Boris Johnson has said that the Government "stands ready" to apply more draconian restrictions if necessary but wanted to do in collaboration with local leaders.
Speaking at a press conference, the Prime Minister said that the tier-based system offered a "chance to get R down", adding: "We think the budget of measures we've set out would do it if we all implemented them together, if we did it together with the local authorities, regions we've identified.
"There are regions across the country that now need to do more and it will take everybody working together to achieve it."
Mr Johnson continued: "My judgment is it is better to go for that route now than to go back to the bad old days, or the most difficult period, of closing ours schools again..."
Mr Johnson added: "You called for more draconian measures - be in no doubt the Government stands ready to apply those measures as soon as we think they're necessary."
Follow the latest updates below.
Full statement from Greater Manchester leaders as row with Government continues
The statement is from Labour council leaders, including mayor Andy Burnham, as the stand-off between local leaders and the Government continues.
"At our last meeting with Downing Street officials yesterday morning, we were told they would arrange a further meeting later in the day to provide a response to our requests.
"That did not happen and, despite being on standby all day today, we are still waiting for it to be arranged.
"We can assure the prime minister that we are ready to meet at any time to try to agree a way forward.
"We can also say with confidence that we have done, and will continue to do, everything within our power to protect the health of our residents, including being the first area in the country to agree to local restrictions back in July.
"We are not convinced that closing hospitality venues is the only way to protect hospitals and we want to look at other measures such as reinstating shielding arrangements and introducing tougher instant closure powers on non-compliant pubs, restaurants, shops and other business premises.
"We firmly believe that protecting health is about more than controlling the virus and requires proper support for people whose lives would be severely affected by a Tier 3 lockdown.
"We do not believe that the current proposals provide adequate support and that is why we await further talks."
Independent Sage recommends six-week plan
Independent Sage, an independent group of scientists that is not the same as the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), has recommended a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown followed by another four weeks of slightly looser restrictions.
— Stephen Reicher (@ReicherStephen) October 16, 2020
As the second wave arrives, can Germany escape the worst again?
Germany is once more in the grip of the coronavirus. Angela Merkel warned a few days ago that the country, which appeared to have escaped the second wave, could be heading for “disaster” unless drastic action is taken.
In the past week alone, the headlines have included children being told to bring blankets to school because the windows have to be opened every twenty minutes to ward off the virus, and the news that the entire leadership of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency is self-isolating after testing positive.
Every day, the record for new infections is broken. There were 7,334 today, up from 6,638 the day before. It’s still nowhere near the sort of numbers seen in the UK or France, but the rate is going up fast.
“We don’t expect the numbers to fall tomorrow. They will continue to rise,” Helge Braun, Mrs Merkel’s chief of staff, said on Friday. “We are at the beginning of a really big second wave. Things are significantly more serious than they were in the spring.”
Justin Huggler has more here.
Czech army builds field hospital to combat virus surge
The Czech government has tasked the army with building a large field hospital to relieve civilian hospitals as the country combats the fastest growth in coronavirus infections in the European Union.
The country of 10.7 million people is faring worst in the 28-member bloc in terms of holding back the disease, according to the latest ranking by European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention's (ECDC).
Data updated today showed the Czechs had by far the most new cases and deaths per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks in the EU.
Recent daily infection rates have reached almost 10,000 cases, putting more strain on healthcare providers.
"The hospital will have 500 beds, 10 ventilated and 490 ordinary ones," Health Minister Roman Prymula told reporters.
He said the construction of the hospital in halls serving as exhibition grounds on Prague's northern outskirts would start on Sunday.
Last night out in France as 20 million face virus curfew
Millions of French people were looking forward to a last night of freedom on Friday before a Covid-19 curfew in Paris and other large cities comes into force for a least a month, prompted by an alarming surge in new cases.
The curfew aims to keep some 20 million people home from 9pm to 6am - 30 per cent of the French population.
It was ordered by President Emmanuel Macron this week as the number of new infections and deaths raised the spectre of hospital overloads like those seen in March and April.
Health authorities reported on Thursday a record 30,621 new cases in the previous 24 hours as well as 88 deaths and over 200 new Covid admissions to intensive care units.
Belgium to introduce restrictive new measures to curb virus
Belgium will introduce a nationwide coronavirus curfew from midnight to 5am, close all bars and restaurants and limit families to one close contact, according to media reports before an official announcement later this evening.
All measures take effect from Monday and will last for a month. Working from home will also become mandatory again, it has been reported.
At least 20,000 university students have had coronavirus since the start of term, analysis finds
At least 20,000 students have had coronavirus since the start of term, a new analysis has found.
It comes as a union boss said she backs lecturers to ballot for strike action if vice-Chancellors fail to heed their concerns about face-to-face learning.
Universities are facing growing pressure to move lessons online, with the University and College Union (UCU) launching a new petition demanding that in-person classes are axed "where possible".
The union has examined all the published figures of Covid-19 cases at universities and found that there have been 20,874 reported positive tests.
Camilla Turner has more here.
US hoping for two Covid-19 vaccines by end of November
Two American companies expect to apply for emergency approval for their Covid-19 vaccines by late November - welcome news as the US hits a third surge of its coronavirus epidemic and approaches its eight millionth case.
Pfizer said today that it hopes to move ahead with its vaccine after safety data is available in the third week of November, a couple of weeks after the November 3 presidential election.
The announcement means the United States could have two vaccines ready by the end of the year, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna aiming for November 25 to seek authorization.
"So let me be clear, assuming positive data, Pfizer will apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the US soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November," the company's chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in an open letter. The news lifted the company's shares by two per cent in the US.
But experts warn that even when vaccines are approved, it will take many months until they are widely available, and it isn't yet known how effective any vaccines will be.
Netherlands records highest daily infection number since start of pandemic
The Netherlands recorded 7,984 new infections in 24 hours, the latest data from the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) shows. It is the nation’s worst day for new cases since the start of its epidemic.
Couples living apart not allowed physical contact under top two tiers of Covid restrictions
Couples who do not live together will not be allowed to have any physical contact with each other in many parts of England, Downing Street confirmed today.
In Tier 2 areas, couples can meet outside but must adhere to social distancing rules and are not allowed physical contact, but sleepovers are banned in areas under the toughest two tiers of restrictions unless couples are in a "support bubble".
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The rules on household mixing in Tier 2 set out that you should mix with your own household only unless you have formed a support bubble, and that obviously does apply to some couples."
People in "established relationships" can meet if they live in Tier 1 areas, but Downing Street confirmed there would be no exemptions for couples in areas with the strictest rules.
Amy Jones has more here.
Bosnia's daily cases hit record high for third day in a row
Bosnia’s new Covid-19 infections hit a record high for the third day in a row, with 621 cases today, and authorities warned the healthcare system could collapse if the trend continues.
The country of around 3.3 million people has so far recorded 32,845 cases of the coronavirus with 980 deaths. Currently there are 7,262 active cases, or 1,512 more than a week ago.
A significant rise has been recorded in the capital Sarajevo with 248 new cases in the past two days.
The head of the Sarajevo University Clinical Centre (KCUS), where the main regional Covid centre is based, warned about strains on the health system and medical staff.
“The situation becomes very serious... the number of infected people rises every day,” said KCUS director Sebija Izetbegović. “If the number of people infected with Covid-19 gets very high, it is certain that the health system may collapse.”
Health authorities across the Balkan country also warned their hospitals were close to reaching capacity.
Die-hard fans and Covid-killing machines: how one indie cinema is surviving
The Prince Charles Cinema fell back on guile and fan loyalty – and the storied venue has risen just as the giant chains have fallen, writes Alex Godfrey.
When Ben Freedman closed the Prince Charles Cinema on March 18, he thought that it might stay shut for a year. Given the speed of Covid-19’s onslaught, he bolted his doors four days before the Government ordered cinemas to do so, and proceeded on the assumption that the situation might extend into 2021.
Speaking on the phone, I suggest that this was a more realistic outlook than many cinema operators in Britain showed. “Yeah,” he laughs. “I don’t know if it’s that I’m married to a lawyer. You learn to think the worst.”
The Prince Charles, the only independent cinema in London’s West End, is notoriously unflappable. The building began life as a theatre in the 1960s, enjoyed a brief time as an adult (read: pornographic) cinema in the 1970s, then became a mainstream one in the 1980s before, in 1990, being bought by theatre producer Ben Freedman and his entrepreneur son, Ben.
Read the full piece here.
Celtic and Rangers fans urged not to flout lockdown rules for Derby clash
Nicola Sturgeon and police have urged football fans not to flout lockdown measures this weekend to watch the first Celtic v Rangers clash of the season.
The Glasgow clubs will play behind closed doors at Celtic Park on Saturday due to Covid-19 restrictions.
With pubs in Scotland's central belt closed under temporary measures, there have been reports of some supporters planning to travel to Blackpool to watch the game in bars.
Ms Sturgeon has previously warned against travelling to the seaside resort and the latest intervention from Lancashire Police comes as the county prepares to enter the highest level of lockdown restrictions for England.
Speaking during the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing on Friday, the First Minister asked supporters not to gather outside the stadium or in other people's homes.
Czech Republic health system in danger of 'collapse' amid worst Covid-19 infection rate in Europe
The Czech health service is in danger of “collapse” as it struggles to cope with the worst infection rate in Europe, the country’s interior minister has warned.
The Central European state recorded 9,721 positive tests on Thursday, another record-breaking number for a country of 10 million people that has seen the daily number of infections rocket upwards from around 500 at the beginning of September.
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the 14-day cumulative number of Covid cases per 100,000 people in the Czech Republic now stands at 701, the highest in Europe and over 120 more than second place Belgium.
There are now over 77,000 active Covid cases in the Czech Republic, and 518 in a serious or critical condition. The death toll rose on Thursday to 1,230, 559 of whom have died in the last fortnight.
Matthew Day and Verity Bowman have more here.
Threat of double dip recession looms as second wave hits
Britain’s "V-shaped" recovery is coming to a premature end as the rise in coronavirus cases and new local lockdowns threaten to send GDP into reverse.
It means growth nationally will slow from about 16pc in the third quarter, as the rebound got underway, to as little as 2pc in the final months of the year.
GDP could even fall in some months, raising the prospect of a "W-shaped" scenario.
“A double dip seems an increasingly realistic possibility,” said economist Robert Wood at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Tim Wallace has more here.
Relatives can soon see loved ones in care homes 'multiple times a week'
Relatives will be able to visit their loved ones in care homes “multiple times a week” under government plans, a minister has revealed.
In an online update, care minister Helen Whately shared further details regarding a pilot visiting scheme for care homes, revealing that designated family members who provide regular personal care will be able to visit residents several times a week.
Ms Whately said she is "determined to give social care all the help we can to control Covid-19 this winter".
She continued: "I hope further peace of mind will come for care staff, residents and visitors following news that we are working up proposals with clinicians and stakeholder groups to run a new visiting scheme.
"This scheme will allow specific or designated care home visitors, who provide regular personal care, to attend residential settings multiple times a week."
Gabriella Swerling has more here.
West Midlands mayor won't stand in way of further restrictions but would demand economic support
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has said he would "not stand in the way" of tougher Covid-19 restrictions but would demand economic support in advance.
As the region's Labour police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson said he believed consideration of a future "circuit-breaker" lockdown was almost inevitable, the area's Conservative mayor Mr Street said extra economic support should be "pre-ordained".
Mr Street told a weekly West Midlands Combined Authority webinar meeting that he would liaise with other regional leaders if restrictions are tightened.
The former John Lewis managing director said: "If we suddenly found ourselves in a position where we needed to move into higher restrictions, firstly it wouldn't just be me, I would want to do it with all of our local authority leaders and of course taking the wider leadership of the region with us.
"And if we are at that high level of infection, I think it is very important that we do not deny the health reality.
"We would need to move... and I would not want to stand in the way of tougher health restrictions."Mr Street added: "The last point I would make is I would want economic support in advance.
Exemptions for work, childcare and weddings in Welsh travel ban
People from areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus will still be allowed to enter Wales for work, education and medical care, according to legislation published by the Welsh Government.
Wales's travel ban will also grant exemptions for people seeking food or medical supplies, items for essential home maintenance, moving home, and attending weddings or funerals.
Obtaining or depositing money with a business, accessing care for children or vulnerable adults, carrying out voluntary or charity work, and training as an elite athlete will also allow a person to cross into the country.
The full list of 18 exemptions, published on Friday, can be found on the Welsh Government's website.
Italy records more than 10,000 cases in a day - its highest figure yet
Italy has registered 10,010 new infections in 24 hours, the health ministry has said. It is the highest daily tally since the start of the country’s outbreak and up 13 per cent from the previous high of 8,804, which was posted just the day before.
The ministry also reported 55 Covid-related deaths, down from 83 the day before and far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April when a daily peak of more than 900 fatalities was reached.
The number of people in intensive care with the virus has risen steadily. It stood at 638 on today, up from 586 on Thursday and compared with a low of around 40 in the second half of July.
Italy was the first country in Europe to be heavily affected and has the second-highest death toll in the continent after Britain, with 36,427 fatalities since the outbreak flared in February, according to official figures.
Sadiq Khan urges Londoners to follow rules ahead of entering Tier 2
London, please stick to the rules tonight.
The new Government restrictions come into effect at midnight, but even before then you cannot meet in groups of more than six, indoors or outdoors. Remember: follow the rules, and you will help save countless lives.
— Mayor of London (gov.uk/coronavirus) (@MayorofLondon) October 16, 2020
Northern Ireland leaders urge people to 'get behind' new restrictions
Northern Ireland is imposing a circuit breaker lockdown, with restrictions starting at 6pm tonight and lasting for four weeks.
In a joint statement, Northern Ireland leaders urge people to "get behind" the new measures .
Joint statement 👇 pic.twitter.com/h0PZ73ckXb
— Arlene Foster #We’llMeetAgain (@DUPleader) October 16, 2020
Obesity 'fuelling' Covid-19 deaths in Britain and globally, Lancet disease study finds
The UK has the lowest healthy life expectancy in western Europe, and widespread obesity is "fuelling" Covid-19 deaths, according to a new study published in The Lancet.
British people can expect just 68.9 healthy years of life, according to the latest findings in the Global Burden of Disease study, which analyses illness and risk factors in 204 countries and territories around the world.
Healthy life expectancy has risen more slowly in Britain than elsewhere in western Europe, the study showed, in part due to failures to tackle chronic public health problems, such as obesity, over the last three decades. Many of these problems are also risk factors for serious illness and death from Covid-19.
That is also the case globally, researchers said, leading to a "perfect storm" for the pandemic.
Jennifer Rigby has more here.
Wetherspoon to cut jobs after swinging to a loss
JD Wetherspoon will axe jobs up to 450 jobs at its airport pubs after trading plummeted and the pub chain swung into the red.
The pub group sunk to a £105m pre-tax loss after sales declined by almost a third to £1.26bn for the year to July 26. The loss before exceptional items came in at £34.1m.
Shares fell more than 13pc to 830p and have more than halved since the start of the year.
Wetherspoon said it had started a consultation process to reduce staff numbers at its pubs in airports by up to 450 , where sales are generally much lower and where a high percentage are still closed. It has already cut 108 jobs from its head office.
Simon Foy has more here.
New restrictions 'a real positive', says Lancashire Police Assistant Chief Constable
Commenting on the imminent Tier 3 restrictions, Lancashire Police Assistant Chief Constable Terry Woods said: "We would see a real positive here, in that for several weeks now we have had multiple different regulations in place depending on where you were in Lancashire.
"We have now got one very clear, very simple set of rules and guidance in Lancashire.
"It's down to every individual in Lancashire now to do their own research, look at what is allowed and what is not allowed, and there are some really simple, clear messages that they can pull from that."
Liverpool Women's Hospital to stop antenatal and postnatal visiting from midnight
Liverpool Women's Hospital will stop antenatal and postnatal visiting on hospital wards from midnight due to "the growing seriousness of the Covid-19 situation", a spokesman said.
The hospital spokesman said: "We understand that this decision will be frustrating for women and their families so soon after antenatal and postnatal inpatient visiting was reintroduced.
"However, the decision to put restrictions back in place has not been taken lightly.
"To make this decision we have taken into consideration the Government's recent introduction of tiered restrictions across the country and the fact that Liverpool's current situation is among the most serious at Tier 3.
"Therefore, to keep everyone safe, we feel it is the most responsible and safest thing to do to temporarily stop antenatal and postnatal visiting."
Greece records over 500 daily cases for first time
Greece recorded 508 new confirmed infections today, topping the 500 daily mark for the first time, health authorities said, as they urged compliance with mask wearing and social distancing.
Of the 508 new cases, 227 were recorded in the Athens metropolitan area and 63 in Thessaloniki, the country’s second largest city. There were eight deaths from the disease. The epidemiologist Gikas Magiorkinis told Reuters:
"For the first time we went over 500 daily diagnoses of coronavirus. The drop in temperatures may tilt the balance, intensifying the epidemiological trend."
Earlier, the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters after an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels that Greece was still among the countries faring better in Europe.
"But this may change at any moment if we do not comply with the recommended measures," he said.
The deputy civil protection minister Nikos Hardalias said the country was still in a stable situation, but “this stability is especially fragile”. He said: “All that is happening in Europe shows that we should not be complacent.”
'We can do it together', says Boris Johnson to those under Tier 3
Asked about how long places like Lancashire can expect to be under Tier 3 restrictions and how long people will put up with the measures, Boris Johnson again thanked the people of Lancashire.
"We can do it, we can do it together. The quantum by which we need to reduce the R is not as big as it was right back in the beginning of the spread of this disease. If we all work together on the measures we've outlined, we can definitely do it," he said.
"I'd like to see Lancashire and everywhere else coming out of Tier 3 as fast as possible."
Testing asymptomatic patients will keep schools open over the winter, says Test and Trace head
Professor Susan Hopkins from Test and Trace said it is important to keep contacts down, and said that testing asymptomatic patients is particularly critical. This will help protect care homes and keep schools open over the winter months.
Sir Patrick Vallance reminded people that self-isolation is also important.
Other measures can be taken with "local knowledge" to get the R-rate below one, he added.
Three tiered structure has 'a chance' of working, says PM
Asked why he is not acting harder today to avoid a longer lockdown overall, the Prime Minister said "of course you're right we do need action in areas where the virus is most prevalent".
But he added that R-rate is "not rising in the way that it was a few months ago, you are not seeing the very rapid doubling of cases."
He continued: "There is a chance with these measures - more than a chance - that we can get the R down."
The package of measures "should do it", if they are properly implemented, he said.
"My judgement is that it is better to go for that route now, rather than go back to the bad old days - the most difficult period - of closing our schools again, alas... forcing people to effectively stay at home, making it very difficult for businesses to continue, in a way that causes long-term economic, social and public health damage."
"That is the trade off and it is incredibly difficult," he said. But will the local approach is the best for now, the Government "stands ready" to go further if necessary.
Sir Patrick Vallance said from his perspective, going hard and going fast is better from a purely epidemiological point of view.
Circuit-breaker advice now out of date, says Vallance
Asked if a circuit breaker would save more lives than the tiered structure, Sir Patrick Vallance said that it was recommended some weeks ago and "where we are now is different".
Tier 3 baseline conditions "almost certainly aren't enough on their own" but if you add other measures in Tier 3 it "should be enough" to get R below one as long as they are properly implemented and we stick to them, he said.
He stressed that there are "other harms" by taking or not taking action - the economy, the use of beds for Covid patients and the effect on society in terms of education, loneliness and the other effects of lockdown.
National government must 'reserve right to step in', says PM
Turning to questions from the media, the first of which was about Greater Manchester and whether the Prime Minister will "make a quick decision" about whether to impose measures or give them more money.
Boris Johnson said it would be "much much better if we could work with our friends" in local government around the country.
He added again that it doesn't make sense to "lock down the entire country" to bring down transmission in parts of the North West.
"Of course we are working flat out with our friends across all those regions," he said, paying tribute again to local leaders in Lancashire and Liverpool. "There is an issue outstanding in Greater Manchester, but I hope the Mayor will also come with us."
It is "far better to do it together because we want the maximum local buy-in... and enforcement and the maximum local compliance, and that means local leadership," he added.
However, the national government must "reserve the right to step in" and do that is "right and necessary", he warned.
No return to shielding - for now - says Boris Johnson
Taking questions from the public, Boris Johnson said that "at present we are not re-introducing shielding", however that is "kept under review".
Intensive care admissions on the rise, says Sir Patrick Vallance
The next chart showed the increase in people in intensive care with Covid-19 since the beginning of September.
It is a relatively big increase, especially for people in the older age groups.
The next slide looked at the regions, which shows increases across the board.
"The news is that although the R-rate is such that the epidemic is growing, it's growing not as fast as it was in March and April," he said. That is because the measures that we are taking.
However, there are still rising numbers of hospital admissions.
Increased numbers in young leading to increased numbers among elderly
There is a gradual trend of increased numbers in the young moving to increased numbers among older people, Sir Patrick Vallance said.
This is in turn leading to increased hospital admission rates.
Although there are higher rates of elderly going into hospital, Sir Patrick noted that younger people are also being hospitalised.
Sir Patrick: Virus is spreading 'everywhere'
Sir Patrick Vallance then showed the geographical spread of the virus, which is concentrated in the regions which now have higher restrictions on them.
However, he pointedly stated that the virus is growing "everywhere".
This spread is mirrored in cases among over-60s, he said.
Sir Patrick Vallance: The epidemic is growing - but not as bad as it could be
Sir Patrick Vallance is now going through the slides, which show that cases declined from May but have risen quite markedly in the last few weeks.
He said that 336,000 people have Covid in the last two-week period.
The slide below shows estimates for how many new infections there have been per day.
"All of these are a bit lag, so we would expect them to be the higher end of these now," Sir Patrick said.
The R-rate was pretty flat during the summer, and then it "began to pick up in August, breached one and is now well above", he added. "In other words, the epidemic is growing" - but it is not where it would be without interventions, which is around 3.
New testing won't be used to get businesses back to normal quickly, says PM
Still, the Prime Minister insisted it is "vital that we take a cautious approach to this new technology", and that it will take time to build the logistics and distribution operations necessary.
This testing also will not be able to "get business back to normal quickly", he said.
"I must level with you: it will take time to get this right before many organisations can buy and operate these tests themselves," he said.
A "huge effort" across the country will need to "work with" the Government as they "develop this plan". But the "most important thing" is that people self-isolate if they test positive, have symptoms or come into contact with someone who has the virus.
This virus thrives on human contact, he said.
"Always think: Hands, face, space. Ventilate your buildings. Wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, and keep your distance from others," he added.
Government wants to create 'huge diagnostics industry from scratch'
Instead of a national circuit-breaker the Government is backing treatment and vaccine development, as well as creating a "huge diagnostics industry from scratch", he said.
The Prime Minister then turned his focus to asymptomatic patients, who "unknowingly pass the disease to the vulnerable".
So far it has been difficult to prevent this, but that is changing, he said.
There are new tests which are "faster, simpler and cheaper", he said. "Though there is work to do, it's becoming clear over the past few weeks that some of these new tests are highly effective and can help save lives and jobs over the winter," he added.
The Government has already bought "millions of these tests, some of which are very simple", he said, and can have a result within 15 minutes.
The Government has started the process to begin domestic manufacturing and they will begin testing NHS and care home staff more regularly, he said. That will help prevent the spread of the virus through care homes, and students can be tested without breaks in their education.
Those in the very high alert level will be prioritised for these tests.
PM: 'If at all possible I want to avoid another national lockdown'
The Prime Minister said that he disagrees with those who believe that a national lockdown is the best course of action.
Closing businesses in Cornwall, where transmission is low will "not cut transmission in Manchester", he said.
While he said he can't rule anything out, if "at all possible I want to avoid another national lockdown with the damaging health, economic and social effects it would have".
PM: If an agreement can't be reached with Greater Manchester I will need to intervene
In just over two weeks there will be more Covid patients in intensive care in Greater Manchester than at the peak of the first wave, the Prime Minister said, as he urged local leaders to "engage constructively".
I cannot stress enough that time is of the essence, he said, and each day that passes means that more people will go to hospital, more will end up in intensive care and "tragically, more people will die".
If an agreement cannot be reached, "I will need to intervene in order to protect Manchester's hospitals and save the lives of Manchester's residents", Mr Johnson warned.
But efforts will be "so much more effective if we work together", he said.
PM: Government hasn't reached agreement with Greater Manchester due to 'reluctance' of local leaders
Taking action is the "right and responsible" thing to do, the Prime Minister said, and insisted that it is backed up by "generous" support.
An additional £465m has been provided to help very high alert level areas, he said, as well as an additional £1bn in extra funding for local authorities across the country.
But the Government has not yet been able to reach an agreement with Greater Manchester, due to the "reluctance of the mayor and his colleagues to take Manchester into the very high alert level", he said.
Mr Johnson stressed that the situation in Greater Manchester is "grave and worsens with each passing day".
Infection rates are creeping up, he said, and have increased to 224 per 100,000 for over 60s.
Boris Johnson thanks local leaders
The Prime Minister has started his press conference.
Mr Johnson said that he is grateful to local leaders who have "worked constructively" with the Government over imposing the new three-tier system.
These were tough discussions and difficult decisions he said, and no one wants to implement measures which damage businesses and curtail freedoms. But these decisions were necessary because of not just the increase in transmissions, but also the increase in the number of people attending hospital and being admitted to intensive care.
Boris Johnson to address nation shortly
The Prime Minister is expected to address the nation on Covid-19 measures shortly. We'll be keeping you updated here.
No further support will be provided to Greater Manchester, says Downing Street
Downing Street suggested that no further fiscal support would be provided to Greater Manchester in a bid to encourage the region to accept Tier 3 proposals.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "You can see the package of support which we have put forward, it is a generous package of support to local authorities because we do recognise that these measures will have a huge impact on people's lives.
"As the Chancellor set out earlier this week, local authorities placed into different tiers will receive extra financial support on a per capita basis to support their local areas and local public health teams with the response, whether that is more enforcement, compliance or contact tracing.
"And for local authorities at that High or Very High level, we are supporting public health and local economic initiatives with up to £465 million.
"To protect services we're also providing around £1 billion of additional funding for local authorities on top of the £3.7 billion that we've already provided since March."
The spokesman said he was "not aware" of any new funding for businesses in Tier 2 that are impacted by the change in restrictions to households being allowed to mix indoors.
It's up to local authorities to decide whether gyms should be closed, says Downing Street
Downing Street said it was up to regional leaders to decide whether gyms should be closed as part of Tier 3 restrictions.
In the Liverpool City Region gyms are closed but they will remain open in Lancashire when it enters the strictest level of measures.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters: "The purpose of the Very High level is to allow for local, tailored interventions and they are determined on the basis of discussions with local authorities and based on local evidence.
"You have soft play and car boot sales which are open in Merseyside but will be closed in Lancashire, whereas for gyms the opposite is the case."
Asked whether it was possible to see the evidence the gym and soft play decisions had been based on, the spokesman said: "As I say, there is a consultation process that takes place with local authorities that is based on local evidence.
"And on the basis of that it is determined which measures above the base line should be implemented."
PM isn't currently looking at circuit-breaker lockdown
Number 10 said the Prime Minister was not currently looking at imposing a so-called "circuit-breaker" national lockdown.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I think you've heard from the PM on a number of occasions on this topic this week.
"We do keep all measures under review but he has set out this week that he doesn't believe there should be a national lockdown, and that we believe our three-tiered approach is the right way forward."
The Government has come under increasing pressure from scientists and the Labour Party to impose a circuit-breaker national lockdown to coincide with the October half term, with several Sage members warning that the three-tiered approach on its own will not be sufficient to control the virus.
Cases in Wales up by 979
There have been a further 979 cases of Covid-19 diagnosed in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 34,005.
Cardiff had the highest number of new cases, with 175 reported today, and there were 120 new cases in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Public Health Wales said five further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,703.
Local leaders were 'blackmailed and forced' to accept Government's terms, says council leader
The Labour leader of South Ribble Borough Council in Lancashire said they had moved into Tier 3 restrictions "very reluctantly" after they were "blackmailed and forced" to accept the Government's terms.
Councillor Paul Foster said: "As leaders throughout Lancashire, we have been negotiating in really good faith with the Government for over a week now because many of us believe, and still believe, what the Government is proposing will only have minimal if any impact on the strength of the virus.
"What will happen though is a number of businesses will now be forced to close and we are desperately, desperately upset at the financial and the mental anguish this will cause to a number of people.
"We got to a situation this morning where basically - and I don't use these words lightly - the Government blackmailed and forced us into agreeing to the terms they were offering to the point if we didn't agree they were basically going to place more draconian measures on you all.
"We could not accept that so therefore I very reluctantly agreed to the terms of the Government's deal."
Couples living apart in Tiers 2 and 3 can't have physical contact
Downing Street said Tier 2 restrictions meant couples living apart could see each other outdoors - but social distancing restrictions meant they would not be able to have physical contact.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman stressed that the restrictions were set out in law.
"The rules on household mixing in Tier 2 set out that you should mix with your own household only unless you have formed a support bubble and that obviously does apply to some couples," he said.
The spokesman confirmed couples not in support bubbles and living apart could meet outside but should "follow social distancing and the hand, face, space rules".
Asked why an exemption for "established relationships" was not written into the law for those in Tiers 2 and 3, he added: "Because the purpose of the measures we've put in place is to break the chain of transmission between households and the scientific advice is that there is greatest transmission of the virus indoors."
'Businesses would have suffered' if leaders turned town Tier 3 deal, says council leader
The Labour leader of Blackpool Council, Lynn Williams, seemed to echo Mr Iqbal's suggestion that local leaders only accepted Tier 3 restrictions in order to receive funding and support measures.
She said: "This is not what I wanted for Blackpool. We had no option but to ultimately agree this. Had we have not done so we would have been placed in Tier 3 with no money and no support measures.
"However, the rates of Covid-19 across Lancashire are rising and we have always accepted that something needs to be done now to try to stem that tide.
"It is also crucial that the health of our residents, the businesses in our town and our economy is protected and supported as much as is possible, and so on that basis now is the right time for Lancashire to move into Tier 3.
"We could have turned this deal down, but more businesses would have suffered as a result of it and we would have been put into Tier 3 soon anyway."
Lancashire leaders have been 'bullied' by Government, says council leader
Pendle Council leader Mohammed Iqbal told the Lancashire Telegraph newspaper: "Throughout the negotiations, Government officials were only interested in the politics and threatened any district leader who did not fall into line with 10 Downing Street's threats to accept Tier 3 would (instead) suffer an imposition of Tier 3 and that their borough 'would become an island' that would receive much less in funding and resource.
"Rishi Sunak's promise that the Government will provide 'whatever is necessary' has clearly become a broken promise to the people of Lancashire and the North.
"Lancashire leaders have not been given the policies or the means to stop the spread of the virus and have been bullied for political gain by 10 Downing Street."
'Likely' that measures will need to be stepped up 'significantly', says Sage expert
Professor John Edmunds, a member of Sage, said he thinks it helps "enormously" if people understand what the coronavirus restrictions are in their area.
He told the PA news agency: "The previous situation resulted in a hodge-podge of different interventions in different places that almost literally no one could follow.
"So the three-tier system will help with that enormously.
"I am not sure, however, that the measures will go far enough to stop epidemic growth. I hope so, but I doubt it.
"It seems much more likely that we will have to step up the measures significantly to ease the pressure on the health system that will inevitably occur if cases continue to rise as they are."
Millions missing out on new working from home tax breaks
Millions are missing out on new tax breaks introduced in April for people working from home – and the window of opportunity to claim is shrinking.
Since 6 April 2020, temporary tax breaks have allowed employers to pay workers up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home. If workers do not get the £6 allowance, they can still claim the tax relief.
Workers who pay basic rate of income tax can claim £1.20 a week in tax relief – 20pc of £6 – towards the cost of their household bills. Higher-rate 40pc taxpayers can claim £2.40 a week. Over the year this adds up to £62.40 for basic-rate payers and £124.80 for higher earners.
HM Revenue & Customs said it estimated five million people would be eligible to apply. It launched an online applications portal at the start of October, but only 54,800 people have submitted claims so far.
Harry Brennan has more here.
Stormont minister expresses 'grave reservations' about new Northern Ireland measures
Stormont's Agriculture Minister has expressed "grave reservations" about several of Northern Ireland's latest coronavirus restrictions.
DUP minister Edwin Poots claimed he and party colleagues on the powersharing executive opposed many of the measures but were out-numbered by other ministers who favoured a more robust approach.
"I would have grave reservations about a number of things that have been applied," he said.
He questioned the logic of applying a 25-person limit on weddings and funerals when larger numbers were permitted to normal church services.
Mr Poots asked why traffic and human interactions at schools gates could not have been better managed, rather than closing schools.
He said it also made more sense to provide funding for councils to employ more enforcement officers to monitor compliance with regulations in hospitality outlets rather than closing down the whole sector for four weeks.
Wales preparing new shielding advice
The chief medical officer for Wales is preparing "fresh advice" to people previously on the shielding list in Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
"I doubt that it will be to suggest to them that they go back to the measures that were expected of them earlier in the summer, where they were advised not go out at all, even for exercise," Mr Drakeford said.
"We know that was a very, very big ask to people and it came with harms of its own in terms of loneliness, isolation and people's sense of mental health and wellbeing and so on.
"But the context is changing and I think the chief medical officer will want to make sure that those people who were on the shielded group get the benefit of updated advice from him."
Comment: Covid-19 shows us why UK Aid should be invested in creating a healthier, safer world
Our global role in preparing for the twin threats posed by pandemics and climate change should start with sustaining human life, writes Andrew Mitchell MP.
The UK has long been a leader in helping the world’s most vulnerable people escape the cycle of poverty – whether through education, healthcare or providing the very basics of clean water and a decent toilet.
But hygiene and handwashing has always been a ‘poor cousin’ – neglected and often forgotten, that is until the world found itself facing a global pandemic with no vaccine, and prevention as our only option.
Despite huge progress that has led to 1.8 billion people gaining access to basic drinking water services since 2000, in sub-Saharan Africa, three-quarters of people don’t have soap and water to wash their hands with at home. Healthcare facilities – the very places that are supposed to make you well – also fair badly, with around half of centres in countries like Ethiopia, Liberia and Madagascar having nowhere for doctors to wash their hands where they treat patients.
Read the full piece here.
Sage: Epidemic continues to 'grow exponentially' in UK
Sage has said it is "almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country, and is confident that the transmission is not slowing".
It added: "There is no clear evidence that the epidemic's trajectory has changed in the past month."
The estimates for R and the growth rate are provided by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), a sub-group of Sage.
The growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between plus 4 per cent and plus 7 per cent for the UK as a whole.
The most likely value is towards the middle of that range, according to the experts.
Covid hospital deaths in England up by 82
A further 82 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths reported in hospitals to 30,825, NHS England said today.
Patients were aged between 35 and 97. All but eight patients, aged between 49 and 94, had known underlying health conditions.
The deaths were between October 2 and October 15, with the majority on or after October 14.
Six other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.
New legal changes announced to support UK-wide vaccine rollout
New laws allowing more healthcare workers to administer flu and potential Covid-19 vaccines have been introduced by the Government.
The measures will help in the UK-wide deployment of Covid-19 vaccines once they have been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Department of Health and Social Care (DCHC) said.
The changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 came into force on Friday, following a public consultation.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The NHS has vast experience in vaccinating millions of people against diseases every year.
"These legal changes will help us in doing everything we can to make sure we are ready to roll out a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it has passed clinical trials and undergone rigorous checks by the regulator."
Universities face mounting pressure to switch to online classes
Universities are facing growing pressure to move lessons online amid thousands of Covid-19 cases on campuses across the UK.
The University and College Union (UCU) has launched a new petition demanding that the Government switches university classes from face-to-face to online immediately "where possible".
It comes after figures, which were collated by the union over the past few weeks, suggest there have been more than 20,000 coronavirus cases at higher education providers since the start of term.
The union, which represents university and college staff, is calling on the Government to provide more funding to protect students and staff from the financial and mental health impact of the pandemic.
Drakeford: A circuit breaker could 'take us through to Christmas'
First Minister Mark Drakeford said it is hoped that a circuit-breaker in Wales would give the "breathing space" needed to get through to Christmas "without further disruptions of this sort".
"It is very important to say a circuit-breaker is not a magic wand of any sort - it doesn't make coronavirus disappear," Mr Drakeford said.
"What it does is to buy us time to be able to manage the difficulties we face over a longer period, and in a better planned way.
"Our ambition is that if we do, and it's still an if, if we do decide on a circuit-breaker, that will be sufficient to take us through to Christmas."
Public health directors in Lancashire urge public to follow rules
The public health directors for Lancashire, Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool made a joint plea to the public to stick to the rules.
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Professor Dominic Harrison and Dr Arif Rajpura said: "We are at a very dangerous phase of the pandemic.
"Infection rates are going up across Lancashire, hospitals are getting busier and people are quite frankly sick of coronavirus and just want life to return to normal.
"That's something we all want, but we have to level with you - it isn't happening any time soon. All of our lives have been affected by coronavirus and will continue to be so until we have a vaccine. Now that Lancashire has entered Tier 3 the next month is critical to getting the virus under control.
"In the meantime, as public health professionals we have a responsibility to do all we can to protect the people of Lancashire and we are working night and day to do so.
"But you also have a role to play as well to protect yourself, your family and your community. By sticking to the restrictions - even though we know it's hard - and following the simple guidance around hands, face and space you will help limit the spread of coronavirus."
Women and lower-paid hit hardest by home working
Women and lower paid workers suffered the biggest blow to productivity from the national lockdown, according to new research.
The findings from the Centre for Economic Policy Research underline the economic and social damage wrought by the pandemic and the resultant set-back to the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.
The researchers said that women and lower-income earners – more concentrated in the sectors where working from home is difficult – “report lower productivity at home on average”.
In contrast the sectors showing the biggest productivity increases included more male-dominated jobs in IT and finance sectors, requiring less face-to-face interaction.
Russell Lynch has more here.
Remdesivir has 'little or no effect' on survival rates of Covid patients, WHO study finds
Antiviral drug remdesivir has "little or no effect" on a hospitalised Covid-19 patients' chances of survival, a World Health Organisation (WHO) clinical trial has suggested.
The potential coronavirus treatment option is one of four repurposed drugs being examined under the UN agency's large Solidarity trial that launched in March.
Randomised trials at hospitals around the world have involved remdesivir, lopinavir, hydroxychloroquine and interferon-beta 1a - looking to assess their impact on inpatient mortality.
The hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir arms of the trials were discontinued on June 20 and July 4 respectively.
Read more here.
Further national lockdown decisions in Wales to be announced on Monday
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government will be meeting over the weekend to discuss a circuit-breaker lockdown and announce any decisions on Monday.
He said such a lockdown would be a "new set of national rules for the whole of Wales".
"These are incredibly difficult decisions and we have not yet come to a final conclusion about whether a firebreak is the best way to act," Mr Drakeford said.
"Ministers here will be meeting throughout the weekend to discuss this further and we will report the outcome of those decisions to you on Monday."
Mr Drakeford said a circuit-breaker lockdown was "the option that is most actively under consideration".
ONS summary: Covid cases continue to increase rapidly
The number of people thought to be infected with coronavirus is as its highest level in around five months, with cases rising rapidly, according to new data.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which has analysed more than 450,000 swabs over the last six weeks from the public, regardless of whether they have symptoms, said there was an estimated average of 27,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 between October 2 and 8.
This is up 62 per cent from an estimated 17,200 new cases per day for the period September 25 to October 1.
The ONS said cases were rising "rapidly", with an estimated 336,500 people having coronavirus in the week to October 8, equating to around one in 160 people. The figures represent a jump from 224,400 people in the previous week of September 25 to October 1.
Ruth Studley, head of analysis for the Covid-19 infection survey, said: "Our latest data shows infections continue to rise, with more than a third of a million people estimated to be infected - the highest levels we have seen since the survey began in May.
"Like previous weeks, infections continue to be highest in the north of England and among older teenagers and young adults."
England: 336,500 people in private households had Covid between Oct 2 and 8
An estimated 336,500 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between October 2 and 8, the ONS said.
This is the equivalent of around 0.62 per cent of the population.
The figures represent a jump from 224,400 people, or 0.41 per cent of the population, who were estimated to have Covid-19 in the previous week of September 25 to October 1.
Daily average of cases in English households increases sharply from previous week
There were an average of 27,900 new cases per day of Covid-19 in private households in England between October 2 and 8, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is up from an estimated 17,200 new cases per day for the period from September 25 to October 1.
The ONS said the rate of new infections has continued to increase in recent weeks.
The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.
Italy: No national lockdown yet despite rising cases
The coronavirus pandemic is in an “acute” phase with a sharp rise in daily cases, according to the country’s health ministry and its Higher Health Institute.
Nick Squires reports that in 16 out of Italy’s 20 regions, the R number is now more than one, and ten regions are at risk of not having enough beds in intensive care units to meet demand.
A record 8,800 new cases were reported on Thursday.
Despite the sharp increase, the Government is not about to impose a second national lockdown, ministers said. “No one is thinking about a new lockdown at the moment," said Sandra Zampa, the deputy health minister. “The way to stop this from happening is by focusing on people’s behaviour.”
That was backed up by Franco Locatelli, the president of the Higher Health Council and a member of the panel that advises the government on the virus.
“I don't think there are elements that could direct us towards envisioning a new lockdown soon,” he said.
The increase in daily cases was particularly pronounced in Lombardy, the region that was worst hit by the pandemic in the spring, as well as neighbouring Piedmont, and Campania in the south, he said.
Rate per 100,000 across Europe now at 172.9 - and has been rising for 84 days
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has released its weekly surveillance report, which demonstrates a strong continent-wide resurgence.
Our global health correspondent, Sarah Newey, has highlighted some of the key findings in a Twitter thread:
Some key findings from the weekly @ECDC_EU surveillance report - demonstrates a strong continent-wide resurgence
➡️Rate per 100,000 across Europe now at 172.9 & has been rising for 84 days
➡️High levels/sustained increases detected in 28 of 31 countrieshttps://t.co/6TLifEdbTb
— Sarah Newey (@sneweyy) October 16, 2020
Independent Sage to set out emergency six-week plan
Independent Sage is to set out its "emergency six-week plan and a detailed blueprint for urgent reform of the failing Test & Trace system".
You can watch the livestream below, and we will bring you any highlights.
Today at 1.30pm Independent SAGE will set out its emergency 6 week plan and a detailed blueprint for "urgent reform" of the failing Test & Trace system. The stakes couldn't be higher. Please join us https://t.co/8FUNMkfoKG via @YouTube
— Independent SAGE (@IndependentSage) October 16, 2020
Union urges support for taxi drivers facing 'crisis' in trade
Taxi drivers are facing bankruptcy because of being left out of official support packages, a union is warning.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the taxi trade is in "crisis" amid renewed Covid-19 related lockdowns. Taxi drivers are facing financial ruin due to the "decimation" of regular as well as passing trade, said the union.
For many drivers, problems are compounded by the huge financial burdens associated with buying electric vehicles as part of programmes across the country to introduce environmentally friendly green taxis, said the RMT.
General secretary Mick Cash said: "The taxi trade is an essential part of Britain's transport network and has played a key role in ensuring essential workers could get to their workplaces throughout the lockdown earlier this year.
"Taxis have been transporting sick and elderly citizens to essential medical appointments and taken people from supermarkets to their homes with food and other essential household items.
"It's now time governments and local councils stepped in with financial assistance to ensure taxi drivers, who are clearly key workers during this unprecedented pandemic, avoid suffering through no fault of their own."
Belgium's foreign minister goes into self-isolation
Belgium’s foreign minister and deputy premier Sophie Wilmès is going into self-isolation with suspected Covid-19 symptoms. She tweeted:
"I will not attend the Consultation Committee meeting. After some suspicious symptoms. I’ve decided to self-isolate and to contact my doctor and to take a test, in line with protocol.
"Even though there has been no positive case among those close to me and my colleagues and my team have respected the safety guidelines, we still need to be cautious."
On Monday, Wilmès attended face-to-face talks among EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg.
Areas of North East avoid Tier 3 restrictions - for now
Seven local authorities in the North East of England have been given a week's reprieve from going into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions, a source told the PA news agency.
It was believed council leaders in Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham had successfully argued to ministers that the rise in infection rate was slowing in the region, but avoiding the increased restrictions next week depended on that continuing.
Officers will start to empty again amid fresh lockdowns, experts predict
Offices will start to empty again amid fresh lockdowns caused by the ongoing virus crisis, it has been predicted.
Firms will have to find new ways of operating to cope with a return to huge numbers of people working from home, said Jon Dweck, chief executive of office timeshare company Space Three Two.
He said businesses are "rightly concerned" about going into another national lockdown.
"While some landlords may offer reduced rent during Covid, empty offices are still an expensive challenge for business leaders," he said.
"Businesses were already struggling with rents due from the last lockdown and another lockdown could prove catastrophic. We know that under-utilisation of office space is a pre-existing trend, which Covid is making worse.
"We are likely to see this issue persist long after the pandemic is behind us."
Newcastle ‘should not be moved to Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions because the data shows curve is flattening’
Newcastle should not not be placed under Tier 3 restrictions because data shows that the coronavirus curve is flattening, local leaders say.
According to reports, the Prime Minister is considering putting large parts of the North East under the tightest restrictions, meaning that pubs, betting shops and gyms will be forced to close, while different households would be banned from mixing indoors or outdoors.
But the data shows that cases in the area are falling.
Newcastle upon Tyne saw 277 new infections recorded on October 6, but that number has fallen every day since, bar one.
Jamie Johnson has more here.
'Urgent action' has to be taken, says Lancashire County Council leader upon Government agreement
Lancashire County Council's leader Geoff Driver said: "Across Lancashire, the coronavirus situation is serious and getting worse.
"Lancashire's leaders all agree that, as we approach winter, urgent action has to be taken now to ensure the county is not overwhelmed by the virus.
"After major negotiations with Government, we have agreed a bespoke deal for Lancashire that means our businesses and residents will receive extra support that will not be available elsewhere in the country.
"I want to thank all of the Lancashire leaders for the constructive and meaningful discussions we have had over the past week. The deal has presented real challenges for some and they have only been able to sign up with reluctance, but we have been willing to work across party lines so that we can hammer this out with Government.
"These new restrictions will affect us all, but we know they will be particularly harsh on those who make their living in our hospitality sector. It is a vital and valued part of our economy and we are all committed to maximising the support we can give as a result of this deal."
Watch: Boris Johnson warns he will impose restrictions on Greater Manchester
Boris Johnson has said he was concerned about the rise in Covid-19 cases in Greater Manchester and called for local leaders to act.
He told broadcasters: "I am, I have to say, concerned about what's happening in Manchester where the levels of infection are rising steeply, the level of hospitalisation is rising steeply and we do need to see action.
"I'd much rather not impose things, I'd much rather that we were able to work out something together with local authorities, with the mayor in Manchester.
"But it is up to local leaders to show the kind of leadership that we have seen in Liverpool, in Lancashire and in London."
Rare pink dolphins return to busy Hong Kong waters due to pandemic
Rare pink dolphins are returning to the waters between Hong Kong and Macau after the coronavirus pandemic halted ferries, but scientists remain deeply concerned about their long-term survival in one of the world's busiest sea lanes.
"Today we encountered three different groups of dolphins - six adults and two sub-adults," conservationist Naomi Brennan explained. "They were engaging in a range of behaviour, from feeding to travelling and socialising."
For years keeping tabs on the dolphins has been a disheartening task. The population has fallen by 70-80 percent in the past 15 years in what is one of the world's most industrialised estuaries.
But this year their numbers have bounced back - and they have the pandemic to thank.
Ferries between Hong Kong and Macau have been suspended since February, providing local marine scientists an opportunity to study how the mammals have adapted to the "unprecedented quiet".
Japan to test its Covid-19 countermeasures ahead of Tokyo Olympics
Yokohama Stadium will hold three baseball games at around 80 per cent capacity later this month as Japan looks to test its Covid-19 countermeasures at big events ahead of the rearranged Tokyo Olympics next year.
Professional sports stadiums in Japan have been limited to 50 per cent capacity, with the vast majority of games going ahead without issue.
Economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who heads Japan's Covid-19 fight, told reporters late on Thursday that if the "experiment" was a success, all professional stadiums would be allowed to boost capacity.
Wales looking 'very carefully' at introducing circuit breaker
First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed that the Welsh Government is looking "very carefully" at introducing a time-limited circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales.
Mr Drakeford said: "Here in the Welsh Government, we are looking very carefully at introducing a time-limited firebreak, also known as a circuit-breaker, of the type recommended by Sage, the UK's expert scientific advisory group, and by our own advisers here in Wales.
"This would be a short, sharp shock to the virus which could turn back the clock, slowing down its spread and buying us more time and vital capacity in the health service.
"A firebreak would also, however, be a short, sharp shock to all our lives. We will all have to stay at home once again, to save those lives.
"But this time, it will be for weeks and not months. We are considering a two or three-week firebreak. The shorter the period, the sharper the measures will have to be."
Rishi Sunak considering additional support for firms facing months of restricted trading
Rishi Sunak is considering additional financial support for businesses that face months of restricted trading due to large swathes of the country being banned from socialising in homes, pubs and restaurants.
The Treasury is understood to be looking at expanding the support available to firms which are not mandated to close and therefore unable to access the more generous support available to those in the most severe local lockdowns.
One option believed to be under consideration is to increase the generosity of the job support scheme, with a higher wage subsidy for businesses in tier two.
At present the scheme involves the Government paying 22 per cent of people’s wages for part-time working, with the employer contributing 55 per cent and the worker foregoing the rest.
Harry Yorke has more here.
Five things to read this lunchtime
Good afternoon. If you're just joining us, here's some news, analysis and comment from across our website to accompany you this lunchtime:
Oxford University unveils Covid test that can detect virus in less than five minutes. In case you missed it yesterday, Oxford University has unveiled a new Covid-19 test that is capable of detecting the virus in less than five minutes through artificial intelligence analysis of throat swabs.
The new home drinking rules to avoid ‘lockdown liver’. We're spending more on boozing indoors than ever – Shane Watson looks at the lessons we probably should have learnt by now.
Boris is sleepwalking into the national lockdown he claims to despise. There is little rationale for a country-wide shutdown yet the PM is proving unable to prevent one taking hold, writes Fraser Nelson.
'School holiday circuit breakers' could spell the end of holidays until next summer. If such measures were introduced, the school holidays – Christmas, half term, Easter – would herald a raft of restrictions, until summer 2021 at the earliest.
Which other nations have done circuit breakers and do they work? 'Circuit breaker' is a euphemism for lockdown – it buys us time but isn't a solution and must be combined with other measures to work, explains Sarah Newey.
Northern mayors release joint statement as No 10 stand-off continues
Northern mayors have issued a joint statement on the financial package available as the stand-off with Number 10 continues.
The statement from Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North Tyne and Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said: "The Government is claiming that the North is divided and only interested in getting what we can for our own region.
"That is simply not the case.
"We are all united in fighting for an 80 per cent furlough scheme for all people affected by regional lockdowns, wherever they are in the country. Paying two-thirds of salaries will not be enough to protect the jobs of thousands - it should at least match the 80 per cent that was available under furlough, with the minimum wage as the minimum support.
"The Universal Credit top-up is not the answer. It doesn't help everybody and takes weeks to come through. It will not prevent severe hardship for thousands of low-paid workers before Christmas.
"But we won't forget the self-employed and freelancers and other business who will be affected by these lockdowns, they also need support and we stand firm for those too.
"This is a fight for what is right."
New proposals outlined to support insurance customers beyond October
Proposals to support insurance customers who are in financial difficulty after October due to coronavirus have been outlined by the City regulator.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said its new draft guidance aims to prompt firms to help customers, where possible, to reduce the impact of financial distress and ensure they continue to have insurance that meets their needs.
Some customers may need temporary support while others may need help longer-term, the FCA said.
It is asking for feedback to be submitted by 5pm on Tuesday October 20 on what arrangements should be in place after October 31.
Temporary measures to help customers have been in place since May.
England to Wales travel ban to come into force today
First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed that a travel ban preventing people from areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus from entering Wales will come into force.
In a statement, Mr Drakeford said the number of Covid-19 cases across Wales was growing, with the health services coming "under pressure".
"To keep Wales safe, the Welsh Government is therefore amending the regulations to make it clear that people living in areas with a high prevalence of coronavirus in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland would not be able to travel to parts of Wales where there is a low prevalence," Mr Drakeford said.
"It is vital that we keep communities which have low levels of infection as safe as possible and this sensible and necessary restriction will help prevent the virus moving from more urban, highly populated areas to more sparsely populated areas."
People are already unable to enter or leave areas of Wales subjected to local lockdown restrictions without a reasonable excuse such as work or education.
Circuit-breaker should be imposed 'sooner rather than later', says Sage member
Professor John Edmunds, a member of Sage, said it is better to place a circuit-breaker lockdown sooner rather than later and that it should reduce the prevalence of the virus.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: "You sort of turn the clock back a bit, so if you put a harsh one in, it would turn the clock back maybe by about a month.
"Now if we had done it back in September, going back a month means going back to the epidemiology as it was in August, when it was pretty uncommon, coronavirus was uncommon, there were localised cases and localised outbreaks, and Test and Trace could certainly cope with that level of demand.
"If we put a circuit-breaker in later, in say end of October (or) beginning of November, then we just put the epidemic to say something like the beginning of October... the epidemic wasn't just localised, it is generalised now across the country, and Test and Trace and other services starting to come under some strain.
"The circuit-breaker does help, but you've got to be aware that its effects are quite limited and they're better if done early rather than late."
Switzerland sees worst day for new cases
The number of new infections reported in Switzerland has risen by 3,105, data from the country's public health agency shows. That makes today the second consecutive day the nation has posted its worst daily figure.
The agency reported a total of 74,422 confirmed cases in Switzerland and the neighbouring principality Liechtenstein. The death toll rose by five people to 1,823.
Tensions rise over measures in Lancashire and Liverpool
Echoing the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson's comments (see post 11.48am), Wirral Council leader Jan Williamson said on Twitter: "As Liverpool City Region leaders we demanding the evidence from Government immediately as to why our gyms have had to shut and Lancashire can keep theirs open.
"We need fairness and consistency, what we have is a shambles."
Toughest coronavirus restrictions to be introduced in Lancashire
Lancashire has become the second area of England - after the Liverpool City Region - to be placed under the toughest coronavirus restrictions.
From Saturday, people in the North West county will be banned from socialising with anybody they do not live with in any indoor setting or private garden, as well as in most outdoor hospitality venues.
All pubs and bars must close unless they are serving substantial meals, and casinos, bingo halls, bookmakers, betting shops, soft play areas and adult gaming centres will be forced to shut.
Car boot sales will also be banned.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "An unrelenting rise in cases in Lancashire means we must act now, and we have worked intensively with local leaders to agree on additional restrictions.
"I know how heavy these additional challenges will weigh on everyday life for the people of Lancashire but they are critical in bringing this virus under control.
"Without them, we risk the health of your loved ones, your most vulnerable, and your local NHS services.
"Now is the time to play your part, and we will make sure you are supported."
Liverpool mayor demands answers
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said on Twitter: "Liverpool City Region has demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpool's close.
"Inconsistent mess, we now have Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B.
"Are gym users in Lancashire more safer than those in Liverpool region?"
Liverpool City Region has demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire Gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpools close. Inconsistent mess we now have Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B. Are Gym users in Lancashire more safer than those in Liverpool Region 😱 #COVID-19 #shambles
— Joe Anderson (@mayor_anderson) October 16, 2020
Berlin court overrules restaurant curfew
A Berlin court has suspended an order for bars and restaurants to close from 11pm to 6am, finding that "it was not apparent" such a measure could help fight the coronavirus.
Ruling on a case brought by 11 restaurant owners, the administrative court noted that new infections in Germany currently stem from private gatherings of family and friends, at community facilities, meat-processing plants, religious gatherings or in connection with travel.
Closing food and drink establishments was therefore a "disproportionate encroachment on the freedom" of the industry, the court ruled.
City authorities had ordered the sector to close early from last weekend, as infection numbers surge in the German capital.
Under rules agreed by premiers of Germany's 16 states and Chancellor Angela Merkel, the measure is to kick in once new infection numbers climb above the threshold of 35 per 100,000 people in seven days.
Comment: The threat of hunger and malnutrition as a result of Covid-19 is greater than the virus itself
On World Food Day, let's consider how we can help to tackle the global scourge of food insecurity, writes David Mundell MP.
We have all seen stories recently of hunger and malnutrition as a result of Covid-19. Many people reading this might be members of a local Covid-19 support group. They might have done shopping for a vulnerable neighbour. Some might have volunteered at or used the services of a local foodbank. And I am sure we all remember Marcus Rashford’s brilliant campaign to continue school meals throughout the summer holidays.
As jobs have been lost and people have been forced to stay at home, measures to tackle hunger and malnutrition have been more needed than ever. Just this month in my constituency, a cross-party group of councillors approved a budget of £600,000 to help tackle local food insecurity. The funding will be a lifeline to many people who through no fault of their own find themselves unable to afford the most basic thing – safe, nutritious food.
The scale of the problem in the UK is vast. But in many countries, the threat of hunger and malnutrition as a result of Covid-19 is greater than the virus itself. This World Food Day, let’s consider how we can help to tackle this global scourge.
Read the full piece here.
Extra money secured for Lancashire's test, trace and isolate
Some more detail on the news that Lancashire will go into Tier 3 of lockdown restrictions after a deal was hammered out with the Government:
Sources have told PA news agency that although some local leaders in the county were "reluctant" to agree to further restrictions, the deal is expected to be announced shortly by Number 10.
Local councils had been promised £12 million in funding but had also agreed an extra £30 million to help with the local test, trace and isolate and other measures, sources said.
Vaccine roll out being considered for December, as sources say likelihood is '50/50'
A roll out of the coronavirus vaccine is being considered for December, with sources saying that there is a “50/50” chance of the jab being available by the end of the year.
Discussions are already underway between NHS England, the British Medical Association (BMA) as well as other groups over who will administer the vaccines and who will be the first to receive it.
There is debate on whether the first groups to be vaccinated will be care home patients and staff, or health care professionals such as GPs.
One source close to the discussions told Pulse magazine that there is optimism around the potential of a December vaccine, and that the feeling is “50/50” on whether it will be available by then.
Mason Boycott-Owen has more here.
Wales facing 'serious restrictions', says counsel general
Wales could face "serious restrictions" in the coming days in an effort the curb the resurgence of coronavirus, the country's counsel general has said.
Jeremy Miles said a decision on introducing a potential circuit-breaker lockdown has still not been made, but is one of the options the Welsh Government is currently discussing with local authorities.
He told the PA news agency: "Further restrictions are going to be required. There have obviously been discussions within the Government about whether a circuit-breaker is the right response to that.
"There's been planning around a range of scenarios, and we've been talking to our partners in local government and elsewhere about various options to get their perspectives on that as well."
He added: "There's a range of ways of doing those things, if they are done. And some of them involve quite serious restrictions."
Mr Miles said any announcement, expected next week, would come alongside "support and time to prepare".
Lockdown has 'crushed' millions of pensioners, charity warns
Millions of pensioners have been "crushed" by lockdown, with many vulnerable people losing confidence, mobility and functions such as memory, a major report shows.
Age UK said the lockdown restrictions had left many vulnerable people isolated and anxious, without the support they needed. It warned that Covid-19 has "hit the fast-forward button on ageing", with a substantial group of people left "frightened, depressed and very much alone".
Its polling of 1,364 pensioners found that, since lockdown, around a quarter cannot walk as far as they used to, with one third becoming more anxious and one fifth suffering a deterioration in memory. Two thirds felt less confident taking public transport, while two in five were worried about going to the shops and quarter were unsure about spending time with family.
Laura Donnelly has more here.
Lancashire source: 'We won significant additional cash'
A Lancashire source has told Sky News: "We won significant successions and additional cash from Government."
An announcement is expected later today.
Under the deal reached with the Government, Sky News reports that non-food pubs and bars will close, but gyms, hair and beauty salons and barbers will remain open.
The region has also secured a £42m funding package and will have weekly talks with the Government.
Lancashire placed into Tier 3 restrictions
The Telegraph understands that local leaders in Lancashire have reached an agreement with the Government over placing the region into Tier 3 measures.
Discussions are still ongoing with Greater Manchester.
More details as they come.
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Subsequently, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has warned that the pandemic could fuel cancer deaths after it was reported that more than 25 million GP appointments have been lost.
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Pub handed fine for staying open past 10pm
A Cumbria pub has been issued with a £1,000 fine for breaching Coronavirus regulations.
Police issued the penalty at The Packhorse in Lowther Street on Tuesday after it failed to close at 10pm.
This followed a number of checks on pubs and venues across Copeland.
Inspector Richard Smillie said: “The majority of pubs have complied and continue to comply with the regulations there to help us all.
“We must not be complacent. The virus is spreading throughout the county and the rules are in place to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.
— Cumbria Police (@Cumbriapolice) October 16, 2020
'Telling people we supported this package is an absolute blatant lie'
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has defended his negotiations with the Government over the city's Tier 3 status.
"I hope ministers are watching," he says.
"To try and tell people we supported this package is an absolute blatant lie. I challenged the closure of gyms, we talked about the hospitality sector being hit.
"Ed Lister, the Prime Minister's right hand man told us 25 per cent of infections come through schools and higher education, 25 per cent comes through retail, 25 per cent comes out in the community and 25 per cent comes from the hospitality sector.
"We're not touching schools, we're not touching retail."
He says he wants a circuit breaker, in line with Labour leader Sir Kier Starmer.
Government ministers have said they worked with Liverpool over Tier 3 restrictions.@mayor_anderson says for the govt to 'try to tell people we supported this package is an absolute blatant lie' and that the rules were imposed on the city.#KayBurley: https://t.co/tXNauisxRm pic.twitter.com/joMDkVGcDs
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) October 16, 2020
BAME men have "significantly higher" death rates
Males of black African, black Caribbean and Bangladeshi ethnic background have had "significantly higher" rates of death involving Covid-19 than all other ethnic groups in England and Wales, with rates exceeding 250 deaths per 100,000 people, according to updated figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Previous analysis from the ONS had combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups, but new estimates show the latter group had a "significantly higher risk" of Covid-19 mortality.
Males of white ethnic background continued to have the lowest rate at 106.8 deaths per 100,000, lower than all other ethnic groups apart from Chinese.
The figures, which have been adjusted for age, are based on deaths that occurred between March 2 and July 28 which could be linked to the 2011 Census.
Among females, the white ethnic group also had the lowest age-standardised Covid mortality rate at 65.7 deaths per 100,000, the ONS said.
Females of black Caribbean ethnic background had the highest rate (128.8 deaths per 100,000), almost twice that of the white group and "significantly higher" than those of white, Indian, mixed and Chinese ethnic backgrounds.
One Direction star performing live
Niall Horan, the singer and former One Direction band member, is playing a one-off live streamed show, with proceeds going to members of his road crew.
The 27-year-old has been working with some of them for nearly a decade, but the pandemic has meant that they have had to seek other jobs as there is no prospect of a live tour in front of thousands of people.
Horan and his crew were supposed to be on tour for six months this year, visiting Australia, Asia, Europe and America.
"My stage manager is working on a building site currently," he told the BBC. "A couple of lads are working in Tesco and Sainsbury's.
"If there's no touring, they don't have a job. They've been left behind."
"If we don't tour, they don't have a job"@NiallOfficial tells #BBCBreakfast what his touring group have been doing to earn money since live performances were cancelled. https://t.co/e6dHqgHPj9 pic.twitter.com/UC7tIZptwk
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) October 16, 2020
He hopes to sell between 60,000 and 70,000 tickets to watch online - enough to "pay all of my crew".
"I felt it was absolutely the least I could do, was stick a gig on," he said. "And I urge all the other artists, including friends of mine, to do the same."
Tickets for the star's Royal Albert Hall show, costing £16, went on sale at 9am and the gig will take place on 7 November.
New record infections in Italy
The image of army trucks taking away dozens of coffins made it a grim symbol of Italy's pandemic, but now the city of Bergamo in the country's north is seeing the return of the virus, our correspondent Nick Squires writes.
The onset of the second wave has come faster than expected and people are fearful, the mayor of the city says.
Yesterday Bergamo recorded 71 new cases - double the number of the day before.
"The virus is returning at a rate similar to what we experienced in the spring," says Giorgio Gori, the city's mayor.
There may be a glimmer of hope in the fact that 30% of the city's population was infected by Covid-19 earlier in the year and so may still carry antibodies that could protect them.
Also, the city - like Italy as a whole - went through such a "traumatic experience" that people are very compliant with the anti-virus protocols that have been imposed.
"If you walk around Bergamo you won't find a single person not wearing a mask," said the mayor.
But there are tough times ahead for Bergamo, as there are for the whole of Italy, with warnings that within two weeks the country could be in as bad a situation as France, Spain and Britain.
Last night, Campania became the first of the country's 20 regions to announce that schools would close.
The governor of the region, which includes Naples, ordered schools to close until October 30 amid a worrying spike in coronavirus numbers.
The decision was criticised as unnecessary by the education minister, Lucia Azzolina. She said that only 0.75% of school children in Campania had tested positive for the virus, against a national average of 0.8%.
Any rise in virus numbers "was certainly not the fault of schools," she said.
The number of new daily cases in Italy reached a new record on Thursday, with 8,800 new infections. There were more than 80 deaths.
However, there was a record number of swabs - 163,000
More Northern fury
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester has taken to Twitter and swiped at Dominic Raab.
"They wonder why we up here are fed up and are demanding more support," he said.
"It’s not about what we want for ourselves, It’s about what we want for low-paid and self-employed people everywhere: fairness."
After a report that the Treasury is considering more support for regions in Tier 2 areas, shadow business minister and Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell also tweeted her disapproval.
"So now the Treasury is to 'focus' on support for 'businesses in Tier 2' as London goes into it ... errrr we've been in Tier 2 for nearly 3 months with nothing.
— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) October 16, 2020
Huge infection predictions made by Cambridge University
Around 47,000 Covid-19 infections are occurring daily across England, with deaths expected to hit 240 to 690 per day by October 26, according to evidence presented to Government scientists.
The Medical Research Council (MRC) biostatistics unit at Cambridge University published new predictions on October 12 on how fast the epidemic is growing across the country.
They estimated that cases are doubling in under seven days, with a "substantial proportion" of cases being asymptomatic.
The figures are fed to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which provides real-time information to the Government through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), and to regional Public Health England (PHE) teams.
On October 12, the MRC unit published a report saying: "Our current estimate of the number of infections occurring each day across England is 47,000.
"We predict that the number of deaths each day is likely to be between 240 and 690 on October 26."
They said the daily number of infections was within the range of 28,900 to 74,900 per day, with the best estimate being 47,000.
They added that the estimated growth rate for England is 0.09 per day.
"This means that the number of infections grows by 9% each day and it translates into a doubling in number in under one week," they said.
"The central estimates for the number of new infections is particularly high in the North West and the North East and Yorkshire (17,600 and 10,700 infections per day, respectively), followed by London and the Midlands (5,450 and 5,720, respectively).
"Note that a substantial proportion of these daily infections will be asymptomatic."
UK not failing on Test and Trace, says Raab
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says "it's not true to say" the UK is at the 'bottom of the league table' when it comes to Test and Trace and adds the UK is ahead of any other country in Europe in testing for coronavirus.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says "it's not true to say" the UK is at the 'bottom of the league table' when it comes to Test and Trace and adds the UK is ahead of any other country in Europe in testing for #COVID19.#KayBurleyhttps://t.co/pM6GRghW26 pic.twitter.com/yPmZLWn4FK
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) October 16, 2020
Negotiations ongoing with local leaders
The Government will "keep talking" with local leaders over further coronavirus restrictions, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.
He told Sky News: "We will keep talking and we'll keep working. Obviously in the last resort the Government has the powers to proceed in any event, but we would much rather work with the local leaders if at all possible."
Mr Raab said talks were continuing with Lancashire leaders and that the Government wanted to "get those arrangements put in place".
He added: "I think the right thing both on public health grounds but also supporting the economy, supporting jobs, livelihoods, supporting our society and the most vulnerable in it is to avoid a second national lockdown.
"The way to do it is with a tiered approach that we've advocated. That will only work, the scientists tell us, if everyone really leans in and implements it to the maximum."
Raab hits out at Burnham
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has accused Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham of trying to "hold the Government over a barrel" by resisting tougher coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Raab told BBC Breakfast: "Ultimately we need to take action - we can't have a situation as we have seen in Manchester where Andy Burnham is effectively trying to hold the Government over a barrel over money and politics when actually we need to take action.
"The cases there are 470 per 100,000 so it is very serious, and we must take action in the interest of the people of Manchester and the wider area, and if we take those targeted actions in those areas most affected... we get through this and we avoid the national level lockdown."
He urged Mr Burnham to "do the right thing by the people of Manchester".
"I don't think that that's an appropriate way to proceed"
On #BBCBreakfast the Foreign Secretary accuses Andy Burnham of "pulling up the drawbridge" over his refusal to move Greater Manchester to tier three without more financial support.https://t.co/cHVgKJ5Ny8 pic.twitter.com/zzG8xMPBPX
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) October 16, 2020
Week 'circuit breaker' not long enough
On the idea of a "circuit-breaker", Professor Graham Medley said: "A week isn't long enough."
He told the Today programme: "Somebody who's infected the day before you go into that break would still be infectious when you came out.
"You need at least one generation of infection, so people who were infected before, to stop being infected by the end, so it would need to be at least two weeks."
Some areas heading towards March levels
Professor Graham Medley, an expert in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and member of Sage, believes that in terms of healthcare "some areas are going to be back to the same kind of position they were at the end of March".
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are struggling at the moment to understand how we're balancing that imperative of having to prevent healthcare being completely overwhelmed and yet how to mitigate against the damage caused by the intervention which of course is huge."
Professor Medley believes people need to "break the networks that we have between households" such as "schools and work and leisure activities".
He said: "Whether we need to go all the way back to March I think is a good question - I certainly think the concept of bubbles, of households being able to join together is potentially a very good one and mitigates a lot of the damage."
He added: "The idea is now out there that we could do it for a short period and know when we're going to do it and that would potentially mitigate the damage as well."
Oxford vaccine does not use chimpanzees
Professor Andrew Pollard, part of the team developing the Oxford vaccine, has hit back at a Russian disinformation campaign about the project.
Pictures, memes and video clips depicting the British-made vaccine as dangerous have been devised in Russia and middlemen are now seeking to “seed” the images on social media networks around the world, according to an investigation by the Times.
"We don't actually have any chimpanzees at all involved in the process of making a vaccine, because it's all about the virus not about the animal that it might more commonly infect," he said.
"If anyone is actively trying to undermine confidence in vaccines is it's a risk for all of us in the future, particularly if through the rigorous trials that are going on around the world with all the developers at the moment are able to show that vaccines are safe and effective.
"We really do need them as part of our armoury to try and fight the pandemic and get lives back to normal. So, I think it would be extremely unfortunate if this was being driven actively to try and undermine confidence."
New human trials could come soon
"Human challenge" trials of potential COVID-19 vaccines, where volunteers are deliberately infected with the disease, could become a reality after a British biotech firm signed a contract with the government to create and provide strains of the virus, Reuters reports.
Preliminary work for the trials, which aim to speed up the process of determining the efficacy of a vaccine candidate, is being carried out by hVIVO, a unit of pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan, hVIVO said on Friday.
This involves creating a human challenge study model that could be used should such trials gain ethical and safety approval from regulators.
"The model development involves the manufacture of the challenge virus and the first-in-human characterisation study for this virus," the company said.
Supporters of human challenge trials say they are a good way to cut short the often lengthy process of testing potential vaccines on tens of thousands of volunteers in the real world who go about normal life and are monitored to see if they contract the disease or are protected from it.
In these tightly-controlled trials, volunteers are given a vaccine and then about a month later are deliberately infected with the disease under controlled conditions. They are then isolated in a quarantine facility and monitored to see if they become sick or if the vaccine protects them.
Critics say deliberately infecting someone with a potentially deadly disease for which there is currently no effective treatment is unethical.
Any human challenge trials conducted in Britain would have to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the healthcare regulator that looks into safety, ethics and protocol.
'Inappropriate disinfection' blamed for China outbreak
Authorities say they have completed coronavirus tests on more than 10 million people in the northern Chinese port city of Qingdao after a hospital outbreak there blamed on "inappropriate disinfection".
Testing is set to continue to cover 11 million people.
Authorities say a total of 13 cases have been discovered in the city, but none since the mass testing programme was launched earlier this week.
Health officials say the cluster of infections, the first locally transmitted cases reported in China in about two months, appears to be linked to "inappropriate disinfection" in the CT room at the Qingdao Chest Hospital.
Five per cent of care homes have had no testing of residents
Five per cent of care homes have had no coronavirus testing for their residents, new data has revealed.
In July, the Department for Health and Social Care announced that care home staff would receive weekly tests and residents monthly tests in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 in social care settings.
The department was forced to apologise after moving the target back to September, citing "unexpected delays".
However new data has revealed that nearly 40 per cent of care home residents were not tested for the virus in the month to October 13 despite the Government's pledge.
Lockdown has 'crushed' millions of pensioners, charity warns
Millions of pensioners have been "crushed" by lockdown, with many vulnerable people losing confidence, mobility and functions such as memory, a major report shows.
Age UK said the lockdown restrictions had left many vulnerable people isolated and anxious, without the support they needed. It warned that Covid-19 has "hit the fast-forward button on ageing", with a substantial group of people left "frightened, depressed and very much alone".
Australia Open cancelled for first time since WWII
The Australia Open will be absent from the sporting calendar for the first time since World War Two this season after Golf Australia and the PGA of Australia cancelled all of their top events on Friday because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 105th edition of the country's oldest and most prestigious tournament, scheduled to take place at Melbourne's Kingston Heath Golf Club, had already been postponed from its usual slot in November.
Vietnam cancels 2020 F1 race due to pandemic
The organiser of Vietnam's first Formula One grand prix on Friday said it has cancelled the race, having already postponed the event initially scheduled for April due to the pandemic.
"This has been an extremely difficult but necessary decision to reach in view of the continued uncertainty caused by the global coronavirus pandemic," Vietnam Grand Prix Corp said in an emailed statement. It said it will refund all tickets sold.
The Southeast Asian country has recorded over 1,110 Covid-19 infections, with 35 deaths, Ministry of Health data showed.
First 'no-quarantine' flights arrive into Australia
Hundreds of New Zealand plane passengers started arriving in Sydney on Friday as part of a new trans-Tasman travel bubble amid a rapidly falling growth rate in cases at the epicentre of Australia's coronavirus outbreak.
In a tentative re-opening to international tourism, travellers on the approved flights won't be required to quarantine in Sydney, authorities said.
The arrangements, however, are not yet reciprocal, with New Zealand requiring arrivals to be quarantined for two weeks under supervision at the cost of NZ$3,100 ($2,045) for the first person and more for additional family members.
Around 90 percent of those travelling on Friday with Air New Zealand are booked to travel one-way, the airline said.
Fujifilm applies for approval of Avigan as Covid-19 treatment in Japan
Fujifilm Holdings Corp said on Friday it had applied for approval in Japan of its anti-influenza drug Avigan as a treatment for Covid-19.
The company had said in September a late-stage study of Avigan had shown reduced recovery times for Covid-19 patients with non-severe symptoms and it would seek to file for approval as early as this month.
The late-stage study of 156 patients in Japan showed that those treated with Avigan improved after 11.9 days, versus 14.7 days for a placebo group. Results of the study, conducted by subsidiary Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, were found to be statistically significant.
Avigan, known generically as favipiravir, is approved in Japan as a flu medicine. It is now the subject of at least 16 clinical trials around the world but concerns remain about the drug as it has been shown to cause birth defects in animal studies.
Trump and Biden duel over pandemic in town halls
President Donald Trump was evasive on Thursday night when pressed if he took a Covid-19 test before his first debate with Democrat Joe Biden as the two men squared off again, in a way, after their scuttled second showdown was replaced by dueling televised town halls several channels apart.
Mr Biden, appearing nearly 1,200 miles away, denounced the White House's handling of the virus ,declaring that it was at fault for closing a pandemic response office established by the Obama administration. Mr Trump, meanwhile, was defensive and insisted that the nation was turning the corner on the virus.
Mr Trump dodged directly answering whether he took a test the day of the Sept. 29 debate, only saying "possibly I did, possibly I didn't". Debate rules required that each candidate, using the honour system, had tested negative prior to the Cleveland event, but Mr Trump spoke in circles when asked when he last tested negative.
Daily cases more than double on mainland China
China reported 24 new cases in the mainland for Oct. 15, compared with 10 cases a day earlier, the health commission said on Friday.
All of the new infections were imported, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.
As of Oct. 15, mainland China had 85,646 confirmed cases, the health authority said, and the death toll stands at 4,634.
US cases surpass 8 million as infections spike nationwide
US cases of the novel coronavirus crossed 8 million on Thursday, rising by 1 million in less than a month, as another surge in cases hits the nation at the onset of cooler weather.
Since the pandemic started, over 217,000 people have died in the US.
The US reported 60,000 new infections on Wednesday, the highest since Aug. 14, with rising cases in every region, especially the Midwest.
Health experts have long warned that colder temperatures driving people inside could promote the spread of the virus. They have not pinpointed the reason for the rise but point to fatigue with Covid-19 precautions and students returning to schools and colleges.
According to a Reuters analysis, 25 states have so far set records for increases in new cases in October.
Early results suggest Chinese vaccine candidate is safe
A Chinese Covid-19 vaccine candidate based on inactivated coronavirus is safe and elicits an antibody response, preliminary results have shown.
The research, published in the journal Lancet Infectious Disease, is based on small early phase randomised clinical trials involving 640 participants.
Scientists said those aged 60 and over were slower to respond, with antibodies taking up to 42 days to be detected in blood tests, compared with 28 days for participants aged 18 to 59.
They also found antibody levels to be lower in those aged 60 to 80 years, compared with those aged 18 to 59.
The researchers said the trial was not designed to assess efficacy of the vaccine, however, so it is not possible to say whether the antibody responses induced by the vaccine, called BBIBP-CorV, are sufficient to protect from coronavirus infection.
Counting the cost of London’s latest lockdown
A pub brawl could be in the offing. Not in the pub, of course - it is hard to get a crowd in one these days.
But outside parliament on Monday angry pub workers will gather to protest the patchwork of lockdown measures trashing their takings with little support to keep them afloat.
Waiters will be there, along with restaurateurs, cooks and chefs.
Some are travelling from regions already hit by local lockdowns. Others will be Londoners in the first days of the capital’s ‘Tier 2’ status.
So a political melee, at least, awaits MPs: instead of serving customers, the workless employees will bash their pots and pans at Parliament.
Today's top stories
Boris Johnson was on Thursday night embroiled in a standoff with Labour mayors and his own health advisers over his plans for local lockdowns.
Plan to pressure Greater Manchester to accept harsher Covid restrictions by announcing tougher measures for London backfires.
Sources close to City Hall call him "Mr Misery". Watching Sadiq Khan deliver the devastating news that London was being plunged into a new Tier 2 lockdown with his acquiescence, it would be hard to disagree.
Politicians with "pensions funded out of the public purse" should stop "demonising youngsters" for partying in the street after being thrown out of pubs under the 10pm coronavirus curfew, a senior Tory MP has said.
Welsh police could use ANPR to identify people travelling across the border from England, the First Minister has threatened.
Vice-chancellors are preparing for an end-of-term testing blitz to get students home for Christmas, as they say a fortnight lockdown is “nonsensical”.
A renewed state of “calamity” has been declared in Portugal as the government tries to contain a significant worsening of the pandemic.
Pub chiefs are begging for urgent support to help them through winter after London was plunged back into lockdown and Marston’s vowed to axe more than 2,000 jobs.