Union leaders are stepping up calls for transport workers to be classified as a priority group for the coronavirus vaccine amid claims of a “surge” in deaths among rail and other staff.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said information from its members suggested deaths and illnesses due to coronavirus among rail workers have at least doubled since November.
The union is calling for a nationwide overhaul of risk assessments and for transport workers to be classed as a priority group to receive the vaccination, to protect lives and ensure the railways can continue to transport essential goods and workers.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “A more infectious and now it seems more deadly variant of the Covid-19 virus plus an increase in passengers numbers is a lethal cocktail threatening rail workers, with deaths and illness doubling since November.”
He added: “We are advising our members of their right to stop working if their safety is threatened and I will be seeking an urgent meeting with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps asking that he intervenes to take speedy action to address the new threat and also to prioritise transport workers for the vaccine.”
Follow the latest updates below.
Restrictions tightening around the globe
Border restrictions were being tightened around the world on Monday in the face of an unrelenting coronavirus threat, after a weekend in which anger at social distancing rules bubbled over into fiery clashes in the Netherlands.
The United States was set to join France, Israel and Sweden in pulling up the drawbridge to certain arrivals, with special concern about new strains of the pathogen that originated in Britain and South Africa.
In Washington, President Joe Biden will on Monday reimpose a ban on most non-US citizens who have been in Britain, Brazil, Ireland and much on Europe, as well as adding South Africa to the list, a senior White House official said.
Turkey receives 6.5m more vaccine doses
A second consignment of 6.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech has arrived in Turkey, CNN Turk reported on Monday.
Turkey had previously received an initial consignment of 3 million doses and has so far vaccinated 1.245 million people, mostly health workers and elderly people, according to health ministry data.
New Zealand infection identified at South African variant
New Zealand’s first case of coronavirus in the community for more than two months has been identified as the South African variant and was likely contracted in hotel quarantine, health minister Chris Hipkins said Monday.
The 56-year-old woman, who recently returned from Europe, tested positive on Saturday, 10 days after she completed her compulsory two weeks in isolation.
“The strain of infection is the South African variant and the source of infection is highly likely to be a fellow returnee,” said Mr Hipkins.
Australia approves Pfizer vaccine for rollout
Australia’s medical regulator has formally approved the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, with the first doses expected to be administered in late February, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Monday.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration granted provisional approval for the Pfizer product, making it the first Covid-19 vaccine to get the green light in Australia.
“I note this is not an emergency approval, as has been done in some other jurisdictions around the world,” Mr Morrison said. “This is a formal approval under the ordinary processes of the TGA and we are one of the first countries… to have gone through that comprehensive and thorough process here in Australia to ensure the approval of that vaccine.”
Australia has secured 10 million doses from Pfizer – enough to vaccinate five million people – with healthcare workers and the elderly expected to receive the first jabs.
Biden re-imposing travel ban on travellers from UK
President Joe Biden will announce he is re-imposing a Covid-19 travel ban on most non-US citizens who have been in Britain, Brazil, Ireland and much of Europe, a White House official said Sunday, as the new administration ramps up its pandemic response.
Mr Biden will also extend the ban to travellers who have recently been to South Africa amid warnings that new, more transmissible coronavirus variants are already establishing themselves in the United States, the official said, confirming US media reports.
Domestic animals could need to be vaccinated
It could be necessary in the future to vaccinate domestic animals such as cats and dogs against Covid-19 to curb the spread of the virus, a group of scientists has said.
Coronavirus can infect a wide range of species including cats, dogs, mink and other domesticated species, experts from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Norwich-based research facility the Earlham Institute and University of Minnesota have said.
In an editorial for the journal Virulence, they wrote that continued evolution of the virus in animals followed by transmission to humans “poses a significant long-term risk to public health”.
“It is not unthinkable that vaccination of some domesticated animal species might… be necessary to curb the spread of the infection,” they said.
Hong Kong lifts lockdown in Kowloon district
The Hong Kong government lifted a lockdown in an area of Kowloon district in the early hours of Monday after testing about 7,000 people for coronavirus to curb an outbreak in the densely populated area.
The government set up 51 temporary testing stations on Saturday and found 13 confirmed cases in the restricted area that is home to many ageing, subdivided flats in which the disease could spread more quickly.
“Businesses in the area have been hit hard and brought to a standstill,” the government said in a statement. “The government hopes this temporary inconvenience will completely cut the local transmission chains in the district and ease residents’ worries and fear, so that they will regain confidence in resuming social and business activities in the area, and return to a normal life.”
Mexico’s president tests positive
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has tested positive for ovid-19, he said on Sunday, adding that his symptoms were light and that he was receiving medical treatment.
Mexico is in the grip of a second wave of the pandemic, with the country’s official death toll from set to pass a grim milestone of 150,000 in coming days.
Mexico’s health ministry on Sunday reported 10,872 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 530 fatalities, bringing its totals to 1,763,219 infections and 149,614 deaths.
“As always, I am optimistic,” Mr Lopez Obrador, 67, said in a tweet.