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tv   BBC News  BBC News  December 31, 2021 3:00pm-3:31pm GMT

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this is bbc news broadacsting to viewers in the uk and around the world, i'm martine croxall. our top stories... australia has welcomed in 2022 — with a firework display in sydney harbour. but around the world many celebrations are cancelled or scaled back due to concerns over covid infections. and celebrations are underway in north korea — this is the scene in pyongyang. china is attempting to stick to a zero covid strategy ahead of its lunar new year celebrations and the beijing winter olympics. one in 30 people in the uk were estimated to have tested positive for covid heading into christmas — a new record high for infections. new data suggests the risk of hospitalisation with the omicron coronavirus variant is about one—third that
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of the delta variant. the british study also showed that vaccines can work well against omicron, reducing the need for hospital treatment. wildfires rip through parts of colorado in the united states — destroying hundreds of homes — and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate the area. mourners in south africa have been paying their respects to the late archbishop desmond tutu. hello and welcome. before we move to today's news — let's go to pyongyang and that firework display by the taedong river. this is in the city's central square. north korea has yet to officially report any confirmed covid—19 cases, though analysts have questioned whether that is possible.
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two years of near—total isolation have had a severe impact on the country's economy — but as always, they are putting up an impressive show for the new year. not that we are showing that you right now. we are looking at pictures of the kim family. we can see the size of the crowd that has gathered, though. there was a firework display near the taedong river, which cuts through central pyongyang. maybe we will show you a bit more later. the flag is raising, but not the fireworks. as countries around the world welcome in 2022, many new year's eve celebrations have been cancelled or scaled back because of concern over covid infections. back because of concern london and paris are among the cities to have cancelled their usual public celebrations — and edinburgh's hogmany celebrations have also been called off. while most of us are looking
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forward to celebrating this new year's eve, it's a different story for nhs workers, with winter pressures intensifying, made worse by staff sickness. the staff that are at work will be caring for more patients, trying to do more to cover for their missing colleagues, working extra hours, starting early, finishing late. the pressure will be immense. staff absences are already leading to cancelled appointments and longer waiting times. now, new data shows more than 25,000 hospital staff in england were absent each day due to covid during the christmas week — a 42% increase on the previous seven days. at this time of year, we would normally expect around 5% of staff to be off sick, but this winter it's nearly double that and it's mainly down to covid. london has been the worst—hit, with some of the highest absences seen here at great ormond street hospital. in the week leading to christmas, new data by the office for national statistics suggests an estimated one in 15 people
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in london had covid — the highest in england. the uk also saw a new record high. scientists are warning there is real uncertainty about what the new year will bring. people currently who are very sadly dying of covid were probably infected on average something like 35 days ago, so, this was really before omicron started to transmit. it's therefore too early to say what the impact of omicron is going to be on the more severe end of the disease, and it's mostly been circulating in children, in people in contact with children, and it's now going to spread into older adults at much higher risk of severe disease. there are now calls for nhs workers to be prioritised for lateral flow tests to ease winter pressures. the government says the number of kits will triple by early next year after supply was recently described as patchy. some pharmacists, for example, didn't receive anything
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yesterday, so i have been asking around in terms of, like, if people have had their supply. some pharmacies received one box, some received two, but some received none. so, it's very patchy, it's inconsistent. if we are to meet the demand and follow the government guidelines, there's got to be better organisation around this. the key weapon aginst omicron is the boosterjab and governments in the uk say all eligible adults have now been offered one. though there have been reports of up to 40% of no—shows at some vaccination sites. whether this will be enough to protect the nhs, its staff and patients in the new year, is still unsure. anna collinson, bbc news. authorities in china are attempting to stick to a zero coronavirus strategy ahead of its lunar new year celebrations and the beijing winter olympics. the country's vice premier has visited the northern city of xi'an, where thirteen million people have been confined to their homes in one
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of the country's strictest lockdowns since the pandemic began. these images are from inside xi'an. sun chunlan told officials there to speed up testing and do more to isolate the close contacts of those found to be positive. more than 1,200 cases have been found in the city in the past few weeks. to tell us about whether this strategy is the best way to keep omicron at bay, i am joined now by dr xi chen, an expert in health policy at yale university. thanks forjoining us. by comparison with some of the numbers we have seenin with some of the numbers we have seen in other countries, china's infection numbers are quite small, so why are they taking this rather tough approach?— so why are they taking this rather tough approach? thanks for having me. china tough approach? thanks for having me- china has— tough approach? thanks for having me. china has been _ tough approach? thanks for having me. china has been maintaining i tough approach? thanks for having me. china has been maintaining a| me. china has been maintaining a zero tolerance policy for a long time, almost two years, so it is ramping up mass testing, quarantine, and the strict border controls, and although the case numbers are low,
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china has been worried about once it is opening up it will make the health system a very stressful. there is a concern about the ageing population and underlying and chronic conditions. it is a higher stakes now, with the high transmissibility of the delta and omicron variants, the worry is, if they open up, especially before the spring festival, before the major event, the winter olympics, it may get worse, so that is why the stakes are higher but they still think it is in the interests at least for the next couple of months to keep the virus at bay. to next couple of months to keep the virus at bay-— virus at bay. to what extent is the lockdown that _ virus at bay. to what extent is the lockdown that we _ virus at bay. to what extent is the lockdown that we have _ virus at bay. to what extent is the lockdown that we have seen - virus at bay. to what extent is the lockdown that we have seen in - virus at bay. to what extent is the i lockdown that we have seen in xi'an, a sign that the chinese authorities do not trust their vaccine to tackle
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the omicron variant?— do not trust their vaccine to tackle the omicron variant? indeed, that is a ma'or the omicron variant? indeed, that is a major concern _ the omicron variant? indeed, that is a major concern because _ the omicron variant? indeed, that is a major concern because china - the omicron variant? indeed, that is a major concern because china was i a major concern because china was getting the virus outbreak under control very early and even the testing of the vaccine was relying on other countries and different contacts, so there is very little real world data in china about how effective the vaccine is for the domestic transmission. in order to reopen, it is very important to gauge the real—world data for the efficacy and the safety of vaccines. how realistic is it for china, a huge country like china, to actually pursue a zero covid policy? it is becoming _ pursue a zero covid policy? it is becoming more _ pursue a zero covid policy? it 3 becoming more and more unsustainable but given that the stakes are even higher, and also it is the flu season and approaching the spring
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festival, and the data suggests that the virus is killing more people with the fatality rate much higher than the flow, especially for developing countries, and although the rate has declined it is still very worrisome for them to treat it as flu. ., ~' , , very worrisome for them to treat it as flu. ., ~ , , ., very worrisome for them to treat it asflu. ., ~ , , ., , as flu. how likely is it that people will have travel _ as flu. how likely is it that people will have travel restrictions - will have travel restrictions imposed? millions of people often move around the country to mark the new year. ., , , new year. indeed, that is very challenging- — new year. indeed, that is very challenging. some _ new year. indeed, that is very challenging. some local- new year. indeed, that is very - challenging. some local comments already, encouraging people to stay in their place to celebrate the spring festival and do not travel too much, and also the upcoming winter olympics, so the people and the audiences need to eat sleep and work and compete without leaving the
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place they live, and maybe have a bubble like environment, so it will be very much under control. for now, thanks forjoining _ be very much under control. for now, thanks forjoining us. _ be very much under control. for now, thanks forjoining us. my _ be very much under control. for now, thanks forjoining us. my pleasure. i the uk's medicines regulator has approved a new anti viral pill for covid. the drug company pfizer claims that when taken by high risk patients with mild to moderate symptoms, paxlovid reduces hospitalizations and deaths by 89%. the two active substances of paxlovid come as separate tablets that are packaged and taken together, twice a day by mouth, for five days. joe biden has warned vladimir putin that the us and its allies will �*respond decisively�* if russia invades ukraine. the two leaders held a telephone discussion for the second time in less than a month, amid concerns at the number of russian troops massing at the ukrainian border.
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a kremlin spokesperson said president putin had made it clear that new sanctions against russia would be a �*colossal mistake�*. katharine quinn—judge, a ukraine analyst at the international crisis group gave me her reaction on the rethoric coming from the kremlin and the white house. i think the international community should be very concerned. i think one could also say the international community should have been more concerned in the years leading up to this scare given that the number of russian troops, according to most estimates, massed around ukrainian borders is in fact not that much higher than troop numbers that ukranian officials have cited in the past few years when there has not been an international scare about the war in ukraine. this is a particularly scary time given that russia has issued a series of demands that it basically knows the west will not meet.
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as many have pointed out, there could be real reputational loss for putin in stepping back at this point. saying that i don�*t think that, all in all, that either side, either russia or ukraine would gain from an escalation at this point and i think there are saner heads in the kremlin that know that this is the case so i don�*t think that there will necessarily be an escalation but i think people should be concerned. what is the greater risk, allowing ukraine to be part of nato, in which case the nato allies would have to defend it or not allowing ukraine to become a member? i wouldn�*t place the choice so starkly. i think that not allowing ukraine to become a member is... there isn�*t a question of that. the more likely variant is simply ukraine will be issued noncommittal promises of the sort that it has been given
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for the past few decades and that it will remain in its kind of grey zone area that it is in now. i think that there are certainly risks to either course of action depending on how russia perceives the west�*s intent. given russia�*s views of ukraine it would be very hard for it to conceive of further cooperation between nato and ukraine as not being a threat to itself, but i think that at the same time there is possibly dialogue that could defuse russia�*s sense of concern. firefighters north of the us city of denver in colorado are battling what has quickly become the most destructive wildfire in the modern history of the state. at least 300 homes have been destroyed along with a hotel and a shopping centre. more than 32,000 people
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have had to evacuate, as well as patients and staff at one hospital. the us federal emergency management agency has released funds for disaster relief. louisa pilbeam reports. "get out while you can," was the message from rescue services in colorado. a state of emergency was declared as hundreds of homes were swallowed by flames and upwards of 30,000 residents were told to evacuate from the towns of superior and louisville near the rocky mountains. what are you taking with you? two kids, a dog, two cats and my husband! just saw some smoke at first and then itjust ended up - getting bigger and bigger and bigger as the wind i picked up. and pretty soon it was, like, the whole neighbourhood i was pretty much engulfed. taking to the roads, residents fleeing the flames. right now they�*re trying
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to evacuate as much as they can and trying to get people going back to the east. the governor of colorado has declared a state of emergency. with no warning, gusts ofioomph,110mph, can and have moved this fire down a football field in a matter of seconds. very little time to get out, very little time to even get the most important parts of your life. preliminarily, the reportsl were downed power lines, and we had deputies in the area who confirmed there _ were downed power lines. so, we believe that'sj what caused the fire. that assessment, and the actual determination of that will be - made for real and for final probably in the next - couple of days. it�*s winter in colorado, and experts say recent weather conditions are to blame. we are in an extreme drought in this part of the state here, because we haven�*t gotten much moisture, and so you add that
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with incredibly strong winds, like what we�*re seeing out there right now, and itjust makes an already bad situation worse in terms of fire crews trying to get a handle on the fire. those fire crews will welcome the news that snow is forecast in denver and eastern colorado in the coming hours, which it�*s hoped will help to control the fires. louisa pilbeam, bbc news. victims of ghislaine maxwell have been speaking of their relief at the guilty verdicts in her sex trafficking trial in new york. she now faces a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted for grooming underage girls to be abused by the disgraced financier, jeffrey epstein. herfamily are backing an appeal against her conviction. sanchia berg has the latest. they were painted in court as partners in crime. maxwell groomed the teenage girls, epstein abused them. he died in prison, now she faces decades behind bars, to the relief of their victims. we have a lot of work to do in this country in terms of holding people accountable
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and educating about things like grooming. i didn�*t know when i was 16, i had no idea, i had never heard that term and i didn�*t understand what was happening to me, this combination of being given gifts and being given positive attention and then also having this abuse and these boundary violations. ghislaine maxwell was found guilty on five of the six charges. it was a tightly focused case, thejury deliberated for a0 hours. some legal experts doubt an appeal will succeed, but that is the plan. her brother said the family challenge the victims�* version of events. no, i�*m not saying that they are lying. i mean, it may well be that they were victims ofjeffrey epstein. but i do not accept that they were victims of ghislaine. that�*s my position and that�*s also her position. the jury believed the victims. lawyers who represent them, and others who�*ve been abused, say the verdict will encourage people to come forward.
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i think one of the real fears that any victim in these high—profile cases has is that the actual perpetrator is going to be found not guilty. and what we will find i suspect is that now she has been found guilty, you may well find more people reporting matters to the met police. and then that's a matter for the met police. the spotlight falls now on others connected with maxwell and epstein. virginia giuffre says they made her have sex with prince andrew. he says he doesn�*t remember even meeting her. but she is suing him in a new york court. the latest hearing is expected next week. sanchia berg, bbc news. kenya�*s education minister, george magoha, says all gay and lesbian students should be barred from attending boarding schools. the often outspoken politician said they should be transferred to day schools to prevent them from influencing other boarders. rights groups have said they�*ll challenge any attempt to enforce the prohibition. gay sex in kenya is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
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our correspondent emmanuel igunza says the minister�*s comments were unexpected. it came out of the blue. the minister was speaking on the background on issues about indiscipline in secondary schools. there have been several incidences where schools have been burnt down over the last few months, and he was speaking in that context of indiscipline among students, and then he made this bombshell comment that those who are lgbtq should be banned from boarding schools, and he seems to insinuate that there is some sort of gay culture in boarding secondary schools, and he says that the students, once they are removed from school, they will not be able to influence other students. these are quite controversial comments that he has made because if you consider the region
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where kenya is, the neighbouring countries, uganda, tanzania, ethiopia, somalia, kenya is quite a tolerant country in terms of the rights of the lgbtq community, so this has caused quite a big uproar. the body of the late archbishop desmond tutu, who died in south africa last sunday, is lying in state in his former cape town parish for a second day, before his funeral on new year�*s day. in accordance with his wishes, the former anti—apartheid leader has been given the cheapest coffin available. earlier, we spoke to our south africa correspondent, nomsa maseko. thousands of people have been flocking to the st george�*s cathedral to file past the body of archbishop desmond tutu. his remains arrived earlier today, this morning, accompanied by two of his daughters. what we know so far is that
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just over 2,000 people have now filed past the archbishop�*s body to pay their last respects. we know as well that the government and the family are now finalising the programme for the funeral tomorrow. it�*s going to be a state funeral, it�*s expected to start at ten o�*clock local time with guests possibly arriving from eight o�*clock. people have been speaking fondly about archbishop desmond tutu, even making reference to the fact that the coffin chosen is a very simple pine wood coffin, in exactly the accordance of the archbishop, who said he does not want any ostentatious or lavish spending for his funeral, also saying that he does not want a military parade, and also does not want any pomp and ceremony. he just wants one bouquet of carnations on top of the coffin as the funeral continues tomorrow. nomsa maseko, there. the dutch government has
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revealed a $28 billion plan to radically cut the number of livestock in the country as it struggles to contain an overload of animal manure. the netherlands is the world�*s second biggest agricultural exporter but is under pressure to reduce harmful emissions produced by livetsock such as methane. anna holligan reports. dutch beef feeds the planet but it is costing the earth. the country�*s cattle cause 70% of all methane emissions and the agricultural industry is the netherlands�* biggest source of nitrogen pollution. geertjian wants his business to be sustainable. i am not a farmer who wants to take down the nature around us. no, i want to farm with nature. i�*m a farmer with nature so i�*m the solution, give me some tools so i can be the solution for multiple problems. and that is what we are missing at the moment, the tools. we were the pride
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of the nation. but now, we are the problem of the nation. the dutch government�*s plan includes paying livestock farmers to relocate or leave the industry altogether and helping those who remain to shift to more extensive rather than intensive farming methods. methane is a very important greenhouse gas and we really should try to reduce it. here, in leeuwarden, they are experimenting with technology that could cut those harmful gases. here is where we measure the feed intake of our cows, in those blue bins. each cow is recognised... the researchers found that simply stopping the feed can reduce dangerous gases by 15%, basically by making the cows burp less. because the diet makes a whole lot of difference in terms of how methane
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is being produced by the cow. back in the hague, the future of farming is the source of frothy political debate. some parties argue fundamental shifts are essential. we are like europe�*s butchers and farmers are very upset, which is understandable, but it is also the result of decades of policies that pushed for intensive agriculture without looking at really what the impact was on environments, on climate, but also on the farmers themselves. could the climate crisis convince the dutch to reduce their agricultural output? the current practices are completely out of balance with climate and with nature, and we really need to transform our agriculture sector which means that we need to reduce the number of livestock and we need to ensure that we go towards much more smaller scale practices. farming groups say they will only accept voluntary measures and not forced removals and need time to cut emissions with technological solutions.
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ultimately, less intensive farming may mean a little less milk and more expensive meat — a price not everyone is prepared to pay for a less polluted planet. anna holligan, bbc news, leeuwarden. let�*s end the programme on countries welcoming in the new year. here injapan events have been toned down. celebrations were banned in tokyo�*s glittering shibuya entertainment district, but many across the country gathered in temples and shrines to mark the new year. prime minister fumio kishida took to youtube to urge people to wear masks and limit numbers at parties. australia has marked the start of 2022 with spectacular fireworks displays in sydney and melbourne. the sydney harbour bridge was bathed in colours to recognise the efforts of key workers during the pandemic.
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the celebrations are going ahead despite a new surge in coronavirus infections in australia on friday to let�*s wish you all a happy new year. good afternoon, it�*s 15:30pm and here�*s your latest sports news. sunday�*s premier league match between southampton and newcastle at st mary�*s stadium has been postponed due to ongoing covid—i9 cases and injuries in the newcastle squad. eddie howe�*s men drew 1—1 with manchester united last monday but did not have the required number of players available for yesterday�*s scheduled game with everton, and that�*s still the case, forcing sunday�*s game to be called off. chelsea�*s match with liverpool on sunday is one of eight games still on over the next three days. butjurgen klopp is expecting to lose three players who are waiting for pcr results which he fears will be positive. he�*s worried things could get worse
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between now and sunday afternoon. has felt like a lottery in the morning, when you stand there and wait for the result. it is pretty much day by day, always one case, and today another one, and we have got to wait. the others are not even in yet so we have to wait, but in this moment, probably not, but we don�*t know how we will look in a few hours. thomas tuchel has responded to striker romelu lukaku�*s comments in an interview in which he said he was "not happy" with his situation at chelsea. it�*s understood the striker spoke three weeks ago, but it�*s not gone down well with his boss. i don�*t like it, of course, because it brings noise that we don�*t need and is not helpful but on the other side we don�*t want to make more out of it and it actually is. you know very well how it is, it is very easy
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to take lines out of context. it is very easy to shorten lines, make headlines, and then later realise that it�*s not so bad and may not what he meant. but let�*s be honest, we don�*t like it, i don�*t like it, because it is a noise that we don�*t need. we need a calm environment and focus and it does not help. manchester city defender joao cancelo says he suffered cuts to the face after attempting to fight off a gang of robbers at his home. cancelo posted an image of his injuries on instagram, claiming "four cowards" took all his jewellery and left him with a facial injury. former england all—rounder adam hollioake has been drafted into england�*s coaching
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team for the fourth test which starts in sydney on tuesday evening uk time. england are without four coaches who are isolating, including head coach chris silverwood. australia batter travis head has tested positive for covid and will miss the test. he�*ll remain in melbourne to isolate for seven days in line with health requirements. head is australia�*s leading run—scorer in the series with 248 runs at an average of 62. there are doubts about whether cricket�*s twenty20 big bash league in australia can continue following multiple positive covid cases. today�*s adelaide strikers v sydney thunder game did go ahead, despite four thunder players testing positive. thunder made 187—3 after winning the toss and batting. the strikers were never really in the hunt and eventually lost by 22 runs. away from that match, seven players and eight support staff
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at the melbourne stars have tested positive, putting their next match onjanuary 2nd in serious doubt. we�*ll have more sport for you later on the bbc news channel. this is bbc news, the headlines... australia has welcomed in 2022 with a firework display in sydney harbour. but around the world, many new year�*s celebrations are cancelled or scaled back due to concerns over covid infections. one in 30 people in the uk were estimated to have tested positive for covid heading into christmas — a new record high for infections. new data suggests the risk of hospitalisation with the omicron coronavirus variant is about one third that of the delta variant. the british study also showed that vaccines can work well against omicron, reducing the need for hospital treatment. now on bbc news, curtain up on coventry. this summer, coventry�*s streets
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were transformed into a giant stage as it finally got to celebrate

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