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Covid news — live: ‘Absolutely’ no plans to axe free lateral flow tests, as isolation time could be cut again

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London’s regional public health director Kevin Fenton says peak has passed in capital

PM Boris Johnson has been criticised over his plan to end the free distribution of lateral flow tests (LFTs) in the UK.

Labour and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned the UK government that the move would be “wrongheaded” and a “spectacular misjudgment” after it was reported that LFTs could be limited to care homes, hospitals and schools, and people with Covid symptoms.

An announcement on the tests could come within weeks and include a scaling back of the NHS Test and Trace system, according to reports.

But Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News there were “absolutely not” any plans to end free lateral flow tests.

The education secretary has become the first minister to publicly back the reduction of the Covid isolation period from seven to five days.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said: “The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have said they want to review it, so we will stick to seven days but if they review it and say they will bring it down to five days that is even better for me, it’s even more helpful.”

Mr Zahawi’s comments come after parents were urged to book jabs for their children as official Covid UK deaths passed 150,000.

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1641730815

Mandatory vaccine order not the way, says French gov spokesman

A spokesman of the French government has said that a mandatory vaccine order would not be the most efficient way to encourage the unvaccinated to get jabbed.

Gabriel Attal said that plans to toughen health pass conditions – requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test to be shown – were already seeing people change their minds.

France is currently seeing huge waves of Omicron sweep the nation. This week has seen several days when the number of new daily infections exceeded 300,000.

With these extremely high numbers, parliament is debating legislation that will only accept proof of vaccination and drop the need to show negative tests.

It comes after President Emmanuel Macron caused commotion this week after saying that he wanted to “piss off” the people who refuse to get vaccinated by making living their lives in public as difficult as possible.

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 12:20

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New minister in Netherlands to miss ceremony because of Covid

The Netherlands’ new finance minister Sigrid Kaag will miss the ceremonial inauguration of the new Dutch government tomorrow as she has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I have tested positive for corona. It will be a slightly different start then I had hoped for”, Kaag tweeted today.

“My installation will take place digitally. Luckily I feel fine.”

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 11:52

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Germany’s vaccine mandate expected to be in force ‘by June’

Germany’s ruling parties are reportedly expecting that a controversial proposed vaccine mandate will be in force by June at the earliest.

Today’s edition of Berlin daily newspaper Tagesspiegel quoted Dirk Wiese, a deputy parliamentary caucus leader for the Social Democrats, as saying that the Bundestag should aim to complete its deliberations on the vaccine mandate during the first quarter of 2022.

Green party caucus leader Britta Hasselmann told the Funke media group that the first debate could take place in late January.

With few parliamentary sessions in February, this could mean the lower house won’t pass a bill before the end of March. The Bundesrat, Germany’s upper chamber, would then take up the matter in April, meaning the earliest it could come into force would be a month later.

But Tagesspiegel reported that implementation could be delayed until June to ensure the technical conditions, such as a nationwide vaccine register, are in place.

A poll published Sunday by weekly Bild am Sonntag shows almost two-thirds of Germans support a vaccine mandate, with about a third against it.

Among those who oppose it are some members of the Free Democrats, who are part of the ruling coalition, and Germany’s former health minister who pledged last summer not to introduce a general vaccine mandate.

Anti-vaccine campaigners have protested against the plan and Germany’s pandemic restrictions, with recent demonstrations seeing some incidences of violence.

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 11:16

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City near Beijing testing 14m residents after Omicron found

Tianjin, a major Chinese port city near the capital Beijing, has begun mass testing of its 14 million residents after a cluster of 20 children and adults tested positive for Covid, including at least two with the Omicron variant.

Those infected are 15 students aged between eight and 13, a member of staff member at an after-school centre, and four parents. The city-wide testing is to be completed over two days.

China has stepped up its zero-tolerance Covid strategy in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, which open in Beijing on February 4.

Beijing is 70 miles (115km) north-west of Tianjin and connected by a high-speed rail link that takes less than an hour.

Millions of people are being confined to their homes in Xi’an and Yuzhou, two other cities that are further away but have larger outbreaks.

The city of Zhengzhou, a provincial capital 40 miles (70km) north of Yuzhou, is also carrying out mass testing and closing schools from Monday.

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 10:40

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NHS frontline ‘stretched perilously thin’ by Omicron

A senior NHS official is sounding the alarm for the health service, saying that frontline workers are now “stretched perilously thin” due to the pressure of the Omicron variant.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said that he believes the NHS will avoid collapse under the pressure of thousands of Covid patients on top of usual demands during the winter.

More here from political editor Andrew Woodcock

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 10:20

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Israel to give children free Covid home tests while serious cases rise

Israel will issue kindergartners and elementary schoolchildren with free Covid tests to take at home, according to PM Naftali Bennett today.

He added that his government was also trying to lower commercial costs of the antigen kits.

The Israeli government last week earmarked PCR and institutional antigen testing for only people at high coronavirus risk, saying the less vulnerable should home-test instead.

The number of serious patients in Israel continued to rise today. A total of 205 patients were registered – 37 more than on the previous day and more than double that of the previous week, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 10:00

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Japan to impose restrictions on US military bases to control Covid

Japan has reached “a basic agreement” to impose restrictions on the US military amid growing concerns about a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

Japanese PM Fumio Kishida said American soldiers will stay on base “except when absolutely necessary”.

Details of the deal are still being worked out, he said on Fuji TV, but the overall US-Japan security alliance remains unchanged.

Daily Covid cases have surged recently in what medical experts call “the sixth wave”. New infections exceeded 8,000 on Saturday, a four-month record.

The spike has been blamed on the US military because the case increases are mainly around their bases – including in Hiroshima and Okinawa.

Japan has never had a lockdown but it has undergone varying levels of restrictions, including school closures and event cancellations.

Current measures, to last until the end of the month, force restaurants to close early, at 8pm or 9pm, and some must stop serving alcohol.

Some venues, such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which documents the US atomic bombing of Japan at the end of the Second World War, and Hiroshima Castle are both closed to visitors.

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 09:40

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Philippines and Mexico return record number of cases

The Philippines and Mexico have both reported a record number of Covid cases today.

The Phillippines registered 28,707 new infections, the health ministry said, and another 15 death – bringing the total death toll to 52,150.

The country has reported a total of more than 2.96 million cases since the pandemic started.

Mexico has recorded 30,671 new cases today and 202 more deaths. The death toll is now 300,303.

More than 4.1 million cases of Covid have been reported in Mexico since March 2020.

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 09:10

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Government ‘absolutely not’ planning to axe free LFTs for all

Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News there were “absolutely not” any plans to end free lateral flow tests.

The education secretary said: “I don’t recognise that at all. This is absolutely not where we are at.”

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 08:52

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Education secretary first minister to back idea of cutting isolation time

Nadhim Zahawi has become the first minister to publicly back the reduction of the Covid isolation period from seven to five days.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, the education secretary said: “The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have said they want to review it, so we will stick to seven days but if they review it and say they will bring it down to five days that is even better for me, it’s even more helpful.”

Later, he told Sky News: “I would obviously always defer to the scientific advice on this. It would certainly help mitigate some of the pressures on schools, on critical workforce and others.”

He has also said that he believes the UK is “witnessing the transition of the virus from pandemic to endemic” with the continued spread of the Omicron variant.

Mr Zahawi’s comments come after parents were urged to book jabs for their children as official Covid UK deaths passed 150,000.

Lamiat Sabin9 January 2022 08:41

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/covid-uk-news-live-cases-test-b1989458.html