UK encourages booster jabs, resists new virus restrictions
Nearly one million people in England had Covid in the week to 16 October, the Office for National Statistics estimates, equating to around one in 55 people – a rise on the previous week.
As the race between inoculations and infections intensifies, ministers are reportedly mulling whether to cut the interval between coronavirus booster jabs and second vaccine doses from six months to five.
With former health secretary Jeremy Hunt among those to have called for “more flexibility” in the winter rollout, Boris Johnson said the time period between jabs was an “extremely important point” and stressed the need to “keep going as fast as possible”.
But, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s deputy chair Professor Anthony Harnden said that while the advisory body will consider cutting the booster interval, six months appears to be the “sweet spot”.
Defending the government’s decision not to implement its “plan B” measures amid severe warnings of an early NHS winter crisis, care minister Gillian Keegan insisted that death rates remain “very low” – despite the UK recording 912 fatalities in the past week.
Covid situation in UK ‘not healthy’, WHO warns
The World Health Organisation’s special envoy on Covid-19 has was warned that it is “not a healthy situation in the UK right now”, and appeared to contest Boris Johnson’s government’s vision of “living with the virus”.
“If I were in a responsible position I’d be asking myself how much longer before we do start to introduce proper mask-wearing mandates,” Dr David Nabarro told Sky News.
“Vaccines are fantastic lifesavers … but on their own they don’t offer what we believe to be sufficient to get this pandemic under control. Now it’s really important everybody should be wearing masks, particularly in crowded places, everybody should be practicing social distancing and being careful on hygiene.
“Living with the virus doesn’t mean letting go and letting it roam everywhere. Living with the virus means being super careful about it and getting on with our lives.”
Andy Gregory22 October 2021 13:30
Number of adults not working from home at highest level in a year
The number of adults travelling to work in the past week is at its highest level in a year, figures show.
More than half (54 per cent) of working adults said they went to a place of work without working from home (WFH) – when questioned by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is the highest proportion for a year.
At the same time, about one in seven working adults (15 per cent) worked solely from home, and 16 per cent reported a hybrid of travelling to work and WFH.
The ONS analysed responses from 4,004 adults between 6 and 17 October 6 as part of its Opinions and Lifestyle survey.
Lamiat Sabin22 October 2021 13:15
West of England regions and Wales seeing highest rates of infection
The percentage of people testing positive for Covid is estimated to have increased in all regions of England except for a few – the Office for National Statistics said.
In north-west England and south-west England, around one in 45 people was likely to test positive in the week to 16 October.
This was the highest proportion for any region.
In the south-east and the West Midlands, rates of infection appeared to level off, and the trend was uncertain in north-east England and Yorkshire and the Humber.
London and south-east England had the lowest proportion, at around one in 75.
In Wales, around one in 45 people is estimated to have had Covid in the week to 16 October, unchanged from the previous week and the highest since estimates began in July 2020.
In Northern Ireland, the latest estimate is one in 130, down from one in 120 the previous week.
For Scotland, the ONS estimates around one in 90 people had Covid in the week to 16 October, down from one in 80 the previous week.
All figures are for people in private households.
Lamiat Sabin22 October 2021 13:00
Nearly one million people in England had Covid last week
Almost one million people in England had Covid in the week to 16 October, according to an estimate by the Office for National Statistics.
The infection figure – of 977,900 people – equates to around one in 55 people, and is a big jump on the week before.
Lamiat Sabin22 October 2021 12:40
How to order a lateral flow test for travel – explained
From Sunday 24 October, double-jabbed travellers can substitute a PCR test for a lateral flow test as their “day two” test when they arrive in the UK.
Lucy Thackray explains how to order one:
Lamiat Sabin22 October 2021 12:24
Mortality rates ‘significantly’ higher than in 2020, ONS says
Mortality rates in England and Wales in September were “significantly” higher this year than in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Some 966.2 deaths per 100,000 people were registered in England last month, up from 885.5 in September 2020.
In Wales the figure was 1,056.4 per 100,000, up from 946.2 in 2020.
There continue to be many more people dying than usual for this time of year, with 7,215 extra deaths registered in England last month – nearly 20 per cent above the pre-pandemic average.
Andy Gregory22 October 2021 12:00
Here’s more from care minister Gillian Keegan’s media round this morning:
- Responding to calls to relax rules for foreign workers to ease the strain on England’s NHS and care services, which the Care Quality Commission warned face “a tsunami of unmet need”, Ms Keegan told Sky News: “I don’t think that is really the answer, hoovering up everybody else’s social care.”
- Speaking shortly after Sajid Javid urged MPs to “lead by example” in wearing face masks in the Commons, she suggested that doing so should not become a “sign of virtue”, adding: “It’s about personal choice, we’re not the sort of country that tells you what to wear.”
- The minister said that any decision to cut the booster jab interval will depend on the advice of the experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who have advised a gap of six months.
Andy Gregory22 October 2021 11:44
GPs to be balloted on industrial action over Javid’s ‘name and shame’ reforms
GPs are set to be balloted on industrial action over controversial reforms proposed by Sajid Javid, my colleague Lamiat Sabin reports.
At a British Medical Association (BMA) meeting, “outraged” doctors in England voted unanimously to reject the government’s plans, which would see GP surgeries ranked in league tables to “name and shame” those that do not carry out enough face-to-face appointments with their patients.
And from early November, GPs will have to have their names and wages published if they earn an NHS salary of more than £150,000 – which the BMA argues “provides no benefit to patients or their care, yet will potentially increase acts of aggression towards GPs, will damage morale amongst the profession, and only worsen practices’ ability to recruit and retain GPs”.
Andy Gregory22 October 2021 11:25
‘Madness’ for nightclubs to reopen in Northern Ireland, BMA says
A Stormont decision to lift coronavirus rules despite mounting pressures on the health service has been branded “complete madness” by medics.
Dr Tom Black, chair of the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland council, said the relaxations planned for the end of the month would ultimately lead to more Covid-19 deaths.
He criticised the move as “stupidity” as he warned the health system in the region was facing its “worst crisis ever” this winter as it dealt with the “triple whammy” of Covid, winter pressures and spiralling waiting lists.
Andy Gregory22 October 2021 11:04
Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more on the deputy chair of the JCVI’s suggestion that the current booster jab interval of six months is the “sweet spot”.
“Whether it’s five months or whether it’s seven months isn’t so important, but I think what is important is that people get their booster dose,” Professor Anthony Harnden told the BBC.
Andy Gregory22 October 2021 10:35