Coronavirus latest news: Pandemic behind us by October, says Sage member

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The Clapham Grand welcomes audience members at full capacity as live performances return - Tim P Whitby/Getty
The Clapham Grand welcomes audience members at full capacity as live performances return – Tim P Whitby/Getty
  • Over half of Covid hospitalisations tested positive after admission

  • Scientists considering 77 countries for green list

  • Covid cases fall for sixth day in a row

  • Sherelle Jacobs: Tory biosurveillance fantasy is chilling

  • The delta variant can reinfect you – but it’s unlikely

The worst of the pandemic could be behind us by late September, an expert has said, as the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK continued to fall.

Professor Neil Ferguson – whose modelling led to the first lockdown in March 2020 – said caution is still needed, but offered a hopeful outlook for autumn.

Prof Ferguson, from Imperial College London, and a member of a committee within the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We need to remain cautious, especially with the potential increase in contact rates again as the weather becomes less fine and schools return. We’re not completely out of the woods, but the equation has fundamentally changed. The effect of vaccines is hugely reducing the risk of hospitalisations and death.

“And I’m positive that by late September or October time we will be looking back at most of the pandemic. We will have Covid with us, we will still have people dying from Covid, but we’ll have put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

10:39 AM

The unending economic nightmare of Australia’s zero-Covid strategy

As Britain’s healthcare system gasped for air under a Covid-19 surge in mid-January, Australians were hitting the beach.

The height of summer drew people to Bondi’s white-sand crescent in droves, with an invasion of bluebottle jellyfish deemed to be a bigger threat than the pandemic.

Many credited the freedom to Australia’s zero-Covid strategy under which Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been striving for total domestic eradication of the virus using quarantines, snap lockdowns and a closed-border.

To much of the world, the strategy appeared to be working. Today, however, zero-Covid has backfired. As major economies reopen, Sydney has been plunged into its strictest lockdown since the start of the pandemic, bleeding billions of dollars a week as tourism, hospitality and construction remain closed.

  • Louis Ashworth looks at why Australia’s Zero Covid has failed

10:19 AM

Exclusive: Over half of Covid hospitalisations tested positive after admission

More than half of Covid hospitalisations are patients who only tested positive after admission, leaked data reveal.

The figures suggest vast numbers are being classed as hospitalised by Covid when they were admitted with other ailments, with the virus picked up by routine testing.

Experts said it meant the national statistics, published daily on the government website and frequently referred to by ministers, may far overstate the levels of pressures on the NHS.

The leaked data – covering all NHS trusts in England – show that, as of last Thursday, just 44 per cent of patients classed as being hospitalised with Covid had tested positive by the time they were admitted.

The majority of cases were not detected until patients underwent standard Covid tests, carried out on everyone admitted to hospital for any reason.

  • Laura Donnelly has the full story

09:48 AM

Australia to remain closed until 2022 due to Government’s ‘colossal failure’ to buy vaccines, former PM warns

Australia’s vaccine rollout has been “a colossal failure” because the government failed to buy enough vaccines so its borders are therefore likely to remain closed until at least early 2022, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said.

Mr Turnbull said the Australian government, led by under-fire Prime Minister Scott Morrison, had failed to buy enough vaccines, only securing enough AstraZeneca shots even though there was considerable hesitancy over that vaccine and not buying enough alternatives.

“It’s the biggest failure of public administration I can recall,” said Mr Turnbull, who served as prime minister from 2015-2018 before being ousted by Mr Morrison in a party room coup. Only 16 percent of Australians aged over 16 years so far fully vaccinated.

“It was a colossal failure and the problem is you can’t wind the clock back and fix what should have been done last year. The very reason we are locked down – which is so frustrating when so many other parts of the world are opening up – is simply because our government failed to buy enough vaccines,” he told the BBC.

09:12 AM

Total UK Covid deaths – 154,661

A total of 154,661 deaths have now occurred in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, the ONS said.

The highest number of deaths to occur on a single day was 1,483 on January 19.

During the first wave of the virus, the daily toll peaked at 1,461 deaths on April 8 2020.

08:46 AM

Weekly care home deaths in England and Wales up slightly to 27

Some 27 care home resident deaths involving Covid-19 in England and Wales were registered in the week to July 16, up from 20 deaths in the previous week.

In total, 42,614 care home residents in England and Wales have had Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate since the pandemic began.

The ONS figures cover deaths of care home residents in all settings, not just in care homes.

08:42 AM

Registered Covid deaths in England and Wales up 19pc – highest since April

A total of 218 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending July 16 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – up 19% on the previous week.

It is the highest total since 260 deaths in the week to April 23.

08:35 AM

Covid around the world, in pictures

The Vaccines play their first live gig in two years at˜Radio X Presents at London's O2 Kentish Town Forum
The Vaccines play their first live gig in two years at˜Radio X Presents at London’s O2 Kentish Town Forum
France's President Emmanuel Macron (c) arrives in Manihi atoll, in the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia - Ludovic Marin/AFP
France’s President Emmanuel Macron (c) arrives in Manihi atoll, in the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia – Ludovic Marin/AFP

08:09 AM

Euro 2020 caused spike in cases, says top Scottish medic

National Clinical Director of the Scottish Government, Professor Jason Leitch, has described how the country’s case rate is “dramatically falling”.

“We had five out of the top 10 local authorities in the UK, now we have none in the top 150,” Prof Leitch told the BBC’s Today programme.

“We’ve now seen hospitalisations fall. Around 3 per cent of positive people get admitted to hospital but they are now younger, relatively healthy and discharged quicker. But some stay, and we’ve had many deaths over the last few days.”

He said the participation of fans in Euro 2020 had caused a spike in cases, but said it was “important to keep the football in perspective”.

“The Scotland-England game gave us a spike because of travel, not necessarily Wembley. Unfortunately, from a sporting perspective, Scotland went out far too early. But epidemiologically speaking, that probably did us some favours,” he said.

“We tested a lot of these fans and for a short time (cases) went from 1:1 male-female to 9:1 male-female. It has now returned to 1:1.”

07:46 AM

‘We won’t see for several more weeks what the effect of the unlocking is’

Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London, and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said it is still “too early to tell” what effect the unlocking will have, and stressed that continued “caution” is needed.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Professor Ferguson said: “We won’t see for several more weeks what the effect of the unlocking is.

“We need to remain cautious, especially with the potential increase in contact rates again as the weather becomes less fine and schools return.

“We’re not completely out of the woods, but the equation has fundamentally changed. The effect of vaccines is hugely reducing the risk of hospitalisations and death. And I’m positive that by late September or October time we will be looking back at most of the pandemic.

“We will have Covid with us, we will still have people dying from Covid, but we’ll have put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.

“Clearly the higher we can get vaccination coverage, the better – that will protect people and reduce transmission – but there is going to be remaining uncertainty until the autumn.”

07:19 AM

Minister says no US-UK travel corridor is ‘disappointing’

A Government minister has said it is “disappointing” that no travel corridor with the US is currently available.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse was responding to the overnight announcement from the US Government that it does not plan to loosen travel restrictions across the Atlantic due to the number of infections in the UK and the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Mr Malthouse told Sky News: “Obviously that is for them to assess and we are assessing the likelihood of variants coming in from other countries as well. So, it doesn’t surprise me that they are doing similar. It is obviously disappointing.”

He added: “We want to get back to international travel as soon as possible. I have got lots of family overseas who I would love to go and visit, particularly in Canada.

“I am afraid that the tail-end of this virus, and lets hope it is the tail-end, we are still coping with some of that uncertainty across the world and people will have to bear that in mind as they decide their travel plans or otherwise.”

07:17 AM

NHS as stretched now as it was at height of pandemic, claim health leaders

The NHS is as stretched now as it was at the height of the pandemic in January and things will get worse before they get better, health leaders have said.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay, and NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Providers said a combination of pressures are being experienced by the health service.

“This combination means that many trust chief executives are saying that the overall level of pressure they are now experiencing is, although very different in shape, similar to the pressure they saw in January of this year when the NHS was under the greatest pressure in a generation,” the letter said.

It called on the Government to make “the right decisions” over the next month as it finalises NHS funding for the second half of the financial year.

Pressures on the NHS include going “full speed” to address the backlog of care across hospital, mental health and community services; and record levels of demand for urgent and emergency care.

The letter also pointed to growing hospital admissions for Covid-19 alongside more cases of long Covid and people suffering poor mental health.

07:09 AM

Tokyo sees all-time high in number of cases

As the Olympic Games continue in Japan, Tokyo’s daily Covid-19 cases are seen surging to an all time high of over 3,000 cases, Jiji news agency reported on Tuesday.

07:04 AM

We will have to be ‘agile to path of virus’, says minister

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said that while “we’ve still got an advantage over the virus and the vaccine continues to roll out”, we may have to be “agile” in the coming weeks.

Asked what was meant by “agile”, he explained: “Agile means obviously you’re having to adapt to the path of the virus and so over the last 18 months, we’ve learned a lot about the virus, and we’ve seen some oddities from it, we’ve seen some parts of the country that are prone when different variations appear.

“We’ve had to take decisions about particular events or particular scenarios with a virus might have a greater risk of contagion, and that means moving quickly that’s caused some confusion some frustration from people, but nevertheless, we know two things about this virus, we do know what it grows very quickly, and two it recedes quite slowly. And that means we have to move quite quickly, and then as we come out, we have to be cautious at the same time.

“We’ve only got a couple of weeks to go now until Aug 16 with double jabs, people will be released, if you like. So we’ve just got to get through the next two weeks and make sure we control that virus so we can do so safely, unfortunately.”

07:00 AM

Why are cases dropping?

Policing minister Kit Malthouse is on the media rounds this morning.

Asked by Sky News’ Kay Burley why cases were dropping, he said: “I think it’s probably something to do with the start of the school holidays, obviously the vaccine rollout increases every day.

“But we have to be very careful, you know, six days of drop is great. Let’s hope it continues, but we’re waiting to see what happens over the next few days we obviously had the release last Monday, from all the restrictions pretty much back to normal life.

“We know this virus has a lag of two to three weeks before we see the impact of that on the compensatory side we’ve seen the start of the school holidays, it’s a natural firebreak, you know, when people do break up a bit.

“But also remember, normally this time of year we’d have several million people overseas on holiday… it’s quite an interesting cocktail of effects going on, which is why I think we have to wait until mid August and see what’s happening on the numbers, hope they continue downwards, and then take the next step.”

06:46 AM

Government wants to ‘communicate the hell out of’ encouraging young people to get vaccine

The Policing Minister has said the Government wants to “communicate the hell out of” encouraging young people to get a Covid jab.

Speaking on Sky News, Kit Malthouse was asked what was being done to increase the uptake in Covid vaccines among young people.

Mr Malthouse said: “We are urging people to get out there and get the jab, and of course tens of thousands of people are every day and that is the other reason to try and urge as many young people as possible to get in there and do so.

“We know that there is a high prevalence amongst those age groups, we want them to get vaccinated and we will be communicating the hell out of that. Anything you can do to help us, parents, grandparents, friends, whatever it might be to urge young people to go out there and get jabbed will be fantastic.”

The minister also said he thought there had been a dip in Covid case rates in recent days because schools had broken up, but added there was currently an “interesting cocktail of effects” on the virus.

He added: “Six days of drop is great, let’s hope it continues, but we are waiting to see what happens over the next few days.”

06:08 AM

Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, July 27.

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05:38 AM

Czech Republic donating 30,000 vaccine doses to Taiwan

The Czech Republic is donating 30,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Taiwan, the island’s president said on Tuesday, praising the central European country for taking a step that could irritate China.

“This manifests again that Taiwan and Czech are not only firm partners on the path of freedom and democracy, but also that a friend in need is a good friend indeed,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement announcing the vaccine donation.

Since a rare spike in domestic cases began in Taiwan in May, the government has received almost six million vaccine doses gifted by Japan and the US, enabling it to speed up an inoculation programme that it said had been hampered initially by China, though Beijing denies playing any negative role.

The Czech Republic’s decision to donate vaccines to Taiwan follows similar actions by Lithuania and Slovakia.

Since the pandemic began, Taiwan has donated millions of face masks around the world, including to the Czech Republic.

People rest after receiving a dose of the Moderna vaccine at an exhibition hall in Taipei City - Reuters
People rest after receiving a dose of the Moderna vaccine at an exhibition hall in Taipei City – Reuters

04:41 AM

Delta variant can reinfect you – but chances are very small

With nine in 10 adults in England now carrying antibodies against Covid, and infections seemingly in retreat, it would be tempting to think the country’s epidemic is all but over.

Yet there is growing evidence that the delta variant is far better than previous strains at reinfecting people who have previously had the virus or been double jabbed.

On Friday, Public Health England (PHE) upgraded its risk assessment for reinfection after a natural infection from amber to red, warning that the delta strain more than doubles the risk of getting Covid for a second time when compared with the alpha variant.

So are we about to see all our hard work wiped out by a wave of reinfections?

Read the full story

03:52 AM

China reports 71 new cases as delta outbreak hits Nanjing

China reported 71 new Covid-19 cases on July 26, the national health authority said on Tuesday, as an outbreak of the delta variant threatens the eastern city of Nanjing.

Local infections accounted for 31 of the new cases, down from 40 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

All of the local cases were reported in the eastern province of Jiangsu, where Nanjing is the capital, it said.

Based on the genetic testing results on patients, the virus strain that caused Nanjing’s coronavirus outbreak is the delta strain, a Nanjing city government official told a media conference on Tuesday.

Residents queueing to receive a nucleic acid test for the Covid-19 in Nanjing - AFP
Residents queueing to receive a nucleic acid test for the Covid-19 in Nanjing – AFP

02:20 AM

US keeping restrictions on international travel as cases surge

The United States served notice on Monday that it will keep existing Covid-19 restrictions on international travel in place for now due to concerns about the surging infection rate because of the delta variant.

It was the latest sign that the White House is having to recalibrate its thinking around the coronavirus pandemic as the more infectious variant surges across the US and a substantial chunk of the population resists vaccination.

It was also a reversal from the sentiment President Joe Biden voiced earlier this month when he said his administration was “in the process” of considering how soon the US could lift the ban on European travel bound for the US after the issue was raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the White House.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the restrictions would continue for now.

“Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated, and appears likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” she said.

Read more: Scientists considering 77 countries for move to travel green list

Supporters of World Wide Rally for freedom 3.0, anti-vaccine protesters rally against coronavirus restrictions in Raleigh, North Carolina -  Anadolu 
Supporters of World Wide Rally for freedom 3.0, anti-vaccine protesters rally against coronavirus restrictions in Raleigh, North Carolina – Anadolu

11:55 PM

Australian state eyes end of lockdown as cases ease

Australia’s Victoria state looks set to come out of a hard Covid-19 lockdown as planned on Tuesday after reporting fewer new cases, while neighbouring New South Wales rushed to trace thousands after detecting fresh virus clusters.

A busy shopping mall in Sydney’s southwest has been added to virus exposure sites and anyone who visited at any time over a 10-day period has been classified as a close contact who should test and self isolate for two weeks.

Sydney is into its fifth week of a lockdown to contain an outbreak of the delta variant.

The lockdown is due to end on Friday but strict stay-home rules could be extended further as daily new cases have stubbornly remained above a hundred, with many still active in the community while infectious.

Victoria detected 10 new local cases, down from 11 a day earlier, with all infections linked to the latest outbreak and in quarantine throughout their entire infectious period.

11:29 PM

Today’s top stories

  • More than half of Covid hospitalisations are patients who only tested positive after admission, leaked data reveal.

  • Seventy-seven countries are under review by government scientists for a possible move to the green list for quarantine-free foreign travel, it has emerged.

  • With nine in 10 adults in England now carrying antibodies against Covid, and infections seemingly in retreat, it would be tempting to think the country’s epidemic is all but over.

  • Covid cases have fallen for a sixth day in a row, despite scientists previously predicting that the number of infections could rise to a peak of up to 250,000.

  • SNP ministers have been accused of “shameless spin” after contradicting official figures to claim they had not missed their own Covid vaccination targets.

  • Downing Street has been warned that the “pingdemic” has led to panic buying and forced one in five workers at some supermarket chains to isolate, as calls mount for self-isolation rules to be relaxed before August 16.

  • The vaccine passports plan for nightclubs was forced through despite a majority of ministers calling for it to be postponed at a meeting just hours before it was announced, it has emerged.

  • University leaders have hit back at plans to force students to be double jabbed before attending lectures.

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