Covid news - live: UK ‘faces lockdown Christmas' if ministers delay plan B as WHO warns vaccines ‘not enough'

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Covid news - live: UK ‘faces lockdown Christmas’ if ministers delay plan B as WHO warns vaccines ‘not enough’
© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Virus Outbreak Vaccine Supply

LIVE – Updated at 12:07

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the vaccine alone will not be able to lift the world out of the pandemic.

It comes as PM Boris Johnson is urging people eligible for a Covid booster vaccine to get theirs before the winter months.

It comes while those eligible for the third jab have been slow to book their appointments.

Cases have been rising over the past week to between 40,000 and 50,000 new cases per day for the last week – sparking fears for hospitalisation and death rates over the festive season.

WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris told Times Radio: “The problem is focusing on one thing, the vaccine isn’t going to get us out of this.

“We really have to do other measures.

“We have got to be serious about not crowding. We have still got to be looking at wearing the masks, when you’re indoors particularly.”

Senior scientific advisers to the government have told ministers to start preparing for the “rapid deployment” of basic Covid measures such as the return of compulsory mask-wearing and working from home.

Local authorities have urged Downing Street to “act now, rather than later”, and unions have warned that “without decisive action now” that the UK will be “sleepwalking into another winter of chaos”.

Key Points

  • Poorer countries must be vaccinated to prevent variants – WHO
  • ‘No point delaying’ Plan B measures before Christmas
  • Worried public urged to ‘not wait for the government to change Covid policy’
  • Will there be another lockdown? Here is everything we know
  • Philippines considering whether to put UK on its red list

Children in Romania to go on two-week ‘firebreak’ school holiday

12:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Romania’s government is planning to keep children off school for two weeks as part of efforts to lower numbers of Covid cases and deaths.

The authorities are also set to re-introduce a night curfew and make health passes and face masks mandatory for entry to most public venues from Monday.

Weddings and other private events are banned, and the government is also urging employers to send half their staff to work from home.

The measures to be in force for 30 days were approved by the interim government late last night.

Romania reported record numbers of daily Covid deaths and cases this month, and the health system is stretched to breaking point.

The country has the second-lowest coronavirus vaccination rate in the EU, with just over a third of the adult population fully jabbed.

“We are in a disaster situation,” deputy Interior Minister Raed Arafat said on Friday.

“We have seen other countries go through this when there wasn’t a weapon available, namely the vaccine.

“We are in this situation while having the vaccine, because the majority of us refused to get inoculated. This situation could have been avoided.”

Russia sees record number of Covid cases and deaths

11:45 , Lamiat Sabin

Russia has reported record levels of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

This comes after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russians to stay away from work between 30 October and 7 November.

The national coronavirus taskforce said today that 1,075 people had died with the virus in the past 24 hours.

A total of 37,678 new infections were recorded.

The daily death toll is about 33 per cent higher than in late September and infection cases have risen by about 70 per cent in the past month.

Only about a third of Russia’s 146 million people are vaccinated.

Philippines considering whether to put UK on its red list

11:15 , Lamiat Sabin

Another country is considering restriction travel to and from the UK due to concerns over a Delta subvariant of the Covid virus.

The Philippines is mooting whether to put the UK on its “red list” of countries that will have restrictions for travel.

The Philippines’ health department said today that officials are looking into placing the UK on the red list, which has the most strict rules for travel, over the spread of the AY 4.2. variant.

It comes after Morocco banned travel to and from the UK for an unspecified time over fears that allowing in travellers from the UK would wreck its own progress in controlling the virus.

The Moroccan government also banned travel to and from Germany and the Netherlands.

Wes Streeting self-isolating after testing positive for Covid

10:45 , Lamiat Sabin

Labour MP Wes Streeting has announced that he will be self-isolating until the beginning of November after contracting Covid.

I’ve tested positive for covid-19 and I’m now self-isolating. I’ll be back at work on Monday 1st November.

I’ve had quite enough of being at home ill this year, but grumpiness is the worst of my symptoms at the moment, so I’ll stop sulking and count my blessings instead.

— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) October 22, 2021

In July, the 38-year-old Ilford North MP announced that he had been declared cancer-free after having undergone an operation to remove one of his kidneys.

Two months prior, Mr Streeting revealed he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer and would be stepping back from frontline politics while he received treatment.

‘More support needed to prevent homelessness during pandemic’

10:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Some more reaction to the government’s announcement of a £65 million fund to help clear rent and bills arrears that up to 4 million households accrued during the pandemic.

The government announced today that vulnerable renters in England who have fallen into arrears will be helped with the support package this winter.

The funding is in addition to a £500m package announced in September to help families struggling to afford food, energy, water and other essentials.

Campaign group Generation Rent said that more funds are needed, especially now that the temporary £20 a week increase in benefits has been scrapped.

But with arrears worth more than 5 times the new funds available, and more families on the brink of crisis thanks to Universal Credit cuts and the end of furlough, more support is needed to prevent homelessness – and rent arrears in the first place.

— Generation Rent (@genrentuk) October 23, 2021

Will there be another lockdown? Here is everything we know

10:15 , Lamiat Sabin

The daily number of new Covid cases has been between 40,000 and 50,000 for the past week.

Rising hospitalisations and high daily death tolls have also sparked fears over another lockdown.

But is it likely that we will all be forced to go into social hibernation again this winter?

My colleague Joe Sommerlad has the details

Covid news - live: UK ‘faces lockdown Christmas’ if ministers delay plan B as WHO warns vaccines ‘not enough’
© Provided by The Independent

Will another lockdown happen?

Government pledges £65m to clear pandemic household arrears

10:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Vulnerable renters in England who have fallen into arrears during the pandemic will be helped with a £65 million support package this winter, the government has announced.

The funding is in addition to a £500m package announced in September to help families struggling to afford food, energy, water and other essentials.

Some 3.8 million households on low incomes are estimated to be in arrears with household bills, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Around 950,000 are thought to be in rent arrears, 1.4m are behind on council tax bills and 1.4m are behind on electricity and gas bills, the foundation said.

JRF findings suggest that a third of households with incomes of £24,752 or less are now in arrears – triple the 11 per cent estimated by a similar study before the pandemic.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said that the organisation welcomes the funding but that “it is impossible for this funding to meet the demand we face”.

He added: “To prevent homelessness in the first place, we desperately need the UK government to ensure that housing benefit covers the true cost of renting by unfreezing the Local Housing Allowance.”

Public urged to ‘not wait for government to change Covid policy’

09:45 , Lamiat Sabin

Prof Openshaw, on BBC Breakfast, has urged people to “take matters into your own hands” over social distancing and mask-wearing ahead of Christmas.

When asked what people should do if they are concerned about the government not yet implementing “Plan B” measures, he said: “I think take matters into your own hands. Don’t wait necessarily for government policy.

“I’m very, very reluctant now to go into crowded spaces because I know that roughly one in 60 people in a crowded space are going to have the virus.

“If you can, cycle to work, don’t go on public transport.

“I think do everything possible in your control to try to reduce transmission. Don’t wait for the government to change policy.

“The sooner we all act, the sooner we can get this transmission rate down, and the greater the prospect of having a Christmas with our families.”

‘No point delaying’ Plan B measures before Christmas

09:30 , Lamiat Sabin

A member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), which advises the government, said he fears another “lockdown Christmas”.

On BBC Breakfast this morning, Professor Peter Openshaw was asked what people can expect from Christmas if government policy does not change to implement “Plan B” measures during this stage of the pandemic with daily Covid case numbers rising.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Openshaw of Imperial College London said: “I’m very fearful that we’re going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon.

“We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There’s no point in delaying.

“If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later. The immediacy of response is absolutely vital if you’re going to get things under control.

“We all really, really want a wonderful family Christmas where we can all get back together.

“If that’s what we want, we need to get these measures in place now in order to get transmission rates right down so that we can actually get together and see one another over Christmas.”

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has also urged Downing Street to “act now rather than later”.

Our science correspondent Samuel Lovett reports

Covid news - live: UK ‘faces lockdown Christmas’ if ministers delay plan B as WHO warns vaccines ‘not enough’
© Provided by The Independent

Government must get ready for plan B now, Sage advisers warn

Poorer countries must be vaccinated to prevent variants – WHO

09:12 , Lamiat Sabin

The rest of the world must be vaccinated to stop new Covid variants from developing, WHO’s spokesperson Margaret Harris has warned.

She went on Times Radio to say that vaccines are not the only solution to bringing down case numbers in the UK.

But she added that more needs to be done to vaccinate people in other countries.

Ms Harris said: “What’s really going to have an effect on transmission for all of us is making sure there is as little virus as possible circulating around the world.

“The most high priority groups are those that are exposed to the virus all the time, healthcare workers, yet only one in 10 are vaccinated in Africa currently.

“We’re in such a bad place in much of the world, we’re going to see more variants develop, we’re going to see more transmission, and even if magically the vaccine protected one population as effectively as we hoped a variant then could develop and undo all of that work.”

09:08 , Lamiat Sabin

Good morning. Welcome to The Independent’s liveblog on news related to the UK’s response to the ongoing Covid pandemic.

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