Monday briefing: Northern exposure as hospitals fill up

·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Top story: North-south political battle rages on

Morning, everyone. My name is Martin Farrer and these are the top stories this morning.

The resurgence of coronavirus in Greater Manchester has left several hospitals at maximum capacity and the region could run out of beds, according to a leaked NHS document. In a development that could force warring politicians to reach agreement on the right strategy to tackle the outbreak, the leak reveals that hospitals in Salford, Stockport and Bolton have no spare beds. On Friday, 211 of the 257 critical care beds in the region – 82% of the total – were already being used for either Covid sufferers or other patients. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, yesterday urged Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and other leaders to hold a parliamentary vote to decide the level of financial aid for his region and others under the strictest tier-3 restrictions. The impasse over the policy shows no signs of easing, even after Burnham held talks with a No 10 adviser yesterday afternoon. Earlier, cabinet minister Michael Gove accused Burnham of “posturing” in his resistance to the restrictions. For our columnist John Harris, it’s obvious the political battles show that Covid-19 is a class issue.

A scientist on the government’s Sage committee says the test and trace system must be improved so that results are available within 24 hours. But in a story that highlights the system’s inadequacies, officials in Kent are investigating how suspected Covid-19 sufferers were sent to a nonexistent testing site in Sevenoaks. In better news, we’ve been looking for some good things to come out of lockdown and here are the stories of five people whose lives have improved because of the lockdown, from the couple buying a house together to the pet dog that helped stave off depression. You can follow all the developments in the coronavirus here and around the world at our live blog.

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US election – Donald Trump kicked off a critical tour of battleground states with a rally in Nevada last night as he tries to regain ground on his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Despite a surge in coronavirus cases across the US, the rally in Carson City, near Reno, featured thousands of supporters gathered without masks and little social distancing, and looked like setting the tone for a series of rallies which will take him to Arizona today, then Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading expert on infectious diseases in the US, said he was “absolutely not” surprised Trump had caught Covid. Trump trails Biden by double digits in almost every national poll and is behind in key states such as Wisconsin (seven points) and Pennsylvania (six points). Around the world, populist leaders inspired by Trump’s 2016 election such as Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil have abandoned diplomatic niceties and thrown their support behind the US president’s bid for another term.

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Judge and juries – Britain must retain a strong judiciary as a check against the “unbridled power” of governments, the UK’s longest serving supreme court justice says. Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore, who stood down at the end of last month, said judicial checks on the government were part of a healthy democracy. Kerr said he understood why governments became “irritated” by legal challenges but warned that attacking lawyers was “not profitable”. The judge who ran trials without jury during the Northern Ireland Troubles, also teels the Guardian there is a “respectable argument” for introducing similar arrangements across the UK to deal with the backlog in cases caused by the pandemic.

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‘Race for space’ – A desire for more living room brought on by households spending so much time at home during lockdown has pushed the average asking price of properties in Britain to a record high, according to Rightmove. The website’s monthly analysis of new listings showed sellers are asking for an average price of £323,530, an increase of 1.1% since last month, and 5.5% – or £16,818 – more than this time last year. As well as the ‘“race for space”, agents say the temporary stamp duty holiday is also playing a part. High prices is a factor in the so-called “boomerang” phenomenon – where young adults return to live with their parents’ home until well into their 20s or early 30s – becoming a permanent feature of society, another study shows.

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Beijing bounce – China has become the first major economy to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic after government figures showed the country’s output grew 4.9% between July and September. The year-on-year expansion, while slightly lower than analyst expectations, represents a dramatic reversal from the first quarter of this year when the economy shrunk by 6.8%, China’s first contraction since 1992 when officials began keeping quarterly GDP data.

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Madrid misogyny? – The first post-lockdown exhibition at Madrid’s Prado art gallery has been accused of being “misogynistic”. Uninvited Guests, which runs until March, is intended to explore how paintings bought by the museum between 1833 to 1931 have depicted women. But critics say it only succeeds in projecting the sexist values of past decades. “It’s been done from a misogynistic point of view and still projects the misogyny of the [19th century],” the art historian and critic Rocío de la Villa said.

Today in Focus podcast

Guardian environment correspondent Fiona Harvey discusses why the past 50 years of environmental action have shown how civil society can force governments and business to change and why that should give campaigners optimism for the future.

Lunchtime read: Cornel West – ‘Truth-tellers get killed’

The American philosopher and civil rights activist Cornel West joins Hugh Muir on Zoom to look ahead to the presidential election, discussing Joe Biden (“not crazy about him but we gotta vote for him”), why he doesn’t worry about death threats (“the truth-tellers often get killed”) and why Barack Obama was more Kenny G than John Coltrane.


José Mourinho criticised his Tottenham players for a lack of mental toughness after they drew 3-3 in a wild derby with West Ham, having led 3-0 with eight minutes to go. Exeter’s Champions Cup triumph over Racing 92 showed that honesty, integrity and camaraderie can succeed in modern sport, writes Robert Kitson. The England prop Ellis Genge has called on rugby union’s authorities to embrace commercialisation for the development of the game. Tao Geoghegan Hart has become the latest British winner on a grand tour after sprinting to victory on stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia at Piancavallo. Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro has said Vivianne Miedema’s contract is “top of the list” after the 24-year-old striker scored a first-half hat-trick against Tottenham to become the Women’s Super League record goalscorer. Denver kicker Brandon McManus had six field goals to help the Broncos hold on for an 18-12 win over the New England Patriots in a game twice delayed following positive coronavirus tests for both teams. And ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, to be held in Beijing and neighbouring cities, China is working overtime to make sure the event is a success.


There has been a record rise in shop closures across the UK since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and worse is still to come. A total of 11,120 chain store outlets closed between January and June, while 5,119 opened. The 6,001 closures compared with 3,509 in the first half of last year, the Local Data Company survey says. The FTSE100 looks set to take a slight dip of 0.2% this morning. The pound is up at $1.293 and €1.104.

The papers

The Guardian splashes on “Hospitals in north running out of beds, leak reveals”, and the Times also focuses on the north, saying, “Millions for Manchester to buy off corona revolt”. The i claims “Vaccines are coming … but not before Christmas” but the Express is, as ever, more bullish: “First vaccine doses ready by end of year”. The Telegraph has another Covid angle, with its main story saying “‘Protect the NHS’ leaves patients paying price” while the FT goes further afield for its lead: “Europe’s second Covid wave raises threat of double-dip recession”.

The Mirror leads with news that party leaders are backing their campaign for a two-minute doorstep silence on Armistice Day – “We stand with you”, it says. In Scotland, the Herald leads with “Parents fuel rise in claims of misconduct against teachers” and Scottish Daily Mail has “The lockdown ghost towns”.

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