Britain stands at a ‘critical point,’ Chris Whitty to warn this morning

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, left and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance –

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, left and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance - AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, left and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance – AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Britain stands at a “critical point” in the coronavirus pandemic, Professor Chris Whitty will warn this morning, potentially laying the ground for tough new controls in an urgent attempt to halt the surge in infections.

In a televised briefing expected at around 11am, the Chief Medical Officer for England will say the country faces a “very challenging winter”, with the current trend heading in “the wrong direction”.

Boris Johnson spent the weekend with senior ministers and advisers discussing what action to take as the rise in the number of new cases showed no sign of slowing.

It is thought the Prime Minister could set out new measures in a press conference as early as Tuesday.

This morning, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has delivered a similar message, saying: “We’re certainly at a critical moment this morning.”

“It is clear we’re just a few weeks behind what we’re seeing elsewhere in Europe.

“You only have to look at what’s happening in France, particularly in Spain, and you can see that things have taken off there including, I’m afraid, deaths. So it is very important that we do everything we can to bear down on this.”

Follow the latest updates below.

08:11 AM

Taj Mahal reopens after six months in lockdown 

Selfies are back on the agenda at the Taj Mahal - AFP
Selfies are back on the agenda at the Taj Mahal – AFP

India reopened the Taj Mahal today, as its authorities reported 86,961 new coronavirus infections, with no signs of a peak yet.

A Chinese national and a visitor from Delhi were among the first to step into the white marble tomb when it opened at sunrise, ending six months of closure.

Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 5,000, versus an average of 20,000 before the pandemic. Tickets are only being sold online, with fewer than 300 bought on the first day.

Visitors will have their temperatures taken and must adhere to advice to keep a safe distance from each other.

“We are following all Covid-19 protocols,” said Vasant Swarnkar, superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India, which oversees the Taj in the northern city of Agra.

India’s coronavirus tally of 5.49 million infections lags only the United States with 6.79 million, a figure the South Asian nation could overtake in the next few weeks at its current rate of increase.

08:00 AM

Planet Normal: more rules that make no sense, and an idea to save Christmas

The next episode of our Planet Normal podcast is out and, as the country slips back towards a lockdown, Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan chart a route through the mayhem.
There’s now widespread speculation the “rule of six” will still be in place this Christmas. “People have been compliant before, but this feels like a turning point,” says Allison, on our podcast (which you can listen to by clicking the player below). “These new rules aren’t respected – and a sense of the ridiculous is kicking in”.

Planet Normal podcast - latest episode
Planet Normal podcast – latest episode

07:55 AM

Czech health minister quits after pandemic criticism 

The Czech health minister, Adam Vojtech, said on Monday he had submitted his resignation following criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the country sees a surge in cases.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis thanked Vojtech for his work in a message on his Twitter account, saying he could have been remembered as the country’s best health minister if he did not have to use all his energy to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Czech Republic has reported growth in coronavirus confirmed cases at Europe’s second fastest pace in recent weeks, behind Spain, after the country lifted just before summer almost all measures taken during the first wave of the pandemic.

In the past 14 days, the Czechs had 193 cases per 100,000 people, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

07:46 AM

Will the Prime Minister be at this morning’s conference?

No, says Grant Shapps.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer is expected to say the country faces a “very challenging winter”, with the current trend heading in “the wrong direction”.

He will be joined on the podium by  the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Boris Johnson will not appear at the conference this morning - REUTERS/Simon Dawson/Pool
Boris Johnson will not appear at the conference this morning – REUTERS/Simon Dawson/Pool

But when asked why the Prime Minister was not going to be part of their public address, Mr Shapps added: “What he wants to do, quite rightly, is allow without politicians there, to allow scientists to set out the picture to the country.

“He will come out very soon after that and speak to the country.”

It is thought the Prime Minister could set out new measures in a press conference as early as Tuesday.

07:09 AM

Will a two week ‘circuit breaker’ work?

Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia has told BBC Radio 4 that a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ probably won’t have “much impact” on the overall trajectory of the coronavirus epidemic.

When it’s over, the increase in infections is likely to resume, he said.

And he called for clarity from ministers, telling Today: “We’ve certainly seen a lot of confusion and a lot of mixed messages over the past few months and examples of people in authority who don’t feel that they need to follow the rules themselves.”

Squabbling has already begun between academics who think it is overkill, those who warn it causes confusion after economy-boosting schemes such as “Eat Out to Help Out”, and those who do not believe it goes far enough. 

Most agree that a two-week national shutdown is unlikely to be a silver bullet, and at best will merely buy some time to bring down the ‘R’ rate and sort out the current testing debacle.

There is another problem with a two-week lockdown. The lag between cases falling and that showing up in the statistics is around three weeks, so it would be impossible to know whether it was working until it was already over.

 

06:54 AM

UK ‘at a critical moment’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is doing the morning news rounds, and warns that we are just “a few weeks” behind Europe.

“We’re certainly at a critical moment this morning,” he told Sky News

“It is clear we’re just a few weeks behind what we’re seeing elsewhere in Europe.

“You only have to look at what’s happening in France, particularly in Spain, and you can see that things have taken off there including, I’m afraid, deaths. So it is very important that we do everything we can to bear down on this.

“It’s absolutely vital that people do (follow restrictions) because otherwise we’re going to end up back in situations we don’t want to be in.”

 

06:22 AM

Good news for commuters

Emergency measures introduced to keep Britain’s rail franchises operating after the coronavirus outbreak will be continued, the Department for Transport has announced.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working.

“Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will simplify people’s journeys, ending the uncertainty and confusion about whether you are using the right ticket or the right train company.

“It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth – but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.

“Passengers will have reliable, safe services on a network totally built around them. It is time to get Britain back on track.”

06:09 AM

What to expect this morning

Professor Chris Whitty will appear alongside the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance to explain how the virus is spreading in the UK and the potential scenarios that could unfold as winter approaches.

They will draw on data from other countries such as Spain and France, which are experiencing a second surge, to underline how their experience could be replicated in the UK.

Prof Whitty is expected to say: “The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.

“We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”

Ministers were reported to be split on how far any new restrictions should go, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak said to be resisting controls which could further damage the economy.

Matt Hancock - Eddie Mulholland
Matt Hancock – Eddie Mulholland

During a series of broadcast interviews over the weekend, however, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out a second national lockdown in England, if people fail to follow the social distancing rules.

He said he feared cases could go “shooting through the roof” with more hospitalisations and more deaths.

Meanwhile London mayor Sadiq Khan is to meet council leaders in the city on Monday to discuss possible new restrictions in the capital, which they would then put to ministers.

“The situation is clearly worsening,” a spokesman for the mayor said.

“The mayor wants fast action as we cannot risk a delay, as happened in March. It is better for both health and business to move too early than too late.”

Another 3,899 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were announced on Sunday, while a further 18 people died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the UK total to 41,777.

05:35 AM

India easing restrictions despite increase in cases

India has recorded nearly 87,000 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with another 1,130 deaths.

With the Health Ministry announcement Monday, India now has more than 5.4 million reported cases since the pandemic began and within weeks is expected to surpass the United States, currently the country with the most reported cases.

India’s total deaths in the pandemic now stand at 87,882.

Despite the steady increase in cases, the government has continued to relax virus restrictions in order to help an economy that contracted 24 per cent in the second quarter.

On Monday, the Taj Mahal will reopen after a six-month closure. There will be some restrictions such as compulsory mask-wearing, thermal screening of visitors and physical distancing at the monument.

The Taj Mahal reopened to visitors on September 21 in a symbolic business-as-usual gesture - AFP
The Taj Mahal reopened to visitors on September 21 in a symbolic business-as-usual gesture – AFP

05:15 AM

‘Tsunami’ of job losses in pubs if lockdown rules are tightened

Pub and restaurant bosses have hit out at “dizzyingly complex” rules on socialising and urged ministers to maintain the latest guidelines or risk “a tsunami” of job losses.

Industry chiefs have grown frustrated with what they described as “mixed messages” from the Government regarding advice on socialising over recent weeks.

Last week, Boris Johnson warned that the UK could be heading for a second nationwide lockdown, a move which could force venues to shut down for a prolonged period.

It comes just days after people were told they were only allowed to socialise in groups of up to six at any one time.

Read the full story

Read more: Britain braces for an unprecedented wave of insolvencies

04:00 AM

Five players withdraw from French Open 

Five players have been withdrawn from the French Open qualifying tournament after two players and a coach tested positive, organisers have said.

The qualifiers will begin later on Monday, with the main draw set to commence on Sept. 27.

“The Roland Garros tournament directors can confirm that two players competing in the qualifying tournament have tested positive for Covid-19 and three others have confirmed close contact with a coach who has tested positive for Covid-19,” the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said in a statement.”In line with tournament health protocols, the five players will not compete in the qualifying tournament and will self isolate for a period of seven days. In total, some 900 tests have been carried out since Sept. 17.”

Organisers did not reveal the names of those who had been pulled out but Damir Dzumhur said he had been withdrawn because his coach Petar Popović had returned a positive test.

03:19 AM

South Korea’s infection rate maintains slowing trend

South Korea’s daily virus tally has stayed below 100 for a second consecutive day, maintaining a slowing trend in fresh infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Monday the 70 new cases added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 23,045 with 385 deaths.

South Korea on Sunday counted 82 new cases, marking the first time for its daily jump to fall to double digits in about 40 days.

South Korea conducts fewer tests on weekends. But South Korea’s recent virus resurgence has recently been on a downward trajectory amid strong social distancing rules since its daily tally surpassed 400 in late August.

Commuters ride on a travelator featuring an advertisement for K-pop boy band BTS at a subway station in Seoul - Bloomberg
Commuters ride on a travelator featuring an advertisement for K-pop boy band BTS at a subway station in Seoul – Bloomberg

01:43 AM

Restrictions to be eased in NZ’s biggest city

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the coronavirus restrictions in its biggest city Auckland will be eased, while all restrictions will be lifted in the rest of the country.

Auckland will move to alert level 2 from Thursday, Ms Ardern said at a news conference on Monday, which will limit gatherings to 100 people.

The rest of the country will move to level 1 from midnight on Monday, she said. 

Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed
Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed

01:11 AM

India’s Nobel laureate fears upsurge in child labour

For four decades Indian Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi rescued thousands of children from the scourge of slavery and trafficking but he fears all his efforts could reverse as the coronavirus pandemic forces children into labour.

“The biggest threat is that millions of children may fall back into slavery, trafficking, child labour, child marriage,” said Satyarthi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his work to combat child labour and child trafficking in India.

As the pandemic pummels the Indian economy families are under pressure to put their children to work to make ends meet.

While rates of child labour have declined about 10.1 million children are still in some form of servitude in India, according to the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF.

Children play at a park amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in Mumbai - Reuters
Children play at a park amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in Mumbai – Reuters

01:05 AM

China’s infection rate remains steady

Mainland China reported 12 new Covid-19 cases on Sept. 20, up from 10 cases a day earlier, the country’s national health authority said on Monday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement all new cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. It also reported 25 new asymptomatic infections, up from 21 a day earlier, though China does not classify these symptomless patients as confirmed Covid-19 cases.

The total number of confirmed infections in mainland China now stands at 85,291, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

A man rests on a barrier as he waits to cross a road in Beijing - AP
A man rests on a barrier as he waits to cross a road in Beijing – AP

12:13 AM

Australia’s hotspot continues to show downward trend in cases

Australia’s coronavirus hotspot of Victoria reported on Monday a steady downward trend in daily cases, putting the state on course to ease more restrictions by next week.

The two-week average rise in cases in Melbourne, the state capital, dropped below 35 on Monday, on track to meet a target of below 50 cases by Sept. 28 when the authorities have said they may relax restrictions in the city.

 Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth urged the state’s residents to strictly adhere to the social distancing rules despite cases slowing down significantly in recent days.

“When Victorians come out of restrictions, particularly in Melbourne, the complacency has to be avoided,” Mr Coatsworth told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television on Monday.

Police prepare to patrol through a shopping centre after an anti-lockdown protest in the Melbourne - AFP
Police prepare to patrol through a shopping centre after an anti-lockdown protest in the Melbourne – AFP

12:04 AM

Today’s top stories

  • Britain is in “the last chance saloon” to avoid tougher lockdown measures, Government sources have warned.

  • Fines of up to £10,000 for failure to self-isolate could be “counterproductive” and “undermine adherence” to the rules, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has warned.

  • Thousands of thugs, thieves and drug offenders have been let off prosecutions by the police during the coronavirus pandemic to ease the pressure on the court system, an investigation by The Telegraph has found.

  • As Britain appears to be on the brink of a second wave of coronavirus, children, once again, seem set to pay a high price. 

  • France’s hospitals have reached a “tipping point” in the fight against Covid-19 and the second wave “is here”, the head of the country’s biggest A&E union has warned.

  • Care homes are unprepared to accept coronavirus-positive patients from hospital and will struggle to prevent them passing the virus onto residents and staff, care leaders have warned.

  • Rishi Sunak has been urged by Labour to pay furloughed staff to work again part time by subsidising their wages. 

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