Some animals are evolving new body shapes as the climate changes


A crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans), an Australian parrot that is gaining a larger bill as the world warms

Kevin Dickinson / Alamy

Endotherms, commonly called warm-blooded animals, have changed the shape of their bodies over the past century to keep themselves cooler in response to rising global temperatures.

Many animals have body parts that stick out, such as ears, beaks, limbs tails. Sara Ryding at Deakin University in Australia her colleagues have found that a variety of animals have been responding to increasing global temperatures by increasing the size of these appendages.

“I …


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Some animals are evolving new body shapes as the climate changes


A crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans), an Australian parrot that is gaining a larger bill as the world warms

Kevin Dickinson / Alamy

Endotherms, commonly called warm-blooded animals, have changed the shape of their bodies over the past century to keep themselves cooler in response to rising global temperatures.

Many animals have body parts that stick out, such as ears, beaks, limbs tails. Sara Ryding at Deakin University in Australia her colleagues have found that a variety of animals have been responding to increasing global temperatures by increasing the size of these appendages.

“I …


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Surfer dies after shark attack off Australia’s east coast


A surfer has died after he was bitten by a shark off the eastern coast of Australia, officials said.


The man, who is believed to be in his 20s, suffered a significant injury to his arm when he was attacked by the shark Sunday off Shelly Emerald beaches in Coffs Harbour, about 330 miles north of Sydney, CNN reported.

“A number of local surfers bystanders came to the aid of this man,” New South Wales ambulance official Chris Wilson told the outlet. “Despite the best efforts of bystanders, paramedics other emergency services, the patient couldn’t be revived.”


Witness Aaron Armstrong said it was the first shark attack in the community that he other locals were aware of.

“It will change the fabric a little bit for a little while in [Emerald Beach], that’s for sure,” Armstrong told Australian Broadcasting Corp.


Before Sunday, the country had not experienced a fatal shark attack since May, when there was an incident off the coast of Forster, 137 miles north of Sydney.


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Covid-19 news: Antibodies are less effective against delta variant


Antibodies attacking SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Shutterstock / Kateryna Kon

Latest coronavirus news as of 11.30am on 7 September

Lab tests suggest the delta variant escapes immune responses more easily than alpha

The delta variant of the coronavirus is less sensitive than other common variants to antibodies in the blood of people who have previously been infected or vaccinated, researchers have found. The study, published in Nature, also found that the delta variant is more efficient at replicating better at breaking into cells from the respiratory tract. These traits may account for why this variant has spread across the world rapidly since it was first identified in India in late 2020, becoming the dominant form of the virus worldwide.

In lab experiments, Petra Mlchova at the University of Cambridge her colleagues compared the delta variant with alpha, which was the dominant form in the UK before being overtaken by delta in May. Delta was 5.7 times less sensitive to serum from the blood of people who’d previously had covid-19 eight times less sensitive to serum from people who had been vaccinated.

Antibodies are proteins produced as part of the body’s immune response to infection. They work by recognising binding to parts of invading viruses microbes, such as the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus. Previous research has found that the delta variant doubles the risk of hospitalisation for unvaccinated people compared with the alpha variant, that vaccines have a somewhat lower effectiveness against the delta variant – although the protection conferred by receiving two shots of the vaccine is still regarded as good.

The latest study also looked at how the virus behaves in “mini-organs” grown up in the lab from cells taken from people’s airways. Because the delta virus particles have more spikes on their surface, they were better able to break into cells replicate inside them.

Infection of vaccinated healthcare workers with the delta variant is a significant problem, said study co-author Anurag Agrawal from the CSIR Institute of Genomics Integrative Biology in Delhi, India. “We urgently need to consider ways of boosting vaccine responses against variants among healthcare workers. [The study] also suggests infection control measures will need to continue in the post-vaccine era,” he said in a press release.

Other coronavirus news

The UK government has drawn up plans for a “firebreak” lockdown in October in case hospitalisations remain high, according to the i newspaper. A member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) told the paper that the government could be forced to reintroduce restrictions if the National Health Service is at risk of being overwhelmed. “This is essentially the precautionary break that Sage suggested last year,” the unnamed SAGE member said. “It would be sensible to have contingency plans, if a lockdown is required, to time it so that it has minimal economic societal impact.” School half-term holidays, which fall at the end of October, could be extended from one to two weeks to help reduce transmission, the newspaper reported.

The NHS will be given an extra £5.4 billion over the next six months to continue the response to coronavirus tackle the treatment backlog caused by the pandemic. The Department of Health Social Care said £1 billion of this funding will be specifically used to clear the waiting lists faced by patients due to covid-19, while £2.8 billion will be allocated for costs such as better infection control to continue to protect against the virus. A further £478 million will go towards discharging patients from hospitals to free up beds.

Essential information about coronavirus

Where did coronavirus come from? And other covid-19 questions answered

What is covid-19?

Covid-19 vaccines: Everything you need to know about the leading shots

Long covid: Do I have it, how long will it last can we treat it?

What’s the fairest way to share covid-19 vaccines around the world?

Covid-19: The story of a pandemic

What to read, watch listen to about coronavirus

New Scientist Weekly features updates analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology space, to health the environment.

The Jump is a BBC radio 4 series exploring how viruses can cross from animals into humans to cause pandemics. The first episode examines the origins of the covid-19 pandemic.

Why Is Covid Killing People of Colour? is a BBC documentary, which investigates what the high covid-19 death rates in ethnic minority patients reveal about health inequality in the UK.

Panorama: The Race for a Vaccine is a BBC documentary about the inside story of the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against covid-19.

Race Against the Virus: Hunt for a Vaccine is a Channel 4 documentary which tells the story of the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of the scientists on the frontline.

The New York Times is assessing the progress in development of potential drug treatments for covid-19, ranking them for effectiveness safety.

Humans of COVID-19 is a project highlighting the experiences of key workers on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus in the UK, through social media.

Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth is a BBC Panorama investigation of the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga from covid-19, following reports she had been coughed spat on by a customer at London’s Victoria Station.

Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it ways to manage its mental health toll.

COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, How to Stop the Next One by Debora Mackenzie is about how the pandemic happened why it will happen again if we don’t do things differently in future.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion the surprising ways it shapes our lives behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene Tropical Medicine, UK, in the book he examines how diseases spread why they stop.

Previous updates

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High school students walking to their next class.

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6 September

UK may push ahead with vaccinating 12-15 age group pending medical officers’ review

Sending children back to schools with inadequate mitigations for covid-19 in place will lead to widespread infections disruptions to learning, a group of scientists have warned. In an open letter to UK education secretary Gavin Williamson published in the British Medical Journal on Friday, scientists educators said allowing mass infection of children is “reckless” recommended nine measures to protect children wider society from a fourth wave. The measures included vaccinating all 12-to-15-year-olds, investing in ventilation in schools, providing remote learning options, mental health support for students staff.

The letter highlighted that the prevalence of infection is now 26 times higher than at the same time last year, the UK is experiencing 40 to 50 hospitalisations of under-18s every day. “There has been no plan for robust mitigation measures in schools to reduce the risk for children from infection the consequences thereof, including long covid, hospitalisations, staff safety educational disruption,” the authors wrote.

On Friday, the Joint Committee on Vaccination Immunisation decided against extending the vaccination programme to children aged 12 to 15 who do not have underlying conditions or vulnerable family members, saying that as the coronavirus presents only a very low risk to healthy children, the marginal benefit of vaccination to their own health is not great enough to support mass vaccination from a purely health perspective.

However, the government has asked the UK’s chief medical officers to review the wider benefits of vaccinating the age group, such as minimising school absences. The outcome is expected within days ministers have indicated they are keen to authorise a wider rollout.

The UK Department of Health Social Care has said parents of healthy 12-to-15-year-olds will be asked for consent if coronavirus jabs are approved for their children, as with other immunisation programmes. But vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio that children in this age group could override their parents’ wishes “if they’re deemed to be competent to make that decision, with all the information available”.

Several countries, including the US, France, Italy, Spain the Netherlands are already vaccinating children aged 12 over.

Other coronavirus news

Irelwill continue with a major easing of covid-19 restrictions today, with live music returning larger crowds allowed at indoor venues. The Irish government confirmed last week that it would be embarking on a phased easing of covid-19 restrictions, which will eventually see the vast majority of public health regulations removed by the end of October. The numbers permitted to attend outdoor sports events increases from today, while restrictions on indoor venues will also be eased, with larger crowds permitted.

Vietnam has extended covid-19 restrictions in the capital, Hanoi, for a further two weeks in an effort to contain the delta variant. The city has been divided into red, orange green zones based on infection rates, barricades have been put in place to separate red zones from other areas. Authorities are planning to test up to 1.5 million people for the virus in higher-risk areas, Reuters reports.

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Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly elbow bumps Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Mark Evans/Getty Images

3 September

The UK will send 4 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to Australia as part of an exchange deal, with Australia returning the same volume before the end of the year.

The arrangement will allow the UK to better align timings of vaccine supply with future need, including for any booster programme or extension of the rollout to younger teenagers, the UK Department of Health Social Care said.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said the agreement would speed up the country’s efforts to come out of lockdown. “This will enable us to bring forward significantly the opportunity for Australia to open up again,” he told reporters.

More than half the country’s population, including the cities of Sydney, Melbourne Canberra, are under stay-at-home orders. Only 36 per cent of people over 16 are fully vaccinated.

New South Wales recorded 1431 new cases 12 deaths today, the state’s highest daily number of deaths so far. State premier Gladys Berejiklian said infections are expected to peak in the next fortnight.

Other coronavirus news

Around one in four young adults in the UK have still not received a first dose of covid-19 vaccine, figures show. The proportion of 18 to 29-year-olds who are unvaccinated is 23.5 per cent in Wales, 25.6 per cent in Scotland, 27.7 per cent in Engl29.2 per cent in Northern Ireland, according to the health agencies of the four nations. Adults over 18 have been able to get their first dose across the UK since the end of June. New figures also showed that almost two-thirds of 16 17-year-olds in Wales have had a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while half of this age group in EnglScotl40 per cent in Northern Irelhave had a vaccine.

The European Commission has reached an agreement with AstraZeneca on the delivery of covid-19 vaccines, bringing an end to an acrimonious legal dispute. Under the settlement, the drugmaker will have until the end of the first quarter of 2022 to deliver the remaining 200 million doses it has committed to the European Union, having missed its original deadline at the end of June.

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Nurses prepare syringes of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Chris J Ratcliffe/ Getty Images

2 September

People with weakened immune systems offered third vaccine dose

Around half a million people in the UK who have severely weakened immune systems will be offered a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination Immunisation (JCVI) will apply to people over the age of 12 with conditions such as leukaemia, advanced HIV recent organ transplants. These people may not have been able to mount a full immune response to vaccination, the advisers said, meaning they could be less protected than the wider population.

The JCVI is still deliberating on the potential benefits of booster vaccines for the rest of the population is awaiting further evidence to inform its decision. Anthony Harden, the deputy chairman of the JCVI, told Today on BBC Radio 4: “I think it’s highly likely that there will be a booster programme. It’s just a question of how we frame it. This will be decided over the next few weeks.” 

The JCVI is also considering whether to expthe vaccine programme to most 12- to 15-year-olds. “There’s many, many arguments for against giving vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds, we’re deliberating on what we think as a committee is best for children,” Harnden said.

Other coronavirus news

Having two doses of coronavirus vaccine almost halves the likelihood of infected adults developing long covid, a new study has found. Researchers at King’s College London analysed data from more than 2 million people logging their symptoms, tests vaccine status on the UK Zoe Covid Symptom Study app. The results suggest people who are double-jabbed are 73 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital 31 per cent less likely to develop severe symptoms.

Scotlplans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs some music festivals football matches to curb coronavirus infections. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said the move – which is yet to be confirmed in a Holyrood vote next week – is “appropriate” as cases continue to surge. The scheme will apply to clubs as well as unseated indoor live events with more than 500 people in the audience. It will also apply to unseated outdoor events with more than 4000 in the audience, at any event with more than 10,000 in attendance. From Friday, people in Scotlwill be able to download a QR code showing their vaccination status. Children people with certain medical conditions who cannot be vaccinated will be exempt from the scheme, Sturgeon said.

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Vaccinations in Bogota, Colombia.

Daniel Santiago Romero Chaparro/LongVisual via ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

1 September

Mu variant identified in Colombia may be more resistant to vaccines

A new coronavirus variant, named mu, has been designated a variant of interest by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Mu, or B.1.621, was first identified in Colombia cases have been recorded in South America Europe. The WHO’s weekly bulletin on the pandemic said the variant has mutations indicating “potential properties of immune escape”, meaning current vaccines would be less effective against it, but that more studies would be needed to examine this further.

“Since its first identification in Colombia in January 2021, there have been a few sporadic reports of cases of the mu variant some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America in Europe,” the bulletin said. “Although the global prevalence of the mu variant among sequenced cases has declined is currently below 0.1 per cent, the prevalence in Colombia (39 per cent) Ecuador (13 per cent) has consistently increased.”

There are currently four coronavirus variants of concern, as deemed by the WHO, with the alpha variant seen in 193 countries, beta in 141, gamma in 91 delta in 170 countries, while mu is the fifth variant of interest.

Other coronavirus news 

One in seven children young people infected with the coronavirus may still have symptoms 15 weeks later, according to preliminary findings from the world’s largest study on long covid in children. Researchers surveyed 3065 people in Englaged 11 to 17 who tested positive for the virus between January March a matched control group who tested negative. Unusual tiredness headaches were the most common persistent complaints.

The UK will press on with plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs from the end of September, Downing Street has confirmed. The proposals have previously been met with criticism from politicians on both sides as well as leaders in the night time hospitality industry. The scheme would see members of the public required to show proof of their vaccine status to gain entry to nightclubs some other settings.

Irelhas announced plans to end almost all coronavirus restrictions on 22 October. Vaccine certificates will no longer be required to enter bars restaurants there will be no limits on people attending indoor or outdoor events. Some restrictions will be relaxed earlier, with cinemas theatres able to open at 60 per cent capacity on 6 September workers beginning to return to workplaces on 20 September.

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Pupils in Scotlreturn to school.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

31 August

Covid-19 surge in Scotl“a cautionary tale” as schools reopen in England

Students are being encouraged to take twice-weekly lateral flow tests to help prevent a surge in covid-19 transmission as the new school year begins across the UK.

In EnglWales, rules concerning face masks, social distancing “bubbles” have been relaxed, although some schools are choosing to keep extra precautions in place. 

The UK’s education secretary, Gavin Williamson, says it is not just a matter for schools. “Parents too have a responsibility to make sure that their children are tested regularly,” he wrote in a Daily Mail article.

Scotlhas seen a sharp rise in covid-19 infections with cases having doubled every week since 9 August, when most restrictions were eased. The surge is thought to be partly fuelled by children returning to school more than two weeks ago. On Sunday, 7113 cases were reported in Scotland, the highest daily figure ever.

“Scotlis proving to be a cautionary tale of what happens when restrictions are dropped & then schools reopened without adequate mitigations when R is already above 1 (which is where we are in England),” Deepti Gurdasani, an epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, wrote on Twitter. “We can expect worse in Englin the near future.”

The Welsh government has announced it will pay for 30,000 carbon dioxide sensors 1800 ozone disinfecting machines to improve safety in schools, colleges universities.

Other coronavirus news

A new variant of the coronavirus known as C.1.2 has now spread to most provinces in South Africa seven other countries in Africa, Europe, Asia Oceania. The variant is still occurring at a much lower rate than the delta variant in South Africa, researchers say. Scientists have not yet determined how the variant compares with others it has not been listed as a variant of interest or concern by the World Health Organization. However, researchers say it contains several mutations that have been linked to increased transmissibility lower sensitivity to antibodies. 

A new vaccine developed by South Korean firm SK Bioscience has begun a late-stage clinical trial involving 4000 volunteers worldwide. The vaccine is being combined with an adjuvant – a drug that boosts the immune response – produced by GlaxoSmithKline, will be compared with AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the trial. 

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A woman receives the AstraZeneca Covid19 vaccine.

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27 August

Study compares risk of blood clotting problems after covid-19 infection vaccination

The risk of blood clotting problems is much higher after covid-19 infection than after receiving a covid-19 vaccine, according to research from the University of Oxford.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, looked at more than 29 million people aged 16 or older who had a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Englbetween December 2020 April 2021. It focused on the risks of blood clots thrombocytopenia, a condition involving low levels of platelets – cells that help the blood clot.

Their findings suggest the risk of thrombocytopenia in someone with the coronavirus is almost nine times higher than in someone who has had one dose of the Oxford jab. They estimated that in 10 million people vaccinated with this jab, there would be 107 additional cases of thrombocytopenia in the 28 days post-vaccination, compared with 934 in vaccinated people infected with the virus.

The analysis found an association between vaccination with the Pfizer jab an increased risk of stroke, but the risk was more than 10 times greater after infection with the virus. There were an estimated 143 extra cases of ischaemic stroke per 10 million people within 28 days of the Pfizer vaccine, compared with 1699 cases within 28 days of a positive covid-19 test.

For cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a type of blood clot in the brain, as well as other types of blood clot, the risks were also much higher after covid-19 than after either jab.

Other coronavirus news

Around half of all people hospitalised with covid-19 still have at least one persistent symptom after one year, according to a study of 1276 patients from Wuhan, China. Around a third of participants experienced shortness of breath after one year. Fatigue muscle weakness affected about half of participants after 6 months, but fell to one in five after 12 months. 

Seven destinations have been added to the UK’s green list for travel, meaning people arriving from those places will not have to quarantine. The Azores, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania Switzerlwill be redesignated from 30 August. ThailMontenegro will be moved to the red list, meaning returning UK residents must quarantine in a hotel for 11 nights on arrival.

Lockdown will be relaxed in most of New Zealfrom 1 September, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced, but stringent restrictions will remain in AucklNorthland. The changes in most of the country mean businesses can operate for online orders contactless services, but public venues remain closed. Nearly 350 people have been infected in the latest outbreak. “We may be seeing the beginning of a plateau of cases, but caution is still required,” Ardern said.

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A doctor draws up the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Ian Forsyth/ Getty Images

26 August

English health providers planning for possible vaccine rollout as pupils return to schools

The National Health Service in Englis preparing for the possible rollout of vaccines to 12 to 15-year-olds from 6 September, according to media reports. NHS trusts are being told they must have plans ready by 4pm on Friday, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The Department of Health has said no decisions have yet been made to extend the vaccine programme to younger people, but said they “continue to plan for a range of scenarios”. So far, vaccines have been offered to people aged 16 above children aged 12 to 15 with a high-risk condition or a vulnerable family member. The Joint Committee on Vaccination Immunisation (JCVI) is still deliberating on broadening the rollout further. Children aged 12 over are already being vaccinated in the US, Canada, France the Netherlands.

“Either you’re going to be exposed to covid without any protection or you can be exposed have a vaccine. And we should be offering teens that vaccine so they have that protection before going back into schools,” Devi Sridhar at the University of Edinburgh told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

While younger people are more likely to experience myocarditis, a rare heart side effect, after receiving some of the covid-19 vaccines, a study in the US released earlier this month found that myocarditis is more common after coronavirus infection than vaccination

Other coronavirus news

Japan has suspended the use of 1.63 million doses of Moderna’s covid-19 vaccine after reports that some vials had been contaminated with “particulate matter”. Japan Moderna say the move is a precaution that no safety or efficacy issues have been identified. According to a health ministry official, Takeda, the pharmaceutical company that is distributing the Moderna shots in Japan, first learned of the issue on 16 August, but did not notify the government until 25 August, because it needed time to find out which vials were affected where they had been distributed.

Trials have shown that a booster shot of Johnson & Johnson’s covid-19 vaccine produces a big increase in antibody levels, the company has announced. The J&J vaccine has been administered as a single dose since it was approved for emergency use in the US in February. Trial volunteers who received a second dose six to eight months after the first saw antibody levels rise nine times higher than 28 days after the first shot, the company said.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Origin of the virus: Scientists tasked by the World Health Organization to discover how the virus emerged are calling for a second phase of origin studies to start urgently.

Covid passes: How are they used, are they ethical do they work?Previous updates

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A doctor injects the Pfizer Covid 19 vaccine.

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25 August

More UK data suggest efficacy of two vaccines wanes over time

The protection provided by two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines starts to wane within six months, new research suggests. The Pfizer jab was 88 per cent effective at preventing covid-19 infection a month after the second dose, but after five to six months the protection decreased to 74 per cent, according to analysis from the Zoe Covid study involving more than 1.2 million participants in the UK. With the AstraZeneca vaccine, protection dropped from 77 per cent one month after the second dose to 67 per cent after four to five months. “In my opinion, a reasonable worst-case scenario could see protection below 50 per cent for the elderly healthcare workers by winter,” said Tim Spector, lead scientist on the Zoe Covid Study.

The study’s findings are in line with another recent analysis, which found that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine wanes in effectiveness by around a fifth every month after the second dose, that both vaccines are less effective in older age groups.

Another study, published as a preprint this week by The Lancet, found that two in five people who have impaired immune systems have a “low or undetectable” antibody response after being double vaccinated. The researchers from the Universities of Glasgow Birmingham said their results support giving a third dose of coronavirus vaccine to people who had no or lower level antibody responses.

More coronavirus news

A US intelligence report ordered by president Joe Biden has been unable to determine whether the SARS-CoV2 virus arose naturally or escaped from a lab, according to The Washington Post. Intelligence agencies will seek to make parts of the report public within days, officials familiar with the matter told the newspaper.

The prime minister of Vietnam, Pham Minh Chinh, has written to the head of the World Health Organization to urge its vaccine sharing programme COVAX to prioritise Vietnam “in the fastest manner with the largest volume possible.” After successfully containing the virus for most of last year, the country is now facing a crisis driven by the delta variant. Only 2 per cent of its population is fully vaccinated. In the past two days, China the US have announced they will donate 2 million 1 million vaccine doses to Vietnam, respectively.

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Crowds at the 2021 Boardmasters festival.

Jonathan Ward / Alamy

24 August

Thousands of people test positive after attending music surfing festival

Almost 5000 coronavirus cases are suspected to be linked to Boardmasters, a music surfing festival that took place earlier this month in Cornwall, UK. Health officials said 4700 people who tested positive for the virus confirmed they had attended the festival or had connections to it. The cases are spread across the country but around 800 are living in Cornwall, a Cornwall Council official said.

Boardmasters was held between 11 15 August in the Newquay area. The covid-19 policy on its website said all ticket-holders aged 11 over would be asked to demonstrate their covid-19 status through the NHS Covid Pass app before entering. This meant attendees had to provide proof of a negative lateral flow test taken within 24 hours of arrival at the festival gates, proof of being vaccinated with both doses (with the second received at least 14 days before the festival), or proof of a prior infection confirmed by a PCR test at least 10 days up to 180 days earlier.

People who camped at the festival had to take a second lateral flow test during the event on 13 August log their results in the NHS Covid Pass app. Face masks were not compulsory but were encouraged.

Other coronavirus news

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has become the first covid-19 jab to get full approval from the US Food Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccine has been in use since December 2020, when the FDA granted it emergency use authorisation for people aged 16 over. It has already been administered to more than 204 million people in the US. President Joe Biden said he hoped the decision would encourage those who have not been vaccinated to come forward for their shots. Several major employers, including the Pentagon, responded by announcing new requirements for their workers to be vaccinated.

The number of patients with covid-19 in hospital in Englhas hit 6000 for the first time in more than five months. The figure, which is a snapshot of patients as of 8am on 23 August, is up 11 per cent on the previous week. Patient levels have not been this high since 14 March, according to data published by NHS England. An average of 100 deaths per day from covid-19 have been recorded in the UK over the past week, another figure last seen in March.

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A man uses a lancet to prick the tip of his finger.

AFP via Getty Images

23 August

Antibody testing programme to collect data on immune responses vaccine effectiveness

The UK is launching an antibody testing programme for people who have contracted the coronavirus. The programme, which plans to offer tests to thousands of adults per day, aims to improve our understanding of how much protection antibodies give us following covid-19 infection vaccination.

Antibodies are proteins produced by the body to defend against viruses other invading microbes. Antibody testing can give an indication of how strong someone’s immune response is, but they do not definitively show whether someone is protected against infection.

From Tuesday, anyone over 18 from any of the four UK nations can opt in to the programme when taking a PCR test. Of those who go on to test positive for coronavirus, up to 8000 will be sent two finger prick antibody tests to complete at home send back for analysis. The first must be taken as soon as possible after the positive result, the second must be taken 28 days later.

The UK Health Security Agency, which is running the programme, will use the results to monitor levels of antibodies in positive cases across the UK. The Department of Health Social Care says it will be the first time antibody tests have been made available to the general public, the scheme could also provide insights into whether some people do not develop an immune response. The data will be used to inform the government’s ongoing approach to the pandemic give further insight into the effectiveness of vaccines against new variants.

Other coronavirus news

UK health minister Sajid Javid has promised to crack down on “cowboy” behaviour by companies who take advantage of holidaymakers with misleading prices for coronavirus testing kits. Javid highlighted 82 private travel testing firms, who make up around 18 per cent of those on the government website, who will be issued with a two-strike warning could be struck off the official list. A recent Department of Health Social Care review discovered they were displaying lower prices on the site than people would have to pay in reality once they get to the checkout. 

Taiwan has begun rolling out a homegrown vaccine with clinical trials yet to be completed no data available on the vaccine’s efficacy. Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen was among the first to receive the vaccine developed by Medigen. The government has ordered an initial 5 million doses. So far around 40 per cent of Taiwan’s population has received at least one dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

New Zealhas extended its lockdown, with restrictions set to remain across the country until Friday in Auckluntil at least 31 August. Thirty-five new cases were recorded today, bringing the number of current infections to 107. 

illustration of monoclonal antibodies

A monoclonal antibody (mAb or moAb) is an antibody made by cloning a unique white blood cell.


20 August

Ronapreve, the first drug designed specifically to tackle covid-19, gets approval

The UK has approved the first treatment to use artificial antibodies to prevent fight the coronavirus. According to The Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the drug may be used to prevent covid-19 infection, treat acute symptoms of the disease reduce the likelihood of being admitted to hospital due to the virus. Sajid Javid, UK Health Secretary, said that he hoped it would be rolled out to patients soon.

Trials of the drug, called Ronapreve, took place before widespread vaccination before the emergence of virus variants. The drug, previously known as REGN-Cov2, was given to former US president Donald Trump when he was admitted to hospital with covid-19 last year.

Ronapreve, developed by pharmaceutical firms Regeneron Roche, is given either by injection or infusion acts at the lining of the respiratory system, where it binds tightly to the virus prevents it from gaining access to the cells, the MHRA said. It consists of monoclonal antibodies, proteins produced in the lab that mimic antibodies found in the immune system.

Other coronavirus news

Another antibody drug developed by AstraZeneca reduced the risk of developing symptomatic covid-19 by 77 per cent in clinical trials, the company has announced.

Javid has said he is confident a coronavirus booster campaign can start next month across the UK, however the government is waiting on final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination Immunisation, before giving further details. The JCVI met on Thursday had been expected to discuss the potential for boosters for the most vulnerable. But officials told the PA news agency that boosters had not been discussed at the meeting, although they would not confirm what was spoken about.

Lockdown has been extended in Sydney, Australia, until the end of September a nightly curfew will be introduced from 23 August in the 12 worst-affected council areas, covering 2 million residents.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

View of the virus: Researchers have managed to capture 3D images of human airway cells infected by SARS-CoV-2 using an extraordinary microscopic technique.

man receiving covid vaccination

A man receives a covid-19 vaccination in Los Angeles, California.

Christina House/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock

19 August

Third doses of covid-19 vaccines will be rolled out to combat delta variant surge in US

The US will start making booster vaccines available on 20 September, health officials have announced. The shots will be offered to people who had their second dose eight months earlier, initially focusing on healthcare workers, nursing home residents older people, who were among the first to be vaccinated.

“It’s the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that may arise,” president Joe Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “It will make you safer for longer. It will help end this pandemic faster.” 

However, the World Health Organization has urged rich countries vaccine manufacturers to prioritise distributing vaccines to low- middle-income countries before pushing ahead with third doses at home. 

Biden also announced that his administration would make vaccination of employees a condition for nursing homes to receive Medicare Medicaid funding.

Other coronavirus news

The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination Immunisation (JCVI) is meeting today to discuss a potential booster campaign which people might “really need” a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a government scientific adviser said.

Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think there’s enough evidence, I think we’ll be imminently deciding, that there will be some people who will need a third dose, particularly people who we know are very unlikely to be well protected by those first two doses. But I think we do need more evidence before we can make a firm decision on a much broader booster programme.”

Finn also told BBC Breakfast: “I think it’s less clear really whether a third dose in a more general way, for sort of all people above a certain age, is really going to make very much difference.”

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Vaccine evidence: A UK study has found that protection from the Pfizer/BioNTech Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines wanes over time. Both vaccines provide good protection against symptomatic infections by the delta coronavirus variant, but are around 15 per cent less effective against delta than against the alpha variant. The findings also imply that vaccinated people who do get infected might be just as infectious as unvaccinated people.

The ventilation problem: Maximising airflow in public spaces is crucial to cut covid-19 transmission, but questions remain about what technology to use how effective it needs to be. 

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Taranaki Street in Wellington, New Zealand, during the first day of a national lockdown.

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

18 August

Ten cases confirmed in outbreak of delta variant in Auckland

New Zealhas begun a nationwide lockdown in a bid to contain the delta variant of the coronavirus. So far 10 cases have been confirmed in the outbreak, but modelling suggests the numbers could rise to between 50 100. “From the experience of what we’ve seen overseas, we are absolutely anticipating more cases,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said. The level 4 alert, the highest level, means people other than essential workers can only leave home for groceries, healthcare, covid-19 tests exercise. The lockdown will cover the entire country for at least three days, remain in place in Aucklfor a week. New Zealhad been free of local covid-19 infections since February, only 21 per cent of the total population has been fully vaccinated.

Other coronavirus news

The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has tested positive for covid-19, his office has announced. Abbott is fully vaccinated not showing any symptoms, he is receiving a monoclonal antibody treatment, according to a statement. Abbott has restricted the extent to which local authorities in Texas can mandate covid-19 vaccination the wearing of face masks. On Monday, he attended a Republican party event with a crowd of hundreds. Texas is currently a hotspot in a covid-19 surge taking place in the southern US, driven by the delta variant. Yesterday the US recorded more than 1000 covid-19 deaths for the first time since March, according to a Reuters tally.

Vaccine supplies are urgently needed in southeast Asia, the Red Cross has warned. The region has recorded 38,522 deaths in the past two weeks, nearly twice as many as North America. Indonesia is one of the worst-affected countries, with an average of 1466 deaths a day during the last week. “We fear that as the virus spreads from cities to regional rural areas that many more lives will be lost among the unvaccinated,” said Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director of the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies in a statement.

See previous updates from June to July 2021, May 2021, April-March 2021, February 2021, January 2021, November/December 2020, March to November 2020.

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High-res carbon emission maps reveal climate impact of commuting


A map of Europe’s carbon emissions in 2020

Courtesy of Zhu Liu

High-resolution maps of carbon emissions have revealed how our day-to-day patterns of behaviour, such as commuting, affect the release of greenhouse gases, could help governments quickly see the impact of green policies.

Zhu Liu at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, his colleagues combined data from various sources to provide daily global maps of carbon emissions at a 10-kilometre resolution.

The researchers used country level emission inventories, data from industrial sites power plants, satellite measurements of nitrogen dioxide modelling estimates. …


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