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Coronavirus latest news: Hospitals across the country must expect pressures of London to come their way, expert warns

Hospitals across the country must expect pressures of London to come their way, the president of the Royal College of Physicians has warned.

Prof Andrew Goddard, told the BBC that the new variant was spreading across the UK and that NHS staff should brace for a difficult few months.

“All hospitals that haven’t had the big pressures that they’ve had in the South East, London and south Wales should expect that it’s going to come their way,” he said.

It comes as the daily number of new Covid cases in the UK topped 50,000 for four days in a row.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals is at record levels in many areas of England – including London, the South West and the Midlands – with admissions rising above the levels seen during the first wave.

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8:52AM

PM spearheads public sector recruitment drive 

Boris Johnson has said he wants to see a public sector recruitment bonanza in 2021 as the UK battles to see off the pandemic.

Government figures suggest the number of doctors and nurses rose last year but the Prime Minister said he wanted to go further in the coming 12 months.

A Downing Street spokesman said that Mr Johnson is set to call on those looking for a job or a career change to consider frontline public sector roles in 2021.

More than one million jobs are thought to have been lost as a result of restrictions brought in to control the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Johnson said: “We have the very best public servants and I feel an enormous sense of admiration when I think about the care, fortitude and determination with which our doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers and prison workers have faced up to the challenges of the pandemic.

“There is light at the end of the Covid tunnel – the vaccine provides increasing hope of returning to normality by Easter and I am determined that we build back better from the pandemic and take advantage of the opportunities that are ahead.”

8:35AM

Teachers union to hold emergency meeting to address school ‘chaos’

The National Education Union’s joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted has said her union will be holding an emergency meeting today to discuss the “chaos which is engulfing our schools”.

Outlining some of the issues, she told BBC Breakfast: “[Teachers] being told at half-past five on Twitter that the school would close next week having spent the whole Christmas preparing for the school to be open, and for safety, teachers now having to completely, over this weekend, change their teaching plans – they were going to be teaching in person, now they’re going to be providing remote learning online.

“And just the Government’s inability to even read the data on different boroughs in London and work out that some of the boroughs they were proposing to close schools had lower infection rates, much lower infection rates than other boroughs where they were preparing to keep them open.

“It seems to me just to be inexplicable that the Government is getting this so badly wrong.”

8:05AM

Hospital conditions ‘unbearable’, says nurse

A nurse has described the “unbearable” conditions in their hospital as Covid-19 patient numbers continue to rise.

The nurse, who works at the Whittington Hospital in north London, described patients being left in corridors, some spending up to three hours in ambulances because of a lack of beds and one being left without oxygen when their cylinder ran out.

The nurse, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the PA news agency: “I’m worried about patient safety because if these little things are happening now when we’re short and it’s busy, it’s only going to get worse. I don’t know what else will happen – it worries me.”

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals is at record levels in many areas of England – including London, the South West and the Midlands – with admissions rising above the levels seen during the first wave.

Read more: No ‘magic pile’ of nurses to help run Nightingale hospitals, health leaders warn

7:45AM

Ministers have ‘reckless’ attitude to crisis in schools, says union chief 

Ministers have a “reckless” attitude towards dealing with the Covid crisis in schools, a union chief has said.

The National Education Union’s joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted was commenting after the Government was accused of a U-turn regarding the closure of schools in London.

Dr Bousted told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What the Government should be doing is what the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are doing.

“You don’t get this chaos in the other countries of the United Kingdom.

“And does the Government really believe that somehow Covid in England is different than the other countries of the UK?

“I find the Government’s recklessness in this regard, both with educational professionals’ health, but also with community health, and the questions increasingly around children’s health, inexplicable.”

Read more: Teachers demand that all schools stay closed

7:20AM

India holds drills ahead of mass inoculation drive

India on Saturday staged nationwide drills to start one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes as the drug regulator prepared to approve the first vaccine.

A government panel on Friday recommended emergency use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University shot and the first injections could be given in the coming week after the Drugs Control Authority of India gives final approval.

India, which has the world’s second highest number of pandemic cases – more than 10.2 million – has set an ambitious target of inoculating 300 million of its 1.3 billion people by mid-2021.

Serum Institute of India has already stockpiled tens of millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield ready for the campaign and 96,000 health workers have been trained.

The drills saw 25 health workers receive dummy vaccines at each of the centres to be used across the country in a test run ahead of the launch.

Read more: Oxford jab to be approved in India with 50m shots ready to go

Indian workers are seen during preparations at a model Covid-19 vaccination centre in New Delhi

Indian workers are seen during preparations at a model Covid-19 vaccination centre in New Delhi

Credit:
RAJAT GUPTA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

6:55AM

Thailand eyes tougher measures amid second wave

Thai health authorities on Saturday recommended tougher restrictions on businesses and people’s movement in 28 provinces, including the capital Bangkok, as the number of new coronavirus cases rises.

The measures, which need final approval from Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, include suspending some businesses and crowded activities that pose infection risks to the public, while recommending people in these provinces work from home and avoid unnecessary travel out of their province.

Authorities in Bangkok had earlier ordered the closing down of schools for two weeks and the temporary closure of daycare centres, gyms, bars and massage shops.

Thailand on Saturday confirmed 216 new coronavirus cases and one new death.

A man prays to a Buddha statue to mark the start of New Year 2021 amid a new wave of coronavirus at the Marble Temple, in Bangkok

A man prays to a Buddha statue to mark the start of New Year 2021 amid a new wave of coronavirus at the Marble Temple, in Bangkok

Credit:
RUNGROJ YONGRIT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

6:40AM

Antidepressant use at record high as crisis hits mental health

Antidepressant use has hit an at all-time high as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on the nation’s mental health.

With counselling services moving online, experts believe millions of people may have missed out on early intervention, meaning they face more “severe” mental health issues later down the line.

Doctors have said online help is inappropriate for some patients, while others may have been reluctant to seek face-to-face help or put extra pressure on health services.

It has led to more than six million people being prescribed antidepressants in the three months leading up to September – the highest figure on record. Calls to mental health helplines have also gone up, analysis by The Guardian found.

Read the full story

Read more: Majority of NHS doctors suffering anxiety and depression

5:24AM

Vietnam reports first case of new coronavirus variant

Vietnam has detected its first imported case of the new coronavirus variant that is spreading rapidly around Britain, the health ministry said on Saturday.

The variant was detected in a 44-year-old woman returning to Vietnam from Britain, who was quarantined upon arrival and was confirmed positive for the virus on Dec. 24, the ministry said in a statement.

The variant includes a genetic mutation that, in theory, could result in the virus spreading more easily between people.

Countries around the world have cut off travel links to Britain to stop the spread of the new variant, which scientists have said is 40-70 per cent more transmissible than the original virus.

Vietnam is still operating repatriation flights to bring its citizens stuck in the UK home amid the pandemic.

Read more: Your rights to flight and holiday refunds due to Tier 4 and bans on UK arrivals

People gather on a street during New Year's Eve celebrations amid coronavirus pandemic in Hanoi

People gather on a street during New Year’s Eve celebrations amid coronavirus pandemic in Hanoi

Credit:
Reuters

4:29AM

News in brief from around the world

  • Only about half of the Americans who volunteered to test vaccines got the real thing. Now experts debate whether all volunteers should.
  • Israel says it has vaccinated 1 million people as it rolls out one of the world’s earliest and most rapid inoculation campaigns.
  • US police in Wisconsin say they’ve arrested a hospital employee suspected of intentionally spoiling Covid-19 vaccines.
  • Authorities in Belgium say a 27th elderly person has died in an outbreak at a nursing home from a super-spreading St. Nick party last month.
  • Turkey‘s health minister says the country has identified 15 people who carry a highly contagious coronavirus variant that was discovered in the United Kingdom.

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at a large vaccination centre open by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at a large vaccination centre open by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center

Credit:
AFP

3:05AM

Tokyo to request new emergency declaration as cases climb

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will request the central government to declare a new state of emergency over a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Saturday.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is set to meet Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura on Saturday afternoon to make the request, Nikkei said, citing multiple sources.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has resisted calls to reinstate a state of emergency, which the government instituted in April during an earlier wave of the pandemic.

New infections in Tokyo hit a record 1,337 on Dec 31.

People offer prayers on the first day of the new year at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

People offer prayers on the first day of the new year at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Credit:
Reuters

2:35AM

South Korea extends social distancing in Seoul region

South Korea will extend unprecedented social distancing rules in Seoul and neighbouring areas until Jan. 17, a health official said on Saturday, including a ban on gatherings larger than four people.

Kwon Deok-cheol told a briefing that the measures were necessary to reduce a prolonged surge in infections that has led to a spike in deaths.

The country reported 824 new cases as of midnight on Friday, down from 1,029 a day before.

City centre remains empty on New Years Day due to pandemic restrictions in Seoul

City centre remains empty on New Years Day due to pandemic restrictions in Seoul

Credit:
 Anadolu

2:32AM

Australian state makes masks mandatory as cluster grows

Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales on Saturday made masks compulsory and imposed new mobility restrictions as its virus cluster expanded by seven while neighbouring Victoria recorded 10 new locally acquired cases.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced reductions to gym classes, banned dancing and singing at night clubs while restricting numbers at weddings, funerals and places of worship.

However, the five-day Cricket test match between Australia and India, scheduled to begin on Thursday, will go ahead with attendance at 50 per cent capacity, she said.

NSW, which has close to 200 active cases, would levy a A$200 (£$114) fine for not wearing a mask with the rule being enforced from Monday.

Victoria, which now has 29 active cases, this week made masks mandatory across the state while limiting gatherings and shutting its border to NSW, prompting lengthy delays at border checkpoints on New Year’s Day.

2:26AM

Call to increase US vaccination rate as cases reach 20m

 US Senator Mitt Romney on Friday urged the US government to immediately enlist veterinarians, combat medics and others in an all-out national campaign to administer vaccinations and slow a surging rise in Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths.

The Utah Republican called for greater action as the Trump administration fell far short of its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans with a first of two required doses by the end of 2020.

As of Friday an estimated 2.8 million vaccine doses have actually been given, mostly to front-line healthcare workers as well as staff and residents of nursing facilities.

“That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,” Romney said in a statement.

The US has lost more than 345,000 lives and infections reached another sober milestone on Friday, surpassing 20 million confirmed cases. The number of hospitalised patients exceeded 125,000, setting a daily record once more.

Read more: US admits vaccination rollout is slower than hoped

2:21AM

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