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Kamis, 31 Desember 2020

Americans have long been talking like things would get better in 2021, but things still look bleak - ABC News

At some point, 2020 stopped being merely a measurement of time and became a euphemism for suffering.

"I can't wait for 2020 to be over," Americans said, again and again and again, because it was easier than listing out the compounding crises or addressing the specific causes at their core.

In repeating the phrase, we postponed catharsis, subconsciously pinning our hopes for feeling better to the arrival of 2021.

Yet when Americans wake up on New Year's Day, time will have passed, but without bringing solace for their suffering.

The crises the country is facing will remain.

The year began and finished with political division

The year started off in crisis, or what the pundits said was one. In hindsight, the stakes feel laughably low.

The impeachment trial of US President Donald J Trump began on January 16, and though there was little suspense about the outcome in a Republican-controlled Senate, anyone watching the event could've sensed a bit of foreshadowing.

Donald Trump winking at the camera
Donald Trump was acquitted on two articles of impeachment.(Reuters: Leah Millis)

Two sides of the country looked at the same transcript of a phone call and came to two totally opposing conclusions about what was best for democracy.

Republicans and Democrats don't just have different political beliefs, they're living in two different realities. None of that changed with the way the year played out.

A poll taken shortly after the November election revealed that 81 per cent of Republicans and 77 per cent of Democrats said they had less respect for the opposing party than they did four years ago.

The election itself felt so consequential to the country that it drew the highest-ever turnout, but it also contained the smallest number of split-ticket voters in at least two decades.

It was a sign there's no interchange of ideas between the two sides.

A Pew Research Center poll taken in October found that 9 in 10 supporters of both Trump and President-elect Joe Biden believed there'd be "lasting harm" to the US if their candidate lost.

Trump is leaving office, but the vote was hardly the reassurance that the Democrats had been hoping for.

Biden's power will be hamstrung by a shrunken Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, and, possibly a Republican Senate majority (with a run-off election next week in Georgia to decide the last two seats).

But maybe more pressing, Biden's power will be seen as illegitimate by tens of millions of Americans — nearly 9 in 10 Trump supporters according to one poll.

Every big and small democratic institution imaginable — media biased both ways, congressional leaders of both parties, state officials of all stripes, the conservative-leaning US Supreme Court, the Trump-appointed US Attorney-General — have all said the President's claims of widespread voter fraud are unfounded.

And yet the alternate narrative remains. 2021 won't change it.

The US New Year is marked by the biggest coronavirus surge yet

Since the US first went into lockdown in March, the US has registered nearly 20 million known COVID-19 cases.

A woman in a mask kneels in a field of US flags
American flags have been used to represent some of the lives lost in the United States in the coronavirus pandemic.(Reuters: Joshua Roberts)

US deaths account for more than 345,000 of the 1.8 million Johns Hopkins University has tracked around the world — 19 per cent of the world's deaths coming from a country with 4 per cent of the population.

By every indication, the virus will only spread faster and further in the early months of 2021.

Hospitals are at least 90 per cent occupied in 126 counties, according to CDC data released Monday.

And this is before the US has seen the full consequences of Christmas travel, which brought the most single-day airport visitors since the country closed down in March.

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One projection from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests the increased mobility could lead to as many as 502,000 US COVID deaths by April 1.

It'd be an oversimplification to say that division led America's coronavirus outbreak to become the worst in the world, but it's impossible to discuss Americans' attitudes towards the outbreak without it.

Masks are still a political symbol, and vaccine injections are shaping up to be the next one.

A study published in the scientific journal Nature found partisanship to be the strongest indicator of one's willingness to practice social distancing — even more than proximity to COVID deaths.

If 2021 brought another lockdown, only 49 per cent of Americans say they'd stay home, driven largely by Republicans. The group fell from 74 per cent willing to stay home in late spring, even with anti-lockdown protests spurring up in April.

A protester holding a sign reading "Honk if you question coronavirus"
Small groups of protesters gathered in US states earlier this year, demanding businesses reopen and questioning coronavirus containment measures.(Reuters: Lindsey Wasson)

April was when the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 per cent, the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Since the peak, unemployment has fallen back to 6.7 per cent in November but some 23 million Americans are still out of jobs, spending New Year's Eve anxiously waiting for the final bit of a stimulus bill that has been held up by Congress for months.

Most recently, direct aid to Americans has been delayed largely because the Republican party itself was divided, unsure of whether to send Americans cheques for $US600 or $US2,000 ($780 or $2,600).

It's a bit like letting a bushfire continue to rage because you can't decide whether to fight it with a squirt gun or a water balloon.

America still faces existential threats like climate change

Of course the year brought glimmers of hope, too — moments of shared joy and collective relief in a troubled country.

November's tense wait for election results ended without political violence, contrary to expert predictions.

A crowd of people marching in the streets, holding signs saying "the people have spoken" and "voters decide".
People celebrated in the streets after Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump.(AP: Rebecca Blackwell)

December brought approval of not just one but two vaccines, which have started rolling out around the country, albeit slower than promised.

And all throughout the year, feats of generosity, kindness, and ingenuity happened too frequently, sometimes too personally, to summarise in a single sentence.

Still, the moments of hope that come to mind feel specific to this year's challenges. America made dismal steps on looming threats of an existential variety.

While 2020 was marching forward, climate change contributed to the most active US hurricane season on record. Four million acres burned in California.

Misinformation continued to spread without interference from trustworthy media sites or a functioning education system. A fifth of Americans believe that a group of Satan-worshipping elites and politicians are running a child sex ring out of a DC pizza parlour.

The biggest protest event in US history brought an estimated 26 million Americans to the streets this summer, but, in the end, it raised more questions about racial justice than it answered. No national legislation on policing reform has been passed.

A woman in a face mask holding her hands up with red paint on her palms
Black Lives Matter is now nearly seven years old, and the founders say they won't stop until African Americans stop dying at the hands of police.(ABC News: Niall Lenihan)

We couldn't have known all that 2020 would bring (nor how or why or when).

But maybe, in hindsight, we should've expected that when those events hit, they'd hit the US differently, morphing with a unique shape and magnitude, warped by the country's unique brand of division.

America's crises won't be fixed just because time is passing. The year 2021 will bring more crises, unexpected ones, because crises don't follow a calendar.

So much depends on whether the country can come together to solve them.

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2021-01-01 01:51:00Z
52781278930498

UK officially exits the European Union - Sydney Morning Herald

London: Britain’s long and sometimes acrimonious divorce from the European Union ended on Thursday, local time, with an economic split that leaves the EU smaller and the UK freer but more isolated in a turbulent world.

Britain left the European bloc’s vast single market for people, goods and services at 11pm London time, midnight in Brussels, completing the biggest single economic change the country has experienced since World War II.

People raise a glass and celebrate in Parliament Square as the bell known as Big Ben strikes 2300, and Britain ends its transition period and formally leaves the European Union in London.

People raise a glass and celebrate in Parliament Square as the bell known as Big Ben strikes 2300, and Britain ends its transition period and formally leaves the European Union in London.Credit:AP

A different UK-EU trade deal will bring new restrictions and red tape, but for British Brexit supporters, it means reclaiming national independence from the EU and its web of rules.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose support for Brexit helped push the country out of the EU, called it “an amazing moment for this country.”

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“We have our freedom in our hands, and it is up to us to make the most of it,” he said in a New Year’s video message.

The break comes 11 months after a political Brexit that left the two sides in the limbo of a “transition period” — like a separated couple still living together, wrangling and wondering whether they can remain friends. Now the UK has finally moved out.

A small group of people look across from the embankment towards the London Eye Ferris wheel by the River Thames.

A small group of people look across from the embankment towards the London Eye Ferris wheel by the River Thames.Credit:AP

It was a day some had longed for and others dreaded since Britain voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU, but it turned out to be something of an anticlimax. UK lockdown measures to curb the coronavirus curtailed mass gatherings to celebrate or mourn the moment, though a handful of Brexit supporters defied the restrictions to raise a toast outside Parliament as the Big Ben bell sounded 11 times on the hour.

A free trade agreement sealed on Christmas Eve after months of tense negotiations ensures that Britain and the 27-nation EU can continue to buy and sell goods without tariffs or quotas. That should help protect the £660 billion ($1.1 trillion) in annual trade between the two sides, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on it.

But companies face sheaves of new costs and paperwork, including customs declarations and border checks. Traders are struggling to digest the new rules imposed by the 1200-page trade deal.

The English Channel port of Dover and the Eurotunnel passenger and freight route braced for delays as the new measures were introduced, though the pandemic and a holiday weekend meant cross-Channel traffic was light, with only a trickle of trucks arriving at French border posts in Calais as 2020 ended.

Victory: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the UK-EU Brexit trade deal on Wednesday.

Victory: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson signs the UK-EU Brexit trade deal on Wednesday. Credit:Getty Images

The vital supply route was snarled for days after France closed its border to UK truckers for 48 hours last week in response to a fast-spreading variant of the virus identified in England.

The British government insisted that “the border systems and infrastructure we need are in place, and we are ready for the UK’s new start.”

But freight companies were holding their breath. Youngs Transportation in the UK suspended services to the EU until January 11 “to let things settle.”

The services sector, which makes up 80 per cent of Britain’s economy, does not even know what the rules will be for business with the EU in 2021. Many of the details have yet to be hammered out. Months and years of further discussion and argument over everything from fair competition to fish quotas lie ahead as Britain and the EU settle into their new relationship as friends, neighbours and rivals.

We'll be back, EU, says Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

We'll be back, EU, says Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.Credit:Getty

Hundreds of millions of individuals in Britain and the bloc also face changes to their daily lives. Britons and EU citizens have lost the automatic right to live and work in the other’s territory. From now on, they will have to follow immigration rules and obtain work visas. Tourists face new headaches including from travel insurance and pet paperwork.

For some in Britain, including the prime minister, it’s a moment of pride and a chance for the UK to set new diplomatic and economic priorities. Johnson said the Britain was now “free to do trade deals around the world, and free to turbocharge our ambition to be a science superpower”.

Conservative lawmaker Bill Cash, who has campaigned for Brexit for decades, said it was a “victory for democracy and sovereignty.”

That’s not a view widely shared across the Channel. In the French president’s traditional New Year’s address, Emmanuel Macron expressed regret.

“The United Kingdom remains our neighbour but also our friend and ally,” he said. “This choice of leaving Europe, this Brexit, was the child of European malaise and lots of lies and false promises.”

The divorce could also have major constitutional repercussions for the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland, which shares a border with EU member Ireland, remains more closely tied to the bloc’s economy under the divorce terms, a status that could pull it away from the rest of the U.K.

In Scotland, which voted strongly in 2016 to remain, Brexit has bolstered support for separation from the UK. The country’s pro-independence First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Scotland will be back soon, Europe. Keep the light on.”

Many in Britain felt apprehension about a leap into the unknown that is taking place during a pandemic that has upended life around the world.

“I feel very sad that we’re leaving,” said Jen Pearcy-Edwards, a filmmaker in London. “I think that COVID has overshadowed everything that is going on. But I think the other thing that has happened is that people feel a bigger sense of community, and I think that makes it even sadder that we’re breaking up our community a bit, by leaving our neighbours in Europe.

“I’m hopeful that we find other ways to rebuild ties,” she said.

AP

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2021-01-01 00:00:00Z
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Nurse contracts Covid-19 after being vaccinated - Yahoo News Australia

A nurse in California tested positive for Covid-19 more than a week after receiving Pfizer Inc's vaccine, an ABC News affiliate has reported, but a medical expert and the US drug maker said the body needs more time to build up protection.

Pfizer "will review all available information on this case and all reports of any confirmed diagnosis following vaccination," the drug maker said in a statement to Reuters.

"Based on our Phase 3 safety and efficacy study, the vaccine provides some protection against COVID-19 within about 10 days of the first dose and substantially boosted after the second dose, supporting the need for a 2-dose vaccination series", it said.

“Individuals may have contracted disease prior to or right after vaccination,” the statement added.

Matthew W., an ER nurse at two different hospitals in the San Diego area, talked about receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Facebook. Source: Facebook
Matthew W., an ER nurse at two different hospitals in the San Diego area, talked about receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Facebook. Source: Facebook

Matthew W., 45, a nurse at two different local hospitals, said in a Facebook post on December 18 that he had received the Pfizer vaccine, telling the ABC News affiliate that his arm was sore for a day but that he had suffered no other side-effects.

Six days later on Christmas Eve, he became sick after working a shift in the COVID-19 unit, the report added. He got the chills and later came down with muscle aches and fatigue.

He went to a drive-up hospital testing site and tested positive for COVID-19 the day after Christmas, the report said.

Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego, told the ABC News affiliate that this scenario was not unexpected.

"We know from the vaccine clinical trials that it's going to take about 10 to 14 days for you to start to develop protection from the vaccine," Ramers said.

"That first dose we think gives you somewhere around 50per cent, and you need that second dose to get up to 95 per cent."

But infectious disease experts have previously warned that while the a vaccine will prevent severe illness from the novel coronavirus, there is no guarantee it will prevent people from spreading the virus amongst the community.

“There's still a high probability that even when we're vaccinated we may get silent or symptom-free Covid and we then might be able to theoretically pass it on to others,” epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said this week.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

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2020-12-31 22:50:53Z
52781275240124

Nurse contracts Covid-19 after being vaccinated - Yahoo News Australia

A nurse in California tested positive for Covid-19 more than a week after receiving Pfizer Inc's vaccine, an ABC News affiliate has reported, but a medical expert and the US drug maker said the body needs more time to build up protection.

Pfizer "will review all available information on this case and all reports of any confirmed diagnosis following vaccination," the drug maker said in a statement to Reuters.

"Based on our Phase 3 safety and efficacy study, the vaccine provides some protection against COVID-19 within about 10 days of the first dose and substantially boosted after the second dose, supporting the need for a 2-dose vaccination series", it said.

“Individuals may have contracted disease prior to or right after vaccination,” the statement added.

Matthew W., an ER nurse at two different hospitals in the San Diego area, talked about receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Facebook. Source: Facebook
Matthew W., an ER nurse at two different hospitals in the San Diego area, talked about receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Facebook. Source: Facebook

Matthew W., 45, a nurse at two different local hospitals, said in a Facebook post on December 18 that he had received the Pfizer vaccine, telling the ABC News affiliate that his arm was sore for a day but that he had suffered no other side-effects.

Six days later on Christmas Eve, he became sick after working a shift in the COVID-19 unit, the report added. He got the chills and later came down with muscle aches and fatigue.

He went to a drive-up hospital testing site and tested positive for COVID-19 the day after Christmas, the report said.

Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego, told the ABC News affiliate that this scenario was not unexpected.

"We know from the vaccine clinical trials that it's going to take about 10 to 14 days for you to start to develop protection from the vaccine," Ramers said.

"That first dose we think gives you somewhere around 50per cent, and you need that second dose to get up to 95 per cent."

But infectious disease experts have previously warned that while the a vaccine will prevent severe illness from the novel coronavirus, there is no guarantee it will prevent people from spreading the virus amongst the community.

“There's still a high probability that even when we're vaccinated we may get silent or symptom-free Covid and we then might be able to theoretically pass it on to others,” epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said this week.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

Let's block ads! (Why?)


https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMiWGh0dHBzOi8vYXUubmV3cy55YWhvby5jb20vbnVyc2UtY29udHJhY3RzLWNvdmlkLTE5LWFmdGVyLWJlaW5nLXZhY2NpbmF0ZWQtMjA0NjA0Mjk5Lmh0bWzSAWBodHRwczovL2F1Lm5ld3MueWFob28uY29tL2FtcGh0bWwvbnVyc2UtY29udHJhY3RzLWNvdmlkLTE5LWFmdGVyLWJlaW5nLXZhY2NpbmF0ZWQtMjA0NjA0Mjk5Lmh0bWw?oc=5

2020-12-31 22:41:15Z
52781275240124

Nurse contracts Covid-19 after being vaccinated - Yahoo News Australia

A nurse in California tested positive for Covid-19 more than a week after receiving Pfizer Inc's vaccine, an ABC News affiliate has reported, but a medical expert and the US drug maker said the body needs more time to build up protection.

Pfizer "will review all available information on this case and all reports of any confirmed diagnosis following vaccination," the drug maker said in a statement to Reuters.

"Based on our Phase 3 safety and efficacy study, the vaccine provides some protection against COVID-19 within about 10 days of the first dose and substantially boosted after the second dose, supporting the need for a 2-dose vaccination series", it said.

“Individuals may have contracted disease prior to or right after vaccination,” the statement added.

Matthew W., an ER nurse at two different hospitals in the San Diego area, talked about receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Facebook. Source: Facebook
Matthew W., an ER nurse at two different hospitals in the San Diego area, talked about receiving the Pfizer vaccine on Facebook. Source: Facebook

Matthew W., 45, a nurse at two different local hospitals, said in a Facebook post on December 18 that he had received the Pfizer vaccine, telling the ABC News affiliate that his arm was sore for a day but that he had suffered no other side-effects.

Six days later on Christmas Eve, he became sick after working a shift in the COVID-19 unit, the report added. He got the chills and later came down with muscle aches and fatigue.

He went to a drive-up hospital testing site and tested positive for COVID-19 the day after Christmas, the report said.

Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego, told the ABC News affiliate that this scenario was not unexpected.

"We know from the vaccine clinical trials that it's going to take about 10 to 14 days for you to start to develop protection from the vaccine," Ramers said.

"That first dose we think gives you somewhere around 50per cent, and you need that second dose to get up to 95 per cent."

But infectious disease experts have previously warned that while the a vaccine will prevent severe illness from the novel coronavirus, there is no guarantee it will prevent people from spreading the virus amongst the community.

“There's still a high probability that even when we're vaccinated we may get silent or symptom-free Covid and we then might be able to theoretically pass it on to others,” epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said this week.

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.

Let's block ads! (Why?)


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2020-12-31 20:46:00Z
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Brexit will be made official as the UK leaves the European Union single market and customs union today. But what happens next? - ABC News

Today's the day the United Kingdom leaves the rest of the European Union.

When the clock ticks over into January 1 in the UK, it will leave the single market and customs union.

It has been hailed as a "new beginning" for Britain in its relationship with European neighbours.

After years of negotiations, missed deadlines and extensions, negotiators struck a trade deal last week with the European Union on Brexit at the 11th hour.

Both sides claim the agreement — which is more than 1,200 pages long — protects their goals.

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But how will things change now that the UK has split from the EU? Here's what we know.

A quick catch-up on Brexit

The UK officially began the process of leaving the EU on March 29, 2017 after a close majority voted in favour of quitting the bloc in a referendum.

It allowed for a two-year period of Brexit negotiations to work out a withdrawal agreement.

But as they stalled, the March 2019 withdrawal date was pushed back to October 31, and then again to January 31, 2020, when the UK finally left the EU at 11:00pm.

A smiling woman holds a baby in front of the Union Flag.
Supporters celebrated earlier this year on Brexit day in London.(Reuters: Simon Dawson)

Since then, it has still been operating on EU rules during what was called an 11-month transition period, which was meant to be used for both sides to work out a deal for how the UK and the bloc will trade, live and work with one another in the future.

But the coronavirus pandemic, among other factors, had delayed the process until just last week when a deal was finally struck.

EU officials and diplomats told Reuters that the talks for that agreement were an exhausting exercise of bluff and brinksmanship.

Why was everyone talking about a deal?

A man with blonde hair wearing a dark suit stands at a podium with British flags behind him.
The UK's relationship with the European Union will change from January 1.(AP via Paul Grover/Pool)

Now that a deal is in place, a framework for future relations between the UK and EU has been set up, including on transport, energy, security information sharing and environmental standards.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it gives Britain control over its money, borders, laws and fishing grounds, while the EU says it protects its single market and contains safeguards to ensure the UK does not unfairly undercut the bloc's standards.

What will change on January 1?

A deal has prevented tariffs on goods — roughly half of the $900 billion of annual EU-UK commerce — and duties being imposed, which could have cost both sides in trade and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Without a deal, car manufacturers for example would have been hit with a 10 per cent charge from January 1.

But from today, the free movement of people between the UK and the EU will end.

Instead, UK citizens will need a visa for stays of longer than 90 days in the EU in a 180-day period, and the same will apply for EU citizens in the UK.

(This deal is on top of the formal Withdrawal Agreement reached last year, which ruled out tough controls on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.)

With the UK leaving the single market, which aims to make trade as simple as possible regardless of where a business is located within the European Economic Area, there may also be some hiccups for importers and exporters.

British firms will have to file forms and customs declarations for the first time in years, which could cause delays. There will be different rules on product labelling as well as checks on agricultural products.

And even though there are no extra charges on goods or limits on the amount that can be traded between countries from January 1, the BBC reports, there will be extra checks at borders, such as safety checks and customs declarations.

So there could still be chaos at the port if exporters don't have the right paperwork to cross the Channel.

A line of trucks stopped on a road with signs above.
Trucks queued to enter the Channel tunnel in Calais as Britain prepares to leave the European Union's orbit.(Reuters: Pascal Rossignol)

There will also no longer be mutual recognition of professional qualifications, including UK doctors and engineers, which means those working in other countries will have to apply for recognition in the country they wish to practise in when their visa expires.

The UK will leave the EU's Common Fisheries Policy today, but under the Brexit deal the current rules will remain largely in place during a 5-and-a-half-year transition period.

After that period, there will be annual consultations to establish the level and conditions for EU access to British waters.

The UK will also no longer be bound by judgements made by the European Court of Justice.

Supporters of Brexit though will be happy that from this year the UK will be able to set its own rules and do things its own way on social, environmental and state aid matters.

But the agreement has set some parameters around this, allowing the possibility for arbitration or trade countermeasures in case either side feels they are being treated unfairly.

If those measures are overused, for example, either side can ask to reopen the trade aspects of the treaty.

There are a number of other changes taking place from today but these are some of the main ones.

Does this mean the UK and EU are officially divorced?

Yes but some processes for how the UK and EU will operate after today remain unclear.

For example, the deal with the EU does not include an outline for the services sector, which accounts for around 80 per cent of the British economy.

It is understood that access for the UK's financial sector to the EU's single market will still end on January 1.

a man holding the Union Jack and EU flag next to a neon sign reading Stronger Together outside a building
European Union nations unanimously approved the post-Brexit trade deal with the United Kingdom.(AP: Matt Dunham)

Yet all we know is that the two sides have committed "to establish a favourable climate for the development of trade and investment between them".

Why did negotiations come so close to the deadline?

Negotiating a free trade deal between the world's largest trading bloc (the EU) and the world's sixth-largest economy (the UK) was always going to take time, and many expected it not to be achieved in the relatively short 11-month transition period.

In the end, those negotiations did come all the way down to the wire, with both sides haggling over the EU's right to fish in British waters on Christmas Eve just before the deal was announced.

Another reason it took so long is that Brexit is still pretty divisive within the UK and among its members of parliament.

A close up shot of a union jack flag in front of Big Ben
Brexit became official at 11:00pm London time on January 31st, 2020.(Reuters: Toby Melville)

Supporters see the move as the country regaining full control over its destiny. But opponents say it is a big setback for peace and prosperity in Europe.

Efforts to find a compromise for both sides have usually failed. Instead, it has cost two prime ministers their jobs.

David Cameron was the first to go, having resigned after the referendum result was declared in 2016.

His successor Theresa May spent years working on an agreement and tried to push a withdrawal deal through parliament, with several versions and tweaks made in an effort to get MPs to agree to it.

She stepped down before a deal could be passed, saying she had done her best to deliver Brexit.

So what happens now?

Brexit is pretty much done. The deal will come into effect from today, but it will take longer before it's officially signed off on by both sides.

A line of trucks stopped at a check point on a road with a building in the background.
Lorries queued last week to enter the Port of Dover over fears over a new coronavirus variant spreading in south-east England.(AP via Gareth Fuller/PA)

On Monday (local time), EU ambassadors unanimously approved its provisional application. But the European Parliament's consent — expected in the first weeks of January — is still needed to permanently apply it.

Once that's done, both sides will be bound by their 2020 divorce settlement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement — although some negotiations will continue.

ABC/wires

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2020-12-31 19:01:00Z
52781275482250

NYE celebrations across the world reflect success in fight against pandemic - ABC News

New Zealanders were amongst the first in the world to celebrate the arrival of much-anticipated 2021 with a fireworks display that erupted from Auckland's 328-metre tall Sky Tower.

Revellers on the waterfront watched the five-minute show with brightly coloured fireworks and laser lighting shooting into the night sky over the city's harbour.

Crowds were allowed to gather in the city to mark the occasion as the nation continued to record a low number of new coronavirus cases.

It will be one of the few places in the world to have greeted the new year in relatively normal fashion as 2020 draws to a close.

No light show will illuminate Beijing from the top of the TV tower. The lions of London's Trafalgar Square will be barricaded off. In Rome, crowds will not assemble in St Peter's Square, the Pope will lead no mass, and revellers will not make their yearly dive into the Tiber.

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The New Year's Eve ball will drop on Broadway. But in place of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers packed shoulder-to-shoulder into Times Square, the audience will be a small pre-selected group of nurses, doctors and other key workers, their families kept six feet apart in socially distanced pens.

A man sets up a fence in front of the Brandburg Gate.
The area around the Brandenburg Gate is usually the main place for New Year's celebrations in Berlin.(AP: Markus Schreiber)

With more than 1.7 million people dead and 82 million infected around the globe since last New Year's Eve — yet hope that new vaccines can help tame the pandemic — this year's end is like none other in memory. Angela Merkel, in her 16th New Year's Eve address as German chancellor, said as much.

"And never have we, despite all the worries and some scepticism, looked forward to the new one with so much hope.

"I can only imagine how bitter it must feel for those mourning loved ones lost to corona or who are having to fight against the repercussions of an illness when the virus is disputed and denied by some hopeless individuals," said Ms Merkel, who added she would get vaccinated as soon as practicable.

Germany has banned the sale of fireworks to discourage crowds. Authorities in Berlin said police would "punish violators consistently".

Chinese President highlights success in fight against pandemic

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic originated a year ago, thousands were expected to gather at popular landmarks across the city centre for the countdown to 2021.

Some said they were being cautious, but weren't particularly worried.

"Safety is the priority," Wuhan resident Wang Xuemei said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping used his new year speech to underscore China's victory against the coronavirus pandemic and to mark its major progress in developing its economy.

"In the face of the sudden coronavirus pandemic … we wrote the epic of anti-pandemic with concerted efforts and perseverance," Mr Xi said in his annual televised comments on New Year's Eve.

At the end of his speech, Mr Xi called for increased international cooperation in fighting the virus.

Much of Japan was welcoming 2021 quietly at home, alarmed after Tokyo reported a record number of daily coronavirus cases. It was the first time that daily cases in the capital have topped 1,000.

In South Korea, Seoul's city government cancelled its annual New Year's Eve bell-ringing ceremony in the Jongno neighborhood for the first time since the event was first held in 1953, months after the end of the Korean War.

The ceremony, in which citizens ring a large bell in a traditional pavilion when the clock strikes midnight, normally draws an estimated 100,000 people and is broadcast live.

Hard-hit Europe spending NYE at home

One of Trafalgar Square's famous lion statues can be seen behind a temporary metal barrier.
Barriers were erected in London's famous Trafalgar Square to dissuade people from coming to celebrate NYE.(AP: Dominic Lipinsk)

In Britain, where a highly contagious variant of the virus is rampaging and most people are under strict restrictions, authorities ran a public messaging campaign on billboards and in the media urging people to "see in the New Year safely at home".

Barriers were erected in public places such as London's Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square.

In Italy, the European country which has seen most COVID-19 deaths, bars, restaurants and most shops were closed, and a curfew in place for New Year's Eve between 10:00pm and 7:00am.

Pope Francis cancelled plans to lead New Year's Eve and New Year's Day services because of a flare-up of his sciatica condition, the Vatican said.

In France, where a night curfew will also be in force, no more than six adults will be allowed to gather around the dinner table, but there will be celebrations — small, perhaps, but with style.

At A la Ville de Rodez, an upmarket Parisian delicatessen, manager Brice Tapon was preparing packages of foie gras, truffles and pate for groups of two or three.

"I will… stuff myself with foie gras, champagne and all this food," said Annie Chaplin, a customer. "And I'll stay home."

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2020-12-31 14:35:00Z
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Sydney's New Year's Eve still goes off with a bang - Sydney Morning Herald

In the end, Sydney made the most of a bad situation. There was still colour and music and champagne as Sydney's traditional fireworks spectacular went off with a bang. It was just a little shorter than usual.

Unlike previous years, there was only one fireworks display: a seven-minute affair, which NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had repeatedly urged people to watch from their homes.

The New Year's Eve Fireworks in Sydney Harbour as seen from Mrs Macquarie’s Point.

The New Year's Eve Fireworks in Sydney Harbour as seen from Mrs Macquarie’s Point.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

There were hastily arranged barriers and limits on gatherings tightened across the city, making ever-smaller groups less able to connect. New fences blocked access our harbourside parks where we usually enjoy the freedom to ring in a new year without serious diseases bothering us.

Entry into the harbourside city area was only open to a few hundred people granted Green Zone permits to dine or visit their friends and family.

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The authorised green pass system kept numbers to a minimum at some of the city's best vantage points and waterside restaurants, many of which said they lost many of their bookings for New Year's Eve parties recently.

Ezekiel and Kristal Dioneda, who have been in Australia for two years and spent December 31 last year watching the fireworks at a crowded Westfield Tower, had a different experience this year.

After Googling the best places to watch the fireworks, they decided a front-row seat by the harbour was the way to go.

“It’s pretty empty, you don’t usually see this place with so few people,” Mr Dioneda said. “When we arrived in Australia, the bushfires were terrible. We were looking forward to enjoying this new year.”

Ezekiel and Kristal Dioneda were dining inside the Green Zone at Circular Quay on New Year's Eve.

Ezekiel and Kristal Dioneda were dining inside the Green Zone at Circular Quay on New Year's Eve.Credit: Wolter Peeters

Mrs Dioneda added that they were a bit nervous given the pandemic and had opted to wear face masks.

Revellers were greeted at Circular Quay and other city entry points with offers of face masks and asked by police or event organisers to show their permits.

The area around the Opera House was all but empty, save for the police and event organisers.

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2020-12-31 13:08:00Z
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Chinese Government says Wuhan outbreak 10 times larger than reported - NEWS.com.au

It has long been suspected that China may have fudged the numbers when it comes to the true number of coronavirus infections the country endured.

But there now appears to be proof that during a critical phase of the pandemic up to 10 times more people caught COVID-19 than official figures stated. Extraordinarily, this revelation has come from the Chinese government itself.

An infectious diseases expert has said authorities failed to give a “true appreciation of the infection and its size”.

From late January, images of Wuhan being locked down circulated globally, a precursor of what was to come in any countries.

According to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, the city where coronavirus was first recorded has seen a total of 50,354 cases in its more than 11 million residents.

However, newly released research by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paints a very different picture.

RELATED: Follow our live virus updates

It tested 34,000 people within Wuhan, the surrounding Hubei province and a number of other cities outside the area, to see if they had antibodies to COVID-19 – a sign that they would have contracted the virus.

“The investigation found that the positive rate of new coronavirus antibodies in the community population in Wuhan was 4.43 per cent,” the report stated.

They would suggest almost 500,000 people in Wuhan contracted COVID-19, 10 times more than the 50,000 officially recorded.

Outside of Wuhan, the number dropped dramatically, with just two people in the study from the wider Hubei province having the antibodies.

“The survey results show that the (Chinese) population is generally at a low level of infection, indicating that the epidemic control with Wuhan as the main battlefield has been successful and effectively prevented the large-scale spread of the epidemic,” the CDC stated.

RELATED: China suggests COVID-19 arrived in Wuhan via frozen Australian meat

WUHAN NUMBERS MASSIVELY UNDER-REPORTED

China watchers have said the vast under-reporting of the true number of cases is likely down to a number of factors. These include a lack of testing kits which meant many people with COVID-19 symptoms were never diagnosed as positive. This was not only an Chinese issue – in the early days of the pandemic many countries struggled to keep up with demand for tests with cases slipping through the net.

But in China, there are also appeared to be a concerted effort to downplay the virus’ spread both to calm the public but also, it has been suggested, because of the bloated nature of the Xi Jinping-led Chinese Government and the desire not to offend higher up officials.

A CNN report from earlier this month found that, for a time, officials in Wuhan routinely minimised the number of coronavirus infections in figures given to the public.

On February 10, 2478 new cases of COVID-19 were officially recorded in Hubei, including Wuhan. However, a leaked confidential document seen by the US network showed that the true number was 5918 new cases, more than double.

The infections that were brushed under the carpet were what Chinese officials called “clinically diagnosed” cases. These were cases that were very likely to be COVID, and showed classic symptoms, but the patient hadn’t had a test. In some cases, the patient was seriously ill and being treated as if they had the disease, but they didn’t appear in the numbers.

RELATED: China’s radical new plan to transform its economy

These “clinically diagnosed” cases were often lumped into a category called “suspected cases” which were often reported on many days later or simply added to a running tally that didn’t list daily new infections. Critics have said this may have been an attempt to make the outbreak look more contained.

Talking to CNN, infectious diseases expert Professor William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University in Nashville said Chinese officials had “seemed actually to minimise the impact of the epidemic at any moment in time. To include patients who were suspected of having the infection obviously would have expanded the size of the outbreak and would have given, I think, a truer appreciation of the nature of the infection and its size”.

It was only later in February that the definition of a COVID-19 infection was widened in China to include these cases.

COMMUNIST PARTY PECKING ORDER

A further factor was the Communist Party’s strict and complicated political hierarchy when it came to decisions about how to handle the pandemic

That was one of the conclusions reached by Richard McGregor who analysed China’s reaction to COVID-19 in a paper for Australian think tank the Lowy Institute.

“The CDC ranks below the National Health Commission, whose leaders in turn fall under provincial party chiefs in the bureaucratic pecking order,” Mr McGregor wrote in July.

“The city and provincial leaders needed permission from the top of the party and central government in Beijing to make announcements of any gravity.”

Mr McGregor also said officials in Hubei may have been keen to avoid announcing a deadly new virus during the Lunar New Year – an important and politically sensitive time.

“The entire system, beset with fear, uncertainty, cover-ups, bad faith, and indecision at multiple levels, misfired until the top tier finally realised the gravity of the situation,” he wrote.

“The result was that the virus spread beyond Wuhan, into the rest of the country, and then the world — further, and faster, than it ever should have.”

The CDC’s findings chime with a June US analysis that also suggested infections were far greater than reported.

Academics at the US Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis couldn’t test Wuhan locals for antibodies. Instead they examined the distribution of funeral urns and the capacity of cremation services in the city during the pandemic’s early months.

The non-peer reviewed paper said COVID-19 deaths were likely to be in the region of 36,000, more than 10 times the reported 2500 fatalities. As such, infections were also likely to be at least 10 times higher.

“The magnitude of discrepancy between our estimates based on cremation related data and Chinese official figures in early February, suggests the need to re-evaluate official statistics from China,” the US analysis said.

DOUBTS REMAIN

There are still some who doubt the veracity of China’s COVID-19 figures. It can seem incredible that a vast nation where coronavirus first appeared should now be almost entirely free of it, bar flare ups here and there.

However, since earlier in the pandemic, China has tightened up and standardised its COVID-19 reporting. Research from Oxford University has concluded that while early figures were “manipulated,” current numbers appear genuine. And if the virus was rife right now in the country, it would be difficult to hide neighbourhoods being locked down and rising hospital admissions.

Nonetheless, official numbers emanating from Beijing – on everything from industrial output to GDP – have long been taken with a pinch of salt abroad.

It’s claimed there are strong motives for officials to ensure targets are met, or appear to be met, for fear of embarrassing the Communist Party and their superiors.

The admission that COVID-19 infections in Wuhan could have been 10 times the official figure may lead some to believe China’s experience with COVID-19 will never completely add up.

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2020-12-31 10:49:50Z
52781275627833

Chinese Government says Wuhan outbreak 10 times larger than reported - NEWS.com.au

It has long been suspected that China may have fudged the numbers when it comes to the true number of coronavirus infections the country endured.

But there now appears to be proof that during a critical phase of the pandemic up to 10 times more people caught COVID-19 than official figures stated. Extraordinarily, this revelation has come from the Chinese government itself.

An infectious diseases expert has said authorities failed to give a “true appreciation of the infection and its size”.

From late January, images of Wuhan being locked down circulated globally, a precursor of what was to come in any countries.

According to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, the city where coronavirus was first recorded has seen a total of 50,354 cases in its more than 11 million residents.

However, newly released research by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paints a very different picture.

RELATED: Follow our live virus updates

It tested 34,000 people within Wuhan, the surrounding Hubei province and a number of other cities outside the area, to see if they had antibodies to COVID-19 – a sign that they would have contracted the virus.

“The investigation found that the positive rate of new coronavirus antibodies in the community population in Wuhan was 4.43 per cent,” the report stated.

They would suggest almost 500,000 people in Wuhan contracted COVID-19, 10 times more than the 50,000 officially recorded.

Outside of Wuhan, the number dropped dramatically, with just two people in the study from the wider Hubei province having the antibodies.

“The survey results show that the (Chinese) population is generally at a low level of infection, indicating that the epidemic control with Wuhan as the main battlefield has been successful and effectively prevented the large-scale spread of the epidemic,” the CDC stated.

RELATED: China suggests COVID-19 arrived in Wuhan via frozen Australian meat

WUHAN NUMBERS MASSIVELY UNDER-REPORTED

China watchers have said the vast under-reporting of the true number of cases is likely down to a number of factors. These include a lack of testing kits which meant many people with COVID-19 symptoms were never diagnosed as positive. This was not only an Chinese issue – in the early days of the pandemic many countries struggled to keep up with demand for tests with cases slipping through the net.

But in China, there are also appeared to be a concerted effort to downplay the virus’ spread both to calm the public but also, it has been suggested, because of the bloated nature of the Xi Jinping-led Chinese Government and the desire not to offend higher up officials.

A CNN report from earlier this month found that, for a time, officials in Wuhan routinely minimised the number of coronavirus infections in figures given to the public.

On February 10, 2478 new cases of COVID-19 were officially recorded in Hubei, including Wuhan. However, a leaked confidential document seen by the US network showed that the true number was 5918 new cases, more than double.

The infections that were brushed under the carpet were what Chinese officials called “clinically diagnosed” cases. These were cases that were very likely to be COVID, and showed classic symptoms, but the patient hadn’t had a test. In some cases, the patient was seriously ill and being treated as if they had the disease, but they didn’t appear in the numbers.

RELATED: China’s radical new plan to transform its economy

These “clinically diagnosed” cases were often lumped into a category called “suspected cases” which were often reported on many days later or simply added to a running tally that didn’t list daily new infections. Critics have said this may have been an attempt to make the outbreak look more contained.

Talking to CNN, infectious diseases expert Professor William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University in Nashville said Chinese officials had “seemed actually to minimise the impact of the epidemic at any moment in time. To include patients who were suspected of having the infection obviously would have expanded the size of the outbreak and would have given, I think, a truer appreciation of the nature of the infection and its size”.

It was only later in February that the definition of a COVID-19 infection was widened in China to include these cases.

COMMUNIST PARTY PECKING ORDER

A further factor was the Communist Party’s strict and complicated political hierarchy when it came to decisions about how to handle the pandemic

That was one of the conclusions reached by Richard McGregor who analysed China’s reaction to COVID-19 in a paper for Australian think tank the Lowy Institute.

“The CDC ranks below the National Health Commission, whose leaders in turn fall under provincial party chiefs in the bureaucratic pecking order,” Mr McGregor wrote in July.

“The city and provincial leaders needed permission from the top of the party and central government in Beijing to make announcements of any gravity.”

Mr McGregor also said officials in Hubei may have been keen to avoid announcing a deadly new virus during the Lunar New Year – an important and politically sensitive time.

“The entire system, beset with fear, uncertainty, cover-ups, bad faith, and indecision at multiple levels, misfired until the top tier finally realised the gravity of the situation,” he wrote.

“The result was that the virus spread beyond Wuhan, into the rest of the country, and then the world — further, and faster, than it ever should have.”

The CDC’s findings chime with a June US analysis that also suggested infections were far greater than reported.

Academics at the US Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis couldn’t test Wuhan locals for antibodies. Instead they examined the distribution of funeral urns and the capacity of cremation services in the city during the pandemic’s early months.

The non-peer reviewed paper said COVID-19 deaths were likely to be in the region of 36,000, more than 10 times the reported 2500 fatalities. As such, infections were also likely to be at least 10 times higher.

“The magnitude of discrepancy between our estimates based on cremation related data and Chinese official figures in early February, suggests the need to re-evaluate official statistics from China,” the US analysis said.

DOUBTS REMAIN

There are still some who doubt the veracity of China’s COVID-19 figures. It can seem incredible that a vast nation where coronavirus first appeared should now be almost entirely free of it, bar flare ups here and there.

However, since earlier in the pandemic, China has tightened up and standardised its COVID-19 reporting. Research from Oxford University has concluded that while early figures were “manipulated,” current numbers appear genuine. And if the virus was rife right now in the country, it would be difficult to hide neighbourhoods being locked down and rising hospital admissions.

Nonetheless, official numbers emanating from Beijing – on everything from industrial output to GDP – have long been taken with a pinch of salt abroad.

It’s claimed there are strong motives for officials to ensure targets are met, or appear to be met, for fear of embarrassing the Communist Party and their superiors.

The admission that COVID-19 infections in Wuhan could have been 10 times the official figure may lead some to believe China’s experience with COVID-19 will never completely add up.

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https://news.google.com/__i/rss/rd/articles/CBMiqQFodHRwczovL3d3dy5uZXdzLmNvbS5hdS9saWZlc3R5bGUvaGVhbHRoL2hlYWx0aC1wcm9ibGVtcy9jaGluZXNlLWdvdmVybm1lbnQtc2F5cy13dWhhbi1vdXRicmVhay0xMC10aW1lcy1sYXJnZXItdGhhbi1yZXBvcnRlZC9uZXdzLXN0b3J5L2U5NjRmMmM0MDk4ZWM5MmVhNjdkNmNkN2FhMzhlN2U00gGpAWh0dHBzOi8vYW1wLm5ld3MuY29tLmF1L2xpZmVzdHlsZS9oZWFsdGgvaGVhbHRoLXByb2JsZW1zL2NoaW5lc2UtZ292ZXJubWVudC1zYXlzLXd1aGFuLW91dGJyZWFrLTEwLXRpbWVzLWxhcmdlci10aGFuLXJlcG9ydGVkL25ld3Mtc3RvcnkvZTk2NGYyYzQwOThlYzkyZWE2N2Q2Y2Q3YWEzOGU3ZTQ?oc=5

2020-12-31 10:47:50Z
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