Covid-19: Cases highest in young children and 'VIP' contracts named

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

1. Covid cases highest in younger children in England

Covid case rates in England are now highest among children aged five to nine, latest weekly surveillance figures reveal. The data, up to 14 November, shows this younger age group has overtaken older, secondary school aged children for the first time. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) report shows 723 cases recorded per 100,000 among children aged five to nine. That's up week-on-week from 484.5 per 100,000. The rate for 10 to 19-year-olds is 694.2, up from 571.7. A further 46,807 coronavirus cases and 199 deaths were announced in the UK on Thursday.

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2. Firms handed 'VIP' Covid contracts named

The government has named 50 companies given fast-track "VIP" contracts to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) after the outbreak of Covid-19. The government directly awarded contracts worth billions of pounds to companies that would usually be opened to competing bids. A "high priority lane" was set up, allowing MPs, ministers and senior officials to pass on offers of help to a special email inbox. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and former Health Secretary Matt Hancock were among 18 Conservative politicians involved.

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3. NI Covid pass a 'distraction dish'- DUP

Northern Ireland's Covid-19 passport plan is a case of ministers serving a "distraction dish" that will not relieve the pressures on hospitals, the DUP has said. Stormont ministers voted in favour of Covid vaccine passports being introduced in December. People will have to provide a passport or proof of a Covid test result to access nightclubs, pubs or restaurants. Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and UUP ministers backed the proposal but DUP ministers voted against it.

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4. One jab dose 56% effective at stopping child Covid infection

A single vaccine dose is 56% effective at stopping children from catching coronavirus, data from Imperial College London suggests. The React Study processed samples from more than 100,000 volunteers of all ages between 19 October and 5 November. It suggests that 14 days after having one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, the risk of testing positive reduced by 56% in young people aged between 12 and 17 years old. The risk of developing a Covid infection with typical symptoms, such as a fever or loss of smell, was cut by an even greater amount - 68%. A single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab is currently advised for most 12 to 15 year olds in the UK, with 16 and 17 year olds now offered two doses.

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5. Wales maternity rules 'not fair' on new mums

When Leah Lewis-McLernon gave birth at Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen, her husband, Michael, had to leave her and their newborn daughter after 40 minutes due to Wales' strict Covid rules for maternity units. Leah is among those urging the Welsh government to drop these measures - in line with the easing of restrictions on movement and social distancing in Wales. The charity Birthrights has written to Health Minister Eluned Morgan asking for change, saying Wales has "some of the most restrictive visiting arrangements in maternity services in the UK".

Media caption,
Leah Lewis-McLernon's husband Michael had to leave 40 minutes after she gave birth to a baby girl

And there's more...

If you're struggling to keep track of where we are with Covid in the UK, our health and science correspondent James Gallagher has shed some light on what the data is telling us.

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

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