Covid live: UK government plans for ‘one in four’ teachers to be off; record 26,458 cases in Philippines

LIVE – Updated at 09:19

© Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
Almost 1,000 people to be vaccinated at a high school in Scotland on Saturday at a GP run mass vaccination clinic.

Latest developments as teaching union boss warns of mixed picture for schools.

Video: ‘Considerable’ pressure on NHS in coming weeks (Sky News)

‘Considerable’ pressure on NHS in coming weeks

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A record 26,458 confirmed new coronavirus cases were recorded in the Philippines on Saturday, according to the latest official data.

A health ministry official said confirmed cases have exceeded 2.93m. Deaths have reached over 52,000, after 265 new fatalities were recorded on Saturday.

The previous daily record in Covid-19 cases was 26,303 on 11 September 2021.

Good morning and welcome to the coronavirus news blog. I’m Damien Gayle and I’ll be your guide through the day’s latest covid-related headlines and breaking news.


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Djokovic had written clearance to enter Australia – court filing

Novak Djokovic had written clearance from Australia’s immigration department before travelling to the country with a medical exemption from its vaccination rules, his lawyers said in a court filing on Saturday.

According to the filing, the world No 1 tennis player contracted Covid-19 last month but was not experiencing symptoms. He returned his first positive coronavirus test on 16 December, 2021, but 14 days later “had not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours”, the filing said.

On 1 January, the Serbian sports star received a “a document from the Department of Home Affairs (which) told Mr Djokovic that his ‘responses indicate(d) that (he met) the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia”, the documents added. Djokovic is in immigration detention in Australia after having his visa cancelled on arrival on Thursday

Djokovic, an outspoken critic of mandatory vaccination, has never disclosed his own vaccination status. He is challenging his visa cancellation in Australia’s federal court in hopes of winning his 21st grand slam at the Australian Open which starts on 17 January.


The UK government is planning for Covid-related absences from up to one in four teachers when all schools finally go back after the Christmas holidays.

Term has already begun at many schools across the country, but others are yet to welcome children back after the festive break.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Saturday morning, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said there is a “mixed picture” of how Covid is affecting absences in schools so far this term.

He said: “Not all schools and colleges are open yet and won’t be until Monday so we’re not going to get a proper picture of staff absence until next week.

“There’s a snatched snapshot taken from a small number of primary schools earlier in the week that suggested that might be around 10% of the staff absent. The government itself is planning potentially for 25% of staff.”


Video of an NHS doctor challenging the UK health secretary over vaccine mandates for healthcare workers has gone viral on social media.

The scene, which was caught by Sky News cameras, was first broadcast on Friday after Javid visited Kings College Hospital in south London.

While on a walkabout in the hospital, Javid had asked doctors and nurses there what they thought about government plans to require vaccination for all NHS staff. After an brief but uncomfortable silence, Steve James, a consultant anaesthetist who has been working throughout the pandemic, replied: “I’m not happy about that.”

James told Javid: “I’ve had Covid at some point, I’ve got antibodies, and I’ve been working on Covid ITUs since the beginning; I have not had a vaccination, I do not want to have a vaccination. The vaccine is reducing transmission only for about eight weeks with delta. With Omicron it’s probably less. And for that I would be dismissed if I don’t have a vaccine? The science isn’t strong enough.”

“That’s your view,” Javid replied. Turning to a group of nurses he added: “And you views?” However, they did not respond.

Turning back to James, Javid continued: “I respect that but there is also many different views.”

Javid added: “I understand that but obviously we have to weigh all that up for both health and social care and there will always be a debate about it …”

James replied: “Maybe there is an opportunity to reconsider with Omicron and the changing picture, or at least the nuance that will allow doctors who have had antibody exposure, who’ve got antibodies, who haven’t had the vaccination, to not have it, because the protection I’ve got is probably equivalent to someone who is vaccinated.”

“Yes, but at some point that will wane,” Javid said.

James said: “But if you want to provide protection with a booster you’d have to inject everybody every month. If the protection has worn off for transmission after two months then after a month you’ve still got a bit of protection. But if you want to maintain protection you’re going to need to boost all staff members every single months, which you’re not going to do.”

Javid answered his challenge by saying: “We take the very best advice that we can, from vaccine experts.”

Half a day after the video was published on Twitter, it had been watched about 1.2m times.


Vaccine experts have advised the UK government to prioritise distributing the first booster jab.

Figures from the UK Health Security Agency show that the vaccine booster is 90% effective against admission to hospital from the Omicron variant for the over-65s after three months. Meanwhile, protection for those with two doses dropped to about 70% after three months and to 50% after six months.

Taking this data into account, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has advised the government against giving a second booster dose, or fourth jab, to care home residents and those aged over 80, the PA Media news agency reports.

It added that priority should continue to be given to rolling out the first booster dose, and that unvaccinated people should come forward for their first two doses as soon as possible.

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