Bulgaria is set to resume flights from the UK from 10am on Wednesday, the government has announced.
The Balkan country is one of more than 40 nations that suspended travel from the UK amid a new coronavirus strain spreading across the country, closing its borders on Sunday.
Travellers coming from the UK will be tested for the coronavirus and will have to observe a 10-day quarantine after arrival, the government said.
Companies face a “black Christmas” due to delays at the French border, the head of of a food and drink body in Scotland has said.
David Thomson, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation Scotland, told the BBC: “For those people who export fresh and perishable goods, particularly seafood and salmon in Scotland, it’s been an absolutely disastrous few days and it will lead to a black Christmas for those businesses.
“The deal will be far too late for many people who are delivering perishable goods to the continent. It’s too late now to get to customers before Christmas.”
However, Thomson said he is not concerned in the short term about food shortages, telling the the BBC: “I’m not concerned in the short term – Christmas dinner is safe, we’ve managed to get to that point.”
Some vegetables that have to be imported may see delays, he said, adding: “But, hopefully, the unpacking of the ban will mean that there isn’t too much of that.”
The change in Taipei was subtle but apparent. Within hours of authorities announcing Taiwan’s first community transmission of Covid-19 since April, more people were wearing masks in more places, and hand sanitiser dispensers appeared in doorways, positioned so people would have to step around them to avoid the hint.
Until Tuesday Taiwan had gone 253 days without a local case of the virus. The circumstances around the new case have sparked fear and anger.
Helen Davidson reports from Taipei:
The mayor of the city of Nancy in eastern France has called for stricter restrictions to be imposed locally from 28 December to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The epidemic has reached a critical point locally, Mathieu Klein told France’s BFM TV. The eastern region was the centre of the outbreak during France’s first Covid-19 wave.
France ended its lockdown on 15 December, with restrictions such as an 8pm curfew remaining in place.
Nicola Sturgeon is “furious with herself” after she breached coronavirus rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake, Scotland’s national clinical director, Jason Leitch, has said.
The first minister had been attending the funeral of a senior Scottish government civil servant who died of Covid-19.
Appearing on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, he said: “I think the first minister knows this matters, I think she’s as furious with herself as some might be with her.
“We had a brief conversation last night and she’s absolutely mad at this little lapse in concentration. It’s so easily done, we live in a completely different world from a year ago, don’t we?”
He said Sturgeon was “just about out the door and was called back”. He added: “Her mask was off because she was leaving, and then (she went) back in and (had) a little lapse – didn’t put it back on.
“It just reinforces again to all of us the nature of these instructions and this virus, and she is as mad with herself as everybody else.”
Norway has also extended its suspension of flights from the UK by at least three days due to the new variant, the Norwegian health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
A decision on whether to further extend the ban into the new year will be made on 26 December, the ministry said.
The country had initially halted all direct passenger flights from the UK with immediate effect on Monday, in a measure that was valid for 48 hours before being reviewed.
Philippine Airlines has announced it is extending its flight suspension to and from London from Thursday to the end of February as the UK battles a new coronavirus variant.
In a statement, the airline said it supports all measures that seek to curb any potential increase in Covid-19 cases during the holiday season and beyond.
Philippine Airlines operates a Manila-London-Manila service once a week.
The Philippines is one of more than 40 countries who have restricted entry from the UK because of a new variant of coronavirus that has taken hold.
Malaysia is in talks to buy 6.4 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine and aiming to increase its purchases from Pfizer-BioNTech, as the government accounts for risks surrounding candidates’ regulation.
The south-east Asian nation is spending about $500m to buy enough vaccines to inoculate 26.5 million people, or 82.8% of its population.
It has already bought vaccines from Pfizer and Britain’s AstraZeneca and expects to secure more from Chinese and Russian manufacturers, as well as from its participation in the global Covax facility, supported by the WHO.
The government had increased its vaccine supply targets to take into account risks that some vaccines may not be approved by regulators or if manufacturers failed to deliver, science, technology and innovation minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, told reporters.
“We want to have a little bit more of a buffer,” he said.
Scuffles have broken out between truck drivers stranded outside the English port of Dover, Reuters reports, after France’s ban on entry was lifted on the condition of a negative test.
Thousands of drivers, many from across Europe, have been stuck for days in southern England. Many will miss Christmas with their families.
There are about 4,000 trucks in the backlog, the housing secretary Robert Jenrick has said.
The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, has suggested more areas of England will be placed under tier 4 coronavirus restrictions as soon as Boxing Day to combat the “very worrying” hyper-infectious variant of Covid-19.
Jenrick said the government’s Covid-O operations committee would meet on Wednesday morning and that a decision on further action would be announced “as soon as we can”.
Russia has reported 27,250 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,652 in Moscow, brining the national total to 2,933,753.
Authorities said 549 people had died overnight, taking the official death toll to 52,461.
The Czech Republic has reported 10,821 new cases of the coronavirus – the country’s first daily figure over 10,000 since 6 November.
The government is due to decide later on Wednesday whether to move the country to the fifth, strictest level of anti-coronavirus measures due to rising numbers of infections and hospitalisations.
It is “extremely unlikely” that plans allowing for households in lower tiers to meet on Christmas Day will change, UK housing secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Breakfast as he was asked about reports that more areas face tier 4 restrictions soon.
“Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve, so I think it’s extremely unlikely that anything will change there,” Jenrick said.
He said there is no “immediate plan” to widen coronavirus restrictions on Boxing Day, but that the government would be meeting today to review the situation and “make a judgment”.
“The tier system was designed before we knew the full ferocity of the new variant so we do have to make sure that it’s sufficiently robust,” Jenrick said.
He refused to be drawn on a date as he was asked if a tier 4 extension was likely before 30 December, but described the new strain as a “game-changer”.
Taiwan’s president has urged people to remain calm after the country’s first locally transmitted coronavirus cases since 12 April was confirmed on Tuesday.
The government has said all of the person’s contacts have tested negative so far.
The country has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention methods and widespread mask-wearing, with all new cases for more than the last 250 days being among travellers arriving on the island.
But the government has been jolted by Tuesday’s announcement of the domestic infection, a woman who is a friend of a New Zealand pilot who was confirmed to have been infected earlier this week.
President Tsai Ing-wen called on people to remain calm, follow official health guidance and not spread fake news.
“This case has a confirmed source of infection,” she told reporters. “Please don’t panic excessively.”
Health minister Chen Shih-chung, speaking at a separate news conference, said 170 contacts of the woman had been tested, with results coming back negative, while three others are awaiting test results.
Appearing on Sky News Breakfast, UK housing secretary Robert Jenrick said France was “relatively unusual” on the border issue, with about 4,000 lorries banked up in Britain waiting to cross the Channel last night.
Jenrick said he hopes to see lorries crossing again today to Calais and asked people not to go to Kent to prevent more traffic building up.
The minister added that the new coronavirus variant is prevalent in “most regions of the country” and “it may be necessary to take further action”.
Providing medical care to Covid-19 patients and other patients in Japan is becoming difficult, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Wednesday, as daily infections rose to record highs this month.
“I understand frontline medical workers, who have been working desperately, are exhausted. I am getting reports that it is getting difficult to juggle responses to the coronavirus and offering regular medical care,” Nishimura said.
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