oronavirus infections are dropping across the UK as the latest R rate fell to between 0.8 and 1.
The Government’s Sage advisory group, which publishes the data, suggested the second wave of the pandemic is starting to subside across the country, as it found that the number of new infections is shrinking by between one and three per cent every day.
The positive updates come amid a bleak warning for Londoners, as the capital finds it risk of entering Tier 3 lockdown within weeks. Residents are urged to stick ever-closer to the rules, as new analysis suggests the city’s recent drop in cases appears to be levelling off.
GPs to run Covid vaccination centres by December 14
GP surgeries and primary care networks in England have been told to be ready to start running Covid-19 vaccination centres by December 14.
A letter sent to all surgeries and primary care leads from NHS England and NHS Improvement said the “scale and complexity” of the vaccination programme would make it “one of the greatest challenges the NHS has ever faced”.
“It is crucial we start to activate local vaccination services to allow priority patient cohorts to start accessing the vaccine.”
Each designated vaccination site must be ready to deliver 975 doses of the vaccine in the week beginning December 14 – the number of doses in each of the Pfizer vaccine’s packs.
WHO officials warn against complacency
World Health Organization officials on Friday warned governments and citizens not to drop their guard over the COVID pandemic now a vaccination was close, saying healthcare systems could still buckle under pressure.
Britain approved Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, raising hopes that the tide could soon turn against a virus that has killed nearly 1.5 million people globally, hammered the world economy and upended normal life for billions.
“Progress on vaccines gives us all a lift and we can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, WHO is concerned that there is a growing perception that the COVID-19 pandemic is over,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a Geneva news conference.
Tedros said the pandemic still had a long way to run and that decisions made by citizens and governments would determine its course in the short run and when the pandemic would ultimately end.
“We know it’s been a hard year and people are tired, but in hospitals that are running at or over capacity it’s the hardest it can possibly be,” he said.
“The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the COVID-19 virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers.”
Mexicans asked to can end of year plans
Mexicans should cancel year-end travel plans and even avoid exchanging Christmas presents, the president said on Friday, unveiling measures particularly aimed at one of the world’s largest capital cities amid surging coronavirus cases.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also announced increasing capacity for more hospital beds as well as extra medical equipment and staff to help in the fight to curb the pandemic.
“If we don’t have anything truly important to do, let’s not go out on the street,” he told reporters at his daily morning press conference, urging people to restrict their movement.
“This pandemic, this nightmare will pass,” he said, saying there would be no mandatory lockdowns but encouraging people to act responsibly.
The leftist president, outlining a 10-point plan, said the suggested steps to limit the spread of the virus were especially important for residents of the metropolitan area of Mexico City, the densely-packed capital with a population of over 20 million.
The city’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, on Friday asked private businesses in the capital to stop their employees working from offices and resume work-from-home schemes.
Six more deaths in Ireland
An additional six deaths with Covid-19 have been notified in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team said.
Another 265 cases of infection were confirmed.
Biden backs massive economic stimulus following ‘grim’ jobs report
President-elect Joe Biden is pushing ahead with his call for massive economic stimulus as the economic recovery from this spring’s coronavirus lockdowns falters amid a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases.
Biden was to deliver remarks Friday afternoon reacting to November’s national jobs report, which showed a sharp decrease in U.S. hiring even as the nation is about 10 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.
Surging cases of the virus have led states and municipalities to roll back their re-opening plans. And more restrictions may be on the way as colder temperatures and holiday travel lead to new records for confirmed cases and deaths.
“This is a grim jobs report,” Biden said in a statement ahead of his speech. “It shows an economy that is stalling. It confirms we remain in the midst of one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history.”
While Biden has thrown his support behind a bipartisan economic relief bill of about $900 billion, he has said much more will be needed once he takes office next year.
“Congress and President Trump must get a deal done for the American people,” Biden said. “But any package passed in the lame duck session is not enough. It’s just the start.”
US hiring figures stall as virus surges
With the viral pandemic accelerating across the country, America’s employers sharply scaled back their hiring last month, adding 245,000 jobs, the fewest since April and the fifth straight monthly slowdown.
At the same time, the unemployment rate fell to a still-high 6.7%, from 6.9% in October as many people stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed, the Labor Department said. November’s job gain was down drastically from a 610,000 gain in October.
Friday’s report provided the latest evidence that the job market and economy are faltering in the face of a virus that has been shattering daily records for confirmed infections. Economic activity is likely to slow further with health officials warning against all but essential travel and states and cities limiting gatherings, restricting restaurant dining and reducing the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses.
Most experts say the economy and job market won’t be able to fully recover until the virus can be controlled with an effective and widely used vaccine. And the picture could worsen before it improves.
Bahrain becomes second country to approve vaccine
Bahrain says it has become the second nation in the world to grant emergency-use authorisation for the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
The state-run Bahrain News Agency made the announcement on Friday evening, following an earlier announcement by the UK on Wednesday, making Britain the first in the world.
“The confirmation of approval by the National Health Regulatory Authority of the kingdom of Bahrain followed thorough analysis and review undertaken by the authority of all available data,” the kingdom said through the news agency.
Bahrain did not say how may vaccines it has purchased or when vaccinations will begin.
The immediate challenge will be the conditions in which the vaccine must be kept. It needs to be stored and shipped at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70C, but Bahrain regularly sees temperatures in the summer of around 40C with high humidity.
Only slightly less Americans travelled this Thanksgiving than last year
Americans couldn’t resist the urge to gather for Thanksgiving, driving only slightly less than a year ago and largely ignoring the pleas of public health experts, who begged them to forgo holiday travel to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, data from roadways and airports shows.
The nation’s unwillingness to tamp down on travel offered a warning in advance of Christmas and New Year’s as virus deaths and hospitalizations hit new highs a week after Thanksgiving. U.S. deaths from the outbreak eclipsed 3,100 on Thursday, obliterating the single-day record set last spring.
Vehicle travel in early November was as much as 20% lower than a year earlier, but it surged around the holiday and peaked on Thanksgiving Day at only about 5% less than the pandemic-free period in 2019, according to StreetLight Data,
Vaccine rollout in Northern Ireland from Tuesday next week
A Department of Health spokesman confirmed that the rollout of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in Northern Ireland would take place from Tuesday morning next week.
The Government said a further 504 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK total to 60,617.
Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 76,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.
The Government said that, as of 9am on Friday, there had been a further 16,298 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,690,432.