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Coronavirus UK live: ‘Pingdemic’ could lead to food shortages

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 7/17/2021 Leah Sinclair and Lizzie Edmonds
a cellphone on a wooden surface: People have been urged not to delete the NHS Covid app amid concerns of a rise in the numbers being told to self-isolate (Steve Parsons/PA) © PA Wire People have been urged not to delete the NHS Covid app amid concerns of a rise in the numbers being told to self-isolate (Steve Parsons/PA)

LIVE – Updated at 17:32

The number of people getting “pinged” on the NHS Test and Trace has caused confusion and could lead to food shortages, one of the UK’s biggest port company boss’s has said.

Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, called what has been dubbed the “pingdemic” as the most “significant threat to ports’ resilience we have seen yet”.

He said: “If the current trajectory of absences continues without the Government taking any action, there has to be a risk of disruption to important supply chains, including food.”

The NHS app sent a record 520,194 alerts last week,instructing users to quarantine for up to ten days because they had been in close contact with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus

According to the Telegraph, meat processors also reported that one in 10 of their workforce were being told to self-isolate by the app, in a development that could require firms “to start shutting down production lines altogether”.

France vaccine announcement has caused ‘mass confusion’ - experts

17:32 , Lizzie Edmonds

The last-minute announcement that fully vaccinated travellers returning to England from France will continue to have to quarantine from Monday has caused “mass confusion”, a travel expert has said.

Gemma Antrobus, of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, said the travel industry had not expected the step taken by the Government on Friday evening amid concern over the spread of the Beta coronavirus variant in France.

She told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “This new level of traffic light, this fifth traffic light that we now have – amber-plus – wasn’t something that’s ever been mentioned, so nobody expected this to come.

“So really the travel industry are in as much shock as the consumers are right now, and really we would just have to pick up the pieces and deal with it and help our clients through this pretty terrible situation.”

Total number of jabs revealed

16:51 , Lizzie Edmonds

Government data up to July 16 shows that of the 81,959,398 Covid jabs given in the UK so far, 46,227,101 were first doses, a rise of 67,956 on the previous day.

Some 35,732,297 were second doses, an increase of 188,976.

41 deaths and 54,674 new cases, Government confirms

16:15 , Lizzie Edmonds

As of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 54,674 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the Government said.

A further 41 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 128,683.

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 154,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Young choristers raise funds for 10,000 Covid-19 vaccines in poorer countries

15:22 , Lizzie Edmonds

Young cathedral choristers in Truro, Cornwall, have raised funds for 10,000 Covid-19 vaccines in poorer countries with a singing project.

The singers were able to raise £8,434 for Unicef with the Sing2G7 project, which saw children and young people around the world send a musical message to G7 leaders ahead of the summit in June.

The project inspired more than 27,000 children in 31 countries to take part, with the Sing2G7 organisers and choristers deciding to give all of the royalties from their single to VaccinAid.

Head chorister Jacob, 13, said: “I can’t quite believe that by singing a song we have enabled 10,000 people to be vaccinated. It’s amazing.

“Thank you so much to everyone who made a donation.”

The project attracted support from former prime minister Gordon Brown, who sent a video message to 1,400 children who joined a “mega Zoom” at the time of the G7 summit.

Ireland reports highest five day average Covid-19 cases since February

15:17 , Lizzie Edmonds

Ireland is reporting its highest five-day average of Covid-19 cases since the middle of February.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the incidence has risen to more than 180 cases per 100,000 people, and the country is reporting a five-day average of more than 800 cases a day.

He said there is a particularly high incidence in people aged between 16 and 30, and the high case numbers are translating into increasing numbers in hospital and intensive care units.

Dr Glynn said 60% of the adult population are fully vaccinated but over two-and-a-half million adults and children who are not fully protected through vaccination, describing a “really big reservoir of people who are still vulnerable to this disease over the weeks to come”.

“A key message over the coming days is for people who are not vaccinated to really be careful about indoor settings, if at all possible meet up outdoors, make use of the good weather that we have at the moment,” he said.

Tube line suspended after staff told to self-isolate by NHS Covid app

14:26 , Leah Sinclair

A London Tube line has been suspended due to a staff shortage triggered by workers told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app.

The Metropolitan Line was not running on Saturday due to control room staff being alerted by the app in the morning.

Services on the Piccadilly and District line were also affected.

logo: The Metropolitan Line was not running on Saturday (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA) (PA Archive) © Provided by Evening Standard The Metropolitan Line was not running on Saturday (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA) (PA Archive)

Richard Jones, London Underground’s head of network operations, said: “Due to a shortage of control room staff who are having to self-isolate following notification this morning via the Test and Trace app, there will be no service on the Metropolitan line for the rest of the day.

“This will also impact the Piccadilly line with no service between South Harrow and Uxbridge and no service on the District line between High Street Kensington and Edgware.

“Services are expected to resume on the Piccadilly and District lines at 9pm this evening.

“We apologise to customers for the disruption. London Underground tickets will be accepted on local bus services.”

Scotland: Some 2,317 new cases of Covid-19 and four deaths

14:21 , Leah Sinclair

Some 2,317 new cases of Covid-19 and four deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours in Scotland, figures show.

Some 49 people were in intensive care and 517 in hospital on Friday with recently confirmed Covid-19, Scottish Government figures published on Saturday afternoon show.

Overall, 3,970,026 people have now received the first dose of the vaccination and 2,954,776 have had their second dose

The overall death toll, under the measure of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days, is now 7,800.

Sajid Javid tests positive for Covid despite having two jabs

14:02 , Leah Sinclair Sajid Javid wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera © Provided by Evening Standard

Sajid Javid tests positive for Covid despite having two jabs

Thailand to impose more travel restrictions as Covid-19 deaths hit record

13:18 , Leah Sinclair

Thailand is looking to introduce more restrictions on movement as authorities on Saturday reported record numbers of new cases and deaths, despite partial lockdowns in Bangkok and nine other provinces this week.

The country’s COVID-19 task force reported 10,082 new coronavirus cases and 141 additional deaths, both daily records and bringing total infections to 391,989 cases and fatalities to 3,240 since the pandemic started.

“From the current situation we predict that if we don’t introduce more measures there will be more infections and deaths in large numbers for the next three to four months,” Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said, advising people to stay at home as much as possible and avoid travel between provinces.

Thailand has already imposed a nationwide ban on public gatherings which carries a maximum penalty of a two-year jail term or a fine of up to 40,000 baht ($1,220), or both, an announcement on the official Royal Gazette published late on Friday showed.

France may not have been placed on red list due to number of entry and exit points from the UK, says travel expert

12:25 , Leah Sinclair

France may not have been placed on the Government’s red list due to the number of entry and exits points from the UK making hotel quarantine logistics “impossible”, a travel expert has suggested.

Gemma Antrobus, of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, told BBC Breakfast that people will “make the decision on what’s best for them” over travelling from Monday.

She added: “I do think that it just doesn’t help with the number of entry and exit points to France, and it’s possibly why France didn’t go directly on to a red list, because of those different entry and exit points - being able to take Eurostar across on the train, being able to go from the ferry ports, and also being able to fly.

“The ability to put in hotel quarantines at those points or arrange logistics around them is possibly the reason why it didn’t hit red straight away, because it’s just going to be logistically impossible to do that by Monday.”

New France quarantine rules has caused ‘mass confusion’, says travel expert

12:10 , Leah Sinclair

The last-minute announcement that travellers returning from France must continue to quarantine from Monday - even if they are double jabbed - has caused “mass confusion”, a travel expert has said.

Gemma Antrobus, of the Association of Independent Tour Operators, told BBC Breakfast that the travel industry had not expected the measure.

She said: “This new level of traffic light, this fifth traffic light that we now have - amber-plus - wasn’t something that’s ever been mentioned, so nobody expected this to come.

“So really the travel industry are in as much shock as the consumers are right now and really we would just have to pick up the pieces and deal with it and help our clients through this pretty terrible situation.”

There’s a “picture of concern” over the lifting of coronavirus restrictions from Monday, says TUC secretary

11:50 , Leah Sinclair

The Government has approached the further reopening of the economy “through the prism of politics, rather than pragmatic common sense action”, a union official has said.

Paul Nowak, deputy general secretary of the TUC, said on BBC Breakfast there was a “picture of concern” over the lifting of coronavirus restrictions from Monday.

He warned of a rising number of people being ‘pinged’ and told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app in the healthcare, food manufacturing and hospitality sectors and urged the Government to “fix sick pay”.

“Large numbers of people can’t afford to self-isolate when that ping comes through on their phone because they’re not entitled to statutory sick pay,” he said, adding: “In the face of that we’re going to have people turning off that app.”

Easing of all restrictions ‘could’ lead to new variants

10:46 , Leah Sinclair

Asked about whether full lockdown easing could lead to the emergence of a new more dangerous coronavirus variant, professor Mark Woolhouse said: “It could be... but there are literally hundreds of variants around the world.

“We don’t know where the next variant of concern, one that will actually threaten public health, will come from.

“There’s absolutely no guarantee it will come from the UK.

“This is an international issue, not a UK one.”

Government may reimpose restrictions if Covid cases continue to rise, says Hunt

10:26 , Leah Sinclair

The Government may have to reimpose lockdown restrictions if Covid cases continue to rise over the summer and into the autumn, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned.

Mr Hunt, who is now chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said the situation was “very serious”.

“The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it is flashing red,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Jeremy Hunt wearing a suit and tie: Jeremy Hunt (VIA REUTERS) © Provided by Evening Standard Jeremy Hunt (VIA REUTERS)

“Covid hospital patients are doubling every two weeks. That means we are heading for 10,000 Covid hospital patients by the end of August, which is about 20 times higher than this time last year. It is a very serious situation.

“I think coming into September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily peak going above the 68,000 daily level, which was the previous daily record in January.

“If they are still going up as the schools are coming back I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions. How we behave over the next few weeks will have a material difference.”

‘Freedom Day is ‘somewhat naive’ says Prof Woolhouse

09:58 , Leah Sinclair

Professor Mark Woolhouse said the so-called ‘freedom day’ was “somewhat naive” and that England should copy Scotland in keeping some infection prevention measures in place from July 19.

“What I have been concerned about for many months is that if the unlocking really is a big release... then there’s potential for a very large wave indeed,” he told Times Radio.

“I was always concerned, and I’ve said so many times, that this idea that it would be a final ‘freedom day’ was, I have to say, somewhat naive.

“The public health expectation was that we would need additional measures to keep the rate of increase of cases under control.”

July 19 unlocking is a ‘dangerous, unethical experiment’ says Prof Woolhouse

09:46 , Leah Sinclair

Professor Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, said the assessment of England’s unlocking on July 19 as a “dangerous, unethical experiment” was “very inaccurate”.

“The concern at the moment is that the trajectory of hospitalisations and deaths in the UK is upwards, fairly slowly... and we want to see what that trend does,” he told Times Radio.

“It’s widely accepted the number of cases would increase, we’ve known this would happen when we unlocked for many months now, we’d expect it.... so ‘dangerous, unethical experiment’ seems to be a very inaccurate description of what’s going on.”

“This is unprecedented, it’s not an experiment but it’s an unprecedented situation because we’ve got a new pandemic here and the UK is in a particularly interesting position because we have such a successful vaccine programme.”

Beta variant spreading in France may evade vaccines, says Prof Edmunds

09:33 , Leah Sinclair

The Beta variant of the coronavirus spreading in France may evade vaccines, a scientist involved in advising the Government has warned.

The Government has said travellers returning from France - unlike other amber list destinations - must continue to self-isolate even if they are fully vaccinated.

Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said ministers were right to be concerned.

“The Beta variant has remained a threat throughout. It is probably less infectious than the Delta variant that is spreading here in the UK at the moment. Where it has an advantage is that it is able to escape the immune response to a better extent,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“As the population here becomes more and more immune, the conditions are right then for the Beta variant to get an advantage, so I can understand the concern.”

The country is facing a prolonged period with a high level of coronavirus infections

09:22 , Leah Sinclair

The country is facing a prolonged period with a high level of coronavirus infections, a scientist involved in advising the Government has warned.

Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that with the lifting of lockdown restrictions in England on Monday the disease would continue to spread.

“I think this wave of the epidemic will be quite long and drawn out,” he told the BBC Radio 4 programme.

“My hunch is that we are looking at a high level of incidence for a protracted period right through the summer and probably through much of the autumn.”

“We started easing restrictions before everybody was vaccinated. That is going to lead to infections in the unvaccinated people - primarily in this instance the younger individuals. It is inevitable that that was going to happen.”

Government changes to France quarantine rules is ‘abrupt’ says ETA exec

08:40 , Leah Sinclair

Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tourism Association, described the Government’s late changes to quarantine rules in relation to France as “abrupt” but “hardly surprising”.

“This Government really specialises in abrupt changes of policy but people who are describing shock and dismay really should have got used to this sort of thing occurring,” he said, speaking on Times Radio.

“Anyone with children in this country has been watching Government policy change and switch and move direction and it’s hardly surprising that we’re seeing (this) now in the Channel area.”

Sir Jeremy Farrar: Government’s pandemic response ‘did not click fast enough'

08:28 , Leah Sinclair

The Government “did not react fast enough” in the early stages of the pandemic, a leading health expert has said.

Sir Jeremy, who is a Sage adviser and director of the Wellcome Trust, told the paper it was clear in the early stages of the outbreak that the Government response needed to be military-like.

He told The Times: “Certainly in my lifetime, and even in the past 100 years if you exclude war, I can’t think there’s been such a disruptive event in the world.

“It was very clear in the first quarter of 2020 that this was going to affect every single aspect of society, from the economy to jobs to education, everywhere.

“You have to be personality-independent and it has to be able to click into gear. I don’t like military analogies, but when a moment of crisis strikes, the military would not say, ‘We’ll be organised in a year. Give us a shout then’.

Holiday chaos as double-jabbed travellers from France told to quarantine

08:00 , Leah Sinclair a group of people standing in a room © Provided by Evening Standard

Holiday chaos as double-jabbed travellers from France told to quarantine

Pop-up Covid jab centres open at shops and parks this weekend

07:59 , Leah Sinclair © Provided by Evening Standard

Pop-up Covid jab centres open at shops and parks this weekend

Coronavirus restrictions eased further in Wales

07:58 , Leah Sinclair a group of people in a room © Provided by Evening Standard

Coronavirus restrictions eased further in Wales

Caution urged as EID coincides with easing of restrictions

07:56 , Leah Sinclair

Muslims are being encouraged to continue to get vaccinated, take coronavirus tests and wear masks where possible as they celebrate Eid next week, when many coronavirus restrictions will also be lifted.

Charities and health bodies have called for caution ahead of the Islamic celebration, which is due to start early next week, dependent on sightings of the moon.

Dr Hina Shahid, chairwoman of the Muslim Doctors Association, said: “I encourage everyone to get vaccinated so they can feel safer celebrating Eid with their loved ones.

“Both indoor and outdoor celebrations could potentially impact Muslim families and individuals so I would urge that Eid ul Adha celebrations are again limited, the last thing we want is for festivities to become super spreader events.”

07:53 , Leah Sinclair

Welcome to the Standard Coronavirus Live Blog on Saturday, July 17.

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