(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
UK’s Christmas plans ‘will cost many lives’
Two of Britain’s most influential journals for healthcare and medical professionals jointly called on the government to scrap plans to relax restrictions for five days around Christmas or risk overwhelming the health service.
The British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal said the government should be tightening the rules rather than allowing three households to mix over five days.
British scientists are also trying to establish whether the rapid spread in southern England of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is linked to key mutations they have detected in the strain.
Christmas crowds in Italy raise alarm
Italy is considering more stringent nationwide restrictions during the Christmas holidays after scenes of big gatherings in many cities over the weekend raised worries.
Italy has passed Britain as the European nation with the worst official death toll, with more than 65,000 dying since the start of the outbreak in February.
With pressure on hospitals easing and daily cases falling, the government relaxed some restrictions put in place last month. But scenes of crowded shopping districts in cities such as Milan and Rome have caused concern.
First Americans vaccinated
A New York City intensive care unit nurse became the first person in the United States to receive a coronavirus vaccine, saying she felt “healing is coming” as the nation’s COVID-19 death toll crossed 300,000.
Sandra Lindsay, who has treated some of the sickest COVID-19 patients for months, was inoculated at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the New York City borough of Queens, an early epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
“It didn’t feel any different from taking any other vaccine,” Lindsay said. “I feel hopeful today, relieved.”
Netherlands closing down
The Netherlands will go into a tough second lockdown, with the closure of all schools and shops for at least five weeks, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.
“The Netherlands is closing down,” he said to the sound of protesters banging pots and pans outside his office in The Hague. “We realise the gravity of our decisions, right before Christmas.”
The measures include limiting gatherings to no more than two people, also at home. An exception will be made for three days around Christmas, when three adult visitors will be permitted.
Singapore to open travel bubble
Singapore is to allow a limited number of business, official and other “high economic value” travellers from abroad under a “bubble” arrangement that offers a glimpse into what visitors for this year’s relocated Davos conference might expect.
The annual World Economic Forum will make its debut in Asia in May after being moved from its usual home in the Swiss ski resort of Davos over coronavirus safety concerns.
Singapore’s borders have been effectively shut for months, and it faces challenges hosting an event that usually attracts thousands just five months from now.
(Compiled by Linda Noakes; Editing by Angus MacSwan)