UK and EU urged to stop blocking vaccine patent waiver – as it happened
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A Conservative MP who works as an NHS doctor has insisted she is “not comfortable” with the reasoning behind giving Covid vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds in England, PA reports.
Dr Caroline Johnson was among several Tory MPs to raise concerns with the policy after the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed children in that age group in England will be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
The former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned “family disputes” could emerge over the decision on whether or not a child should be jabbed.
Miriam Cates, the Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, suggested antibody testing should be offered to children before their parents make a decision, while the Tory former minister Steve Baker sought assurances that vaccination status would not affect a youngster’s access to teaching.
Questions were also raised over who makes the decision for children in the care system to receive Covid jabs.
Making a late night statement to the Commons, Zahawi said parental consent will be needed for vaccinations of 12 to 15-year-olds - but children can overrule parents who do not want them to get the jab if deemed “competent”.
Johnson later said:
I have given many vaccines in my time, including hundreds more recently of Covid vaccines. But I am not comfortable with vaccinating teenagers to prevent educational disruption.
No child needs to isolate under current rules if they are a contact - only if they are a positive case and the maximum in that case would be eight days of schooling. That is if they caught it during term time.
Half of children have already had coronavirus and are very likely to get it again. Does the minister really believe that vaccinating three million children to prevent an average of four days of school or less is really reasonable?
Zahawi replied that he thought it “important the government accepts the final decision, the unanimous decision, of the four chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.
Where there is a dispute we say that the school makes a decision as to whether or not that child has the capacity to make that decision.
Now, we know, and this is the point, the pressure will grow on the child. This greater good concept which says ‘Well the school may be in trouble if you don’t take the vaccine and your class may be in deep difficulty’.
There is no way of legislating for that. I simply say to him, this is a real problem for us, it will lead to disputes in families and real problems about children’s mental health in the opposite direction as they are put under pressure.
He mentioned in his question it would lead to teachers having to - actually it is quite the opposite, it is not the teacher’s responsibility to do this, it is a qualified clinician.
The school age vaccination programme is very well equipped to do this, to do this in a discrete and careful way with parents and children, but the bulk of vaccinations - this would be in the very rare occasions - the bulk of vaccinations will only be conducted if there is parental consent.
Baker later asked: “Will he guarantee that a child’s ability to receive an education equally with their peers will never be linked to their vaccination status?”
That will not be used in any way. The whole purpose of this is to accept the clinical advice and protect children.
On children in care, the Conservative former children’s minister Tim Loughton asked: “Will it be the default position, as corporate parents, that all children in the care system will be vaccinated and then what then happens if the birth parent or the long-term foster carer has an objection to that?”
Zahawi replied that it would be “the deemed carer for that child that will be requested to make that consent.”
Here is the Guardian’s science editor Ian Sample’s explainer on how the vaccine rollour for 12 to 15-year-olds will work:
Ukranian government announces 'vaccine passports' for some indoor settings
The Ukrainian government has decided to introduce Covid-19 “vaccine passports” verifying citizens’ vaccination status, the health ministry said on Monday.
The passports will allow businesses such as cinemas, gyms, theatres and swimming pools to operate without social distancing requirements if all visitors and at least 80% of staff at the venues are at least partially vaccinated, the ministry said in a statement said.
Educational institutions can also operate without social distancing if all staff are fully vaccinated.
After a relative lull in the summer, coronavirus infections have accelerated in Ukraine. The government will likely tighten lockdown restrictions soon, Reuters reports.
Teaching unions have warned that schools must be kept out of any potential controversies over Covid vaccinations for older children after UK government scientists finally approved the mass rollout of jabs for 12- to 15-year-olds in England, Peter Walker and Sally Weale report.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said teachers were being put in an “invidious” position and called on ministers to confirm the programme would be overseen by specialist medical teams.
Here is the story:
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against travel to Afghanistan, Albania, Serbia, Belize, Lithuania and four other destinations because of Covid-19 concerns.
The CDC on Monday raised its travel advisory to “Level 4: Very High” for nine destinations, telling Americans they should avoid travel to the locations. The destinations also include Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Slovenia and Mauritius.
The list of travel advisories is here.
A majority of Australians would be comfortable with venues requiring patrons to be vaccinated as a condition of entry, and for jabs to be mandatory in a range of employment and leisure settings, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.
The latest survey of 1,100 respondents also indicates that only 26% understand and approve of the four-phase plan to reopen Australia once vaccination rates rise to 70 and 80% of adults – with 54% either saying they don’t understand the plan to wind back restrictions, or they do understand it but lack confidence in it.
The new poll shows mandatory vaccinations are supported for Australia’s health and disability care workers (83% and 82% of respondents approve). A further 77% of respondents think vaccines should be compulsory for airline travellers, and 74% think teachers and teacher’s aides should be inoculated before working at schools.
Majorities also support vaccinations as a condition of entry to sporting events (69%) and hospitality and entertainment venues (68%), while 62% agree mandatory jabs should be required for people to return to work at the workplace. Smaller majorities (58%) support mandatory vaccinations for students to attend school and for customers to shop at retail stores after lockdowns end.
My colleague Katharine Murphy has the story:
Premiership players are being “strongly encouraged” to become fully vaccinated by rugby authorities in England with clubs offered incentives in an effort to boost uptake, Gerard Meagher reports.
The full story is here:
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.
Today so far
Here’s a round-up of today’s coverage of the pandemic as I sign off and hand over to Lucy Campbell to keep the blog rolling.
- More evidence is needed that booster jabs will significantly reduce serious cases before governments go ahead with campaigns for third jabs, a new study involved US and WHO health experts said. At the moment, such campaigns are not justified, according to the scientists.
Children aged 12 to 15 will be offered vaccines in the UK, its chief medical officers decided. The first doses should be administered immediately.
China imposed new restrictions in the south-eastern Fujian province, with measures including mass testing, suspended transport services and closures of bars and cinemas.
- Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières called for a waiver of vaccine patents to allow more jabs to be produced and delivered to poorer countries. It said the UK, EU, Switzerland and Norway should stop blocking a proposal being negotiated at the World Trade Organization.
- Singapore’s health ministry has reported 607 new locally transmitted Covid cases – the highest since August last year.
- The UK government pulled out of a deal with the French pharmaceutical company Valneva to purchase its Covid-19 vaccination, the company has said.
- Ho Chi Minh City, at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Vietnam, is to extend restrictions until the end of September. Authorities said the measures were needed to isolate clusters, speed up vaccinations and stop hospitals from being overwhelmed.
- The fully vaccinated accounted for just 1.2% of all deaths involving Covid-19 in England in the first seven months of this year, which is being seen as an encouraging sign that the vaccine is effective in reducing deaths.
- British prime minister Boris Johnson will lay out the UK’s winter coronavirus plans on Tuesday and will be expected to speak on vaccine passports, a potential winter lockdown and vaccination for over-12s.
- Leading epidemiologist Prof Neil Ferguson has said the UK must boost its immunity by vaccinating more teenagers to stop the risk of “a large autumn and winter wave”.
- About a million children in New York returned to school today, with compulsory masks and mandatory vaccination for teachers, as the city ends remote working.
A plan to fast-track vaccinations in dozens of Indigenous communities has been unveiled by the Australian government’s Covid vaccine taskforce, with an extra $7.7m in funding to help boost take-up rates and address hesitancy and misinformation.
It comes as health authorities were on Monday forced to correct official figures that had incorrectly doubled vaccination rates for Indigenous Victorians.
According to Australian Immunisation Register data, an extra 26,000 people had wrongly been classified as being Indigenous as a “result of the software used in Victorian clinics wrongly assigning Indigenous status to patients”.
The number of hospitalised patients in France dropped below 10,000 for the first time since mid-August, health ministry data showed on Monday.
France has 2,103 people in intensive care and reported 86 new deaths on Monday.
The average for new cases over the past week also fell below 10,000, for the first time since July 20.
Trials of localised lockdowns will begin in the Philippines’ capital Manila this week as the country tries to contain its worst coronavirus outbreak while also opening the economy.
A shift towards localised lockdowns in the Manila area was delayed last week because of the levels of infection.
“We should strive for total health and this can only be realised by carefully balancing our COVID-19 response by considering both the health of our people and the economic health of the nation,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement, reported by Reuters.
The health ministry will decide which areas of the Manila area will go into 14-day granular lockdowns.
After months of uncertainty, the UK’s four chief medical officers have said that Covid-19 vaccinations can be offered to all 12-to-15-year-olds. How was the decision made, how will the vaccines be rolled out, and what difference will they make?
The UK’s four chief medical officers have decided that children aged 12 to 15 years olds can be offered Covid vaccinations. All children of this age group will be offered a first vaccine immediately, to be administered by the schools vaccination programme.
Earlier, the government’s vaccine watchdog – the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – said the evidence for vaccinating healthy 12-15 year olds was that it was of marginal benefit.
Five parents across the UK share their thoughts about the benefits of having their children vaccinated amid concerns about possible health risks and confusing advice.
The antiviral drug being developed by pharmaceutical company Merck & Co to treat Covid-19 could be approved by the end of the year, the company said.
Reuters reports that the company’s CEO Robert Davis told Morgan Stanley’s Annual Global Healthcare Conference the drug is progressing well.
It recently began phase three trials to test whether it reduces hospitalisations or deaths.
Booster shots are not justified for most people according to a new study by US and WHO health experts published today.
The scientists said more evidence was needed that it would significantly reduce severe cases of Covid-19, especially as the current levels of vaccination provide high protection against serious illness.
The US government is planning to soon begin administering booster shots but the WHO has said more first doses should be delivered around the world.
Early last year, as Covid-19 began to disrupt livelihoods in Shanghai, local media struggled to persuade the public to stay at home. Then they turned to an infectious diseases expert, Dr Zhang Wenhong, who also heads up Shanghai’s expert panel on Covid-19.
“You’re bored to death at home, so the virus will be bored to death, too,” Zhang said in rapid-fire mandarin mixed with a distinctive Shanghainese accent. “Stay at home for two weeks … then we’ll be an inch closer to success.”
Zhang’s vivid and urgent plea to the public immediately captured the imagination of the city of 25 million, winning him nicknames such as “Daddy Zhang”. The video was widely shared in Shanghai’s online portals, and was even re-published by the state news agency Xinhua in Beijing.
On 10 September, shortly before a new outbreak began in the south-eastern Fujian province, Zhang told a group of students in Shanghai that China was “still facing tremendous challenges” in tackling Covid-19. “We are now maintaining a very active yet cautious strategy to not allow the epidemic to spread in China.”
Since last year, 52-year-old Zhang has become the face for China’s battle against the virus. He’s now one of the country’s best-known and most-respected medical experts, with nearly 4 million followers on Weibo and countless memes on WeChat. International media call him “China’s Dr Fauci” – even though he does not hold the kind of public position in China that the chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, does in the US.
Over in Greece it’s D-day for those who have yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as restrictions banning entry to eateries, cafés, bars and other venues come into effect.
The measures, to be enforced through March next year, amount to what local media have described as a lockdown for those who have not been inoculated. Only people who can prove they have been vaccinated, or have recovered from the virus in the last six months, will be granted access to indoor entertainment venues including tavernas, restaurants, bars and clubs with verification checks conducted at points of entry through an app that scans Covid-19 certificates.
“The controls will be strict … we’ll check all those who come indoors with the app. Our basic goal is not to have to close again,” said Andreas Martzaklis who owns a café in the ancient district of Plaka beneath the Acropolis. “We’ve had a difficult time and we have to be especially careful. All our personnel have been vaccinated. We’re sticking to all the measures, the social distancing rules, we’re going to do everything to stay open.”
Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ centre-right administration announced the regulations on August 24th hoping to coax those who have been reluctant to get the shot to finally do so.
Under the new regulations, unvaccinated employees working in frontline professions such as tourism and academia will be required to undergo weekly or twice-weekly testing at their own expense. There will be a flat 10-euro fee for tests.
Unvaccinated citizens will be granted entry to cinemas, theatres, museums, archaeological sites and gyms but only if they can provide a negative rapid test conducted within 48 hours. The condition, however, appears to be arbitrary with venues given the right to turn non-vaccinated people away.
Government officials confirmed the restrictions will apply to everyone. “They are there for all, Greeks and foreigners alike,” one told the Guardian.
Greece has recorded almost 617,000 coronavirus cases since the outbreak of the pandemic with the public health body EODY on Monday announcing a further 1,608 infections over the last 24 hours. The death toll rose by 51 bringing the total number of fatalities to 14,223. Of that number 95.4 percent had an underlying illness or were over the age of 70.
The regulations came into effect as schools reopened nationwide amid continuing concerns over contagion rates rising on the back of the highly transmissible Delta variant. Pupils who have not been inoculated will be subject to free twice-weekly self tests while unvaccinated educators will only be permitted to teach if they produce negative rapid tests taken at their own expense twice a week.
Mask-wearing will be obligatory.
The head of a south London church has denied fraud after allegedly selling “plague protection kits” as a bogus cure for Covid-19.
Bishop Climate Wiseman, 46, who is also known as Dr Climate Wiseman and Climate Irungu, is said to have offered the package, which contained a small bottle of oil and piece of red yarn.
Wiseman, the head of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell, south London, allegedly marketed the mixture to “treat, prevent, protect against or cure” coronavirus.
He appeared at Inner London Crown Court on Monday wearing a white bishop-style robe, embroidered with gold crosses, dog collar and crucifix.
Wiseman spoke to confirm his identity and date of birth before pleading not guilty to a single charge of fraud and two charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations between March 23 and 24.
The charges allege he made false representations while trading as “Bishop Climate Ministries” in person, online, and through instructional and testimonial videos.
Prosecutors say he made “untrue and misleading” claims concerning the ability of an oil mixture marketed as “Divine Cleansing Oil” or as part of a “Divine Plague Prevention Kit” to “treat, prevent, protect against or cure” coronavirus.
Nargees Choudhary, defending, said her client was not an “anti-vaxxer” and had been double jabbed.
She said he is free to practise his religion and denies being “dishonest” or “acting in a deceitful way”.
Wiseman pumped his fist in the air as he left the building to cheers from around 50 supporters, dressed in red, who chanted: “We shall not, we shall not be moved.”
During the hearing, they had blown whistles, while one member climbed on top of a phone box and led cries through a megaphone of “freedom” and “leave us alone”.
Judge Benedict Kelleher released Wiseman on unconditional bail ahead of his trial at the same court on 11 July next year.
Singapore’s health ministry has reported 607 new locally transmitted Covid cases – the highest since August last year.
The country’s cases hit a one-year high in the recent days as it entered a phased reopening after more than 80% of its population was fully vaccinated.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the decision to recommend a first dose of vaccine for 12-15 year olds was based on the benefits to children of that age, rather than wider society.
He said the chief medical officers “fully agree with” the assessments made by the MHRA medical regulator and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on the issue.
“We have not gone over any of their data again, we have simply taken it as read,” he said.
There’s more here:
Health experts in the UK have welcomed the decision to vaccinate 12- to-15-year-olds.
Russell Viner, professor of child and adolescent health at University College London, said:
Vaccinating 12-15-year-olds remains a very marginal balance in medical terms, although with over 10 million teenagers vaccinated worldwide, we are now much clearer about safety in this age group.
The pandemic has wrought a great deal of harm in the lives of our children and young people, including poorer mental health and disruptions to education and socialisation.
Noting that chief medical officers had taken such “broader issues” into account, he added:
This is a good decision for young people and for broader society.
It is also a testament to strong UK decision-making, recognising the critical importance of independent scientific decision-making without fear of political influence, but also factoring in key societal issues missing from a narrow focus on medical harm and benefits.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said evidence had shown children are “highly unlikely” to become seriously ill with Covid-19, but it had been “extremely concerned” about the indirect effects of the virus and infection control measures.
It said disruption to school attendance and extra-curricular activities had affected children’s mental health and wellbeing.
In a statement it said:
Reduced access to school has disproportionately impacted children from more deprived socio-economic groups and could have lifelong repercussions
We believe that vaccination could benefit healthy children, irrespective of any direct health benefit, in enabling them to have less interruption to school attendance, to allow them to mix more freely with their friends, to give more protection to friends and family members whose health may be at risk from the virus, and to help reduce the anxiety some children feel about Covid-19.
UK cases increase by 30,825
The UK has reported a further 30,825 new cases. This is 10,367 fewer than last Monday’s total of 41,192 new cases.
A further 61 Covid-related deaths were also announced, compared to 45 last Monday.
It brings the number of people who have died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 to 134,261.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 158,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Italy has reported 36 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday after announcing 34 Covid deaths on Sunday.
The daily tally of new infections fell to 2,800 from 4,664.
The four chief medical officers in the UK are due to give a press conference about the decision to vaccinate children aged 12 to 15. Our politics live blog will have all the details and live coverage:
The NHS in England is short of an estimated 50,000 doctors ahead of what is expected to be one of the worst winters on record, the British Medical Association has warned.
The BMA said that the number of doctors in England had fallen behind comparable European Union countries, with 2.8 doctors per 1,000 people compared to an EU average of 3.7.
It said that its research at the start of the summer showed that meeting this average would require scaling up the medical workforce by an additional 31% - or an additional 49,162 full-time equivalent (FTE) doctors.
The latest data showed falling primary and secondary care doctor numbers pushing shortage up to 50,191 FTE doctors, it added.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said that with flu season on the horizon and fewer staff than last year, it was unknown how the NHS will cope over winter.
It’s frightening to see that the gap between the number of doctors in England and comparable EU nations is widening at such pace.
Even more worryingly, having failed to reverse this damaging trend in the decade prior to the pandemic, the government now has a much bigger, and incredibly urgent, task ahead of it.
Winter is an incredibly difficult time for the health service, and we just about made it through last year with the demands of Covid-19 on top of usual pressures.
With flu season on the horizon and even fewer staff this time round, it’s a total unknown as to how well our services will cope - if they even cope at all.
And this is before we even consider the enormous backlog of care generated by the pandemic.
Alarm bells should have sounded when we struggled to staff the Nightingale hospitals, so government really cannot afford to put this off any longer.
Since then, we’ve seen hospital waiting lists in England grow to 5.61 million, high numbers of A&E patients waiting longer than four hours, and staff morale hit rock-bottom - all of which pose real and regular risks to patient care and safety.
Build the tower up, only to knock it to the floor. When my son was tiny, he could play that game for hours. As he got older, often it felt as if I was doing the same.
Childcare for working parents is one huge wobbling Jenga stack, in which someone is always yanking out the brick that brings everything crashing down. Child running a temperature? Crash. Stuck late at work? Crash. But increasingly, what’s collapsing it is the cost.
A survey of more than 20,000 working parents, coordinated by the website Mumsnet with 13 other groups, lays bare a broken system. A third of parents spend more on childcare than on their rent or mortgage (rising to almost half of black respondents). The cost of a one-year-old’s nursery place in England rose four times faster than wages between 2008 and 2016, and more than seven times faster in London. But it’s hardly as if the people changing your toddler’s nappies, or teaching them the alphabet, are getting rich as a result.
Wages for early years staff are embarrassingly low, given we trust them with the most precious thing in our lives and that they’ve been on the Covid frontline during the pandemic, something which may help explain reports of nurseries struggling to recruit. As for nannies, even Boris and Carrie Johnson apparently couldn’t afford one; when baby Wilfred was born, party donors were reportedly approached about chipping in.
American senator Elizabeth Warren has accused Amazon of “peddling misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines and treatments” through its search and bestseller algorithms, after the online retail giant pushed a book by an author the New York Times called “the most influential spreader of coronavirus misinformation online”.
Searching for Covid-19 on the site gives the top result as Joseph Mercola and Ronnie Cummins’s The Truth About Covid-19, a title that claims to reveal how the “effectiveness of the vaccines has been wildly exaggerated”, how the virus was lab-engineered in Wuhan, and how “safe, simple, and inexpensive treatment and prevention for Covid-19 have been censored and suppressed to create a clear path for vaccine acceptance”.
Warren has written to Amazon’s chief executive Andy Jassy over her concerns that the online retailer’s search algorithms “appear to contribute to the spread of Covid-19 misinformation”. The Massachusetts senator pointed to research from her staff, which found that searches on pandemic-related topics “consistently included highly ranked and favourably tagged books based on falsehoods about Covid-19 vaccines and cures”.
China has imposed new restrictions to contain a fresh outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant of Covid-19 in the south-eastern Fujian province, with measures including mass testing, suspended transport services and closures of bars and cinemas.
There were at least 22 new local cases recorded in Fujian province on Monday. The South China Morning Post said authorities had ordered mass testing for students and teachers in the province of nearly 39 million people to be completed within a week.
Nationally, China on Monday reported 49 new confirmed cases in the mainland for 12 September, compared with 46 a day earlier, according to the country’s national health commission.
Putian, a city of 2.9 million people south of Shanghai, appeared to have among the highest number of infections in the current outbreak. Schools have been closed, and anyone leaving the city must have proof of a negative Covid test in the previous 48 hours.
Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières has called on the UK, EU, Switzerland and Norway to stop blocking a patent waiver proposed to allow faster vaccine production.
Talks on the waiver are set to continue at the World Trade Organization tomorrow, almost a year since the move was proposed by India and South Africa as a way to address vaccine inequality.
They have argued that control of pricing and manufacturing vaccines is now restricted to big pharmaceuticals but a waiver would allow for faster production by tapping into unused factories.
While richer countries stockpiled vaccines with pre-orders and have now vaccinated the majority of their populations, many low and middle-income countries are a long way off that target. A waiver is supposed by more than 100 countries.
Candice Sehoma, South Africa advocacy officer for the MSF access campaign, said:
“People in these countries, facing life or death in this pandemic, can no longer rely merely on charitable or voluntary measures dictated by only a small number of high-income countries and the pharmaceutical industry they host. We demand the countries opposing the TRIPS waiver to stop blocking the will of the majority of the world to obtain this additional legal tool in the pandemic to achieve self-reliance in producing Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests.”
Children aged 12 to 15 will be vaccinated in UK
Children aged 12 to 15 will be offered Covid vaccinations, the UK’s four chief medical officers have decided, setting aside the view of the government’s vaccine watchdog that the clinical benefits of such jabs were too minimal to justify them.
In a decision that will relieve ministers, who hope a mass programme of vaccinating older children could help reduce Covid infection numbers over autumn and winter, the chief medical officers from the UK’s four nations said a first injection could take place immediately, with the possibility of a second dose in the spring school term or later.
Earlier this month, the the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that while the health gains from vaccinating the entire age group were greater than the risks, “the margin of benefit is considered too small” to support it.
However, the JCVI held open the possibility of the decision being overruled by suggesting that the UK’s four chief medical officers re-examine the decision, taking into account wider factors outside the JCVI’s remit, such as the possible impact of vaccinations in minimising disruption to schooling.
People who were fully vaccinated accounted for just 1.2% of all deaths involving Covid-19 in England in the first seven months of this year.
The figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), have been seized on as proof of the success of the vaccine rollout.
They record that a total of 51,281 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in England between 2 January and 2 July, although the number includes people who had been infected before they were vaccinated.
Of these deaths, 458 (0.8%) were of people who died at least 21 days after their second dose. Just 256 deaths (0.5%) were of people who were both fully vaccinated and who had their first positive PCR test at least 14 days after their second dose.
No vaccine is 100% effective against Covid-19, and health authorities have made it clear that some deaths of vaccinated individuals are to be expected. Public Health England (PHE) has estimated that two-dose effectiveness against hospital admission with infections from the Delta variant – which is now the UK’s dominant strain – has been around 94%.
However, the figures on Monday underlined that the risk of death involving Covid-19 is consistently lower for people who receive two doses compared with one dose or no vaccination at all.
Infections in Singapore over the weekend were 10 times higher than a month ago and the number of seriously ill patients has also increased, Reuters reports.
The number of patients requiring oxygen doubled to 52 but only seven were in intensive care.
With 80% of the population fully vaccinated, Singapore has not suffered from a large number of serious cases but the increasing numbers have caused enough concern to delay reopening.
Having already vaccinated most over-12s, it may also administer jabs to children from next year as well as third shots to others.
Another lockdown for the UK will only be a “last resort”, the prime minister’s spokesperson said on Monday.
Boris Johnson himself was questioned about lockdowns, vaccine passports and vaccination for over-12s while he visited a training academy for British Gas. He did not reveal much, saying he would set out details for the UK’s winter coronavirus response on Tuesday.
He said vaccine passports will be kept “in reserve”, after his government made a U-turn on requiring them for crowded venues.
Infection in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province have soared since mid-August, driving “a sudden and severe wave”, local officials told AFP.
Cases hit 1,500 in Idlib on 6 September after having been contained for most of the year.
“The health system here has reached breaking point,” said Hossam Qara Mohammad, who heads the pandemic response for the local health directorate.
He said beds allocated for coronavirus patients had all been occupied.
The infections followed shortly after Syrian refugees in Turkey, which borders Idlib, were allowed to visit relatives for the Eid al-Adha religious holiday.
At least 877 people have been killed by the virus during the pandemic, though the number may be higher because data collection has been thwarted by the humanitarian situation in Idlib.
Only 1% of Covid-19 deaths in UK among vaccinated
About 1% of deaths from Covid-19 in the UK during the first seven months of this year were among the fully vaccinated, according to the Office for National Statistics.
According to the data, most of the 640 fully vaccinated people who died between January and July were infected before receiving their second jab or during the first 14 days before it becomes fully effective.
A breakdown of “breakthrough” cases showed three-quarters of those who died were clinically extremely vulnerable.
At the top of a Florida-based telehealth website that promises “quality meds with fast shipping”, above a menu of skin care products, erectile dysfunction medications and hair loss treatments, sits a bright orange banner with bold lettering: “LOOKING FOR IVERMECTIN? CLICK HERE,” it reads.
The telehealth site is one of numerous online providers that have moved to capitalise on the surge in demand for Ivermectin as Covid-19 cases rise across the US. The drug, an anti-parasitic used in both humans and livestock, has become the latest in a series of much-hyped medications for which doctors say there is no conclusive evidence they work to treat coronavirus.
Driving the Ivermectin frenzy is a cottage industry of advocacy groups, anti-vaccine activists and telehealth companies. Touting the drug as a “miracle cure” for Covid-19, these groups have rapidly risen to prominence, finding a fervent audience among conservative media figures, the vaccine-hesitant and people desperate to treat loved ones suffering from the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), have put out advisories in August warning against using Ivermectin for Covid-19. The February guidelines from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state there is not enough evidence “either for or against” recommending the drug.
Still, medical advocacy groups and anti-vaccine activists have heavily promoted Ivermectin online and in the media as the key to ending the pandemic and have shared lists of doctors and companies that will offer it – sometimes directing those interested to dubious medical providers. The hype has caused runs on pharmacies, with reports of people resorting to eating versions of the drug intended for horses when they can’t get their hands on its formulation for humans.
India is worried that low infection rates could lead to partially vaccinated people not taking up their second doses, health experts told Reuters.
While 60% of the population have taken first doses, only 19% are fully vaccinated because of a long gap of up to 16 weeks between doses.
“There’s a concern among the highest quarters of an impending vaccine hesitancy, in view of most taking a single dose already and disease incidence at its lowest,” said one of two sources who spoke to Reuters anonymously.
One of the experts said they were concerned that labourers might skip doses to avoid missing work.
Here's a summary of the latest developments
- The German economy will pick up pace in the third quarter but could cool if there are new coronavirus mutations, the economy ministry has said. Germany’s economy, the largest in Europe, grew by 1.6% on the quarter from April to June.
- The editor-in-chief of medical journal The Lancet has warned that the UK has among the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, saying: “The pandemic hasn’t gone away yet.” While Richard Horton said it is positive that two-thirds of UK population is vaccinated, it has the highest number of infections globally after the US.
- The UK government is to pull out of a deal with the French pharmaceutical company Valneva to purchase its Covid-19 vaccination, the company has said.
- Scotland’s deputy first minister has said there are no plans to introduce vaccination certificates for public services or for cafes and restaurants, but that they will be required for a “limited number of sectors” including nightclubs. John Swinney said the government is in talks with “key affected sectors” and that they plan to put the measures in place by 1 October.
- About a million children in New York will return to school today, with compulsory masks and mandatory vaccination for teachers, as the city ends remote working. Nearly all of the city’s 300,000 employees will have to be back at work in person, with most people required to either be vaccinated or have weekly Covid tests in order to keep their jobs.
- UK work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has suggested that working from home guidance could make a return to fight a possible coronavirus surge this winter. She also said that vaccine passports have not been “ruled out forever”.
- Leading epidemiologist Prof Neil Ferguson has said the UK must boost its immunity by vaccinating more teenagers to stop the risk of “a large autumn and winter wave”. The Imperial College professor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there will be some effect of ditching Covid passports in England but that he hopes another national lockdown will not be needed.
- Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has confirmed that Boris Johnson will lay out the UK’s winter coronavirus plans on Tuesday. She said measures such as vaccine passports “are still part of the toolbox”, despite the government’s decision to shelve plans to introduce vaccine passports across England next month.
That’s it from me for today. Handing over now to my colleague Kaamil Ahmed. Thanks for reading.
A man who underwent 21 days of mandatory quarantine after returning to China from Singapore has been identified as the likely source of a new coronavirus outbreak.
CNN reports that experts advising the government have said that a father who recently travelled to Singapore is the probable cause of a fresh outbreak in Fujian province.
It comes after more than 60 people, including 15 elementary school pupils, were found to be infected. The finding, the broadcaster reports, raises questions over the viability of the country’s strict zero-Covid strategy.
Fifteen people, including a seven-year-old boy, have reportedly been found in a refrigerated truck in Vietnam trying to escape an area that has been in total lockdown since July.
The country has been struggling with a devastating fourth wave of the virus since April and tens of millions of people are under stay-at-home orders with most domestic travel banned.
AFP reports that police in Binh Thuan province were shocked to discover the group of people after the vehicle tried to pass a coronavirus checkpoint.
“Police were so surprised to see 15 people at the back of the truck … Some of them were sweating and showed symptoms of breath shortness,” the Ho Chi Minh City’s Phap Luat newspaper reported.
It said the passengers, who were carrying negative Covid test results, had travelled from Dong Nai province, which has recorded more than 35,000 Covid cases, and were trying to get home to central Vietnam.
“We knew it is a huge risk and very dangerous to stay in a closed frozen truck, but we faced a higher risk if we were infected with the virus,” a man, who travelled with his seven-year-old son, told the newspaper.
Vietnam has recorded more than 610,000 cases and over 11,400 deaths.
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Russia has recorded 719 deaths and 18,178 new cases in the last 24 hours.
The country is preparing to go to the polls on 19 September, with early voting in some areas already taking place for the parliamentary election.
The German economy will pick up pace in the third quarter but could cool if there are new coronavirus mutations, the economy ministry has said.
Germany’s economy, the largest in Europe, grew by 1.6% on the quarter from April to June, Reuters reports. It marked a weaker rebound than in many other European countries amid supply shortages of goods including semiconductors.
“Overall, there will likely be a noticeable increase in economic output in the current third quarter,” the economy ministry said in its monthly report. It also said there were signs of a normalisation of growth in the fourth quarter, but that the spread of new coronavirus mutations could negatively impact its economic outlook.
It comes as Germans prepare to go to the polls in two weeks time in national elections.
The editor-in-chief of medical journal The Lancet has warned that the UK has among the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, saying: “The pandemic hasn’t gone away yet.”
While Richard Horton said it is positive that two-thirds of UK population is vaccinated, it has the highest number of infections globally after the US.
He told Sky News:
We’re the second highest number of infections of any country in the world after the United States, we’re seeing hospitalisations rise by about 5% every week, there are 1,000 new deaths every single week, we’ve got 1,000 people on ventilators across the country. In other words, the pandemic hasn’t gone away yet. So we’re in a very finely balanced situation.
UK to pull out of deal with French pharmaceutical company Valneva
The UK government is to pull out of a deal with the French pharmaceutical company Valneva to purchase its Covid-19 vaccination, the company has said.
Here’s more from Jamie Grierson:
Here’s more on UK epidemiologist Prof Neil Ferguson’s comments (see 8:07):
Scotland’s deputy first minister has said there are no plans to introduce vaccination certificates for public services or for cafes and restaurants, but that they will be required for a “limited number of sectors” including nightclubs.
John Swinney told BBC Radio 4’s Today:
There will be no question that vaccine certificates will be applicable to any public services whatsoever, under any circumstances.
So what we’re talking about is a scheme that would be across a limited number of sectors. Nightclub access and some larger gatherings would have to involve vaccine certification.
He said the government is in talks with “key affected sectors” and that they plan to put the measures in place by 1 October.
We’re now going through a process of dialogue with a range of key affected sectors to make sure we can take the practical steps to implementation, which we want to put in place by October 1 to give us another measure to help us to deal with the challenges that the virus is posing to us.
He also said coronavirus must be “successfully suppressed” before an independence referendum would be possible.
But, he added:
We are optimistic that the more the vaccination programme continues, the more we take the measures that we are taking, we will find ourselves in a situation where we can see with justification that the Covid pandemic is under control, and we can then have a referendum.
About a million children in New York will return to school today, with compulsory masks and mandatory vaccination for teachers, as the city ends remote working.
Nearly all of the city’s 300,000 employees will have to be back at work in person, with most people required to either be vaccinated or have weekly Covid tests in order to keep their jobs, reports the Associated Press.
Students and municipal workers protested against the end of remote working outside New York city hall on Sunday.
The city is also set to start enforcing rules that require workers and visitors of indoor restaurants, museums, gyms and entertainment venues to be vaccinated.
Teachers have until 27 September to get their first vaccine dose.
Last school year, students in the city were able to choose between remote or in-person learning, but this year all students will be required to physically attend school. All students and staff will be required to wear masks.
“Our kids need to be in school and it’s unbelievable that some kids haven’t seen the inside of a classroom for a year and a half,” New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said on Thursday. “There are massive consequences to that, including health care consequences. The healthiest, best place for kids to be is in school.”
UK work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has suggested that working from home guidance could make a return to fight a possible coronavirus surge this winter.
“Whether that’s with what you just mentioned or making sure statutory sick pay can be paid from day one rather than day four, as tends to happen in more regular times,” she told BBC Breakfast. “These are the sensible measures I think that we’re going to keep.”
Asked about mask wearing, she said: “The prime minister will be setting out the Covid winter plan tomorrow. I think my approach, and I see that with a lot of employers organisations, is about having a situation-specific approach.”
She also said that vaccine passports have not been “ruled out forever”.
As Sajid Javid set out yesterday, although the formal decision is still to be made, but having reflected and looked at the details of the proposal that it’s not deemed necessary at this moment in time.
But they haven’t been ruled out forever. It’s reflecting the fact that a lot of young people have come forward and got their vaccinations over the summer.
Leading epidemiologist says UK must boost its immunity to avoid a large third wave
Leading epidemiologist Prof Neil Ferguson has said the UK must boost its immunity by vaccinating more teenagers to stop the risk of “a large autumn and winter wave”.
The Imperial College professor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there will be some effect of ditching Covid passports in England but that he hopes another national lockdown will not be needed.
While he said nothing can be ruled out, he hopes that another lockdown will not be needed. “With this level of immunity that we have in the population, if we do need to further drive down transmission then it may not require full lockdown.”
Measures such as working from home are effective at helping to cut transmission, he said.
“I very much hope we don’t need to go into full lockdown, but I think there are intermediate measures which still may be needed at some point.”
It comes after The Telegraph reported that Boris Johnson is “dead set” against another national lockdown.
On the cancellation of covid passports Ferguson said there is a “delicate balancing act in terms of civil liberties and the effectiveness of such measures.” But that he supports them being required for healthcare workers and perhaps social care staff.
“I think there will be some small effect of ditching those measures, but it won’t be huge.”
On the progress of a third wave, he said modelling suggests there are “slow increases” in case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths, but that “on the bright side” increases are relatively slow.
However, with schools having only just reopened, he said “we need to remain cautious”.
In the absence of social distancing measures, he said the UK is “reliant” on immunity building in the population through vaccination and infections.
He said the UK was leading in Europe until recently in terms of vaccinations, but that the programme has “fallen behind a little” behind countries including Ireland, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal.
Booster doses increase immunity to “even higher levels” than those with two doses. He cited a study in Israel which found that after a booster dose people were 10 times less likely to get infected with mild disease.
“That would suggest that booster doses really are effective at further driving down transmission and infection,” he said.
Boris Johnson to lay out UK winter coronavirus plans on Tuesday, confirms work and pensions secretary
Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has confirmed that Boris Johnson will lay out the UK’s winter coronavirus plans on Tuesday.
She said measures such as vaccine passports “are still part of the toolbox”, despite the government’s decision to shelve plans to introduce vaccine passports across England next month.
She told Sky News:
When we had a variety of regulations we said we’d go back to parliament every six months to see if those regulations were still necessary, but also some of the ideas that we wanted to consider, and are still part of the toolbox, like vaccine passports.
Again we said we were considering bringing these items in but it’s important that we look at exactly what benefits that will bring, and right now the health secretary indicated – although we haven’t made a formal decision – that he does not think it is necessary for the vaccine passports to be introduced by the end of the month.
But the prime minister will be setting out tomorrow a lot more of the detail of the road map ahead, preparing for winter.
Ho Chi Minh City, at the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Vietnam, is to extend restrictions until the end of September.
Authorities said the measures were needed to isolate clusters, speed up vaccinations and stop hospitals from being overwhelmed, Reuters reports.
The vaccination rate in Vietnam, which has a population of 98m, is currently 5.2%. It has recorded over 610,000 cases and 15,000 deaths, most of which have been since May. Half of those infections and 80% of deaths have been in Ho Chi Minh City.
“Overall, Ho Chi Minh City will still be under restrictions for another two weeks,” city vice chairman, Duong Anh Duc, was quoted as saying in the state-run Dan Tri newspaper.
“Although in some districts of the city where the virus is being kept at bay, restaurants are allowed to open for takeaways and people can go out for food.”
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New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, will remain under a strict lockdown for at least another week, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced, as the country battles to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.
The country reported 54 new cases of Covid-19 over the weekend, and 33 new cases on Monday – a slight rise from last week’s average. There have now been a total of 955 cases in the outbreak. While its overall trajectory is still moving well down from its peak, officials are concerned about a number of mystery cases that investigators and contact tracers have not yet been able to link with others.
On Monday, Ardern said that while there was no widespread transmission in Auckland, or the rest of the country, these unlinked cases may indicate there were chains of transmission in the wider community.
Philippines facing ‘learning crisis’, says Unicef
Classrooms in the Philippines were silent on Monday as millions of schoolchildren hunkered down at home for a second year of remote lessons that experts fear will worsen an educational “crisis”.
While nearly every country in the world has partially or fully reopened schools to in-person classes, the Philippines has kept them closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN says.
President Rodrigo Duterte has so far rejected proposals for a pilot reopening of primary and secondary schools for fear children could catch Covid-19 and infect elderly relatives.
More than 80% of parents are worried their children “are learning less”, said Isy Faingold, Unicef’s education chief in the Philippines, citing a recent survey:
South Africa eases restrictions
South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Sunday announced plans to introduce Covid-19 “vaccine passports” amid widespread scepticism of the jab, ahead of an easing of movement restrictions this week, AFP reports.
After sluggish vaccine procurement and a delayed rollout, Africa’s worst-hit country for Covid is struggling with low take-up, particularly among men.
In a televised address to the nation, Ramaphosa stressed that an immunised adult population was key to fully reopening the economy and avoiding a fourth infection wave.
In two weeks, we will “be providing further information on an approach to ‘vaccine passports’, which can be used as evidence of vaccination for various purposes and events”, he said without providing further details.
But he added that “a sustained decline in infections... over the last few weeks” would allow for an easing of confinement measures from Monday.
A night-time curfew will be shortened, starting at 11pm instead of 10, and limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be increased.
Restrictions on the sale of alcohol will also be relaxed, although face masks remain mandatory in public.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
A night-time curfew will be shortened, starting at 11pm instead of 10, and limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be increased.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said “a sustained decline in infections … over the last few weeks” meant restrictions could be eased. A night-time curfew will be shortened, starting at 11pm instead of 10, and limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be increased.
Restrictions on the sale of alcohol will also be relaxed, although face masks remain mandatory in public.
Meanwhile more than 80% of parents in the Philippines are worried their children “are learning less”, said Isy Faingold, Unicef’s education chief in the Philippines, citing a recent survey. While nearly every country in the world has partially or fully reopened schools to in-person classes, the Philippines has kept them closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the UN says.
More on these stories shortly. In the meantime, here are the other key recent developments:
- South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to introduce Covid-19 “vaccine passports” amid widespread scepticism of vaccines in the country.
- Scotland’s first minister has ruled out the possibility of a second referendum on independence until all day-to-day Covid restrictions are lifted. Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly pledged to hold another poll by the end of 2023, but only if the public health crisis is over.
- Iraq has received a donation of more than 100,000 AstraZeneca doses from Italy via the Covid-19 vaccine-sharing scheme Covax, according to Unicef. More than 4 million people, around 10% of Iraq’s population, have already received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab.
- New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has purchased 500,000 doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine from Denmark.
- The US president, Joe Biden, will announce new steps to slow the spread of Covid-19 before the UN general assembly meets, the surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, said.
- China reported 46 new Covid-19 cases on the mainland for 11 September, up from 25 a day earlier, the national health authority said.
- The UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, has confirmed that plans for vaccine passports in England are going to be scrapped. Javid also said he expects the booster vaccination programme for Covid-19 to start this month.
- Conservative MPs fear vaccine passports could still be made mandatory later this year amid a warning the NHS faces “the worst winter in living memory”, despite the health secretary’s announcement earlier today that they are to be scrapped.
- Sri Lanka is facing food shortages with customers in state-run supermarkets reporting long queues for items such as rice, sugar, lentils and milk powder.