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Live Reporting

Edited by Paul Gribben and Robert Greenall

All times stated are UK

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  1. Your catch-up on today's events

    As our live page draws to a close, here is a round-up of the main coronavirus news today.

  2. Italy announces highest daily death toll

    Mark Lowen

    BBC News, Rome

    Woman cycles past empty restaurant in Rome
    Image caption: Italy responded to a recent surge in cases with a new round of restrictions

    It was a milestone Italians knew would be a matter of time before they hit: the day when the country would exceed the highest death toll of the first wave – 969 on 27 March. And now it’s happened. With 993 deaths recorded in the past 24 hours, Italy has had its deadliest day of the pandemic. The numbers are hard to fathom.

    The chink of light is that the infection rate is gradually decreasing. While cases remain high –above 23,000 today – the rate of positive results to number of tests has decreased in the past week from 12.4% to 10.2%. The curve is flattening. But as in the first wave, it takes time for the death toll to catch up, since many of today’s fatalities were infected around the peak of the second wave in early November.

    After grim figures, Italians are bracing themselves for a less-than-happy Christmas with tightened restrictions. They’ll be banned from moving between regions, forced to self-isolate if they come into the country from abroad, ordered to obey night-time curfews around Christmas Day and New Year and told only to celebrate Christmas lunch with close family. This country has been devastated by the first and now the second wave. It fears a third.

  3. US Supreme Court orders review of California church restrictions

    A general view of the US Supreme Court building at sunset in Washington, U.S. November 10, 2020.

    The US Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to reconsider a challenge to pandemic-related restrictions on religious services in California.

    The ruling sided with a church that had challenged the policy as unconstitutional religious discrimination, throwing out a lower court ruling rejecting their case.

    The Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry has more than 160 churches in the state, according to AP news agency.

    California Governor Gavin Newsom has put heavy restrictions on religious services amid a rise in coronavirus cases.

    Under the current rules, houses of worship in the state’s worst-hit areas cannot hold indoor gatherings. Elsewhere, there are restrictions on capacity.

    The ruling on Thursday came after the Supreme Court last week barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues.

  4. Quarantine rules to be relaxed for business travellers

    A woman with a suitcase

    Quarantine rules are set to be eased for business travellers in England, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said.

    From 04:00 GMT on Saturday, 5 December, the following people will no longer need to self-isolate when returning to England from a country not in a travel corridor:

    • "High-value" business travellers
    • Performing arts workers
    • TV production staff
    • Journalists
    • Recently-signed sports professionals

    For business travellers, their trips must result in a deal which creates or preserves 50 jobs or leads to a £100,000 investment or order, according to the Department for Transport.

    Read more on this story here

  5. Prince Charles 'praying' for return of arts

    The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall watch a short rehearsal performance
    Image caption: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were joined at Soho Theatre by Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London

    Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall have been visiting entertainment venues in Soho, London, today to find out how the arts and entertainment sector has been coping during the pandemic.

    The couple were treated to an intimate performance at Soho Theatre - of the one-woman play Half Breed by Natasha Marshall.

    The actress revealed she had to dash from her Morrisons supermarket job to do the gig in front of the royals and was still wearing her uniform.

    She told the prince and his wife: "I've got to go back later so it was easier to keep it on, I'll be in such a rush.

    "The theatre has supported me so much I jumped at the chance to perform today."

    Charles replied: "That's marvellous, such dedication. I really enjoyed the performance and I am praying all of you can open soon."

    Prince Charles speaks to bar staff during a visit to the Soho Theatre in London
    Image caption: Many entertainment venues are battling to stay in business because of the restrictions
  6. Analysis: Wave two is lower and slower than wave one

    Robert Cuffe

    BBC head of statistics

    So far, wave two has been lower and slower than wave one.

    About 80% of deaths involving coronavirus happened before August, and most of those happened in just one month.

    Almost 10,000 coronavirus deaths a week were registered in consecutive weeks in April.

    In this second wave, it looks like the peak figures – assuming infections keep falling before widespread vaccination takes place – might be closer to 3,000 than 4,000.

    And, as in wave one, those over 75 account for about 75% of the deaths, suggesting that vaccinating over-75s could stem the vast majority of future deaths.

    This time around, the spread of deaths around the country has looked quite different.

    In the spring and summer, London and the North West of England each accounted for about 15% of coronavirus deaths in the UK.

    But in this wave, London’s share is down, closer to 5% whereas the North West is just under 25%.

  7. UK cases and hospital admissions fall, but deaths stay high

    As the UK becomes the first European country to record a death toll of over 60,000, the daily reported deaths remain high at an average of 441 over the last 7 days.

    Graph showing daily reported deaths in the UK

    But confirmed cases show a marked fall following England's nationwide lockdown and stricter measures elsewhere in the UK.

    Graph showing daily confirmed cases

    It also seems to have had an impact on daily hospital admissions, which have fallen to an average of 1,395 a day in the seven days up to 26 November, from a high of 1765 a day on 11 November.

    Graph showing daily hospital admissions
  8. Top US expert says UK 'not as careful' over vaccine approval

    Dr Anthony Fauci
    Image caption: Dr Anthony Fauci was challenged over the vaccine's earlier availability in the UK

    UK ministers have been making their quick approval of the Pfizer vaccine a point of national pride, with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson facing criticism for claiming the speed was due to the UK being a "much better country" than European rivals.

    But the top US infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has accused the UK of being less rigorous in its approval process.

    "The UK did not do it as carefully," he told Fox News. "If you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated."

    Fauci was facing criticism that the US was behind the UK in receiving the vaccine, but said there was only a difference of "a couple of days" and promised that US approval would come "very soon".

    He did not detail any specific issues with the UK approvals process.

    The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, responsible for approving the vaccine, said it had accelerated the process by conducting a rolling review of Pfizer's data, starting at the beginning of October.

    "We have rigorously assessed the data in the shortest time possible, without compromising the thoroughness of our review,” the agency said.

  9. Portugal outlines vaccine plans

    Portuguese Health Minister Marta Temido

    Portugal's health minister has said that the country's citizens will receive Covid-19 vaccines for free via the public health service.

    Marta Temido said 22 million doses would be bought for €200m.

    Vaccinations will start in January and nearly a million people will be given shots in the first phase.

    The country has six agreements for vaccines, including with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, according to drugs regulator Infarmed.

    Earlier officials said the country had passed the peak of the "second wave" of the virus, which occurred between 12 and 15 November.

    Restrictions introduced last month include mandatory remote working and a nightly curfew for the vast majority of the population, and a weekend curfew in areas deemed to be at very high or extremely high risk, including Lisbon and Porto.

    Portugal has had a total of 303,846 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the epidemic and 4,645 deaths associated with Covid-19.

  10. In charts: UK's latest coronavirus figures

    The UK government's coronavirus figures suggest that for three months the average number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test was fewer than 50 deaths per day.

    But, as we have reported, on Monday the number of people who have died has increased to a total of 60,113 - up 414 in the past 24 hours.

    There have been a further 14,879 cases, as daily cases continue on a downward trend.

    Cumulative deaths UK graph
    UK daily deaths graph
    UK daily cases graph
  11. How does the UK compare to other countries?

    As the latest government figures have confirmed, more than 60,000 people in the UK have now died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test.

    According to data from John Hopkins University, only the US, Brazil, India and Mexico have recorded more Covid-19 deaths than the UK.

    Top 10 countries by coronavirus deaths graphic
  12. Why are there different UK coronavirus death figures?

    The UK government's death figures only include people who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus - but two other ways of measuring deaths give higher overall figures.

    The first includes all deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate, even if the person had not been tested for the virus.

    The most recent figures suggest there have been more than 69,000 deaths by this measure.

    The second is a measure of "excess deaths" - the number of deaths over and above the usual number at this time of year.

    Deaths normally do rise at this time of the year, but the latest data from the Office for National Statistics and its counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland - which measure excess deaths - show the second wave of the virus has pushed the death rate above the average seen over the past five years.

  13. BreakingUK first European country to pass 60,000 deaths

    The UK has become the first country in Europe to pass 60,000 coronavirus deaths, according to the latest government figures.

    A total of 60,113 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test, up 414 in the past 24 hours.

    Two other ways of measuring deaths - where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate, and the number of "excess deaths" for this time of year - give higher total figures.

    Only the US, Brazil, India and Mexico have recorded more Covid-19 deaths than the UK, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

  14. 87% of English hospital beds occupied

    Robert Cuffe

    BBC head of statistics

    In the week to 29 November, 87% of the nearly 90,000 beds in English hospitals were occupied.

    This is largely unchanged since the first week of November, when NHS England first published these figures.

    The NHS is meant to keep at least a 10th of its beds free to create flexibility to admit patients and cope with surges in demand.

    But a single number doesn’t tell the full story.

    It doesn’t include the Nightingale hospitals that provide extra capacity, or the beds that have been freed by cancelling operations.

    Or that the pressures aren’t evenly spread.

    Some hospitals like North Middlesex, Southport & Ormskirk, Surrey & Sussex, and Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh have more than 95% of beds taken.

    More hospitals have seen capacity free up this month than have seen it tighten.

    But as we move into the months that, in any year, put the most stress on capacity within the NHS, all eyes will be on these figures.

  15. Normality is 'years away' despite vaccines

    BBC World News

    Video content

    Video caption: Coronavirus: Normality is 'years away' despite vaccines

    A complete return to normal life after the coronavirus pandemic is years away, Prof Dale Fisher, chairman of the World Health Organisation's global outbreak and response network has said.

    He told BBC World News: "I think over the next year or two things will loosen up quite a lot. I think we will eventually get back to normal but will that take three years or 10 years, I don't know."

    He said there were a number of challenges ahead with the distribution of vaccines, including encouraging people to have them and not get complacent about the risks from the virus as time went on.

    Prof Fisher was speaking to Lucy Hocking.

  16. BreakingScottish care homes to get vaccines by mid-December

    Care home residents in Scotland will be able to receive the Covid vaccine from 14 December, the Scottish health secretary has confirmed.

    There had been concerns about getting doses to care homes because of issues with transporting small doses.

    But Jeanne Freeman said some of those issues had been addressed, making it possible to take the vaccine to homes.

    The first batches of the vaccine, which arrive in Scotland on Tuesday, will be given to health staff.

    Read more here.

  17. EU exasperation at UK vaccine claims

    Nick Beake

    Brussels Correspondent, BBC News

    An exasperated sigh sums up the reaction from a number of European capitals to the vaccine victory proclamations of some British government ministers. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s sweeping assessment that the UK is a “better” country than many of its allies was seen as particularly bold.

    One senior diplomat told me he was delighted Britons would soon be receiving the vaccine, but that “someone should remind Mr Williamson that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was created by a German company, founded by scientists of Turkish origin, in partnership with an American distributor, and is being manufactured in Belgium before being transported across France to reach the UK”.

    The claim that Brexit allowed the UK to approve the vaccine faster than other Europe countries has been disproved, but it does reflect once again a different path the UK is taking.

    All EU countries have the option to follow the UK example and let their domestic drug regulator issue emergency approval, but the bloc says it wants to wait for the European Medicines Agency to give the green light on all their behalf.

    But if the Europe-wide delivery of a vaccine which promises to end the coronavirus misery for millions is pushed back, there will likely be more voices asking: “Why can’t we have what the Brits have already got?”.

  18. In charts: US hits record number of cases

    We have more on the latest figures in the US where there have been a record number of cases. As we mentioned earlier, new cases rose by a record 195,695 on Wednesday. These graphs show the extent of the problem faced by health services there.

    US graphic

    The number of people in hospital passed 100,000 for the first time, a figure that has doubled since early November, Covid Tracking Project data showed.

    US graphic

    And deaths have risen quickly in recent weeks too - the daily death toll of 2,733 was close to a new high.

    US graphic

    Nationwide, infections are now closing in on 14 million, with more than 264,000 deaths, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.

  19. Asda joins rivals in paying money back to government

    An Asda delivery driver emptying his van

    Asda has become the latest supermarket to return business rates relief it has received from the UK government during the pandemic, announcing it will repay £340m.

    It follows similar moves by Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Aldi and means the grocers will collectively return more than £1.7bn.

    Supermarkets had been allowed to stay open during the lockdown while non-essential shops had to close.

    Asda said its costs in dealing with Covid had outweighed any state support.

    But its president and chief executive, Roger Burnley, said: "As the hope of a vaccine and a more 'normal' life returning in 2021 grows, we have confidence that we are in a strong position to again do the right thing for the communities we serve."

  20. Watch: Prof Van-Tam answers your questions

    Earlier, England's deputy chief medical officer answered questions from members of the public about Covid-19, including on vaccine safety and effectiveness, in a live BBC News special.

    Here are some of the highlights, from giving vaccine advice to his mum, rolling out another football analogy and Father Christmas' position on the vaccine priority list.

    Video content

    Video caption: Covid: Your Questions Answered by Prof Jonathan Van-Tam