Four in five over-16s in UK now fully vaccinated – as it happened

By Lucy Campbell (now); Kaamil Ahmed, Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier)
Sweden will remove virtually all coronavirus restrictions on 29 September with the pandemic under control and the vaccination rollout well-advanced, the government said today.
Sweden will remove virtually all coronavirus restrictions on 29 September with the pandemic under control and the vaccination rollout well-advanced, the government said today. Photograph: David Keyton/AP

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Hundreds of thousands of people will die of tuberculosis because of disruption to healthcare systems in poor countries caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a global aid fund has said.

In a few of the world’s poorest countries, excess deaths from Aids and tuberculosis (TB) could even exceed those from the coronavirus itself, said the head of the Geneva-based aid body, known as the Global Fund.

The Fund’s annual report for 2020, released on Wednesday, showed that the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB in countries where it operates fell by 19%. A decline of 11% was reported in HIV prevention programmes and services.

“Essentially, about a million people less were treated for TB in 2020 than in 2019 and I’m afraid that will inevitably mean that hundreds of thousands of people will die,” executive director Peter Sands told Reuters.

While precise death tolls are as yet unknown, Sands said that for some poor countries, such as parts of the Sahel region in Africa, excess deaths from the setback in the fight against diseases such as TB or AIDS might prove higher than from Covid itself.

The Global Fund is an alliance of governments, civil society and private sector partners investing more than $4 billion per year to fight tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS. The United States is its top donor.

Sands said services were affected by Covid lockdowns while clinics, staff and diagnostics normally used for TB were instead deployed for Covid in countries such as India and across Africa. He added that he expected further disruptions this year due to the Delta variant.

He said the decline in treatment for other diseases “underscores the need to look at the total impact of Covid and measure success in combating it not just by the reduction in deaths due to Covid itself but to the knock on impact”.

Malaria proved to be an exception to the trend in 2020, and prevention activities remained stable or increased compared to 2019, the Global Fund said.

Updated

Performers and audiences who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) are being shut out of the arts due to a lack of ongoing safety provisions, according to a number of people within the UK’s sector who cite a “two-tier” cultural reopening.

While the rest of the population has been able to return to watching and taking part in live music and performance as of the end of July, those who are clinically vulnerable, who number around 3.7m or 6.7% of the British population, are still waiting for their freedom day.

Musician Catherine Anne Davies, who performs as the Anchoress, hasn’t played a live show since June 2019 and recently had to postpone her 2021 tour dates until March, and cancel her support shows for Manic Street Preachers, following advice from her doctor. While she’s double-vaccinated, she’s also immunocompromised, and it isn’t safe for her to return to performing while Covid-19 infection rates continue to rise, there’s evidence of vaccine efficacy dropping over time, and all restrictions have been lifted.

“It’s financially devastating,” she says, having been unable to capitalise on the success of her critically acclaimed second album, The Art of Losing, which was released in March. “It should be the start of something new, a chance to grow my audience, but will that interest still be there next spring? Are people willing to wait when the attention span of the industry is quite short? This could have a really detrimental impact on what happens next in my career.”

Davies isn’t alone – 70% of musicians, songwriters and composers who are still shielding in order to protect their health or that of someone they live with are facing financial hardship, according to a new survey by the Musicians’ Union and the Ivors Academy. Rich Legate, artist development manager at Attitude is Everything – a charity that supports the music industry to make live events more accessible – said he’s witnessing many clinically vulnerable musicians questioning whether they can continue a career in music. “This is almost the final straw for many artists in this group.”

My colleague Rhian Jones has the story:

The number of patients in hospitals across the US with Covid-19 this Labor Day weekend was nearly 300% higher than this time last year, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The average number of deaths was over 86% higher than the same period last year.

The surge in patients comes as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread across the US, and coincided with a weekend that saw a spike in travel. According to the Transportation Security Administration, more than 3.5 million people travelled across the country on Friday and Saturday for the Labor Day holiday, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of unvaccinated people to refrain from traveling.

Hospitalisations and deaths are a lagging indicator of Covid spread, so the impact of people’s travels this week will not be clear right away, but the agency is continuing to advise caution.

“We have actually articulated that people who are fully vaccinated and who are wearing masks can travel,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC , last week. “Although given where we are with disease transmission right now, we would say that people need to take their own – these risks – into their own consideration as they think about traveling,” she added.

This past weekend saw 1.146m weekly cases, compared to 287,235 last year. Despite the decline in cases in certain states including Florida, other states such as Idaho are seeing hospitals begin to ration healthcare amid patient surges.

My colleague Maya Yang reports:

People queue to get their second doses during a mass vaccination campaign against Covid-19 in Chandpur, Bangladesh.
People queue to get their second doses during a mass vaccination campaign against Covid-19 in Chandpur, Bangladesh. Photograph: Habibur Rahman/Eyepix Group/REX/Shutterstock

Justin Trudeau has been hit by a handful of gravel as anti-vaccination protesters targeted the Canadian prime minister’s campaign for re-election.

A CTV camera captured what appears to be white gravel hitting Trudeau and one of his bodyguards as he walked toward his campaign bus in London, Ontario. The Liberals cancelled an event late last month because of safety concerns linked to anti-vax protesters.

Trudeau played down the incident, later saying he may have been hit on the shoulder and adding that once he had pumpkin seeds thrown at him.

Earlier on Monday, Trudeau had assailed Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s opposition to vaccine mandates, including for his own candidates, and called the hecklers “angry mobs” of anti-vaxxers.

“Erin O’Toole is at least taking some of his cues from [the anti-vax crowd],” Trudeau said.

About 74% of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated, but a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is currently building, mostly among the unvaccinated.

More on this story here:

Spain approves third 'booster' dose for immunocompromised people

Spain’s healthcare regulator approved on Tuesday a third dose of Covid-19 vaccines for people with severely compromised immune systems who are likely to have weaker protection from the conventional two-dose inoculation schemes, Reuters reports.

The booster shot should be administered 28 days after the previous one in some cases, and preferably the same type of vaccine is to be used, the Public Health Commission said in a statement. It would not say how many people could get such shots.

The authority reiterated that there are no solid data available to recommend administering booster shots to the general population.

The European Medicines Agency said earlier this month it was evaluating a potential booster dose of Covid-19 vaccines that may be given six months after the second one.

The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine booster shots until at least the end of September to leave more doses available for people in countries with poor access to vaccines.

More than 200,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Africa since the start of the pandemic, according to an AFP tally compiled from official records as of 5pm GMT.

A total of 200,254 fatalities have been registered on the continent, home to more than 1.3 billion people, since the coronavirus emerged in China in December 2019.

After several deadly months, including some 27,000 deaths in July and 26,000 in August, the pandemic appears to be easing on the continent, with current daily figures of 617 compared to up to 990 in late July, a record for the region.

The figures are based on tolls communicated daily day by health authorities in each country or by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO has said that if excess deaths directly or indirectly linked to Covid are taken into account, the real toll could be double or triple.

Researcher Glenda Davidson of South Africa’s Cape Peninsula University of Technology said the total number of infections is also likely to be an under-estimate, given insufficient testing capacity in Africa.

Death registration processes were often delayed and inaccurate, she added.

The current fall in the continent’s tally is a result of sharp drops in the hardest-hit countries.

South Africa has recorded 83,899 deaths so far. But last week’s daily average of 7,400 new cases and 234 deaths is significantly lower than in late July, when the daily average was up to 20,000 new cases and 420 deaths.

Saudi Arabia removed the United Arab Emirates, Argentina and South Africa from its banned country list and reallowed citizens to travel to the three from 8 September, state TV reported on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Interior said the decision was based on the Kingdom’s evaluation of the current Covid-19 situation, state media reported.

Updated

Good evening from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next few hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.

Email: lucy.campbell@theguardian.com
Twitter: @lucy_campbell_

Today so far

  • Four in five over-16s in Britain have been fully vaccinated according to the latest data, with 43,535,098 second doses delivered since vaccinations began. Meanwhile, Britain recorded 209 Covid deaths on Tuesday, the highest number since March.
  • Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, has announced that third doses of Covid-19 will be made available to groups of “clinically vulnerable” people this month. “We have the third dose in Italy,” Speranza said. “We’ll start in September with fragile patients like oncology and transplant patients.”
  • A coalition of environmental groups have called for this year’s Cop26 climate summit to be postponed, arguing that too little has been done to ensure the safety of participants amid the continuing threat from Covid-19.
  • Indonesia’s daily coronavirus positivity rate dropped below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) benchmark standard of 5%, an indicator the country’s second wave could be easing.
  • The Philippines backtracked on easing lockdown in the capital Manila, deciding to delay a move to localised lockdowns for another week. The change was due to start on Wednesday.
  • Sweden will remove virtually all coronavirus restrictions on 29 September with the pandemic under control and the vaccination rollout well-advanced, the government said.
  • UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said he is not aware of any planning for an “October firebreak” if case numbers in England begin to rise following the return of schools but the government has refused to rule it out.
  • Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said the NHS in the UK needs £10bn next year to make inroads into the backlog of care and keep up with the costs associated with Covid-19.
  • Singapore recorded its highest number of cases in a year, with 328 reported on Tuesday. Worryingly for authorities, the number of cases they could not track back to a source has tripled compared with a week ago.
  • Experts in India are calling for schools to reopen, warning that the benefits would outweigh the risk of infection spreading. According a recent survey, only 8% of children in rural areas regularly studied online.
  • Health authorities in Chile have approved the use of the Sinovac vaccine for children six and older. Heriberto García, director of Chile’s Public Health Institute, said the institution approved the new measure by five votes in favour and one against.
  • A study from China looking at mixing Covid-19 vaccines showed that receiving a booster shot of CanSino Biologics’ vaccine after one or two doses of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine yielded a much stronger antibody response than using the Sinovac shot as a booster.

This is Kaamil Ahmed signing out for the day and handing over to Lucy Campbell to continue our coverage.

Updated

Zimbabwe is demanding civil servants and teachers get vaccinated or give up their jobs, AFP reports.

Despite already facing anger over requiring vaccination for market traders, sitting exams and access to gyms and restaurants, Zimbabwe is pushing further to ensure higher vaccination rates.

“If you are a government employee, for the protection of others and the people you are serving, get vaccinated,” the justice minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi, said on local radio.

“But if you want to enjoy your rights ... you can resign,” he said.

Just over 2.7 million of Zimbabwe’s 15 million inhabitants have so far received a first vaccine dose but vaccination centres have often been overwhelmed by people queueing early to receive vaccines.

Zimbabwe recently approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use, having relied on jabs from China, India and Russia.

People wait to be vaccinated at Chitungwiza General Hospital, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe.
People wait to be vaccinated at Chitungwiza General Hospital, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Aaron Ufumeli/EPA

Updated

The pandemic has left thousands of migrants stranded in Yemen because of restrictions on movement.

The UN’s migration agency IOM said 32,000 are stuck in Yemen, which is a transit hub for migrants leaving the Horn of Africa and trying to cross through Saudi Arabia.

IOM called for $3m (£2.2m) for repatriation flights, with more than 5,000 Ethiopians willing to return but waiting on a chance.

The pandemic has made it harder to move and also less lucrative for the smugglers migrants rely on to get across the border to Saudi Arabia, according to IOM.

Updated

UK: four in five over-16s now fully vaccinated

Another 22,698 people took up first doses of the vaccine in Britain on Monday, taking the latest figures for overall jabs in the UK to 91,827,909, according to government data.

Four in five over-16s have now been fully vaccinated, with the highest percentage (84.1%) in Wales.

The total is now at 48,292,811 first doses and 43,535,098 second doses delivered since the vaccination campaign began nine months ago. Jabs are delivered at least 21 days apart in the UK.

Updated

Britain records highest number of deaths since March

Britain recorded 209 Covid deaths on Tuesday, the highest number since March.

Irregular reporting over weekends can impact numbers, as 45 deaths were reported on Monday.

There were 37,489 new cases reported on Tuesday, compared to 41,192 on Monday.

Updated

Sweden will remove virtually all coronavirus restrictions on 29 September with the pandemic under control and the vaccination rollout well-advanced, the government said today (via AFP).

Hygiene rules and social distancing to combat the virus will still be encouraged in public places, according to the authorities.

“Our aim has always been to lift the restrictions as soon as possible,” health minister Lena Hallengren told a press conference.

Sweden made global headlines for its decision to combat the spread of the virus with mostly non-coercive measures rather than the type of lockdowns seen across Europe.

Those measures began to be eased from May under a five-point plan, with the fourth stage due to be reached at the end of September.

The European Union is likely to remove Japan and five other countries from its list of safe travel destinations, meaning visitors or people returning from those countries could face tighter controls such as Covid-19 tests or quarantine, Reuters reports.

A special EU health committee has proposed removing Japan, along with Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brunei and Serbia, EU diplomats said. It has also suggested Uruguay be added.

EU ambassadors, who will review the proposal tomorrow, typically follow the committee’s advice. A decision would normally be formalised by the end of the week.

The list seeks to unify travel rules across the 27-nation bloc, although it does not bind individual EU nations, which are free to determine their own border policies.

Germany, for example, already added Albania, Azerbaijan, Japan and Serbia on Sunday to its list of “high-risk areas” for which tighter entry restrictions apply.

Average daily Covid-19 cases in the six countries have risen sharply from below 40 a million in late June to more than 100 in the week to 6 September, figures from Our World in Data show, with Serbia at 500. However, the case rate in Japan has dipped in the past two weeks to almost exactly the same as in Germany.

With the proposed changes, the EU safe list would compromise 12 countries, including Australia, Canada and Saudi Arabia. Chinese territories Hong Kong and Macao are also considered safe.

The bloc still lets in most non-EU visitors who are fully vaccinated, although tests and periods of quarantine can apply, depending on the EU country of arrival.

Updated

Italy has today reported 71 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 52 on Monday, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 4,720 from 3,361, Reuters reports.

Earlier today, Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, announced that third doses of Covid-19 will be made available to groups of “clinically vulnerable” people this month, making it the latest country in the west to push forward with booster jabs.

Italy has registered 129,638 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 4.58 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19, not including those in intensive care, stood at 4,307 today, up from 4,302 a day earlier.

There were 40 new admissions to intensive care units, increasing from 32 on Monday but the total number of intensive care patients fell from 570 to 563.

Some 318,865 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with 134,393 in the previous 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Updated

Public health leaders in the north-west US state of Idaho have today activated “crisis standards of care” for the state’s northern hospitals because there are more coronavirus patients than the institutions can handle, AP reports.

The Idaho department of health and welfare made the announcement, warning residents that they may not be able to get the care they normally expect if they need to be hospitalised.

The agency cited “a severe shortage of staffing and available beds in the northern area of the state caused by a massive increase in patients with Covid-19 who require hospitalisation.”

The designation includes 10 hospitals and healthcare systems in the Idaho panhandle and in north-central Idaho.

The move allows hospitals to allot scarce resources such as intensive care unit rooms to patients most likely to survive. Other patients will still receive care, but they may be placed in classrooms or conference rooms rather than traditional hospital rooms or go without some life-saving medical equipment.

Dr. William Dittrich looks over a Covid-19 patient in the medical intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Boise medical center in Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday last week
Dr William Dittrich looks over a Covid-19 patient in the medical intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Boise medical center in Boise, Idaho, on Tuesday last week Photograph: Kyle Green/AP

Updated

The head of Britain’s exams regulator told MPs plans are “quite advanced” for a backup plan in case exams cannot go ahead in 2022.

“We are planning a joint consultation with the Department for Education (DfE) again later this autumn to propose a contingency plan should the unthinkable happen and examinations are again disrupted,” said Ian Bauckham, interim chairman of Ofqual.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: “We don’t want to cancel exams.

“We do know that teachers and the school sector does want details of the contingency because they want to know what data they might or might not need to collect should the worst happen and we end up having to cancel exams.”

A handful of gravel hit the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, as he made his way past a crowd of anti-vaccine protesters shouting their opposition to Covid-19 vaccines, Reuters reports.

His party cancelled an event last month because of concerns about anti-vaccine protesters, who he has described as “angry mobs”.

Updated

The percentage of fully vaccinated people over the age of 16 is more than 80% in the UK, according to the latest figures.

There have now been 43,535,098 second doses delivered since the vaccination rollout began at the end of last year.

Wales has the highest proportion of the population who have had second doses, with 84.1% of over-16s.

An estimated 88.8% have received one dose in the UK.

Updated

Delivering jabs in schools will be the most efficient way to vaccinate pupils if approved for 12- to 15-year-olds, British schools minister Nick Gibb said.

“It is the swiftest and most efficient way of delivering the vaccination programme, as with other vaccination programmes for that age group,” he said. “The consent from parents will always be sought before the child is vaccinated in the school.”

The UK’s chief medical officers are reviewing approval after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation declined recommending a widespread rollout.

Updated

Britain’s NHS could face a “remarkably hard” winter that increases the backlog caused by Covid-19, a leading doctor told MPs.

Dr Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the £5.4bn set aside by Downing Street to help the NHS deal with backlogs was welcome but there are major challenges for the health service.

“So I think that the £5.4bn funding is fantastic news, but let’s be under no illusions this winter is going to be remarkably hard, and it’s going to impact waiting lists, probably more than anywhere else,” said Goddard.

Goddard said that alongside routine winter challenges, Covid-19 and an expected bad flu season will increase the pressure.

He also said a shortage of tubes used for blood testing meant treatment for many patients could not progress, which made it harder to work through the backlog.

Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of the NHS in England, urged people to come forward if they needed care at a parliamentary session on the health and care bill.

“We just don’t know really how Covid is going to play out over the course of the next few months and years and one of the things that I know colleagues have talked about is that a lot of people didn’t come forward for care over the course of the past two years.

“One of the messages I would like to just give again is that anyone who is concerned about symptoms, the NHS is absolutely open for business, please do come forward and seek diagnosis, treatment, support for anyone who needs it.”

Updated

Rowena Mason and Nicola Davis report on the British government’s approached to a rumoured October “firebreak” lockdown:

Downing Street has not ruled out a “firebreak” lockdown as a last resort if the NHS were to be overwhelmed by Covid cases, but denied there were plans for one during October’s half-term school holiday.

With cases expected to rise further this autumn, some scientists have been warning that restrictions could be necessary in the coming months, such as limits on gatherings and a return to compulsory indoor masking.

A member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told the i paper that a “precautionary break” could be part of “contingency plans”, with another saying that “a firebreak lockdown is by no means out of the question”. They speculated this could take place during October half-term, with the break lengthened to two weeks rather than one.

Asked about the idea, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said it was “not true that the government is planning a lockdown or firebreak around the October half-term”.

However, he made clear that further restrictions such as a two-week circuit breaker remained an option if the NHS were to be overwhelmed.

Updated

India faces a “disaster” for its schoolchildren – especially in rural areas – unless it begins reopening schools, according to experts.

Health experts are saying the benefits outweigh the risks and are hoping that a feared new wave of outbreaks will not be as devastating as this April’s because of how many people were infected then and the levels of vaccinations now.

A report released by Indian academics today warned of a “looming disaster” and criticised the policy of keeping schools closed.

“Soon after the Covid-19 crisis struck in early 2020, all schools were closed without batting an eyelid and most of them are still closed today,” the report said.

The Indian Express reported the survey found only 8% of Indian children in rural areas accessed online learning regularly. More than a third were not studying at all. Very few homes had access to smartphones and those that did often were used by working adults.

The Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine also called for all schools to be reopened, saying it was wrong to only prioritise older children.

They said primary school children were less likely to develop symptoms and that many children in India had already been infected, reducing the risk of the virus spreading.

Updated

Philippines backtracks, delays easing to localised lockdowns

The Philippine government has backtracked on its plans to replace stay-at-home orders in the capital. Manila, with localised lockdowns, reports the online news site Rappler.

The strict lockdown was supposed to end after today but will now continue another week to 15 September.

On Monday, the Philippines recorded a record high 22,415 infections. The number dropped to 18,012, while 161 more people were confirmed to have died. Active cases on Tuesday were 158,000.

Updated

Singapore has recorded its highest rise in infections for more than a year, the health ministry said.

It announced 328 new locally transmitted cases on Tuesday, after reporting more than 100 new cases daily for the past two weeks.

Singapore includes in its data the number of “unlinked” cases – those where the source of infection cannot be identified, despite aggressive track and trace efforts.

The Straits Times newspaper reported that the 185 unlinked cases amounted to triple the number of a week ago.

Updated

British workers are getting back on public transport as they head back to their offices, Downing Street has said.

The British prime minister’s spokesperson said transport data shows “significant increases” in passengers.

The Transport for London network said it had its busiest morning yesterday since before the first coronavirus lockdowns last year - aided by the return of children to schools.

“What we want to see is the civil service and, indeed, the broader workforce, returning in a gradual way,” said the spokesperson, after a government minister had said only a quarter of his staff worked from the office at one time.

“I’ll repeat that throughout, even at the height of the pandemic, it was civil servants, many of whom were continuing to work from the office because they were on the front line to the response to this pandemic.”

Updated

Today so far …

  • Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, has announced that third doses of Covid-19 will be made available to groups of “clinically vulnerable” people this month. “We have the third dose in Italy,” Speranza said. “We’ll start in September with fragile patients like oncology and transplant patients.”
  • A coalition of environmental groups have called for this year’s Cop26 climate summit to be postponed, arguing that too little has been done to ensure the safety of participants amid the continuing threat from Covid-19.
  • The southern state of Kerala in India is increasing its efforts to stop a potential outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus, even as the state continues to battle the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country.
  • Indonesia’s daily coronavirus positivity rate dropped below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) benchmark standard of 5%, an indicator the country’s second wave could be easing.
  • New Zealand’s Covid cases continue to plateau, with 21 new cases announced on Tuesday. The country has reported 20 cases a day for the past three days in a row.
  • A court in Vietnam has jailed a man for five years for breaking strict Covid quarantine rules and spreading the virus to others, state media reported.
  • Thousands of workers in Zimbabwe have been told they will face the sack if they refuse to be vaccinated with one of the Covid-19 jabs, according to the country’s biggest worker’s union.
  • UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said he is not aware of any planning for an “October firebreak” if case numbers in England begin to rise following the return of schools.
  • The rate of registered suicides in England has returned to pre-pandemic levels following disruption to coroners’ inquests, provisional figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggest.
  • Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said the NHS in the UK needs £10bn next year to make inroads into the backlog of care and keep up with the costs associated with Covid-19.
  • Health authorities in Chile have approved the use of the Sinovac vaccine for children six and older. Heriberto García, director of Chile’s Public Health Institute, said the institution approved the new measure by five votes in favour and one against.
  • A study from China looking at mixing Covid-19 vaccines which showed that receiving a booster shot of CanSino Biologics’ vaccine after one or two doses of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine yielded a much stronger antibody response than using the Sinovac shot as a booster.
  • A limited number of travellers arriving in Hong Kong from some parts of mainland China will no longer need to quarantine, easing curbs imposed after summer outbreaks of the coronavirus on the mainland.
  • Japan has agreed to buy 150m doses of Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine, with Japanese firm Takeda expecting to manufacture the formula for distribution early next year.

That’s it from me, Martin Belam, for today. Kaamil Ahmed will be here shortly to take over. Andrew Sparrow, meanwhile, has the politics-focused UK live blog over here.

Updated

Climate groups appeal for Cop26 to be postponed because of Covid travel restrictions

A coalition of environmental groups have called for this year’s climate summit to be postponed, arguing that too little has been done to ensure the safety of participants amid the continuing threat from Covid-19.

AP reports that the Climate Action Network, which includes more than 1,500 organisations in 130 countries, said there is a risk that many government delegates, civil society campaigners and journalists from developing countries may be unable to attend because of travel restrictions. The UN climate conference, known as Cop26, is scheduled for early November in Scotland.

“Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and those countries suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out of the talks and conspicuous in their absence at Cop26,’’ said Tasneem Essop, the network’s executive director. “There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the UN climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis.’’

The British government, which is hosting the event, quickly rejected calls for postponement, saying a recent scientific report shows the urgency for leaders to tackle the issue without further delay. Cop26 president-designate Alok Sharma said the conference had already been delayed a year due to the pandemic, but “climate change has not taken time off”.’

The UK has previously said it would relax some Covid-19 restrictions for the event.

Updated

The rate of registered suicides in England has returned to pre-pandemic levels following disruption to coroners’ inquests, provisional figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggest.

There were 10.4 registered suicides per 100,000 people in the first half of 2021. The suicide rate in the second quarter of 2021 was statistically significantly higher than the rate in the second quarter of 2020, when there were 7.0 registered suicides per 100,000.

PA reports the ONS said the increase reflects the resumption of coroners’ inquests, following disruption during the coronavirus crisis, rather than a genuine increase in suicides.

• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255 or chat for support. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counselor. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org

Updated

Russia’s Covid cases and deaths remain steady, according to today’s figures, as reported by Reuters. There were 17,425 cases in the last 24 hours, compared with 7,856 in the previous period, and there were 795 deaths.

Updated

Our Andrew Sparrow has just launched his UK politics live blog for the day, and he says “today I will be mostly focusing on the social care announcement. For Covid coverage, do read our global coronavirus live blog.”

But if you do want to jump over to UK politics, then you can find that here

Italy to start offering third vaccine doses to 'clinically vulnerable' people this month

Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, has announced that third doses of Covid-19 will be made available to groups of “clinically vulnerable” people this month. “We have the third dose in Italy,” Speranza said. “We’ll start in September with fragile patients like oncology and transplant patients.”

Speranza also suggested that the country could soon make jabs mandatory for all Italians of eligible age, as anticipated last week by prime minister Mario Draghi during a press conference.

Draghi said Italians could be obliged to get a shot, as soon as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gives its conditional approval for four vaccines.

“The final approval from the EMA would make everything easier,” Speranza said, “but vaccines are already safe and therefore it can also be done without, as it was for healthcare staff.”

Public administration minister Renato Brunetta said that if the country does not soon reach a vaccination level of between 80% and 90%, the government “will pass a law to impose the Covid-19 vaccine on all people who are against it. A decision will be made by the end of the month.”

Italy registered 3,361 new cases on Monday and another 52 died from coronavirus, as the death toll in the country now stands at 129,567.

According to the National Statistics Agency (ISTAT), life expectancy in Italy – which ranks second behind only Japan in terms of having the greatest share of older people – fell by 1.2 years in 2020 due to Covid-19, dropping to 82.

Updated

David LV Bauer is head of the RNA virus replication laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute in London, and he writes for us today that he is shocked his work has been hijacked by anti-vaxxers:

As a virologist, I’ve spent the past year or more studying the novel coronavirus that has upended all our lives. Communicating our work to the public and speaking to the media is an important part of my job, and I’ve always tried to be clear and accurate about the science: I believe the available vaccines against Covid-19 are safe, and they are our best route back to a more normal way of living.

I’ve been concerned about the anti-vaccination movement since before the pandemic. But I never imagined that my own work could actually be part of their misinformation arsenal. So I was shocked to discover that a recent TV interview I did for ITV London News had been seized on by anti-vax and conspiracy activists and now has thousands of likes, shares and retweets across social media.

The original interview was about our research on the Pfizer vaccine, which found that the antibody levels it generates are not as good at neutralising the Delta variant than against the original Wuhan strain – a simple update on likely vaccine protection. But the widely shared versions of the video were often edited, or taken out of context, to make me out to be some sort of supervillain, or the unlikely hero of the anti-vax world.

In some videos, I’m shown playing the part of the brave dissenter inside the establishment, blowing the whistle against some imagined harm of the vaccine. In another, I’m introduced as the head of the “UK bioweapons programme”, being caught admitting that the Covid vaccine could somehow destroy your immune system. Like the virus itself, the videos seemed to be mutating and spreading, with new, more virulent variants catching on online.

Read more here: David LV Bauer – As a virologist I’m shocked my work has been hijacked by anti-vaxxers

Indonesia's positivity rate drops below 5%

Indonesia’s daily coronavirus positivity rate dropped below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) benchmark standard of 5% this week for the first time, an indicator the country’s second wave could be easing.

Reuters report that the positivity rate, or the proportion of people tested who are positive, peaked at 33.4% in July, driven by theDelta variant. A rate above 5% indicates coronvirus is out of control, the WHO says.

President Joko Widodo urged Indonesians not to be complacent. “People need to realise that Covid is always lurking,” he said. “When our guards are down, cases can increase again.”

Epidemiologist Dicky Budiman from Australia’s Griffith University said testing and tracing efforts in the country remain weak.

Weekly health ministry data last week shows several Indonesian provinces still recording high positivity rates, with Aceh at 17.4% and North Kalimantan at 16.7%.

Covid-19 taskforce spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito said the government would keep improving its testing and tracing capability. “We’re hoping this good condition can be upheld,” he added.

Updated

Zimbabwe unions go to court over Covid jabs

Nyasha Chingono write for us from Harare today:

Thousands of workers in Zimbabwe have been told they will face the sack if they refuse to be vaccinated with one of the Covid-19 jabs, according to the country’s biggest worker’s union.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), an amalgamation of 35 labour unions representing 189,000 people, has accused employers of infringing workers’ rights, saying there is no law providing for compulsory vaccinations. It has taken the government and six companies to court for ordering employees to have the vaccine, arguing that the companies are “taking the law into their own hands” by forcing the issue.

In the court application, seen by the Guardian and addressed to the six companies, as well as attorney general Prince Machaya and minister for labour Paul Mavima, the ZCTU calls for an end to compulsory jabs, saying: “Each person having fully considered the implications and effects of vaccination is expected to make a personal decision.”

The union also argues that research remains inconclusive, meaning “no person may be compelled” to get vaccinated.

According to the claim, employers that have ordered staff to stop reporting for duty unless they are vaccinated include the state-owned Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) and telecoms group TelOne, insurer Zimnat, fertiliser producer Windmill, agricultural group Seed Co and the Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences.

Read more of Nyasha Chingono’s report here: ‘No one may be compelled’: Zimbabwe unions go to court over Covid jabs

Reuters are carrying news this morning of a study from China looking at mixing Covid-19 vaccines which showed that receiving a booster shot of CanSino Biologics’ vaccine after one or two doses of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine yielded a much stronger antibody response than using the Sinovac shot as a booster.

The study, among the first analyses in China combing different Covid vaccines, comes as the country said it would use booster shots in specific groups amid concerns over vaccines’ waning protection over time.

The southern Indian state of Kerala is increasing its efforts to stop a potential outbreak of the deadly Nipah virus, even as the state continues to battle the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country.

Kerala is on high alert after a 12-year-old boy died of the rare virus on Sunday, spurring health officials to start contact-tracing and isolating hundreds of people who came into contact with the boy, who died at a hospital in the coastal city of Kozhikode.

On Tuesday, the state health minister told reporters that the samples of eight primary contacts have come back negative. AP reports that Veena George said: “That these eight immediate contacts tested negative is a great relief.”

Nipah, which was first identified during a late 1990s outbreak in Malaysia, can be spread by fruit bats, pigs and through human-to-human contact. There is no vaccine for the virus, which can cause raging fevers, convulsions and vomiting. The virus has an estimated fatality rate of between 40% and 75%.

George said that more samples will be tested on Tuesday and that a total of 48 contacts, including the eight that have tested negative, are being monitored at a hospital. The state dealt with Nipah in 2018, when more than a dozen people died from the virus.

On Monday, Kerala registered nearly 20,000 Covid-19 infections out of India’s daily total of 31,222.

Updated

Tim Mitchell, vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, has joined calls in the UK for more health service funding this morning in an appearance on BBC Breakfast. PA reports he said:

We have a massive waiting list of nearly five and a half million people waiting for surgery, with about 6,000 people who have been waiting for two years for their operation. The money that was announced yesterday is very welcome and it’s good to have a clarity of the funding of the health service over the next six months.

But the Royal College of Surgeons of England has been calling for a new deal for surgery, with an additional £1bn a year for the next five years to help deal with the backlog, following Covid.

In addition to that, we believe there needs to be substantial investment in the health service to deal with the problems that were present before the pandemic. We know that frequently there are problems, particularly during the winter months – back in 2017, for instance, NHS England asked hospitals to stop all routine activity for a month. So, although this funding is very welcome, we do need additional funding for the future.

Updated

'NHS needs £10bn' to pay for backlog and Covid costs – NHS Providers deputy chief exec

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, has also been doing the UK media round today, and she has said the NHS needs £10bn next year to make inroads into the backlog of care and keep up with the costs associated with Covid-19. PA Media reports that she told Times Radio:

We have to remember that there aren’t just high waiting times and long waiting lists in hospitals for routine treatments and operations, that wait time also exists across services like mental health – where, particularly in eating disorders, we really need to see those waiting times sped up so that people are not left in a distressing situation. It goes across the whole of of the NHS really.

I think the other thing we need to remember is that the cost of running the NHS has increased with Covid – that’s why we have been saying that next year we need to see £10bn coming into the NHS so that we can afford to run it effectively and we can afford then to make inroads on that backlog.

Updated

Japan to purchase 150m does of Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine

Japan has agreed to buy 150m doses of Novavax’s coronavirus vaccine, with Japanese firm Takeda expecting to manufacture the formula for distribution early next year, the pharmaceutical company said this morning.

AFP reports that the cost of the deal was not announced, and it is contingent on the vaccine being approved in Japan. So far, Japan has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca jabs, though the latter is being administered in a limited fashion.

Unlike the mRNA products from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, Novavax’s two-jab vaccine relies on a more traditional technique, using proteins to carry fragments of the coronavirus rendered harmless to produce an immune reaction. This means it does not have to be stored in ultra-low temperatures, potentially giving it a logistical edge for distribution.

After a comparatively slow start, Japan’s vaccination programme has picked up speed, with about 48% of the population fully vaccinated.

Updated

As promised, here are the Covid-relevant bits of UK vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi’s appearance on Sky News. He was asked about newspaper reports around the idea of an “October firebreak” if Covid numbers in the UK start to rise, as is anticipated as schools return.

I think the right thing is that we open schools, we’ve opened them well, with a really comprehensive testing programme, and we want to make sure they stay open. The way we do that is by protecting the most vulnerable, which is why my focus is on the booster programme. I don’t want to adjust the half-term, or go back to any form of lockdown, because that’s the worst thing we can do to the economy and people’s livelihoods.

On that booster programme, he said:

We’ve had the interim advices from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). That will help protect the most vulnerable from serious infection, and will actually help us transition this virus from pandemic to endemic status. The important thing is we get that right, because I think if we do that well, we can continue on this sort of one way road towards sustaining the opening of the economy, and by next year hopefully transitioning this virus from pandemic to endemic, and dealing with it on an annual basis.

My colleague Peter Walker last week reported on the somewhat mixed messages coming out of the JCVI on booster shots.

Updated

Hong Kong eases travel restrictions for some visitors from China

Travellers arriving in Hong Kong from China will no longer need to quarantine, Hong Kong’s top official said on Tuesday, easing curbs imposed after summer outbreaks of the coronavirus on the mainland, Associated Press reports.

Starting on Wednesday, people who haven’t been to medium- or high-risk areas on the mainland or Macao can enter the city, capped at 2,000 travellers daily, chief executive Carrie Lam said in a news conference. Travellers will still need a negative Covid-19 test prior to arrival and must take several tests while in Hong Kong to ensure they’re not infected.

Hong Kong halted quarantine-free travel in early August and imposed a mandatory quarantine period of seven or 14 days, depending on the traveller’s vaccination status. Under Hong Kong’s “zero-Covid” strategy authorities have imposed strict border restrictions and ban flights from extremely high-risk countries, in the hopes that no local community spread would allow it to reopen borders with mainland China.

Currently, China has strict border restrictions that allow only Chinese nationals or those with valid residence permits and visas to enter the country, and all travellers are required to quarantine for at least 14 days. Since the beginning of the pandemic, most Hongkongers haven’t been able to freely enter mainland China.

Restrictions will ease further next Wednesday, when mainland residents will be able to enter the city without quarantine via the Shenzhen Bay port and via the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge, capped at 1,000 visitors each, Lam said. These visitors will also need to test negative before traveling.

Updated

Good morning, it is Martin Belam here in London. UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi is doing the UK media round today this morning. He’s on Sky News first, and so far it is mostly concerned with social care and NHS funding. I’ll bring you the main Covid lines from his appearances in a short while.

Updated

New Zealand’s Covid cases continue to plateau, with 21 new cases announced on Tuesday. The country has reported 20 cases a day for the past three days in a row.

All of the new cases are in Auckland, the city that remains in a level 4 lockdown. The rest of the country will come out of lockdown tonight, although some restrictions remain on gathering size and using masks in some public places.

Just over three-quarters of the new cases were in isolation throughout their infectious period, and all but one were epidemiologically linked to existing cases in the current outbreak:

Updated

Vietnam jails man who breached quarantine

A court in Vietnam has jailed a man for five years for breaking strict Covid quarantine rules and spreading the virus to others, state media reported.

Le Van Tri, 28, was convicted of “spreading dangerous infectious diseases” at a one-day trial on Monday at the people’s court of the southern province of Ca Mau, the state-run Vietnam News Agency reported.

Chile approves Sinovac for children six and older

Chilean health authorities have approved the use of the Sinovac vaccine for children six and older. Heriberto García, director of Chile’s Public Health Institute, said the institution approved the new measure by five votes in favour and one against.

Now, the Health Ministry has to determine dates and the mechanism to start vaccinations.

The approval was taken in a moment that the South American nation has fully immunised more than three-fourths of its adult population.

Catholic University of Chile is currently conducting a study with 4,000 children aged three and 17 to study the Sinovac effects on them. But García said the experts at the Public Health Institute based their decision on a review of information given by the Sinovac laboratory and information published in medical journals.

In Latin America, a few countries have approved only the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and older. China has authorized Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines for children ages three to 17.

Few regulators around the world have evaluated the safety of Covid shots in kids, but the approvals are starting. The United States, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong are all allowing the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children as young as 12.

Chile has reported more than 1.6 million cases and more than 37,100 deaths.

Summary

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

Chilean health authorities have approved the use of the Sinovac vaccine for children six and older. Heriberto García, director of Chile’s Public Health Institute, said the institution approved the new measure by five votes in favour and one against.

Meanwhile a court in Vietnam has jailed a man for five years for breaking strict Covid quarantine rules and spreading the virus to others.

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

  • Britain will set aside £5.4bn for the National Health Service to help it cover the costs and the patient backlog caused by the pandemic.
  • The Philippines recorded a record high of 22,415 new infections. It also recorded 103 more deaths. Meanwhile, the government said it would replace a stay-at-home order in the capital Manila with localised lockdowns.
  • Afghanistan could lose the majority of its Covid-19 isolation beds because foreign funding for its core health programme has been suspended since August, potentially forcing 2,000 health facilities to close. The WHO said it is hoping to get several planes of medical supplies into Kabul airport this week to support health facilities.
  • Vietnam’s capital Hanoi extended Covid-19 restrictions for a further two weeks, as authorities launched a plan to test up to 1.5 million people for coronavirus in higher-risk areas of the capital to contain a climb in infections.
  • Europe’s medicines regulator said on Monday it was evaluating data on a booster dose for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.
  • The education of hundreds of millions of children is hanging by a thread as a result of an unprecedented intensity of threats including Covid 19 and the climate crisis, a new report warned today.
  • Coronavirus rules are set to be renewed in England for another six months as No 10 admitted cases are likely to increase sharply because children are returning to school.
  • London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said acting on air pollution is a “matter of life and death” after a report found it increases the risk of Covid-19 hospital admission.
  • The American state of Mississippi’s hospitals are being overwhelmed by a surge in cases, which has been driven by its low vaccination rate. Only about 38% of the state’s 3 million people are fully inoculated.
  • New Zealand will ease Covid curbs in all regions outside its biggest city of Auckland from midnight on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference.

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