By Michael Le Page
, Clare Wilson
, Jessica Hamzelou
, Sam Wong
, Graham Lawton
, Adam Vaughan
, Conrad Quilty-Harper
and Layal Liverpool
Englands chief medical officer, Chris Whitty
Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 11 January
Hospitals in England struggle to cope with growing numbers of covid-19 patients
Englands chief medical officer on Monday issued a stark warning about what the country can expect in the coming weeks and urged people to avoid all unnecessary contact with others. The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS, Chris Whitty told the BBC. He said there were more than 30,000 people with covid-19 in hospitals in England, compared to about 18,000 during the peak of the first wave in April last year. Hospitals around the country are taking exceptional measures to cope with the influx of people with covid-19, including putting trainees on wards and making nurses responsible for a greater number of patients than usual. Southend Hospital in England has been forced to reduce the amount of oxygen it uses to treat patients, because the hospitals oxygen supply has reached a critical situation, according to documents seen by the BBC.
We need to really double down, this is everybodys problem, any single unnecessary contact you have with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person, said Whitty. Weve all got to, as individuals, help our NHS, help our fellow citizens, by minimising the amount of unnecessary contacts we have.
Other coronavirus news
UK prime minister Boris Johnson said 2 million people have been vaccinated against covid-19 in the country so far, including about 40 per cent of people over the age of 80 and 23 per cent of older care home residents. The UK has now published full details of its vaccination programme, including its plan to be administering at least two million vaccinations per week in England by the end of January, and to have vaccinated 15 million people by mid-February. Its a race against time, because we can all see the threat that our NHS faces, said Johnson. 
A highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus first identified in the UK accounted for almost half of the most recent sample of positive tests in Ireland, according to local authorities. 
Coronavirus deaths
Matthew Rowett
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.93 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 90.4 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist
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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 Londons 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 dont do things differently in future.
The Rules of Contagionis 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.
Previous updates
Nurses in the Intensive Care Unit in St Georges Hospital in Tooting, south-west London on 7 January
Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images
8 January
London mayor Sadiq Khan urges Londoners to stay at home to protect our NHS
London mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a major incident in London in response to surging coronavirus cases and hospitalisations in the city. More than 100 firefighters have been drafted in to drive ambulances in London, to help cope with the increased demand. Khan said the London Ambulance Service is currently taking up to 8000 emergency calls per day, compared to 5500 on a typical busy day. Londoners continue to make huge sacrifices and I am today imploring them to please stay home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave, said London mayor Sadiq Khan in a statement. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die. Stay at home to protect yourself, your family, friends and other Londoners and to protect our NHS, said Khan. A major incident is one that presents a serious threat to the health of the community or that causes significant numbers or types of casualties requiring special arrangements to be implemented. Previously, major incidents have been declared in London for the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and for terror attacks at Westminster Bridge and London Bridge. 
In London more than 7000 people are in hospital with covid-19, making up more than half of the capitals occupied beds. The Office for National Statistics estimates that one in 30 people across the city had the virus on 2 January. Infections in London, as well as in England and in the UK as a whole, are estimated to be growing by up to 6 per cent each day. Across the UK the most recent official estimate of the R number is between 1.0 and 1.4, which means every 10 infected people infect an average of 10 to 14 others.
Other coronavirus news
Preliminary research suggests the covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech is effective against the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus identified in the UK and South Africa. Antibodies isolated from the blood of 20 people who had received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were still able to neutralise viruses containing one of the key mutations in laboratory tests. The research has not been peer-reviewed. Concerns that covid-19 vaccines will not work against the variant identified in South Africa prompted the introduction of testing for new arrivals into England and Scotland from abroad, according to UK transport minister Grant Shapps.
A third covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK. The UK has ordered an additional 10 million doses of the mRNA vaccine developed by US company Moderna, on top of 7 million which it pre-ordered last year, but supplies for the additional doses are not expected to arrive until spring. 
More than 4000 people in the US died from covid-19 in a single day for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The country recorded 4033 deaths due to covid-19 on Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project, passing its previous record of 3903 deaths on 30 December.
Greater Brisbane in Australia was put under a strict lockdown after one case of the highly transmissible UK variant was detected on Thursday.
Coronavirus deaths
Matthew Rowett
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.90 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 88.3 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
A healthcare worker walks past a line of ambulances at the Royal London Hospital in London, UK
NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
7 January
England hospitals cut back on services as nearly a third of patients have coronavirus
There are 26,467 covid-19 patients in hospital in England, accounting for nearly a third of all people in hospital. Many hospitals have had to cancel routine operations to accommodate a growing number of people with covid-19. The BBC reported that there are indications this is beginning to happen for cancer care as well. The impact of the pandemic is taking care away from other illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, Rupert Pearse, an intensive care consultant at the Royal London Hospital told the BBC. Were really struggling to provide the quality of patient care that we think patients deserve, said Pearse. 
The number of covid-19 patients in England hospitals has increased by more than 50 per cent since Christmas, with average daily hospitalisations now exceeding 3000 per day three times the usual winter rate for respiratory conditions.  
Other coronavirus news
Birmingham could run out of stocks of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech as soon as Friday, according to local leaders. The city has not yet been supplied with the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca. Birmingham leaders called for more clarity on the covid-19 vaccination programme in their city in a letter to UK health minister Matt Hancock. It remains unclear who is responsible for overseeing the vaccination programme in Birmingham, and whom we should hold accountable for progress and delivery, it said. In a briefing on Tuesday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said 1.3 million people in the UK had been vaccinated with a first dose so far and data from NHS England published today revealed 308,541 people received a jab in England in the week ending 3 January. The government aims to vaccinate 13 million people in four priority groups by mid-February. 
Almost half of the residents in an East Sussex care home in England died from covid-19 over the Christmas and New Year period, with more than a third of the staff also testing positive during the outbreak, the Guardian reported. Of the 27 residents at Edendale Lodge care home in Crowhurst, 13 died with confirmed or suspected covid-19 since 13 December. Prime minister Johnson told parliament on Wednesday that 10 per cent of care home residents and 14 per cent of staff had so far been vaccinated against the disease. That clearly needs to be stepped up, he said.
As coronavirus vaccines continue to be rolled out across the US, health officials have stressed that the risk of severe illness and death from covid-19 still outweighs the risk of developing a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine. In the US, 29 people have so far developed anaphylaxis after being vaccinated against covid-19 and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it currently appears that cases are occurring at a rate of about 5.5 per 1 million vaccine doses administered.
Coronavirus deaths
Matthew Rowett
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.88 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 87.3 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist
Why covid-19 has been such a nightmare: Humans have faced pandemics before, but some unusual features of covid-19 and modern society have conspired to create the perfect storm this time.
Two covid-19 advisors patrol an empty High Street in Worcester city centre, England
Max Willcock/EMPICS Entertainment/PA
6 January
UK reports 1041 deaths from covid-19 in a single day 
The UK reported 1041 deaths from covid-19 within 28 days of a positive test on Wednesday, the highest daily figure since 21 April, when 1224 deaths were reported. There were 62,322 new cases of coronavirus reported on Wednesday. This upward trend of cases (and hospitalisations and deaths) is likely to continue for another 2-3 weeks as the impact of social mixing during Christmas/New Year continues to be felt, said Julian Tang at the University of Leicester in a statement.
A quarter of all deaths in England and Wales in the week leading up to Christmas were due to covid-19. New figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that 2912, or 25 per cent, of the 11,520 deaths registered across England and Wales in the week ending 25 December mentioned covid-19 on the death certificate. Wales has been under a lockdown since 23 December and England and Scotland both entered nationwide lockdowns on Tuesday. 
Other coronavirus news
A World Health Organization (WHO) team sent to China to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic has been denied entry to the country. Speaking at a news conference in Geneva, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute, but had been in contact with senior Chinese officials.  
Coronavirus cases and hospitalisations are surging in California. The state recorded more than 74,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday and 21,597 people were hospitalised, both record daily increases since the start of the pandemic. It is getting harder and harder for healthcare workers to care for those coming to the hospital with gunshot wounds, heart attacks, strokes and injuries from car accidents, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis told the Los Angeles Times.
People arriving in the UK from abroad may soon be required to show a negative coronavirus test in order to enter the country. A spokesperson for the Department for Transport told the BBC: With a new strain of the virus on the loose in South Africa and a more infectious variant already widespread in the UK we need to do more. The Department for Transport said full details of additional measures, which may also include testing before departure, remain to be agreed. Certain travellers, such as haulage drivers, may be exempt.
The European Medicines Agency has recommended a covid-19 vaccine developed by US company Moderna for authorisation in the EU. The vaccine has already been authorised for emergency use in the US.
Coronavirus deaths
Matthew Rowett
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.87 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 86.7 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist
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Disrupted senses: Loss of smell and taste is one of the most consistent symptoms of covid-19, and this anosmia reveals important details about how the coronavirus works. 
A pigeon on an empty Deansgate in Manchester, UK
Anthony Devlin/Bloomberg via Getty Images
5 January
Lockdowns imposed in England and Scotland to try to curb surging virus cases
Strict new nationwide lockdowns came into force in England and Scotland, which cabinet office minister Michael Gove said could last in some form until March. UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced the new lockdown rules for England during a televised address on Monday evening, saying that vaccination of key groups of people by mid-February could allow the restrictions in England to be eased. But on Tuesday, cabinet office minister Michael Gove told Sky News: We cant predict with certainty that well be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing [15 to 22 February]. What we will be doing is everything we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin progressively to lift restrictions. I think its right to say that, as we enter March, we should be able to lift some of these restrictions but not necessarily all. The top four priority groups for vaccinations include older care home residents and their carers, people over 70, frontline health and social care workers, and clinically extremely vulnerable people.
The UK reported 60,916 new daily coronavirus cases on Tuesday, surpassing 60,000 daily new cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic. One in 50 people in England and one in 30 in London are estimated to have the coronavirus, according to the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics, Englands chief medical officer Chris Whitty said during a televised briefing on Tuesday. By comparison, one in 900 people were infected in early September. 
In Tuesdays press conference, Johnson said that 1.3 million people in the UK have so far received the first dose of a covid-19 vaccine. However, more than 4 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech were delivered to the UK before the end of 2020, the Financial Times reported, prompting questions about the gap between the number of vaccine doses secured and the number of people who have been vaccinated. Asked about the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with the University of Oxford, of which the government has said it hopes to have 2 million doses a week by the end of January, NHS England director Stephen Powis told the Financial Times: Certainly this month well be able to get up to that sort of number but that would depend on supplies. Well be delivering it as soon as we get it.
Other coronavirus news
Researchers in South Africa are investigating whether a new variant of coronavirus spreading in the country might be resistant to existing covid-19 vaccines. Its a theoretical concern. A reasonable concern […] that the South African variant might be more resistant, Shabir Madhi, who led trials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine in South Africa, told the BBC. Madhi said it was unlikely that the mutation in the South African variant would render current vaccines useless but said it might weaken their impact.
Germany will extend its nationwide lockdown until at least the end of January. After a partial lockdown introduced in early November failed to sufficiently reduce infections, Germany entered a second nationwide lockdown on 16 December, which was originally due to be lifted on 10 January.
Coronavirus deaths
Matthew Rowett
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.85 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 85.8 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
Paramedics transport a patient to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London on 4 January
James Veysey/Shutterstock
4 January
England expected to tighten restrictions and Scotland announces national lockdown
Much of the UK faces new lockdown measures as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is no question that restrictions in England will be tightened, and Scotlands first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a strict new lockdown in Scotland starting at midnight on 5 January. Johnson is expected to announce tougher restrictions in England this evening in a televised appearance, which could include schools being closed and Tier 4 restrictions across the country. The UK recorded 58,784 new coronavirus cases on Monday and 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, and the Joint Biosecurity Centre is expected to be raising the countrys covid-19 threat level to 5 the highest level.
Most primary schools in England reopened today, despite calls from teaching unions and some councils to keep schools shut. Primary schools in London and south-east England remain closed until 18 January. Council leaders in many areas including Manchester and Birmingham said they would support the decision of head teachers who think it is unsafe to reopen their schools.
First Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines administered in the UK
An 82-year-old man became the first person to receive the coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca, as part of the UKs mass vaccination programme. Brian Pinker received the jab at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford and 530,000 doses were ready for use on Monday. AstraZeneca has said it expects to supply about 2 million doses of the vaccine every week by the middle of January in the UK.
Other coronavirus news
Coronavirus cases in the UK are continuing to surge, with concern growing about a variant of the virus first detected in South Africa. Im incredibly worried about the South African variant, and thats why we took the action that we did to restrict all flights from South Africa, UK health minister Matt Hancock told BBC radio. Its even more of a problem than the UK new variant, he said. John Bell at the University of Oxford told the Telegraphthere was a big question as to whether existing vaccines would be effective against the South Africa strain, which contains mutations that affect part of the virus that is recognised by antibodies. However, he added that it should be possible to make new vaccines quickly, if this or any future variant of the coronavirus emerges that is resistant to the current ones. It might take a month, or six weeks, to get a new vaccine, so everybody should stay calm. Its going to be fine, he said. Were now in a game of cat and mouse, because these are not the only two variants were going to see. Were going to see lots of variants.
India approved two coronavirus vaccines for emergency use on Sunday, including the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and a vaccine called Covaxin being developed by Indian company Bharat Biotech. Gagandeep Kang at the Christian Medical College, Vellore in India expressed concerns about Indias approval of Covaxin, as phase III trials of the vaccine havent yet been completed. Kang told the Times of India newspaper that she had never seen anything like this before, adding that there is absolutely no efficacy data that has been presented or published.
Coronavirus deaths
Matthew Rowett
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.84 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 85.2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
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A shopper walks past an Evening Standard newspaper stand in central London on 16 December, as new guidance on Christmas during the coronavirus pandemic was announced by the government
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
17 December
Regions in the east and south-east of England face tier three rules from Saturday
Almost 70 per cent of Englands 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 womans 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. 
Coronavirus deaths
Matthew Rowett
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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