UK reports 89,176 new cases and 277 deaths – as it happened

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Requiring three doses for full Covid vaccination would “send a clear signal that it is essential, rather than simply a matter of choice and personal responsibility”, a member of a World Health Organization advisory group said.

Though the national cabinet is still awaiting advice from Australia’s independent expert group on vaccination, Atagi, as to whether people should only be considered fully vaccinated against Covid after three doses, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, had been pre-empting Atagi’s advice.

“International evidence, our own experience, the views of experts and hopefully the confirmation of both Atagi and national cabinet later today will mean that everyone knows and understands that this is a three-dose project,” he said on Thursday.

Given Atagi is yet to release its advice, the matter was not settled at a meeting of the national cabinet later that day.

But on Friday the New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, backed Andrews, saying he thought the proposal “makes sense”, and that even without a decision by the national cabinet three doses should be required to be “up to date” with vaccination.

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In England, an intensive care doctor who challenged the health secretary, Sajid Javid, over compulsory Covid vaccines for NHS staff has launched a legal bid against the government to end the policy.

Dr Steve James, who is unvaccinated and works as an anaesthetist at King’s College hospital, is seeking a judicial review with seven other medical professionals. It would look at the lawfulness of the decision to require health professionals to be jabbed.

The government directive requires all NHS staff in England who have direct contact with patients to get two Covid-19 vaccinations by 1 April or risk losing their jobs. However, critics have argued that imposing a deadline could lead to staff shortages.

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Covid-free for almost two years, some Pacific island nations are suddenly struggling with an explosion in cases as the virus, thought in most cases to be the more transmissible variant Omicron, breaches the defences they had so successfully put up since the beginning of the pandemic.

Kiribati, Samoa, Palau and Solomon Islands have all experienced outbreaks within the last three weeks. The countries have approached the arrival of the virus with different strategies, some imposing lockdowns while others rely on their high levels of vaccination for protection.

Given their remoteness and the fragility of health systems there are nevertheless concerns about how they will cope, with many locals fearful.

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