Covid-19: Student mental health, vaccine promises and panto

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday morning. We'll have another update for you at 18:00 GMT.

1. Students dealing with mental health struggles

It's been a tough term for many students, confined to halls of residence and unable to socialise. A survey of 4,000 students by the NUS union has found more than half believe their mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic, but less than a third of them have asked for help. The NUS wants more counselling and wellbeing services, but universities say they've worked hard to look after young people and keep campuses safe. Today's the last day of the week-long travel window during which students are supposed to leave university to get home for Christmas. Teaching will move entirely online for the rest of term.

Media caption,
Klaudia moved back home after struggling at university

2. Vaccine optimism and pessimism

The UK, of course, began its vaccination programme yesterday, and now US President-elect Joe Biden has promised that during his first 100 days in office, 100 million Americans will be vaccinated. Mr Biden's optimism is in stark contrast to a warning from a group of charities who say nine out of 10 people in poorer countries are likely to miss out on Covid-19 vaccinations next year because rich countries are hoarding supplies. Oxford-AstraZeneca is pledging to provide 64% of its doses to people in developing nations - assuming its vaccine is approved for use. Health correspondent James Gallagher has everything you need to know about vaccine safety and how to immunise yourself against the spread of fake news.

Media caption,
Five challenges of distributing a Covid-19 vaccine around the world.

3. Problems at the ports

Container ships are the arteries of global trade and Covid-19 has significantly disrupted the flow. Ports around the world are experiencing problems, and in the UK, Brexit stockpiling has also added to the pressures, especially at Felixstowe. So too have thousands of containers of imported PPE left within the port for weeks. Businesses have been hit with delays in getting hold of their goods and are warning prices may rise as a result. Japanese carmaker Honda says it's stopping production at its Swindon plant temporarily because of a shortage of parts. Sailing for pleasure, on a cruise, was also brought to a standstill by the pandemic - and one attempt to get round that has hit trouble.

Image source, Getty Images

4. Wales quarantine period reduced

People in Wales who need to self-isolate, or quarantine after travelling, will only need to do so for 10 days from Thursday. That's a cut from the current period of 14 days, and brings Wales in line with England. Elsewhere, the Scottish government has outlined how it'll divvy up millions of pounds of extra funding from the Treasury to tackle the impact of the pandemic. Some £600m has been put aside for health and social care, £570m for business support, and further tranches for transport, local councils, courts and the police.

5. Oh yes they are!

Many pantomimes have been called off this Christmas, but some theatres are making sure that, despite coronavirus restrictions, Cinderella can go to the ball. Some are welcoming audiences in limited, socially-distanced numbers, while others are moving online. Other creative solutions include the open-air panto, the one-man panto and the drive-in panto. Find out more.

Image source, Matt Eachus

And don't forget...

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

Plus, BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen grew up in South Wales and would visit Merthyr Tydfil as a child. He returned to see the impact of Covid, and found his assumptions about the town were wrong.

Image source, BBC

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