Companies “messing around with costs” of PCR tests for holidaymakers will face fines of up to 10,000, the Health Secretary has said following a review by the UK competition regulator.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned there is a “race for the bottom” in the PCR testing market which could see travellers lose out and called on the UK’s government for an “interventionist” response.
The CMA advised that the government should create a one-stop shop list of “approved test providers by significantly improving the basic standards to qualify for inclusion and remaining on the gov.uk list”.
It also called for a more comprehensive monitoring and enforcement programme to ensure test providers meet the Government’s standards and receive swift sanctions for failings, PA reports.
Roundup of today’s updates
- Greek authorities have introduced measures to crack down on fake vaccination certificates after a worker at a vaccination centre allegedly provided more than 40 people with false documents. It comes after a health minister vowed to be “ruthless” in the government’s efforts to catch people using them.
- The 14 victims of a fire in a Covid-19 field hospital in North Macedonia have been identified as 12 patients and two visiting relatives, authorities said on Friday. The public prosecutor’s office said the dead were eight women and six men who ranged in age between 29 and 78.
- Thailand plans to reopen Bangkok to fully vaccinated tourists in October, officials have said, despite surging Delta cases in the country. Tourists visiting the five provinces –including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan – will have to stay within a certain area for seven days after arrival and take Covid tests.
- Nine in ten local areas in the UK have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates. Out of 377 areas, 345 (92%) have seen a week-on-week rise, 31 (8%) have seen a fall and one is unchanged.The highest rates are all in Scotland, where schools have been open since mid-August.
- Russia on Friday reported 18,341 new coronavirus cases and 789 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information centre, taking its total to 7,102,625 cases and 191,165 deaths.
- BioNTech will request approval to use its Covid-19 vaccine in five- to 11-year-olds within the next few weeks, the firm’s two top executives have said.
- Meanwhile, Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech is in talks about setting up a production plant in South Africa to supply the African continent with vaccines for a range of diseases, the chief executive of its local partner said on Friday.
- Kenya’s economy has shrunk for the first time in three decades amid the coronavirus crisis, a government survey has shown. Almost 740,000 people have lost their jobs as a result.
That’s all from me for today – my colleague Nadeem Badshah will be here shortly to take you through the next few hours. Thanks for reading along.
Russia on Friday reported 18,341 new coronavirus cases and 789 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information centre, taking its total to 7,102,625 cases and 191,165 deaths.
Roughly 700 Russian doctors have died from the coronavirus so far in 2021, the health ministry’s chief non-staff pathology specialist Igor Bukhtiyarov said in comments reported in the Moscow Times.
It comes as health officials warned that Russia could see a further coronavirus surge as early as this month as authorities relax restrictions.
Despite a fall in cases from a peak in July, the country continues to deal with a third wave driven by the Delta variant and daily deaths have remained high since the peak.
Students aged 12 and over in the Los Angeles public school system soon will need to be fully vaccinated to attend classes in-person.
Students who play sports and participate in other extracurricular activities will have to have had their shots by the end of October, while all others will have to be inoculated by 19 December, according the Associated Press.
Unless they have a medical or other exemption, those without proof of vaccination won’t be allowed to have in-person learning following the end of winter break on 11 January .
“This action is not about violating anybody’s rights,” school board member Monica Garcia said. “This action is about doing our job to be able to offer public schools that children can come to school and be safe.”
GPs are “finding it increasingly hard to guarantee safe care” for millions of patients as a shortage of medics means they are unable to cope with soaring demand, Britain’s top family doctor has warned.
Amid a debate over access to face-to-face appointments, Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), defended the growing use of remote consultations during the pandemic.
He said a 4.5% fall in GP numbers across England was to blame for the crisis in primary care and warned it had led to a risk of mistakes being made.
Exclusive report by health editor Andrew Gregory:
Covid-19 case rates rise in 92% of UK’s local areas
Nine in ten local areas in the UK have seen a week-on-week rise in Covid-19 case rates.
Out of 377 areas, 345 (92%) have seen a week-on-week rise, 31 (8%) have seen a fall and one is unchanged.
The highest rates are all in Scotland, where schools have been open since mid-August.
West Dunbartonshire has the highest rate in the UK, with 1,133 new cases in the seven days to 6 September – the equivalent of 1,282.5 per 100,000 people.
This is up from 1,104.8 in the seven days to 30 August.
North Lanarkshire has the second highest rate, down slightly from 1,266.0 to 1,237.0, with 4,220 new cases.
Inverclyde has the third highest rate, down from 1,247.1 to 1,178.3, with 908 new cases.
Merthyr Tydfil has the highest rate in Wales (815.9), Fermanagh & Omagh has the highest rate in Northern Ireland (750.0), and Corby in Northamptonshire has the highest rate in England (724.1).
Israel says it will prosecute dozens of pilgrims returning from Ukraine who flew back into the country with fake negative Covid test results.
The pilgrims had been attending the annual celebration of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, in the Ukrainian city of Uman, where Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who founded the Hasidic Breslov sect in the early 19th century, is buried. He was a great-grandson of the founder of Hasidism.
Between 25,000 and 30,000 pilgrims, largely from the Breslov sect, visited Uman in central Ukraine this year. Israel’s Magen David Adom medical service told the Jerusalem Post that up to 14% of those returning had tested positive for Covid.
Italy has reported 62 coronavirus-related deaths, the health ministry said, while the tally of new infections rose by 5,621.
According to Reuters, Italy has registered 129,828 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.6 million cases to date.
Patients in hospital with Covid-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 4,164 on Friday, while there were 37 new admissions to intensive care units, for a total of 548.
Some 286,028 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, the health ministry said.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce a set of contingency measures for England next week in a bid to prevent a return to restrictions over winter.
Vaccinating children, rolling out booster jabs, introducing Covid passports and an expanded flu vaccination programme are all potential measures that could be used to minimise pressure on the NHS while keeping the economy open.
In the UK, a further 147 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total to 133,988, the government announced.
Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there have now been 158,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
As of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 37,622 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the government said.
You can follow the developments in more detail on our UK-focussed blog here.
Greece introduces fines for issuing fake Covid certificates
Greek authorities have introduced measures to crack down on fake vaccination certificates after a worker at a vaccination centre allegedly provided more than 40 people with false documents.
The Associated Press reports that Thanos Plevris, the health minister, said that parliament approved fines of 5,000 euros for each bogus vaccination, recovery, or test certificate issued. Private health centres that issue fake documents could be fined up to 50,000 euros.
People planning to commit these acts should know that they will be fired, they may face criminal prosecution, and they will have to pay a lot of money,” Plevris told state ERT TV.
He said the penalties will be more severe if the use of fraudulent documents could be linked directly to an outbreak.
China will give a further 3m doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Vietnam by the end of this year, raising China’s total vaccine donations to the south-east Asian country to 5.7m doses, the Vietnamese government said on Friday, according to Reuters.
The announcement came after a meeting between the Vietnamese deputy prime minister, Pham Binh Minh, and visiting Chinese state councillor Wang Yi, the government said.
In the UK, Boris Johnson is set to publish a Covid blueprint to prepare the country for a “difficult time” this winter, with jabs for younger teenagers, a booster programme, flu shots and vaccine passports all expected to be part of the measures.
The prime minister is likely to strike a more cautious note than he has done in recent months, warning the public to continue being careful as cases are rising – with more than 8,000 Covid patients in hospital in the UK despite the vaccination programme.
The UK government is looking to extend its emergency Covid powers – opposed by a caucus of anti-lockdown Tory MPs – in case restrictions are needed as a last resort.
No 10 is hoping the combination of measures to be announced next week will head off the need for further draconian lockdowns after some scientists warned that a “firebreak” could be needed this autumn.
The US Food and Drug Administration said on Friday that clinical trials testing Covid-19 vaccines for children are expected to include a monitoring period of at least two months after half the participants get the shots to ensure safety.
The comments come as vaccine makers race to submit clinical data seeking regulatory approval for the use of their vaccines in children below 12, as schools around the country begin to reopen for in-person learning, Reuters reports.
German drugmaker and Pfizer Inc’s partner, BioNTech SE, earlier on Friday said it was set to request approval across the globe to use its Covid-19 vaccine in children as young as five over the next few weeks.
“Children are not small adults and issues that may be addressed in paediatric vaccine trials can include whether there is a need for different doses or different strength formulations of vaccines already used for adults,” FDA acting commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a joint statement with the director of Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.