LIVE – Updated at 22:55
A member of the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said earlier the government needs to enforce more testing, social distancing, and mask wearing to “get things under control soon enough to stop a real meltdown in the middle of the winter.”
Prof Adam Finn also told Sky News that vaccines, by themselves, are “not enough at the present time to keep the spread of the virus under control”, pouring cold water on Boris Johnson’s claim Covid jabs will “steer Britain through the winter”.
“We do need to see people continuing to make efforts to avoid contact … just getting more people vaccinated could run the risk of making things worse rather than better,” Prof Finn added.
It comes after government figures on Saturday showed a further 39,962 cases of Covid were recorded in the UK in the last 24-hour period. Seventy-two people died in the same time.
Boris Johnson continues to resist pleas for tighter restrictions despite health secretary Sajid Javid saying new Covid cases could reach 100,000 a day.
- Government must act now to avoid winter ‘meltdown,’ says JCVI prof
- Ed Sheeran self-isolating after testing positive for Covid
- Health chief and PM insist booster jabs will ‘protect Christmas’
- A&E units ‘already struggling to cope’ in run up to winter
- Scotland’s health secretary ‘confident’ Cop26 Covid cases can be ‘contained’
- Companies selling lateral flow tests accused of ‘clickbait’ pricing
08:07 , Lamiat Sabin
Good morning. Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of Covid-related news.
Lateral flow tests for travel come into effect from today
08:14 , Lamiat Sabin
Travellers are now allowed to use cheaper lateral flow tests upon arrival in England instead of more expensive PCR tests.
Fully-vaccinated people arriving from a non-red list country can now use a lateral flow test on, or before, day two of their return.
Wales will make the same change a week from now. Scotland and Northern Ireland have suggested they may follow suit.
The lateral flow tests for returning travellers must be bought from private providers before travelling to England, with prices listed on the government website starting at £19.
Passengers need to send a picture of their lateral flow test to verify the result, and failure to do so could result in a fine of £1,000.
NHS tests cannot be used for travel.
Full details here:
How do I order a lateral flow test for travel, and how do day two tests work?
Number of Covid cases in eastern Europe to exceed 20 million
08:38 , Lamiat Sabin
Coronavirus cases in eastern Europe will soon surpass 20 million, according to a Reuters tally today.
Three of the top five countries reporting the most deaths in the world are in eastern Europe – Russia, Ukraine and Romania.
Countries in the region have the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with less than half of the population having received one dose.
Only 19 per cent of people in the Ukraine have been inoculated, compared to Hungary that has seen 62 per cent of its population having gotten at least one jab, according to Our World in Data.
New infections in the region have steadily risen and now average over 83,700 new cases per day, the highest level since November last year.
Although it has just 4 per cent of the world’s population, eastern Europe accounts for roughly 20 per cent of all new cases reported.
Africa sees more than 8.4m cases of Covid across continent
09:00 , Lamiat Sabin
More than 8.4 million cases of Covid have been confirmed in 55 countries in Africa, according to statistics.
The countries with the most reported cases – at least 500,000 – are South Africa, Tunisia, and Morocco.
A total of 216,779 Covid-linked deaths have been reported in Africa as of today.
More than 106 million vaccinations have been administered across the continent.
JCVI Prof: ‘We can’t be complacent, this is a worsening situation’
09:15 , Lamiat Sabin
People have been warned against being “complacent” about Covid as the situation for the NHS is “worsening”, a scientist said this morning.
Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), was asked by Trevor Phillips on Sky News whether it would “matter” if daily new case numbers hit 50,000 or 100,000 if the rate of hospitalisation is not rising.
Prof Finn said: “Unfortunately they are rising and they will go up as the number of cases goes up – because the virus will reach people who are vulnerable and who may get seriously ill.
“So I think we can’t be complacent, this is a worsening situation for the NHS, which is already under enormous pressure.”
Prof Finn said that waning immunity from vaccines “exists” and is a risk among the oldest and most vulnerable people who had their first two jabs early.
The “biggest risk is to those not vaccinated at all”, he added, and “many people we are seeing [in hospital] now are unimmunised.”
JCVI Prof: ‘Indiscriminately’ giving Covid booster jabs a ‘waste’
09:38 , Lamiat Sabin
Prof Adam Finn also told Sky News that he disagreed with the government’s proposal to extend booster vaccines to people aged 50 and to administer them one month earlier than planned.
The member of the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said efforts should be focused on getting people to have their third jab if they had their first two doses early on in the UK’s vaccination scheme.
He said that there needs to be more testing, social distancing, and mask wearing to “get things under control soon enough to stop a real meltdown in the middle of the winter.”
Prof Finn also said: “[Vaccines] are not by themselves enough at the present time to keep the spread of the virus under control. We do need to see people continuing to make efforts to avoid contact … just getting more people vaccinated could run the risk of making things worse rather than better.
“If you boost people before they even need the vaccine it is, in some senses, a waste of vaccine.
“It also means you’re immunising them earlier. This may make a smaller response to the vaccine and the response may wear off earlier.
“So I think the idea of getting more doses indiscriminately into people’s arms is not really necessarily going to solve the problem.”
Labour says government should reintroduce some Covid rules
10:10 , Lamiat Sabin
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the government should introduce its so-called Plan B to tackle the rising rates of coronavirus.
She was asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning what Labour’s position was on reintroducing restrictions such as the wearing of face coverings and working from home.
Ms Reeves said said: “We’ve seen today that Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) are saying that some aspects of Plan B, like wearing masks on public transports and in shops, and also working from home more flexibly should be introduced.
“I think the first thing is the government have got to do more to make Plan A work … But there are also things not in A or B that need to be done, like paying statutory sick pay from day one and also better ventilation in public spaces.”
Asked directly whether Plan B should be introduced now, she said: “Yes, but let’s not let the government off the hook with Plan A either.”
Full report from my colleague Adam Forrest
Labour demands government bring in Covid plan B measures now
92 per cent of schools still waiting on Covid air monitors – poll
10:30 , Lamiat Sabin
The vast majority of schools are still waiting for airflow monitors, which are used to help reduce the spread of Covid indoors.
Just 8 per cent of the 300,000 CO2 monitors have been delivered to primary and secondary schools this term, according to a Twitter poll, The Observer has reported.
This is despite education secretary Nadhim Zahawi promising that a third of the units would be delivered by the end of this month.
The poll of 1,617 people was set up by Simon Smith, headteacher at East Whitby Academy, a primary school in North Yorkshire.
A number of teachers who responded to his post said CO2 monitors that did arrive at the schools appeared to be unreliable, and that some of the staff had bought their own monitors.
Health chief and PM insist booster jabs will ‘protect Christmas’
10:50 , Lamiat Sabin
PM Boris Johnson and senior health chiefs are continuing to call on the nation to get vaccinated against Covid amid increased concern over rising infection levels ahead of the winter months.
NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said getting a booster will “protect the freedom and Christmas that we have all earned”.
The repeated calls for people to get jabbed comes as Mr Johnson resists pleas from health leaders for tighter restrictions despite the rising number of cases.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this week that new cases could reach 100,000 a day.
But Downing Street insisted there was still spare capacity in the NHS and that Plan B measures – including working from home guidance and compulsory wearing of face masks – would only be implemented if it came under “significant pressure”.
Medics have told The Independent that the NHS is facing “its worst winter ever”.
Mr Johnson, who has said there are no plans for another lockdown, said: “Vaccines are our way through this winter.”
Those eligible for boosters include anyone aged 50 and over, people living and working in care homes for the elderly, and frontline health and social care workers.
Mr Javid will tell NHS leaders to allow people aged over 50 to be able to book a third shot a month five months after their second dose, a month earlier than they can currently, The Mail on Sunday reported.
A&E units ‘already struggling to cope’ in run up to winter
11:11 , Lamiat Sabin
Accident and Emergency departments are in a “terrible place” right now with ambulances queuing outside waiting for space for patients, an expert warned this morning.
Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, was asked if she thinks A&E departments are going to be able to cope this winter.
Before the pandemic, hospitals already had a shortage of beds and Covid pressures make it even harder for them to clear their backlogs for elective procedures – she said.
She told Sky News’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “We’re already struggling to cope. This is not something that’s coming in the next couple of months.
“We’re already in a terrible place where we have got large queues of ambulances with vulnerable people waiting in those ambulances to be offloaded into departments and other patients at home waiting to be picked up by the ambulance.”
The Independent’s special report on NHS at ‘breaking point’
11:30 , Lamiat Sabin
Today’s front page story is a special report by our health correspondent Shaun Lintern.
He spoke to health professionals who said that the NHS faces “catastrophe” as a result of increased demand over the winter.
Breaking point: Inside the NHS’s looming crisis. My special report for @Independent https://t.co/8qyJPtmRLX #TomorrowsPapersToday pic.twitter.com/oOCjI6uguB
— Shaun Lintern (@ShaunLintern) October 23, 2021
Plan A is ‘working’, insists vaccines minister amid calls for Plan B
11:50 , Lamiat Sabin
Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said Plan A is “working” and “where we need to be”.
She was asked how the number of Covid cases – which have been between 40,000 and 50,000 for more than a week are going to be brought down.
Ms Throup told LBC: “I think everybody is aware that we’ve got the autumn and winter plan, and part of that is Plan A and part is Plan B, so it would be remiss of us not to have contingencies.
“But the data right now shows that Plan A is where we need to be, and we look at the data day in day out, and that is showing that Plan A is where we need to be with the vaccination programme.”
Asked about where case numbers will have to get to before the public will be asked to work from home, Ms Throup said: “The public has been very patient in doing what we’ve asked them to do.
“And I think Plan A has actually opened up people’s lives and that’s so important because if we do need to take further measures I’m sure they’ll have appreciated exactly the freedoms we’ve been able to offer them at this time.
“Plan A is working, as I said, the data right now shows that Plan A is working.”
Scotland to ‘do everything’ it can to ‘mitigate’ Covid risk at Cop26
12:20 , Lamiat Sabin
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said that the Scottish Government will take necessary steps to prevent a potential spike in Covid-19 cases caused by the Cop26 climate summit.
Experts, including key government advisers, have raised concerns over a case numbers possibly increasing as a result of so many people from around the world travelling to Glasgow for the conference.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Mr Yousef said “of course” there will be Covid cases associated with the event, but he was confident these could be contained.
He added: “There is absolutely a risk of Covid cases rising thereafter, but we’ll do everything we can to mitigate that.”
Companies selling lateral flow tests accused of ‘clickbait’ pricing
12:50 , Lamiat Sabin
Travellers are reporting difficulties with buying affordable lateral flow tests from companies listed on the government’s website.
From today, fully vaccinated people arriving in England from a non-red list country can use a lateral flow test rather than the PCR version.
Problems were soon spotted after the government’s website that lists firms selling the lateral flow tests went live on Friday.
Many of the companies with the lowest prices either do not allow customers to book the tests, or the actual prices are much higher.
C-19 Direct is listed as offering the tests for £14.94, but the cheapest available option on its website is £59.95, analysis by the PA news agency found.
Frustrated travellers on Twitter described the listings as “fake advertising” and “clickbait”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “It is unacceptable for any private testing company to take advantage of holidaymakers and any private providers showing misleading pricing on gov.uk are being removed.”
China says local outbreaks linked to tour groups likely to spread
13:30 , Lamiat Sabin
China’s latest Covid outbreak is increasingly likely to spread further, a health official said today.
More than 100 locally transmitted cases have been confirmed over the last week across 11 provincial areas, with most linked to 13 different tour groups.
Commission deputy director Wu Liangyou, adding that the new cases likely came from a new source from abroad.
There is increasing risk that the outbreaks might spread further, helped by “seasonal factors”, Mi Feng, spokesman at the National Health Commission, told reporters.
Authorities urged all regions to step up monitoring and called for a reduction in travel across provinces.
China has largely contained the virus but it is determined to stamp out any local outbreaks in the run-up to the 2022 Winter Olympics in February.
More than three quarters of people in China have been jabbed
13:40 , Lamiat Sabin
About 75.6 per cent of people in China have completed a coronavirus vaccination programme, the country’s health authorities have said today.
This is the equivalent to some 1.07 billion people who have been vaccinated up to 23 October.
In the UK, 67.7 per cent of people are vaccinated and PM Boris Johnson is urging those eligible to have their booster jabs.
China is giving booster jabs to adults whose last dose was at least six months earlier, with priority groups including essential workers, older people and those with weaker immune systems.
Wang Huaqing, chief expert for the immunization program at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said China would not keep giving people booster shots indefinitely.
“Even if it needs to be strengthened later, the number of boosters is limited,” Wang told the briefing. “We hope in the future there will be better vaccines and better vaccination procedures to achieve solid protection among the public.”
Israel and UAE agree ‘green corridor’ Covid travel deal
14:00 , Lamiat Sabin
Israel and the United Arab Emirates have signed a “green corridor” agreement allowing passengers vaccinated against Covid to travel freely between the two countries.
Another great achievement for the🇮🇱🇦🇪relationship as both Health Ministers signed the green corridor MoU, recognizing mutual vaccinations and allowing free tourism between our countries.@nitzanhorowitz HE Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais @HayekAmir @IsraelMOH @hayekamir @mohapuae https://t.co/UAmunOon4J
— Israel in the UAE (@israelintheUAE) October 24, 2021
Quick round-up of today’s developments in the UK
14:20 , Lamiat Sabin
- Cheaper lateral flow tests replace PCR tests for travel from today
- Parents in England are being asked to book their children aged between 12 and 15 for a Covid vaccine during half-term through the National Booking Service
- Prof Adam Finn, member of JCVI, says that the situation for the NHS is “worsening” and warned people against becoming “complacent” about the virus
- PM Boris Johnson’s government is continuing to call on the nation to get vaccinated against Covid amid increased concern over rising infection levels
- NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said getting a booster will “protect the freedom and Christmas that we have all earned”
- Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves calls on the government to introduce some “Plan B” measures to prevent the NHS from getting catastrophically overwhelmed
- Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf vows that the country will “do everything” it can to “mitigate” spread of Covid at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow
Scotland reports one Covid death, and 20 that were unreported
14:40 , Lamiat Sabin
The Scottish Government recorded 21 Covid deaths this weekend.
The number of deaths includes one recorded in the past 24 hours, and 20 that were not reported yesterday due to data issues.
The total death toll according to the measure used by the Scottish Government stands at 9,031.
Separate figures produced by National Records of Scotland, which record the number of deaths where Covid was mentioned on a death certificate, put the figure at 11,406 as of 17 October.
NRS figures include deaths where “suspected” or “probable” Covid-19 appears on the death certificate.
Scotland has also recorded 2,528 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours, the latest figures show.
Five more people have died of Covid in Northern Ireland
15:00 , Lamiat Sabin
Five further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have been reported in Northern Ireland.
The region’s Department of Health has also reported another 1,061 cases of the virus.
Saturday was ‘biggest day yet’ for booster jabs, says NHS chief
15:20 , Lamiat Sabin
More than 325,000 people in England got a booster jab yesterday.
Chief executive of NHS England said that Saturday was the “biggest day yet” in the third vaccine dose’s roll-out.
Yesterday was the biggest day yet for Covid booster jabs: more than 325,000 people getting vital protection. In the past three days over 800,000 people have had their booster jab.
Thank you for coming forward, and if you’re eligible, book your jab today. https://t.co/V8A8tCIw9H
— Amanda Pritchard (@AmandaPritchard) October 24, 2021
Twitter users spotted that the link she included in her post only allows people to book appointments for their first or second dose.
Booster jabs can be booked for people aged 50 and over, and those who have immuno-compromised systems, at least six months after the second dose using this link to the NHS website.
The government is considering cutting the six-month gap to five.
Almost a million people in England have had a booster jab in the past three days, Ms Pritchard also said.
Wales could extend use of Covid pass to more venues
15:40 , Lamiat Sabin
Welsh ministers are reportedly considering whether to extend the use of Covid passes for more types of venues.
Compulsory NHS Covid passes have been introduced for people to attend big events or nightclubs in Wales.
Welsh Labour health minister Eluned Morgan said the government is looking at extending their use as Wales has the highest Covid case rate in the UK.
Speaking on the BBC Politics Wales programme, Ms Morgan said the high levels of transmission were putting pressure on public services.
The Welsh government will review the rules this coming week ahead of an announcement on Friday.
Plaid Cymru wants rules tightened while the Welsh Conservatives are against imposing more restrictions, the BBC reported.
Fully-vaccinated told to keep wearing face masks
16:28 , Sam Hancock
In case you missed this from last night. People who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus have been urged not to be complacent and continue wearing a face mask to help avoid restrictions returning later this year.
Health secretary Sajid Javid warned a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday that the pandemic “is not over” and said that Covid cases could soon hit 100,000 a day, writes our assistant news editor Katy Clifton.
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), also warned that the number of deaths from Covid are “moving in the wrong direction”.
Fully-vaccinated urged to continue wearing face masks to limit spread of Covid
Covid: Further 40,000 cases and 72 deaths in UK
16:56 , Sam Hancock
The government said a further 72 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Sunday, bringing the UK total to 139,533.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 164,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate.
As of 9am on Sunday, there had been a further 39,962 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the figures show.
‘What about a Plan B for furlough?’ Lib Dems ask
17:09 , Sam Hancock
The government should be prepared to reintroduce the furlough scheme if Plan B measures are introduced, the Lib Dems’ Treasury spokesperson has said.
In a statement, Christine Jardine said:
“This Conservative government’s bungling and inaction make it look increasingly likely Covid restrictions will have to be reintroduced. If jobs are to be protected, the Chancellor must ensure there is also a Plan B for furlough.
“This new wave of furlough needs to be flexible, provide support whenever businesses need it, and be targeted at the industries that will be hit hardest. Without this, many sectors of our economy could grind to a halt, putting jobs at risk and limiting our ability to invest in skills and other priorities.
“Now is not the time to turn off the taps and say job done, it is time to step up and tell businesses we have their backs this winter.”
Ed Sheeran self-isolating after testing positive for Covid
17:12 , Sam Hancock
Ed Sheeran said he has tested positive for Covid and is self-isolating.
The singer posted a statement on his Instagram on Sunday and apologised to “anyone I’ve let down”.
“It means that I’m now unable to plough ahead with any in person commitments for now, so I’ll be doing as many of my planned interviews/performances I can from my house,” he wrote.
Our assistant news editor Katy Clifton is updating this story as it develops:
Ed Sheeran reveals he has tested positive for Covid and is self-isolating
‘I’m following government guidelines,’ Sheeran tells fans
17:26 , Sam Hancock
Scotland’s health secretary ‘confident’ Cop26 Covid cases can be ‘contained’
17:56 , Sam Hancock
Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf has said the country’s government can take “necessary steps” to counter a potential spike in Covid cases caused by Cop26.
As many as 25,000 people are set to arrive in Glasgow for the key climate summit, billed as the “last chance” to counter the effects of climate change, including world leaders, politicians, advisers and activists. But experts, including key government advisers, have raised concerns over a potential increase in cases associated with so many people being in a relatively small area.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf said he was confident cases caused by the event could be contained.
He told the TV programme:
“There’s not a public health expert in the world that would say there’s no risk in the middle of a global pandemic to have tens of thousands of people descending onto largely one city.
“There is absolutely a risk of Covid cases rising thereafter, but we’ll do everything we can to mitigate that. We are also very, very assured by the protocols we’ve got in place [at the conference] to be able to isolate those cases as best as we possibly can.”
However, others weren’t so optimistic. Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie accused Mr Yousaf of “simply [having] no answers to the potential impact of Cop26 on our NHS”.
“We are looking down the barrel at a winter of extreme pressure on our NHS and potentially surging levels of Covid,” she said. “We need action from the Health Secretary to avoid this, not warm words.”
Scotland currently has the lowest number of Covid cases in the UK, with the latest government data showing a seven-day average of 328.8 cases per 100,000 Scots. In comparison, there were 482.9 in England and 734.6 in Wales.
Watch: Children’s health workers demand action on health and climate crisis
18:15 , Sam Hancock
Local authorities contacted about Plan B restrictions
18:43 , Sam Hancock
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) contacted local authorities on Friday to canvass their level of support for the “immediate rollout of Plan B” restrictions, according to a report in The Observer today.
A UKHSA spokeswoman told the paper:
“We don’t comment on leaks. It is part of UKHSA’s role to provide advice to the government on the ongoing response to the pandemic.
“UKHSA recognises the significant past and ongoing importance of local authorities and their directors of public health in managing the pandemic.
“We will continue to consult with them and learn from the experience of local communities to help us to protect the nation’s health.”
Watch: Anti-vaxxer shouts at Euston vaccination centre employee
19:49 , Sam Hancock
Letters: ‘Masks aren’t useless – they are a vital defence against Covid’
20:07 , Sam Hancock
In our letters today, readers give their opinion on the resurgence in Covid cases.
Gavin Turner, from Norfolk, writes:
Living in the country where the vast majority of customers at our local supermarket still wear masks, I am shocked on rare visits to London at the casual attitude to mask-wearing. Transport for London’s valiant effort to persuade people to wear masks on buses and the Underground has largely failed precisely because it is no longer legally enforceable.
The supposed uselessness of masks is not a view shared by the medical profession. The efficacy of masks and of regular hand-sanitising was confirmed by the fact that last winter saw far fewer colds and flu than in a normal year. These sensible precautions do minimise the spread of germs.
So it is vitally important to return to government-mandated mask wearing and hand sanitising during this potentially dangerous coming winter.
Read the rest here:
Letters: Bring back mandatory masks to defend against a winter Covid outbreak
Latest Covid vaccine stats for the UK
21:03 , Sam Hancock
Government data up to 23 October shows that of the 95,226,529 Covid jabs given in the UK, some 49,684,322 were first doses – a rise of 36,171 on the previous day.
Meanwhile, 45,542,207 were second doses, an increase of 29,804.
It comes amid Boris Johnson’s plea to the country for anyone unvaccinated to get their jabs immediately, and for those being called to get a booster shot to do the same.
Will there be another lockdown? Everything we know
21:25 , Sam Hancock
With all this talk of new restrictions and possible lockdowns, Joe Sommerlad takes a look at what’s what.
Boris Johnson’s government is under increasing pressure to reintroduce social restrictions to curb the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the UK and head off a winter healthcare crisis.
The prime minister has reportedly told his Cabinet that he believes their current coronavirus plan is keeping the virus under control while reiterating that he and his ministers “must put all our energies into our vaccination programmes”.
Watch: Labour calls for Covid Plan B restrictions now
21:45 , Sam Hancock
NHS could be unable to provide proper care for pregnant women in winter
22:22 , Sam Hancock
Immense pressures facing maternity staff as Covid cases surge could mean the NHS is left unable to deliver “the care it needs to” for women giving birth this winter, the UK’s most senior gynaecologist has warned.
Dr Edward Morris, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told the Guardian that maternity services are near breaking point.
It comes after ministers including health secretary Sajid Javid claimed the recent soar in the number of positive Covid cases has not put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
Top doctor warns NHS maternity services are approaching breaking point
That’s it for today…
22:54 , Sam Hancock
That’s it from us on the Covid blog for today, thanks for following along.
Be sure to check back tomorrow morning for all the latest developments on the pandemic.Internet Explorer Channel Network