Second lockdown 'last thing anyone wants' but UK now in second wave, admits Boris Johnson

What happened today: UK enters 'inevitable' second wave as local lockdowns imposed

Good evening. Is the UK on the precipice of a second full lockdown? As daily cases rose to more than 4,300, Boris Johnson refused it rule out - while admitting that the UK has entered a second wave that he described as "inevitable".

In the rest of today's coronavirus news:

Bristol University become first to force students to wear masks during seminars

Bristol has become the first university to force students to wear face masks and visors during all face-to-face classes, report Camilla Turner and Georgiana Scott.

Students at the Russell Group institution will be given a mask and visor when they arrive on campus and will be told they need to wear them to all classes and seminars that are taught in-person. 

A spokesman for Bristol University said that a visor “should be considered as important as bringing your phone or laptop onto campus”.

If a student does not have a visor when they arrive at a class or seminar, they will be refused entry “in order to maintain a Covid-safe teaching space”.

“Students will get an initial allocation of two and we are encouraging them to pick these up before the start of teaching and remember to bring them with them to teaching activities," the spokesman added. 

Read more here.

Would a two-week 'circuit-break' lockdown work?

In the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, the Government's insistence that it was "following the science" became a convenient deflection from criticism and brought legitimacy to the major erosion of personal freedoms, writes Sarah Knapton.

But it may be harder to justify a second "circuit break" national lockdown when so many scientists are divided on whether that will be effective.

Squabbling has already begun between academics who think it is overkill, those who warn it causes confusion after economy-boosting schemes such as "Eat Out to Help Out", and those who do not believe it goes far enough. 

Most agree that a two-week national shutdown is unlikely to be a silver bullet, and at best will merely buy some time to bring down the 'R' rate.

Read Sarah's full analysis here.

Coronavirus vaccine: UK joins global World Health Organisation scheme

The UK has signed up to a World Health Organisation-backed initiative to ensure that a Covid-19 vaccine is distributed equally among both poorer and richer nations.

The effort - known as the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax - pools funds from wealthier countries and non-profits to develop, manufacture and equitably distribute two billion doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2021.

Credit: Pool/Reuters

While the scheme is also open to richer countries its aim is to ensure that the world’s most vulnerable populations have access to an effective jab.

The scheme is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CepiI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the WHO, with around 170 other countries are already signed up. 

Georgina Hayes has the story.

Covid deaths: One-third of July and August toll 'primarily caused by other conditions'

Coronavirus was not the main cause of death for nearly one third of recorded Covid-19 victims in July and August, research by Oxford University has found. 

Analysis shows that around 30 percent of people included in the coronavirus death toll by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) over the summer months had died primarily from other conditions.

It means someone who suffered a heart attack, or even died in a road traffic accident, may have been included in the figures if they had also tested positive for coronavirus at some point, or if doctors believed the virus may have exacerbated their condition.

Throughout the entire pandemic, around one in 13 people currently classed as Covid-19 victims did not have the disease as an underlying cause of death. 

Our science editor Sarah Knapton has more.

Covid test kit the size of a palm granted approval in United States

A new portable, palm-sized PCR Covid-19 test kit which provides results within 30 minutes has been granted emergency authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), making it the first time such a device has been approved in the United States, reports Georgina Hayes.

PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, rapidly replicates DNA or RNA and is considered to be a speedy and accurate tool used in labs for infectious diseases.

Credit: Nathan Frandino/Reuters

Traditionally, PCR testing uses a machine the size of a large microwave and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, making this recent development a potential game-changer in the fight against Covid-19 as countries across the globe scramble to ramp up testing capacity.  

The test kit, which was developed by a Silicon Valley medical startup called Visby Medical, involves a sample taken via nasal swab which is then inserted into the kit, and features LED lights that indicate the test is running and alerts when it is completed.

Second lockdown: Why Britain now faces another painful shutdown

It is the void between pedantry and bodgery that the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic risks disappearing down, writes Paul Nuki.

The virus is now growing exponentially again across the country. The R rate is well above one and confirmed infections are running at about 3500 a day, the real number perhaps twice that and doubling every seven to eight days.

It started in the young - but there is now a "sustained increase" in infections in those aged over 65.

Credit: WPA Pool

Just as night follows day, emergency calls to ambulances are rising in many areas and hospitalisations are climbing again, with admissions projected at 1000 a day by October 1 and 2000 a day by October 9 on current trends.

Deaths, already ticking up slightly, will almost certainly follow, although hopefully at a slower rate than in the spring - but no one should count on that as winter sets in.

Read more: Why Britain now faces a painful second lockdown

Local lockdown rules for Lancashire, Merseyside, North West and North East

Local lockdowns are being put into place across England in a bid to stop a second wave of coronavirus, on top of the 'rule of six' that applies nationwide.

The Government imposed new restrictions on the areas of Merseyside, Warrington, Halton and Lancashire on Friday, September 18. 

Similar restrictions were also announced for Wolverhampton and Oadby & Wigston in the Midlands, along with the areas of Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale in West Yorkshire. 

From Tuesday, September 22 onwards, residents in these areas will no longer be allowed to socialise with other people outside of their own households or their support bubble in private homes and gardens. 

Max Stephens has all the latest updates.

Half-term lockdown: 'Hands, face, space' mantra is key, says Johnson

On the prospect of a short-term 'circuit break' lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "We're watching it the whole time and as soon as we've got more to say, we'll be saying it."

"If and when we have to go forward with other local or national measures or whatever, we will of course be explaining very clearly to everybody how we see it," he told Sky.

Mr Johnson reiterated that people should keep up with wearing a face covering and follow his 'hands, face, space' mantra, but insisted tests should only be for those with coronavirus symptoms.

Pandemic preparedness produces enormous returns, says former WHO chief 

A former World Health Organisation chief has said that pandemic preparedness produces enormous returns, writes Jordan Kelly-Linden.

Since the turn of the millenia frequent disease outbreaks, from Sars to Ebola to Covid-19, have demonstrated the world's vulnerability to infectious disease, the former head of the WHO said today. 

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, who is now the co-chair of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), told a press briefing that a recurring pattern of throwing money at outbreaks while they are already underway has left the world vulnerable to the kind of devastation we are experiencing now. 

With the coronavirus pandemic, "there was not a lack of warning", she said. Just a lack of preparedness.

However, "pandemic preparedness produces enormous returns," Dr Brundtland added. Investing in it would only take billions - while the world is currently losing trillions to Covid-19.

Boris Johnson: Following the guidance 'the only way' to keep economy open

Boris Johnson said that the rule of six was brought in to "really try and restrict what people are doing and to bring in a new buffer" around social interactions.

Mr Johnson insisted that "we are going to keep everything under review" - despite acknowledging that nobody would want another lockdown.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has visited the construction site of the new dedicated Vaccines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (VMIC) Credit: Richard Pohle/AFP

"I don't want to go into bigger lockdown at all, we want to keep schools open and it is fantastic the schools have gone back in the way they have," he said.

"We want to keep the economy open as far as we possibly can, we want to keep businesses going. The only way we can do that is obviously if people follow the guidance."

Second lockdown 'last thing anyone wants', says PM

The Prime Minister told Sky News:

"I don't want to get into a second lockdown at all, it's the last thing anybody wants. We want to keep schools open, we want to keep the economy going as far as possible. But the only way we can do that is if people follow the guidance.

"If and when we have to go forward with other local or national measures we'll be explaining very clearly to everybody.

"I don't think anybody wants to go into a second lockdown but we've got to wonder if we've got to go further than the rule of six .We will be explaining to people what the scientific background is and how we propose to do it."

Second wave 'now coming in', Boris Johnson admits

Boris Johnson has said that the Government is "looking very carefully" at the spread of the pandemic and admitted "we are now seeing a second wave coming in".

He told Sky News: "On Monday we built in the rule of six to really try to restrict what people are doing and bring in a new buffer and to make it clear that rule of six, six indoors maximum, six outdoors maximum.

"The crucial thing is to observe the rules on social distancing, hands, face, space. That's what everyone's got to do if we're going to continue to beat this thing.

"But as we look at this curve we'll keep everything under review."

Covid weddings: Couples flock to Gibraltar for that perfect (and mask-free) day

As an elated Stephanie Cooper celebrated her wedding night, singing and dancing down a picturesque Gibraltarian street, it felt, she said, as if coronavirus did not exist.

She and her new husband, Alan, had enjoyed the kind of sun-drenched, perfect day that she had always hoped for; and there was not a mask in sight.

"We were like a runaway bride and groom,” she told the Telegraph.

Stephanie Cooper, 28, from Scunthorpe, and Alan Cooper, 39, from Hertfordshire, are among the Britons to have tied the knot in Gibraltar. Credit: Timothy Booth/View Tree Photography

Mr and Mrs Cooper are one of an increasing number of couples flocking to Gibraltar to get married since Covid-19 brought with it an array of restrictions that thwarted long-held wedding plans.

Lured by the Rock’s lack of bureaucracy, its low Covid rates and the simple, affordable marriage process, they fly in, tie the knot, and enjoy a brief holiday before heading back home.

Their numbers are bolstered by the fact that the tiny British territory appears at the top of a Google search for “the easiest place to get married in Europe".

R rate in UK rise cannot be put down to more testing, say mathematics doctors

The increase in the R (reproduction) rate of coronavirus in the UK to between 1.1 and 1.4 "cannot be attributed to higher levels of testing", a number of doctors of mathematics have said.

Dr Yuliya Kyrychko, a reader of mathematics at the University of Sussex, described the doubling in infections among almost all age groups except those over 70 and those between 12 and 16, as "worrying".

“This suggests that it’s only a matter of time before the infections start spreading to the most vulnerable populations, which will inevitably lead to higher death rates and potentially could overwhelm the NHS,” she said.

Professor Kevin McConway, an emeritus professor at the Open University, added: "There’s very, very little doubt that it is now above 1 and therefore that the epidemic is increasing.

"We must hope that recent interventions and policy changes will mean that it does not [grow exponentially] in future.  Even at growth rates within the estimated range, the number of new cases could grow to high levels quickly if the interventions are not sufficiently effective."

St Andrews puts students into voluntary lockdown

St Andrews University has asked its students to go into voluntary lockdown throughout the weekend, with the principal asking students to stay in their rooms where possible and avoid bars and restaurants.

Sally Mapstone, the principal and vice-chancellor of the Scottish University, wrote:

It is now very clear that rates of Covid infection are surging again in various parts of this country, and it is very likely that we are very close to a form of further national lockdown.

The First Minister of Scotland has today spoken of the urgent need to interrupt the chain of transmission of the virus.

In these circumstances, I am writing to all of our students to ask you to please observe a voluntary lockdown this weekend, effective from 7pm this evening.

This means that I am asking you all to remain in your rooms as much as possible, not to party, not to go to bars or restaurants, and to avoid mixing with any groups outside your own households. Catering will continue as normal in halls of residence.

I appreciate that this request will appear to some of you to be premature, but a hallmark of this pandemic has been that, as a society, we have acted too slowly in the past, and thousands of people have died unnecessarily as a result.

Oxford vaccine: Boris Johnson pays visit to Jenner Institute

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has visited the Jenner Institute where scientists are leading the research into a Covid-19 vaccine.

Mr Johnson was seen washing immunological instruments and was given a guided tour of the laboratory, where he met scientists leading the coronavirus vaccine research.

Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA
Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA

Oxford University last weekend announced that its clinical trials, under development with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, were to resume.

The late-stage trials were briefly halted the previous week to allow an independent committee to review safety data when a volunteer fell ill.

Lancashire lockdown: Residents react to recently announced regulations

Swathes of the North-West, Midlands and West Yorkshire have been hit with tougher Covid restrictions to curb rising rates of infection.

The new rules, which will come into force from Tuesday and affect more than three million people, prohibit socialising between households in gardens and homes in Merseyside, much of Lancashire, Bradford, Kirklees, and Wolverhampton.

Residents in these areas are also advised to only use public transport "for essential purposes", defined as travelling to school or work, while hospitality in the North-West has been restricted to table service only amid 10pm leisure curfews.

Here is how Lancashire residents have today reacted to the measures:

 

Lockdown childcare rules should be relaxed, Government urged by councils

Council leaders in the North-East have now urged ministers to relax measures about childcare having previously asked the Government to impose local lockdowns.

They have asked for the new rules for Northumberland, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham to allow people to be able to enter other households for childcare purposes.

This request was rejected by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, as he approved a series of localised restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said that they had requested the exemptin "so as not to hinder those families who continue to work hard in incredibly challenge circumstances".

"Sadly, this request was rejected by the Department of Health and Social Care, and we need them to reverse this decision as a matter of urgency," he said.

Indian coronavirus news: Value doctors like soldiers, medics please after 380 die with Covid

More than 380 Indian doctors have died from Covid-19, leading to accusations the Indian government has abandoned its healthcare professionals, writes Joe Wallen.

The row erupted after Dr Harsh Vardhan, India’s Minister of Health said he had no figures on the number of doctors that had died, days after India became only the second country to reach the grim milestone of five million cases.

This caused the furious Indian Medical Association (IMA) - the country’s largest group of doctors - to demand their colleagues be held in the same regard as Indian soldiers killed on the battlefield. More doctors have died with Covid-19 in India than anywhere else.

A doctor in Gauhati, India collects details as teachers are tested for Covid-19. Credit: Anupam Nath/AP

“It appears they are dispensable… To feign that this information doesn’t merit the attention of the nation is abominable,” a statement read.

“Doctors and healthcare workers not only get infected in the line of national duty but also bring home the infection to their families, including children. To treat these martyrs indifferently is a national sacrilege.”

Read Joe's full dispatch from New Delhi.

Russia coronavirus cases spike as opera singer hospitalised

The opera singer Anna Netrebko has been hospitalised with coronavirus-related pneumonia after performing in one of the Bolshoi Theatre’s first shows since the end of lockdown, Nataliya Vasilyeva writes from Moscow.

Netrebko tested positive for Covid-19 after performing in two opening shows of Verdi’s “Don Carlos” at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre which re-opened earlier this month after coronavirus lockdown.

“I knew of course there was always going to be a risk that I might get infected. But I don’t regret going back to performing because I strongly believe that we need culture, now as ever,” Netrebko tweeted on Thursday. “I am expected to make a full recovery thanks to the wonderful care I’m receiving.”

Russian-Austrian soprano Anna Netrebko pictured performing in February 2019. Credit: Florian Wieser/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Netrebko broke the news about her hospitalisation a few days after another “Don Carlos” star, Ildar Abdrazakov, tested positive for coronavirus and was sent to hospital. The Bolshoi Theatre scrapped all performances with him and Netrebko but did not shut.

Coronavirus cases among the performers have raised questions about safety at Russia’s two main opera and ballet theaters, the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky, as they re-opened after lockdown.

The number of coronavirus cases began to climb in Russia earlier this month as classes resumed at schools and universities. Russia on Friday reported 5,905 new cases in the past 24 hours, which is the highest tally since the end of July.

UK coronavirus cases today highest since May

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK are at their highest level since May after 4,322 people tested positive, the Department for Health has confirmed.

This takes the UK's caseload to 385,936 recorded infections since the start of the pandemic. A further 134 patients have been admitted in hospital, taking the total number of those in hospital past 1,000, to 1,020.

A further 27 deaths with coronavirus have been confirmed across all settings in the UK as of 5pm yesterday.

Covid care homes: Bosses attack Care Quality Commission over 'bonkers' redeployment of inspectors

Care home owners have criticised the "bonkers" Care Quality Commission (CQC) for redeploying inspectors despite a rising number of Covid-19 cases. 

The watchdog suspended its routine inspections of care homes in March in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus and reduce the pressure on care providers. Instead, it set up video conference calls with managers as part of an alternative system.

Tens of thousands of care home residents have died as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. 

Assistant manager Claire Welford administers a coronavirus swab test on resident Harry Hall, 94, at the Eothen Homes care home in Whitley Bay, Tyneside Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

However, the CQC’s recent announcement that it is going to resume inspections has coincided with a resurgence of the virus and a rise in "clusters" of cases in care homes, sparking criticism from managers.

In a message to care providers earlier this month, Kate Terroni, the chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC, said any attempt to limit inspectors going about their work was "unacceptable". 

Gabriella Swerling has the story.

'Covid cure more dangerous than virus for tourism'

When it comes to Covid-19, there is an element of the cure being more dangerous than the virus, writes Alice Gully, the co-owner of Aardvark Safaris.

The Foreign Office has become a laughing stock with its sweeping travel ban that makes no considerations for countries that have worked hard to reduce their Covid-19 cases to single figures.

The UK Foreign Office has taken away our liberty of making fair and informed decisions. It needs to regain some confidence if its advice (and we need to remember that it is just “advice”) is ever to be taken seriously again.

It needs to look at each country as a standalone destination and apply fair consideration.Africa is being treated like one country rather than a continent with 54 countries (you can currently only travel to St Helena without quarantine).

The lack of faith in this continent which is used to (and very effective at) dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases is insulting. 

Test and trace: System failing to record details of more than two-thirds of customers

Pubs and restaurants failing to routinely carry out Test and Trace for more than two thirds of customers, reports Gabriella Swerling.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published new data on Friday revealing that only a third of UK adults visiting indoor places, such as restaurants or hairdressers, are being routinely asked to provide personal details. 

The Test and Trace system requires public places to collect contact details of customers, in order to alert them should fellow customers contract coronavirus.

This Soho street soiree marked the final day of 'Eat Out to Help Out' Credit: Yui Mok/PA

However according to the latest available data, 31 per cent of adults in England said that they were always asked for their information, but over a quarter (27 per cent) were never asked.

The survey of 1,130 adults across the UK, conducted between September 9 to 13, asked people how often they had been asked for their details when visiting places outside their homes in the past seven days.

Read the full story here.

Coronavirus rules introduced by Denmark and Iceland

Denmark and Iceland have both announced new restrictions on leisure settings after both countries recorded upswings in cases.

Bars and nightclubs will be closed for the next four days in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, which has seen its caseload increase since Monday.

Of 59 new coronavirus infections in Iceland, 58 have been recorded in Reykjavik.

Denmark has also announced a nationwide 10pm curfew for bars and restaurants, which was previously a localised measure directed at Copenhagen and its surrounding suburbs.

The maximum number of people permitted to gather in once place will also be halved from 100 to 50 until October 4 at the earliest, although Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that the situation was better than that in March.

"What we're doing now is avoiding ending up there, so we avoid closing down large parts of society," she said.

Coronavirus vaccine scheme will see France and Germany stay away

France and Germany have both decided against taking part in the World Health Organisation's COVAX scheme, it has been disclosed.

The WHO has set Friday as a deadline for its members to join COVAX, which aims to buy Covid-19 vaccines in order to ensure their fair, effective distribution.

However Germany is not taking part in the program because it is already sourcing vaccines through a separate European Union scheme.

Despite this, the European Commission is still contributing 400 million euros from the European Union's development budget to the scheme.

UK coronavirus update: One in 900 had Covid between 4 and 10 September

An estimated 59,800 people within the community population in England had the Covid-19 during the most recent week, from 4 to 10 September 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

There has also been a clear increase in the number of people aged 17 to 24 and those 25 to 34 who have tested positive for the coronavirus, new data has shown.

"There is evidence of higher infection rates in the North-West and London," the ONS said as new restrictions which will affect the North-West from next Tuesday were confirmed.

The ONS has also estimated that there were around 1.10 new Covid-19 cases for every 10,000 people per day in communities in England, which would equate to around 6,000 new cases per day.

Official case tallies in the last week have been between 3,000 and 4,000. Katherine Kent, co-head of analysis for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said that the evidence shows "another marked increase" in cases that is "mostly focused on younger people".

Watch: Kids tell us what it's like to go to school in a pandemic

"Everything's different," says eight-year-old Martha, who, along with her identical twin, Hannah have returned to school after six months away, writes Marnie Gill.

Like all the children we spoke to, they were happy to be back having missed their friends during lockdown.

But things this academic year are quite different. 

Learning, playing and eating within your bubble is the new normal for children at school, and for Georgia, age six, this means sticking within your group of four. 

Playtime also looks different with children encouraged not to touch, "we're not allowed to do high fives" explains six-year-old Finn.

Meanwhile at Maysa and Nuralayn's school, the six-year-old twins have become accustomed to wearing snoods to go on bathroom breaks, in lieu of wearing face masks. 

 

Test and trace: Baroness Harding claims 'nobody expected' demand surge

Nobody was expecting the "really sizeable increase in demand" for tests when schools reopened and Britons returned to their workplaces, the head of the NHS Test and Trace system has said. 

Baroness Harding told MPs none of the modelling from the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had prepared the system for the current demand, which is outstripping supply by three or four times. 

She said "demand is significantly outstripping the capacity we have" to conduct coronavirus tests but added: "I strongly refute that the system is failing".

It came as official figures showed that only one in three people who turned up for a coronavirus test in England was getting the result within 24 hours – just half the levels that were achieved the week before.

Laura Donnelly and Lizzie Roberts have the story.

Second lockdown fears: Keir Starmer joins calls for Cobra meeting

The Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to convene a meeting of Cobra, the Government's emergency committee, following a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases.

The leader of the opposition said:

I am deeply concerned about the sharp rise in coronavirus cases and the difficulties people across the country are facing getting a test.

There is mounting concern about whether we have got the virus sufficiently under control. This is the time for swift, decisive national action. We cannot afford to be too slow.

That's why I'm asking the Prime Minister to convene a Cobra meeting and to update the country on the measures the Government is taking to keep the virus under control, including to fix testing.

Sir Keir's comments echo those of the Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon and the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, both of whom have also requested that Mr Johnson convenes a Cobra meeting.

Peer claims Britain's Covid death rate is because 'majority of people are obese'

Britain's high Covid-19 death rate is not the Government's fault but partly because the "majority of people are obese", according to a Conservative peer.

Lord McColl of Dulwich, who is a surgeon, told peers it was "despicable" to blame those in power in Westminster.

"What was clear about the pandemic early on was that the majority of those afflicted had many medical conditions that made them much more vulnerable to Covid," he said.

"The reason the high mortality in the UK is because the majority of people are obese, and the population is the densest in Europe and moreover is the travel hub of Europe.

"Blaming the Government for the high mortality is therefore one of the most despicable allegations I've heard in this pandemic."

US election 2020: Biden says President Trump should 'step down' over Covid

Joe Biden has said Donald Trump should "step down" as US president over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Nick Allen reports from Washington.

Mr Biden made the comment during a televised "town hall," the first time he has faced live, unscripted questions from voters since winning the Democratic nomination.

He said: "This is all about one thing, the stock market. He [Mr Trump] doesn't want to see anything happen. It's all about his re-election. It should be about the American people, and they're in trouble.

"You’ve got to level with the American people, shoot from the shoulder. There’s not been a time they’ve not been able to step up. The president should step down."

Mr Trump, who was campaigning in Wisconsin on Thursday night, said he watched Mr Biden's event on Air Force One, and described it as "pathetic".

The Trump campaign complained that many of the questioners were supporters of Mr Biden.

'Millionaires tax' announced by New Jersey amid pandemic shortfalls

New Jersey officials are set to bring in a new ‘millionaires tax’ on the wealthiest residents to help support the state’s finances after an economically crippling lockdown, writes Marcus Parekh.

Governor Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat, announced he has struck a deal with the state legislature to increase the income tax rate on those earning more than $1m (£770,000) per year from 8.97 per cent to 10.75 per cent.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who has confirmed a new 'millionaires tax' which he hopes will combat Covid. Credit: Noah K. Murray/AP

The deal would also give a $500 rebate to households which earn less than $150,000 per year, and America's second richest state is the first to introduce such a rise tax in the wake of the pandemic.

“We do not hold any grudge at all against those who have been successful in life,” said Mr. Murphy, a former executive at the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

“But in this unprecedented time, when so many middle-class families and others have sacrificed so much, now is the time to ensure that the wealthiest among us are also called to sacrifice. Literally, by the way, pennies on their top dollar earned is a modest ask.”

UK coronavirus deaths today: 14 more fatalities in English hospitals

Fourteen more people who tested positive for the novel coronavirus have died in hospital in England, NHS England has said, bringing the total number of confirmed hospital deaths to 29,719.

The patients, between the ages of 41 and 93, were all known to have had underlying health conditions.

One further person in Wales has died after testing positive for the virus.

The UK caseload and death toll across all settings as of 5pm yesterday is set to be announced within the next couple of hours.

'Boris Johnson is allowing Britain to drift towards another lockdown'

Let it not be said that Boris Johnson has lost his gift for metaphor, writes Fraser Nelson. The 
 country, he says, is now undertaking a mission to “stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump.”

He admitted that he couldn’t quite remember if it is a dromedary or a camel that has two humps – but the image is fairly clear. Britain, he thinks, is facing a second Covid hump. What is not clear, in the slightest, is what he intends to do about it.

The art of the leader is to campaign in poetry and govern in prose – and the Prime Minister is, famously, a master of prose. But so far, he is governing in riddles. If there is a second hump, does he think it could be as big as the first?

Does he seek to flatten it, to stop it getting unmanageably big? Or to stop it entirely? If so, drastic action will be needed now. It’s not just that the country can’t understand his coronavirus game plan: his Cabinet, too, is baffled.

Local authority leaders call up, also asking for lockdowns. In the absence of a national strategy, he acquiesces.The result is a creeping lockdown, now affecting one in seven Brits. Polls show confidence in his handling of the pandemic at an all-time low.

Face masks: Doctor busts six common covering myths

As Britain continues to embark on the 'new normal' of compulsory coverings, many have complained about being forced to wear masks.

Masks and face covering are now required to be worn in many public spaces to control the spread of coronavirus; including public transports, shops, supermarkets, cinemas and places of worship.

From masks making it difficult to breathe to reducing oxygen levels or simply just not working, Dr Dominic Pimenta, Chairman and Co-founder of the NHS worker wellbeing charity HEROES busts those face mask myths.

 

Netherlands coronavirus cases rise on record-breaking day in a row

Almost 2,000 new coronavirus cases have been registered by Dutch health authorities in the past 24 hours as another record-breaking caseload was logged.

A further 1,972 cases were confirmed, which marks the fourth consecutive day of all-time highs in the country.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government is expected to announce regional measures such as bans on large gatherings and early closures for bars and restaurants later today following the surge in infections.

A testing centre at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam temporarily closed its doors last week amid "limiting testing capacity in the Netherlands".

Second lockdown prospect leads pub and restaurant bosses to call for more support

Hospitality chiefs have called for further Government support in the event of a second lockdown as they warned of “increased devastation” to the sector, reports Hannah Uttley.

Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality outlets would almost certainly have to curtail their hours - as has already been seen in local lockdowns - or close completely in the event of another full-scale nationwide shutdown.

People sat outside a pub and restaurant in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which faces looming local lockdown restrictions, yesterday afternoon. Credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images Europe

Tim Martin, chief executive of JD Wetherspoon, said that closing pubs would be "counterproductive", claiming that transmissions within homes are higher.

Meanwhile industry chiefs have called for the furlough scheme, which is currently set to end on Hallowe'en, to be extended in the event of a second lockdown

Read more: Pub shutdown would have 'astronomical' cost

British travellers can now visit just 12 destinations without restrictions

Britons are only able to visit 12 places worldwide without restrictions following the removal of Slovenia and Guadeloupe from the quarantine-free list, Telegraph Travel analysis has found.

Holidaymakers can now travel to Italy, Germany, Turkey and the majority of Greece without having to self-isolate on arrival or return.

Less popular tourist destinations such as San Marino, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein and Greenland are also open for business, plus Sweden, Denmark, Poland and Slovakia.

further 12 destinations are feasible options. They do however require Britons to show evidence of a negative PCR test or take a test on arrival.

R rate in UK rises to between 1.1 and 1.4

The coronavirus transmission rate could be as high as 1.4 in the UK, according to the latest official figures from the scientists advising the Government.

The 'R number' of the virus, referring to its reproduction rate, is between 1.1 and 1.4, according to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

This means that there is "widespread growth of the epidemic across the country".

Last week's R number was estimated as between 1.0 and 1.2.

Nicola Sturgeon asks Boris Johnson to convene Cobra meeting amid 'hard decisions'

Nicola Sturgeon has asked Boris Johnson to convene a Cobra this weekend, for the first time after several months, as she warned of "hard but necessary decisions" to be made in the coming days.

Downing Street has admitted a short-term "circuit break" lockdown, thought to be earmarked for October half term, is under consideration, in a bid to get cases back under control.   

"This weekend will be critical in the assessment" of what to do next, Ms Sturgeon said during her regular press conference. "Sage met yesterday, I have chaired meeting of senior officials and advisers and discussions across the four nations will, I hope, take place in the coming days.

"Today I want to give the nation advance notice that the coming days are likely to see some hard but necessary decisions.  If we want to avoid another full scale lockdown, doing nothing almost certainly isn't an option," Ms Sturgeon said. 

Read more from Catherine Neilan on our politics live blog.

Sweden coronavirus travel: What life is really like without lockdown

The golden spire of Stockholm’s city hall glistens in the sunset, runners sweat away the day’s stresses on the boat-lined waterfront, and a young couple wobble along a cobbled street on a single-seater bike, writes Maddy Savage.

I’m watching the evening unfold from the 52-metre high glass-flanked rooftop bar  TAK, which, like almost every popular drinking spot in the Swedish capital, has remained open throughout the pandemic.

As a dual British-Swedish citizen living in Stockholm, I’m treating myself to a glass of fizz to celebrate Sweden finally joining the UK’s quarantine-free list. For me, it brings a chance to visit family for the first time since February.

But my phone’s also been pinging with British contacts curious about holidaying in Sweden following the dramatic drop in cases here over the summer and an ever-dwindling list of alternatives for those seeking an autumn break in Europe.

The first thing any would-be tourist here will notice is the lack of face masks. They’re requested at Swedish airports but  aren’t compulsory on transport, in shops, hairdressers or indeed any part of public life.
Not a mask in sight in Stockholm Credit: Loulou D'Aki/Bloomberg

Are we heading for a second national lockdown, and what are the new UK rules?

A second lockdown would be an economic “disaster” for the UK, Boris Johnson has previously said - but could a short 'circuit break' to curb rising infections be on the cards?

Mr Johnson has insisted before that reimposing nationwide restrictions would be “completely wrong for this country” and warned that the impact on the public finances would be “disastrous”.

However, the Government tightened restrictions on meeting in groups - the so-called 'rule of six' - after a surge in infections prompted concerns over a second wave of coronavirus.

Credit: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Senior government sources said it would take two weeks to assess whether the rule of six had brought down infections. If it was found that it had failed to do so, further lockdown measures may be required.

Earlier today September 18, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that the Government wouldn't rule out a 'circuit break' short-term national lockdown over the October half term, in a bid to bring coronavirus cases down before the pandemic spirals out of control.

UK job cuts: Almost half of firms set to swing the axe

Almost one in two firms are planning to cut jobs or freeze hiring in the next 12 months as a second wave of Covid-19 looms, reports our economics editor Russell Lynch.

The business group CBI’s latest annual survey of 248 employers, carried out with recruitment agency Pertemps, showed companies are also gearing up to cut hours and restructure as the economy heads into a difficult autumn.

Although 51 per cent of respondents expect to maintain or increase the number of permanent roles, 46 per cent will either axe full-time jobs or stop hiring altogether as a “two-speed recovery” takes hold.

The findings come ahead of the closure of the Government’s furlough scheme at the end of October, which the Office for National Statistics estimates still covers a tenth of the workforce.

The Bank of England has predicted the unemployment rate could hit 7.5pc by the end of 2020.

Read Russell's full lowdown on imminent job cuts here.

Wolverhampton lockdown: Council leader compares measures to those 'at height of pandemic'

Ian Brookfield, the leader of Wolverhampton City Council, has said that the new restrictions are the result of "all the evidence shows that close contact within the home or between households is a major cause of the spread of Covid-19" in the city.

"We urge residents to continue to support our plea not to visit other households - this will be the law from Tuesday," he said.

"These measures are like those which were in place at the height of the pandemic and the message is simple.

A testing site in Wolverhampton, where restrictions have been reintroduced amid rising rates of infection. Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Europe

"You mustn't allow people who are not part of your household or bubble into your home or garden, or go to visit them in their house or garden in Wolverhampton or elsewhere."

Wolverhampton Council also released a statement that insisted the new rules will be legally binding, and that "people could be find for breaking them".

London lockdown measures could follow new northern restrictions, says Sadiq Khan

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said the city is only "two weeks behind" the parts of the UK which have seen tighter coronavirus restrictions enforced.

"What we've seen in other parts of the country and in the North East in particular is an instruction for bars and restaurants to close at 10pm," Mr Khan told the PA news agency.

"The reason for that is to minimise the amount of hours people spend socialising which can increase the risk of the virus spreading."

"According to the latest evidence I've seen we're about two weeks behind some parts of the country."

He added that "all possibilities" were being considered in London, and that he intends to see what measures are successful elsewhere before settling on a course of action.

Coronavirus vaccine news: UK joins COVAX scheme, confirms Business Secretary

The Business Secretary Alok Sharma has confirmed that the UK has joined COVAX, the scheme pooling funds from wealthier countries and nonprofits to develop two billion doses of an effective, approved and equally distributed vaccine by the end of the 2021.

The UK had previously announced £48 million to finance COVAX vaccines for lower income countries. The World Health Organisation said last month that 172 countries and multiple candidate vaccines were engaged in talks about joining the initiative.

Mr Sharma said that the efforts to find a safe and effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus "is not a competition, but is among the most urgent shared endeavours of our lifetime".

“That's why I am delighted to confirm that the United Kingdom will join the global COVAX initiative to expedite the discovery, manufacture and fair distribution of a vaccine to one billion people," he said.

“Today’s landmark agreement complements the various vaccine deals the UK has already made and ensures we have the best chance of accessing a safe and effective vaccine for people in the UK as soon as one becomes available, as well as supporting access in poorer countries.”

Matt Hancock: National coronavirus measures are a 'last resort'

 

Local lockdown restrictions applied in North-West, North Yorkshire and Midlands

More restrictions have been introduced across areas of the North-West, the Midlands and West Yorkshire in order to curb rising rates of infection.

The new rules are to come into place from Tuesday, and mean that in Merseyside, Warrington, Halton and Lancashire - except for Blackpool and Greater Manchester - residents cannot socialise in private homes or gardens.

Restrictions on socialising in houses and gardens also apply to Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Oadby & Wigston, and Wolverhampton.

Residents in these areas are also advised to only use public transport "for essential purposes", defined as travelling to school or work.

Hospitality for food and drink in the affected North-West regions will be restricted to table service only, with leisure curfews also introduced between 10pm and 5am.

Rates in Liverpool have now increased to 100.6 per 100,000 people, the Department for Health confirmed, with Warrington rising to 111.2, and Oadby & Wigston reaching 145.5.

Social distancing proves undoing of German football team in 37-0 drubbing

An amateur German football team has suffered a 37-0 loss after they chose to socially distance from the opposing side due to coronavirus concerns.

SG Ripdorf/Molzen II opted to only put seven players forward for their match against SV Holdenstedt II - who had previously faced a player who tested positive but then all tested negative themselves - on September 13.

The eleventh-tier fixture would have entailed a €200 fine had they chose to forfeit the game.

Patrick Ristow, co-chairman of the club, told ESPN after the unusual fixture: "We are thankful those seven players volunteered, otherwise the club would have faced a 200 euros fine for abandoning the match.

"That's a lot of money for us, especially amid the pandemic.

"The Holdenstedt players did not understand. But we did not want to risk anything. For the rest of the match, our players returned to the field but they only stood on the pitch."

'Second lockdown is an overreaction to what is a ripple, not a wave'

We’ve learned a lot about SARS-Cov-2, the virus which causes Covid 19, over the past few months, writes Telegraph columnist Ross Clark.

Now it transpires that the virus is in fact nocturnal. It only comes out of its shell – or wherever else viruses hide – late in the evening.
That can be the only explanation for the imposition of a 10pm curfew on bars and restaurants in the North East and the suggestion that it might be extended nationwide.
The long and the short of it is that neither the government, local councils, nor their advisers really know what they are doing. They merely see rising numbers of recorded infections and think they have to be seen to be doing something, anything.
They are engaging in an unseemly competition to see who can dream up the most imaginative and extreme ways of restricting our freedoms.
Nationwide, there are only 901 patients in hospital with Covid 19 against more than 20,000 at the peak in April.
In spite of recorded cases having risen since mid-July, hospitalisations and deaths have hardly flickered. Either the virus is becoming less deadly, or the second ripple of cases is being exaggerated by a massive increase in testing.

Read Ross' full piece here.

France local lockdown measures put in place as Nice imposes new Covid curbs

The French Riviera city of Nice announced new restrictions on Friday, banning group and family gatherings of more than 10 people in an attempt to stem a spike in coronavirus infections, David Chazan reports from Paris.

The local authorities also announced a ban on live music in bars, stricter rules on alcohol consumption outdoors, and a “suspension” of visits to the elderly in the city’s nursing homes.

The other limits are similar to those announced earlier this week in Marseille and Bordeaux. All three cities have now cut the maximum number of people allowed to attend sports matches or other public events from 5,000 to 1,000.

Bernard Gonzalez, the Prefect of Nice, urged people to exercise “the greatest prudence in family gatherings to protect the most vulnerable”.

Lyon, which has about 200 cases per 100,000 people, is to announce new restrictions on Monday, while Paris has also emerged as a virus hotspot and local authorities are considering tightening restrictions.

France reported 50 Covid-19 deaths on Thursday, for a total of more than 31,000 fatalities since the outbreak started.

The government says it will avoid lockdowns that could cripple France’s already battered economy.

Half-term lockdown under serious consideration, admits Matt Hancock 

The Government is seriously considering a "circuit break" national lockdown during the October half-term, Matt Hancock has disclosed this morning.

"We really do need to come together to tackle this virus once again," Mr Hancock told Sky News.

"The virus is clearly accelerating across the country, we have got to take the necessary action to keep people safe."

All hospitality settings would be closed while schools and workplaces remained open, the Health Secretary said of what he insisted would be a "last line of defence".

He claimed that the majority of Covid-19 transmission has taken place in "social settings".

London New Year fireworks display cancelled, confirms Sadiq Khan

The world-famous London's New Year's Eve fireworks display has been cancelled because of coronavirus, Sadiq Khan has said.

The Mayor of London told LBC Radio that "there will not be a fireworks New Year's Eve this year like in previous years", adding: "We simply cannot afford to have that number of people congregate on New Year's Eve".

2020 started with a bang - but there will be no scenes like this in the capital to see in next year. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Peter Bone, the Conservative Brexiteer MP, said: "I thought it was a bit extraordinary that the Mayor of London has decided in September that there won’t be any fireworks on December 31, especially as Boris has said he hopes Christmas will be a normal Christmas.

"You just wonder if behind this decision is that the mayor doesn’t want us to celebrate finally leaving the European Union."

Phoebe Southworth and Tony Diver have the story.

North-West lockdown announcement expected today

This from Lancashire County Council, who expect an announcement later today:

"Coronavirus is still with us and although we are seeing a reduction in new infections in certain parts of Lancashire, the infection rate is still high," the council has said.

Second lockdown not ruled out by Matt Hancock

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has not ruled out a second lockdown and urged Britons to follow the new coronavirus rules amid a "very serious" situation.

He told BBC Breakfast that a full national lockdown was the "last line of defence" as ministers continue to attract criticism over perceived failures in the test-and-trace system.

He said it was "absolutely critical" that people followed the new rule of six, while those living under local restrictions should ensure they are sticking to advice.

Describing a national lockdown as "the last line of defence", Mr Hancock said:

If people have tested positive, or if people have been in close contact with somebody who tests positive, that they self-isolate.
And if we do all these things, then we can avoid having to take serious further measures.
As we saw in the spring, it is the thing that we can do to keep people safe if that's needed.
So we're watching vigilantly, but we can see the number of cases accelerating, and we're prepared to do what it takes both to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, and of course, both are so important.
We want to avoid a national lockdown but we're prepared to do it, if we need to.
Credit: John Sibley/Reuters

Elsewhere Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health Secretary, has said that the Government must reform the coronavirus testing system if it is to avoid “a very bleak winter”.

“Without that, infections rise and we lose control of the virus, and I fear that’s probably what’s happening now,” he said.

It comes after the Telegraph’s Laura Donnelly revealed that the operation of the NHS Test and Trace System could be outsourced to Amazon or another major delivery firm.

France coronavirus news: Nice to see tighter restrictions

The city of Nice on the French Riviera is to ban gatherings of more than 10 people in public spaces and will tighten rules on consuming alcohol outdoors.

It is seeking to curb Covid-19 infections in the region, local authorities have said, after France registered a record 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus in the past 24 hours.

People wearing protective face masks in Nice as they wait for coronavirus tests Credit: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

The figure is the highest caseload recorded by France so far during the pandemic.

Rule of six, Brexit and more: Telegraph readers on this week's big issues

As Downing Street continues to respond to a recent rise in Covid-19 cases, the week started with the introduction of the Government's controversial 'Rule of Six' law.

Covid-secure “marshals” will be hired to ensure that the guidelines are followed. These marshals will also be responsible for issuing fines to offenders, which start at £100 and can rise to as high as £3,200 for consistent offenders.

Elsewhere this week, it was suggested that Britain could cede control over fishing waters around the Channel Islands in an attempt to resolve a key dispute in Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

Read on to see what our readers have had to say about these stories.       

Children not in class as they can't access tests

More than four in five schools in England currently have children not in class because they cannot access a Covid-19 test, a survey suggests.

The majority (94%) of schools have pupils who have had to stay at home due to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 this term - and more than three in four (78%) have had staff who had to self-isolate, according to a poll by the school leaders union' NAHT.

Nearly nine in 10 (87%) have children not attending school because they are waiting for test results, while 82% of schools have pupils at home because they cannot access a test to rule out Covid-19.

The findings come after organisations representing heads and governors, including the NAHT, have implored Boris Johnson to "take charge" of tackling the testing delays to ensure schools remain open.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, has warned that children's education is being "needlessly disrupted" by a testing system which is in "chaos".

Rise in care home infections 'extremely concerning'

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer's Society, said the rise in care home infections, despite little lifting of restrictions, is "extremely concerning".

She said: "We are keen to see further detail from the Government's adult social care winter plan but it is positive to see concrete steps already to prevent the devastating loss of life we saw earlier this year, such as the appointment of a new chief nurse for adult social care - we need to see this go one step further by ensuring nursing staff are allocated to individual care homes throughout the pandemic.

"And with care homes across the country once again closing their doors, we must make sure people with dementia are not cut off from vital visits from their loved ones - we're urging the Government to prioritise providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and repeated, regular testing for both care home staff and for family carers.

"Where this isn't possible, steps must be put in place to ensure regular contact can continue between residents and their loved ones."

National Care Forum welcomes PM's winter plan

Executive director Vic Rayner said it was positive that the Government had listened to issues facing providers such as the cost of personal protective equipment and importance of the infection control fund.

She continued: "It is less clear that the plan will cover other essential issues, such as improving the reward and recognition for our 1.5 million-strong care workforce, who continue to work 24/7 to provide care and support across our communities.

"And while we support effective oversight and regulation, the headlines suggest yet more strong action and enforcement in an already tightly regulated and monitored sector.

"This does not give confidence at a time when we can only deliver on our ultimate shared objective around the provision of quality care in the midst of a pandemic in winter by working together in partnership.

"The devil will, as always, be in the detail - we need to see the full plan now to ensure it meets expectations."

Ryanair: Government 'mismanaged' Covid travel policies

Ryanair has announced it will cut its planned October flight capacity from 50% of last year's levels to 40%.

A spokesman for the airline said: "We are disappointed to reduce our October capacity from 50% of 2019 to 40%.

"However, as customer confidence is damaged by Government mismanagement of Covid travel policies, many Ryanair customers are unable to travel for business or urgent family reasons without being subjected to defective 14-day quarantines."

Ryanair planes at Dublin Airport Credit: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

Health Secretary: PM takes decisions 'extremely seriously'

Matt Hancock said that Boris Johnson remained "enormously vigorous" and that the seriousness of the decisions taken by the Government should not be overestimated.

Responding to questions on Times Radio about the Prime Minister's fitness to run the country, having recently appeared to be "exhausted and defeated", the Health Secretary said: "Yes of course absolutely, (he's) enormously vigorous and I think it's important to recognise that this is a really big moment.

"The seriousness of the decisions we take can't be overestimated and we're making judgments about how to protect the health of the nation and how to save tens of thousands of lives whilst balancing that with the enormous social and economic and health impacts of the measures that we have to take.

"These are huge decisions and very weighty ones and so it's hugely understandable that the people making them should be taking them extremely seriously."

Chaos, confusion and anger – welcome to a new Covid test centre

In the heat of the afternoon cars honked and drivers sighed, etching forward a fraction as they sat gridlocked on the South Circular. 

Tyres screeched on tarmac as cars attempted U-turns, mounting the pavement and cutting off further traffic from Canadian Avenue heading towards the A205. 

As one vehicle was turned away, it quickly turned right, fearful of being caught in the pandemonium, only to pull out in front of a motorcycle which swerved, just missing oncoming traffic before stopping entirely.

Read Telegraph reporter Jessica Carpani's account of the chaos at a newly opened test centre in Catford here.

Nobody expected surge in coronavirus testing demand, Test and Trace boss tells MPs

Baroness Harding told MPs none of the modelling from the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had prepared the system for the current demand, which is outstripping supply by three or four times. 

She said "demand is significantly outstripping the capacity we have" to conduct coronavirus tests but added: "I strongly refute that the system is failing".

It came as official figures showed that only one in three people who turned up for a coronavirus test in England was getting the result within 24 hours – half the levels achieved the week before.

Read the full story here.

Test and Trace system could be outsourced to Amazon, secret plans reveal

The country's beleaguered test and trace system is to be outsourced to a giant delivery firm such as Amazon, secret plans reveal.

A tender for the management of the entire "end-to-end" supply chain will be issued next month, calling for a logistics firm to take over its running.

A Government source said "experts in delivery services" were needed to help the beleaguered service cope with the increased demand for tests, adding: "At the moment, the management of NHS Test and Trace has been in-house but, as we go into winter, we need experts in this area to take it forward."

Read the full story here.

Testing goal of half a million tests per day by end of October

Matt Hancock said the Government would increase coronavirus testing to half a million per day, up from a quarter of a million per day currently, by the end of October.

"We're doing that by getting more machines into the labs, we're installing those as we speak," he said.

"We're hiring more people to run them because it is a logistical exercise as well as the scientific parts of it, just to get the samples into the right slots.

"We're automating that process which is important. That's on the current technology, then there's the much-discussed next-generation technology."

Mr Hancock referenced a new testing system, created by company DnaNudge, which is reported to provide results of coronavirus tests in 90 minutes.

"The unit is only the size of a shoebox so you don't need a full-blown lab in order to do it and we're backing loads of those new technologies," he said.

Lancashire and Merseyside expected to see tougher restrictions

Local authorities in England's North West are said to be expecting a Government announcement today, following the introduction of restrictions in the North East.

In Lancashire, where Preston, Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle already have restrictions in place, it has been reported that measures will be introduced for all of the county apart from Blackpool.

LancsLive reported a local lockdown would forbid households from mixing in any setting in all of the county's boroughs apart from parts of the seaside resort.

A post on the Lancashire County Council Twitter account said: "We are expecting an announcement later today by Government on new measures to bring down the rate of Covid-19 infections in Lancashire.

"We are awaiting the full details and will let you know what it means for you and our county as soon as we can."

Seven dead and 177 infected after 'superspreader' wedding in rural US

A wedding in rural Maine became a coronavirus "superspreader" event that left seven people dead and 177 infected.

The nuptials in early August were attended by 65 people, breaking the official limit of 50 allowed at a gathering.

A ceremony at a church was followed by a reception at the Big Moose Inn - both venues near the picturesque town of Millinocket, whose population is just 4,000.

Ten days later, two dozen people associated with the wedding had tested positive for Covid-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Maine opened an investigation.

The center's local director Nirav Shah on Thursday gave the latest toll for the event, adding that none of the seven people who died had actually attended the wedding.

Contact-tracers linked the wedding to several virus hotspots across the state - including more than 80 cases in a prison 230 miles (370 kilometers) away, where one of the guards had attended the ceremony.

Another 10 probable cases were found in a Baptist church in the same area, while 39 infections - and six of the deaths - were at a nursing home 100 miles from Millinocket.

Hospitals told to clear beds for coronavirus spike in two weeks

Hospitals and councils have been told to find extra beds for coronavirus patients within two weeks as the NHS braces for a second spike in cases.

With hospital admissions beginning to increase following a steep rise in virus infections, isolation units in which Covid-19 patients can recover are being set up, freeing space on wards for those needing the most care.

More than 10 million people will soon be living in local lockdown areas after the North East became the latest region to impose curfews, with Liverpool and parts of the West Midlands expected to follow within days.

Read the full story here.

Health Secretary: I don't want a second national lockdown

Bringing in another national lockdown would be "the last line of defence", Heath Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Asked about the possibility of a two-week imposition of national restrictions to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Hancock told Sky News: "A national lockdown is the last line of defence and we want to use local action."

He added: "I want to avoid a national lockdown. It isn't something that we ever take off the table, but it isn't something that we want to see either.

"The country once again needs to come together and recognise there is a serious challenge. That the virus is accelerating.

"Unfortunately, it isn't just cases increasing, it's also the number of people ending up in hospital increasing."

Man stamped on NHS track and trace worker's head on north London bus

Police have appealed for help to find a man who allegedly stamped on the head of an NHS track and trace worker on a bus in north London.

The 63-year-old victim was punched repeatedly to the floor and had his head stamped on five times during the attack on the route 149 on August 23, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

CCTV of the attack Credit: Metropolitan Police

Pc Bowman from the Roads and Transport Policing Command said: "Although there is no sound on the CCTV and all the victim remembers is waking up in hospital, we believe that this was all triggered by face masks. We think that the attacker, who had his face covering beneath his chin, took offence when the victim, who was fully covered, consciously moved away from him.

"When the attacker then follows the victim to the back of the bus, he can be seen pointing and gesturing at the victim's face mask before he starts repeatedly punching and kicking him. This was a totally unwarranted violent assault and we urgently need to speak to this man."

The alleged attacker is described as a tall black man aged approximately 23-25 years with an athletic/muscular build. An image has been released by police of a man wanted in connection with the attack.

Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives on 07880 429 486 or on 101, quoting ref CAD 7981/23Aug.

Motorists stranded with no staff to test them in Sunderland

Dozens of drivers turned up at a test site to find there were no staff to swab them, on the day the health secretary announced tougher coronavirus measures for people in the north-east.

People who had booked a test on Thursday at Doxford Park, an out-of-town business park in Sunderland, were told by the media they would not be tested, as there were no officials there to inform them.

Some had been turned away on the approach to the centre by security guards, who told them the computers had crashed and to try again later.

Doxford Park, an out-of-town business park in Sunderland Credit: Tom Wilkinson /PA

Regulations for the local restrictions in Northumberland, Newcastle, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham were published by the Government on Thursday evening.

From midnight, residents in these areas were banned from socialising in homes or gardens with people outside their own households or support bubble.

Food and drink venues were restricted to table service only and leisure and entertainment venues were required to close between 10pm and 5am, although takeaways can still provide home deliveries during these times.

Persistent fatigue in more than half of Covid-19 patients

More than half of patients who get coronavirus suffer persistent fatigue, regardless of the seriousness of their infection, a small study suggests.

Researchers found that even 10 weeks after recovering from Covid-19, people reported ongoing tiredness and exhaustion.

The study, led by Dr Liam Townsend from Trinity College, Dublin, is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases' Conference on Coronavirus Disease.

It found that 10 weeks after clinical recovery from Covid-19, 52% of the 128 people in the study reported ongoing fatigue.

The group were typically aged 50 and 54% were female.

A commonly-used scale was used to determine fatigue, while researchers also looked at the severity of the patient's initial infection, pre-existing health conditions and several blood markers.

Of the patients, 71 out of 128 had been admitted to hospital and 57 were not admitted, but ongoing fatigue levels were the same.

Parents dipped into children's savings during lockdown

Nearly a quarter (23%) of parents have dipped into their children's savings since the coronavirus lockdown started, a survey has found.

Food bills were among the main reasons for parents needing to access their child's savings, Direct Line Life Insurance found.

Covering utility bills, childcare costs, clothing, travel, and mortgage payments, rent or debts were also motivations, according to the survey.

People who are struggling to keep up with their regular bills may be able to take a payment holiday under measures designed to help households whose finances have been temporarily affected by coronavirus.

More than a quarter (27%) of parents have had to stop regularly setting aside money for their children since the start of lockdown in March, the survey of 2,000 people across the UK found.

Winter action plan: Tighter care home restrictions

Tighter restrictions on care home visits in areas with high numbers of coronavirus cases are expected to be announced by the Government in its winter action plan.

Care homes in areas subject to local lockdowns may be advised to temporarily restrict visits in all but end-of-life situations, it is understood.

For parts of the country where there is no local lockdown, but where community transmission is a cause for concern, an option officials are considering is advising that visits are restricted to one designated visitor per resident.

The Government will set out further details on Friday in its social care action plan to help fight the spread of coronavirus over winter.

As part of the plan, care homes will receive free protective equipment and providers must stop "all but essential" movement of staff between homes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

This will be supported by an additional £546 million announced on Thursday as part of the extended infection control fund.

Czech Republic's infections spike

The Czech Republic's new Covid-19 infections accelerated as it reported more than 3,000 cases in a single day for the first time on Friday, a day after the daily tally first exceeded 2,000.

The country of 10.7 million has seen one of the biggest spikes in new coronavirus infections in Europe, with daily case numbers topping 1,000 for the first time in September.

According to Health Ministry data released on Friday, the country detected 3,130 new cases on Thursday, up from 2,137 the day before. In total, the country has recorded 44,155 cases.

People wait in a line to get tested for COVID-19 before a sampling station opens at Wenceslas Square in Prague Credit: Reuters

India continues to post highest single-day caseload

India recorded 96,424 new infections in the last 24 hours, taking its tally to 5.2 million, data from the federal health ministry showed on Friday.

India has been posting the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August, and is expected to have the highest national total within weeks, surpassing the United States where more than 6.67 million people have been infected.

Deaths in India have been relatively low, and it has a fatality rate of 1.62 per cent.

On Friday, the health ministry said 1,174 people died in the last 24 hours, taking total mortalities from the disease to 84,372.

A health worker takes a break from collecting swab samples from residents at a public health centre in Hyderabad  Credit: AFP

Europe imposes fresh curbs as global cases top 30 million

Large parts of Europe on Friday geared up for broad new restrictions after infections worldwide topped 30 million and the World Health Organisation warned of "alarming rates of transmission".

More than 943,000 people have now died from Covid-19 with Europe accounting for more than 200,000.

WHO regional director for Europe Hans Kluge said a surge seen this month "should serve as a wake-up call" after the continent recorded 54,000 infections in a single day last week - a new record.

The Spanish capital of Madrid said it had been overwhelmed by the virus and called for "decisive" action from the central government, which is set to unveil a raft of new restrictions on Friday.

French authorities are also preparing tighter restrictions in several cities to curtail a resurgence that has seen nearly 10,000 new cases per day in the past week.

Health minister Olivier Veran said Lyon and Nice would be under new rules by Saturday, after curbs on public gatherings were imposed this week in Bordeaux and Marseille.

Read more: Hospitals told to clear beds for spike in two weeks

Read more: Staff at overstretched French testing centres strike over 'war-like' conditions

New 90-minute test has 'significant potential' for mass screening

A "highly accurate" portable coronavirus test which can deliver a result in 90 minutes has been developed by UK scientists.

The device, designed by Imperial College London and its start-up DnaNudge, is being rolled out across a handful of major NHS trusts after successful trials on patients and staff.

However, the test's backers hope its most potent use could be in the community, giving people a quick answer on their virus status before they head to venues such as pubs, football matches or theatres.

The simple to use "lab-in-cartridge" system was recently used to test members of the London Symphony Orchestra before they performed at the Proms. It promises to be a game-changer for Covid-19 safety in care homes, allowing swabs to be analysed on site by non-clinical staff.

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No new cases in NZ for first time in more than 5 weeks

New Zealand has reported no new confirmed cases for the first time in more than five weeks as hopes rise that an outbreak discovered in Auckland last month has been stamped out.

Friday's report also marked the fourth consecutive day without any cases of community transmission. All recent cases have been found among quarantined travellers returning from abroad.

Authorities have still not pinpointed the origin of the August outbreak, which they believe was imported. Auckland was temporarily placed into lockdown as the country continued its strategy of trying to completely eliminate community spread of the virus.

New Zealand has reported a total of just over 1,800 cases and 25 deaths.

South Korea reports tally over 100 for 16th consecutive day

South Korea's daily coronavirus tally has stayed in the 100s for a 16th consecutive day as authorities struggle to contain small-scale, sporadic local infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday that the 126 confirmed cased added in the past 24 hours took the country's total to 22,783, with 377 deaths.

The agency says 82 of the newly reported cases were from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the center of a viral resurgence in South Korea since early last month.

South Korea's caseload has been slowing recently, prompting authorities to relax elevated social distancing rules in the Seoul area. But the country's daily jump remains in triple digits as cluster transmissions linked to churches, schools and elsewhere and some untraceable cases have been continuously detected.

South Korean health officials from Bupyeong-gu Office spray disinfectants at a shopping district in Incheon  Credit: AFP

Canadian parishioners have faith in 'God Pod'

As in-person religious services start resuming in Canada after a pandemic lockdown forced many churches to close, one Ottawa parish is offering its congregation a unique way to connect with their faith - in a "God Pod".

The four-by-six-foot glass compartment with a partition between two sides and an air filtration system to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, was unveiled to the public this week at the Saint John Lutheran Church in Ottawa's New Edinburgh neighbourhood.

Pastor Reverend Joel Crouse, who gave the donated pod its nickname, said it has allowed parishioners to connect safely in these difficult times.

Pastor Rev. Joel Crouse of Saint John Lutheran Church chats with a parishioner in a see-through, 4' x 6' enclosed compartment, called the "God Pod" Credit: AFP
"During this pandemic, many people have felt isolated and lonely. We've missed simply being together, to sit and listen, we're always wondering if it's safe," he said."The God Pod resolves all of the logistical issues - sitting too close, or having to wear a mask," he said."One parishioner said it was great just to be able to laugh out loud (in the pod) without worrying about spreading the coronavirus."

In pictures: Palestinian personnel in training

Palestinian recruits participate in a training session to reinforce police forces to fight the spread of the coronavirus. 

Newly appointed 1500 contracted personnel, who are temporarily assigned to the police force as part of the fight against coronavirus, attend training in Gaza City Credit: Reuters
A Palestinian recruit participates in a training session Credit: Reuters
A Palestinian police officer spays a recruit with disinfectants Credit: Reuters

China reports sharp increase in infections

Mainland China reported 32 new cases on Sept. 17, up sharply from 9 cases reported a day earlier, the Chinese national health authority said on Friday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. It also reported 20 new asymptomatic cases, also up for 14 a day earlier, though China does not classify these symptomless patients as confirmed Covid-19 cases.

The total number of Covid-19 cases for mainland China now stands at 85,255, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

A staff member wearing protective suit disinfects a public bath before its reopening  Credit: China News Service

Cases rise as restrictions are eased in Australia's hot spot 

Australia's coronavirus hot spot of Victoria on Friday reported its biggest daily rise in infections in more than a week as the state began relaxing lockdown restrictions.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, reported five deaths and 45 cases in the last 24 hours. The state reported eight deaths and 28 cases a day earlier, its lowest daily rise in infections in nearly three months.

The southeastern state started easing curbs this week after a hard lockdown helped bring down the daily rise in infections to double-digits after it touched highs of more than 700 in early August.

A woman passes a sign at Melbourne's Flinders Street station  Credit: AFP

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