UK Covid news LIVE: Londoners return to the office as report warns school pupils could take year to catch-up

·21-min read
 (Jeremy Selwyn)
(Jeremy Selwyn)

Londoners returned to the office on Monday, with more commuters using the capital’s transport system, following the summer break.

As many school children went back to the classroom last week, more commuters and workers returned to their desks today.

It came as more than two million journeys were made on the Tube on Thursday as the return to school sparked the highest passenger numbers since the start of the pandemic.

The total of 2,034,000 was the first time the 2m landmark had been broken in 18 months and included 325,500 journeys in the 8am-9am rush hour, up 19 per cent on the previous week.

Meanwhile, two in five pupils did not meet the Government's minimum guidelines for remote learning time during Covid lockdown school closures earlier this year, a report suggests.

Schools could face challenges as pupils return this month because a quarter of parents believe it will take their child at least a year to catch up on lost learning, an Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report says.

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Rate of new Covid-19 cases in England rising again, figures show

Pupils asked to clean desks and wear face masks in corridors as schools reopen

‘Don’t turn schools into battlegrounds over Covid vaccine’

'Flu and Covid vaccine campaigns will ‘probably’ break records set in the original Covid vaccination programme’

20:17 , Barney Davis

Conservative MP Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) asked in the House of Commons: “Six years ago we lost 28,000 people to seasonal flu. Can the minister assure me that we will not be prioritising the jabbing of 12 to 15-year-olds before the seasonal flu programme, since the number of children that we would lose to Covid would be vanishingly small in any event?”

Nadhim Zahawi said: “No decision has been made on vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds who are healthy – we are vaccinating those who are vulnerable, but not healthy. We will not pre-empt what the chief medical officers are doing… Operationally, we have the infrastructure to be able to deal with both. The flu and the Covid booster campaigns are the largest endeavours – in some weeks, as I mentioned earlier, we will probably break our record that we set in the original Covid vaccination programme.”

Earlier Mr Zahawi also reiterated to the Commons that no decision has yet been made on a Covid-19 vaccine booster campaign.

Police called to protect Crouch End vaccination centre from anti-vax protestors

19:52 , Barney Davis

Anti-vaxxers protesting outside Park Road vaccination centre have been handing out leaflets to children in buggies, according to witnesses.

Vaccine minister says 16-17s coming out in droves

19:41 , Barney Davis

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told MPs: “In recent weeks 16 and 17-year-olds have been coming out to do their bit in droves.”

The vaccines minister added: “We are taking the jab to people too with walk-in and pop-up vaccination sites at football stadia and shopping centres and, of course, university freshers fairs.”

“More than half of 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK have received their jabs since becoming eligible last month. This is in addition to over three in four 18 to 34-year-olds – 76.3% of 18 to 34-year-olds – who have already had at least their first dose.”

On pregnant women he said: “We now know that pregnant women are more likely to become seriously ill from Covid if they are not vaccinated. In fact 98% of pregnant women in hospital due to Covid-19 are unvaccinated, yet we also know that not one single pregnant woman with two jabs has required hospitalisation with Covid-19, so I urge pregnant women to continue to come forward and get the jab.”

NHS given £5.4billion to support COVID-19 response over next six months

17:52 , Barney Davis

The Government has confirmed they are giving the NHS an extra £5.4 billion to clear the Covid backlog over the next six months.

Delta variant domination down to its ability to evade antibodies- research

17:46 , Barney Davis

The coronavirus Delta variant, which has become dominant in a number of countries including the UK, most likely spreads through its ability to evade antibodies and its increased infectivity, researchers have said.

As the virus replicates, errors in its genetic make-up cause it to mutate.

Some mutations make it more transmissible or more infectious, some help it evade the immune response, potentially making vaccines less effective, while others have little effect.

One such variant is the Delta variant, was first observed in India in late 2020, and it has since spread around the world.

In the UK, it is responsible for nearly all new cases of coronavirus.

Latest jabs handed out

17:12 , Barney Davis

Government data up to September 5 shows that of the 91,725,196 Covid jabs given in the UK, 48,270,113 were first doses, a rise of 21,795 on the previous day.

Some 43,455,083 were second doses, an increase of 73,193.

45 more dead and 41,192 new cases in latest Covid update

17:00 , Barney Davis

The Government said a further 45 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 133,274.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have been 157,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

As of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 41,192 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said.

EU regulator evaluating if COVID vaccine booster is needed

15:28 , Tom Ambrose

The European Medicines Agency says it has started an expedited evaluation on whether to recommend a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech.

In a statement Monday, the EU drug regulator says it is considering whether a third dose of the vaccine should be given six months after people 16 and older have received two doses, “to restore protection after it has waned.”

EMA’s experts are carrying out an “accelerated assessment” of data submitted by Pfizer and BioNTech, including results from an ongoing trial in which about 300 healthy adults received a booster shot about six months after their second dose.

Pfizer has already submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administer for authorization of a third dose and the U.S. government said last month boosters would likely be available in late September.

Israel has already started administering booster doses and the plan is under consideration in other countries for vulnerable populations, including France and Germany.

India plans 50% increase in oxygen production before third COVID-19 wave

15:05 , Tom Ambrose

India aims to ramp up its medical oxygen production capacity to 15,000 tonnes per day before a potential third wave of coronavirus infections that is expected to hit the country as soon as mid-September, an industry executive said.

The target implies a 50% jump from the maximum output of almost 10,000 tonnes reached earlier this year during the peak of the second COVID-19 wave, when hospitals ran short of the gas and relatives of patients had to search out oxygen cylinders.

Linde India supplied nearly one-third of the total oxygen demand during the peak.

Moloy Banerjee, head of Linde South Asia, said that while the government is targeting 15,000 tonnes of medical oxygen per day, Linde and other manufacturers were hoping to hit production of at least 13,500 tonnes per day ahead of the third wave.

A sign outside a mobile Covid-19 vaccination centre (PA Wire)
A sign outside a mobile Covid-19 vaccination centre (PA Wire)

FIFA investigating Brazil-Argentina abandonment after coronavirus fiasco

14:15 , Tom Ambrose

FIFA’s disciplinary department is analysing reports from the abandoned World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina in Sao Paulo before deciding what action will be taken.

The match was called off on Sunday amid extraordinary scenes as officials, believed to be from Brazil’s health authority, stormed on to the pitch shortly after kick-off over an alleged coronavirus breach by the visitors’ England-based players.

The Argentina team responded to the entrance of the officials and the police by walking off the pitch and down the tunnel.

According to ANVISA, the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency, Argentina’s four Premier League players – Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia – are alleged to have declared false information on official forms to the country’s authorities and in doing so broken quarantine rules.

South American Football Confederation CONMEBOL announced on Twitter that Sunday’s match had been suspended on the decision of the referee. His report and that of the FIFA match delegate have been sent to the governing body to consider its next steps.

Abuse of staff enforcing Covid rules is ‘completely unacceptable’

13:45 , Tom Ambrose

The Scottish public has been warned against the abuse of staff in businesses and on public transport enforcing mask wearing policies.

In a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19, face coverings have continued to be mandatory in some indoor spaces and on public transport.

But the Justice Secretary, Keith Brown, has warned against abuse, threats and even violence directed at staff trying to enforce the rules.

Mr Brown said such attacks were “completely unacceptable”, as new rules to protect retail workers, in particular, came into force last month.

It is not clear if attacks on staff have increased in recent weeks, prompting the Justice Secretary’s intervention.

“I would like to thank the vast majority of people who continue to wear face coverings and urge people to please follow the rules and guidelines still in place,” he said.

“It is still a requirement to wear face coverings in indoor public places, such as shops, public transport and when entering and moving about in hospitality settings.

“Everyone who can should wear a face covering because it is a simple and vital measure we can take to protect others and stem the spread of this deadly virus.

“Retail workers and those working in hospitality play a vital role serving our communities which has been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic and it’s extremely important they know they have the protection of the law when carrying out their duties.

“Any form of abuse, threats or violence faced by such workers as a result of simply doing their job is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Denmark cancels tender for domestic coronavirus vaccine production

12:47 , Leah Sinclair

Denmark has cancelled its previously announced plans for a public tender to establish a national Covid-19 vaccine production facility as it bets on a vaccine already under development by a Danish firm, the Business Ministry said on Monday.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced in April that Denmark aimed to produce Covid-19 mRNA-vaccines by 2022, and that a tendering process would be initiated within a few weeks.

The government has since then initiated a market survey to clarify whether there was basis to start a tender, the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs said in an emailed statement.

“Overall the assessment is that the best way to support future vaccine production in Denmark is by supporting the development of Bavarian Nordic’s vaccine candidate,” the ministry said.

It added that on this basis, there were no “current plans” for a tender.

Pupils asked to clean desks and wear face masks in corridors as schools reopen

12:23 , Tom Ambrose

Pupils will still be expected to clean their desks and wear face coverings in corridors as classes resume, a leading private school headteacher has said.

As children return to school to a relaxation of Covid-19 safety measures, Samantha Price, president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), said the sector returns with “phased caution”.

It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided against recommending Covid-19 vaccines for all 12 to 15-year-olds.

Meanwhile, experts warned last month that it is “highly likely” there will be large levels of coronavirus infection in schools by the end of September.

Mrs Price, headteacher of Benenden School in Kent, said: “We are going to continue with cleaning desks after lessons and asking students to do that because I think that’s reassuring for teachers, but it’s also reassuring for cleaners who are going into those rooms as well.”

“In our school we are going to ask students to wear masks in corridors and in public areas and obviously there’s still going to be testing,” she added.

In the event of an outbreak, the school could revert to “bubbles” or more physical distancing between teachers and pupils if needed, Mrs Price said.

Greece begins administering COVID vaccines outside churches

12:12 , Tom Ambrose

Greece has begun administering vaccinations for COVID-19 outside churches in a pilot program recently announced by the government as a means of encouraging more people to get the shots.

Mobile National Health Organization units began administering shots Monday in a church yard in Archanes, a town near the city of Heraklion on the southern island of Crete.

The single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine was being used, with shots being administered from 9am until 2pm. Fifty-two appointments were booked for the first day, but some people were turning up without appointments and were being given the vaccines.

The government announced the program last month, with mobile health care units to administer shots in town squares outside churches, initially in Crete and later expanding to the country's main cities.

Air pollution linked to greater risk of Covid-19 hospital admission – study

12:01 , Tom Ambrose

The mayor of London has said “bold action” is needed to tackle air pollution after a new report found it causes a greater risk of Covid-19 hospital admission.

Sadiq Khan, who commissioned the review carried out by Imperial College London, said decisions made to eradicate toxic air are now “a matter of life and death”.

The research said long-term exposure to air pollution before the pandemic increased the risk of a person becoming sicker if they became infected with the Covid-19 and being admitted to hospital.

It also said exposure could increase a person’s likelihood of catching the virus, although studies into this effect are still in early stages.

Philippines plans new COVID-19 lockdown strategy to help economy

10:57 , Tom Ambrose

The Philippines will relax some COVID-19 restrictions in the Manila region from Wednesday and also intends to outline plans to shift to smaller, localised lockdowns to support the economy, the presidential spokesperson said.

The moves come despite the Southeast Asian country reporting record infection numbers as it battles the Delta variant.

The government believed localised COVID-19 restrictions would be more effective in controlling outbreaks without constraining mobility and business activity too much, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told a briefing.

Slovakia eases COVID rules for events during pope's visit

10:34 , Tom Ambrose

Slovakia has widened registration for public events planned during a visit by Pope Francis that begins on Sunday to allow some people not vaccinated against COVID-19 also to attend.

Pope Francis is due to arrive in mainly Roman Catholic Slovakia on September 12 for a visit culminating in an open-air Mass at the Sastin pilgrimage site in western Slovakia on September 15.

Some 43% of people in the country of 5.5 million have so far been fully vaccinated or have received their first shot against COVID-19.

The Conference of Slovak Bishops said non-vaccinated people who have tested negative or who have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 180 days would also be allowed to register for the papal events.

Around 30,000 people have so far registered for the Mass to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows at Sastin, a site dedicated to the main patron saint of Slovakia.

10:05 , Tom Ambrose

Dr David Strain said he would have “no hesitation at all” in allowing his children to have a coronavirus vaccination.

The clinical lead for Covid services at the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust told Good Morning Britain: “This is a very, very fine balance for the children themselves, but actually it’s also good for the children to be able to stay at school without repetitive closures.

“It’s good to have two parents and a full set of grandparents and all of those additional elements that the vaccination of the children will have a role in maintaining.”

He added: “My 16-year-old has already had the vaccine; our 12-year-old, who’s actually starting school tomorrow, will be desperately keen to get the vaccine.

“We have weighed up the evidence and fully accept there is this very small risk of myocarditis after the first jab, but actually the risk of myocarditis after getting Covid is about the same, if not slightly higher.

“These are the factors, so I would have no hesitation at all to allow my children to have the vaccine.”

South Korea prepares for surge with upcoming holiday

09:23 , Tom Ambrose

South Korea's daily increase in coronavirus infections has exceeded 1,000 for the 62nd consecutive day as officials are raising concerns about another viral spike during this month's Chuseok holidays.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 940 of the 1,375 new cases reported Monday were from Seoul and the nearby metropolitan region, where a rise in infections have been linked to the reopening of schools and people returning from summer vacations.

While the virus has slowed outside the capital area in recent weeks, KDCA official Kim Ki-nam said transmissions could worsen nationwide during the Chuseok break, which starts on September 20, a time when millions usually travel across the country to meet relatives.

Officials are enforcing the country's strongest social distancing rules short of a lockdown in the greater capital area, where private social gatherings of three or more people are banned after 6pm unless participants are fully vaccinated.

09:07 , Tom Ambrose

The decision on offering coronavirus vaccinations to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds is a “finely balanced” one, an expert advising the Government has said.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), acknowledged the “uncomfortableness” if the committee says no but the Government then says yes to jabbing this age group.

He told Good Morning Britain: “It is very finely balanced. It’s marginally in favour, actually if you look at all the figures – and we have published those – in favour of vaccination, but I do understand it from a parental viewpoint and I understand it from a teenager’s viewpoint.

“This is not an easy decision. And, to a certain extent, by us coming out and saying no, if the Government say yes that does create a lot of uncomfortableness, and I fully understand that.”

He said they want to provide the data for everyone to look at and, should the chief medical officers decide healthy children in this age group should be offered a jab, they are “giving choice”.

He added: “It is up to then parents and teenagers to decide whether they go ahead or not. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this.”

New Zealand eases virus curbs in areas beyond Auckland

08:39 , Tom Ambrose

New Zealand will ease Covid curbs in all regions outside its biggest city of Auckland from midnight on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference.

Schools, offices and businesses can now operate with social distancing rules in place as the regions’ alert level shifts to 2 from 3, Ardern added.

08:13 , Tom Ambrose

Virologist and lecturer at Exeter Medical School Dr David Strain has backed the use of vaccine passports.

He told LBC on Monday: “We’ve seen the halfway house of ‘you can either be vaccinated or have a lateral flow test’ in festivals where then 5,000 people came back with the virus.

“Vaccine passports are the best way to avoid another lockdown.”

07:50 , Tom Ambrose

Dr David Strain, clinical lead for Covid services at the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, has said he believes 12 to 15-year-olds should be given the vaccine and be allowed to override parents’ wishes on whether to get the jab, as vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi suggested on Sunday.

The co-chair of BMA Medical Academics spoke to LBC Radio on Monday and said: “A lot of children aged 12 have enough maturity in order to make a decision themselves, although it’s not the same for every child.

“Doctors and nurses are trained to be able to evaluate them and deem them competent.”

He added: “Vaccinating children will reduce the spread of the virus in the population by about 20%.”

Sydney COVID-19 cases seen topping 2,000 a day

07:30 , Tom Ambrose

Sydney, the epicentre of Australia’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, is expected to see daily infections peak next week, authorities said on Monday, as they look to speed up immunisations before easing lockdown rules.

Australia is trying to contain a third wave of infections that has hit its two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and its capital Canberra, forcing more than half the country’s 25 million people into strict stay-at-home restrictions.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government’s modelling revealed the state would require its highest number of intensive care beds in early October, with “additional pressure on the system” in the next few weeks.

Daily cases in Sydney’s worst-affected suburbs are expected to rise to as high as 2,000 until the middle of this month, the modelling showed.

Vietnam's capital ramps up testing after extending COVID-19 curbs

07:27 , Tom Ambrose

Vietnam's capital on Monday extended COVID-19 restrictions for a further two weeks, as authorities launched a plan to test up to 1.5 million people for the coronavirus in higher-risk areas of the capital to contain a climb in infections.

The Southeast Asian country dealt successfully with the virus for much of the pandemic, but the virulent Delta variant has proved more challenging in recent months.

Hanoi, which has ordered people to stay at home and has halted all non-essential activities since July, has now divided the city into "red", "orange" and "green" zones based on infection risk.

"Accordingly, people in red areas must shelter in place and one person of every household there will be tested three times per week," a statement from city authorities said, adding that in other zones people would be tested every five to seven days.

Vietnamese military personnel stand guard at a checkpoint in Ho Chi Minh City (AFP via Getty Images)
Vietnamese military personnel stand guard at a checkpoint in Ho Chi Minh City (AFP via Getty Images)

07:10 , Tom Ambrose

A World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina in Sao Paulo was called off last night amid extraordinary scenes as officials stormed on to the pitch over an alleged coronavirus breach by the visitors’ England-based players.

The Argentina team responded to the entrance of officials believed to be from Brazil’s health authority and the police by walking off the pitch and down the tunnel.

According to ANVISA, the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency, Argentina’s four Premier League players – Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia – are alleged to have declared false information on official forms to the country’s authorities and in doing so broken quarantine rules.

The Spurs pair and Martinez started Sunday night’s match, which was halted shortly after kick-off. Buendia was not in the matchday 23.

“After a meeting with the health authorities, it was confirmed, after consulting the passports of the four players involved, that the athletes failed to comply with the rule for the entry of travellers on Brazilian soil,” an ANVISA statement said.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Two in five pupils ‘failed to get minimum learning time during Covid closures’

07:07 , Tom Ambrose

Two in five pupils did not meet the Government’s minimum guidelines for remote learning time during school closures earlier this year, a report suggests.

Schools could face challenges as pupils return this month because a quarter of parents believe it will take their child at least a year to catch up on lost learning, an Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report says.

Researchers say catch-up policies need to be targeted at poorer pupils to close “educational inequalities that have grown so much wider” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Limited support and unequal provision for self-isolating students during the autumn term in 2020 – when schools were open but disrupted – also worked against efforts to address lost learning, they add.

Overall, inequalities in home-learning experiences in England improved over the course of the pandemic, according to the IFS report, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

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