Covid news live: Switzerland to lift most restrictions; UK reports 54,218 new cases

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

LIVE – Updated at 17:18

Swiss shops, restaurants and cultural institutions will not require Covid certificate from Thursday; UK reports a further 199 Covid-linked deaths.

 

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

17:18

Children aged between five and 11 in England will be offered a Covid vaccine, the UK government has confirmed, after similar announcements from Wales and Scotland this week.

Global Tech News Daily

The move was recommended by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which decided that the vaccination programme should be extended to younger children after lengthy discussions on the benefits and risks.

The “non-urgent” vaccinations, which will primarily be given through school vaccination services, will be a Pfizer/BioNTech jab. Stormont’s health minister, Robin Swann, also confirmed that Northern Ireland will mirror the move.

Global Tech News Daily

Related: Five- to 11-year-old children in England to be offered Covid vaccine

 

17:09

U.S. health officials said they are preparing for the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic as Omicron-related cases decline, including updating CDC guidance on mask-wearing and shoring up U.S. testing capacity.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is weighing new guidance, including on when to wear face masks, the agency’s chief told reporters, adding that hospital capacity will be a key metric.

Tom Inglesby, the White House’s adviser for Covid-19 testing, also said the administration had issued a formal request for information to related companies about how to bolster the nation’s testing capacity, including details about supply-chain challenges and market volatility, Reuters reports.

 

16:39

From Prof Gabriel Leung, dean of the University of Hong Kong’s faculty of medicine on the worsening situation in the city that has been overwhelmed by cases in recent days:

Unlike most places with privileged access to vaccines, HK did not manage to persuade our elderly to get jabbed for over a year despite having prioritised them – https://t.co/VnfJv3Jd1H This has left us in our present v vulnerable situation https://t.co/quLqQc9sWE

— Gabriel Leung (@gmleunghku) February 16, 2022

Hong Kong reported 4,285 coronavirus infections today, with more than 7,000 preliminary positive cases pending confirmation by health officials.

More than 220 people have died in the city, with a three-year-old girl becoming the youngest fatality on Tuesday.

UK reports 54,218 new cases and 199 Covid-linked deaths

16:34

The UK has reported 54,218 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, and a further 199 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid test.

That is an increase on the 46,186 cases reported on Tuesday but down on the 68,214 cases reported on Wednesday last week. The UK reported 276 Covid-linked deaths last Wednesday.

Summary

14:33

Here are the key events from today so far:

  • The number of new coronavirus cases globally fell by 19% in the last week while the number of deaths remained stable, according to the World Health Organization. The Western Pacific was the only region to report a rise in new weekly cases, an increase of about 19%. The biggest drop was in south-east Asia, where new weekly cases fell by 37%.
  • Switzerland will lift almost all its coronavirus pandemic restrictions from Thursday, the government confirmed today. Access to shops, restaurants and cultural institutions will no longer require a Covid certificate. Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace. Restrictions on private events will also be relaxed.
  • Austria also announced that nearly all remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted on 5 March, including scrapping an earlier closing time of midnight for bars and restaurants and allowing nightclubs to reopen. Unvaccinated people will be able to enter restaurants and non-essential shops if they have been tested.
  • The Scottish government has confirmed it will offer Covid vaccinations to all children aged five to 11 years, adding to the pressure on UK ministers to do so in England. The Scottish decision follows an announcement on Tuesday from the devolved government in Wales that it would follow unpublished advice from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that all children in that age group should be jabbed.
  • Covid-19 infection levels have fallen slightly in England and Wales, but the trend is uncertain in Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
  • China’s president, Xi Jinping, has told Hong Kong’s leaders that their “overriding mission” was to stabilise and control a worsening Covid outbreak, pro-Beijing media reported, as infected patients lay in beds outside overwhelmed hospitals.
  • South Korea has once again reported a daily record of 90,443 new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, as numbers nearly doubled within a week amid the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
  • Malaysia also reported a record 27,831 new infections today, the highest daily rise since the pandemic began, the health ministry said. The previous record was on 26 August last year, when daily cases hit 24,599.
  • The Dutch government was inadequately prepared for the Covid pandemic and paid insufficient attention to the threat to people in care homes, an independent inquiry has found. The Dutch Safety Board said authorities in the Netherlands failed to protect the economy, education and culture in the early days of the pandemic, and in particular nursing homes where a “silent disaster” was allowed to unfold.
  • About 3,000 British volunteers are being sought to take part in a study for Moderna’s Omicron booster vaccine.
  • Two men have appeared in court in the UK accused of selling fake coronavirus test kits. The pair are accused of importing illegal Covid testing kits from China to sell in the UK during the early days of the pandemic when PPE and Covid testing was in short supply.
  • The relatively short shelf life of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine is complicating the rollout to the world’s poorest nations, according to officials and internal World Health Organization (WHO) documents seen by Reuters. Some countries, particularly in Africa, are struggling to administer the excess doses donated by richer states that arrive with only a few months, and sometimes weeks, before their use-by date.

 

14:27

The Dutch government was inadequately prepared for the Covid pandemic and paid insufficient attention to the threat to people in care homes, an independent inquiry has found.

The Dutch Safety Board said authorities in the Netherlands “became overly fixated” on hospitals in the early days of the pandemic and failed to protect the economy, education, culture and in particular nursing homes where a “silent disaster” was allowed to unfold.

The safety board’s chairman, the former finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, called the pandemic the country’s biggest social crisis in decades.

Dijsselbloem said:

The Netherlands proved to be vulnerable. This was due to the structures the government had in place for the health sector and the crisis response: they fell short given the nature and scope of the crisis.

The 313-page report singled out for criticism the head of the government’s outbreak management team, the infectious diseases expert Jaap van Dissel, for his position on the use of masks.

The Netherlands ordered the widespread use of masks far later than other European countries, and Van Dissel described the policy as “political” rather than a scientific choice. The inquiry said his remarks “undermined public trust in the government policy”, and the fact that “he himself openly doubted [masks’] usefulness did not help to maintain support”.

The publication of the report came a day after the Dutch health minister, Ernst Kuipers, announced that the Netherlands would scrap almost all pandemic restrictions by 25 February.

The Netherlands, with a population of 17 million, has reported 21,414 deaths and 5.8m Covid cases since the pandemic began. About 86.3% of adults have been vaccinated.

 

14:25

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said he has tested positive for Covid-19, a day after he returned from the United Arab Emirates, where he had accompanied the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on an official visit.

Writing on Twitter, Çavuşoğlu, 54, said his symptoms were mild and that he planned to continue to work from home.

“Thankfully, my illness is mild. I will continue to work from home for a while without interrupting [my schedule],” he said.

Bugün yaptırdığım Covid-19 testim pozitif çıktı.

Hamdolsun, hastalığı hafif geçiriyorum. Çalışmalarıma ara vermeden bir süre evden devam edeceğim.

Rabbim tüm hastalarımıza şifa versin.

— Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (@MevlutCavusoglu) February 16, 2022

 

14:24

Covid-19 infection levels have fallen slightly in England and Wales, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In England, around one in 20 people are estimated to have had the virus in the week to 12 February, or 2.4 million people. That is slightly down from one in 19, or 2.8 million people, in the week to 5 February.

In Wales, around 112,600 people are estimated to have had the virus in the week to 12 February, compared to 121,200 in the week prior. The proportion remained unchanged at one in 25.

Latest #COVID19 data show infection rates remain high across the UK, however there are differences across regions and nations.

England and Wales have seen decreases in the most recent week, and trends are uncertain in Northern Ireland and Scotland https://t.co/KevXrOWELI pic.twitter.com/3HmW3YSEM6

— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) February 16, 2022

Northern Ireland saw infections remain broadly level last week, at an estimated 146,600 people or one in 13, compared with 145,600 people – also one in 13 – the previous week.

In Scotland, around 219,300 are estimated to have had the virus in the week to 12 February, up from 211,300 people – both the equivalent of around one in 25.

Malaysia registers record high daily Covid cases

14:24

Malaysia reported a record 27,831 new infections today, the highest daily rise since the pandemic began, the health ministry said. The previous record was on 26 August last year, when daily cases hit 24,599.

The new cases bring the total number of infections since the start of the pandemic to more than 3.1m, including more than 32,000 deaths.

From Malaysia’s Health-Director General Noor:

We have prepared for the herd immunity approach following our high vaccination coverage and natural immunity from those recovered from the covid-19 infection. We have to ride on this omicron storm and hopefully the storm will pass soon and we move to endemicity pic.twitter.com/dmoiq63zyL

— Noor Hisham Abdullah (@DGHisham) February 16, 2022

 

14:23

The relatively short shelf life of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine is complicating the rollout to the world’s poorest nations, according to officials and internal World Health Organization (WHO) documents seen by Reuters.

Some countries, particularly in Africa, are receiving vaccines with short shelf lives from the Covax vaccine-sharing project and are struggling to administer the excess doses donated by richer states.

Two and a half months of shelf life is the minimum duration African countries estimate they need to administer the shots. But many vaccines are arriving with only a few months, and sometimes weeks, before their use-by date, meaning some countries have had to destroy expired doses.

The problem with a short shelf life largely concerns AstraZeneca, Covax’s second-biggest supplier after Pfizer, according to Covax data and officials. In an internal WHO document detailing vaccine stocks in several central and west African countries for the week ending 6 February, of the total expired doses declared by 19 listed African nations, about 1.3m were AstraZeneca, 280,000 Johnson & Johnson, 15,000 Moderna and 13,000 Russia’s Sputnik.

Asked about the internal document, Dr Phiona Atuhebwe, a vaccine expert at WHO Africa, said:

WHO is fully cognisant of the pressure that short shelf life doses put on delivery strategies and systems amid weak infrastructure and low demand.

Taking into account only donated doses, which represent nearly half the billion vaccines distributed by Covax, about 30m AstraZeneca shots were rejected or deferred last year by poor nations, said Gavi, the nonprofit that co-runs Covax alongside the WHO.

Switzerland to lift most Covid restrictions from Thursday

14:21

Switzerland will lift almost all its coronavirus pandemic restrictions from Thursday, the government confirmed today.

Shops, restaurants and cultural institutions will be freely accessible to people, with no requirement to show a Covid certificate. Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace. Restrictions on private events will also be relaxed.

People will still be required to wear masks on public transport and at healthcare facilities, and mandatory five-day isolation of people who have tested positive for coronavirus will also remain in effect until the end of March.

The Swiss government first announced the easing of restrictions two weeks ago, after it ended quarantine for people who come into contact with an infected person and turned a work-from-home order into a recommendation.

In a statement, the government said:

The epidemiological situation continues to develop positively. Thanks to the high level of immunity in the population, it is unlikely that the healthcare system will be overloaded despite the continued high level of virus circulation.

Thus, the conditions are in place for a rapid normalisation of social and economic life.

 

14:17

Two men have appeared in court in the UK accused of selling fake coronavirus test kits.

Ron Huss-Smickler, 40, of Branston Street and Steven Beckford, 38, entered not guilty pleas to fraud at Birmingham Crown Court and will be tried on 20 March.

The pair are accused of importing illegal Covid testing kits from China to sell in the UK during the early days of the pandemic when PPE and Covid testing was in short supply.

Both have been charged with one count of fraud by dishonestly gaining from the selling of the unregulated Covid tests and making profit from the sales.

 

13:28

Our Europe correspondent, Jon Henley, on how the UK has lagged behind some countries in giving Covid-19 vaccinations to younger children:

Scotland and Wales have announced that they will offer Covid-19 vaccines to all 5-11 year olds, and the UK government is expected to announce a decision for England imminently. Northern Ireland has not yet followed suit.

Britain has been slower than some other countries in offering the shots to this age group, so far only vaccinating vulnerable younger children.

Many EU member states began offering vaccination to all children aged five to 11 in December, but progress has been patchy, with authorities blaming hesitancy among parents and some doctors as well as mixed messaging from experts.

Related: UK has been slower than some countries in giving Covid jabs to younger children

Austria to lift most Covid restrictions on 5 March

13:12

Nearly all remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted on 5 March, including scrapping an earlier closing time of midnight for bars and restaurants and allowing nightclubs to reopen, the Austrian chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said today.

The announcement follows news that unvaccinated people will be able to enter restaurants and non-essential shops if they have been tested. Access to highly vulnerable settings such as care homes and hospitals will remain restricted to people who have been vaccinated.

In addition, the FFP2 mask mandate will be relaxed and only required in vulnerable settings and in public transport, essential shops and pharmacies.

Nehammer said that the pandemic was not yet over but the situation allowed Austria to open up step by step.

In a first step starting Saturday, proof of vaccination or recent recovery will no longer be required to attend events, go to restaurants, bars or hairdressers and various other activities. Proof of a negative test will suffice for those things.

From 5 March, nightclubs may reopen and restrictions on opening hours for restaurants and bars will end.

Austria became the first European country to make vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for all adults on 1 February.

 

12:55

Our Scotland editor, Severin Carrell, reports on the Scottish government’s decision to offer Covid vaccinations to all children aged five to 11.

The Scottish government has confirmed it will offer Covid vaccinations to all children aged five to 11 years, adding to the pressure on UK ministers to do so in England.

The Scottish decision follows an announcement on Tuesday from the devolved government in Wales that it would follow unpublished advice from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that all children in that age group should be jabbed.

Scottish government officials have started conversations with health boards about how to deliver the vaccinations, following advice circulated by the JCVI to all the UK’s governments earlier this month.

The UK government, which runs health services in England but also oversees the UK-wide purchase and distribution of the vaccines, has delayed making a decision on the recommendation.

Ministers in all four governments normally immediately follow JCVI advice but on this occasion, with the Treasury pressing hard for steep cuts in Covid test spending, have decided the need to vaccinate children is not urgent.

Related: Scotland to offer Covid jab to all children aged five to 11, says Sturgeon

 

12:21

An oral Covid antiviral drug from Merck may not be granted EU approval over “problematic data”, the Financial Times reports.

The drug, molnupiravir, has been authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but the paper says the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is unlikely to grant conditional marketing authorisation to the drug.

A person familiar with the approval process told the FT that it was “possible” that molnupiravir would not receive approval at all. The EMA declined to comment on its ongoing review.

The EMA’s review of Merck’s pill, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, has been delayed after trial data published in November showed the drug was significantly less effective than previously thought.

Early data from a late-stage trial suggested the drug cut the risk of hospitalisation and death in half, but a subsequent analysis found its efficacy is at 30%.

 

11:55

More on Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that all children aged between five and 11 in Scotland will be offered Covid vaccinations.

The UK’s Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is yet to publish official guidance on giving jabs to all youngsters, but advised all four nations more than week ago that the vaccination programme should be expanded to younger children. As the Guardian has reported, the UK government delayed announcing its decision.

Today, Sturgeon said the Scottish government has received draft advice recommending the “universal vaccination” of children.

Although it isn’t yet published, I can confirm that @scotgov has received advice from JCVI recommending that vaccination is offered to all 5-11 yr olds. We will accept this advice & work is now underway on the logistics of delivery. Parents/carers will receive further info asap. https://t.co/058r5Xsyu6

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) February 16, 2022

The new advice does not affect children in this age group who are already being vaccinated due to medical conditions which place them at greater risk from the virus.

It comes after the Welsh government announced earlier this week that it will offer Covid vaccinations to all five- to 11-year olds.

Summary

11:41

Here is a round-up of today’s top Covid news stories so far:

  • Russia reported an increase in Covid infections on Wednesday, with a total of 179,284 new infections and 748 deaths reported over the last 24 hours.
  • China’s president, Xi Jinping, has told Hong Kong’s leaders that their “overriding mission” was to stabilise and control a worsening Covid outbreak, pro-Beijing media reported, as infected patients lay in beds outside overwhelmed hospitals.
  • South Korea has once again reported a daily record of 90,443 new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, as numbers nearly doubled within a week amid the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
  • A Japanese government delay in rolling out Covid booster shots left it more vulnerable than other rich countries when the Omicron variant brought a surge of deaths, say experts, local governments and a former vaccine czar.
  • About 3,000 British volunteers are being sought to take part in a study for Moderna’s Omicron booster vaccine.
  • South Korea will distribute free coronavirus rapid test kits at elementary schools and nursing homes starting next week.
  • British ministers’ plans to scale back free PCR Covid tests could weaken the UK’s defences if a new variant of the virus emerges that results in “significant new waves” of cases, a group representing local public health chiefs has warned.
  • Italian doctors will take part in a two-day strike from 1 March against what they called an “unbearable workload” amid the Covid pandemic, Italy’s news agency ANSA reported.
  • The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organising Committee said on Wednesday that two new Covid cases were detected among Games-related personnel on 15 February.

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, for today. I’ll be back tomorrow but my colleague Léonie Chao-Fong will be along shortly to take over the global Covid live blog. Goodbye for now.

Global Covid cases fell by 19% in the last week – WHO

11:41

Hello everyone, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong here again, taking over the live blog from Tom Ambrose to bring you all the latest global developments on the coronavirus pandemic. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

We start with the news that the number of new coronavirus cases globally fell by 19% in the last week while the number of deaths remained stable, according to the World Health Organization.

In its weekly report on the pandemic, the UN health agency said just over 16m new Covid-19 infections and about 75,000 deaths were reported worldwide last week.

The Western Pacific was the only region to report a rise in new weekly cases, an increase of about 19%. The biggest drop was in south-east Asia, where new weekly cases fell by 37%.

The biggest number of new Covid cases was seen in Russia. Cases there and elsewhere in Eastern Europe have doubled in recent weeks, driven by a surge of the Omicron variant.

The number of deaths rose by 38% in the Middle East and by about one-third in the Western Pacific.

WHO’s Africa director, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said last week there was “light at the end of the tunnel” for the continent and that even despite low vaccination rates, Africa was transitioning from the acute pandemic phase.

Her comments contrasted sharply with warnings from WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has said repeatedly the pandemic is not over and is premature for countries to think that the end might be imminent.

Children aged five to 11 in Scotland to be offered Covid-19 vaccine, Nicola Sturgeon announces

11:38

Children between the ages of five and 11 in Scotland are to be offered a Covid-19 vaccination, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Ministers have accepted draft recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The first minister said:

Although it has yet to be published officially by the JCVI, like colleagues in Wales we have received advice from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which recommends Covid-19 vaccination for all children aged five to 11-years-old.

I can confirm that ministers have considered this draft advice and are content to accept its recommendations.

Work is under way to determine how best to deliver vaccinations to children, Sturgeon said. In the meantime, parents and carers of children aged five to 11 do not need to do anything.

 

10:46 Aubrey Allegretti

British ministers’ plans to scale back free PCR Covid tests could weaken the UK’s defences if a new variant of the virus emerges that results in “significant new waves” of cases, a group representing local public health chiefs has warned.

Before a meeting of cabinet ministers and the prime minister later this week to discuss the “learning to live with Covid” strategy, the Association of Public Health Directors (APHD) said that forcing people to pay for lateral flow tests would also have a “detrimental impact” on take-up, particularly among disadvantaged communities.

The group said that despite the government being expected to roll back the last remaining Covid laws from next week, coronavirus “is yet to become endemic” and added it was “difficult to predict when this state may be attained”.

“Significant levels of cases, hospitalisations and deaths continue to disrupt and devastate individuals, public services and the economy,” a briefing note said. “There remains a degree of unpredictability about the course ahead.”

Whitehall sources told the Guardian on Monday that ministers were pressing ahead with plans to start winding down Covid testing and payments for isolation from next week to save more than £10bn.

Related: Scaling back free Covid tests could hinder UK if new variant emerges, say experts

 

10:09 Lorenzo Tondo

Italian doctors will take part in a two-day strike from 1 March against what they called an “unbearable workload” amid the Covid pandemic, Italy’s news agency ANSA reported.

Physicians will stage a demonstration in Rome, outside the health ministry.

The trade union organisations Smi and Simet criticised “unsustainable workloads” and a “lack of safeguards”, also highlighting “a failure to compensate the families of colleagues who died of Covid”.

It commented: “This is a slap in the face from the state.”

There have been 28,630 new cases of Covid in Italy in the last 24 hours, and 281 more victims of the virus, the health ministry said.

About 151,684 people have died so far from coronavirus in the country.

Russia registers 748 new Covid deaths

09:29

Russia reported an increase in Covid infections on Wednesday, with a total of 179,284 new infections and 748 deaths reported over the last 24 hours.

It follows a three-day decline in case numbers.

Meanwhile, Russians will be able to take an antibody test to obtain a coronavirus health pass from 21 February, its health ministry confirmed yesterday.

QR codes will be issued to Russians who test positive for Covid antibodies, regardless of their vaccination status, according to The Moscow Times.

Russia has confirmed 14,659,880 cases of Covid and 342,383 deaths, according to reports.

Covid news live: Switzerland to lift most restrictions; UK reports 54,218 new cases
© Provided by The Guardian Outpatient clinic queue in Omsk, Russia. Photograph: Yevgeny Sofiychuk/TASS

 

09:24

South Korea will distribute free coronavirus rapid test kits at elementary schools and nursing homes starting next week.

Health officials on Wednesday reported the country’s highest daily jump in coronavirus infections with 90,443 new cases, shattering the previous one-day record set on Tuesday by more than 33,000 cases. Some experts say South Korea could see daily cases of about 200,000 in March.

While Omicron has so far seemed less likely to cause serious illness or death compared to the Delta variant, which rattled the country in December and early January, hospitalisations have been creeping up amid the greater scale of outbreak, according to the Associated Press.

The prime minister, Kim Boo-kyum, Seoul’s second official behind the president, Moon Jae-in, said officials will start distributing free rapid test kits at kindergartens, elementary schools and nursing homes next week to strengthen protection for unvaccinated children and high-risk groups.

The education minister, Yoo Eun-hye, said schools will get enough kits for students to use twice a week, but added that tests won’t be mandatory.

“We ask for students to be tested at home with the rapid antigen test kits on the evenings of Sunday and Wednesday before coming to school,” Yoo said during a briefing. “When testing positive from those tests, please visit the local health office to get PCR tests.”

 

08:36

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organising Committee said on Wednesday that two new Covid cases were detected among Games-related personnel on 15 February.

One of the cases was found among new airport arrivals, according to a notice on the Beijing 2022 official website.

Another case was among those already in the “closed loop” bubble that separates all event personnel from the public, the notice said.

Covid news live: Switzerland to lift most restrictions; UK reports 54,218 new cases
© Provided by The Guardian A man photographs an illuminated logo ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Moderna launches UK study for new Omicron vaccine

08:07

About 3,000 British volunteers are being sought to take part in a study for Moderna’s Omicron booster vaccine.

The jab, which is one of the world’s first to tackle the variant, will be trialled at sites across the UK thanks to a partnership between Moderna and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Led by a team based at St George’s, University of London, the study will see half the volunteers receive the new Moderna Omicron variant vaccine and the other half vaccinated with the regular Moderna jab, PA Media reported.

It is already known that people’s immunity wanes several months after Covid booster doses, meaning clinical trials are needed to determine whether people may need a fourth booster dose.

Covid news live: Switzerland to lift most restrictions; UK reports 54,218 new cases
© Provided by The Guardian A nurse prepares a booster dose of the Moderna Covid vaccine. Photograph: Michele Tantussi/Reuters

The trial will also seek to recruit people who have had just two doses of a vaccine and have not yet had a booster.

A separate COV-Boost sub-study will also run to compare using Moderna’s Omicron variant vaccine as a fourth dose with a standard dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

 

08:07

A Japanese government delay in rolling out Covid booster shots left it more vulnerable than other rich countries when the Omicron variant brought a surge of deaths, say experts, local governments and a former vaccine czar.

The issue could mean political trouble for prime minister Fumio Kishida as nearly 30% of the population is aged 65 or older, and so at greater risk from the coronavirus without the protection of the booster, Reuters reported.

Kishida’s predecessor stepped down after widespread criticism of his handling of the pandemic and the prime minister’s ruling party faces an important test with an upper house election this year.

On Tuesday, Japan saw 236 new fatalities, its worst ever one-day toll from Covid. Although Japan was comparatively slow to launch its initial vaccination campaign, it ramped it up quickly and by November had the highest vaccination rate within the G7.

 

08:05

China’s president, Xi Jinping, has told Hong Kong’s leaders that their “overriding mission” was to stabilise and control a worsening Covid outbreak, pro-Beijing media reported, as infected patients lay in beds outside overwhelmed hospitals.

The directive ramps up pressure on the Hong Kong chief executive, Carrie Lam, a day after she said her government’s response to the outbreak had been unsatisfactory, with hospitals and medical staff unable to cope.

Xi instructed Chinese vice-premier Han Zheng to relay to Lam his “concern about the pandemic situation” and his care for local residents, according to front page stories in newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao.

Health authorities in the global financial hub reported a record 1,619 confirmed new infections on Tuesday, and another 5,400 preliminary positive cases. The daily tally of Covid infections is now more than 20 times the level at the start of February, and worse is to come.

Broadcaster TVB said at least 4,285 new infections are expected to be reported on Wednesday, more than double the previous record, and there are another 3,000 preliminary positive tests.

Xi said the government “must mobilise all power and resources to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of the Hong Kong people and ensure the stability of the society,” according to the newspapers.

South Korea reports daily record of 90,443 Covid cases

08:05

Hello and welcome to the global Covid live blog. I’m Tom Ambrose and I will be bringing you all the latest coronavirus news over the next few hours.

We start with the news that South Korea has once again reported a daily record of 90,443 new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, as numbers nearly doubled within a week amid the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

The record count for Tuesday marked a drastic surge from 57,177 a day before and brought total infections in the country since the pandemic began to 1,552,851. Deaths remain comparatively low, though, with 39 fatalities on Tuesday and a total of 7,202 so far, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The country of 52 million population has largely been a Covid mitigation success story, thanks mainly to widespread wearing of masks, social distancing and aggressive testing and tracing, the Reuters news agency reported.

But authorities have shifted testing and tracing policy, in line with the less fatal Omicron variant’s spread, toward self-monitoring and diagnosis and at-home treatment starting this month.

Covid news live: Switzerland to lift most restrictions; UK reports 54,218 new cases
© Provided by The Guardian People wait in line to undergo the Covid test at a temporary testing site set up in Seoul. Photograph: Heo Ran/Reuters

The prime minister, Kim Boo-kyum, said the government was considering easing strict distancing curbs that include a 9pm curfew for restaurants, cafes and bars, and a ban on gatherings of more than six vaccinated people.

More than 86% of South Koreans have been fully vaccinated and 58% have received a booster shot, KDCA data showed.

 

07:43 Linda Geddes

Lateral flow tests (LFTs) are an increasing part of our everyday lives. But for some individuals, a persistent clash with their PCR test results is undermining their confidence in the system.

The Guardian has been contacted by hundreds of people who have repeatedly tested positive on lateral flow devices (LFDs), but whose confirmatory PCR tests have been relentlessly negative.

Amy Lewis’s son Josh, nine, has tested positive on LFTs six times in the past eight months. “The biggest implication was that we were supposed to go to Guernsey to see my family for Christmas, but we decided not to go, because [of the testing requirements]. We couldn’t put Josh through the emotional upheaval of that,” said Lewis, from Bristol. “What has been frustrating is the lack of recognition that this is an issue, or that it might be possible.”

Anna Brading of Reading received a warning from her son’s headteacher, because he had missed so much school as a result of having to self-isolate. “We have no way of telling when he actually gets Covid and I have vulnerable family members that we want to see,” she said.

Barbara Mann, 35, of Monmouth, believes her LFTs may be detecting some other virus. “There are always two lines, sometimes the second is faint, sometimes strong,” she said. “It seems to depend if I’m feeling under the weather or not.”

Related: Covid tests: how can people be positive on lateral flow and negative on PCRs?

News Related

OTHER NEWS

This is America: It's not just Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month anymore

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month was already a lot to take in. There are so many distinct cultures and disparate experiences within these two massive identity groups, so ... Read more »

Red-hot inflation is probably costing you an extra $311 per month

Financial squeeze stems from the rising cost for a number of everyday goods Read more »

How Kurtwood Smith Approached His Character In Firestarter - Exclusive

Blumhouse/Universal Stephen King’s 1980 novel, “Firestarter,” was the celebrated horror author’s first full-fledged foray into science fiction, after incorporating elements of the genre into his two previous books, “The Stand” ... Read more »

The Devastating Death Of Tremors Star Fred Ward

Kevin Winter/Getty The entertainment world is reeling today at the news that character actor extraordinaire Fred Ward has died at the age of 79. No cause of death has been ... Read more »

Formula shortage reveals GOP's compassion for American babies, anger over nourished immigrant ones

Cearly these Republicans are addressing the baby-formula shortage through the scriptural philosophy of: “All lives are precious, expect these little immigrant whiners over here. They can pound sand.” Read more »

Self-driving truck company looks to fix supply chain issues for the long haul

Embark Trucks successfully completes autonomous driving tests in winter conditions Read more »

A timeline of billionaire Elon Musk's bid to control Twitter

Elon Musk announced on Friday that his plan to buy Twitter in a proposed $44 billion deal is “ temporarily on hold ” as he tries to pinpoint the exact ... Read more »

Protesters demand arrest of former Sri Lankan PM over attack

The Associated PressSri Lankans protest demanding president Gotabaya Rajakasa resign and decrying the appointment of Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, May 13, 2022. Five-time former Sri ... Read more »

Law & Order: SVU Fans Are Outraged With Olivia Benson After Season 23, Episode 21

Michael Greenberg/NBC Since the series debuted in 1999, “Law & Order: SVU” fans have rallied behind the exploits of protagonist Captain Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay). As the Commanding Officer of ... Read more »

Here's Who's Hosting The Saturday Night Live Season Finale

Amy Sussman/Getty The untold truth of “Saturday Night Live” involves all sorts of behind-the-scenes shenanigans, but when it comes to the show’s guest hosts, few things are left untold. There’s a ... Read more »

Woman arrested in 2002 Missouri hospital patient's death

On Location: May 13, 2022 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — A former respiratory therapist charged with first-degree murder in the death of ... Read more »

Inflation has eroded 40% of Social Security's purchasing power since 2000

Social Security would need to increase by $539 per month to offset inflation Read more »

Toddler weighing under 10 pounds dies; parents arrested

The Associated PressThis photo provided by Polk County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office shows Arhonda Tillman and Regis Johnson. A 2-year-old girl in Florida weighing less than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) died ... Read more »

Jesse Spencer Responds To Those Leaked Chicago Fire Finale Images

Timothy Hiatt/Getty Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer) has been a fixture on “Chicago Fire” ever since the very first episode. Originally starting off as a lieutenant for the first six seasons, ... Read more »

Multiverse Of Madness Screenwriter Reveals Elizabeth Olsen's Reaction To Scarlet Witch's Violent Scene - Exclusive

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images Spoiler warning: This article includes major plot details from “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Arguably one of the most dramatic character arcs in the history ... Read more »

Pilots at United will vote on contract after tentative deal

The Associated PressFILE – In this July 2, 2021 file photo, a United Airlines jetliner taxis down a runway for take off from Denver International Airport in Denver. United Airlines ... Read more »

Unionists block new N Ireland govt over Brexit trade rules

The Associated PressFILE – Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson pauses as he speaks to the media at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, Monday, May 9, 2022. Britain and the European ... Read more »

Five-year-old girl dies after being found unconscious in the sea in Stavanger

The five-year-old girl who was found lifeless in the sea in Stavanger on Thursday night was declared dead at the hospital on Friday. The police do not suspect that the ... Read more »

Mixed Texas ruling allows trans youth parent investigations

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Supreme Court on Friday allowed the state to investigate parents of transgender youth for child abuse while also ruling in favor of one family that ... Read more »

Mimi Rogers Cried When She Learned About Her Bosch Character's Fate - Exclusive

Tyler Golden/Amazon Freevee Emmy-nominated actress Mimi Rogers has more than 100 IMDb credits to her name, but dedicated fans of “Bosch” almost certainly know her best from her role as the ... Read more »

Severe storms blamed for 2 deaths in South Dakota, Minnesota

Severe weather hits the Heartland and moves East Chief meteorologist Ginger Zee has the latest forecast after damaging storm reports from Kansas to Minnesota. The Associated Press SIOUX FALLS, S.D. ... Read more »

Jesse Williams addresses leak of Broadway nude scene

The Associated PressMichael Oberholtzer, from left, Jesse Williams and Jesse Tyler Ferguson attend the Tony Awards: Meet The Nominees media day at the Sofitel New York on Thursday, May 12, ... Read more »

House of Representatives to give staff free Peloton memberships, costing taxpayers

The benefit is is being offered to Capitol Police officers and House staff Read more »

Elon Musk pausing Twitter deal because of spam accounts not a ‘legitimate excuse': Market expert

Musk could be putting the Twitter deal on hold to renegotiate the price, says Gregg Smith Read more »

Here's Why Moon Knight Could Suddenly Fly In The Final Episode

Disney+/Marvel Studios Marvel’s “Moon Knight” wraps up its six-episode run with an epic battle between Marc Spector/Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) and the powerful zealot Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke). It’s a ... Read more »

The Fed raising interest rates will ‘create a recession,' Dick Bove warns

The Fed ‘can’t avoid’ a recession, the chief financial strategist stresses Read more »

German police investigate possible terrorism in knife attack

VIENNA — Police have arrested an Iraqi-born man and are investigating a possible Islamic extremist motive after five passengers received knife wounds on a regional train in western Germany, authorities ... Read more »

German police investigate possible Islamic extremist motive after 5 wounded in knife attack on train

BERLIN — German police investigate possible Islamic extremist motive after 5 wounded in knife attack on train. Read more »

Doctor Strange 2 Star Benedict Wong Recalls His Longtime Friendship With Benedict Cumberbatch - Exclusive

Noam Galai/Getty Images Thanks to the sprawling narrative of the MCU, many of the film saga’s actors have had the opportunity to work together again. That’s a good thing when ... Read more »

Queen attends horse show in first public appearance in weeks

The Associated PressBritain’s Queen Elizabeth II is joined by Prince Edward and Sophie, right, the Earl and Countess of Wessex as they sit in the Royal Box at the Royal ... Read more »

UN humanitarian official urges attention to drought in Kenya

The Associated PressVillagers gather during a visit by United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, in the village of Lomoputh in northern Kenya Thursday, May 12, 2022. Griffiths visited ... Read more »

Film Review: ‘Firestarter' remake fails to ignite

The Associated PressThis image released by Universal Pictures shows Ryan Kiera Armstrong as Charlie in a scene from “Firestarter.” (Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures via AP) For a movie about a girl ... Read more »

Report: Austria sees record number of antisemitic incidents

VIENNA — Antisemitic incidents reached a record high in Austria last year, according to a report published Friday. The statistics, compiled by the Jewish Community of Vienna, recorded 965 incidents ... Read more »

Germany: Over 300 far-right extremists at security agencies

VIENNA — The German government said Friday that it has identified more than 300 employees of national and state military, police and security agencies with links to far-right extremists or ... Read more »

38 rescued, 11 dead as US searches waters near Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — At least 38 people have been rescued and 11 bodies found as the U.S. Coast Guard scoured the open waters northwest of Puerto Rico on ... Read more »

Becki Newton On The Joy Of Working With Neve Campbell On The Lincoln Lawyer And Her Dream Co-Star - Exclusive

Lara Solanki/Netflix Throughout her career, Becki Newton has worked with a string of talented actors, including Judith Light and Vanessa Williams on “Ugly Betty,” Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders ... Read more »

As the United States grapples with abortion law, what is the situation here in Norway?

The recent leaking of a draft decision, by the United States Supreme Court, to overturn more than 5 decades of the legal protection of a woman’s right to seek an ... Read more »

Nasdaq's nosedive nears pandemic crash of 2020

The 10-year yield hit 3.203% Monday – a 3.5 year high Read more »

Croatia passes law paving way for euro currency introduction

ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatian lawmakers on Friday approved a law that paves the way for the introduction of the euro currency next year. Croatia is due to replace the Croatian ... Read more »

Report: Missile attack kills 10 Syrian soldiers in the north

BEIRUT — A missile struck a Syrian military bus in the country’s north early on Friday, killing 10 soldiers, Syria’s state-run media and an opposition monitor said. It wasn’t immediately ... Read more »