UK Covid news LIVE: Surge of 42,076 new infections as Mu virus strain hits UK

UK Covid news LIVE: Surge of 42,076 new infections as Mu virus strain hits UK

UK has recorded a surge of 42,076 new Covid infections and 121 deaths on Friday.

Vaccinations continue to be a huge success in the UK as 91,314,745 Covid jabs have been rolled out in total across the country.

The latest Covid figures have been released as new virus strain Mu has landed in the UK and has been designated a variant of interest by WHO.

More investigations need to be done into the virus strain, the WHO said.

No ‘clear evidence' Covid vaccines have lost any efficacy, according to one expert.

18:26 , Robert Dex

There is no “clear evidence” Covid vaccines have lost any efficacy, according to one expert.

Professor Jeremy Brown, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told Sky News the UK still had time to decide whether to give a booster jab to everyone or just target those most in need.

He said: “There isn’t any clear evidence that the vaccines we’ve given in this country so far have faded in their efficacy at preventing severe infection and hospitalisation which is really the most important thing the vaccine is designed to prevent.”

Another 1,414 confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported in Ireland

17:37 , Robert Dex

Another 1,414 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported by the Irish Department of Health.

As of 8am on Friday, there were 353 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 55 in intensive care.

Competition watchdog investigating one of the UK’s biggest PCR testing companies after customer complaints

17:04 , Robert Dex

One of the UK’s biggest PCR testing companies is under investigation by the competition watchdog following a series of complaints by customers.

Expert Medicals faces allegations that tests and results were not provided in a timely manner, or at all in some cases, bosses failed to respond to complaints and refunds were not issued, according to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The watchdog also revealed it has written to a further 19 testing firms telling them they must stop advertising misleading prices or face legal action under consumer protection laws.

CMA officials revealed Expert Medicals has been the subject of a high number of complaints, both to Citizens Advice and themselves, and has been removed from the Government’s list of testing providers.

PM sparks fears of winter lockdown with plans to extend “draconian” Covid powers for another six months

16:33 , Robert Dex

Boris Johnson has sparked fears of a winter lockdown with plans to extend “draconian” Covid powers for another six months, it’s been revealed.

The government has confirmed plans to renew some temporary powers under the 2020 Coronavirus Act.

But the plans will be opposed by Tory anti-lockdown Mps, 35 of whom rebelled last time the Act was extended.

The legislation gives authorities and police powers to regulate public gatherings, close premises, and force people to self-isolate.

Potential legal row between EU and AstraZeneca avoided after firm agrees to deliver 200 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine

16:27 , Robert Dex

A potential legal row between the EU and drug company AstraZeneca has been avoided after the firm agreed to deliver 200 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine.

The Swedish company’s agreement to deliver the drugs by the end of March puts an end to a proposed case by the EU in Belgian courts.

The stand-off meant the EU moved away from its early reliance on the firm and now most of its supplies are of the Pfizer vaccine.

Covid-19 jabs for healthy children aged between 12 and 15 not recommended by vaccine advisers

16:25 , Robert Dex

Covid-19 jabs for healthy children aged between 12 and 15 are not being recommended by the Government’s vaccine advisers.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced that it is widening the limited rollout to more children in this age bracket who have underlying health conditions.

But it is not recommending mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds.

Coronavirus infections have rocketed to 42,076 on Friday.

16:24 , Robert Dex

Coronavirus infections have rocketed to 42,076 on Friday.

There were 121 deaths related to Covid recorded in 24 hours in the latest figures released by the government.

Vaccinations continue to be a huge success as 91,314,745 Covid jabs have been rolled out in total across the UK.

Of the vaccinations, 48,171,998 have been the first doses given to the population and 43,142,747 have been second doses.

It comes as the virus strain Mu landed in the UK and has been designated a variant of interest by WHO.

Covid levels in Scotland highest since estiamtes began

15:15 , Laura Sharman

The coronavirus level of infection in Scotland is at its highest since estimates began last autumn, with around one in 75 people thought to have Covid-19 last week.

The figure, from the Office for National Statistics, has risen sharply from one in 140 in the previous week.

Schools in Scotland returned a fortnight ago and the reopening is believed to have contributed to a rise in cases in the country.

The latest level of infection - a snapshot of how many people are likely to test positive for the virus - remains high across the rest of the UK.

Around one in 70 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to August 27, unchanged from the previous week and the equivalent of about 766,100 people.

Anti vaxxers try to storm MHRA as they decide on vote to give children jabs

14:38 , Barney Davis

Anti-vaccination protestors clashed with police as they tried to storm the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The Met who were nearby after an XR protest managed to block the entrance and keep the crowd at bay before they were dispersed back to Canary Wharf.

Allowing mass infection of children is “reckless”, experts warn

13:23 , Laura Sharman

All young people aged 12 and over should be offered a coronavirus vaccine, a group of scientists have argued as they warned that allowing mass infection of children is “reckless”.

The experts have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson alongside some parents, carers and educational staff to express their concerns about the impact of the pandemic on education.

They argue that policies in England mean there will soon be a large population who are “susceptible” to the virus mixing in crowded spaces with “hardly any mitigations”.

Earlier school reopenings in Scotland and the US have shown that a lack of “adequate mitigations” is likely to lead to the virus spreading among children, which could further disrupt learning with significant absences due to student and staff illness, they said.

In an open letter published in The BMJ, they state: “England’s policies mean that we will soon have a large susceptible population with high prevalence of infection mixing in crowded environments with hardly any mitigations.”

Demand for rail travel now at two-thirds of Pre-Covid levels

13:22 , Laura Sharman

Rail travel demand has reached two-thirds of normal levels for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.

Provisional Department for Transport data reveals the number of journeys made on Britain’s mainline rail network on Monday August 23 was at 66 per cent compared with the equivalent date in 2019.

This is up from 56 per cent three weeks earlier.

Industry body the Rail Delivery Group said the rise is due to increased leisure travel, with millions of people embarking on domestic breaks and day trips instead of foreign holidays this summer.

Chief executive Jacqueline Starr commented: “It’s great to see more and more day-trippers and staycationers travelling by train to see the people and places they love as life gets back on track, whether that’s a seaside trip, a night out or a shopping spree.”

Ministers prepare to renew emergency Covid laws

11:19 , Laura Sharman

Ministers are preparing to renew emergency coronavirus laws suggesting that restrictions might be needed this winter, according to reports.

A government insider told the Financial Times it was “gearing up” for a battle with anti-lockdown Conservative MPs over the Coronavirus Act.

The legislation handed the government emergency powers in March 2020 and must be renewed every six months.

It includes easing restrictions on public bodies and allowing the police to force those with coronavirus to self isolate.

The government will reportedly say the legislation is needed due to potential difficulties this winter amid high Covid cases, rising hospitalisations and flu season.

Unions condemn cavalier MPs refusing to wear mask in Commons

11:09 , Laura Sharman

Unions representing staff who work in Parliament have attacked the “cavalier” attitude of MPs who refuse to wear masks.

They said staff who remove themselves from situations where MPs are refusing to wear a mask and feel unsafe should be backed by the authorities and will be supported by their union.

Mask wearing is mandatory for staff in Parliament but is optional for MPs, a rule described as “double standards” by unions.

The FDA and Prospect are calling on the Commons authorities to do more to protect staff, including making clear to MPs that they should wear masks.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: “Members of Parliament not only have a duty of care to staff working in the House of Commons, they also have an important leadership role, both in Parliament and the country.

“We urge them to set an example by continuing to wear masks in order to protect the staff on whom they rely.

“House staff have gone to extraordinary lengths over the last 18 months to keep Parliament functioning through the pandemic.”

Unions condemn cavalier MPs refusing to wear mask in Commons

11:09 , Laura Sharman

Unions representing staff who work in Parliament have attacked the “cavalier” attitude of MPs who refuse to wear masks.

They said staff who remove themselves from situations where MPs are refusing to wear a mask and feel unsafe should be backed by the authorities and will be supported by their union.

Mask wearing is mandatory for staff in Parliament but is optional for MPs, a rule described as “double standards” by unions.

The FDA and Prospect are calling on the Commons authorities to do more to protect staff, including making clear to MPs that they should wear masks.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: “Members of Parliament not only have a duty of care to staff working in the House of Commons, they also have an important leadership role, both in Parliament and the country.

“We urge them to set an example by continuing to wear masks in order to protect the staff on whom they rely.

“House staff have gone to extraordinary lengths over the last 18 months to keep Parliament functioning through the pandemic.”

Begin Covid booster campaign now rather than wait for advice, government urged

11:05 , Laura Sharman

The government has been urged to “get on” with a coronavirus booster programme rather than waiting for advice from vaccine experts.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to confirm that a rollout will begin this month, saying older people are the priority as autumn and winter approach.

But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is yet to provide a recommendation on boosters.

The committee’s deputy chairman Professor Anthony Harnden said this week that it is “highly likely” there will be a booster programme, but a final decision has not been made.

He said the committee is awaiting the results of the Cov-Boost study, which is looking at different vaccines to see what immune responses they give and whether jabs can be mixed and matched.

EU and AstraZeneca reach decision on Covid vaccine delivery

09:51 , Laura Sharman

The European Commission and AstraZeneca announced they have reached a settlement on the delivery of the remaining Covid vaccine doses by the drugmaker and ended the pending litigation in Brussels.

Under the settlement, AstraZeneca has committed to deliver 60 million doses of its vaccine, Vaxzevria, by the end of the third quarter this year.

It has also pledged 75 million by the end of the fourth quarter and 65 million by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

The European Commission launched legal action against AstraZeneca in April for not respecting its contract for the supply of Covid vaccines and for not having a “reliable” plan to ensure timely deliveries.

Covid epicentre of Vietnam proposes economic relaunch

09:05 , Laura Sharman

Vietnam’s largest city and coronavirus epicentre is proposing to emerge from a strict lockdown and resume economic activities from mid September.

Ho Chi Minh City will shift from its “Zero-Covid-19” strategy to living with the virus, according to a draft proposal.

The city of nine million people is targeting a phased reopening of its economy and the full vaccination of its citizens by the end of this year, according to the draft which has yet to be endorsed.

Ho Chi Minh City last month deployed troops to enforce its lockdown and banned residents from leaving their homes to slow a spiralling rate of deaths.

Just 2.9 per cent of Vietnam’s 98 million population has been fully vaccinated.

The draft proposes that the city, a business hub flanked by crucial industrialised provinces, moves past a containment strategy to focus on reviving the economy while maintaining stringent health protocols.

The city aims to “promote economic recovery and move towards living with Covid-19,” the draft proposal said.

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)

Excitement meets worry as UK children head back to school

08:30 , Laura Sharman

Children across the UK are going back to school with hopes of a return to normality after 18 months of pandemic disruption.English teacher Richard Sheriff watched this week as a group of energetic 11-year-olds entered their new secondary school for the first time, finding their classrooms, eating in the cafeteria, racing around the halls.The familiar rituals of a school sparking back to life were especially poignant after a year and a half of disruption driven by coronavirus, said Mr Sheriff, head of the Red Kite Learning Trust in Yorkshire.

But in addition to the usual excitement, he had a new feeling of “trepidation.”The start of a new school year in many northern hemisphere nations comes as the highly infectious delta variant continues to drive a surge in coronavirus cases, especially among children, many of whom are not yet eligible for vaccination.Britain’s government is among many in Europe that are determined to get children back into classrooms after repeat lockdowns, remote learning and abandoned exams.

UK schools have closed for three-month stretches twice since early 2020, and major year-end exams have been cancelled two years running, throwing university admissions into chaos.

While most European countries are retaining some restrictions for schools, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing this year for something approximating pre-pandemic normality, removing social distancing and mask-wearing among pupils.

Children went back to school on Wednesday (PA)
Children went back to school on Wednesday (PA)

UK and Australia agree to share vaccine doses

08:09 , Laura Sharman

Four million doses of the Pfizer jab will be sent from the UK to Australia as part of a Covid-19 vaccine deal.

Australia will return the same “overall volume of doses” before the end of the year, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

The agreement will share doses “at the optimum time to bolster both our countries’ vaccination programmes”, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.

The arrangement will allow the UK to better align timings of vaccine supply with future need, including for any booster programme or extension of the rollout to younger teenagers, according to the DHSC.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is yet to provide a recommendation on either, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to confirm on Thursday that a booster programme will begin this month.

“The priorities now are the older generation going into autumn and winter, and we have always said there would be a booster programme in September,” he said.

South Korea to extend lockdown restrictions in Seoul

07:49 , Laura Sharman

South Korea will extend coronavirus restrictions in the greater capital area for at least another month as the nation grapples with its worst surge a few weeks before its biggest annual holiday.Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol acknowledged the prolonged virus restrictions were hurting livelihoods but said the pace of transmissions was too “dangerous” for officials to consider easing distancing measures.The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 1,709 new cases of virus infection, the 59th consecutive day of over 1,000.

Only 38 per cent of the population of more than 51 million is fully vaccinated.The Level 4 rules enforced in Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas are the highest level short of a lockdown and prohibit private social gatherings of three or more people after 6pm.

But Kwon said the limit will be raised to six people if at least four of them are fully vaccinated, providing some flexibility to address economic concerns and pandemic fatigue.

All indoor dining at restaurants and cafes will be banned after 10pm.

Hundreds of home care services refusing requests due to understaffing

07:46 , Laura Sharman

Home care providers are refusing to take on hospital patients ready for discharge and those who need help in the community because they do not have enough staff.

More than 200 managers told The Institute of Health and Social Care Management (IHSCM) they have had to turn down requests for care in the last month because of insufficient staffing levels.

Many others are handing back care packages as they struggle to recruit.

The government said in June that care home staff must be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they are to continue working from November 11.

Providers have warned that the requirement is worsening an existing workforce crisis.

One manager said their provider is refusing packages every day and is not adding people to its waiting list until January 2022 at the earliest.

Another said they are refusing between 15 and 20 care packages a week, calling the situation “heartbreaking”.

Dr Jane Townson, chief executive of the UK Home Care Association, said care worker shortages are “the worst that anyone can remember”.

She added: “We don’t believe that compelling care workers to be vaccinated is going to encourage them to be vaccinated.

“All it will do is cause probably about 20 per cent of them to leave, either to resign or to be dismissed, and the dismissals will all happen pretty much at the same time as well.

“And so our worry is that, right now, the care worker shortages are the worst that anyone can remember, and we’re then going to add on top of that a further loss to the sector of people that, for whatever reason at the moment, don’t want to be vaccinated.”

Sturgeon urged to give Scots clear back to work message

07:39 , Laura Sharman

Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to give Scots a clear message that it’s safe to go back to work as part of efforts to boost the country’s economy.

Business leaders at CBI Scotland have set out a series of concrete policy recommendations for the First Minister, who is due to announce her Programme for government next week.

As well as putting in place measures to improve skills and invest in the “green economy”, CBI Scotland director Tracy Black told the SNP leader that to “build confidence” in the post-pandemic recovery, Scots should be given the green light to start returning to the office.

“During the election campaign we had parties of all stripes telling business that economic recovery was their number one priority,” Ms Black said.

“With skills shortages biting, stock levels dropping and the cost of materials soaring, it’s vital that the SNP, and their Scottish Green partners, use the Programme for Government to make good on their promise to prioritise our economic recovery.

“Part of that mission is to build confidence in the recovery by sending a clear message that it’s safe to go back to work and encouraging individuals to get out and spend money.”

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (PA)
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (PA)

University staff could strike if recorded lectures from pandemic are misused

07:36 , Laura Sharman

Universities could face potential strike action if they misuse recorded lectures and withhold performance rights from staff, a union has warned.

The University and College Union (UCU) is calling on higher education institutions to accept that those delivering recorded lectures accrue performance rights, as well as copyright of accompanying materials.

General secretary Jo Grady said: “University and college staff are rightly worried that employers could use the Covid pandemic as an excuse to record lectures and store them for later use.”

A number of UK universities are planning to keep lectures online this term as they adopt a blended approach to learning, with a mix of in-person and online teaching for students.

Storing old recorded lectures to reuse at a later date has the potential to “degrade student learning and academic standards”, the union has warned.

It says staff must retain control over their recorded lectures, seminars and teaching sessions to ensure their work is not used without their permission to justify job cuts or break industrial action.

Ms Grady added: “Staff put a huge amount of effort into creating lectures, and regularly update and adapt them in response to recent events and changes in teaching methods.

“Reusing old lectures divorces the material from the context in which it was created, and has the potential to degrade student learning and academic standards, so providers need to reassure both students and staff that they will not misuse recorded lectures.”

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