This article titled “Coronavirus live news: Russia sets new record daily death toll; at least 66 die in Iraq Covid hospital fire” was written by Mattha Busby (now); Martin Belam and Helen Sullivan (earlier), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 13th July 2021 11.33 UTC
As greater Sydney prepares for its fourth week of lockdown, a multibillion-dollar Covid assistance package has been announced by the federal and New South Wales governments.
The NSW treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, said the package would provide support for “every worker, for every business, right across the state”.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, said the package would serve as a template for other extended lockdowns, and it was in the “national interest” to get the support right.
Germany not planning to mandate jabs, like France, says Merkel
Staying in Germany, chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is not planning to follow France and other countries in introducing compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations for parts of the population,
“We do not intend to go down this road,” Merkel said. “We are at the beginning of the phase in which we are still promoting [vaccination], where we have more vaccines than we have people who want to be vaccinated,” she said.
After a slow start to its vaccination campaign earlier this year, Germany sped up its drive over the summer and had by Tuesday fully vaccinated 42.6% of adults, with 58.5% vaccinated at least once. But demand has slowed over the past two weeks, with the number of jabs given yesterday at its lowest since February, AFP reports.
Wolfram Henn, a genetics specialist at Saarland University and a member of the German Ethics Council, which advises the government on its vaccination strategy, today called for jabs to be made compulsory for teachers.
But Merkel said she did not believe the German government could “gain trust” by following such a path. “I think we can gain trust by advertising vaccination and also by letting as many people as possible in the population (…) become ambassadors for the vaccine from their own experience,” she said.
In the UK, as elsewhere, vaccination has been recommended but not compelled even for healthcare workers, as my colleague Sarah Boseley notes, with many concerned that the jabs have not received full approval due to an absence of long-term data.
Bloomberg columnist Andreas Kluth, who himself got the jab as soon as possible, wrote recently that research suggests that vaccine mandates could send psychological signals that actually hinder overall compliance since people resent being manipulated.
German officials have said coronavirus measures should be maintained until more of the population has been vaccinated, and one called England’s plan to lift most restrictions despite the spread of the Delta variant “a highly risky experiment”.
England will become from 19 July the first part of the UK to lift the legal requirement to wear masks and for people to socially distance.
German economy minister Peter Altmaier said coronavirus restrictions were still necessary to avoid a further lockdown of the economy. “We would all be well advised to take the necessary safety measures,” he told Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper in an interview.
Alena Buyx, the head of the German Ethics Council, said compulsory vaccinations were not necessary in Germany. “We have much better vaccination rates among healthcare staff than France,” she told broadcaster ZDF. “I believe that we do not need to consider this.”
But Reuters reports that she added that restrictions should not be eased as long as not even half the population is fully vaccinated, describing England’s move to lift nearly all remaining coronavirus restrictions as a “highly risky experiment”.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said yesterday that coronavirus restrictions had been lifted too soon in the Netherlands, which borders Germany, and he apologised as infections surged to their highest levels of the year.
More than 20,000 French people a minute booked vaccine appointments in the hours after Emmanuel Macron announced that cafés, restaurants, shopping malls and trains would be out of bounds for unvaccinated customers from next month.
India’s Covid vaccination rollout has continued to falter due to supply shortages and vaccine hesitancy, casting doubt on the government’s pledge to vaccinate the entire population by December.
A number of states, including the capital, Delhi, said they had run out of vaccine stocks this week while others including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra said vaccine supplies were running critically low in many areas, particularly for those aged between 18 and 45.
Manish Sisodia, the deputy chief minister of Delhi, tweeted that “vaccines have run out in Delhi again. The central government gives vaccines for a day or two, then we have to keep the vaccine centres closed for several days.”
The central government has disputed the claims of shortages and said all states were informed weeks in advance how many vaccines would be sent to them each month.
In the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, Australia was lauded by news outlets around the world as a model of how to handle the virus. The country recorded few cases and when there were outbreaks, authorities brought them under control.
A year later, Australia’s management of the pandemic is hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
“One day a rooster, the next a feather duster”, the Financial Times wrote in an editorial lamenting the glacial pace of the country’s vaccine rollout.
“Sydney in lockdown, borders shut and hardly anyone vaccinated. How long can Australia go on like this?” CNN said. The network has also reported on the backlash to Sydney’s graphic vaccine ad, which depicts a young woman – she looks younger than 40, the age limit to be eligible for a vaccine – gasping for air, alone in hospital.
Meanwhile, my colleague Calla Wahlquist reports that concerns about the spread of the Delta variant in apartment buildings has prompted a hard lockdown of two residential complexes in Sydney and Melbourne.
An apartment building in Bondi Junction in Sydney’s east remains under police guard after eight cases of Covid were detected across five of the 29 apartments, while residents of an apartment building in Maribyrnong in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs have been ordered to isolate after a removalist with Covid worked there last week.
Iraq Covid hospital fire death toll at least 66
The death toll in a fire that spread through a coronavirus hospital in southern Iraq rose to 66, health officials have said, as an angry crowd blaming local authorities for negligence gathered near the city’s morgue.
Reuters reports that more than 100 others were injured in last night’s fire in the city of Nassiriya, which an initial investigation showed began when sparks from faulty wiring spread to an oxygen tank that then exploded, local police and civil defence authorities said.
In April, a similar explosion at Baghdad Covid-19 hospital killed at least 82 and injured 110. The head of Iraq’s semi-official Human Rights Commission said the blast showed how ineffective safety measures in a health system crippled by war and sanctions still were.
“To have such a tragic incident repeated few months later means that still no [sufficient] measures have been taken to prevent them,” Ali Bayati said.
Anger spread among people gathered at Nassiriya’s morgue as they waited to receive relatives’ bodies. “No quick response to the fire, not enough firefighters. Sick people burned to death. It’s a disaster,” said Mohammed Fadhil, who was waiting there to receive his bother’s body.
Two health officials said the dead from the fire included 21 charred bodies that were still unidentified, according to Reuters. The blaze trapped many patients inside the hospital’s coronavirus ward, who rescue teams struggled to reach, a health worker said before entering the burning building.
Prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had ordered the suspension and arrest of health and civil defence managers in Nassiriya, as well as the al-Hussain hospital’s manager, his office said.
Hello and greetings to everyone reading, wherever you are the in the world. Mattha Busby here to take you through the next few hours of global Covid developments. Thanks to my colleague Martin Belam for covering the blog up until now. Please feel free to drop me a line on Twitter or message me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any tips or thoughts on our coverage.
That Germany would eventually this year reach a point where supply of vaccines would outstrip demand has long been anticipated by scientists and politicians. That this point would be reached in July is coming as a surprise to many.
Several vaccination centres across Germany have in recent days voiced concern that they are running below capacity, with spare appointments going unbooked. “The last time we administered as few first doses of vaccine as yesterday was in February”, health minister Jens Spahn tweeted on Monday. “But unlike in February there’s plenty of vaccines around now”.
France’s decision to make the jab mandatory for care workers is being followed with intense interest, but the independent German Ethics Council that advises the federal government is split on the issue.
Geneticist and council member Wolfram Henn called for compulsory vaccinations for nursery workers and teachers, telling Rheinische Post newspaper that “those who decide out of free choice to work with a group of vulnerable people carry a special responsibility in their field of work”.
But Ethics Council chair Alena Buyx advised against following the French precedent, saying the rates of vaccinations in comparative fields of work were much higher in Germany.
Several German municipalities are working to increase the incentives to get the jab instead: in the populous state of North-Rhine Westphalia, authorities are from this week starting to offer drop-in vaccinations on shopping miles, at sports venues and inside shopping centres. From 16 to 18 July people in Cologne can be vaccinated without appointment outside the city’s historic cathedral.
Economist Nora Szech, of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, has proposed upping incentives even further by offering a €500 reward for people to get their shot of vaccine. Those who had already been vaccinated would need to be compensated retrospectively, she added: “That way, we will get to 90%”.
Roughly 43% of the entire German population is fully vaccinated as of this Tuesday; 58.7% have had at least one shot. In view of the transmissibility of the Delta variant, Germany’s disease control agency has proposed a target vaccination rate of 85%.
- Russia has recorded 780 coronavirus-related deaths, the most confirmed in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, as well as registering 24,702 new cases nationwide.
- A vaccination centre in Malaysia was ordered to close for sanitisation after more than 200 volunteers and workers there tested positive over the weekend, the country’s science minister said.
- South Korea reported 1,150 new coronavirus cases for Monday, the day it implemented the toughest curbs it can apply on residents and business activity in Seoul as the country battles its worst-ever outbreak.
- At least 50 people have died after a fire tore through the Covid isolation ward at a hospital in city of Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. The death toll is expected to rise, as search operations at al-Hussain coronavirus hospital continued after the fire was brought under control. Sixteen people were rescued from the burning building.
- Top officials at the World Health Organization say there’s not enough evidence to show that third doses of coronavirus vaccines are needed and appealed for the scarce shots to be shared with poor countries who have yet to immunise their people instead of being used by rich countries as boosters.
- The number of Delta variant Covid cases in Turkey has risen to 750 from 284 seven days ago and overall cases climbed 20% at the weekend compared with a week earlier.
- France’s health minister Olivier Veran said “The virus is doubling every five days.”
- First minister Nicola Sturgeon will announce to the Scottish parliament at 2pm whether Scotland will drop to Covid precautions level 0 next week.
- The decision to lift England’s remaining Covid restrictions next Monday – even as cases of the Delta variant surge around the country – is expected to turbocharge the epidemic and push the nation into what one leading scientist called “uncharted territory” in terms of the numbers of people left suffering from long Covid.
- South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said that days of protests, looting and riots in the country led to the cancellation of coronavirus vaccination efforts in some parts of the country and could lead to further disruption of the programme just when the country was picking up the pace to inoculate its citizens.
- Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said that a sufficient number of hospitals combined with a speed-up in the vaccination rollout among the elderly meant the city will be able to hold “safe and secure” Olympics in 10 days.
- Australia will donate 1.5m doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to Vietnam soon, the Southeast Asian country said in a statement.
- A Western Australian man has been jailed for at least two months for booking tradespeople to work on his house while he was supposed to be quarantining after returning from interstate.
That’s it from me today. Andrew Sparrow has our UK live blog. Mattha Busby will be here shortly to carry on with the latest coronavirus developments from around the world.
AFP have a look this morning at one of the stranger Covid regulations to come into effect around the globe – South Korea’s decision to limit what can be played in gyms based on the tempo of the songs.
The regulations, aimed at stopping gym-goers breathing too hard or splashing sweat on others, ban gyms from playing music with a faster tempo than 120 beats per minute during group exercises like zumba and spinning.
The musical diktat has prompted ridicule and fury, and a list of “safe” K-pop songs is circulating online. One social media users said “I guess the virus spreads faster depending on the tempo of the music.”
South Korean infection rates remain low by global standards at little more than 1,000 a day, but are at their highest of the pandemic, with new records set on three consecutive days recently. That has alarmed authorities in a country where the vaccine rollout has been slow and convoluted, hampered by a failure to obtain supplies.
Australian man jailed for two months for breaching Covid self-quarantine orders
A Western Australian man has been jailed for at least two months for booking tradespeople to work on his house while he was supposed to be quarantining after returning from interstate.
The 53-year-old man arrived in Perth from Brisbane on 27 June. He was ordered to quarantine for 14 days and said he would quarantine at his home in Scarborough.
In addition to tradespeople, the man also invited members of the public to his home to buy items he had been selling on an online platform.
Police were alerted after the man told someone visiting his home that he was under Covid self-quarantine orders.
“Subsequent to entering self-quarantine the man had tradespeople conducting work and members of the public attend his address to buy items that were listed for sale online,” WA police said.
“A complaint was made to police after the man disclosed to a person attending his address that he was under self-quarantine,” police said.
The number of Delta variant Covid cases in Turkey has risen to 750 from 284 seven days ago and overall cases climbed 20% at the weekend compared with a week earlier, health minister Fahrettin Koca said.
Reuters reminds us that Turkey eased most coronavirus-related restrictions on 1 July after daily cases tumbled from a peak above 60,000 in April to about 5,000, but Koca said latest figures pointed to a rise.
“These increases have emerged more in places where the level of inoculations is low,” Koca told reporters after a cabinet meeting, noting rising cases in provinces of south-east Turkey.
He called on people to get vaccinated and said that about 61% of the adult population had received at least one dose of vaccine. He has set a target level of 70% by the time of the Eid al-Adha holiday next week. The ministry was not proposing new restrictions.
Russia sets new record daily toll of 780 Covid deaths
Gleb Stolyarov reports for Reuters that Russia has recorded 780 coronavirus-related deaths, the most confirmed in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic, as well as 24,702 new cases nationwide.
Russia is in the grips of a surge in cases that authorities have blamed on the contagious Delta variant and the slow rate of vaccinations. Moscow, where the mayor has said the situation is beginning to stabilise, reported 4,991 new Covid cases.
Andrew Sparrow has launched our UK live blog for the day. He’ll be following the latest Covid and political developments there.
I’ll be continuing here with the latest global coronavirus developments.
Reuters report that official figures showed that China administered around 9m doses of vaccine on 12 July, taking the total to 1.391bn doses.
British Land, owner of shopping centres including Sheffield’s Meadowhall and Broadgate in London, said trading at its out-of-town retail parks was almost back at pre-pandemic levels, as rent collection improved across its portfolio.
The company, one of Britain’s biggest commercial property owners, is betting on open-air retail parks that are accessible by car to lead the recovery, as Covid lockdown measures are eased.
Footfall and sales at its retail parks were at 96% and 99% of pre-pandemic levels between 17 May and 3 July. At covered shopping malls, footfall and sales were 75% and 89% of 2019 levels.
Read more of Julia Kollewe’s report here: Shopping at retail parks near pre-Covid levels, says British Land
Australia to donate 1.5m doses of AstraZeneca shot to Vietnam
Australia will donate 1.5m doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to Vietnam soon, the Southeast Asian country said in a statement on Tuesday.
The donation of the Australia made vaccines and A$40m (£21m) to help procure vaccines followed a meeting between Vietnam’s deputy minister Pham Binh Minh and Australian minister for trade, tourism and investment Dan Tehan.
The Vietnamese government also said on Tuesday it would receive an additional batch of one million AstraZeneca doses from Japan on July.
Reuters report that vietnam’s domestic inoculation programme, which started in March, has so far relied heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine and authorities have faced calls for a faster rollout.
Only around 3.8m people have received one vaccine dose up to now, while 280,367 have been fully vaccinated in the country of 98m people, according to official data.
Prof Calum Semple, a member of Sage, said the “winter bump” will be a mixture of Covid and all the other “respiratory viruses that we didn’t experience in the last year or so”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “That’s why I’m saying, ‘we’re going to have a miserable winter, I’m sorry, we’re going to have a rough winter’.”
PA media report that asked whether restrictions would come back, he said: “Possibly, and it may just be about reinforcing some common sense. It may be bringing back some mask-wearing in certain environments, but I don’t foresee the lockdowns or the school suspensions that we’ve seen.”
He also said there were some older people in hospital where the vaccine “just can’t help” them “because they’re older, and the immune system doesn’t protect them”.
Prof Semple said he felt the biggest unlocking was 17 May, later saying it was “quite realistic” that there could be up to 2,000 hospital admissions per day.
He added: “My big message to people now is ‘sure we’ve weakened the link between community cases and hospital cases, but that link is not broken and it’s the people that are not vaccinated that are still coming to harm’.”
Professor of public health at Edinburgh University Linda Bauld told BBC radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme this morning ahead of Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on whether restrictions will be eased: “What I’m expecting to hear from the information I have that’s publicly available, is we will proceed to Level 0 on 19 July.”
The only business sectors that remain closed under Level 0 are nightclubs and adult entertainment, but there are still some restrictions in place on the numbers of people from mixed households allowed to meet up. The full details are here.
PA media report Prof Bauld going on to say:
The situation, although still fragile, does seem to be showing some signs of being certainly sustainable, as in we’re able to cope with it. We may well be past the peak… I’m hoping what we’re seeing is a consistent trend.
What the Scottish government will want to avoid is what is happening in Europe now. The Netherlands has seen an over 700% increase in cases. They’ve had to close nightclubs again, put restrictions on bars and restaurants, they’ve had to cancel mass events.
I think the Scottish Government will want to continue to move forward, but Level 0 is not a huge jump, it’s a relatively modest jump to the next stage.
Sage expert: unless mandated, face masks ‘probably won’t do any good’
An interesting contribution to the face mask “debate” in England this morning from Sage member Prof Graham Medley who says wearing face masks ‘probably won’t do any good’ unless everybody is doing it.
PA media report he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
I personally will wear a mask to protect other people. I think it’s quite a reasonable thing to do; it doesn’t have a huge imposition in terms of economic impact or in terms of freedom, and I think there is evidence to suggest it does good, but only if everybody does it.
So I think that, without the mandation, then we end up with a situation where even if the majority of people, let’s say 70% of people wear a mask, will that actually do any good because of the 30% who don’t? I think that is something which still needs to be determined and discussed.
I understand the government’s reluctance to actually mandate it. On the other hand, if it’s not mandated it probably won’t do any good.
A vaccination centre in Malaysia was ordered to close for sanitisation on Tuesday after more than 200 volunteers and workers there tested positive over the weekend, the country’s science minister said.
Those inoculated from 9-12 July at the centre, about 15.5 miles (25km) outside Kuala Lumpur, are advised to self-isolate for 10 days, minister Khairy Jamaluddin told reporters.
The facility has a capacity of about 3,000 doses daily. Of the 453 workers and volunteers screened, 204 tested positive, Khairy said.
Rozanna Latiff reports for Reuters that the incident comes as Malaysia struggles to contain its biggest outbreak yet, with record deaths and cases amid a ramping up of its vaccination programme and stricter lockdown measures over the past month.
The centre will resume vaccinations on Wednesday after sanitisation and a change in staffing, Khairy added.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said on Tuesday that a sufficient number of hospitals combined with a speed-up in the vaccination rollout among the elderly meant the city will be able to hold “safe and secure” Olympics in 10 days.
But Koike, speaking to Reuters in an interview at the Tokyo government headquarters, which has for the last few weeks doubled as a vaccination site, also warned that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over and the spreading Delta variant remains a risk.
“Very many people will be vaccinated in the coming 10 days and during the Olympics. The biggest change as a result of that will be a substantive fall in the ratio of deaths and severe cases among the elderly,” Koike said.
“Because of that, and because the medical system is ready, I think we can press ahead with a safe Olympics,” said Koike, who has returned to work after a brief break due to fatigue during which she was admitted to hospital.
The Japanese capital entered its fourth state of emergency on Monday causing bars and restaurants to close early, amid a rebound in Covid-19 cases that also pushed the Games organisers last week to ban spectators from nearly all venues.
Spectators from abroad were already banned months ago, and officials are now asking residents to watch the Games on TV to keep the movement of people to a minimum.
“It’s very sad that the Games are being held without spectators,” said Koike. “It’s clear we’ll be able to lower the risks (because of that), but the spectators are also very important for the athletes and give them a big boost. It’s a big shame that we have to hold the Olympics without them.”
Politico’s London Playbook email has this nugget this morning on what it says is the thinking of some more cautions Conservative MPs on the backbenches of parliament in the UK:
Playbook has detected increasing unease in the Tory Party over the decision to choose now as the time to ditch legal enforcement of Covid measures. One Tory MP said that, given how bad the projected case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths are, Downing Street would lose nothing by staying at Step 3 – which has most restrictions eased anyway – but keeping the legal requirements on masks and other social distancing measures.
They argued it makes “no sense” to open nightclubs while cases are at 30,000 per day and young people aren’t double vaccinated, suggesting the appetite for clubbing will be pretty low. They accepted that a new lockdown was not wanted or justified, but proposed a “slightly less unhappy medium” – keeping Step 3 in place for another month or so until every adult has the chance to be fully vaccinated.
With one-in-three adults still not double jabbed – and that third predominately younger people – the government risks alienating millions of younger voters by creating the impression it doesn’t care if they get Covid, the MP said.
In England, we seem to be back at this stage of government advice about the pandemic.
Covid infections ‘doubling every five days’ in France – health minister Veran
A very quick Reuters snap here that this morning on BFM TV, France’s health minister Olivier Veran said “The Virus is doubling every five days.”
The statement comes a day after president Emmanuel Macron announced a mandatory vaccination order for health workers.
Our video team have this report just gone up on the dozens of people who have been killed, with scores more injured, in a fire probably caused by an oxygen tank explosion at a coronavirus hospital in Iraq’s southern city of Nassiriya.
One health worker told Reuters that many patients were trapped in the coronavirus ward, with rescue crews struggling to reach them. The hospital fire was a further blow to Iraq’s healthcare system, already struggling with an influx of patients and short supplies in the midst of the global health crisis.
Thailand has given the go-ahead for home isolation of coronavirus patients with mild symptoms and use of home self-test kits, as a coronavirus outbreak continues to puts pressure on its capital’s healthcare and testing capacity.
The rapid antigen test kits, the approval of which was announced in the official Royal Gazette on Tuesday, should be available in stores next week.
A Food and Drug Administration official said efforts were being made to keep the price of the kits, which are less accurate than RT-PCR tests, at around 100 baht (£2.20).
Reuters report that authorities also approved home and community isolation for asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic coronavirus cases, as daily infections of more than 9,000 stretch resources.
The outbreak was initially fueled by the Alpha variant but 57% of recent cases in Bangkok have been the highly contagious Delta variant, officials say. Thailand has also reported seven cases of suspected mixed infection with the two variants at a Bangkok construction site.
Bank of England lifts Covid restrictions on banks’ shareholder payouts
The Bank of England has lifted all Covid restrictions on dividends at the UK’s largest lenders, paving the way for a boom in payouts even as the pandemic continues.
Officials said banks were strong enough to weather the remainder of the Covid pandemic, and that interim results from the upcoming stress tests – due in December – showed the banking sector “remains resilient” despite continued uncertainty. “Extraordinary guardrails on shareholder distributions are no longer necessary,” the financial policy committee said.
The announcement will be welcomed by shareholders, who have had their payouts curbed for 16 months.
The regulator forced lenders to scrap roughly £8bn worth of dividends as well as share buybacks in March 2020 in the hope of giving banks an additional cushion to weather an economic downturn sparked by the Covid crisis.
Read more of Kalyeena Makortoff’s report here: Bank of England lifts Covid restrictions on banks’ shareholder payouts
‘Mixed advice’ driving Covid vaccine hesitancy in pregnant UK women
Pregnant women are being given dangerously mixed messaging from health professionals, with figures suggesting a “very high” vaccine hesitancy among the vulnerable group, according to campaigners.
Three-quarters of pregnant women in the UK feel anxious about the easing of coronavirus restrictions with many saying the move is like “another lockdown” for expectant mothers, according to a survey of about 9,000 pregnant women by campaigning group Pregnant Then Screwed.
Its founder, Joeli Brearley, who will give evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on new parents to the parliamentary petitions select committee on Wednesday, said pregnant women were the only vulnerable group not to have been prioritised for the vaccine, and misinformation had “spread like wildfire” with many women refusing to be vaccinated as a result. The survey found that 40% have not had a single dose and only 21% have had two doses.
“The idea of ‘freedom day’ is a complete nonsense for hundreds of thousands of pregnant women,” said Brearley. “As people cast off their masks in wild abandon, the majority of pregnant women are being forced into a lockdown of their own.”
The group said it had been inundated with stories of negative messaging given to pregnant women from healthcare professionals.
Read more of Alexandra Topping’s report: ‘Mixed advice’ driving Covid vaccine hesitancy in pregnant UK women
Talking of case numbers in the UK, the latest data on the government’s own dashboard is that in the last seven days:
- There have been 228,189 new cases, a week-on-week rise of 28%
- There have been 200 death, a week-on-week rise of 56%
- 3,081 people have been admitted to hospital, a week-on-week rise of 56%
As ever, depending on where you stand on the lifting of restrictions, it is likely you will either have an eye on cases or hospitalisations as the one true key metric.
In the UK it is chief secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay who has been wheeled out today for the media round. Given his brief, he has already stressed the need for businesses to “fire up” as he argued it is a good time to ease coronavirus restrictions, indicating that the government are firmly thinking of the economy rather than caution.
PA report the minister told Sky News: “There’s no perfect time to do this. What we’ve done is deploy the vaccine – an extra seven million – opening when the schools are shut is seen as the optimum time to do so.
“It’s about getting that balance right, people reaching their own judgments, being sensible, following the guidance.
“But we also need to get back to normal, businesses need to fire up, we need to get the economy going, and those are important as well because there are consequences to not doing that, both economically and in terms of people’s health.”
Also worth noting that he began to add some doubt on the government’s previous bullish announcements that any lifting of restrictions in England was irreversible, saying “one never knows” if changes might have to be made again in the future.
As I’ve noted previously in this blog, there’s a school of thought that one of the reasons for dropping the face mask mandate in England from 19 July is that it would be one of the easiest levers for the UK government to reach for if cases numbers continue to rise. “As we promised, we aren’t going back into lockdown but you need to put your masks on once everybody goes back to school for extra protection” is a very plausible future message.
Anne Davies brings us this analysis today of the increasingly difficult position that New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian finds her government in as they try to get to grips with the latest outbreak in Australia:
Only essential workers can leave their homes in greater Sydney to attend work. The rest of us are to remain indoors except for the four reasons to leave, including getting essential supplies.
On Tuesday the rules got tougher for some essential workers. Those living in the Fairfield LGA now should not go to work except “if really essential”. They must have a Covid test every three days. They should carry proof of those tests with them. Presumably the NSW police will be checking.
Other essential workers who live elsewhere and who are travelling outside greater Sydney should get a test every week. That’s after a removalist who later found out he had Covid travelled to Victoria and South Australia. Presumably that means truck-drivers and tradies.
But in a stunning commitment to ideology, the NSW is still stubbornly refusing to define an essential worker – even though there are now likely to be fines associated with breaches.
“To try and define essential work is really very challenging,” said health minister Brad Hazzard. “An employer and their employee would know whether the worker is really essential.”
Asked what an essential worker was, the chief medical officer, Kerry Chant, nominated health workers and aged care but many more are attending work in retail and hospitality venues.
While the Victorian government was prepared to say what it regarded as “essential providers” of services and essential workers, NSW has left a vacuum, with the result that NSW continues to see relatively high numbers of people who are out in the community while infectious.
Read more of Anne Davies’ analysis here: Words fail Berejiklian government as ‘essential’ NSW workers remain a mystery
I worry that if you are reading this blog from outside of England today, some of the political discourse is going to appear very strange indeed following the events that surrounded England’s doomed appearance in the Euro 2020 final at the weekend.
By the way always worth reminding ourselves that the announcements by prime minister Boris Johnson and health secretary Sajid Javid mostly only apply yo England. For the other nations in the UK:
First minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to make an announcement today at 2pm on whether Scotland is still on track to lift its restrictions.
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford said the Welsh government will be reviewing the situation on Wednesday.
Northern Ireland plans to further lift some restrictions on 26 July.
Delta surge in UK ‘could leave hundreds of thousands with long Covid’
The decision to lift England’s remaining Covid restrictions next Monday – even as cases of the Delta variant surge around the country – is expected to turbocharge the epidemic and push the nation into what one leading scientist called “uncharted territory” in terms of the numbers of people left suffering from long Covid.
Ministers have been told to expect at least one to two million coronavirus infections in the coming weeks. And while the mass rollout of vaccines – which started with elderly and vulnerable people – will dramatically reduce the proportion who are hospitalised and die, the wave may leave hundreds of thousands of younger people with long-term health problems, researchers have said.
Also known as post-Covid syndrome, long Covid describes more than a dozen symptoms that can endure for months after testing positive for the virus. Many patients experience debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, sleeping difficulties and problems with memory and concentration, often referred to as “brain fog”.
Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College, says evidence from multiple countries now suggests that a significant number of people who get Covid – whether they know they are infected or not – are at risk of developing longer-term illness.
“From every version of Covid we’ve ever seen on the planet, we’ve got a rule of thumb that any case of Covid, whether it’s asymptomatic, mild, severe, or hospitalised, incurs a 10 to 20% risk of developing long Covid, and we haven’t seen any exceptions to that,” he said.
Read more from our science editor Ian Sample: Delta surge ‘could leave hundreds of thousands with long Covid’
Good morning, it is Martin Belam here taking over this leg of the blog in London from my colleague Helen Sullivan. The chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has emphasised “caution is vital” ahead of England’s expected final relaxing of pandemic measures on 19 July.
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard said the academy did not generally involve itself in public debate, but “we felt it necessary to say caution is vital”.
“We need everyone to think very carefully and responsibly about what they’re doing personally: Just because the law changes doesn’t mean that what we do as individuals has to change,” she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme.
“We are strongly encouraging everyone to continue to wear masks in crowded places, keep windows open and use the good weather to ensure good ventilation, and keep washing hands.
PA media report that the GP said the academy felt the standard of hygiene and personal protection needed to be even higher in hospital and social care settings.
“We want everyone to know if you come into a health and care setting you will be asked to wear a mask.”
Prof Stokes-Lampard added that vigilance was required to minimise the current surge in Covid-19 infections, saying: “Just because the law has changed, behaviour does not have to.”
Germany to re-evaluate basing restrictions on case numbers
With Covid cases again on the rise, German officials said on Monday said that authorities need a “broader focus” beyond the country’s infection rate to fully gauge the impact the pandemic is having on the health system and the kind of measures that should be taken.
AP: For much of the past year the incidence rate — how many cases are confirmed per 100,000 people each week — has been key to the government’s decisions over what restrictive measures to impose.
The relevance of that figure is increasingly being called into question by those who argue that a sharp rise in new cases — already seen in other European countries such as Britain and the Netherlands — doesn’t necessarily mean many more seriously ill patients.
“Because the at-risk groups are vaccinated, a high incidence doesn’t automatically mean an equally high burden on intensive care beds,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Twitter. “The incidence is increasingly losing significance, we now need more detailed information on the situation in clinics.”
His ministry said that as of Tuesday, hospitals will need to transmit more data on their Covid patients, including names, the type of treatment and their vaccination status.
The government says 58.5% of the population have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 42.6% are fully vaccinated. The number of shots administered daily has dipped slightly in recent days, raising concerns that “vaccine lethargy”.
Germany’s disease control agency said last week that the country should aim to vaccinate 85% of people ages 12-59 and 90% of people over 60 to prevent the delta variant causing a strong resurgence of coronavirus cases this autumn and winter.
South Korea cases top 1,000 for seventh day
South Korea reported 1,150 new coronavirus cases for Monday, the day it implemented the toughest curbs it can apply on residents and business activity in Seoul as the country battles its worst-ever outbreak, spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) on Tuesday showed the daily tally topped 1,000 for a seventh consecutive day, though it was below last week’s peak at 1,378.
The latest clusters have seen far fewer serious infections than earlier ones, with many older and more vulnerable South Koreans now vaccinated against the virus. The new cases brought South Korea’s total tally to 170,296, with 2,048 deaths, KDCA data showed.
A mass testing system has helped the country suffer lower Covid death rates than other developed countries so far without severe lockdowns.
But the new wave of infections prompted the government to impose the toughest restrictions yet in capital Seoul and neighbouring areas starting Monday, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people after 6pm.
About 11.6% of the country’s 52 million population has completed vaccination, including receiving both shots for products requiring two doses, while 30.4% have received one dose, according to the KDCA.
WHO appeals for rich countries to donate vaccines rather than using boosters
Top officials at the World Health Organization say there’s not enough evidence to show that third doses of coronavirus vaccines are needed, the Associated Press reports, as they appealed Monday for the scarce shots to be shared with poor countries who have yet to immunise their people instead of being used by rich countries as boosters.
At a press briefing, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world’s grotesque vaccine disparity was driven by “greed” as he called on drugmakers to prioritize supplying their Covid-19 vaccines to poor countries instead of lobbying rich countries to use even more doses. His plea comes just as pharmaceutical companies are seeking authorization for third doses to be used as boosters in some Western countries, including the US.
“We are making conscious choices right now not to protect those in need,” Tedros said, adding the immediate priority must be to vaccinate people who have yet to receive a single dose.
He called on Pfizer and Moderna to “go all out to supply Covax, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and low and middle-income countries with very little coverage,” referring to the UN-backed initiative to distribute vaccines globally.
After a 10-week drop in global coronavirus deaths, Tedros said the number of Covid patients dying daily is again beginning to climb and that the extremely infectious delta variant is “driving catastrophic waves of cases.”
Both Pfizer and Moderna have agreed to supply small amounts of their vaccines to Covax, but the vast majority of their doses have been reserved by rich countries.
The UN-backed effort has faltered badly in recent months, with nearly 60 poor countries stalled in their vaccination efforts and their biggest vaccine supplier unable to share any doses until the end of the year.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Top officials at the World Health Organization say there’s not enough evidence to show that third doses of coronavirus vaccines are needed and appealed Monday for the scarce shots to be shared with poor countries who have yet to immunise their people instead of being used by rich countries as boosters.
More on that story shortly. In the meantime, here are the other key recent developments:
- France will not allow health workers to go to work and will not pay them if they are not vaccinated against Covid-19 by September 15, the health minister Olivier Veran said.
- Indonesia reported its highest daily number of infections on Monday, with 40,427 cases logged, data from the country’s Covid-19 task force showed.
- South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said that days of protests, looting and riots in the country led to the cancellation of coronavirus vaccination efforts in some parts of the country and could lead to further disruption of the programme just when the country was picking up the pace to inoculate its citizens.
- Vietnam has reported another new record in daily coronavirus infections, with 2,367 cases, its health ministry said.
- The reopening of schools cannot wait for all pupils and teachers to be vaccinated, or for the number of Covid cases to be reduced to zero, the chiefs of Unicef and Unesco have said in a joint statement.
- Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte apologised for relaxing coronavirus restrictions too soon as cases surge in the wake of reopening.
- The number of people who did not have enough food to eat rose steeply during the pandemic to include almost a third of the world, according to a new UN report published on Monday.
- Valencia’s regional government has succeeded in obtaining a court order to authorise lockdowns in more than 30 towns in eastern Spain as cases surge among unvaccinated young people.
- Healthcare workers and nursing home staff in Greece will be required to be vaccinated against Covid, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said as infections rapidly soar again after a sustained decline.
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