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tv   BBC News  BBC News  December 23, 2021 4:00am-4:31am GMT

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this is bbc news. our top stories: new studies suggest the omicron variant, though highly contagious, could be milder, with fewer people needing hospital treatment compared to previous covid variants. but as the uk records over 100,000 new cases for the first time, there are warnings that the sheer number of infections could still overwhelm health services. as covid cases rise in china, more than 13 million people in the city of xi'an are told to stay at home. hong kong's pillar of shame statue commemorating the tiananmen square massacre is dismantled. we hear from the work's danish sculptor. and celebrating a break from pandemic gloom in spain as thousands win a share
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of the world's richest lottery draw, el gordo, or �*the fat one�*. welcome to our viewers on pbs in america and around the globe. we start here in the uk, which has recorded 100,000 daily new cases of the coronavirus for the first time since the pandemic began. the sudden rise in infections has been caused by the 0micron variant, which is known to be highly transmissible. but there's also some optimism as preliminary studies published in the uk and south africa suggest 0micron could present with milder symptoms than other variants. 0ur medical editor fergus walsh has this report. another record day for covid cases and for booster jabs.
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but as the 0micron wave surges, at last some positive early evidence from three separate studies, all indicating it poses less of a threat than the delta variant. research by imperial college london found around a 40% reduction in the risk of being admitted to hospitalfor a night or more compared to delta. a scottish study suggested there was a 65% lower risk of being hospitalised with 0micron, but it was based on only a few cases. while in south africa, 0micron patients were thought to be around 75% less likely to need hospital treatment. rather than 0micron being intrinsically milder, scientists think this is partly due to the build—up of immunity from previous infections and vaccination. but it is still good news. there are grounds for some very cautious optimism. i put it no stronger than that.
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if you're unvaccinated, then you run a really big risk, because it's so contagious, and they are the people who are tending to fill up the beds, especially in intensive care. but a lot of protection from vaccination. new treatments continue to be rolled out, such as antiviral pills like molnupiravir, which should keep many of the most vulnerable from falling seriously ill once infected. the concern is the huge number of cases, even if mostly milder, could still lead to a dangerous spike in hospital admissions next month. so the scale of the 0micron threat remains uncertain. fergus walsh, bbc news. still on 0micron, and of course the concern remains even if it is milder, the sheer number of cases could overwhelm hospitals. the variant is spreading rapidly across europe and around the world as tanya dendrinos reports.
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a silver lining just in time for christmas. but while preliminary studies suggest the 0micron variant appears to be milder, its rate of transmission is another story altogether. 0micron is already the dominant strain in a number of countries, including the uk, portugal and denmark, and according to the world health organization, that will soon be the case right across europe. there is no doubt that europe once again is the epicentre of the global pandemic. the top ten countries with the highest mortality are in europe and central asia. in spain, the variant is believed to account for almost half of all infections. in response to the rapid rise, prime minister pedro sanchez has announced plans to reintroduce mandatory face coverings outdoors. still, there's a hint of optimism. translation: this is not march 2020, | and this is not last year's christmas. fortunately, we are living in another time.
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90% of people aged 12 and over have been vaccinated. this time last year, nobody was. belgium is also tightening restrictions. from sunday, most indoor activities will be banned. cinemas and theatres will close. and there will be a 2—person limit set for shopping. the united states, where 0micron is also the dominant strain, saw its 7—day average of covid—i9 cases jump by 25% on the previous week. as festive celebrations draw closer, the message is one of caution. would it be safe for individuals who are vaccinated, who are boosted, to get together with the family in the setting of the home? the answer to that is yes, but i want to make sure this is not confused with going to a large gathering — and there are many of these — parties that have 30, 40, 50 people, in which you do not know the vaccination status
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of individuals. in china, it is a strict zero covid strategy. —— right around the world, it is clear managing the pandemic remains a difficult task. two years on, and the balance is still difficult to strike. tanya dendrinos, bbc news. in china, 13 million people in the city of xi'an have now been put into a full lockdown. officials in the city reported 52 cases of covid—i9 on tuesday. that's a small number compared to many other countries, but china has a strict zero—covid strategy, using mass testing and lockdown to try to stop outbreaks. the country is on high alert for covid as it gears up to host the winter olympics in beijing in february. earlier, i asked yanzhong wong who is a senior fellow of global health at the council on foreign relations, for his reaction to a full lockdown on 13 million people with only 52 covid cases.
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i think 52 cases here in the us or uk, we might think this isjust no big deal, but to china, this is indeed a major concern here because in the west, we are concerned mainly about risk of severe cases and deaths, but in china, under zero covid policy, the concern about any infections, no matter if it is mild or not. even a single digit number of cases would be big news in the country. you mentioned the zero covid strategy, and china compared to many other countries has kept a tight lid on its covid numbers, so, arguably, as strict as it sounds, zero covid policy does work. so far, yes. in fact, in china, so far the cases that
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are found in xi'an are mainly caused by the delta variant, there seems to be no indication suggesting that the 0micron variant is becoming the dominant variant in china, in part because of very stringent border control and travel restriction measures that still are keeping the 0micron variant at bay. other countries, which have stringent travel measures, have had to adjust the measures because of the way 0micron seems to spread. is there any sense that chinese officials might be looking again and how they implement their zero covid strategy? there was some talk about coexisting with the virus, even considering introducing more flexibility after the winter olympics, but now, with the 0micron variant, which is much more transmissible than the delta variant, no matter how mild it is, it is a major concern
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in the country, again, under zero tolerance strategy. if there are any cases, that is not acceptable. secondly, because of the upcoming winter olympics, they are trying to minimise the exposure of chinese people to the new variant. so, even a small number of cases would immediately trigger a higher alert and even the lockdown measures in the city. you mentioned the winter olympics. the zero covid strategy and the idea of hosting an international sporting event doesn't really — they don't really go hand—in—hand with each other. isn't it inevitable that with the olympics, we will see a rise in cases, and there is nothing chinese officials can do about that. there are certainly such a risk because the arrival of participants from all over the world,
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so the increased risk of the spread of the new variant, but in china, i think they're confident that with this so—called closed—loop management structure, right, all the participants will be in this big bubble, their chances of interacting with the chinese people will be minimised. so they are confident that they can still bring this situation under control. a well—known statue commemorating the deaths of students protesting in beijing's tiananmen square has been removed from a university campus in hong kong. the removal of the 8m—high copper statue, created by danish sculptorjens galschiot, was ordered back in october. construction workers are said to have laboured overnight to dismantle the piece, known as the pillar of shame. we'll hearfrom mr galschiot in a moment.
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but first, here's the bbc�*s danny vincent in hong kong. in october, the university contacted the sculptor to declare that, essentially, this statue, following legal advice, needed to be removed. after that, they set a deadline for the removal. the deadline passed and it wasn't clear when the statue would be removed. but in the early hours of the morning, construction workers started covering up the statue. they put up yellow barriers surrounding the statue, which is on the university campus of hong kong, and then in the early hours of the morning, construction workers came, the statue was removed, it was put into a container and driven away. earlier on, i spoke to the danish sculptor jens galschiot. he says he's perplexed by the decision to remove his artwork in the dead of night. i think they have a right to —
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in the first place, they have the right to the democracy movement, but they were all in jail, and they asked them to move the sculpture about four days. and then i saw that and then i said, this is my sculpture, this is not a democratic movement sculpture, this is mine and i have leant it out to them to permanently exhibition. so i told the university that, this is my sculpture, you can't take it down, and i want to go and pick it up. and then they took it down this morning. a couple of months ago, i have hired a lawyer, i have hired a construction firm, i have asked them to come there and take care of my security, of course, to take it out of hong kong and nobody will contact me. i have worked for that for three months to contact them, and then now they just take it down. a lot of construction workers and they have probably destroyed it, ithink.
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so, they have not engaged with you at all over the last two months? no, i asked and asked and asked, i have a lawyer, i asked and asked. i have the phone number, i have letters and this kind of thing, so i couldn't get any contact with them. this is a strange, strange story. universities are normally a place where freedom of expression and freedom of thought is encouraged and that obviously ties up with the art world as well. how does it make you feel to see your work being torn down from a university campus? this is really, really a sad story and this is a story about the democracy in hong kong. they have destroyed democracy in hong kong, really. they have destroyed freedoms and it has not allowed the university to talk about what happened in the chinese story, it is not allowed to talk about what happened in tiananmen crackdown in �*89, so maybe it's not really
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a university anymore. this is more a place where china tell their own version of the story and it's completely the opposite of what the population of hong kong wants. hong kong is a place for freedom of expression, and hong kong is a place like the western world, like new york and london and these places. so this is the image of hong kong and they have destroyed hong kong totally, i think. you mentioned involving a lawyer and trying to get your work back. are you hopeful that your work will come back to denmark, and if so, what will you do with it? i will work for that. because there's two law systems in hong kong. the one law system, this is about the security law, this is about what you can say about china — this kind of thing. but there is also a law of private property, and this is my property, this is a trade thing. so i will ask and if they don't give me the sculpture, i will sue them because they have destroyed an artist's private property
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in hong kong. they have kept it for 25 years and now they destroy it. of course, they must give it to me, even in pieces. so i want to take it back to denmark and put it together and make an exhibition. i have a lot of waiting people around. i have taiwan people, i have the people in the front of the congress in the united states, i have people even in london and 0slo, who wait for this monument, who will have an exhibition and explain the story. so there's a lot of people who could take care of this monument if we can get it out of hong kong. jens galschiot speaking to me early on. stay with us on bbc news. still to come: celebrations in spain as thousands win a share of the world's richest lottery draw, el gordo, or �*the fat one�*.
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the world of music's been paying tribute to george michael, who's died from suspected heart failure at the age of 53. he sold well over 100 million albums in a career spanning more than three decades. the united states' troops have been trying to overthrow the dictatorship of general manuel noriega. the pentagon said that it's failed in its principle objective to capture noriega and take him to the united states to face drugs charges. the hammer and sickle| was hastily taken away. m its place. — the russian flag was hoisted over what is now— no longer the soviet union, but the commonwealth of independent states. | day broke slowly over lockerbie, over the cockpit of pan am's maid of the seas, nosedown in the soft earth. you could see what happens when a plane eight storeys high, a football pitch wide falls from 30,000 feet. christmas has returned to albania after a communist ban lasting more than 20 years. thousands went to midnight mass in the town of shkoder, where there were anti—communist riots ten days ago.
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this is bbc world news. the latest headlines: new studies suggest the 0micron variant could be milder than previous variants, with fewer people needing hospital treatment. a well—known statue commemorating the tiananmen square massacre has been removed from the university of hong kong. the united states has pledged 200,000 dollars in immediate assistance to support people affected by super typhoon rai, which hit the philippines a week ago. at least 375 people were killed and thousands remain without food, water, shelter and electricity. one of the worst affected areas was the popular tourist island of shargo. from there, our correspondent howard johnson sent this report. devastation as far as the eye can see. super typhoon rai first made
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landfall here last thursday, packing winds in excess of 150 mph and dumping huge quantities of rainfall. this dramatic footage captured the moment a new sports hall, doubling as an evacuation centre, was torn to shreds. there was no protection, there was no roof, there was no wall. we was literally lying down there. and the entire nature force was, like, bashing on us with full power, with full force. we had nothing there. the governor of the island estimates that 90% of buildings have been damaged. this is my house. this man shows me to where his home and convenience store once stood. i'm scared because, my children, there's no more food, and then my house is broken from the typhoon. i don't know how i'm going to start again my store and my home.
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this is a scene that we have seen many times. the roof has been ripped off like a can of sardines. the metal�*s been torn back. glass has smashed up there. and you can see the roof in tatters down here. and so many people are without shelter at the moment, and people here are calling for more support. they need more aid, they need more water, more food. and, at the moment, the supplies are coming through, but they're not getting through quickly enough. prices for filtered bottled water have doubled in the last week, forcing some to find other sources. this family are drawing water from an old well, but it isn't clean. diarrhoea cases are on the rise here. it's bad for the stomach, but we don't have a choice. we need to drink. we don't have safe water to drink. at the island's badly damaged airport, aid is getting through
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but in limited quantities. 0utside, residents have been waiting for up to three days for a flight off the island. it's leading to a sense of panic. there's nothing. there's no system. we have to figure it out ourselves. that's it. the real pandemic is not having a system. sorry. as night falls, a newly arrived philippine red cross team help islanders to speak with loved ones using their satellite phone. help is on hand here, but there needs to be a lot, lot more. howard johnson, bbc news, siargao island. the un security council has unanimously approved an american proposal to get humanitarian aid to the 23 million afghans said to be in desperate need of help. the resolution allows aid to flow into afghanistan for one year without violating international sanctions aimed at isolating the taliban,
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who seized power in august. 0ur north america correspondent david willis, has more details. of course it has been a vexing problem for much of the global community since the taliban returned to power in afghanistan in august. how to help the people of afghanistan without helping the government of afghanistan? and as the months have gone by, the situation there has grown increasingly dire. foreign aid has been cut off, assets have been frozen and of course aid has been crucial to afghanistan in the past, it has formed about 80% of the country's budget, so now this new measure approved by the un security council is aimed at making it easier for foreign banks to transfer money into afghanistan. many have been shy of doing so for fear of running afoul of international sanctions.
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it is a tentative move, though, and one that will be reviewed every six months to make sure that funds are not making their way into the pockets of the taliban. as we mentioned, the resolution allows aid to flow into afghanistan for one year, you mentioned the six monthly reviews, how quickly can it start moving? the hope is that this can start to happen very quickly indeed because the situation on the ground there is dire. the world health organization for example is warning that by the end of the year, more than three million children in afghanistan will be suffering from malnutrition and a million of those will be at risk of dying as the temperatures get increasingly cold there. the united nations for its part is warning that by the middle of next year, 97% of the afghan population will be living beneath the poverty line, so these funds very badly needed but those who argue
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that it will take more than turning back, putting back the foreign aid spigot on again to basically remedy the problems that afghanistan is facing at the moment, when you have albeit a government that is pretty much on the verge of economic collapse with a banking system that is no longer functioning properly. thousands of people have been celebrating in spain after winning a share of the prize pot in the world's richest lottery. el gordo, or �*the fat one�* hands out prizes from a totalfund equivalent to more than $2.7 billion. but instead of having a single multimillionaire winner, there are thousands of winners every year. sergi forcada reports. it's the event that kicks off the christmas season in spain. a tradition going back more than 200 years which is now considered the biggest lottery draw in the world. the winning numbers are revealed in song
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by schoolchildren. these were the lucky five digits this year. the top prize, el gordo which means "the fat 0ne". the rules allow for the same number to be sold multiple times, so the prize fund gets split between several winners across the country. this year, the top prize landed in madrid and the canary islands. those who had a ticket like this one will get 400,000 euros and there were thousands of smaller prizes. translation: my wife did not believe it. - she turned the tv on and began to scream. she looked at the ticket and checked that the number was correct. we are not used to winning. there was joy amongst winners and also lottery shop owners who sold the lucky tickets. translation: you never expect this. _ you always have the idea of selling the first prize.
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it seems like sometimes it happens. translation: i can't believe it, i'm shaking right now! - the run—up to this year's draw was less cheery than usual, with lottery ticket sellers protesting that their commission hasn't increased in 17 years. conservators have opened a time capsule found in the plinth of a statue of us confederate general robert e lee. an 1875 almanac, a cloth envelope and a coin stuck to a book were among some of the items discovered in a lead box that had been encased in the statue's base. the monument was ordered to be removed in september after protesters argued that it was a painful symbol of america's slave owning past. much more on all of those stories under the bbc website and app. that said from me,
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until after christmas. if you celebrate, i wish you a happy and peaceful break. bye—bye. hello again. well, it's been another chilly day wednesday, but the trend is as we go into thursday the weather is turning increasingly mild. however, over recent hours, we have seen some freezing rain in scotland. that's liquid rain that can freeze on impact. you can imagine the roads and the pavements becoming very icy in some of the deeper scottish valleys for a time. but this time yesterday, it was very cold. temperatures were down to about —10 into parts of aberdeenshire. quite a contrast with what we've got at the moment, but aside from some of those valleys, the temperatures are stilljust about below freezing. for the most part as we head into thursday, it's actually getting milder. and across western areas — 12 degrees in plymouth, 11 in belfast , it is going to be a mild start to the day for these areas on thursday.
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now, thursday, there will be a lot of cloud around. we've got weather fronts bringing rain. the heaviest rain moves quickly across from northern ireland into northern england and scotland as well. further southwards, cloud, a few spots of rain, no great amounts, though. some brighter weather for wales and the south west later on, but look at the temperatures. northern ireland, most of england and wales seeing temperatures into double figures and reaching highs of 13. but still relatively cool across the far north of england and across much of scotland. now through thursday night, our weather front stops moving northwards, and itjust weakens really in situ over scotland. so, there will be a lot of cloud here, still bits and pieces of light rain, some drizzle, some mist and fog patches over the hills as well. and heading into christmas eve, there's probably also going to be some mist and fog across parts of england and wales, so we could have poor visibility for a time. through christmas eve, then, we've got another band of rain that's going to be moving into northern ireland, across wales and south west england. it does become a little bit drier for northernmost areas of scotland, but we've got some showers around and they're likely to be wintry showers into shetland. now, for christmas day itself, we've still got this temperature contrast
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that we've been talking about for a number of days. now, it looks like it's going to be sunny and cold across northern scotland, but i suspect there'll be some wintry showers affecting eastern areas. so, that is a mixture of rain, some sleet and some snow. it's mild across the south west. you're just going to get rain and temperatures into double figures, but in between, there's a small chance that we could see a few flurries over the high ground of northern england and perhaps the southern uplands of scotland. but that's more of a perhaps. beyond that, into boxing day, many of us will keep the mild weather conditions, but still relatively cool air loitering in scotland. that's your weather.
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this is bbc news.
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the headlines: preliminary results from three scientific studies suggest that the omicron variant may be milder than first feared with patients running less risk of needing hospital treatment. but as the uk records over 100,000 new cases for the first time, there are warnings that the sheer number of infections could still overwhelm health services. a well—known statue commemorating the deaths of students protesting in beijing's tiananmen square has been removed from the university of hong kong. the work known as the pillar of shame was created by danish sculptorjens galschiot who's likened its removal to the destruction of gravestones. thousands of people have been celebrating in spain after winning a share of the world's richest lottery, el gordo, or �*the fat one'. the christmas draw hands out prizes from a total fund equivalent to more than $2.7 billion.
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hello. a very good


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