Coronavirus

Covid live news: Belgium to accelerate plan for tighter measures; concern over rising Irish cases

covid-live-news:-belgium-to-accelerate-plan-for-tighter-measures;-concern-over-rising-irish-cases

Summary

Sarah Marsh

You can follow what is happening over on the UK blog as Boris Johnson is about to hold a press briefing.

Below is a summary of the global news in the last few hours:

  • 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.
  • The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has made two significant announcements, recommending rolling out booster vaccines to those aged between 40 and 49, and recommending a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to people aged 16 and 17.
  • The coronavirus has killed at least 5,098,386 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP on Monday.
  • On the day its lockdown of unvaccinated people begins, Austria has become the first European country to take radical action in a bid to increase take-up of jabs as new cases surge.

Updated

Concern in Ireland over rising cases weeks after lockdown lifted

Lisa O'Carroll

The Irish prime minister has said he is “extremely concerned” by the rise in covid cases just weeks after the strictest lockdown in the EU was lifted.

On Monday night, the government’s cabinet subcommittee on Covid is to meet to discuss pausing some of the easing of restrictions including the return to office work.

It comes amid fears a relaxation in public behaviour in relation to masks and Covid certificate checks in restaurants and indoor hospitality is leading to a rise in cases.

On Monday, the chief executive of the national Health Service Executive said the situation in hospitals was “grim”.

The department of health was notified of 3,805 new cases on Monday with 106 patients in intensive care units, just under half that in January.

Paul Reid said this was “very concerning” as hospitals were now also open to other patients on elective surgery unlike earlier in the year.

“Now we’ve a whole set of non-Covid care taking place in our hospitals alongside rising Covid cases. The situation is grim and something has to give,” he told RTE.

The figures come just weeks after the night time economy was re-opened after 20 months. Official data shows last week showed the median age of those with Covid was 34.

Updated

Mark Sweney

Cineworld’s box office revenues surpassed pre-pandemic levels at its cinemas in the UK and Ireland last month as blockbusters such as No Time to Die, Dune and Venom draw film fans back to the big screen.

The world’s second-largest cinema operator, which owns the Cineworld and Picturehouse chains in the UK and Regal Theatres in the US, said box office and concession revenues at its UK and Irish operation in October reached 127% of the level in the equivalent month in 2019.

Shares in Cineworld jumped 11%, making the company the biggest riser on the FTSE 250 on Monday morning, as investors cheered the news of a recovery in the Covid-battered cinema industry.

Austria became the first EU country on Monday to impose a lockdown on the unvaccinated and the first to start inoculating children as young as five, as the virus strengthens its grip on the continent.

Surging infection rates have placed western Europe once again at the heart of the global epidemic and governments are being forced to take action, the Netherlands already announcing the region’s first partial lockdown of the winter.

Austria has inoculated about 65% of its 9 million people, below the EU average of 67%.

Daily new infection rates have been hovering at about 12,000 in recent weeks, up from roughly 2,000 a day in September.

Updated

Summary

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

Austria lockdown for unvaccinated

Austria’s lockdown of unvaccinated people begins, the first European country to take radical action in a bid to increase take-up of jabs as new cases surge.

Peru also gets tough

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.

India opens to tourists

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

UK to expand booster shots

Britain’s booster programme for vaccinations will be expanded to all healthy adults aged 40 to 49 after scientists give the green light.

Filipinos back to school

Thousands of children in the Philippines are allowed to return to classrooms for the first time since the start of the pandemic, as a pilot reopening of schools gets under way.

Italy targets radical anti-vaxxers

Italian police raid radical anti-vaccine activists alleged to have called for violence, including urging “hangings” and “shootings” of people supporting virus restrictions.

Cambodia welcomes jabbed

Cambodia announces that fully vaccinated foreign travellers can visit the kingdom without quarantine, giving a boost to the Covid-battered tourism industry.

Japan economic hit

Japan’s economy shrank far more than expected in the three months to September, as a surge in virus cases hit spending and supply chain issues hampered business.

More than 5 million dead

The coronavirus has killed at least 5,098,386 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP on Monday.

The US has suffered the most Covid-related deaths with 763,092, followed by Brazil with 611,283, India with 463,655, Mexico with 291,147, and Russia with 256,597.

The countries with the highest number of new deaths were Russia with 1,211, followed by Ukraine with 442 and Romania with 233.

Taking into account excess mortality linked to Covid-19, the WHO estimates the overall death toll could be two to three times higher.

Updated

Spain’s medicines agency has authorised Catalonia-based pharmaceutical group Hipra to test a vaccine it is developing on more than 1,000 volunteers, the prime minister Pedro Sánchez has said.

Hipra will carry out the so-called phase 2 trial – the second stage of a three-round trial process – on volunteers at 10 hospitals around Spain, Sánchez said.

Speaking at an event to present how European Union recovery funds will be channelled into health investments, Sanchez described the vaccine development as “extraordinary news”.

“It demonstrates that Spain can position itself at the forefront of the response to Covid,” he said, adding that the government had given a €15m (£12.78m, $17.17m) grant to develop the drug.

Hipra, a pharmaceutical lab that mainly researches and manufactures veterinary vaccines, has been working on two shots. One is based on the same RNA messenger technology used in shots made by Pfizer and Moderna, while the second, which has just received approval for trial, uses a recombinant protein like that of US-based drugmaker Novavax.

Hipra has said on its website that it anticipates being able to produce 600m doses in 2022 and double that figure the following year.

Updated

Stormont is facing renewed calls to introduce vaccine passports after escalating pressures on the health system saw ambulances diverted away from a main hospital.

Craigavon Area hospital in County Armagh stopped receiving ambulances carrying patients with non-life-threatening conditions on Sunday night due to severe capacity issues in its emergency department.

At one point, there were 108 patients waiting in A&E, 32 needing hospital admission. However, the hospital, which had 123 Covid-19 inpatients last night, had only three available beds.

As a result, the British Medical Association called on the Stormont Executive to revisit the issue of vaccine passports as a priority.

Making certification a legal entry requirement for hospitality venues has been credited with driving up vaccination rates among young people in the Irish Republic.

In Scotland, the executive has recommended that nightclubs and other venues carry out Covid entry checks and an official app has been developed to enable people to show proof of their vaccine status.

However, the administration has stopped short of making it a legal requirement of entry.

Updated

A “blizzard” of cases coming from Europe could derail Christmas plans unless people in the UK take up the offer of booster jabs, Boris Johnson has warned.

The prime minister said there was a “storm of infection” in mainland Europe, but the top-up vaccinations offered the best form of protection for the UK.

He stressed there was nothing in the domestic data that suggested a need to increase restrictions in England.

Ministers have set out contingency measures – a “plan B” – if there is unsustainable pressure on the NHS. The use of face coverings could become mandatory, vaccine passports could be required for some busy venues and people could be asked to work from home where possible. But Johnson said:

We don’t see anything in the data at the moment to suggest that we need to go to plan B, we’re sticking with plan A.

But what we have certainly got to recognise is there is a storm of infection out there in parts of Europe, you can see those numbers ticking up very sharply in some of our continental friends.

And we’ve just got to recognise that there is always a risk that a blizzard could come from the east again, as the months get colder.

The best protection for our country is for everybody to go forward and get their booster.

Updated

Today so far

  • The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has made two significant announcements, recommending rolling out booster vaccines to those aged between 40 and 49, and recommending a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to people aged 16 and 17.
  • England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, has said the country may still face “a bumpy few months ahead” and that “everyone has a key role to play in achieving as safe and disruption free winter as possible. Wear face coverings in crowded places if it is practical to do so. Increase indoor ventilation whenever you can. Make sure you are vaccinated.”
  • Dr June Raine, of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said that studying the data from the booster programme for over-50s in the UK there were “no new safety concerns” and “the booster doses are effective”.
  • Outsourcing company Serco said profits would be higher than expected in 2021 thanks to greater demand from the UK government for its Covid-19 services, including test and trace.
  • Conservative party chairman Oliver Dowden has backed AstraZeneca’s controversial announcement that it is moving to seek a profit from its Covid vaccine sales. Dowden also ruled out the UK government following the example of Austria and imposing lockdown conditions on people who are unvaccinated.
  • Germany’s coronavirus infection rate has risen to its highest level since the start of the pandemic, as the three parties in talks to form a new government plan an expansion of measures to tackle the pandemic. The seven-day incidence rate – the number of people per 100,000 to be infected over the last week – rose to 303 from 289 the previous day, figures from the Robert Koch Institute showed.
  • Austria’s lockdown restrictions on those who are unvaccinated came into force today. “My aim is very clear: to get the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, not to lock up the unvaccinated,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told ORF radio.
  • The government in Belgium has moved a meeting to debate new measures against Covid from Friday to Wednesday in order to have them in place for the weekend, as hospital admissions in the country are up 30% on a weekly basis.
  • 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.
  • Florida lawmakers will meet on Monday for a week-long special legislative session called by the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, with the goal of thwarting coronavirus vaccine mandates imposed by businesses or government agencies.
  • Israel gave the green light on Sunday to start vaccinating children aged between five and 11 against Covid-19 using Pfizer/BioNTech jabs, following the example of the US.
  • Cambodia reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travellers on Monday, two weeks earlier than originally planned, as it emerges from a lengthy lockdown bolstered by one of the world’s highest rates of immunisation against Covid-19.
  • Classrooms across the Philippines are filling up with students again for the first time in nearly two years. Children have been allowed back for face-to-face learning from Monday as the country begins its pilot implementation of limited in-person classes.

That is your lot from me, Martin Belam, today. Kevin Rawlinson will be here shortly to take you through the rest of the days coronavirus news from the UK and around the world.

Updated

Belgium government accelerates plan to decide on tighter Covid measures

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.

The meeting, originally set for Friday, was brought forward to Wednesday so that any measure approved midweek could be operational by the weekend, the government said this morning.

Associated Press notes that hospital admissions are up 30% on a weekly basis, and the number of patients in intensive care have risen to more than 500, putting more strain on hospitals in the nation of 11 million.

Belgium has just gone through an extended holiday weekend and no precise new caseload figures were published on Monday.

Authorities reimposed some pandemic restrictions three weeks ago after relaxing them just a few weeks earlier. They also expanded a nationwide use of the Covid-19 pass.

But infections have continued to rise, and the government is expected to look into further areas where face mask-wearing should be made mandatory. It is also set to consider turning its advice on working from home into a mandatory order to prevent employees from mingling.

Updated

It will be too soon to judge what impact Austria’s lockdown that targets the unvaccinated will have on the vaccination rates in the country, but I’ve just seen this picture from this morning in Salzburg, where there is a large queue to get the jab at the “Impfbus”.

People stand in line to get a vaccination against Covid-19 at the “Impfbus” in Salzburg, Austria.
People stand in line to get a vaccination against Covid-19 at the ‘Impfbus’ in Salzburg, Austria. Photograph: Barbara Gindl/APA/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

One of the questions for England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, at that press briefing was around the ethics of using vaccine doses to deliver booster shots in a wealthy country like the UK, when there are developing nations struggling to even put one dose into people’s arms. He said:

Nobody working in public health would question for one second the ethos that until we’re all safe from this virus, no one is fully safe. And there is of course a global public health concern about making sure that as many countries and as many people around the world have access to these vaccines.

But equally, our job as advisors to the UK government is to give advice relevant to the UK, and that is what we do when we advise our ministers and the UK has a massive programme of vaccine donation underway in parallel to our own vaccine programme, which is advised by JCVI.

This is another key stat that Jonathan Van-Tam gave in his message – looking at the hospitalisation rates. Pippa Crear, political editor at the Daily Mirror, sums it up in one tweet:

Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar)

Prof Jonathan Van Tam warns that you’re FIVE times more likely to end up in hospital if you’re NOT doubled jabbed and in your 40s – and FOUR times more likely in your 30s. 💉

November 15, 2021

The precise numbers given were:

The rate of admission to hospital with Covid is 1.4 per 100,000 if double vaccinated, but 7.8 for 100,000 if unvaccinated, which is fivefold higher. And for those aged 30 to 39, those rates are 4.1 per 100,000 for the double vaccinated and 17.3 per 100,000 for the unvaccinated, which is four times higher.

Jonathan Van-Tam: ‘a bumpy few months ahead’ for UK over Christmas period

England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, has said the country may still face “a bumpy few months ahead”. At this morning’s Downing Street briefing he said:

The UK Covid programme is evolving as the data evolves, with further evolutionary steps announced today. And this is how we go forwards. Wait for the data. Move the dial, wait again for more data, move the dial. Develop confidence and certainty with every step.

People keep asking me about Christmas. I think for Christmas and the winter period, we can expect respiratory viruses to be around and we are particularly concerned that flu will come back and cause us problems, and it could be quite a bumpy few months ahead.

But everyone has a key role to play in achieving as safe and disruption free winter as possible.

Wear face coverings in crowded places if it is practical to do so. Increase indoor ventilation whenever you can. Make sure you are vaccinated. And like any medicine, make sure you finish the course. And when you are called for your booster, please come forward so that we as a whole UK can get on and finish this job.

Updated

Jonathan Van-Tam: very clear ‘one dose is not enough’ of any UK deployed vaccine

England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, has made the following comments at a Downing Street briefing on the coronavirus. He was delivering his comments remotely from a clinical setting. The key points he made included:

I believe that if the booster programme is successful, and with very high uptake, we can massively reduce the worry about hospitalisation and death due to Covid at Christmas, and for the rest of this winter, for literally millions of people. It really is as simple as and decisive as that.

Whilst vaccines have fundamentally changed the course of the pandemic in the UK, and the high uptake of the initial programme has saved countless lives and help restore our freedoms in an unprecedented way. It is also clear that protection will wane over time.

The JCVI has acted decisively and recommended that the booster programme is now extended to 40-to-49s and 16- to-17-year-olds. I’ve full confidence in both of the decisions that have been announced today. The UK expects it to have enough supplies of vaccine to implement these changes. The details of how to access the boosters for these extra two layers of protection will be announced in due course by the NHS.

I want to make another plea to people who have not been vaccinated or have only had one dose. It is now very clear indeed that one dose is not enough of any of the UK deployed vaccines and that no doses at all massively increases the risk of hospitalisation.

Updated

JCVI announcement: UK booster jabs for 40- to-49-year-olds; second Pfizer doses for 16- to-17-year-olds

Prof Wei Shen Lim of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) summed up his announcements like this.

In summary, there are two updates we’re giving today. The first is for a booster dose for persons age 40 to 49 years old, and a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for 16- to 17-year-olds. Both of these updates are important to maximise our protection against this virus. And I strongly urge anyone who is eligible for these vaccines to come and have those vaccines.

I’ll have some quotes from England’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam in a moment, he is following the technical announcements with what he said were some “over-arching comments”.

Updated

16- and 17-year-olds encouraged to come forward for second vaccine doses in the UK

Dr June Raine of the MHRA also spoke on the safety of vaccine delivery to younger people. She said:

We’ve closely monitored the safety of Covid-19 vaccines in individuals under 18. Our review of reports of suspected side-effects does not raise any additional safety issues specific to this age group. As is set out in our summary report, there have been a small number of reports of suspected myocarditis heart inflammation associated with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in both the UK and internationally. This is a recognised very rare potential risk with these two vaccines. We’re closely monitoring it and importantly, now that we have more experience of use in the under-30s. In the UK, we are not detecting any increase in risk with the second dose. So our messages to people aged 16 and 17 is it’s safe to have a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. And if you’re called for your second vaccination, please come forward and this ensures that you’re further protected again

Updated

There will be a difference with the dose of Moderna delivered as a booster, said Prof Wei Shen Lim of the JCVI. He said:

I’d like to just mention the dose use for the Moderna booster. The dose used is 50 micrograms, which is half the dose used in the primary cause which is 100 micrograms. This use of a lower dose of vaccine for the booster dose is a recognised method of boosting vaccine-induced immunity. It has been used for years and is continuing to be used now in other routine immunisation programmes, such as the booster doses used in against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. This is not an unusual thing to do. A lower dose for the booster dose is a very usual method of boosting the immune system.

Leave a Reply