Coronavirus live news: Italy opens vaccinations for all over-12s; Bulgaria to share doses with Balkan neighbours

After a slow start, Italy has now given 35m doses to adults; Bulgaria says it has secured enough doses to share

Sweden’s government failed in several aspects of its handling of the pandemic, the country’s parliament’s constitutional committee has said.

The government was slow to put in place a testing and tracing system, failed to protect of the elderly and there was a lack of clear lines of responsibility between national and local authorities, Reuters reports the committee – which did not criticise Sweden’s absence of sweeping lockdown measure – as saying.

The pandemic has severely affected children’s rights worldwide, with young people risking a “generational catastrophe” if governments do not act, a rights group has said in an annual survey.

Millions of children have missed out on education because of Covid-19 restrictions while there will be a long term impact in terms of their physical and mental health, Dutch NGO KidsRights said as it launched its annual ranking, AFP reports.

Apart from patients of the coronavirus, children have been hardest hit, not directly by the virus itself, but fundamentally failed through the deferred actions of governments around the world. Educational recovery is the key to avoiding generational catastrophe.

Italy has today opened vaccinations for everybody over the age of 12, after the European Medicines Agency approved the Pfizer/BioNTech jab for 12 to 15-year-olds last week.

“It’s a beautiful day,” said Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris, saying it was an “excellent signal for both containing the pandemic and for resuming as soon as possible all forms of... activity.”

Related: Health experts urge caution on giving Covid vaccines to UK children

More than two billion Covid-19 vaccines have been given across the world, according to an AFP tally drawn from official sources.

The milestone comes six months after the first vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 began. At least 2,109,696,022 shots have been given in 215 countries and territories, according to the count from an AFP database.

Greece is to supply its northern neighbours Albania and North Macedonia with 40,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines, the country’s spokeswoman has said.

“Greece, in coordination with the European Commission, as most European countries do for their neighbours, will offer vaccines ... 20,000 doses to North Macedonia and 20,000 to Albania,” Aristotelia Peloni told a news conference.

Covid is many times more prevalent in Indonesia than shown by official figures in the world’s fourth most populous country, authors of two new studies told Reuters.

The news agency reports the country of 270 million has recorded 1.83 million positive cases, but epidemiologists have long believed the true scale of the spread has been obscured by a lack of testing and contact tracing.

Once touted by former US president Donald Trump, and subsequently derided by some as lacking efficacy evidence, the potential Covid treatment based on a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies developed by US drugmaker Regeneron and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche has been purchased by the EU to the tune of about 55,000 doses.

Reuters reports that the deal is the bloc’s first contract for this kind of drug, as it aims to identify 10 promising treatments by the end of the month amid a failure by pharmaceutical companies to swiftly deliver sufficient supplies of vaccines after initial promise.

Related: The Wuhan lab leak theory

Reuters have very handily – for me, if not for you – wrapped up exactly which countries in Europe are now allowing children and adolescents to be vaccinated.

Infection rates in Germany continue to drop as the country slowly emerges from eight months of lockdown, but politicians are urging caution over a possible variant-driven resurgence at the end of the summer.

The seven-day incidence of infections per 100,000 people over seven days dropped to 34.1 on Thursday, with 4,640 new infections reported by Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute.

Social Democrat delegate Karl Lauterbach, a trained doctor and prominent health expert, said he expected the incidence rate to remain around 35 in the coming weeks, as people spent more time outdoors during the summer and more and more people were fully immunised.

Some 53 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in Germany so far, and 44.6% of the population has had at least one shot.

Lauterbach said he expected the “Delta variant” of the virus that was first detected in India to become more dominant in Germany after the holidays, saying it “will probably spread around numerous European countries in the coming months”.

For now, the Delta variant B1.617.2 only plays a minor role in Germany, making up 2.1 percent of cases reported over the last week.

Nonetheless Germany is one of the European countries who have imposed restrictions on travel from the United Kingdom over the variant, with anyone entering Germany from the UK will be required quarantine for two weeks on arrival, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I usually slightly raise one eyebrow when reporting the official numbers out of Russia as they are remarkably consistent. They’ve pretty much been in the range of 7,000 to 9,500 daily every day since early March, which feels unusual as it suggest the virus is neither gathering pace or diminishing, which tends not to be how epidemics behave.

Today is no different, as Russia reported 8,933 new cases taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,099,182.

My colleague Nicola Slawson has just opened up the UK live blog for the day – so if you are looking for UK Covid news, that’s where you need to head. I’ll be continuing here with global updates.

Related: UK Covid live news: ‘whole generation’ of children could be failed without educational support

Bulgaria plans to provide about 150,000 Covid vaccines to its Balkan neighbours, health minister Stoicho Katsarov has said.

Bulgaria has the lowest inoculation rates in the European Union, but Katsarov said the country has agreed to receive about 13m doses under the EU supply scheme by the end of the year and can afford to help other countries.

A quick one from Sky here, that the reopening of indoor hospitality last month failed to boost footfall in town centres in England. The figures are compiled by a company called Springboard, and they said:

May was the wettest on record which inevitably lowered the initial exhilaration of consumers in being able to eat out as even visiting indoor environments necessitated braving the weather.

Secondly, the limitations on dining capacity in indoor venues inevitably means that the uplift in footfall generated has been limited; and thirdly most of the increase in footfall has occurred post 5pm when volumes of activity are far lower those than during retail trading hours.

Hong Kong will open its vaccine scheme to children over the age of 12 for the first time, Reuters report, as it pursues a broader campaign across the city to incentivise its 7.5 million residents to get vaccinated.

The region started its vaccination programme in February but only around 14% of the population have been fully vaccinated so far.

Another 17 people have died in Taiwan, where authorities reported 364 new local cases and 219 backlogged cases added to previous days’ totals. It brings Taiwan’s total death toll to 166, of which 154 have been since 15 May.

Taiwan’s worst outbreak since the pandemic began continues to report high daily numbers, but analyses of the general trend are tentatively suggesting a decline. Finding trends in the data has been made difficult during this outbreak, as a backlog of cases routinely adds dozens of cases to previous days.

Another quick Reuters snap here, that Syria has received the first shipment of Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Syrian President Bashar Assad was inoculated with the vaccine, Syrian ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad said.

Also on variants, Reuters report that a coronavirus variant which Vietnam authorities thought was a combination of the Indian and UK strains is not a new hybrid but part of the existing Indian strain, the World Health Organization’s representative in Vietnam told Nikkei.

“There is no new hybrid variant in Vietnam at this moment based on WHO definition,” Kidong Park said in an online interview with the newspaper, adding that it was within the “Delta variation” that was first detected in India.

In the UK today the Daily Mail is carrying a front page story warning of the threat from what they call a “Nepal variant”.

Thursday's Mail: "‘Nepal variant’ threat to our holidays" #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday

WHO is not aware of any new variant of SARS-CoV-2 being detected in Nepal. The 3⃣confirmed variants in circulation are: Alpha (B.1.1.7), Delta (B.1.617.2) and Kappa (B.1.617.1). The predominant variant currently in circulation in Nepal is Delta (B.1.617.2).@mohpnep @PandavRajesh

One of things we are expecting today is for the UK government to announce if they are making any changes to the green, amber and red lists for international travel. A lot of people with hopes of a holiday or visiting loved ones abroad will have their eye closely on the situation – we might get that news around 11am this morning.

Getting there may prove more of a headache than usual, as AFP report. A year after the coronavirus pandemic emptied airports, air travel associations fear chaos during Europe’s summer holiday season as travellers could wait hours before boarding planes due to health checks.

Indonesia has cancelled the haj pilgrimage for people in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation for a second year in a row due to concerns over the pandemic, the religious affairs minister said this morning.

Reuters report that minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas told a briefing that Saudi Arabia, where the pilgrimage takes place, had not opened access to the haj.

In the UK, Labour’s opposition spokesperson James Murray has also been trailing round the TV and radio studios. On the proposals for catch-up funding for pupils in England, he told Sky News:

I think everyone listening to the show will realise that what the government is doing by shortchanging children feels wrong, and it’s also the ultimate false economy. If we don’t invest in protecting our children now, and making sure that their education catches up, that they are prepared in terms of their mental wellbeing and so on, it’s going to cost the country and the economy dearly in the long run.

'If we don't invest in protecting our children now, it will cost the country and the economy in the long run'.

Shadow treasury minister James Murray says the government's school recovery plan "feels wrong" and is the "ultimate false economy".#COVID19:

Seth Borenstein, science writer at AP, reports that in the US, new White House science adviser Eric Lander wants to have a vaccine ready to fight the next pandemic in just about 100 days after recognizing a potential viral outbreak.

In his first interview after being sworn in, he painted a rosy near future where a renewed American emphasis on science not only better prepares the world for the next pandemic with plug-and-play vaccines, but also changes how medicine fights disease and treats patients, curbs climate change and further explores space.

A very quick Reuters snap here that the Serum Institute of India has sought regulatory approval to make Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, on top of the AstraZeneca and Novavax shots it is already producing.

In England, much of the news this morning has been dominated by the continued fall-out over the government’s plans for education “catch-up” spending. Yesterday Sir Kevan Collins quit, said to be dismayed that his long-awaited £15bn proposals were watered down to a £1.4bn package.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins has been out and about fronting up the government response, saying that the Government’s education recovery fund was “very much focused on what we can deliver and deliver quickly”

Oliver Laughland brings us a special report on vaccine hesitancy this morning from Tuskegee and Florala in the US:

In 1997, President Bill Clinton apologized for the Tuskegee study, which he described as “clearly racist”. Two decades on, the legacy of what happened here has been routinely cited as a reason many Black Americans remain distrustful of the country’s medical systems and also the Covid-19 vaccine itself.

Related: Alabama faces vaccine hesitancy but only some counties try to tackle it

A five-pronged approach focused on the five C’s - confidence, complacency, convenience, communication and context - is needed to combat vaccine hesitancy, according to scientists from the UK, US and South Africa.

PA report that writing in the Royal Society of Medicine journal, they say complacency due to lower perceptions of personal risk and disease severity, particularly among younger people and those of lower socioeconomic status, is strongly associated with lower vaccine uptake.

Can I just add my two penny worth and heartily encourage all 18-35 year old to havex the vaccination . It makes sense . @NHS@NHSEngland @NHSDigital

Workers in Melbourne in Australia who haven’t had shifts due to the extended Covid lockdown will be eligible for up to $500 in support after the prime minister announced a new temporary Covid disaster payment.

Scott Morrison said on Thursday the disaster payment would be available in areas declared a commonwealth hotspot when any lockdown lasted longer than seven days.

Related: Melbourne workers eligible for new national Covid lockdown disaster payment

Good morning, it is Martin Belam here in London taking over for the next few hours. I must say that I was one of those very sceptical about the Wuhan lab leak theory initially, as much of the evidence posted online that I saw seemed to amount to not much more than “They have a lab there, you know”.

Former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove possibly knows his onions a bit better than me, and he’s had some pretty stringent words about the origins of the virus on a podcast from the Telegraph, and PA have picked up the quotes this morning. He says:

The People’s Republic of China is a pretty terrifying regime and does some things we consider unacceptable and extreme in silencing opposition to the official line of the government. We don’t know that’s what’s happened, but a lot of data have probably been destroyed or made to disappear so it’s going to be difficult to prove definitely the case for a ‘gain of function chimera’ being the cause of the pandemic.

The latest episode of the Guardian’s Today In Focus podcast is exploring the Wuhan lab leak theory.

When Covid-19 first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, much of the focus of the initial investigation fell on a seafood market that also sold exotic animals for human consumption. But in the months since, no definitive link has been proven and the precise origin story remains unsolved.

Related: The Wuhan lab leak theory

In Australia, Melbourne GPs say they are being forced to turn away huge numbers of vaccine-seeking locals, including busloads of vulnerable residents from care facilities, because the commonwealth’s supply of doses has not increased to match the explosion in demand.

The latest outbreak has caused a huge increase in demand for the Covid-19 vaccine in Victoria, and the state is now recording daily vaccination numbers of above 20,000 in primary care, up from the roughly 2,300 doses administered on 24 May.

Related: ‘Critical’ lack of Covid vaccine supply in Melbourne forcing GPs to turn people away

Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee has ruled out a cancellation or further postponement of the Olympics, amid concerns about hosting the event during a global pandemic.

“We cannot postpone again,” she said in an interview with Nikkan Sports newspaper.


Pot-banging protests erupted across several cities in Brazil last night, as President Jair Bolsonaro addressed the nation, Reuters reports.

The last few days have been rocky for the government of the right-wing leader, whose popularity had already been flagging amid persistently high daily Covid-19 deaths and cases.

On Wednesday alone, almost 100,000 Brazilians came down with the coronavirus and 2,507 died, according to government data. Earlier in the day, the nation’s Supreme Court authorised a criminal investigation into Bolsonaro’s environment minister for allegedly interfering with a police probe into illegal logging.

Hello and welcome to our continuing coverage of the global pandemic.

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