Covid live: no contingency measures for UK despite high deaths; Pfizer jab 93% effective in keeping children out of hospital – MSN UK

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An intensive care medic in Cambridge as UK reports highest daily deaths since March.


© Photograph: Neil Hall/AFP/Getty Images
An intensive care medic in Cambridge as UK reports highest daily deaths since March.

LIVE – Updated at 22:04

UK reports further 223 deaths but UK government says no to plan B for now; US study shows success in preventing hospitalisation of 12- to 18-year-olds.

 

22:04 Rosemary Bolger

In Australia, a week of cafe catch-ups, eating out and some horse race at the weekend has been merely a warm-up act for Sydney’s reopening.

As hundreds of jubilant theatregoers flashed their vaccine certificates and took their seats on Tuesday night for the return of Hamilton – the first major Sydney theatre production to return to the stage – lockdown was officially behind them.

The reopening at the Lyric theatre wasn’t invite-only, but for the public – many of whom had tickets to one of the 133 performances cancelled during the past three months.

Jennifer O’Neill, wearing a sequined mask to match a glittering bag, had been waiting almost a year since she bought her original tickets for 26 June – the first Sydney show scratched due to the latest Covid outbreak.

Her patience was rewarded with $10 tickets in the lottery for reopening night.

“Putting makeup on, getting dressed up, getting your nails done – it’s so exciting to have that bit of freedom, it’s like the world is nearly like it was before.”

To read more about the return of theatre to Sydney, click the article below.

Related: ‘Sydney, we’re back’: Hamilton makes jubilant return to the Australian stage

 

Thousands of unvaccinated workers across the United States are facing potential job losses as a growing number of states, cities and private companies start to enforce mandates for inoculation against Covid.

In the latest high-profile example, Washington State University (WSU) fired its head football coach and four of his assistants on Monday for failing to comply with the state’s vaccine requirement.

The coach, Nick Rolovich, had applied for a religious exemption from the mandate earlier this month, Reuters reported.

Thousands of police officers and firefighters in cities like Chicago and Baltimore are also at risk of losing their jobs in the coming days under mandates that require them to report their vaccination status or submit to regular coronavirus testing.

While controversial, the mandates have been effective at convincing many hesitant workers to get vaccinated against the virus, which has killed more than 700,000 people in the United States.

Some 77% of eligible Americans have received at least one shot of a vaccine, White House Covid response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters last week.

 

The US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is vaccinated, tested positive for Covid on Tuesday morning, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said.

“Secretary Mayorkas tested positive this morning for COVID-19 after taking a test as part of routine pre-travel protocols,” the DHS said on Twitter.

“He is experiencing only mild congestion; he is fully vaccinated and will isolate and work at home per CDC protocols and medical advice. Contact tracing is underway”, the tweet added.

The secretary was scheduled to travel to Colombia along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but he is now working from home, Reuters reported.

The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has led to breakthrough infections in some fully vaccinated people, although their cases tend to be milder, typically without requiring hospitalisation.



Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas addresses the daily briefing at the White House in Washington. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters


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Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas addresses the daily briefing at the White House in Washington. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

 

21:00 Tom Phillips

The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, should face murder charges for his role in the country’s “stratospheric” coronavirus death toll, a draft report from a senate inquiry into Brazil’s Covid crisis has recommended.

The 1,078-page document, published by Brazilian media on Tuesday afternoon, is not due to be voted on by the commission until next week and could yet be modified by senators.

But the draft text paints a devastating portrait of the neglect, incompetence and anti-scientific denialism many believe has defined the Bolsonaro administration’s response to a public health emergency that has killed more than 600,000 Brazilians.



Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Photograph: Joédson Alves/EPA


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Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Photograph: Joédson Alves/EPA

Bolsonaro’s “deliberate and conscious” decision to delay buying Covid vaccines needlessly condemned thousands of citizens to early graves, the report claims.

“The mathematics of the situation was clear: the more infections, the more death. Without vaccines mortality would have been stratospheric, as it turned out to be,” the document says, before concluding: “We will never forget.”

Related: Bolsonaro should face murder charges over Brazil’s Covid disaster, draft senate report says

 

20:40 Linda Geddes

As Covid-19 infections surge in England, people are increasingly reporting catching Sars-CoV-2 for a second or even third time.

New analysis has suggested that unvaccinated individuals should expect to be reinfected with Covid-19 every 16 months, on average.

With winter approaching, scientists are warning that such reinfections could add to the burden on the NHS, with some calling for the vaccination programme to be extended to all schoolchildren, including two doses for teenagers.

“If you’ve got high-level prevalence, and frequent exposure to the virus, as you have in schools, you are going to see more and more people getting reinfected despite having been double vaccinated,” said Stephen Griffin, associate professor of virology at the University of Leeds.

This time last year, the assumption was that although reinfections could occur, this was relatively uncommon, with only two dozen or so cases recorded worldwide.

Related: Without Covid-19 jab, ‘reinfection may occur every 16 months’

Implement ‘plan B’ winter measures now or risk NHS crisis, Johnson warned

20:14 Andrew Gregory

Ministers must urgently implement sweeping “plan B” winter measures or derail efforts to tackle the backlog of 5 million patients, the head of the NHS Confederation has warned as the UK recorded its highest daily Covid death toll since March.

Infections have been rising sharply since the start of October but the government is resisting introducing the extra restrictions set out in its winter plan including masks, vaccine passports and advice to work from home.

On Tuesday the UK reported 223 Covid deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test – the highest for seven months – while the seven-day average for Covid cases stands at 44,145 a day. The UK now has one of the highest weekly rates of new reported cases in the world.

No 10 said it was keeping a “very close eye” on the situation. But Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said immediate action was required to prevent the NHS “stumbling into a crisis” where the elective care recovery would be jeopardised.

“We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October,” said Taylor. “It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.

“The government ought to not just announce that we’re moving to plan B, but it should be plan B plus. We should do what’s in plan B in terms of masks … working from home, but also we should try to achieve the kind of national mobilisation that we achieved in the first and second waves, where the public went out of their way to support and help the health service.”

Related: Implement ‘plan B’ winter measures now or risk NHS crisis, Johnson warned

 

The number of people hospitalised with Covid in France went up for the third day in a row on Tuesday, according to French health authorities.

The number of hospitalisations rose by 15 people over 24 hours to 6,483. That is five times lower than the pandemic peak of 33,497 reported in November 2020, reported Reuters.

But with the reproduction rate creeping above 1.0 again, and the virus still raging in some parts of Europe including Britain, some fear a fifth wave of the pandemic in France.

A reproduction rate above 1.0 indicates the number of cases is rising. As of Oct 16, the latest data available, the rate had reached 1.05 in France versus 0.71 at mid-September.



Nurses work in the Covid-19 intensive care unit of Lyon-Sud hospital in Pierre-Benite, central eastern France. Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images


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Nurses work in the Covid-19 intensive care unit of Lyon-Sud hospital in Pierre-Benite, central eastern France. Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

France registered 5,934 new confirmed cases over 24 hours, which marks a slight increase compared to a week earlier. With close to 7.1 million infections reported since the outbreak of the pandemic in February 2020, France has the seventh-highest total globally.

 

19:39 Aubrey Allegretti

Downing Street has confirmed that Covid vaccine appointments for children will be bookable from next week in England, as Boris Johnson said the UK still faced a “difficult winter” as a result of coronavirus and flu putting pressure on the NHS.

After the latest daily number of deaths climbed to 223 – the highest level since early March – the prime minister’s spokesperson echoed concerns from the NHS England chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, that people needed to be reminded the virus was still circulating in order to drive up vaccination rates even further.

“I think we absolutely want to get that message out,” the spokesperson said on Tuesday, adding that there was no reason yet for the government to dust off its “plan B” of winter measures for England because hospitalisations and deaths remained “broadly flat”.

Related: English vaccine centres to take children’s bookings from next week

 

Good evening, Tom Ambrose here and I will be bringing you all the latest Covid news from the UK and around the world for the rest of this evening.

Let’s begin with the news that the South African drug regulator has rejected the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, citing some safety concerns the manufacturer wasn’t able to answer.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, or SAHPRA, said in a statement that the request for Sputnik V to be authorised could “not be approved at this time,” referring to past failed HIV vaccines that used a similar technology.

A late-stage study published in the journal Lancet last year in more than 20,000 participants found that Sputnik V was safe and about 91% effective in preventing people from becoming severely ill with Covid, the Associated Press reported.

Sputnik V uses two types of harmless viruses known as adenoviruses to carry the spike protein into the body, which then primes the immune system to produce antibodies against Covid.

SAHPRA said concerns have been raised about the safety of Adenovirus Type 5, which is used in one of the Sputnik V doses. The other dose contains Adenovirus Type 26, which is also used by Johnson & Johnson.

South African officials pointed to two failed research studies testing an HIV vaccine also using Adenovirus Type 5, which found men who were vaccinated had a higher risk of being infected with HIV.



A worker holds a pack of the Russian Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V) vaccine against COVID-19 stored in a cold room. Photograph: Vladimir Smirnov/TASS


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A worker holds a pack of the Russian Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V) vaccine against COVID-19 stored in a cold room. Photograph: Vladimir Smirnov/TASS

The regulators said they had asked the Russian makers of Sputnik V to provide data proving the vaccine’s safety in a country with high rates of HIV but that “the applicant was not able to adequately address [their] request.”

Dr. Julian Tang, a virologist at Britain’s University of Leicester, was perplexed by the decision. “It’s a strange connection to make,” he said, explaining that while past concerns have been raised about using the particular virus vector in Sputnik V, much remains uncertain. “It’s not the vector that caused HIV so you can’t just blame it on that,” Tang said.

Here’s a summary of the latest developments

  • The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine is 93% effective in preventing hospitalisation among 12-18-year-olds, according to new research by the US government. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study was conducted between June and September when Delta was the most dominant variant.
  • Bath and North East Somerset has the highest Covid case rate in the UK and 86% of local authority areas have seen a week-on-week rise, according to a new analysis. Figures from the Press Association show that in the seven days to 15 October, 323 of 377 local areas saw a rise in cases and just 54 – or 14% – saw a fall.
  • The UK government has claimed it was “not complacent” about rising coronavirus cases but that it had no plans to bring in any contingency measures yet. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the plans, set out in the autumn/winter strategy, would only be brought in if there was a “significant risk of the NHS being overwhelmed.”
  • Bulgaria is to make Covid passes mandatory for entry to indoor restaurants, cinemas, gyms and shopping malls amid rising coronavirus infections. The health minister announced that the EU green certificate will be required to enter indoor public spaces from Thursday.
  • The UK has registered 223 further deaths in the last 24 hours – the highest daily reported toll since 9 March. There were also 43,738 new Covid cases since yesterday. The latest case figures are slightly lower than expected after a daily rise in new infections over the previous days.
  • The Moscow city government has ordered elderly people to stay at home for the next four months as Covid cases and deaths surge in Russia. The new rules will take effect from Monday
  • Ireland will allow nightclubs to reopen for the first time since March 2020, but clubbers must wear face masks, while other going out restrictions are extended.
  • The number of pupils in England who are off school because of Covid has risen again, according to the fortnightly Department for Education attendance statistics.
  • The UK government has said it is “keeping a very close eye” on the AY4.2 coronavirus variant but insisted that there is no evidence that it spreads more easily than other variants.
  • Coronavirus infections in Romania have hit a new daily high. According to government data, 574 people have died from Covid in the last day, a record for the country.
  • Latvia is to go into a nationwide lockdown, including a nightly curfew, for nearly a month in an attempt to slow Covid infections. From Thursday, a curfew will be imposed between 8pm and 5am, most shops will be shut, indoor and outdoor gatherings banned.

That’s it from me for today. Handing over now to Tom Ambrose. Thanks for reading.

 

Thousands of workers in the US face potentially losing their jobs as increasing numbers of states, cities and companies bring in mandatory coronavirus vaccination mandates.

The latest high profile example, reports Reuters, came on Monday from Washington State University which fired its head American football coach, Nick Rolovich, and his four assistants for failing to get vaccinated.

Thousands of police officers and firefighters in cities including Chicago and Baltimore could also lose their jobs as mandates requiring employees to either report their vaccination status or agree to regular testing are introduced.

About a third of Chicago’s 12,770 police employees missed a Friday deadline to report their vaccination status, some of whom will no longer receive pay.

The controversial policy has so far been effective at persuading workers to get vaccinated. So far 77% of eligible Americans have had at least one dose, the White House said last week.

Pfizer vaccine is 93% effective in preventing hospitalisation among 12-18-year-olds, finds CDC study

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine is 93% effective in preventing hospitalisation among 12-18-year-olds, according to new research by the US government.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study was conducted between June and September when Delta was the most dominant variant, reports Reuters.

The data from 19 children’s hospitals found that of the 179 patients who were hospitalised with coronavirus, 97% were unvaccinated.

Around 16% of patients required life support, all of whom were also not vaccinated.

The authors of the study said that the data “reinforces the importance of vaccination to protect US youths against severe Covid-19.”

The vaccine is authorised for children aged 12-plus, but the companies are looking to get it authorised for children as young as five.

86% of local authority areas in UK saw week-on-week rise in Covid cases

Bath and North East Somerset has the highest Covid case rate in the UK and 86% of local authority areas have seen a week-on-week rise, according to a new analysis.

Figures from the Press Association show that in the seven days to 15 October, 323 of 377 local areas saw a rise in cases and just 54 – or 14% – saw a fall.

Bath and North East Somerset had the highest rate in the UK, with 1,723 new cases over the period – equivalent to 877.5 per 100,000 people.

The second highest rate was in Somerset West and Taunton which had 1,356 new cases (872.5 cases per 100,000 people) and third was Ipswich with 1,171 new cases (861.2 per 100,000 people).

The five UK areas with the biggest week-on-week rises were: Stroud, Cheltenham, Bath and North East Somerset, Tewkesbury and Swindon.

UK government says ‘not complacent’ about rising Covid cases, but claims not time for contingency measures

The UK government has claimed it was “not complacent” about rising coronavirus cases but that it had no plans to bring in any contingency measures yet.

According to the Press Association, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said the plans, set out in the autumn/winter strategy, would only be brought in if there was a “significant risk of the NHS being overwhelmed.”

He said: “We are not at that point. Because of the vaccination programme, the levels we are seeing in both patients admitted to hospital and deaths are far lower than we saw in previous peaks.”

He added: “We are at an order of magnitude lower – that is not to say we are complacent, we are monitoring this very carefully and we recognise that the NHS will be facing challenges as we come into the winter months which normally are a busier period for our health service.”

 

American women who contracted Covid while pregnant are urging others to get vaccinated after a sharp rise in pregnant women becoming severely ill with the virus.

In August, a record 22 pregnant women died from Covid. Just 31% of pregnant women in the US are vaccinated.

Kyndal Nipper, from Columbus, Georgia, who lost her unborn son after getting the virus, told the Associated Press:

“He was supposed to come into the world in three weeks or less. And for them to tell you there’s no heartbeat and there is no movement.”

Nipper added: “We made a commitment that we would do anything in our power to educate and advocate for our boy, because no other family should have to go through this.”



Kyndal Nipper, who had a stillbirth after becoming sick with Covid-19 in her third trimester, holding an ultrasound picture of her son. Photograph: Kim Chandler/AP


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Kyndal Nipper, who had a stillbirth after becoming sick with Covid-19 in her third trimester, holding an ultrasound picture of her son. Photograph: Kim Chandler/AP

 

Italy reported 2,697 new coronavirus cases and 70 deaths on Tuesday.

Both mark a rise on Monday’s figures which were 1,597 and 44 respectively.

 

The US is considering introducing a “test-to-stay” programme in schools instead of using quarantine, CNN reports.

The scheme, reportedly under consideration by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is for students who may have been exposed to coronavirus in school so that they can still go to in-person classes as long as they test negative and show no symptoms.

Bulgaria to make Covid pass mandatory for indoor public spaces

Bulgaria is to make Covid passes mandatory for entry to indoor restaurants, cinemas, gyms and shopping malls amid rising coronavirus infections.

The health minister announced that the EU green certificate will be required to enter indoor public spaces from Thursday, reports Reuters.

Interim health minister, Stoicho Katsarov, said:

The number of new infections and deaths is rising. That forces us to impose additional measures. All activities indoors should be carried out with a green certificate.

He also urged those who are not vaccinated to get inoculated.

Bulgaria has the lowest vaccinations in the whole of the EU and for the last two weeks has had the highest mortality rate. Just 25% of Bulgaria’s 7 million population has had at least one dose.



A doctor examines a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Kjustendil, Bulgaria, on Tuesday. Photograph: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images


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A doctor examines a Covid-19 patient at a hospital in Kjustendil, Bulgaria, on Tuesday. Photograph: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images

 

New coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have soared by 44% in the last week, forcing multiple hospitals to make cuts to regular care to deal with Covid cases.

The number of people with coronavirus were at their highest level since July in the last week with 25,751 cases, reports Reuters.

The country recorded 48 coronavirus deaths in the same period – twice as many as the previous week – and hospital admissions rose by one-fifth.



An on-street coronavirus test centre in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, on Tuesday. Photograph: Hollandse Hoogte/REX/Shutterstock


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An on-street coronavirus test centre in Dordrecht, the Netherlands, on Tuesday. Photograph: Hollandse Hoogte/REX/Shutterstock

Cases rose for the third week in a row after social distancing measures were eased in the country last month.

“Most of those in hospital with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated,” the Dutch Institute for Public Health said. “At intensive care units this is the case for 4 out 5 patients.”

Government data shows that 83% of the country’s adult population has been fully vaccinated.

 

16:23 Ian Sample

The UK has reported its highest number of Covid deaths for seven months, with 223 deaths recorded within 28 days of a positive test for the virus.

The daily death rate, which has not been as high since 9 March, brought the weekly toll to 911, a near-15% rise on the week.

A further 43,738 coronavirus cases were reported, down slightly on Monday’s figure, though daily hospitalisations continued to rise, reaching 921, up 10% on the week.

After a bumpy September, confirmed cases have risen steadily in October with Covid rates soaring among largely unvaccinated secondary schoolchildren, and infections spilling over into older, more vulnerable age groups.

The spread of infections beyond younger people has driven up cases in those aged 50 and over, a trend that has started to push up hospitalisations and death rates.

Related: UK records highest Covid deaths since March

UK reports 223 deaths in highest daily total since March

The UK has registered 223 further deaths in the last 24 hours – the highest daily reported toll since 9 March.

There were also 43,738 new Covid cases since yesterday. The latest case figures are slightly lower than expected after a daily rise in new infections over the previous days.

Here’s a summary of the latest developments

  • Regulators in the US are expected to authorise mix and match coronavirus booster shots this week in a move that it is hoped will allow for greater flexibility.
  • The Moscow city government has ordered elderly people to stay at home for the next four months as Covid cases and deaths surge in Russia. The new rules will take effect from Monday
  • UK government minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has defended the prime minister’s Christmas “childcare bubble” with a friend of Carrie Johnson’s, saying she has no doubt they followed the rules during a “really rough time”.
  • School assemblies across England are being cancelled in a bid to fight rising coronavirus infections, reports i. Among the affected local authorities, it reports, are Wiltshire council and Staffordshire county council.
  • Ireland will allow nightclubs to reopen for the first time since March 2020, but clubbers must wear face masks, while other going out restrictions are extended.
  • The number of pupils in England who are off school because of Covid has risen again, according to the fortnightly Department for Education attendance statistics.
  • The UK government has said it is “keeping a very close eye” on the AY4.2 coronavirus variant but insisted that there is no evidence that it spreads more easily than other variants.
  • The Duchess of Cambridge said the pandemic has had a “devastating impact” on addiction rates. Speaking at the Bafta headquarters in London, where she was launching the Taking Action on Addiction campaign, Kate said families and children are having to cope with addiction “in greater numbers than ever before”.
  • Coronavirus infections in Romania have hit a new daily high. According to government data, 574 people have died from Covid in the last day, a record for the country.
  • Latvia is to go into a nationwide lockdown, including a nightly curfew, for nearly a month in an attempt to slow Covid infections. From Thursday, a curfew will be imposed between 8pm and 5am, most shops will be shut, indoor and outdoor gatherings banned.

US expected to authorise mix and match booster shots this week

Regulators in the US are expected to authorise mix and match coronavirus booster shots this week in a move that it is hoped will allow for greater flexibility.

An announcement by the Food and Drug Administration is expected to be accompanied by authorisation for boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, reports the Associated Press.

Booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine were authorised for many Americans last month.



US president Joe Biden getting his Pfizer booster shot last month at the White House. Photograph: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images


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US president Joe Biden getting his Pfizer booster shot last month at the White House. Photograph: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Schools in England reportedly cancelling assemblies to fight rising Covid infections

School assemblies across England are being cancelled in a bid to fight rising coronavirus infections, reports i.

Blaming the slow pace of the vaccine rollout among 12- to 15-year-olds, headteachers told the newspaper that staff absences were leaving them with no option but to cancel non-crucial activities.

Among the affected local authorities, it reports, are Wiltshire council and Staffordshire county council.

UK government minister defends Johnsons’ Christmas ‘childcare bubble’

Government minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan has defended the British prime minister’s Christmas “childcare bubble” with a friend of Carrie Johnson’s, saying she has no doubt they followed the rules during a “really rough time”.

Jessica Elgot reports:

Carrie Johnson needed her friend in her “childcare bubble” with Boris Johnson for extra support over Christmas because of the challenges of running the country and experiencing difficult pregnancies, a cabinet minister has claimed.

It has been revealed that the Johnsons’ friend Nimco Ali, godmother to their son Wilfred, spent Christmas with the family at a time when lockdown restrictions in London prevented almost all household mixing.

On Tuesday, the international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, hinted that the family had needed extra support at that time. Johnson, who is now expecting her second child, revealed she had a miscarriage at the start of this year, meaning she is likely to have been pregnant over the festive period.

Wilfred was eight months old at the time and No 10 has said Ali was part of their childcare bubble, which allowed some limited mixing.

Pressed on whether a family would have needed additional childcare over Christmas, Trevelyan said: “It’s hard enough for the rest of us; when you’re having to run a country as well and have the challenges of difficult pregnancies, having a supportive friend to be there in your bubble is absolutely the right thing to do.”

The claims first emerged in a report in Harper’s magazine that said Ali “spent Christmas with the couple at No 10 despite pandemic restrictions on holiday gatherings”.

Ali, who is a prominent campaigner on tackling female genital mutilation and a government adviser on violence against women and girls, said she did “not break any rules”.

Related: Minister defends Johnsons’ Christmas ‘childcare bubble’ with Nimco Ali

Moscow orders elderly to stay at home for four months amid record Covid deaths

The Moscow city government has ordered elderly people to stay at home for the next four months as Covid cases and deaths surge in Russia.

Businesses in the capital will also be required to have at least 30% of staff working from home, reports Reuters.

The new rules, which will take effect from Monday, come as Russia reported 1,1015 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday – a single day record – and 33,740 new Covid infections.



A federal employee disinfecting Leningradsky railway station in Moscow on Tuesday. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP


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A federal employee disinfecting Leningradsky railway station in Moscow on Tuesday. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP

 

Children aged 12-15 will be able to use the national booking service to arrange their Covid vaccines, the UK health secretary has said.

Sajid Javid told MPs that the government is “ramping up” its vaccination programme.

He added:

To make the most of half-term next week, we will now be opening up the national booking service to all 12- to 15-year-olds to have their Covid vaccinations in existing national vaccination centres, which will offer families more flexibility.

I think it is important that anyone who is invited as eligible for a vaccine, including young people, that they do come forward and take up that offer.

Ireland to reopen nightclubs for first time since pandemic but other going out restrictions extended

Ireland will allow nightclubs to reopen for the first time since March 2020, but clubbers must wear face masks, while other going out restrictions are extended, reports Reuters.

The government had hoped to lift most restrictions this week, but will retain some protections amid rising infections.

Social distancing and vaccine certificates will be extended for bars and restaurants until February.

Meanwhile, clubbers will be required to wear masks expect while eating, drinking and dancing.

Theatres and music venues will only be allowed to open if audiences are fully seated.

 

More on the situation in Romania (see also 12:06), where one person has died from Covid every five minutes this month, from Reuters:

Romania reported record numbers of daily coronavirus deaths and infections on Tuesday, as a hospital system stretched to breaking point by the EU’s second-lowest vaccination rate ran out of intensive care beds.

New infections in the preceding 24 hours topped 18,800 while 574 people died of the virus, official data showed.

With emergency beds fully occupied across the country, television footage from Bucharest hospitals showed patients lying on mattresses on the floor or holding oxygen tanks on crowded benches in hallways. Morgues were also running at full capacity.

“There isn’t enough room to take all the cases that need us,” said intensive care doctor Claudiu Rusu. “If the vaccination rate had been at 70-80% we would now have ten times fewer deaths.”

Romania has managed to fully inoculate only 36% of its adult population against a European Union average of 74%.

One person has died from Covid-19 every five minutes in Romania during October, when more than 90% of coronavirus deaths were of unvaccinated people, data shows. Roughly 13% of the 42,000 overall epidemic-related deaths have occurred this month.

Rising numbers of schoolchildren in England off school due to Covid

13:07 Sally Weale

The number of pupils in England who are off school because of Covid has risen again, according to the fortnightly Department for Education attendance statistics, which have just been published.

The data shows that 209,000 children were not in school on October 14 for Covid-related reasons, up from 204,000 when figures last came out. Of those, 111,000 were confirmed Covid-positive, an increase of 9000 pupils.

Overall, the proportion of pupils attending school went up marginally over the past fortnight, up from 89.5% on September 30 to 90%, though Covid-related absence in state funding schools edged up from 2.5% to 2.6%.

The figures are the third batch of fortnightly statistics to be published since schools in England reopened for the autumn term with significant reduced mitigation measures and ministers will be hoping the sharp rise in infection and absence rates is beginning to ease.

A fortnight ago, the number off school for Covid-related jumped by 66% – 204,000 compared with 122,000 two weeks earlier.

James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We currently have record Covid-related absence in schools. The government cannot just sit back and accept the growing numbers of cases amongst school-age children.

“We also know that staff are being affected too and that many schools are struggling to stay open with increasing numbers of teachers and support staff testing positive. We now have record numbers off with a confirmed case of Covid and it is clear that more needs to be done to control the spread.”

The latest data is published as concern mounts about the government’s faltering vaccination programme for 12- to 15-year-olds, which has been hit by high Covid rates, low levels of consent and bureaucratic problems delivering vaccines in schools.

According to analysis by the Press Association, the rate of vaccine uptake is as low as 5% in some areas, while only 15 local authorities in England have managed to give a first jab to at least a quarter of 12- to 15-year-olds.

 

Rising numbers of children in England took time out of school due to Covid-19 over the last fortnight, government figures show.

The department for education estimates that 2.6% of all pupils (approximately 209,000 children) did not go to school due to coronavirus-related reasons on Thursday last week. It marked a rise on September 30, when the equivalent figure was 2.5% (or around 204,000 children).

 

A London MP has called for “buffer zones” outside schools where anti-vaccine protesters are forbidden from gathering. The Labour MP Stella Creasy has told the PoliticsHome website that “children should be able to get to school in peace. For me the parallels are very clear with the buffer zone argument we’ve had about abortion clinics. You don’t have an open, uncontested right to foist your views on other people, especially when it’s very clear these kids have said no, and these adults are continuing.”

An investigation by PoliticsHome has looked at how the anti-vaccine protesters have been organising their demonstrations around schools. John Johnston writes:

Analysis by PoliticsHome found several anti-vaccine groups with hundreds of members seeking volunteers for to attend protests at schools across the country. They urged members to hand leaflets to children warning the jab could “screw up” their bodies, and encourage them to turn down the vaccine because of claims there was no long-term safety information.

Members of one group have targeted dozens of schools across London in recent weeks with an “informed consent” campaign to “encourage resistance”. In the group’s online chats, one member said teachers “bully the kids not to listen” as they discussed alternative locations near to schools where children could be targeted. “That is why we do after school and not by the school gates because the nosey teachers lurk there,” a member of the group said.

Read more here: PoliticsHome – MP Calls For “Buffer Zones” Around Schools After Anti-Vaccine Groups Targeted Parents And Children

Today so far

  • Russia has again reported a record daily number of coronavirus-related deaths amid a surge in Covid cases and deaths across the east of Europe. Russia’s Covid taskforce reported 1,015 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest single-day toll since the start of the pandemic, as well as 33,740 new infections in the past 24 hours.
  • In Ukraine, the health ministry says that the country has registered a record daily high of 538 coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours. The previous high of 481 deaths was on 7 April.
  • Waldemar Kraska, a deputy health minister in Poland, has said that case numbers in the country are up 85% week-on-week.
  • Bulgaria reported 4,979 new cases today, the highest daily count since 24 March. Only 24% of the adult population are fully inoculated, compared with an average of 74% in the EU. More than 6,200 people were in Bulgaria’s hospitals, with 537 in intensive care units, threatening to overwhelm the system.
  • The Czech Republic detected 2,521 new cases of Covid yesterday, the highest daily tally since late April. Over the past seven days, 54 people died in connection with Covid-19, more than in the whole of September.
  • The UK is braced for another high Covid caseload figure today, after exceptionally high figures on Sunday and Monday. The latest data is usually made available around 4pm UK time. The reported number of Covid cases in the UK increased steadily through October and reached 49,156 on Monday, the highest reported since 17 July and a 16% rise in new cases over the past week.
  • Prof Neil Ferguson of the of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said that he does not expect the country to go into another lockdown. However, amid the rising cases, he called for an acceleration of the country’s booster shots programme.
  • A London MP has called for “buffer zones” outside schools where anti-vaccine protesters are forbidden from gathering. Labour MP Stella Creasy has told the PoliticsHome website that “children should be able to get to school in peace. You don’t have an open, uncontested right to foist your views on other people, especially when it’s very clear these kids have said no.”
  • The UK private laboratory under investigation for potentially issuing more than 40,000 false negative Covid tests was not fully accredited to perform the work, contrary to assurances made by health officials.
  • After months of Covid-zero, New Zealand recorded its highest daily Covid-19 case count since the pandemic began, with 94 new infections reported. Younger New Zealanders have been hit particularly hardest with the highest number of cases in the under-39 age bracket.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration is planning to allow the mixing and matching of Covid-19 booster shots, the New York Times reports, citing people familiar with the agency’s plans.

That is all from me, Martin Belam, in London today. Ben Quinn has a UK politics live blog up and running, and Miranda Bryant will be along presently to continue bringing you the latest Covid developments from the UK and around the world.

 

Governments’ debt from the Covid-19 crisis will be overshadowed by pension and health costs in the coming years, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In an analysis of the economic outlook to 2060, the report found that governments will increasingly face costs from ageing populations and public services. These will have to be paid in addition to the considerable debts caused by the pandemic, which will take decades to pay off, reports Reuters.

Budget deficits in many of the 38 wealthiest OECD countries have reached record levels as a result of the pandemic as they tried to support economies during lockdowns.

The report said that if historically low interest rates continue, most OECD countries could cover the extra pressure on their budgets by adding to debt.

It said the biggest strain on public finances was in Slovakia, followed by Poland, Spain and the Czech Republic.

Hi, I’m looking after the liveblog for the next few hours. Please get in touch with any tips or suggestions: miranda.bryant@guardian.co.uk

 

The UK government has said it is “keeping a very close eye” on the AY4.2 coronavirus variant but insisted that there is no evidence that it spreads more easily than other variants, reports the Press Association.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said:

It’s something we’re keeping a very close eye on.

There’s no evidence to suggest that this variant … the AY4.2 one … is more easily spread. There’s no evidence for that but as you would expect we’re monitoring it closely and won’t hesitate to take action if necessary.

Covid infections and deaths in Romania hit new record daily high

Coronavirus infections in Romania have hit a new daily high, reports Reuters.

According to government data, 574 people have died from Covid in the last day, a record for the country.



Nurses prepare medical papers while people wait to be admitted to the coronavirus ward of Marius Nasta Pneumology Institute in Bucharest, Romania, on Sunday. Photograph: Inquam Photos/Reuters


© Provided by The Guardian
Nurses prepare medical papers while people wait to be admitted to the coronavirus ward of Marius Nasta Pneumology Institute in Bucharest, Romania, on Sunday. Photograph: Inquam Photos/Reuters

Latvia imposes nationwide lockdown and nightly curfew amid growing Covid cases

Latvia is to go into a nationwide lockdown, including a nightly curfew, for nearly a month in an attempt to slow Covid infections.

From Thursday, a curfew will be imposed between 8pm and 5am, most shops will be shut, indoor and outdoor gatherings banned.

Following an emergency meeting late on Monday, prime minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš said the lockdown, which will last until 15 November, said the dramatic measures are needed as the virus continues to quickly spread and hospital wards fill up, reports the Associated Press.

With just over half of the population vaccinated, Latvia has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the European Union.

Karins conceded that the government had failed to encourage enough people to get vaccinated. “There are many people, too many people, who are not vaccinated,” Kariņš reportedly said, according to the Latvian public broadcaster LSM.

To date, Latvia, which has a population of 1.9 million, has recorded 190,000 cases and nearly 2,900 deaths. The country’s incidence rate per 100,000 is 864, one of the highest in the world.

Health minister Daniels Pavļuts said:

We, the government and society as a whole, haven’t succeeded in achieving a high enough vaccination coverage. So we must ask you to suspend your lives for several weeks to avoid the worst possible scenario.



Covid checks at a shopping centre in Riga, Latvia, last week. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock


© Provided by The Guardian
Covid checks at a shopping centre in Riga, Latvia, last week. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Duchess of Cambridge says pandemic has had ‘devastating impact’ on addiction

The Duchess of Cambridge said the pandemic has had a “devastating impact” on addiction rates.

Speaking at the Bafta headquarters in London, where she was launching the Taking Action on Addiction campaign, Kate said families and children are having to cope with addiction “in greater numbers than ever before”.

She added:

We know that over one and a half million people across the UK who did not have substance misuse prior to lockdown may now be experiencing problems associated with increased alcohol consumption.

Around 2 million individuals who were identified as being in recovery may have experienced a relapse over the past 18 months.

Almost 1 million young people and children are showing an increase in addictive behaviour since the pandemic began.



The Duchess of Cambridge arriving at the Taking Action on Addiction campaign launch at Bafta in London on Tuesday. Photograph: Beretta/Sims/Rex/Shutterstock


© Provided by The Guardian
The Duchess of Cambridge arriving at the Taking Action on Addiction campaign launch at Bafta in London on Tuesday. Photograph: Beretta/Sims/Rex/Shutterstock

 

Coronavirus has so far killed at least 4,902,638 people globally since the start of the outbreak in China in December 2019, according to analysis by AFP.

At least 241,039,700 cases have been registered, the news agency reports, the vast majority of whom have recovered. But some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or months later.

The World Health Organization estimates that the overall death toll could be two or three times higher than official figures, AFP reports.

 

Jane Kirby, PA Media’s health editor, has written her take on Prof Neil Ferguson’s media appearances in the UK this morning, and she’s pulled out the top line as what he said about booster jabs.

Describing him as one of the leading members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), she writes that he has said it is “critical” that the Covid booster programme is accelerated.

Asked if Covid booster jabs are the answer to waning immunity, Prof Ferguson told the BBC: “Absolutely, and there’s data coming through now, which is not completely clear cut, but good data coming through from Israel, which shows that, if you’ve had the third booster dose of the vaccine, then you get very high loads, better than even you had after the second dose. And so I do think it’s critical we accelerate the booster programme.

“The other thing is infection rates are highest in teenagers at the moment and most other European countries are ahead of us in vaccinating teenagers and giving them two doses, not just one dose.

“Two doses really are needed to block infection and prevent transmission, so I think that’s the other problem, keep pushing on, getting coverage rates up higher in the teenagers who are driving a lot of this infection.”

The Sage member said the doubling time for hospital admissions in the UK is currently about five weeks, “so I think we need (to be) on the case, and we do need to prioritise the (booster) vaccination programme but we’re not in the same position as last year.”

He added: “I don’t think it’s a reason to panic right now but I would certainly like to see vaccination booster doses accelerated, vaccination for teenagers accelerated.”

Russia records highest official daily death toll since pandemic began

Russia has again reported a record daily number of coronavirus-related deaths amid a surge in Covid cases.

Reuters notes that Russia’s Covid taskforce reported 1,015 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest single-day toll since the start of the pandemic, as well as 33,740 new infections in the past 24 hours.

It is worth reminding you that there is a school of thought that the official numbers in Russia are under-counting. The Washington Post recently carried a piece – In Russia, experts are challenging official pandemic figures as too low. They refuse to be silenced – which included this:

In Russia, a “fourth wave” of coronavirus is setting records in daily infection and death numbers, according to official statistics. But the truth is far worse, say independent demographers and data analysts who are challenging the pandemic data issued by President Vladimir Putin’s government and who, in turn, are facing retribution from authorities. At least three top researchers have been dismissed or have resigned from their posts in government or at state universities amid pressure from bosses.

“The data for [Russia] is absolutely unreliable,” said Alexei Kouprianov, an independent analyst and biologist who last year organized a community of experts on social media, Watching Covid. He was fired from the St Petersburg campus of the Higher School of Economics in September 2020.

 

In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has issued its latest bulletin on deaths data in England and Wales. Here’s the key couple of lines from it this week:

  • In week 40, 10,807 deaths were registered in England and Wales; this was 297 more deaths than the previous week (Week 39) and 13.1% above the five-year average (1,252 more deaths).
  • Of the deaths registered in Week 40 in England and Wales, 666 mentioned “novel coronavirus (Covid-19)“, accounting for 6.2% of all deaths; this was a decrease compared with week 39 (783 deaths).

This graph usefully shows how deaths over the course of the pandemic have varied over and under the average we would have expected to see, and which proportion of them have involved coronavirus being mentioned on death certificates.



ONS chart showing deaths in England and Wales Photograph: ONS


© Provided by The Guardian
ONS chart showing deaths in England and Wales Photograph: ONS

 

There’s quite a lot of fluff on the airwaves in the UK this morning with cabinet minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan being questioned over whether the arrangements the prime minister had over Christmas broke Covid rules. Trevelyan told BBC Radio 4:

I have no doubt at all the prime minister and Mrs Johnson followed the rules and they had the kind support of Nimco [Ali] to support them in what was a really tough time for them. It’s hard enough for the rest of us, when you’re having to run a country as well and have the challenges of difficult pregnancies, having a supportive friend to be there in your bubble is absolutely the right thing to do.

It seems like the lack of disclosure until months later is what has made this any kind of story at all, rather than the actual details that the prime minister and his wife had formed a childcare bubble, like many other families did over the holiday season.

 

Prof Neil Ferguson of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has been on the BBC this morning addressing several topics. He has been asked why the UK has much higher rates than other comparable western European countries, and notably he didn’t trot out the context-less “world-beating vaccination programme” line that we often hear from politicians. PA Media quote him saying:

First of all, we have lower functional immunity in our population than most other western European countries and that’s for two reasons. Partly, we were very successful in getting vaccination rolled out early and we know that gradually immunity wanes over time after you’ve had that second dose, so how early we were means we are a bit more vulnerable.

Second, we relied more on the AstraZeneca vaccine and, while that protects very well against very severe outcomes of Covid, it protects slightly less well than Pfizer against infection and transmission, particularly in the face of the Delta variant.

And finally, we just sit behind a few other countries, not dramatically, but we’re no longer in the top rank of European countries in terms of overall vaccination coverage, particularly vaccinating teenagers. Overall coverage rates here are considerably lower, for instance, than in Spain, Portugal and Denmark.

Prof Neil Ferguson: ‘I don’t think we’re looking at another UK lockdown’

Another key line to come out of that BBC interview with Prof Neil Ferguson concerned his views on the outlook for future lockdowns in the UK, which he seemed to think was unlikely. He is quoted by PA Media as saying:

I don’t think we’re looking at another lockdown. The worst case here are demands on the NHS. It’s very unlikely we’ll see anything like the levels of deaths we saw last year, for instance.

Coming into the winter, there may be a Plan B which needs to be implemented, which involves some rolling back of measures, but I doubt that we’ll ever get close to lockdown we were in in January of this year.

However, Prof Ferguson made it very clear that these were political rather than scientific considerations at play, saying it “was very clear that it wanted to move away from social distancing measures, but it’s notable, clearly, that most western European countries have kept in place more control measures, vaccine mandates, mask-wearing mandates, and tend to have lower case numbers and certainly not case numbers which are going up as fast as we’ve got. But at the end of the day this is a policy decision for government to make.”

 

A quick sharp short from Reuters here: China’s capital Beijing has found one locally transmitted confirmed Covid-19 case for 19 October, a Beijing city official said today.

Pandemic has spurred engagement in online extremism, experts say

08:31 Dan Sabbagh

Eighteen months of global lockdowns have led to growing engagement in a toxic online cocktail of extremist material ranging from terrorist content to conspiracy theories and disinformation, experts warn.

Jacob Davey, from the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), said studies had already shown “there has been a proliferation of harmful and troubling activity online” during the pandemic.

“What we’ve seen is evidence of spikes of online activity in a wide range of extremist issues during lockdown. It is not just terrorist material but a broad cocktail of online harms, as people spent more time indoors,” Davey said.

Read the full story here:

Related: Pandemic has spurred engagement in online extremism, say experts

Ukraine sets new daily high for Covid deaths; Poland sees 85% case rise

Reuters is carrying news of increasing numbers in both Poland and Ukraine.

Waldemar Kraska, a deputy health minister in Poland, has told public broadcaster Polskie Radio 1 that 64 people had died, and that there was a sharp rise in cases. He told listeners: “I don’t have good news. 3,931 new people have been infected, if we compare that with last Tuesday it is an increase of almost 85%.”

Meanwhile in Ukraine the health ministry says that the country has registered a record daily high of 538 coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours. The previous high of 481 deaths was on 7 April. The ministry’s data showed 15,579 new infections were reported over the past 24 hours.

 

There’s been some debate in the UK, following the killing of MP Sir David Amess last week, around whether Covid lockdown conditions have led to a rise in online extremism and social media abuse. We’ve got two pieces this morning looking at slightly different angles on this debate.

First up, our defence and security editor Dan Sabbagh, who writes:

Eighteen months of global lockdowns have led to growing engagement in a toxic online cocktail of extremist material ranging from terrorist content to conspiracy theories and disinformation, experts warn.

Jacob Davey from the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD) said studies had already shown “there has been a proliferation of harmful and troubling activity online” during the pandemic, with an impact that is impossible to predict.

Last year, the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) said over 7% more pieces of suspected terrorism content had been reported to them during 2020 compared with the year before, reflecting global trends.

Read more here: Pandemic has spurred engagement in online extremism, say experts

Related: Pandemic has spurred engagement in online extremism, say experts

My colleague Dan Milmo brings us this, on whether lockdowns have helped fuel online hate. He reports:

The Report Harmful Content platform, run by the UK Safer Internet Centre, reported a 225% increase in online hate speech incidents in the UK last year.

According to Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a US- and UK-based campaign group, the pandemic has given an edge to the existing culture of online abuse and hate associated with social media and video-sharing platforms. “It’s just a little bit nastier than ever before,” says Ahmed.

He says coronavirus has enhanced a link between “disgust sensitivity” and xenophobia, whereby a sense of disgust – triggered by disease, for instance – makes people find their own group more attractive and those outside it less so. “The pandemic has driven all types of movements which are based on protection of identity groups, those groups people feel kinship to.” Pointing to the US, he adds: “If you look at the surge in rightwing, authoritarian identity movements, that has been really, really stark.”

Read more here: ‘Nastier than ever’: have Covid lockdowns helped fuel online hate?

Related: ‘Nastier than ever’: have Covid lockdowns helped fuel online hate?

 

Secretary of state for international trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s appearance on Sky News in the UK this morning was dominated by talk of boilers and heat pumps and the cost of net zero homes, but she was also asked about the UK’s Covid booster jab programme. She was told that uptake was low and was asked, “Why do you think it is, and what are you going to do about it?”

I can tell you what she said in reply, although it wasn’t really much in the way of an answer to that question. Trevelyan said:

So we’ve seen I think over 3 million take-up for this jab already, and children, of course, through schools are getting theirs. There’s more announcements this week to help boost that process. But I think really importantly the booster jab for Covid is one that we are encouraging people to take. I just had actually a text yesterday from my doctor encouraging me to go and have mine. Six months after your second jab, that you will have had earlier in the year, you have the opportunity to come forward, and of course a flu jab as well. So we’re encouraging all those who are vulnerable, anyone like me who’s over 50, please do make sure that you get your booster jab to help make sure that we are able to continue living in the new normal we are able to do as a result of incredible vaccine programme that we’ve rolled out.

The minister mentioned schools in that answer, which hadn’t been part of the question. She did not address the figures that emerged yesterday that showed that take-up of a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine among young teenagers is below 10% in just over a third of the main local authorities in England.

 

It is worth noting, while countries such as Poland, Ukraine and Russia appear to be experiencing Covid surges, the number of new cases recorded are far lower than those being recorded in the UK. As this chart showed last week, the UK is an outlier in western Europe for case numbers.

According to the Johns Hopkins University Covid dashboard, these are the 10 province/state/dependencies with the highest numbers of new cases in the last 28 days, with England way out in front.

  1. England, UK – 852,535 (cases in the last 28 days)
  2. Kerala, India – 330,163
  3. Texas, US – 235,415
  4. California – 174,536
  5. Ohio – 147,381
  6. Florida, US – 135,399
  7. New York, US – 134,080
  8. Pennsylvania, US – 130,399
  9. Moscow, Russia – 121,988
  10. Michigan, US – 111,210

Czech Republic records highest level of daily cases since April

The Czech Republic is embroiled in a political crisis with the ill-health of far-right president Miloš Zeman coinciding with a general election, and it is also seeing rising Covid numbers.

Robert Muller reports from Prague for Reuters that the Czech Republic detected 2,521 new cases of Covid yesterday, the highest daily tally since late April.

The government has opted not to tighten anti-epidemic measures, focusing on vaccination instead as data shows that most of those infected have not been inoculated. The country of 10.7 million has fully vaccinated 6.03 million people.

The daily count reported for Monday is almost double the reported number for the same day last week. Hospitalisations rose to 544, the highest number since the end of May, but still a fraction of the numbers in March, when the last wave of the pandemic swept over the country.

Over the past seven days, 54 people died in connection with Covid-19, more than in the whole of September.

To put those figures into a UK context, the UK has 7,097 people in hospital and has recorded 869 deaths and 309,013 cases in the last seven days.

Bulgaria, with low vaccination rates, reports highest daily case count since March

While we are looking at developments in the east of Europe, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia has the latest for Reuters on the situation in Bulgaria, which also appears to be worsening.

Bulgaria reported 4,979 new cases today, the highest daily count since 24 March, as it battles the more contagious Delta variant.

Health ministry data showed that 214 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours, according to the figures, bringing the official death toll since the start of the pandemic to 22,488.

Bulgaria has seen a rise in new infections since the start of September. There is a high level of distrust in vaccines and only 24% of the adult population are fully inoculated, compared with an average of 74% in the EU.

More than 6,200 people were in hospitals, with 537 in intensive care units, overwhelming the health system.

The health ministry is said to be considering new restrictions or the introduction of a health pass to limit the spread of the infection.

 

Last week, testing at a private Covid lab in Wolverhampton was halted, after the UK Health Security Agency found tens of thousands of people may have been falsely given a negative PCR result. But since the start of September, scientists had been alerted to strange patterns in the testing data which suggested something was out of the ordinary. In this week’s edition of our Science Weekly podcast, Anand Jagatia speaks to Dr Kit Yates, a mathematical biologist, about why it took so long for these errors to be traced back to the lab, and what the consequences could be.

You can listen to it here: Covid-19 – how 43,000 false negative tests were uncovered as wrong – podcast

Related: Covid-19: v | podcast

 

Hello, it is Martin Belam in London taking over from Samantha Lock in Sydney. The UK media round is going to feature secretary of state for international trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan this morning. I’ll bring you any Covid lines that emerge from that as the government warns of a challenging winter ahead.

 

Hi and thanks for joining us as we run through all the key developments surrounding the Covid-19 crisis.

I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be giving you a rundown of the latest news, reporting from Sydney, Australia.

As vaccination rates continue to rise, the world looks towards a future outside of lockdowns and increased global mobility. However, some countries have seen rises in cases and shifts in government strategy as the Covid landscape continues to change.

After months of Covid-zero, New Zealand recorded its highest daily Covid-19 case count since the pandemic began, with 94 new infections reported. Younger New Zealanders have been particularly hardest hit with the highest number of cases in the under 39 age bracket.

Changes are also afoot with vaccine booster shot advice in the US as the country moves further towards a new “Covid normal”.

  • UK government warns of “challenging” winter months ahead in battle against Covid as cases continue to rise. Epidemiologist and government adviser Prof Andrew Hayward said the situation was “concerning” and there was “huge potential for the NHS to come under a lot of pressure”.
  • A study found the Valneva Covid vaccine may be as effective as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine uses inactivated Sars-CoV-2 virus and can be stored in fridge. Like the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the Valneva jab was found to stimulate responses from other components of the immune system, including T-cells. However, the Valneva jab gave rise to T-cells able to respond not only to the coronavirus spike protein, but to two other key proteins.
  • Russia set another new record daily caseload, recording 34,325 new cases in the last 24 hours. That’s up just slightly on the previous day’s 34,303. There were 998 further deaths. The population of Russia is around 144 million people. Despite the rising cases, Moscow continues to see a busy nightlife.
  • UK government ordered to reveal firms awarded “VIP” access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the Covid pandemic, in a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  • UK Covid cases near 50,000 in one day after steadily increasing through October and reaching 49,156 on Monday, the highest reported since 17 July and a 16% rise in new cases over the past week.
  • UK private laboratory is under investigation for potentially issuing more than 40,000 false negative Covid tests was not fully accredited to perform the work, contrary to assurances made by health officials.
  • The EU has exported over 1bn vaccine doses worldwide, according to head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leye.
  • Colin Powell, former US secretary of state, dies at 84 of Covid complications. Powell played a pivotal role in attempting to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

FDA to allow ‘mix and match’ of Covid-19 booster shots

The US Food and Drug Administration is planning to allow the mixing and matching of Covid-19 booster shots, the New York Times reports, citing people familiar with the agency’s plans.

In September, the FDA authorised a booster dose of Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech’s two-shot Covid-19 vaccine for those aged 65 and older and some high-risk Americans.

The regulator’s advisory panel has also backed the use of Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine booster shots.

The government would not recommend one shot over another, and it might note that using the same vaccine as a booster when possible is preferable, the NYT said, citing people familiar with the agency’s plans.

US health officials have been under pressure to authorise the additional shots after the White House announced plans in August for a widespread booster campaign pending approvals from the FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A study by the National Institutes of Health last week showed people who got Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine as a first shot had a stronger immune response when boosted with vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

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