Coronavirus live news: China and WHO criticised by independent Covid panel; US nears 400,000 deaths

1 month ago

Ben Quinn

Urgent action is needed to tackle an “unprecedented backlog” of court cases built up during the pandemic that has “severe implications” for victims, the UK’s four justice chief inspectors have warned.

The plight of prisoners locked up for most of the day because of Covid-19 and disruption to services for young offenders were also highlighted in a report by the inspectors of probation, police, prisons and the Crown Prosecution Service.

They expressed “grave concern” in particular about the situation in courts – already struggling with a “chronic backlog” of cases – which they said constituted the greatest threat to the proper operation of the criminal justice system:

Biden team" does not intend" to lift travel restrictions

A development on Trump’s decision to life travel restrictions for the UK, much of Europe and Brazil – Biden’s spokesperson says that there is no intention for the Biden administration to lofe the restrictions.

“In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel,” Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter.

davidshepardson (@davidshepardson)

BREAKING: Biden spokeswoman says new administration will not lift restrictions on EU, UK, Brazil travel on Jan. 26 (It would appear that Biden will issue new 212f order)

January 19, 2021

More than a third of shoppers have been blocked from paying with cash since the start of the Covid crisis, prompting calls for urgent action to protect the millions who rely on the UK’s “critically endangered” cash network.

The consumer group Which? said mixed messages about the safety of cash was partly to blame. The Bank of England has since clarified that “any risk from handling cash should be low”, especially when compared with touching shopping baskets, self-checkout screens or products in stores.

About 34% of shoppers surveyed by Which? said they had been turned away on at least one occasion when they tried to pay with cash since the first Covid lockdown. Shoppers were most likely to be refused cash payments when they bought groceries, which accounted for 28% of incidents, though pubs and restaurants accounted for 24% of cases. About 21% of cases were linked to consumers trying to buy cleaning products, which have become even more essential since the outbreak:

In non-coronavirus news:

Helen Sullivan (@helenrsullivan)

If confirmed, Merlina’s death would bring the number of ravens at the tower to just seven. According to legend if two more were to die the tower and the kingdom would fall:

January 18, 2021

Ben Doherty

The Pacific archipelago of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is rapidly rolling out Covid-19 vaccines across its islands.

The US territory has a population of a little more than 50,000 people: 3,389 have received a first dose vaccine, and more than 300 have had a second dose.

The Northern Mariana Islands have received more than 18,000 vaccine doses, from Pfizer and BioNTech, and from Moderna.

Pacific countries freely associated with the US - the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia have also started widespread community vaccinations, and are likely to be among the first countries in the world to largely inoculate their populations.

Elsewhere across the Pacific, PNG’s confirmed case numbers rose by 10 to 833. The real number is likely to be significantly higher, with limited testing outside of the capital Port Moresby.

In French Polynesia, the second wave is ebbing, with daily new infections now below 50 a day. Since August, more than 17,000 cases have been formally recorded, and 126 people have died.

The French territory had just 62 cases to July, and transmission of the virus had been eliminated, when it re-opened its borders and abandoned quarantine requirements, in order to reignite a stalled tourism-dependent economy.

China and WHO made mistakes in containing Covid outbreak, says panel

An independent panel has said that Chinese officials could have applied public health measures more forcefully in January 2020 to curb the initial Covid-19 outbreak, and criticised the World Health Organization (WHO) for not declaring an international emergency until 30 January.

The experts reviewing the global handling of the pandemic, led by former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, called for reforms to the Geneva-based UN agency.

Their interim report was published hours after the WHO’s top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said that global deaths from Covid were expected to top 100,000 per week “very soon”.

“What is clear to the panel is that public health measures could have been applied more forcefully by local and national health authorities in China in January,” the report said, referring to the initial outbreak of the disease in the central city of Wuhan, in Hubei province.

As evidence emerged of human-to-human transmission, “in far too many countries, this signal was ignored”, it added:

Trump lifting Covid travel restrictions on UK, much of Europe and Brazil

Donald Trump, the US president, has rescinded entry bans imposed because of coronavirus on most non-US citizens arriving from Brazil and much of Europe, including the UK, effective 26 January, two officials briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The restrictions are set to end on the same day that new Covid-19 test requirements take effect for all international visitors. Joe Biden, the president-elect, once in office could opt to reimpose the restrictions.


Hello and welcome to today’s live global coronavirus coverage.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments for the next few hours. As always, you can get in touch on Twitter here.

An independent panel reviewing the global handling of the pandemic said on Monday that Chinese officials could have applied public health measures more forcefully in January and criticised the World Health Organization for not declaring an international emergency until 30 January.

Meanwhile the US is on the brink of the heartbreaking milestone of 400,000 deaths – the highest toll of any country worldwide and one in five global deaths.

Here are the other key developments:

Morocco’s health ministry has confirmed its first imported case of the more contagious variant of coronavirus first discovered in the UK. The variant was detected in the northern port of Tangier in a Moroccan national returning from Ireland via Marseille, the ministry said in a statement. The UK had the highest Covid death toll in the world in the week to 17 January, with 16.5 deaths per 1 million people on average, according to Our World in Data. Brazil on Monday reported 23,671 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the new total to 8,511,770, the country’s health ministry said.Deaths rose by 452 to 210,299 in Brazil, which has the world’s highest death toll from the pandemic outside the US. Spain reported a record rise in coronavirus infections over the weekend and the number of new cases measured over the past fortnight spiked to 689 per 100,000 people on Monday from 575 on Friday, health ministry data showed. The Czech Republic has confirmed the detection of the new, more transmissible variant of coronavirus first found in Britain. Scientists have found new biological evidence that a South African Covid variant of binds more readily to human cells, making it more infectious, according to one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts. Portugal’s daily Covid death toll reached a record high of 167 on Monday, bringing the total to 9,028 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Stricter lockdown rules are now being enacted there.
Steffen Seibert, Germany’s government spokesman, said on Monday that the number of Covid infections in the country is too high amid rising fears about new variants of the virus. Japan has detected a variant of the new coronavirus first discovered in Britain in three people who had not travelled there. The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has defended the slower rollout of the inoculation programme in Wales, saying the Pfizer vaccine could not be used all at once as supplies had to last until the start of February.
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