Covid news – live: Botswana finds ‘horrific’ new variant and Germany surpasses 100,000 deaths

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Germany has become the latest country to pass the milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid since the pandemic began.

The disease control agency said it recorded 351 additional deaths in connection with coronavirus over the past 24 hours, taking the overall toll to 100,119.

Germany is the fifth country to pass that mark in the European region after Russia, the UK, Italy and France.

Elsewhere, scientists have issued a warning over a Covid variant with an “incredibly high” number of mutations. It is feared that the B.1.1529, or Botswana variant – an off-shoot of the B.1.1 – could drive further transmission of the virus, although few cases have been confirmed and experts have said there is not yet any cause for concern.

The first cases found were three in Botswana, followed by another six cases in South Africa, and one in Hong Kong involving a traveller returning from South Africa.

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Covid jabs safe in pregnancy, figures show

Experts are urging more mothers-to-be to have a Covid-19 vaccine as new data for England shows the jabs are safe in pregnancy.

Figures published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) show women who have had a Covid vaccine are no more likely than the unvaccinated to suffer stillbirth, premature birth or have babies with low birthweight.

Experts described the findings as reassuring, with Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at the UKHSA, saying: “Every pregnant woman who has not yet been vaccinated should feel confident to go and get the jab.”

The call was backed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), which said women should not risk contracting Covid-19, which can have “serious consequences for both mother and baby”, particularly in the late stages of pregnancy.

Tom Batchelor25 November 2021 15:53

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Merkel: ‘Sad day’ as Germany marks 100,000 deaths

Angela Merkel has said Thursday is “a very sad day” after Germany surpassed 100,000 Covid deaths.

The national disease control agency said it recorded 351 deaths in connection with the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, taking the total toll to 100,119.

In Europe, Germany is the fifth country to pass that mark, after the UK, Russia, Italy and France. 

“It is of course a very sad day that we have to mourn 100,000 victims of the coronavirus,” Ms Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin.

“And unfortunately, at the moment, more than 300 deaths are being added to that each day.

“(The deaths) correlate very clearly with the number of infections that are occurring. We know how many people on average do not survive this disease.” 

Tom Batchelor25 November 2021 15:37

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‘Every day counts’ in tackling 5th wave, Merkel says

Germany is in a phase of exponential growth in numbers of coronavirus cases, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, adding that every day counted when it came to enacting social distancing measures designed to slow its spread.

Some of outgoing conservative chancellor’s allies have criticised Social Democrat Olaf Scholz’s government-in-waiting for declining to extend some lockdown measures that were put in place by Merkel’s government. Merkel said more social distancing measures were needed.

“The situation is so serious because we are seeing exponential growth,” she said. “And the people who get ill today are the ones who will be in intensive care in 10 to 14 days’ time…Every day counts.”

Matt Mathers25 November 2021 15:14

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‘Heavy measures’ to be introduced in the Netherlands

The Dutch government plans a set of “heavy measures” to slow the current record wave of new Covid cases the country is facing, health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Thursday, but it has not made a final decision on what they will be.

“That heavy measures will be needed is beyond doubt,” De Jonge told reporters in The Hague after health authorities reported more than 20,000 new cases in the past 24 hours. The government is expected to announce new restrictions on Friday.

Matt Mathers25 November 2021 15:01

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Hungary ready to jab 5-11 year olds

Hungary is ready to inoculate 5-11-year-old children after the European Medicines Agency approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid vaccine for the age group, the government said in a statement on Thursday.

Like a raft of countries across Europe, Hungary is experiencing a surge in infections.

Some 12,000 cases were recorded on Wednesday and the country’s seven-day average stands at just under 10,000 – up from less than 1,000 at the beginning of October.

Matt Mathers25 November 2021 14:35

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UK study: vaccines safe for pregnant women

Vaccines are safe for pregnant women and not associated with higher rates of complications, data released by the UK Health Security Agency on Thursday showed as officials urged pregnant women to take up the offer of shots.

The real-world data from the rollout of Covid jabs in Britain support other studies around the world that the vaccines are safe to give at any stage of pregnancy, the UKHSA said.

It found that there were no substantial differences in rates of stillbirths, rates of births of babies with low birthweight and the proportion of premature births between vaccinated women and unvaccinated women.

(PA)

Officials said the data were especially reassuring given that the first pregnant women to be offered the vaccine were those with underlying health conditions who would be expected to be at a higher risk of complications.

“Every pregnant woman who has not yet been vaccinated should feel confident to go and get the jab, and that this will help to prevent the serious consequences of catching Covid in pregnancy,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA.

Matt Mathers25 November 2021 14:27

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Slovakia locks down to curb highest infection rate in the world

Slovakia went into a two-week lockdown on Thursday, as the country with one of the EU’s lowest vaccination rates reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that topped global tables.

Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, ordered all but essential shops and services closed and banned people from travelling outside their districts unless going to work, school, or a doctor. Gatherings of more than six people were banned.

The decision comes as coronavirus cases surge across Europe, making the continent the centre of the pandemic again, and follows neighbouring Austria which started a lockdown on Monday.

In the city of Trencin, 130 km (81 miles) north of Bratislava, musical instrument shop manager Roman Spatny said his income was tied to sales and would vanish with another lost Christmas season.

“For us this is a plain knife in the back. We have to be closed at a time that business-wise is the most important for us, same as last year,” he said. “Important decisions are taken from one hour to the next. There is no way to properly react to this.”

Student Natalia Paskova, 17, saw little choice: “The situation is getting worse so the decisions are justified,” she said.

Matt Mathers25 November 2021 13:54

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France confirms extended booster programme but no lockdown

France has launched a plan Thursday to give Covid booster shots to all adults, as it opted against a further lockdown or curfew to help combat a worrying uptick in infections in the country.

Health minister Olivier Veran laid out the plans during a press conference in which he announced a reduction in the time gap between second and third shots from six to five months. He said France already has enough vaccines to launch the nationwide booster campaign.

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Oliver Veran announcing new Covid measures

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Oliver Veran announcing new Covid measures

(AP)

Veran also laid out a swathe of measures seen as tightening the use of masks in public areas and said that the country’s COVID pass, which is required in many indoor places across the country, will become invalid if a person has not received a booster shot within seven months of a second dose.

He said that there are ten times more unvaccinated people currently hospitalized because of the virus than vaccinated ones, adding that without the vaccine the country would already be in a lockdown situation.

Matt Mathers25 November 2021 13:35

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Cancer treatment and organ transplants postponed in Netherlands due to Covid surge

Some Dutch hospitals have halted chemotherapy treatments and organ transplants to free up intensive care beds for a surging number of Covid patients, an official said on Thursday.

The Dutch Hospital Association for Critical Care said it had asked health minister Hugo de Jonge to escalate the national plan to a stage under which regular care requiring an overnight stay would be cancelled.

The number of coronavirus patients in hospital has hit levels not seen since early May, and experts have warned that hospitals will reach full capacity in little more than a week if the virus is not contained. Several patients were transferred to German hospitals this week.

Matt Mathers25 November 2021 13:16

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Turkey’s domestic vaccine applies for emergency authorisation

Turkey’s domestically developed vaccine, Turkovac, has applied for emergency authorisation, health minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday, adding he hoped the shot would be available for use by year-end.

Speaking at his ministry’s budget debate in parliament, Koca said work on Turkovac was nearing completion, and added the shot would mark the first Phase III clinical research project to be fully carried out by Turkey.

“I would like to share a piece of good news for our people: our domestic inactive Covid vaccine Turkovac has applied for emergency authorisation as of today,” Koca said.

Matt Mathers25 November 2021 13:00

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