3.59pm GMT

The European drug regulator said today the use of the Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by US company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on pregnant women should be considered case by case.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) does not have enough data from the companies’ clinical trials on the potential risks to pregnant women, Harald Enzmann, chair of the EMA’s human medicines committee, said in a briefing.

The agency can change its recommendation if more information becomes available, he said without disclosing the circumstances under which the vaccine might be deemed appropriate for pregnant women.

Enzmann also said he would urge caution in using the vaccine on people with a known history of anaphylaxis reaction after several cases of allergic reactions to the vaccine in the United States and United Kingdom.

His comments followed the regulator’s approval for use of the Covid-19 vaccine for people over the age of 16, putting Europe on course to start inoculations within a week.

3.54pm GMT

Sudan is to ban travellers from Britain, the Netherlands and South Africa from Wednesday due to the discovery of the mutant strain of coronavirus, the head of the civil aviation authority told Reuters today.

The ban will last three weeks subject to renewal and more countries could be added to the list as the situation develops, Ibrahim Adlan said.

at 3.55pm GMT

3.50pm GMT

Sweden also bans travellers from Britain

Sweden has joined the list of countries that will stop allowing in foreign travellers from Britain in a bid to curb the rapid spread of a new strain of the coronavirus, the government said today. It is also barring travellers from Denmark.

“To minimize the risk of it spreading here, the government has today decided on a ban of entry,” the minister for the interior , Mikael Damberg, told a news conference, adding that Swedish citizens were exempt from the ban.

Denmark’s infectious disease authority said last week it had found nine cases of coronavirus infections involving the new mutant strain between 14 November and 3 December.

at 3.54pm GMT

3.25pm GMT

Covid-19 case rates have continued to rise in every area of Wales bar one, latest figures show.

The biggest jumps were in Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend and Blaenau Gwent. Only Conwy recorded a drop.

The figures, for the seven days to 17 December, are based on tests carried out in NHS Wales laboratories and those conducted on Welsh residents processed in commercial laboratories.

They show that the number of new cases per 100,000 people in Merthyr Tydfil has risen sharply in a week from 926.6 to 1,299.6 – the highest rate in Wales – while in Bridgend the rate has increased from 777.3 to 1,122.1.

In Blaenau Gwent, the rate is up from 698.5 to 1,006.3. Conwy saw its rate drop from 95.6 to 77.6.

Another nationwide lockdown in Wales began on 20 December with plans to relax rules between 23 and 27 December scrapped. Two households will be allowed to meet on Christmas Day only.

at 3.27pm GMT

2.51pm GMT

Guardian photographer Sean Smith is out at the Port of Dover, which has been gridlocked since the port closed because a new variant of Covid-19 means a number of countries have suspended travel links from the UK.

Police and port security have stopped cars and lorries from entering the port.

A long line of lorries parked up southbound on on the M20. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian

Lorries parked on the M20. Photograph: Sean Smith/The Guardian

at 3.21pm GMT

2.35pm GMT

India and Grenada are the latest countries to suspend flights from the UK.

2.19pm GMT

Europe’s medicines regulator approved the use of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the use of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, Reuters reports.

The approval puts Europe on course to start inoculations within a week.

EU countries including Germany, France, Austria and Italy have said they plan to start vaccinations from 27 December.

Having gained the green light from the EMA, the final step is approval by the European commission, which is expected in the coming days. The commission typically follows the EMA’s advice.

at 3.05pm GMT

2.18pm GMT

Mexico will analyse whether to suspend flights from the UK due to the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus there, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said, according to a report by Reuters.

Speaking at a regular government news conference on Monday, López Obrador said the health ministry would in the course of the day analyse the matter to see whether Mexico should follow other countries in suspending flights from Britain.

at 3.04pm GMT

2.11pm GMT

Spain becomes latest country to ban flights from the UK

In a statement on Monday afternoon, the Spanish government announced that flights from the UK would be suspended from Tuesday. Only Spanish citizens and those resident in Spain will be allowed to enter the country from then.

“Spain’s decision has been taken in conjunction with Portugal and will also result in the reinforcing of controls on the border with Gibraltar,” the statement added.

at 2.16pm GMT

2.05pm GMT

The Czech Republic and Canada have become the latest countries to suspend flights from the UK in response to new coronavirus strain.

2.03pm GMT

The National Education Union, the UK’s largest teaching union, is calling for schools in England to close and teach remotely for the first two weeks of term in the new year.

The union has written to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the secretary of state for education calling for new measures to be put in place to ensure the safest possible return of schools and colleges on the 4th of January.

With increasing infection rates and a new more easily transmitted strain of the virus, the teaching union is calling for:

Online learning for the first two weeks of the spring term except for key workers and vulnerable children to reduce cases amongst students and get testing set up.
Directors of public health to set up a testing system to be in place that would enable all children to be tested prior to a return to person-to-person teaching.
The two-week period from the 4th of January to be used to begin vaccinating education staff alongside NHS and care staff.

at 2.45pm GMT

1.56pm GMT

The French government’s decision on reopening the border to freight trucks from the UK is likely to rest on the introduction of some Covid screening.

The French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told RTL radio if new EU protocols were in place, it would aim to ensure 2,000-3,000 French lorry drivers “could come over the border as soon as possible once European coordination and a reinforced health protocol have been set up in the coming hours”.

at 2.43pm GMT

1.51pm GMT

Stanislaw Olbrich, a 55-year-old truck driver stranded 24 miles north of Dover after much of the world shut borders to Britain, told Reuters he just wants to get home for Christmas with his wife and three children in southern Poland.

Many countries, including the rest of Europe, closed their borders to Britain after the prime minister, Boris Johnson, effectively cancelled Christmas for millions because of an infectious new coronavirus strain.

For Olbrich, the border closures are a frustrating illustration of just how disruptive Covid-19 has become to normal life.

He said:

I take freight to Britain and I can’t go back home because of (the) stupid virus. But I don’t know if it is the virus – I think it’s politics.

It’s very difficult for me because I am away. My chances of going home for Christmas are going down. It’s stupid and I am nervous and unhappy about that.

Olbrich has been trucking since 2004, working two weeks on and two weeks off, bringing freight to Britain and then returning with a load to Poland.

at 2.42pm GMT

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