Rural India Likely To Be Hit by India’s COVID-19 Tsunami – The Diplomat

A relative of a patient who died of COVID-19, mourns outside a government COVID-19 hospital in Ahmedabad, India, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. Coronavirus cases in India are surging faster than anywhere else in the world.

Credit: AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging India’s cities is likely to cause even greater devastation with infections spreading to smaller towns and villages. Health infrastructure in rural and small town India is far weaker than that in cities. Unable to access medical treatment, many COVID-19 patients in rural India could die.

The daily caseload during the second wave has touched unprecedented levels. On Saturday, the country reported 401,993 new infections in the preceding 24 hours, bringing the country’s total tally of COVID-19 cases to over 19 million.

Several states including Delhi, Karnataka, and Maharashtra have imposed lockdowns to control the transmission of the coronavirus. Migrant workers in industrial hubs have been heading home to their villages and towns in response to surging cases in cities and the lockdown announcements. Their numbers are not small.

In the southern state of Karnataka, for instance, hundreds of thousands of people left the state capital, Bengaluru, by bus and train for their hometowns when a 14-day lockdown came into effect on April 20. Other cities, like Delhi and Mumbai, have witnessed an outflow of migrant workers in the wake of the second wave.

A year ago, when the federal government imposed a nationwide lockdown, India’s cities saw a similar exodus of migrant workers. This flow of migrants from the industrial hubs during the first wave did result in spreading coronavirus infections to populations in India’s small towns and villages.

However, the spread of infections that India is likely to see in towns and villages in the coming weeks could dwarf what it experienced last year.

For one, the second wave is far larger than the first one. This time around infections are being carried back to rural and small town India from cities that are besieged by a veritable tsunami of infected people.

Already the number of infections outside the state capitals and metros is rising rapidly. India’s software hub, Bengaluru, which currently stands second among cities with regard to the number of daily infections, accounted for the overwhelming number of infections in Karnataka state. Other than a few town and villages in the districts, most districts recorded just double-digit infections.

But numbers are surging outside Bengaluru in recent weeks. Bengaluru contributed to 62.23 percent of the 21,794 positive cases that Karnataka reported on April 20. Seven days later, Bengaluru’s share fell to 55.13 percent of the state’s total tally. Smaller towns are turning into COVID-19 hotspots.

Another reason for the rise in COVID-19 infections in the smaller towns are so-called super-spreader events. If in 2020, those returning back to villages were mainly escaping loss of jobs and shelter in cities, this time around there are millions returning home to towns across India after participating in the Kumbh Mela.

A religious event that ran over several weeks, the Kumbh Mela saw over nine million people congregate on the banks of the River Ganga at Haridwar in the northern state of Uttarakhand. This was at a time when the second wave was raging through the country. Pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela neither wore masks nor followed social distancing norms.

Several of those who participated in the Kumbh Mela have tested positive for COVID-19. Uttarakhand’s COVID-19 cases is said to have jumped by 1,800 percent between March 31 and April 24. And those returning home to towns and villages in other states have also tested positive. Sixty of 61 returnees from the Kumbh who were tested on returning home to Gyaraspur, a small town in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district, were found to be positive.

Another trigger for the mounting spread of infections outside India’s main cities are elections. Multiphase elections to assemblies of four states, including West Bengal, and one union territory extended over a month. Political parties held massive rallies and processions in which tens of thousands of people participated. These were crowded events where neither political leaders nor supporters wore masks or followed COVID-19 protocols. Rural West Bengal is now reeling under a surge of infections.

Although rural India is less densely populated and less crowded than India’s big cities, this is where most of the country’s population lives.

Importantly, rural health infrastructure has always been in a shambles. People have to walk several kilometers to access a health facility and health centers are grossly understaffed and poorly equipped. The country has an average of 3.2 government hospital beds per 10,000 people in rural areas, which is well below the number recommended by the World Health Organization. Rural government hospitals in Maharashtra – which is the epicenter of the pandemic – and Bihar have just 2 and 0.6 beds per 10,000 people, respectively.

If super-specialty hospitals in India’s big metros, including Bengaluru, which is the country’s medical tourism hub, have crumbled under the weight of the second wave, rural India with its sparse and rather rudimentary health infrastructure doesn’t stand a chance.

Fatalities in rural India can be expected to surge in the coming weeks and months.

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HowToCookThat : Cakes, Dessert & Chocolate | Cake Rescue : Shaped Cake Tins, Tsunami Cake & Island Cake


After a year of working on it I am finally ready to announce my cookbook, it goes to the printers this week and will be available very soon. There is a list of bookstores that you can preorder from here

Shaped Cake Tins

easy Thomas the tank engine cake ann reardon
Shaped cake tins can be deceptively tricky to use. If your character suits star shaped piping patter then that is one way to go, otherwise try using the tin as a mold firstly to bake the cake and then to mold chocolate. For this you can use candy melts or colour white chocolate. When colouring chocolate you need to use oil based food colouring (available from cake decorating stores). Water based food colours and gel food colours can seize your chocolate. If you are using real chocolate that contains cocoa butter don’t forget to temper it. If you are using compound chocolate you can skip the tempering step.

Island Cake

island cake jello cake how to cook that

For the jelly (Jell-O) use gelatine sheets because they set clearer. Watch the video to see how to decorate the cake and the secret to make sure the jelly does not go cloudy.

Ocean Jelly Recipe:
18 sheets of gelatin
bowl of water to soften gelatin
7 tablespoons sugar
500mL (16.91 fluid ounces) water
Food colouring (I used, blue, green and a tiny, tiny bit of red)
Flavouring to taste

Place the gelatine sheets in a bowl of water to soften.

In a pan heat the sugar, water, colour and flavour until the sugar is dissolved. Add the gelatin sheets and stir until melted.

Cool until it reaches room temperature.

Tsunami Cake (Pull Me Up Cake)

pull me up tsunami cake ann reardon video

Cream Lava Cake :
For an 8″ round cake you will need to top it with cups of lightly whipped cream (refer to the video for the consistency you are looking for). You can add some vanilla and icing sugar to your cream if you wish.

Ganache Tsunami Cake:
290g (10.23 ounces) white chocolate
100mL (3.38 fluid ounces) cream

Place the cream and chocolate into a bowl and microwave for 1 minute, stir, 30 seconds, stir and continue 30 second bursts until the chocolate is melted. Add food colouring if you desire. Cool to room temperature, but do not wait until it is thick. If it is set too thick take a big spoonful out and microwave it in a seperate bowl to warm it. Stir this warmed ganache back into your main bowl of ganache to thin it down. Repeat as necessary.

For and 8″ round cake you will need 1 1/2 cups of ganache and toppings of your choice.


I have been busy over the last year planning, writing and overseeing the photography and layout for my first ever cookbook! There are heaps of my favourite dessert recipes in there with a chapter on pastries, ice-cream, yummy cakes, artistic desserts and of course chocolate desserts. Each chapter has its own intro explaining the food science that you’ll need to know for success every time.

Booksellers where you can pre-order your very own copy:

All recipe quantities in the book are in grams, ounces and cups.

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Japan remembers the tsunami and nuclear disaster that killed 20,000 people – Channel 4 News

It’s exactly a decade today since a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck north east Japan, leading to a nuclear disaster at Fukushima – which has left over twenty thousand people dead or missing.

The Emperor of Japan said his ‘heart aches’ for the survivors still struggling to rebuild their communities. Over the last ten years billions of pounds have been spent rebuilding towns and villages, but some areas are still very damaged and remain no-go zones.

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How leaked company credentials are creating a phishing tsunami in 2021

2020 saw phishing scams skyrocket to 75 per cent more attacks than in 2019, with more bad actors taking advantage of the shifts in how we work and live due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite many companies recognising the importance of cybersecurity measures, few are taking appropriate measures to effectively prevent cybercriminals from accessing and exploiting stolen credentials, particularly over the dark web. Business and security executives need to become vigilant about not just preventing attacks from external parties, but also protecting the data and information under their own watch.

All it takes
is one wrong click

There are three
common tactics bad actors use leaked company credentials for:

  • Business email compromise (BEC): This is where a bad actor poses as business owner or corporate executive and sends a convincing email to a staff member to perform an urgent money transfer or payment.
  • Credential theft/URL: Also known as dynamic phishing sites, this refers to when a bad actor emails a targeted user within the business which contains a link to a newly set-up legitimate-looking domain or web page, such as an Office365 account verification login page.
  • Account takeover: This form of external impersonation is when a well-known third-party supplier or partner of a business has an account credential stolen and the bad actor launches a targeted impersonation email attack from the trusted third party domain on an unsuspecting business employee to request payment of an invoice.

While the above scenarios may seem obvious to recognise, it is worryingly common for working professionals to be convinced by these types of emails and communication. Particularly during the pandemic as there was heightened uncertainty and vulnerability among employees, cybercriminals took advantage of many workplaces letting their guard down.

Opening the
floodgates to cybercrime

attacks on individual employees can mislead victims to believe their personal
information and credentials have merely been stolen or exploited. The reality
is much worse. Phishing of an individual is commonly a strategy to access an
entire network of data and information. With one individual’s credentials, bad
actors can conduct spear-phishing and password re-use attacks to exploit an
entire business.

In 2019, Scamwatch said BEC scams alone netted $5.3 million across Australia, and it was found 62 per cent of small businesses had been hit by some level of cybersecurity breach. Business owners under the illusion that cyber-attacks impact a small portion of SMEs in minor ways need to rapidly re-assess their own technology setups and be prepared for the high likelihood of an attack in the short-term.

2021 will
see more phishing attacks than ever

Bad actors who use phishing techniques thrive on vulnerability, urgent financial-related news and current affairs, and reasons for urgent executive communications. With many businesses adopting longer-term or permanent plans for staff to work from home, more forms of communication will shift to online methods than ever before. This lessens the likelihood of staff being able to check with colleagues in person about a suspicious-looking email or unlikely request from a colleague who may otherwise be close by. Instead, employees will need to rely on their own caution, which research shows are highly unreliable.

In 2021, more than ever, businesses of all sizes cannot rely on basic or outdated cybersecurity measures. With Australians losing a combined $176.1 million to scams last year, now is the time to invest in enterprise-grade cybersecurity solutions that are priced for SME budgets and can pre-empt and avoid the costs of attacks down the line. 

Roger Carvosso, Strategy and Product Director, First Wave Cloud Technology

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New Zealand rocked by four earthquakes, Tsunami warning issued for North Island’s east coast

A fourth major earthquake has rocked New Zealand this morning as shocking footage emerges of a huge wave surge hitting the North Island’s coast.

Coastal residents in the region have been told to move immediately to higher ground after four earthquakes off the nation’s coast.

Shocking video footage shows huge wave surges already hitting areas like Tokomaru Bay on the East Coast.

A magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the Kermadec Islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, at 8.28am local time (6.28am AEDT).

Late this morning there has been a fourth aftershock at the Kermadec Islands. This one has been measured as 6.2 in magnitude and struck at a depth of 10km at 12:12pm local time.

Following the third earthquake, the most powerful of the four, residents were warned they should head for higher ground.

“People near coast from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay, and Great Barrier Island must move immediately to nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as possible,” the National Emergency Management Agency alerted at 8.45am (7.45am).

The National Emergency Management Authority said residents must evacuate these areas even if they did not feel the earthquake. “DO NOT WAIT. A damaging tsunami is possible.”

New Zealand’s Emergency Minister said messages from Civil Defence regarding the risk of tsunami overrode coronavirus advice and restrictions.


Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has also issued a marine tsunami warning for Norfolk Island, although land areas are not expected to be affected.

Hundreds of residents are fleeing homes, workplaces and schools to get to higher ground, with reports of chaos in towns such as Whangarei and Whakatane. There are reports of people at the beach in Tologa Bay, with cameras.

Businesses in central Whangarei have evacuated and employees are been advised to go to higher ground.

A central Whangarei worker said it was packed in town as people tried to evacuate. “[There were] heaps of people standing on the street outside their workplaces.”

This is the third and largest quake above magnitude seven to hit the region this morning.

A 7.4 quake struck near Raoul Island in the Kermadecs at 6.41am (NZT) and many New Zealanders were shaken awake by a magnitude 7.3 quake off the North Island’s east coast at 2.27am.

Both of these earlier quakes triggered Civil Defence tsunami warnings that were later lifted but the third quake has sparked the strongest warnings yet.


A tsunami alert is sounding out in the Whangārei suburb of Onerahi.

People are being told to walk, run or cycle if possible to reduce chance of getting stuck in traffic.

The national emergency management agency says people should not return to low-lying coastal areas until the all-clear is given by Civil Defence.

According to USGS the latest quake to hit off the Kermedec Islands was magnitude 8.1 and 19.4km deep.

Ōhope resident Leslie Peake said traffic was “bumper to bumper” all the way down the main drag Harbour Rd and there were “huge queues of people evacuating”.

She said the mood was highly “stressful” and she and her husband would not be getting to higher ground for a while as they waited in traffic.

Hills across the town were “full” with people seen sitting at the top looking out at the ocean, she said.

She said she had been in her bedroom when she received the alert and saw it pop up on the television so she and her husband loaded up their car with their cat and dog.

“We thought maybe we should get moving.”

This morning’s quake had been really strong where Peake was and she said it had been “really rocking and rolling” and “went on for ages”.

“It was really rattling for some time.”


Ōpōtiki mayor Lyn Riesterer says the town is evacuating following the order to move to higher ground.

She said most of the coastal Bay of Plenty town is needing to evacuate.

“Most people are underway, all moving out,” Riesterer said. “All of the alerts went off on mobile phones at the same time so everyone is moving.

“People know where to go. They either head towards Gisborne or they come up to Hospital Hill.”

Ōpōtiki had a population of about 4800 according to the 2018 census and is located right on the coast, with the Waioeka River and the Otara River surrounding the town.

“I think people are [well prepared] … but it’s about making sure all the people get the message and move on out.”

While the Kermedec Islands are expected to fare the worst, French Polynesia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Nuie, Pitcarin Island, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Wallis and Fortuna and New Zealand are all in the firing line. (edited)

The waves are expected to be anywhere from .3 to one metre above the tide level.

Whangarei Intermediate School is evacuating, with pupils walking to higher ground at the cycle track near their school.

A tsunami warning has been issued for the whole of American Samoa as a result of the quake activity here.

The US National Weather Service Pago Pago issued the alert shortly before 9am (NZT).

“All residents along the coasts must evacuate immediately to higher ground immediately.”

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Tsunami warning after major earthquake strikes New Zealand

A severe 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the east of New Zealand’s North Island on Friday, prompting a tsunami warning, and authorities advised people in some coastal areas to move immediately to high ground.

There were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties, but the National Emergency Management Agency issued an official tsunami warning.

Tsunami waves were possible within 300 kilometres of the quake’s epicentre, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) said, with some flooding expected.

The quake measured a preliminary 6.9 magnitude and was centred at a depth of 10 kilometres about 178 kilometres north-east of Gisborne, the US Geological Survey said.

New Zealand government’s seismic monitor, Geonet, pegged the quake at a magnitude of 7.2 with a depth of 94 kilometres and said it hit at 2.27am local time (12.27am AEDT).

An image of the epicentre released by the New Zealand government’s seismic monitor, Geonet.Credit:

More than 60,000 people reported feeling the quake on GeoNet’s website, with 282 people describing the shaking as “severe” and 75 saying it was “extreme”. Most others described it as light.

The closest major city to the epicentre is Gisborne with a population of about 35,500 residents. People near the coast from Cape Runaway to Tolaga Bay were told to evacuate.

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Strong quake hits Japan’s northeast coast; no tsunami alert

A strong earthquake has hit off the coast of northeastern Japan, shaking Fukushima, Miyagi and other areas

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said there were no irregularities at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which experienced meltdowns following a massive quake and tsunami 10 years ago.

There were no immediate reports of irregularities from other nuclear plants in the area, such as Onagawa or Fukushima Dai-ni, government spokesperson Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that some 860,000 homes were without power as a result of the quake, but electricity was gradually being restored, according to Kato.

Kato said there was no danger of a tsunami from the quake. He said that some trains in northeastern Japan had stopped running, and that other damage was still being checked.

Video from public broadcaster NHK TV showed some pieces of a building wall had broken off and fallen to the ground, and pieces of glass were scattered at a store. Items fell off shelves because of the shaking, NHK said. NHK aerial footage showed a portion of a highway blocked by a landslide in Soma, a city in Fukushima prefecture.

The extent of damage from the landslide was not immediately clear, Kato said.

He said there were several reports of minor injuries from the quake, such as a man getting hit by a falling object.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake was centered about 60 kilometers (37 miles) beneath the ocean.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga headed into his office immediately after reports of the quake, and a crisis center was set up there.

The shaking was felt in Tokyo, to the southwest.

The same northeastern area was slammed by a quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011. Experts warned of aftershocks over the next several days, including possibly larger quakes.

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Annual ritual to remember ‘inland tsunami’ that hit Toowoomba a decade ago

Every year for the past decade, one of Toowoomba’s oldest stores, Rowes, has posted the same photograph on its website on this date.

In it, a sodden lounge chair is wedged upside down on a Russell Street parking meter – an oddity only revealed once the torrent subsided, exposing the damage caused by an “inland tsunami” on January 10, 2011.

An armchair sits impaled on a parking meter opposite Rowes in Russell Street the day after the January 10 floodwaters rushed through the regional city in 2011.Credit:Michelle Szepanowski

The city of Toowoomba sits 691 metres above sea level on a strip of the Great Dividing Range about 119 kilometres inland from Brisbane.

Ten years ago,turbulent floodwaters swirled angrily into the CBD after 160 millimetres of rain fell in 36 hours on top of a month’s record rainfall, turning the normally calm West and East creeks into a frothing, angry river.

That river, at the top of the Great Dividing Range, tragically led to the deaths of two people – mother and son Donna and Jordan Rice – after their car stalled in the rising water.

Across the state, 33 people died and three remain missing from the January 2011 floods, which affected 78 per cent of Queensland and caused $2.38 billion in damages.

Toowoomba’s original main road, Russell Street, arose in the 1850s, and by the 1860s was home to the town’s first post office, police station, pub and public toilet.

Floodwaters roar through Toowoomba's Russell Street on January 10, 2011.

Floodwaters roar through Toowoomba’s Russell Street on January 10, 2011.Credit:Claytonnnn on Twitter 2011

The railway line that crosses it runs parallel to Victoria Street and beneath a small bridge where West Creek dips to meet East Creek.

In the middle of Russell Street is Rowes Furniture Store, where it has been for 129 years, since 1892.

January 2021: Little has changed at the Russell Street and Victoria Street intersection in Toowoomba since the floods of January 2011.

January 2021: Little has changed at the Russell Street and Victoria Street intersection in Toowoomba since the floods of January 2011.Credit:Tony Moore Brisbane Times

Rowes administrative assistant Michelle Szepanowski was working on January 10, 2011, when the dirty brown water flowed through the shop like a river.

“It scares me when there are floodwaters around,” she said.

“I was driving home to Kingsthorpe about 9pm that night [about 30 minutes towards Dalby] and I honestly don’t know how I got home because all of the creeks I’ve always crossed were washed out and flooded.

“When I came back the next day, there was no road there. Ruthven Street, Bridge Street, it just looked like a bomb had hit the place. It was just devastation. Cars were turned over. It was horrible.

“We started off trying to sandbag the front doors because there was a bit of water coming up the street over the footpaths.

Rowe's Furniture employee Michelle Szepanowski. "Furniture was being washed out the front door into Russell Street."

Rowe’s Furniture employee Michelle Szepanowski. “Furniture was being washed out the front door into Russell Street.”Credit:Tony Moore

“It was about two o’clock in the afternoon. It started to come in through the front doors off Russell Street and then suddenly, it was just a huge flood coming in from the back and through the back doors and through the office.”

Eventually the water in the store’s lower display room was almost two metres high and washing heavy furniture out the front door and against the hotel walls across the road.

“All the windows and front doors were smashed, and the furniture was all out in the street,” Ms Szepanowski said.

“I remember calling [owner] Mr Rowe at the time and telling him that all the furniture was washing down Russell Street and going down West Creek and out into the country. He was just flabbergasted.”

Rowes warehouse manager Wayne Miller stands waist deep in floodwater as furniture floats out to Russell Street.

Rowes warehouse manager Wayne Miller stands waist deep in floodwater as furniture floats out to Russell Street.Credit:Michelle Szepanowski

A decade on, most of Russell Street’s shops have remained. The saddlery stayed. The National Hotel stayed. Mike Williams Country Clothing stayed.

Rowes has begun a major $11 million redevelopment, which should be finished by mid-year.

Significant flood recovery work has been completed, however Russell Street itself is now in line for a facelift.

Business retailer Rob Mercer says little has changed in Toowoomba's Russell Street.

Business retailer Rob Mercer says little has changed in Toowoomba’s Russell Street.Credit:Tony Moore

Straight across the road from Rowes, fourth-generation business operator Rob Mercer is waiting for Toowoomba Regional Council to also rejuvenate Russell Street, which was the city’s original “high street”. Today it is Margaret Street.

“At the moment, not a lot has changed. It’s still a situation normal,” Mr Mercer said.

“We haven’t had a lot of [improvement] works done. We have all got back on our feet to continue doing business in Russell Street, but we are waiting for the changes, which begin next month.

“Council comes along next month and begins doing a revitalisation of the street, which is very exciting.

“We will end up getting new footpaths, new underground services, a green treed area, and a softening of the area, which hopefully will bring people back down here again.”

Queensland’s 2010-2011 floods

  • Lives lost: 33
  • Insured cost: $2.38 billion
  • Buildings damaged: 29,000
  • Homes damaged: 3600
  • Evacuated: 5900
  • “When Tropical Cyclone Tasha met an extreme La Niña weather pattern, enough water to fill three million Olympic swimming pools rained down on Queensland. Dams and rivers broke their banks and swamped an area the size of France and Germany combined.”

Source: Australian Institute of Disaster Resilience

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Fears of third lockdown in weeks after ‘tsunami’ of Christmas coronavirus cases

The whole of the UK could be thrust into lockdown after Christmas amid warnings of a “tsunami” of coronavirus cases.

The R-number is now between 1.1 and 1.2, confirming Covid-19 cases are surging once again.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to rule out a third national lockdown. He said: “The reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks.”

Exhausted hospital staff are braced for the “worst possible” start to 2021 as ministers consider desperate measures to stop the rise in Covid-19 cases after Christmas.

Areas of England with the highest infection rates could fall under new “Tier 4” rules if the PM stops short of a full UK lockdown.

The toughest restrictions could force schools to close, ban commuting and keep non-essential shops shut.

Non-essential shopping could be banned nationwide after Christmas

As Sage revealed the latest R-number had risen to between 1.1 and 1.2 from between 0.9 and 1.0 the previous week, medics warned a surge in cases after the five-day relaxation of rules for Christmas could push the NHS to the brink.

Dame Donna Kinnair, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Travelling and family visits associated with this time of year will undoubtedly lead to more cases, more pressure on NHS and care services, and more deaths.

“By turning the second and third waves into an unrelenting tsunami we would begin 2021 in the worst possible way.

Boris Johnson says he wants to avoid a third national lockdown

“Nursing staff are telling me they will not enjoy Christmas knowing what awaits them in January. Nurses have already spent time away from their families, working around the clock to care for their patients and will do the same over Christmas.”

Rachel Harrison, GMB Public Services National Officer said: “Our NHS is at breaking point once again. Members in the NHS are reporting to us that this second wave is so much worse than the first, except this time they are all mentally and physically exhausted.”

UNISON’s Sara Gorton said: “The NHS ​is in the middle of a second wave​ that’s already as bad as the first. Exhausted staff are finding it even more difficult to cope. Vacancies and burnout mean fewer patients will get vital treatment.”

Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Weeks ago we warned that a ‘perfect storm’ was coming this winter, now it is here.”

Sage member Prof Neil Ferguson suggested a third lockdown for England may need to be more stringent than the second. He said in some areas case numbers rose in the last lockdown, “so there may be a need for additional controls”.

England and Scotland could follow Wales and Northern Ireland into strict restrictions next week.

Wales, where the Covid death toll hit 3,000 on Friday, goes into lockdown from 6pm on Christmas Day, while Northern Ireland starts a six-week lockdown on Boxing Day. Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney has warned a lockdown after Christmas is a “possibility”.

A weekly infection survey by the Office for National Statistics estimated the number of people infected in the UK had increased by a fifth to 660,000.

The survey suggests one in 95 people had the virus last week. The rise in England was driven by sharp increases in London, which went into Tier 3 this week, plus rises in the South East and East Midlands.

London’s move into Tier 3 has seen the end of a very brief panto season on the West End

There were 489 deaths on Friday, up from 424 on the same day last week, and 28,500 new confirmed cases. There are 18,000 Covid patients in hospital after a surge of 3,000 on last week. Almost 16,000 of these patients are in England. Hospitals had to tell ambulance crews to divert patients 44 times last week and NHS trusts in London, Leicester, Essex, Kent and Northampton have begun cancelling non-urgent surgery.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on Boris Johnson to set out his plan for averting a third lockdown. He said: “Nobody wants a third lockdown. It is hugely damaging.”

But Mr Johnson refuses to scrap the Christmas relaxation of restrictions, hoping families will voluntarily rein in plans for festive meet-ups.

He said: “Keep it short, keep it small, have yourselves a very little Christmas.”

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Tsunami warning after major earthquake strikes Turkey and Greece | World News

A strong earthquake of magnitude 7 has hit holiday hotspots in Turkey and Greece, destroying a number of buildings and leading to a tsunami warning.

The epicentre of the tremor was in the Aegean Sea some 11 miles (17 km) off the coast of Turkey’s Izmir province, at a depth of 10 miles (16km).

It has been reported the earthquake was felt across the region, including in Istanbul, as well as the eastern Greek islands and as far as the capital Athens.

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Flood carries furniture through Turkish street

Turkish media showed wreckage of a multiple-storey building in central Izmir, with rescuers scouring the ruins.

Smoke was also filmed in several areas.

The authorities said there was no immediate information on casualties.

Greek media said the residents of Samos and other islands fled their homes, while some rockfalls were reported.

A tsunami warning was issued, with residents told to stay away from the coastline.

Water rose above the dock in the main harbour and flooded the street.

Residents have also been told to stay away from buildings, as aftershocks continued to rattle the area.

Greek seismologist Efthymios Lekkas told state television: “It is an event that is evolving.”

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