Coronavirus latest news: World on a 'dangerous track', WHO chief says, as he warns of a tough winter ahead

Sarah Newey
·61 min read
A patient infected with Covid-19 is transferred to a hospital in Germany, where hospitals are helping by taking Dutch coronavirus patients - REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
A patient infected with Covid-19 is transferred to a hospital in Germany, where hospitals are helping by taking Dutch coronavirus patients - REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

The world is at a critical juncture in the battle against Covid-19, the head of the World Health Organization has warned, with health services set to collapse under strain. 

In a stark press conference the director general of the UN agency, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that some countries are on a "dangerous track", particularly in the Northern hemisphere. 

"The next few months are going to be very tough," he said. "We urge leaders to take immediate action, to prevent further unnecessary deaths, essential health services from collapsing and schools shutting again.

"I said it in February and I’m repeating it today: This is not a drill," he added, stressing that it is "never too late" for governments to gain control of the pandemic. 

Dr Tedros' warning comes as cases surge across the United States and Europe, which has once again become the epicentre of the pandemic.

Earlier today, the European Centre for Disease Control said that coronavirus transmission  in 23 EU member states and the UK is now of "serious concern".

Yesterday daily cases across the continent surpassed 200,000 for the first time, while infections have more than doubled in the last 10 days. 

Follow the latest updates below.

05:59 PM

Dutch transfer patients to Germany as Covid cases spike

The Netherlands began transferring Covid-19 patients to Germany again today, as hospitals come under increasing strain from a second wave of infections.

The Flevo hospital in the central Dutch town of Almere said it would transfer two of its intensive care patients by helicopter to a hospital in Muenster, around 65 km (40 miles) east of the Dutch-German border.

During the first wave in March and April dozens of Dutch patients were transferred to Germany, where intensive care capacity is larger, but this is the first transfer of the second wave. The Dutch hospital association said it expects the transfer of four more patients to Germany over the weekend.

Infections in the Netherlands have reached a record high almost every day since mid-September and jumped to a new peak of almost 10,000 today (see chart). Daily confirmed infections in Germany, where the population is almost five times bigger, were at 11,242.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was too early to say whether a broader lockdown would be needed, even though he called the rate of infections very worrying.

"All scenarios are on the table", Rutte told reporters. "But we first need to get a better picture of the effects of the current measures."

05:50 PM

Police will patrol routes out of Wales during firebreak lockdown

Police in England will attempt to block non-essential journeys out of Wales while the country is under a two-week firebreak lockdown.

Gloucestershire Constabulary confirmed they will patrol routes into the Forest of Dean area and pull over vehicles they suspect of making long journeys.

The force said drivers who turned out to have driven out of Wales without a valid excuse would be advised to turn around and, if they refused, would then be reported to police in Wales who can issue fines.

A spokesman for the force said this evening: "While we cannot issue fines to those travelling from Wales into the county we can inform the host force of those we stop about what has happened so they can take action.

"It is important to stress that the vast majority of people are abiding by the rules but, in line with our policing approach, we will take action where there are flagrant breaches."

05:41 PM

Evening summary

Here's a quick rundown of the key UK developments you should be aware of today:

  • As of 6pm tonight Wales began its 17 day 'firebreak' , which will see non-essential shops closed and supermarkets banned from selling non-essential items. Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, said the lockdown  will be "a short, sharp shock that will save people's lives"

  • Greater Manchester has now also entered tier three restrictions, while South Yorkshire is set to follow tomorrow. Next week, another million Britons look set to move into Tier 3 restrictions, including Warrington and Nottinghamshire 

  • In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a new five-leveled system of restrictions, which are set to come into force on November 2. 

  • People told to self-isolate by the NHS Covid-19 app are not eligible for the £500 support payment because its notifications are "advisory", the Government has confirmed, prompting a warning that the app is "not fit for purpose".

  • A Sage adviser has poured cold water on the Prime Minister's hopes of saving Christmas, suggesting the idea of a normal Christmas is 'wishful thinking' 

  • A deluge of cash-strapped councils and local businesses have announced plans to support Marcus Rashford's campaign to extend the free school meals programme during October half term. MPs voted down the measures earlier this week. 

  • Coronavirus infections continue to rise across the UK, according to the latest ONS data, with cases estimated to have risen by roughly a quarter to 35,200 a day. The latest R estimate for the whole of the UK is between 1.2 and 1.4, according to SPI-M, a sub-group of Sage.

Scroll down for more coronavirus news - or head to 2:16pm for a global summary. You can also sign up to our free Global Health Security newsletter for a daily update of all the latest Covid developments, straight to your inbox:

Global Health Bulletin REFERRAL article
Global Health Bulletin REFERRAL article

05:26 PM

US: Universal face masks could save 130,000 lives by February

More than a half million people in the United States could die from Covid-19 by the end of February next year, but around 130,000 of those lives could be saved if everybody were to wear masks, according to estimates from a modelling study.

The estimates, from a study by researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, show that with few effective Covid-19 treatment options and no vaccines yet available, the US faces "a continued Covid-19 public health challenge through the winter."

"We are heading into a very substantial fall/winter surge," said IHME director Chris Murray, who co-led the research.

This comes as the US reports second highest number of daily cases on record - coming in just short of a midsummer peak - as the spread of the virus accelerates in nearly every region of the country (see post at 3:43pm).

05:17 PM

Today in photos

Here's a look at the pandemic across the  globe, in photos:

Jakarta, Indonesia:

People sit spaced apart amid physical distancing markers as they wait for the start of a movie  - AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana
People sit spaced apart amid physical distancing markers as they wait for the start of a movie - AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

 Naples, Italy:

Naples school teacher Pamela Buda holds her lessons to her social distancing students on public steps, after the region of Campania closed schools due to a spread of the coronavirus - REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
Naples school teacher Pamela Buda holds her lessons to her social distancing students on public steps, after the region of Campania closed schools due to a spread of the coronavirus - REUTERS/Ciro De Luca

 Brussles, Belgium:

Belgian healthcare workers, nurses and doctors take part in a flash mob to protest against the Belgian authorities' management of the pandemic - REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgian healthcare workers, nurses and doctors take part in a flash mob to protest against the Belgian authorities' management of the pandemic - REUTERS/Yves Herman

 Almere, Netherlands:

A medical worker prepares aboard a trauma helicopter transferring a patient infected with Covid-19 from the Flevo Hospital in Holland to Germany, where hospitals are helping by taking over Dutch coronavirus patients - REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
A medical worker prepares aboard a trauma helicopter transferring a patient infected with Covid-19 from the Flevo Hospital in Holland to Germany, where hospitals are helping by taking over Dutch coronavirus patients - REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

05:09 PM

Sheffield Mayor suggests South Yorkshire faces a 'difficult path ahead'

More than a million people in South Yorkshire entering the highest level of coronavirus restrictions have been told to be under "no illusions" that "these measures are needed".

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis has sent an open letter to the residents of the county with only hours to go until the Tier 3 restrictions begin in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster just after midnight on tomorrow night.

The Labour Barnsley Central MP said in his letter: "I understand the weariness with which many of you will have heard this news. After the progress we made over the summer, the return to stricter restrictions is deeply frustrating.

"Those feelings are understandable. But we should be under no illusions. These measures are needed." he said. "We still have a difficult path ahead, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Related: Tier 3 lockdown expected to hit one million more Britons next week

04:59 PM

Macron: Expect to live with virus until mid-2021

France will have to live with the coronavirus at least until next summer, President Emmanuel Macron said this afternoon.

Macron, who was speaking during a visit to a hospital, said there were no plans at this stage to reduce curfews aimed at preventing the virus spreading. But with pressure on hospitals rising fast, the government has expanded a 9:00 pm to 06:00 am curfew to cover 46 million people, more than two-thirds of its population.

Macron's warning comes after a scientific advisor to the government said the virus is now spreading faster than during the first wave in the spring.

Daily figures in France are yet to be published, but yesterday authorities reported an all-time high of 41,622 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, taking the nation's seven-day average to 25,480 infections per day.

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

Related: Eurozone heads for 'dreaded double dip’ as recovery stalls  

04:49 PM

Czech PM moves to sack rule-breaking health minister

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has moved to sack his health minister for holding a meeting in a restaurant closed under government restrictions, as the country combats Europe's fastest spread of the coronavirus.

Health Minister Roman Prymula rejected calls to resign (see 2:47pm), including from Babis and his junior coalition partner, and said the meeting with two other officials took place in a private room and no regulations were broken.

"When our medical staff are fighting on the front line to save lives of our fellow citizens, such a thing is absolutely inexcusable," Babis told reporters. "We cannot preach water and drink wine."

The Blesk newspaper published pictures of Prymula leaving a restaurant late at night and entering a car without a face mask, apparent violations of rules that closed restaurants and require wearing masks in most places, including chauffeured cars.

04:38 PM

Watch: Cafe owners back Rashford and provide free meals for children during half term

04:29 PM

WHO set to issue guidelines on remdesivir within a month

The World Health Organization is preparing its guidelines on the use of the drug remdesivir to treat Covid-19, and should be able to release it in three to four weeks, the WHO's top official for clinical care responses said.

"We would anticipate that the guidelines will be available within three to four weeks," Janet Diaz told a press conference this afternoon. A WHO panel "will convene next week to look at the totality of the evidence" of the effectiveness of the drug, made by Gilead Sciences.

It comes amid some controversy about whether or not remdesivir works. US regulators have given full approval for the antiviral drug to treat Covid-19 patients in hospitals - but a major clinical trial from the WHO last week said remdesivir had little to no effect on patients' survival.

This tweet by the Wellcome Trust sums up the situation pretty accurately:

04:21 PM

Cases reach new record in Italy as southern region set to lockdown

Italy's Campania region, based on the southern city of Naples, has said it will impose a lockdown to surb the coronavirus and urged the whole country to follow suit as new infections hit a record high.

Covid-19 cases across Italy have risen seven-fold since the start of the month, jumping to 19,143 on Friday and raising fears that the pandemic is spiralling out of control.

The number of deaths is also climbing, albeit at a slower rate and less constantly. Fatalities totalled 91 on Friday, down from 136 the day before and far fewer than at the height of the first wave in March and April, when a daily peak of more than 900 deaths was reached.

Coronavirus Italy Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus Italy Spotlight Chart - cases default

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says he wants to avoid the sort of nationwide lockdown introduced when the disease first flared, warning that renewed, rigid restrictions would devastate an already fragile economy.

But Italian law gives regional leaders leeway to establish their own curbs. Vincenzo De Luca, the head of Campania, has set the pace, shutting schools and announcing a nighttime curfew. On Friday, he said even more was needed.

"Current data on the contagion make any kind of partial measure ineffective. It is necessary to close everything, except for those businesses that produce and transport essential goods," De Luca said on Facebook.

"We need to make one last effort to get things under control. We need to shut everything down for a month, for 40 days," he added, without saying when the shutdown would begin.

04:10 PM

Recap: 'Absolutely terrifying' impact of Covid admissions on northern hospitals

The “absolutely terrifying” impact of coronavirus admissions on Northern hospitals has been revealed, after leaked NHS data reportedly shows more than 6,000 patients are being treated across England:

  • As of Thursday, almost 6,100 patients were in hospital with Covid-19 across the country, 4,670 were receiving oxygen and 563 were on ventilators, according to the data.

  • Hospitals in the North of England are bearing the brunt of cases, with more than a quarter of Liverpool University Hospital Trust beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. 

  • In Lancashire and South Cumbria, one in seven hospital beds were occupied by people suffering from coronavirus, and in the North East and Yorkshire almost one in 10, 1,531, patients were in hospital with the virus.

The NHS data was obtained through an investigation by the Health Service Journal and The Independent. 

Across Manchester hospitals, the data showed 11 per cent of the region's beds are occupied with Covid-19 patients. One of the region’s intensive care doctors told The Independent the figures were “absolutely terrifying”.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “Coronavirus cases and hospital admissions are rising and so it is vital everyone does what they can to control the virus, particularly by following government guidelines.

“Social distancing is the first line of defence, followed by the test and trace programme, but if infection still then spreads, the NHS has no choice but to activate local and regional escalation plans.”

03:54 PM

Bulgaria: Prime Minister isolates after deputy minister tests positive

The Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, has announced that he is self-isolating after a deputy minister who he had been in contact with five days ago tested positive for coronavirus.

Borissov said he had a negative result from a Covid-19 test he took earlier today, before his meeting with Keith Krach, US under secretary at the State Department for economic growth, energy and the environment in Sofia.

Borissov said he was informed in the afternoon that deputy Construction Minister Nikolay Nankov had tested positive for Covid-19 and decided to self-isolate until the health authorities decide whether he should be quarantined or not.

"I am waiting for the orders of the health authorities and until then I will be in self-isolation. I was last in contact with him five days ago," Borissov wrote in a post on his Facebook account.

Infections in Bulgaria have spiked since the start of October and today the Balkan country reported a new daily record of 1,595 new infections, bringing the total number to 34,930, including 1,064 deaths.

03:38 PM

UK records slight drop to 20,530 new Covid cases

A further 20,530 Covid-19 cases have been reported in the UK today, down from 21,242 yesterday, the Government has said. 

There were a further 224 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, up on 189 the day before. This brings the UK total to 44,571.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have now been 59,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Government figures also showed that there were 6,518 Covid-19 patients in hospital in England on Friday, up from 4,647 a week ago, while 601 were in ventilation beds, up from 482 a week ago.

A total of 997 patients with confirmed Covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in England on Wednesday, the latest figure available, compared with 706 a week earlier.

Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - Cases default

03:31 PM

McDonalds joins deluge of businesses to support Rashford's free school meals campaign

Cash-strapped councils across the country have stepped into the breach after ministers refused to budge on the issue, despite England footballer Marcus Rashford's growing campaign. 

So too have local businesses - and big conglomerates, including McDonalds: 

 Meanwhile the Conservative West Midlands Mayor has said the Government should "of course" be leading a national approach on free school meals. His full statement is over on the politics blog

03:21 PM

Stormont: Cannot take extension of 4-week circuit breaker off the table

Stormont's Deputy First Minister has said a potential extension of Northern Ireland's four-week circuit-break lockdown cannot be taken off the table.

Michelle O'Neill, in her first press conference since emerging from 14 days' self-isolation, said she hoped the current measures could be lifted on November 13.

But she stressed that an extension may need to be considered if the virus has not been sufficiently suppressed.

"I am very open and honest about the fact that we're in a very challenging situation," she said.

"And I believe that everything has to remain on the table, I don't want us to have to impose further restrictions, I hope we can avoid that.

"I think if everybody works really hard at the measures we've brought into place now in this intervention, then we possibly can avoid that. I want us to be able to avoid that. But I'm honest enough to be able to say that all these things have to remain on the table."

03:11 PM

Austrian airline beings offering rapid pre-boarding Covid tests

Lufthansa's Austrian Airlines is offering rapid pre-boarding coronavirus tests free to passengers on one of its routes as part of a group-wide plan to make such tests standard, the company has announced.

The antibody tests, which provide results within 15 minutes, will be offered to passengers on a voluntary basis before they board flights to Berlin from Vienna Airport from today, Austrian Airlines said.

"We must break down the borders that corona has built up in recent months," Chief Operating Officer Jens Ritter said in the statement, which acknowledged that for the time being these tests are no substitute for the standard PCR tests required by national authorities.

"Eventually we aim to also achieve the loosening of travel restrictions, but first we want to show how a targeted testing programme could work."

Austrian aims to roll out testing more widely if it becomes well established, it said, adding that the results from Vienna would inform Lufthansa's general testing project.

For more travel news, head over to our travel liveblog - currently leading on the news that holiday bookings have surged as four new destinations get travel corridors with the UK. 

03:02 PM

Starmer tells Scotland: Covid takes priority over second independence referendum

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said coronavirus should take priority over another Scottish independence referendum.

Last week when an Ipsos Mori survey for STV found 58 per cent of people asked were in support of leaving the UK - something which the Labour leader acknowledged - although he stressed that a number of other polls had shown independence is not a priority for people in Scotland, with tackling the pandemic and the economic recovery being foremost in people's minds. 

He said: "In the middle of a pandemic, it really isn't the time to be having a discussion about independence, it's the time to be working through how we're going to respond to the pandemic."

Last week's poll showed Scottish Labour's support was at 13 per cent in the constituency and list votes, with the party remaining in third position.

The Labour leader said he is working with colleagues north of the border "every week" in preparation for next year's Holyrood election.

02:48 PM

England v Barbarians called off after players breach coronavirus restrictions

One for the sports fans here. England's match against the Barbarians, which was due to take place at Twickenham stadium on Sunday, has been cancelled after 12 Barbarians players broke the Covid rules.

Contrary to team protocols, the team left their hotel bubble to go out for dinner at a restaurant in London. The Rugby Football Union added that, during its investigation, it discovered another breach where players left the hotel without permission. 

It said the "bubble environment" had been compromised as a result, meaning the game must be called off.  Former England captain Chris Robshaw accepted blame for his part in the incident in a remorseful tweet earlier today:

Charlie Morgan has more on this story - and the other players involved - here.

02:43 PM

United States records the second highest daily rises in cases

The number of new Covid-19 cases reported in the United States is the second highest on record - coming in just short of a midsummer peak - as the spread of the virus accelerates in nearly every region of the country.

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all accelerating as cooler weather descends on much of the country. With 76,195 new cases yesterday, the US was approaching its one-day record high of 77,299 new cases on July 16, according to a Reuters analysis. Only India has reported more cases in a single day. 

The record comes after Joe Biden and Donald Trump clashed over Covid at the presidential debates last night (see 2:37pm for a video recap). 

On the one hand, Biden suggested "we're heading for a dark winter." He added that "anyone who's responsible for that many deaths should not remain president " - more than 220,00 Americans have died from Covid to date.  

Trump responded that "we're rounding the corner. It's going away".

"We're not going to shut down. We're going to open our schools. I have a son, he tested positive. It went away, it's their immune system. I want to open the schools," he said.

Meanwhile, an influential model from the University of Washington has predicted that there could be as many as 385,611 coronavirus deaths in the United States by February 1.

02:27 PM

Analysis: How has China avoided a second wave

Authorities in China, after being overwhelmed in Wuhan, where coronavirus infections first burst into the world, have fine-tuned an emergency response for surprise cluster outbreaks, writes Sophia Yan. 

Many subsequent waves of infection have emerged in China, a country of 1.4 billion people and nearly 40 times the size of the UK. Cases have cropped up across the country, as far apart as in the south along the border to Vietnam, and in the north near Russia. 

Even in Beijing, the country’s capital – where social distancing and quarantine requirements have been the most stringent in order to protect the ruling Communist party elite – the coronavirus managed to spread rapidly and infect hundreds in June. 

Each time, the Chinese state has rolled out the same programme. Health officials have rushed to test millions of people within days – asking the public to visit large outdoors spaces, such re-purposed stadiums, or by sending workers door-to-door to swab residents. 

Read the full analysis here - and the chart below shows just how dramatically cases shifted from China to the rest of the world:

02:16 PM

Spain holds off on curfews as Covid cases mount

Spain's Prime Minister has urged citizens to further limit social contact to combat Europe's worst Covid-19 hotspot, but he stopped short of announcing new measures amid political disputes over potential curfews.

Quarelling between the Socialist-led government and mostly conservative regions - and also among regions - has hampered the response to the pandemic for months, exasperating citizens and creating uncertainty.

With total cases soaring this week to over a million, the health minister said the pandemic was out of control and recommended curfews.

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

But the government lacks a majority in parliament to push bold steps and override sometimes reluctant regions who fear further economic damage, as Spain already enters its worst recession since the civil war.

Though he did not rule out more nationwide measures in the future, the Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced no new moves for now, even as he kept repeating that more needed to be done. He said the 17 regions each needed to decide on next steps while citizens should impose their own limits.

"What we have to do is reduce movement and social contact. There is no other solution," he said in a televised address to the nation. "If we don't follow precautions, we are putting the lives of those we love most at risk."

01:55 PM

Lobby latest: PM's spokesman declines to praise councils and businesses on free school meals

A rather testy exchange her during the daily Lobby briefing with political journalists. The Prime Minister's deputy official spokesman has declined to praise councils and businesses for intervening to provide free school meals during the summer holidays on four separate occasions. 

Marcus Rashford, the England footballer who has led the campaign, has spent much of the day retweeting messages from cafes and restaurants as well as councils who have committed to plugging the gap, after MPs voted against a Labour motion earlier this week (see post from 11:27am).  

Asked for the first time is the Prime Minister welcomed these acts of philanthropy, his deputy official spokesman said: “We have set out our position a number of times. There is no change."

Pressed a second time, he said: “We are in a different position now with schools back open but we have done a lot to make sure the most vulnerable in our society are protected."

Questioned a third time if the PM would applaud businesses offering free food to hungry children or if he thought it was “unnecessary”, he replied: “You've had my answer on this. We have been clear of our position.”

Asked once more he said: "The PM’s answered this question himself on Wednesday. You’ve got his words from Wednesday."

01:46 PM

'We can't preach water and drink wine': Czech health minister caught breaking rules

The Czech health minister is under fire after a tabloid photographer caught him leaving a restaurant that should have been closed under his own anti-virus restrictions.

Roman Prymula, an epidemiologist who has been in office since September, also failed to wear a face mask when he got in his car with a driver, the Blesk daily reported.

"What happened today is an absolute disaster and an absolute shock for me," Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters, vowing to sack Prymula unless he resigns himself. "We can't preach water and drink wine." 

But Prymula refused to step down, insisting the meeting had taken place in premises adjacent to the restaurant and that he only breached the mask duty for a split second.

This comes after the health minister on Wednesday announced a partial lockdown until November 3. 

Prymula's restaurant debacle has drawn criticism from social media users, the opposition and others in the governing coalition, as the Czech Republic records the worst new Covid-19 figures across Europe.

01:37 PM

Recap: Trump and Biden clash over coronavirus in Presidential debates

01:29 PM

What will Scotland's new tiered restrictions look like?

Earlier today, Nicola Sturgeon announced a new five-level strategy of lockdown measures for Scotland, which will come into force on Monday November 2 after a debate next week in Holyrood. 

The First Minister said it will be a "flexible" approach and different levels will be assessed weekly and applied based on the prevalence of Covid-19 across different parts of the country. The priority, she said, is to keep schools open. 

  • Level zero: will see most businesses open and up to eight people from three households able to meet indoors. 15 people from five households can gather outdoors, while travel to areas in Levels 3-4 - as well as equivalent parts elsewhere in the UK - will be banned.

  • Level one: is closest to England's medium level and will see will see indoor meetings restricted to six people from two households. Only those who cannot work from home should go to their place of employment. 

  • Level two: is similar to England's high level. Indoor meetings will be prohibited, events banned and there will be limitations placed on hospitality. 

  •  Level three: is closest to England's very high level, and includes a similar set of restrictions to those now in place in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Pubs will be closed and hospitality venues will not be able to serve alcohol. 

  • Level four: this highest alert level will be closer to the full restrictions seen from the end of March. Non-essential shops will be closed, only six people from two households will be able to meet outdoors and public transport must not be used unless essential. But manufacturing and construction will remain open and so will schools where possible - with added protective measures. 

01:16 PM

Global news afternoon summary

Here's a quick overview of what has been a busy day in international coronavirus news:

  • Across Europe cases are accelerating, with the European Centre for Disease Control warning that in 23 EU member states, plus the UK, are now of "serious concern".

  • The virus is spreading more quickly in France than during its initial outbreak in the spring, a government scientific advisor said.

  • Poland will close restaurants and bars for two weeks and limit public gatherings to five people, after new infections hit a new daily record of more than 13,600.

  • Belgium tightened restrictions on social contacts by banning fans from sports matches, limiting the number of people in cultural spaces and closing theme parks.

  • Meanwhile the Norwegian Prime Minister said she will announce stricter measures next week following a recent increase in the number of cases, and Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia registered a new daily record of cases.

  • The Peruvian government has refused to sign a vaccine purchase agreement with AstraZeneca because it did not provide sufficient data from its studies and offered minimal amounts of inoculations.

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held his first election rally since the coronavirus took hold in the country in March, drawing thousands of cheering supporters standing shoulder to shoulder and ignoring social distancing rules.

  • Ethiopia can jail people for up to two years if they deliberately violate Covid-19 restrictions, the attorney general's office said, amid concern that citizens are becoming lax after a state of emergency was lifted.

And ending on some good news: Australia's Victoria state reported that active cases have fallen to a four-month low. The region was the epicentre of the country's second wave of infections.

12:59 PM

Latest R value: 1.2 and 1.4 across the UK

A quick update for you here: The latest R estimate for the whole of the UK is between 1.2 and 1.4, according to the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M), a sub-group of Sage.

Last week, the R number was between 1.3 and 1.5.

R represents the average number of people each Covid-19 positive person goes on to infect - when the figure is above 1, an outbreak can grow exponentially.

The current growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between plus 3 per cent and plus 6 per cent for the UK as a whole.

12:56 PM

Transmission rates in UK of 'serious concern', says European CDC

Transmission of coronavirus in 23 EU member states and the UK are now of "serious concern", the bloc's disease control agency has warned. 

All EU countries except Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece fall into that category, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's (ECDC) latest assessment, up from only seven countries a month ago.

"The continuing increases in Covid-19 infections... pose a major threat to public health, with most countries having a highly concerning epidemiological situation," ECDC director Andrea Ammon said in a statement.

"EU/EEA countries and the UK have implemented various non-pharmaceutical interventions but these have not been sufficiently effective in controlling transmission due to several factors: adherence to the measures was sub-optimal; the measures were not implemented quickly enough; or the measures were insufficient to reduce exposure.

"As a result, the epidemiological situation is now rapidly deteriorating in most countries.

"Consequently, in countries where the epidemiological situation is of serious concern, there is a high risk to the general population, and for vulnerable individuals the Covid-19 epidemiological situation represents a very high risk."

12:43 PM

Number of people infected with Covid has risen 28 per cent

Latest surveillance figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of people infected with coronavirus in the community rose by 28 per cent between the week ending October 16 and October 23, our Science Editor Sarah Knapton reports. 

Around 433,300 people are now thought to be infected across England - 1 in 130, compared to 336,500 in the previous week, of 1 in 170.

However experts said it was not rising as quickly as before. 

Prof James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute at the University of Oxford, said: "This is not as fast as before, it gives a doubling time of around 21 days. It is too early to draw firm conclusions as to whether the rate of increase has really decreased, but it is hopeful."

Yet, the figures suggest that contact tracing is identifying fewer than half the number of cases in the community.

During the Lobby meeting with journalists at lunchtime, Boris Johnson was said to continue to have  full confidence in Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace.

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in her, a Number 10 spokesman said: "He does."

Mr Johnson acknowledged on Thursday that the Test and Trace system, which he previously promised would be "world-beating", needs to be improved.

12:29 PM

Warrington to enter Tier 3 next week

Warrington is being placed into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions, the local council has confirmed.

The town's population of 210,000 people will join other local areas under the strictest conditions of lockdown for "very high" risk Tier 3 areas from Thursday next week.

The town in north Cheshire is between Liverpool and Manchester and popular with commuters to both cities, which are both themselves under Tier 3 restrictions.

Warrington Borough Council said it has secured £5.9 million in coronavirus support from the Government as part of its move from a "high risk" Tier 2 area to a Tier 3 area.

The local authority said the necessary orders and regulations will now be worked on by the Government, with a view to the restrictions coming into play from 00.01 on Thursday October 29 - though the exact date is to be confirmed.

"Across Warrington, we have seen our case numbers remain stubbornly high, with more people being admitted to hospital and, upsettingly, more people being taken by the virus," the leader of the council, Russ Bowden, said. 

"As we approach winter, we need to take urgent action to drive down the number of coronavirus cases in our town... This has been a difficult decision but we need to prioritise the health of our most vulnerable and elderly people, and we also need to protect hospital capacity as far as possible."

Related: Tier 3 lockdown expected to hit one million more Britons next week

12:26 PM

'New Normal': Today in photos

Here's a look at life around the world during the pandemic. 

Bari, Italy:

Two nurses pose for the camera wearing personal protective equipment whilst on shift. New infections from Covid in the region rapidly increased in the last 24 hours, with 485 positive results - Donato Fasano/Getty Images
Two nurses pose for the camera wearing personal protective equipment whilst on shift. New infections from Covid in the region rapidly increased in the last 24 hours, with 485 positive results - Donato Fasano/Getty Images

 Nashville, US:

Members of the Trump family wear face masks as they arrive for the second 2020 presidential campaign debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden last night - REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Trump family wear face masks as they arrive for the second 2020 presidential campaign debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden last night - REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Prague, Czech Republic:

A man wearing a face mask carries his dog across the medieval Charles Bridge. Infections are spiraling in the Czech Republic, where the government is introducing new restrictions  - AP Photo/Petr David Josek
A man wearing a face mask carries his dog across the medieval Charles Bridge. Infections are spiraling in the Czech Republic, where the government is introducing new restrictions - AP Photo/Petr David Josek

12:13 PM

Normal Christmas is 'wishful thinking', says Sage advisor

The idea that "we can carry on as we are" and have a normal Christmas "is wishful thinking in the extreme", a Government scientific adviser has said.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, added that "radical action" would be needed to stem the rise in cases, particularly in regions with high incidence of the virus.

It comes after Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said he hoped families would be able to spend Christmas together even if things are not exactly the same.

Asked how he would describe the chances of people having a "normal Christmas" despite Covid-19 restrictions, Mr Barclay told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

"I would describe it as a shared endeavour for all of us. All of us want to be able to enjoy Christmas with our families. And that's why there is a common purpose here to get the virus down."

Meanwhile at the Downing Street lobby briefing today, the Prime Minister's spokesperson said it was the Government's "ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year".

12:04 PM

German biotech reports promising early data in vaccine trial

Away from the UK, the German biotech company CureVac has said its potential Covid-19 vaccine induced an immune response in pre-clinical animal studies.

CureVac said the potential vaccine, known as CVnCoV, produced neutralising antibodies and activated T-cells in hamsters and mice.

The vaccine, which is being tested in humans in early and mid-stage trials, also protected the lungs of hamsters when they were exposed to a live virus, the company said.

Other key headlines in vaccine news over the last week:

11:57 AM

Drakeford: Firebreak lockdown will save lives

Meanwhile back in Wales Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, has insisted that the firebreak lockdown coming to force this evening will be "a short, sharp shock that will save people's lives".

"The clear advice we have is that we need to act urgently now because the virus is moving too fast," he told a press briefing in Cardiff this lunchtime. "We have to act and have to act now."

This come as new ONS figures estimated that 16,700 people in private households had Covid-19 between October 10 and 16 - the equivalent of 0.55 per cent of the population.

This is up from an estimated 7,900 people for the period October 2 to 8, or 0.26 per cent of the population.

But the ONS said that because of a relatively small number of tests and a low number of positives in the sample, results should be interpreted with caution.

11:52 AM

Sturgeon: We aim to keep schools open

Expanding on the new five tiered system in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said that the "objective at all levels is, as far as possible, to keep schools open," although it may be necessary to have safety measures in place.

"We are not back at square one," she said. "We have made progress in tackling the virus, and we have more tools at our disposal to help control it. And today’s framework will help us to make further progress."

She added that businesses in Scotland which face lockdown restrictions will be able to apply for grants - on top of those provided by the UKGovernment's job support scheme.

Grants for £2,000 or £3,000 every four weeks would be available for firms forced to close due to lockdown measures. Those which can remain open but cannot trade as normal due to restrictions can apply for funding of £1,400 or £2,100 every four weeks.

But the First Minister also warned that the money will run out and called for a "resolution" from the UK Government.

11:48 AM

Wales: Supermarkets can only sell essential goods during firebreak

The Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, is also delivering a press conference this lunchtime, ahead of the imposition of a "fire-break" lockdown at 6pm this evening. 

Drakeford said that during this period, it is a "a simple matter of fair play" that supermarkets will only be able to sell essential goods.

"We are requiring many hundreds of small businesses to close on the high street right across Wales.We cannot do that and then allow supermarkets to sell goods that those people are unable to sell," he said. 

"And we are looking to minimise the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period. This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods."

11:43 AM

Sturgeon sets out new five-tier alert system to 'live with the virus'

Scotland will adopt a new national framework to "live with the virus" in the coming months, Nicola Sturgeon has announced during a coronavirus briefing this lunchtime. 

Five levels of possible intervention will allow the government to take a national approach if needed, but can avoid "a one size fits all approach if it isn't warranted," the First Minister said. 

"If we allow the virus to run out of control, all the other harms will be exacerbated," she explained. 

Before any measures are adopted, there will be a period of consultation in which members of the public can offer feedback, followed by a parliamentary debate and vote. Public health experts will also be consulted, Sturgeon said. 

She added that the application of each grade of restrictions would be reviewed on a weekly basis. Level 1 and Level 2 are the closest to normal the country can be without effective treatment or a vaccine, while the highest grade would be more similar to a full lockdown.

11:38 AM

Coronavirus restrictions set to be tightened in Norway next week

Norway will announce stricter measures next week to limit the spread of the coronavirus following a recent increase in the number of cases, Prime Minister Erna Solberg has announced. 

"We see that the infection is spreading in many places," she said. "This is worrying. Therefore we already now announce that there will be a tightening of national restrictions next week.

"The measures will be directed towards the areas where the infection is now spreading," she added.

11:32 AM

Sturgeon: 18 deaths and 1,401 cases in Scotland

Scotland has recorded 18 Covid-19 deaths and 1,401 positive tests in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon said at the Government coronavirus briefing. 

Other figures from the press conference:

  • The number of  people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus  has risen to 2,688.

  • 54,016 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 52,615 the previous day.

  • The daily test positivity rate is 8%, down from 9.2% on Thursday.

  • Of the new cases, 493 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 413 in Lanarkshire, 169 in Lothian, and 117 in Ayrshire and Arran.

  • There are 969 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, up by 41 in 24 hours. Of these patients, 76 are in intensive care, a rise of two.

11:23 AM

'Cases in secondary school age children not rising'

In another set of data released this morning, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that an estimated 433,300 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between October 10 and 16.

This is the equivalent of around 0.79 per cent  of the population, and represents a jump from 336,500 people, or 0.62 per cent, the previous week. 

The ONS have published this useful Twitter detailing some of the key elements of the research, but a positive to flag is that 336,500 people, or 0.62% cases in secondary school age pupils do not appear to be rising, says public health consultant Adam Briggs.

11:17 AM

Labour MP discharged from hospital after contracting Covid-related pneumonia

A Labour MP has been discharged from hospital where she was treated for pneumonia after testing positive for Covid-19.

Yasmin Qureshi was admitted to the Royal Bolton Hospital on Saturday after 10 days of feeling unwell.The Bolton South East MP praised NHS staff for their "excellent care" as she announced she had been discharged. 

Ms Qureshi was one of the Greater Manchester MPs arguing against Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions being imposed on the region.

And a reminder - Catherine Neilan has all the latest news from the political sphere on our politics liveblog, which is currently leading with Labour's warning that Christmas could be at risk unless the Government implements a short-term national lockdown.

11:10 AM

India: Political row erupts over promises of free Covid jabs

A promise of a free Covid vaccination has become an issue in key state elections in India.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made the promise when releasing the ruling Hindu nationalist party's manifesto for elections that begin in Bihar state next week.

Every Bihar resident would be vaccinated for free when one becomes available, she said, adding that at least three vaccines are in the final trial stage and on the cusp of production in the country.

The promise angered Congress and other opposition parties who accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party of politicising the pandemic and playing on people's fears.

Bihar is India's third-largest state with about 122 million people.

India added fewer than 60,000 new cases for a fifth day on Friday, with the 54,366 new cases taking the overall tally past 7.7 million.

It has the second-most cases in the world behind the US, though cases have declined in recent weeks.

10:59 AM

Anxiety and loneliness reach highest level since mid-April

Levels of anxiety, worry and loneliness are at their highest in months while life satisfaction has fallen, a survey suggests.

The proportion of adults with high levels of anxiety, who are feeling lonely and who are worried about the impact of coronavirus, has been on the rise since early September, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Anxiety levels remain at the highest recorded since April, while almost half (49 per cent) of adults said their wellbeing is being affected by the virus - the highest since mid-April.

More than three quarters of adults (76 per cent) are very or somewhat worried about the impact of Covid-19 on their lives - the highest proportion since April, the ONS said.

And more than a quarter (27 per cent) of adults said they feel lonely often, always or some of the time - the highest proportion since May.

10:43 AM

The view from Europe: Belgium and Spain set to see more restrictions

Europe is witnessing a surge in coronavirus infections this autumn and has now been described as the new epicentre of the pandemic.

As cases escalate, so do restrictions - here is a rundown of new developments across the continent this morning:

Belgium:

  • The government has tightened restrictions on social contacts, banning fans from sports matches, limiting the number of people in cultural spaces and closing theme parks.

  • The restrictions - running until November 19 - are intended to avoid crowding on public transport. A limit of 200 people in theatres, concert halls and cinemas will also be imposed. 

  • It comes after epidemiologist Marius Gilbert wrote on Twitter that hospitals were on the brink of collapse. Calling for people to act responsibly, he said the protective mask was the "condom" of the coronavirus - "something ... we have in our pocket and that we take out when we love or respect the person we are talking to."

Spain:

  • The Spanish regions of Castilla and Leon and Valencia are clamouring for the government to impose night-time curfews after authorities failed to reach a decision on nationwide restrictions yesterday. 

  • "We want this to happen today if possible, rather than tomorrow" said Alfonso Fernandez Manueco, the regional leader of Castilla and Leon, which formally requested a curfew on Thursday. "The virus doesn't understand administrative boundaries or different political stripes."

Elsewhere, new infections in Romania rose by a daily record of 5,028, as the government imposed new restrictions in cities including Bucharest. Switzerland is considering tightening restrictions to slow the accelerating spread of Covid after infections rose by 6,634.

And in France, a government scientific advisor said that the virus  is spreading through the country faster than at the peak of the first wave in spring. France reported 41,622 new cases yesterday, a new daily record, and is set break surpass one million cumulative infections today. 

10:27 AM

Rashford 'blown away' by support from local businesses for free school meals

Marcus Rashford has said he is "blown away," by news of local businesses stepping up to fill the voucher scheme deficit during the October half term after MPs this week rejected his campaign to extend free school meals.

The footballer's Twitter feed this morning is awash with announcements from local councils and businesses across the country, who are stepping up to support local schoolchildren.

Earlier this week MPs voted against measures, backed by Labour, to extend the free school meal programme over half term - more detail on this here.  

Related: 'My respect for Marcus Rashford grows deeper by the day'

10:16 AM

North Korea warns that 'yellow dust' from China could bring Covid-19

North Korea has warned its citizens that a "yellow dust" that has drifted over from China could bring coronavirus with it, Marcus Parekh reports

State media advised all citizens to stay indoors as a precaution, resulting in the streets of Pyongyang being deserted yesterday, despite there being no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 travels in dust clouds.

Korea Central Television (KCTV) warned of an influx of "yellow dust particles" in a special weather report broadcast on Wednesday. Yellow dust refers to sand that blows in from the Gobi desert in Mongolia and central China, a common weather phenomenon. 

In normal years, the sand particles mix with toxic atmospheric pollutants, which cause health concerns in both China and North Korea.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, a government controlled media entity, said “all workers… must clearly recognise the danger of invading malicious viruses”. The government announced all outdoor construction would be halted yesterday in response.

North Korea is not the first country to suggest Covid-19 particles can travel in dust clouds. According to the BBC's Disinformation Team, the government of Turkmenistan also used it as a reason to justify enforced mask wearing among its citizens.

North Korea has so far claimed it has not suffered a single case of coronavirus. A strict policy of border closure was introduced in January to combat the pandemic.

10:05 AM

Covid death rate rises in England for the first time since April

According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published this morning, the death rate for coronavirus patients has increased in England for the time since the peak of the outbreak in April.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the data:

  • The figures show that the age-standardised mortality rate in September due to Covid-19 was 12.6 per 100,000 people in England - up from 7.2 per 100,000 in August and the first increase since April.

  • But the figure is still significantly lower than the peak of the virus in April when it was 623.2 deaths per 100,000 people.

  • Meanwhile in Wales, while the mortality rate due to Covid-19 also increased, the rise was not statistically significant. The age-standardised mortality rate in September due to Covid-19 was 10.8 per 100,000 people in Wales - 97.8% lower than the rate of 495.1 in April.

  • Overall, coronavirus did not feature in the 10 leading causes of death in September in England or Wales. In England Covid-19 was the 19th most common cause of death, and in Wales it was 24th.

  • Of the 39,827 deaths registered in September in England, 1.7% (690) involved coronavirus, and in Wales the figure was 1.3% of the 2,610 deaths (35).

The ONS analysis included only deaths with an underlying cause of Covid-19, referred to as "due to Covid-19", which is different from "involving Covid-19", which includes those where the virus is mentioned anywhere on a death certificate.

09:54 AM

What tier is my area in? Use our Covid lockdown map to check your postcode

Use our interactive postcode tool to see what rules apply in your area under England's new system for local coronavirus lockdowns. 

Three-tier postcode tool
Three-tier postcode tool

09:46 AM

Poland increases restrictions

Poland increased coronavirus restrictions today as it faced a new daily case record, restricting public gatherings to five people, switching all students above the third grade to distance learning and leaving restaurants open only for takeout food.

"Elementary schools from grades four to eight will switch to distance learning in order to reduce social contacts," Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.

Poland increased coronavirus restrictions today as it faced a new daily case record -  Omar Marques/Anadolu Agency
Poland increased coronavirus restrictions today as it faced a new daily case record - Omar Marques/Anadolu Agency

09:26 AM

Europe becomes Covid epicentre

Europe's surging autumn coronavirus wave is making the region the epicentre of the pandemic once again, with the daily case tally doubling in the past 10 days, Ben Farmer reports.

Daily infections topped more than 200,000 in the region for the first time on Thursday, surpassing the combined total of those in America, Brazil and India, Reuters reported.

Many Southern European countries reported their highest single-day cases this week and leaders have warned their health systems face the same overload.

Italy, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia all reported their highest single-day coronavirus cases on Thursday.

French authorities reported an all-time high of 41,622 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on Thursday, taking the nation's seven-day average to 25,480 infections per day.

A senior scientific adviser to the French government said the virus is now spreading more quickly than during the spring outbreak.its initial outbreak in the spring. "The virus is circulating more quickly ...The resurgence of the pandemic started in August," said Arnaud Fontanet.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands reported more than 9,000 in 24 hours, a new record, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM).

Germany, which reported more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time on Thursday, extended travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and Italian regions including Rome.

Coronavirus live map cases tracker
Coronavirus live map cases tracker

09:08 AM

40pc of Turkey's Covid cases in Istanbul

The coronavirus outbreak in Turkey has shown a nationwide rise again, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said, following a recent surge in daily patient numbers.

Speaking to reporters in the northwestern province of Bursa, Koca said 40 per cent of total cases across the country were reported in Istanbul, where cases were five times more than those in the capital Ankara.

A senior official said on Wednesday Turkey was mulling reimposing some measures to stem the resurgence of cases such as stay-home orders for younger and older people or even weekend lockdowns, but will avoid throttling the economic recovery. 

Coronavirus Turkey Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Turkey Spotlight Chart - Cases default

09:00 AM

Covid patients at 'death's door' recovering with immune system drugs, scientists say

Dangerously ill coronavirus patients are making "startling recoveries" in spite of being at "death's door" after being given drugs that dial down the immune system, experts have said.

Trials are taking place of several drugs that prevent a part of the immune system called the complement system from becoming over-activated.

The drug furthest along in trials, ravulizumab, is already used to treat rare blood diseases and is being tested at hospitals in Cambridge, London, Birmingham and Leeds. 

Read the full story by Sarah Knapton, here. 

08:52 AM

WATCH: Sturgeon: 'Santa is a key worker'

08:13 AM

Covid is spreading faster than first wave, French scientific adviser says

Covid-19 is spreading more quickly than during its initial outbreak in the spring, French government scientific adviser has Arnaud Fontanet has said, in one of the starkest warnings yet about the scale of the disease's resurgence engulfing Europe.

"The virus is circulating more quickly... The resurgence of the pandemic started in August", Mr Fontanet, an epidemiologist, told BFM TV, adding the fight against the disease would be a "marathon".

He spoke the day after France published a record of 41,622 daily infections, bringing the country just shy of a million cases - 999,043.

France will go over that threshold this Friday, becoming the second Western European country to do after Spain.

Like many other European countries facing a renewed spike in the number of cases since early September, France has ramped up restrictions to contain the disease, announcing Thursday a widening of a curfew, initially put in place in nine cities including Paris, to more than two thirds of its population. 

Mr Fontanet said French authorities had managed to bring the virus under control by the end of the June, adding the hospitalisations figure staying low until the end of August had given a false sense of security despite cases already going up at the time.

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

08:02 AM

Remdesivir approved for use in US

Remdesivir has been approved in the United States for treating patients hospitalised with Covid-19, making it the first and only drug approved for the disease, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed.

The drug, given intravenously, was used to treat President Donald Trump during his bout with Covid-19 earlier this month.

Remdesivir has been available under an FDA emergency use authorisation (EUA) since May, after a study led by the National Institutes of Health showed it reduced hospital stays by five days.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) last week said its global trial of Covid-19 therapies found that remdesivir did not have a substantial effect on patients’ length of hospital stay or chances of survival. That study has not been reviewed by outside experts.

Read more: 

07:29 AM

Aim for 'normal Christmas' is a 'shared endeavour', says Barclay

Asked how he would describe the chances of people having a "normal Christmas" despite Covid-19 restrictions, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I would describe it as a shared endeavour for all of us.

"All of us wants to be able to enjoy Christmas with our families. And that's why there is a common purpose here to get the virus down."

07:03 AM

Government needs to clear up business help 'confusion'

Labour has called on the Government to clear up "confusion" on new plans to help businesses deal with coronavirus restrictions.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to clarify how long elements of the package will be in place for, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The Chancellor suggested that a number of these measures will apply, he stated, for six months...

"He has set out that approach for some elements of his plan, but there is a lot of confusion around other elements, whether they're short term, long term, what, exactly the score is."

06:57 AM

Grandmother sums up mood of the nation

Maureen Eames from Barnsley who told the BBC what she thought of the governments handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. - Ben Lack 
Maureen Eames from Barnsley who told the BBC what she thought of the governments handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. - Ben Lack

A great grandmother who captured what many people were feeling when she said she “didn’t give a sod” about coronavirus rules has told Telegraph's Hayley Dixon that the country should not “surrender” to the pandemic.

Maureen Eames, 83, who became an overnight celebrity after expressing her anger at the impact of Government restrictions, said that Britain was supposed to be “a free country” and “life has to go on”.

Speaking from her South Yorkshire home just before parts of the region enter tier three restrictions, she warned that it is subsequent generations who will be paying the price for the lockdown, telling Boris Johnson: “The future of the young is in your hands.”

Read the full interview here.

06:43 AM

Nottingham postpones non-urgent surgery

Some non-urgent surgeries have been postponed in Nottingham after hospital admissions continued to increase, it comes as talks continue over placing the city under Tier 3 restrictions.

There are currently more than 200 coronavirus patients in hospital in the city and “everyday this is increasing by nearly another full ward of people”, Tracy Taylor, the CEO of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said.

The surge in admissions is now at similar levels to the first wave in April and, combined with “normal winter emergency pressures”, the decision was taken to pause some treatments. 

Ms Taylor added: "This is not a decision we have taken lightly but we need to ensure we have the beds and staff available to care for those in urgent need during this surge of Covid-19.”

Talks between Nottingham council leaders and central government are expected to resume today, after reports that it could move into Tier 3 restrictions by Wednesday.

06:30 AM

'Firebreak': Welsh shopkeepers banned from selling 'non essential' items

Welsh shopkeepers will be banned from selling certain 'non essential' items under new restrictions being imposed as part of the firebreak lockdown.

Retail groups have acted with dismay after Welsh ministers told them they would have to restrict the sale of certain goods in a bid to reduce the number of people visiting their shops.

With less than 24 hours to go before the new restrictions were due to come into place, the list of 'banned items' had still not been drawn up and retailers warned that the move would do little to bring down infection rates.

Read more from Martin Evans, here.

06:22 AM

Scots to face five levels of lockdown

Nicola Sturgeon will today announce a five-tier plan of measures for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland.

The new set of restrictions has been anticipated since a similar three-tiered system was introduced in England by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

If approved at Holyrood next week, the new measures will come into force in Scotland on Monday November 2.

The Scottish First Minister will discuss the tiered system at her daily coronavirus briefing on Friday afternoon as well as plans to increase testing capacity north of the border.

Read more about the new system, and how it differs from the one in England, from our Scottish Correspondent, Daniel Sanderson, here.

06:01 AM

'Eye-watering' drop in tourist spending in London expected

Tourist spending in central London is set to fall by £10.9 billion this year due to the pandemic - REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Tourist spending in central London is set to fall by £10.9 billion this year due to the pandemic - REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Tourist spending in central London is set to fall by £10.9 billion this year due to the pandemic, according to an analysis published by mayor Sadiq Khan.

The figure represents a far lower total than the amount of spending lost due to the large decrease in commuters traveling into the city, the study says.

Mr Khan said the data showed new bail-outs announced by the Prime Minister and Chancellor on Thursday are only "a sticking plaster solution", with the collapse of London tourism to leave many hospitality, retail and leisure business without hope of returning to normal for "many months to come".

He called on the Government to enact a "functioning" Test and Trace system to help the economy reopen safely.

City Hall analysis of forecasts by Visit Britain showed goods and services revenue from foreign tourists in the city would drop £7.4 billion through the year, while domestic tourists would spend £3.5 billion less.

"This analysis shows the eye-watering drop in the money spent by visitors in the economic and cultural heart of the capital - which is far greater than even the impact of fewer commuters travelling into the centre of the city each day," Mr Khan said in a statement.

04:43 AM

South Korean infections increase linked to care home and hospitals

South Korea recorded its highest increase in coronavirus cases in more than 40 days on Friday as more infections were reported at hospitals and nursing homes.

A nursing home in Namyangju, east of Seoul, was put under isolation after more than 30 workers and residents tested positive.

Around 120 infections have been linked to a hospital in nearby Gwangju.

The 155 new cases announced on Friday by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency brought the national caseload to 25,698, including 455 deaths.

The steady spread of the virus has caused concern in a country that eased its social distancing restrictions just last week to cope with a weak economy.

High-risk businesses such as nightclubs and karaoke bars have reopened while fans return to the stands in professional sports.

04:41 AM

A free vaccine becomes an election issue in India

A promise of a free Covid vaccination has become an issue in key state elections in India.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made the promise when releasing the ruling Hindu nationalist party's manifesto for elections that begin in Bihar state next week.

Every Bihar resident would be vaccinated for free when one becomes available, she said, adding that at least three vaccines are in the final trial stage and on the cusp of production in the country.

The promise angered Congress and other opposition parties who accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party of politicising the pandemic and playing on people's fears.

Bihar is India's third-largest state with about 122 million people.

India added fewer than 60,000 new cases for a fifth day on Friday, with the 54,366 new cases taking the overall tally past 7.7 million.

It has the second-most cases in the world behind the US, though cases have declined in recent weeks.

03:09 AM

Matt Hancock's long Covid warning

One in 10 people under the age of 50 may suffer from long Covid, Matt Hancock has warned.

The Health Secretary told MPs that a study conducted by King's College London suggests around one in 20 people who catches coronavirus is likely to have long-term symptoms.

But he added that the figure rises to one in 10 people among those under the age of 50.

Mr Hancock revealed the stark news during a statement on coronavirus in the Commons.

READ MORE: Long Covid warning as health secretary says one in 10 under-50s at risk

02:49 AM

Baffling Covid rules are 'especially worrying'

Nearly half of the public in England do not "fully understand" the current coronavirus lockdown rules, a study of more than 70,000 people suggests.

Understanding of the rules was lower in England than in Wales and Scotland.

Researchers found that around half of adults (51 per cent) in England said they understand the current Covid-19 restrictions, while only 13pc "fully understand" them.

The University College London (UCL) study found this was an improvement on the 45pc who felt they understood the rules in England in July. Those responses came after lockdown restrictions were significantly eased on July 4.

But it was a significant drop from the initial lockdown period when 90pc of respondents said they understood what was permitted.

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt said the findings were "especially worrying" at a time when case numbers were climbing.

"As well as this potentially leading to people breaking rules they don't fully understand, confusing messages or unclear communication could result in people disengaging from trying to keep abreast of restrictions, which could well lead to lower compliance in the long term," Dr Fancourt said.

"These developments are especially worrying at a time when the number of cases continues to climb. So it is vital that the Government improves communication of lockdown restrictions and ensures they are as simple to understand and follow as possible."

02:29 AM

Body image issues linked to pandemic

Anxiety around Covid-19 could be causing body image issues among both men and women, research suggests.

Feelings of stress associated with the pandemic are associated with men having a greater desire for muscularity and women having a greater desire for thinness, according to the study led by Anglia Ruskin University.

Researchers surveyed 506 adults in the UK, with an average age of 34, about stress and body image.

Lead author Viren Swami said: "During the initial spring lockdown period, our screen time increased, meaning that we were more likely to be exposed to thin or athletic ideals through the media, while decreased physical activity may have heightened negative thoughts about weight or shape.

"At the same time, it is possible that the additional anxiety and stress caused by Covid-19 may have diminished the coping mechanisms we typically use to help manage negative thoughts."

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Experts say there's a medium risk of bird flu hitting the UK

The chief veterinary officers of the UK have raised the risk of bird flu hitting the UK from "low" to "medium" after two swans were infected in the Netherlands.

Chief vets from the four nations warned that the cases of avian influenza, known colloquially as bird flu, were detected on Thursday but said the risk of transmission to people remains low.

Wild birds migrating westward from mainland Europe during the winter period can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.

READ MORE: Vets raise risk of bird flu hitting the UK to medium after Netherlands infection

01:47 AM

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