Covid live news: poorer nations forced to reject 100m near-expired coronavirus vaccines

Covid live news: poorer nations forced to reject 100m near-expired coronavirus vaccines


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Fashion-conscious Italian police are in revolt after receiving batches of pink face masks to wear on duty, arguing that the “eccentric” colour is ill-matched with their uniforms.

Police units in six cities were sent the FFP2 masks from the office of Italy’s Covid-19 emergency commissioner, Francesco Paolo Figliuolo.

After opening the boxes, many of the officers refused to wear the “inappropriate” masks, prompting Stefano Paolini, the chief of a police union, to write a letter to the head of police at the interior ministry, Lamberto Giannini.

Paolini wrote that the decision to approve the purchase of pink masks for the police force was puzzling. He claimed the colour was “eccentric” in respect to police uniform and risked jeopardising the image of the institution.

The Netherlands reports record 35,000 cases in a day

England’s Covid-19 R number estimated between 1.1 and 1.5

Downing Street apologises to Buckingham Palace over parties on eve of Philip's funeral

No 10 has apologised to Buckingham Palace for two parties that took place in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year, Boris Johnson’s spokesman has revealed.

The Daily Telegraph reported that two separate leaving parties, for former director of communications James Slack and a government photographer, were held on 16 April, with drinking continuing into the early hours.

The prime minister’s spokesperson said:

It’s deeply regrettable that this took place at a national mourning, and No 10 has apologised to the palace for that.

He declined to say whether Johnson would personally apologise to the Queen at his next private audience with her, but said the prime minister recognised the public’s “significant anger” about lockdown-busting social events.

The monarch mourned alone at her husband’s funeral because Covid rules at the time prohibited indoor mixing.

Sue Gray, the civil servant overseeing the inquiry into alleged lockdown-breaking government parties, is investigating the two leaving events held in Downing Street on the night before Philip’s funeral.

Follow more updates on our politics blog:

As panto season comes to an end, Britain’s theatres are counting the cost of another Christmas wrecked by Covid, with cancelled shows decimating income during a traditionally lucrative period.

My colleague and the Guardian’s stage editor, Chris Wiegand, spoke to the cast and crew who have been lighting up Britain’s theatres – but are now faced with eye-watering losses.

York Theatre Royal’s Cinderella – whose star and understudy both had to self-isolate – cancelled 12 performances with an estimated loss of up to £200,000. Theatr Clwyd’s Beauty and the Beast achieved ticket sales comparable to pre-Covid times but the Welsh government’s Covid restrictions, introduced on Boxing Day, led the venue to cancel all remaining performances, worth an estimated £500,000.

At Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph theatre, almost half of Jack and the Beanstalk’s run was lost because of coronavirus cases in the company; now the theatre hopes to attract viewers to an online version this month.

At Liverpool Everyman, Robin Hood’s first week was cancelled because Covid cases prevented the set from being supplied in time. An additional 15 shows were lost owing to cast and crew illness. “If we get through to Saturday, we’ll have delivered 50 shows out of a planned 71,” said its CEO, Mark Da Vanzo. “That’s pretty good going considering everything we’ve had to face with Omicron and the isolation rules.” The cast included two “swing” performers, who fill in for other roles when required, and an understudy was available to cover. Without them, “we’d have lost even more shows”, said Da Vanzo. “Once Covid got into the company, it was very hard to stop it transmitting.”

For more on the Covid-battered landscape of British theatre:

And to find out more about what it’s like to be working in pantomimes right now, listen to our Today in Focus podcast episode from before Christmas:

Wales’ Covid restrictions on pubs and sport to be scrapped

Omicron variant now dominant in Italy, health body says

Novak Djokovic will have to report for an interview with Border Force at 8am tomorrow.

Judge Anthony Kelly has ordered the proceedings to be transferred to the Federal Court. That’s a slight setback from Djokovic, whose lawyers had urged it to stay with this court (Federal Circuit), to speed things up.

The judge’s orders are as follows:

  • Djokovic to serve as soon as is reasonably practical an originating application, an affidavit attaching Alex Hawke’s reasons and submissions for decision.
  • The minister will not take any step to remove Djokovic from Australia.
  • Djokovic will attend an interview at 8am Saturday with immigration officials, then will be supervised by Border Force officers from 10am to 2pm on Saturday at his solicitors’ offices.
  • Djokovic may continue in detention from 9am Sunday 16 January, at his solicitors’ offices.

This comes after Australian officials cancelled Djokovic’s visa again. Immigration minister Alex Hawke announced earlier that he had used his ministerial discretion to cancel the tennis player’s visa on public interest grounds.

Germany registers more than 90,000 Covid cases – another daily record

Philip Oltermann, our Berlin bureau chief, has the latest as Germany braces for yet another record high number of infections:

On Friday, the Robert Koch Institute reported another daily record of new infections, with 92,223 new cases and 286 new deaths. At 470.6, the seven-day incidence of infections per 100,000 people is approaching the record rate of 485, which was recorded in November 2021.

Omicron is now the dominant variant of Covid-19 in Germany, the country’s disease control agency said in a weekly report on Thursday. The highly infectious variant made up 73.3% of cases in Europe’s most populous country, up from 44.3% the previous week.

While other European countries have declared the arrival of the Omicron variant tantamount to the virus moving its pandemic to endemic stage, Germany’s government has struck a more cautious note.

Health minister Karl Lauterbach said this week that he was still opposed to letting the virus rip through the population, which he said would amount to an “unethical bet”.

At the same time, Germany has not opted to introduce tighter restrictions beyond restricting access to restaurants or bars to those who have been boostered or tested. The liberal-left coalition government has effectively ruled out imposing another lockdown, or any restrictions that would be referred to by that name.