Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low'

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Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
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LIVE – Updated at 12:46

Ministers are reportedly mulling whether to cut the interval between booster jabs and a second dose of a coronavirus vaccine from six months to five, as the race between inoculations and infections intensifies.

With former health secretary Jeremy Hunt among those to have called for “more flexibility” in the winter rollout, Boris Johnson said the time period between jabs was an “extremely important point” and stressed the need to “keep going as fast as possible”.

However, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s deputy chair Professor Anthony Harnden said that while the advisory body will consider cutting the booster interval, six months appears to be the “sweet spot”.

It came as the UK reported more than 50,000 cases in a single day, which – save for two days in July – has not happened since January, when the emergence of the Alpha variant led to an average of more than 1,000 deaths per day across that month.

Despite the country recording 912 deaths in the past seven days, care minister Gillian Keegan insisted the fatality rate remains “very low”, while defending the government’s decision not to implement its “plan B” measures, such as mandatory face masks and vaccine passports.

Key Points

  • Six month booster interval is ‘sweet spot’, JCVI deputy says
  • Booster jab interval ‘could be cut to five months’
  • Death rates remain ‘very low’, minister insists

Nearly one million people in England had Covid last week

12:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Almost one million people in England had Covid in the week to 16 October, according to an estimate by the Office for National Statistics.

The infection figure – of 977,900 people – equates to around one in 55 people, and is a big jump on the week before.

Jane Dalton reports

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

More than a million people may now have Covid in England

How to order a lateral flow test for travel – explained

12:24 , Lamiat Sabin

From Sunday 24 October, double-jabbed travellers can substitute a PCR test for a lateral flow test as their “day two” test when they arrive in the UK.

Lucy Thackray explains how to order one:

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

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

Mortality rates ‘significantly’ higher than in 2020, ONS says

12:00 , Andy Gregory

Mortality rates in England and Wales in September were “significantly” higher this year than in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Some 966.2 deaths per 100,000 people were registered in England last month, up from 885.5 in September 2020.

In Wales the figure was 1,056.4 per 100,000, up from 946.2 in 2020.

There continue to be many more people dying than usual for this time of year, with 7,215 extra deaths registered in England last month – nearly 20 per cent above the pre-pandemic average.

11:44 , Andy Gregory

Here’s more from care minister Gillian Keegan’s media round this morning:

  • Responding to calls to relax rules for foreign workers to ease the strain on England’s NHS and care services, which the Care Quality Commission warned face “a tsunami of unmet need”, Ms Keegan told Sky News: “I don’t think that is really the answer, hoovering up everybody else’s social care.”
  • Speaking shortly after Sajid Javid urged MPs to “lead by example” in wearing face masks in the Commons, she suggested that doing so should not become a “sign of virtue”, adding: “It’s about personal choice, we’re not the sort of country that tells you what to wear.”
  • The minister said that any decision to cut the booster jab interval will depend on the advice of the experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who have advised a gap of six months.

GPs to be balloted on industrial action over Javid’s ‘name and shame’ reforms

11:25 , Andy Gregory

GPs are set to be balloted on industrial action over controversial reforms proposed by Sajid Javid, my colleague Lamiat Sabin reports.

At a British Medical Association (BMA) meeting, “outraged” doctors in England voted unanimously to reject the government’s plans, which would see GP surgeries ranked in league tables to “name and shame” those that do not carry out enough face-to-face appointments with their patients.

And from early November, GPs will have to have their names and wages published if they earn an NHS salary of more than £150,000 – which the BMA argues “provides no benefit to patients or their care, yet will potentially increase acts of aggression towards GPs, will damage morale amongst the profession, and only worsen practices’ ability to recruit and retain GPs”.

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

GPs to be balloted on industrial action over ‘name and shame’ reforms

‘Madness’ for nightclubs to reopen in Northern Ireland, BMA says

11:04 , Andy Gregory

A Stormont decision to lift coronavirus rules despite mounting pressures on the health service has been branded “complete madness” by medics.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland council, said the relaxations planned for the end of the month would ultimately lead to more Covid-19 deaths.

He criticised the move as “stupidity” as he warned the health system in the region was facing its “worst crisis ever” this winter as it dealt with the “triple whammy” of Covid, winter pressures and spiralling waiting lists.

10:35 , Andy Gregory

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more on the deputy chair of the JCVI’s suggestion that the current booster jab interval of six months is the “sweet spot”.

“Whether it’s five months or whether it’s seven months isn’t so important, but I think what is important is that people get their booster dose,” Professor Anthony Harnden told the BBC.

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

Six-month wait between second Covid dose and booster shot ‘sweet spot’

Travel to Wales permitted with lateral flow test for double-jabbed

10:17 , Andy Gregory

Fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in Wales from a non-red list country will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of the more expensive PCR test from Sunday October 31, the Welsh Government has announced.

It will come a week after the introduction of the policy in England.

‘Tsunami of unmet need’: Care watchdog contradicts government with dire NHS warning

09:59 , Andy Gregory

The health watchdog has warned that England’s NHS and care services face a “tsunami of unmet need” despite ministers insisting that hospitals are coping with the huge surge in demand, our health correspondent Shaun Lintern reports.

The Care Quality Commission’s chief executive, Ian Trenholm, said NHS and care staff “cannot be expected to work any harder than they already are if we’re to get safely through this winter”.

“What we’re seeing is many services are at capacity, and in many cases beyond capacity, and problems that traditionally could have been diverted can no longer be diverted,” he said.

Organisations needed to come together and work differently, he warned: “If these things don’t happen there is the genuine risk of a tsunami of unmet need with many people not getting the care that they so desperately need this winter.”

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

‘Tsunami of unmet need’: Care watchdog contradicts government with dire NHS warning

Ask a disease control expert anything about the UK’s rise of Covid cases

09:44 , Andy Gregory

Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter and former Public Health England consultant on communicable disease control, will be live on The Independent’s website at 10am to answer questions about the coronavirus pandemic.

You can submit questions and follow the discussion via the below article:

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

Ask a disease control expert anything about UK Covid cases increase

New app could see public given vouchers for healthy behaviour

09:38 , Andy Gregory

Public health minister Maggie Throup will soon make a statement to the Commons regarding the government’s new health incentives scheme.

The health department has announced today that it is launching a new app “to help people make positive changes to their diet and physical activity” – including the use of government-funded incentives.

A pilot will see users wear wrist-worn devices that can generate personalised health recommendations, such as increasing their step count, eating more fruit and vegetables and decreasing portion size.

The government is putting £3m towards the scheme, which will see users will unlock rewards for healthy behaviours – which could include gym passes, clothes or food vouchers and discounts for shops, cinema or theme park tickets.

Oh dear. https://t.co/HI94JhgiPJ

— Steve Baker MP FRSA (@SteveBakerHW) October 22, 2021

JCVI will consider cutting booster jab interval but six months is ‘sweet spot’, deputy chair says

09:24 , Andy Gregory

It seems as though people are not coming forward for boosters at the same rate they did for the other jabs, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has suggested.

Asked if people knew how to book boosters, Professor Anthony Harnden told the BBC’s Today show: “Well there has been a little bit of confusion. Of course, with the GP workforce, who have worked tirelessly through this pandemic, including given a large proportion of the vaccine programme, have become a little bit tired themselves and I think some GP practices have opted out.

“So there are a whole portfolio of different places – pharmacies, mass vaccination centres and others that are delivering the vaccines at the moment – and there may be a little bit of confusion about where people can get that vaccine, but people can ring up 119 number, they can go on to the NHS website, and with either of those options they can book a vaccine.”

He said that cutting the booster jab interval to five months is “something that could be considered”, adding: “But I think the data is showing that six months is a sort of sweet spot, whether it’s five months or whether it’s seven months isn’t so important, but I think what is important is that people get that booster dose.”

Cases of psychosis rise significantly over the past two years in England

09:07 , Andy Gregory

Cases of psychosis have risen significantly in England during the pandemic, according to new NHS data, which showed an increase of more than 29 per cent between April 2019 and April 2021.

The data, which has been analysed by the charity Rethink Mental Illness, showed that much of the increase in referrals has happened over the past year, after the first national lockdown.

The most recent data for July suggests that the number of people presenting to mental health services with symptoms of psychosis has returned closer to pre-pandemic levels, but the charity is insisting these figures must be carefully monitored.

My colleague Holly Bancroft has the full report here:

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

Cases of psychosis rise significantly over the past two years in England

Minister says Covid deaths ‘very low’ and defends not implementing ‘plan B’ measures

08:54 , Andy Gregory

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has more on care minister Gillian Keegan’s comments this morning that coronavirus deaths remain “very low” – despite 912 being reported in the past week.

Ms Keegan was also quizzed about the lack of Tory MPs wearing face masks in the Commons, after Sajid Javid suggested that politicians should “set an example”.

“Throughout the summer not many of us have had masks on,” she said. “You’ll find more and more as we go into winter, people will be wearing masks. But we shouldn’t be making it this sign of virtue or not, people have to make sensible choices.”

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

Minister says Covid deaths ‘very low’ and defends not implementing ‘plan B’ measures

08:46 , Andy Gregory

The number of Covid cases reported in a single day surpassed 50,000 yesterday for the first time since July.

Save for a single day in July, the 52,009 infections represent the largest daily increase since the devastating wave in January – when the 7-day average peaked just below 60,000.

Thanks to widespread vaccination, deaths remain lower, but 912 fatalities have still been reported in the last seven days.

The latest surge came after the chief executive of the NHS Confederation urged the government to implement measures even stronger than its current backup plan to tackle the virus.

“We are right on the edge – and it is the middle of October,” Matthew Taylor said. “It would require an incredible amount of luck for us not to find ourselves in the midst of a profound crisis over the next three months.

“The government ought to not just announce that we’re moving to Plan B, but it should be Plan B plus.

“We should do what’s in Plan B in terms of masks … working from home, but also we should try to achieve the kind of national mobilisation that we achieved in the first and second waves, where the public went out of their way to support and help the health service.”

UK daily Covid cases surpass 50,000 for first time since end of lockdown

Parents can book coronavirus jabs for children online from this evening

08:23 , Andy Gregory

As of this evening, parents in England will be able to book Covid-19 jabs online for children aged between 12 and 15, with appointments available as early as the weekend.

With take-up of the vaccine as low as 5 per cent in some local authorities among this age group – thought to be currently the most likely to catch the virus – teenagers will be able to check the national booking system to see if their local site has appointments, which will begin from Saturday.

Millions of letters are set to be sent to parents over the coming weeks, inviting them to book the vaccine online or by calling 119.

If a child has already been invited to be jabbed through their school, parents do not need to book unless they wish to get their child vaccinated outside of school.

08:11 , Andy Gregory

Any decision to cut booster jab interval will depend on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a minister has said.

“The JCVI look at all the data. They’ve advised us six months,” care minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News.

“Of course they continually look at the data but they are the only people who can really answer this question. If they advise us, our job then would be to get ready to do whatever they say. But at the moment it is six months.”

She added: “It is not unknown, the JCVI have changed over periods of time and have reacted.”

08:03 , Andy Gregory

A major hospital has declared a “critical incident” after a surge in demand saw more than 100 patients awaiting treatment in A&E and 25 ambulances queueing outside.

The Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske, in Truro said “unprecedented” pressure this week is worse “than at any point during the pandemic., and urged “families, friends and neighbours” to collect any patients who are able to “to leave hospital sooner.”

Managers at Cornwall’s main hospital raised the operating level from OPEL4 — known as a ‘black alert’ — to an ‘internal critical incident’ to allow for greater cooperation to ease the crisis.

Alastair Jamieson has more details here:

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

Hospital declares ‘critical incident’ as 25 ambulances queue outside

Wait before Covid booster jabs ‘could be cut to five months’ to speed up rollout

07:52 , Andy Gregory

Here’s more detail on our headline story this morning – that the interval between booster jabs and a second vaccine dose could be cut from six months to five.

Government officials and ministers have said the time interval between doses is a matter for the experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), my colleague Emily Atkinson reports.

But The Guardian said Downing Street sources confirmed the option was being examined, while The Daily Telegraph said the JCVI was showing an interest in the idea of giving booster doses a month early.

During a visit to Northern Ireland yesterday, Boris Johnson said the time period between jabs was an “extremely important point” and stressed the need to “keep going as fast as possible” to deliver booster vaccines.

Covid news - live: Nearly 1m people in England had virus last week, while minister says UK deaths ‘very low’
© Provided by The Independent

Wait before Covid booster jabs ‘could be cut to five months’ to speed up rollout

Covid death rates still ‘very low’, minister insists

07:37 , Andy Gregory

The government’s care minister Gillian Keegan has insisted coronavirus death rates remain “very low” – despite the UK recording an average of 130 daily deaths at the most recent count this week.

Asked why ministers are not putting its “plan B” in place, Ms Keegan told Sky News that the most important part of the government’s response was the booster campaign, adding: “Of course we have Plan B there. It is there for a reason. But right now … we know the vaccine is the best thing, so we’re really focusing on making sure that is rolled out.

She added: “When we reopened on 19 July, we did that because we’d shown we’d broken the link between the cases and the deaths – and that’s still the case. The cases are high, and obviously we’re not complacent about that, but the death rates still are very low.”

07:31 , Andy Gregory

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. You can follow here for updates on the latest news and statistics.

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