South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Libya among countries hardest hit; frontline staff in England required to have first jab by February
The boss of one of London’s busiest hospitals has said he is worried about losing staff when new rules come in requiring them to be vaccinated, BBC News reports.
King’s College hospital’s chief executive, Clive Kay, said 10% of his staff of 14,000 were still unvaccinated. He said staff were “not being forced” to have the jab, but instead “being encouraged”. He added:
There’s a possibility if they choose not to be vaccinated they could be redeployed. And if we can’t find that opportunity to redeploy them then the consequence is that they will [not have a job].
Asked how many frontline staff he could lose under the law change, he replied:
I am confident that we are already seeing a number of staff choosing to be vaccinated. I don’t want at this stage to predict or give any numbers.
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Australia on Monday surpassed 1 million Covid cases, with more than half of them recorded in the past week, as the Omicron variant ripped through most of the country driving up hospitalisation numbers and putting a strain on supply chains.
Having successfully kept a lid on its virus caseload through aggressive lockdowns and tough border controls earlier in the pandemic, Australia is now suffering record infections as the country begins to live with the virus after higher vaccinations.
New South Wales and Victoria reported about 55,000 new cases between them, as total Covid-19 infections in Australia touched 1.03 million since the first case was recorded nearly two years ago. Other states and territories will report their numbers later in the day.
A total of 2,387 deaths have been registered so far, though the death rate during the Omicron wave has been lower than during previous virus outbreaks, with 92% of people over 16 double dosed and the booster programme picking pace.
The rising hospitalisation numbers forced officials to reinstate some restrictions in states, meanwhile staff shortages due to isolation rules or people out sick have hit businesses.
Authorities have cut mandatory isolation times for close contacts and narrowed the definition of close contacts but were still reviewing the rules for furloughing workers that have widened supply chain gaps.
From Monday, Pfizer’s Covid vaccines will be offered to 2.3 million children aged five to 11 years old, amid reports of stock shortage of shots, which authorities ruled out.
Samantha Lock back with you on the blog taking over from my colleague Helen Livingstone.
Here’s a quick snapshot of how Covid is unfolding across Australia.
The state of NSW has recorded 20,293 new Covid cases and 18 deaths including a child aged under five while Victoria reported 34,808 cases and two deaths.
The Covid vaccine for children aged five to 11 is also being rolled out across the nation.
Good morning, this is Helen Livingstone taking over the blog in Sydney.
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Of course don’t get too wrapped up and forget to follow our Covid updates!
If you’ve just joined us, here is a quick snapshot of all the most recent coronavirus news stories from around the world:
Downing Street is facing calls to ensure that Boris Johnson will be personally interviewed by the Sue Gray inquiry about alleged No 10 gatherings during the first lockdown, after it emerged he may have been present at a “bring your own booze” party that month.
The inquiry, into allegations of social mixing bans being broken in No 10, was widened this weekend to include reported gatherings from May 2020, amid reports that an official emailed Downing Street staff inviting them to socially distanced drinks.
No 10 did not deny on Sunday that the prime minister and his wife attended the event on 20 May, which is said to have been organised by a senior civil servant in Johnson’s private office, Martin Reynolds, with food and wine set out on tables.
It comes after the Guardian reported a “wine and pizza” party in Downing Street in the garden and inside No 10 on 15 May, with staff drinking late into the evening after a press conference that day. After No 10 insisted staff were working, the Guardian obtained a photograph of the prime minister and his wife sitting with officials at a table with wine and cheese, with 15 other staff in the background and bottles of wine visible.
Reports on Sunday that free lateral flow tests could be axed under a strategy of living with Covid within weeks were met with a swift backlash. The government promptly denied the suggestion that free tests could soon be scrapped.
The story highlights a gulf in opinions on what “living with Covid” might look like, with some saying we will achieve this only through continued caution and others equating the phrase to ditching all Covid measures and partying like it’s 2019.
Wherever your instincts lie, it is not surprising – or even undesirable – that the mass testing of asymptomatic people is being reviewed.
The policy was rapidly brought in at a time when, faced with a new, highly infectious variant of unknown virulence, it made sense to throw everything we had at Omicron to slow down transmission and to minimise disruption caused by essential workers having to self-isolate. With case numbers wildly outstripping the UK’s laboratory testing capacity, lateral flow tests continue to be vital for tracking case numbers.
Boris Johnson has been warned by a Conservative rebel ringleader he faces a massive revolt from his own MPs if he does not end all coronavirus restrictions this month.
Mark Harper, chair of the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, also said the Prime Minister could even face a leadership challenge if the Tories do badly in May’s local elections.
The former chief whip’s intervention came after a poll of Conservative members suggested nearly half believe Chancellor Rishi Sunak would make a better leader.
Mr Johnson suffered the biggest revolt of his premiership last month when 100 backbenchers defied him over Plan B restrictions in a Commons vote.
Mass Covid testing and vaccination should be ended for all but the most vulnerable after the booster campaign has been completed, the former chairman of Britain’s vaccine taskforce has said.
Dr Clive Dix has called for an overhaul of the current Government strategy in the coming months, claiming the impact of cellular immunity on fighting the virus may have been downplayed.
Covid should instead be treated like flu or a heavy cold among younger people who have been fully jabbed, the former vaccines tsar said.
Speaking to C4 News, Dr Dix claimed that mass vaccination has outlasted its main purpose, which he said was to curb the spread of infection.
Germany will study how reliable rapid antigen tests are in detecting the fast-spreading Omicron variant, the health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said on Sunday.
“We do not know exactly how well these tests work for Omicron,” Lauterbach said on public broadcasting channel ARD, adding the results of the assessment would become available within the next few weeks.
It was clear, however, that “the alternative not to test at all … would be far too dangerous,” said Lauterbach, a scientist and physician.
Earlier, he had told a Sunday newspaper that Germany must revamp its Covid vaccination strategy to tackle the Omicron variant and to ensure it could develop a new vaccine rapidly if it faced a more deadly coronavirus variant in the future. New measures for dining out and bar visits were brought in only last Friday, Reuters reports.
Italy reported 157 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday, down from 184 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 155,659 from 197,552.
Italy has registered 139,038 deaths linked to Covid-19 since the initial outbreak in February 2020, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world. The country has reported 7.4m cases to date.
Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 15,647 on Sunday, up from 14,930 a day earlier.
There were 142 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 154 on Saturday. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 1,595 from 1,557.