In Scotland, the army could drive ambulances for longer than the two months originally planned, according to the Scottish secretary, Alister Jack.
One hundred and 14 soldiers have been drafted in to drive non-emergency vehicles for the Scottish Ambulance Service, with a further 111 members of the armed forces helping to staff coronavirus testing centres, PA Media reports.
The recent surge in Covid cases in Scotland has put further pressure on the NHS, with some patients experiencing long waits for ambulances.
Jack said that while two months of support had initially been requested, military help could remain in place “longer if that’s what the Scottish government needs and what it takes to help protect the public”. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the Scottish secretary said:
The British military is always ready to deploy at the drop of a hat – but they are also here for the long run.
Initially two months of support were requested, but let me be crystal clear about timescales.
The UK’s forces are not in any way restricting the amount of time available. We are happy for this operation to go on longer if that’s what the Scottish government needs and what it takes to help protect the public.
Sticking with news from Russia for a moment, its government has just announced that it has registered a further 805 Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours.
As mentioned earlier, it comes as the president Vladimir Putin ended his self-isolation with a fishing trip to Siberia.
The Russian president Vladimir Putin has ended his short spell in self-isolation and has spent several days on holiday in Siberia where he was hiking and fishing, the Kremlin said on Sunday.
Putin had said he would have to spend “a few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with Covid. He also had to cancel his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit.
The Reuters news agency reported:
Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians, and has previously been pictured riding a horse bare-chested and in sun glasses, as well as carrying a hunting rifle and piloting a fighter jet.
This time, his outings were more mundane.
The Kremlin published 20 photos of Putin standing in a river and catching a fish, walking through lush meadows and talking to defence minister Sergei Shoigu, his usual holiday companion.
Putin, 68, has had two shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and the Kremlin has said he was feeling “healthy”.
China confirmed it had administered about 3.2m doses of Covid vaccines as of yesterday, the country’s National Health Commission announced.
It brings the total number of doses administered to almost 2.2bn.
It comes as China donates coronavirus vaccine jabs to other countries in the region, such as Vietnam.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Victoria state reported 779 new Covid infections and two more deaths.
The daily increase was still the state’s second-highest, after the 847 cases recorded on Saturday, as officials battle to contain a Delta variant outbreak.
It comes as the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced “a modest easing” to restrictions from Tuesday, 28 September, at 11.59pm local time.
He said Victoria is on track to hit a vaccination target of 80% of first doses delivered by then.
In metropolitan Melbourne and regional areas in lockdown, residents will be able to travel up to 15km from home for exercise and shopping, up from 10km.
‘Contactless’ outdoor recreation – such as boating, tennis or golf – will be allowed, as will personal training with up to five people, as long as everyone is vaccinated.
Playground restrictions will be lifted, with normal gathering limits to apply. Masks can be removed to eat or drink.
Restaurants and cafes in regional Victoria will have their outdoor caps lifted from 20 to 30 people, and hair and beauty salon customers will be able to remove their masks if required for facials or beard trimming.
Good morning, I’m Tom Ambrose and I will be keeping you up to date with the big Covid news from around the UK and the rest of the world today.
We start with the news that the biggest state intervention in the UK’s labour market in peacetime comes to an end this week when the government finally winds up its furlough support.
Barring an unlikely last-minute change of heart, a wage subsidy that has been in place for 18 months and has cost £70bn will no longer be open to struggling firms.
Rishi Sunak, who announced the furlough in March 2020, thinks the money has been well spent but the economy is now far enough down the road to recovery to cope without the government assisting with wage bills.
However, the Bank of England is also growing more nervous about what will happen to more than 1 million still-furloughed workers once employers are responsible for paying their wages in full. It said:
Key questions include how the economy will adjust to the closure of the furlough scheme at the end of September; the extent, impact and duration of any change in unemployment; as well as the degree and persistence of any difficulties in matching available jobs with workers.
See below for the full article on the end of furlough by The Observer’s Larry Elliott.
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