Coronavirus live news: Cyprus lockdown begins; Vietnam limits flights for lunar new year

By Mattha Busby (now) and Helen Davidson (earlier)

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A number of studies have suggested a link between vitamin D deficiencies and worse Covid outcomes. Though it is only a Spanish study, conducted in early September, that comes close to incontrovertibly proving low vitamin D levels have a pivotal role in causing increased death rates. There, 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.

To Tory MP David Davis, all of this emerging research pointed towards vitamin D’s efficacy, which made the apparent reluctance across the world of governments, philanthropic organisations and the private sector to fund high- quality studies seem curious.

“All the observational studies show strong vitamin D effects on infectiousness, morbidity and mortality,” Davis says. “This disease exists seriously above 40 degrees latitude, because that’s where the UV light disappears in the winter.” All of this evidence together, he says, makes it “very, very plain that vitamin D has a material effect”.

MP’s David Davis and Rupa Huq photographed in the Victoria Tower Gardens South, near Parliament. Both have urged the government to act on emerging evidence of link between Covid and vitamin D.

MP’s David Davis and Rupa Huq photographed in the Victoria Tower Gardens South, near Parliament. Both have urged the government to act on emerging evidence of link between Covid and vitamin D. Photograph: Suki Dhanda/The Observer

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06:35

Before the pandemic Bruce Goodchild split his time between Australia, his home country, and New Zealand’s far north, where his work and family are based. When travel restrictions stopped him from skipping back and forth across the Tasman Sea, he decided to explore the waters closer to home – by buying a boat of his own.

In November, Goodchild bought a 60ft-long wooden schooner. A keen sailor, he had had his eye on the local yacht market at the start of 2020, but the emergence of coronavirus focused his mind. “I thought, ‘I’m stuck over here – this is a way I can spend my time.”

“To me, a boat was a good lifestyle change to have over the next few years as the dust settles with Covid,” he said.

Goodchild was not alone. A global boating boom has been reported in response to the pandemic. Travel restrictions and months in lockdown have prompted people to pursue bucket-list life goals or take up new outdoor pastimes – sending boat sales soaring.

The New Zealand Marine Industry Association has said boat sales since June have doubled compared with those in the same period in 2019 – more than compensating for a sharp pandemic-driven drop from April to June. Enrolment in marine courses has also seen an uptick.

06:19

In a pandemic where global leaders have peddled quack treatments and miracle cures, Germany has often stood out as a shining beacon for science.

It is the country that developed the first diagnostic test to detect the coronavirus, and the first vaccine approved in the west to shield people against the disease. It is a country whose physicist chancellor told parliament she passionately believes “there are scientific findings that are real and should be followed.”

But Germany is also a country where some people who fall severely ill with Covid-19 can find themselves taken to hospitals where they are treated, under sedation and without a formalised opt-in procedure, with ginger-soaked chest compresses and homeopathic pellets containing highly diluted particles of iron supposedly harvested from shooting stars that have landed on earth.

Followers of the “spiritual scientist” and self-proclaimed clairvoyant Rudolf Steiner advocate such therapies to fight the coronavirus because of a supposed “anxiety-relieving effect on the soul and the body” and ability to “strengthen the inner relationship to light”.

06:02

South Africa is struggling to contain a second wave of Covid-19 infections, fuelled by a virulent new local variant of the virus, “Covid fatigue” and a series of “super-spreader” events.

On Thursday health officials announced 844 deaths and 21,832 new cases in a 24-hour period, the worst toll yet. Experts believe the second wave has yet to reach its peak in the country of 60 million, and fear healthcare services in the country’s main economic and cultural hub may struggle to cope with the influx of patients.

Unlike wealthier countries, South Africa cannot afford to repeat the hard lockdown imposed last year, which caused massive economic and social damage. Some predict a third wave when winter comes in the southern hemisphere in May and June and there are fears that current vaccines may be less effective against the new variant.

“We are going to get a third wave, even a fourth. This pandemic has only just started,” said Tivani Mashamba, professor of diagnostic research at the University of Pretoria.

05:54

Fuelled by black coffee, yellow-tipped cigarettes and white, incandescent rage, the faceless sleuth lurks on social media poised to unmask his next target.

“It’s outrageous, bizarre, it’s horrifying – a collective genocide,” fumed the twentysomething activist who burns the midnight oil scouring the internet for footage of parties being thrown despite a rapidly deteriorating Covid crisis that has killed more than 200,000 Brazilians.

“I truly believe people have been infected with the stupidity virus,” added the amateur investigator who publishes images of the hedonism on a Twitter account called Brazil Covidfest.

The smartphone gumshoe, a journalist from the southern city of Curitiba who asked not to be named, is one of several Brazilian activists who have begun shaming unrepentant party people online as their country’s epidemic again spirals out of control.

05:24

Three-week lockdown begins in Cyprus

A three-week lockdown has begun in Cyprus where authorities have been battling a surge in coronavirus cases over the past month.

Restrictions aimed at curbing rising Covid-19 infections were reintroduced at 5am local time with all retail businesses, including department stores, malls, restaurants, hairdressers and beauty parlours, being ordered shut.

The island nation has been hit by what some have called an explosion in transmissions attributed in part to the arrival in recent weeks of the new UK variant of the virus. The highly contagious strain has been detected in a number of visitors flying in from Britain. As a former British colony, war-split Cyprus has strong ties with the UK.

Under the measures citizens will be permitted to leave their homes only twice a day - after informing authorities by text beforehand - either for exercise or reasons deemed essential such as stocking up on food and groceries and visiting doctors or pharmacies. Churches will close while schools will also be shuttered with on-line teaching being reintroduced.

Announcing the measures, health minister Constantinos Ioannou sounded the alarm saying the country’s intensive care system had reached breaking point because of the sudden rise in Covid-19 patients. The tougher restrictions were required to prevent “people dying helpless because we don’t have available beds,” he said, adding that Covid-19 tests will also be increased.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic authorities in the island’s Greek-administered south have reported more than 27,000 cases and 147 deaths.

President Nicos Anastasiades says his government has also requested that close ally and neighbour Israel dispatch extra vaccines to supplement those already dispensed to the island from the EU.

A rise in cases has been similarly reported by health authorities in the Mediterranean island’s Turkish-held north. A further 22 people were confirmed as having been diagnosed positive with coronavirus on Saturday bringing the total number of cases to 1,765 in the territory.

Covid-19 restrictions have also been tightened at checkpoints along war-split Cyprus’ buffer line in Nicosia and elsewhere.

Covid-19 restrictions have also been tightened at checkpoints along war-split Cyprus’ buffer line in Nicosia and elsewhere. Photograph: Helena Smith/The Guardian

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