Coronavirus latest news: Hancock expected to announce local restrictions for North East of England

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to announce local restrictions for the North East of

Health Secretary Matt Hancock is expected to announce local restrictions for the North East of England following a rise in coronavirus cases.

It comes as a former WHO director has retracted his claim that Chris Whitty wants a two-week national lockdown.

Anthony Costello wrote on social media last night that a ” well-connected person” had told him the Chief Medical Officer for England was pushing for the move over fears case rates were much higher than official figures showed.

However, the professor of global health at University College London, has now retracted the claim, posting online: “I’ve been told by another insider I respect that Chris Whitty does not support a 2 week lockdown, so I’m pleased to correct the record.”

The correction came after Health Minister Edward Argar played down reports that the Government is considering a second national lockdown, saying infections can be controlled with local measures.

Follow the latest updates below.

10:19 AM

Bill de Blasio furloughs himself

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has announced he will furlough almost 500 members of his staff, including himself and his wife, for one week in an effort to close a huge budget deficit that has emerged from the coronavirus lockdown.

All 495 people who work for Mr de Blasio at City Hall will take a week of unpaid leave at some point between October 2020 and March 2021, according to reporting from the New York Times.

The economic shutdown has led to the city suffering a $9bn (£6.9bn) loss of revenue, leading to a $7bn (£5.4bn) cut in the city’s annual budget. 

While the furlough scheme will only save about $860,000 (£663,000), Mr de Blasio says it has a symbolic purpose of demonstrating willingness to make personal sacrifices. The mayor is currently locked in negotiations with labour unions over payroll savings.

Marcus Parekh has the story here.

Mr de Blasio announced that all of his staff, including his wife and himself, must take a week of unpaid leave - John Minchillo / AP
Mr de Blasio announced that all of his staff, including his wife and himself, must take a week of unpaid leave – John Minchillo / AP

10:10 AM

Public approval of Government’s pandemic response falls to lowest level yet

Public approval of the Government’s handling of the pandemic has fallen to the lowest level yet, amid a growing crisis over lack of coronavirus test capacity. 

The net approval score for Boris Johnson’s team has dropped to -33, down from -18 last week, YouGov said. The previous lowest net approval was -21, recorded in mid-August. The highest ever score was +51, recorded at the end of March.

Last week some 63 per cent of people said the Government had done a bad job, up eight per cent on the previous week, while  just 30 said ministers have done a good job, down seven per cent. 

More than two-thirds of Britons – 70 per cent – say the national coronavirus situation is getting worse; just 14 per cent say it is getting better.

10:01 AM

‘If people stick to the rules we don’t need to see a national lockdown’ says health minister

09:56 AM

South Africa lifts ban on international travel as coronavirus cases plummet

South Africa is to open its borders to international travellers from the beginning of next month as the country’s coronavirus cases continue to fall. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa lifted bans on international travel late on Wednesday and said the three main airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban will re-open on October 1. 

But he said that incoming international travellers would have to carry Covid-19 test results that were no more than 72 hours old.

Peta Thornycroft has more on this story here.

09:50 AM

Coming up: Hancock announces more Covid restrictions for England

We’ll bring you live updates here. 


09:41 AM

London Mayor asks Health Secretary for action on testing ‘chaos and confusion’

Sadiq Khan has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for action on the coronavirus testing “chaos and confusion”.

The Labour mayor told London Assembly Members: “This is a critical moment in the fight against Covid-19. Many Londoners are being told there are no testing sites available in London.

“The delays are preventing frontline workers from being able to do their jobs, and children are being kept away from their classrooms unnecessarily.

“This failure is putting lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. We’ve known for months now that come the autumn demand for testing would increase. This crunch point should have been foreseen, and then avoided.

“And unless the Government massively ramps up testing capacity in London we’ll be back to where we started: trying to halt the spread of the virus in the dark.

“Nothing is more important than a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system if we are to prevent a devastating second wave, and time is fast running out. “

09:38 AM

John Lewis to axe staff bonus after slumping to loss

John Lewis Partnership is to axe its famous staff bonus for the first time in more than 60 years after slumping to a loss for the first half of the year. 

Dame Sharon White, boss of the employee-owned retailer, warned it was on course to make “a small loss or a small profit for the year” after coronavirus ravaged sales at its department store chain.

It is the first time since 1953 that John Lewis has not paid out a proportion of profits to staff. 

Read the full story here.

09:28 AM

P&O Cruises extends suspension of sailings until early next year

The UK’s largest cruise line said the decision was taken due to “evolving restrictions on travel”. It had previously cancelled sailings until November 12.

President Paul Ludlow said: “With evolving restrictions on travel from the UK, unfortunately it is necessary to cancel these itineraries.

“These further cancellations vary according to ship as well as complexity and length of itineraries, advice and guidance regarding ports of call and current air availability for fly/cruises.

“We are continuing to monitor the overall situation closely and will certainly reintroduce cruises should the opportunity arise and it is feasible to do so.”

09:18 AM

Delusional Covid ‘suppression’ strategy has sent us into a downward spiral

“The experts are correct. Routine mass testing is the ideal way to prevent a second wave while keeping the economy going. But it is reckless to pretend that, as things stand, it is realistic,” writes Telegraph columnist Sherelle Jacobs.

“In a perfect world, the Government would have stimulated the market for Covid detection right at the start of this crisis, allowing firms to stay open provided they rapidly identified cases. At the same time, ministers would have provided juicy subsidies to private testing companies.

“This could have triggered huge investment followed by huge innovation, with tests becoming faster and more accurate. We may then have been much closer to that sweet spot of routinely mass testing the entire population every five days to keep the R number stable.”

Read the full column here.

09:04 AM

Revenge porn helpline surge in calls during lockdown

The UK’s revenge porn helpline has dealt with more cases so far this year than it did during the whole of 2019, amid fears of a post-lockdown “new normal”.

Some 2,050 reports of so-called revenge porn had been made to the Government-funded helpline as of Monday.

This represents a 22% rise on the 1,685 reports over 2019 and its busiest year on record.

The helpline, run by the charity SWGfL, part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, saw cases almost double in April compared to the same month the previous year – from 122 to 242.

Advisers thought this spike may settle, but despite the coronavirus lockdown easing, cases have remained high through to August.

08:37 AM

Face masks could be giving people Covid-19 immunity, researchers suggest

Face masks may be inadvertently giving people Covid-19 immunity and making them get less sick from the virus, academics have suggested in one of the most respected medical journals in the world. 

The commentary, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, advances the unproven but promising theory that universal face mask wearing might be helping to reduce the severity of the virus and ensuring that a greater proportion of new infections are asymptomatic. 

If this hypothesis is borne out, the academics argue, then universal mask-wearing could become a form of variolation (inoculation) that would generate immunity and “thereby slow the spread of the virus in the United States and elsewhere” as the world awaits a vaccine.

Read the full story here.

08:20 AM

Southampton boat shows cancelled

Two boat shows in Southampton were cancelled at the last minute despite council officers only asking for one change to the site set-up, the organisers have said.

British Marine, which had organised the scaled-down version of the Southampton International Boat Show, has confirmed an appeal against the decision to shut down the event has been unsuccessful.

They had asked the Secretaries of State for Public Health and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to review the decision made by Southampton City Council.

Staff put up screens after the event was cancelled - Steve Parsons/PA
Staff put up screens after the event was cancelled – Steve Parsons/PA

The Boats2020 event and accompanying Ocean Village Boat Show – both set to run from September 11 to 20 – were cancelled by order of the local authority on the eve of the event.

The annual Southampton International Boat Show, which has been held for more than 50 years and last year saw 100,000 visitors, was postponed because of the pandemic and replaced with the smaller events which were expected to pull in 20,000 people over the 10 days.

08:02 AM

Health minister: Second national lockdown not necessary 

Edward Argar said the Government believes the rise in coronavirus cases can be controlled through local measures.

“We saw in Leicester it worked, we saw those rates come right down – it does work and it does control it at a local level,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“I don’t think we are at a place where we would wish to see or need to see a national level of restrictions.”

Mr Argar said that while the Government was “ramping up” testing capacity as cases rose, it would need to prioritise key workers.

“We will see this in the next few days, the official guidance coming out that will prioritise frontline NHS care workers, teachers and similar,” he said.

“It is possible that there are people with symptoms who apply for a test who have to wait longer because we are prioritising those key frontline workers we need to keep our NHS and care system working.”

07:44 AM

Eating indoors without masks is not safe, claims US scientist

Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said eating and drinking indoors without wearing a mask is risky as the virus can travel through the air.

“Aerosol transmission is very real risk – this is why the six feet rule is not enough if rooms are not super ventilated,” he said. 

He posted the below videos to his social media, which he says explains how the virus spreads indoors and how to keep air clear in rooms.

07:24 AM

Second lockdown would be a mistake, says Oxford University professor

Dr Adam Kucharski, of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who advises Sage on modelling the virus, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we’re seeing some troubling early signals – we’re obviously not at the point where that’s translating into a substantial burden on healthcare, although we are seeing things creep up.

“I think we are getting to a point where we’re potentially losing our ability to actively track the virus. That means we could have a situation where we start seeing more severe cases appear and we don’t have good warning of that.”

However, Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, argued that the key is knowing who is symptomatic and said a two-week lockdown would be a mistake as it “delays the inevitable” and pushes the emergence of cases into winter.

“The language of ‘out of control’, ‘need more testing’ and ‘this is terrible’ needs to be dialled back,” he said.

“Our huge problem is we’re losing the trust of the population. What we have to do is slow down our thinking, pause and start to be more analytical about the steps we take because as we’re rushing, like with test and trace, we’re falling over.

“At some point, the Government and its advisers are going to have to start to realise that this infection is endemic and set a clear objective, which is missing at the moment. If we don’t accept it’s endemic, we aren’t protecting those who are most vulnerable.”

07:01 AM

‘Man-made’ antibody cuts risk of hospitalisation by 70pc

A single dose of a man-made antibody has been found to cut the risk of patients being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 by more than 70 per cent, a small study has found.

The therapy – called monoclonal or neutralising antibodies – is the first treatment to be specifically designed for Covid-19 and experts are excited about its potential.

The findings were released by drug firm Eli Lilly but were not published in a peer-reviewed journal and full trial data have not yet been released.

According to the US-based firm, 452 newly diagnosed patients received either the monoclonal antibody or a placebo infusion.

Some 1.7 per cent of those who received the monoclonal antibody were hospitalised compared to six per cent of those who received the placebo – a 72 per cent reduction in risk.

Read the full story here.

07:00 AM

Office staff ‘face work from home order if coronavirus cases keep rising’

Office staff will be given a “work from home” order within a fortnight if the “rule of six” fails to bring down coronavirus infection rates, ministers have been warned.

The current shortage of Covid-19 tests means employers will have no choice but to send more workers home, undermining the already weak economic recovery, business leaders said.

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

Read the full story here.

06:45 AM

Health Minister plays down second national lockdown 

Edward Argar has played down reports that the Government is considering a two-week national lockdown as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

“It is not something I have seen within the department,” he told Sky News.

“The Prime Minister has been very clear on this. He doesn’t want to see another national lockdown. He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work.”

With further lockdowns expected to be announced in North East England, Mr Argar said the region was seeing a spike in cases similar to that in the North West.

“In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West. We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action,” he said.

06:27 AM

Symptom tracker app developer: Don’t ask for test if you’re sneezing and have runny nose

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, developed the Covid-19 symptom tracker app, which is being used by around four million people.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that 80 per cent of people in all age groups who reported their symptoms in the first week had severe headaches and tiredness or fatigue.

Losing sense of smell is quite uncommon in older people and children and the immune system can react differently in people of varying ages, he said.  

However, runny nose, congestion and sneezing are symptoms which are not associated with Covid-19 and are more likely to be a common cold, he said.  

“We have 6,500 new cases every day, which on a countrywide basis is still very small, so the chances are most people don’t have Covid-19,” he said.

“We have to start thinking about ways to exclude it rather than going on these standard criteria.  

“Don’t overburden the system by trying to get a test. By all means keep your child at home, but don’t rush around the country trying to get a test for something that is highly likely to be a cold and not Covid-19.”

06:12 AM

Schools draw up plans to go part-time if testing chaos continues

Headteachers have said that unless the Government can get a grip on the testing system, they will need to instigate rota systems where pupils are taught on two weeks on, two weeks off basis.

Education leaders warned the Prime Minister that nearly every school in the country is struggling to access tests for students and staff.

Secondary schools should only move to a rota system if cases are rising in a local area and “all other measures have been exhausted”, according to official contingency planning advice published by The Department for Education.

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that teachers may be forced to put the rota plans in place sooner rather than later. 

Read the full story here.

05:58 AM

‘Tough’ restrictions necessary to ‘protect’ Christmas, insists PM

Boris Johnson has warned actions to stop a second surge of coronavirus must be “tough now” in order to “protect” Christmas.

His words came as stricter new measures are expected to be announced for the North East of England, where cases are on the rise – including a reported curfew on pubs.

The PM said people have to be “both confident and cautious” and that it is “crucial” the country does not re-enter “some great lockdown again that stops business from functioning”.

“Christmas we want to protect, and we want everyone to have a fantastic Christmas,” he said.

“But the only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now.

“So if we can grip it now, stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump.”

05:57 AM

North East temporary restrictions to prevent full lockdown

The North East looks set to become the latest area in England to come under local restrictions as coronavirus cases rise.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said “additional, temporary” measures are being planned to prevent another full lockdown.

He said he expected Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make an announcement on Thursday morning.

The Chronicle Live website reported that measures would include a 10pm curfew on pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises.

It also said people will be banned from socialising with anyone outside their household

Other restrictions it said were due to be announced but had not yet been confirmed include people being told not to go on holiday with different households and spectators advised not to attend sporting venues.

It said care home visits will be restricted to essential visitors, and people will be advised to avoid public transport at peak times except for essential journeys, and to avoid car-shares.

05:54 AM

Wales local lockdown after rise in cases

A local lockdown will be enforced in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area of south Wales following a “rapid rise” in Covid-19 cases, the Welsh Government has confirmed.

Under the new restrictions, which come into force at 6pm on Thursday, people must not enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse.

Meetings with other people indoors will not be allowed, including for extended households.

All licensed pubs, bars and restaurants in the area, which has a population of around 240,000, will have to close at 11pm.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said the lockdown followed two “significant” clusters of Covid-19 cases in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area.

05:53 AM

 £546m care homes rescue package for winter

The Prime Minister has announced he will unveil a rescue package of £546 million to protect care homes from the threat of Covid-19 during the winter.

The funds will be used to ensure staff are limited to working in one home and compensated for any reduced hours, said Boris Johnson.

Care home workers will also be given financial support to ensure they have sufficient personal protective equipment and are able to minimise their use of public transport.

“Be in no doubt we’re going to do absolutely all we can to stop the spread in care homes,” he said.

“And I’m afraid it’s an incredibly difficult thing, but we are going to have to place some restrictions on people, visitors being able to go into care homes.”

05:51 AM

Don’t snitch on neighbours, says PM

Members of the public should not report their neighbours for breaching the the ‘rule of six’ unless they are having large parties, the Prime Minister has said.

Any social gathering of more than six people in England is against the law, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure, which applies to both indoor and outdoor settings.

Boris Johnson urged people to speak with rulebreakers before notifying the authorities.

“I have never much been in favour of sneak culture, myself,” he said.

“What people should do in the first instance is obviously if they are concerned is raise it with their friends and neighbours.

“But I think what is reasonable for anyone to do is if they think there is a serious threat to public health as a result of their neighbours’ activities – if there is some huge kind of Animal House party taking place, as I am sure, hot tubs and so forth, and there is a serious threat to public health then its reasonable for the authorities to know.”

04:36 AM

India records nearly 100,000 infections in a day

India reported another record jump in daily coronavirus infections, with 97,894 cases in the past 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday.

With 5.12 million cases in all, India is the world’s second-worst affected country, and trails only the United States, which has a caseload of around 6.6 million.

Deaths, which have been relatively low so far, are showing an uptick, and the country has recorded more than 1,000 deaths every day for the past two weeks.

On Thursday, the federal health ministry said 1,132 people died of Covid in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities from the disease to 83,198.

03:06 AM

Exclusive: Schools’ part-time plans if testing chaos continues

Schools are drawing up plans to go part-time if the testing chaos continues, The Telegraph has learned.

Headteachers have said that unless the Government can get a grip on the testing system, they will need to instigate rota systems where pupils are taught on a two weeks on, two weeks off basis.

Education leaders warned the Prime Minister that nearly every school in the country is struggling to access tests for students and staff.

Read the full story here.

02:58 AM

‘Flights to nowhere’ taking off in Asia and Australia

Qantas Airways will operate a seven-hour scenic flight over Australia next month, adding to a growing trend in Asia of “flights to nowhere” that take off and land at the same airport.

Tough border restrictions to keep coronavirus under control have led to a 97.5 per cent plunge in international travel in the region.

Many frequent flyers miss getting on planes. Airlines including Taiwan’s EVA Airways Corp and Japan’s ANA Holdings, desperate for revenue and to keep their pilots’ licences current, have offered special sightseeing flights.

Qantas said it would use a Boeing 787 typically used for long-haul international flights for the flight from Sydney that will fly at low levels over Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour - NitiChuysakul Photography
Qantas said it would use a Boeing 787 typically used for long-haul international flights for the flight from Sydney that will fly at low levels over Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour – NitiChuysakul Photography

Just six months ago, it would have been unimaginable that Australians would be unable to hop on a plane and travel out of the country or even out of their own state due to border controls and quarantine requirements, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.

“While we may not be able to take you overseas right now, we can certainly provide inspiration for future trips to some of Australia’s most beautiful destinations,” he said.

Read the full story here.

12:06 AM

Numbers drop in Australian hot-spot

The daily rise in coronavirus infections in Australia’s state of Victoria eased further on Thursday, as the state began relaxing most restrictions outside its largest city of Melbourne after a steady drop in cases in recent days.

Residents in regional areas of the state can now have outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, and cafes will be able to seat up to 50 people outside.

Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, reported 28 new cases on Thursday, the lowest daily rise since June 24 and down from daily highs above 700 in early August.

The south-eastern state at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in the country reported eight deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours, the same as reported a day earlier.

12:00 AM

Exclusive: Only select few to get rationed Covid tests

Large numbers of people will be refused coronavirus tests even if they have symptoms under Government plans to ration testing if the crisis deepens, The Telegraph can reveal. 

A prioritisation list drawn up by health officials suggests routine testing would no longer be offered to swathes of the public, with tests restricted to select groups of people. 

It comes as the UK recorded nearly 4,000 new Covid-19 cases in a day for the first time since the start of May, with a jump from 3,539 to 3,991 in one day. 

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson said the Government was doing everything in its power to avoid a second national lockdown, which he said would be financially “disastrous” (watch the video below).

Read our exclusive story in full here.

10:49 PM

Today’s top stories

Source Article