Coronavirus live news: US has given over 400m jabs; Protesters in Rome try to break into PM’s office – as it happened

By Nadeem Badshah (now); Clea Skopeliti ,Sarah Marsh (earlier)
A protest against the incoming mandatory Covid vaccination proof known as the green pass, which will be compulsory for all workers in Italy.
A protest against the incoming mandatory Covid vaccination proof known as the green pass, which will be compulsory for all workers in Italy. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

A summary of today's developments

  • Two million people in England have received a Covid booster jab, NHS England said. The health secretary, Sajid Javid, tweeted: “This is great progress which is helping to reinforce our wall of defence so we can keep the virus at bay.” Over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers are eligible for a third shot.
  • The UK has recorded 133 Covid-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total to 137,697.It has also recorded 34,950 cases in the latest 24 hours, bringing the total to 8,120,713.
  • Russia has recorded a new record daily coronavirus death toll, continuing a persistent rise that has brought new records almost daily in October.
  • Singapore’s health ministry reported 3,703 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it recorded 11 new deaths.
  • Singapore’s transport minister has said the country will allow quarantine-free entry to vaccinated travellers from Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, Canada and the US.
  • As international health authorities have not yet given their blessing to the Russian-made Sputnik V shot, people in the country are travelling to Serbia for alternative vaccinations to travel freely.
  • Italian police used water cannon to push back hundreds of people demonstrating in Rome against coronavirus vaccination rules, seeking to keep them from the prime minister’s office, Reuters reports.
  • In Brazil, deaths have topped 600,000, according to government data released on Friday. Despite this, bars in the country’s financial center, São Paulo, are full again, as social distancing is no more.
  • Cases of anxiety and depression around the world increased dramatically in 2020, researchers have found, with an estimated 76m extra cases of anxiety and 53m extra cases of major depressive disorder than would have been expected had Covid not struck.

An Australian government app update designed to verify the vaccination status of New South Wales residents is yet to be properly trialled, despite the state reopening to double-jabbed people on Monday.

Late last month, the NSW digital minister, Victor Dominello, confirmed a trial of an update to the Service NSW app, which people use to check into venues, that will also verify a person’s vaccination status.

Brazil has recorded 16,451 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 404 deaths from Covid-19, its health ministry said on Saturday.

Brazil on Friday became the second country in the world after the US to pass 600,000 Covid-19 deaths.

The official death toll has now risen to 600,829, with 21,567,181 cases registered since the pandemic began, Reuters reports.

There are signs, however, that infections in Brazil are finally ebbing, as the country ramps up vaccinations after a slow start. More than 70% of Brazilians have received a first dose, compared with 65% in the US.

Updated

You can follow the latest Covid developments in Australia here:

Ministers are being warned of a mounting workforce crisis in England’s hospitals as they struggle to recruit staff for tens of thousands of nursing vacancies, with one in five nursing posts on some wards now unfilled.

Hospital leaders say the nursing shortfall has been worsened by a collapse in the numbers of recruits from Europe, including Spain and Italy.

The most recent NHS figures reveal there are about 39,000 vacancies for registered nurses in England, with one in 10 nursing posts unfilled on acute wards in London and one in five nursing posts empty on mental health wards in the south-east.

The number of nurses from the European Economic Area joining the Nursing and Midwifery Council register has fallen more than 90%, from 9,389 in the year to 31 March 2016 to 810 in the year to 31 March 2021.

A dog licks a vet during vaccination with the Carnivac-Cov Covid-19 jab for animals at a veterinary station in Russia’s city of Chelyabinsk. Russias Carnivac-Cov is the only registered COVID-19 vaccine for animals in the world.
A dog licks a vet while receiving the Carnivac-Cov Covid-19 vaccine for animals at a veterinary station in Chelyabinsk. Russia’s Carnivac-Cov is the only registered Covid-19 vaccine for animals in the world. Photograph: Nail Fattakhov/TASS

Updated

For months, the end of New South Wales’s lockdown in Australia has been teasingly out of reach. But as many welcome the easing of restrictions under the state government’s roadmap, for others the return to normal is a cause for anxiety.

Alannah Webb, who lives with her family in Sydney’s west, describes feeling dread the moment reopening dates were revealed.

“When … people started calling it freedom day, I felt the pressure of needing to be social, to reclaim that time lost in lockdown,” the 19-year-old says.

The US administered 401,819,240 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country as of Saturday morning and distributed 487,277,035 doses, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Those figures are up from the 400,669,422 vaccine doses the CDC said had been administered by Friday of 485,713,525 doses delivered.

The Atlanta-based agency said 216,889,814 people had received at least one dose of a vaccine, while 187,215,471 people were fully vaccinated as of 6am EDT on Saturday, Reuters reports.

Updated

The price of meat in Australia is set to continue to increase into the Christmas period, industry insiders have warned, as lingering effects from the drought and Covid closures stifle the industry.

The horticultural industry has also warned the price of some fruits will skyrocket because of labour shortages.

The skyrocketing meat prices coupled with pandemic-imposed restrictions on abattoirs and processing plants have some farmers warning there could be pain for consumers’ hip pockets over Christmas.

Local media has reported that about 10,000 people took to the streets of Rome to protest as some attempted to break past police in riot gear deployed to guard access to prime minister Mario Draghi’s office.

CGIL, which has accepted the green pass system for workers, condemned the attack on its offices, Reuters reports.

“The assault on CGIL’s national headquarters is an act of fascist thuggery, an attack on democracy and on the world of work,” its leader, Maurizio Landini, said in a statement.

“Noone should think that they can return our country to its fascist past.”

Under the pass system, any worker who fails to present a valid health certificate from 15 October will be suspended with no pay, but they cannot be sacked.

Updated

More data from Italy. Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 2,692 on Saturday, down from 2,742 a day earlier.

There were 16 new admissions to intensive care units, decreasing from 17 on Friday.

The total number of intensive care patients fell to 367 from a previous 383, Reuters reports.

Some 344,969 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 271,556, the health ministry said.

This week, New Zealand’s locked down cities woke to a brave new world of lifted restrictions: state-sanctioned picnics in parks, the prospect of reopening schools, a chance to reunite with friends and family. Infusing the visions of grass-stained blankets and beach-side beers, however, is a strong dose of Covid anxiety. Cases continue to circulate in the community, and the country’s long-held commitment to elimination is being been cast off.

France has reported 4,734 new coronavirus cases, Reuters reports.

The country has had more than 7 million cases overall.

Italian police used water cannon to push back hundreds of people demonstrating in Rome against coronavirus vaccination rules, seeking to keep them from the prime minister’s office, Reuters reports.

About 10,000 people took to the streets in the heart of the Italian capital to protest against the green pass, a digital or paper certificate showing someone has received at least one dose of the vaccine, tested negative for Covid-19 or recently recovered from the virus, local media reported.

A few hundred of the demonstrators headed towards the prime minister’s office, they said.

Police lined up in riot gear to contain the protesters, who are backed by extreme far-right groups, Italian media said.

The protests came just days before the law for green pass enters into force, making it mandatory for all workers, in the latest effort by prime minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition to persuade citizens to get inoculated.

Updated

After education unions in England urged the government to consider reintroducing extra safety measures in schools, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “The protective measures in place in schools strike a balance between managing transmission risk – with enhanced ventilation, regular Covid testing and vaccinations of older students and staff – and reducing disruption to education by removing the need for close contacts in bubbles to self-isolate and for face coverings to be worn.

“Our guidance is clear that schools should only introduce additional measures if advised by local Directors of Public Health in response to high case rates within the school, and those measures should be temporary and carefully balance public health concerns with the need to prioritise face-to-face education.”

Updated

France has reported 1,127 people are in intensive care for Covid-19 and 17 new deaths in hospital, Reuters reports.

More than two million people have been given the coronavirus booster jab in England so far.

Booster jabs are being given at least six months after a second dose.

NHS England said on Saturday that three weeks after the booster programme began, a total of 2.08m top-ups have been administered.

More than a third of 12 to 15-year-olds in Scotland have received a coronavirus jab.

Recent Covid data shows 78,097 young people in this age group have had a first dose of the vaccine – with 277 (0.1%) having had both doses.

Scotland’s 12 to 15-year-olds have been able to book in for a vaccine since 20 September after Scottish ministers accepted advice from the four UK chief medical officers, PA reports.

Updated

People are being told to self-isolate if they have Covid-19 symptoms, even if they have a negative PCR test result, after a number of cases where people tested positive using lateral flow tests – but then negative with PCR.

Anomalies have been reported by people in south-west England over the past week, with one public health official aware of a “high number” of inconsistent test results, according to reports by the i newspaper.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which replaced Public Health England at the start of October, said it did not believe there were problems with any testing kits and added that there was no evidence of a new variant.

Updated

Singapore’s health ministry reported 3,703 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it recorded 11 new deaths.

A recent rise in infections after the relaxation of some restrictions has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening.

It also tightened curbs from last week that limited social gatherings to two people and made work from home a default.

More than 80% of Singapore’s population have been vaccinated against the virus, Reuters reported.

Updated

Italy’s health ministry on Saturday reported 46 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours.

The daily tally of new infections fell to 2,748 from 3,023.

Italy has registered 131,274 deaths linked to Covid-19 and has reported 4.7 million cases to date, Reuters reports.

Updated

UK death toll increases by 133

The UK has recorded 133 Covid-related deaths in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total to 137,697.

It has also recorded 34,950 cases in the latest 24 hours, bringing the total to 8,120,713.

Updated

Protesters wear masks during a rally against coronavirus measures, Covid-19 health pass and vaccinations in Geneva, Switzerland.
Protesters wear masks during a rally against coronavirus measures, a Covid-19 health pass and vaccinations in Geneva, Switzerland. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Summary of the latest developments

  • Two million people in England have received a Covid booster jab, NHS England said. The health secretary, Sajid Javid, tweeted: “This is great progress which is helping to reinforce our wall of defence so we can keep the virus at bay.” Over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers are eligible for a third shot.
  • Russia has recorded a new record daily coronavirus death toll, continuing a persistent rise that has brought new records almost daily in October.
  • Singapore’s transport minister has said the country will allow quarantine-free entry to vaccinated travellers from Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, Canada and the US.
  • As international health authorities have not yet given their blessing to the Russian-made Sputnik V shot, people in the country are travelling to Serbia for alternative vaccinations to travel freely.
  • In Brazil, deaths have topped 600,000, according to government data released on Friday. Despite this, bars in the country’s financial center, São Paulo, are full again, as social distancing is no more.
  • Cases of anxiety and depression around the world increased dramatically in 2020, researchers have found, with an estimated 76m extra cases of anxiety and 53m extra cases of major depressive disorder than would have been expected had Covid not struck.

Updated

Japan’s busy capital, Tokyo, reported 82 new daily infections of Covid-19 on Saturday, the lowest since 19 October last year. Cases have been on the decline since peaking at more than 5,000 a day in August in a wave driven by the highly infectious Delta variant. Tokyo and much of Japan last week exited what had been a six-month state of emergency.

Updated

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, has celebrated the fact that 2 million people have received their Covid booster jab in England.

“This is great progress which is helping to reinforce our wall of defence so we can keep the virus at bay,” he said.

Updated

Thousands of Britons who took part in Covid-19 vaccine trials are to be offered approved vaccines so they can travel abroad, the government has announced.

Trial participants have described feeling trapped and in limbo because they were unable to get a licensed Covid-19 vaccine, hindering their ability to leave the UK for business or pleasure.

But after taking advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said those in England who took part in the UK-based Novavax trial should be offered two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, with eight weeks between the doses.

The health administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit for vaccine trial participants in their regions.

More than 15,000 people took part in the phase 3 Novavax trial at various hospital sites across the UK, but the company has not yet submitted data to regulators to get the jab approved.

The UK already recognises those in Covid vaccine clinical trials as being fully vaccinated for the purpose of certification, both domestically and internationally. However, most other countries do not recognise clinical trial volunteers and require visitors to have been fully vaccinated with a vaccine that has been approved for deployment by the relevant medicines regulator.

Two million people in England have received a Covid booster jab, NHS England said.

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, tweeted: “This is great progress which is helping to reinforce our wall of defence so we can keep the virus at bay.”

Over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers are eligible for a third shot.

Updated

Russia has recorded a new record daily coronavirus death toll, continuing a persistent rise that has brought new records almost daily in October.

Updated

Hospitality venues in Greece are allowed to serve vaccinated customers indoors without needing to maintain social distancing measures after authorities ended the restriction on Saturday.

Customers will need to show a proof of vaccination or a certificate proving they have recently recovered from Covid to sit indoors, Kathimerini newspaper reported, with police conducting checks on businesses to enforce the rule. There will be spot checks on individuals and businesses over the next two weeks.

Authorities also ended restrictions on movement in regions with high case rates and scrapped nighttime curfew in hotspot areas.

More than 500 Covid cases have been linked to the TRNSMT music festival in Glasgow, Public Health Scotland data shows.

About 50,000 people attended the three-day event last month, with attendees required to show proof of a negative lateral flow test to gain entry.

Public Health Scotland said 551 people who tested positive told contact tracers they had been at the festival around the time of their illness, while 1,645 were identified as close contacts of those who tested positive.

The body said the figures do not show that Covid-19 was contracted at the event, only that people told Test and Protect they had been at TRNSMT around the time of their illness.

The data was released following a freedom of information request by the Press Association.

Updated

In England, a director of public health is advising people to isolate if they have Covid-19 symptoms even if they subsequently receive a negative PCR test result.

GPs in the west of the country said they were seeing “a stream of patients” who had received positive lateral flow tests, but a negative PCR.

The UK Health Security Agency said it was investigating the cause. It added there was currently no evidence of any technical issues with LFD or PCR test kits in relation to those reports.

Becky Reynolds, director of public health for Bath and North East Somerset council, said the council was aware of the situation, adding: “It is confusing [for people]. I think we just need to bear with it while the investigation happens.”

Reynolds said the advice they had been given was that “PCR is the gold standard” and officially a negative PCR means you do not have Covid.

But she said: “The advice is also to think about your local situation, do an individual risk assessment ... so what is the likelihood that even though the PCR is negative, that you may still have Covid?

“If thinking it through there is quite a chance you have Covid, even if the PCR is coming back negative, then regard it as Covid and self-isolate.”

While it is understood lateral flow device (LFD) tests can sometimes produce a false negative, false positives are much rarer.

Updated

People eligible for a coronavirus booster jab are being urged to take up the offer, as officials said that more than 2m have been given in England so far.

Booster jabs are being given at least six months after a second dose. NHS England said on Saturday that three weeks after the start of the booster programme, a total of 2.08m top-ups had been administered.

It said these included third jabs given as boosters, and doses given to those people with severely weakened immune systems who might not have mounted a strong response to their initial jabs.

The chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, said she had had her booster recently “to protect myself and those around me”.

May encouraged all those who are eligible to do the same: “It’s fantastic to see that just three weeks into the booster campaign, more than 2 million people have been quick to get their top-up in protection ahead of what will be a busy winter period for the NHS.

“Thanks to the incredible efforts of NHS staff who have been vaccinating at mosques, sports grounds, and community centres, those who are eligible and most at risk from coronavirus have been able to get their booster shot.

“I have received my booster shot ahead of winter to protect myself and those around me – I would urge others to do the same. It is quick, effective, and provides really important protection against the virus.”

Updated

The Liberal Democrats are the only party in the UK to stand in “clear and principled” opposition to “unworkable, expensive” Covid vaccine certificates, the party’s leader has insisted.

Sir Ed Davey used his speech to a joint conference of the Scottish and Welsh Liberal Democrats to highlight his party’s stance against what he branded “Covid ID cards”

It comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had to apologise for problems with the app for the coronavirus vaccine certification scheme which was launched in Scotland at the start of October.

The new measure requires people attending nightclubs, concerts, some football matches, and other large events to prove they have received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Wales is also bringing in a similar scheme, due to launch on Monday, October 11.

Sir Ed told the virtual conference: “Liberal Democrats have always been clear. Covid ID cards are unworkable, expensive, and illiberal.”
The Lib Dem leader insisted such schemes were “not a real solution” and would “place an unfair extra burden on local businesses who’ve been through so much already”.

Liberal Democrats have adopted a “principled response” to them across the United Kingdom. And he contrasted this approach with those of the other parties, saying the Conservatives were “pressing ahead” with plans for vaccine passports in England while at the same time opposing them in Scotland and Wales.

Meanwhile, he said: “Labour isn’t sure where they stand in England, but they oppose them in Scotland and are bringing them in in Wales, and they even required Covid ID cards for their own party conference in Brighton.”

Sir Ed insisted: “It’s only been us - the Liberal Democrats - with clear principles across the United Kingdom, taking a clear and principled position that unites our party across England, Scotland, and Wales.”

Russia has recorded a record daily death toll from Covid-19, continuing a persistent rise that has brought new records almost daily in October.

The national coronavirus task force reported Saturday that 968 people in Russia died of Covid-19 over the past day — about 100 more daily deaths than were recorded in late September. The task force said more than 29,000 new infections also were confirmed in the past day.

Authorities blame the steep rise on the country’s low vaccination rate. Deputy prime minister, Tatyana Golikova, said on Friday that 47.8 million Russians, or almost 33% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people, had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 42.4 million, or about 29%, were fully vaccinated.

The coronavirus task force reports has reported a total of about 7.8 million cases and 215,453 deaths in the pandemic.

However, the task force records only deaths directly caused by the virus. Reports by Russia’s state statistical service Rosstat that tally coronavirus-linked deaths reveal significantly higher mortality numbers.

Rosstat on Friday revealed the latest data showed more than 254,000 deaths of people with Covid-19 in the first eight months of this year compared to 163,000 deaths of patients who had the coronavirus for the whole of 2020.

The coronavirus task force only counts the deaths of patients for whom Covid-19 was considered the main cause. Rosstat includes people who had Covid-19 but died of other causes, and those for whom the coronavirus was suspected but not confirmed.

Updated

School leaders in the UK have voted to call on ministers to cancel Sats exams next year amid ongoing disruption to education amid the pandemic.

Holding “ridiculous” and “pointless” statutory tests in 2022 would be “unfair” due to Covid-19 absences, headteachers told the annual conference of the NAHT school leaders’ union.

Delegates heard from a number of school leaders before passing a motion calling on the national executive to lobby the Government to abandon all statutory tests in primary schools in 2022.

Speaking at the union’s conference in London on Saturday, Michelle Sheehy, the head of Millfield Primary School in Walsall, said: “Our current year six children all had hugely different experiences during the previous school year and the differences continue today.”

She added: “If data from the Sats is being used to compare schools it is desperately unfair. The Sats quite simply are not fit to be used for accountability purposes.

“If, as the minister for schools said, ‘this is their only purpose’, then why would we be wasting time administering costly and pointless tests?”

It comes after Sats exams for year 6 pupils, which are used to compare schools’ performance, were cancelled for a second year in a row this summer. The government intends to run statutory exams in summer 2022.

Updated

Lies and conspiracy theories about Covid-19, which have amassed millions of views and are accessible to young children, have been available on the social media platform TikTok for months.

TikTok accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers that discourage vaccination and peddle myths about Covid survival rates were uncovered by NewsGuard, an organisation that monitors online misinformation.

NewsGuard said it published its findings in June and sent them to the UK government and World Health Organization (WHO), but the content remained on the platform.

The revelation comes amid renewed concern about the impact that social media is having on young people, after it was reported that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, had internal research showing its app was harming teenagers.

As part of its investigation, NewsGuard said children as young as nine had been able to access the content, despite TikTok only permitting full access to the app for those aged 13 and over. Three participants in the organisation’s research who were under 13 were able to create accounts on the app by entering fake dates of birth.

In the UK, the pent-up public demand to seek out entertainment as Covid restrictions lifted has fuelled a boom in leisure pursuits, with cinemas and bowling alleys hitting pre-pandemic highs, while Brighton Pier has recorded the best week in its history.

The James Bond juggernaut continues to lead the post-pandemic cinema recovery with Odeon, the UK’s biggest chain with more than 112 sites, selling more than 1m tickets in the first week since No Time to Die’s premiere.

The chain said the film, which became the most successful movie at the British box office since the pandemic began after just three days, has now notched up the highest attendance since Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in 2019.

Updated

Education unions have urged the government to consider reintroducing extra safety measures in schools as an expert warned about the level of coronavirus circulating among secondary pupils.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that around one in 15 children in school years 7 to 11 in England are estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to 2 October – the highest positivity rate for any age group.

Five education unions wrote to education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, urging him to look at bringing back stronger safety measures for schools.

The GMB union, Unite, Unison, National Education Union (NEU) and NASUWT teaching union said they are also writing to local authorities and directors of public health asking them to consider measures in their local areas.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “We are concerned that the government is standing by while Covid cases surge across schools.”

The NASUWT said schools need more support with onsite testing “rather than relying on home testing, which is less effective” and called on the Government to consider reinstating the requirement for pupils who are contacts of a positive case to self-isolate.

Avril Chambers, GMB national officer, said the latest figures show “it is clear further mitigation measures are needed immediately” in order to avoid further disruption to schooling.

Updated

Russia reported 968 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday, its highest single-day death toll since the start of the pandemic.

There were 29,362 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours, the government coronavirus task force said.

Singapore’s transport minister has said the country will allow quarantine-free entry to vaccinated travellers from Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, Canada and the US.

It comes as the health ministry reported 3,590 new cases of Covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it recorded six new deaths

A recent spike in infections after the relaxation of some restrictions has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening. It comes as more than 80% of Singapore’s population has been vaccinated against the virus.

A data scientist and economics student joined forces in search of the real pandemic death toll – and the results are startling

The government is considering scrapping free Covid-19 tests in the UK to save money, it has been reported.

At the moment, people can get an unlimited number of free lateral flow tests, with the public urged to self-test twice a week. If someone has symptoms of the virus they can request a free PCR test.

However, the Telegraph has reported that under a new system, lateral flow tests will only be available for high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools.

It comes as other countries in Europe, such as Germany, end universal free testing this month.

A Whitehall source told the newspaper: “It’s agreed that universal access isn’t sustainable or necessary given high vaccination levels.

“We now need to decide what the parameters should be that reasonably qualify access to free testing.”

Updated

Bali, a popular country for tourists coming from far and wide, has been heavily affected by the pandemic and what it means for international travel. The Guardian has published a fascinating photo-essay, showing the fall-out on various parts of the Indonesian province.

A scientist advising the UK government has warned about the level of coronavirus circulating among secondary school pupils as he suggested greater access to vaccine centres may be needed.

Prof Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said there was an unwelcome risk children in that age group could reach herd immunity through infection rather than vaccination.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is a risk of that and it’s not a good way to get to herd immunity.

“Commentators would usually say it’s ridiculous to aim for herd immunity using natural wild-type infection because that brings with it disease and damage to children both from acute disease and potentially long Covid.”

Asked whether parents in England should have a greater ability to take children to vaccination centres, he said: “I do think some flexibility would be great, I’m sure there are people thinking about it but also thinking about the practicalities of having large numbers of children inside the vaccinations centres.”

Updated

As international health authorities have not yet given their blessing to the Russian-made Sputnik V shot, people in the country are travelling to Serbia for alternative vaccinations to travel freely.

Serbia, which is not a member of the European Union, is a convenient choice for vaccine-seeking Russians because they can enter the allied Balkan nation without visas and because it offers a wide choice of Western-made shots.

Organized tours for there have soared, and they can be spotted in the capital, Belgrade, at hotels, restaurants, bars and vaccination clinics.

“We took the Pfizer vaccine because we want to travel around the world,” Nadezhda Pavlova, 54, told AFP after receiving the vaccine last weekend at a sprawling Belgrade vaccination center.

Vaccination tour packages for Russians seeking shots endorsed by the World Health Organization appeared on the market in mid-September, according to Russia’s Association of Tour Operators. Sputnik V emerged in August 2020 and has been approved in some 70 countries, including Serbia. But the WHO has said global approval is still under review after citing issues at a production plant a few months ago.

Russian health minister Mikhail Murashko recently said administrative issues were among the main holdups in the WHO’s review process.

Judy Twigg, a political science professor specialising in global health at Virginia Commonwealth University, expects Sputnik V to be approved eventually but not this year.

Updated

In Brazil, deaths have topped 600,000, according to government data released on Friday. Despite this, bars in the country’s financial center, Sao Paulo, are full again, as social distancing is no more.

So far the country has not faced the predicted destruction of another wave from the delta varient. The country’s average daily death toll has hovered around 500 for a month, down sharply from more than 3,000 in April, AFP reports.

Almost 45% of the population is fully vaccinated, and a booster shot is being administered to the elderly. A greater percentage of Brazilians are at least partially vaccinated compared to Americans or Germans, according to Our World in Data, an online research site.

Marcelo Queiroga, Brazil’s fourth health minister since the pandemic hit, suggested in a press conference on Friday that masks should not be mandatory. “Why would I pass a law to force people to use condoms? Don’t even think of it,” he said.

Rio’s mayor has announced plans to bring back the city’s massive New Year’s Eve party on Copacabana beach.

Some analysts remain worried about delta’s potential to spread. Among them is Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials. He believes authorities are taking a risk by reopening too much and announcing celebrations, and that Brazil may soon see more hospital admissions.

“The pandemic has waned, but 500 deaths per day is far from good. And we don’t even have half the population fully vaccinated,” Lago said. “We just don’t know enough and we have this horrific milestone to contemplate now.”

Cases of anxiety and depression around the world increased dramatically in 2020, researchers have found, with an estimated 76m extra cases of anxiety and 53m extra cases of major depressive disorder than would have been expected had Covid not struck.

The study is the latest to suggest the pandemic has taken a serious toll on mental health, and that women and young people are more likely to be affected than men or older people.

“We believe [that] is because women are more likely to be affected by the social and economic consequences of the pandemic,” said the lead author, Dr Damian Santomauro of the University of Queensland.

Read more here.

Welcome to the Guardian’s live feed, bringing you the latest global news on coronavirus from around the world. Please get in touch with me if you have any questions, news tips, or comments.

Twitter: @sloumarsh
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Email: sarah.marsh@theguardian.com


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