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Live Reporting

Edited by Owen Amos

All times stated are UK

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  1. Thanks for reading

    That's all from the Covid live page today - our writers were Lauren Turner and Jen Meierhans, and the editor was Owen Amos.

    For the latest news and reaction from Boris Johnson's reshuffle, follow live here.

  2. What's been happening?

    We are going to end our Covid live coverage shortly - so here's a recap of the coronavirus news so far:

    • There will be "no single trigger" for bringing back any coronavirus restrictions during winter but the "number one issue to watch" will be how the NHS is coping, the health secretary says
    • England's Covid hospital admissions could rise if restrictions are not tightened, warns the Sage committee of scientists advising government says
    • Working from home could be an “important and effective” way to curb the spread of Covid during winter, Sage member Andrew Hayward says
    • Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has been criticsed for urging people to "think twice" before calling an ambulance
    • And from today, health workers in France who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid risk being suspended without pay.
  3. Sweden aims to boost vaccine take-up

    Sweden is increasing its efforts to get more people vaccinated - with authorities warning those unvaccinated might have to cope with restrictions longer.

    More than 80% of Swedes over the age of 16, the age eligible for vaccines, have had one dose of vaccine. Nearly 75% are fully vaccinated.

    But some areas, especially low-income communities, lag behind the rest of the population.

    "More efforts are needed to make vaccine coverage even higher and more equal," health and social affairs minister Lena Hallengren said.

    "We don't want blank spots on the vaccination map in Sweden. Everyone has the right to the protection that we know that the vaccine offers."

    During the pandemic, Sweden has mostly relied on voluntary measures instead of strict lockdowns.

    The country is to abolish almost all remaining restrictions and recommendations in two weeks.

    The country - which has a population of around 10m - is currently seeing around 1,000 Covid cases a day, according to Worldometers.

    The average number of Covid deaths per day has been in single figures since June.

    This picture, from May last year, was taken as Sweden embarked on a Covid policy different to most other Western nations
    Image caption: This picture, from May last year, was taken in Stockholm as Sweden embarked on a Covid policy different to most other Western nations
  4. Universal credit 'proved itself during pandemic'

    At PMQs earlier, there was discussion of the end of the £20-a-week Covid uplift to universal credit, which is due next month.

    There were further talks on the issue in the House of Commons afterwards, with work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey saying opposition parties had "demonised" universal credit.

    She told MPs: "Universal credit proved itself even more during the Covid pandemic, showing that it worked both by design and in delivery."

    SNP communities spokesperson Patricia Gibson said: "Talking about the impact of losing £20 per week for people who are already struggling and a very real impact on their lives is not a scare story."

    But Ms Coffey said more people would be "better off" if they moved over to the system from legacy benefits - even without the £20 increase.

    Ms Coffey said the government timed the end of the uplift to match the end of the furlough scheme.

    "As our economy continues to recover it is right that we are investing in jobs and skills to boost pay, prospects and prosperity for people right across the UK as part of our plan to level up and build back better," she said.

  5. Watch: Starmer challenges Johnson on universal credit cuts

    Video content

    Video caption: Starmer challenges Johnson on universal credit cuts
  6. Some migrant workers in Singapore taste freedom at last

    In Singapore, around 300,000 migrant workers, often from the Indian sub-continent, live in tightly-packed dormitories in the city-state.

    When the pandemic reached Singapore last year, tens of thousands of migrant workers caught Covid - and after those outbreaks, workers were mainly confined to their dormitory sites, other than when they were working.

    On Wednesday, a group of 100 migrant workers visited Singapore's Little India area for their first taste of freedom in more than a year, under a pilot programme to ease movement measures.

    It was part of a plan to allow up to 500 fully vaccinated migrant workers to visit certain public locations for six hours each week.

    Worker in Little India
  7. Nicki Minaj, Boris Johnson and the swollen testicles

    Nicki Minaj

    Earlier the health secretary said he did not want to give US rapper Nicki Minaj the "oxygen of publicity" after she tweeted "untruths" about side effects of the coronavirus vaccine.

    Minaj told her 22m followers that when a friend of her cousin had the jab, his testicles swelled up and he became impotent.

    Her comments were brought up at yesterday's coronavirus briefing when Professor Whitty said Minaj "should be ashamed".

    The PM said he'd rather get information on coronavirus from Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England's medical director of primary care, than from Nicki Minaj.

    Find out how BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg and Piers Morgan ending up being involved.

  8. Russian lottery promotes Covid jabs

    Vitaliy Shevchenko

    BBC Monitoring

    The Russian government has launched a lottery in an effort to promote its flagging vaccination campaign.

    A total of 100m roubles (about £1m or $1.3m) is on offer, and you only have to get the jab to enter.

    According to Russian state TV’s Channel One, the first 500 winners got their prizes yesterday - 100,000 roubles each (£1,000) - and the second draw will take place in a month’s time.

    The chances of winning may seem slim given that more than 42m Russians have entered the draw by getting vaccinated, but, according to Channel One, everyone is a winner in this lottery.

    "All those citizens who have demonstrated a responsible attitude towards their health, they’ve already received a lot,” Oksana Drapkina, who oversees the lottery, said.

    "The most important thing they got is health, it’s priceless."

    The lottery is the latest government initiative aimed at promoting Covid vaccination in Russia, where state-controlled media have been broadcasting calls for Russians to get inoculated.

    However, the campaign has been hampered by widespread scepticism. According to official data, less than a third of Russia’s population have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

    A number of other places have also combined their vaccination programmes with cash prizes. In May, the US state of Ohio announced the first $1m winner in their Vax-a-Million lottery.

    The vaccine lottery was covered on Russian TV's Channel One
    Image caption: The vaccine lottery was covered on Russian TV's Channel One
  9. Scottish health secretary faces criticism over ambulance plea

    Ambulance

    Scotland's health secretary has been warned he could put lives at risk after urging people to "think twice" before calling an ambulance.

    Earlier, Humza Yousaf told BBC Scotland people should only call for an ambulance when it is "absolutely critical" as the country is in for "an extraordinarily difficult winter".

    Scottish Conservative public health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane described the health secretary's comments as "astonishing".

    He says: "Humza Yousaf is making people feel guilty about dialling 999 and seeking urgent help.

    "This sort of reckless messaging could put lives at risk. When people suffer conditions like heart attacks or strokes, they might think twice about calling an ambulance, which could lead to unnecessary deaths."

    Other opposition politicians have also condemned Yousaf's comments.

  10. Johnson to announce cabinet reshuffle

    Boris Johnson outside Downing Street on 15 September

    The PM's top team is being reshuffled this afternoon, Downing Street says, with an aim to have a "strong and united team" to recover from the pandemic.

    Downing Street confirmed to the BBC that the new-look cabinet is being put together today.

    Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, and Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, are among those rumoured to be looking at new jobs.

    Downing Street said: "The PM will be appointing ministers this afternoon with a focus on uniting and levelling up the whole country."

    News of the reshuffle comes just after Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons.

    Boris Johnson has mostly stuck with the same cabinet team he appointed after winning the December 2019 general election - other than appointing Rishi Sunak as chancellor in February 2020.

    You can follow our politics live page for all the latest as we get it.

  11. Analysis

    As the UK begins its booster plan, why is the AZ jab not being used?

    Fergus Walsh

    Medical editor

    The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been deemed safe and effective to use as a booster - but it is only being recommended for people who are allergic to the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna).

    I understand that concern about a rare blood clotting side effect is the reason why the AZ vaccine is not being used.

    The vaccine is already limited in the UK to those over 40. And for those who have only had the AZ jab so far - several trials have shown that the Pfizer vaccine produces a very strong antibody response, and that mixing vaccine types can enhance immunity.

    Nearly 50 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have been given by the NHS, more than any other vaccine, and it has already prevented tens of thousands of deaths in the UK.

    Because of the restrictions around its use for younger adults, it has been given to a higher proportion of older adults than Pfizer - and therefore will have likely saved more lives.

    But its future use in the UK now looks very uncertain.

    The AZ vaccine has been produced on a not-for-profit basis, at around three pounds per dose, a fifth of the cost of the Pfizer vaccine. It is also easier to store and transport, making it a vital global tool in the pandemic.

    The vaccine has been licensed in more than 160 countries, although it has not been approved in the United States, despite a successful trial there.

    All the vaccines used in the UK give significant defences against severe Covid. But it remains unclear which will have the most lasting protection.

    The messenger RNA vaccines score best in the initial weeks after immunisation, but their immunity wanes more quickly than the AstraZeneca vaccine, which uses a disabled virus. So it would be wrong to completely write off the Oxford-AZ jab as a booster.

    If the vaccine is shown to give more durable immunity, it may yet have a continuing role here.

    What is certain is how important the vaccine is globally. More than 1.2 billion doses have been distributed worldwide - and that figure should hit 2 billion by the end of the year.

  12. More than 100 alerted to Covid case after full council meeting

    An alert has been sent to more than 100 councillors and bosses after someone tested positive for Covid after a full council meeting in Birmingham.

    All attendees have been advised to book a PCR test via the NHS - and those who have not received two jabs have been told to self-isolate for ten days.

    Images from the meeting at the Rep studio theatre yesterday show people sitting around tables and very few people wearing masks.

    A statement from the council says those present should follow the NHS advice "in light of the significant mixing that took place".

  13. Sydney suburbs curfew comes to an end

    Sydney Olympic Park

    A curfew in the 12 Sydney suburbs hit hardest by the Delta variant is coming to an end on Wednesday night.

    The NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed off on the order on Wednesday afternoon, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

    The curfew had been in place from 9pm to 5am. But despite meeting the "fantastic milestone", he said people should not drop their guard.

    A number of "lockdown" restrictions remain in place in Sydney, with more freedoms for people who are double-vaccinated.

    According to government figures, just over 80% of the NSW population aged 16 and over has now received one Covid-19 vaccine dose.

    And the rate for having both vaccines is now 48% - while that's higher than the national average, there is some way to go before it reaches the 70% level needed for the easing of some restrictions.

    Meanwhile, the state of Victoria has had a second consecutive daily fall in new cases, as its rate for first vaccine doses nears the 70% level.

  14. SNP calls for 'winter action plan to fight poverty pandemic'

    The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford says this morning we've learned of the highest rate of inflation for a decade, adding "for ordinary workers and families, prices are going up at the very moment they can least afford it".

    He notes the PM's Covid winter plan - but says there needs to be a "winter action plan to fight the Tory poverty pandemic".

    He asks how much the planned welfare cuts will affect the average nurse.

    Mr Johnson replies the government is "protecting people on low incomes up and down the country" by measures like freezing fuel duty, supporting child care, the living wage and "investing massively in health and social care".

    This, he says, will help fund they increase in nurses' pay "they so deserve".

    Mr Blackford retorts that the government is in fact effectively cutting the pay of key workers - the very people the nation is relying on to face "another difficult winter".

    Mr Johnson replies the NHS is being funded across the whole of the UK "with record sums".

  15. Nurse stands to lose £1,000 under new tax and universal credit cuts - Starmer

    Sir Keir Starmer tells the House of Commons working people are being "hammered" by a new 1.25% Health and Social Care Levy, scheduled for 2022, and a £20 cut to universal credit next month.

    He says: "A working single parent who is a qualified nurse would lose £1,143, a supermarket worker could lose £1,093, a teaching assistant could lose £1,818."

    Boris Johnson says: "It is absolutely ridiculous he should attack the government over salaries for nurses when we put them up by 3% on top of the 12.8% rise that we introduced; when we are hiring 50,000 nurses; and when we're just putting another £36bn into the NHS and social care on top of the £3bn this government invested when we came into office."

    The PM says 1 in 10 people are on an NHS waiting list and the NHS backlog needs to be fixed - hence why taxes are rising.

  16. PM faces universal credit questions in House of Commons

    Keir Starmer

    We're following Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons - where leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer has asked about the planned end of universal credit.

    The £20 weekly rise in universal credit was brought in during the coronavirus pandemic - the government has said the uplift will be removed by October as it was always intended to be a "temporary measure".

    Starmer asks: "How many hours a week would a single parent working full time on the minimum wage have to work to get back the £20 a week the prime minister plans to take away from them in his unverisal credit cuts?"

    Starmer says the Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey estimated the figure at two hours' work - but the Labour leader says it's more like nine hours.

    Boris Johnson says: "Under this government for the first time in a decade wages are rising."

  17. China vaccinates 91% of children aged 12-17

    Coronavirus testing in Fujian Province
    Image caption: Coronavirus testing in Fujian Province

    China has fully vaccinated 91% of children aged 12-17, state television has reported.

    This is higher than the proportion of people fully vaccinated across all ages, which is just under 70%, according to the most recent figures.

    Under 12s are not yet eligible for vaccination, despite the fact the two main vaccines used in China have been approved for use in all those over the age of three.

    Authorities say schools still need to be vigilant, according to Reuters.

    There has been an outbreak in the southeastern province of Fujian, with 152 cases - including infections among unvaccinated children in primary schools and nurseries.

    The outbreak is centred around the cities of Putian and Xiamen, which have now suspended in-person classes at nurseries and primary schools and most face-to-face teaching at secondary schools too.

    State television reported that students and teachers are being asked to stay home during the forthcoming mid-autumn festival holiday next week, and a week-long holiday starting 1 October.

  18. Health worker vaccine mandate begins in France

    Hugh Schofield

    BBC News, Paris

    From today, health workers in France who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid risk being suspended without pay.

    It's part of a package of measures announced by President Macron last month to coerce people into getting vaccinated.

    Some 2.7 million French people are affected by the measure – not just doctors and nurses, but staff at old people's homes, ambulance drivers, as well as hospital cooks, cleaners and administrators.

    They've had until today to get themselves vaccinated with at least one jab, and the vast majority have done so – but there's a small percentage of health workers who have said that on principle they won’t take the injection.

    They now face suspension from their jobs without pay.

    A nursing staff member wears a handmade mask during a protest in Lyon on Tuesday against mandatory vaccines
    Image caption: A nursing staff member wears a handmade mask during a protest in Lyon on Tuesday against mandatory vaccines
  19. Recap: What's in England's Covid 'Winter Plan'?

    Woman walking over a bridge

    On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced measures to deal with a posible rise in Covid cases in England over the winter - with a contingency "Plan B" if things get worse. Here are some of the things the plans involve:

    Plan A

    • Covid booster jabs will be offered to around 30 million people, including the over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and social care workers
    • Vaccines will be offered to all 12-15 year olds
    • NHS Test and Trace will continue with free PCR tests

    Plan B

    If Plan A is not sufficient to prevent "unsustainable pressure" on the NHS, the government says Plan B will be required "as a last resort" - including:

    The PM says parts of Plan B could be introduced gradually, rather than all at once - you can read up on it here.

  20. Can England avoid 'lockdown lite' this winter?

    Nick Triggle

    Health Correspondent

    People walking in the street

    The government's approach in England is clear - it's going to try to rely almost entirely on the vaccines to protect the country from Covid this winter.

    The winter plan says vaccines, including the rollout of boosters and jabs for children, are the Plan A.

    There is, however, a Plan B. This includes greater use of face coverings, Covid passports and working-from-home orders - a "lockdown lite" as it has been dubbed. What are the chances of avoiding this?

    Currently, the numbers in hospital are pretty flat, however. They have risen by only a fifth in six weeks.

    If this trajectory remains constant, it will certainly put hospitals under strain - but it would be hard to argue the Covid pressure was unsustainable.

    Infection levels could go up however. Case numbers have been bobbling around since the rapid rise stopped in mid-July.

    Essentially, the epidemic has been stable. That is a pretty remarkable achievement given how infectious the Delta variant is and the fact society is fully open.

    It suggests we are on our way out of the pandemic.

    But, as the prime minister and leading scientists have kept stressing this week, it is not completely over.

    Here's my full analysis of the chance of avoiding "lockdown lite".