Scotland to require vaccine passports from 1 October – as it happened

By Lucy Campbell (now); Nicola Slawson, Jane Clinton and Helen Sullivan (earlier)
Nicola Sturgeon
People in Scotland will need proof they have been fully vaccinated before they can enter nightclubs and many large events from 1 October. Photograph: Getty Images

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Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has slammed a far-right website in the final days of the country’s federal election, accusing it of spreading misinformation about coronavirus vaccines and contributing to the growing number of protests across the country.

After Wednesday night’s French language debate between federal leaders, Trudeau was asked by a member of Rebel News – a website whose contributors have included Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson – if he would continue to exclude the group from covering the election.

Trudeau said:

The reality is, organisations – organisations like yours – that continue to spread misinformation and disinformation on the science around vaccines … is part of why we’re seeing such unfortunate anger and lack of understanding of basic science,.

Frankly your – I won’t call it a media organisation – your group of individuals need to take accountability for some of the polarisation that we’re seeing in this country.

My colleague Leyland Cecco reports:

Joe Biden announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase Covid-19 vaccinations and curb the surging Delta variant.
Joe Biden announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase Covid-19 vaccinations and curb the surging Delta variant. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

In an article for the Guardian, the former UK prime minister, Gordon Brown, has called on the G7 rich industrial nations to hold an emergency summit in order to prevent millions of unused Covid vaccine doses going to waste by the end of the year.

Hoarding of vaccines by wealthy western nations will result in thousands of needless deaths from Covid-19 in the world’s poorest countries every month unless urgent steps are taken to distribute jabs more fairly, he writes.

You can read Brown’s full piece here:

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.

In countries with high rates of vaccination, such as the UK, fewer people are predicted to become ill enough to require hospital treatment, even if infection rates remain high. But the latest figures show the highest number of patients on wards since 10 March.

The 8,085 people in hospitals across the UK represents a 6% increase on the previous week.

Nevertheless, the figures are still well below those recorded at the peak of the second wave. On 18 January, 39,254 patients with Covid-19 were in hospital – the highest at any point since the pandemic began.

More on this story here:

Here is my colleague Libby Brooks’s story on the Scottish parliament’s approval of plans for vaccine passports - in the form of a QR code or paper document - for entry to nightclubs and large events from 1 October.

Bahrain extended an “alternative sentencing” scheme including community service and home detention to all prisoners on Thursday following protests over overcrowding and Covid fears, AFP reports.

The Gulf kingdom eased a requirement for prisoners to have served one half of their sentence as it made the alternatives available to all, even those who haven’t started their jail time.

“Under the new system all adults sentenced to imprisonment will become eligible for their cases to be dealt with by alternative sentencing, even prior to commencement of any sentence of imprisonment,” a government statement said.

“Alternative sentences may include community service, home detention, exclusion orders, non-contact orders, electronic tagging, rehabilitation programmes or compensation.”

In April, Bahrain allowed more than 100 inmates to serve the balance of their jail time out of prison, following reports of coronavirus outbreaks and protests by family members for their release.

Activists say Bahrain’s Jaw prison has a maximum capacity of approximately 1,200 but that the number of inmates, including political opponents, is at least three times that number.

Since Bahrain’s 2011 pro-democracy uprising, which ended in a bloody crackdown with the help of Saudi forces, opposition parties have been banned and dozens of political opponents jailed, triggering international criticism.

Bahrain has recorded so far more than 273,000 cases of coronavirus, including 1,388 deaths.

Joe Biden to mandate Covid vaccination for US federal government workers

Joe Biden, seeking to restore public confidence in his handling of the pandemic, was expected to order 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.

Biden seemed to be on course to effectively defeat the virus in early July, but has been accused of underestimating the highly contagious Delta variant and the intransigence of millions of unvaccinated Americans.

His remarks on Thursday are seen as a high-profile attempt to claw back momentum and offer reassurance to Americans feeling anxious about outbreaks in schools and despair about whether the pandemic will ever end.

Biden will sign two executive orders to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch, federal agencies and members of the armed services, a workforce of more than 4 million, according to multiple media reports.

The order will also apply to contractors who do business with the federal government. It was not clear if this includes exceptions for workers or contractors seeking religious or medical exemptions from vaccination.

The move represents a toughening of measures that Biden announced in late July, requiring federal workers to offer proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing and physical distancing measures in the workplace.

On Thursday the president is also expected to outline plans to increase testing in schools, offer further protection for the vaccinated and show that his administration is winning the battle against the pandemic, which he blamed for last month’s disappointing jobs report.

Follow live updates on our US politics live blog:

Updated

Spain’s coronavirus incidence slipped below 150 cases per 100,000 people - a threshold the health ministry considers a “high risk” of contagion - for the first time in more than two months on Thursday, Reuters reports.

The indicator, measured over the past 14 days, fell to around 140 cases from 150 the previous day, a dramatic change from a record 900 cases per 100,000 people at the end of January, health ministry data showed.

It added 4,763 cases to its tally of daily infections on Thursday which now stands at 4,903,021 since the start of the pandemic.

The total death toll increased by 71, to a total of 85,218.

The occupancy rate at intensive care units also slipped to 13.7% compared to 14.36% reported on Wednesday and 21.98% just a month ago.

With a fifth wave quickly receding and the full vaccination rate exceeding 70% of the population, central and regional authorities have agreed to increase occupancy in outdoor sports facilities, such as soccer stadiums, for September.

The Italian government has ruled that catering and cleaning staff in schools and nursing homes can only work if they have proof of Covid immunity, extending mandatory vaccination and the use of the so-called “Green Pass” document, Reuters reports.

The health pass was already required for teachers in Italy, while mandatory vaccination for health workers was introduced in March.

The government said on Thursday that under the new rules people working in schools in any capacity must have the health document, and that all nursing home staff will have to be vaccinated.

The Green Pass - a digital or paper certificate showing someone has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, tested negative or has recently recovered from the virus - was originally conceived to facilitate travel among EU states.

However, Italy was among a group of countries that also made it an internal requirement for people to access a range of cultural and leisure venues such as museums, gyms and indoor dining in restaurants.

From 1 September it became necessary for travel on inter-city transport. The prime minister Mario Draghi said it would be extended further, despite opposition from groups who say it tramples on freedoms and is a back-door way of making vaccination mandatory.

“We will expand the Green Pass requirement in coming weeks,” the health minister Roberto Speranza said on Thursday after the cabinet decreed the latest, limited extensions.

The issue has caused tensions in Draghi’s national unity coalition. Several government officials have said the pass should become a requirement for all public sector workers and even private firms, but the right-wing League opposes this. This week the League voted with a hard-right opposition party in parliament against the Green Pass requirement in restaurants.

Italy has the second-highest Covid death toll in Europe after the UK and the eighth-highest in the world. Around 72% of its 60-million-strong population have had at least one vaccine dose.

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_

The Scottish government’s plans for vaccine passports have been backed by MSPs as the Greens provided the necessary votes.

In the first major vote since the co-operation agreement between the SNP and the Greens was finalised, the party joined the government in backing vaccine passports by 68 votes to 55, PA news reports.

Thursday’s vote was not to pass legislation, but rather to pass a motion supporting the implementation of vaccine passports.

A paper released just hours before MSPs were due to vote on the scheme stated there would be a legal requirement for businesses to “take all reasonable measures” to ensure compliance, while ministers are also considering if there is a need for an offence to stop the “misuse” of the certificates.

From October 1, the scheme will make a QR code available through a smartphone app – along with a paper alternative for those who need it – which will be scanned before entry is allowed to nightclubs or similar venues, adult entertainment, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, outdoor unseated events with more than 4,000 people or any event with more than 10,000 in attendance.

Moderna Inc said on Thursday it is developing a single vaccine that combines a booster dose against COVID-19 with its experimental flu shot.

The company hopes to eventually add vaccines it is working on for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory diseases as an annual shot.

During a presentation to update investors on its drugs in development, Moderna chief executive officer Stéphane Bancel said:

We believe this is a very large opportunity that is ahead of us, if we could bring to market a high efficacy pan-respiratory annual booster.

We believe Moderna could be first to market in this important new opportunity.

The company is conducting clinical trials for an RSV vaccine in older adults.

Vaccine passports to be introduced in Scotland from October

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.

Businesses which fail to enforce the rules will be breaking the law.

Earlier on Thursday the executive director of UK Hospitality Scotland Leon Thompson said there was a lack of clarity about what the Covid passport plans would entail.

He said:

We’re very concerned about the proposals and the vote that’s going ahead today.

We weren’t so consulted about this ahead of the first minister’s statement last week, we had some very rushed and hurried conversations with officials over the last few days.

Updated

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital in the UK has risen above 8,000 to reach the highest level for nearly six months.

A total of 8,085 patients were in hospital on September 8, according to the latest government figures. This is up 6% from the previous week, and is the highest since March 10, PA news reports.

The figures are still well below those recorded at the peak of the second wave of coronavirus, however. Some 39,254 patients with Covid-19 were in hospital on January 18 – the highest at any point since the pandemic began.

Hospital numbers have been rising slowly but steadily since the third wave of the virus began in May.

In Scotland, 928 patients with Covid-19 are currently in hospital – the highest since late February. In Wales patient numbers stand at 428 - the highest since mid-March.

By contrast, Northern Ireland is currently recording 472 patients, down slightly from a recent peak of 488. In England the number is 6,254, up 1% week-on-week but just below the 6,375 recorded on September 6.

As millions of children head back to school across the US, health experts are highlighting a troubling trend: hundreds of thousands of them are testing positive for Covid.

More than 250,000 children had new cases in the last week of August, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a report published on Tuesday. That’s the highest weekly rate of new pediatric cases since the pandemic began, and it’s a 10% increase in two weeks.

With slightly more than 1m new Covid cases reported in the US during that period, that means one of every four new cases in the country was among children.

Children’s hospitals are straining under the spike in cases. About 2,500 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 in the week up to 6 September, which is also more than ever before, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

A total of 750,000 children tested positive between 5 August and 2 September, the AAP said.

Over the course of the pandemic, 5 million children in the US have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 444 have died, the AAP said.

The CDC released a report on 3 September showing a fivefold increase in child hospitalization rates because of the Delta variant. The differences in children’s hospitalizations were even more startling when broken down by age. In the same June-August time period, hospitalizations were 10 times higher for children under the age of four and for those between the ages of 12 to 17, the report said.

Hospitalization was 10 times greater among unvaccinated than vaccinated children, the report said. In the US, children aged 12 and up are eligible for vaccination.

Dr Mary Caserta, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester medical center and a member of the AAP’s committee on infectious diseases, told the Guardian:

It’s very important for children who are eligible to be vaccinated.

There’s just no other way to protect ourselves right now except using vaccination along with mitigation – wearing masks, washing our hands, trying to maintain our social distance.

Read more here:

Sajid Javid, the UK’s health secretary, said he was “confident” the vaccine booster programme will start later in September, PA news reports.

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.

Javid, who was speaking during a visit to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, said:

We are heading towards our booster programme, so the news from the MHRA today is welcome.

But also I want to wait for the final opinion of the JCVI, it’s important that we do and we listen to what they have got to say.

I’m confident that our booster programme will start later this month but I’m still awaiting the final advice.

Singapore’s health ministry reported 450 new locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the most since early August 2020, Reuters reports.

The UK today reported 167 new deaths from Covid-19, which occurred within 28 days of a positive test for the disease, down from 191 yesterday, daily government figures showed.
The number of new cases reported today was 38,013, down slightly from 38,975 yesterday.

Updated

Both the number of coronavirus-related deaths and number of new infections reported today in Italy fell in comparison to the previous 24 hours, Reuters reports. The number of deaths fell from 59 to 69 and new infections were 5,522, down from 5,923.

Italy has registered 129,766 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 4.59 million cases to date.

The number of atients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - also fell, from 4,235 to 4,230.

There were 38 new admissions to intensive care units, the same as yesterday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 558 from a previous 564.

There were 291,468 tests for Covid-19 carried out, compared with 301,980 in the previous 24 hours, the health ministry said.

Moldova will tighten lockdown restrictions on Friday due to a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, a national commission said on Thursday.

The new curbs will include a ban on non-vaccinated people visiting restaurants, bars and cultural events and be in effect from September 10 to October 31, Reuters reports.

Moldova, where citizens are currently required to wear masks in public places, and restaurants and bars close at 11:00 pm, has registered 272,325 Covid-19 cases with 6,466 deaths as of September 8.

Officials say about 25% of Moldova’s population are vaccinated.

Expert warns 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, head of the World Medical Association, has said.

Health minister Jens Spahn announced the initiative yesterday, including plans to dispatch mobile vaccine units across the country next week to offer a jab to those who have not yet had one.

Montgomery said it was necessary to tighten restrictions in an effort to break the fourth wave of the virus which Germany finds itself in.

“In order to break the fourth wave before it becomes dramatic, we should introduce a nationwide 2G rule” – that would allow only those who were vaccinated (‘geimpft’) or could prove they had recovered (‘genesen’) from the virus access to many areas of public life.

He said where it was impractical to exclude the unvaccinated, such as in public transport, people should have to abide by a strict so-called ‘3G rule’ – by having to prove that they had had a PCR test (‘getestet’), if they were not vaccinated or recovered.

On Wednesday, Lothar Wieler, the head of the government’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, warned that Germany was heading for a “severe course” of the virus in the autumn and winter months, due to its low vaccine uptake rate.

In a tweet Spahn added on Thursday, that progress in tackling the disease was “unfortunately slow right now”, with less than 62 per cent (51.3 million) fully vaccinated, and 66 per cent having had one dose (55 million). A total of 72.4 per cent of the adult population is vaccinated “but there are still too many who are unvaccinated for us to be able to conquer the virus,” Spahn said.

He did however, say he was encouraged by the fact that four in five over 12 year olds has taken up the recent offer of a vaccine so far.

Alena Buyx, head of Germany’s ethics committee warned against Montgomery’s 2G model, arguing that 3G was the more responsible way to go. “The more people who are involved the better. So it would be good if we could stick to the 3G rule,” she said.

Over 15,400 new infections were registered on Thursday. The number of hospitalised cases rose to 1.79 per 100,000. It remains far lower than what it was around Christmas, before vaccinating had begun, when it stood around 15.5, but the number of young patients is continuing to rise.

Fifty new deaths were registered overnight, bringing Germany’s total number of Covid 19 deaths to just under 92,500.

Updated

Around a fifth of home care staff in England could leave if the coronavirus vaccine becomes mandatory for remaining social care staff, the sector fears.

The government has launched a six-week consultation on making vaccination a condition of deployment for frontline workers in health and more social care settings, PA news reports.

Staff at registered care homes have already been told they will need to be double jabbed as a condition of deployment in England’s care homes by November 11, unless they are exempt.

The UK Home Care Association said it believes that persuasion will be more effective than compulsion for increasing uptake “without losing vital workforce capacity”.

Some 81.7% of home care workers have had their first dose, and 69.4% are fully vaccinated, according to the NHS data platform capacity tracker.

The organisation said:

Our concern is that vaccination as a condition of deployment will likely result in a substantial loss of the workforce, potentially at least 20 per cent.

Right now, we are experiencing the most extreme challenges in recruitment and retention in history, at a time of rising demand for home care.

We feel it’s very important to balance the mitigated risk of infection with the risk of unavailability of care at home for highly dependent older and disabled people.

Vaccination is just one of multiple measures to protect vulnerable care recipients including use of PPE, regular testing, ventilation and cleaning, it added.

The Covid-19 vaccination programme in England is estimated to have directly averted 112,300 deaths, according to new figures from Public Health England.

Previous estimates had put the number at 105,900 deaths, PA news reports.

Estimates for the number of hospital admissions among people aged 65 and over prevented by vaccinations are unchanged, at around 143,600.

UK medicines regulator approves Covid vaccines for use as booster shots

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.

In a statement, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the vaccines had been approved for use as boosters on an emergency basis from Thursday.

The announcement did not specify which groups of patients the approval involved, with the MHRA saying this would be a decision for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)

The JCVI was meeting on Thursday to decide whether a booster programme should take place, and if so how widespread it should be.

Ministers are believed to be keen to roll out a mass booster programme for most or all adults as fast as possible as an attempt to mitigate an expected rise in cases over the autumn and winter, as has happened in Israel.

However, with the evidence so far mixed on how much benefit boosters give to healthy adults, the JCVI could decide to limit them to older or more clinically vulnerable people, with the issues described as complex and with numerous ethical implications.

Read more from my colleagues Peter Walker and Nicola Davis:

Hoarding of vaccines by wealthy western nations will result in thousands of needless deaths from Covid-19 in the world’s poorest countries every month unless urgent steps are taken to distribute jabs more fairly, Gordon Brown has said.

In an article for the Guardian, the former Labour prime minister called on the G7 rich industrial nations to hold an emergency summit in order to prevent a billion unused doses being amassed by the end of the year.

Brown, who has repeatedly urged the G7 to share the benefits of vaccine breakthroughs more widely, said the collective failure to turn scientific success into protection for all was a “moral catastrophe”. He added: “If the world were a state, we might well call it a failed one.”

The G7 summit hosted by Boris Johnson in Cornwall in June pledged to make 870m doses available to poor countries through the WHO’s Covax procurement programme, but had so far provided only 100m of them, Brown said.

Thousands will die this month and for the foreseeable future, not because there are too few vaccines being produced but because they are being hoarded in places that now need them least.

Read more here:

Japan announced on Thursday it is extending a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September as health care systems remain under severe strain, although new infections have slowed slightly.

People wearing face masks wait for a train as it approaches a station in Tokyo, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Japan announced Thursday it is extending a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo and 18 other areas until the end of September as health care systems remain under severe strain, although new infections have slowed slightly. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)
People wearing face masks wait for a train as it approaches a station in Tokyo. Photograph: Hiro Komae/AP

Health and care sector workers in England who decline to be fully vaccinated could be moved to back-office roles, a UK government minister has suggested, as a consultation on plans to mandate Covid-19 and flu vaccinations was launched.

The six-week consultation process will take views on whether vaccine requirements should apply for health and wider social care workers – those in contact with patients and people receiving care.

It would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services.

The government previously said all staff in registered care homes in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 from 11 November, unless medically exempt.

Speaking on Times Radio, Helen Whately, the minister for care, said the government was working with care homes and other settings to see if workers who refused the vaccine could be redeployed.

She said:

You can look at whether there are alternative ways somebody could be deployed, for instance, in a role that doesn’t involve frontline work, or doesn’t involve being physically in the same setting as the patient – whether it’s, for instance, working on 111, something like that.

So we could look at alternative roles for individuals, these are exactly the sorts of things that we can investigate.

But she suggested that people who refused to get vaccinated against coronavirus should not work in social care.

Speaking on Sky News, Whately said care homes had been hit particularly hard by Covid, and added:

The reality is that one of the best ways we can protect people living in care homes is through making sure that staff are vaccinated.

Read more here:

Rich nations would do better to send vaccines to Africa to help fight the global Covid-19 pandemic rather than hoarding them for third-dose booster shots that scientific evidence does not back, the African Union’s (AU) top health official said on Thursday.

Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) director John Nkengasong told a news conference he was baffled some rich countries were disregarding World Health Organization (WHO) advice to hold off from booster shots until more people were fully vaccinated worldwide, Reuters reports.

Wealthy countries such as Germany, France and Israel are planning to administer third shots, over concerns that immunity from the standard two-shot regimen is waning.

He said:

The problem we have with the third doses is: we have not seen enough science behind them. It is really confusing to me as to why we are moving towards a vast (administration) ... of the booster dose.

We do not know at what point immunity drops to a level at which it stops offering (protection). Without (that science), you’ll surely be gambling.

The global programme providing Covid-19 vaccines to poor countries is on course to fall nearly 30% short of its previous goal of 2bn shots this year, the international organisations running it said on Wednesday.

The Covax programme also urged rich countries that had met their domestic needs to forfeit volumes rather than administer third shots.

Nkengasong said such programmes in the West would make it hard for Africa to meet its target for vaccinating 60% to 70% of people, for which it needed at least 1.6bn doses.

Currently only 3% of the continent were vaccinated, he said, while 145.4m vaccine doses had been procured across the continent, of which three quarters had been administered.

In the meantime, the coronavirus continued to evolve, as it coursed though unvaccinated populations, he said:

Today it’s the Delta variant, tomorrow we just don’t know which variant will be out there.

Africa has recorded 7.9m cases, of which 201,000 have been fatal, he said.

Businesses are still in the dark about how the Scottish government’s Covid passports will work, the head of UK Hospitality Scotland has warned.

Proof of double vaccination would be required to allow people entry to nightclubs and large events under plans unveiled by the Scottish government last week.

But details of how the system will work in practice remain unclear, with the first minister planning to impose the requirement by the end of September.

The Scottish government is expected to release more information about its plans ahead of a vote to approve the measures at Holyrood on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the executive director of UK Hospitality Scotland Leon Thompson said there was a lack of clarity about what the Covid passport plans would entail.
He said:

We’re very concerned about the proposals and the vote that’s going ahead today.

We weren’t so consulted about this ahead of the first minister’s statement last week, we had some very rushed and hurried conversations with officials over the last few days.

We still have no real information on how the Scottish government plans to introduce the passport scheme and what will actually be required of venues, nightclubs, major events and so on.

The other challenge that we have is defining nightclubs.

The first minister is very keen to see a very tight introduction of the vaccine certifications but already in the discussions we’re beginning to see this spilling over into larger bars, potentially, and other hospitality settings with perhaps live music and potentially dancing.

Thompson also said the hospitality sector was experiencing “chronic staff shortages” and may not be able to cope if the new certificate system required additional staffing.

“Recruitment is really posing a major challenge so if businesses do need to recruit, that is going to be potentially a major stumbling block for them,” he said.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to introduce the certification scheme in response to rising coronavirus cases and said she hoped it would encourage more people to get vaccinated.

France has granted citizenship to more than 12,000 frontline workers whose jobs put them at risk during the Covid pandemic under a special fast-track scheme.

As well as speeding up the application process, which normally takes up to two years, the government also cut the residency requirement from five years to two.

Marlène Schiappa, the citizenship minister, said:

Frontline workers responded to the call of the nation, so it is right that the nation takes a step towards them. The country pulled through thanks to them.

I welcome our new compatriots to French nationality and thank them in the name of the republic. The country also thanks them.

In September 2020, the interior ministry invited those who had “actively contributed” to fighting the Covid health crisis to apply for fast-track naturalisation. On Thursday, Schiappa said 16,381 had applied and 12,012 applications were approved.

Among them were health professionals, security and cleaning staff, those who looked after essential workers’ children, home helps and refuse collectors, the minister announced.

Read the full story here:

Despite the widespread availability of vaccines, this region of Oregon is in the grip of an intense Covid-19 surge that has filled local hospitals to capacity, overwhelmed healthcare workers and killed 37 people in the last two weeks. Last month, cases in the Medford area in Jackson county were growing faster than anywhere else in the US, driven by the hyper-contagious Delta variant and a low vaccination rate.

The Scottish Government is expected to release more information about its plans for Covid passports ahead of a vote to approve the measures at Holyrood on Thursday afternoon.

However, businesses are still in the dark about how they will work, reports PA.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, the executive director of UK Hospitality Scotland Leon Thompson said there was a lack of clarity about what the Covid passport plans would entail.

He said:

We’re very concerned about the proposals and the vote that’s going ahead today.

We weren’t so consulted about this ahead of the First Minister’s statement last week, we had some very rushed and hurried conversations with officials over the last few days.

We still have no real information on how the Scottish Government plans to introduce the passport scheme and what will actually be required of venues, nightclubs, major events and so on.

North Macedonia’s government is holding an emergency meeting today over an overnight fire that ripped through a field hospital set up to treat COVID-19 patients, leaving 14 people dead, AP reports

The blaze broke out late on Wednesday in the western city of Tetovo, where the hospital had been set up following a recent spike in infections in the region that left local hospitals full.

The main prosecutor’s office in the capital, Skopje, said 14 people had been killed in the blaze. There were no medical personnel among them.

About a dozen people were injured, though the exact figure wasn’t immediately available.

Tetovo Mayor Teuta Arifi declared three days of mourning for the victims.

Forensics workers are pictured at the hospital for coronavirus patients in Macedonia following a fire that left 14 dead.
Forensics workers are pictured at the hospital for coronavirus patients in Macedonia following a fire that left 14 dead. Photograph: Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters

Italy given go-ahead for Covid-19 booster shots

Italy’s medicines agency, AIFA, has given the go-ahead to the administration of Covid-19 booster shots.

The roll-out will begin at the end of September, with 500,000 immunosuppressed people receiving a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The programme will then be expanded to include 4.2m older people and care home residents as well as healthcare workers.

Over 70% of Italy’s population aged over 12 have so far received two vaccine doses. The country registered 5,923 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday and 69 deaths, bringing the death toll to 129,707.

AFP reports that Thai researchers are developing a sweat-based mobile Coronavirus detector.

It is however still in the development stage, and the research behind it is yet to be published or peer-reviewed.

The scientists adapted a device usually used to detect toxic chemicals in the environment.

Chadin Kulsing from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University said:” From the samples, we found that people infected with Covid-19 secrete very distinct chemicals.”

Subjects place a cotton swab under their arms for 15 minutes, before the swab is put in a glass vial and sterilised with UV rays.

“The technician then draws an appropriate amount of the sample using a suction hose, and pressurises it into the analyser to check the results,” Chadin said.

Sample collection takes 15 minutes and the results are ready in 30 seconds.

Thailand is battling its third and worst Covid wave. It reported 16,000 new cases on Thursday, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to nearly 1.34 million.

NHS England figures show 224,086 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in July, up 25% from the 179,274 reported in July last year, reports PA.
This is the third-highest number of urgent cancer referrals in records going back to October 2009, with the highest number of referrals 232,136 in March 2021, followed by 230,110 in June this year.
The equivalent figure for July 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 221,805.
Urgent referrals where breast cancer symptoms were present - though not initially suspected - were up from 10,437 in July last year to 12,277 in June 2021.

Italian police raid Covid protesters ‘planning violence’

Italian police raided the homes and searched the computers of eight people suspected of planning violence during protests against the country’s coronavirus passport, AFP reports.

The searches were carried out today in Milan, Rome, Venice, Padua, Bergamo and Reggio Emilia.

The suspects are members of a group on messaging app Telegram called “The Warriors”, where the use of weapons and DIY explosives at “No Green Pass” demonstrations have been discussed, according to a police statement.

They were said to be planning to attend a protest this weekend in Rome but are also accused of “inciting the other members of the group to carry out violent actions” in their home regions against unspecified “institutional targets” or during visits by government ministers.

Updated

President Joe Biden will outline new approaches to control the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, later today.

In a speech, scheduled for 21.00 (BST) Biden will focus on six areas including new plans to get more people vaccinated; enhancing protection for those who already have had shots and keeping schools open, according to a White House official.

Reuters reports an official saying the speech will also cover increasing testing and mask-wearing, protecting an economic recovery from the pandemic-induced recession and improving healthcare for people infected with the disease.

It comes as Covid cases among children in the US are surging.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said:

We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life. We have more work to do, and we are still at war with the virus.

The number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has risen to a new record high, PA reports.

A total of 5.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of July 2021, according to figures from NHS England.

This is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at 293,102 in July 2021, down from 304,803 in the previous month, but more than three times the number waiting a year earlier, in July 2020, which was 83,203.

More than 325,000 patients in England had been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in July.

A total of 325,229 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy, NHS England said.

The equivalent number waiting for more than six weeks in July 2020 was 489,797, while pre-pandemic in July 2019 there were 37,206.

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England in July 2021 was 259,642 - up 82% from a year earlier (142,818), although this reflects lower-than-usual figures for July 2020, which were affected by the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The equivalent figure for July 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 314,280, reports PA.

Reuters: Russia has reported 794 deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours. There were 18,380 new cases compared to 18,024 on the previous day.

How the pandemic brought out the best in people

Australia: Scott Morrison, has rejected claims the country missed out on securing Pfizer vaccine supplies, after the pharmaceutical company’s request for a high-level government meeting was knocked back last year.

Documents released under freedom of information to the Labor party show that representatives from Pfizer contacted the government in June 2020 suggesting a meeting between global executives and the health minister Greg Hunt.

While the correspondence shows that a health department bureaucrat attended the meeting instead of Hunt, Morrison insisted that “every effort” was made to secure vaccine supplies.

The Scottish Parliament will decide today whether vaccination passports will be needed for entry to nightclubs and large live events. Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems will all be voting against the move.

People refusing Covid jabs should not work in social care, minister suggests

A government minister has suggested that people who refuse to get vaccinated against coronavirus should not work in social care.

Speaking on Sky News, the minister for care, Helen Whately, said care homes had been hit particularly hard by Covid, and added: “The reality is that one of the best ways we can protect people living in care homes is through making sure that staff are vaccinated.”

Asked whether she was concerned that the vacancies in social care would increase by mandating that workers must be jabbed, she said: “The big question has to be … if you don’t want to get vaccinated, how can you continue, how can it be right to continue, to look after people who are really vulnerable from Covid?”

As millions of children head back to school across the US, health experts are highlighting a troubling trend: hundreds of thousands of them are testing positive for Covid.

More than 250,000 children had new cases in the last week of August, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a report published on Tuesday. That’s the highest weekly rate of new pediatric cases since the pandemic began, and it’s a 10% increase in two weeks.

With slightly more than 1m new Covid cases reported in the US during that period, that means one of every four new cases in the country was among children.

JCVI member Professor Adam Finn says forcing jabs on frontline health staff 'like an admission of failure'

Professor Adam Finn a member of the JCVI and professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol told BBC’s Today Programme compulsory making vaccination compulsory for frontline healthcare staff would feel “like an admission of failure”.

He said: “I think it is a kind of an admission of failure. It’s like saying you can’t either find the time or find the ability to explain to people why it makes sense and create the culture in which everybody does it because they understand why it’s important.

“If you build a culture, it becomes the norm and everybody does it.”

But he added that he understood why it is being considered.

“We are in a pandemic and so things sometimes get done differently,” he said.

He also expressed his concerns that a decision on booster jabs for coronavirus would be made too quickly.

“Although there’s waning against mild disease, we’re not clear that we’re seeing waning against severe disease, and the programme is really driven by trying to keep people out of hospital and stop people dying rather than by trying to control the spread of the vaccine,” he said.

He also discussed the limited global supply of the vaccine, adding that “each dose going into the arm of someone who’s immune is not going into the arm of someone who’s got no immunity at all”.

Updated

The TUC has called for urgent action after its research found “a tale of two pandemics” with low-paid workers bearing the brunt of the virus.

Low-income workers have had little or no option to work from home, no or low sick pay and reduced living standards, while better-off workers have enjoyed greater flexibility, financial stability and increased spending power, said the union organisation.

TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady told PA: “It has been a tale of two pandemics. This Covid class divide has seen low-paid workers bear the brunt of the pandemic, while the better off have enjoyed greater financial security, often getting richer.

“This should be a wake-up call - we need an economic reset. It’s time for a new age of dignity and security at work.

“Without fundamental change, the Government’s own levelling up agenda will be doomed to failure, and we risk repeating the same old mistakes of the past decade, allowing insecure work to spiral even further.

“Ministers must start by banning zero-hours contracts, raising the minimum wage with immediate effect and increasing statutory sick pay to a real Living Wage, making it available to all.”

Research by the TUC suggested that low-paid workers (those earning less than £15,000) are almost twice as likely as high-paid workers (those earning more than £50,000) to say they have cut back on spending since the pandemic began.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI and Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Bristol told BBC Radio 4’s Today programmme “we need to be evidence-based” on booster vaccines.

He said: “Getting the timing right is one of several things that we need to get right. You could conceivably run into a position where you’re immunising a lot of people when they don’t actually need to be, and if the vaccines do wane then they will wane earlier than they would have done if you’d immunised them when they did need to be.

“We do need to identify who needs boosting, which vaccine and what dose and when it can be done and get it logistically possible too.”

Consultation begins on plans to mandate Covid and flu vaccinations for health and care staff

A consultation has begun on plans to mandate Covid-19 and flu vaccinations for frontline health and care staff, the UK government has announced, PA reports.

The six-week consultation process will take views on whether vaccine requirements should apply for health and wider social care workers – those in contact with patients and people receiving care.

It would mean only those who are fully vaccinated, unless medically exempt, could be deployed to deliver health and care services.

Updated

Despite the WHO’s call for a moratorium, some countries have been arguing for booster jabs not only for vulnerable people, but also for the wider population, citing signs of waning vaccine effectiveness against the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The WHO has acknowledged that an additional dose could be needed for immunocompromised people, but stresses that, for healthy people, the vaccines still seem very effective, especially in preventing severe disease.

“There is not a compelling case to move forward with a generalised recommendation for booster doses,” Kate O’Brien, the WHO’s vaccines chief, told the news conference.

The UN health agency has set a global target of seeing every country vaccinate at least 10 percent of its population by the end of this month, and at least 40 percent by the end of this year.

It wants to see at least 70% of the world’s population vaccinated by the middle of next year.

But Tedros complained that while 90% of wealthy countries have hit the 10% mark, and more than 70% have already reached 40%, “not a single low-income country has reached either target”.

He expressed outrage at a statement by a pharmaceutical industry organisation that the world’s seven wealthiest nations, known as the G7, now had enough vaccines for all adults and teenagers - and to offer boosters to at-risk groups - and so the focus should shift to dose sharing.

When I read this, I was appalled.

In reality, manufacturers and high-income countries have long had the capacity to not only vaccinate their own priority groups, but to simultaneously support the vaccination of those same groups in all countries.

WHO urges booster moratorium until 2022

The World Health Organization called on Wednesday for countries to avoid giving out extra Covid jabs until year-end, pointing to the millions worldwide who have yet to receive a single dose, AFP reports.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists:

I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.

Speaking from WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, Tedros urged wealthy countries and vaccine makers to prioritise getting the first jabs to health workers and vulnerable populations in poorer nations over boosters.

We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated.

The WHO called last month for a moratorium on Covid-19 vaccine booster shots until the end of September to address the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations.

But Tedros acknowledged Wednesday that there had “been little change in the global situations since then. “So today I am calling for an extension of the moratorium until at least the end of the year,” he said.

High-income countries had promised to donate more than one billion vaccine doses to poorer countries, he said - but less than 15% of those doses have materialised.

We don’t want any more promises. We just want the vaccines.

Washington pushed back against the call for the moratorium, saying Joe Biden has “a responsibility to do everything we can to protect people in the United States.”

“We are doing both, we think we can do both and we will continue to do both,” said the White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Japan to extend emergency restrictions

Japan said on Thursday it will extend emergency Covid restrictions in Tokyo and other regions until the end of this month to curb infections and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, saying it was too early to let down its guard, Reuters reports.

Japan has been struggling with a fifth wave of the virus and last month extended its long-running curbs until 12 September to cover about 80% of its population.

However, the number of severe cases and the strain on the medical system have not eased sufficiently in Tokyo and surrounding areas to allow restrictions to be lifted.

The government will extend the measures until Sept. 30, including for Osaka, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said after meeting with an advisory panel, which ratified the plan.

Japan’s emergency curbs have centred on asking restaurants to close early and refrain from serving alcohol.

Summary

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

Japan said on Thursday it will extend emergency restrictions in Tokyo and other regions until the end of this month to curb infections and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, saying it was too early to let down its guard.

Meanwhile the World Health Organization called on Wednesday for countries to avoid giving out extra Covid jabs until year-end, pointing to the millions worldwide who have yet to receive a single dose.

More on these stories shortly. In the meantime here are the other key recent developments from around the world.

  • The UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, asked about the possibility of a so-called “October firebreak” in England, said: “I haven’t even thought about that as an option at this point.”
  • Javid also backed 12- to 15-year-olds being able to take Covid vaccines against the wishes of their parents, and said that he was ‘confident’ that a booster jab programme will start this month in the UK.
  • In the UK, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has defended the planned introduction of Covid vaccine passports, telling MPs “this approach is designed to reduce transmission and serious illness”.
  • Data shows that road traffic in the UK was at 100% of pre-crisis levels on Monday. Demand for buses also reached the highest level for a weekday since March 2020.
  • The Covax vaccine-sharing initiative is set to receive 575m fewer anti-Covid shots this year than previously estimated, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) has warned.
  • Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease in Germany, has said that the country could see a “massive momentum” in new Covid cases in autumn if the vaccination rate does not increase.
  • The Czech Republic on Wednesday recorded 588 new cases of coronavirus, the highest daily tally since 25 May, as government officials predict a continued rise in infections.
  • People will need to show a Covid-status certificate to enter bars, restaurants and fitness centres in Switzerland from Monday, the government ordered
  • The city of Brussels is expected to introduce a Covid vaccine pass from 1 October, requiring residents to prove their health status to enter bars, restaurants and other public places.

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