Civil servants told to stay working from home over second spike fears

Whitehall in London could remain on minimal staff due to second wave fears – Getty

Whitehall in London could remain on minimal staff due to second wave fears - Getty Images Europe
Whitehall in London could remain on minimal staff due to second wave fears – Getty Images Europe
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Civil servants are telling Whitehall staff not to return to the office because the Government will reverse its back-to-work stance in the face of a second wave of coronavirus.

Ministers hope the reopening of all schools tomorrow will herald a widespread return to workplaces, but they have failed to persuade staff in their own departments to end home working.

Only a handful of staff are physically present in many Whitehall buildings designed for thousands of people, and ministers are encountering huge resistance from their staff.

One minister said: “We told the staff weeks ago that they needed to come back to the office so we could lead by example, but it hasn’t happened.

“Senior officials are saying that they think there will be another outbreak and that the Government’s messaging will change back to ‘work from home’, so they are telling the civil servants not to bother coming in.

“No-one believes what they are being told and the senior civil servants are hedging their bets because they think there will be another spike. The inconsistent messaging coming out of Number 10 hasn’t helped.”

For more on this story read this article by Political Editor Gordon Rayner

Follow the latest updates below

07:34 AM

Quarantined Tui passengers criticised for being ‘covidiots’

Nearly 200 people returning on a flight from Zante to Cardiff have been told to self-isolate, after many passengers were not wearing masks and up to seven may have been infectious, according to reports.

Passengers have told the BBC the Tui flight was a “debacle” and “full of covidiots”. 

Public Health Wales (PHW) has reportedly told the 193 passengers and crew who were on board the flight on August 25 to self-isolate for a 14 days, and the number of confirmed cases among passengers has now risen to 16, all of whom are believed to have been infected in Zante, PHW said.

Passenger Stephanie Whitfield told the BBC: “This flight was a debacle. The chap next to me had his mask around his neck. Not only did the airline not pull him up on it, they gave him a free drink when he said he knew a member of the crew.

“Loads of people were taking their masks off and wandering up and down the aisles to talk to others.

“As soon as the flight landed, a load of people took their masks off immediately. The flight was full of selfish ‘covidiots’ and an inept crew who couldn’t care less.”

06:52 AM

Paris to offer free tests in the capital

The Paris local municipality said on Monday that it would look to make free Covid-19 testing available in all of the capital’s 20 districts (arrondissements), as authorities battle against signs of a re-emergence of the virus in France.

The Paris mayor’s office added in a statement that from Monday onwards, there would be three permanent laboratories set up to conduct free tests, as well as two other mobile laboratories that would go around the capital.

06:20 AM

India’s surge in cases continues

A health worker takes a swab sample from a woman in Chennai - AFP
A health worker takes a swab sample from a woman in Chennai – AFP

India has registered 78,512 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, maintaining an upward surge.

The Health Ministry on Monday also reported 948 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 64,469.

The surge has raised the country’s total reported virus cases since the pandemic began to more than 3.6 million.

A country of 1.4 billion people, India now has the fastest-growing reported coronavirus caseload of any country in the world, seeing more than 75,000 new cases for five straight days.

The virus has hit India’s major cities and is now fast spreading in smaller towns and rural areas.

06:01 AM

Half a million people living in Hong Kong sign up for free testing

People wearing masks walk past a signboard reading 'together, we fight the virus' in Hong Kong - China News Service
People wearing masks walk past a signboard reading ‘together, we fight the virus’ in Hong Kong – China News Service

Hong Kong authorities say nearly half a million people have registered for a free universal coronavirus testing program that is due to begin tomorrow.

Residents registering online have already booked out 80 testing sites in gymnasiums and community centres for the initial day of the program, according to the government’s website.

Hong Kong launched the testing effort to track down paths of infection that have consistently added to case numbers despite strict social distancing and other measures imposed on the densely populated semi-autonomous Chinese city of 7.5 million.

All who wish to be tested can do so at no cost. Hong Kong has counted more than 4,800 cases and 88 deaths.

05:39 AM

Auckland lifts its lockdown today

Safety measures include wearing masks on public transport in Auckland - Reuters
Safety measures include wearing masks on public transport in Auckland – Reuters

New Zealand lifted a lockdown in the city of Auckland today and is mandating masks on public transport. The nation’s largest city had been in a lockdown for more than two weeks after an outbreak of the coronavirus was discovered earlier this month, following more than three months without any community transmission.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said it was safe to reopen Auckland because all the recent infections have been linked to the same cluster through contact tracing.

“We’re already seeing signs of the city getting back to normal,” he said. Anecdotally, about 90pc of public transport passengers in Auckland have been wearing masks, Hipkins added.

New Zealand’s nine new infections reported Monday included four in recently returned travelers who are in quarantine.

05:04 AM

Xinjiang government forces unproven medicine on people in lockdown

This photo provided by a Uighur under quarantine shows a bottle of unidentified traditional Chinese medicine in China. - AP
This photo provided by a Uighur under quarantine shows a bottle of unidentified traditional Chinese medicine in China. – AP

When police arrested the middle-aged Uighur woman at the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak, she was crammed into a cell with dozens of other women in a detention centre.

There, she said, she was forced to drink a medicine that made her feel weak and nauseous, guards watching as she gulped. She and the others also had to strip naked once a week and cover their faces as guards hosed them and their cells down with disinfectant “like firemen,” she said.

“It was scalding,” recounted the woman by phone from Xinjiang, declining to be named out of fear of retribution. “My hands were ruined, my skin was peeling.”

The government in China’s far northwest Xinjiang region is resorting to draconian measures to combat the coronavirus, including physically locking residents in homes, imposing quarantines of more than 40 days and arresting those who do not comply. Furthermore, in what experts call a breach of medical ethics, some residents are being coerced into swallowing traditional Chinese medicine, according to government notices, social media posts and interviews with three people in quarantine in Xinjiang. 

Read the full story

03:37 AM

South Korea reports increase in infections going untraced

South Korea has counted its 18th straight day of triple-digit daily jumps in cases as its health minister warned about an increase in transmissions gone untraced and infections among senior citizens.

Of the 248 new cases reported on Monday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 187 were from the Seoul metropolitan area.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said epidemiological workers are having more difficulty tracking transmissions and predicting infection routes, saying they haven’t been able to trace the infection source of more than 20 per cent of the cases found in the past two weeks.

Officials also say many of those who tested positive this month were 60 years or older, an age group more likely to experience serious health complications.

A worker disinfects an alley in Seoul, South Korea - Getty
A worker disinfects an alley in Seoul, South Korea – Getty

03:25 AM

Australian state records deadliest day, looks to ease restrictions

The state at the epicentre of Australia’s second-wave of infections said on Monday the number of new cases fell to a near two-month low, allowing authorities to detail in a week’s time how stringent lockdown measures will be lifted.

Victoria said it has detected 73 new infections in the past 24 hours, the lowest since July 3.

The easing number of cases comes as the state capital Melbourne begins its fourth week of a six-week lockdown that sees residents confined to their homes, a nightly curfew imposed and large parts of the state economy ordered to close.

The total lockdown is set to end on Sep 13 and state Premier Daniel Andrews said his government will on Sunday detail how restrictions will be slowly eased.

Victoria said its death toll rose by 41, including 22 fatalities which came from aged care facilities in the weeks leading up to Aug 27. Australia’s previous one-day record for deaths was on Aug 25 when 25 people died.

Read more: NZ eases lockdown after reporting just two new cases in daily figures

With restrictions in place Centre Place in Melbourne is shuttered up - ERIK ANDERSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
With restrictions in place Centre Place in Melbourne is shuttered up – ERIK ANDERSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

02:14 AM

Thousands arrested for ‘virus-related crimes’ in China

Nearly 5,800 people suspected of killing health workers, selling defective medical equipment and lying about their travel history have been arrested in China for epidemic-related crimes since January, the state prosecutor’s office said.

One case involved a shopper that killed another customer who reminded him to wear a mask in a supermarket.

Other cases included a person who deliberately mowed down medical workers with a car, and another was arrested for stabbing a health inspector with a dagger when monitoring temperatures.

Some have also been accused of embezzling money collected from fundraisers to help coronavirus patients, selling defective medical equipment and lying about their travel history or health condition.

12:13 AM

China reports 17 new cases, nine more than yesterday

China reported 17 new Covid-19 cases on August 30, up from 9 reported a day earlier, the country’s health authority report today.

The National Health Commission said all of the new cases were imported infections involving travellers returning from abroad, marking the 15th straight day of no local infections for the country.

The number of asymptomatic cases rose to 19 from 4 reported a day earlier.

China’s total number of Covid-19 infections now stands at 85,048, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Coronavirus China Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus China Spotlight Chart – Cases default

11:13 PM

Utah State University’s wastewater showed elevated levels of Covid

Utah State University plans to test nearly 300 students for Covid-19 after wastewater samples from four dormitories showed elevated levels of the coronavirus.

The 287 students who will be tested on Monday live in dorms on the campus in Logan. There have been no reported positive tests for Covid-19 in those residence halls so far.

Students in those dorms must quarantine until the test results are available, which could take up to four days. They are also asked to fill out a form to ensure they receive academic support, food deliveries and other resources.

Classes are scheduled to begin today for about 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Utah State is one of a small handful of schools using wastewater sampling to help safeguard against a Covid-19 outbreak, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Officials with the University of Arizona said on Thursday that the school used wastewater testing to prevent a Covid-19 outbreak on campus.

A test of just over 300 people in one dorm with elevated levels of coronavirus in the wastewater turned up two cases, said university President Robert Robbins. Neither student had symptoms. They were isolated.

A water quality scientist, conducts tests on a water sample - Reuters
A water quality scientist, conducts tests on a water sample – Reuters

10:48 PM

US floats idea of early approval for eventual vaccine

The head of the US Food and Drug Administration raised the possibility in an interview published on Sunday that a future vaccine against the coronavirus might be given emergency approval before the end of trials designed to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

A request for such extraordinary approval would have to come from the vaccine developer, Stephen Hahn told the Financial Times.

“If they do that before the end of Phase Three,” which involves large-scale human testing, “we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination.”

But Mr Hahn insisted he was not acting under pressure from President Donald Trump, who has been pushing hard for a vaccine, saying one might be ready before US elections on November 3.

“This is going to be a science, medicine, data decision,” Mr Hahn said. “This is not going to be a political decision.”

Read more: China emerging as winner in vaccine race 

10:42 PM

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