German government ends free lateral flow tests as part of vaccination drive
People in Germany will from today have to pay for lateral flow coronavirus tests out of their own pockets, as the government is trying to nudge vaccine-hesitant citizens into getting the jab.
Public gatherings across Germany have since 23 August been allowed to go ahead if they follow the so-called “3G” rule (short for geimpft, genesen oder getestet), meaning participants have to show proof of either vaccination, a recent recovery from the virus, or an up-to-date test result.
A large-scale infrastructure offering free government-subsidized rapid antigen tests that sprung up across Germany over the spring and summer made testing part of people’s everyday routine while vaccinations were still hard to come by.
But as of 11 October the government says it can no longer justify paying for free tests out of the public purse since all residents over the age of 12 can now get the jab if they want to.
The hope is that the cost and inconvenience of paying for coronavirus tests will help to boost Germany’s stagnating vaccination rate, a problem politicians did little to address while the country was locked in election campaign mode. Only 65% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lower rates in the European Union.
Children under the age of 12, and those who are advised against taking the vaccine for medical reasons can still get free tests.
Today so far
From today people in Wales must show an NHS Covid Pass or demonstrate their vaccination status to enter nightclubs and attend large events in the country. It means all over-18s need one to enter nightclubs, indoor non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions, outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people and any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance. People will also be able to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.
First minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has been forced to concede that the scheme is open to the falsifying of lateral flow test results, but said “Having the Covid Pass there will help [hospitality venues] stay open during the autumn and winter – that is the purpose of it, not to be an extra burden on them or to single them out, but to protect them so they can go on operating successfully as we go into what is going to be a challenging time of year.”
A new French study, said to be the largest of its kind, shows that vaccination is highly effective at preventing severe cases of Covid-19, even against the Delta variant. The researchers compared the outcomes of 11 million vaccinated people with 11 million unvaccinated subjects.
NHS England’s medical director of primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, said pregnancy puts “quite a strain” on the heart and lungs and if pregnant women get Covid-19 then that “lays on pressure on an already pressurised system. So the evidence is really clear – if you’re not vaccinated yet and you’re pregnant please take up that lifesaving offer of protection.”
Heathrow’s passenger numbers remained only 38% compared to their pre-pandemic levels last month, the London airport has announced. As of 4am this morning, just seven countries will remain on England’s international travel red list: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
Russia’s daily Covid numbers remain close to their highest figures with 957 coronavirus-related deaths and 29,409 new cases in the past 24 hours.
AstraZeneca says it has demonstrated that a new antibody treatment AZD7442 was effective in preventing severe disease in non-hospitalised patients with mild to moderate coronavirus.
New Zealand’s government would be committing “modern genocide” by reopening the country as Covid spreads among under-vaccinated indigenous people, the Māori party has said.
New Zealand has been described as being on a ‘knife-edge’ as Covid cases are expected to rise further. The island nation recorded 94 new infections over the weekend, as experts say an “exponential growth curve” will occur where new cases will quickly top 100 a day if the government stays its current course.
That is your lot from me today. Tom Ambrose will be here shortly to bring you the latest coronavirus updates from the UK and around the world.
At 231 days into its vaccine rollout, Australia still lags behind many OECD nations. More than 50 countries have administered at least one dose to a greater share of their populations. But many of them have much smaller populations than Australia. As of 8 October 68.2% of Australians had had at least one dose.
Australia also trails other powerful nations on its share of the fully vaccinated population. The United States, Germany and Israel all have higher fully vaccinated populations – as do almost 30 other OECD countries, according to the latest data available.
Russia’s daily Covid numbers remain close to their highest figures. Reuters are carrying the latest figures of 957 coronavirus-related deaths in the previous 24 hours, which is just shy of the record of 968, set two days earlier. There were 29,409 new cases over the same period.
Heathrow passenger numbers 38% of pre-pandemic levels
Heathrow’s passenger numbers remained only 38% compared to their pre-pandemic levels last month, the airport has announced.
2.6 million people travelled through the west London airport in September, compared with 6.8 million during the same month in 2019. The airport says the decline was driven by North American traffic being only a quarter of 2019 levels.
Neil Lancefield, PA’s transport correspondent, notes that the US has been closed to UK visitors during the coronavirus pandemic, although the restriction is expected to be lifted in November for those who are fully vaccinated. Heathrow said rival airports in the European Union “enjoyed stronger resurgence over summer”.
John Holland-Kaye, the airport’s chief executive, added an environmental message to the numbers release, saying: “We should aim for 2019 to have been the peak year for fossil fuel use in global aviation.
“The UK Government can show real leadership in decarbonising aviation at Cop26 to accelerate the transition to sustainable aviation fuel in the UK, which will protect the benefits of flying for future generations.”
AstraZeneca releases promising data on new antibody treatment
AstraZeneca says it has demonstrated that a new antibody treatment AZD7442 was effective in preventing severe disease in non-hospitalised patients with mild to moderate coronavirus, when compared with a placebo.
The study found that a single dose of 600mg of AZD7442 given by injection into muscle managed to reduce the risk of developing severe Covid-19 or death from any cause by 50%, when compared with a placebo, in people who had been symptomatic for seven days or less.
For those who received the treatment within five days of their symptoms first appearing, AZD7442 reduced the risk of developing severe Covid or death by 67% compared with a placebo.
Jane Kirby, PA’s health and science editor reports that the treatment has been billed as suitable for those who cannot have a regular vaccination, who respond poorly to Covid-19 vaccines or whose health conditions put them at particular risk of serious illness.
AstraZeneca submitted a request to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week for emergency use authorisation for AZD7442, which is made up of two antibodies.
A separate study on the treatment published in August showed there were no cases of severe Covid or coronavirus-related deaths in those treated with AZD7442.
Drakeford: Welsh Covid passes will ‘help’ hospitality venues stay open during autumn and winter
First minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has been on the media round this morning talking about the NHS Covid pass system for events which comes into effect in the country today.
Pressed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain he conceded there was a vulnerability in the system, in that people could falsify lateral flow test results. He said:
“We have created a specific offence which will mean that if someone deliberately falsifies the result of a lateral flow test they will be breaching the law in Wales.
“The broader point for me is that we have literally thousands and thousands of people taking lateral flow tests in Wales every day of the week – they’re not doing it in order to evade the law they’re doing it to make sure they themselves are safe from coronavirus and they’re keeping other people safe as well.
“I’m quite sure that the huge bulk of people who are attending a rugby match or visiting a nightclub will use the lateral flow devices in exactly this way – not to get round the rules but to make sure they’re keeping themselves safe from this dreadful disease.”
PA media report he went on to tell the show: “If we see rising numbers of coronavirus in Wales – and we have high numbers already in the community – then the first places that will have to close will be the highest risk venues.
“Having the Covid Pass there will help them stay open during the autumn and winter – that is the purpose of it, not to be an extra burden on them or to single them out, but to protect them so they can go on operating successfully as we go into what is going to be a challenging time of year.”
NHS England’s medical director of primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, told BBC Breakfast that pregnancy puts “quite a strain” on the heart and lungs and if pregnant women get Covid-19 then that “lays on pressure on an already pressurised system inside a pregnant women, and that’s why almost 20% of people with coronavirus who are having extra support on critical care are pregnant women who are unvaccinated.
“So the evidence is really clear – if you’re not vaccinated yet and you’re pregnant please take up that lifesaving offer of protection.”
PA media report she added: “I’m a mum of two and you read so much about what you should and shouldn’t do during your pregnancy.
“My advice is clear, the best thing that you can do is to take the vaccine if it is offered to you, and if you’re unsure because of all of the advice out there, speak to a medical professional who can talk about your concerns – and like the 81,000 other pregnant women – you may well feel reassured enough to have that really important first dose of protection.”
French study: vaccination highly effective at preventing severe Covid cases
Agence France-Presse have news this morning of a vast study in France which shows that vaccination is highly effective at preventing severe cases of Covid-19, even against the Delta variant.
The research on prevention of severe Covid and death, not infection, looked at 22 million people over 50 and found those who had received jabs were 90 percent less likely to be hospitalised or die. Researchers say it is the largest study of its kind so far.
Looking at data collected starting in December 2020, when France launched its jab campaign, the researchers compared the outcomes of 11 million vaccinated people with 11 million unvaccinated subjects.
They formed pairs matching an unvaccinated individual with a vaccinated counterpart from the same region and of the same age and sex, tracking them from the date of the vaccinated person’s second jab to 20 July.
Starting 14 days after a second dose, a vaccinated subjects’ risk of severe Covid was reduced by 90 percent. Vaccination appears to be nearly as effective against for the Delta variant, with 84 percent protection for people 75 and older and 92 percent for people 50-75.
Sydney reopens after more than 100 days in lockdown
There were long queues outside pubs, hairdressers and beauty salons as Australia’s most populous city reopened on Monday, as part of Sydney’s first steps towards living with Covid-19 after more than 100 days of lockdown.
About 5 million Sydneysiders awoke to new freedoms on Monday morning after enduring 106 days of strict stay-at-home orders in a bid to battle the highly contagious Delta strain.
Despite an unseasonably cold and rainy start to the day, thousands defied grey skies and flocked to newly opened cafes, barbers and beauty salons to kick off what some have described as “freedom day”.
Some even queued outside department stores in the minutes before midnight to shop in-store for the first time in nearly four months. Others crowded into pubs to enjoy the day’s first freshly poured beers in a boost to the city’s hospitality and entertainment industry.
NHS Covid pass compulsory for large events in Wales from today
It is possibly a less exciting day if you are running a nightclub in Wales. From today people must show an NHS Covid Pass or demonstrate their vaccination status to enter nightclubs and attend large events in the country.
It means all over-18s need one to enter nightclubs, indoor non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions, outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people and any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.
People will also be able to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.
But those who fake a coronavirus test result or vaccination status will be committing a criminal offence and face a fixed penalty notice.
Rod Minchin reports for PA Media that Wales is facing some of the highest infection rates since the beginning of the pandemic, particularly among young people.
Economy minister Vaughan Gething said: “Our fantastic vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength but the pandemic is not over.
“Cases remain high across Wales and, unfortunately, families across the country are losing loved ones to this awful virus. The clear advice from our scientific advisers is that we need to take early action now.
“The Covid Pass is just one of a series of measures in place to help prevent people spreading and catching coronavirus while helping to keep the economy open.
“None of us want to see further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again. Showing a Covid Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open.”
It is potentially a big day for the travel industry in the England. At 4am this morning, forty-seven countries were removed from the international travel red list. Arrivals from those locations will no longer need to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has lifted its advice against non-essential travel to a further 42 countries and territories, following the removal of travel advisories to 41 locations last week.
PA note that just seven countries will remain on the red list from Monday: Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. People arriving from those locations will still be required to enter a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.
Good morning from London, it is Martin Belam here taking over from Samantha Lock, and I’ll be with you for the next few hours. Damian Hinds, the minister of state for security, is doing the media round in the UK this morning. I’ll bring you any Covid lines that emerge from that, though I suspect his focus is going to be on the energy crisis and that treasury reprimand for business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. I’ll also bring you the latest coronavirus news from around the world.
Reopening New Zealand amid Covid outbreak would be ‘modern genocide’, Māori party warns
New Zealand’s government would be committing “modern genocide” by reopening the country as Covid spreads among under-vaccinated indigenous people, the Māori party has said.
The comments come as the country is struggling to contain its current Delta outbreak, with 95 cases reported over the weekend, and another 35 on Monday. Most current cases and hospitalisations are among Māori and Pacific New Zealanders, despite the fact those groups make up less than 30% of the total population. New Zealand is also in the process of pivoting away from its longstanding elimination strategy.
“Māori are now presenting over half of daily cases. We need to be placed back into a level that will break the circuit of this outbreak for Māori,” co-leader of the Māori party Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said on Monday.
“If the government is prepared to open the borders as soon as our country is 90% vaccinated, they are willingly holding Māori up to be the sacrificial lambs. It is a modern form genocide.”
Read the full story here:
Hello and welcome to our rolling live news coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.
I’m Samantha Lock and I’ll be giving you a rundown of the latest updates as they happen.
Millions of Australians have woken up today to new freedoms after 106 days of lockdown. Greater Sydney reopened at 12:01am on Monday as stay-at-home orders were lifted across the state of New South Wales after state reached its milestone of 70% of the over-16 population fully vaccinated last week.
Gyms, cafes, restaurants, pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians can now reopen, people can have 10 people over to their home, gather in groups of 30 people outdoors in public, and travel more than 5km from their home. The new freedoms are only available to the fully vaccinated and those who have a medical exemption.
New Zealand on a ‘knife-edge’ as Covid cases are expected to rise further. The island nation recorded 94 new infections over the weekend, as experts say an “exponential growth curve” will occur where new cases will quickly top 100 a day if the government stays its current course.
One in six of England’s most critically ill patients are unvaccinated pregnant women, new figures reveal. Twenty of the 118 patients with Covid who received extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo) between July and September were mothers-to-be, NHS England said. Of these, 19 had not had a jab and the other had only had one dose of a vaccine. The health service is urging pregnant women to get fully vaccinated amid new evidence that the virus can cause serious problems for the mother-to-be and her baby in the later stages of pregnancy.
UKHealth Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries has warned that people who catch flu and Covid at the same time this winter are twice as likely to die than those who only have coronavirus.
Harries also said that it’s hard to predict what the next chapter of the pandemic will look like in the UK, as immunity from vaccines wanes among older people.
Two million people in England have received a Covid booster jab, NHS England said. The health secretary, Sajid Javid, tweeted: “This is great progress which is helping to reinforce our wall of defence so we can keep the virus at bay.” Over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers are eligible for a third shot.
Singapore’s health ministry reported 3,703 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it recorded 11 new deaths.
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