Government signs new vaccine deals for 90 million doses

Oxford University's vaccine against coronavirus is safe and produces an immune response, the first human results have shown. - Dado Ruvic/Reuters
Oxford University’s vaccine against coronavirus is safe and produces an immune response, the first human results have shown. – Dado Ruvic/Reuters
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

The Government says it has secured an agreement for 30 million doses of a vaccine being developed – and currently at phase two trials – by BioNTech and German firm Pfizer.

There has also been an in-principle deal done for 60 million doses of a vaccine that is being developed by France’s Valneva.

The figure of 90 million is in addition to the 100 million doses of vaccine that are being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca.

But the head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce has insisted that the Government is “not pursuing a strategy of vaccine nationalism”.

Kate Bingham said the UK’s goal was “to find vaccines for the UK, but also to ensure that any successful vaccine is distributed across the globe, so that anybody who is at risk of infection is vaccinated”.

In other vaccine news, long-awaited data has shown that the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca did not prompt any serious side effects and elicited both an antibody and T-cell immune response.

The results, published in the Lancet, are from a Phase I/II trial carried out in 1,077 healthy volunteers. Professor Sarah Gilbert, lead researcher of the vaccine development programme, has said the “early results hold promise”.

Coronavirus podcast newest episode
Coronavirus podcast newest episode

 Follow the latest updates below. 

05:19 PM

Report: Covid can do damage to more than just your lungs 

Four months into the UK Covid-19 pandemic, we are only just beginning to understand the full extent of the havoc being wreaked by the coronavirus on the human body, writes Sharon Walker. 

Here’s an excerpt of her report…

“Now, preliminary results from a new EU and Government-funded study show that up to one-third of Covid-19 patients have sustained organ damage, with 30% of patients scanned, using advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), found to have measurable damage to their liver, heart or kidneys. Researchers don’t yet know if the damage will be long-term.”

“The point of this trial is to see what damage Covid-19 does to the internal organs,” says Dr Rajarshi Banerjee, a consultant physician at Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust Foundation and founder of Perspectum, the medical technology company conducting the research.”

“When we started this in April it was one of the big unknowns. In the acute stage we knew that Covid could cause inflammation and lung and heart damage, but what about afterwards?  This disease didn’t exist six months ago, so the world needs to find out.

“This is the first study in the world using quantitative state of the art scanning and the key finding is that a significant number of patients, up to one-third of the subjects, have residual organ damage after the initial infection. Did they have the damage before the coronavirus?”

Click here to read the full piece.

05:08 PM

Oxford vaccine team did not feel pressurised to produce results, says leading member of the group

Now returning to our top story of the day. Earlier this afternoon, it was revealed that Oxford University’s vaccine against coronavirus is safe and produces an immune response.

The trial, which was carried out in 1,077 healthy volunteers,  found that the vaccine did not prompt serious side effects and produced an antibody and T-cell immune response.

Dr Andrew Pollard, of the Oxford Vaccine Group, has said that his team did not feel under any pressure to finalise its coronavirus vaccine.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “I don’t think so, really, for several reasons.”

“We are absolutely committed to conducting rigorous clinical trials to answer the question, ‘are we able to protect people with the vaccine or not?’

Samples from coronavirus vaccine trials at the Oxford Vaccine Group laboratory - John Cairns University of Oxford via AP/John Cairns University of Oxford via AP
Samples from coronavirus vaccine trials at the Oxford Vaccine Group laboratory – John Cairns University of Oxford via AP/John Cairns University of Oxford via AP

“That takes time and that takes a huge dedication by the enormous teams around the world who are trying to do that.

“But secondly, even if we wanted to rush and we weren’t being good scientists and trying to do this properly, there is a whole process beyond us around regulatory review of everything we do and then eventually the regulator has to decide whether the vaccine can be approved for use in populations, both here and in other countries around the world.

“Even after that, we still need the policy makers to decide how it should be used.”

04:52 PM

Hancock: Research into Covid-19 immunology is ‘incredibly important’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has emphasised the importance of researching Covid-19 immunology. 

He said: “We are undertaking this research into immunology, it’s incredibly important for not only for people like me who’ve had the disease to know the likelihood of getting the disease again and the likelihood of transmitting it again.

“And both are very important for obvious reasons, one for personal health, the other for the public health, but it’s not just about the antibody response, it’s also about the T-cell response and both of these are different parts of the immune system responding.”

04:47 PM

Hunt: How will the Government address the gap between the number of positive cases and the number of people contacted by tracers? 

We are now returning to the House of Commons. Former cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt has called into question the disparity between the number of people testing positive for coronavirus and the number of people contacted by NHS Test and Trace. 

“About 1,700 a day are being infected by the virus and about 400 a day are going into NHS Test and Trace, which is about a quarter, so as we think about how to prevent a second wave, could Mr Hancock give the House some details as to how we’re going to bridge that gap so that we can hopefully go into our Christmas holiday with the same cautious optimism that we’re going into our summer one.”

In response, Matt Hancock said that the main cause of the gap was due to asymptomatic individuals who often don’t declare themselves to contact tracers. 

He said: “The main cause of the gap is people who are asymptomatic and therefore don’t know that they’ve got the virus and don’t come forward for testing, so we’re going to ramp up our communications to people – if in doubt, if you think you might have the symptoms, to come forward and get a test and of course ramp up our asymptomatic testing of high-risk groups.”

04:36 PM

UK coronavirus deaths: 11 more people have died from Covid-19 

Moving away from the House of Commons for a moment, the Department of Health and Social Care has just confirmed that 45,312 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for Covid-19 in the UK – an increase of 11 deaths from yesterday. 

The Government also said that a total of 295,372 cases have now been confirmed.

04:28 PM

Labour: ‘Is test and trace actually effective?’ 

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth has said the Government needs to be preparing for a second wave of coronavirus and has called into question the reliability of test and trace. 

The shadow health secretary said: “It now appears that Blackburn is overtaking Leicester on infection rates. So what does he make of the remarks of the director of public health in Blackburn who said at the weekend that Test and Trace is failing, and in his words, it is contributing to the increased risks of Covid-19, because, he goes on, half of contacts are not reached?”

“Nationally 71 per cent of people are being contacted, not the 80% that is needed for it to be effective.”

“We need to be preparing now for the second wave. We already have one of the highest excess death rates in the world, lessons need to be learned and I hope the minister is learning them.”

In response, Matt Hancock said that local public health directors will have access to the information for people that NHS Test and Trace have been unable to contact.

He added:  “In Blackburn, yes it is hard sometimes in certain areas to find all of the contacts and so we’ll be sharing with the local area the information on those who NHS Test and Trace hasn’t been able to contact so that local directors of public health will be able to support the action there.”

04:17 PM

Hancock: The Government supports the ‘global effect’ to produce a vaccine 

Matt Hancock has said that the Government rejects “narrow nationalism” in the efforts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.

He told MPs: “We’re working to ensure that whoever’s vaccine is approved first, the whole world can have access.”

“We reject narrow nationalism, we support a global effort because this virus respects no borders and we are all on the same side.”

04:11 PM

Hancock: 30 billion pieces of PPE agreed by the Governmnet 

Matt Hancock has confirmed that a supply of 30 billion pieces of PPE has been agreed by the Government. 

He told MPs: “We know that the NHS will face the usual annual winter pressures and on top of that we do not yet know how the virus will interact with the cold weather.”

“So we’ll make sure the NHS has the support it needs. We’ve massively increased the number of ventilators available to patients across the UK, up from 9,000 before the pandemic to nearly 30,000 now.

“We’ve now had an agreed supply of 30 billion pieces of PPE and we’ll be rolling out the biggest-ever flu vaccination programme.”

He added: “We will now provide a further £3 billion on top of the £5 billion capital funding announced a fortnight ago.”

04:06 PM

Hancock: Draft regulations to enforce local lockdowns will be published shortly 

Speaking in the House of Commons, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reiterated the government’s intention to control the virus through localised and targeted lockdowns. 

He said: “We refuse to be complacent about the threat posed by the virus and we will not hesitate to put the brakes on if we need to.”

“Our goal is that this should be done through as targeted local action as possible, like we did in Leicester where we can now start to ease the restrictions there.”

On the new powers local authorities have had since Saturday, he added: “They can now close specific premises, shut outdoor public spaces and cancel events.

“And later this week we’ll publish indicative draft regulations which clearly set out the suite of legislative powers that ministers may need to use to intervene at a local level.”

03:57 PM

In pictures: Around the world, countries adapt to the new normal as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted 

Cleaning staff in carry lidded trash boxes to minimize contamination in Addis Ababa - AMANUEL SILESHI/AFP
Cleaning staff in carry lidded trash boxes to minimize contamination in Addis Ababa – AMANUEL SILESHI/AFP
Socially-distanced music fans watch a performance by rock band "Monster Truck" at a drive-in concert in Toronto - CARLOS OSORIO/REUTERS
Socially-distanced music fans watch a performance by rock band “Monster Truck” at a drive-in concert in Toronto – CARLOS OSORIO/REUTERS
Tourists in Benidorm seen queuing today with their tickets for the new online beach plot reservation system. - BDR/SOLARPIX.COM
Tourists in Benidorm seen queuing today with their tickets for the new online beach plot reservation system. – BDR/SOLARPIX.COM
Spaniards enjoy food and drink on the first day of the new Covid-19 government regulations in Barcelona - David Ramos/Getty Images Europe
Spaniards enjoy food and drink on the first day of the new Covid-19 government regulations in Barcelona – David Ramos/Getty Images Europe

 

03:42 PM

Indigenous communities at greater risk of contracting Covid-19, warns WHO 

Indigenous communities – comprising of half a million people around the world – are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation has warned. 

Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that as of July 6, there were more than 70,000 cases reported among indigenous peoples in the Americas, with over 2,000 deaths. 

He encouraged countries to utilise tools such as contact tracing to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

“We do not have to wait for a vaccine. We have to save lives now,” he told a virtual briefing from the U.N. agency’s headquarters in Geneva.

03:29 PM

PM: Oxford trial ‘an important step in the right direction’

Boris Johnson has reacted to the latest results from the first human trial of the Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

The trial, which was carried out in 1,077 healthy volunteers,  found that the vaccine did not prompt serious side effects and produced an antibody and T-cell immune response.

In a tweet posted this afternoon, the Prime Minister congratulated the team, writing: “A huge well done to our brilliant, world-leading scientists & researchers at @UniofOxford.”

The Oxford team has been one of several dozen around the world working on a vaccine since January.

 

03:18 PM

Covid-19 ‘challenge trials’ could be introduced before the end of the year, according to one leading professor 

Prof Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute for Vaccine Research, has that ‘challenge trials’  could be introduced before the end of the year. 

“Challenge trials” are experiments in which participants are deliberately infected with coronavirus.

According to Prof Adrian Hill, the use of these trials is a source of continual debate within the medical community.  

Speaking at a webinar organised by the Science Media Centre, he said: “Essentially (for challenge trials) you need to tackle three problems can you find a suitable inoculum, a strain that you can administer safely to volunteers?

“Secondly, where would you do this? It has to be a quarantine facility, where are their suitable places to do that?

“Thirdly, ideally, having on standby a suitable treatment if the infection took off or was more intense than you anticipated.”

Prof Hill also added that discussions were in progress and that challenger trials could be set up before the end of the year. However, he said that it was not possible to say for certain how many people would need to be involved in trials for it to be deemed effective. 

03:08 PM

Comment: Boris’s obesity strategy must tackle inequalities in order to ‘level up’ Britain

Levelling up demands more than just infrastructure and job creation. It must address the country’s ‘yawning’ health inequalities, writes Adam Briggs.

As the government prepares to launch its new obesity strategy, Covid-19 has reminded us all about the importance of our health, and how much we as a nation will do to protect each other.

Being healthy not only makes us feel better, it allows us to be more productive and take a greater part in society. The health of the population is one of the country’s most important assets and is essential for the government’s economic recovery plan.

As the government navigates its post-lockdown restart, it cannot overlook the importance of tackling the root causes of rising (and increasingly unequal) levels of obesity in England. Beyond the well documented increased risk of worse COVID-19 outcomes for people with obesity, the condition also increases ill-health from conditions ranging from diabetes to arthritis to various cancers.

In June this year, Public Health England (PHE) published a report on childhood obesity trends over the decade from 2009-10 to 2018-19. The headline figures are deeply concerning: in 2018-19, one in five children aged 10-11 years old had obesity and numbers are rising. But the report includes more than just headlines, it highlights stark and growing differences in levels of obesity depending on how deprived somewhere is.

Click here to read the full comment piece.

02:58 PM

Watch: Vaccine could be delivered by end of the year, says UK taskforce

02:56 PM

Pandemic leaves migrants stranded in the Sahara

Humanitarians and smugglers say coronavirus border closures are forcing migrants to take even more perilous routes, Will Brown reports. Below is an extract from the story – you can read it in full, with more striking illustrations, here.

When Cherif Balde set out from Senegal to cross the Sahara and make his way to Europe, he never dreamed that 13 years later he would still be stuck in the desert.

During the 28-year-old’s odyssey, he has worked as a labourer in Benin, crossed Mauritania, haggled with smugglers in Niger and faced police violence in North Africa.

Two years ago, Cherif travelled to war-torn Libya to try his luck crossing the Mediterranean from there. Armed traffickers caught and enslaved him. “I was sold there as a slave. I suffered a lot. I escaped the prison and tried to make it to Italy by boat. But I failed,” he says. 

Eventually, Cherif was deported from the Maghreb back to a place he knows all too well – the desert city of Agadez in northern Niger, Africa’s human smuggling capital. Unwilling to admit defeat, he once again made plans for an onwards journey.

But now the world has thrown another obstacle in the young man’s way. Four months ago, the pandemic came calling. Countries across Africa shut their borders, leaving thousands of irregular migrants like him stranded. 

Illustration - Paul Blow/International Rescue Committee
Illustration – Paul Blow/International Rescue Committee

02:42 PM

Chief nurse dropped from briefing after making her views on Cummings’ trip north clear

England’s chief nurse, Ruth May, has confirmed that she was “dropped” from a Downing Street press conference after she made it clear that, if asked, she would say that Dominic Cummings should follow coronavirus lockdown rules.

May had been scheduled to speak at a media briefing at the height of the Cummings saga, but she says she was ditched after she made it clear that she would provide her own opinion if asked about Cummings’ trip to Durham. 

She told the Commons public accounts committee today that she was asked in the preparatory session for her view of the lockdown rules and the actions of Cummings.

“Yes of course I was asked about lockdown and rules to lockdown yes,” she said.

When she was then asked by MPs what she thought of the behaviour of Cummings, who is Boris Johnson’s chief aid, May said: “I believe that in my opinion the rules were clear, they were there for everyone’s safety and they applied to us all.”

May was pushed about whether they apply to Cummings and she answered: “They certainly applied to all of us including me.”

But she added: “I don’t know why I was dropped from the briefing, I’m afraid you would have to ask other people that.

“I don’t have a reason to why I was stepped down but as I said before people are stepped up and down at short notice,” she added.

Ruth May - Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street
Ruth May – Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street

02:34 PM

India: Police warn of a new black market – in Covid-19 drugs 

Police in India have warned of an emerging black market trade in Covid-19 drugs, after 14 people were arrested for illegally selling remdesivir in the cities of Mumbai and Hyderabad, Joe Wallen reports.  

The legal retail price of the antiviral is capped at ₹5,400 (£57) but those arrested were selling it at an inflated ₹30,000 (£317) a dose.

In Hyderabad, out of the seven people arrested, three were nurses at a private hospital and one worked at a pharmacy.

An American study indicated that remdesivir can reduce the recovery time of patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 but there are shortages of the drug in India.

Gilead Sciences, which owns the patent, has licensed it to six manufacturers but there has been limited production so far.

India has the third-highest caseload in the world, with around 1.2 million people testing positive, resulting in a rush on remdesivir and other drugs touted to combat Covid-19, including hydroxychloroquine and tocilizumab.

Related: What is remdesivir, and can it help stop the spread of coronavirus?

02:24 PM

More detail on the CanSino vaccine trial data

One more post on vaccine news before we turn to today’s other topics. As well as the promising data from Oxford/AstraZeneca, the Lancet has published trial results from CanSino Biologics and China’s military research unit this afternoon. 

The vaccine was has shown to be safe and induced induced immune response in most of the recipients by day 28 – the trial involved 500 people. 

While CanSino’s vaccine has yet to start late-stage large-scale clinical trials to assess how well it works to prevent people from becoming infected, it has received the greenlight to be used in China’s military.

The results from the mid-stage study, published in the medical journal Lancet, supports the testing of the vaccine candidate in a large trial, the study authors said.

You can find more on these results in this Twitter thread from the Lancet:

02:16 PM

Oxford vaccine news ‘very encouraging’, says Matt Hancock

The sheer speed of response to the promising Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine trial responses is an indication of just how long-awaited the data is. Here’s some more reaction from politicians and experts:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that it is “very encouraging news”, while the Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the results take “us one step closer to finding a vaccine for coronavirus”. 

“The agility and speed at which the University of Oxford team has been working has been outstanding,” Mr Sharma added.

Meanwhile Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of BioPharmaceuticals Research and Development at AstraZeneca, said the today’s data “increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale for broad and equitable access around the world”. 

There has also been positive trial results published in the Lancet this afternoon from CanSino, a Chinese firm – the vaccine was also shown to be safe and induced an immune response in most recipients.

Prof Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, said that both studies were exciting:

02:08 PM

Police and officials investigate a mosque in Blackburn

Police and public health officials are said to be investigating a mosque in Blackburn after reports claimed hundreds of people attended a funeral last week, Max Stephens reports.

Over 250 worshippers at the Jamia Ghosia mosque have been told to self-isolate following a funeral service held on July 13.

It is believed that the imam who conducted the service has tested positive for Covid 19.  Current coronavirus guidelines only allow a maximum of 30 people at funerals.    

In an email sent to worshippers and seen by the BBC it says that police are investigating the incident and advising those who attended the funeral to self-isolate for seven days or attend a local coronavirus testing station. It read:

“Furthermore the mosque is under investigation by the police and public health for exceeding the number of people allowed to participate in a funeral, which is 30, and for failing to comply with the law.

“There is a possibility that other attendees may also have been infected at the Janazza prayers.”

The mosque has been closed for the foreseeable future and is undergoing a deep clean to minimise transmission of the virus. 

The chairman of Jamia Ghosia mosque said they thought there were no restrictions on numbers if hygiene and distancing measures were in place.  It said future funeral prayers would be limited to 30 people. 

01:58 PM

Prof Sarah Gilbert, lead Oxford researcher: ‘Early results hold promise’

Following the release of the data on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, professor Sarah Gilbert, lead researcher of the vaccine development programme, has said the “early results hold promise”:

“There is still much work to be done before we can confirm if our vaccine will help manage the Covid-19 pandemic, but these early results hold promise.

“As well as continuing to test our vaccine in phase 3 trials, we need to learn more about the virus – for example, we still do not know how strong an immune response we need to provoke to effectively protect against Sars-CoV-2 infection.

“If our vaccine is effective, it is a promising option as these types of vaccine can be manufactured at large scale.

“A successful vaccine against Sars-CoV-2 could be used to prevent infection, disease and death in the whole population, with high risk populations such as hospital workers and older adults prioritised to receive vaccination.”

The Lancet journal have published this helpful Twitter thread pulling out the key details of the trial – there’s also a link if you want to read the paper:

01:53 PM

Long awaited Oxford vaccine trial results published

Some breaking news here – the Lancet has just published the first human trial results of the vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.

The headlines? The data has shown that the vaccine was safe and produced an immune response in the trial, which was carried out in 1,077 healthy volunteers. The vaccine did not prompt and serious side effects and elicited antibody and T-cell immune response.

Here are some of the extra details from the press release – we’ll bring you more on this in due course:

  • The phase 1/2 trial found that the vaccine induced strong antibody response within 28 days of vaccination and T cell response within 14 days. Responses lasted up to day 56 of the ongoing trial.

  • These responses may be even greater after a second dose, according to a sub-group study of 10 participants, the researchers say.

  • Compared to the control group (given a meningitis vaccine), the Sars-CoV-2 vaccine caused minor side effects more frequently, but some of these could be reduced by taking paracetamol. There were no serious adverse events from the vaccine.

  • This trial is too small to conclusively prove whether the vaccine is effective after one or two vaccinations, works in target populations including older adults and those with other health conditions, confers protection for a minimum of six months, and reduces onward transmission of the virus to contacts.

  • But the researchers say phase 2 trials (in the UK ) and phase 3 trials (taking place in the UK, Brazil and South Africa) will help confirm whether it effectively protects against SARS-CoV-2 infections.

01:47 PM

China accused of using Uighur forced labour to produce face masks for the US 

Some concerning news here, via Sophia Yan: People could be unwittingly wearing masks manufactured via forced labour by ethnic Muslim Uighurs in China.

A review of Chinese state media footage from Xinjiang, where millions of Muslims have been detained in vast  internment camps, shows Uighurs being transferred to factories as part of a controversial labour transfer programme where experts say many are forced to work, the New York Times has reported. 

Masks produced at these plants have been traced to the US, Europe and Latin America. 

Chinese authorities claim the programme reduces poverty, but experts say it is coercive, pointing to political indoctrination and Chinese flag-raising ceremonies where workers must pledge allegiance to the ruling Communist Party.

Read the full story here

01:42 PM

Ballon d’Or canceled this year amid coronavirus disruption

Some significant news for sports fans – the prestigious Ballon d’Or will not be awarded this year because the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the football season.

Awarded by France Football magazine, the Ballon d’Or has been given out every year since Stanley Matthews won the first one in 1956. Lionel Messi has won it a record six times – one more than longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

The magazine started giving out a women’s award in 2018, but that has also been put on hold.

“It’s such a strange year that we couldn’t treat it as an ordinary one. Let’s say that we started talking about (making the decision) at least two months ago,” France Football editor Pascal Ferre told The Associated Press today. 

“It isn’t a decision we took lightly but we had to accept it couldn’t be a normal or typical Ballon d’Or winner, and what really worried us it that it wouldn’t be fairly awarded,” he added.

01:35 PM

International update

It’s been a while since our last global news update at 9:40am – here’s a roundup of the key events across the world since then:

  • EU heavyweight Germany has said that that national leaders split over a huge coronavirus stimulus plan have sketched a framework agreement that could bring a successful end to a fraught summit dragging into its fourth day. 

  • France’s Valneva is in talks with the European Union about supplying the bloc with its possible Covid-19 vaccine, Chief Executive Thomas Lingelbach has said, after striking a deal with the UK to supply 60 million doses.

  • Greece has today introduced stricter rules for foreign seasonal workers, after a recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the Balkans.

  • French authorities have reported 400 to 500 active coronavirus outbreak clusters but there are no signs of an imminent “second wave,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said. The nationwide R value is now at 1.2. 

  • The chairman of Kenya’s senate committee overseeing the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis has quit the post after police said he flouted an overnight curfew to enjoy drinks with others in a Nairobi bar. 

  • Hong Kong reported 73 new coronavirus cases today, including 66 that were locally transmitted, as new restrictions took effect and authorities warned there was no indication that the situation was coming under control.

  • Indonesia has reported its second-highest daily increase in coronavirus-related deaths with 96 fatalities, a day after registering a record daily jump in deaths.

Scroll down for all of today’s coronavirus news – our last UK update was at 11:49am, or you can find a roundup of the Lobby meeting at 1:59pm.

01:25 PM

No new deaths in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, England reports six

Once again there have been no new coronavirus fatalities in Scotland, while seven new cases were confirmed – the first fall in the number of new cases for five consecutive days.

Similarly there are no new deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, with the number remaining at 1,547, Public Health Wales said. The total number of cases in Wales increased by 15, bringing the revised total of confirmed cases to 16,943.

Northern Ireland has also reported no new fatalities. 

But NHS England has reported six more coronavirus hospital deaths in England, taking the total to 29,187. All six had underlying health conditions and were aged between 74 and 98.

01:19 PM

Concerns about shortages of health workers grow in India

The number of new one-day Covid-19 infections in India crossed 40,000 for the first time during the past 24 hours – and the outbreak shows no signs of stopping, Joe Wallen reports.

India has now recorded over 1.1 million cases but is predicted to pass three million infections by the end of August, according to health economist Rijo M. John.

India’s health ministry has said that a shortage of hospital beds has now been met, with thousands more provided in major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai and fewer patients allegedly needing ventilator support, but a shortage of healthcare professionals is likely to be the next challenge.

Pre Covid-19, India already had a shortage of some 600,000 doctors and two million nurses. This deficit has been exacerbated by the failure to provide healthcare professionals with adequate personal protective equipment so many have tested positive for the disease and cannot work.

“Everyone is focused on beds and ventilators but I am more concerned about the shortage of medical personnel,” said Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, the Director of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy.

“Qualified doctors and nurses are working flat out and are exhausted”.

A nurse rests in a makeshift ward at an emergency Covid-19 care center in New Dehli - T. Narayan/Bloomberg
A nurse rests in a makeshift ward at an emergency Covid-19 care center in New Dehli – T. Narayan/Bloomberg

01:11 PM

Vaccine latest: Promising data from Pfizer and BioNTech

A snippet of breaking news on vaccines. German biotech firm BioNTech and US drugmaker Pfizer have just reported additional data from their experimental coronavirus vaccine that showed the vaccine was safe and induced an immune response in patients.

The results were disclosed from a trial in Germany testing 60 healthy volunteers, and come after the companies earlier this month reported data from a corresponding early-stage trial in the United States.

This development perhaps has extra poignancy in the UK, following an announcement from the earlier today that the Government has secured an agreement for 30 million doses of the potential vaccine, which is currently at phase two trials. 

01:08 PM

Pakistan resumes polio campaign after coronavirus hiatus

In better news, Pakistan resumed its polio vaccination campaign today after a four-month pause due to the coronavirus outbreak, which health authorities feared would cause a surge in cases of the crippling disease.

The country is one of only two in the world where polio is still a serious problem.

“Right now we can’t say what impact the four-month suspension will have on our fight against polio, but one thing is sure – that the current year is going to be worse than the previous years in regard to the number of new cases,” Zulfiqar Babakhel, a spokesman for the country’s vaccination authority, told AFP.

The drive will first target 800,000 children under the age of five in districts where polio is in continuous circulation – including in parts of Quetta, Karachi and Lahore – before broadening to a nationwide campaign by the end of the year.

Health minister Zafar Mirza said the programme was restarting as a result of the coronavirus situation in Pakistan improving. Authorities have declared more than a quarter of a million coronavirus cases, although with low testing the true figure is expected to be much higher.

12:59 PM

Lobby latest: Updates from the lunchtime press briefing

Here are the key coronavirus-related updates from the Lobby meeting with journalists today:

  • The Prime Minister’s spokesperson insisted the number of people who will die as a result of lockdown is “expected to be smaller” than 200,000, following the Sarah Knapton‘s story in the Telegraph this morning.

  • Downing Street also said that there is no evidence that data compiled through the Track & Trace system has been used unlawfully, after the Open Rights Group claimed that England’s test and trace programme has broken a key data protection law.

  • Boris Johnson and his Cabinet will meet in person on Tuesday for the first time since March.

  • Downing Street said the pandemic has highlighted the importance of the union, shrugging off new polling showing a surge in support for Scottish independence.

For more detail on these updates, and non-coroanvirus Lobby news, head over to our politics liveblog with Cat Neilan.

12:52 PM

Analysis: Why the next pandemic may already have started

Imagine you are a smoker who drives for a living. Every day you throw burning cigarette butts from the car. It’s happened many thousands of times without incident. The smouldering stub lands, bounces and dies. Occasionally one may singe a clump of grass but nothing more. You drive on in blissful ignorance.

This analogy, say virologists, is a good way of thinking about zoonotic spillover events like the one which sparked the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic.

They are happening all the time but are seldom noticed. Only very rarely, when environmental conditions are just right, do they spark a violent wildfire which spreads exponentially.

Paul Nuki and  Sarah Newey spoke to the experts to find out what this means and why many think  the next pandemic may already have started. 

Read more here.

China's famous 'batwomen' working in the field to collect virus samples - Wuhan Institute of Virology
China’s famous ‘batwomen’ working in the field to collect virus samples – Wuhan Institute of Virology

12:46 PM

Starmer warns of childcare ‘gap’ in Government’s back-to-work plan 

Sir Keir Starmer has called for greater Government emphasis on childcare in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, warning that there is “a gap” in the plan to get people back to work.

The Labour leader (who, like Boris Johnson, has visited a primary school today) said:

“I think what’s really important this summer is that there is proper provision during August.

“The Prime Minister said he wants people to go back to work in August, but he hasn’t provided the childcare, the support and lots of families are going to really struggle with that, so these next six weeks are really crucial, I think, for parents and also for children.

“So, we need to have a focus on that because if parents are being asked to go back to work… something needs to happen about childcare – there is a gap in the Government’s plan.

“So, we need support for childcare, support for nurseries and for some of those who provide activities during the summer.”

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer during a visit to Whitmore Park Primary School in Coventry - Jacob King/PA Wire
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer during a visit to Whitmore Park Primary School in Coventry – Jacob King/PA Wire

12:40 PM

Trouble on the high street: M&S to cut 950 jobs

Marks & Spencer plans to cut 950 jobs as part of a store management revamp, dealing a further blow to a sector ravaged by the Covid-19 crisis.

Already this month, health and beauty chain Boots and department store group John Lewis have said they will likely shed over 5,000 jobs between them after the pandemic accelerated the shift to online shopping.

The retailer, which has a UK workforce of 78,000, said it will remove roles that are similar to each other to have a more flexible management structure. The cuts will affect employees in property, the back-end operations as well as store managers.  

Sacha Berendji, director of retail, operations and property at M&S, said the redundancies were an “important next step” to help accelerate the wider restructuring of the business. 

“Through the crisis we have seen how we can work faster by empowering store teams and it’s essential that we embed that way of working.”

M&S has now started consultation with its staff and will offer voluntary redundancy to staff affected.

Laura Onita has more details on this story here

12:27 PM

Register your interest to get involved in a vaccine trial

Interested in taking part in a vaccine trial? From today, you can register online (here) to be contacted by researchers.

The National Institute for Health Research has approved two national studies in the UK, to test the vaccines being developed by teams at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London.

12:21 PM

Greece tightens rules for foreign seasonal workers

Greece has today introduced stricter rules for foreign seasonal workers, after a recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the Balkans.

Last year, more than 10,000 seasonal workers were employed in Greece’s agricultural sector, mainly from Albania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia.

“Land workers that exit the country before August 4 will not be able to return until further notice,” Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman, told a news briefing today.  Seasonal workers were permitted into the country in early May under a three-month special licence.

Petsas added that land entry to Greece will be allowed only via six northern border crossings to better control imported Covid-19 cases.

Greece started easing lockdown measures in early May, but social-distancing rules still apply. It toughened rules for visitors at the border with Bulgaria earlier this month and stepped up spot checks inside the country.

The Mediterranean nation has so far managed to contain the spread of the virus to just over 4,000 cases, faring better than other European Union countries mainly due to an early nationwide lockdown.

12:12 PM

What do you think of the coronavirus live blog?

The Telegraph’s coronavirus liveblog has been running since early March – and now we want your feedback. What do you like about our liveblog? How could we improve? 

Our research team has pulled together this interactive form so we can gather your thoughts on our coverage and the Telegraph’s website more broadly. It takes roughly five minutes to fill in and we’d really appreciate your feedback. 

Click here to fill in the survey. 

12:07 PM

Controversy in Kenya: Top official quits Covid committee

The chairman of Kenya’s senate committee overseeing the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis has quit the post after police said he flouted an overnight curfew to enjoy drinks with others in a Nairobi bar.

“I will bear responsibility … I apologise to Kenyans and I will face the full consequences of the law,” Johnson Sakaja, who represents Nairobi county and is a close ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta, told reporters on today.

Police said Sakaja was caught in the early hours of Saturday morning drinking with about 10 others, long after a 9pm-4am. curfew had set in. He is the first Kenyan official to lay on his sword after breaking the myriad lockdown rules.

Kenya began easing its lockdown earlier this month, but kept the curfew in place as well as a prohibition on bars. There have been a string of arrests for people drinking illegally.

The East African nation has so far reported just over 13,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 234 fatalities.

A police officer stops a car during the lockdown restrictions set by the government to prevent the rampant spread of the coronavirus - REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
A police officer stops a car during the lockdown restrictions set by the government to prevent the rampant spread of the coronavirus – REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

11:57 AM

Children over 10 transmit the coronavirus more easily than adults

This could be a significant finding. According to a new epidemiological study from South Korea, children between the ages of 10 and 19 are more likely to spread the coronavirus within a household than younger children or adults.

The findings, released on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, come as countries across the world grapple with the heated question of how and when to reopen schools amid fears of a resurgence in cases when students return to the classroom.

The researchers traced and tested more than 59,000 people who had contact with 5,706 South Korean Covid-19 patients between January 20 and March 27 and found that:

  • On average, 11.8 percent of household contacts tested positive for the virus.

  • For people who lived with infected older children, 18.6 percent tested positive for the virus within about 10 days after the initial case was detected — the highest rate of transmission among the age groups studied.

  • Children under the age of 10 spread the virus at the lowest rate, though researchers warned that the figure may have been impacted by school closures and could change when they reopen.

Nicola Smith has the full details here

11:51 AM

Boris Johnson on vaccines, UK-China relations and changes to Hong Kong extradition treaty

11:42 AM

Russian elite received experimental Covid-19 vaccine in April

Scores of top Russian government officials and executives got shots of Russia’s experimental coronavirus vaccine as early as in April before human trials started, the Bloomberg news agency reported on Monday.

Reports came a few days after the UK government said it had evidence that Russian government-connected cyber hackers had been trying to steal research from two British labs which have been developing Covid-19 vaccines.

Bloomberg quotes several unnamed sources as saying that billionaire tycoons as well as executives at aluminum giant Rusal, owned by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, got access to an experimental vaccine developed by the Gamalei Institute in Moscow.

Nataliya Vasilyeva has the full story here.

11:33 AM

China: Cases rise in Xinjiang as Beijing downgrades emergency response level

Some bad news for China – in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has continue to rise today, with another 17 cases reported. This brings the total cases in the country’s latest hotspot to at least 47.

One of the 17 new cases reported on Monday was in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the regional government said on its official microblog. The remainder were in the regional capital of Urumqi, where all other cases have been reported since the outbreak emerged earlier this month.

Another five cases were brought from outside the country, according to the National Health Commission.

China had largely contained local transmission of the virus before the Urumqi outbreak and has taken swift action to bring it under control, cutting subway, bus and taxi service, closing some communities, imposing travel restrictions and ordering widespread testing.

But in better news, Beijing has gone 14 days without a case of local transmission. City authorities yesterday said they were downgrading the emergency response level from two to three as a result. 

vA medical worker swabs throat of a citizen during the outbreak in Urumqi, Xinjiang - Shi Yujiang/China News Service via Getty Images
vA medical worker swabs throat of a citizen during the outbreak in Urumqi, Xinjiang – Shi Yujiang/China News Service via Getty Images

11:22 AM

The email scams and fake goods from fraudsters exploiting coronavirus panic

Scammers are using the desperation and confusion caused by the coronavirus pandemic to steal hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Nervous and vulnerable individuals are prime targets for those who would unscrupulously steal money. Many have become susceptible in these uncertain times.

More than £11m has already been lost to coronavirus-related scams since early February, according to Action Fraud, the national scams reporting centre. It warned the public to be vigilant, particularly online. Meanwhile, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) warned about door-to-door salesmen selling fake testing kits and apps which will infest phones.

Marianna Hunt takes us through some of the most common scams to watch out for here.

11:16 AM

PM: We cannot be “100% confident” that a vaccine would be available this year

Boris Johnson has been visiting a school in Kent this morning. When asked about vaccines, the Prime Minister said that while he is hopeful about the outlook,  to “say that I’m 100 per cent confident that we will get a vaccine this year – or indeed next year – is, alas, just an exaggeration.

“We are not there yet,” he said. 

Mr Johnson added that the “sheer weight of international effort” will produce some forms of treatment or vaccines, but until that point it was important to continue with social distancing measures, washing hands and wearing face coverings on public transport and in shops.

“Then we will continue to drive the virus down by our own collective action,” he said. “It may be that the vaccine is going to come riding over the hill like the cavalry, but we just can’t count on it right now.”

Boris Johnson - Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via REUTERS
Boris Johnson – Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via REUTERS
Boris Johnson - Jeremy Selwyn - WPA Pool/ Getty Images
Boris Johnson – Jeremy Selwyn – WPA Pool/ Getty Images
 Boris Johnson - Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP
Boris Johnson – Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP

11:06 AM

Is the Coronavirus drug from Synairgen really a game changer?

Synairgen, a Southampton based company, has said this morning that a coronavirus treatment it has developed has been found to prevent a Covid-19 infection becoming more severe in around 79 per cent of cases.

The treatment, called SNG001, uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it gets a viral infection.

But is this really as good as it sounds? Here’s some interesting expert reaction to the news, which was released without accompanying trial data.

Prof Naveed Sattar, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, University of Glasgow: “these results are very exciting”

“The results seem very impressive, and although accepted that the trial is small with just over 100 participants, a 79 per cent reduction in disease severity could be a game changer.

“It would be good to see the full results once presented and peer-reviewed to make sure they are robust and the trial conduct was rigorous. Also, with small numbers comes less certainty on the true level of benefit, or whether benefits vary between people with differing risk characteristics.

“Such work would require a larger trial but, even so, these results are very exciting.”

Prof Steve Goodacre, Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Sheffield: “the results are not interpretable”.

“We need the full details and, perhaps more importantly, the trial protocol. The trial should have been registered and a protocol made available before any analysis was undertaken. They could easily have included a link to the trial protocol in their press release. I am concerned they have not done this.

“As it stands, we have no way of knowing whether the trial was designed to detect the positive outcomes reported in the press release (which would be more convincing) or whether these are just serendipitous findings from a trial that was designed for another purpose (which would be bad reporting practice).”

10:57 AM

EU leaders signal possible compromise on stimulus  

Signs emerged that leaders of northern European Union countries are willing to compromise on a 1.8 trillion euro ($2 trillion) coronavirus stimulus plan today as talks in Brussels extended to a fourth day, Reuters has reported. 

Divided and slow to respond at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, EU leaders believe they now have a chance to redeem themselves with an aid plan that would show Europeans the bloc can react to a crisis.

But old grievances between countries less affected by the pandemic and the indebted countries of Italy and Greece, whose economies are in freefall, have resurfaced.

With leaders not expected to restart until after lunchtime, much rests on European Council President Charles Michel’s efforts to present a new basis for a deal.

Our Brussels Correspondent, James Crisp, has more on the fraught relations between leaders here, after Emmanuel Macron accused the prime minister of the Netherlands of taking Brexit Britain’s obstructive role at EU summits.

From left: Mark Rutte with Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Mr Macron at the summit. - Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP
From left: Mark Rutte with Angela Merkel, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Mr Macron at the summit. – Francisco Seco / POOL / AFP

10:49 AM

UK morning update

Taking a quick break from the news updates – here’s a summary of the key UK coronavirus news this morning:

  • Boris Johnson has said he cannot be “100 per cent confident” that a vaccine would be available this year or next year.

  • The Prime Minister added that the “sheer weight of international effort” will produce some forms of treatment or vaccines – but until then it will be important to continue with social distancing measures, washing hands and wearing face coverings on public transport and in shops, he said. 

  • This comes after the Government signed deals for 90 million doses of promising Covid-19 vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and Valneva, with more in the pipeline.

  • This takes the total number of doses secured to 190 million – the UK already has a deal with AstraZeneca for access to 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine.

  • Results of the first clinical trials for this immunisation are expected later today – reports last week suggested they will be positive. 

  • There have also been promising results from trials of an inhaled coronavirus treatment. The manufacturer, Southampton-based biotech Synairgen, says that hospital patients who took the drug had a 79 per cent lower risk of developing severe disease.

  • Elsewhere, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has not ruled out penalties being levied against the owners of a North Lanarkshire Test and Trace call centre which has seen a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

  • And he historic Beefeater guards are facing layoffs for what is believed to be the first time in their 500-year history as part of “heartbreaking” measures to cut costs at the Tower of London following the coronavirus crisis.

10:39 AM

Trump claims pandemic ‘is going to be under control’ as cases spiral

American newspapers have reported that Donald Trump “appears to be living in an alternate reality when it comes to the Covid-19 threat”, after the President downplayed the risk of the virus during a wide-ranging interview with Fox News. 

Trump pledged that “it’s going to be under control” and clung to the misguided notion that the virus is “going to disappear”.

His comments come as Florida reported over 12,000 new cases of Covid-19 yesterday, the fifth day in a row the state has announced over 10,000 new infections.

The virus has now killed more than 140,000 Americans since the pandemic started – the highest death toll in the world – and more than 3.7 million people have been infected (though experts say this could well be an underestimate). Florida, California, and other Southern and Western states are shattering records for new infections every day.

But during the Fox interview, Trump described the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, as a “a little bit of an alarmist”. He also continued to wrongly insist that anyone who wants a coronavirus test is getting one.

Here’s a look at the trajectory of America’s outbreak – the resurgence of infections is dramatic:

Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart – cases default

10:22 AM

Beefeaters face layoffs for the first time in 500 years

The historic Beefeater guards are facing layoffs for what is believed to be the first time in their 500-year history as part of “heartbreaking” measures to cut costs at the Tower of London following the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has seen the temporary closure of six sites run by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), which all rely heavily on visitor income.

A spokesperson for HRP confirmed that a voluntary redundancy scheme had been introduced last month and that staff had been warned that a compulsory redundancy scheme was likely to follow.

HRP believes it is the first time that the guards, recognisable for their decorative red and black uniforms, have faced redundancy in their long history – having been formed by Henry VII in 1485.

At least two of the 37 Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, who guard the Crown Jewels, have reportedly taken voluntary redundancy already.

HRP chief executive John Barnes said the organisation had “simply had no choice” but to make the cuts.

Yeoman Warders (more commonly known as Beefeaters), as they reportedly facing redundancies for the first time in their long histor - Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Yeoman Warders (more commonly known as Beefeaters), as they reportedly facing redundancies for the first time in their long histor – Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

10:17 AM

Vaccine news: Bangladesh to host Sinovac trials

In yet more vaccine news this morning, Bangladesh has approved a third-phase trial of a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, as infections rise in the densely populated South Asian country.

Sinovac has been looking for volunteers outside China as the number of coronavirus cases there has dwindled, a member of Bangladesh’s national technical advisory committee to tackle Covid-19 told Reuters. 

The trial, to be conducted by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research,could begin next month.

“We have given ethical permission for the trial after reviewing the research protocol,” said Mahmood Uz Jahan, director of the Bangladesh Medical Research Council. He added that it will involve 4,200 volunteers – half will be vaccinated. 

Earlier this month, Sinovac announced it was also starting Phase III trials of its potential vaccine in Brazil.

10:09 AM

Data: Blackburn with Darwen has Britain’s highest infection rate

Blackburn with Darwen has overtaken Leicester as the local authority with the highest coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 population, according to the latest ONS data for the week of the 11-17 July (more at 10:14am).

Our data team have pulled together this map showing the state of new infections across the Britain:

10:05 AM

Russia: New infections lowest since April

Russia, the world’s fourth hardest-hit country in terms of coronavirus infections, has reported fewer than 6,000 new cases today – for the first time since the end of April.

Health authorities also said 85 people died over the past 24 hours, the lowest daily fatality figure since May 4.

The country’s Covid-19 death toll is now 12,427 while the number of infections stands at 777,486. But Russia’s fatality rate has remained low compared to other badly-hit countries, raising speculation that Moscow could be underreporting figures.

Russian authorities began easing anti-virus measures in June ahead of a massive World War II military parade in Moscow and a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that now allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036.

In the capital city, where masks are mandatory in stores and on public transport but not in the streets, there are plans to open cinemas and theatres on August 1. 

The country reported 5,940 new infections today. The last time Russia reported fewer than 6,000 cases was on April 29. Here’s a look at the trajectory of Russia’s outbreak:

Coronavirus Russia Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Russia Spotlight Chart – Cases default

09:56 AM

Today in photos

The pandemic has changed life across the globe – here’s a look at those changes have impacted cultural events:

Newquay, UK:

Customers enjoy the show on the opening night of Britain's first ever drive-in circus performed by The Paulos Circus yesterday at Circus Field, Newquay, Cornwall - Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images
Customers enjoy the show on the opening night of Britain’s first ever drive-in circus performed by The Paulos Circus yesterday at Circus Field, Newquay, Cornwall – Hugh R Hastings/Getty Images

Avignon, France:

People look at a video projection in the "Cour d'Honneur du Palais des Papes" in Avignon southern France. As the 2020 edition of the International Theatre Festival of Since Avignon theatre festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19, coronavirus crisis, the festival's organization has decided to offer a cycle of video projection of plays that made its history - CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP
People look at a video projection in the “Cour d’Honneur du Palais des Papes” in Avignon southern France. As the 2020 edition of the International Theatre Festival of Since Avignon theatre festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19, coronavirus crisis, the festival’s organization has decided to offer a cycle of video projection of plays that made its history – CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

Entringen, Germany:

Visitors watch a cello concert by J'rgen Gerlinger performed in an empty outdoor swimming pool, in Entringen, Germany yesterday - Christoph Schmidt/dpa via AP
Visitors watch a cello concert by J’rgen Gerlinger performed in an empty outdoor swimming pool, in Entringen, Germany yesterday – Christoph Schmidt/dpa via AP

Ottowa, Canada:

Attendees wait for the start of a movie at the Mayfair Theatre on its first day of reopening, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada - Justin Tang/Bloomberg
Attendees wait for the start of a movie at the Mayfair Theatre on its first day of reopening, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Justin Tang/Bloomberg

09:44 AM

The women-only bank that could help Afghanistan’s economy recover

In a country where women are shut off from work and finance the government hopes the new venture will lift families out of poverty, Ben Farmer reports in this dispatch. Here’s an extract:

Visitors climbing the stairs of a Kabul office block are met with an unusual sight for a bank in Afghanistan.

The cashiers, advisers, manager and customers are all women. Moreover the Finca branch is buzzing with a hum of chatter more like a social club than a sober financial institution.

The busy women-only branch in a central suburb is part of an experiment giving more women access to loans in a country where many are shut off from work and finance. Tiny loans of just a couple of hundred pounds have allowed women to set up and grow businesses, or pay off emergency costs.

Such micro finance loans not only help development, advocates say, but could also be key to helping poor communities bounce back after the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19.

Experts say giving women access to banking and the opportunity to save, send and receive money can lift whole families out of poverty.   

09:31 AM

Hong Kong: 73 new cases as new restrictions introduced

Hong Kong has reported 73 new Covid-19 infections today, including 66 that were locally transmitted, authorities are reported.

This is a drop from a record number of more than 100 yesterday, but authorities warned that there was no indication that the situation was coming under control. 

As of today, new restrictions have come into force, with non-essential civil servants told to work from home from this week. A requirement for restaurants to only provide takeaway after 6pm was extended and face masks will be mandatory in indoor public areas.

“The situation is very serious and there is no sign of it coming under control,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said yesterday. 

09:24 AM

France identifies as many as 500 active coronavirus clusters

French authorities have reported 400 to 500 active coronavirus outbreak clusters but there are no signs of an imminent “second wave,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday.

Many of the current virus clusters involve abattoirs or other contained professional settings such as old age homes, he said. Others had resulted from family reunions during the summer holidays.

“At this point we are very far from a second wave,” Veran told Franceinfo radio, as face masks were made mandatory in all enclosed public spaces including shops, covered markets and administrative buildings.

“The goal is not to worry people excessively, but to keep them on their guard,” he said.

Nationwide the R number indicating the viral transmission rate now stands at 1.2, meaning the outbreak is growing – every 10 infected people will infect an additional 12 on average, according to the Sante Publique France health agency.

But in some areas on the French mainland, the rate is much higher, with the southern Mediterranean region including Marseille and Nice now reporting a rate of 1.55.

Women wearing face masks walk along a street in Avignon southern France - CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU/AFP
Women wearing face masks walk along a street in Avignon southern France – CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU/AFP

09:14 AM

Blackburn with Darwen has Britain’s highest infection rate

Blackburn with Darwen has overtaken Leicester as the local authority with the highest coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 population, according to the latest ONS data for the week of the 11-17 July.

Our data team have crunched the numbers – here are the five biggest hotspots in the Britain:

  • Blackburn with Darwen: 78.8 infections per 100,000 people

  • Leicester: 77.9

  • Oadby and Wigston: 61.3 

  • Rochdale: 43.6 

  • Bradford: 39.2

You can use our interactive tool here to find out whether cases are rising or falling in your are.

08:59 AM

Lanarkshire call centre: Penalties not ruled out

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has not ruled out penalties being levied against the owners of a North Lanarkshire call centre which has seen a cluster of Covid-19 cases.

Six cases were reported yesterday within the Sitel call centre at Eurocentral business park near Bellshill, which is currently working on test and trace cases for NHS England (more detail on this here).

When asked on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme on Monday if penalties could levied against Sitel, Mr Swinney said:

“These are all issues that will be explored, but what our primary focus is on is to make sure that we interrupt any transmission of the virus.

“The virus is at a very low level within Scottish society today, the compliance efforts of members of the public have successfully reduced the prevalence of coronavirus, but we have to keep it that way.”

08:50 AM

Weight loss surgery drive to tackle obesity 

Boris Johnson is said to have emerged from his stint in hospital with coronavirus more determined than ever to reduce not only his own weight but the nations.

So what will his attempt to tackle Britain’s obesity problem look like? The Telegraph understands that ministers are set to dramatically increase the NHS’s capacity to conduct weight-loss surgery in a radical bid to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis.

The plans, which are said to be part of a broader “comprehensive obesity strategy” to be announced later this summer, could see obesity formally defined as a “chronic disease” and NHS trusts and GPs financially incentivised to encourage those most at risk to have bariatric surgery.

You can find all the details about the plans in this report – but these analysis pieces are a must-read:

08:40 AM

Global roundup

Just joining us? Here’s a quick update of all the international news stories to be aware of this morning:

  •  EU leaders were making progress  after three days of haggling over a plan to revive economies throttled by the Covid-19 pandemic – but Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has warned the discussions could still fall apart.

  • As of today, France has made face masks mandatory in supermarkets, shopping malls, banks, stores and indoor markets to curb worrisome signs that the coronavirus is making inroads again.

  • Similar measures have been introduced in Australia – people in Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving their homes as Victoria marked two weeks of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections yesterday.

  • An inquiry in Victoria is also trying to determine how security breaches may have undermined the Covid-19 hotel quarantine programme in the state.

  • India reported more than 40,000 new cases of the coronavirus today – a record high for the country.

  • Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has said coronavirus lockdown measures “kill” and have “suffocated” the country’s economy.

  • Hong Kong tightened coronavirus restrictions, with non-essential civil servants told to work from home from this week, as the territory reported a record number of daily cases.

  • And ending on some good news from South Korea – the country reported its smallest daily jump in local Covid-19 transmissions in two months as health authorities express cautious optimism that the outbreak is being brought under control.

08:22 AM

Watch: How to stop your glasses steaming up when wearing a face mask

08:14 AM

Thailand in favour of closing borders to tourists

Perhaps hold off booking that trip to Thailand, if these numbers are anything to go by. More than 90 per cent of Thais would be in favour of barring foreigners from entering the country to prevent a second Covid-19 wave, according to a new poll.

The opinion survey in mid-July by the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University in Bangkok found that 94 per cent of respondents would rather keep the borders closed for health reasons, despite the damage to the economy, Nicola Smith reports.

It was conducted in the wake of public frustration over recently imported cases – one an Egyptian soldier, and the other involving a Sudanese diplomatic family. Some 52 per cent of respondents said they were very worried about the two cases.

The poll also showed that 86 per cent suggested stringent screening processes at the border and that 76 per cent want free access to Covid-19 tests.

Despite Thailand’s relative success in containing the spread of the virus – with just 3,249 cases and 58 deaths – more than 95 per cent of respondents said they were worried about a second round of infections.

Students eat their lunch, separated from each other by plastic sheets, during the first day of school, at a school in Bangkok earlier this month - DIEGO AZUBEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Students eat their lunch, separated from each other by plastic sheets, during the first day of school, at a school in Bangkok earlier this month – DIEGO AZUBEL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

08:03 AM

UK ‘not pursuing a strategy of vaccine nationalism’

Vaccine news has dominated the headlines this morning, after the UK announced it has signed two deals to secure 90 million doses of promising immunisations. This is in addition to 100 million doses of jabs being developed by Oxford University with AstraZeneca. 

But speaking to Sky News Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, insisted that the UK is “not pursuing a strategy of vaccine nationalism”.

There are some concerns that wealthy countries will purchase the majority of vaccine supplies and leave nations with fewer resources unable to access immunisations (more on this here).

Ms Bingham said the UK’s goal was “to find vaccines for the UK, but also to ensure that any successful vaccine is distributed across the globe, so that anybody who is at risk of infection is vaccinated”.

“We are recognising that this is a global pandemic and we need to ensure that the globe – and all those who need it – are vaccinated,” she added. 

Ms Bingham also said that the UK Vaccine Taskforce is investing in a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates, in an attempt to maximise the chances of having access to a jab that meets regulatory and safety standards.

But she warned: “I urge against being complacent or over-optimistic. The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms.”

07:43 AM

Indonesia set to become one of the ‘worst hit countries worldwide’

Here’s a stark update from our Asia Correspondent, Nicola Smith, about the unfolding crisis in Indonesia – experts have warned the nation is on track to become one of the worst coronavirus-afflicted countries in the world.

The Southeast Asian country has seen cases and deaths double as citizens re-emerge from a lockdown during a government effort to reboot the economy. As of Sunday, Indonesia had recorded 86,521 total cases and 4,143 deaths, twice the cumulative figure from the previous month, reported the Jakarta Post.

On Saturday, the case count had exceeded the official tally in China for the first time after large-scale social restrictions were lifted in early June.

Riris Andono Ahmad, an epidemiologist from Gadjah Mada University, told the Post that the country to become one of the worst hit in the world if there was no intervention, pointing to risk factors like boarding schools, which drew people from all over the country.

Confirmed Covid-19 hotspots have now spread outside of the capital, Jakarta, to East Java, Central Java, South Sulawesi and South Kalimantan.

“There must be tough enforcement from the government and popular awareness if [people] don’t want to prolong the pandemic. The problem is that there is sometimes resistance, and with the large number of people there, there has to be bargaining in prevention efforts,” he said.

Coronavirus Indonesia Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Indonesia Spotlight Chart – Cases default

07:25 AM

Alok Sharma confirms new coronavirus vaccine deals

“I am delighted to announce a new partnership with some of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies,” he says 

“This deal will help ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine for COVID-19 that protects those most at risk.

 

07:12 AM

Gavin Williamson would “absolutely” take part in a coronavirus vaccine trial

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he would “absolutely” take part in a coronavirus vaccine trial.

Mr Williamson told BBC Breakfast on Monday that 500,000 people would be needed to take part in clinical trials during the winter months.

It comes as the Government announced it had signed new deals which will provide more than 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

Gavin Williamson - PIPPA FOWLES/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images
Gavin Williamson – PIPPA FOWLES/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images

Asked if a vaccine would be ready by winter, Mr Williamson said: “The whole purpose is that they will be getting trialled out.

“Half a million people will be having the trials of these vaccines and it will be something that comes after winter.”

Asked if he would take part in a trial, Mr Williamson said: “Absolutely. As you are probably aware politicians tend to meet lots of people, so it would be a sensible thing to do.”

06:58 AM

Synairgen drug trials give positive results 

The preliminary results of a clinical trial suggest a new treatment for Covid-19 dramatically reduces the number of patients needing intensive care, according to the UK company that developed it.

Synairgen’s drug SNG001 has been found to prevent COVID-19 coronavirus becoming more severe in around 79% of cases, it says.

The treatment uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it gets a viral infection.

The protein is inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus, using a nebuliser, in the hope that it will stimulate an immune response.

The initial findings suggest the treatment cut the odds of a Covid-19 patient in hospital developing severe disease – such as requiring ventilation by 79 per cent.

Richard Marsden, CEO of Synairgen, said: “We are all delighted with the trial results announced today.”

The results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, nor has the full data been made available; so the 

06:38 AM

Macron accuses Dutch of acting like Brexit Britain as EU coronavirus summit enters fourth day

James Crisp, our Brussels Correspondent, has been watching the EU bloc’s difficult negotiations over the scale of a coronavirus rescue fund.

He writes: “Emmanuel Macron accused the prime minister of the Netherlands of taking Brexit Britain’s obstructive role at EU summits, as marathon talks over a massive coronavirus rescue fund stretched into a fourth straight day on Monday. 

“The French President’s patience snapped as tempers flared in tough negotiations over the plans for a €750 bn coronavirus stimulus package and bolstered €1.1 trillion EU Budget for seven years from 2021. 

“The package is backed by France, Germany, Spain, Italy and others but resisted by the “frugal four” of the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark, who were joined by Finland on Sunday. 

“Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands and his allies have demanded more oversight of payments from the rescue fund, more of the cash to be loans  rather than non-repayable grants and for the Budget to be slimmed down. 

“Mr Macron accused Mr Rutte of behaving like David Cameron, the former British prime minister who would often boast of “battling for Britain” in Brussels.”

Read the full article here.

05:48 AM

Questions over test and trace privacy

Privacy campaigners say the coronavirus test and trace programme implemented in England broke a key data protection law.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) wrote to the Open Rights Group (ORG) to concede the scheme was launched without an assessment of its impact on privacy, the group told the BBC.

ORG said the concession meant the programme has been unlawful since it started on May 28, but DHSC says there is no evidence data has been used in an unlawful manner.

ORG is just one group to raise privacy concerns over the scheme, with a former Cabinet minister also previously warning of “serious errors” in its implementation.

Test and Trace app - PAUL ELLIS/Britain's Department of Health/AFP via Getty Images
Test and Trace app – PAUL ELLIS/Britain’s Department of Health/AFP via Getty Images

Labour’s Lord Hain said last month that the NHS had failed to carry out its legal data protection obligations prior to the launch and had entered into data sharing relationships “on unnecessarily favourable terms to large companies”.

The track and trace app has been trialled on the Isle of Wight, but the Government has suggested it may not be ready to roll out across the UK until the winter.

05:34 AM

Covid vaccine deal signed by Government

The Government has signed new deals which will provide more than 90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

BBC Radio 4’s Today programme reported the Government has secured an agreement for 30 million doses of a vaccine being developed – and currently at phase two trials – by BioNTech and German firm Pfizer.

There has also been an in-principle deal done for 60 million doses of a vaccine that is being developed by France’s Valneva.

The figure of 90 million is in addition to the 100 million doses of vaccine that are being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca, as well as another at Imperial College London which started human trials in June.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the new agreements would “ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk”.

05:15 AM

Tower of London Beefeaters facing redundancies over coronavirus

The PA news agency has reported that Beefeaters are facing redundancies for the first time in their long history, due to the coronavirus lockdown’s impact on tourism at the Tower of London.

John Barnes, the head of the Historic Royal Palace (HRP) charity which runs the Tower, said: “We simply have no choice but to reduce our payroll costs,” according to the Sun.

“We are heartbroken that it has come to this.”

Tower of London Beefeater - Heathcliff O'Malley
Tower of London Beefeater – Heathcliff O’Malley

There are 37 Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, who guard the Crown Jewels and live inside the Tower’s grounds with their families.

At least two Beefeaters have taken voluntary redundancies but HRP has warned compulsory redundancies will be enforced.

The attraction reopened on July 10, with new provisions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 including hand sanitiser dispensers and one-way routes throughout.

Tourists wanting a photograph with a Beefeater now have to do so while standing two metres away.

Three million visitors passed through the Tower last year, but now it can welcome less than 1,000 people each day.

04:01 AM

Outbreak spreads to second city in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang

China’s latest outbreak has spread to a second city in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

One of the 17 new cases reported on Monday was in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar, the regional government said on its official microblog. The remainder were in the regional capital of Urumqi, where all other cases have been reported since the outbreak that has now infected at least 47 people emerged earlier this month.

Authorities in Urumqi have tried to prevent the spread by closing off communities and imposing travel restrictions.

Xinjiang is a vast, thinly populated region of mountains and deserts and had seen little impact from the pandemic that emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and was largely contained within China in March.

Another five new cases reported Monday by the National Health Commission were imported.

A medical worker swabs throat of a citizen in Urumqi - China News Service
A medical worker swabs throat of a citizen in Urumqi – China News Service

03:10 AM

Cases in South Korea at two-month low

South Korea has reported its smallest daily jump in local Covid-19 transmissions in two months as health authorities express cautious optimism that the outbreak is being brought under control.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday still reported 26 newly confirmed cases, including 22 that were tied to international arrivals.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip said during a virus briefing that the four local transmissions represented the first time that such infections came below 10 since May 19. He continued to plead for vigilance, encouraging people to avoid crowded places or even stay at home during the summer holiday period.

Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed
Coronavirus Live Tracker promo embed

02:26 AM

Summary of news from around the world

  • Numbers of confirmed cases in China‘s northwestern city of Urumqi continue to rise, with another 17 reported on Monday, bringing the total in the latest outbreak to at least 47. 

  • Hong Kong has seen a spike in cases, with more than 100 reported on Sunday. 

  • Beijing has gone 14 days without a case of local transmission and city authorities on Sunday said they were downgrading the emergency response level from two to three. 

  • France’s most worrisome virus hot spot is on the northern coast of South America: French Guiana, a territory of about 300,000 people where poverty is rampant and health care is scarce. 

  • The Italian region that includes Rome is warning citizens that local lockdowns might have to be ordered if there are more clusters of infections. 

  • Pope Francis is assuring his closeness to all those grappling with Covid-19 and its “economic and social consequences”. 

  • Turkey has suspended flights to Iran and Afghanistan because of the outbreak, Turkey’s Transport Ministry said on Sunday. 

  • Cyprus’ health minister says there’s concern that infected migrants could be seeping through the ethnically divided island nation’s porous cease-fire line. 

  • A record 24-hour surge of 38,902 new cases has taken India’s  total to 1,077,618.

People gather at Sea View Beach violating government bans imposed as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Karachi - AFP
People gather at Sea View Beach violating government bans imposed as a preventive measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus, in Karachi – AFP

01:26 AM

Australia warns outbreak will take weeks to tame

A surge in cases in Australia’s second-biggest city could take weeks to subside despite a lockdown and orders to wear masks, Australia’s acting chief medical officer said on Monday as the country braces for a second wave of infection.

Coronavirus flared up in the state of Victoria in July, mainly in Melbourne, with a daily record of 438 new cases detected on Friday.

Victoria’s government has ordered about five million people into a partial lockdown for six weeks and told residents around Melbourne to cover their faces if they have to leave their homes.

Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it would take “weeks” to slow the outbreak to levels seen as recently as June, when Victoria and the rest of Australia reported single or double-digit daily infections.

“We have learned over time that the time between introducing a measure and seeing its effect is at least two weeks and sometimes longer than that,” Mr Kelly told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

Read more:  Only 350 overseas travellers to be allowed in to Sydney each day as restrictions tighten

Residents around Melbourne must cover their faces if they have to leave their homes from July 22 - DAVID CROSLING/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Residents around Melbourne must cover their faces if they have to leave their homes from July 22 – DAVID CROSLING/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

12:54 AM

Mexican president pays tribute to 39,000 victims of virus

Mexican president Manuel Lopez Obrador on Sunday vowed to improve health standards in the nation, which has the fourth-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, as the number of fatalities rose to nearly 39,000.

“We want to remember those who died from the Covid-19 pandemic, and send a loving, fraternal hug to their relatives, to their friends,” Mr Lopez Obrador said in a video released on social media.

Mexico, with 127 million inhabitants, had recorded 38,888 deaths, according to health authorities on Saturday, with additional suspected deaths lifting the total to more than 40,000.

Mexico has the second-highest death toll in Latin America after Brazil, which has 78,772 deaths.

A sign reads in Spanish "Caution! You Are Entering A High Contagion Zone" in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City - Bloomberg
A sign reads in Spanish “Caution! You Are Entering A High Contagion Zone” in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City – Bloomberg

11:47 PM

Cases continue to surge in US as Trump says ‘it’s going to disappear’

Florida reported over 12,000 new cases on Sunday, the fifth day in a row the state has announced over 10,000 new infections, even as President Donald Trump pledged that “it’s going to be under control”.

The virus has claimed over 140,000 US lives and Florida, California, and other Southern and Western states shatter records every day.

Texas reported 7,300 new cases on Sunday after five straight days of new infections exceeding 10,000.

Despite record levels of new cases nationwide, the Trump administration is pushing for schools to reopen in a few weeks and resisting a federal mandate to wear masks in public.

Mr Trump, who faces a tough battle for re-election in November, defended his handling of the pandemic in an interview broadcast on Sunday

Mr Trump on Fox News Sunday repeated his assertion that the virus would eventually disappear.

“I’ll be right eventually,” he said. “It’s going to disappear and I’ll be right.”

Read more: Los Angeles mayor says the city ‘on the brink’ of a second lockdown

Police officers maintain the 8pm curfew imposed due to Florida's climbing numbers of cases - Reuters
Police officers maintain the 8pm curfew imposed due to Florida’s climbing numbers of cases – Reuters

11:25 PM

Councils to be given names and addresses of people who test positive 

Councils will be given the names and full addresses of people who have tested positive for Coronavirus under government plans to tackle local outbreaks.

The government is expected to announce as early as Monday that public health directors working with councils will be able to access the “named patient data”,  as long as they abide by strict rules on data protection.

Councils can already access details of patients’ postcode areas, age and occupations. A government source said: “We’ve been giving more and more data over the past few weeks.”

Read the full story

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

11:07 PM

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