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The WHO said the variant has mutations suggesting it could be more resistant to vaccines but that more studies would be needed to examine this further.
Meanwhile, a new study by King’s College London has found that having two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine almost halves the likelihood of long Covid.
What do we know about the Mu Covid strain?
22:15 , Rachael Burford
Scientists are concerned that the newly identified Mu variant may be able to evade the immunity people have developed from vaccinations or previously having the virus.
The strain, also known as B.1.621, was added to the WHO’s watchlist on August 30.
Read what we know about the strain so far here.
UK must speed up jabs for 16-17 year old, says PM
21:27 , Rachael Burford
Boris Johnson has said the UK needs to speed up its vaccination of 16 and 17-year olds, despite there being a strong uptake of the jab within the age group.
Figures show that almost two-thirds of 16 and 17-year-olds in Wales have had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and half of the age group in England and Scotland have been jabbed.
The Prime Minister said teenagers were “a very important group for potential transmission”.
“I would urge all 16 to 17-year-olds, everybody who knows 16 to 17-year-olds – the numbers are coming up very fast now, it is very encouraging to see more and more 16 to 17-year-olds taking the jab – but we need to go faster with those,” he told reporters at Merville Barracks in Colchester on Thursday.
Read more here.
Queen to miss Royal Scots Dragoon Guards 50th anniversary
21:05 , Rachael Burford
The Queen will miss an Edinburgh service marking the 50th anniversary of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards as predicted bad weather could disrupt her travel plans.
The head of state was due to travel by helicopter to the event being staged in the grounds of the Palace of Holyrood house on Friday.
But a Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “Predicted weather conditions for the morning suggest travel disruption is likely and Her Majesty wishes to avoid any delay to the service.”
The Duke of Kent, the regiment’s deputy Colonel-in-Chief, was due to accompany the Queen and will still attend the Drumhead service.
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards’ recent commitments include Operation Cabrit, the UK contribution to Nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Poland and the Baltic states, as well as supporting NHS Scotland throughout the pandemic with Covid-19 testing and vaccination programmes.
Self-isolation rules for students
20:09 , Rachael Burford
Rules requiring students to self-isolate if they come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid may need to be reintroduced if cases start to rise, a teaching union has warned.
The NASUWT said ministers must not “cross their fingers and hope for the best” if numbers begin to increase following the start of the school year.
The warning comes as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he will “move heaven and earth” to avoid shutting schools again, but did not rule out a rise in Covid-19 infections being caused by children going back to class.
He also did not exclude classes and assemblies having to take place outside during this academic year amid coronavirus outbreaks in schools.
Pupils across England and Wales have begun to return to the classroom this week after the summer holidays, and schools in Northern Ireland have reopened.
Schools in Scotland returned a fortnight ago and the reopening is believed to have contributed to a rise in cases north of the border.
The NASUWT is calling for the Government to step up coronavirus control measures in schools.
Dr Patrick Roach, the union’s general secretary, said: “Ministers must not risk complacency or follow a strategy of crossing their fingers and hoping for the best if the number of Covid cases rises following school reopening.
“We only need to look across the border to Scotland to see that there has been a steep increase in Covid cases among school-age pupils within just a couple of weeks.
“In the event of rising case numbers, ministers will need to consider the reintroduction of the requirement for pupils to self-isolate when they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.”
Boris Johnson urges elderly to get third jab
18:36 , Rachael Burford
Boris Johnson has urged older people to come forward for Covid booster jabs.
The Prime Minister added that the UK needs to “go faster” with vaccinating 16 and 17-year-olds.
Speaking to reporters at the Merville Barracks in Colchester, he said: “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 - in this month - and we are going ahead with that.
“What I would also say is 16 to 17-year-olds are eligible, they have been approved, they are a very important group for potential transmission.
“I would urge all 16 to 17-year-olds, everybody who knows 16 to 17-year-olds - the numbers are coming up very fast now, it is very encouraging to see more and more 16 to 17-year-olds taking the jab - but we need to go faster with those.”
Suicide rate fell during lockdown, data shows
17:53 , Rachael Burford
Suicide rates in England and Wales fell during the first national coronavirus lockdown, analysis of death registrations suggests.
Some 1,603 suicides occurred between April and July 2020, around three-quarters of which were of men, according to analysis of provisional data by the Office for National Statistics.
This is down 18 per cent from the same period in 2019 and 12.7 per cent below the average for the previous five years.
It equates to a mortality rate of 9.2 deaths per 100,000 people, significantly lower than rates for the same period in the previous three years, but similar to the 2016 rate.
The fall was primarily fuelled by a drop in the male suicide rate (to 13.9 deaths per 100,000 males), while the female rate remained at a similar level (4.7 deaths per 100,000 females).
The Samaritans called the data “very reassuring” and called for the Government to introduce a national system of real-time suicide reporting to help sustain the fall.
Covid cases delays Top Gun release
17:17 , Rachael Burford
Tom Cruise’s new films Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7 have been delayed amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in the US.
Paramount said the Top Gun sequel will now arrive in May next year instead of November 2021.
Mission: Impossible 7 has been moved from its May 2022 planned opening to the following September.
The studio also pushed back the release of comedy Jackass Forever from October to February.
The moves come as the US experiences another wave of Covid-19 driven by increasing cases of the more transmissible Delta variant.
It has left studios fearing the virus’ re-emergence will keep customers away from cinemas.
SAGE members targeted by anti-vax groups
15:16 , Rachael Burford
Scientists advising the Government during the coronavirus pandemic have been sent suspicious packages from people who feel they are “making bad decisions”, one expert has revealed.
Professor Calum Semple, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said he had been on the receiving end of a “particularly nasty” experience.
Professor Roger Kirby asked: “You’ve been targeted by the anti-vax group, haven’t you?”
Prof Semple said that was correct and added: “We are fortunate that the police are open to hearing from us and there’s good liaison support for us when these threats are made. That was one particularly nasty event.
“There have been others since then and suspicious packages sent to Sage members and myself.
“This comes from both extremes – people that feel that we’re making bad decisions and they don’t appreciate that Sage is not a decision-making body.”
Four in five travellers from amber locations stuck to quarantine rules – survey
13:41 , Barney Davis
Four out of five arrivals from amber list locations adhered to coronavirus quarantine requirements in July, research suggests.
Some 83% of respondents to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey of 848 adults arriving in England from an amber country or territory between July 12 and 17 said they self-isolated.
They were required to quarantine for 10 days unless they were exempt due to their job, or they took part in the Test to Release scheme.
Nine out of 10 respondents said they took both of the required day-two and day-eight coronavirus tests.
Expect case surge says Professor Lockdown
13:40 , Barney Davis
A “significant surge” in cases is expected in the UK but it is too early to say whether that might mean the relaxation of restrictions needs to be rolled back, a leading expert has said.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, said if daily cases start going above 100,000 to 150,000 there will be “significant demands on the health system”.
He said: “We expect to see quite a significant surge in cases, to some extent in hospitalisations, but whether that’s going to require any rolling back of the relaxation of restrictions is too early to say. It really depends on the level of healthcare demand.”
He said if an unvaccinated population of 5 or 10% all got Covid in a short period of time it would result in a “large healthcare burden, and a large number of deaths” and that it could also “have a risk of significantly overwhelming health systems even in high income countries such as the UK”.
Suicide rate actually fell during first lockdown
10:58 , Barney Davis
The suicide rate in England and Wales fell during the first national coronavirus lockdown, analysis of death registrations suggests.
Some 1,603 suicides occurred between April and July 2020, around three-quarters of which were of males, according to analysis of provisional data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is down 18% from the same period in 2019 and 12.7% below the average for the previous five years.
It equates to a mortality rate of 9.2 deaths per 100,000 people – significantly lower than rates for the same period in the previous three years, but similar to the 2016 rate.
Nearly 1million suffering long Covid - ONS
10:20 , Barney Davis
Nearly one million people in the UK have reported having long Covid symptoms, data released today reveals.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 970,000 say they have experienced the effects of the virus for at least four weeks.
An estimated 38,000 children in the UK aged from two to 16 had self-reported long Covid in the four weeks to August 1, the ONS said.
This is up from 34,000 in the four weeks to July 4.
Fatigue affects over half of Long Covid sufferers
10:10 , Barney Davis
Long Covid was estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 643,000 people – around two-thirds of those with self-reported long Covid – with 188,000 reporting that their ability to undertake day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”, the ONS said.
Fatigue was the most common symptom (experienced by 58% of those with self-reported long Covid), followed by shortness of breath (42%), muscle ache (32%) and difficulty concentrating (31%).
Former Health Secretary pictured in Alps with aide lover
09:33 , Barney Davis
Matt Hancock has been pictured enjoying a budget holiday with the aide he was caught kissing during lockdown.
Photographs obtained by the Daily Express show the ex-Cabinet minister and Gina Coladangelo in the Swiss Alps.
The newspaper reported the couple are staying at a two-star lodge where rooms cost as little as £87-a-night.
Mr Hancock, 42, is running the London Marathon on Oct 3 and it is thought he is using the trip for some last-minute high-altitude training, according to the Express.
Expert says just one dose of vaccine needed for children
08:31 , Barney Davis
Professor Calum Semple said he would opt for one dose of vaccine only for 12 to 15-year-olds, if it was up to him.
The professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool said he is “glad” he is not on the JCVI as “they are having a tough time of it”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I would probably go for a single dose of the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds, as a one-off – in order to help public health generally, break transmission chains in society. The rare side effect of myocarditis appears to be associated more with the second dose than the first dose.
“So I would probably go down the path of giving one dose only, as a one-off, and then waiting until children are much older before we go for the double jab.”
Give Covid vaccine to children, says Gavin Williamson
08:03 , Barney Davis
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stressed that as a parent he would like to be able to choose whether his children get the innoculation.
He said the NHS was ready to send health staff into schools to deliver the jabs.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation on Wednesday recommended that around half a million people who have severely weakened immune systems should be offered a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
However, asked if the JCVI should get a “wiggle on” about decisions on booster and jabs for children, Mr Williamson told Sky News: “Speaking as a parent myself, I think parents would find it incredibly reassuring to know that they had a choice as to whether their child would be vaccinated or not.”
Gavin Williamson can’t rule out case rise as schools return
07:57 , Barney Davis
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson did not rule out a rise in coronavirus infections being caused by children going back to classrooms.
After being asked repeatedly, he told Sky News: “This is why we’re doing the testing programme and we’re encouraging children to take part in it, parents, and of course teachers and support staff as well.
“This is a way of rooting out Covid.
“We’re trying to strike that constant, sensible balance of actually giving children as normal experience in the classroom as possible, but also recognising we’re still dealing with a global pandemic.”
Anti-vax podcast star Joe Rogan tests positive for Covid-19
07:40 , Barney Davis
Joe Rogan, the mega-popular podcast host who has suggested that young, fit people don’t need to get the COVID-19 vaccine, has announced he tested positive for the virus.
In an Instagram video, the 54-year-old host of the Joe Rogan Experience, said he felt “very weary” on Saturday and got tested for COVID-19 the following day.
“Throughout the night I got fevers, sweats, and I knew what was going on,” Rogan told his 13.1 million followers.
After the diagnosis, he said he “immediately threw the kitchen sink at it.” He used a cocktail of unproven drugs including a horse de-wormer that the FDA do not recommend for human consumption.
The Food and Drug Administration is urging people to stop ingesting the animal version of the drug to fight COVID-19, warning it can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, neurologic disorders and potentially severe hepatitis requiring hospitalization.
Good morning and welcome to the Evening Standard’s coverage of the latest Covid-19 developments
07:36 , Barney Davis