Today so far
- People in Austria are not allowed to leave home except to go to work, shop for essentials and exercise, as the country returned to a Covid-19 lockdown on Monday morning. The Alpine nation is also imposing a sweeping vaccine mandate from 1 February – joining the Vatican as the only places in Europe with such a requirement.
- Russia’s coronavirus death toll is still hovering near all-time highs – the state coronavirus task force reported 1,241 Covid-19 deaths, down from the pandemic’s record of 1,254 recorded last week.
- Kazan, the central city of the Russian province of Tatarstan, on Monday became the first city in Russia to start demanding QR codes proving vaccination, past illness or a negative coronavirus test on public transport. About 500 people were denied access to public transport in the city of 1.2 million, and a conflict between a passenger and controllers led to a brief suspension of service on one of the city’s tram lines.
- Dr David Nabarro, World Health Organisation special envoy on Covid-19, has said he can understand the scenes of protest in Europe over the reimposition of Covid restrictions, but added: “I’m really very, very anxious about what I’m seeing right across Europe, these very large numbers of cases – but also the speed with which they’re increasing really is a cause for concern.
- People were lining up for Covid-19 shots outside Budapest’s main hospitals as Hungary for the first time offered vaccinations without prior registration amid a surge in new infections.
- There are reports in Ireland today that the government there may be reconsidering the level of financial support available for businesses in the light of rising cases in the run-up to Christmas.
- UK education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said he was not in favour of exclusion zones for anti-vaccine protests around schools, suggesting that “the moment you start giving them the space to think that they are somehow being prohibited” would be counter-productive.
- Shadow health secretary in the UK, Jonathan Ashworth, has said “There are still parts of the country where the second jab rate, like Leicester or Blackburn, still isn’t good enough. We really need to drive that up.”
- The mayor of a city hit by unrest over Covid restrictions on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe has made an appeal to French authorities to restore calm. “We just don’t know how far this will still go,” the Pointe-a-Pitre mayor, Harry Durimel, told Franceinfo radio. Guadeloupe has been hit by violent protests before, but he said there were “big worries” on the island.
- In Kenya, people will have to prove they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to gain access to government services, public transport and public places such as national parks, bars and restaurants under new health regulations.
- Air New Zealand has cancelled about 1,000 flights between New Zealand and Australia, citing “continued border uncertainty” between the two countries.
- Australia will welcome international students and skilled workers for exemption-free travel into the country from next week, in what the prime minister, Scott Morrison, has hailed a “major milestone” for the country returning to normal.
Andrew Sparrow has our UK politics live blog today. Miranda Bryant will be here shortly to take over and bring you the rest of the day’s UK and global Covid developments.
Riot police and protesters clashed in the streets of Brussels on Sunday in demonstrations over government-imposed Covid-19 restrictions, with police firing water cannon and teargas at crowds. Protesters threw smoke bombs, fireworks and rocks at officers. Belgium tightened its coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, mandating wider use of masks and enforcing working from home, as cases surged in the country.
There’s another Covid line here via PA Media from the UK education secretary Nadhim Zahawi’s appearance on LBC Radio, where he was asked about anti-vaccine protests outside of schools. He said:
I have spoken to the home secretary about this and she has reassured me that the police have all the resources they need to deal with this.
The anti-vaxx protesters should not be going anywhere near a school or a pupil or a parent or a teacher. If they do, the police will and can take action against them.
Local government, of course, are also working with schools … if anybody feels threatened by these anti-vaxx protesters, they should report them and they will be arrested.
He also said that he was not in favour of the idea of exclusion zones, suggesting that “the moment you start giving them the space to think that they are somehow being prohibited” would be counter-productive.
Russia’s coronavirus death toll is still hovering near all-time highs – the state coronavirus task force reported 1,241 Covid-19 deaths, down from the pandemic’s record of 1,254 recorded last week.
The country continues to have a low vaccination rate. About 40% of Russia’s nearly 146 million people have been fully vaccinated, despite the country approving a domestically developed vaccine months before most of the world.
Vladimir Isachenkov reports for Associated Press that Kazan, the central city of the Russian province of Tatarstan, on Monday became the first city in Russia to start demanding QR codes proving vaccination, past illness or a negative coronavirus test on public transport.
About 500 people were denied access to public transport in the city of 1.2 million, and a conflict between a passenger and controllers led to a brief suspension of service on one of the city’s tram lines.
Just a quick one from PA Media here, who have picked up a quote on LBC Radio by Nadhim Zahawi. He is the education secretary in the UK, but was formerly the vaccines minister. He has said:
Our four-step plan meant that we were able to open up the economy in the summer. Some said it was a mistake – I think it was absolutely the right thing to do.
We will probably, I hope, without being complacent, be the first major economy in the world to demonstrate how you transition from pandemic to endemic using vaccines.
Russia’s Covid figures are out for the day – with 35,681 new infections and 1,241 deaths. The seven-day average for new cases has been on a downward trend since 8 November, although that is yet to have any impact on the death figures, which have hovered around the 1,200 mark since 14 November.
Moscow Times notes that President Vladimir Putin appeared on television last night and said that he had received a third vaccine dose, telling viewers that it had been painless.
The coronavirus picture in parts of Europe is “really worrying”, a senior Labour MP said as he urged ministers to put extra protections in place in order to avoid a winter lockdown.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth told Sky News: “There are still parts of the country where the second jab rate, like Leicester or Blackburn, still isn’t good enough. We really need to drive that up.
“And of course you need to put in other protections as well. We still don’t pay people decent sick pay. We’re still not doing enough to deal with the fact the virus is airborne – we’re still breathing in contaminated air, we’re not putting in place air filtration systems in public buildings to improve the quality of air.
PA Media quote him saying “So the ball is in ministers’ court really. They’ve got to put these protections in place to avoid further restrictions, but I definitely do not want another one of Boris Johnson’s lockdowns. They do a huge amount of damage to family life, to community life, to the economy, so it is really worrying when you see what’s happening in Austria and parts of Europe.”
Dr David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation special envoy on Covid-19, has told Sky News he can understand the protests in Europe but added: “I’m really very, very anxious about what I’m seeing right across Europe, including now in Western Europe – these very large numbers of cases – but also the speed with which they’re increasing really is a cause for concern.
PA Media quote him saying “I’m not surprised because this virus is just not going away. And I’m also not surprised that people are protesting because, actually, the public in so many countries are really fed up with what’s going on.
“However, me, as a public health person, I’ve got to share with UK and with your viewers that we’re going to have to go on, we’re going have to go on resisting this virus and we do it through making it hard for the virus to get from one person to another with face masks and also with avoiding breathing in the air breathed out by others.”
He said there is a need to “make sure that those who are eligible for vaccination are vaccinated and vaccinated promptly, because that also makes a huge difference to the amount of suffering and death.
“So we’ve got to keep going. And, please, everybody take it really seriously. This virus has got so many surprises in store for us.”
Here’s an updated map of the latest caseloads across the continent.
People were lining up for Covid-19 shots outside Budapest’s main hospitals on Monday as Hungary for the first time offered vaccinations without prior registration amid a surge in new infections.
Reuters report that Hungary had a record high tally of 11,289 new cases on Friday and on Monday reported 27,209 new cases for Friday to Sunday and 392 deaths. Hungary, with a population of 10 million, has reported 33,172 coronavirus deaths in total.
Despite people lining up for shots, Hungary’s vaccination rate lags behind the EU average, with about 5.8 million people having had the two shots.
The government imposed mandatory mask-wearing in closed spaces last week and said it would make Covid shots mandatory for all healthcare workers. But these fall short of the strict measures that the Hungarian Medical Chamber called for on Wednesday.
Janos Szlavik, of Budapest’s main Covid-19 hospital, said late on Sunday on commercial television ATV that further measures could soon be necessary to curb infections.
He was cited as saying that 80-90% of Covid-19 patients requiring intensive care were unvaccinated, and the intensive care unit in his hospital was full.
Prof Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), has told BBC Breakfast this morning that he is pleased that the UK can currently avoid the measures being introduced in Europe.
“The situation appears to have really been destabilised in some parts of Europe because of misinformation, particularly about vaccines,” he said.
“I think, in the UK, we had a very successful early vaccination campaign and we got very high vaccination rates, particularly amongst those who are vulnerable, but obviously that means that many people have now been vaccinated some time ago and they do need the boosters in order to raise their level of immunity back up again and make sure that, as we go into the winter season and towards Christmas, that we have very high levels of immunity again within society.”
PA Media quote him, adding: “I am concerned that we do have really quite high levels of transmission in the UK. My personal preference would be that we should really try to get these rates down – we know that masks do work … because there are people who are unvaccinated for various reasons, and we do need to try and reduce the level of circulation of the virus, as well as getting up vaccination rates.
“No single measure by itself is going to be successful; we need the combination of measures, which includes re-vaccination, third doses, but also wearing masks and being very careful not to transmit the virus.”