Covid-19: Isolation exemption, and daily pupil testing 'cuts' absences

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Friday morning. We'll have another update for you this evening.

1. Isolation exemption for food workers

Daily testing for coronavirus is being introduced in a bid to keep the food industry moving. From today, staff working in supermarket depots and food manufacturers will be tested regularly if pinged by the NHS Covid app, making them exempt from the 10-day self-isolation period. They can continue to work providing they test negative regardless of whether they've been vaccinated. The change follows pressure from the industry - although this announcement does not include staff working in supermarket stores.

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2. Daily contact testing reduces school absences - study

Daily testing of school pupils who are a close contact with someone who has Covid is a safe alternative to isolating at home, according to a new study. It doesn't lead to the virus spreading, Oxford researchers say, and has the potential to reduce school absences by up to 39%. England is due to remove the requirement for children and adults to self-isolate if they are close contacts of someone who tests positive from mid-August while the Scottish government is reviewing its approach. In Wales the education minister says he wants to minimise the number of pupils self-isolating.

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3. Spacing out Pfizer Covid jabs gives antibody boost

Spacing out doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine boosts antibody levels, according to researchers. They found a longer gap between the first and second dose made the body's immune system produce more infection-fighting antibodies, with eight weeks being the "sweet spot" for tackling the Delta variant. Find out more here.

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4. Did the US fund risky virus research in China?

A fresh row has erupted over virus research being carried out in China using US funds. Republican Senator Rand Paul alleges US money was used to fund research there that made some viruses (not coronavirus) more infectious and more deadly. This has been firmly rejected by Dr Anthony Fauci, the US infectious diseases chief. So was US money used to fund risky research in China?

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5. The 'forgotten' industry

"We're a forgotten industry," says the academic manager of an English language school in North Yorkshire as she walks through empty classrooms. Alison Drew usually has 2,500 students coming for English lessons each year, from countries such as Spain and Italy. But like many other language schools they've not had any overseas students to teach since the start of the pandemic. Read more here.

And there's more...

Latest figures show more than 600,000 people using the NHS Covid-19 app in England and Wales were sent self-isolation alerts, but what happens if you're pinged? Find out here.

Find further information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

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