UK Covid-19 vaccinations: Latest figures
Boris Johnson has seen off aTory rebellion as MPs voted on an extension of coronavirus restrictions in England until 19 July.
The House of Commons has approved a four-week delay to the end of lockdown measures, aimed at buying more time for the vaccine programme.
Earlier, Public Health England announced that 9,055 new Covid-19 cases had been logged in the past 24 hours, as the Delta variant continues to spread. Nine more people have died.
The number of people taken to hospital suffering serious virus effects jumped by 48 per cent in a week, Matt Hancock revealed.
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live blog of the Covid pandemic for Wednesday 16 June, 2021.
India Covid tally sees slight rise in infections as restrictions eased
After several days of falling infections as India’s devastating second wave appeared to be dying down, the South Asian nation recorded 62,224 new Covid infections on Tuesday, according to the latest data from the health ministry.
This is a slight jump in daily infections, up by some 1,750 cases from Monday, when 60,471 Covid cases were reported. That was the lowest figure since 31 March.
The total Covid caseload for India now stands at 29.63 million with 379,573 total fatalities after 2,542 new deaths were added today.
Even as overall cases are declining in India, experts are raising alarm over the potential for another spike in cases as restrictions have been eased in many places and people have started crowding again in public.
“Delhi’s top mall saw a footfall of 19,000 people last weekend- as soon as it reopened. Have we gone totally mad?” said Ambrish Mithal, a doctor with a Max HealthCare hospital in Delhi. “Wait for COVID19 to explode again- and blame the government, hospitals, country.”
India missed early warnings on Delta variant – report
A veteran public health expert in India has claimed that the Narendra Modi-led government did not respond to early warnings of the emergence of the more infectious Delta variant in rural areas of India.
Dr Subhash Salunke, a former WHO official and public health expert, told Reuters that he alerted India’s top officials, including Modi’s main coronavirus adviser VK Paul, in early March some time before the infections exploded.
He said the emergence of more transmissible B.1.617 variant was detected moths before in Amravati, Maharashtra with a sharp rise in infections. It was during the time when cases were still on decline elsewhere in India.
“In spite of a public health person like me giving them a sound warning, they did not take heed,” Salunke said.
VK Paul has rejected the claims of inactivity by Salunke, saying he asked Maharashtra’s government to step up its response to the virus and asked research bodies to study novel variants closely.
“The government strengthened the sequencing and clinico-epidemiological studies,” the government official said in response. “The government intensely, repeatedly, from multiple fora, emphasised the need for containment using all the tools even more vigorously, and optimising testing.”
However, despite the warnings, potential super-spreader events like major religious gatherings and election rallies were allowed to continue in the country well into April.
India says ‘Delta plus’ not a variant of concern yet
India’s top health official said the newly identified “Delta plus” variant, also referred to as the Nepal variant, is “not yet a variant of concern or one which has adverse consequences to humanity”.
An additional mutation in the Delta variant has led to the emergence of this sub-lineage, also identified as AY.1. It has been discovered in at least 10 countries.
VK Paul, the main public health adviser to India’s prime minister, said not much is known about it and it is still being studied.
“This [AY.1] was first identified in March in Europe but brought into the public domain only two days ago,” he said.
According to initial studies, the new variant has those of the Delta variant plus a mutation called K417N which was also found in South Africa’s Beta variant, linked to high infectivity.
The emergence of further mutations in the deadly Delta variant, which is blamed for the dramatic surge in the UK and the second wave in India, has led to calls from experts to step up genome sequencing.
Also referred to as the ‘Nepal variant’, AY.1 combines the Delta and a mutation previously found in the ‘South African’ or Beta variant
Ministers to make Covid vaccines compulsory for care home staff - report
Ministers are reportedly preparing to announce that care home workers will be required to have mandatory coronavirus vaccines.
The government has held a consultation into the controversial proposal as a measure to protect the most vulnerable from contracting Covid-19.
Officials at the Department of Health and Social Care did not deny a report by The Guardian saying that ministers will approve the measure for social care workers in England.
Under the plans, staff working with adults will be given 16 weeks to get vaccinated or face losing their jobs, according to the newspaper.
‘Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic’ says the government
Which changes have been moved from 21 June to 19 July?
After the prime minister announced that further relaxation of Covid rules would be pushed back to mid-July, here are the restrictions that are affected by that delay:
Lockdown roadmap: New rules for the next step explained
Announcement on mandatory care home staff vaccinations ’imminent’
Liz Truss has said the government’s decision on mandatory vaccination for care home staff was “very imminent”.
The International Trade Secretary told BBC Breakfast: “We need to make sure we get the balance right but I’m sure people appreciate that protecting lives is the absolute priority.”
Asked when the response to the consultation would be published, she said: “I think it’s very imminent.”
21-year-olds invited for vaccine
Over-21s in England have been invited to book their Covid-19 vaccination.
The NHS said that from Wednesday it will contact 972,000 21- and 22-year-olds to invite them to book their vaccination.
This means only 18- to 20-year-olds are left to get the call.
Dr Emily Lawson, lead for the NHS Covid vaccination programme, said: “The largest ever NHS vaccination campaign is in the home stretch of the first dose rollout.
“The vaccine is the most important step you can take to protect yourself, your friends and family so it’s really important everybody in the latest eligible groups books themselves in to get their jab and plays their part in this huge national effort.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We’re almost at the final hurdle of offering lifesaving jabs to all UK adults, with both vaccines providing the fullest possible protection against symptoms, serious illness and hospitalisation from this awful virus and moving us a step closer to beating this pandemic.
“I urge everyone aged 21 and over to get your vaccines booked in as soon as possible to not only secure this extra defence for yourself, but to protect your loved ones too.”
Care home boss says vaccine plan could put off new recruits
Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group (ICG), which represents care homes in Yorkshire, has said he fears people will be put off entering the social care sector if vaccinations become mandatory for workers.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s not unexpected, I’m disappointed because I think persuasion is the way forward still because those taking the vaccination has gone up but I also say that I do believe people should be vaccinated, every member of staff should take up the vaccine.
“But I just think persuasion rather than coercion or compulsion is the way we have to deal with it.
“What I’m worried about is the recruitment crisis already in social care, is that we’re frightened that this is going to put more people off coming into social care and that’s going to be difficult.”
Care home plans ‘challenging’ for sector
The chief executive of the National Care Forum has said deploying carers elsewhere if they are not vaccinated in 16 weeks would be “really challenging” for the sector.
Vic Rayner told BBC Breakfast: “If there is this 16-week window then that really is a very short period of time for people to make the kind of changes that are needed.
“I think there’s a couple of important points in here, so the consultation itself was on vaccination as a condition of deployment rather than employment and I think that’s really important to understand.
“Because one of the things I think the consultation, when it comes out, will say – that staff need to be deployed in jobs if they’re not vaccinated away from people who are vulnerable older people, people in care homes.
“Clearly if you work in a care home there isn’t anywhere else for you to go that isn’t involved in working with those individuals so I think the consultation will suggest for people who are unwilling to be vaccinated or don’t wish to be vaccinated that they should be deployed somewhere else.
“That’s really challenging for a sector that’s largely made up of small employers and don’t really have anywhere else for people to go, so we need to be really clear that this is potentially about people no longer being able to work in the sector, and that’s probably one of the primary concerns.”