Covid-19: Mask warning for Europe, as UK leaders make Christmas plea

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Wednesday evening. We'll have another update for you on Thursday morning.

1. Call for 'smaller, safer Christmas'

The four UK nations have agreed to keep relaxed Christmas Covid rules in place - but Scotland, Wales and PM Boris Johnson have announced strengthened guidance. Rules will still be relaxed between 23 and 27 December, but people in Wales will have to limit festive bubbles to two households. And people in Scotland are being asked to only meet on one of the five days. Mr Johnson, meanwhile, said "a smaller Christmas is going to be safer Christmas," adding: "When we say three households can meet on five days... these are maximums, not targets." Separately, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said non-essential shops in Wales would close from the end of trading on Christmas Eve, with an alert level four lockdown starting four days later.

media captionBoris Johnson: 'A shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas'

2. WHO warns Europe, sends team to China

Regardless of how many households meet, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said Europeans should be wearing masks during Christmas family gatherings. It said the continent was at "high risk" of a new wave of infections in early 2021. Family gatherings should be held outside if possible and, if indoors, participants should wear masks and practise social distancing. If you want to make your own face covering, the BBC has written a step-by-step guide here. Meanwhile, a team of 10 international WHO scientists will travel to the Chinese city of Wuhan next month to investigate the origins of Covid. China has not opposed an independent investigation, although the WHO has been negotiating for access to the city for a number of months.

3. 'Long Covid' impact estimated

Pinning down how many suffer from "long Covid" has proved elusive, but experimental statistics published today have put it at more than 150,000 people in the UK. Fatigue, coughs and headaches were the most common complaints. Covid patients who had been treated in hospital were more likely to suffer serious complications such as heart attacks, according to the Office for National Statistics. The research marks the start of the ONS's work in estimating the prevalence of long Covid - the longer-term health consequences of even mild coronavirus infections. The ONS said one in 10 people it surveyed who tested positive for Covid-19 still had symptoms 12 weeks later. One in five had symptoms for five weeks or more. You can read more about long Covid here.

image copyrightGetty Images

4. Fears over BAME Covid vaccine take up

More than 130,000 people have been vaccinated in the first week of the UK's vaccination programme, but new research has shown people from ethnic minorities in the UK are significantly less likely to take the vaccine. A study from the Royal Society for Public Health found 57% of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people said they would take the vaccine. This compared with 79% of white people who would take a Covid vaccine. Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi warned of the impact of conspiracy theories being shared online.

image copyrightKirsty O'Connor
image captionWaiting to get the Covid vaccine in Barnet, north London

5. When will African countries get the vaccine?

Some countries - such as the UK - have already started administering a Covid-19 vaccine, but there are fears the world's wealthiest nations are hoarding supplies. Some of BBC Africa's readers have been asking how African countries will get the vaccine, and when that might be. BBC Africa Health reporter Rhoda Odhiambo has answered those questions and more in the video below.

media captionAnswering your biggest questions on Covid-19 vaccines in Africa.

And don't forget...

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

Plus, as part of our CEO Secrets series, we're focusing on start-ups that have launched during this difficult year. This week, we hear from people who worked in the retail sector but have taken a leap.

image copyrightSuzanne Leigh

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