Older Teens To Receive Covid Jab
The government has announced plans to offer Covid-19 vaccinations to 16 and 17-year-olds in the UK. While jabs are already available to clinically vulnerable teenagers and those living with an immunosuppressed person, there has been significant debate over whether the rollout should be extended more widely. On Wednesday, new advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation confirmed older teenagers should be offered the jab, with the programme expected to begin “within weeks”.
The move has been welcomed by the scientists behind the React study, who said the surge in infections last month had been driven by cases in those aged 13 to 24. Despite high rates of infection in recent weeks, research from King’s College London has shown most children who catch Covid do not develop symptoms, while those that do usually recover within a week. Report author Prof Emma Duncan described the findings as “reassuring” – with fewer than 2% of children continuing to suffer symptoms beyond eight weeks.
Meanwhile, the latest data from the React study has demonstrated the positive impact of vaccinations on Covid cases. The most recent trial, based on more than 98,000 people in England, found fully vaccinated people were half as likely to test positive for Covid-19. It also showed that if a double-jabbed person came into contact with an infected person, only one in 25 (3.84%) would catch the virus.
SKY BROWN BECOMES GB’S YOUNGEST MEDALLIST
Sky Brown has been crowned Britain’s youngest Olympic medallist after taking bronze in the women’s park skateboarding. The 13-year-old’s win comes after she suffered a serious fall in training last year, fracturing her skull and breaking her left arm and wrist. After falling during her first two runs at the Olympic skate park on Wednesday, Brown nailed her final attempt, scoring 56.47 and taking a spot on the podium.
Brown told reporters after the event: “It feels unreal… I fell twice, that made the last run feel even better. All the girls are ripping it, it was insane, it was a super-sick final.” The teenager’s bronze medal was followed by further victories for Team GB on Wednesday. Hannah Mills and Eilidh McIntyre won gold in the 470 sailing class, boxer Ben Whittaker took silver in the light heavyweight final, and Ben Maher won gold in the individual show jumping event.
Unfortunately, Team GB heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson has seen her medal hopes dashed. The 28-year-old world champion suffered a calf injury in the 200m event on Wednesday and was disqualified for leaving her lane. Despite disappointment on the track, Team GB’s total medal tally now stands at 49, putting Britain fifth in the Tokyo medal table.
A report by the Institute for Government thinktank slams the government’s “unforgiveable” failure to draw up education contingency plans ahead of the UK’s second Covid-19 lockdown. The report, authored by Nicholas Timmins, condemned ministers for insisting schools would stay open and exams would go ahead in 2021 – even as an impending wave of infections made a second lockdown inevitable.
Timmins said the Department for Education had not just failed to make a contingency plan but in fact refused to do so. Civil service sources told him No 10’s position on the issue was: “If you plan for the worst, you are probably going to get it.” As a result, there were no plans in place for assessing pupils in the case formal exams could not go ahead, and teachers were left to shoulder the responsibility for grading children. The government has denied the report’s claims.
In other news
BELARUS SPRINTER HEADS TO WARSAW
The Belarusian Olympian who refused to fly home from Tokyo has left Japan on a flight to Vienna. Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya sought the protection of Japanese police after being taken to Tokyo airport against her will. She said team officials had “made it clear” she would face punishment by the Belarusian regime on her return to the country after she publicly criticised her national team coaches.
On Monday, the 24-year-old sought refuge at the Polish embassy and was offered a humanitarian visa. She was expected to fly directly to Warsaw on Wednesday but made a last-minute switch, first travelling to Vienna before flying to the Polish capital. Officials said the athlete was “under the care of the Polish diplomatic service” and details of her flight route could not be shared for safety reasons.
NHS STAFF FACE TIDE OF ABUSE
Health bodies have signed a letter calling for an end to the abuse of doctors and nurses. The signatories, including the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), NHS Confederation, British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing, warn of a “small but sinister tide” of aggression against staff, ranging from attacks on their health advice to threats of violence against them.
The letter was prompted after RCM chief executive Gill Walton faced death threats for encouraging pregnant women to come forward for Covid-19 jabs. Walton said “too many” health and care workers had faced abuse from Covid deniers and anti-vaxxers despite working under “incredible stress” throughout the pandemic. “To those who abuse us… we say enough is enough,” she added.
SPAIN DODGES TRAVEL RED LIST
Spain has avoided being placed on the UK’s travel red list despite concerns over the spread of the Covid-19 Beta variant. In the latest update of the traffic light travel system, published this morning, Spain remains on the amber list – meaning fully vaccinated Brits can continue to return without isolating.
The decision comes after new figures showed the Beta variant has failed to take hold in the country, accounting for just 0.5% of all Covid infections. With an estimated 58,000 UK hotel rooms on reserve for red list returnees, and hundreds of thousands of Brits currently holidaying in Spain, ministers were reportedly concerned that an exodus of travellers could overwhelm the quarantine system.
OBAMA CANCELS BIRTHDAY PARTY
Barack Obama has called off plans for an extravagant birthday party amid a rise in Covid-19 infections in the US. The former US president turned 60 on Wednesday and planned to host a large celebration on Martha’s Vineyard, a Massachusetts island, this weekend. Media reports suggested hundreds of people were invited, including George Clooney, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.
However, the plans have now been scaled back amid a spike in Delta variant cases and increasing criticism of the large event. According to a spokesperson, the original party had been planned “in accordance with all public health guidelines”. However, Obama and his wife Michelle have now decided to limit guests to close friends and family.
19 ARRESTED IN HISTORIC ABUSE CASE
Nineteen men have been arrested in Bradford by police investigating child sexual exploitation. The men, aged between 36 and 55, were detained on suspicion of rape, sexual assault and indecent assault. The offences date to between 2000 and 2005 and involve a single alleged victim.
In a statement, West Yorkshire police said the arrests came as part of a month-long operation. The force is currently investigating at least a dozen child sexual abuse allegations dating back to the 2000s, as well as more recent cases. DCI Alan Weekes of Bradford district police has urged any victims of abuse to come forward, regardless of when the offences occurred, saying: “Please be assured that you will be listened to, taken seriously and supported by professionals.”
Barbie has created a doll inspired by one of the scientists who helped develop the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination. The toy company is honouring Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert as a ‘Barbie Role Model’ for her work at the university and her role as project leader in the creation of the lifesaving jab. While the scientist admitted she initially found the gesture “very strange”, she said she hoped it would help inspire girls to pursue careers in science and technology. “My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist,” she added.