Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Sunday morning. We’ll have another update for you on Monday morning.
1. PM to unveil winter plan for England
Boris Johnson is due to outline plans for booster vaccine doses and contingency measures if the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed as part of his Covid Winter Plan for England on Tuesday. Government sources said further lockdowns are not being considered but officials are looking at measures that could be needed if cases rose sharply. The plan will emphasise how the nation will continue “living with” the virus through the winter and will promote vaccines for Covid and flu. The prime minister’s announcement will come after the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation publishes its recommendations on who should receive booster jabs.
2. Union calls for Army help to cut A&E waits
The head of a union representing ambulance staff has said the Army should be brought in and “pop-up wards” set up outside Accident and Emergency departments as patients face hours-long waits at Scotland’s hospitals. Jamie McNamee from Unite said patients were being put at risk because ambulances were having to queue outside A&E departments, with routine waits of three hours in Aberdeen and Glasgow. The call comes after the head of the ambulance service apologised for waiting times, saying staff were under “unprecedented pressure” due to a huge increase in Covid and non-Covid patients.
3. Travellers to Wales to get wider choice of Covid tests
Up to now, people travelling to Wales from abroad have been required to buy PCR tests from the NHS at a cost of £68, although private companies were offering them from about £50. But from 21 September, people will have a wider choice of PCR tests, the Welsh government has announced. Wales’s Health Minister Eluned Morgan said new regulations on private testing to improve standards has prompted the change. The UK government said it was tightening rules on private providers after complaints of “cowboy behaviour” with slow delivery of results and misleading pricing. Ms Morgan said the Welsh government was continuing to advise against non-essential travel.
4. Sri Lanka faces food shortages
Shelves at state-run supermarkets are running low – with some even empty – and customers report queuing for hours to buy items such as sugar, rice, lentils and milk powder in Sri Lanka. It comes as the country imposed tight lockdown measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. The government has denied there are shortages and blames the media for stoking fears. But it imposed strict controls on the supply of essential goods last month, saying it needed to prevent hoarding and control inflation as it struggles with a depreciating currency and a crippling foreign debt burden. The surge in coronavirus cases has hit tourism, one of the country’s main foreign currency earners, and the pandemic contributed to a record economic slump last year.
5. Free gig tickets with jabs in Belfast
A queue stretched out of the door of one of Belfast’s best-known music venues on Saturday, but the star attraction at the Limelight was a pop-up vaccine clinic, not a performer. The clinic was part of Northern Ireland’s push to increase the numbers of young people getting their jab, from 72% of 18- to 29-year-olds to a figure closer to the 90% uptake for the total adult population. Those getting their vaccine at the Limelight were being given a free ticket to a gig at Ormeau Park next week, but organisers said people were motivated to get the jab and the tickets were just an extra incentive.