Covid news - live: Get ready for plan B now, scientists urge as hospital admissions in England at 8-month high

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Covid news - live: Get ready for plan B now, scientists urge as hospital admissions in England at 8-month high
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Start preparing for the “rapid deployment” of basic coronavirus measures, scientists on the Sage committee have told ministers – arguing that vaccine passports, home-working guidance and masks would “reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive, and longer-lasting measures” in the future.

As newly-published minutes from a meeting of the group last week revealed the scientists’ warning, politicians and health leaders across the country told The Independent that the government should act immediately in introducing its “Plan B” to prevent the NHS being further overwhelmed, with one urging Boris Johnson to “act now, rather than later”.

It came as official figures showed that the average daily hospital admissions in England for people with Covid-19 had risen to their highest level for nearly eight months.

NHS England data showed that the seven-day average for admissions stood at 821 on 20 October - the highest level since 27 February.

However, care minister Gillian Keegan insisted on Friday that the government did not need to implement new measures yet as death rates remained “very low” - despite the UK recording 912 fatalities in the past week.

Read More

Covid: More than a million people may be infected in England

Covid: Government must get ready for plan B now, Sage advisers warn

How do I order a lateral flow test for travel, and how do day 2 tests work?

Key Points

  • Government must get ready for plan B now, Sage advisers warn

  • Nearly one million people in England had Covid last week, data suggests

  • UK reports nearly 50,000 new Covid cases, 180 new deaths

  • Daily hospital admissions in England at highest level since February

  • Booster jab interval 'could be cut to five months’

  • Death rates remain ‘very low’, minister insists

  • Boris Johnson refuses to commit to wearing mask in Commons

07:31 , Andy Gregory

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. You can follow here for updates on the latest news and statistics.

Covid death rates still ‘very low’, minister insists

07:37 , Andy Gregory

The government’s care minister Gillian Keegan has insisted coronavirus death rates remain “very low” – despite the UK recording an average of 130 daily deaths at the most recent count this week.

Asked why ministers are not putting its “plan B” in place, Ms Keegan told Sky News that the most important part of the government’s response was the booster campaign, adding: “Of course we have Plan B there. It is there for a reason. But right now … we know the vaccine is the best thing, so we’re really focusing on making sure that is rolled out.

She added: “When we reopened on 19 July, we did that because we’d shown we’d broken the link between the cases and the deaths – and that’s still the case. The cases are high, and obviously we’re not complacent about that, but the death rates still are very low.”

Wait before Covid booster jabs ‘could be cut to five months’ to speed up rollout

07:52 , Andy Gregory

Here’s more detail on our headline story this morning – that the interval between booster jabs and a second vaccine dose could be cut from six months to five.

Government officials and ministers have said the time interval between doses is a matter for the experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), my colleague Emily Atkinson reports.

But The Guardian said Downing Street sources confirmed the option was being examined, while The Daily Telegraph said the JCVI was showing an interest in the idea of giving booster doses a month early.

During a visit to Northern Ireland yesterday, Boris Johnson said the time period between jabs was an “extremely important point” and stressed the need to “keep going as fast as possible” to deliver booster vaccines.

Wait before Covid booster jabs ‘could be cut to five months’ to speed up rollout

08:03 , Andy Gregory

A major hospital has declared a “critical incident” after a surge in demand saw more than 100 patients awaiting treatment in A&E and 25 ambulances queueing outside.

The Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske, in Truro said “unprecedented” pressure this week is worse “than at any point during the pandemic., and urged “families, friends and neighbours” to collect any patients who are able to “to leave hospital sooner.”

Managers at Cornwall’s main hospital raised the operating level from OPEL4 — known as a ‘black alert’ — to an ‘internal critical incident’ to allow for greater cooperation to ease the crisis.

Alastair Jamieson has more details here:

Hospital declares ‘critical incident’ as 25 ambulances queue outside

08:11 , Andy Gregory

Any decision to cut booster jab interval will depend on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a minister has said.

“The JCVI look at all the data. They've advised us six months,” care minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News.

“Of course they continually look at the data but they are the only people who can really answer this question. If they advise us, our job then would be to get ready to do whatever they say. But at the moment it is six months.”

She added: “It is not unknown, the JCVI have changed over periods of time and have reacted.”

Parents can book coronavirus jabs for children online from this evening

08:23 , Andy Gregory

As of this evening, parents in England will be able to book Covid-19 jabs online for children aged between 12 and 15, with appointments available as early as the weekend.

With take-up of the vaccine as low as 5 per cent in some local authorities among this age group – thought to be currently the most likely to catch the virus – teenagers will be able to check the national booking system to see if their local site has appointments, which will begin from Saturday.

Millions of letters are set to be sent to parents over the coming weeks, inviting them to book the vaccine online or by calling 119.

If a child has already been invited to be jabbed through their school, parents do not need to book unless they wish to get their child vaccinated outside of school.

08:46 , Andy Gregory

The number of Covid cases reported in a single day surpassed 50,000 yesterday for the first time since July.

Save for a single day in July, the 52,009 infections represent the largest daily increase since the devastating wave in January – when the 7-day average peaked just below 60,000.

Thanks to widespread vaccination, deaths remain lower, but 912 fatalities have still been reported in the last seven days.

The latest surge came after the chief executive of the NHS Confederation urged the government to implement measures even stronger than its current backup plan to tackle the virus.

“We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October,” Matthew Taylor said. “It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.

“The government ought to not just announce that we’re moving to Plan B, but it should be Plan B plus.

“We should do what’s in Plan B in terms of masks ... working from home, but also we should try to achieve the kind of national mobilisation that we achieved in the first and second waves, where the public went out of their way to support and help the health service.”

UK daily Covid cases surpass 50,000 for first time since end of lockdown

Minister says Covid deaths ‘very low’ and defends not implementing ‘plan B’ measures

08:54 , Andy Gregory

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more on care minister Gillian Keegan’s comments this morning that coronavirus deaths remain “very low” – despite 912 being reported in the past week.

Ms Keegan was also quizzed about the lack of Tory MPs wearing face masks in the Commons, after Sajid Javid suggested that politicians should “set an example”.

“Throughout the summer not many of us have had masks on,” she said. “You’ll find more and more as we go into winter, people will be wearing masks. But we shouldn’t be making it this sign of virtue or not, people have to make sensible choices.”

Minister says Covid deaths ‘very low’ and defends not implementing ‘plan B’ measures

Cases of psychosis rise significantly over the past two years in England

09:07 , Andy Gregory

Cases of psychosis have risen significantly in England during the pandemic, according to new NHS data, which showed an increase of more than 29 per cent between April 2019 and April 2021.

The data, which has been analysed by the charity Rethink Mental Illness, showed that much of the increase in referrals has happened over the past year, after the first national lockdown.

The most recent data for July suggests that the number of people presenting to mental health services with symptoms of psychosis has returned closer to pre-pandemic levels, but the charity is insisting these figures must be carefully monitored.

My colleague Holly Bancroft has the full report here:

Cases of psychosis rise significantly over the past two years in England

JCVI will consider cutting booster jab interval but six months is ‘sweet spot’, deputy chair says

09:24 , Andy Gregory

It seems as though people are not coming forward for boosters at the same rate they did for the other jabs, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has suggested.

Asked if people knew how to book boosters, Professor Anthony Harnden told the BBC’s Today show: “Well there has been a little bit of confusion. Of course, with the GP workforce, who have worked tirelessly through this pandemic, including given a large proportion of the vaccine programme, have become a little bit tired themselves and I think some GP practices have opted out.

“So there are a whole portfolio of different places – pharmacies, mass vaccination centres and others that are delivering the vaccines at the moment – and there may be a little bit of confusion about where people can get that vaccine, but people can ring up 119 number, they can go on to the NHS website, and with either of those options they can book a vaccine.”

He said that cutting the booster jab interval to five months is “something that could be considered”, adding: “But I think the data is showing that six months is a sort of sweet spot, whether it's five months or whether it's seven months isn't so important, but I think what is important is that people get that booster dose.”

New app could see public given vouchers for healthy behaviour

09:38 , Andy Gregory

Public health minister Maggie Throup will soon make a statement to the Commons regarding the government’s new health incentives scheme.

The health department has announced today that it is launching a new app “to help people make positive changes to their diet and physical activity” – including the use of government-funded incentives.

A pilot will see users wear wrist-worn devices that can generate personalised health recommendations, such as increasing their step count, eating more fruit and vegetables and decreasing portion size.

The government is putting £3m towards the scheme, which will see users will unlock rewards for healthy behaviours – which could include gym passes, clothes or food vouchers and discounts for shops, cinema or theme park tickets.

Ask a disease control expert anything about the UK’s rise of Covid cases

09:44 , Andy Gregory

Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter and former Public Health England consultant on communicable disease control, will be live on The Independent’s website at 10am to answer questions about the coronavirus pandemic.

You can submit questions and follow the discussion via the below article:

Ask a disease control expert anything about UK Covid cases increase

‘Tsunami of unmet need’: Care watchdog contradicts government with dire NHS warning

09:59 , Andy Gregory

The health watchdog has warned that England’s NHS and care services face a “tsunami of unmet need” despite ministers insisting that hospitals are coping with the huge surge in demand, our health correspondent Shaun Lintern reports.

The Care Quality Commission’s chief executive, Ian Trenholm, said NHS and care staff “cannot be expected to work any harder than they already are if we’re to get safely through this winter”.

“What we’re seeing is many services are at capacity, and in many cases beyond capacity, and problems that traditionally could have been diverted can no longer be diverted,” he said.

Organisations needed to come together and work differently, he warned: “If these things don’t happen there is the genuine risk of a tsunami of unmet need with many people not getting the care that they so desperately need this winter.”

‘Tsunami of unmet need’: Care watchdog contradicts government with dire NHS warning

Travel to Wales permitted with lateral flow test for double-jabbed

10:17 , Andy Gregory

Fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in Wales from a non-red list country will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of the more expensive PCR test from Sunday October 31, the Welsh Government has announced.

It will come a week after the introduction of the policy in England.

10:35 , Andy Gregory

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more on the deputy chair of the JCVI’s suggestion that the current booster jab interval of six months is the “sweet spot”.

“Whether it’s five months or whether it’s seven months isn’t so important, but I think what is important is that people get their booster dose,” Professor Anthony Harnden told the BBC.

Six-month wait between second Covid dose and booster shot ‘sweet spot’

‘Madness’ for nightclubs to reopen in Northern Ireland, BMA says

11:04 , Andy Gregory

A Stormont decision to lift coronavirus rules despite mounting pressures on the health service has been branded “complete madness” by medics.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the British Medical Association's Northern Ireland council, said the relaxations planned for the end of the month would ultimately lead to more Covid-19 deaths.

He criticised the move as “stupidity” as he warned the health system in the region was facing its “worst crisis ever” this winter as it dealt with the “triple whammy” of Covid, winter pressures and spiralling waiting lists.

GPs to be balloted on industrial action over Javid’s ‘name and shame’ reforms

11:25 , Andy Gregory

GPs are set to be balloted on industrial action over controversial reforms proposed by Sajid Javid, my colleague Lamiat Sabin reports.

At a British Medical Association (BMA) meeting, “outraged” doctors in England voted unanimously to reject the government’s plans, which would see GP surgeries ranked in league tables to “name and shame” those that do not carry out enough face-to-face appointments with their patients.

And from early November, GPs will have to have their names and wages published if they earn an NHS salary of more than £150,000 – which the BMA argues “provides no benefit to patients or their care, yet will potentially increase acts of aggression towards GPs, will damage morale amongst the profession, and only worsen practices’ ability to recruit and retain GPs”.

GPs to be balloted on industrial action over ‘name and shame’ reforms

11:44 , Andy Gregory

Here’s more from care minister Gillian Keegan’s media round this morning:

  • Responding to calls to relax rules for foreign workers to ease the strain on England’s NHS and care services, which the Care Quality Commission warned face “a tsunami of unmet need”, Ms Keegan told Sky News: “I don’t think that is really the answer, hoovering up everybody else’s social care.”

  • Speaking shortly after Sajid Javid urged MPs to “lead by example” in wearing face masks in the Commons, she suggested that doing so should not become a “sign of virtue”, adding: “It’s about personal choice, we’re not the sort of country that tells you what to wear.”

  • The minister said that any decision to cut the booster jab interval will depend on the advice of the experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who have advised a gap of six months.

Mortality rates ‘significantly’ higher than in 2020, ONS says

12:00 , Andy Gregory

Mortality rates in England and Wales in September were “significantly” higher this year than in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Some 966.2 deaths per 100,000 people were registered in England last month, up from 885.5 in September 2020.

In Wales the figure was 1,056.4 per 100,000, up from 946.2 in 2020.

There continue to be many more people dying than usual for this time of year, with 7,215 extra deaths registered in England last month – nearly 20 per cent above the pre-pandemic average.

How to order a lateral flow test for travel – explained

12:24 , Lamiat Sabin

From Sunday 24 October, double-jabbed travellers can substitute a PCR test for a lateral flow test as their “day two” test when they arrive in the UK.

Lucy Thackray explains how to order one:

How do I order a lateral flow test for travel, and how do day two tests work?

Nearly one million people in England had Covid last week

12:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Almost one million people in England had Covid in the week to 16 October, according to an estimate by the Office for National Statistics.

The infection figure – of 977,900 people – equates to around one in 55 people, and is a big jump on the week before.

Jane Dalton reports

More than a million people may now have Covid in England

West of England regions and Wales seeing highest rates of infection

13:00 , Lamiat Sabin

The percentage of people testing positive for Covid is estimated to have increased in all regions of England except for a few – the Office for National Statistics said.

In north-west England and south-west England, around one in 45 people was likely to test positive in the week to 16 October.

This was the highest proportion for any region.

In the south-east and the West Midlands, rates of infection appeared to level off, and the trend was uncertain in north-east England and Yorkshire and the Humber.

London and south-east England had the lowest proportion, at around one in 75.

In Wales, around one in 45 people is estimated to have had Covid in the week to 16 October, unchanged from the previous week and the highest since estimates began in July 2020.

In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate is one in 130, down from one in 120 the previous week.

For Scotland, the ONS estimates around one in 90 people had Covid in the week to 16 October, down from one in 80 the previous week.

All figures are for people in private households.

Number of adults not working from home at highest level in a year

13:15 , Lamiat Sabin

The number of adults travelling to work in the past week is at its highest level in a year, figures show.

More than half (54 per cent) of working adults said they went to a place of work without working from home (WFH) – when questioned by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This is the highest proportion for a year.

At the same time, about one in seven working adults (15 per cent) worked solely from home, and 16 per cent reported a hybrid of travelling to work and WFH.

The ONS analysed responses from 4,004 adults between 6 and 17 October 6 as part of its Opinions and Lifestyle survey.

Covid situation in UK ‘not healthy’, WHO warns

13:30 , Andy Gregory

The World Health Organisation's special envoy on Covid-19 has was warned that it is “not a healthy situation in the UK right now”, and appeared to contest Boris Johnson’s government’s vision of “living with the virus”.

“If I were in a responsible position I'd be asking myself how much longer before we do start to introduce proper mask-wearing mandates,” Dr David Nabarro told Sky News.

“Vaccines are fantastic lifesavers ... but on their own they don't offer what we believe to be sufficient to get this pandemic under control. Now it's really important everybody should be wearing masks, particularly in crowded places, everybody should be practicing social distancing and being careful on hygiene.

“Living with the virus doesn't mean letting go and letting it roam everywhere. Living with the virus means being super careful about it and getting on with our lives.”

Government must get ready for plan B now, Sage advisers warn

13:41 , Andy Gregory

Senior scientific advisers to the government have told ministers to start preparing for the “rapid deployment” of basic Covid measures amid rising infections and hospitalisation rates, as local councils and authorities urged Downing Street to “act now, rather than later”, our science correspondent Samuel Lovett reports.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said, in a meeting last week, the reintroduction of mask-wearing, working from home guidance and vaccine certification – key components to the government’s ‘Plan B’ – would “reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive, and longer-lasting measures” further down the road.

In minutes published on Friday, Sage said that advice to work from home is “likely to have the greatest individual impact” in cutting infections, which are now increasing in the majority of age groups and regions across the UK, according to official data.

Read the full story here:

Government must get ready for plan B now, Sage advisers warn

‘We should act now, rather than later,’ health leader warns

14:02 , Andy Gregory

As pressure mounts on the government to implement its Plan B measures, the director of public health for Gateshead council, Alice Wiseman, told The Independent: “I definitely think we should act now, rather than later. We need to take action now as NHS is on its knees.

“The measures are mild and not disruptive. They may not fully solve the issue, but will help to take the heat out of the fire. We could be forced to introduce stricter measures if we leave it too late.”

14:20 , Andy Gregory

Here’s more from the Office for National Statistics’ latest survey on the prevalence of Covid in England:

The percentage of people testing positive is estimated to have increased in all regions except southeast England and the West Midlands, where it appeared to level off, and northeast England and Yorkshire and the Humber, where the trend was uncertain.

In northwest England and southwest England, around one in 45 people was likely to test positive in the week to 16 October. This was the highest proportion for any region.

London and southeast England had the lowest proportion, at around one in 75.

Scottish health board forced to cancel cancer treatments as it declares ‘code black’

14:35 , Andy Gregory

A Scottish health board is putting scheduled hospital treatments on hold, including some for cancer patients, as it moves to its highest risk level – dubbed “Code Black”.

Bosses at NHS Lanarkshire are said to have emailed staff advising them of the change in status, also telling them that the military is now providing “additional support” in hospitals in the area.

Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “This astonishing move puts it beyond doubt that we are in the midst of a full-blown NHS crisis.

“It is a damning indictment of the SNP's recovery plan that risk levels in Lanarkshire are now higher than they were when Covid was at its peak."

She added: "It is a national scandal that cancer operations are being cancelled when we are already playing catch-up and it is frankly terrifying that we have reached this point before winter has hit.”

14:47 , Andy Gregory

Here’s more on the new Sage minutes from our science correspondent Samuel Lovett:

Modelling from Sage found that a “rapid increase in hospital admissions” could happen if the behaviour of the public swiftly returns to normal and the waning of the vaccines' effectiveness is proved to be significant.

But members predicted it is “increasingly unlikely” that Covid admissions for this winter will rise above the peak seen last January. In a meeting on 14 October, Sage concluded that “reducing prevalence from a high level requires greater intervention than reducing from a lower level”.

Assessing the impact of the Plan B mitigations, members said there was “some evidence” that vaccine certification may have a positive impact on vaccine uptake, particularly in younger age groups. The reintroduction of face masks in public spaces is also expected to reduce transmission. However, a return to working from home, where possible, is “likely” to play the biggest role in limiting the current surge in cases, Sage said.

These measures should be reintroduced “in combination”, the group concluded, and advised ministers “that policy work on the potential reintroduction of measures should be undertaken now so that it can be ready for rapid deployment”.

Government must get ready for plan B now, Sage advisers warn

All measures ‘under constant review', Boris Johnson says

14:59 , Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson has visited a vaccine centre in west London, where he watched people get their booster jabs, greeted staff and the public with elbow bumps, and faced questioning from reporters.

Asked if he was ignoring advice from Sage about working from home, the PM said: “We keep all measures under constant review. We do whatever we have to do to protect the public but the numbers that we’re seeing at the moment are fully in line with what we expected in the autumn and winter plan.

Urging people to get their booster jabs, Mr Johnson said the question of the length of the interval between a second dose and booster was an “important” one that “a lot of people” are looking at, saying that he had listened JCVI deputy Anthony Hardern’s comments this morning “with great interest”. The scientist suggested that six months was a “sweet spot”.

Mr Johnson was also asked whether a full lockdown with “stay at home” advice and shops closing was out of the question this winter, to which he replied: “I’ve got to tell you at the moment that we see absolutely nothing to indicate that that’s on the cards at all.”

Boris Johnson refuses to commit to wearing mask in Commons

15:25 , Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson has refused to commit to wearing a mask in the Commons — just days after Sajid Javid said public figures should “set an example”.

Asked during a visit to a vaccine centre whether he will be “leading by example” and wearing a mask in the Commons, Mr Johnson sidestepped the question and said there were “lots of steps that we need to take to continue to follow the guidance”.

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has the full story here:

Boris Johnson refuses to commit to wearing mask in Parliament

Covid may have killed up to 180,000 healthcare workers, WHO says

15:44 , Andy Gregory

Between 80,000 and 180,000 healthcare workers may have been killed by coronavirus between January 2020 and May this year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Speaking after its report was published, the UN health agency’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said frontline health workers must be prioritised for jabs along with other vulnerable people as he hit out at the inequitable distribution of vaccines around the globe.

My colleague Matt Mathers has the full story here:

Covid may have killed 80k-180k healthcare workers, says WHO

Exclusive: Migrant NHS workers must be given right to remain ahead of ‘looming winter crisis’, MPs say

15:58 , Andy Gregory

Ministers are being urged to grant migrant NHS workers indefinite right to remain as the health service braces for what could be one of the most difficult winters it has ever faced, our social affairs correspondent May Bulman reports.

Cross-party MPs and medical bodies including the British Medical Association have backed calls to change the law so that foreign health and social care staff are given the right to stay in the UK in honour of their commitment during the pandemic.

Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine, who is pushing the second reading of a Private Members’ Bill which would make this happen, warned that failing to provide “certainty” to these healthcare workers would risk “fuelling the winter crisis with an exodus of staff”.

Give migrant NHS workers right to remain as NHS faces winter pressure, say MPs

UK reports nearly 50,000 new Covid cases, 180 new deaths

16:15 , Conrad Duncan

A further 49,298 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the UK over the most recent 24-hour period, as of 9am on Friday, according to government figures.

Data also shows that a further 180 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the UK’s official death toll to 139,326.

However, separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 164,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Pfizer’s child vaccine doses 91 per cent effective, study suggests

16:41 , Conrad Duncan

Child doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine appear to be safe and nearly 91 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study data published on Friday.

The US is considering opening vaccinations to younger children, with shots potentially beginning in early November if regulators approve the plans.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to post its own review of the company's safety and effectiveness data later today.

If the agency itself authorises using the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will make the final decision on who should receive them.

The Pfizer study tracked 2,268 children in the 5-to-11 group who got two shots three weeks apart of either a placebo or the low-dose vaccine - each dose was one-third of the amount given to teens and adults.

Researchers calculated the low-dose vaccine was nearly 91 per cent effective, based on 16 Covid-19 cases in youngsters given dummy shots versus three cases among vaccinated children.

There were also no severe illnesses reported among any of the youngsters, but the vaccinated ones had much milder symptoms than their unvaccinated counterparts.

16:55 , Conrad Duncan

Emily Lawson, the former head of the UK’s Covid vaccine programme, is reportedly returning to work on this autumn’s booster jabs campaign, according to the editor of the Health Service Journal.

As Alastair McLellan notes, it is a sign of growing concern in the government over rising Covid cases this month...

US may update definition of full vaccination over booster jabs, CDC director says

17:11 , Conrad Duncan

The US may update its definition of what constitutes full vaccination as the Biden administration urges eligible Americans to get their booster jabs for Covid-19, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said.

Americans are currently considered fully vaccinated if they have had two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.

“We have not yet changed the definition of 'fully vaccinated.' We will continue to look at this. We may need to update our definition of 'fully vaccinated' in the future,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky told reporters on Friday.

“If you're eligible for a booster, go ahead and get your booster and we will continue to follow.”

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

More than half of 12- to 15-year-olds in Scotland have received first Covid jab

17:26 , Conrad Duncan

More than half of 12- to 15-year-olds in Scotland have now received their first dose of a Covid vaccine, Public Health Scotland has confirmed.

A total of 117,627 young people in this age group have had their first jab to date - the equivalent of 50.2 per cent - while 1,148 (0.5 per cent) have received both doses of a vaccine.

Children between the ages of 12 and 15 have been able to book an appointment for a vaccine since 20 September after Scottish ministers accepted advice from the UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs).

Covid cases in US down 15 per cent, but 64 million Americans remain unvaccinated

17:46 , Conrad Duncan

The number of new Covid-19 cases in the US has decreased by 15 per cent in the past week, according to leaders of the White House Covid response team, as the Biden administration begins rolling out vaccine boosters across the country.

White House official Jeff Zients claimed on Friday that the data was “further evidence that President Biden’s plan to fight the virus is working.”

Our reporter, Andrew Feinberg, has the full story below:

Covid cases in US down 15 per cent, but 64 million remain unvaccinated

ICYMI: Media blitz launched to encourage people to take up Covid booster jabs

18:04 , Conrad Duncan

The UK government has launched a new media campaign to encourage people to take up Covid booster jabs amid concerns about rising infections as the country heads towards winter.

A nationwide advertising campaign will run on outdoor billboards, broadcast and community radio and TV to support the vaccine drive, with an advert explaining the benefits of the flu jab and Covid booster shot.

Our reporter, Emily Atkinson, has the full story below:

Media blitz launched to encourage people to take up Covid booster jabs

Sadiq Khan calls for masks to be made mandatory on public transport again

18:16 , Conrad Duncan

London mayor Sadiq Khan has reiterated his call for the government to bring back national rules making masks mandatory on public transport as Covid cases rise this month.

“My mask protects you, your mask protects me. Wearing a face mask is one of the easiest things we can do to protect one another this winter,” Mr Khan wrote on Twitter.

“I'm urging the government to follow London's example and bring back the national rule for masks on public transport.”

Daily hospital admissions in England at highest level since February

18:34 , Conrad Duncan

Average daily hospital admissions in England for people with Covid-19 have climbed to their highest level for nearly eight months, according to official figures.

NHS England data showed that the seven-day average for admissions stood at 821 on 20 October, up by 23 per cent on the previous week and the highest level since 27 February (when the average stood at 859).

However, admissions are still some way below the peak of the second wave of Covid-19, when they hit a daily average of 3,812 on 12 January.

The total number of people in hospital in England with Covid-19 stood at 6,405 on 22 October, according to NHS England, up by 19 per cent week-on-week and the highest level since 13 September.

This is much lower than the peak of hospital patients in the second wave, when 34,336 people were in hospital with Covid-19 on 18 January.

Spain to pay back Covid fines after court rules against 2020 state of emergency

19:00 , Conrad Duncan

All Spanish citizens who paid fines during a three-month state of emergency in 2020 to slow the spread of Covid-19 will be paid back for the charges, the country’s Ministry of Territorial Affairs has said.

Earlier this year, Spain’s top court ruled that the country’s first state of emergency, which forced all but essential citizens to stay at home between 14 March and 21 June, was unconstitutional.

A second state of emergency was also declared from the end of October last year to May this year as Covid cases rose again.

The Interior Ministry said on Friday that police had given out 1.1 million fines to citizens who defied the stay-at-home order and other restrictions - although not all of them had been immediately paid.

Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez attends a European Union (EU) summit in Brussels on Thursday (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez attends a European Union (EU) summit in Brussels on Thursday (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Fewer than half of eligible care home residents have received booster jab, data shows

19:15 , Conrad Duncan

Fewer than half of eligible residents in older age care homes in England have received a Covid booster jab so far, according to the latest available NHS data.

NHS England said on Friday that out of around 250,000 eligible residents in care homes for adults aged 65 and over, around 112,000 had received a booster as of midnight on Thursday (about 45 per cent of those eligible).

Eligible residents are those who had their second Covid-19 vaccine more than six months ago and do not currently have coronavirus or norovirus.

NHS England says it does not provide figures for how many care home staff have had a booster jab.

The health service is aiming to have offered a booster to all eligible care home residents by early November - less than a fortnight away.

“NHS staff are working flat out to vaccinate eligible groups ahead of winter - it is testament to them that just four weeks after we kicked off the booster rollout that we have already provided well over four million boosters to eligible people,” Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, said.

“Not only that but local general practice teams are going out to protect the most vulnerable - almost 90 per cent of care homes have either already been visited or have a visit booked in for the coming days and weeks.”

19:23 , Conrad Duncan

Health secretary Sajid Javid has just announced that more than five million people in the UK have now received a booster jab for Covid-19.

“Hitting over five million booster jabs across the UK is a fantastic achievement as we keep ahead in the race between the vaccine and the virus,” Mr Javid said in a statement.

“Getting your booster jab is one of the most important things you can do this winter to keep building our wall of defence against the virus and stop you becoming seriously ill from Covid-19.

“I urge all those eligible to book their booster and flu vaccines soon as possible to maintain your protection.”

ICYMI: Six-month wait for booster shot is ‘sweet spot’, JCVI deputy chair says

19:37 , Conrad Duncan

A senior vaccine adviser has said data suggests that a six-month wait between a second dose of a Covid jab and a booster shot is the “sweet spot” for protection amid reports of plans to cut the interval between doses.

When asked about such reports on Friday, Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said: “I think it’s something that could be considered, but I think the data showing is that six months is a sort of sweet spot.”

Our political correspondent, Ashley Cowburn, has the full story below:

Six-month wait between second Covid dose and booster shot ‘sweet spot’

19:39 , Conrad Duncan

That’s all from The Independent’s live coverage of Covid-19 for today - we’ll be back with more updates soon.

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