Covid-19: New treatment, NHS staff struggles and free meals row

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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 BST.

1. Major treatment trial begins

The first Covid patients have begun receiving a new treatment it's hoped will prevent sufferers becoming seriously ill. The patients are part of a large-scale trial testing the effect of inhaling a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it gets a viral infection. Developed at Southampton University Hospital and produced by biotech company, Synairgen, early findings suggest the treatment cuts the odds of severe illness by almost 80%. Find out more here.

image copyrightBBC Panorama
image captionKaye Flitney is one of those enrolled on the clinical trial

2. Intensive care staff 'traumatised'

Many hospital staff treating the sickest patients during the first wave of the pandemic have been left struggling to cope, a new study suggests. Researchers at King's College London questioned 709 workers at nine units in England and nearly half reported symptoms of severe anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or problem drinking. Lead researcher Prof Neil Greenberg said it should be a "wake-up call" for managers about the need to provide more mental health support. Some staff are they're also facing abuse online and at protests from Covid sceptics and anti-lockdown activists.

media captionCovid: NHS doctor 'receives 20 to 30 abusive messages a day'

3. Free meals row

Children's minister Vicky Ford says caterers must urgently improve the quality of food parcels being provided for low-income families. Catering company Chartwells has apologised after photographs of some parcels were shared online and heavily criticised. The packages - more on them here - are being sent to children who would normally receive free school meals in England. The row could well come up when Education Secretary Gavin Williamson faces MPs' questioning later. Our education correspondent looks closely at Mr Williamson - a man whose political obituary has been written so many times he must sometimes feel like the walking dead.

image copyrightRoadside Mum
image captionTwitter user Roadside Mum complained about the parcel she received

4. Latest on the rules

The Scottish Government may announce further Covid restrictions today in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hinted some new rules could be introduced affecting services like click-and-collect shopping and takeaways - find out more. The move could come despite a levelling off in the number of daily infections in Scotland. The R rate - a reminder of what that is - has also fallen in Northern Ireland. Leaders said it was down to many people "doing the right thing". The rules are already tougher in Wales, as we explain in our full UK run-down.

5. 100th birthday jab

Isabella Curry received a coronavirus vaccination alongside her card from the Queen when she turned 100. She said the extra special gift offered hope, telling us: "This vaccine means I'll be able to go out, meet my friends soon and feel safe." Ms Curry, known as Ella, who lives alone in Northumberland, said it was just a little "prick in the arm". The UK, like most countries, is focusing on the elderly first for vaccination, but find out why one country is targeting young, working people instead. Debate continues around who else should be high up the list here - parents of children at special schools want their teachers prioritised, while customs operators argue they should be, in an effort to keep vital supplies flowing.

image captionNurse Kate Fraser said administering the vaccination to Ms Curry had been "emotional"

And don't forget...

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

Plus, Britain's top police officer, Dame Cressida Dick, says it's "preposterous" to suggest some people are not aware of what the lockdown laws now tell them to do. So how much do you know? Try our quiz.

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