Plans for Covid vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds across the UK are to be announced by the government this week, with a mass inoculation programme beginning in schools within two weeks, the Observer has been told.
New proposals for a Covid booster programme are also expected to be set out on Tuesday, but it is thought ministers may be backing away from plans for Covid passports in confined settings such as nightclubs amid opposition from some Tory MPs. It is believed that vaccinations for children will begin on 22 September. NHS leaders are understood to have been briefed on the plans after schools were told to be ready to introduce the programme. When asked to confirm the plan, a Department of Health source said ministers had not received final advice from the CMOs and did not want to prejudge them.
Following the Guardian’s interview with Prof Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, who said general practitioners are finding it difficult to “maintain a safe service” to patients due to the amount of pressure they are under, the British Medical Association has responded.
Marshall said a combination of a drop in staff numbers and an increase in demand for services from GPs, including complex consultations and the vaccination programme as well as demand from a growing population, has made things difficult for doctors.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, pointed out that even before the pandemic started there were already too few family doctors, a limited wider workforce, inadequate spaces and unmet government promises, PA reports.
Vautrey said: “Government pledges to deliver more GPs remain unmet and as workload pressures now increase at an alarming rate due to the pandemic and the growing backlog of care, it is no wonder that many practices are struggling to provide patients with the good care that GPs want to deliver, and that patients expect and deserve.”
Around 5.7 million people in Greece, or 55% of the population, are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 59% have received one dose, according to the latest official figures.
The country recorded 2,197 confirmed new infections on Saturday and 39 deaths, Reuters reports.
Police in Greece’s second city Thessaloniki fired tear gas at anti-vaccination protesters ahead of a keynote economic speech by prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The police used tear gas and a water cannon to keep around 1,000 protesters away from the venue of the speech.
There has been opposition in Greece to the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of all health workers, who are threatened with suspension if they fail to comply, AFP reports.
Tougher air, sea and rail transport restrictions also come into effect on Monday, with the unvaccinated no longer entitled to free testing.
India’s foreign minister has urged Australia to ease coronavirus travel restrictions for thousands of students who have been unable to get into the country since the pandemic started 18 months ago.
Foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he raised the issue “in some detail” with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne, AFP reports.
“We have heard a lot from the students and I think their frustrations, their feelings, are completely understandable,” Jaishankar told reporters.
“Many of them would like to be at the institutions where they want to study,” adding students were “a very high priority” for his government, which has also faced hurdles with the US and Canada.
“We have been having some problems with some other countries as well. We had initially with the US, we are still having some issues with Canada,” he added.
France has reported a further 46 Covid-19 related deaths in hospital and said 2,131 people are in intensive care with the virus, Reuters reports.
The city-state’s ministry of health on Saturday confirmed 555 new Covid-19 cases in Singapore, taking its total case count to 71,167, Reuters reports.
These comprise 486 community cases, 64 dormitory residents cases and five imported cases.
More data from Italy. Patients in hospital with coronavirus – not including those in intensive care units – stood at 4,117 on Saturday, down from 4,164 a day earlier.
There were 40 new admissions to intensive care, edging up from 37 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients stood at 547 from a previous 548, Reuters reports.
Some 333,741 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past 24 hours, compared with a previous 286,028, the ministry said.
More than 2,000 people demonstrated in Istanbul on Saturday against official coronavirus-related mandates including vaccinations, tests and masks, responding to new government measures and an inoculation push.
In Turkey’s largest such protest, mostly maskless people shouted slogans, held placards and Turkish flags, and sang songs in defence of what they called individual rights, echoing anti-vaccine rallies in some other countries, Reuters reports.
On Monday the government began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test for all users of intercity planes, buses and trains, as well as for those attending large events such as concerts or theatre performances.
All unvaccinated school employees are required to take a PCR test twice a week. Masks and social distancing are required in public.
Italy reported 57 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections stood at 5,193.
Italy has registered 129,885 deaths linked to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain. The country has reported 4.6 million cases to date, according to Reuters.
UK death toll increases by 156
The UK has recorded 156 new deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test on Saturday and 29,547 new cases.
The overall death toll is now 134,144 and the total number of coronavirus cases is 7,197,662.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said another Scottish independence referendum would allow people to “define and decide our recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic, reports PA.
Blackford argued that Scotland was on a “different path” from the Westminster government and that Conservative sleaze, benefit cuts and tax rises “that always, always punish the poor” made the case for independence.
Addressing the SNP conference, he said:
And, as we know, a fish rots from the head down. Whether it’s Covid contracts for cronies, donations for decorating or Tory texts for tax breaks – a trail of cronyism leads back to Downing Street and the prime minister.
Even John Major’s government would blush at that scale of sleaze. Because at the very same time they’re abusing their power to enrich their friends, they are making the political choice to punish the powerless.
The BBC reports that three coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in Northern Ireland.
Another 1,424 cases of coronavirus were reported on Saturday. This is down from 1,687 on Friday.
The total number of deaths linked to Covid-19 in Northern Ireland since the start of the pandemic is 2,447.
The Times says the number of deaths from Covid-19 per head of population in the US is higher than the UK for the first time this year.
Several members of a troop of western lowland gorillas at Zoo Atlanta have tested positive for the coronavirus after handlers noticed many of the great apes were showing signs of mild coughing, runny noses and a small loss of appetite, AP reports.
Zoo Atlanta said animal handlers collected faecal samples and nasal and oral swabs from the gorillas and sent them to a lab at the University of Georgia, which returned presumptive positive results for the virus that causes Covid-19, a Zoo Atlanta statement said.
The zoo added that it was awaiting confirmation of the test results from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, which also received samples.
The statement did not say how many of the gorillas appeared to be infected.
However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported 13 had tested positive.
Another news outlet suggested that the world’s oldest living male gorilla was among those testing positive, although this has not been confirmed.
The zoo statement said its teams were collecting samples for testing from its entire gorilla population, which totals 20 members living in four troops.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports members from each of the four troops showed evidence of infection.
Sam Rivera, senior director of animal health at Zoo Atlanta said:
The teams are very closely monitoring the affected gorillas and are hopeful they will make a complete recovery.