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Covid UK news – live: Scientists accuse PM of ‘criminal’ mass infection plan, and London transport keeps masks

Scientists have accused the UK government of pursuing a “mass infection” strategy in a bid for herd immunity from coronavirus. Some 1,200 experts wrote in a letter to The Lancet that this alleged approach was “unscientific and unethical”, with one calling it “criminal”.

On Monday Boris Johnson announced that most remaining Covid-19 restriction in England would be lifted, including the mandatory wearing of face masks.

However, Transport for London will still require passengers to wear face coverings. Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, said: “I’m not prepared to stand by and put Londoners, and our city’s recovery, at risk.”

Key Points

  • Scientists accuse government of chasing ‘herd immunity by mass infection’
  • TfL will still require passengers to wear face masks
  • Vietnam and Thailand to mix Covid-19 vaccine doses
  • Sydney’s lockdown extended by at least two weeks
  • Children in Delhi report post-Covid symptoms like brain fog and headache

a group of people standing in front of a store: UK To End Covid-19 Social Restrictions Despite Rising Cases

Rail workers may become ‘punch-bags’ due to government’s face mask policy, union warns

08:07 , Jon Sharman

Rail workers may face violence following the government’s “botched and confused” announcements on face masks, a union has claimed.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said staff will be placed at danger of abuse and assault because of “inconsistent messaging” on wearing face masks from next Monday.

While the union said it welcomed Sadiq Khan’s decision to require face coverings on Transport for London services, it said it meant “we now have the ludicrous position where a passenger travelling through London will have different rules on the Tube and the main line services”.

Mick Lynch, the RMT’s general secretary, said: “There will also be a change of policy on trains at the Welsh and Scottish borders which is a total nonsense, and will leave staff right at the sharp end and dangerously exposed when it comes to enforcement.

“As a result of this chaotic approach we now have a situation where the London measures are not enforceable by law, which means RMT members will be thrown into a hostile and confrontational situation from next Monday at heightened risk of abuse and assault.

“That is wholly down to the confused, inconsistent and botched messaging from the government. RMT will continue to support and advise our members in their legal right to a safe place of work.

“The train operators, bus companies and, most importantly, the government should be following the best practice on face coverings in the name of consistency, common sense and public safety and that should be backed by law.

“They cannot step back from this critical issue and leave our members set up as punchbags.”

Additional reporting by PA

Government backs TfL’s move on face masks

07:48 , Jon Sharman

Grant Shapps has said the government supports Transport for London’s decision to require passengers to continue wearing face masks.

The transport secretary said the decision was in line with what ministers expected, after Boris Johnson announced that most statutory lockdown restrictions in England would end from Monday.

"Whilst we are going from this being a legal requirement to guidelines, we do expect individual carriers to make sure they are putting in place whatever is appropriate for their network," Mr Shapps told Sky News.

"The airlines have already said that you will need to carry on wearing masks on those. It is very much in line with what we expected – indeed wanted – to happen."

TfL will still require passengers to wear face masks

07:37 , Jon Sharman

Sadiq Khan has asked Transport for London (TfL) to enforce the use of mask wearing on buses and trains as a "condition of carriage", even after the lifting of laws making them mandatory on 19 July.

London mayor’ said he was "not prepared" to put tube, tram and other transport users in the capital "at risk" by removing the rules on face coverings after so-called "freedom day".

Under the terms of use, enforcement officers would be able to deny access or eject passengers found to be non-compliant while using the transport network.

Boris Johnson announced on Monday that most of England's legal Covid-19 restrictions, including compulsory mask wearing in many indoor public settings, will end next week as part of the final stage of his road map out of the coronavirus lockdown.

While Boris Johnson has urged people to exercise "personal responsibility" in continuing to wear masks in "crowded and enclosed spaces", his City Hall successor has called for TfL to go further by continuing to mandate their use.

Additional reporting by PA

Scientists accuse government of chasing ‘herd immunity by mass infection’

07:35 , Jon Sharman

Scientists have accused the government of a “criminal” decision to embark on a mass infection strategy to Covid by lifting most remaining restrictions on 19 July, writes Andrew Woodcock.

The authors of a letter to The Lancet signed by more than 1,200 scientists and medics described the government’s strategy as “herd immunity by mass infection” and branded it “unscientific and unethical”. Lancet editor-in-chief Richard Horton said that chief medical officer Chris Whitty was “wilfully misrepresenting scientific opinion” with claims that there was widespread support for the prime minister’s approach.

The National Voices coalition of almost 60 health and social care charities also wrote to Boris Johnson urging him to reconsider, warning that the recovery of non-Covid healthcare will be undermined if thousands more people are allowed to become ill with coronavirus over the summer.

WHO says Delta variant will put pressure on healthcare systems

07:03 , Akshita Jain

The World Health Organisation said in its weekly epidemiological update that the Delta variant of Covid-19 — which was first identified in India — has been reported from at least 111 countries, territories and areas.

The UN health body said that it is expected to become the dominant variant globally in the coming months.

It said: “The increased transmissibility associated with the Delta variant is likely to result in substantial increases in case incidence and greater pressure on healthcare systems, particularly in contexts of low vaccine coverage.”

Vietnam and Thailand to mix Covid-19 vaccine doses

06:39 , Akshita Jain

The Vietnam government has said it will offer the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to people who got AstraZeneca as their first dose.

This comes after World Health Organisation's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned against mixing and matching Covid-19 vaccines, calling it a “dangerous trend.”

Thailand is also planning to give AstraZeneca as the second dose to people who were first inoculated with China’s Sinovac in an attempt to boost protection.

The decision comes as hundreds of healthcare workers in Thailand who received two doses of Sinovac vaccine got infected with Covid-19. The health ministry is now mulling giving booster doses to raise immunity, according to Reuters.

Sydney’s lockdown extended by at least two weeks

06:06 , Akshita Jain

Australian authorities have extended a lockdown imposed in Sydney by at least 14 days, as the number of Covid-19 cases surged.

The lockdown was due to end on 16 July, but New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian said restrictions would be in place at least until 30 July.

The state reported 97 new locally transmitted cases on Wednesday, a slight increase from the 89 infections reported a day earlier.

Children in Delhi reporting post-Covid symptoms, say doctors

05:43 , Akshita Jain

Doctors have said that children in India’s national capital Delhi who have recovered from Covid-19 are coming to hospitals with post-coronavirus symptoms like headache and shortness of breath.

Dr Shuchin Bajaj, founder-director of Ujala Cygnus group of hospitals, told news agency PTI that children are also suffering from brain fog and are unable to remember what they studied.

He said that children who had a severe infection had symptoms like shortness of breath and severe headaches for at least three-four months.

Doctors had earlier reported multi inflammatory syndrome in children as a post-Covid complication. It’s a condition in which different body parts can become inflamed.

05:16 , Akshita Jain

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic for Wednesday 14 July, 2021. 

Reference: Independent: Akshita Jain and Jon Sharman 

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