Coronavirus

Covid live: WHO director says Europe is again centre of pandemic with France and Netherlands set for new measures

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Senior doctors from Russia’s biggest hospitals have urged anti-vaccination figures to visit intensive care units and morgues to witness the deadly impact that Covid is having on the country.

In a letter signed by chief physicians from leading hospitals including in Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi, the group called on “opponents of vaccination” to see the severity of the situation for themselves, reports RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

Russia has reported record Covid deaths in recent weeks as infections surge. Only around 37% of Russia’s population of 146 million people are vaccinated.

A woman wearing a face mask during snowfall in Moscow yesterday.
A woman wearing a face mask during snowfall in Moscow yesterday. Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Positive coronavirus tests on the rise in the UK

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus is on the rise in the UK, with 43,676 new cases according to the latest figures.

According to the 4pm update of the UK government’s coronavirus dashboard, 303,071 people have tested positive for the virus in the past seven days – a rise of 11.1%.

There were 149 more deaths 28 days after a positive test for coronavirus, according to the update. Overall the number of people dying over the past seven days was trending down, with the 926 total deaths 9.4% down on the previous figure.

The number of patients admitted to hospital also fell, down 11.6% over the past seven days, with 722 new admissions reported in the most recent data.

A total of 112,627,026 doses of coronavirus vaccine have now been administered, the data show. Of those, 50,827,554 have been first doses, 46,208,81 have been second doses, and 16,004,629 have been third or booster doses.

Uptake of coronavirus vaccines has been high in the UK compared to some other European countries, with 80.4% of people aged over 12 in the country having completed their two-dose course of Covid vaccinations.

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Police in London trained the laser sights on their Tasers on workers at a juice bar which they had raided over suspicions of a lockdown rule-breaking party, a court has heard.

Workers at Joe and Juice in Soho were discovered by police having the after-hours party when police arrived at the premises at 3am on 7 March, according to London paper the Evening Standard.

PC Michael Trype was quoted as telling Westminster magistrates court that officers who gained entry through the front door saw a man and a woman enter from the toilets.

“Officers were equipped with Tasers and both male and female was red-dotted,” he was quoted as saying.

One worker, Isabelle Von-Erbach-Schonbery, 21, was fined £200 for breaking lockdown rules. She admitted to to police that they were “having a work gathering at the venue”, but did not pay the fine. A magistrate subsequently dismissed the charge.

The government in Slovakia has approved a two-week lockdown, amid a record rise in cases of coronavirus, according to reports.

There was speculation earlier that a lockdown would be announced after the country reported a record 10,315 new cases.

Slovakian media cited the economy minister, Richard Sulík, as saying the lockdown would be imposed, according to Reuters. There were no details on when it will come into force.

Officials had been debating whether to impose restrictions for both vaccinated and unvaccinated Slovaks after Austria implemented similar measures this week.

This is Damien Gayle taking the helm on the live blog for the next hour or so while Miranda has a break.

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UK has ‘led the world’ on how to approach pandemic measurements, says WHO programme director

Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies programme, said the UK had “led the world” on how to approach measurement of pandemics.

He told the WHO media briefing (see also 15:07): “The UK has really led the world in how to look at data, how to do excellent analytics, how to give context and get insights for disease control.”

He said that governments need to move away from “blunt percentages” to “individuals” that have been missed in terms of targeting who needs to be vaccinated.

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More on Italy’s “super green pass” from Angela Giuffrida in Rome:

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Asked about his view on the UK’s Covid situation, Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies programme, told the WHO media briefing (see also 14:58) that there is “intense transmission” throughout Europe and the UK.

He said: “The reality is that increased transmission … even in the context of high vaccination is going to put pressure on the system.”

He said that “to their credit”, the UK has achieved high vaccination levels, which he said “keeps pressure off the NHS”. He also praised the country’s virus surveillance.

However, he warned that there were “long term consequences” of contracting Covid, regardless of age, and that the public should “avoid exposure to the virus”.

Europe, he said, is “back at pre-pandemic levels of social mixing” – despite huge pressure on health systems and high levels of transmission.

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WHO director says Europe is once again epicentre of pandemic, warning: ‘No country is out of the woods’

The World Health Organization director-general has declared that Europe is once again at the epicentre of the pandemic and warned that “no country or region is out of the woods”.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO media briefing:

World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO)

“While Europe is again the epicentre of the #COVID19 pandemic, no country or region is out of the woods.

It’s important for all countries to surge their capacities now to ensure the right measures are in place to avert the worst consequences of any future waves”-@DrTedros

November 24, 2021

World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO)

“Last week, more than 60% of all reported cases and deaths from #COVID19 globally were once again in Europe. The sheer number of cases is translating to unsustainable pressure on health systems and exhausted #healthworkers“-@DrTedros

November 24, 2021

He also warned that while vaccines save lives, they do not fully prevent Covid transmission, and in the case of Delta, vaccines reduce transmission by just 40%.

He said many countries have a “false sense of security” that vaccines have ended the pandemic and a belief that vaccinated people do not need to take precautions.

He said: “We cannot say this clearly enough: even if you are vaccinated, continue to take precautions to prevent becoming infected yourself, and to [prevent] infecting someone else who could die.”

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Netherlands records highest number of daily Covid cases since start of pandemic

The Netherlands (see also 14:28) has reported more than 23,700 new Covid cases – the highest since the start of the pandemic, reports Reuters.

A healthcare workers receives a Pfizer booster vaccine in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
A healthcare workers receives a Pfizer booster vaccine in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. Photograph: Robin Utrecht/REX/Shutterstock

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More on plans for additional Covid measures in the Netherlands (see also 13:46).

Reuters reports:

[Health minister Hugo de Jonge] said the government’s panel of health experts would provide fresh policy advice by Thursday and that a decision would follow on Friday.

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EU disease control agency warns mandatory Covid vaccination ‘not a magic wand’

Jennifer Rankin

The head of the EU’s disease control agency has issued a note of caution about a move to mandatory Covid vaccines, as she warned that European governments needed to take urgent action faced with a rising wave of infections.

Dr Andrea Ammon, the head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said mandatory vaccines could raise uptake, but risked intensifying rejection of vaccines.

[Mandatory vaccination] is not a magic wand. It can be effective, it can raise the vaccination rate, but it can also polarise. And among those that are right now not vaccinated, not everybody is against vaccines, but many people want this to be their own decision and not being imposed on. So it could drive people even more into rejecting vaccines.

She was speaking after the ECDC changed its guidance booster jabs for all adults, prioritising the over-40s. The new guidance is part of the ECDC’s threefold recommendation to tackle rising caseloads: increase vaccines, offer booster doses to all adults and more non-medical measures, such as wearing masks, hand hygiene, working from home and limiting contacts.

Ammon said Europe was not in a situation where there was a choice between vaccines and other measures.

So far, nearly two-thirds of the population (65.4%) and more than three-quarters of adults (76.5%) in the European Economic Area have been vaccinated.

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Russia today unveiled new Sputnik vaccines – including a Covid nasal spray that president Vladimir Putin said he had taken as his booster dose.

In televised comments, Putin said that he had received his booster as an injection followed by a powder nasal spray and exercised afterwards, reports Reuters.

“That was all – I didn’t feel anything. Nothing. Today, after these two procedures, I already did some sport in the morning,” he said.

Russia developed its Sputnik V vaccine last year but the Kremlin has blamed a recent surge in cases on public reluctance to get vaccinated. October was Russia’s deadliest month so far of the pandemic.

President Vladimir Putin meeting with Russian government members today in a video conference.
President Vladimir Putin meeting with Russian government members today in a video conference. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/TASS

Netherlands to announce additional Covid measures on Friday

More from the Netherlands (see 13:20) where the health minister has said the government will announce new Covid measures on Friday, reports Reuters, as hospitals struggle to cope with a surge in cases.

“The infection rate is higher than ever before,” Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament. “Hospital admissions keep exceeding expectations and we have not seen the worst yet.”

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