Covid live news: Alberta facing ‘crisis of the unvaccinated’; China has vaccinated 1bn people — as it happened

Last modified: 10: 45 PM GMT+0

Summary

  • The UK government is planning to slash the number of “red list” countries by up to half as part of plans to simplify England’s rules for international travel, with sources claiming it would incentivise vaccination. The traffic light system will be overhauled, with the amber tier removed so there is a clearer distinction between “go” and “no go” destinations. Those who have been double-jabbed are likely to be able to escape quarantine – or the need for costly PCR testing – upon arrival, while unvaccinated passengers will still face those hurdles. Here is our story.
  • France suspended 3,000 health workers without pay for refusing the Covid vaccine. The health minister, Olivier Véran, said the staff had been notified in writing before the government-imposed deadline to have at least one dose.
  • Alberta’s premier announced sweeping new restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus, admitting the Canadian province was gripped by a “crisis of the unvaccinated”. Alberta currently has the worst coronavirus outbreak in Canada.
  • Care homes in England may be forced to close and thousands of staff risk losing their jobs if they decline to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine by the end of Thursday, ministers have been warned.
  • Data shows that almost 664,000 people, or one in 500 people, living in the US have died from the virus since the pandemic began, following a surge of cases and hospitalisations, particularly in southern states, caused by a combination of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates.
  • Trinidad and Tobago’s health minister, Terrence Deyalsingh, dismissed claims by the rapper Nicki Minaj that a cousin’s friend had become impotent after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, saying that health officials in the Caribbean country had found no evidence that any patient had reported such side-effects.
  • The European Union’s chief executive warned that Covid vaccinations must be accelerated to avoid “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Speaking in Strasbourg, Ursula von der Leyen said in her state of the union address: “Let’s do everything possible [so] that this does not turn into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
  • Experts in Israel cited recent data to back the prime minister Naftali Bennett’s claims that the country’s programme of booster jabs has proved effective in reducing severe cases of Covid even as new infections hover near a record high.
  • The Italian government approved a decree making it obligatory for all public and private sector workers either to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection, a government source said on Thursday.
  • A panel of health experts advising the Hong Kong government recommended children aged 12-17 should get only one dose of BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine after reports of heart inflammation side effects.
  • Covid restrictions to the UK will return if the virus gets “out of control” again this year, the health secretary said, with a dangerous new variant or the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed identified as the moment “plan B” could be triggered.
  • Vaccinations are estimated to have directly averted about 230,800 hospital admissions in England, according to new figures.
  • All diplomats attending the UN general assembly in New York next week will have to provide proof of vaccination, the city government has confirmed, prompting an angry response from Russia.
  • The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, condemned the lack of distribution of Covid vaccines to African countries and called for stronger medical manufacturing capacity across the continent.

Bahamians headed to the polls on Thursday to elect a new government as the islands continued to reel from an ongoing surge in Covid cases and slump in the tourism-dependent economy due to the pandemic, Reuters reports.

The prime minister Hubert Minnis of the Free National Movement (FNM) is hoping to become the first premier in 24 years to win a second five-year term. But his party was neck-and neck with the opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in polls ahead of the snap election.

The PLP has focused its campaign on what it says is the government’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak and the economy which has seen unemployment surge to an estimated 20% and the fiscal deficit balloon during the pandemic.

Some 119 new Covid cases were confirmed on Wednesday, taking the active number to 1,679 in the nation of just 400,000 people, while the positivity rate has hovered around 25% for the past six weeks.

Julian Rolle, chairman of the Public Hospitals Authority, told Bahamian media it had become difficult to staff healthcare facilities properly given about 5-10% of staff was quarantined due to exposure to the virus.

“We can continue to wander aimlessly under the visionless, inept, scandalized Free National Movement, or we can usher in greater transparency, equality and prosperity with the PLP,” PLP leader Philip Davis told voters during his eve-of-election campaign rally.

Minnis has countered that the PLP cannot be trusted with reviving one of the most prosperous economies in the Atlantic-Caribbean region where tourism accounts for around 50% of output and 60% of employment.

Under his watch, the Bahamas received a record 1.8 million visitors in 2019 and the tourism minister Dionisio D’Aguilar says he is targeting 1 million air arrivals for 2021.

“The PLP is a threat to the economic progress that has begun,” Minnis said on Wednesday at his party’s last rally. “They would stop many of the projects that we started.”

Whichever party wins will face some formidable challenges in office due to Covid and its continuing health and economic impact.

The scattered archipelago stretching from just off eastern Florida to near Cuba is also still rebuilding after being pummelled in 2019 by Hurricane Dorian, one of the strongest Caribbean hurricanes on record, which killed several hundred people in the Bahamas and left tens of thousands homeless.

National debt stood at $10.356 billion at end-June 2021, according to the Bahamian Ministry of Finance, which forecasts a $951 million fiscal deficit for 2021-2022.

Gowon Bowe, chief executive of Fidelity Bank [Bahamas], a publicly-traded bank, told Reuters: “The reality is that we don’t have much wiggle room left. There won’t be a honeymoon for a new administration. It’s going to be right about the business because there’s a lot we have to right.”

Brazil’s federal government wants to halt Covid vaccinations for most of the country’s adolescents, citing adverse events and a death under investigation after some 3.5 million teens have already been immunised, but several state governments vowed to press on.

Reuters reports that at a news conference, the health minister Marcelo Queiroga criticised states and cities for jumping the gun by vaccinating 12- to 17-year-olds without health issues that put them at risk of severe Covid, which he said was only supposed to start on Wednesday.

São Paulo state, the country’s most populous, said it has already vaccinated nearly 2.5 million people under 18 years old. The governor João Doria said on social media that São Paulo would not stop vaccinating adolescents.

Queiroga said healthy adolescents who have already taken one shot should not take a second - effectively seeking to halt nationwide immunisations for teenagers.

“When I talked about an excess of vaccine doses, it is to say that we have enough vaccines that states are giving them to people who shouldn’t be getting it yet,” he said.

Queiroga did not specify a reason for requesting a halt, but said there were 1,545 adverse events registered, with 93% of them in people who received shots other than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine - the only one approved for minors in Brazil.

He also said there had been one death registered, in the city of São Bernardo do Campo just outside the São Paulo state capital. But a link between the death and the vaccine - in this case Pfizer’s - has not been confirmed.

Queiroga said evidence about the efficacy of vaccines for healthy teenagers was not yet certain, although clinical trial data has shown them to be effective in preventing illness in teens.

The United States, Israel and some European countries have rolled out vaccinations to children. On Monday, England decided that all 12- to 15-year-olds will be offered a shot after senior medical advisers said kids would benefit from reduced disruption to their education.

It remains to be seen if Queiroga’s comments will carry much weight. According to Carlos Lula, the president of the association of state health secretaries, the majority of states do not plan to halt vaccinations for this age group.

The US government will begin shipping 2.58 million more doses of Covid vaccine to the Philippines on Thursday through the Covax global distribution program, a White House official said.

The latest shipments of vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech bring the total number of vaccines sent to the Philippines to just over 9 million, the official added.

Updated

Government to overhaul England's traffic light system for foreign travel

Government ministers are to slash the number of “red list” countries by up to half as part of plans to simplify England’s rules for international travel, with sources claiming it would incentivise vaccination, Aubrey Allegretti reports.

The traffic light system will be overhauled, with the amber tier removed so there is a clearer distinction between “go” and “no go” destinations.

Those who have been double-jabbed are likely to be able to escape quarantine – or the need for costly PCR testing – upon arrival, while unvaccinated passengers will still face those hurdles.

“It will be made much simpler, particularly for those who are double-vaxxed,” a government source said.

It is understood the new red list is likely to be focused on countries where there is a significant concern about Covid variants.

Government insiders said the ultimate aim was to simplify the rules, after Labour called for the amber list to be scrapped in order to clarify guidance on which destinations are relatively safe and which are not.

However, they also admitted it would have the effect of providing a greater incentive to the 10% of those eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet had their first jab, given the extra money people will have to fork out for a PCR test instead of a cheaper lateral flow one, as well as avoiding the hassle of having to self-isolate.

For those returning from red-list countries, quarantine hotels are expected to remain in place. However, the number of destinations on the red list is expected to be reduced significantly, with a senior government source indicating it could be as much as half.

Ministers will gather on Friday morning to sign off the plans and an announcement is expected later that afternoon.

Here is the full story:

Updated

The US Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday it has revised its emergency use authorisation for Eli Lilly’s Covid antibody cocktail to cover its use after exposure to the virus in patients who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease.

The cocktail, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, is authorised for use in people 12 years and above with mild-to-moderate infection who are at high risk of progressing to severe Covid.

Updated

Good evening from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next few hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.

Email: lucy.campbell@theguardian.com
Twitter: @lucy_campbell_

Summary

Here’s a roundup of the key developments:

  • France has suspended 3,000 health workers without pay for refusing the Covid vaccine. The health minister, Olivier Véran, said the staff had been notified in writing before the government-imposed deadline to have at least one dose.
  • Alberta’s premier has announced sweeping new restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus, admitting the Canadian province was gripped by a “crisis of the unvaccinated”. Alberta currently has the worst coronavirus outbreak in Canada.
  • Care homes in England may be forced to close and thousands of staff risk losing their jobs if they decline to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine by the end of Thursday, ministers have been warned.
  • Data shows that almost 664,000 people, or one in 500 people, living in the US have died from the virus since the pandemic began, following a surge of cases and hospitalisations, particularly in southern states, caused by a combination of the Delta variant and low vaccination rates.
  • Trinidad and Tobago’s health minister, Terrence Deyalsingh, has dismissed claims by the rapper Nicki Minaj that a cousin’s friend had become impotent after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, saying that health officials in the Caribbean country had found no evidence that any patient had reported such side-effects.
  • Travellers returning to England from Turkey will not have to quarantine as the government is set to remove dozens of countries from the so-called Covid red list for travel, the Times newspaper said on Thursday.
  • The European Union’s chief executive has warned that Covid vaccinations must be accelerated to avoid “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Speaking in Strasbourg, Ursula von der Leyen said in her state of the union address: “Let’s do everything possible [so] that this does not turn into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
  • Experts in Israel have cited recent data to back Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s claims that the country’s programme of booster jabs has proved effective in reducing severe cases of Covid even as new infections hover near a record high.
  • The Italian government has approved a decree making it obligatory for all public and private sector workers either to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection, a government source said on Thursday.
  • A panel of health experts advising the Hong Kong government has recommended children aged 12-17 should get only one dose of BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine after reports of heart inflammation side effects.
  • Covid restrictions to the UK will return if the virus gets “out of control” again this year, the health secretary has said, with a dangerous new variant or the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed identified as the moment “plan B” could be triggered.
  • Vaccinations are estimated to have directly averted about 230,800 hospital admissions in England, according to new figures.
  • All diplomats attending the UN general assembly in New York next week will have to provide proof of vaccination, the city government has confirmed, prompting an angry response from Russia.
  • The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has condemned the lack of distribution of Covid vaccines to African countries and called for stronger medical manufacturing capacity across the continent.

That’s it from me today. Thanks so much for joining me today. I’m handing over to my colleague Lucy now so do stick around!

Updated

Tunisia and Libya are to reopen their shared border on Friday, the presidency in Tunis said, two months after they were closed as the country’s coronavirus caseload soared.

“The president of (Tunisia) issued orders to reopen border crossings with the state of Libya from Friday” at 7am local time, the office of President Kais Saied said in a statement.

A statement from the Libyan government said the reopening of the borders had been agreed during recent talks between the leaders of both countries, AFP reports.

A ministerial committee was then set up and recommended the frontiers open again after reviewing health and security issues, it added.

Libya closed its land borders and suspended flights between the two countries on 8 July due to an explosion of Covid-19 cases in Tunisia, which responded by closing its own crossings.

But with the caseload rapidly dropping, officials on both sides agreed to reopen the frontier, with measures in place to limit the possibility of contaminations.

Tunis and Tripoli agreed on a health protocol “subject to revision in light of developments in the health situation in the two countries”, the Tunisian statement read.

The reopening would be reviewed in case of any “violation”, it added.

Tunisia’s Covid caseload, which in August was the world’s worst according to official data, has since significantly improved.

According to the latest figures available, on Tuesday the country of 11.7 million recorded 1,142 new cases and nine coronavirus-caused deaths.

Updated

Travellers returning to England from Turkey will not have to quarantine as the government is set to remove dozens of countries from the so-called Covid red list for travel, the Times newspaper said on Thursday.

Ministers will also announce on Friday that they will scrap the amber classification to simplify the traffic light system for international travel, instead dividing countries into either green list or red list, the newspaper said.

The red list – countries from which arrivals must quarantine in a hotel – will be more than halved, meaning the vast majority of countries will be opened up for double-jabbed British tourists to visit freely, according to the Times.

The paper said a requirement for fully vaccinated travellers coming to Britain to take a PCR test would be scrapped, along with a need for passengers to take a lateral flow test up to 72 hours before their arrival, Reuters reports.

The transport ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Airlines and airports have long argued a change to the rules was needed, saying it was stopping the travel industry from being able to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Updated

More than one in five UK adults under 40 have still not received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, figures show.

Latest estimates for the percentage of 18- to 39-year-olds who are unvaccinated range from 21% in Scotland to 25% in Northern Ireland, with 22% in England and 23% in Wales.

In total, 4.2 million adults under 40 have yet to have their first dose, according to figures for vaccinations delivered up to 15 September. This includes nearly 2.7 million people aged 18 to 29.

First doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been available for everyone aged 18 and over since the end of June.

The figures have been published by the UK’s four health agencies, PA Media reports. They suggest there is still a large minority of young adults reluctant to have the vaccine, despite a host of initiatives to encourage take-up, including publicity campaigns, pop-up vaccination centres and discounts from businesses.

Large cities in England continue to be areas with particularly high levels of unvaccinated young adults. Birmingham has the highest estimated percentage of unjabbed 18- to 29-year-olds (50.3%), according to analysis by PA.

The next highest is Coventry (48.8%), followed by the London borough of Islington (45.8%), Liverpool (45.7%) and Nottingham (44.0%).

Updated

The Italian government has approved a decree making it obligatory for all public and private sector workers either to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection, a government source said on Thursday.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting and is due to come into force on 15 October.

The move is aimed at persuading people to get inoculated and blunt contagion in one of the countries worst-hit by the virus.

Updated

A woman waves balloons in support of healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients outside the Royal Alexandra hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.
A woman waves balloons in support of healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients outside the Royal Alexandra hospital in Edmonton, Alberta. Photograph: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Updated

Alberta's healthcare system facing 'crisis of the unvaccinated'

Alberta’s premier has announced sweeping new restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus, admitting the Canadian province was gripped by a “crisis of the unvaccinated”.

The new measures marked a major reversal from Jason Kenney’s hands-off approach to the pandemic previously, and come amid warnings from frontline medical workers that the province’s healthcare system is on the verge of collapse.

Kenney admitted as much when he outlined the province’s new restrictions, telling the public that Alberta may run out of intensive-care beds and staff to care for ICU patients within 10 days.

Alberta currently has the worst coronavirus outbreak in Canada.

Kenney, whose government consists of moderate and far-right conservatives, has previously resisted vaccine passport systems, citing privacy concerns. But on Wednesday evening, he admitted he had little choice.

He said:

The government’s first obligation must be to avoid large numbers of preventable deaths. We must deal with the reality that we are facing. We cannot wish it away.

Morally, ethically and legally, the protection of life must be our paramount concern.

Beginning late this month, Albertans must show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test for restaurants, bars and indoor organized events. Businesses that choose not to ask for vaccination status will have a separate, more strict set of regulations they must follow. For example, if restaurants opt out of the vaccine passport system, they must close their indoor dining rooms and limit outdoor service to tables of six people, all of whom must be from the same household.

Kenney said:

No one will be compelled to get vaccinated against their wishes, and a negative test option will be offered as an alternative. But with unvaccinated patients overwhelming our hospitals, this is now the only responsible choice that we have.

Read more here:

Updated

Following the decision by the US president, Joe Biden, to introduce a vaccine mandate for millions of workers, and the UK’s decision to row back on its push to require vaccine passports for nightclubs and other crowded events, where does the issue of insisting on vaccination stand globally?

My colleague Peter Beaumont has the answers:

Italy reported 67 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 5,117 from 4,830.

Italy has registered 130,167 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.62m cases to date.

Patients in hospital with the virus – not including those in intensive care – stood at 4,018 on Thursday, down from 4,128 a day earlier.

There were 30 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 32 on Wednesday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 531 from a previous 540.

In the past day 306,267 tests for Covid-19 were carried out, compared with a previous 317,666, the health ministry said.

Updated

Singapore’s health ministry reported 910 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the highest since May last year.

A recent rise in cases after the relaxation of some measures has prompted Singapore to pause on further reopening.

More than 80% of its population has been vaccinated against the virus, Reuters reports.

Alberta in Canada may run out of intensive-care beds and staff to care for ICU patients within 10 days, said the province’s premier, Jason Kenney, as he declared a state of public health emergency.

To try to tackle the surge in cases, Alberta is introducing a number of restrictions including banning indoor private social gatherings for unvaccinated people over 12; limiting indoor gatherings for those who are vaccinated; requiring all staff and most students to wear masks in school and ordering people to work from home, the Globe and Mail reports.

In a press conference, Kenney said the government made a mistake when it decided over the summer to treat Covid-19 as an “endemic” illness like the flu.

He said:

It is now clear that we were wrong – and for that, I apologise.

On Wednesday, my colleague Leyland Cecco reported on the situation in Alberta, which you can read here:

Updated

Dubai to deploy sniffer dogs to detect COVID-19 at major eventsA dog that has been trained by Dubai Police K-9 unit to sniff out COVID-19 looks at his trainer in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 13, 2021. Picture taken September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Abdel Hadi Ramahi
A dog trained by Dubai police’s K-9 unit to sniff out Covid-19 gazes at his handler in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photograph: Abdel Hadi Ramahi/Reuters

Updated

An overhaul of the rules for international travel to England is expected to be announced on Friday, the PA Media agency understands.

It has been reported that the green and amber lists will be merged to form one category of low-risk countries, while the number of destinations on the red list will be reduced.

There is also speculation that fully vaccinated arrivals will no longer need to take a pre-departure lateral flow test or a post-arrival PCR test. This would save travellers about £100 per trip.

Currently, travellers who have not had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine must take one PCR test and are not required to self-isolate after arriving from a green list destination.

According to reports, they could be required to quarantine at home and be required to take two tests when arriving from a low-risk location under the new system.

The changes would come into force ahead of the October half-term break.

The transport secretary Grant Shapps’ expected announcement on Friday will only apply to England, but recently the devolved administrations have implemented rule changes for travel announced in Westminster.

It is anticipated that people arriving from red list countries will continue to be required to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel, at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

There are currently 62 countries on that list, but this is expected to be reduced.

The travel sector has been desperate for the testing and quarantine rules for international travel to be relaxed. Heathrow said this week it had gone from being Europe’s busiest airport in 2019 to No 10 on the list, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.

Updated

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said his main rival in Monday’s election had adopted a lax approach to fighting Covid and shown weak leadership, Reuters reports.

Opinion polls show Trudeau’s Liberals are tied with the right-of-center Conservatives of Erin O’Toole and look set to fall well short in their bid to win a parliamentary majority.

Trudeau noted that O’Toole had praised Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s decision earlier in the year to quickly lift public health restrictions in his western province, prompting cases to soar.

Kenney on Wednesday apologised for mishandling the pandemic, saying he would introduce vaccine passports.

“The choices that leaders make in a crisis matter ... just a few days ago Mr O’Toole was still applauding Mr Kenney for his management of the pandemic,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.

“That’s not the leadership we need in Ottawa to end this pandemic for good,” added Trudeau, who backs mandatory Covid jabs.

How to handle coronavirus has become a political challenge for O’Toole. He favours inoculations but says he prefers rapid testing rather than vaccination mandates.

The Conservatives could also see support leak to the rightwing People’s party of Canada (PPC), which is feeding into public anger over vaccinations and lockdowns.

In a tweet, the PPC leader, Maxime Bernier, hit out at Kenney over his vaccine passport announcement. Bernier said he would go to the province “to join Albertans in their fight against this despot”.

Trudeau triggered the election two years ahead of time, seeking to benefit from his handling of the pandemic, but the Liberals could not shrug off voter fatigue.

Updated

Ireland is to donate 1m doses to Covax, the global vaccine-sharing scheme.

Announcing the move, Ireland’s minister for health, Stephen Donnelly, said:

Universal and fair access to Covid-19 vaccines and treatments is a priority for Ireland and for the European Union. As the current phase of Ireland’s vaccination programme nears completion, it is important for Ireland to demonstrate solidarity with developing countries during this global pandemic. I am very pleased therefore to announce that Ireland will contribute 1m Covid-19 vaccines to the Covax global vaccine initiative.

Updated

Iran’s new government has approved a vaccine developed by US firm Johnson & Johnson, Reuters reports citing a senior official.

The announcement came eight months after the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, banned imports of vaccines made by the United States and Britain – though Iran has since accepted vaccines developed by western firms but manufactured elsewhere.

President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration is under public pressure to broaden its sources of vaccines as infections mount in the deadliest wave it has seen.

“The Johnson & Johnson single-dose corona vaccine has been approved,” the head of Iran’s food and drug administration, Mohammad Reza Shanehsaz, was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

He did not say where the vaccine would be produced or refer to the ban.

In January, Khamenei banned the government from importing Covid vaccines from the US and Britain, saying both countries were “untrustworthy”. He later said the ban was on vaccines made in those countries.

On Thursday, Shanehsaz said Russia’s single-component Sputnik Light vaccine had also been approved. “Fortunately, the basket of the corona vaccines registered in Iran has become very diverse and large,” he added.

Iran is trying to speed up vaccinations by using imported doses – including Sputnik V, India’s Covaxin made by Bharat Biotech, and the British-developed Oxford/AstraZeneca shot produced by Russia’s R-Pharm group and AstraZeneca-SKBio in South Korea. Iran also uses its own COVIran Barekat shot.

The health ministry says 13 million out of a population of 83 million have been fully inoculated.

The ministry on Thursday reported 18,021 new infections in the past 24 hours, bringing total cases to 5,378,408 in Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East. Deaths rose by 453 to 116,072.

آخرین آمار #کرونا در #ایران

مبتلایان جدید: ۱۸۰۲۱ نفر
مجموع بیماران: ۵۳۷۸۴۰۸ نفر
جانباختگان جدید: ۴۵۳ نفر
مجموع جان‌باختگان: ۱۱۶۰۷۲ نفر
مجموع بهبود‌یافتگان: ۴۶۸۲۷۰۴ نفر
مجموع واکسن تزریق‌ شده: ۴۰۳۰۲۱۷۵ دُز pic.twitter.com/6EwnavDBaN

— خبرگزاری تسنیم 🇮🇷 (@Tasnimnews_Fa) September 16, 2021

Updated

Vaccinations are estimated to have directly averted about 230,800 hospital admissions in England, according to new figures.

Some 178,900 admissions have been prevented among those aged 65 years and over, with a further 51,900 among people aged 45 to 64, PA Media reports.

The estimates, which have been calculated by Public Health England and Cambridge University, cover the period up to 5 September.

A total of 89% of all people aged 16 and over in England have now received one dose of vaccine, while 81% are fully vaccinated.
Vaccine take-up continues to be lower among younger age groups, however.

Some 83% of 30 to 39-year-olds in England have now had one jab, along with just 73% of people aged 18 to 29. Estimates for the number of deaths prevented by vaccinations in England are unchanged at 112,300.

Separate figures from Public Health England show the rate of new cases of Covid-19 is falling in all regions.

North-east England has the highest rate, with 369.6 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 12 September, down from 385.7.

London has the lowest rate at 211.7, down from 250.9. Case rates are also falling in most age groups, except for five to nine-year-olds, where they have jumped from 347.1 to 382.0 cases per 100,000 people.

The highest rate is among 10 to 19-year-olds, with a rate of 597.4 in the seven days to 12 September, down from 696.2. The lowest rate is among people aged 80 and over, at 105.1, down from 118.7.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, said there were still high levels of infection in the community.

We are in a much better place today to deal with the virus than we were a year ago, but we must not be complacent,” she added.

“The vaccines are the best defence we have against the virus so please make sure to get protected.

“Those over 50 and the clinically vulnerable will be offered a third primary dose six months after their second dose, and 12 to 15-year-olds can have one dose to help protect themselves and their families.”

The NHS officially launched its booster campaign on Thursday, in which millions of eligible people will be offered a Pfizer vaccine, or in some cases a half-dose of Moderna.

Updated

Scotland has reported a further 26 deaths from Covid. This is just below Wednesday’s total of 30, but above the previous seven-day average of 14.

Thursday’s figures for new cases in Scotland are not yet available.

https://t.co/NIz3P4j6OT

— UK COVID-19 (@UKCovid19Stats) September 16, 2021

In Northern Ireland, 1,071 new cases and five new deaths were reported.

NI #COVID19 data has been updated:

📊1,071 positive cases and sadly, 5 deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours.

💉2,501,235 vaccines administered in total.

Vaccines➡️https://t.co/Yfa0hHVmRL
Dashboard➡️https://t.co/WeZCwyPQnJ pic.twitter.com/gEzyZVftyn

— Department of Health (@healthdpt) September 16, 2021

In the US, the Biden administration has said vaccine boosters will be available starting next week, but there are still many hurdles to overcome before that becomes possible.

Last month, the president and his pandemic response team said booster shots would be made available to those who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines starting the week of 20 September. Health experts are recommending that Americans receive a booster shot eight months after their second vaccine dose.

However, now it seems that only Pfizer shots will be ready by the administration’s target date, and there has been international criticism of the proposal, given how many people in the world have not yet received their first dose.

Our US politics live blog has more:

Updated

France has suspended 3,000 health workers without pay for refusing the Covid vaccine.

The health minister, Olivier Véran, said the staff had been notified in writing before the government-imposed deadline to have at least one dose.

Véran said “several dozen” had resigned rather than have the vaccine, but with an estimated 2.7 million health workers in France, “continued healthcare is assured”, he said.

In July the president, Emmanuel Macron, told staff at hospitals, retirement and care homes as well as those in the fire service they had until 15 September to be partially or fully vaccinated.

The French health authority, Santé Publique, estimates fewer than 12% of hospital staff and about 6% of doctors in private practice have not been vaccinated.

Currently just under 47 million French people aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated, representing 81.4% of the population; 86.1% have received at least one jab.

Véran told RTL radio:

A large number of these suspensions will be temporary. They involved mostly personnel in support service, like those working in laundry or food preparation. He said very few doctors and nurses remained unvaccinated.

Many of them have decided to get vaccinated now the obligation to do so has become a reality.

Read the full story here:

The UK faces “two backlogs” after the Covid pandemic, the health secretary has said.

Sajid Javid told an event in Blackpool that one backlog was the NHS waiting lists, which have risen to a record 5.5 million people, but the second is “a social backlog in mental health and public health”.

He said:

Passing the peak of the pandemic has been a bit like a receding tide, revealing the underlying health of our nation.

Spain will give a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine to nursing home residents, organ transplant recipients and other vulnerable groups, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Cancer patients undergoing chemo or radiotherapy and people with health conditions that require immunosuppressive treatment would also be eligible for a booster dose, the ministry said.

Updated

Sweden will offer a vaccine to children aged 12 to 15 years later this autumn, Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, said on Thursday.

Löfven told a news conference:

It lowers the risk for severe and serious disease and the risk that you miss school.

More than 80% of Swedes aged 16 and above – the group eligible for Covid vaccines – have had one shot and almost 75% are fully vaccinated.

Updated

Care homes in England may be forced to close and thousands of staff risk losing their jobs if they decline to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine by the end of Thursday, ministers have been warned.

Providers and unions have warned of an exodus of staff due to the government’s requirement for them to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus by 11 November. Thursday has been set as their last opportunity for a first dose unless they are medically exempt.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said the mandatory vaccination policy was “very unfair” and that about 2,000 of the region’s care home workers faced losing their jobs overnight unless they received their first jab within hours.

Burnham said carers were being “singled out” by the government, although the health and social care secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that the policy was “highly likely” to be extended to frontline NHS staff after a consultation.

Ministers have previously said they estimate that about 7% of the 570,000 CQC-registered care home staff in England – about 40,000 people – will refuse the vaccine and therefore no longer be able to care for elderly residents after 11 November.

Prof Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, the biggest provider of private care homes in the country, said the policy would deepen the sector’s staffing crisis and could force some homes to close.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday:

We all accept we want as many people as possible to be vaccinated. But I do feel the government has gone forward with the social care compulsion without understanding the implications, without having a thought-out plan on how they are going to deal with staff shortages.

Care homes are now in a difficult position, facing the reality of do they have enough staff to maintain safety and quality of care? They are in the position of either having to transgress the law or expose people they support to levels of staffing that are not going to deliver the safety you’re required to.

He added: “There’s the inevitability that in some areas, if you can’t get the staff, then there will be care homes that close.”

Read more here:

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has said dozens of people in his inner circle at the Kremlin have tested positive for coronavirus, which has affected more than 7 million people in the badly hit country.

Earlier this week, Putin, 68, said he was self-isolating after announcing an outbreak among members of his entourage.

Speaking via video link at a meeting of a Moscow-led security alliance, he said:

Cases of the coronavirus were detected in my inner circle. Not just one or two, but several dozen people.

Putin had been due to attend the meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, in person, but instead joined remotely.

Read the full story here:

Updated

Nearly nine in 10 young adults in UK likely to have Covid-19 antibodies

Nearly nine in 10 young adults in the UK are now likely to have Covid-19 antibodies, new figures suggest.

The estimates, which are for people aged 16 to 24, range from 86.9% in Wales to 88.7% in England and Scotland, with 87.2% in Northern Ireland, PA news reports.

The presence of coronavirus antibodies suggests someone has had the infection in the past or has been vaccinated. It takes between two and three weeks after infection or vaccination for the body to make enough antibodies to fight the virus.

They then remain in the blood at low levels, although these can decline over time to the point that tests can no longer detect them.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are based on a sample of blood test results for the week beginning 23 August. The estimates are for people in private households and do not include settings such as hospitals and care homes.

Antibody positivity among 16- to 24-year-olds is “increasing steadily across all four UK countries”, the ONS said.

A spokesperson said:

In more recent weeks our estimates suggest those aged 25 to 64 years have similar or slightly higher antibody levels than those aged 65 years and over.

This is in line with vaccinations for many of those in younger age groups occurring more recently.

Many people in the oldest age groups, such as 75 to 79 or 80 and over, are likely to have received both doses of vaccine earlier this year, possibly more than six months ago.
Levels of antibody positivity are defined by a fixed amount of antibodies in the blood.

“Most older people who are vaccinated will retain higher antibody levels than prior to vaccination but may have a lower number of antibodies in the blood at the time of testing,” the ONS added.

Updated

China vaccinates 1 billion people

More than 1 billion people in China – 71% of the world’s most populous country – have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, official figures showed on Thursday.

“As of 1September 15, 2.16bn vaccine doses have been administered nationwide,” said Mi Feng, spokesman for the national health commission, at a press conference.

Students queue to receive Covid-19 vaccines at a high school in Shenyang, Liaoning province, China.
Students queue to receive Covid-19 vaccines at a high school in Shenyang, Liaoning province, China. Photograph: AFP/Getty

The government has not publicly announced a target for vaccination coverage, but one senior virologist, Zhong Nanshan, said last month that China is likely to have 80% of its population vaccinated by the end of the year, according to the French state-backed news agency AFP.

The milestone comes as an outbreak of the Delta variant in the south-eastern province of Fujian has infected almost 200 people so far in three cities.

The Fujian cluster is the biggest rebound in weeks and comes after the country declared the Delta variant under control, in a test of China’s “zero-case” approach to the pandemic.

China reported 80 new cases on Thursday, of which 49 were domestic transmissions.

Updated

Italy is set to pass a law making its anti-Covid “green pass” obligatory for all workers. The law, which would penalise workers who are unvaccinated or do not have proof of a recent negative coronavirus test, is expected to come into effect on 15 October.

“The government is ready to speed up on the ‘green pass’... (for) not just the public sector, but private too,” the regional affairs minister, Mariastella Gelmini, said on Wednesday, according to AFP.

The pass is a certificate that shows if someone is vaccinated against Covid-19, has tested negative in the previous 48 hours, or has recently recovered from the virus.

It is currently required by everyone in Italy who wants to eat inside restaurants, go to the cinema and sports stadiums, take intercity trains and buses or domestic flights, and for teachers.

Under the new law, workers failing to produce a pass will face fines of up to €1,000, according to media reports. Unjustified absences due to failures to secure a pass could lead to the employee being suspended, they said.

Italy is not the first European country to make workers have either the vaccine or regular tests. Since 13 September, unvaccinated employees in the private and public sectors in Greece have had to be tested at their own expense once or twice a week, depending on their profession.

Updated

France suspends unvaccinated health workers

Thousands of health workers in France who did not get vaccinated against Covid-19 ahead of a deadline this week have been suspended without pay, the health minister has said.

“Some 3,000 suspensions were notified yesterday to employees at health centres and clinics who have not yet been vaccinated,” Olivier Veran told RTL radio. “Several dozens” had turned in their resignations rather than take vaccines, he added.

That compares with 2.7 million health workers overall, Veran said, adding that “continued healthcare is assured”.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, in July gave staff at hospitals, retirement home workers and the fire service an ultimatum to get at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by 15 September, or face unpaid suspension.

Many nurses in particular have been reluctant to get vaccinated, citing safety or efficacy concerns, posing the risk that France’s vaccination drive could stall, according to AFP.

France’s national public health agency estimated last week that roughly 12% of hospital staff and about 6% of doctors in private practices have yet to be vaccinated.

Updated

A tourist shows his ‘green pass’, which records proof of full vaccination, recovery from the virus, or a negative test, as he enters the Colosseum, in Rome, Italy.
A tourist shows his ‘green pass’, which records proof of full vaccination, recovery from the virus, or a negative test, as he enters the Colosseum, in Rome, Italy. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

Updated

The head of the representative body for the social care industry in England has said that care homes may be forced to close because workers refusing to get vaccinated will leave them short of staff.

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

There’s a real crisis around recruitment in the social care sector which has, in the pandemic, gotten a lot worse.

Lots of things the government has done, including the mandatory vaccination process, hasn’t helped.

Green said that the government had introduced compulsory vaccines for care workers without understanding the implications, and without any plans to deal with staff shortages. He went on:

Care homes are now in a difficult position, facing the reality of do they have enough staff to maintain safety and quality of care?

They are in the position of either having to transgress the law or expose people they support to levels of staffing that are not going to deliver the required safety.

There’s the inevitability that in some areas, if you can’t get the staff, then there will be care homes that close.

Updated

Virgin Australia issues staff vaccine mandate

Virgin Australia said on Thursday it will require all its staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Pilots, cabin crew and airport workers will need to be fully vaccinated by 15 November, while other staff will have until 31 March 2022, Virgin said.

The move brings it in line with domestic rival Qantas Airways and a growing number of airlines in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We also remain supportive of any government-led measures to ensure travellers are vaccinated,” Virgin’s chief executive, Jayne Hrdlicka, said.

In Australia, lockdowns in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra due to coronavirus cases have led to state border closures, hampering domestic travel. The country has not mandated vaccines for travel, but some states require them for entry in certain cases.

Asian airlines have reported high vaccination take-up rates among pilots and cabin crew as they wait for the region’s tight pandemic-related border controls to be relaxed.

Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways are among those that have mandated crew vaccinations.

Updated

The drop in fossil fuel emissions during last year’s global pandemic shutdown has not slowed the pace of climate change, and the world remains behind goals for cutting carbon emissions, the UN said.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the drop in CO2 emissions last year was not enough to reverse the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Reduction targets are not being met and there is a rising likelihood the world will miss its Paris Agreement target of reducing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the WMO said in its United in Science 2021 Report.

“Throughout the pandemic we have heard that we must build back better to set humanity on a more sustainable path and to avoid the worst impacts of climate change on society and economies,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“This report shows that so far in 2021 we are not going in the right direction,” he said.

Putin to spend 'a few days' in Covid self-isolation

Vladimir Putin in his office in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence.
Vladimir Putin in his office in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence. Photograph: Alexei Druzhinin/Tass

Vladimir Putin has said he will have to spend “a few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with Covid-19, the Tass news agency reported.

Putin was speaking through a video link at a summit of a Russia-led security bloc which was held in Tajikistan. He had planned to attend in person before the news of the virus outbreak in his inner circle this week.

It was previously unclear how big the outbreak was and how long Putin would remain isolated.

“This is not just one person or two people, there are dozens of people,” he said.
“And now I have to remain in self-isolation for a few days.”

Updated

Seven in 10 people in the UK do not feel a return to full-time office working is on the cards post-pandemic, a survey suggests.

The majority of those questioned by YouGov said they would favour to either work from home full-time, or have a hybrid arrangement.

But the poll, commissioned by the BBC, also found concern from senior leaders that creativity and collaboration could suffer if employees were staying at home.

In the Covid-19 autumn and winter plan, the government said it would “consider asking people once again to work from home if they can, for a limited period” in a plan B scenario if data shows the NHS is “likely to come under unsustainable pressure”.

The YouGov/BBC poll of 1,684 people and 530 senior leaders in business also saw a majority thinking their productivity would not suffer if staff continued to work from home, with 75% of people thinking their manager will allow them to continue not coming into the office.

Updated

The UN children’s agency has urged education authorities to reopen schools as soon as possible, with millions of students around the world still unable to return to classrooms 18 months into the Covid pandemic.

Schools in about 17 countries remain fully closed, while those in 39 countries remain partially closed, according to a report released by Unicef on Thursday, the Reuters news agency reports.

Among those “almost completely closed” are schools usually attended by nearly 77 million students in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Panama and Kuwait.

“The education crisis is still here, and with each passing day that classrooms remain dark, the devastation worsens,” said Unicef’s executive director, Henrietta Fore.

In a report released in April, the Asian Development Bank estimated school closures lasting more than a year could slash future earnings among the region’s students by as much as $1.25tn, or equivalent to 5.4% of GDP in 2020.

Unicef and its partners will shut down their digital channels for 18 hours on Thursday to draw attention to the crisis and the “18 months of lost learning”.

“This is a crisis we will not allow the world to ignore,” Fore said. “Our channels are silent, but our message is loud: every community, everywhere must reopen schools as soon as possible.”

Updated

Good morning from London. This is Damien Gayle taking the reins of the live blog now, to bring you all the latest coronavirus-related news and updates from around the world.

Summary

That’s it from me, Helen Livingstone, for today, I’m passing you over to my UK colleagues.

Before I go here’s a quick roundup of what’s been happening over the past 24 hours.

  • Trinidad and Tobago’s health minister, Terrence Deyalsingh, has dismissed claims by the rapper Nicki Minaj that a cousin’s friend had become impotent after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, saying that health officials in the Caribbean country had found no evidence that any patient had reported such side-effects.
  • The European Union’s chief executive has warned that Covid vaccinations must be accelerated to avoid “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Speaking in Strasbourg, Ursula von der Leyen said in her state of the union address: “Let’s do everything possible [so] that this does not turn into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
  • Italy is to make a Covid-19 “green pass” mandatory for public and private sector workers, a minister said on Wednesday, becoming the first European country to do so as it tries to accelerate vaccination rates and stamp out infections.
  • Thousands of unvaccinated French health workers face suspension without pay from Wednesday under a new Covid-19 law that punishes people in care professions who refuse to get immunised against the virus.
  • Covid restrictions to the UK will return if the virus gets “out of control” again this year, the health secretary has said, with a dangerous new variant or the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed identified as the moment “plan B” could be triggered.
  • A surge in coronavirus cases has pushed the healthcare system in the Canadian province of Alberta to the verge of collapse, as healthcare workers struggle against mounting exhaustion and a growing anti-vaccine movement in the region.
  • Republican lawmakers in over half of US states have removed powers to protect the public against infectious diseases since the start of the pandemic, reports Kaiser Health News. A review by the news organisation found that at least 26 states have passed laws that permanently weaken government powers to protect public health.
  • All diplomats attending the UN general assembly in New York next week will have to provide proof of vaccination, the city government has confirmed, prompting an angry response from Russia.
  • The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has condemned the lack of distribution of Covid vaccines to African countries and called for stronger medical manufacturing capacity across the continent.
  • The WHO special envoy for the global coronavirus response, David Nabarro, has praised the UK’s approach of “learning to live with the virus” but criticised the government for giving booster shots and doses to 12- to 15-year-olds.
  • Pfizer has said US regulators should approve a booster dose of the vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech six months after the second dose, due to waning effectiveness of the shot over time, Reuters reports.
  • The US is pushing for global leaders to support a target to get 70% of the world’s population vaccinated against Covid by 2022 in a bid to end the pandemic, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The United Nations children’s agency Unicef has urged education authorities to reopen schools as soon as possible in countries where millions of students are still not allowed to return to classrooms 18 months into the Covid-19 pandemic, Reuters reports.

Schools in around 17 countries remain fully closed, while those in 39 countries remain partially closed, according to a report released by Unicef on Thursday.

Among those “almost completely closed” are schools usually attended by nearly 77 million students in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Panama and Kuwait.

Nearly a third of this figure is accounted for by the Philippines, which is fighting one of Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks and where a new school year started this week.
Pupils from the six countries represent more than half of the 131 million students worldwide that have missed more than three-quarters of their in-person learning, Unicef said.

“The education crisis is still here, and with each passing day that classrooms remain dark, the devastation worsens,” said Unicef Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
The report said teachers should be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccines, after health workers and those most at risk, to protect them from community transmission.

A teacher (R) and a volunteer sort distance learning materials to be picked up by parents at a school in Manila, ahead of another school year of remote lessons in the Philippines due to the pandemic.
A teacher (R) and a volunteer sort distance learning materials to be picked up by parents at a school in Manila, ahead of another school year of remote lessons in the Philippines due to the pandemic. Photograph: Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images

Students may be safer at home, but the availability of computers, mobile phones and internet, and the uneven quality of education, are among challenges they continue to face.

In the Philippines, some children have been forced to climb onto roofs just to get an internet signal.

In June, President Rodrigo Duterte rejected a proposal to allow face-to-face classes to resume in some areas, saying: “I cannot gamble on the health of the children.”

In a report released in April, the Asian Development Bank estimated school closures lasting more than a year could slash future earnings among the region’s students by as much as $1.25 trillion, or equivalent to 5.4% of GDP in 2020.

Unicef and its partners will shut down their digital channels for 18 hours on Thursday to draw attention to the crisis and the “18 months of lost learning”.

“This is a crisis we will not allow the world to ignore,” Unicef’s Fore said. “Our channels are silent, but our message is loud: Every community, everywhere must reopen schools as soon as possible.

A panel of health experts advising the Hong Kong government has recommended children aged 12-17 should get only one dose of BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine after reports of heart inflammation side effects, Reuters reports.

Professor Lau Yu-lung, who chairs a health committee advising the government on its vaccination programme, told public broadcaster RTHK the side effect was more prevalent than originally thought.

He said experts therefore decided it was better for teenagers to get only one dose to “greatly reduce the chance of heart inflammation.”

The city’s Department of Health did not provide data on how many cases of heart inflammation side effects have been reported.

But RTHK said that more than 30 teenagers suffered inflammation of the heart since the government started administering the shot to those over 12 from June.

Hong Kong has been using two Covid-19 vaccines including Sinovac’s shot vaccinating adults, but teenagers are eligible to take the BioNTech vaccine only.

More than 50% of those aged 12-17 have been vaccinated but the government has not said how many doses have been administered so far.

Regulators in the US, the European Union and the World Health Organization have said that mRNA vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and by Moderna are associated with rare cases of myocarditis or pericarditis, but that the benefits of the shots outweigh any risks.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can limit the organ’s ability to pump blood and can cause changes in heartbeat rhythms. Pericarditis is an inflammation of the lining around the heart.

Pfizer has said it recognised there could be rare reports of myocarditis after vaccinations, but such side effects were extremely rare.

BioNTech and its Chinese sales agent Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group did not immediately reply to Reuters’ requests for comment.

The risk of myocarditis was 18.5 per million doses given among people aged 18 to 24 after their second Pfizer dose and 20.2 per million for that age group among Moderna second dose recipients. The risk decreases with age, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Around 65% of Hong Kong’s residents have had their first vaccine dose, but the take up amongst elderly people remains low due to concerns of side effects.

Hong Kong has largely controlled the coronavirus with no locally transmitted cases in many weeks. The Asian financial hub has recorded around 12,100 cases in total and 213 deaths.

Israel’s programme of booster jabs has proved effective in reducing severe cases of Covid even as new infections hover near record highs, experts have said, AFP reports.

Since taking office in June, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has insisted he will aim to avoid any new lockdown, a pledge his government has kept even as the country of roughly 9.3 million people regularly records more than 10,000 new Covid cases a day.

Schools opened on September 1 and synagogues are set to welcome worshippers, with some restrictions, for Yom Kippur - the Jewish calendar’s most important day - when services begin on Wednesday evening.

To stay open, Israel has opted for a complex policy mix that has caused frustration for families forced to organise repeated Covid tests for their children to attend school or take part in other activities.

The backbone of Bennett’s strategy has been the rollout of a third shot of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine to everyone aged 12 and over, ignoring criticism that the booster jab is unnecessary and unfair.

But the 49-year-old premier this week insisted his approach was working.

“Very many people were sceptical,” he told his cabinet. “But our strategy is proving itself.”

Top public health experts, citing recent data, agreed, telling AFP even though daily cases remain high, the booster shot has stemmed the rise in severe Covid cases, warding off a crisis that was brewing last month.

On Wednesday, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine also bore out the finding.

Researchers examined data relating to 1.1 million Israelis 60 and older, who had received two doses of vaccine at least five months earlier, then either received a booster or did not.

After 12 days, those who had a third shot were 11 times less likely to have a confirmed infection and 20 times less likely to develop severe Covid than those who did not.

Palestinians wait to receive a Covid-19 booster vaccine in East Jerusalem.
Palestinians wait to receive a Covid-19 booster vaccine in East Jerusalem. Photograph: Debbie Hill/UPI/REX/Shutterstock

But when cases began surging again through the summer, health experts confronted a key question, said Gabi Barbash, a former health ministry director general now with the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Had the surge been caused by the PfizerBioNTech vaccine’s waning effectiveness five months after the second jab, or, was the Delta variant’s ability to break through vaccine protection to blame?

But weeks after the third jab rollout began, the severe case count – which shot up from more than 70 in late July to 600 by mid-August – has stabilised, currently standing below 700. Infections also remain very low among the triple jabbed.

Those factors, Barbash told AFP, make it clear that “waning immunity is what caused the fourth wave.”

“And when such waning immunity meets such transmissible variants (like Delta), it is a disaster.”

He acknowledged criticism, notably from the World Health Organization, that offering third jabs was unjust with some poor countries struggling to offer even a single shot.

But Barbash argued that Israel’s small population would not stress global vaccine supplies and underlined that had Israel not administered shots it could have seen 1,000 deaths per month.

More than 7,400 Israelis have died from Covid-19.

Cyrille Cohen, a life sciences professor at Bar Ilan University and a member of the health ministry’s vaccine committee, cited data from the over 60 demographic to highlight the booster shot’s impact.

“If you are not vaccinated, you are around 35 times more likely to develop a severe case if you are over the age of 60, and around eight times more if you have two doses and no booster shot,” he said.

Welcome

Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s rolling coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Livingstone.

Experts in Israel have cited recent data to back prime minister Naftali Bennett’s claims that the country’s programme of booster jabs has proved effective in reducing severe cases of Covid even as new infections hover near record high.

A panel of health experts advising the Hong Kong government has recommended children aged 12-17 should get only one dose of BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine after reports of heart inflammation side effects.

Here’s a roundup of what’s been happening over the past 24 hours:

  • The European Union’s chief executive has warned that Covid vaccinations must be accelerated to avoid “a pandemic of the unvaccinated”. Speaking in Strasbourg, Ursula von der Leyen said in her state of the union address: “Let’s do everything possible [so] that this does not turn into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
  • Italy is to make a Covid-19 “green pass” mandatory for public and private sector workers, a minister said on Wednesday, becoming the first European country to do so as it tries to accelerate vaccination rates and stamp out infections.
  • Thousands of unvaccinated French health workers face suspension without pay from Wednesday under a new Covid-19 law that punishes people in care professions who refuse to get immunised against the virus.
  • Covid restrictions to the UK will return if the virus gets “out of control” again this year, the health secretary has said, with a dangerous new variant or the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed identified as the moment “plan B” could be triggered.
  • A surge in coronavirus cases has pushed the healthcare system in the Canadian province of Alberta to the verge of collapse, as healthcare workers struggle against mounting exhaustion and a growing anti-vaccine movement in the region.
  • Republican lawmakers in over half of US states have removed powers to protect the public against infectious diseases since the start of the pandemic, reports Kaiser Health News. A review by the news organisation found that at least 26 states have passed laws that permanently weaken government powers to protect public health.
  • All diplomats attending the UN general assembly in New York next week will have to provide proof of vaccination, the city government has confirmed, prompting an angry response from Russia.
  • The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has condemned the lack of distribution of Covid vaccines to African countries and called for stronger medical manufacturing capacity across the continent.
  • The WHO special envoy for the global coronavirus response, David Nabarro, has praised the UK’s approach of “learning to live with the virus” but criticised the government for giving booster shots and doses to 12- to 15-year-olds.
  • Pfizer has said US regulators should approve a booster dose of the vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech six months after the second dose, due to waning effectiveness of the shot over time, Reuters reports.
  • The US is pushing for global leaders to support a target to get 70% of the world’s population vaccinated against Covid by 2022 in a bid to end the pandemic, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.
  • The UK health secretary Sajid Javid has said that people in the public eye should be “very careful with their language” after Nicki Minaj drew widespread condemnation for spreading Covid misinformation on Twitter.
  • Javid has said there are “no risk-free decisions” as he defended the government’s “sensible” autumn and winter plan. Asked why the government has not immediately introduced its more restrictive “plan B” amid warnings of a surge in hospitalisations, he told Sky News that although it is “right for the government to reassure people we have a plan”, vaccines are the “first line of defence”.
  • Healthcare staff in England can decide whether children get a Covid vaccine against the wishes of their parents, according to government guidelines published on Wednesday that left some headteachers fearing protests at the school gates.

Contributors

Lucy Campbell (now); Nicola Slawson, Damien Gayle and Helen Livingstone (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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Helen Sullivan (now and earlier); Lucy Campbell , Jessica Murray, and Aamna Mohdin

12, Aug, 2020 @11:10 PM

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Hydroxychloroquine scientist may be pushed out of institute he founded – as it happened
This blog is now closed. You can find all the latest Covid stories here.

Nicola Slawson (now); Mattha Busby, Robyn Vinter and Helen Livingstone (earlier)

19, Aug, 2021 @10:51 PM