Coronavirus live news: UK had world's highest Covid death toll last week; more countries record new variant

1 month ago

Prime Minister Antonio Costa speaks during a press conference after a Council of Ministers meeting in Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, 18 January 2021.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa speaks during a press conference after a Council of Ministers meeting in Sao Bento Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, 18 January 2021. Photograph: Miguel A Lopes/EPA

Stricter lockdown rules are being enacted in Portugal to try and contain the spread of Covid-19 which is pushing hospitals to their full capacities (see earlier posts).

António Costa, the prime minister, said too many people had taken advantage of exceptions included in the lockdown that began last Friday, with authorities reporting 70% of normal movement over the weekend.

“We are going through the most serious phase of the pandemic” so far, Costa said, adding: “This is no time for finding loopholes in the law.”

Under the new rules, January sales at stores are to be banned, as are gatherings of any number of people in public areas, while more police will be deployed outside schools, which remain open, to prevent students forming groups.

Travelling between districts is to be prohibited at weekends, with supermarkets and stores having to operate within shorter opening times.

Updated at 1.45pm EST

The World Health Organization has raised “concerns” about the unequal distribution of Covid vaccines in Israel, which has given shots to more than a fifth of its population, and the occupied territories, where Palestinians have yet to receive any, an official said Monday.

Rights groups say Israel has a duty as an occupying power to provide vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel claims it has no such obligation, arguing that its own population — including Arab citizens — is the priority, but that at some stage it may consider sharing its supplies.

Updated at 1.30pm EST

UK records worlds highest death toll in past week

The UK had the highest Covid death toll in the world in the week to 17 January with 16.5 deaths per 1 million people on average, according to Our World in Data.

The average weekly Covid death toll puts the UK a whisker ahead of Czechia which recorded 16.3 deaths per 1 million population in the same timeframe.

When instead measured by Covid total deaths per 1 million people the UK is currently listed among the worst seven countries worldwide.

At 1,317 cumulative Covid deaths per population the UK death count is lower than San Marino (1,915), Belgium (1,763), Slovenia (1,530), Italy (1,359), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1,344) and Czechia (1,339) according to the Our World in Data figures.

There are differences in the way countries count coronavirus deaths which makes international comparisons difficult.

The figures used by Our World in Data uses the number of deaths as reported by the UK government each day, however those figures do not necessarily reflect the actual death toll as per date of death.

The gold standard for international comparisons is to compare excess deaths, but these take longer for the international statistics bodies to collect, check and report.

Updated at 1.15pm EST

Spain's new Covid cases hit weekend record of 84,287

Spain has reported a record jump in Covid infections over the weekend, with the number of new cases measured over the past 14 days spiking at 689 per 100,000 people on Monday from 575 on Friday, according to health ministry data.

Nearly 84,300 new cases were reported since Friday, bringing the total to 2,336,451. Deaths rose by 455 over the same period to 53,769.

The health ministry has ruled out a return to nationwide confinement despite calls from regional administrations for tougher measures amid rising infections.

See earlier posts for the latest on Spain’s second round of vaccinations.

Updated at 1.19pm EST

António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, said:

António Guterres (@antonioguterres)

#COVID19 vaccines are reaching high income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all.

Science is succeeding — but solidarity is failing.

Global solidarity will save lives, protect people & help defeat this vicious, mutating virus.

January 16, 2021

Updated at 12.41pm EST

Czech Republic confirms detection of UK Covid variant

The Czech Republic has confirmed the detection of the new, more transmissible variant of coronavirus first found in Britain, news agency CTK quoted the National Institute of Public Health as saying on Monday.

A spokeswoman for the institute was not immediately available for comment.

Updated at 12.28pm EST

Hi everyone, I am back from my break now. In case you missed it before, feel free to message coverage suggestions to me on Twitter.

Disneyland Paris said on Monday it was postponing its reopening by almost two months, to April 2, due to the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Disneyland Paris EN (@DisneyParis_EN)

Due to the prevailing conditions in Europe, Disneyland Paris will not reopen on the 13th of February as initially planned. If you have a booking with us during the closing period, please check our website for our latest commercial conditions: https://t.co/3c0DbxYPLC pic.twitter.com/yom7cB4it3

January 18, 2021

I’m handing the blog back now to Yohannes Lowe.

Updated at 12.12pm EST

Philip Oltermann

Germany is weighing up following Austria and Bavaria’s lead in making it compulsory to wear full protective filter masks on public transport and in shops, as the country remains on high alert about the impact of possible coronavirus mutations.

The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced on Sunday that wearing single-use filtering facepiece respirator, or FFP2, masks would become mandatory on public transport and in shops from 25 January, as the Alpine state moves to extend its national lockdown until 7 February.

In Germany’s largest and southernmost state Bavaria, a similar requirement for trains, trams, buses and supermarkets came into force on Monday, though the new rule will not be policed until 24 January and allows for exemptions for bus drivers, ticket inspectors and children under the age of 15.

 Hayoung Jeon/EPA
The German health minister, Jens Spahn, wears a FFP2 protective mask in Berlin, Germany. Photograph: Hayoung Jeon/EPA

The vaccine approach does not necessarily need to be changed in the light of what is now known about the new variant which has been identified in South Africa, Professor Karim adds at the briefing (see earlier posts).

“Vaccines that we see with Pfizer and Moderna with 95 per cent efficacy are among the most effective vaccines that we have for any disease. Take the measles vaccines .. this is comparable with that,” he said.

He issued a call for people to stop stalking about the “South African variants” or the “English variant,” adding that they could emerge anywhere in the world and it was not clear where their roots lay. It was wrong to pin a name to country in the way Donald Trump had tried to do by talking about the “China virus,” added Professor Karim.

There’s more from Professor Abdool Karim at that presentation about the South African variant of Covid 19, where he adds that current data suggests it is not causing more severe disease.

We also don’t yet have an answer to whether vaccines are less effective against the variant, he adds.

Updated at 11.46am EST

New evidence that South African variant is more infectious - scientist

Scientists have new biological evidence that a South African variant of Covid-19 binds more readily to human cells, making it more infectious, according to one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts.

Prof Abdool Karim, the epidemiologist who led South Africa’s fight against HIV/Aids, has been taking part in a live discussion (listen here) on South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

He was speaking at the presentation of research into the variant, known as 501Y.V2, by a team of scientists, including researchers who looked at cases in the Western Cape and other areas.. The variant was identified by South African genomics experts late last year.

At this point there is no evidence of increased mortality, although that may change as more pressure is put on the health care system in South Africa.

Updated at 12.25pm EST

Michael Safi

The world is on the edge of a “catastrophic moral failure” in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, with just 25 doses administered across all poor countries compared with 39m in wealthier ones, the head of the World Health Organization has said.

It was the sharpest warning so far from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus about the dangers of vaccine hoarding since inoculations started being administered in 49 mostly high-income countries.

Guinea is the sole low-income country to have delivered any shots so far, last week providing doses of the Russian Sputnik vaccine to a mere 25 people, including its president.

Tedros told an annual meeting of the WHO’s executive board on Monday that it was wrong to see people at low risk in wealthy countries being vaccinated while most of the world still did not have access to the jabs

Vaccine inequity puts world on brink of 'catastrophic moral failure', says WHO chief – video

Updated at 12.01pm EST

Italy reported 377 coronavirus-related deaths today, the same amount as the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 8,824 from 12,545.

However, the number of swab tests also fell, as often happens over the weekend, totalling just 158,674 against a previous 211,078.

Italy has registered 82,554 Covid-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light last February, the second-highest toll in Europe and the sixth-highest in the world. The country has also reported 2.39 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 22,884 on Monday, up 127 from a day earlier.

This is Ben Quinn picking up the blog now as Yohannes takes a break

Spain has begun administering second shots of the Covid vaccine to elderly nursing home residents, Reuters reports.

In the central city of Guadalajara, 96-year old Araceli Hidalgo Sanchez, Spain’s earliest recipient of a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, said she was delighted to have received the second and encouraged others to do the same.

By Monday morning, eight of Spain’s 17 regions had got under way with the second round of vaccinations, the health ministry confirmed.

Updated at 10.46am EST

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photograph: Marco Ugarte/AP

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Mexican president, has said his country would soon have a Russian vaccine available in the fight against the coronavirus, as health authorities were soon to issue a decision on the product.

Mexico’s health ministry said last week a decision would be reached quickly on whether to authorise use of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine.

Updated at 10.11am EST

The World Health Organization is in advanced talks with Pfizer about including the company’s Covid vaccine in the agency’s portfolio of shots to be shared with poorer countries, a senior official confirmed on Monday.

“We are in very detailed discussions with Pfizer. We believe very soon we will have access to that product,” Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser, said at the WHO’s executive board meeting.

The WHO’s vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX is due to start rolling out vaccines to poor and middle income nations in February, with 2 of 3 billion targeted doses set to be delivered this year.

Updated at 10.03am EST

Portugal's Covid daily deaths hit new record

An ambulance carrying a Covid patient is seen outside Santa Maria Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal.
An ambulance carrying a Covid patient is seen outside Santa Maria Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal. Photograph: Pedro Nunes/Reuters

Portugal’s daily death toll from the coronavirus reached a record high of 167 on Monday, bringing the total to 9,028 deaths since the start of the pandemic, health authority DGS said.

The country of 10 million people, which is under lockdown to halt the spread of the virus, also reported a record 664 Covid patients in intensive care units at a time when hospitals are struggling to cope with a surge in infections.

“The impact is huge because the number of beds doesn’t increase, the walls are not expandable and health workers are not multiplying,” Antonio Pais de Lacerda, a doctor at Lisbon’s biggest hospital, Santa Maria, told Reuters.

Updated at 10.01am EST

Clamping down on lockdown rule breakers will get coronavirus back under control, Priti Patel said, as she acknowledged that the number of Covid cases was still too high.

The UK home secretary warned people that their “actions have consequences” and urged them to adhere to legislation or face a fine. But she said tougher lockdown measures were not needed to get the R number – currently estimated to be around 1.2 to 1.3 – down below one.

She told PA Media that officers had been tackling people breaking the law, including by holding house parties and illegal raves.

It comes as a further 532 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 61,453, NHS England said on Monday.

Updated at 9.54am EST

Article Source