Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has apologised for the country’s slow vaccine rollout, which has seen half the population plunged into lockdown after an outbreak of the Delta variant.
Morrison, whose federal government has been blamed for failing to order enough vaccines, had previously refused to apologise despite mounting fury at Australia being ranked bottom of the OECD table for vaccinations.
But on Thursday he said:
I’m certainly sorry we haven’t been able to achieve the marks we had hoped for at the beginning of the year. Of course I am.
England is entering its fourth day without any restrictions on everyday life. But cases are climbing back to heights last seen in January, and 96 people died of the disease in the UK on Wednesday.
Our reporter Sarah Marsh talks to the families of some of the 1,000 people who have died from the virus since the beginning of June.
Carla Hodges, 35, said the death of her stepfather Leslie Lawrenson, 58, had “ripped the family apart”.
Here is the full story:
Thailand has recorded another record number of new daily cases on Thursday. There 13,655 new infections and 87 deaths. More public spaces will be closed in Bangkok and other high risk areas, including parks, writes our south-east Asia correspondent, Rebecca Ratcliffe.
The head of Thailand’s national vaccine institute apologised on Thursday for the slow vaccine rollout, saying that the country was facing unforeseen challenges, given the new variants that have emerged.
Ministers also warned people who damage the government’s reputation online will face prosecution under the computer crimes act. The rapper Milli is among a number of celebrities apparently being charged for criticising the government’s covid response.
In Myanmar, the Irrawaddy is reporting that 2,000 people have died in just three weeks as a result of the Covid outbreak. This is 40% of the country’s overall death toll. There is reportedly going to be another prisoner release, to ease the overcrowding and spread of covid in prisons.
China has rejected a World Health Organization plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus, which includes the hypothesis it could have escaped from a Chinese laboratory, Reuters reports.
The WHO this month proposed a second phase of studies into the causes of the pandemic, including audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities.
But Zeng Yixin, the vice minister of China’s national health commission, said Beijing could not accept a plan which “disregards common sense and defies science”.
Zeng said he was taken aback when he first read the WHO plan because it lists the hypothesis that a Chinese violation of laboratory protocols had caused the virus to leak during research.
“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the COVID-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Zeng said.
Joe Biden has suggested that his administrsation could soon give approval for vaccinations for children under-12.
Speaking on a national tour to encourage more people to get the vaccine, the US president told a televised town hall in Cincinnati in Ohio that children under 12, who are currently ineligible for the three coronavirus vaccines available in the US, could get shots by August or later in the fall.
Biden said it was “gigantically important” for Americans to get vaccinated and noted that virtually all of the people being hospitalised with Covid had not been vaccinated. It comes as new daily cases have trip[led in the past two weeks to more than 37,000.
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The coronavirus pandemic continues to dog the Tokyo Olympics with only a day to go before the opening ceremony.
Two more athletes have tested positive for the virus in the Olympic village, according to Reuters citing the Games organisers. There are now 12 new positive cases overall, including the two athletes, bringing the total to 87.
The ceremony on Friday night is set to be a subdued affair and was dealt another blow by reports that Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister who did so much to attract the Games to Japan, will not attend. The broadcaster NHK said Abe decided against attending the ceremony after the Japanese government declared a state of emergency and virus restrictions over Tokyo. Abe’s office could not immediately be reached on Thursday, a public holiday in Japan, Reuters said.
Good morning/afternoon/evening wherever you are in the world, and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the coronaviris pandemic.
The main developments in the past few hours are:
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