Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented global crisis totally dwarfed by US politics.
What a day.
In pandemic news, Uk prime minister Boris Johnson was forced to defend his handling of the Covid pandemic in the House of Commons as 3,587 people were admitted to hospitals in England known to be suffering with Covid – surpassing the previous record high hit last weekend.
Meanwhile Arizona has become the Covid “hot spot of the world”, public health experts have warned, as the US state saw a triple-digit number of new virus-related deaths for the second day in a row.
- France is unlikely to avoid the new and more contagious “UK variant” of the coronavirus, the government’s chief scientific advisor on the epidemic said as it was reported the country already had about 22 confirmed cases of the UK variant.
- Tunisia recorded 2,820 new confirmed coronavirus cases- the most since the start of the pandemic-the health ministry said on Wednesday. Seventy more deaths were reported, taking the death toll to more than 5,000.
- European Medicines Agency approves Moderna coronavirus vaccine. The EMA has approved the Moderna vaccine, making it the second coronavirus shot to be cleared for general use across the EU, as tensions continued to rise over the slow progress of vaccination programmes in the bloc.
- Japan’s daily coronavirus cases hit record as state of emergency looms. Japan’s Covid-19 cases reached a new daily record of at least 6,001 on Wednesday, as the government faced mounting pressure from health experts to impose a strict state of emergency for the Tokyo greater metropolitan area.
- Peru and Bolivia see hospitals overflow and cases rise as fears of second wave grow. The critical care wards of major hospitals in Peru and Bolivia stand at or near collapse after end-of-year holidays, reflecting wider regional public health capacity concerns as much of Latin America struggles to secure adequate Covid-19 vaccine supplies.
- Portugal extends state of emergency amid record daily Covid cases. The daily number of Covid-19 cases in the nation of around 10 million people reached a record high of 10,027, putting increasing pressure on the health system.
- Ireland tightens Covid-19 lockdown by closing schools and construction. Ireland has ordered the closure of most schools and construction sites for at least three weeks in an effort to curb a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, tightening a lockdown that has already closed most hospitality and retail outlets.
- China stalls WHO mission to investigate origins of coronavirus. China has attempted to downplay concerns over23its refusal to authorise a fact-finding mission to the country by the World Health Organization to study the origins of Covid-19, saying it is still negotiating access with the UN body.
- Greek churches open for Epiphany despite coronavirus lockdown. In what had been described by some as a rebellion, by others a declaration of war, churches across Greece opened their doors on Wednesday –25defying nationwide lockdown measures – to mark one of the holiest days in the Orthodox calendar.