Top story: Pfizer trials delivery procedures in US
Good morning – Warren Murray inoculating you against ignorance of the news this morning.
Hopes are rising for a Covid jab to end the pandemic in the UK after a second company, Moderna, confirmed over 90% effectiveness of its vaccine in trials. The UK has secured 40m doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, and has rushed to reserve 5m of Moderna’s, but Britain has the most riding on the inoculation being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, of which it has reserved 100m doses. A source at the Department of Health and Social Care said the results from the Oxford vaccine trials were “imminent” and it could be one of the first to be rolled out.
Pfizer has launched a pilot delivery programme for its experimental Covid-19 vaccine in four US states, as it seeks to address distribution problems posed by its ultra-cold storage requirements. It has to be shipped and stored at -70C, compared with 2-8C for most other vaccines. California’s governor has pulled the “emergency brake” on reopening efforts amid a surge in cases. South Korea is to tighten its pandemic measures after health authorities reported more than 200 new infections for the fourth day in a row. Follow further developments at our global live blog.
‘Looks amazing’ – The first fully crewed SpaceX Dragon capsule has just docked with the international space station. The Crew Dragon dubbed Resilience arrived after a 27-hour automated flight from Nasa’s Kennedy space centre in Florida carrying Commander Mike Hopkins and his crew – Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi.
During docking preparations the crew beamed down views of New Zealand and the Pacific 250 miles below. “Looks amazing,” Mission Control radioed from SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California. “It looks amazing from up here, too,” Hopkins replied. After lengthy disembarking procedures the four astronauts exchanged hugs and laughed with those already on board. The quartet will remain at the ISS until replacements arrive on another Dragon capsule in April. It is the first full mission involving a privately owned “human-rated” spacecraft, and the first ever carrying four people into space.
Devolution ‘disaster’ – Politicians across the spectrum have reacted angrily after Boris Johnson dismissed Scottish devolution as “a disaster north of the border” and “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”. No 10 later tried to spin the remark – made during a Zoom call with around 60 northern Conservative MPs – as a criticism of Blair’s failure to foresee the rise of separatists in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, responded on Twitter saying: “Worth bookmarking these PM comments for the next time Tories say they’re not a threat to the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or, even more incredibly, that they support devolving more powers. The only way to protect & strengthen @ScotParl is with independence.” Ian Murray, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Scotland, insisted that “devolution is one of Labour’s proudest achievements”.
‘Stunned’ – The Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, has said that Senator Lindsey Graham asked whether it was possible to invalidate legally cast ballots after Donald Trump was narrowly defeated in the state. Raffensperger was “stunned” by the question from his fellow Republican, the Washington Post has reported. Graham has said he was only asking about how signatures are verified for absentee ballots. The president-elect, Joe Biden, has warned that “more people may die” in the pandemic because of Trump’s refusal to cooperate in the transition to a new administration. In today’s Guardian long read, Gary Younge traces Trump’s desperate attempts to stop black and minority votes.
Flea killer poisons rivers – The highly toxic insecticides fipronil and imidacloprid, used on cats and dogs to kill fleas, are poisoning rivers across England, a study has revealed. The discovery is “extremely concerning” for water insects, and the fish and birds that depend on them, say University of Sussex scientists. Both substances have been banned on farms for some years, but there are 66 licensed veterinary products containing fipronil and 21 containing imidacloprid in the UK, many of which are sold without prescriptions. There are about 10m dogs and 11m cats in the UK and many pets are treated every month whether it is needed or not. Both are nerve agents that get washed into sewers and then waterways where they break down into even more toxic substances. “There isn’t a regulatory process for this particular risk and clearly there needs to be,” said Prof Dave Goulson, a member of the study.
Stopes rebrand – The Marie Stopes International (MSI) family planning clinics worldwide are to change their name to MSI Reproductive Choices because of their founder’s association with the eugenics movement. Among her writings, the author and women’s rights campaigner of the early to mid-20th century called for new laws that allowed the “hopelessly rotten and racially diseased” to be sterilised and wrote fiercely against interracial marriage. Stopes opened Britain’s first clinic offering birth control advice to married women in 1921, in the face of fierce opposition from the Catholic church and the male-dominated medical establishment.
Today in Focus podcast: What more does Trump need?
The outgoing US president is continuing to dispute the result of the US election and, far from offering his concession, is instead claiming victory. Lawrence Douglas describes what Trump’s behaviour means for the country.
Lunchtime read: Hamilton from F1 to George Floyd
Lewis Hamilton has just been named Britain’s most influential black person, in a year in which he equalled the record of seven F1 world championships. Many believe he is the greatest driver of all time – and this year, more than ever, he has been leading the fight against racism.
Gareth Southgate wants a rethink on the Premier League’s limit of three substitutions per side per match as he fears players could suffer serious injury in the hectic fixture schedule caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Lewis Hamilton has been named as the most influential black person in Britain after a year in which he combined record-breaking achievements on the track with raising awareness of racial injustice. Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are on the cusp of owning Wrexham after fans voted overwhelmingly in support of their proposed takeover.
Ireland have been dealt a major blow after Johnny Sexton was ruled out of Saturday’s match against England with a hamstring injury, but Billy Burns says there will be no split loyalties if he gets the nod at fly-half against the country he used to represent. Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of a sixth ATP Finals title to match the absent Roger Federer got off to a low-key start against Diego Schwartzman, his 6-3, 6-2 victory in the opening round-robin match of the Tokyo 1970 Group arriving with a smattering of applause from family and friends.
Asian shares have risen after the Dow Jones hit a record high on the back of the latest vaccine news. The pound is worth $1.321 and €1.114 while the FTSE is trending downwards by 20-30 points ahead of the open.
The Guardian splashes with “Scramble for vaccines amid fears Britain may miss out on supplies”. Our print edition’s front page also has “Concerns raised over No 10 Covid measures” after an infectious mingle led to Boris Johnson going into self-isolation again. The i says “New vaccine hope for end to pandemic” and the Metro has a Yosserish “Gizza jab mate”, saying Britain is “back of the queue” for the Moderna vaccine.
The Times says “Vaccination rescue plan is given a fresh boost” while the FT’s effort is a similar staid “Moderna vaccine’s 94% efficacy in trial boosts hope for Covid battle”. The Telegraph has “Lockdown looms over Christmas” accompanied by a picture of a finger-wagging Matt Hancock at the Covid briefing podium.
The Mail leads with “You CAN hold Granny’s hand at Christmas” – about care home visiting arrangements while the Mirror reports “Families given Xmas care home hope”. The Express has “Evicted!”, saying an ex-nurse aged 78 is having to leave her aged care home because of an “unauthorised window visit” by her daughter.
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