4.41am GMT

The US dollar stabilised on Monday after a recent decline as fresh worries about the coronavirus and the global economy prompted investors to hang on to the safe-haven currency, Reuters reports.

But analysts said the dollar could resume its fall if the U.S. Federal Reserve reaffirms its commitment to a highly accommodative monetary policy at its rate meeting later this week – as widely expected.

“I don’t think the Fed has any incentives to curtail its stimulus at this point, even though some market players may try to read between the lines for any signs of tapering in stimulus,” said Kazushige Kaida, head of FX sales at State Street Bank’s Tokyo Branch.

“I think the dollar is staying in a downtrend even though it is marking time for now,” he said.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is expected to signal he has no plan to wind back the Fed’s massive stimulus any time soon when the central bank concludes its policy review on Wednesday.

The dollar index stood at 90.172, flat on the day. It bounced back on Friday after hitting 90.043 on Thursday, last week’s lowest level.

4.26am GMT

US to escalate tracking of Covid variants

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stepping up efforts to track coronavirus mutations and keep vaccines and treatments effective against new variants until collective immunity is reached, the agency’s chief said on Sunday.

Reuters: Dr Rochelle Walensky spoke about the rapidly evolving virus during a Fox News Sunday interview as the number of Americans known to be infected surpassed 25 million, with more than 417,000 dead, just over a year after the first US case was documented.

Walensky, who took over as CDC director the day President Joe Biden was sworn in, also said the greatest immediate culprit for sluggish vaccine distribution was a supply crunch worsened by inventory confusion inherited from the Trump administration.

“The fact that we don’t know today, five days into this administration, and weeks into planning, how much vaccine we have just gives you a sense of the challenges we’ve been left with,” she told Fox News Sunday.

3.49am GMT

China reports higher daily cases

China reported a climb in new Coronavirus cases driven by a spike in infections among previously symptomless patients in northeastern Jilin province, official data showed on Monday.

Reuters: The total number of confirmed cases in the mainland rose to 124 on Jan. 24 from 80 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said in a statement, amid the worst wave of new infections China has seen since March 2020.

Of the 117 new local infectons, Jilin accounted for 67 cases – all but three of whom were previously asymptomatic patients who were reclassified as confirmed cases after developing symptoms. Heilongjiang reported 35 new cases, while Hebei reported 11 new cases.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 45 from 92 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid cases in mainland China is 89,115, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,635.

3.34am GMT

In India, Tata Medical & Diagnostics is said to have started initial discussions with Moderna Inc for a partnership to launch its coronavirus vaccine, the Economic Times reported on Monday.

Reuters: Tata could team up with the India’s Council of Scientific & Industrial Research to carry out clinical trials of Moderna’s vaccine candidate in India, the report added, citing officials familiar with the matter.

The Indian government this month gave emergency-use approval to a coronavirus vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd and state-run Indian Council of Medical Research, and another licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca PLC that is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

Moderna did not respond to Reuters’ request for a comment outside business hours, while Tata Medical & Diagnostics did not immediately respond.

3.13am GMT

Residents in locked down Tonghua, China complain of food and medicine shortages

Since the Chinese city of Tonghua, with its population of nearly 400,000, was put under lockdown a week ago, citizens have begun to complain of shortages of food and medicine.

On Weibo, some said they have only two or three days of food rations. Users wrote: “I’m out of food supplies” or “ unable to have a prenatal examination after seven months of pregnancy” and “unable to be hospitalised for chemotherapy”, according to local media reports.

“We will do our best to improve the distribution capacity and supplement the supply of materials for citizens,” Jiang Haiyan, Tonghua deputy mayor, told a media briefing on Sunday.

Efforts to tackle the outbreak had caused a shortage of manpower, she added.

The local epidemic control department later issued an announcement promising residents that basic living materials will be supplied for a 5-day demand of each household every time at half price from now on.

By Sunday this month, Tonghua has reported 246 coronavirus cases, of which 50 are asymptomatic.

2.50am GMT

Hong Kong lifts lockdown in Kowloon

The Hong Kong government lifted a lockdown in an area of Kowloon district in the early hours of Monday after testing about 7,000 people for coronavirus to curb an outbreak in the densely populated area, Reuters reports.

The government set up 51 temporary testing stations on Saturday and found 13 confirmed cases in the restricted area that is home to many ageing, subdivided flats in which the disease could spread more quickly.

“Businesses in the area have been hit hard and brought to a standstill,” the government said in a statement.

“The government hopes this temporary inconvenience will completely cut the local transmission chains in the district and ease residents’ worries and fear, so that they will regain confidence in resuming social and business activities in the area, and return to a normal life.”

A health worker in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Photograph: Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

The lockdown in the neighbourhoods of Jordan, across the harbour from the heart of the business district, was the first such measure imposed in the global financial hub since the outbreak happened.

On Sunday, the government reported 76 cases of coronavirus, taking the total to 10,086, of which 169 people have died.

Hong Kong authorities have taken aggressive measures to curb the spread of the virus, including a ban on in-house dining after 6pm and closing facilities such as gyms, sports venues and beauty salons.

Most residents wear face masks when moving around the city.

1.51am GMT

Police in Amsterdam used water cannon to disperse protesters demonstrating against Covid-19 restrictions while in the southern city of Eindhoven cars were burnt and shops smashed in riots against the country’s lock-down measures.

Riot police on horseback attempted to clear the demonstrators in both cities where hundreds of people were arrested. A nighttime curfew went into effect on Saturday in a bid to rein in the coronavirus.

Parliament voted narrowly last week to approve the curfew, swayed by assertions that an English variant is about to cause a new surge in cases:

Anti-lockdown rioters clash with Dutch police in the Netherlands – video

1.20am GMT

Pfizer Covid vaccine approved for Australia rollout

In Australia, the Pfizer vaccine has met strict standards for safety, quality and efficacy, a statement from the prime minister’s office said on Monday, and the vaccine has been approved for rollout in Australia for people age 16 years and older.

The first vaccinations are expected to be in late February and the first 1.4m doses will go to a priority group that includes quarantine and border workers, frontline health workers in high-risk settings, and aged care and disability staff and residents. This will be administered at hospitals, with the government aiming for 80,000 doses a week.

Next, 14.8m doses will go to elderly adults age 70 and above and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over the age of 55. Other healthcare workers; young adults with underlying medical conditions and disability; and critical and high-risk workers including defence, police, ambulance, fire and meat workers will also be vaccinated as part of the second phase:

at 1.27am GMT

12.54am GMT

Mexico president tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has become the latest world leader to contract Covid-19.

“I’m sorry to inform you that I’ve been infected,” the 67-year-old politician announced on Twitter on Sunday evening.

Andrés Manuel

Lamento informarles que estoy contagiado de COVID-19. Los síntomas son leves pero ya estoy en tratamiento médico. Como siempre, soy optimista. Saldremos adelante todos. Me representará la Dra. Olga Sánchez Cordero en las mañaneras para informar como lo hacemos todos los días.

January 25, 2021

“The symptoms are mild but I’m receiving medical treatment. As always, I’m optimistic,” added López Obrador, a populist nationalist who has been heavily criticised for his handling of the pandemic and decision to shun face masks.

Mexico is going through a particularly dire moment its epidemic, with hospitals in many states stretched to their limits. The country’s daily average number of Covid deaths last week overtook that of neighbouring Brazil where more than 1,000 fatalities are being registered each day.

According to Mexico’s official death toll nearly 150,000 people have so far died from Covid there, the world’s fourth highest number. But many suspect low testing rates mean Mexico’s true death toll is even higher than that of Brazil, where 217,000 deaths have been recorded.

López Obrador said that while he was being treated he would remain in the presidential palace in Mexico City which has been under a Covid red alert since last month.

12.36am GMT

More now from New Zealand.

Over three dozen guests at the Pullman hotel in central Auckland, where the infected woman was undergoing government-managed isolation, are being held longer in their rooms while the source of the newly confirmed local infection is investigated. Nearly all 200 hotel staff have been tested

Although health authorities suspect the virus was contacted directly – meaning person to person contact – they have not ruled out airborne or surface contact.

Hundreds of people have been lining up all day for tests in Whangarei, Northland and Auckland. Test results for these people will be known tomorrow. The director-general also said many people who had no symptoms or contact with the infected woman have been lining up for tests – and he asked them to go home so close contacts could be prioritised.

The Covid-19 response minister said news was circulating on social media of an impending lockdown. He said this was “fake news” and “not true at all”.

12.30am GMT

Experts have called for greater clarity about the monitoring in place to assess the 12-week dosing interval for Covid vaccines, as the UK’s vaccination programme ramps up.

According to government data released on Sunday, a total of 6,353,321 people in the UK have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. A further slew of vaccination centres are due to open on Monday to speed up delivery of the jabs.

These include at the Crick Institute in London, the Blackpool Winter Gardens, Lancaster town hall, Bath racecourse and the Black Country Living Museum, where scenes for the TV show Peaky Blinders were filmed.

“These 33 new major vaccine centres will bolster our existing network and enable the NHS to protect as many people as possible in the coming weeks,” said the vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi.

However, there is continued controversy about the government’s decision to increase the interval between the two doses of the jabs to up to 12 weeks in an effort to offer protection to as many people as possible.

The Guardian’s Nicola Davis and Jessica Elgot report:

12.16am GMT

Community case confirmed in New Zealand

A community case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in New Zealand, with genome sequencing identifying it as of the South African variant of the virus.

Investigators think the 56-year-old woman contracted the infection from a fellow guest at the Pullman hotel, where she was undergoing government-managed isolation.

12.02am GMT

World nears 100m cases

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has passed 99 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the total moves rapidly towards a shocking 100 million people infected with Covid-19 in just over a year.

The current total is 99,105,389 infections. At least 2,127,206 people have died.

On average, around 650,000 coronavirus cases have been reported daily in the last week.

11.40pm GMT

Israel ‘closes skies’ to air travel to prevent virus spread

Israel on Sunday announced a week-long ban on most incoming and outgoing flights in a bid to slow the spread of new coronavirus variants, AFP reports.

The measure will begin at midnight from Monday into Tuesday and remain in effect until Sunday, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

Exceptions will be made for cargo and firefighting flights, as well as trips for medical treatments, funerals and legal procedures.

A panel of health and interior ministry officials will be able to issue exemptions on request “for humanitarian or personal needs”, the statement said.

The decision came with the country in its third national coronavirus lockdown, initiated late December and extended on Tuesday until the end of the month due to a surge in deaths.

Earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced his government’s intention to close the airport, as variants of the coronavirus have been detected in rising numbers.

“We’re closing the skies hermetically, except for rare exceptions, to prevent the entry of virus mutations, and to ensure that we make swift progress with our vaccination campaign,” he said ahead of a cabinet meeting.

11.37pm GMT

Biden to reinstate travel ban and add South Africa

US president Joe Biden on Monday will formally reinstate Covid travel restrictions on non-US travellers from Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries that allow travel across open borders, according to two White House officials.

AP: the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the order, also confirmed Sunday that South Africa would be added to the restricted list because of concerns about a variant of the virus that has spread beyond that nation.

Biden is reversing an order from President Donald Trump in his final days in office that called for the relaxation of the travel restrictions as of Tuesday.

The decision to reverse the order is not surprising, but the addition of South Africa to the restricted travel list highlights the new administration’s concern about mutations in the virus.

The South Africa variant has not been discovered in the United States, but another variant — originating in the United Kingdom — has been detected in several states.
Reuters was first to report Biden’s decision to add South Africa to the list.

Biden last week issued an executive order directing federal agencies to require international air travellers to quarantine upon US arrival. The order also requires that all US-bound passengers ages 2 and above get negative test results within three days before traveling.

at 11.37pm GMT

11.34pm GMT


Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.

As always, you can find me on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has passed 99 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, as the total moves rapidly towards a shocking 100 million people infected with Covid-19 in just over a year.

In the US, president Joe Biden on Monday will formally reinstate travel restrictions on non-US travellers from Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries that allow travel across open borders, according to two White House officials.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the order, also confirmed Sunday that South Africa would be added to the restricted list because of concerns about a variant of the virus that has spread beyond that nation.

Here are the other key developments from the last few hours:

Israel is set to ban passenger flights in attempt to prevent Covid variant imports, coming into effect from Monday 10pm for two weeks
Greek health authorities have reported a jump in the number of cases of the coronavirus variant first spotted in the UK, with 32 infections detected.
The UK has reported a further 30,004 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases, according to government data. This compares with 38,598 cases registered last Sunday.
Jeremy Hunt, the former UK health secretary, has echoed calls from epidemiologists urging the use of medical-grade masks to be compulsory on public transport and in shops.
Serbia has detected its first case of the UK coronavirus variant, in a woman who travelled from London but no new lockdown is planned in the country, President Aleksandar Vučić said.
Airbus has announced that some 500 employees have entered quarantine following an outbreak at its aircraft factory in Hamburg in which 21 workers have tested positive, according to Reuters.
Police used water cannon and dogs against protesters after hundreds gathered in a square in central Amsterdam on Sunday to protest against a new coronavirus curfew.
France probably needs to enter into a third lockdown because of the spread of new coronavirus variants in the country, the government’s top medical adviser on Covid-19 policy has said.
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will telephone Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Monday to discuss Mexico’s procurement of the Sputnik V vaccine, the Mexican government said on Sunday.
France has reported 18,436 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, down from 23,924 on Saturday. However, today’s figure is higher than last Sunday’s, when 16,642 infections were registered.
Ecuador has approved the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s health ministry said on Sunday.

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