Thursday evening news briefing: Quarter ‘already immune to Covid-19’

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Quarter of people may already be immune to coronavirus

A quarter of people may already be immune to coronavirus even though many of them have never been infected, a new study by Public Health England suggests. Over the past few months, researchers have followed nearly 2,850 key workers from the police, fire and health services to gauge levels of immunity to the virus. They discovered that, by June, one in four had high levels of T-cells which recognised Covid, suggesting they had some level of protection against the virus – but nearly half had never been infected. Here is how. It comes as University of Oxford scientists expect to report results from the late-stage trials of their Covid-19 vaccine by Christmas, a key researcher said today. It also emerged that the Oxford vaccine produces a strong immune response in older adults. Here is what happens next with the trials.

Meanwhile, a Government scientific adviser has said family gatherings at Christmas will "throw fuel on the fire" of the pandemic, warning older people face "substantial risks". Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, said that the country was "on the cusp" of being able to vaccinate older populations and it would be "tragic" to throw away the gains made in suppressing coronavirus. Yet in this week’s Planet Normal podcast, former ERG chairman Steve Baker has warned a rebellion of MPs could be "enormous" if lockdown doesn’t end in December. Listen here.

Brexit talks derailed as EU negotiator tests positive

Downing Street is scrambling to prevent an unforeseen pause in Brexit talks  from derailing hopes of a last-minute trade deal . Michel Barnier revealed that the negotiations had been halted after a  member of his team tested positive  for coronavirus. It is not clear how long talks will be derailed or how many people will now have to self-isolate as a result. The two sides had been aiming to strike a barebones deal by next week – possibly as early as Monday – to allow time for the European Parliament to ratify any potential deal before the year-end deadline. Sir Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the powerful Liaison Committee of MPs, outlines why he thinks nothing has changed in the negotiations’ aim since the exit of the Vote Leave faction from Downing Street. Here is what a no-deal Brexit would mean for your pension and house prices.

‘Wagatha Christie’ libel case reaches High Court

Coleen Rooney’s allegations against Rebekah Vardy in a social media post are too serious to be called "Wag wars," a lawyer has told the High Court. In the first hearing for the high-profile libel case between the two footballer’s wives, lawyers representing Mrs Vardy, who is married to England striker Jamie Vardy, said she has "suffered widespread hostility and abuse" since being accused of leaking stories to the media. In a social media scandal swiftly dubbed "Wagatha Christie", Mrs Rooney accused Mrs Vardy in October last year of passing on stories about her private life to The Sun newspaper. Mrs Vardy, 38, has denied the accusations and is suing Mrs Rooney for damages for libel. Read on for the latest.

At a glance: Latest coronavirus headlines

  • Test delays | Holidaymakers travelling around Christmas warned
  • Travel woes | Foreign Office condemned for snubbing African nations
  • Football | West Brom’s trip to Man Utd hit as two players test positive
  • WHO warning | Virus ‘kills one person every 17 seconds in Europe’
  • High street crisis | 4,700 jobs at risk as Peacocks and Jaeger collapse

Also in the news: Today’s other headlines

Foreign aid | The Government will not be "abandoning the battlefield of international aid" to pay for a £24bn military war chest, the Defence Secretary has said. After the biggest financial boost to Britain’s armed forces since the Cold War, Ben Wallace said that where the money comes from is a matter for the Chancellor, but said that he remained committed to foreign aid. It came as Boris Johnson said the UK faces a "perilous" period for global security as he set out the £16.5bn increase in spending.

  • War crimes claims | Troops may have murdered Afghan prisoners
  • Abuse claims | Eton teacher ‘was warned over visits to boys’ rooms’
  • Duty of care | Children will need parent’s number for social media
  • PS5 launch day | Websites crash amid surge of orders and review
  • Fairytale of New York | BBC Radio 1 will not play original version

Around the world: McCann suspect’s ‘altercation’

The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann allegedly suffered two broken ribs when he fell during an altercation with court officials after he was refused permission to smoke. Christian Brückner was taken to hospital for treatment following the incident in the northern German city of Braunschweig on Monday. His lawyers have filed a criminal complaint against court officials over the incident, but the full details of what took place have only now begun to emerge.

Thursday interview

‘Fun guy Andy Farrell is right man for Ireland’


Paul O’Connell meets his Vodafone Avatar at the Vodafone launch of Digital Lions

Irish great Paul O’Connell is backing the former England defence coach to lead the men in green to great heights once more, he tells Kate Rowan

Read the full interview

Comment and analysis

  • Robin Aitken | BBC faces reckoning in Lord Dyson led Bashir inquiry
  • Guy de la Bédoyère | Ancestors would be baffled by Covid response
  • Rowan Pelling | If lockdown taught us anything it’s the joy of fresh air
  • Juliet Samuel | Who really runs Labour: Starmer or the Left?
  • Mark Brookso | International Men’s Day is a counter-culture success

You Are Not Alone: Getting you through lockdown

  • Unlock long haul | How the Caribbean is opening up to tourism, and where you can go
  • ‘Full sex’ | The inconvenient truth about after-dinner bonking
  • Jazz 625 returns | Why TV is taking jazz seriously again
  • Business and money briefing

    Winter crisis | More than one-third of Britain’s hospitality industry could collapse over winter as England’s second lockdown combined with the Welsh "circuit-breaker" and restrictions in Scotland and Northern Ireland combine to deal a fatal blow to businesses. Read on for details.

    • $8bn debt pile | Cineworld mulls restructuring to close sites
    • Green revolution | How the petrol car ban will affect different drivers
    • On top of markets | Live stocks and shares updates 24 hours a day

    Sport briefing

    England vs Ireland | Sam Underhill spoiling and Jonathan Joseph free to roam? Charlie Morgan analyses what to expect when England clash with Ireland in the Autumn Nations Cup this weekend. Read on for details of the England line-up for the match at Twickenham.

    • Saving sport | Rugby Union to receive almost half of bailout
    • Golf | Tiger Woods plans to play in PGA Tour event with son, 11
    • Special report | Why Mourinho’s Spurs marriage is now real romance

    Tonight’s TV  

    Lockdown 1.0 Following the Science?, BBC Two, 9pm | Richard Cookson’s documentary offers an explosive first draft of the inevitable examination into the Government’s response to the pandemic. Read on for more.

    And finally… for this evening’s downtime

    The Crown and the Falklands | The Crown suggests that an odd fracas on South Georgia spiralled into a full-scale military conflict. Was the Falklands War really started by a group of scrap-metal merchants? Ed Power reveals why the truth is more opaque.

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