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.
Government announces extra Covid support for seven local authorities in the north east to slow Delta variant
The government has announced that extra Covid support is being deployed to seven local authorities in the north east to slow the growth of the Delta variant, Sky News has reported.
These local authorities include Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, County Durham and five local authorities in the Tees Valley, areas that are currently seeing some of the highest rates of Covid in the country.
The support is set to start on Monday and last for five weeks. It will include the option to deliver extra testing, logistical support to maximise vaccine and testing uptake, and help for local public health campaigns.
Public Health minister Jo Churchill said: “As the data changes it is vital that our public health response continues to change with it.
“By working in lockstep with local authorities and directors of public health, this additional support should help turn the tide on these growing case numbers and extend the wall of protection that vaccines is creating in the country.
“We all have a part to play in the continued fight against the virus and our message is a clear one: the best thing we can all do to protect ourselves and our loved ones is getting jabbed.
“If you haven’t had your first or second doses, I’d urge you to book your vaccination at the first opportunity.”
BMA calls for ‘urgent rethink’ of government’s Covid strategy
The British Medical Association has called for an “urgent rethink” of the government’s Covid strategy, arguing that it is “not working” and causing pressure to increase on health services.
The chair of the BMA council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, said that the government never should have abandoned restrictions as infection rates are soaring, and added that the situation will “continue to worsen as a result”.
He also said the focus on “excessive pinging” related to the NHS Test and Trace app was a direct result of the government’s decision to allow the virus to “let rip” through the nation, endangering thousands of lives and fuelling a long Covid crisis.
Science correspondent Samuel Lovett reports.
‘The government must now put into action more stringent infection control measures to decisively bring down the spiralling spread of this virus,’ says chair of the BMA council
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
Musical had been due to premiere this week but was forced to cancel after cast member tested positive
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.
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