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Live Reporting

Edited by Suzanne Leigh

All times stated are UK

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  1. Thank you and goodbye

    That's it for now. Today's live page was brought to you by Alice Evans, Becky Morton, George Wright, James Clarke, Jennifer Meierhans, Penny Spiller, Sarah Fowler and Suzanne Leigh. Join us tomorrow for more coronavirus updates.

  2. A recap of the day's events

    We're going to wrap up the live page soon so here's a brief recap of some of today's coronavirus headlines.

    • Globally, there have been more than 92 million registered Covid cases and almost two million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University
    • A total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November - the highest since records began
    • The Royal College of Surgeons says the newly-released figures show the calamitous impact of coronavirus
    • And in happier news, a mother who gave birth 10 days after discovering she was pregnant says she mistook her growing baby bump for lockdown weight gain
  3. 'Being stranded is not a nice feeling'

    Jon Dent and family

    A ban on travellers to the UK from South America has left one family fearing it could leave them stranded abroad for months.

    The restriction comes into force at 04:00 GMT on Friday amid fears of a new Covid variant identified in Brazil.

    British and Irish citizens and foreign nationals with residence rights will still be able to travel but must isolate for 10 days.

    However many flights have now been cancelled.

    Jon Den travelled to Brazil with his wife Carla, 32, in October so that her family - who live in Goiania - could meet their one-year-old daughter Luiza for the first time.

    The couple, who live in Wolverhampton, are due to fly back to the UK on 6 February but Jon now fears they may be stuck out there for months due to the travel ban.

    "We had planned to visit in February 2020 but we had to postpone because of the lockdown and that was rough on my wife, she suffered a lot," the 31-year-old says.

    "Now I think my mum is suffering as she's expecting Luiza to be back, but who knows now?

    "My initial reaction was worry because it's so unknown. The thought of not being able to return home and being stranded is not a nice feeling.

    "I'm hoping British residents will be able to get home but I don't know if the government will organise flights. I think it's a long shot. I hope we can get home and not be stranded out here for months.

    "We've got to be patient but at the same time flexible."

  4. North-east England leads over-80s vaccination race

    Man being vaccinated at a GP surgery

    More over-80s have been vaccinated in the North East and Yorkshire than any other area in England, official figures show.

    These two places have delivered the first dose of vaccine to 46% of over-80s, compared with about 30% of over-80s in both London and the East of England.

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan claims the capital is not getting its fair share of vaccine doses.

    But London has a younger average population than other parts of England and the smallest number of people aged over 80 compared with other regions.

    In total, more than 2.2 million people in England have had one vaccine dose.

    About 400,000 second doses have also been administered, despite guidance from the UK's chief medical officers and vaccine advisers, the JCVI, that giving a first dose to as many people as possible was a public health priority.

    You can read the full story here.

  5. Covid contraction shrinks German economy by 5%

    Andrew Walker

    World Service economics correspondent

    Manufacturing

    The German economy shrank by 5% last year as the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll, according to official figures.

    The country's national statistics office said that most sectors of the economy were "markedly affected" by the health emergency.

    Although a sharp decline, many economists had expected the contraction to be even worse.

    It was also less pronounced than the downturn in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis.

    When adjusted for the number of working days (there were more last year than in 2019), the decline in GDP was somewhat deeper at 5.3%, although that is still less than 2009.

    That said, it was described by Andrew Kenningham, of London-based consultancy Capital Economics, as a "huge slump".

    There were severe falls in household spending (6%) and in investment in machinery and equipment (12.5%).

    Read more here.

  6. Children's drop in exercise in lockdown a 'deep concern'

    Dan Roan

    BBC Sports editor

    Stock image of children learning from home

    Experts are "deeply concerned" that the coronavirus pandemic has had a "huge impact" on children's physical activity levels.

    New figures from Sport England show 65.1% of young people failed to meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise in the last academic year - a decrease of almost 2% compared with the previous 12 months.

    Almost a third of children (2.3 million) were classed as "inactive" as a result of lockdown restrictions, not even doing 30 minutes per day, up by 2.5%.

    The Active Lives survey showed the pandemic has also heightened existing participation inequalities, with a 9% drop in activity levels by children and young people from a black background. Children from the most affluent families remain the most active.

    In terms of gender disparities, there was a notable fall in activity among boys, who suffered from the stopping of team sport, while girls retained roughly their same activity levels, adapting well to alternative activities such as online fitness classes and walking.  

  7. Rashford and Oliver urge PM to review free school meals

    Marcus Rashford

    England and Man Utd footballer Marcus Rashford has joined celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver and Tom Kerridge and written to the prime minister calling for an urgent review of free school meals.

    The letter has also been signed by actress Dame Emma Thompson and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall along with more than 40 charities and other organisations.

    The row over free school meals resurfaced when photos were posted on social media of food parcels widely denounced as inadequate.

    The parcels will be replaced by food vouchers from next week.

    Another row began after the government confirmed food will be provided to children in February half term by councils under the Covid Winter Grant Scheme, rather than through schools.

    But councils and unions say the government should provide food vouchers instead, with the grant being used for other support.

    The letter states in the first lockdown between March and August, 2.3 million children experienced food insecurity and during the 2020 summer holidays 850,000 children reported that they or their families visited a food bank.

    It urges the prime minister to make sure eligibility for free school meals is equal across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

    It asks Boris Johnson to look at how to end stigma around free school meals and to give low-income families choice and dignity.

    The letter also calls for the quality of the food to be monitored and for the cost to be transparent.

    It says: "Consider what we have learned from Covid-19 and its impact on children in low-income families and the implications of this for school food policy for the next 5 years, as the country recovers."

    Read more

  8. Vaccine plan removed from Scottish government website

    Vaccine

    The Scottish government has removed its vaccine rollout plan from its website after concerns were raised that it contained sensitive information.

    The document had details about supplies of the vaccine and timescales for when people might be given it.

    But it has been deleted after the UK government said some of the data should not have been published.

    The concerns centred on details of how many doses of the vaccine the UK is due to receive.

    The PA news agency quoted a UK government source as saying: "The reason we didn't want to publish these figures was because everyone in the world wants these vaccines.

    "If other countries see how much we are getting, they are likely to put pressure on the drug firms to give them some of our allocation."

    Read more.

  9. What is the starting point for WHO’s Wuhan Covid probe?

    A team from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has arrived in the Chinese city of Wuhan to begin its investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Fabian Leendertz is a professor in the epidemiology of highly pathogenic microorganisms at Germany’s public health institute and will be working with the team in China.

    He told BBC World News that these steps are very positive.

    Video content

    Video caption: What is the starting point for WHO’s Wuhan Covid probe?
  10. 'Government shifted goal posts on free school meals'

    The government says food over the February half term would be provided for children who usually get free school meals by local councils, under the Covid Winter Grant Scheme.

    But Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association's Resources Board, says the government has "shifted the goal posts".

    He told Radio 4's PM that the government’s own guidance on the Covid Winter Grant Scheme explicitly said it "was not intended to replicate or replace free school meals".

    "The goalposts have just shifted on it, because we were told it wasn’t for free school meals and now we’re being told it is. Local authorities are going to have to reassess their plans," he says.

    "Food poverty doesn’t just happen at lunchtime and I think one of the key things is that providing an equivalent of free school meals during the holidays is important but it doesn’t solve food poverty on its own.”

  11. UK reports 48,682 further Covid cases

    By this point in the day we would normally expect to have heard the UK's daily coronavirus figures - on new cases, deaths, hospital admissions and vaccinations.

    However, the latest update has been delayed due to an "issue with the processing of deaths data", the government dashboard says.

    Public Health England has therefore published data on the new confirmed cases of the virus in the UK itself - today's figure is 48,682.

    That's up on yesterday's figure of 47,525.

    The seven-day average for daily new cases was, as of yesterday, 53,539.

  12. 'Wall to wall with people' on London underground

    Tom Edwards

    Transport Correspondent, BBC London

    Video content

    Video caption: Footage shows a large crowd waiting to board a Tube train at Canning Town station

    Tube drivers in London are becoming increasingly concerned at the number of people using the network during the current lockdown.

    I was sent footage of a busy platform at Canning Town station, in east London, this morning (see above).

    Transport for London (TfL) says today's overcrowding was because of trains being cancelled due to staff absence, and that incidents like this are not common.

    But overcrowding incidents during the pandemic have happened before, including earlier this week, and east London is the busiest part of the Tube network first thing with many construction workers who live there needing to travel - legitimately - to sites in central London.

    TfL is trying to encourage construction companies to stagger their starts.

    The Tube is running at 20% pre-pandemic passenger levels, but as the government continues to allow building sites to stay open, pinch points remain a big issue.

    Commuters tell me the Jubilee line was horrendous this morning and action is needed to stop it being repeated.

    The RMT union for transport workers adds that its members are being put at risk and there should be better crowd management at pinch points.

    Graph showing how transport use has changed over the course of the UK's epidemic
  13. Plumbing firm to rewrite contracts to make workers have vaccine

    Tom Espiner

    Business reporter

    Pimlico Plumbers chairman Charlie Mullins
    Image caption: Chairman Charlie Mullins said the firm was "not putting anyone under any pressure" but that new starters who were not immunised would not be taken on

    A large London plumbing firm plans to rewrite all of its workers' contracts to require them to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

    Pimlico Plumbers chairman Charlie Mullins said it was "a no-brainer" that workers should get the jab.

    If they do not want to comply with the policy, it will be decided on a case-by-case basis whether they are kept on, he said.

    Employment lawyers said the plan carried risks for the business - saying people who refuse vaccination and are dismissed may have grounds to make a legal claim.

    The UK is aiming to vaccinate 15 million people from priority groups by mid-February as part of efforts to try to control the spread of Covid-19.

  14. France announces 6pm curfew

    France has just imposed a 6pm nationwide virus curfew.

    Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference that the curfew will remain in place for at least 15 days.

    Most of France was subject to an 8pm curfew imposed in mid-December.

    From Monday, travellers arriving in France from non-European Union destinations will have to present a negative Covid test less than 72 hours old, the PM also announced.

    Those returning must self-isolate for seven days.

  15. North-east England leads race to vaccinate over-80s

    Vaccination

    Nearly 46% of over-80s in England's North East and Yorkshire region have been given their first dose of a Covid vaccine - more than in any other area, official figures show.

    This compares with about 30% of over-80s in both London and the East of England who have received a first jab.

    London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was "hugely concerned" the capital had received only one-tenth of the vaccines that had been given across the country, despite having "extremely high" rates of the virus.

    However, the prime minister's official spokesman said every area had received "a fair share".

    In total, more than 2.9 million Covid-19 vaccinations had taken place in England up to yesterday, of which around 2.4 million were first doses, according to provisional NHS England data. Earlier this afternoon Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that the figure had passed three million.

    Read more.

  16. New variant 'of concern', Brazilian expert says

    A new coronavirus variant discovered in four people who had travelled from Brazil's Amazon region to Japan is "of concern", a Brazilian expert say.

    Felipe Naveca, the lead investigator for the new variant at the state-run Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, said that its origin "undoubtedly was in Amazon state".

    He told the BBC's South America correspondent Katy Watson that it had evolved separately from those in the UK and South Africa, but that it showed some of the same mutations.

    "Some of these mutations have been linked to increased transmission and that is of concern."

    Natasha Coronel and her husband Felipe Dionisio react during the burial of her father Roberto Coronel, 64, who passed away due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Parque Taruma cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, January 8, 2021
    Image caption: The Amazon region is currently seeing a new surge in cases

    Naveca said that there was not yet any data to suggest that existing vaccines would be any less effective on the new variant. "We have to do a lot more sequencing of samples to answer that question."

    As for stopping its spread, Naveca's advice is simple: "We have to stop the virus from circulating, because we're giving it the opportunity to evolve," he said, urging people to wear masks and wash their hands.

  17. MP calls for 'long Covid' compensation scheme for frontline workers

    Woman lying in bed

    Frontline workers living with 'long Covid' should have access to a compensation scheme if they are unable to return to work, an MP says.

    Opening a general debate in the Commons on long Covid, Liberal Democrat Layla Moran said 300,000 people were believed to already be living with the condition in the UK.

    New research "suggests more than half of people who are hospitalised experience ongoing symptoms six months later and the Office for National Statistics estimates that one in 10 people who contract Covid at all will still have symptoms three months later," she says.

    The Long Covid All-Party Parliamentary Group has already recommended that the Government should set up a compensation scheme for frontline workers affected. But Ms Moran called for it to go further.

    She says: "This scheme should go beyond existing sick pay schemes and should be specific to those living with long Covid who are unable to work."

    We've got an explainer on long Covid here.

  18. Biden due to set out plans to tackle US epidemic

    Joe Biden receives his second dose of the vaccine on 11 January 2021
    Image caption: Joe Biden, here receiving his second dose of the vaccine, wants to speed up the vaccination roll-out

    US President-elect Joe Biden is due to set out his plans for tackling the coronavirus pandemic – something he said would be his number one priority upon taking office.

    Having set a goal of administering 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days, it is thought Mr Biden will initially seek to expand current vaccination and virus testing capacity to double the current pace of inoculations.

    He has also signalled that he may seek to increase direct payments to individuals, as well as provide aid to small businesses, more funding for local and state governments, extend some benefits that are due to expire, and work to reopen schools.

    Brian Deese, the incoming director of the National Economic Council, told a Reuters conference this week that the “president-elect feels that we need to move aggressively on both rescue and recovery”.

    Mr Biden has warned that his full agenda could cost trillions of dollars and is said to be hoping he can get bipartisan support in Congress for his bill.

    The US has the highest case and death toll from Covid-19 in the world, with more than 23 million cases and nearly 385,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

  19. Mum mistook surprise pregnancy for lockdown weight gain

    Baby

    A mother who gave birth 10 days after discovering she was pregnant says she mistook her growing baby bump for lockdown weight gain.

    Samantha Hicks says she put baby Julia's kicks down to "not being well".

    "My tummy was a bit swollen but again, because I felt sick and I wasn't great, it never occurred to me I was pregnant," she says.

    Samantha, from Portishead in Somerset, says her pregnancy was missed even when she was in Southmead Hospital in Bristol with Covid-19 in November.

    It was only when husband Joe felt Julia kicking against his hand on New Year's Day that she took a pregnancy test that proved positive.

    Ten days later, Mrs Hicks' contractions began and Julia arrived weighing 7lbs 8oz (3.4kg).

    You can read all about her surprise arrival and see another cute picture here.

  20. How worrying are the UK, South Africa, and Brazil Covid variants?

    Michelle Roberts

    Health editor, BBC News online

    Coronavirus graphic

    New variants of coronavirus are emerging that are more infectious than the original one that started the pandemic.

    Experts' concerns currently focus on a small number of new variants of coronavirus:

    • A UK variant that has become dominant in much of Britain and has spread to more than 50 other countries
    • A South Africa variant that has also been found in at least 20 other countries, including the UK
    • A new variant from Brazil

    There is currently no evidence to suggest that any of them cause more serious illness.

    The current vaccines were designed around earlier variants, but scientists are confident that they should still work against the new ones, although perhaps not quite as well.

    Even in the worst case scenario, the vaccines could be redesigned and tweaked to be a better match - in a matter or weeks or months, if necessary, say experts.

    I've put together a guide of everything you need to know about the new variants and what is being done to fight them.