Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests

Oliver Barnes and Leke Oso Alabi

One in seven children aged 11 to 17 in England who have had Covid-19 suffer from persistent symptoms, a government-backed study has found.

The CLoCk study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research and UK Research and Innovation, compared survey data from about 3,000 people aged 11 to 17 who tested positive for Covid-19 in England between September 2020 and March this year and 3,700 children who tested negative.

The study’s findings suggest that long Covid was the likely cause of one in seven children who had tested positive experiencing three or more symptoms 15 weeks after infection. One in 14 children reported five or more symptoms. 

The data suggest that over seven months between September 2020 and March 2021 at least 4,000 and possibly 32,000 teenagers in England may have had multiple symptoms tied to Covid-19 infection after 15 weeks.

Females, older teens and those with worse pre-test physical and mental health were more likely to experience long Covid, the study said. 

Physical symptoms included unusual tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches and loss of taste or smell. 

Sir Terence Stephenson, Nuffield professor of child health at University College London, said he was “reassured” that prevalence rates were much lower than the “worst-case scenario”, but he added that a small number of young people would have life-limiting symptoms. 

“I remain very concerned that . . . there will be young people — even though the numbers aren’t huge — that they themselves are very severely affected,” said Stephenson. “There will be some young people who are completely bed-ridden or remain very short of breath or have daily headaches.”

Shamez Ladhani, another of the authors and a consultant paediatrician in infectious diseases at St George’s Hospital, said: “In addition to having a control group, one of the major strengths of this study is the follow-up of the children for up to two years, which will give us insight into any long-lasting effects of Covid-19 in teenagers.”

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson

The pandemic has heightened the belief that employees have leverage over the companies they work for, according to a survey of seven countries, which shows rising demands on employers.

More than three quarters of the 7,000 people polled by Edelman, the communications firm, said they had higher expectations of prospective employers than they did two years ago.

Additionally, 60 per cent of those surveyed in countries such as Brazil, China, the UK and the US said staff now had more power to change their organisations than before Covid-19 struck.

“There is a new compact between employee and employer, which requires business to take a more ambitious role in society, while fundamentally reconsidering the motives of the worker,” said Richard Edelman, the consultancy’s chief executive.

Companies should welcome the emergence of more “belief-driven” employees, he added, as those who stayed would be more vocal advocates and more loyal, but they would also speak out if employers fell short of their values.

Of the employees polled, 40 per cent said they were prepared to voice their grievances publicly to effect change. Nearly 60 per cent of those leaving jobs said they were looking for an employer that better fit their values.

Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America, said the company had also seen the pandemic change workers’ priorities, making them more determined to have flexibility and a greater say at work.

“This is not a temporary change. This is a structural change in labour markets around the world,” she said.

Valentina Romei

UK consumer spending rose sharply over the August bank holiday weekend, according to bank transaction data that point to a recovery in consumption after signs of weakness in July.

From Saturday August 28 to Monday August 30, bank transaction volumes were up 14.4 per cent compared to the same long weekend in 2020, and up 9.4 per cent on 2019, according to Barclaycard.

Barclaycard Payments, which processes about £1 in every £3 spent on credit and debit cards, recorded more transactions on both Saturday August 28 and Sunday August 29 than on any date since Christmas Eve 2019, the last major shopping milestone before the pandemic.

Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, said that the growth was “hopefully a sign of more positive times to come, and a testament to the strength and resilience of British businesses when it comes to adapting and thriving in a post-lockdown world.”

Growth in transaction volumes was particularly strong in the hard hit leisure and entertainment industry, and in the food and drink sector.

The figures point to stronger growth at the end of August, after the Bank of England reported subdued consumer credit demand in July when Covid-19 infections were rising.

Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul

Turkey’s economy enjoyed record growth in the second quarter as it bounced back from a sharp contraction in the same period last year when coronavirus restrictions were imposed.

Gross domestic product surged 21.7 per cent between April and June, the fastest rate since 1999 and slightly above economists’ expectations of 21 per cent according to a Bloomberg poll. The economy shrank by more than 10 per cent in the same period in 2020, when the pandemic reached Turkey and forced sweeping business closures.

The official data released on Wednesday boosted the Turkish lira, which gained 0.2 per cent against the US dollar.

Growth was led by the services sector, which jumped 45.8 per cent year-on-year, and a 40.5 per cent rise in manufacturing, the data showed. Household consumption grew 22.9 per cent, as banks increased consumer loans.

A nationwide curfew imposed in May to contain a new wave of coronavirus did little to slow the economy.

“A strong rebound from May’s three-week lockdown meant that Turkey’s economy managed to expand by 0.9 quarter on quarter,” Jason Tuvey of Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

Economists expect full-year growth of 8 per cent.

Despite the slowdown early in the pandemic, Turkish GDP still expanded 1.8 per cent in 2020, one of the few major economies to record growth, as the government promoted a credit-fuelled recovery.

But the booming economy has stoked inflation, which hovers at 19 per cent. The statistics office is due to release August price rises on Friday.

Inflation has been stuck in double digits for most of the past four years, making it difficult for the central bank to cut its benchmark interest rate from 19 per cent, despite pressure from the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to reduce borrowing costs.

Leke Oso Alabi

The UK could donate up to 200m doses of Covid-19 vaccines to poorer nations according to Andrew Hayward, director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care.

“I think there is a case for vaccinating the most vulnerable again with booster doses,” Hayward told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “But that still leaves the UK massively over-ordered in terms of the amount of vaccines that it has.” 

“It still conservatively leaves somewhere between 100 and 200m doses that...could [be donated] by the end of the year,” he added.

Hayward, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises the government, said more needed to be done to inoculate people around the world.

“If rich countries can’t sort out a problem like vaccinating the world, what hope have we got in pulling together to sort out a complex problem like climate change? This really is an opportunity for global leadership,” he said. “This is a relatively simple technical problem that can be solved with the political will and resource.”

Martin Arnold in Frankfurt

The gap between the output of eurozone manufacturers and the orders they receive has widened to a record level due to deepening supply chain disruption, according to a closely watched business survey.Eurozone manufacturers reported continued strong growth in activity in IHS Markit’s monthly purchasing managers’ index (PMI) survey, but they also complained of materials shortages and delays to deliveries due to disruption caused by the pandemic.The PMI score for eurozone manufacturing fell to a six-month low of 61.4 in August, but remained well above the 50 level that indicates a majority of businesses are reporting growth in activity from the previous month.“Eurozone manufacturers reported another month of buoyant production in August, continuing the growth spurt into its fourteenth successive month,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.“The overriding issue was again a lack of components, however, with suppliers either unable to produce enough parts or are facing a lack of shipping capacity to meet logistics demand,” he added.Eurozone manufacturers responded to rising demand by adding more workers in August, continuing the positive job creation trend that started in February. Factory gate prices “rose steeply once again” Williamson said, albeit at a slower pace than in recent months.

Rising orders, shortages of materials and shipping constraints maintained cost pressures and IHS Markit’s input prices index remained high at 87.0, although it dipped from July’s record high of 89.2.

Naomi Rovnick

Stock markets in Europe and Asia started September in positive territory after weak Chinese manufacturing data raised hopes that policymakers in Beijing could take action to boost growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

The region-wide Stoxx 600 equity gauge rose 0.8 per cent after notching up its seventh consecutive month of gains in August. London’s FTSE 100 also gained 0.8 per cent.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.6 per cent, the Topix in Tokyo gained 1 per cent and mainland China’s CSI 300 added 1.3 per cent. Brent crude, the international energy benchmark, rose 0.5 per cent to $71.99 a barrel ahead of a meeting later on Wednesday of Opec and its allies.

The moves came after Caixin’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, an independent survey of Chinese factory activity, dropped below the 50 level that separates monthly expansion from contraction for the first time since April 2020. This followed slowdowns in industrial production and export growth last month, travel curbs to control the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant, a regulatory clampdown on the education and technology sectors and curbs on bank lending designed to cool a property boom.

Daiwa economist Chris Scicluna said the latest data had “consolidated opinion that [China’s] policymakers will bring forth more stimulus before long”.

Read more here.

William Langley and Thomas Hale in Hong Kong

One of China’s most important gauges of manufacturing activity has contracted for the first time since the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, as measures to contain a recent outbreak weighed on an already fragile economic backdrop.

The Caixin manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, an independent survey of factory activity, came in at 49.2 in August, dropping below the 50-mark that separates monthly expansion from contraction, for the first time since April 2020.

The data were released a day after the publication of official PMI manufacturing figures fell just short of a contraction at 50.1, its weakest reading since February last year. The measure of the services sector plunged into negative territory as a recent outbreak of Covid-19 weighed on activity.

The indices were one of the clearest signs of a loss of momentum across China’s economy, which outperformed other big economies last year on the back of an industry fuelled recovery. But China is now grappling with weaker export demand, high prices of raw materials and a slowing property sector.

Read more here.

Leke Oso Alabi

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
© Bloomberg

UK house prices generated the second largest monthly gain in over a decade in August, as homebuyers approached a deadline for stamp duty relief on properties below £250,000.

Annual house price growth measured by the Nationwide house price index rose to 11 per cent last month, up from 10.5 per cent annual growth in July.

Prices rose 2.1 per cent month-on-month, the second largest gain in 15 years, bringing the average price of a home in the UK to £248,857.

“House prices are now around 13 per cent higher than when the pandemic began,” said Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner. 

“The strength may reflect strong demand from those buying a property priced between £125,000 and £250,000 who are looking to take advantage of the stamp duty relief in place until the end of September,” he added.

Stamp duty relief was introduced early in the pandemic to support the housing market, but it is being phased out and will come to an end later this month.

Gardner said a lack of supply was also a contributing factor, “with estate agents reporting low numbers of properties on their books.”

George Steer

The World Health Organization has identified a new Covid-19 variant of interest, labelled Mu, which is responsible for an estimated 39 per cent of coronavirus infections in Colombia and 13 per cent in Ecuador.

Mu’s prevalence has “consistently increased” in both countries, the WHO said this week.

The variant has a “constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape”, the global health body said, adding that preliminary data show a reduction in the effectiveness of vaccines “similar to that seen for the Beta variant”.

Mu was first identified in Colombia in January and there have since been outbreaks across South America and Europe. The WHO said that the variant accounts for 0.1 per cent of cases worldwide, but added that the figure should be interpreted with caution because of a lack of sequencing capacity in most countries.

According to the WHO, a variant of interest is one with genetic changes that are thought to affect the virus’s “transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape”, leading to an increasing number of cases in multiple countries. The WHO has identified four other variants of interest around the world since March.

Variants of interest are distinct from variants of concern, such as Beta and Delta, which are defined as those which reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and spread more easily than other strains.

Sylvia Pfeifer

John Menzies swung back into profit in the first half of the year as the aviation services provider struck a cautiously optimistic tone that the recovery in international travel was gaining pace.

The FTSE 250 group, which provides a range of support services including cargo handling, refuelling and aircraft maintenance, said it was “cautiously optimistic” about the recovery in the aviation market. However it also said that, despite regional variations, it did not anticipate a return before 2023 to the volume of ground services and fuelling business it had in 2019. 

Air cargo services and cargo forwarding across all regions delivered a more robust performance with “strong volumes and record high yields”. 

The company said pre-tax profit for the six months to the end of June was £4.7m compared with a pre-tax loss of £80.1m for the first half of 2020. 

Underlying pre-tax profits, excluding exceptional and other one-off items, were £10.9m compared with a loss of £48.7m the year before. However revenues for the period fell to £415.8m, compared to £431.5m in 2020.

Philipp Joeinig, chairman and chief executive, said the company’s strong first half performance was “testament to the actions that were taken last year and our continuing tight focus on all aspects of our operations” despite the continuing impact of Covid-19 on travel,

“We are committed to delivering against our strategic priorities and are making good progress. We continue to win contracts, enter new markets and optimise the mix of our business portfolio.”

George Steer

UK retailer WHSmith has said it expects full-year results to come in “slightly ahead of expectations” as demand at its high street and travel stores — located in airports and rail stations — has continued to creep towards pre-pandemic levels.

The FTSE 250 company said in a trading update that group revenue hit 71 per cent of 2019 levels in the eight weeks to August 28, up from 60 per cent in the first half, and that it was “encouraged by the improving trends” at both of its businesses.

Revenue at WHSmith’s high street stores in the eight weeks to August 28 reached 84 per cent of levels reported over the same period in 2019, the company said. That was up slightly from 82 per cent of 2019 levels in the first half of its financial year.

Sales at its travel business, although “significantly down” on 2019 levels, have begun to show signs of recovery as the UK’s lockdown restrictions were eased over summer.

Revenue from stores in airports, train stations and hospitals hit 64 per cent of 2019’s figures over the two months to the end of August, up from 41 per cent in the first half.

The company reiterated that total sales are expected to recover to 2019 levels within the next two to three years.

Uncertainty surrounding the recovery in travel meant that profits for the year ending August 2022 would be at the “lower end” of market expectations, however.

Amy Kazmin in New Delhi

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
© AFP via Getty Images

India administered a record of 13m Covid-19 jabs on Tuesday, as supply constraints eased, allowing the pace of vaccinations to quicken.

India has so far given more than 653m Covid vaccinations — the equivalent of around 47 shots for every 10 people — since its vaccine drive began in January.

That, however, means only about 11 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, with another 37 per cent having received one dose, though the government estimates that half the adult population has received at least one jab.

Overall, India vaccinated 186m people for Covid-19 in August, a 44 per cent jump over the 130m doses delivered in July. An average of 5.9m doses were administered a day, compared to 4.3m a day in July.

While the pace of vaccination is increasing, epidemiologists note that India will struggle to saturate its population with vaccinations because a very high percentage are too young to be eligible for the shots.

India has granted emergency use authorisation for a vaccine made by local pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila for use in children above the age of 12, but the doses have yet to be made available for public use.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has also yet to decide whether to begin vaccinating children as part of its nationwide drive, or whether to keep the Zydus Cadila doses for adults.

India is currently detecting more than 40,000 new Covid-19 cases a day, though the total detected in August was down nearly 8 per cent from the number in July.

Benjamin Parkin in Kolkata

The pandemic has left thousands of small-business owners struggling to pay their debts, threatening one of the country’s economic success stories.

Shompa Karmakar learned about microfinance from a neighbour a decade ago. She joined a group of local women to secure small loans — worth a few thousand rupees at a time — and build up her cooking business.

Karmakar, 34, eventually opened a small fast-food restaurant in a busy suburb of Kolkata that served dosas, biryani and chow mein, together with her husband Amit and seven employees. She took her largest loan, worth Rs200,000 ($2,720), from India’s largest microlender Bandhan Bank in March 2020.

It went disastrously wrong from there. Her restaurant closed when the country entered a national lockdown weeks later, and her 40-year-old husband suffered a heart attack — she says from stress. An attempt to revive the business was cut short when India was hit with a second devastating coronavirus wave earlier this year. Amit, who recovered from his previous health scare, and their remaining employees caught Covid.

The shop is now closed, its colourful signboard dusty and dented, and Karmakar is no longer able to repay her loan. “It’s out of my hands,” she says, speaking outside her home in the alleyway behind the shop. “On top of everything, my husband had a heart attack. How could it get worse?”

Read more here

Gary Jones in Hong Kong

The chief of Malaysia’s anti-graft agency has promised to investigate claims that doctors have been offered bribes to supply vaccination certificates to people refusing Covid-19 vaccines.

“This act not only involves the issue of corruption, but also compromises the reputation of the medical practitioners, thus tarnishing their image if the matter has really happened,” Azam Baki, of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, said in a statement.

“So far, the MACC has not received any complaints related to the issue but we will investigate and conduct intelligence on locations suspected of committing such acts of malpractice.” 

Malaysia’s The Star newspaper recently reported that clinics in Penang had been bombarded with calls from anti-vaxxers. One clinic said on Facebook that it had received multiple calls from people offering to pay if they could get a certificate without being injected.

People who are fully vaccinated in Malaysia are subject to less stringent restrictions, enjoying greater opportunities to dine in restaurants and visit markets. 

William Langley and Thomas Hale in Hong Kong

Manufacturing activity in China shrank in August, as global Covid lockdowns dogged supply and throttled demand for Chinese goods.

The Caixin China General Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index fell to 49.2 for August, results released on Wednesday showed. A score below 50 indicates that the majority of the 500 companies surveyed reported a fall in manufacturing activity for the month.

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
Caixin’s Chinese manufacturing PMI fell to 49.2 for August as global lockdowns hampered demand and supply © REUTERS

The data followed a separate official PMI survey released on Tuesday, where manufacturing data stopped just short of contraction but at 50.1 posted its weakest reading since February 2020. Its measure of the services sector plunged into negative territory as a recent outbreak of the coronavirus weighed on activity.

Compared to the official numbers, the Caixin PMI puts a greater focus on smaller and privately owned companies.

“Both supply and demand in the manufacturing sector shrank as the Covid-19 outbreaks disrupted production,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group.

“The gauges for output, total new orders and new export orders all dropped into negative territory. Output shrank for the first time since February 2020.”

David Agren in Mexico City

Throughout the pandemic, Diana Gómez Guerra has toggled between tending to customers in her family’s shop in Mexico City and trying to tutor her 10-year-old daughter.

From a small storeroom in the back, stacked to the ceiling with jumbo bottles of Coca-Cola, her daughter Helen Michelle struggled with her schoolwork — especially maths.

“I tried to explain things one way and she didn’t understand,” Gómez Guerra recalled of her attempts to teach decimals. “So she had to wait until Thursday to ask the teacher” — the one day Helen Michelle received weekly video lessons.

The coronavirus pandemic has punished Latin America, sending death tolls soaring and its economies tanking. The region accounts for 8 per cent of the world population but roughly one-third of global Covid-19 deaths.

Now it is provoking an education crisis in a region already rife with inequality and long a laggard in academic performance.

Read more here

Nikou Asgari in New York

As the US prepares to start offering people a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, some Americans are jumping the queue.

The Biden administration has said it plans to start offering booster shots from September 20, and that everyone will be eligible for a third jab within eight months of their second.

But as the rapid spread of the Delta variant prompts a spike in hospitalisations, some people who are nervous about breakthrough infections are finding ways of having their booster shot now.

“I wanted to get it done as soon as possible,” said Fernando Fonseca from Houston, Texas. “My parents both had the Delta variant and were both placed in the emergency room.”

Read more here

William Langley in Hong Kong

The Australian state of Victoria extended its lockdown on Wednesday, as it reported 120 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19.

Most of the state’s restrictions, including Melbourne’s 9pm curfew, would continue until 70 per cent of the state’s population had received the first dose of a vaccine, said Daniel Andrews, state premier. Authorities hoped to reach that target by September 23, he added.

Of the 120 new cases, the origins of 56 were under investigation. Only 20 were in isolation during the infectious period. Daily cases were the highest since the state’s current outbreak began in July.

“The experts are very clear with us. We will not see these cases go down, they are going to go up. The question is, by how many and how fast,” said Andrews. “What that means is that we can’t ease restrictions today in any profound way.”

Australia’s current outbreak is focused in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, all of which have been under some form of lockdown since at least early August. Victoria’s decision to extend its lockdown followed a similar call in the ACT on Tuesday.

Andrews said that parts of Victoria outside of Melbourne could see lockdown eased earlier than in the state capital. Victoria’s lockdown prohibits residents from leaving home for any reason other than essential shopping, exercise, providing care, authorised work and to be vaccinated.

Although overall infection numbers in Australia remain low, the latest round of outbreaks has confounded authorities.

New South Wales reported 1,116 cases on Wednesday, and the ACT declared 23. Australia has said that it will remove many of the restrictions in place once the country hits a vaccination rate of 70 or 80 per cent.

Sam Jones

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
Bernd Spalt: ‘The economy has rebounded very strongly all over our region’ © Wolfgang Zac

Central and eastern Europe economies will outpace their wealthier western counterparts in the post-pandemic recovery, according to the head of Austria’s largest bank, who believes they will benefit from strong economic fundamentals and better government decision-making.

“The economy has rebounded very strongly all over our region,” says Bernd Spalt, chief executive of Erste Group, one of central and eastern Europe’s biggest lenders. “We are back in a situation where we have almost full employment, full order books for the corporates, and consumption has returned.”

Insolvencies are at record lows and credit demand is rising, Spalt adds. It is a picture he does not see elsewhere in Europe: “Everyone has built their own little ring fence around their country.”

Central and eastern Europe economies are very likely to do better, he argues, partly because of extensive government support for sectors hit hard by Covid, such as tourism. In Austria, 80 per cent of the sector’s revenues were subsidised by the government.

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Song Jung-a in Seoul

HMM, South Korea’s largest shipping company, is facing a labour union’s threat to launch a strike, in the latest problem that could deepen the strain on global logistics amid shortages of container ships and surging freight costs.

The company will hold talks with the union about raising wages on Wednesday afternoon. Unionised sailors and dockworkers voted in favour of a strike earlier this month, demanding sharp pay hikes in line with the company’s soaring profits.

The threat of a strike by HMM workers comes as South Korea’s factory activity growth slowed in August for the first time in a year as the country struggles to contain its worst outbreak of the coronavirus driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

If workers actually launch a strike, analysts said it is likely to cause further disruptions for the tech and auto supply chains already suffering from material and parts shortages and delays in supplies due to the persistent bottlenecks at ports around the world amid pandemic-related restrictions and staffing shortages.

Concerns over growing supply chain risks have been compounded by the fast spread of the coronavirus as South Korea reported more than 2,000 new cases on Wednesday despite health authorities’ efforts to speed up the vaccination drive.

The country’s health ministry said on Wednesday it secured 1.5m doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Romania, which could help ease vaccine supply shortages. The country’s full vaccination rate stands at around 30 per cent. 

James Pickford

For Mark Harvey, it was a property in the south of France that brought home the mood of frenzied urgency among super-wealthy home buyers in the pandemic.

The head of estate agent Knight Frank’s international department in London recalls that the buyer, who had deep pockets but a pressing need to find a second home, was targeting a large country estate. The individual was willing to pay a big premium, break price records and even put down tens of millions of euros just to secure the home. The difference was that previous record-breaking deals were all for coastal properties in the glitzy resorts of the Côte d’Azur.

“This one was inland and exceeded the highest sale in Cannes,” Harvey says. “It exemplified the search for space and the imperative buyers felt that ‘I must have this retreat, this safe haven for my family’.”

The pandemic brought a reassessment of property needs up and down the price spectrum in Europe, prompting a rush for homes with outside space and the mod cons to support long stays. The trend was no less intense at the top end of the market, where buyers benefited from rising asset prices, low interest rates, bigger savings pots and — often — the freedom to locate wherever they chose.

Yet, as Europe emerges from the thick of the pandemic, prospective buyers and market experts are wondering whether demand will continue to rise for second homes designed for longer stays. Offices are reopening, businesses are preparing for an economic revival and travel options are widening. So, will those who planned to make a permanent move away from cities change their minds?

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Kate Beioley in London

Company perks used to range from a gym membership to a car. Now a small but increasing number of UK groups are offering to cover the cost of in vitro fertilisation and surrogacy for staff.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrust employees’ mental and physical health into the spotlight and accelerated a trend towards bespoke human resources benefits, such as fertility treatments and advice.

“There has been a rise of mental and physical wellbeing up the corporate agenda . . . but the pandemic accelerated that massively,” said Helen Beedham, a workplace consultant who advises companies on fertility policies.

“Employers wouldn’t really have got involved in what might be deemed somebody’s life outside of work, but that’s changing . . . whether that’s relationship counselling or reproductive health [support],” she added.

Read more here

William Langley in Hong Kong

New Zealand reported 75 local cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, all but one of them in Auckland, as authorities said the country’s Covid elimination strategy was paying off.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, director general of health, said that 74 of the cases could be linked to Auckland’s current outbreak. The final case was found in Wellington and had been in isolation since August 24.

New Zealand is one of the few countries still pursuing a zero-Covid policy. Its lockdown measures have seen its limited case numbers level off in recent days.

“This latest bounce in numbers is not unexpected. We did see this last April, when our numbers went from 89 on April 2 to 71 the next day … then continued to fall,” said Bloomfield. “So it is clear that the numbers [over the past three days] are lower than the peak in the early 80s.”

With Aucklanders all but confined to their homes, 75 per cent of the cases caused no “exposure events” with a risk of infecting others. The majority of infections were passed on from household contacts, Bloomfield said.

All New Zealanders over the age of 12 were eligible for the vaccines from Wednesday, Chris Hipkins, Covid-19 response minister, added.

William Langley in Hong Kong

The prime minister of Vietnam has signed an order calling on the country to ensure its lockdown measures are enforced during the national day holiday from Thursday to Sunday.

“The national day holiday period of September 2 lasts four days, easily increasing the risk of disease transmission,” Pham Minh Chinh said in the order, which noted that community cases in the country were rising, especially in the south.

The order called on authorities to stop any festivals or large gatherings over the period, and to make sure access to medical care was available, the official government portal reported.

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
Health workers in full protective gear carry out testing in Hanoi on Sunday © Nhac Nguten/AFP/Getty Images

The order pointed to the example of Vietnam’s reunification day holiday in late April, when a raft of precautionary measures such as closing bars and banning gatherings were credited with keeping cases close to zero in the months following.

The country’s current outbreak, however, is much more severe. The government portal reported 12,607 cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, taking the total number to 462,096 since the start of the pandemic.

Vietnam’s efforts to combat the more contagious Delta variant are being hampered by a restricted supply of vaccines. Less than 3 per cent of the population has received two doses, according to government figures.

Gary Jones in Hong Kong

Rich countries must share their Covid-19 vaccine supplies with increasing urgency, the former chairs of an independent panel appointed by the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, and Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, expressed concern over the slow pace of vaccine redistribution.

The two former leaders served as co-chairs of the Independent Panel on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, launched in July last year.

“The Independent Panel report recommended that high-income countries ensure that at least one billion doses of vaccines available to them were redistributed to 92 low and middle-income countries by 1 September, and a further one billion doses by mid-2022,” the pair said in a statement.

“Ensuring that all those around the world most vulnerable to the impact of the virus, including healthcare workers, older people and those with significant comorbidities, can be vaccinated quickly is a critical step towards curbing the pandemic.”

Justin Jacobs in Houston

Lack of electricity forces hospitals burdened by Covid surge to run on generators.

More than 1m people in Louisiana were preparing for a third sweltering day without electricity after utilities struggled to reconnect power lines knocked down by Hurricane Ida, with some residents warned that the outages could last for weeks.

Ida made landfall on Sunday with wind speeds of up to 150mph. The storm extensively damaged long-distance power transmission lines, with the local utility Entergy saying that more than 2,000 miles of its high-voltage network was out of service.

All eight transmission lines feeding the city of New Orleans were downed by the storm. One tower on the banks of the Mississippi River that had withstood Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was toppled by Ida.

Much of southern Louisiana lacked the power necessary to run air conditioners and refrigerators even as weather officials issued a heat advisory for daytime hours on Wednesday.

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
More than 1m people in Louisiana are preparing for a third day without electricity © Getty Images

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Gary Jones in Hong Kong

Growth in the Australian manufacturing sector slowed again in August, impacted sharply by Covid-19 disruptions and curbs on the supply chain. 

The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index posted 52.0 in August, down from 56.9 in July, signalling the 15th consecutive month of expansion. A reading of more than 50 indicates the majority of companies surveyed reported rising activity compared to the previous month.

Both demand and production fell — for the first time since June 2020 — as Covid-related restrictions were extended. Price pressures remained elevated, while supplier delivery times worsened. 

The rate of growth eased for the third consecutive month and was below the survey average. Amid strict lockdowns across a number of Australian states, both manufacturing output and new orders declined for the first time in 14 months — and at the fastest rates since May 2020. 

“Australia’s manufacturing sector continued to feel the effects of the prolonged mobility restrictions, seeing growth ease significantly in August,” Jingyi Pan, economics associate director at IHS Markit, said. “Demand and output notably slipped into contraction territory, to reflect the slowdown of the economic momentum in the manufacturing sector.”

Peter Wells in New York

Ireland’s lawmakers have agreed to end most pandemic restrictions in the republic by late October.

More than 88 per cent of the adult population was now fully vaccinated, Ireland’s cabinet said in a statement late on Tuesday, putting the country on course soon to hit the government’s 90 per cent target that would allow for restrictions to be eased.

From September 1, public transport will return to 100 per cent capacity and within a week, restrictions on indoor and outdoor events and mass gatherings will be eased.

Pandemic measures will be unwound between then and October 22, when requirements for physical distancing, mask wearing in certain private settings, capacity limits and proof of vaccination or testing in order to access certain activities will be dropped.

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
A healthcare worker prepares to administer BioNTech/Pfizer jabs at a mass vaccination centre in Dublin in March © REUTERS

Between September 1 and October 22, the government agreed to continue its “careful and gradual approach to reopening” and support the maximum reach of the country’s vaccination rollout.

As part of the new phase that begins late October, cabinet said “the government also agreed to the transitioning of the public health response and governance arrangements out of emergency response mode, the maintenance of a robust ongoing public health response, including a vaccine booster programme and economic measures including the targeting of supports and the return to work places.”

Bryan Harris in São Paulo

Brazil’s post-pandemic recovery threatened by inflation and rising rates Brazil’s post-pandemic economic recovery threatens to slow sharply next year as economists sound the alarm over surging inflation and interest rates as well as the effect of an unprecedented drought.

Buoyed by policies that largely kept businesses open during the Covid-19 crisis, Latin America’s largest economy bounced back to pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2021 and looks set to end the year with more than 5 per cent annual growth.

Second-quarter data — due to be released on Wednesday morning — are expected to show the economy grew 0.1 per cent from the previous quarter and 12.7 per cent from the same period last year.

The outlook for next year, however, is growing increasingly bleak, with analysts now beginning to revise down annual growth estimates to as low as between 1 and 2 per cent. In addition to concerns over rising prices and interest rates, many fear political volatility in the run-up to next year’s presidential election. There is also concern that the government may imperil its fiscal position by handing out cash in the form of new social welfare programmes.

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Steff Chavez in Chicago

Idaho governor Brad Little has called on more than 200 medical personnel from federal programmes and reactivated the Idaho National Guard to aid hospitals in the state that are under strain from an influx of Covid patients.

“Nearly all Idaho hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated Covid-19 patients,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. “There are more Idahoans in intensive care units with Covid-19 than ever before. The vast majority of them are unvaccinated,” he said.

Hospitals reported on Thursday that there were only four available adult ICU beds in the state out of approximately 400.

Little said that the state was coming “dangerously close” to implementing statewide crisis standards of care, meaning those seeking medical care could “receive a lesser standard of care” — or could be turned away entirely.

In addition to the 150 guardsmen, the US General Services Administration is facilitating 200 medical and administrative personnel for the state, and the Department of Defense is sending a 20-person medical response team to North Idaho, an area with low vaccination rates facing the greatest need.

The governor urged Idahoans to get vaccinated, noting that the state’s hospitals were “beyond constrained”. He added: “Our healthcare system is not designed to withstand the prolonged strain caused by an unrestrained global pandemic.”

On August 30, Idaho was averaging 879 cases on a seven-day rolling basis, or, when adjusted for population, 49.2 cases per 100,000 people.

Peter Wells in New York

Only one US state has avoided being added to Chicago’s travel advisory list, following the latest update by the city to take account of rising coronavirus infections around the country.

Vermont was left as the only state not on city’s travel advisory after six states — including Connecticut, Massachusetts and Michigan — were added to the list on the Tuesday. Washington DC was added, too.

The advisory requests unvaccinated travellers from so-called “orange list” states to obtain a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to arrival in Chicago or undertake a 10-day quarantine. States make the orange list if their daily infection rates exceed a threshold of 15 cases per 100,000 people.

Chicago is reporting more than 400 new diagnosed Covid-19 cases a day, Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health commissioner, told a press conference on Tuesday. 

The city has averaged 17.5 new cases per 100,000 people a day over the past seven days. That is up 2 per cent from a week ago, but other indicators, such as positivity rate, hospitalisations and deaths, have eased over the past week.

The recent increase in cases prompted Chicago in mid-August to reinstate a citywide indoor mask mandate.

FT reporters

Pennsylvania has issued a mask mandate for schools, with the state facing a Delta variant-fuelled increase in Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations just as students begin the academic year. Effective September 7, face coverings will be required in buildings at K-12 schools and day care centres across the state, governor Tom Wolf said on Tuesday.

Overnight stays by tourists in Portugal rose to 4.5m in the peak holiday month of July, up from 2.6m in the same month of last year, but down 45 per cent on July 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic. A flash estimate by the National Statistics Institute said bed nights for overseas visitors dropped almost 68 per cent compared with July 2019.

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
Overnight stays by tourists to Portugal hit 4.5m in July © Bloomberg

New York’s new governor used her first coronavirus press conference to say that the state was exploring ways to expand several requirements in an effort to boost vaccination coverage and slow the spread of Covid-19. Kathy Hochul said on Tuesday her office was working on instituting a requirement for teachers and other staff at New York schools to be vaccinated or tested regularly. “I think that’s a compromise,” she said.

American football’s New England Patriots released their star quarterback Cam Newton on Tuesday, less than a week after the former most valuable player missed pre-season practice while abiding by the National Football League protocols for unvaccinated players. The move to cut Newtown is among the most high-profile consequences for an individual without full vaccination status in the US.

Coronavirus latest: One in 7 older children who test positive go on to have long Covid, study suggests
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton © AP

The spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 has sent US consumer confidence down to its lowest level since February, when cases were high and vaccinations not yet widespread. The US Consumer Confidence Index declined to 113.8 for the month of August, down from 125 in July, according to the Conference Board, a think-tank.

Canada’s economy unexpectedly contracted in the second quarter despite summer reopenings, and the prospects for third-quarter growth are also less upbeat than previously thought. Canadian GDP fell by an annualised 1.1 per cent in the second quarter, Statistics Canada said on Tuesday. That missed expectations for a 2.5 per cent increase. 

India’s economy grew by a fifth in the first quarter of the financial year, despite coronavirus-induced restrictions that limited non-essential economic activity. In a statement on Tuesday, the government said GDP rose by 20.1 per cent in the three months to June. The economy contracted by 24.4 per cent in the same period in the 2020-21 financial year.

Almost 400,000 people in Scotland, or 7 per cent of the population, were waiting to be seen by a doctor at the end of June, the highest number on record, figures from the country’s health service show. At the end of June, 396,771 people with referrals were waiting to be seen, up 12.1 per cent from March 31, Public Health Scotland said.