Downing Street has repeated that there is “no plan to move to plan B”, insisting that its proposed measures – which include mandatory face masks, home-working guidance and vaccine passports – are not needed to drive down the current rise in coronavirus infections, hospitalisations and deaths.
Hours earlier, Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), had warned the current infection rate in the UK was “unacceptable” and “astonishingly high” compared to “most other west European countries”.
Nearly 37,000 new cases and 38 deaths were reported in the UK on Monday, with these figures excluding Wales due to a “technical issue”.
Meanwhile, as soaring infections breed concerns of another disrupted festive season, Sajid Javid suggested that Christmas will be “normal” this year if people continue to come forward for vaccines and make use of regular testing.
“For all those people like me that are hoping and planning for a normal Christmas – which I do by the way, I think that’s where we’ll be, we’ll have a normal Christmas – if we want let’s just keep playing our part,” the health secretary told BBC Breakfast.
Mr Javid also said that exclusion zones outside schools were an option to prevent “idiot” anti-vaccination protesters spreading “vicious lies” to children, after the Association of School and College Leaders said that 79 per cent of schools it surveyed had been targeted by anti-vaxxers.
Plan B measures ‘not needed to bring down cases’, Downing Street insists
This year UK will have a ‘normal Christmas’, insists Javid
Covid cases ‘astonishingly high’ and plan B is ‘sensible’, says virus expert
Get your booster jab, NHS and government tell public
Government ‘heading towards’ mandatory vaccines for NHS staff
21:03 , Andy Gregory
That’s us wrapping up the liveblog for today, thanks for following here.
You can find all of The Independent’s latest reporting on the pandemic and the NHS here.
Or else keep scrolling to read about the day’s events, as we reported them.
07:50 , Tom Batchelor
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage as pressure continues to build on the government to respond to high Covid case rates across the UK.
Covid cases ‘astonishingly high’ and plan B is ‘sensible’, says virus expert
07:58 , Tom Batchelor
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), has been speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He suggested ministers should be giving “clear leadership” on the issue of face masks and working from home in order to curb the spread of the Covid.
Prof Openshaw said: “I don’t think it’s a binary go for plan B or nothing, it’s very clear that the measures that are in included in plan B are sensible and not very disruptive.
“It’s not problematic to give clear leadership about the use of face masks, and working at home if you can is also not particularly disruptive for many people.
“Those measures are likely to lead to a pretty good reduction in the really unacceptable number of cases that we’ve got at the moment.
“To my mind, the introduction of vaccine passports is also fine - it’s been accepted very easily in most other western European countries.
“It’s very sensible, if you were going into a crowded indoor space and knew everyone there had been fully vaccinated and perhaps had had a rapid test on the day, you’d feel much more secure about going into that space.”
He added: “What we’re facing at the moment is unacceptable we’ve got roughly one in 55 people infected, which is an astonishingly high rate compared to most other west European countries.
“This is connected with the lack of clear messaging about sensible measures that we should all be taking in order to reduce the spread of infection.”
Get your booster jab, NHS and government tell public
08:11 , Tom Batchelor
A senior health chief has urged people to get their Covid booster jab as the NHS sends out a further two million invites this week.
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said infection rates are rising, while the government again ruled out a move to its coronavirus plan B despite calls to bring in measures to curb the spread of the virus.
NHS England said more than 5 million people have already been given the additional jab since the vaccination programme began administering them last month.
And on Sunday, it said more than 800,000 people had their booster in the past 72 hours.
Exclusion zones outside schools an ‘option’ to tackle anti-vaxxers, Javid says
08:25 , Tom Batchelor
Exclusion zones outside schools are an option to prevent anti-vaxxersspreading “vicious lies” to children, Sajid Javid has said.
The health secretary’s comments came after Priti Patel said it was “completely unacceptable for children, teachers or parents to be intimidated and harassed outside their schools”.
Earlier this month the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) that 79 per cent of of schools surveyed had been targeted by anti-vaxxers.
Read the full report here:
This year we will have a ‘normal Christmas’, insists Javid
08:36 , Tom Batchelor
Sajid Javid has said he believes “we’ll have a normal Christmas” this year as fears of another disrupted festive season grow off the back of surging Covid case rates.
He told BBC Breakfast it is not necessary to implement plan B of the winter Covid-19 precautions “at this point”.
Asked about Christmas, he said: “This virus, we’ve seen already, what we know about it is it is unpredictable and I don’t think any sensible health secretary across the world would want to predict exactly where we’re going to be in three months’ time, or six months’ time, not least because there’s always the risk sadly of a new variant that could be more dangerous.”
But he said the best thing to do is get vaccinated and take daily precautions.
“For all those people like me that are hoping and planning for a normal Christmas - which I do by the way, I think that’s where we’ll be, we’ll have a normal Christmas - if we want let’s just keep playing our part,” Mr Javid said.
He said he “of course” agrees with Boris Johnson that it will be a better Christmas than last year.
Javid vows to wear mask in ‘packed’ Commons chamber
08:45 , Tom Batchelor
Sajid Javid said he will wear a mask in the House of Commons chamber on Budget Day because it will be crowded.
He stopped short of again urging Tory MPs to mask up as he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If I’m in the chamber on budget day, given it will be packed, I will be, yes.
“The guidelines are clear, it’s for people to make a personal decision on how they see the risk of them and those around them, and this is obviously a workplace setting, so it’s going to be a decision for them, but I can speak for myself.”
Government ‘heading towards’ mandatory vaccines for NHS staff
08:55 , Tom Batchelor
During his media round this morning, Sajid Javid also said a final decision on making vaccination mandatory for all NHS staff had not been taken yet “but it is something that I’m heading towards”.
He told Times Radio: “We’ve been very clear and open about this, working with our friends in the NHS, and the reason for this is if you’re working in the NHS, that fantastic work you’re doing every day, you yourself are more susceptible to this virus because you’re just much more likely to come into contact with it, but also the people that you’re looking after are more vulnerable and that’s why they’re in hospital, they’ve got health needs, and this is about protecting them and protecting yourself.”
On moving to plan B, he said: “At the moment... we don’t think the data shows that we need to move to plan B but that said, it’s really important that we all keep playing our part and that means getting vaccinated, especially if you’re eligible for the booster jab please come forward, and also just being cautious on a daily basis and following the advice.”
Mr Javid also said it is “impossible to know” whether the NHS backlog will be cleared within three years despite spending billions to help solve the issue.
He said the waiting list is 5.7 million people at the moment but he estimates that it could be as high as at least 7 million.
Pressed on when it would be solved, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’ve been very open about this, it’s going to go up before it comes down.
“I’m not going to put a number on it - it’s impossible to know because I don’t know how many people will eventually come back to the NHS.”
Is the government delaying plan B until after Cop26?
09:06 , Tom Batchelor
Sajid Javid has denied speculation the government is delaying the introduction of so-called plan B restrictions until after the Cop26 global climate summit in Glasgow has concluded.
On rumours the PM has banned Covid's Plan B until after Glasgow, Sajid Javid tells @TimesRadio: "Whether we have Plan A or Plan B has nothing to do with COP26. It's got every thing to do with advice from our world beating scientists".
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) October 25, 2021
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09:09 , Tom Batchelor
For up-to-date politics news delivered to your inbox for free each weekday morning sign up to our Inside Politics newsletter by clicking here.
At the same link, you can also receive the latest news direct from our chief political commentator John Rentoul in Westminster.
‘Mixed picture’ on benefits of mandatory jabs for health staff, says senior NHS official
09:15 , Tom Batchelor
Mandatory vaccines for NHS workers would encourage staff to get jabbed but risks worsening recruitment problems, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said.
She told Times Radio: “We’ve spoken to our members about this, and it’s a bit of a mixed picture because most of them agree that in some ways, mandating the vaccine could be quite helpful to make sure that more people get the vaccine.
“But on the other hand, if some people decide they don’t want the vaccine that could lead to staff recruitment and retention problems and we’re going into this incredibly challenging winter.
“If we start to lose staff during this time that could be incredibly challenging, so it’s a it’s a real balance.”
Vaccines and testing key to making Christmas ‘great’, says Javid
09:21 , Tom Batchelor
Sajid Javid was asked on LBC radio whether he thinks Christmas is “safe”.
The health secretary said: “I think it is as long as we do what we all need to do, everyone’s got a role to play in this.
“We all want a fantastic Christmas and we can ensure that by getting out there and getting our vaccines.
“There are still some five million people out there that haven’t had a single dose of the vaccine and and we need to basically tell them they need to do that, not just to protect themselves but to protect their loved ones, to do their bit, but also there’s other sensible behaviours that we can all have over the next few months.
“It’s getting darker, we can see it’s getting colder, we will spend more time indoors, and so we should think about hand hygiene, about getting tested regularly, especially if you’re going to meet your more vulnerable... perhaps an elderly relative or someone - so if we can do all that, I’m sure that we’re going to have a great Christmas.”
What is plan B?
09:27 , Tom Batchelor
Ministers have been told by their senior scientific advisers to start preparing for “rapid deployment” of Covid pandemic measures amid rising infections and hospitalisation rates.
Under plan B, a contingency plan drawn up by government ministers, face masks would be made compulsory in some settings and people would be asked to work from home again.
Vaccine passports could be introduced for some venues.
More on what plan B would entail here:
Scottish vaccine passport scheme blamed for ‘abuse’ of pub and bar staff
09:39 , Tom Batchelor
The first weekend of enforcement of Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme has been an “unmitigated disaster”, a hospitality sector body has claimed.
The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) said that staff have faced “intolerable levels of abuse” and some venues saw a drop in footfall of up to 40 per cent.
It is calling on the Scottish government to scrap the scheme, which has been legally enforceable since 18 October.
Proof of full vaccination is required to enter nightclubs and large events as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus and increase vaccine take-up.
The measures technically came into effect from 1 October, but an 18-day grace period was announced following backlash from affected industries and problems with the new app.
UK could be facing another ‘lockdown Christmas’, claims scientist
09:52 , Tom Batchelor
The UK faces another “lockdown Christmas” unless more stringent measures to combat Covid-19 are implemented immediately alongside the vaccine rollout, Prof Openshaw has said.
The Imperial College London scientist told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “I’m very fearful that we’re going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon.”
The World Health Organisation has also warned that the vaccine alone will not be able to lift the world out of the pandemic.
Spokesperson Margaret Harris said: “The problem is focusing on one thing, the vaccine isn’t going to get us out of this. We really have to do other measures.”
Here is the story:
Australian picnic protest against vaccine passports
10:01 , Tom Batchelor
Away from the UK, protesters angry at the use of vaccine passports in the Australian city of Melbourne have set up “picnics” on the street in an apparent attempt to show they don’t need to frequent establishments that require proof of being jabbed.
It wasn’t obvious what impact if any the small demonstration was having since the video showed cafes on the other side of the street busy with customers.
Aussies in St Kilda picnicking outside restaurants which require "covid passports" to dine in, we don't need them, they need us, and our compliance, unite and resist. pic.twitter.com/3YglAv8CLL
— bristolblues (@BristolBlues32) October 23, 2021
Not necessary to shorten gap between vaccine doses, says JCVI professor
10:15 , Tom Batchelor
Jeremy Brown, professor of respiratory medicine at University College London Hospitals, who sits on the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation, has said it is “not absolutely necessary” to reduce the interval for booster jabs from six months to five months – as has been suggested by some to maximise immunity as winter approaches.
Asked whether the interval should be reduced, Prof Brown told Sky News: “No I don’t think that’s absolutely necessary at the moment.
“The issue with boosters is that we’re trying to make sure the booster occurs at a time when the vaccine efficacy has waned to a certain degree - not much but enough to warrant a booster - and also to ensure that we have a long term protection that persists for as long as possible, and the gap makes a difference.”
He added that at present around 8 million people are eligible for boosters and only 5 million have had their vaccine.
If the interval was reduced this could “run the risk of that extra three million people who need the booster - the most vulnerable - will get their booster delayed rather than actually having it on time”.
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10:21 , Tom Batchelor
For all the latest news on the NHS sign up to our health correspondent Shaun Lintern’s free weekly newsletter by clicking here.
Frontline NHS staff must be vaccinated, says virus expert
10:27 , Tom Batchelor
The JCVI’s Jeremy Brown has told Sky News health workers should get vaccinated as a “matter of professional pride”.
He said: “If you’re frontline NHS staff dealing with patients and meeting the general public you should be vaccinated - it’s a professional thing, it’s a safety thing.”
He said he would not answer a question about whether staff should lose their jobs if they were not vaccinated, but added: “I think they should change their role, perhaps, not lose their job,
“I’m sure there are exceptions where there is a reasonable reason why somebody hasn’t been vaccinated or doesn’t need to change their role, but in general if you’re dealing with a patient on a regular basis, you should be vaccinated as a matter of professional pride and role.”
China to start vaccinating children as young as 3
10:35 , Tom Batchelor
Children as young as three are to start receiving Covid vaccines in China, where 76 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated and authorities are maintaining a zero-tolerance policy toward outbreaks.
Local city and provincial level governments in at least five provinces issued notices in recent days announcing that children aged three to 11 will be required to get their vaccinations.
The expansion of the vaccination campaign comes as parts of China take new clampdown measures to try to stamp out small outbreaks.
Gansu, a northwestern province heavily dependent on tourism, closed all tourist sites on Monday after finding new Covid cases.
Residents in parts of Inner Mongolia have also been ordered to stay indoors due to an outbreak there.
Poland considers tightening Covid curbs as cases rise
10:43 , Tom Batchelor
Poland will need to consider tighter Covid restrictions if average daily cases exceed 7,000, the country’s health minister was quoted as saying on Monday, as the government warned that infections were almost doubling each week.
For comparison, on Sunday the UK government announced a further 39,962 daily Covid cases and 72 deaths.
“If, at the end of October, we are at an average level of over 7,000 cases per day, we will have to consider taking some more restrictive steps,” Adam Niedzielski was quoted as saying by state-run news agency PAP. “Decisions will be made at the beginning of November.”
However, Mr Niedzielski stressed that the government was not considering a lockdown.
Covid cases may slump this winter – report
10:55 , Tom Batchelor
Covid cases could drop next month even if ministers do not implement plan B restrictions, a report claims.
According to The Daily Telegraph, modelling seen by the government suggests infections may start declining rapidly within a matter of weeks.
The paper said said a projection from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested that cases will soon peak before dropping off.
Other unpublished models were said to show similar falls, and the Telegraph claimed that experts had suggested cases could settle at around 5,000 a day by Christmas.
Most virus experts who have spoken publicly on the issue say there is no imminent sign of cases slowly rapidly and that ministers should consider implementing Covid restrictions in one form or another.
How do travel tests work?
11:09 , Tom Batchelor
Confused about the new international travel rules? For most vaccinated people, a single, lateral flow test is now required on or before the second day of your return to the UK.
Here is our guide to the process:
New Zealand reports second-worst day of daily infections since pandemic began
11:23 , Tom Batchelor
New Zealand reported 109 new locally acquired coronavirus cases on Monday, the bulk of them in its largest city, Auckland, as the country saw its second-worst day of daily infections since the pandemic began.
Once the poster child for stamping out Covid, New Zealand has been unable to beat an outbreak of Delta variant of Covid centred in Auckland, despite the city remaining under a strict lockdown for more than two months.
The country over the weekend also reported the first community case of the virus in its South Island in nearly a year, a cause for further headache, though health officials said the risks of a further spread from the case remained low.
The spike in cases has forced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to abandon her elimination strategy and switch to living with the virus, and health officials have warned of an uptick in cases until vaccinations ramp up.
Russia reports highest case rates since start of pandemic as lockdown looms
11:39 , Tom Batchelor
Russia reported its highest single-day Covid-19 case tally since the start of the pandemic on Monday as some regions shut workplaces to combat a surge in infections and deaths.
Faced with worsening infection rates and frustrated by the slow take-up of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine by its own population, authorities are introducing stricter measures this week to try to slow the spread of the pandemic.
President Vladimir Putin last week declared that 30 October to 7 November would be paid non-working days but said every region could extend that period or start it earlier depending on the situation.
From this Thursday, Moscow will introduce its tightest lockdown measures since June 2020, with only essential shops like supermarkets and pharmacies remaining open.
Unvaccinated over-60s in the capital have been ordered to lock down for four months starting Monday, and Moscow schools are also closed.
ICYMI: Inside the NHS’s looming crisis
11:55 , Tom Batchelor
The NHS faces its hardest winter yet as soaring coronavirus cases combine with a surge in A&E demand and a health service brought to its knees by 18 months of unrelenting pandemic pressure.
While ministers including health secretary Sajid Javid have claimed the Covid resurgence has not put unsustainable pressure on the NHS, doctors, nurses and health officials from across the country have told The Independent the mounting crises on several fronts mean the health service is facing a very real catastrophe.
Here is the special weekend report from our health correspondent, Shaun Lintern:
China implements strict testing regime for Winter Olympics
12:08 , Tom Batchelor
Competitors in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be subject to daily tests for Covid and will be required to remain in a closed loop that includes transport between the various games venues, organisers said in guidelines released on Monday.
China, where measures to tackle Covid are among the world’s strictest, has already said international spectators will not be allowed to enter the country for the Games which will run from 4-20 February.
China has all-but shut its borders to international travellers, with the number of international flights drastically reduced from pre-Covid levels, and games organisers said on Monday that domestic and foreign airlines will be encouraged to operate temporary flights available only to participants.
Games participants will need to be tested for Covid before arrival, and athletes and team officials must be vaccinated to avoid 21 days in quarantine, with some exceptions for medical reasons granted on a case-by-case basis.
World leaders urge Pope to help share Covid vaccines
12:22 , Tom Batchelor
Global political leaders have written to the Pope seeking his help for a “miracle of life-saving vaccines” for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
More than 150 world leaders - including former UK prime minister Gordon Brown, UN general secretary Ban Ki-Moon, former Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso, ex-New Zealand premier Helen Clark, and former prime minister of Japan Yasuo Fukado - have come together to press the need for urgent global co-operation.
They are calling on the Pope to intercede this week ahead of the G20 summit which begins in Rome on Friday under the chairmanship of Italian premier Mario Draghi.
The group says the summit could be the last chance for world leaders to agree a detailed plan to send unused vaccines from the global north to the global south and keep vaccination targets on track.
Only 5 per cent of Africa is fully vaccinated.
Are we facing another Christmas lockdown?
12:35 , Tom Batchelor
Asked on Friday about the possibility of a winter lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there is “absolutely nothing to indicate that that is on the cards at all”, reports PA.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also said the vaccine rollout and booster jabs make a lockdown or “very significant economic restrictions” unlikely.
On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he thinks Christmas will be “normal”, although he has suggested this is contingent on people “playing their part”, such as through getting jabs.
However, government adviser Professor Peter Openshaw told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that he fears “another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon”.
He said getting measures in place now in order to “get transmission rates right down” is key to having “a wonderful family Christmas where we can all get back together”.
Former vaccines tsar Dame Kate Bingham has also said she is worried about having another Christmas “on Zoom”.
Anti-vax protests outside schools ‘a growing problem'
12:50 , Andy Gregory
Here’s more detail on the health secretary’s criticism of the anti-vaccination activists protesting outside schools across the country – who he described as “idiots” who are “spreading vicious lies”.
Questioned on Sky News about protests in which three children were injured, he said: “These people are doing so much damage.
“First of all, here you have three children that are injured, actually physically injured, and that's heartbreaking to see - children going about what they should be doing, going to school every day, and you've got, frankly, these idiots outside their school spreading vicious lies.
“It is becoming a growing problem as time goes by ... if you’ve injured children, that is a criminal act and I hope in that case police are able to track those people down.”
Speaking of how to tackle the issue, he said that, “in terms of whether it's an exclusion zone, or other potential action, I think it's got to be done at a local level”.
Single vaccine dose could cut chances of long Covid by 13%
13:05 , Andy Gregory
A single dose of either the AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Moderna vaccines could lead to a 13 per cent drop in the chance of getting long Covid, according to an Office for National Statistics study described as “the largest internationally to look at long Covid after vaccination”.
A first dose was found to be associated with an initial 12.8 per cent decrease in the odds of self-reported long Covid – defined as symptoms that persist for at least 12 weeks – among people aged 18 to 69 in the UK.
A second dose was associated with a further 8.8 per cent drop, with “statistical evidence” of a sustained improvement afterwards.
But because the study is based on a survey of self-reported symptoms, the ONS was unable to say for certain that vaccines affect the chances of getting long Covid, and the data was not clear on whether an initial improvement in symptoms after a first dose is sustained over time until a second dose.
Our science correspondent Samuel Lovett has the full story here:
Number of UK businesses borrowing pandemic recovery loans appears to slow
13:17 , Andy Gregory
Far fewer businesses have taken advantage of a government scheme to help their recovery from the Covid crisis, when compared to take-up of a similar scheme at the start of the pandemic.
The British Business Bank said £822m had been borrowed by 5,137 businesses across the UK since the Recovery Loan Scheme was launched in April. About 1,000 more firms have been told they can borrow up to £200m, but have yet to tap into the money.
At the same point in the life of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which launched in March 2020, the banks involved had approved £15.45bn of loans to 66,585 companies.
“Businesses up and down the country are beginning to look beyond the pandemic towards the opportunities available to them in the recovery,” said British Business Bank chief executive Catherine Lewis La Torre.
Read the full story here:
Opinion: Making the Covid vaccine compulsory for NHS staff is not an easy choice – but it is the right one
13:35 , Andy Gregory
Writing for Independent Voices, our associate editor Sean O’Grady argues:
The health secretary, Sajid Javid is "leaning towards" making vaccination against Covid-19 a condition of employment for NHS staff.
Obviously any NHS staff who fall into the category clinically vulnerable and cannot take the vaccine even if they want to will have to to be redeployed to less sensitive roles or just kept out of the way of high risk patients, but there need be no other major exemptions.
Indeed the rule should apply to agency staff and of course care homes, which Javid has already acted on.
You can read more of his thinking here:
Restrictions in schools should be balanced against potential disruption to education, No 10 says
13:52 , Andy Gregory
With Covid-19 cases surging, schools in some parts of England have been advised to take steps including cancelling assemblies and returning to mask-wearing.
But Downing Street has said that, before recommending tougher coronavirus measures in schools, local public health directors should balance the risk posed by Covid-19 with the danger of disruption to education.
Boris Johnson's official spokesman said: “These are powers that directors of public health have had for some time, which the government introduced, to allow them to take local action when they felt necessary.
“Obviously we would expect them to balance the public health risk of Covid along with the potentially longer-term harm of any disruption to education. We would expect the directors of public health to work closely with the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care in making any decisions in that regard.”
China says Beijing marathon postponed ‘until further notice’ amid Covid spike
14:10 , Andy Gregory
China has decided to postpone the Beijing marathon “until further notice” in the wake of surging Covid-19 cases across the country, organisers said.
China registered 39 new Covid-19 cases on Monday even as the country aims to return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics.
My colleague Maroosha Muzaffar has the full story:
‘We can bring case rates down without plan B,' No 10 suggests
14:25 , Andy Gregory
Downing Street has again insisted it is not the time to move to Plan B measures to tackle rising numbers of coronavirus in England.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “If the public continue to abide by the behaviours and guidance we have set out, and those eligible get their booster jabs, we believe we can further curb cases and bring rates down, along with hospitalisation and deaths.
“There is no plan to move to Plan B at this stage.”
The measures proposed would involve the use of vaccine passports, mandatory face coverings in certain settings and advice to work from home.
One in eight fully vaccinated people in UK have received a booster jab, figures suggest
14:40 , Andy Gregory
At least 6.1 million booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine are estimated to have been delivered in the UK, new figures show.
This means at least one in eight people in the UK who have received a first and second dose of vaccine are likely to have also received a booster.
As of Sunday, some 5.2 million doses had been delivered in England, along with more than 511,000 in Scotland and 51,000 in Northern Ireland.
In Wales, more than 322,00 booster doses had been delivered as of 21 October – the latest figure available.
More ‘draconian’ measures could be needed in Wales, chief medical officer warns
14:59 , Andy Gregory
With the Welsh Government due to announce another review of Covid restrictions on Friday and cases at their highest level since the start of the pandemic, the country’s chief medical officer has warned that more “draconian” measures could be needed unless people follow current guidance.
“I think most, or a significant proportion of the Welsh population are still behaving with extreme caution and realises we’re not out of the woods yet, but there is a sense with some places that this is all over,” Dr Frank Atherton told BBC Radio Wales.
“When you see people not using face coverings when it’s a legal requirement to do so, that worries me. When you see people crowding into taxis, as I saw in Cardiff Bay last night, without face coverings and not being challenged, that worries me. I see leisure centres that are overcrowded and not social distancing, that worries me.”
“This is how the virus is spreading,” he added. “Unless we as a society organise ourselves in a way that we follow the guidance that we know will stop transmission of the virus then unfortunately more draconian measures and legislative requirements may need to be brought back in.”
Dutch government seeks new set of restrictions to reduce pressure on hospitals
15:18 , Andy Gregory
The Dutch government may impose new coronavirus restrictions to reduce pressure on hospitals struggling to deal with a growing number of coronavirus patients.
Infections in the Netherlands have been rising for a month and reached their highest level since July in recent days, after most social distancing measures were dropped in late September – forcing hospitals to begin cutting back regular care to deal with rising numbers of Covid admissions.
The government has asked its group of health experts to advise on possible new measures and will decide on its policy on 2 November, health minister Hugo De Jonge said, without specifying the options.
“It's not easy to find new measures that work, as it's mainly unvaccinated people who need care, who have the highest risk of getting infected and of infecting others,” he said.
Covid cases to fall this winter even without Plan B restrictions, modelling suggests
15:41 , Andy Gregory
My colleague Matt Mathers has more on the modelling which suggests that Covid cases could fall before Christmas even without plan B measures.
Appearing to chime with Downing Street’s latest line of argument against tighter measures (see post at 14:25), Sage member Professor John Edmunds told the Daily Telegraph that modelling carried out by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed cases are likely to decline in the coming weeks.
“When we were doing the work about two weeks ago, the health secretary had made it very clear that the government was not planning to introduce Plan B in the near future,” he said.
“Our model was projecting that cases would start to decline some time in the autumn. However, the model also suggests that cases may start to climb again in the spring, due to a combination of waning immunity and increased contacts.”
Planned relaxation of restrictions in Northern Ireland ‘makes no sense’, doctors say
15:59 , Andy Gregory
Medics have warned that relaxing coronavirus measures in nightclubs, pubs and restaurants in Northern Ireland on Sunday “makes no sense” with hospitals at over 100 per cent occupancy this week after months of daily infection rates exceeding 1,000.
“We as medics are very concerned about the situation that is facing us at the minute," Dr Frances O’Hagan from the British Medical Association told BBC Radio Ulster.
“In both our hospitals and in our primary care we are really, really stretched. In the past week we have been operating at 107 per cent in our hospitals. The hospitals are 100 per cent full and there are 7 per cent extra people in hospitals who don't have a bed.
“Last week in primary care we saw 240,000 people, that's over 20,000 people per day. That is unprecedented. That is way over and above what we were seeing pre-pandemic.
“Primary care is anything but closed, we are stretched to the limit with Covid, with respiratory illnesses and with all the other things that you cannot get into the hospitals because our hospitals are full. All the people on those waiting lists who are in pain waiting on their operation and cannot get in because the beds are full.”
Dr O'Hagan queried why vaccine passports are not being made mandatory. The Stormont Executive is currently divided on the issue.
Levels of planet-warming greenhouse gases reach new high despite Covid lockdowns
16:15 , Andy Gregory
Despite lockdowns bringing countries around the world to standstill at points last year, UN researchers have found that levels of planet-warming greenhouse gases recorded in the earth's atmosphere reached record levels.
Researchers at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide rose by more than the annual average in the past 10 years.
Matt Mathers has the full story here:
UK infections rise by nearly 37,000
16:31 , Andy Gregory
A further 36,557 cases and 38 deaths have been reported within the UK – however these figures exclude Wales due to a “technical issue” at its public health agency.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 164,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Parts of NHS ‘experiencing conditions outside of anyone’s experience’, expert warns
16:47 , Andy Gregory
The situation in the NHS is “no doubt more dire than many trusts are letting on”, a former president of the Society for Acute Medicine has said.
“Areas of the NHS are currently experiencing conditions outside of anyone's experience and this comes hot on the heels of two years of unrelenting pressure,” said Dr Nick Scriven.
"The reality will no doubt be more dire than many trusts are letting on as they are often fearful of declaring Opel 4 [highest level] alert due to the punitive consequences.
“Virtually all of our acute units are facing extremely high rates of patients needing a hospital bed but there is also massive pressure due to a lack of capacity as discharge rates from many inpatient areas are simply not keeping pace with the demand.”
Protesters storm NBA arena over vaccine mandate blocking Brooklyn Nets star player
17:02 , Andy Gregory
Protesters have stormed an arena in New York City in support of Brooklyn Nets’ star player Kyrie Irving, who has been banned from basketball games because of his refusal to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Video shows a group of demonstrators pushing their way through metal barricades outside the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn on Sunday ahead of the Nets’ home opener against the Charlotte Hornets.
Rachel Sharp has the full story here:
Covid-19 more likely to cause neurological issues than vaccines, study finds
17:20 , Andy Gregory
A new study has shown that coronavirus is far more likely to cause neurological complications in people than the Covid-19 vaccines, our science correspondent Samuel Lovett reports.
Researchers from the University of Oxford analysed the healthcare records of more than 32 million people in England and found that Guillain-Barre syndrome, Bell’s palsy and haemorrhage stroke were linked to both infection and vaccination.
However, while a first dose of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine can lead to the development of an adverse neurological event shortly after administration, infection from Covid-19 carries a far greater risk than either jab.
Infection rates rise in two-thirds of UK local authorities, official figures suggest
17:45 , Andy Gregory
In the week to last Thursday, coronavirus infection rates rose in 68 per cent of the UK’s 377 localities, according to analysis of case numbers reported by the government.
Cheltenham in Gloucestershire has the highest rate in the UK, with 1,478 new cases that week – the equivalent of 1,273 per 100,000 people, more than doubling from the previous week.
Blaenau Gwent in Wales has the second highest rate, up from 649 to 1,213, with 850 new cases.
Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire has the third highest rate, up from 484 to 1,212.
In Scotland, Clackmannanshire has the highest rate at 598, while Armagh City is the worst-hit locality in Northern Ireland at 593 cases per 100,000.
The largest week-on-week rises came in Tewkewbury, Cheltenham, Stroud, Blaenau Gwent and Swindon.
China to start vaccinating children as young as three as Covid cases spread
18:05 , Andy Gregory
Children as young as three will start receiving coronavirus vaccines in China, where 76 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated and authorities are maintaining a zero-tolerance policy toward outbreaks, Huizhong Wu reports.
Local city and provincial level governments in at least five Chinese provinces issued notices in recent days announcing that children ages three to 11 will be required to get vaccinations.
Moderna says jab is safe for six to 11-year-olds
18:24 , Andy Gregory
Moderna has said that a low dose of its coronavirus vaccine is safe and appears to work in six to 11-year-olds.
In a study involving 4,753 children, who got either the vaccine or a placebo, researchers tested two doses for children in that age group, given a month apart. Each dose contained half the amount given to adults.
Preliminary results showed vaccinated children developed virus-fighting antibodies similar to levels that young adults produce after full-strength shots, Moderna said in a press release.
Similarly to adults, temporary side effects included fatigue, headache, fever and injection site pain, the company said. The study was too small to spot any extremely rare side effects, such as heart inflammation that sometimes occurs after either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
Moderna released no further details and has not submitted its data to a scientific journal but said it plans to share the interim results with the US Food and Drink Administration and global regulators soon.
Families to receive £40m after frontline Covid deaths
18:43 , Andy Gregory
Families of NHS and social care workers who died of Covid-19 will be paid more than £40 million but a quarter of families have yet to apply, our health correspondent Shaun Lintern reports.
During the pandemic, ministers launched a coronavirus-related life insurance scheme for NHS and care staff who died from the virus after working on the frontline.
The NHS Business Service Authority told the Health Service Journal it had made 613 payments of £60,000 to families of staff who had died, with another 62 pending.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto ‘begs’ viewers to take Covid vaccine
19:05 , Andy Gregory
Fox News host Neil Cavuto said he is “begging” viewers to “stop the politics” and get the Covid-19 vaccine in his first interview since testing positive for the virus last week, Rachel Sharp reports.
Mr Cavuto, who is immunocompromised, told Fox News’ MediaBuzz on Sunday that he does “appreciate” that people don’t want to be told what to do but warned that “life is too short to be an ass”.
“Take the political speaking points and toss them for now,” he said. “I’m begging you – toss them and think of what’s good, not only for yourself, but for those around you.”
Anti-vax protests outside school gates leaving pupils ‘upset’ and ‘intimidated'
19:25 , Andy Gregory
Headteachers and parents have warned that anti-vax protests outside schools could be impacting vaccination rates among pupils, who have reportedly been left feeling “upset” and “intimidated” by some demonstrations.
A secondary school leader in Liverpool, who wishes to remain anonymous, called the police when anti-vaccination protesters blocked the path of pupils who were trying to leave the school this month.
Only around a quarter of the eligible students came forward to have their Covid-19 vaccine at the school a few days after the protest, he said, adding: “I would have expected a higher proportion.
“I can't directly attribute that to the leaflets, but the take-up has been slightly less than I would have expected.”
The mother of a 15-year-old pupil at a school near Birmingham which was targeted by protesters said “the leaflets were, I'm told, biased and guided the reader to websites with inaccurate and disturbing information”.
“I'm guessing there are now worried parents struggling to get their child to agree to be vaccinated because of this misinformation,” the 55-year-old told the PA news agency.
Breaking: Children under 18 won’t need vaccine to enter US
19:45 , Andy Gregory
Children and teenagers who have not reached 18 years of age will not be required to show proof of vaccination before entering the United States, Biden administration officials have said.
After 8 November, all people entering the US by air will be required to provide proof of having been fully vaccinated unless eligible for an exemption.
Andrew Feinberg has the full story here:
20:31 , Andy Gregory
My colleague Emily Atkinson has more on the latest coronavirus statistics in the UK, where – at the most recent count – more than two thirds of localities appear to have seen infections rise.
Facebook yanks Bolsonaro video claiming vaccines cause AIDS
20:47 , Andy Gregory
Autocratic Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has falsely claimed that people in the UK who have received two coronavirus vaccines are developing AIDS more quickly than expected, according to reports.
Facebook and Instagram have removed the live broadcast in which he made the claims, as it violated their policy.