Coronavirus latest news: British public to be among first to receive Covid-19 vaccine

Max Stephens
·68-min read
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

People in the UK are likely to be among the first in the world to receive a coronavirus vaccine with care home residents and staff given 'top priority' the Health Secretary has said. 

The UK's medicines regulator could approve the Pfizer or Oxford jabs within days of a licence application being submitted due to rolling analysis of the data, according to Matt Hancock.

Addressing the House of Commons today, Mr Hancock admitted the Government was unsure how many of the UK's population would need to be vaccinated to curb the pandemic. 

A seven-day week plan will be employed to roll out the vaccine from December, he said. 

Additionally, children would not be required to have the vaccine and it would remain voluntary for adults.  

Mr Hancock claimed the UK now has PCR testing capacity of 518,000 tests a day with over 10,000 tests on offer to 67 public health leaders across England. 

​Follow the latest updates below.

06:50 PM

A further 532 people have died from Covid-19

The Government has said 532 more people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.

It brings the UK total to 49,770 and is the highest figure reported in a single day since May 12.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies for deaths when Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 65,000 deaths involving coronavirus in the UK.

The Government said that, as of 9am on Tuesday, there had been a further 20,412 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,233,775.

06:45 PM

Listen to the latest episode of our Coronavirus podcast

Ten minutes of expert analysis on the impact on health, politics, business and travel with The Telegraph's leading journalists 

06:37 PM

Special shipping for Pfizer vaccine with remote temperature monitoring

The Pfizer vaccine is to be shipped in special storage containers which will keep it at ultra-low temperatures until it is ready to be administered.

Special GPS trackers will mean that the temperature of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can be remotely monitored to ensure it stays at the correct heat to keep it effective.

Details of how the vaccine could be transported and stored have emerged following concerns that the NHS may face difficulties handling a vaccine which needs to be stored at -70C.

Pfizer has designed a suitcase-sized container that will keep the doses at -70C for up to 10 days using dry ice.

Each container holds around 1,000 doses

06:31 PM

Lockdown is the Word of the Year – but how well do you know previous entries?

From photo-bombing to w00t, the annual announcement serves as a representation for mankind's obsessions over the previous 12 months. 

Lockdown is defined by the dictionary as “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces”, and its usage has boomed over the last year. In 2019, there were 4,000 recorded instances of lockdown being used. In 2020, it’s soared to more than a quarter of a million. 

What has happened to previous words of the year – and how will lockdown fare in the years to come? Test your knowledge of buzzwords-gone-by with our quiz below. (Full disclosure: we’re including the findings of a few dictionaries rather than sticking to Collins – because no one dictionary can hold sole dominion over the words that will come to define humanity…)

Word of the year quiz
Word of the year quiz

06:23 PM

Even vaccines that perform less well may be given in bid to fight coronavirus

Vaccines may be approved for use that are not as effective as the top performer in a bid to drive down the burden of coronavirus, health experts have said.

Even jabs with a lower efficacy in preventing Covid-19 could still have large population benefits in a public health emergency, Government advisers said.

The Government will receive recommendations on which jab the NHS should use as each pharmaceutical firm publishes its findings and once regulatory approval is secured.

One adviser said that even vaccines of extremely low efficacy could still be potentially very important and governments may go "with what we've got" in a bid to save lives.

06:13 PM

Comment: Matt Hancock celebrates the vaccine... with an injection of pure poetry

In the Commons, the Health Secretary tried not to get carried away – but couldn’t resist marking the good news with a Churchillian flourish, writes Michael Deacon. 

When “the science comes good”, Mr Hancock intoned solemnly, NHS staff would rise to the challenge – and “inject hope into millions of arms”. 

It was a noble effort, and he delivered it with an air of misty-eyed lyricism. Mind you, it’s a good job the vaccine isn’t a nasal spray (“Our brave nurses will be squirting hope up millions of nostrils”). Or, for that matter, a dorsogluteal injection (“pumping hope into millions of bottoms”). 

Read Michael Deacon's full column here

06:05 PM

Vaccine ethics: Covid could come back stronger if rich nations monopolise doses

Calamity is the test of integrity”, wrote the English author and printer Samuel Richardson and so it may prove with the distribution of vaccines against Covid-19.

The news that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may prove up to 90 per cent effective at preventing symptoms of Covid has sparked something approaching euphoria across the globe. Stock markets have soared and there is speculation everything could return to “normal” by the spring.

But with this optimism, there will come FOMO – the fear of missing out – and huge pressures will mount on political leaders everywhere to vaccinate their people first.

The danger is that national self-interest will override the common interest, creating not just an inequitable distribution of vaccines globally with terrible human cost but a strategic disaster in which the pandemic is prolonged for everyone.  

Read the full article here by Paul Nuki and Sarah Newey

05:56 PM

Charles and Camilla to carry out first overseas visit since pandemic started

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are to make their first joint official overseas visit since the coronavirus pandemic began by travelling to Germany this weekend.

Charles and Camilla will fly to Berlin to attend the Central Remembrance Ceremony on Sunday to commemorate the country's annual National Day of Mourning, Clarence House has said.

The royal family have carried out a string of European visits since Brexit and this latest trip is likely to be viewed as part of the monarchy's "soft diplomacy" to renew and strengthen friendships with countries on the continent.

Clarence House said in a statement: "At the request of The British Government, Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will attend the Central Remembrance Ceremony in Berlin to commemorate the annual National Day of Mourning on Sunday 15th November.

"This follows an invitation from the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, (Patron of the War Graves Commission)."

05:46 PM

Visits to Santa cancelled because Tui says it cannot 'keep the magic alive' in pandemic

Visits to Santa have been cancelled after travel firm Tui said it cannot go ahead with trips to Lapland.

The tour operator said it could not guarantee it would “keep the magic alive” for British and Irish families visiting the Finnish region because of coronavirus restrictions.

In a statement it said it regretted having to make what it called an “incredibly difficult decision” to suspend all holidays to Lapland this winter. Customers who had booked will be offered credit for a future trip or a cash refund.

Lapland trips will resume next winter. 

Sam Meadows has the full story here

05:40 PM

Number of schools in England with pupils self-isolating drops

Only about four per cent of pupils in England were at home because of coronavirus on the day the second lockdown began, Government figures suggest.

The majority of pupils (between 3.2% and 3.7%) absent from class last week were self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of coronavirus inside or outside the school, the Department for Education analysis says.

About 0.3% of pupils were absent as their school was closed for coronavirus-related reasons, 0.3% were off as they suspected they had Covid-19 and 0.1% were off after testing positive for the illness.

Overall pupil attendance remained the same (89%) on the day new national restrictions came into force in England as on October 15 - the week before some schools went on half-term, the data suggests.

05:33 PM

Belgian undertaker buries almost only Covid victims as second wave hits the country

In a small town south of Brussels, funeral director Stephane Geeurickx says almost all the dead he has buried in the last weeks died of Covid-19, which was not the case when the pandemic first took hold.

Belgium, a country of 11 million, is in the grip of the second wave of the virus and has one of the world's highest Covid-19 mortality rates. It has also seen one of Europe's sharpest jumps in cases this autumn.

"In March-April, we noticed a number of deaths higher than normal but they were not necessarily directly linked to Covid-19," Geeurickx, who owns Centre funéraire S.O.S Décès said. 

But now almost all the funerals he organises are for those who contracted the virus.

Coronavirus Belgium Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Belgium Spotlight Chart - Cases default

05:24 PM

Health minister advocates international review on mink farms after Covid-19

There should be an "international" discussion over the future of the mink farming industry Matt Hancock has said, in the wake of widespread outbreaks of the coronavirus among Denmark's mink farms.

Danish health authorities dispose of mink carcasses in a military area near Holstebro, Denmark - Morten Stricker/AFP
Danish health authorities dispose of mink carcasses in a military area near Holstebro, Denmark - Morten Stricker/AFP

Speaking to Parliament during a Covid-19 update on Tuesday, the Health Secretary said he was concerned about how virulent the virus has become across the mink population.

He said: "I think there is an international case on public health grounds for addressing this question of mink farming, which we banned in the UK two decades ago.

"It was due to come to an end in Europe in 2023 anyway but people will have their own views on animal welfare grounds and I have certainly got mine.

"But clearly on global public health grounds, there is a case to do everything we can to stop the retransmission of this virus into an animal population and then back again which can lead to these sorts of mutations that we have seen."

05:14 PM

Dry ice shortage could delay vaccine rollout

A shortage of dry ice and strict regulations about its transportation could significantly slow down the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.

Some vaccines, such as one being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, must be kept cool but not frozen.

However, Pfizer and BioNTech’s jab that early trials have shown to be highly effective requires storage at minus 70C, meaning it must be transported in dry ice - a solid form of carbon dioxide used as a cooling agent.

As the chemical sublimates, it emits carbon dioxide that  can be harmful to passengers and crew in large quantities because it displaces the breathable oxygen in the cabin. 

Lizzy Burden has the full story here

05:07 PM

Mass coronavirus testing to be rolled out in 67 more towns and cities

 Mass coronavirus testing giving results in as little as 15 minutes is to be rolled out across dozens of towns and cities, covering 10 per cent of their population every week.

British Army soldiers record and process tests at a coronavirus testing centre in Liverpool - Oli Scarff/AFP
British Army soldiers record and process tests at a coronavirus testing centre in Liverpool - Oli Scarff/AFP

At the same time, the NHS will start to test its staff twice a week for Covid-19 to keep them and their patients safe.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said on Tuesday that the mass testing used in a pilot scheme in Liverpool will be extended to 67 local authorities.

 Patrick Sawyer has the full story here

05:04 PM

Comment: Testing for travellers could start tomorrow – what is our dithering Government waiting for?

Why are we imprisoning people in their own homes for two weeks when the capacity is there to release them, writes Charles Levinson. 

As travel corridor after travel corridor has slammed shut, those of us involved with testing have been left dumbfounded. Why are we imprisoning people in their own homes for two weeks when the capacity is there to release them? For months we’ve been told a solution is coming, so let’s just get on with it. 

Read Charles Levinson's full piece here 

04:54 PM

Pfizer is far from the only horse in the Covid vaccine race

Pfizer looks to be the frontrunner in the race to launch a vaccine against coronavirus, but it’s not all about speed or who is first to market.

In the vaccines business there is often no "one-size-fits-all" solution. Fortunately, the life sciences industry’s response to this pandemic has been unprecedented both in terms of the speed at which it has developed vaccines and its willingness to collaborate with other companies.

That has resulted in 202 potential vaccines, of which 47 are in clinical trials.

Here are few of the frontrunners to date:  

  • AstraZeneca/Oxford University: Phase III trial with 30,000 participants

  • GSK with Sanofi Pasteur: Phase II trials

  • Moderna: Phase III with 30,000 trial participants

  • Janssen: Phase III with 60,000 trial participants

Read the full article here

04:48 PM

Brazil president claims 'victory' after suspension of Chinese vaccine trial

Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro has dismissed China's Sinovac  Covid-19 vaccine as lacking in credibility.

On Tuesday morning, he said on his Facebook page that the suspension of the trial after a participant died was "another victory for Jair Bolsonaro."

Mr Bolsonaro had criticized the trail for lacking credibility amid growing geopolitical tensions as the global race for a Covid-19 vaccine continues.

Brazil's health regulator, Anvisa did not give an indication of how long the trial's suspension might last.

Anvisa's decision surprised trial organizers, who said there had been a death but it was unrelated to the vaccine.

"As there are more than 10,000 volunteers at this moment, deaths can occur ... It's a death that has no relation with the vaccine and as such it is not the moment to interrupt the trials," Dimas Covas, the head of Sao Paulo's medical research institute Butantan, which is conducting the Sinovac trial, told local broadcaster TV Cultura.

04:36 PM

Italy expects to get 3.4 mln doses of Pfizer vaccine in January

Italy expects to receive 3.4 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech probably in January, a government source told Reuters on Tuesday.

Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic, will be allocated 13.6 per cent of the first 200 million doses made available to the European Union, the source said.

The European Commission will approve a contract for the supply of the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the two companies, its President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement on Tuesday.

The EU bloc is set to secure 200 million doses with an option for another 100 million.

04:29 PM

Plunge in foreign-born workers as Covid destroys jobs

The number of foreign-born workers employed in the UK fell by almost 600,000 in the past year as Covid laid waste to the jobs market and sparked an exodus of migrants.

There are now 765,000 fewer people of working age born abroad in Britain than there were a year ago, with a bigger fall in those from the EU than those from the rest of the world.

It comes as the unemployment rate rose to 4.8 per cent in September, its highest level in four years according to the Office for National Statistics.

The number of foreign-born workers employed in the UK fell by almost 600,000 in the past year as Covid laid waste to the jobs market and sparked an exodus of migrants. There are now 765,000 fewer people of working age born abroad in Britain than there were a year ago, with a bigger fall in those from the EU than those from the rest of the world. It comes as the unemployment rate rose to 4.8pc in September, its highest level in four years according to the Office for National Statistics.

 Read the full article here by Russel Lynch and Tim Wallace

04:23 PM

Japan finally forced to give up CDs as pandemic causes slump in sales

Japanese music enthusiasts, loyal to CDs long after the rest of the world went online, have begun reaching for the eject button and switching to streaming services as artists cancel in-store events and fans stay home because of the pandemic.

Tower Records remains a popular brand in Japan - Ritsuko Ando/Reuters
Tower Records remains a popular brand in Japan - Ritsuko Ando/Reuters

Despite a slow decline in sales in the past decade, CDs are still the most popular music format in Japan, accounting for around 70 per cent of recorded music sales last year.

In the US and European markets, CDs have long been relegated to the history bin in favour of online downloads and streaming.

Streaming services, which had accounted for less than 10 per cent of sales in Japan until a few years ago, grew to 15 per cent in 2019  and will likely exceed 20 per cent this year, said Jamie MacEwan, who covers the Japanese media business for Enders Analysis.

Read the full article here

04:17 PM

Comment: The devastating impact of lockdown on our children goes well beyond the closure of schools

The Government has taken away the whole package of what makes life worth living for kids – and the results aren't pretty, writes Molly Kingsley. 

Yesterday, Ofsted published a series of reports on the impact of the pandemic across the sectors it regulates. No surprise that it makes for sobering reading.

 To an extent, it provides confirmation of what we knew already: school closures have a devastating impact on children with repercussions that go well beyond learning

Beyond the consequences to learning we’re told of younger children who have regressed to nappies and dummies and older children who’ve lost physical fitness and are suffering poor mental health. There’s been an increase in self-harm, and children who were not previously identified as vulnerable are now reported as suffering from eating disorders

Read the full piece here by Molly Kingsley

04:09 PM

Research needed on effectiveness of vaccines in different age groups - experts warn

More research is needed on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines on different age groups, experts have said.

In a new briefing note published by the British Society for Immunology, scientists have said that research into optimising protocols for any future Covid-19 vaccine which may be given to older people needs to be prioritised.

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said:

"We need to know whether vaccines are going to work in different age groups. We know that flu vaccine has to be tailored according to the age of the subject and that may be the case with Covid-19."

04:05 PM

China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine trial suspended in Brazil after participant dies

Brazil has suspended clinical trials for China's coronavirus vaccine after a participant died.

Instituto Butantan, the research centre in Sao Paulo developing the vaccine in partnership with Sinovac, a private Chinese firm, said it was surprised by the decision. 

Dimas Covas, director of the institute, told Brazilian media that a study volunteer had died, though the death was not linked to ongoing trials. 

“As there are more than 10,000 volunteers at this moment, deaths can occur,” said Mr Covas. “It’s a death that has no relation with the vaccine and as such it is not the moment to interrupt the trials.” 

The decision to hold the trial in Sao Paulo sparked protests - Reuters
The decision to hold the trial in Sao Paulo sparked protests - Reuters

04:00 PM

Plans to introduce mass Covid testing for students presents 'huge hurdles'

Plans to introduce mass testing for Covid-19 at universities ahead of Christmas present huge logistical challenges and risk leaving students "in limbo", a union has warned

Jo Grady, general secretary of the UCU, said: "We hope the Government is able to properly oversee mass testing of students at the end of term, but there are huge hurdles to overcome to manage this process properly and not leave staff and students stuck in limbo.

The University and College Union (UCU) has called on the Government to support students who want to learn remotely in the new year and help release them from accommodation contracts, to reduce the risk of a "mass outbreak".

It comes after a letter from the universities minister, seen by the BBC, suggested that mass coronavirus testing for students in England could begin at the end of this month to allow them to return home for Christmas.

03:50 PM

'The vaccine will help theatre heal, but the scars will take an age to fade'

Science may have finally made theatre 'viable' again but no need to jump for joy just yet, writes Dominic Cavendish.

In the long-term, we may see British theatre returning to its former glory faster than expected – a Roaring Twenties of packed houses and something like the good old days. In the medium term, the West End and beyond can start to plan with more confidence for a bounce-back year. And even if this is still a game-changer in name only, there will be a spring in the step of those poised to get going once this lockdown lifts.

Read Dominic Cavendish's full piece here

03:41 PM

Sturgeon reveals three council areas to face tougher restrictions in Scotland

Three council areas - Angus, Fife and Perth and Kinross - will move into Level 3 of Scotland's coronavirus restrictions from Friday, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister announced the decision to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament as she gave an update on coronavirus measures.

  • Pubs and restaurants in Angus, Fife and Perth and Kinross will be prohibited from selling alcohol and will close at 6pm, with last entry at 5pm.

  • Indoor exercise is now limited to individual workouts, with outdoor contact sports for those over the age of 18 banned, except professional sports.

  • From Friday residents in Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles  will be able to meet with one other household inside their homes "up to a strict maximum of six people". 

03:32 PM

Coronavirus around the world in pictures

Supporters of Peru's former President Martin Vizcarra are stopped by police from marching to Congress where lawmakers voted the previous night to remove Vizcarra from office - Rodrigo Abd /AP
Supporters of Peru's former President Martin Vizcarra are stopped by police from marching to Congress where lawmakers voted the previous night to remove Vizcarra from office - Rodrigo Abd /AP
Culled mink are buried in mass graves in Denmark, Holstebro after more than 200 people were infected with mink-related strain of coronavirus. - Shutterstock
Culled mink are buried in mass graves in Denmark, Holstebro after more than 200 people were infected with mink-related strain of coronavirus. - Shutterstock
Hong Kong's first socially-distanced outdoor entertainment park opened its doors to the public as the events and entertainment industry adjusts to the coronavirus pandemic. - AP
Hong Kong's first socially-distanced outdoor entertainment park opened its doors to the public as the events and entertainment industry adjusts to the coronavirus pandemic. - AP
French medical staff take care of Covid-19 patients aboard an army Airbus - Jeff Pachoud/AFP
French medical staff take care of Covid-19 patients aboard an army Airbus - Jeff Pachoud/AFP

03:24 PM

Matt Hancock has 'confidence' NHS can deliver -70C vaccine

The Health Secretary has "confidence" the NHS can deliver an approved Covid vaccine despite the logistics involved, MPs have heard.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which provided promising early clinical trial results on Monday, needs to be stored at minus 70C - which could pose transport and storage issues.

Matt Hancock said the distribution of the vaccine - should it be approved by regulators - would be a "huge challenge" due to the low temperatures required for storage.

He also said that rolling out a Covid vaccine to the masses could pose a "mammoth logistical operation".

03:15 PM

'Lockdown' is 2020's Word of the Year, says Collins Dictionary

Lockdown" has been named Word of the Year 2020 by Collins Dictionary after a sharp increase in its usage during the coronavirus pandemic.

The dictionary said it added the term because it "encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people who have had to restrict their daily lives in order to contain the virus".

Collins' lexicographers registered more than a quarter of a million usages of "lockdown" during 2020, compared with only 4,000 the previous year. According to the dictionary, lockdown is defined as "the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction and access to public spaces".

It came into common parlance as governments around the world responded to the spread of Covid-19.

Read the full article here

03:12 PM

EU to approve Pfizer Covid vaccine contract on Wednesday

The European Commission will approve on Wednesday a contract for the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech , its President Ursula von der Leyen said.

"Tomorrow we will authorise a contract for up to 300 million doses of the vaccine developed by German company BioNTech and Pfizer," von der Leyen said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Commission said earlier on Tuesday that the EU executive would discuss adopting the agreement with the two companies, adding that the decision was not linked to Pzifer's announcement on Monday that clinical tests of its experimental vaccine against COVID-19 had proved more than 90% effective. 

Read here on all we know about Pfizer's Covid vaccine. 

02:52 PM

One in five Covid-19 patients develop mental illness within 90 days

Many Covid -19 survivors are likely to be at greater risk of developing mental illness,  psychiatrists have said after a large study found 20 per cent of those infected with the coronavirus are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days.

Anxiety, depression and insomnia were most common among recovered Covid-19 patients in the study who developed mental health problems.

Researchers from Oxford University also found significantly higher risks of dementia, a brain impairment condition.

Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford said:

"People have been worried that Covid-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings ... show this to be likely,"

Doctors and scientists around the world urgently need to investigate the causes and identify new treatments for mental illness after Covid-19, he added. 

02:45 PM

Key points from Matt Hancock's address

  • Care home residents and staff will be 'top priority,' in receiving Covid-19 vaccine. 

  • Unclear how much of the UK population will need to be vaccinated to stop the epidemic. 

  • Children would not need to have the vaccine and the jab would be voluntary for adults. 

  • UK now has PCR testing capacity of 518,000 tests a day. 

  • Matt Hancock pledged a swathe of testing to local authorities in England with 10,000 tests offered to 67 public health leaders. 

02:37 PM

Chatty Catalans told to keep quiet on public transport to stop Covid spread

Catalonia’s government has asked public transport users to avoid talking while travelling on the bus, train, tram or metro as the region battles to bring down alarmingly high levels of Covid-19 infection. 

Barcelona's suburban trains have added silent carriages for the first time - Shutterstock
Barcelona's suburban trains have added silent carriages for the first time - Shutterstock

“We recommend that people do not speak and remind them that removing their face mask to speak on the phone or to eat is forbidden,” said Damià Calvet, Catalonia’s infrastructure minister.

Spanish commuters tend to be chattier than their UK counterparts on the underground, and scientists have warned that viral particles in saliva released when speaking inevitably lead to contagion in enclosed spaces.

James Badcock has the full story here

02:31 PM

Government’s approach to Covid-19 mass test trials 'not fit for purpose'

Following a Covid-19 mass testing trial currently taking place in Liverpool, more local authorities are set to conduct similar trials, Matt Hancock has announced. 

Kelly Klifa, co-founder of Testing For All, the not-for-profit company committed to making Covid-19 tests 'accessible and affordable' for everyone said that the Government's approach could do more "damage than good".

Ms Klifa said: “While we support mass testing as the best way to control the pandemic, we’re concerned that the way they’re currently being carried out could do more damage than good. 

“The lateral flow tests being trialled in Liverpool were manufactured to diagnose people already displaying symptoms of the virus. As such, these tests tend to miss lower viral loads*, which means they can fail to detect people at an early stage of infection. Asymptomatic patients also have lower viral loads in general, so also risk being missed by these tests. 

Given that these trials are aimed at testing people without symptoms, we believe that this current approach is unworkable and simply not fit for purpose.

02:26 PM

Dedicated GP vaccination clinics to deliver at 975 doses per week

Dedicated GP clinics are being set up to deliver coronavirus vaccines across England at a minimum of 975 doses per week each, according to new documents.

NHS England has told England's 1,250 primary care networks to designate a single practice to administer vaccines in their area capable of delivering vaccines from 8am to 8pm seven days a week, including on bank holidays if needed.

The practices will need to have fridge space available by December 1, and "capacity to administer minimum of 975 doses per week or greater".

Practices will receive a £12.58 payment for each dose of a coronavirus vaccine, meaning they will receive £25.16 for each patient vaccinated in a two-dose course, the document show.

02:21 PM

Vaccinations for care home residents and staff are 'top priority,' says Matt Hancock

Vaccinations for care home residents and staff are the "top priority," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons.

Conservative MP Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) asked for an "absolute reassurance" there will be enough vaccinations for all care home residents and staff.

Responding, Mr Hancock said: "The top priority according to the clinical analysis for this vaccine is the residents of care homes and the staff who work to look after them so well.

"They are in the very first categorisation because they're the most vulnerable to this disease."

02:16 PM

Choosing Covid-19 vaccine is like 'playing roulette,' says Jeremy Hunt

Conservative chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee Jeremy Hunt said choosing which vaccine to back "must be a bit like playing roulette," adding:

"To secure 40 million doses of the very first vaccine to prove efficacious is an enormous achievement for the country and he deserves great credit for that."

Jeremy Hunt describes choosing a vaccine to back is akin to roulette
Jeremy Hunt describes choosing a vaccine to back is akin to roulette

Mr Hunt said: "The biggest issue we face now is the fact that only around a fifth of the people that we ask to isolate are actually complying and of course we don't even know all the people that we would like to ask to isolate in the first place."

02:09 PM

More than 30,000 extra deaths at home in England and Wales during pandemic

More than 30,000 extra deaths have taken place in private homes in England and Wales since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Extra deaths - known as "excess deaths" - are the number of deaths that are above the average for the corresponding period in the previous five years.

A total of 31,684 excess deaths in homes in England and Wales were registered between March 7 and October 30, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Of this number, just 2,676 - or 8 per cent - were deaths involving Covid-19.

The figures show there are still many more people than normal who are dying in their own home.

Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically
Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically

02:02 PM

Health secretary says U.S. will ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus treatment

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said on Tuesday the U.S. government would ensure equitable distribution of Eli Lilly's antibody treatment for Covid-19 patients, starting first with hospitals and areas where there are many cases.

"We'll ensure equitable distribution, and we'll work tightly with our governors," Azar said, using the same process the government used with remdesivir, a drug used to treat people hospitalized with Covid-19.

Azar said health officials and Lily were exploring other ways to give the treatment outside hospitals, including outpatient infusion centers

Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - cases default

01:58 PM

Welsh Government says Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out in December

A coronavirus vaccine would be offered to people in high-risk groups in Wales as early as December if it passes final safety checks in time, the Welsh Government has said.

Health and social care workers, as well as care home residents and staff are in line to receive the jab first, before a roll-out to people in older age bands in the new year.

A Welsh Government spokesman said today: "Planning for the delivery of a potential Covid-19 vaccine in Wales is well under way.

"Health and social care workers, care home residents and staff have been prioritised to receive a vaccine first, with roll-out to older people in age bands from next year."

01:52 PM

Hancock to consider case for using rapid-result tests with people told to self-isolate

Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the Commons health committee, says only around one fifth of people being asked to self-isolate are complying.

He asks about Sir John Bell’s proposal for people asked to self-isolate to be given lateral flow tests. (See 12.50pm.)

Hancock says that option would not have been open if the government had not secured an expansion of later flow testing.

He pays tribute to Bell’s expertise. On this issue, he will take the advice of clinicians, he says. Ministers will want to look at the idea closely.

01:50 PM

France should cancel Christmas and New Year to avoid third wave says Paris hospital chief

France's traditional Christmas and New Year's celebrations should be cancelled this year over fears it could lead to a third Covid wave, according to a Paris hospital director.

Julien Lenglet said there was a risk that Christmas and New Year's Eve parties could end up as a "giant, intergenerational cluster” that could lead to a resurgence of the disease, which has already killed more than 40,000 people in France.

”I would say, without any hesitation, that we ought to cancel Christmas and Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve celebrations),” said Mr Lenglet, who works at the Antony Hospital in the Paris region.

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

 Read the full story here by Henry Samuel

01:47 PM

Health Secretary pledges swathe of testing to 67 directors of public health

The Health Secretary said he has written to 67 directors of public health about providing "10 per cent of their population per week" with tests.

Matt Hancock told the Commons: "The next step is to roll out this mass testing capability more widely.

"So I can tell the House that last night I wrote 67 directors of public health who have expressed an interest in making 10,000 tests available immediately and making available lateral flow tests for use by local officials, according to local needs, at a rate of 10 per cent of their population per week.

"That same capacity - 10 per cent of the population per week - will be made available to the devolved administrations too.

"By combining the local knowledge of public health leaders with our extensive national infrastructure, we can tackle this virus in our communities and help our efforts to bring the R down.

"Testing provides confidence and it is this confidence that will help get Britain back on our feet once more."

01:43 PM

Government acted 'quickly and decisively' in banning travel from Denmark

The UK Government acted "quickly and decisively" in introducing Covid travel restrictions with Denmark, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

Giving a Covid update in the Commons, he said: "On Thursday evening last I was alerted to a significant development in Denmark of a new evidence that the virus had spread back from mink to humans in a variant form that did not fully respond to Covid-19 antibodies.

"Although the chance of this variant becoming widespread is low, the consequences should that happen would be grave, so working with the Home Secretary and the Transport Secretary, and all the devolved administrations, we removed the travel corridor for travel from Denmark in the early hours of Friday morning.

"On Saturday and over the weekend following further clinical analysis, we introduced a full ban on all international travel from Denmark.

"British nationals or residents who are returning from Denmark whether directly or indirectly can still travel here but must fully self-isolate along with all other members of their household until two weeks since they were in Denmark.

01:42 PM

Unclear how much of UK population needs to be vaccinated to stop Covid-19

The Health Secretary has said the Government does not know how much of the population would need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to stop the pandemic. 

Mr Hancock told MPs: "We don't know what proportion of the population vaccination needs to reach in order to stop the epidemic."

We cannot know the results until after the vaccine has been rolled out, he added. 

01:38 PM

Faith in the benefits of vaccines drops across the globe

New polling from Ipsos MORI finds a drop in the number of people globally that believe all recommended vaccines are beneficial to them and their families. 

  • Three quarters (75 per cent) of Britons agree recommended vaccines are beneficial compared to 83 per cent in 2019.

  •  In Italy there is an even bigger downturn, with Italy down 12 percentage points to 65 per cent.  

  • US down 17 percentage points to 63 per cent agreement.

  • France continues to have low levels of support for vaccines, now down to 54 per cent from 63 per cent last year.

01:35 PM

'Hard days ahead,' says Matt Hancock

Hancock says human history is marked by advances reliant on human ingenuity. We must come together as one to defeat this threat.

There are many hard days ahead, he says. But is certain that we will prevail.

01:32 PM

Hancock claims the UK has testing capacity of 518,000 per day

Hancock says the UK now has PCR testing capacity of 518,000 tests a day.

But the government is also focusing on new tests.

Last week lateral flow tests, which can deliver a result in under 15 minutes, were rolled out to Liverpool.

He says from today these tests will allow twice weekly testing will be rolled out for all NHS staff.

The next step is to roll it out more widely, he says.

He says last night he wrote to 66 councils interested in using these tests. They will get the capacity to test 10 per cent of their population per week.

Equivalent help will be offered to the devolved administrations, he says.

01:31 PM

Matt Hancock updates MPs with coronavirus vaccine rollout plan from December

Matt Hancock has told MPs the Government has secured 40m doses of the Pfizer vaccine with 300m doses ordered from other vaccine candidates

'We do not have a vaccine yet but we are one step closer,' the Health Secretary has said adding the Government  will not approve a vaccine until it is 'clinically safe'. 

It is unknown whether vaccine will reduce the impact in reducing coronavirus transmission, he said. 

'Beat this virus we must, and beat this virus we will,' Mr Hancock said. 

01:22 PM

Iranian Paralympic bodybuilder 'facing death penalty' for criticising coronavirus rules

Iran’s Paralympics world champion has been arrested and could face the death penalty after he questioned why gyms have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic while religious shrines are allowed to remain open.

Reza Tabrizi, a bodybuilding silver medal winner in the 2011 New Zealand Paralympics, had claimed it was “hypocritical” to close down sports facilities in the holy city of Mashad but still allow pilgrims into the Imam Reza Shrine.

According to Iranian activists, religious hardliners burst into Mr Tabrizi’s gym and arrested him just hours after he made the critical comments on his Instagram page, accusing him of insulting religious believers and being a “stooge” of French president Emmanuel Macron. 

 Read the full story here by Ahmed Vahdat and James Rothwell.

01:15 PM

Mass testing to be rolled out across 66 local authorities, ministers confirm

Mass coronavirus testing will be rolled out across 66 local authorities, the Health Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock said he had written to every director of public health in England on Monday offering to make available the new lateral flow tests which have been used in the Liverpool mass testing pilot.

Areas including Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands will receive the new tests, Mr Hancock said.

Lateral flow tests, with a turnaround time of under an hour, have been available since Friday for people who live and work in Liverpool and do not have symptoms.

A British Army soldier, 1st battalion Coldstream Guards, records and processes tests at a coronavirus testing centre set up at the Merseyside Caribbean Council Community Centre in Liverpool, north west England,  - Oli Scarff/AFP
A British Army soldier, 1st battalion Coldstream Guards, records and processes tests at a coronavirus testing centre set up at the Merseyside Caribbean Council Community Centre in Liverpool, north west England, - Oli Scarff/AFP

01:11 PM

Sweden registers 15,779 new Covid-19 cases since Friday

Sweden, whose soft-touch virus approach has sparked world-wide attention, has registered new 15,779 coronavirus cases since its previous update on Friday, Health Agency statistics showed today..

The number compares with 10,177 cases for the corresponding period last week. Cases in the Nordic country, which does not publish updated Covid-19 data over the weekend and Mondays, have risen sharply, repeatedly hitting daily records over the last two weeks.

Sweden registered 35 new deaths, taking the total to 15,779 during the pandemic. Sweden's death rate per capita is several times higher than Nordic neighbours but lower than some larger European countries, such as Spain and Britain.

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

01:03 PM

Moscow to close restaurants and clubs overnight for two months from Nov 1

 Restaurants and nightclubs in Moscow will be forbidden from serving customers between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. for two months, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Tuesday, in an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Sobyanin, writing on his personal website, said these measures would be in place from November 13 until January 15.

During that period, schoolchildren would also have to stick to online remote learning. 

12:55 PM

Lockdown bites at UK box office as number one film takes only £51

When British filmmaker Jonny Owen set about making his football documentary, The Three Kings, he probably never anticipated that it would end up topping the UK and Ireland box office when released into cinemas.

But an unlikely series of events has led to precisely this outcome. The temporary closure of cinemas in England last Thursday under new lockdown measures, added to existing closures in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and parts of Scotland, meant that just 22 venues (all in Scotland) reported weekend box-office takings to the data gatherer Comscore.

And thanks to Comscore’s policy of adding preview takings into the totals for new releases, The Three Kings tops the official box office chart with £3,521 including previews – ahead of notionally more popular films such as Liam Neeson actioner Honest Thief and family animation Two by Two: Overboard!

In fact, The Three Kings grossed just £51 from two cinemas for the weekend period – the rest of its £3,521 were earned last week from preview play

Read Charles Grant's full story here

12:48 PM

Rapid £10 Covid 'bubble test' launched for groups of up to 10 people

A rapid £10 coronavirus test that can be used on "bubbles" of up to 10 people at once has been launched for British consumers.

The £10 Covid-19 test from DnaNudge can provide results within 90 minutes  - PA
The £10 Covid-19 test from DnaNudge can provide results within 90 minutes - PA

The test from DnaNudge, an Imperial College London spinout company, is available for people without Covid-19 symptoms and is able to return results in 90 minutes.

DnaNudge said it is now open for online bookings for the test at its store in London's Covent Garden.

A postal at-home service is due to be launched across the UK "within weeks", the company added.

12:42 PM

Parents urged to keep childhood vaccination appointments during lockdown

Parents are being urged to keep childhood vaccination appointments during national coronavirus restrictions.

Public Health England (PHE) is reminding parents and guardians that lockdown measures should not stop children from receiving life-saving vaccines.

Between March and April, there was a decline in the number of children receiving MMR vaccines, and hexavalent vaccines - VCG
Between March and April, there was a decline in the number of children receiving MMR vaccines, and hexavalent vaccines - VCG

It says the NHS is ensuring that appointments are still available and that routine jabs should continue to go ahead.

PHE said during the first few weeks of the first lockdown in March and April, there was a decline in the number of children receiving MMR vaccines, and hexavalent vaccines - the six in one jab that covers diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b and hepatitis B.

It suggests a possible explanation is that Covid-19 messaging about staying at home initially overwhelmed the message that the immunisation programme was operating as usual.

12:34 PM

Chance of normality after Easter, says scientific advisor to Government

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government's vaccine taskforce, said there was a chance of normality starting to resume after Easter provided "they don't screw up the distribution of the vaccine".

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt asked: "What are your percentage chances in this situation of getting to Easter and having vaccinated the vulnerable, the most vulnerable parts of our population, so that post-Easter we could think about resuming to normality?"

Appearing before MPs, Prof Bell replied: "I think we've got a 70, 80 per cent chance of doing that.

"That's provided they don't screw up the distribution of the vaccine, that's not my job. But provided they don't screw that up, it'll all be fine."

12:28 PM

End-of-year exams in Wales to be scrapped in 2021 amid Coronavirus disruption

End of year exams in Wales will be scrapped in 2021, Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams has announced.

GCSE, AS-level and A-level exams will be replaced by coursework and assessments amid ongoing disruption to schools caused by the coronavirus. 

Wales will scrap their end of year school exams, the country's education minister has said - Geoff Caddick
Wales will scrap their end of year school exams, the country's education minister has said - Geoff Caddick

Ms Williams said the ongoing pandemic made it "impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place" and the decision "removes pressures from learners".

She said: "The well-being of learners and ensuring fairness across the system is central in our decision-making process.

Read the full article here

12:15 PM

Will 'mink Covid' be the final death knell for fur in fashion?

‘Mink Covid’. It doesn’t have quite the same ring as ‘mink coat’, does it?

But in a matter of days, the word association has shifted after a new strain of the coronavirus was discovered in mink at farms in Denmark.

A cull of millions of animals was planned - though this has now been scaled back following opposition from MPs - in a bid to halt further mutation. Hospitals have been put on alert and arrivals from the country have been banned in Britain.

Matt Cartoon - Matt Pritchett 
Matt Cartoon - Matt Pritchett

This was the last thing that the fur industry needed after years of decline. In the UK and in many other countries, wearing pelts has transformed from being a glamorous signal of wealth and opulence to being considered outdated and cruel. 

Some of the most high-profile fashion houses in the world - including Gucci, Burberry, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Chanel - have stopped using fur in their collections while labels like Shrimps and Stand Studio have elevated faux alternatives

Read the full piece here by Bethan Holt

12:08 PM

Comment: 'This vaccine breakthrough is undoubtedly the best news we've had all year'

There may be obstacles ahead, but this is a game-changer for Britain and all locked-down countries around the world, writes Patrick O'Flynn.

If things work out the way most scientists now think they will then stop the gloomy talk of there being no “magic bullet” against Covid and of social distancing being here to stay will soon be confined to a few purists of pessimism who will be trampled in the stampede of people rushing back to their old lives.

Read Patrick O'Flynn's full commentary here

12:00 PM

Putin says all Russian Covid-19 vaccines are effective

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said all Russian vaccines against Covid-19 were effective, adding that the country would soon register a third shot against the virus. 

A medic of the regional hospital receives Russia's "Sputnik-V" vaccine shot against the coronavirus disease - Tatyana Makyeva/Reuters
A medic of the regional hospital receives Russia's "Sputnik-V" vaccine shot against the coronavirus disease - Tatyana Makyeva/Reuters

Russia is rolling out its Sputnik V vaccine for domestic use despite the fact that late-stage trials have not yet finished, and today said it was more than 90 per cent effective, following earlier comments by vaccine developers Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, who said the same of their experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

"There are already two registered vaccines. And studies have already shown and confirmed that, firstly, these vaccines are safe and have no serious side-effects after use, and secondly, they are all effective," said Putin via video conference at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit meeting.

11:53 AM

'Balance between supply and demand forecast' of Covid-19 'wasn't right,' admits Dido Harding

Baroness Dido Harding, chair of NHS Test and Trace, acknowledged that the "balance between supply and the demand forecast" of Covid-19 testing towards the end of the summer "wasn't right".

Pushed on why the demand for testing was not anticipated when schools reopened, she said: "I said that we did not anticipate the exact amount, correct.

"But we were expecting demand to grow and we were growing capacity faster than any other European country to meet it."

With the benefit of hindsight, the balance between supply and the demand forecast wasn't right, clearly that's true.

11:48 AM

Less than a quarter of Britons have flown since the start of the pandemic

A new study has shown that less than a quarter of Britons have flown since the start of the pandemic, highlighting the scale of the challenge the travel industry is facing.

The introduction of 'travel corridors' didn’t convince the majority of Britons to travel abroad - Noam Galai /Getty Images North America 
The introduction of 'travel corridors' didn’t convince the majority of Britons to travel abroad - Noam Galai /Getty Images North America

This bleak figure comes from Inmarsat's new Passenger Confidence Tracker,  the largest global survey of air passengers since the pandemic began. The report studied the attitudes of almost 10,000 air travellers from 12 countries, including 1,000 Britons.

The main reason given for consumers' reticence was concerns over quarantine, rather than catching Covid-19. Even the introduction of travel corridors this summer couldn’t convince the vast majority of Britons to travel abroad.

Emma Cooke has the full story

11:39 AM

Italian veteran serenades wife in hospital

An Italian former soldier is offering comfort to his wife in hospital by serenading her on his accordion, Nick Squires reports. 

Stefano Bozzini is a former Alpino, a member of Italy's elite mountain warfare regiment.

His wife Carla is in hospital but he is not allowed to visit her because of anti-Covid 19 restrictions.

Instead he is serenading her from a courtyard beneath her hospital window in the town of Castel San Giovanni in northern Italy.

Video
Video

11:36 AM

Discovery of novel gene in SARS-CoV-2 raises hopes of anti-viral therapies

Researchers have discovered a new gene in the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19, which they hope will provide vital information on its unique biological make-up and offer new possibilities for anti-viral treatments.

The study shows that ORF3d makes a new protein – necessary for the infection process – that is not present in the genome of the original Sars virus
The study shows that ORF3d makes a new protein – necessary for the infection process – that is not present in the genome of the original Sars virus

The new peer-reviewed study, by an international team led by Chase W. Nelson, a postdoctoral research fellow at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica and Zachery Ardern, a junior group leader at the Technical University of Munich, is published in the eLife scientific journal today.

It reveals a novel gene in the SARS-CoV-2 genome that the scientific community had previously overlooked because it overlaps with another unrelated gene, known as ORF3b. The new gene, now called ORF3d, is also found in pangolins native to Guangxi province in southern China.

“This is a recently evolved novel gene that therefore is a top candidate to explain some of the unique biological attributes of the virus. Because the genome is only around 15 genes total, one could make a huge difference,” explained Dr Nelson

Nicola Smith has the full story here

11:32 AM

Baroness Harding: Track and Trace system was trying to 'react as fast as we possibly can'

Baroness Dido Harding, chair of NHS Test and Trace, said the system was trying to "react as fast as we possibly can" when there is an increased demand for testing.

She told a joint session of the Commons health and social care and science and technology committees there was currently more capacity than demand, which was something to be "hopeful and optimistic" about.

Asked why the system was not prepared for an increase in demand when children returned to school after summer, Baroness Harding told MPs: "The reality is that we are all learning about Covid.

We're learning about how the disease behaves and we're learning about how all of us as human beings in the society behave, and we're seeing that learning happening in real time across the whole world.What we're trying to do in NHS Test and Trace with Public Health England is react as fast as we possibly can and I hope what you can see is that system has reacted incredibly fast.

11:28 AM

We should be concerned about the 'mink virus', but not for the reasons you think

Paranoia has lapped the globe after Denmark revealed it would cull its entire population of 17 million mink to stem the spread of a new Sars-Cov-2 mutation.

Members of Danish health authorities assisted by the country's armed forces dispose of dead minks in a military area near Holstebro in Denmark - Morten Stricker/Shutterstock 
Members of Danish health authorities assisted by the country's armed forces dispose of dead minks in a military area near Holstebro in Denmark - Morten Stricker/Shutterstock

The variant, known as “cluster five”, was identified in a dozen people who fell sick in September. The discovery sparked drastic action after warnings the strain appeared resistant to antibodies in people who had previously been infected with Covid. 

According to experts at the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) in Copenhagen, cluster five could undermine a vaccine if it spreads internationally as the mutations are focused around the spike protein – which most immunisations target. 

Meanwhile Britain banned entry to all non-resident foreigners coming from the Nordic country, while UK citizens returning from Denmark and their households must isolate for 14 days. Passenger planes, ships and lorries carrying freight from Denmark are no longer able to cross the border.  Hospitals were put on alert

But a string of experts have suggested concerns about vaccine efficacy are overblown. 

“While it’s not impossible that a single mutation could interfere with vaccine effectiveness, it’s unlikely,” Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute in  California, wrote on Twitter

Read Sarah Newey's full article here 

11:22 AM

Financial difficulties could explain why people fail to self-isolate, says Baroness Harding

NHS Test and Trace chief Baroness Harding acknowledged that financial difficulties could be one of the factors in people failing to stay at home for the 14-day self-isolation period.

Baroness Dido Harding - Aaron Chown /PA
Baroness Dido Harding - Aaron Chown /PA

A payment of £500 is available for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home and face a financial hit as a result.

Asked whether a more generous system would help, Lady Harding told MPs: "All the evidence shows that people are not complying with isolation not because they don't want to, but because they find it very difficult.

"The need to keep earning and to be able to feed your family is a fundamental element of it, which is why I think the financial support payment is a very good thing."

She said the actual sum of money on offer "was a decision for the Government, for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor".

11:18 AM

Five priorities for Joe Biden's Covid-19 task force

The president-elect has put tackling the pandemic at the top of his to-do list:

  • Masks have become one of the new fronts in the US culture wars – but Mr Biden, who was regularly pictured wearing a mask during the election campaign - would like to see them de-weaponised and normalised.  

  • Mr Biden has said that he will invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free”. 

  • There is no national contact tracing system in the US and while state and county-wide programmes have been stepped up since the start of the pandemic most public health experts report the system is not working.

  • Combating misinformation and listening to science - Mr Trump mocked his presidential rival at a campaign rally in October for saying he would “listen to the science, adding that if he had followed experts’ advice the country would be in a “massive depression”.

  • The US used to be known for its military-style readiness to tackle disease outbreaks but cuts to various pandemic programmes are one reason why it was ill prepared to fight the coronavirus.

Read the full article here by Anne Gulland

11:11 AM

Covid-19 may not have emerged in Wuhan, says leading virus hunter

One of the world’s leading experts on emerging diseases, who helped discover the origins of the deadly 2003 Sars outbreak, believes Covid-19 could have emerged from Southeast Asia or southern China, and not the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the respiratory disease was first discovered last year.

The coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January - Aly Song/Reuters
The coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in January - Aly Song/Reuters

With more than 1.2 million dead and few signs of the global pandemic slowing down, dedicated virus hunters like Professor Wang Linfa, a renowned biologist in Singapore, are urgently sleuthing in laboratories across Asia to find the source of Covid-19 and ensure it never wreaks such havoc again.

“It’s almost impossible to imagine this virus came from Wuhan,” he said of the central Chinese metropolis of 11 million where the world first witnessed the horrors of thousands being struck by a highly contagious and mysterious virus that caused at times fatal respiratory problems. 

Nicola Smith has the full story here

11:06 AM

Watch live: MPs question Baroness Harding on performance of Test and Trace programme

11:02 AM

UK theatre could 'return to normal' by spring, says Andrew Lloyd Webber

The composer and theatre impresario, who has been part of the Oxford University vaccine trial, said he was determined to open his new production of Cinderella in May "come whatever happens".

The 72-year-old added: "I am just not going to be taking no for an answer there."

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Lord Lloyd-Webber said he felt "very positive" that "one way or the other" a successful vaccine would be widely available by the end of next year.

Andrew Lloyd Webber - Evan Agostini /Invision 
Andrew Lloyd Webber - Evan Agostini /Invision

Responding to the suggestion theatres could return before summer, he said: "That's what I have been planning for. I have decided I am going to go into rehearsals with my Cinderella now in March and then we are going to open in May. I am determined to open in May come whatever happens. I am just not going to be taking no for an answer there.

"But I do think that what everybody is saying is actually very spot on. My guess is that things will start to return to normal sort of April/May time."

10:59 AM

'Test and trace is not a silver bullet'

Baroness Dido Harding, chair of NHS Test and Trace, said that testing and tracing was not a "silver bullet" to holding back the spread of coronavirus.

When asked by the health and social care and science and technology committees why the service had not stopped a second wave of infections, she said: "Much as I would love that testing and tracing on its own would be a silver bullet to holding back the tide of Covid, unfortunately the evidence in the UK and in every other country in Europe is that's not the case.

"That, actually, the way we have to tackle the disease is through a variety of different interventions and we are one of the ways, not the only way."

Baroness Harding also said the R number was much lower during the second wave than in the first and part of that was due to the test and trace system.

10:43 AM

Yorkshir Ripper treated for Covid-19 in hospital

Peter Sutcliffe, 74, was being treated at the University Hospital of North Durham, three miles from the maximum security Frankland jail where he is an inmate.

Two weeks ago, the serial killer was treated at the same hospital after suffering a suspected heart attack. He went back to prison but has since returned after developing coronavirus.

Peter Sutcliffe - Bettmann 
Peter Sutcliffe - Bettmann

Sutcliffe has a range of conditions including heart trouble, diabetes and obesity, it has been reported.

He is serving a whole life term for murdering 13 women across Yorkshire and the North West between 1975 and 1980.

10:31 AM

Several vaccines may emerge in next few months, says Oxford professor

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Government's vaccine taskforce, said he would not be surprised if there were "two or three vaccines" in the coming months following the Pfizer/BioNTech announcement.

"I think this journey to a vaccine has been a long journey and I think there's a risk that people will underestimate the importance of the announcement yesterday," he told a joint session of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee.

"The big challenge here was to find a vaccine that actually had efficacy against this virus. There are many pathogens for which we have looked for decades and not found a vaccine that works."

Calling it a "massive step forward", he added: "It also signals, I think, that many of the other vaccines that have the same immunogenicity are likely also to be efficacious.

"So I wouldn't be surprised if we hit the new year with two or three vaccines, all of which could be distributed."

10:20 AM

Palestinian negotiator dies aged 65

Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator, has died at the age of 65.

Erekat, who underwent a lung transplant in the United States in 2017, tested positive for coronavirus in early October.  He was taken to Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center in a serious condition on Oct 18.

"Fatah mourns its great national son, Dr. Saeb Erekat," a social media post by his party Fatah read.

Saeb Erekat - Mario Ruiz/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Saeb Erekat - Mario Ruiz/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

One of the most prominent Palestinian politicians of the last few decades, Erekat was a major part of negotiations between the Palestinian officials and Israel during intensive peace process negotiations in the 1990s.

He served as deputy head of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference in 1991, as the administration of President George H.W. Bush pushed forward efforts to advance a resolution to the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict.

10:14 AM

Test and trace: Public not reporting all contacts to avoid forcing them to self-isolate

Professor Dominic Harrison, director of public health at Blackburn  and Darwen Borough Council, said people were probably under-reporting their contacts to protect their friends and family from having to self-isolate.

Prof Harrison told the health and social care and science and technology committees that the national test and trace system was only getting three contacts per case interview, which seemed "improbable".

He added: "People are reluctant to give their full list of contacts because what they don't want to do is to cause the rest of their family - who perhaps have one low-wage basic income earner in a household - and they don't want to have to trigger them into isolation and lose their capacity to feed their family.

"We feel people are under-reporting the number of contacts they probably really had because what they are doing is protecting their family members and friends from being identified and being asked to self-isolate as close contacts."

10:01 AM

Test and trace 'always a leaky system', claims epidemiologist

Dame Anne Johnson, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, told a joint session of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee that contact tracing is "always a leaky system".

"So even with the best contact tracing system, given what we now know, which is that around 40% of cases are asymptomatic, you will never, even with the best system, be able to identify those cases," the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member told MPs.

"There are losses at every stage of that cascade. People may not get tested if they're symptomatic, they may not isolate, they may not report all their contacts, and so on.

"And so it's always been a leaky system."

Dame Anne said that contact tracing was "only one part of the system", emphasising the benefits of other non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as face coverings and social distancing.

09:46 AM

Lapland holidays suspended

Tui has suspended all Lapland holidays for customers from the UK and Ireland this winter.

The tour operator said in a statement: "Tui UK and Ireland today regrets to confirm it has made the incredibly difficult decision to suspend holidays to Lapland this winter, due to the continued uncertainty surrounding travel and the unprecedented impact of Covid-19.

"Visiting Santa is a truly magical, once in a lifetime family experience, and Tui has worked extremely hard in recent months to try to ensure it can keep the magic alive and guarantee children and their parents a safe and enjoyable holiday.

Lapland in Finland - Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP
Lapland in Finland - Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

"However, with the rapidly evolving travel environment and a Covid test soon to be mandatory for Finland, Tui UK and Ireland has decided that on this occasion, it would not be able to deliver on this promise and wanted to remove uncertainty for families.

"The health, safety and enjoyment of customers and colleagues continues to be Tui's number one priority."

09:36 AM

Test and trace 'too biased' towards national teams, argues health official

Professor Sir Chris Ham, chairman of Coventry and Warwickshire Health and Care Partnership, said the Government had built a test and trace system "too biased" towards national teams.

The former chief executive of the King's Fund told the health and social care and science and technology committees that since the early phase of the pandemic, there had been a shift towards more local leadership.

He added: "The difficulty we have is the Government has built a test, trace and isolate system too much biased towards the national and too late in providing the resources and staff at a local level where most of the effective work on contact tracing has to be done.

"On contact tracing specifically, the Government chose to go down the route of bringing in private sector expertise through Serco and Sitel to run the national system and only belatedly has recognised the expertise that exists within our councils and our public health teams.

"So there has been a shift from that national orientation back in March and April through to much more local leadership today.

"But it has been too slow and if the Government had moved much more quickly over the summer when the number of infections had fallen, we would be in a much better position today for our councils and public health teams to do the necessary work."

09:19 AM

Safety body's work is 'radically improving' speed of vaccine rollout, says Health Secretary

Matt Hancock said the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency had been working closely with the companies - Pfizer and AstraZeneca - to expedite the process regarding safety data.

"They have been looking at the data all the way through rather than waiting, as is normal, for the end of the process for all the data to be then handed over for them to start looking at it," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"That means the regulator will be able to make a judgment on whether this is clinically safe, not just the company's word for it, but do that within a matter of days from a formal licence application.

"That radically improves the speed at which we can get this done."

08:58 AM

'The Covid-19 vaccine could be just what Boris needs to save his premiership'

"The vaccine news has put a spring into Boris’ rhetoric – he is talking again about the “scientific cavalry” coming over the hill," writes The Telegraph's Ross Clark.

"The news can’t help but to change the debate. It isn’t merely the proverbial dead cat tossed into a political debate to change the subject; it is an entire bag of feline cadavers.

"Suddenly, the world is no longer talking about the prospect of potentially having to live with the virus for decades to come; the prospect of a vaccine seems real and immediate.

"Although it will be several months at least before it becomes widely available, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has already revived a few dead donkeys – not least Rolls Royce, whose shares surged 50 percent on the news. Will it have a similarly levitating effect on Boris Johnson’s flagging premiership?"

Read the full column here.

08:52 AM

Record-breaking redundancy levels this year

More people were made redundant between July and September than at any point on record, according to new official statistics, as the pandemic laid waste to large parts of the economy.

Around 314,000 redundancies were registered during the three months, up by 181,000 from the quarter before, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The data suggests that unemployment in the UK reached 4.8% in the three months to September, with 1.62 million people being unemployed.

It is an increase of 0.7 percentage points on the quarter before, and 0.9 percentage points from a year ago.

Meanwhile, around 33,000 people were dropped from payrolls last month, adding to the 782,000 reduction in payrolls since March this year, when the pandemic struck.

08:32 AM

Schoolchildren exercise in Palestine

Pictured are Palestinian schoolchildren taking part in their morning exercises at a private school in Gaza.

Since the start of the pandemic more than 58,500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 478 deaths have been reported in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, according to the World Health Organization.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat is in a critical condition with Covid-19 and has been placed on a ventilator, the Israeli hospital treating him says.

On Sunday, the 65-year-old was rushed to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem from his home in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank.

His condition was described as "serious but stable", and he was given oxygen.

Gaza - Mohammed Abed/AFP
Gaza - Mohammed Abed/AFP

08:23 AM

20 million people set to receive vaccine

Matt Hancock said the 40 million doses of the vaccine the Government had secured from Pfizer will be enough to roll it out to 20 million people.

The Health Secretary said the Government had invested in six different vaccines to make sure there will be enough for everyone who needs it.

"We have secured 40 million doses in total of the Pfizer vaccine and that means we can roll it out to 20 million people because it requires two doses per person," he said.

"This is why we have been buying across the board. We need to secure enough for everybody who needs one according to that clinical prioritisation."

07:59 AM

66 local authorities to roll out mass testing

"I can confirm that we are rolling out the sort of mass testing we are seeing in Liverpool, and indeed we earlier piloted in Stoke-on-Trent, across 66 local authorities," said Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.

"Last night I wrote to the directors of public health of all local authorities in England saying we can make available these brilliant new lateral flow tests that give results in 15 minutes, and we can make them available to directors of public health right across the country.

"Sixty-six expressed an interest in the first instance, I'm now expecting a whole load more. And, of course, across the devolved nations."

07:43 AM

Many steps to take before rolling out vaccine, says Health Secretary

Matt Hancock said that while latest trials showing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 90% effective were "very promising", there were many more steps to be taken before it is rolled out.

Speaking on Sky News, he warned that people still had to follow the current restrictions until the vaccine is found to be safe and licensed for use.

Mr Hancock added: "This is very promising news but it is one step of many that we need to take to get out of this and to tackle this pandemic once and for all.

"I think it is absolutely reasonable for people to see this as a step forward but we have got to know this is one step amongst many that we collectively need to take.

"The critical thing is that for all your viewers is that we all keep our resolve on measures that are currently in place now because it will still take some time for this good news that the Pfizer vaccine is around 90% effective, to proving it is safe, being able to licence it, and then the vast task, which obviously we have been working on for some time, of making sure that everybody in the population can get the jab."

07:31 AM

How groundbreaking Covid vaccine science has given the world hope

Although Pfizer BioNTech are yet to publish full results, British scientists reacted to the announcement with glee, hailing the interim findings as "exciting", "important" and "amazing".

Professor Peter Horby, leading coronavirus drug trials at Oxford University, said the news had left him "smiling from ear to ear", while Sir John Bell, leading Oxford's vaccine team, said he now believed life would be back to normal by the spring.

"I'm really delighted with this result for no other reason than it shows you can make a vaccine against this little critter," he said.

So what do we know about the vaccine? How will it work? When will it be available? And what hurdles are there still to overcome?

Read our science editor Sarah Knapton's explainer here.

07:17 AM

Vaccine provides 'no guarantees', warns Downing Street

Boris Johnson and his Canadian counterpart have welcomed reports that pharmaceutical companies have made a major coronavirus vaccine breakthrough, but urged caution.

The Prime Minister and Justin Trudeau used telephone talks on Monday to discuss the Covid-19 crisis. The two leaders also spoke about climate change, and the aims of the UK presidency of the G7 group of major industrialised nations next year.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "They discussed the coronavirus pandemic and welcomed the promising results from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trials - but agreed that these are early days and there are no guarantees."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it will be a "colossal exercise" to roll out a new coronavirus vaccine should it become available.

He said the NHS was now working with the armed forces to ensure they were ready as soon as a vaccine was cleared for use.

06:59 AM

Romanian man sleeps in protection bubble

Pictured is a man sleeping inside a protection bubble used by a pub for its customers as part of coronavirus social distancing measures, during a newly-instated curfew in Bucharest.

The Romanian government imposed the 30-day nationwide curfew starting November 9, with people's movements prohibited between 11pm and 5am, and mandatory mask-wearing in all public spaces.

Romania reported a record 10,260 new Covid-19 cases on Nov 6, the highest single-day increase to date in the eastern European countries.

Bucharest - Daniel Mihailescu/AFP
Bucharest - Daniel Mihailescu/AFP

06:44 AM

Covid-19 patients more at risk of psychiatric disorders

Having coronavirus may be linked to an increase in a person's risk of psychiatric disorders, and having a psychiatric disorder is linked to an increased chance of contracting Covid-19, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Oxford, department of psychiatry and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre studied the TriNetX electronic health records of 69 million people in the US, including more than 62,000 cases of Covid-19.

The findings indicate that in the period between 14 and 90 days after Covid-19 diagnosis, 18.1% people received a psychiatric diagnosis within 90 days of contracting the virus, including 5.8% who were a first diagnosis.

According to the study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, in the three months after testing positive for the virus, one in five survivors were found to receive a diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia, for the first time.

06:30 AM

Firm behind vaccine breakthrough produced Viagra and penicillin

The history of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant which has achieved a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough, started with the treatment for another scourge of the time: parasitical worms.

Charles Pfizer, a migrant from Germany and trained chemist, founded the firm a year after his arrival in New York with cousin Charles Erhart, a confectioner, in 1849.

Their first development, an anti-parasitic called santonin, treated intestinal worms which were common in the United States at the time.

It went on to help the Union Army in the US as demands for painkillers and disinfectants grew during the Civil War.

Many decades later, Pfizer was the first company to mass produce penicillin. It is said most of the penicillin carried by soldiers on D-Day was developed by the company.

One of its most notable drugs, erectile dysfunction medication Viagra, was discovered in 1989 and approved in 1998, with its success leading Pfizer to seek to merge with a number of other pharma companies.

01:39 AM

Today's top stories

Good morning - here is the top coronavirus news today: