Coronavirus latest news: Nicola Sturgeon imposes tough new restrictions on Scotland

Dominic Penna
·66-min read
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

The First Minister said that indoor hospitality venues would be allowed to operate only between 6am and 6pm daily, selling food and non-alcoholic drinks only.

Outdoor bars, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to remain open up until 10pm and will be allowed to sell alcohol up to that time.

However, all licensed premises in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley health board areas - which include the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh - will be closed for both indoor and outdoor operations.

People in the central belt of Scotland have been asked to avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary in the next two weeks.

The restrictions will come into force at 6pm on Friday and are intended to end after October 25.  

Face coverings will also become mandatory in indoor communal settings in Scotland, the First Minister has said.

She announced that in the coming weeks, the Scottish Government will introduce regulations to expand the rule, which will mandate a covering in places such as staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.

Shops will also be asked to return to the two metre physical distancing rule, having previously been allowed to reduce the distance to one metre to allow for more customers.

Watch live and follow the latest updates below.

05:50 PM

Massive debt raises risk of interest rate shock, OBR warns

The OBR has warned that ballooning government debt means the UK was increasingly exposed to the risk of interest rates rising in the coming years and decades, writes Tim Wallace.

Richard Hughes told MPs that the Government should not rely on borrowing costs staying at record lows forever when drawing up tax and spending plans.

“We are clearly in exceptional times at the moment, with very low interest rates,” said Mr Hughes.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, leaves a television studio in London - Toby Melville/Reuters
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, leaves a television studio in London - Toby Melville/Reuters

“It is a big question how long that will last. It is not something you would want to base government policy on in the longer term, if you look back at the broad sweep of history.”

This year the Treasury is likely to borrow £370bn amid the coronavirus crisis, more than doubling the £158bn deficit in the peak year of the financial crisis.

It has already taken the debt to more than 100pc of GDP for the first time since the 1960s, when the cost of the Second World War was still being paid. Yet markets are happy to lend at negative interest rates.

Read the full story here.

05:32 PM

Donald Trump ends talks with Democrats over new Covid relief measures - then reverses course on Twitter

Donald Trump announced he was ending negotiations with Congress on a new coronavirus economic relief bill until after the election, then appeared to change his stance late on Tuesday night, Rozina Sabur reports from Washington.

The US president had said he was asking Republicans in Congress to "focus full time" on approving his nominee to the US Supreme Court, the conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett.

US stocks tumbled in the wake of Mr Trump's announcement.

In this file photo US President Donald Trump salutes from the Truman Balcony upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for Covid-19 - Nicholas Kamm/AFP
In this file photo US President Donald Trump salutes from the Truman Balcony upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center, where he underwent treatment for Covid-19 - Nicholas Kamm/AFP

Mr Trump them seemed to reverse course and urged Congress to approve a series of coronavirus relief measures that he would sign, including $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans.

Earlier in the day, he had halted talks between top Democrats and Republicans until "after I win" the election, which appeared to have killed the chances of a new package. Both moves by the president were made on Twitter.

05:26 PM

NHS Test and Trace: What went wrong with the system

Exasperation has felt by many after the UK’s contact tracing system was responsible for a series of embarrassing failures in the Government’s coronavirus response, writes our political correspondent Amy Jones.

The latest error means that 15,841 positive Covid-19 cases between September 25 and October 2 were not uploaded to national statistics, nor passed to contact tracers.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted the incident "should never have happened" but stopped short of offering an apology, instead blaming technical errors.

But it’s not the only embarrassing test and trace story to break in recent weeks.

As schools returned in early September the system became overwhelmed, leading some people to be asked to travel hundreds of miles to get tested.

UK labs were described as "maxed out" after a rise in demand, with Baroness Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace in England, saying she was "very sorry" for the situation.

Read more: UK's contact tracing system responsible for embarrassing string of failures

05:15 PM

Ministers confirm creation of quarantine task force

Grant Shapps has announced the creation of a Global Travel Taskforce to develop a testing regime that would allow the UK to reduce the quarantine period for incoming travellers.

Mr Shapps told the virtual Conservative Party conference at the start of this week that he would soon unveil plans that would enable travellers to sidestep quarantine and restart the weakened travel and tourism industries.

Travellers register for a swab test at a Covid-19 test centre at Duesseldorf Airport in Duesseldorf, Germany - Sarah Pabst/Bloomberg
Travellers register for a swab test at a Covid-19 test centre at Duesseldorf Airport in Duesseldorf, Germany - Sarah Pabst/Bloomberg

The task force will be chaired by Mr Shapps alongside Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, and has been set up at the request of Boris Johnson.

05:00 PM

Knowsley now has highest Covid case rate in England

Here are the latest rolling seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 for every local authority area in England according to PA analysis of Public Health England data:

Knowsley now has the highest rate in England, with 867 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 4 - the equivalent of 574.7 cases per 100,000 people.

This is a significant rise from 334.7 per 100,000 in the seven days to September 27.

Liverpool has the second highest rate at 551.6 per 100,000 (this figure was 342.3 previously), with 2,747 new cases.

Manchester is in third place with the rate having increased from 307.0 to 541.5, with 2,994 new cases.

Other areas recording big jumps in their seven-day rates include Nottingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Sheffield, and Leeds.

Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically
Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically

 

04:48 PM

Coronavirus cases in Scotland - and how they compare to England

This graphic from our data specialist Alex Clark shows that Scotland was on a trajectory toward 'zero-Covid' over the summer - but cases are now back on the rise and virtually in line with those in England.

Nicola Sturgeon has said that new restrictions north of the border are needed now in order to "hasten the brighter days" that lie ahead, despite concern from the hospitality industries which will bear the brunt of the new regulations.

 

04:38 PM

Germany coronavirus cases reach highest level since April

 

04:29 PM

Latest news headlines: Your Wednesday evening briefing

A sign of things to come? Nicola Sturgeon today announced a 16-day ban on pubs and restaurants selling alcohol indoors as she tries to halt the spread of coronavirus.

At Prime Minister's Questions today Sir Keir Starmer challenged Boris Johnson to publish the evidence showing a scientific basis for the current 10pm hospitality curfew.

A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer attending the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on October 7, 2020. - Jessica Taylor/AFP
A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer attending the weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on October 7, 2020. - Jessica Taylor/AFP

 And Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said next week's scheduled debate with Donald Trump should not take place if the President is still infected with Covid-19.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio - Oliver Douliery/Pool via Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio - Oliver Douliery/Pool via Reuters

 Chris Price has all this and more in your Wednesday evening news briefing.

04:10 PM

New measures 'a crushing blow' to Scottish businesses, warns CBI director

Tracy Black, the Scotland director of the CBI, has said that the latest restrictions confirmed by Nicola Sturgeon for Scotland  “will come as a crushing blow” to hospitality.

While claiming control of the virus is central to permanent economic recovery, she said that “hospitality, leisure and tourism firms will rightly be frustrated at this decision, having invested heavily in making their premises as safe as possible for employees and customers and receiving little to no consultation on new restrictions.”

“With many pubs, cafes and restaurants only just getting back on their feet, there is no doubt this latest round of measures will put more jobs and businesses at serious risk.”

“While the announcement of £40 million of support is welcome, it’s deeply disappointing that firms have been instructed to close before specific detail has been provided on what funding will be made available and how it can be accessed.”

04:04 PM

Coronavirus curfew in Jordan to take effect for foreseeable future

Jordan is introducing a weekend-long national curfew from Friday that will be imposed for the foreseeable future, after an increase in case numbers, writes Helen Nianias.

The curfew will be repeated every weekend until further notice, and the nightly curfew in place between 1am and 6am will stay in place on week nights.

Students, some wearing protective masks against the coronavirus, attend a class at one of the private schools, amid fears of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in Amman, Jordan October 7 - Muhammad Hamed/Reuters
Students, some wearing protective masks against the coronavirus, attend a class at one of the private schools, amid fears of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in Amman, Jordan October 7 - Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

Only key workers will be allowed to leave their homes for the 48-hour lockdown, according to state news agency Petra.

Last week, the government introduced harsher penalties for people who break the rules, with people being punished with a year in jail if they organise gatherings of more than 20 people.

03:56 PM

Lives put at risk because pipeline for coronavirus antivirals is 'bare', warn experts

While potentially far-off coronavirus vaccines have received around $2 billion of investment, funding for treatments currently totals just $300 million.

The world is at risk of a “real deficit” of high quality coronavirus treatments, putting millions of lives at risk, as the pipeline for new antiviral drugs is “bare”, experts have warned.

Speaking at a virtual briefing Dr Nick Cammack, who is leading the global search for Covid therapeutics at Wellcome, said there is not enough focus on developing new treatments designed specifically to tackle coronaviruses.

Researchers in Russia manufacturing Areplivir, a repurposed drug which some experts hope could help Covid patients - Stanislav Krasilnikov\\TASS
Researchers in Russia manufacturing Areplivir, a repurposed drug which some experts hope could help Covid patients - Stanislav Krasilnikov\\TASS

Since Covid emerged 10 months ago there have been significant breakthroughs in repurposing existing drugs – most significantly the finding that the cheap steroid dexamethasone prevents one in three deaths among the most severely ill patients. 

Despite their high price, there is also some excitement about the potential of monoclonal antibodies, laboratory-produced injectable antibodies specifically created to treat Covid. Around 70 are in development and the clinical trial results are expected within months.

Sarah Newey has the full story.

03:43 PM

Brussels closes cafes as Belgium announces 'rule of four' to combat Covid

Brussels' cafes and bars will close for a month, it was announced on Wednesday after Belgium said it would introduce a nationwide "rule of four" to curb rising coronavirus infections.

James Crisp has the following dispatch from Brussels:

There was a 57 per cent increase in infections from September 27 to October 3 with an average of 87 people being hospitalised every day in Belgium. 2,466 people a day tested positive for Covid-19 over the past week.

Brussels has the highest number of infections in Belgium and the second highest in Europe, with fewer cases than Madrid but more than in Paris. 

The capital’s mayors decided to  impose stricter restrictions than elsewhere in Belgium. They closed all cafes and bars in the city for a month from 7am on Thursday. Drinking in public places is banned, but restaurants can remain open. 

Nationwide restrictions announced on Tuesday ordered bars and cafes to close early at 11pm.

Read more on this story here.

 

03:34 PM

Czech Republic coronavirus cases rise above 4,000 for first time

The Czech Republic has reported a record 4,457 new coronavirus cases in the space of a single day, with infections now rising at Europe’s fastest pace according to the Reuters news agency.

The Czech Republic's 14-day case rate is now at 326.8 cases per 100,000, with tightened measures set to be announced as of Friday.

There is currently no travel corridor between the Czech Republic and the UK, and it is unlikely one will be formed anytime soon.

03:27 PM

Sturgeon shuts pubs and restaurants across central belt in 'death sentence' to businesses

All pubs, bars and restaurants serving more than half of Scotland's population are to shut for at least 16 days from this weekend, under complicated rules unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon to prevent Covid-19 surging back to its spring peak, reports Simon Johnson.

The First Minister announced all licensed premises in the Central Belt, except hotels for residents and takeaways, must close indoors and outdoors from 6pm on Friday. The tough measures will apply in five health board areas covering around 3.3 million people.

In the remainder of the country, licensed premises can open for indoors service between 6am and 6pm but will be barred from selling alcoholic drinks. Ms Sturgeon also requested shops across Scotland return to two-metre distancing and one-way systems.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney leave a lift in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh - Andrew Milligan/PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney leave a lift in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh - Andrew Milligan/PA

The First Minister announced £40 million of support for affected businesses but the hospitality sector said she had "effectively signed a death sentence for many businesses" despite the "real problem" being socialising at home.

Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for the Scottish Hospitality Group, said: "This latest blow from the Scottish Government will create fear and anger across our industry.

"We have repeatedly asked for scientific data from the Scottish Government to validate these escalating restrictions and yet we have been singled out, charged and found guilty without any supporting evidence."

Read the full story here.

03:18 PM

UK coronavirus cases rise by 14,162

A further 14,162 laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been announced by the Department for Health, taking the UK's overall caseload to 544,275.

A further 70 deaths have been confirmed across all settings within 28 days of positive tests. This takes the Government's official death toll to 42,515.

An additional 508 coronavirus patients have been admitted to hospital.

03:14 PM

Scotland pubs closing is 'devastating' for thousands, says CAMRA

The Campaign for Real Ale has described fresh restrictions on hospitality and alcohol set out by Nicola Sturgeon today as “absolutely devastating news for pubs and breweries”:  

Publicans who have been operating at reduced rates, and who have already invested thousands of pounds of their dwindling reserves making their premises COVID-secure, now face 16 days without any turnover whatsoever.

Understandably, they feel like pubs have become the scapegoat for the pandemic. 

The £40 million in support for the hospitality sector is welcome and necessary but the devil will be in the detail.

Without proper financial compensation now - and longer-term financial support to help deal with reduced trade as a result of restrictions like the curfew - we risk seeing thousands of pubs, clubs and breweries closing for good before Christmas.

02:57 PM

Traffic light system could see pubs shut in local lockdowns

Pubs and restaurants could be closed in local lockdown areas under a new 'traffic light' system being finalised by Boris Johnson, write Gordon Rayner and Harry Yorke.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that infection data is “not good news” for the hospitality industry.

Different options for the three-tiered model of low, medium and high-risk areas have been sent to the Prime Minister and could be announced later this week.

In this photo issued by UK Parliament, Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock listens to questions in the House of Commons - Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament
In this photo issued by UK Parliament, Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock listens to questions in the House of Commons - Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament

The most extreme measures under consideration would involve the closure of pubs and restaurants, a ban on households mixing, and possibly even the closure of non-essential retailers.

Mr Hancock hinted at possible pub closures in a conference call with the Confederation of British Industry when he said pubs were the second-biggest causes of infection, after household transmission.

02:44 PM

'Central Belt' restrictions could affect up to 60 per cent of Scotland population

The additional restrictions on the five 'Central Belt' areas, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, could affect 60 per cent of the Scottish population, according to Sky News.

"All the hard sacrifices we are making will hasten the brighter days that do lie ahead," Nicola Sturgeon said at the end of the update she gave to MSPs at Holyrood, after detailing restrictions she acknowledged may be seen as going too far.

She insisted that without action now, the virus could be "out of control" by the end of October, and indicated she will ask Boris Johnson for more support if needed in addition to the £40 million announced by Ms Sturgeon today to support affected businesses.

02:28 PM

Increased NHS capacity to come into effect, confirms Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon says that there have been "positive discussions on a Four Nations basis" about a more unified approach towards lockdown.

When pressed about New Zealand's domestic approach, she notes that its borders are completely closed and that Scotland has "different issues at play" in terms of its integration.

On testing, Ms Sturgeon says that with regards to NHS capacity Scotland is in the process of creating a number of regional hubs and is transferring care home testing to the NHS.

She says that she wants "routine testing of asymptomatic groups" in Scotland.

02:20 PM

Scotland lockdown rules' impact on hospitality raised by Nicola Sturgeon

"The pandemic will pass, so let's do all we can to stick with it, stick together, and once again my thanks to everybody across the country we are doing," concludes Nicola Sturgeon.

Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Conservative Party in the Scottish Parliament, says that the First Minister's announcement is "putting massive restrictions on people's lives and livelihoods".

She says that small businesses cannot afford to wait for details, and they want to know how much they can apply for and how long the money will take to reach them.

Ms Sturgeon acknowledges the "horrendously difficult decisions" at hand, and responds by saying that she will consult with the hospitality sector on its allocation.

"This is not hospitality's fault, nobody is pointing the finger of blame, but it is an exposure and somewhere that they could have got it or they could have transmitted it where positive.

"Because of some of the characteristics of hospitality - sometimes poor ventilation, places where people especially with alcohol are mixing more and not mixing physical distancing - these are higher risk settings."

02:16 PM

'We want these measures to be temporary'

"We do want these measures to be temporary," Nicola Sturgeon says, and adds that the Scottish Government will also:

  • Extend the use of face coverings to cover indoor canteens and corridors in workplaces.

  • Ask shops to return to two-metre physical distancing and reintroduce mitigations such as one-way systems.

  • Conduct a further review of Government testing strategy to "build resilience".

  • Finalise a broad framework aimed at controlling the forward going forward.

Ms Sturgeon admits that the measures will be "unwelcome" but "are designed to reduce the likelihood of a future lockdown". She insists that shops will continue to trade and that "although [restrictions] are temporary, they are needed".

With them, we hope to slow down its spread and that will help us keep schools and businesses open this winter and to save lives.

So I'm asking everybody across the country to please follow these new rules and continue to take the other difficult but basic steps that you know will protect you and each other.

Sticking to all of this isn't easy, and after seven long months it's harder than it's ever been, but it is essential.

02:12 PM

Scottish lockdown rules: £40 million to be made available to affected businesses

Nicola Sturgeon announces that £40 million will be made available to businesses affected by the new measures over the next two weeks.

She says that the Scottish Government will make sure the aid gets "to those who need it most", and will discuss how they can mitigate some or all of the furlough scheme contribution.

Ms Sturgeon says that the situation will be kept "under review" and Parliament will be kept updated.

02:11 PM

Nicola Sturgeon sets out reasons for hospitality curbs

"The R number seems to have risen above 1 approximately three weeks after the hospitality sector opened up," says Ms Sturgeon. "It does show that these settings pose a particular risk of transmitting the virus.

"And that makes sense about what we know about how the virus is spread. Indoor environments inevitably produce a greater risk of transmission. And of course the presence of alcohol can affect people's willingness to physically distance."

Ms Sturgeon says restrictions on hospitality for 16 days will significantly restrict the spread of the virus across that timescale.

02:09 PM

Scotland lockdown restrictions: 'Central Belt' to face tougher restrictions

The Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley areas - which include Glasgow and Edinburgh - will see the following restrictions:

  • All licensed premises with the exception of hotels for residents will be required to close indoors and outdoors.

  • Takeaways will be permitted.

  • Hotels will remain open for residents.

  • Cafes without an alcohol licence will be able to stay open until 6pm to "support social isolation".

  • Snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls will close in these areas for two weeks from October 10.

  • Contact sports for people aged 18 and over will be suspended with an exemption for professional sport.

  • Outdoor live events will not be permitted in these five regions for the next two weeks.

  • People in these areas should avoid public transport unless "absolutely necessary" i.e. going to school or work.

02:05 PM

New Scotland lockdown rules set out by Nicola Sturgeon

The First Minister describes the ban on indoor household mixing as "the most important measure" that the Scottish Government could have introduced 12 days ago, and reiterates the importance of Scots adhering to it.

"To those who will wonder and ask if the measures go too far, let me be very clear," she says. "I am acutely aware that this is and cannot be a one-dimensional decision. We have a duty to balance all of the different harms caused by the pandemic."

The following measures are set out over the course of 16 days with the exceptions of five health board areas which will see stricter limits still:

  • Pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes will be able to operate indoors between 6am and 6pm for the service of food and non-alcoholic drinks

  • Hotel restaurants will be able to operate after 6pm for residents only and without alcohol

  • Pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes can continue to serve alcohol outdoors up to 10pm

  • There will be an exemption on the alcohol ban for weddings that are already booked and for funerals

01:59 PM

Nicola Sturgeon: 'Without action, we are likely to return to peak levels'

Ms Sturgeon describes the measures that are to be announced as "tough but necessary". She says the increase in the numbers of people in hospital with Covid reflects a wider rise in new cases among older age groups.

She says that local spikes "should not obscure that cases are rising across the country", with Orkney and Shetland the only exceptions to this.

"Without action, and this is the starkest warning in today's evidence paper, we are likely to return to the peak levels of spring this month," she says.

01:56 PM

Nicola Sturgeon: 'We are living much more freely now than in spring'

"These figures illustrate the rising challenge we again face from this virus," Ms Sturgeon says. "This challenge is also set out starkly in an evidence paper published today by Scotland's most senior medical advisers."

She insists it is "urgent" that action is taken while insisting that the situation is better than the scenario faced by Scots in March.

The First Minister says that measures such as meeting outdoors, social distancing and face coverings are all important mitigations.

"We are living much more freely now than in the spring and in the summer," she says. "We are not going back into lockdown today."

01:54 PM

Scotland lockdown update: Nicola Sturgeon acknowledges 'difficult decisions'

Nicola Sturgeon says that she will set out "difficult but important temporary measures" in addition to Scotland's longer-term work to "live with Covid".

"None of this is easy, I am acutely aware that in every decision we take lives and jobs are at stake," she says. "None of these decisions are taken lightly."

She confirms that 1,054 cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours.

Ms Sturgeon adds that one further death has been confirmed, taking the number of deaths to 2,533.

01:39 PM

Scotland coronavirus cases confirmed in last 24 hours pass 1,000

More than 1,000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the last 24 hours, the Scottish Government has confirmed ahead of more stringent lockdown measures soon to be announced by Nicola Sturgeon.

There are currently 319 patients in hospital in Scotland who have tested positive for coronavirus, with 28 of these in intensive care units.

01:33 PM

Traffic light system should not be 'imposed' without detail, says Burnham

Andy Burnham issues a clear request to the Government for "meaningful negotiations with mayors" and other regional leaders.

He decries the current response, and says there is currently only "the odd conversation here and there" that takes place with ministers.

He also pushes back against the three-tier 'traffic light' system touted last month but which has so far yet to surface.

"We will not have a tier system imposed upon us without the ability to see and hear the detail", Mr Burnham says.

01:18 PM

Manchester local lockdown: Cases rising 'exponentially' as restrictions 'not working'

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, is holding his weekly press briefing.

Mr Burnham says that the rate of infection in Manchester is now climbing "almost exponentially".

Although many parts of Greater Manchester have had restrictions in place for much of the last month, he feels "there is not really any evidence these restrictions are working".

55 per cent of recent diagnoses have been in the 17-21 age group, he says with less than 2.5 per cent in the over-65 age group.

"This is something that is hitting particularly a young demographic, very large student numbers and students are affected," Mr Burnham says.

He reveals that over 90 per cent of a batch of Manchester University students who tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic.

01:10 PM

UK coronavirus deaths: 54 further hospital deaths confirmed in England

A further 54 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, which takes the total number of confirmed hospital deaths in England to 30,280.

Patients were aged between 43 and 93 years old, and all but one of these had underlying health conditions.

Death dates range from 28 September to 6 October, although the majority were on or after 2 October.

The North West was the worst-affected region with 22 deaths recorded, followed by the North East and Yorkshire, where there were 16.

The Midlands registered seven deaths while London and the South East registered four apiece. Just one coronavirus death was registered in the East of England and the South West has remained free of Covid fatalities.

01:08 PM

Head of Israeli agency tracking coronavirus broke its own rules

The head of the Israeli agency tracking coronavirus breached lockdown by hosting a family dinner at his home, according to Israeli media reports, as a series of senior public figures were also accused of flouting the rules.

James Rothwell has more from Jerusalem:

Nadav Argaman is the head of the Shin Bet security agency and oversees a mobile phone surveillance programme that tracks coronavirus carriers.

Mr Argaman hosted a number of relatives who are not part of his household during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, according to Israeli broadcaster Kan.

Israel has been placed under lockdown once again, following a significant second spike in coronavirus cases. Shin Bet declined to comment on the allegation.

It also emerged this week that Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, broke lockdown rules by having a hairdresser visit her at home in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile Gila Gamliel, Israel's environmental minister, is facing calls to step down after she broke lockdown rules to travel from her home in Tel Aviv to Tiberias. And Mickey Levy, a lawmaker in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, has resigned from the parliament's coronavirus committee for violating lockdown.

01:00 PM

Profits at Tesco surge during pandemic

The new boss of Tesco said he aimed to keep Britain’s biggest supermarket “focused” after a sales surge due to the pandemic sent profits soaring, writes Laura Onita.

The retailer now expected annual operating profit from its supermarkets to match the previous year despite £533m in extra costs for online social distancing measures to its stores and ramp up its online deliveries.

Revenues rose 6.6pc to £26.7bn in the six months to Aug 29, while pre-tax profits jumped 29pc to £551m. Operating profit was down 15.6pc to £1bn. 

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2020 Signs in the window of a Tesco Metro supermarket ask customers to wear a face mask or covering due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in London. - Hollie Adams/AFP
In this file photo taken on September 23, 2020 Signs in the window of a Tesco Metro supermarket ask customers to wear a face mask or covering due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in London. - Hollie Adams/AFP

Ken Murphy, a little-known executive who has been at the helm for a week, said coronavirus had tested Tesco in ways “we had never imagined”. 

He said his job was to maintain momentum and “keep us focused” after a six-year turnaround brought about by his predecessor Dave Lewis.

Read more from Laura here.

12:52 PM

Scotland lockdown update: Leaked documents appear to reveal changes

Leaked documents appear to show the imminent restrictions for Scotland that are set to be announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at around 2.50pm.

The documents were published by Glaswegian businessman Donald Macleod, who has criticised curbs on hospitality including the 10pm curfew and the 'rule of six'.

Although Mr Macleod could not prove the veracity of the documents, he said they read as if they were government guidance.

If the papers are to be believed, Scotland's pubs and bars will be forced to close for 16 days from Saturday (October 10) through to October 25 as part of a "brake to the virus".

These measures could then continue even beyond that in Glasgow and Edinburgh, where the recent rise in infections has had the most impact.

Students at St Andrews University received an email from the Principle professor Sally Mapstone yesterday asking students to stay in their rooms as much as possible following a number of positive Covid-19 test results among the student body - Stuart Nicol/Stuart Nicol Photography
Students at St Andrews University received an email from the Principle professor Sally Mapstone yesterday asking students to stay in their rooms as much as possible following a number of positive Covid-19 test results among the student body - Stuart Nicol/Stuart Nicol Photography

Watch live from around 2.50pm as new restrictions for Scotland are announced.

12:35 PM

Trump Biden debate must follow 'strict guidelines', insists Biden

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden believes that he "shouldn't have a debate" with Donald Trump if the President still has Covid-19.

Mr Biden said on Tuesday that he's "looking forward to being able to debate him" but said "we're going to have to follow very strict guidelines."

He said he doesn't know Mr Trump's status since the president returned to the White House after being hospitalised at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for three days after a Covid-19 diagnosis.

 

12:30 PM

How the Queen's Covid conduct has restored faith in the monarchy

When the first coronavirus lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of the disease, it destabilised the lives of millions, and the Queen was no exception.

As head of state, the monarch has always relied on public engagements to remain visible to the public. But under strict lockdown rules, the role of the Queen faced another unprecedented challenge.

In this video, Camilla Tominey explains how the Queen has managed to remain ever-present and restore faith amid a sense of widespread uncertainty. 

12:19 PM

Scotland lockdown rules to change after 'more than 1,000 cases'

Scottish Government sources have said that there have been more than 1,000 new cases of Covid-19 in Scotland within the last 24 hours, according to the Daily Record.

This comes ahead of a statement which will be made by Nicola Sturgeon to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament at around 2.50pm today.

A handout picture released by the Scottish Government on October 2, 2020 shows Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon speaking during the Scottish government's daily briefing on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak - -/Scottish Government/AFP via Getty Images
A handout picture released by the Scottish Government on October 2, 2020 shows Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon speaking during the Scottish government's daily briefing on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak - -/Scottish Government/AFP via Getty Images

Ms Sturgeon yesterday warned that she will target the pubs and bars of Scotland as part of the fresh crackdown.

Hospitality businesses are already subject to a 10pm curfew in line with the rest of the UK, but Ms Sturgeon has raised the prospect of closing them altogether, although has denied that the measures which will be announced amount to a second full lockdown.

12:08 PM

UK not doing enough around sexual exploitation in the aid sector, MPs told

The UK is not doing enough to eradicate sexual abuse and exploitation within the aid and humanitarian sector, experts told MPs on Tuesday. 

There have long been concerns about sexual abuse and exploitation perpetrated by United Nations peacekeepers. And charities have also come under scrutiny after it emerged in 2018 that Oxfam staff had paid young women in Haiti for sex while responding to the 2010 earthquake.

While many governments and humanitarian organisations have since promised a “zero tolerance” of abuse, there is little evidence this has had any impact, said Paula Donovan co-director of the Code Blue Campaign to end impunity for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.

Just last week an investigation by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and The New Humanitarian revealed 51 women had accused mainly foreign aid workers of forcing them into sex during an Ebola outbreak in the DRC between 2018-2020.

Abuse and exploitation is endemic within the aid sector and the UK has the power to stop this happening and hold agents to account, Ms Donoavan told the International Development Committee.

Jordan Kelly-Linden has the story.

11:59 AM

NHS lockdown policies caused 'avoidable death and harm', says expert

Patient safety advocates have reacted with scorn to comments from the chief NHS operating officer which said the health service remained 'open for business' at the height of the pandemic.

Talking to The Telegraph's Henry Bodkin, Peter Walsh, from patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents, said:

It is not the case of this just being about people having been reluctant to make use of the NHS. Many people have been trying to and not been allowed to.

There has already been avoidable death and harm as a consequence, yet there appears to be no acknowledgement of that.

Whilst I appreciate Ms Pritchard’s ambition to remain open to all during the pandemic and encouragement of those with doubts to seek help from the NHS, there needs to be more realism.

There is a huge backlog to catch up with and evidence suggests that there are likely to be many avoidable deaths and harm  as a result of the disruption. This could be exacerbated by the ‘second wave’.

11:43 AM

Greene King to cut hundreds of jobs after 10pm curfew slump

One of the biggest pub chains in Britain is to close dozens of its venues and cut around 800 jobs following a slump in trade that has only been worsened by the introduction of the 10pm curfew.

Greene King has a 1,700 managed pubs and a further 1,000 tenanted venues across the country, but 79 of its pubs and restaurants will close with a third of these set to permanently shutter, Sky News has learned.

Undated handout file photo issued by Green King of a pint of beer on a bar in front of three beer taps. - Greene King/PA
Undated handout file photo issued by Green King of a pint of beer on a bar in front of three beer taps. - Greene King/PA

While the redundancies represent only a small percentage of the chain's 38,000 total employees, it demonstrates both the anxiety of employers ahead of the end of the furlough scheme and the ongoing impact of tough restrictions on hospitality settings.

11:31 AM

Coronavirus travel update: Major blow as no tests decision until at least November

The UK Government is this week due to unveil plans for testing which could enable UK arrivals to reduce their 14-day quarantine by up to six days.

However, despite signals from Heathrow last week that airport testing could be launched in as little as a fortnight, it now seems likely that ministers will be merely announcing a task force to develop the plans.

A health worker administers a Covid-19 swab test on a French soldier at Charles de Gaulle airport, operated by Airport de Paris, in Roissy, France - Nathan Laine/Bloomberg
A health worker administers a Covid-19 swab test on a French soldier at Charles de Gaulle airport, operated by Airport de Paris, in Roissy, France - Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

What's more, a final decision on how the UK plans to implement Covid-19 testing for international arrivals will not be made until at least November.

In more positive news for the beleaguered aviation industry, however, trials today started on the use of the world's first 'coronavirus passport', which aims to sidestep quarantine.

Keep up to date with all of the latest travel news here.

11:28 AM

Coronavirus tests: Boris Johnson says 'even theatres' will reopen with new testing systems

As Prime Minister's Questions continues, Boris Johnson says on testing:

The best way forward is to get the kind of testing systems that will enable not just conferences and businesses, but even theatres to reopen and get back to normality. That's what we're aiming for.

Pressed on reports yesterday that initially claimed Rishi Sunak had told musicians to "find new opportunities" - which later saw ITV News issue a retraction - Boris Johnson insists the Chancellor made no such comments.

The Chancellor has already provided £1.7bn of support for creative culture industries.We are supporting them through these tough times and get the virus down and get the economy back to normal as fast as we possibly can.

11:15 AM

10pm curfew: Sir Keir Starmer demands to know scientific basis

Sir Keir Starmer says that the Government's response is "getting ridiculous". He says that there are deeply held views on the 10pm curfew, which MPs will vote on next week, and asks the Government to publish any scientific basis that exists for it.

"The basis on which we set out the curtailment of hospitality was the basis on which he accepted it two weeks ago, and that is to reduce the spread of the virus," says Mr Johnson.

People shelter from the rain in Soho, London, ahead of the 10pm curfew pubs and restaurants are subject to in order to combat the rise in coronavirus cases in England - Victoria Jones/PA
People shelter from the rain in Soho, London, ahead of the 10pm curfew pubs and restaurants are subject to in order to combat the rise in coronavirus cases in England - Victoria Jones/PA

"That's why we introduced the rule of six, Mr Speaker, which again he supported only two weeks ago." He accuses Sir Keir of not showing "new leadership, but no leadership".

11:12 AM

Boris Johnson calls for 'concerted effort' and quizzes Sir Keir on rule of six

Sir Keir Starmer highlights the anger and frustration of Bury, Burnley and Bolton residents amid rising infection rates despite local lockdowns.

The Prime Minister says:

The problem is alas that the disease continues to spread.

What we are doing is a combination of national and local measures that one week he comes to this House and supports and next week mysteriously decides to whisk this support away. He cannot continue to have it both ways.

Does he support the rule of six?

Sir Keir Starmer says "yes", but highlights tenfold increases in case rates in local lockdown areas. He points to what he believes is a "lack of clarity" in differences as to how local lockdowns are implemented.

He adds: "Prime Minister if you actually listened to the question we might get on better". 

"I wish I could pretend that everything was going to be rosy in the Midlands or indeed in London, where alas we are also seeing infections rise," Mr Johnson says. "We needs a concerted national effort, hands, face, space, and obey the rule of six."

11:08 AM

'Rule of six' clash at the despatch box

"The Prime Minister ignores the warning signs, hurtles towards a car crash, and looks in the mirror and says 'what's all that all about?'" says Sir Keir. He appropriates Johnson's 'Captain Hindsight' nickname by accusing him of "Government in hindsight".

"We're continuing to provide support... five billion pounds of support for the North-West, North-East, for the lockdowns of the extra restrictions they're experiencing," replies Mr Johnson.

"Two weeks ago I set out that strategy, making sure we reinforce the rule of six. Two weeks ago he supported it. Last night the Labour Party abstained on the rule of six. He can't even be bothered to get his own side to support the measures himself."

11:06 AM

NHS Test and Trace error discussed at PMQs

Sir Keir Starmer describes it as a "crucial moment if we are to gain control as the virus", but highlights that 48,000 contacts of 16,000 coronavirus patients were not traced. He asks the Prime Minister to accept that this "put lives at risk".

Boris Johnson says "this is certainly a problem that we have fixed - the computer glitch has been addressed". He says 800 people were brought in to "chase up" the missing contacts and that the Government is continuing with its package to "suppress the virus".

"In Greater Manchester, some of the missing cases date back to September 18," Sir Keir responds. "£12 billion has been invested in this system and a basic Excel error brings it down."

Boris Johnson says Sir Keir "cannot have it both ways" by calling it both a human error and an Excel error. He insists that it does not change the basic distribution of the disease.

"Although cases across the country are considerably up across the country last week on this week, there are now 497 cases per 100,000 in Liverpool, 522 in Manchester, 422 in Newcastle," he says.

"And the key point there is that the local regional approach combined with the national approach remains correct."

11:00 AM

NHS Covid response: Health service stayed 'open for business', claims chief officer

A top NHS official has claimed the health service was "open for business for everyone who needed it" during lockdown, despite widespread cancellations and delays, writes Henry Bodkin.

In comments likely to cause fury among patients groups, Amanda Pritchard, Chief Operating Officer for NHS England, praised the "creativity and imagination" of hospitals amid the pandemic - when one in three inpatients were Covid sufferers.

Ms Pritchard also said the NHS was "on track" to have met its targets for non-urgent treatments during August and September.

This is despite revelations in The Telegraph this week that patients who have already endured long delays may be forced to the back of the queue by an NHS prioritisation review.

Four million patients are currently waiting for procedures such as hip and knee replacement, with the number of people forced to wait more than a year for treatment has risen more than 50-fold since lockdown.

10:56 AM

Prime Minister's Questions today: Watch Boris Johnson vs Keir Starmer live

In the next few minutes Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer will go head-to-head at Prime Minister's Questions.

There will be updates on this blog throughout, and you can watch live below:

 

10:47 AM

Israel coronavirus news: Prime Minister's wife 'broke lockdown rules' with hairdresser visit

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, broke lockdown rules according to media reports by having a hairdresser visit her at home, writes James Rothwell.

Yedioth Ahronoth, a centre-left newspaper, said the hairdresser went to the Netanyahu residence on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Israel is passing through its third week of another nationwide lockdown following a severe second wave of coronavirus.

Israeli officials say  the tough rules are beginning to suppress the virus but warn that they will need to stay in place for much longer than the initial phase of three weeks. 

Under Israeli lockdown rules, it is forbidden to enter another person's home except for essential reasons, such as helping someone in distress.

10:38 AM

Brussels coronavirus cases spike ahead of cafe and bar closures

Cafes and bars in Brussels are set to close for a month from tomorrow amid a sharp rise in recent infections in the city.

Restaurants with full table service will remain open for now, but amateur matches will be forced behind closed doors, the Belgian broadcaster RTBF has reported.

Worship gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 100 people, it is understood, while there are also reports that the consumption of alcohol could be banned in public spaces.

Yves Van Laetham, the country's federal spokesperson for coronavirus, said Brussels is currently seeing the second-fastest spread of the disease of any European city, behind only the Spanish central capital of Madrid.

10:24 AM

Second wave of Covid-19 'a very serious problem', says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has said that the UK has a "very serious problem" amid rising Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations.

Taking part in a Confederation of British Industry webinar, Mr Hancock said:

 It is a challenge, and everybody will have seen, from the rising case rates and unfortunately the rising hospitalisation rates which have risen really quite sharply in the last week or so, that we have got a very serious problem on our hands.

The challenge is how to deal with this second peak in a way that has as little damage as possible. 

Thankfully we know far more about it than first time around.

Coronavirus UKLA current
Coronavirus UKLA current

 

10:17 AM

'Covid passport' launched to enable quarantine-free travel

The world's first coronavirus passport is being launched today to enable people to travel without having to quarantine, writes our home affairs editor Charles Hymas.

Passengers using two of the world's biggest airlines – United Airlines and Cathay Pacific – and travelling through London Heathrow will be the first to test the technology, which is backed by the US government.

The volunteer passengers will upload their coronavirus test results from a validated laboratory onto a digital health passport up to 72 hours before departure. The airlines, and airport and border officials, will be able to scan the digital data on the pass to see if a person is free of the virus.

File photo dated 21/08/20 of passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport - Kirsty O'Connor/PA
File photo dated 21/08/20 of passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport - Kirsty O'Connor/PA

If the trials of the scheme are successful, it will allow passengers to reduce their time in quarantine in line with the self-isolation regulations and health requirements in whichever country they arrive.

10:07 AM

Donald Trump Covid comeback shows he cannot be counted out of election

We knew Trump was ill when the Presidential Twitter fell silent for a full twelve hours, writes Dominic Green. Did he have trouble getting a signal in the Walter Read Medical Center, or were his vital signs failing, first in the extremities and then in the organs? 

An anxious nation held its damp breath beneath its mandatory masks, apart from the 40 per cent of Democrats who told pollsters they were pleased that the President had Covid-19, and the unquantified millions who suspected the whole thing was as fake as the Moon landings on the grassy knoll.

The reality is that Trump’s bravura return to steroid-enhanced, all-caps tweeting and his emperor penguin-like waddle from Marine One to the White House confirm that Trumpian normality has returned in all its lurid abnormality.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds his protective mask on the Truman Balcony of the White House in Washington, D.C - Ken Cedeno/Polaris/Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump holds his protective mask on the Truman Balcony of the White House in Washington, D.C - Ken Cedeno/Polaris/Bloomberg

The salute from the balcony of the White House was another of those moments when Trump exceeds mere politics and delivers pure Hollywood.

This was the greatest balcony scene since the Ceaucescus, the Romeo and Juliet of the Warsaw Pact, mistook the catcalls of their rebellious subjects for acclaim. Trump’s turn attracted some catcalls, but there is no electoral gain in appeals to truth and reason in a society whose chief charms are its preference for fantasy over both.

Read more: Trump's bravura return will be lapped up by superhero-loving audience

09:47 AM

Halifax mortgage applications soar to highest level in more than decade

Halifax said that the number of mortgage applications it has been receiving from both first-time buyers and home-movers is the highest in 12 years.

Russell Galley, managing director, said: "Few would dispute that the performance of the housing market has been extremely strong since lockdown restrictions began to ease in May.

"Across the last three months, we have received more mortgage applications from both first-time buyers and home-movers than anytime since 2008.

"There has been a fundamental shift in demand from buyers brought about by the structural effects of increased home-working and a desire for more space, while the stamp duty holiday is incentivising vendors and buyers to close deals at pace before the break ends next March."

09:37 AM

11pm curfew and petrol stations banned from selling alcohol in Berlin

New restrictions including an 11pm curfew for restaurants and pubs and a night-time “Rule of Five” have been imposed in the German capital Berlin amid concern at rising coronavirus infections.

Under the new rules, restaurants, pubs and shops will be forced to close between 11pm and 6am.

Pharmacies and petrol stations will be exempt but will not be allowed to sell alcohol.

A new limit of five will be imposed on all outdoor gatherings during these hours, but will not apply indoors. 

Up to fifty people will still be allowed to gather outdoors by day, while indoor gatherings will be limited to 10 day and night.

Berlin currently has one of the highest weekly infection rates in Germany, with 40.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to just 17.8 nationwide.

09:19 AM

National circuit breaker should be considered, says government adviser

Tighter restrictions across the country for a short period should be considered to control the spread of coronavirus, a scientist advising the Government has said, amid growing criticism of local lockdown measures.

Professor Calum Semple, who specialises in disease outbreaks, recommended a "circuit breaker" be considered on a national basis in a bid to slow the virus, rather than trying to reduce it at a later stage.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Prof Semple - a member of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that "perhaps a circuit breaker a couple of weeks ago would have been a really good idea".

He added: "It's always easier to reduce an outbreak at the earlier stage than to let it run and then try to reduce it at a later stage.

"So, yes, circuit breakers are certainly something we should be thinking about on a national basis."

09:05 AM

Sturgeon 'wrong to target hospitality industry with fresh restrictions'

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, is due to announce new coronavirus restrictions in a statement to the Scottish Parliament at 2.50pm today.

She has said the new measures will not amount to Scotland going into another lockdown as was the case in March.

"For the immediate it appears that Ms Sturgeon is heading towards taking another bash at the beleaguered hospitality industry, which would be a completely wrong approach," writes Telegraph columnist Alan Cochrane.

"Scotland’s pubs and restaurants are on their knees and are not to blame for Ms Sturgeon’s failure to combat effectively the Covid-19 pandemic."

Read his full column here.

08:42 AM

Boris has 'lost his personal connection' with voters

"This should have been the greatest day of Boris Johnson’s political life – better even than the election victory last December," writes Telegraph columnist Philip Johnston.

"He was supposed to be making his keynote address to the Conservative conference in Birmingham, soaking up the adulation of the Tory faithful grateful to him for delivering the party’s biggest parliamentary majority for a generation.

"In the event, he gave his address yesterday alone and online, losing the personal connection with his audience that the digital medium denies and on which he thrives. It felt like a metaphor for his premiership."

Read his full column on the Prime Minister's party conference speech here.

08:25 AM

Reboot of education sector dealt blow

Three of the country's largest universities have shifted to online classes due to coronavirus outbreaks.

More than 50 universities in the UK have confirmed cases of Covid-19, after thousands of undergraduates returned to campus for the start of the autumn term.

Manchester University, where there have been 382 coronavirus cases since September 21, joined with Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Sheffield in announcing a move to online learning to protect the health of students and staff.

The University of Sheffield - where nearly 500 students and staff have tested positive since the start of term - said face-to-face teaching would continue on Wednesday and Thursday before it is suspended from Friday, with in-person classes to resume on October 19.

The move comes amid rising cases across parts of England, with the latest weekly infection figures showing Manchester's rate has soared, with 3,105 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 3 - the equivalent of 561.6 cases per 100,000 people.

08:10 AM

Primary school children don't play major role in spreading Covid, Sage member claims

Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said: "We're quite confident now that primary school children are probably a quarter to half as likely to become infected and are also much less likely to pass the infection on. 

"So there's growing evidence that primary school children are not amplifying this disease."

He also suggested there is an argument for taking primary school-aged children out of testing altogether.

Asked whether secondary schools should remain open, he said it is a matter of balancing the harms of closure, such as damaging education.

07:55 AM

Local lockdown restrictions confusing and counter-productive, say northern city leaders

Leaders in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds warned Health Secretary Matt Hancock that they would not support further "economic lockdowns" and called for new powers to tackle the resurgence.

Professor John Edmunds, who is advising the Government's coronavirus response, joined the criticism of local measures on Tuesday and said new national restrictions were needed immediately.

The calls came as the UK-wide seven-day rate increased to 125.7 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people from 63.8 a week ago, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

The leaders of Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle city councils - Judith Blake, Sir Richard Leese and Nick Forbes - joined Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson to write to the Health Secretary to say they are "extremely concerned" with the rise in cases.

"The existing restrictions are not working, confusing for the public and some, like the 10pm rule, are counter-productive," the Labour politicians wrote.

They called for additional powers to punish those who break rules, for new restrictions to be developed by police, council and public health experts and for a locally-controlled test and trace system.

07:44 AM

'We are striking the right balance' with restrictions

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the Government is "striking the right balance" with the coronavirus restrictions.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We've expanded Test and Trace, we are working to find a vaccine, but until we have a vaccine, we do have to live with this disease.

"And the measures that we have put in place - while not measures that we would want to have to do in normal times - are the best way of dealing with it that we have now.

"And I notice that none of the critics are proposing alternative measures, they are simply saying they don't like the current measures...

"I think we are striking the right balance between allowing people to go about their daily lives, allowing them to continue with their jobs, making sure children are at school, which is absolutely vital for the future, while trying to deal with this terrible disease."

07:37 AM

Police hunt Indonesian sailor who escaped quarantine

South Korean police are hunting an Indonesian sailor who escaped quarantine after digging his way out of a government facility in Seoul.

The unnamed man had entered the country on a seafarers' visa and began his quarantine on Sept 21, CNN reported. He had been due to be released on October 5, but instead dug his way out the day before.

The sailor tested negative for Covid-19 when he entered the country and did not show any symptoms of coronavirus.

Officials have bolstered security with extra CCTV cameras since the escape and more police officers have been deployed.

Foreigners who arrive in South Korea must quarantine at a state facility for 14 days unless they are residents of the country.

07:22 AM

Mayor of London: Homeless have to choose between rough sleeping and catching Covid in shelters

In a letter to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, Sadiq Khan called on the Government to provide funding and guidance for those working with homeless people to protect them from cold temperatures and Covid-19.

In a typical year, winter night shelters start to open in November as temperatures fall, often providing communal sleeping spaces in church halls or community buildings.

These night shelters - run by charities, voluntary organisations and faith groups - hosted around 700 people in the capital last year.

More than 900 people are sleeping rough on the streets of the capital - Yui Mok /PA
More than 900 people are sleeping rough on the streets of the capital - Yui Mok /PA

In a statement, Mr Khan said: "It would simply be callous and inhumane to tell rough sleepers that the price of staying off the streets this winter could be catching Covid-19.

"Homeless people deserve safety and protection from Covid as much as anyone - this is particularly the case given they often have underlying health conditions."

The mayor said he was increasingly concerned at the Government's "complacency and inaction" as it has not published any guidance on communal sleeping or provided funding for Covid-safe alternatives.

Recent figures show more than 900 people are sleeping rough on the streets of the capital.

Mr Khan called for the Government to fully fund safe accommodation and provide guidance to local authorities and voluntary groups on making shelters Covid-secure.

07:04 AM

Minister urges people to still get Covid tests despite Roche glitch

People who need coronavirus tests should continue to go through the testing process, a Cabinet minister has said, despite a supply chain problem with pharmaceutical giant Roche.

The supply of vital testing materials for a range of conditions - from Covid-19 to cancer - are reportedly affected.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News: "There is an issue with the supply chain. Roche are working with the NHS, the Health Secretary is fully aware.

"I would encourage people to continue going through the testing process - that process is still working."

She added: "Roche are pushing very hard to resolve that issue ... as soon as possible."

Ms Truss said people with coronavirus symptoms should still try to get tested.

06:58 AM

Labour leader to speak to residents of Margaret Ferrier's constituency

Sir Keir Starmer will speak to residents from Margaret Ferrier's constituency, following outrage over the MP's breaches of coronavirus rules.

The Labour leader will host a "Call Keir" virtual meeting with constituents in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

Voters will be invited to discuss the issue with Sir Keir, as well as the UK and Scottish governments' handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Margaret Ferrier
Margaret Ferrier

Ms Ferrier has had the SNP whip withdrawn following revelations about her behaviour after she developed Covid-19 symptoms. Despite calls from across the political spectrum, she remains the MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West.

The MP developed coronavirus symptoms and took a test on Sept 26. She breached rules by travelling to London the following Monday and taking a train back to Scotland on the Tuesday after receiving a positive result.

Ms Ferrier is also reported to have attended a church service on the Sunday after she took the test.

Ahead of the call, the Labour leader said it "beggars belief" that Ms Ferrier has so far refused to step down as an MP, calling it a "gross error of judgment".

06:52 AM

'Looming' mental health crisis fuelled by pandemic, experts warn

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said waiting times for mental health services could "get a lot worse".

The college said its poll of 513 British adults with a mental illness found that many patients face lengthy waits between their initial assessment and next appointment - with some patients ending up in A&E.

Almost two fifths (38%) reported that they or someone on their behalf had contacted emergency or crisis services while waiting for their second appointment, while 39% said waiting led to a decline in their mental health, the college said.

Meanwhile, the figures revealed that one in 10 of those polled (11%) waited longer than six months between their initial assessment and second appointment.

Almost a quarter (23%) waited more than three months and 64% waited more than a month.

06:14 AM

Chicken factor installs disinfectant booths

A chicken factory where more than 130 workers tested positive for coronavirus has installed disinfectant spraying booths at its entrances.

Banham Poultry in Attleborough, Norfolk, was forced to partially close for around two weeks from late August.

It has since re-opened with additional safety measures, including five disinfectant machines at entrances to its factories and offices.

The walk-in booths are equipped with artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to identify employees and check their body temperatures.

Users walk through the booth and their outer layers are covered in a fine mist of vaporised disinfectant before they enter the building.

The site also uses portable hand-held machines that spray a fine mist of disinfectant.

05:59 AM

New study will map spread of coronavirus in hospitals to break chain of transmission

The clinical trial, led by scientists at University College London (UCL), will evaluate the use of real-time viral genomic data to reduce the spread of Covid-19 within hospitals.

The findings could help the NHS reduce further transmission by determining if an individual caught the virus from someone else within the same hospital, researchers say.

Professor Judith Breuer, the trial lead, said: "Spread of Covid-19 infections in hospitals is now recognised to be a major problem for both healthcare workers and patients, and breaking the chain of these transmissions is critical.

"It is essential that we try out new tools such as viral sequencing to find out why this is happening and to help reduce hospital spread."

The study, together with the UCL comprehensive clinical trials unit (CCTU), forms part of the Government's £20 million Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium (Cog-UK) which allows scientists to map the virus' spread across the country.

05:42 AM

Fifth of parents increased financial support for children during pandemic

Some 21% of parents in this age group with children aged over 18 said they have been offering them more financial support than usual since March, a survey has found.

The research, from the Saga Equity Release Advice Service, found that some parents have dipped into their savings to do this, or have cut back on spending on themselves.

Others have given money that they would otherwise have left as part of their inheritance.

Common reasons over-50s parents have increased their financial support include their children having been furloughed, losing their job, or suffering debt problems.

Some parents also wanted to help their children buy a home in light of the temporary stamp duty holiday.

Alex Edmans, head of equity release said what is right for one family may not be appropriate for everyone, adding: "Decisions should be made based on individual needs and circumstances."

More than 1,400 parents aged over 50 with adult children were surveyed.

05:27 AM

Hospital criticised for failing to comply with Covid rules

The William Harvey Hospital, run by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, was inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) on August 11.

The inspectors ordered "urgent enforcement action" by requiring that the emergency department was risk-assessed for social distancing and coronavirus risks.

They found that staff did not always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly in medical wards as well as on the Covid-19 ward, with a member of the nursing team also seen incorrectly wearing a mask on a ward which had seen an outbreak of the disease.

They also found that staff did not always use alcohol hand gel on entering and leaving wards and at least seven members of staff were seen entering and leaving a ward caring for patients with suspected Covid-19 without washing their hands properly.

The emergency department staff also did not always have access to hand gel or hand washing facilities, with hand sanitiser dispensers remaining empty at both entrances even after the inspectors had raised the issue.

And inspectors found there was an inconsistent approach to triaging patients with Covid-19 symptoms in the emergency department.

05:07 AM

Virus-struck universities move online

Three universities are preparing to move all their teaching online after virus outbreaks among students.

Manchester University and Manchester Metropolitan University are moving their teaching entirely online from Wednesday until at least October 30.

“This is the right decision,” said Martyn Moss, the University College Union regional official.

“Unfortunately, Manchester’s universities are moving online to manage outbreaks that could have been prevented had they listened to us sooner.

"Hundreds of students who did not have to move into student accommodation are now self-isolating without their familiar support network.”

READ MORE: Three virus-struck universities decide to put all teaching online

05:04 AM

Malaysia's PM tested for Covid

Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has tested negative for coronavirus, after a minister who attended a high-level meeting chaired by the premier on Saturday contracted the virus.

Mr Muhyiddin, along with 13 ministers and deputy ministers, started home quarantine on Monday after it was discovered that religious affairs minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri had Covid.

"The prime minister is currently in good health. However, he will continue self-quarantine until the end of the 14-day period set by the ministry of health," the prime minister's office said in a statement on Wednesday.

05:00 AM

More than 100 new cases in South Korea

South Korea has reported 114 new cases of coronavirus, its first daily jump of more than 100 in a week.

Health officials had raised concerns that infections would rise because of increased travel during the Chuseok harvest holiday that ended on Sunday.

Ninety-two of the cases reported on Wednesday by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency were from the Seoul metropolitan area, where the virus has been resurgent since mid-August.

Health officials have been struggling to track transmissions linked to various places, including an army unit in Pocheon, where 37 troops have tested positive.

04:58 AM

Concerns over possible restrictions in Scotland

There has been speculation of further restrictions on Scotland's hospitality sector, which led to a trade body voicing deep concern on Tuesday evening.

Emma McClarkin, of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said: "If the Scottish Government is to implement further harsh restrictive measures to our sector, it must include a dedicated package of support alongside it.

"Without it, the Scottish Government will leave our pubs and thousands of jobs doomed to failure."

Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said a targeted approach would work better than bringing in "more draconian rules".

"At the moment we do not need to bring in any more rules that will hammer the hospitality sector, or the economy at large. There needs to be a razor-sharp focus on getting the current systems running smoothly and effectively," he wrote in The Sun.

"We need to hold our nerve, rather than hitting the panic button."

04:57 AM

Scotland faces tighter measures

Nicola Sturgeon is due to announce new coronavirus restrictions in a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.

The First Minister is expected to set out the details of the next steps the Scottish Government will take at around 2.50pm.

She has said the new measures will not amount to Scotland going into another lockdown as was the case in March.

The announcement will follow a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning when details of the new restrictions will be decided.

The First Minister has described the situation as "the most difficult decision point we have faced so far".

However, the closure of schools has been ruled out, as have Scotland-wide travel restrictions.

There will be no requirement for people to stay inside their homes most of the time, as was the case in March, though some additional measures in "hotspot" areas might be necessary.

04:49 AM

India records more than 72,000 cases in 24 hours

A family visits a shopping district in Bengaluru, India - AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
A family visits a shopping district in Bengaluru, India - AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

India's tally of coronavirus infections reached 6.76 million on Wednesday - rising by 72,049 cases in the past 24 hours.

The death toll was up by 986 for a total of 104,555.

India's death toll from the virus rose past 100,000 on Saturday, making it the third country to reach that bleak milestone after the United States and Brazil.

Its epidemic shows no sign of abating.

Last week, India eased curbs further, permitting its states to open schools and movie theatres.

04:26 AM

6,000 missing Covid carriers still not traced

Almost 6,000 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have yet to be traced following the testing fiasco that saw 16,000 cases "lost" in the system.

Call handlers are still trying to reach thousands of positive cases – some of whom received their test results nearly two weeks ago – to obtain contact details of those they may have exposed to the virus. 

On Tuesday night, Labour urged ministers to "get a grip" on the Test and Trace service, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted health officials still do not know how many contacts they need to track down. 

READ MORE: Nearly 6,000 Covid-positive people yet to be traced in testing fiasco

03:41 AM

White House infections could have been avoided: Fauci

Top US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci, whose advocacy of public health guidelines to fight coronavirus has conflicted with President Donald Trump's downplaying of the pandemic, said on Tuesday that the recent rash of infections at the White House could have been prevented.

Several close aides to Mr Trump and senior Republican politicians have tested positive for coronavirus since the President announced on Friday that he and First Lady Melania Trump had contracted the virus.

"Take a look at what happened this week at the White House," Dr Fauci said in an interview with American University's Kennedy Political Union, when asked what advice he had about how people could discuss preventive actions with relatives who believed the pandemic was a hoax.

"That is a reality, right there. And every day that goes by more people are popping up that are infected. It's not a hoax. It's an unfortunate situation when you see something like that because that could have been prevented," he said.

Dr Fauci has been a long-time advocate of wearing masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Anthony Fauci after receiving an influenza vaccine to kick-off the 2020-21 flu season - National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Anthony Fauci after receiving an influenza vaccine to kick-off the 2020-21 flu season - National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

 

02:38 AM

Sri Lanka bans public gatherings

Members of a mobile health services team prepare to carry out Covid tests to control a fresh cluster - CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Members of a mobile health services team prepare to carry out Covid tests to control a fresh cluster - CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Authorities in Sri Lanka have banned all public gatherings as a new cluster of coronavirus infections expands in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Health authorities said on Wednesday that the outbreak centred around a garment factory had risen to 830 confirmed cases while more than 1,000 people had been asked to quarantine at their homes.

The health ministry ordered a halt to gatherings such as exhibitions, parties, conferences, indoor or outdoor events, carnivals, musical shows and processions. 

The cluster emerged on Monday, a day after Sri Lanka reported its first community infection in two months.

The country has reported 3,733 cases during the pandemic, with 13 deaths.

01:40 AM

Trump post accused of spreading coronavirus myths

After months of minimising the deadly coronavirus infection - and despite being infected himself - Donald Trump has continued to play it down and garnered rebukes from Facebook and Twitter for spreading misinformation.

"Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the vaccine, die from the flu," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter and Facebook.

"Are we going to close down our country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!" 

Twitter responded by putting a warning label on the post, saying it included potentially misleading information. 

Facebook removed the Trump post for breaking its rules on Covid misinformation, according to CNN.

The United States has the world's highest death toll from the pandemic, with more than 210,000 deaths. By comparison, influenza typically kills between 22,000 and 64,000 people a year in the US, government statistics show.

READ MORE: Facebook removes Donald Trump post for spreading coronavirus myths

01:32 AM

White House senior adviser tests positive

Stephen Miller - RENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP
Stephen Miller - RENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller said he tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, the latest case of coronavirus reported among Donald Trump's inner circle since the Republican president announced he had the virus last week.

"Over the last five days I have been working remotely and self-isolating, testing negative every day through yesterday," Mr Miller said in a statement.

"Today, I tested positive for Covid-19 and am in quarantine."

Read the full story here.

01:29 AM

'If he still has Covid, we shouldn’t have a debate'

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Tuesday that next week's scheduled debate with Republican President Donald Trump should not take place if Mr Trump is still infected with Covid-19.

Mr Biden said the October 15 debate in Miami should only be staged under strict health guidelines and called the coronavirus outbreak that has hit Mr Trump and a wave of other White House officials "a very serious problem".

"If he still has Covid, we shouldn’t have a debate," Mr Biden said.

"I’m not sure what President Trump is all about now. I don’t know what his status is. I’m looking forward to being able to debate him, but I just hope all the protocols are followed."

Asked about Mr Biden's comments, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said: “President Trump will be healthy and will be there. There’s no getting out of this one for Biden, and his protectors in the media can’t cover for him.”

After days of conflicting messages from doctors and aides about his condition, Mr Trump, 74, returned to the White House on Monday after three nights at a hospital. His doctor said on Tuesday that Mr Trump reported no Covid symptoms and was doing "extremely well".

The normal quarantine period for anyone testing positive for coronavirus is 14 days. Mr Trump announced his positive test on Friday.

11:26 PM

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