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In the UK on Thursday, health secretary Sajid Javid said we must ‘learn to live with’ Covid
The law was passed on Thursday with a vote of 137-33 after a seven-hour discussion in the parliament. It goes into effect from 1 February. Those who do not adhere to the mandate will be slapped with a fine of €600 (£500).
Meanwhile, France has said it will relax Covid restrictions starting from February, including lifting work from home guidelines and reopening stadiums, arenas and other large-capacity venues, although the need for a vaccine pass and indoor mask-wearing will remain.
In the UK, health secretary Sajid Javid said we must “learn to live with” Covid – but also urged caution.
“Covid is not going away, it’s going to be with us for many, many years – perhaps forever – and we have to learn to live with it,” he told Sky News.
Japan to introduce curfews on hospitality in Tokyo from Friday
Japan will introduce a curfew on bars and restaurants in Tokyo and a number of other areas from today in a bid to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.
According to the Associated Press, the new variant of Covid-19 has been causing major case surges in metropolitan areas across the country.
The Okinawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures have been subject to similar restrictions since early January. Today’s announcement will see 16 areas under the same measures – equal to one third of Japan.
UK’s move to scrap Covid restrictions leave clinically vulnerable as ‘collateral damage’, charities warn
Those representing thousands of clinically vulnerable people have warned the government’s decisions to scrap Covid-19 restrictions leaves people “marginalised” and warned there was a risk to five and 11-year-old vulnerable children who are yet to be vaccinated.
The removal of Covid-19 restrictions next week will mean masks are no longer mandatory, the government will no longer ask people to work from home, while Blood Cancer UK has called for the government to do more to support immunocompromised people such as giving them priority testing.
Our health correspondent Rebecca Thomas has more:
‘Clinically vulnerable people have just become collateral damage in political considerations’, says Charlotte August CEO of National Voices
Adele postpones Las Vegas residency due to ‘delivery delays and Covid’
The British-born Easy on Me singer postponed her exclusive new residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace Hotel just 24 hours before its opening night.
“I’m so sorry, but my show ain’t ready,” she said in the video posted to Instagram on Thursday.
The entertainer said that all of the shows would be rescheduled, and blamed it on “delivery delays and Covid”.
Son kills himself over guilt of exposing father to Covid
Stephanie Reyes, 37, said that she and her whole family had contracted Covid in August last year. Her husband Anthony, 46, died in September due to complications arising from the disease.
“At the end of August, my family and I contracted Covid and within a matter of days, I lost my husband,” Ms Reyes said to Fox LA.
However, after a few months, Ms Reyes found that her son had ended his life when she found his bedroom light on at 4am.
Anthony Junior, 17, feared he had exposed his family to Covid at a school pep rally last August
India plans Covid vaccine trial on lions, leopards
Zoos in India are planning to roll out a Covid vaccine trial on resident lions and leopards, the Times of India newspaper reports.
The trial will be conducted on 15 animals in six zoos across the country using a vaccine developed by ICAR-National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE)
.The vaccines will be administered in two doses with a gap of 28 days after which the animals will be monitored for antibodies.
The trial will begin once it has received final approval from the central government, the report said.
The experimental study on big cats comes after two lions died of Covid-19 at the Chennai zoo last year.
India records over 300,000 Covid cases for second consecutive day
India has reported nearly 350,000 cases of Covid-19, another eight-month high after it reported over 300,000 cases on Thursday, as an Omicron-fuelled third wave blazes through the country.
As many as 703 people have died of Covid during the past 24-hour period, according to the latest health ministry data. The daily positivity rate for testing nationally is up from 16.41 per cent to 17.94 per cent, while the weekly positivity rate was recorded at 16.56 per cent.
The total Covid cases in the country have reached 38.57 million. The overall count of the highly infectious Omicron variant reached 9,692 today with 29 states reporting cases – though only a tiny fraction of cases are being genomically sequenced.
China’s locally confirmed Covid cases fall to two-month low
China’s daily locally confirmed cases have fallen to a nearly two month low.
According to data released on Friday, the country recorded only 23 domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms in the last 24 hours, down from 43 a day earlier.
This marks the fourth consecutive day of decline in local symptomatic cases, with the lowest daily caseload since 29 November.
The central province of Henan and the northern city of Tianjin, two areas that have detected most of China’s local cases in the past 10 days, each reported fewer than 10 local confirmed infections for Thursday.
The capital, Beijing, reported five, a slightly up from three a day earlier. The southern city of Zhuhai and Xian in the northwestern also reported a handful of new local cases.
The drop comes after a national strategy to quickly curb flare-ups forced worst-hit cities to lockdown affected communities and cut business activity.
Covid disrupts aid flight to tsunami-hit Tonga
An Australian aid flight to tsunami-hit Tonga was forced to return to base due to a positive Covid-19 case onboard, a defence official said on Friday.
The Australian aid flight had left Brisbane on Thursday afternoon but it was forced to turn around mid-flight after it was notified of a positive case of Covid, an Australian defence spokeswoman said.
All crew had returned negative rapid antigen tests before departure, but PCR tests later showed a positive result.
The supplies were moved to another flight that took off on Friday.
Tonga has only reported one positive case during the pandemic and has been Covid-free for a long time. It has a strict border control policy and is requiring contactless delivery of aid that began arriving by plane on Thursday.
Saturday’s volcano eruption and the tsunami that followed has left Tongans struggling to find clean drinking water with their island homes shrouded in volcanic ash.
France to ease Covid restrictions from next month
French prime minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday that the government will lift most of its Covid-19 restrictions in February, although the need for a vaccine pass and indoor mask-wearing will remain.
The vaccine pass will come into effect on Monday, Mr Castex said at a press conference. People will no longer be allowed to show a negative test to enter restaurants, bars, theatres, museums and stadiums or travel on trains — only proof of vaccination will be accepted.
“(The pass) … is necessary if we want to preserve and increase our vaccination coverage in the event of new variants,” Castex said on Thursday. The so-called vaccine pass “clearly puts constraints on the unvaccinated,” he said.
Starting on 2 February, stadiums, arenas and other large-capacity venues will be allowed to operate at full capacity again. Home-working obligations will be lifted, though it will still be encouraged, and masks will no longer be required outdoors, as is currently the case in many cities.
“We are unquestionably in a new phase of the epidemic,” said the prime minister.
Austria approves bill to make Covid jabs compulsory for all adults
Austria’s parliament on Thursday approved a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for all eligible adults, the first of its kind in Europe.
The parliament voted 137 to 33 in the favour of the mandate after a seven-hour discussion.
It goes into effect from 1 February. Those who do not adhere to the mandate will be slapped with a fine of €600 (£500). Fines could reach 3,600 euros if people contest their punishment and full proceedings are opened.
Exempted from the mandate are pregnant women, individuals who for medical reasons cannot be vaccinated, and people who have recovered from a coronavirus infection in the past six months.
Officials say the mandate is necessary because vaccination rates remain too low.
Health minister Wolfgang Mueckstein, speaking in parliament on Thursday, called the measure a “big and, for the first time, also lasting step” in Austria‘s fight against the pandemic.
“This is how we can manage to escape the cycle of opening and closing, of lockdowns,” he said, saying it is about fighting not just omicron, but any future variants that might emerge.
“That is why this law is so urgently needed right now.”
As of Wednesday, 71.8 per cent of the population of 8.9 million was considered fully vaccinated.