The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) - a group of scientists which advise government - have classed a variant first identified in Bristol - the Kent variant with a mutation - as a "variant of concern".
It’s not surprising that officials are adding this new
version of coronavirus to their "variants of concern" list.
Targeted testing is already under way to spot any new cases linked to the 21
that have already been found, mostly in the south west of England.
This new incarnation of the virus is the Kent variant "plus". It has the same
N501Y mutation as the one that triggered lockdown - a genetic change that
scientists say lets the virus spread more easily. But it also has an extra
mutation called E484K.
E484K is what experts are worried about for vaccine efficacy. It is also seen
in the South Africa and Brazil variants of concern.
A cluster of another variant in Liverpool is different again. It has got the
E484K mutation but is an iteration of an earlier version of the pandemic virus
rather than the Kent one.
Inevitably, more variants will continue to emerge. The challenge is to make
sure vaccines are a good match to keep us ahead in this race against the virus.
Experts are confident that the vaccines being used today
will still save lives and stop severe illness from Covid.
'Serious implications' for travel industry amid new quarantine measures
As we've reported today, a series of measures are to come into force on Monday to prevent new variants of the coronavirus from being imported into the UK.
The changes will be applied differently across the UK - in Scotland everyone arriving from abroad will be affected, while in England and Wales hotel quarantine will be mandatory only for passengers who have recently travelled to a country hit by a new variant.
The health secretary also confirmed that all international arrivals would need to take two PCR tests on days two and eight of their quarantine.
Those who violate the rules will face fines and potentially up to 10 years in prison.
The travel and tourism industries have said they understand why the measures are necessary, but have called on the government to do more to support firms and protect jobs.
A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation Abta said that requiring passengers to pay for multiple tests once leisure travel is restarted would have "serious cost implications" and "hurt demand".
She also urged ministers to "develop a roadmap to reopen travel".
Nigeria lab closed over fake Covid certificates
BBC News, Lagos
Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images
Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says it has closed an unnamed test centre in the capital Abuja that was issuing fake Covid-19 certificates to travellers.
Director general of the NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said they had found evidence that the lab was collecting samples and money from unsuspecting travellers, but failing to test them.
They issued certificates claiming they had tested negative for the virus, enabling them to travel. Mr Ihekweazu added that a full list of accredited labs was available on the NCDC’s website and encouraged members of the public to only get tested at centres on the list.
He said they were working on a platform where every lab in Nigeria could publish their test results which could then be easily verified by airlines or other countries wishing to check whether a result was genuine. He did not specify when this platform would be ready.
Authorities in Nigeria recently suspended flights from the Emirates airline because the carrier wanted passengers from Nigeria to take a rapid Covid-19 test four hours before flying, in addition to the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
Premier Inn probes lockdown staff party claim in Wales
No hotels have yet confirmed whether rooms have been booked.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said there were approximately 1,600 Scottish arrivals in the last week of January, and numbers fell to 730 in the first week of February.
He said: "The number of travellers coming to Scotland directly is reducing and I expect these restrictions to reduce arrivals yet further.
"These measures will be backed with criminal offences as usual. The stronger approach we are taking are necessary and appropriate."
Zoos struggling in pandemic, charity warns
Animals are at risk of dying unless the government changes its Covid-19 funding for zoos, a charity has warned.
The Zoo Animals Fund was created by the government to help zoos facing financial trouble in the pandemic with £100m available.
In a letter to the prime minister, the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums (Biaza) says the fund has "failed to provide" adequate support.
It claims many zoos are unable to access the money.
A spokeswoman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told Radio 1 Newsbeat the government understood challenges faced by zoos and aquariums.
"That is why we have set up the Zoo Animals Fund on top of the other support available - to ensure that those facing severe financial difficulties can continue to provide the best possible care for their animals."
The French lunch hour - famous as a bastion of the French way of life - is under threat.
The government says it’s planning to pass a new decree allowing workers to eat at their desks, a practice officially banned in the country’s labour law. But is this concession to changing times all down to coronavirus?
Like many cultural ideals, the leisurely and elaborate French lunch-break is often defended more in theory than in practice. Even before Covid, the daily queues outside sandwich shops were just as daunting as the waiters straightening tables on café terraces.
In fact, several polls suggest that a majority of French workers have been eating their lunch in the office for years.
But, long under siege, the concept of the pause-déjéuner is now under attack from Covid as well.
With restaurants and cafes closed - except for take-aways or deliveries - and workplace canteens rife with new restrictions, many people have little option but to eat their lunch at their desks - or even, according to one report, eating in isolation in their cars.
The idea that eating at your desk was officially banned has been greeted with surprise - even derision - here. Eye-rolling at France’s impenetrable labour laws is another workplace tradition, and there’s comfort in hanging on to at least some of them.
Peru starts vaccination campaign amid second wave
Peru has started its Covid vaccination campaign after the first consignment of 300,000 Sinopharm vaccines arrived on Sunday.
The South American country is in the midst of a second wave of the pandemic. With the hospitals close to full capacity, the authorities have decided that medical staff should be among the first to be vaccinated.
On Tuesday morning local time, Josef Vallejos, the chief of the intensive care unit at a hospital in Lima, received the first jab.
Members of the military, security guards and election workers will also be given priority ahead of the general election scheduled for 11 April.
Peru has had almost 1.2 million confirmed cases and more than 42,000 people have died.
Cameroon conspiracy theory video removed from Facebook
A video in which a Cameroonian
politician makes a series of false claims about Covid-19 vaccines and the
coronavirus pandemic has been shared thousands of times on Facebook.
Andre Banda Kani - who is the
chairman of the Nouveau Mouvement Populaire (NMP), a minor political party in
Cameroon - repeats baseless conspiracy theories that Western coronavirus
vaccines cause genetic changes and contain “microchips”.