Coronavirus

Covid live: booster shots to be added to England travel pass; Austria to enter national lockdown, make vaccines mandatory

covid-live:-booster-shots-to-be-added-to-england-travel-pass;-austria-to-enter-national-lockdown,-make-vaccines-mandatory

Good morning from London. I’m Lucy Campbell, I’ll be bringing you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic for the next eight hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.

Email: lucy.campbell@theguardian.com

Twitter: @lucy_campbell_

Today so far

  • Travellers from England who have had an extra booster jab will be able to display their vaccination status on the NHS Covid pass from midday today, the Department for Health and Social Care has said. The feature will enable those who have had their third dose to travel to countries including Israel, Croatia and Austria, where there is a time limit for a vaccine to be valid to skip quarantine.
  • Ministers in the UK were not “fully prepared” for the “wide-ranging impacts” that Covid-19 had on society, the economy and essential public services in the UK, and lacked detailed plans on shielding, job support schemes and school disruption, a report from the National Audit Office has found.
  • Austria will go into its third nationwide lockdown for at least ten days from Monday, and has announced it will make vaccinations mandatory across society from February next year. The new national lockdown is set to last until 12 December but could be reevaluated after ten days if the pandemic situation has improved. Lockdown rules would end for those vaccinated from 12 December but would stay in place for those who have decline to take the jab.

  • Austria’s Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said “Despite months of persuasion, we have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated.” He blamed those refusing to be vaccinated for an “attack on the health system”.
  • Hungary reported 11,289 new Covid-19 infections on Friday, its highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic. Viktor Orbán’s government has been reluctant to impose any restrictions, but from Saturday masks will have to be worn in all enclosed spaces except offices and sports halls, and public events with more than 500 people can only be attended with a Covid certificate.

  • Germany’s Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, told reporters that with record-breaking infection levels, the nationwide curbs on the unvaccinated were insufficient. As cases have topped 300 per 100,000 people, the rules for public spaces “are no longer enough in the current situation,” he said, calling it an “absolute emergency”.
  • Germany’s acting health minister Jens Spahn has told a news conference this morning “We are in a national emergency”. Saxony, the German region hit hardest by the country’s fourth wave of coronavirus, is considering a partial lockdown.
  • France will not follow its European neighbours imposing Covid lockdowns on unvaccinated people because of the success of its health pass in curbing the virus’s spread, president Emmanuel Macron has said.
  • Russia on Friday confirmed 37,156 new Covid-19 infections and a new record of 1,254 deaths. There have been over 1,000 deaths officially recorded every day since 20 October.
  • Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida announced a record $490bn stimulus for the world’s third-largest economy today as he looks to shore up the country’s patchy pandemic recovery.
  • The first known patient to become ill with Covid-19 was a vendor in a Wuhan animal market, a scientist has claimed in a report published on Thursday. Dr Michael Worobey, a leading expert in tracing the evolution of viruses at the University of Arizona, believes the World Health Organization inquiry was incorrect in its early chronology of the pandemic.
  • Rightwing extremists in the UK are using Covid controversies and online gaming as a way of recruiting young people, as data shows half of the most serious cases of suspected radicalisation reported by schools and colleges now involve far-right activity.

That is it from me, Martin Belam, for this week. I will be back on Monday. In the meantime, Lucy Campbell will be with you to take you through the rest of the days Covid news from the UK and around the world.

Hungary sets new record daily toll for Covid cases

Hungary reported 11,289 new Covid-19 infections on Friday, its highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic, the government said on its coronavirus website.

Reuters note that Hungary, a country of 10 million people whose vaccination rate lags behind the European Union average, imposed new restrictions on Thursday. Masks will have to be worn in all enclosed spaces except offices and sports halls from Saturday, and public events with more than 500 people can only be attended with a Covid certificate.

Updated

Germans told ‘stay home when you can’ by head of Robert Koch Institute

A couple of updates from Germany. First off, Reuters is carrying comments from acting health minister Jens Spahn that the country is in talks to buy experimental antiviral pills. He said at a news conference in Berlin: “We’re in talks with Pfizer, with Merck, also with all the others … all those who have promising medicines.”

Agence France-Presse, meanwhile, is carrying quotes from the head of Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute.

Lothar Wieler told reporters that with record-breaking infection levels, the nationwide curbs on the unvaccinated were insufficient. As cases have topped 300 per 100,000 people, the rules for public spaces “are no longer enough in the current situation”, he said, calling it an “absolute emergency”.

Wieler called for major events to be cancelled, clubs and bars to be shuttered and private contacts limited to stop the spread of the virus. Germans should “stay home when they can”, he said.

Updated

Philip Oltermann

Over the last two weeks, Austria’s conservative-green coalition government has tried to prevent a collapse of the health system by first making it mandatory for citizens to show proof of vaccination or recovery at restaurants and bars, and then announcing a “lockdown for the unvaccinated”.

Austria will now go into its third nationwide lockdown for at least 10 days from Monday, and make vaccinations mandatory across society from February next year.

The new lockdown is set to last until 12 December but could be re-evaluated after 10 days if the pandemic situation has improved. Schools are to stay open but children can choose to go into remote learning mode without a note from a doctor.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, who has been in office for only a month, said tightening vaccine pass controls and testing requirements has started to make a difference, but “hasn’t convinced enough” people to get vaccinated.

Lockdown rules would end for those vaccinated from 12 December but would stay in place for those who have decline to take the jab.

“No one wants a lockdown, it is a crude instrument”, said health minister Wolfgang Mückstein. “But it is the most effective instrument that we have available”.

The Green politician said constitutional lawyers were currently examining the general vaccine mandate the government wants to come into effect from 1 February 2022.

The Alpine republic is weathering the most powerful wave of the Covid-19 virus so far, with authorities on Friday reporting an incidence rate of 990 cases per 100,000 over seven days.

Updated

Austria to impose new full national lockdown and make vaccinations mandatory

Austria will impose a lockdown for all and make vaccinations mandatory, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced this morning, making the country the first in the EU to take such stringent measures as coronavirus cases spiral.

The country plans to make Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory from 1 February next year, while the lockdown will start from Monday and will be evaluated after 10 days, Schallenberg said.

“Despite months of persuasion, we have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated,” Schallenberg told a press conference in the western Tyrol state, where he met regional government heads. He blamed those refusing to be vaccinated for an “attack on the health system”.

The lockdown means people are no longer allowed to leave their houses with few exceptions such shopping for essentials and exercising. At the beginning of this week, Austria already began a lockdown for those not vaccinated or recently cured, becoming the first EU country to do so.

Agence France-Presse notes that infections have continued to rise. On Thursday, a new record of more than 15,000 new cases were recorded in the country of nearly nine million people.

Demand for vaccinations has increased in recent days, and 66% of the population are fully jabbed, slightly below the EU average of more than 67%.

Updated

Russia sets new record for daily official deaths at 1,254

Russia’s Covid incidence rate is relatively low, given the size of the country’s population, but the official figures have been running consistently around their highest rates in the pandemic so far for several weeks. Russia on Friday confirmed 37,156 new Covid-19 infections and a new record of 1,254 deaths. There have been over 1,000 deaths officially recorded every day since 20 October.

Here’s an updated map with the Covid incidence rates across Europe.

Booster jab status can be displayed in NHS Covid app from midday today

Travellers from the UK who have had an extra jab will be able to display their vaccination status on the NHS Covid pass from midday today, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.

The feature will enable those who have had their third dose to travel to countries including Israel, Croatia and Austria, where there is a time limit for a vaccine to be valid to skip quarantine.

PA Media quotes vaccines minister Maggie Throup saying people can book appointments up to a month before they are eligible for the booster. She said:

Getting a booster is the best way you can protect yourself ahead of winter and it’s great those who have come forward can now demonstrate their vaccination status through the NHS Covid pass if they are travelling overseas.

It has also never been easier to book your booster, with walk-in sites open across the country and appointments available to pre-book a month before you are eligible for your top-up.

Almost 20 million people have accessed the Covid Pass via the NHS app since it was launched on 17 May, the DHSC has said.

Updated

UK ministers were unprepared for impact of Covid, says watchdog

Ministers in the UK were not “fully prepared” for the “wide-ranging impacts” that Covid-19 had on society, the economy and essential public services in the UK, and lacked detailed plans on shielding, job support schemes and school disruption, a report has found.

Some lessons from “previous simulation exercises” that would have helped with Covid-19 preparations were “not fully implemented”, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

The report, which looked at the government’s preparedness for the Covid-19 pandemic, also found that time and energy spent preparing for Brexit both helped and hindered planning for future crises.

The watchdog said preparations for leaving the EU enhanced some departments’ “crisis capabilities”, but also took up significant resources, meaning the government had to pause or postpone some planning work for a potential flu pandemic.

Read more here: UK ministers were unprepared for impact of Covid, says watchdog

Germany’s acting health minister: ‘We are in a national emergency’

A quick snap from Reuters here with a dramatic quote from Germany’s acting health minister Jens Spahn, who has told a news conference this morning amid rising cases: “We are in a national emergency.”

Updated

There’s a quote here from the UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, on that booster jab news. PA Media reports he said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for people to show their vaccine status if they are travelling abroad.

“This update to the NHS Covid pass will mean people can have their complete medical picture at their fingertips if they are going on holiday or seeing loved ones overseas.”

Updated

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