Warm weather and the last weekend before the tightening of restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic saw crowds gathering on the streets of London on Saturday night.
In scenes reminiscent of Super Saturday, when lockdown restrictions were eased in July, the streets were packed with people dancing, hugging and singing with few maintaining social distancing.
Government warnings are continuing to go unheeded with pictures from Leicester Square in central London showing people in large groups enjoying the city’s nightlife.
People were warned last week against having a “party weekend” before the “rule of six” coronavirus restrictions come into force on Monday.
Follow the latest updates and reaction below.
Analysis: New restrictions actually sees rules on household mixing loosen
An interesting perspective here from Adam Kucharski, an associate professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and one of Britain’s leading epidemiologists:
The UK is not following a four nations approach, public health professor laments
Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said the UK has diverged from a four nations approach to tackling coronavirus.
“We are well off that,” she told BBC Breakfast.
Addressing differences in measures restricting household gatherings across the UK, she said:
“The differences are minor… but what I am concerned about is the mixing of households.
“In England it’s six people from any household, but then children are included including a baby which doesn’t quite make sense to me, and then in Scotland it’s a maximum of two households.
“It’s that inter-household mixing which is more risky from a public health perspective.”
She said that “people are frustrated” and compliance with restrictions is not universal.
The measures are “relatively proportionate”, she added, and she stressed that it is important to support older and more vulnerable groups.
Austria ‘is experiencing a second wave’, chancellor warns
In yet another dire warning from the continent, Austria’s chancellor has today warned that the country is at the beginning of a second wave, amid a surge in infections across Europe.
From Friday to Saturday, the Alpine nation of nearly nine million people reported 869 new cases – more than half of those in the capital Vienna.
“What we are experiencing is the beginning of the second wave,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in a statement, appealing to the population to stick to anti-virus measures and reduce social contacts.
He warned that the mark of 1,000 cases per day would be reached soon.
It comes after Kurz announced the government would expand mandatory mask-wearing and slap new restrictions on events from Monday. Masks will be compulsory in all shops and public buildings, in addition to places where they must already be worn such as supermarkets and public transport.
The conservative leader has warned the government could introduce further measures if cases kept rising but would try to avoid a repeat of the lockdown imposed in March, which entailed severe restrictions on movement and the closure of shops and restaurants.
Austria has so far been able to avoid the brunt of the health crisis. Total infections currently stand at more than 33,000 with around 750 deaths.
Government adviser warns: ‘We really need to act very quickly now’
While it is positive that the systems in place have ensured that the UK rapidly detected rising coronavirus infections, quick action must now be taken to prevent a rapid uptick in new cases.
That’s the message this morning from Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag). He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday:
“Everyone is in agreement that we really need to act very quickly now in order to prevent this from growing exponentially.
“We must act fast because it’s so much harder to get this sort of thing under control if you delay even a few days is potentially going to be quite dangerous at this particular moment.”
When asked if he agreed with the idea that the UK was “losing control” of the virus, he added: “It’s a bit like water seeping through a dam, it starts as a trickle and if you don’t do something about it it can turn into a real cascade.”
Peter Openshaw also said that he was “a bit pessimistic a few months ago” about vaccine trials, but now thinks there is a possibility at least one trial will produce a positive result before Christmas.
Cases surge for third straight day in the Czech Republic
In the Czech Republic, authorities have reported the largest single-day increase in new coronavirus infections for a third straight day today, recording 1,541 cases, according to Health Ministry data.
It was the fifth day in a row with new infections above 1,000 as the country of 10.7 million sees a surge in cases that is among the fastest in the European Union. The government has tightened rules requiring face mask use but aims to avoid harsh lockdowns.
Here’s a quick overview of the key stories to be aware of this morning, in the UK and across the globe:
- Up to 4.5 million people deemed to be at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 will be asked to stay at home or given tailored advice on protecting themselves if cases of the virus return to dangerous levels, The Telegraph understands (full report here).
- Rishi Sunak is considering a multi-billion pound tax cut to encourage big companies to invest in machinery and factories as part of his bid to jump-start the economy after the damage wrought by Covid-19.
- India reported a record daily jump in coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day, logging 97,570 new infections yesterday, according to government figures.
- In the United States new figures show that Donald Trump’s administration has expelled about 8,800 unaccompanied migrant children intercepted at the US-Mexico border since March 20 under rules seeking to limit the coronavirus spread in the country.
- Concerns about a second wave in Europe to continue to grow, with France reporting 10,561 new cases, yesterday a new daily record as the number topped 10,000 for the first time.
- Meanwhile in Spain the government is pleading with young people to stop socialising at illegal parties, with fears the events are driving a resurgence of infections.
- And finally in medical news Pfizer Inc and BioNTech have proposed to the US regulators to expand their phase three vaccine trial to about 44,000 participants. Yesterday the AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine trial also resumed after a brief pause.
Australian hotspot prepares to ease lockdown restrictions
Lockdown restrictions in Australia’s state of Victoria will ease slightly on Monday, as the number of new daily coronavirus cases continues to fall in the country’s hotspot.
Announcing a A$3 billion (£1.7 billion) package in financial aid to businesses in Victoria – home to a quarter of Australia’s population – officials also said there were 41 new infections on Sunday and seven deaths.
The numbers confirm a steady downward trend from a peak of more than 700 cases in a single day in early August.
Victoria accounts for about 75 per cent of Australia’s more than 26,600 cases and its capital, Melbourne, has been under strict lockdown for several weeks.
The city will remain under hard lockdown, but the amount of time people will be able to spend outside will double to two hours per day and the overnight curfew will be shortened by an hour as of Monday.
“They are small steps, but that’s what’s safe, absolutely appropriate, with numbers still coming down, but (remaining) too high to open up,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing.
Businesses, primarily hospitality, retail and tourism firms, which have been either fully closed or had operations substantially scaled down, will have access to grants and tax relief through the state’s largest business support package so far, he announced.
In neighbouring New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, where social distancing rules are more relaxed and retailers and restaurants are allowed to open, officials recorded nine new cases on Sunday.
Virus ravages Mexico’s economy
Mexico reported 5,674 new cases of coronavirus and 421 fatalities on Saturday, bringing its totals to 663,973 infections and 70,604 deaths.
The government said the real number of infected people was likely to be significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
So far, Mexico’s death toll from the pandemic is the fourth highest globally, and the 13th highest on a per capita basis, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The spread of the virus has ravaged an already slumping economy, which has contracted by up to 13 per cent this year, the deepest downturn since the 1930s-era Great Depression.
India’s case numbers exceed 4.6 million
India’s confirmed coronavirus tally has crossed 4.6 million after a record surge of 97,570 new cases in 24 hours.
India reported another 1,201 deaths on Saturday, bringing total deaths to 77,472 – the third highest in the world.
Pre-pandemic levels of travel in Wuhan
Domestic air travel in Wuhan, the epicentre of the global coronavirus outbreak, has returned to pre-pandemic levels, authorities say.
The virus was first detected in Wuhan late last year and the city underwent a draconian 76-day lockdown as its hospitals struggled to deal with a tidal wave of cases that required the rapid construction of field hospitals to handle the overflow.
Since re-opening in early April, life has gradually returned to normal and numbers of domestic flights serving the city, as well as the number of passengers, have fully recovered, according to the operator of Wuhan Tianhe International airport.
It said 64,700 passengers were transported on 500 domestic flights on Friday.
The airport is preparing to eventually resume international passenger flights to destinations such as Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
International cargo routes have already re-opened, connecting the major industrial city and centre of the Chinese auto industry with destinations such as Amsterdam and New Delhi.
China has reported a total of 85,184 cases and 4,634 deaths.
Masks may be inadvertently giving people immunity
Masks may be inadvertently giving people Covid-19 immunity and making them get less sick from the virus, academics have suggested in one of the world’s most respected medical journals.
The commentary, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, advances the unproven but promising theory that universal mask wearing might be helping to reduce the severity of the virus and ensuring that a greater proportion of new infections are asymptomatic.
If this hypothesis is borne out, the academics argue, then universal mask wearing could become a form of variolation (inoculation) that would generate immunity and “thereby slow the spread of the virus in the United States and elsewhere” as the world awaits a vaccine.
Read the full story here.