Six things to know about coronavirus today
The coronavirus morning headlines for Monday, January 31, as the streaming giant Spotify has responded to the mounting controversy surrounding it hosting a podcast which spreads misinformation about Covid. Legendary singer Neil Young has removed his entire back catalogue of music after comments made on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, and fellow musician Joni Mitchell followed suit. She said it was in “solidarity” with him.
She wrote: “Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives. I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue.” The platform’s chief executive Daniel Ek has now issued a statement to say Spotify is working to add a content advisory to any podcast episode that includes a discussion about Covid-19.
Listeners who access content that talks about the virus would be directed to a dedicated website that “provides easy access to data-driven facts, up-to-date information as shared by scientists, physicians, academics and public health authorities around the world, as well as links to trusted sources”. Mr Ek added: “This new effort to combat misinformation will roll out to countries around the world in the coming days. To our knowledge, this content advisory is the first of its kind by a major podcast platform.”
He added: “We know we have a critical role to play in supporting creator expression while balancing it with the safety of our users. “In that role, it is important to me that we don’t take on the position of being content censor while also making sure that there are rules in place and consequences for those who violate them.” Spotify’s rules for creators have also been made public for the first time, telling users that posting “dangerous content” which “promotes dangerous false or dangerous deceptive medical information that may cause offline harm or poses a direct threat to public health” is not permitted. about Spotify and Welsh language music.
However, breaching these rules may not necessarily result in the “violative content being removed from Spotify”. Spotify currently hosts the controversial podcast The Joe Rogan Experience which sparked outrage for repeatedly spreading Covid conspiracy theories and for promoting the use of ivermectin to treat Covid symptoms – an anti-parasitic medicine used mainly on horses which has not been proven to be effective for treating coronavirus. The streaming giant came under increased fire last week when musician Neil Young directed to have all of his music removed, citing Joe Rogan’s “false information about vaccines” as a reason.
What one Welsh intensive care doctor thinks: Young said: “I am doing this because Spotify is spreading false information about vaccines – potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them … They can have Rogan or Young.
Not both.” Fans of the 76-year-old singer have since pointed out that he suffered from polio as a child due to there being no vaccine at the time of his birth. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are now also “expressing concerns” to Spotify about Covid-19 misinformation but say they will continue to work with the platform.
The couple signed a lucrative deal with the streaming giant to host and produce podcasts, estimated to be worth around 25 million US dollars (GBP18 million), in late 2020. In a statement, the couple’s charity Archewell said: “Hundreds of millions of people are affected by the serious harms of rampant mis- and disinformation every day. “Last April, our co-founders began expressing concerns to our partners at Spotify about the all too real consequences of Covid-19 misinformation on its platform.
“We have continued to express our concerns to Spotify to ensure changes to its platform are made to help address this public health crisis.” Spotify acquired The Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2020, reportedly for more than 100 million dollars (GBP77 million). Stand-up comedian Rogan, 54, has previously attracted controversy for suggesting the young and healthy should not get vaccinated.
Government ‘set for U-turn’ on mandatory vaccines for health workers
The Government is expected to announce a U-turn on mandatory Covid vaccinations for NHS and social care workers in England, according to reports.
Sajid Javid has been facing pressure to scrap the requirement for health workers in England to be vaccinated by April amid fears it will lead to a major staffing crisis. It has never been a requirement in Wales, and First Minister Mark Drakeford had said staff who had to leave in England could be offered a job in Wales. The Health Secretary is set to meet ministers on the Covid-Operations Cabinet committee on Monday to confirm the U-turn, according to The Daily Telegraph.
The newspaper reported that the Government is ending the policy because Omicron is milder than previous variants. It comes after the Department of Health and Social Care said last Monday there were no plans to change the policy following a number of reports suggesting ministers were considering an 11th-hour delay However, the Health Secretary said on Tuesday that the policy is being “kept under review”.
Mr Javid said that it was “right” to reflect on Covid-19 policies but he added that frontline NHS staff should get a Covid-19 jab as a “professional duty”. He went on to say that plans for compulsory jabs were made when the Delta variant of the virus was the dominant strain in the UK, but now “almost all” cases are the Omicron variant which is “intrinsically less severe”. The policy would mean frontline staff in the NHS and registered social care settings must have their first vaccine doses by February 3 and they must be double jabbed before the policy kicks in on April 1.
Activists from the World Wide Rally For Freedom and NHS100K protests throw NHS uniforms at police officers outside Downing Street early this month (Image: Getty Images)
There have been protests and calls for the policy to be delayed, amid fears that it could force thousands of frontline workers to leave their roles at a time when patient demand is high.
Both the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Nursing urged for the deadline to be put back.
Coronavirus rate in Wales rises for sixth day
Eight more people have died with coronavirus in Wales, according to latest figures from Public Health Wales. The data, published on Sunday, January 30 and covering a 24-hour period, shows 2,840 new positive cases to bring the total to 774,356. The overall number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive in Wales has now reached 6,812.
The latest infection rate based on PCR tests, for the seven days up to January 24, now stands at 527.8 cases for every 100,000 people – up on the 516.3 recorded on Friday. It is the sixth day in a row that the infection rate is reported to have risen. The infection rate based on PCR tests is only a guide to the spread of Covid in Wales as it does not include lateral flow test results, which are reported weekly in Wales.
People with no symptoms who test positive on an LFT no longer need a confirmatory PCR test. The highest infection rate in each Welsh local authority for the seven days between January 18 and January 24 was Newport with 899.9 cases per 100,000, followed by Carmarthenshire with 660.1 and Cardiff with 627.4. Cases for your area here.
Anti-vaccine actor tests positive for coronavirus
Laurence Fox has tested positive for Covid-19, days after donning a T-shirt against the vaccine. The Lewis actor, 43, has been vocal to the coronavirus vaccine on social media, as well as the mask mandate and lockdown rules.
Taking to Twitter, he shared a photo of his positive lateral flow test, confirming that he has fallen ill. Alongside the snap, he penned: “In other news, felt shivery and crap yesterday. Turns out I have been visited by Lord Covid at last and have the Omnicold (if the LFT is to be believed!)
“On the #Ivermectin, saline nasal rinse, quercetin, paracetamol and ibruprofen.” Discussing his symptoms, he stated that it was similar to “man flu at the moment”.
Anti-vaccine protesters ‘urinated on national warm memorial’ in Canada
Police in Canada’s capital said they are investigating possible criminal charges after anti-vaccine protesters urinated on the National War Memorial, danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and used the statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox to display an anti-vaccine statement. Thousands of protesters gathered in Ottawa at the weekend to protest against vaccine mandates, masks and lockdowns.
Protesters gather near Parliament Hill in Ottawa (Image: AP)
Some travelled in truck convoys and parked on the streets around Parliament Hill, blocking traffic.
Ottawa police said officers are also investigating threatening behaviour towards police and others. Mr Trudeau has said Canadians are not represented by this “very troubling, small but very vocal minority of Canadians who are lashing out at science, at government, at society, at mandates and public health advice”.
Beijing seals off more residential areas as Covid cases increase
Beijing officials sealed off several residential communities in the city’s northern district on Sunday after two cases of Covid-19 were found. The Anzhenli neighbourhood in the Chaoyang district of the capital was closed off on Saturday, and residents will not be allowed to leave their compound.
Beijing is on high alert as it prepares to host the Olympic Games, which open on Friday. While the cases are low compared with other countries in the region, China has doubled down on its “zero-tolerance” policy, which includes breaking the chain of transmission as soon as it is found. The city is also setting up 19 points in the area to test residents every day until Friday, officials said at a briefing on the pandemic, according to state-backed Beijing News.
The Chinese capital reported a total of 12 cases of Covid-19 between 4pm on Saturday and 4pm on Sunday, said Pang Xinghuo, the vice head of the Beijing Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. All of those cases involved people who were already under some kind of pandemic control measures. The city carried out multiple rounds of testing for millions of residents over the past week in Fengtai district, where some residential compounds were locked down.
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