In the UK, cabinet minister Liz Truss said the Government’s decision on mandatory vaccination for care home staff was “very imminent”. Our Health policy editor Denis Campbell had this as an exclusive for us yesterday evening, writing:
Covid vaccinations are to become mandatory for care home staff under plans to be announced by ministers, as they consider extending the move to all NHS staff.
The controversial measure sets up a likely battle with staff in both services and could lead to the government being sued under European human rights law or equalities legislation for breaching the freedom of people who work in caring roles to decide what they put into their bodies.
The Guardian understands that ministers will confirm they are pushing ahead with compulsory vaccination for most of the 1.5 million people working in social care in England, despite employer and staff organisations in the sector warning that it could backfire if workers quit rather than get immunised. Under the plans those working with adults will have 16 weeks to get vaccinated or face losing their jobs.
There’s been some reaction on the airwaves, with Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group (ICG), which represents care homes in Yorkshire, saying he fears people will be put off entering the social care sector if vaccinations become mandatory for workers.
PA report he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
It’s not unexpected, I’m disappointed because I think persuasion is the way forward still because those taking the vaccination has gone up but I also say that I do believe people should be vaccinated, every member of staff should take up the vaccine. But I just think persuasion rather than coercion or compulsion is the way we have to deal with it.
What I’m worried about is the recruitment crisis already in social care, is that we’re frightened that this is going to put more people off coming into social care and that’s going to be difficult. I’m also worried about any legal action against providers, because if you’ve only got 16 weeks and you lose your job where does that put people? We’re already short of staff.
Commentator Allison Pearson is calling for Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance to be “censured by the UK statistics authority”, for using percentages rather than raw numbers, because, as far as I can tell, she is still refusing to grasp the idea that a small number that doubles every few days rapidly becomes a larger number.
For example, at the moment the number of patients with Covid in hospital is, according to UK government data, 1,136.
On 15 September 2020, the number of patients in hospital was at a lower level, at 1,057. By 5 October, due to the rate of increase, that number had reached 3,376. Another four weeks later, and it had reached over 14,000.
That is the scenario that Vallance and Whitty believe a four week delay to get more people in loosening restrictions can avoid again.
China continues to close in on administering 1bn vaccines – official figures reported by Reuters show that yesterday China administered about 19.8m doses. That takes the overall tally to 923m.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned about possible food shortages and called for his people to brace for extended Covid-19 restrictions as he opened a major political conference to discuss national efforts to salvage a broken economy.
The North’s fragile economy has decayed further amid pandemic border closures, which choked off trade with China, while devastating typhoons and floods last summer decimated crops.
Monitors assessing the situation in North Korea have yet to see signs of mass starvation or major instability, but some analysts say conditions could be aligning for a perfect storm that undercuts food and exchange markets and triggers public panic. The Korea Development Institute, a South Korean government think tank, said last month the North could face food shortages of around a million tons this year.
Kim Tong-Hyung reports for Associated Press that experts widely doubt North Korea’s claim that it has not had a single Covid case, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border with China, its major ally and economic lifeline.
Politico’s London Playbook this morning has what it is labelling a scoop about a government document setting out proposals for what life in the UK might look like once step 4 of the unlocking roadmap is reached. The key points from the White Hall document include:
Read more here: Politico London Playbook – Living with corona
In the UK, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has not made many friends in the NHS overnight with his statement in his ConservativeHome podcast: “Ultimately, the NHS is there to serve the British people, not the British people there to serve the NHS, and therefore we may need to spend more money on hospitals but you can’t run society just to stop the hospitals being full, otherwise you’d never let us get in our cars and drive anywhere or do any of the other things that people want to do, so there has to be some proportionality.”
The quote seems to ignore there that we do in fact in the UK take a great deal of precautions – speed limits, seat belts, an entire system for punishing dangerous driving – over driving but that’s by-the-by.
You can expect some media follow-up to those comments later on from Dr Julia Grace Patterson, who heads up the EveryDoctor campaign.
In the meantime, Rees-Mogg’s colleague Liz Truss is doing the media round, and PA report she had this to say on Sky News about his views. Truss is International Trade Secretary and presumably was hoping to talk about things other than this:
We are taking a pragmatic approach. The key is making sure that everybody gets vaccinated – by July 19 we will have all over-40s vaccinated so we are protected as a society. That’s what we need to do in order to be able to fully open up the economy.
Jacob has his views and those are his views. But what I’m telling you is the reason we are doing this, the reason we are taking these measures is to protect lives and that’s what’s important.
The NHS National Booking Service in England has opened up to 21 and 22-year-olds for the first time. Readers in England can book or manage their vaccination appointment on the NHS website.
Other nations in the UK can find out the latest status for booking a vaccine here:
Northern Ireland had previously opened up jabs to anyone over 18. Authorities in Wales say that every adult should have already been offered their first shot of the Covid vaccine, some six weeks ahead of schedule.
Good morning, it is Martin Belam here in London, taking over from Helen Sullivan. The UK media round this morning is likely to feature lots of questions about whether there will be a parliamentary revolt in the UK today over the government’s decision to push back the lifting of restrictions in England until 19 July.
Sam Blewett, PA Media’s deputy political editor, reminds us that the House of Commons will vote this evening on the four-week delay to the end of lockdown measures, aimed at buying more time for the vaccine programme.
Labour, the largest opposition party, has signalled it will back the extension. That means it will pass for sure, but the usual Conservative lockdown-sceptic suspects are likely to express their anger during a debate.
Johnson will face Sir Keir Starmer at prime minister’s questions at noon, but it will be health secretary Matt Hancock who will open the debate on extending the restrictions.
Delays are also expected to hit Scotland after the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the mainland’s move to the lowest level of restrictions will “likely” be delayed by three weeks.
Martin Farrer and Helen Davidson:
An outbreak of Covid-19 in southern China has combined with the rapid reopening of the world economy and a shortage of shipping containers to cause a surge in transport costs that could fuel inflation and cause shortages of goods across the globe.
China reported 21 new coronavirus cases in the mainland on Wednesday, with 15 of them in the vital industrial province of Guangdong where restrictions have been in place for several weeks to contain an outbreak linked to the Delta variant first detected in India.
There are now 150 cases of the variant, mostly in Guangzhou city, and the lockdown has caused the city’s massive port to be severely disrupted. A separate outbreak in neighbouring Shenzhen has also added to the problem. The ports are the third and fifth largest in the world and shipping costs have spiked as a result.
Transporting a 12.2-metre (40ft) steel container by sea from Shanghai to Rotterdam now costs a record $10,522, which is nearly 300% higher than it was last year, according to Drewry Shipping.
Factory costs in China, the workshop of the world, had already risen 9% in May – the most for more than a decade – because of a rapid increase in demand as the global economy reopens and as glitches in supply chains continue to be ironed out.
Read more of Martin Farrer and Helen Davidson’s report here: Covid outbreaks in Chinese ports could cause global goods shortages
Trade unions warn about a “social tsunami”, leftwing parties of a “massacre for employment” – the imminent end of Italy’s coronavirus freeze on layoffs is causing tensions in Mario Draghi’s national unity government, AFP reports.
Supporters say the freeze, which is unique in Europe, saved thousands of jobs after the pandemic plunged Italy into deep recession – but the European Union has been disparaging, and employers are angling for its end.
Companies were first banned from sacking workers under former premier Giuseppe Conte in February 2020, when a wave of Covid-19 sparked Europe’s first nationwide lockdown in Italy. The measure was later extended.
More on New York, where some rules will remain: for now, people will continue to have to wear masks in schools, subways, large sports arenas, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, jails and prisons. Unvaccinated New Yorkers will still be subject to a mask mandate while indoors in public places.
New York has, essentially, been at that 70% mark for days. It reached 69.5% of adults vaccinated Saturday, and 69.9% on Monday.
But Cuomo said New York would remember Tuesday, 15 June — also the birthdate of his late father, the former Gov Mario Cuomo – as the date when New York “rose again.”
It’s unclear how many more people have to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity from the coronavirus, which is when so many people are resistant to the virus that it has trouble spreading.
Many experts say it’s 70% or higher. So far, about 50% of New Yorkers, of all ages, are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that 70% of adults in the state have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a threshold he said the state would celebrate by easing many of its remaining social distancing rules and shooting off fireworks.
AP: “What does 70% mean? It means that we can now return to life as we know it,” Cuomo told an invitation-only crowd at the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
Effective immediately, he said, the state is lifting rules that required many types of businesses to follow cleaning protocols or take people’s temperatures or screen them for recent Covid symptoms.
Movie theaters will no longer have to leave empty seats between patrons. Restaurants will no longer be forced to sit parties at least 6ft (2 metres) apart. Stores won’t have to limit how many customers they admit. New York had previously allowed businesses to stop enforcing social distancing and mask rules for vaccinated patrons.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said there would be fireworks displays around the state Tuesday evening to celebrate and honour essential workers.
Japan could allow up to 10,000 fans at sports events ahead of the Olympics, media reported Wednesday, as organisers weigh how many domestic fans can attend the Games, AFP reports.
The measure, intended to come into force after a coronavirus state of emergency ends on June 20, will be discussed by the government’s virus taskforce on Wednesday, the Nikkei business daily and Kyodo news agency said.
The plan would limit spectators to 50% of a venue’s capacity or 10,000 people, whichever is lower. It could set the boundaries for a decision by Olympic organisers on how many domestic fans, if any, can attend Games events. Overseas spectators have already been banned.
The Olympic decision is expected only after the virus emergency in Tokyo ends on June 20 and the government clarifies what measures will replace it.
Experts and officials have expressed concerns that huge crowds attending the Games could accelerate virus infections after the emergency ends.
Japan has so far seen a comparatively small virus outbreak, with slightly more than 14,000 deaths despite avoiding harsh lockdowns. But its vaccination programme has moved slower than many other developed nations, with just over 5% of the population fully inoculated so far.
Under the current state of emergency, spectators are capped at 5,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller.
The decision on Olympic fans is expected by the end of the month.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that 70% of adults in New York have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a threshold he said the state would celebrate by easing many of its remaining social distancing rules and shooting off fireworks.
Meanwhile Japan could allow up to 10,000 fans at sports events ahead of the Olympics, media reported Wednesday. The measure, intended to come into force after a coronavirus state of emergency ends on June 20, will be discussed by the government’s virus taskforce on Wednesday, the Nikkei business daily and Kyodo news agency said.
Here are the other key recent developments: