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Coronavirus latest news: Unions ‘stopping fire service from helping vaccine rollout’

The fire service has been stopped from assisting with the vaccine roll-out by “hindrance” trade unions that have ordered members not to help, a watchdog has warned. 

Fire bosses and union officials are locked in lengthy, complicated negotiations about whether firefighters can contribute to efforts tackling coronavirus, according to Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s Inspector of the Fire and Rescue Services. 

In a report, Ms Billingham warned the national crackdown on coronavirus is being “thwarted” by trade union roadblocks.

In Manchester, firefighters recently faced a 12-week delay to start knocking on doors of those who Test and Trace were struggling to contact. 

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6:50AM

Germany’s coronavirus death toll passes 50,000

Germany has recorded more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre said Friday.

It said 859 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 50,642.

Germany this week extended its partial lockdown until February 14, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has not ruled out border checks to slow the spread of new, more contagious variants of the virus.

6:43AM

Police Fed chief “pleading” for police officers to be prioritised for vaccine

John Apter, the Police Federation of England and Wales chairman, has reiterated calls for police officers to receive coronavirus vaccinations as a priority.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Mr Apter said: “Let me just put this into context: this is not about elbowing our way to the front of the queue.

“The most vulnerable in society must be vaccinated, and colleagues from the NHS, but my colleagues are vulnerable. They can’t mitigate this virus, they are not immune from this virus.

“Tragically, in this last week alone, we’ve lost colleagues to this virus. Police officers are up close and personal with people, they have to go hands-on, they have to make arrests.

“I am pleading with the vaccination committee to look at my colleagues, as well as teachers and firefighters … my colleagues are at risk.”

John Apter

John Apter
6:35AM

Hong Kong to impose first lockdowns

Hong Kong will place tens of thousands of its residents in a lockdown to contain a new outbreak of the coronavirus, the first such measure the Chinese-ruled city has taken since the pandemic began, a local newspaper reported on Friday.

South China Morning Post, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation, said the new measure will target the Jordan and Sham Shui Po districts which cover a small, but densely populated part of the Kowloon Peninsula.

The districts are home to many ageing, subdivided flats in which the virus could spread more easily.

Health workers patrol on a street where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the Jordan district in Hong Kong

Health workers patrol on a street where COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the Jordan district in Hong Kong

Credit:
Getty

“Persistently high and spreading infection [in the areas] and sewage surveillance suggest the outbreak is not yet under control, and many silent sources still exist within the area,” a source was quoted as saying.

Health authorities in the city of 7.5 million first isolated four tenement blocks in the area last Friday, stopping people from entering or leaving those buildings to make sure all residents are quarantined.

The government will only lift the lockdown declaration when it is satisfied everyone in the lockdown area has been tested, the paper said.

5:44AM

Japan remains defiant over Tokyo Games

Japan doubled down on its commitment to host the Tokyo Olympics this year and flatly denied reports on Friday of a cancellation, in a move that is unlikely to temper public fears of holding the event during a global pandemic.

Though much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to a third wave of Covid-19 infections, Tokyo organisers have consistently vowed to press ahead with the Games scheduled to open on July 23 after having been postponed in March last year.

A government spokesman said there was “no truth” to a report in The Times that Japan was now focused on rescheduling the event to 2032. The IOC has already awarded the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 version to Los Angeles.

Read more: Japan insists Games will go ahead as it rejects report of cancellation

4:02AM

Scottish care homes investigated over deaths

Cases of Covid-linked deaths are being investigated at more than 450 care homes in Scotland, it has been reported.

According to the BBC, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service’s dedicated Covid-19 Death Investigation Team (CDIT) is probing the circumstances of coronavirus-related deaths in 474 care homes across the country. The CDIT was set up in May after Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said all confirmed or suspected coronavirus deaths in care homes should be reported to the Crown Office, as well as deaths of people who may have contracted the virus at work.

The team had reportedly received 3,385 death reports as of Thursday, with a majority of those believed to be linked to people who lived in care homes.

Scottish Care chief executive Donald Macaskill told the broadcaster the investigations were “wholly disproportionate”.

3:13AM

Fauci: I can tell the truth about Covid now Trump is gone

The White House’s top adviser on Covid-19 has said he feels liberated now that Donald Trump has left office – because now he can finally tell Americans the truth about the virus.

In extraordinary remarks to reporters at a briefing on the virus, Anthony Fauci said that President Joe Biden’s administration would be “completely transparent, open and honest” with the public rather than “point fingers”, like his predecessor.

Dr Fauci, who often clashed publicly with Mr Trump, also said he felt “really uncomfortable” about things said by the White House as it dealt with the virus that has now killed more than 400,000 Americans, including announcements on hydroxychloroquine – and he said he feared “repercussions” from Mr Trump if he misspoke.

He said: “One of the things that was very clear as recently as about 15 minutes ago, when I was with the president, is that one of the things that we’re going to do is to be completely transparent, open and honest.

“If things go wrong, not point fingers but to correct them and to make everything we do be based on science and evidence.”

Read more: Anthony Fauci: I feel ‘liberated’ now Donald Trump has gone, says US Covid adviser

Fauci said he feared "repercussions" if he contradicted the president

Fauci said he feared “repercussions” if he contradicted the president

Credit:
GETTY IMAGES

3:05AM

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