U.K. reported more than 52,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday
Thomson Reuters · Posted: Oct 22, 2021 7:12 AM ET | Last Updated: 2 hours ago
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls from many to reconsider his approach to COVID-19 as the United Kingdom moves deeper into fall and faces rising case numbers. (Toby Melville/Reuters)
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson should prepare to introduce some measures to limit rising COVID-19 cases because acting early will reduce the need for tougher restrictions later, his scientific advisers said in advice published on Friday.
Johnson’s government has said there is no need yet to introduce a “Plan B” involving mask mandates, work from home orders and vaccine passports, even as cases rise after he scrapped England’s COVID restrictions in the summer.
But Health Minister Sajid Javid has warned that such measures could be introduced if more people don’t come forward for COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots.
In a summary posted online, U.K. health officials said there had been 327,537 positive cases reported between Oct. 15 and Oct. 21.
“This shows an increase of 17.9 per cent compared to the previous seven days,” said the summary, which also looked at hospitalizations and deaths.
“In the event of increasing case rates, earlier intervention would reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive and longer-lasting measures,” the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said in minutes from a Oct. 14 meeting.
“SAGE advises that policy work on the potential reintroduction of measures should be undertaken now so that it can be ready for rapid deployment if required.”
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Friday found that COVID-19 prevalence had risen again, and was at its highest level since January.
Deaths are much lower than in January, when England was entering a third national lockdown, and Johnson has said that the widespread deployment of vaccines means that the link between cases and deaths has been disrupted.
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He has said that the government will rely on vaccines rather than lockdowns to navigate a difficult winter, and SAGE said that things were unlikely to be as bad as last winter.
“Scenarios modelled for the coming winter and into 2022 suggest COVID-19 hospital admissions above the level seen in January 2021 are increasingly unlikely, but there are uncertainties around behaviour change and waning immunity,” the minutes said.
-From Reuters, last updated at 9:35 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
Newfoundland and Labrador, led by Premier Andrew Furey, is rolling out its vaccine passport program. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)
Newfoundland and Labrador’s vaccine passport comes into effect today. The passport system must now be used at places like restaurants, bars, bingo halls and performance spaces. The system uses a QR code containing a person’s vaccination status, which can be downloaded and stored in an app.
Businesses can use another app to scan the code and permit entry.
As of Friday, Nova Scotians will also be able to use VaxCheckNS — a tool that lets organizations check a person’s vaccine status through a QR code that yields a green check mark or red “X” when scanned. The provincial government, which has required proof of vaccination in many settings since early October, said the digital tool will make it faster for people to show proof of vaccination while protecting personal health information.
Nova Scotia on Friday reported 23 new cases of COVID-19. The number of active cases in the province stood at 160.
“Of those, 11 people are in hospital, including four in ICU,” a statement from the province said.
Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador were set to provide a live update on the situation in that province on Friday.
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 12:30 p.m. ET
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What’s happening around the world
A resident is tested for COVID-19 on Thursday in Zhangye in China’s northwestern Gansu province. (AFP/Getty Images)
As of early Friday afternoon, more than 242.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a case-tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, a new COVID-19 outbreak has spurred parts of China to increase restrictions on movement, with the capital Beijing sealing off some areas and northwestern regions imposing a range of transport curbs and closing public venues.
New Zealand will end its strict lockdown measures and restore more freedoms only when 90 per cent of its eligible population are fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday. Some 68 per cent of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and 86 per cent have had one dose.
In the Middle East, Iraq’s Transportation Ministry announced on Thursday a resumption of direct flights to and from Saudi Arabia after a 19-month suspension, according to the state news agency INA.
A municipal worker sprays disinfectant as mask-clad Iranians gather in a mosque in the capital of Tehran to perform Friday prayers for the first time after authorities eased some restrictions. (AFP/Getty Images)
In Iran, meanwhile, mass Friday prayers resumed in Tehran after a 20-month hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, state TV reported.
In Europe, Ukraine attained a second successive daily record of new infections and deaths, the Health Ministry said, despite tighter curbs last month as infections have risen for weeks.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Thursday reported 520 new cases of COVID-19 and 81 additional deaths, bringing the number of reported deaths in the country to 88,835, according to a tweet from the health ministry.
In the Americas, Biden administration officials urged eligible Americans on Friday to get booster shots of a COVID-19 vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head said it may update its definition of what constitutes full vaccination.
Currently people in the United States are considered fully vaccinated if they have had two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Inc. vaccine, or one dose of the vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.
“We have not yet changed the definition of ‘fully vaccinated.’ We will continue to look at this. We may need to update our definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ in the future,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky told reporters.