Angela Merkel has urged unvaccinated people to reconsider their decision in a video message on Saturday, as the seven-day coronavirus incidence rate in Germany rose to the highest level since the pandemic began.
“Difficult weeks lie ahead of us, and you can see that I am very worried,” Merkel said, speaking in her weekly video podcast. “I urgently ask everyone who has not yet been vaccinated: please reconsider.”
Germany’s seven-day incidence rate – the number of people per 100,000 to be infected over the last week – rose to 277.4 on Saturday, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed, according to Reuters. The record in the third wave of the pandemic last December was 197.6.
The federal government is due to meet the leaders of Germany’s 16 states next week to discuss new pandemic restrictions. However, the three parties negotiating to form a new government have agreed to let a state of emergency in place since the start of the pandemic expire on 25 November, as planned.
The UK is in “quite a different situation” from other European nations where curbs on freedoms are being considered, an influential pandemic adviser to the government has said.
Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said high Covid case numbers in the summer had boosted immunity in the UK’s population, compared with Germany, the Netherlands and France.
He said he hoped the UK could avoid returning to social distancing restrictions this winter, adding: “I think it is unlikely we will get anything close to what we had last year, that catastrophic winter wave.”
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme what direction he believes the country is going, Ferguson said several weeks of declining Covid cases and hospital admissions had been followed by “a hint of an uptick in the last few days”.
“But we are in quite a different situation from those European countries [the Netherlands and Germany] you are talking about,” he said.
“We’ve had very high case numbers – between 30,000 and 50,000 a day – really for the last four months, since the beginning of July.
“That has obviously had some downsides. It has also paradoxically had an upside of boosting the immunity of the population compared with countries like Germany, the Netherlands and France, which have had much lower case numbers and are only now seeing an uptick.”
About 400 South Korean and Japanese tourists have become the first to visit Vietnam in almost 20 months, after the country closed its borders in an effort to contain the coronavirus.
The passengers, who were required to show proof of vaccination and negative Covid test results before departure, travelled on charter flights from Seoul and Tokyo to Nha Trang, a resort city in the south of Vietnam, according to AFP.
Vietnam, which closed its borders to international visitors in March last year, is desperate to revive its badly hit economy after months of lockdowns. The communist one-party state was widely praised for its handling of the pandemic last year, with only dozens of known coronavirus cases.
However, the highly transmissible Delta variant arrived in the country this April, and Vietnam has since recorded more than a million infections and almost 23,000 deaths.
A new record Covid death toll has been reported in Russia, with 1,241 dying from the disease in the past 24 hours. There were 39,256 new coronavirus cases recorded in the same period, according to Reuters.
At the beginning of the week, most of Russia’s 80-plus regions lifted a weeklong workplace shutdown that was designed to curb a surge in case numbers.
A US court has upheld a decision to halt Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 workers, rejecting a legal challenge from his administration.
A three-member panel of the 5th US circuit court of appeals in New Orleans affirmed its ruling despite the Biden administration’s claim that putting the vaccine mandate on hold could lead to dozens or even hundreds of deaths, according to Reuters.
“The mandate is staggeringly overbroad,” the opinion said.
“The mandate is a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers),” circuit court judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote for the panel.
Vaccine mandates are controversial. Supporters say they are needed to put an end to the almost two-year pandemic, while opponents argue they violate the US constitution and curb individual liberty.
In a boost to critics of the mandate, Engelhardt wrote: “The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions – even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials.”
The rule, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), mandates that businesses with at least 100 employees require staff to get vaccinated or face weekly tests and face mask requirements.
Biden imposed the requirement in September, telling Americans that “our patience is wearing thin” with those refusing to get vaccinated.
Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, has urged elderly and vulnerable people to get their coronavirus vaccine booster jabs to prevent a rise in Covid cases, as he warned of “storm clouds” forming over parts of Europe.
Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Croatia are among the countries that have recently seen a surge in Covid cases, with the former recording its highest coronavirus case numbers since the start of the pandemic.
Speaking in a broadcast clip, Johnson said the situation was of concern. “I’m seeing the storm clouds gathering over parts of the European continent. And I’ve got to be absolutely frank with people: we’ve been here before. We remember what happens when the wave starts rolling in,” he said.
The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, has said a lack of uptake of Covid vaccines is behind the increase.
While Johnson noted that cases in the UK had been “drifting down for a while”, he said it was unclear whether the trend was set to continue. “I’m looking at what’s happening overseas, and I’m simply saying to the British people … this is the moment to get your booster,” he said.
Several thousand people rallied in Melbourne against new vaccination mandates on Saturday, with a few comparing the state government to Nazis and calling for violence against politicians.
In Australia, where 83% of people aged 16 and above have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, nationwide vaccinations are voluntary. But states and territories have mandated vaccinations for many occupations and barred the unvaccinated from activities such as dining out and concerts.
The Melbourne demonstration against the vaccination mandate that came into effect on Saturday – requiring construction workers in Victoria state to be fully vaccinated – was peaceful, with no immediate reports of unruly behaviour or arrests, according to Reuters.
But a reporter at The Age posted video on Twitter of a protester carrying a mock gallows with three nooses hanging from it, and the newspaper showed a protester carrying a poster depicting the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, with a Hitler moustache and the hashtag #DictatorDan.
“We’re being governed by insane medical bureaucrats,” Craig Kelly, a former Liberal party member of parliament and now the leader of the United Australia party, told the rally, media reported.
Good morning from London, and welcome to yet another coronavirus live blog.
I’m Damien Gayle and I’ll be keeping you up to date with all the latest headlines and developments from the coronavirus pandemic around the world.
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