Luke Perry

News Round-Up

New York City Announces Vaccine Mandate for Private Sector Workers

Since October, New York City has required all public sector workers, such as teachers, police officers, and civil servants, to be vaccinated against Covid, and has recently announced that the mandate will soon extend to all private sector employees. The policy will come into force on December 27th, with Mayor Bill de Blasio calling it a “pre-emptive strike” against a potential winter surge in Covid cases. Metro has the story.

The aggressive, first-of-its-kind measure, is what de Blasio is calling a “pre-emptive strike” to combat the expected surge in Covid cases this winter, as the Delta and Omicron variants create growing cause for concern.

“We in New York City have decided to use a pre-emptive strike, to really do something bold to stop the further growth of Covid and the dangers it’s causing to all of us,” the soon-to-be departing mayor said Monday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show.

Vaccination requirement for hospital and nursing home staff as well as city employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters has been in place since October.

“Omicron is here, and it looks like it’s very transmissible. The timing is horrible with the winter months,” de Blasio said.

“So as of today, we’re going to announce a first-in-the-nation measure. Our health commissioner will announce a vaccine mandate for private sector employers across the board.”

The mayor is expected to provide additional details to the new policy at a 10am briefing.

The policy will take effect on December 27th.

The city’s Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said Monday children were the group most affected currently by breakthrough Covid cases, emphasizing the need to expand protections for vulnerable youth.

The mayor is also broadening the city’s Key to NYC vaccine mandate for city businesses, indoor dining, gyms, theatres and other entertainment venues to now include children ages 5 to 11 years-old. Beginning December 14th, children in that age group will be required to show proof of at least one shot.

According to the mayor’s office about 20% of those children have gotten at least one shot of the vaccine.

De Blasio said he expects the new mandate to survive any legal challenges. A spokesperson for the mayor said the private sector mandate will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses.

Additional guidance will be issued on December 15th, de Blasio said.

Worth reading in full.

Italy Tightens Restrictions on the Unvaccinated with ‘Super Green Pass’

From today, all Italians will need to abide by the country’s ‘super green pass’ law, which means that only those who are double jabbed or have recently recovered from Covid are allowed to enter a wide variety of public places, such as restaurants and theatres. Unlike the old ‘green pass’ system, the ‘super green pass’ does not allow for the unvaccinated to provide proof of a negative Covid test, further hindering their right to participate in public life. MailOnline has the story.

Italy has brought in tougher restrictions for unvaccinated people as the holidays draw near, excluding them from indoor restaurants, theatres and museums to reduce the spread of Covid and encourage the unvaccinated to get their jabs.

Only those who have the ‘super green pass’, which requires Italians to be double jabbed rather than providing a negative Covid test result, will be able to fully participate in public life from Monday.

Italian police will be checking will be checking whether those visiting indoor restaurants, bars, concerts, sports events, theatres and public events, have the ‘super’ green health pass until January 15th.

The restrictions follow a steady rise of Covid cases in Italy for the past six weeks, with 15,021 infections recorded on Sunday, and a concern about the new Omicron variant which is believed to be more transmissible than the Delta strain. 

Elsewhere in Europe, leaders have rushed in a raft of new lockdown measures and travel bans amid panic over rising cases and the arrival of the Omicron variant. 

Germany has announced it will lock down its unvaccinated citizens and ban them from most public spaces in the run-up to Christmas, while those in France will have to show proof of vaccination to maintain a valid Covid pass which allows them into public venues.  

Italy’s vaccination rate is higher than many of its neighbours, at 85% of the eligible population aged 12 years-old and older and 77% of the total population. But people in their 30s, 40s and 50s have proved the most reluctant to get vaccinated, with nearly 3.5 million still not having received their first doses.

They are also the same age group that is now being hardest hit by the virus, according to Silvio Brusaferro, head of Italy’s National Health Institute.

Worth reading in full.

Children’s Commissioner and Dominic Raab Accuse Lockdown of Weakening Protections for Vulnerable Children

The Justice Secretary has said that school closures during lockdown had put vulnerable and neglected children at a greater risk of harm and abuse. In turn, Dame Rachel de Souza, the current Children’s Commissioner for England, concluded that the system put in place to protect six year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was murdered by his step-mother, was further weakened by the Government’s Covid restrictions, whereas her predecessor, Anne Longfield, mentioned that “very vulnerable children have continued to slip from view” over the course of the pandemic. The Times has the story.

Dame Rachel de Souza said that the voices of children must be listened to following the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Arthur was killed in June last year after Emma Tustin and Thomas Hughes had submitted him to a “campaign of cruelty” that amounted to torture at their home in Shirley, Solihull. The boy was isolated, abused and forced to eat salt-laced meals before dying from an “unsurvivable brain injury” after being beaten by Tustin.

Tustin was jailed for life at Coventry crown court with a minimum term of 29 years last week for abusing, poisoning and murdering Arthur while his father was jailed for 21 years for manslaughter and abuse. The judge described the case as “one of the most distressing and disturbing” he had experienced.

An independent serious case review is under way into the actions of Solihull council social workers who found “no safeguarding concerns” after visiting Arthur two months before he was killed. Social workers received at least three warnings from family members and teachers.

As the Government confirmed that it would be holding a national review to protect other children, de Souza, the Commissioner for England, said that more had to be done to support social workers to spot similar cases, but the coronavirus lockdown had weakened the system.

She told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “The life of a child is of inestimable value and his voice was not heard and that’s where we need to start.

“Obviously, there’s a serious case review under way and we need to see what that says but we must take decisive action and now.” She said Arthur was not a baby and had raised his concerns but “the system did not hear him”.

“We must listen to the voices of children and, secondly, these reviews and national reviews… tend to make the same recommendations. It’s not a matter of system recommendations, it’s a matter of delivery.”

The national Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will lead the review and provide additional support to Solihull Safeguarding Children Partnership to “upgrade” the existing local review that was launched shortly after Arthur’s death.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

Anti-Lockdown Protest Sweeps Through Brussels

In response to the Belgian Government tightening Covid restrictions last Friday, anti-lockdown protesters marched through the streets of Brussels, the nation’s capital. Belgium has become the latest European country to receive this kind of backlash after imposing new Covid measures, with similar anti-lockdown protests occurring in Austria and the Netherlands only yesterday. MailOnline has the story.

Hordes of protesters marched through the streets towards the headquarters of the European Union, shouting ‘Freedom! Freedom!’ and carrying placards which read ‘everyday fascism’ emblazoned with yellow stars, drawing comparisons with the identification tags Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe.

The Government on Friday introduced fresh Covid restrictions – the third week in a row that rules have been tightened amid the latest surge in cases.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that nurseries and primary schools will close for the holiday season a week early, and children must now wear masks from the age of 6 years-old. Indoor events will only be allowed with a maximum of 200 people.

Previously, the Government closed nightclubs, and ordered bars and restaurants to shut at 11pm for three weeks. 

The main crowd in Sunday’s mostly peaceful march had already dispersed when about 100 protesters ran into a riot police barricade cordoning off access to the European Commission.

After a brief stand-off with police, protesters threw rubbish and other objects, including a bicycle, at police and set off firecrackers and flares.

It comes a day after many cities in Europe saw demonstrations against new restrictions in the run up to Christmas – upwards of 40,000 people held protests in Vienna, Austria, while thousands more piled into the streets of Utrecht in the Netherlands and Frankfurt in Germany. 

Austria last month became the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a lockdown, which is set to last 20 days, and said it would make vaccinations mandatory from February. 

It comes as governments across Europe warn of the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant which has now been registered in several nations including the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Norway…

Meanwhile in Austria, police used pepper spray and made several arrests on Saturday when more than 40,000 people marched through Vienna to protest against a lockdown and plans to make vaccinations compulsory.

Faced with a surge in infections, the government last month made Austria the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a lockdown and said it would make vaccinations mandatory from February.

Worth reading in full.

Decision Whether to Impose Vaccine Passports on Pubs Will Be Made at the “Last Minute”, Says Mark Drakeford

Mark Drakeford has said that a decision on whether to extend the Welsh Government’s vaccine passport scheme to pubs won’t be taken until the last possible moment, with the Welsh First Minister adding that “circumstances and knowledge are developing so fast”. Drakeford also mentioned that imposing vaccine passports on pubs would not have been taken into consideration if the Omicron variant had never emerged. BBC News has the story.

A decision on whether to extend Covid passes to pubs and restaurants will be made at the “last minute”, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Ministers are to consider whether to expand the scheme over the next week, with the next Covid rules review due on Friday.

Drakeford said the emergence of the Omicron variant has led to knowledge and circumstances developing “so fast”.

The first case of Omicron was confirmed in Wales on Friday.

Covid passes are already required for cinemas, theatres, nightclubs and large events in Wales.

They show if someone has been fully vaccinated or tested negative for Covid in the past 48 hours.

The Welsh Conservatives have said they remained opposed to Covid passes because they do not seem to present “additional benefits” to stopping Covid.

But the First Minister told Politics Wales he did not think the Welsh Government would be considering extending passes to hospitality if it had only been dealing with the dominant Delta variant.

He said: “We’ve got another week to go. We will learn a lot in that week about the Omicron virus.

“If we were to do it, it would simply be to help those businesses to stay open and still attracting customers through the door because people would feel confident that everybody else in that setting were either vaccinated or had taken a lateral flow test.

“But we haven’t made that decision, and we won’t make that decision right up until the day we have to, because circumstances and knowledge are developing so fast around the new variant that you ought to wait to have the maximum amount of information that you can.”

Sam Rowlands, Conservative Member of the Senedd (MS) for North Wales, said the Government should ensure “every part of our energies” is put in to rolling out booster jabs rather than extending use of the pass.

“With that you could see much better walk-in centres – rapid roll-out of walk-in centres across the country,” he said.

Plaid Cymru deputy leader Sian Gwenllian MS said: “We need to rely on the evidence and listen to what the experts say before bringing in any new regulations but if they are needed, they are needed.”

Drakeford said he could not claim the Covid pass scheme was making a difference “above the fact that it makes that extra marginal difference alongside everything else you do”.

Worth reading in full.

Canadian Vaccine Advocates Offer Secret Ride to Children to Bypass Parental Authority

Vaccine advocates in Canada have offered to secretly take children to a vaccination clinic if they desire to be jabbed. A community organiser called Julian Wotherspoon tweeted her support for ignoring parental consent and authority, and her willingness to take anyone aged between 13 to 17 years-old to get vaccinated, despite the recommendation from the health authorities that families should discuss the issue with their children before coming to a firm decision. RT has the story.

The row began on Friday, after a Saskatchewan community organizer named Julian Wotherspoon posted a Twitter message offering to assist any 13 to 17 year-olds who wanted to get vaccinated despite opposition from their parents. “I’m your ride to the clinic,” she said. “If anyone asks, I’m taking you and my kids to a movie. Let’s do this.”

According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, children aged 13 years-old and older “who are able to understand the benefits and possible reactions” of a vaccine do not need a parent’s permission to be jabbed. Equally, teens can refuse immunisation by giving “mature minor” consent to their health provider.

The authorities recommend families discuss the issue together with their children before they make the decision, however.

Wotherspoon’s tweet caused quite a stir online, eliciting both praise and outrage. She has since made her account private.

Another proponent of children’s vaccination, self-described “mummy blogger” Tenille Lafontaine, also of Saskatchewan, called Wotherspoon’s offer “amazing”. She added, “I’ve heard of a few teens getting the vaccine on their own because their parents are insane in the membrane. The kids are gonna be alright. Side note: I’m available to drive anytime.”

Other commenters pushed back, telling the two women to “stay away from other people’s children.” Some went as far as to liken their secret transport offer to kidnapping. 

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

A special bonus video of Boris getting his Booster jab. Enjoy.

Only Half of Excess Deaths in England and Wales Since July Linked to Covid

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that 22,000 excess deaths have occurred in England and Wales since the beginning of July, with 56% of the total figure (roughly 12,000) being linked to Covid. However, in some parts of England, Covid has been held responsible for causing only one in five excess deaths, with the Head of Mortality Analysis at the ONS saying that “health service disruption” may have played a key role in bringing this about. The Telegraph has the story.

As few as one in five excess deaths in parts of England can be attributed to Covid, official figures show.

Since the start of July, 22,542 more deaths than usual for this time of year have been recorded across England and Wales.  

Of these deaths just 12,551, about 56%, have been linked to coronavirus, according to the ONS.

However, this figure drops to 19% in West Berkshire, where just 17 of the 90 excess deaths listed Covid as an underlying cause.

Other areas, mainly in the South West and South East of England, have seen just one in three deaths above average linked to Covid, including Somerset, Torbay, Dorset and Herefordshire.

In previous waves, almost all excess deaths could broadly be explained by Covid.

Some 59,324 excess deaths were recorded between March 13th and June 20th last year. In 81% of these, Covid was an underlying cause.

And between September 4th and March 5th this year, there were more Covid deaths than excess deaths. This trend was due to lockdowns offsetting other illnesses common over the winter, including flu.

The reverse in this trend in this most recent wave comes as England and Wales saw its 87th consecutive week of excess deaths in the home.

Since the start of the pandemic, over 78,000 more people than usual have died in a private residence, contributing to more than half of the 125,494 excess deaths recorded across all settings.

Sarah Caul, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, says reasons for this may include “health service disruption” or “people staying at home rather than being admitted to other settings for end-of-life care”.

Worth reading in full.