Russia has recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll yet, following an increase in cases linked to the Delta variant and what Associated Press reports is a ‘lacklustre vaccination drive’.
A government tally reported 852 fatalities over the past 24 hours, a record in Russia since the start of the pandemic.
The new figure brings the country’s total deaths from Covid-19 to 205,531 - the highest toll in Europe.
Authorities have been accused of downplaying the severity of the outbreak.
Under a broader definition for deaths linked to the coronavirus, statistics agency Rosstat reported in late August that Russia had seen more than 350,000 fatalities.
Russia, the world’s fifth worst-hit country with more than seven million infections, has seen cases climb since last month as vaccinations stall.
Moscow, the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak, has experienced a spike over the past week, with authorities warning of rising hospital admissions.
Deputy mayor Anastasia Rakova has said that the highly contagious Delta variant now accounts for all of the cases in the Russian capital.
Authorities face a vaccine-sceptic population, with polls showing that a majority of Russians do not plan to get jabbed.
The Kremlin initially set a goal of fully inoculating 60 percent of Russia’s population by September, but later dropped that target even though free jabs have been available since early December.
As of Tuesday, only 28 percent of the population had been fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid data from the regions.
In the UK parents of a teenager with special educational needs and disabilities are preparing to launch a High Court legal challenge against the Government over its guidance on Covid-19 testing for school pupils.
The Press Association reports that the family is calling for the guidance to be revised to enable children with disabilities to take “less intrusive” saliva tests as they say the current PCR swab testing unfairly disadvantages disabled pupils.
The parents of the 15-year-old have now instructed solicitors Irwin Mitchell to challenge the lawfulness of government guidance as their child is unable to take the PCR swab test due to their complex disabilities.
The guidance says pupils should follow public health advice, which says individuals should self-isolate “straight away and get a PCR test” if they have any of the three symptoms of Covid-19.
It adds pupils should continue to self-isolate whilst awaiting the PCR result.
But the parents from south-west London, who wish to remain anonymous to protect their child’s identity, say exceptions should be made for pupils who are unable to take a PCR test due to their special needs or disabilities.
Many pupils with severe disabilities are also unable to adequately complete the PCR testing required, the family’s legal team say.
Irwin Mitchell have written to Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi requesting that the guidance is revised to enable pupils with disabilities to take saliva tests.
If the Government does not change its guidance on Covid-19 PCR testing for pupils, or fails to respond to the letter, it could face a judicial review in the High Court, the lawyers say.
Angela Jackman, a specialist Irwin Mitchell lawyer representing the family, said: “This is an important issue because of the negative impact on potentially thousands of disabled pupils forced to miss vital schooling when they may not be infectious.
“It also has broader impact for individuals in other contexts who are unable to take a PCR test due their disabilities, with consequent impact upon their civil liberties if they are forced to self-isolate when they do not pose any Covid-19 risk.
“There are alternative Covid-19 tests which include saliva PCR tests or enhanced lateral flow tests which are much less intrusive and stressful for people such as our client.
“These tests are considered acceptable in other settings. We’re asking the Government to amend the guidance for schools to help disabled pupils through the testing process.”
A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesman said: “We recognise that the testing experience can be difficult for some people, which is why there are two options available for Covid-19 testing.
“Those who are unable to take a Covid-19 test and have symptoms, or have been told to self-isolate, are advised to continue to self-isolate as a household and follow the latest government guidance.”
In Australia, the unvaccinated face a “difficult life indefinitely”, the state Premier of New South Wales has warned.
The biggest city in the state, Sydney, is beginning to open up post-lockdown – but only to those who are fully vaccinated. Under a roadmap to exit lockdown, unvaccinated people in Sydney will have their freedom delayed, while those who have been jabbed can begin to leave their houses and return to normality next month.
The unvaccinated could still be barred from some social activities even when they are freed from stay-at-home orders in early December, New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian warned on Tuesday.
Berejiklian said people who choose not to be vaccinated could be barred entry to shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.
“A lot of businesses have said they will not accept anyone who is unvaccinated,” Berejiklian told Seven News on Tuesday. “Life for the unvaccinated will be very difficult indefinitely.”
The two-tier system, designed to encourage more people to get vaccinated, has been criticised for both penalising vulnerable groups who have not had access to inoculations and for falling short of providing a real incentive for the vaccine hesitant.
Pubs, cafes, gyms and hairdressers open for the vaccinated on 11 October and more curbs will be eased once 80% of its adult population becomes fully vaccinated.
Australia is pursuing a faster reopening through higher vaccination rates despite persistent infections, largely in its two biggest cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Along with the capital, Canberra, both cities are in a weeks-long lockdown.
The Delta-fuelled outbreak has divided state and territory leaders, with some presiding over virus-free parts of the country indicating they will defy a federal plan to reopen internal borders once the adult population reaches 80% vaccination, expected in November. The national vaccine rate is currently about 52%.
In the US, hospitals in the state of New York have begun the process of firing or suspending healthcare workers who are not fully vaccinated. The resulting staff shortages are leading to elective surgeries being postponed and services restricted in other ways.
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference that while the city’s hospitals were not yet seeing a major impact from the mandate he was worried about other areas of the wider state where vaccination rates are lower.
Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo suspended elective inpatient surgeries and stopped accepting intensive-care patients from other hospitals as it prepares to fire hundreds of unvaccinated employees, a spokesman Peter Cutler told Reuters.
Cutler said the decision to curtail some operations would inconvenience patients and hurt hospital finances. Elective inpatient surgeries bring in about $1m per week, he said.
“We had to make a decision as to where we could temporarily make some changes so that we could ensure other areas of services are as little affected as possible,” Cutler said. “Financially, it’s a big deal.”
New York’s state health department issued an order last month mandating that all healthcare workers receive at least their first Covid-19 shot by 27 September, triggering a rush by hospitals to get their employees inoculated.
Of the 43,000 employees at the New York City’s 11 public hospitals, about 5,000 were not vaccinated, Dr Mitchell Katz, head of NYC Health + Hospitals, said at the news conference with de Blasio.
Katz said 95% of nurses were vaccinated and all the group’s facilities were “open and fully functional” on Monday.
On Saturday, New York governor Kathy Hochul said she was considering employing the National Guard and out-of-state medical workers to fill staffing shortages, with 16% of the state’s 450,000 hospital staff not fully vaccinated.
The co-founder of a bereaved families group in the UK has said he hopes the British prime minister will “at long last … take us seriously” when he meets members at Downing Street this week.
Matt Fowler, who helped set up the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, said the most important thing is for Boris Johnson to understand the necessity of starting the public inquiry as soon as possible.
The PM is hosting a private meeting with representatives of the group later today – more than a year after promising to meet with those bereaved by the pandemic.
Families have asked for it to take place outdoors with social distancing.
They will share stories of how their loved ones caught the virus and died, and repeat their calls for the promised public inquiry to be prioritised.
Fowler told PA Media: “I think it’s going to be something incredibly, incredibly difficult for our representatives who will be there.
“And I’m just really hoping that the prime minister will at long last take it seriously and take us seriously – we definitely feel like we haven’t been.”
The 34-year-old from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, added: “We haven’t been standing in the streets and shouting at him about how it’s all his fault and making accusations against him because as far as we’re concerned, that doesn’t help anybody.
“What’s important for us, what should be important for everybody, is the work that goes into this is about protecting people and saving lives.”
Fowler’s father, Ian, who developed coronavirus symptoms in the week before the first national lockdown, died in hospital in April 2020 aged 56.
He described his father, a former design engineer at Jaguar Land Rover, as the “life and soul of every party – including the ones he wasn’t actually invited to”.
He was an “immensely well-known, popular, well-loved guy” who enjoyed playing snooker during his semi-retirement.
Issues the group plans to raise during Tuesday’s meeting include the disproportionate effect of the virus on some ethnic minority groups, public transport and workplace transmission, the impact of repeated late lockdowns, and failures to learn lessons from the first wave.
Johnson has previously said the inquiry will start in spring 2022.
Elkan Abrahamson, the director and head of major inquiries at the law firm Broudie Jackson Canter, will represent the group at the upcoming inquiry. He has represented families at the Hillsborough and Manchester Arena bombing inquests.
Mr Abrahamson, who will attend Tuesday’s meeting, said the PM will be asked for timings on when an inquiry chair and panel will be appointed and when hearings can start.
The group also wants him to ensure that bereaved families will be properly consulted throughout the process.
He told PA Media: “It’s not impractical to suggest that oral hearings can start pretty soon. It might be impractical to suggest you can have the whole thing done and dusted in three months because you can’t.
“But it’s about saving lives, and if there was a particular area where lives could arguably be saved by a detailed analysis of the position, and hearing expert evidence, that would be the way to go.”
In Europe’s least vaccinated countries, Bulgaria and Romania, the delta variant is putting hospitals under pressure.
The Associated Press reports that while around 72 per cent of adults across the entire EU have been fully vaccinated, there is a far lower uptake in some eastern european countries.
Bulgaria and Romania are lagging dramatically behind as the EU’s two least-vaccinated nations, with just 22% and 33% of their adult populations fully inoculated.
Rapidly increasing new infections have forced authorities to tighten virus restrictions in the two countries, while other EU nations such as France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal have all exceeded 80% vaccine coverage and have begun to ease restrictions.
In Norway, which has vaccinated around 70%, authorities on Saturday scrapped restrictions that Prime Minister Erna Holberg called “the strictest measures in peacetime.” Denmark lifted virus restrictions on Sept. 10, while the U.K. has also abandoned most pandemic restrictions due to high vaccine rates.
Stella Kyriakides, the EU’s health commissioner, said the “worrying gap” on vaccinations needs urgently addressing.
At Bucharest’s Marius Nasta Institute of Pneumology, the ICU’s chief doctor, Genoveva Cadar, says its beds are now at 100% capacity and around 98% of all its virus patients are unvaccinated.
“In comparison to previous waves, people are arriving with more severe forms” of the disease, she said, adding that many patients in this latest surge are younger than in previous ones. “Very quickly they end up intubated — and the prognosis is extremely bleak.”
Daily new coronavirus infections in Romania, a country of 19 million, have grown exponentially over the last month. Government data shows that 91.5% of COVID-19 deaths in Romania between Sept. 18-23 were people who had not been vaccinated.
On Sunday, 1,220 of Romania’s 1,239 ICU beds for virus patients were occupied.
In a packed intensive care unit for coronavirus patients in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, 55-year-old Adrian Pica spoke to Associated Press from his bed. “Until now I didn’t believe in COVID-19,” Pica, who said his early symptoms left him sweating and feeling suffocated. “I thought it was just like the flu. But now I’m sick and hospitalized. I want to get a vaccine.”
Vlad Mixich, a Romanian public health specialist, told the AP that a “historic distrust of authorities” together with what he said was a very weak government vaccination campaign has contributed to the low vaccine uptake among his compatriots.
In neighboring Bulgaria 23% of people said they do not want to get vaccinated, compared with only 9% across the bloc, according to a Eurobarometer survey.
Sabila Marinova, the ICU manager at a hospital in Bulgaria’s northern town of Veliko Tarnovo, says none of its COVID-19 patients is vaccinated.
“We are very exhausted,” she said. “It seems that this horror has no end.”
The coronavirus pandemic has made people in the UK more likely to support the use of technology such as artificial intelligence and data analytics in enhancing public safety, a report argues.
A study by Goldsmiths University and Motorola found that three-quarters of people surveyed believed technology should be used to help emergency services predict risk, while a similar number said all forms of technology including video surveillance, needed to be more widely used to address the challenges of the modern world.
The Consensus for Change report says that in the wake of the pandemic and high-speed innovative developments like vaccines and contact tracing, the public is willing to place greater trust in new tech.
“Citizens all over the world are coming to terms with what it means to live with Covid-19 and how it impacts their safety,” Dr Chris Brauer, director of the Goldsmiths research team, said.
“Our shared experience of the pandemic has made us realise that technology can play a far greater role in keeping us safe and has increased our understanding of why public safety and enterprise organisations need it to respond to new threats.”
The research suggests that the pandemic may have even softened some attitudes on subjects such as data collection – according to the report, 78% of people in the UK said they were also willing to trust organisations to hold their data so long as it was used appropriately and in the interest of public safety.
A major study of vaccine hesitancy among schoolchildren has found that younger children and those who are from more deprived communities were the most hesitant to get the jab. Those who were less willing to be vaccinated also felt less connected to their school community.
Researchers say the study shows the need to focus information more on social media than in traditional news outlets so that it can reach a younger audience.
More than 27,000 students in England aged between nine and 18 took part in the survey, which showed that 50% were willing to have a coronavirus vaccination, 37% were undecided while 13% wanted to opt out.
Just over a third (36%) of nine-year-olds were willing to have a jab, compared with 51% of 13-year-olds and 78% of 17-year-olds.
The study was carried out in schools across Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Merseyside between May and July this year – before the government made the decision to offer the vaccine to this age group.
Researchers at the University of Oxford, University College London (UCL) and the University of Cambridge are calling for more resources to be provided to communities to ensure young people feel the vaccine is safe.
Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told a Science Media Centre briefing the study highlights “that we’ve actually missed this really important group in making sure they have access to information”.
“And of course they don’t access their information by reading the newspaper or watching broadcast news,” he added. “A lot of it is through social media. We have some work to do in order to improve that.”
Parents in England warned over vaccine hoax letters
An NHS England medical director has warned parents against hoax Covid vaccine letters aimed at spreading misinformation, PA Media reports. Three million youngsters aged 12-15 across the UK are now eligible to receive a first jab as part of a programme that began on 20 September and is expected to be delivered primarily within schools.
But some headteachers have reportedly been targeted by letters which include a “consent checklist”, under a fake NHS logo, which they are asked to share with students.
After a parent shared one of these “checklists” on Twitter, NHS England medical director for Covid immunisation Dr Jonathan Leach replied: “Just to confirm that this is not a legitimate NHS form.”
Earlier in September, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it was aware some schools have been receiving campaign letters and emails with “misinformation” about the vaccine programme, following ministers allowing children aged 12 to 15 to get a first jab.
Yesterday, education secretary Nadhim Zahawi wrote in the Daily Telegraph that vaccination was not mandatory and remained a personal choice, but was critical of those who have abused and threatened school staff.
“As education secretary, I want teachers and students to know that I will always stand up for them and tackle harassment head on, so teachers can do their vital jobs safely and children can get the education they deserve – regardless of choices made over vaccination,” he wrote.
Japan to end state of emergency
India reports lowest deaths since mid-March
Hello and welcome to today’s live coronavirus coverage.
India reported 179 Covid deaths on Tuesday, the smallest daily toll since the middle of March, taking the total to 447,373. Infections rose by 18,795, the smallest increase since early March, lifting the total to about 33.7 million, health ministry data showed.
Meanwhile, Japan will lift a coronavirus state of emergency in all regions on Thursday as the number of new cases falls and the strain on the medical system eases, economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said. The plan, approved by a government advisory panel, takes Japan as a whole out of an emergency state for the first time in nearly six months.
Here are the other key recent developments:
- Covid infection control measures in UK hospitals should be relaxed to help the NHS tackle a record backlog of patients waiting for treatment, the UK’s public health agency has advised.
- In the US, president Joe Biden has had a coronavirus booster jab, the White House confirmed. It comes days after his administration gave the go-ahead for a third shot of Pfizer’s vaccine in certain populations.
- The British prime minister Boris Johnson has finally agreed to meet the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group at Downing Street, well over a year after first promising to do so.
- The UK has fully vaccinated more than two-thirds of its population against Covid – one of a small number of countries to reach the milestone.
- In the US, hospital and nursing home workers in New York must be vaccinated against Covid by the end of today to be allowed to continue working in their jobs.
- Australian authorities have announced plans to reopen locked-down Sydney using a two-tiered system that will give people who are vaccinated against Covid more more freedoms than their unvaccinated neighbours for several weeks.
- South Korea has announced it will begin vaccinating children aged 12 to 17 and offering Covid vaccine booster shots to those 75 years and above.
- In Northern Ireland, shoppers have been urged not to “rush at once” to apply for a high street voucher scheme. All adults are eligible for a £100 pre-paid card to spend on the high street as the government looked to boost local businesses devastated by the pandemic.