The government has created some 1,200 new coronavirus testing sites in workplaces amid economic disruption caused by high infection levels.
It comes in response to the “pingdemic” which has seen hundreds of thousands of people told to self-isolate by the NHS app, as the Delta variant of Covid-19 ravages the country. New categories of worker who can submit to daily tests instead of quarantining include bin men, police officers, firefighters and supermarket depot staff.
Meanwhile, NHS bosses have warned that the service is facing pressure similar to that seen at the height of the January coronavirus wave. There is record demand in emergency departments and the number of Covid-19 patients has hit its highest level since March.
Tokyo reports record daily Covid cases as virus spreads in Olympic host city
Tokyo reported a record daily number of Covid cases on Tuesday as the virus spreads in the Olympic host city, writes Tom Batchelor.
The number of new infections hit a record high of 2,848 on day 4 of the games, official figures showed.
Jon Sharman27 July 2021 08:58
Travel rules for trips overseas may change, says minister
Britons considering a trip abroad this summer should be aware that “things may change” in terms of the rules for travel, a government minister has warned.
Kit Malthouse was speaking amid speculation that popular destinations with rising Covid-19 infections like Italy, Spain and Greece could be added to the “amber plus” list requiring self-isolation on return to England – while restrictions on travel from France could be eased as fears about the Beta variant of coronavirus decline, writes Andrew Woodcock.
Jon Sharman27 July 2021 08:42
Germany to tighten entry rules
Germany is preparing to tighten requirements for people entering the country by making travellers from any country provide a negative coronavirus test in an effort to curb a rapid rise in cases, the Funke media group reported on Tuesday.
The health ministry wants “an expansion of test requirements upon entry as quickly as possible”, the newspapers cited a document as saying.
Until now, only air passengers and those entering from high-risk areas have to provide a negative coronavirus test unless they are fully vaccinated or have recovered.
In future, health minister Jens Spahn wants to make a test compulsory regardless of where travellers are coming from and the means of transport they use, according to the reports. It was unclear whether the new testing requirements would also apply to fully vaccinated people.
Figures from Tuesday showed new coronavirus infections in Germany had risen by 1,545, with 38 new deaths.
Additional reporting by Reuters
Jon Sharman27 July 2021 08:32
Exclusive: Pingdemic leaves nurseries in ‘chaos’ with many forced to suspend provision
Nurseries and childminders are in “chaos” with many forced to temporarily suspend their provision due to the sector being excluded from coronavirus self-isolation exemptions, services have warned.
The government recently announced a list of “critical sectors” in which workers can be exempt from self-isolating after coming into contact with someone with Covid but early years staff were not included in the list, writes Maya Oppenheim.
In a letter to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, seen exclusively by The Independent, three leading early years and childcare sector organisations in the UK warned: “The recent spike in the number of adults being ‘pinged’ by the NHS app, or asked to self-isolate after coming into contact with a positive case, is having a significant impact on many settings’ ability to support the families who rely on them.”
Jon Sharman27 July 2021 08:22
Exclusive: ‘Confused messaging’ around Oxford vaccine helping fuel Covid spread, says scientist behind jab
Misinformation about the effectiveness of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab has helped fuel the spread of Covid-19 – and still risks undermining the fight against rising infections, one of the scientists behind the vaccine has warned.
French president Emmanuel Macron wrongly claimed the jab was “quasi-ineffective” for over-65s earlier this year, while misleading reports from Germany said it was only 8 per cent effective in this age group.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said that “confused messaging” about the vaccine in protecting against Beta and other variants threatens to erode confidence in the jab, at a time when millions of people around the world remain unvaccinated, writes Samuel Lovett.
Jon Sharman27 July 2021 08:03
Australia’s Victoria state to ease lockdown
Australia’s Victoria state is to end a strict lockdown after reducing the spread of Covid-19, officials said on Tuesday.
Most restrictions imposed on 15 July will be removed from Wednesday after just 10 infections of people already in quarantine were recorded.
Meanwhile, neighbouring New South Wales faces an extension of restrictions after daily new cases spiked to a 16-month peak.
More than half of Australia’s near-26 million population has been in lockdown in recent weeks after an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant took hold in the New South Wales capital of Sydney and spread to three states.
New South Wales reported 172 Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, up from 145 a day earlier, with at least 60 spending time in the community while infectious.
New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said a decision whether to extend the five-week lockdown would be taken this week. But with less than 13 per cent of the state’s population fully vaccinated, curbs are expected to remain.
“We know we’ve put in the hard yards for five weeks and we don’t want to waste all the good work that we’ve done by opening too early and then having the virus spread again,” Ms Berejiklian told a media conference.
Additional reporting by Reuters
Jon Sharman27 July 2021 07:44
Pressure on NHS ‘hits January levels’
Ministers have been warned that the health service is under similar levels of pressure as at the height of the pandemic in January, as rising Covid-19 admissions take their toll, writes Shaun Lintern.
NHS leaders say a combination of pressures in the NHS have resulted in hospitals being short of thousands of beds, with record demand in A&E departments, and the number of Covid patients in hospital rising to more than 5,000 in England for the first time since March.
NHS Providers, which represents hospital and ambulance trusts, say the health service is also facing unprecedented uncertainty over funding, with its budget still not finalised for the second half of the year and concerns growing that the government may start to restrict spending on health as the Covid crisis recedes.
Jon Sharman27 July 2021 07:25
More workers exempted from self-isolation in bid to end ‘pingdemic’
Binmen, prison warders and soldiers have been added to the list of key workers who can avoid self-isolation if they are “pinged” after coming into contact with Covid-positive individuals, writes Andrew Woodcock.
Ministers agreed to extend the list of those eligible to dodge 10-day quarantine by taking daily Covid tests after complaints that the so-called “pingdemic” risks bringing vital services to a halt across the country.
The 800 testing sites announced last week for double-vaccinated workers in the food industry, transport, police, fire and border officials are to be expanded to 2,000, allowing thousands more people to continue working after being identified as contacts by the NHS app or the test and trace service.
Jon Sharman27 July 2021 07:24
India’s remote northeast sees spike in weekly cases
India’s northeastern states have seen a spike in weekly Covid-19 cases, the latest health ministry data shows.
Four out of seven states in the northeast — except Assam — witnessed more than a 16 per cent increase in coronavirus infections last week.
One of the states, Mizoram, has seen a spike of about 56 per cent in one week.
Kerala in south India and now the northeastern region are among the only places that are seeing a spurt in Covid-19 infections. Everywhere else, the numbers have dramatically gone down.
On Saturday, fresh data revealed that Kerala had seen more than 110,000 new cases in just one week.
On Monday, for the first time in more than 130 days, India registered less than 30,000 Covid-19 cases across the country.
Maroosha Muzaffar27 July 2021 07:13
Only 10% of eligible Indians inoculated so far
India’s health ministry says the country has now administered about 440 million vaccinations since January, when the vaccination programme was first rolled out across the country.
While it’s an impressive number, it still means that only about 10 per cent of India’s eligible population has been fully vaccinated to date.
Data from the government’s Co-WIN platform suggests that about 26 per cent of India’s eligible population is partially vaccinated — i.e., they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The health ministry on Monday also said that Maharashtra — in western India — became the first state to vaccinate more than 10 million people with both doses of the vaccine.
Experts have said India needs to dramatically ramp up its vaccination numbers if it wants to achieve the target of inoculating the entire adult population by 31 December this year.
Maroosha Muzaffar27 July 2021 06:53