Coronavirus live news: China and WHO criticised by independent Covid panel; US nears 400,000 deaths





The UK’s leading employers’ organisation has warned Rishi Sunak that businesses running short of cash and resilience cannot afford to wait six weeks for the budget to secure more financial help from the government.

Tony Danker, the director-general of the CBI, called on the chancellor to extend the furlough scheme, defer VAT payments and resist the temptation to raise business taxes as a way of plugging the UK’s record peacetime budget deficit.

In its budget submission to the chancellor, the CBI called for an immediate £7.6bn injection from the Treasury as part of a £17.9bn package designed to see the economy through lockdown, stimulate investment over the coming year and prepare the UK for the challenges of the coming decade.

“The budget comes at a crucial time for the UK. The government’s support from the very start of this crisis has protected many jobs and livelihoods, and progress on the vaccine rollout brings real cause for optimism,” Danker said.

“But almost a year of disrupted demand and extensive restrictions to company operations is taking its toll. Staff morale has taken a hit. And business resilience has hit a sobering new low.”





International arrivals to New Zealand must return negative Covid test before flight

New Zealand has imposed a blanket testing regime for all flights arriving internationally, with passengers now required to return a negative Covid test result before departure.

The Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said while New Zealand already had tight border controls in place, the rising number of cases around the globe meant further protections were called for.

Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands will be exempt from the new requirement:

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Urgent action is needed to tackle an “unprecedented backlog” of court cases built up during the pandemic that has “severe implications” for victims, the UK’s four justice chief inspectors have warned.

The plight of prisoners locked up for most of the day because of Covid-19 and disruption to services for young offenders were also highlighted in a report by the inspectors of probation, police, prisons and the Crown Prosecution Service.

They expressed “grave concern” in particular about the situation in courts – already struggling with a “chronic backlog” of cases – which they said constituted the greatest threat to the proper operation of the criminal justice system:





Biden team” does not intend” to lift travel restrictions





More than a third of shoppers have been blocked from paying with cash since the start of the Covid crisis, prompting calls for urgent action to protect the millions who rely on the UK’s “critically endangered” cash network.

The consumer group Which? said mixed messages about the safety of cash was partly to blame. The Bank of England has since clarified that “any risk from handling cash should be low”, especially when compared with touching shopping baskets, self-checkout screens or products in stores.

About 34% of shoppers surveyed by Which? said they had been turned away on at least one occasion when they tried to pay with cash since the first Covid lockdown. Shoppers were most likely to be refused cash payments when they bought groceries, which accounted for 28% of incidents, though pubs and restaurants accounted for 24% of cases. About 21% of cases were linked to consumers trying to buy cleaning products, which have become even more essential since the outbreak:





The Pacific archipelago of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is rapidly rolling out Covid-19 vaccines across its islands.

The US territory has a population of a little more than 50,000 people: 3,389 have received a first dose vaccine, and more than 300 have had a second dose.

The Northern Mariana Islands have received more than 18,000 vaccine doses, from Pfizer and BioNTech, and from Moderna.

Pacific countries freely associated with the US – the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia have also started widespread community vaccinations, and are likely to be among the first countries in the world to largely inoculate their populations.

Elsewhere across the Pacific, PNG’s confirmed case numbers rose by 10 to 833. The real number is likely to be significantly higher, with limited testing outside of the capital Port Moresby.

In French Polynesia, the second wave is ebbing, with daily new infections now below 50 a day. Since August, more than 17,000 cases have been formally recorded, and 126 people have died.

The French territory had just 62 cases to July, and transmission of the virus had been eliminated, when it re-opened its borders and abandoned quarantine requirements, in order to reignite a stalled tourism-dependent economy.





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