Asked about his view on the UK’s Covid situation, Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s health emergencies programme, told the WHO media briefing (see also 14:58) that there is “intense transmission” throughout Europe and the UK.
He said: “The reality is that increased transmission…even in the context of high vaccination is going to put pressure on the system.”
He said that “to their credit”, the UK has achieved high vaccination levels, which he said “keeps pressure off the NHS”. He also praised the country’s virus surveillance.
However, he warned, there are “long term consequences” of contracting Covid, regardless of age, and that the public should “avoid exposure to the virus”.
Europe, he said, is “back at pre-pandemic levels of social mixing” – despite huge pressure on health systems and high levels of transmission.
WHO director says Europe is once again epicentre of pandemic, warning: ‘No country is out of the woods’
The World Health Organization director-general has declared that Europe is once again at the epicentre of the pandemic and warned that “no country or region is out of the woods”.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO media briefing:
He also warned that while vaccines save lives, they do not fully prevent Covid transmission, and in the case of Delta, vaccines reduce transmission by just 40%.
He said many countries have a “false sense of security” that vaccines have ended the pandemic and a belief that vaccinated people do not need to take precautions.
He said: “We cannot say this clearly enough: even if you are vaccinated, continue to take precautions to prevent becoming infected yourself, and to [prevent] infecting someone else who could die.”
Netherlands records highest number of daily Covid cases since start of pandemic
The Netherlands (see also 14:28) has reported more than 23,700 new Covid cases – the highest since the start of the pandemic, reports Reuters.
More on plans for additional Covid measures in the Netherlands (see also 13:46).
[Health minister Hugo de Jonge] said the government’s panel of health experts would provide fresh policy advice by Thursday and that a decision would follow on Friday.
EU disease control agency warns mandatory Covid vaccination ‘not a magic wand’
The head of the EU’s disease control agency has issued a note of caution about a move to mandatory Covid vaccines, as she warned that European governments needed to take urgent action faced with a rising wave of infections.
Dr Andrea Ammon, the head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said mandatory vaccines could raise uptake, but risked intensifying rejection of vaccines.
[Mandatory vaccination] is not a magic wand. It can be effective, it can raise the vaccination rate, but it can also polarise. And among those that are right now not vaccinated, not everybody is against vaccines, but many people want this to be their own decision and not being imposed on. So it could drive people even more into rejecting vaccines.
She was speaking after the ECDC changed its guidance booster jabs for all adults, prioritising the over-40s. The new guidance is part of the ECDC’s threefold recommendation to tackle rising caseloads: increase vaccines, offer booster doses to all adults and more non-medical measures, such as wearing masks, hand hygiene, working from home and limiting contacts.
Ammon said Europe was not in a situation where there was a choice between vaccines and other measures.
So far, nearly two-thirds of the population (65.4%) and more than three-quarters of adults (76.5%) in the European Economic Area have been vaccinated.
Russia today unveiled new Sputnik vaccines – including a Covid nasal spray that president Vladimir Putin said he had taken as his booster dose.
In televised comments, Putin said that he had received his booster as an injection followed by a powder nasal spray and exercised afterwards, reports Reuters.
“That was all – I didn’t feel anything. Nothing. Today, after these two procedures, I already did some sport in the morning,” he said.
Russia developed its Sputnik V vaccine last year but the Kremlin has blamed a recent surge in cases on public reluctance to get vaccinated. October was Russia’s deadliest month so far of the pandemic.
Netherlands to announce additional Covid measures on Friday
More from the Netherlands (see 13:20) where the health minister has said the government will announce new Covid measures on Friday, reports Reuters, as hospitals struggle to cope with a surge in cases.
“The infection rate is higher than ever before,” Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament. “Hospital admissions keep exceeding expectations and we have not seen the worst yet.”
Countries should prioritise sharing vaccine doses with Covax before vaccinating children, the World Health Organisation said today:
As many parts of the world face extreme vaccine shortages, countries with high coverage in at-risk populations should prioritise global sharing of Covid-19 vaccines before vaccinating children, adolescents.
Social distancing becomes mandatory in the Netherlands amid calls for tougher measures
As social distancing once again became mandatory today in the Netherlands amid soaring Covid infections, the country’s leading intensive care physician called for even tougher measures.
The country entered a partial lockdown on 13 November, under which bars, restaurants and supermarkets have to close at 8pm and people were urged to work from home.
From today, 1.5 metre social distancing was made compulsory for all adults in locations where Covid passes are not required.
Diederik Gommers, the head of the national association of intensive care units, last night urged the government to implement a tough lockdown. He said the country’s hospitals are just 10 days away from being so overloaded that intensive care doctors will have to make tough decisions about which patients get care, reports the Associated Press.
The country last week recorded a 39% rise in infections. There are currently approximately 500 Covid patients in Dutch ICUs, which reportedly have a capacity of 1,066.
He said the only way to ease pressure on ICUs is “to ensure that the admissions go down very fast. And the fastest way of reducing (admissions) is tough measures and I think that means a strict lockdown. And that includes schools because I think if you don’t close schools you don’t stop infections.”
France to announce new Covid measures as infections surge
France is to announce new Covid measures tomorrow as infections surge across the country.
Spokesman Gabriel Attal said today that the government wants to strengthen social distancing and speed up vaccinations and said they are doing all they can to save the Christmas holiday season.
They also plan to tighten regulations on using the country’s health pass.
Despite this, he said the situation is likely to worsen in the coming days. The incidence rate (infections per week per 100,000 people) is expected to rise above 200 this week.
Russia is to register a new Sputnik M vaccine for use for 12- to 17-year-olds later today, the deputy prime minister, Tatiana Golikova, has said.
The vaccine is expected to be available at the end of December, Reuters reports.
It comes as Russia has suffered a surge in Covid infections and deaths in recent weeks.
Canada has given full approval to the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the company has said.
The vaccine has been approved for those aged 18-plus, reports Reuters.
The number of Covid-related deaths in Scotland has declined for the third week in succession, confirming the most recent surge in cases, which peaked at more than 3,800 new cases a day, is tailing off.
National Records of Scotland, a government statistics agency, said there were 94 deaths last week where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate, compared with 115 the previous week. Weekly fatalities data peaked during the latest wave at 167 in one week in mid-September.
Countries should consider mandatory Covid vaccination, says WHO Europe
Countries should consider implementing mandatory Covid vaccination, the director of World Health Organization (WHO) Europe said today.
Robb Butler said that although “mandatory vaccine can, but does not always, increase uptake”, he suggested countries should start thinking about the issue.
It comes after Germany’s tourism commissioner, Thomas Bareiss, said he expected vaccination to become mandatory in the country. Austria plans to make it compulsory from February.
Butler told Sky News that mandates could come at the “expense of trust and social inclusion”.
But, he added:
We believe it’s time to have that conversation from both an individual and a population-based perspective. It’s a healthy debate to have.
One in four adults in England ignore self-isolation rules after testing positive for Covid
One in four adults in England who test positive for Covid are ignoring self-isolation rules, according to a survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The research found just 75% of respondents fully followed isolation requirements for 10 days after testing positive.
It marks a fall from September, when 78% said they adhered, and a significant drop since May, when the figure was 86%.
The latest figures are based on responses collected from adults in England between 1 and 6 November.
The ONS said the attitude change between May and November was “statistically significant”.
Tim Gibbs, head of the ONS public services analysis team, said:
The latest results show that although the majority of those testing positive for Covid-19 are following self-isolation requirements, there has been a decrease since earlier this year.
It’s important that we continue to self-isolate when necessary in order to help keep everyone safe and stop the spread of the virus, especially as we are moving into the winter months.
Italy considers ‘super green pass’ and new rules that could see restrictions on unvaccinated
Politicians in Italy are considering new Covid measures that could see restrictions on unvaccinated people.
Prime minister Mario Draghi’s government is today discussing the details of a “super green pass” for the vaccinated, reports Bloomberg.
The measures, which are being debated today, would reportedly only permit those with proof of vaccination to get into venues including cinemas and theatres. But it is understood tthe rules would still allow unvaccinated people to go to workplaces after testing negative.
Governments across Europe are considering new restrictions as cases surge across the continent. Meanwhile, Austria is bringing back a full lockdown.
Italy has also reduced the time people must wait before getting a booster dose of the vaccine from six months to five.
It comes after last month Italy introduced a digital “green pass”, required for all workers, prompting protests.
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Today so far
- Slovakia reported its highest daily rise in new Covid-19 cases today, just ahead of a government meeting likely to agree a short-term lockdown to try to quell the surge. There were 10,315 new cases reported.
- Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have reached another new record high. The daily tally hit 25,864 on Tuesday, about 3,000 more than the previous record registered on Friday. Just over 58% of the Czech population has been fully vaccinated.
- Hungary also reported a record number of new daily Covid cases at 12,637 today. The seven-day average for the country stands at 9,435. That is up from 7,369 a week ago.
- The head of the European Union’s public health agency, Dr Andrea Ammon, has said that Covid-19 vaccine boosters should be considered for all adults, with priority for those aged 40 and older, in a major change to its guidance.
- Rob Butler, executive director of World Health Organization Europe, has made a strong appeal for people to continue to use face masks, saying: “The British Medical Journal last week showed a study where 53% of transmission was prevented by mask use. We only have 48% of the population in the European region using masks. The moment we see that go up, if we see this go up, we will see a reduction in cases and a reduction in deaths. If we saw 95% universal mask use, we can project that we would save about 160,000 lives.”
- Russia’s daily new Covid case numbers continue to be on a gradual decline, although deaths continue to hover around the near record 1,240-1,250 mark. Today’s official figures are 33,558 cases and 1,240 deaths.
- The health service in the UK is considering “radical ideas” to help tackle the backlog of care that has built-up over the last few years and been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. That includes the idea of sending patients to different regions for treatment, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.
- India’s health ministry has written to state governments raising concerns over falling levels of testing.
- South Korea has reported a new daily record of 4,116 new coronavirus cases as the country battles to contain a surge in serious cases requiring hospitalisation.
- In the US, the Biden administration plans to require all essential, nonresident travellers crossing its land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials, to be fully vaccinated beginning on 22 January.
- South Africa has asked Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to delay delivery of Covid-19 vaccines because it now has too much stock, health ministry officials said, as vaccine hesitancy slows an inoculation campaign.
That is all from me, Martin Belam, today. I will see you again tomorrow. Miranda Bryant will be here shortly to take you through the rest of the day’s UK and global coronavirus developments.