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According a study by the University of Texas, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can still target a key mutation that has emerged in two new variants of coronavirus.

However, this is only one of many mutations that are found in the new forms of the virus.

So while the study has been welcomed, it is not being seen as definitive scientific evidence about how the vaccine will perform.

New variants have been detected in the UK and South Africa.

Both variants are spreading more quickly and this has raised questions over what level of protection vaccines can offer against them.

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The widely held view is that vaccines will still work, but researchers are on the hunt for proof.

The study focuses on a mutation called N501Y, which is emerged in both new variants.

This is thought to be important because it is in the part of the virus that makes first contact with our body’s cells and changes could make it easier to get in and cause an infection.

The researchers created two forms of the virus – one with and one without the mutation – and then bathed those viruses in blood samples taken from 20 patients that had been vaccinated in clinical trials.

The study results showed the immune systems of vaccinated patients were able to take out the new mutation.

However, the variant that emerged contain multiple mutations whose combined effects may help the virus evade the immune system.

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If you were offered a COVID-19 vaccine, would you take it? Research paints a mixed picture. In one poll mentioned by The Drum, 28% of 18- to 34-year-old respondents in the UK said they would reject a vaccine if offered one. However, marketers can play a major part in encouraging vaccine uptake.

Ultimately, the success of vaccines in helping to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a close will depend on how many people take them. Here is how pharmaceutical companies, medical providers and healthcare agencies could persuade members of the general public to do exactly that.

Vaccine hesitancy: a challenge predating the COVID-19 pandemic

You don’t have to look far beyond the COVID-19 picture to see examples of skepticism about vaccines in general. Such reticence has, in some instances, led an array of vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, to re-emerge.

In 2019, long before the current pandemic erupted, the World Health Organization ranked vaccine hesitancy among the ten leading threats to global health.

The world's first malaria vaccine could be approved for use in 2015
The world’s first malaria vaccine could be approved for use in 2015

It’s unsurprising, then, that Glen Halliwell, business unit director at Publicis healthcare agency Langland, believes that government and health services must engage in “broad education” about the COVID-19 vaccine – including “what it is for, what it will protect you against, how to get it and how many injections are required to be protected.”

He added: “Critical here is ensuring we reach the members of the community where English is not their first language, or where cultural or religious concerns regarding vaccine ingredients may lead to some hesitation.”

What threshold do we need to reach to achieve herd immunity?

Lee Fraser, who has served as Digitas Health’s chief medical officer since 2014, insists: “In order for vaccines to be successful in ending the pandemic, we will need to get vaccination rates into the mid-70% range at a minimum.”

However, he warned: “In a climate where we have seen a decline in the public’s belief in science and erosion of fact in favor of social and public opinion, studies suggest only 60% of people are currently willing to get a vaccine.”

Which marketing strategies could help – and which probably wouldn’t?

While some individual vaccines have been given their own branding by marketers, WPP Health Practice’s international chief executive officer Claire Gillis says: “I actually think that the important brand is the corporate brand. Go to the doctor and ask for the ‘Pfizer vaccine’.”

Meanwhile, though the UK government’s reported attempt to apply patriotic livery to each AstraZeneca vaccine kit would unlikely have been of much use, the UK’s National Health Service has, more encouragingly, decided to partner with influencers to promote vaccine adoption.

Spain is planning to set up a registry of people who refuse to be vaccinated against coronavirus and share it with other European Union nations, health minister Salvador Illa has said.

Salvador Illa said the list would not be made accessible to the public or to employers.

The health minister said the way to defeat the virus was “to vaccinate all of us – the more the better”.

Spain has been one of the countries in Europe worst affected by the virus.

The country is currently rolling out the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which was approved for EU member states last week.

In an interview with La Sexta TV on December 28, Salvador Illa emphasized that vaccination would not be mandatory.

He said: “What will be done is a registry, which will be shared with our European partners… of those people who have been offered it and have simply rejected it.

“It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection.”

The health minister added: “People who are offered a therapy that they refuse for any reason, it will be noted in the register… that there is no error in the system, not to have given this person the possibility of being vaccinated.”

According to a recent poll, the number of Spanish citizens who have said they will not take the vaccine has fallen to 28% from 47% in November.

In other comments, Salvador Illa said people would be contacted by regional authorities when it was their turn to be inoculated.

He told reporters: “People who decide not to get vaccinated, which we think is a mistake, are within their rights.

 “We are going to try to solve doubts. Getting vaccinated saves lives, it is the way out of this pandemic.”

The number of people who have died from Covid-19 in Spain rose above the 50,000 on December 28. Spain has registered more than 1.8 million infections during the pandemic.

The country is under a nationwide curfew, between 23:00 and 06:00, until early May. In many places, people are only allowed out in that period to go to work, buy medicine, or to care for elderly people or children.

Spain’s regional leaders can modify curfew times and can also close regional borders for travel.

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The EU is launching a co-ordinated mass vaccination to fight Covid-19, in what the bloc’s top official Ursula von der Leyen says is a “touching moment of unity”.

On December 26, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had been delivered to all 27 member states.

Some countries started administering the jabs on the same day, saying they were not prepared to wait another day.

The EU has so far reported more than 335,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

More than 14 million people have been infected, and strict lockdown measures are currently in place in nearly all the member states.

The EU mass vaccination comes as cases of the more contagious variant of the virus are confirmed in several European countries as well as Japan and Canada.

Mass vaccination for the EU’s 446 million people is due to begin in the coming hours.

This comes after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission authorized the German-US Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The EU has secured contracts for more than two billion vaccine doses from a range of drug companies.

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Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “Today, we start turning the page on a difficult year. The #COVID19 vaccine has been delivered to all EU countries. Vaccination will begin tomorrow across the EU. The #EUvaccinationdays are a touching moment of unity. Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic.”

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on December 26: “This really is a happy Christmas message. At this moment, trucks with the first vaccines are on the road all over Europe, all over Germany, in all federal states. Further deliveries will follow the day after tomorrow.

“This vaccine is the crucial key for defeating the pandemic. It’s the key for us getting back our lives.”

Health workers in north-east Germany decided not to wait for December 27 and started immunizing elderly residents of a nursing home in Halberstadt.

The authorities in Slovakia also said they had begun vaccinating.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio urged his compatriots to get the vaccine: “We’ll get our freedom back, we’ll be able to embrace again.”

In Hungary, the first recipient of the vaccine was a doctor at Del-Pest Central Hospital on December 26, the state news agency says.

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Image source: AP

Joe Biden has received his first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine live on TV.

The president-elect said he was getting the vaccine to show Americans it is “safe to take”.

Joe Biden joins a growing number of political leaders getting the jab, including VP Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On December 20, the roll-out began for a second vaccine, by Moderna, which was approved last week.

More than 500,000 Americans are said to have now been vaccinated.

Joe Biden said from Newark, Delaware, where he got the vaccine live on TV: “I’m doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared when it’s available to take the vaccine.

“There’s nothing to worry about.”

The president-elect said the Trump administration “deserves some credit” for launching the country’s vaccine program.

His wife, Jill Biden, received her first dose earlier in the day, the president-elect said.

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Joe Biden’s running mate, VP-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff are expected to receive their first shots next week.

The Biden team has set a goal of 100 million Covid-19 vaccinations during the administration’s first 100 days in the White House.

During the pandemic, the US has recorded more than 18 million cases and 319,000 deaths.

President Donald Trump, who spent three days in hospital with the coronavirus in October, has not said when he intends to get the vaccine.

He is now one of last of the country’s top elected officials to have not received the first of the course of two jabs.

President Trump wrote in a December 13 tweet: “I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time.”

Some of the president’s advisers have defended the delay, saying he is still protected by the treatments he received to beat the virus.

According to the CDC, roughly three million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been shipped and more than 500,000 Americans have been vaccinated so far.

On December 20, distribution of the Moderna vaccine began in the country too, with some six million vaccine doses available for immediate shipment.

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron is just the latest world leader to test positive for coronavirus.

Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) died on December 14, four weeks after he tested positive for Covid-19.

US President Donald Trump contracted the virus in October. He was given an experimental drug cocktail and returned to the White House after three nights in hospital.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda contracted the virus in October and went into self-isolation.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has spent two months in hospital in Germany after catching the disease in October – last week he appeared in video for the first time since testing positive, saying he hopes to return to Algeria soon.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei tested positive in September – despite calling himself “high-risk” he did not appear to suffer a severe case.

President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro,tested positive in July and spent more than two weeks quarantining in his residence.

In June, the outgoing President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, died of an illness suspected by many to be Covid-19.

Russia’s PM Mikhail Mishustin contracted the virus in April and was admitted to hospital with moderate to severe symptoms.

UK PM Boris Johnson tested positive in March – he spent three nights in intensive care in a London hospital, later saying he owed the health workers there his life.

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(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Vice-President Mike Pence has received the coronavirus vaccine live on TV.

He told the audience and doctors: “I didn’t feel a thing.”

According to the White House, the aim of the move was to “promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people”.

Mike Pence’s wife and Surgeon General Jerome Adams also received the jab at the televised White House event.

On December 14, the US began rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine is the first to be approved in the US. It offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19.

The first three million vaccine doses are being distributed to locations across the 50 US states.

Meanwhile, a second vaccine, developed by Moderna, has come a step closer to receiving emergency approval after it was endorsed by a panel of experts.

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As Mike Pence was receiving his vaccine, President Donald Trump incorrectly said on Twitter that the Moderna vaccine was “overwhelmingly approved” with “distribution to start immediately”. It is still awaiting final approval from the FDA.

More than 310,000 people have died with coronavirus in the US, which has recorded more infections and fatalities than any other country. More than 17 million cases have been recorded in the country since the start of the pandemic.

VP Pence, 61, received the first of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab at 08:00 local time, along with his wife Karen and Dr. Adams. He is the most senior US official to be vaccinated so far.

He said: “We gather here today at the end of a historic week to affirm to the American people that hope is on the way.”

“Karen and I were more than happy to step forward before this week was out to take this safe and effective coronavirus vaccine that we have secured and produced for the American people,” he continued, calling it “a truly inspiring day”.

Top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, and CDC Director Robert Redfield were in the audience to observe the doctors from Walter Reed hospital perform the injections.

Both men elbow-bumped Mike Pence and his wife after their jabs. President Trump did not attend the event.

Dr. Fauci said in brief remarks: “We want virtually everyone eligible to get this vaccine ultimately.

“By the time we get to several months into this [coming] year we will have enough people protected that we can start thinking seriously about the return to normality.”

Earlier this week, President Trump reversed a plan for senior members of his administration to be among the first to receive the vaccine “unless specifically necessary”.

The president, who contracted coronavirus in October and recovered after hospital treatment, said he was not scheduled to take the jab but looked forward to doing so “at the appropriate time”.

Many of his support base have doubts about the efficacy and safety of vaccines.

President-elect Joe Biden, who at 78 is in a high-risk group from Covid-19, is expected to be vaccinated next week.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

French President Emmanuel Macron has been diagnosed with Covid-19 after developing symptoms.

Emmanuel Macron, 42, will now self-isolate for seven days, the Elysée Palace said in a statement.

The president “is still in charge” of running the country and will work remotely, said an official.

EU chief Charles Michel and Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez are both self-isolating after coming into contact with President Macron on December 14.

France this week imposed an overnight curfew to help deal with soaring cases there.

There have been 2 million confirmed cases in France since the coronavirus epidemic began, with more than 59,400 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The Elysée Palace said in a statement on December 17: “The President of the Republic has been diagnosed positive for Covid-19 today.”

The diagnosis was made following a “test performed at the onset of the first symptoms”.

It is not yet known how President Macron caught the virus but his office said it was identifying any close contacts he has made in recent days.

PM Jean Castex, 55, and Parliament Speaker Richard Ferrand, 58, are both self-isolating, their offices confirmed.

Jean Castex, who is not showing any symptoms, was due to introduce the government’s Covid vaccination policy in the Senate on December 17 – now Health Minister Olivier Véran is doing it instead.

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Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez, 48, and EU chief Charles Michel, 44, are both self-isolating after meeting the French president for lunch on December 14.

The Spanish prime minister’s office said he would be tested.

Emmanuel Macron’s wife Brigitte, who is 67, is also self-isolating, but has no symptoms.

President Macron is one of several world leaders who have contracted the respiratory disease since the pandemic began. Most notably, President Donald Trump tested positive in October, which led to him spending three days in hospital.

UK’s PM Boris Johnson also caught the virus and ended up in intensive care during the country’s first wave in March.

Earlier this week, France eased national lockdown restrictions imposed to tackle its second wave of the pandemic. However, infection rates still remain high and a daily 20:00-06:00 curfew was imposed. The new measures have forced restaurants, cafes, theatres and cinemas to close.

On December 16, France registered more than 17,700 new cases.

Emmanuel Macron has not tested positive for the virus before, sources have told Le Figaro.

The news website said: “His wife, the first lady Brigitte Macron, had already been a contact person [for Covid-19] a few months before but the presidential couple had until now managed to avoid contracting the virus.”

A presidential spokeswoman confirmed that all of Emmanuel Macron’s upcoming trips, including a visit to Lebanon on December 22, have been canceled.

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The US Covid-19 vaccination has began, as the country gears up for its largest ever immunization campaign.

Sandra Lindsay, an intensive care nurse in Long Island, New York, is believed to have been the first person to be given the vaccine.

Millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are being distributed, with 150 hospitals expected to receive them on December 14.

The US vaccination program aims to reach 100 million people by April.

Covid-19 fatalities are nearing 300,000 in the US, which has by far the world’s highest death toll.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received emergency-use authorization from the FDA on December 11.

President Donald Trump tweeted following the news from New York: “First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!”

The roll-out of the vaccine comes as the epidemic continues to ravage the US. Deaths have been rising sharply since November and the number of people in hospital with the disease has also continued to grow steadily, with more than 109,000 people currently admitted, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

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Sandra Lindsay, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, received the vaccine live on camera. Footage was streamed on the Twitter feed of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state was the epicenter of the US epidemic in the first wave earlier this year.

She said: “It didn’t feel any different from taking any other vaccine.

“I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We’re in a pandemic and so we all need to do our part.”

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – a collaboration between a US pharmaceutical giant and a German biotechnology company – offers up to 95% protection and is the first Covid-19 vaccine to be approved by US regulators.

The vaccine is already being rolled out in the UK, while Canada is also beginning its inoculation program on December 14, with an initial 30,000 doses going to 14 sites across the country.

Anita Quidangen, a caregiver at the Rekai Centre nursing home in Toronto, was the first to receive the vaccine in Canada.

The first three million doses in the US are being distributed to dozens of locations across all 50 states by cargo plane and truck.

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The US mass vaccination will begin on December 14 after it was authorized for emergency use, officials say.

The first three million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine would be shipped “across all states” this weekend, said General Gustave Perna, who is overseeing distribution.

The vaccine offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 and was deemed safe by the FDA.

On December 12, the US recorded a daily toll of 3,309 Covid-related deaths.

The figure, reported on the Johns Hopkins University website, is the highest total in a single day anywhere in the world.Coronavirus deaths have been rising sharply since November in the US.

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Authorizing the emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on December 11, the FDA – which had come under intense pressure from the Trump administration to do so – said the move was a “significant milestone” in the pandemic.

During a news conference on December 12, Gen. Perna – speaking for the government’s vaccination campaign Operation Warp Speed – said doses of the vaccine would be packed into shipping containers for transportation “within the next 24 hours”.

He said: “Expect 145 sites across the states to receive the vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday, and the final 66 sites on Wednesday.”

He also said that next week’s distribution would complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and cover about three million people.

Gen. Perna told reporters he was “100% confident” that the doses “needed to defeat the enemy Covid” would be transported safely.

However, he warned that while it had been a week of progress, “we are not done until every American has access to a vaccine”.

The Pfizer vaccine has already received regulatory approval in the UK, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Like those countries, US health authorities are expected to prioritize health workers and care home residents for the first doses.

More Americans outside the highest-priority groups are likely to be able to get the vaccine in January, with general availability expected by April.

On December 10, medical experts advising the FDA recommended the emergency-use authorization. A 23-member panel concluded the vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks.

Emergency use, the FDA said, was not the same as full approval, which would require Pfizer to file a separate application to secure.

The Pfizer/BioNTech product was the first coronavirus vaccine to show promising results in the latter stages of its testing process.

It is a new type called an mRNA vaccine that uses a tiny fragment of genetic code from the pandemic virus to teach the body how to fight Covid-19 and build immunity.

The FDA said: “The vaccine contains a small piece of the [Covid-19] virus’s mRNA that instructs cells in the body to make the virus’s distinctive ‘spike’ protein.”

British and Russian scientists are teaming up to trial a combination of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines to see if protection against Covid-19 can be improved.

According to the researchers, mixing two similar vaccines could lead to a better immune response in people.

The trials, to be held in Russia, will involve over-18s, although it’s not clear how many people will be involved.

Oxford recently published results showing their vaccine was safe and effective in trials on people.

The researchers are still collecting data on the effectiveness of the vaccine in older age groups while waiting for approval from the UK regulator, the MHRA.

AstraZeneca said it was exploring combinations of different adenovirus vaccines to find out whether mixing them leads to a better immune response and, therefore, greater protection.

The Oxford vaccine, developed in partnership with AstraZeneca, and the Russian Sputnik vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow, are similar because they both contain genetic material from the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein.

They work differently to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has been approved in the UK, Canada, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and recommended for approval by medical experts in the US.

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Early results from late-stage trials of the Russian vaccine have shown promising results.

Russia was the first country to register a Covid vaccine for emergency use – in August, despite only having been tested on a few dozen people.

Sputnik V is now being offered to Russians as part of a mass vaccination campaign.

AstraZeneca said it was “working with industry partners, governments and research institutions around the world, and will soon begin exploring with Gamaleya Research Institute in Russia to understand whether two adenovirus-based vaccines can be successfully combined”.

Joe Biden has vowed 100 million Covid-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office.

The president-elect said his first months in office would not end the outbreak and gave few details on a rollout plan but he said he would change the course of Covid-19.

Introducing his health team for when he takes office on January 20, Joe Biden urged Americans to “mask up for 100 days”.

On December 8, a report paved the way for a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be approved and rolled out for Americans.

Emergency authorization for its use could be issued by the FDA on December 10, with the country’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci saying mass vaccination could start as soon as next week.

Also on December 8, President Donald Trump attended a summit at the White House of his Covid-19 vaccination program, Operation Warp Speed, and hailed the expected approval of vaccines. His administration hopes to vaccinate as many as 24 million people by mid-January.

According to Johns Hopkins University research, the US has recorded more than 15 million cases so far and 285,000 deaths, both global highs.

Many parts of the US are seeing peak infections, with record numbers of people in hospital, with some experts blaming travel by millions over the recent Thanksgiving holiday.

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At a news conference in Delaware on December 8, Joe Biden laid out how he plans to address the pandemic in his first 100 days in office. That period is traditionally seen as a benchmark for new presidents to make their mark with new policies and ideas.

He vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people”.

Last week, Joe Biden complained he had been given no rollout plans by the Trump administration. Operation Warp Speed’s top scientist Moncef Slaoui has still to meet the Biden team and is expected to do so this week.

Getting children back to school would also be a priority, he said.

Joe Biden also introduced California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his nomination for health secretary and his choice of Rochelle Walensky as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among his other aides will be Dr. Anthony Fauci as chief Covid medical adviser. The expert also advised the Trump team and often fell foul of the president for his views.

Getting 100 million vaccines to Americans in just over three months is not expected to be easy. The large geographical size of the US and the logistics of rolling out a new vaccine could present challenges in achieving the goal.

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Image source: AP

President-elect Joe Biden has announced he will ask Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office to curtail the spread of coronavirus.

Joe Biden told CNN he believed there would be a “significant reduction” in Covid-19 cases if every American wore a face covering.

He also said he would order masks to be worn in all government buildings.

The US has recorded 14.1 million cases and 276,000 deaths from Covid-19 – the highest of any country in the world.

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In his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris since the election, Joe Biden said: “The first day I’m inaugurated to say I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask. Just 100 days to mask, not forever. One hundred days.

“And I think we’ll see a significant reduction if we occur that, if that occurs with vaccinations and masking to drive down the numbers considerably.” 

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The first 100 days of a new presidency is symbolically important in the US and is seen as a gauge of how a president will get things done.

However, constitutional experts say the president has no legal authority to order Americans to wear masks, but Joe Biden said during the interview he and his Vice-President Kamala Harris would set an example by donning face coverings.

The president’s executive authority does cover US government property, and Joe Biden told CNN he intended to exercise such power.

He said: “I’m going to issue a standing order that in federal buildings you have to be masked.”

He added: “Transportation, interstate transportation, you must be masked, airplanes and buses, et cetera.”

US airlines, airports and most public transit systems already require all passengers and workers to wear face coverings.

The Trump administration has rejected calls from American health experts to mandate masks in transportation as “overly restrictive”.

The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been approved in the UK, paving the way for mass vaccination.

The UK becomes the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine.

Britain’s medicines regulator, the MHRA, says the vaccine, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 illness, is safe to be rolled out.

The first 800,000 doses will be available in the UK from next week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

People should wait to be contacted by the NHS, he added.

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Elderly people in care homes and care home staff are top of the priority list, followed by over-80s and health and care staff.

However, because of the limited stocks and need to store at -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place at hospitals so care home residents may not be immunized until later.

The Pfizer/BioNTech product is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span 10 years.

The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the free jab – enough to vaccinate 20 million people.

The doses will be rolled out as quickly as they can be made by Pfizer in Belgium, Matt Hancock said, with the first load next week and then “several millions” throughout December.

UK’s PM Boris Johnson said: “It’s the protection of vaccines that will ultimately allow us to reclaim our lives and get the economy moving again.”

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be non-compulsory and there will be three ways of vaccinating people across the UK:

  • Hospitals
  • Vaccination centers
  • In the community, with GPs and pharmacists.

Around 50 hospitals are on stand-by and vaccination centers – in venues such as conference centers or sports stadiums – are being set up now.

Because the initial doses are being delivered to hospitals, which already have the facilities to store the vaccine at -70C, the very first vaccinations are likely to take place at hospital hubs – for care home staff, NHS staff and patients – so none of the vaccine is wasted.

It is thought the vaccination network could start delivering more than one million doses a week once enough doses are available.

Image source: Getty Images

Dr. Scott Atlas, President Donald Trump’s controversial special adviser on the coronavirus, has resigned.

Thanking President Trump for the honor of serving the American people, Dr. Atlas said he had “always relied on the latest science and evidence without any political consideration or influence”.

During his four months in the role, Dr. Atlas questioned the need for masks and other measures to control the pandemic.

He also repeatedly clashed with other members of the coronavirus task force.

Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist and senior fellow at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution, joined the task force in August. As well as questioning the usefulness of masks he was against lockdowns and supported herd immunity as a strategy to deal with the outbreak.

He sparked further controversy last month when he tweeted “people rise up” in response to new restrictions imposed in Michigan.

Dr. Atlas’ tweet came just weeks after it emerged Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was the subject of an alleged kidnapping attempt by militia members opposed to virus mitigation efforts.

Public health officials – including top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci – had accused Dr. Atlas of giving President Trump misleading information about the spread of the virus.

As of November 29, the number of Covid-19 cases recorded in November in the US surpassed four million, double the figure recorded in October.

Academics at Stanford University welcomed Dr. Atlas’ resignation, saying it was “long overdue and underscores the triumph of science and truth over falsehoods and misinformation”.

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Fox News said Dr. Atlas had joined the administration on a 130-day contract, which was set to expire this week.

In his resignation letter, carried by Fox, Dr. Atlas said his advice had “always focused on minimizing all the harms from both the pandemic and the structural policies themselves, especially to the working class and poor”.

He also spoke of the “free exchange of ideas that lead to scientific truths”, adding: “Indeed, I cannot think of a time where safeguarding science and the scientific debate is more urgent.”

President-elect Joe Biden has taken a markedly different stance to his predecessor, urging everyone to wear masks and pledging a bedrock of science to his policy on tackling the pandemic.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Donald Trump Jr. has tested positive for coronavirus, according to his spokesman.

President Donald Trump’s oldest son was diagnosed at the start of this week and has been quarantining at his hunting cabin since the result, the spokesman said.

The statement said: “He’s been completely asymptomatic so far and is following all medically recommended Covid-19 guidelines.”

Donald Trump Jr., 42, is the second of the president’s children to test positive.

Barron Trump, 14, was also diagnosed last month, but made a swift recovery.

A firebrand speaker, Don Jr. played a major role in his father’s presidential campaign.

There has also been speculation that Donald Jr. is interested in running for the White House, conjecture he hasn’t tried to tamp down.

His partner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host, tested positive for the disease in July, and also recovered. He apparently did not contract the infection at the time.

Barron Trump Had Covid-19, First Lady Confirms

Earlier on November 20, Andrew Giuliani, a special assistant to President Donald Trump, announced he had tested positive for coronavirus.

Andrew Giuliani, the son of the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tweeted that he was experiencing mild symptoms after receiving his positive test on November 20.

According to CBS News, at least four other White House aides have tested positive for Covid-19 in a new outbreak there.

Earlier this month, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was among several aides who tested positive for the infection. https://emp.bbc.com/emp/SMPj/2.36.3/iframe.html President Trump spent three nights in hospital at the beginning of October after being hit by Covid-19. First Lady Melania Trump also had a bout of the infection.

Last month, Donald Trump Jr. was criticized for downplaying the US coronavirus death toll.

In an interview with Fox News, he argued that the media was focusing on the caseload, while ignoring the mortality rate.

Donald Trump Jr. said: “I was like, ‘Well, why aren’t they talking about deaths?’ Oh, oh, because the number is almost nothing. Because we’ve gotten control of this, and we understand how it works.”

The virus has infected 11.8 million Americans and killed more than 253,000.

On November 20 alone, 192,000 people tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Pfizer and BioNTech are filing for emergency authorization in the US of their Covid-19 vaccine on Friday, November 20.

The FDA will decide if the vaccine is safe to roll out.

It is not clear how long the FDA will take to study the data. However, the US government expects to approve the vaccine in the first half of December.

Data from an advanced trial showed the vaccine protects 94% of adults over 65.

Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s trial involved 41,000 people worldwide. Half were given the vaccine, and half a placebo.

If FDA authorization does come in the first half of next month, Pfizer and BioNTech will “be ready to distribute the vaccine candidate within hours”, the two companies said.

This would be remarkably quick for vaccine development – within 10 months of detailing the genetic code. The average wait for approval in the US is nearer eight years.

On November 19, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that the filing for emergency use was a “milestone in our journey to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine to the world”.

Initial doses would be scarce, though, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) will decide who is first in line.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU could move quickly too – by the end of the year.

Pfizer Vaccine Appears to Protect 94% of Adults over 65 Years Old

Moderna Vaccine Shows Nearly 95% Protection Against Covid-19

Coronavirus: Pfizer Vaccine Offers 90% Protection

Data released this week suggested the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine had 95% effectiveness.

This effectiveness was also consistent across age groups – essential given the vulnerability of the elderly – as well as ethnicities and gender.

The vaccine also had only mild-to-moderate and short-lived side-effects.

It uses an experimental approach, called mRNA, which involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into the body to train the immune system.

Antibodies and T-cells are then made by the body to fight the coronavirus.

The US this week passed 250,000 deaths in the coronavirus outbreak, by far the largest number in the world.

Its confirmed cases since the pandemic began stand at 11.7 million, according to Johns Hopkins University research, again a global first.

Cases have also been soaring over the past week, reaching record daily highs.

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Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine appears to protect 94% of adults over 65 years old.

More data released from their ongoing phase three trial suggests the vaccine works equally well in people of all ages, races and ethnicities.

The companies say they will now apply for authorization for emergency use of the jab in the US.

The findings are based on two doses given to more than 41,000 people around the world.

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech published preliminary data showing the vaccine offered 90% protection against Covid-19 and there were no safety concerns.

This was followed by impressive data on another vaccine, made by US company Moderna, suggesting nearly 95% protection.

November 18 data from Pfizer and BioNTech, which builds on last week’s data, suggests the vaccine is 95% effective based on 170 cases Covid-19 developing in volunteers.

Just eight were in the group given the vaccine, suggesting it offers good protection. The rest of the cases were in the placebo group given a dummy jab.

Moderna Vaccine Shows Nearly 95% Protection Against Covid-19

Coronavirus: Pfizer Vaccine Offers 90% Protection

Scientists said the data was further encouraging news.

Although the full trial data has yet to be published, the companies say there have been no serious safety concerns.

However, they did notice headaches and fatigue in about 2% of volunteers given the vaccine, although older people seemed to experience minimal side effects.

There is also evidence that the vaccine protects against severe Covid – but this is based on only 10 cases.

It’s still unclear how long protection from the vaccine lasts and if it stops people transmitting the virus.

In the trial, 42% of all participants are from diverse ethnic backgrounds and 41% are aged between 56 and 85 years old.

The trial, which is testing people at 150 sites in the US, Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, will collect data on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for another two years.

Pfizer and BioNTech expect to produce up to 50 million doses of the vaccine this year and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.

There are hundreds of vaccines in development around the world, and about a dozen in the final stages of testing, known as phase three.

The first two to show any results – made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – both use an experimental approach, called mRNA, which involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into the body to train the immune system.

Antibodies and T-cells are then made by the body to fight the coronavirus.

Russia’s Sputnik vaccine has also released early data from phase three based on a smaller number of volunteers and Covid cases.

There are some logistical challenges with mRNA vaccines, namely the need to store them at cold temperatures.

The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at around minus 80C, although it can be kept in a fridge for five days.

Moderna’s vaccine needs to be stored at minus 20C for up to six months and kept in a standard fridge for up to a month.

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A new coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna showed nearly 95% protection against Covid-19.

Early data results come hot on the heels of similar results from Pfizer, and add to growing confidence that vaccines can help end the pandemic.

Pfizer and Moderna used a highly innovative and experimental approach to designing their vaccines.

Moderna says it is a “great day” and they plan to apply for approval to use the vaccine in the next few weeks.

However, this is still early data and key questions remain unanswered.

The trial involved 30,000 people in the US with half being given two doses of the vaccine, four weeks apart. The rest had dummy injections.

The analysis was based on the first 95 to develop Covid-19 symptoms.

Only five of the Covid cases were in people given the vaccine, 90 were in those given the dummy treatment. The company says the vaccine is protecting 94.5% of people.

The data also shows there were 11 cases of severe Covid in the trial, but none happened in people who were immunized.

Coronavirus: Pfizer Vaccine Offers 90% Protection

Moderna says it will apply to regulators in the US in the coming weeks. It expects to have 20 million doses available in the country.

The company hopes to have up to one billion doses available for use around the world next year and is planning to seek approval in other countries too.

We still do not know how long immunity will last as volunteers will have to be followed for much longer before that can be answered.

There are hints it offers some protection in older age groups, who are most at risk of dying from Covid, but there is not full data.

It is not known whether the vaccine just stops people becoming severely ill, or if it stops them spreading the virus too.

All these questions will affect how a coronavirus vaccine is used.

No significant safety concerns have been reported, but nothing, including paracetamol, is 100% safe.

Short lived fatigue, headache and pain were reported after the injection in some patients.

Both vaccines use the same approach of injecting part of the virus’s genetic code in order to provoke an immune response.

The preliminary data we have seen so far is very similar – around 90% protection for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and around 95% for Moderna’s.

However, both trials are still taking place and the final numbers could change.

Moderna’s vaccine appears to be easier to store as it remains stable at minus 20C for up to six months and can be kept in a standard fridge for up to a month.

Pfizer’s vaccine needs ultra-cold storage at around minus 75C, but it can be kept in the fridge for five days.

The Sputnik V vaccine, developed in Russia, has also released very early data which suggests it is 92% effective.

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New restrictions aimed at curbing coronavirus have been introduced in New York City after Mayor Bill de Blasio warned it was the city’s “last chance” to stop a second wave.

Bars, restaurants and gyms must close by 22:00 and people can only meet in groups of 10 or less.

On November 11, the US is seeing a surge in coronavirus with a record 65,368 Americans being in hospital.

The Covid Tracking Project also reported a record 144,270 new cases.

An average of over 900 people a day are now dying with the disease.

More than a million new cases in November pushed the total confirmed cases to over 10 million nationally, with 233,080 deaths so far.

The US has been seeing more than 100,000 new cases per day over the last eight days in what experts say may be a worse outbreak than those seen in the spring and summer.

According to experts, hospitals across the country could soon be overwhelmed.

On November 11, Dr. Michael Osterhol, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 advisory panel, said a four to six week lockdown could bring the pandemic under control.

Dr. Osterholm said that the government could borrow enough money to cover lost income for businesses during a shutdown.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also said: “We’re seeing a national and global Covid surge, and New York is a ship on the Covid tide.”

New measures come into effect on November 13 affecting hospitality after Governor Cuomo said contact tracing identified late-night gatherings as key virus spreaders in the state.

If the rate of spread of infection continued to rise, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the New York City’s public school system would close and children would begin online classes.

The mayor tweeted: “This is our last chance to stop a second wave. We can do it, but we have to act now.”

Coronavirus: Worldwide Cases Exceed 50 Million

China Coronavirus: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

According to NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the city was badly hit by the virus earlier this year when nearly 18,000 people died with Covid-19 in March, April and May.

Other states have broken new case records this week with Texas becoming the first state to hit one million total cases on November 10. If Texas were a separate country, it would rank 11th in the world for most cases.

Other states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California and Florida, have also seen numbers rise. CBS News reports 15 states saw the numbers of patients in hospital due to the virus double in the last month.

Some hospitals, such as in Idaho and Missouri, have had to turn patients away because they ran out of room.

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Germany will impose a new lockdown in November, but schools and shops will stay open, Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced.

She also called for a “major national effort” to fight coronavirus.

Social contacts will be limited to two households, and bars, catering and leisure facilities will shut.

France is also expected to announce new lockdown measures in the coming hours.

Covid daily deaths have risen above 500 there and officials say everything must be done so it “does not overwhelm us”.

EU special adviser Prof. Peter Piot has warned that some 1,000 Europeans are now dying every day from the virus.

Night curfews are in force in several countries, including for 46 million people in France. However, one minister has complained that they have failed to halt social interactions.

“[The curfew] has simply shifted them – instead of getting together at 21:00, people meet up at six,” the unnamed minister was quoted as saying.

The German government is keen to enable families and friends to meet at Christmas, but daily infections have soared to a new high of 14,964, with 85 more deaths reported in the latest 24-hour period.

Coronavirus: Germany Stages Three Pop Concerts to Study Covid-19 Risk

Coronavirus: Germany Protests Against Restrictions

A broad but limited German lockdown will now start on Monday, November 2, under terms agreed during a video conference involving Chancellor Merkel and the 16 state premiers:

  • Schools and kindergartens will remain open
  • Social contacts will be limited to two households with a maximum of 10 people and tourism will be halted
  • Bars will close and restaurants will be limited to takeaways
  • Tattoo and massage parlors will shut
  • Smaller companies badly hit by the lockdown will be reimbursed with up to 75% of their November 2019 takings

Chancellor Merkel and the state premiers are expected to reconvene on November 11 to reassess the situation

“We have to act now,” she explained, to avoid a national emergency.

In France, the defense council and cabinet were deciding the extent of the planned four-week lockdown on October 28, but reports suggest schools will stay open and online study will be encouraged for older children and universities.

The changes could kick in from October 30.

France recorded 523 deaths on October 27, including 235 in residential homes, and the hospital federation has appealed for as broad a lockdown as possible.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic there are less people on the roads across Europe. With less cars and traffic, drivers tend to drive more recklessly. There has been an increase in accidents on the continent. In response to this, cities around Europe are taking steps to improve safety when the roads are emptier and people are driving faster. While each city has their own problem with road safety, all of them are creating their own solutions. A universal issue that is contributing to accidents and making more dangerous roads is speeding. Below are some of the stats about speeding and how various European cities are dealing with it.

Empty Roads & Speeding

Whenever roads empty, the speeding increases for those still driving. Furthermore, according to the personal injury claims law firm McGinley Solicitors, speeds have gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic. While speeds have increased, the number of accidents have gone up. This goes for accidents with cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and more. Speeding isn’t the only problem, people are also drinking and driving and getting on the roads during inclement weather. Driving under the influence also increases the speed of drivers and the likelihood that an accident will occur. The problems are multi-faceted, but so are the solutions. Each country and city has their own way of dealing with speeding, driving under the influence, accidents, and deaths in their own way.

Berlin

Berlin is already known for being a forward-thinking and progressive city. It is a city of constant change and flux. It has been destroyed and rebuilt, evolving into a modern and accessible place to live. The city has responded to the increase in speed and accidents by temporarily widening the cycle lanes, allowing wider distance for cars and social distancing. The response is to create new space for pedestrians and bicyclists, but with so many vehicles in Germany some are not happy about the new roads.

40 percent less people are on the roads. The extra space and less traffic has provided safer situations for people who want to walk and cycle, but cars are also now having to avoid more pedestrians. Currently there aren’t really reliable numbers on how this will effect accidents between cars and pedestrians, but it seems clear cars are having to be more careful when they are driving these widened roads. It is a significant change, and not everyone likes change, but they are necessary in this ever-evolving pandemic.

Brussels

Brussels is another progressive city that has responded quickly to the changing roads during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city has decided to lower the speed limit inside their main drag, the inner ring road. The speed limit will be lowered to 20 kmh. Brussel’s center is shaped like a pentagon, which makes it ideal for pedestrians. This means that pedestrians have space to move around, and bicycles can more easily maneuver. Again this creates more foot-traffic for drivers to navigate, but with so few cars on the road it makes for a socially distanced and traversable intersection. There are also concerns about the center becoming a meeting place. With social distancing, Brussels is learning how best to use their city.

Milan

Milan is also taking measures to open up traffic to pedestrians while making the roads safer for drivers. They are doing their best to open up the center for walking, closing 35km streets to cars. Like other Italian cities, Milan is changing its environmental regulations to make cities livable and social-distanced. While many city centers like Milan are closing to car traffic and opening up for pedestrians, there are still less cars on the highways and people are speeding, causing an increase in accidents.

Paris

Many large cities around Europe have begun rolling out cycling lanes that give cars and pedestrians more room. The city aims to create 650 kilometers of lockdown cycle lanes. This will not only provide space for social distancing, it will help commuters and others who are taking a ride for exercise. With fewer cars on the streets of the French capital, it provides a more regulated system of streets where drivers have to be careful with pedestrians around. This system, while it is becoming common, is especially suited to French society.

European cities around the continent are adapting to the new streets that have less cars and more pedestrians on them. Everyone is adapting to social distancing with less people on the roads and more people trying to get out of the house and other closed spaces. We all can learn how to adapt our cities like the ones above.

Image source: Getty Images

President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden clashed over Covid-19 and race while trading corruption charges, in their final live TV debate which took place on Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee.

The first debate was a chaotic, insult-filled exchange between the two candidates. But on October 22, the personal attacks were (mostly) out – instead audiences got the chance to hear some of what Biden and Trump had to offer to Americans.

The muted mics probably helped to cool temperatures and the moderator, Kristen Welker, has been celebrated for encouraging a higher standard of debate.

With arguments on coronavirus, race, climate change and corruption, both candidates made it clear how different their visions for the US were.

On the pandemic, Joe Biden would not rule out more lockdowns, while President Trump insisted it was time to reopen the US.

Donald Trump cited unsubstantiated claims Joe Biden personally profited from his son’s business dealings. The Democrat brought up President Trump’s opaque taxes.

Joe Biden has a solid lead with 11 days to go until the presidential election.

However, winning the most votes does not always win the election, and the margin is narrower in a handful of states that could decide the race either way.

More than 47 million people have already cast their ballots in a voting surge driven by the pandemic.

This is already more than voted before polling day in the 2016 election. There are about 230 million eligible voters in total.

In snap polls – from CNN, Data Progress and US Politics – most respondents said Joe Biden had won the debate by a margin of more than 50% to about 40%.

The final debate was a less acrimonious and more substantive affair than the pair’s previous showdown on September 29, which devolved into insults and name-calling.

Following that political brawl, debate organizers this time muted microphones during the candidates’ opening statements on each topic to minimize disruption.

However, the 90-minute debate, moderated by NBC’s Kristen Welker, was the scene of plenty of personal attacks between the opponents, whose mutual dislike was palpable.

White House 2020: States Break Early Voting Records

Second Presidential Debate: President Trump Refuses to Take Part in Virtual Debate

In individual closing argument to voters, they offered starkly different visions for the nation on everything from shutting down the US to tackle coronavirus, to shutting down the fossil fuel industry to confront climate change.

Nowhere was the distinction between the two candidates more apparent than in their approach to the pandemic.

Asked about his support for more lockdowns if the scientists recommended it, Joe Biden, a Democrat, did not rule it out.

Donald Trump, a Republican, said it was wrong to inflict further damage on the economy because of an infection from which most people recover.

“This is a massive country with a massive economy,” said the president.

“People are losing their jobs, they’re committing suicide. There’s depression, alcohol, drugs at a level nobody’s ever seen before.”

Donald Trump, 74, declared that the virus was “going away” and that a vaccine would be ready by the end of the year, while Joe Biden, 77, warned the nation was heading towards “a dark winter”.

President Trump said: “We’re learning to live with it.”

Joe Biden countered: “Come on. We’re dying with it.”

He laid blame for the 220,000-plus American deaths as a consequence of the pandemic at President Trump’s door.

“Anyone who’s responsible for that many deaths should not remain president of the United States of America,” he said.

During a back-and-forth on race relations, President Trump said: “I am the least racist person in this room.”

He brought up the 1994 crime bill that Joe Biden helped draft and which Black Lives Matter blames for the mass incarceration of African Americans.

However, Joe Biden said Donald Trump was “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire”.

He added: “This guy is a [racial] dog whistle about as big as a fog horn.”

President Trump brought up purported leaked emails from Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, about his business dealings in China.

However, Joe Biden denied the president’s unfounded insinuation that the former US vice-president somehow had a stake in the ventures.

“I think you owe an explanation to the American people,” said President Trump.

Joe Biden said: “I have not taken a single penny from any country whatsoever. Ever.”

He referred to the New York Times recently reporting that President Trump had a bank account in China and paid $188,561 in taxes from 2013-15 to the country, compared with $750 in US federal taxes that the newspaper said he had paid in 2016-2017 when he became president.

President Trump said: “I have many bank accounts and they’re all listed and they’re all over the place.

“I mean, I was a businessman doing business.”

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Image source: Getty Images

Joe Biden has criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of Covid-19, while courting elderly voters in the key battleground state of Florida.

The Democratic presidential nominee told them that the president saw seniors, who have been more at risk in the pandemic, as “expendable”.

There are sharp policy differences between the two candidates on Covid-19.

In Pennsylvania, President Trump told thousands of supporters he felt like “Superman” after his Covid treatment.

He tested positive for the virus on October 1, spent three nights in hospital and was cleared by doctors to return to the campaign trail at the weekend, holding his first rally in Florida on October 12.

Battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania are crucial for gathering the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidential election, which is not determined by a simple count of votes nationwide.

Opinion polls suggest Joe Biden has a 10-point advantage over Donald Trump nationally, but his lead in some key states is narrower. In Florida, the Democrat is 3.7 percentage points ahead, according to an average of polls collated by Real Clear Politics.

Second Presidential Debate: President Trump Refuses to Take Part in Virtual Debate

VP Debate 2020: Kamala Harris and Mike Pence Clash over Coronavirus Pandemic

Presidential Debate 2020: Donald Trump and Joe Biden Clash in Bitter Debate

President Trump narrowly won Florida in 2016 in a result buoyed by senior voters. But the latest polls suggest a shift away from the Republican among them this time around.

Joe Biden spoke to a group of people at a community centre for seniors in southern Florida, with social distancing measures in place.

The event was in stark contrast to the president’s mass rally on Monday in Florida.

The Democratic candidate accused the president of dismissing the threat that coronavirus posed to senior citizens.

He said: “You’re expendable, you’re forgettable, you’re virtually nobody. That’s how he sees seniors. That’s how he sees you.”

The “only senior Donald Trump seems to care about” is himself, he added.

Joe Biden also criticized President Trump for holding “super-spreader parties with Republicans hugging each other without concern of the consequences”, while senior citizens couldn’t see their grandchildren. A recent White House event for the Supreme Court nominee led to several attendees testing positive for Covid.

Introducing Joe Biden at the Florida event, congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said it was voters aged 65 or over who would “swing elections in the Sunshine State”.

Joe Biden, 77, and Donald Trump, 74, are the two oldest candidates to contest a US presidential election.

However, President Trump has regularly mocked Joe Biden as a senior citizen who lacks energy and is “sleepy”. On October 13, the president tweeted a doctored image of Joe Biden as a wheelchair-user and the words “Biden for Resident”, implying a nursing home.

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Image source Flickr

President Donald Trump’s decision to greet supporters in a drive-past outside the hospital where he is being treated for Covid-19 has been widely questioned by medical experts.

There are concerns the president, who wore a mask, may have endangered Secret Service staff inside the car.

However, White House spokesperson Judd Deere said the trip on October 4 had been “cleared by the medical team as safe”.

Questions remain over the seriousness of President Trump’s illness after conflicting statements over the weekend.

Donald Trump has been in hospital since October 2, after he announced hours earlier he had tested positive for the virus.

Covid-19 has infected n

Nearly 7.4 million have been infected in the US and nearly 210,000 people died across the country, according to Johns Hopkins University.

President Trump’s diagnosis has upended his election campaign, as he faces Democratic challenger Joe Biden on November 3.

A growing number of people around the president, including First Lady Melania Trump, senior aides and Republican senators, have tested positive with the virus.

President Trump waved to well-wishers from behind the glass of a sealed car after tweeting that he would leave Walter Reed hospital, near Washington, to pay a “surprise visit” to “patriots” outside. Inside the car, at least two people could be seen wearing protective gear in the front seats, with President Trump sat in the back.

Experts say Donald Trump’s short car trip broke public health advice to quarantine when seeking treatment for the virus, and may have put Secret Service agents inside the vehicle at risk of infection.

“That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of Covid-19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures,” tweeted Dr James Philips, a doctor at the same hospital where the president is being treated.

Those inside the president’s car would now need to quarantine for 14 days, he said.

President Trump Flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center

President Trump and First Lady Test Positive for Covid-19

Coronavirus: President Trump Denies Downplaying Seriousness of Covid-19

Democrats have also criticized the trip, with House of Representatives Hakeem Jeffries tweeting: “We need leadership. Not photo ops.”

However, the White House’s Judd Deere defended the move, saying “appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it, including PPE [personal protective equipment]”. Meanwhile, NBC News reports that the first lady, who has remained at the White House with mild symptoms, decided against visiting her husband in hospital because of the risks to staff.

“She has Covid,” an unnamed official told NBC on October 3.

“That would expose the agents who would drive her there and the medical staff who would walk her up to him.”

Over the weekend it emerged President Trump’s condition was more serious than previously reported when he went to hospital on October 2.

The White House had said the president was experiencing “mild symptoms” of Covid-19, but then it was confirmed that he had received extra oxygen after his levels dipped twice in two days.

He was also given the steroid dexamethasone, which is normally reserved for serious cases, according to experts.

On October 4, White House Physician Dr. Sean Conley addressed widespread confusion over the state of President Trump’s health, after conflicting accounts from him and the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

Dr. Sean Conley had offered an upbeat prognosis on October 3, which was later contradicted by Mark Meadows who said the president’s vital signs the previous 24 hours had been “very concerning”.

Dr. Conley told reporters on October 4: “I was trying to reflect an upbeat attitude of the team and the president about the course his illness has had.

“I didn’t want to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.”

There is skepticism over the prospect – raised by doctors earlier – that President Trump could leave hospital as early as October 5.