Covid-19: South America travel ban begins and UK economy shrinks

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

1. Ban on travellers from South America begins

A ban on travellers from South America entering the UK has come into force, amid fears over a potentially more contagious coronavirus variant identified in Brazil. The ban also applies to Portugal and Cape Verde - off West Africa - because of their links to Brazil, along with Panama in southern Central America. British and Irish citizens, and foreign nationals with residence rights, are exempt but must isolate for 10 days on entering the UK. Find out which other countries are subject to a UK travel ban.

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2. UK economy shrank by 2.6% in November

The UK economy shrank by 2.6% in November as lockdown restrictions reduced economic activity, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. The closure of businesses such as pubs, hairdressers and many shops meant the services sector shrank by 3.4%. The setback came after sixth consecutive months of growth, with the ONS saying UK gross domestic product at the end of November was 8.5% below its pre-pandemic peak.

3. Rashford and top chefs demand school meals review

Concerns over child poverty have been raised throughout the pandemic, with a focus on school food vouchers, holiday meal provision and food parcels. Now campaigning Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford has been joined by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and actress Dame Emma Thompson, in backing charities' calls for a review to "fix" the free school meals policy. Downing Street insists "no child will ever go hungry" because of the pandemic.

image copyrightReuters

4. False vaccine claims 'deterring ethnic-minority communities'

False claims are likely to be causing people from ethnic minorities to reject Covid vaccines, warns a doctor leading an NHS campaign. Dr Harpreet Sood says much of the disinformation surrounds the contents of the vaccines. "We need to be clear and make people realise there is no meat in the vaccine, there is no pork in the vaccine, it has been accepted and endorsed by all the religious leaders and councils and faith communities," he says.

image copyrightPA Media

5. Pupils' pizza donation leaves nurse 'in tears'

A surprise delivery of pizza from sixth-formers who clubbed together left staff at a hospital critical care unit "lost for words". Nurse Tina Waltho says the gift came as a welcome boost to deflated staff at the Royal Stoke University Hospital. "The nurse who had been in charge on the day shift was in tears," Mrs Waltho says. "She had barely eaten all day and was a little emotional." While the act drew praise on social media, the identity and school of the pupils remains a mystery.

image copyrightTina Waltho

And don't forget...

If you're wondering how concerned we should be about the new virus variants, our health editor Michelle Roberts examines what we know so far.

You can find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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