Coronavirus live news: schools in Europe must stay open, says WHO; Auckland extends lockdown

Russia reports 792 deaths

One poem imagines an NHS nightshift worker at the height of the coronavirus crisis as an astronaut, adrift and untethered from a spacecraft. Another touches on the difficulty of trying to console a patient when the comfort of a smile is obscured by a mask.

The feelings of horror, sadness, isolation and frustration that NHS staff and volunteers endured at the height of the pandemic have been crystallised in verse as part of a spoken word collection at Salisbury district hospital.

The poet Martin Figura was commissioned by the Wiltshire hospital to help staff deeply affected by the pandemic work through their ordeals and create an artistic record of their experiences.

Dr Kate Jenkins, a clinical psychologist for the intensive care unit, said it was important to offer different ways for people to recover. “Reflection on traumatic events helps people move forward, but people want to reflect in different ways,” she said.

As well as working at the hospital, Jenkins was one of the first patients admitted to it with Covid. “It was shocking not to be able to see people’s faces because of masks, being isolated from friends and family. To be that vulnerable and alone.”

The Australian federal government was warned 18 months ago of the urgent need to protect the Covid-hit town of Wilcannia, leaked correspondence seen by Guardian Australia shows, with an Aboriginal health service pleading for immediate help at the time to prevent an outbreak.

The Maari Ma Aboriginal health corporation wrote to the Indigenous Australians minister, Ken Wyatt, in March 2020, outlining “grave fears” for the far western New South Wales town if Covid were to spread to the vulnerable population there.

“Warnings from around the world are clear: the earlier we prepare and act, the better the outcomes will be. We cannot wait until the first case turns up in the community, or worse, the first hospital case presents,” the letter said.

Johanna Konta has opened up about her torrid, Covid-19-affected summer, during which she was withdrawn from Wimbledon on the eve of the tournament as a close contact of an infected team member. The British No 1 then contracted the virus herself, ruling her out of the Olympics.

Although she watched the Tokyo Games, Konta says that she could not bring herself to watch Wimbledon while sitting at home in quarantine, and that she had to “make peace with” the frustration of not being able to compete.

“It was a combination of feeling quite ill so I was sleeping or just existing for a few days. And then I didn’t really want to watch that. There was also a period there where I had to work through my own feelings of injustice at all of it, like: ‘Why now?’ sort of feeling. I needed a bit of space and a bit of licking my wounds,” she said.

Principals of schools in Australia’s Covid-19 hotspot local government areas have warned the decision to proceed with delayed face-to-face exams, with no certainty their schools will be able to open, could further entrench inequality in western and south-west Sydney communities.

The decision to postpone the High School Certificate (HSC) until 9 November in order to proceed with face-to-face exams in NSW has divided students, teachers and schools.

The concern is particularly acute in the 12 local government areas of concern, where lockdowns have gone on for longer, while some families have had the added strain of Covid-19 within their family or lockdowns at their schools.

The principal of Georges River Grammar, Raquel Charet, said it was particularly devastating for her students who were in one of the areas with high case numbers.

“I am worried that we will string them along for another couple of months and then they still won’t be able to do their exams,” she said.

“There is already a sense of being left behind in our LGAs. No one is giving clear advice and it is highly unlikely, given the level of case numbers now, that we will be able to go ahead with the HSC,” she said.

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Auckland lockdown extended for two weeks


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