Covid: UK records 44,932 new cases and 145 deaths; US set to partly lift travel restrictions – as it happened

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Covid: UK records 44,932 new cases and 145 deaths; US set to partly lift travel restrictions – as it happened

The Guardian

Summary

Here is a round-up of today’s top coronavirus news stories from the UK and around the world:

  • The UK recorded a further 44,932 coronavirus cases and 145 new deaths from the virus today.
  • The US will lift restrictions for international travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 on 8 November, a White House official said on Friday, allowing people from dozens of countries to reunite with their families and take leisure trips to the US for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Ministers are facing questions about the Covid testing company linked to suspected wrong PCR results, as it emerged its sister company in the UK is being investigated over travel testing failures and a related US firm sent out used DNA test kits filled with other customers’ saliva.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech have requested their coronavirus vaccine be licensed for children aged five to 11 across the European Union.
  • A panel of advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have voted to recommend the authorisation of a second dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine for people aged 18 and older at least two months after the first dose.
  • Australia’s capital Canberra has come out of lockdown with authorities reporting more than 99% of the population aged 12 and older having at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.
  • Two of the three largest hospitals in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, stopped accepting non-urgent patients due to an influx of Covid cases, a hospital executive director said on Friday.
  • European Union (EU) agencies are launching a year-long operation to crack down on fraud targeting the bloc’s multibillion-euro Covid pandemic recovery fund, EU police agency Europol announced today.
  • Russia has again set a new record for the number of coronavirus-related deaths, with 999 fatalities recorded in the last 24 hours. There was also a record number of new cases recorded – 32,196. This is only the second time that Russia has officially recorded more than 30,000 new cases in a single day.
  • In France, coronavirus tests are no longer free for unvaccinated adults unless they are prescribed by a doctor.
  • The prevalence of Covid infections in England increased to about one in 60 people in the week ending 9 October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today.
  • European Union (EU) countries have sent Covid drugs and equipment to treat patients in Romania, which is facing a surge in infections among unvaccinated people.
  • South Africa will start vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 17 next week using the Pfizer vaccine, the country’s health minister said today.
  • Australia’s outbound travel ban will be lifted from 1 November in a move triggered by New South Wales announcing an end to quarantine for fully vaccinated arrivals.
  • Saudi Arabia will ease Covid curbs from 17 October in response to a sharp drop in daily infections, State News Agency said, quoting an interior ministry official.
  • South Korea said it would lift stringent anti-coronavirus curbs on social gatherings next week, as the country prepares to switch to a “living with Covid-19” strategy amid rising vaccination levels.

Well, that’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, and indeed the blog for today. Thanks for following along and have a good evening.

Remember you can catch up with the latest coronavirus coverage here.

US FDA advisers vote in favour of J&J vaccine booster

A panel of advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have voted to recommend the authorisation of a second dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine for people aged 18 and older at least two months after the first dose.

After hearing presentations on booster options from J&J and FDA scientists, members of the advisory panel had asked if the company’s vaccine should actually be considered a two-dose shot for everyone, like the other Covid vaccines authorised for use in the United States.

They pointed to lower levels of virus neutralising antibodies the single shot provokes compared to two-shot vaccines using messenger RNA technology from Moderna and Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech SE .

Also in the US, the Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot has taken her fight with the head of the city’s police officers union to court.

She is arguing that his call for officers to ignore the order to report their Covid vaccination status is illegal, the Associated Press reported.

The mayor said in a statement that the city’s law department filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court for injunctive relief against Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, who she accused of “engaging in, supporting and encouraging work stoppage or strike.”

Lightfoot asked the court to prohibit the union and its officers from “engaging in any concerted refusal to submit vaccination status information” to the city’s portal.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference in Chicago.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference in Chicago. Photograph: Ashlee Rezin Garcia/AP

She also asked it to order Catanzara to stop urging members to refuse to provide their vaccination status information and to “issue a retraction and disavowal of his ... directives to FOP members that they refuse to submit vaccination status information.”

Lightfoot said that by urging union members to not report their Covid by Friday’s deadline, Catanzara put the public in danger.

Updated

A New Mexico judge has denied a request by dozens of scientists and others at Los Alamos National Laboratory who sought to block a vaccine mandate.

Workers risk being fired if they don’t comply with the lab’s Friday afternoon deadline, the Associated Press reported.

The case comes as New Mexico extends its mask mandate for indoor spaces.

While the vaccination rate among adults in New Mexico hovers around 71.5%, the rate among lab employees is much higher.

Still, 114 workers sued, saying the mandate violates their constitutional rights and that lab management has created a hostile work environment.

Attorneys for the lab argued that being vaccinated is a condition of working there.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Photograph: AP

The US will lift restrictions for international travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 on 8 November, a White House official said on Friday, allowing people from dozens of countries to reunite with their families and take leisure trips to the US for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz said international air and land travel would be permitted for vaccinated travellers on 8 November.

“This policy is guided by public health, stringent and consistent,” Munoz said in a tweet.

Early last year, the US banned visitors from more than 30 countries, including China, the UK and most of the EU, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 20 September, the White House said it would lift these restrictions in November, but had not said what date it would lift them.

Countries affected by the restrictions and the travel industry have been lobbying the US for months to make it easier for people to travel between the countries.

Passengers are screened for fever prior to boarding a Delta flight from JFK International Airport to Tel Aviv.
Passengers are screened for fever prior to boarding a Delta flight from JFK International Airport to Tel Aviv. Photograph: Nir Alon/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

US travel industry stocks rose on Friday morning in response to the news, with air carrier American Airlines up 1.9%, hotel group Marriott International up 2.2% and the cruise line company Carnival Corp up 1.3%, according to the Reuters news agency.

Under current policy, only US citizens, their immediate families, green card holders and those with national interest exemptions (NIE) can travel into the US if they have been in the restricted countries in the past two weeks.

After the restrictions are lifted on 8 November, foreign travellers entering the US by air will have to provide a recent negative Covid-19 test and proof of vaccination before boarding the flight.

Updated

Italy reported 42 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, up from 40 the previous day, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 2,732 from 2,668.

Italy has registered 131,503 deaths linked to Covid since the outbreak in February last year.

It has the second highest toll in Europe behind Britain and the ninth highest in the world. The country has reported 4.71 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid - not including those in intensive care - stood at 2,445 on Friday, down from 2,479 a day earlier.

There were 20 new admissions to intensive care units, decreasing from 22 on Thursday. The total number of patients in intensive care with Covid fell to 357 from a previous 359.

Some 506,043 tests for Covid were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 324,614, the health ministry said.

Updated

The US Embassy in Pakistan has announced Washington is sending an additional 9.6 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to Islamabad in partnership with the COVAX global vaccine initiative.

According to an embassy statement, the latest donation brings the total number of Covid vaccines donated by the US government to Pakistan to more than 25 million. It said:

These Pfizer vaccines are part of the 500 million Pfizer doses the United States purchased this summer to deliver to 92 countries worldwide, including Pakistan.

It added that the United States is the single largest contributor supporting COVAX efforts toward global Covid vaccines access, the Associated Press reported.

A health worker prepares a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Islamabad, Pakistan.
A health worker prepares a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photograph: Rahmat Gul/AP

The latest development comes amid a steady decline in the fourth wave of coronavirus in Pakistan which has reported 28,228 fatalities from coronavirus among 12,62,771 cases since last year.

Pfizer and BioNTech have requested their coronavirus vaccine be licensed for children aged five to 11 across the European Union.

If authorised, it would be the first opportunity for younger children in Europe to be get immunised against Covid, the Associated Press reported.

In a statement on Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech said they had submitted data to the European Medicines Agency, including late-stage results from a study testing their Covid vaccine in more than 2,200 children aged six months to 11 years, using a lower dose than what’s normally given to adults.

The companies said those results showed a “strong immune response” in the children and that the vaccine was also found to be safe.

Pfizer company logo at Pfizers headquarters in New York.
Pfizer company logo at Pfizers headquarters in New York. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

There are currently no Covid vaccines licensed for use in children younger than 12 in Europe or North America. The shots made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are authorised for children 12 and older in the European Union.

Earlier this month, Pfizer and BioNTech asked the US Food and Drug Administration to green light their vaccine for kids aged five to 11.

Ministers are facing questions about the Covid testing company linked to suspected wrong PCR results, as it emerged its sister company in the UK is being investigated over travel testing failures and a related US firm sent out used DNA test kits filled with other customers’ saliva.

Immensa Health Clinic is under scrutiny after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) found at least 43,000 people may have been wrongly given a negative Covid test result, leading to the suspension of operations at its privately run laboratory in Wolverhampton.

It followed an investigation into reports of people receiving negative PCR test results after previously testing positive on a lateral flow device, many of them in the south-west and Wales.

Immensa was founded in May 2020 by Andrea Riposati, a former management consultant and owner of a DNA testing company, just three months before it was awarded a £119m PCR testing contract by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). He is the sole listed owner and board director.

Riposati is also the founder of Dante Labs, which is under investigation in the UK by the Competition and Markets Authority over its PCR travel tests.

The watchdog said it would look into concerns that Dante Labs may be treating customers unfairly by not delivering PCR tests or results on time or at all, failing to respond to complaints or provide proper customer service, refusing or delaying refunds when requested and using terms and conditions that may unfairly limit consumers’ rights.

UK records 44,932 new Covid cases and 145 deaths today

The UK recorded a further 44,932 coronavirus cases and 145 new deaths from the virus today.

The data released by the government on Friday represents a slight decline when compared to yesterday’s figures.

On Thursday, there were 45,066 new infections registered, as well as 157 new deaths.

Australia’s capital Canberra has come out of lockdown with authorities reporting more than 99% of the population aged 12 and older having at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

Sydney came out of lockdown on Monday, with only 73.5% of the population aged 16 and older who were fully vaccinated allowed to enjoy the new freedoms including going to restaurants, hairdressers and non-essential shopping.

But the new freedoms in Canberra from Friday apply to all because of the extraordinarily high vaccination rate, Reuters reported.

People wearing masks are seen in a shopping mall in Canberra, Australia.
People wearing masks are seen in a shopping mall in Canberra, Australia. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

By Friday, 76% of the population aged 12 and older were fully vaccinated.

New South Wales state, which includes Sydney, has announced it will end hotel quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international travellers from 1 November in a major relaxation in pandemic restrictions.

Updated

About one in 60 people in England had Covid-19 last week, according to estimates published on Friday.

The prevalence of infection was up for a third straight week, having been at about one in 70 the previous week, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

At the peak of the second wave in early January, about one in 50 people were estimated to have coronavirus. The latest estimate of one in 60 equates to about 890,000 people.

While the government has continued to insist it will rely on vaccines rather than lockdowns to navigate a difficult winter, some experts have expressed concern about the rise.

Prevalence was highest once again in secondary school pupils, prompting Prof Christina Pagel, the director of University College London’s clinical operational research unit, to reiterate criticism of preparations for the return of children to schools. An estimated 8.1% of all secondary pupils were infected, up from 6.93% the previous week.

“When are we going to say enough is enough and protect kids?” tweeted Pagel, who co-authored a piece in the Guardian last week that noted countries such as France and Germany were using extra measures as part of a “vaccine-plus strategy” designed to keep cases and deaths low.

Cases have also increased among people in England over 50, who were among the first to receive vaccines and are now being given booster shots.

Updated

Saudi Arabia will ease Covid curbs from 17 October in response to a sharp drop in daily infections, State News Agency said, quoting an interior ministry official.

The government will lift social distancing measures and allow full-capacity attendance at the country’s two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina, the agency added.

Pilgrims keeping social distance and wearing face masks, perform farewell Tawaf around the holy Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, after completing their extended Haj, “Haj Al Kabeer”, during the annual Haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Pilgrims keeping social distance and wearing face masks around the holy Kaaba in the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters

Updated

The Philippines started vaccinating young people aged 12-17 against coronavirus on Friday in the hope that it will allow schools to safely reopen.

It follows many other countries in expanding its immunisation drive to minors and authorities have planned a pilot run of a return to face-to-face classes in up to 120 schools next month, Reuters reported.

The Philippines was among 17 countries globally where schools have been closed for the entirety of the pandemic, according to a September report by the United Nations children’s agency Unicef.

Teachers prepare learning materials for residents coming to pick them up for their children studying at home, at the closed Daraetan Elementary School.
Teachers prepare learning materials for residents coming to pick them up for their children studying at home, at the closed Daraetan Elementary School. Photograph: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

“For me, I’m looking forward to getting back to face-to-face classes in the future,” said Gyle Fernandez, 17, one of more than 1,000 children who received their vaccinations on Friday.

The Philippines is prioritising 1.2 million children with existing health conditions and has approved two vaccine brands for minors.

A Russian firm has started trials of the Betuvax-CoV-2 coronavirus vaccine, the second vaccine of its kind produced by a private Russian company.

The first and second phase trials, held by the Human Stem Cells Institute, will involve 170 people based in the cities of St Petersburg and Perm and are expected to run until September next year, TASS news agency reported.

Biocad, another private company, began trials for its own vaccine against Covid last month, Interfax reported.

Russia has so far approved vaccines developed by three state institutes, including the two-dose Sputnik V.

Russia was quick to roll out Sputnik V when the pandemic struck last year, but take-up has been slow, with many Russians citing distrust of the authorities and fear of new medical products.

England’s Covid weekly reproduction “R” number was estimated between 0.9 and 1.1, the UK Health Security Agency said on Friday, with the estimated daily growth rate also unchanged.

An R number between 0.9 and 1.1 means that for every 10 people infected, they will on average infect between 9 and 11 other people, Reuters reported.

The daily growth of infections was estimated between -1% and +2%, also unchanged.

US to 'partly lift travel restrictions' from 8 November

In the US, the White House is set to announce later today that it will lift travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nationals from more than 30 countries.

It will take effect from 8 November at land borders and for air travel, a White House official said. Curbs on non-essential travellers have been in place since March 2020 to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported.

The White House announced on 20 September that the United States would lift restrictions on such air travelers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil and most of Europe in early November.

It did not give a precise date.

Two of the three largest hospitals in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, stopped accepting non-urgent patients due to an influx of Covid cases, a hospital executive director said on Friday.

Several regional hospitals around Vilnius were also full, said Jolita Jakutiene, executive director of the city’s largest hospital, during a televised press conference. Most of the Covid patients were not vaccinated, and were above the age of 30, she added.

“The situation is critical. The Covid-19 patients numbers are rising every day,” the head of the city municipality’s health department, Viktorija Turauskyte, told Reuters.

People wearing face masks walk into and out of a store in Vilnius, Lithuania.
People wearing face masks walk into and out of a store in Vilnius, Lithuania. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Around 71% of Lithuanian adults have been fully vaccinated so far, close to the European Union average of 74%, EU health figures showed. The country has reported the worst infection numbers in the EU in the fortnight up to Sunday, with 864 new cases per 10,000 people.

Updated

About 60% of schools in England will fail to host Covid vaccinations by the government’s target date later this month, according to a survey of headteachers that reveals the virus is continuing to “cause educational havoc”, with staff and student absences.

A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders found that only two out of every five secondary schools will have had a visit from vaccination teams by the October half-term break.

The survey also revealed that 95% of headteachers said teaching has been affected by pupil and staff absences, with nearly a third rating the impact as severe. Ninety-three school leaders reported pupil absences of 10% or higher, while 63 schools said 10% or more of their staff were absent for Covid-related seasons.

“It is extremely frustrating that the vaccination programme which offers some hope of salvation is apparently beset with delays and is running behind schedule,” said Geoff Barton, the ASCL’s general secretary. He added:

We don’t blame healthcare teams for this as we are sure they are working flat out. However, it is incredibly remiss of the government not to have ensured that there was sufficient capacity in place to deliver this vital programme at the scale and speed required.

Barton also said an “additional difficulty” for schools was having to deal with anti-vaccination protesters. Thirteen per cent of the 526 eligible schools reported seeing protesters outside their school.

“This is at best incredibly unhelpful, and at worst very distressing, and we appeal to those concerned to see sense and stop this nonsense,” Barton added.

The Department for Education has said that in schools that have been visited, uptake rates were around 35% of pupils.

Updated

Rishi Sunak is set to confirm that the “pause” on UK public sector pay that affected 2.6 million teachers, police and civil servants will be lifted in April, as the economy bounces back from Covid.

The chancellor imposed the freeze last November and it came into force in April. At the time, he said it was unfair for public sector workers to get a rise while many of their private sector counterparts were being furloughed or losing their jobs.

With wages in many sectors rising, and the prime minister using his party conference speech to highlight the prospects for a “high-wage economy”, Treasury sources said that argument no longer applied.

Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Photograph: MI News/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

However, each Whitehall department will have to fund any pay increases from within its own budget, and TUC analysis shows that many public sector workers have seen their pay fall significantly in real terms after years of tight settlements. The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said:

In the face of a looming cost-of-living crisis the government must increase departmental budgets so that every public sector worker gets a meaningful, real-terms pay increase. If ministers don’t give departments the funding to raise pay, they are not ending the public sector pay freeze.

Recent polling carried out for the TUC by YouGov found that 27% of public sector workers said the government’s pay policy had made them more likely to quit.

European Union (EU) agencies are launching a year-long operation to crack down on fraud targeting the bloc’s multibillion-euro Covid pandemic recovery fund, EU police agency Europol announced today.

Operation Sentinel will coordinate the fight against fraud, tax evasion, excise fraud, corruption, embezzlement, misappropriation and money laundering and and boost the exchange of information and intelligence. The Associated Press reported:

It involves the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, EU judicial cooperation agency Eurojust, the European Anti-Fraud Office and 19 member states and comes as nations begin unlocking funds for projects that are intended to put Europe on more solid economic footing while also making it greener and more digitally advanced.

Europol has repeatedly warned about organized crime gangs seeking to cash in on the global pandemic in ways ranging from selling counterfeit Covid-19 tests to hacking computers as employees work from home. Now, as billions of euros are poured into economic recovery plans, the EU is ratcheting up its vigilance.

In a statement, Europol said:

Recent experience from the evolution of the criminal landscape during the Covid-19 pandemic suggests these efforts will attract criminal groups active in the European Union and beyond.

Criminals have shown themselves to be quick in adapting to the pandemic and its impact, and they are using every opportunity to maximize illegal profits.

Europol’s executive director Catherine de Bolle said that criminal threats to pandemic recovery funds are “a direct threat to the financial well-being of the European Union and its people. Operation Sentinel will strengthen our joint response to fraud and protect the reconstruction of our communities.”

In the United States, people in Washington state will need to either provide proof of Covid vaccination or a negative test to attend large events from 15 November.

The order announced by Governor Jay Inslee applies to indoor events with 1,000 or more attendees and outdoor events that have more than 10,000 attendees.

Events will be required to verify full vaccination status or a negative test within the last 72 hours for all attendees age 12 or older.

The governor’s office said the requirement applied to ticketed or registered events like conventions, concerts, sporting events and fairs.

Religious services or events that are held on K-12 school grounds are exempt from the order.

Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, talks to reporters in Olympia, Washington.
Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, talks to reporters in Olympia, Washington. Photograph: Rachel La Corte/AP

Updated

South Korea will partially ease Covid restrictions in its capital Seoul next week, it has been reported.

The deputy health minister, Lee Ki-il, said the limit on private social gatherings in the greater Seoul area would be expanded to eight people if at least four of the participants are fully vaccinated and that the rules will be employed regardless of the time of day.

Seoul and the nearby metropolitan areas have been under the country’s strongest social distancing measures short of a lockdown since July, which limited gatherings to six people after 6pm if at least four were fully vaccinated.

Gatherings between people who aren’t fully vaccinated had been capped to two but Lee said that would be expanded to four starting on Monday, Associated Press reported.

A woman skateboards on a shopping street amid social distancing rules in Seoul, South Korea
A woman skateboards on a shopping street amid social distancing rules in Seoul, South Korea. Photograph: Heo Ran/Reuters

Lee said professional sports teams in the region would be able to sell 30% of the seats in outdoor venues and 20% of the seats in indoor venues to fans who are fully vaccinated.

The country confirmed 1,684 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, its 101st day of over 1,000, with most of the infections reported in the capital area. About 62% of a population of more than 51 million have been fully vaccinated.

Updated

Sri Lanka is vaccinating 18- and 19-year-olds against the coronavirus as it expands its inoculation programme to students.

After beginning with older people, Sri Lanka has now vaccinated 57% of its 22 million population, Associated Press reported.

Vaccinations with the Pfizer shot began on Friday for about 24,000 people in the 18-19 age group in the capital Colombo and suburbs. Officials say jabs in Colombo will be completed within 21 days and they will start giving doses in other parts of the country next week.

Sri Lanka lifted a six-week lockdown on 1 October after Covid cases and related deaths declined. But schools remain closed, unessential trips outside the home are restricted, public gatherings are banned and there are restrictions on transport.

Sri Lankan school students get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Colombo.
Sri Lankan school students get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Colombo. Photograph: Chamila Karunarathne/EPA

At the peak, Sri Lanka was counting 3,000 daily infections and more than 200 deaths. Daily cases are now below 1,000 and deaths under 100. The Indian Ocean island nation has reported more than 529,000 cases and 13,408 deaths.

Updated

In France, coronavirus tests are no longer free for unvaccinated adults unless they are prescribed by a doctor.

While tests remain free for vaccinated adults and all children under 18, adults who have not gotten their shots will have to pay 22-45 euros to get tested as of Friday.

The government introduced the change as a complement to the Covid passes that have been required in France since the summer, the Associated Press reported.

To get a pass, people need to show proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or recent recovery from the virus.

The passes are required to visit tourist sites, for hospital visits and on domestic train trips and flights. The pass requirement, announced in July, helped boost France’s vaccination rate.

As of October 15, Covid-19 tests will no longer be free except on medical grounds or for those who have been vaccinated.
As of October 15, Covid-19 tests will no longer be free except on medical grounds or for those who have been vaccinated. Photograph: Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images

Over 49 million people, or about 74% of the population, are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in France. Everyone age 12 and older are eligible for shots.

An estimated 43,000 people may have been given wrong negative PCR Covid test results, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said this morning.

My colleague Jamie Grierson has put together a helpful Q&A about how this error occurred and what it means for people – please see below.

Updated

Covid prevalence levels in England at highest since January

The prevalence of Covid infections in England increased to about one in 60 people in the week ending 9 October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said today.

It means it is now at the highest level since January.

The ONS said prevalence of infections had risen for the third straight week, having been at one in 70 people the previous week.

Updated

EU sends drugs and equipment to Romania to tackle Covid crisis

European Union (EU) countries have sent Covid drugs and equipment to treat patients in Romania, which is facing a surge in infections among unvaccinated people.

In the first 10 days of October, one person has died from Covid every six minutes in the country, but vaccine scepticism remains high.

The European Commission said it had coordinated the shipment to Romania of 250 oxygen concentrators, crucial devices to boost the supply of medical oxygen which is needed to treat critically ill patients, Reuters reported.

Poland sent 50 of the 250 concentrators, while the remainder came from an EU stockpile. The EU has also coordinated the shipment of 5,200 vials of monoclonal antibodies from Italy to Romania, the commission said in a press release. Monoclonal antibodies are an experimental treatment for Covid patients.

Patients lie on beds in an emergency room, turned into a Covid-19 unit due the high number of cases, at the Bagdasar-Arseni hospital in Bucharest, Romania
Patients lie on beds in an emergency room, turned into a Covid-19 unit due the high number of cases, at the Bagdasar-Arseni hospital in Bucharest, Romania. Photograph: Andreea Alexandru/AP

The EU will also ship eight additional oxygen concentrators and 15 ventilators from Denmark. Ventilators help seriously ill Covid patients to breathe.

Only about one third of Romania’s adult population have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, according to EU public data.

Updated

In Denmark, health authorities will start inviting citizens to receive a third vaccination shot against Covid next week.

The health minister, Magnus Heunicke, said invitations will be sent out to everyone who received their second vaccination at least six-and-a-half months ago, Reuters reported.

The Nordic country began giving booster shots last month to residents at homes for elderly people and others at risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus.

Pop-up Covid-19 vaccination centre in the supermarket Bilka in Ishoej, Denmark.
Pop-up Covid-19 vaccination centre in the supermarket Bilka in Ishoej, Denmark. Photograph: Claus Bech/EPA

Denmark lifted its last coronavirus restrictions in September after vaccinating a large proportion of its population.

Updated

South Africa will start vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 17 next week using the Pfizer vaccine, the country’s health minister said today.

It comes as it looks to ramp up inoculations ahead of final year school exams, Reuters reported.

“This service will start on the 20 October to allow the necessary preparations on the EVDS (electronic vaccination data system) registration system and also other logistical preparations,” health minister Joe Phaahla said.

Last month, South Africa’s health regulator approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged 12 and older, as the continent’s worst-hit nation in terms of deaths and overall infections emerges from its third wave of the pandemic.

However, Phaahla said that on the advice of its vaccine advisory committee the government would only give teenagers a single shot of Pfizer’s normal two-shot regime due to concerns it may affect the heart.

“The timing of the second dose will be informed by further information on this rarely observed side-effect which has no permanent risk,” Phaahla said of cases of transient myocarditis.

Updated

The Welsh government has said about 4,000 Welsh residents may have been given inaccurate Covid test results.

The health minister, Eluned Morgan, said the majority of these tests are believed to have been taken by people in the Gwent and Cwm Taf Morgannwg areas of south Wales. Morgan said:

Anyone who had a test from 4 October and received a result from the affected laboratory will be contacted by NHS test and trace by text message and/or e-mail and advised if it was negative to book an appointment to be retested.

It will also advise that their close contacts who are symptomatic book a test. People who had a test processed at the laboratory between 8 September and 4 October will also be contacted and advised to get a test if they have symptoms.

Eluned Morgan, the Welsh health minister
Eluned Morgan, the Welsh health minister. Photograph: Chris Fairweather/Huw Evans/Rex/Shutterstock

She added:

My immediate concern is the information and support for the Welsh residents impacted and I have asked Public Health Wales to provide additional support and advice to the affected health boards. They will also be assessing the potential impact of this incident on the case rates and epidemiology reports for Wales.

Updated

Morning all, Tom Ambrose here ready to bring you all the big Covid news from the UK and abroad throughout today.

Let’s start with some news coming in from Italy this morning. Protests have been taking place as one of the most stringent anti-coronavirus measures in Europe went into effect today.

Italy is requiring all workers, from magistrates to maids, to show a health pass to get into their place of employment.

Police were out in force this morning and schools planned to end classes early. Meanwhile, embassies issued warnings of possible violence amid concerns that anti-vaccination demonstrations could turn violent, as they did in Rome last weekend.

Protests by port workers in Genoa and Trieste threatened to affect commercial activities, but early reports suggested the ports were operational. Protesters shouted “Liberta” (Freedom) in a largely peaceful demonstration in Florence.

Workers hold a banner during a protest in front of the Varco 4 meeting place for a demonstration organised by the Port Workers Coordination of the port of Trieste, north-eastern Italy.
Workers hold a banner during a protest in front of the Varco 4 meeting place for a demonstration organised by the Port Workers Coordination of the port of Trieste, north-eastern Italy. Photograph: Paolo Giovannini/EPA

The so-called “green pass” shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or of having recovered from Covid in the past six months. Italy already required them to access all sorts of indoor environments, including restaurants, museums, theatres, and long-distance trains.

But the addition of the workplace requirement has sparked heated debate and opposition in a country that was a coronavirus hotspot early in the pandemic and where vaccination rates are among the highest in Europe.

Updated

Today so far

  • At least 43,000 people may have been wrongly given a negative Covid test result, the UK Health Security Agency has said, as it announced the suspension of operations at a privately run lab in Wolverhampton. The move comes after an investigation into reports of people receiving negative PCR test results after they had previously tested positive on a lateral flow device.
  • Dr Will Welfare, public health incident director at the UK Health Security Agency said: “There is no evidence of any faults with lateral flow or PCR test kits themselves and the public should remain confident in using them and in other laboratory services currently provided.”
  • Russia has again set a new record for the number of coronavirus-related deaths, with 999 fatalities recorded in the last 24 hours. There was also a record number of new cases recorded – 32,196. This is only the second time that Russia has officially recorded more than 30,000 new cases in a single day.
  • Australia’s outbound travel ban will be lifted from 1 November in a move triggered by New South Wales announcing an end to quarantine for fully vaccinated arrivals.
  • Public health orders requiring New South Wales health workers, teachers and some construction workers to be vaccinated to keep working are valid, the NSW supreme court has ruled in Australia.
  • Hobart and southern Tasmania have been forced into a snap three-day lockdown after a coronavirus-infected New South Wales man allegedly entered the state illegally and escaped hotel quarantine.
  • South Korea said it would lift stringent anti-coronavirus curbs on social gatherings next week, as the country prepares to switch to a “living with Covid-19” strategy amid rising vaccination levels.
  • Israel is seeing a sharp drop in new infections and severe illness, aided by its use of vaccine boosters, vaccine passports and mask mandates, scientists and health officials said.
  • Senior government science advisers from the UK, Europe and Canada have called on countries around the world to offer vaccination certificates to volunteers on Covid jab trials so they can travel internationally.

That’s it from me, Martin Belam, for this week. I’ll see you again on Monday. Tom Ambrose is waiting in the wings to take over. Stay safe and have a great weekend.

Updated

There’s another quote here on the false negative PCR tests story. 43,000 people may have had incorrect results, which has led to a testing lab in Wolverhampton being suspended. The tests were mostly carried out in in south west England, although some were in the south east of England, and some in Wales.

Andrea Riposati, chief executive of Immensa Health Clinic, the laboratory involved said:

We are fully collaborating with UK Health Security Agency on this matter. Quality is paramount for us. We have proudly analysed more than 2.5m samples for NHS Test and Trace, working closely with the great teams at the Department for Health and UKHSA. We do not wish this matter or anything else to tarnish the amazing work done by the UK in this pandemic.

Earlier this week a parliamentary report described the country’s Covid response as “one of UK’s worst ever public health failures”.

Russia sets another new record for daily recorded deaths and daily new cases

Russia has again set a new record for the number of coronavirus-related deaths, with 999 fatalities recorded in the last 24 hours. The previous record was set yesterday at 986. That had surpassed a record set the day before.

There was also a record number of new cases recorded – 32,196. This is only the second time that Russia has officially recorded more than 30,000 new cases in a single day.

Updated

Applications to US nursing schools rise as students want to ‘join the frontline’

Nurses around the US are getting burned out by the Covid-19 crisis and quitting, yet applications to nursing schools are rising, driven by what educators say are young people who see the global emergency as an opportunity and a challenge.

Among them is University of Connecticut sophomore Brianna Monte, a 19-year-old from Mahopac, New York, who had been considering majoring in education but decided on nursing after watching nurses care for her 84-year-grandmother, who was diagnosed last year with Covid-19 and also had cancer.

“They were switching out their protective gear in between every patient, running like crazy trying to make sure all of their patients were attended to,” she said.

“I had that moment of clarity that made me want to jump right in to healthcare and join the workers on the frontline.”

Nationally, enrolment in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral nursing programs increased 5.6% in 2020 from the year before to just over 250,000 students, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Figures for the current 2021-22 school year won’t be available until January, but administrators say they have continued to see a surge in interest.

Read more here: Applications to US nursing schools rise as students want to ‘join the frontline’

Updated

Hobart and southern Tasmania enter snap three-day Covid lockdown

Hobart and southern Tasmania have been forced into a snap three-day lockdown after a coronavirus-infected New South Wales man allegedly entered the state illegally and escaped hotel quarantine.

The Tasmanian premier, Peter Gutwein, announced a range of restrictions would be in force across a dozen local government areas from 6pm on Friday.

The lockdown was sparked by a 31-year-old man who was arrested on Tuesday afternoon at a home in Hobart’s northern suburbs.

He had earlier allegedly escaped from Hobart’s Travelodge facility. He has not co-operated with authorities and provided false information about his movements, the premier said.

“One of the things that we do not want to be in this state is either Sydney or Melbourne, who acted too late in both instances when dealing with Delta,” Gutwein told reporters.

Read more here: Hobart and southern Tasmania enter snap three-day Covid lockdown

'No evidence of any faults' with PCR test kits – UK Health Security Agency chief

Following up on that story at least 43,000 people in the UK may have had false negatives from PCR tests, PA Media are carrying this quote from Dr Will Welfare, who is public health incident director at the UK Health Security Agency. He said:

We have recently seen a rising number of positive LFD (lateral flow) results subsequently testing negative on PCR.

As a result of our investigation, we are working with NHS Test and Trace and the company to determine the laboratory technical issues which have led to inaccurate PCR results being issued to people. We have immediately suspended testing at this laboratory while we continue the investigation.

There is no evidence of any faults with LFD or PCR test kits themselves and the public should remain confident in using them and in other laboratory services currently provided.

If you get a positive LFD test, it’s important to make sure that you then get a follow-up PCR test to confirm you have Covid-19. If you have symptoms of Covid-19, self-isolate and take a PCR test.

The tests in question were taken between 8 September and 12 October, mainly in the South West of England.

Mandatory vaccination for New South Wales essential workers is valid, court rules

Public health orders requiring New South Wales health workers, teachers and some construction workers to be vaccinated to keep working are valid, the NSW supreme court has ruled in Australia.

The Sydney construction worker Al-Munir Kassam, Byron Bay aged care worker Natasha Henry and eight others had argued the public health orders should be overturned as they impinged on various rights, including a right to bodily integrity and a right to freedom of movement.

But Justice Robert Beech-Jones said arguing the health order impinged on rights was of little assistance when such abrogation was what the legislation set out to achieve.

When all was said and done, the public health orders in question restricted freedom of movement, he said.

“So far as the right to bodily integrity is concerned, it is not violated as the impugned orders do not authorise the involuntary vaccination of anyone,” he said.

“So far as the impairment of freedom of movement is concerned, the degree of impairment differs depending on whether a person is vaccinated or unvaccinated. Curtailing the free movement of persons, including their movement to and at work, are the very type of restrictions that the Public Health Act clearly authorises.”

Read more here: Mandatory vaccination for NSW essential workers is valid, court rules

There’s some chatter about how the UK government will verify lateral flow tests as the requirement for post-travel testing is reduced from a requirement to take a PCR test.

On the radio this morning the UK transport secretary, Grants Shapps, has dismissed claims that people will have to film themselves taking the test. On LBC he said:

You will not have to video yourself, in fact, is the answer. My colleagues over at the Department of Health are going to set this out in more detail. What they’re going to ask for is a photo of the lateral flow cassette – that’s the thing where you get the result on – as a sort of evidence, as it were.

So, very simple, quick snap, done, and actually, there’ll be other options. For example, talking to Heathrow, last night, they’ve got testing available on sites and some people may come through, choose to get their lateral flow as they come through the terminal. Result, job done, nothing else to do, you know, because you can take that up to date, it doesn’t have to be on day two.

Updated

Covid test lab in Wolverhampton suspended after suspected 43,000 incorrect PCR test results

A Covid testing lab in Wolverhampton has been suspended after it emerged around 43,000 people in the south-west of England may have been wrongly told their Covid test was negative because of errors at the lab.

In a statement, the UK health security agency said: “NHS test and trace have suspended testing operations provided by Immensa Health Clinic Ltd at its laboratory in Wolverhampton, following an investigation into reports of people receiving negative PCR test results after they have previously tested positive on a lateral flow device.

“While investigations are under way into the precise cause, NHS test and trace estimate that around 400,000 samples have been processed through the lab, the vast majority of which will have been negative results, but an estimated 43,000 people may have been given incorrect negative PCR test results between 8 September and 12 October, mostly in the south-west of England.

“This is an isolated incident attributed to one laboratory but all samples are now being redirected to other laboratories. The number of tests carried out at the Immensa laboratory are small in the context of the wider network and testing availability is unaffected around the country.

“NHS TT is contacting the people that could still be infectious to advise them to take another test. Close contacts who are symptomatic will also be advised to take a test in line with normal practice. Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should book a PCR test. Those with a positive LFD test should get a follow up PCR test to confirm they have Covid-19.”

Updated

All Australians able to travel overseas from November

Australia’s outbound travel ban will be lifted from 1 November in a move triggered by New South Wales announcing an end to quarantine for fully vaccinated arrivals.

On Friday, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, told reporters in Sydney that from November “we will be allowing Australians, permanent residents and citizens and their families, to leave Australia from wherever they live in Australia and return”.

Although vaccinated travellers will be able to arrive in New South Wales without quarantine, Morrison noted arrivals will still be capped in other states “because of the vaccination levels in those places”.

In response, Qantas has moved forward the resumption of international travel by two weeks, announcing it will operate up to five return flights a week from Sydney to London and up to four a week from Sydney to Los Angeles from 1 November.

Nevertheless, travellers leaving Australia will face uncertainty about which ports they can return to other than Sydney and when other states will follow NSW’s lead on quarantine-free travel. Victoria is the most likely to do so when the double-dose vaccination rate reaches 80% in early November.

Read more of Paul Karp’s report here: All Australians able to travel overseas from November, says Morrison as he lifts travel ban

UK transport minister Grant Shapps has been doing the media round this morning, and on Times Radio he was asked about the new policy of allowing travellers returning to England to take lateral flow tests instead of PCR tests. PA Media reports he said:

I think it’s important that we have a system in place which is straightforward. That’s why we’re moving from PCR to lateral flow, hoping to bring down the cost. Another step to opening up international travel.

There was a report just this week that lateral flows turned out to be pretty good and more accurate than people thought, so I think that, combined with the fact that the answer is instant and you’re not necessarily wandering around for a day or two, waiting for that result come back, means that this will be a robust system in place and it’s another step to making international travel easier again.

Updated

Volunteers on Covid jab trials should get travel certificates, say top scientists

Senior government science advisers from the UK, Europe and Canada have called on countries around the world to offer vaccination certificates to volunteers on Covid jab trials so they can travel internationally.

The UK has led the way in granting vaccine certificates to trial participants, but many countries have failed to follow suit and refuse to admit people unless they have had two doses of Covid vaccine that has already gone through trials and been approved by regulators.

The situation means many tens of thousands of people globally who enrolled in clinical trials to assess Covid vaccines, or combinations of different shots, cannot travel abroad unless they get an additional round of approved jabs.

In an open letter to governments around the world, 14 senior advisers, including England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, and the UK’s chief scientist, Sir Patrick Vallance, warn that preventing trial volunteers from travelling was “unfair” and had led some participants to drop out of trials and seek extra vaccinations.

“Vaccine clinical trial volunteers have given their time freely to help others, and clinical trials are the way in which the world can understand which vaccines work and are safe,” the letter states. “There is a moral and ethical obligation to treat volunteers in a way that feels fair to them and to the wider public. It is the right thing to do.”

Read more of our science editor Ian Samples’s report: Volunteers on Covid jab trials should get travel certificates, say top scientists

Updated

Associated Press has a report today looking at global supply problems with the delivery of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

It reports that Venezuela ordered 10m doses in December 2020 but has only received slightly less than 4 million. Argentina got its first shipment on 25 December, but it is still waiting for many of the 20m it purchased. Iran has received only about 1.3m doses from Russia out of 60m doses it had been promised.

One complication with the Sputnik V vaccine is that the second dose is different to the first, and the two are not interchangeable.

Iran’s deputy health minister, Alireza Raisi, last month urged those who received the first dose of Sputnik V to get a second shot of AstraZeneca, instead citing the “uncertainty” of when the Russian vaccine will be delivered.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which bankrolls and markets the vaccine abroad and has production contracts with 25 manufacturing sites in 14 countries, told the AP that it “is in full compliance of the Sputnik V supply contracts, including of the second component, after a successful production ramp-up in August and September”.

For a while Sputnik V was “the only game in town”, said Judy Twigg, a professor specialising in global health at Virginia Commonwealth University, but she added that Russia’s window of opportunity “to really stake a claim as the saviour” in the pandemic is gone. “Russia squandered that opportunity,” said Twigg.

“I think in some cases, it’s actually left Russia’s reputation in Iran, Guatemala, Argentina, maybe Mexico, perhaps even a little worse off than it would have been if it had done nothing, or if it had waited and made more fulfillable promises from the very beginning, because people are disappointed.”

Updated

Yesterday, Russia set new records for daily new Covid cases and daily Covid-related deaths, with the official number of new cases rising above 30,000 for the first time. We normally get updated figures around 9.30am UK time. The Moscow Times reported yesterday on the situation in Russia, saying:

Russia’s health minister Mikhail Murashko issued a stark warning that 1.1 million patients are currently being treated for Covid-19 – “the highest strain” that has been put on Russia’s healthcare system since the start of the pandemic.

Murashko urged skeptical Russians to get vaccinated and called on retired doctors to come out of retirement to help treat the growing numbers of patients.

Only a third of Russians have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and opinion polls show more than half of the population do not plan on getting a shot. The Kremlin has ruled out imposing a lockdown to help stop the spread of the virus.

Updated

Politico’s Playbook newsletter today suggests that “it is going to be worth watching the numbers closely over the coming days” on coronavirus in the UK. They write:

Ministers and scientific advisers are beginning to show nerves about the recent rise in coronavirus cases in Britain, government insiders told Playbook last night. New cases have been persistently high all summer and are well above what is being seen in some other European countries – although at between 30,000 and 40,000 per day they’ve been much lower than the dire 50,000 to 100,000 predictions. But … infections do appear to be increasing at a bit more of an alarming rate.

Every measure on the UK dashboard – cases, deaths, patients admitted – is up in the latest set of official data. There were over 45,000 new cases yesterday, which was the highest number of new cases since July. The UK is already an outlier in having much higher case numbers than the rest of western Europe.

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Schools and businesses in Victoria, Australia, fear they will be short-staffed when the state reopens, as the Covid vaccine mandate kicks in for 1.2 million authorised workers.

From Friday, essential workers in Victoria must have had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, or be booked in for it by 22 October.

The mandate took effect as the state recorded 2,170 cases and six deaths on Friday, a day after setting another national record for daily case numbers.

Workers refusing to comply with the mandate can be fined up to $20,000 (£10,800) while businesses face penalties of up to $100,000 (£54,260).

The vaccine mandate covers everyone who is currently allowed to work outside the home, including cleaners, allied health professionals and even pool maintenance operators.

Some teachers were concerned their schools would be left short-staffed as hesitant teachers weigh up their options or those opposed to the vaccine walk out of their jobs.

Read more of Cait Kelly’s report: Victoria Covid update – vaccine mandate takes effect as state records 2,170 cases

Members of the public in the UK have been urged to book for further testing after some PCR tests at a government-run site resulted in false negatives.

West Berkshire council said in a statement that some of the tests at the Newbury Showground testing site, operated by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), “have had results sent out that may have incorrectly shown as negative for Covid-19”.

“After receiving reports from local residents in recent weeks that there were concerns about the accuracy of test results from the site, we passed these concerns onto the DHSC for further investigation,” the statement added.

“The DHSC has now confirmed that a number of sites nationally may have been affected by this issue, including the one at Newbury Showground.”

PA Media reports that those who received a negative result for a PCR test from 3-12 October, as well as their close contacts, were “strongly” encouraged by the local authority to take another test.

Councillor Graham Bridgman said: “Testing continues to remain important as we learn to live with Covid and anyone who has symptoms, or who has been in contact with someone who tests positive, should book a PCR test straightaway. We also strongly encourage the public to do twice weekly lateral flow testing.”

Updated

Good morning, it is Martin Belam here in London taking over from Samantha Lock. It is transport minister Grant Shapps doing the media round in the UK today. I’ll bring you any Covid-related lines from his appearances shortly.

South Korea to lift curbs on social gatherings

South Korea said on Friday it would lift stringent anti-coronavirus curbs on social gatherings next week, as the country prepares to switch to a ‘living with Covid-19’ strategy amid rising vaccination levels.

From Monday, the government will allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people, and ease operating-hour restrictions imposed on venues like restaurants, cafes and cinemas, prime minister Kim Boo-kyum said.

The relaxation will also allow outdoor sports events to take place in front of crowds, rather than behind closed doors as at present, if 30% of all spectators are fully vaccinated, Lee Ki-il, deputy minister of health care policy, told a briefing.

Updated

Israel sees sharp decline in Covid-19 cases

Israel is seeing a sharp drop in new infections and severe illness, aided by its use of vaccine boosters, vaccine passports and mask mandates, scientists and health officials said.

The country is four months into one of its worst Covid-19 outbreaks. Since peaking in early September, daily infections have fallen more than 80%, with severe cases nearly halved, Reuters reports.

“Day by day we are breaking the Delta wave,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday, crediting government policy for “close, smart and flexible management allowing life alongside coronavirus.”

Since administration of boosters, mostly unvaccinated, often younger, people are bearing the brunt of serious illness. They make up about 75% of hospitalised patients in severe condition, while those vaccinated with two or three shots account for a quarter of such cases.

Rather than imposing new lockdown measures, the government opted for a ‘Living with Covid’ strategy and bet on a third booster dose of the Pfizer Inc (PFE.N)/BioNTech vaccine for people age 12 and up, mandated face coverings and enforced use of a ‘Green Pass’ - proof of vaccination, recovery from the illness or a negative test for the virus - at restaurants and other venues, even for children.

So far, the strategy has kept schools and the economy open.

Thanks for joining us for all the key developments surrounding the evolving Covid-19 crisis.

Australia made a surprise announcement earlier today that the state of NSW, home to the nation’s most populous city of Sydney, would be ending mandatory quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November.

However, the specifics remain a little unclear with the state’s premier promising hotel quarantine for returning Australians and tourists “will be a thing of the past,’ declaring Sydney would soon be “open for business” for double vaccinated people around the world.

Prime minister Scott Morrison later clarified that the border would only be opening for Australian residents, citizens and their immediate families. Still, it is welcome news for the some 40,000 Australians still stuck overseas.

Meanwhile, a group of British charities have taken aim at the UK’s booster jab programme. Surveys by Blood Cancer UK and Kidney Care UK found that for both groups of patients, between 55% and 60% had yet to be invited to get a third injection, seen as particularly vital for conditions which affect people’s immune systems, as they are generally less protected by two jabs.

  • FDA experts endorse Moderna vaccine booster shot. An independent group of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended a booster shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for high-risk groups and people older than 65.
  • Latvian president Egils Levits has contracted Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated, his chief of staff said. The Baltic country reported a new record for daily coronavirus cases.
  • Lateral flow tests to replace PCR tests for vaccinated travellers to England. Fully vaccinated international passengers arriving in England from countries not on the red list can take a cheaper and quicker lateral flow test from 24 October instead of the PCR version, the government has announced.
  • The UK recorded a further 45,066 Covid cases. It is the highest daily figure since mid-July. The official data also confirmed a further 157 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid as of Thursday, bringing the UK total to 138,237.
  • Only one in seven Covid cases in Africa are being detected, meaning the continent’s estimated infection level may be 59 million people, according to a new study by the World Health Organization.
  • Italy braced for unrest as Covid pass becomes mandatory for all workers. The strictest vaccine mandate in Europe is set to take effect on Friday and is expected to bring fresh protests and leave some industries struggling with staff shortages.
  • Indigenous people infected with Covid Delta strain at twice the rate of other Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been infected at twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians during the country’s deadly third coronavirus wave, a senior Indigenous health leader says.

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