The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the coronavirus is being spread largely by young people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are unaware they have been infected.
Takeshi Kasai, regional director for WHO Western Pacific, told a virtual briefing on Tuesday that young people driving the spread pose a risk to more vulnerable groups.
Meanwhile, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has announced it will manufacture a coronavirus vaccine and give it to its citizens free.
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AstraZeneca’s experimental jab is considered a leader in the global race for an effective vaccine.
A major state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company has claimed its coronavirus vaccine will be commercially available by the end of the year.
SinoPharm has two vaccines in trial and an annual manufacturing capacity of 220 million doses, said its chairman, Liu Jingzhen.
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WHO chief calls for end to ‘vaccine nationalism’
Countries putting their own interests ahead of others in trying to ensure supplies of a possible coronavirus vaccine are making the pandemic worse, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.
“(Acting) strategically and globally is actually in each country’s national interest – no one is safe until everyone is safe,” he told a virtual briefing calling for an end to “vaccine nationalism”.
He said he had sent a letter to all WHO members asking them to join the multilateral COVAX vaccine effort.
Americas in grip of mental health crisis amid lockdowns
The pandemic is causing a mental health crisis in the Americas due to heightened stress and use of drugs and alcohol during six months of lockdowns and stay-at-home measures, the World Health Organization’s regional director said.
The pandemic also has brought a related problem in a surge in domestic violence against women, Carissa Etienne said in a virtual briefing from the Pan American Health Organization in Washington.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a mental health crisis in our region at a scale we’ve never seen before,” she said. “It is urgent that mental health support is considered a critical component of the pandemic response.”
Ms Etienne called on governments to expand mental health services and prioritise mental health as part of their response to the pandemic.
France sees new cases maintain at March-May levels
The French health ministry has reported 2,238 confirmed new coronavirus infections, less than recent daily highs but still at levels last seen during the March-May lockdown imposed to stem the spread of the disease.
On Monday, when the number of reported cases typically falls sharply due to a lag in weekend test results, the ministry had reported just 493 new cases, after over 3,000 each on Sunday and Saturday and over 2,500 per day last Wednesday through Friday.
The seven-day moving average of the case count, which smooths out daily reporting irregularities, has now been above 2,000 for five consecutive days, a level that was last seen around the middle of April.
Despite the jump in infections, the number of people in hospital fell again by 102 to a new low of 4,823 and the number of people in intensive care slipped by four to 380, reflecting a preponderance of younger people among new cases who are more likely to be asymptomatic or not to fall seriously ill.
Both numbers had been on an uninterrupted downward trend since the peak of the pandemic in the first half of April, but that downtrend has slowed in the past two weeks.
Non-elite football to allow spectators
Non-elite football clubs will be allowed to admit fans to games once the season restarts, the deparment for culture, media and sport has confirmed.
The definition includes any team below the national league level.
Nancy Pelosi says Democrats willing to cut relief bill in half
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Democrats are willing to cut their coronavirus relief bill in half to get an agreement on new legislation with the White House and Republicans.
“We have to try to come to that agreement now,” Ms Pelosi said in an online interview with Politico.
“We’re willing to cut our bill in half to meet the needs right now. We’ll take it up again in January. We’ll see them again in January. But for now, we can cut the bill in half.”
It was not clear whether her remarks spelled out a new position for coronavirus aid negotiations with the White House. The Democratic-led House passed legislation with over $3 trillion in relief in May. This month, Democrats offered to reduce that sum by $1 trillion, but the White House rejected it.
Government risks ‘major misstep’ in shuttering PHE during pandemic, experts warn
Matt Hancock is risking a “major misstep” by axing Public Health England in the midst of a pandemic which lacks justification and could demoralise officials working to protect the country, experts have warned.
As the health secretary unveiled a new national health body, critics claimed the government was attempting to “shift the blame” after years of cuts to public health budgets and scapegoat the organisation over the response to the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Hancock said the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) will have a “single and relentless mission” to protecting UK citizens from external threats to the country’s health, including infectious diseases, pandemics and biological weapons.
Matt Hancock announces successor to PHE
Matt Hancock has formally announced the creation of the National Institute for Health Protection to replace Public Health England.
He wrote in a tweet: “Today I am announcing that we are forming the National Institute for Health Protection.
“This will have a single & relentless mission: protecting people from external threats to this country’s health, bringing the UK’s world-class science and scale into one coherent organisation.”
Ireland significantly tightens virus restrictions as cases spike
Ireland has significantly tightened its nationwide coronavirus restrictions to rein in an increase in cases, urging everyone to restrict visitors to their homes, avoid public transport and for older people to limit their contacts.
A spike in cases over the last three weeks after Ireland had one of Europe’s lowest infection rates for several weeks, pushed the country’s 14-day cumulative cases per 100,000 population to 26 and led to the first local lockdown last week.
“We’re absolutely not at a stage where we can return to normality. We are at another critical moment,” Prime Minister Micheal Martin told a news conference, saying the new measures would stay in place until 13 September.
Leicester health chief urges public to continue to follow guidance
Leicester’s director of public health Ivan Browne has urged the public to continue to follow the guidelines after lockdown restrictions were eased in the city.
“Unless you’ve already formed a social bubble or are shielding and therefore now allowed to form a bubble, you shouldn’t have other people in your house or garden if you don’t live with them, even if they are family.”, he said.
“During August we’ll be continuing to knock on doors to offer free tests, so please take a test if you are offered one, and if you have symptoms, stay at home and get a test as soon as you can.
“I’d like to thank people for their hard work so far, and ask that they continue to follow the guidelines so we can reduce transmissions and get the city back to normal as far as is possible.”
Blackburn restaurant closed down after hosting more than 100 people for wedding reception
A restaurant that hosted a wedding reception for more than 100 people has been closed down for breaching coronavirus restrictions.
Police in Blackburn – where there are extra restrictions in force due to a spike in cases – broke up the reception at Waheed’s Buffet and Banqueting Hall on Sunday evening.
Blackburn with Darwen Council said the restaurant was shut down on Monday using new powers to tackle premises that are clearly breaching restrictions.
Another venue, Roberto’s Bar and Bistro, was also closed by the public protection team, a council spokesman said.
Lancashire Constabulary Superintendent Andrea Barrow said: “We understand that times are currently difficult for businesses across the borough and we know that the majority are complying with the coronavirus guidelines.
“We will continue to engage with people and explain the rules but we do want to be really clear that we will enforce them where we need to, especially around repeat offenders, significant gatherings and people who deliberately flout the regulations and put others at risk.”
Humanity ‘no where near herd immunity’ – WHO
The World Health Organization says the planet is nowhere near the amount of coronavirus immunity needed to induce herd immunity, where enough of the population would have antibodies to stop the spread.
Herd immunity is typically achieved with vaccination and most scientists estimate at least 70 per cent of the population must have antibodies to prevent an outbreak. But some experts have suggested that even if half the population had immunity, there might be a protective effect.
WHO’s emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan largely dismissed that theory at a press briefing, saying we should not live “in hope” of achieving herd immunity.
“As a global population, we are nowhere close to the levels of immunity required to stop this disease transmitting,” he said. “This is not a solution and not a solution we should be looking to.”
Most studies conducted to date have suggested only about 10 per cent to 20 per cent of people have antibodies.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, added that any mass immunisation campaign with a COVID-19 vaccine would aim to cover far more than 50% of the world’s population.
“We don’t want to be wrong,” he said. “You want to plan to get high coverage and not get lulled into a dangerously seductive suggestion that (the herd immunity threshold) could be low.”
‘Alarming’ increase in cases in United Arab Emirates
An increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the United Arab Emirates over the past two weeks is “alarming” and may herald further increases in the near future, the nation’s health minister said.
The UAE registered 365 new cases and two deaths over the last 24 hours, the government said, bringing the total number of Covid-19 infections in the Gulf state since the start of the pandemic to 64,906 with 366 deaths.
New daily coronavirus cases in the UAE peaked in mid-May but the country has seen periodic spikes since then, despite a generally falling trend.
Austria extends Spanish travel warning to Balearic islands
Austria is expanding its travel warning for the Spanish mainland to include the Balearic islands, such as Mallorca and Ibiza, because of an increase in coronavirus infections there, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.
The travel warning for the popular tourist region will take effect on Monday, meaning that people arriving in Austria from that day will have to present a negative coronavirus test or else go into quarantine until they are tested.
Northern Irish health minister warns virus is on the rise
Stormont’s Health Minister has warned that Covid-19 is on the advance again in Northern Ireland.
Robin Swann said he was now as worried about the virus as he had been in some time.
“We are in danger of slipping down a very dangerous and slippery slope,” he told a Stormont media briefing.
He added the Stormont Executive would consider some renewed coronavirus restrictions on Thursday.
He said these could include localised measures or region-wide steps.
“The time is coming for the Executive to consider fresh and concrete actions to prevent the further spread of the virus,” he said.
Leicester mayor – government’s decision ‘more or less as expected’
Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has said the government’s decisions on the region’s local lockdown were “more or less as we expected”.
“We had planned to continue our neighbourhood testing programme throughout August and the restrictions around households will help in our efforts to track down the virus and contain it.
“I’m pleased to see that the guidelines around shielding have relaxed slightly as I think it’s important that vulnerable people who have been shielding for many months now are able to have more contact with family and friends.
“This will greatly benefit their mental health, while still keeping their physical health as the greatest priority.
“What we really don’t want is to see numbers increase which could result in more severe restrictions being put in place once again in parts, or all, of the city.”
Lockdown easing continues in Leicester
Lockdown measures will continue to be eased in Leicester, which has seen more stringent rules to stem the spread of the virus in place for several weeks.
Health secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “The rate of infection in Leicester has now dropped to a safe enough level to allow further businesses including beauty salons, nail bars & some outdoor venues to reopen.
“Current restrictions on gatherings must remain in place to further bring down the rate of infection.”
Asda: Online sales double after pandemic causes ‘shift’ in customer habits
Asda has said online sales doubled in the past quarter after the coronavirus pandemic caused a “structural shift” in customer shopping habits.
The supermarket chain reported a 3.8 per cent spike in like-for-like sales for the three months to 30 June after online grocery sales jumped.
Online sales “doubled” in the second quarter after Asda increased delivery capacity by 65 per cent during the lockdown period.
Click and collect sales also quadrupled for the quarter because of “increased and sustained appetite for online grocery shopping”.
Asda chief executive Roger Burnley told the PA news agency: “The pandemic has created a structural shift in customer behaviours towards grocery shopping.
“We have accelerated our online capacity expansion to meet levels we had anticipated reaching in eight years within a matter of weeks and we will continue to expand this offer.
“We will also maintain focus on ensuring our in-store experience delivers what customers want from a shopping trip – great value, relevant range and ease.
“As life under Covid-19 continues, customer concerns are shifting from the health consequences of the pandemic to its financial impacts – and we remain absolutely committed to protecting both their health, and their budgets.”
PHE boss sends message of thanks to staff
As the axing of Public Health England is underway, chief executive Duncan Selbie sent a message of thanks to staff, caring them “rock stars of the health and care system”.
“The most obvious next priority is to secure the right and best future for all those other responsibilities of PHE that are not about health protection and I can assure everyone that there will be more on this to follow soon,” he said.
“It has been the honour and privilege of my career over 41 years to lead PHE and I want to convey my heartfelt thanks to my colleagues for the remarkable contribution each has made to protecting and improving the public’s health over our eight years together.
“I have been immensely proud of what we do under intense public and political scrutiny, always with professionalism and dignity and with the values that matter the most: decency, kindness and respect.
He added: “I wish Baroness Harding as the chair of this new organisation and the transition every success, and I know everyone will be delighted to hear that Michael Brodie will be returning as the interim chief executive officer to PHE, from tomorrow pending the appointment of a new leadership team.”
Ryanair cuts 20% of flights from September due to drop in demand
Ryanair will cut its capacity by 20 per cent from September and October as “forward bookings have noticeably weakened over the last 10 days” following surges of Covid-19 infections increased.
The airline announced an increase in capacity less than two weeks earlier.
Key destinations affected by the cuts include Spain, France, Sweden and Ireland, reports Qin Xie.
Germany pauses easing lockdown further
Angela Merkel has ruled out easing coronavirus restrictions any further after a surge in infections in Germany.
Last week, Germany recorded its biggest daily increase in coronavirus infections in more than three months, with over 1,200 cases reported in 24 hours.
Jane Dalton reports: