Teachers in England have described a nightmarish term in schools in which Covid has triggered soaring anxiety levels, exhaustion and fear, driving many to consider quitting and even self-harm.
As schools limp towards Christmas with flagging attendances and rising cases in some areas, teachers said they lived in constant fear of catching the virus in school, and were overstretched and understaffed. They complained of feeling abandoned by the government and unfairly vilified by some parts of the media.
Many of the 200-plus teachers who responded to an appeal from the Guardian to share their experiences expressed anger and despair. â€œWe really have been thrown to the lions,â€ said one primary school teacher working in Swale, Kent, one of the worst-affected regions in the country:
In the Australian state of Victoria, the stateâ€™s â€œworld-classâ€ contact tracing systems now in place could have been established before the stateâ€™s second wave of coronavirus if the health department had been less defensive and listened to advice earlier, a parliamentary committee has found.
The stateâ€™s upper house inquiry report, released on Monday, also found that the department should have moved faster to communicate effectively with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and the lack of preparedness â€œcost livesâ€:
New Zealanders forced to wait months in Australia for a place in their countryâ€™s hotel quarantine program hope Mondayâ€™s announcement of an impending travel bubble will allow them to return home quicker.
The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, told reporters on Monday the long-awaited trans-Tasman bubble was expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021.
â€œIt is our intention to name a date … in the new year, once remaining details are locked down,â€ she said.
That came as welcome news for New Zealanders waiting up to three months for a hotel, who may now be able to avoid quarantine altogether:
Restaurants, bars and karaoke venues in Tokyo have been asked to close by 10 pm until Tuesday, while residents have been urged to refrain from traveling outside the capital.
There is concern that the latest outbreak could intensify later this month, when many Japanese traditionally return to their hometowns for the New Year holidays.
December is also bonenkai season, when large groups of colleagues â€œforget the yearâ€ at alcohol-fuelled get-togethers.
This year, however, looks like it will be a far more sober affair, with almost 90% of companies saying they had no plans to hold year-end and New Year parties to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading among employees.
A poll of just over 10,000 firms by Tokyo Shoko Research found that 87.8% had not arranged parties – a trend that will hit the hospitality industry hard during what is normally a lucrative time of the year.
â€œThe pandemic has deprived us of many of the traditions that give us a sense of the changing seasons,â€ an insurance firm employee in Tokyo told Kyodo. â€œWe missed out on cherry blossom viewing (in the spring), fireworks (in the summer), and now bonenkai.â€
Japan could soon exclude Tokyo and the central city of Nagoya from its subsidised travel programme as the country battles a surge in coronavirus cases, according to media reports.
Hideaki Omura, governor of Aichi prefecture, where Nagoya is located, told a TV programme on Sunday that the prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, and members of his cabinet were considering trimming Go To Travel, although health experts have called for the entire programme to be put on hold.
The Kyodo news agency said a decision could come on Monday.
The controversial Go To scheme was launched in July to encourage domestic travel and support regional economies during the pandemic.
But concern that travelers may be contributing to the spread Covid-19 has prompted calls for Suga to suspend the scheme. Suga, who is facing mounting criticism over his handling of the latest wave of infections, last week said he had no intention of halting the programme.
Osaka and Sapporo, which have both seen sharp rises in cases, have already been withdrawn.
Tokyo reported 480 new cases on Sunday – the highest so far for that day of the week, while Nagoya saw 93 cases. Nationwide, Japan recorded 2,388 infections on Sunday, down from a record 3,041 on Saturday.
Trials in the United Arab Emirates have shown that Chinaâ€™s Sinopharm vaccine has 86% efficacy. So what is the Chinese treatment, where is it being trialled and will it challenge the vaccines being developed in western countries?
Everything we know abut the travel bubble now:
New Zealandâ€™s cabinet has agreed to establish a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia in the first quarter of 2021, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said.
The launch would depend on the approval of the Australian government and on the Covid-19 situation in each country remaining the same, Ardern said after meeting her ministers on Monday, adding that a lot of preparation was needed.
â€œIt is our intention to name a date â€¦ in the new year, once remaining details are locked down,â€ Ardern said.
â€œNew Zealand currently has the lowest Covid-19 mortality rate and lowest number of active cases of OECD countries.â€
She said a number of issues needed to be worked through including how passengers from â€œsafe zonesâ€ and those from Covid-19 affected countries could be segregated and how New Zealand would deal with a â€œfloodâ€ of returning Kiwis if there was a resurgence in Australia: