Covid news latest: New BA.2 variant ‘under investigation’ as ministers ‘consider delaying’ NHS vaccine mandate

Welsh First Minister says UK Government has ‘abandoned science’ in new Covid rules

Health authorities are investigating BA.2, a lineage of the Omicron variant, after it was found to have caused hundreds of coronavirus cases in England.

Some 426 cases of the new sub-variant have been identified in England, with 146 in London and 97 in the South East, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said. This compares with the previous total of 53 cases detected up until 10 January.

Unlike the original Omicron variant, which accounts for the majority of cases in the UK, BA.2 does not have the specific mutation that was used to first track and compare it against Delta last month.

Meanwhile, plans to make vaccination mandatory for NHS staff are reportedly being reviewed over fears that some 70,000 health service staff could be lost as a result.

Sources told the i newspaper that a temporary suspension of the policy was being “actively” looked at within the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), following multiple warnings and pleas from hospital trusts.

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Three new studies back up booster jab protection evidence

Three new studies have added to evidence that booster vaccines are highly effective in protecting against the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The studies, led by US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show that a third dose of an mRNA vaccine –Pfizer, and Moderna – provides 90 per cent protection against hospitalisation from the virus.

The findings – among the first to come out of the US on booster doses – support studies taken in Germany, South Africa and the UK.

Liam James22 January 2022 13:55


NHS workers ‘have a duty’ to get jabbed, says vaccine deputy

A leading figure of the UK’s vaccine rollout has said NHS workers “have a duty” to get jabbed.

Frontline staff must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by 1 April – meaning they must have had their first vaccine on 3 February.

But it was earlier reported that the government was considering suspending the mandatory vaccine policy after the Department for Health and Social Care estimated that as many as one in 20 NHS workers could remain unvaccinated by that date.

Dr Nikki Kanani, deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, was asked if the health service could cope with losing so many workers

She said it was very important that NHS workers were “protected”, adding: “Mandatory vaccination is a government policy but as healthcare professionals we all have a duty to make sure that we are protected, to make sure that our colleagues and our patients are protected.

“I know that our teams will be doing everything they can to continue to have vaccine confidence building conversations and offering that all important vaccination to staff who are yet to have their first, second or their booster dose.”

Liam James22 January 2022 13:31


‘Stealth Omicron’: Everything we know about Covid variant BA.2

As UK health authorities investigate the new BA.2 coronavirus variant, Colin Drury rounds up all we know so far about what is being called “stealth Omicron”:

Liam James22 January 2022 13:08


Women report waiting longer for operations and appointments in pandemic

Women are being forced to wait longer for operations and healthcare appointments in the wake of the pandemic, according to a new report.

Research carried out by the Care Quality Commission, England’s regulator of health and social care, found 53 per cent of women experienced longer waiting times for appointments or healthcare procedures during the Covid crisis.

The report also found three in 10 women experienced appointment cancellations.

More women report grappling with these issues than men – with some 44 per cent of men saying they have experienced longer waiting times for appointments or procedures.

Full report from Maya Oppenheim here:

Liam James22 January 2022 12:45


Russia reports daily record cases second day running

Russia has reported a new record number of Covid-19 cases as the Omicron variant of the virus spreads across the country.

Daily new cases jumped to 57,212, from the previous record of 49,513 a day earlier. The government’s pandemic task force also reported 681 deaths. Russia has reported more than 325,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic — by far Europe’s worst death toll.

Authorities admit that current surge could end up as the country’s biggest yet but have not announced any major restrictions in the face of it.

Liam James22 January 2022 12:20


China to keep Beijing in emergency mode during Winter Olympics

Beijing will remain in “full emergency mode” as it continues to report new local coronavirus cases less than two weeks before the start of the Winter Olympic Games.

A total of 27 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms and five local asymptomatic carriers have been found in the Chinese capital since 15 January, officials said.

Cities across China have in recent weeks imposed tougher restrictions to try to control new outbreaks of Covid-19, a task that has also taken on extra urgency as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics at the start of next month.

Mainland China reported 63 new cases on Friday, down from 73 cases the day before.

Liam James22 January 2022 11:55


Hongkongers warned against public gatherings as Chinese New Year approaches amid Covid spike

People in Hong Kong have been to avoid public gatherings due to a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases.

Carrie Lam, leader of the region, appealed to Hongkongers just over a week before Chinese New Year, usually the biggest event in the public calendar.

Health officials have warned that a coronavirus outbreak will be difficult to control as suspected infection numbers rose in a congested residential area.

Health officials said some 26 confirmed cases were recorded on Saturday, a high figure for the region that has taken a zero-Covid approach. The cases centred on three buildings in the Kwai Chung district in the northwest of the city.

Liam James22 January 2022 11:27


Poland sees record daily Covid cases in ‘fifth wave’ of pandemic

Poland reported a record 40,876 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday as the Omicron variant takes hold across the country.

Authorities have said the latest wave of the pandemic will drive case numbers higher than ever before in Poland, with estimates of the peak ranging from 60,000 to as many as 140,000 daily infections. Cases have already more than doubled in one week.

Adam Niedzielski, the heath minister, said that Poland was in its fifth wave of the pandemic. New cases fell in December after an autumn surge but they have recently shot back up.

The government has been condemned for its handling of the pandemic. 13 of the 17 members of Poland‘s Medical Council advising the prime minister on Covid resigned last week over what they said was a lack of scientific influence on policy.

Liam James22 January 2022 11:04


Japan tops 50,000 daily Covid cases for first time

Japan’s daily coronavirus case total exceeded 50,000 for the first time as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.

Tokyo recorded its fourth record number of daily Covid-19 cases in a row with 11,227, more than double the 4,561 logged a week earlier.

Infections nationwide totalled at least 50,200 as almost 30 of Japan’s 47 prefectures set records, broadcaster FNN reported.

New restrictions have been brought in – the first since September – to try and slow the spread. Restaurants and bars are under curfew in Tokyo and a dozen other areas across the country.

While many Japanese adults are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, few have received a booster shot, which greatly increases protection from Omicron.

Liam James22 January 2022 10:40


Leaked NHS data reveals mental health services are ‘failing’ Black children

Ethnic minority children and adults continue to be failed by mental health services, as leaked NHS data shows higher rates of detention and lower access to community care during the pandemic, The Independent can reveal.

A leaked NHS report into the use of mental health services by minority ethnic and white patients in 2021 shows that Black and mixed-raced children accounted for 36 per cent of young people detained in the highest-level units, despite representing just 11 per cent of the population.

The figures, seen by The Independent, suggest that children from Black backgrounds also have lower levels of access to support services, with these children making up only 5 per cent of general CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) lists and just one per cent of those accessing community eating disorder services.

Full report from Rebecca Thomas here:

Liam James22 January 2022 10:20

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