Coronavirus

Coronavirus news live: Kyiv cremations double amid rise in Covid deaths, New Zealand vaccine mandate kicks in for front-line workers

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Russia continues to report fairly consistent numbers of Covid deaths and cases as authorities wait anxiously to see whether the week long paid shutdown at the beginning of the month has made a dent into the transmission of the virus.

Today Russia announced 1,240 deaths, which is close the record high, and 36,818 new cases. This is a little bit down on yesterday’s figure. The highest caseload recently was on 6 November, when new cases breached the 40,000 figure. The seven-day average has been trending slightly downwards for ten days now.

There’s a committee session in parliament in the UK about to begin looking at global vaccine access. The all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus is running the session from 10am–11.30am in London, and those giving evidence include:

  • Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19
  • Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance
  • Dr Nicaise Ndemb, chief science advisor to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director
  • Anna Marriott, health policy adviser for Oxfam

If you fancy watching that, it is being broadcast live on their YouTube channel and starts in about ten minutes.

There is a slight return this morning of the row over British prime minister Boris Johnson’s recent visit to Hexham General hospital on 8 November, where he was photographed not wearing a face mask.

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson walks with Marion Dickson, executive director of Nursing during a visit to Hexham General Hospital on 8 November.
Boris Johnson walks with Marion Dickson, executive director of nursing during a visit to Hexham General hospital on 8 November. Photograph: Reuters

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS in England, was asked about it on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. “The guidance is clear that people should wear masks in healthcare settings,” she said.

PA Media reports that pressed on whether she would have told Johnson to put a mask back on, she added: “I wasn’t on the visit. So I’m afraid I don’t know the ins and outs of exactly what happened there. I’m sure my colleagues did encourage everybody there to follow the appropriate guidance.”

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The Covid pandemic does generate a few good news stories, and Ngouda Dione and Cooper Inveen report for Reuters this morning that quieter beaches in Senegal have been a boon to the local turtle population.

Increased fishing, tourism and construction have left fewer safe nesting grounds for Senegal’s turtles, which are listed as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Newborn green turtles climb up the walls of a protective cage moments after hatching in Guereo, Senegal.
Newborn green turtles climb up the walls of a protective cage moments after hatching in Guereo, Senegal. Photograph: Cooper Inveen/Reuters

Only two or three turtles have laid their eggs in Guereo in recent years, while dozens did a generation ago, Djibril Diakhate said. The 47-year-old barkeeper patrols this beach up to 75 nights a year to keep predators from their nests until the eggs are ready to hatch.

“I have always been affected by the birth of these turtles,” he said. “The first time I witnessed a hatching, I cried at these creatures of God.”

Saliou Mbodji and other marine protection agents dig up hatched turtle eggs on the shores of Guereo.
Saliou Mbodji and other marine protection agents dig up hatched turtle eggs on the shores of Guereo. Photograph: Cooper Inveen/Reuters

Saliou Mbodji, president of the nearby Somone Marine Protection Area, attributes the change to Covid-19 restrictions that halted local fishing and tourism for much of 2020.

“There were not many people at the beaches or the hotels,” Mbodji said. “There was less light, so more turtles came to lay their eggs on the beaches.”

This year, however, the number of nests has again diminished as restriction begin to life.

Russia approves clinical trials of Pzifer antiviral pill

Polina Nikolskaya reports for Reuters that Russia has granted approval for Pzifer to conduct clinical trials in Russia of its experimental antiviral pill to treat Covid-19, a state registry of medicines showed on Tuesday.

The trials conducted on 90 people located in home-like conditions with someone who has symptomatic Covid-19 began on 12 November and will continue until March 2023, the registry’s website said.

Pfizer said earlier this month the experimental antiviral pill cut by 89% the chance of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of severe disease. It hopes to make the pill available globally as quickly as possible. The pill has the brand name Paxlovid.

Our economics editor Larry Elliott has written his analysis this morning on how the UK economy is beginning to emerge from Covid, but old problems remain. He concludes:

The economy as a whole is now starting to go post-Covid. The inflation figures due out on Wednesday will still show the impact of the virus on global energy prices and on supply chains but in other respects it is as if the past 18 months never happened.

There are two sides to that. The good news is that the labour market has emerged relatively unscathed. The bad news is that the problems of February 2020 – low investment, low productivity, weak underlying growth – are problems that remain to be tackled in November 2021.

Read more of Larry Elliott’s analysis here: UK economy begins to emerge from Covid but old problems remain

Melissa Davey

The first person infected with Covid linked to the St Basil’s aged care home outbreak in Australia, in which 50 residents died, has spoken publicly for the first time, telling a coroner she was cleared to work despite living in a high-risk suburb with relatives experiencing “throat discomfort”.

The former personal care assistant at the home, identified only as “A” to protect her identity, said she was swabbed on 5 July 2020 at a drive-through testing clinic after she finished a shift at St Basil’s.

She was tested with her husband, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and sister, as they all lived together in Moreland, an area the Victorian government had identified as high risk for Covid-19. All five were asymptomatic at the time, A told the coroner on Tuesday.

She said staff who tested her knew she worked in aged care and told her because she was asymptomatic she could go to work.

Read more of Melissa Davey’s report here: Aged care worker living with relatives who had Covid symptoms cleared to work at St Basil’s, inquest hears

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Labour: UK government has ‘let its foot off the pedal’ on booster jab programme

In the UK, Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has been on Sky News, and was asked about two things pertaining to the pandemic. On the suggestion that booster jabs might be required in order to obtain a Covid passport for international travel, Thomas-Symonds said:

That’s something that the government needs to deal with logistically. But in terms of the booster programme, my worry is that the government has let its foot off the pedal as far as the vaccination programme is concerned. The Covid boosters are what will prevent the need to introduce further restrictions and they are also what will ease the pressure on the NHS this winter. So rather than pulling their foot off the pedal, the foot needs to go down on the pedal to really speed up that booster programme, which is absolutely vital.

Secondly, he was asked about the prospects of vaccination being approved for children between the ages of five and 11. He said:

I think we have to follow, as we have throughout, the scientific advice on this. I appreciate they’re already doing that in Israel. We need to be looking at that scientific advise, and if that’s the way it points, of course we look at that very carefully.

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Here is an update on the caseloads across Europe at the moment. The darker the colour in the map, the higher the incidence. Yesterday, the Robert Koch Institute measured the incidence in Germany at the highest rate it has been since the pandemic began.

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Czech Republic again records over 10,000 new Covid cases

The Czech Republic reported 11,514 new Covid-19 cases for 15 November, the fifth time daily infections have topped 10,000 in past seven days, health ministry data showed. This means that the seven-day rolling average of new cases stands at 10,988. A week ago, it stood at 7,643.

Reuters report that hospitalisations grew to 4,296, including 635 people in a serious condition, according to the figures.

The outgoing government of prime minister Andrej Babišhas been debating bringing in tougher restrictions including a proposal for some form of lockdown for unvaccinated people. Ministers had not reached an agreement by late on Monday and would return to the issue on Thursday, officials said.

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The number of UK workers on company payrolls surged by 160,000 last month and there was no sign of a jump in redundancies despite the furlough support scheme introduced during the pandemic coming to an end, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

PA Media is carrying a quote from the UK chancellor Rishi Sunak, who has said the latest jobs figures were “testament to the extraordinary success of the furlough scheme”.

He said: “We know how vital keeping people in good jobs is, both for them and for our economy – which is why it’s fantastic to see the unemployment rate falling for nine months in a row and record numbers of people moving into employment.”

Updated

Hello, it is Martin Belam here in London taking over from Samantha Lock. Damian Hinds, minister of state for security in the UK, has been on Sky News already this morning. He was asked whether the government was planning to make it so that only people who have had a booster jab would continue to qualify for a Covid passport to travel abroad, as has been reported in the media. He didn’t really have an answer for that beyond broadly praising the vaccination programme, saying:

It has been enormously successful. It helps to keep us all safe, inching back towards normality. I think that’s a good thing. I think it is what people have welcomed. So my encouragement to everybody is, when you get the invitation to get the booster, to go ahead and do it.

It is good for all of us. It’s good for us as individuals, it is good for us as a society. This is how we’ve been able to start to move out of difficult period for so many people, a tragic period for those who’ve lost a loved one. And the booster jab is very important.

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Growing numbers of people catching coronavirus are experiencing an unpleasant distortion of smells. Scientists are still unsure what causes this often distressing condition, known as parosmia, where previously enjoyable aromas trigger feelings of disgust.

In our Science Weekly podcast this week, Madeleine Finlay talks to science correspondent Linda Geddes about her own parosmia, and chemist Dr Jane Parker discusses research into why the smell of coffee seems to be a trigger for so many people.

Updated

Berlin, Germany, introduces new lockdown for the unvaccinated

As Germany battles its worst infection rate since the pandemic began, some states are considering putting in place so-called 2G rules, which effectively exclude people who choose not to be vaccinated from many areas of public life.

Berlin adopted the new rules on Monday, 15 November.

Under the rules, only people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months are permitted to eat inside restaurants or go to clubs or bars. Only children and those who have medical reasons for not being vaccinated are exempt from the rule.

“In light of the rising number of coronavirus infections and looming shortages in intensive care units, the Senate has decided to significantly expand the so-called 2G rule,” the city government said.

Only vaccinated and recovered persons will be allowed to enter places such as restaurants, cinemas, theatres, museums, galleries or concert venues. The rule also applies to gymnasiums and swimming pools, leisure facilities such as saunas and thermal baths, and amusement venues such as arcades. Unvaccinated people are also no longer allowed into enclosed areas inside amusement parks, zoos and botanical gardens. The 2G rule also applies to hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and dance studios.

Brandenburg, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are expected to follow suit.

2G rules are already in force in some districts where Covid hospitalisations are particularly high. Similar proposals are being discussed for adoption on a national level and, if approved, would come into effect later this month.

The centre-left Social Democrats, Greens and pro-business FDP said on Monday they would add harsher measures to their draft law under consideration by the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) to deal with the outbreak.

On Thursday, the German parliament is due to vote on a new legal framework for coronavirus restrictions drawn up by the parties that are expected to form the country’s next coalition government.

Updated

Welcome back to our live Covid coverage.

I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be taking you through all the latest developments from across the world.

Here’s a rundown of everything you might have missed.

A Kyiv crematorium has doubled its cremations compared with the summer months as virus deaths soar in the Ukraine capital, a spokesman told AFP.

The news comes as Ukrainians will soon be offered a cash incentive to get double-vaccinated against Covid-19 in a bid to boost the country’s low inoculation rate. President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the news on Monday in the nation where fewer than a third of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Vaccine mandates are taking effect in New Zealand as the nation sets another daily record for community Covid-19 infections and a new death. From Tuesday, new mandates kick in for many government workers in health, education, disability and the prison system who now must be vaccinated to do front-line jobs.

Europe:

  • Police in Austria have begun carrying out routine checks on commuters to ensure compliance with a nationwide “lockdown for the unvaccinated”, as the Alpine country tries to get on top of one of the most rapidly rising infection rates in Europe.
  • Germany’s prospective coalition government is pondering lockdown restrictions for the unvaccinated, as infections in the country continue to rise. Measures could include requiring the unvaccinated to show proof of a negative test before travelling by bus or train.

  • Belgium’s government is bringing forward a meeting to decide on tighter measures to control the spread of Covid-19 amid a rapid increase in infections and hospital admissions.
  • Britain’s booster vaccine rollout is to be extended to people aged between 40 and 49, officials said, in a bid to boost waning immunity in the population ahead of the colder winter months.

  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned people against complacency, saying that a new wave of Covid has “steadily swept through central Europe” and is now affecting the nation’s closest neighbours.
  • Employers in Latvia are allowed to dismiss employees who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19 from Monday.
  • The pressure on Dutch hospitals mounts from a surge in Covid-19 patients as cases break records. The worst has yet to come, the head of the country’s hospital association said on Monday. The number of Covid-19 patients in Dutch hospitals increased to about 2,000 on Monday, including almost 400 in intensive care, reaching the highest level since May.

Americas:

  • US president Joe Biden’s vaccine requirements are prompting more Americans to get Covid shots, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised against travel to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Iceland because of a rising number of Covid-19 cases in those countries.
  • Peru, the country with the world’s highest Covid-19 mortality rate, is to require adults to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor spaces from next month.

Asia:

  • India opens again to foreign tourists from countries with reciprocal agreements after a 20-month ban due to the pandemic.

  • Thousands of children in the Philippines are allowed to return to classrooms for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
  • Cambodia announces that fully vaccinated foreign travellers can visit the kingdom without quarantine.
  • China is battling the spread of its biggest Covid-19 outbreak caused by the Delta variant as case numbers in the north-eastern city of Dalian outpace anywhere else in the country. The Dalian outbreak has prompted China to confine nearly 1,500 university students to their dormitories and hotels in the city.
  • China’s president Xi has agreed to upgrade the “fast track lane” for US business figures to come to the country, Chinese state media reports.

Oceania:

  • Australia’s Indigenous vaccination rates continue to lag across every jurisdiction amid heightened fears over an outbreak in the Northern Territory. Nationally, just under 58% of Indigenous people aged 16 and older are double-dosed, while about 69% are partially vaccinated, much lower than Australia’s overall double-dose rate of 83%.

Africa/Middle East:

  • Israel gave the green light Sunday to start vaccinating children aged between five and 11 against Covid-19 using Pfizer/BioNTech jabs.

Updated

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