Coronavirus latest news: Pingdemic exemptions a 'pointless solution' for supermarkets - as pressure mounts to end isolation

·14 min read
Empty supermarket shelves are seen in a supermarket on July 23, 2021 in London - Dan Kitwood/Getty
Empty supermarket shelves are seen in a supermarket on July 23, 2021 in London - Dan Kitwood/Getty

The pingdemic exemption list is a "pointless solution" for supermarkets, a boss has said, as pressure mounts on the Government to end the need for close contacts to self-isolate.

Richard Walker, the managing director of Iceland, told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme that despite his pleas, supermarket staff are still not included in the food supply exemption list, only depot and factory workers.

He said: "It only fixes half of the supply chain issue, so it's therefore a pointless solution."

Iceland had seen a 50 per cent week-on-week rise of staff having to self-isolate last week, but this week the number of people being pinged has started to drop, leading Mr Walker to believe his employees are taking matters into their own hands and "starting to delete the app en masse".

It comes as an unnamed senior minister told The Daily Mail that Covid's grip on the UK is "all over bar the shouting", mounting more pressure on the Government to bring forward the Aug 16 date on which fully vaccinated close contacts will not have to self-isolate.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

08:56 AM

Educating the world: pandemic lockdowns forced a ‘reset’ for schools

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a “real reset” in efforts to ensure that all children around the world are able to go to school, according to Sierra Leone’s charismatic minister for education.

Speaking to The Telegraph ahead of a global education summit hosted in London by the UK and Kenya on Thursday, Dr David Moinina Sengeh said that while the pandemic has wrought havoc, it has also forced unprecedented innovation and “out of the box” thinking.

He is confident that the world may reach ambitious targets – set out by the United Nations in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to achieve “inclusive and equitable quality education” for children worldwide by 2030.

“Before Covid, we would have definitely failed. And at the peak of Covid, it seemed like we’re all doomed… but I think Covid is the real reset,” Dr Sengeh said.

“It’s not good that Covid happened, but because of Covid and because all of our children were out of school, it woke us up… it forced everyone to take a look at themselves and we didn’t like what we saw.”

Sarah Newey and Anne Gulland have more details here.

08:35 AM

'People doing pretty well at using own judgment and exercising caution when necessary'

Mike Tildesley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick, said Covid-19 "isn't necessarily all over bar the shouting quite yet".

The member of scientific modelling group Spi-M told Times Radio: "I think people are aware that Covid isn't quite over.

"I really hope that this is the turnaround of the third wave and as we get towards the autumn we really are very much getting back to normal.

"But I think, actually, people are doing pretty well at using their own judgment and exercising caution when necessary.

"It's pretty clear that we are not back to kind of pre-pandemic levels of mixing - people aren't socialising in the same way they were before the pandemic, hopefully that will come.

"But I think that's probably partly what we're seeing in the data - that we're not seeing a big surge in infections because people are taking a little bit of time to get back to normality."

He added that the high level of protection from the vaccines should put the UK in a "better position" in the winter, but added that it is possible a variant of concern could emerge.

08:17 AM

Drop in cases could be holidaymakers refusing to get tested, says Spi-M member

Mike Tildesley, professor of infectious disease modelling at the University of Warwick, said the recent falls in Covid-19 case numbers could have occurred because people are less willing to get a test ahead of summer holidays.

Asked about the decline, the member of the scientific modelling group Spi-M told Times Radio: "Because schools in England closed last week, we haven't got secondary school pupils doing regular lateral flow testing and so we're not necessarily detecting as many cases in younger people.

"It's also been suggested by some that, possibly, because of a high number of cases, because of the summer holidays approaching, people might be less willing to 'step up' to testing when they have symptoms.

"What we really need to do is monitor hospital admissions, because at the moment of course they're still going up - now, of course there is a lag when cases go down, it always takes a couple of weeks before hospital admissions turn around - but if we start to see as we get into August, if we start to see hospital admissions going down as well then I think we would have much stronger evidence to suggest that this third wave is starting to turn around."

07:48 AM

Minister refuses to repeat Gove's 'selfish' comments

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey refused to repeat Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove's comment that it is "selfish" not to have a Covid vaccination.

Asked whether those not getting a jab are "selfish", she told LBC radio: "I think there are still quite a lot of people who are still scared.

"We want to encourage people to recognise the vaccine is safe and actually will help them but also other people around them too.

"I just really want to encourage people to be positive about the benefits to them, but also to wider society.

"Taking the vaccine is a sensible, safe step forward."

07:32 AM

Supermarket staff 'deleting app en masse', says Iceland boss

Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, said that after the number of workers getting pings surged last week, the numbers have mysteriously started to drop over the past couple of days.

He told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "The pinging has started to drop. Now, our staff are law abiding citizens, but with all of that sick pay used up with peak holiday season, it feels to me like, potentially, they're starting to delete the app en masse in numbers that they weren't previously doing.

"And to be honest, who can blame them."

Asked if that was a relief to him, given that less of his workforce would be at home self-isolating, he said: "I'm not I'm not condoning it, but I can understand why they are doing it.

"And, you know, this is, not law. This is government guidelines, but it has to be pragmatic and we're stuck. They're working so hard and have been nothing short of heroic throughout this pandemic.

"They deserve a break now but also business deserves clarity from Government and the pragmatic framework from which we can we can move forward."

07:27 AM

PM: Too early to draw conclusions from 'encouraging' data

Boris Johnson stressed the need for caution despite recent falls in the number of coronavirus cases.

The Prime Minister told LBC Radio: "We've seen some encouraging recent data, there's no question about that, but it is far, far too early to draw any general conclusions."

He added: "The most important thing is for people to recognise that the current situation still calls for a lot of caution and for people just to remember that the virus is still out there, that a lot of people have got it, it still presents a significant risk."

07:21 AM

One in four adults has not been hugged for more than a year

One in four adults has not been hugged for more than a year, a survey has found.

The research, carried out by Demos, suggests people are less likely to build new relationships, with 32 per cent of adults feeling there are fewer opportunities to do so than when the nation first locked down.

But the thinktank's polling of 1,000 UK adults in May found that 23 per cent believed there are more opportunities as society opens up from Covid restrictions.

It also showed that 64 per cent of respondents said they had not made a new friend for six months, while 44 per cent had not done so in more than a year.

Thirty-seven per cent reported that they have not been hugged for at least half a year, while 25 per cent said they had not shared a hug for a year or more. A further 13 per cent said they have not been asked how their day was or talked to their neighbours in six months or more.

The report called for public services to be delivered in a way that makes it easier for people to form new relationships. This would enable citizens to prevent problems and manage them more successfully with less reliance on the state, it said.

06:46 AM

New South Wales lockdown will last until at least Aug 28

The New South Wales state government said the lockdown of the city of 5 million would last at least until Aug. 28, after reporting on Wednesday 177 new infections in the latest 24-hour period.

It was the largest daily tally since the cluster was discovered in mid-June.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters: "I am as upset and frustrated as all of you that we were not able to get the case numbers we would have liked at this point in time but that is the reality."

More than 2,500 people have been infected in a cluster that began when a limousine driver tested positive on June 16 to the contagious delta variant.

The driver had been infected by a US aircrew he transported from Sydney airport.

The death toll from the cluster reached 11 on Wednesday with a woman in her 90s dying in a Sydney hospital.

06:35 AM

Delta variant drives Tokyo's highest daily cases

The number of newly reported Covid-19 cases in Tokyo exceeded 3,000 for the first time, Kyodo News reported on Thursday, citing government sources.

Japan has avoided the devastating outbreaks suffered by other nations such as India, Indonesia and the United States, but the fifth wave of the pandemic fueled by the delta variant is piling pressure on hospitals in the Olympic host city.

06:17 AM

Today's front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Wednesday July 28.

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06:02 AM

New Zealand PM now fully vaccinated

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern receives her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine from nurse Gordana Nezich today in Hamilton, New Zealand.

The New Zealand government will open vaccinations up to the general population, with people over 60 first invited to book an appointment.

Jacinda Ardern receives her second Covid vaccine dose  - Getty
Jacinda Ardern receives her second Covid vaccine dose - Getty

05:48 AM

How to make £250 from the 'pingdemic'

Millions of people are missing out on new working from home tax breaks, as the "pingdemic" has thrown plans of a nationwide return to the office into chaos.

Just 900,000 people have claimed the working from home tax allowance since the start of the tax year in April, Telegraph Money has learnt.

The allowance is potentially worth hundreds of pounds and is designed to cover the additional costs of working from home, such as higher energy bills.

Read the full story

05:33 AM

US tells vaccinated people in high risk areas to mask again

Vaccinated people in parts of the US where the delta variant is spreading rapidly should resume wearing face masks, the country's top health authority after previously scrapping the mask mandate.

President Joe Biden said the announcement showed that America needs to "do better" on vaccinations, adding that a mandate for the country's more than two million federal workers was now "under consideration".

Read the full story

03:46 AM

Olympic host Tokyo neighbours to seek emergency steps

Governors of three prefectures near Olympics host Tokyo are likely to ask the government to declare states of emergency for their regions, media said on Wednesday, after Covid-19 infections spiked to a record high in the Japanese capital.

Tokyo recorded 2,848 new cases on Tuesday, the highest since the pandemic began, and media reported authorities had asked hospitals to prepare more beds for patients amid a surge driven by the delta variant.

Tokyo Olympics organisers on Wednesday reported 16 new Games-related cases, for a total of 169 since July 1. Olympic athletes, staff and media must follow strict rules to prevent the virus's spread, including frequent testing.

The Tokyo surge may spell trouble for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose support ratings are at their lowest since he took office last September, ahead of a general election this year.

Suga on Tuesday urged people to stay home as much as possible and watch the Olympics on television. He said cancelling the Games was not an option.

02:23 AM

S.Korea reports highest daily cases count amid fourth wave

South Korea on Wednesday reported 1,896 new cases for Tuesday, its highest-ever daily increase, as the country struggles to subdue a fourth wave of outbreaks fanned by the delta variant.

The daily tally broke a previous record set on July 22 as infections are spreading beyond the capital Seoul and its neighbouring regions where the toughest social distancing rules are in place.

There were 1,823 domestically transmitted cases on Tuesday and 33.5 per cent, or 611, of the were from areas outside the capital regions, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

This is the first time the number of cases outside the Seoul metropolitan region has exceeded the 600 mark since the first Covid-19 wave emerged from a church in the southeastern city of Daegu.

01:38 AM

Sydney locked down for another month as cases rise

Australia's New South Wales state authorities on Wednesday extended a lockdown in state capital Sydney for another month after weeks-long curbs failed to contain an outbreak of the delta virus variant.

Lockdown rules were due to end on Friday but restrictions will now run until Aug 28, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

A total of 177 new locally acquired cases were detected in New South Wales, up from 172 a day earlier.

People pass a doctor's surgery offering the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines in the suburb of Lane Cove, Sydney - Getty
People pass a doctor's surgery offering the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines in the suburb of Lane Cove, Sydney - Getty

12:26 AM

Bhutan vaccinates 90 per cent of eligible adult population in a week

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 per cent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, its health ministry said Tuesday.

The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on July 20 in a mass drive that has been hailed by UNICEF as "arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic".

In April, Bhutan grabbed headlines when its government said it had inoculated around the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose in under two weeks after India donated 550,000 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine.

But the country faced a shortage for months after India, a major supplier of the AstraZeneca shot, halted exports as it scrambled to meet a rising demand at home as infections surged.

Bhutan was able to restart its drive last week after half a million doses of Moderna vaccine arrived from the United States as a donation under the UN-backed COVAX programme.

A health worker inoculates a Buddhist monk sitting in front of a portrait of Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in Bhutan - AFP
A health worker inoculates a Buddhist monk sitting in front of a portrait of Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in Bhutan - AFP

11:50 PM

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