18 PM

Downing St contradicts Priti Patel over 'exercise alone' advice

Home Secretary Priti Patel has been contradicted by Downing Street after saying people should exercise alone, despite the rules permitting activity with a friend.

The guidance makes clear that in England someone is allowed to exercise outdoors with one other person from a different household.

Asked whether the rules were clear, Ms Patel told ITV's This Morning: "The clarity is exercising on your own and not socialising."

"Exercise on your own and don't use it for a social meeting."

However, when questioned over the guidance for exercise issued by the Government, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We've been clear that if people exercise they can do so with one other person from another household but we're asking them to socially distance while they're doing that."

02:11 PM

Over 3,000 people have received second dose of Covid-19 jab

A total of 3,190 people have received a second dose of their Covid-19 vaccination, 200 more than the 2,990 announced on Wednesday.

Earlier, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a total of 208,207 people in Scotland had received their first dose by 8.30am on Thursday.

The Public Health Scotland statistics indicate an increase of 16,242 on the 191,965 vaccinated with their first dose 24 hours previously.

02:04 PM

Brazil's Para state bans boats from Amazonas over Covid-19 spread

The state government of Para in northern Brazil is banning the entry of vessels from neighboring Amazonas state in a bid to contain the spread of Covid-19, citing a rise in cases and a new variant of the virus in Amazonas.

Amazonas state capital Manaus was one of the worst-hit Brazilian cities in the first wave of the virus last year and is creaking badly again in the second wave.

Gravediggers bury a Covid-19 victim while surrounded by relatives at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus - Michael Dantas/AFP
Gravediggers bury a Covid-19 victim while surrounded by relatives at the Nossa Senhora Aparecida cemetery in Manaus - Michael Dantas/AFP

Concern is also mounting for the state's indigenous people in remote areas up and down the Amazon River.

"We are publishing a state decree tomorrow prohibiting the circulation of boats with passengers from the neighboring state of Amazonas," Para governor Helder Barbalho said in a video messaged published on social media late on Wednesday.

01:58 PM

Brazil to start Covid-19 vaccinations on January 21

Brazil is to start its coronavirus vaccine programme next Thursday, Senator Nelsinho Trad said, the most concrete forecast yet for Brazil's widely criticised vaccine rollout.

Sen. Trad told said he had been informed by mayors who had consulted with Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been lambasted for overseeing the world's second deadliest coronavirus outbreak after the United States, is under mounting pressure as a second wave of infections surpasses the first.

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

01:54 PM

Downing St refuses to reveal size of vaccine supply despite PM's pledge

Downing Street has refused to reveal the size of the UK's coronavirus vaccine supply, despite Boris Johnson pledging that the Government would be "transparent as we possibly can" on rollout data.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Vaccines are obviously in high demand across the world and it has been the case throughout that we haven't provided a commentary on the size of our supplies, or the detailed logistics around them. That will remain the case."

01:51 PM

'Possible options' to deliver vaccines 24/7, Downing St says

Downing Street has said ministers are looking at the "possible options" to deliver coronavirus vaccines around the clock, but was unable to put a date on the rollout.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We're looking at the possible options to deliver vaccines 24/7.

"Some people who may benefit from being able to receive a vaccine at different hours to others, so we're open to the options and we are looking at how we can deliver it."

01:46 PM

'Every area receiving fair share of vaccines,' Downing St says

Downing Street has said every area is receiving its "fair share" of coronavirus vaccines after figures showed a disparity in the rollout of jabs.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We've rolled out the vaccination programme across the country and we've ensured that every area receives a fair share of the vaccinations and we will continue to do that.

"You will continue to see the vaccination programme accelerate through this month and throughout February and the PM's been clear that we will ensure there is a vaccine centre close to everybody by the end of the month."

01:44 PM

UK ministers hold 'urgent' meeting on Brazilian variant

Ministers have met to discuss "urgent measures" to restrict any spread of the Brazilian coronavirus variant, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Ministers have met this morning to consider urgent measures to reduce the potential spread to the UK of the Brazilian variant."

An announcement is expected to follow the meeting.

01:43 PM

Vaccines not yet Africa's way out of pandemic, officials say

Vaccines are not yet Africa's way out of the pandemic as it may be weeks or even months before first doses start to arrive, health officials said on Thursday, after the African Union (AU) secured 270 million doses for the continent where about 30,000 a day are becoming infected.

Africa has not started vaccinations and there is concern that more prosperous regions are getting an unfair head start in the global fight against Covid-19.

Africa's second coronavirus wave is infecting twice as many people per day as the height of the first wave last year, and has not peaked, John Nkengasong, director of the AU's Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an online press briefing.

On Wednesday AU chair South Africa said vaccine doses would be supplied this year by Pfizer, AstraZeneca - through the Serum Institute of India - and Johnson & Johnson .

The 270 million shots, if administered two per person, would only cover around 10 per cent of Africa's roughly 1.3 billion people.

01:24 PM

Pharmacists begin administering vaccine, in photos

Following our post at 5.52am - high street pharmacies will begin rolling out Covid vaccines today - we have a number of photos to show the vaccines underway.

Peter Cast, 87, from Ashtead, is one of the first people to receive the vaccine at Superdrug, in Guildford - Matt Alexander /PA
Peter Cast, 87, from Ashtead, is one of the first people to receive the vaccine at Superdrug, in Guildford - Matt Alexander /PA
Patricia Main, 75, gets the vaccine at Boots in Halifax - Will Johnston 
Patricia Main, 75, gets the vaccine at Boots in Halifax - Will Johnston
Pharmacist Andrew Hodgson speaks to Robert Salt, 82, before he receives a vaccine at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire - Peter Byrne /PA
Pharmacist Andrew Hodgson speaks to Robert Salt, 82, before he receives a vaccine at Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire - Peter Byrne /PA

01:18 PM

Temporary mortuary built in London

Following news that a mortuary in Norwich, used during the first wave of the pandemic (see 9.19am post), had reopened, a new temporary facility has been built in north west London.

A council leader said the facility acted as a "sobering reminder" of how the pandemic is affecting thousands of lives.

Inside one of the storage units at the overflow mortuary at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip, London - Jonathan Brady/PA
Inside one of the storage units at the overflow mortuary at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip, London - Jonathan Brady/PA

More than 10,500 people have died from Covid-19 in London since the start of the outbreak and the city's mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident last week as hospitals came under increasing pressure.

It took just over a week to construct the facility on the site near Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip.

It can currently hold 217 bodies, but will reach a capacity of 1,300 once building works are completed around January 20.

It will provide an additional 20 per cent capacity for public mortuaries in London, helping to relieve pressure on hospitals and council-run morgues.

01:12 PM

NHS insists London is getting fair share of vaccines

A spokesman for the NHS in London said: "The NHS coronavirus vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service's history, has got off to a strong start with a quarter of a million Londoners receiving their first vaccination against Covid, giving significant protection to those most at risk from the virus.

"We have more than 100 vaccination sites up and running across London, including the NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre in the ExCeL London, and more are opening all the time.

"London is getting its fair share of vaccine supply for the priority groups we have to vaccinate by mid-February."

The comments come following data which showed London was lagging behind other parts of the country.

01:08 PM

Spanish regional leader deliberately slowed vaccine rollout

The leader of one of Spain’s regional governments has come under heavy criticism after admitting that he had deliberately slowed the Covid-19 vaccine rollout owing to fears of adverse side-effects. James Badcock reports from Madrid.

Guillermo Fernández Vara, president of Extremadura, said he was wary of the “exceptionally short” trial period of the Pfizer vaccine that has been used in Spain since the end of December, leading his regional health authority to proceed with “prudence and caution” at the start of the vaccination campaign.

“We felt it was good that during the first days we waited to see what the effects of the vaccine were, in terms of adverse effects or collateral effects,” Mr Fernández Vara, himself a trained doctor who specialised in forensic medicine, said at a press call on Wednesday.

“Once we have seen what we all hoped to see - that there has been no reaction - we have accelerated deployment”.

Spain’s health ministry said this week that it will launch a WhatsApp interactive channel to help fight against disinformation regarding Covid vaccines.

12:59 PM

London hospital forced to return patients to ambulances over lack of beds

A hospital in London is having to return patients to waiting ambulances after procedures due to an "overwhelming" number of coronavirus patients, a frontline doctor has said.

The doctor, who asked to remain anonymous, told the PA news agency that "significant patient harm" was occurring as a result of a lack of available beds, with A&E staff forced to treat other patients in the vehicles outside.

"It's not the fault of the staff, but the sheer numbers are so unprecedented and being full like this means that you just have to do your best to adapt. But it's not the standard (of care) I signed up to," he said.

It's extremely stressful for us to be doing our best but knowing that significant patient harm is happening because there isn't space and the patient load is too high.

12:56 PM

Business closures back to levels of first lockdown

Businesses are suffering severe consequences from the new wave of Covid as the number shutting their doors reaches levels not seen since June last year.

The number of shoppers visiting high streets and other retail locations last week fell to just 35 per cent of the level a year ago, marking the deepest decline since early June, before non-essential shops were allowed to reopen from the first lockdown.

It raises expectations of a double-dip recession, as Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, this week warned the economy faces its “darkest hour” with surging Covid deaths.

Trips to high streets and shopping centres are down to around one-quarter of pre-Covid levels, while visits to more spacious retail parks have been cut in half.

Tim Wallace has the full story here

12:52 PM

Moscow could approve use of non-Russian Covid-19 vaccines

Russia could approve non-Russian vaccines against Covid-19, including the shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the head of state healthcare regulator Roszdravnadzor said today.

Russia, which has the world's fourth-highest number of Covid-19 cases, plans to begin mass vaccinations next week.

Global vaccine rollout - Europe
Global vaccine rollout - Europe

12:47 PM

Autistic teenager to write thank-you cards to as many NHS staff as possible

An autistic teenager is asking for the names and hospital addresses of NHS workers so he can send them a thank-you card.

Patrick Joyce, 17, from Glasgow, wants to thank nurses and doctors for their fight to help Covid-19 patients, and his mother said writing the cards will ease his anxiety about the pandemic.

Indra Joyce is Patrick's full-time caregiver after his father died in 2014, when he was 10 years old.

"He wants to write to as many people as he can," Ms Joyce said.

"He just wants to help them not be as sad, and to know that he supports them and appreciates what they are doing because too many people are dying, and he's glad they at least have the doctors and nurses caring about them."

12:39 PM

101-year-old survivor of Spanish flu epidemic receives Covid-19 vaccine

A woman born during the Spanish flu pandemic more than a century ago has received her first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Emily Lawson, born in 1919 as the disease spread across the globe, was found aged just a month old lying next to her mother, who had caught the deadly strain of influenza and was too ill to look after her baby.

Now aged 101 and living through another pandemic, Mrs Lawson was one of the first in line for the latest phase of coronavirus vaccination in Scotland as the community rollout for people over 80 continues.

She took the vaccination process in her stride, saying it was "normal, just another vaccine".

Mrs Lawson was vaccinated in her home town of Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire by by Samantha Wheadon, a practice nurse from the town's Turret Medical Centre.

12:33 PM

Scotland retracts vaccine plan following backlash from UK ministers and manufacturers

The Scottish Government has been forced to retract its Covid-19 vaccine delivery plan following a major backlash from UK ministers and manufacturers.

Ministers in Westminster reacted furiously on Wednesday evening to the decision by the Scottish Government to publish its plan for deliveries, which has effectively revealed how many doses the UK is expecting.

The fallout has been compounded by Jeane Freeman, the Scottish health secretary, naming a vaccine storage facility. The Scottish Government has argued the name was already in the public domain.

The vaccine delivery schedule and storage locations have not been disclosed by the UK government, with ministers and officials warning the vaccine is a "valuable commodity" and therefore a security risk.

There is also concern disclosure will lead to vaccine manufacturers, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, facing backlash from countries that have not secured as good a deal as the UK.

Harry Yorke and Simon Johnson have the full story here

12:28 PM

Covid testing scheme in schools can be 'valuable tool in stopping transmission'

Regular Covid-19 testing in schools can play a "valuable" part in controlling transmission of the virus, according to the results of a pilot programme.

A partnership led by the University of Southampton has tested 16,000 staff and students in four schools in the Southampton area and at the university itself.

The saliva-based RT-LAMP test using the Optigene platform was used to carry out a total of 66,458 tests with 123 positive tests found during a six-week period between September and October.

All positive tests were confirmed by PCR testing and no false positives were recorded with 95 per cent of results returned within 12 hours for the programme funded by the Department of Health and Social Care.

12:22 PM

Patients waiting a year to start hospital treatment up almost 140-fold in 12 months

The number of people waiting more than a year for hospital treatment has risen almost 140-fold in 12 months, the latest figures show, with almost 200,000 now on a 52-week waiting list.

NHS data reveals 192,169 people were waiting over a year to start treatment as of November 2020, up 20 per cent on October.

But compared to November 2019, the figure has risen exponentially from just 1,398. The data also shows a record 4.46m people were waiting to start hospital treatment in total, the highest since records began in August 2007.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "Today's figures show the calamitous impact of Covid-19 on wait times for operations.

"We should remember all those people waiting for an operation, who had their physical pain to deal with, on top of the pain of lockdown."

Lizzie Roberts has the full story here

12:18 PM

China blames steamed buns for latest wave of infections

China has waged a propaganda campaign to push its narrative that the coronavirus existed abroad before being brought into and discovered in Wuhan, writes Sophia Yan.

Chinese officials have even gone so far as to blame an initial infection in a current cluster outbreak on an imported virus strain that had supposedly contaminated a package of steamed buns.

Since the start of the pandemic, authorities have been quick to seed a number of conspiracy theories, including accusing the US military for infecting China.

Another has been to label imported frozen seafood as the culprit.

For Beijing, the goal is to distract and deflect anger at home and abroad over its cover-up. All theories, no matter how wild, claim the coronavirus originated outside the country – the point being that China, and its leaders are not at fault for the pandemic that has plagued the world.

12:11 PM

Watch: WHO team arrive in Wuhan to investigate origins of coronavirus

12:06 PM

Half of over 80s in north-east England and Yorkshire have received vaccine

Around half of all people aged 80 and over in north-east England and Yorkshire have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, new figures suggest.

By contrast around three in 10 people aged 80 and over in eastern England have had their first jab.

Here are the estimates for several regions of England, based on the number of first doses given to the 80-plus age group from December 8 to January 10, as published by NHS England, combined with population data from the Office for National Statistics:

  • North-east England & Yorkshire: 49%

  • South-west England 37%

  • Midlands: 35%

  • London: 31%

  • Eastern England: 30%

12:00 PM

One in 10 hospital nurses off work due to Covid-19

Data leaked to the Health Service Journal (HSJ) suggests more than one in 10 hospital nurses are now off work in the areas worst affected by coronavirus.

It reported the total absence rate among acute trust nurses as 9.7 per cent as of Monday, up from around 7 per cent at the start of December, although it is unclear exactly how many absences are linked to Covid.

The highest rate was in the East of England where 11.4 per cent of nurses were off work, with coronavirus accounting for 7.5 per cent, HSJ reported.

11:48 AM

Priti Patel: Action should be taken against company behind 'appalling' food parcels

Action should be taken against the food provider which compiled "appalling" free school meal parcels for families, the Home Secretary has said.

Priti Patel said Chartwells should be "ashamed of themselves" after images showing the poor-quality hampers were widely shared on social media.

Parents had shared photos on Twitter of the poor-quality food parcels they had received during lockdown
Parents had shared photos on Twitter of the poor-quality food parcels they had received during lockdown

The Home Secretary told ITV's This Morning that the parcels were "appalling in every way".

"I do think the company that were involved with that appalling display of food parcels should be ashamed of themselves quite frankly.

"It was thoroughly unacceptable and it is right that the Government are investigating them. I personally think some action should be taken against that company."

11:42 AM

Dame Judi Dench: 'I've had the Covid-19 jab and it's a great start'

Dame Judi Dench has announced she had her first Covid-19 jab, calling it a "great start".

The Oscar winner, 86, had the vaccination recently, following in the footsteps of fellow stars like Sir David Attenborough and Sir Tom Jones.

She told BBC News: "I had one a week ago. "I think my next is in something like 11 weeks time. That's a great start."

The veteran stage and screen actress also spoke about the prospect of theatres reopening one day.

During the lockdown suddenly one realises you just need social contact with people. Just the thing of sitting next to somebody in a theatre, or in a cinema, or at supper even, or at lunch, those are things you suddenly realise that you take for granted.

11:36 AM

Vaccines for Palestinians expected to arrive by March

Palestinian leaders have announced that they expect their first batch of coronavirus vaccines to arrive by March, as the West Bank and Gaza face an anxious wait to receive jabs.

This week the Palestinian Authority said it had secured a provisional agreement with AstraZeneca and was seeking doses from Moderna, as well as the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.

The Palestinians are also working with the World Health Organisation to receive free vaccines under the Covax scheme.

It came as Palestinian officials accused Israel of “ignoring” its duties as an occupying power to assist them in protecting their people from the disease.

James Rothwell has the full story here

11:32 AM

London only received tenth of vaccine doses supplied across England

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has claimed the capital was not getting its fair share of vaccine doses.

The Labour mayor said: "I am hugely concerned that Londoners have received only a tenth of the vaccines that have been given across the country.

"The situation in London is critical with rates of the virus extremely high, which is why it's so important that vulnerable Londoners are given access to the vaccine as soon as possible."

He said he would hold talks with vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi "to ensure that we urgently receive an amount of the vaccine that reflects our size, density and the level of need in our city".

Global vaccine rollout - Europe
Global vaccine rollout - Europe

11:26 AM

Pope Francis and ex Pope Benedict XVI both get Covid-19 vaccine

Pope Francis and former Pope Benedict XVI have received the first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus, the Vatican announced today.

The 84-year-old pope and the 93-year-old former pope, got their jabs as part of a Vatican vaccination program that began on Wednesday.

Pope Francis continues to deliver his weekly general audience from the Apostolic Palace amid the pandemic - Reuters
Pope Francis continues to deliver his weekly general audience from the Apostolic Palace amid the pandemic - Reuters

11:18 AM

Premier League hold crucial talks with captains and managers demanding they follow Covid rules

The Premier League are holding critical meetings with players and managers over the next 48 hours to demand they comply with the reintroduced tougher Covid protocols or risk football being called to a halt.

They will be told in no uncertain terms that if they fail to follow the measures – including cutting out goal celebrations – there is a genuine risk the sport may be stopped amid a political and medical backlash.

There is growing concern that the Government will intervene because the ‘optics’ of footballers hugging, swapping shirts and shaking hands at the height of the new wave of the pandemic is creating a great deal of anger among the public.

Meetings have now been hastily convened. There will be two on Thursday to reinforce the message and demand that managers and captains take the lead in making sure players comply. A further meeting is planned on Friday with other managers and senior players.

Jason Burt has the full story here

11:12 AM

Pills could replace Covid jabs with British biotech breakthrough

A groundbreaking pill-based vaccine which could one day transform the fight against Covid is being developed by a Sussex biotech firm, reports Julia Bradshaw.

Burgess Hill-based IosBio has come up with a way to turn injected vaccines into orally administered tablets and is now working with Californian firm ImmunityBio to test the technology in clinical trials.

Clinical trials in monkeys have shown the oral vaccine made using iosBio technology to be highly effective. The jab version, developed by ImmunityBio, is already in phase two/three trials.

The oral vaccine will begin clinical trials on Americans this month and ImmunityBio is applying for regulatory approval to run tests in Britain too.

How many people in the UK have received their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine?
How many people in the UK have received their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine?

11:07 AM

Priti Patel: 'Exercise on your own'

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said people should exercise alone, despite the rules permitting activity with a friend.

The guidance makes clear that in England someone is allowed to exercise outdoors with one other person from a different household.

Asked whether the rules were clear, Ms Patel told ITV's This Morning: "The clarity is exercising on your own and not socialising."

She added: "The point to make about any exercise - yes, it should be local, people exercise differently.

"But exercise on your own and don't use it for a social meeting."

Read here to learn exactly what new restrictions are being considered

10:59 AM

2021 will see a more manageable pandemic, WHO says

While 2021 will continue to be dominated by Covid-19, the pandemic will become "more manageable and more predictable", according to the director of the World Health Organizations Europe office.

Speaking at a virtual press briefing Dr Hans Kluge said that life will "probably not" resemble the pre-coronavirus world this year.

But he insisted that there is "light at the end of the tunnel" thanks to the promise of vaccines, new diagnostics and a better understanding among doctors of how to save lives.

"The virus is still here and 2021 will be another year with the coronavirus. But it will be more manageable, more predictable. And in that way we should be hopeful."

Dr Kluge added that he believes his family would soon be reunited.

"My parents will be able to hug again, my two daughters, which they have not been able to do for more than a year. I hear in many families it is similar. So this would be a fantastic societal function, which will bring this back to normality."

10:53 AM

WHO: 95 per cent of vaccines administered in just 10 countries

Of the millions of people who have so far been given a Covid-19 vaccine, 95 per cent have been in just 10 countries, the World Health Organization has warned.

According to figures from Our World In Data, some 32 million doses have been administered globally, including more than 10 million in China and the US and 2.6 million in the UK.

But speaking at a virtual press briefing Dr Hans Kluge, director of WHO Europe, said that the vast majority of vaccinations, some 95 per cent, had been administered in 10 wealthy countries.

He called it a "staggering figure" and urged governments to support equitable distribution.

"We knew from the very beginning that the supply would be smaller than the actual needs," he said. "We will have to work very hard to move towards equity access to the vaccine and vaccinations."

His reiterated call for countries to vaccinate their most vulnerable, and then share doses to ensure others can do the same, comes after the WHO urged governments not to pursue a policy of herd immunity while shortages persist last week.

10:51 AM

Covid in the UK, in pictures

A Covid patient is unloaded from an ambulance and taken into Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London - Justin Ng/Avalon
A Covid patient is unloaded from an ambulance and taken into Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London - Justin Ng/Avalon
Londoner in protective face mask is seen walking on a rainy day in Elephant and Castle  - Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto
Londoner in protective face mask is seen walking on a rainy day in Elephant and Castle - Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto
Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, an organisation set up by a group of out-of-work chefs in Leith at the start of the pandemic, - PA
Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, an organisation set up by a group of out-of-work chefs in Leith at the start of the pandemic, - PA

10:47 AM

No adult critical care beds left in one of five English hospitals

Around one in five major hospital trusts in England had no spare adult critical care beds on January 10, NHS England figures show.

Some 27 out of 140 acute trusts reported 100% occupancy of all "open" beds on January 10 - the latest date for which statistics are available.

These included University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which had all 147 beds filled; Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (all 75 beds); Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (all 66 beds) and Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust in London (all 51 beds).

10:39 AM

Andy Murray tests positive for Covid

Andy Murray's participation in the Australian Open is in doubt after the three-times grand slam champion tested positive for coronavirus.

The former world number one was due to travel to Australia on one of the 18 charter flights laid on by tournament organisers but is still isolating at home.

It is understood that Murray is said to be in good health and is hoping to arrive in Australia at a later date and participate in the year's first grand slam, which begins on Feb 8.

Read the full story here.

10:34 AM

Home Secretary: No new social distancing restrictions ‘today or tomorrow’

Priti Patel has said that the Government is not bringing in new social distancing restrictions "today or tomorrow".

The Home Secretary stressed that ministers are focusing on increasing the enforcement of current restrictions to keep the spread of coronavirus down instead of bringing in new measures.

Asked whether further restrictions could include a three-metre social distancing rule or the requirement to wear masks outside, she told ITV's This Morning: "The plans are very much to enforce the rules.

"This isn't about new rules coming in, we're going to stick with enforcing the current measures.

"We are not thinking about bringing in new measures today or tomorrow."

10:34 AM

Forehead temperature scanners 'unreliable', study finds

Body temperature scanners provide a large number of false negative results, allowing people with Covid-19 to pass through undetected, according to a new study.

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth have found that readings from a person's fingertip and eye provide a more reliable reading to help identify those with a fever.

Body scanners are widely used at airports, hospitals and other locations in a bid to identify those with a high temperature, a key symptom of coronavirus.

Prof Mike Tipton, human physiologist and expert in temperature regulation, said: "Using a surface temperature scanner to obtain a single surface temperature, usually the forehead, is an unreliable method to detect the fever associated with Covid-19."

10:14 AM

First jabs delivered in Superdrug

Peter Cast, 87, from Ashtead, in Surrey, received the coronavirus vaccine at Superdrug in Guildford after booking through the NHS platform.

He said: "I had a note from the NHS on Tuesday and I got my son to contact and they made a date, simple as that. I think the whole process is a miracle. The fact that we've moved from a virus, through the scientific processes of research to a possible answer with a vaccine, I think is absolutely miraculous.

Peter Cast receives the vaccine - Matt Alexander/PA 
Peter Cast receives the vaccine - Matt Alexander/PA

"And more particularly the time over which it has happened. I'm very conscious of the fact 100 years ago my mother lost a brother to the flu virus then and I've always been conscious of its danger.

"So for me and everybody, I think the step forward that the scientists and the drug manufacturers have made over the last 12 months is astonishing."

10:11 AM

Kidney transplants suspended in Birmigham hospitals

The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) have temporarily suspended kidney transplants due to the critical Covid-19 situation in the city.

In a tweet, UHB's renal transplantation team said: "Due to the critical situation with Covid-19 in our area, we are temporarily suspending our waiting list patients for 14 days and pausing kidney transplantation in Birmingham.

"We will keep this under regular review and update when we have more information."

10:10 AM

'Figures show calamitous impact of Covid on NHS'

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "Today's figures show the calamitous impact of Covid-19 on wait times for operations.

"In November, a record number of patients were waiting for hospital treatment"

"We should remember all those people waiting for an operation who had their physical pain to deal with, on top of the pain of lockdown," Professor Mortensen added.

"A huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown.

"When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment to treat all those who have been waiting patiently for treatment."

10:08 AM

Almost 4.5m waiting for NHS treatment - highest since records began

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 27 percent in November compared with a year ago.

Some 222,810 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, down from 303,193 in November 2019.

The year-on-year decrease recorded in September and October was also 27 percent, while in August the drop was 43 percent.

A total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November 2020, the highest number since records began.

The NHS England figures also show that the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment in England stood at 192,169 in November 2020 - the highest number for any calendar month since May 2008.

10:05 AM

Chief constable writes to PM asking for officers to be vaccinated

Derbyshire Police's chief constable and police and crime commissioner have written a letter to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and Health Secretary backing the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW)'s calls to bring forward vaccinations for frontline police staff.

Chief Constable Rachel Swann said: "Policing and keeping people safe is an essential part of fighting this virus. Officers and staff cannot stay at home, crime still happens and we need to be there to tackle it.

"The vaccine offers additional protection and reassurance for them, not only preventing them from catching the virus but thereby preventing passing it on to others, including their families, colleagues and the public.

"My officers and staff are very aware of what they need to do should they experience symptoms, however for many people they are asymptomatic. Our frontline roles mean we could be unknowingly passing it on to others. Vaccination and regular testing are vital to prevent this.

"We are backing calls from the PFEW to bring forward vaccinations in policing, once those at greatest risk and NHS staff have been protected.

"I am asking the Government to bring forward the vaccination plans for frontline policing to allow us to keep our people virus-free, in order to continue to keep the public safe."

09:45 AM

Snow slows vaccine rollout

Hospital bosses have advised older people not to visit Newcastle's Centre for Life mass vaccination hub today because of snow in the city, saying they should rebook another appointment.

The Newcastle NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust tweeted: "We're advising older people who are booked for their Covid-19 vaccine at the Centre for Life today to rebook for another day when the weather is better.

"It's easy to do by calling 119. No need to risk travelling in the bad weather."

09:43 AM

Superdrug administer first coronavirus vaccinations on the high street

Health and beauty retailer Superdrug began its biggest vaccination programme in history as its pharmacists started administering Covid 19 vaccinations this morning in Guildford, writes India McTaggart.

Nurses and pharmacists at Superdrug will deliver the Oxford vaccine from 8am-8pm seven days a week to patients on the high street on behalf of the NHS, beginning in Guildford.

They will deliver around 1,000 vaccinations per week, which is one every five minutes.

The NHS will allocate patients to Superdrug through their national booking platform.

09:41 AM

Poll: Who should get the vaccine next?

Put yourself in the shoes of the decision-makers.

09:35 AM

'We would love everyone to be vaccinated right now but we have to be realistic'

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said the Government would "love" to vaccinate everyone right now but it needed to be realistic.

When asked on ITV's Good Morning Britain why other frontline workers such as teachers and police officers could not be vaccinated she said: "We absolutely understand this but we have the supply of vaccines that we have and we are aiming to get up to two million doses delivered each week.

"We would love everyone to be vaccinated right now but we have to be realistic."

Ms Atkins also said she could not give a timeframe for when vaccinations will begin to be provided 24/7 and added: "It's not just the availability of the vaccine, it's having the people to do it.

"I would not want to give you a timeframe because I am not involved in those discussions.

"It does take time, and we have to do it carefully and we have to do it with safety absolutely paramount in our minds."

09:23 AM

Norwegian axes long-haul flights

Budget airline Norwegian has axed its long-haul network, leading to the loss of 1,100 pilot and cabin crew jobs based at Gatwick Airport.

The carrier said it will operate a "simplified business structure and dedicated short-haul route network" after being badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Norwegian shook up the UK's long-haul aviation market in recent years by offering transatlantic flights at knockdown prices.

Some of its most popular deals included £99 trips to New York.

But it struggled to contain costs during its rapid expansion, and has come under further strain due to the virus crisis.

09:19 AM

Temporary mortuary set up in first wave of pandemic is now in use

A temporary mortuary that was set up in a former aircraft hangar at the start of the pandemic is now in use, reports India McTaggart.

The facility in the north-east of Norwich, at the former RAF Coltishall base, was not required during the first wave of coronavirus but is now being used by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH). The site is now known as Scottow Enterprise Park.

Tom McCabe, chairman of Norfolk's Covid-19 Strategic Co-ordination Group, said: "It was always anticipated that during challenging periods there would be extra pressures on mortuaries, undertakers and crematoria.

"This temporary mortuary provides additional capacity to help make sure the county's hospitals have enough flexibility of space in their own mortuaries, and to ensure we can provide the most respectful and dignified way to look after both those who have died, and their families, over this difficult period."

Mr McCabe added: "Anyone whose loved one is moved to the Scottow location will be informed and we can reassure people that we have a dedicated, trained team of staff who care for those who have died and been taken there."

09:15 AM

Humans of Covid-19 Instagram page hailed as 'therapeutic'

A junior doctor helping to run an Instagram page documenting the lives of frontline workers has said the platform is "therapeutic".

The page, entitled Humans of Covid-19, shares photos and stories from behind the scenes of the Covid-19 battle in a bid to "tug on heartstrings" of viewers and encourage them to follow coronavirus restrictions.

Here is the most recent post.

09:06 AM

WHO team to investigate 'where the science leads them'

A World Health Organisation spokesman said the team in Wuhan will follow wherever the science leads them, reports India McTaggart.

Asked on Sky News if the team would investigate whether the virus was produced in a laboratory Tarik Jasarevic said: "We will follow wherever science leads us.

"The majority of scientists believe there is a natural origin of the virus, we know that bats are a natural reservoir of other coronaviruses, we really want to go and see and get the data.

"You mentioned the market [Wuhan wet market] but it is possible there are cases of SARS-CoV-2 before the market and the market was just a spreading event.

"What is really important is to be open and to follow the leads from a scientific perspective."

08:53 AM

Trains to be slashed due to lockdown

People who need to travel by train during lockdown are being urged to check journey planners as timetables are slashed, as exclusively revealed by The Telegraph last week.

Services are being cut from around 87% of normal levels to 72% due to the latest coronavirus lockdown in England.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said this reflects the lower number of people travelling and provides better value for money for taxpayers, who are subsiding franchised train operators to keep trains running.

Morning and evening peak services are being prioritised to support key workers.

Some timetables have already been amended, while others will be changed over the coming weeks.

The RDG said alterations are being made in a way that will allow services to be restored "as quickly as possible when restrictions are eased".

08:51 AM

Negative test on arrival in Scotland 'in force'

Scotland's Deputy First Minister John Swinney said that rules requiring travellers arriving in the country to have a negative coronavirus test are in force in Scotland.

In an interview on BBC Breakfast he was asked what the Scottish position was following the news that rules requiring travellers arriving in England to have a negative coronavirus test have been delayed.

He said: "The position in Scotland is that those restrictions are in place and we want to see people following those restrictions to make sure that we minimise the risk."

Asked, "So you have to have a test before you travel to Scotland?", he replied "Yes" and agreed that the restrictions apply now.

08:30 AM

First pharmacy-delivered vaccine at Boots in Halifax

Brenda Clegg has become the first person in the UK to be vaccinated in a pharmacy.

She got the Oxford jab at a Boots in her hometown of Halifax.

Brenda Clegg  - Will Johnston Photography
Brenda Clegg - Will Johnston Photography

08:24 AM

Why are people still allowed to enter UK without negative test?

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said that the Government was keeping coronavirus restrictions under "constant review".

When asked on BBC Breakfast on Thursday if restrictions needed to be tightened she said: "Well we keep this under constant review, but we keep coming back to this point - this is incredibly serious.

"We know from the pressures on the NHS that hospitals in particular are very, very overstretched at the moment."

When asked why people were still allowed into the UK without a test despite the new Brazilian variant she added: "From Friday the regulations come into force that people will be required to show a negative test before departing."

08:22 AM

WHO arrive in Wuhan, in pictures

A worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization (WHO) - Ng Han Guan/AP
A worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization (WHO) - Ng Han Guan/AP
Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic board a bus - Nicolas Asfouri/AFP 
Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic board a bus - Nicolas Asfouri/AFP
Peter Ben Embarek of the WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Wuhan - Thomas Peter/Reuters
Peter Ben Embarek of the WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Wuhan - Thomas Peter/Reuters

08:13 AM

Having Covid not a guarantee against re-infection

Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director of the national infection service of Public Health England (PHE) said having had a Covid-19 infection was not 100% protective against being re-infected.

But she told BBC Breakfast that prior infection "looks like it's acting similarly to the vaccine, and it may be that the vaccine will boost this immune response and allow people to have an even better immune activation in future."

She said infected people in PHE's Siren study "had rapid high levels of antibodies that fell quickly and then got to a baseline.

"And the vast majority of people have remained to that baseline level, and only a very small percentage, a couple of percent, have lost their antibody overall."

08:11 AM

Travel restrictions a 'delicate balancing act'

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said that there was a "delicate balancing act" between controlling coronavirus and putting too much of a burden on the economy.

When asked on Sky News why people were not being tested for the virus when entering the country 11 months after the UK's first case, she said: "We have had a series of travel restrictions, indeed the quarantine restrictions have been in force for some time.

"There's a very delicate balancing act between controlling the virus and ensuring we are not putting too much of a burden on the economy."

08:08 AM

Self-isolation could be relaxed for Covid contact

Prof Ferguson suggested that the requirement to isolate after coming into contact with a person with coronavirus could be relaxed for people who have recently had the virus to ease pressure on the health service.

He told Today: "Those people who have had the virus before are at less risk of getting infected and cumulatively slow the spread.

"What it means for individuals is harder to say. We have a real problem at the moment, for instance with healthcare workers - a lot of healthcare workers getting infected and off work.

"Whether we can relax restrictions temporarily on requirements for isolation for people who have had a positive PCR test in the last few months is a question for policy makers but it could ease pressures on, for instance, the health service."

His comments came after the first report from Public Health England's Siren study found that antibodies from past infection provide 83% protection against reinfection for at least five months.

08:00 AM

Minister pressed on South American travel corridor

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said the UK had acted "decisively" in the past over new variants of coronavirus found in Denmark and South Africa.

When asked on Sky News why the air corridor between Brazil and parts of South America to the UK had not been closed off, she said: "Of course, people flying into the UK, whether from South America or elsewhere are required to have a 10-day quarantine period when they land in the UK. That is mandatory.

"In terms of the decision on travel measures, it takes a little bit of time.

"What we need to ensure is that when we make these very, very important decisions that have a huge impact on people's personal lives, but also businesses, we have got to have a little bit of time to let that bed in.

"The Prime Minister was clear that measure will be taken, we have acted decisively in the past with both the Denmark and South African variants, so I wouldn't want to speculate further at this stage."

07:57 AM

Covid recoverers protected better than those who received Oxford vaccine

Millions of people who have already recovered from coronavirus are likely to have protection greater than the Oxford vaccine, raising questions as to whether people should be antibody tested to avoid wasting jabs.

New research from Public Health England (PHE) shows that antibodies from a previous infection provide at least 83 per cent protection from picking up the virus again, and possibly up to 99 per cent, for at least five months and probably far longer.

In contrast, the Oxford vaccine has a short-term efficacy of 73 per cent after one dose, and longer-term protection of around 70 per cent after two doses.

In a sample of more than 6,600 healthcare staff who tested positive for an infection, just 44 people were reinfected within five months, and only two of those cases were deemed "probable", with the rest being classed as only "possible".

07:35 AM

Hospital admissions showing 'sign of plateauing'

The coronavirus growth rate is slowing and in some NHS regions there is a "sign of plateauing" in cases and hospital admissions, a leading epidemiologist has suggested.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was "much too early" to say exactly when case numbers would come down but in some NHS regions they appear to be "plateauing".

He said: "It looks like in London in particular and a couple of other regions in the South East and East of England, hospital admissions may even have plateaued, though it is hard to tell if they are coming down.

"It has to be said this is not seen everywhere - both case numbers and hospital admissions are going up in many other areas, but overall at a national level we are seeing the rate of growth slow."

07:31 AM

Brazilian strain being monitored 'very carefully'

Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said the UK was monitoring the new Brazilian coronavirus variant "very carefully" and that "practical measures" were being worked on.

Speaking on Sky News, she added: "This variant has been spotted and it is not unusual for viruses to develop variations in their strains.

"But in terms of the UK, we are monitoring it very, very carefully, we have a world-leading team of scientists working on the different forms of the virus.

"And as the Prime Minister said yesterday, in terms of practical measures, they are being worked on at the moment and no doubt we will hear more in due course as to measures to help deal with that."

07:29 AM

Covid around the world

  1. China reported its biggest daily jump in new cases in more than 10 months its first Covid-19 related death in 242 days, as the World Health Organization's team of scientists arrived in the country's central city of Wuhan to investigate the pandemic's origins.

  2. Spain reported a record number of new infections on Wednesday in the wake of the Christmas holidays.

  3. The state premier of Queensland in Australia said she was considering using remote mining camps to quarantine international arrivals.

  4. As the United States recorded its highest single-day death toll, New York's mayor said the city would fall short of its inoculation goals unless it gets more vaccines.

  5. The Cuban government is once more shutting down schools, public transport and cultural activities

07:12 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Thursday, Jan 14.

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05:52 AM

Pharmacies to begin rolling out vaccine

High street pharmacies will begin rolling out Covid vaccines today.

Boots and Superdrug branches will be among the six stores across England which will be able to administer the jabs from today while the Government aims to hit its target of vaccinating all people in the four most vulnerable groups by the middle of next month.

The NHS Covid-19 Vaccination centre at Boots, Halifax  - PA
The NHS Covid-19 Vaccination centre at Boots, Halifax - PA

Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes will be in the first group to hand out the injections, alongside Boots in Halifax, and Superdrug in Guildford.

The six pharmacies have been picked because they can deliver large volumes of the vaccine and allow for social distancing, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was "fantastic" that jabs would be available on the high street.

05:45 AM

NHS battling against transplant centre closures

The NHS says it is striving to ensure as many organ transplants as possible can go ahead despite the forced closure of several transplant centres amid the Covid crisis.

A report in The Independent says patients are missing out on potentially life-saving transplants because hospital intensive care beds are currently taken up by coronavirus patients.

According to a list provided to the PA news agency by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), 13 out of 68 facilities where various organ transplants are usually carried out are currently fully closed.

A small number of others are either paused for up to 14 days, open for selected patients only, open for "super urgent and urgent cases only", or partially closed - meaning closed to either deceased or to living donations.

Facilities affected include Guy's Hospital, the West London Renal & Transplant Centre, and the Royal Free Hospital in the capital, as well as Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge and Belfast City Hospital.

The Independent reported there had been a 21% year-to-year drop in the number of transplants carried out within the NHS in 2020 due to first two waves of the pandemic.

Read more: 'My life was on hold': how patients awaiting transplants were hit by the closure of units

05:03 AM

Famous circus owner dies from coronavirus

Gerry Cottle, the former circus owner, has died aged 75 after contracting coronavirus, his agent has said.

He found fame during the Seventies with the touring Gerry Cottle Circus, while he also presented the Moscow State Circus and Chinese State Circus in Britain.

Gerry Cottle - Heathcliff O'Malley,
Gerry Cottle - Heathcliff O'Malley,

Cottle, who was born in 1945, died in hospital in Bath. Mark Borkowski said in a statement: "Gerry was a loving family man who is survived by his wife Betty and three daughters and a son, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren."

He added on Twitter: "RIP Gerry Cottle the last of the great circus showmen."

"In a fraction of a second the bastard virus ripped your life away. I shall never forget all the mad adventures we shared."

Read more: Gerry Cottle, circus showman, dies of coronavirus at 75

03:48 AM

WHO team arrives in Wuhan

A team of WHO experts landed in Wuhan on Thursday for a long-delayed mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus.

Chinese state broadcaster CGTN showed the arrival of their plane from Singapore for a visit that is expected to last several weeks.

On Wednesday it was reported that British diplomats are bracing for the United States to make grave allegations against China, linked to "dangerous" coronavirus research in Wuhan.

Donald Trump is thought to be intent on firing a final salvo against Beijing over the Covid crisis in one of his last acts before he departs the Oval Office next week.

Read more: US report expected to say Chinese army grew 'dangerous coronaviruses' in Wuhan

China has been blamed for failing to contain the spread of Covid-19 which has become a global pandemic - REUTERS
China has been blamed for failing to contain the spread of Covid-19 which has become a global pandemic - REUTERS

03:12 AM

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