three rules from Saturday
Almost 70 per cent of England’s population will be living under strict tier three coronavirus rules from Saturday as “pressures on the NHS remain”, said UK health minister Matt Hancock on Thursday. Regions in the east and south-east of the country, including Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire will move into tier three one minute after midnight on Saturday 19 December, as will parts of Surrey, East Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire. “I know that tier three measures are tough, but the best way for everyone to get out of them is to pull together, not just to follow the rules, but to do everything they possibly can to stop the spread of the virus,” Hancock told parliament. There will be 38 million people in the country living in tier three from Saturday, including other parts of England already under tier three rules.
Hancock said cases in the south-east of England had risen by 46 per cent in a week, with hospital admissions up by more than a third, while cases in the east of England had gone up by two-thirds in a week and hospital admissions had risen by nearly half. He also announced that Bristol and North Somerset would be able to move down to tier two on Saturday and that Herefordshire would also be able to move down, to tier one. “I think this is a wise precautionary measure – to damp down virus transmission in the lead up to the Christmas 5-day relaxation – and afterwards, to restrict wider virus transmission coming out of this break,” said Julian Tang at the University of Leicester, UK, in a statement.
Yesterday, the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments released a joint statement with advice on household mixing during Christmas. “The safest way to spend this Christmas is with your own household or your existing support bubble in your own home – and we strongly recommend that this is what you do if at all possible,” the statement said. It also stressed that “scientific advice is clear: the longer you meet others for, the higher the risk of you catching and spreading the virus” and that “if you do intend to form a bubble, you should keep the bubble small and your visits short”.
Other coronavirus news
Two healthcare workers in Alaska developed allergic reactions after receiving the coronavirus vaccine developed by US company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, including a woman who did not have a history of allergies to vaccines and who was admitted to hospital. Both individuals received treatment and have recovered. The woman’s reaction appears to be similar to the allergic reactions experienced by two healthcare workers who were vaccinated in the UK last week. Following the two allergic reactions in the UK, US Food and Drug Administration officials said they would require Pfizer to monitor severe allergic reactions and submit data on this later on.
French president Emmanuel Macron tested positive for the coronavirus. In a statement, the Élysée Palace said Macron would “self-isolate for seven days in line with the health protocol applicable to everyone” and that he would continue to work remotely.
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.65 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 74.4 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
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What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus
Panorama: The Race for a Vaccine is a BBC documentary about the inside story of the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against covid-19.
Race Against the Virus: Hunt for a Vaccine is a Channel 4 documentary which tells the story of the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of the scientists on the frontline.
The New York Times is assessing the progress of different vaccine candidates and potential drug treatments for covid-19, and ranking them for effectiveness and safety.
Humans of COVID-19 is a project highlighting the experiences of key workers on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus in the UK, through social media.
Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth is a BBC Panorama investigation of the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga from covid-19, following reports she had been coughed and spat on by a customer at London’s Victoria Station.
Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.
New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology and space, to health and the environment.
COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, and How to Stop the Next One by Debora Mackenzie is about how the pandemic happened and why it will happen again if we don’t do things differently in future.
The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how diseases spread and why they stop.