Covid news live: Latest UK updates as hospital patients near April peak

What you need to know about the coronavirus vaccines

Hospitals in the south of England have seen a “real rise in pressure” as the number of coronavirus patients receiving treatment heads towards the April peak.  

Paramedics in the capital are receiving almost 8,000 call-outs daily, with Boxing Day described as one of London Ambulance Service’s “busiest ever days”.  

The rise in patients come as hopes grow for the approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming days, with volunteers ready to help roll out the jab nationwide, according to reports.  

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, told the BBC “ambulance trusts in particular are coming under extreme pressure, as are community and mental health services” as “many more people” are coming through the door with Covid and other conditions.  

The 7,918 calls received by London Ambulance Service on 26 December was up more than 2,500 on the 5,217 received on the same day last year, and medics are receiving support from other ambulance services in the south. 

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India’s Serum Institute expects approval for Oxford vaccine in days

Serum Institute of India, the local maker of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, has said it expects the government to approve the jab for emergency use in a few days.

Serum Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla also told reporters the company had already made 40 million to 50 million doses of the vaccine.

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 11:36

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Clear strategy needed for schools and colleges, says Labour

Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green has responded to today’s news the government hopes the staggered reopening of schools in England will go ahead in January as planned.

She said: “Labour has been clear that keeping pupils learning should be a national priority, but a litany of Government failures, from a lack of funding for safety measures through to the delayed and chaotic announcement of mass testing, is putting young people’s education at risk.

“It is time for the Prime Minister to get a grip on the situation and show some leadership.

“The country needs to hear from him today, alongside the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser, about the evidence on the spread of the virus, how he plans to minimise disruption to education and a clear strategy for schools and colleges that commands the support of parents, pupils and staff.”

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 11:30

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Indonesia bans international visitors for two weeks

International visitors will be barred from entering Indonesia for two weeks in a bid to stem the spread of a new potentially more contagious variant of the coronavirus, according to the country’s foreign minister.

The new regulation, effective from 1 January, comes days after Indonesia banned travellers from the UK and tightened rules for those arriving from Europe and Australia to limit the spread of the new strain.

Earlier this year Indonesia banned all tourists but some exemptions have been made for business travellers.

The new regulation applies to all foreign visitors with the exception of high-level government officials, Retno Marsudi said.

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 11:21

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China jails citizen journalist who reported Covid crackdown

A Chinese citizen journalist has been jailed for four years for her reports on the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.  

Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” for covering the initial stages of the pandemic.

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 11:08

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Pandemic ‘biggest hit to mental health since Second World War’

A leading psychiatrist has said the coronavirus pandemic could be the “biggest hit to mental health since the Second World War”.

Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has said even when the virus is under control, there will be “profound” long-term consequences.

He told the Guardian: “It is probably the biggest hit to mental health since the Second World War.

“It doesn’t stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in hospital. You’ve got to fund the long-term consequences.”

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 10:48

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Herd immunity through vaccine unlikely before summer

A scientist advising the government has said the UK is unlikely to achieve herd immunity through a Covid-19 vaccination programme before the summer.

Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), described the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as a “game changer” if it is approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the coming days.

But he told BBC Breakfast: “To get the wider community herd immunity from vaccination rather than through natural infection will take probably 70 to 80 per cent of the population to be vaccinated, and that, I’m afraid, is going to take us right into the summer I expect.”

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 10:38

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Teenagers fined £1,000 after police break up rave

Two teenagers have been fined £1,000 and a man has been arrested after police discovered 100 people at a Boxing Day rave in Manchester.

Stuti Mishra has more details:

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 10:29

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Scotland will see ‘cost’ for Christmas mixing

The president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow has said there will be a “cost” for allowing household mixing in Scotland on Christmas Day.

Prof Jackie Taylor told the BBC: “When there is increased mixing we know there is likely to be increased transmission, (Scotland’s) levels have never fallen to the kind of levels that we would have wished, so we are starting from a higher base.

“In addition, the new variant strain we are seeing does appear to be significantly more transmissible and that does give us great cause for concern, when we add that to the usual winter pressures we are really very anxious for the potential of a further huge surge of cases.”

She added: “I think it is absolutely right that the restrictions were only flexed for that day but, inevitably, there will be a cost for this.”

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 10:12

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Little sign of ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among elderly

Practice GP Dr Fari Ahmad has said that so far there has been little sign of “vaccine hesitancy” among the first groups to receive the Pfizer jab.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she said: “What’s really interesting is a lot of the over-80s are very happy to have the vaccine.

“I think they do understand how much of a difference it will make to them individually and they’re probably the ones that have been shielding, and it’s had a massive impact on them.

“As we move through the age ranges I certainly think there will be some vaccine hesitancy, but I would hope that people will have seen the benefits of it.”

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 09:58

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Gove casts doubt on full reopening of schools

Michael Gove has thrown the full reopening of schools into doubt, with government scientists believed to have warned that some children must stay at home.

The intention for primary schools and GCSE and A-level students to return next week – and all other pupils a week later – is the plan “for the moment”, the Cabinet Office minister said.

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has more details:

Chiara Giordano28 December 2020 09:50

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