Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to undergo new global trial The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine will undergo a new global trial as critics questioned the claim that it could protect up to 90% of people against coronavirus. On Thursday Sir John Bell, Oxford’s regius professor of medicine and the UK government’s life sciences adviser, dismissed suggestions the previous trial had not been properly set up or reported. “We weren’t cooking this up as we went along,” he said, adding that he hoped the full, peer-reviewed data would be published in the Lancet medical journal at the weekend. In spite of the public excitement generated by the announcement that a third vaccine had been successful – with particular promise for developing countries as it is relatively cheap and can be stored at fridge temperature – AstraZeneca’s share price dropped. One analyst in the US wrote in an investor note that “we believe that this product will never be licensed in the US” and alleged the company had tried to “embellish” the results.
Boris Johnson vows to pit UK against EU in race for success Britain is heading into a new chapter in its relationship with the rest of Europe with Boris Johnson vowing to pit the country against the EU in a race for economic success. After nine months of tortuous talks, a Brexit deal was secured at 1.44pm GMT on Christmas Eve, avoiding a no-deal exit from the transition period with just a week to go. EU ambassadors will meet on Christmas day for a briefing from their chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and are expected to take two or three days to analyse the agreement and decide on its provisional implementation. In the UK, Eurosceptic backbenchers are awaiting the verdict of a “star chamber” of experts convened by the European Research Group to go through the agreement line by line. It is expected to publish its conclusions on Monday.
Zeta re-strengthens into a hurricane, expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge to Louisiana Zeta has re-strengthened into a hurricane and is expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge and strong winds to southeastern Louisiana starting midday Wednesday. The storm was 320 miles south-southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River and 355 miles south-southwest of New Orleans by 4 a.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center reported. Zeta has maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and is moving north-northwest at 17 mph. Louisiana Gov.
UK facing risk of 'systemic economic crisis', official paper says The government has privately admitted the UK faces an increased likelihood of “systemic economic crisis” as it completes its exit from the European Union in the middle of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. A confidential Cabinet Office briefing seen by the Guardian also warns of a “notable risk” that in coming months the country could face a perfect storm of simultaneous disasters, including the prospect of a bad flu season on top of the medical strains caused by Covid. “Winter 2020 could see a combination of severe flooding, pandemic influenza, a novel emerging infectious disease and coordinated industrial action, against a backdrop of the end of the [Brexit] transition period,” it warns. The briefing, marked “official sensitive” and dated September, lays out for government planners the possible impacts of the last stage of Brexit, detailing “reasonable worst case scenarios” across 20 different areas of national life from oil and healthcare to travel and policing.
Coronavirus live news: millions more wake up to tier 4 in England Iran is extending a night-time traffic curfew to 330 lower-risk cities and towns in an effort to sustain a recent decline in the number of new coronavirus infections and deaths, state television reported. Alireza Raisi, spokesman for the national coronavirus task force, said on state TV that a curfew running from 9pm to 4am – already in place in 108 “orange,” or medium-risk, cities – will be extended to lower-risk “yellow” areas on Sunday. The curfew, under which the use of private cars is banned to reduce the level of contacts between people, resulted in nearly 100,000 fines on one night in the past week. The health ministry said 134 people had died of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, the lowest since 13 September, taking total deaths to 54,574 in the Middle East’s worst-affected country.
Judge mandates USPS take 'extraordinary measures' as on-time movement of mail ballots drops The order from federal Judge Emmet Sullivan, which comes just two days before Election Day, requires USPS to utilize the Express Mail network -- which guarantees delivery in one to two days -- for all ballots that are traveling longer distances, even after Election Day. And ballots that stay local are required to be processed and delivered to local post offices on the same day they arrive, or the next morning at the latest. The order comes as the Postal Service's delivery performance in the days before the presidential election has become a major point of contention -- especially in the battleground states where thousands of voters are mailing ballots instead of visiting polling places in person because of the coronavirus pandemic -- and Democratic state leaders and other voting access groups have pushed for judicial oversight of the agency's work. CNN's Katelyn Polantz, Marshall Cohen and Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.
Coronavirus live news: Biden vows to get vaccinated in public as South Korea reports highest cases in nine months 9.40am GMT09:40 The government in Cyprus has approved a plan that will allow visitors who have proof they have been vaccinated against coronavirus to enter the country without a negative PCR test. Cyprus’s move is the latest indication that life could become much easier for those who choose to be vaccinated, despite reassurances from governments and experts that vaccinations will not be mandatory. The measure was included in an amended action plan for a resumption of flights into the country.
New York Bans Most Evictions as Tenants Struggle to Pay Rent The New York Legislature on Monday overwhelmingly passed one of the most comprehensive anti-eviction laws in the nation, as the state contends with high levels of unemployment caused by a pandemic that has taken more than 330,000 lives nationwide. Tenants and advocacy groups have been dreading the end-of-year expiration of eviction bans that have kept people in their homes even as they fell months behind in their rent. Under the new measure, landlords will be barred from evicting most tenants for at least another 60 days in almost all cases. US elections: A Supreme Court decision comes with a warning for Democrats The court deadlocked 4-4 on Monday night on a bid by Republicans to overturn a Pennsylvania court order that mail-in ballots received within three days of November 3 would still be counted. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's three liberals, meaning the lower court ruling stands. Since more Democrats vote by mail than Republicans, the case is likely to boost Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in this crucial swing state. In practical terms, the extended vote counting also means that a tight race in the Keystone State could turn election night into election week. But the victory comes with a bitter taste for Democrats.
Trump's latest batch of election lawsuits fizzle as dozens of losses pile up For a man obsessed with winning, Donald Trump is losing a lot. In the month since the election, the president and his legal team have come no closer in their frantic efforts to overturn the result, notching up dozens of losses in courts across the country, with more rolling in by the day. According to an Associated Press tally of roughly 50 cases brought by Trump’s campaign and his allies, more than 30 have been rejected or dropped, and about a dozen are awaiting action. Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine approved by UK regulator The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved by the UK medicines regulator, raising hopes of a rapid scale-up of vaccination against Covid-19 within days, using just a single jab in order to get as many vulnerable people protected as possible. The approval of the vaccine by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) after weeks of examining trial data was greeted with excitement and relief by experts. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine already in use needs storage at -70C and is hard to deploy. Because the Oxford vaccine needs only normal refrigeration at 2-8C and is easily transported from UK factories, it will not have to be kept in central hospital and community hubs, making the rollout to GP practices and care homes swift.
Judith Miller: Trump vs. Biden – the saddest, most outrageous moment of the president's 2020 campaign In what he had billed as a “big announcement” at the White House at 2:22 am Wednesday, President Trump could have chosen to highlight some of what he had achieved in his race for reelection. He could have boasted about having won more popular votes this year than in 2016. He could have talked about his campaign giving Republicans a strong showing in U.S. Senate races, where the GOP has a good shot at retaining its majority. Trump could have talked about flipping possibly as many as six Democratic seats in the House. He could have gloated about his impressive appeal to Hispanic voters, especially in Florida, and his having helped some women Republican candidates secure House seats.
Egypt arrests leading human rights group's employees The crackdown came after EIPR staff met with Western ambassadors in Cairo, the rights group said on Wednesday. Egyptian Security Forces arrested the group's executive director Gasser Abdel-Razek from his home in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, on Thursday. EIPR said in a tweet Thursday that the forces had taken Abdel-Razek to an unknown location.