Family Christmas under threat as Boris Johnson confirms new social gathering 'rule of six'

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Follow the latest updates in Thursday's live blog.

New social gathering rules announced

Britain could face a "Covid Christmas" and festive season unlike any other, as Boris Johnson admitted new restrictions including the "rule of six" could be in place for some time to come.

The Prime Minister confirmed that from Monday social gatherings will be limited to six people, and acknowledged it is “too early to say” where the UK will be by Christmas.

He said that he is “still hopeful” that “some aspects” of life could be back to normal by Christmas through an intensive testing regime.

Mr Johnson also confirmed a raft of additional measures in England, including making test-and-trace mandatory in hospitality settings and the use of "Covid-secure marshals", to be introduced in town and city centres and tasked with enforcement of social distancing.

The main changes confirmed by the Prime Minister are as follows:

  • From Monday, people in England must not meet socially in groups of more than six, with anyone who breaks this rule at risk of a fine, dispersal, or even arrest.
  • Test-and-trace will become mandatory in hospitality settings, with all venues legally required to record the contact details of a member of every party.
  • Covid-secure marshals will be introduced in town and city centres, with councils able to call on these to ensure and enforce physical distancing.
  • A new "moon-shot testing" approach, which would depend on the development of 90- or even 20-minute antigen tests, will be piloted in Salford.
  • The return of live audiences to theatre productions and live sport events has been delayed.
  • The Department for Education will issue new guidance to universities on how they should operate in a Covid-secure manner.

New Covid rules and 'Operation Moonshot': What happened today

Good evening. Thanks for joining us on a crucially significant day in the response to the UK's coronavirus pandemic - here are today's key developments.

  • Boris Johnson confirmed social gatherings will be limited to six people from Monday, adding it is “too early to say” where the UK will be by Christmas.
  • The Prime Minister also announced the introduction of 'Covid-secure marshals' in town and city centres, to ensure and enforce physical distancing.
  • Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said that holidaymakers and schools bear the blame for testing delays - and that those without symptoms should not seek tests.
  • The world of sport was thrown into chaos as the Prime Minister sought to 'abridge' the scheme, casting doubt on plans to readmit more spectators by October 1.
  • The Government will look at "all the ways" in which international travel and air travel can be made easier, acknowledging the hardship tourism has faced this year.
  • A new 'moon-shot testing' approach will be piloted in Salford, allowing indoor and outdoor gatherings subject to targeted, on-the-day Covid-19 testing.
  • A new "smart city" in China is to have a state-of-the-art neighbourhood designed to cope with a future pandemic outbreak.
  • Spanish bar, restaurant and nightclub owners today gathered in central Madrid to call on the government for tax reductions to survive the effects of the pandemic.
  • Restaurants in New York City will be allowed to reopen indoor dining at 25 per cent capacity on September 30, in a key milestone in the city's recovery.

Oxford vaccine trial suspended but not doomed after UK woman hit by rare neurological disorder

The revelation that AstraZeneca and Oxford have suspended their phase three vaccine trials following a suspected case of transverse myelitis - a rare neurological condition - in a British female participant is bad news but may yet prove to be no more than a bump in the road.

The pause will delay the vaccine’s progress, making the possibility of it receiving an emergency licence this year much less likely. But experts expect the trial will almost certainly continue to allow further data to be gathered and assessed.

The scientific community was out in force yesterday to stress the positives. The suspension of the trial, they said, demonstrated patient safety was paramount and that the complex system of regulatory checks and balances was working as it should.

“It’s always a concern if someone in the trial develops a serious adverse reaction… but if we had five or six cases I would be much more alarmed,” Prof Beate Kampmann, director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told The Telegraph. It was far too early to say the trial was “doomed”, she added.

Yet the incident raises cause for concern - and stock prices in AstraZeneca tumbled after the news broke on Tuesday night.  

Sarah Newey and Paul Nuki have the story.

'Operation Moonshot': Mass testing could create so-called freedom pass

Mass testing could see people given a "freedom pass" to go about life as normal, safe in the knowledge they are not infectious with Covid-19, the Prime Minister has said.

Discussing the thinking behind the so-called 'Operation Moonshot', Boris Johnson said that millions of people could be tested every day so they could "behave in a way that was exactly as in the world before Covid".

Theatres and sports venues could test all audience members and let in those with a negative result, the Prime Minster said at a Downing Street briefing, with trials of this method to be held in Salford next month.

"We're hoping the 'Moonshot' approach will work and we will be able to deliver mass testing which will give people the freedom pass, the 'laissez-passer', the knowledge that they are not infectious and can hang out with other people who are not infectious in a pre-Covid way," he said.

Act now to help poorer countries or pay the price, warns UN chief

Act now to help more fragile countries weather the coronavirus crisis, or pay a bigger price later.

This is the warning that the UN's humanitarian chief has issued to rich countries and global financial institutions.

Lambasting the "tepid" response seen so far, Sir Mark Lowcock told The Telegraph that not taking more action now would lead to more poverty, starvation and child death across the world -  the perfect conditions for conflict, insecurity and extremism to thrive. 

Pointing to the vast collective global efforts made to shore up poorer countries during the 2008-9 financial crisis, he said: "Countries, including the European Union and the United Kingdom, collectively need to stand back and ask themselves: do we really want to deal with the consequences of not providing that kind of support this time?"

Jennifer Rigby has the exclusive.

The Belgian model: Has a curfew on pubs and restaurants inspired a copycat approach?

Belgium’s coronavirus curfew was effective in quelling an aggressive flare-up of the virus in Antwerp, but new infections have increased steadily since it was lifted, writes James Crisp.

The Government is reportedly considering similarly tough action in Britain, with some reports suggesting a nationwide curfew could be an option. 

Britain has previously enforced a lockdown, where people were told to only leave the house for essential reasons, but residents were never ordered to stay indoors at night with a strict curfew. 

A healthcare worker takes a nasal swab sample inside a chapel that has been transformed into a coronavirus testing centre in Antwerp Credit: Johanna Geron/Reuters

During today's Downing Street press briefing Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, pointed to Belgium’s “decisive action” to stem an increasing infection rate.

The Flemish municipality of Antwerp imposed a month-long coronavirus curfew (a strict order issued to keep people off the streets, for a set number of hours, with restaurants, schools and other venues generally closed) when the city became the epicentre of what was feared to be a second wave of infections in the country.

Read James' full analysis here.

Covid university reopening could see exclusions over social distancing

Students could be excluded from campus if they do not follow rules on social distancing, a university leader has warned.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice-chancellor of Manchester University and chair of the prestigious Russell Group, said that students will face punishment if they break the rules.

Addressing the Science and Technology Committee, Dame Nancy, chairwoman of the Russell Group, said: "We're not in a normal situation and we're very strongly stressing to students that they must behave differently."

Guidance is to be issued imminently by the Department for Education on how campuses across the country can open in a 'Covid-secure' manner.

Read more: What will university life look like during coronavirus?

'Rule of six' declared by Johnson amid call to action

 

New York restaurants allowed to reopen at limited capacity

Restaurants in New York City will be allowed to reopen indoor dining at 25 per cent capacity on September 30, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has said, marking a significant step in the city’s recovery.

Gov. Cuomo’s announcement came more than two months after he and Mayor Bill de Blasio halted a plan to reopen indoor dining at restaurants, at which point they cited ongoing concerns about Covid-19.

More than 30,000 people have died with coronavirus in New York, one of the major cities worst hit by the pandemic.

The infection rate in the state has however been kept below one per cent for several consecutive weeks now, which will permit the easing of some restrictions.

Professor Chris Whitty says new restrictions 'very unlikely to be over in two or three weeks'

More from Prof Whitty on how the new restrictions are seemingly here to stay:

Everybody I think in the country will know, and it has been widely reported that the period over autumn and winter, which is the period when all respiratory viruses have an advantage because people crowd together, more things are done indoors amongst other reasons, it is going to be difficult.

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/AFP

So the period between now and spring is going to be difficult because this is a respiratory virus.

I think in terms of the existing restrictions, people should see this as the next block of time that may not last for many months, but it is very unlikely to be over in just two or three weeks.

Oxford vaccine trials halted: What next? Listen to our latest podcast

Nearly 180 vaccines are being trialled globally, but Oxford University's has been a frontrunner from the start.

On Tuesday, a hitch in the road: the trial was paused in its third and final phase.

Virologist Dr Elisabetta Groppelli joins Theodora Louloudis to discuss the significance of the decision, and whether global collaboration is needed to speed up the search.

 

Boris Johnson speech: Distribution of positive Covid-19 tests

Here is the video screened during Boris Johnson's press conference which shows the distribution of people testing positive for Covid-19 in England during the outbreak:

 

Holidaymakers and schools bear the blame for testing delays, says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock has said that holidaymakers and schools must bear the blame for testing delays, reports Jessica Carpani.

The Health Secretary said there had been an increase in people seeking tests when they had not got symptoms of Covid-19.

One school sent a whole year group for tests, which is "not appropriate", he said.

Credit: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images Europe

Mr Hancock also described how some people who were going on holiday had sought to get tests, which is "not what the testing system is here for".

People seeking unnecessary tests made things harder for those who needed them, he added.

Many people who tried to access a test on Wednesday morning were met with the following error message: "This service is currently very busy. More tests should be available later. If you cannot book a test now, or the location or time are not convenient, try again in a few hours.

"Warning: Do not call the helplines - you will not be able to get a test this way."

Read more from Jessica here.

UK coronavirus cases today: Rise of 2,659 infections confirmed amid eight more deaths

The Department for Health has confirmed today's coronavirus statistics for the UK, with a further 2,659 new laboratory-confirmed infections announced.

This takes the UK's overall official caseload since the start of the pandemic to 355,219.

The Department for Health has also confirmed eight more fatalities. This figure is significantly down from yesterday's figure of 32 deaths, and brings the Government's toll of deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test to 41,594.

A further 124 patients have been admitted to hospital, with 80 in ventilator beds.

Boris Johnson speech: Covid-secure marshals and 'rule of six' arrest risk

Below are the Prime Minister's comments on new curbs on civil liberties that will come into place from Monday onwards in England:

You must not meet socially in groups of more than six - and if you do, you will be breaking the law.

This will apply in any setting indoors or outdoors, at home or in the park.

The ban will be set out in law, and it will be enforceable by the police.

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/AFP

Anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined, and possibly arrested.

We will boost the enforcement capacity of local authorities by introducing Covid-secure marshals to help ensure social distancing in town and city centres.

And by setting up a register of environmental health officers that local authorities can draw upon for support.

Boris Johnson speech: Return of fans to stadiums will be reconsidered

Sport’s plans to welcome back crowds have been plunged into chaos after Boris Johnson announced the Oct 1 aspiration for stadiums to partially reopen was under review following another Covid-19 caseload increase.

Here is more detail from Tom MorganBen Rumsby and Jeremy Wilson

In a Downing Street address, the Prime Minister announced the return of crowds was being reviewed again "but that doesn't mean we are going to scrap the programme entirely".

All pilots leading to the proposed return of crowds next month are now set to be reduced in number to just 1,000 as new rules on social gathering are introduced.

Oval and out: Social distancing at the T20 cricket last week Credit: Adam Davy/PA

As disclosed on Tuesday by Telegraph Sport, however, ministers resisted pressure for a full postponement of their timetable for getting crowds back. Instead of announcing another delay on getting crowds back, Mr Johnson announced that the planned Oct 1 return of crowds was now under review.

Mr Johnson said: "At the present time, we must also I'm afraid revise plans to pilot larger venues later this month, and review our intention to return audiences to stadiums and conference centres from Oct 1 - that doesn't mean we are going to scrap the programme entirely, we just have to review it."

Second wave Covid UK latest: Are we facing another spike?

Here's what the data has to say on second fears:

 

Sports crowds plans back under threat as PM seeks to 'abridge' scheme

The return of spectators to sport is back under threat after Boris Johnson announced that plans to readmit more spectators to stadiums by October 1 was under review.

More from Telegraph Sport's Ben Rumsby:

Pilot events which are scheduled for this month are still set to take place, but with far greater restrictions in place – specifically, a limit of 1,000 spectators being allowed in.

That would apply when the new rules begin on Monday. There is also the possibility that local spikes could see test events in that area called off.

The Premier League and English Football League had been banking on the return of crowds from next month, while the Football Association planned to sell tickets for England’s Wembley triple-header against Wales, Belgium and Denmark. 

As with everything related to coronavirus, the situation is changing daily.

However, unlike with the plans to reopen schools, the Government will have an extremely tough job selling the idea to the public that they cannot see loved ones as part of some kind of trade-off for allowing people to go and watch sport again.

Rule of six: Government facing mounting backlash over new restrictions

The Government is facing mounting backlash from the Conservative benches over its plans to ban social gatherings of over six people, reports our political correspondent Amy Jones.

Sir Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the influential 1922 committee of MPs, said the decision restricted civil liberties, and signalled that he would vote to “curtail” the Government's powers.

The changes will impose a legal limit on gatherings in private homes, parks, pubs and restaurants and will come into force in England on Monday.

Sir Charles argued that ministers needed to come to the Commons and “win the argument” on policies, admitting he was “increasingly uncomfortable” about the way the Government was running.

New Covid rules from Monday and other key changes

  • From Monday, Britons must not meet socially in groups of more than six, with anyone who breaks this rule at risk of a fine, dispersal, or even arrest.
  • Test-and-trace will become mandatory in hospitality settings, with all venues legally required to record the contact details of a member of every party.
  • 'Covid-secure marshals' will be introduced in town and city centres, with councils able to call on these to ensure and enforce physical distancing.
Plenty of distance left to run: Professor Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Sir Patrick Vallance Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA
  • A new 'moon-shot testing' approach, which would depend on the development of 90 or even 20 minute antigen tests, will be piloted in Salford.
  • The return of live audiences to theatre productions and live sport events has been delayed.
  • The Department for Education will today issue new guidance to universities on how they should operate in a Covid-secure manner.

'Observe and enforce' the rule of six, pleads Prime Minister

"I hope everyone gets the message," the Prime Minister says in his closing remarks, as the first coronavirus briefing in some time draws to a close.

"It’s very simple, it remains hand, face, make space, get a test if you have symptoms. But enforce now - observe and enforce - that rule of six, outside or inside, and that’s the way I think we’ll beat the current outbreak."

Airport testing: Johnson says Govt will look at 'all the ways' of resuming air travel

Asked about the prospect of airport testing and the impact of the new measures on the travel industry, Boris Johnson says he fully acknowledges the hardships that have been experienced by the travel industry in the last six months:

The measures we are announcing today are certainly not intended to cause any extra burdens for the travel industry and I really appreciate the difficulties that the industry's been going through. The aviation sector is of colossal importance to our country.

We want to get people flying as fast and efficiently as we can, and yes of course we're going to look at all the ways we possibly can with new technology, with more, with better testing to liberate people to fly in the way that they want to. That's an absolutely priority for the Government.

New Covid rules 'break my heart', admits Prime Minister

Our political Gordon Rayner asks the Prime Minister if he feels comfortable making it illegal for grandparents to see their young children, possibly for months.

"Of course I don't feel comfortable about it, it breaks my heart to have to insist on these restrictions," responds the Prime Minister.

"Nobody in Government conceivably wants to... This is not something... The trouble is that people who think they can take their own risk are misunderstanding the situation. It's not just the risk to yourself, alas, but at any age you can be a vehicle, a vector for the disease.

"So young people as you rightly say Gordon are overwhelmingly now getting it as the graphs just showed. But they are more than capable of transmitting it to the much more vulnerable generation."

The Prime Minister says that the disease has not become less dangerous. "Once you get high levels of infection, I'm afraid the deaths eventually start to take place as well. We've got to protect our healthcare system but we've got to save lives.

"The reason we're doing this is precisely because we want to prevent a wider lockdown, wider damage to the economy. I think the more decisive the action we can take now, the nearer will be the day when we're able to allow grandparents and others to meet each other in a way that they would want to. But we have to take decisive action now."

Prof Whitty adds that young people may have a lower death risk, but it does not mean that they cannot get ill, and infections could soon spread to the elderly if unregulated.

Johnson: 'Rule of six' must be adhered to by public

Sky News' Beth Rigby points out that Johnson said on July 17 that there would be a "significant return for normality... possibly in time for Christmas."

Mr Johnson says that "it is just too early to say" where the UK will be by Christmas.

"We've got two big projects that we're backing - the change in public behaviour that we hope to see, and the moonshot approach - lateral flow type testing that will give people a freedom pass.

"That's a very ambitious plan but we're working on it very hard and very fast. We're backing both of those horses and backing them flat-out. But the thing we need now is everyone needs to work together to enforce the rule of six and keep the current spike down."

Covid rules from Monday aimed at avoiding second UK lockdown, insists PM

Answering a question from the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg about why people should listen to his new rules after being encouraged to eat out to help out and told to go back to the office, Mr Johnson says the Government's objective is to avoid "another wholesale national lockdown."

"Everyone's heard of the figure of six before, six people outdoors. But we now want to intensify that message. Don't gather in social groups of more than six - indoors or outdoors - and this will be legally enforced."

Professor Chris Whitty adds that the new restrictions are "not a very short-term thing" and it is hard to put an exact time limit.

Asked by Robert Peston whether Christmas is cancelled, Johnson says he is "still hopeful" that Britons can get "some aspects" of life back to normal by Christmas through a "moonshot of daily testing - everybody gets a pregnancy style test in the morning".

UK schools reopening: Johnson says parents with underlying conditions should take 'special precautions'

"Thankfully we're not seeing that much transmission in schools," the Prime Minister says in response to a question from a member of the public. He says parents who have underlying conditions should take "special precautions, through shielding or otherwise".

Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Chris Whitty adds that the rates are still very low, but if there were to be a broader increase in rates, "the current policies would have to be looked at again".

Coronavirus UK update: Cases in your area and nationwide

 

Coronavirus infections rise in winter 'inevitable', says Sir Patrick Vallance

Sir Patrick Vallance says that Dexamethasone is working "very effectively" in reducing the number of Covid-19 fatalities, and that doctors in the UK and worldwide are working out better ways of treating those in hospitals.

He says that similar drugs will also be on their way, and that other drugs are showing signs of good progress.

"So both vaccines and therapeutics - positive news, but a long way to go," he says.

"It's very important that we go into winter and get more infections - and that's inevitable - we need to test, and any of us unfortunate enough to catch it, it's important that we volunteer for clinical trials to get the answers to these questions as soon as we can."

Sir Patrick Vallance strikes optimistic note on vaccines: 'Next year some time'

Sir Patrick Vallance says eight vaccine candidates are currently in the last stage of clinical trials, adding that some of them will read out this year while others will do this next year.

"Many of these vaccines are showing the right immune response," he says. "Volunteers who've been vaccinated are generating an immune response against the virus. We don't know how long it lasts for yet, but the immune response is good in many cases."

Sir Patrick says that the Vaccines Task Force has made sure that six of the vaccines will be available, and they are in four different classes of vaccine - covering different types.

"Just a word about the Oxford vaccine - the Oxford vaccine in many ways is right at the front because it's been into more people than anyone else," he says.

He adds that the trials have been paused because of an investigation into a potential unwanted effect, but stresses that this is "not unusual" and it is exactly why phase three clinical trials happen.

Sir Patrick says it is wrong "to just jump over the stages" of clinicial trials and testing.

He says there is a reasonable chance of the possibility of vaccination "next year some time at larger levels".

Boris Johnson hopeful the UK will 'beat this virus before too long'

The Prime Minister promises that the Government will work "round the clock", and hopes the new approach will be widespread by the spring.

"It may be possible - even for the theatres - to have life much closer to normal by Christmas," he says.

"As I said before, all this progress is contingent on continued scientific advances, and although we're hopeful, I cannot 100 per cent guarantee that these advances will be made. And that is why it's so important that we take these tough measures now."

He says that he believes the UK will "beat this virus before too long."

"So let's work together, let's follow the rules, meet in groups of no more than six, wash your hands, cover your face, make space," he concludes.

Coronavirus test agenda to be piloted in Salford from next month

"We have been working on an alternative plan and that plan is based on mass testing," the Prime Minister says.

We've been using testing primarily to identify people who are positive, so that we can isolate them from the community and protect high-risk groups. And that will continue to be our priority.

We're working hard to increase our testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October. But in the near future, we want to start identifying people who are negative, who are not infectious.

So we can allow them to behave in a more normal way, in the knowledge they can't infect anyone else with the virus.

We think, we hope, we believe that new types of test - that are simple, quick and scalable - will become available.

Crucially, it should be possible to deploy these tests on a far greater scale, literally millions of tests being processed every day.

He says that this would be critical to reopening theatres and sport stadiums, which could let in all of those who test negative in the morning and are not infectious.

Mr Johnson says the scheme will be piloted in Salford, in indoor and outdoor venues, from next month, and acknowledges the challenges of working through "the numerous logistical challenges" of the scheme.

He also reiterates that those without symptoms should currently not be seeking tests.

Return to university: 'Don't gather in groups of more than six', pleads Prime Minister

Mr Johnson confirms that reopening universities is "critical" and says that the health risks to individuals are low. He says many students are in the 17-21 age bracket in which infection rates have recently risen sharply.

"My message to students is simple," he says. "Please, for the sake of your education, your parents, and your grandparents' health, don't socially gather in groups of more than six now and when term starts."

He adds that the Department for Education will today publish updated guidance to universities - including a clear request not to send students home in the event of an outbreak.

Return of crowds to stadiums delayed

The Prime Minister confirms that plans to welcome audiences back to theatres and live sport events.

"These measures are not another national lockdown," he says. "The whole point of them is to avoid a second national lockdown."

He adds that schools and colleges should only ever be shut again as a "very, very last resort".

Test and trace rules to become mandatory in hospitality settings, confirms Boris Johnson

"I wish that we did not have to take this step. But as your Prime Minister I must do what is necessary," Mr Johnson says.

"And of course we will keep the rule of six under constant review and only keep it in place as long as it's necessary."

The Prime Minister asserts that both he and the wider public want to see stronger enforcement of the rules.

"In future, premises and venues where people meet socially will be legally required to request the contact details of a member of every party, record and retain these details for 21 days, and provide them to NHS Test and Trace without delay where required," he says.

He says the Government will support action against venues that "pose a risk to public health", and adds that fines will be levied against hospitality settings that are not 'Covid-secure'.

Johnson urges Britons to 'limit social contact as much as possible'

Mr Johnson says that "everyone, at all times" should limit social contact as much as possible and minimise their interactions with other outdoors.

"It's safer to meet outdoors and you should keep your distance from anyone you don't live with, even if they are close friends or family," he says.

"In England from Monday we're introducing the rule of six. You must not meet socially in groups of more than six.

"Anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested."

He clarifies that this replaces the existing guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors and the cap at 30 people. He notes limited exemptions related to support bubbles larger than six, and that hospitality settings and places of worship can take in more than six people overall.

"Education settings and workplaces are unaffected," he says.

Boris Johnson: 'Remember the basics' of hands, face, space

Boris Johnson says the UK must act and encourages Britons to "remember the basics":

Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds, wear a face covering over your mouth and nose if you're in an enclosed space and in close contact with

I know wearing a face covering feels odd to some people but face coverings do make it harder for the virus to spread.

Make space - always stay two metres away from people you don't live with or one metre with extra precautions. Fourthly, if you have Covid symptoms, get a test and self-isolate.

Those are the basics - hands, face, space and get a test if you have Covid symptoms.

He urges people to only book a test if they have symptoms. "If you don't have those symptoms and haven't been asked to book a test, please don't," he says.

UK 'on the same trajectory' as France and Spain in caseload

Chris Whitty remarks that the UK is on the same trajectory as France and Spain.

Citing Belgium, he says: "This is a clear indication that if you act rapidly and decisively when these changes are happening, there is a reasonable chance or a good chance of bringing the rates back down under control."

He says that the UK "needs to go on to act" because the spread of the virus is "across the whole country".

Coronavirus cases spiking among 17-18 year olds

Chris Whitty notes that test positivity has surged among 17-21 year olds since mid-August.

He says that it is not an effect of greater testing in these groups.

UK coronavirus update: Overall rates in terms of confirmed cases

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty says: "It's important to think about this in terms of the ages in which this is happening.

"There's some very good news in this and what that shows is that in older people and in the younger children, the rates remain really quite flat.

"But in some age groups the rates are now going up really quite sharply. At the top of this graph we have the rates aged 20-29 in the light green, and then 30-39 in the yellow numbers.

"What you can also see is some rapid upticks elsewhere and in particular the light blue which is quite a broad age band of 10-19."

 

Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance pictured outside Downing Street

Credit: Toby Melville/Reuters
Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

 

Boris Johnson announcement today: Watch live

Boris Johnson will announce today that social gatherings of more than six people will be made illegal from Monday.

It comes a sudden surge in coronavirus cases which has prompted fears of a second wave.

You'll be able to watch the video at the top of this live blog once live from 4pm.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary declares winter a 'write-off' for travel industry

Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has warned that the winter will be a “write-off” for the travel industry as the carrier cut its annual passenger target by a further 17pc.

Our business reporter Simon Foy writes:

Mr O’Leary also joined the chorus of industry leaders calling for a testing regime to be implemented at airports, and lashed out at the UK's “lumpy and defective” quarantine policy.

The airline boss said: “We'’e hoping to see a vaccine emerge maybe in the first quarter of next year – but I think the winter of 2020 will essentially be a write-off.”

As a result Ryanair will be forced to close some bases and cut capacity at others, he said, citing Britain, Ireland, Spain and Portugal as regions where cuts may take place. 

Read Simon's full piece here.

Spain coronavirus cases remain high as bar and restaurant owners protest

Spanish bar, restaurant and nightclub owners today gathered in central Madrid to call on the government for tax reductions to survive the effects of the pandemic and lockdown.

Nightclubs currently remain shuttered in the central capital and restaurants and bars have only opened at reduced capacities in a bid to curb a rebound of Covid-19 cases in the country.

Credit: Anadolu Agency

"Mister politicians, more help and less restrictions," one banner read, while another said: "Six months closed. Help!".

Spain's primary hospitality lobby has warned that 85,000 businesses are at risk of closure this year in a country that has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus.

Spain on Monday became the first Western European country to pass 500,000 cases, while its economy shrank a record 18.5 per cent in April-June, the sharpest drop among EU member states.

Furlough scheme: HMRC probes 27,000 'high risk' claims in hunt for missing £3.5bn

HM Revenue and Customs is looking into 27,000 "high-risk" claims made under the Government's furlough scheme, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said a number of criminal investigations into suspected fraud were under way and one arrest had already been made.

It follows the disclosure on Monday by the head of HMRC, Jim Harra, that up to £3.5 billion may have been paid out in inaccurate or fraudulent claims under the scheme to protect jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The PM's spokesman said "everything possible" would be done to claw back taxpayers' money which had been fraudulently claimed, and claimed HMRC had "sophisticated systems in place... to stop money being incorrectly paid in the first place."

Our chief political correspondent Christopher Hope has more details.

South Korea Covid news: Hyundai Heavy Industries employees line up for mass testing

Hyundai Heavy Industries employees have been seen waiting in lines to take tests for the Covid-19 at a testing station in the southeastern port city of Ulsan.

This follows seven people including company employees and their family members testing positive for the virus.

Credit: Yonhap/AFP

While South Korea largely overcame an early coronavirus outbreak through extensive tracing and testing, it is now battling several outbreaks mostly linked to churches.

Bike rally in South Dakota could be linked to 250,000 coronavirus cases

It was a 10-day celebration of big bikes, revving engines and inalienable American freedoms that saw more than 400,000 people descend on a South Dakota town, Ben Farmer reports.

Vowing that a pandemic would not halt the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, bikers rode from across the country to join in, despite local fears it would cause a spike in Covid-19.

Three weeks after the event ended and attendees roared off along highways, health officials now fear many took home more than just new tattoos.

A concert that took place as part of the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on August 15. Credit: Amy Harris/Invision

The jamboree is feared to have been a so-called super-spreader event responsible for large numbers of coronavirus cases across the country.

Doctors have begun recording scores of cases linked to the get-together and an academic paper has now suggested the rally could have been potentially responsible for more than 250,000 cases.

Coronavirus rules: 'Has the world gone mad?'

The Government is at it again, our digital travel editor Oliver Smith laments, with what he describes as "more nonsensical curbs on our freedom":

From Monday we will be banned from socialising in groups of more than six. Yes, schools and universities have restarted, we’re being encouraged to return to the office, and pubs and restaurants are open for business, but we can’t be trusted to have a picnic in the park with more than a handful of friends.

It’s a dispiriting development, but a fraction of solace can be found by looking abroad. Compared to some of the bizarre Covid rules imposed by other countries, ours look positively sensible.

Masks have been made mandatory in Sri Lanka, even in outdoor spaces. Credit: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

In Sri Lanka, if you don’t wear a mask you could be hauled off the street and forced to isolate for 14 days, while to combat coronavirus Costa Rica has banned driving.

Meanwhile Colombian local restrictions are based on gender and/or identification numbers - men can shop on certain days of the week, women on others.

Read Oliver's full article here.

Pope Francis urges worshippers to socially distance at Vatican audience

Pope Francis has been seen urging worshippers to spread out and socially distance as he arrived for his weekly public audience inside the Vatican.

Speaking at his weekly Wednesday general address, Pope Francis also emphasised health as both an individual and a public good.

Pope Francis waves to the masked faithful at the San Damasco courtyard during his weekly audience. Credit: Vatican via Reuters

The pontiff resumed his weekly public audiences last week at the Apostolic Palace following a hiatus of almost six months due to the virus. 

The crowd size was limited and the 83-year-old - who lost part of one of his lungs from illness in his youth, and kept a safe distance from the crowds -  encouraged those in attendance to spread out.

I want every Briton to take a Covid test every morning, says Boris Johnson

Watch Boris Johnson's comments at Prime Minister's Questions earlier today:

 

Oxford vaccine update: AstraZeneca issues statement

AstraZeneca has issued a statement about the suspension of its global vaccine trial with Oxford University:

As part of the ongoing randomised, controlled clinical trials of the AstraZeneca Oxford coronavirus vaccine, AZD1222, a standard review process has been triggered, leading to the voluntary pause of vaccination across all trials to allow an independent committee to review the safety data of a single event of an unexplained illness that occurred in the UK Phase III trial.

This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials.

In large clinical trials, illnesses will happen by chance and must be independently reviewed. AstraZeneca is working to expedite the review of the single event to minimise any potential impact on the trial timeline. We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our trials.

Pascal Soriot, its chief executive officer, added that AstraZeneca "puts science, safety and the interests of society at the heart of our work".

Mr Soriot described the pause in the trial as "living proof that we follow those principles while a single event at one of our trial sites is assessed by a committee of independent experts".

He said that AstraZeneca and Oxford would be "guided by this committee" on when the trial will recommence.

St Lucia Covid rate allows restart of key tourist attractions

The Caribbean island of St Lucia has announced the restarting of its key tourist attractions, with some national parks and hiking trails open from today.

The country – which is included in the UK's travel corridor list – has recorded just 26 Covid-19 infections to date, and currently has no active cases.

Credit: Fokkebok

St Lucia's main attractions – which include the Gros Piton Trail, Toraille Waterfalls and Sulphur Springs – will have a staggered reopening to visitors that will take place between now and December.

Return of crowds to be shown the red card, Telegraph Sport understands

Sport is braced to scrap plans for the return of fans after the St Leger Festival was ordered behind closed doors from Thursday onwards, writes Ben Rumsby.

Senior industry figures fear the cancellation of all remaining pilots this month, and the postponement of the October 1 date for every sporting event to welcome back a limited number of spectators.

Scenes like this - at the St Leger Festival today - are unlikely to be seen again for quite some time. Credit: David Davies/PA Wire

Although government sources sought to calm such fears,Telegraph Sport has been told there is certain to be some bad news for sport when the Prime Minister speaks.

It marks a stark contrast from in July, when Boris Johnson revealed plans for a "wider reopening" for fans into stadiums from the start of October - and Premier League clubs were even confident of a partial September repopening.

Whether the Government's plans include scrapping the pilots already announced - or those that ministers had planned to announce - still remains to be seen.

Pizza Hut job losses announced as 29 restaurant branches fold

Pizza Hut has announced plans to shut 29 restaurants and shed up to 450 jobs as it scales back in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, writes Rhiannon Curry.

The company - which has 244 restaurants in the UK - is in talks with creditors over a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) restructuring deal following the “significant disruption” of the last six months.

Pizza Hut said it had decided to make the move as “sales are not expected to fully bounce back until well into 2021” despite many of its sites reopening quickly once restrictions were eased.

Credit: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

It is yet to confirm which branches are at risk, but said delivery jobs and franchises would not be affected.

“While we are likely to see 29 Hut closures and 450 job losses, any measures we take aim to protect about 5,000 jobs at our remaining 215 restaurants, as well as the longevity of the business,” said a spokesperson.

The pizza chain is the latest UK high street restaurant to face closures despite the apparent success of the Government's eat out to help out scheme throughout August.

Read the full story here.

Covid airport test could be rolled out in UK by end of the month

Boris Johnson has so far resisted growing calls for Covid-19 testing at airports, stating that it would give “a false sense of security” - despite growing pressure from The Telegraph's Test4Travel campaign for an end to quarantine, reports Tom Mulvihill.

But a new, improved on-the-spot test could be key to opening up travel in the future, in time to save the tourism and business travel industries from a catastrophic collapse.

Credit: Jagadeesh NV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The rapid antigen test, developed by Innova Medical Group and marketed by UK-based company Tried&Tested.Tech, is now being touted as a quicker, cheaper and far more reliable alternative to the more common polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

This would potentially allowing the Government to replace quarantine restrictions with the type of rigorous testing programme The Telegraph is calling for.

Covid rules from Monday lead firms to demand urgent support

Industry chiefs have called for urgent support for businesses amid warnings that tighter restrictions on social gatherings could deal a further body blow to consumer confidence.

Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday as part of new rules introduced by the Prime Minister to try and limit the spread of coronavirus and prevent a second wave.

Pubs, restaurants and retailers are expected to be allowed to remain open, while the rules will not apply to schools, workplaces and Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised sporting events.

Credit: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

However industry bosses have warned that the changes risk a knock-on effect on consumer confidence, which has enjoyed a recent boost following the launch of initiatives such as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.  

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the announcement could lead to a “knee-jerk” reaction among nervous consumers leading them to cancel bookings at restaurants, pubs, hotels and other hospitality venues.

Emergency services Covid effort praised by Prince William

Prince William has praised the dedication of Britain's emergency services during the pandemic.

He said that 2020 has already been an "extraordinary" year in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking at an event in Northern Ireland to mark Emergency Services Day, Prince William told blue light responders:

The months ahead will no doubt be uncertain and at points scary.

But thanks to the dedication and sacrifice of those of you working across the emergency services and in the NHS, I count myself and others in this country very fortunate.

Your dedication is not only apparent when we are faced with a global pandemic.

Each and every day, people from teams across the blue light community are called to the scenes of dreadful incidents.

Taj Mahal reopening date confirmed

India's iconic Taj Mahal will re-open on September 21 for the first time in six months, in an attempt to kickstart the country's decimated tourism industry, reports Joe Wallen.

Social distancing rules will be in place and the number of visitors will be capped at 5,000-a-day, according to the Archaeological Survey of India.

The Taj Mahal - a mausoleum built by the Mughal Empire in the 17th Century - usually attracts approximately seven million tourists annually but has been closed since March 17 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Taj Mahal closure has not deterred tourists from getting the perfect snapshot of its exterior. Credit: Pawan Sharma/AFP

Visitors to the complex generated over £21 million between 2017-2019 and many of the two million inhabitants of the surrounding city of Agra also depend on visiting tourism for their livelihoods.

It is likely that the Taj Mahal will only attract domestic tourists in the short-term though as India struggles to contain the world's fastest-growing epidemic with over 4.3 million cases, resulting in international flights being largely curtailed.

Matt Hancock Twitter late-night leak 'unacceptable', says Lindsay Hoyle

Lindsay Hoyle MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has said that the Health Secretary Matt Hancock must apologise after the new coronavirus restrictions were first revealed online.

The Speaker said he has sent a letter complaining to Mr Hancock, adding: "I think the total disregard for this chamber is not acceptable."

Credit: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/Handout/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Mr Hoyle told MPs that while decisions "have been taken in a fast moving situation", timings for statements are nonetheless known to Government ministers, and said:

It's really not good enough for the government to make decisions of this kind in a way which shows insufficient regard for the important of major policy announcements being made first to this house and to MPs wherever possible.

It's not acceptable and I hope he will apologise to members.

I expect the Secretary of State to apologise to members and make sure this chamber knows first when he was fully aware, fully aware of what was going to be said later.

If this minister wants to run this chamber ragged, I can assure you now I'm sure a UQ [Urgent Question] every day might just begin to run him ragged.

Chinese Covid vaccine 'tested safely on hundreds of thousands of volunteers', developer claims

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have been given two experimental coronavirus vaccines without a single case of infection or report of adverse side-effects, an official at a state-owned vaccine company has claimed. 

Zhou Song, from China National Biotec Group (CNBG), told China National Radio that hundreds of thousands of people had been given one of the firm’s two vaccine candidates - currently in phase three clinical trials - “and no one has shown any obvious adverse effects or got infected”.

The news came as it emerged that trials on the UK’s vaccine candidate, one of the global front runners in the race to develop an effective jab, have been suspended after a study participant had an adverse reaction.

China began administering vaccines to volunteers in August, in particular focusing on business travellers visiting countries with high transmission rates, such as Brazil.

One international traveller reportedly paid more than £100 for two shots of the vaccine.

Four of eight possible candidates in late-stage human trials are being developed in China and three have been approved for emergency civilian use. Another Chinese vaccine has also been given to the military.

Anne Gulland has the full story.

Duchess of Cornwall wears protective visor for latest engagement

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall has today swapped a face mask for a protective visor for her latest public engagement in Milton Keynes.

The Duchess, who is patron of Medical Detection Dogs, wore the visor during a visit to the charity's training centre.

Credit: Chris Jackson

Trials are currently taking place at the site to determine whether dogs could act as a diagnostic tool for Covid-19.

The study, which is backed by £500,000 of Government funding, has set out to establish whether specially-trained 'Covid dogs' could be used as a non-invasive method of diagnosis in the future.

Coronavirus rules for weddings and funerals to remain the same

Weddings and funerals are among the settings that will not be affected by the new change to coronavirus laws that was announced last night by the Government and is to take effect on Monday.

The new rule does not apply to weddings, funerals or organised sports teams - so long as all of these activities are carried out "in a Covid-secure way".

James Travers and Stuthi Srinavasan were among the first couples to marry after 'Super Saturday' saw restrictions on weddings eased in July. Credit: Vickie Flores/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The rule will also not apply to households or bubbles of more than six, or gatherings for work.

Schools, where a 'bubble' can comprise hundreds of students, are a further exemption.

Coronavirus vaccine news: Leading contenders may have to be stored at -70C

Two of the world’s leading Covid-19 vaccine contenders may have to be stored at temperatures as low as -70C, it has emerged.

The super-cooling requirements for the leading US and German contenders will add another layer of complexity to the already daunting task of distributing the vaccines, even if phase three trials prove successful. 

Most other leading candidates, including from Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson, also need to be kept cool, but there are hopes that these protein-based jabs will just need to be refrigerated rather than frozen.

Credit: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP

Both Pfizer and Moderna are developing mRNA vaccines, with data signalling that they will need to be transported and stored at ultracold temperatures of minus 70 and minus 24 degrees respectively. This is to ensure their chemical structures remain stable. 

If the vaccines become too warm for too long at any point along the “cold chain” – the journey from the point of manufacturing to injection – they may be rendered ineffective. 

Sarah Newey and Jordan Kelly-Linden have the full story.

Greece travel restrictions: 'I'm astounded it's been put on the quarantine list'

Two British holidaymakers have been describing how their holiday on Greek islands has been affected by the change in policy on quarantine.

The Government on Monday announced that seven Greek islands had been dropped from England’s quarantine-free list.

As of today travellers returning from the Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos are now required to quarantine for 14 days, but mainland Greece will retain its travel corridor with the UK.

China coronavirus update: Inside the new 'Covid-proof' city

A new "smart city" in China is to have a state-of-the-art neighbourhood designed to cope with a future pandemic outbreak, writes Colin Freeman.

Architects working on Xiong'an, a flagship new metropolis outside Beijing, have been commissioned to make blocks of apartments specially equipped to allow residents to continue to function under lockdown conditions.

Each flat comes with a large balcony to allow access to the outdoors, and communal work areas big enough to maintain social distancing. Vegetable gardens, greenhouses and rooftop solar power will help residents maintain self-sufficiency in the event of large-scale disruptions to food chains and electricity supplies.

An artist's impression of the city, which has been promoted by President Xi Jinping as "a new standard in the post-Covid era".

"We cannot continue designing cities and buildings as if nothing had happened,"  said founder Vicente Guallart. "Our proposal stems from the need to provide solutions to the various crises that are taking place, in order to create a new urban life based in the circular bio-economy."

Past pandemics have played a major role in urban design. The cholera outbreaks of the 1800s, for example, where infected water lay in haphazard, umpaved alleyways, influenced the grid-design system of modern American cities.

Read more: The neighbourhood designed for future lockdowns

Rapid coronavirus tests for daily use will unlock the UK, says Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the Government is working towards all Britons taking a daily Covid-19 antigen test in order to unlock the nation.

Mr Johnson told the House of Commons:

A world we want to move to as fast as possible is a world where everyone can take enabling tests at the beginning of the day, an antigen test to identify whether or not we have the virus or not.

Like a pregnancy test within 15 minutes or so so that we know whether we are able to live our lives as normally as possible.

That’s the vision that the Health Secretary and others have been sketching out in the last few days. That’s where we intend to get to.

Antigen tests that take as little as 15 minutes are to be rolled out in France amid the country's soaring caseload.

Prime Minister's Questions: Boris Johnson says Government 'working flat out' to fix test-and-trace

Sir Keir Starmer says that the test-and-trace scheme is "far from the world-beating system we were promised", and that the Government is "holding Britain back by lurching from crisis to crisis".

The Prime Minister says that the Government is "working flat out to address all the issues confronting us today, and we are getting on with taking the tough decisions that will take this country forward."

When it came to saying schools were safe he was silent because he didn't want to offend his union bosses.

When Left-wing anarchists tried to destroy the freedom of the press he was silent because he didn't want to offend crusty Left-wing anarchists.

This Government gets on and takes the tough decisions on behalf of the British people.

Prime Minister's Questions live: Johnson insists NHS test-and-trace doing a 'heroic job'

Sir Keir Starmer starts the session by speaking of a mum in London with an unwell child, who was told that Romford, Brighton and then Telford and Inverness were the nearest facilities.

Boris Johnson says that the issue is "a massive increase in the amount of people who need and want a test, particularly those who don't have symptoms".

"The world we want to move to as quickly as possible is when everyone can take an antigen test at the start of every day so we can live our lives as normally as possible," the Prime Minister says.

He tells Sir Keir Starmer that NHS test-and-trace is doing "a heroic job" and that the medium journey "is under 10 miles if you have to get one".

Prime Minister's Questions live: Watch Boris Johnson take on Sir Keir Starmer

 

Coronavirus test demand levels 'inappropriate', says Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has said that there had been an increase in people seeking tests when they have not got any symptoms of Covid-19.

He described a school sending a whole year group for tests as 'not appropriate', and said that those who sought tests before going on holiday were seeking them unnecessarily.

Free tests are available to people with symptoms of coronavirus - a fever, new and continuous cough or a loss or change in sense of taste or smell - and for some others, such as those who have been instructed to do so by a doctor or local council and some essential workers.

When asked whether the test system is failing, Mr Hancock told Sky News:

I completely reject that accusation. In fact, quite the contrary. Firstly, we have the biggest testing system per head of population of all the major countries in Europe and we built it essentially from scratch.

However, in the last couple of weeks we have seen an increase in demand, including an increase in demand for people who are not eligible for tests, and people who don't have symptoms.

You're eligible for a test if you have symptoms of coronavirus, or if you have a very specific reason otherwise.

And we have seen an increase of about 25 per cent of people who are coming forward that don't have symptoms and aren't eligible. (They) don't have a reason for it.

At the moment, the system is really very straightforward because we wanted it to be easy for people with symptoms to get a test.

Last month this newspaper reported that Mr Hancock contracted Deloitte as consultants to help develop a mass testing regime which aimed to identify asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus, most of whom are missed by the current test-and-trace regime.

Tour de France Covid test means French cabinet will be held remotely

France's cabinet will today hold its weekly meeting remotely for the first time since the end of the lockdown, after Prime Minister Jean Castex spent part of the weekend with the boss of the Tour de France who then tested positive for Covid-19.

Here's more from AFP:

Mr Castex tested negative for the coronavirus in an initial test but is, in line with official guidance, self-isolating at his official Paris Matignon residence for seven days, his office said.

Mr Castex was in the car of Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme as they followed the eighth stage of the race on Saturday.

Mr Prudhomme, who is asymptomatic, must now leave the race for a week to go into quarantine.

Mr Castex is in good health but would "respect the protocol" by holding his meetings via video conference, his office said in a statement.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme (right) and French Prime Minister Jean Castex were seen applauding cyclists as they passed. Credit: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

The premier, who had met other ministers over the last days, will have another test seven days after the contact with Mr Prudhomme.

The cabinet meeting will take place by video conference, the government said.

This will be the first time this has happened since the end of France's two-month anti-coronavirus lockdown in May.

Concern has been growing over the risk of a second wave of the epidemic in France, with the number of new cases surging even though the death rate remains relatively low compared to the highs in the spring.

The authorities said 6,544 new infections were recorded on Tuesday.

Trick or treating coronavirus ban will affect Los Angeles County

Trick or treating will be banned this Hallowe'en in Los Angeles County in the United States to prevent the spread of coronavirus, writes Jennifer Rigby.

The region's public health department said going door-to-door on 31 October was :not allowed because it can be very difficult to maintain proper social distancing on porches and at front doors, especially in neighbourhoods that are popular with trick or treaters", CNN reported.

The new guidance also said that car-to-car trick or treating, or "trunk or treating", was prohibited.

Carnivals, festivals, live entertainment, parties with non-household members and haunted house attractions are also not allowed.

Los Angeles County has reported 249,241 coronavirus cases and 6,036 cases.

Three ghosts pictured in a scene from a less distant Halloween Credit: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

New Covid rules announced: What you can and can't do from Monday

The number of people allowed to attend social gatherings will be cut to just six in England following a rise in Covid-19 cases, after a Government scientific adviser warned the disease is growing “exponentially” in the UK.

Daily new infections in Britain are doubling at the same rate as they did at the start of April, so the Goverment has taken action with some new guidelines.

Credit: Oli Scarff/AFP

This guide from our reporters has all you need to know on the new rules, their application, and the exemptions.

'Hands, face, space' advert launched by NHS and Government

The UK Government and the NHS have launched a Winter Covid-19 campaign, encouraging people to take care with their 'hands, face and space' to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"As winter approaches we'll be spending more time indoors - this will increase the risk of coronavirus spreading," starts the advert.

A number of dramatised reconstructions of everyday situations set out how regular hand washing, wearing face coverings, and adherence to social distancing measures can mitigate the spread of the virus.

Six person rule reflects growing Government concern over UK coronavirus cases

Matt Hancock said the Government was moving to give more clarity the rules around social gatherings by limiting groups to six either indoors or outdoors.

It comes after Boris Johnson made the announcement that from Monday it will be illegal of groups more than six to meet up, after a sudden surge in coronavirus cases prompted fears of a second wave.

It is the first time the Prime Minister has imposed a nationwide lockdown measure since restrictions began to be eased in May, and the decision reflects growing alarm in Government at the sharp rise in infections and the confirmation of 30 further coronavirus-linked fatalities yesterday.

From Monday, anyone breaking the six-person rule will be liable to a £100 on-the-spot fine, which will double on repeat offences up to £3,200.

The current "two household" rule, which has allowed up to 30 people from two different homes to meet up, will be scrapped so that all family and social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal.

There will be a limited number of exemptions including weddings, funerals, Covid-secure team sports, schools, and workplaces.

 

Oxford vaccine update: Halted trial 'normal part of the process'

Charlie Weller, the head of the vaccines programme at London-based research organisation Wellcome, has had this to say on the postponement of the Oxford vaccine trial: 

Safety is the most important consideration when developing any vaccine, and it is right for the trial to be paused while an investigation takes place. This is often a normal part of the process in vaccine trials, which involve tens of thousands of people.

It’s critical to quickly understand whether the illness has any relationship to the vaccine or the placebo and to share data openly, as Oxford University and Astra-Zeneca have done.

Credit: Pool/Reuters

Vaccines are among the most rigorously tested and monitored products we have in society, and the Covid-19 vaccines should be no different. We welcome the news that nine vaccine developers have pledged to uphold scientific and ethical standards for these vaccines and prioritise safety.

Today’s news reminds us of the importance of funding and developing a wide range of vaccine candidates, alongside treatments and testing. We don’t yet know which will be successful, but ensuring all advances are fairly available globally is our only exit from this pandemic.

Pope Francis wears a face mask to his weekly general audience 

Pope Francis has arrived at his weekly general audience wearing a face mask and used hand sanitizer before appealing for the faithful to look out for the health of others as well as themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.

Francis took off the mask as his car pulled into the San Damaso courtyard inside the Apostolic Palace, where last week he resumed his weekly Wednesday public audiences after a nearly six-month Covid-19 shutdown. While chairs were spaced out in the courtyard, the limited crowd massed along the barriers as Francis passed by and some lowered their masks to call out to him.

Pope Francis puts on a protective face mask as he enters the car after holding the weekly general audience, at the Vatican Credit: REMO CASILLI 

During his remarks, Francis lamented that "partisan interests" were emerging in which some nations and groups are seeking to keep vaccines for themselves, or to further their political or economic interests.

He said: "The coronavirus is showing us that each person's true good is a common good and, vice versa, the common good is a true good for the person. Health, in addition to being an individual good, is also a public good. A healthy society is one that takes care of everyone's health."

Pakistan's Phase 3 vaccine trial to go ahead 

Falling Covid-19 infection numbers in Pakistan will not affect a Phase 3 clinical trial for a potential vaccine being developed by China's CanSino Biologics , which is expected to begin this month, according to officials running the trial.

Pakistan’s drug regulator last month gave the go-ahead for the country’s first Phase 3 clinical trial for CanSino's candidate, Ad5-nCoV, which will be led by the government-run National Institute of Health (NIH) along with pharmaceutical company AJM - the local representative of CanSino.

"We are planning to launch the project on September 20, or at the latest within this month," Hassan Abbas Zaheer, who is heading the trial for AJM, said.

A health worker collects samples of a school teacher as government allowed opening of educational institutes across the country in Hyderabad, Pakistan, 07 September 2020 Credit: NADEEM KHAWER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 

The Ad5-nCoV vaccine and placebo injections are due to be received in Pakistan next week.

Daily positive cases in Pakistan peaked at more than 6,000 in June, but have since fallen sharply, with only 426 confirmed new cases detected on September 8 - taking its total to 299,659 and 6,359 deaths.

Zaheer said the low positive rates did not indicate Covid-19 was no longer present in the country, and the potential for people vaccinated in the trial to be infected was still adequate for testing their immunity.

No change to guidance on places of worship, says Archbishop of Canterbury 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tweeted: "After contact with Government we hear that there is no change to guidance on places of worship." 

Matt Hancock says he's not too concerned over AstraZeneca's decision to halt vaccine 

Matt Hancock has said he is not too concerned over pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca's decision to halt vaccine trials after a volunteer suffered an adverse reaction.

The Health Secretary told LBC: "This is a normal part of a vaccine development that, when you find a problem, the system is paused while you investigate that particular problem.

"What it underlines is that we won't bring forward a vaccine unless it is safe, no matter how enthusiastic I am for a vaccine."

He added: "The good news is that we have on order many different vaccines - 340 million doses in total, which is far more than we need for the UK population, so that if one doesn't come off then we have other irons in the fire.

"This is a pause not a stop so I am hopeful (AstraZeneca) will be able to resume but only if it is safe to do so."

A New York Times report citing a person familiar with the situation said a participant based in Britain was found to have transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and is often sparked by viral infections.

Whether this was directly linked to AstraZeneca's vaccine remains unclear, the report said. AstraZeneca declined to comment.

Covid-19 could reverse decades of progress on reducing child mortality, warns United Nations report 

The Covid-19 could reverse decades of progress on reducing child mortality, a new report from the United Nations has warned.

Mortality estimates released by Unicef, the World Health Organization and the  United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs showed that the number of deaths in children aged under five fell by more than half - from 12.5 million to 5.2m - between 1990 and 2019, largely due to improvements in maternal health services and large-scale vaccination.

However, widespread disruptions to these vital services that have occurred during the pandemic threaten to derail this progress, the organisations warn.

A Unicef survey conducted over the summer across 77 countries found that almost 68 per cent of countries reported at least some disruption in health checks for children and immunisation services. In addition, 63 per cent of countries reported disruptions in antenatal checkups and 59 per cent in post-natal care. 

And a recent WHO study based on responses from 105 countries revealed that 52 per cent of countries reported disruptions in health services for sick children and 51 per cent in services for management of malnutrition. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: “We must not let the Covid-19 pandemic turn back remarkable progress for our children and future generations. Rather, it’s time to use what we know works to save lives, and keep investing in stronger, resilient health systems.” 

'We must not put pressure on researchers to rush through a vaccine', says British Society for Immunology Chief Executive

Reacting to the news that the AstraZeneca–Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine trial has been paused due to ill health in one participant Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, said:  “As we all know, people fall ill for a multitude of reasons, and the project team will now be reviewing in depth what is the cause of this person's illness and whether it is linked to having been given the vaccine or not.

"To be ultra-cautious, the trial is paused while this process is carried out – this is another of the safety procedures built-in to all vaccine trials.

"We will have to await the findings of this review to find out more, but it's worth highlighting that this type of pause to a vaccine trial to investigate an unexplained illness is not an uncommon event, and in fact it's exactly what we should all want to see the vaccine researchers doing to ensure the safety of any potential vaccine above everything else.

“However, this news does provide a good illustration of why conducting thorough and robust vaccine trials is so critical, and is just one more reason why we must not put pressure on researchers to rush through a vaccine for widespread use before these large and complex trials have been carried out.”

Public must have absolute trust that any vaccine is safe and effective, says Sage scientist 

Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar said the public must have absolute trust that any vaccine is safe and effective.

The Wellcome Trust director and Sage member said an independent investigation would look at whether the illness in the trial volunteer is related to the vaccine or placebo and, if not, then the trial can restart safely.

But he added that it is inevitable that some of the 30,000 to 40,000 people given the vaccine will have illnesses unrelated to it.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "In the end we must absolutely know these vaccines are safe and we must know that we can trust the regulator and independent investigation."

He said it is crucial that data is shared internationally between vaccine trials and added: "In the end the public must have absolute trust that these vaccines are safe and of course effective, and in the end will hopefully bring the pandemic to a close."

UK arts sector "will bloom again" once we have a vaccine

Matt Hancock said he is sure the UK arts sector "will bloom again" once we have a vaccine.

The Health Secretary made the comments in response to a threat from Andrew Lloyd Webber to move his shows abroad if British theatre does not get more government support.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Hancock said: "The UK has always, for centuries, been at the heart of theatre and the arts and I am sure that it will bloom again.

Andrew Lloyd Webber at the London Palladium during a pilot performance by Beverley Knight, which had strict social distancing measures in place Credit: Andy Paradise 

"One of the reasons that we are pushing so hard on the testing is in order to test people so that we can get our theatres full again and get our sports (stadiums) full of crowds.

"That is part of the solution that everybody wants to see, and for that I am relying on the technology working, the tests working and again like the vaccine that is currently being validated by the scientists."

Mr Hancock said the Government is working with theatres to try to get them fully open as quickly as possible.

Matt Hancock 'hopes' lockdown can be avoided with infections under control by Christmas 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out a second lockdown, despite assurances by the Prime Minister.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Hancock said: "Our goal is to avoid having to do anything more drastic by people following the rules."

But he would not rule out a return to lockdown, saying: "I wouldn't make a vow like that.

"You wouldn't expect me to - I am the Health Secretary in the middle of a pandemic where we are trying to keep the country safe."

But he added he "hoped" lockdown could be avoided, saying: "The number of cases is largely driven by people socialising."

Santas have their temperature taken as they attend a socially distanced Santa school training at Southwark Cahedral in London, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020 Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth 

He added the goal was to get the rise in infections under control so that "we can have the sort of Christmas that everyone wants to see".

He said he was "absolutely" expecting students to limit themselves to parties of six during freshers week, saying: "Obviously it is not something I would want to do, but unfortunately, yes, because otherwise we know the spread of the disease is going to keep going up and up.

"We know that that leads to more people in hospital and more people dying."

Stricter rules have to be brought in this autumn to stop virus, says Matt Hancock 

The Health Secretary said the Government was moving to "simplify" the rules around social gatherings by limiting groups to six either indoors or outdoors.

Speaking to Times Radio, Matt Hancock said: "It will be much easier for the police to enforce because the previous rules where you had two households it was much harder to work out what was and wasn't OK."

Fines for those who breach the rules will range from £100 to £3,200, the Health Secretary said, although there will be exceptions for events such as weddings, funerals and Christenings.

"We have got to bring in clear, stricter rules this autumn unfortunately to stop the spread of the virus," he said.

"One of the things we heard back including from the police directly was that we needed a simpler set of rules that are very straightforward, (that) everybody can understand, and we will be publishing those rules very clearly and then enforcing against them."

Matt Hancock defends test and trace system, calling it 'excellent' 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the test and trace system as "excellent" despite growing criticism, and said problems have been caused by people without symptoms requesting tests.

Questioned over whether the system was failing, he told Sky News: "I completely reject the accusation, in fact quite the contrary."

He said the UK has the biggest system per capita in Europe and the highest testing capacity "we've ever had".

"However in the last couple of weeks we've seen an increase in demand, including an increase in demand from people who are not eligible for tests, people who don't have symptoms," he added.

"We've seen an increase of about 25 per cent of people who are coming forward that don't have symptoms and aren't eligible."

Social gatherings of more than six people to be made illegal

Social gatherings of more than six people are to be made illegal, Boris Johnson will announce on Wednesday after a sudden surge in coronavirus cases prompted fears of a second wave.

It is the first time the Prime Minister has imposed a nationwide lockdown measure since restrictions began to be eased in May and reflects growing alarm in Government at the sharp rise in infections (see graphic below), which was followed on Tuesday by a jump in daily deaths.

Read our full report here. 

Infections rise in the Czech Republic 

The Czech Republic reported on Wednesday its largest one-day spike in coronavirus infections, with 1,164 new cases.

It was the first time since the March outbreak that the number of new daily cases topped 1,000, amid a surge over the past month, although the government wants to avoid strict lockdowns of the kind imposed at the start of the pandemic. 

A woman poses for a photo by the "Lennon Wall" with a face mask attached to the image of John Lennon, in Prague, Czech Republic Credit: AP

China defends vaccine candidate

China's CanSino Biologics Inc said on Wednesday expert opinion on its high-profile coronavirus vaccine candidate should not be followed "blindly" without sufficient clinical trial data.

Scientists outside the company have expressed concern that the effectiveness of CanSino's candidate Ad5-nCoV, which is based on a common cold virus that many people have been exposed to, could be limited. They said existing antibodies against the common cold virus might undermine Ad5-nCoV.

"Vaccine development is a practice-based science, and we should not blindly follow experts," Zhu Tao, chief scientific officer, said during an investor conference.

Ad5-nCoV, still in final-stage trials, has been approved for use in the Chinese military.

India records more than 89,000 new cases as schools prepare to open

India has added another 89,706 coronavirus cases to the second-highest tally in the world.

It comes as the government said schools would reopen later this month for senior students after being closed for more than five months.

India's top tourist attraction, the Taj Mahal, is set to reopen more than six months after it was shut Credit: PAWAN SHARMA/AFP

India's famed white marble Taj Mahal in the northern city of Agra will also reopen on September 21 with access restricted to 5,000 tourists daily to prevent overcrowding.

According to the Health Ministry, India's total caseload on Wednesday reached 4.37 million people.

The ministry also reported 1,115 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 73,890.

India has the second-most cases in the world and the third-most deaths behind the United States and Brazil.

More than one million people have tested positive for coronavirus in India in less than two weeks.

Testing has been ramped up to more than one million daily, with cumulative testing exceeding 50 million.

Travel restrictions force Malaysian companies to recruit prisoners

Malaysia's labour-reliant palm oil companies are looking to recruit recovering drug addicts and prisoners to solve a severe shortage of foreign workers that has worsened due to a coronavirus-driven border closure.

Planters in the world's second-largest producer have in recent months embarked on rare recruitment drives to hire locals to do everything from harvesting to fertilising, but the response has been lukewarm.

The collaboration with the Prisons Department to recruit parolees and prisoners under supervision started in 2016 in one government-linked firm, but now more companies are interested in the programme, chief executive Nageeb Wahad told Reuters.

Travel and movement restrictions have left the Southeast Asian nation grappling with a shortage of 37,000 workers, nearly 10 per cent of the total workforce.

Migrants from Indonesia and Bangladesh make up nearly 85 per cent of plantation hands in an industry locals typically shun as dirty, dangerous and difficult.

Queen plans to return to her Buckingham Palace 'office'

The Queen during her visit to Wolferton Pumping Station in Norfolk Credit: ADRIAN DENNIS

The Queen is planning to head “back to the office” next month as she returns to Buckingham Palace for working engagements.

The Queen hopes to undertake audiences and engagements at her main London residence - coronavirus permitting - for the first time since March.

Buckingham Palace has confirmed that the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh would be leaving their summer break at Balmoral next week, earlier than usual.

They will travel to Sandringham together to spend the rest of their annual summer break at their Norfolk home, where the Duke has spent most of his time in retirement.

Read the full story here.

Illegal for more than six people to socialise

Social gatherings of more than six people will be made illegal, Boris Johnson will announce on Wednesday after a sudden surge in coronavirus cases prompted fears of a second wave.

It is the first time the Prime Minister has imposed a nationwide lockdown measure since restrictions began to be eased in May and reflects growing alarm in Government at the sharp rise in infections, which was followed on Tuesday by a jump in daily deaths.

Mr Johnson will hold his first Downing Street press conference since July to say: "We need to act now to stop the virus spreading."

From Monday, anyone breaking the six-person rule will be liable for a £100 on-the-spot fine, which will double on repeat offences up to £3,200.

READ MORE: Social gatherings of six or more to be made illegal as fears of second wave grow

Christmas 'could be cancelled'

Christmas festivities may be cancelled if the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 is not treated seriously, ministers have suggested. 

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, was among those warning that family get-togethers and other celebrations could be put on hold this year unless action is taken to prevent a second spike in cases.

 Read the full story here.

British Columbia orders closure of all nightclubs

Credit: Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP

British Columbia has ordered the closure of all nightclubs and Ontario has delayed easing remaining restrictions, as Canada reports a spike in coronavirus cases.

The rise comes as schools across the country started to reopen after a nearly five-month forced shutdown to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed 9,153 people. 

New cases jumped by 1,606 in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 133,748.

Canada's western province of British Columbia has asked restaurants, pubs and bars to end the sale of liquor at 10pm and ordered bars and restaurants to close by 11pm, unless serving food.

Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said the increase in infections was concentrated among younger adults and cited the risk posed by private functions and family gatherings.

The premier of Ontario, Canada's most-populous province, railed against young people and students holding unauthorised parties and warned them he wanted the police to lay charges if necessary.

"No more parties. I just can't stress it enough," Doug Ford told a briefing on Tuesday.

Fire breaks out at Lesbos' overcrowded migrant camp

A migrant moves a burning log as a fire burns at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos Credit: REUTERS/Elias Marcou

Fire broke out at Greece's overcrowded migrant camp of Moria on the island of Lesbos in the early hours of Wednesday.

The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear - with fires burning both inside and outside the facility, a fire brigade official said.

The facility was placed under quarantine last week after authorities confirmed that an asylum seeker had tested positive for coronavirus. Confirmed infections have since risen to 35.

Moria, which hosts more than 12,000 people - more than four times its stated capacity - has been frequently criticised by aid groups for poor living conditions.

A police official said migrants were being taken to safety from Wednesday's fire. People were seen leaving the camp, carrying their luggage in their hands, Reuters witnesses said.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, since March 1, all migrants reaching Lesbos have been quarantined away from the camp.

In the Moria camp, aid groups have warned that social distancing and basic hygiene measures are impossible to implement due to the living conditions.

Australia not worried about vaccine trial pause

Australia is not concerned that a Covid-19 vaccine trial has been put on hold due to a suspected serious adverse reaction, its deputy chief medical officer said on Wednesday.

AstraZeneca has paused a late-stage trial of one of the leading vaccine candidates after an adverse reaction in a study participant.

"With the information that I have got at the moment, I am not worried about it," Australia's Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth told Sky News, adding the hold on trials does not mean the vaccine "is off the table".

"In some respects, this is a very positive thing because it shows that despite the accelerated vaccine development, safety is the priority of the clinical trialists and investigators."

Dr Coatsworth said Australia, like many other governments, had invested in several coronavirus vaccine candidates, "knowing not all of them will get through".

Australia on Monday said it would get the first doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine in January 2021 if trials proved successful after reaching a preliminary deal in August.

Victoria steps up attempts to control case numbers

Australia's coronavirus hot spot, Victoria, has reported 76 new cases and 11 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours.

Victoria, the country's second-most populous state, reported eight deaths and 55 cases a day earlier.

The state, which extended its tough movement restrictions in its largest city of Melbourne until September 28 to contain a second wave, is deepening its contact-tracing programme to further ease a rise in daily new cases.

Wednesday's numbers are Victoria's biggest rise in daily cases in three days.

Victoria now accounts for about 75 per cent of Australia's 26,450 cases and 90 per cent of its 781 deaths.

Calls for pre-flight Covid tests

Boris Johnson has been urged by an alliance of more than 400 British and US businesses to introduce compulsory Covid testing of travellers 48 hours before they fly so they can bypass quarantine and restore international aviation.

British American Business (BAB) said the move could shorten quarantine for arrivals in the UK by 10 days by having a second test after three or four days - thus opening up “air bridges” between the US and UK and other international routes.

BAB chief executive Duncan Edwards told The Telegraph that multinational corporations that split their business between the US and UK were desperate to cross the Atlantic to seal deals and re-invigorate trading links after lockdown.

READ MORE: Alliance of 400 top companies calls for pre-flight Covid tests to open up international travel

Government resists pressure to postpone crowd-return pilots

The Government is resisting pressure to postpone pilots for fans returning to sport by October 1 despite the fresh tightening of social gathering rules following the latest surge of Covid-19 cases.

Whitehall advisers remain determined to stick with the current timetable for getting almost all stadiums a third open by next month even though gatherings of more than six people will be banned in law under new measures to be announced on Wednesday.

Read the full story here.

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