Covid news as it happened: case rates rise in 92% of UK’s local areas; Greece introduces fines for issuing fake vaccination certificates

By Nadeem Badshah (now); Clea Skopeliti ,Tom Ambrose , Helen Sullivan (earlier)
Shoppers on Oxford Street in London.  Nine in 10 areas in the UK have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid cases.
Shoppers on Oxford Street in London. Nine in 10 areas in the UK have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid cases. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

A summary of today's developments

  • Greek authorities have introduced measures to crack down on fake vaccination certificates after a worker at a vaccination centre allegedly provided more than 40 people with false documents. It comes after a health minister vowed to be “ruthless” in the government’s efforts to catch people using them.
  • The 14 victims of a fire in a Covid-19 field hospital in North Macedonia have been identified as 12 patients and two visiting relatives, authorities said on Friday. The public prosecutor’s office said the dead were eight women and six men who ranged in age between 29 and 78.
  • Companies “messing around with costs” of PCR tests for holidaymakers will face fines of up to 10,000, the UK’s health secretary has said following a review by the competition regulator.
  • Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok to fully vaccinated tourists in October, officials have said, despite surging Delta cases in the country. Tourists visiting the five provinces –including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan – will have to stay within a certain area for seven days after arrival and take Covid tests.
  • Brazil has registered 15,930 new cases of coronavirus and 672 further deaths, according to the country’s health ministry.The country has had more than 20.9 million Covid-19 cases in total and over 585,000 deaths.
  • U.S. health officials believe that Pfizer Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine could be authorised for children aged 5-11 years old by the end of October, two sources told Reuters.
  • Nine in ten local areas in the UK have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates. Out of 377 areas, 345 (92%) have seen a week-on-week rise, 31 (8%) have seen a fall and one is unchanged.The highest rates are all in Scotland, where schools have been open since mid-August.
  • Russia on Friday reported 18,341 new coronavirus cases and 789 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information centre, taking its total to 7,102,625 cases and 191,165 deaths.
  • BioNTech will request approval to use its Covid-19 vaccine in five- to 11-year-olds within the next few weeks, the firm’s two top executives have said.
  • Togo’s government has ordered all places of worship to shut down for one month starting on Friday, following a “worrying upsurge” in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
  • Meanwhile, Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech is in talks about setting up a production plant in South Africa to supply the African continent with vaccines for a range of diseases, the chief executive of its local partner said on Friday.
  • Kenya’s economy has shrunk for the first time in three decades amid the coronavirus crisis, a government survey has shown. Almost 740,000 people have lost their jobs as a result.

Mexico’s health ministry on Friday reported 14,233 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 699 deaths.

It brings the overall number of infections since the pandemic began to 3,494,232 and the death toll to 266,849, Reuters reports.

Brazil has registered 15,930 new cases of coronavirus and 672 further deaths, according to the country’s health ministry.

The country has had more than 20.9 million Covid-19 cases in total and over 585,000 deaths.

You can follow the latest Covid developments in Australia in our dedicated blog:

U.S. president Joe Biden discussed the investigation into the origins of Covid-19 during a call on Thursday with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, according to the White House.

“They did discuss a range of trans-national issues including COVID-19, and understanding its origins is of course a primary concern for this administration,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.

“Yes, it was a topic raised, but I’m not going to go into further detail.”

Intelligence agencies said they could not resolve a debate over whether the virus emerged from a Chinese research laboratory without Beijing’s help.

Beijing denies the U.S. accusation that it has not cooperated with the pandemic source investigation.

A medical worker collects samples for Covid-19 tests at a laboratory in Rabat, Morocco, which reported on Friday 2,668 new cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 899,581.
A medical worker collects samples for Covid-19 tests at a laboratory in Rabat, Morocco, which reported on Friday 2,668 new cases, bringing the total infections in the country to 899,581. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

U.S. health officials believe that Pfizer Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine could be authorised for children aged 5-11 years old by the end of October, two sources told Reuters.

The timeline is based on the expectation that Pfizer, which developed the shot with Germany’s BioNTech, will have enough data from clinical trials to seek emergency use authorization (EUA) for that age group from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) towards the end of this month, the sources said.

They anticipate the FDA could make a decision on whether the shot is safe and effective in younger children within three weeks of the EUA submission.

Aboriginal leaders say the Covid outbreak in western New South Wales, Australia, was foreseeable and preventable. They fear they still do not have enough support.

Vaccine developer Novavax Inc said at least 2 billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine would be available in 2022, Reuters reports.

The company, which in June announced its vaccine was more than 90% effective in a late-stage U.S.-based clinical trial, said it was on track to file an application for emergency use of its vaccine to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the fourth quarter.

John Trizzino, chief commercial officer at Novavax, speaking at a Morgan Stanley healthcare conference, reiterated that it would have about 100 million doses per month by the end of the third quarter this year and would increase it to 150 million doses in the fourth quarter.

North Macedonia’s health minister has offered his resignation after an explosion and a fire ripped through a hospital treating coronavirus patients killing 14 people

“The tragedy in Tetovo affected me very much... as a doctor and minister I presented, for ethical reasons, my resignation to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev,” Venko Filipce told reporters in Skopje.

Deputy health minister Ilir Hasani and two hospital directors have already resigned over the blaze, AFP reports.

Twelve patients and two visitors died in the blaze which broke out late on Wednesday at a temporary building joined to the main hospital in Tetovo, west of the capital Skopje.

The number of Covid patients in New South Wales hospitals in Australia is expected to peak in October, with intensive care units bracing for an “overwhelming” impact.

Here, we explain how we will track the unfolding crisis as hospitalisations surge in the coming weeks:

U.S. president Joe Biden will get the Covid booster shot but will wait until it is widely available, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, Reuters reports.

A summary of today's developments

  • Greek authorities have introduced measures to crack down on fake vaccination certificates after a worker at a vaccination centre allegedly provided more than 40 people with false documents. It comes after a health minister vowed to be “ruthless” in the government’s efforts to catch people using them.
  • The 14 victims of a fire in a Covid-19 field hospital in North Macedonia have been identified as 12 patients and two visiting relatives, authorities said on Friday. The public prosecutor’s office said the dead were eight women and six men who ranged in age between 29 and 78.
  • Companies “messing around with costs” of PCR tests for holidaymakers will face fines of up to 10,000, the UK’s health secretary has said following a review by the competition regulator.
  • Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok to fully vaccinated tourists in October, officials have said, despite surging Delta cases in the country. Tourists visiting the five provinces –including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan – will have to stay within a certain area for seven days after arrival and take Covid tests.
  • Nine in ten local areas in the UK have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates. Out of 377 areas, 345 (92%) have seen a week-on-week rise, 31 (8%) have seen a fall and one is unchanged.The highest rates are all in Scotland, where schools have been open since mid-August.
  • Russia on Friday reported 18,341 new coronavirus cases and 789 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information centre, taking its total to 7,102,625 cases and 191,165 deaths.
  • BioNTech will request approval to use its Covid-19 vaccine in five- to 11-year-olds within the next few weeks, the firm’s two top executives have said.
  • Togo’s government has ordered all places of worship to shut down for one month starting on Friday, following a “worrying upsurge” in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
  • Meanwhile, Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech is in talks about setting up a production plant in South Africa to supply the African continent with vaccines for a range of diseases, the chief executive of its local partner said on Friday.
  • Kenya’s economy has shrunk for the first time in three decades amid the coronavirus crisis, a government survey has shown. Almost 740,000 people have lost their jobs as a result.

Togo’s government has ordered all places of worship to shut down for one month starting on Friday, following a “worrying upsurge” in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

The West African nation of about eight million people has recorded just over 23,000 cases and 203 deaths but the true tally could be higher given low testing rates, AFP reports.

Weddings and funerals are banned as well as cultural, sporting and political events, the government said.

Healthy boys may be more likely to be admitted to hospital with a rare side-effect of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine that causes inflammation of the heart than with Covid itself, US researchers claim.

Their analysis of medical data suggests that boys aged 12 to 15, with no underlying medical conditions, are four to six times more likely to be diagnosed with vaccine-related myocarditis than ending up in hospital with Covid over a four-month period.

Most children who experienced the rare side-effect had symptoms within days of the second shot of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, though a similar side-effect is seen with the Moderna jab. About 86% of the boys affected required some hospital care, the authors said.

The US administered 378,569,717 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country as of Friday morning and distributed 454,332,805 doses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Those figures are up from the 377,622,065 vaccine doses the CDC said had gone into arms by Sept. 9 out of 452,781,195 doses delivered, Reuters reports.

The agency said 208,704,230 people had received at least one dose, while 177,899,458 people are fully vaccinated as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Friday.
More than 1.6 million people received an additional dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine since Aug. 13, when the U.S. authorised a third dose of the vaccines for people with compromised immune systems who are likely to have weaker protection from the two-dose regimens.

US president Joe Biden has dared political opponents plotting legal challenges to his large-scale workforce vaccine mandates to “have at it” – as one Republican governor promised to fight the White House “to the gates of hell” over the new coronavirus rules.

A growing number of senior Republicans, including US senators, state governors and leading party officials, announced on Friday they would support or pursue legal avenues to try to block the president’s edict.

In an address at the White House on Thursday, Biden said his new orders would affect 100 million workers and help “turn the tide of Covid-19” in the US.

Companies “messing around with costs” of PCR tests for holidaymakers will face fines of up to 10,000, the Health Secretary has said following a review by the UK competition regulator.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned there is a “race for the bottom” in the PCR testing market which could see travellers lose out and called on the UK’s government for an “interventionist” response.

The CMA advised that the government should create a one-stop shop list of “approved test providers by significantly improving the basic standards to qualify for inclusion and remaining on the gov.uk list”.

It also called for a more comprehensive monitoring and enforcement programme to ensure test providers meet the Government’s standards and receive swift sanctions for failings, PA reports.

A man is restrained in Vilnius, Lithuania. Lithuanians gathered for another protest against their government’s Covid-19 policies, which include an attempt to introduce a mandatory health pass for access to cafes, shops, public transportation vehicles and other venues.
A man is restrained in Vilnius, Lithuania. Lithuanians gathered for another protest against their government’s Covid-19 policies, which include an attempt to introduce a mandatory health pass for access to cafes, shops, public transportation vehicles and other venues. Photograph: Paulius Peleckis/Getty Images

Roundup of today's updates

  • Greek authorities have introduced measures to crack down on fake vaccination certificates after a worker at a vaccination centre allegedly provided more than 40 people with false documents. It comes after a health minister vowed to be “ruthless” in the government’s efforts to catch people using them.
  • The 14 victims of a fire in a Covid-19 field hospital in North Macedonia have been identified as 12 patients and two visiting relatives, authorities said on Friday. The public prosecutor’s office said the dead were eight women and six men who ranged in age between 29 and 78.
  • Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok to fully vaccinated tourists in October, officials have said, despite surging Delta cases in the country. Tourists visiting the five provinces –including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan – will have to stay within a certain area for seven days after arrival and take Covid tests.
  • Nine in ten local areas in the UK have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates. Out of 377 areas, 345 (92%) have seen a week-on-week rise, 31 (8%) have seen a fall and one is unchanged.The highest rates are all in Scotland, where schools have been open since mid-August.
  • Russia on Friday reported 18,341 new coronavirus cases and 789 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information centre, taking its total to 7,102,625 cases and 191,165 deaths.
  • BioNTech will request approval to use its Covid-19 vaccine in five- to 11-year-olds within the next few weeks, the firm’s two top executives have said.
  • Meanwhile, Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech is in talks about setting up a production plant in South Africa to supply the African continent with vaccines for a range of diseases, the chief executive of its local partner said on Friday.
  • Kenya’s economy has shrunk for the first time in three decades amid the coronavirus crisis, a government survey has shown. Almost 740,000 people have lost their jobs as a result.

That’s all from me for today – my colleague Nadeem Badshah will be here shortly to take you through the next few hours. Thanks for reading along.

Russia on Friday reported 18,341 new coronavirus cases and 789 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information centre, taking its total to 7,102,625 cases and 191,165 deaths.

Roughly 700 Russian doctors have died from the coronavirus so far in 2021, the health ministry’s chief non-staff pathology specialist Igor Bukhtiyarov said in comments reported in the Moscow Times.

It comes as health officials warned that Russia could see a further coronavirus surge as early as this month as authorities relax restrictions.

Despite a fall in cases from a peak in July, the country continues to deal with a third wave driven by the Delta variant and daily deaths have remained high since the peak.

Students aged 12 and over in the Los Angeles public school system soon will need to be fully vaccinated to attend classes in-person.

Students who play sports and participate in other extracurricular activities will have to have had their shots by the end of October, while all others will have to be inoculated by 19 December, according the Associated Press.

Unless they have a medical or other exemption, those without proof of vaccination won’t be allowed to have in-person learning following the end of winter break on 11 January .

“This action is not about violating anybody’s rights,” school board member Monica Garcia said. “This action is about doing our job to be able to offer public schools that children can come to school and be safe.”

GPs are “finding it increasingly hard to guarantee safe care” for millions of patients as a shortage of medics means they are unable to cope with soaring demand, Britain’s top family doctor has warned.

Amid a debate over access to face-to-face appointments, Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), defended the growing use of remote consultations during the pandemic.

He said a 4.5% fall in GP numbers across England was to blame for the crisis in primary care and warned it had led to a risk of mistakes being made.

Exclusive report by health editor Andrew Gregory:

Covid-19 case rates rise in 92% of UK's local areas

Nine in ten local areas in the UK have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates.

Out of 377 areas, 345 (92%) have seen a week-on-week rise, 31 (8%) have seen a fall and one is unchanged.

The highest rates are all in Scotland, where schools have been open since mid-August.

West Dunbartonshire has the highest rate in the UK, with 1,133 new cases in the seven days to 6 September – the equivalent of 1,282.5 per 100,000 people.

This is up from 1,104.8 in the seven days to 30 August.
North Lanarkshire has the second highest rate, down slightly from 1,266.0 to 1,237.0, with 4,220 new cases.
Inverclyde has the third highest rate, down from 1,247.1 to 1,178.3, with 908 new cases.

Merthyr Tydfil has the highest rate in Wales (815.9), Fermanagh & Omagh has the highest rate in Northern Ireland (750.0), and Corby in Northamptonshire has the highest rate in England (724.1).

Israel says it will prosecute dozens of pilgrims returning from Ukraine who flew back into the country with fake negative Covid test results.

The pilgrims had been attending the annual celebration of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, in the Ukrainian city of Uman, where Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who founded the Hasidic Breslov sect in the early 19th century, is buried. He was a great-grandson of the founder of Hasidism.

Between 25,000 and 30,000 pilgrims, largely from the Breslov sect, visited Uman in central Ukraine this year. Israel’s Magen David Adom medical service told the Jerusalem Post that up to 14% of those returning had tested positive for Covid.

Updated

Italy has reported 62 coronavirus-related deaths, the health ministry said, while the tally of new infections rose by 5,621.

According to Reuters, Italy has registered 129,828 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.6 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 4,164 on Friday, while there were 37 new admissions to intensive care units, for a total of 548.

Some 286,028 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, the health ministry said.

Boris Johnson is expected to announce a set of contingency measures for England next week in a bid to prevent a return to restrictions over winter.

Vaccinating children, rolling out booster jabs, introducing Covid passports and an expanded flu vaccination programme are all potential measures that could be used to minimise pressure on the NHS while keeping the economy open.

Nicola Davis and Peter Walker take a look at how useful this “toolbox” of potential measures might be:

Updated

In the UK, a further 147 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total to 133,988, the government announced.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 158,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

As of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 37,622 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the government said.

You can follow the developments in more detail on our UK-focussed blog here.

Greece introduces fines for issuing fake Covid certificates

Greek authorities have introduced measures to crack down on fake vaccination certificates after a worker at a vaccination centre allegedly provided more than 40 people with false documents.

The Associated Press reports that Thanos Plevris, the health minister, said that parliament approved fines of 5,000 euros for each bogus vaccination, recovery, or test certificate issued. Private health centres that issue fake documents could be fined up to 50,000 euros.

People planning to commit these acts should know that they will be fired, they may face criminal prosecution, and they will have to pay a lot of money,” Plevris told state ERT TV.

He said the penalties will be more severe if the use of fraudulent documents could be linked directly to an outbreak.

Updated

China will give a further 3m doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Vietnam by the end of this year, raising China’s total vaccine donations to the south-east Asian country to 5.7m doses, the Vietnamese government said on Friday, according to Reuters.

The announcement came after a meeting between the Vietnamese deputy prime minister, Pham Binh Minh, and visiting Chinese state councillor Wang Yi, the government said.

Updated

In the UK, Boris Johnson is set to publish a Covid blueprint to prepare the country for a “difficult time” this winter, with jabs for younger teenagers, a booster programme, flu shots and vaccine passports all expected to be part of the measures.

The prime minister is likely to strike a more cautious note than he has done in recent months, warning the public to continue being careful as cases are rising – with more than 8,000 Covid patients in hospital in the UK despite the vaccination programme.

The UK government is looking to extend its emergency Covid powers – opposed by a caucus of anti-lockdown Tory MPs – in case restrictions are needed as a last resort.

No 10 is hoping the combination of measures to be announced next week will head off the need for further draconian lockdowns after some scientists warned that a “firebreak” could be needed this autumn.

Updated

The US Food and Drug Administration said on Friday that clinical trials testing Covid-19 vaccines for children are expected to include a monitoring period of at least two months after half the participants get the shots to ensure safety.

The comments come as vaccine makers race to submit clinical data seeking regulatory approval for the use of their vaccines in children below 12, as schools around the country begin to reopen for in-person learning, Reuters reports.

German drugmaker and Pfizer Inc’s partner, BioNTech SE, earlier on Friday said it was set to request approval across the globe to use its Covid-19 vaccine in children as young as five over the next few weeks.

“Children are not small adults and issues that may be addressed in paediatric vaccine trials can include whether there is a need for different doses or different strength formulations of vaccines already used for adults,” FDA acting commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a joint statement with the director of Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Updated

Summary of recent developments

  • Kenya’s economy has shrunk for the first time in three decades amid the coronavirus crisis, a government survey has shown. Almost 740,000 people have lost their jobs as a result.
  • BioNTech will request approval to use its Covid-19 vaccine in five- to 11-year-olds within the next few weeks, the firm’s two top executives have said.
  • The Greek health ministry has vowed to be “ruthless” in its efforts to catch people using false Covid-19 vaccination or recovery certificates and those who issue them.
  • Here is an overview of different countries’ vaccination requirements, ranging from compulsory jabs to mandates for health staff.
  • The 14 victims of a fire in a Covid-19 field hospital in North Macedonia have been identified as 12 patients and two visiting relatives, authorities said Friday.
  • Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok to fully vaccinated tourists in October, officials have said, despite surging Delta cases in the country.

Thailand to reopen Bangkok to jabbed visitors in October

Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok to fully vaccinated tourists in October, officials have said, despite surging Delta cases in the country.

The country is hoping to reenergise its badly-hit tourism sector, which made up a fifth of the country’s national income prior to the pandemic. The travel curbs have contributed to Thailand’s worst economic performance in two decades, according to AFP.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand said that from 1 October, jabbed foreign visitors will be able to avoid hotel quarantine when visiting Bangkok and four other provinces.

Tourists visiting the five provinces –including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan – will have to stay within a certain area for seven days after arrival and take Covid tests.

However, the tourism agency warned plans could change if the third wave does not subside in time. Since April the Delta variant has taken hold and cases have soared to more than 1.3 million, with almost 14,000 deaths.

Updated

Although the pandemic has meant a lack of large-scale celebrations for Hindus in many Indian cities on the first day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, devotees have marked the day with smaller actions:

A woman carries an idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha through a street during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Chennai on September 10, 2021.
A woman carries an idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha through a street during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Chennai on September 10, 2021. Photograph: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images
A Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) man prays during special prayers on the occasion of the Hindu festival Ganesha Chaturthi at a temple in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 10 September 2021
A Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) man prays during special prayers on the occasion of the Hindu festival Ganesha Chaturthi at a temple in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, 10 September 2021 Photograph: Farooq Khan/EPA
A priest offers prayers in front of an idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha made of 1008 coconuts during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival at a temple in Chennai on September 10, 2021.
A priest offers prayers in front of an idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha made of 1008 coconuts during the Ganesh Chaturthi festival at a temple in Chennai on September 10, 2021. Photograph: Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

The coronavirus pandemic and Brexit have caused a sharp fall in Britain’s trade with the EU, with exports £1.7bn lower than in July 2018 and imports down by £3bn, according to official data.

Brexit correspondent Lisa O’Carroll reports:

North Macedonia Covid hospital fire victims identified

The 14 victims of a fire in a Covid-19 field hospital in North Macedonia have been identified as 12 patients and two visiting relatives, authorities said Friday.

Witnesses have said an explosion preceded the blaze, which broke out late on Wednesday in the western town of Tetovo. The fire is believed to have started by accident, although an investigation is still under way, the AP news agency reports.

The public prosecutor’s office said the dead were eight women and six men who ranged in age between 29 and 78. Twelve people were also injured.

The head of Tetovo’s Covid-19 center, Gzim Nuredini, said the fire spread very quickly. “It all lasted three to five minutes,” Nuredini said, adding that medical staff and patients’ relatives who were outside all tried to help extinguish the flames.

Updated

Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech is in talks about setting up a production plant in South Africa to supply the African continent with vaccines for a range of diseases, the chief executive of its local partner said on Friday.

Reuters reports that Numolux Group CEO Hilton Klein said:

This clinical trial is a precursor to the establishment of a South African vaccine manufacturing facility partnered by Sinovac and Numolux Group that will cover the entire spectrum of vaccinations beyond just the Covid-19 response.”

We are in talks with Sinovac to set up a vaccine manufacturing facility. A phase one where we will do bottling and labelling so that we can get vaccines out to the people of Africa as soon as possible,” he added. “Vaccines in Africa for Africa.”

Klein was speaking at the launch of the South African leg of Sinovac’s Phase 3 CoronaVac vaccine trial on children and adolescents.

Sinovac and Numolux are enrolling 2,000 participants in the South African study, which is evaluating the efficacy, immunogenicity and safety of the vaccine on children and adolescents aged six months to 17 years.

Updated

Scientists would make swifter progress in solving the world’s problems if they learned to put their egos aside and collaborate better, according to the leading researcher behind the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine.

“If so many people who are in a certain field would come together in a room and forget their names, their egos, their titles, and just think, they would come up with so many solutions for so many things, but all these titles and whatever get in the way,” Prof Katalin Karikó told the Guardian.

Karikó doesn’t mince her words in this interview by the Guardian’s science editor Ian Sample – read it here:

Updated

AFP has compiled an overview of different countries’ vaccination requirements, following the Biden administration’s latest mandate that will require 100 million workers to get inoculated.

Compulsory

  • Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, are among the rare countries that have made vaccinations mandatory for all adults.
  • The Vatican – the world’s smallest state – also has compulsory vaccination for all adults.
  • The South Pacific French territory of New Caledonia has said it will make vaccination compulsory for all its inhabitants and visitors.

Health and care workers

  • France’s healthcare staff, retirement home workers and others working with vulnerable people have until Wednesday to get vaccinated. The country also restricts access to entertainment and hospitality venues to the vaccinated or those with a negative test.
  • Greek health workers have been required to be vaccinated since 1 September.
  • Italian doctors and health workers must get vaccinated or face being banned from working directly with patients. Vaccinations will be compulsory for retirement home workers from 10 October. Meanwhile, unvaccinated school and university staff and students must show proof of a negative test every two days.
  • Britain will require anyone working in a care home to be fully vaccinated by 11 November.
  • Hungary has said vaccination will become compulsory for caregivers.

Further requirements

  • The Canadian government has said all federal workers must be vaccinated by the end of September and most commercial rail, air and ship passengers must also get jabs.
  • In Russia, Moscow and Saint Petersburg have ordered mandatory jabs for anyone working in the service industry.
  • Kazakhstan has ordered workers in sectors ranging from the service industry to banking and entertainment to be vaccinated or be restricted from working face-to-face.
  • Fiji has introduced a “no jabs, no job” policy for public servants and private sector employees.
  • Vaccination has been compulsory in Equatorial Guinea since 20 July for professions including the military, health workers and teachers.
  • Gambia has made vaccination mandatory for workers in the tourist sector.
  • Zimbabwe said on Wednesday that it would officials would be forced to resign if they did not get jabbed.-
  • Around 20 Chinese local authorities including the city of Chuxiong in Yunnan province have warned that unvaccinated residents over 18 will soon no longer be admitted to hospitals, schools or on public transport.
  • Despite a lack of formal vaccine requirements for vaccination in Saudi Arabia, restrictions for the non-vaccinated in a number of places mean there is a de facto obligation. Only vaccinated employees can enter their workplaces and Riyadh has decided that anyone using public transport, entering a government or private establishment also must be jabbed.

Updated

Greece to be 'ruthless' on fake vaccination certificates

The Greek health ministry has vowed to be “ruthless” in its efforts to catch people using false Covid-19 vaccination or recovery certificates and those who issue them.

“False certificates are a problem that is upsetting us a lot. I think there is a very small number of them right now and these can be checked. Legal action will be taken in those cases where fraud is confirmed and we will be ruthless,” deputy health minister Mina Gaga said in comments reported by Kathimerini newspaper.

Health minister Thanos Plevris has previously said fraudulent Covid recovery certificates are more difficult to detect than fake vaccination documents.

It follows the news earlier this month that an employee at a vaccination centre in Karditsa, central Greece, had used a doctor’s access codes to issue at least 44 false vaccination certificates.

Updated

BioNTech will request approval to use its Covid-19 vaccine in five- to 11-year-olds within the next few weeks, the firm’s two top executives have said.

“Already over the next few weeks we will file the results of our trial in five- to 11-year-olds with regulators across the world and will request approval of the vaccine in this age group, also here in Europe,” chief medical officer Oezlem Tuereci told Der Spiegel.

Tuereci said that the lower-dose paediatric version of its Comirnaty vaccine vaccine was in the final adjustment stages. The raw trial data is being prepared for a regulatory filing.

Reuters reports that the company has also outlined plans to seek approval in children aged six months to two years later this year.

Updated

Kenya’s economy has shrunk for the first time in three decades amid the coronavirus crisis, a government survey has shown. Almost 740,000 people have lost their jobs as a result.

The east African country’s gross domestic product dropped by 0.3% – the first contraction since 1992 – after growing 5% in 2019, the report said, as reported by AFP.

Kenya’s tourism sector – a crucial part of its economy – was battered by a drop in revenue of almost 44% as the numbers of visitor fell by more than 70% due to travel curbs.

In total, 738,000 of Kenya’s 17.4 million workers lost their jobs, with informal workers hit hardest. “Disruption in labour supply brought about by restriction of movement and social distancing meant to contain the spread of Covid-19 reduced demand for goods and services,” the report said.

However, the treasury secretary, Ukur Yatani, forecasted that the economy would grow by about 6% in 2021.

Updated

Staff at US colleges and universities have spoken about being nervous about returning to teaching as term begins.

Even institutions requiring masks and vaccinations are dealing with unexpectedly high rates of Covid, while others lack transparent contact tracing systems. Earlier this week, the University of Delaware told faculty not to inform students if their classmates test positive for Covid-19.

Read Melody Schreiber’s report here:

Hello, I’m Clea Skopeliti and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic for the next few hours. You can reach me via Twitter DM if you’d like to draw my attention to something. Thanks in advance.

Summary

Here is a round-up of all the big Covid news stories from around the world so far today:

  • Denmark has become one of the first European Union nations to lift all of its domestic Covid restrictions due to its high vaccination rates. As of today, people will no longer need to show a digital proof of vaccination pass when entering nightclubs – the country’s final restriction.
  • The UK’s Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, who developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, has said she does not support a widespread booster jab campaign as immunity among fully vaccinated people is “lasting well”.
  • Pfizer has been accused of holding Brazil “to ransom” over demands to shield itself from possible vaccine side-effect lawsuits in its contract to supply the country with 100m Covid jabs.
  • The US education department will provide a new grant programme for schools that get state funding withheld for going against state mask policies. It aims to push back against governors in Iowa, South Carolina and other states attempting to block schools from requiring masks among students and teachers.
  • Joe Biden, seeking to restore public confidence in his handling of the pandemic, ordered on Thursday that nearly all US federal government workers must get vaccinated. Reports of the requirement emerged ahead of a major speech by the president outlining a six-point plan to address the latest dramatic surge in Covid cases and the stalling rate of vaccinations.
  • Expert warned attempts to revive German vaccine campaign not enough to stop fourth wave. The German government’s plan to reboot the country’s flagging vaccine campaign with a celebrity-backed burst of advertising on social media, television and billboards, will not be sufficient to stop the dramatic developments of a fourth wave, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the head of the World Medical Association, has said.

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, on the global Covid blog for today.

I’m handing over to my colleague Clea Skopeliti now, who will bring you all the latest coronavirus news throughout the afternoon.

Updated

Denmark becomes first EU nation to lift all Covid restrictions

Denmark has become one of the first European Union nations to lift all of its domestic Covid restrictions due to its high vaccination rates.

As of today, people will no longer need to show a digital proof of vaccination pass when entering nightclubs – the country’s final restriction.

It comes after 548 days of measures being in place to limit the spread of the virus but now more than 80% of Danes above the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated.

Soeren Riis Paludan, a professor of virology with the Aarhus University in Denmark’s second largest city, told the Associated Press:

I wouldn’t say it is too early. We have opened the door but we have also said that we can close it if needed.

People gather in front of La Boucherie nightclub on Vestergade in Copenhagen, Denmark
People gather in front of La Boucherie nightclub on Vestergade in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photograph: Olafur Steinar Gestsson/EPA

As of midnight, the Danish government said it no longer considers Covid “a socially critical disease”.

Updated

The owner of the Real Greek and Franco Manca restaurant chains in the UK said business is picking up week by week, with trading up more than a quarter over pre-pandemic levels as tourists and office workers begin to return to city centres.

The Fulham Shore, which owns 75 restaurants, said that revenues across its chains increased by 27% in the three weeks to 5 September compared with the same period in 2019.

The company, which last month said it planned to open as many as 150 new restaurants over the next few years, said this was a significant surge in business compared with the 8% revenue increase over pre-pandemic levels it had seen in the eight-week period to 15 August.

Business in London, where Fulham Shore operates 17 restaurants in the West End and city centre office locations, remains down on pre-coronavirus levels but continues “to see a week-by-week improvement in footfall and revenues as tourists and office workers have started to return”.

The increase in business also coincides with the end of the “pingdemic” on 16 August, when the government scrapped the self-isolation rules for those with double vaccinations.

Meanwhile, Singapore will not be tightening its Covid restrictions for the time being despite a spike in infections over recent weeks, according to the Reuters news agency.

However, it will not move ahead with reopening more as it monitors for severe cases.

The country will take a pause and monitor the situation in hospitals and intensive care units over the next 2-4 weeks, said Lawrence Wong, finance minister and co-head of the coronavirus taskforce.

If manageable, the country will return to its reopening plans, he added.

Sri Lanka will extend its lockdown for a further week as it continues to struggle against a coronavirus surge.

The country’s Covid committee decided on Friday to extend the lockdown, which was originally due to end Monday, until 21 September, presidential spokesman Kingsly Rathnayaka said.

The Associated Press reports:

The lockdown was first imposed on 20 August. During that period, the government has allowed export-related factories to operate and for agriculture work to be done, in addition to essential services such as health, food distribution, communication and power.

Doctors and trade unions have warned that hospitals and morgues have reached their maximum capacities during the ongoing surge caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

A health worker inoculates a pregnant woman with a dose of the Chinese-made Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine in Colombo.
A health worker inoculates a pregnant woman with a dose of the Chinese-made Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine in Colombo. Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Sri Lanka has confirmed 474,870 cases and 10,689 deaths from the pandemic.

Updated

The UK’s Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, who developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, has said she does not support a widespread booster jab campaign as immunity among fully vaccinated people is “lasting well”.

She suggested extra doses should be directed to countries with a low rate of vaccination.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs are safe to use as boosters, but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has yet to give its advice to ministers.

Dame Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine.
Dame Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford’s Jenner Institute and Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

Gilbert’s comments came as data was presented to the JCVI that indicated a top-up Pfizer vaccine dose several months after a second jab greatly boosted the body’s immune response to Covid-19, according to the Times.

Updated

In Australia, New South Wales year 12 students will sit the full HSC exams in person in eight weeks’ time with strict Covid protocols in place to lower the risk of outbreaks.

After weeks of uncertainty leading to calls for the end-of-year assessments to be called off, the state’s education minister, Sarah Mitchell, on Friday detailed plans to deal with the impact of the pandemic.

All exam supervisors will need to be vaccinated, and a Covid-safe plan will be provided to schools to enforce venue caps, social distancing and hygiene measures.

The US education department will provide a new grant programme for schools that get state funding withheld for going against state mask policies.

It aims to push back against governors in Iowa, South Carolina and other states attempting to block schools from requiring masks among students and teachers.

Some states, including Florida, have withheld the salaries of school leaders who have required masks in defiance of state orders, reports the Associated Press.

Those schools will soon be able to apply for federal grants under Project SAFE to make up for any money lost due to implementing public health measures backed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Students wear face masks in the classroom at Normont Early Education Center and Normont Elementary in Harbor City, south Los Angeles, California.
Students wear face masks in the classroom at Normont Early Education Center and Normont Elementary in Harbor City, south Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Étienne Laurent/EPA

Education secretary Miguel Cardona says school officials should be thanked, not punished, for taking steps to prevent the spread of Covid, adding:

This program will allow them to continue that critical work of keeping students safe.

The money will come from an existing pool of federal funding that the education department can use on a range of student safety initiatives.

Updated

In India, exorbitant Covid care costs push Indians into poverty, with hospital treatment meaning a lifetime of debt for many.

It comes as a study, conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), concluded that a casual worker in India needed to work 481 days to cover one episode of intensive care treatment in hospital.

A Covidnward in the Government Medical College Hospital in Manjeri. India.
A Covidnward in the Government Medical College Hospital in Manjeri. India. Photograph: Krishna Das/Reuters

To see the full story from my colleague Cheena Kapoor, in Delhi, please see below.

Britain’s economic recovery from the winter lockdown virtually stalled in July despite the removal of most pandemic restrictions, amid a fall in retail sales and the impact of “pingdemic” shortages in the workforce.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) grew by only 0.1% in July from a month earlier, as the government’s end to most restrictions in England failed to offset the fallout from the coronavirus Delta variant.

It was lower than the 0.6% growth forecast by City economists, and a sharp slowdown compared with June, when the economy grew by 1%.

Busy restaurants and cafes are seen in Old Compton Street in Soho, London.
Busy restaurants and cafes are seen in Old Compton Street in Soho, London. Photograph: Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Service sector activity, which accounts for 80% of the economy, recorded no growth overall on the month, as the return of music festivals and sport was outweighed by a sharp drop in high street spending and a decline in the legal sector linked to the end of the stamp duty holiday.

Updated

Egypt’s daily reported cases of coronavirus have exceeded 400 for the first time in months. The country’s health ministry reported 413 cases and 12 fatalities for the past 24 hours on Friday.

Daily cases have been rising in recent weeks since the more contagious Delta variant was detected in the country in July.

The Associated Press reported this morning:

The latest increase is alarming for Egyptian authorities as schools are scheduled to open their doors for face-to-face classes next week.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country with 100 million people, has reported 291,585 cases including 16,836 fatalities from the pandemic.

However, the actual numbers are believed to be much higher since health authorities have done limited testing.

People wait before receiving the vaccine against coronavirus at a mass immunisation venue inside Cairo University, in Cairo, Egypt.
People wait before receiving the vaccine against coronavirus at a mass immunisation venue inside Cairo University, in Cairo, Egypt. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Updated

In the UK, Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert – the scientist who led the development of Oxford University’s Covid vaccine – has won a prestigious business award.

She was honoured at Veuve Clicquot’s annual awards ceremony, not just for her most recent work on the Covid vaccine but for her decade of experience in developing vaccines at Oxford with university spinout Vaccitech.

On winning the Bold Woman Award, she said:

For the last 18 months a dedicated team worked hard to deliver the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

It illustrates what can be achieved when academic institutions and the private sector work together, and this is something we must build on.

We salute the success of the vaccine rollout by the NHS in the UK, but there is still much to be done globally.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert attends the the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman of the Year Award 2021 at RIBA.
Profe Dame Sarah Gilbert attends the the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman of the Year Award 2021 at RIBA. Photograph: David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Veuve Clicquot

She told the PA Media news agency there is a good gender balance in her profession, but believes more needs to be done to help women achieve the top jobs in their career, such as by improving childcare arrangements.

Updated

Pfizer has been accused of holding Brazil “to ransom” over demands to shield itself from possible vaccine side-effect lawsuits in its contract to supply the country with 100m Covid jabs.

In its $1bn (£700m) deal with Pfizer Export BV, signed in March, despite its prior complaints, the Brazilian government agreed that “a liability waiver be signed for any possible side-effects of the vaccine, exempting Pfizer from any civil liability for serious side-effects arising from the use of the vaccine, indefinitely”.

Indemnity from compensation claims has been common in contracts between many countries and big pharma companies since the late 1980s.

The contract also stipulated that Brazil would cede to secret US courts in the event of any contractual disputes relating to the vaccines.

In April, the contract was leaked on the health ministry website – a confidentiality agreement with Pfizer prevents the publication of its contracts. It was removed soon after and went largely unnoticed outside Brazil until the information was tweeted by a French lawyer and writer last month.

Good morning, I’m Tom Ambrose and will be keeping you up-to-date with all the breaking coronavirus news over the next few hours this morning.

We start with the news that, in Vietnam, there are plans to reopen the beach island of Phu Quoc to foreign tourists from next month.

The island, six miles off the coast of Cambodia, is expected to open for a trial period of six months, the government said.

The Reuters news agency reported this morning:

Vietnam, which is currently shut to all visitors apart from returning citizens and investors, had managed to contain the virus for much of the pandemic but in the past three months has faced a surge in infections driven by the Delta variant.

“The prolonged pandemic has seriously hurt the tourism industry,” Vietnam’s tourism and culture minister Nguyen Van Hung said.

Fully vaccinated tourists with a negative coronavirus test will be eligible to visit Phu Quoc, the statement said, adding they could fly to the island on chartered or commercial flights.

Phu Quoc island in Vietnam
Phu Quoc island in Vietnam. Photograph: ryasnik/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Foreign arrivals to Vietnam slumped from 18 million in 2019 to 3.8 million last year.

Updated

Los Angeles requires students to be vaccinated

The Los Angeles school district will require students 12 and older to be vaccinated against the coronavirus if they attend in-person classes in the nation’s second-largest school district.

The school board’s vote on Thursday makes Los Angeles by far the largest of a very small number of districts with a vaccine requirement.

Under the plan, students 12 and up who participate in sports and other extracurricular activities need to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. Others have until 19 December.

The decision marks one of the most aggressive measures taken by a major US school district to protect children from infections. The move was spurred in part by a recent rise in pediatric hospitalisations, according to the superintendent’s office:

Updated

Biden mandates vaccines for 100 million workers

Joe Biden, striving to restore public confidence in his handling of the pandemic, announced new vaccination mandates on Thursday for 100 million workers, about two-thirds of the American labour force.

Channelling national frustration as the virus surges back, the US president adopted his sternest tone yet in reprimanding the tens of millions of Americans who are still not vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“We can and we will turn the tide of Covid-19,” he said firmly. “It’ll take a lot of hard work and it’s going to take some time. Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated even though the vaccine is safe, effective and free.”

Biden’s speech in the state dining room of the White House, against a backdrop of Abraham Lincoln’s portrait and with watching reporters crammed tightly, was seen as a high-profile attempt to claw back momentum and offer reassurance to Americans feeling despair about whether the pandemic will ever end:

Updated

Summary

Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

US president Joe Biden announced new vaccination mandates on Thursday for 100 million workers, about two-thirds of the American labour force.

Meanwhile students age 12 and older in the Los Angeles school system must be vaccinated before they can return to classrooms next year under one of the toughest anti-Covid mandates enacted in the nation.

More on these stories shortly. In the meantime, here are the other key recent developments:

  • More than 8,000 people in the UK were in hospital with Covid on Wednesday – the highest figure for nearly six months – leading to fears of a resurgence in the virus’ ability to cause serious illness and death among the population.
  • People in Scotland will need proof they have been fully vaccinated in order to attend nightclubs and mass events in Scotland from 1 October. The mandatory vaccine passport plan was formally approved by Holyrood on Thursday after the SNP and Greens voted in favour.
  • Joe Biden, seeking to restore public confidence in his handling of the pandemic, ordered on Thursday that nearly all US federal government workers must get vaccinated. Reports of the requirement emerged ahead of a major speech by the president outlining a six-point plan to address the latest dramatic surge in Covid cases and the stalling rate of vaccinations.
  • Expert warned attempts to revive German vaccine campaign not enough to stop fourth wave. The German government’s plan to reboot the country’s flagging vaccine campaign with a celebrity-backed burst of advertising on social media, television and billboards, will not be sufficient to stop the dramatic developments of a fourth wave, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, the head of the World Medical Association, has said.
  • The UK’s medicines regulator has granted emergency approval for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to be used as third, “booster” shots to tackle potentially waning immunity, adding pressure on the government’s vaccines watchdog to approve a new vaccine programme.

Updated


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