That’s it from me, Samantha Lock, for our live blog today.

Stay tuned in to all developing Covid news by following along here.

A quick rundown of today’s biggest headlines can also be found here if you missed it earlier.

Pfizer strikes global licensing deal for Covid pill

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has announced a deal to make its prospective antiviral Covid-19 pill, Paxlovid, available more cheaply in the world’s poorest countries.

Pfizer will sub-licence production of the pill to generic drug manufacturers for supply in 95 low and middle income nations covering around 53% of the world’s population.

Under the deal struck with the global Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), Pfizer - which also produces one of the most widely-used Covid vaccines with German lab BioNTech - will not receive royalties from the generic manufacturers, making the treatment more affordable.

The agreement is subject to the oral antiviral medication passing ongoing trials and regulatory approval.

“This license is so important because, if authorised or approved, this oral drug is particularly well-suited for low-and middle-income countries and could play a critical role in saving lives, contributing to global efforts to fight the current pandemic,” Charles Gore, Executive Director of MPP, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The gulf between wealthier nations in the west who boast high vaccine uptake rates and poorer nations who are still struggling to vaccine their populations continues to grow.

While some in the west are triple-dosed, the vast majority of health workers in Africa remain unprotected.

Here’s a Guardian view on vaccine justice and what the world needs now.

Samantha Lock here, taking over from my colleague Leonie Chao-Fong.

First up, some numbers out of Australia for you.

The state of NSW recorded another 231 new cases and no Covid-19 deaths.

Victoria recorded 996 new Covid-19 cases and nine deaths.

And according to a new survey, the average Australian is working 1.5 hours more unpaid overtime each week since the start of the Covid pandemic.

The poll, which used a nationally representative sample, found the average employed Australian is working 6.13 hours unpaid each week in 2021, up from 5.25 hours in 2020 and 4.62 hours in 2019.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, for today. I’m handing this blog back to my colleague Samantha Lock. Here’s a quick roundup of what’s been happening so far:

  • Pfizer has announced it is asking US regulators to authorise its experimental antiviral Covid-19 pill, Paxlovid, which has been shown in clinical trials to cut the risk of hospitalisation and death for adults by almost 90%. The company has said it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its experimental antiviral Covid pill to 95 low- and middle-income countries.
  • People in Ireland are being asked to work from home where possible from Friday and bars, restaurants and nightclubs will introduce a midnight closing time on Friday as a raft of new restrictions is agreed by the government in the face of rising hospitalisations.
  • Thousands of restaurant owners in Greece shut their businesses in a nationwide protest against recent measures that fine establishments for serving customers without proper documentation of their vaccination or test status.
  • The UK has recorded another 37,243 Covid cases in the last 24 hours, and a further 214 deaths within 28 days of a positive test. That is compared with 39,705 infections and 47 deaths reported the day before.
  • Scotland’s Covid passport scheme could be extended to cinemas, theatres and bars next week if that helped avoid a harsher lockdown closer to Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed. Hospitality firms said further restrictions would be “a devastating blow”, warning it could force some venues to close.
  • Portugal may bring back some measures to stop the spread of Covid in the run-up to the holiday season as infections soar across Europe, prime minister Antonio Costa said. The number of new cases has been gradually rising over the past month in one of the world’s most vaccinated nations, reaching a two-month daily high of 1,816 infections on Saturday.
  • Slovakia plans curbs on unvaccinated people as hospitals reach a “critical” situation, prime minister Eduard Heger said. The government is due to decide on Thursday on tighter restrictions to limit access to services to those unvaccinated or those who had overcome Covid in the past six months.
  • In Germany, plans are also underway for the introduction of tighter restrictions on people who have so far chosen not to be vaccinated against Covid-19, in an effort to control its highest infection levels since the pandemic began. Munich became the first major German city to cancel its upcoming Christmas market, blaming the “dramatic” coronavirus resurgence.
  • Covid is now a pandemic of poor nations, Dr David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy on Covid told a cross-party group of MPs, adding that governments that are attempting to vaccinate their way out of the pandemic are taking a huge risk. Without mentioning the UK by name, Nabarro said wealthy countries that were attempting to “vaccinate a population out of an active pandemic” were taking a huge gamble.

Updated

Pfizer’s announcement on Tuesday that it is seeking US regulatory authorisation for its Covid-19 antiviral pill, Paxlovid, has been hailed as a promising sign that a new easy-to-use antiviral pill could prevent people with mild-to-moderate symptoms from developing severe disease. But it is not the only company with an oral antiviral that could mark a global game-changer in the fight against the pandemic.

Earlier this month, the UK medicines regulator announced it had approved molnupiravir, a drug developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp and Dohme, becoming the first in the world to approve an oral antiviral pill for Covid.

Under deals announced in October, the UK expects to receive 480,000 doses of molnupiravir, also known as Lagevrio, from mid-November, with 250,000 courses of Paxlovid due in late January. Paxlovid is a combination of an antiviral drug with ritonavir, a drug usually used to treat HIV/Aids.

The drug will initially be given to patients through a national study run by the NHS and will be given as a priority to elderly Covid patients and those with particular vulnerabilities, such as weakened immune systems.

Prof Peter Horby, the co-leader of the groundbreaking Recovery trial of Covid treatments at the University of Oxford, said the decision by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency was very welcome and amounted to a watershed moment in tackling the pandemic.

Both Merck and Pfizer’s antiviral pills must be administered within a few days of contracting Covid-19 to be effective, experts have said, with the course of pills typically lasting a period of five days.

A clinical trial in the US of molnupiravir showed a five-day course of the pills halved the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk patients.

Updated

Following news that Munich has become the first major German city to cancel its upcoming Christmas market, Reuters reports that Hamburg will only allow people who are vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid to enjoy its festive market’s gastronomic section.

The unvaccinated will be able to visit the northern German city’s Christmas handicraft stalls, listen to carols, ride on the merry-go-round or admire the nativity scenes, but they will not be permitted to indulge in steaming hot mulled wine and candied almonds or gingerbread.

Organisers have said security guards will be checking for proof of vaccination or recovery at the entrance once the market opens next week.

“There have to be access restrictions,” said Marion Begas as she set up her pottery stand at the Hamburg market, which will have 40% fewer stalls this year to ensure greater social distancing. “It is a way to protect everyone.”

On Tuesday, Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter called the cancellation of its market “bitter news” for the city’s residents and stallholders, but said it would be irresponsible for the event to go ahead.

Germany’s southern Bavaria region is grappling with one of the country’s highest infection rates amid a ferocious fourth wave of the pandemic.

In Greece, thousands of restaurant owners shut their businesses in a nationwide one-day protest against recent measures that make establishments responsible for checking the vaccination or test status of customers.

Any restaurant or cafe found serving customers without the proper documentation risks a fine of €5,000 (£4,200) and temporary closure but owners have pointed out that customers are only fined €300 (£250).

One week after the introduction of the new restrictions, business owners claim turnover has dropped by 50%, at a time when hundreds of restaurants are facing bankruptcy and employees are being fired en masse.

The Panhellenic Federation of Restaurant and Related Professions (Poese) union, which represents workers in the service and tourism industries, urged the government to re-regulate business-owner fines, provide rent rebates and tax breaks.

People in Ireland are being asked to work from home where possible from Friday as the government announced a new state of semi-lockdown amid rising case rates and hospitalisations.

Pubs, nightclubs and restaurants will be imposed a new curfew for closing time from Thursday, a blow to the night-time economy which only reopened after 20 months of restrictions on 22 October.

In a televised address this evening, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said it was increasingly clear the country was experiencing “another surge of Covid infection” and that he needed “to act now”.

He added that the range of measures being introduced “represent an appropriate response to the situation we find ourselves in”.

“Our advice is now that everyone should work from home unless it is absolutely necessary that they attend in person,” he added.

The last week has seen the second-highest rate of Covid hospital admissions this year, despite Ireland having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

UK tax officials have ramped up efforts to claw back £1bn from fraudulent or incorrect furlough payouts, after opening up tens of thousands of investigations against companies.

More than 26,500 interventions have been launched by officials since the spring, as HM Revenue and Customs stepped up the number of investigations into potentially fraudulent pandemic support claims over the past eight months.

The details, shared with the Guardian, cover the multibillion-pound furlough programme, which was closed at the end of September after subsidising the wages of about 9 million workers in Britain at its peak last year.

It also covers investigations into the Treasury’s parallel income support scheme for the self-employed, as well as Rishi Sunak’s “eat-out-to-help-out” restaurant discount scheme, which was taken up by thousands of hospitality venues across Britain last August.

Read the full story here:

While we’re on the subject of Pfizer, the company has announced it is asking US regulators to authorise its experimental antiviral Covid-19 pill that could give patients an easy-to-use treatment they could take at home and keep them out of hospital.

Pfizer said it completed submission of its application for emergency use authorisation of the drug, Paxlovid, with the US Food and Drug Administration.

The news comes after the company said clinical studies of the drug showed that it was 89% effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths for infected Covid adults.

In a statement, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said:

We are moving as quickly as possible in our effort to get this potential treatment into the hands of patients, and we look forward to working with the U.S. FDA on its review of our application.

It’s not clear when regulators will rule on the application but the oral drug could prove a promising weapon in the fight against the pandemic.

Currently, the only other treatments for mild to moderate Covid are monoclonal antibodies which need to delivered through injection or infusion. Paxlovid could also become an important tool in countries and areas with limited access to vaccines.

Good evening. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here, taking over the live blog from Lucy Campbell. A new study shows Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are making combined profits of US$65,000 (£48,000) a minute from their Covid-19 vaccines, Agence-France-Presse reports.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition campaigning for wider vaccine access, criticised the companies for selling the vast majority of their doses to rich countries while the world’s poorest countries remain largely unvaccinated.

Based on its calculations on the firms’ own earning reports, the group estimates that the trio will make pre-tax profits of $34 billion (£25 billion) in 2021 between them, which works out to over $1,000 (£740) a second, $65,000 (£48,000) a minute or $93.5 million (£70 million) a day. In contrast, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have provided their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis – although both have announced they foresee ending this arrangement in future as the pandemic winds down.

Maaza Seyoum of the African Alliance and People’s Vaccine Alliance Africa said:

It is obscene that just a few companies are making millions of dollars in profit every single hour, while just 2 percent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

Updated

Summary

Here is a quick recap of some of the main developments from today so far:

  • Slovakia’s government will decide on Thursday on tighter restrictions to limit access to services for unvaccinated people, the prime minister Eduard Heger said, as hospitals have reached a critical situation because of a surge in Covid infections. The health ministry said there were just 20 beds with lung ventilators currently available for new patients as hospitals rushed to re-purpose beds and shipped patients around the country. With only 45% of the total population vaccinated, the government agreed to prepare measures that would only allow vaccinated people to attend large events; set rules for testing at workplaces; and limit entry to non-essential shops and services, sports, wellness and hotels to those unvaccinated or those who had overcome Covid in the past six months.
  • Covid is now a pandemic of poor nations, Dr David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy on Covid told a cross-party group of MPs, adding that governments that are attempting to vaccinate their way out of the pandemic are taking a huge risk. Story here.
  • Germany is paving the way for the introduction of tighter restrictions on people who have so far chosen not to be vaccinated against Covid, in an effort to control its highest infection levels since the pandemic began. The state of Saxony, where 85% of ICU beds are occupied by patients with Covid, became the latest to introduce so-called 2G rules in all non-essential shops and facilities, meaning only people who can prove they have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid will be allowed entry. North Rhine Westphalia is due to follow suit, with unvaccinated people to be excluded from entry to all non-essential facilities and events including football matches and Christmas markets. Berlin is also on track to introduced similar “2G-plus” rules, its mayor, Michael Müller, said. Story here.
  • Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed Scotland’s Covid passport scheme could be extended to cinemas, theatres and bars next week, if that helped avoid a harsher lockdown closer to Christmas. The first minister told MSPs the devolved government’s cabinet was considering extending the vaccine passport scheme, where customers need to prove they have had both vaccine doses, from larger sports and entertainment venues to a wider range of venues. A decision is due to be taken next Tuesday.
  • Bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Ireland will introduce a midnight closing time on Friday as a raft of new restrictions is agreed by the government in the face of rising hospitalisations. The government has also paused the planned return to offices with the work from advice remaining in place, and Covid certificates showing vaccination records, already required for hospitality, will also be required for cinemas and theatres. The government’s cabinet took the decision after being shown projections that could more than quadruple the number of patients in intensive care.
  • Portugal’s prime minister Antonio Costa said that authorities may bring back some measures to stop the spread of Covid in the run-up to the holiday season as infections soar across Europe. Government ministers are expected to meet health experts on Friday to evaluate the situation and only then will decide on which rules to impose. Costa said measures would be only applied when “strictly necessary”, adding that it was unlikely to bring back a lockdown and that the new measures would aim to “disturb people’s lives as little as possible”.
  • Munich became the first major German city to cancel its upcoming Christmas market, which usually draws 3 million visitors, blaming the “dramatic” coronavirus resurgence. The city’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, called it “bitter news” for the city’s residents and stallholders, but said it would be irresponsible for the event to go ahead. “The dramatic situation in our hospitals and the exponentially increasing infection figures leave me no other choice: unfortunately, the Munich Christmas market cannot take place this year,” Reiter said in a statement. Eyes are now turning to cities such as Cologne, Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Dresden, which are in the midst of preparing their own popular Christmas markets.
  • Only a small fraction of attendees at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow tested positive for Covid during the event, at a rate of around 1 in 250 people, Public Health Scotland said.
  • Pfizer Inc said it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its experimental antiviral Covid pill to 95 low- and middle-income countries through a licensing agreement with international public health group Medicines Patent Pool. This will allow the UN-backed group to grant sub-licenses to qualified generic drug manufacturers to make their own versions of PF-07321332. The 95 countries in the license agreement cover around 53% of the world’s population and include all low- and lower-middle-income countries and some upper-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa.They also include countries that have transitioned from lower-middle to upper-middle-income status in the past five years, Pfizer and the MPP said. Pfizer will waive royalties on sales in low-income countries. It will also waive them in the other countries covered by the agreement as long as Covid remains classified as a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization.
  • Cyprus health officials said they would gradually offer Covid vaccine booster shots to anyone over 18, following a surge in daily cases and an increase in hospitalisations. The health ministry said that booster jabs would be available at walk-in centres for anyone aged 40 and over from Wednesday, provided they completed their initial vaccination scheme six months earlier.

Updated

Slovakia plans curbs on unvaccinated people as hospitals fill up

Slovakia’s hospitals are in a critical situation because of a surge in coronavirus infections and the government will decide on Thursday on tighter restrictions to limit access to services for unvaccinated people, the prime minister Eduard Heger said.

The country of 5.5 million reported record daily cases of around 6,500 in recent days. The health ministry said on Tuesday there were just 20 beds with lung ventilators currently available for new patients as hospitals rushed to re-purpose beds and shipped patients around the country.

“Situation in hospitals is critical,” Heger told reporters. “We need to significantly tighten [restrictions] in the coming three weeks to calm down the situation at hospitals.”

Heger said the government agreed to prepare measures, and approve them on Thursday, what would only allow vaccinated people to attend large events. The government will also set rules for testing at workplaces.

It also plans to limit entry to non-essential shops and services, sports, wellness and hotels to those unvaccinated or those who had overcome Covid in the past six months.

Slovakia is one of Europe’s least vaccinated countries, with 45% of the total population vaccinated compared to EU average of 64.9%, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The country has reported 13,644 deaths since the pandemic began, including 46 in the past day.

The number of people in hospitals with Covid jumped by 225 on Tuesday to 2,862, the Health Ministry said.

Updated

Covid now a pandemic of poor nations, WHO envoy tells UK MPs

Covid is now a pandemic of poor nations, a leading global expert has told a cross-party group of MPs, adding that governments that are attempting to vaccinate their way out of the pandemic are taking a huge risk.

Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid, told the all-party group on coronavirus that the world was still deep in the pandemic, with 5,413 reported deaths in the past 24 hours alone, adding:

This is a disease now fundamentally of poor people and poor nations.

Without mentioning the UK by name, Nabarro said wealthy countries that were attempting to “vaccinate a population out of an active pandemic” were taking a huge gamble, saying one concern was the rise of new variants that may evade current vaccines, while another was that the population may be reluctant to comply should measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing be re-introduced.

He said:

If there is a hoovering up of vaccines for the boosters, that is just going to have a global consequences that are really quite extreme, and everybody needs to know that.

According to official data, more than 22% of people in the UK aged 12 or over have had a booster dose, while an estimated 68.6% of the entire population have had at least two jabs.

In stark contrast, in Africa just 6% of people had been fully vaccinated by the end of October, the WHO said. According to figures from Our World in Data, some African countries have even lower levels – in Nigeria the figure is only 2.8%.

More on this story here:

Updated

Germany set to tighten rules for unvaccinated as Covid cases rise

Germany is paving the way for the introduction of tighter restrictions on people who have so far chosen not to be vaccinated against Covid-19, in an effort to control its highest infection levels since the pandemic began.

On Tuesday the country’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, recorded a seven-day incidence rate of 312 cases per 100,000 people, with several areas at more than 1,000. A year ago, before the vaccine was introduced, the rate stood at 139. There were 265 deaths reported on Tuesday, much fewer than the pre-vaccine peak.

With the country in political limbo, the old government of Angela Merkel operating in a caretaker capacity until a new three-way coalition takes the reins next month, management of the pandemic appears to have lost direction.

Less than 70% of the population is fully vaccinated, leaving Germany considerably behind other European countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The spread of the more infectious Delta variant, an increase in communal activity, a return to the workplace and a sluggish rollout of booster vaccines, which are recommended six months after the second jab, have been blamed for the increase in infections.

A rise in health conditions usually related to the colder months has contributed to some hospitals being on the verge of being overwhelmed. Some hospitals have stopped all but essential surgery to cope with the increase in patients.

The state of Saxony, where 85% of ICU beds are occupied by Covid patients, became the latest to introduce so-called 2G rules in all non-essential shops and facilities, meaning only people who can prove they have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid will be allowed entry. Saxony’s social minister, Petra Köpping, said that in addition tests would be required if the incidence continued to rise to the extent that hospitals were unable to cope. 2G is a reference to the German words for vaccinated and recovered (geimpft and genesen).

North Rhine Westphalia is due to follow suit, with unvaccinated people to be excluded from entry to all non-essential facilities and events including football matches and Christmas markets. People wanting to attend carnival events as the season kicks off will be required to take a test in addition to being vaccinated or having recovered.

Berlin is also on track to introduced similar “2G-plus” rules, its mayor, Michael Müller, said on Tuesday. The city hopes to reopen vaccine centres, which were closed across the country at the end of the summer when they were deemed no longer necessary, but authorities have said this would happen in January or February at the earliest.

Read the full story here:

The credibility of New Caledonia’s third and final independence referendum has been questioned after indigenous leaders warned that participation could be adversely affected by the Covid pandemic, Helen Fraser reports.

The French government has announced that the referendum will proceed as planned in December after the coronavirus crisis eased.

But the pro-independence FLNKS party has been calling for a postponement and has called on supporters not vote on 12 December because the indigenous Kanak people – who are more likely to vote for independence – are in mourning for victims of the pandemic. Kanaks have been far more seriously impacted by the pandemic than Europeans in the Pacific territory.

The referendum is the third and final poll asking whether the Pacific territory wishes to become an independent nation. Support for independence increased from 43.3% in the first vote in 2018, to 46.7% in 2020. It had expected to be close to, if not over the required 50% in the final vote.

However, Covid has greatly impacted the push for independence.

Eighty percent of New Caledonia’s 267 deaths and 10,500 Covid cases have been among the Kanak and other Pasifika people, who were more likely to support independence in previous votes.

The virulent Delta surge saw the territory go from zero cases at the start of September to more than 10,000 cases within six weeks, with lockdown measures affecting traditional Kanak mourning rites. The lockdown measures include curfews, a ban on gatherings of more than five, anda limit of nine mourners at a funeral.

As lockdowns lift, FLNKS leaders have said that the first priority of Kanak communities will be to complete customary mourning ceremonies, which often take several months, rather than campaigning for the upcoming independence vote.

Full story here:

Ollie the dog returns to the canine program at Rady Children’s Hospital as Covid restrictions ease in San Diego, California.
Ollie the dog returns to the canine program at Rady Children’s Hospital as Covid restrictions ease in San Diego, California. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

UK reports 37,243 new cases and 214 further deaths

The UK has recorded another 37,243 Covid cases in the last 24 hours, and a further 214 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to the latest data from the government’s coronavirus dashboard. That is compared to 39,705 infections and 47 deaths reported the day before.

Updated

Germany should demand proof of vaccination or recent recovery from Covid for all indoor leisure activities, and require vaccinated people to also present a negative test for risky environments, a regional leader said on Tuesday.

Hendrik Wüst, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, made the comments before leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss how to respond to a new surge in Covid cases, Reuters reports.

Germany recorded 32,048 new infections on Tuesday, a rise of 47% compared to a week ago, and another 265 deaths, bringing Germany’s total during the pandemic to 97,980.

Wüst, who chairs the body that groups Germany’s regional premiers, said he would press on Thursday for the whole country to allow only vaccinated people or those who have recovered from Covid to access leisure-sector facilities, in some cases paired with a negative test.

Several German regions, including the capital Berlin, have already introduced such a rule, in effect excluding non-vaccinated people from places such as cinemas, hairdressers, restaurants and fitness studios.

Berlin is also considering requiring negative tests and proof of vaccination from next week.

It is not clear who should be responsible for policing the new rules. Berlin’s mayor Michael Mueller called on city officials to check vaccine passports rather than issue parking tickets.

“It isn’t a matter of illegal parking but human lives,” he was quoted as saying in the Berliner Zeitung daily.

The new wave of infections is challenging a government in transition, with three parties negotiating to form the next cabinet after September’s federal election.

Neighbouring Austria, where approximately 65% of the population is fully vaccinated, imposed a nationwide lockdown on unvaccinated people on Monday in an effort to deal with a surge in infections.

Germany’s vaccination rate, at 68%, is among the lowest in western Europe.

Updated

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed Scotland’s Covid passport scheme could be extended to cinemas, theatres and bars next week, if that helped avoid a harsher lockdown closer to Christmas.

The first minister told MSPs the devolved government’s cabinet was considering extending the vaccine passport scheme, where customers need to prove they have had both vaccines, from larger sports and entertainment venues to a wider range of venues.

She said Wales had extended its scheme.

She said ministers could also allow proof of a recent negative test to get entry to a venue.

A decision would be taken next Tuesday: the surge of Covid cases in Europe was a reminder the virus was still very active. Cases in Scotland were rising again, she said, to around 3,000 new cases a day.

Sturgeon said an evidence and options paper would be released later this week.

Hospitality firms said further restrictions would be “a devastating blow” in the run-up to Christmas, warning it could force some venues to close.

Five large trade bodies representing hotels, pubs and nightclubs said a survey of 150 businesses, many of which had seen trade fall by 20 to 40%, found a large majority would need to lay off staff and government bail-outs to remain viable.

“Scotland’s hospitality sector is in a precarious situation, making the recovery period all the more important,” they said. “Four out of five businesses are significantly below pre-pandemic levels and with inflation, debt levels and other costs rising, the sector is facing a very difficult winter ahead.”

Midnight curfew for hospitality reimposed in Ireland

Bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Ireland will introduce a midnight closing time on Friday as a raft of new restrictions is agreed by the government in the face of rising hospitalisations.

The measure is a blow to the night-time economy, which was reopened after 20 months of restrictions on 22 October.

The government’s cabinet took the decision after being shown projections that could more than quadruple the number of patients in intensive care.

On Monday, the chief executive of the health service executive said the situation was “grim”, with 114 people in ICU.

“The modelling is very stark … If we did nothing, if we were to continue as is, we could be looking at somewhere between 200 and maybe up to 500 people in ICU. Obviously that’s not something we can countenance,” said the health minister Stephen Donnelly.

The government has also paused the planned return to offices with the work from advice remaining in place.

Covid certificates showing vaccination records, already required for hospitality, will also be required for cinemas and theatres.

Antigen tests, which unlike in the UK are not free in Ireland, will also be required to be taken by anyone in contact with a person with Covid. They will also have restrict their movements for five days.

Updated

Portuguese PM warns restrictions may return before Christmas

Portugal’s prime minister Antonio Costa has said that authorities in one of the world’s most vaccinated nations may bring back some measures to stop the spread of Covid in the run-up to the holiday season as infections soar across Europe, Reuters reports.

The number of new cases has been gradually rising over the past month in Portugal, reaching a two-month daily high of 1,816 infections on Saturday.

The 14-day infection rate stood at 156 cases per 100,000 people on Monday, about double that in neighbouring Spain, which has a slightly lower share of its population fully vaccinated, but still well below over 500 in Germany and more than 900 in the Netherlands.

Costa told reporters on the sidelines of an event in central Portugal:

We must try to act now so we can reach the Christmas period with less fear. The later we act, the greater the risks.

Government ministers are expected to meet health experts on Friday to evaluate the situation and only then will decide on which rules to impose. Costa said measures would be only applied when “strictly necessary”.

About 86% of Portugal’s population of just over 10 million is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. It has reported about 1.1 million cases and 18,265 deaths since the pandemic began.

The country faced its toughest battle against Covid in January, forcing authorities to impose strict lockdown measures, that have since been lifted.

Costa said the government was unlikely to bring back a lockdown and that the new measures would aim to “disturb people’s lives as little as possible”.

Mask-wearing is still required in public transport, shopping malls and large gatherings. The EU digital Covid-19 certificate is required to enter nightclubs and big events, as well as to travel.

Updated

JP Morgan’s billionaire chief executive Jamie Dimon was allowed to skip Hong Kong’s strict 21-day hotel quarantine rules because he runs “a very huge bank” with “key business in Hong Kong”, the territory’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said on Tuesday.

Dimon flew into Hong Kong on Monday on JP Morgan’s private jet, becoming the first Wall Street bank boss to visit the territory or mainland China since the pandemic began.

Questioned about why Dimon was allowed to enter the territory without complying with coronavirus rules, Lam said:

The justification is related to economy, as this is a very huge bank with key business in Hong Kong. He needed to come and work for about a day in Hong Kong. But there are restrictions, including restrictions over his itinerary, so the risk is completely manageable.

Hong Kong is pursuing a Covid Zero strategy alongside China, and has imposed some of the world’s strictest travel rules to keep the virus out.

Measures include mandatory hotel quarantines of three weeks for any resident returning from the UK or US, regardless of vaccination status, followed by seven days of self-monitoring.

Tourists and most non-resident visitors are banned from boarding flights to the city.

In August, the government also granted an exemption to the Hollywood actor Nicole Kidman, who had flown into the territory to film a TV series, prompting a brief outcry from frustrated residents who have been forced to pay out for expensive hotel stays.

They have complained on Facebook in the HK Quarantine Support Group that the city is allowing the rich and powerful better treatment than long-term residents.

“The privileged can jetset into Hong Kong on a breeze without [any] consequences … the rest of us [are] forced into three weeks of solitary confinement with [poor] food and no fresh air,” one user said.

Read the full story here:

Updated

The proportion of schoolchildren absent due to Covid has halved according to the latest figures from the Department for Education, after it issued its first full attendance figures for schools in England since the October half-term holiday.

The rate of absences defined by the DfE as Covid-related halved from 3.2% on 21 October to 1.6% on 11 November, the lowest since state schools reopened in September.

The number of pupils with suspected cases of Covid also fell, from 87,000 in mid-October to 50,000 last week, while confirmed cases recorded by the DfE fell from 127,000 to 67,000.

However, the DfE has advised schools to record absences with continuing cases of Covid as ill, meaning its Covid-related figure leaves out such cases.

Headteachers and school leaders warned that the dip in absences was partly due to the “circuit-breaker” effect of schools being closed for half-term, with most closed for the last week of October.

James Bowen, director of policy for the National Association of Head Teachers, said:

As predicted, schools being closed for a week does appear to have had an impact on the number of cases among pupils and so attendance levels at the start of the new half-term have improved.

It’s important not to over-interpret short-term data, but this does appear to belie the suggestion from some that schools are not playing a key role in Covid transmission.

In secondary schools, attendance was 89.5% on 11 November, while primary schools had less than 94% of children present. Including Covid-related absences suggests that more children remain out of school than normal.

However, the DfE’s figures are not comparable to its usual attendance data because it includes different year groups, and because the proportion absent through illness appears to be higher than pre-pandemic.

Updated

Munich became the first major German city to cancel its upcoming Christmas market, which usually draws 3 million visitors, blaming the “dramatic” coronavirus resurgence, AFP reports.

On Tuesday, the city’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, called it “bitter news” for the city’s residents and stallholders, but said it would be irresponsible for the event to go ahead.

“The dramatic situation in our hospitals and the exponentially increasing infection figures leave me no other choice: unfortunately, the Munich Christmas market cannot take place this year,” Reiter said in a statement.

Many German Christmas markets were called off in 2020 because of the pandemic, but Munich “Christ Child Market” is the first of the larger, more popular events to be axed this year. It was due to open on 22 November.

Germany’s southern Bavaria region is grappling with one of the country’s highest infection rates amid a ferocious fourth wave of the pandemic.

Bavaria had a weekly incidence rate of 554.2 recorded infections per 100,000 people on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute, well above the nationwide figure of 312.4 - an all-time high for the country.

Germany hosts 2,500 Christmas markets each year that are popular with visitors who come to savour mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, and shop for seasonal trinkets among clusters of wooden chalets.

In pre-pandemic times, they drew about 160 million domestic and international visitors annually who brought in revenues of €3-5bn, according to the BSM stallkeepers’ industry association.

Eyes are now turning to cities such as Cologne, Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Dresden, which are in the midst of preparing their own popular Christmas markets.

Several smaller markets have already been cancelled across Germany, but so far many organisers have said they plan to go ahead.

Some plan to impose stricter rules barring access to the unvaccinated, while other cities will demand proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test before allowing visitors into the Christmas market zones.

Marienplatz square, a landmark in the city of Munich, southern Germany, was almost deserted last December amid the pandemic [pictured]. Announcing that Munich has once again cancelled its annual Christmas market, the mayor said the dramatic situation in hospitals and exponentially increasing infection figures left no other choice.
Marienplatz square, a landmark in the city of Munich, southern Germany, was almost deserted last December amid the pandemic. Announcing that Munich has once again cancelled its annual Christmas market, the mayor said the dramatic situation in hospitals and exponentially increasing infection figures left no other choice. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Only a small fraction of attendees at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow tested positive for Covid during the event, at a rate of around 1 in 250 people, a public health agency has said.

Public Health Scotland said its estimate of four cases per 1,000 people compared well to the Scotland-wide average during the two-week summit of 12 per 1,000.

The UN and UK health authorities imposed a stringent testing regime: delegates were required to produce a negative lateral flow test result before entry every day; masks were required indoors and physical-distancing measures maintained.

Alongside that, 261 people involved in Scotland-wide events linked to Cop reported contracting Covid between 15 October and 13 November, when the summit ended. That was less than 0.5% of all positive cases reported via Scotland’s test and trace system during that period.

PHS warned that some infections linked to the event could still emerge, particularly following the main climate protest marches, which drew more than 100,000 people to Glasgow on 5 and 6 November.

Updated

Exotic pets exhibited at Living World Mall Alam Sutera in Banten, Indonesia. Various exhibitions are active again with the decline in Covid cases.
Exotic pets exhibited at Living World Mall Alam Sutera in Banten, Indonesia. Various exhibitions are active again with the decline in Covid cases. Photograph: Donal Husni/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Remote working during the pandemic has made it easier for white-collar workers to moonlight in more than one, and in some cases as many as four, full-time occupations. But how do they cope with clashing meetings and several bosses? And can the rewards be worth the lies? Daisy Schofield investigates:

Updated

Growing numbers of people catching Covid are experiencing an unpleasant distortion of smells. Scientists are still unsure what causes this often distressing condition, known as parosmia, where previously enjoyable aromas trigger feelings of disgust.

In this week’s episode of Science Weekly, Madeleine Finlay talks to science correspondent Linda Geddes about her own parosmia, and chemist Dr Jane Parker discusses research into why the smell of coffee seems to be a trigger for so many people.

Listen to the episode here:

Pfizer to allow generic versions of its Covid-19 pill in poorer countries

Pfizer Inc has said it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its experimental antiviral Covid pill to 95 low- and middle-income countries through a licensing agreement with international public health group Medicines Patent Pool (MPP).

Reuters reports that the voluntary licensing agreement between Pfizer and the MPP will allow the United Nations-backed group to grant sub-licenses to qualified generic drug manufacturers to make their own versions of PF-07321332. Pfizer will sell the pills it manufactures under the brand name Paxlovid.

Pfizer, which also makes one of the mostly widely used Covid vaccines, has said the pill cut the chance of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of severe disease by 89% in its clinical trial. The drug will be used in combination with ritonavir, an HIV drug that is already available generically.

Pfizer’s licensing deal follows a similar arrangement by rival Merck & Co for generic manufacturing of its Covid treatment. The deals are unusual arrangements that acknowledge the dire need for effective treatments as well as the pressure drugmakers are under to make their life-saving drugs accessible at very low costs.

“We are extremely pleased to have another weapon in our armoury to protect people from the ravages of Covid-19,” Charles Gore, the executive director of the MPP, said in an interview.

Gore said he hoped the generic version of Pfizer’s drug will be available within months.

The 95 countries in the license agreement cover around 53% of the world’s population and include all low- and lower-middle-income countries and some upper-middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

They also include countries that have transitioned from lower-middle to upper-middle-income status in the past five years, Pfizer and the MPP said.

“We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of Covid-19 infections... We must work to ensure that all people - regardless of where they live or their circumstances - have access to these breakthroughs,” Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said in a statement.

Pfizer will waive royalties on sales in low-income countries. It will also waive them in the other countries covered by the agreement as long as Covid remains classified as a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization.

Pfizer’s version of the drug will be in high demand. The company has said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of next month and at least 50 million courses by the end of 2022.

Even so, the drugmaker could be stretched trying to supply 47% of the world’s population. A Pfizer executive said last week the market for the drug might be up to 150 million people and that many countries might also be interested in buying doses for their strategic reserves.

Pfizer has said it will sell the supply it produces using a tiered pricing approach based on the income level of each country. In the United States, it expects to price its treatment close to where Merck has priced its drug at around $700 a course.

Merck has license agreements for it Covid pill, molnupiravir, in over 100 countries. Still, some international health officials said even that is not enough for the medicine to reach many in low- and middle-income countries in large enough numbers.

Updated

Cyprus offers Covid vaccine boosters to younger people

Cyprus health officials said they would gradually offer Covid vaccine booster shots to anyone over 18, following a surge in daily cases and an increase in hospitalisations, AFP reports.

The health ministry said that booster jabs would be available at walk-in centres for anyone aged 40 and over from Wednesday, provided they completed their initial vaccination scheme six months earlier.

This follows a cabinet decision on Monday to expand the booster rollout to the entire adult population from 18 upwards, with lower age groups set to join the programme later.

The Mediterranean island nation of about 1 million people contained a surge in Covid cases to the low hundreds from a peak of 1,152 daily infections, mainly thanks to a high vaccination rate.

But the adult vaccination drive has struggled to move forward after reaching 80%, and on Monday new cases rose to 354, their highest level since August.

In early September, Cyprus rolled out its booster shot scheme for people residing in nursing homes and healthcare workers to prevent a new wave of infections as immunity wanes in older groups.

Since then, authorities have pushed the age limit down regularly.

But the majority of people eligible for a third dose have not come forward.

According to health ministry figures, 57.8% of those over 80 have received a booster shot, but only 23.3% of over-70s and 13% of over-60s have turned up for the third dose.

Cyprus has reported a total of 128,038 Covid cases and 588 deaths.

The 14-day cumulative case rate leading up to 8 November was 284.7 per 100,000 people.

Updated

The head of the NHS in England has said that the guidance on wearing masks in healthcare settings is “clear”, PA reports.

Amanda Pritchard said that “people should wear masks in healthcare settings”.

Asked what she thought when she saw images of the prime minister Boris Johnson without a mask in hospital, the NHS England chief executive said:

The guidance is clear: people should wear masks in healthcare settings. I wasn’t on the visit. So I’m afraid I don’t know the ins and outs of exactly what happened there.

Pressed on whether she would have told Johnson to put a mask back on, she added:

I’m sure my colleagues did encourage everybody there to follow the appropriate guidance.

Johnson visited Hexham General Hospital in Northumberland last week, and photographs showed him meeting masked nurses at the hospital, talking to them and bumping elbows with them, despite not having his face covered.

Soon after that photo opportunity, he put on a mask, which had been handed to him by an aide.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said the prime minister “did wear a mask for the majority of the visit”.

But “after the prime minister left a welcome meeting, he walked along a mezzanine corridor, for a very short period of time, without a mask”.

“As soon as this was identified he was given a mask and he put it on,” the trust said.

Johnson’s mask-less appearance at the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow also raised eyebrows as he sat next to 95-year-old environmentalist Sir David Attenborough, who was wearing a face covering.

At a Downing Street press briefing on Monday, the prime minister insisted that he takes a “responsible” approach to wearing a mask.

I wear a mask wherever the rules say that I should, and I urge everybody else to do the same. People have actually seen me wearing face coverings quite a bit more regularly as we have seen the numbers ticking up in the UK. I think that is the responsible thing to do and I am going to continue to do it.

Johnson said the government would “continue with our approach, which is to rely on people’s common sense - on people’s sense of personal responsibility to themselves and to others”.

“But clearly in confined spaces, where you are meeting people that you don’t normally meet, you should wear a face covering,” he added.

Amazon has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and be monitored by California officials after the state’s attorney general said the company failed to “adequately notify” workers and health authorities about new Covid-19 cases.

Amazon employs about 150,000 people in California, most of them at 100 “fulfillment centers” – sprawling warehouses where orders are packed and shipped. The agreement, which must be approved by a judge, requires the Seattle-based retailer to notify its workers within a day of new coronavirus cases in their workplaces.

Amazon also agreed to notify local health agencies of new virus cases within 48 hours and will stop issuing notices that Rob Bonta, California’s attorney general, said do not adequately tell employees about Amazon’s safety and disinfection plan and workers’ rights related to the pandemic.

“As the company enjoyed booming and historic sales with its stock price doubling, Amazon failed to adequately notify warehouse workers and local health agencies of Covid case numbers, often leaving them unable to effectively track the spread of the virus,” Bonta told reporters in San Francisco at an event held across the street from an Amazon warehouse.

Bonta added: “This left many workers understandably terrified and powerless to make informed decisions to protect themselves and to protect their loved ones,” such as getting tested for the virus, staying home or quarantining if they’ve been notified of a potential workplace exposure.

Bonta said the judgment is the first of its kind in the US and complies with a state “right-to-know” law that took effect last year.

Read the full story here:

Updated

Good morning from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next eight hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.

Email: lucy.campbell@theguardian.com
Twitter: @lucy_campbell_

Today so far

  • A Kyiv crematorium has doubled its cremations compared with the summer months as virus deaths soar in the Ukraine capital. The news comes as Ukrainians will soon be offered a cash incentive to get double-vaccinated against Covid-19 in a bid to boost the country’s low inoculation rate.
  • Russia continues to report fairly consistent numbers of Covid deaths and cases as authorities wait anxiously to see whether the week long paid shutdown at the beginning of the month has made a dent into the transmission of the virus. Today Russia announced 1,240 deaths, which is close the record high, and 36,818 new cases.
  • Russia has granted approval for Pzifer to conduct clinical trials in Russia of its experimental antiviral pill to treat Covid-19.
  • As Germany battles its worst infection rate since the pandemic began, some states are considering putting in place so-called 2G rules, which effectively exclude people who choose not to be vaccinated from many areas of public life. Berlin adopted the new rules on Monday. Only people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months are permitted to eat inside restaurants or go to clubs or bars. Only children and those who have medical reasons for not being vaccinated are exempt from the rule.
  • ONS figures show that the number of deaths involving Covid in the week ending 5 November was the highest in England since 19 March 2021 and in Wales the highest since 5 March 2021.
  • Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, has said “The guidance is clear that people should wear masks in healthcare settings” in response to questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s maskless appearance in a hospital last week.
  • Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has accused the UK government of letting “its foot off the pedal” on the Covid booster jab programme, where the numbers receiving jabs are much lower than the government had predicted.
  • The Czech Republic reported 11,514 new Covid-19 cases for 15 November, the fifth time daily infections have topped 10,000 in past seven days
  • Cathay Pacific is bringing in new regulations for its aircrew in Hong Kong that will mean they will have to quarantine for 21 days after trips abroad. The regulations will come into force from tomorrow.
  • The first person infected with Covid linked to the St Basil’s aged care home outbreak in Australia, in which 50 residents died, has spoken publicly for the first time, telling a coroner she was cleared to work despite living in a high-risk suburb with relatives experiencing “throat discomfort”.
  • Vaccine mandates are taking effect in New Zealand as the nation sets another daily record for community Covid-19 infections and a new death.
  • Our Science Weekly podcast this week asks why does Covid-19 make things smell disgusting?

Andrew Sparrow has the UK politics live blog today. Lucy Campbell will be here shortly to continue bringing you the latest Covid developments from the UK and around the world. I’m Martin Belam, and I will see you here again tomorrow.

The weekly data bulletin on deaths in England and Wales has been issued this morning by the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The main findings this week are:

  • In the week ending 5 November, 11,550 deaths were registered in England and Wales; 563 more deaths than the previous week and 16.8% above the five-year average, which equates to 1,659 more deaths.
  • Of the deaths registered, 995 mentioned “novel coronavirus (Covid-19)” on the death certificate. That is 8.6% of all deaths, an increase from 7.8% the previous week.
  • The number of deaths involving Covid was the highest in England since 19 March 2021 and in Wales the highest since 5 March 2021.

Cathay Pacific is bringing in new regulations for its aircrew that will mean they will have to quarantine for 21 days after trips abroad. The regulations will come into force from tomorrow.

Crew have been told that for the first three days after an overseas trip they must stay at home except for a small number of exemptions like solo exercise and the purchase of essential food and medicines. For the next 18 days they are then told they must avoid all unnecessary social contact.

Hong Kong still has a strict set of travel precautions in place, with most arrivals to the city having to spend 14 or 21 days in hotel quarantine.

Yellow school buses are part of the American streetscape, familiar to families across the US and an easily recognizable symbol the world over.

But the drivers of the vehicles that shuttle America’s children to and from school are now caught up in the wave of labour unrest sweeping across the US in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Strikes, walkouts, protests or sick-outs among school bus drivers have taken place this fall in many states including North Carolina, New Mexico, Maryland, Florida, Indiana, Georgia Pennsylvania and New York among others.

Some school districts have periodically closed schools due to bus driver shortages or changed school schedules to accommodate the shortage. Other districts have raised pay and offered sign-on bonuses to try to lure workers into vacant school bus driver positions.

Read more of Michael Sainato’s report here: US school bus drivers in nationwide strikes over poor pay and Covid risk

Russia continues to report fairly consistent numbers of Covid deaths and cases as authorities wait anxiously to see whether the week long paid shutdown at the beginning of the month has made a dent into the transmission of the virus.

Today, Russia announced 1,240 deaths, which is close the record high, and 36,818 new cases. This is slightly down on yesterday’s figure. The highest caseload recently was on 6 November, when new cases breached 40,000. The seven-day average has been trending slightly downwards for 10 days now.

Updated

There’s a committee session in parliament in the UK about to begin looking at global vaccine access. The all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus is running the session from 10am-11.30am in London, and those giving evidence include:

  • Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19.
  • Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance.
  • Dr Nicaise Ndemb, chief science adviser to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director.
  • Anna Marriott, health policy adviser for Oxfam.

If you fancy watching that, it is being broadcast live on their YouTube channel and starts in about 10 minutes’ time.

Updated

Andrew Sparrow has launched our UK politics live blog for the day. With accusations that the prime minister’s father inappropriately touched a Conservative MP and the fall-out from last night’s parliamentary shenanigans involving Christopher Chope, he will have a very full day of politics ahead of him. I will continue to cover UK angles on Covid here, as well as news from the rest of the world.

There is a slight return this morning of the row over British prime minister Boris Johnson’s recent visit to Hexham General hospital on 8 November, where he was photographed not wearing a face mask.

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson walks with Marion Dickson, executive director of Nursing during a visit to Hexham General Hospital on 8 November.
Boris Johnson walks with Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing during a visit to Hexham General hospital on 8 November. Photograph: Reuters

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, was asked about it on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. “The guidance is clear that people should wear masks in healthcare settings,” she said.

PA Media reports that pressed on whether she would have told Johnson to put a mask back on, she added: “I wasn’t on the visit. So I’m afraid I don’t know the ins and outs of exactly what happened there. I’m sure my colleagues did encourage everybody there to follow the appropriate guidance.”

Updated

The Covid pandemic does generate a few good news stories, and Ngouda Dione and Cooper Inveen report for Reuters this morning that quieter beaches in Senegal have been a boon to the local turtle population.

Increased fishing, tourism and construction have left fewer safe nesting grounds for Senegal’s turtles, which are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Newborn green turtles climb up the walls of a protective cage moments after hatching in Guereo, Senegal.
Newborn green turtles climb up the walls of a protective cage moments after hatching in Guereo, Senegal. Photograph: Cooper Inveen/Reuters

Only two or three turtles have laid their eggs in Guereo in recent years, while dozens did a generation ago, Djibril Diakhate said. The 47-year-old barkeeper patrols this beach up to 75 nights a year to keep predators from their nests until the eggs are ready to hatch.

“I have always been affected by the birth of these turtles,” he said. “The first time I witnessed a hatching, I cried at these creatures of God.”

Saliou Mbodji and other marine protection agents dig up hatched turtle eggs on the shores of Guereo.
Saliou Mbodji and other marine protection agents dig up hatched turtle eggs on the shores of Guereo. Photograph: Cooper Inveen/Reuters

Saliou Mbodji, president of the nearby Somone Marine Protection Area, attributes the change to Covid-19 restrictions that halted local fishing and tourism for much of 2020.

“There were not many people at the beaches or the hotels,” Mbodji said. “There was less light, so more turtles came to lay their eggs on the beaches.”

This year, however, the number of nests has again diminished as restriction begin to life.

Russia approves clinical trials of Pzifer antiviral pill

Polina Nikolskaya reports for Reuters that Russia has granted approval for Pzifer to conduct clinical trials in Russia of its experimental antiviral pill to treat Covid-19, a state registry of medicines showed on Tuesday.

The trials conducted on 90 people located in home-like conditions with someone who has symptomatic Covid-19 began on 12 November and will continue until March 2023, the registry’s website said.

Pfizer said earlier this month the experimental antiviral pill cut by 89% the chance of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of severe disease. It hopes to make the pill available globally as quickly as possible. The pill has the brand name Paxlovid.

Our economics editor Larry Elliott has written his analysis this morning on how the UK economy is beginning to emerge from Covid, but old problems remain. He concludes:

The economy as a whole is now starting to go post-Covid. The inflation figures due out on Wednesday will still show the impact of the virus on global energy prices and on supply chains but in other respects it is as if the past 18 months never happened.

There are two sides to that. The good news is that the labour market has emerged relatively unscathed. The bad news is that the problems of February 2020 – low investment, low productivity, weak underlying growth – are problems that remain to be tackled in November 2021.

Read more of Larry Elliott’s analysis here: UK economy begins to emerge from Covid but old problems remain

The first person infected with Covid linked to the St Basil’s aged care home outbreak in Australia, in which 50 residents died, has spoken publicly for the first time, telling a coroner she was cleared to work despite living in a high-risk suburb with relatives experiencing “throat discomfort”.

The former personal care assistant at the home, identified only as “A” to protect her identity, said she was swabbed on 5 July 2020 at a drive-through testing clinic after she finished a shift at St Basil’s.

She was tested with her husband, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and sister, as they all lived together in Moreland, an area the Victorian government had identified as high risk for Covid-19. All five were asymptomatic at the time, A told the coroner on Tuesday.

She said staff who tested her knew she worked in aged care and told her because she was asymptomatic she could go to work.

Read more of Melissa Davey’s report here: Aged care worker living with relatives who had Covid symptoms cleared to work at St Basil’s, inquest hears

Updated

Labour: UK government has 'let its foot off the pedal' on booster jab programme

In the UK, Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has been on Sky News, and was asked about two things pertaining to the pandemic. On the suggestion that booster jabs might be required in order to obtain a Covid passport for international travel, Thomas-Symonds said:

That’s something that the government needs to deal with logistically. But in terms of the booster programme, my worry is that the government has let its foot off the pedal as far as the vaccination programme is concerned. The Covid boosters are what will prevent the need to introduce further restrictions and they are also what will ease the pressure on the NHS this winter. So rather than pulling their foot off the pedal, the foot needs to go down on the pedal to really speed up that booster programme, which is absolutely vital.

Secondly, he was asked about the prospects of vaccination being approved for children between the ages of five and 11. He said:

I think we have to follow, as we have throughout, the scientific advice on this. I appreciate they’re already doing that in Israel. We need to be looking at that scientific advise, and if that’s the way it points, of course we look at that very carefully.

Updated

Here is an update on the caseloads across Europe at the moment. The darker the colour in the map, the higher the incidence. Yesterday, the Robert Koch Institute measured the incidence in Germany at the highest rate it has been since the pandemic began.

Updated

Czech Republic again records over 10,000 new Covid cases

The Czech Republic reported 11,514 new Covid-19 cases for 15 November, the fifth time daily infections have topped 10,000 in past seven days, health ministry data showed. This means that the seven-day rolling average of new cases stands at 10,988. A week ago, it stood at 7,643.

Reuters report that hospitalisations grew to 4,296, including 635 people in a serious condition, according to the figures.

The outgoing government of prime minister Andrej Babišhas been debating bringing in tougher restrictions including a proposal for some form of lockdown for unvaccinated people. Ministers had not reached an agreement by late on Monday and would return to the issue on Thursday, officials said.

Updated

The number of UK workers on company payrolls surged by 160,000 last month and there was no sign of a jump in redundancies despite the furlough support scheme introduced during the pandemic coming to an end, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

PA Media is carrying a quote from the UK chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has said the latest jobs figures were “testament to the extraordinary success of the furlough scheme”.

He said: “We know how vital keeping people in good jobs is, both for them and for our economy – which is why it’s fantastic to see the unemployment rate falling for nine months in a row and record numbers of people moving into employment.”

Updated

Hello, it is Martin Belam here in London taking over from Samantha Lock. Damian Hinds, minister of state for security in the UK, has been on Sky News already this morning. He was asked whether the government was planning to make it so that only people who have had a booster jab would continue to qualify for a Covid passport to travel abroad, as has been reported in the media. He didn’t really have an answer for that beyond broadly praising the vaccination programme, saying:

It has been enormously successful. It helps to keep us all safe, inching back towards normality. I think that’s a good thing. I think it is what people have welcomed. So my encouragement to everybody is, when you get the invitation to get the booster, to go ahead and do it.

It is good for all of us. It’s good for us as individuals, it is good for us as a society. This is how we’ve been able to start to move out of difficult period for so many people, a tragic period for those who’ve lost a loved one. And the booster jab is very important.

Updated

Growing numbers of people catching coronavirus are experiencing an unpleasant distortion of smells. Scientists are still unsure what causes this often distressing condition, known as parosmia, where previously enjoyable aromas trigger feelings of disgust.

In our Science Weekly podcast this week, Madeleine Finlay talks to science correspondent Linda Geddes about her own parosmia, and chemist Dr Jane Parker discusses research into why the smell of coffee seems to be a trigger for so many people.

Updated

Berlin, Germany, introduces new lockdown for the unvaccinated

As Germany battles its worst infection rate since the pandemic began, some states are considering putting in place so-called 2G rules, which effectively exclude people who choose not to be vaccinated from many areas of public life.

Berlin adopted the new rules on Monday, 15 November.

Under the rules, only people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months are permitted to eat inside restaurants or go to clubs or bars. Only children and those who have medical reasons for not being vaccinated are exempt from the rule.

“In light of the rising number of coronavirus infections and looming shortages in intensive care units, the Senate has decided to significantly expand the so-called 2G rule,” the city government said.

Only vaccinated and recovered persons will be allowed to enter places such as restaurants, cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries or concert venues. The rule also applies to gymnasiums and swimming pools, leisure facilities such as saunas and thermal baths, and amusement venues such as arcades. Unvaccinated people are also no longer allowed into enclosed areas inside amusement parks, zoos and botanical gardens. The 2G rule also applies to hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and dance studios.

Brandenburg, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are expected to follow suit.

2G rules are already in force in some districts where Covid hospitalisations are particularly high. Similar proposals are being discussed for adoption on a national level and, if approved, would come into effect later this month.

The centre-left Social Democrats, Greens and pro-business FDP said on Monday they would add harsher measures to their draft law under consideration by the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) to deal with the outbreak.

On Thursday, the German parliament is due to vote on a new legal framework for coronavirus restrictions drawn up by the parties that are expected to form the country’s next coalition government.

Updated

Welcome back to our live Covid coverage.

I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be taking you through all the latest developments from across the world.

Here’s a rundown of everything you might have missed.

A Kyiv crematorium has doubled its cremations compared with the summer months as virus deaths soar in the Ukraine capital, a spokesman told AFP.

The news comes as Ukrainians will soon be offered a cash incentive to get double-vaccinated against Covid-19 in a bid to boost the country’s low inoculation rate. President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the news on Monday in the nation where fewer than a third of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Vaccine mandates are taking effect in New Zealand as the nation sets another daily record for community Covid-19 infections and a new death. From Tuesday, new mandates kick in for many government workers in health, education, disability and the prison system who now must be vaccinated to do front-line jobs.

Europe:

  • Police in Austria have begun carrying out routine checks on commuters to ensure compliance with a nationwide “lockdown for the unvaccinated”, as the Alpine country tries to get on top of one of the most rapidly rising infection rates in Europe.
  • Germany’s prospective coalition government is pondering lockdown restrictions for the unvaccinated, as infections in the country continue to rise. Measures could include requiring the unvaccinated to show proof of a negative test before travelling by bus or train.
  • Belgium’s government is bringing forward a meeting to decide on tighter measures to control the spread of Covid-19 amid a rapid increase in infections and hospital admissions.
  • Britain’s booster vaccine rollout is to be extended to people aged between 40 and 49, officials said, in a bid to boost waning immunity in the population ahead of the colder winter months.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned people against complacency, saying that a new wave of Covid has “steadily swept through central Europe” and is now affecting the nation’s closest neighbours.
  • Employers in Latvia are allowed to dismiss employees who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19 from Monday.
  • The pressure on Dutch hospitals mounts from a surge in Covid-19 patients as cases break records. The worst has yet to come, the head of the country’s hospital association said on Monday. The number of Covid-19 patients in Dutch hospitals increased to about 2,000 on Monday, including almost 400 in intensive care, reaching the highest level since May.

Americas:

  • US president Joe Biden’s vaccine requirements are prompting more Americans to get Covid shots, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised against travel to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Iceland because of a rising number of Covid-19 cases in those countries.
  • Peru, the country with the world’s highest Covid-19 mortality rate, is to require adults to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor spaces from next month.

Asia:

  • India opens again to foreign tourists from countries with reciprocal agreements after a 20-month ban due to the pandemic.
  • Thousands of children in the Philippines are allowed to return to classrooms for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
  • Cambodia announces that fully vaccinated foreign travellers can visit the kingdom without quarantine.
  • China is battling the spread of its biggest Covid-19 outbreak caused by the Delta variant as case numbers in the north-eastern city of Dalian outpace anywhere else in the country. The Dalian outbreak has prompted China to confine nearly 1,500 university students to their dormitories and hotels in the city.
  • China’s president Xi has agreed to upgrade the “fast track lane” for US business figures to come to the country, Chinese state media reports.

Oceania:

  • Australia’s Indigenous vaccination rates continue to lag across every jurisdiction amid heightened fears over an outbreak in the Northern Territory. Nationally, just under 58% of Indigenous people aged 16 and older are double-dosed, while about 69% are partially vaccinated, much lower than Australia’s overall double-dose rate of 83%.

Africa/Middle East:

  • Israel gave the green light Sunday to start vaccinating children aged between five and 11 against Covid-19 using Pfizer/BioNTech jabs.

Updated

Contributors

Léonie Chao-Fong (now); Lucy Campbell, Martin Belam and Samantha Lock (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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