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UK records 691 deaths as mutant strain spreads
A further 691 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID-19, the highest number since mid-April during the UK's first lockdown. Some 36,804 people tested positive, the highest number ever recorded in a single day, and a 61.2% weekly increase. It comes as the UK battles to contain the spread of the new mutant coronavirus, which is understood to be up to 70% more infectious.
New variant spreads across the UK
Genomic researchers have found the new and more infectious variant has already spread around the UK, with cases identified in Wales and Scotland. The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium sampled cases around the UK and found the variant is also in the South West, Midlands and north of England, areas that are under Tier 2 and 3 restrictions.
Is the new strain more dangerous?
Sharon Peacock, director of COG-UK and a professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said there was no evidence to suggest the new variant caused higher mortality, and no reason to believe the vaccine being rolled out in the UK will not be effective. Professor Tom Connor, a genomics expert from Cardiff University, warned not enough time has passed to know whether the variant leads to a worse outcome for infected people. He said: “When you’re talking about outcome you’re normally looking at 28 days after the person has been diagnosed – with a lot of these cases popping up in late December we’re not at that point where you would have that outcome information to do that analysis yet.”
Read more about it
UK records highest daily surge of coronavirus cases yet (Evening Standard)
Latest weekly COVID-19 rates for local authority areas in England (PA Media)
Ministers ignored own scientists' advice to cut Christmas relaxation to one or two days (HuffPost)
—The big coronavirus stories today—
Army to test lorry drivers
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EU urges countries to lift travel ban
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Royals inadvertently breach rule of six
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Grace Millane’s killer raped another tourist
The man who murdered British backpacker Grace Millane after meeting her on a dating app raped another British tourist months earlier, it has emerged. A New Zealand court ruled that killer Jesse Shane Kempson's identity and other convictions can now be revealed. Read the full story here
PM gives peerage to Tory donor
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Johnson holds secret Brexit talks
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River first to gain bathing status
A popular swimming and paddling spot in Yorkshire has become the first designated river bathing site in England. The stretch of the River Wharfe, between Main Bridge and Beanlands Island in Ilkley, will be added to the list of waters in England granted bathing status by the government from 2021. Read the full story here
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