Boris Johnson will meet his cabinet remotely on Sunday to decide how people will be able to gather with loved ones at Christmas, before the announcement of a new Covid winter plan.
The prime minister, who is self-isolating, will then confirm by video to parliament on Monday that national restrictions will end on 2 December and be replaced by the three-tier regional system, with even tighter controls in some areas.
The Observer understands that ministers are keen to agree a set of UK-wide rules that can be adopted for the Christmas period in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Talks with the devolved administrations were also taking place this weekend to try to agree a united approach that will apply for a limited period during the festive season:
Most of the British public would rather have a locked-down Christmas than have a new lockdown imposed in January, a new poll suggests.
With the government considering the extent to which restrictions should be lifted to limit the impact on Christmas family gatherings, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that the public opted for a locked-down Christmas over new January restrictions by a margin of 54% to 33%.
This split is almost identical across all party groups and demographics, with older voters in particular preferring to lock down over Christmas rather than in January.
There was also strong support for banning people from posting conspiracy theories about the vaccine online, with 64% supporting the idea.
The public are split on whether coronavirus vaccinations should be mandatory, with 42% in support and 45% opposing. Two thirds (66%) of adults in the UK would take a vaccine if it became available and were recommended by the government for people like them:
As Victoria marked its 23rd consecutive day of no new Covid-19 cases and no additional deaths, the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, announced the end of mandatory mask-wearing outdoors and increased visitor limits in homes, and increased capacity in restaurants, pubs, and gyms.
From Monday, for the first time in more than three months, Victorians will no longer be required to wear masks when outside at all times, under the new rules announced on Sunday. Instead, people will only be required to wear mask when indoors and on public transport, or in places outside where social distancing is not possible.
“If you go to Bunnings and you are inside the store, you are wearing a mask. If you are in the car park, you do not have to wear your mask,” Andrews said. “But if you are queueing up for a sausage, and you are with other people, and you are simply not keeping a distance, you are part of a crowd, you need to put the mask on.”
Under the relaxed rules, people will be allowed to have up to 15 people in their home each day, and this rule applies to holiday accomodation. Cafes, bars, and restaurants will be able to seat 100 indoors and 200 outdoors, within the density limits:
Guitar Center Inc, the largest US retailer of music instruments and equipment, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Saturday, as the coronavirus pandemic made music lovers move their shopping online.
The retailer has negotiated to have a total of $375 million in debtor-in-possession financing from its existing lenders and intends to raise $335 million in new senior secured notes, the company said in a statement.
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Virginia.
Here is the full story on South Australia’s opposition leader calling for an end to hotel quarantine:
Japan may limit event attendance as Covid-19 cases surge
Japan may reimpose attendance limits for sports and other large events to curb a spike in Covid-19 infections, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Sunday.
The limits would be applied in areas of the country seeing a sharp increase in cases, Nishimura said on a talk show on public broadcaster NHK. The government imposed attendance limits earlier in the year but relaxed them in recent months.
The government is also considering how to refund cancellation fees for customers who booked trips via a domestic tourism campaign that was partially suspended on Saturday, Nishimura said.
New coronavirus cases across Japan climbed to a record 2,596 on Saturday, according to NHK. In Tokyo, the daily infection rate was an all-time high 539 cases.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 15,741 to 918,269, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Sunday.
The reported death toll rose by 138 to 14,022, the tally showed.
On 7 May, when England was still in its first national lockdown and the crisis over shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) was its height, a Tory peer called Dido Harding was thrust suddenly to the centre of the fight against Covid-19.
Harding was well known in the business community and, partly thanks to her marriage to Conservative MP John Penrose, in top Tory circles too. But her professional reputation had little to do with any great medical knowledge. Since 2017 she had been chair of NHS Improvement, a management post overseeing foundation trusts, but her career heights were as boss at the telecoms firm TalkTalk, and before that she had been in senior roles at the supermarket chains Sainsbury’s and Tesco.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, knew Harding, however, and shared an interest in horse racing with her. She was also a good friend of former prime minister David Cameron.
With the Covid crisis raging, there was little time to waste. Because of her management abilities and as she was available and willing to serve, Hancock placed her in charge of England’s new Covid-19 NHS test-and-trace system without putting the unpaid position out to open competition:
In the UK, coronavirus may be doing its best to cancel Christmas but, for the time being anyway, shoppers are carrying on regardless, with this week’s Black Friday online sales expected to reach new heights.
In previous years, store chiefs have agonised about the impact on their high street chains of the US-inspired discount event, which arrived on British shores with a bang in 2013. But come this (Black) Friday, selling online will – for anything other than essentials – be the only game in town for retailers, whose shops may by then be closed in three of the four home nations.
Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy Retail Economics, says lockdown 2 means a “seismic shift” towards online shopping this Christmas. About 23m Britons are expected to do most of their gift buying on the internet, in a development that will starve struggling high streets of much-needed business.
“I think people are well aware that this Christmas is going to be completely different,” he says. “They are not going to be able to go to their local town centre or shopping mall and have the same pleasant experience as they had last year.”
The virtual high street has already gone into overdrive: online sales are up 58% in the second week of November compared with the same period last year, according to internet industry body IMRG. It predicts that sales during Black Friday week will end up being between 35% and 45% higher than in 2019:
Loeffler quarantining after mixed Covid test results
US senator Kelly Loeffler is quarantining after receiving mixed results from recent coronavirus tests.
The Georgia senator’s campaign said in a statement on Saturday night that Loeffler took two rapid Covid tests on Friday morning which came back negative.
She did another test on Friday evening and the results came back positive. Loeffler tested again Saturday morning and the results were inconclusive.
Her campaign says she doesn’t have symptoms and she is following CDC guidelines and informing those with whom she was in direct contact.
Loeffler appeared at a campaign event with vice president Mike Pence and senator David Perdue in Georgia on Friday.
Back in Australia, the federal finance and trade minister, Simon Birmingham, says it’s not impossible that international travel could be back on the cards next year, but to do it in the first half of 2021 would be challenging.
Such travel would depend on the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines.
“Then of course the manufacturing rollout, distribution, uptake, all the other factors that come into how it is that a vaccine could change the way we look at things around this pandemic,” Birmingham told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
“It’s not impossible ... I think the first half may be challenging.”
Aside from the various vaccines Australia is involved with, a new nasal spray with the potential to fight Covid-19 and other respiratory viral infections will be tested in the hopes of manufacturing it domestically.
The federal government said that with a private partner it would provide $11.7m to fund the testing, as part of the biomedical translation fund.
“This investment will continue the proud Australian tradition of discovery and translation that saves lives and improves lives,” Health minister Greg Hunt said in a statement.
In New York, the Rockefeller Centre ice-skating rink is opening in a limited way but on time for the holidays.
The iconic, sunken rink in midtown Manhattan welcomed skaters on Saturday afternoon as part of a tradition dating to the 1930s, according to its website.
The rink is operating at reduced capacity, with skate time limited to 50 minutes. Masks are required.
The website says there’s a legend that the rink was inspired by “a Depression-era skate salesman who demonstrated his product by skating on the frozen water of the Rockefeller Centre fountain”.
It officially opened as a “skating pond” on Christmas Day 1936. It was supposed to be temporary but became so popular it became a permanent fixture for the holiday season.
Another seasonal fixture, the Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree, went up last weekend and will be lighted on 2 December.
Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on 21 November, up from 16 the previous day, with three cases of local transmission and nine cases originating overseas, the National Health Commission said on Sunday.
The commission said in its daily bulletin that two of the local transmissions took place in Inner Mongolia and one in Shanghai.
Inner Mongolia’s health authority said on Saturday it had confirmed two new coronavirus cases in Hulunbuir city on the Chinese border with Russia.
According to a report from the official Xinhua news agency, the positive case in the city was found after mass testing following infections of a security inspector at Pudong international airport and his wife.
Mainland China reported another 11 asymptomatic cases on 21 November, down from 18 on the previous day.
It has so far reported an accumulated total of 86,431 Covid-19 cases, with the official death toll at 4,634.
South Korea reports more than 300 cases for fifth straight day
South Korea reported more than 300 new coronavirus cases for a fifth straight day on Sunday, as officials warned that stricter rules could be imposed if the trend continued to threaten the highly populated capital of Seoul and surrounding areas.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 330 new daily coronavirus cases as of midnight on Saturday, a drop from 386 reported the day before, a level not seen since August.
Officials warned that unless the number of infections drops substantially, they may raise the level of social distancing regulations.
On Saturday, a KDCA official said the country was at “a critical juncture” and could be facing a large nationwide outbreak that surpasses two earlier waves of infections if it fails to block the current spread.
Last week South Korea tightened prevention guidelines ahead of highly competitive annual college entrance exams scheduled for 3 December, and prime minister Chung Sye-kyun called for all social gatherings to be cancelled.
Bars, nightclubs, religious services and sports events continue to be permitted with attendance restrictions, but that could change if officials impose more social distancing measures.
South Korea has employed an aggressive tracing, testing and quarantine effort to stamp down outbreaks without imposing lockdowns. But the country has been dogged by a persistent number of small infections, bringing the total number of cases to 30,733 with 505 deaths.
Politicians and economists are pretty confident the Australian economy has rebounded from its massive economic contraction as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, AAP reports.
A series of reports over the next week and half will give clues as to the size of of that recovery ahead of the September quarter national accounts due on 2 December, and what it might mean for the final three months of the year.
The economy sank into recession for the first time in nearly 30 years in the first half of 2020, contracting by 7% in the June quarter after a more modest 0.3% fall in the March quarter.
Australia has not suffered three consecutive quarters of contraction since the early 1980s recession, when it endured four.
Economists at Commonwealth Bank, for example, are expecting the national accounts to show 2% economic growth for the September quarter; National Australia Bank is looking at 4%.
At this stage, economists are pointing to largely positive retail spending figures as restrictions were eased around the country, jumping 6.5% in the September quarter after dropping 3.5% in the previous three months.
However, figures for construction and business investment this week are unlikely to be so sprightly.
Construction work figures on Wednesday are forecast to fall 1.9% for the September quarter after 0.7% decline in the previous quarter.
On Thursday, private capital expenditure is predicted to fall 1.5% after a 5.9% drop in the previous three months. However, of interest will be investment intentions contained in the report.
Economists will finalise their forecasts after business profits and inventories, trade and government spending data are released on the Monday and Tuesday of the following week.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe told a conference last week the economy is on the road back to recovery, although he conceded it will likely be a bumpy journey and a full recovery will take some time.
Donald Trump appears to admit Covid is 'running wild' in the US
Our full story now on Donald Trump appearing to have admitted that coronavirus is “running wild” across the US, in contrast with his statements throughout the election campaign that the country was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.
As new Covid infections in the US approached 200,000 a day, Trump took to Twitter on Saturday night to insist things were bad outside the United States as well: “The Fake News is not talking about the fact that ‘Covid’ is running wild all over the World, not just in the U.S.”
On Friday the US recorded 195,500 new cases, a global and US record, according to Johns Hopkins University data. On Saturday the country passed 12m cases, by far the largest total in the world.
During the election campaign, Trump repeatedly asserted that the US was “rounding the turn” on coronavirus and that the country would hear a lot less about the pandemic after 4 November.
In his tweets late on Saturday, he insisted the “fake news” forgets to mention that “far fewer people are dying when they get Covid”:
FDA issues emergency use authorisation for Regeneron
The US Food and Drug Administration issued emergency use authorisation for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Covid-19 antibody therapy on Saturday, an experimental treatment given to US president Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.
The FDA said the monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab should be administered together for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 in adults and pediatric patients with positive results of direct Sars-Cov-2 viral testing and who are at high risk for progressing to severe Covid-19.
This includes those who are 65 or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions.
The agency said the antibodies are not authorised for patients who are hospitalised due to Covid or require oxygen therapy due to Covid. A benefit of casirivimab and imdevimab treatment has not been shown in patients hospitalised due to Covid.
England to enter stronger three-tier system after lockdown
England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the national lockdown ends on 2 December, Downing Street has said. Boris Johnson is expected to detail his plan for winter – which includes details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas – to MPs on Monday.
The “Covid winter plan” is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said. And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.
The cabinet is expected to discuss and sign off the plan on Sunday before Johnson announces it to parliament the following day:
Australia’s finance and trade minister, Simon Birmingham, says he wishes the brief lockdown in his home state of South Australia had never occurred, but the few days of restrictions were “a damn sight better than a few months”.
Birmingham, who is a Liberal party senator, said the South Australian Liberal government had announced the six-day lockdown last week to quickly “manage what they saw the risk being at the time” and to avoid an extended lockdown as experienced in the state of Victoria.
The federal government has been highly critical of the Victorian Labor government’s handling of the second wave, but has sought to differentiate that from what occurred in SA.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, Birmingham said he could “understand the rationale, particularly given that [SA] went from one case to 16 cases to 23 cases in the space of a couple of days, that they had some 5,000-plus people who are now in mandatory isolation as a result of the contact tracing activities”.
“This instance proved to be false, but this claim that Covid had been contracted again off another touch point, off of a delivered pizza box, was a tipping point for them in terms of the potential number of contact tracing elements that they needed to chase down,” he said.
“So I of course would wish that the short but brief lockdown had never occurred. I wish even more that this guy had told the truth, whatever his motivations may be, but I do understand that a few days of intensive restrictions are certainly a damn sight better than a few months.”
Birmingham disagreed with calls from the NSW Liberal premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to open up a third of her state’s hotel quarantine slots to international students and skilled migrants as a boost to the economy.
While he could understand the viewpoint, and expressed hope of bringing back students as soon as possible, he said “the priority has to remain on returning Australians”.
US president Donald Trump has come a step closer to admitting that coronavirus is infecting a staggering number of Americans each day after the country – the world’s worst-affected in terms of the number of coronavirus cases – confirmed nearly 200,000 cases in 24 hours.
Trump tweeted a short while ago that the virus (which he called “Covid” in scare quotes) is “running wild all over the World, not just in the US”:
G20 leaders agree to fund fair distribution of vaccines
Leaders of the 20 biggest economies on Saturday vowed to ensure a fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, drugs and tests around the world and do what was needed to support poorer countries struggling to recover from the pandemic.
“We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members’ commitments to incentivise innovation,” they said in a draft G20 communique seen by Reuters.
“We recognise the role of extensive immunisation as a global public good.”
The twin crises of the pandemic and an uneven, uncertain global recovery dominated the first day of a two-day summit under the chairmanship of Saudi Arabia, which hands the rotating presidency of the G20 to Italy next month.
The Covid-19 pandemic which has thrown the global economy into a deep recession this year and efforts needed to underpin an economic rebound in 2021 were at the top of the G20 agenda.
“We must work to create the conditions for affordable and equitable access to these tools for all peoples,” Saudi Arabia’s king Salman bin Abdulaziz said in his opening remarks.
G20 leaders are concerned the pandemic might further deepen global divisions between the rich and the poor.
“We need to avoid at all costs a scenario of a two-speed world where only the richer can protect themselves against the virus and restart normal lives,” French president Emmanuel Macron said.
To do that, the European Union urged G20 leaders quickly to put more money into a global project for vaccines, tests and therapeutics – called Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator – and its Covax facility to distribute vaccines.
“At the G20 summit I called for $4.5bn to be invested in ACT Accelerator by the end of 2020, for procurement and delivery of Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines everywhere,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter. “We need to show global solidarity.”
That press conference is over. But in other New South Wales updates, this very good boy was spotted recently in a Sydney home:
Back to New South Wales, Australia.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian thinks local councils should not be cancelling Australia Day (26 January) plans, but that they should put Covid-safe plans in place.
We’re definitely modifying our plans as a state government but we are still recognising the importance of that day and I would encourage all councils, if they have any concerns to contact NSW Health or Service NSW and we can support you in having a Covid-safe Australia Day. I don’t want people to use Covid as an excuse not to celebrate an important day.
US CDC advises against all cruise ship travel
Breaking for a moment from Australian news, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday it recommended that all people avoid cruise ship travel as the risk of Covid-19 on liners is very high.
It advised passengers who decide to go on a cruise to get tested three to five days after their trip and stay home for seven days after travel, even if they test negative.
Last month the agency issued a framework for a phased resumption of cruise ship operations after a no-sail order issued in March in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic was to expire.
The CDC said earlier that from 1 March to 28 September, data showed “a total of 3,689 confirmed cases of Covid-19 or Covid-like illness cases on cruise ships and 41 deaths”.
Berejiklian is asked about her approach compared to that of other states. She doesn’t agree with lockdowns in response to a few cases.
We have obviously learned a lot about the virus and how we can handle the pandemic since March when we had the lockdown – February, March – when it first became apparent how serious the situation was. And certainly in the last months, we have learned a lot about our capacity to be resilient.
So it would really depend on the extent that other states were able to control community transmission and keep that down, but what’s been demonstrated to me is that other states are moving very quickly to shut down their entire economies when they have a couple of cases.
Now in that situation I don’t agree with that position, but in that situation it actually means we don’t need to close our borders because none of those communities are able to move around their own states anyway so they won’t be able to come here anyway.
But I want to give everybody certainty whether they’re families that need to see each other, whether they’re businesses that need to keep operating, I want people to feel confident that NSW has a strategy; we’re moving forward. We have a Covid recovery plan which is pretty obvious and I just think having that certainty and that strategy apparent to everybody is really important.
Still in New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian has reminded people not to lower their guard over summer (I was at Bondi beach earlier this morning and officials were walking around in rashies bearing the cheerful slogan “Socially distanced in the sun”).
I know that the residents of NSW will continue to be Covid safe, that’s what sets us apart from the rest of the country – our QR codes, our social distancing, you know, all of us in NSW are really making the effort not to let our guard down and that’s what will continue to keep us safe, and with this border opening we need to be mindful of that even more, not to let our guard down, especially over summer when people are getting together for Christmas and New Year’s, social gatherings will be more frequent. We just have to stay on high alert, but appreciate we have freedoms here in our state ...
More on the scale of that operation: there were 100,000 police shifts and 40,000 defence shifts.
Between 650 and 800 police and defence personnel were working at any time.
New South Wales reports local cases; Victoria border to reopen at midnight
In Australia, New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian is speaking.
She says there have been zero new local coronavirus cases overnight, and 11 in hotel quarantine. 12,000 tests were done.
The border between NSW and Victoria will open at midnight.
Commissioner Mick Fuller has said that 5m cars crossed the border while it was closed. He said:
It’s been a three-month operation, one of the biggest in NSW police history. We had 36 hours to establish border control and that was all about protecting the people of NSW from the virus. In the last three months, with the partnership with defence and other government agencies, I think we have done an outstanding job ...
We had more than 5m cars cross through the border checkpoints. Nearly 500,000 heavy vehicles. We have had, you know, a million permits handed out. We only had a handful of people doing the wrong thing in terms of Covid, but we did see over 1,000 arrests for criminal and other bad behaviour.
I am going to hand you over to Helen Sullivan now.
South Australia’s chief health officer Prof Nicola Spurrier has revealed the estimated reproduction number was sitting at above two and could have been as high as four.
“So that meant to me that every one of our cases had passed it on to at least two other people, if not four other people,” she said. “And in fact at that time and based on that information we had a 99% chance that the wave that was starting off in South Australia was not going to be just a little blip, but it was going to be a very significant wave.”
She said it would have meant South Australia would have 200 cases a day by mid-December.
That was before they believed the state had got on top of it.
There are hundreds of people in quarantine still, as close contacts and close contacts of contacts, and Spurrier believed in the next few days there would be more cases among those people.
She said she would feel confident the second wave has been stopped in a couple of weeks.
SA opposition calls for end to hotel quarantine
The South Australian Labor leader Peter Malinauskas has written to the premier Steven Marshall calling for an end to medi-hotels for returned travellers – what SA calls hotel quarantine – until a safer solution is found.
The Peppers medi-hotel was the source of the Parafield cluster of cases, which stands at 26 cases.
Malinauskas suggested the federal government should look at potentially having purpose-built facilities for returned travellers, staffed by non-casual workers.
South Australia reports one new Covid-19 case.
South Australia reported one new case of Covid-19, but it wasn’t associated with the Parafield cluster, which stands at 26 cases. The new case is a woman in her 20s in hotel quarantine.
The South Australian premier Steven Marshall provided an update as the state came out of its lockdown overnight:
I know that many South Australians would be absolutely delighted that the stay-at-home order has now been released. This was taken off as of midnight ... but I do need to emphasise we still do have high-level restrictions in place over and above where we were at this time last week.
They’re going to be in place through to 1 December, so we need people to listen, know those restrictions and abide by them very strictly through to the 1 December and any restrictions that might be in place thereafter. I have got to say that we are still not out of the woods.
He says there were 77,000 Covid-19 tests in South Australia this week.
Premier Daniel Andrews says the Victorian government is trialling its QR code system and he will have more to say on it very soon.
We’re getting close to a fairly detailed IT discussion but as I understand it with some very small modifications to code. We can have a situation where all of those products can speak to our CRM in the end-to-end fashion. The other thing to remember is ... there are many venues using the QR code not just to identify who was in the building but to order, to do all sorts of things that mean there is less movement, this contact between different people. That is a really good thing and we would not want to upset that.
Anecdotally every business in Melbourne I’ve been to since lockdown ended has had some form of its own QR code system.
More rule changes in Victoria:
- Hospitality can have up to 300 patrons but a maximum of 100 indoors (so 200 outdoors)
- Gyms can have up to 150 people, with one person per four square metres
- Indoor sports and gym groups can have up to 20 people, with one person per four square metres.
- Indoor pools can host 150 people; outdoor pools can host 300 people
- Holiday accomodation can have up to 15 people in the one household
- Religious ceremonies can have 150 people indoors and 300 outdoors
- Weddings and funerals can have 150 people indoors and outdoors
- Cinemas and small galleries can open up to 150 people a space, with larger facilities able to use 25% of their space
- Community venues up to 150 people indoors and 300 outdoors
- Gaming venues up to 150 people, but every second gaming machine will be turned off.
Daniel Andrews says he will make further announcements on 6 December.
Andrews says masks will still have a big role:
This thing spreads rapidly. Common sense is very important. Carry the mask, because you never know, even outside, when you might need to wear it. Masks have played a very important part in these low numbers, and we just have to see this through and part of playing your part is wearing a mask, absolutely when you are inside, so that you are not spreading this virus unbeknownst to you.
Victorian restrictions to ease
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has announced the further easing of restrictions.
From 11.59 tonight:
- 15 visitors, including dependents, in your home each day
- Outdoor gatherings increased to 50 people
- Masks will be required inside in all settings; they will not be required outside, but people will need to carry masks and wear if they can’t distance.
From 30 November:
- 25% of staff will be able to be in offices.
The new rules from 13 December:
30 visitors in a home each day.
In the United States, the Texas national guard has sent a 36-member team to El Paso to assist morgues in the border region with the number of dead as a result of Covid, AP reports.
Statewide, the Texas health department reported on Saturday a one-day high of 12,597 new virus cases, nearly 20,500 dead since the pandemic began and more than 8,200 virus hospitalisations.
“The Texas military will provide us with the critical personnel to carry out our fatality management plan and we are very grateful to them for their ongoing support,” El Paso mayor Dee Margo said on Friday when the deployment was announced.
The pandemic is blamed for 853 deaths in El Paso county, including more than 300 since October. Prisoners are being paid to move bodies and county leaders are offering $27 an hour for morgue workers.
County judge Ricardo Samaniego, in a letter to governor Greg Abbott asking for support for a 10pm-5am curfew in the county, said mortuaries were being overwhelmed. He wrote that the local medical examiner’s office reported that 234 bodies were being held at the main morgue and nine mobile morgues.
Daniel Andrews to speak at 10.30
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews will provide an update on the rules to be relaxed at 10.30am.
More on one of the vaccine candidates from Reuters:
Moderna will charge governments between $25 and $37 a dose of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, depending on the amount ordered, chief executive Stephane Bancel told German weekly Welt am Sonntag (WamS).
“Our vaccine therefore costs about the same as a flu shot, which is between $10 and $50,” he was quoted as saying.
On Monday, an EU official involved in the talks said the European Commission wanted to reach a deal with Moderna to supply millions of doses for a price below $25 a dose.
“Nothing is signed yet, but we’re close to a deal with the EU Commission. We want to deliver to Europe and are in constructive talks,” Bancel told WamS, adding it was just a “matter of days” until a contract would be ready.
Moderna has said its experimental vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing Covid, based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial, becoming the second developer to report results that far exceeded expectations after Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.
Police have issued 60 fines and 103 cautions to South Australians caught breaching Covid-19 rules despite the state emerging from lockdown without recording any new fresh local virus cases, AAP reports.
They say both business and individuals caught on Thursday and Friday “blatantly disregarded” safety directions, but most people have been “amazing” in doing the right thing over the past few days.
SA’s police commissioner Grant Stevens says his investigators are speaking to a pizza shop worker who lied to contact tracers about his whereabouts, sparking the lockdown.
He is believed to be a 36-year-old Spaniard living in Australia on a temporary graduate visa.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is due to announce the further easing of restrictions this morning. The Sunday newspapers suggest restrictions to be eased will include having to wear masks only when indoors and unable to distance, an increase in visitors to the home of 10 people, outdoor gatherings increasing to 50, pubs and restaurants allowed to have up to 100 patrons indoors and 200 outdoors, and gyms allowed to have up to 100 people.
We will know more in a little while.
The New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian is also due to give a Covid update at 11am.
Focus will also be on South Australia as the state comes out of its lockdown early after health authorities determined the risk of an outbreak was greatly reduced.
Good morning, and welcome to the Guardian’s global coronavirus live blog for Sunday.
I’m Josh Taylor, and I will be bringing you the latest news for the next little while.
Here’s the latest:
- Portugal is to ban domestic travel and close schools around two upcoming holidays to try to halt the spread of coronavirus ahead of Christmas.
- In the UK, 341 more people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the death toll to 54,626.
- The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, and there were 276 new deaths reported in hospitals over 24 hours.
- Rapid Covid-19 tests were offered to hundreds in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales as part of a pilot scheme of mass coronavirus testing. On Saturday evening, 560 people had attended the testing centre on its first day, with 554 negative tests and six positive recorded.
- Russia reported a daily record of 24,822 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the national tally to 2,064,748. The official death toll is 35,778.
- Victoria in Australia has recorded zero new cases and deaths for the 23rd day in a row, with expectations this morning that restrictions will be further eased, including relaxing of mask use.
- South Australia on Sunday has come out of its six-day lockdown a few days early after it was determined the risk of an outbreak was greatly reduced.