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Home » Coronavirus latest news: More than 3m people hit with tighter lockdown in North West, Merseyside and Lancashire

Coronavirus latest news: More than 3m people hit with tighter lockdown in North West, Merseyside and Lancashire

Swathes of the North-West, Midlands and West Yorkshire have been hit with tougher Covid restrictions to curb rising rates of infection.

The new rules, which will come into force from Tuesday and affect more than three million people, prohibit socialising between households in gardens and homes in Merseyside, much of Lancashire, Bradford, Kirklees, and Wolverhampton.

Residents in these areas are also advised to only use public transport “for essential purposes”, defined as travelling to school or work, while hospitality in the North-West has been restricted to table service only amid 10pm leisure curfews.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said that the Government was “acting decisively” with the introduction of the new measures, which he called on residents to follow.

“I know these restrictions will make every-day life harder for many, but I know that residents will work together and respect the rules so we can reduce rates of transmission,” he said.

“I urge local people to isolate and get a test if you have symptoms, follow the advice of NHS Test and Trace, and always remember ‘hands, face, space’. By sticking to these steps, we will get through this together.”

Follow the latest updates below.

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UK coronavirus deaths today: 14 more fatalities in English hospitals

Fourteen more people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus have died in hospital in England, NHS England has said, bringing the total number of confirmed hospital deaths to 29,719.

The patients, between the ages of 41 and 93, were all known to have had underlying health conditions.

One further person in Wales has died after testing positive for the virus.

The UK caseload and death toll across all settings as of 5pm yesterday is set to be announced within the next couple of hours.


‘Boris Johnson is allowing Britain to drift towards another lockdown’

Let it not be said that Boris Johnson has lost his gift for metaphor, writes Fraser Nelson. The 
 country, he says, is now undertaking a mission to “stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump.”

He admitted that he couldn’t quite remember if it is a dromedary or a camel that has two humps – but the image is fairly clear. Britain, he thinks, is facing a second Covid hump. What is not clear, in the slightest, is what he intends to do about it.

The art of the leader is to campaign in poetry and govern in prose – and the Prime Minister is, famously, a master of prose. But so far, he is governing in riddles. If there is a second hump, does he think it could be as big as the first?

Does he seek to flatten it, to stop it getting unmanageably big? Or to stop it entirely? If so, drastic action will be needed now. It’s not just that the country can’t understand his coronavirus game plan: his Cabinet, too, is baffled.

Local authority leaders call up, also asking for lockdowns. In the absence of a national strategy, he acquiesces.The result is a creeping lockdown, now affecting one in seven Brits. Polls show confidence in his handling of the pandemic at an all-time low.


Face masks: Doctor busts six common covering myths

As Britain continues to embark on the ‘new normal’ of compulsory coverings, many have complained about being forced to wear masks.

Masks and face covering are now required to be worn in many public spaces to control the spread of coronavirus; including public transports, shops, supermarkets, cinemas and places of worship.

From masks making it difficult to breathe to reducing oxygen levels or simply just not working, Dr Dominic Pimenta, Chairman and Co-founder of the NHS worker wellbeing charity HEROES busts those face mask myths.


Netherlands coronavirus cases rise on record-breaking day in a row

Almost 2,000 new coronavirus cases have been registered by Dutch health authorities in the past 24 hours as another record-breaking caseload was logged.

A further 1,972 cases were confirmed, which marks the fourth consecutive day of all-time highs in the country.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government is expected to announce regional measures such as bans on large gatherings and early closures for bars and restaurants later today following the surge in infections.

A testing centre at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam temporarily closed its doors last week amid “limiting testing capacity in the Netherlands”.


Second lockdown prospect leads pub and restaurant bosses to call for more support

Hospitality chiefs have called for further Government support in the event of a second lockdown as they warned of “increased devastation” to the sector, reports Hannah Uttley.

Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality outlets would almost certainly have to curtail their hours – as has already been seen in local lockdowns – or close completely in the event of another full-scale nationwide shutdown.

People sit outside a pub and restaurant near to the River Tyne on September 17, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Almost two million people in north-east England will be banned from mixing with other households and pubs will close early as coronavirus cases rise.

People sat outside a pub and restaurant in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which faces looming local lockdown restrictions, yesterday afternoon.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images Europe

Tim Martin, chief executive of JD Wetherspoon, said that closing pubs would be “counterproductive”, claiming that transmissions within homes are higher.

Meanwhile industry chiefs have called for the furlough scheme, which is currently set to end on Hallowe’en, to be extended in the event of a second lockdown

Read more: Pub shutdown would have ‘astronomical’ cost


British travellers can now visit just 12 destinations without restrictions

Britons are only able to visit 12 places worldwide without restrictions following the removal of Slovenia and Guadeloupe from the quarantine-free list, Telegraph Travel analysis has found.

Holidaymakers can now travel to Italy, Germany, Turkey and the majority of Greece without having to self-isolate on arrival or return.

Less popular tourist destinations such as San Marino, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein and Greenland are also open for business, plus Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Slovakia.

further 12 destinations are feasible options. They do however require Britons to show evidence of a negative PCR test or take a test on arrival.


R rate in UK rises to between 1.1 and 1.4

The coronavirus transmission rate could be as high as 1.4 in the UK, according to the latest official figures from the scientists advising the Government.

The ‘R number’ of the virus, referring to its reproduction rate, is between 1.1 and 1.4, according to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

This means that there is “widespread growth of the epidemic across the country”.

Last week’s R number was estimated as between 1.0 and 1.2.


Nicola Sturgeon asks Boris Johnson to convene Cobra meeting amid ‘hard decisions’

Nicola Sturgeon has asked Boris Johnson to convene a Cobra this weekend, for the first time after several months, as she warned of “hard but necessary decisions” to be made in the coming days.

Downing Street has admitted a short-term “circuit break” lockdown, thought to be earmarked for October half term, is under consideration, in a bid to get cases back under control.   

“This weekend will be critical in the assessment” of what to do next, Ms Sturgeon said during her regular press conference. “Sage met yesterday, I have chaired meeting of senior officials and advisers and discussions across the four nations will, I hope, take place in the coming days.

“Today I want to give the nation advance notice that the coming days are likely to see some hard but necessary decisions.  If we want to avoid another full scale lockdown, doing nothing almost certainly isn’t an option,” Ms Sturgeon said. 

Read more from Catherine Neilan on our politics live blog.


Sweden coronavirus travel: What life is really like without lockdown

The golden spire of Stockholm’s city hall glistens in the sunset, runners sweat away the day’s stresses on the boat-lined waterfront, and a young couple wobble along a cobbled street on a single-seater bike, writes Maddy Savage.

I’m watching the evening unfold from the 52-metre high glass-flanked rooftop bar 
TAK, which, like almost every popular drinking spot in the Swedish capital, has remained open throughout the pandemic.

As a dual British-Swedish citizen living in Stockholm, I’m treating myself to a glass of fizz to celebrate Sweden finally joining the UK’s quarantine-free list. For me, it brings a chance to visit family for the first time since February.

But my phone’s also been pinging with British contacts curious about holidaying in Sweden following the dramatic drop in cases here over the summer and an ever-dwindling list of alternatives for those seeking an autumn break in Europe.

The first thing any would-be tourist here will notice is the lack of face masks. They’re requested at Swedish airports but 
aren’t compulsory on transport, in shops, hairdressers or indeed any part of public life.

People sit at tables outside a cafe at Kungstrdgrden in Stockholm, Sweden, on Friday, May 22, 2020

Not a mask in sight in Stockholm

Loulou D’Aki/Bloomberg


Are we heading for a second national lockdown, and what are the new UK rules?

A second lockdown would be an economic “disaster” for the UK, Boris Johnson has previously said – but could a short ‘circuit break’ to curb rising infections be on the cards?

Mr Johnson has insisted before that reimposing nationwide restrictions would be “completely wrong for this country” and warned that the impact on the public finances would be “disastrous”.

However, the Government tightened restrictions on meeting in groups – the so-called ‘rule of six’ – after a surge in infections prompted concerns over a second wave of coronavirus.

An ambulance drives past a sign displaying a Covid helpline in London, Britain, 15 September 2020.

Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Senior government sources said it would take two weeks to assess whether the rule of six had brought down infections. If it was found that it had failed to do so, further lockdown measures may be required.

Earlier today September 18, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that the Government wouldn’t rule out a ‘circuit break’ short-term national lockdown over the October half term, in a bid to bring coronavirus cases down before the pandemic spirals out of control.


UK job cuts: Almost half of firms set to swing the axe

Almost one in two firms are planning to cut jobs or freeze hiring in the next 12 months as a second wave of Covid-19 looms, reports our economics editor Russell Lynch.

The business group CBI’s latest annual survey of 248 employers, carried out with recruitment agency Pertemps, showed companies are also gearing up to cut hours and restructure as the economy heads into a difficult autumn.

Although 51 per cent of respondents expect to maintain or increase the number of permanent roles, 46 per cent will either axe full-time jobs or stop hiring altogether as a “two-speed recovery” takes hold.

The findings come ahead of the closure of the Government’s furlough scheme at the end of October, which the Office for National Statistics estimates still covers a tenth of the workforce.

The Bank of England has predicted the unemployment rate could hit 7.5pc by the end of 2020.

Read Russell’s full lowdown on imminent job cuts here.


Wolverhampton lockdown: Council leader compares measures to those ‘at height of pandemic’

Ian Brookfield, the leader of Wolverhampton City Council, has said that the new restrictions are the result of “all the evidence shows that close contact within the home or between households is a major cause of the spread of Covid-19” in the city.

“We urge residents to continue to support our plea not to visit other households – this will be the law from Tuesday,” he said.

“These measures are like those which were in place at the height of the pandemic and the message is simple.

A member of the public is swabbed at a drive through Coronavirus testing site set up in a car park in Wolverhampton, England

A testing site in Wolverhampton, where restrictions have been reintroduced amid rising rates of infection.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Europe

“You mustn’t allow people who are not part of your household or bubble into your home or garden, or go to visit them in their house or garden in Wolverhampton or elsewhere.”

Wolverhampton Council also released a statement that insisted the new rules will be legally binding, and that “people could be find for breaking them”.


London lockdown measures could follow new northern restrictions, says Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said the city is only “two weeks behind” the parts of the UK which have seen tighter coronavirus restrictions enforced.

“What we’ve seen in other parts of the country and in the North East in particular is an instruction for bars and restaurants to close at 10pm,” Mr Khan told the PA news agency.

“The reason for that is to minimise the amount of hours people spend socialising which can increase the risk of the virus spreading.”

“According to the latest evidence I’ve seen we’re about two weeks behind some parts of the country.”

He added that “all possibilities” were being considered in London, and that he intends to see what measures are successful elsewhere before settling on a course of action.


Coronavirus vaccine news: UK joins COVAX scheme, confirms Business Secretary

The Business Secretary Alok Sharma has confirmed that the UK has joined COVAX, the scheme pooling funds from wealthier countries and nonprofits to develop two billion doses of an effective, approved and equally distributed vaccine by the end of the 2021.

The UK had previously announced £48 million to finance COVAX vaccines for lower income countries. The World Health Organisation said last month that 172 countries and multiple candidate vaccines were engaged in talks about joining the initiative.

Mr Sharma said that the efforts to find a safe and effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus “is not a competition, but is among the most urgent shared endeavours of our lifetime”.

“That’s why I am delighted to confirm that the United Kingdom will join the global COVAX initiative to expedite the discovery, manufacture and fair distribution of a vaccine to one billion people,” he said.

“Today’s landmark agreement complements the various vaccine deals the UK has already made and ensures we have the best chance of accessing a safe and effective vaccine for people in the UK as soon as one becomes available, as well as supporting access in poorer countries.”


Matt Hancock: National coronavirus measures are a ‘last resort’


Local lockdown restrictions applied in North-West, North Yorkshire and Midlands

More restrictions have been introduced across areas of the North-West, the Midlands and West Yorkshire in order to curb rising rates of infection.

The new rules are to come into place from Tuesday, and mean that in Merseyside, Warrington, Halton and Lancashire – except for Blackpool and Greater Manchester – residents cannot socialise in private homes or gardens.

Restrictions on socialising in houses and gardens also apply to Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Oadby & Wigston, and Wolverhampton.

Residents in these areas are also advised to only use public transport “for essential purposes”, defined as travelling to school or work.

Hospitality for food and drink in the affected North-West regions will be restricted to table service only, with leisure curfews also introduced between 10pm and 5am.

Rates in Liverpool have now increased to 100.6 per 100,000 people, the Department for Health confirmed, with Warrington rising to 111.2, and Oadby & Wigston reaching 145.5.


Social distancing proves undoing of German football team in 37-0 drubbing

An amateur German football team has suffered a 37-0 loss after they chose to socially distance from the opposing side due to coronavirus concerns.

SG Ripdorf/Molzen II opted to only put seven players forward for their match against SV Holdenstedt II – who had previously faced a player who tested positive but then all tested negative themselves – on September 13.

The eleventh-tier fixture would have entailed a €200 fine had they chose to forfeit the game.

Patrick Ristow, co-chairman of the club, told ESPN after the unusual fixture: “We are thankful those seven players volunteered, otherwise the club would have faced a 200 euros fine for abandoning the match.

“That’s a lot of money for us, especially amid the pandemic.

“The Holdenstedt players did not understand. But we did not want to risk anything. For the rest of the match, our players returned to the field but they only stood on the pitch.”


‘Second lockdown is an overreaction to what is a ripple, not a wave’

We’ve learned a lot about SARS-Cov-2, the virus which causes Covid 19, over the past few months, writes Telegraph columnist Ross Clark.

Now it transpires that the virus is in fact nocturnal. It only comes out of its shell – or wherever else viruses hide – late in the evening.

That can be the only explanation for the imposition of a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants in the North East and the suggestion that it might be extended nationwide.

The long and the short of it is that neither the government, local councils, nor their advisers really know what they are doing. They merely see rising numbers of recorded infections and think they have to be seen to be doing something, anything.

They are engaging in an unseemly competition to see who can dream up the most imaginative and extreme ways of restricting our freedoms.

Nationwide, there are only 901 patients in hospital with Covid 19 against more than 20,000 at the peak in April.

In spite of recorded cases having risen since mid-July, hospitalisations and deaths have hardly flickered. Either the virus is becoming less deadly, or the second ripple of cases is being exaggerated by a massive increase in testing.

Read Ross’ full piece here.


France local lockdown measures put in place as Nice imposes new Covid curbs

The French Riviera city of Nice announced new restrictions on Friday, banning group and family gatherings of more than 10 people in an attempt to stem a spike in coronavirus infections, David Chazan reports from Paris.

The local authorities also announced a ban on live music in bars, stricter rules on alcohol consumption outdoors, and a “suspension” of visits to the elderly in the city’s nursing homes.

The other limits are similar to those announced earlier this week in Marseille and Bordeaux. All three cities have now cut the maximum number of people allowed to attend sports matches or other public events from 5,000 to 1,000.

Bernard Gonzalez, the Prefect of Nice, urged people to exercise “the greatest prudence in family gatherings to protect the most vulnerable”.

Lyon, which has about 200 cases per 100,000 people, is to announce new restrictions on Monday, while Paris has also emerged as a virus hotspot and local authorities are considering tightening restrictions.

France reported 50 Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, for a total of more than 31,000 fatalities since the outbreak started.

The government says it will avoid lockdowns that could cripple France’s already battered economy.


Half-term lockdown under serious consideration, admits Matt Hancock 

The Government is seriously considering a “circuit break” national lockdown during the October half-term, Matt Hancock has disclosed this morning.

“We really do need to come together to tackle this virus once again,” Mr Hancock told Sky News.

“The virus is clearly accelerating across the country, we have got to take the necessary action to keep people safe.”

All hospitality settings would be closed while schools and workplaces remained open, the Health Secretary said of what he insisted would be a “last line of defence”.

He claimed that the majority of Covid-19 transmission has taken place in “social settings”.


London New Year fireworks display cancelled, confirms Sadiq Khan

The world-famous London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display has been cancelled because of coronavirus, Sadiq Khan has said.

The Mayor of London told LBC Radio that “there will not be a fireworks New Year’s Eve this year like in previous years”, adding: “We simply cannot afford to have that number of people congregate on New Year’s Eve”.

Fireworks explTode around the London Eye during New Year's celebrations in central London just after midnight on January 1, 2020.

2020 started with a bang – but there will be no scenes like this in the capital to see in next year.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Peter Bone, the Conservative Brexiteer MP, said: “I thought it was a bit extraordinary that the Mayor of London has decided in September that there won’t be any fireworks on December 31, especially as Boris has said he hopes Christmas will be a normal Christmas.

“You just wonder if behind this decision is that the mayor doesn’t want us to celebrate finally leaving the European Union.”

Phoebe Southworth and Tony Diver have the story.


North-West lockdown announcement expected today

This from Lancashire County Council, who expect an announcement later today:

“Coronavirus is still with us and although we are seeing a reduction in new infections in certain parts of Lancashire, the infection rate is still high,” the council has said.


Second lockdown not ruled out by Matt Hancock

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not ruled out a second lockdown and urged Britons to follow the new coronavirus rules amid a “very serious” situation.

He told BBC Breakfast that a full national lockdown was the “last line of defence” as ministers continue to attract criticism over perceived failures in the test-and-trace system.

He said it was “absolutely critical” that people followed the new rule of six, while those living under local restrictions should ensure they are sticking to advice.

Describing a national lockdown as “the last line of defence”, Mr Hancock said:

If people have tested positive, or if people have been in close contact with somebody who tests positive, that they self-isolate.

And if we do all these things, then we can avoid having to take serious further measures.

As we saw in the spring, it is the thing that we can do to keep people safe if that’s needed.

So we’re watching vigilantly, but we can see the number of cases accelerating, and we’re prepared to do what it takes both to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, and of course, both are so important.

We want to avoid a national lockdown but we’re prepared to do it, if we need to.

Britain's Secretary of State of Health Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease

John Sibley/Reuters

Elsewhere Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, has said that the Government must reform the coronavirus testing system if it is to avoid “a very bleak winter”.

“Without that, infections rise and we lose control of the virus, and I fear that’s probably what’s happening now,” he said.

It comes after the Telegraph’s Laura Donnelly revealed that the operation of the NHS Test and Trace System could be outsourced to Amazon or another major delivery firm.


France coronavirus news: Nice to see tighter restrictions

The city of Nice on the French Riviera is to ban gatherings of more than 10 people in public spaces and will tighten rules on consuming alcohol outdoors.

It is seeking to curb Covid-19 infections in the region, local authorities have said, after France registered a record 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus in the past 24 hours.

People wearing protective face masks as they wait for coronavirus tests

People wearing protective face masks in Nice as they wait for coronavirus tests

Eric Gaillard/Reuters

The figure is the highest caseload recorded by France so far during the pandemic.


Rule of six, Brexit and more: Telegraph readers on this week’s big issues

As Downing Street continues to respond to a recent rise in Covid-19 cases, the week started with the introduction of the Government’s controversial ‘Rule of Six’ law.

Covid-secure “marshals” will be hired to ensure that the guidelines are followed. These marshals will also be responsible for issuing fines to offenders, which start at £100 and can rise to as high as £3,200 for consistent offenders.

Elsewhere this week, it was suggested that Britain could cede control over fishing waters around the Channel Islands in an attempt to resolve a key dispute in Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

Read on to see what our readers have had to say about these stories.       


Children not in class as they can’t access tests

More than four in five schools in England currently have children not in class because they cannot access a Covid-19 test, a survey suggests.

The majority (94%) of schools have pupils who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 this term – and more than three in four (78%) have had staff who had to self-isolate, according to a poll by the school leaders union’ NAHT.

Nearly nine in 10 (87%) have children not attending school because they are waiting for test results, while 82% of schools have pupils at home because they cannot access a test to rule out Covid-19.

The findings come after organisations representing heads and governors, including the NAHT, have implored Boris Johnson to “take charge” of tackling the testing delays to ensure schools remain open.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, has warned that children’s education is being “needlessly disrupted” by a testing system which is in “chaos”.


Rise in care home infections ‘extremely concerning’

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said the rise in care home infections, despite little lifting of restrictions, is “extremely concerning”.

She said: “We are keen to see further detail from the Government’s adult social care winter plan but it is positive to see concrete steps already to prevent the devastating loss of life we saw earlier this year, such as the appointment of a new chief nurse for adult social care – we need to see this go one step further by ensuring nursing staff are allocated to individual care homes throughout the pandemic.

“And with care homes across the country once again closing their doors, we must make sure people with dementia are not cut off from vital visits from their loved ones – we’re urging the Government to prioritise providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and repeated, regular testing for both care home staff and for family carers.

“Where this isn’t possible, steps must be put in place to ensure regular contact can continue between residents and their loved ones.”


National Care Forum welcomes PM’s winter plan

Executive director Vic Rayner said it was positive that the Government had listened to issues facing providers such as the cost of personal protective equipment and importance of the infection control fund.

She continued: “It is less clear that the plan will cover other essential issues, such as improving the reward and recognition for our 1.5 million-strong care workforce, who continue to work 24/7 to provide care and support across our communities.

“And while we support effective oversight and regulation, the headlines suggest yet more strong action and enforcement in an already tightly regulated and monitored sector.

“This does not give confidence at a time when we can only deliver on our ultimate shared objective around the provision of quality care in the midst of a pandemic in winter by working together in partnership.

“The devil will, as always, be in the detail – we need to see the full plan now to ensure it meets expectations.”


Ryanair: Government ‘mismanaged’ Covid travel policies

Ryanair has announced it will cut its planned October flight capacity from 50% of last year’s levels to 40%.

A spokesman for the airline said: “We are disappointed to reduce our October capacity from 50% of 2019 to 40%.

“However, as customer confidence is damaged by Government mismanagement of Covid travel policies, many Ryanair customers are unable to travel for business or urgent family reasons without being subjected to defective 14-day quarantines.”

Ryanair planes at Dublin Airport

Ryanair planes at Dublin Airport

Jason Cairnduff/Reuters


Health Secretary: PM takes decisions ‘extremely seriously’

Matt Hancock said that Boris Johnson remained “enormously vigorous” and that the seriousness of the decisions taken by the Government should not be overestimated.

Responding to questions on Times Radio about the Prime Minister’s fitness to run the country, having recently appeared to be “exhausted and defeated”, the Health Secretary said: “Yes of course absolutely, (he’s) enormously vigorous and I think it’s important to recognise that this is a really big moment.

“The seriousness of the decisions we take can’t be overestimated and we’re making judgments about how to protect the health of the nation and how to save tens of thousands of lives whilst balancing that with the enormous social and economic and health impacts of the measures that we have to take.

“These are huge decisions and very weighty ones and so it’s hugely understandable that the people making them should be taking them extremely seriously.”


Chaos, confusion and anger – welcome to a new Covid test centre

In the heat of the afternoon cars honked and drivers sighed, etching forward a fraction as they sat gridlocked on the South Circular. 

Tyres screeched on tarmac as cars attempted U-turns, mounting the pavement and cutting off further traffic from Canadian Avenue heading towards the A205. 

As one vehicle was turned away, it quickly turned right, fearful of being caught in the pandemonium, only to pull out in front of a motorcycle which swerved, just missing oncoming traffic before stopping entirely.

Read Telegraph reporter Jessica Carpani’s account of the chaos at a newly opened test centre in Catford here.


Nobody expected surge in coronavirus testing demand, Test and Trace boss tells MPs

Baroness Harding told MPs none of the modelling from the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had prepared the system for the current demand, which is outstripping supply by three or four times. 

She said “demand is significantly outstripping the capacity we have” to conduct coronavirus tests but added: “I strongly refute that the system is failing”.

It came as official figures showed that only one in three people who turned up for a coronavirus test in England was getting the result within 24 hours – half the levels achieved the week before.

Read the full story here.


Test and Trace system could be outsourced to Amazon, secret plans reveal

The country’s beleaguered test and trace system is to be outsourced to a giant delivery firm such as Amazon, secret plans reveal.

A tender for the management of the entire “end-to-end” supply chain will be issued next month, calling for a logistics firm to take over its running.

A Government source said “experts in delivery services” were needed to help the beleaguered service cope with the increased demand for tests, adding: “At the moment, the management of NHS Test and Trace has been in-house but, as we go into winter, we need experts in this area to take it forward.”

Read the full story here.


Testing goal of half a million tests per day by end of October

Matt Hancock said the Government would increase coronavirus testing to half a million per day, up from a quarter of a million per day currently, by the end of October.

“We’re doing that by getting more machines into the labs, we’re installing those as we speak,” he said.

“We’re hiring more people to run them because it is a logistical exercise as well as the scientific parts of it, just to get the samples into the right slots.

“We’re automating that process which is important. That’s on the current technology, then there’s the much-discussed next-generation technology.”

Mr Hancock referenced a new testing system, created by company DnaNudge, which is reported to provide results of coronavirus tests in 90 minutes.

“The unit is only the size of a shoebox so you don’t need a full-blown lab in order to do it and we’re backing loads of those new technologies,” he said.


Lancashire and Merseyside expected to see tougher restrictions

Local authorities in England’s North West are said to be expecting a Government announcement today, following the introduction of restrictions in the North East.

In Lancashire, where Preston, Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle already have restrictions in place, it has been reported that measures will be introduced for all of the county apart from Blackpool.

LancsLive reported a local lockdown would forbid households from mixing in any setting in all of the county’s boroughs apart from parts of the seaside resort.

A post on the Lancashire County Council Twitter account said: “We are expecting an announcement later today by Government on new measures to bring down the rate of Covid-19 infections in Lancashire.

“We are awaiting the full details and will let you know what it means for you and our county as soon as we can.”


Seven dead and 177 infected after ‘superspreader’ wedding in rural US

A wedding in rural Maine became a coronavirus “superspreader” event that left seven people dead and 177 infected.

The nuptials in early August were attended by 65 people, breaking the official limit of 50 allowed at a gathering.

A ceremony at a church was followed by a reception at the Big Moose Inn – both venues near the picturesque town of Millinocket, whose population is just 4,000.

Ten days later, two dozen people associated with the wedding had tested positive for Covid-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Maine opened an investigation.

The center’s local director Nirav Shah on Thursday gave the latest toll for the event, adding that none of the seven people who died had actually attended the wedding.

Contact-tracers linked the wedding to several virus hotspots across the state – including more than 80 cases in a prison 230 miles (370 kilometers) away, where one of the guards had attended the ceremony.

Another 10 probable cases were found in a Baptist church in the same area, while 39 infections – and six of the deaths – were at a nursing home 100 miles from Millinocket.


Hospitals told to clear beds for coronavirus spike in two weeks

Hospitals and councils have been told to find extra beds for coronavirus patients within two weeks as the NHS braces for a second spike in cases.

With hospital admissions beginning to increase following a steep rise in virus infections, isolation units in which Covid-19 patients can recover are being set up, freeing space on wards for those needing the most care.

More than 10 million people will soon be living in local lockdown areas after the North East became the latest region to impose curfews, with Liverpool and parts of the West Midlands expected to follow within days.

Read the full story here.


Health Secretary: I don’t want a second national lockdown

Bringing in another national lockdown would be “the last line of defence”, Heath Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Asked about the possibility of a two-week imposition of national restrictions to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Hancock told Sky News: “A national lockdown is the last line of defence and we want to use local action.”

He added: “I want to avoid a national lockdown. It isn’t something that we ever take off the table, but it isn’t something that we want to see either.

“The country once again needs to come together and recognise there is a serious challenge. That the virus is accelerating.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t just cases increasing, it’s also the number of people ending up in hospital increasing.”


Man stamped on NHS track and trace worker’s head on north London bus

Police have appealed for help to find a man who allegedly stamped on the head of an NHS track and trace worker on a bus in north London.

The 63-year-old victim was punched repeatedly to the floor and had his head stamped on five times during the attack on the route 149 on August 23, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

CCTV of the attack

CCTV of the attack

Metropolitan Police

Pc Bowman from the Roads and Transport Policing Command said: “Although there is no sound on the CCTV and all the victim remembers is waking up in hospital, we believe that this was all triggered by face masks. We think that the attacker, who had his face covering beneath his chin, took offence when the victim, who was fully covered, consciously moved away from him.

“When the attacker then follows the victim to the back of the bus, he can be seen pointing and gesturing at the victim’s face mask before he starts repeatedly punching and kicking him. This was a totally unwarranted violent assault and we urgently need to speak to this man.”

The alleged attacker is described as a tall black man aged approximately 23-25 years with an athletic/muscular build. An image has been released by police of a man wanted in connection with the attack.

Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives on 07880 429 486 or on 101, quoting ref CAD 7981/23Aug.


Motorists stranded with no staff to test them in Sunderland

Dozens of drivers turned up at a test site to find there were no staff to swab them, on the day the health secretary announced tougher coronavirus measures for people in the north-east.

People who had booked a test on Thursday at Doxford Park, an out-of-town business park in Sunderland, were told by the media they would not be tested, as there were no officials there to inform them.

Some had been turned away on the approach to the centre by security guards, who told them the computers had crashed and to try again later.

Doxford Park, an out-of-town business park in Sunderland

Doxford Park, an out-of-town business park in Sunderland

Tom Wilkinson

Regulations for the local restrictions in Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham were published by the Government on Thursday evening.

From midnight, residents in these areas were banned from socialising in homes or gardens with people outside their own households or support bubble.

Food and drink venues were restricted to table service only and leisure and entertainment venues were required to close between 10pm and 5am, although takeaways can still provide home deliveries during these times.


Persistent fatigue in more than half of Covid-19 patients

More than half of patients who get coronavirus suffer persistent fatigue, regardless of the seriousness of their infection, a small study suggests.

Researchers found that even 10 weeks after recovering from Covid-19, people reported ongoing tiredness and exhaustion.

The study, led by Dr Liam Townsend from Trinity College, Dublin, is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases’ Conference on Coronavirus Disease.

It found that 10 weeks after clinical recovery from Covid-19, 52% of the 128 people in the study reported ongoing fatigue.

The group were typically aged 50 and 54% were female.

A commonly-used scale was used to determine fatigue, while researchers also looked at the severity of the patient’s initial infection, pre-existing health conditions and several blood markers.

Of the patients, 71 out of 128 had been admitted to hospital and 57 were not admitted, but ongoing fatigue levels were the same.


Parents dipped into children’s savings during lockdown

Nearly a quarter (23%) of parents have dipped into their children’s savings since the coronavirus lockdown started, a survey has found.

Food bills were among the main reasons for parents needing to access their child’s savings, Direct Line Life Insurance found.

Covering utility bills, childcare costs, clothing, travel, and mortgage payments, rent or debts were also motivations, according to the survey.

People who are struggling to keep up with their regular bills may be able to take a payment holiday under measures designed to help households whose finances have been temporarily affected by coronavirus.

More than a quarter (27%) of parents have had to stop regularly setting aside money for their children since the start of lockdown in March, the survey of 2,000 people across the UK found.


Winter action plan: Tighter care home restrictions

Tighter restrictions on care home visits in areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases are expected to be announced by the Government in its winter action plan.

Care homes in areas subject to local lockdowns may be advised to temporarily restrict visits in all but end-of-life situations, it is understood.

For parts of the country where there is no local lockdown, but where community transmission is a cause for concern, an option officials are considering is advising that visits are restricted to one designated visitor per resident.

The Government will set out further details on Friday in its social care action plan to help fight the spread of coronavirus over winter.

As part of the plan, care homes will receive free protective equipment and providers must stop “all but essential” movement of staff between homes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

This will be supported by an additional £546 million announced on Thursday as part of the extended infection control fund.


Czech Republic’s infections spike

The Czech Republic’s new Covid-19 infections accelerated as it reported more than 3,000 cases in a single day for the first time on Friday, a day after the daily tally first exceeded 2,000.

The country of 10.7 million has seen one of the biggest spikes in new coronavirus infections in Europe, with daily case numbers topping 1,000 for the first time in September.

According to Health Ministry data released on Friday, the country detected 3,130 new cases on Thursday, up from 2,137 the day before. In total, the country has recorded 44,155 cases.

People wait in a line to get tested for COVID-19 before a sampling station opens at Wenceslas Square in Prague

People wait in a line to get tested for COVID-19 before a sampling station opens at Wenceslas Square in Prague



India continues to post highest single-day caseload

India recorded 96,424 new infections in the last 24 hours, taking its tally to 5.2 million, data from the federal health ministry showed on Friday.

India has been posting the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August, and is expected to have the highest national total within weeks, surpassing the United States where more than 6.67 million people have been infected.

Deaths in India have been relatively low, and it has a fatality rate of 1.62 per cent.

On Friday, the health ministry said 1,174 people died in the last 24 hours, taking total mortalities from the disease to 84,372.

A health worker takes a break from collecting swab samples from residents at a public health centre in Hyderabad 

A health worker takes a break from collecting swab samples from residents at a public health centre in Hyderabad 



Europe imposes fresh curbs as global cases top 30 million

Large parts of Europe on Friday geared up for broad new restrictions after infections worldwide topped 30 million and the World Health Organisation warned of “alarming rates of transmission”.

More than 943,000 people have now died from Covid-19 with Europe accounting for more than 200,000.

WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said a surge seen this month “should serve as a wake-up call” after the continent recorded 54,000 infections in a single day last week – a new record.

The Spanish capital of Madrid said it had been overwhelmed by the virus and called for “decisive” action from the central government, which is set to unveil a raft of new restrictions on Friday.

French authorities are also preparing tighter restrictions in several cities to curtail a resurgence that has seen nearly 10,000 new cases per day in the past week.

Health minister Olivier Veran said Lyon and Nice would be under new rules by Saturday, after curbs on public gatherings were imposed this week in Bordeaux and Marseille.

Read more: Hospitals told to clear beds for spike in two weeks

Read more: Staff at overstretched French testing centres strike over ‘war-like’ conditions


New 90-minute test has ‘significant potential’ for mass screening

A “highly accurate” portable coronavirus test which can deliver a result in 90 minutes has been developed by UK scientists.

The device, designed by Imperial College London and its start-up DnaNudge, is being rolled out across a handful of major NHS trusts after successful trials on patients and staff.

However, the test’s backers hope its most potent use could be in the community, giving people a quick answer on their virus status before they head to venues such as pubs, football matches or theatres.

The simple to use “lab-in-cartridge” system was recently used to test members of the London Symphony Orchestra before they performed at the Proms. It promises to be a game-changer for Covid-19 safety in care homes, allowing swabs to be analysed on site by non-clinical staff.

Read the full story


No new cases in NZ for first time in more than 5 weeks

New Zealand has reported no new confirmed cases for the first time in more than five weeks as hopes rise that an outbreak discovered in Auckland last month has been stamped out.

Friday’s report also marked the fourth consecutive day without any cases of community transmission. All recent cases have been found among quarantined travellers returning from abroad.

Authorities have still not pinpointed the origin of the August outbreak, which they believe was imported. Auckland was temporarily placed into lockdown as the country continued its strategy of trying to completely eliminate community spread of the virus.

New Zealand has reported a total of just over 1,800 cases and 25 deaths.


South Korea reports tally over 100 for 16th consecutive day

South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has stayed in the 100s for a 16th consecutive day as authorities struggle to contain small-scale, sporadic local infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that the 126 confirmed cased added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 22,783, with 377 deaths.

The agency says 82 of the newly reported cases were from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a viral resurgence in South Korea since early last month.

South Korea’s caseload has been slowing recently, prompting authorities to relax elevated social distancing rules in the Seoul area. But the country’s daily jump remains in triple digits as cluster transmissions linked to churches, schools and elsewhere and some untraceable cases have been continuously detected.

South Korean health officials from Bupyeong-gu Office spray disinfectants at a shopping district in Incheon 

South Korean health officials from Bupyeong-gu Office spray disinfectants at a shopping district in Incheon 



Canadian parishioners have faith in ‘God Pod’

As in-person religious services start resuming in Canada after a pandemic lockdown forced many churches to close, one Ottawa parish is offering its congregation a unique way to connect with their faith – in a “God Pod”.

The four-by-six-foot glass compartment with a partition between two sides and an air filtration system to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, was unveiled to the public this week at the Saint John Lutheran Church in Ottawa’s New Edinburgh neighbourhood.

Pastor Reverend Joel Crouse, who gave the donated pod its nickname, said it has allowed parishioners to connect safely in these difficult times.

Pastor Rev. Joel Crouse of Saint John Lutheran Church chats with a parishioner in a see-through, 4' x 6' enclosed compartment, called the "God Pod"

Pastor Rev. Joel Crouse of Saint John Lutheran Church chats with a parishioner in a see-through, 4′ x 6′ enclosed compartment, called the “God Pod”


“During this pandemic, many people have felt isolated and lonely. We’ve missed simply being together, to sit and listen, we’re always wondering if it’s safe,” he said.”The God Pod resolves all of the logistical issues – sitting too close, or having to wear a mask,” he said.”One parishioner said it was great just to be able to laugh out loud (in the pod) without worrying about spreading the coronavirus.”


In pictures: Palestinian personnel in training

Palestinian recruits participate in a training session to reinforce police forces to fight the spread of the coronavirus. 

Newly appointed 1500 contracted personnel, who are temporarily assigned to the police force as part of the fight against coronavirus, attend training in Gaza City

Newly appointed 1500 contracted personnel, who are temporarily assigned to the police force as part of the fight against coronavirus, attend training in Gaza City


A Palestinian recruit participates in a training session

A Palestinian recruit participates in a training session


A Palestinian police officer spays a recruit with disinfectants

A Palestinian police officer spays a recruit with disinfectants



China reports sharp increase in infections

Mainland China reported 32 new cases on Sept. 17, up sharply from 9 cases reported a day earlier, the Chinese national health authority said on Friday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. It also reported 20 new asymptomatic cases, also up for 14 a day earlier, though China does not classify these symptomless patients as confirmed Covid-19 cases.

The total number of Covid-19 cases for mainland China now stands at 85,255, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

A staff member wearing protective suit disinfects a public bath before its reopening 

A staff member wearing protective suit disinfects a public bath before its reopening 

China News Service


Cases rise as restrictions are eased in Australia’s hot spot 

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Friday reported its biggest daily rise in infections in more than a week as the state began relaxing lockdown restrictions.

Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, reported five deaths and 45 cases in the last 24 hours. The state reported eight deaths and 28 cases a day earlier, its lowest daily rise in infections in nearly three months.

The southeastern state started easing curbs this week after a hard lockdown helped bring down the daily rise in infections to double-digits after it touched highs of more than 700 in early August.

A woman passes a sign at Melbourne's Flinders Street station 

A woman passes a sign at Melbourne’s Flinders Street station 



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