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Gideon Long in Bogotá

Colombia’s defence minister is receiving permanent medical attention in a critical care unit in Bogotá’s military hospital after contracting coronavirus, the presidency said on Monday.

Carlos Holmes, who is 69 and suffers from high blood pressure, tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

He initially received treatment in a hospital in Barranquilla but was flown to the capital when his condition worsened. The government said the head of the armed forces, General Luis Fernando Navarro, would run the ministry in Mr Holmes’s absence.

Colombia is tackling a particularly virulent second wave of Covid-19. Financial Times analysis shows that on a seven-day rolling average, the country has notched more cases per capita than Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru or Chile.

On Friday, it recorded over 21,000 new cases in a single 24-hour period — its highest daily total yet.

The country of 50m people has registered more than 1.9m cases — the 11th highest total in the world — and more than 49,000 deaths.

Last week, foreign minister Claudia Blum became the latest high-ranking politician to test positive.

Vice-president Marta Lucía Ramírez, the mayor of Medellín, the country’s second-largest city, and former president Álvaro Uribe are among other politicians who have caught the virus.

Parts of Bogotá and other cities have returned to strict lockdowns in recent weeks after several months of more relaxed rules.

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

The number of people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 in the US fell to 123,848 on Monday, dropping for the sixth consecutive day.

Figures from the Covid Tracking Project showed the number of hospitalisations for the disease had fallen from 124,387 a day earlier, while the seven-day average nudged lower to 127,468.

The number of people receiving hospital treatment for the virus has fallen in recent days after climbing above 130,000 in early January.

States reported a total of 1,393 deaths, down from 2,044 a day earlier. The daily tally of fatalities climbed above 4,000 in early January, but this has also slowed in recent days.

The US is approaching 400,000 Covid-19 fatalities, with the Covid Tracking Project recording 390,262 total deaths in the country.

But the number of new cases also fell on Monday, coming in at 150,385, compared with 185,518 a day earlier.

Figures for weekends and public holidays tend to be lower than those during the week because of disruptions to record taking.

Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific stocks rose on Tuesday ahead of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration and bank earnings in the US.

The Topix in Japan was up 0.4 per cent, the Kospi in South Korea added 0.8 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1 per cent.

Bank of America and Goldman Sachs are set to report earnings for the three months to December on Tuesday, along with Netflix.

Moves in European equities were muted on Monday and US markets were closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax closed 0.4 per cent higher, while the FTSE 100 in London dipped 0.2 per cent following stronger than expected economic data from China.

S&P 500 futures were up 0.4 per cent.

Jane Croft

The backlog of crown court cases is causing “grave concerns” amongst the government inspectors who monitor the justice system, a new report has found.

The study which looked at the impact of the pandemic on the Criminal Justice System has concluded that the greatest risk to criminal justice in England and Wales comes from the “unprecedented and very serious” backlog in court cases which is having a ripple impact on all parts of the justice system.

The case backlog predates the coronavirus pandemic but the situation has been exacerbated by Covid-19 after crown courts were closed and jury trials were temporarily suspended for two months last year. Since then numbers of hearings have fallen because two or three video-linked courtrooms are now needed for each trial due to social distancing measures.

The number of outstanding cases in crown courts in England and Wales rose from 39,318 in early March to 53,318 in late November, according to HM Courts and Tribunals Service which has opened a number of new temporary “Nightingale” courts to help ease pressure on the system.

The government’s four chief justice inspectors — who monitor the probation service, police, prison and the Crown Prosecution Service—- have united in the latest report to express “grave concerns” about the impact of Covid-19-related court backlogs across England and Wales.

The chief inspectors, who will testify before lawmakers at the justice committee on Tuesday, point to difficulties and lengthy waits at all stages of the criminal justice process that “benefit no one and risk damage to many”.

Justin Russell, chief inspector of probation, said: “Crown Courts deal with the most serious cases, so this backlog concerns us all. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant severe delays and numerous cancellations throughout 2020, and this has had a negative impact on everyone involved."

David Lammy, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, called the report “damning” and said the government had “dithered” allowing the backlog to grow.

The Crown Prosecution Service said: “Safely reducing the backlog of court cases is vital so we can ease pressure on prosecutors and continue to deliver justice. We are working urgently with partners to achieve this.”

The Ministry of Justice said: “In recognition of the scale of the challenge we face, the government is investing £450m to boost recovery in the courts and deliver swifter justice, and this is already yielding results — the magistrates’ backlog continues to fall and Crown Courts cases reached pre-pandemic levels last month.”

Oliver Ralph

Pandemics and business interruption have shot to the top of an annual survey of business risks compiled by insurer Allianz, as companies around the world brace themselves for another difficult year.

Covid-19 has pushed the risk of business interruption — such as threats to supply chains — into the top spot in the survey of 2792 business people in 92 countries for Allianz’s annual Risk Barometer. It was in second place last year.

Pandemics came in at number two. The threat of a pandemic has not always figured highly on the list — over the past three years it was at number 16, number 17 and number 19 as businesses worried more about natural catastrophes, climate change and new technology.

Cyber threats are down from the top spot to number three. Climate change, technology, and reputational risks also slipped down the rankings.

“The Allianz Risk Barometer 2021 is clearly dominated by the Covid-19 trio of risks. Business interruption, pandemic and cyber are strongly interlinked, demonstrating the growing vulnerabilities of our highly globalized and connected world,” said Joachim Müller, CEO of Allianz’s Global Corporate and Specialty division, which put the survey together.

“While the pandemic continues to have a firm grip on countries around the world, we also have to ready ourselves for more frequent extreme scenarios, such as a global-scale cloud outage or cyber-attack, natural disasters driven by climate change or even another disease outbreak,” he added.

More than 4m people across the UK have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday asked Pfizer if the state could purchase Covid-19 vaccines directly from the pharmaceutical giant.

The head of the World Health Organization warned that “the world is on the brink of catastrophic moral failure” as poor countries fall behind richer ones in accessing vaccines to protect their populations.

Ireland has reported a sharp rise in the number of jobless workers claiming special coronavirus benefits, after it shut most of the construction sector this month in its latest national lockdown.

Spain has reported some of the highest coronavirus infection rates since the beginning of the pandemic, as the country continues to resist calls for a new lockdown.

Norway became one of the first European countries to loosen coronavirus-induced restrictions from the second wave of Covid-19 as the Nordic country reaps the rewards of having one of the continent's lowest infection rates.

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