Covid-19: Germany puts strict curbs on unvaccinated and families criticise 'sickening' No 10 party

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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 morning.

1. Germany bans unvaccinated from bars and leisure venues

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced sweeping new restrictions for people who have not yet been vaccinated. Unless they have recently recovered from Covid and have natural immunity, they will be barred from many public places, including non-essential shops and cultural events, she said. Announcing the measures alongside her successor Olaf Scholz, she said they were an "act of national solidarity" to reduce the infection rate. Parliament will also be asked to vote on a nationwide vaccine mandate, to be introduced from February. Just under 70% of Germany's population is vaccinated against Covid - lower than several European countries, including France and the UK.

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2. Bereaved families call for apology over No 10 party

Families who lost loved ones to coronavirus have called for an apology from the prime minister over a party held at Downing Street during last year's public health restrictions. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said the lack of care for the rules government itself set was "sickening". A source told the BBC that the 18 December party was attended by "several dozen" people, when Covid rules banned such events. Boris Johnson - who was not at the party - said no Covid rules were broken, but No 10 has refused to explain how party-goers complied.

Media caption,
Asked why he would not explain what happened at a Downing Street party in lockdown, Boris Johnson says: "Because I told you."

3. Omicron dominates as South Africa cases surge

South Africa saw Covid cases almost double in a day - from 4,300 to 8,500 - as health officials reported that the new Omicron variant has become dominant. In mid-November, the country's cases were averaging between 200 and 300 a day. South Africa was the first country to detect the new variant and its National Institute for Communicable Diseases said more than 70% of samples it sequenced in the last month were Omicron. The variant has since been found in 24 countries worldwide, the World Health Organization said. The WHO has said early evidence suggests it creates a higher risk of re-infection for people who have previously had Covid.

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4. Scotland fixes booster jab 'glitches'

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised after some people were turned away from appointments to get their booster vaccine dose. She said a small number of people were refused a jab after "glitches in the system" while protocols were updated to reflect a reduced waiting period for boosters, down from six months to three. Ms Sturgeon said the issues had now been resolved, but the Conservatives said communication about the changes had been a "mess".

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5. New antibody drug appears to work on Omicron

The UK has approved another antibody treatment for people with Covid, which manufacturer GSK suggests worked well against the Omicron variant in preliminary checks. Administered by a drip into a vein, a single dose of sotrovimab reduced hospital admissions and death by 79% in clinical trials, conducted before the variant emerged. It is most effective when given in the early stages of infection. GSK ran initial tests in the lab to see how well it would work against the new variant, and while more checks are needed, researchers said it targets a part of the spike protein of the virus that has not undergone big changes, so it should remain effective.

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And there's more...

With several cases of the new variant detected in the UK, how can you know if you have it? And what are the rules on self-isolation now? Find out in our guide here.

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

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