Home » Covid Live News: French Parliament Approves ‘vaccine Pass’ Law; Italy To Mandate Vaccines For Over 50s

Covid Live News: French Parliament Approves ‘vaccine Pass’ Law; Italy To Mandate Vaccines For Over 50s

10:03

Africa CDC director: ‘severe lockdowns’ no longer needed as a tool

A quick reports from Reuters from Johannesburg here, that Africa’s top public health official said he was encouraged by the way that South Africa had handled its latest infection wave, adding that severe lockdowns were no longer a tool to contain the coronavirus.

“We are very encouraged with what we saw in South Africa in this period,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a news conference.

“The period where we are using severe lockdowns as a tool is over, we should actually be looking at how we use public health and social measures more carefully and in a balanced way as the vaccination increases.”

09:51

Rafael Nadal appears to have said the quiet part out loud. He said he felt sorry that Novak Djokovic was denied entry into Australia, but there his sympathy ended, as the Spaniard pointedly added that if players were vaccinated, they could play in the Australian Open.

Nadal, who revealed he was fully vaccinated when he contracted Covid recently, said that the world No 1 had known for months he could potentially face problems if he arrived in Australia without being vaccinated against Covid-19.

There’s more here: ‘If you are vaccinated you can play’: Rafael Nadal short on sympathy for Djokovic

09:46

My colleague Andrew Sparrow has launched our UK Covid live blog for the day. He is leading on plans to tackle the 5.8m NHS backlog being in doubt as Omicron cases rise. You can follow that here:

I’ll be continuing here with the latest coronavirus developments from around the world.

09:24

US troops in Okinawa ordered to wear masks as Covid cases rise

US troops in Okinawa prefecture have been ordered to wear masks off base amid criticism that military authorities failed to tackle a fresh Covid-19 outbreak among service personnel that has taken hold among the local civilian population in Japan.

Okinawa is at the centre of the country’s latest outbreak, with cases surging in recent days from 51 on Saturday to at least 980 on Thursday – a record daily caseload for the southern island.

Those figures omit infections among American troops but include those among Japanese citizens who work at US bases.

The mask requirement came after the foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, called for US personnel to be confined to their bases in a telephone call with the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken.

Read more of Justin McCurry’s report from Tokyo here: US troops in Okinawa ordered to wear masks as Covid cases rise

09:17

Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open journey started in comfort, and excitement. But it ended with him trapped in an immigration hotel infamous for detaining refugees, caught in the middle of a diplomatic spat between Serbia and Australia and a fight over his deportation playing out in the federal court. After touching down in Melbourne about 11.30pm local time, Djokovic never made it through arrivals. My colleague Cait Kelly explains where we are now, as the court wrangle ensues.

Read more here: ‘We await the champion’: how Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open trip went from elation to detention

09:13

The trial of two politicians and two hoteliers over their alleged breach of Covid restrictions in organising a golf society dinner is to begin later today in County Galway in Ireland.

The four men face a single charge that on 19 August 2020 they organised an event that contravened the Health Act 1947, as amended, to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19.

The dinner was attended by 81 people, and the public backlash over the event led to the resignation of then agriculture minister Dara Calleary, while a number of other Fianna Fail and Fine Gael senators lost the party whip.

PA Media report that the Oireachtas Golf Society has since been disbanded. The trial is expected to take up to five days with more than 50 prosecution witnesses set to be called.

09:02

In the UK, Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, has told Sky News that a growing number of doctors and support staff are isolating or have Covid.

PA Media quote him saying: “We’ve got very significant pressures in general practice, which are long-standing of course but are made considerably worse by the Covid pandemic, and particularly by this Omicron variant.

“We’ve got a growing number of clinicians and administrative staff in general practice who are either unwell or who are isolating, and are unable to contribute to the growing number of consultations that we’re providing and the vaccination programme that we’re contributing to as well. So we’ve got a significant crisis on top of a long-standing one.”

He said there is a need to communicate to the general public “the pressure that general practice is under and explain why it isn’t possible to provide the service, the access and the quality of care that we would expect and want to be able to provide.”

08:39

More than 85% of Indonesia’s population has antibodies against Covid, a government-commissioned survey showed, but epidemiologists warned it was not clear whether this immunity could help contain a fresh wave of coronavirus infections.

Stanley Widianto reports for Reuters from Jakarta that the survey, conducted between October and December by researchers at the University of Indonesia, found Indonesians had developed antibodies from a combination of Covid infections and vaccinations.

Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist involved in the survey that covered some 22,000 respondents, said the level of immunity could explain why there had not been a significant jump in infections since the middle of 2021.

The antibodies may provide some protection against new variants, including the highly contagious Omicron, Pandu said, though adding it would take months for this to become clear.

Omicron has infected more than 250 people in Indonesia, but most cases have been imported and a handful of local cases have not so far brought the type of surge recorded in many countries.

Pandu said the survey did not negate a need for more people to be vaccinated, even those that had already been infected.
“The point is to have the majority of people develop a hybrid immunity to control the pandemic.”

08:18

French PM Castex: Fourth vaccines shots will be available ‘when health authorities give go-ahead’

Reuters are carrying a couple of interesting quotes from France’s prime minister Jean Castex. He has told BFM TV and RMC Radio that France was ready to deploy a fourth Covid vaccination or second booster shot as soon as health authorities gave their green light to such a move.

“When the health authorities will give us the go-ahead, we’ll go for it,” he is quoted as saying.

Castex also noted that countries which had moved towards compulsory vaccinations, such as Italy and Austria, had lower vaccination rates than France.

07:42

Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, has urged his US counterpart to consider restricting American troop movement in the country after a surge in Covid cases on bases and surrounding communities, AFP reports.

The request to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken comes as virus cases surge in Okinawa, which hosts most of the US forces in Japan and is now seeing a rise in community infections.

The region’s governor has blamed the rise in local cases on the clusters first seen among US troops.

Okinawa will request that the central government authorise new virus restrictions, its governor said, after the southern island region reported 623 cases on Wednesday – nearly triple the previous day’s figure.

US Marines wait in an observation area after receiving the Moderna Covid vaccine at Camp Foster in Okinawa, Japan. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

In a call with Blinken, Hayashi “strongly requested the strengthening of measures to prevent an expansion in infections”, Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Hayashi called on Blinken to “consider restricting outings (by US troops) to ease worries among local residents, given the situation of coronavirus infections among US forces in Japan”, the statement added.

There were more than 400 Covid cases reported on US bases in Okinawa on 4 January, Japan’s government said Wednesday.

Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki has criticised the US military for failing to adhere to Japan’s strict measures for overseas arrivals, and last month Hayashi expressed “strong regret” to the commander of US forces in Japan over the growing number of virus cases.

07:39

In the UK former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, a member of the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee, has old BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a new report will look at how the pandemic has caused a backlog for the NHS. PA Media report he said:

The one thing people are not talking about is a shortage of funding. What they’re talking about is not being able to find the staff to do the work. And that’s why we say in this report the biggest gap at the moment in the government’s plans to deal with this huge six million waiting list is a lack of doctors and nurses and a lack of a plan to find those doctors and nurses.

But the trouble is that the number of doctors and nurses training, it takes seven years to train a doctor, 10 years actually to train a GP, and so it’s always low in the priorities for health sectors.

Hunt said short-term measures are also needed to tackle the backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic:

We need to go a lot further. We’ve got six million people on the waiting list, we’ve got a crisis in our A&E department, record number of 999 calls, double the referrals to children and young people’s mental health in some areas.

If we’re going to tackle all of that we need a lot of short-term measures as well, and what we don’t have is a workforce plan that says how we are going to get these 4,000 doctors, and unless we do that, we’re going to find this incredible frustration from taxpayers’ point of view, that they’re putting the money in, but they’re not getting the results out that they were promised.

07:35

If you’ve been struggling to follow the rule changes recently introduced in Scotland, here’s a quick recap of the main changes:

  • Self-isolation after a positive Covid test is reduced to seven days if you have no fever and can produce a negative lateral flow test on the sixth and seventh days.
  • You no longer need to confirm a positive lateral flow test by taking an additional PCR test if you have no symptoms.
  • Household contacts of people testing positive do not need to self-isolate, instead they can take daily lateral flow tests for a week to check if they become positive.
  • If you are a close contact of a positive case, and are not vaccinated, you are required to self-isolate for ten days and take a PCR test.
  • Secondary school children are being asked to take a lateral flow test twice a week, but whole classes will no longer have to self-isolate if there is a positive result among them – only close contacts will be affected.