Here's a recap of today's top news:
The World Health Organisation has said Covid-19 booster vaccines are not necessary and called on countries with high vaccination rates to donate surplus vaccines to poorer countries rather than administering third doses. The criticism comes as the US today announced it would start delivering booster shots from 20 September.
MPs returned to Parliament for a debate on Afghanistan, and a face mask divide was stark, with a clear split between Boris Johnson's front benches, who largely chose not to wear masks, and members of the Opposition, who were seen in face coverings
Fast-food chain Nando's was forced to temporarily shut more than 40 stores in the UK after staff shortages hit its chicken supply chain
Relatives of a grandmother paralysed by Covid have called for her life support to be extended, as specialists treating her at a Cambridge hospital appealed to a judge to end treatment
A study from Oxford University and the Catalan Institute of Health found the Pfizer jab provides 97 per cent protection against death from coronavirus for nursing home residents
The US reported more than 1,000 daily Covid deaths, the first time the country has hit such a high rate since March, as the Delta variant continues to rage through states with low vaccination rates
Covid crisis could push rail fares to 10 year high
Rail fares could see the biggest increase in 10 years because of the Covid pandemic, with ministers under pressure to ease the pain for commuters.
Passenger groups have urged the Government to freeze fares next year after official figures revealed 3.8 per cent inflation for July, as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI).
For years, fare increases have been linked to the previous July's RPI. The most recent fare rise, 2.6 per cent, included a one per cent uplift on the RPI inflation figure for last July. A similar policy next year could mean a fare jump of 4.8 per cent in England and Wales – the steepest since 2012.
That would mean a Brighton to London season ticket increasing by £245 to £5,353 or a £132 rise for a Liverpool to Manchester season ticket, taking the cost to £2,892.
Read the full story here
Number of Covid hospital patients in England at five month high
The number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 in England has climbed to its highest level for five months.
A total of 5,514 patients were in hospital on August 18, according to the latest figures from NHS England.
This is up 9 per cent from the previous week and is the highest since March 16.
The latest figures also show that three regions currently have more than 1,000 hospital patients with Covid-19: London (1,090); the combined region of north-east England and Yorkshire (1,082); and the Midlands (1,067).
The last time any three regions of England each had more than 1,000 Covid-19 patients was mid-March.
Typically obedient New Zealanders start to chafe at Covid restrictions
New Zealanders are beginning to show signs of resistance to the country's tough Covid restrictions after the country was plunged into a snap lockdown over a single community case of Covid-19, its first in six months.
On Wednesday, the number of cases had grown to 10, all connected to the first case.
After a 58-year-old Auckland man tested positive for the virus, the entire country was ordered to spend at least three days at home, with all schools, non-essential businesses and public facilities closed. Auckland and the nearby Coromandel Peninsula, visited recently by the infected man, are set to spend at least seven days in lockdown.
Angus Verry, a heavy diesel technician, from the Waikato town of Cambridge, said shutting the entire country down for one community case “felt like a joke”. The 26-year-old was previously on-board with the country’s first lockdown.
“But we know more about Covid now and we know it’s always going to get in. It’s not practical to keep ‘eliminating’ it,” he said.
Amanda Saxton has the full report from Auckland here
Norway to roll out Covid jabs to 16 and 17-year-olds
Norway will offer all 16 and 17-year-olds their first Covid-19 vaccine dose after those over 18 are fully-vaccinated, the government said.
Reuters reported that the vaccinations for this group could start within a few weeks.
Almost 88 per cent of those over 18 in Norway have now received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 53.5 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Face mask divide in Parliament as MPs recalled for Afghanistan debate
The majority of Cabinet ministers assembled on Boris Johnson's front bench refused to wear face masks on Wednesday as Parliament returned to full capacity for the first time since the pandemic began.
Only Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, and Damian Hinds, the newly-appointed security minister, were seen wearing face coverings as the Commons was recalled to debate the situation in Afghanistan. On the back benches, former PM Theresa May and ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt were also wearing them.
Despite this, Mr Johnson's spokesman told reporters on Wednesday that the Government expected members of the public to wear masks in crowded indoor spaces.
In contrast, most MPs on the opposition benches were seen wearing them. They included Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, and Angela Rayner, his deputy.
Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University, said: "If members of the public are seeing a crowded indoor environment, where those mitigations [like masks] are not being used when they're available, that's not best practice and it may send a message in relation to other environments that people are accessing."
Harry Yorke has more details on this story here
Covid cases are up in the US by a third, says PAHO
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which works across all of the Americas, said Covid-19 cases are up in the US by a third, and in Canada by over a half - while cases are falling in most parts of South America.
Director Dr Carissa Etienne said that the Delta variant is now dominant in North America.
Cases and deaths from Covid are rising "rapidly" across the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Cuba, Dr Etienne added, with the situation in Haiti "especially acute" after the country experienced an earthquake and tropical storms.
The director also raised concerns about the impact the pandemic has had on mental health.
WHO: Covid treatment must be shared with low and middle-income countries
The World Health Organization and Unitaid have expressed concern about a statement released by Swiss healthcare company Roche yesterday that warned of a global shortage of tocilizumab, a treatment for Covid-19.
Tocilizumab (brand name Actemra/RoActemra) is an IL6 inhibitor the WHO recommended as a treatment for severe Covid-19 cases in June.
It can play a key role in decreasing mortality and reducing need for invasive mechanical ventilation among severely ill patients, when delivered alongside oxygen and corticosteroids.
Both organisations said while they "welcome and acknowledge that Roche has announced measures to address the shortage, we call on the company to ensure equitable allocation of current stocks of this medicine for all countries, including low and middle-income countries".
They also encouraged Roche to facilitate technology transfer and knowledge and data sharing to broaden access to the treatment.
UK records 33,904 new Covid cases and a further 111 deaths
The UK has recorded 33,904 new daily cases of Covid-19 and a further 111 deaths within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, according to official Government data.
This means cases between August 12 and August 18 were up by 7.6 per cent compared with the previous seven days, while the seven-day increase of deaths is at nearly 8 per cent.
89.6 per cent of adults in the UK have received at least one vaccine dose, and 77.5 per cent are fully-vaccinated.
WHO: Booster shots not supported by science
The World Health Organization's chief scientist has joined calls for a third round of Covid-19 vaccines, or booster shots, not to be administered in highly vaccinated countries - but rather shared with poorer countries with lower vaccination rates.
Soumya Swaminathan said data does not indicate that a second follow-up dose is needed.
Speaking at a Geneva press conference, WHO adviser Bruce Aylward said: "There is enough vaccine around the world, but it is not going to the right places in the right order."
An article in scientific journal Nature said: "The WHO has called for a moratorium on Covid-19 boosters until the end of next month, with the aim of ensuring that at least 10 per cent of people in all countries are vaccinated before extra doses are handed out.
"It makes a compelling argument. As Nature went to press, 58 per cent of people in high-income countries had received at least one vaccine dose; in low-income countries this number stood at just 1.3 per cent."
Red Cross warns of ‘tragic toll’ in Southeast Asia as infections and deaths soar
The pandemic is wreaking a “tragic toll” on Southeast Asia, the Red Cross has warned, as countries struggle to contain major Covid outbreaks driven by the highly contagious delta variant and sluggish vaccination rates.
While the region’s swift response when the pandemic first erupted meant it escaped much of the devastation seen in Europe and the Americas, the region has emerged as a new epicentre of the pandemic - and skyrocketing case counts are pushing fragile health systems to the brink of collapse.
According to analysis from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), 11 countries in Southeast Asia recorded 38,522 deaths from Covid-19 in the last fortnight, almost twice that of several other regions.
Over the same period the Middle East and Africa recorded 21,216 fatalities and Europe reported 22,102, while North America saw 20,597 deaths and South America 19,356.
Sarah Newey has more details here
Coronavirus around the world, in pictures
British man jailed in Singapore for refusing to wear a face mask
A British man has been sentenced to six weeks in prison in Singapore for refusing to wear a face mask in public.
Benjamin Glynn, 40, was found guilty by a Singapore court on four charges after he refused to wear a face mask on a train in May and then again at a court hearing in July.
He was also convicted of causing a public nuisance and using threatening words towards public servants.
The judge had ordered a psychiatric assessment of him following the remarks he made in court, according to news outlet CNA, and said he was "completely misguided" in thinking he could ignore local Covid laws.
Glynn responded by asking for the "unlawful" charges to be dropped and his passport returned to him so he could travel back to the UK.
Pfizer jab provides 97pc protection against death from Covid for nursing home residents, study suggests
Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine provided 97 per cent protection against death from Covid-19 in nursing home residents, according to a study by the Catalan Institute of Health, the Public Health Secretariat of Catalonia, and the Centre for Statistics in Medicine at the University of Oxford.
Effectiveness against infection ranged from 80 per cent for nursing home staff to 91 per cent for nursing home residents, the research suggested.
The study also showed a 95 per cent reduction in hospital admissions for nursing home residents.
The study, published in The BMJ, analysed data from 28,456 nursing home residents, 26,170 nursing home staff and 61,791 healthcare workers in Spain from late December 2020 to late May this year.
There were fewer than five admissions or deaths in each of the nursing home staff and healthcare worker cohorts.
Shop owners who refused to close in lockdown fined more than £35k
A card shop whose owners repeatedly refused to close during Covid-19 lockdowns, because they sold sweets and soft drinks, has been fined more than £35,000.
The BBC reports that the owners of Grace Cards and Books in Droitwich, Worcestershire, argued their shop was exempt from lockdown closure rules because they sold certain food items.
But a judge did not agree that these constituted equal goods and said the shop did not qualify as a newsagent, despite the sale of Christian publications and, later, some national newspapers.
Alasdair and Lydia Walker-Cox were ordered to pay fines totalling £35,000 after being found guilty at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court. They will also have to pay legal costs of just under £9,000 and a victim surcharge of £190.
They told the BBC last year they were defying the rules “on principle” and risked going out of business if they closed: “We have a God-given right to earn an honest living... If we shut we won’t be able to pay suppliers, the rent, let alone support the family. If we open we can.”
UK road traffic back to 96pc of pre-pandemic levels, data shows
Traffic on Britain's roads is back up to 96 per cent of levels seen before the pandemic, following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, recent figures show.
Data from the Department of Transport confirms that road habits have returned largely to normal.
It also shows an increase in use of the London Underground, although numbers make up only 47 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
RAC head of road policy Nicholas Lyes said: "The further easing of Covid restrictions, combined with the summer holidays being in full swing, has led to traffic volumes getting back to pre-pandemic levels.
"Government data for last weekend shows car traffic exceeded levels last seen in February 2020 as drivers shun complicated rules on foreign travel and take to the roads for their summer breaks and day trips."
Texas governor tests positive for Covid
Texas governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for Covid-19, as cases continue to surge in the US, particularly in southern states.
Gov Abbott, a Republican, was vaccinated in 2020 and is in good health and not showing any symptoms, his office said.
He is isolating at the governor's mansion in Austin and receiving an antibody treatment for the virus.
It comes after Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was forced to issue a temporary restraining order against Mr Abbott following his attempts to thwart an executive order requiring face masks to be worn in public spaces in Texas.
Staycation boom leads to increased Lake District erosion
The Lake District's popularity boom during the pandemic - caused by more families opting for 'staycations' rather than travelling abroad - has led to increased erosion occurring on its delicate landscape, according to an organisation set up to protect it.
Sky News reports that organisation Fix The Fells has carried out £10 million worth of work to repair paths and erosion scars in the Cumbrian national park since it was created 20 years ago.
Every metre of path costs £150 to create and the organisation spends around £500,000 in a typical year.
It now says it needs more money to fix extra damage caused during the pandemic.
Fix The Fells programme manager Joanne Backshall said: "The pandemic has led to people really appreciating the outdoors and the benefits that can bring.
"That has brought more people here and more people into the outdoors and that's all great - we're not about stopping that, we're just about managing the impact that it has on the landscape.
"It really has increased over the last 18 months, we have really seen an increase in people enjoying the Lake District, but increasing the erosion that that is causing and that increases the work and the money that is needed to maintain these paths."
European regulator 'considering third vaccine doses' after US decision
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said it is deciding whether a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine will be necessary for people in member states after the US decided to give booster jabs to everybody eight months after their first.
The EMA said it is "engaging with vaccine developers" to coordinate submission of the necessary data.
"At this stage, EMA has not yet determined if and when a booster dose for Covid-19 vaccines will be needed," the regulator said in a statement.
"Further data from companies marketing the vaccines are expected in the coming weeks and EMA will be reviewing the product information on that basis."
New Zealand plunged back into lockdown, in pictures
Mental health referrals up by almost a fifth compared to pre-pandemic
Mental health referrals have increased by almost a fifth compared to pre-pandemic levels, figures from 117 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in England have shown.
In March last year, around 300,000 people were referred to NHS mental health services in Great Britain, which is a rise of 18 per cent from the total in February 2020, BBC analysis revealed.
However, the number of people actually receiving mental health treatment remains lower than pre-Covid levels.
A BBC Shared Data Unit analysis found that the number of people in contact with CCGs had dropped by around 67,000, which is a fall of 9 per cent, since February 2020.
Charities have suggested that a combination of factors can be blamed for the decrease, including a move to online treatments, social distancing restrictions and reduced capacity.
The Government plans to tackle the shortfall by expanding and transforming mental health services on offer, backed by £2.3 billion a year by 2023-24.
US reports more than 1,000 Covid deaths in single day
The US reported more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, the first time the country has hit such a high rate since March, as the Delta variant continues to rage through parts of the country with low vaccination rates.
A Reuters tally compiled from state data showed 1,017 deaths on Tuesday, taking the death toll from the pandemic to just under 623,000 people, the highest number of deaths reported by any country in the world.
Hospitals throughout the country have also been flooded with coronavirus patients, with the rate rising around 70 per cent in the past two weeks.
As states race to boost vaccine uptake, some businesses are mandating vaccines for workers to keep their jobs - or face regular testing - while multiple cities, including New York, San Francisco and New Orleans, have moved to require proof of vaccination to gain entry to public spaces, such as indoor restaurants, museums and gyms.
The White House also announced on Tuesday evening its plans to extend requirements for travellers to wear face masks on aeroplanes, trains and buses, and at airports and train stations, until mid-January.
Relatives want longer life support for grandmother paralysed by Covid
The relatives of a grandmother left brain damaged and paralysed from the neck down after contracting Covid-19 want a judge to give her more time on life support.
Specialists at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge who are treating the woman, who is in her 50s, say life support treatment should end.
Family members disagree and say the woman, who cannot speak and is on a ventilator, should not be allowed to die.
One of her adult children told Mr Justice Hayden in a letter that: "I believe the hospital are at fault and now, because our mum is severely paralysed and has had her life taken away, the hospital want to stop treating her and give up.
"This is not fair on our mother. If my mother was ready to give up, she would have done this months ago."
Mr Justice Hayden is considering evidence at a trial in the Court of Protection, where judges oversee hearings centred on adults who lack the mental capacity to make decisions.
He says it is first time a judge has considered an end-of-life case as a result of Covid-19.
Japanese F1 Grand Prix cancelled for 2021 due to pandemic
The 2021 Japanese Formula One Grand Prix has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic for the second successive year, race organisers said on Wednesday.
The cancellation of the race, scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 8-10 at the Suzuka circuit, follows the abandonment of Singapore's Oct. 1-3 night race.
"Following ongoing discussions with the promoter and authorities in Japan the decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic in the country," Formula One said in a statement.
"Formula One is now working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks."
House prices push to record high as buyers scramble to beat stamp duty deadline
A scramble by buyers to complete before the stamp duty holiday started winding down pushed UK house prices to a record high in June, official figures show.
House prices rose by 13.2pc over the year to June, faster than at any point since November 2004, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Across the UK, the average house price in June was a record £266,000.
It was an increase from £255,000 in May and beat the former record, which was set in March, by £10,000.
"In June, UK house prices saw their highest annual growth since 2004," said ONS head of prices Mike Hardie.
Coronavirus face masks in the Commons
The House of Commons was at its busiest since March 2020 as Parliament was recalled from its summer recess on Wednesday to debate Afghanistan.
MPs were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on both sides of the House, with masks being worn by more opposition MPs than Conservative ones.
Christopher Hope, our Chief Political Correspondent, is in the Chamber.
New figures show Scotland's deficit has more than doubled as a result of Covid pandemic
Scotland's deficit has more than doubled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, new figures have shown.
The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) release on Wednesday has shown the deficit north of the border is 22.4pc of gross domestic product.
The figure has increased by 13.6 percentage points in the last year from 8.8pc in 2019-20, while the deficit in the rest of the UK rose by 11.6pc to 14.2pc.
Scotland's Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has said Covid-19 has "fundamentally shifted our fiscal landscape" after new figures showed the deficit has more than doubled.
"These statistics clearly highlight the significant economic impact of the pandemic," she said following the release of the GERS figures.
Nando's shuts over 40 UK outlets due to pandemic supply chain hit
Fast-food chain Nando's has been forced to temporarily close more than 40 outlets in Britain, around 10 per cent of its restaurants, after staff shortages hit its chicken supply chain in the latest blow to the country's hospitality sector.
Retailers, restaurants, cafes and bars have struggled to recruit enough staff since the economy emerged from Covid lockdowns earlier this year, after workers left the sector and in some cases, the country, after Brexit.
Further restrictions forced people to isolate if they came into contact with someone Covid positive, which further disrupted supply chains, leaving some shelves empty in supermarkets and some restaurants closing for lunch. This so-called 'pingdemic' ended on August 16, when those restrictions were eased.
In response to customers asking why their local Nando's was closed, or the menu limited, the South African chain said on Twitter that "the UK supply chain is having a bit of a (night)mare right now.
"This is having a knock-on effect with some of our restaurants across England, Scotland and Wales."
Travel test chaos as private labs fail to hand over up to 150,000 results a week
Private travel test firms are failing to hand over up to 150,000 results a week, leaving holidaymakers wasting money on PCR tests that cannot be used to track variants, reports Charles Hymas, our Home Affairs Editor.
Travellers are spending more than £11 million on these PCR tests, at a cost of £75 each on average.
The tests have been designed to enable the Government to detect the import of variants that could threaten the vaccination programme.
But more than 40 per cent of the results from the 350,000 PCR tests a week on amber list travellers are being recorded as "unregistered" because the travel test firms have failed to pass on holidaymakers’ personal data to the Government.
Experts said that without this data it would be very difficult for the Government to trace individual travellers involved in any outbreak of a dangerous variant that had entered the UK.
Pandemic fatigue complicates Japan's Covid-19 fight as restrictions fail to curb movement
Japan's state of emergency restrictions are not curbing movement as effectively as in the past, according to mobility data, hurting the government's fight to slow Covid-19 infections and raising the risk the economic recovery could be delayed.
A surge in delta variant cases forced the government to extend its fourth state of emergency on Tuesday by around two weeks and to expand targeted areas to nearly 60pc of the population.
After repeated stop-and-go curbs, however, voluntary requests to stay home may be falling on deaf ears among the pandemic-fatigued population, with mobility data pointing to a recent spike in movement around train stations in the country.
While increased mobility is supporting consumption in the short-term, it is doing little to slow infections, which analysts worry could delay a full reopening and broader recovery in the world's third largest economy.
Scottish Government wants to make emergency Covid powers permanent
Nicola Sturgeon's ministers have been accused of being unwilling to give up their control over Scots' lives after unveiling "dangerous" plans to make their emergency Covid powers permanent and more wide-ranging, writes Simon Johnson, our Scottish Political Editor.
John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, unveiled a public consultation on removing the March 2022 expiry date for a host of extraordinary powers, including the ability to impose lockdowns, close schools and require people to wear face coverings.
Controversial rules allowing more prisoners to be released early could also be extended, along with the wider use of fines as an alternative to prosecution.
Mr Swinney insisted measures that were no longer needed would be removed, but argued those with "demonstrable benefit to the people of Scotland" should be retained for use against Covid or anything else deemed a public health threat.
Experts call for focus in funding long Covid research
Research should focus on diseases of the airways to help patients with long Covid, experts have said.
International bodies and governments are being advised of the research priorities that have been identified to address the long-term effects of coronavirus in airways diseases.
This includes conditions such as in cystic fibrosis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Professor Tony De Soyza, professor of pulmonary medicine at Newcastle University, who led the research on behalf of the International Group of Airways Diseases, said: "The challenges of long Covid cannot be understated - this is an entirely new disease which we need to understand better so we can treat better."
Symptoms of the condition can include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, joint pain, depression and anxiety.
Today's front page
Here is your Daily Telegraph for Wednesday, August 18.
Pope urges people to get vaccinated
Pope Francis issued an appeal on Wednesday urging people to get inoculated against Covid, saying the vaccines could bring an end to the pandemic, but needed to be taken by everyone.
"Thanks to God's grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19," the Pope said in a video message made on behalf of the nonprofit US group the Ad Council and the public health coalition COVID Collaborative.
Medical experts have warned that ever-more dangerous variants might develop if the virus is allowed to circulate in large pools of non-vaccinated people.
Pope Francis was vaccinated in March, saying at the time that it was an ethical obligation.
Brace for more deaths: Sydney breaks another record
Sydney's delta outbreak has not peaked and residents must brace for more deaths, authorities said on Wednesday, as Australia's largest city continued to break records for new daily infections despite a nearly two-month lockdown.
"We haven't seen the worst of it and the way that we stop this is by everybody staying at home," New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in Sydney, the state capital.
NSW reported its biggest daily rise of 633 new cases, including 545 in Sydney, eclipsing the state's previous daily high of 478 hit on Monday.
Sixty people have died since the first delta case was reported in Sydney on June 16, including three confirmed on Wednesday.
With only about 28pc of people in NSW above 16 years of age fully vaccinated, state Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned there would be more deaths if cases continued to rise.
Flying Kangaroo makes vaccines mandatory
Australian airline Qantas said today that it would make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for staff, as the company bids to get planes back into the skies.
The national carrier is one of the first major Australian firms to mandate vaccines for employees, saying the rule would also apply to its budget offshoot Jetstar.
Pilots, cabin crew and airport staff must be fully vaccinated by November 15, with other staff members given until March 31 next year.
"Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
Qantas' new rule comes after the Australian government said it would not make vaccines mandatory but would leave businesses to implement their own policies.
The airline said a staff survey found 89pc were willing to be vaccinated or already had been, while 4pc were unwilling or unable.
Delta 'claiming tragic toll' on families across SE Asia
Southeast Asian countries need more help securing Covid vaccines, as the region struggles to contain record infections and deaths, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.
The region escaped the worst when the pandemic erupted last year, but in recent weeks has seen the highest deaths globally, as soaring infections push fragile healthcare systems to the brink and expose sluggish vaccination rollouts.
"This Covid-19 surge driven by the delta variant is claiming a tragic toll on families across Southeast Asia and it's far from over," said Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
It noted that most Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia have been posting record infections or fatalities.
Positive cases rise to seven in New Zealand
New Zealand has seven cases of coronavirus, including four confirmed this morning.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister, said genome sequencing tests on the first positive case (known as Case A) recorded in Auckland on Tuesday linked to the outbreak in the Australian state of New South Wales.
The Ministry of Health said this morning: "One of the four new cases is a workmate of Case A, the case announced yesterday.
"The other three are contacts of this workmate. One of the three contacts is a fully vaccinated health professional who works at Auckland City Hospital and had been working in recent days."
Today's top stories
Nicola Sturgeon's ministers have been accused of being unwilling to give up their control over Scots' lives after unveiling "dangerous" plans to make their emergency Covid powers permanent and more wide-ranging
Private travel test firms are failing to hand over up to 150,000 results a week, leaving holidaymakers wasting money on PCR tests that cannot be used to track variants
The UK’s first Covid end-of-life case is being heard at the High Court, as a judge must decide whether a woman left paralysed by the virus should have her care stopped
Customers are handing over too much data when ordering food and drinks in pubs, the body overseeing data privacy has warned
Tens of thousands of people may have been needlessly sent into self-isolation because of an error with the NHS Covid app, it has emerged