Covid news: NHS doctors warn of looming crisis as PM told to do ‘more than boosters’ to avoid lockdown

·23-min read
Covid news: NHS doctors warn of looming crisis as PM told to do ‘more than boosters’ to avoid lockdown

Doctors, nurses and other NHS staff have spoken out to warn the health service is facing a catastrophe, despite health secretary Sajid Javid’s insistence that the Covid resurgence has not put “unsustainable pressure” on hospitals.

With daily coronavirus infections at around 50,000 and the number of patients admitted to hospitals each day close to 1,000, the chair of the government’s Covid modelling committee, Prof Graham Medley, told The Independent the country could be “three or four weeks away” from a serious problem if the rise remained unchecked.

Leaked modelling also shows that A&E departments face dangerous levels of crowding in the coming months, with 60,000 more patients a week.

It comes as a government adviser said it was “quite questionable” for chancellor Rishi Sunak to suggest vaccine boosters will be enough to prevent future lockdowns. Prof Adam Finn, member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told Times Radio earlier: “I think we probably need to do more than that now."

Read More

Covid plan B: Prepare to bring in measures now, Sage advisers warn government

Six-month wait between second Covid dose and booster shot ‘sweet spot’, says JCVI deputy chair

Will there be another lockdown? Everything we know

Key Points

  • Special report: Inside the NHS’ looming crisis

  • Get booster jabs, NHS medical director says

  • Poorer countries must be vaccinated to prevent variants – WHO

  • ‘No point delaying’ Plan B measures before Christmas

  • Vaccines are the way through winter, PM insists amid NHS warning

  • Will there be another lockdown? Here is everything we know

09:08 , Lamiat Sabin

Good morning. Welcome to The Independent’s liveblog on news related to the UK’s response to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Poorer countries must be vaccinated to prevent variants – WHO

09:12 , Lamiat Sabin

The rest of the world must be vaccinated to stop new Covid variants from developing, WHO’s spokesperson Margaret Harris has warned.

She went on Times Radio to say that vaccines are not the only solution to bringing down case numbers in the UK.

But she added that more needs to be done to vaccinate people in other countries.

Ms Harris said: “What’s really going to have an effect on transmission for all of us is making sure there is as little virus as possible circulating around the world.

“The most high priority groups are those that are exposed to the virus all the time, healthcare workers, yet only one in 10 are vaccinated in Africa currently.

“We’re in such a bad place in much of the world, we’re going to see more variants develop, we’re going to see more transmission, and even if magically the vaccine protected one population as effectively as we hoped a variant then could develop and undo all of that work.”

‘No point delaying’ Plan B measures before Christmas

09:30 , Lamiat Sabin

A member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), which advises the government, said he fears another “lockdown Christmas”.

On BBC Breakfast this morning, Professor Peter Openshaw was asked what people can expect from Christmas if government policy does not change to implement “Plan B” measures during this stage of the pandemic with daily Covid case numbers rising.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Openshaw of Imperial College London said: “I’m very fearful that we’re going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon.

“We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There’s no point in delaying.

“If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later. The immediacy of response is absolutely vital if you’re going to get things under control.

“We all really, really want a wonderful family Christmas where we can all get back together.

“If that’s what we want, we need to get these measures in place now in order to get transmission rates right down so that we can actually get together and see one another over Christmas.”

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has also urged Downing Street to “act now rather than later”.

Our science correspondent Samuel Lovett reports

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

Public urged to ‘not wait for government to change Covid policy’

09:45 , Lamiat Sabin

Prof Openshaw, on BBC Breakfast, has urged people to “take matters into your own hands” over social distancing and mask-wearing ahead of Christmas.

When asked what people should do if they are concerned about the government not yet implementing “Plan B” measures, he said: “I think take matters into your own hands. Don’t wait necessarily for government policy.

“I’m very, very reluctant now to go into crowded spaces because I know that roughly one in 60 people in a crowded space are going to have the virus.

“If you can, cycle to work, don’t go on public transport.

“I think do everything possible in your control to try to reduce transmission. Don’t wait for the government to change policy.

“The sooner we all act, the sooner we can get this transmission rate down, and the greater the prospect of having a Christmas with our families.”

Government pledges £65m to clear pandemic household arrears

10:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Vulnerable renters in England who have fallen into arrears during the pandemic will be helped with a £65 million support package this winter, the government has announced.

The funding is in addition to a £500m package announced in September to help families struggling to afford food, energy, water and other essentials.

Some 3.8 million households on low incomes are estimated to be in arrears with household bills, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Around 950,000 are thought to be in rent arrears, 1.4m are behind on council tax bills and 1.4m are behind on electricity and gas bills, the foundation said.

JRF findings suggest that a third of households with incomes of £24,752 or less are now in arrears – triple the 11 per cent estimated by a similar study before the pandemic.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said that the organisation welcomes the funding but that “it is impossible for this funding to meet the demand we face”.

He added: “To prevent homelessness in the first place, we desperately need the UK government to ensure that housing benefit covers the true cost of renting by unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance.”

Will there be another lockdown? Here is everything we know

10:15 , Lamiat Sabin

The daily number of new Covid cases has been between 40,000 and 50,000 for the past week.

Rising hospitalisations and high daily death tolls have also sparked fears over another lockdown.

But is it likely that we will all be forced to go into social hibernation again this winter?

My colleague Joe Sommerlad has the details

Will another lockdown happen?

‘More support needed to prevent homelessness during pandemic’

10:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Some more reaction to the government’s announcement of a £65 million fund to help clear rent and bills arrears that up to 4 million households accrued during the pandemic.

The government announced today that vulnerable renters in England who have fallen into arrears will be helped with the support package this winter.

The funding is in addition to a £500m package announced in September to help families struggling to afford food, energy, water and other essentials.

Campaign group Generation Rent said that more funds are needed, especially now that the temporary £20 a week increase in benefits has been scrapped.

Wes Streeting self-isolating after testing positive for Covid

10:45 , Lamiat Sabin

Labour MP Wes Streeting has announced that he will be self-isolating until the beginning of November after contracting Covid.

In July, the 38-year-old Ilford North MP announced that he had been declared cancer-free after having undergone an operation to remove one of his kidneys.

Two months prior, Mr Streeting revealed he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer and would be stepping back from frontline politics while he received treatment.

Philippines considering whether to put UK on its red list

11:15 , Lamiat Sabin

Another country is considering restriction travel to and from the UK due to concerns over a Delta subvariant of the Covid virus.

The Philippines is mooting whether to put the UK on its “red list” of countries that will have restrictions for travel.

The Philippines’ health department said today that officials are looking into placing the UK on the red list, which has the most strict rules for travel, over the spread of the AY 4.2. variant.

It comes after Morocco banned travel to and from the UK for an unspecified time over fears that allowing in travellers from the UK would wreck its own progress in controlling the virus.

The Moroccan government also banned travel to and from Germany and the Netherlands.

Russia sees record number of Covid cases and deaths

11:45 , Lamiat Sabin

Russia has reported record levels of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

This comes after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russians to stay away from work between 30 October and 7 November.

The national coronavirus taskforce said today that 1,075 people had died with the virus in the past 24 hours.

A total of 37,678 new infections were recorded.

The daily death toll is about 33 per cent higher than in late September and infection cases have risen by about 70 per cent in the past month.

Only about a third of Russia’s 146 million people are vaccinated.

Children in Romania to go on two-week ‘firebreak’ school holiday

12:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Romania’s government is planning to keep children off school for two weeks as part of efforts to lower numbers of Covid cases and deaths.

The authorities are also set to re-introduce a night curfew and make health passes and face masks mandatory for entry to most public venues from Monday.

Weddings and other private events are banned, and the government is also urging employers to send half their staff to work from home.

The measures to be in force for 30 days were approved by the interim government late last night.

Romania reported record numbers of daily Covid deaths and cases this month, and the health system is stretched to breaking point.

The country has the second-lowest coronavirus vaccination rate in the EU, with just over a third of the adult population fully jabbed.

“We are in a disaster situation,” deputy Interior Minister Raed Arafat said on Friday.

“We have seen other countries go through this when there wasn’t a weapon available, namely the vaccine.

“We are in this situation while having the vaccine, because the majority of us refused to get inoculated. This situation could have been avoided.”

Councils urge residents to follow stricter rules than the government’s

12:15 , Lamiat Sabin

Local councils are telling residents to follow tougher Covid measures while the government resists called to implement Plan B measures to halt the spread of Covid.

Residents in Liverpool, Windsor and Suffolk are among those who have been told by public health teams to follow stricter measures.

Zoe Tidman reports

Councils break from government to bring back tougher Covid measures

Billionaire’s companies received up to £6m in furlough money

12:30 , Lamiat Sabin

A billionaire property tycoon claimed up to £6 million in furlough cash during the pandemic through shell companies, it has been reported today.

This is despite John Christodoulou, who has a net worth of more than £2 billion, having said that he “borrowed nothing from the Government during Covid pandemic”.

According to The Times, Mr Christodoulou’s businesses – Blue Manchester, Blue Liverpool, YFSCR and Octagon Pier – received the cash via the coronavirus job retention scheme from December 2020 to June 2021.

In June, he told an audience at an event that firms which take money from the government were sending the “wrong image”.

Mr Christodoulou is not a director nor listed as an owner but the four companies are all controlled by him – the newspaper reported.

Seventy per cent of South Koreans vaccinated

12:50 , Lamiat Sabin

South Korea has announced that it has achieved its goal of vaccinating 70 per cent of its 52 million population.

The country set the target when it started its Covid vaccination scheme in February.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it was reached by 2pm (5am GMT) today.

Health minister Kwon Deok-cheol said last week that the government would begin a slow return to “normal activities” from 1 November.

Melbourne comes out of nine-month-long lockdown

13:20 , Lamiat Sabin

Melbourne has begun celebrating the end of the world’s longest string of lockdowns with street parties, beach games, live music, and packed indoor venues.

Australia’s second-largest city, home to about five million people, was in lockdown for nearly nine months straight until this weekend.

 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

The ease in restrictions came the state's full-vaccination rate reached 70 per cent.

Nearly 72 per ent of adults in Australia are now fully vaccinated and nearly 87 per cent have received one jab.

 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

According to a national strategy, lockdowns will be unlikely once 80 per cent of Australians are fully-jabbed.

Taoiseach urges Ireland to ‘behave’ to prevent severe Covid cases

14:08 , Lamiat Sabin

Up to 150 people could be in intensive care with Covid by the end of next month, the Taoiseach has warned.

Micheal Martin also said he could not predict when Ireland would return to normal following the pandemic.

In an interview with Newstalk FM, Mr Martin said there was concern about the growing number of Covid cases in the country.

On Friday, there were a further 2,466 confirmed cases, with 457 patients in hospital, 90 of those in intensive care units.

The Taoiseach said: “There is the optimistic model, there is the pessimistic model.

“You could be looking at up to 150 in ICU by the end of November. That would be serious in terms of the wider impact on the health service.

“But if we all collectively behave, what I mean by that is watch ourselves, be a bit more cautious about how we go about in congregations, we can pull this back.”

Scotland unable to report latest number of Covid deaths

14:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Scotland has recorded 2,403 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, latest Scottish Government figures show.

A “data issue” means the Scottish Government is unable to report the number of deaths on Friday.

The daily test positivity rate was 8.7 per cent, down from 8.8 per cent the previous day.

There were 896 people in hospital on Thursday with recently confirmed Covid-19, up two on the previous day, with 61 in intensive care, up one.

So far, more than 4.3 million people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination and 3.8m have received a second dose.

Northern Ireland records 10 more Covid-linked deaths

14:50 , Lamiat Sabin

Ten further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have been reported in Northern Ireland.

Its Department of Health has also reported another 1,323 cases of the virus.

To date, more than 2.6 million vaccines have been administered in the north of Ireland.

Glaswegians advised only to go to A&E is condition is life-threatening

15:15 , Lamiat Sabin

Glasgow’s health board deputy director Scott Davidson has today urged patients not attend A&E if their issue can be treated at home.

It has emerged that a third of those who went to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital’s A&E department during one week were there for injuries such as bruising, cut fingers, and lower back pain.

Health boards across the country have struggled to deal with normal service amid the Covid pandemic, and the military are already providing additional support to NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Grampian and NHS Borders.

Workers abused more by public as lockdown lifted, data suggests

15:45 , Lamiat Sabin

A large number of people in public-facing roles are experiencing more verbal abuse and hostility, according to a report by The Guardian.

Half of workers in jobs such as in the retail , transport, and hospitality have experienced abuse in the past six months, figures from the Institute for Customer Service (ICS) show.

In May, when Covid measures were yet to be relaxed, the figure was six points lower at 44 per cent.

Of those who had been abused, 27 per cent had been physically attacked, the ICS found.

Watch: PM says ‘nothing to suggest winter lockdown on the cards’

16:13 , Sam Hancock

Heathrow passengers hit by ‘excessive’ queues

16:32 , Sam Hancock

Technical issues at Heathrow have left passengers facing long queues and some forced to fly without luggage as hundreds descended on the airport for half-term getaways.

The airport suffered issues with its baggage system in Terminal 5 on Saturday morning, which is understood to have lasted for a few hours.

Some said they were told to put essential items in hand luggage instead as their bags “may not arrive” at their destination, reports Zoe Tidman.

It comes after Sajid Javid confirmed earlier this month fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England would be able to take cheaper and quicker lateral flow tests from 24 October instead of the PCR tests currently required.

Heathrow passengers forced to fly without bags in half-term disruption

135 more Covid deaths in UK

16:51 , Sam Hancock

A further 135 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 139,361, the latest government figures show.

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

There were also a further 44,985 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK in the past day, the government said.

Pfizer: Benefits outweigh risks for children as young as five, says regulator

17:19 , Sam Hancock

The benefits of giving young children the Pfizer vaccine against coronavirus outweigh the risks, scientists from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have said.

A panel of outside experts is due to vote on Tuesday on whether the FDA should authorise the jab for children aged between five and 11, the first Covid-19 vaccine for this age group, reports Jon Sharman.

Government scientists’ views were published after Pfizer announced new trial data which, it said, showed its jab had 90.7 per cent efficacy against coronavirus among under-11s.

Benefits of Pfizer jab outweigh risks for children as young as five, says FDA

Easing of hospitality rules could be reversed in NI – minister

17:51 , Sam Hancock

The relaxation of restrictions in hospitality settings could be reversed if they cause a surge in Covid cases, Northern Ireland’s health minister has warned.

Robin Swann said he hoped such a move would not be needed and urged people to get vaccinated.

The Executive has agreed masks will not be mandatory for dancing in nightclubs when they reopen next Sunday.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association (BMA) has opposed further easing of restrictions.

Justice minister Naomi Long has also raised concerns saying she feared relaxing rules on face coverings in nightclubs may cause a “significant” rise in the transmission of Covid-19. Mrs Long also said she was concerned about a “lack of clarity” in health advice.

Speaking at a Covid-19 vaccine booster and flu jab clinic at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday, Mr Swann said the executive’s decision on further easing was “proportionate” and there was guidance in place for venues.

He added: “I’ve always been clear I will not be deterred from recommending adding restrictions if necessary.

“I hope its not necessary and that’s why I would encourage people to come forward get their Covid vaccine, their booster and their flu vaccine as well.”

Austria threatens lockdown for unvaccinated amid rising Covid cases

18:10 , Sam Hancock

Austrians face new lockdown restrictions if cases of coronavirus continue to rise, the country’s chancellor has said after more than 20,000 infections were recorded there in the past week.

The new measures would apply to unvaccinated members of the public, Alexander Schallenberg added.

It follows a meeting on Friday evening between Mr Schallenberg and state-level leaders to discuss their response to rapidly increasing cases.

Austria reported 20,408 new cases of Covid in the latest seven-day period, according to health authorities, bringing the seven-day average to 228.5 cases per 100,000 people. A week earlier, that figure was at 152.5.

Read the full report:

Austria threatens lockdown ‘for the unvaccinated’ as Covid cases rise

Watch: PM refuses to commit to wearing mask in Parliament

18:28 , Sam Hancock

Head of vaccine delivery returns to NHS in nod to busy winter

19:06 , Sam Hancock

The former head of England's coronavirus vaccine delivery drive has been drafted back into the job from Downing Street amid rising concern over the rates of coronavirus heading into winter.

Dr Emily Lawson had been behind the original success of the rollout of the Covid-19 jabs, but was seconded to No 10's delivery unit - a team in charge of ensuring the government delivers on its policies - in April.

But now, in a move which could indicate the pressure ministers expect the NHS to come under this winter, Dr Lawson has returned to the health service as it steels itself for the winter months.

It comes as scientific advisers told the government that it must ensure “Plan B” restrictions to tackle coronavirus can be “rapidly” deployed if needed.

Breaking point: Inside the NHS’ looming crisis

19:38 , Sam Hancock

The NHS faces its hardest winter yet as soaring coronavirus cases combine with a surge in A&E demand and a health service brought to its knees by 18 months of unrelenting pandemic pressure.

While ministers including health secretary Sajid Javid have claimed the Covid resurgence has not put unsustainable pressure on the NHS, doctors, nurses and health officials from across the country have told The Independent the mounting crises on several fronts mean the health service is facing a very real catastrophe.

With daily coronavirus infections at 50,000 and the number of patients admitted to hospitals each day close to 1,000, the chair of the government’s Covid modelling committee, Professor Graham Medley, said the country could be “three or four weeks away” from a serious problem if the rise remained unchecked.

Read Shaun Lintern’s special report to see what else was uncovered.

Breaking point: Inside the NHS’s looming crisis

In case you missed it: PM urges Britons to ‘get boosted and get protected’

20:08 , Sam Hancock

Namibia to suspend use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

20:51 , Sam Hancock

Let’s get some news from abroad now. Namibia will suspend its rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine, its health ministry said on Saturday, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.

The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia’s decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research.

South African regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because, it said, some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector - which Sputnik V does - was associated with higher susceptibility to HIV in men.

Namibia’s health ministry said in a statement that the decision to discontinue use of the Russian vaccine was “out of [an] abundance of caution that men (who) received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV,” adding that it had taken SAHPRA’s decision into account.

A meta-analysis of six clinical studies and their long-term follow-up in 7,092 participants showed there was no statistically significant increase of HIV-1 infection among adenovirus type-5 vectored vaccine recipients, it said.

Namibia said the suspension would last until Sputnik V receives a World Health Organisation Emergency Use Listing. But it will offer people who received a first dose of Sputnik V a second to complete their immunisation course.

AP

UK faces ‘lockdown Christmas’ if new restrictions delayed – experts

21:15 , Sam Hancock

The UK faces another “lockdown Christmas” unless more stringent measures to combat Covid-19 are implemented immediately alongside the vaccine rollout, according to multiple experts.

Peter Openshaw, of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “I’m very fearful that we’re going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon.

“We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There’s no point in delaying. If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later. The immediacy of response is absolutely vital if you’re going to get things under control.”

On Friday, minutes of a Sage advisory group meeting revealed it has also told the government it should prepare for the “rapid deployment” of basic anti-coronavirus measures, writes Jon Sharman.

UK faces ‘lockdown Christmas’ if it delays new Covid curbs, warns government adviser

Holidaymakers may need three Covid vaccines to go abroad

22:03 , Sam Hancock

Holidaymakers may need three doses of the Covid vaccine if they want to travel abroad next summer, a minister has said.

People who have had two doses are currently considered fully vaccinated, but this definition is likely to “evolve over time”, care minister Gillian Keegan said.

It means people may eventually only be deemed to be fully vaccinated if they have had their booster vaccine.

Asked if people would not be able to travel unless they have received their third dose, the minister told Sky News: “I don’t think so.”

Emily Atkinson has more:

Holidaymakers may need three Covid vaccines to travel abroad next summer

Get booster jabs, NHS medical director says

22:17 , Sam Hancock

People should get booster Covid jabs when they are offered during what will be a “tough winter”, NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis has warned.

He wrote in the Sunday Telegraph:

“To maximise the impact of the vaccination programme we must all continue to act responsibly. The more of us that come forward for our booster jab, and the more we keep our resolve in helping to limit the spread of infection, then the greater chance we all have of staying well.”

Prof Powis said this time last year there were more than 6,800 people in hospital with Covid, and this weekend the figure is 6,405, but in 2020 the nation was still six weeks away from the world’s first vaccination.

“So, when your time comes, take up the offer, book your booster and protect the freedom and Christmas that we have all earned and deserve to enjoy.”

Vaccines are the way through winter, PM insists amid NHS warning

22:57 , Sam Hancock

Britons are once again being urged to take up Covid jabs and get their booster when called, with Boris Johnson insisting it is this that will guide the country “through the winter”.

The prime minister’s repeated call for people to get vaccinated comes as he continued to fight mounting pressure to enforce so-called Plan B restrictions despite a warning from doctors and nurses that the NHS is not far from a tipping point.

The tighter measures would include working-from-home guidance and the mandatory use of face masks.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said this week new cases could reach 100,000 a day but No 10 insisted there was still spare capacity in the NHS and that tighter measures would only be activated if hospitals came under “significant pressure”.

Read our full report:

Vaccines are the way through winter, PM insists amid NHS tipping point warning

That’s it for today...

23:01 , Sam Hancock

That’s it from us on the Covid blog for today, thanks for following along. Be sure to check back tomorrow for all the latest developments on the pandemic.

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