Coronavirus latest news: New Covid variant has already spread across the UK, Sir Patrick Vallance warns

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The new variant of Sars-Cov-2 has already "spread across the country," said the government's chief scientific advisor, warning that additional regions could be placed under Tier 4 restrictions in the coming weeks.
"It's localized in some places, but we know there are cases everywhere. So it's not like we can prevent this from getting elsewhere, there are already some," Sir Patrick Vallance said at a press conference in Downing Street.
"The message was very clear and I think I want to reiterate it: stay there. People shouldn't be traveling around the country right now ... it has to be taken incredibly seriously."
Sir Patrick added that the tiered system will be crucial in containing Covid-19, but with the new variant "spreading easily" it is likely that "measures will need to be increased, rather than reduced, in due course ".
This is partly because he expects the cases to "inevitably" increase in the coming weeks as people mingle over Christmas. "I think it is that this will continue to spread," he added.
His comments come when the Government Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats (Nervtag) informed a science media center of the new mutant that cases outside of Tier 4 in London and the South East of England are "increasing at similar rates" to those in affected Areas.
Experts have also said the variant has a "transmission advantage" over other strains of the virus, meaning it is likely to become the dominant variant in the UK and around the world.
The Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however, said there was "no evidence" that the new tribe was "more likely to cause serious illness or mortality".
Elsewhere, regional public health directors in Manchester and the West Midlands urged anyone traveling from a Tier 4 area or Wales to self-isolate upon arrival and "assume" they were the new Covid-19 Variant has.
Follow the latest updates below.
5:59 pm
Experts warn that the new South African Covid-19 strain is triggering a massive second wave
Outside the UK, there are also concerns about a new variant of Sars-Cov-2 that is spreading in South Africa and causing massive recurrence of the disease, Will Brown reports.
The strain known as 501.V2 is different from the one in the UK, but similar in the sense that it spreads much faster than the original virus - it accounts for about 80 to 90 percent of new cases in Africa's most industrialized nation.
"It is still very early, but at this point the preliminary data suggest that the virus, which is now dominating the second wave, is spreading faster than the first wave," said Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of the ministerial council of the Government for Covid-19 said.
In South Africa, “many more cases” could occur in the new wave than in the first surge in the disease, warned Professor Karim, adding that far more viral loads were found when nasal swabs were removed from patients with the new variant, the examples.
The new South African variant has been traced back to Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, the first major urban area to be hit by the country's second wave. South Africa has recorded about 950,000 cases of the virus and about 25,000 deaths since the pandemic began. Now the rainbow nation, tired and ravaged by draconian lockdowns, sees about 10,000 new cases every day.
It strongly suggests that the current fall wave is being driven by the new variant, warned South African Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize his citizens on Friday.
5:35 pm
Johnson: The majority of the 500,000 vaccine doses dispensed were given to people over the age of 80
The PA concludes by asking what proportion of the half a million people vaccinated have gone to nursing home residents, the elderly, or health workers.
Boris Johnson says some go to NHS workers, others to care for homeworkers, but most of the doses currently go to those over 80 and the most clinically vulnerable.
"We want to take so many high risk death targets out of the path of disease."
The press conference ends.
5:32 pm
Vallance: Great confidence that the variant transmits faster
The result of the Netvag meeting - a subgroup of Sage - is that experts "have a high level of confidence that this variant transmits faster," says Sir Patrick Vallance.
He adds that this shows the need to fight the virus as much as possible.
"Indicate that we are entering a phase where we will see more mixing. I think the numbers will increase a bit over the next few weeks."
17:30
Vallance: Cases of Sars-Cov-2 variants will increase across the UK - Tier 4 restrictions may be required in more areas
The prime minister says he wants to get schools back in staggered steps in January as "having children and keeping children in education when you can is very, very important".
But he says the government is flexible - as demonstrated on Saturday when it introduced new restrictions.
Sir Patrick Vallance says we need to make sure we don't give the virus a new way to spread - not because the virus itself is causing a more serious disease, but because it is spreading faster.
Der Spiegel then presses the government further on whether Tier 4 will work - and whether the entire country should be locked down.
Sir Patrick says the evidence of this virus is that it is easy to spread, more communicable and we need to make sure we have the right restrictions. He believes the number of cases of Sars-Cov-2 variants across the country will increase and more places will be subject to stricter restrictions.
Boris Johnson says it would have been "catastrophic" if the country had been in lockdown for a year, and it was right to move forward - despite having been accused of delivering too promisingly and too little.
He says he thinks life will become more normal after Easter.
"We should be extremely hopeful that this country can recover from Covid. I think that's the thing then and now," added Johnson.
5:24 pm
Grant Shapps: Brexit planning has reduced the chaos in Kent today
Boris Johnson said he vowed to stay away from Brexit when he spoke to Emmanuel Macron about the travel chaos today - noting the president's birthday - but said the position in the UK was "unchanged".
"The WTO terms would be more than satisfactory for the UK ... not that we don't want a deal."
Grant Shapps adds that some of the reasons we didn't see any major problems in Kent today is that Brexit planning is coming true just a few weeks ahead of schedule.
"To a large extent it showed that we are ready".
Patrick Vallance then answers a question about the distribution of the Sars-Cov-2 variant. He says it shows the importance of trying to get the virus under control, monitoring the situation, and taking action if necessary.
He says that in some parts of the country, people mingle with those who haven't seen them lately. We should all assume we are contagious, he says.
5:21 pm
Sir Patrick Vallance: Our message is to stay there
The next question comes from the BBC. How sure is the government that it can handle delays and restrictions? Did France ask that truckers and travelers be tested before entry?
Boris Johnson said it was an "excellent conversation" with the French President, who said he would clear this up "in the next few hours".
Sir Patrick Vallance is then asked if there should be an isolation phase when moving within the UK. He says we know there are cases everywhere and we can't stop the variant from traveling across the country.
But he says the message is "stay local".
"People shouldn't be traveling across the country now".
5:18 pm
Boris Johnson: The vaccine won't be introduced in Tier 4 first
Questions begin with a public question about the boundaries between levels. Boris Johnson said the government has been looking into where the new variant is spreading and taking action to limit it. He says these measures are checked every couple of weeks.
The second question concerns whether the vaccine could be launched by geographic area, given that the variant is so widespread in Kent and other Tier 4 areas.
The Prime Minister says the JCVI's goal is to reduce the death toll. Therefore, people over 80 and residents of nursing homes as well as health and social staff are addressed first.
"I think this is the way to go," added Johnson. He says there is no reason to believe that this new variant of the virus is more dangerous than the existing stain.
5:15 pm
Boris Johnson: International Response Against the Virus
According to Boris Johnson, half a million people received their first shot of the vaccine.
The Prime Minister argues that the virus "is constantly being defeated by an international response and an international response that brings vaccines around the world".
Grant Shapps adds that "the main message is, please don't travel to Kent."
He says freight forwarders have understood this message too, so there are no problems in Kent to be seen. Most of the trucks lining up on the M20 are driven by drivers outside the UK.
"What happened today corresponds to what happens under extreme travel conditions or during strikes in Calais," says the transport minister. He adds that the Kent authorities have responded well.
5:11 pm
Boris Johnson: Travel restrictions only apply to 20 percent of the freight
The Prime Minister begins by saying that he chaired a Cobra meeting this afternoon to organize a British response to the French border closings.
He says the vast majority of food, medicines, and other supplies come and go as normally as restrictions only apply to 20 percent of the flow of cargo.
Long-prepared plans have also been activated and the number of trucks on the M20 has been reduced from 500 to 170, he says.
We are working to "resolve these issues as soon as possible" so that freight can resume, Johnson says, adding that he is in discussion with Emmanuel Macron.
He adds that the UK considers the risks of an "individual sitting in a taxi" to be low in terms of transmitting Covid.
5:03 pm
Andy Burnham: If you come to Manchester from Tier 4, you have to isolate yourself for 10 days
Greater Manchester Mayor confirms that anyone entering the metropolitan area from Tier 4 or Wales must self-isolate for at least ten days upon arrival.
"Everyone should be extremely careful," he warns.
"Public Manchester directors for public health ask anyone who has traveled to the metropolitan area from a Tier 4 area or Wales to self-isolate for at least ten days upon arrival"

Everyone should be extremely careful ⚠️

Read more here https://t.co/Fdu4uT7Bvt
- Mayor Andy Burnham (@MayorofGM) December 21, 2020
4:57 pm
5:00 p.m. Downing Street press conference set to begin soon
In the next few minutes, we expect Prime Minister Boris Johnson - along with Secretary of Transportation Grant Shapps and the government's key scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance - to make a statement and answer questions at a press conference on Downing Street.
It comes after a remarkable and chaotic three days of coronavirus-related headlines. Johnson chaired an Emergency Committee meeting this afternoon to discuss developments.
You can watch live via the live stream at the top of this blog or follow text updates.
4:51 pm
What we know about the new Sars Cov 2 variant
My colleague Jordan Kelly-Linden listened to a Q&A with experts from the Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats (Nervtag) - a subgroup of Sage.
Here is a summary of the most important statements by Prof. Neil Ferguson, Prof. Wendy Barcley, Prof. Peter Horby and Prof. Susan Hopkins about the new Sars-Cov-2 variant:
There is strong evidence that the new mutant strain is 50 percent more transmissible than the previous virus, Prof. Ferguson said. Prof. Horby added that more than a dozen scientists met this afternoon to discuss the new Sars-Cov-2 variant and concluded with "high confidence" that the mutation is more contagious.
This particular variant was discovered after the data showed that cases in the Kent and Medway area rose sharply due to the lockdown. On December 6, it was clear that in certain cases behavioral factors were not causing the increase.
There is still no evidence of a difference in disease progression, said Prof. Barcley. But "biology supports the idea that it makes it easier for the virus to get into the cells of the upper respiratory tract."
We don't know who is "patient zero" of this new variant. There has been some speculation that the "point source" may have mutated in an immunocompromised patient. Virus development has been tracked in this way in the past, as with HIV or TB.
If it got to a point where we had to introduce a new type of vaccine, the good news is that the mRNA technology behind the Pfizer and Moderna burst is pretty adaptable, said Prof. Barcley. Antibody-based treatments, however, could be affected by this new variant.
Scientists are investigating the possibility that children are more prone to this variant. However, the data is not yet clear. If the mutations in B.1.1.7 allow this variant to bind more closely to the ACE2 receptor on human cells, which could do essentially as well as infecting children as well as adults, suggested Prof. Barcley.
Ultimately, everyone came to the conclusion that the UK needs to collect more data to see how it will do in the future before any conclusions can be drawn about how dangerous this variant is.
4:45 p.m.
Japan: Doctors declare a medical emergency
National associations of doctors, nurses and seven other medical groups in Japan today declared a state of medical emergency and urged the government to support the country's medical system, creaking under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The spread of the coronavirus infection shows no signs of stopping. Without controls, people in Japan cannot receive regular medical care, let alone Covid-19," the joint statement said.
The nine groups, which also include national associations of dentists and pharmacists, urged the government to provide adequate support to the frontline medical professionals and to oblige the public to thoroughly implement infection prevention measures.
While coronavirus infections are not nearly as severe in Japan as they are in the U.S. and parts of Europe, they have soared to record highs this month, raising concerns that medical facilities could be overwhelmed if they are normally understaffed during the holiday season are.
In total, Japan has reported more than 201,000 infections and 2,965 deaths:
4:40 pm
Royal Mail is changing the Christmas delivery guarantee
Royal Mail has admitted that some Christmas packages will not arrive on time as the latest Covid-19 restrictions have been blamed.
In what has been termed a "cruel blow" in which families were separated for Christmas, it announced today that it will suspend its guarantee on items that were shipped by special delivery on Wednesday.
This means that tomorrow will be the last day gifts are sent to loved ones so that they arrive on time, not Wednesday as mentioned earlier.
In a statement posted on its website, the company said: "Given the changes to coronavirus restrictions announced on Saturday, we made the difficult decision to make the following changes to our timed warranties."
Items sent on Wednesday by special delivery are no longer covered by the guarantee.
Sam Meadows, Editor of Consumer Affairs, has more details on that story here.
4:31 pm
Gibraltar: Arrivals in the UK require a Covid-free test result as Christmas restrictions have been tightened
Gibraltar Prime Minister Fabian Picardo said it was not clear whether the new variant of Covid was active on the territory but announced a series of restrictions for the Christmas season to counter a surge in cases amid the possible presence of the new strain James Badcock reports.
Mr Picardo told the Gibraltar Parliament that a patient "manifested with the new variant in November but that we seem to have switched off that particular vector".
After the number of active cases in Gibraltar tripled from 71 to 202, Picardo announced that the hospitality sector would be closed for the Christmas season until January 11 and masks must now be worn in all public places.
He urged people to limit Christmas gatherings to a maximum of three households and said the government was working with the various religious groups in Gibraltar to avoid physical ceremonies over Christmas.
While traveling, Picardo said Gibraltar would not restrict people coming and going from Spain, despite Spain announcing tightening border controls, but he urged young people to avoid socializing on the Spanish side of the fence .
He said people arriving on flights from the UK should provide a Covid test result or they would be tested on arrival.
4:18 pm
Another 33,364 coronavirus cases and 215 deaths
The UK has recorded an additional 33,364 Covid-19 cases and 215 deaths of people who tested positive for the virus within 28 days. That compares to 35,928 cases announced yesterday and 326 deaths.
Here's a look at how the outbreak went in the UK:
4:14 pm
Reminder: 5:00 p.m. Downing Street press conference
Around 5 p.m., Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, Sir Patrick Vallance, are visiting, is expected to make a statement and answer questions at a press conference on Downing Street.
It comes after a remarkable and chaotic three days of coronavirus-related headlines. We're going to live stream at the top of this blog and post all the major developments you should know about.
4:08 pm
Cases are increasing at similar rates both inside and outside Tier 4
Speaking at the Science Media Center briefing, Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Nervtage subcommittee, said cases outside of Tier 4 are "increasing at similar rates" in the affected areas.
"It's just that the virus makes up a smaller percentage of all cases and is therefore even less visible in the total numbers of cases," he said.
He added that there is strong evidence that the new mutant strain is 50 percent more transmissible than the previous virus - and an indication that the new variant of the coronavirus has infected more children.
"We need to collect more data to see how it behaves in the future," said Prof. Ferguson. "There are other epidemiologically interesting trends in viruses, there is an indication that it has a higher propensity to infect children ... but we didn't find any causality for this, but we can see that in the data."
3:56 pm
"High confidence" that the new variant is highly contagious, warn Nervtag experts
More than a dozen scientists met this afternoon to discuss the spread of the new Sars-Cov-2 variant in the UK - and perhaps beyond - and were "very confident" of concluding that the Mutation makes Covid more transmissible.
Minutes released over the weekend by Nervtag - a subcommittee of Sage's Scientific Advisory Board - showed that experts had "moderate confidence" that the variant was more contagious than other strains in circulation.
Peter Horby, Chairman of NervTag, told a Science Media Center briefing: "This afternoon more than a dozen scientists met again, with some new faces that weren't on Friday.
"We went through all the data and the additional analysis again, both with larger amounts of data and with different methods.
"The bottom line this afternoon is that we now have great confidence that this variant has a transmission advantage over other virus variants currently in the UK."
3:52 pm
Sudan announces a travel ban for Great Britain, the Netherlands and South Africa
Another country has announced travel bans as the new Sars-Cov-2 variant is increasingly concerned: Sudan will ban travelers from the UK, the Netherlands and South Africa from December 23, the head of the civil aviation authority told Reuters today.
The ban will last three weeks, subject to renewal, and more countries could be added to the list as the situation evolves, Ibrahim Adlan said.
3:49 pm
Sweden bans travelers from the UK and Denmark
Sweden will stop accepting foreign travelers from the UK and Denmark to curb the rapid spread of a new strain of the coronavirus, the government has announced.
"To minimize the risk of spreading here, the government today decided to ban entry," Interior Minister Mikael Damberg said at a press conference, adding that Swedish citizens are exempt from the ban, which comes into force at midnight 48 hours.
Boris Johnson said on Saturday that the new strain had led to rising numbers of infections and that several European countries had since announced travel restrictions.
The Danish Infectious Diseases Authority announced last week that it had detected nine cases of coronavirus infections with the new strain from November 14th to December 3rd. You have closely monitored the new tribe.
3:48 pm
Female suicides in Japan and South Korea increase during the pandemic
Suicide rates among young women in South Korea and Japan have increased alarmingly this year, raising fears over the mental health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has increased economic uncertainties and social isolation.
Both East Asian nations have long suffered some of the highest suicide rates in the world, but experts say the ongoing pandemic has exacerbated existing trends.
They point to the documented surge in South Korea and Japan as a warning to other countries of the hidden consequences of extensive social distancing and money worries.
According to the Korea Suicide Prevention Center, 1,924 girls and women died of suicide in South Korea between January and June, up 7.1 percent from the previous year.
The numbers show that the global health disaster has accelerated an established pattern this year. According to a December 2019 report by the Institute for Society and Health, the rise in suicides among Korean millennial women has far exceeded their male counterparts in the past 20 years.
Nicola Smith and Danielle Demetriou have the full report here.
3:40 pm
EU executive asked for guidelines on curbs in the UK
The governments of the European Union have urged the European Commission to urgently develop guidelines to coordinate the bloc's approach to UK travel restrictions.
A number of countries have already closed their borders with the UK on fear that a highly infectious new strain of coronavirus could cause travel chaos.
Within the 27-member European Union, these measures range from a 24-hour travel ban in Belgium to 1 January in the Netherlands and a ban on commercial vehicles in France.
Representatives of the EU member states gathered for a video conference today and supported the idea of ​​a coordinated EU approach, an EU diplomat told Reuters. They then asked the European Commission to develop common guidelines.
The EU members also stressed the importance of keeping the borders open within the Schengen area, the group of 26 countries that have abolished border controls among themselves.
3:34 pm
Summary of the afternoon
It's time for another breakdown of the news to help you better understand a busy day. Here is an overview of what you need to know:
Boris Johnson will hold a press conference on the new variant of Sars-Cov-2 after a Cobra meeting at 5 p.m., in particular on the enormous disruption of freight traffic between France and Great Britain.
It is because Britain is increasingly cut off from the rest of Europe - and the world - and more than 40 countries are banning travel. Peru, Spain, and Jordan are some of the youngest countries restricting arrival in the UK.
The new variant of Sars-Cov-2 could become the dominant variety worldwide. It has an "evolutionary advantage in being transmitted faster," a government adviser has suggested.
Industry leaders and Downing Street have said that "there is no need to panic buying". But Sainsbury's has warned that lettuce leaves and citrus fruits may be missing from the shelves "if nothing changes".
According to Transport Minister Grant Shapps, supplies to the Covid Jab in the UK will not be affected.
Hopes for a swift solution were raised after the French government decided to lay down Europe-wide measures for the hygiene protocol "in the next few hours" to enable traffic to resume. Emmanuel Macron has indicated that a testing scheme could be the solution.
Public Health Wales said the new strain could "cause up to 60 percent of coronavirus infections in Wales," said the Welsh deputy chief medical officer.
First Minister Arlene Foster said the new variant was "likely" in Northern Ireland when she announced that it would reduce the five-day easing of holiday restrictions, which allowed three households to congregate, to Christmas Day.
Sir Keir Starmer has described the news for the past 24 hours as "deeply troubling" and has warned that "this is now a real emergency".
In non-travel information:
A third of the major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the height of the first virus wave, new analyzes show.
The government urged the "clinically extremely vulnerable" individuals to start shielding again in areas subject to Tier 4 restrictions.
The European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, paving the way for a mass vaccination campaign shortly after Christmas.
U.S. Congress leaders agreed on a $ 900 billion package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy and individuals plagued by the growing pandemic. The votes are likely today.
And finally, President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden later received the coronavirus vaccine on live television in Delaware today.
3:16 pm
Comment: "Mutant Covid means even more trouble for Macron and Europe"
Emmanuel Macrons Verbot der Einreise von Lastwagen nach Frankreich gewinnt den Preis für die sinnloseste politische Geste seit Ausbruch dieser Pandemie, schreibt Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Der Mutantenstamm B.1.1.7 ist bereits in ganz Europa verbreitet.
Hier ist ein Auszug aus seinem Kommentar - den Sie hier vollständig lesen können:
Britische Wissenschaftler haben es früh entdeckt und in Echtzeit verfolgt, da Großbritannien fast so viel Genomsequenzierung von Covid-19 durchgeführt hat wie der Rest der Welt zusammen. Der Harvard-Epidemiologe William Hanage sagt, Großbritannien habe das fortschrittlichste Genomüberwachungsregime der Welt.
Dänemark ist einer der wenigen anderen Staaten in Europa, die ebenfalls eine umfassende und schnelle Sequenzierung durchführen. Und siehe da, die Dänen haben die gleiche Mutation gefunden. Viele Länder führen kaum oder gar keine Genomsequenzierung durch.
Man kann sich leicht vorstellen, dass eine Variante, die bereits im September in Proben aufgenommen wurde, in Belgien, den Niederlanden, Italien und Frankreich nicht bereits weit verbreitet ist. Es dauerte Monate, bis die Grenzen weit offen waren, lange vor den zweiten Sperren.
15:05 Uhr
Das Parlament wird voraussichtlich die virtuelle Beteiligung aufgrund von Tier 4 ausweiten
Die Regierung wird versuchen, die Fernbeteiligung an Commons-Debatten zu verlängern, wenn das Haus das nächste Mal aufgrund von Tier-4-Beschränkungen in London zusammentritt, sagte Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Der Commons Leader hat an das Commons Procedure Select Committee geschrieben und die Pläne der Regierung dargelegt, die Anzahl der Abgeordneten zu verringern, die nach Westminster reisen müssen, um an Debatten teilzunehmen.
In einem Twitter-Account für den Commons Leader heißt es: "Angesichts der Tier 4-Beschränkungen wird die Regierung beim nächsten Treffen des Hauses versuchen, die Fernbeteiligung auf weitere Verfahren in der Kammer auszudehnen, einschließlich Debatten über die Gesetzgebung."
In Anbetracht der Tier 4-Beschränkungen wird die Regierung beim nächsten Treffen des Hauses versuchen, die Fernbeteiligung auf weitere Verfahren in der Kammer auszudehnen, einschließlich Debatten über die Gesetzgebung. @ Jacob_rees_mogg hat an @CommonsProcCom geschrieben und den Ansatz dargelegt. pic.twitter.com/nO5PPewiMN
- Vorsitzender des Unterhauses (@CommonsLeader) 21. Dezember 2020
14:52 Uhr
Peru verbietet Ankünfte aus Großbritannien und Europa
Peru hat nicht nur Flüge von und nach Großbritannien ausgesetzt, sondern diese auch auf ganz Europa ausgeweitet, gab Präsident Francisco Sagasti bekannt.
Sagasti sagte in einer Fernsehnachricht, dass seit dem 15. Dezember, als die Flüge aus Europa wieder aufgenommen wurden, keine Direktflüge aus Großbritannien in das Land eingereist seien.
Aber die Gesundheitsbehörden überwachten Passagiere aus Großbritannien, die über Anschlussflüge eingereist waren, sagte er.
Er fügte hinzu, dass die Gesundheits- und Reiseagenturen maximal alarmiert wurden, um das Eindringen eines neuen Coronavirus-Stammes zu verhindern, der in Großbritannien entdeckt wurde.
Peru wurde bisher von dem Virus schwer getroffen. Insgesamt wurden 997.517 Infektionen gemeldet und 37.103 Todesfälle.
14:48 Uhr
Die Beschränkungen können so lange bestehen bleiben, bis die Hälfte des Vereinigten Königreichs geimpft ist
Die Impfung allein wird nicht ausreichen, um das Coronavirus in der Gemeinde auf ein "sehr niedriges Niveau" zu senken, und die sozialen Beschränkungen müssen möglicherweise fortgesetzt werden, bis etwa 50 Prozent der Bevölkerung geimpft wurden, warnte ein Experte.
Viele Menschen haben auf eine Rückkehr zur Normalität gehofft, sobald ältere Menschen und diejenigen, die am stärksten von Covid-19 bedroht sind, den Stich erhalten haben.
Stephen Evans, Professor für Pharmakoepidemiologie an der Londoner Schule für Hygiene und Tropenmedizin, sagte jedoch, dass eine Impfung allein nicht ausreichen werde, um das in der Gemeinde zirkulierende Virus auf "sehr niedrige Werte" zu bringen.
Bei einer Pressekonferenz im Wissenschafts- und Medienzentrum sagte er: "Wir müssen tatsächlich die absolute Menge an zirkulierenden Viren haben, um sehr gering zu sein. Und das werden wir nicht allein durch Impfung tun, bis wir 50% der Bevölkerung erreichen." geimpft oder mehr, und das wird noch ein langer Weg sein.
"Ich befürchte also, dass die Art von Einschränkungen, die wir haben, die nicht-medizinischen Interventionen, fortgesetzt werden müssen."
Verwandte Themen: Warum Minister bis zum Frühjahr nicht auf den Erfolg der Impfstoffeinführung setzen sollten
14:41 Uhr
Moderna Jab löst bei Patienten mit Botox leichte Nebenwirkungen aus
Der Moderna-Impfstoff kann bei Personen mit kosmetischen Hautfüllern in der Vorgeschichte zu vorübergehenden Schwellungen im Gesicht führen, berichtet Jordan Kelly-Linden.
Leichte Nebenwirkungen des Stichs wurden bei drei Personen berichtet, bei denen während der Phase-III-Studien eine lokalisierte Schwellung in Gesicht und Lippen auftrat.
Die Enthüllung wurde am Donnerstag im Beratungsausschuss für Impfstoffe und verwandte biologische Produkte der FDA bekannt, in dem sich eine Expertengruppe versammelte, um die Daten der klinischen Studie des Moderna-Impfstoffs zu überprüfen.
Two people developed facial swelling after vaccination. One person had undergone the cosmetic procedure two weeks before being vaccinated. The second had most recently had dermal fillers injected about six months before being vaccinated.
A third person experienced swelling of the lip about two days after administration and also reported a similar reaction to the flu jab in the past.
Fillers are considered safe. But rare complications, such as late-onset inflammatory reactions, are a known side effect in hyaluronic acid-based injections.
So far no serious safety concerns have been reported in the Moderna vaccine trials.
02:30 PM
How Europe views the UK amid Covid chaos
Media outlets from across Europe have been reacting to the news of the mutant coronavirus strain discovered in England and the subsequent travel bans - and the Italian media have been scathing in their coverage, reports Nick Squires:
Britain finds itself isolated from Europe, not just because of the mutant strain but also because of the tortuous state of Brexit talks.
"Between Brexit and Covid, the nightmares of a country never more isolated," is one headline in Corriere della Sera newspaper. These are strange times for "the most global and globalised city one the planet," says the paper. "For the first time, Britons find themselves alone with each other."
The twin effects of Brexit and Covid have rendered the UK "a small island adrift in the Atlantic and that is not a nice sensation."
Meanwhile, Russia’s best-selling Komsomolskaya Pravda in its coverage of the UK’s new strain of Covid-19 focused on how Boris Johnson’s announcement sends thousands of people fleeing the Tier 4 area, Nataliya Vasilyeva adds.
So did state-owned Channel One on Monday showed the footage of crowds at St. Pancras and other train stations as people were trying to leave the capital and pointed out to potential economic fallout from the new lockdown.
02:23 PM
Spain and Portugal suspend flights from UK
Spain will ban all travellers from Britain, except Spanish nationals and residents, from entering the country from Tuesday amid concerns over a rapidly spreading new strain of the coronavirus,
Controls at the border with Gibraltar, where at least one case of the new Covid-19 variant has already been detected, will be stepped up, the government added in a statement today. It said the entry ban for non-residents had been coordinated with neighbouring Portugal, which announced its decision late last night.
More than 40 nations have now banned travel from Britain amid concerns about the new Sars-Cov-2 variant which is thought to be highly infectious.
An hour ago Paul Charles, the CEO of the travel consultancy The PC Agency, put the total tally at 41 - it looks like that figure now stands at 42.
41 countries have now put bans or restrictions on #UK flights due to the new strain. #India and #Russia are the latest. It is vital that @PHE_uk reveals more details as soon as they’re able to so as to reassure other countries (and the U.K. public). @ThePCAgency
— Paul Charles (@PPaulCharles) December 21, 2020
02:21 PM
Watch: 'We are in a real emergency', says Sir Keir Starmer
02:14 PM
Breaking: EU regulators approve Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
Some good news - the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a decision which comes weeks after Britain and subsequently the US authorised the jab.
"I am delighted to announce that the EMA scientific committee met today and recommended a conditional marketing authorisation in the EU for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech," EMA chief Emer Cooke told an online press conference.
The European Commission will rubber stamp this approval in the next 48 hours, before doses are delivered to all 27 EU states, paving the way for mass-vaccination to begin.
Some states, especially Germany - where BioNTech is based - have criticised the EMA for being slow off the mark on vaccine approval. Under pressure to expedite the original decision, the regulator moved a decision meeting from December 29 to today.
The EMA is set to meet to discuss the Moderna vaccine on January 6.
02:09 PM
French could make tests a pre-requisite for cross-border travel
A croaky-voiced French President Emmanuel Macron held a cabinet meeting today via video, in which he indicated the French could enforce "systematic tests" as a condition for French nationals returning from Britain to France for the holidays.
Macron, in stable condition, has been working from home at the Elysee Palace as he recovers from his Covid-19 infection.
Macron said that the "problematic virus mutation" identified in southern England caused the UK. "to take exceptional decisions on Saturday and accelerate the measure of closures and constraint."
It brought France to suspend all travel and freight from the UK until Wednesday.
Macron confirmed PCR testing could be required for French nationals wishing to return to home soil. Authorities, he said, could ask "that PCR tests are presented as being negative upon the arrival on (French) territory."
Similarly, the French government’s decision on re-opening the border to truckers looks like it will rest on the presence of a Covid screening scheme.
Gabriel Attal, a French government spokesman, told RTL radio that 2,000-3,000 French lorry drivers "could come over the border as soon as possible once European co-ordination and a reinforced health protocol have been set up in the coming hours".
02:04 PM
A third of hospitals have more Covid-19 patients than during first wave
A grim analysis from the PA news agency here, showing just how much pressure the NHS is currently under due to the pandemic: a third of major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave in Spring.
In two regions - eastern England and south-west England - more than half of trusts are above their first-wave peak.
Other trusts have seen their numbers rise so rapidly that they could pass their first-wave peak within days.
The analysis found that of the 127 acute hospital trusts with a 24-hour A&E department in England, 42 (33 per cent) had more Covid-19 patients on December 18 than at the peak of the first wave in the spring. Examples include:
Mid & South Essex, which recorded 450 confirmed Covid-19 patients on December 18 compared with a first-wave peak of 374. The trust has postponed some non-urgent operations, with surgery prioritised based on clinical need and cancer care unaffected.
East Suffolk & North Essex, which had 185 patients compared with a first-wave peak of 143.
Barking, Havering & Redbridge, where there were 300 patients on December 18 versus a first-wave peak of 245. This is currently the only trust in London to have passed the peak.
Gloucestershire, which had 171 patients compared with a first-wave peak of 149.
Earlier today hospital leaders in Leicester also warned that "the number of people with Covid-19 being cared for at Leicester’s hospitals is at its highest level since the pandemic began" - the region is "experiencing significant pressures" due to the double whammy of rising Covid-19 cases and annual winter pressures (see 11:39am).
01:58 PM
Lobby latest: Most of this year's UK vaccine supply already in Britain
Back to the daily Lobby meeting between Number 10 and political journalists, where the PM's official spokesman has been asked about any impact on the vaccine rollout from the border issues.
"We already have the majority of this year' supply from Pfizer so we have sufficient doses to continue the vaccination programme," he responded. "But we've always had contingency plans in place to ensure the Pfizer vaccine continues to enter the UK, as you would expect us to have."
Asked why a national lockdown was not introduced, he added: "We've been clear that people shouldn't be travelling out of Tier 4 areas and I would point to the changes that we've made in terms of Tier 4.
"We've been clear that people should remain at home and that people should limit human interaction. We've closed non-essential retail in Tier 4 again to stop the virus transmitting between people in those settings and unfortunately we've had to advise people not to meet over Christmas."
Tier 4, he added, is "designed specifically to try and drive the transmission of the variant Covid down".
01:52 PM
Today in photos
Here's a look at the pandemic in pictures - for the latest news summary head down to 11:07am.
Istanbul, Turkey:
A nurse holds an 11-day-old baby boy infected with Covid-19, at the intensive care unit of the Prof. Dr. Feriha Oz Emergency Hospital - AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
M20 near Folkestone, UK:
Lorries parked on the M20 near Folkestone, Kent, as part of Operation Stack after the Port of Dover was closed and access to the Eurotunnel terminal suspended following the French government's announcement that it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48 hours - Steve Parsons/PA Wire
More
New York, US:
People wearing masks walk past people dining in plastic bubbles used for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic - Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Coolangatta, Australia:
Long queue of motorists who are entering Queensland from New South Wales through the border checkpoint. Queensland has closed its border to greater Sydney residents as a cluster of Covid-19 cases continues to increase. Queensland residents returning from Sydney have until 1am on Tuesday get home. - Regi Varghese/Getty Images
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01:40 PM
Lobby Latest: Downing Street urges people not to panic buy
The Prime Minister's official spokesman has warned the public against panic buying, insisting that the UK has "resilient" supply chains.
"It is the case that the majority of our food doesn't come in through the short straits," he told journalists. "It remains the position that people should shop normally and continue to be considerate in the way they shop."
Number 10 added that the UK Government is in contact with the French authorities about the ban on lorries crossing the channel.
Asked whether Boris Johnson believed the French action was justified, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We are obviously working incredibly closely with our international partners and are working urgently to minimise the disruption as far as possible.
"We are in close contact with the French to try and get this resolved".
01:33 PM
US: 'Everything on table' in terms of possible travel bans
US Assistant Health Secretary Brett Giroir has said that it is "possible" America would ban travel from the United Kingdom as a new variant of the deadly coronavirus spreads in the country, but added nothing had been decided yet.
"I think everything is possible. We just need to put everything on the table, have an open scientific discussion and make the best recommendation," he said in an interview on CNN, adding the White House coronavirus task force will meet later today.
In other updates from the US:
President-elect Joe Biden, the incoming first lady, Dr Jill Biden, are set to receive the coronavirus vaccine on live television later today in Delaware - sending a message to Americans across the country that the vaccine is safe.
After months of wrangling the US Congress has agreed a deal on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package, Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, has announced.
Essential front-line workers and people aged 75 and above will be the next group to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the US, according to updated recommendations from the Centres for Disease Control.
01:26 PM
Boris Johnson to hold a press conference this afternoon
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a Downing Street press conference this afternoon following a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee.
The group has been convened to discuss the spread of the new coronavirus variant and the response of countries - including France - in banning travel from the UK.
01:23 PM
Eurotunnel: Pre-travel tests could reopen UK-France border
Eurotunnel have said they hope that travel between the UK and France will restart from Wednesday or Thursday, if a solution is agreed in the next day.
Speaking to BBC 5 Live John Keefe, from Eurotunnel, said: "What we are waiting for the French to announce is what the protocol will be to restart movement in the UK to France direction."
He added that "we expect it will be something around testing", speculating that the solution could be the introduction of something akin to a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of travelling across the border.
"We are hoping that it's going to be something along those lines then people will be able to start thinking about travel again from Wednesday-Thursday," he said.
01:16 PM
Tunisia bans air travel with UK, Australia and South Africa over new variants
Tunisia announced that it has suspended all air travel with Britain, Australia and South Africa, citing fears of a new coronavirus strain.
It has been well-documented that there is a new variant in the UK, which is thought to be highly infectious and circulating quite widely. Two cases linked to this mutation have also been identified in a state-run quarantine facility in Australia.
Meanwhile in South Africa, experts are working to understand the significance of an unrelated mutation which has been identified.
That viruses mutate is not surprising - it happens all the time and most have little impact on how the virus operates. But occasionally, as we have seen in Britain, the changes are substantive. It's not yet clear if the same is true in South Africa.
01:07 PM
Covid transmission risk higher in student halls than classrooms
The risk of Covid-19 transmission is greater in student halls and houses than in classrooms and lecture theatres, research suggests.
The largest outbreaks occurred in halls of residences at several universities in England during the autumn term, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics;
Data from the universities of Exeter and Loughborough suggest that the number of Covid-19 cases among the student population rose steeply after the start of the term, but they fell during November.
In Exeter, university students make up the majority of recorded cases in the area during late September and early October.
But the ONS report concludes that there is not enough evidence to be certain whether infections spread from the wider population into the student population, or whether the arrival of students had an impact on the rising levels of Covid-19 in the wider community.
12:57 PM
Wales: New strain could be causing 'up to 60 per cent' of new cases
Data from the Office for National Statistics' coronavirus infection survey shows the new strain of Covid-19 was present in 28 per cent of samples from Wales in the second week of December, the country's deputy chief medical officer has said.
Professor Chris Jones told a Welsh Government press conference that this figure was "more than double the number in the previous week".
"Public Health Wales colleagues advise us that they feel this new strain could be causing up to 60 per cent of coronavirus infections in Wales," Prof Jones said.
First Minister Mark Drakeford added that the new variant of Covid-19 provides "better understanding" for the large increase in cases and people being admitted to hospital in Wales from late November.
At the end of November, the seven-day coronavirus rate for Wales was 232 cases per 100,000 people but this is now 623 cases per 100,000 and rising, he said.
There were just under 1,700 people in Welsh hospitals with coronavirus symptoms a month ago but there are now more than 2,300.
Drakeford said added that critical care units in Wales are operating "far beyond their normal capacity" and NHS staff "are stretched to their limit".
12:50 PM
Vatican: Morally acceptable for Catholics to use all Covid vaccines
The Vatican has told Roman Catholics that it is morally acceptable for them to use Covid-19 vaccines, even if their production employed cell lines drawn from tissues of aborted fetuses.
A note from the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the use of such vaccines was permitted as long as there were no alternatives.
Meanwhile Pope Francis has promised Vatican employees that none of them will lose their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has severely damaged Vatican finances.
"You are the most important thing here. No one is to left out, no one will lose their jobs," Francis told workers and their children today at a special audience held to exchange Christmas greetings.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc with the Vatican's finances, forcing it to dip into reserve funds and implement some of the toughest cost-control measures ever in the tiny city-state.
"No one should suffer from the ugly economic effects of this pandemic...We have to work harder to resolve this problem, which is not easy. There is no magic wand. We have to move forward as in the same family," Francis said in improvised remarks.
12:41 PM
Which countries have banned UK travellers?
Well over 30 countries have now announced travel bans on UK arrivals, though restrictions vary in duration. Here's a look at the nations closed to Britain:
In Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Croatia, Finland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania
In North America: Canada
In Asia: Hong Kong, India - while UK arrivals in countries including South Korea, Taiwan and Japan are already subject to restrictions, including quarantines.
In Latin America: Argentina, El Salvador, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador
In the Middle East and North Africa: Turkey, Israel, Iran, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman.
12:33 PM
Jordan and El Salvador suspend UK flights
And another two countries have joined the long list of nations restricting UK travel.
Jordan has suspended flights to and from the Britain from today until January 3 due to the new variant that is spreading widely in south-east England, officials said today.
El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele has also said that anyone who had been in Britain or South Africa - where a new Sars-Cov-2 strain is also being investigated - in the past 30 days will not be allowed to enter the country.
12:32 PM
Denmark: Mink breeding banned until 2022
Headlines are dominated by the new highly infectious coronavirus variant - officially called VUI-202012/01 - which has triggered chaos in the UK over the last few days.
But cast your mind back to early November and the strain we were all most concerned by was one that had jumped from humans to mink - and back again. The discovery triggered a mass cull of mink roughly 17 million mink in Denmark.
Today, Danish lawmakers have passed a law to ban mink breeding - retroactively creating the legal basis for its order to cull all mink in the Nordic country in November. The law will ban mink breeding until 2022.
12:24 PM
Wales: 2,563 new cases and 10 fatalities
There have been a further 2,563 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 125,329.
Public Health Wales reported another 10 deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 3,125.
12:23 Uhr
Russia bans UK flights
Russia has announced it will suspend flights with the UK for one week over the emergence of a more infectious strain of the coronavirus there.
A government decree said Russia would "temporarily suspend flights with the UK due to the worsening epidemiological situation" starting from midnight local time (9pm GMT) tonight.
12:06 PM
New strain has 'evolutionary advantage' so could become dominant globally
Calum Semple, a member of the Sage scientific advisory group, told Sky News that the new variant of Sars-Cov-2 could become the dominant global strain as it has an "evolutionary advantage in transmitting more quickly".
Adding to our post at 11:40, here's a little more on what Prof Semple said:
"When it comes down to the genomic work on the virus and the research and understanding about how the disease is behaving, we are a world leader. We shouldn't beat ourselves up about this evolving here.
"The fact is we've identified it, we've got it to national attention, we've got it to the attention of the politicians and the WHO in very quick time.
"The problem we have though, is this virus is travelling through the community very quickly. It is causing more disease, more rapidly than it did before. That is an inescapable truth."
Asked whether this will become the dominant strain of Covid, he said: "I suspect it will, or similar strains like it will. Because this virus has an evolutionary advantage in transmitting more quickly, it will out-compete all the other strains."
He added that "there's no fast way" to check whether vaccines are still efficacy of vaccines against the new mutation, but that scientists in the UK are working hard to find out and should have results within the coming weeks.
11:58 AM
Recap: Keir Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of 'gross negligence' in failing to act earlier
11:48 AM
What are you doing to save Christmas? Send us your stories of kindness
The news over the last few days has thrown Yuletide plans and celebrations across the country into turmoil for millions of people.
With battle-weary Britain in a state of exhaustion, communities, families and friends are rallying together to save Christmas and help support those in need.
In light of the new Tier 4 restrictions, we want to hear your stories of how you're practising community kindness this winter.
Fill out the form here for the chance to have your story published in the Telegraph. We may contact you asking for further information.
People under a Christmas light display on Carnaby Street in London - Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
11:40 AM
Sars-Cov-2 variant likely to become the 'dominant global strain'
Professor Calum Semple, of the govt's Sage committee, says the UK's mutant Covid variant is likely to become the 'dominant global strain'
— Jason Groves (@JasonGroves1) December 21, 2020
11:39 AM
Leicester’s hospitals: Covid patient numbers at 'highest level since the pandemic began'
The NHS in Midlands "experiencing significant pressures" due to the double whammy of rising Covid-19 cases and annual winter pressures, hospital leaders have said.
In a statement published this morning, the CEOs of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Groups warned that "the number of people with Covid-19 being cared for at Leicester’s hospitals is at its highest level since the pandemic began in March and continuing to rise."
At the peak of the first wave, there were 204 people with Covid-19 - today there are 295 cases in University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
They added that high numbers of "very ill people with complex needs" are being seen daily in A&E.
"To continue to maintain care for those who need it and manage additional pressures we are opening additional beds in our community hospitals to care for Covid-19 positive patients," the statement said.
"Unfortunately we will also need to postpone some non-urgent planned procedures and operations. Cancer and other urgent surgery will continue.
"People should continue to attend their appointments with us unless advised otherwise. If we do need to make changes, people will be contacted directly."
Related: Length of Covid hospital stays exceed first wave average as NHS capacity nears brink
11:31 AM
Belarus mull exit tax as coronavirus pandemic precaution
Belarusian officials are considering introducing an exit tax next year, ostensibly to shore up the country’s budget battered by the coronavirus pandemic, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports.
Yuri Seliverstrov, the country’s finance minister, told the state-owned Belta news agency over the weekend that authorities are thinking about levying fees of up to £25 on each passenger in every car leaving Belarus.
“If our idea is approved, the funds that we raise could be used for pandemic purposes such as disinfection or providing border posts with necessary PPE,” he was quoted as saying.
The idea of an exit fee has stirred uncomfortable memories of the Soviet Union’s exit visas, as the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko continues to suppress large swathes of Belarusian society protesting against his disputed re-election in August.
Previously announced restrictions on Belarusians leaving the country via land crossings due to the pandemic are coming into effect today.
Belarusians will now have to present medical documents or any proof of a dire necessity in order to leave the country unless they’re flying out.
11:22 AM
Sir Keir Starmer: "Make no mistake, this is now a real emergency."'
The Labour leader has said that the news over the last 24 hours has been "deeply, deeply disturbing".
Speaking during a virtual speech on future of the UK, Sir Keir said: "We cannot be in any doubt the virus is now out of control - international flights have been banned, international borders have been shut.
"Make no mistake, this is now a real emergency."
He called for "strong leadership" and says the Prime Minister "needs to be straight with people about precisely what's going on".
And he has added that Boris Johnson needs to address the nation today and host daily press conferences.
11:17 Uhr
Oman set to close border completely
Oman will close its land, air and sea borders on Tuesday at 1am for one week, state television has reported.
The decision follows measures imposed by various countries following the outbreak of a new strain of Covid-19, Oman TV said.
Unlike many countries across the globe, which have banned arrivals from just the UK, it looks like Oman is taking a blanket approach.
11:16 AM
UK retail sales pick up ahead of Christmas - but January plunge feared
British retail sales recovered in December as restrictions on shops were eased and consumers bought food and other essentials ahead of Christmas, but the outlook for January was the worst since the summer.
The Confederation of British said its monthly retail sales balance rose to -3 in December from -25 in November, its highest level in three months. But the outlook for January was much more negative with a reading of -33.
"It says something about the challenges the retail sector has faced during 2020 that stable sales volumes in the run-up to Christmas were seen as a good result for the time of year," CBI economist Ben Jones said.
"The new year looks set for an unpromising start, with retailers anticipating a sharp fall in sales in January."
The survey was conducted between November 23 and December 14, covering the end of a second English coronavirus lockdown, when non-essential shops were closed - and the return to tiered restrictions.
Follow all the latest markets news over on our business liveblog.
11:07 AM
Morning summary
It's been a busy morning - here's a recap of the key developments you should be aware of:
The UK is increasingly shut off from the rest of Europe - and the world - with more than 30 countries imposing travel bans amid fears around the new Sars-Cov-2 variant spreading widely in south-east England. Norway, India and Canada are among the latest to restrict arrivals.
The travel ban has triggered chaos for families, truckers and supermarkets just days before the Brexit cliff edge.
Industry leaders have said there is "no need to panic buy", but without a rapid resolution there could be shortages in the long-term. Sainsbury's has warned it faces fruit and vegetable shortages "if nothing changes".
But according to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the UK's supplies of the Covid vaccine will not be affected.
Hopes have been raised of a rapid resolution, however, after the French Government has that that it aims to establish Europe-wide sanitary protocol measures "in the coming hours" to allow the resumption of traffic flows with the UK.
Boris Johnson is set to chair an emergency response meeting later today to discuss international travel, in particular the movement of freight.
First Minister Arlene Foster said the new strain is "probably" already in Northern Ireland, as she announced slashed the five-day holiday relaxation of restrictions, allowing three households to gather, to just Christmas Day.
In non-travel news:
The Government told the "clinically extremely vulnerable" to once again start shielding in areas placed under Tier 4 restrictions.
Passengers who have cancelled their Christmas travel plans will have their train and coach bookings refunded, Grant Shapps has said.
Australia's most populous state has reported its lowest one-day rise in new Covid-19 cases in three days, stoking cautious optimism that authorities have contained an outbreak in Sydney's northern beachside suburbs.
Europe's medicines regulator will today assess the Pfiser-BioNTech vaccine, with a green light putting Europe on course to start inoculations within a week.
US congressional leaders reached agreement on a $900 billion package to provide the first new aid in months to an economy and individuals battered by the surging pandemic, with votes likely today.
10:55 AM
Portsmouth: Only unaccompanied freight accepted
Portsmouth International Port has advised all passengers and hauliers heading to France not to travel to the port - with the exception of unaccompanied freight.
The move follows restrictions placed on trade by France in reaction to the newly-identified variant of Covid-19 in the UK - though there are some hopes that a resolution may be agreed in "the coming hours" (see 10:33am).
A spokeswoman for the Hampshire port said sailings have not been disrupted and they are not experiencing any queues of lorries. She added that services to Spain and the Channel Islands are operating as normal.
"Due to current travel restrictions in France, only unaccompanied freight has permission to sail," the port said in a statement: "Passengers and accompanied freight vehicles are advised not to travel to Portsmouth as they will be unable to sail as planned.
"Please make sure if you are bringing unaccompanied freight you have a valid booking.
"Services carrying unaccompanied freight vehicles from Portsmouth to France, and all passengers and freight from France to the UK, are unaffected. Services to and from Spain and the Channel Islands are currently operating as normal."
10:47 AM
In pictures: UK isolated as a growing list of countries restrict travel
Roads are closed and lorries are parked on the M20 near Folkestone after the French closed the border with the UK amid coronavirus concerns - the Port of Dover has closed and access to the Eurotunnel terminal is suspended.
Here's what that looks like:
REUTERS/Matthew Childs - REUTERS/Matthew Childs
Steve Parsons/PA - Steve Parsons/PA
Steve Parsons/PA Wire - Steve Parsons/PA Wire
10:38 AM
Russia: No immediate plans to ban UK travel
Russian officials say they have no immediate plans to suspend travel with the UK even though a host of EU countries on Sunday imposed a travel ban to halt the spread of a new, more infectious strain of coronavirus, Nataliya Vasilyeva reports.
After Russia suspended flights to hundreds of foreign destinations in the spring during the first wave of the pandemic, London became one of the first few cities to see scheduled flights resumed this summer.
Asked about potential plans to stop the flights, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said on Monday that Russian authorities are “watching closely” the spread of the new strain and said it was up to the governmental pandemic taskforce to make such a decision.
An official from Russia’s coronavirus pandemic taskforce told Russian media late on Sunday that there were no immediate plans to suspend flights with the UK.
Alexei Navalny, Russia’s opposition leader, on Monday lambasted Russian authorities for not following other European countries in issuing a travel ban immediately and accused top officials of wanting to keep the flights “in order to join their families in London for Christmas.”
Earlier today, Russia reported almost 30,000 new Covid-19 infections - the the country's biggest daily surge to date (see 9:03am).
10:33 AM
France aims to establish protocols to restart traffic to UK 'in coming hours'
The French Government has said that that it aims to establish Europe-wide sanitary protocol measures "in the coming hours" to allow the resumption of traffic flows with the UK.
The country's Transport Minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, said on Twitter:
"In the next few hours, at European level, we're going to establish a solid health protocol to ensure that movement from the UK can resume. Our priority: to protect our nationals and our fellow citizens."
Dans les prochaines heures, au niveau européen, nous allons mettre en place un protocole sanitaire solide pour que les flux depuis le Royaume-Uni puissent reprendre. Notre priorité : protéger nos ressortissants et nos concitoyens.
— Jean-Baptiste Djebbari (@Djebbari_JB) December 21, 2020
10:31 AM
The view from the Middle East: Israel turns away UK arrivals
Israel has turned away foreigners attempting to enter the country from Britain, while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran have also cancelled flights, as Middle Eastern states tighten their restrictions in response to the new strain of coronavirus, James Rothwell reports.
According to the Times of Israel, non-Israeli passport holders were turned away from the UK-Israel flights on Sunday, while Israelis were warned they will need to quarantine at a state-run hotel upon arrival.
“At Luton [airport], check-in was normal, but then they called boarding 1.5 hours early. At the gate, they turned everyone away who had a British passport with permission to enter," British-Israeli citizen Ellen Steel told the newspaper.
"They then took Israelis aside and explained that the chances were that by the time we were back we’d have to go to a corona hotel but it wasn’t 100 per cent yet. When we landed, someone from the Health Ministry announced we’d all have to go to hotels."
After arriving in Israel, the passengers were put into quarantine, except a handful who refused and were sent back to the UK.
Israel is entering its third wave of coronavirus and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has reportedly warned his cabinet that a third lockdown may need to be imposed this week.
It came as Saudi Arabia halted all international flights and sealed its borders in response to the mutant strain of the virus discovered in Britain, while Kuwait imposed a similar ban.
Iran has also suspended flights to and from Britain for the next two week.
10:26 Uhr
Watch: Chaotic scenes at Heathrow Airport as travellers rush to beat EU travel ban
10:21 AM
Rail and coach travellers set to get full refund for Christmas bookings
Passengers who have cancelled their Christmas travel plans will have their train and coach bookings refunded, the Government has announced.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said customers will not be "left out of pocket" for "doing the right thing" amid the tightening of Covid-19 restrictions across the UK.
It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson curtailed the Christmas "bubble" policy on Saturday and placed large parts of east and south-east England under new Tier 4 measures.
Cash refunds will be provided for cancelled rail and coach bookings in England for the previous Christmas travel window of December 23 to 27, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
Tickets will only be refunded if they were purchased after the travel window was announced on November 24 and before it was amended on December 19.
Passengers are advised to check their train operator's website for how to claim.
If you booked a train ? or coach ? journey for the 23rd - 27th travel window (after it was announced), I've made sure you’re entitled to a full refund. No-one should be left out of pocket for doing the right thing. Please speak to your operators to find out how to claim.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) December 21, 2020
10:15 AM
French national road haulage federation: UK situation becoming catastrophic
The situation for truck drivers currently stuck in the UK after European countries cut transport ties is becoming catastrophic and "no driver" now wants to travel to Britain, according to a spokeswoman for the French national road haulage federation.
"They are stuck in lorry parks with no toilets - it's becoming a catastrophe," Vanessa Ibarlucea, spokeswoman for France's FNTR national road haulage federation.
"No driver wants to deliver to the UK now, so the UK is going to see its freight supply dry up."
10:07 AM
India suspends all flights originating from UK until December 31
India has become the latest country to cancel all flights originating from the UK. The ban will last until at least the end of the year, the aviation ministry said in a tweet.
Restrictions will come into effect on Wednesday and all passengers arriving from the UK before then will be tested on arrival at airports.
It comes after the health minister has said that while India's health authorities remain vigilant and prepared to deal with a new more transmissible strain, there is "no reason" to panic.
10:04 AM
Watch: European countries ban travel from the UK in wake of new Covid-19 strain
09:59 AM
Tier 4 shielding: 'Most vulnerable strongly advised to stay at home at all times'
The Government told the "clinically extremely vulnerable" to once again start shielding in areas placed under Tier 4 restrictions.
"Those with more general underlying health conditions or people aged 70 or over may still be more vulnerable to Covid-19 than the general population, so are also advised to stay at home as much as possible, to carefully follow the rules and minimise contact with others," a statement from the Department for Health and Social Care said.
"Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable but living in Tiers 1 to 3 should follow existing guidance - there is no formal shielding advice currently in place in areas outside Tier 4," it added.
The Government said letters will be going out to all those affected by the new rules later this week - though their may be delays in these arriving due to high volumes of post over Christmas.
"Anyone in Tier 4 areas who received the shielding letter in November and whose condition hasn't changed should follow the advice immediately until they receive the letter. We will also be issuing letters by email for those who have registered an email address with their GP practice," the statement said.
You can read the full guidance here.
09:52 AM
Sainsbury's: May be shortages of lettuce, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus
Sainsbury's has warned it faces fruit and vegetable shortages if the travel ban between the UK and EU persists and it cannot import fresh produce from the bloc.
"We are also sourcing everything we can from the UK and looking into alternative transport for product sourced from Europe," a spokesperson told the BBC.
"If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit - all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year."
The supermarket giant called on UK and French governments to come to "a mutually agreeable solution that prioritises the immediate passage of produce and any other food at the ports".
But they insisted that food for a traditional Christmas dinner is already inside Britain, so will be available for celebrations this week.
09:49 AM
Unions call for Government to support businesses affected by travel bans
Unions are calling for urgent support from the Government for workers caught up in the escalating travel crisis as country.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said decisive action was needed to protect thousands of jobs caught in the crossfire of the closures to UK traffic across Europe.
"Thousands of workers on Eurostar, on the ferries and at our ports have been caught in the crossfire of the border crisis that has developed overnight and escalated this morning," General secretary Mick Cash said.
"RMT is calling for an urgent package of Government support and protection for the staff and services impacted by the decision to suspend operations.
"We will be looking for emergency tripartite talks with the employers and Government to ensure that the practical and financial underpinning required is made available without delay."
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association added that said Eurostar needed urgent financial assistance.
"Our union has been warning for months that Eurostar is in a fight for its survival and the latest developments only confirm our worst fears," General secretary Manuel Cortes said.
"The Government is guilty of twiddling its thumbs and doing little else to help this vital green strategic link with the continent."
09:42 AM
'The English Virus'
A naming battle has started. Officially the new variant of Sars-Cov-2 spreading in south-east England is called VUI-202012/01 - not the most catchy, perhaps.
So maybe its unsurprising that one of Italy's leading daily newspapers is describing the mutation, which has now been detected in Italy, as "The English Virus" instead:
Il virus inglese è già in Italia - #Buongiorno con la #primapagina di Repubblica di oggi https://t.co/LZaZp2FObT #rassegnastampa #21dicembre pic.twitter.com/NGDo3mm5L3
— Repubblica (@repubblica) December 21, 2020
Read more: Italy detects patient with new Covid strain as EU fears mutation will explode across Channel
09:40 AM
Could travel bans backfire for transparency?
An interesting point here from Science Magazine journalist, Kai Kupferschmidt.
While the pandemic may have demonstrated the need to rethink travel restrictions - the World Health Organization have always been very cautious to suggest they are an option - could bans encourage governments not to share critical information about disease outbreaks or new virus variants?
This has always been the concern of the International Health Regulations, a set of rules about how country's should respond to outbreaks. Part of this, though, is that these regulations - plus the WHO - has no ability to enforce the rules, meaning they are reliant on honesty and transparency from governments.
Whether advice around travel bans is changed in the future in light of the Covid pandemic is certainly a topic worth watching.
People tend to underestimate this problem, I think.
Travel bans may be useful sometimes (#sarscov2 has changed many people’s minds on this) but they also create an incentive for countries to keep the detection of a novel pathogen or variant hidden (or not to look for them). https://t.co/5GmCOTRNXQ
— Kai Kupferschmidt (@kakape) December 21, 2020
09:30 AM
Canada: UK flights barred for 72 hours
In North America, the Canadian Prime Minister said late last night that the country will ban all UK flights for 72 hours due to the new Sars-Cov-2 variant thought to be spreading widely in south-east England.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet that those who had already arrived from Britain on Sunday would be subject to secondary screenings and other "advanced measures".
At midnight tonight, and for the next 72 hours, all flights from the UK will be prohibited from entering Canada. Passengers who arrived today are subject to secondary screening and enhanced measures. More on the actions we’re taking to protect you: https://t.co/UrsE5sTcJT
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) December 21, 2020
The Telegraph is continuing to track which nations across the globe have introduced travel restrictions.
At the moment that list includes: Norway, Denmark, France, the Czech Republic, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Belgium, Finland, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Lithuania, Hong Kong, Poland, Ireland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Austria, Colombia and Israel.
And according to German newspaper Bild, an EU-wide ban on flights could be imposed between tonight and January 6.
09:25 AM
'Likely' that new Sars-Cov-2 variant is already in Northern Ireland, Foster warns
The new strain of coronavirus is probably already in Northern Ireland and the Republic, Stormont's First Minister has warned.
Arlene Foster said this morning that ministers were very concerned about the highly infectious mutation and tests were ongoing.
"It is probable that it is here and likely it is in the Republic too," she told the BBC.
The Northern Ireland Executive has slashed the five-day holiday relaxation of restrictions, allowing three households to gather, to just Christmas Day.
Flexibility will be afforded to people working on December 25 to enable them to join others on another day over the festive break.
The decision was made by ministers during an emergency virtual Executive meeting late last night.
Ministers also debated imposing a temporary ban on travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland in response to the new variant of Covid-19 that has taken hold in London and Kent.
No decision was taken but ministers are expected to return to the issue today.
09:18 AM
Down Under: Sars-Cov-2 variant detected in quarantine facilities
Two cases of the UK's new Covid-19 variation have been found in quarantine facilities in Sydney, according to health authorities.
New South Wales chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said the cases had been identified in travellers returning from the UK while they were in state-imposed quarantine.
"We've had a couple of UK returned travellers with the particular mutations you're referring to," she said. But Dr Chant added that she wanted to be "very clear" that an outbreak of Covid-19 in Sydney is not linked to the mutation.
Yesterday Australia's most populous city became further isolated from the rest of the country after states closed borders and imposed quarantine measures on its residents due to the coronavirus cluster in northern beach suburbs. 83 cases have so far been detected, and more than 38,000 people have been tested.
But New South Wales reported its lowest one-day rise in new cases in three days this morning, stoking cautious optimism that authorities have contained an outbreak.
The government said it provide an update by Wednesday on "what Christmas and the next few days look like".
09:12 AM
Shapps says 80 per cent of freight will continue as normal
Despite France banning travel from and into the UK, transport secretary Grant Shapps has said 80pc of freight moving to and from the EU will continue as it is unaccompanied.
However, manned lorry crossings will not be permitted.
NB: @grantshapps says 80% of freight is unaccompanied and will continue as normal.

The 20% disruption: 6,000 lorries would have used Dover-Calais crossing today. 4,000 on ferries and 1,800 through the Eurotunnel. Out of 32,000 units that would have shipped overall.
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) December 21, 2020
Earlier today industry leaders told the BBC that there is "no need" to panic-buy as a result of France's ban on freight lorries from the UK - although a resolution is needed to prevent long term disruption (see 8:44am)
09:05 AM
Spain mulls UK travel ban and insists vaccine remains effective
Spain's health minister, Salvador Illa, has spoken about the new Sars-Cov-2 variant in a radio interview, James Badcock reports.
He said it had not yet been detected in Spain and assured the public that "the vaccine is also effective against the new strain detected in the UK".
In terms of banning travel from the UK, he said Spain was still considering how to react, adding that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez remains determined to promote a pan-EU response.
09:03 AM
Russia reports record daily rise in cases
Away from the mutant strain of Sars-Cov-2 causing chaos across Britain and Europe, Russia has reported almost 30,000 new Covid-19 infections - the the country's biggest daily surge to date.
Authorities have announced 29,350 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 7,797 in Moscow, pushing the total number of cases to 2.8 million - the fourth largest case count in the world. 493 deaths were also confirmed, pushing the official death toll to 51,351:
Russia has been swept by a resurgence of the virus in the last few months, with numbers of cases and deaths significantly exceeding those reported in the spring. But authorities have rejected the idea of another nationwide lockdown or widespread closure of businesses.
Earlier this month, mass vaccinations started in Russia with Sputnik V - a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine that is still undergoing late stage trials among tens of thousands of people needed to ensure its safety and effectiveness.
08:52 AM
Norway bans flights from Britain
Flights from Britain to Norway will be suspended with immediate effect for a minimum of 48 hours due to concerns over a new strain of coronavirus, the Norwegian health minister has said.
In the last 24 hours, more than 30 countries have announced travel bans. Among those are Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands, plus countries farther afield including Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Our travel blog has the details on the restrictions imposed by each nation so far.
08:51 AM
India: 'There is no reason for such panic', minister says
While much of Europe has acted swiftly to introduce travel restrictions after the increasingly rapid spread of a new Sars-Cov-2 variant was identified, India appears to be taking a rather more laissez-fair attitude.
The country's health minister has said that while India's health authorities remain vigilant and prepared to deal with a new more transmissible strain, there is "no reason" to panic.
India has recorded the world's second highest number of infections and breached the 10 million case milestone over the weekend. More than 145,000 people have died from Covid-19.
"If you ask me, there is no reason for such panic," India's Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said at a press briefing in New Delhi.
A government committee tasked with monitoring the pandemic met today to discuss the new strain, an official said. But it was unclear whether India would halt flights to Britain, one of 23 countries that it shares an "air bubble" with.
"Don't entangle yourself in this imaginary situation, imaginary talk, imaginary panic," Vardhan said. "The government is completely vigilant."
08:44 AM
'No need' to stockpile, industry leaders insist
There is currently "no need" to panic-buy as a result of France's ban on freight lorries from the UK, industry leaders have insisted this morning.
Alex Veitch, general manager of trade group Logistics UK, told the BBC that the Government needs to work with EU partners to come up with a pragmatic solution to give the French and other authorities confidence that drivers are Covid-free.
But he added that the ban is only affecting outbound freight with drivers in a truck, and that inbound goods are still moving.
"This is why we are saying at the current time, please, there is no need to panic-buy, there are goods available in the shops, retailers are doing everything they can," he said. "But at the same time it is serious and we do need a resolution as quickly as possible."
However Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, added that there is "concern" around food supplies in the longer term, particularly after Christmas.
"The problem is the return journey of drivers coming to the UK," he said. "Over time, because the transport system requires these round trips, that will reduce the ability of us to bring food into the country after Christmas if that takes effect."
08:39 AM
France: Possible new Sars-Cov-2 variant is already circulating, says minister
The French health minister, Olivier Veran, has said this morning that it is possible that a new strain of the Covid-19 virus was already circulating in France, although recent tests had not detected it in the country.
"It is entirely possible that the virus is circulating in France," Veran told Europe 1 radio.
The new UK variant of Sars-Cov-2 appears to be 70 per cent more transmissible, forcing new lockdown measures in much of the UK, while counties in Europe and further afield have banned travel from Britain.
Related: New strain "moves fast" and is becoming the dominant variant
08:16 AM
Brexit and Covid fears wipe £33bn off FTSE
More than £33billion has been wiped off the FTSE 100 within minutes of opening, dropping more than 2 per cent over fears of a no-deal Brexit and new coronavirus restrictions.
Follow the latest markets news over on our business liveblog: FTSE and pound plunge on no-deal fears and UK travel ban
08:14 AM
Shapps: Public unlikely to see supermarket shortages
The public will not notice any disruption in terms of supermarket shortages "for the most part" as a result of France's freight lorry ban, Grant Shapps said.
The Transport Secretary said hauliers were "quite used to anticipating disruption", adding there were variations in supply "all the time".
He told Sky News: "The absolute key is to get this resolved as soon as possible. I'll be speaking again to my opposite number Jean-Baptiste (Djebbari) later this morning.
"There's a meeting taking place actually right now in Europe about it, in order to co-ordinate approaches.
"It's not really in anybody's particular interest to not have hauliers going across, not least because they are mostly European hauliers and the goods are mostly theirs, so they will not want them perishing any more than we would want the border closed."
Asked if consumers will see shortages in supermarkets, Mr Shapps added: "The supply chain is pretty robust in as much as you get variations in supply all the time. For the most part, people won't notice it."
08:07 AM
Shapps: France's freight ban was 'surprising'
France's ban on freight hauliers from the UK was "slightly surprising", the Transport Secretary has said.
Grant Shapps told Sky News that while the disruption was not a "specific problem" in the short term, the key was to "get it resolved".
He said: "Immediately as soon as the French said, perhaps slightly surprisingly that they would stop hauliers, rather than just passengers, we were in touch with a group known as the Kent Resilience Forum. They are well used to planning for exactly these kind of circumstances.
"We will be opening up Manston as a lorry park today and providing welfare for some of those drivers as well, while also being in very close contact with the French over what will happen next.
"The Kent Dover-to-Calais Eurotunnel, what we call the short straits, is probably about 20 per cent of goods going to and from, in and out of the country.
"But it's not the mainstay. Most goods actually come in and out by unaccompanied containers and those will continue to flow."
Asked about what the shortages could be, Mr Shapps said: "Obviously we don't want these links to be closed for too long, but it's not unusual for them to be closed and disrupted.
"In the short term it's not a specific problem. But of course the key is to get it resolved."
07:54 AM
Denmark and Hong Kong join travel ban
Flights from Britain to Denmark will be suspended for 48 hours from 9am this morning to limit the spread of the new strain of coronavirus, the country's transport minister said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities said they would ban all flights too. "From midnight there will be no more passenger flights arriving in Hong Kong from the United Kingdom," health secretary Sophia Chan told reporters.
Indian health officials are expected to meet today and make an announcement on whether they will suspend flights to and from the UK.
07:46 AM
Grant Shapps: Freight ban won't affect vaccine
The coronavirus vaccination programme will not be affected by France's ban on freight from the UK, the Transport Secretary has said.
Grant Shapps told Sky News this morning: "Most vaccine doesn't come via what is called 'Ro-Ro', roll-on, roll-off, which is what we are talking about here. In other words, it's not usually accompanied by a driver, by a haulier. It comes on those containers.
"To put this into context, there are about 6,000 vehicles we would expect, just under in Dover today, probably 4,000 would have gone across from Dover, just under about 2,000 on the Eurotunnel.
"But there is probably something like 32,000 units that would have been the daily total, so the vast majority - including virtually all the vaccine - actually comes via container and there are good supplies in the meantime.
"So this won't have an impact on the vaccination programme."
07:24 AM
Tier 4 'may not be enough to contain Covid mutations'
Cases of the new mutation of Covid grew “exponentially” during the November lockdown, minutes from the Government’s Nervtag committee reveal, in papers which suggest Tier 4 measures may not be able to stop its march.
Records of their meeting last Friday detail the scientific findings which led the Prime Minister to order sweeping restrictions.
As well as suggesting that the new variant is 71 per cent more transmissible than the previous strain, the analysis suggests that the infectiousness could push up the R by as much as 0.93.
Read the full story here.
07:23 AM
Outbreak in Thai seafood centre
Thailand confirmed 382 new coronavirus infections on Monday, with the majority of cases linked to a seafood centre outbreak in a province near the capital, the health ministry said.
The new cases include 360 migrant workers in the southwestern province of Samut Sakhon, where Thailand's worst outbreak yet appeared at the weekend.
There were also 14 other cases in six provinces, all but one of which are located close to the capital Bangkok.
There were also eight imported cases.
07:23 AM
Refunds for cancelled Christmas journeys
The Government has pledged to provide refunds for rail and coach tickets bought for the previous Christmas travel window between Dec 23-27.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this would apply to journeys in England booked on or after Nov 24, when the Christmas travel window was announced.
Mr Shapps said: "This ensures no one is left out of pocket for doing the right thing - staying home in Tier 4, and elsewhere staying local and only meeting your Christmas bubble on Christmas Day."
It comes after Boris Johnson announced a dramatic scaling back of the Government's relaxation of restrictions over Christmas, which is now limited to just Dec 25 for people in Tiers 1-3 in England, rather than the initial five days.
07:03 AM
Asian countries mutant strain in UK
Battling their own surges in coronavirus cases, Asian nations including Japan and South Korea said they were closely monitoring a new super virulent strain of the virus identified in Britain, but none immediately cancelled UK flights.
No Asian country has reported the new strain.
RELATED: Britain faces EU-wide travel ban to curb spread of Covid mutation
South Korea, which imposes a 14-day quarantine for everyone entering the country, said on Monday it was reviewing new measures for flights from the UK, and would test twice those coming in from Britain before they were released from quarantine.
New cases climbed to over 1,000 a day in South Korea several times last week. It reported on Sunday an outbreak in a Seoul prison where 188 inmates and staff were infected.
The country, which has said it is running short of hospital beds, said on Monday Seoul will ban gatherings of more than four people later this week and double hospital beds for critical Covid cases by year end.
Taiwan, which also has a 14-day quarantine, said on Sunday there were no plans to stop flights from Britain.
An Indian government committee tasked with monitoring the pandemic, will meet on Monday to discuss the new strain, local media reported, but there was no clarity on whether flights to the UK would be halted.
The UK is one of 23 countries that India shares an "air bubble" with.
India, which has the second-highest number of cases after the United States, does not currently mandate institutional quarantine for international travellers if they have a negative test result 72 hours before entering India.
Japan, where entry from Britain is already banned in principle, said it would keep in close touch with other countries as well as the World Health Organisation to see how the new type of virus was spreading.
05:59 AM
New South Wales strives to contain outbreak
Australia's most populous state has reported its lowest one-day rise in new Covid-19 cases in three days, stoking cautious optimism that authorities have contained an outbreak in Sydney's northern beachside suburbs.
New South Wales (NSW) said 15 people had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, down on the 36 infections detected a day earlier and bringing the total cases in the northern beaches outbreak to 83.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was too early to say a larger outbreak had been averted as northeastern suburbs entered the third day of a five-day lockdown in the leadup to Christmas.
"I'm pleased with what we've seen overnight, but again, it's volatile," Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Vehicles queue as medical personnel administer tests at a drive-through COVID-19 testing centre in Sydney - Reuters
The government would provide an update by Wednesday on "what Christmas and the next few days look like" in terms of further containment measures beyond those already imposed on the northeastern suburbs, she added.
More than 80 locations including cafes, gyms, casinos and supermarkets across Sydney were identified as having been visited by people with confirmed cases. Authorities urged anyone who attended the venues to immediately get tested and self-isolate.
NSW on Friday ordered more than a 250,000 people in Sydney's northern beaches area into a lockdown after the cluster of cases emerged, centred on two dining and entertainment venues in the seaside suburb of Avalon.
Those restrictions are set to be reviewed on Wednesday, though other states and territories moved quickly to close borders to all of Sydney's 5 million residents, throwing Christmas travel plans into disarray.
Dozens of domestic flights due to leave Sydney were cancelled on Monday.
04:55 AM
Today's top stories
Britain was hit with a travel ban on Sunday night by a host of EU countries to halt the spread of the new, more infectious coronavirus strain.
Italy has detected a patient infected with the new strain of coronavirus that was found in Britain, the health ministry said on Sunday night.
Tier 4 restrictions could be toughened further and remain in place until close to Easter, Government sources have admitted.
Government scientists are in a race to prove that vaccines can fend off the new strain of Covid-19 as experts warned the variant could render jabs “less effective”.
Ministers and police chiefs have been warned the ban on Tier 4 Christmas visits is "unenforceable" despite stepping up patrols by officers at rail stations and on borders to stop the spread of the new mutant Covid virus.
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