Coronavirus latest news: Second lockdown would be ‘disastrous’ for UK, says Boris Johnson





A second national lockdown would have ‘disastrous’ financial consequences for the UK, Boris Johnson has said. 

When questioned by Conservative MP and chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Julian Knight, whether the country could afford another national lockdown, Mr Johnson replied:

“I don’t want a second national lockdown – I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.

“And can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous, but we have to make sure that we defeat the disease by the means that we have set out.”

Boris Johnson also admitted in the meeting with the Commons Liaison Committee that there was not enough coronavirus testing capacity. 

The Prime Minister told MPs: “We don’t have enough testing capacity now because, in an ideal world, I would like to test absolutely everybody that wants a test immediately.”

He promised that there would be capacity for 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

Earlier today, Boris Johnson defended the government’s testing capacity for Covid-19 during Prime Minister’s Questions. 

Grilled by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner over whether all care homes have weekly tests, the Prime Minister said: “yes, to the best of my knowledge”. 

The Prime Minister said Ms Rayner is “right to express frustration” about the “massive demand” for tests which have increased hugely in the last few days. 

The Labour MP accused Boris Johnson of prioritising grouse shooting over the pandemic, following on from specific exemptions listed in the new ‘rule of six’. 

Follow the latest updates below.

3,991 new lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK 

The Government said that as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 3,991 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. Overall, 378,219 cases have been confirmed.

It also said a further 20 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday. This brings the UK total to 41,684.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 57,500 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Police and fire staff to work on test and trace in Greater Manchester 

Police community support officers and fire service staff will be drafted in to trace contacts of coronavirus cases as part of new plans announced by the mayor of Greater Manchester.

Speaking at an online press conference today, Andy Burnham said only 54% of named contacts of people who had tested positive for coronavirus were being contacted by the NHS Test and Trace system in the area, with more than 3,600 people a week not being reached.

He said: “Test, trace and isolate is not working well enough for Greater Manchester at the moment and we have only a small number of weeks to fix it before we go into the really tough time which lies ahead in the autumn and into the winter.”

“We have agreements from Greater Manchester Police and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to mobilise a number of police community support officers (PCSOs) and fire safety staff to focus their efforts on contacting the contacts that are currently not being reached in Greater Manchester by the national system.”

He said more than 100 PCSOs and 100 fire safety officers would staff the system, which he said would not be “sustainable over the long term” but was “right to do”

Second national lockdown would have ‘disastrous’ financial consequences for the UK, Boris Johnson says.

A second national lockdown would be likely to have “disastrous” financial consequences for the UK, Boris Johnson has said.

He was asked by Conservative MP and chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Julian Knight, whether the country could afford another national lockdown.

Mr Johnson replied: “I don’t want a second national lockdown – I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.

“And can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous, but we have to make sure that we defeat the disease by the means that we have set out.

“So when I see people arguing against the rule of six or saying that the Government is coming in too hard on individual liberties and so on – I totally understand that and I sympathise with that, but we must, must defeat this disease.”

Boris Johnson claims 89 per cent of people tested get results within 24 hours

The Prime Minister told the Commons Liaison Committee: “We have massively increased our testing capacity.”

He added: “Actually, and I know that many people have had infuriating experiences, and I do sympathise with them.

“And we are trying to get as many tests out as we possibly can. But 89% get their results within 24 hours, if you have an in person test.

“And the distance that you have to travel to get a test has come down just in the last week. On average from about six or seven miles to about five miles.

“We are putting out many, many more tests.”

Boris Johnson: Inquiry into covid-19 pandemic would ‘look at everything that has gone wrong and gone right’. 

Mr Johnson said an inquiry into the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic would “look at everything that has gone wrong and gone right”.

But he said it would not be a “good use of official time at the moment”, and declined to indicate when the inquiry could begin.

Update: Four new Covid-19 test labs to be built, says Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister said today that “Everything is being done that we possibly can to increase testing capacity.”

Boris Johnson told the Liaison Committee that includes “automation, batch testing, securing supplies abroad”.

A total of four new labs were being built across the country and 300 people were being hired, he added. 

“Testing capacity just in the last two weeks has gone up 10%,” he added.

Boris Johnson admits there was not enough coronavirus testing capacity.

Boris Johnson has admitted there was not enough coronavirus testing capacity.

The Prime Minister told the Commons Liaison Committee: “We don’t have enough testing capacity now because, in an ideal world, I would like to test absolutely everybody that wants a test immediately.”

He promised that there would be capacity for 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.

But he urged people without symptoms to stay away from testing centres – although he acknowledged the reasons why they may want to find out if they had Covid-19.

“What has happened is demand has massively accelerated just in the last couple of weeks,” he told MPs.

World may not return to pre-coronavirus normality until 2022, WHO warns

The world might not return to pre-coronavirus normality until at least 2022, according to the World Health Organization.

“We’re looking at 2022 at least before enough people start getting the vaccine to build immunity”, said chief science officer Dr Soumya Swaminathan.

Dr Swaminathan added that at least 60 to 70 per cent of the population must have received the vaccination for it to become effective.

Until then people will need to continue mitigation efforts, such as social distancing and wearing face coverings.

The notion was echoed by Bill Gates earlier this week, who said that even in the “very best case” where vaccines are developed and distributed quickly, the world would not return to pre-pandemic levels for at least two years.

Rate of stillbirths rised dramatically during lockdown

The global rate of stillbirths has risen significantly since lockdowns were introduced to combat the coronavirus pandemic, a raft of studies has shown.

Data from St. George’s Hospital in London shows a four-fold increase in stillbirths between February and June when compared to October 2019 to January this year. In nine Nepalese hospitals, 21 per 1,000 babies were stillborn in May, a 50 per cent increase on the rates seen in March when a nationwide lockdown was introduced. 

Experts say this alarming trend is not caused by Covid-19, but by disruptions to global healthcare systems brought about by lockdowns.  

“What we’ve done is cause an unintended spike in stillbirth while trying to protect [pregnant women] from Covid-19,” says Jane Warland, a specialist in midwifery at the University of South Australia in Adelaide.  

At the outset of the pandemic, face-to-face consultations were cancelled by maternity health providers, meaning health-care workers couldn’t take someone’s blood pressure, listen to their baby’s heartbeat or do an ultrasound remotely.

Watch: Angela Rayner challenges Boris Johnson over Covid testing capacity

Dutch coronavirus cases jump by highest number on record

The number of new coronavirus infections in the Netherlands increased by 1,542 on Wednesday, the biggest daily jump on record, data from health authorities showed.

The jump followed a record increase of 1,379 on the previous day and took the total number of confirmed infections in the Netherlands to 86,320.

‘Rule of six’ breaks: holiday homes with hotel benefits ideal for smaller groups

With most of Europe off limits for the moment, thoughts are once again turning to holidays at home.

So what could be more appealing this autumn than a self-contained house serviced by a hotel or enjoying hotel-quality services? Here are some of the Telegraph’s top picks.  

  • The Dower House at Coworth Park, Berkshire 
  • Queenwood Lodge at Bowood Hotel, Wiltshire   
  • Long White Cloud at YTL Hotels’ Monkey Island Estate, Berkshire  
  • Seabreeze, Tresco Estate, Isles of Scilly

Read here for the full list and more details

Over 100 schools in Manchester had reported coronavirus cases, mayor says

The mayor of Greater Manchester said today that around 110 schools in the area had reported coronavirus cases.

Andy Burnham said: “It clearly is disrupting the return to schools but, nevertheless, it was never going to be plain sailing, I don’t think.

“I think the issue to put to the Prime Minister is, given that we knew the return of schools would put more pressure on the system, why wasn’t more done?”

He added: “This is causing real distress for families but also for schools as well, so it needs to be fixed and fixed urgently.”

Read here on how school pupils and staff can stay safe from coronavirus

U.S. plans to distribute Covid-19 vaccine immediately after regulators authorise it

The U.S. government said it will start distributing a Covid-19 vaccine within one day of regulatory authorization as it plans for the possibility that a limited number of vaccine doses may be available at the end of the year.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense held a call with reporters and then released documents on the distribution plans that it is sending to the states and local public health officials.

The federal government will allocate vaccines for each state based on the critical populations recommended first for vaccination by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That group is expected to include essential healthcare workers.

The Covid-19 vaccine will be released after it receives approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 

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AP

The document, called the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook, said that “limited COVID-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020 if a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized or licensed by FDA by that time, but COVID-19 vaccine supply may increase substantially in 2021.”

Vietnam to resume commerical international flights to several Asian destinations

Vietnam will resume international commercial flights to several Asian destinations starting Friday, after a monthslong shutdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

The flights, however, are reserved for Vietnamese nationals, diplomats, experts, managers, skilled workers, investors and their families. They are not yet available for tourists.

According to a report on the government website, flights connecting Vietnam’s two largest cities – Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City – to destinations in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan will operate on a weekly basis. Flights connecting the cities with Cambodia and Laos will resume next week.

Vietnam will resume international commercial flights connecting the country to several Asian destinations

Credit:
AP

To board a flight, passengers must hold a certificate showing they have tested negative for the virus no more than five days before the departure date. Upon arrival, they will be tested and placed under quarantine, the report said.

Covid-19 forces Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue to shut in New Year for the first time

Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue will be closed for the first time over the Jewish New Year due to coronavirus, authorities said today, as Israelis braced for a second lockdown.

Israel has one of the the world’s highest coronavirus infection rate over the past two weeks and is set to be the first country to enforce a second nationwide shutdown.

Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue will be closed for the first time over Jewish New Year

Credit:
AFP

The measures announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come into force on Friday afternoon, hours before the start of the New Year festival known as Rosh Hashanah.

The three-week lockdown is set to remain in place over the Jewish holidays of Yom Kippur and Sukkot, a period when synagogues are usually filled with worshippers.

Manchester mayor says national Test and Trace system failed to reach 46% of named contacts in the area.

Speaking during his weekly online press conference, mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said police community support officers and fire staff would be called on to help with contact tracing as the national Test and Trace system was failing to reach 46% of named contacts in the area.

He said: “Test, trace and isolate is not working well enough for Greater Manchester at the moment and we have only a small number of weeks to fix it before we go into the really tough time which lies ahead in the autumn and into the winter.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said “Test, trace and isolate is not working well enough”. 

Credit:
PA/PA

Mr Burnham added: “We have agreements from Greater Manchester Police and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to mobilise a number of police community support officers and fire safety staff to focus their efforts on contacting the contacts that are currently not being reached in Greater Manchester by the national system.”

Exams could be held in public buildings in 2021 if social distancing is required

A-level and GCSE students could sit their exams in public buildings next summer if social distancing is required in local communities, the Education Secretary has suggested.

Gavin Williamson said a “reserve set” of exam papers may be introduced next year if pupils are unable to sit a test on a given day if they are unwell or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus.

The Government is still “actively considering” pushing back exams to give pupils more time to catch-up on learning – and an announcement on the timetable will be made by next month, Mr Williamson said.

When asked by MPs what plans are being made for exams next year, Mr Williamson said: “[We’re] very much taking on board what Ofqual has said about maybe needing to have a reserve set of papers for youngsters who may not be in a position to take that examination.

“We’re also planning for the fact that there may need to be a different approach in terms of creating extra capacity within schools and a wider use of public buildings for exam centres, if that is required and that is needed in local communities as a result of further social distancing.”

England: 11 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England

A further 11 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,687, NHS England said today. 

The patients were aged between 69 and 98 and all had known underlying health conditions.

The dates of the deaths were between September 11 and September 15, with the majority on September 14.

Five other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

 France: Staff at testing sites strike over Covid-19 conditions

Staff at around 20 health testing clinics in southern France went on strike today, saying that the Covid-19 outbreak had left them overworked and at risk without being properly compensated.

Some of the clinics, operated by the firm Biofusion, had to close their doors, union representatives said, though the main testing centre was still open.

On strike employees of the Biofusion medical biology laboratories demonstrate in Montauban

Credit:
AFP

The strike action demonstrates the stress the testing system is under: At many sites, people are queuing round the block to get tests, some test results are delayed because laboratories are overwhelmed, and the French government is demanding both more and faster testing.

Labour accuses Boris Johnson of prioritising grouse shooting during pandemic

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner challenged Boris Johnson today over the government’s exemption for grouse shooting in the newly announced ‘rule of six’.  

Grilling Mr Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Rayner said: “Infections are rising. The testing system is collapsing.”

“People can’t say goodbye to their loved ones, grandparents can’t see their grandchildren and front line staff can’t get the tests they need. 

“And what was the top priority for the Covid war cabinet this weekend? Restoring grouse shooting.”

France: Paris to keep new cycling paths after pandemic

New cycling lanes in Paris, opened in a hurry to deal with a large commuter shift to bicycles during the Covid-19 pandemic, will be made permanent, the city’s mayor said today. 

An employee works in a bicycle repair shop in Lille, northern France. r shop on September 14, 2020, in Lille, northern France. The French government will commit an additional 20 million euros in subsidies for bike repairs

Credit:
AFP

After years of expanding the French capital’s network of bike paths, city officials turned an additional 50 kilometres (31 miles) of traffic lanes used by cars over to cyclists in a move initially announced as temporary.

“They will be made permanent, we’re working on that”, Mayor Anne Hidalgo told Europe 1 radio.

She said that the surge in cycling Parisians had shown that bikes had become a credible commuting choice, and that “it also helps to cut pollution.”

Comment: ‘This legal shambles over Brexit and Covid cannot go on much longer’

Former Commons clerk Eliot Wilson writes: 

How have we come to this? Everyone understands that we are in the grip of an extremely severe pandemic, and most—excepting the fringes-of-society cranks who think that a cotton mask is taking away their personal freedom—accept that we have to take certain steps to control the spread of the disease, steps which may be mildly disagreeable, inconvenient or even downright painful to live with, but which seem to be working.How, then, is the government not drawing on a vast pool of understanding and goodwill? 

Read the full piece here

US proposes gradual rollout of free Covid-19 vaccines

The federal government outlined a sweeping plan today to make vaccines for Covid-19 available for free to all Americans, even as polls show a strong undercurrent of skepticism rippling across the land.

In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Defense Department sketched out complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or possibly later this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot.

The Pentagon is involved with the distribution of vaccines, but civilian health workers will be the ones giving shots.

The vaccine itself will be free of charge owing to billions of dollars in taxpayer funding approved by Congress and allocated by the Trump administration.

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AP

The campaign is “much larger in scope and complexity than seasonal influenza or other previous outbreak-related vaccination responses,” said the playbook for states from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

My son’s school year has been sent home – now we can’t get a test to release him from lockdown, writes Sophie Tweedale 

It’s the text message I had been dreading. Just seven short days after our 13-year-old son had gone back to school, the diktat was crushing: “There’s a case of Covid in your year …” it read, “your son must now isolate at home for 14 days.” I re-read the message with disbelief and a helping of that nauseous, out-of-body wretchedness you get when someone’s yanked the rug from under you. Within the flick of a text message, we’ve been thrown back into daily homeschooling and isolation, at the very moment when we’d clawed back a sliver of ‘normality’.

Read the full story here

Wales: Local lockdown ‘disappointing but not a surprise’

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru member of the Senedd for the Rhondda, said the local lockdown was “disappointing but not a surprise”.

“This was something we feared would happen due to the increase in transmission rates,” she said.

“I urge everyone to follow the guidance on social distancing, washing hands and only meeting other households outdoors.

“Wearing face masks inside shops is also essential. I also urge everyone who is contacted by Track and Trace to co-operate fully so we can shut this virus down.

“The sooner we get this under control, the sooner we can ease restrictions and the safer our loved ones will be.”#

Nearly every school in the country is struggling to access Covid-19 tests, headteachers warn Prime Minister

Nearly every school in the country is struggling to access tests for students and staff, headteachers have warned the Prime Minister.

School leaders have written to Boris Johnson to tell of their “mounting concern” about delays in accessing test results and advice from public health officials as they urge him to take personal control of the situation. 

They said that 96 per cent of schools experiencing difficulties and delays in accessing tests for students and staff, which is causing severe disruption for children’s education.

The leaders of the country’s two largest headteacher unions  and the national school governor association said that  schools are left in an “impossible” position of “either leaving close contacts of the infected person in school while they wait for guidance, or making a public health call themselves and deciding on who to send home”.

Camilla Turner has the full story here

Every household in Middlesbrough to be given free masks with information leaflets 

Every household in Middlesbrough will be given free masks with information leaflets as the elected mayor steps up the fight against Covid-19.

The town is on the Government register as an area of concern and the independent mayor Andy Preston is in the process of updating residents with 65,000 leaflets.

Re-usable face coverings will be handed out alongside the leaflets to help people follow the latest guidance.

Mr Preston said:  “New cases are rising at worrying levels in Middlesbrough and the Government is now watching our situation closely – but we can turn the tide if we work together.

“Any new lockdown will seriously damage jobs and mental health, so we need to act now.

“The information in this leaflet – and the face coverings we’re giving out for free – couldn’t be more important, so I’m urging everyone to play their part.”

Stay away from A and E unless strictly necessary, Bolton hospital boss pleads 

A hospital boss in Bolton has urged people to stay away from its accident and emergency unit unless strictly necessary after nearly 100 turned up to request Covid-19 tests.

The plea came as admissions of patients with coronavirus increased over the weekend and the infection rate across the borough – the highest by far in England – continued to rise sharply.

Workers wear NHS Test and Trace branded Hi-Vis jackets as they work at a COVID-19 testing centre in Bolton,

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PAUL ELLIS

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, which is based at the Royal Bolton Hospital in Farnworth, said on Tuesday morning there were three coronavirus patients in critical care and a total of 20 on wards.

It added an increased number of patients under 65 are being admitted, with some in their 40s and 50s.

The trust’s medical director, Dr Francis Andrews, said: “We are seeing more people being admitted with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 as a result of the very high rate of infections in Bolton. This is not a shift we want to see.”

He added: “We are extremely busy in our emergency department as a result of this increase.

“Only attend this department if you have experienced a life-threatening accident or illness and need urgent medical attention.

Update: Further measures considered in South Wales if cases do not fall

Further measures will be considered by the Welsh Government, working with Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Public Health Wales, if cases do not fall.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said: “We have seen a rapid rise in cases in Rhondda Cynon Taf in a very short space of time, linked to people socialising indoors and not following social distancing guidelines.

“We now have evidence of wider community transmission in the borough, which means we need to take urgent action to control and, ultimately, reduce the spread of the virus and protect people’s health.”

Update: Local lockdown in South Wales

The area of Rhondda Cynon Taf in south Wales will be placed under a local lockdown following an increase of coronavirus cases, the Welsh Government has announced.

Health minister Vaughan Gething announced that the measures, which will be reviewed within two weeks, would come into force at 6pm on Thursday.

Rhondda Cynon Taf, which has a population of around 240,000, has seen a rolling seven-day case rate of 82.1 per 100,000 people.

Under the measures, people must not enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area without a reasonable excuse.

People will only be able to meet outdoors and will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors.

All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm.

Breaking: Welsh government imposes local lockdown

Rhondda Cynon Taf in south Wales will be placed under a local lockdown from 6pm on Thursday following an increase of coronavirus cases, the Welsh Government has announced

It comes after the local authority area’s incidence rate hit 82.1 per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

That was well in excess of the infection rate of 50 per 100,000 people that marked the threshold which prompted the introduction of Wales’ first local lockdown, which came into effect in Caerphilly on September 8.

Coronavirus hospital admissions reach highest level since July 

The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus in England on Sunday was the highest it has been since the beginning of July, figures show.

The latest Government data reveals 153 people with Covid-19 were admitted on Sunday – the most since July 1 when the figure was 201.

It brings the total number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus in England up to 115,097.

The data, published on Tuesday, includes people admitted to hospital in England who tested positive for Covid-19 in the 14 days prior to admission and those who tested positive in hospital after admission.

Inpatients diagnosed with Covid-19 after admission are reported as being admitted on the day prior to their diagnosis.

Coronavirus restrictions strand hundreds of Hasidic Jews at Ukraine-Belarus border

At least one thousand Hasidic Jews are stranded between Ukraine and Belarus due to coronavirus restrictions, hoping to get to their traditional pilgrimage site in time for the Jewish New Year.

Hasidic Jews began to arrive at the border on Monday, and by Wednesday morning there were about 1,000 people near a border crossing in Ukraine’s north who “would not give up on trying to get into Ukraine,” the country’s State Border Guards Service said.

Footage from the scene showed men and boys dressed in traditional black robes camping out on the road, praying and playing music in front of a line of camouflaged border guards.

Jewish pilgrims, who plan to enter Ukraine from the territory of Belarus, rest in a neutral zone near Novi Yarylovychi crossing point in Chernihiv Region, Ukraine

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Reuters

Families whose children are sent home from school may not need to get tested if they have no symptoms, suggests Education Secretary 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested families whose children are sent home due to a positive case in a school may not need to get tested if they have no symptoms.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson appearing by videolink to answer questions from members of the House of Commons Education Committee

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PA

Addressing concerns about testing, Mr Williamson told the Education Select Committee: “To emphasise, people only with symptoms are the ones that should be actually doing the testing.

“So if a child and their contacts have been sent home, it’s not that all those children that are sent home should be getting tested. It is only the child that is displaying symptoms as against the whole cohort.”

Rob Halfon, chairman of the committee, asked Mr Williamson if he could “guarantee” that pupils and teachers who need local Covid-19 tests would be able to get them within 48 hours in the event of outbreaks.

Romania reports record jump in coronavirus cases

The number of new coronavirus infections in Romania has risen by 1,713 in the past day, a record high, taking the cumulative total to 107,011 cases, the government said on Wednesday.

Since the outbreak came to light in February, 4,285 people have died and about 50,000 recovered.

President Klaus Iohannis ordered a strict lockdown across the country of 20 million in March and while restrictions have been eased, masks have been compulsory in public transport and indoor public spaces since May 15.

Children wearing face masks walk in line while holding a rope for social distancing on the first day of school amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Bucharest 

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Reuters

About a third of cases have been concentrated in four areas – the capital Bucharest, Transylvania’s medieval city of Brasov and in the counties of Arges and Prahova.

Holidaymakers to get cash refunds for trips cancelled due to Covid-19 after Tui pledge

Millions of holidaymakers are in line to receive cash refunds after tour operator Tui was pressured by the watchdog.

The UK’s largest package holiday company has promised to pay outstanding refunds for trips cancelled because of the pandemic by the end of the month and will also write to its customers who hold credit notes to make clear they are still entitled to their money back.

Tour operator Tui has pledged to pay refunds by the end of the month

The commitment was made as part of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) investigation into the package holiday sector.

Tui would not confirm how many customers have been affected but experts said millions have been forced to wait months for refunds across the whole industry.

Sam Meadows has the full story here

Sir Keir Starmer ‘relieved’ as child tests negative for coronavirus

Sir Keir Starmer has said he is “pleased and relieved” that a coronavirus test result for one of his children was negative.

The Labour leader was advised to self-isolate on Monday after a member of his household showed possible symptoms of Covid-19.

Sir Keir no longer needs to self-isolate but he will miss Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday after a decision was made on Tuesday for his deputy, Angela Rayner, to take his place.

He wrote on Twitter: 

However, I know the situation is desperate at the moment for thousands of families across the country who are struggling to get a test.

They deserve answers and for this problem to be fixed.

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) September 16, 2020

Football: Coronavirus will cost football £11 billion, says Fifa

Football around the world will lose out on almost £11 billion in revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an estimate from Fifa.

The world governing body puts the value of the club and national team game in 2020 at $46bn (£35.6bn) before international club football such as the Champions League is taken into account, and believes $14bn of that will be lost because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Olli Rehn, the man who heads the steering committee for Fifa’s $1.5bn Covid relief fund, set out the impact of coronavirus to the game on Wednesday morning.

“It’s a huge number and it covers the football economy in its entirety, including all youth academies,” he said. “This will impact next year as well, there is a carry over. That is why this Covid-19 relief fund is not time-bound — they may request loans later on if they need to.

Watch: Planning to return to the office? We answer your questions

Turkey begins Phase III trials of Chinese coronavirus vaccine

Turkey began final Phase III trials of an experimental Chinese coronavirus vaccine, media outlets reported today. 

The vaccine will be administered to between 1,200-1,300 health workers over 10 days and a second dose will be given 14 days after the first, broadcasters CNN Turk and Haberturk said.

The results of the trial will be sent the World Health Organization (WHO).

The vaccine candidate will later be administered to volunteers with chronic diseases, with the aim of vaccinating 13,000 people. 

USA: Democrat Biden to outline how he would oversee coronavirus vaccine

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will outline today how he plans, if elected, to develop and distribute a safe coronavirus vaccine, seeking to draw a contrast with President Donald Trump’s approach to combating the pandemic.

Biden will deliver remarks in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, after getting briefed by public health experts on the efforts to develop a vaccine for Covid-19. 

The speech is part of a delicate balancing act the former vice president has struck in recent weeks, as Trump has suggested a vaccine could be approved ahead of the November 3 election.

Madrid to toughen Covid-19 measures on Friday with targeted lockdowns

The Madrid region, one of the worst hit in Spain, is to introduce targeted lockdowns and other restrictions on movement on Friday in areas with high Covid-19 cases. 

Madrid accounts for around one-third of active coronavirus cases in Spain, with a higher incidence in high-density and low-income neighbourhoods, mainly in the south of the city.

“We are taking measures but it is not enough … Nothing will work if we are not responsible,” Antonio Zapatero, head of Covid-19 response in Madrid, told reporters.

“There has been a relaxation of behaviour that we cannot afford.” People were organizing parties, drinking in the street and not respecting quarantine rules, he added. 

India’s healthcare system on brink of collapse as it hits five million Covid-19 cases

India has become the second country after the United States to reach the grim milestone of five million Covid-19 cases, as its chronically underfunded public healthcare system again threatens to run out of both beds and oxygen.

Its latest million infections were registered in just 11 days, the world’s fastest growing epidemic, while yesterday saw 1,275 deaths, a new daily record.

Women queuing for food aid – India cannot afford to enter into a second lockdown like Israel

Credit:
Cheena Kapoor

During the early days of its epidemic, Covid-19 positive Indians struggled to find hospital beds, particularly in its densely-populated cities like New Delhi and Mumbai.

India’s public healthcare system is one of the most underfunded and understaffed in the world, with just £1.50 spent per citizen.

Joe Wallen has the full story here

Russia to sell 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to India

Russia’s sovereign wealth fund has agreed to supply 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik-V, to Indian drug company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, the fund said today, as Moscow speeds up plans to distribute its shot abroad.

A Russian medical worker administers a shot of Russia’s experimental Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow, Russia, 

Credit:
AP

The deal comes after the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) reached agreements with Indian manufacturers to produce 300 million doses of the vaccine in India, which is a major consumer of Russian oil and arms.

Dr Reddy’s, one of India’s top pharmaceutical companies, will carry out Phase III clinical trials of the vaccine in India, pending regulatory approval, RDIF said in a statement.

Second virus wave will slam breaks on recovery, economic experts warn

Resurgent Covid-19 cases next year could slash the global pandemic recovery in half at a cost of trillions of dollars, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned.

The think tank’s latest outlook predicts a shallower 4.5 per cent slide in world growth this year than it initially feared in June thanks to faster recoveries in the US and China, before a 5 per cent recovery next year.

But it also sounded the alarm over the potential impact of further restrictions and a second wave of the virus as countries across the world struggle with rising case numbers and the UK’s new “rule of six” puts limits on social gatherings

The blow could wipe as much as $2.6 trillion (£2 trillion) off the size of a global economy estimated at $86 trillion (£66.5 trillion) by the World Bank in 2018.

Russel Lynch has the full story here

Boris Johnson to be questioned about ‘failure’ of test & trace

The Prime Minister will face a grilling from senior MPs amid a warning that the “failure” of the test and trace system is placing huge pressure on the health service.

He will be questioned by deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner during PMQs at midday after a turbulent 24 hours in which the Government announced coronavirus tests would now need to be rationed.

As the system struggles to cope with soaring demand, people have been turning up to accident and emergency to ask for Covid-19 tests.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will miss PMQs as he remains in isolation awaiting a coronavirus test result for a member of his family.

A motorist is tested for Covid-19 in Leeds

Credit:
Danny Lawson/PA

Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine participants showing mild-to-moderate side effects

The pharmaceutical company has enrolled more than 29,000 people in its 44,000-volunteer trial to test the experimental Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with German partner BioNTech.

It said participants were showing mild-to-moderate side effects when given either the company’s experimental coronavirus vaccine or a placebo in an ongoing late-stage study.

Pfizer said it was continuously scrutinizing the safety and tolerability of the vaccine.

The comments follow rival AstraZeneca’s vaccine trials being put on hold worldwide on Sept 6 after a serious side effect was reported in a volunteer in Britain.

AstraZeneca’s trials resumed in Britain and Brazil on Monday following the green light from British regulators, but remain on hold in the United States.

CEO of British Airways: People are still afraid of travelling

The boss of British Airways told MPs people are “still afraid of travelling” as he defended the airline’s decision to cut up to 12,000 jobs.

Chief executive Alex Cruz said the coronavirus pandemic has “devastated our business” and the carrier is “still fighting for our own survival”.

He told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “Fewer passengers means fewer flights, and fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.

“As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast.

“I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs are concerned.”

School leaders have ‘deep sense of foreboding’ over testing capacity

Boris Johnson must “take charge” of delays in obtaining Covid-19 tests to ensure schools remain open, organisations representing headteachers and governors have said.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), school leaders’ union NAHT and the National Governance Association have written to the Prime Minister to express concern about difficulties with the testing system.

The letter warns of a “deep sense of foreboding about the potential for the system to become ever-more riddled with delays as more cases emerge”.

“This would be increasingly disruptive to children’s education and make staffing unsustainable,” it adds.

CEO of British Airways: Covid-19 is ‘worst crisis’ for airline

“I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs are concerned,” said Alex Cruz.

“This is an impossible situation. We’re having to make incredibly difficult decisions as a consequence of this pandemic and it is really only because of Covid-19 that we have had to go through such deep restructuring.

“I have to make these difficult decisions at this time but I am completely dedicated and focused on protecting those nearly 30,000 jobs of those British Airways colleagues that will remain within the business.

“So in summary, the worst crisis for BA and still six months on, significantly fewer passengers actually travelling on a daily basis throughout the British Airways network.”

CEO of British Airways: We are fighting for survival

Alex Cruz told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee: “Covid has devastated our business, our sector, and we’re still fighting for our own survival.

“Just to give you some figures as you asked. Last week, we flew approximately 187,000 passengers in the different flights we had in and out of the UK.

“The same week in the previous year, we flew just under a million passengers. So we are running between 25-30% of the normal flight schedule and this is six months into the pandemic.

“The relationship is very clear. Fewer passengers means fewer flights, and fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.

“As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast.”

Handling Covid-19 test samples is half the battle, reveals Imperial College London virologist

Dr Mike Skinner, who volunteered to work in a Lighthouse Laboratory dealing with Covid-19 tests, said half the work was organising the samples.

The reader in virology at Imperial College London told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the lab, when the testing was upscaled back in March, you really had to get all kinds of sample kits from lots of different producers – there were lots of difficulties in that.

“We had to put half of our staff into handling issues with barcoding, leaks – we actually had to remove the swabs from the tubes so they didn’t gum-up some of the robots down the line. It really is very much about logistics.”

Rule of 6 will not cancel Christmas, insists Justice Secretary

Robert Buckland denied that the “rule of six” would effectively cancel Christmas, following criticisms from a source close to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the social restrictions imposed this week to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Cabinet minister said: “Archbishop Justin (Welby) makes an important contribution to this debate and he is right to point to the huge spiritual and social significance of Christmas.

“I don’t think any of us in Government want to be Oliver Cromwell-esque about this – we want to see families celebrate Christmas in a safe and happy way and we want to see our churches and indeed our other places of worship joining in that celebration.

“We are not going to cancel Christmas but the ‘rule of six’ is something that is clear and important and I do think we’ve committed to that and we need to stick to it.”

Food and Drug Administration debates resuming AstraZeneca vaccine trial

The Food and Drug Administration in the USA is deciding whether to follow British regulators in resuming a coronavirus vaccine trial that was halted when a participant suffered spinal cord damage.

AstraZeneca, which is running the global trial of the vaccine it produced with Oxford University, said the trial volunteer recovered from a severe inflammation of the spinal cord and is no longer hospitalised.

Dr. Avindra Nath, intramural clinical director and a leader of viral research at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said: “Everyone’s hopes are on a vaccine, and if you have a major complication the whole thing could get derailed.

“AstraZeneca “needs to be more forthcoming with a potential complication of a vaccine which will eventually be given to millions of people. We would like to see how we can help, but the lack of information makes it difficult to do so.”

Pooled testing to be used to hit ‘moonshot’ target

Ministers plan to hit their controversial “moonshot” target to conduct 10 million tests a day by combining up to 50 samples for a single result.

The method, known as pooled testing, involves combining small amounts of all the swabs in a batch into a single test tube.

If Covid-19 is not detected in the composite sample, all patients are deemed negative. If any virus is found, all original swabs are then tested individually.

The technique, intended to save time and scarce resources, would enable Boris Johnson to claim victory in his highly ambitious plan, announced earlier this month, while having physically tested only a fraction of the declared daily results.

Read the full story here.

President of the European Commission calls for more powers to tackle pandemics

Ursula von der Leyen demanded Brussels be given more powers by the EU’s member states to tackle future health emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic.

EU officials believe that the bloc’s response to coronavirus  was hampered because most powers over health policy are national responsibilities rather than European ones, which meant the European Commission had a coordination rather than leading role.

Ursula von der Leyen

Credit:
John Thys/AFP

She said in her annual flagship speech: “It is clearer than ever that we must discuss the question of health competencies.

“It is time we build a real Health Union. A virus a thousand times smaller than a grain of sand exposed how delicate life can be.

“This is the moment for Europe to lead the way from fragility towards a new vitality.”

Keeping schools open ‘unsustainable’ with current testing capacity

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said keeping schools open would become “unsustainable” if issues with testing capacity were not fixed.

He said headteachers were being forced to decide that the “bubble has to stay at home” if a pupil or teacher in a year group had shown Covid-19 symptoms and could not get a test to prove they were negative.

“This will feel I think like lockdown by default – it will be more frustrating for parents because you can’t predict whether it is going to happen,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“And similarly from the headteacher’s point of view, if my Year 4 teacher today shows symptoms, will he or she be in school tomorrow, will they be here for the next 14 days?

“As soon as you start to get that with six, seven, eight teachers, it becomes unsustainable to be able to run things.”

Testing must ‘dramatically’ increase to meet winter demand, warns Sage member

Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the Government would need to “dramatically” increase Covid-19 testing to half a million people per day if testing was to cope with demand during winter.

The director of University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology & Health told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s analysis that it could take weeks to sort the current delays was “concerning”.

Prof Hayward continued: “The background to this of course is that we would expect the demand and the capacity to need to rise quite rapidly over the autumn and winter as the number of people who develop symptoms that could be Covid increase.

“Some of our research has shown that at least in the winter, you would expect about half a million people a day to develop symptoms that are typical of Covid – and that would be in a winter when there was no Covid – so you can see that the capacity requirements will have to increase dramatically if we are going to keep up.”

Asked whether capacity could serve such a demand, he added: “I think it is possible from a laboratory perspective, I think perhaps one of the more challenging bits is making sure people can be tested close to home because that is one of the key delays at the moment in the system.

“It is those delays that effect the effectiveness of the system.”

Justice Secretary insists testing capacity “ramping up” to meet demand

Robert Buckland told Sky News, he said: “I’m not shying away from the current issue but what I’m trying to explain is that rather than us sitting back and pretending all is well, we have accepted the scale of the challenge, we’re ramping up the test centres, we have increased laboratory capacity, new labs coming on-stream so we can get that quick turnaround.”

He added: “The fact the Government kept on saying about the dangers of a second wave, at all times the Prime Minister, all of us, were absolutely focused on the dangers of the second wave – we have seen what’s happening in France.

“We absolutely are onto this in terms of understanding that through the autumn, if we are to get the balance between getting the economy back on track and getting children into school, then all of us now have a special responsibility to follow all those guidelines and do whatever it takes to beat this virus.”

Robert Buckland

Credit:
Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Eat Out to Help Out helped push UK inflation to its lowest level for nearly five years

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the Consumer Prices Index tumbled from 1% in July to 0.2% in August – the lowest rate since December 2015.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s popular Eat Out to Help Out discount last month to encourage people to eat out again after lockdown was the biggest driver in pushing down the rise in the cost of living by slashing prices in restaurants and cafes.

The ONS also said the cut to value added tax (VAT) on hospitality and tourism from 20% to 5% helped lower inflation.

It added that air fares fell in August for the first time on record as the pandemic saw more Britons holiday in the UK this summer.

Justice Secretary suggests children should be prioritised in testing 

Robert Buckland said the Government was facing “real challenges” on coronavirus testing and suggested that school children and their parents would be the next testing priority after NHS and social care workers.

It comes as people opted to turn up to hospital A&Es on Tuesday in a bid to get a Covid-19 test due to a lack of available bookings through the online system.

“I think the announcement by (Health Secretary) Matt Hancock yesterday to create a prioritisation system is the right thing to do,” Mr Buckland told Sky News.

“He is going to develop that very quickly over the next few days, to explain to us what that looks like but I think… it has to be the NHS first and then social care.

“And then I think what we need to do is have a cascading system where we know where our priority should be and for me priority should be for children in school and their parents in order to ensure their lives are safe and also importantly they are not disrupted in the way we are seeing.”

Councils say they won’t use Covid marshals

Boris Johnson’s armies of Covid-secure marshals are unlikely to make an appearance on a high street near you anytime soon after councils revealed they had no plans to enact such a scheme.

The Prime Minister announced last week that marshals would be introduced in towns and city centres to help enforce the new “rule of six” social distancing law, and could either be volunteers or members of council staff, but there was no offer of extra funding.

Mr Johnson said the marshals would “boost the local enforcement capacity” although it later emerged they would have no enforcement powers.

Local authorities reacted with indignation and a Telegraph analysis confirmed that the vast majority have no intention of even attempting to create such roles without a much-needed cash injection.

Read the full story here.

Children face being turned away from coronavirus testing centres 

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has introduced rationing and said the country’s testing crisis could take “weeks” to sort out.

He said there would be “prioritisation” of tests for people with acute clinical needs – such as hospital patients – and those in social care, as he acknowledged “operational challenges” in the system.

Until now, the Government has stressed that anyone who needs a test can get one, but Mr Hancock made it clear that, for the first time in months, tests would be rationed “once again”.

It came as teachers, parents’ groups and businesses warned that the Government was putting the country into “lockdown by default” because children and workers cannot get tests (see graphic below for details of how the UK testing regime breaks down).

Read the full story here.

Impersonation scams surge by 84% as criminals exploit Covid-19 crisis

Nearly 15,000 impersonation scam cases were reported by UK Finance members between January and June 2020, an 84% increase compared with the first half of 2019.

Among these, more than 8,220 cases involved criminals impersonating the police or a bank, a 94% year-on-year upswing.

UK Finance also said the increase in impersonation scams appears to be partly driven by criminals pretending to offer grants related to Covid-19, or offering fake refunds for cancelled flights.

They may also be taking advantage of people working from home, by pretending to be from IT departments, for example, so they can remotely access victims’ computers.

Criminals may convince victims to make payments to them by pretending to be from trusted organisations such as the police, a bank, a utility company, or a government department.

In total, £58 million was lost to impersonation scams between January to June 2020, up 3% on the previous year.

Councillors call on PM to extend furlough scheme

Around 1,200 Labour councillors and mayors across the UK have written to the Prime Minister urging him to rethink plans to end the furlough scheme next month.

The politicians called for a targeted financial support scheme to prevent “mass unemployment” as the job retention scheme stops.

The letter also outlines support for the Alliance for Full Employment, launched by former prime minister Gordon Brown, the North’s Metro Mayors, the Welsh First Minister, Mayor of Bristol and Mayor of Greater London, Sadiq Khan, last week.

The campaign demands that the Government sets up a financial support system that targets industries worst hit by the pandemic and ensures incomes for people who are forced to self-isolate.

Boris Johnson faces grilling over test and trace

Boris Johnson will face a grilling from senior MPs amid a warning that the “failure” of the test and trace system is placing “huge pressure” on the health service.

As the system struggles to cope with soaring demand, people have been turning up to accident and emergency to ask for Covid-19 tests.

The Prime Minister will face deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner for PMQs at noon because Sir Keir Starmer remains in isolation as he is “still awaiting” a coronavirus test result for a member of his family.

A poster in London urging anyone with symptoms to get a test

Credit:
Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Archbishop tells ministers to stop controlling freedoms from Westminster

The Archbishop of Canterbury  said the Government should “only do centrally what must be done centrally” and it had “determined the daily details of our lives” during the coronavirus lockdown in a way “few of us have experienced”.

Writing in The Telegraph, the Most Rev Justin Welby said: “It makes sense to look instinctively for central direction in such an acute crisis, and we’re indebted to the roles many played in doing so, especially those who organised the NHS to cope with the increased demand.

“Within the Church there are lessons to be learnt about the role and importance of central guidance and its crucial interplay with government rules that exist for the benefit of all.

“But with a vaccine still far from certain, infection rates rising and winter on the horizon, the new normal of living with Covid-19 will only be sustainable – or even endurable – if we challenge our addiction to centralisation and go back to an age-old principle: only do centrally what must be done centrally.”

Read the full story here.

Cases continue to fall in Victoria

Australia’s state of Victoria appears on course to relax an extended hard lockdown in its capital Melbourne by the end of the month.

Average cases over the past two weeks in Melbourne fell below 50 – the benchmark the state set to start easing curbs.

Construction sites, manufacturing plants, warehouses and childcare facilities can reopen, allowing more than 100,000 workers to return to their jobs, if the 14-day rolling average is under 50 cases as of September 28.

However, people will still be limited to moving around in a 5km (3 mile) radius around home and only allowed outside for two hours a day for exercise, with a curfew from 9pm to 5am.

“We have to see this through. We absolutely do. Because if we get ourselves in a situation where frustration gets the better of us … then we can open, but we won’t stay open for very long,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Victoria reported eight deaths from Covid in the past 24 hours and 42 new cases, down from highs above 700 in early August. 

Trump: Vaccine is ‘weeks away’

President Trump has claimed that a vaccine against the deadly coronavirus could be three or four weeks away.

Mr Trump, speaking at a town hall hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia, defended his handling of the coronavirus crisis, and said a vaccine could be ready for distribution soon.

“We’re very close to having a vaccine,” he said.

“If you want to know the truth, the previous administration would have taken perhaps years to have a vaccine because of the FDA and all the approvals. And we’re within weeks of getting it. You know, could be three weeks, four weeks.”

Mr Trump was underscoring predictions made by US public health officials and Pfizer Inc earlier this month.

Read more: Trump claims vaccine could be ready in three weeks

Boozy Britain: how the nation drank in lockdown 

From money worries and health anxiety, to juggling childcare and being separated from loved ones, there is much about the pandemic that has given us reason to drink.

So a new report that shows Britain has hit the bottle during lockdown and is now facing a “looming addiction crisis” comes as little surprise.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists published a report this week that found the number of people drinking at “high risk” levels has doubled to almost 8.5 million since February. 

Six writers share how lockdown changed their relationship with alcohol.

Heavy drinkers are more likely to develop serious complications if they catch coronavirus

Could the Apple Watch detect Covid-19 symptoms?

Apple will study if a sensor on its new Apple Watch is capable of monitoring early signs of Covid-19 in a tie-up with medical researchers.

The Apple Watch Series 6, which the tech company unveiled on Tuesday, features an oxygen monitor that uses LEDs to measure the light reflected back from blood.

Blood oxygen levels are typically used as a measure of fitness and heart health, reflecting how well red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.  

Apple said it would also investigate whether the indicator as well as the Apple Watch’s heart rate monitor, could be used to detect early signs of influenza and Covid-19.

Read more: Apple Watch’s blood oxygen monitor may detect Covid-19 symptoms

The new watch allows wearers to manually check blood oxygen levels

Credit:
EPA

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