Schools and businesses in Victoria, Australia, fear they will be short-staffed when the state reopens, as the Covid vaccine mandate kicks in for 1.2 million authorised workers.
From Friday, essential workers in Victoria must have had at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, or be booked in for it by 22 October.
The mandate took effect as the state recorded 2,170 cases and six deaths on Friday, a day after setting another national record for daily case numbers.
Workers refusing to comply with the mandate can be fined up to $20,000 (£10,800) while businesses face penalties of up to $100,000 (£54,260).
The vaccine mandate covers everyone who is currently allowed to work outside the home, including cleaners, allied health professionals and even pool maintenance operators.
Some teachers were concerned their schools would be left short-staffed as hesitant teachers weigh up their options or those opposed to the vaccine walk out of their jobs.
Read more of Cait Kelly’s report: Victoria Covid update – vaccine mandate takes effect as state records 2,170 cases
Members of the public in the UK have been urged to book for further testing after some PCR tests at a government-run site resulted in false negatives.
West Berkshire council said in a statement that some of the tests at the Newbury Showground testing site, operated by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), “have had results sent out that may have incorrectly shown as negative for Covid-19”.
“After receiving reports from local residents in recent weeks that there were concerns about the accuracy of test results from the site, we passed these concerns onto the DHSC for further investigation,” the statement added.
“The DHSC has now confirmed that a number of sites nationally may have been affected by this issue, including the one at Newbury Showground.”
PA Media reports that those who received a negative result for a PCR test from 3-12 October, as well as their close contacts, were “strongly” encouraged by the local authority to take another test.
Councillor Graham Bridgman said: “Testing continues to remain important as we learn to live with Covid and anyone who has symptoms, or who has been in contact with someone who tests positive, should book a PCR test straightaway. We also strongly encourage the public to do twice weekly lateral flow testing.”
Good morning, it is Martin Belam here in London taking over from Samantha Lock. It is transport minister Grant Shapps doing the media round in the UK today. I’ll bring you any Covid-related lines from his appearances shortly.
South Korea to lift curbs on social gatherings
South Korea said on Friday it would lift stringent anti-coronavirus curbs on social gatherings next week, as the country prepares to switch to a ‘living with Covid-19’ strategy amid rising vaccination levels.
From Monday, the government will allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people, and ease operating-hour restrictions imposed on venues like restaurants, cafes and cinemas, prime minister Kim Boo-kyum said.
The relaxation will also allow outdoor sports events to take place in front of crowds, rather than behind closed doors as at present, if 30% of all spectators are fully vaccinated, Lee Ki-il, deputy minister of health care policy, told a briefing.
Israel sees sharp decline in Covid-19 cases
Israel is seeing a sharp drop in new infections and severe illness, aided by its use of vaccine boosters, vaccine passports and mask mandates, scientists and health officials said.
The country is four months into one of its worst Covid-19 outbreaks. Since peaking in early September, daily infections have fallen more than 80%, with severe cases nearly halved, Reuters reports.
“Day by day we are breaking the Delta wave,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday, crediting government policy for “close, smart and flexible management allowing life alongside coronavirus.”
Since administration of boosters, mostly unvaccinated, often younger, people are bearing the brunt of serious illness. They make up about 75% of hospitalised patients in severe condition, while those vaccinated with two or three shots account for a quarter of such cases.
Rather than imposing new lockdown measures, the government opted for a ‘Living with Covid’ strategy and bet on a third booster dose of the Pfizer Inc (PFE.N)/BioNTech vaccine for people age 12 and up, mandated face coverings and enforced use of a ‘Green Pass’ – proof of vaccination, recovery from the illness or a negative test for the virus – at restaurants and other venues, even for children.
So far, the strategy has kept schools and the economy open.
Thanks for joining us for all the key developments surrounding the evolving Covid-19 crisis.
Australia made a surprise announcement earlier today that the state of NSW, home to the nation’s most populous city of Sydney, would be ending mandatory quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November.
However, the specifics remain a little unclear with the state’s premier promising hotel quarantine for returning Australians and tourists “will be a thing of the past,’ declaring Sydney would soon be “open for business” for double vaccinated people around the world.
Prime minister Scott Morrison later clarified that the border would only be opening for Australian residents, citizens and their immediate families. Still, it is welcome news for the some 40,000 Australians still stuck overseas.
Meanwhile, a group of British charities have taken aim at the UK’s booster jab programme. Surveys by Blood Cancer UK and Kidney Care UK found that for both groups of patients, between 55% and 60% had yet to be invited to get a third injection, seen as particularly vital for conditions which affect people’s immune systems, as they are generally less protected by two jabs.
- FDA experts endorse Moderna vaccine booster shot. An independent group of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended a booster shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for high-risk groups and people older than 65.
- Latvian president Egils Levits has contracted Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated, his chief of staff said. The Baltic country reported a new record for daily coronavirus cases.
- Lateral flow tests to replace PCR tests for vaccinated travellers to England. Fully vaccinated international passengers arriving in England from countries not on the red list can take a cheaper and quicker lateral flow test from 24 October instead of the PCR version, the government has announced.
- The UK recorded a further 45,066 Covid cases. It is the highest daily figure since mid-July. The official data also confirmed a further 157 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid as of Thursday, bringing the UK total to 138,237.
- Only one in seven Covid cases in Africa are being detected, meaning the continent’s estimated infection level may be 59 million people, according to a new study by the World Health Organization.
- Italy braced for unrest as Covid pass becomes mandatory for all workers. The strictest vaccine mandate in Europe is set to take effect on Friday and is expected to bring fresh protests and leave some industries struggling with staff shortages.
- Indigenous people infected with Covid Delta strain at twice the rate of other Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been infected at twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians during the country’s deadly third coronavirus wave, a senior Indigenous health leader says.