Coronavirus live news: Turkey bans arrivals from Britain after variant cases confirmed; 53,285 new UK infections

By Lucy Campbell (now); Mattha Busby and Jedidajah Otte (earlier)

16:01

Summary

  • All primary schools in London are set to close for the start of the new term after the UK government bowed to protests and legal pressure from local authorities amid surging infection rates. The U-turn comes after the government omitted several London areas where Covid-19 transmission rates remain high from a list of education authorities where primary schools would be closed to most pupils for the first two weeks of term. Following protest from local authority leaders, including threats of unilateral closure and legal action, and an emergency cabinet meeting, the education secretary Gavin Williamson was forced to backtrack, adding the remaining 10 London education authorities to the government’s contingency areas.
  • The United States became the first country to pass 20 million lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases, though the true number of infections is thought to be much higher. Back in June, US public health experts said they believed more than 20 million Americans could have contracted the respiratory virus – 10 times more than official counts at the time. Almost 350,000 Americans have now died of Covid-19, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, by far the world’s highest death toll.
  • Arrivals to Turkey from the UK have been temporarily suspended after 15 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 variant, the country’s minister of health announced.
  • Ireland plans to end a ban on travel to the country from Great Britain on 6 January and replace it with stricter testing measures as it seeks to stop the spread of the new variant of the virus, the foreign minister said. Passengers flying on non-essential business from Britain after that date will need to produce a negative test taken three days before their flight. They will also be asked to restrict their movements for at least five days from their arrival and can move freely only if they then receive a second negative test.
  • The UK recorded a further 613 Covid-related deaths since yesterday, after one of the highest daily tolls since April earlier this week of 981. It also registered 53,285 new cases in the last 24 hours, similar to the figure in previous days, as the number of lab-confirmed cases rises above 2.5 million.
  • France will impose an earlier curfew in 15 north-east and south-east departments from Saturday to combat the spread of coronavirus, starting at 6pm instead of 8pm.
  • The Philippines is to ban visitors coming from the US from entering the country from 3 to 15 January as an additional measure to contain the spread of the new, more contagious coronavirus variant.
  • India’s drug regulator approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University for emergency use, paving the way for its rollout in the world’s second worst affected country. India wants to start administering the shots soon. It is also considering emergency-use authorisation applications for vaccines made by Pfizer Inc with Germany’s BioNTech, and by India’s Bharat Biotech. At more than 10 million, India has reported the second highest number of coronavirus cases after the US, though its rate of infection has come down significantly from a mid-September peak.
  • Norway will lift its ban on flights arriving from the UK, the Norwegian health ministry said. Flights will resume on 2 January at 4pm GMT.

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12:45

Turkey bans UK arrivals after 15 Covid variant cases in the country

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10:57

UK records 613 Covid-related deaths and 53,285 new cases

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10:30

Calls to mental health helplines and prescriptions for antidepressants in England have reached an all-time high, while access to potentially life-saving talking therapies has plunged during the coronavirus pandemic, a Guardian investigation has found.

More than 6 million people received antidepressants in the three months to September, equivalent to more than one in 10 people and the highest figure on record.

This is thought to have been a result of counselling services going online, which some doctors may have deemed inappropriate for certain patients, while some patients were reluctant to seek face-to-face help or add extra pressure to health services.

Concerns have been raised that vital early intervention treatment will not have been given, with experts saying the longer people wait for appropriate help the “more severe and complex their difficulties and their lives can become”.

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09:59

France brings curfew forward to 6pm in 15 departments

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