A Government drive to encourage millions of people working at home to go back to the office has been put on ice over concerns of a spike in coronavirus cases, the Telegraph can disclose.
Amid signs of confusion at the heart of Cabinet, ministers are understood to have rowed back on plans to launch a major campaign to urge office workers to return to their desks and start commuting again.
They fear any mass return could send infections soaring, and threaten the planned return of thousands of children to school over the next few weeks.
Follow the latest updates below.
Warning reopening universities ‘encouraging a public health crisis’
Universities could become ground zero for a second wave of Covid-19 in the UK unless they avoid face-to-face teaching, it has been reported.
The movement of an expected one million students around Britain as they return to universities in the next month has lead the University and College Union (UCU) to warn the Government is “encouraging a public health crisis”.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady told The Observer the mass movement “could lead to universities being the care homes of any second wave of Covid”.
She also accused the Government of a lack of planning, with more students expected on campuses following the admissions fiasco as data emerges that infection rates are increasing among younger people.
“So the very people who are increasingly getting infected by this virus are being encouraged in mass numbers to move all around the country and congregate and live together,” Ms Grady said.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
The UCU wants students to avoid campuses until Christmas unless a testing scheme begins operating at universities.
Read more: Children can carry coronavirus in their noses for weeks, study finds
Global cases surpass 25 million
Global coronavirus cases surged past 25 million on Sunday, according to a Reuters tally, revealing steady growth in the pandemic as its epicentre shifts again.
India’s daily new case numbers have surpassed those of the United States and Brazil, the two countries worst hit by the pandemic, for more than three weeks.
At least 25,029,250 people have been infected with the respiratory disease.
Around the world, there have been more than 840,000 deaths, considered a lagging indicator given the two-week incubation period of the virus.
Influencers and reality TV stars paid to promote Test and Trace system
The Government has admitted to paying social media influencers and reality TV stars to promote the NHS Test and Trace system as it failed to reach its 80 per cent target for the ninth week in a row.
A spokesman said the Government had a responsibility to “use every means possible” to keep the public informed during the pandemic.
He said: “Our use of social media influencers has meant over 7 million people have been reached. This is just one part of a wider campaign utilising TV, radio, social, print and other advertisements to ensure the public has the information it needs.”
It comes as the Sunday Mirror reported Love Island stars Shaughna Phillips, Chris Hughes and Josh Denzel were among those paid by the Cabinet Office to tell their online followers testing for Covid-19 was “free, quick and vital to stop the spread”.
But Phillips and Hughes have also both posted images online in the last month which showed them failing to socially distance from others on Mediterranean islands.
Cases rise in Australian state as NZ announces easing curbs
New cases in Australia’s state of Victoria returned to the triple digits on Sunday, while neighbouring New Zealand said it would ease curbs slightly in its largest city, hit by a resurgence of infections.
Victoria reported 114 new cases, a day after the daily tally fell to 94, its lowest in nearly two months. Its capital, Melbourne, is four weeks into a six-week hard lockdown that authorities have said may ease only gradually.
“At 100, 94, at 114, whatever the number, we simply could not open up,” state premier Daniel Andrews said.
The nation of 25 million has suffered about 25,600 infections and just over 600 deaths since the start of the year.
New Zealand, reported two new virus cases on Sunday, taking its tally of infections to 1,378, while the death toll stands at 22.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said curbs in Auckland would be eased from Monday, but would be tightened again if needed.
Limits will stay on public gatherings and movement in Auckland, however, with masks made mandatory nationwide from Monday.
China records 14 days of no locally transmitted infections
Mainland China reported nine new confirmed cases on Saturday, all them imported, the National Health Commission said on Sunday, meaning there were no locally transmitted infections for a record 14th straight day.
The number of imported cases – found in people traveling into the country from overseas – was the same as a day earlier.
Three of these were recorded in Shanghai, with two in southeast China’s Fujian province, two in Sichuan in the country’s southwest and one each in the northern municipality of Tianjin and the southern province of Guangdong.
The commission said another four asymptomatic carriers were found on Saturday, down from 10 a day earlier.
Total confirmed cases in China have now reached 85,031, with 4,634 deaths.
South Korea introduces restrictions as cases continue to climb
South Korea has reported 299 new cases as officials placed limits on dining at restaurants and closed fitness centers and after-school academies in the greater capital area to slow the spread of the virus.
The 17th consecutive day of triple-digit increases brought the national caseload to 19,699, including 323 deaths.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 209 of the new cases came from capital Seoul, nearby Gyeonggi province and Incheon, a region that had been at the center of a viral resurgence this month.
Thirty cases were also reported in the southeastern city of Daegu, the epicenter of the previous major outbreak in late February and March.
Health authorities have ordered churches and nightspots to close and shifted more schools back to remote learning nationwide as infections spiked.
For eight days starting on Sunday, restaurants in the Seoul area are allowed to provide only deliveries and takeouts after 9 pm. Franchised coffee shops like Starbucks will sell only takeout drinks and food.
States reject Trump administration testing guidance
A majority of US states have rejected new Trump administration Covid-19 testing guidance in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s top agency for disease prevention, according to officials at state health agencies and public statements reviewed by Reuters.
At least 33 states continue to recommend testing people who have been exposed to Covid-19 and have no symptoms, spurning guidance published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week that said testing may be unnecessary. Sixteen states did not immediately respond to requests for comment and North Dakota said it had not made a decision.
Among the states breaking with the federal government are conservative-leaning Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona.
Read more: Don’t write off Donald Trump’s chances of victory, analysts say
Brazil to extend coronavirus economic aid
Brazil will officially announce on Tuesday the extension of an aid payment program designed to help people weather the economic damage of the pandemic, a government official said on Saturday.
President Jair Bolsonaro has previously stated that the aid payments, which are due to expire this month, will be renewed through the end of the year. However, a planned announcement last Tuesday was delayed after disagreements about the form of future aid payments and related benefits arose between the Economy Ministry and Mr Bolsonaro.
“On Tuesday, we’re going to the Alvorada Palace to announce, together with President Jair Bolsonaro, the extension of emergency payments, a benefit that is so important for millions of Brazilians that need help to confront the pandemic,” Deputy Arthur Lira, the head in the lower house of a power political bloc known as the Centrao, wrote on Twitter.