Sajid Javid urges Britons to get vaccinated after full recovery from 'very mild' Covid

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·38 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid - Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency
Health Secretary Sajid Javid - Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency

04:32 PM

Today in brief

Just joining us? Here's a look back at today's key stories:

  • Sajid Javid has urged Britons to get fully vaccinated after announcing that he has made a "full recovery" from a mild coronavirus infection.

  • The UK has reported 31,795 new coronavirus cases today, as infections continue to fall for the fourth day straight.

  • But Prof Adam Kucharski, a modeller at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said data over the next fortnight will be crucial to identify whether the UK has turned a corner in the coronavirus pandemic - or if recent drops are a "false peak".

  • The people administering Covid-19 vaccines are being told to throw away doses as not enough people are coming forward for their first jab.

  • Airports and airlines are experiencing their busiest weekend of the year so far, as schools close and the summer holidays begin for millions.

  • A new variant is under investigation in the UK, with 16 cases linked to international travel. But Public Health England says there is no evidence so far it makes vaccines less effective.

And elsewhere across the globe:

  • Everyone in a county in China's southwest will be tested for the coronavirus following a spike in infections in nearby Myanmar, which is struggling with a surge of cases.

  • The United States announced that it has shipped 22 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to other countries this week, including Pakistan, Vietnam, Guatemala and Senegal.

  • Anti-vaccination protesters and other demonstrators against Covid-19 restrictions in France clashed with the police in central Paris today, leading anti-riot forces to use teargas.

  • Thousands also marched through Australia's two biggest cities in anti-lockdown protests today, sparking violent clashes with police in Sydney.

04:09 PM

China set to test everyone in a county near Myanmar as cases there surge

Everyone in a county in China's southwest near Myanmar will be tested for the coronavirus following a spike in infections, the government has announced.

Businesses, schools and markets in Jiangcheng County in Yunnan province will close on Monday and Tuesday while testing is carried out, and travel into and out of the county will be prohibited.

Yunnan has reported a spike in infections traced to nearby Myanmar, where a military government that seized power in February is struggling to contain a surge in cases. Beijing has tightened border controls.

Jiangcheng County, southeast of the city of Pu'er, is on China's border with Vietnam and Laos. It doesn't directly border Myanmar. But on Saturday, the Yunnan health agency reported five new infections, all in people it said lived recently in Myanmar.

That increased Yunan's current total of people who are being treated for confirmed infections to 297, including 218 believed to have been infected abroad.

Related - ‘We can’t breathe... and the whole world is silent’: Myanmar begs for oxygen as Covid crisis worsens

03:56 PM

UK reports 31,795 new infections in fourth consecutive day of falling case counts

The UK has reported 31,795 new coronavirus cases today, as infections continue to fall for the fourth day straight. While figures are often lower at the weekend, this is a drop of almost almost 5,000 compared to yesterday's figure.

Public Health England posted the update to Twitter, as delayed data on new fatalities means the official dashboard is yet to be updated.

In total, PHE added, 46.5 million people have had a coronavirus vaccine, including 36.9 million who have had both shots.

03:52 PM

Covid vaccines routinely thrown in the bin as not enough people are coming forward

The people administering Covid-19 vaccines are being told to throw away doses as not enough people are coming forward for their first jab.

Attempts to use leftover doses on people awaiting second jabs are being frustrated because of the strict adherence to guidance saying they must be administered eight weeks apart, sources said.

The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses for all the available Covid-19 vaccines as studies suggest it offers greater immunity.

“For the last two weeks we have literally been throwing the vaccine into the bin,” said one anonymous vaccinator in the North East, which recorded the largest increase in Covid patient admissions across England in the week to July 18.

They added that most people who want their first dose have already come forward and they are “disheartened” and “frustrated” at the current situation, where “hesitancy” is stopping people from receiving the vaccine.

Maighna Nanu has more details on this story here.

03:43 PM

Vaccine booking rates double in Italy after Covid certificate announced

Since Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced that a "Green Pass" would be needed for people to sit inside at restaurants and other entertainment venues, Italians have been rushing to book their vaccinations.

Emergency commissioner Francesco Figliuolo said bookings had soared at rates between 15 and 200 per cent, depending on the region, in a move dubbed "the Draghi effect".

And in Lombardy, the region's vice president Letizia Moratti announced 100,000 new first-dose vaccine slots would be opened after some 49,000 new bookings were made on Thursday and Friday.

Other countries have also seen a similar jump in bookings after announcing vaccine pass schemes, most recently France. However, protests have erupted today in Paris over the measures, with some violent clashes with the police.

03:31 PM

Tokyo: Opening ceremony highlights as tennis star Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic flame

Over in Tokyo, an Olympics like no other are underway thanks to the pandemic. Our video team have pulled together a highlights reel, watch below:

03:20 PM

Falling infections could be 'false peak' amid fears of post-lockdown surge

Data over the next fortnight will be crucial to identify whether the UK has turned a corner in the coronavirus pandemic - or if the last three days of falling cases are a "false peak".

Prof Adam Kucharski, an epidemiologist and mathematician at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC Radio Four that figures from the last few days represent an "early sign" that transmission rates may be falling across the UK.

Cases have dropped in Scotland, for instance, since schools closed earlier this month - while warm weather and summer holidays are likely reducing transmission in England.

But he cautioned that it is too soon to identify whether this is a lasting trend, warning that "we've seen false peaks before". The next week or so will be critical, Prof Kucharski said, and could see a post-lockdown surge.

"Of course that change on Monday, that big reopening, has not yet shown up in the data. So I think the next week or two is going to be crucial to know if this is genuinely a slowdown of a potential peak, or if we've got more transmission to come."

03:06 PM

US has shipped 22 million coronavirus vaccines worldwide this week

In the United States, the White House press secretary has announced that the government has shipped 22 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to other countries this week.

The total was a weekly record as vaccines went to 23 countries. Jen Psaki said the recipients included Pakistan, Vietnam, Guatemala, Panama, Senegal, Cameroon and Morocco, among other nations.

By this weekend, roughly 80 million doses in total will have shipped from the United States to other countries.

Psaki stressed at Friday's White House news briefing that the United States is "donating more to the world than any other country."

Still, there is a global vaccine gap between wealthier nations and poorer ones, a reflection of the economic might of American and European countries as well as the pressure to address the needs of domestic populations.

Related: Vaccine nationalism is unwanted ‘natural experiment’ that will kill many people, warns virus expert

02:49 PM

Protesters against Covid restrictions clash with police in Paris

Anti-vaccination protesters and other demonstrators against Covid-19 restrictions in France clashed with the police in central Paris today, leading anti-riot forces to use teargas, BTM Television has reported.

Beyond Paris, protests were expected to take place in cities such as Marseille, Montpellier, Nantes and Toulouse as French lawmakers are due to vote this weekend on a bill drafted by the government aimed at setting up a health pass and mandatory vaccination for health workers.

Protesters hold flags and placards during a protest against the compulsory vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass called by the French government -  ALAIN JOCARD/AFP
Protesters hold flags and placards during a protest against the compulsory vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of the health pass called by the French government - ALAIN JOCARD/AFP
Protesters and riot police stand amidst tear gas smoke during clashes on the sidelines of a demonstration - Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP
Protesters and riot police stand amidst tear gas smoke during clashes on the sidelines of a demonstration - Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

02:31 PM

Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older

Jordan will become the latest country to start vaccinating children aged 12 years and older against Covid-19, the state news agency has reported.

As of Sunday, children can be given the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian and with no prior appointment necessary, the agency quoted the health ministry as saying.

The decision comes as Jordan lifted most restrictions at the start of July, reopening gyms, pools and night clubs at hotels after cases dropped from a peak in March when several thousands of new cases were recorded daily.

Total active cases reached 7,489 on Friday with 331 new cases and four deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, Jordan has recorded a total of 763,437 cases and 9,933 deaths.

Several other countries in the region are vaccinating children, including Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia

02:18 PM

Tanzania receives first batch of coronavirus vaccines

Tanzania has received its first batch of one million Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, donated by the US government.

Tanzania had been among the few countries in Africa yet to receive vaccines or start inoculating its population against the pandemic, mainly because its former leader had denied claimed prayer had defeated Covid-19 in the country.

Former Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who died in March, had refused to accept vaccines after he claimed three days of prayer had healed the country of the coronavirus in June 2020.

Magufuli, 61, was among the world's most prominent sceptics of Covid-19. Though his official cause of death was reported to be cardiac arrest, Magufuli's critics believe he died of the virus.

Magufuli's deputy, Samai Suluhu Hassan, took over as president in line with the country's constitution and became the first female president in Tanzania. She has reversed Tanzania's practice of denying Covid-19's spread in the East African country.

Related: The least vaccinated countries in the world - the charts showing the scale of inequality

02:05 PM

Sajid Javid makes 'full recovery' after Covid infection

The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has written on Twitter that he has made a "full recovery" after a contracting the coronavirus.

"Symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines," he said. "Please - if you haven’t yet - get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.

01:58 PM

Train passengers face pingdemic chaos as summer of cancellations looms

Train passengers face a summer of chaos after the Government signed off mass cancellations as a result of the the "pingdemic".

At least seven major rail networks are planning to impose emergency timetables for up to six weeks due to a critical shortage of train drivers and crew. One industry source said: "Cancellations galore are coming down the line."

On Friday, Downing Street moved to tackle the disruption by including some train drivers in a new mass exemptions scheme, following similar moves for the food production industry to keep food on the shelves.

About 100 sites in the transport and freight industry will be allowed to deploy daily Covid testing instead of self-isolation for a limited number of workers. A further 100 will be set up for frontline police and fire services as well as Border Force staff.

Read the full story here.

01:42 PM

All talk, no jabs: the reality of global vaccine diplomacy

If you believe the @sputnikvaccine Twitter account – a feed tweeting apparently on behalf of the Kremlin – Russia is single-handedly inoculating the world.

A relentless stream of pictures and videos shows Sputnik deliveries arriving in almost every corner of the globe, from Paraguay and Argentina to Mauritius and Egypt.

But lurking beneath the social media onslaught are less impressive figures; the reality of Russia’s vaccine diplomacy campaign simply does not match the rhetoric.

According to data from the analytics company Airfinity, just 24 per cent of the 1.14 million doses of Sputnik V pledged by Russia have been delivered – roughly 278,000 vaccines have been donated to nine countries including Angola, Moldova and Zimbabwe.

Russia isn’t alone. Almost no government has lived up to their grandiose vows to donate Covid-19 shots and “vaccinate the world”.

Our Global Health Security team have the full story here.

01:29 PM

Vietnam reports record coronavirus case count

Vietnam's health ministry reported 7,968 coronavirus infections on Saturday, a record daily increase and up from Friday's record of 7,307.

More than two-thirds of the cases are in Ho Chi Minh City, the ministry said in a statement.

After successfully containing the virus for much of the pandemic, the Southeast Asian country has been facing a renewed outbreak of the virus, with southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces accounting for most new infections.

The ministry on Friday said it would extend a lockdown in the city until August 1 and impose stricter restriction measures in the capital Hanoi from Saturday. The measures include a stay-home order, a ban on gatherings larger than two people and the suspension of public transport.

The capital city on Saturday also suspended motorbike delivery services, including by companies such as ride-hailing firms Grab and GoJek, adding to its existing restriction measures.

01:16 PM

BMA concerned about healthcare staff being exempted from isolation

The British Medical Association has expressed concerns about government plans to exempt double-jabbed healthcare workers if they are a close contact of a coronavirus case - calling the situation "desperate".

Speaking to Sky News Dr Kailash Chand, the BMA's honorary vice-president, suggested the move could compromise the safety of both staff and patients.

"We all know the cases are surging, hospital admissions are surging and one thing which is more worrying is that quite a few people who are being admitted have double vaccination," he said.

"Exempting healthcare staff from self-isolation to get back to work, in my view, is a desperate situation."

But many others across the health service and beyond have welcomed the government's move, amid concerns that the "pingdemic" is crippling critical services and the NHS.

01:08 PM

Matt's take

12:55 PM

Watch: Violent clashes in Australia as thousands protest against lockdown

Thousands marched through Australia's two biggest cities in anti-lockdown protests Saturday, sparking violent clashes with police in Sydney.

Dozens of protesters were arrested after an unauthorised march flouted public health orders in Sydney, while several confrontations with police broke out during the hours-long rally.

Officers were pelted with pot plants and bottles of water as opponents of Sydney's month-long stay-at-home order took to the streets in numbers.

Thousands also crowded several streets in Melbourne after gathering outside the state parliament in the early afternoon.

Read more here - or watch the video below:

12:41 PM

Pandemic in pictures

Mexico City, Mexico:

People walk through the main streets of Mexico City, which is in an orange epidemiological traffic light (high risk) due to the increase in recent weeks in cases of infections of young people - Mario Guzmain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
People walk through the main streets of Mexico City, which is in an orange epidemiological traffic light (high risk) due to the increase in recent weeks in cases of infections of young people - Mario Guzmain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Chipaya, Bolivia:

A resident is inoculated with a dose of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine during a vaccination campaign targeting the Uru Chipaya Indigenous community - AP Photo/Juan Karita
A resident is inoculated with a dose of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine during a vaccination campaign targeting the Uru Chipaya Indigenous community - AP Photo/Juan Karita

London, UK:

Runners taking part in the Parkrun at Bushy Park in London, the largest and oldest Parkrun in the UK, and one of many runs taking place across the country for the first time since last March. - Victoria Jones/PA Wire
Runners taking part in the Parkrun at Bushy Park in London, the largest and oldest Parkrun in the UK, and one of many runs taking place across the country for the first time since last March. - Victoria Jones/PA Wire

12:27 PM

How the island that launched the Covid app is now on its knees due to pingdemic

When the Isle of Wight became the first place to trial the NHS Test and Trace app, residents and businesses said that they were proud to be leading the fight against coronavirus, writes Hayley Dixon

But now the island which pioneered the technology is being brought to its knees by it, with business owners warning that the so-called "pingdemic" could do more harm than the actual pandemic.

Just as they head into their busiest time of year, the pubs, restaurants and attractions which rely on tourism to survive are having to close their doors or run reduced hours because their staff are isolating.

Even the Red Funnel ferry service - which travels from Southampton to the island - has had to drastically reduce the number of crossings it makes for two weeks after it lost 30 per cent of its workforce.

The island has been expecting more visitors than usual due to travel restrictions forcing many Britons to choose staycations this summer, but there are now doubts over the ability of businesses to stay open.

Read the full story here.

12:10 PM

Pingdemic chaos dealing £5bn blow to economy

The "pingdemic" is crippling Britain's recovery as the economy suffers a near-£5 billion blow from millions of self-isolating staff who cannot work from home, analysts have warned.

Private sector firms last month ­suffered their slowest growth since the start of unlocking in April as a surge in self-isolating staff worsened recruitment difficulties and labour shortages, monthly Purchasing Managers' Index data show.

More than 600,000 people have been pinged by the NHS Trace and Trace app and been told to self-isolate for up to 10 days in the past week, disrupting businesses and hitting orders.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said the cost of the pings could reach £4.6 billion between "Freedom Day" on July 19 and August 16, when double-jabbed people will be able to return to work after a negative PCR test.

Christopher Hope, Russell Lynch and Alan Tovey have more on this story here.

11:36 AM

Rail union chief demands clarification on isolation exemptions

Rail union leaders have called for urgent clarification on the expansion of isolation exemptions for some transport workers amid warnings of confusion.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said a failure to brief unions on the plans risked causing damage. General secretary Mick Lynch said:

"It is ludicrous that this announcement has been made without any discussion with the unions or detailed briefing on who this scheme is supposed to cover and how it will be implemented.

"This cavalier approach seems to be aimed at hitting headlines rather than mapping a serious way out of the current crisis.

"It leaves our members facing yet more uncertainty. I am seeking urgent clarification from both the employers and the Government before more damage is done."

A scheme allowing key workers to be tested to avoid Covid self-isolation in England has been expanded due to increasing staff shortages.

11:25 AM

China rejects second phase of WHO Covid origins inquiry amid escalating tensions

The World Health Organization’s plan for second phase studies into the origins of the coronavirus “disregards common sense and defies science”, a top Chinese health official has claimed.

In a series of withering comments, Zeng Yixin, vice minister of the National Health Commission (NHC), told reporters that China would “not accept” a strategy outlined last week by the WHO to further explore how the pandemic began.

Central to the WHO’s proposals are further audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, plus plans for member states to renominate a new team of scientists to investigate how Sars-Cov-2 jumped from animals to humans.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, has also struck an increasingly tough line on China, urging authorities to be fully transparent and share raw data from the early days of the initial outbreak, which has previously been withheld.

Find out more details here.

11:12 AM

Almost half of young adults have had to self-isolate during pandemic, poll suggests

A poll conducted by YouGov has found that one in five Britons (20 per cent) have had to self-isolate at least once during the pandemic.

For young adults, aged between 18 to 24, the figure rises to almost half (46 per cent).

The findings come as the Government is being put under increasing pressure to offer exemptions for more industries from self-isolation as the 'pingdemic' continues to restrict the workforce.

10:58 AM

Visiting Cornwall? Take a Covid test, holidaymakers told

Holidaymakers visiting Cornwall have been told by tourism bosses to get a Covid test ahead of the summer dash.

Tourist and council chiefs urged people to order a pack of lateral flow tests and ensure they are negative before they head to the county.

With Covid cases rising to 40,000 a day and hundreds of thousands of people being pinged by the NHS app, Visit Cornwall warned that "the virus is still out there" and added: "We would suggest that you test yourself and your family before setting out and while you are in Cornwall.

"Be aware of the anxiety some may be feeling as they emerge from restrictions, and respect those who choose to wear masks."

It came as an estimated 2.4 million people took to the roads on Friday for "staycations" and some 400,000 took advantage of cut-price foreign breaks and the relaxation of quarantine rules for the double-jabbed to jet off to European holiday destinations.

Find out more here.

10:44 AM

Families could get rewards for healthy living in new war on obesity

Boris Johnson is to launch a government-backed rewards programme for families switching to healthier food and exercising under radical plans to tackle Britain's obesity crisis.

The scheme will monitor family supermarket spending, rewarding those who reduce their calorie intake and buy more fruit and vegetables. People increasing their exercise by taking part in organised events or walking to school will also accumulate extra "points" in a new app.

On Friday night, Lord Stevens, the outgoing head of the NHS, warned that the health service would struggle struggle to cope in future if there were not radical moves to tackle obesity.

Under the new plan, "loyalty points" accumulated would be exchanged for discounts, free tickets or other incentives.

The scheme is to be launched in January and underlines Mr Johnson's determination to tackle growing levels of obesity. The Prime Minister blamed his weight for his serious illness with Covid last year.

Laura Donnelly has more details on this story here.

10:37 AM

Parkrun returns with much jubilation

There's much excitement this morning amid the nation's runners. After restrictions lifted earlier this week, Parkrun - a weekly community event which takes place each Saturday morning in parks across Britain - began again on today in England.

There's lots of moving posts on social media as joggers get underway - this clip from Bushy Park in London shows just how highly anticipated the event has been.

10:26 AM

In case you missed it: Labour MP Dawn Butler ordered to leave the Commons after calling PM a liar

10:13 AM

Airports and airlines prepare for busiest weekend of the year to date

Airports and airlines are expecting their busiest weekend of the year so far as schools close and the summer holidays begin for millions.

Gatwick Airport said it expects to see around 250 to 260 flights and between 25,000 to 27,000 passengers a day over the weekend - up from a low of just 15 flights a day at the height of the pandemic.

The most popular foreign destination is Spain, with between 60 and 70 flights a day, while around 30 planes will depart each day for Greece, it added. But the airport said flight numbers are still far below the 950 per day at this time of year pre-Covid.

A spokesman said: "We've been looking forward to this weekend - the start of the summer holidays - for some time and cannot wait to finally see our passengers enjoying themselves, whether that's indulging in some retail therapy or eating in our restaurants, before jetting off on a well-deserved holiday."

Airline easyJet said it is preparing to carry more than 135,000 passengers this weekend from the UK on over 80 routes to green and amber-list destinations across Europe.

Tui also said it has almost double the number of passengers travelling Friday to Sunday compared to last weekend, with the Balearics and Greece the "clear favourites" and Palma, Ibiza and Rhodes the most popular destinations.

09:59 AM

New coronavirus variant under investigation in the UK with 16 cases found

Public Health England is investigating another new coronavirus variant, which has been found in pockets across the UK.

So far 16 cases of the variant, called B.1.621, have been identified. The majority of these infections are linked to overseas travel and at the moment there is no evidence of community transmission.

The strain was designated a variant under investigation on July 21, but officials said it had been on their radar for a couple of weeks due to global spread - experts said they are worried about ‘apparent international expansion’.

To date, there have been 325 confirmed cases in Colombia, 264 in the US, 196 in Spain and 122 in Mexico, but it has also been detected elsewhere in Europe, South America and Asia.

It has been spotted in three different UK regions but 10 were in London, mainly among 20-29-year-olds and three of the cases had clear travel links to a country it has already been spotted in higher numbers.

But, in positive news, PHE said that there has not been any evidence yet to show that the vaccines are any less effective in combating the strain.

09:44 AM

Russia reports nearly 24,000 new Covid cases - but Moscow may have passed peak

Russia has reported nearly 24,000 new Covid-19 cases and a repeat all-time high in the number of daily deaths, at 799 - but some officials suggested that infections, especially in Moscow, may have peaked.

Russia has been in the grip of a surge in cases that authorities blame on the more contagious Delta variant.

The coronavirus task force confirmed 23,947 new Covid-19 infections across the country in the last 24 hours, down around 5 per cent on the previous week. In Moscow, 3,376 new cases were reported, down 26 per cent.

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said authorities hoped that infections in the Russian capital had now peaked, the TASS news agency reported.

"On the whole, we can see that there is a decrease in the incidence of disease," he was quoted on Friday as saying. "This, of course, is positive, it means that we have passed these peaks, and I hope that there will be further improvement."

09:32 AM

Rioters target HIV drugs factory in week of South African violence

As South Africans come to terms with a week of deadly riots that killed more than 300 people, a clearer picture is emerging of the utter devastation wrought on the country’s healthcare system.

Hundreds of health facilities — general practices, pharmacies, blood banks, kidney dialysis centres and life-saving drugs factories — have been raided or burned to the ground across Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng provinces.

Amidst the chaos, a factory that produced HIV antiretroviral drugs in the city of Durban was looted and damaged by rioters. The factory is thought to be the only one of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa and played a key role in supplying the 13 per cent of South Africans who live with HIV or AIDs with life-saving medication.

Medical officials told The Telegraph that they thought more than 200 general practices had been affected by the rioting in Kwazulu Natal states alone, and about 120 pharmacies had been looted or destroyed in both regions.

Peta Thornycroft and Will Brown have more details on this story here.

09:17 AM

Tokyo daily Covid-19 cases total 1,128 on Saturday as Olympics get underway

Tokyo reported 1,128 Covid-19 cases today, as Japan's capital kicked off the Olympic Games. Infections have been on the rise in recent weeks, reaching 1,979 on Thursday, the highest since January, amid mounting concerns that the sports event could trigger a renewed surge.

Follow our live coverage of the Olympics here, or dive into the major stories so far here:

09:05 AM

Pandemic in pictures

Paris, France:

Medical staff members tend to a Covid-19 patient in a room of the intensive care unit of the Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil, near Paris
Medical staff members tend to a Covid-19 patient in a room of the intensive care unit of the Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil, near Paris

Rostov-on-Don, Russia:

Medical workers disinfect their protective suits before leaving the red zone of a COVID-19 facility - rik Romanenko\\TASS
Medical workers disinfect their protective suits before leaving the red zone of a COVID-19 facility - rik Romanenko\\TASS

Gujarat, India:

Healthcare workers give a dose of the Covishield vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to villager during a door-to-door vaccination drive in Banaskantha district in the western state of Gujarat - REUTERS/Amit Dave
Healthcare workers give a dose of the Covishield vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to villager during a door-to-door vaccination drive in Banaskantha district in the western state of Gujarat - REUTERS/Amit Dave

08:51 AM

Indonesia's Bali running out of oxygen as government ponders curbs

The Indonesian island of Bali is running out of oxygen for its Covid-19 patients as infections surge, the chief of its health agency said, as Southeast Asia's biggest country struggles with the region's worst Covid epidemic.

Bali, famous for its tourist beaches and temples, along with the main island of Java and 15 other regions are under tight coronavirus restrictions, due to expire on Sunday. The government is debating whether to extend them or not.

"We've had an oxygen shortage since July 14 and it's getting critical by the day because of a surge in new cases," Ketut Suarjaya, the head of Bali's health agency, said as quoted by Antara state news agency as saying on Friday. "There's an oxygen crisis in Bali."

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, has had more than three million coronavirus infections and 80,598 deaths, according to official data. The spread, driven by the Delta variant, has shown no sign of slowing.

Research organisation Our World in Data said the country had a death rate three times higher than the global average.

08:38 AM

Extra Covid testing deployed in North East England

Extra Covid testing is to be deployed to the North East and the public have been advised to minimise the number of people they meet in a bid to stem a rise in coronavirus infections.

Seven local authorities across Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham, and five local authorities in the Tees Valley, will receive the extra testing, support to maximise vaccine and testing uptake and help with public health campaigns.

Targeted support will begin in the North East from Monday lasting five weeks.

South Tyneside had 1113.4 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to July 18, while Sunderland had 1086.8, Gatesthead had 905.2 and Newcastle had 824.3.

Local residents have also been urged to remain cautious and follow guidance including wearing face coverings on public transport, meet others outdoors, ventilate homes and minimise their number, duration and proximity of contacts.

08:16 AM

Warning of 'false peaks' in infection rates as cases drop across the UK

Prof Adam Kucharski added that while there are "early signs" that cases might be dropping across the UK after three consecutive days of falling new infections, data from the next week or two will be crucial.

He said that cases have dropped in Scotland since schools closed, while summer holidays and warm weather may also have played a role in England.

But he struck a note of caution, adding that "we've seen false peaks before".

"Of course that change on Monday, that big reopening, has not yet shown up in the data," Prof Kucharski told BBC Radio Four. "So I think the next week or two is going to be crucial to know if this is genuinely a slow down of a potential peak, or if we've got more transmission to come."

He added that the "pingdemic" triggered by the NHS test and trace app is reflecting far higher contact patterns across the population, as people socialise far more.

"Vaccines are enabling more interactions to happen, but there's an awful lot of Covid out there. If you go out and have contacts, it's very likely you'll be near someone who has the virus," he said.

08:07 AM

Not going to see a 'slowdown' in cases until vaccination rates rise in younger groups

Until vaccination rates rise, especially in young people, "we're not going to see much of a slowdown" in new coronavirus cases, according to a leading infectious disease modeller.

Adam Kucharski, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC Radio Four that the delta vaccine is so infectious the R value would be around six if no control measures were in place

That means we "really we need vaccinations to reducing transmission by about 85 per cent" - making lower uptake in younger populations a concern.

"Of course now, in terms of the remaining potential to get the benefits of vaccines, it's those groups [young people] where there's more work that can be done," Prof Kucharski said.

"If you look at current infection rates, they're particularly high in that 18-25 group - so it's contacts plus the potential for much higher vaccination in those groups that means that's really where our attention needs to be focused."

He added: "Frankly, in younger groups we're going to get a large accumulation of immunity either through vaccination of infection in the coming weeks.

"I think we'd all much rather that that happens through vaccination - but given the rates we're seeing there are large risks of exposure so it really is crucial that people get both doses."

07:53 AM

Young people should post jabs on social media to encourage others, says public health director

Vaccination sites are seeing a drop off in uptake among younger people - and one solution may be sharing vaccinations on social media to "activate social media networks", according to the Director of Public Health in the London Borough of Newham.

Speaking to Radio Four's Today programme, Jason Strelitz, Newham be said no one intervention will be enough to trigger higher uptake - though he welcomed a video from Gareth Southgate encouraging people to get a Covid shot.

He added, though, that he would like to see younger people posting their vaccinations on social media, suggesting that "activating social media networks is influential".

Asked about the factors that have lead to reduced take up in younger age groups, Strelitz said a multitude of factors were at play as the population is diverse. But, he said, because younger people have seen that the risks are far higher for the older population, they may deem the risks of Covid to themselves low.

"We would really encourage that there are risks, both to young people themselves and their loved ones and the wider community," he the told BBC.

07:35 AM

The least vaccinated countries in the world: the charts showing the scale of inequality

There are four countries in the world which have not yet started vaccinating against Covid-19: Eritrea, Burundi, Tanzania and North Korea.

Others have barely begun: Haiti only got its first shipment of doses last week.

Many other nations are yet to reach even two per cent of their populations, including Nigeria - the most populous nation in Africa - as well as Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso. That contrasts with countries like the UK and Israel, both of which have reached the majority of their adult populations.

The figures above only represent first doses. It is an even worse picture for second doses, which are important to provide full protection from the virus.

Jennifer Rigby has more details on this story here.

06:54 AM

AstraZeneca scours supply chain for more vaccine doses for Asia

AstraZeneca Plc is "scouring" its global supply chain to try and boost Covid-19 vaccine supplies to Thailand and Southeast Asia, its representative for the country said on Saturday, amidst speculations of local production shortfalls.

The comments come after leaked letters showed last week that the drugmaker had offered to supply 5-6 million vaccine doses a month to Thailand, contradicting assertions by Thai officials that the government is owed 10 million a month and 61 million doses by end-2021.

AstraZeneca is "scouring the 20+ supply chains in our worldwide manufacturing network to find additional vaccines for Southeast Asia, including Thailand", James Teague, managing director of AstraZeneca Thailand, said in a statement.

"We are hopeful of importing additional doses in the months ahead," he added.

06:42 AM

Workplace testing programme expanded for emergency staff

The Government has expanded its workplace testing programme to an initial 200 testing sites for frontline emergency services personnel amid criticism of its self-isolation policy.

Some police, firefighters, Border Force staff and transport workers were already eligible for a self-isolation exemption, but only if their employers specified their names and they were double-jabbed against Covid-19.

The Government on Saturday said in a statement that an expected initial extra 200 testing sites would be opened so that daily contact testing could be "rolled out to further critical workplaces in England".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "Daily testing will keep our frontline teams safe while they continue to serve the public and communities across our country."

Read more: Train passengers face pingdemic chaos

Read more: UK lacks testing capacity to bring pingdemic to a swift end, ministers warned

06:14 AM

China closing county near Myanmar for mass virus testing

Everyone in a county in China's southwest near Myanmar will be tested for Covid-19 following a spike in infections, the government announced on Saturday.

Businesses, schools and markets in Jiangcheng County in Yunnan province will close Monday and Tuesday while nucleic acid testing is carried out, the government said. Travel into and out of the county will be prohibited.

Yunnan has reported a spike in infections traced to nearby Myanmar, where a military government that seized power in February is struggling to contain a surge in cases. Beijing has tightened border controls.

05:06 AM

Crowds gather to protest lockdown restrictions in Australia

Thousands of people took to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities on Saturday to protest lockdown restrictions amid another surge in cases, and police made several arrests after crowds broke through barriers and threw plastic bottles and plants.

The unmasked participants marched from Sydney's Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district, carrying signs calling for "freedom" and "the truth".

There was a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities said was unauthorised protest activity. Police confirmed a number of arrests had been made.

New South Wales Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.

"The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community," a police statement said.

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination activists gathered in cities across Australia - Getty
Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination activists gathered in cities across Australia - Getty

04:26 AM

Covid cases surpass 40 million in Latin America and Caribbean

The number of Covid-19 cases surpassed 40 million on Saturday in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Since the first coronavirus infections were recorded last year, the number of cases in the region has reached 40,073,507, according to an AFP count based on official data as of 0200 GMT.

The number of deaths has reached 1,353,335.

The rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant has fuelled a surge in Covid-19 cases around the world this week, with total cases hitting 192,942,266 with 4,143,687 deaths.

03:46 AM

Vietnam announces lockdown in Hanoi as cases surge

Vietnam announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi starting on Saturday as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region.

The lockdown order, issued late on Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public. Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses are allowed to stay open.

Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases. On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city's highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country in the last 24 hours.

People are turned away at a checkpoint at an entrance to Hanoi - AP
People are turned away at a checkpoint at an entrance to Hanoi - AP

03:16 AM

Indonesia considers relaxing restrictions

Indonesia is suffering a devastating wave of coronavirus infections, driven by the delta variant, but the government is already talking about relaxing social curbs enacted earlier this month - a move analysts say is largely led by economic considerations.

The impact of the outbreak has been brutal in Indonesia, with stories of people desperately trying to find hospital beds, oxygen and medicine for loved ones. The country's Covid-19 death toll has broken records four times this week, the latest on Friday with 1,566 deaths.

Nonetheless, and just over a week after Indonesia recorded its highest number of daily infections, President Joko Widodo flagged that current restrictions could be eased from as early as next week if cases start to drop.

Read more: Southeast Asia turning away from Chinese vaccines as delta variant surges

Flowers are left on graves at a burial area provided by the government for coronavirus disease victims in Jakarta, Indonesia - Reuters
Flowers are left on graves at a burial area provided by the government for coronavirus disease victims in Jakarta, Indonesia - Reuters

02:09 AM

Australia's New South Wales reports biggest daily rise

New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, on Saturday reported 163 locally acquired cases of Covid-19, its biggest daily rise, up from 136 a day earlier, in a worsening outbreak that has led to an urgent push to speed up vaccinations.

"Unfortunately the cases continue to rise in New South Wales," state health minister Brad Hazzard told reporters.

Of the new cases, at least 45 spent time in the community while infectious, state health authorities said. That figure is being closely watched as the state appears poised to extend a lockdown that was due to end on July 30.

11:46 PM

Today's top stories

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting