What happened today?
Good evening, that’s all for now. Here are the latest Covid headlines:
Some 1.4 million people who were due to have their second Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the UK up to August 18 did not come forward, along with between 400,000 and 600,000 people missing AstraZeneca second doses, official figures suggested
Israel on Sunday began offering coronavirus vaccines to anyone aged 12 and up, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett insisting it was an effective way to contain an infection surge
In the UK, the planned rollout of Covid-19 booster vaccines is to be delayed, as ministers and scientists await the outcome of a major clinical trial
Hurricane Ida was rapidly intensifying early Sunday, becoming a dangerous Category 4 hurricane on track for a potentially devastating landfall on the Louisiana coast, which is already grappling with a Covid-19 outbreak
Andy Murray has voiced concern that the large number of unvaccinated tennis players is a growing problem – and one that could threaten the health of the communities they travel through
Japan is looking into the possibility of mixing shots of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine with those developed by other drug makers in a bid to speed up its vaccine rollout, the minister in charge of vaccinations said.
Andy Murray laments large number of unvaccinated tennis players ahead of US Open
Andy Murray has voiced concern that the large number of unvaccinated tennis players is a growing problem – and one that could threaten the health of the communities they travel through.
Murray has been vaccinated and also has first-hand experience of the severity of the virus, having contracted Covid himself at the start of the year.
He expects the split between vaxxers and anti-vaxxers to intensify at January’s upcoming Australian Open, where the two camps are likely to be treated in different ways.
“I can see it’s going to become an issue over the coming months,” said Murray, who is due to play third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas at Monday’s US Open.
“The conversations with regards to the Australian Open are already happening. The players that have been vaccinated are going to be having very different conditions to players who are not vaccinated.”
There will have to be “a lot of pretty long, hard conversations” between tours and players over the issue, he added.
Demonstrators in Berlin protest virus measures
Protesters who oppose the German government’s coronavirus measures took to the streets again in Berlin on Sunday, defying bans on several planned gatherings.
Throughout the afternoon, thousands marched in the German capital’s Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte neighborhoods. More than 2,000 police officers were on duty across the city to respond to the protests.
Police had banned more than a dozen planned protests for this weekend, including from the Stuttgart-based Querdenker movement, the most visible anti-lockdown movement in Germany. A court ruled to allow one such protest, planned for an estimated 500 people on Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday’s demonstrations follow a similar turnout of several thousand on Saturday, also in defiance of police bans.
Israel rolls out Covid-19 booster to all vaccinated people
Israel on Sunday began offering coronavirus vaccines to anyone aged 12 and up, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett insisting it was an effective way to contain an infection surge.
Moves by several nations, including the UK, to offer third jabs have faced criticism including from the World Health Organisation, which insists poorer countries should gain wider access to vaccines before wealthy ones offer booster shots.
But with Israel, a country of 9.3 million, approaching daily infection tallies that regularly exceed 8,000 and serious Covid cases, Bennett has pressed ahead with the booster scheme, with health officials saying protection from a second dose of Pfizer waned after six months.
“The third dose of the vaccine works,” he said in a statement, announcing that it was now “available from age 12 and up”.
He said that with two million Israelis having already received a third shot, the results are clear as “the increase in severe morbidity has begun to slow”.
Those eligible for the third shot can receive it provided at least five months have passed since their second jab – a timeframe shorter than an eight-month interval in effect in the United States.
UK records 61 Covid deaths and 33,196 cases
Britain recorded a further 61 Covid deaths and 33,196 more cases on Sunday, official data showed.
Infections in the last seven days rose by 5.8 per cent on the week before, and weekly deaths jumped by 16 per cent. The Sunday figure for fatalities tends to be lower than weekdays due to a delay by some hospitals in reporting deaths.
Britain has recorded an average of 114 daily deaths in the last week.
Tehran thieves attack car, steal Covid-19 shots
The police chief for Iran’s capital says a gang of thieves has stolen scores of Covid-19 vaccines after attacking a hired car carrying the doses, media reported.
It comes as Iran, with over 106,000 virus-related deaths, has the highest death toll in the Mideast but only 8 per cent of its people are fully vaccinated.
Tehran police chief Hossein Rahimi said robbers attacked and seized 300 vaccines after a courier service left a Health Ministry medical storage facility south of the capital.
He did not say which vaccine was stolen. Iran generally uses the Chinese-made Sinopharm, although it also has used some Russian made Sputnik-V, AstraZeneca and its own domestic CovBarekat vaccine.
On Sunday, Iran registered 581 daily deaths and more than 31,000 new cases. Last week on Tuesday, Iran hit a record of 709 patients dying in a single day.
Israel offers Covid-19 booster shots to all vaccinated people
Israel on Sunday began offering a Covid-19 booster shot to anyone who has been fully vaccinated, lowering the age of eligibility to 12.
“Starting today, the third vaccine dose is open to all,” said Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash, referring to the Pfizer vaccine
Ease Covid curbs in Wales or people could lose teeth, dentists say
People face losing teeth if Covid rules in Wales are not eased to let more patients get check-ups, leading dentists have warned.
The British Dental Association said it wants curbs for dentists eased now most of Wales’ Covid restrictions have lifted.
Russell Gidney, chair of the BDA’s Welsh general dental practice committee, said delays could mean tooth decay, gum disease and cancer risk going unnoticed.
Routine appointments were postponed when Wales entered lockdown in March 2020 and dentists only saw patients face-to-face for urgent care, and strict hygiene and ventilation measures now make treatments much longer for practices.
By the time it causes problems, we are often talking towards root fillings or teeth coming out, and then you’ve got things like gum disease or cancer, where there can be no symptoms,” told the BBC.
Booster vaccine rollout ahead of winter delayed
The planned rollout of Covid-19 booster vaccines is to be delayed, as ministers and scientists await the outcome of a major clinical trial.
The NHS had been preparing to begin administering third doses of vaccines from September 6, but The Telegraph understands that the programme would now only begin in the middle of the month as the decision has come “down to the wire”.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises ministers on the rollout of vaccines, has been awaiting the results of the Cov-Boost study, led by the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which is examining the impact of a third dose on patients’ immune responses.
Once the panel has the data, it will draw up final advice on whether boosters should be rolled out to all over-50s, or just to the most vulnerable patients.
Thailand to allow local flights to resume in Covid-risk areas
Thailand will allow some domestic flights to and from Bangkok and other high risk areas for Covid-19 to resume from September 1, the country’s aviation authority said Sunday, to help boost economic activity.
The announcement follows the easing of tough restrictions in 29 high-risk provinces from next month, including allowing more provincial travel and the reopening of shopping malls.
Local fights can fly at up to 75 per cent capacity and passengers will have to follow travel conditions at destinations such as presenting proof of vaccinations and Covid-19 testing results, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) said in a statement.
Flights related to areas under a tourism reopening scheme will also be allowed, it said.
Louisiana braced for 130mph winds as Hurricane Ida adds to Covid woes
Hurricane Ida was rapidly intensifying early Sunday, becoming a dangerous Category 4 hurricane on track for a potentially devastating landfall on the Louisiana coast, which is already grappling with a Covid-19 outbreak.
Emergency officials in the region are frantically opening shelters for displaced evacuees despite the risks of spreading the coronavirus.
The National Hurricane Center predicted Ida would become an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph (209 kph) winds that happened early Sunday ahead of an expected afternoon landfall.
The storm arrived on the exact date Hurricane Katrina ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years earlier.
Ida rapidly intensified as it moved into the northern Gulf, going from top winds of 115 mph (185 kph) in a 1am update to 130 mph just an hour later.
Supermarkets to scrap plastic Covid screens
Retail bosses have begun preparations to remove the plastic screens installed at tills as hopes of a return to normal shopping rise.
Major supermarkets and non-food retailers have held early discussions with contractors over how and when they might be taken down, industry sources said. One senior executive said: “They don’t want the removal to be just another plastic crime that occurs, so we’ve started those discussions.”
One of the options being considered is a scheme to recycle the screens en masse and recover some of the costs of purchasing them at the start of the pandemic.
Supermarkets spent hundreds of millions of pounds on measures such as screens, antibacterial gel and extra staff at the doors.
Japan eyes mixed use of Covid-19 shots to speed up vaccine rollout
Japan is looking into the possibility of mixing shots of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine with those developed by other drug makers in a bid to speed up its vaccine rollout, the minister in charge of vaccinations said on Sunday.
Japan, which has previously relied on the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine in July and has secured two million doses.
“I have asked the health ministry to come up with an opinion about the use of AstraZeneca vaccines for the first dose and Pfizer’s with the second, or the AstraZeneca’s as the first shot and Moderna as second,” vaccine programme chief Taro Kono said on the Fuji Television network.
This could speed up the vaccination rollout by shortening the intervals between the first and second shots when using the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said.
The country’s vaccine rollout has lagged, as the delta variant surges, with 54 per cent of its population having received at least one dose and 43 per cent fully vaccinated, according to a Reuters tracker.
German region plans tougher restrictions for unvaccinated
At least one region in Germany is planning to impose tougher restrictions on people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 as the country faces a fourth wave of the pandemic, a state official was quoted as saying on Sunday.
The German government currently requires people to be vaccinated, test negative or have a recovery certificate to enter indoor restaurants, visit hospitals and nursing homes and attend events, parties or do sports inside
The southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s social ministry has proposed banning unvaccinated adults from restaurants and concerts altogether, and restricting their contacts.
“If it hits the intensive care units, we have to act,” Thomas Strobl, Baden-Wuerttemberg’s deputy leader, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“It would be wrong to hold everyone jointly liable, including the vaccinated. That’s why there will be different rules for the unvaccinated than for the vaccinated.”
How Europe is pulling ahead of Britain in the great Covid race
We had a head start but as summer fades, it looks like Dick Dastardly, in the form of Emmanuel Macron and his wacky European racers, will enter the second winter of the pandemic ahead of us.
Europe joined the vaccine race late, but the pace at which jabs have been going into arms in recent months has been staggering. France is now fractionally ahead of us on single jabs, while Finland, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and Portugal now all have a significantly greater proportion of their citizens fully vaccinated.
“The EU has kept its word and delivered,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, noted recently. “The catch-up process has been very successful.”
Competition like this should be welcomed if it sparks an open and honest debate about what could be difficult months ahead. Critics worry that the British Covid racing car has been stripped back too far. We have a tank full of vaccine and a handbrake called lockdown, but that’s about it.
UAE to resume visas for tourists vaccinated against Covid
The United Arab Emirates announced it will resume issuing visas to all tourists fully vaccinated against Covid from Monday, a month before Dubai hosts the delayed Expo 2020 trade fair.
The move comes amid a drop in coronavirus infections in the oil-rich Gulf country, after it reported less than 1,000 cases per day last week for the first time in months.
The UAE’s decision to reopen its doors to tourists from all countries was taken in order “to achieve sustainable recovery and economic growth”, the official WAM news agency reported on Saturday.
Those eligible would have to be fully inoculated with one of the Covid-19 vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, which include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
Passengers arriving on tourist visas must take a mandatory PCR test at the airport.
Croatia thrilled at summer season success despite Covid
Beaches along Croatia’s Adriatic Sea coastline are swarming with people. Guided tours are fully booked, restaurants are packed and sailboats were chartered well in advance.
Summer tourism has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations in Croatia this year. Once fearful that the coronavirus pandemic would discourage people from travelling, Croatia’s tourism industry was caught by surprise.
“It’s much better – it’s almost like 2020 never happened,” said Josip Crncevic, a tour guide in Dubrovnik, a southern city known for its Old Town and nightlife that is Croatia’s most popular destination.
The success of the summer season carries strong implications for Croatia’s economy, which is among the weakest in the European Union. Tourism accounts for up to 20 per cent of gross domestic product, and visitor spending is essential to the incomes of locals who rent lodging or run other tourism-linked businesses.
While people here prepared for this year to be better than last because of the advent of vaccines, the tourism minister described the July and August demand for getaways in Croatia as “remarkable.” As of Aug. 10, overnight stays were at 69 per cent of the record number seen in the 2019 season, tourism minister Nikolina Brnjac said.
Sunak locks horns with NHS on
Covid funding top-up demands
Rishi Sunak is on a collision course with the NHS over the health service’s demands for billions of pounds in additional Covid-19 funding, The Telegraph can disclose.
Trust chief executives claim that, without an urgent top-up from the Treasury, they will run out of money to tackle the coronavirus backlog without ditching or scaling back parts of the health service’s long-term plan to improve cancer treatment and mental health care.
However, the Chancellor is said to be facing down demands from NHS leaders to effectively continue levels of funding given to the health service at the height of the pandemic.
Italian holidays back on cards for fully vaccinated Britons
Holidays to Italy are back on for Britons after officials announced that fully-vaccinated UK travellers with a negative coronavirus test will no longer have to quarantine.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza tweeted that he had signed a decree ending “the mini-quarantine of five days” for visitors from the UK from Tuesday.
Rome had re-imposed the quarantine for those arriving from Britain from June 21 as the delta variant spread rapidly through the United Kingdom.
The negative PCR or antigen coronavirus test must have been taken 48 hours before arriving in Italy – and it must have been at least 14 days since the second vaccine dose was administered.
Refrigerated trucks sent to store bodies in Oregon
The death toll from Covid-19 in Oregon is climbing so rapidly in some counties that the state has organised delivery of one refrigerated truck to hold the bodies and is sending a second one, the state emergency management department said.
So far, Tillamook County, on Oregon’s northwest coast, and Josephine County, in the southwest, requested the trucks, said Bobbi Doan, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.
Tillamook County Emergency Director Gordon McCraw wrote in his request to the state that the county’s sole funeral home “is now consistently at or exceeding their capacity” of nine bodies.
“Due to Covid cases of staff, they are unable to transport for storage to adjacent counties,” he wrote, adding that suicides are also up in the county.
Overwhelmed Louisiana hospitals brace for hurricane
Louisiana hospitals already packed with patients from the latest coronavirus surge are now bracing for a powerful Category 4 hurricane, which is expected to crash ashore on Sunday.
“Once again we find ourselves dealing with a natural disaster in the midst of a pandemic,” said Jennifer Avegno, the top health official for New Orleans. She called on residents to “prepare for both”.
Hurricane Ida is forecast to slam into the state late Sunday along the Louisiana coast. It is expected to be at Category 4 strength at landfall with fierce winds up to 130 mph (209 kph).
The storm comes as hospitals and their intensive care units are already filled with patients from the fourth surge of the pandemic, this one sparked by the highly contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates statewide.
Singapore tops world with 80 percent fully vaccinated
Singapore has fully inoculated 80 percent of its 5.7 million people against Covid-19, the health minister said on Sunday, becoming the world’s most vaccinated country and setting the stage for further easing of restrictions.
“We have crossed another milestone, where 80 percent of our population has received their full regimen of two doses,” Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post.
That gives the tiny city-state the world’s highest rate of complete vaccinations, according to a Reuters tracker. Authorities have said they will further ease Covid-19 restrictions after hitting the milestone.
Thailand wave ‘easing’ as vaccine haul tipped
Thailand expects to have 140 million doses of coronavirus vaccines this year as the country ramps up inoculation to fight its biggest wave of infections, which shows some signs of easing, a government spokesman said on Sunday.
The Southeast Asian country is struggling to tackle the highly transmissible delta variant, which resulted in record infections of more than 23,000 earlier this month. On Sunday, it reported 16,536 new cases and 264 deaths.
While new cases remain high, they are likely to decline further, Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said in a statement.
With new cases slowing, the government announced it would ease some of the strictest containment measures in Bangkok and other 28 high-risk provinces, allowing more travel, and malls and restaurants to reopen from September 1, to help revive a flagging economy.
NSW breaks record again as ‘magic’ number looms
Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, reported a record 1,218 locally acquired Covid-19 infections on Sunday, exceeding the previous day’s record of 1,035.
Six more people have died in the current outbreak of the highly transmissible delta variant, which began in the state in mid-June. There are 813 people now in hospital, 126 of them in intensive care.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that 65 percent of the state’s population had now had the first dose of the vaccine, and 35 percent were fully vaccinated.
“So we are halfway to that magic 70 per cent number across the state in order to have those extra freedoms,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Japan suspends another Moderna lot amid contaminant fears
Contaminants were found in Moderna Inc’s Covid-19 vaccines at a large-scale vaccination centre in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, suspending inoculations, public broadcaster NHK reported on Sunday.
The Okinawa vaccines are from different Moderna lots already suspended by the Japanese government due to reports of contamination, NHK said.
Black substances were spotted in syringes and a vial, while pink substances were found in a different syringe filled with vaccine at the Okinawa centre.
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, the domestic distributor of the Moderna vaccines, is expected to investigate the possibility of contamination during production and hold talks with Japan’s health ministry, the broadcaster said.
Japan halted the use of 1.63 million Moderna doses, shipped to 863 vaccination centres nationwide, more than a week after Takeda received reports of contaminants in some vials.
New Zealand flags further restrictions as cases rise
New Zealand reported 83 locally acquired cases on Sunday of the highly infectious delta variant, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying that some changes on how the outbreak is managed could be announced on Monday.
Ms Ardern had already extended the lockdown for the country of 5.1 million until midnight on Tuesday, after which the restrictions were to ease slightly. Auckland, however, which is the epicentre of the outbreak, was to remain locked down for longer.
“If we need to tighten up our restrictions further, we will,” she said.
Of the Sunday cases, 82 were reported in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and the other was in the capital, Wellington.
Melbourne extends strict lockdown once more
A lockdown of Australia’s second-biggest city Melbourne will be extended, authorities announced on Sunday as they struggle to quash a stubborn coronavirus Delta variant outbreak.
Almost seven million people in Melbourne and in the regional parts of Victoria state were scheduled to exit a four-week lockdown on Thursday, but state Premier Dan Andrews said it would no longer be possible with case numbers rising by 92 overnight.
It is the city’s sixth lockdown of the pandemic, and includes a curfew, the closure of playgrounds and strict limits on exercise.
“We still have too many cases in the community for too long for us to be able to open up and give back… those freedoms that we cherish and those freedoms that we desperately want back,” Mr Andrews said.
German lockdown protesters defy bans
Protesters filled the German capital again to demonstrate against the government’s coronavirus measures, despite bans against several gatherings.
Police had banned nine planned demonstrations for Saturday, including one from the Stuttgart-based Querdenker movement, the most visible anti-lockdown movement in Germany, which united a disparate mix of those opposing vaccinations, coronavirus deniers and right-wing extremists. A court ruled in favor of allowing one event, planned for 500 people, on Saturday and Sunday.
Still, like the last round of protests in early August, thousands ignored the bans and turned out to voice their opposition to government measures. With chants of “We are the people!” the protesters made their way through Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte neighborhoods.
More than 2,000 police officers were stationed around the city to respond to those who showed up despite the bans.
Cuba to add Chinese vaccine to arsenal
Cuba, which had exclusively deployed its homegrown Covid-19 vaccines, will start also using the Sinopharm vaccine of its Communist-run ally China in a bid to battle one of the worst outbreaks in the world.
Health authorities will apply two doses of Sinopharm combined with a Cuban booster in the central province of Cienfuegos from Sunday, Vicente Verez, the head of the Cuban Finlay Vaccine Institute, was cited as saying by the provincial state-run outlet 5deSeptiembre.
The efficacy of the vaccine combo is above 90 percent, according to the outlet, without detailing where the data came from or whether Cuba’s drug regulator had authorised the use of the Chinese vaccine. The World Health Organization gave emergency approval to the Sinopharm shot in May.
Authorities who had said earlier this month they would be able to produce enough vaccines for all of Cuba by September did not explain why they were choosing to deploy a foreign one now.
Music festivals offer ‘liberation’ for youth
The organiser of Reading and Leeds Festivals has said the events offer young people “liberation” and a chance to not have to think about coronavirus.
The sister festivals, known for their mix of rap, rock and pop, are going ahead this weekend with headliners including Stormzy, Post Malone and Liam Gallagher after both were cancelled last year due to the pandemic.
Melvin Benn, managing director of the Festival Republic Group, said his aim had been to offer the younger demographic a chance to live “freely” for a weekend.
“Just walking out in the arena earlier today in Reading and earlier this evening in Leeds, I think what the really interesting thing about it is that they have come into an environment where they actually just don’t have to think about Covid,” he said.
Vaccination centres are offering jabs to festivalgoers across the weekend.
French keep up protest against health pass
Demonstrators opposed to France’s health pass took to the streets for a seventh Saturday of vocal protests, but crowds were smaller than in past weeks.
About 200 marches were called around the country, four in Paris, gathering both people opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations and those denouncing the health pass in place since early August.
Polls show that a majority of French back the health pass but the demonstrators Saturday were of all ages and a mix of social classes. They included some health care workers, who must be vaccinated by mid-September.
The pass, which is required to enter restaurants, museums, sports arenas or other popular venues in France, shows its holder is fully vaccinated, recovered or had a recent negative test.
Today’s top stories
- We had a head start but as summer fades, it looks like Dick Dastardly, in the form of Emmanuel Macron and his wacky European racers, will enter the second winter of the pandemic ahead of us.
- Retail bosses have begun preparations to remove the plastic screens installed at tills as hopes of a return to normal shopping rise.
- Holidays to Italy are back on for Britons after officials announced that fully-vaccinated UK travellers with a negative coronavirus test will no longer have to quarantine.
- The planned rollout of Covid-19 booster vaccines is to be delayed, as ministers and scientists await the outcome of a major clinical trial.
- Unvaccinated care home staff facing the sack for refusing the jab are “jumping ship” to the NHS, amid warnings from managers that it just shunts the problem to another sector “where they will face the sack yet again”.