Covid news - live: Ministers reject calls for immediate plan B measures amid warnings NHS ‘in terrible place'

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Covid news - live: Ministers reject calls for immediate plan B measures amid warnings NHS ‘in terrible place’
© PA Coronavirus – Wed May 27, 2020

LIVE – Updated at 13:30

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: “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.”

PM Boris Johnson has resisted pleas for tighter restrictions despite health secretary Sajid Javid saying new Covid cases could reach 100,000 a day.

He and senior health chiefs are continuing to call on the nation to get vaccinated amid increased concern over rising infection levels ahead of the winter months.

Downing Street insisted that Plan B measures would only be implemented if it came under “significant pressure”.

But medics have told The Independent that the NHS is facing “its worst winter ever”.

Key Points

  • Labour says government should reintroduce some Covid rules
  • JCVI Prof: ‘We can’t be complacent, this is a worsening situation’
  • JCVI Prof: ‘Indiscriminately’ giving Covid booster jabs a ‘waste’
  • Lateral flow tests to be used for travel from today

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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

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.”

PM insists 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.

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.

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

Covid news - live: Ministers reject calls for immediate plan B measures amid warnings NHS ‘in terrible place’
© Provided by The Independent

Labour demands government bring in Covid plan B measures now

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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:

Covid news - live: Ministers reject calls for immediate plan B measures amid warnings NHS ‘in terrible place’
© Provided by The Independent

How do I order a lateral flow test for travel, and how do day two tests work?

08:07 , Lamiat Sabin

Good morning. Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of Covid-related news.

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