Coronavirus latest update: Top scientific adviser says lockdowns are ‘unlikely’ to be needed again

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File photo dated 20/03/20 of empty streets around Bank Underground station in London, during the pandemic lockdown. Home working is here to stay and the end of the five-day-a-week office commute will change the shape of cities dramatically, according to former Bank of England deputy governor Sir Charlie Bean. Issue date: Monday March 29, 2021. PA Photo. Sir Charlie has become the latest prominent figure to declare that the traditional, office-based working week is over as he predicted firms will adopt a permanent flexible model after the pandemic. - PA
File photo dated 20/03/20 of empty streets around Bank Underground station in London, during the pandemic lockdown. Home working is here to stay and the end of the five-day-a-week office commute will change the shape of cities dramatically, according to former Bank of England deputy governor Sir Charlie Bean. Issue date: Monday March 29, 2021. PA Photo. Sir Charlie has become the latest prominent figure to declare that the traditional, office-based working week is over as he predicted firms will adopt a permanent flexible model after the pandemic. – PA
  • Vaccine rollout among young adults stalls

  • Aide tests positive but PM won’t self-isolate

  • Schools jump gun on child vaccinations

  • Ministers move on rip-off travel test firms

  • ‘Secretive’ SNP restriction plans under fire

A top scientific adviser to the Government has said lockdowns are “unlikely” to be needed again to control the Covid pandemic.

The claim comes as the number of people in hospital with the virus has fallen, and the average rate of infection has decreased.

The number of Covid infections is expected to rise again in September, when school and university terms begin and more workers are expected to return to the office.

But immunologist Professor Neil Ferguson, among the Government’s most prominent scientific advisers on Covid, has predicted it is unlikely a lockdown will be needed again to control the virus.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

05:50 AM

Fully vaccinated ‘can transmit Covid’

People who are fully vaccinated have a similar viral load to the unvaccinated, suggesting both can transmit Covid.

New analysis by Public Health England (PHE) found little difference in how much virus was present in people who had been jabbed, leading to fears that the vaccines will not suppress spread as much as hoped.

Scientists believed the jabs would prevent transmission as well as protecting people against the disease by lowering viral replication.

Minutes of a Sage meeting from July 22, published on Friday, also show growing concern among government scientists that the delta variant causes a higher viral load than the alpha strain, even after vaccination.

Read the full story

05:25 AM

Parents divided as US schools set to reopen

Greater numbers of American children are being swept up in a wave of infections driven by the delta variant, causing renewed anxiety for parents and a bitter political fight as schools prepare to reopen within weeks.

Much of the surge is concentrated in the southeastern state of Florida, where some school districts are defying an order by the Republican governor forbidding mask mandates, in the latest political twist in the health crisis.

“Parents are put into an impossible situation of having to choose between the health and life of their child and returning (to) school,” said a lawsuit against the governor’s order filed by parents of children with disabilities on Friday.

The majority of children who catch the virus will have a mild or asymptomatic disease, and until recently they had not been a major focal point of the pandemic.

People protest against the school mask mandate, enacted to help slow the spread of COVID-19, outside a Hillsborough County School Board meeting in Tampa, Florida,  - Reuters
People protest against the school mask mandate, enacted to help slow the spread of COVID-19, outside a Hillsborough County School Board meeting in Tampa, Florida, – Reuters

04:58 AM

Insurance scheme won’t work, say producers

Leading theatre producers have criticised the Government’s events insurance scheme, claiming it will not work for the West End.

Theatres have been stifled by a lack of insurance covering Covid cancellations, making staging shows a high-risk enterprise and prompting producers to call for a state-backed scheme.

The Government has offered a £750 million insurance scheme for live events, but leading West End figures have warned the cover does not protect against the “pingdemic”.

Theatre bosses said the insurance would only cover shows in the case of an authorised lockdown and not in the event of staff illness.

Read the full story

Theatre goers queue for a performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at Palace Theatre on July 21, 2021 in London, England. Several UK theatre productions have either closed or been unable to premiere due to cast members having to isolate after being "pinged" by the NHS test and trace app. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has postponed the opening of Cinderella in the West End saying that the government's isolation policy is a "blunt instrument" after there was a covid case amongst the cast. - Getty Images
Theatre goers queue for a performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at Palace Theatre on July 21, 2021 in London, England. Several UK theatre productions have either closed or been unable to premiere due to cast members having to isolate after being “pinged” by the NHS test and trace app. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has postponed the opening of Cinderella in the West End saying that the government’s isolation policy is a “blunt instrument” after there was a covid case amongst the cast. – Getty Images

04:38 AM

US Governor orders care home workers to get jab

Connecticut has become the latest state to mandate that workers in nursing homes be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Governor Ned Lamont on Friday directed an executive order that requires all employees of long-term care facilities to receive at least the first dose of a vaccine by September 7.

In a statement, he said it would “absolutely irresponsible” for staffers not to be vaccinated, given the vulnerability of the people in their care.

According to the governor’s release, more than half of all nursing homes in Connecticut have a staff vaccination rate lower than 75 percent. Connecticut joins at least five other states that have issued similar mandates.

03:51 AM

California splashes more cash on incentives

California has announced another round of vaccine incentives, including $50 grocery store gift cards.

The California Department of Health Care Services on Friday said it would spend $350 million (£250 million) to vaccinate more people on the state’s Medicaid program.

Medicaid is the joint state and federal health insurance program for people who are disabled or have low incomes.

About 76 percent of California residents aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine. But only 45 percent of the state’s Medicaid population has been vaccinated.

In this Jan. 13, 2021, file photo, health care workers receive a COVID-19 vaccination at Ritchie Valens Recreation Center, in Pacoima, Calif. California will require all of its roughly 2.2 million health care and long term care workers to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Sept. 30. Gov. Gavin Newsom said last month he would require health care workers to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) - AP
In this Jan. 13, 2021, file photo, health care workers receive a COVID-19 vaccination at Ritchie Valens Recreation Center, in Pacoima, Calif. California will require all of its roughly 2.2 million health care and long term care workers to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Sept. 30. Gov. Gavin Newsom said last month he would require health care workers to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) – AP

03:10 AM

Mexico City on red alert as cases surge to new peak

Mexico City and at lease six of the country’s 32 states are now on “red” alert as Covid-19 infections rose to their highest level ever.

As of Friday, Mexico had more than 144,000 active coronavirus cases nationwide, 4.6 percent more than the previous peak during the country’s surge in January.

The country has seen 243,733 test-confirmed deaths, but Mexico does little testing and studies of death certificates indicate the real toll is closer to 370,000.

Almost a quarter of the country is now on the highest level of alert, which requires some non-essential businesses to close and forces others to serve fewer customers at a time.

A picture taken with a drone of new graves construction in a pantheon in the Acapulco resort, Guerrero state, Mexico, 06 August 2021. The Ministry of Health of Mexico reported this 06 August 21,563 new confirmed infections of covid-19, for a total of 2,944,226 cases, in addition to 568 new deaths, reaching 243,733 deaths, in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic. Mexico reports 21,563 new infections, third highest number in the pandemic, Acapulco - - Shutterstock
A picture taken with a drone of new graves construction in a pantheon in the Acapulco resort, Guerrero state, Mexico, 06 August 2021. The Ministry of Health of Mexico reported this 06 August 21,563 new confirmed infections of covid-19, for a total of 2,944,226 cases, in addition to 568 new deaths, reaching 243,733 deaths, in the middle of the third wave of the pandemic. Mexico reports 21,563 new infections, third highest number in the pandemic, Acapulco – – Shutterstock

02:44 AM

Mississippi doctors urge schools to mask up

The Mississippi State Medical Association on Friday urged all school districts to require masks for students and employees as Covid-19 cases continue to proliferate with the highly contagious delta variant.

“At MSMA, we love to follow the science. We digested it, and we believe in mask mandates for the schools,” the association’s president, Dr Mark Horne, said during an online briefing about the pandemic.

The state health officer, Dr Thomas Dobbs, said during the briefing that he applauds school administrators and school board members who stand firm for mask mandates, even as some face pushback from angry parents.

“It’s tough to be a good leader, but it’s good for the kids,” he said. “It’s going to save lives.”

Vernon Jones, Republican gubernatorial candidate for Georgia, speaks during a Gwinnett County Public Schools 'Unmask Our Children' protest in Suwanee, Georgia, U.S., on Friday, July 30, 2021. In the face of the spreading of the highly contagious delta strain of the coronavirus, the CDC changed its guidance on July 27, advising that everyone should wear masks in schools.
Vernon Jones, Republican gubernatorial candidate for Georgia, speaks during a Gwinnett County Public Schools ‘Unmask Our Children’ protest in Suwanee, Georgia, U.S., on Friday, July 30, 2021. In the face of the spreading of the highly contagious delta strain of the coronavirus, the CDC changed its guidance on July 27, advising that everyone should wear masks in schools.

01:42 AM

Australian state breaks daily record — again

Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) reported 319 Covid-19 infections on Saturday, the highest number since the start of the pandemic, eclipsing the previous record of 291 cases set the day before.

Five more people have died in the current outbreak of the highly transmissible delta variant, which began in NSW in mid-June. The number of deaths in the latest outbreak has risen to 27, bringing the total number who have died in the state since the start of the pandemic to 84.

There are 345 people in hospital, with 56 in intensive care, of whom 23 require ventilation, state authorities said.

Members of the public are tested at a pop up COVID-19 clinic at Roselands shopping centre in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), Australia, 06 August 2021. Australian Defence Force (ADF) troops have joined NSW police patrolling streets in Sydney's west and southwest to ensure COVID-19 health orders are being observed in the hotspots where the virus is surging.  - Shutterstock
Members of the public are tested at a pop up COVID-19 clinic at Roselands shopping centre in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), Australia, 06 August 2021. Australian Defence Force (ADF) troops have joined NSW police patrolling streets in Sydney’s west and southwest to ensure COVID-19 health orders are being observed in the hotspots where the virus is surging. – Shutterstock

12:41 AM

All Amazon warehouse workers told to wear masks

Starting Monday, Amazon will be requiring all of its 900,000 US warehouse workers to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

The move follows steps by a slew of other retailers, including Walmart and Target, to mandate masks for their workers. In many of those cases the mandates apply to workers in locations of substantial Covid-19 transmission.

Amazon said Friday that its call for a nationwide mask mandate for its warehouse workers was in response to the spread of Covid-19 variants in the US, and guidance from public health authorities and its own medical experts. Amazon has been requiring only warehouse workers not vaccinated against Covid-19 to wear masks.

Amazon’s Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said last week that rising coronavirus infections linked to the delta variant are pushing the company to get more workers vaccinated. It’s also working with local authorities on safety measures.

Amazon workers move containers to delivery trucks at an Amazon warehouse facility in Goodyear, Ariz. Starting Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, Amazon will be requiring all of its 900,000 U.S. warehouse workers to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. The move follows steps by a slew of other retailers, including Walmart and Target, to mandate masks for their workers. In many of those cases the mandates apply to workers in locations of substantial COVID-19 transmission - AP
Amazon workers move containers to delivery trucks at an Amazon warehouse facility in Goodyear, Ariz. Starting Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, Amazon will be requiring all of its 900,000 U.S. warehouse workers to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. The move follows steps by a slew of other retailers, including Walmart and Target, to mandate masks for their workers. In many of those cases the mandates apply to workers in locations of substantial COVID-19 transmission – AP

12:02 AM

Victoria records highest daily jump in cases this year

Australia’s Victoria reported 29 new locally acquired coronavirus cases on Saturday, the highest daily jump this year, as the state remains under a seven-day strict lockdown imposed earlier this week to try to curb the highly infectious delta variant.

Health authorities said that all of the new infections are linked to previously reported cases but were not in quarantine during their infectious periods.

Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state and home to almost seven million people, on Thursday night entered into its sixth lockdown since the pandemic began, just weeks after exiting the last one.

A woman wearing a face mask crosses a street in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 06 August 2021. Victoria has entered a seven-day lockdown in an effort to contain a growing outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant in the state. COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, Australia - Shutterstock
A woman wearing a face mask crosses a street in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 06 August 2021. Victoria has entered a seven-day lockdown in an effort to contain a growing outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant in the state. COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, Australia – Shutterstock

11:33 PM

United Airlines gives employees deadline for vaccinations

United Airlines will require employees in the US to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by late October, perhaps sooner, joining a rising number of big corporations that are responding to a surge in virus cases.

United was the first major US airline to announce such a move. A smaller carrier, Frontier Airlines, said later Friday that it will require employees to be fully vaccinated by October 1, or face “regular” testing for the virus.

Other airlines have offered extra pay or time off to employees who get vaccinated, but have not required them to get the shots.

United officials called their decision a matter of safety and cited “incredibly compelling” evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccines.

A United Airlines passenger jet takes off with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo
A United Airlines passenger jet takes off with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

11:03 PM

Today’s top stories

  • England’s vaccine rollout continues to stall, with European countries including France now having jabbed a higher proportion of young adults, data show.

  • Boris Johnson will not be self-isolating despite a member of his team on the recent visit to Scotland testing positive for Covid, Downing Street has said.

  • Children’s Covid jabs are being scheduled at schools even though approval is yet to be given, it has emerged.

  • Travel test firms could be rated for reliability and value for money on the Government’s official website under plans to crack down on rip-offs.

  • Remaining Covid-19 restrictions such as face coverings and home working could still be in place next year, “sleekit and secretive” Scottish government guidance has disclosed.

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