Imperial vaccine to be tested on 105 volunteers after initial success

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More than 100 people will take part in the next phase of clinical trials to test a new coronavirus vaccine, developed at Imperial College London, after “successful” early trials. - Imperial College London / PA
More than 100 people will take part in the next phase of clinical trials to test a new coronavirus vaccine, developed at Imperial College London, after “successful” early trials. – Imperial College London / PA
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Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

More than 100 people will take part in the next phase of clinical trials to test a new coronavirus vaccine, developed at Imperial College London, after “successful” early trials.

Work began earlier this week to vaccinate a larger number of participants to assess the optimal dosage of Imperial’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

The next phase will see 105 people, aged 18 to 75, randomised to receive their first shot of one of three doses of the vaccine at a west London facility, followed by a booster shot four weeks later.

Neither the participants nor clinical staff will know which dose they have received, Imperial said.

It follows a “successful” initial phase of the trial which involved 15 volunteers.

Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading the development of Imperial’s vaccine, said: “The progression to the next phase of the trial is an important step in assessing the safety of our vaccine.

“Analysing blood samples for antibodies and T-cell response will provide some indication of whether our vaccine can produce an immune response to fight the virus.”

Prof Shattock said larger clinical trials will still be required to determine whether the vaccine candidate is able to reduce the spread or severity of coronavirus.

The first 15 volunteers involved in the initial phase of the trials will return to receive a second booster dose in the coming days.

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Coronavirus podcast newest episode

Follow the latest updates below.

04:49 PM

Expert reaction: UK R rate could signal further local lockdowns

The latest reproduction number (R) and growth rate of coronavirus UK is 0.7-0.9, the Government said today.

But experts have cautioned the rate still being around 1, encouraging people to return to work and lifting more restrictions could result in more local lockdowns.

Dr Yuliya Kyrychko, reader in Mathematics at the University of Sussex, said:

“With the overall numbers of infections reducing, there is a greater degree of uncertainty in the value of R as computed from observed epidemiological data. 

“However, it is worth noting that given R estimates being around 1, promoting the return of people to work and using public transport extensively, or as “normal”, without fully functional contact tracing programme/app might make it difficult to swiftly isolate exposed individuals and thus control subsequent spread at a local level. 

“This might be especially challenging in London, where local lockdown might not be effective, if a large number of people are commuting to and from London.”

Dr Konstantin Blyuss, reader in Mathematics at the University of Sussex, said: 

“Compared to last week, in all regions, except for North East and Yorkshire, the upper bound on R is 1 or even 1.1, suggesting that the epidemic is currently at a stage where there is a strong potential for subsequent local outbreaks, if they are not quickly identified and effectively managed. 

“In this respect, with restrictions being lifted, it is now more essential than ever to make sure that data on cases are collected and shared with local authorities, and the cases themselves are tracked and isolated, to avoid the resurgence of the full-scale epidemic.”

04:33 PM

Over 2,000 Ghanaian health workers contract Covid-19

Over 2,000 health workers in Ghana have contracted coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic in the West African nation, the authorities have said.

“The total number of health workers infected is 2,065,” Patrick Kumah-Aboagye, the director general of the country’s health service, said.

“Out of that number, 1,870 have recovered and 183 are in isolation centers or undergoing treatment at home.”

So far only six health workers are reported to have died from the virus, he said.

Ghana – which boasts one of the region’s best testing rates – has reported more than 26,000 infections, of which 139 have been fatal.

04:18 PM

Public trust in scientists ‘very, very high’ says Prof Whitty

The House of Lords Science and Technology committee wraps up with a question on public trust and global collaboration.

Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty are asked how public trust can be encouraged during the pandemic.

Sir Patrick says it comes down to “openness, clarity of explanation and also providing the clear link between what the science advice is and its implications for policy and operations”.

Prof Whitty chimes in that polling data shows public trust of scientists –  “not Government scientists” – is “very, very high” and that should be acknowledged.

Sir Patrick adds that they are spending a lot of time speaking to their counterparts in other countries, and have done so since January. Prof Whitty adds he speaks to World Health Organization colleagues regularly, as well as regional UK CMOs almost daily.

04:06 PM

Imperial College vaccine to be trialed on 100 people

More than 100 people will take part in the next phase of clinical trials to test a new coronavirus vaccine developed at Imperial College London.

Work began earlier this week to vaccinate a larger number of participants to assess the optimal dosage of Imperial’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

It follows a “successful” initial phase of the trial which involved 15 volunteers, Imperial said.

The next phase will see 105 people, aged 18 to 75, randomised to receive their first shot of one of three doses of the vaccine at a west London facility, followed by a booster shot four weeks later.

Neither the participants nor clinical staff will know which dose they have received, Imperial said.

Professor Robin Shattock, who is leading the development of Imperial’s vaccine, said: “The progression to the next phase of the trial is an important step in assessing the safety of our vaccine.

“Analysing blood samples for antibodies and T-cell response will provide some indication of whether our vaccine can produce an immune response to fight the virus.”

Find out more about the quest for a Covid-19 vaccine in the video below.

03:59 PM

Sir Patrick and Prof  Whitty admit it was a ‘mistake’ to withhold Sage documents

Sir Patrick Vallance has admitted it was a “mistake” to not publish Sage minutes and papers quickly enough during the pandemic.

“For this, it was right to get the papers out and make sure people could see the evidence on which decisions would be made and I think that’s important lesson to be learnt,” he told the House of Lords Science and Tech committee.

He added the “speculation” before they were released about what they contained or who sat on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee was far more “fruity” than the truth.

Prof Chris Whitty added he “completely agrees” it was an error to not get all the data out early on from Sage.

But, as The Telegraph reported back in May, the Government had previously been warned about the secretive nature of Sage following past pandemics, and were told they must publish their documents in full contemporaneously.

Read more: Government warned Sage had ‘carte blanche’ after last pandemic

03:53 PM

Overcrowded prisons in Kashmir are ‘incubators for Covid-19 as inmates refused release     

 A health worker holds up a test tube containing a nasopharyngeal swab sample collected from a Kashmiri man during lockdown in Srinagar, Kashmir - FAROOQ KHAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A health worker holds up a test tube containing a nasopharyngeal swab sample collected from a Kashmiri man during lockdown in Srinagar, Kashmir – FAROOQ KHAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Human rights activists have accused the Indian Government of being “vindictive” as overcrowded prisons in Indian-administered Kashmir (IaK) become incubators for Covid-19, despite facilities in other states being permitted to release inmates, Delhi correspondent Joe Wallen writes.

The Telegraph has obtained a letter written by the Chairman of the Legal Services Authority of Anantnag Prison in south Kashmir on July 14 warning that 47 prisoners have contracted the deadly virus. The number of cases has since risen to 97.

According to a senior government official in the conflict-ridden region, there are about 200 prisoners in the jail, well over its capacity of 80.

It is unknown whether cases are spreading in other prisons in IaK as the state government has instructed officials not to talk to the media but conditions are similar.

Read the full story here.

03:44 PM

CMO says local health chiefs were not given vital data early on

On the availability of local data, Prof Whitty tells the Lord’s committee that director’s of public health had “sufficient justification” to say they did not have access to the data they needed early on.

He added they are now increasingly able to provide that data at a very local level, and added the public can also now log into the PHE dashboard and see more localised data.

“People should know their own data around the area… and it’s improving the whole time,” he said.

03:38 PM

No contact tracing app currently has the ‘confidence’ of the CMO

No currently available contact tracing app has the “confidence” of Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England. 

During the Lords committee hearing this afternoon Prof Whitty was asked if there was a “computerised app” for contact tracing which has his confidence. 

He said: “No, or we would have deployed one, but that is something that the aim is to develop that. I’ve not been involved in the development.”

He added he was a “tradiational” epidimeoloigist and was more knoweldgable with traditional contact tracing, but agreed that an app was needed to be an additioanl part of our armour.

“Having an app that’s available… particularly if there is a surge or new wave this will be an important additional thing to pick up cases early,” he said.

03:32 PM

‘Trade off’ measures might be needed to keep kids in school over winter, says CMO    

Professor Chris Whitty has said additional measures may have to be introduced as a “trade off” to keep children in school without a rise in transmission this winter.

It was a case of “putting together the optimal package for this virus”, and it may be “different in the winter”, but there was a lack of evidence either way because the disease emerged at the tail-end of the last winter. 

“We haven’t yet had a full 12 months to see how the seasonality works,” he said.

He added the risk to children from the virus is low, but the full reopening of schools will result in the mixing of many households which could pose a risk to an increase in infections.

Read more: Schools are reopening in September – what does the guidance say?

03:28 PM

BREAKING: UK deaths rise by 114

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said 45,233 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Thursday – up by 114 from 45,119 the previous day.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 55,700 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The DHSC also said that in the 24-hour period up to 9am on Friday, there had been a further 687 lab-confirmed UK cases. Overall, a total of 293,239 cases have been confirmed.

Excess Deaths - UK-wide
Excess Deaths – UK-wide

03:26 PM

WATCH: Captain Tom receives knighthood for fundraising efforts

We’ll take a brief pause from the Lords committee to bring you video footage of Captain Sir Tom Moore receiving a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle this afternoon.

The veteran, aged 100, led a fundraising effort that encouraged members of the public to donate tens of millions of pounds to NHS charities via a JustGiving page during the coronavirus lockdown, resulting in £32.7 million being raised.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock paid tribute to Capt Sir Tom, writing on Twitter: “Congratulations to  Captain Tom Moore on receiving your Knighthood.

“Your efforts throughout coronavirus raised the spirit of our nation [and] we are so grateful for all your fantastic work.”

 Read more, from Dominic Penna, here.

03:18 PM

Prof Whitty would be ‘very surprised’ if vaccine found in six months

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said he would be “very surprised” if a coronavirus vaccine was found in the next six months.

Asked how the UK’s strategy to tackle the pandemic might evolve in the coming months, he told the Lords Science and Technology Committee:

“Obviously the one that we would all love to see is if in the next six months we got an effective, or fairly effective vaccine or highly effective drugs.

“I think Patrick (Vallance, chief scientific adviser) and I certainly would be very surprised if that was the case, but very pleasantly surprised and we’re working as fast as we can to achieve that.

“But clearly that would lead to a significant change of strategy.”

Read more:  Oxford coronavirus vaccine ‘challenge’ trials set to begin later this year

03:15 PM

Eliminating Covid-19 is ‘quite optimistic’ says Prof Whitty

Eliminating Covid-19 from the UK is “quite optimistic” and “very difficult”, Chris Whitty said, noting that only smallpox has been successfully wiped from the planet. 

Rather than elimination, suppressing the virus will be key, but Prof Whitty said the best way to inflict the “maximum damage” to the virus is still evolving.

Sir Patrick Vallance said “particularly going into winter” it was incredibly important to keep virus levels low because it is “a very complex time”. 

He noted that people might have symptoms that resembled Covid-19 but were suffering from something else, which meant they would be self-isolating unnecessarily. 

03:10 PM

Politicians walking a ‘narrow path’ between economic damage and public health, says CMO

Chris Whitty, the CMO, has said politicians are “walking a narrow path” between economic damage and the risk to public health. 

The Chief Medical Officer told the Lords committee that the Government faced “an incredibly difficult balance… where they’re walking a narrow path we’re on one side”. 

He added: “We could cause enormous unnecessary economic and social damage, people could be isolated, all the unemployment.

“[On the other side we could] we end up with the epidemic coming back in a second spike. Walking that path is extraordinarily difficult. We’re providing the science and epidemiology side of this and some of the social side, but the economics comes from other areas.”

03:08 PM

‘Strongly held different views’ by Sage scientists on face masks, says Vallance

Sir Patrick Vallance told the committee that face masks have underscored the difference of opinion within Sage, saying scientists have had “strongly held different views”.

He told the Lords Science & Tech committee there is “no such thing in this crisis as absolute certainty”, adding: “It is about scientific process which learns and grows in information.”

Sage recognises it is “not helpful to just give wide range of opinions and say ‘here they are take your pick’,” he added, so the “outliers” are pointed out. 

“You try and formulated it into an agreed position”, he added. 

There is a risk of “group think” within Sage, he notes. “It’s something that needs to be guarded against … external challenge is important.”

03:07 PM

‘Great majority’ of scientific advice does not come from Sage, says Whitty 

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, and Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, are appearing before the House of Lords Science & Tech committee this afternoon.

Professor Chris Whitty has said the “great majority” of scientific advice to the government does not come through Sage.

However “the larger science questions” will still come through Sage, despite the creation of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC). 

Sir Patrick echoed this, noting that the JBC is “much more akin to the function of Public Health England”, in terms of “operational” issues. 

Sir Patrick has told the Lords committee that Sage has met 47 times this year to discuss the coronavirus crisis, “which is extremely unusual”.

03:00 PM

Face masks must cover nose and mouth, says Chris Whitty

Public health guidance needs people “buying into it” so they understand what actions to take during the coronavirus pandemic, the chief medical officer for England has said.

Speaking to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, Prof Chris Whitty acknowledged there were “technical” variations in terms of surgical face masks or face coverings available to the public.

But he added: “The variation in those is much less important than getting people to do the basics.

“And the basics are, if you’re going to wear one in a high risk area it must cover your nose and mouth.

“Wearing a brilliant mask covering half your mouth, only your mouth or only your nose, clearly is only going to have limited effect.”

02:55 PM

Barcelona tells residents to stay at home to cut off rise in cases and avoid new full lockdown

In case you missed it earlier, around four million residents of Barcelona were advised today not to leave their homes except for essential journeys after authorities brought in new restrictions to try to halt a surge in coronavirus cases.

Cinemas, theatres and nightclubs were closed and gatherings of more than ten people were prohibited to stem the tide of infections. The authorities warned they would have to impose a total lockdown, as happened across Spain in March at the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, if people did not abide by the new rules. 

People should only leave their homes to buy food, for work, for health reasons or to help frail people, authorities said. They also warned against visiting the beach. 

Reporting from Barcelona, Graham Keeley has more here. 

Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart – Cases default

02:50 PM

Russian drugmaker signs deal to manufacture Oxford University vaccine

Russian drugmaker R-Pharm has signed a deal with AstraZeneca for it to manufacture a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the British pharmaceuticals giant and Oxford University, it said today.

Following allegations from Britain, Canada and the United States that hackers backed by Russia were trying to steal Covid-19 vaccine and treatment research, the head of Russia’s wealth fund said the deal showed that Moscow has no need to steal anything.

“We have formalised this plan in the form of signed agreements in the area of production and supply of the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, using R-Pharm to fulfil the project,” said R-Pharm’s board chairman, Alexey Repik.

02:42 PM

5pc drop in crime amid early days of lockdown

Coronavirus lockdown restrictions are likely to have contributed to a five per cent drop in police recorded crime between February and March, figures show.

The Office for National Statistics data provides the first official indication of how measures taken to curb the pandemic may have helped to curtail some offending.

There were 379,246 crimes recorded in March, excluding fraud, which was a fall of five per cent from February to the lowest monthly level seen in that 12-month period to the end of March.

This was an 11 per cent reduction in police recorded crime compared with March 2019.

By contrast, January and February 2020 both saw a rise in police recorded crime compared with 2019, with increases of 4 per cent and 6 per cent respectively, the ONS said.

Between February and March this year there was a 15 per cent drop in thefts to 124,706 offences, a 14 per cent fall in sexual offences to 11,655 and a 14 per cent decrease in robbery offences to 5,795.

02:36 PM

Southbank Centre unable to reopen with social distancing

The Southbank Centre in London has said it will be unable to open while social distancing is still in place.

A statement said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement about indoor performances being able to recommence in August with social distancing measures in place is a welcome step in the right direction for our sector.

“However, in line with many other music venues and theatres, any ongoing requirement for social distancing in our auditoria renders it impossible for us to reopen without adding to our financial losses due to restricted seat capacity and we would not therefore be able to do so.”

02:33 PM

Trump donating ventilators to countries that don’t need or can’t use them

As President Donald Trump came under criticism that his administration had failed to manage the coronavirus pandemic, he cited one area of success: his plan to donate thousands of ventilators to other countries.

“Now we’re the king of ventilators,” Trump told reporters on April 18.

But the effort has been marked by dysfunction, reports ProPublica, with little clarity on how countries are chosen or how the ventilators are allocated.

A USAID memo seen by ProPublica shows equipment donated to wealthy nations that typically do not get foreign aid, such as NATO countries, and to a few locations ill-equipped to use devices that require round-the-clock staffing and regular maintenance.

The administration’s decisions on ventilator distribution appear to have little correlation to the number of coronavirus deaths or infections in a country, it’s been reported.

Honduras, which is receiving 100 ventilators, had about 72 confirmed cases per 100,000 people on June 11, the day the plan was approved by a senior State Department official, according to World Health Organization data. Neighboring El Salvador, which is set to receive 600 ventilators, had about 51 cases per 100,000 people at that point. And Vietnam is set to receive 100 ventilators, though the country has had just a few hundred cases in all and no deaths.

02:22 PM

Pakistan PM urges ‘simplicity’ to slow virus over Eid

Pakistanis should celebrate the upcoming Eid festival with “simplicity” to prevent a spike in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Imran Khan has said today.

Many people ignored social distancing guidelines and flocked to mosques and markets during the last religious holiday marking the end of Ramadan in May – helping fuel a subsequent surge in Covid-19 cases across Pakistan, AFP reports.

The increase prompted the World Health Organization to call for new lockdowns across Pakistan.

“Eid ul Azha must be celebrated with simplicity so as not to repeat what happened last Eid when SOPs (standard operating procedures) were ignored & our hospitals were choked”, Khan tweeted, adding that he was ordering the “strict implementation” of Government guidelines.

The Eid festival of animal sacrifice will begin at the end of the month and lasts for several days. Authorities expect a rush of people going to markets to look for sheep, goats and other animals to slaughter, while many return to their family homes from cities to observe the festival.

According to official figures, around 260,000 people in Pakistan have tested positive for the virus and more than 5,470 people have died.

02:18 PM

Captain Sir Tom Moore knighted by the Queen

Captain Sir Tom Moore has been knighted by the Queen in recognition of his achievement of raising almost £33 million for the NHS.

Staged in the open air, in the imposing setting of Windsor Castle’s quadrangle, the ceremony saw the 100-year-old former Army officer joined by his family.

The Queen has been shielding at her famous Berkshire home for much of the lockdown with the Duke of Edinburgh, and the event was her first face-to-face royal engagement with a member of the public since March – albeit with social distancing.

The head of state’s arrival into the quadrangle was signalled by the sound of bagpipes played by the Queen’s Piper, Pipe Major Richard Grisdale, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The monarch was joined in the quadrangle by the Master of the Household, retired Vice Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt, who carried the insignia of Knight Bachelor, while one of the Queen’s Pages was entrusted with King George VI’s sword.

Waiting was Sir Tom and his family – daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore, son-in-law Colin Ingram, grandson Benjie and granddaughter Georgia.

With her father’s sword in her hand, she lightly touched him first on his right shoulder then his left with the blade – dubbing him a knight.

In brilliant summer sunshine the Queen hosted the informal ceremony and spent around five minutes chatting to Sir Tom and his family - PA
In brilliant summer sunshine the Queen hosted the informal ceremony and spent around five minutes chatting to Sir Tom and his family – PA

02:12 PM

Blood group may play small role in Covid infection risk, study says

A person’s blood group may play a role in their risk of getting the coronavirus, according to a new report, in which researchers say blood group appears to modify their risk of infection and chances of developing Covid-19.

Blood group O individuals’ risk of being infected by the virus are around 25 per cent lower than someone with a non-group O blood type.

Meanwhile, blood group A individuals appear to have a higher risk of infection, the ABO Blood Groups and Covid-19 report concludes.

Experts say the effect of blood group on Covid-19 risk is small, particularly when compared to other risk factors where protective measures can be taken.

The meta-analysis – reviewing other research on the subject – found the risks of needing intubation or of dying from the disease did not vary significantly by blood type.

The study was conducted by the Royal Society’s SET-C (Science in Emergencies Tasking: Covid-19) group.

02:09 PM

Comment: PM’s aversion to intervening leaves us in a quagmire of confusion

Boris Johnson had plenty of blunt messages in his speech, writes Angela Epstein, but questions remain heavy in the air.

The speech lacked robust messaging – a hallmark of so much of the Government’s handling of the virus. It baffles me, for example, why shops are still not mandated to provide hand gel for compulsory use at their exits and entrances.

The back to work (if it is Covid-safe) message was welcome to hear, vital as it is  for generating footfall and reviving the economics of our ghostly town centres.  

But again, we felt the restrained hand of Government and a Prime Minister who loathes the role of interventionist: for it will be up to individual businesses to decide whether staff can start returning to workplaces.  A move which could create vast inequity in the system. Why not just produce a list of guidelines which need to be  agreed before an employee can return to the office?

Meanwhile Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor appears to be at odds with this move, having said only yesterday there was “absolutely no reason” to change advice to work from home.

Read the full piece here. 

02:05 PM

Sturgeon: Let’s not drop our guard now

02:03 PM

Anticipatory action: World’s most vulnerable now get help before a crisis

When we think of humanitarian aid we often assume it to be a reactive response: a crisis occurs, and then funds, aid workers and supplies scramble to react as quickly as possible.

Now, however, developments in data and predictive analytics make it possible to anticipate when disaster is about to strike and take action in advance, in what’s called anticipatory humanitarian action. 

In response to severe monsoon flooding in Bangladesh, this was the first time that such action has been taken globally on such a large scale.

In what a UN financing and strategy analyst believes could solve around ten per cent of humanitarian crises ahead of time, there is hope that Covid-19 will increase the appetites of governments across the world for acting before disaster hits, rather than just in response to it.

Georgina Hayes has more on how it all played out here. 

01:57 PM

Salman Rushdie interview: ‘I was lucky to survive coronavirus’

The novelist talks about his experience of the virus, and the reaction to the Harper’s free-speech letter.

“I was lucky it didn’t affect my breathing, especially as someone who, as a 73-year-old, is in the high-risk bracket. And being a long-time asthma sufferer, I was really very worried about it getting to my chest. I had a two-week rollercoaster of a fever that would go up to 103.5F (39.7C) and then come back down to normal and shoot back up. Mostly I just felt very physically debilitated.”

A recent blood test confirmed that he has antibodies to the virus. With hindsight, it was a closer call than he realised. “The tragedy is of such a scale that it almost seems pointless to say that I was unwell too. But as time passes, I realise more and more exactly how lucky I was.”

Duncan White has the full interview here. 

The British-Indian novelist talks of his experience with the virus - AFP
The British-Indian novelist talks of his experience with the virus – AFP

01:53 PM

Rochdale brings in measures to avoid local lockdown

Rochdale has brought in new measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and avoid a reintroduction of lockdown.

The borough follows Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle in urging residents to follow advice from today, such as wearing face coverings in shops and limiting home visitors to two people.

Andrea Fallon, Rochdale Borough Council’s director of public health, said: “The fight against coronavirus is not over. Although lockdown measures are being relaxed across the country, we can see from our local data that we need to remain vigilant to the threat posed by the disease.

“We have increased testing and that has shown us that we need to take action and ask everyone to help keep our infection rate down.”

The measures will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.

01:49 PM

£10 million raised as ‘critical’ week lies ahead for Syria camps

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has raised £10 million of its Coronavirus Appeal since its launch on Tuesday, with the fund aiming to help the most vulnerable communities in the world fleeing conflict and instability while facing threat of Covid-19.

In Syria, one of the countries being targeted by the appeal, DEC member charities are reporting urgent concerns about the risk of the virus spreading, as vulnerable people are unable to take basic measures to protect themselves.

Mustafa, 28, a frontline worker supported by DEC member CAFOD, lives in a camp outside Idlib with displaced people and is preparing for what he calls “an explosion of coronavirus” in the camps.

“My heart is beating so hard; we are expecting an explosion of coronavirus in the camps. The coming days are really critical for us. Doctors are preparing for the spread of the virus,” he said. “People live in large overcrowded settlements in tents with maybe twelve people and no access to clean water. It will be a catastrophe. Disaster. Please help them.”

Of the 111 public hospitals in Syria, only 57 public hospitals (64 per cent) are fully functioning, the charity said. There is also shortage of trained staff and up to 70 per cent of health workers have already left the country.

DEC are calling for more donations to scale up operations.

Coronavirus Syria Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Syria Spotlight Chart – Cases default

01:43 PM

Comment: With the world in a Covid-19 tailspin, Boris Johnson is busy passing the buck

The Prime Minister is still not doing enough to prevent cataclysmic unemployment levels and business collapse in the looming mega-recession, writes Jonathan Saxty. 

The Prime Minister’s announcement today seemed like an exercise in passing the buck, both to local councils and to bosses. Allowing employers more discretion about staff working from home seems unlikely to make much difference to cities like London – Britain’s economic engine – which remains a virtual ghost town.

The Government also recently announced a range of measures ostensibly to help Britain’s economy turn the corner.

Yet these measures – and easing measures besides – are not going far enough to prevent cataclysmic unemployment levels and business collapse once the furlough scheme ends. The looming mega-recession will create just the right conditions for social unrest.

Read the full piece here. 

01:32 PM

Drakeford casts shadow on PM’s ‘sunny view’ of return to normality

First Minister of Wales Drakeford has described Boris Johnson’s prediction that there may be a return to normality by Christmas as “a pretty sunny view of circumstances”.

Mr Drakeford referenced reports that predicted a “worse experience” in the winter than in the spring due to the way Covid-19 circulates.

“While we are able to, we will go on unlocking lockdown measures in Wales and return us to something that looks a bit more like things were before the virus hit,” Mr Drakeford said.

“Can we be confident that in the depths of winter we will still be in a position to go on doing that?

“I think you have to take a pretty optimistic view of the advice that we have had to think that is a realistic proposition.”

01:28 PM

16 more die in England’s hospitals

A further 16 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in hospitals to 29,160, NHS England said.

The patients were aged between 47 and 93 and all had known underlying conditions.

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

01:27 PM

No further deaths in Northern Ireland

No further deaths have been reported in Northern Ireland, where the Covid-19 death toll remains at 556.

01:26 PM

Deaths in Wales up by one

The death toll in Wales has increased by one to 1,546.

Public Health Wales also reported 16 more cases, taking total infections to 16,887.

01:18 PM

No new deaths reported in Scotland

There have been no new deaths in Scotland involving someone with a positive Covid-19 test, meaning the death toll under this measurement remains unchanged from Thursday at 2,491.

Scotland has seen a further 17 people test positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, according to Scottish Government figures.

A total of 18,401 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland.

There are 316 people in hospital with confirmed Covid-19. Of these patients, three are in intensive care.

01:15 PM

Increase in epilepsy seizures in young people during lockdown 

A new study from the charity Young Epilepsy has found that 30 per cent of respondents to its survey of young people in the UK with epilepsy reported an increase in seizures during lockdown.

The majority of young people with epilepsy also reported a deterioration in sleep (72 per cent) and mood (63 per cent) in lockdown, the study found, and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) say they have had clinical procedures cancelled and have struggled to access medication.

Mark Devlin, CEO of Young Epilepsy, said: “Lockdown has exacerbated the complex challenges which children and young people with epilepsy already face, and the pandemic is very likely to entrench some of those disadvantages. For example, just 34 per cent of working-age people with epilepsy are employed, and many have co-existing conditions such as autism which create further barriers to work, meaning that the recession we’re already experiencing is a particularly bleak prospect for the young people we work with.

“We are keen that in the lifting of lockdown and recovery from the pandemic, that the NHS and wider society learns lessons in how to provide the support to help these young people lead the life they want to live. Wider access to remote health appointments is one specific measure, as is the urgent rescheduling of any treatment or appointment postponed due to Covid-19 pressures”.

01:08 PM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

A health worker has their temperature checked in India, where cases have surpassed one million - Shutterstock
A health worker has their temperature checked in India, where cases have surpassed one million – Shutterstock
More from India, where a child gets their temperature checked during medical checkups at a residential building in Mumbai - Shutterstock
More from India, where a child gets their temperature checked during medical checkups at a residential building in Mumbai – Shutterstock
A health worker tests local residents in Karachi, Pakistan - Shutterstock
A health worker tests local residents in Karachi, Pakistan – Shutterstock
People perform their first Friday prayer at a mosque in Kuwait after it reopened for the first time since March
People perform their first Friday prayer at a mosque in Kuwait after it reopened for the first time since March
Dancers perform at a drive-in concert at Gyeongbok Palace parking lot in Seoul, South Korea - AP
Dancers perform at a drive-in concert at Gyeongbok Palace parking lot in Seoul, South Korea – AP

01:02 PM

Belgium reports sharp increase in cases, prompting second wave fears

Belgium may be at the start of a second wave of coronavirus infections after reporting a 32 per cent increase in weekly cases, though for now the resurgence appears more localised than the initial outbreak, virologists said today.

Belgium, which has reined in the coronavirus after becoming the worst-hit mid-sized country in the world, reported zero new Covid-19-related deaths in 24 hours on July 14 for the first time since March 10.

But the national public health institute Sciensano said today that new infections have been increasing. From July 7-13, the country recorded an average of 114.7 confirmed new cases per day, a 32 per cent increase from the previous week, although this was still significantly below the 1,600 daily new cases the country logged at the peak of the pandemic.

“With the latest numbers and the recent increases of confirmed cases, you can clearly see that we are at the start of a second wave,” virologist Marc Van Ranst told Belgium’s Radio 1.

However, Yves van Laethem, a spokesman for the Belgian health ministry, told Belgian broadcaster RTBF that the prospect of a second wave appeared to be localised to particular provinces for now. Speaking to Le Soir newspaper, virologist Marius Gilbert echoed this, adding that transmission rates remain relatively low.

Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes postponed this week a further easing of rules on social gatherings after infections climbed, and said she could not rule out the reintroduction of lockdowns in worst-hit areas.

The Government will meet on July 23 to discuss its response to the uptick in new cases.

Coronavirus Belgium Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Belgium Spotlight Chart – Cases default

12:58 PM

New roadmap out of lockdown, in summary

If you’re just joining us, here’s a summary of all the key developments in England’s roadmap out of lockdown announced by Boris Johnson at a press conference this morning:

  • The national lockdown is to be replaced with local, targeted action with both local and national government given extra powers to respond to any outbreaks. These powers include the ability to close whole sectors or premises in any area, introduce local stay-at-home orders and prevent people from leaving or entering certain areas.

  • An additional £3bn will be provided to the NHS so that the service can prepare for winter, which will include “biggest flu vaccination programme in the history of the UK” and antigen testing capacity ramped up to 500,000 a day by the end of October.

  • From August 1 it will be up to individual businesses to decide whether staff could start returning to workplaces, moving away from the current guidance that people should work from home if they can.

  • Most remaining leisure facilities will be allowed to reopen from August 1, including bowling, skating rinks, casinos and close-contact services such as beauticians. Night clubs and soft play areas will remain closed.

  • Indoor performances with a live audience will also resume subject to the success of pilots, and larger gatherings in venues like sports stadiums will also be piloted with a view to wider reopening in the autumn.

  • Wedding receptions of up to 30 people are to be allowed. 

  • The Prime Minister said it was his “strong and sincere hope” that social distancing will be able to come to an end by November, in time for people to enjoy Christmas.

12:49 PM

Sir Keir Starmer: It’s vital the new guidance is endorsed by experts

12:41 PM

Cases in France’s Brittany region rise sharply

Covid-19 cases in the France’s Brittany region, which is popular with tourists, have risen sharply in less than a week, according to government data, in the latest indication that the virus is again gaining momentum in France.

According to data released today, the disease’s reproduction rate in Brittany had risen from 0.92 to 2.62 between July 10 and July 14, Reuters reports.

The number is one of several indicators authorities are watching when deciding on whether to reimpose tougher restrictions after ending the country’s lockdown in May.

A reproduction rate of 2.62 means that each Covid-19 infected person is, on average, passing the disease on to between two and three other people. A rate of less than one is needed to gradually contain the disease.

The Government on Thursday accelerated plans to make it compulsory to wear face masks in enclosed public spaces amid concerns about renewed spikes of Covid-19, especially in areas in western and southern France that had been relatively spared during the height of the outbreak between March and May.

Coronavirus France Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus France Spotlight Chart – Cases default

12:38 PM

Government accused of ‘passing the buck’ to employers over returning to work

The Government has been accused of “passing the buck” to employers on the decision around returning to work, as organisations warned “significant” caution remains among employees.

Announcing new measures to tackle the pandemic and further ease restrictions, Boris Johnson said it will be up to employers to discuss with workers whether it is safe to return from August 1.

The TUC said there is a lot of work for employers to do before they can reopen the workplace, including risk assessments and consultations with unions.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We all want to get the economy up and running as quickly as possible. Returns to workplaces must happen in a phased and safe way.

“The Government is passing the buck on this big decision to employers.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said some employers will be concerned that the Government appears to be “reducing its direction” as restrictions are lifted.

British Chambers of Commerce director general Adam Marshall said “crystal clear” guidance is needed for employers to decide on reopening offices.

12:28 PM

China’s Urumqi reports five new coronavirus cases following flight cancellations

Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western region of Xinjiang, reported five new coronavirus cases today after the report of an earlier case, its first in months, led to hundreds of flights being cancelled.

Reuters reports that the city also reported eight new asymptomatic cases, the regional health commission said, taking Xinjiang’s tally to six infections and 11 asymptomatic patients.

Epidemic control measures led to the cancellation of more than 600 scheduled flights at Urumqi Diwopu International Airport, or more than 80 per cent of the day’s total, figures from aviation data firm Variflight showed.

Urumqi also suspended subway services from late Thursday.

On Thursday, health authorities in Urumqi said a 24-year-old woman with symptoms such as a sore throat, fever and headaches, tested positive for the virus. Three people with whom she had close contact tested positive but did not show symptoms.

12:24 PM

Are you a working from home winner or loser?

Lockdown has sparked a working-from-home revolution, writes Miranda Levy, with 74 per cent of organisations planning to shift some employees to remote work permanently. 

At first glance, the world of WFH seems a merry one. According to a survey for the Business Clean Air Taskforce (a corporate coalition including Philips, Uber and the Canary Wharf Group), almost nine out of 10 Britons who have worked from home in lockdown would like to continue in some way. They enjoy not having to fight their way through the rush hour and having more time to spend with their families.

These sentiments had already been flagged by American tech company Buffer, which last year conducted a State of Remote Work survey. In its ‘Pros’ list, 40 per cent of respondents cited appreciating ‘a flexible schedule’, a third enjoyed ‘working from anywhere’ and 14 per cent ‘time with family’.

On the day that Boris Johnson announced that working from home guidance is set to change, read about the pros and cons of the new working normal here. 

12:15 PM

Czech Republic tightens restrictions in north-east of country

Authorities in the Czech Republic have tightened restrictions in the north-east of the country after a spike in cases.

Compulsory face coverings, limited restaurant opening hours and ordering checks on cross-border commuters have been reinstated.

There have been just 335 Covid-19-related deaths in the country but it has seen a new spike in infections in the past three weeks, mostly concentrated in the industrial Moravia-Silesia region bordering Poland and Slovakia.

The area, which includes the city of Ostrava, is home to about 11 per cent of the country’s 10.7 million population.

12:12 PM

Barcelona residents urged to stay home after surge in cases

Residents of Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city, have been urged to stay at home unless absolutely necessary after a rise in coronavirus cases, the Catalan Government said today.

The regional government also ordered the closure of cinemas, theatres and nightclubs and banned gatherings of more than 10 people in the coastal city, spokeswoman Meritxell Budo told a press conference.

Almost four million people are affected by the move in one of Europe’s most-visited cities, where restaurants will have to limit capacity to 50 per cent of the usual amount.

Residents have also been asked not to flee to second homes for a period expected to last about two weeks.

“We must take a step back to avoid returning in coming weeks to a total lockdown of the population,” Budo said.

Residents had to “act quickly and decisively to avoid finding ourselves in the same situation as in March,” she added.

Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart – Cases default

12:05 PM

Why coronavirus deaths remain low in the US despite surge in new cases

Advances in a number of treatments appears to have contained the death rate as records continue to be broken for new infections, reports Josie Ensor from New York. 

Dr Joseph Varon has never seen so many patients in his intensive care unit. Most of the beds are occupied by cases of Covid-19.

But although his hospital in Houston, Texas, has found itself in the new epicentre of the US outbreak, he is not as worried as you might imagine.

“Our ward is full of coronavirus patients, but we’ve had amazing success in treating them,” said Dr Varon, chief medical officer at United Memorial Medical Center. “Around 95 per cent of people who have come in here have walked out.”

The US has been reporting record numbers of virus cases, yet deaths have not been rising at the rate many had expected.

Read the full report here. 

Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - deaths default
Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart – deaths default

11:58 AM

Wakefield expecting to be ‘area of concern’ after rise in cases

Wakefield is expecting to be identified as an “area of concern” following an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the West Yorkshire district.

The local authority area has been hit by localised outbreaks in factories and concern has grown after the resulting testing showed the majority of those found positive were asymptomatic.

The council said in a statement: “Further to the release of Government data showing an increase in the number of cases of Covid-19, it is expected that the Wakefield district will be identified as an ‘area of concern’.”

The city’s director of public health, Anna Hartley, said: “The increase in case numbers has resulted from two large workplace outbreaks, where workforce testing identified large numbers of asymptomatic cases.

“It is this early warning system that has identified the need for everyone to increase their efforts to tackle the spread of the virus, especially in areas of our lives where social distancing is not possible.

“Now is absolutely not the time to be complacent. We must all work together to take action and follow the simple safety advice to protect ourselves and each other.”

11:54 AM

Sadiq Khan has ‘no confidence’ in Government’s ability to enforce London lockdown

Sadiq Khan has said he has “no confidence” in the Government’s ability to enforce a lockdown in London in the case of a local outbreak.

As the Prime Minister set out plans to ease guidance on employees returning to their workplaces, the London Mayor said the Government is likely to be “too slow” to react to a potential second spike in the capital.

Mr Khan told the PA news agency that London borough councils were also unprepared for the possibility of a local lockdown.

He said: “I haven’t got any confidence that we could have a geographical lockdown in London.

“We probably could lock down a building, if it’s a factory or a place of worship or a school.

“That’s why it’s really important at long last that the Government provides us with the power, resources, clarity and information, should there be a need, heaven forbid, for a local lockdown in London.”

11:51 AM

Theatres will still not be economically viable despite reopening announcement, industry body warns

Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, the national advisory public body for theatres, said: “Theatres Trust welcomes the Prime Minister’s announcement today that theatres can reopen from August 1 for live performances with a socially distanced audience.

“Alongside the support package and performing arts guidance announced last week, this is a step in the right direction, but for most theatres it will not be economically viable to reopen with 30-40 per cent audience required under social distancing.

“We now need to progress as quickly as possible to an announcement on the all-important Stage 5, allowing theatres to reopen fully with the appropriate safety measures.

“Without this, most theatres cannot reopen viably and we need the go-ahead for Christmas shows, on which the survival of many theatres depends, in the next few weeks at the very latest.”

11:46 AM

Spain’s most popular beaches empty despite easing restrictions

Spain’s most popular beach destinations, including Majorca, Ibiza and the Costa del Sol, remain empty despite the country reopening to European tourists, with resorts that would normally be packed at this time of year eerily quiet.

English holidaymakers are now able to visit Spain and its islands without the need to quarantine on return, and yet so far very few tourists have returned, suggesting an expected rush to the Continent has not materialised. 

Spain this week enforced additional measures to help control the spread of coronavirus, including the mandatory wearing of masks at pools and beaches in the Costa del Sol, while other cities have seen localised lockdowns in response to spikes in infections. 

Follow all the latest on our travel live blog here. 

Empty deck chairs are pictured at Magaluf beach, Calvia, in Spain's Balearic island of Majorca - AFP
Empty deck chairs are pictured at Magaluf beach, Calvia, in Spain’s Balearic island of Majorca – AFP

11:43 AM

What are the current UK lockdown rules?

Now that Boris Johnson has set out the next steps in the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, our journalists have all you need to know about the new guidance, from social distancing to working from home.

We have everything you need to know here. 

11:38 AM

US will not be on Ireland’s travel green list and UK unlikely to be included

The US will not be on Ireland’s green list for safe travel and the UK is also very unlikely to be included, the country’s foreign minister has said.

Simon Coveney said the list, which is due to be published on Monday, will not be particularly long.

Currently people arriving in Ireland from overseas – with limited exceptions such as essential supply chain workers – are required to fill in a passenger locator form and self-quarantine for 14 days.

People crossing the border from Northern Ireland are not subject to restrictions on their movement.

Travellers arriving in Ireland from countries on the new green list will not be required to isolate for two weeks.

Mr Coveney said Cabinet decisions on which countries would be included on the list will be based on science and epidemiological data and not politics, and that countries will be excluded from the green list if their Covid-19 infection rates exceed a set threshold.

“So, I think it’s very unlikely that either the UK or the US will be on that green list,” he said.

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

11:29 AM

Long-distance couples must show coronavirus ‘love contract’ at Dutch border before reuniting

Long-distance couples separated by the EU’s coronavirus travel ban can reunite in the Netherlands if they show Dutch border guards a “love contract” declaring their relationship has lasted longer than three months. 

Lying on the handwritten, signed statement is punishable by a charge of perjury. Failure to show a return ticket at border checkpoints could also result in detainment and deportation. 

The Netherlands enforces the EU’s ban on non-essential travel into the bloc from non-EU citizens, which was introduced in March.

That has meant Dutch residents with partners living outside the EU have been unable to see each other for months. 

James Crisp has more here. 

11:15 AM

Sadiq Khan: Back to work push risks overcrowding Tubes

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that the Government should not encourage people to return to their workplaces if it means overcrowding the Tubes, as was seen at the start of the pandemic.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s really important if the Government is going to be asking people to return to work they do so safely.

“That means making sure they don’t have Tubes packed like they were before the pandemic.

“So I’d ask employers to make sure start and finish times are staggered to avoid the rush hour.

“But we’ve also got to make sure that places of work have the adaptations to make sure they’re safe – hand sanitisers being available, social distancing measures being in place, there being proper signage.

“It’s really important that we don’t have a return to work that leads to a second wave.

“That would be catastrophic for our economy and could overrun the NHS and lead to more lives being lost.”

10:59 AM

Strength of UK has proved itself through crisis, says PM

Reminded that Nicola Sturgeon’s net approval rating is much higher than his and that the SNP are set to win a landslide in the Scottish Parliament’s elections next year while support for independence has never been higher, Boris Johnson was asked whether he accepts that he is the biggest threat to the Union and why he thinks so many Scots want to leave the UK.

“I think when you look at what’s happened during this crisis, there’s been very good and close collaboration” between the UK’s nations, the Prime Minister said. “The agenda that’s being pursued by all parts of the UK beneath the surface has been very, very similar.”

It’s thanks to the strength of the Union that we’ve had such a strong response, he said. “I’m conscious that people will try to make divisions, and it’s quite right there should be distinctive approaches in some aspects to how we approach coronavirus, but I have absolutely no doubt the Union has proved its worth during this crisis time and time again.”

10:53 AM

How optimistic is the PM that families can spend Christmas together?

On how optimistic he is about families being able to spend Christmas together, the Prime Minister struck a cautious tone. 

“You’ve got it completely right about Christmas, because it’s not only a very important time of year for the families, it’s also a very important time of year for the UK economy and, and for many many millions of people working in all kinds of sectors, many on modest incomes. It is important that we hope for the best. But plan for the worst.”

He stressed that the road map set out today is “conditional” on the continued suppression of the virus.

Mr Johnson pointed towards other countries in the world that are seeing a resurgence in cases. “We don’t want to see that in this country,” he said.

In the end, the real secret is the common sense and the collective action of the British people, he added,

10:49 AM

Too early to say if antibody test is game-changer, says Dido Harding

On antibody testing, Dido Harding said that tests are still being rolled out to NHS workers, but at this stage the science is “not clear enough yet” whether antibodies give you immunity. 

“We are learning all the time… but at this stage it is too early to say it is or isn’t a game changer,” she adds. 

She said that while we are all hoping for a “silver bullet” in the science that will make everyone safe, we just don’t know yet.

Mr Johnson added that testing and tracing is what will allow us to prevent more general outbreaks, and that he has “no doubt” that by October and November it will be “even stronger and more resilient and useful” in time for winter.

10:45 AM

Government should not decide whether people work from home, says Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson was challenged again over the change of advice to working from home, which comes after Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief science officer, said there was no need. 

The Prime Minister said it will be safe if employers have taken steps to ensure it is Covid-secure. 

“Whether people should go into work, whether they need to go into work, is not something the Government can decide,” he added.

“We have learned all sorts of lessons in the last few months about the wonders of Zoom, and muting and un-muting… but in the end face-to-face conversations are important.”

He stressed that employers and employees should be having these discussions over whether people can get back to work when they need to, and how people can be best productive.

10:43 AM

Johnson: Decisions taken by politicians, not experts

Asked by if Sir Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty are not appearing with him because they disagree with the Government’s new guidance, Boris Johnson said the chiefs briefed the Cabinet earlier today on these plans. 

The PM stressed that while the chief science and medical officers give advice, the decisions are made by elected politicians.

He said people should “understand the balance of what we are saying”, which is that people should go back to work if it can be done in a Covid-secure way.

10:40 AM

We want to encourage people to think it’s safe to come to work, says Johnson

Turning to question from a BBC journalist on changes to working from home guidance in light of chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance saying yesterday that there is no reason to change the advice, Boris Johnson said “it is not for Government to decide how employers should run their companies”. 

He added: “If employers think it would be more productive for employees to come to the office…. there should be discussions… and people should take a decision. 

“We want to encourage people to think it is safe to come into work”, providing that employers have made workplaces safe. 

10:37 AM

PM: Grandparents can help with childcare

Asked about whether children must maintain one metre distance away from grandparents who are looking after them so that their parents can return to work, Boris Johnson said people “would be OK” if grandparents fall within the social bubble. 

“Clearly looking through to the spring, the long-term impacts that social distancing will continue to have on many impacts of the economy… what we are saying is that we hope by November at the earliest that it may conceivable to move away from the social distancing measures,” he said. 

But this is conditional on the virus being kept under control.

“But on your childcare, you are going to be alright.”

10:34 AM

Public should remember the basics to prevent second wave, Johnson says

Asked by a member of the public what the public can be doing to prepare for a second wave, Boris Johnson said the most important thing people can do is think about the “basic things we can do to protect ourselves” like hand washing, observing social distancing and using face coverings.

“It’s been a huge act of coming together that’s made this possible,” he said, and added that the new powers announced for local and national governments over local lockdowns and testing capacity will also help. 

“But the single most powerful thing we can all do is continue to follow that basic guidance.”

Dido Harding said that if in doubt, get a test. “If you come to one of our face-to-face testing centres, you will get results back the next day,” she said.

10:30 AM

PM targets Christmas for end to friends and family restrictions 

When it comes to family and friends, Mr Johnson said it is his “strong and sincere hope” that a “more significant return to normality” will be allowed from November, “possibly in time for Christmas”.

He added that shielding, due to end at the end of this month, will resume if required.

Mr Johnson said that he “cannot exclude” that critics who fear the restrictions easing could lead to Britain failing to stop the virus may be right, and stressed that the Government “will not hesitate at any stage to put on the breaks” if this is the case.

“If we continue to pull together as we have done so far, I know we can beat this virus. Hoping for the best but planning for the worst, and it’s in that spirit that we must carry on,” he said.

10:26 AM

Beauty services can resume from August 1

In what will be welcome news to many, “most remaining leisure settings” will reopen from August 1.

The PM said that this includes bowling, skating rinks, casinos and close-contact services such as beauticians. 

Night clubs and soft play areas will need to remain closed, however this will be kept under review.

Indoor performances  with a live audience will also resume subject to the success of pilots, Mr Johnson said, and larger gatherings in venues like sports stadiums will also be piloted with a view to wider reopening in the autumn.

Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will also be allowed.

10:23 AM

Johnson: Back to work advice to change from August 1

The Prime Minister has stressed that the timetable for easing lockdown that he is setting out is contingent on everyone continuing to follow guidance, and that it will not proceed if doing so “risks a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS”.

Nonetheless, he said, it is important to give people hope and give businesses confidence.

From today, anybody can use public transport, will encouraging people to consider alternative means of transport “where they’re available”.

From 25 July gyms, pools and other facilities will reopen. 

From 1 August, the advice on going to work will be updated. 

Employers will be given “more discretion”, he said. That could mean continuing to work from home, “or it could mean making workplaces safe by following Covid-secure guidelines.”

10:20 AM

NHS to get extra £3bn to prepare for winter, says Boris Johnson 

Boris Johnson has turned to testing, claiming that antigen capacity has passed 200,000 a day, and that we are carrying out more tests per capita than countries including Spain and Germany. 

Anyone anywhere in the UK with symptoms can get a test without delay, he said.

But heading into winter “we will have to go further”, he said, “not least as many more will show Covid-like symptoms as a result of seasonal illnesses”.

Antigen capacity will be increased to half a million a day, he said, and 1.5 million a week by the end of October,

But this is not the only challenge winter will bring, he said. It is possible the virus will be “more virulent in the winter months”, which is why the Government is taking steps to prepare the NHS, the PM said.

He confirmed an additional £3bn to help prepare the service for the winter season, saying “We are planning for the worst”.

The biggest flu vaccination programme in the history of the UK will also be rolled out, he said.

10:16 AM

Johnson announces sweeping new powers for local lockdowns

The Prime Minister has announced from tomorrow, local authorities will have new powers in their areas to act on local outbreaks.

They will be able to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events, Mr Johnson said. “These powers will allow local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount,” he said.

Action by local councils will not always be sufficient, the PM added,  “so next week we’ll publish draft regulations that lay out how central government can intervene at a local level”.

“Where justified by evidence, ministers will be able to close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local stay-at-home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the maximum size of gatherings beyond the national rules, and restrict transport systems serving local areas,” he said,

Boris Johnson said that he understands it will be “hard going” for people affected by the measures and that it may seem “unjust” that others just a short distance away are able to live life more normally, but “it has to be right that we take local action in response to local outbreaks”. 

10:10 AM

Johnson: National lockdown to be replaced by targeted, local action

Mr Johnson said that while a national lockdown was the right thing to do, the approach the UK Government is using to get Britain back to normal is changing. 

“Now, however, we know more about the virus, and our intelligence on where it is spreading is vastly improved. That means we can control it through targeted local action instead,” he said.

10:07 AM

Boris Johnson praises Britain’s progress in fighting virus

The Prime Minister’s press conference has started, and he began by highlighting the “steady progress” Britain has made in suppressing the virus. 

He said that Sage has confirmed that the R-rate remains between 0.7 and 0.9, and that the number of infections is shrinking by between 0.5 and one per cent every day.

New patients admitted to hospital with the virus each day and the number in mechanical ventilation beds has fallen by more than 90 per cent since early April, Mr Johnson added, and the “average daily death rate continues to fall”.

The Prime Minister said this is “testament to the phenomenal efforts” of NHS and social care staff “working tirelessly” on front line, and is only possible because the British people have made “fundamental changes to the way we live and work”.

09:52 AM

School closes early for summer after positive virus test result

Kingmoor Junior School in Carlisle has closed for the summer break a couple of days early after a positive case of Covid-19 was confirmed, the BBC reports.

In a letter to parents of Year 6 pupils, which can be seen on the school’s website, the headteacher said staff and pupils who had had “close contact” had been sent home to self-isolate.

She said it had been decided to close the school yesterday.

09:43 AM

Comment: The rush for a vaccine is a giant throw of the dice

The rewards of finding a Covid cure are enormous, but speeding up the process comes with great risk, writes our global health security editor Paul Nuki.

Scientists are for the most part clear-eyed. They know through bitter experience that vaccines which seem promising in early trials often fail to perform in the real world. HIV, malaria, dengue – the list of failed vaccines is frighteningly long. For the moment, Sars-Cov-2 appears oddly slow at mutating. This provides scientists with a relatively static target to aim at, but that could change. After all, the virus is under little pressure to mutate. It has 7.8 billion of us without immunity to run through. That will change as immunity builds, naturally or through vaccination.

On the commercial side, things are starting to get a bit iffy, to my eye at least. Too many of those headlines are sparked by press releases issued by big pharma ahead of the data. When the hard science comes along a few days later, there are invariably gaps, side-effects and other nasties the spin doctors failed to mention. Were we in normal times, the regulators would be having a field day. Expect more of this as bulk orders are bagged and vaccines move into production.

Read the full piece here. 

Groups for which there are arguments for priority vaccination
Groups for which there are arguments for priority vaccination

09:34 AM

Facebook and Instagram to start reminding users to wear a mask

Facebook is to begin reminding users to wear a face covering to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 by introducing alerts at the top of its news feed and on Instagram.

Face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24, with fines of £100 for those who fail to comply.

The Facebook alerts will include a link to World Health Organisation (WHO) information on preventing the spread of Covid-19 and how masks can help, the company said.

Earlier in the pandemic, Facebook introduced a dedicated Covid-19 Information Centre, offering clear and prominent links to official guidance and health information from the NHS and the Government as part of efforts to stop the spread of misinformation linked to the virus.

But social media platforms have been criticised for failing to prevent a number of false claims and misinformation from circulating online.

In a new effort to combat this threat, Facebook also said a new Facts About Covid-19 section was being added to its Information Centre, which will “debunk common myths”, identified by the WHO, related to the virus.

09:28 AM

Captain Sir Tom Moore prepares for knighthood

09:26 AM

World Bank receives more than it delivers to world’s poorest countries amid COVID-19 emergency 

The World Bank has received $1.7 billion from the world’s poorest countries in debt repayments since the start of the pandemic, according to new analysis from the ONE Campaign.

Despite committing a similar amount ($1.9 billion) in emergency funding to tackle Covid-19, the latest public data shows that only $250 million has been disbursed. This means that the world’s poorest countries are paying back six times more than they have received in emergency support, the campaign says.

In response to the analysis, ONE is calling on the G20 to urge multilateral institutions and private creditors to support a debt repayment standstill, and for an extension of the G20’s debt standstill agreement to the end of 2021.

Gayle Smith, President and CEO of the ONE Campaign, said: “The World Bank’s failure to support a multilateral debt standstill, choosing instead to roll out new loans and grants has resulted in a slower, less flexible and less effective pandemic response. 

“The $1.7 billion in debt repayments could have bought 100,000 ventilators or 14 million Covid-19 testing kits. Yet as of the end of May, some of the poorest countries have paid back six times more than they have received in emergency support. 

“By dragging its feet on debt suspension, the World Bank risks prolonging the life of the pandemic.”

​Read more: Coronavirus set to trigger ‘brutal tragedies’ in fragile countries, UN warns

09:19 AM

Matt Hancock calling ‘urgent review’ on Public Health England death recording

We will have more on this as it develops.

09:14 AM

More people now feel comfortable eating indoors at a restaurant 

In what may bring a sigh of cautious relief to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, nearly three in ten (27 per cent) adults say they would not feel comfortable eating indoors at a restaurant – a small number, but up from last week’s figure of just 20 per cent.

Among those that had left their home, nearly one in ten adults (9 per cent) visited a barber or hair salon this week and a further one in ten left home to eat or drink at a restaurant, café, bar or pub.

A further 15 per cent collected takeaway food or drink from a restaurant, café, bar or pub.

09:09 AM

A not very four nations approach to face coverings…

More people are wearing face coverings than the week before – 61 per cent compared with 52 per cent last week – but it seems to vary quite considerably between some of the four nations.

In Scotland, where wearing a face covering is now mandatory in shops, 77 per cent wore face coverings when shopping compared with 40 per cent in England and 30 per cent in Wales.

09:05 AM

ONS latest: Britain begins meeting up again

According to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) weekly figures, just over four in ten (41 per cent) of adults had family or friends visit them in their home over the last week, and for those over 70 this rises to 50 per cent.

However, when meeting up with other people only just over half (55 per cent) of adults always maintained social distancing, with six per cent saying they rarely or never maintain social distancing.

08:58 AM

EU’s ‘moment of truth’ as leaders debate virus rescue

European leaders have warned today that the future of their union was at stake as they embarked on a summit to thrash out the terms of a huge post-coronavirus economic rescue plan, AFP reports.

“We are going into the consultations with a lot of vigour, but I must also say that the differences are still very, very large and I cannot therefore predict whether we will be able to reach an agreement this time,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel of the 750-billion-euro stimulus package on the line.

“It would be desirable, but we also have to face reality and we really need a great deal of willingness to compromise if we are to achieve something,” said Merkel. “That is why I expect very, very difficult negotiations.”

Arriving at the European Council, where the leaders met with reduced teams and under social distancing measures, France’s President Emmanuel Macron described it as a “moment of truth”.

“We are going through an unprecedented crisis, on the health but also the social level. We need much more solidarity and ambition,” he said.

08:49 AM

Japan launches controversial tourism campaign despite rising virus cases

The Financial Times is reporting that despite rising Covid-19 cases, Japan has launched a tourism campaign.

The campaign, intended to promote domestic tourism by paying half the cost of a holiday up to a limit of ¥20,000 ($186) per person per day, has attracted accusations that it could spread Covid-19 across the country.

Under the “Go To” campaign, Shinzo Abe’s Government will offer billions of yen in subsidies to kick start travel to Japan’s regions, which are suffering from a collapse in international and domestic tourism, the paper reports.

But after a surge in infections in Tokyo, the Government said it would exclude travel to and from the capital, a concession that would sharply reduce the economic impact of the scheme.

A group of civic activists has filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court seeking an injunction to halt the “Go To” campaign, arguing that it violates the right to life.

Coronavirus Japan Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Japan Spotlight Chart – cases default

08:41 AM

Coronavirus set to trigger ‘brutal tragedies’ in fragile countries, UN warns

The United Nations has urged wealthy countries to “step up now or pay the price later”, warning that the coronavirus crisis will “wreak havoc” in developing countries. 

Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, said on Thursday that the pandemic is set to trigger “a series of human tragedies more brutal and destructive than any of the direct health impacts of the virus” in low and middle income countries. 

“Inaction will leave the virus free to circle the globe, it will undo decades of development and it will create a generation worth of tragic and exportable problems,” he said during a press briefing.

His stark message came as the UN launched the third phase of its Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP), appealing for $10.3 billion (roughly £8.2bn) to support 63 vulnerable countries this year. 

Sarah Newey has more here. 

08:37 AM

National gallery to extend opening hours after ‘huge demand’

The National Gallery is extending its opening hours following “huge demand” from visitors.

The gallery, in Trafalgar Square, became the first of the big institutions to reopen its doors earlier this month, following the easing of lockdown measures.

Its director Gabriele Finaldi said: “Having successfully reopened and with huge demand from the public for our once-in-a-lifetime Titian exhibition, we are delighted to now extend our opening hours by a further two hours daily.”

The Gallery, which previously shut its doors at 4pm, will open until 6pm daily.

Visitors follow one or two of three one-way art routes instead of meandering through the vast Gallery at leisure, and there is a separate entrance and exit and two-metre social distancing measures are in place throughout. All visits, including free tickets to see its main collection, must be booked in advance.

Tate is also opening its galleries later this month, while the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and Science Museum are to reopen in August.

08:28 AM

Being Knighted is ‘icing on cake’ of achievements, says Captain Sir Tom Moore’s daughter

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s daughter has said his investiture as a knight of the realm today is the “icing on the cake” of his achievements.

The veteran, who raised almost £33 million for NHS Charities Together by walking lengths of his garden, is due to receive his knighthood at Windsor later today.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Hannah Ingram-Moore said: “It is just the most sensational day – of all the things Tom been honoured by, this is just truly the absolute icing on the cake.”

She continued: “We will take a leisurely pace down to Windsor – no rushing today and no falling, no tripping, and we have a fairly regimented day ahead of us. This is, I believe, the first individual investiture.”

Captain Sir Tom Moore’s grandson Benjie said: “This is a really special day for the entire family.”

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: “I just want to say thank you to absolutely everybody who has supported us. We would not be in this situation without everyone on the other side of the camera, so, from our family, thank you for putting us in this situation.”

Captain Sir Tom’s granddaughter Georgia said: “We are so proud of him and I’m so excited for this day.”

08:19 AM

Labour calls for review on whether Job Retention Bonus scheme is value for money

Labour is calling for the UK’s public spending watchdog to review the Job Retention Bonus (JRB) scheme, the project which will pay employers £1,000 for every worker they take off furlough and keep on the books until January, over whether it will provide value for money.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson has written to Comptroller and Auditor General Gareth Davies, raising questions about the costs involved in the recovery project.

Ms Phillipson, in her letter to the National Audit Office boss, said: “It is exactly because we support the stated policy rationale of providing support and incentives to firms to keep employees during a period of continued uncertainty, that we believe a more targeted approach is required.

“As it stands, the JRB will see money allocated to firms that don’t need it, in respect of jobs that aren’t at risk, while in sectors such as childcare, tourism, oil and gas, hospitality, and aviation, thousands upon thousands of jobs and livelihoods may be under threat.

“Our concern is that this blanket approach is both ineffective, because in too many firms the extra money will not change business decision-making, and is inefficient, because the money could be being allocated in a way that better supported the sectors facing the greatest challenges in the months ahead.”

08:15 AM

Watch: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg criticises Donald Trump over Covid-19 after US sets record for new cases 

In an interview with Dr Anthony Fauci, a leading US expert on infectious diseases, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, has said that the trajectory of the coronavirus in the United States is worse than many other countries in the world, and that its Government has been considerably less effective in handling the crisis. 

It follows the news that the States has set yet another record for new cases, with 77,300 infections recorded in the last 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

You can watch the exchange below:

08:08 AM

Comment: When we’ve all finally achieved some work-life balance, why would we go back to the office?

Follow speculation that the Government was to change its working from home guidance in order to boost the economy, Lucy Denyer argues that now Pandora’x Box has been opened, it’s not going to be easy to get us all back to our desks.

At the beginning of lockdown, a meme went round of a woman sitting at her kitchen table being told she could go back to work. She rattles off, in one long breath, her pre-lockdown daily routine – the getting up early every day to leave the house at 7.45am, packing on to a crowded train, spending £3 on a latte she can’t afford because she hasn’t had time for breakfast, making small talk to colleagues all day, dropping another £8 on lunch and finally getting home really late, beans on toast for dinner and flopping into bed at 10pm, ready to go again the next day. “F––– that”, she says at the end, before pouring herself another glass of wine.

It struck a chord because, really, that’s how a lot of us – at least those of us who are able to work from home – feel. Now that we’ve been liberated from the tyranny of the daily commute, the office presenteeism, the offputting habits of our colleagues and endless, tedious meetings – and marvelled at how much we were spending just to go to work every day – why would we choose to go back?

Read the full piece here. 

07:57 AM

Brokenshire says employers should decide if workers should return

On whether people should work from home if possible, or return to workplaces, Security Minister James Brokenshire told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The advice actually says that employers should decide in consultation with their employees whether it’s viable for them to continue working from home.

“But, if they do, then obviously this needs to be based on risk assessment, public health guidance, and ensuring that it’s a Covid-safe space for them to do so.”

Pressed on whether people should return to workplaces if they can, Mr Brokenshire said: “It’s for employers to make that assessment.”

07:32 AM

Back to work advice unlikely to change, minister hints

There has been a tug of war over the official advice on whether or not people should be encouraged to return to work if they can.

The Prime Minister had been expected to say this morning that if you can, you should go back to the office, in a bid to boost the local economies in big cities.

But yesterday, Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor indicated that it was too soon for a mass return.

“We’re still at a time when distancing measures are important,” he told MPs.

“Of the various distancing measures, working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option because it’s easy to do.”

Sir Patrick Vallance in the select committee hearing - Screengrab / UK parliament
Sir Patrick Vallance in the select committee hearing – Screengrab / UK parliament

This morning, the government appeared to climb down from their plans, and James Brokenshire told Sky News: “If people can return to office environment or place of work, that’s a matter for employers and employees. 

“I don’t think there is any change of emphasis on that way,” he added.

06:33 AM

Prime Minister expected to lay our “road map” this morning

Boris Johnson is set to announce an extra £3 billion to keep Nightingale hospitals open until March next year, amid fears of a second wave of Covid-19 this winter.

The Prime Minister will provide the funding boost to make the health service “battle ready” for the winter.

The announcement comes amid warnings of a further 120,000 deaths in hospitals if the virus rebounds later this year.

Downing Street said the extra money will allow hospitals to boost capacity in the health service while also allowing routine treatments and procedures to continue.

Mr Johnson is also expected to commit to a new testing target, to raise capacity to 500,000 coronavirus tests a day by November.

The Prime Minister will make the announcements at a Downing Street press conference later this morning. He is also expected to unveil the latest government guidance to free up the economy further.

Mr Johnson is expected to publish the next steps in his Covid-19 recovery strategy “road map”.

05:55 AM

British Airways to retire its fleet of Boeing 747s with immediate effect  

Britain’s flag carrier has announced this morning that its 31 Boeing 747s are to be retired due to falling demand in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The company said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect.

“It is unlikely our magnificent ‘queen of the skies’ will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

“While the aircraft will always have a special place in our heart, as we head into the future we will be operating more flights on modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such as our new A350s and 787s, to help us achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

The airline has used the craft since July 1989 and is currently the world’s biggest operator of the 747-400 model.

It was planning to retire the fleet of 31 craft in 2024 but its end has been hastened by coronavirus.

BA Boeing 747s - Andrew Matthews/PA
BA Boeing 747s – Andrew Matthews/PA

Meanwhile, 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{cb3fe4c54de06d7c4b8dceae281fb32e521027d1659af7adec2f427d2f5333d9} compared with June 2019.

This was an improvement on the 98{cb3fe4c54de06d7c4b8dceae281fb32e521027d1659af7adec2f427d2f5333d9} year-on-year decline recorded in May, but highlights how far the industry has to go to recover from the pandemic.

05:13 AM

Israel sets new weekend shutdown to fight surge

Israel imposed a new weekend shutdown today and tightened a series of coronavirus curbs to lower infection rates, amid growing public anger over the government’s handling of the crisis.

People would be allowed to leave their homes this weekend but malls, shops, pools, zoos and museums would shut from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning, the government said in a statement.

Full weekend lockdowns that could confine people to their homes may be imposed by July 24, after the government gains parliamentary approval for that, Israel Radio reported. 

On all days, gatherings will be limited to 10 people indoors and 20 outdoors and restaurants would be allowed to serve take-out only, the government said. 

Israel, with a population of 9 million, has reported more than 44,000 cases and 377 deaths.

05:10 AM

Darcey Bussell warns talent will “fall by the wayside”

Darcey Bussell and Gary Avis for The Royal Ballet - Alastair Muir
Darcey Bussell and Gary Avis for The Royal Ballet – Alastair Muir

Dame Darcey Bussell has warned of the talent that will “fall by the wayside” due to the devastating impact of coronavirus on the cultural sector.

The retired ballerina and former Strictly Come Dancing judge lamented the pandemic and the resulting shutdown of the country’s arts industry.

And she warned ballerinas’ already relatively brief careers may be curtailed further by the enforced period of inaction.

Dance critic, Mark Monahan‘s full interview with Darcey Bussell is here.

04:33 AM

Sweden tops EU for new cases but says virus is slowing

Sweden, whose softer approach to fighting the virus drew global attention, has one of the EU’s highest rates of new cases but authorities say the spread is slowing.

In the last two weeks, Sweden was only second to Luxembourg in the EU in terms of new cases per capita with new infections more than six times the European Union average.

Unlike most European nations, Sweden never imposed a lockdown and made headlines for its high death toll.

It has kept schools for under-16s open and has not shuttered cafes, bars, restaurants and most businesses. Masks have been recommended only for healthcare personnel.

Over the past 60 days, Sweden has seen a drastic increase in the number of new cases, but authorities stress that serious cases and associated deaths have declined.

People walk in Drottninggatan during rush hour in Stockholm, amid the pandemic - AFP
People walk in Drottninggatan during rush hour in Stockholm, amid the pandemic – AFP

In May, Sweden was testing roughly 30,000 people a week but throughout June that was scaled up and in July the figure had more than doubled.

On May 31, the country had recorded a total of 39,160 cases. On July 16, the number had almost doubled at 76,877, but deaths had only increased by just over 20 percent to 5,593.

04:29 AM

Struggling India crosses 1 million cases

India crossed 1 million cases today, third only to the United States and Brazil, prompting concerns about its readiness to confront an inevitable surge that could overwhelm hospitals and test the country’s health care system.

A surge of 34.956 new cases in the past 24 hours took the national total to 1,003,832.

The Health Ministry also reported a record number of 687 deaths for a total of 25,602. It said 635,757 people have recovered and the recovery rate was continuing to improve at 63 per cent.

The grim milestone comes at a time when several Indian states are imposing focused lockdowns to stem the outbreak amid frantic efforts by local governments to protect the economy.

Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus India Spotlight Chart – Cases default


03:48 AM

‘In the fight of our lives’: Australia posts surge in new cases

People walk along Princes Bridge in Melbourne, Australia, 17 July 2020 - EPA-EFE
People walk along Princes Bridge in Melbourne, Australia, 17 July 2020 – EPA-EFE

Australia’s Victoria state today reported a record daily increase in cases while neighbouring New South Wales said it was banning dancing, singing and mingling at weddings as authorities struggle to contain a new wave of infections.

Victoria, which has forced nearly 5 million people in the country’s second most populous state into a partial lockdown for more than a week, said it has found 428 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Such is the size of the Victoria outbreak, Australia posted its biggest one-day rise in new infections since late March even with several states still to report.

The findings stoked expectations Victoria will be forced to implement tougher restrictions on its residents, which in turn will damage Australia’s national economy.

“We are in the fight of our lives,” Victoria state’s Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos told reporters in Melbourne.

Australia has recorded just over 11,000 cases.

The death toll rose to 116 after the death of three people in Victoria on Friday, still well below many other countries.

03:15 AM

Philippines to allow some foreign nationals to enter the country 

The Philippines’ coronavirus task force has approved the entry of foreign nationals holding long-term visas starting from August, the presidential spokesman said today.

Foreigners with valid and existing visas would need to undergo quarantine upon arrival, said Harry Roque, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Bureau of Immigration banned the entry of foreigners into the country in March to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. The Southeast Asian country has reported 61,266 cases of the virus and 1,643 related deaths.

02:38 AM

California man accused of gambling away Covid funds in Vegas

A California man was arrested yesterday for fraudulently obtaining  $9 million (£7.05 milion) in coronavirus relief funds and using some of the money to gamble in Las Vegas.

Andrew Marnell, 40, from Los Angeles, allegedly submitted a number of fraudulent loan applications in relation to the coronavirus pandemic and obtained millions in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds.

Prosecutors say he used some of the money to make risky stock market bets, and squandered hundreds of thousands of dollars in Las Vegas as recently as last weekend.

More on this story here

01:56 AM

Donald Trump exempts British students from travel restrictions

European students exempt from US coronavirus travel restrictions - Chris Ison/PA
European students exempt from US coronavirus travel restrictions – Chris Ison/PA

Foreign students coming from Europe are exempt from a travel ban the United States imposed because of the pandemic, the US State Department told congressional offices on Thursday.

The State Department also told lawmakers that it would offer exemptions for some au pairs and family members of visa holders in the United States, according to a memo sent to lawmakers and seen by Reuters.

The moves are part of a Trump administration effort to gradually reopen international travel following months of sweeping restrictions due to the pandemic. President Donald Trump banned travelers from most European countries in March as Covid-19 cases soared in the region before the disease took hold in the United States.

For more on this story, click here. 

01:31 AM

British Airways retires entire fleet of Boeing’s jumbo jets

A British Airways Boeing 747 at Heathrow Airport in west London - Toby Melville/Reuters
A British Airways Boeing 747 at Heathrow Airport in west London – Toby Melville/Reuters

British Airways, the world’s largest operator of Boeing 747, reports it is to retire its entire jumbo jet fleet with immediate effect due to the downturn in travel industry caused by the pandemic.

“It is unlikely our magnificent ‘queen of the skies’ will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again,” the company said in a statement.

BA, which is owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group, added that it will operate more flights on modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such as its new A350s and 787s and expects such aircraft to help in achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Boeing Co’s 747, a plane that democratized global air travel in the 1970s but fell behind modern twin-engine aircraft, marked its 50-year flying anniversary in February 2019.

The US-based aerospace company and its suppliers signalled the end of the plane when they set the final number of parts it would need for the 747 jumbo jet program at least a year ago.

However, the decision was left in limbo for years amid falling orders and pricing pressure.

01:12 AM

US notches a record 68,428 new cases in 24 hours

The United States yesterday set yet another record for new cases with 68,428 infections recorded in 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

In that period the death toll also climbed by 974 people, the university’s tracker showed at 00:30.

That brought the total death toll in the country since the pandemic began to 138,201, and the total number of cases to 3,560,364.

The US remains the hardest-hit country in the world in absolute terms.

Experts believe it never emerged from its first wave of infections, and cases have been surging again in recent weeks, particularly across the south and west in states that pushed to lift lockdown restrictions early.

Florida has emerged as the epicentre of the US outbreak, reporting a record 156 deaths on Thursday and nearly 14,000 new infections.

The total number of virus cases in the “Sunshine State” has now surpassed 315,000, and there have been 4,782 deaths, according to Florida Department of Health figures.

Florida is now reporting more cases daily than any other state in the country. California and Texas are next, with about 10,000 new cases a day each.

Guests wave to Mr. Incredible at Walt Disney World in Florida, the state at the epicentre of the US outbreak - Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel
Guests wave to Mr. Incredible at Walt Disney World in Florida, the state at the epicentre of the US outbreak – Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel

12:19 AM

UN relaunches huge appeal to support developing countries

The United Nations has urged wealthy countries to “step up now or pay the price later”, warning that the coronavirus crisis will “wreak havoc” in developing countries. 

Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, said on Thursday that the pandemic is set to trigger “a series of human tragedies more brutal and destructive than any of the direct health impacts of the virus” in low and middle income countries. 

“Inaction will leave the virus free to circle the globe, it will undo decades of development and it will create a generation worth of tragic and exportable problems,” he said during a press briefing.

His stark message came as the UN launched the third phase of its Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP), appealing for $10.3 billion (roughly £8.2bn) to support 63 vulnerable countries this year. 

Global health security reporter Sarah Newey has more on this report here.

12:00 AM

A new kitemark set to assess quality of masks

A new kitemark to launch for safety of facemasks - AP
A new kitemark to launch for safety of facemasks – AP

A new Kitemark is being launched to verify the quality of face coverings as the coronavirus pandemic makes them increasingly required in public life.

Business improvement company BSI said the scheme will assess face coverings to a technical specification requiring 70 per cent particle filtration and “breathability” tests.

It will also provide “independent approval” of the quality of fitting and the instructions provided to a wearer on how to use the covering to reduce the chances of transmitting infection.

The announcement comes ahead of it being mandatory to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets in England from July 24 to help tackle the spread of coronavirus.

By law they must also already be worn by passengers in England using public transport.

It is expected that the first face coverings with the Kitemark will be available from late July.

Face coverings must already be worn in shops and on public transport in Scotland.

They are also compulsory on public transport in Northern Ireland.

In Wales, face coverings will only become mandatory for public transport when new rules come into force on July 27.

11:17 PM

Fauci implores young people to stay vigilant on virus risk

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Reuters
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Reuters

The leading US expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has implored younger people to continue social distancing and other measures to curtail spread of the novel coronavirus, which continues to surge in some parts of the States.

“Please assume the societal responsibility of being part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he said in a live interview with Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Social media platforms including Facebook, which in April removed “pseudoscience” as an option for advertisers, have been criticized for allowing the spread of misinformation about the pandemic, from bogus cures to wide-ranging conspiracy theories.

New US cases of Covid-19  have climbed to over 60,000 a day from daily totals under 20,000 in May. The median age of those infected has fallen by about 15 years as younger people, many of whom may show few symptoms of illness, are being infected, Fauci said.

He cautioned that even asymptomatic people can spread the coronavirus to others, increasing the likelihood that the virus could infect a more vulnerable person.

11:10 PM

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