Covid live news: US sets global record of 1m daily cases; staff absence causing crisis, say NHS trusts

1.14am EST01:14

The toll of reporting on Covid in China

A report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released last month detailed a worsening “nightmare” for journalists under the rule of Xi Jinping, with 128 known to be behind bars or disappeared. More than 70 are Uyghur journalists, and at least 10 people were arrested for reporting on the Covid outbreak and lockdown in Wuhan.

Cedric Alviari, RSF’s east Asia bureau director, said the 128 detained journalists and press freedom defenders is the biggest count in five years. It includes 71 Uyghur journalists, and at least 10 who face impending death if not immediately released, according to RSF.

Alviari said the crackdown is driven by Xi, who has “declared a war on independent journalism” after tightening controls on traditional media.

Everything he and the CCP have been doing over the past eight years … has been to suppress independent voices.

The Chinese people, like every person on earth, crave information on what’s happening around them.”

Read the full story from our reporter Helen Davidson here.

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US sets global record of 1m daily Covid cases

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Two of New Zealand’s most prominent Covid experts are taking legal action against their employer, the University of Auckland, over what they say is its failure to respond adequately to “harassment from a small but venomous sector of the public” that is becoming “more extreme”.

Siouxsie Wiles, an associate professor of medical science, and Shaun Hendy, a professor of physics, have filed separate complaints to the Employment Relations Authority, which last week ruled that they should proceed directly to the Employment Court due to the “high public interest” in their Covid commentary.

According to the ruling, the scientists say that as a result of their work they have “suffered vitriolic, unpleasant, and deeply personalised threats and harassment” via email, social media and video sharing platforms which has had a “detrimental impact” on their physical safety as well as their mental health.

Read the full story here.

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The Philippines to expand Covid restrictions in Manila

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Hong Kong expands vaccine bubble

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The number of new infections in Tokyo and other parts of Japan has edged up in recent days, although the numbers pale beside those being reported in the US, Britain and parts of Europe.

They are also lower than those that have previously prompted the government to call states of emergency that include restrictions on restaurant and bar opening hours.

There is concern, however, over a sharp rise in cases in Okinawa, home to more than half the 47,000 US troops in Japan. The prefecture’s government reported 130 new cases on Monday, the first time they had exceeded 100 since late September, the Kyodo news agency said.

Local officials attributed the rise in cases among the civilian community to recent outbreaks at US military bases, according to Kyodo, including a record 235 new cases among American servicemen and women reported on New Year’s Day.

US military forces on the island have been criticised for sharing only patchy information about the outbreaks, while residents have complained that unmasked troops are still leaving their bases and mingling with local people.

The Okinawa governor, Denny Tamaki, blamed the US military for allowing the Omicron variant to spill over into the civilian population.

I am outraged because the sharp increase in the number of infections among US military personnel suggests that their management is insufficient,” Tamaki told reporters at the weekend.

9.39pm EST21:39

Tokyo has reported more than 100 new cases of Covid-19 for the first time in almost three months, while the governor of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa has blasted the US military for failing to contain a recent outbreak that has since spread to the civilian community.

Tokyo confirmed 103 new infections on Monday – up from 84 the previous day – amid concern that the highly transmissible Omicron variant is fuelling a rebound in cases in the Japanese capital. After infections soared to over 5,000 a day in the summer, new cases had stayed below 100 since 9 October.

The city’s governor, Yuriko Koike said 25 people had been confirmed to be infected with the Omicron strain, including 11 who had no recent history of overseas travel.

Japan imposed strict border control measures late last year after Omicron was first identified in South Africa.

A woman wears a face mask during a visit to the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa ahead of the upcoming New Year.

A woman wears a face mask during a visit to the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa ahead of the upcoming New Year. Photograph: Rodrigo Reyes Marin/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

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Thousands of US schools delay opening

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