Coronavirus latest news: Tier 4 restrictions widened as new variant spreads - watch Matt Hancock live

Analysis confirms dithering and lag killing 21,000 people in the spring
Tony Blair is calling for people to be given only one dose of vaccine to speed up adoption
Rapid test sites have been discontinued due to accuracy concerns
Tier 4 restrictions must be extended on Boxing Day
What are the rules in Tier 4?
From a minute after midnight on Boxing Day, other regions of England will come into stricter fourth-tier restrictions, Matt Hancock has announced.
Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge, all of Essex, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire, including Portsmouth and Southampton are all escalating to level four, he said.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, including the borough of North Somerset, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, and Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to level three.
While Cornwall and Herefordshire will be increased to level two.
It comes when a new strain of Sars-Cov-2, believed to be native to South Africa, was discovered in the UK, the Minister of Health has confirmed.
"This is not news anyone wants to deliver and I am really sorry for the disruption it is causing," said the Health Minister.
"But I think people know how important it is for us to make decisions like this to keep people safe."
Follow the latest updates below.
3:34 pm
Cases rise "very quickly": Harries
Dr. Jenny Harries, Assistant Medical Director for England, speaks about the latest data.
It starts with the fact that cases have continued to rise "very rapidly" over the past week, particularly in London, the south east and east of England, where Tier 4 restrictions were introduced last weekend, and parts of Wales.
She says the rate of change is also strong in areas bordering Tier 4 areas such as Suffolk, Norfolk and the south west of England.
She focuses on areas that are supposed to fall into the fourth tier and says that they follow the same case history as areas that are already in the highest tier of action and that this is due to the new variant.
3:31 pm
A brighter sky ahead, says Hancock as he urges the country not to give up
"I know how difficult 2020 was for everyone," said the health minister. "And after delivering some really difficult news, I'd like to finish by thinking about where we are as a country."
"This Christmas and the beginning of 2021 is going to be a tough new twist that makes everything a lot harder because it's spreading so much faster.
"But we can't give up now ... especially after so much sacrifice.
"I know some of these decisions are difficult, but I believe that everyone will make the right decisions.
"And I believe everyone will do what it takes to protect themselves and others, especially at Christmas.
"There is a brighter sky ahead of us."
3:26 pm
According to Hancock, Oxford AstraZeneca's vaccine has submitted the full dataset to the regulator
"I am pleased to announce that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine developed here in the UK has submitted its full package of data to the [regulator] for approval," said Matt Hancock.
This is the next step towards a decision to use a vaccine that is already being manufactured, including here in the UK, he says.
"We are of course continuing to use the Pfizer Biontech vaccine, which is supplied from over 500 locations across the UK. We are constantly adding more and speeding up the rollout."
3:23 pm
South African strain detected in Great Britain
A new strain of coronavirus believed to originate from South Africa has been discovered in the UK, the health minister confirmed.
"This new variant is extremely worrying as it is even more transmissible and appears to have mutated further when the new variant was discovered in the UK," he said before announcing the following measures already being taken by the government:
Firstly, we are quarantined on cases and have close links with cases that can be found here in the UK.
Second, we are immediately restricting travel from South Africa.
Finally, the government is asking anyone in the UK who has been in South Africa in the past fourteen days and anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has been in South Africa in the past fourteen days to immediately quarantine.
"We are going to change the law to have this legal effect immediately," he said, adding that these "measures are only temporary while we continue to investigate this new strain that will be analyzed shortly in Porton below."
3:18 pm
Hancock announces new restrictions
More from the east and south-east of England will adhere to the strictest Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced.
Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge, all of Essex, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire, including Portsmouth and Southampton, but all but the New Forest will all escalate to level four, he said.
Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, including the borough of North Somerset, Swindon, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest and Northamptonshire, and Cheshire and Warrington will all be escalated to level three.
While Cornwall and Herefordshire will be increased to level two.
3:11 pm
Cases are up 57% in the past week: Hancock
Across the country, cases have risen by at least 57 percent in the past week, Matt Hancock announced.
The average hospital admissions in Covid are 1909 per day, the highest number since mid-April, he says. There are currently 18,943 people in the hospital with coronavirus.
"That's almost as many as the word that is peaking," he adds.
691 deaths were reported yesterday. "That's 691 people who died just before Christmas and our hearts go out to their families, their loved ones. As to everyone who died from this terrible disease. They know the pain this causes," he says.
"Against a backdrop of increasing infections. Increasing hospital stays and increasing numbers of people dying from coronavirus. It is absolutely important that we act. We just can't have the kind of Christmas we all long for."
3:09 pm
The Downing Street press conference begins
The Downing Street press conference has begun and Health Secretary Matt Hancock will be attending the lectern.
Stay with us as we post the latest updates.
2:41 pm
Scientist urges Tony Blair's claim that only one dose of vaccine is "ridiculous".
Scientists have questioned a call from former Prime Minister Tony Blair to the government to revise its vaccination strategy so that people receive only one dose of vaccine instead of the recommended two in an effort to contain the rapid spread of the new virus variant.
Both the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, which is currently being administered nationwide, and the Oxford University / AstraZeneca vaccine, due to be approved by the end of the year, will be administered in two doses.
But Mr Blair said the second dose should not be withheld but given to more people. The two-dose Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective, while the one-dose vaccine drops to 52 percent. The picture is a little less clear for the AstraZeneca vaccine - effectiveness was 62 percent for those given two full doses, but increased to 90 percent for those given half a dose and then a second full dose.
Dr. Simon Clarke, Associate Professor of Cell Microbiology at the University of Reading, said the plan was "ridiculous" and there was no evidence that a single dose would be beneficial.
Anne Gulland spoke to the experts.
Tony Blair said the "economic and health harm, both physical and psychological, caused by a slow introduction of the vaccine" would be "colossal" - Stefan Rousseau / PA
2:17 pm
According to the president, Covid-19 vaccinations are to start in Mexico on Thursday
Vaccinations against Covid-19 will begin in Mexico on Thursday, starting with healthcare workers, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at a regular press conference on Wednesday.
Pfizer Inc's first batch of vaccine is expected to arrive in Mexico on Wednesday.
2:06 pm
Arrive: Matt Hancock will host the conference at 3 p.m.
Matt Hancock will be holding a press conference with Jenny Harries on Downing Street at 3pm.
The Health Secretary is expected to make an announcement about the UK animal system. Further areas are expected to be included in Tier 4 from Boxing Day.
Follow the latest here.
2:03 pm
Noon update
Hello, here are your top headlines for the day:
England's R-value could be up to 1.4 according to the latest data. Further afield, the most recent R estimate for the whole of the UK is between 1.1 and 1.3, and the daily growth rate for infections is estimated at +1 to +6 percent.
A variety of areas affected by rising coronavirus rates are likely to be subject to Tier 4 restrictions by Boxing Day. Ministers are expected to confirm the changes today.
Introducing a national lockdown a week earlier would have saved 21,000 lives during the first wave of Covid-19. This revealed a new analysis which confirmed the government tremors had deadly consequences.
A suggestion from former Prime Minister Tony Blair that the first dose of the two-step Pfizer vaccine should be given to as many people as possible, instead of the current policy of half as many people receiving both required doses of the shock, was made by Nervtag member Professor Wendy Barclay dismissed as "too risky" and against the data of the clinical trial.
The coronavirus pandemic is not under control in France and a new lockdown must remain an option, said Karine Lacombe, the head of the infectious diseases department at the Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris.
The World Health Organization's international mission in China to investigate the origins of Covid-19 will explore all avenues and not look for "culprits," said a team member.
Corpses are temporarily stored in front of a crematorium in the east German city of Zittau to deal with the number of dead. It comes as Germany saw a record number of daily deaths since the pandemic began on Wednesday.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday urged people to keep calm after the island confirmed its first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 since April 12.
Healthcare for Covid-19 patients and other patients in Japan will be difficult, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Wednesday as daily infections soared to record highs this month.
1:47 pm
England's R-value could be up to 1.4 according to the latest data
The R-cap estimate for England has increased from last week, with the R-value ranging from 1.1 to 1.4 according to government estimates.
All regions of NHS England have R estimates above or above 1, suggesting that the epidemic is increasing in much of the country, with London, the South East and East of England being well above 1.
The most recent R estimate for the whole of the UK is between 1.1 and 1.3, and the growth rate estimate for the UK is between +1 percent and +6 percent. The estimated growth rate means that the number of new infections increases by 1 to 6 percent every day.
UK R-value estimates as of December 18th
Estimates for R and growth rates are shown as a range, and the true values ​​are likely to be within those ranges. The four countries in the UK have had different policies, so the estimate of R for the UK as a whole has lost its relevance in recent weeks.
Estimates are based on the most recent data available as of December 18. R is a trailing indicator. Therefore, these estimates cannot take into account the recent impact of policy changes or changes in transmission that have not yet been reflected in epidemiological data.
1:41 pm
The UK starts testing truckers
The UK started testing trucker drivers for Covid-19 on Wednesday but said there were still serious delays and asked truckers to avoid southern England.
"The tests have started as we try to get traffic between the UK and France going again," said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
"However, the French border police are not acting with consent until this morning and significant delays continue. Please avoid Kent while the backlog is cleared. If you get to the area your travel will be delayed," he said on Twitter.
1:39 pm
The WHO's Wuhan probe is not looking for Covid culprits
The World Health Organization's international mission in China to investigate the origins of Covid-19 will explore all avenues and not look for "culprits," a team member told AFP.
Investigators will travel to China and Wuhan in January, where the first cases were discovered 12 months ago in the pandemic that has gripped the world and is causing huge global health and economic crises.
"The meetings that we have had so far with Chinese colleagues have been really productive and very good," said Fabian Leendertz from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's central control agency for diseases.
"My impression right now is that the Chinese - both government and people - are genuinely interested in finding out what happened."
The 48-year-old Leendertz is an expert on zoonoses - infectious diseases that cross species boundaries - and is one of the ten outstanding scientists commissioned by the WHO to find the origins of the novel coronavirus and to find out how it jumped from animals to humans .
A year after the first cluster was discovered in Wuhan, they will travel to China for the first time on a mission expected to last between five and six weeks - the first two will be quarantined.
The 10 scientists will also be accompanied by Peter Ben Embarek, a WHO expert on food safety and zoonoses.
"It's not about finding a guilty country or a guilty authority," said Leendertz. "This is about understanding what happened in order to avoid this in the future and reduce the risk."
1:27 p.m.
German crematorium overcrowded as daily death rate is broken again
Corpses are temporarily stored in front of a crematorium in the east German city of Zittau to deal with the number of dead.
The mayor of Zittau, Thomas Zenker, said the bodies are being kept in a warehouse where flood control materials are stored. The corpses are transported from the flood plain to the crematorium when a room opens.
It comes as Germany saw a record number of daily deaths since the pandemic began on Wednesday.
Daniel Wighton has more here.
1:22 pm
Sweden has 6,000 new cases
Sweden registered 6,609 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, data from its health department showed.
The increase from the high of 9,654 daily cases last week.
Sweden recorded 112 new deaths for a total of 8,279. The registered deaths have usually occurred over several days and sometimes weeks and are added to the list of health authorities, which is updated four times a week.
The per capita death rate in Sweden is many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbors, but lower than in several European countries that have opted for lockdowns.
1:08 pm
Scotland has 1,190 cases against 47 deaths
Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that an additional 1,190 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in Scotland to 115,566.
1,025 patients are in the hospital with Covid (minus 20), 56 are being treated in the intensive care unit (minus four).
Another 47 people in Scotland who tested positive in the past 28 days have died.
According to the National Records of Scotland (NRS), 203 people died in the week ending December 20, a decrease of 23 from the previous week.
#NRSStats show that as of December 20, #Scotland, where COVID-19 was mentioned on its death certificate, had a total of 6,298 deaths. 203 deaths were recorded between December 14 and 20, down 23 deaths from the previous week. https://t.co/Kos5k0XGkQ pic.twitter.com/2kTUYSy70e
- NatRecordsScot (@NatRecordsScot) December 23, 2020
1:07 pm
Wales reports 3,000 new cases against 51 deaths
There were an additional 3,013 cases of coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total confirmed cases to 131,102.
Public Health Wales reported another 51 deaths, bringing the number in Wales to 3,200 since the pandemic began.
1:01 pm
Analysis confirms dithering and lag killing 21,000 people in the spring
Introducing a national lockdown a week earlier would have saved 21,000 lives during the first wave of Covid-19. This revealed a new analysis which confirmed the government tremors had deadly consequences.
According to a year-end report by Imperial College that assessed the main drivers of the UK pandemic and the impact of interventions, "timing of the initial national lockdown was critical" in determining the spring death toll.
Had severe restrictions been imposed a week earlier, deaths would have dropped from 36,700 to 15,700. A delay of another week, however, would have resulted in a death toll of 102,600.
Sarah Newey has more here.
A Covid-19 patient in the Royal Brompton Hospital's adult intensive care unit earlier this year - Simon Townsley
13:00 'O clock
Sturgeon apologizes for violating the mask rules
Nicola Sturgeon has apologized to the Scottish Parliament for violating the coronavirus rules as he was photographed without a face mask.
At the beginning of the First Minister's questions, she said, "I would like to take this opportunity to say how sorry I am for breaking the rules that I must all obey every day.
“I took off my face mask while attending a brief funeral last week. I'm sure everyone in the media this morning saw a picture of me without her.
"I want to make it clear today that regardless of the circumstances in which I was wrong, I have no excuses. These rules apply to me as much as they do to everyone else, and the rules are really important.
"I'm kicking myself very hard, possibly harder than my worst reviewer ever could, but more importantly, I'll make sure I don't drop my guard again."
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologizes after breaking Covid's rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral - SKY NEWS
12:48 p.m.
New variant has spread across the UK, says expert
Professor Neil Ferguson told the UK Science and Technology Committee that the new strain of coronavirus is "everywhere now" but said he expected the effects of new Tier 4 restrictions and revised strict measures elsewhere over Christmas would have a positive impact.
He said, “The schools are now closed, we are in a situation across the country where we are almost locked.
“Contact rates are lower over Christmas.
I expect we'll see the curve flattening out over the next two weeks, although I'm hesitant to make any predictions. We will at least see a slowdown in growth.
"The big question is what happens in January and how much we want to make public health policies more uniform across the country when the new variant is widely available."
12:41 pm
The border will reopen and the trucks will have priority
The French border has reopened and trucks have priority when crossing the canal, Priti Patel tweeted.
The British-French border is reopened. The priority is to set trucks in motion and perform mass tests.

We urge carriers not to travel to Kent as we are working to reduce congestion. Travel now is going to slow things down. Tourists who are not based in France should not travel.
- Priti Patel (@pritipatel) December 23, 2020
12:27 pm
Pfizer will supply the US with 100 million more Covid-19 shots by July
Pfizer Inc will provide the US with 100 million additional doses of its Covid-19 vaccine by July next year, the US drug maker announced on Wednesday.
The deal increases the total number of doses to be shipped to the US to 200 million, allowing 100 million people to be vaccinated.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE will deliver at least 70 million cans by June 30th. The remainder of the 100 million cans should be handed in by July 31 at the latest.
The U.S. government will pay $ 1.95 billion for the additional 100 million doses, bringing the total paid to Pfizer to nearly $ 4 billion.
The government has already signed a contract with Pfizer for 100 million doses of the vaccine, which will be rolled out nationwide after the shot received emergency approval earlier this month.
Pfizer's two-dose shot is one of two emergency clearances issued in the US, the other is rival Moderna Inc's vaccine, which is based on similar technology.
12:21 pm
Coming: Nicola Sturgeon is asked about the mask slip
We bring you updates here or you can watch live below:
12:20 pm
Irish cabinet member positive
The Irish government said a cabinet member tested positive for Covid-19.
All other ministers will now restrict their movements pending coronavirus tests and results.
"A member of the cabinet tested positive for Covid-19," said a government statement.
"In accordance with public health recommendations, all ministers limit their movements while waiting for a Covid test and result."
12:15 p.m.
Macron is showing signs of improvement
French President Emmanuel Macron is showing signs of improvement after testing positive for Covid-19 last week.
The 43-year-old Macron is in quarantine at the retreat of the President of La Lanterne near the Palace of Versailles.
12:13 p.m.
Scientists reject Tony Blair's vaccine claims as "too risky"
Nervtag member Professor Wendy Barclay turned down former Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposal to give the first dose of Pfizer's two-step vaccine to as many people as possible instead of the current policy of half as many people receiving both required doses of the shock.
Prof. Barclay told the Commons Science and Technology Committee, "I think the problem with this (Mr Blair's suggestion) is that the vaccine is on a two-dose basis and effectiveness is based on that.
"To change at this point in time, you'd have to see a lot more analysis that might come out of the clinical trial data."
She agreed with Labor Committee member Graham Stringer's suggestion that such a change in established vaccination policy was "too risky".
11:58 a.m.
Egypt bans New Year celebrations to curb the increase in virus cases
Egypt has canceled all New Year celebrations to curb the increasing cases of coronavirus in the country, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said on Wednesday.
"As part of the precautionary measures to combat the coronavirus, there will be no New Year celebrations or gatherings," said the prime minister in a statement released after a cabinet meeting.
Egypt's daily number of novel coronaviruses has steadily increased in recent weeks, and the most populous country in the Arab world has officially registered more than 127,000 cases, including over 7,100 deaths.
While the official recovery rate remains high, limited testing of the general population has raised fears that cases may go undetected.
On Monday, Mohammed al-Nady, a member of Egypt's coronavirus crisis committee, told prominent talk show host Lamees al-Hadidi that "infections are in reality at least ten times higher than officially announced, and that's nice". .
The Minister of Health and Population, Hala Zayed, informed the cabinet meeting on Wednesday that 364 hospitals across the country with a capacity of 5,000 "care beds" and 2,400 respirators are ready to admit critically ill Covid-19 patients if necessary.
11:55 a.m.
UK variant discovered in Hong Kong
The new variant of Sars-Cov-2 appears to have infected two students who have returned to Hong Kong from the UK, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday as the city received 22.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine.
The virus samples from the two students who returned to the Asian financial center in December appeared to be carrying the UK variant of the coronavirus, Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease division of the Center for Health Protection, an agency of the Ministry of Health, told a daily press conference.
More analysis would need to be done to verify the samples, she said.
Hong Kong executive director Carrie Lam said at a separate press conference Wednesday that the government had received 7.5 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and was looking for a fourth source to adequately serve the city's 7.5 million residents.
Residents could choose which vaccine to take in response to safety concerns, she said.
"I urge the public to get vaccinated for the benefit of themselves and their loved ones," said Lam.
11:43 am
Has the UK been "punished" by stricter virus surveillance?
When asked by the Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Greg Clark, whether the UK is being "punished" for having the expertise to recognize the new tribe, which has resulted in dozens of countries following the routes with the UK Closing the Kingdom, Professor Peter Horby said: "I think it is fair Countries that have more extensive and rigorous science and are more transparent expose themselves to important information that is made available to others.
"But it's a global public good.
"It is in our best interest that we know about these viruses so we can control how they spread."
11:35 am
Meanwhile, a man was arrested in Dover after clashes with police
One man was arrested after the riot in Dover and nearby Manston Truck Park.
The man is being held for blocking a motorway in Dover, Kent police said.
A spokesman added, "Local officials at both locations are working with partner agencies to ensure those planning to travel to the continent are following the latest government travel requirements regarding Covid testing."
Some truck drivers clashed with police in Dover early Wednesday as they continued to be detained over the effects of the now lifted French travel ban.
11:32 am
A significant shift in the number of positive cases in children is worrying
When asked whether children are more susceptible to the new variant, comparisons with the non-variant, according to Prof. Ferguson, show a statistically significant proportion of cases among children under 15 years of age.
"Beyond that, we don't know anything," he says, adding that there could be a number of hypotheses as to why this is the case. He stresses that while it is a major shift, it is "not a major shift".
Increased infectivity poses a challenge to maintaining infection control, says Prof. Ferguson. If children are found to be more contagious, it will be a challenge to control actions, including actions taken with schools.
11:31 a.m.
The seriousness of the new variety was not "suggested," says the scientist
Professor Peter Horby bestritt auch jeden Vorschlag, dass Premierminister Boris Johnson die Übertragungsraten des Mutantenstamms überbewertet habe, um Weihnachten abzusagen.
Er sagte: "Ich glaube nicht, dass es, soweit ich das beurteilen kann, ein" Auffrischen "gegeben hat. Dies ist eine neue Variante, die Anlass zur Sorge gibt."
Die Analyse legt nahe, dass sich das Virus biologisch anders verhält, sagt er.
11:21 Uhr
Könnten laxe Lockdown-Einstellungen dazu führen, dass sich neue Varianten ausbreiten?
Auf die Frage, ob eine nachlässige Haltung gegenüber Lockdown-Maßnahmen zur Ausbreitung des Mutantenstamms hätte führen können, sagte Nervtag-Mitglied Professor Neil Ferguson, dass die Bestätigung anderer Daten etwas anderes nahelegt.
Er sagte: "Es war nichts Besonderes daran, was in Kent und im Süden Englands während der Sperrung im Vergleich zu anderen Gebieten des Landes vor sich ging.
"Wir haben gesehen, dass die Nichtvariante in einer bestimmten Woche und an einem bestimmten Ort zurückgegangen ist, während die Variante in derselben Woche und an demselben Ort in derselben Population zugenommen hat."
11:17 am
Unklar, warum sich die neue Variante schneller verbreitet als andere
Prof. Horby sagte auch, dass es eine Reihe möglicher Gründe gab, warum sich der mutierte Stamm des Virus schneller zu verbreiten schien als andere.
Er sagte gegenüber dem Commons Science and Technology Committee: "Der zugrunde liegende Mechanismus ist nicht vollständig klar - es könnte sein, dass sich das Virus schneller repliziert, was bedeutet, dass Sie eine höhere Viruslast erhalten, was bedeutet, dass Sie ansteckender sind.
"Es kann sein, dass es zwischen Exposition und Infektiosität kürzer dauert - wenn sich dieser Zeitraum verkürzt, wird die Übertragung schneller.
"Oder es könnte bedeuten, dass die Dauer der Infektiosität länger ist."
11:15 a.m.
Wissenschaftler sind sich nicht sicher, ob ein neuer Stamm die Immunität des Impfstoffs untergraben wird
Wissenschaftler untersuchen immer noch, ob der neue mutierte Coronavirus-Stamm die durch Impfstoffe oder frühere Infektionen verursachte Immunität umgehen könnte, sagte Professor Peter Horby, Vorsitzender der Beratungsgruppe für Bedrohungen durch neue und aufkommende Atemwegsviren (Nervtag).
Während einer Beweisaufnahme des Commons Science and Technology Committee am Mittwochmorgen sagte er: "Was wir noch nicht wissen, ist, ob es einen Unterschied in der Schwere der Krankheit, der Altersverteilung der Fälle oder vor allem gibt, ob es einen gibt." jede Immunflucht. "
Prof. Horby sagte auch, dass der Stamm wahrscheinlich von einer Person in Kent ausgegangen sei und durch "zufällige Fehler" beim Kopieren des Virus verursacht worden sein könnte.
11:06 Uhr
Schweizer starten Covid-19-Impfungen
Die Schweiz hat am Mittwoch mit der Einführung von Covid-19-Impfstoffen begonnen. Ein Pflegeheim in den Neunzigern war die erste Person im Land, die den Stich erhielt.
Die Frau, die in der Region Luzern in der Zentralschweiz lebt, erhielt den Pfizer-BioNTech-Impfstoff nur vier Tage nach seiner Zulassung durch die nationalen Aufsichtsbehörden.
"Ich bin sehr zufrieden, dass wir jetzt im Kanton Luzern mit Impfungen beginnen konnten", sagte der Chef des Gesundheitswesens der Region, Guido Graf, in einer Erklärung.
"Diese Impfungen sind ein wichtiges Element im Kampf gegen das Coronavirus."
Die Europäische Union, der die Schweiz nicht angehört, soll am 27. Dezember mit Impfungen beginnen.
11:04 am
Die baltischen Staaten schließen sich zusammen, um die Bürger zu repatriieren
Litauen, Lettland und Estland werden einen gemeinsamen Rückführungsdienst für ihre Bürger einrichten, um Großbritannien am 28. Dezember zu verlassen, sagte der litauische Außenminister am Mittwoch, berichtet Reuters.
Die drei baltischen Staaten gehörten zu den Dutzenden von Ländern, die Flüge von Großbritannien aus einstellen oder ihre Grenzen schließen wollten, weil sie sich Sorgen über die übertragbarere Variante machten, die Fälle im Vereinigten Königreich in die Höhe getrieben hat.
Die drei Länder werden die 150 Flugplätze zu gleichen Teilen auf ihre Bürger verteilen, wobei denjenigen mit gesundheitlichen Notfällen oder dringenden familiären Gründen wie Beerdigungen Vorrang eingeräumt wird, sagte der Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis gegenüber Reportern in Vilnius.
"Es ist eine humanitäre Mission", sagte der Minister.
Die Passagiere müssen Tickets kaufen und negative Coronavirus-Tests der letzten 48 Stunden durchführen oder müssen sich nach ihrer Rückkehr 10 Tage lang selbst isolieren, sagte er.
11:03 Uhr
Ärzte tanzen zur Feier der Einführung des israelischen Impfstoffs
Die Ärzte des Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv tanzten, um die Einführung des Impfstoffs im Land zu feiern.
Das Krankenhaus lieferte ab Sonntag, dem 20. Dezember, Impfstoffe aus, einen Tag nachdem Premierminister Netanjahu den ersten Stoß des Landes erhalten hatte.
10:51 a.m.
Serbien startet ab Donnerstag mit Covid-19-Impfungen
Serbien wird am Donnerstag mit der Impfung von Menschen gegen Covid-19 beginnen, sagte Präsident Aleksandar Vucic am Mittwoch. Damit sei der Balkanstaat einer der ersten in Europa, der eine Kampagne mit dem Pfizer-BioNTech-Schuss gestartet habe.
Beamte sagten, Serbien habe fast 5.000 Dosen des Impfstoffs erhalten, der bereits in den USA und in Großbritannien verwendet wird.
In der Zwischenzeit planen die Länder der Europäischen Union, den Impfstoff am 27. Dezember einzuführen.
"Die Impfung beginnt morgen in Serbien", sagte Vucic der Presse und fügte hinzu, dass die ersten Stöße an ältere Menschen in Seniorenheimen gehen würden.
"It is important to protect these people... more than 80 percent of the people who have died from this terrible virus are the elderly and they are most at risk," he said.
Serbia, an EU candidate country home to seven million people, has lost almost 2,800 to the novel coronavirus while more than 300,000 have been infected.
10:45 AM
Sturgeon apologises for mask slip
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised after she breached Covid rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake.
Ein in der Scottish Sun veröffentlichtes Foto zeigte, wie der Erste Minister mit drei Frauen in einer Bar plauderte, während sie in einiger Entfernung standen, aber keine Maske trugen.
Nach den Coronavirus-Regeln der schottischen Regierung müssen Kunden in Gaststätten eine Gesichtsbedeckung tragen, außer wenn sie sitzen, und eine, wenn sie sich bewegen.
Frau Sturgeon nahm an einer Beerdigung für einen Beamten der schottischen Regierung teil.
She said: "Last Friday, while attending a funeral wake, I had my mask off briefly. This was a stupid mistake and I'm really sorry.
"I talk every day about the importance of masks, so I'm not going to offer any excuses.
"Ich hatte Unrecht, ich trete mich selbst und es tut mir leid."
10:14 AM
WATCH: Lorry drivers clash with police over Dover backlog
10:13 AM
UK could approve AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after Christmas
The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine could be approved by UK regulators “shortly after” Christmas, according to a medical scientist.
Professor Sir John Bell, Oxford University’s regius professor of medicine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he expects approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) “pretty shortly”.
He said: “They got data quite a long time ago but that was the first set of data. They receive multiple sets of data. So we are getting to be about prime time now, I would expect some news pretty shortly.
“I doubt we’ll make Christmas now, but just after Christmas I would expect. I have no concerns whatsoever that the data looks better than ever.”
Approval of the Oxford vaccine would be a major boost to efforts to control Covid-19 because it is easier to distribute than the Pfizer/BioNTech jab currently being used in the UK.
The government has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with around 40 million available by the end of March.
10:06 AM
Japan and South Korea announce new restrictions for UK travellers
Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo:
South Korea and Japan are imposing new restrictions on travellers to and from Great Britain due to concerns over the new strain of the coronavirus.
South Korean health authorities announced Wednesday that all flights from the UK have been halted until December 31, while the embassy in London has halted the issuance of quarantine waivers.
Britons arriving in Korea from elsewhere will be required to undergo additional quarantine measures at airports, with the heightened measures going into effect immediately.
Japan announced that new border controls are being imposed on passengers arriving from Britain on Thursday, with all arrivals required to take a virus test 72 hours before departing from the UK and presenting the paperwork to show that they are not infected upon arrival in Japan.
“We have decided to swiftly take action to thoroughly prevent the spread of the virus within Japan and make people feel safe”, Katsunobu Kato, the chief cabinet secretary, said at a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Japan has shut its borders to virtually all arrivals, with only Japanese nationals returning home, foreign nationals with permanent resident status and a limited number of business travellers permitted to enter the country. No tourists are being permitted to enter the country.
Health authorities have stated that no cases of the new strain of the virus have been detected in either Japan or South Korea.
09:55 Uhr
Volunteers in Russia's Sputnik V vaccine trials will no longer receive placebo
Moscow's Gamaleya Institute, the developer of first Russian vaccine against Covid-19, said on Wednesday that volunteers in the trials for the Sputnik V shot will no longer receive placebos, RIA news agency reported.
09:42 AM
Keep calm, Taiwan says after first local Covid-19 case in 8 months
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called on people on Wednesday to keep calm after the island confirmed its first locally transmitted case of Covid-19 since April 12.
Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention methods and widespread use of masks, with all new cases for more than the last 250 days being among travellers arriving on the island.
But the government was jolted by Tuesday's announcement of the domestic infection of a lady who is a friend of a New Zealand pilot confirmed to have been infected earlier this week.
Tsai called on people to remain calm, follow official health guidance and not spread fake news.
"This case has a confirmed source of infection," she told reporters. "Please don't panic excessively."
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, speaking at a separate news conference, said 170 of the woman's contacts had tested negative for the virus, while three others are awaiting results.
A woman wears a protective mask while waiting for customers in Taipei - ANN WANG/REUTERS
09:34 AM
Lorry drivers and police clash after days sat at the border
Hauliers and police have clashed in the Port of Dover as lorry drivers vented their fury at being left in Kent for days with no route home.
The Government says the first crossings could take place this morning, but the backlog of up to 4,000 trucks near Dover could take days to clear.
Protests began yesterday, with lorry drivers trying to push their way through police to get to the port - which is currently closed.
Here are the latest photos of the protests:
A man is restrained by a police officer at the Port of Dover - Dan Kitwood / Getty
A man remonstrates with a police officer outside the port - Steve Parsons / PA
Travellers to Europe are stopped by police officers at the Port of Dover - Dan Kitwood / Getty
09:30 AM
Fauci warns against overreacting to news of new variant
Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned against overreacting to the new coronavirus variant.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "RNA viruses mutate, we know that, they continue to mutate - they have mutated in the past and they will mutate in the future.
"The mutations that have been noticed in the south-eastern part of the UK and in South Africa, there is this concern that it is more readily transmissible.
"That has not been completely proven, although one has to keep an eye on it.
"There doesn't seem to be any impact on virulence of the virus and there is no reason to believe that it would evade the polyclonal antibody response that is induced by a vaccine.
"I don't think that this is something that would require draconian changes in policy so we have to be careful that we don't overreact to something that is the natural evolution of the virus that might not have any strong impact on how we handle the virus in any way."
09:20 AM
Malaysia in talks to secure more vaccines from Russia
Malaysia is in talks to buy 6.4 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine and wants to increase its purchases from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer-BioNTech, as the country looks to beef up its arsenal against the pandemic.
The Southeast Asian nation is spending about $500 million to buy enough vaccines to inoculate 26.5 million people, or 82.8% of its people.
It has already bought vaccines from Pfizer and Britain's AstraZeneca and expects to secure more from Chinese and Russian manufacturers, as well as from its participation in the global COVAX facility, backed by the World Health Organization.
The government had increased its vaccine supply targets to take into account risks that some vaccines may not be approved by regulators or if manufacturers failed to deliver, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters.
"We want to have a little bit more of a buffer," he said.
In addition to the talks with Russia's Gamaleya Institute, the developer of the Sputnik V Vaccine, Malaysia is also in discussions with Chinese manufacturers Sinovac Biotech Ltd and CanSino Biologics to purchase their vaccines.
09:05 AM
Covid-19 is not under control in France, says Paris hospital official
The coronavirus pandemic is not under control in France and a new lockdown must remain an option, Karine Lacombe, the head of the infectious diseases unit at Paris' Saint-Antoine hospital, said on Wednesday.
"On the epidemiological front, the epidemic is by no means under control," Lacombe told BFM TV.
Medical experts have voiced concerns that the Christmas holidays could result in a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in France and Europe. Data published on Tuesday showed that France had reported a further 802 related deaths in the last 24 hours, and another 11,795 confirmed cases.
08:56 AM
Police release footage of Londoners breaking Tier 4 rules
The Metropolitan Police has warned Londoners to obey Tier 4 rules as it releases footage of people breaking rules last weekend.
The video shows Met officers engaging with rule breakers at a pub in Tottenham, stopping a house party in lford and closing down a music event in Barking.
Commander Alex Murray said: “Over the weekend just been, as we have been for most of the year, Met officers were out and about responding to flagrant breaches and issuing fines to those who thought they could organise warehouse parties and put many of us at risk of the virus.
“Most Londoners want to see the enforcement we are taking against those who think the tier 4 rules don’t apply to them – I hope that this shows just a glimpse of the work we were doing.
“Our message is clear. Anyone who thinks the rules are there to be broken, ignored, or do not apply to them is very mistaken. The rules are that you should stay at home. It is for your safety, the safety of your family and friends, and the safety of your communities.”
08:50 AM
First care home residents in England to get Covid-19 vaccines in early Christmas present
Care home residents and staff in England are set to get their first Covid-19 vaccines this week, including on Christmas Eve, in an early present for a sector that has been devastated by the virus.
GPs will begin administering Pfizer/BioNTech vaccinations in care homes all over the country over the next few days, after being asked if they could start the programme over the weekend.
Jennifer Rigby has the latest
Care homes across the country have been hit particularly hard by coronavirus - John Phillips / Getty Images Europe
08:45 AM
Japan's hospitals feel the strain of Covid-19
Providing medical care to Covid-19 patients and other patients in Japan is becoming difficult, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Wednesday, as daily infections rose to record highs this month.
“I understand frontline medical workers, who have been working desperately, are exhausted. I am getting reports that it is getting difficult to juggle responses to the coronavirus and offering regular medical care,” Nishimura said.
08:40 AM
Donald Trump rejects $900bn coronavirus relief bill
Donald Trump on Tuesday rejected a massive Covid economic relief package passed by Congress, branding it "a disgrace" in an act of political brinkmanship less than a month before he must leave office and when millions of Americans are suffering fallout from the pandemic.
The US President dropped the bombshell via a pre-recorded statement made in the White House and sent out on Twitter.
07:51 AM
'Don't panic buy,' Robert Jenrick says
The Communities Secretary told Sky News that the backlog of lorries in Kent "is an issue" to supply chains but "there is no material shortage of food".
"If we all behave rationally, if we all just shop for what we need for Christmas in the normal way there shouldn't be any problem whatsoever," he said.
07:38 AM
Thousands of lorries caught in border backlog
Robert Jenrick said around 4,000 lorries may be caught up in the Kent backlog.
The UK and France yesterday agreed a deal for France to lift its travel ban and allow the mass testing of freight drivers in a bid to end the ports chaos.
Mobile units, overseen by Army logistics experts, will administer the tests, but Government sources admitted it would take several days to clear the truckers. Our story has the details in full here.
"I hope that this morning you will see people and HGVs crossing the Channel," Mr Jenrick said.
The Communities Secretary said as of 7pm on Tuesday night there were just under 3,000 lorries at the disused airfield site at Manston, Kent.
Between 7-800 were part of Operation Stack on the M20, he said but "other HGVs and smaller vehicles are parked elsewhere in Kent".
"Whatever the number is, whether it is 4,000 or more, it is a significant number to work through," he acknowledged as he advised hauliers not to travel to Kent.
Police officers speak to drivers at the Port of Dover on Wednesday morning - Dan Kitwood/Getty Images Europe
07:33 Uhr
Robert Jenrick: 'It may be necessary to take further action'
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said "it may be necessary to take further action" to limit the spread of the new coronavirus variant amid speculation of wider lockdown measures.
He told Sky News: "We don't have a timetable for that. The Government's Covid operations committee is meeting later today to review further evidence.
"We keep this under review, we are constantly hearing from our scientific advisers about what we should do."
The new variant is "very concerning" and was "prevalent probably in most regions of the country".
You can read our Global Health team's analysis of the variant here.
07:30 AM
Tier 4 restrictions expected to be widened on Boxing Day
A swathe of areas hit by surging coronavirus rates are likely to be placed into Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, ministers will announce on Wednesday.
Ministers are expected to sign off plans for tougher measures for many areas at a meeting of the Covid-O operations committee as concern grows about the virus mutation spreading from the South-East.
Government sources have warned that there is a "high chance" of a full national lockdown in the New Year.
Read the full story by Laura Donnelly and Lucy Fisher here.
06:55 AM
Speed up vaccine delivery, Government urged
The Government is being urged to speed up delivery of the coronavirus vaccine amid growing concerns over the new Covid variant.
The Guardian reports "more than half" of hospital trusts and two-thirds of GPs are yet to receive their vaccine supplies as the highly transmissible mutant strain continues to spread throughout the UK, with cases identified in Wales and Scotland.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, has warned lives would be lost if delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was not accelerated.
He told the paper: "We need millions of doses to be made available as soon as possible - urgently - because it's the number one priority for GP practices, our patients and the nation, especially given the new mutant strain.
"GPs who haven't got it yet are frustrated because they want to be getting on and vaccinating their patients as well."
05:55 AM
UK travel ban inflicting more woes for stranded Australians
The flight bans being imposed around the world against the UK is heaping more misery on stranded Australians trying to get home.
Singapore has banned travellers from the UK transiting through its airport while Hong Kong has also introduced restrictions. Both are common routes for flying Down Under.
With fewer fights to Australia and strict hotel quarantine measures once people land, it has been difficult for many Australians to return home in recent months.
Jess Romero told ABC News that she had a flight booked from London to Brisbane, via Singapore, for the end of December.
"[The] airline hasn't officially cancelled my tickets but are offering me a refund and saying it won't go ahead," she told the broadcaster.
"They haven't offered to rebook as they don't know when they'll be able to resume flights."
Describing the news as devastating, she urged the Australian government to arrange more repatriation flights.
05:32 AM
South Korea halts flights from UK
South Korea is halting air travel from Britain at least through December 31 over concerns of the new variant of the virus that has been identified in southeast England.
Senior Health Ministry official Yoon Taeho said during a virus briefing that South Korean diplomatic offices in Britain will also stop issuing quarantine waivers so that all passengers coming from the country are placed under isolation for at least two weeks until a negative test.
Thirty-two of the new cases reported by the country were linked to international arrivals, including four passengers arriving from Britain. South Korean authorities have not yet reported a local case of the new variant of the virus.
A medical staff member (in white) wearing protective gear prepares to test visitors for the COVID-19 coronavirus - AFP
It comes as the country grapples with a resurgence of the virus that is erasing hard-won epidemiological gains and eroding public confidence in the government's ability to handle the outbreak.
South Korea added another new 1,092 infections of the coronavirus, bringing the national caseload to 52,550, with more than 13,130 cases added in the last two weeks alone, according to figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Seventeen Covid-19 patients died in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 739 as concerns grow about a shortage in intensive care beds. At least 284 of the country's 15,085 active patients were in serious or critical condition.
The government will clamp down on private social gatherings of five or more people between Christmas Eve and Jan. 3. Restaurants could be fined if they accept large groups, ski resorts and national parks will be closed, and hotels cannot sell more than 50% of their rooms during the period.
01:23 AM
Sturgeon sorry for rule breach
Nicola Sturgeon has apologised and admitted she made a “stupid mistake” after she broke her own coronavirus rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake.
Scotland’s First Minister was photographed speaking to three elderly women last week while standing with her face uncovered in an Edinburgh pub.
Under laws passed by Ms Sturgeon’s government, which she has relentlessly urged the Scottish public to follow, customers in hospitality venues must wear masks unless seated at a table.
The photograph, obtained by The Scottish Sun, was published just hours after Ms Sturgeon reminded the public at Holyrood of the importance of wearing face coverings.
Read more: Nicola Sturgeon breaches her own coronavirus rules
Nicola Sturgeon - GETTY IMAGES
01:07 AM
Today's top stories
A swathe of areas hit by surging coronavirus rates are likely to be placed into Tier 4 restrictions from Boxing Day, ministers will announce on Wednesday
Britain struck a deal on Tuesday night for France to lift its travel ban and allow the mass testing of freight drivers in a bid to end the ports chaos
Nicola Sturgeon has apologised and admitted she made a “stupid mistake” after she broke her own coronavirus rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake
Ms Sturgeon has been rebuked for a second time by the UK’s statistics watchdog for making unsubstantiated boasts about her handling of the pandemic
British citizens hoping to enter the European Union in the new year may need to provide a negative Covid test result, under plans being negotiated in the EU
A Scottish aristocrat and his socialite daughter have been charged with breaking coronavirus travel rules after fleeing London for the Isle of Bute
A US college student has been jailed for four months in the Cayman Islands after she broke quarantine regulations to watch her boyfriend take part in a jet ski competition
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