Another quick Reuters snap here – Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to introduce a travel corridor between them on a gradual basis, starting with key areas like capital cities and the holiday island of Bali, the two countries’ leaders have said.
Speaking in Indonesia on his first official visit overseas, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob also said Malaysia would grant an amnesty to Indonesian migrants working in the country on expired permits.
It is part of a gradual loosening of travel restrictions in the region. Yesterday Thailand said it plans to reopen its borders to workers from neighbouring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.
Singapore and Malaysia have previously announced they will allow quarantine-free travel between both countries for individuals vaccinated against Covid-19 from 29 November.
WHO’s Covid envoy Nabarro criticises Boris Johnson for maskless hospital appearance
Dr David Nabarro, special envoy on Covid-19 for the World Health Organization, has just criticised UK prime minister Boris Johnson for appearing in a hospital without wearing a face mask on Sky News. He said:
I’m not sitting on the fence on this one. Where you’ve got large amounts of virus being transmitted, everybody should do everything to avoid either getting the virus or inadvertently passing it on. And we know that wearing a face mask reduces the risk. We know that maintaining physical distance reduces the risk. We know that hygiene by regular handwashing and sneezing and coughing into your elbow reduces the risk.
We should do it all. And we should not rely on any one intervention like vaccination on its own. So yes, yes, yes, please – would every leader be wearing face masks, particularly when in indoor settings, and could everybody please be face-masked if they possibly can when they’re up close and personal with other people, especially in non-ventilated environments. This virus is unforgiving and we need to do everything possible to prevent it getting in between us and affecting us.
No 10 has insisted that Boris Johnson followed the rules – despite the website of the Hexham General hospital he visited saying masks should be worn at all times. Johnson did wear a mask at some points during the visit. A source told the Guardian’s political correspondent Aubrey Allegretti that the maskless pictures were taken when he had just left a meeting where he was speaking, was not in a clinical area, and put a mask on shortly afterwards.
The hospital incident follows Johnson being seen unmasked at Cop26 while those around him – including veteran TV presenter David Attenborough – were wearing theirs.
A quick snap from Reuters that Vietnam will by the end of this month have sufficient vaccines to cover its population against Covid-19, a deputy prime minister has said.
“The fight against the pandemic, however, will continue,” Vu Duc Dam told the national assembly, adding people must maintain health protocols.
Dr Maggie Wearmouth, who sits on the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in the UK, said that legislating mandatory vaccines for frontline health and care workers in England was a “blunt instrument” but she was “supportive” of the move. PA Media quote him telling LBC Radio:
I’m broadly in favour of this move. I think legislation is a blunt instrument, but as frontline health and social care workers our goal and our main responsibility should be the health and protection of the very vulnerable, frail and elderly patients in our care.
As a frontline health worker myself, I find it incomprehensible that someone would want to work in a job like mine and wish not to be vaccinated, so I broadly support it.
Daily testing is really quite cumbersome. I test twice a week and that’s bad enough. I do think that you make a choice if you’re a frontline worker, and the choice should be to protect your patients.
‘No scapegoating, no singling out, no shaming’ of NHS staff who won’t take vaccine – Javid
UK health secretary Sajid Javid has made a slightly belated appearance on Sky News – he got lost in the Cop26 corridors on the way to the studio – and the first topic has been the newly announced vaccine mandate for NHS staff. He said:
This is about patient safety. We know that the vaccines work. We also know that patients in hospital care, these are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. And if they are exposed to Covid it could be fatal, and I think it’s our duty to make sure that they are as safe as they can be.
There will be absolutely no scapegoating, no singling out, no shaming, but working with colleagues to support them in every way that we can to help them make this positive decision. So they can protect themselves, their colleagues, and most of all their patients.
I don’t want to see anyone lose their job. I don’t want to see anyone have to walk away from their job. Most of all, what I don’t want to see is someone being exposed to Covid when it could have been prevented. And perhaps they might even die from that, and I think that would be totally unacceptable.
Czech Republic records highest number of new Covid cases since March
The Czech Republic has recorded its highest number of Covid cases since March 2021, with 14,539 new positive tests. While we tend to look at longer trends than day-by-day, this is significantly higher caseload than yesterday’s total of 9,253, which will be a concern to authorities.
The Denik N news site reported that there was a total of 336 new hospitalisations. That makes 3,295 Covid patients in Czech hospitals, of which 462 were in the ICU.
Ladislav Dušek, director of the country’s health information and statistics organisation, warned that “high numbers of infections in the most vulnerable part of the population increases the probability of an additional burden on hospitals, in numbers which can potentially double up very quickly.”
Yesterday Radio Prague International reported that the Czech government would meet today in order to discuss potentially tightening Covid restrictions across the country.
South Korea encouraged its citizens to take Covid-19 booster shots on Wednesday, as more elderly people fell ill and reported vaccine breakthrough infections, driving serious and critical cases to a record.
Severe coronavirus cases jumped from the mid-300s in October to 460 on Wednesday, official data showed. Of the severely ill patients, more than 82% were aged 60 and older.
Son Young-rae, a senior health ministry official, told a news conference that the increase is not posing a threat to the country’s healthcare system yet, as there are nearly 500 ICU beds available.
He said the speed of the rise in severe cases and the size of total infections, especially among the unvaccinated, are the major points to consider in deciding its future response to the healthcare system.
Sangmi Cha reports from Seoul for Reuters, and says that South Korea’s overall rate of vaccine breakthrough infections remains low at 85.5 people per every 100,000 inoculated.
But it has steadily risen in recent weeks, led by the elderly, as vaccine protection wanes over time and the group’s weaker immune system makes them more vulnerable to infections.
Of the total serious and critical patients with vaccine breakthrough infections in the past eight weeks, 93% were from those aged 60 and above, according to the government data.
Hello, Martin Belam here in London. Health secretary Sajid Javid is doing the morning media round in the UK – I’ll have the key quotes in due course, which will no doubt focus on the vaccine mandate for NHS staff. Here’s the latest UK figures on Covid.
Welcome back to our Covid blog this Wednesday.
I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be reporting from Sydney, Australia, to bring you all the latest headlines.
China has reported a drop in daily Covid cases for the first time since a new outbreak saw the nation implement a strict zero-Covid policy.
A total of 54 new coronavirus cases were recorded for 9 November compared with 62 a day earlier, its health authority said today.
French president Emmanuel Macron has urged for an acceleration of the nation’s Covid booster rollout while also announcing that many citizens will need a third vaccination in order to maintain a valid health pass from next month.
Here’s everything else you might have missed.
- China reports a drop in Covid cases with 54 new confirmed cases for 9 November compared with 62 a day earlier, its health authority said today.
- The Chinese city of Chengdu said it had tested 30,000 Covid-19 tests on visitors at a big entertainment centre, and rounded up those who tried to flee the site, in the second mass screening in days.
- France pushes to accelerate update of Covid-19 booster shots for elderly and vulnerable citizens. President Macron said a third injection would be made available to those aged 50-64 from early December. Anyone over 65 who was vaccinated more than six months ago will need to get a booster shot by mid-December for their “health pass” to remain valid, Macron said.
- Covid cases surge in Greece with a record of 8,613 new cases in the last 24 hours – the highest since the pandemic began. Cases have more than doubled in less than a fortnight.
- Virus deaths in Russia hit daily record of 1,211 Covid-19 deaths, the highest daily death toll in the pandemic, and 39,160 new cases. Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered many Russians last month to stay off work between 30 October and 7 November.
- Latvia, one of the least vaccinated countries in the European Union, is facing its most severe outbreak of Covid-19 yet.
- The World Health Organization has warned there could be shortfall of up to 2bn syringes in 2022, which threatens to hamper vaccine efforts globally is production does not improve, AFP reports.
- Loved ones reunite at US-Mexico border as Covid travel restrictions lifted.
- UK health secretary Sajid Javid says staff must be fully jabbed by April 2022 or risk dismissal raising concerns 32,000 care home staff and tens of thousands of NHS workers could quit.
- Daily Covid-related deaths in the UK rose above 250 again, with 262 reported on Tuesday.
- Covid-19 patients in Singapore who remain unvaccinated by choice will have to pay for their hospitalisation bills from 8 December, the government has ruled.
- Pfizer asks FDA to approve Covid booster shots for all US adults. Older Americans and other vulnerable groups have had access to a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine since September but the Food and Drug Administration has said it would move quickly to expand boosters to younger ages if warranted.
- Moderna also applied for European authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine in children aged six to 11, weeks after it delayed a similar filing with US regulators.
- The European Union drugs regulator is set to authorise the use of two monoclonal antibodies to treat Covid-19 patients in coming days, two EU sources told Reuters, in its first approvals of such therapies.
- The US will buy another $1bn-worth of the Covid-19 pill made by Merck & Co Inc and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the companies said on Tuesday.
- Canada authorised the use of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine as a booster shot for people 18 and older.