The UK has recorded more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time since mid-July, as ministers continue to reject calls from health leaders for some restrictions to be introduced.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said the current strain facing the NHS was not “unsustainable”, while Boris Johnson said infection numbers were “high” but “within the parameters of what the predictions were”.
Doctors described the government’s decision as “wilful negligence” and said “Plan B” should be activated to protect the NHS. Under this scenario, face masks would be made mandatory and working from home would be advised.
Meanwhile, a record 234,000 people booked to receive their booster jab on Wednesday, Mr Javid said.
The announcement came after Labour criticised the speed of the booster jab rollout, urging the government to complete it by Christmas rather than March.
Care home residents still haven’t had booster jabs, says trade body chief
Residents in care homes are still waiting for Covid-19 booster jabs, the chairman of the National Care Association has said.
Nadra Ahmed told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the situation was "either [to do with] the availability, or the actual rollout isn't as smooth as the previous one".
She said that "people are unsure", and added: "Some teams are coming in and doing the flu jab, because we have got both running together, but not having enough booster vaccine to bring that in as well."
Ms Ahmed told the programme that "the entire methodology of getting this booster in is not quite mirroring what we did last time to get the vaccine in" and care homes are "waiting to be contacted; if they are contacting GPs, the GPs are saying, 'Well, you need to contact the NHS, it might not be them that are dealing with it'."
She added: "We have got some homes who are telling us they have not been contacted at all, which is really worrying because they know that they are in the cohort to be having it. They are worried.
"We are hearing every day that providers are saying to us that, 'We have not been contacted yet' or, 'We were contacted to be ready and it is two weeks since then'.
"There is a concern because obviously the six-month gap is getting bigger and bigger so the efficacy of the vaccine is reducing.
"We have infection rates that are rising so, for both staff and residents, there is this fear.
"We are still having visitors coming in who don't have to be vaccinated to come into our service.
"It is the pressure of the challenge now when we are also facing this chronic shortage of staff which is not being addressed at all."
Javid accused of complacency after saying NHS pressure not unsustainable
Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth has branded his government opposite number complacent over his claims about pressure on the NHS.
The shadow health secretary secured an urgent question in the Commons this morning to ask Sajid Javid about the UK’s coronavirus situation.
Responding to Mr Javid’s suggestion last night that the government’s “plan B” was not yet necessary because the NHS was not under “unsustainable” pressure, he asked: “Has there ever been in the history of the NHS a more complacent attitude from the secretary of state as we go into the winter?”
He claimed that at the current rate the booster vaccine campaign would not be complete until March next year.
Maggie Throup, the parliamentary under-secretary for health, is fielding questions in the Commons now.
She said she was “disappointed” by Mr Ashworth’s tone and said the government was carrying out the plans it had laid before parliament.
She added: “Our vaccines have created a wall of defence, it’s incredible how many people have taken up the offer.”
Covid leads to sharp rise in sick and diseased kittens being sold online by rogue dealers
Covid lockdowns have led to a sharp rise in sick, diseased and weak kittens and cats being sold online by rogue dealers cashing in on people being at home more, crime experts say.
Action Fraud, the UK centre for online fraud and cybercrime, received 1,146 reports of cat buyers being conned in the 2020-21 financial year - a more than fivefold increase on 2019-20, when 190 instances were reported.
Buyers lost an average of £216 each, the latest figures show – up from £169 last time, writes Jane Dalton.
Cases of fraud reported rise more than fivefold in a year as tricksters take advantage of social distancing rules
Russia reports another record number of Covid-19 deaths
Russia reported a record 1,036 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours as well as 36,339 new infections, a surge that has seen some health restrictions reinstated.
Moscow's mayor announced four months of stay-home restrictions for unvaccinated over-60s and Vladimir Putin’s government approved a week-long workplace shutdown to cope with fast-rising cases that the Kremlin has blamed on a slow vaccination campaign.
It is the second one-day deaths record in a row.
Yesterday 1,028 fatalities were reported. Overall some 227,000 people have died.
Government facing pressure from former ministers on Covid handling
Two former health ministers have questioned the government’s approach to handling coronavirus this winter.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt also asked if the vaccines minister Maggie Throup, who is answering questions in the Commons this morning, should be a cabinet minister.
He said: "Is not one of the issues that the vaccines minister before sat round the cabinet table and now does not? And this is such an important thing for our national defence against the virus."
Ms Throup said: "I have regular meetings with the prime minister and the prime minister takes the vaccine rollout extremely seriously, as does the secretary of state."
And Steve Brine, a Conservative ex-minister, said there is a "depressingly familiar drumbeat towards plan B, plan B+, plan C in the papers today", adding the government has not mentioned how it is proposing to spend money raised for the NHS via the national insurance tax hike.
Ms Throup replied: "We are in plan A and we still have more to do in plan A to put all the measures in place to protect our communities ... to continue to build that wall of defence and to continue to have our freedoms."
UK likely already nearing 100,000 infections a day, virologist warns
A top virologist has warned the UK is likely already close to experiencing 100,000 new Covid-19 infections per day.
Dr Chris Smith, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC Breakfast that about half of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic.
“So probably, with detected cases at 50,000, we’re probably already close to 100,000 cases a day anyway, we just don’t know about lots of them,” he said.
“We are looking very hard, we’re doing more than a million tests a day now, but probably we do have really high levels bordering on that sort of number at the moment.”
Moscow to go back into lockdown to combat surging Covid cases
Moscow authorities have announced a new 10-day lockdown, as the city’s hospitals struggle to cope with a major uptick in Covid admissions and deaths, writes Oliver Carroll.
Starting next Thursday, October 28, all non-essential business will be required to shutter. This means factories, shops, restaurants, gyms and leisure facilities will be off limits, with only supermarkets, chemists and certain other services allowed to remain open.
An exception has been made for theatres and museums, which will be allowed to work at half capacity for the fully vaccinated.
The latest lockdown comes after Russia reported a daily high of cases on Thursday
India has administered 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines since its inoculation drive began in January.
About 75 per cent of India's total eligible adult population has received at least one dose, while around 30% per cent is fully immunised, officials said.
The country of nearly 1.4 billion people is the second to exceed 1 billion cumulative doses after China, the most populous country, did so in June.
Coronavirus cases have fallen sharply in India since the devastating months at the start of the year when the highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in the country a year ago, was infecting hundreds of thousands daily.
On Thursday, India confirmed more than 18,400 new cases. Active cases make up less than 1% per cent of its total caseload, now more than 34 million, including more than 450,000 deaths, according to the health ministry.
Booster programme ‘stalling’, warns Labour
Labour has warned the government that its vital booster jab programme will not be completed until March next year unless it speeds up the process.
“Isn’t the truth the vaccination programme is now stalling?” shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said on Thursday.
Instead of the current 165,000 doses being administered each day, he called for the government to commit to 500,000 a day.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt also urged ministers to accelerate the programme by offering booster shots to those who received their second vaccine five months ago, rather than the current six-month waiting time.
Here’s our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn with more details:
‘Isn’t the truth the vaccination programme is now stalling?’ says Ashworth
Welsh NHS faces one its ‘hardest ever’ winters
The Welsh NHS faces one of its hardest ever periods this winter, its boss has warned.
Dr Andrew Goodall said that Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses would put significant strain on an already stretched health service.
“We know this winter will be one of the hardest periods we have ever faced, as we face the twin challenges of the pandemic and respiratory viruses, but our Winter Plan will ensure essential services keep running,” the chief executive said.
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