Covid live news: Wales to keep home working and mandatory masks until 2022; Australia planning to allow international travel

By Hannah Ritchie (now) and Jamie Grierson (earlier)
Chelsea pensioner John Byrne receives a Covid-19 booster jab from deputy chief nurse Vanessa Sloane at the Royal hospital Chelsea in London
Chelsea pensioner John Byrne receives a Covid-19 booster jab from deputy chief nurse Vanessa Sloane at the Royal hospital Chelsea in London last week. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

That’s it from me, Samantha Lock, reporting from Sydney, Australia.

Thanks for following along – this blog is now closed. You can catch up with the latest coronavirus coverage here.

Sydney, Australia, out of lockdown

Millions of Australians have woken up today to new freedoms after 106 days of lockdown.

Greater Sydney reopened at 12:01 am on Monday as stay-at-home orders were lifted across NSW.

This comes after the state reached its milestone of 70% of the over-16 population fully vaccinated last week.

Gyms, cafes, restaurants, pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians can now reopen, people can have 10 people over to their home, gather in groups of 30 people outdoors in public, and travel more than 5km from their home. But these new freedoms are only available to the fully vaccinated and those who have a medical exemption.

Here is a round up of today’s key Covid-19 lines:

  • UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries has warned that people who catch flu and Covid at the same time this winter are twice as likely to die than those who only have coronavirus.
  • Harries also said that it’s hard to predict what the next chapter of the pandemic will look like in the UK, as immunity from vaccines wanes among older people.
  • More than 2 million people have been given the coronavirus booster jab in England so far.
  • The first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, expects the country’s Covid pass, working from home, and the mask mandate to continue into next year.
  • Police in Italy arrested 12 people including the leaders of the far-right Forza Nuova party on Sunday, following clashes in Rome a day earlier over government attempts to make Italy’s Covid-19 “Green Pass” mandatory for all workers.
  • Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man regarded as the “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb”, has died at 85 after being hospitalised with Covid-19.
  • The prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, backed plans to fast-track the resumption of international travel as soon as New South Wales’ home quarantine program is ready.
  • Sydney is opening up on Monday after over 100 days in lockdown.
  • Malaysia on Sunday lifted interstate and international travel restrictions for residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as the country achieved its target of inoculating 90% of the adult population, Reuters reports.

Updated

Three people have been arrested in Egypt for dumping thousands of unused Covid-19 vaccines along a water channel in the Nile Valley city of Minya, Reuters reports.

Egypt’s public prosecution office - which is responsible for investigating criminal complaints - said on Sunday it had ordered the arrest after 18,400 vaccine packages valued at over 5 million Egyptian pounds ($319,000) were reported missing.

An inventory check showed that an additional 5,000 vaccine packages were also missing from Minya’s health directorate after being stored at improper temperatures, the prosecution office said.

It is unclear what type of vaccines the packages contained, but an earlier statement from Egyptian authorities said they were Sinopharm.

New research shows Covid-19 has exacerbated the gap in life expectancy between England’s richest and poorest people.

The difference in expected lifespan between some of the wealthiest and poorest areas across the country has more than doubled since the early 2000s, a Guardian analysis of data by the King’s Fund shows.

Coronavirus has exacerbated England’s north-south divide and the “deprivation divide” in life expectancy, said Veena Raleigh, an epidemiologist at King’s Fund who studies health inequalities.

The new data follows a report from last week by a group of doctors, statisticians and NHS leaders, which found that male and female life expectancy fell by 1.3 years and 0.9 years respectively in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

After over 100 days of lockdown, millions of vaccinated Sydney residents will emerge from their homes on Monday and be welcomed into restaurants, gyms, beauty salons and public pools.

72.8% of people aged 16 and over are now fully-vaccinated in New South Wales. An outbreak of the Delta variant which started in June has kept the state’s five million residents under a strict stay at home order for some 15 weeks.

Taking their cues from the UK, Australians have labelled Monday “Freedom day.”

NSW recorded 477 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.

Small businesses across NSW are getting ready to open their doors.
Small businesses across NSW are getting ready to open their doors. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Updated

Canada is bracing for staffing shortages in its health and aged care sectors, as workers quit or are being dismissed due to vaccine mandates, Reuters reports.

Federal employees are required to show proof of their full vaccination status in Canada by the end of the month, or they’ll face unpaid leave, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday.

One long-term care home in Toronto was forced to put 36% of its workforce on unpaid leave last week because they were still unvaccinated, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Federal employees make up roughly 8% of Canada’s total workforce according to the country’s Treasury.

Starting Monday, British Columbia will be the latest Canadian province to begin placing healthcare staff on administrative leave if they haven’t received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Updated

Russia will temporarily suspend test-firing rocket engines in one of the country’s space manufacturing plants to save oxygen supplies for Covid-19 patients, Reuters reports.

At various stages throughout the pandemic liquid oxygen has been redirected from rocket launch pads and design centres to boost hospital supplies.

“In view of growing demand for medical oxygen to treat the sick, today we decided to suspend test firing rocket engines at Voronezh’s Chemical Automatics Design Bureau ranges until the end of the month,”Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space agency tweeted.

Russia is dealing with a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths. Its coronavirus task force reported on Saturday that 968 people had died of the virus within 24-hours, a new daily record.

UK reports 34,574 new coronavirus cases, 38 deaths

The UK Government’s latest Covid-19 figures are out. As of Sunday, a further 38 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the UK’s total death toll to 137,735.

34,574 new lab-confirmed cases were also recorded, the government said.

By comparison, 34,950 new cases and 133 deaths were reported Saturday.

Sunday’s figures do not include data from Wales.

Updated

Tea-party firebrand and Republican candidate for governor of Texas Allen West has been hospitalised with Covid-19.

In a Facebook post Saturday the former Florida Congressman announced he had pneumonia caused by coronavirus and warned that he was “probably going to be admitted to the hospital.”

His wife, Angela West, has also tested positive and the two say they are receiving antibodies.

According to his social media accounts, West has not been vaccinated against the virus, but his wife has. He vehemently opposes vaccine mandates and has promised to “crush anyone” who tries to enforce them in Texas.

Updated

Hi, I’m Hannah Ritchie and I’ll be taking over from Jamie Grierson in London to keep you updated on key coronavirus developments from around the globe. If you think I’m missing anything, please get in touch via the comments section below.

Here is a round up of the day so far:

  • People who catch flu and Covid at the same time this winter are twice as likely to die than those who only have coronavirus, according to the UK Health Security Agency chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries.
  • Harries said it is not the case that 120 deaths a day in the UK is seen as an “acceptable death rate” for Covid and added the difficulty now is in predicting what is to come with Covid-19, as immunity from vaccines wanes in some older people.
  • More than 2 million people have been given the coronavirus booster jab in England so far.
  • The first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, expects the country’s Covid pass, working from home, and the mask mandate to continue into next year.
  • The policymaker Michael Saunders has added to signs the Bank of England might become the first major central bank to raise rates since the coronavirus pandemic struck.
  • Police in Italy said on Sunday they had arrested 12 people including the leaders of the extreme right-wing party Forza Nuova, after clashes in Rome a day earlier over a government drive to make the Covid-19 “Green Pass” mandatory for all workers.
  • Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man regarded as the “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb”, has died aged 85 after being hospitalised with Covid-19.
  • The prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, has backed plans to fast-track the resumption of international travel as soon as New South Wales’ home quarantine program is ready.
  • Malaysia on Sunday lifted interstate and international travel restrictions for residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as the country achieved its target of inoculating 90% of its adult population, Reuters reports.

Anti-vax protest in Italy sees leaders of the country's far-right arrested

Italian police said on Sunday they had arrested 12 people including the leaders of the extreme right-wing party Forza Nuova, after clashes in Rome a day earlier over a government drive to make the Covid-19 “Green Pass” mandatory for all workers, Reuters reports.

Draghi introduced the pass – a digital or paper certificate confirming its holder has either received at least one vaccine dose, has tested negative or has recently recovered from the virus – in the summer to help prevent infections and encourage people to get vaccinated.

The certificates were initially needed to enter many cultural and leisure venues, but their scope has gradually been widened. Last month, the government made it compulsory for all workers.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the Italian capital on Saturday to oppose the move.

Some tried to break past police in riot gear guarding access to Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office, while a separate group broke into the headquarters of Italy’s main CGIL trade union and turned its offices upside down.

Overnight, dozens of protesters also tried to break into the accident and emergency unit at Rome’s Policlinico Umberto I hospital, where one of them was being kept for treatment, forcing health workers to barricade themselves inside, emergency department head Francesco Pugliese told reporters on Sunday.

“It was a fascist squad attack, and it is unacceptable,” CGIL’s head Maurizio Landini said on Sunday, speaking to supporters in front of the union offices in Rome.

The riots drew widespread condemnation, including from Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni, the leaders of the rightist League and Brothers of Italy parties, respectively.

The police said in a statement that 38 police officers were injured during the Rome anti-vax clashes.

More than 80% of all Italians over the age of 12 have been fully vaccinated as of 10 October.

Updated

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, was doing media rounds this morning. My colleague Maya Wolfe-Robinson has covered the key points from her appearances.

She writes:

People who catch flu and Covid at the same time this winter are twice as likely to die than those who only have coronavirus, according to the UK Health Security Agency chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries.

The former deputy chief medical officer for England warned that the UK faces an “uncertain” winter – with both flu and Covid-19 circulating for the first time – and urged people to take up both the coronavirus and flu jabs if eligible.

Asked how worried the public should be about flu this winter, she told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “We should be worried about flu each winter. I think people still don’t realise it can be a fatal disease.

“But I think the important thing about this winter is, we are likely to see flu, for the first time in any real numbers, co-circulating with Covid. So the risks of catching both together still remain. And if you do that, then early evidence suggests that you are twice as likely to die from having two together than just having Covid alone.

“So I think it’s an uncertain winter ahead – that’s not a prediction, it’s an uncertain feature – but we do know that flu cases have been lower in the previous year so immunity and the strain types are a little more uncertain,” she said.

Read more here: Getting flu with Covid doubles risk of death, says UK health chief

Working from home and mandatory masks until next year – Wales FM

The first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, expects the country’s Covid pass, working from home, and the mask mandate to continue into next year.

Speaking to Tom Swarbrick on LBC on Sunday he said: “Mask-wearing in crowded public places, continuing to ask people to work from home, a Covid pass for high-risk locations – that is the suite of measures we hope will see us through this autumn and winter without needing to do anything else, but I do expect they will continue into the early part of next year.”

Updated

The policymaker Michael Saunders has added to signs the Bank of England might become the first major central bank to raise rates since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Saunders has warned households to get ready for “significantly earlier” interest rate rises as inflation pressure mounts in the British economy.

Saunders said investors were right to bet on faster increases in borrowing costs with consumer price inflation on course to rise above 4%, adding to signs the Bank might become the first major central bank to raise rates since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“I’m not in favour of using code words or stating our intentions in advance of the meeting too precisely. The decisions get taken at the proper time,” Saunders said in a an interview with the Telegraph. “But markets have priced in over the last few months an earlier rise in Bank rate than previously and I think that’s appropriate.”

Read more here: Bank of England official warns of potential early interest rate rise

Updated

Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man regarded as the “father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb”, has died aged 85 after being hospitalised with Covid-19, the BBC reports.

Khan was hailed as a national hero for transforming his country into the world’s first Islamic nuclear power.

But he was also notorious for having smuggled nuclear secrets to states including North Korea and Iran.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan had lost a “national icon”.

Italy has reached the target of fully vaccinating 80% of the population over the age of 12 against Covid-19, according to official data, achieving a goal Rome had set as a safety cut-off point, Reuters reports.

According to a government website showed 43,229,551 people over-12, out of a total population of around 60 million, had completed their vaccination cycle as of 10 October.

The 80% target was set by special commissioner for the Covid emergency, Gen Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, in March and was hit late on 9 October.

“That’s a critical level above which experts say - and the trend we’ve been recording for weeks confirms this – that the risk of hospitalisation is drastically reduced”, the commissioner’s office said.

Italy was a harbinger for Europe in the first wave of the pandemic in early 2020 with the rest of the continent watching on in horror as they realised what was unfolding in Italy was soon to befall on their own shores.

Updated

120 deaths a day not an "acceptable death rate" - UK health chief

Staying with Dr Jenny Harries, she said it is not the case that 120 deaths a day is seen as an “acceptable death rate” for Covid.

She told The Andrew Marr Show: “Clearly we’ve got large vaccination programmes ongoing, we’ve got significant testing.

“This isn’t how we normally treat an endemic disease so I think the answer to that is very clearly no. We’re taking it extremely seriously.

“But it is important to remember that for an average flu season it’s about 11,000 deaths a year – it’s somewhere between four [thousand] to 22,000 over the last four to five years.

“So we are starting to move to a situation where, perhaps Covid is not the most significant element and many of those individuals affected will of course have other comorbidities which will make them vulnerable to serious illness for other reasons as well.”

Updated

Staying with the UK Health Security Agency chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries, she told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One that the difficulty now is in predicting what is to come with Covid-19, as immunity from vaccines wanes in some older people.

She said: “We’ve obviously had extremely good vaccine uptake and that is now preventing very significant amounts of hospitalisation and death.”

She added: “Probably the difficulty is at this point in the pandemic, it’s one of the most difficult times to predict what will come.

“We have different levels of vaccination, we have a little bit of immunity waning in older individuals, which is why we’re now starting to put in a Covid booster vaccine.

“We have slightly different effectiveness in different vaccinations that have been provided.”

The UK Health Security Agency chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries, has said that this year there could be a “multi-strain flu” and encouraged everyone who is eligible to ensure they take up the offer of both their coronavirus and flu jabs.

She told Sky: “The difference here is because we have, if you like, skipped a year almost with flu, it’s possible we might see multi-strain flu.

“We usually get one strain predominating. We look to the southern hemisphere, who hits winter sooner than we do.

“We work with WHO [the World Health Organization] and then take JCVI [the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] advice to know which strains to include in the vaccine each year, and there are four in there.

“So we’ve got a pretty good array in our toolbox to try and hit whichever one becomes dominant but it could be more than one this year, and people’s immunity will be lower.

“So I think the real trick here is to get vaccinated – in both Covid and flu – but obviously to continue to do those good hygiene behaviours that we’ve been practising all through Covid.”

Updated

UK faces uncertain winter says Jenny Harries

The UK faces an “uncertain” winter, with the presence of both flu and Covid-19, a health chief has said.

The UK Health Security Agency chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries, said there is lower immunity to flu this year.

Asked how worried the public should be about flu this winter, she told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “We should be worried about flu each winter. I think people still don’t realise it can be a fatal disease. Recent studies suggest that about 25% of us don’t actually understand that. On average, over the last five years, about 11,000 people have died with flu-related conditions.

“But I think the important thing about this winter is, we are likely to see flu, for the first time in any real numbers, co-circulating with Covid.

“So the risks of catching both together still remain. And if you do that, then early evidence suggests that you are twice as likely to die from having two together, than just having Covid alone.

“So I think it’s an uncertain winter ahead – that’s not a prediction it’s an uncertain feature – but we do know that flu cases have been lower in the previous year so immunity and the strain types are a little more uncertain.”

Updated

Malaysia on Sunday lifted interstate and international travel restrictions for residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as the country achieved its target of inoculating 90% of its adult population, Reuters reports.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government has agreed to allow fully vaccinated Malaysians to travel overseas without applying for permission.
The new rules take effect on Monday.

The government is preparing to shift into an endemic Covid-19 phase where it will not impose wide lockdowns again if cases rise, Ismail Sabri told a news conference.

Updated

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has backed plans to fast-track the resumption of international travel as soon as New South Wales’ home quarantine program is ready.

In a Facebook livestream on Sunday, the prime minister said he had had discussions with NSW premier Dominic Perrottet about bringing forward the start date of international travel for fully vaccinated people.

Morrison has previously said states would be allowed to reopen to international travellers in mid-November once their 80% vaccination targets had been met.

His comments come after Perrottet said earlier on Sunday that he wanted to resume international travel “as quickly as possible”, flagging that a home quarantine program for fully-vaccinated people could begin as soon as the end of this month.

Read more here: Scott Morrison backs NSW plans to fast-track international travel as Sydney prepares to exit lockdown

More than 2 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.

It said these include 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.

Read more here: More than 2 million people in England have had Covid booster jab

Updated

Hi, I’m Jamie Grierson and I’ll be giving you a rundown of all the coronavirus key developments from across the world.

Here is a roundup of all the day’s leading stories.

  • More than 2 million people have been given the coronavirus booster jab in England so far. NHS England said on Saturday that three weeks after the booster programme began, a total of 2.08m top-ups have been administered. Booster jabs are being given at least six months after a second dose.
  • In Australia, the prime minister, Scott Morrison has backed plans to fast-track the resumption of international travel as soon as New South Wales’ home quarantine program is ready. In a Facebook livestream on Sunday, he said he had held discussions with NSW premier Dominic Perrottet about bringing forward the start date of international travel for fully vaccinated people.
  • The prime minister of Malaysia, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, has said the Government is to allow fully vaccinated nationals to travel overseas without applying for permission from 11 October, as 90% of the adult population is now fully vaccinated.
  • Italy has reached the target of fully vaccinating 80% of the population over the age of 12 against Covid-19, according to official data, achieving a goal Rome had set as a safety cut-off point, government data showed on Sunday. According to a government website showed 43,229,551 people over-12, out of a total population of around 60 million, had completed their vaccination cycle as of Oct 10. The 80% target was set by special commissioner for the Covid emergency, Gen Francesco Paolo Figliuolo, in March and was hit late on 9 October.

Updated


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