UK cases reach record high with 26,688 new infections

Dominic Penna
·69 min read
Shoppers walk through Middlesbrough town centre on October 02, 2020 in Middlesbrough, England - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Shoppers walk through Middlesbrough town centre on October 02, 2020 in Middlesbrough, England - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

04:09 AM

Today's top stories

Follow the latest updates in Thursday's live blog.

04:08 AM

Record-high number of cases

The UK's official coronavirus case tally has reached a new record high with 26,688 new cases confirmed on Wednesday by the Department of Health.

The overall caseload now stands at 789,229, although it is believed that only a fraction of infections in the first wave of coronavirus were recorded.

A further 996 patients have been admitted to hospital, with 191 new deaths linked with coronavirus recorded in the last 24 hours, 94 of which were in English hospitals.

Talks about a move to Tier 3 lockdown restrictions in Tyneside and Tees Valley have been paused amid signs that progress has been made in controlling the spread of coronavirus.

Tier 3 discussions have also taken place in West Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, and South Yorkshire on Wednesday became the latest area to agree to the strict set of curbs.

It comes as the Government pledged to carry out an “urgent” review of the Covid-19 powers which allow its officials to use “reasonable force” in order to make people self-isolate.

06:04 PM

What happened today

Good evening. Here is a round up of today's biggest Covid-19 developments:

05:51 PM

UK news latest: Your Wednesday evening briefing

South Yorkshire will join Manchester in Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions from Saturday - but which region is next? Talks in Tyneside and Tees Valley have been paused amid signs that progress has been made in controlling the spread of coronavirus. 

A man walks past a Covid-19 testing site on October 21, 2020 in Sheffield, England. - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
A man walks past a Covid-19 testing site on October 21, 2020 in Sheffield, England. - Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Elsewhere the US ambassador to the UK, Woody Johnson, is "concerned" that the UK's proposed fur sales ban could jeopardise a free trade deal with the US, a leaked letter has revealed. 

And the Duke of Cambridge has acknowledged the "unimaginable challenges" faced by both cancer patients and specialists this year as he paid tribute to their ability to embody hope in the "darkest of times". 

The Duke of Cambridge, President of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, during a visit to The Royal Marsden in Sutton to meet staff and patients, and to mark the start of construction for the Trust's Oak Cancer Centre - Jack Hill/The Times
The Duke of Cambridge, President of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, during a visit to The Royal Marsden in Sutton to meet staff and patients, and to mark the start of construction for the Trust's Oak Cancer Centre - Jack Hill/The Times

Chris Price has all the latest on these stories and more.

05:36 PM

Disease experts criticise school for shuffling pupils every 15 minutes to avoid quarantine

A Montana school district is rotating pupils every 15 minutes in a bid to avoid quarantine requirements, prompting criticism from experts who warn it could lead to more infections than it prevents, writes Verity Bowman.

The Billings Public Schools, the largest school district in the state, currently moves its pupils around the classroom four times every hour to reduce the time spent near each other. 

Its approach is based on the theory that only students who have been in “close contact”,  defined as being within six feet of an infected individual for more than 15 minutes, must isolate themselves.

If the students move before this time limit, then in theory no one will be required to stay at home after a classmate tests positive.

The superintendent of the 16,500-student school district said administrators came up with the plan after looking to ease the heavy burden of contact tracing. 

Teachers are encouraged to “disrupt the 15-minute timeline through movement, distancing, and masking,” Greg Upham said in an email.

Read more: 'Shuffling' measures could lead to Covid case uptick

05:16 PM

Spain's disillusioned health workers plan to join doctor and nurse exodus

Disillusioned healthcare workers battling one of Europe's worst outbreaks of coronavirus in Spain are making plans to join the exodus of doctors and nurses from the country over recent years, writes James Badcock.

After being hailed as heroes in the battle against the first wave of Covid-19, exhausted doctors and nurses say they are being forced to consider leaving Spain's crippled healthcare system at a time of extreme crisis.

With the official Covid death toll above 34,000 and the country poised to reach the grim milestone of one million confirmed cases, health authorities are struggling to contain a second wave of Covid-19 by recruiting students and trainees.

Catalan primary health doctors protest on the first day of a four-day strike in Barcelona to demand better working conditions amid the coronavirus disease - Albert Gea/Reuters
Catalan primary health doctors protest on the first day of a four-day strike in Barcelona to demand better working conditions amid the coronavirus disease - Albert Gea/Reuters

But medical associations and leading professionals have criticised a lack of investment in human resources leading to burnout as the coronavirus second wave intensifies.

The problems are particularly acute in Madrid, where more than a quarter of all Covid cases have stretched the system to breaking point, while the region’s nurses say they are treated “like slaves” on short-term contracts in random postings that do not take into account their specialisations.

Read more: 'I am thinking of leaving Spain again - this time for good'

05:10 PM

Army to help Slovakia test its 5.5 million citizens for Covid

Slovakia is to use thousands of soldiers and firefighters to help test the entire population for coronavirus in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, and avoid another national lockdown. writes Matthew Day.

The Central European country once had one of Europe’s best records for containing the coronavirus but it has seen infection rates soar in recent weeks, with 2,202 people testing positive on October 20.

The government has announced it now intends to open over 5,000 sites across the country to test the country’s population of 5.45 million, with every resident over the age of 10 set to get tested.

Hundreds of football hooligans and far-right voters of Kotleba's LSNS party protest against the government of Igor Matovic and precautionary measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus - Vladimir Simicek/AFP via Getty Images
Hundreds of football hooligans and far-right voters of Kotleba's LSNS party protest against the government of Igor Matovic and precautionary measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus - Vladimir Simicek/AFP via Getty Images

Each centre will be staffed by a team of seven, a requirement that means the government will call up firefighters, police officers and up to 8,000 soldiers to help conduct the tests, which will be free of charge and available to anyone living in Slovakia.

“It’s important that as many people as possible are tested,” Igor Matovic, the Slovakian prime minister, said at a press conference. "We have two options: one is lockdown, the other is nationwide testing."

05:05 PM

Italian coronavirus cases rise sharply as Lombardy infections double in a day

Infections in Lombardy, the region of Italy hit hardest by the first wave of Covid-19 which has once again become its most affected hotspot, have more than doubled in the space of a day.

Cases in Lombardy reached 4,126 in the last 24 hours, 1,858 of which were recorded in its economic centre of Milan.

Guiseppe Conte's government is understood to be considering more restrictive measures as the virus continues to spread.

People wearing protective masks walk across the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan on October 17, 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic - Miguel Medina/AFP
People wearing protective masks walk across the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan on October 17, 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic - Miguel Medina/AFP

Temporary hospitals that were set up in conference centres in the first stage of the pandemic will reopen in Milan and Bergamo, which was Italy's so-called 'ground zero' in the first wave of Covid-19.

The country is also considering a nationwide curfew that would entail closing high schools, with cases having surpassed 15,000 in the last 24 hours.

04:55 PM

China coronavirus vaccine rejected by Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil, has said that the federal government will not buy a Covid-19 vaccine which has been developed by Chinese state-owned firm Sinovac.

The apparent about-turn comes just a day after the country's health minister Eduardo Pazuello said that it would be included in Brazil's vaccination programme.

The Health Ministry then announced today that Pazuello has tested positive for the virus, making him the latest Brazilian official, including Bolsonaro, to do so.

Bolsonaro said on Wednesday Pazuello had been misinterpreted during the meeting with Brazil's governors, and said: "For sure, we will not buy the Chinese vaccine."

04:25 PM

Antivaxxers spreading antisemitic conspiracies about Covid, Government report finds

Anti-vaxxers are spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories about coronavirus, a report by the Government's independent adviser on anti-semitism has found.

The research discovered anti-vaxxers on both the right and left are spewing online hate linking the pandemic to “Jews plotting to take over the world."

Authors Lord Mann, Boris Johnson's antisemitism tsar and molecular biologist Dr Lewis Arthurton, studied 28 of the most popular antivaxxer forums on social media - including one run by Jeremy Corbyn's brother Piers - and found all of them had shared anti-semitic posts. Overall, the report found antisemitism present in 79 per cent of networks studied. 

“Covid-19 conspiracists attributed the ‘hoax’ to the ‘global elite’ naming the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, George Soros, ‘Zionists’, as well as Bill Gates,” said the report.

Starting in the 1990s, ‘new world order’ conspiracists believe that Western freedoms are under attack from a dictatorial, socialist conspiracy to establish a new world order, with many attributing its orchestration to Jews.

Read more from Camilla Tominey here.

04:11 PM

Breaking: UK coronavirus cases reach record high

The UK's coronavirus cases have reached a new record high with 26,688 new cases confirmed today by the Department of Health.

The overall caseload now stands at 789,229, although it is believed that only a fraction of infections in the first wave of coronavirus were recorded.

A further 996 patients have been admitted to hospital, with 191 new deaths linked with coronavirus recorded in the last 24 hours, 94 of which were in English hospitals.

03:49 PM

Sadiq Khan: Londoners have 'done the right thing' in not using public transport

Sadiq Khan has accused Boris Johnson of having "told a lie" in the House of Commons by suggesting that the financial state of Transport for London is because of Mr Khan.

Mr Khan claimed on Sky News that he has reduced the deficit by around 75 per cent, and "the reality is Londoners have done the right thing since the pandemic began and that is not to use public transport".

He says that passengers have sunk by 90 per cent and there is "no money coming in" because of the effects of this on fares.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London

The conditions of a TfL bailout set out by the Government are increasing the congestion zone, raising council tax and increasing fares.

"If we don't reach a deal by the end of this month we'd need to be reducing services in London," Mr Khan said.

"At a time when there's this pandemic, people won't be able to social distance if there's less trains. In the short term we need a Covid plan to support us."

03:40 PM

Greater Manchester motion from Labour Party defeated in Commons

The Labour Party's motion on extra financial support in Greater Manchester has been defeated, with a Government majority of 79.

Two Greater Manchester Tory MPs voted with Labour on the financial support measures, William Wragg, the MP for Hazel Grove, and Chris Green, the Bolton West representative.

Mr Green has previously said that a letter sent by six of his Conservative colleagues that attacked Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham was "very ill-judged".

03:35 PM

Germany coronavirus news: Health minister tests positive for Covid-19

German Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive for the coronavirus, the health ministry said, adding he placed himself in isolation at his home.

The minister, 40, was suffering from cold-like symptoms, the ministry said, and all of those who he has been in contact with have been informed of his diagnosis.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn attends a news conference to give an update on a smartphone app that allows users to evaluate their risk of being exposed to the coronavirus in Berlin - Bernd von Jutrczenka/Pool via Reuters/File Photo
German Health Minister Jens Spahn attends a news conference to give an update on a smartphone app that allows users to evaluate their risk of being exposed to the coronavirus in Berlin - Bernd von Jutrczenka/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

While Germany's infection rates are lower than in much of Europe, they have nonetheless increased and on Saturday reached a daily record of 7,830, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

03:20 PM

South Yorkshire Tier 3 news: Dan Jarvis admits leaving Tier 3 in 28 days 'very challenging'

Dan Jarvis, the MP for Barnsley Central and Mayor of the Sheffield City region, has told Press Association:

Right now, there's an urgency about transitioning into Tier 3 so we had to get on with it and the deal that I accepted, I think, gives us a reasonable chance of supporting our economy.

We've worked incredibly closely together. I think [leaving Tier 3 in 28 days] will be very challenging, given the pressures of winter. But that's what we've got to aim for.

Let's not be defeatist about it. Let's renew our efforts. Let's move heaven and earth to ensure that all of our local authorities have got a fighting chance of coming out.

Mr Jarvis told Sky News that he "has settled on what I would describe as an interim arrangement", and called for more funding from Government.

03:10 PM

Nottingham Trent coronavirus patrol sees four students fined £10k each for house party

Four Nottingham students have been fined a total of £40,000 for breaching lockdown rules, amid ongoing speculation that the city could soon be plunged into Tier 3. 

The students, all of whom are at Nottingham Trent university, were each fined £10,000 in the early hours of yesterday when police officers on patrol spotted a house party taking place.

More than 30 people were found hiding in the upstairs bedrooms, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom of the house, Nottingham Live reports.

The students allegedly told the police officers that they were "spoiling their fun".

Nottingham Trent University has confirmed that all four students have been suspended, pending an investigation.

03:05 PM

Scotland coronavirus rules extended for a third week

Pubs and restaurants in the central belt of Scotland are to remain closed, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed at the Scottish Government's daily virus briefing.

The First Minister said the measures she introduced at the beginning of October, that were meant to last for two weeks, are now set to carry on through to November 2.

They were due to end on October 25, and also forced the closure of snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling, casinos and bingo halls in the central belt, with a 6pm indoor curfew brought in for hospitality businesses elsewhere in Scotland.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during First Minister's Questions at the parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain October 8, 2020. - Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via Reuters
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during First Minister's Questions at the parliament in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain October 8, 2020. - Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via Reuters

People across the country are also banned from visiting each other's homes, unless they form part of a support bubble, or an extended household.

The restrictions will now be in place until a tiered system is introduced on November 2, with different measures for different areas.

Ms Sturgeon said while there is "cautious optimism" that the current restrictions are working, Scottish ministers have been told by advisers it would not be safe to lift them as originally planned on Monday.

02:59 PM

UK coronavirus deaths: 94 more hospital deaths in England confirmed

A further 94 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of reported hospital deaths to 31,275, NHS England has said.

Patients were between 49 and 97, and all but one patient - who was 71 - had known underlying health conditions.

The deaths took place between October 14 and October 20.

The UK's death toll and caseload across all settings is to be announced imminently.

02:53 PM

Poland coronavirus restrictions to be announced tomorrow

Poland's government will announce further measures tomorrow that are aimed at combating the spread of coronavirus, government spokesman Piotr Muller said on Wednesday.

It comes as the country reported another record in daily infections, with more than 10,000 cases logged amid a second wave of Covid-19 across Europe.

Coronavirus Poland Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Poland Spotlight Chart - Cases default

"As far as restrictions are concerned, they will be announced tomorrow," Muller told a pool of reporters.

He added that the Polish government is considering moving education for older secondary school and college pupils online.

New daily cases throughout the summer had plateaued, and eventually decreased to around 600, but numbers started rising quickly after the end of the holiday period.

02:37 PM

Influencers and scientists on TikTok 'needed to counter vaccine misinformation'

A social media campaign involving influencers and scientists on TikTok is needed to counter anti-vaccine “misinformation”, experts have said.

Religious leaders and prominent figures in black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities have also been mooted as a means to counter the widespread disinformation that exists around prospective vaccines for Covid-19.

Dr Daisy Fancourt, an epidemiologist and the lead investigator of the Covid Social Study, told the London Assembly health committee:

“Lots of misinformation and fake news has been circulating already about vaccines and that will only intensify until we have a vaccine because people will have a target that they might exploit to try and wobble people.

In this Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020 file photo, senior Clinical Research Nurse Ajithkumar Sukumaran prepares the COVID 19 vaccine to administer to a volunteer, at a clinic in London - Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo
In this Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020 file photo, senior Clinical Research Nurse Ajithkumar Sukumaran prepares the COVID 19 vaccine to administer to a volunteer, at a clinic in London - Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo

“There’s not been much use so far of social media influencers but things like that we know are very effective at getting people on side.”

Last week a Russian campaign designed to undermine and spread disinformation about the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine was exposed by the Times newspaper.

02:28 PM

Transport for London could be seized from Sadiq Khan by ministers

Ministers have threatened to strip Sadiq Khan of control of London's transport network unless he agrees to hike council tax and fares and extend the congestion charge zone, in return for funding.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, hit the London mayor with a series of demands in return for a £4.9bn bailout from Westminster to rescue Transport for London (TfL).

Ministers could seize direct control of TL if Mr Khan, who is its chairman, refuses to slash costs, raise fares and launch a tax raid, Mr Shapps warned.

Commuters wear face-masks during morning rush hour on the Victoria Line of the London Underground in central London on October 16, 2020, as the number of novel coronavirus COVID-19 cases - Tolga Akmen/AFP
Commuters wear face-masks during morning rush hour on the Victoria Line of the London Underground in central London on October 16, 2020, as the number of novel coronavirus COVID-19 cases - Tolga Akmen/AFP

TfL has pleaded for government help after passenger numbers collapsed due to coronavirus. Westminster handed Mr Khan £1.6bn in May to help the transport authority survive the following six months.

But with experts predicting it could be years before public transport use returns to pre-Covid levels, TfL has asked for almost £5bn to get through the 18 months.

Oliver Gill and Amy Jones have the story.

02:11 PM

Netherlands latest news: Dutch King and Queen apologise for Greek holiday

The Dutch King and Queen have apologised for going on holiday to a Greek island while coronavirus restrictions in the Netherlands were being tightened, writes James Crisp.

Willem-Alexander and Maxima were responding to public outcry over the trip to their holiday home, which forced them back home after less than a day last week

 "It hurts to have betrayed your trust in us," the king said. "Even though the trip was in line with the regulations, it was very unwise not to take into account the impact of the new restrictions on our society."

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima take part in the recording of a personal video message in which the king discusses the cancellation of their holiday to Greece, on October 21, 2020 in The Hague - Koen van Weel/ANP/AFP via Getty Images
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima take part in the recording of a personal video message in which the king discusses the cancellation of their holiday to Greece, on October 21, 2020 in The Hague - Koen van Weel/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

The holiday was technically in line with the new rules and Mark Rutte, the prime minister, had been informed.

There was fresh controversy today after it emerged the two older princesses only returned on Tuesday evening. The palace claims there was not enough plane tickets for the whole family to return at the same time. 

01:58 PM

Massachusetts lockdown did not lead to rise in suicides, says study

This from our world news reporter Marcus Parekh:

The lockdown in the US state of Massachusetts did not lead to a rise in suicides, despite warnings from President Trump and other politicians that this may have occurred, according to a study by Medrxiv.

The study, which has been submitted to a scientific journal and has not undergone peer review, found that suicide rates did not rise or fall during the spring.

“This narrative that longer stay-at-home policies drive suicides doesn’t bear out,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the lead author of the study, told The New York Times. “At least in a state that had a very long stay-at-home advisory, which, for all intents and purposes, was a shutdown. It was a ghost town here.”

Dr Faust's team, which included researchers from Harvard and Yale, comparred suicide rates between March and May in 2019 and 2020. The rates from 2019 were roughly in line with previous years. Their research discovered that there was no change between the years, with one person per 100,000 committing suicide per month.

“Our data are reassuring that an increase in suicide deaths in Massachusetts during the stay-at-home advisory did not occur,” the authors concluded. “Moving forward, effective prevention efforts will require comprehensive attention to the full spectrum of mental health services.”

01:49 PM

Work from home hotspots include Harrogate and Somerset

Harrogate has been named the best place to work from home due to fast internet speed, good schools and lots of green space.

The Victorian spa town in Yorkshire boasts 60Mbps broadband, which falls into the "superfast category", making it ideal for being productive when away from the office, according to Uswitch's remote working index.

Situated on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and next to Nidderdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it has the most green space when compared to more than 100 other areas of the UK.

It also has among the highest average Ofsted ratings for its schools and one of the lowest crime rates, the index by the price comparison service and switching website reveals.

Bath and Mendip, both in Somerset, came second in the ranking, followed by Derry in Northern Ireland and Wigan in Greater Manchester.

Read the full story here.

01:44 PM

Tier 3 restrictions defended by Boris Johnson

At Prime Minister's Questions, Boris Johnson said he had "made it absolutely clear that part of the country going into Tier 3 is only in there for 28 days".

He insisted that regions which have gone into Tier 3 "are already making progress", and that a "local, regional approach" is in the national interest.

Watch Mr Johnson's full comments on Tier 3 restrictions below:

 

01:32 PM

Pause in Newcastle talks amid decline in caseload

Negotiations between local Teesside over moving the area to Tier 3 restrictions after a decline in the area’s caseload.

Local authorities in the region successfully lobbied ministers last week to keep the region under Tier 2 rules, citing a steady decline in case numbers and the potential economic effects of a move to Tier 3.

Tier 3 discussions are currently taking place in West Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, after South Yorkshire became the latest area to agree to the strict set of curbs this morning.

01:09 PM

Andy Burnham: 'Are we witnessing the start of his Third Coming?'

Is Andy Burnham the country’s luckiest, or unluckiest, politician? asks Tom Harris. He’s certainly had a good week politically, perhaps taking a leaf out of Nicola Sturgeon’s book by demonstrating that there is nothing to be lost by being seen to stand up for your own piece of land against the Conservatives.

Unlike Scotland’s First Minister, the Mayor of Greater Manchester has few actual powers he can use to ameliorate his constituents’ difficulties as Tier 3 restrictions are imposed on them, but that has hardly dented his newfound profile.

Starmer retains the overwhelming support of the party membership, particularly its MPs. But the pandemic has increased the tension that is ever present between Labour’s various, continually warring factions.

Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester, holds a news conference, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease - Phil Noble/Reuters
Andy Burnham, mayor of Manchester, holds a news conference, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease - Phil Noble/Reuters

Burnham’s re-emergence into the spotlight comes at an inconvenient time for the leadership, given the doubts that have emerged since April about Starmer’s ability to win back those damned elusive Red Wall seats lost in the North and the Midlands.

He has made solid progress, but, as the 2015 leadership election proved, Labour members aren’t impressed by steady progress; they much prefer the unlikely drama of a leader arriving in a blaze of glory and sorting everything with an inspirational word and a kind smile.

Read Tom's full column here.

01:01 PM

Coronavirus vaccine news: Chinese state-owned firm could produce 1bn doses next year

The state-owned Chinese drugmaker SinoPharm is adding enough manufacturing capacity to make one billion doses of its coronavirus vaccine next year, Sophia Yan reports.

Production lines are being set up in China’s capital of Beijing, and in the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged, said company chairman Liu Jingzhen.

An employee answers questions from the public near samples of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinopharm subsidiary CNBG are displayed during a trade fair in Beijing on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020 - Ng Han Guan/AP Photo
An employee answers questions from the public near samples of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinopharm subsidiary CNBG are displayed during a trade fair in Beijing on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020 - Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

SinoPharm is testing two vaccines abroad in Egypt, Argentina, Jordan and Peru. Both are inactivated vaccines, which use a non-infectious version of coronavirus to prompt an immune response from the body.  

China appears to be pulling ahead in the global vaccine race with at least four candidates in phase three clinical trials around the world. 

Coming up with an effective innoculation for the pandemic ripping across the globe could also help Beijing deflect public anger over its alleged cover-up of the coronavirus. 

Read Sophia's full dispatch from Beijing.

12:46 PM

Cambridge's largest college accused of wrecking university testing programme

Cambridge's largest college has been accused of wrecking the university's testing programme as they grapple with a freshers' outbreak following a series of illegal student "raves", reports Camilla Turner.

Homerton College, where over 200 students have been forced to go into self-isolation after 18 first year students tested positive, has been criticised for mishandling the allocation of testing kits.

Last month Cambridge University announced that undergraduates and postgraduates will have the opportunity to be tested every week even if they show no symptoms.

But after a Homerton student complained to the testing service that they had not received testing kits for two consecutive weeks, they were told that they were told that the service has been left to "pick up the slack" after a "series of administrative errors" made by the College.

The testing service said that its database was "left in an unusable state" by Homerton College staff which "mucked with our production and distribution processes, and caused some serious issues" to the programme's computer systems.

Read more: Homerton College grappling with outbreak after raves

12:41 PM

Sharp decline in births expected in Japan amid pandemic

Japan expects to see a sharp decline in the number of babies born in 2021 compared to other years as a result of the pandemic, writes Verity Bowman.

The number of reported pregnancies across the country hit their lowest in May, reflecting those babies conceived in March as the coronavirus worsened.

In the three months following, pregnancies were down by 11 per cent compared to a year earlier.

It is thought that many couples have postponed having children because of the worsening economic situation, as well as measures including compulsory mask wearing during childbirth.

The number of babies born already hit an all-time low of 865,000 in 2019, but if this trend continues fewer than 800,000 could be born next year.

12:34 PM

Pope Francis shuns face mask for Vatican general audience

Pope Francis chose to shun a face mask at his general audience in the Vatican auditorium today, having donned one for the first time during a liturgical service yesterday.

Francis shook hands with six mask-less bishops at the end of the audience, proceeding to lean in to speak to each one while shaking their hands.

Vatican regulations now require facemasks to be worn indoors and out where distancing can't be "always guaranteed."

Pope Francis attends the general audience in the Paul VI hall, Vatican City, 21 October 2020 - Angelo Carconi/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Pope Francis attends the general audience in the Paul VI hall, Vatican City, 21 October 2020 - Angelo Carconi/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Vatican has not responded to questions from news agencies about why the Pontiff was not following its own regulations around the spread of Covid-19.

Some of the Pope's most supporters, including Vatican expert the Reverend Thomas Reese, have urged him to wear a mask, with Reese writing: "You're the boss; you should follow your own rules. When the clergy hold themselves above the rules, we call that clericalism, a sin that you have loudly denounced."

12:25 PM

Czech Republic lockdown: Government will reimpose businesses forced to shut

Companies that are forced to close under the fresh lockdown announced by the Czech Republic will have their workers' entire wages reimbursed by the state, it has been confirmed.

It comes as the country increases its hospital capacity by 10,000 in order to accommodate the growing number of Covid-19 patients in need of medical treatment.

A man wearing protective face mask looks on Vltava river with Prague Castle and Charles Bridge in the background, in Prague, Czech Republic - Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A man wearing protective face mask looks on Vltava river with Prague Castle and Charles Bridge in the background, in Prague, Czech Republic - Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Despite this, there are fears that the capacity of the country's hospitals could be exhausted as soon as the second week of November.

The US is to send 28 medical specialists over to the country in order to help tackle the spread of the disease.

Newly recorded coronavirus deaths in the Czech Republic rose by 106 yesterday, while 11,984 new infections were recorded.

12:05 PM

Wales lockdown: 'Worryingly high' levels of infection among elderly

Wales' health minister Vaughan Gething has said "worryingly high levels of infection" are being seen in the older population of the country as the country braces for a two-week fire break lockdown from Friday.

We've chosen to make the fire break as short as possible but to be as effective as possible, it needs to be sharp and deep, including all parts of society, to have a maximum impact on the transmission of the virus.

Most importantly, it needs to target the main sources of transmission - places where people meet with other people.

This will slow the spread of the virus, reducing the infection rate, which ultimately means fewer people needing hospital treatment and fewer people dying.

Wales' Health Minister Vaughan Gething holds a press conference on the Covid-19 pandemic at the Welsh Government buildings in Cathays Park on October 5, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Wales' Health Minister Vaughan Gething holds a press conference on the Covid-19 pandemic at the Welsh Government buildings in Cathays Park on October 5, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Mr Gething said that he is hopeful the measures can drive down Wales' R number to below 1. Its R rate is currently estimated at between 1.1 and 1.4.

11:48 AM

South Yorkshire lockdown negotiations had 'no room' for manoeuvre, claims Labour MP

Speaking to The Telegraph, Clive Betts, the Labour MP for Sheffield South East, says that “there was little room for manoeuvre - in fact no room” in South Yorkshire's negotiations with the Government.

Mr Betts said:

There was a cap on the amount of money and it was basically the same financial package for everyone. It wasn’t really a negotiation, it was 'this is what’s available, take it or leave it'.

If you take it, there’s one or two bits around extra leeway around keeping gyms open, leisure centres, bingo halls, but that was the level of negotiation.

It’s not enough to help businesses, it’s not enough to help employees who’ve lost their job and it’s not enough to help those who’ve been asked to isolate.

Mr Betts conceded that the £500 self-isolation payment is “helpful to people on the lowest incomes", but "there are many other people on the average or below average incomes who all face the difficult choice of paying bills or isolating".

They were given a choice of marginal improvement if you reached an agreement and the standard package if you didn’t.

There’s no extra money for negotiating, it is a standard package and there is no local discretion and there are lots of additional problems for businesses and employees.

What we’re seeing is it’s a facade of local negotiation. Everyone’s getting the same, so why not bring in a national system?

11:37 AM

R rate reduction the best way to help businesses, says Boris Johnson

Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, says that Boris Johnson's Government "lost control of the virus" and is "killing Nottingham businesses" through the lack of financial support that comes with Tier 2 restrictions. 

She says two pubs in her constituency have closed permanently and staff are worried about being laid off with no pay. She implores the Prime Minister to give them "the support they desperately need".

Mr Johnson says that while he sympathises with struggling businesses, the infection rate in Ms Greenwood's constituency is now running at 815 per 100,000, and "we must get that down".

He says that the way to get businesses across the country "back on their feet" is to "get the R down".

11:31 AM

South Yorkshire lockdown: Johnson 'delighted' by South Yorkshire agreement

Bob Blackman asks Boris Johnson to confirm that the congestion charge is not being expanded to the North and South Circular Roads. 

The Prime Minister says the "black hole" in TfL's finances - which were left in "robust" shape by the previous Mayor (aka Boris Johnson) - because of "grossly irresponsible, demagogic policies", but does not rule out that the congestion charge will be expanded.

In response to a separate question, Boris Johnson adds he is "delighted that South Yorkshire came on board this morning" in agreeing to local Tier 3 restrictions.

He says that "where local leadership is shown", the response to the pandemic can be aided.

11:23 AM

End of furlough will spell 'destitution', claims Labour

Mr Johnson is warned that people will "face destitution" when the furlough scheme ends next month, and he is urged to vote with Labour's motion tonight as well as backing free school meals.

He says that people are "right to call to attention the difficulties facing many families", but "the most important thing is to keep kids in school if we possibly can".

Mr Johnson does not respond with regards to free school meals.

11:18 AM

Greater Manchester lockdown: Johnson accused of 'total disregard'

SNP spokesperson Ian Blackford says that Mr Johnson has shown "total disregard for the people of Manchester... in the middle of a pandemic".

He accuses him of making a "deliberate decision to let unemployment soar, just like Thatcher did in the eighties."

Asked about whether he will perform an about-turn on the furlough scheme, Mr Johnson says that Mr Blackford's comments "bear no relation to the facts of what this Government's doing".

He says that the Government will "continue to deliver a colossal investment" in the UK.

11:13 AM

Boris Johnson defends Conservative approach as 'commonsensical'

Sir Keir says the infection rate is up across all age groups and all regions despite local restrictions.

"If they're moving into Tier 3, Tier 2 hasn't worked," he says. "Tier 2 goes to Tier 3, Tier 3 has no end because there's no prospect or confidence in the R rate going below 1."

He says that the Isle of Wight and Cornwall are the only regions with a case rate currently lower than that of Greater Manchester when the first local restrictions were introduced.

Sir Keir calls for a "time limited circuit break to break the cycle and get the virus under control", saying that half-term may be "the last opportunity for an effective circuit break".

"He was too slow in the first phase of this pandemic. Will he act in the public interest and put in place a circuit break this Friday?"

Mr Johnson says the Government will do "whatever it takes to get the country through this crisis, with or without the support of the Right Honourable Gentleman opposite."

He says a national lockdown would inflict "psychological and emotional damage", and that Sir Keir "cannot say how much damage [circuit breakers] would do to people's mental health". The Prime Minister defends his own approach as "commonsensical". 

11:11 AM

Boris Johnson 'proud of One Nation Conservative approach'

Sir Keir Starmer says that the "miserly way" Boris Johnson has treated Greater Manchester is "corrosive to public trust".

"It asks them to trade away their businesses and jobs, we need a One Nation approach," he says, saying Labour's motion will do that.

"I'm proud of the One Nation Conservative support we've given to the entire country," the Prime Minister fires back, putting a price tag of £200 billion on the response.

"There is no other country in Europe where so much support, so much help has been given to the population."

Mr Johnson says it is the "height of absurdity" for Sir Keir Starmer to "attack" the Government while advocating a full national lockdown.

11:09 AM

Sir Keir Starmer: 'Stop bargaining with people's lives'

Sir Keir Starmer says that on Friday, thousands of taxi drivers, pubs and hospitality workers and freelancers in Greater Manchester "will either be out of work or face significant pay cuts".

"Their rent and their mortgage won't be lower, their food and their heating bills won't be lower and that could last for months," he says.

"Stop bargaining with people's lives. Stop bargaining with communities and give Greater Manchester the support it needs."

Boris Johnson says Greater Manchester has already received £1.1 billion in support for business and £50 million to tackle infections in care homes, plus another £22 million for the new local response.

Mr Johnson thanks the Conservative MPs who supported that £60 million that was offered by the Government during negotiations with the Greater Manchester region. He says the £60 million will be distributed among all 10 boroughs.

11:07 AM

Tier 3 rules 'worst of all worlds', says Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer says that "the widespread fear is that Tier 3 is the worst of all worlds, bringing economic harm without bringing the virus sufficiently under control".

He says it is a "gateway to months and months of agony, to which there is no likely exit".

Mr Johnson says he has "made it absolutely clear that part of the country going into Tier 3 is only in there for 28 days". He insists areas that have gone into Tier 3 "are already making progress".

"We are pursuing a local, a regional approach which is the sensible approach for this country," he says. "I want to thank local leadership in Merseyside, in Lancashire, in London, the West Midlands and elsewhere for what they are doing."

Mr Johnson accuses Sir Keir of "incoherence when he wants to plunge the whole country back into a national lockdown for weeks on end". He says "he has no clue" on how Sir Keir would respond.

11:05 AM

Boris Johnson: Leave Tier 3 by 'getting R to 1 or below'

Boris Johnson says that "the way forward is for everyone to keep following the guidance, observing the new restrictions but obviously washing hands, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and keeping a sensible distance."

With a short, sharp first question, Sir Keir Starmer asks: "How does an area which goes into Tier 3 restrictions get out of those restrictions?"

Mr Johnson replies: "To get the R down to 1 or below, and I'm very pleased to say some areas are already having a considerable effect with the measures that they're taking."

Sir Keir asks if it will be possible for an area to leave Tier 3 before the infection rate has not gone below 1. Mr Johnson says that the R rate is among "a number of measures" and that going into Tier 3 is "the right thing to save lives" for the most affected regions.

10:59 AM

PMQs today: Watch live as Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer face off

In the next few minutes, Boris Johnson will field questions from Sir Keir Starmer and several MPs in what is looks set to be another terse Prime Minister's Questions.

You can keep up to date with all the key developments on this live blog - and watch the full session live below:

 

10:57 AM

Italy coronavirus news: Police attacked while enforcing virus rules

This dispatch from Nick Squires, in Rome:

Italian police officers were attacked with sticks and stones when they tried to break up an impromptu game of football in a piazza in the seaside town of Livorno in Tuscany after telling the players to put on their face masks.

Patrol cars were also attacked by a few dozen youths and two officers had to be taken to hospital for injuries.

Italians have in general shown compliance to the requirement that masks be worn outdoors as well as in bars, restaurants, shops and offices.

The tension came as Italy gradually ramps up its anti-virus measures, with two regions – Campania in the south and Lombardy in the north – introducing night-time curfews.

Around 100 soldiers are to be sent to Campania to enforce the curfew. The northern region of Piedmont has announced that it will close shopping centres at weekends.

The government insists Italy is not heading towards a second lockdown, but it is registering a large number of new cases – around 10,000 a day.

On Tuesday, Italy recorded another 10,874 new cases. There were 89 deaths - the highest figure since June 4. Roberto Speranza, the health minister, has appealed to Italians to stay at home as much as possible to limit the spread of the virus.

10:55 AM

Coronavirus lockdown introduced in Czech Republic

A nationwide coronavirus lockdown has been ordered in the Czech Republic - with people only allowed to travel for work purposes, and go out to buy essentials.

Two people at a maximum will be allowed to take a walk in nature or through forests.

Cases in the Czech Republic have risen rapidly with at least one in every fourth test coming back as positive. Deaths are also exceeding the spring peak of the pandemic amid a rise in hospitalisations.

10:50 AM

Social distancing rules broken and staff attacked during Thorpe Park 'carnage'

Guests were attacked, social distancing rules were broken and staff faced abuse during a night of "absolute carnage" at Thorpe Park over the weekend.

The park said it asked some people to leave its Fright Night event for "intimidating and threatening behaviour", the BBC has reported.

Surrey Police has said it was working with the park after the disorder on Sunday, which one guest speaking on condition of anonymity described as "the most horrendous day".

"There were massive groups of people everywhere - we're talking 20-plus - without masks, not being broken up," she said."

Another guest told the Newsbeat radio bulletin that she was punched in the head by a teenager in the Creek Freaks Unchained experience.

10:41 AM

South Yorkshire lockdown: 'All kicking off' in meeting with MPs

This from Labour MP Sarah Champion, who says that it's "all kicking off" in a meeting between South Yorkshire MPs and the Health Minister.

"First [we were] told constituents can’t go on holiday in UK, but can go abroad," she wrote. "Then changed their minds & said you can’t leave your area. Now decided they’ll get back to us on it?! Why hasn’t this been sorted?"

10:28 AM

UK Government machine 'exposed' by Covid crisis, claims former Cabinet Secretary

The “Government machine” was not fully prepared for covid-19 and was “exposed” by the scale of the crisis, the former Cabinet Secretary has said as he claimed that Dominic Cummings had undermined compliance with the rules.

In comments that will reignite the debate about whether Boris Johnson was too slow to enter a full nation lockdown in March, Lord Sedwill said one of “two big questions” was whether decisions were “taken at the right time”.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes with Mark Sedwill, as he is clapped into 10 Downing Street by Mark Spencer and Dominic Cummings after he accepted the invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to become Prime Minister and form a new government - Stefan Rousseau/Pool via Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes with Mark Sedwill, as he is clapped into 10 Downing Street by Mark Spencer and Dominic Cummings after he accepted the invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to become Prime Minister and form a new government - Stefan Rousseau/Pool via Reuters

In his first interview since stepping down as head of the civil service, he said the second bone of contention was over the Government's “capabilities” and whether the “right balance of investment” had been made in pandemic contingency planning. 

While the UK had rehearsed other scenarios, such as pandemic influenza, Lord Sedwill told the BBC that the Government had not prepared to take the “exact measures” necessary for the “challenge presented” by Covid-19.

Our Political Correspondent Harry Yorke has the story.

10:22 AM

FGM: Month-long 'cutting season' in West Kenya targets 2,800 girls

Thousands of girls have been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) during a month long “cutting season” in west Kenya, amid fears the Covid lockdown has triggered a dramatic surge in new incidents, writes Sarah Newey.

Every day for almost four weeks, roughly 100 girls have now been pushed to undergo FGM - a dangerous non-medical practice where a girl's genitals are cut - in Kuria, a district on the Tanzanian border some 50 miles from Lake Victoria.

Videos shared online capture the celebrations that follow the procedure. Girls as young as nine are dressed in patterned fabrics, tinsel and balloons and paraded through the streets, surrounded by a throng of dancing adults and children. Many men carry machetes to deter interventions.

While Kenya was hailed as a “beacon of hope” amid efforts to eradicate cutting across the globe, the practice has now been pushed underground in some areas - and Covid school closures, plus wider instability induced by the pandemic, have worsened the situation.

Read the full story here.

10:10 AM

House prices average reached new high in August, reveals ONS

The average UK house price reached a new high of £239,000 in August in light of a 2.5 per cent annual increase amid the coronavirus pandemic, new data from the Office for National Statistics has shown.

House prices across the UK were £6,000 higher typically than in August 2019. Average property values increased annually by 2.8 per cent in England to reach £256,000.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said that the current price surge has "unstable foundations" and "reflects well-off buyers seeking to buy bigger homes in response to the pandemic."

The ONS said that the August data mostly reflects sales signed off before a temporary stamp duty cut was introduced, as the index works on the basis of completed sales.

The figures were released as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) data showed 98,010 home sales took place across the UK in September - a total which is broadly in line with the same month a year earlier.

Jamie Durham, an economist at PwC, cautioned that fresh lockdown restrictions may introduce uncertainty both locally and nationally.

09:59 AM

Russia hits daily record of 317 deaths

This just in from Maria Georgieva in Moscow:

Russia has confirmed the highest daily death toll from the coronavirus, a record number at 317 fatalities.

Russian officials have continued to reassure the public that they will not reinforce new strict lockdown measures despite the renewed surge in coronavirus cases, which brings the total number of cases to 1,447,335 and with 24,952 deaths.

Earlier this year when Russia was seeing a spike of new cases, relatives and experts, examining state statistics, told The Telegraph that the real death toll in the country could be much higher, claiming that many deaths in Russia are not recorded as Covid related despite the dead displaying coronavirus symptoms.

The record-breaking daily death toll comes one day after Russia reported its highest one-day increase of 16,319 new infections. On Wednesday 15,700 cases were reported, significantly less than the day before.

Most of all new infections were recorded in Moscow, the epicenter of the pandemic, which reported 4,389 new Covid-19 infections. However, the daily increase in the capital has decreased. Yesterday, October 20, 4,999 cases were detected.

Since the start of the pandemic, Russia has recorded 1,447,335 infections.  

09:47 AM

London mayor: 'Now is not the time to play party political games'

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has said: "Now is not the time for the Government to play party political games or be vindictive towards London. This is far too serious a matter."

Speaking at a Transport for London board meeting, Mr Khan added: "We need to do what's right for the city and the people of the city who have endured so much during this crisis.

"I say to the board this morning, I intend to stand firm and fight for a fair deal for Londoners and do what's right for our city."

09:34 AM

One in 20 likely to suffer 'Long Covid'

One in 20 people with Covid-19 are likely to suffer symptoms for eight weeks or more, new analysis by researchers at King’s College London has revealed. 

Led by Dr Claire Steves and Professor Tim Spector at King’s College London, the research used data from 4,182 Covid Symptom Study app users who had been regularly logging their health and tested positive for the virus. 

The team found that older people, women and those with a greater number of different symptoms in the first week of their illness were more likely to develop long Covid.

Read more: Why long Covid can be really grim, but is rarer than you think 

09:25 AM

13 per cent of UK population under Tier 3

The 1.4 million people in South Yorkshire joining the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Lancashire in Tier 3 means 7.3 million people, or 13 per cent of England's population, will now be living under the toughest restrictions.

The agreement with the Government is worth £41 million, including £30 million to support the region's businesses, and £11 million for councils to support measures such as test and trace.

Coronavirus UK and regional map ..
Coronavirus UK and regional map ..

09:05 AM

South Yorks leaders react to Tier 3

South Yorkshire will move into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions from 00.01 on Saturday, it has been announced.

  • Sir Steve Houghton, Barnsley Council leader, said: "Although these additional restrictions come as no surprise, it's difficult to see our borough in such a severe situation." He added, although the impact of the virus on people's daily lives and the economy is understood: "Cases are spreading from young to old, putting more lives in danger, leading to more people in our hospital, more people becoming seriously ill, and sadly more people dying. We must act now to save lives and prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed".

  • Alexander Stafford, Tory MP for Rother Valley, said the infection rate was "skyrocketing" in the area. "The four council leaders and mayor have all agreed that without action our population and the health services right across South Yorkshire are at risk, and that our collective response must find a balance between the health and economic challenges in front of us," he said.

08:43 AM

South Yorks PCC: 'People need to feel measures are not just reactive'

Following the news that South Yorkshire will move into Tier 3, police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings said: "If going into Tier 3 is necessary to stop the relentless spread of coronavirus, then the police will have a role in enforcing the new restrictions, for all our sakes.

"Having spoken to the chief constable and senior officers, I have no doubt that they will continue to do this in a proportionate way, but we should be in no doubt that there will be enforcement activity if people wilfully flout the law.

"Of course, the police cannot be everywhere all the time. It is essential, therefore, that we all play our part."

But he added that the Government "need to understand that people will continue to observe the rules as long as they feel that what is being proposed is not just reactive, but part of a longer term strategy to defeat the virus".

"How the Tier 3 restrictions fit into that strategy needs careful, constant and consistent explanation," he said.

08:41 AM

'Gut wrenching': Contact tracer describes harrowing stories from the front line

The anonymous contact tracer said the test and trace system does work, but it should be expanded to allow tracers to offer "sympathy and advice" rather than just sticking to a script.

Detailing one harrowing case, the tracer said he spoke to an elderly woman whose partner has dementia. She didn't want to give her details through fear of being separated.

"Her words on the phone to me were ‘I want to die at home with him, I don’t want to be taken away and separated, I’m not telling you anything’. Awful," he said.

"I tried to organise a police safe and well check because the individual concerned was so breathless, could hardly put words together.

"Air hunger when you are basically dying of slow asphyxiation is the most horrible way to end a life you can possibly imagine, and to be talking to someone on the end of the phone who is totally isolated in that sense, but wants to be with the person they so love it just gut wrenching, it’s just awful."

The tracer added he had "no idea" and "no means of finding out" what happened to the individual and her loved one.

08:38 AM

Students are 'distressed' and lacking support, contact tracer says

A anonymous contact tracer, who works as a mental health professional, said he has had "alarming" conversations with people, particularly students, who are "distressed and upset".

Although he can pass the details on to a team leader, he never hears the outcome of the patient.

He said: "I've spoken to many students now, from many universities, often freshers, who are distressed and upset obviously because they are not getting their normal student experience but also because they are away from home for the first time and it's a difficult time for them.

"When you phone someone who is in complete bits and complete meltdown we're supposed to stick to a very strict script, it's not my job to be their counsellor, but when no one else is, what do you do?"

He added that sometimes he has become a "de factor" counsellor to students.

"You can't stick to a script when you are talking to a young person who is in distress and has no one else to speak to," he said.

Some universities pastoral care services have not been up to scratch, he added.

"Some of these fresher students have had very little, if any, contact with the university at all, and some of them have told me they've tried to contact the pastoral care services to get a voice recorded message to say that due to the corona crisis they are operating at a minimalist services and get nothing from them.

"The trouble is that encourages risky behaviour, some of them will go home to mum and dad and on several occasions I've come across students who have done that, thinking they're well, they arrived home to find out one of their bubble has tested positive and then gone on to infect their families."

08:17 AM

South Yorkshire to move into Tier 3

South Yorkshire will move into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions from 00.01 on Saturday, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis said.

In a letter to colleagues Mr Jarvis said: "This decision has not been taken lightly."

A package of support agreed with the Government includes, £11m for support for a localised test and trace system and £30m for support for businesses affected.

08:12 AM

Talks broke down because Burnham wasn't willing to compromise, says Jenrick

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said talks with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham broke down because he had insisted on preferential treatment for the region.

"The mayor of Greater Manchester was never willing to draw this to a conclusion. The public health situation was deteriorating," Mr Jenrick told the Radio 4 Today programme.

"It would have frankly been irresponsible of the Government to allow this to continue for many more days without bringing it to a conclusion.

"In a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister offered £55 million, Andy Burnham asked for £65 million. The Prime Minister said: 'Look, let's just compromise, and get this done for the sake of people in Greater Manchester.'

"Andy Burnham wasn't willing to, so we had to take action."

08:11 AM

£60m offer still on the table, says Jenrick

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said the £60 million of Government support rejected by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham was still available to the region.

"The money is still there. It's got Greater Manchester's name on it," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"We have had very productive conversations with the local council leaders in recent days. The council leaders can come to me, my door is open.

"They can come to me today and we can start making the same arrangements as we are now doing intensively with Merseyside, Lancashire and other parts of the country."

07:48 AM

Gyms to remain open in Liverpool under Tier 3

Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram told BBC Radio Merseyside that gyms in the area would be allowed to reopen under Tier 3 restrictions.

He asked for scientific evidence on why they were ordered to close, following the announcement gyms in Lancashire would remain open in Tier 3.

Reading a statement on behalf of local leaders, he said: "Collectively, we have consistently requested the scientific evidence that supported the imposition of the suite of measures under Tier 3 and we pointed out the inconsistency of the approach following the announcement that Lancashire would not in fact have exactly the same package of restrictions as our city region.

"Talks continued until late last night and the Government have agreed with the case I put forward on behalf of city region leaders and that they would now bring us in line with other Tier 3 areas.

"This would mean soft play areas would be closed but gyms could reopen."

07:42 AM

Five stories to read this morning

  1. LockdownNorthern cities told they could be next after Manchester put into Tier 3

  2. Second wave? ONS data shows normal level of deaths for time of year

  3. Manchester: Government 'should have acted a few days ago'

  4. US: Melania Trump still suffering lingering cough after Covid infection

  5. WHO'There are no inevitable subsequent peaks or waves of coronavirus'

07:28 AM

Lisa Nandy: 'Hancock spent five minutes complaining about Andy Burnham'

 Lisa Nandy MP  - NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/REX 
Lisa Nandy MP - NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/REX

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has said Greater Manchester MPs were told on Tuesday there would be no more money for the region after mayor Andy Burnham rejected an offer of £60 million.

Ms Nandy, the MP for Wigan, said that Health Secretary Matt Hancock had spent five minutes complaining about Mr Burnham during a conference call.

"The upshot was that we were told that there was not going to be a single penny available to Greater Manchester and that £22 million for test, trace and isolate was the only deal available," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"That story seems to have changed overnight."

07:21 AM

Senior Tory backs free school meals extension

Senior Conservative MP Robert Halfon has called on the Government to extend free school meals during the school holidays while the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Mr Halfon, who chairs the Commons Education Committee, said he could support a Labour motion calling for their extension to next Easter in the Commons on Wednesday.

"I will either vote for the motion or abstain depending on what the Government says," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

He added: "What the Government needs to do is to have a long-term plan, sit down with the taskforce set up by Marcus Rashford and actually come up with a serious plan and a budget to deal with this problem.

"All the statistics show that families are struggling. We know that 10 per cent of families are affected by food insecurity.

"I am not arguing this should happen for ever but the free school meals should at least go on until we are out of the coronavirus, god willing, by next spring."

07:11 AM

Jenrick denies Andy Burnham found out latest news on TV

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Jenrick denied that Andy Burnham had to find out the latest news regarding the Manchester live on television.

Mr Burnham was speaking to the media when he was shown an email and reportedly found out for the first time the Government had lowered it's offer of support from £60m to £22m. 

You can watch the moment below from around 32 minutes.

07:04 AM

Robert Jenrick: Government 'on the cusp' of agreement with South Yorkshire

It was put to Robert Jenrick that it sounded like Sheffield and South Yorkshire would be going into Tier 3.

He told Sky News: "It's not right for me to pre-empt a full statement that the Prime Minister and Dan Jarvis will make later today.

"But we have had very successful conversations with him and with the leaders of South Yorkshire.

"Again there's a serious situation there, and rightly they wanted to take action.

"We've discussed that over the course of yesterday and early this morning and an announcement will be made shortly."

Mr Jenrick later said that he hoped the Government is "on the cusp of an agreement with South Yorkshire".

He was asked why the Government and Greater Manchester leaders were "squabbling" over £5 million.

He told Sky News: "It wasn't just about £5 million. We had dozens of conversations. I'm afraid, I'm not going to get into a point-scoring argument, but we simply were not able to reach agreement.

"The mayor and local leaders were not willing to agree to the package of support that we wanted to put in place."

07:02 AM

Robert Jenrick: Government tried 'extremely hard' to get a deal

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick  - Yui Mok/PA Wire
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick - Yui Mok/PA Wire

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was "a great shame" that the Government was unable to reach an agreement with leaders in Greater Manchester after having tried "extremely hard".

He told Sky News the clear public advice he received was that Greater Manchester was facing "a serious and deteriorating situation", and that the Government needed to act.

"We probably in honesty should have acted a few days ago but we hadn't been able to reach an agreement with the mayor of Greater Manchester," he said.

Mr Jenrick said "very productive" conversations have taken place with the mayor of Sheffield Dan Jarvis.

"Those discussions are coming to a conclusion this morning, I hope," he said.

Mr Jarvis tweeted on Monday night that he was ready to work with the Government but it had not yet offered enough support.

06:58 AM

The Manchester row rolls on...

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has responded to Conservative MP Chris Clarkson's request that Mr Burnham should now let local MPs and council leaders attempt to get a settlement.

It comes as Greater Manchester will be put into Tier 3 from midnight on Thursday against the will of its leaders after they failed to agree a financial deal with ministers.

Mr Clarkson said the Government offered to give Manchester "92% of what you asked for, with a settlement of an additional £60m funding, you decided the best option was to walk away having secured absolutely nothing."

Mr Burnham tweeted in response: "You haven't got this quite right Chris.

"We asked for £90m - which is the cost of an 80% furlough & self-employed scheme.

"We were offered £60m - 66% of our ask, the same that pub staff in Heywood & Middleton are deemed to be worth.

"You can vote to change that today. Will you?"

06:56 AM

WATCH: 'We're crushing the virus,' says Trump

06:49 AM

Police urge pubs to check IDs for rule breakers

Police have called on pubs and restaurants to check customers IDs to ensure they are following lockdown rules, it has emerged.

Businesses in London received letters from the Met Police to say they should ask for diners for their names, addresses and photo IDs to check they are not mixing with other households after the capital went under Tier 2 restrictions. 

The Night Time Industries Association has said it is taking legal advice over the "unlawful" guidance, according to The Daily Mail. 

While the British Beer & Pub Association said the checks would be "fundamentally inappropriate" for pubs to carry out.

The letter went out last Friday after London was placed under Tier 2 restrictions, under which, people can only sit indoors with members of their household, or outdoors with up to six people from different households. 

The Met Police said the letter was "well-intention" adding: "The local advice from one of the Met's licensing teams about this is just that - advice.

"It was well-intentioned and we hope that it is taken in that way. Our primary aim is to help keep all Londoners safe and ensure, through engagement and explanation, that the relevant Covid legislation is adhered to."

Police monitor people seated outside bars and restaurants in Soho, London, on the first day after the city was put into Tier 2 restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus -  Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Police monitor people seated outside bars and restaurants in Soho, London, on the first day after the city was put into Tier 2 restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
People eat outside restaurants in Soho, London, on the first day after the city was put into Tier 2 restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus.  - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
People eat outside restaurants in Soho, London, on the first day after the city was put into Tier 2 restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Drinkers outside a pub in Soho, London, on the first day after the city was put into Tier 2 restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 17, 2020. Under Tier 2 restrictions the rule of six applies for socialising outside, and pubs, bars and restaurants have a 10pm curfew. - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Drinkers outside a pub in Soho, London, on the first day after the city was put into Tier 2 restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 17, 2020. Under Tier 2 restrictions the rule of six applies for socialising outside, and pubs, bars and restaurants have a 10pm curfew. - Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

06:10 AM

Lord Sedwill questions Government's pandemic preparedness

Lord Mark Sedwill, who until last month was the Government's most senior civil servant, has said there was a "genuine question" about the Government's pandemic preparedness. 

Speaking to the BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, Lord Sedwill said he took "pride" in the Government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but said there was a "genuine question" about whether it could have been "better prepared".

He also called the Prime Minister's chief advisor, Dominic Cummings', trip to Durham during lockdown a "mistake" which "clearly undermined" efforts to encourage the public to follow the rules.

05:49 AM

Czech Republic cases highest daily tally on record

The Czech Republic reported 11,984 new cases of coronavirus for Oct. 20, the highest daily tally on record, as the country is struggling with a surge in recent weeks.

The number of people who died of the Covid-19 disease rose to 1,619 from 1,513 over the past 24 hours in the country of 10.7 million, Health Ministry data showed on Wednesday.

The data on casualties are being assigned to a number of previous days as reports come in with a delay.

Read more: Germany to spend €500m upgrading ventilation systems against virus

05:23 AM

Airline testing global health app on UK-US flight

United Airlines is set on Wednesday to test a digital health pass under a global pilot program seeking to establish a common international standard for Covid-19 test results that could help reopen borders.

The nonprofit initiative, called CommonPass, if successful could persuade governments to ease restrictions and quarantine.

The United flight from London Heathrow to Newark Liberty International in New Jersey follows a pilot by Cathay Pacific this month, and other large airlines are also planning international trials in November and December.

Broad deployment is targeted for January, he said.

Volunteers on the United flight, which will be observed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will upload Covid-19 test results from a certified lab to their smartphones and complete any required health screening questions to generate a verified QR code that airline staff and border officials can scan.

They will present the code, which can be printed for passengers without mobile devices, before departing and on arrival.

05:11 AM

Australia reports rare case of reinfection

Australian authorities say they're treating a Covid-19 case in the city of Melbourne as a rare reinfection.

The only coronavirus case reported in the former hot spot of Victoria state on Tuesday had also tested positive to in July.

Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said on Wednesday an expert panel had decided to classify the case as a reinfection rather than shedding viral remnants of the July infection.

Mr Andrews says the classification reflected "an abundance of caution" rather than conclusive evidence. He assumed further testing would be conducted into the case in search of a definitive result.

Read more: First death from reinfection reported in the Netherlands

Coronavirus Australia Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Australia Spotlight Chart - Cases default

04:26 AM

India to roll out quick and cheap virus paper test

A fast and cheap paper-based coronavirus test will soon be available across India, with scientists hopeful it will help turn the tide on the pandemic in one of the world's worst-hit nations.

The locally developed Feluda, named for a detective in a famous Indian novel series, resembles a home pregnancy paper-strip test and delivers results within an hour.

Researchers are optimistic that its low cost and ease of use can help stem the pathogen's spread in poor and remote areas.

"This test doesn't require any sophisticated equipment or highly trained manpower," said co-creator Souvik Maiti, a scientist at New Delhi's CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB)."There are lots of remote parts of India where you do not have any sophisticated laboratories... (The test) will be much easier to deploy; it will have much more penetration."

Read more: How will Heathrow’s travel tests work, and where will they unlock?

A researcher holds a sheet with paper strip samples for coronavirus tests developed by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology - AFP
A researcher holds a sheet with paper strip samples for coronavirus tests developed by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology - AFP

03:54 AM

Mexico asks cemeteries to close ahead of holiday

Mexican authorities are calling on cemeteries to close to public visitors ahead of the Day of the Dead, a celebration that usually draws hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, as officials strive to avert another wave of  infections.

The Nov. 1-2 celebration blends Catholic rituals and the pre-Hispanic belief that the dead return once a year from the underworld, and believers throng cemeteries and public plazas on those days.

Ahead of the holiday, cemeteries will largely remain closed, as they could "become areas of high risk for contagion," Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell told reporters on Tuesday. "The recommendation is to avoid crowds."

View of a so-called Calaca ,commonly used for decoration during the Mexican Day of the Dead, is used to keep social distancing measures at a restaurant in Coyoacan - AFP
View of a so-called Calaca ,commonly used for decoration during the Mexican Day of the Dead, is used to keep social distancing measures at a restaurant in Coyoacan - AFP

03:14 AM

Imported workers test positive in New Zealand

Eighteen fishing crewmen who last week flew to New Zealand from Moscow have tested positive for the coronavirus, underscoring the difficulty New Zealand faces in trying to import needed workers while remaining virtually virus free.

A total of 235 crew from Russia and Ukraine were on the flight chartered by three fishing companies. Before leaving Moscow, they were supposed to have self-isolated for two weeks and tested negative for the virus. All remain in quarantine at a Christchurch hotel, and health officials say they expect more to test positive.

One of the companies says the workers were brought in because the future of an important industry is at stake. The company says it uses foreign crew because New Zealand workers either aren't adequately trained or willing to do the work.

Military personnel arrive at the hotel where crew members have been in quarantine - AP
Military personnel arrive at the hotel where crew members have been in quarantine - AP

02:10 AM

Amazon staff can work from home until June 2021

Amazon on Tuesday told employees whose work can be done from home that they can do so until June, extending the timeline on a return to office due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until June 30, 2021", an Amazon spokeswoman said in an emailed statement on Tuesday, adding the guidance is applicable globally.

Amazon had previously allowed that option until January.

Other tech giants have told employees that they can work from home. In May, Twitter became the first major tech company to allow staff to work remotely on an indefinite basis. Microsoft said earlier this month it will let most employees work remotely for up to half their weekly working hours. Facebook will allow its employees to work from home till July next year, while Google's staff need not return to the office until June.

Many Amazon staff who work in warehouses will not be able to work from home - REUTERS
Many Amazon staff who work in warehouses will not be able to work from home - REUTERS

01:55 AM

Boost for US Covid relief package

Chances for approving a new spending package to support the US economy which has been battered by the coronavirus crisis improved dramatically on Tuesday after the senior Democratic lawmaker said a bill is in the works and the top Senate Republican said he would bring it to a vote.

Both sides said they made progress in talks, but whether negotiations can be completed in time for Congress to approve the package before the November 3 presidential election remains a question mark.

Nancy Pelosi, the US House Speaker, said on Bloomberg TV that legislators are starting to commit the measure to paper.

While the bill must go through several legislative steps, "I am optimistic" it can get bipartisan support, Pelosi said, but cautioned" "Legislation is tough".

Talks between the White House and congressional Democrats over new stimulus measures have dragged on for months.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, said he was prepared to put the bill to vote - EPA
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, said he was prepared to put the bill to vote - EPA

01:46 AM

Labour calls for free school meal extension

Labour will use a Commons vote on Wednesday to call for free school meals to be extended over each school holiday from October half-term to Easter 2021.

The party claims that nearly one million children living in areas that are subject to Tier 2 and Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions are set to lose access to free school meals over the upcoming holidays.

Angela Rayner, Labour's party leader, said: "This vote is about our values as a country and whether the Government, in the middle of this crisis, is happy to let our children go hungry.

She added: "No child in our country should be waking up hungry and having to face the day worrying where food might be coming from."

However, Downing Street has shown reluctance to extend the scheme, with a spokesman indicating last week that ministers would not provide free school meals to children in England during the Christmas break.

Rayner said the Government was spending money on consultants rather than school children - GEOFF PUGH
Rayner said the Government was spending money on consultants rather than school children - GEOFF PUGH

12:37 AM

Oxford vaccine trial to resume in US

Trials of the Oxford University and AstraZeneca Covid vaccine were to resume in the United States as early as this week after it was suspended when a participant became ill.

AstraZeneca's large, late-stage US trial has been on hold since September 6, after a participant in the company's UK trial fell ill with what was suspected to be a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.

Four sources, who were briefed on the matter but asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters they have been told the trial could resume later this week after the US Food and Drug Administration completed its review. It was unclear how the FDA would characterise the illness, they said.

Read more: US set to resume Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine trials after illness review

12:25 AM

Today's top stories

Good morning – here are today's top coronavirus stories: