Covid live: Ireland to lift almost all curbs from 6am on Saturday; Fra…

Covid live: Ireland to lift almost all curbs from 6am on Saturday; Fra…




6.30pm EST18:30

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, for tonight and that also brings the live blog to an end for the day. Thanks for following along.

We will be back tomorrow but for now, stay across all the top Covid stories from around the world here. Goodbye for now.

6.21pm EST18:21

Also in Brazil, the country’s health ministry has approved use of Sinovac Biotech Ltd’s Covid vaccine, Coronavac, for children ages 6 to 17.

In a news conference announcing the addition of Coronavac to the national vaccination plan, deputy health minister Rodrigo Cruz said the ministry has six million doses of the vaccine obtainable, with states and cities having their own stocks.

The Chinese vaccine was tested in Brazil at Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute, a leading biomedical centre tied to the state government. Coronavac received authorisation for emergency use in adults in January last year and was the first vaccine to be used in Brazil. Later, however, it was superseded by other jabs and is no longer being used in adults.

Brazil has already authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children between five and 11 years old.

Vials of Chinese Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pictured inside the newly inaugurated production lab designated to manufacture the vaccine, in Constantine, Algeria. Vials of Chinese Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pictured inside the newly inaugurated production lab designated to manufacture the vaccine, in Constantine, Algeria. Photograph: Ramzi Boudina/Reuters

5.49pm EST17:49

Brazil records 166,539 new situations of coronavirus, 358 more deaths

Brazil has had 166,539 new situations of coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 358 deaths from Covid, its health ministry said on Friday.

The South American country has now registered 23,751,782 situations since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 622,563, according to ministry data.

5.35pm EST17:35

The Chinese government on Friday called the Biden administration’s decision to suspend 44 flights by Chinese carriers to the United States “very unreasonable.”

The US Transportation Department said the flights were being suspended in response to China’s decision to suspend 44 flights from United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines in recent weeks, Reuters reported.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington said the policy of barring some flights after positive Covid situations are discovered “has been applied equally to Chinese and foreign airlines in a fair, open and transparent way.”

“It is very unreasonable for the US to suspend Chinese airlines’ flights on this ground. We urge the US side to stop disrupting and restricting the normal passenger flights operated by Chinese airlines.”

5.14pm EST17:14

Also in the US, California would allow children age 12 and up to be vaccinated without their parents’ consent under a proposal by a state senator who said youngsters “deserve the right to protect themselves” against infectious disease.

Currently in California, minors ages 12 to 17 cannot be vaccinated without permission from their parents or guardians, unless the vaccine is specifically to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.

Parental consent laws for vaccinations vary by state and vicinity and a few places such as Philadelphia, San Francisco allow minors to consent to their own Covid vaccines.

Wiener’s bill would lift the parental requirement for that age group for any vaccine that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the bill passes, California would allow the youngest age of any state to be vaccinated without parental permission.

That includes immunisations against the coronavirus, but Wiener said vaccine hesitancy and misinformation has also deterred vaccinations against measles and other contagious diseases that can then spread among youths whose parents won’t agree to have them vaccinated.

“You have parents who are blocking their kids from getting the vaccines or … they may not be anti-vaccine but they just aren’t prioritising it,” Wiener told reporters at a news conference at San Francisco’s Everett Middle School. “Those kids deserve the right to protect themselves.”

4.35pm EST16:35

A estimate in Texas ruled on Friday that President Joe Biden could not require federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and confined the US government from disciplining employees who failed to comply.

It was the latest setback to White House efforts to require various groups of American workers to get vaccinated. Biden had issued an order requiring about 3.5 million government workers to get vaccinated by 22 November barring a religious or medical accommodation or else confront discipline or firing.

US district estimate Jeffrey Brown said the question was whether Biden could “require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment. That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.”

Brown, based in Galveston and appointed by then-President Donald Trump, said the government could protect public health with less invasive measures, such as masking and social distancing. The estimate’s ruling is the latest in a series of court decisions to go against government vaccine requirements.

The White House said more than 93% of federal employees have received at the minimum one vaccination and 98% have been vaccinated or are seeking a religious or medical exemption.

3.23pm EST15:23

The US Postal Service began shipping at-home rapid Covid tests on Thursday after millions of orders were placed by a new federal website launched this week, the White House said.

The federal government has tens of millions of tests on hand to ship out and will disclose next week how many households have ordered them, White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients told reporters at a briefing.

The push to get tests in the hands of Americans at no cost, along with free higher quality masks, comes as the surge in situations pushed by the highly transmissible Omicron variant began to subside in some states.

The average daily US Covid situations from the Omicron variant fell about 5% in the past week, most notably in areas that saw an early surge in infections such as New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director said.

There were about 744,600 situations per day on average in the past seven days.

2.57pm EST14:57

Lech Walesa, Poland’s ex-president and former Solidarity pro-democracy movement leader, says that he has Covid.

The 78-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate said on Facebook that he was surprised to find out he is infected despite the three vaccination doses he has received.

“I can’t believe it: I received 3 shots, …. (but) I’m infected. (I have a) headache, I can’t warm up my body. I feel like my flesh is tearing away from the bones,” Mr Walesa wrote.

“After this painful lesson I will never separate from my disguise.”

2.27pm EST14:27

Three US studies show that a third measure of an mRNA vaccine is meaningful to fighting the Omicron coronavirus variant, providing 90% protection against hospitalisation due to Covid, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday.

The studies are among the first in the United States to look at the impact of booster doses against the fast-spreading Omicron variant, which now accounts for 99% of all new Covid situations.

Overall, they suggest that boosters helped protect against both infection and symptomatic disease. Adults aged 50 and older saw the most assistance from an additional measure of the vaccines made by BioNTech with Pfizer or Moderna.

“Protection against infection and hospitalisation with the Omicron variant is highest for those who are up to date with their vaccination, meaning those who are boosted when they are eligible,” CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said in a White House briefing on Friday.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during an event on Dec. 8, 2020, in Wilmington. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during an event on Dec. 8, 2020, in Wilmington. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP

As has been shown in other countries, vaccine boosters performed better against the Delta variant than Omicron, a highly mutated version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that has been able to evade immunity from vaccines and prior infections.

2.11pm EST14:11

Belgium has announced a slight easing of its coronavirus restrictions despite record infections.

It is also determined that people will need booster shots after five months to continue Covid passes giving access to bars or cinemas, Reuters reported.

chief Minister Alexander De Croo extended opening for bars and restaurants to midnight from 11pm, allowed indoor activities such as play areas and bowling alleys to reopen and said venues with good ventilation could great number more people than now. The changes will apply from next Friday.

“The reason we can do this is the fact that we have such a high vaccination rate,” De Croo told a news conference, adding that vaccinated people were half as likely to catch Covid and 90% less likely to need to go to hospital if they did.

Some 89% of adults in Belgium are fully vaccinated and 67% have now also received a booster shot.

De Croo said that from March 1 the initial vaccination series would be valid only for five months, with boosters required to keep Covid passes active, although they would nevertheless be valid with a test or recent recovery from infection.

1.57pm EST13:57

Hello. Tom Ambrose here. I’ll be bringing you all the latest Covid news from around the world over the next four hours.

Let’s start with a bit more detail on the lifting of Covid restrictions in Ireland, which has been announced today.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said it is “time to be ourselves again” as he announced the lifting of almost all Covid restrictions, according to the Press Association.

Earlier on Friday, Cabinet signed off plans to lift all regulations – except for disguise-wearing, self-isolation and Covid passes for international travel – from 6am on Saturday morning.

Workers will return to offices on a staggered basis from Monday while normal hours will begin again in the hospitality industry this weekend.

An Nphet report has advised the government that Ireland has “weathered the Omicron storm” and that all the meaningful indicators have stabilised and are going in the right direction.

In an address to the nation, Mr Martin said:

It confirmed that Ireland’s world-class vaccination programme and the rollout of the boosters has utterly transformed our situation.

Based on this evidence, we’ve concluded that the rationale and justification for continuing most of our public health restrictions are no longer in place.

consequently from 6am tomorrow morning, the majority of public health measures that we have had to live with will be removed.

Guidance on household visits and restrictions on gatherings at indoor and outdoor events will be lifted. The Covid pass for international travel will keep, due to the Covid-19 situation in other countries. Masks will nevertheless be needed in all the locations where they are currently required.

Protective measures will also keep in place in dominant and secondary schools. This will be reviewed at the end of February, by which time all children aged five to 11 will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, he said. He urged parents to vaccinate their children and speak to their GPs about any concerns they may have.

1.31pm EST13:31

Ireland to lift almost all Covid restrictions from 6am on Saturday

Ireland’s premier Micheál Martin has confirmed that almost all Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted from 6am on Saturday. The only rules which will keep in place will be confront masks, self isolating after testing positive for the virus and Covid passes for international travel.

Confirming the news, he said “we have weathered the Omicron storm” but accepted the lifting of measures will likely cause a rise in infections in the short term but additional that he was confident impact will be limited.

He confirmed that some supports would keep in place for businesses.

“You did what you were asked to do,” he said and told the country “your collective efforts have saved thousands of lives”.

He said he had spoken to Ireland on “many dark days” but said: “today is a good day.”

Updated at 1.36pm EST

1.26pm EST13:26

France reports 400,851 new situations and 233 further Covid-connected deaths

A quick break from Reuters: France has reported 400,851 daily coronavirus situations and 233 further Covid-connected hospital deaths. More details soon.

1.22pm EST13:22

Summary of the latest news

Sarah Marsh

Below is a roundup of the latest coronavirus news from around the world.

• The average daily US Covid-19 situations from the Omicron variant fell about 5% in the past week, but some areas of the country may nevertheless see a spike in infections, the head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention director said on Friday. Daily Covid hospitalisations were down about 1% on average in the past seven days.

Ireland looked set to rapidly unwind almost all Covid-19 restrictions with ministers due to meet on Friday to agree on a timetable after being given the all-clear by public health officials.

• There were 95,787 new situations of Covid-19 reported in the UK on Friday, the government said. The figure is based on positive lab-confirmed PCR tests, but also includes most positive lateral flow tests reported in England and all lateral flow tests reported in Northern Ireland.

European Union health ministers were told on Friday to prepare to deploy a fourth measure of Covid-19 vaccines as soon as data showed it was needed, as the bloc faces a surge in situations of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

• The estimated range of England’s Covid-19 reproduction “R” number has fallen to between 0.8 and 1.1, the UK Health Security Agency said, adding that situations are likely to be shrinking as chief minister Boris Johnson reopens the economy.

• The Polish chief minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, urged Poles to work from home as daily Covid-19 infections reached their highest ever level.

Australia on Friday reported its deadliest day of the pandemic with 80 coronavirus fatalities, as an sudden increase of the omicron variant continued to take a toll.

1.17pm EST13:17

A estimate in Texas ruled on Friday that president Joe Biden could not require federal employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and confined the US government from disciplining employees who failed to comply.

Biden issued an order requiring about 3.5 million workers to get vaccinated by 22 November barring a religious or medical accommodation – or else confront discipline or firing.

US district estimate Jeffrey Brown said the question was whether Biden could “require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment. That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the supreme court, is a bridge too far.”

Brown, based in Galveston and appointed by former president Donald Trump, said the government could protect public health with less invasive measures, such as masking and social distancing.

Updated at 1.23pm EST

1.16pm EST13:16

The average daily US Covid-19 situations from the Omicron variant fell about 5% in the past week, but some areas of the country may nevertheless see a spike in infections, the head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention director said on Friday.

Daily Covid hospitalisations were down about 1% on average in the past seven days, CDC director Rochelle Walensky told reporters in a briefing.

12.48pm EST12:48

Ireland’s justice minister has posted on Instagram to confirm the news that almost all Covid measures in the country are to be scrapped.

“I am so pleased to be able to say that as of 6 am tomorrow, the great majority of restrictions that have been in place for almost two years now, on and off, will be lifted,” Helen McEntee said in a video posted on social media following a government meeting.

“I don’t think any of us thought we’d truly be getting to this point as quickly as we are now,” she additional. chief Minister Micheal Martin is due to make a televised address on Friday evening to announce the measures.

Ireland had the second highest incidence rate of Covid-19 in Europe just last week but also one of the continent’s highest uptake of booster vaccines, which has helped keep the number of seriously ill people well below the past peak.

Following advice from public health officials, the government decided that bars and restaurants will no longer need to close at 8 pm, a restriction put in place late last year when the Omicron wave hit, or to ask customers for proof of vaccination.

Capacity in indoor and outdoor venues is also set to return to complete capacity, paving the way for complete crowds for next month’s Six Nations rugby championship. Some measures, such as the need to use a disguise on public transport and in shops, will keep in place for now.

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