Cleaners and bin collectors urged to reject Covid exemption

Organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation if exposed to coronavirus.

Bin collector: Workers advised to reject self-isolation exemption. Kozmoat98 via IStock
Bin collector: Workers advised to reject self-isolation exemption.

More than 2000 local authority street cleaners and bin collectors have been advised to refuse to return to work and instead self-isolate if they have been exposed to coronavirus.

The Scottish Government recently announced that organisations employing critical workers can apply for exemptions from self-isolation.

If the Government deems a critical role can be exempt, the worker still has to prove they have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks prior to any close contact, have a negative PCR test and agree to carry out lateral flow tests for 10 days after the contact.

But following talks with workplace representatives, the GMB union has advised its more than 2300 members in cleansing and waste services in Scottish local government, including Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire and West Lothian councils, to refuse self-isolation exemptions.

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The GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, Drew Duffy, said: “A major underlying factor in the so-called pingdemic is the chronic understaffing in our frontline services after years of cuts, and our cleansing and waste is no different.

“But the Scottish Government’s new guidance has opened the door for employers across the country to heap more pressure on these key workers if they have been exposed to Covid-19. That’s not safe for workers, families, or communities.

“And again, some of the lowest paid are being asked to take the greatest risk in another example of how poorly they are valued by Government. You cannot cut and coerce your way out of a crisis, if you want services to function then you must invest in them.

“That lesson needs to be learned, and it’s why we are advising our members to exercise their right to refuse and instead follow the general self-isolation rules if they are exposed to Covid-19.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Self-isolation rules already state that exemption will only be granted in respect of members of staff who voluntarily agree not to self-isolate, and the employers’ duty of care to all their employees must be respected.”

Big event organisers not required to check vaccine status of everyone

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon provided an update on the Covid passport scheme at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Alan Harvey via SNS Group

Organisers of large events in Scotland will not be expected to check the vaccine certification of every single person in attendance.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the move following concerns raised by Scottish football bosses that it would not be possible to check the vaccine status of every supporter attending matches.

However, the First Minister insisted that those organising large events will still be expected to carry out a “reasonable” number of checks.

Sturgeon said that at venues such as nightclubs, and at “relatively small” events, it is expected that it will be possible to check the vaccine certifications for everyone who is in attendance.

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The SNP leader made the comments as she provided an update on the Scottish Government’s Covid passport scheme, which will come into effect from 5am on Friday, October 1 – with the NHS Covid Status App available for download from September 30.

Sturgeon explained that certification will be required for any venues that meet the set criteria.

It includes that the venue is open between midnight and 5am, serves alcohol after midnight, provides live or recorded music for dancing, and has a designation space which is in use where dancing is permitted.

“A pragmatic and sensible approach will be taken to each piece of guidance,” the First Minister told MSPs.

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“In legal terms, venues will be required to take ‘all reasonable measures’ to implement the scheme – in plain terms, that boils down to using common sense.

“So, for example, a venue that has a dancefloor operating after midnight – and meets the other criteria – will have to operate the certification scheme. 

“However, they won’t need to check people coming in for a pub lunch twelve hours earlier, that clearly wouldn’t be reasonable.

“But by the evening, it would be reasonable to check customers as they arrive. That’s what we mean by common sense.

“A pragmatic approach will be encouraged, so that businesses can make sensible judgements.”

Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government is working with businesses and environmental health officers to provide specific advice and guidance.

She told the Scottish Parliament: “At a venue such as a nightclub, or at a relatively small event, we expect that it will be possible to check vaccine certificates for everyone in attendance.

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“However at larger events, organisers will be expected to carry out a reasonable number of checks.

“We are currently working with businesses and environmental health officers to provide specific advice and guidance on the level of checks that should be considered both reasonable and effective to fulfil the important public health objective of certification.”

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Drink-driver sentenced over death of two friends in crash

Logan Russell was 17 when his Vauxhall Corsa left the road and collided with a tree in Fife.

Police Scotland
Tragedy: Ethan King and Connor Aird died following the crash in 2018.

A drink-driver who caused the deaths of two teenage friends as he drove them home from a party has been ordered to be detained for 42 months.

Logan Russell was 17 when his Vauxhall Corsa left the road and collided with a tree in Fife.

Ethan King, 17, died at the scene. Connor Aird, also 17, died later in hospital. A third passenger, Daniel Stevens, suffered serious injuries and spent a week in hospital.

Russell, now 20, managed to get out of the vehicle and told witnesses who went to their aid: “Help my friends. Can you get them out the car? It’s all my fault.”

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On Tuesday, a judge told Russell that he should have known the risks of driving after consuming alcohol and with a limited amount of sleep.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby said that if he was going to drink, he should not have taken the car, and added: “What happened here should be a warning for others.

“The victims are not just those who have died, but those left to grieve.”

He told Russell, who was also banned from driving for four years, that if he had been a mature adult offender he would have jailed him for six to seven years for the offence.

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Russell, from Leslie in Fife, earlier admitted causing the deaths by careless driving while over the drink-drive limit.

He had previously faced a charge of causing the deaths by dangerous driving on the A915 Standing Stane Road at Windygates, Fife, on November 11, 2018.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard that he had held a full driving licence for just 55 days when the fatal collision occurred after he lost control of the car.

‘Drinking alcohol’

Advocate depute Leanne McQuillan said that on the evening of November 10, 2018, into the early hours of the next day Russell and his passengers had attended a party at a girl’s home in Windygates.

The prosecutor said: “The accused was seen by various guests to be drinking alcohol throughout the course of the evening as were the other guests.”

She said about 8.15am the girl’s father got up and noticed four youths were still in the garden and went out and told them it was time to leave.

He was uncomfortable about them leaving in a car and went to speak to them. He thought the passengers seemed drunk, but Russell did not and he drove off.

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The collision happened about 20 minutes later as Russell headed in the direction of Kirkcaldy. Two motorists were driving behind Russell’s Corsa.

The advocate depute said: “The witnesses described the car drifting gradually to the right, crossing the centre line into the opposing carriageway.

“No one saw the brake lights illuminate. The vehicle then left the roadway, struck a wooden post and fence, entered a field and collided with a tree.”

Witnesses saw smoke and stopped, and the emergency services were alerted.

As they approached the vehicle they saw Russell walk around from the driver’s side as he made a plea to help his friends.

He told police he was the driver and gave a positive breath test. A blood sample was later analysed and found to contain 118 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit in Scotland is 50 milligrams of alcohol.

‘He will live with it for the rest of his life’

Mr King was found to have died after sustaining significant head trauma. Mr Aird died on November 16 as a result of chest and head injuries.

Mr Stevens suffered fractured bones but made a full recovery, although suffers occasional pain in a leg. The court heard he remembers nothing of the crash or the party. 

Defence solicitor advocate Iain Paterson, for Russell, said: “He made a clear error to drive that morning – a dreadful error of judgement – and he understands that.

“There was a lapse in concentration, as he accepts, which led to this tragic accident.

“He does accept absolutely that he is going to be sent into custody today and he hopes that brings some solace to the families because he is deeply remorseful about what has happened.

“He will live with it for the rest of his life.”


Prosecutors order watchdog to probe death of woman hit by police van

Margaret McCarron, 58, died after being struck by a police van in Motherwell.

Police Scotland
Named: Margaret McCarron was struck by a van.

Scotland’s prosecution service has instructed a police watchdog to investigate the death of a pedestrian who died after being hit by a marked police van.

Margaret McCarron, previously Boland, 58, from Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, was struck on Merry Street in her home town on Sunday evening.

She was taken to University Hospital Wishaw following the incident at around 8.20pm, but pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Police Scotland said the marked Ford Transit van was on routine duties at the time and did not have either blue lights or sirens on.

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Neither of the officers in the van were injured.

Police Scotland said the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) has been instructed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to investigate the death.

The force had referred the incident to Pirc.

Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit is investigating the incident and appealing for witnesses.

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Anyone with information is asked to call 101, quoting incident 3309 of September 19.


Military personnel will deploy to support Scottish Ambulance Service

A request for military assistance was approved by the UK Government.

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The Ministry of Defence will provide 114 people to augment ambulance drivers.

Hundreds of military personnel will be deployed to support the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The UK Government approved the support through the Military Assistance to the Civil Authority (MACA) process.

It comes after a request from the Scotland Office, working with the Scottish Government, to tackle long response times, with the ambulance service under severe pressure due to the pandemic.

Last week at Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that consideration was being given to asking for targeted military assistance to help with “short-term pressure points”.

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It has now been confirmed that from Saturday, the Ministry of Defence will provide 114 people to augment ambulance drivers.

This will include drivers and support staff, who will provide resilience to the Scottish Ambulance Service by carrying out non-emergency driving work, with each being paired with a clinical professional.

A further 111 personnel will operate Mobile Testing Units, which the military previously supported in 2020.

They will be utilised to help identify infections and break chains of transmission, with their work beginning on Wednesday, September 29.

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Brigadier Ben Wrench, commander of Joint Military Command Scotland said: “The Armed Forces in Scotland continue to support the Scottish Government’s response to the pandemic.

“We are working closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish Ambulance Service, following their requests for assistance with drivers and Mobile Testing Units.”

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace praised the lifesaving service being provided by members of the Armed forces.

“Our Armed Forces are once again stepping up, demonstrating their versatility as we support the Covid-19 response across the UK,” he said.

“We are proud to work alongside the dedicated men and women at the Scottish Ambulance Service as they continue to provide a lifesaving service to the people of Scotland.

“Our commitment to provide rapid support to communities and civil authorities is being delivered alongside the deployment of thousands of personnel on operations around the world.”

Scottish secretary Alister Jack said that the dedication and professionalism of those being deployed will be “invaluable”.

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“Our fantastic British Armed Forces have played a key role in the fight against Covid-19 across the UK and it is admirable to see them once supporting crucial public services in Scotland in times of need,” he said.

“The dedication and professionalism of the 225 personnel being deployed will be invaluable for the Scottish Ambulance Service and Covid Mobile Testing Units. 

“We are grateful for all their efforts to keep us safe. As we have continued to see throughout the pandemic, the strength of the union and support offered by the UK Government has never been more important.”

On Tuesday, the Scottish Government announced that an additional £20m of funding will be invested in the Scottish Ambulance Service to help improve response times.

Scottish health secretary had earlier indicated that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will be brought in to support the ambulance service.


Mum told child’s hospital-acquired infection ‘came from the drains’

The ten-year-old boy was undergoing cancer treatment at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

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Queen Elizabeth University Hospital: The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry is under way.

A mother has told how she felt “anxious” about every admission to a Glasgow hospital after her son’s “near death experiences” from a hospital-acquired infection.

Colette Gough was told the infection which left her son seriously ill following surgery during his cancer treatment came from the drains at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow and was not an isolated case.

The Scottish Hospitals Inquiry is hearing evidence on problems at two flagship Scottish hospitals that contributed to the deaths of two children.

It is investigating the construction of the QEUH campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

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Mrs Gough’s ten-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer after he became unwell in July 2018, aged seven, and was found to have a kidney tumour.

He was being treated in the Schiehallion unit, the children’s cancer unit in the children’s hospital on the QEUH campus, and underwent surgery to remove the affected kidney in early September 2018.

The inquiry heard that his condition deteriorated after surgery due to a line infection and medical staff battled to stabilise him, and that the same thing happened the following day, leaving his parents “terrified that this was him going down again”.

Mrs Gough said that in mid-September she and her husband were invited to a meeting with two doctors who explained where the infection had come from.

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She said: “They apologised and told us that the infection he had had come from the drains and that he was not an isolated case, that he was one of six children who had fallen ill about the same time and that there seems to be an issue with the building and the drains and the water, and because of that the plan was to close the ward and transfer the whole unit to somewhere else in the hospital.

“At that point they didn’t know where or when that would happen, that they were working with estates to try and rectify the problem.”

Alastair Duncan QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked how this made her feel, to which she replied: “Quite angry, that’s the reason we’re here today because my husband and I really felt let down. We really put our trust and our faith in the hospital.”

Earlier she said that there were signs on the sinks in the Schiehallion unit asking people not to drink the water or pour anything down the drain, and that during the first month of their time at the hospital tap filters appeared.

However she said that staff “played down” concerns about the water and said it was just to keep everybody safe.

The inquiry heard that around that time work was being done on the building cladding, and a window fell out of the adult hospital.

Mr Duncan asked: “Thinking about where things stood, the issues you experienced on ward 2A, the shower water, issues you experienced on ward 3B, two life-endangering events, the now closure of wards 2A, 2B, the move to the adult hospital, an issue with cladding, an issue with windows, possible risk from the work being done, at this point in time how did you feel about the hospital?”

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Mrs Gough replied: “Anxious about every single admission and the anxiety levels just kept rising, and the fact that I was still on the bounce back from witnessing my son’s near death experiences and I was just running on pure adrenaline at that point.”

The inquiry was ordered after patients at the Glasgow hospital died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply, and the opening of the Edinburgh site was delayed due to concerns over the ventilation system.

Earlier this year, an independent review found the deaths of two children at the QEUH campus were at least in part the result of infections linked to the hospital environment.

The review investigated 118 episodes of serious bacterial infection in 84 children and young people who received treatment for blood disease, cancer or related conditions at the Royal Hospital for Children at the campus.

It found a third of these infections were “most likely” to have been linked to the hospital environment.

Two of 22 deaths were “at least in part” the result of their infection, it said.

The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues.

Food could disappear from shops over CO2 shortage ‘within days’

CO2 is injected into the packaging of perishable foods such as meat and salads to inhibit the growth of bacteria.

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The gas is used in food packaging and as a method of stunning animals prior to slaughter.

Shoppers will start noticing shortages within days as a result of the crisis in carbon dioxide (CO2) supply, a food industry chief has warned.

The gas is used in food packaging and as a method of stunning animals prior to slaughter but supplies are running low.

Spiralling energy costs have led to the suspension of operations at fertiliser plants – which produce CO2 as a by-product – having a knock-on effect on the food industry.

CO2 is injected into the packaging of perishable foods such as meat and salads to inhibit the growth of bacteria. It typically prolongs the shelf life of products such as beef steak by around five days.

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The halt to CO2 production comes as supply chains are already grappling with a shortage of HGV delivery drivers, heaping yet more pressure on UK supermarkets’ “just in time” model.

Alongside warnings of gaps on supermarket shelves if the issue is not resolved promptly, the result will be widescale food waste as retailers are forced to discard otherwise perfectly good products.

Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said consumers could start noticing shortages in poultry, pork and bakery products within days.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Government needed to support fertiliser producers, help food producers to look for alternatives to CO2 and address labour shortages in the industry.

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“We have been saying for several weeks now that the just-in-time system which underpins both our supermarkets and our hospitality industry is under the most strain it has ever been in the 40 years it has been there,” he told Today.

“It is a real crisis.”

He said that poultry production will begin to erode very seriously by the end of this week, with the same being true of pig production.

The production of bakery goods and meat packaging is “probably only about a week behind”.

“We probably have about 10 days before this gets to the point where consumers, shoppers and diners notice that those products are not available,” he said.

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, told the BBC: “We grow and slaughter around 20 million birds a week, the vast majority of those are chicken. We also trade, so total consumption in this country is somewhere around 30 to 35 million birds a week.

“It will be a real challenge if there is a shortage of CO2 to the point that slaughterhouses cannot process the birds. That is really the worst case scenario, which is why we are so hopeful that the Government can step in here.”

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Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he has held talks with fertiliser firm CF Industries, which suspended operations at two UK sites because of the high cost of energy, leading to CO2 supply issues.

“Time is of the essence, and that’s why I spoke to the CEO, speaking to him twice in the last two days, and we’re hopeful that we can get something sorted today and get the production up and running in the next few days,” he told Today.

In a sign that taxpayers’ money could be used, Kwarteng said “it may come at some cost, we’re still hammering out details, we’re still looking at a plan”.

The warnings of shortages are the latest from the food industry.

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of Bernard Matthews and 2 Sisters Food Group, has warned a shortage of both carbon dioxide and workers could mean Christmas dinners will be “cancelled”.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said cancelling Christmas is “very much not the plan” despite prospects of a turkey shortage and a spike in coronavirus cases during the festive season.


Former student donates £50m to University of Strathclyde

Charles Huang gained his MBA from the university based in Glasgow in 1989 and his PhD in marketing in 1994.

University of Strathclyde via PA Media
Strathclyde: Former student donates £50m to uni.

The leader of a US private equity firm behind the creation of the UK’s Covid-19 rapid lateral flow tests has donated £50m to his former university in Glasgow.

Charles Huang’s gift to the University of Strathclyde is the largest it has received and one of the most generous made to a UK university.

Mr Huang gained his MBA from Strathclyde in 1989 and his PhD in marketing in 1994.

In 2016 he founded California-based private equity firm Pasaca Capital Inc, which has a global focus on investing in innovative technologies and products.

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Among its recent ventures is Innova Medical Group, which developed the rapid lateral flow tests used in Covid-19 testing programmes worldwide, including in the UK.

Mr Huang made the donation through his philanthropic foundation in gratitude for the scholarship which enabled him to study at Strathclyde and in tribute to the university’s former marketing department head Professor Stephen Young, his PhD supervisor and mentor.

Mr Huang said: “I came to the University of Strathclyde for my MBA in August 1988 under a scholarship from the British Council for international students and I’m forever grateful of the UK for that life-changing opportunity.

“My education at Strathclyde played a critical role in the success of both my career and my businesses.

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“This gift is to show my gratitude to Strathclyde and to support those who have yet to embark on their studies.”

The gift was made at a ceremony on campus on Tuesday.

More than half of the donation, £30m, will pay for a new building named after Mr Huang at the university’s technology and innovation zone.

The remainder will create The Stephen Young Institute for International Business, The Stephen Young Global Leaders Scholarship Programme and The Stephen Young Entrepreneurship Awards.

Prof Young, who died last month, helped establish the university’s marketing department – one of the first in the UK – in 1971.

Strathclyde Principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald said: “We are incredibly grateful to Dr Charles Huang for this exceptionally generous gift.

“A donation of this scale will make a huge difference to our students, our research, and our innovation.”

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He added: “Charles’ generous gift will also have an enormous impact on Glasgow and Scotland with the construction of the next phase of our technology and innovation zone, which is creating jobs, attracting industrial partners and inward investment, and developing future generations of graduates and postgraduates.”

Sir Jim said Mr Huang is “demonstrating how inspirational teaching and support leaves a positive mark for decades to come” in highlighting the role Prof Young played in his life.

Prof Young’s daughter, Juliette Young, said her family is “delighted” at the recognition of their father’s “outstanding academic career and legacy”, adding: “We would like to express our gratitude and thanks to the Charles Huang Foundation for remembering our father in this way.”

Large donations made to UK universities by individuals include author JK Rowling’s two-part £25.3m gift to fund the creation University of Edinburgh’s Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic and research there into the treatment of multiple sclerosis and similar conditions.

It is named in memory of her mother, who died with the condition aged 45.


Man arrested after police chase that left pedestrian dead

The man died just over three weeks after being struck by the vehicle.

© Google Maps 2020
A 28-year-old man is due to appear in court in connection with the incident.

A man has been arrested after a car being pursued by police struck a pedestrian who later died.

The vehicle had initially failed to stop for police in the Northfield area of Aberdeen, on Monday, August 16.

Officers then pursued the car, before it was involved in a collision with the pedestrian on Great Northern Road, shortly after 2pm.

The pedestrian, a 48-year-old man, was taken to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with serious injuries, but died just over three weeks later on September 11.

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Police Scotland confirmed they have arrested a 28-year-old man in connection with the incident.

He is due to appear at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal, officers have said.

Police say that as is standard procedure, the matter has also been referred to the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) with respect to any prior police involvement.


Scotland records 18 Covid deaths and 2870 new cases overnight

The daily test positivity rate is 11.7%, up from 10.8% the previous day.

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Scotland has recorded 18 coronavirus-linked deaths.

Scotland has recorded 18 coronavirus-linked deaths and 2870 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data.

Figures published by the Scottish Government indicate the death toll under the daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 8396.

The daily test positivity rate is 11.7%, up from 10.8% the previous day.

The Scottish Government included a warning on the figures for the numbers of new cases, new tests and daily test positivity rate, stating: “Please note that NHS Borders Lab have not submitted lab files since 1pm on Monday 20 September, investigation into this issue is ongoing.”

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There were 1,07 people in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, up 19 on the previous day, with 94 in intensive care, down three.

A total of 4,160,835 people have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination and 3,813,547 have received their second dose.


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