Home » Covid News Live: England To Test Pupils Before Secondary Schools Return; South Korea Reports First Omicron Deaths

Covid News Live: England To Test Pupils Before Secondary Schools Return; South Korea Reports First Omicron Deaths

09:08

The trains operator ScotRail has cut scores of services and introduced a reduced timetable until 28 January, in order to cope with significant staff shortages from Covid.

The company said hundreds of employees were off work ill or self-isolating, so it had reorganised its timetable, particularly for services around the central belt from Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Nine routes operating from Glasgow Central and Queen Street, including trains to Lanark, East Kilbride and Stranraer, and three from Edinburgh Waverley, including to Dunbar and Tweedbank, have been affected. The country’s busiest service, from Waverley to Queen Street via Falkirk High, has not been amended.

David Simpson, ScotRail’s operations director, said:

Like most businesses, ScotRail is not immune to the impact of coronavirus. We’ve been working flat out to run a safe and reliable railway in really difficult and rapidly changing circumstances.

[We] have looked to spread these changes out across the day where possible to minimise the impact on our customers, but people should plan ahead and continue to check the train times right up until they arrive at the station.

08:59

British education secretray Nadhim Zahawi added “there’s nothing in the data” to suggest further coronavirus measures will be needed in England later this week.

He told BBC Breakfast that the current Plan B measures would be reviewed on Wednesday, but added:

There’s nothing in the data that gives me any concern that we need to go beyond where we are at.

There’s some really good data from London that it looks like the infection rates are plateauing, if not yet coming down. But we are seeing leakage into the over-50s in terms of infections, and it’s generally the over-50s who end up with severe infection and hospitalisation.

The national health service, Zahawi suggested, should be able to cope with high staff absences as it is used to dealing with staff being off during “big flu viruses”.

He added:

The NHS is very good at being able to move staff around within the system. They have an infrastructure to do that. We now have 10,000 more nurses and 3,000 more doctors than we had last year working in the NHS.

08:49

English secondary pupils to be tested for Covid before term starts

English secondary pupils are to be tested for Covid at least once before returning to school, the British government has said.

In a statement announcing the measures, health secretary Sajid Javid said “regular testing is a key way to support schools and protect face-to-face teaching”.

Ministers have assured schools that testing kits will be provided as needed and urged pupils to test twice weekly, the BBC reports.

The new on-site testing rules will be limited to England, where pupils will begin returning to schools for the new term later this week.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, students are already being asked to test twice a week.

The Welsh government has asked staff and students to test three times per week before returning to classrooms this term.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said people struggling to get lateral flow tests “should just refresh” their webpage, amid a national shortage of Covid test kits.

He told Sky News he had organised a separate supply of tests for schools ahead of children’s return to the classrooms.

Classes could be merged if the number of school staff off sick climbed too high, he added.

Zahawi said:

The priority is to keep schools open. The testing, the staffing support we’re putting in place, and of course the ventilation is going to make a big difference to schools this year.

The most important thing is to keep them open.

We monitor staff absenteeism, I just said to you we’re running at about 8% last year. If that rises further then we look at things like merging classes, teaching in bigger numbers.

Zahawi added that “all exams are going ahead this year, this summer.”

Updated

08:34

Hi all, I’m Jedidajah Otte and I’ll be taking over for the next few hours. Feel free to get in touch if you have anything to flag, I’m on Twitter @JedySays or you can email me.

08:22

Poland considering new restrictions

Poland may introduce new Covid restrictions if new infections continue to rise, health minister Adam Niedzielski told radio station RMF FM on Monday morning.

Poland has been dealing with persistently high daily case numbers in a fourth wave that forced authorities to tighten restrictions in December.

Niedzielski said:

If we see this week that we have a continuation of the upward trend in infections, with roughly 20,000 hospital beds taken, which is still very high, yes, we will be making further aggravating decisions.

We will talk about schools, the closure of shopping malls, for example, but I do not want to prejudge.

Niedzielski said any decisions could be announced later this week, either on Wednesday or Friday.

Poland reported another 7,179 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths in the last reporting period, according to an update from the ministry of health.

However, Niedzielski told RMF FM that 6,422 new coronavirus infections were detected.

Updated

08:08

While speaking on France Inter public radio, minister of health Olivier Véran said he was also discussing the possibility of an additional Covid booster jab in light of Israel pushing forward with a fourth dose.

“We are discussing it with scientists,” Véran said, adding that January was going to be a particularly tough month for increasingly strained hospitals and healthcare providers.

07:56

France’s minister of health, Olivier Véran, has addressed the new Covid curbs in an appearance on France Inter public radio this morning.

Addressing critics he said:

“It is never contradictory to protect the health of our society and the health of the French. One does not go without the other. The isolation rules which come into force respect this balance.”

Olivier Véran (@olivierveran)

Delta menace nos réanimations par ses formes graves.
Omicron menace nos lits de médecine par ses formes symptomatiques nombreuses.
Dans les deux cas, le vaccin avec rappel protège. Le télétravail, la limitation des grands rassemblements et le pass vaccinal freinent. pic.twitter.com/OGpYe1AgLI

January 3, 2022

Updated

07:47

Summary of key developments

  • In England, masks return for secondary pupils in classrooms amid fears that the new term could trigger a huge spike in cases of the Omicron variant.
  • In France, a raft of new Covid restrictions is set to take effect on Monday in the latest attempt to stem rising infections. On the other hand, fully vaccinated people who test positive will now have to isolate for only seven days, and can leave quarantine after five days if they show a negative test.
  • India begins its vaccination drive for children aged 15 to 18.
  • South Korea reported two deaths in connection with the Omicron variant.
  • Québec, Canada, proceeded with the first of three planned closures of non-essential retail stores on Sunday. The province is also under a recently imposed curfew.
  • US federal health officials are looking to add a negative test along with its five-day isolation restrictions for asymptomatic Americans with Covid.
  • The US government’s top medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, said the US had been seeing almost a “vertical increase” of new Covid cases, now averaging 400,000 cases a day, with hospitalisations also up.
  • US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said he tested positive for Covid and was experiencing mild symptoms while quarantining at home.
  • Local authorities in China’s locked-down city of Xi’an removed two senior officials on Sunday in a bid to “strengthen” their fight against Covid.
  • Australia plans to push ahead with reopening the economy as new infections hit a daily record of more than 37,000 and the number of people hospitalised rose.
  • Israel will offer a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to people over 60 and to medical staff.
  • More than 4,000 flights were cancelled around the world on Sunday due to adverse weather and a surge in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Updated

07:34

Here’s an unexpected outcome to emerge from lockdown.

Popular lockdown pursuits such as cooking, DIY and buying pets led to thousands of people needing hospital care for injuries, figures suggest.

Analysis of hospital admissions in England by the PA Media news agency showed that thousands were treated for injuries sustained as a result of activities that surged in popularity as people were confined to their homes.

Shoppers in face masks consider picking up some cactus plants as recent figures suggest popular lockdown pursuits may have led to thousands of injuries. Photograph: Alexander Ryumin/TASS

The data from NHS Digital for 2020-21 showed that more than 5,600 people attended hospital after coming into contact with a powered hand-tool, and more than 2,700 were admitted after an accident with a non-powered hand-tool such as a hammer or a saw.

Figures also showed that 349 people were admitted after injuring themselves with lawnmowers. More than 5,300 people were admitted after falling from playground equipment, with the average age of patients being nine and a half years.

Read the full story from Guardian reporter Jessica Murray here.

Updated

07:10

Hello it’s Samantha Lock with you on the blog today as we go through all the latest Covid developments.

As students prepare to begin the new school term across the UK, masks will return for secondary pupils in England’s classrooms amid fears that the new term could trigger a huge spike in cases of the Omicron variant. The measure is already in place in other countries of the UK.

Robert Halfon, the chair of the House of Commons education select committee, raised concerns saying there is limited evidence of the efficacy of masks in educational settings. However, others have backed the measure, pointing out that while masks are not perfect, and their effectiveness depends on their quality, a number of studies have suggested mask-wearing in schools is linked to smaller increases in case rates and a lower likelihood of outbreaks.

Meanwhile in neighbouring France, a raft of new Covid restrictions is set to take affect today in the latest attempt to stem rising infections.

Big events will be limited to 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors and people will be requested to sit down during concerts. Customers will also not be allowed to stand up in bars. Working from home will be mandatory for at least three days per week where possible.

The new rules will be in place for at least three weeks, prime minister Jean Castex indicated last week.

06:31

France will implement new Covid restrictions today in the latest attempt to stem rising infections.

Big events will be limited to 2,000 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors and people will be requested to sit down during concerts from today. Customers will also not be allowed to stand up in bars.

Eating and drinking will be banned in cinemas, theatres, sport facilities and public transportation, including on long-distance routes. Working from home will be mandatory at least three days per week for employees whose job makes it possible.

The new rules will be in place for at least three weeks, prime minister Jean Castex said last week.

Schools will also reopen as scheduled on Monday 3 January.

A couple on Champs Elysees Avenue during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Paris, France. Photograph: Jp Pariente/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Updated

06:14

As India begins vaccinating what Unicef believes to be the largest population of adolescents in the world (253 million), here are the latest Covid numbers.

The nation recorded another 33,750 new coronavirus cases over the last 24-hour reporting period, its highest daily case load since 18 September.

The country also reported another 123 deaths, according to a recently released statement from the ministry of health.

PIB India (@PIB_India)

#COVID19 UPDATE:

🔷145.68 cr vaccine doses have been administered so far under Nationwide Vaccination Drive

🔷India’s Active caseload currently stands at 1,45,582

🔷Recovery Rate currently at 98.20%

Read here: t.co/7qoKykVqyH#IndiaFightsCorona pic.twitter.com/DnZfesfFvS

January 3, 2022

Updated

06:03

India’s health minister, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, has urged young people to get the Covid-19 vaccine as the nation begins its latest inoculation drive.

Mandaviya shared a series of photos over Twitter on Monday alongside the caption: “Some glimpses of the #COVID19 Vaccination drive for children in the 15-18 age group.”

He added: “I urge my young friends to get vaccinated at the earliest and further strengthen the world’s largest vaccination drive.”

Dr Mansukh Mandaviya (@mansukhmandviya)

Securing our Young India 👦🏻 👧🏻

Some glimpses of the #COVID19 Vaccination drive for children in the 15-18 age group 💉

I urge my young friends to get vaccinated at the earliest & further strengthen the world’s largest vaccination drive.#SabkoVaccineMuftVaccine pic.twitter.com/jyBKWwcTkV

January 3, 2022

Updated

05:38

India begins vaccinating 15-18-year-olds

India begins its vaccination drive for children aged 15 to 18 today.

The health ministry announced that Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin would be the vaccine administered in two doses 28 days apart.

Health minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya tweeted: “The world’s largest vaccination campaign has started for children in the age group of 15 to 18 across the country from today.”

He added: “If the children are safe, then the future of the country is safe.”

Dr Mansukh Mandaviya (@mansukhmandviya)

PM @NarendraModi जी के नेतृत्व में विश्व के सबसे बड़े टीकाकरण के अंर्तगत आज से देश भर में 15 से 18 आयुवर्ग के बच्चों के लिए टीकाकरण अभियान की शुरुआत हो गयी है।

हमारे यंग इंडिया को कोरोना का सुरक्षा कवच देने हेतु मैं मोदी जी का धन्यवाद करता हूं। #SabkoVaccineMuftVaccine pic.twitter.com/UcMaeW6VAZ

January 3, 2022

Private and public schools will double up as vaccination centres for children and school authorities have been ordered to report their daily vaccination data to state authorities.

“Children are going to be given vaccines in their schools,” said Jai Prakash Shivahare, health commissioner in Gujarat state. “They can also go to vaccination centres and get the dose … They can just walk in.”

Updated

04:56

South Korea reports first Omicron deaths

South Korea has reported two deaths in connection with the Omicron variant, Yonhap News reports.

The deaths are believed to be the first in the country linked to the highly transmissible variant, officials said on Monday.

Health authorities in Gwangju, 329km south of Seoul, said two recently deceased coronavirus patients in the city, both in their 90s, tested positive for the Omicron variant, according to the publication.

The patients, who died last Monday and Wednesday respectively, both tested positive for Covid-19 at a senior care hospital in the city at an earlier date.

A woman hangs her message containing wishes for the new year at Jogye temple in central Seoul, South Korea. Photograph: YONHAP/EPA

Updated

04:53

Some updated Covid figures from South Korea have just been released.

The nation has recorded another 3,129 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 36 deaths over the past 24-hour reporting period.

A total of 1,015 people are currently in critical condition, with the country averaging 347 new admissions a day.

Updated