Coronavirus latest news: ‘It’s clear the outcome has not been good in the UK,’ Sir Patrick Vallance tells MPs

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 The UK’s coronavirus outcome “has not been good”, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser has told MPs.

Sir Patrick Vallance, attending the Commons Science Committee, was asked his views on the UK’s response to the pandemic not being “the most admired in the world”.

“It’s clear that the outcome has not been good in the UK, I think you can be absolutely clear about that,” Vallance said.

He stressed that adequate “data systems” need to be in place so that authorities have the information they need to deal with emergencies like the pandemic.

“It would have been absolutely preferable to have had much greater testing capacity earlier on, but it’s not just testing, it’s basic information flows around patients in hospital, rates of admission, rates of movement,” he said.

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock is set to make an emergency statement on Covid-19 in the Commons at 5pm.

Follow the latest updates below.

04:20 PM

Hancock: Scope of restrictions within Leicester to be reduced

The leader of Leicester County Council has advised that restrictions should not apply to the entirety of Leicester,  Matt Hancock has said. He added: 

“Some say that a local lockdown is unnecessary, I wish this were true. But sadly it remains vital for the health of everyone in Leicester and the rest of the country that these restrictions stay in place.

“We will review them again in a fortnight. I hope that careful easing of restrictions will provide some comfort to people in Leicester.”

04:14 PM

Hancock: ‘We are now in a position to relax some but not all of restrictions’

In light of the latest figures, the Government has decided to relax some of the restrictions within the city, Matt Hancock said.

From July 24th, restrictions on schools and early years care will be removed. The Government plans to take a more target approach to the restrictions on non essential retail and as a result, non-essential retail will only be closed ‘where necessary’.

Other restrictions such as those on social gatherings and on non essential travel will remain in force.

Measures introduced nationwide on July 4, such as reopening the hospitality sector will not yet be applied within the city. 

04:09 PM

Hancock: Infection rate within Leicester 4.8 per cent

Matt Hancock has begun addressing the House of Commons and is giving an update on the lockdown within Leicester. 

The seven day infection rate within Leicester is now 119 cases per 100,000 people while the percentage of people testing positive is 4.8 per cent, the Health Secretary has said. 

“These are positive indicators, but still remain well above the national average”, he added. 

03:55 PM

5pm: Emergency coronavirus update in Parliament 

We are expecting Matt Hancock’s emergency coronavirus update to begin in roughly 5  minutes. We’ll be posting all the latest updates, or you can watch live via the stream at the top of the blog.

Until then, here are some of the key stories to be aware of so far today:

  1. Russia has been accused by the Government of trying to steal Britain’s research into a Covid-19 vaccine in a state-sponsored cyber attack.

  2. The UK’s coronavirus outcome “has not been good”, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser has told MPs.

  3. The Government is to publish postcode-level data of how many people have tested positive for Covid-19.

  4. The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that 45,119 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK – an increase of 66 from Wednesday. 

  5. Coronavirus tests used by the NHS may be unsafe and have been halted, the Government has announced

03:51 PM

Pakistan: Coronavirus fears surge as preparations begin for upcoming religious holidays 

The forthcoming Eid ul-Adha and Muharram festivities risk repeating May’s Ramadan celebrations, reports Ben Farmer. 

A man wears a protective mask as he sells cows for the upcoming Eid Al Adha sacrifice, at the cattle market in Peshawar, Pakistan - FAYAZ AZIZ/REUTERS
A man wears a protective mask as he sells cows for the upcoming Eid Al Adha sacrifice, at the cattle market in Peshawar, Pakistan – FAYAZ AZIZ/REUTERS

Pakistan faces a new surge in coronavirus cases from two upcoming religious holidays unless people pay better attention to distancing precautions, health officials fear.

The forthcoming Eid ul-Adha and Muharram festivities risk being a rerun of May’s end of Ramadan celebrations which were blamed for supercharging the outbreak during June.

Both Pakistan’s reported cases and deaths from Covid-19 accelerated last month in the country of 220 million, only to unexpectedly slip back in July.

Imran Khan’s government has claimed the falling cases are proof that its strategy of “smart lockdowns” on virus-hit neighbourhoods is working. Yet the opposition has accused them of cutting testing to suppress the numbers and international health officials say testing is so low that it is difficult to tell how the pandemic is proceeding in the country.

Health officials fear that crowded livestock markets where Pakistanis buy animals for slaughter during Eid ul-Adha will become hotbeds of infection. Celebratory gatherings during the holiday itself are also a risk.

Click here to read the full report. 

03:41 PM

Wales gave England more than 10 million items of PPE 

During the coronavirus pandemic Wales gave England more than 10 million items of personal protective equipment, the country’s health minister has revealed.

Mutual aid agreements in place with Westminster, Holyrood and Stormont saw nearly 15 million items of PPE, such as facemasks, gloves, visors and gowns, given to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Wales had received 1.4 million items of PPE from those countries in return, the Senedd was told.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the figures showed that inter-government relations had worked well during the Covid-19 crisis but suggested England had “significant challenges in organising themselves”.

The minister was giving evidence to the Senedd’s health, social care and sport committee and Plaid’s Rhun ap Iorwerth suggested it was “odd” the system had turned out to be so imbalanced.

03:31 PM

Sage expert blasts ‘chaotic’ and politicised Covid drug trials

The research community needs “to take a harsh look at ourselves” as more than a third of trials have been too small to provide conclusive answers, infectious diseases expert Sir Jeremy Farrar, has said. 

Sir Jeremy, a member of the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and director of the Wellcome Trust, told a virtual briefing that clinical research into potential coronavirus treatments has at times been “chaotic” and politicised.

He flagged the success of the UK’s Recovery trial, the world’s largest randomised clinical trial of potential Covid-19 treatments, and the World Health Organization’s Solidarity study, which has recruited nearly 5,500 patients in more than 20 countries across the globe.

But Sir Jeremy added that four in ten trials have been too small to provide definitive answers, while a lack of international coordination may have hampered progress. 

Our Global Health Security Reporter Sarah Newey has more here. 

03:22 PM

Postcode-level Covid testing data to be made available to the public 

The Government is to publish postcode-level data of how many people have tested positive for Covid-19.

The public will be able to use the data and an interactive map to look at figures for their area, although homes of individuals with coronavirus will not be identifiable from the data.

The figures, for England, will be published weekly at first with the aim of updating them daily.

Public health professionals across each region will also be given positive test data and contact tracing figures every day.


03:13 PM

Rehabilitation ‘safety net’ needed for post-Covid patients, campaigners say

Covid-19 patients are being left “broken” by long-term health issues that are not being taken seriously enough by the Government, campaigners say.

Thousands of patients across the UK say they are “debilitated” by new or recurring symptoms months after they initially fell ill with the virus.

Dr Ron Daniels, executive director of Sepsis UK, has called for a rehabilitation “safety net” put in place to allow people who are deteriorating to receive immediate access to face-to-face care.

Experts have compared the condition of post-Covid patients with those recovering from sepsis, viral pneumonia or a major operation, leaving many unable to work or care for loved ones.

So-called “long Covid” sufferers are regularly reporting acute breathlessness, brain fog, rashes and fevers, but also heart problems and blood clots on the lungs.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists estimates that around 100,000 people who were hospitalised because of the virus now require rehabilitation. Ruth ten Hove, the CSP’s assistant director said:

“But that’s just from the hospital and the challenge is we don’t know enough about the population at home or in care homes who will require the same”.

“It requires a really big rethink at the Government level of what is important to the population and rehab is something that has been overlooked.”

03:07 PM

UK coronavirus deaths: 66 more people have died from Covid-19 

The Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed that 45,119 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK – an increase of 66 from Wednesday. 

The figures do not include all deaths involving Covid-19 across the UK, which are thought to have passed 55,500.

The DHSC also said that in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 642 lab-confirmed UK cases. Overall, a total of 292,552 cases have been confirmed.

02:54 PM

Vallance: Greater testing capacity would have been preferable 

Sir Patrick said it would have been “absolutely preferable” to have much greater testing capacity earlier in the pandemic.

He told the Science and Technology Committee that one lesson to learn from the pandemic was the “importance” of data flows.

He said: “It would have been absolutely preferable to have much greater testing capacity early on.

“But it’s not just testing, it’s basic information flows around patients in hospitals, around rates of admission, around rates of movement. Those sorts of things are important parts of this as well.”

02:52 PM

Watch: Chancellor Rishi Sunak visits Jobcentre Plus has number of unemployed grows

Rishi Sunak has visited a Jobcentre Plus following the news that unemployment in the UK has increased by more than 600,000 during the pandemic, according to latest figures.

02:46 PM

Vallance: Virus likely to be around for a number of years

Vallance has told the Commons committee that coronavirus is likely to be around for a number of years.

Asked about the potential of a second wave, he said what most people mean by this is essentially a re-emergence of the first wave which has been suppressed.

But he told MPs that if there is an increase in cases in the winter: “You could argue that is the tail end of the first wave still.

“And I think it is quite probable that we will see this virus coming back in different waves over a number of years.”

02:44 PM

Cluster of Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland town

A cluster of Covid-19 cases has been discovered in the Co Londonderry town of Limavady, Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency (PHA) said.

The PHA said: “The Public Health Agency has identified a cluster of Covid-19 cases in the Limavady area.

“At present we can link the cases to a social gathering in a private/residential setting.

“Testing and contact tracing is being conducted to identify people who may be potentially affected to help prevent any further spread.

“With lockdown restrictions being eased, this type of occurrence is to be expected, which is why the Test, Trace and Protect programme is in place.”

No Covid-19 related deaths have been recorded by the country’s Department of Health in the past 24 hours, and the toll from the virus remains at 556.

02:42 PM

Vallance: Sage advised lockdown on March 18

Vallance told the Commons that Sage advised the Government to impose lockdown measures “as soon as possible” on March 18.

He said this happened as soon as data showed further restrictions were needed. “Looking back, you can see the data may have preceded that but the data was not available before that.”

Scientists realised in mid-March that “we were further ahead in the epidemic than had been thought”.

02:40 PM

Further 19 deaths in England

A further 19 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 29,144, NHS England said.

The patients were aged between 52 and 91 and all had known underlying conditions.

Another 10 deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

02:36 PM

Vallance: Lockdown carries risk to mental and physical health

Sir Vallance has said that the coronavirus lockdown “carries risks” to the public’s mental and physical health.

He told the Commons it was “crucially important” that the indirect impact of the measures on people’s health were fully understood.

“I think the Chief Medical Officer has been pretty clear about this, and that is the way this should be looked at… overall excess deaths,” said Vallance.

“If you look at overall excess deaths then you’re looking at the integrated effect of the virus itself with all the other reasons people may have suffered as a result of this.

“We do need to understand the impact of that and it’s very clear that lockdown itself carries risks, and those risks are to both physical health and mental health.”

02:33 PM

Plastic visors aren’t safe and should be worn with masks, say Swiss authorities

Plastic visors fail to provide adequate protection from coronavirus infection and should only be worn in combination with a face mask, Swiss authorities have announced.

Health officials came to the conclusion after discovering that only people wearing plastic visors were infected during an outbreak the canton of Graübunden.

They found a worrying trend when investigating the cluster among staff at a hotel, namely that all of those infected wore plastic face shields, while those wearing face masks came out unscathed.

Henry Samuel has more here. 

02:24 PM

Vallance: Antibody responses may not be long-lasting

Asked for the latest from Sage on how long an immune response to the virus lasts, Sir Vallance said that it isn’t yet known to what extend a positive antibody means that someone is protected from catching or carrying the virus. 

“The vast majority of people who get Covid get an antibody response,” he said. “In an outbreak setting it looks like 95 per cent of people get antibodies. It looks like most of those antibody responses contain so-called neutralising antibodies, so antibodies which would be expected to reduce the ability of the virus to cause an affect.

“It also appears that in some cases it’s not clear what proportion, in some cases antibody levels seem to drop after around three months or so. Antibody responses may not be long-lasting. That does not mean that some form of immunity is not long lasting.

“We’ve got other parts of the immune system, we may have memory cells on the B cell side of things, we may also have T cells that are also important. We don’t know to what extent a positive antibody means that you are protected against the virus or indeed protected against carriage of the virus. “

02:10 PM

Vallance: Don’t confuse operational accountability with scientific advice

Vallance was asked whether the UK would have fared worse if it had followed WHO advice – such as mass testing in February – rather than its own bespoke advice.

“There’s clearly not evidence to suggest one way or the other,” he responded, adding that countries that were affected by the MERS outbreak in 2015 and took actions to get their public health systems ready may have been better prepared.

“Our advice on face masks was in April,” he added. “We said face masks are of marginal positive value when used in enclosed spaces where you can’t keep two metres distance, which essentially is the advice that WHO have come out with.”

Vallance said he doesn’t think it’s the case that scientists in the UK have deviated from the WHO in terms of advice, and added that they were ahead of the WHO in terms of face masks.

“On testing, it was clear very early on we wanted testing ramped up, but again there’s a danger of confusing operational accountability with scientific advice.”

02:00 PM

Vallance hits back at suggestion Sage was slow to give advice

Sir Vallance was asked whether it might be the case that some countries, such as in Europe, made policies in advance of having all the evidence that allowed them to act more quickly than Britain.

“The assumption that somehow Sage has policy makers in its grasp and that policy makers will not move until Sage does something and that’s not the method,” Vallance responded.

“Sage provides advice. If you look at care home advice that went right the way to February. We’re not dealing with certainty, we’re not dealing with a body of evidence that says that is absolutely the case, we’re dealing always with uncertainty and it’s in that uncertainty, our job is to express that uncertainty to allow ministers and others to decide which policies they want to follow. 

“I don’t accept the premise that Sage takes a position which says only when we’re 100 per cent certain do we go out and give a recommendation. You’ll see from the minutes that’s not the case. We say there’s uncertainty here, but within the bounds of this uncertainty here is advice.”

01:53 PM

Vallance: ‘It’s clear the outcome has not been good in the UK’

Asked his views on the UK’s response to the pandemic not being “the most admired in the world”, Vallance said “it’s clear that the outcome has not been good in the UK, I think you can be absolutely clear about that.”

He stressed that adequate “data systems” need to be in place so that authorities have the information they need to deal with emergencies like the pandemic.

“It would have been absolutely preferable to have had much greater testing capacity earlier on, but it’s not just testing, it’s basic information flows around patients in hospital, rates of admission, rates of movement,” he said.

01:50 PM

Vallance asked if Government had ever gone against scientific advice 

Answering questions at the Commons science committee, Sir Patrick Vallance was asked if there were any instances in which the Government had gone against scientific advice on Covid-19.

“In general, what I can be absolutely clear about is that those making policy decisions have heard and understood the scientific advice,” Vallance said.

“Clearly as the pandemic progresses and indeed as we get into release measures from lockdown there are many other considerations that need to be taking into account as well as the science.

“What we’re doing is laying out the scientific reasons behind options from which people can choose and overlaying that with economic and other considerations is the job of government.”

01:43 PM

Loans for universities about to go bust

Universities in England at risk of going bust could apply for emergency loans from the Government in plans announced by the Education Secretary, the BBC reports.

But any rescue would come with conditions, including cutting pay for vice chancellors and senior staff. It could also require universities to focus more on subjects with better job prospects for graduates.

It follows the news that a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that 13 unnamed universities were facing insolvency, and recent analysis found that the UK’s higher education system could face losses of between £3bn and £19bn.

Universities have long warned of cash problems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – particularly if overseas students cancel plans to study in the UK next term.


There will be no guarantees of support, say the Government proposals, but universities could be offered a repayable loan, which would come with “restructuring” conditions.

01:35 PM

NHS recovery in Wales will take years, says top boss

It could take up to four years to clear the waiting list backlog in Wales caused by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a leading NHS official has said.

Dr Andrew Goodall, chief executive of NHS Wales, said by the end of May around 60,000 patients were waiting more than 36 weeks for their treatment to begin after being referred.

But the overall waiting lists had not increased because there had been a large drop in referrals from GPs, he said.

Dr Goodall told the Senedd’s health, social care and sport committee that attendances at A&E departments across Wales had fallen by 60 per cent in March and April, although in recent weeks they had started to recover.

He said there had been a “noticeable drop” in referrals for suspected cancer cases, which had been as high as 70 per cent.

“Waiting lists are a concern and we have seen an impact on the length of time patients are already on our waiting lists,” Dr Goodall told the committee.

“We have seen a reduction in outpatient referrals coming in from GPs and they are 50 per cent down on what we would normally expect.”

01:25 PM

Russian hackers attempted to steal UK’s Covid-19 vaccine research, Downing St says

Russia has been accused by the Government of trying to steal Britain’s research into a Covid-19 vaccine in a state-sponsored cyber attack.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) told Boris Johnson it had the “highest level of confidence” the Kremlin was behind the “ongoing” attack, which was also verified by the US and Canada.

Both Oxford University and Imperial College London, the two British teams trying to develop a vaccine, are understood to have been targeted. Security sources refused to say whether any attempts to steal information had been successful.

The NCSC said the hack was part of an ongoing campaign of “malicious activity” that began in around February or March when coronavirus became an international pandemic.

Gordon Rayner has more here. 

01:19 PM

No new coronavirus deaths in Wales

There are no new deaths of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Wales, with the number remaining at 1,545, Public Health Wales said.

The total number of cases in Wales increased by 18, bringing the revised total of confirmed cases to 16,871.

01:17 PM

Coronavirus tests halted over safety fears, as Matt Hancock to make statement

Coronavirus tests used by the NHS may be unsafe and have been halted, the Government has announced. 

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary is to make a statement in the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon about the problems with coronavirus kits, which could hamper widespread testing.

The Department of Health said that the NHS Test and Trace service had been notified that some test kits produced by Randox Laboratories may not meet required safety standards. 

Sarah Knapton has more here. 

01:05 PM

White House denies Trump broke rules on masks

The White House said President Trump followed Center for Disease Control guidelines during a visit to Atlanta on Wednesday, following Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms claiming that the President broke the law by not wearing a mask at the city’s airport.

The airport is owned by the City of Atlanta, which is currently under an order requiring the wearing of masks.

Trump was there to deliver a speech about infrastructure projects. He did not leave the airport.

Speaking on CNN, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said: “So by not having on a mask, President Trump did violate law in the city of Atlanta, but I am somehow not surprised that he disregarded our rules and regulations in the city,” she said.

Later on Wednesday, the White House did not directly address the Mayor’s claims but said the President followed CDC guidelines.

A spokesperson for the White House said: “When preparing for and carrying out any travel, White House House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office, to ensure plans incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible.”

Trump upon his arrival aboard Air Force One at Atlanta International Airport - Shutterstock
Trump upon his arrival aboard Air Force One at Atlanta International Airport – Shutterstock

12:53 PM

Twin crises of coronavirus and climate change put girls in India at risk of trafficking 

The biggest cyclone in 20 years left thousands without shelter but Covid-19 has made matters worse, reports Catherine Davison in Delhi.

The flood came first, washing away everything in its path. A few months later a stranger appeared in the village. 

By that time, Rumana* had been sleeping under a piece of tarpaulin on the side of the road for six months. It was 2010 and Cyclone Aila had destroyed most of the houses in Goran Bose, the village in eastern India where the 14-year-old lived. 

Her father had left almost immediately after the disaster to find work in the city, but the money he sent home wasn’t enough, and the family often had to resort to begging. Rumana’s predominant memory of that time is of “poverty and hunger”.

So when the stranger offered her work in a garment factory 100km away in Kolkata, she didn’t hesitate.

Read the full report here. 

12:51 PM

No physical distancing for Scottish pupils in August

Pupils will not have to physically distance when Scotland’s schools return in August, but teachers will, new advice to the Scottish Government has suggested.

A new report from advisers said “no distancing” should be required between pupils in primary or secondary schools, as ministers have set a target for schools in Scotland to reopen in full from August 11.

But it said that staff should stay 2m (6ft 6in) apart from each other, and put on face coverings when coming into closer contact with children.

It also recommended that “higher risk” group activities like assemblies, choirs and gym and drama classes should not be reintroduced immediately.

Education Secretary John Swinney said the advice would “inform the way schools can reopen safely”.

12:48 PM

Downing Street defends Test and Trace figures

Downing Street defended the NHS Test and Trace programme following the release of the latest statistics on its operation, which revealed that more than a quarter of close contacts aren’t being reached.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Fewer people have been testing positive as the infection rate comes down, so we are naturally seeing less contacts being identified.”

Boris Johnson claimed on Wednesday that the system was “as good as or better” than any other in the world.

The PM’s spokesman said: “We set up a test and trace service from scratch and you can expect it to continue to improve in coming weeks.”

12:40 PM

Death rates in intensive care from Covid-19 have fallen by a third, study finds

Death rates in patients in intensive care units (ICU) have fallen sharply over the course of the pandemic, a review of studies across the world has found, with the authors suggesting that as the pandemic has progressed treatment has improved. 

The review of 24 studies covering more than 10,000 patients in Europe, Asia and North America found that mortality fell by almost a third in just two months.

Almost 60 per cent of patients in ICU died at the end of March, compared to 42 per cent at the end of May, the study, published in the journal Anaesthesia, found. 

Anne Gulland has more here. 

12:36 PM

62 extra tonnes of rubbish left in London’s parks in June

The equivalent of 20 double decker busloads of litter – or 62 extra tonnes – was left strewn across London’s Royal Parks in June compared with last year, an increase of a third.

Royal Park managers described it as a “never-before-seen level of littering”, with office furniture, face masks and pizza boxes among the abandoned items picked up by staff.

Tom Jarvis, director of parks, said: “We’ve had lots of really nice messages from people thanking us for keeping the parks open and telling us how the parks have been a lifeline for them, particularly for those without gardens,” he said.

“But the downside is the litter. We’ve never seen anything like this before.

“Every day we wake up to unprecedented levels of litter, with PPE, pizza boxes, plastic bags and picnic scraps strewn all over the grass.”

He added: “We’re asking everyone who visits the parks for a bit of help to spread some kindness this summer and help us look after the environment.”

12:28 PM

Demand for flights will not recover until 2024, according to forecast

Demand for air travel will take longer to return to pre-pandemic levels than initially expected, according to the latest industry forecast.

Trade body ACI Europe, which represents European airports, said it does not expect passenger numbers to recover until 2024, one year later than it predicted in May.

This comes after figures for June show the increase in air travel following the easing of coronavirus restrictions has been slower than anticipated.

Passenger traffic across European airports last month was down 93 per cent compared with June 2019.

This was an improvement on the 98 per cent year-on-year decline recorded in May, but highlights how far the industry has to go to recover from the pandemic.

Follow all the latest updates on our travel live blog here. 

12:25 PM

Labour calls on PM to make ‘awful’ care home outbreaks focus of inquiry

Sir Keir Starmer has called for the Government’s “absolutely awful” handling of coronavirus outbreaks in care homes to be a key focus of an independent inquiry.

The Labour leader issued the demand a day after Boris Johnson committed to holding an independent inquiry to “learn lessons” from the pandemic.

Speaking to reporters after visiting a care home in Gedling, Nottinghamshire, Sir Keir said frontline care staff had been “desperate” for access to Covid-19 tests, particularly in the early stages of the outbreak.

“They have said to me that they were frustrated and disappointed,” he said. “Even now the Health Secretary says there are weekly tests, and they are telling me they haven’t had tests for two weeks – they are still waiting for the next batch. Frankly, they are upset with the Government.”

Sir Keir added: “It is very important there is the inquiry and we need a commitment from the Prime Minister that getting to the bottom of what happened in care homes will be a priority for that inquiry.

“I want him to make that commitment because what’s gone on in care homes has been absolutely awful.”

Mr Johnson told MPs on Wednesday that he does not believe now is the right time for such an inquiry but it will “certainly” happen in the future.

12:18 PM

Manchester Cathedral service remembers coronavirus victims

A memorial service has paid tribute to victims of Covid-19 in Greater Manchester, the BBC reports.

The Manchester Cathedral service was held with a maximum of 70 people attending to allow social distancing, and was also streamed online.

Dean Rogers Govender said it was a chance to “honour” victims of the virus when traditional funerals had not recently been possible.

An online book of remembrance has also been opened.

As well as people sitting 2 metres apart, the interfaith service featured no choir or singing, in line with current guidelines.

Addressing the small congregation, the Very Reverend Rogers Govender said: “We are a grieving world, a grieving city.

“We hope this will make a difference to you spiritually, emotionally and otherwise. Your loved one is a precious human being, whose life is cherished.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said each person who had fallen victim to the virus should be remembered as “a person and not just a statistic”.

Andy Burnham paid tribute to the health workers still fighting the pandemic - PA
Andy Burnham paid tribute to the health workers still fighting the pandemic – PA
The seating was spaced out to allow for social distancing - PA
The seating was spaced out to allow for social distancing – PA

12:07 PM

Shielding in Wales to end next month

People who are shielding in Wales will no longer need to do so after August 16, the country’s chief medical officer has confirmed.

Dr Frank Atherton said the 130,000 people in Wales who have been advised to shield could go to work, school or shopping from that date.

He added: “As the level of the virus in our communities is now low, shielding should pause from August 16.

“This means those who have been shielding can gradually resume day-to-day life, but taking extra care around physical distancing and hand washing.

“We will keep this under review and if we see transmission levels increase, we may need to consider advising the shielding group to take extra precautions and measures to protect themselves in the future.”

12:04 PM

‘I’m a former gym junkie, but after 100 days gym free I might never go back’

Gym fanatics have had to think outside the box for their fitness fix during lockdown, and some may decide not to return to their old ways, writes Anna Magee.

Five times weekly, I would run on the treadmill for 25 to 30 minutes before doing 25 to 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training. Think jumping on and off boxes, punching bags (boxing had become my latest obsession), skipping, squatting, push-ups, lifting dumb-bells and kettlebells, and throwing balls off walls – you get the idea.

I was not going to survive this with my sanity and dress size intact. And yet, nearly four months later, I haven’t gone mad. Not only that, but I’m the same size, I feel a little stronger and I enjoy my workouts more.

In fact, when I heard the government announcement that gyms would reopen on July 25, my first thought was: “Do I even want to go back?”

Read about the seven things that Anna has learned from 100 days without the gym here. 

11:56 AM

Restrictions to be eased for shielding Scots

People who are “shielding” in Scotland are to be allowed to stay in holiday accommodation and visit outdoor markets and gardens, in a change to previous advice.

Nicola Sturgeon said virus restrictions for the most vulnerable group are to be eased from Friday.

Non-cohabiting couples can also meet without physical distancing even if one or both are shielding and even if neither lives alone, the First Minister announced.

“We hope to able to pause the need for shielding altogether at the end of this month,” she added.

11:48 AM

Deaths in Scotland up by one

A total of 2,491 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for the coronavirus, up by one from 2,490 on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon said.

The new death is the first to be recorded in eight days in Scotland.

Speaking during the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said 18,384 people have tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 11 from 18,373 the previous day.

There are 630 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, an increase of 19 on Wednesday.

Of these patients, six were in intensive care, no change on yesterday.

11:40 AM

Ukrainian President signals end of lockdown

Ukrainians are fed up with the coronavirus lockdown and the government should be cautious about extending it beyond August, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.

“Everyone is tired of this quarantine,” the presidential press service quoted him as telling government officials.

Ukraine imposed strict restrictions in March but partially eased them in May to allow for economic recovery.

It has been extending the lockdown monthly, with current rules in place until the end of July, requiring people to wear masks and adhere to strict rules in restaurants and public places.

“We need a clear framework for how we will continue it (lockdown), so that people have the opportunity to live safely, so that business can function, so that the economy does not stand at a pause,” Zelenskiy added.

“Therefore … we will extend it for a month, but not longer,” he added.

Ukraine has recorded 56,455 coronavirus cases and 1,445 deaths – relatively low numbers compared to western European counterparts, but there have been higher levels of new infections in recent weeks.

11:31 AM

‘Don’t forget lessons we have learned’, Spanish health worker begs of leaders 

A nurse from Barcelona pleaded with Spain’s political leaders to back the public health system and not to forget the painful lessons from the dark days of the country’s Covid-19 epidemic, reports James Badcock from Madrid. 

“Let us never forget the lesson we have learned,” said Aroa López, head nurse in the A&E department at Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebrón hospital.

Speaking at a ceremony held outside Madrid’s Royal Palace in homage to victims of Covid-19, Ms López asked Spain’s leaders “to defend the health service that belongs to us all”.

“They should remember there is no better homage to those that left us than looking after our health and guaranteeing the dignity of our professions. Let us all answer the simple question: who will look after us if the person who cares cannot do so?” said Ms López before an audience of 400 people, including Government and opposition leaders, as well as international figures.

Ms López also asked the public not to forget the dangers of Covid-19 and to honour the sacrifices made by health workers by following the official advice on avoiding infection. According to health ministry figures from last month, more than 52,000 Spanish health workers were infected with Covid-19, and 63 died as a result.

“We learned once more, perhaps better than ever, why we chose this profession: to care for and save lives. Even though some of our colleagues had to give their lives doing so.”

11:25 AM

Nicola Sturgeon ‘will not shy away’ from quarantine for English visitors

Nicola Sturgeon has once again refused to rule out the possibility that the English, Welsh and Northern Irish will have to quarantine when visiting Scotland.

The First Minister, speaking on ITV last night, said that forcing travellers from the rest of the UK to self-isolate was “not something I want to do if we can avoid that”. 

However, she added: “But I am not going to shy away from doing anything that I think is necessary and appropriate and effective in protecting people in Scotland from a virus that we know now to our painful cost can take life and also as we are increasingly learning can do a lot of long-term health damage to people.”

Follow all the latest on our travel live blog here. 

11:14 AM

France to impose indoor public mask-wearing

France will make the wearing of face masks compulsory in indoor public spaces from next week, the Government said today, as officials noted signs of an uptick in coronavirus cases.

Already mandatory on public transport, masks will also become compulsory in shops and other indoor places frequented by the public, Prime Minister Jean Castex said in the Senate.

Health Minister Olivier Veran has previously noted “weak signs of a resurgence” in the pandemic that has claimed over 30,000 lives in France to date.

“We are witnessing in certain hospitals in Paris weak signs of an epidemic resurgence, which is why I urge the French to remain particularly vigilant, active, against the virus,” he told public radio.

11:00 AM

Number of people receiving Covid test results within 24 hours falls

The proportion of people receiving their Covid-19 result within 24 hours of being tested at a regional site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – has fallen week-on-week, according to latest figures.

Some 87.7 per cent of people received the result within 24 hours in the week ending July 8, down slightly from 90.7 per cent in the week ending July 1.

Boris Johnson last month pledged to get the results of all in-person tests back within 24 hours by the end of June.

The figures also revealed that just 3.3 per cent of people who took a Covid-19 test using a home test kit during this period received their result within 24 hours – up slightly on the previous week (1.8 per cent).

A total of 67.8 per cent of people received their result between 24 and 48 hours after taking the test, down slightly on the previous week (68.8 per cent).

A further 23.2 per cent waited between 48 and 72 hours for their result (broadly similar to 23 per cent in the previous week) while 5.6 per cent had to wait more than 72 hours (down from 6.3 per cent).

Across the six-week period of Test and Trace, 1.8 per cent of people using a home test kit received their result within 24 hours, 39.1 per cent between 24 and 48 hours, 46.5 per cent between 48 and 72 hours, and 12.5 per cent after 72 hours.

10:38 AM

Russia to mass produce experimental vaccine

Russia plans to produce 30 million doses of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine domestically this year, with the potential to manufacture a further 170 million abroad, the head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund told Reuters.

The first human trial of the vaccine, a month-long test on 38 people, ended this week. Researchers concluded that it is safe for use and induces an immune response, though the strength of that response is as yet unclear.

A larger Phase III trial involving several thousand people is expected to begin in August, said Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) head Kirill Dmitriev.

“We believe that based on the current results it will be approved in Russia in August and in some other countries in September…, making it possibly the first vaccine to be approved in the world,” he said in an interview.

More than 100 possible vaccines are being developed to try to stop the pandemic. At least two are in final Phase III human trials, according to World Health Organization data – one being developed by China’s Sinopharm and the other by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

10:31 AM

Test and Trace figures: 76.4pc of cases reached by tracers

The latest NHS Test and Trace data has been published by the Department of Health and Social Care.

A total of 34,990 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England have had their cases transferred to the NHS Test and Trace contact tracing system since its launch. Of this total, 26,742 people (76.4 per cent) were reached and asked to provide details of recent contacts, while 7,124 (20.4 per cent) were not reached.

A further 1,124 people (3.2 per cent) could not be reached because their communication details had not been provided.

Since the launch of Test and Trace, a further 155,889 (84.1 per cent) close contacts of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 have been reached through the tracing system and asked to self-isolate. 

The remaining 29,512 people (15.9 per cent) identified as close contacts were not reached.

The figures cover the period May 28 to July 8.

Between 2 and 8 July, 3,579 cases were transferred to the service out of 3,818 people who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Of these, 2,815 people (79 per cent) were reached by tracers and asked to provide details of recent close contacts – 2,201 did provide details, while 614 people said they had no recent close contacts.

Of the 13,807 people who were identified as close contacts, NHS Test and Trace managed to contact 71 per cent and ask them to self-isolate during this period.

Of the cases transferred to the service, 618 people – 17 per cent – could not be reached, while an additional 146 could not be contacted because no contact details were provided for them.

10:21 AM

Sculpture of Captain Sir Tom Moore created to honour ‘everyone’s champion’

A sculpture has been unveiled of Captain Sir Tom Moore – in tribute to his role as a “beacon of light” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bust of the Second World War veteran – complete with medals and the NHS fundraising hero’s trademark blazer – was commissioned by Garry McBride, of Derbyshire-based Monumental Icons.

Captain Sir Tom, who raised almost £33 million by walking laps of his Bedfordshire garden, is due to be knighted by the Queen in a personal open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle on Friday.

Explaining why he had decided to commission and pay for the bust, Mr McBride said: “When we were in lockdown, for the first time in my life, they said ‘You have got to stay at home and do nothing’. Every television programme you put on … there was Captain Tom, as he was then.

“As he progressed with his walk, he was more and more on the screens and so I just thought that for his achievements it would be really, really sad if, after five or ten years, everyone had forgotten what he had actually done.”

Mr McBride hopes the bust can be displayed at the headquarters of NHS Charities Together, the charity the centenarian raised money for.

Garry McBride of Monumental Icons with a bronze bust of Captain Sir Tom Moore - PA
Garry McBride of Monumental Icons with a bronze bust of Captain Sir Tom Moore – PA

10:14 AM

98-year-old care home resident with arthritis nears end of 100-day piano marathon 

One of the oldest residents of a Lanarkshire care home is nearing the end of an astonishing feat of musical endurance which has touched heartstrings around the world.

Despite living with arthritis, 98-years-young Mrs Rebecca Parker has embarked on a 100-day piano marathon for charity – to keep spirits of staff and fellow residents high in the face of lockdown restrictions.

Every morning since April, the nimble-fingered nonagenarian, originally from Skye, has played Scottish music on the Baby Grand piano of McClymont House, run by South Lanarkshire Council, in Lanark. The melodies can be heard throughout the home – providing a harmony of comfort for others.

Footage of the retired teacher playing Loch Lomond has reached almost 60,000 people online, including a global audience of well-wishers from afar as India, Abu Dhabi and Australia.

Mrs Parker, who raised her family in nearby Carluke after completing teacher training in Edinburgh in the 1940s, has generated almost £5500 for NHS Lanarkshire endowment fund on her JustGiving page.

Speaking on National Care home day, two days out of completing her challenge, she explained how the response has steeled her resolve.

“I would like to offer a note of thanks to each and every one of my lovely followers, on JustGiving, social media and, of course, the staff and fellow residents of McClymont House. I’ve been overwhelmed to be able to raise such a generous amount of money. It’s been incredible.”

10:01 AM

Counselling sessions for under-12s rise a third during lockdown, says NSPCC

Counselling sessions for under-12s with mental health concerns have risen by a third over the lockdown, charity figures show.

Childline held 21,827 counselling sessions about mental health concerns from March 23 to June 28, of which almost 2,000 were for 11-year-olds and under, the NSPCC said.

This is a 37 per cent rise in the average number of weekly counselling sessions about mental health – with 133 held per week up from 97 pre-lockdown. The service has delivered 11,783 counselling sessions related to the coronavirus since the start of the year.

One eight year-old-girl told Childline: “I live with just my mum and don’t see dad much.

“We live in a tiny flat and sometimes we get so angry with each other we end up fighting. After we have had a fight I hurt myself because I feel like I am not good enough.”

The charity is asking the public to donate £10 so it can continue to run services like Childline.

09:54 AM

India locks down more than 125 million people

More than 125 million people in Bihar, India, began a new 15-day lockdown today as the country saw more than 600 deaths in a single day.

The country’s booming southern IT hub of Bangalore and the coastal tourist state of Goa also launched fresh restrictions earlier this week as the Red Cross warned that South Asia is fast becoming the next epicentre of the virus.

“While the world’s attention has been focused on the unfolding crisis in the United States and South America, a concurrent human tragedy is fast emerging in South Asia,” said John Fleming, Asia-Pacific head of health for the organisation.

India’s case count is on course to hit one million on Friday or Saturday and the number of deaths is approaching 25,000.

All schools, clubs, temples and non-essential businesses were ordered to close in Bihar.

09:47 AM

Australia deports New Zealanders despite virus travel ban

Australia has resumed deporting New Zealanders on “character grounds” despite the coronavirus halting international travel, AFP reports.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) said today that it had sent home 31 New Zealanders on two charter flights this week, including a former biker gang boss and several others convicted of violent crimes.

Group deportations had been paused since March as Australia closed its borders to nearly all international travel to counter the pandemic.

The policy has angered New Zealand authorities, who say many of those deported have lived most of their lives in Australia.

“Many of them have only a very minor connection to New Zealand,” health minister Chris Hipkins said earlier this week. “We’re receiving them because we’re obliged to, but it would be wrong to say that we’re happy about it.”

Earlier this year, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accused Australia of sending back people who were not “genuine Kiwis”.

“Look, I have been absolutely clear – this is corrosive to our relationship,” Ardern said at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in February. “Do not deport your people and your problems.”

09:43 AM

Ethnic minority businesses struggle to raise finance

Businesses run by people from ethnic minorities contribute £25bn a year to the UK economy but are being held back by barriers to accessing finance, new research shows. 

Difficulties accessing finance are a key obstacle to growth for ethnic minority businesses, according to the study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Aston University’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship. 

It comes amid fears the coronavirus recession could widen the employment gap of nearly 12 per cent between white workers and those from ethnic minorities. This chart shows how ethnic minorities have been more vulnerable to job losses than their white counterparts during the pandemic:

 Michael O’Dwyer has more here. 

09:37 AM

‘Covid gave me the scare I needed to quit smoking’

Following the news that that one million smokers have quit during lockdown, Hannah Shewan Stevens reveals the struggle of going without cigarettes during a crisis.

Previous failures make the task of giving up seem insurmountable – but at the start of lockdown, I knew I had to act. At that point, I was probably sucking down ten cigarettes worth of tar a day (that number would skyrocket on nights out), but it quickly became clear that, as a respiratory illness, Covid would likely be worse for people with compromised lungs. As a smoker, I fell into that category.

I had a second reason to worry: I am also considered high-risk due to an autoimmune condition called scleroderma. The fear of contracting the virus with two extra strikes against me was terrifying. 

In some ways, lockdown has facilitated my decision to give up. 

The necessity to stay indoors has made accessing cigarettes much harder – I’m still shielding now, so I cannot just pop to the shops for a packet of tobacco. Furthermore, as money is tighter than ever, there is no justification for adding an additional expense to the weekly shop.

Read the full piece here. 

09:31 AM

Oklahoma Governor tests positive for virus

Kevin Stitt, the Governor of Oklahoma in the United States has become the first governor to test positive for Covid-19.

Stitt, a Republican who has actively pushed to reopen his state and appeared to flout experts’ health recommendations, said on Wednesday that he had tested positive and felt “fine” apart from feeling a “little bit achy”.

Stitt said he was “pretty shocked” to become the first governor to get the virus, adding that he would be quarantining away from his family and working from home.

He said: “I want to use my story to remind Oklahomans that if you aren’t feeling well, we want you to get tested.”

09:28 AM

The new Commonwealth Games…

Here are some pictures of a doctor in full PPE leading patients in a Yoga class inside a ward at the Commonwealth Games Village sports complex,  temporarily converted into a Covid-19 care centre in New Delhi, India.

Cases in India are expected to surpass one million in the next 24 hours - AFP
Cases in India are expected to surpass one million in the next 24 hours – AFP
Amid growing concerns that there were not enough hospital beds to cope with the rising number of cases, the Delhi government also requisitioned luxury hotels - AFP
Amid growing concerns that there were not enough hospital beds to cope with the rising number of cases, the Delhi government also requisitioned luxury hotels – AFP
Despite the bleak circumstances, the patients appear to be enjoying unconventional yoga class - AFP
Despite the bleak circumstances, the patients appear to be enjoying unconventional yoga class – AFP

09:19 AM

Beijing Winter Games could be cancelled if Tokyo Games don’t happen in 2021

If the postponed Tokyo Olympics do not go ahead next year due to Covid-19 then the 2022 Beijing Winter Games is also likely to be cancelled, according to long-time International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound, Reuters reports.

The Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled for Feb. 4 to 20, 2022, just six months after the Tokyo Summer Games, which are now set to be held from July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021 after being pushed back a year.

Pound, a Canadian lawyer who has served as both an IOC vice-president and head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), also speculated on a range of scenarios, including one where a threat to the Beijing Games is not so much a US boycott, but one where China might consider barring the US from taking part if the country cannot gain control over the virus. 

“That is an extreme supposition. There are all kinds of crazy things that could happen,” he said.

09:10 AM

Indonesia reports 1,574 new cases

Indonesia reported 1,574 new coronavirus cases today, bringing the total number of infections to 81,668, its health ministry said.

The country also reported 76 new coronavirus-related deaths, taking the overall death toll to 3,873, ministry official Achmad Yurianto told a televised news briefing.

09:05 AM

First new opera commission since lockdown to be performed on stage

A new opera commission – said to be the first in Britain since lockdown – is to be performed live on stage at the Theatre in the Woods in Surrey in September, in front of an invited audience of 250 people.

A Feast In The Time Of Plague will be filmed and streamed for anyone to watch.

Wasfi Kani, founder and chief executive of Grange Park Opera, said: “We’ve decided to take a leap to perform this live in front of an audience… We are taking the utmost precautions. The five levels of the Theatre In The Woods normally seat more than 700 people.

“It means that the 250 audience members will each have a volume of air of 31 cubic metres – considerably more than a half-full plane to Greece upon which 100 passengers have a mere 2.34 cubic metres. In my view it’s time we all got moving again, and I don’t mean flying to Greece.”

Based on Alexander Pushkin’s 1830 play of the same title, Sir David Pountney developed his libretto during lockdown in Wales, while composer Alex Woolf completed his score in six weeks.

The new opera features 12 characters and captures the “defiance and solidarity that we have all experienced during these strange times”, Sir David said.

08:58 AM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

A group of Orthodox Jewish youth wear protective face masks as they walk in Jerusalem's Old City - AP
A group of Orthodox Jewish youth wear protective face masks as they walk in Jerusalem’s Old City – AP
Hernando Fernandez Calleja, brother of late journalist and Covid-19 victim Jose Maria Calleja, delivers a speech at the parade court in the Royal Palace during the state tribute - Shutterstock
Hernando Fernandez Calleja, brother of late journalist and Covid-19 victim Jose Maria Calleja, delivers a speech at the parade court in the Royal Palace during the state tribute – Shutterstock
Models present creations from the Dolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2021 men's collection in a live-streamed show in one of the first physical fashion shows since the outbreak, during Milan Digital Fashion Week - Reuters
Models present creations from the Dolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2021 men’s collection in a live-streamed show in one of the first physical fashion shows since the outbreak, during Milan Digital Fashion Week – Reuters
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove making a purchase in a shop near St James's Park in Westminster, London. Wearing face masks in shops will become mandatory in England from July 24 - Stefan Rousseau
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove making a purchase in a shop near St James’s Park in Westminster, London. Wearing face masks in shops will become mandatory in England from July 24 – Stefan Rousseau
Residents queue up to get tested for the virus near residential buildings in Mumbai, India, where it's expected cases will surpass one million in the next 24 hours - AFP
Residents queue up to get tested for the virus near residential buildings in Mumbai, India, where it’s expected cases will surpass one million in the next 24 hours – AFP

08:49 AM

Confusion over face masks as Downing Street contradicts Matt Hancock over food shop exemption

New rules on face coverings descended into chaos on Wednesday as Downing Street suggested they would not be mandatory in food shops just hours after the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said they would be.

MPs urged the Government to clarify exactly where people would be required to wear masks following a series of conflicting statements and Cabinet ministers adopting different approaches in-store.

It came as Luke Johnson, the former chairman of Pizza Express, suggested that forcing people to wear masks in shops was an attempt by ministers to reassure those “scared witless” by what he referred to as “project fear.”

Harry Yorke has more here. 

08:44 AM

Almost a third of firms plan to lay off staff over next three months

Almost a third of UK firms plan to lay off staff over the next three months, according to a report.

The British Chamber of Commerce saidthat 29 per cent of businesses in a survey of 7,400 firms planned to cut the size of their workforce in the next three months, the highest percentage of companies planning to make redundancies since the BCC began tracking employment intentions in 1989.

The BCC said the survey was carried out prior to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announcing in the summer economic update up to £30bn of fresh tax and spending measures last week to protect jobs and kickstart Britain’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

Despite those additional spending measures promised, the BCC said Sunak still needed to take further action to limit the damage for jobs, including a temporary cut in employer national insurance contributions and more funding for training staff.

It comes as official figures show that the number of employees on company payrolls in Britain has fallen by almost 650,000 since the onset of the coronavirus crisis in March

08:34 AM

Spain’s coronavirus commemoration ceremony underway

King Felipe has gathered with EU heads, Spanish politicians and the families of victims to honour all those who have died with Covid-19, as well as those who continue to work against the virus.

Spain has lost more than 28,400 people to the pandemic so far.

About 400 participants came to the Royal Palace in Madrid and sat in socially distanced chairs in concentric circles around a flame. People wore black face masks and placed flowers around the fire.

Hernando Maria Calleja, brother of the journalist Jose Maria Calleja who died of Covid-19, told the audience that the virus was a “cruel, destructive, cold killer”.

“I believe that my pain resembles the pain of each and every one of the relatives of the victims.”

Hernando Fernandez Calleja, brother of late journalist Fernandez Calleja who died with Covid-19, Princess Leonor, King Felipe VI of Spain and Nurse chief of the ER at Vall D'Hebron Hospital, Aroa Lopez attend the wreath laying ceremony - Shutterstock
Hernando Fernandez Calleja, brother of late journalist Fernandez Calleja who died with Covid-19, Princess Leonor, King Felipe VI of Spain and Nurse chief of the ER at Vall D’Hebron Hospital, Aroa Lopez attend the wreath laying ceremony – Shutterstock
A general view of Plaza de la Armeria courtyard at the Royal Palace during the socially distanced state tribute - Shutterstock
A general view of Plaza de la Armeria courtyard at the Royal Palace during the socially distanced state tribute – Shutterstock

08:26 AM

A healthy recovery from Covid-19 means investing in people and the planet, experts say

The coronavirus pandemic has shown that protecting the environment must go hand in hand with economic recovery, doctors and scientists have urged. 

Some 75 per cent of new human diseases over the past century have originated in animals, including Ebola, Sars and HIV. 

Now as Covid-19 – thought to have emerged from bats – threatens to derail global productivity for decades to come, the case for curbing habitat destruction and tackling climate change head on has never been stronger, experts have said. 

“Everything is at stake, in health terms, if we don’t protect the climate and the environment,” Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, coordinator of the climate change and health programme at the WHO, told a virtual briefing today.

Jordan Kelly-Linden has more here. 

08:18 AM

Nurses and midwives at ‘high risk of burnout and bullying in the workplace’

Working conditions for nurses and midwives pose a significant threat to their mental health, which could worsen due to the pandemic, a review has found.

The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) reviewed the mental health and wellbeing of nurses and midwives in the UK before the Covid-19 crisis.

Among its findings, published in a report today, it identified the high risk of work-related stress, mental health problems and burnout in the professions.

SOM warned that these problems are likely to have risen further due to the pandemic, as many are “at high risk of post-traumatic stress symptoms and are experiencing moral distress”.

It estimated that 30 to 40 per cent of nurses and midwives experience symptoms of burnout and found an increased prevalence of suicide among female nurses that is “greater than that of the general working population”. The report also found that more than 10 per cent of nurses have left the NHS in the past three years, and there are around 40,000 vacant posts in England.

The report said nurses and midwives are at high risk of harassment and bullying, particularly staff from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, who are “more than twice as likely to be discriminated against by a manager or colleague”.

08:13 AM

It’s going to be a ‘very difficult time’ for job losses, says Business Secretary  

The Business Secretary Alok Sharma said that many people are facing a “very, very difficult” time, following the publication of the latest unemployment figures.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the pandemic claimed 74,000 jobs last month.

“I think the best thing we can do is continue to open up the economy in a phased manner, a cautious manner, and get businesses up and running again,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“As a Government, we have put in £160 billion of support through the furlough scheme, through loans, through grants to businesses. If we hadn’t done that the economy would have been in a far worse position.

“It is going to be very, very difficult for lots of people and we are going to do everything we can to support them and keep businesses going through this very difficult period.”

07:22 AM

People of Leicester will be angry if lockdown continues, mayor warns

Sir Peter Soulsby claimed the Government had got Leicester into a “messy situation” by its handling of the local lockdown.

Asked what his reaction would be if the Government announced a further two-week lockdown, the city’s mayor said: “I think if we are told that, there are going to be an awful lot of Leicester people who are very angry indeed.

“It was quite clear that it was a political decision taken without the advice of Public Health England to take us into this lockdown in the first place.

“It’ll be a political decision to let us out and the sooner that political decision is taken, the better.”

07:16 AM

Scientists call to infect volunteers in hunt for coronavirus vaccine

Nobel laureates are among scientists calling for volunteers to be exposed to coronavirus after receiving a vaccine to see if it offers protection.

In an open letter to the head of the US National Institutes of Health, the group says so-called “challenge trials” could accelerate vaccine development.

There are now 23 coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials around the world.

The only way we will know if any of them works is if enough volunteers are subsequently exposed to coronavirus in their daily life and do not get infected.

The organisation 1 Day Sooner, consisting of more than 100 prominent figures including 15 Nobel laureates, argues this should not be left to chance.

A scientist at work where a vaccine against COVID-19 has been produced at the Oxford Vaccine Group's facility
A scientist at work where a vaccine against COVID-19 has been produced at the Oxford Vaccine Group’s facility

It wants healthy young volunteers to be deliberately given coronavirus after receiving the vaccine, arguing that the risks to their health would be low, but the potential benefits to society enormous.

The letter states: “If challenge trials can safely and effectively speed the vaccine development process, then there is a formidable presumption in favour of their use, which would require a very compelling ethical justification to overcome.”

The letter supporting challenge trials has been signed by Professor Adrian Hill, the director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University which has one of the leading prototype coronavirus vaccines.

He said human challenge studies could happen “in the coming months”.

Dr Francis Collins, director of the NIH, has said Covid-19 challenge trials are “on the table for discussion – not on the table to start designing a plan”.

07:11 AM

Leicester city officials ‘finally’ told which areas are worst affected by coronavirus 

Sir Peter Soulsby said Government data had “finally” told city officials which areas of Leicester were worst affected by coronavirus.

He told BBC Radio Leicester: “If only we’d had this information in advance, we’d have been able to do what they’re now doing in Blackburn, which is actually working closely with the communities and avoiding having to be locked down.

“I very much regret the fact that the Government didn’t trust us with this data earlier but I think now we’ve got it, we are the ones well-placed here in the city to make sure that we use it effectively.”

Asked what he hoped Mr Hancock would say, Sir Peter went on: “I hope he’ll recognise that as a result of what we are already doing here in the city, we are dramatically driving down the transmission of the virus.

“Now that we do know where we need to be focusing our attention, I hope that he will allow us and trust us at a local level to work with the people of the city – and to recognise that the other 90{cb3fe4c54de06d7c4b8dceae281fb32e521027d1659af7adec2f427d2f5333d9} of the city that has been locked down, along with the area that is of concern, should be allowed to go free with the rest of the country.”

06:53 AM

Coronavirus pandemic claimed 74,000 jobs last month, ONS statistics reveal 

UK workers on company payrolls have fallen 649,000 during lockdown as the coronavirus crisis claimed another 74,000 jobs last month, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said early estimates showed the number of paid employees fell by 1.9 per cent year on year in June to 28.4 million, and by 0.3{cb3fe4c54de06d7c4b8dceae281fb32e521027d1659af7adec2f427d2f5333d9} compared with the previous month.

It said the pace of job losses appeared to have slowed in June, with claims under Universal Credit by the unemployed and those on low incomes falling by 28,100 between May and June to 2.6 million.

But the claimant count has more than doubled since March – soaring 112.2{cb3fe4c54de06d7c4b8dceae281fb32e521027d1659af7adec2f427d2f5333d9} or by 1.4 million – in a sign of the mounting jobs crisis.

The ONS said unemployment fell 17,000 between March and May to 1.35 million, with the rate unchanged at 3.9 per cent.

Experts said this masked a fall in employment, down 126,000 in the quarter to 32.95 million, with the rate dropping to 76.4 per c cent.

With 9.4 million people on furlough classed as employed, the true impact is expected to only be shown after the current support scheme ends in October.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said: “As the pandemic took hold, the labour market weakened markedly, but that rate of decline slowed into June, though this is before recent reports of job losses.

“There are now almost two-thirds of a million fewer employees on the payroll than before the lockdown, according to the latest tax data.

“The Labour Force Survey is showing only a small fall in employment, but shows a large number of people who report working no hours and getting no pay.”

He added: “There are now far more out-of-work people who are not looking for a job than before the pandemic.”

06:34 AM

Leicester mayor angry and frustrated at “political-led lockdown”

Speaking to Sky News, Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby criticised what he described as the Government’s “blanket political-led lockdown” of the whole of the city, and said he was angry and frustrated.

Sir Peter said: “Some streets have no issue at all and in other streets nearby you’ve got a major issue, and we needed to know that at the time so we could intervene with pinpoint accuracy.

“Further advice needs to be given, support needs to be given, and we needed to know where that advice and support was needed.”

Asked when he expected to learn whether the local lockdown was being lifted, Sir Peter added: “The Secretary of State is due to make an announcement this afternoon.

“I expect to hear when the rest of the city, and indeed the rest of the country hears – because frankly we have not been involved in any of the decision-making about this.

“We have been told what the political decisions will be, and we will be told again what the political decision will be – whether or not we come out of it.”

04:33 AM

Eradicating virus in Australia ‘an illusory goal’

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at an update on the country's coronavirus pandemic at Parliament House in Canberra - LUKAS COCH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at an update on the country’s coronavirus pandemic at Parliament House in Canberra – LUKAS COCH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out Australia attempting to eradicate coronavirus, describing it as a risky strategy that can be very illusory.

Australia enjoyed similar success as neighbouring New Zealand in suppressing the spread of Covid-19 in the early weeks of the pandemic. Australia adopted a suppression strategy while New Zealand pursued full eradication.

The strategy has succeeded in New Zealand, which has gone 76 days without a community-spread infection and has active cases only among quarantined people who travelled abroad.

Just as Australia was lifting its lockdown restrictions, breaches of infection controls in hotel quarantine led to community spread in Victoria state. Its largest city, Melbourne, is in lockdown again for six weeks.

Mr Morrison said Victoria’s daily high on Thursday was a concerning setback but an Australian eradication policy would be more expensive.

It would also render the population more complacent and vulnerable to new outbreaks, the Prime Minister said.

“You can’t mortgage off your economy for what would prove to be an illusory goal,” Mr Morrison said.

04:23 AM

New record infections in Australia

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot, the state of Victoria, moved to increase its available hospital beds on Thursday after reporting a record daily high of 317 infections.

The government had planned to restore hospitals to normal medical services by the end of July before infections began to rise in recent weeks.

Instead, the Victorian government responded to the latest spike by reducing numbers of non-urgent surgeries allowed in hospitals to increase beds available for Covid-19 patients, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

Two men in their 80s died in Victoria in the past 24 hours, bringing the national death toll during the pandemic to 113.

Daniel Andrews is facing a new battle in his state of Victoria - WILLIAM WEST/AFP
Daniel Andrews is facing a new battle in his state of Victoria – WILLIAM WEST/AFP

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said a six-week lockdown in Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, was only a week old so its full impact was not yet apparent.

“It will take some time to bring that stability to the numbers and then of course to start to see a pattern where they are driven down,” Mr Andrews said.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, said of the 317 new cases: “It’s a big number. It needs to turn around.

“In some ways, I expect it to turn around this week. But as I’ve always said: it’s no guarantee. It’s upon all of us to be able to turn this number around,” he said.

03:45 AM

Hospital owner accused of issuing fake test results

Rapid Action Battalion personnel escort Mohammad Shahed, centre - who is accused of distributing fake coronavirus certificates - following his arrest in Dhaka - AFP
Rapid Action Battalion personnel escort Mohammad Shahed, centre – who is accused of distributing fake coronavirus certificates – following his arrest in Dhaka – AFP

A Bangladesh hospital owner accused of issuing thousands of fake negative coronavirus test results to patients at his two clinics was arrested on Wednesday while trying to flee to India in a burqa, police said.

The arrest marked the end of a nine-day manhunt for Mohammad Shahed over allegations of giving fake certificates to patients saying they were virus free without even testing them.

Mr Shahed, 42, was one of more than a dozen people detained by authorities over the past few days in connection with the scam.

Experts warn the false documents has worsened the already dire virus situation in the country of 168 million people by casting doubt about the veracity of certificates issued by clinics.

Read the full story here.

02:13 AM

Trump rebukes adviser over Fauci attack

President Donald Trump issued a rare rebuke of his senior adviser Peter Navarro on Wednesday, saying Mr Navarro should not have written a scathing opinion piece about Anthony Fauci, a top government coronavirus expert who is hugely popular in the US.

Mr Navarro, a trade adviser who at times has expanded his reach within the Trump White House, launched an attack on Dr Fauci in an article for USA Today.

“Dr Anthony Fauci has a good bedside manner with the public, but he has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on,” Mr Navarro wrote.

Departing for a trip to Atlanta, Mr Trump was asked whether Mr Navarro had gone rogue.

“Well he made a statement representing himself. He shouldn’t be doing that. No, I have a very good relationship with Anthony,” Mr Trump said.

Dr Fauci is a member of the government’s coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence.

Tensions between Mr Trump and Dr Fauci have emerged in recent weeks - REUTERS
Tensions between Mr Trump and Dr Fauci have emerged in recent weeks – REUTERS

01:20 AM

US cases show little sign of slowing down

The United States posted a new daily record of 67,632 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The global leader in infections has seen a surge in the virus since late June, mostly in the south and west of the country.

For the past 10 days, the number of new cases being reported has been between 55,000 and 65,000 every 24 hours.

12:35 AM

Magaluf party ‘strip’ to close after Britons’ behaviour

Magaluf’s infamous Punta Ballena “strip”, known for its bars and the raucous antics of the tourists who frequent them, is to be closed down “immediately”. 

The move follows reports of badly behaved British tourists last week, some of whom were filmed jumping on parked cars. 

Iago Negueruela, the tourism minister for the Balearic Islands, said at a press conference on Wednesday that such visitors were “not wanted” in Majorca.

Tourists in Magaluf - AP
Tourists in Magaluf – AP
Tourists in Magaluf - AP
Tourists in Magaluf – AP
Tourists in Magaluf - AP
Tourists in Magaluf – AP
Tourists in Magaluf - AP
Tourists in Magaluf – AP
Tourists in Magaluf - AP
Tourists in Magaluf – AP

12:30 AM

Wearing face masks ‘is reassuring’

Luke Johnson, the former chairman of Pizza Express, suggested that forcing people to wear face masks in shops was an attempt by ministers to reassure those “scared witless” by what he referred to as “project fear”.

Speaking to The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, he said the measures seemed more “about reassurance” than any “compelling evidence” they had a “significant benefit” in limiting the spread of Covid-19.

Listen to the podcast here:

11:56 PM

Oxford vaccine: does it work?

Oxford scientists believe they have made a breakthrough in their quest for a Covid-19 vaccine. But does it work?

The clinical trials have so far been successful, The Telegraph understands.

Researchers have shown that antibodies produced against sections of a genetic material called spike protein, usually found on the surface of coronavirus, after infection are able to kill the virus when tested in the laboratory.  

They want the human body to recognise and develop antibodies to the protein that would stop the virus from entering human cells.

Read more: Does Oxford vaccine work? And what happens next?

11:12 PM

Global cases surge again

Coronavirus infections were surging across the globe on Wednesday, forcing several countries to put the brakes on reopening or imposing new restrictions on their weary populations.

The number of Covid-19 cases worldwide topped 13.4 million and more than 579,000 deaths have been reported.

With the situation predicted to worsen in the United States, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, said it would require customers to wear masks at all its stores to help stop the virus spreading.

Venezuela, four days after announcing a loosening of restrictions, became the latest country to reimpose localised lockdown measures, including a “radical quarantine” in the capital Caracas.

In Ireland, Prime Minister Micheal Martin delayed the end of the lockdown because of a surge in new cases.

Read more: The cities and countries returning to lockdown

Melbourne has been plunged back into lockdown - EPA
Melbourne has been plunged back into lockdown – EPA


11:04 PM

Today’s top stories

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