The full story on the North Korea-South Korea Covid spat now:
Kim Jong-un’s influential sister has launched a stinging verbal attack on South Korea’s foreign minister for questioning North Korean claims that the country does not have a single case of Covid-19.
Kim Yo-jong, the North Korean leader’s younger sister, described the comments by Kang Kyung-wha as “reckless” and accused her of seeking to damage already strained ties between Pyongyang and Seoul.
Kang said last weekend that it was hard to believe the North’s insistence that it was free of the coronavirus a year after the outbreak began:
May Parsons, the Filipino nurse who gave the first ever Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to a 90-year-old woman in the UK yesterday, is on the front page of today’s Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Parsons made history when she kickstarted the UK’s mass vaccination programme, which is by far the largest in the NHS’s 73-year history.
“It comes as no surprise that a Filipino nurse, May Parsons, administered the first vaccine,” says the paper. More than 18,000 Filipino staff work for NHS England, while many more are employed on the frontline of health service elsewhere around the world.
Parsons, who was born in the Philippines, said it was a “huge honour” to be the first in the country to deliver the vaccine to a patient. She has worked for the NHS for the last 24 years.
More on Indonesia’s elections now: Over than 100 million Indonesians are eligible to vote today in regional elections, prompting concern that a large turnout could fuel the spread of the coronavirus.
The elections will span almost 300,000 polling stations in 24 districts and 37 cities across Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy. The vote had originally been scheduled for September, but was postponed as the country struggled to contain its virus outbreak.
Indonesia has recorded more than 586,000 infections and 18,000 deaths, making it one of the worst hit countries in South-east Asia.
“One hundred million Indonesians will be active all at once,” epidemiologist Pandu Riono told Reuters, warning that while Indonesia’s relatively low testing and tracing rates might obscure the initial impact “it’s very likely that new clusters will emerge.
Election officials said that staff would be deployed at polling stations to ensure that disease prevention measures were being followed, and that election workers would be given protective equipment. Voters are also being encouraged to wear masks.
Thailand to increase border patrol following new case cluster
Thailand will deploy drones and increase military patrols along its border with Myanmar following a small cluster of cases linked to people crossing undetected into the country.
At least 19 cases of the coronavirus have been linked to people passing over the border without undergoing mandatory quarantine. Health workers have raced to trace hundreds of contacts, while some schools have also been closed as a precaution.
Thailand – which has recorded 4,126 cases and 60 deaths – has been praised by the World Health Organisation for its success in handling the outbreak, including its contact tracing efforts and strict lockdown earlier in the year.
The country has been mostly shut to foreign tourists since March but it shares a porous, 1,500 mile border with neighbouring Myanmar – which has struggled to control virus cases.
The border, which stretches through dense forest and mountainous terrain, is difficult to monitor and there is concern that migrant workers who may have crossed the border illegally will be afraid to seek help if they do develop symptoms.
Prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has said border surveillance will be increased and called for calm, saying that the country is not facing a second wave.
Separately, four local cases were detected among medical staff working in quarantine facilities and a private hospital.
US passes 15m cases
North Korea lashes out at South Korea over zero cases doubt
In the UK, for many years the word “destitution” felt like a throwback to some dimly lit Victorian past. No one was destitute in modern Britain, at least those who were eligible for social security. You might be poor, but it was rare to be regularly hungry, cold, ill-clothed, and entirely dependent on the kindness of charity.
All that started to change less than a decade ago. While headline relative poverty rates seemed to change very little, researchers noticed that the proportion of those below the breadline experiencing extreme poverty was growing. Food bank volunteers saw people going for days without eating. Debt charities helped people mired in mountains of debt over unpaid rent and utility bills.
Three years ago the veteran anti-poverty campaigner and former MP Frank Field suggested what was being witnessed day in day out in the food banks and church halls of the UK’s poorest neighbourhoods went far beyond the quotidian shock of poverty numbers. Destitution was real and growing alarmingly, he said. “Clearly something unique and horrendous is happening to the bottom end of our society.”
A passenger on board a “cruise-to-nowhere” from Singapore has tested positive for Covid-19, the operator Royal Caribbean said on Wednesday.
Singapore has been trialling the trips which are open only to the city-state’s residents, make no stops and sail in waters close by. At 2.45 am on Wednesday morning, the captain of the Quantum of the Seas informed the 2,000 passengers that the ship was to return to dock a day early and that they should stay in their rooms, the Straits Times reports.
At 8.10 the captain confirmed that a passenger had tested positive. Breakfast would be served to passengers in their rooms, he said.
“It’s important that you know that you are safe on board and we have a good plan in place to maintain your health, safety and comfort.”
South Korea reports second-highest cases of pandemic so far
Destitution levels in Great Britain are expected to double in the wake of the pandemic with an estimated 2 million families, including a million children, likely to struggle to afford to feed themselves, stay warm, or keep clean as the recession deepens, according to a study.
The estimates, carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), described “increasing, intensifying” levels of extreme poverty experienced by some of the country’s poorest households in recent years, and highlight a social security system increasingly failing to protect society’s most vulnerable:
The British government has been urged to launch a one-off wealth tax on millionaire households to raise up to £260bn in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the crisis damages Britain’s public finances and exacerbates inequality.
The Wealth Tax Commission – a group of leading tax experts and economists brought together by the London School of Economics and Warwick University to examine the case for a levy on assets – said targeting the richest in society would be the fairest and most efficient way to raise taxes in response to the pandemic.
In a highly anticipated report, the group, which has drawn attention from the Commons Treasury committee and the former head of the civil service, Sir Gus O’Donnell, said its proposals would be preferable to a broad-based tax raid on workers’ incomes and consumer spending:
UK science chief warns Britons may still need masks next winter
Rudy Giuliani expected to leave hospital on Wednesday