Italy sends 100,000 vaccines to Iraq – as it happened

By Euan O'Byrne Mulligan (now), Robyn Vinter and Alexandra Topping (earlier)
A vaccinator prepares to administer the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to a woman at a vaccination centre in London
A health worker prepares to administer the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a centre in London. Photograph: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

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South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to introduce Covid-19 “vaccine passports” amid widespread scepticism of the jab.

In a televised announcement on Sunday, Ramaphosa stressed that an immunised adult population was key to fully reopening the economy and avoiding a fourth infection wave, ahead of an easing of restrictions this week, AFP reports.

After sluggish vaccine procurement and a delayed roll out, Africa’s worst-hit country for Covid is now struggling with low take-up, particularly among men.

The government 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.

Updated

Tory MPs fear return of Covid vaccine passports plan in England

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.

The dramatic U-turn came just weeks after Boris Johnson announced the controversial documents would be necessary for fully vaccinated people to go to nightclubs and other crowded venues.

Boris Johnson will confirm Sajid Javid’s announcement on Tuesday, when he is expected to make a Commons statement and hold a press conference to prepare people for a difficult winter.

However, some Tory MPs are wary that the government has simply paused its introduction of “unconservative” measures.

Mark Harper, the chair of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, said:

They shouldn’t be kept in reserve – they are pointless, damaging and discriminatory.

Another backbencher said:

“The very concept of vaccine passports needs to be ruled out for good, as they are fundamentally unconservative, discriminatory and would lead to a two-tier society that I am confident no one actually wants to see.

Stephen Reicher, who advises the government on behavioural science, told the Guardian he hoped ministers had shelved the vaccine passports plan based on the scientific arguments against it, but admitted:

“I don’t believe that, sadly it’s probably politics.

Updated

South Africa’s president has announced an easing of Covid-19 restrictions and a shortening of the national curfew after a decline in infections.

Authorities will also extend the hours of alcohol sales, further relaxing restrictions introduced in June to combat a third wave of cases caused by the Delta variant, Reuters reports.

In a televised address, Cyril Ramaphosa said:

While the third wave is not yet over, we have seen a sustained decline in infections across the country over the last few weeks.

With the decline of infections across all provinces, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 has recommended an easing of restrictions.

Authorities reported 3,961 new cases on Sunday, compared with a peak of about 26,500 per day in early July.

The curfew will start one hour later at 11 p.m. but still last until 4 in the morning. Shops will be able to sell alcohol from Monday to Friday.

All alcohol sales were banned in June, then allowed in shops from Monday to Thursday in July.

Bars and restaurants have been allowed to serve it during opening hours since July.

Updated

Iraq receives more than 100,000 vaccines from Italy via Covax

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 four million people, around ten per cent of Iraq’s population, have already received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab, AFP reports.

Iraq on Sunday received “100,800 (doses) of the AstraZeneca vaccine... the first delivery from a pledge of 15 million doses to be donated to Covax by Italy”, according to a statement from UNICEF, which works jointly with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Widespread scepticism over vaccines, a result of misinformation and public mistrust in the state, has hampered healthcare workers.

Covax is backed by WHO, the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and it aims to ensure equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, particularly to low-income countries.

It is Iraq’s third vaccine delivery under the program.

Updated

The US has administered 380,241,903 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of Sunday morning and distributed 456,755,755 doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Those figures are up from the 379,472,220 vaccine doses the CDC said had gone into arms yesterday, out of 456,755,075 doses delivered, Reuters reports.

The CDC said 209,437,152 people had received at least one dose, while 178,692,875 people are fully vaccinated as of 6am ET on Sunday.

The tally includes two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.

Updated

Workers began returning to city centre desks last week, suggests a study measuring footfall in central London.

With some firms offering free food and gifts to tempt staff back, one barometer of activity around offices recorded an increase of almost 5%.

Data experts Springboard said that between Tuesday and Friday, footfall was 4.9% up on the previous week, based on its London office block tracker.

Pret a Manger, which became a poster child for the turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as travel restrictions and home working emptied shops, has hailed a comeback for takeaway sandwiches and coffee.

No independence referendum until Covid restrictions lifted, Sturgeon says

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.

The SNP leader said that for a referendum campaign to have proper focus from the public, it was crucial that there was “an overall environment in the country where people are not in their day-to-day lives being asked to limit or restrict their behaviour”.

Updated

France reported 29 coronavirus deaths on Sunday, bringing the overall death toll to 88,776, with 2,129 people recorded as currently in intensive care.

More than 120,000 people demonstrated across the country yesterday in protest against coronavirus health passes, which are required for entry into cafes, restaurants and other public places.

It was the ninth consecutive week of protests, although numbers were down on previous weeks, according to official figures.

Updated

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, has criticised the SNP government’s plans to proceed with vaccine passports after Sajid Javid confirmed the proposals are to be scrapped in England.

Plans for vaccine passports were passed by Holyrood earlier this week with the support of the Scottish Greens, despite opposition from the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.

From 1 October, 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.

Douglas Ross claims the SNP “bulldozed” the scheme through Holyrood, despite potential harms to business, failing to consider other alternatives.

He said:

“The SNP bulldozed their scheme through Holyrood without any thought for the livelihoods it would affect.

It was rushed, riddled with holes and no thought was given to how businesses would be impacted.

No alternatives were considered.

Vaccine passports have been examined as a potential safeguard against another damaging lockdown or fresh restrictions.

But they are a major intervention for business sectors which are only just starting to get on their feet.

I am pleased the Health Secretary has confirmed this won’t be going ahead in England.

The SNP should reflect on their half-baked plans that only passed in Holyrood with the votes of SNP and Green politicians.

Updated

Wales’ health minister has warned that strain on hospitals is expected to continue until at least mid-October.

Eluned Morgan urged people to visit their GP and to visit A&E only if completely necessary.

Appearing on BBC Politics Wales, the health minister said:

“We have huge pressures on our GP surgeries at the moment.

We have pressures on our A&E services, so we would ask people not to use those services unless they are necessary.

Of course, if they have an emergency, they should be using them.

I think we are likely to see an increase in the number of people hospitalised in the next few weeks.

Our modelling suggests these figures are likely to continue in terms of the number of people catching Covid, until at least the end of September and then we’re likely to see a levelling off.

Public Health Wales today reported eight further deaths with Covid, and 2,317 new cases.

Updated

Italy has reported 34 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday, according to the health ministry, with the daily tally of new infections standing at 4,664.

Italy has registered 129,919 deaths linked to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain. The country has reported 4.6 million cases to date.

UK death toll increases by 56

Hello. My name is Euan O’Byrne Mulligan, taking over for the next few hours.

The UK has recorded 56 new deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test on Sunday and 29,173 new cases.

The overall death toll is now 134,200 and the total number of coronavirus cases is 7,226,276.

Summary

That’s it from me today. Here’s a summary of the day’s main events:

  • Malaysia’s ministry of health has reported 100 Covid-19 deaths yesterday, and announced a further 492 backlog deaths, via its Covid information website.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Updated

This is very interesting by Megan Hosey, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

She writes that it is not surprising so many people have symptoms of long Covid as, in recent years, doctors and researchers have increasingly realised that many of those who survive an illness of any kind or who go through serious physical trauma, are at high risk for a range of debilitating and chronic physical, cognitive and mental health symptoms.

Here’s a bit more on England’s “shambolic” U-turn on vaccine passports from Aubrey Allegretti:

Updated

Angela Merkel implored Germans on Sunday to make use of a week-long Covid-19 vaccination campaign in which people can get a free jab at mosques, shops and football pitches.

Worried that Germany’s vaccination rate of around 62% will not be sufficient to stave off a winter wave of Covid-19 infections, especially due to the dominant Delta variant, the government is making a big push to encourage waverers.

“Never was it simpler to get a vaccination. Never has it been quicker,” the chancellor said in her weekly podcast, adding people could from Monday get a dose without an appointment on public transport and at places of worship and sports facilities.

About 4 million people in Germany have suffered from Covid-19 and more than 90,000 people have died.

Merkel said while it was good that some 66% of the population have had one dose and 62% are fully vaccinated, case numbers were rising and most people who are hospitalised are not vaccinated.

“To get through autumn and winter, we must convince more people to get vaccinated,” she said. “I ask you: protect yourself and other people. Get vaccinated.”

Updated

Malaysia records 592 new Covid deaths

Malaysia’s ministry of health has reported 100 Covid-19 deaths yesterday, and announced a further 492 backlog deaths, via its Covid information website.

The country has been struggling to get to grips with a surge in cases, beginning at the start of July, thought to be caused by the delta variant.

This week, international trade and industry minister Mohamed Azmin Ali told the media that from October, 75% of the adult population of Malaysia will be vaccinated and the country will treat Covid-19 as an endemic disease which the country will learn to live with.

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 on Sunday. He did not specify what those steps would be.

Speaking to CNN, Murthy defended Biden’s efforts to expand vaccination in the US

He said:

There will be more actions that we continue to work on, especially in the global front.

The next session of the general assembly opens Tuesday; the first day of general debate will be the following week.

Updated

Hello, Robyn Vinter here, taking over the live blog.

In case you missed it in the last 24 hours, more than a dozen gorillas have tested positive for Covid-19 at a zoo in the US city of Atlanta, probably after contracting the virus from a keeper, zoo officials said.

More from Richard Luscombe in the US:

The head of the union that represents Scottish ambulance staff has said the army should be drafted in and “pop-up wards” erected at accident and emergency departments, after patients in Scotland have been waiting hours to be admitted.

Jamie McNamee of the union Unite said crews were waiting up to three hours in Glasgow and Aberdeen to hand over patients.

He said “major incident” procedures should be initiated to increases resources and while NHS staff were “absolutely working their socks off”, the average turnaround time for callouts had far exceeded the 20 minutes it was supposed to take.

He said:

Our first option would be to initiate internal national risk and resilience procedures. That would entail building or producing pop-up wards outside the A&E departments that are unable to cope with demand, allow the crews to hand over the patients to these trained clinicians and free up that mobile asset to respond to treble-nine calls.

I believe the army would have similar facilities that could come in helpful. I’m sure they’re busy themselves, however I think we find ourselves in a bit of a national crisis at the moment.

It comes after the head of the ambulance service apologised for waiting times.

Pauline Howie said staff were working under “unprecedented pressure” in response to a huge increase in Covid and non-Covid cases.

The Scottish government said the NHS was facing significant challenges.

A spokesman said:

Despite the pressure coronavirus has brought upon our ambulance service, which serves some of the most rural areas in the UK, in 2020-21 crews responded to over 70% of highest priority calls in under 10 minutes and more than 99% in under 30 minutes.

At first minister’s questions, Nicola Sturgeon said it was “not good enough” that the average wait last week for immediately life-threatening incidents was nine minutes and 30 seconds.

Updated

Foreign travellers from Wales can use a wider choice of Covid testing firms from 21 September, the Welsh government has said.

At the moment Welsh residents can only use NHS tests except in exceptional circumstances. The stance has been criticised previously, as the tests are more expensive.

That will change because of new UK rules policing private PCR travel tests and a spot-checks regime, the BBC reports.

Wales’ health minister said that will help “standards for private tests”.

Updated

China reported 46 new Covid-19 cases on the mainland for 11 September, up from 25 a day earlier, the national health authority said on Sunday.

Reuters reports:

Twenty of the new infections were locally transmitted and the rest imported, the National Health Commission said.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, was 44, up from 21 the day before. Of the new cases, 18 were local.

Mainland China has confirmed 95,199 Covid-19 cases, with the death toll unchanged at 4,636.

Updated

New Zealand buys half a million vaccine doses from Denmark

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has purchased 500,000 doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine from Denmark, Reuters reports.

The country is struggling with a cluster of infections in its largest city.

New Zealand reported 20 locally acquired Covid cases in Auckland on Sunday. The latest outbreak totals 599 infections since the first case was detected in late August.

Ardern said the vaccines will arrive within days. In an emailed statement, she said:

There is now more than enough vaccine in the country to vaccinate at the world leading rates we were hitting earlier in the month, and I strongly encourage every New Zealander not yet vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.

Reuters reports:

New Zealand, which until last month had largely reined in Covid-19, has struggled to stamp out the last cluster despite a weeks-long lockdown of Auckland.

About 1.7 million people in Auckland remain in a strict level 4 lockdown but curbs have been eased in the rest of the country.

About a third of New Zealand’s 5.1 million people have been fully vaccinated, one of the slowest paces among the wealthy nations of the OECD.

Updated

Javid was also pushed on waiting lists and targets on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Nick Robinson pointed out that 293,000 people were waiting more than a year for treatment, adding: “Let’s remember waiting lists almost doubled under the Conservatives before anybody ever heard the word pandemic.”

Javid responded:

Well first of all, they will go up before they go down, I’ve been very clear about that, the NHS has been very clear about that.

[T]he NHS is open, it’s there for you in a way it wasn’t in the last year so because of Covid.

The health secretary called on people who had put off treatment to come forward, adding that this would necessarily put pressure on the NHS.

I want them to come forward and I want them to come forward now and that will put more pressure on the NHS [...] so it will get worse before it gets better, I’m sure.

Robinson asked if the NHS England guarantee of the right to get treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral was “dead” as one in three patients were now waiting longer than that.

Javid said some NHS targets were “nonsense”.

I’ve had a couple of months now reviewing NHS targets, and I’ve got to say looking at the targets that have been set under successive governments, long before we had Covid, some of them are wrong, they’re just nonsense.

We need a proper review of targets because it’s the act of a lazy politician just to set some target that gives them a good short-term headline, that actually leads to the NHS going backwards and not looking after patients. I’d rather have clinicians doing their clinical work helping patients rather than sitting there filling in forms all day.

Updated

On The Andrew Marr Show, Javid was pushed about vaccine passports, given that Oliver Dowden had heavily indicated they would be used in large venues.

Javid said they had been pushed in other countries to increase vaccination uptake, which was high in the UK.

The health secretary told Marr:

So many countries, at the time they implemented it, wanted to try and boost their vaccination rates and you can understand why they might have done that.

We’ve been very successful with our vaccination rates, so far, obviously there’s more to do, but just as an example – if I may – just last month, I announced that we were going to for the first time start vaccinating 16- and 17-year-olds. We’re already at around 55% in a few weeks. Now I want to go further.

He added:

We’ve been looking at the evidence, which I think anyone would expect us to do, but you’ve got to look at it alongside the whole toolbox, what else we are doing, and as I say the vaccine programme, our testing programme, our surveillance programme, the new treatments that the NHS has been purchasing and offering for the first time, this is all our wall of defence.

Updated

On the subject of PCR tests for travel, Javid said he wanted to get rid of them “as soon as I possibly can”.

He told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday:

I’m not going to make that decision right now, but I’ve already asked the officials that the moment we can, let’s get rid of these kinds of intrusions.

The cost that generates for families, particularly families just trying to go out and holiday, you know we shouldn’t be keeping anything like that in place for a second longer than is absolutely necessary.

Updated

Booster vaccination programme in England to start this month

Javid also said he expects the booster vaccination programme for Covid-19 to start this month.

He told Sky News:

There is evidence of waning immunity, particularly in older people, more vulnerable people. And we are already taking action on that.

So, for example, just a week ago I announced that those people that are immunosuppressed, that they should get a third jab as part of their primary treatment. That has already started.

And in terms of a general booster programme, we have asked the JCVI to look into this. They gave me interim advice a month or so ago where they supported this, but they said they wanted to do some further work. We have given them the time to do that work.

But I believe we will be able to start our booster programme, subject to their final advice, on schedule this month.

Updated

Health secretary Savid Javid also told Sky News that he will not “push” chief medical officers for their advice on vaccinating healthy 12- to 15-year-olds.

But he confirmed that he has asked for schools to start preparing for a rollout. Javid told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips show:

We have been looking at that. I’m not in a position to make a final decision on it. I have received advice a week or so ago from the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation), our committee of experts, their advice was that I should ask the chief medical officers of the UK, the four chief officers in the UK to take a look at not just the health aspects of vaccination, but whether there were any broader reasons that it might be in the welfare of children, and that’s what I’ve done and they need to be given the time to look at this, and I will wait to see what they have to say.

Asked when the chief medical officers will give their advice, Javid said:

I’m not going to push them – they need to take their time. It’s independent advice, as it should be. They need to take their time.

I don’t think they will be taking that much longer, but in the meantime I have asked the department to work with schools, the school vaccination teams, to start preparing, just in case we have a situation where their advice is to recommend it, and then if the government accepts that then I just want to be able to go ahead with it.

Updated

Interestingly, Javid was asked the same question about vaccine passports earlier on Sky News this morning and only went as far as saying he “hoped” the government could avoid them.

Javid said to Sky News:

We have been looking at that. We’ve been open about that. Instinctively I don’t like the idea at all of people having to, let’s say, present papers to do basic things.

So if we do that, it has to be something that is looked at very carefully and something that we believe that has to be done with no alternative.

With the vaccination rates rising – for example with 16- and 17-year-olds we only started just last month, now over 50% of 16- and 17-year-olds are already vaccinated – I think we need to take that into account and make a final decision, but I hope we can avoid it.

He added:

I am not here today to rule that out. We haven’t made a final decision as a government.

Wonder what happened between those two interveiws?

Updated

UK health secretary: vaccine passports to be scrapped

UK health secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that plans for vaccine passports in England are going to be scrapped, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

He said:

I think most people probably instinctively don’t like the idea, I mean I’ve never liked the idea, of saying to people, you must show your papers for what is an everyday activity.

[We will] look at the evidence. What I can say is that we’ve looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve, as a potential option I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans or vaccine passports.

The announcement comes just two days after culture secretary Oliver Dowden said there were likely to be required to enter venues such as nightclubs.

Dowden said:

We want as few restrictions for as short a period as possible. But if we need [vaccine passports] to protect public health, we will.

That is why we have said in relation to very high-risk venues - and a nightclub is an example of that - we will be looking at bringing in certification for the nightclubs towards the end of the month.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week confirmed vaccine passports will be introduced there for entry into large venues from October 1.

Updated

UK health secretary: we will get Christmas this year

The UK’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, is speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning, and has just been asked by Nick Robinson if the UK “will get Christmas this year”.

Javid replied:

Of course we get Christmas

Robinson asked him if there will be any more lockdowns.

Javid replied:

We aren’t, I’m not anticipating any more lockdowns. I think it’d be irresponsible for any health minister around the world to take take everything off the table, but you know I just don’t see how we get to another lockdown.”

Updated

Sri Lanka faces food shortages

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, the BBC is reporting.

The government has denied there are shortages. It says that the strict controls on the supply of essential goods imposed on 30 August by president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was needed to prevent traders hoarding food items and control inflation.

The government has declared a state of emergency, while Sri Lanka’s Central Bank chief has stepped down during a foreign exchange crisis.

The economy experienced a record slump last year as the pandemic hit tourism – one of the country’s main foreign currency earners.

Sri Lanka is struggling with a depreciating currency, inflation and a large foreign debt burden.

Updated

UK winter plan to include 'scrapping vaccine passports' and jabs for teens

The Observer has an exclusive that Covid jabs for 12- to 15-year-olds “set to start in weeks”.

It reports:

Plans for Covid vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds across the UK are to be announced by the government this week, with a mass inoculation programme beginning in schools within two weeks, the Observer has been told.

New proposals for a Covid booster programme are also expected to be set out on Tuesday, but it is thought ministers may be backing away from plans for Covid passports in confined settings such as nightclubs amid opposition from some Tory MPs.

It is believed that vaccinations for children will begin on 22 September. NHS leaders are understood to have been briefed on the plans after schools were told to be ready to introduce the programme.

The move follows the conclusion of a review by the chief medical officers (CMOs) of all four nations, led by Chris Whitty.

When asked to confirm the plan, a Department of Health source said ministers had not received final advice from the CMOs and did not want to prejudge them.

Read the full story here:

Updated

Vaccine passports 'to be scrapped'

There is much speculation about the UK’s government’s winter coronavirus plan in the Sunday newspapers today.

The Sunday Times is reporting that prime minister Boris Johnson will announce this week that he is scrapping plans that would have required vaccine passports for entry to nightclubs, cinemas and sports grounds.

The prime minister is set to outline plans for how the UK will cope with Covid in the winter on Tuesday.

The ST says he will say that he has abandoned the proposed compulsory certification scheme, which would have forced venues to check people’s vaccine status.

Updated


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