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Coronavirus live: WHO experts to revive virus origins inquiry; UK Covid situation ‘quite stable’, says health secretary Coronavirus live: WHO experts to revive virus origins inquiry; UK Covid situation ‘quite stable’, says health secretary
(32 minutes later)
Team of expert scientists is set to revive the stalled inquiry into Covid origins; Sajid Javid says UK Covid defences are working as cases hit 42,776Team of expert scientists is set to revive the stalled inquiry into Covid origins; Sajid Javid says UK Covid defences are working as cases hit 42,776
Andrew Sparrow has launched our UK politics live blog today, and given the government’s push around access to GPs he will be carrying the main UK covid lines for now. You can find that here.
I’ll be continuing with the latest coronavirus news from around the world.
Agence France-Presse have a report today in from India, where religious festivals are this year able to go ahead with a background of far fewer Covid cases than last year.
The coronavirus is still claiming over 200 lives daily in the nation of 1.3 billion people, but that is down sharply from the 4,000 fatalities in April and May. Most activities are back to normal and India has administered almost a billion vaccine doses, with around 75 percent of people receiving at least one shot.
India’s peak holiday season includes Durga Puja, Dussehra and Diwali - major Hindu festivals celebrated with noise, colour and exuberance across the country.
In Kolkata on Thursday, crowds flocked to colourful “pandals”, temporary structures where idols of the Hindu goddess Durga are installed during the festivities.
Traffic police in the West Bengal state’s capital used loudspeakers to remind people about physical distancing, but in vain, although many people wore masks.
“It’s festival time so people will come and people will enjoy. Now there are no restrictions, the government has allowed us (to celebrate) so we are enjoying out here,” Aradhana Gupta told AFP.
Another reveller Riya Tai rued how she could not celebrate the festival last year when strict virus restrictions were in place.
“I am feeling happy (this time) although the crowd is excessive. I am sweating like hell but still I am enjoying it,” she said.
On Monday, prime minister Narendra Modi’s government kicked off a campaign dubbed “Mission 100 Days”, with fears that the long festive season could see a resurgence of Covid-19.
“We are asking states to be extra vigilant during the next 100 days, and ensure that Covid-appropriate behaviour is observed,” a government official was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times newspaper. “Only then we will be able to save the country from an expected surge in cases.”
UK health minister Sajid Javid appears to have deployed the Homer Simpson “It’s my first day!” defence on the Today this morning.UK health minister Sajid Javid appears to have deployed the Homer Simpson “It’s my first day!” defence on the Today this morning.
PA Media report he told the BBC radio show, when asked about mistakes the government might have made in handling Covid: “I have been in this job for 100 days and was out of government when a lot of those crucial decisions were made. I was a humble backbencher.”PA Media report he told the BBC radio show, when asked about mistakes the government might have made in handling Covid: “I have been in this job for 100 days and was out of government when a lot of those crucial decisions were made. I was a humble backbencher.”
He did offer an apology of sorts, saying: “What I am saying sorry for is the loss that people have suffered and how they have been affected. I don’t think I am in a position yet to go back and look at every decision that was made and how we can learn from that.”He did offer an apology of sorts, saying: “What I am saying sorry for is the loss that people have suffered and how they have been affected. I don’t think I am in a position yet to go back and look at every decision that was made and how we can learn from that.”
The health secretary then revealed that he has not read the report on the coronavirus pandemic, which he is in charge of dealing with. He told listeners “It is one report and I welcome the report. I haven’t had the opportunity to study every word of the report. I will study it properly this weekend,” he said.The health secretary then revealed that he has not read the report on the coronavirus pandemic, which he is in charge of dealing with. He told listeners “It is one report and I welcome the report. I haven’t had the opportunity to study every word of the report. I will study it properly this weekend,” he said.
A quick one from Reuters here – foreign minister Peter Szijjarto says Hungary will receive technology this year to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine at a Hungarian plant currently under construction.A quick one from Reuters here – foreign minister Peter Szijjarto says Hungary will receive technology this year to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine at a Hungarian plant currently under construction.
Besides Russia’s Sputnik, Hungary plans to produce China’s Sinopharm’s vaccine in the planned $193m (£140m) vaccine plant.Besides Russia’s Sputnik, Hungary plans to produce China’s Sinopharm’s vaccine in the planned $193m (£140m) vaccine plant.
Earlier Hungary reported 1,141 new infections, with the number rising above 1,000 for the first time during the fourth wave of the pandemic.Earlier Hungary reported 1,141 new infections, with the number rising above 1,000 for the first time during the fourth wave of the pandemic.
There’s been a concerted drive by some in the Conservative party to stop people working from home. At the weekend MP Iain Duncan Smith even unfavourably compared those still working flexibly using the internet in 2021 with people he, not entirely accurately, claimed had kept going into the office during the London Blitz in the Second World War.There’s been a concerted drive by some in the Conservative party to stop people working from home. At the weekend MP Iain Duncan Smith even unfavourably compared those still working flexibly using the internet in 2021 with people he, not entirely accurately, claimed had kept going into the office during the London Blitz in the Second World War.
It is the subject of our Today in Focus podcast today. While the daily commute has returned for many, it is not everyone and not every day. Instead a new form of hybrid working has emerged as a popular alternative: half a week in the office and half at home. But it is not working for everyone. Last week the prime minister suggested in his party conference speech that Britain needs a further push to get back to the office full-time.It is the subject of our Today in Focus podcast today. While the daily commute has returned for many, it is not everyone and not every day. Instead a new form of hybrid working has emerged as a popular alternative: half a week in the office and half at home. But it is not working for everyone. Last week the prime minister suggested in his party conference speech that Britain needs a further push to get back to the office full-time.
In Today in Focus, Guardian business reporter Joanna Partridge tells Rachel Humphreys that there could be other unintended consequences of retaining remote working permanently. In many cases, it will be those who have childcare or other caring responsibilities who decide to work more from home and in many cases this still means women. And as the gender pay gap continues to grow, this could set women back further. On the other hand, a workforce less concentrated in big cities could help the government’s highest-profile policy initiative of “levelling up” living standards and wages across the country.In Today in Focus, Guardian business reporter Joanna Partridge tells Rachel Humphreys that there could be other unintended consequences of retaining remote working permanently. In many cases, it will be those who have childcare or other caring responsibilities who decide to work more from home and in many cases this still means women. And as the gender pay gap continues to grow, this could set women back further. On the other hand, a workforce less concentrated in big cities could help the government’s highest-profile policy initiative of “levelling up” living standards and wages across the country.
You can listen to it here: Today in Focus – Has England gone back to the office?You can listen to it here: Today in Focus – Has England gone back to the office?
The UK health minister Sajid Javid has become the latest government figure to say “sorry” about the coronavirus pandemic. Appearing on the BBC this morning, Javid, who became health secretary just short of four months ago following the resignation of Matt Hancock, said:The UK health minister Sajid Javid has become the latest government figure to say “sorry” about the coronavirus pandemic. Appearing on the BBC this morning, Javid, who became health secretary just short of four months ago following the resignation of Matt Hancock, said:
The media ritual of getting ministers to explicitly say sorry for issues identified in this week’s damning report into the Conservatives’ handling of the early days of the pandemic was sparked after Minister for the Cabinet Office Stephen Barclay refused eleven times to apologise on Sky News on Tuesday morning.The media ritual of getting ministers to explicitly say sorry for issues identified in this week’s damning report into the Conservatives’ handling of the early days of the pandemic was sparked after Minister for the Cabinet Office Stephen Barclay refused eleven times to apologise on Sky News on Tuesday morning.
Geraldine Panapasa in Suva reports for us on Fiji’s reopening:Geraldine Panapasa in Suva reports for us on Fiji’s reopening:
Fiji says it is already experiencing a boom in demand after announcing this week that it would open up quarantine-free travel to visitors from select countries, almost two years after closing its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.Fiji says it is already experiencing a boom in demand after announcing this week that it would open up quarantine-free travel to visitors from select countries, almost two years after closing its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our website data is well up – we are seeing a real lift in interest. It is exciting, and we want to encourage people to come and spend Christmas and new year in Fiji,” Tourism Fiji chief executive Brent Hill said.“Our website data is well up – we are seeing a real lift in interest. It is exciting, and we want to encourage people to come and spend Christmas and new year in Fiji,” Tourism Fiji chief executive Brent Hill said.
“Our tourism industry has been waiting a long time for this. While not everyone will be able to open on 1 December, the overwhelming majority of our industry and those employing significant numbers are very much behind the announcement, and ready to safely open our borders once again to the world.“Our tourism industry has been waiting a long time for this. While not everyone will be able to open on 1 December, the overwhelming majority of our industry and those employing significant numbers are very much behind the announcement, and ready to safely open our borders once again to the world.
“We have seven more weeks to really fine tune our preparations, but we have all been working overtime since the start of the year, to reopen our industry again to the world. We’re ready.”“We have seven more weeks to really fine tune our preparations, but we have all been working overtime since the start of the year, to reopen our industry again to the world. We’re ready.”
Fiji will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from countries including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and most Pacific Islands countries from 11 November, though the official reopening will be on 1 December, when the country’s first scheduled tourism flight on national carrier, Fiji Airways, will arrive.Fiji will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travellers from countries including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and most Pacific Islands countries from 11 November, though the official reopening will be on 1 December, when the country’s first scheduled tourism flight on national carrier, Fiji Airways, will arrive.
Read more of Geraldine Panapasa’s report from Suva: ‘We’re ready’: Fiji prepares to welcome tourists almost two years after closing bordersRead more of Geraldine Panapasa’s report from Suva: ‘We’re ready’: Fiji prepares to welcome tourists almost two years after closing borders
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has said the ambulance service in Wales is operating under “enormous pressure” as a result of the growing number of people needing the service, as well as the necessity for paramedics to work under Covid-compliant restrictions.First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has said the ambulance service in Wales is operating under “enormous pressure” as a result of the growing number of people needing the service, as well as the necessity for paramedics to work under Covid-compliant restrictions.
In an appearance on Sky News he said : “We’ve been able to secure some assistance from the armed forces and we’re really grateful for that.”In an appearance on Sky News he said : “We’ve been able to secure some assistance from the armed forces and we’re really grateful for that.”
PA Media quote him saying: “We’ve had it throughout the pandemic. They (service personnel) won’t be responding to emergency calls but they will be helping with some of the more routine work that the ambulance service does, freeing up trained ambulance personnel to deal with the most urgent work that the service has to provide.”PA Media quote him saying: “We’ve had it throughout the pandemic. They (service personnel) won’t be responding to emergency calls but they will be helping with some of the more routine work that the ambulance service does, freeing up trained ambulance personnel to deal with the most urgent work that the service has to provide.”
The message somewhat contrasts with that earlier quote today from UK health minister Sajid Javid that “overall things feel quite stable at this point.”The message somewhat contrasts with that earlier quote today from UK health minister Sajid Javid that “overall things feel quite stable at this point.”
A study by University College London researchers claims that Lateral flow tests (LFTs) are very good at detecting people most likely to spread Covid-19 and positive results should be trusted.A study by University College London researchers claims that Lateral flow tests (LFTs) are very good at detecting people most likely to spread Covid-19 and positive results should be trusted.
LFTs have long been criticised for being less accurate that PCR tests, where the results come after the material is analysed in a lab, rather than being generated at home.LFTs have long been criticised for being less accurate that PCR tests, where the results come after the material is analysed in a lab, rather than being generated at home.
Prof Irene Petersen, lead study author, said people who get a positive LFT result should continue to “trust them and stay at home”. Government guidelines say that following a positive LFT test, people should confirm the result with a PCR test.Prof Irene Petersen, lead study author, said people who get a positive LFT result should continue to “trust them and stay at home”. Government guidelines say that following a positive LFT test, people should confirm the result with a PCR test.
In recent weeks there have been a growing number of cases where a positive LFT result has been followed by a negative PCR test result, which has undermined some confidence in the tests.In recent weeks there have been a growing number of cases where a positive LFT result has been followed by a negative PCR test result, which has undermined some confidence in the tests.
Yesterday, Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, told local media that she was aware of “sporadic cases” of this nationally, and heard about it anecdotally locally. She told the Eastern Daily Press:Yesterday, Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, told local media that she was aware of “sporadic cases” of this nationally, and heard about it anecdotally locally. She told the Eastern Daily Press:
The UCL study found that LFTs were more than 80% effective at detecting any level of Covid infection, and that they are more than 90% effective at detecting who is most infectious. These figures are higher than previous studies.The UCL study found that LFTs were more than 80% effective at detecting any level of Covid infection, and that they are more than 90% effective at detecting who is most infectious. These figures are higher than previous studies.
Another member of the study team, Prof Michael Mina, from Harvard School of Public Health, said that LFTs will catch nearly everyone who is posing a risk to public health.Another member of the study team, Prof Michael Mina, from Harvard School of Public Health, said that LFTs will catch nearly everyone who is posing a risk to public health.
“It is most likely that if someone’s LFT is negative but their PCR is positive, then this is because they are not at peak transmissible stage,” he said.“It is most likely that if someone’s LFT is negative but their PCR is positive, then this is because they are not at peak transmissible stage,” he said.
Doctors have also dominated the discussions that UK health secretary Sajid Javid has been having across the media this morning. He is pushing the government’s plan to increase face-to-face consultations with GPs. Before the pandemic about 80% of appointments were face-to-face. Since Covid hit, that number has dropped and now stands at around 58%.Doctors have also dominated the discussions that UK health secretary Sajid Javid has been having across the media this morning. He is pushing the government’s plan to increase face-to-face consultations with GPs. Before the pandemic about 80% of appointments were face-to-face. Since Covid hit, that number has dropped and now stands at around 58%.
The package he is announcing, he says, will give patients the choice to see GPs in they way they choose to see them.The package he is announcing, he says, will give patients the choice to see GPs in they way they choose to see them.
It is tangentially Covid-related clearly, as a lot of changes to the way GP practices in the UK worked were driven by Covid measures. What he did specifically say about coronavirus in his appearance on Times Radio was that he seemed to be happy with the way the virus was progressing. He told listeners:It is tangentially Covid-related clearly, as a lot of changes to the way GP practices in the UK worked were driven by Covid measures. What he did specifically say about coronavirus in his appearance on Times Radio was that he seemed to be happy with the way the virus was progressing. He told listeners:
The latest data by the way is that there were 42,776 new cases recorded yesterday. The height of the last peak in the UK was 60,764 daily cases on 15 July. The highest ever recorded number was 81,483 on 29 December 2020.The latest data by the way is that there were 42,776 new cases recorded yesterday. The height of the last peak in the UK was 60,764 daily cases on 15 July. The highest ever recorded number was 81,483 on 29 December 2020.
Romanian doctors sent an open letter yesterday titled “a cry of despair” as the country’s overwhelmed and deteriorated health care system struggles to cope with a record-setting surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.Romanian doctors sent an open letter yesterday titled “a cry of despair” as the country’s overwhelmed and deteriorated health care system struggles to cope with a record-setting surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.
The College of Physicians of Bucharest, a nongovernmental organization representing doctors in Romania’s capital, said in a letter addressed to Romanians that the medical system has “reached the limit” and that low vaccination rates reveal a “failure of trust” between doctors and the population.The College of Physicians of Bucharest, a nongovernmental organization representing doctors in Romania’s capital, said in a letter addressed to Romanians that the medical system has “reached the limit” and that low vaccination rates reveal a “failure of trust” between doctors and the population.
“We are desperate because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals,” the letter reads. “We are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times: I can’t breathe. I’m not vaccinated.”“We are desperate because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals,” the letter reads. “We are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times: I can’t breathe. I’m not vaccinated.”
On Tuesday, Romania reported daily pandemic records of nearly 17,000 new confirmed cases and 442 deaths. Data from health authorities indicate that more than 90% of coronavirus patients who died last week were unvaccinated.On Tuesday, Romania reported daily pandemic records of nearly 17,000 new confirmed cases and 442 deaths. Data from health authorities indicate that more than 90% of coronavirus patients who died last week were unvaccinated.
“Every day we witness tragedies: dying patients, suffering families, doctors who have reached the end of their powers,” the letter from Bucharest’s doctors reads.“Every day we witness tragedies: dying patients, suffering families, doctors who have reached the end of their powers,” the letter from Bucharest’s doctors reads.
Associated Press report that the pressure on hospitals prompted Romanian officials last week to suspend nonemergency medical procedures for 30 days.Associated Press report that the pressure on hospitals prompted Romanian officials last week to suspend nonemergency medical procedures for 30 days.
Scientists have urged eligible people to have Covid booster shots after a major survey in England found evidence of “breakthrough infections” more than three months after full vaccination.Scientists have urged eligible people to have Covid booster shots after a major survey in England found evidence of “breakthrough infections” more than three months after full vaccination.
Researchers at Imperial College London analysed more than 100,000 swabs from a random sample of the population and found that Covid infection rates were three to four times higher among unvaccinated people than those who had received two shots.Researchers at Imperial College London analysed more than 100,000 swabs from a random sample of the population and found that Covid infection rates were three to four times higher among unvaccinated people than those who had received two shots.
But while full vaccination drove infection rates down substantially, from 1.76% in the unvaccinated to 0.35% in the three months after the second dose, infection rates rose again to 0.55% three to six months after the second shot.But while full vaccination drove infection rates down substantially, from 1.76% in the unvaccinated to 0.35% in the three months after the second dose, infection rates rose again to 0.55% three to six months after the second shot.
The finding suggests that protection against infection, with or without symptoms, starts to wane several months after full vaccination, though other studies show that vaccine protection against hospitalisation and death is far more robust.The finding suggests that protection against infection, with or without symptoms, starts to wane several months after full vaccination, though other studies show that vaccine protection against hospitalisation and death is far more robust.
“The possible increase of breakthrough infections over time reinforces the need for a booster programme,” said Paul Elliott, head of the React study and professor in epidemiology and public health medicine at Imperial. “It’s an incentive for people to get their booster dose when it becomes available to them,” added Prof Christl Donnelly, a statistical epidemiologist on the study. The results came as new Covid cases in the UK rose to 42,776, the highest recorded since late July.“The possible increase of breakthrough infections over time reinforces the need for a booster programme,” said Paul Elliott, head of the React study and professor in epidemiology and public health medicine at Imperial. “It’s an incentive for people to get their booster dose when it becomes available to them,” added Prof Christl Donnelly, a statistical epidemiologist on the study. The results came as new Covid cases in the UK rose to 42,776, the highest recorded since late July.
Read more of science editor Ian Sample’s report here: Covid booster shots important to stop infection, finds English studyRead more of science editor Ian Sample’s report here: Covid booster shots important to stop infection, finds English study
The US government says it will ship 2.4m doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan today, bringing the total number of doses sent to the country to about 18.3m, more than any other country.The US government says it will ship 2.4m doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan today, bringing the total number of doses sent to the country to about 18.3m, more than any other country.
The latest shipments of the vaccine made by Pfizer/BioNTech are due to arrive on Saturday via the Covax distribution program, an official told Reuters.The latest shipments of the vaccine made by Pfizer/BioNTech are due to arrive on Saturday via the Covax distribution program, an official told Reuters.
Their data suggests that Pakistan has administered at least 93.6m doses of vaccine so far, out of a population of 220m.Their data suggests that Pakistan has administered at least 93.6m doses of vaccine so far, out of a population of 220m.
Good morning from London, it is Martin Belam here taking over from my colleague Samantha Lock. The UK government minister facing the media this morning is health secretary Sajid Javid – I’ll have any key Covid lines from his first appearances shortly, he’s pushing government plans for an “access package” to GPs.Good morning from London, it is Martin Belam here taking over from my colleague Samantha Lock. The UK government minister facing the media this morning is health secretary Sajid Javid – I’ll have any key Covid lines from his first appearances shortly, he’s pushing government plans for an “access package” to GPs.
Hi, I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be giving you a rundown of the latest coronavirus updates as they happen.Hi, I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be giving you a rundown of the latest coronavirus updates as they happen.
Here’s a rundown of any highlights you might have missed.Here’s a rundown of any highlights you might have missed.
In good news for those seeking a sea-side break, Fiji says it is already experiencing a boom in demand after announcing this week that it would open up quarantine-free travel to visitors from select countries, almost two years after closing its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.In good news for those seeking a sea-side break, Fiji says it is already experiencing a boom in demand after announcing this week that it would open up quarantine-free travel to visitors from select countries, almost two years after closing its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, a group of 26 experts will be tasked with examining new pathogens and how to prevent future pandemics after the World Health Organization unveiled a team to revive the inquiry into Covid-19’s origins.Meanwhile, a group of 26 experts will be tasked with examining new pathogens and how to prevent future pandemics after the World Health Organization unveiled a team to revive the inquiry into Covid-19’s origins.
Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, said it may be the “last chance to understand the origins of this virus” in a collegiate manner.Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, said it may be the “last chance to understand the origins of this virus” in a collegiate manner.
Malfunctioning NHS app for Covid vaccine status causes travel delays. Travellers have been blocked from boarding flights and ferries for trips abroad after a four-hour outage of England’s NHS app left people unable to access a Covid pass to prove their vaccine status.Malfunctioning NHS app for Covid vaccine status causes travel delays. Travellers have been blocked from boarding flights and ferries for trips abroad after a four-hour outage of England’s NHS app left people unable to access a Covid pass to prove their vaccine status.
Scientists abused and threatened for discussing Covid, global survey finds. Scientists around the world have received threats of death and sexual assault after speaking to the media about Covid-19, a survey by Nature magazine revealed.Scientists abused and threatened for discussing Covid, global survey finds. Scientists around the world have received threats of death and sexual assault after speaking to the media about Covid-19, a survey by Nature magazine revealed.
The UK records 136 deaths and 42,776 new Covid-19 cases.The UK records 136 deaths and 42,776 new Covid-19 cases.
Oliver Dowden, the chair of the Conservative party, said he was “very sorry” and admitted “we didn’t get everything right” regarding the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.Oliver Dowden, the chair of the Conservative party, said he was “very sorry” and admitted “we didn’t get everything right” regarding the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Russia has set a record for the number of Covid deaths in a 24-hour period for the second day running. Wednesday’s official toll of 984 is slightly higher than yesterday’s then-record 973 deaths.Russia has set a record for the number of Covid deaths in a 24-hour period for the second day running. Wednesday’s official toll of 984 is slightly higher than yesterday’s then-record 973 deaths.
A landmark report found the UK government’s management of the outbreak was one of the worst public health failures in British history.A landmark report found the UK government’s management of the outbreak was one of the worst public health failures in British history.
After a 19-month travel ban, the US announced it will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico for non-essential travel. It’s a huge relief for families who have been separated since the beginning of the pandemic and comes after multiple countries pressed the US for months to ease restrictions.After a 19-month travel ban, the US announced it will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico for non-essential travel. It’s a huge relief for families who have been separated since the beginning of the pandemic and comes after multiple countries pressed the US for months to ease restrictions.