Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan. As always, you can find me on Twitter here if you need me.
I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next few hours.
China has blocked the arrival of a team from the World Health Organization investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that their visas had not yet been approved even as some members of the group were on their way.
“I am 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,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, in a rare rebuke of Beijing from the UN body.
Earlier this week Chinese authorities had refused to confirm the exact dates and details of the visit, a sign of the enduring sensitivity of their mission.
Meanwhile one in 50 people in private households in England – more than 1.1 million – are estimated to have had the coronavirus in the week ending 2 January.
Here are the other key developments from the last few hours:
- Students in England will not be asked to sit GCSE and A-levels this summer, the Department for Education has said.
- Germany is extending its nationwide lockdown until the end of the month and is introducing new tougher restrictions in order to get control of surging coronavirus infections, the chancellor, Angela Merkel, said.
- Zimbabwe recorded 1,365 coronavirus cases and 34 deaths on Tuesday – its single biggest daily rise for both as it began a month-long lockdown to curb surging infections.
- Pupils in Northern Ireland will learn remotely until the half-term break, the executive has agreed, but it remains unclear whether A-level and GCSE exams will take place this summer.
- Chilean lawmakers are considering making vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory as the country’s centre-right government pushes to inoculate most of its population by mid-year.
- Israel’s cabinet has agreed to impose a “full lockdown” that will see current restrictions increased to shutter virtually the entire education system, including nurseries, and ban non-essential international travel, according to local media.
- People travelling to Ireland from any country will have to show a negative PCR test from the last 72 hours, the Irish Times reports.
- The UK has recorded a further 60,916 lab-confirmed cases – the highest daily total reported so far, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 2,774,479.
- There is no indication that the coronavirus variant identified in South Africa is more transmissible than the one spreading fast in Britain, the World Health Organization’s technical chief on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, said.