Coronavirus live: UK lockdown ‘long way’ from lifting, says Hancock; Israel to ban flights in and out of country

Airbus has announced that some 500 employees have entered quarantine following an outbreak at its aircraft factory in Hamburg which has seen 21 workers test positive, according to Reuters.

The staff had been asked to stay at home as a “precautionary measure”, the company said, adding that it was looking into whether the move would affect production at the factory.

Officials from the Hamburg health authority were investigating the cause of the outbreak, a spokesman for the body said. He said that it remained unclear whether the cases were of the more contagious variant which is understood to have originated in the UK.

The health authority will likely be able to provide detail on the virus type late next week, the spokesman said.

With more than 12,000 employees at its Hamburg-Finkenwerder site, Airbus is the northern city’s largest industrial employer.

Israel has extended its vaccination rollout to include teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18, in an effort to hasten students’ return to school.

They must receive parental permission to get the jab, Reuters reports.

The country initially limited vaccines to the elderly and other high-risk categories, but are now available to anyone over 40.

The inclusion of older teens is meant “to enable their return (to school) and the orderly holding of exams,” the spokeswoman for the education ministry said.

Israel has given at least one dose to more than 25% of its 9 million population since 19 December, according to its health ministry – the world’s fastest vaccination rollout.

Appearing on Ynet TV, education minister Yoav Galant said it was too early to say whether schools would reopen next month.

Italy reported 299 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday, down from 488 on Saturday.

The daily tally of infections came to 11,629, Reuters reports, down from 13,331 the previous day.

Italy has registered 85,461 deaths linked to Covid-19 since the pandemic began – the second-highest toll in Europe after the UK and the sixth-highest in the world.

The country has reported 2.459 million cases.

There were 21,309 patients in hospital with Covid-19 on Sunday (not including those in intensive care) compared with 21,403 a day earlier.

A further 120 people were admitted to intensive care units, against 174 the day before. The total number of intensive care patients stood at 2,400, up from 2,386.

Serbia has detected its first case of the UK coronavirus variant in a woman who travelled from London, but the country’s president has said her contacts have been isolated.

No new lockdown is planned in the country, President Aleksandar Vucic announced.

State news agency Tanjug quoted the president as saying:

Around 172,000 people have received a vaccine in Serbia, Reuters reports. Three vaccines are registered in the country – Pfizer and BioNTech’s, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and China’s Sinopharm .

A total of 6,353,321 people in the UK have received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine – an increase of 491,970 from Saturday.

1,043 more people have had the second dose, taking the total to 469,660.

The UK has reported a further 30,004 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases, according to government data. This compares to 38,598 cases registered last Sunday.

A total of 3,647,463 people have tested positive.

A further 610 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported, bringing the total to 97,939. There were 671 last Sunday.

Sunday figures are often lower because of reporting delays over the weekend.

Cases have fallen by 22.3% over the last seven days, but fatalities have continued to rise, increasing by 10.8% compared to the previous week (11-17 January).

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Greek health authorities have reported a jump in the number of cases of the coronavirus variant first spotted in the UK. More worryingly, say epidemiologists, the new strain has been detected among people who have not travelled abroad.

Mutations have been diagnosed across Greece, with a 32nd case of the much more contagious variant appearing in the greater Attica region of Athens. One individual had reportedly not been out of the country, perplexing infectious disease experts further. The discovery brings the total number of those detected with the new strain in the capital to 17.

On Saturday the country’s public health organisation EODY announced an additional 605 confirmed coronavirus cases, after 31,000 tests were conducted nationwide. Of that number, 256 were detected in Attica.

In a statement this evening it reported a further 334 infections – Sunday case loads tend to drop because of lower testing rates – bringing the total number to 151,980. The death toll rose to 5,646 following 24 more fatalities. Athens again had the highest number of new, confirmed cases at 162.

Greece has fared relatively well compared with other EU countries, even if suppressing a second wave of the pandemic has taken longer than envisaged. A nationwide lockdown, including a 9pm to 5am curfew, went into force on 7 November.

But with restrictions gradually being rolled back and shops opening for the first time this weekend, officials have been spooked by the sight of long queues outside stores and scenes of unexpectedly large crowds in commercial areas. Although the vast majority were wearing masks, there was almost no social distancing.

Urging Greeks to be “self disciplined”, Panayiotis Stamboulides, a high-ranking official at the ministry of development, said such scenes gave rise to fears of a third wave.

“A third strict lockdown would be catastrophic for all,” he told SKAI news when asked to comment on the scenes of crowds. “Everyone has to exhibit self-discipline and to respect him or herself,” he said, noting that sales primarily of shoes and clothes had risen 30% since curbs were eased.

The new rules are reportedly set to come in for two weeks from 10pm GMT tomorrow after the Israeli cabinet banned passenger flights earlier today amid fears of the new variants.

According to Haaretz, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said during the government meeting: “We are ahead of the entire world. No nation has done what we are about to do – we are hermetically sealing the country.”

Foreign cargo planes, firefighting planes, and medical emergency flights will be exempt from the restriction, the paper reported.

“For the first time,” Jews would not be allowed to migrate to Israel, “unless it is a matter of life or death,” said the transportation minister, Miri Regev, according to Haaretz.

It comes after the government last week passed regulations requiring all arrivals to Ben-Gurion international airport to present a negative coronavirus test from less than 72 hours before landing.

Egypt has launched a Covid vaccination campaign, with the first shots of Sinopharm’s vaccine given to healthcare workers in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia.

Hala Zayed, the health minister, said people would receive two doses of the vaccine over 21 days, according to the Associated Press.

Zayed said priority would be given to healthcare workers in 40 hospitals that are designated to isolate and treat Covid patients across the country, followed by elderly people and those suffering from chronic diseases.

Italy will take legal action against Pfizer and AstraZeneca over delays in deliveries of Covid vaccines, with the aim of securing the doses rather than seeking damages, the foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, said on Sunday.

Di Maio said on RAI state television:

An Associated Press analysis of federal hospital data shows that since November, the share of US hospitals nearing breaking point has doubled.

AP reports:

After research published in Scientific Reports showed an “impressive linear correlation” between European countries’ latitude and the date of their autumn Covid surge, and pointed to vitamin D levels as a contributory factor, there are calls to rapidly address deficiencies of the sunshine nutrient across the continent.

Jon Rhodes, an emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Liverpool, said:

The study’s author, Stephan Walrand, from Cliniques Universitaires, the largest hospital in Brussels, Belgium, wrote in the peer-reviewed paper:

Research suggesting a link between low vitamin D levels and the worst Covid outcomes is growing. There are many dozens of observational studies from around the world that make such indications, along with a randomised control trial (RCT) from Andalusia, Spain.

In the study, conducted in early September, 50 patients with Covid-19 were given a high dose of vitamin D, while another 26 patients did not receive the nutrient. Half of patients who weren’t given vitamin D had to be placed in intensive care, and two later died. Only one patient who received vitamin D required ICU admission, and they were later released with no further complications.

The researchers are now doing a much larger trial across a number of hospitals. Meanwhile, results are expected in the coming weeks from a large French trial that was reportedly named a “national research priority” by the French government in December.

An RCT with 6,200 patients was launched in the UK with charitable funding in October to examine whether vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk and severity of Covid-19 and other acute respiratory infections.

A claim by Boris Johnson that 5.8 million people in the UK have been vaccinated against coronavirus is coming in for criticism on social media. Now, of course, it may be strictly true, since that number of people have received their first jab. But the large majority of those people will not have received their second jab, and therefore could only have a much smaller degree of protection than if they had been fully vaccinated.