That's it for our live coverage today. It was brought to you by our teams from the UK and US. The writers were Joshua Cheetham, Francesca Gillett, Lauren Turner, Sophie Williams and Holly Honderich, and the editors were Helier Cheung and Holly Wallis.
- Copyright: Reuters
Thanks for joining us as we've brought you the latest coronavirus news. Here's a reminder of some of the main headlines of the day from the UK.
- Virus levels are falling across most of England, according to the Office for National Statistics' latest figures. In the week to 28 November, one in 105 people in England had the virus compared with one in 85 a week before
- Meanwhile, the R number for the UK has fallen to between 0.8 and 1 - the second week running it's been below 1. The R number measures virus reproduction rate, suggesting the epidemic is shrinking
- New national coronavirus restrictions in Wales will be in place from 18:00 GMT. The rules include a ban on pubs, restaurants and cafes serving alcohol on the premises
- Greater Manchester councils have become the latest to pause rapid testing for care home visitors over concerns they fail to detect enough infections. Data suggests the rapid kits miss about a third of the most infectious cases picked up by conventional lab tests
- The government is "absolutely confident" the UK will have 800,000 coronavirus vaccine doses by next week, when the vaccination programme starts, business secretary Alok Sharma has said. Some of the Pfizer/BioNTech doses have already arrived, with more expected by the end of the year
- Lidl will join other supermarkets to repay more than ?100m of business rates relief it received during the pandemic. The firm's UK boss said the company felt it was "the right thing to do"
- More than 500 sixth-form pupils at Methodist College in Belfast are to be sent home and taught online for the rest of the school term. The school took the decision after 35 positive cases of coronavirus among sixth-form pupils this week
- Copyright: EPA
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says he is pleased that progress on vaccines means "we can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel".
However, Tedros Adhanom adds the "WHO is concerned there is a growing perception that the Covid-19 pandemic is over".
"The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the Covid-19 virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers."
In other developments around the world today:
- Top US virologist Dr Anthony Fauci says he has accepted Biden's offer to serve as chief medical officer. On Friday he also apologised for saying the UK had "rushed" approving the Pfizer vaccine
- Bahrain has become the second country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use
- President-elect Joe Biden has said he will ask Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office to curb the spread of the virus
- Madrid has cancelled its New Year¡¯s Eve celebrations including the traditional event in Puerta del Sol Square where people eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight
- Several European countries have revealed their vaccine rollout plans
- Organisers of the Tokyo Olympics say that postponing the Games until next year will cost them an additional 294 billion yen ($2.8bn; ?2.1bn)
- Copyright: Facebook/Madison Hospital
Major Lee Wooten, a World War II veteran from Alabama, has recovered from Covid-19 and made it back home from the hospital just in time to celebrate his 104th birthday.
Madison Hospital in Madison, Alabama posted a video of Wooten - known as "Pop Pop" - being discharged from the hospital, his wheelchair decorated with balloons, as staff cheer and wave him on.
His granddaughter, Holly Wooten McDonald told the Associated Press that her grandfather, "their family's treasure", appears to be feeling better.
Wooten was drafted into the US Army in 1943 and served as a railroad carpenter stationed in Paris in WWII.
Bahrain has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use authorisation, becoming the second country to approve it after the UK, state media report.
The country¡¯s National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) announced the move on Friday, saying it had followed ¡°thorough analysis and review¡± of all available data.
Earlier this month Bahrain approved the use of the Sinopharm vaccine for frontline workers.
Dr Mariam Al Jalahma, CEO of NHRA said: ¡°The approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will add a further important layer to the Kingdom¡¯s national Covid-19 response, which has strongly prioritised protecting the health of all citizens and residents during the pandemic.¡±
Bahrain has recorded 341 deaths and 87,432 cases since the pandemic began.
- Copyright: Getty Images
A number of Royal Navy personnel have tested positive for coronavirus at its HMNB Clyde base, also known as Faslane, and are under medical supervision.
The Royal Navy said that those identified as close contacts are now isolating.
HMNB Clyde, on Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute, is the navy's base for nuclear submarines and hunter-killer submarines.
A spike of 96 positive cases were confirmed in the Argyll and Bute council area, where the base is located, today. This is much higher than the area's recent weekly number of positive cases.
After lots of uncertainty, the pantomime season has finally begun.
Venues in tiers one and two in England are now allowed to hold productions, with social distancing in place both on and off the stage.
Basil Brush and Debbie McGee had the honour of getting things under way at the Theatre Royal in Windsor. Our entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson went along.
- Copyright: Getty Images
And here are some of the other key developments in the US and Canada today:
- More than 170 staff members across three New Jersey hospitals have been infected with Covid-19, leaving gaps in an already strained healthcare system. The state has seen an increase in hospital admissions for four consecutive days.
- A top government official in Idaho who wrote an editorial criticising those who accept "handouts" is under scrutiny, after it emerged she accepted more than $300,000 (?222,600) in federal coronavirus relief.
- Canada is nearing 400,000 total infections, as federal and local governments prep for a January vaccine rollout
- In Quebec, holiday shoppers can expect to see a visible police presence in stores, as inspectors ensure that businesses are complying with social distancing guidelines. The province has already cancelled plans to allow Christmas gatherings
- And Brian Pallister, premier of Manitoba province, made a blunt plea last night, asking residents stay home over the holidays amid record-breaking daily death tolls. "Right now we need to save lives," he said, appearing to fight back tears. "If you don't think that Covid's real, right now, you're an idiot." He added: "I'm the guy who has to tell you to stay apart at Christmas... I'm the guy who's stealing Christmas to keep you safe."
World Service economics correspondent
The recovery in employment continued last month, after the heavy job losses in the first wave of the pandemic in the US.
According to new official data, the number of people with jobs rose by 245,000 last month and the unemployment rate declined to 6.7%.
But the job creation figure was less than expected and less than the previous month and is seen by economists as disappointing.Copyright: BBC
Almost 15m people said they were unable to work because their employer closed or lost business as a result of the pandemic.
Nearly four million others said they couldn¡¯t even look for work due to the pandemic.
The outlook for jobs in the near future is clouded by rising infections and official restrictions. But recent vaccine developments mean longer term labour market prospects are more upbeat.Copyright: BBC
- Copyright: Getty Images
Yesterday, we covered reports that cyber spies had targeted international organisations involved in the supply chain of coronavirus vaccines.
The American technology firm, IBM, said hackers had been trying to access the so-called "cold chain" - the delivery chain used to ensure vaccines are kept at the right temperature while being transported.
Dr Ian Levy, from the UK's National Cyber Security Centre, says his organisation is working to ensure vaccine delivery is as "protected as can be" from cyber attacks.
"In April we pivoted our work to better protect the health sector and so there is a massive community effort in protecting the health sector and the vaccine supply chain, all the way from research through to delivery and distribution," he tells the BBC.
He declined to say which states had been targeting vaccine efforts.
Another 16,298 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK, bringing the total to 1,690,432, according to new government figures.
There have been another 504 deaths, of people who had a positive test result within the previous 28 days. There have now been 60,617 deaths, under that measure.Copyright: BBCCopyright: BBC
- Copyright: Getty Images
Madrid has cancelled its New Year¡¯s Eve celebrations including the traditional event in Puerta del Sol Square where people eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight.
The event is incredibly popular and watched around the world.
The regional government announced the cancellation on Friday, where it also revealed the measures that will be in place during Christmas and New Year.
Christmas markets will have their capacity cut, while spectators at Christmas parades, usually held on 5 January, will have to be seated.
Earlier this week, Spain's government announced that travel between regions will only be allowed for those visiting family. Gatherings on December 24, 25 and January 1 are limited to 10 people.
Spain is one of the worst affected countries in Europe. More than 46,000 people have died and more than 1.6 million cases since the pandemic began.
Other European countries also have Christmas restrictions in place. Italy, for example, is banning travel between its regions from 21 December to 6 January.
We know that the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in the UK by Eurostar yesterday, and now Northern Ireland reports that it has received its first allocation.
Nearly 25,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were delivered to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Friday morning.
Health Minister Robin Swann said confirmation of which groups will get the Covid-19 vaccine first is expected next week.
It is thought the seven vaccination centres that have been earmarked, including leisure centres and hospitals, will be used as satellite centres in order to roll out the vaccine to those care homes which are located nearby.
Meanwhile, the NI business community has welcomed comments from the first minister that there will be no further Covid restrictions this side of Christmas.
Lockdown restrictions are currently under way in NI - but It has now been announced that they will be loosened from 00.01 GMT on Friday 11 December.
Non-essential retail and some parts of the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland can reopen.
BBC NewsCopyright: BBC
When Bethany Wakenshaw started her nursing course this year, she could ask for practical advice from her teachers in person as she practised CPR and other life support skills. But after coronavirus cases began to rise again across the UK, her classes moved online last month.
Despite the teaching staff's best efforts, she finds online learning frustrating.
"It's so hard to concentrate when you're in your own room because they can't see you," she says. "Even quickly checking your phone for five seconds can turn into being on your phone for 10 minutes."
Bethany is one of dozens of students who have taken to social media to vent their concerns ahead of all teaching having to move online by 9 December in England, ahead of the Christmas holidays. For students in Wales, all lectures went online yesterday.
For those who are struggling - whether at uni or elsewhere - we've put together five tips to get better at learning online, from sorting out your room to learning with mates. Read more here.
Some forms of PPE could be decontaminated to make them reusable in an emergency measure, scientists have found.
Cardiff University said some types of respirators could be effectively decontaminated in just 90 seconds by industrial-grade microwave ovens or using dry heat.
It is not a safe method to use at home, the research team warned.
Reporting their findings in the Journal of Hospital Infection, the study found that using an industrial-grade microwave oven, and a baby bottle steriliser containing water, could dramatically increase the number of respirators available to staff.
This could allow the reuse of some PPE when stocks are low.
Dr Joseph Varon believes he is fighting two wars. A war against coronavirus and a war against stupidity.
The Chief Medical Officer at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston went viral earlier this week when an image of him comforting an elderly patient ended up on social media.
The US is seeing a surge in the number of people entering hospital with Covid-19, and several states are concerned that health care facilities could soon be overwhelmed.
As coronavirus spread across the US last month, health officials urged people to refrain from travel to see friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday. But data shows that millions of Americans ignored these calls.
While air travel was much lower than in previous years, airports still reported some of their busiest days since the start of the pandemic. The US Transportation Security Administration said it had screened over one million passengers on several days during the holiday period.
Experts have warned the US could see "surge upon surge" of Covid-19 cases as a result, while the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned that even a small number of infected travellers could lead to hundreds of thousands of new infections.Copyright: BBC
Meanwhile vehicle travel surged around Thanksgiving, peaking at only around 5% less than last year, according to transport analytics firm Streetlight Data.
The company's founder, Laura Schewel, told the Associated Press that this showed "people were less willing to change their behaviour than any other day during the pandemic¡±.Copyright: BBC
Officials have made similar calls for people to avoid travel over Christmas and New Year period, as hospitalisation numbers soar to record highs.
- Copyright: Reuters
A partial lockdown is set to come into effect in Gaza on Saturday, with mosques, schools, universities and kindergartens set to close, amid a surge in cases.
High schools and nurseries will remain open, the interior ministry said in a statement.
Under the new measures, a night time curfew will also be in place. From Saturday, people will have to remain in their home from 18:30 until 08:00.
Shops will remain open, however they must close by 18:00.
On weekends, a full lockdown will be in place.
The territory's healthcare system is severely strained and ill-equipped as a result of conflict, blockade and a political rift with the rival West-Bank based Palestinian Authority.
Around 88% of hospital beds with ventilators for Covid-19 patients in critical condition are already occupied, the Gaza health ministry said on Wednesday night.Copyright: EPA
Earlier, we brought you the news that the R number for the UK had fallen slightly to between 0.8 and 1 - the second week running it's been below 1.
We've got more details here on what the R number is in different regions of the UK here:Copyright: BBC
Meanwhile, the growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between -3% and -1% for the UK as a whole.
That means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1% and 3% every day.
- Copyright: Nigel Demaline
Pauline Demaline was fit and healthy and only 56 years old when she fell ill with Covid-19 in March. But within days of going into hospital she had died.
She worked as a parish administrator at the Holy Trinity parish church in Skipton, North Yorkshire, and it may be here that she caught the virus, in the early days of the pandemic.
She and her husband, Nigel, were very careful. They didn't go out much and Nigel would do the shopping early in the day, when the shops were quiet. But Pauline had to go into work and would sometimes meet other parishioners - couples about to get married, for example, and their parents.
Now, Nigel has spoken about how the personal tragedy prompted him to volunteer for one of the many Covid vaccines in trials.