Coronavirus live: Gaza's clinics could soon be overwhelmed; France plans to ease restrictions

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Specialist Christmas tree sellers, farms and stalls were allowed .....y reduced.

Specialist Christmas tree sellers, farms and stalls were allowed to reopen for sales in England this weekend, after the government changed the lockdown rules to reclassify them as “essential” retailers.

While supermarkets and garden centres have been selling fresh cut trees because they were deemed to be essential businesses, smaller “farmgate” sellers were forced to close because of the month-long restrictions.

The British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association had been lobbying for the change to support the UK fresh tree sector, pointing out that sales tend to take place outdoors where social distancing is easier. Many of its members have been offering pre-booked appointments or even webcam facilities to allow shoppers to choose their own trees, with “click and collect” and other delivery services being rolled out in the run-up to Christmas. The organisation has more than 320 members who sell approximately 8m trees every year, along with fresh wreaths and holly, and with prices generally lower than in garden centres.

Last week turkey farmers received a similar pre-Christmas boost after being told by the government that thousands of seasonal workers coming to the UK from Europe to help slaughter and pluck birds for festive tables are being exempted from the 14-day quarantine.

Summary

Here are some of the key pandemic developments from around the world:

  • G20 leaders will pledge to “spare no effort” in ensuring the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide and reaffirm support for debt-laden poor countries, according to a draft communique seen by AFP on Sunday.
  • Donald Trump appears to admit Covid is ‘running wild’ in the US. Donald Trump appears 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.
  • Thousands of mourners paid homage on Sunday to Patriarch Irinej, leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), who died of Covid-19 during the country’s record surge in new cases.
  • 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.
  • In the UK, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a potential “existential threat” to central London because many people may in future choose to work in the suburbs rather than in the heart of the capital, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said on Sunday.
  • Rishi Sunak, the UK chancellor, has effectively confirmed that this week’s spending review is likely to feature a pay freeze for many public sector workers in England, saying it was “entirely reasonable” to consider pay policy in the context of the Covid-hit economy.
  • Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on Nov. 21, 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, Reuters reports.
  • A sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip could overwhelm the Palestinian enclave’s meagre medical system by next week, public health advisers said on Sunday.
  • Iran has recorded 13,053 new cases of coronavirus and 475 related deaths over the past 24 hours, after tougher coronavirus restrictions came into force in the country.
  • 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.
  • 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 continues to threaten the highly populated capital of Seoul and surrounding areas.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued emergency use authorisation for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Covid-19 antibody therapy, an experimental treatment given to US President Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian said the travel corridor between New York and London is complicated and it would be easier to relaunch transatlantic flights to “just about any” other European capital, Britain’s Financial Times reported on Sunday.

Americans can travel to the UK but have been required since the spring to spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival. The same rule applies for passengers arriving in the United States from London, Reuters reports.

“I think New York-London is complicated”, Bastian told the newspaper, casting doubt over hopes of opening an air corridor for the previously lucrative route for several airlines including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

“I think you will find on the continent several countries that are more open.”

Major airlines want the U.S. and British governments to launch a trial of coronavirus testing for passengers flying between London and New York to pave the way for resuming more international travel.

Mainland China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on Nov. 21, 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, Reuters reports.

Inner Mongolia’s health authority said on Saturday it had confirmed two new cases in Hulunbuir city on the Chinese border with Russia.

According to a report from the official Xinhua news agency, the positive case in Shanghai was found after mass testing following infections of a security inspector at Pudong International Airport and his wife.

Shanghai’s health authority later reported two new locally transmitted cases in the city on Sunday, both connected to the Pudong cases.

Mainland China reported another 11 asymptomatic cases on Nov. 21, 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.

Warning over Gaza Strip infections

A sharp rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip could overwhelm the Palestinian enclave’s meagre medical system by next week, public health advisers said on Sunday.

Gaza, where the dense and poor population of 2 million is vulnerable to contagions, has logged 14,000 coronavirus cases and 65 deaths, mostly since August, Reuters reports.

Seventy-nine of Gaza’s 100 ventilators have been taken up by Covid-19 patients, said Abdelraouf Elmanama, a microbiologist who is part of the enclave’s pandemic task force.

“In 10 days the health system will become unable to absorb such a hike in cases and there might be cases that will not find a place at intensive care units,” he said, adding that the current 0.05% mortality rate among Covid-19 patients could rise.

Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers have so far imposed one lockdown. A long-standing Israeli blockade, which is supported by neighbouring Egypt, has crippled the Gazan economy and undermined its public health apparatus.Israel says it is trying to keep weapons from reaching Hamas.

Updated

Iran has recorded 13,053 new cases of coronavirus and 475 related deaths over the past 24 hours, after tougher coronavirus restrictions came into force in the country.

The health ministry figures take the total death toll to 44,802 and the tally of cases to 854,361 in the Middle East’s worst-hit state.

On Saturday, Iran introduced stricter measures for two weeks to stem a third wave of coronavirus infections, including closing non-essential businesses and travel curbs.

Some Iranian authorities have warned that daily coronavirus deaths could reach 1,200 if the nation failed to respect health protocols, including mask-wearing and social distancing.

Updated

Hundreds of UK gyms and swimming pools will go out of business this winter if new post-lockdown restrictions being considered for England force them to remain closed, industry leaders have warned.

Huw Edwards, the chief executive of ukactive, said the government was thought to be considering keeping gyms and pools closed in December as part of a tradeoff for reopening other parts of the economy, such as pubs and restaurants.

The prime minister is due to make a statement setting out a new system of tiers, potentially with a tougher top level. Pubs and restaurants have demanded a week’s warning of new rules that would kick in after the English lockdown ends on 2 December.

Oasis leisure centre in Swindon, which announced its permanent closure last week.
Oasis leisure centre in Swindon, which announced its permanent closure last week. Photograph: Nick Osborne/Alamy Stock Photo

The UK’s 7,000 gyms, pools and leisure centres have sought to be reclassified as essential services vital to public health. The move is being debated by MPs on Monday after a petition attracted more than 600,000 signatures.

Gyms are shut in England and parts of Scotland, and are due to close in Northern Ireland on Friday. To further penalise the fitness industry would be a “political choice”, Edwards said as there was “no science” to support the idea that its venues were a source of infection.

You can read the full report from Zoe Wood here:

Updated

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is expected to announce proposals on Monday for how the lifting of England’s coronavirus lockdown will work.

Here’s the latest on what we know about the planned new Covid tier system for England.

Updated

Dubai’s health regulator said on Sunday that children aged between three and 16 could be tested for Covid-19 by providing a saliva sample instead of the widely used nasal swab.

The saliva test had been permitted following a research study by the regulator and a local university, the Dubai health authority said on Twitter.

The United Arab Emirates has reported 158,990 coronavirus cases and 552 related deaths.

The government does not disclose where in the seven emirates they occur.

Updated

G20 leaders to 'spare no effort' in ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide

G20 leaders will pledge to “spare no effort” in ensuring the equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines worldwide and reaffirm support for debt-laden poor countries, according to a draft communique seen by AFP on Sunday.

The leaders also struck a unified tone on supporting “multilateral” trade as well as the global fight against climate change, but the closing document lacks firm details on many of the issues dominating the virtual summit hosted by Riyadh.

The two-day gathering that began Saturday comes as international efforts intensify for a large-scale rollout of coronavirus vaccines after a breakthrough in trials, and as EU and other leaders call for G20 nations to plug a $4.5bn funding shortfall.

Updated

Thousands of mourners paid homage on Sunday to Patriarch Irinej, leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), who died of Covid-19 during the country’s record surge in new cases.

The 90-year-old spiritual leader tested positive for the virus soon after presiding over the funeral of his number two, who also died of the virus.

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic pays his respect by the casket of Serbia’s late Patriarch Irinej, who died of coronavirus, during funeral rites at Belgrade’s St Sava temple, in Belgrade, Serbia

Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic pays his respect by the casket of Serbia’s late Patriarch Irinej, who died of coronavirus, during funeral rites at Belgrade’s St Sava temple, in Belgrade, Serbia.
Photograph: Marko Đurica/Reuters

The Balkan country of 7 million people, the vast majority of whom are Orthodox Christians, declared three days of mourning following the spiritual leader’s death on Friday.

Two giant screens were installed outside the Church of Saint Sava, the biggest Orthodox temple in the Balkans, so that the faithful can follow the ceremony, after which the patriarch’s body will be laid to rest in the crypt.

Updated

In the UK, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a potential “existential threat” to central London because many people may in future choose to work in the suburbs rather than in the heart of the capital, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said on Sunday.

In an interview in the Observer New Review, the mayor says it is issues such as this possible reconfiguration of London that keep him awake at night.

“I think we’ve got to accept the fact that there is potentially an existential threat to central London as we know it,” he says. His team is, he says, working on a number of responses to the challenges. “Are there going to be satellite-type offices in outer London because people may not want to work from home but in a co-working space in zone 5 or zone 4?” he asks.

He also talks openly about his struggles with mental health during the pandemic, admitting that he has found it “really hard” working from home, that he misses personal contact, including playing football every Sunday, and that lack of access to his wider family and particularly his mother has left him feeling down.

Updated

In footage that spread rapidly on social media, nine inmates wearing the striped jumpers of the El Paso county jail helped move bodies into mobile morgues, Trisha Garcia reports from El Paso.

“Having to use inmates tells the story of how short-handed we must be,” El Paso county judge Ricardo Samaniego told local media, as he struggled to cope with the rising tide of Covid-19 in the west Texas city on the border with Mexico.

The sheriff’s office said the use of the inmates began on 9 November, on a volunteer basis. El Paso county said the inmates were tested and provided with personal protective equipment by the medical examiner’s office, and would face a two-week quarantine once the program was over. They were being paid $2 an hour.

“It was just a temporary focus, and we’re waiting for the Texas national guard to help us out with that,” said Samaniego, in response to outcry on social media over the use of inmates rather than trained medical professionals.

A spokeswoman for the El Paso county sheriff’s office told the Guardian the inmates’ work would “end when the national guard arrives”. Samaniego, however, wasn’t sure those troops were coming.

“It has not been confirmed that they would be able to take over the demand that we have at this time,” he said.

Read more here:

Updated

Rishi Sunak, the UK chancellor, has effectively confirmed that this week’s spending review is likely to feature a pay freeze for many public sector workers in England, saying it was “entirely reasonable” to consider pay policy in the context of the Covid-hit economy.

The prospect of a return to the pay freeze that ran from 2010 to 2018 has prompted anger among opposition MPs and unions, with Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s secretary general, calling it “morally obscene and bad economics”.

Government sources have already raised the prospect of a pay freeze at Wednesday’s spending review, which will cover just one year given the uncertain state of the economy amid coronavirus.

NHS England doctors and nurses are expected to be exempted.

Asked to confirm the pay freeze, the chancellor told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I can’t comment on future pay policy in advance of the spending review, but what I would say is, when we launched the spending review, I did say to departments that when we think about settlements it would be entirely reasonable to think about those in the context of the wider economic climate. That’s a reasonable thing to do.

“Secondly, I think it would be fair to also think about what’s happening with wages, with jobs, with hours across the economy, when we think about what the right thing to do in the public sector is.”

Asked if he was therefore not ruling out a pay freeze, Sunak said: “You can ask me any question and say, are you ruling it out, or ruling it in. When we launched the spending review, we said when we think about public sector pay that should be done in the context of the overall economic climate. I think that’s an entirely reasonable thing to do.”

You can read the rest of Peter’s report here :

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has hinted that the government will review the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants – which was in place before national restrictions were reintroduced.

He told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “It’s definitely something that we’re looking at and I think, as I said, one of the things that we’ve been able to do as we’ve learned is get data, see what works and see where we can improve things.

“I think it’s probably fair to say when we introduced the curfew, that was something that was in common with many other countries and cities around the world.

“As we’ve learnt more, there’s opportunities for us to look and refine things, and that is one of the things on our list.”

Updated

Despite the promising experimental vaccine news from Pfizer and Moderna, other efforts – which may be even more effective – continue around the world, the Observer reports, as the race for an effective vaccine continues.

You can read Laura Spinney’s report here:

Updated

More from Rishi Sunak’s Sky News interview. Asked if the government would publish a cost-benefit analysis of future lockdown measures, he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It’s very hard to be precise in estimating the particular impact of a one-week restriction.”

He added: “What you will see next week when we have the spending review, alongside that will be a set of forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility … which will show the enormous strain and stress our economy is experiencing, the job losses that you mention, the forecasts of what will happen, and it’s right that we consider those in the round as we consider the best way to fight the virus.”

Updated

Some key points to take away from UK chancellor Rishi Sunak’s interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge.

On exiting national restrictions on December, Sunak said: “We’ll be going back into a tiered system, which is a far better way to tackle this on a localised approach.”

On Christmas, he said: “Christmas is not going to be normal this year, but, that said … we’re looking at ways to see how families can spend some time with each other over (the) Christmas period.”

On suggestions that for every day restrictions are relaxed over Christmas, five days of tighter restrictions could be needed, he said: “The deputy chief medical officer spoke about this just the other day and I think it’s difficult to be so precise and granular about the impact of any individual measure that we might take.”

Updated

France to start easing restrictions in coming weeks

France will start easing lockdown rules in coming weeks, carrying out the process in three stages so as to avoid a new flareup in the pandemic, the government said on Sunday.

On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron will give a speech to the nation about the virus situation and may announce a partial relaxation of restrictions which have been in place since 30 October, Reuters reports.

“Emmanuel Macron will give prospects over several weeks, especially on how we adjust our strategy. What is at stake is adapting lockdown rules as the health situation improves while avoiding a new flare up in the epidemic,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told Le Journal du Dimanche.

“There will be three steps to (lockdown) easing in view of the health situation and of risks tied to some businesses: a first step around 1 December, then before the year-end holidays, and then from January 2021,” Attal added.

Macron has said that France’s second national lockdown, which started on 30 October, would last at least four weeks. Curbs include the closure of non-essential stores, restaurants and bars.

But with recent data showing France on track to rein in a surge in coronavirus infections, the government is under pressure from shops and businesses to ease restrictions in time for the Christmas shopping season, when many retailers make the bulk of their annual turnover.

“We had committed to allow them (shopkeepers) to reopen around 1 December if the health situation improved, which seems to be the case,” Attal said. Bars and restaurants however “will continue to experience restrictions,”, he added.

The number of new coronavirus infections in France rose by 17,881 on Saturday, lower than the 22,882 reported on Friday while the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 dropped for the fifth day in a row and was down at 31,365.

Updated

In the UK, shadow business minister Lucy Powell has called for “methodical, measured clarity” and a “route map” to allow the UK to plan through to 2021.

She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge it was important: “So that families know what they’re supposed to be doing when, just as importantly so that businesses can plan whether they are reopening and, if they are, under what terms and how they can continue over the coming weeks.”

Instead, what the UK was seeing was over-briefing and then pulling back the drawbridge at the last minute, mixed messages - stay at home, go to work, stay at home, go to work, she added.

Powell also said whether people are able to see their families at Christmas also depends on the weeks after it. She argued that while we all want to be able to see our families, “we don’t want to do that in a way that we then have to pay a heavy price in the following weeks.”

Updated

It sounds like the build-up to an illegal rave. Invitations are passed by word of mouth to trusted people. Minimal information – time, directions – is quietly given with pleas for discretion. Once everyone is assembled in a barn on a remote farm – “away from prying eyes,” says the organiser – it begins.

This is no rave, but an English church service under lockdown, and the organiser is a Protestant pastor. The Christians who will gather illegally in the west of England on Sunday morning – as they have for the past two Sundays – will pray, read from the scriptures, sing hymns and listen to a sermon.

“We’ve been holding clandestine services since this lockdown began,” the pastor told the Observer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It feels weird for us to act this way. People have said it feels more like an underground church in China.

“The fact that we have to sneak around to worship God, in fear of criminal prosecution, is alarming. But we do what we have to do.”

According to church leaders, the Observer has spoken to, an increasing number of congregations are breaking the law in order to worship together, an activity banned under current restrictions. Some are moving to different premises, others meeting covertly in regular church buildings.

Updated

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville will launch a campaign called UnitedCity on Monday which aims to get Manchester “moving” after lockdown.

He told the Sunday Times of the need for balance, adding that saving one life was more important than 10,000 people in a football stadium, but said: “We have to get people’s lives moving again.

“People in this country don’t mind bad news as long as you give it to them straight. I truly believe people would rather be punched with the truth than tickled with a lie.

“You have got to be decisive. This week there are hundreds of thousands of businesses around the country who don’t know whether to bring staff back in a week’s time – and we’re two weeks away from national lockdown ending.”

Updated

Hi. Caroline Davies here, taking over the blog from Helen. I will be with you for the next few hours. A reminder that you can get in contact on [email protected]

That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, and my spelling and fact-checker, Bones, for today.

Caroline Davies will be with you for the next few hours.

Swiss doctors have urged those vulnerable to Covid-19 complications to record their wishes for end-of-life care in advance to help ease pressure on intensive care units, drawing criticism from an advocacy group.

Reuters: Pro Senectute Schweiz, an organisation for the elderly, said the doctors’ appeal was premature and excessive but medics insist such patient decrees are necessary in the heart-wrenching reality of caring for critical patients during this pandemic.

As health systems grapple with soaring infection rates, medical professionals working with limited resources and finite space in ICUs can at times face agonising dilemmas, and ethical questions around treating Covid-19 patients have spawned a government review in Britain and a court fight in Germany.

Warning that Switzerland was running low on intensive care beds, the Swiss Society for Intensive Care Medicine (SGI) called this week on the “especially imperilled”, including people over 60, or with health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, to put their wishes on paper in case the worst should happen.

“This will support your own relatives, but also the teams in the ICUs, as they make decisions so the treatment can be done in the best possible manner according to the individual patient wishes,” SGI said in a statement.

Russia on Sunday reported a daily increase of 24,581 new coronavirus infections, taking the national tally to 2,089,329.

Authorities also reported 401 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 36,179.

Medical workers and patients are seen in the treatment hall of a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients in the Krylatskoye Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020.
Medical workers and patients are seen in the treatment hall of a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients in the Krylatskoye Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

The Tramshed Project, London: ‘It’s so now’: restaurant review

A break (sort of) from coronavirus news:

I’m writing this in the present tense though the Tramshed is now closed. But, squeeze the rabbit’s foot and kiss the horse’s shoe, it should be open again soon. I visit the day before the current lockdown is announced. Arriving here feels like coming face to face with the accommodations we have all had to make in 2020. Open laptops litter tables like flocks of silvery birds about to take flight and intense young people, trying to make this whole damn situation work, stare into video screens to which they are connected by an umbilicus of headphone cable.

If this all sounds exhausting, you can relax. We’ve all been in this together for so long that we know the deal. This is how we now must live. The Tramshed Project is still very much a food venture and a good one. Cools-Lartigue’s intention is that, in time, it will play host to a variety of chefs. Zoe Adjonyoh of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen will be a presenting a menu of West African-influenced dishes, while James Cochran of 1251 will be offering a set of bar snacks built around his brilliant way with buttermilk fried chicken. That menu is already up and I seriously want to lick the words:

Summary

Here are the key pandemic developments from around the world:

  • Donald Trump appears to admit Covid is ‘running wild’ in the US. Donald Trump appears 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.
  • US Senator Kelly Loeffler is quarantining after receiving mixed results from recent coronavirus tests. A spokesperson for the Georgia senator’s campaign said in a statement Saturday night Loeffler took two rapid Covid tests on Friday morning which came back negative.
  • 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.
  • 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 continues to threaten the highly populated capital of Seoul and surrounding areas.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued emergency use authorisation for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Covid-19 antibody therapy, an experimental treatment given to US President Donald Trump that he said helped cure him of the disease.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

In Australia:

  • 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 came out of its six-day lockdown a few days early after it was determined the risk of an outbreak was greatly reduced.
  • New South Wales reported 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 on Sunday after being closed for three months.

Mexico’s health ministry reported on Saturday 6,719 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 550 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 1,032,688 and the death toll to 101,373.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

It’s time for ourDear Mariella: Covid edition. Here’s the dilemma – response below:

My partner and I have been separated by Covid for many weeks. I am living in our home, while he has moved out and is looking after his disabled adult daughter. The agreement was that when his daughter went back to her mother, he would return home.

However, the date seems ever-changing. Last week, this week and now next week. This is all down to his high anxiety regarding Covid. First, he delayed coming home because my son, who had recently had the virus, came for the weekend. He then delayed again because my son had met a friend so there could be infection on surfaces in the home for 28 days.

I am now thinking he won’t come home until we’ve all had the vaccine. I am cautious, but try to have some company and joy while mitigating the risks. He, basically, wants me to stop all activities. I have already given up things I would otherwise do due to his anxiety – and he isn’t even here.

He is utterly clear that he will lock himself away for six months if necessary, convinced that if he gets it, he will be ill long-term or die.

He loves me and would rather be here, but only if I agree to a personal lockdown. We cannot find a way forward and this is not doing our relationship any good at all.

I think he is way over the top; he thinks everyone else is negligent and mildly insane.

Boris Johnson and his health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted “unlawfully” when appointing three key figures – including the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding – to posts in the fight against Covid-19, according to a legal challenge submitted by campaigners to the high court.

The Observer has seen details of documents from those pursuing the case – and initial responses from government lawyers – relating to the call for a judicial review into the appointment of Baroness Harding, who is a Tory peer, and into those of Kate Bingham to the post of head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce and Mike Coupe to the role of director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.

The case has been lodged jointly by the not-for-profit Good Law Project headed by Jolyon Maugham QC, and the UK’s leading race equality thinktank, the Runnymede Trust. If it is successful, it would represent a further serious blow to the credibility of the government’s handling of the pandemic and support claims that ministers have been running a “chumocracy”.

The Guardian’s Toby Helm and Michael Savage report:

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.

People enjoy illuminated autumn leaves at the Eikando temple in Kyoto on Saturday, 21 November 2020.
People enjoy illuminated autumn leaves at the Eikando temple in Kyoto on Saturday, 21 November 2020. Photograph: Yoshio Tsunoda/AFLO/REX/Shutterstock

Updated

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.

Updated

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:

Updated

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:

Updated

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.

Vice president Mike Pence will deliver remarks at a Defend the Majority rally in Canton, Georgia, in support of David Perdue and Loeffler.
Vice president Mike Pence will deliver remarks at a Defend the Majority rally in Canton, Georgia, in support of David Perdue and Loeffler. Photograph: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/RexShutterstock

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.

Updated

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.”

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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.

Updated

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.

Updated

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.

A worker wearing a protective suit leads residents to a makeshift Covid-19 coronavirus testing centre in Tianjin on 21 November after new coronavirus cases were detected in the city.
A worker wearing a protective suit leads residents to a makeshift Covid-19 coronavirus testing centre in Tianjin on 21 November after new coronavirus cases were detected in the city. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

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.

Updated

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.

Performers wearing traditional guard uniforms and protective face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus march on a street in Seoul, South Korea, Friday 20 November 2020.
Performers wearing traditional guard uniforms and protective face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus march on a street in Seoul, South Korea, Friday 20 November 2020. Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP

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.

Updated

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.

Decorations of living trees and flowers are placed on streets, entrances of buildings and squares to support businesses and to attract people back to the city, on 17 November 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.
Decorations of living trees and flowers are placed on streets, entrances of buildings and squares to support businesses and to attract people back to the city, on 17 November 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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.

Updated

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”:

Updated

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.

Updated

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.

Deserted nightspots on an empty street in Soho, London, on 21 November.
Deserted nightspots on an empty street in Soho, London, on 21 November. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

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:

Updated

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”.

Finance and trade minister and Senate leader Simon Birmingham.
Finance and trade minister and Senate leader Simon Birmingham. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

“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”.

Updated

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.

Donald Trump at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling,Virginia, on 21 November, as the virtual G-20 summit was taking place.
Donald Trump at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling,Virginia, on 21 November, as the virtual G-20 summit was taking place. Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

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”:

Updated

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.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, centre, during the virtual G20 summit via a videoconference from Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 21 November.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, centre, during the virtual G20 summit via a videoconference from Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 21 November. Photograph: Marcos Correa/AFP/Getty

“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.”

Updated

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.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

She says:

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.

Updated

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.

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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”.

Updated

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.

Updated

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”).

A sunset run on Bondi beach in Sydney, Australia.
A sunset run on Bondi beach in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Loren Elliott/Reuters

Berejiklian:

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 ...

Updated

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.

Updated

New South Wales reports zero 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.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller. Photograph: James Gourley/AAP

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.

Updated

Hi, Helen Sullivan joining you now.

This is the place to be for global pandemic news – including Australian updates.

You can contact me – with questions, comments and stories from your part of the world – on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

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.”

South Australia’s chief health officer Nicola Spurrier.
South Australia’s chief health officer Nicola Spurrier. Photograph: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

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.

Updated

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.

South Australia’s Labor leader Peter Malinauskas.
South Australia’s Labor leader Peter Malinauskas. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

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.

Updated

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.

South Australian premier Steven Marshall.
South Australian premier Steven Marshall. Photograph: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

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.

Updated

Premier Daniel Andrews says the Victorian government is trialling its QR code system and he will have more to say on it very soon.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews addresses the media on Sunday.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews addresses the media on Sunday. Photograph: Erik Anderson/AAP

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.

Updated

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.

Updated

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.

Updated

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.

Updated

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.

A drone delivers a Covid self-collection test kit to a woman in El Paso.
A drone delivers a Covid self-collection test kit to a woman in El Paso. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

“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.

Updated

Daniel Andrews to speak at 10.30

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews will provide an update on the rules to be relaxed at 10.30am.

Updated

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.

CEO of Moderna Stéphane Bancel.
CEO of Moderna Stéphane Bancel. Photograph: Moderna/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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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.

South Australian police commissioner Grant Stevens
South Australian police commissioner Grant Stevens Photograph: Kelly Barnes/Getty Images

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.

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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.

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Good morning

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.

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