Covid UK news – live: Train services to be reduced due to ‘pingdemic’ as new variant under investigation

Related video: Minister ‘can’t guarantee’ self-isolation for double-jabbed Britons will end 16 August

Already, dozens of trains, including a London Tube line, have been forced to suspend service amid the related staff shortages.

Figures on Thursday showed that more than 600,000 people had been alerted by the NHS Test and Trace app to self-isolate following close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Public Health England has confirmed that a new coronavirus variant is under investigation in the UK.

Sixteen cases of the variant known as B.1.621 have been identified across the country, most of which have been linked to overseas travel, with no apparent community transmission.

PHE has said that it does not appear to make vaccines less effective or cause more severe illness.

Key Points

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TfL announces no service on the Circle or Hammersmith and City lines this weekend due to ‘pingdemic’

Transport for London has announced that no trains will run on the Circle or Hammersmith and City lines this weekend as more than 300 staff members are self-isolating.

TfL also warned that there would be changes to District and Metropolitan lines as a result of the closures, adding that short notice cancellations could happen elsewhere.

Andy Lord, London Underground managing director said: “We apologise to customers for the impact on Tube services, while we deal with staff shortages across the network due to self-isolation.

“We are committed to running a frequent and reliable service, but with a reduced number of staff available it’s not always possible.

“I’d encourage anyone travelling in the coming days to check before they travel and thank them for bearing with us during this difficult time.”

Celine Wadhera23 July 2021 17:24


Covid-19 rates for local authority areas in England

For the seven days up to 19 July, 307 out of 315 local areas have seen week-on-week increases in Covid rates.

Redcar and Cleveland has the highest rate, with 2,090 cases in the week up to 19 July – equal to 1,532.9 per 100,000 people, up from 1,017.9 the previous week.

Middlesbrough had the second highest rate, at 1,420.8 per 100,000 people, with 2,003 new cases, followed by Stockton-on-Tees with 1,222.7 cases per 100,000 people and 2,413 new cases.

The five areas with the largest week-on-week rises are:

Copeland: 1,171.8 cases per 100,000 up from 5,41.2

Redcar and Cleveland: 1,523.9 cases per 100,000 people, up from 1,017.9

Great Yarmouth: 791.3 cases per 100,000 people, up from 320.1

Castle Point: 781.2 cases per 100,000 people, up from 344.1

Stockton-on-Tees: 1,222.7 cases per 100,000 people, up from 788.5

Celine Wadhera23 July 2021 17:10


Government response to steel industry plea

In response to calls for steel to be added to the list of sectors with a self-isolation exemption, the government said that the “small and targeted” exemptions were only for services “critical” to the safety and functioning of society.

A government statement said: “This is a small and targeted intervention to ensure that services critical to the safety and functioning of our society can continue.

“This means enabling individuals to attend work where not doing so would lead to major detrimental impact on the availability, integrity or delivery of essential services – including those services whose integrity, if compromised, could result in significant loss of life or casualties, and/or where there is an immediate risk to defence or security.

“This process is only intended to run until 16 August 2021, when fully vaccinated close contacts will be exempt from self-isolation. The government will continue to engage closely with employers over the summer.”

Celine Wadhera23 July 2021 16:51


Vaccination update

Government data up to July 22 shows that of the 83,239,491 Covid jabs given in the UK.

46,476,845 jabs were first doses, an increase of 43,000 from the previous day.

Some 36,762,646 jabs were second doses, an increase of 174,742 from the previous day.

Celine Wadhera23 July 2021 16:32


Latest Covid figures

The latest figures from the government show that 36,389 people tested positive for Covid-19, and 64 deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours.

In the past seven days, there have been 309,742 positive cases, a week-on-week increase of 11.4 per cent.

Over the past week there have been 402 deaths, a week-on-week increase of 45 per cent.

The latest figures for hospitalisation show that 870 patients were admitted to hospital on 19 July, with 5,322 having been admitted in that week, an increase of 28 per cent week-on-week.

In terms of vaccination, nearly 88 per cent of the adult population, or 46,476,845 people across the country have received a first dose of the vaccine, and nearly 70 per cent – 36,763,646 people – are fully vaccinated.

Celine Wadhera23 July 2021 16:10


Calls for steel to be added to list of sectors with self-isolation exemption

The government has been criticised for not including steel in the list of sectors where firms can apply to have workers take daily tests rather than self-isolating if they are “pinged” by the NHS Covid app.

“It is deeply disturbing that the government hasn’t recognised that the steel industry is a critical industry,” Unite national office for steel Harish Patel said on Friday.

“Unite is receiving reports that growing number of steel workers are being required to self-isolate.

“Blast furnaces have to be constantly maintained and an outbreak of Covid-19 which required large numbers of workers to self-isolate would have massive implications and could have long-term negative consequences for the affected company.”

UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace has also urged ministers to work with the manufacturing sector to find a “safe but workable solution” to the issue of disruption from self-isolation.

The current exemption list covers sectors including transport, emergency services, border control, energy, digital infrastructure, waste, the water industry, essential defence outputs and local government.

Conrad Duncan23 July 2021 16:01


Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella to reopen next month after Covid disruption

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new musical Cinderella will open next month after its opening night was pulled earlier this week when a member of the cast tested positive for Covid-19.

The show was supposed to open on 19 July – the day Covid restrictions were lifted in England – but the official opening night will now take place on 25 August.

Our reporter, Isobel Lewis, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan23 July 2021 15:49


Delta variant ‘may be 46 per cent more likely’ to cause reinfection than Alpha

The Delta variant of Covid-19 may be 46 per cent more likely to cause reinfection than the Alpha variant first identified in Kent, new figures have suggested.

Although the overall chances of being reinfected are very low, data from Public Health England (PHE) showed that Delta, which accounts for about 99 per cent of cases in the UK, poses a significantly higher risk than the older variant.

PHE experts looked at the PCR test results for a group of people who had already had a positive Covid test at least 90 days earlier.

There were 83,197 people who tested positive in the 11-week period of the analysis, of whom 980 (1.2 per cent) had possible reinfections, with the chance of reinfection with Delta nearly 50 per cent higher compared to Alpha.

Further work is now being undertaken to examine the risk of reinfection.

Conrad Duncan23 July 2021 15:33


Belfast Trust postpones surgery due to ‘significant pressures’ on health system

The Belfast Trust has postponed non-time critical orthopaedic surgery due to “significant pressures” facing the health system and a recent rise in Covid-19 admissions.

All patients affected will be notified of their postponement by phone and will be offered a rescheduled date as soon as possible, the trust said on Friday.

“We would like to apologise to those patients and families affected by this decision, it is not one we wanted to make and we appreciate the anxiety it will cause,” Chris Hagan, medical director for the trust, said.

“However, this is the only way we can ensure safe staffing levels for patients who are most acutely ill, whilst allowing regional complex surgery to continue at Belfast City Hospital.”

Mr Hagan added: “In addition, we have identified that 60 per cent of patients admitted with Covid-19 symptoms are not vaccinated.

“It is therefore vital that everyone eligible receives the vaccination as soon as possible by using the booking system or calling into one of the many drop-in centres this weekend.”

Conrad Duncan23 July 2021 15:21


New Covid variant under investigation in UK, PHE says

A new coronavirus variant is under investigation in the UK as 16 cases have been identified across the country, Public Health England has said.

The variant, known as B.1.621, was designated a variant under investigation on Wednesday but there is no evidence yet to suggest it makes vaccines any less effective or causes more severe illness than current variants.

Our reporter, Clea Skopeliti, has the full story below:

Conrad Duncan23 July 2021 15:04

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