Coronavirus latest news: Five million people locked down for six weeks as cases surge in Melbourne

More than five million residents of Melbourne will be locked down for six weeks after Covid-19 cases surged in Australia’s second-biggest city, authorities announced today.

State Premier Daniel Andrews said the lockdown would begin at midnight on Wednesday and last at least six weeks, as he warned residents “we can’t pretend” the coronavirus crisis is over.

After the south-eastern city detected 191 new cases in 24 hours, Andrews said there were now too many incidents of the virus to trace and track.

“These are unsustainably high numbers,” he said. “No-one wanted to be in this position. I know there will be enormous amounts of damage that will be done because of this. It will be very challenging.”

Although the lockdown covers the Melbourne metropolitan area, the entire state of Victoria will also be effectively sealed off from the rest of the country from today at midnight, as state borders are closed.

  Follow the latest updates below.

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

People enact an awareness street play on Covid-19 after the Government eased a nationwide lockdown in Chennai, India

Credit:
AFP

People enjoy the weather at Kisirkaya Beach in Turkey after authorities allowed the reopening of restaurants, cafes, parks and beaches, as well as lifting the ban on inter-city travel

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Shutterstock

Barbers get to work in Dhaka, Bangladesh 

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AFP

Spanish students begin university entrance exams at a social distance

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Shutterstock

Medical personnel prepare to test hundreds of people lined up in vehicles in Phoenix, USA, organised by Equality Health Foundation, which focuses on care in underserved communities

Credit:
AP

Conservative party conference to go virtual

The Conservative party conference this October has been cancelled and will be replaced by a “virtual” event. 

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have already cancelled their conferences because of the coronavirus. 

But Conservative party members were informed this morning that the Birmingham event has finally been shelved, to protect the “health and safety of members, delegates and attendees”. 

“Most” of the conference will be moved online, although details have not been shared yet. 

Follow all the latest political updates on our live blog here. 

Hancock: Infection rate in Leicester has dropped

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the number of new coronavirus cases in Leicester has dropped.

He told the House of Commons that the seven-day infection rate had fallen from 135 to 117 cases per 100,000 people.

Hancock added that last week’s decision to impose the country’s first local lockdown had been a “difficult but vital” one.

Proportion of primary schools reopening to more pupils drops

The proportion of primary schools in England that have opened more widely to children has dropped slightly, new figures show.

Approximately 88 per cent of schools that usually have children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 or Year 6 were open to at least one of these year groups on July 2, down from 89 per cent on June 25.

But the data shows that the number of pupils attending primary schools has continued to rise.

Attendance is highest among Year 6 pupils, with more than two in five (44 per cent) of all Year 6 children in attendance on July 2, up from 41 per cent on June 25.

The data shows that only 38 per cent of pupils in Year 1 attended school on July 2, up from 34 per cent on June 25, and 40 per cent in Reception, up from 36 per cent, despite opening more widely to pupils at the start of last month.

Overall, an estimated 1,599,000 pupils attended schools and colleges on July 2, representing 16.9 per cent of pupils who normally attend, up from 15.6 per cent.

Covid-19 recovery plan will prioritise young people, says Chancellor 

Rishi Sunak has said that young people “will be prioritised” in the Government’s plans for a post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

The Chancellor was asked by Tory MP Laura Farris (Newbury) for reassurances about the economic prospects for young people in recovery plans.

Mr Sunak replied in the Commons: “Young people are more likely than not to work in affected sectors, they are more likely than others to be furloughed, and we know from all the evidence that the impact of scarring on young people is very significant.

“And which is why they remain uppermost in my mind and I give her that reassurance that they will be prioritised as we think about our recovery and our labour market interventions.”

Mr Sunak also said he will “very quickly” look at whether employer-provided Covid-19 tests count as a “taxable benefit in kind”.

Mel Stride, Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, urged the Chancellor to investigate this as he said it could hit the pockets of frontline workers who are regularly tested.

Tom Hanks ‘has no respect’ for people not wearing masks

Tom Hanks, who recovered from Covid-19 earlier this year, has said he “has no respect” for people who decline to wear a mask in public during the pandemic.

Many governments now recommend face coverings, but they are not mandatory in most places. The actor was speaking to the Associated Press about face coverings while promoting his latest film.

Hanks said: “I don’t get it, I simply do not get it, it is literally the least you can do.”

“If anybody wants to build up an argument about doing the least they can do, I wouldn’t trust them with a driver’s licence,” he said.

“I mean, when you drive a car, you’ve got to obey speed limits, you’ve got to use your turn signals [indicators], you’ve got to avoid hitting pedestrians. If you can’t do those three things, you shouldn’t be driving a car.

“If you can’t wear a mask and wash your hands and social distance, I’ve got no respect for you, man. I don’t buy your argument.”

Up to one third of people in UK may refuse coronavirus vaccine, new poll finds

Almost a third of people in the UK may refuse a coronavirus vaccine if one is developed, according to a new poll.

Nearly one in five British adults say they would either probably or definitely turn down a vaccine, according to the YouGov poll of 1,663 adults, and another 15 per cent say they don’t know yet how they feel about it.

A coronavirus vaccine is seen by many as the only way out of the pandemic, and hundreds are at various stages of development across the globe.

However, scientists say that between 70 and 90 per cent of the population will have to get the new vaccine for it to be effective in stopping the spread of Covid-19.

Jennifer Rigby has more here. 

Prime Minister’s comments ‘risk undermining role’ of care workers during crisis

Commenting on the ongoing row over the Prime Minister’s comments on care homes, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “The Prime Minister’s comments risk undermining the key role played during the pandemic by social care services, which in many places has been nothing short of heroic, and has doubtless saved many lives.

“A crisis will always shine a light on weaknesses and vulnerabilities and the issues social care continue to face are indicative of continued, long-term neglect by successive governments and a failure to fully fund the sector.

“There have been persistent warnings from across the NHS and care sector that investment and reform is urgently needed and the pandemic has exposed how desperately this is now needed.”

Stage set for Rishi Sunak’s £3bn giveaway

Homeowners will be given vouchers to pay for insulation and double glazing as part of a multibillion-pound job-creation drive in the wake of the Covid-19 recession, Rishi Sunak will announce on Wednesday.

The Chancellor will use his summer economic update to unveil a £3 billion scheme that he says will create thousands of new jobs and support “tens of thousands” more by stimulating demand for eco-friendly home improvements.

It came as the Governor of the Bank of England postponed a private meeting with Tory MPs after facing questions about whether he was acting in concert with the Chancellor.

Anna Mikhailova, Gordon Rayner and Harry Yorke have all you need to know here. 

Sturgeon reiterates calls for £80bn UK recovery package

Nicola Sturgeon has also addressed the financial statement which will be made by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

She reiterated the Scottish Government position, including calling for an £80 billion recovery package – which would be in line with a similar package in Germany – a jobs guarantee and more powers for the Scottish Parliament on borrowing and other financial matters.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We believe that the UK’s programme should tackle inequality, support jobs and have a strong focus on investment in low-carbon and digital infrastructure.”

She added: “It’s worth stressing again that the Scottish Government has on several occasions welcomed policies adopted by the Treasury during this pandemic, for example the job retention scheme and this week’s support for the culture sector.

“We hope that we will be able to give a welcome to tomorrow’s statement as well but for that to happen the scale of the policies put forward must meet the scale of the economic challenges that the UK faces and I very much hope that they will do.”

Dumfries and Galloway outbreak now under control, says Sturgeon

The First Minister announced that the cluster of 12 coronavirus cases in Dumfries and Galloway is now under control.

Ms Sturgeon said that the limited travel distance guidance in Dumfries, Annan and Gretna would now be lifted to match the rest of the country, as well as allowing those in the area to visit care homes.

She thanked those affected by coronavirus in the area for their co-operation, including employers and the 23 contacts who were traced by officials for self-isolating.

The First Minister said she was “very grateful” to all those involved.

Deaths in Scotland up by one

A total of 2,489 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19, up by one from 2,488 on Monday, Nicola Sturgeon said.

Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said 18,302 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by two from 18,300 the previous day.

There are 699 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, an increase of 17 on Monday.

Of these patients, seven were in intensive care, a fall of one.

Virus outbreak in Rohingya camps ‘contained’, say Bangladesh officials

A coronavirus outbreak among Rohingya refugees has been “successfully contained”, Bangladesh officials have said, after fears that the disease spread rapidly in overcrowded camps.

Nearly one million Rohingya live in squalid camps in southeastern Bangladesh, after fleeing a 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar, where the mostly Muslim community is a minority.

Some 724 Rohingya have been tested in the Bangladesh camps, with 54 found positive since the first cases were detected in May, officials said.

“We have successfully contained the outbreak,” Bangladesh refugee commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder told AFP on Monday, adding that five Rohingya have died from the virus so far.

It was not clear, however, if some Rohingya avoided testing because of fears they would be moved to an isolated and flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, where other refugees were taken to after being found at sea.

Iran reports record one-day death toll

Iran has today announced 200 more deaths from the coronavirus, the most in a single day since the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak began in February.

The Islamic republic’s overall death toll from the virus now stands at 11,931, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state television.

Israeli health official resigns, blasting Covid response

A top Israeli health official has resigned today, saying her guidance on combatting the coronavirus was being disregarded and the country’s containment efforts were “disoriented” as it faced a surging caseload, AFP reports.

The resignation of Siegal Sadetzki, the health ministry’s director of public health services, came after Israel re-imposed several lockdown measures in an effort to curb the virus’s spread.

“For a few weeks now, our compass for dealing with the pandemic has become disoriented,” Sadetzki wrote in a Facebook post, announcing her decision to step down.

“Despite repeated warnings in different forums, we are watching with frustration as our window of opportunity (to contain the virus) is running out,” added Sadetzki, an epidemiologist.

“I’ve reached the conclusion that, in a new context where my professional opinion is not being accepted, it is no longer in my capacity to help prevent the pandemic’s spread,” she wrote.

Israel had earned praise in March and April for its fast action against the virus, including the imposition of early travel restrictions. But its re-opening strategy has faced criticism as cases have shot up.

Sadetzki said Israel’s effective initial response had been nullified by “the swift and broad opening of the economy”.

As of this morning, Israel had recorded more than 31,000 coronavirus cases, including 338 deaths. Its population is around nine million.

Kenya declares school year ‘lost’ due to pandemic

Kenya has today declared that its school year was considered lost because of the coronavirus pandemic, and primary and secondary pupils would return to class next January.

The school year in the East African country runs from January to November, when it finishes with end-of-term exams. But Education Minister George Magoha said in a statement that the curve of Covid-19 infections was expected to flatten only by December.

As a result, no primary and secondary school examinations will be held and “the 2020 school calendar year will be considered lost due to Covid-19 restrictions”, he said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday announced a “phased reopening” of the country, with international flights resuming on August 1 and the lifting of internal travel restrictions that had cordoned off the capital for four months. The 9pm to 4am nighttime curfew will remain in place.

However, cases are rising, with over 8,000 reported infections and 164 deaths.

Mirror and Express owner Reach to cut 550 jobs

The owner of the Daily Mirror, Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers is to cut 550 jobs – 12 per cent of its workforce – because of falling income amid reduced demand for advertising in its titles.

Reach, formerly known as Trinity Mirror, said its group revenue had tumbled by 27.5 per cent during the second quarter, compared with a year earlier, as newspaper sales and advertising have plummeted during the coronavirus crisis.

The company, which also owns hundreds of regional papers including Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo, said more people had been reading its products online over the past three months, but this was not enough to offset the loss in income.

Reach said more than 2.5 million customers have registered to read its papers online, and it intends to increase this to 10 million by the end of 2022, against an earlier target of 7 million.

Journalists in the company’s editorial teams are expected to be affected by the job cuts, as well as staff in the advertising and central operations departments.

Care workers experienced ‘real slap in the face’ after PM’s comments

Care workers experienced “a real slap in the face” after the Prime Minister said some care homes had not properly followed coronavirus procedures, the Independent Care Group has said.

Responding to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, chairman Mike Padgham said: “We warmly welcome today’s continued fall in the death rate in care and nursing homes and feel it is a testament to the amazing, selfless and brave efforts by care workers during this horrific pandemic.

“Which makes it all the more upsetting for the sector when the Prime Minister makes the comments he did, a real slap in the face for those workers after they have given and sacrificed so much.

“We hope he will reflect on those comments and see the incredible work the care sector has done in the recent months to care for older and vulnerable people, with late and conflicting advice and poor support in terms of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing during this awful pandemic.

“And we hope it will spur him into long-promised action to reform the sector and end the crisis in social care which left us so vulnerable to a virus like Covid-19.”

Oxford professor re-opens pub’s socially distanced dining pods

Oxford country gastropub The White Hart of Wytham re-opened last night, launching its new al fresco dining pods with Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute in Oxford, there to cut the ribbon.  

Prof Gilbert attended with a member of her team, Teresa Lambe, enjoying dinner in one of the pods and receiving a warm reception from all the evening’s customers.   

Owner of The White Hart, Baz Butcher, said: “Our 16th-century pub has long been popular with Oxford academics alongside villagers and the wider foodie community, so it seemed more than appropriate to recognise and express our gratitude to one of the University’s current innovators at this momentous time.”  

Gilbert adds: “It was wonderful to be able to enjoy the White Hart’s excellent food in the new pods, which provide for sheltered and screened outdoor dining. We had a relaxed evening with great service.”  

There are 10 pods in the pub, made using mostly recycled materials by one of the pub’s patrons. Each accommodates two couples or a family of four.

Of the pods, Butcher says: “We made an early reckoning that we’d have to mitigate social distancing measures and consumer concerns about eating out. Since announcing the pods we’ve established a waiting list high into triple figures, which tells us we got the mix right.”

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

Employees wearing protective face shields and masks work on their terminals inside a Bharti Airtel store, after authorities eased lockdown restrictions in Kolkata, India

Credit:
Reuters

A health worker performs drive-thru antibody testing at a testing facility at the Medical City in Ortigas, east of Manila, Philippines

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Shutterstock

Circus performers from the Association of Circus Proprietors (ACP) deliver a petition to Downing Street, London, calling for the right to reopen ahead of the busy summer season

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PA

Iranians wearing protective face masks ride the metro, following a steady increase in cases in the country

Credit:
Wana News Agency

Brides wearing their wedding dress hold a flashmob protest against the postponement of their marriages due to the strict protocol of all religious ceremonies at the Trevi Fountain, Rome

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AFP

Downing Street refuses to apologise for PM’s care home comments

Downing Street has declined to apologise after Boris Johnson provoked anger in the care sector when he suggested “too many” care homes did not properly follow procedures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked what Mr Johnson meant by his comments, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “Throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.

“The Prime Minister was pointing out that nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.”

Asked if Mr Johnson would like to apologise or retract the comments, the spokesman said: “As I’ve just set out, the PM thinks that throughout the pandemic care homes have done a brilliant job under very difficult circumstances.”

‘Immense frustration’ over information on resuming care home visits

Care providers are “at a loss” to know why they have not received guidance from the Government on how loved ones can safely resume visiting care home residents and other care recipients.

Care England, the country’s largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, noted with “immense frustration” a delay in updated visitor guidance for the country.

It said this should have been a priority for the Government as lockdown measures are eased.

Chief executive Professor Martin Green said: “We are at a loss to know why the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is incapable of making swift decisions at a time of crisis.

“As the country unlocks, care providers are in the dark as to what is permissible in terms of visitors to their residents, or indeed residents leaving their homes on visits.

“This should have been a priority for the DHSC given that care homes are central to fighting this dreadful pandemic”.

Gütersloh lockdown lifted after German court ruling

A German court has ended a lockdown imposed to tackle a coronavirus outbreak at a meat packing facility, the BBC reports.

Officials in North Rhine-Westphalia brought back restrictions around Gütersloh in June after more than 1,500 Tönnies plant workers tested positive.

The lockdown was due to end on Wednesday, although there was an option to extend it once more. But the state’s Higher Administrative Court overturned the measures today, calling them disproportionate.

While bringing in a lockdown at the start of the outbreak was “not unreasonable”, a court statement said, that should have given authorities time to impose a more focused lockdown.

In line with national restrictions, restaurants, bars and gyms can now reopen in Gütersloh district, and up to 10 people can meet outside. Kindergartens will reopen on Wednesday, officials said.

Immunity to Covid-19 is short lived, says expert

Following Spain’s large-scale study, which found that just five per cent of its population had developed antibodies to the virus despite a considerable outbreak and strengthening suggestions that so-called herd immunity to Covid-19 is unachievable, an expert has suggested that any immunity is short-lived.

“The Spanish study is sobering, confirming a picture from many studies around the world, both regional seroprevalence studies and longitudinal studies in recovered patients,” said Professor Danny Altmann, British Society for Immunology spokesperson and Professor of Immunology at Imperial College London.

“The cumulative pool of antibody-positive people barely rises because as some gain immunity, others have lost antibody, perhaps within weeks. This fits with the view that the nature of naturally-induced immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is a rather short-lived antibody response; the other key part of anti-viral immunity, white blood cells termed ’T lymphocytes’ may have memory that lasts several years, but so far we lack the formal proof that they’re protective.

“Findings such as this reinforce the idea that faced with a lethal infection that induces rather short-lived immunity, the challenge is to identify the best vaccine strategies able to overcome these problems and stimulate a large, sustained, optimal, immune response in the way the virus failed to do. There are dozens of approaches being tested to achieve this.”

UK unemployment could hit 15pc after second wave, OECD warns

Nearly one in seven people in the UK might be unemployed by the end of this year if a second wave of the pandemic washes over the country, according to new estimates.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said the UK’s unemployment rate could reach 14.8 per cent as its experts warned that global job losses could take unemployment rates to levels more comparable to the 1930s than 2008.

But even without a second wave of infections, the UK unemployment rate is likely to reach a record high of up to 11.7 per cent by the end of this year, the OECD reported.

Next year it would fall to 7.2 per cent if there is no second wave, but nevertheless a massive rise from the end of 2019, when the unemployment rate was 3.8 per cent.

“The war has to be won and it has to be won fast,” said OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria, adding that the economic disaster has been magnified by the inability to fight the virus.

“We don’t have vaccine and we don’t have a medicine, we’re impotent … we’re closing down the cities like they used to do in medieval times, because it’s the only thing we know that works.”

Outbreak in Melbourne ‘more serious than late March’, says expert

Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the Biosecurity Program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, has said she would not be surprised if further outbreaks were detected in New South Wales and other states within the next few weeks, and that situation is more serious than in March.

“The situation is extremely serious, and we have seen outbreaks in a wider areas over the past week, from north-west Melbourne, to inner Melbourne and even at the border in Albury-Wadonga. The surge in cases to 191 today despite the measures taken over the past week is worrying,” said Prof MacIntyre.

“It is possible there has been seeding of infection to other states, and silent epidemic growth which has not yet being detected. I would not be surprised to see epidemics detected in NSW and other states within the next few weeks. The situation we are in is more serious than late March, because we have community transmission, which is much harder to track than infection in return travellers,” she added.

She continued: “It is not an option to take the Swedish option – that has been a failure, and they failed abjectly to achieve herd immunity, because they followed a pseudoscientific theory that was never achievable. All they achieved was mass death, overwhelmed hospitals and reportedly, euthanasia of infected old and frail people.

New Delhi healthcare system on brink of collapse as coronavirus cases surge

As Covid-19 cases in India continue to soar, overtaking Russia as the country with the world’s third-highest tally, “mayhem” is predicted in the Indian capital as patients are being turned away from hospitals amid a shortage of beds and healthcare workers.

In case you missed it last week, here is Joe Wallen and Sweta Dash’s report on the extreme challenges faced by hospitals in New Delhi. 

Coronavirus cases around the world, in charts

Three England pubs close after positive tests

 A number of pubs in England have shut after customers tested positive for the coronavirus, the BBC reports. 

At least three establishments announced they had shut their doors again just days after reopening at the weekend.

The Lighthouse Kitchen and Carvery in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, said it was “slowly” working through a list of customers who had left details at the weekend and staff were awaiting their own test results.

In Batley, West Yorkshire, the Fox and Hounds said a customer had phoned to say they had tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, the landlord of the Village Home Pub in Alverstoke, Hampshire, said his team were awaiting test results after someone in a member of staff’s “family bubble” tested positive.

In Burnham, Indian takeaway Saagar said it would be closing until Friday to undergo a deep clean after one if its drivers had been to the Lighthouse Kitchen, along with bar the Vape Escape, which has also closed for a full clean after a customer’s positive test.

‘Up to 16 affected’ in County Down clusters

A number of people from several families have tested positive for Covid-19 in County Down in Northern Ireland, the BBC reports.

The clusters of coronavirus cases have been located in Ballynahinch and Crossgar. It is believed up to 16 people could be affected.

The Department of Health reported nine new cases of the virus in Northern Ireland on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 5,756.

Health authorities have reminded the public to contact them if they are experiencing symptoms so that measures including track and trace can be implemented as quickly as possible.

Ireland launches test and trace app

Ireland has launched a tracing app to track and contact potential cases of Covid-19 infection.

The health minister, Stephen Donnelly, said downloads jumped from 50,000 to 100,000 in an hour on Tuesday morning. “This is a really good news story. This is a powerful tool in the fight against Covid,” he told RTE.

It is intended to enhance, not replace, the existing testing-and-tracking service.

Developed by the Irish company Nearform, the app uses Apple and Google software and requires bluetooth. It is designed to facilitate contact tracing and symptom tracking.

The app does not tell you whether you have tested positive for the virus, but if you do test positive you can give the app permission to notify people with whom you have been in close contact.

More than £30bn in bounce back loans given to small businesses

More than one million Bounce Back Loans have been approved for small businesses during the pandemic, the Government has said.

New figures from the Treasury show that £30.9 billion worth of loans have been given to firms across the UK to help support them following the impact of Covid-19.

The Treasury also revealed that more than 53,500 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans have now been approved, providing £11.5 billion worth of funding, as at midnight on July 5.

The update comes on the eve of the Chancellor’s summer economic update in Parliament, where he will announce a “mini-budget”.

Data also revealed that 783 applications worth more than £2.5 billion has now been approved for larger firms using the Government’s Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).

Meanwhile, more than 9.4 million jobs have been furloughed as firms have claimed £27.4 billion to keep workers in employment.

Aftershock of Covid-19 forces millions of children into begging, child labour and early marriages

As incomes plummet and jobs are lost en masse in the wake of coronavirus, millions of children are being forced into begging, child labour and early marriages, a report has found.   

World Vision, a humanitarian organisation, said that global predictions the the economic impact of the pandemic on children are now becoming a reality.  

Already, eight million children have been forced into begging and child labour as a consequence of the outbreak, World Vision warns. The report said 110 million children are facing hunger, and that 85 million households across Asia have little or no food stocks.  

Harriet Barber has more here. 

Mumbai opens new hospitals as India virus deaths top 20,000

Four new coronavirus field hospitals have opened today in Mumbai – including one at a horseracing track – as India’s nationwide death toll jumped past 20,000.

Hospitals in densely populated cities such as Mumbai and Delhi are struggling to cope with the epidemic, and the country now has around 720,000 infections – the world’s third-highest.

The Mumbai region, which accounts for about a quarter of India’s 20,100 deaths, has suffered a new surge in infections, forcing authorities to build makeshift hospitals and quarantine facilities.

Schools, hotels, a planetarium and a stadium used to host US NBA games last year have all been repurposed, and the new facilities will together provide an extra 3,500 beds in the city of 20 million, where hospitals have been overwhelmed with hundreds of patients each day.

Health workers have complained about severe staff shortages, with some senior doctors and nurses avoiding frontlines because of their vulnerability to the virus due to age or conditions such as diabetes.

A man sits next to beds at a newly built hospital to treat Covid-19 coronavirus patients at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse

Credit:
AFP

Hong Kong facing another community outbreak

Hong Kong is facing another community outbreak of Covid-19 after reporting mostly imported cases in recent months, a health official has said.

“The next few days are very crucial,” said Wong Ka-hing, controller of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health.

The city reported 14 new infections today, five of them imported and nine local. Officials said five of the cases were of unknown origin.

Since late January, Hong Kong has reported around 1,300 cases and seven deaths in total.

Excess deaths fallen below average in UK

Excess deaths have fallen further below average levels in the UK, with several regions of England now seeing deaths well below what would be expected, according to the latest figures.

The total number of deaths across the UK which have now been linked to the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 54,681, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics and bodies in the devolved nations this morning.

It includes deaths registered by June 26 in each of the four home nations, as well as 173 deaths in hospitals in England which have taken place since June 26.

The total number of deaths across the UK is now below average levels for the second time since before lockdown in March. Across the UK there have now been 64,958 excess deaths (above the five year average) since March 6. For a specific breakdown by area, see post at 10.12am. 

In the week to June 26 there were 103 fewer deaths than average in care homes and 815 in hospitals. In people’s homes there were 745 deaths above average in the same period. During the course of the pandemic there have now been 26,593 excess deaths in care homes, 18,369 in people’s homes, and 13,406 in hospitals in England and Wales.

Victoria outbreak: ‘We have to take this as seriously as a bushfire’

Daniel Andrews, the state premier of Victoria, which has closed its borders and put the metropolitan area of Melbourne into lockdown, has urged citizens to take the Covid-19 threat seriously.

He said: “Ultimately we have to take this as seriously as we take bushfire. This is binary. It is life and death.

“If it gets away from us – and I don’t want to hear any more of this stuff from younger people or healthy people regardless of their age, that it won’t affect me. Well, it it will affect you.

There are people across the world who have died who are otherwise healthy, not one or two. Significant numbers.

All of us are part of families. Loved ones being gravely ill and potentially dying, that will affect you too. And the restrictions will affect you of course. It’s not about singling out one group.

“I think there’s been complacency and a sense of frustration and I get that and I’m not really criticising it. I understand it. It has to change. It just has to change.”

Watch: Alok Sharma defends Boris Johnson over condemned care homes comments

The Prime Minister has come under fire from leaders in the care home sector after he accused care homes of failing to follow proper procedures amid the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking during a visit to Goole in Yorkshire, Boris Johnson said the pandemic had shown the need to “make sure we look after people better who are in social care”.

He went on: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time. Most important is to fund them properly … but we will also be looking at ways to make sure the care sector long term is properly organised and supported.”

The comments were met with anger from the industry, with Mark Adams of Community Integrated Care calling Mr Johnson’s comments “cowardly”, and referred to the Government’s efforts to protect care homes during the crisis as “an absolute travesty of leadership”.

Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, has this morning defended Johnson’s comments. 

ONS: Deaths involving Covid-19 decreased in all English regions but one

Registered deaths involving coronavirus decreased in all but one region in England in the week ending June 26, the Office for National Statistics said.

In the North East there were two more deaths registered compared to the previous week.

Three regions of England had deaths above the five-year average in the week ending June 26, while six regions were below, the ONS said.

The regions where the number of registered deaths was above the five-year average were North West England (7.4 per cent above), the East Midlands (0.6 per cent above) and North East England (0.6 per cent above).

The six regions with fewer deaths were South West England (0.2 per cent below), Yorkshire and the Humber (0.4 per cent below), the West Midlands (2.4 per cent below), South East England (9.5 per cent below), London (9.8% per cent below) and Eastern England (12.6 per cent below).

In Wales, the number of deaths registered in the week to June 26 was 3.3 per cent below the five-year average.

The ONS said that some of the deaths that have been registered as Covid-19 would have “likely occurred over the duration of the year” but have “occurred earlier because of the coronavirus”.

“These deaths occurring earlier than expected could mean we see start to see a period of deaths below the five-year average,” the ONS added.

Russia reports 6,368 new cases

Russia has reported 6,368 new Covid-19 cases, taking its nationwide total infections to 694,230.

The country’s coronavirus crisis response centre said 198 people had also died with the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the death tally to 10,494.

It added that 463,880 people had recovered from the virus.

Watch: No date for when fully functioning coronavirus test and trace app will be in circulation

Sunak must be prepared to let some businesses fall, says former Chancellor

Philip Hammond, the former Chancellor, has said his successor must be prepared to let some businesses fail.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is due to announce fiscal measures designed to aid the UK’s economic recovery after Covid-19 on Wednesday.

Hammond, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said: “I think it is important to recognise that the Chancellor faces an extraordinarily complex challenge.

“He’ll want to continue to support businesses and people who are affected by regulatory shutdown in what are otherwise viable businesses. But he will also sadly need to facilitate a transition for those businesses and people who are, what they are doing is no longer viable.

“Some businesses will close, some viable businesses will close units – we have already heard the announcement of retailers closing stores – and that’s where a focus on re-training and re-skilling, getting people turned around and ready to go back into the workforce as quickly as possible, will come into it.”

The countdown to New South Wales/Victoria border closure begins

Ian Blackford refuses to rule out Scottish quarantine for English visitors

The SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford was asked if he could rule out a quarantine for those crossing the England-Scotland border. 

He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme that the devolved Scottish Government was trying to “bring the infection under control, and if you look at the difference in the prevalence rate between Scotland and the rest of the UK, that has been successful. The prevalence rate is about a fifth of that of the rest of the UK.”

He then added: “What we want to do is make sure that people can come to Scotland, they can enjoy the holiday experience here, and of course within all of that, the Government will continue to look at the health requirements that need to be put in place.

“But Scotland is open and people are welcome… There are further measures that will open up the tourist economy on July 15, but what we want to do is welcome people here, we want to get the economy back up and working again, but at the same time the Government in Edinburgh will take the necessary measures to make sure that we keep people safe and we keep the prevalence of the virus as low as possible.

“One of the things we are trying to do is as much as we can, eliminate this virus. I think the questions have to be put: what is the policy that the Government has in London?” He added: “We want to welcome people to Scotland. We don’t want to see protests at the border.”

Businesses that rely on physical contact are fighting to reopen after lockdown

Therapist Michelle Geraghty-Carns has always prided herself on providing customers with a calm and relaxing atmosphere at her clinic EternalBeing in Enderby, Leicestershire.

Now, she says, the clinic which provides a range of treatments for allergies and intolerances, looks and feels more like a hospital.

Nail bars, beauty salons, spas and businesses providing complementary therapies are among those which were barred from reopened on “super Saturday”, but have continued to plough on with putting preparations in place.

Geraghty-Carns says she has shelled out around £7,000 on health and safety equipment to prepare for reopening, not to mention the £38,000 cost for a refurbishment of the clinic to ensure staff and customers can distance safely.

Hannah Uttley has more here. 

Summary of the Melbourne lockdown

The state premier of Victoria, Dan Andrews, has published a summary of the lockdown restrictions to be imposed in the Metropolitan Melbourne area from midnight on Wednesday:

Everyone should wear a face covering in public, says Royal Society president

Everyone should wear a face covering in public to reduce the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 infections, the president of the Royal Society has urged.

Professor Venki Ramakrishnan said people should wear a mask when they leave home – particularly in enclosed indoor spaces – but acknowledged that the public remain “sceptical” about the benefits. Not wearing them outside the home should be considered as “anti-social” as drink-driving, or failing to wear a seat belt, he said.

It comes as two new reports on face coverings were published by the scientific body, including one which found the UK was slower to take up wearing them compared with other countries.

Prof Ramakrishnan said: “The virus has not been eliminated, so, as we lift lockdown and people increasingly interact with each other, we need to use every tool we have to reduce the risk of a second wave of infection.

“There are no silver bullets, but alongside hand washing and physical distancing, we also need everyone to start wearing face coverings, particularly indoors in enclosed public spaces where physical distancing is often not possible.”

Prof Ramakrishnan said the UK is “way behind” other countries in wearing face coverings, as he claimed that messaging has been unclear and that “inconsistent” guidance has led to people following their own preferences.

Vicotria’s border closing off to a rocky start…

Alok Sharma: ‘The Prime Minister is certainly not blaming care homes’

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the Prime Minister was “certainly not blaming care homes” for social care coronavirus deaths in comments made yesterday,

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Sharma said: “Specifically on the point the Prime Minister was making yesterday, I think what he was actually pointing out is that nobody knew what the correct procedures were at the time because, quite frankly, we didn’t know what the extent of asymptomatic transmission was.”

Mr Sharma added: “We then put in place very detailed action plans for care homes, we made sure there was a rigorous testing regime put in place, and we also ensured there was extra money – there was £600 million that went in as part of an infection control fund.”

Put to him that Boris Johnson had criticised care homes for not following the set procedures, Mr Sharma said: “The Prime Minister is certainly not blaming care homes.”

Boris Johnson’s comments about care homes have been met with anger from the sector, with one leader branding the Prime Minister’s comments “clumsy and cowardly”.

House prices have fallen for four months in a row, index finds

House prices have been falling for four months in a row – marking the first time this has happened since 2010, according to an index.

Property values in June were 0.1 per cent lower than in May, Halifax said. The decline in June followed month-on-month price falls of 0.2 per cent in May, 0.6 per cent in April and 0.3 per cent in March.

Despite four months of prices edging downwards, house prices were higher in June when compared with a year earlier, Halifax said.

Across the UK, property values in June were 2.5 per cent higher than in the same month a year earlier. The average house price in June was £237,616.

Russell Galley, managing director, Halifax, said: “Average house prices fell by 0.1 per cent in June as the UK property market continued to emerge from lockdown.

“Though only a small decrease, it is notable as the first time since 2010 – when the housing market was struggling to gain traction following the shock of the global financial crisis – that prices have fallen for four months in a row.”

​Read more: ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ lending to surge by £700m as post-Covid market shuns first-time buyers

Matt of the day

Here is Matt’s take on the current state of play.

Johnson’s care homes comments ‘cowardly’, says charity

When asked to explain why he called Boris Johnson’s words “cowardly”, Mark Adams of Community Integrated Care added: “Because you’ve got 1.6 million social care workers who when most of us are locked away in our bunkers waiting out Covid, really trying to protect our family, we’ve got these brave people on minimum wage, often with no sickness cover at all, going into work to protect our parents, our grandparents, our children, putting their own health and potentially their own lives at risk.

“And then to get the most senior man in the country turning round and blaming them on what has been an absolute travesty of leadership from the Government, I just think it is appalling.”

Government stop releasing testing figures

The Government will no longer release figures on the total number of people being tested for coronavirus on a daily basis amid concerns that millions of tests are not being recorded. 

The way testing figures are published will be changed to reflect that people are being tested on a regular basis, Downing Street said on Monday.

The news came as Baroness Harding, appointed last month to head the coronavirus test and trace programme, defended the decision not to test close contacts of those with the virus, arguing that it might undermine instructions to self-isolate.

Asked how many people were being tested each day, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “On that, DHSC [the Department of Health and Social Care] will no longer publish the number of people tested daily any more and will instead publish the number of daily tests processed.”

Care homes charity ‘unbelievably disappointed’ with PM’s comments

Mark Adams, chief executive of charity Community Integrated Care, said he was “unbelievably disappointed” to hear the Prime Minister’s comments about the actions of care homes during the coronavirus crisis.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think this at best was clumsy and cowardly but to be honest with you, if this is genuinely his view, I think we’re almost entering an… alternative reality where the Government set the rules, we follow them and they don’t like the results and they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best.

“It is hugely frustrating.”

Reporter whose son interrupted live broadcast for biscuits learns lesson

Sky News’ Deborah Haynes – and her son – went viral last week for this video:

It seems she’s learned her lesson: 

“Any particular reason there’s a bench next to the door?”

After our Foreign Affairs Editor @haynesdeborah‘s son went viral last week with his biscuit negotiating skills, we asked if he’ll try the same trick this morning with breakfast. JJ#KayBurley pic.twitter.com/ZHzRVdGnky

— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) July 7, 2020

Melbourne’s six-week lockdown as state borders close

More than five million residents of Melbourne will be locked down for six weeks after coronavirus cases surged in Australia’s second-biggest city, authorities announced Tuesday.

State Premier Daniel Andrews said the lockdown would begin at midnight Wednesday and last at least six weeks, as he warned residents “we can’t pretend” the coronavirus crisis is over.

After the south-eastern city detected 191 new cases in 24 hours, Andrews said there were now too many incidents of the virus to trace and track.

“These are unsustainably high numbers,” he said. “No-one wanted to be in this position. I know there will be enormous amounts of damage that will be done because of this. It will be very challenging.”

Most school students will return to remote learning while restaurants and cafes will be limited to serving takeaway food.

“There is simply no alternative other than thousands and thousands of cases and potentially more,” he told reporters.

Although the lockdown covers the Melbourne metropolitan area, the entire state of Victoria will effectively be sealed off from the rest of the country from Tuesday midnight, as state borders are closed.

Pubs reopened on Saturday close again after Covid-19 cases 

Some pubs which reopened their doors for the first time on Saturday have had to close again due to people testing positive for coronavirus.

Bars in England welcomed drinkers at the weekend after a lengthy lockdown which saw the hospitality sector shut since March.

But three establishments have since alerted their patrons that they have had to close again just days later, after cases of Covid-19.

The Lighthouse Kitchen and Carvery in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, said a customer had tested positive and it was making its way through a list of people who were in the bar on Saturday.

The Fox and Hounds in Batley, West Yorkshire, said it would be closed until further notice after receiving a call from a customer on Monday to say they had tested positive for coronavirus.

Posting on its Facebook page, it said all staff had since taken a test and added that the pub will be “fully deep cleaned and when safe to do so we will reopen our doors”.

The Village Home Pub in Alverstoke, Gosport, said it had also “had a case of Coronavirus in the pub”, adding that “some of us are in isolation”.

Its statement on Facebook said: “The pub is now shut but all being well will open again on Saturday.”

Have the coronavirus rules ruined the Louvre?

The Louvre in Paris reopened on Monday.

But there were fewer visitors, one-way systems and more strict rules including mandatory facemasks. 

Has the post Covid-19 world impacted the museum? Mark Stratton went along on opening day to find out. 

A visitor wearing a face mask takes a selfie in front of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Mona Lisa

Credit:
Francois Guillot/AFP

Pub beer takeaways a ‘recipe for violence’

Plans to allow late-night pubs and bars to sell takeaway alcohol will spark street violence, disorder and drunkenness, ministers have been warned.

The Government faced a backlash from senior politicians and policing chiefs on Monday night over the plans in the Business and Planning bill to relax licensing rules in an attempt to boost the hospitality sector.

The proposals would see rules relaxed for a year, freeing pubs and bars which are currently barred from doing so to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises even if their licence extends into the early hours.

Read Home Affairs Editor Charles Hymasstory in full here.

Today’s front page

Here is your Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, July 7.

Beijing reports no new cases

Beijing on Tuesday reported zero new coronavirus cases for the first time since the emergence of a cluster in the Chinese capital in June that prompted fears of a domestic second wave.

A total of 335 people have been infected since a cluster emerged at the city’s massive Xinfadi wholesale market in early June.

Beijing’s health commission said on Tuesday it detected only one asymptomatic case the previous day, which China does not include in its confirmed cases counts.

The Beijing government has tested more than 11 million people for Covid-19 since June 11 – roughly half the city’s population, officials said at a press conference on Monday.

The news came as almost 11 million students began taking China’s university entrance exam on Tuesday after a delay as the country worked to bring down coronavirus infections.

The exam is believed to be the first mass gathering event since the virus outbreak and administrators are enforcing strict rules to prevent infections, including proof of wellness, social distancing and the wearing of masks.

Students arrive at a school to sit the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), known as Gaokao, in Nanjing, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province

Credit:
AFP

India’s death toll surpasses 20,000

India’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 20,000 on Tuesday and case numbers surged as the south Asian nation pushed ahead with relaxations to its almost two-month lockdown amid grim economic forecasts.

The rate of both new virus infections and deaths are rising at the fastest pace in three months, as officials lift a vast lockdown of India’s 1.3 billion people that has left tens of thousands without work and shuttered businesses.

The country reported 467 new deaths on Tuesday, taking the toll to 20,160. It also recorded 22,252 new infections, increasing the total to 719,665. 

Read more: India cases third-highest globally as scientists warn August vaccine deadline unrealistic

Indian health workers walk in the crowded lanes as they leave after the medical checkup of the residents of a ‘containment zones’ in Ambujwadi area

Credit:
DIVYAKANT SOLANKI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

NZ flights on hold until more quarantine facilities are found

New Zealand’s national carrier has put a temporary hold on new bookings for flights into the country while the government tries to find enough quarantined hotel rooms for people returning home.

Air New Zealand says the hold will last for three weeks and it is also trying to better align flights with the hotel locations.

New Zealand has eliminated community transmission of the coronavirus but is still getting cases at the border. For the most part, only residents and citizens are able to fly into the country and must remain in a quarantined hotel room for 14 days.

Housing Minister Megan Woods says the government is currently housing nearly 6,000 people in 28 quarantine facilities and is seeing rapid growth in the number of returning residents as the pandemic worsens globally.

Australian state considering four-week lockdown

Australia’s second-most populated state Victoria is considering a four-week lockdown after recording the biggest one-day surge in new Covid-19 cases, The Australian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The number of cases in the Victorian capital of Melbourne has surged in recent days, prompting authorities to enforce strict social-distancing orders in more than 30 suburbs and put nine public housing towers into complete lockdown.

State Premier Daniel Andrews is considering a four-week lockdown after the number of new cases hit 191, The Australian reported. Victoria has not published an official tally yet.

Firefighters dressed in personal protective equipment prepare to distribute food throughout a public housing tower in North Melbourne

Credit:
JAMES ROSS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Pandemic could ‘last until April’ in Mexico

The coronavirus pandemic could last in Mexico until next April, with infections expected to rise during the October flu season and through winter, a top health official said on Monday, further pushing back the potential resolution of the crisis.

Mexico has recorded 261,750 total cases and 31,119 overall deaths, putting it in fifth place worldwide for most fatalities  according to a Reuters tally.

Mexican Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell has continually walked back forecasts about when the crisis would peak, and has said the death toll and infection tally are likely higher than reported figures.

In an interview he warned that coronavirus infections may persist in significant numbers into the winter, carrying the pandemic into spring.

“Flu season begins in October and there are some reasonable assumptions that we could also have a spike in Covid-19 along with the flu throughout the fall-to-winter season,” he said.

When asked about the length of the pandemic in Mexico, Mr Lopez-Gatell said it could last “until March to April of next year”.

People queue in a street waiting to pass through a pedestrian control that limits the access in groups of 20 people to enter downtown Mexico City

Credit:
AFP

S. Korean patient recovering after double lung transplant

After a record 112 days on a specialised life-support system, a South Korean Covid-19 patient is recovering from double lung transplant surgery, doctors say, in only the ninth such procedure worldwide since the outbreak began.

The 50-year-old woman was diagnosed with the disease and hospitalised in late February and then spent 16 weeks on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support, which involves circulating a patient’s blood through a machine that adds oxygen to red blood cells.

That’s the longest that any Covid-19 patient in the world has spent on ECMO support, her doctors said.

Various drugs  failed to stop her pulmonary fibrosis – scarring in the lungs – from worsening, said Dr Park Sung-hoon, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital.

That left few options other than a lung transplant.

Hanks does not have much respect for people who shun precautions

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, who recovered after being infected  earlier this year, said he does not hold much respect for people who decline to practice precautions such as wearing a mask in public.

Hanks and his wife, actress and singer Rita Wilson, disclosed in March that they had tested positive for the coronavirus while in Australia for a film shoot.

“At the very least, three tiny things (are) in everybody’s wheelhouse, if you choose to do them,” Hanks, 63, said in a recent interview with Reuters Television. “Wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance. If you can’t do that, I don’t have much respect for you.”

Beer takeaway plan at late-night venues a ‘recipe for violence’

Plans to allow late-night pubs and bars to sell takeaway alcohol will spark street violence, disorder and drunkenness, ministers have been warned.

The Government faced a backlash from senior politicians and policing chiefs on Monday night over the plans in the Business and Planning bill to relax licensing rules in an attempt to boost the hospitality sector.

The proposals would see rules relaxed for a year, freeing pubs and bars which are currently barred from doing so to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises even if their licence extends into the early hours.

Read the full story

Read more: Leicester residents accused of sneaking into nearby pubs

Atlanta mayor has no symptoms but tests positive

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced on Monday that she had tested positive for Covid-19.

The 50-year-old Democrat is among the women named as a potential vice-presidential running mate for presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“Covid-19 has literally hit home. I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive,” Ms Bottoms tweeted.

COVID-19 has literally hit home. I have had NO symptoms and have tested positive.

— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) July 6, 2020

She told MSNBC that she decided her family members should get tested again because her husband “literally has been sleeping since Thursday”. She said she the only other symptoms she and her husband have been experienced are those similar to allergies they have.

“It leaves me for a loss for words because I think it really speaks to how contagious this virus is,” Ms Bottoms told MSNBC. “We’ve taken all of the precautions that you can possibly take. We wear masks, we’re very thoughtful about washing our hands, I have no idea when and where we were exposed.”

Today’s top stories