Minister forced to self-isolate for 43 days since 1st June

Minister forced to self-isolate for 43 days since 1st June. A minister has expressed his frustration at the UK’s “pingdemic” after spending 43 days in self-isolation since June 1. Greg Hands, a minister of state for trade policy, tweeted on Saturday afternoon that he again have to isolate after his child tested positive for Covid-19. The NHS drew up secret plans to withdraw hospital care from people in nursing homes in the event of a pandemic, The Telegraph can disclose.

The UK has reported a further 26,144 new coronavirus cases, with infections dropping by 33 per cent over the past week.

The Euro 2020 final held earlier this month helped “supercharge” infections in North East England, according to the joint director of public health for Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland.

The gap between the number of coronavirus cases and the infection rate – as signalled by this week’s Office for National Statistics survey – could be down to people wanting to avoid self-isolation, according to a health psychologist.

Women are more likely to spot early signs of Covid than men because they are better at noticing changes in their body, researchers believe.

Elsewhere across the globe:

Cases are surging across southeast Asia. One Thai hospital demonstrates the scale of the crisis: it has started storing bodies in refrigerated containers, resorting to a measure it last took in a devastating 2004 tsunami.

Vietnam is also imposing strict curbs on movement from Monday, while Myanmar is grappling with a Covid crisis – experts have warned half of its 54 million people could be infected with the virus in the next two weeks.

In Australia, the third-largest city of Brisbane and other parts of Queensland state will enter a snap Covid lockdown today as authorities race to contain an emerging outbreak of delta. China, too, is battling its biggest surge in months fuelled by the infectious variant.

And finally, amid all the excitement of the Olympics, some bad news for Toyko: newly reported Covid-19 cases in the capital city have surged to a record high of 4,058.

Oxford vaccine team make ‘big step forward’ in fight against deadly Nipah virus

The Oxford team behind the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has made a “big step forward” in efforts to develop a jab against Nipah virus, a disease with known pandemic potential and a fatality rate as high as 70 per cent.

In an early stage challenge trial on African green monkeys, the Nipah virus shot – which uses the same technology as the AstraZeneca Covid jab – triggered a “very robust protective immune response”, according to a paper published online this week which is yet to be peer reviewed.

None of the monkeys who received the vaccine showed signs of disease, and researchers were unable to detect any infectious virus in all but one swab sample taken from the inoculated animals.

Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford’s Jenner Institute and a key figure behind the AstraZeneca vaccine, told The Telegraph that the results – which build on previous studies in hamsters – were “very impressive”.

Read more here.

Clamour for vaccines in West Africa as Covid cases surge

Thousands of new coronavirus cases have been reported in West Africa in recent weeks amid low vaccination rates and the spread of the delta variant.

Officials say cases have risen sharply in Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and elsewhere. The surge is pushing a reluctant population to seek out the Covid-19 vaccine in larger numbers at a time when doses are arriving from multiple sources after nearly stopping across Africa in recent months.

Misinformation and conspiracy theories previously prevented many from getting the shots. But officials say more residents in West Africa are lining up as people close to them fall ill and funeral numbers rise.

Confirmed cases in Senegal, which had been ahead in the fight against the virus, leapt from 380 on July 10 to 1,700 on July 18, the highest number since the start of the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Health.

Senegal received nearly 300,000 Johnson & Johnson doses and more than 330,000 of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in the past week. Tens of thousands of residents are waiting for a second dose of AstraZeneca, but it is out of stock and new deliveries are not expected until August.

Related: Bulk of UK vaccine donations to poor countries set to expire in September

Germany may not pay for tests of unvaccinated

Germany’s government plans to stop covering the cost of rapid coronavirus virus tests, according to the nation’s health ministry.

“Health Minister Jens Spahn already said weeks ago that he thinks it’s conceivable for the government to stop offering free tests to unvaccinated people at a later date,” the ministry told the German news agency dpa. No exact date has been set.

The confirmation comes after a report in the Bild newspaper, which said the government would stop paying for tests as soon as everyone has had the opportunity to receive two doses of vaccine, meaning late September or early October.

Since March, German citizens and residents have been eligible to receive free rapid coronavirus tests in pharmacies and designated testing centers across the country. The tests have been a crucial part of Germany’s reopening strategy:

Those who cannot show proof that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus must present a negative test result for certain activities, including dining indoors at restaurants or staying in a hotel.

Some government officials have recently begun advocating for this shift to incentivise vaccination, saying unvaccinated individuals should bear the costs once everyone has had an opportunity to get the vaccine.

French police clash with anti-virus pass protesters in Paris

Thousands in France protesting a special virus pass marched through Paris on Saturday, with French police in full riot gear using their fists to push some demonstrators back and firing tear gas against some crowds.

Some 3,000 security forces deployed around the French capital for a third weekend of protests against the pass that will be needed to enter restaurants and other places. Police took up posts along Paris’ Champs-Elysees to guard against an invasion of the famed avenue by violent demonstrators.

Anti-pass marches were being held in scattered cities across France, and four separate protests were held in Paris, the third weekend of anti-health pass protests.

With virus infections spiking and hospitalisations rising, French lawmakers have passed a bill requiring the pass in most places as of August 9. Polls show a majority of French support the pass, but some French are adamantly opposed.

The pass requires vaccinations or a quick negative test or proof of a recent recovery from Covid-19 and mandates vaccinations for all health care workers by mid-September.

But for anti-pass demonstrators, “liberty” was the slogan of the day.

Latest data: Covid cases down by 33 per cent over past week

The UK has reported a further 26,144 new coronavirus cases, according to the latest figures from the Government’s data dashboard.

This is a slight decline on yesterday, and means infections have dropped by 33 per cent between July 25 and July 31.

A further 71 people been reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19, taking the seven-day increase to 9.2 per cent.

A total of 46.81 million people had received a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus by July 30 and 38.13 million people had received a second dose.

Pakistan imposes lockdown on southern province

Pakistani authorities have imposed a lockdown in the southern Sindh province, including the commercial hub of Karachi and other urban centers, amid an alarming increase in Covid-19 cases.

The lockdown is set to last until August 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community.

Sindh’s chief minister Murad Ali Shah said on Friday that a sudden rise in virus cases has flooded hospitals in Karachi, the provincial capital. The new surge appears linked to many of the crowd-attracting activities earlier this month during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

The Sindh provincial government is closing all markets, except for pharmacies, bakeries, gas stations and grocery stores, which still must close by 6pm. All transport between cities is halted and public busses aren’t operating. Private cars and taxis are limited to two people.

Ongoing examinations at schools and universities are also postponed until after the lockdown.

Nationwide, Pakistan on Saturday reported 65 deaths and 4,950 new virus cases in the past 24 hours. The South Asian country has reported 1,029,811 confirmed cases and 23,360 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

How drugs dished out by GPs for everything from head lice to diabetes could be the future

Britain has led the world in finding drugs that can help save the lives of people on death’s door with Covid.

Already, the UK has approved the steroid dexamethasone and the arthritis drug tocilizumab following trials. Together, they can lower the risk of death in the sickest patients by around 40 per cent.

Yet we may be approaching a time when Covid could be largely treated by the GP, with the majority of patients never needing hospital treatment.

This week, Japan became the first country to grant full approval for the use of Regeneron’s casirivimab and imdevimab antibody cocktail to treat patients with mild to moderate Covid-19, a sign that treatments are heading out of the ward and into the surgery.

The drug not only reduces viral load by 90 per cent, preventing the disease getting worse, but appears to stop people picking up the virus in the first place – even when they live in the same house as a carrier.

Excitement is also building around the GlaxoSmithKline monoclonal antibody sotrovimab, an early treatment drug that stops high-risk patients from being hospitalised once they catch Covid.

Recap: Euros ‘supercharged’ infections in north east England

The Euro 2020 final held earlier this month helped “supercharge” infections in North East England, according to the joint director of public health for Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Mark Adams said the football accelerated the spread of coronavirus across the region, which will be offered enhanced support by the Government to help tackle its case rates.

“The rates tended to kick off just after the Euros football final – our three highest days were three-to-five days after that final,” said Mr Adams. “So I think our momentum was kind of picking up then and that event just supercharged it up to the unfortunate position we found ourselves in.”

Middlesbrough currently has the highest rate of new cases in England – although it is down sharply week-on-week from 1,421.5 cases per 100,000 people to 695.8. The biggest fall was recorded by Redcar and Cleveland, which is down from 1,520.2 to 668.6.

“We have seen over the last week is our rates have more than halved, and so even though everyone else’s rates are coming down as well, our rates seem to be coming down very quickly,” Mr Adams said.

He added: “So I think areas like Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and places you’ve seen in the North West and further north in the North East, are more susceptible to Covid because of the types of jobs that people do, the inability to work from home – Middlesbrough was cited in the ONS survey of being in the bottom 10 of areas where people are able to work from home.”

Holidaymakers face chaos with Greek islands ‘one step’ from new Covid curbs

Holidaymakers heading to Greek islands face disruption after an Athens minister warned that some were “one step” away from tougher Covid restrictions.

Nikos Hardalias, the Greek deputy civil protection minister, said Mykonos and Ios were on the brink of fresh curbs due to a surge in infections. Case rates have soared among people aged 20 to 30.

Mr Hardalias warned that the situation on the islands of Zakynthos, Tinos, Lefkada, Santorini, Paros and Rhodes was also worrying.

Curbs including a curfew and a music ban were imposed on Mykonos two weeks ago following a 248 per cent rise in confirmed cases. The measures were lifted on Monday following negative publicity and a wave of cancelled bookings, but could be reimposed.

Mr Hardalias’s comments dovetailed with the arrival of 185 police officers on Mykonos on Thursday to step up checks at nightspots – up from the 56 stationed there last summer. An additional 30 were sent to Ios, along with security officials and undercover agents.

Covid can spread between quarantine hotel rooms, experts warn

Quarantine hotels have seen people infect each other in adjacent rooms, warns a new Lancet paper which claims airborne transmission is being underplayed.

Scientists from the University of Oxford argue that “decades of painstaking research” has revealed that “diseases once considered to be spread by droplets are airborne”.

They claim that reports of neighbours in quarantine hotel rooms infecting each other provide evidence that Covid-19 is spread in air – and it’s transmission via this route should not be underestimated.

“Long-range transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between people in adjacent rooms but never in each other’s presence has been documented in quarantine hotels,” reads the comment piece in The Lancet.

Pheobe Southworth has more details here.

As cases surge, Thai hospital uses containers to store bodies

A Thai hospital morgue overwhelmed by Covid-19 deaths has begun storing bodies in refrigerated containers, resorting to a measure it last took in a devastating 2004 tsunami, as the country grapples with its biggest coronavirus outbreak.

Thailand today reported a daily record of 18,912 new cases and a record of 178 new deaths, bringing total accumulated cases to 597,287 and 4,857 fatalities.

At Thammasat University Hospital near the capital Bangkok, a 10-freezer morgue usually handles up to seven autopsies a day. But the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic means it now has to deal with more than 10 bodies daily.

“There’s not enough space, so we bought two containers for bodies’ storage,” Pharuhat Tor-udom, a director of the hospital, told Reuters, adding the containers cost about 250,000 baht ($7,601) each.

Almost 20 per cent of bodies with an unidentified cause of death later tested positive for Covid-19, overwhelming the morgue and medical staff, he said.

“During the tsunami, we used containers to store bodies waiting to be autopsied for identification. But we haven’t had to do that (again) until now,” Pharuhat said.

Latest data: 9 out of 10 adults have Covid-19 antibodies

It is no wonder the worlds eyes are on the UK epidemic, having also weathered Delta ahead of the curve.

Policy makers in many countries will be watching the very data closely for the next few weeks.
— Meaghan Kall (@kallmemeg) July 30, 2021

Vietnam to extend lockdown throughout southern region as cases soar

Vietnam will from Monday impose strict curbs on movement in its business hub Ho Chi Minh City and another 18 cities and provinces throughout its south for another two weeks to help combat its worst Covid-19 outbreak, the government said.

After successfully containing the virus for much of the pandemic, Vietnam is facing a rapid spread of infections that has led to movement restrictions in around one-third of the country. It has registered a total of 145,000 cases and 1,306 deaths, 85 per cent of which were recorded over the past month.

“Authorities of Ho Chi Minh City and other places have to urge citizens to stay where they are and strictly follow the curbs,” a government statement said on Saturday.

The Vietnamese health ministry also issued an urgent appeal on Friday for private hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients as state hospitals were stretched to capacity.

The re-emergence of the virus with complicated clusters has prompted calls for the government to accelerate vaccinations. Vietnam has a population of 98 million and has so far administered over 5.9 million doses of vaccine, but only around 589,000 people have been fully inoculated.

A medic holds the hand of elderly Covid-19 coronavirus patient Worapoj Salee as he is taken away for additional medical care in the Charoen Krung neighbourhood in Bangkok

There are more animal coronaviruses with the potential to “spill over” to humans and cause pandemics than scientists previously thought, new research from a leading US institute has suggested.

By tracking existing coronaviruses, a team from the University of Washington found that only small mutations could allow many pathogens that currently circulate in bats to jump over to humans.

Pre-pandemic, there were six known coronaviruses that spread in people. Four of them cause mild respiratory illness, like the common cold. The other two – Sars and Mers – both emerged this century and are more deadly, but the outbreaks were contained.

However, the severity of the current pandemic has focused research on the coronavirus family, in an attempt to uncover if related viruses may pose threats.

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