Number of positive Covid-19 cases jumps by 167 per cent in England

An employee of the NHS Test and Trace programme talks to a man who arrived with an appointment to get a test at a Covid-19 testing site after they had closed down the site for the day in Catford, southeast London
An employee of the Test and Trace programme talks to a man who arrived with an appointment to get a test at a Covid-19 testing site after they had closed down the site for the day in Catford, southeast London Credit:  DANIEL SORABJI / AFP

Today's coronavirus news from around the world

Thanks for following our coverage today. Here are your top headlines: 

  • Parts of the north east of England have been placed in local lockdown, with some 9.7 million people across the whole UK now thought to be living with some sort of coronavirus restrictions.
  • A further £2.7 billion has been earmarked for the NHS to help fund additional PPE, testing and help clear the backlog of patients left over from lockdown, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced today.
  • Adding his voice to the growing concerns around access to coronavirus testing in the UK, Shadow Health Secretary told Mr Hancock that the situation was more like "trace a test" than Track and Trace.
  • Baroness Dido Harding, head of the Government's Test and Trace scheme, has blamed Sage for the testing capacity shortfall
  • The United Kingdom recorded 3,395 new positive cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, compared with 3,991 the day before, official statistics showed.
  • Public approval of the Government's handling of the pandemic has fallen to the lowest level yet, according to YouGov.
  • A tough new law in Nigeria’s Kaduna State will see child rapists castrated and executed. It follows a rise in cases of reported sexual violence throughout lockdown.
  • Almost 100 Indians died on board special government-run relief trains while returning to their hometowns and villages, the Indian Government has admitted.
  • Canada could lose its ability to manage the coronavirus pandemic due to a worrying recent spike in new Covid-19 cases, the country's top medical officer said on Thursday.
  • France registered 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, setting a new daily record and pushing the cumulative number to 415,481, the health ministry reported on Thursday.
  • Children with a runny nose do not have coronavirus and should not be getting tested, an expert warned as demand for tests soared by 150 per cent.
  • Child marriage is on the rise in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps and the risk of human trafficking grows with every day the pandemic shuts youth services, according to a UN-led study that was released on Thursday.

  • Facebook has said that it will no longer show health groups in its recommendations to ensure that its users get health information from authoritative sources.

  • New Zealand has plunged into recession for the first time in a decade, forcing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to defend her pandemic response ahead of next month’s general election.

Follow all the latest news in Friday's live blog

Child rapists in Nigerian state to be castrated under harsh new law

A tough new law in Nigeria’s Kaduna State will see child rapists castrated and executed, a push to protect women and children in a country where more than half the female population experiences sexual violence.

Kaduna state governor Nasir El Rufai approved the new law on Wednesday following parliament approval. "Drastic penalties are required to help further protect children from serious crime," a government spokesperson said.

The new law comes after weeks of agitation by women's rights groups who have been calling for action over a wave of reported cases of rape in recent months.

Nearly 800 cases of sexual violence were reported between January and May, with those numbers surging from April after a nationwide coronavirus lockdown was enforced, according to the Nigerian police.

Shola Lawal reports. Read more here.

Protesters raise awareness about rising sexual violence outside police headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria Credit:  KOLA SULAIMON / AFP

Almost 100 migrants died on Covid-19 relief trains, Indian Government admits

Almost 100 Indians died on board special government-run relief trains while returning to their hometowns and villages, the Indian Government has admitted.

The Indian Railways ran 4,621 “Shramik” trains between May and August to transport migrant workers and their families who were stranded in India’s cities without work due to its draconian lockdown.

At the time, migrants complained there was no food or water on board and congested trains had no air conditioning and often broke down or got lost, causing major delays.

The Indian media reported there had been fatalities on the trains but the Indian Government did not comment at the time.

Joe Wallen has more on this here.

India is currently enduring the world's fastest-growing Covid-19 epidemic with over five million cases Credit: DIVYAKANT SOLANKI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Canada could lose ability to manage Covid-19 cases, says chief medical officer

Canada could lose its ability to manage the coronavirus pandemic due to a worrying recent spike in new Covid-19 cases, the country's top medical officer said on Thursday.

The warning from Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam is the clearest indication yet of how worried authorities are about the potential for the outbreak to spiral out of control.

An average of 779 new cases had been reported daily during the most recent week, more than double the level in July, Tam said. Officials in major provinces blame social gatherings for the spike.

"The ongoing increase in new cases being reported daily continues to give cause for concern," Tam said in a statement.

"With continued circulation of the virus, the situation could change quickly and we could lose the ability to keep Covid-19 cases at manageable levels."

Hours earlier, a source in Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, said the government was considering strict new limits on social gatherings in three hot spots.

A draft plan would reduce the size of indoor gatherings to 10, down from 50, and outdoor gatherings to 25 from 100, the source said.

France won't buy vaccines through WHO's COVAX scheme

France will provide funding for an initiative led by the World Health Organization to buy potential Covid-19 vaccines, but will not source shots through the programme, an official at the French health ministry said on Thursday.

The decision by one of the U.N. agency's biggest supporters is a big blow to its strategy aimed at uniting governments around the world to fight the coronavirus pandemic together.

Instead of tapping the WHO's global vaccine project, known as COVAX, Paris will secure shots through a joint scheme arranged through the European Union, the official told Reuters.

More than 170 countries have joined the project, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday, a day before a deadline for signing up to the facility.

The agency has been urging governments to join the plan to ensure immunisations are fairly and efficiently distributed, saying "vaccine nationalism" would undermine efforts to quash the pandemic.

Only 5,000 spectators allowed onto Champs-Elysees for Tour de France final stage

Only 5,000 spectators will be granted access to the Champs-Elysees to watch Sunday's finale of the Tour de France due to health protocols that have been put in place to control the spread of Covid-19, local authorities said on Thursday.

"The access to the Champs-Elysees will be forbidden once the tally of 5,000 people will be reached," authorities said in a statement.

The Tour de France, the world's biggest cycling race, has finished on the Champs-Elysees since 1975. The final stage is generally won by a sprinter, without any impact on the general classification.

On Thursday, France registered 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, setting a new daily record and pushing the cumulative number to 415,481, the health ministry reported. 

Team Jumbo rider Belgium's Wout van Aert (C) yells at Team Bora rider Slovakia's Peter Sagan (2nd-L) after the final sprint at the end of the 11th stage of the 107th edition of the Tour de France cycling race Credit:  THIBAULT CAMUS / AFP

France records new case high of more than 10,000 Covid-19 infections in 24 hours

France registered 10,593 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, setting a new daily record and pushing the cumulative number to 415,481, the health ministry reported on Thursday.

The previous high was 10,561 new cases in a day, recorded on September 12. The sharp increase is a result of a higher infection rate but also of a massive increase in testing. The government has made Covid-19 testing free, resulting in long queues at testing centres in cities across France.

The number of people who have died from the virus in France increased by 50 to 31,095, the second-highest number in two months following the 80 deaths reported on September 11.

Covid-19 cluster in south Wales linked to Doncaster coach trip

A significant cluster of Covid-19 cases in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area has been linked to a coach trip of people travelling to Yorkshire, despite some of the group awaiting test results.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said some of those involved had symptoms of coronavirus, but had not received test results when they went on the outing.

The group were on an annual trip to Doncaster Races but did not have tickets to the event and did not enter the site - instead visiting a number of pubs before returning to south Wales.

Contact tracers are still working to identify people who may have been contacts of the positive cases, the Welsh Government said.

Mr Gething said the trip was a "real example of a Covid spreading event that should not happen".

The terrifying etiquette of snitching on your neighbour

The Government has suggested that we report people if we see them gathering in large groups – but that's not the British way, writes Judith Woods: 

Have our politicians forgotten what it’s like to live on an actual residential road alongside a load of random people? A street crammed with noisy multi-occupation flats? A cul-de-sac where recycling infractions can precipitate a bristling stand-off that makes the Bay of Pigs look like Centre Porcs?

A neighbourhood is a fragile ecosystem inhabited by people you chat to and those you do not. There are best friends, unspoken rivals and frenemies, inveterate gossips and poor souls.

And yet this Government seriously seems to imagine all of them – any of them – will take kindly to me knocking on their door of a Friday night to have a quick busybody word about social distancing.

Read more.

Fears surge as demand for hand sanitiser could fuel child labour

Soaring global demand for hand sanitiser to combat the new coronavirus could increase the use of forced and child labour in sugarcane plantations, UK-based researchers said on Thursday.

Sugarcane is used to make ethanol for alcohol-based gels and seven of the world's largest sugarcane producers - including Brazil, Mexico and Thailand - have a high to extreme risk of child and forced labour, said analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft.

"A lot of structural challenges that producing countries ... already had are now being laid bare by the pandemic," Jimena Blanco, head of its Americas team, told Reuters news agency.

After decades of progress, the United Nations has warned that millions of children around the world could be pushed into work as schools have closed and families struggle to survive the economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The UN's special rapporteur on contemporary slavery said on Wednesday there was an acute risk the poorest would be pushed into forced labour and firms that exploit workers making drugs and equipment to fight COVID-19 should be held accountable.

Teacher Marzio Toniolo, wearing black gloves, takes a picture as he gives hand sanitiser to one of his primary school pupils in Italy Credit: MARZIO TONIOLO / REUTERS

Children with a runny nose do not have coronavirus, expert says

Children with a runny nose do not have coronavirus and should not be getting tested, an expert warned as demand for tests soared by 150 per cent.

Professor Tim Spector, who developed the Covid-19 symptom tracker app, revealed that children under 18 displayed a completely different array of symptoms to adults and were almost certainly suffering from the common cold sweeping through schools if they had a cough or congestion.

As the country's coronavirus testing system buckles under the strain, Prof Spector, of King's College London, said parents should be aware of the symptoms specifically attributed to children before they take them out of school and search for a test (see graphic below for virus symptoms compared to those of other common conditions) .

Read more here.

UK records 3,395 new cases

The United Kingdom recorded 3,395 new positive cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, compared with 3,991 the day before, official statistics showed.

Wednesday's tally had been the highest daily figure for new cases since May 8.

And the rise in cases is now showing up in UK hospital data, points out Adam Kucharski, a data scientist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The pandemic is putting more children are at risk of early marriage and trafficking in Rohingya camps, UN warns

Child marriage is on the rise in Bangladesh's Rohingya refugee camps and the risk of human trafficking grows with every day the pandemic shuts youth services, according to a UN-led study that was released on Thursday.

Bangladesh scaled back activities in the refugee camps in April and mainly focused on providing health and emergency food to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. It also restricted movement of aid workers and refugees. The move closed many children's services and made it harder for them to get support, said the Child Protection sub-sector, which works with the United Nations in the refugee camps.

The study was conducted in May. But officials say the same vulnerability persists.

"Before Covid-19 there was a larger humanitarian footprint and... friendly spaces. Children could talk to facilitators and share their fears with friends. Those avenues are not available to many now," said Kristen Hayes, coordinator of the sector.

"Child marriage has increased due to the absence of the measures that were able to prevent it," she said. "Ongoing containment measures are also ripe for trafficking."

According to U.N. figures, children make up more than half of the roughly 700,000 Rohingya who arrived in Bangladesh in 2017 after a mass exodus from Myanmar.

More than 350 Rohingya trafficking cases were identified last year - about 15 per cent involving children, according to the U.N. migration agency.

This picture taken on September 8, 2020 shows a young Rohingya girl sitting at a transit camp after nearly 300 Rohingya migrants came ashore on the beach in Lhokseumawe on the northern coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island Credit:  RAHMAT MIRZA / AFP

Where else have local measures been introduced?

Residents across the North East join a number of other regions living with local restrictions: 

  • People in Rhondda Cynon Taf should not leave the area without a reasonable excuse like going to work or school. Pubs and restaurants must close by 23:00 and people should not meet other households indoors
  • Households in Birmingham, Solihull and Sandwell are not allowed to mix
  • People living in Lanarkshire are not allowed to meet other households indoors
  • People in Ballymena town, the Belfast council area and certain Northern Irish postcodes are not allowed to go to each other's homes
  • People in Caerphilly county are being told not to leave without good reason and should not meet indoors with anyone outside their household
  • In parts of Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Lancashire people cannot meet anyone outside their own household, or support bubble, in an indoor venue
  • People in Oldham, Blackburn with Darwen and Pendle should not meet anyone from outside their household outdoors
  • In Bolton, there are visitor limits on care homes, while hospitality venues will only be able to serve takeaways and must close between 22:00 and 05:00
  • In Leicester, people cannot meet someone from another household in an indoor public venue. However, they can meet other households outside
  • People living in Glasgow city, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire are banned from meeting people from another household inside their home

England adds Slovenia to quarantine list

Slovenia and Guadaloupe have been added to the list of countries from which travellers must quarantine when entering England to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, British transport minister Grant Shapps said on Thursday.

Anybody arriving in England from the two countries after 4 a.m. on Saturday will need to self-isolate for 14 days, he said on Twitter.

However, he said travellers from Singapore and Thailand had been added to England's Travel Corridor list meaning they would no longer have to enter quarantine on arrival. 

Our travel live blog has the latest.

Arrivals from Slovenia must now self-isolate for 14 days Credit: Alexander Gutkin

Facebook will no longer recommend health groups

Facebook has said that it will no longer show health groups in its recommendations to ensure that its users get health information from authoritative sources.

The company took down more than 1 million groups that violated Facebook’s policies on harmful content and misinformation over the last year, it said in a blog post:

Facebook Groups, including health groups, can be a positive space for giving and receiving support during difficult life circumstances. At the same time, it’s crucial that people get their health information from authoritative sources. To prioritize connecting people with accurate health information, we are starting to no longer show health groups in recommendations. People can still invite friends to health groups or search for them.

Bank of England warns over 'unusually uncertain' outlook as rates held at 0.1 per cent

The Bank of England has kept interest rates at 0.1 per cent as the economy climbs out of the record recession caused by the Covid-19 lockdown, but it warned over an "unusually uncertain" outlook amid the pandemic.

The Bank said recent economic data had been stronger than it expected in August, but it cautioned rising coronavirus cases in the UK and worldwide could hamper the economic bounce-back.

Minutes of the latest rates decision also show the Bank continues to consider the case for negative interest rates and revealed policymakers had been briefed on its plans to look at how rates could be cut below zero if needed.

It said that together with the Prudential Regulation Authority, it would begin "structured engagement on the operational considerations" of negative rates in the final three months of the year.

All nine members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted to leave rates unchanged and keep its quantitative easing (QE) programme to boost the economy at £745 billion.

The Bank of England Credit:  TOBY MELVILLE / Reuters

What are the new North East local lockdown rules?

From tomorrow households in Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham will not be allowed to socialise with other people outside of their household or support bubble. 

From Friday, September 18, the following additional restrictions also apply to these areas:

  • Hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only A 10pm curfew on pubs, restaurants and other leisure and entertainment venues.
  • The curfew will be in place between 10pm-5am

All of these areas have seen a significant increase in cases, with Sunderland now having an incidence rate of 103 per 100,000 of population. In South Tyneside, Gateshead and Newcastle, this rate is above 70,

Announcing the restrictions, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "I know that these decisions have a real impact on families, on businesses and local communities. And I can tell everyone effected that we do not take these decisions lightly.

"We agree with the local councils that we must follow the data and act. And the data says we must act now so we can control the virus and keep people safe."

"I know that the people of the North East will come together to defeat this virus, as defeat it we must," he added.

A number of other areas have also had their lockdown restrictions extended.

Read up on the rules here.

Brooklyn Museum forced to sell art as it struggles in coronavirus times

The cash-strapped Brooklyn Museum is putting a dozen works up for auction at Christie’s, becoming the first to take advantage of a loosening of the rules on sales during the coronavirus.

Selling off work from a museum, which is known as deaccessioning, to pay for operating costs has long been taboo and has in some instances even incurred sanctions.

The museum, which was forced to close for six months during New York’s lockdown, is selling paintings, including canvases by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, to raise funds for the care of its collection.

Josie Ensor has more on this here.

Lucas Cranach the Elder's Lucretia, which the Brooklyn Museum is selling, is estimate at around $1.8 million Credit: Christies

Czechs struggling with record Covid-19 spike

The Czech Republic is struggling to stem a massive spike in coronavirus infections after clocking a record daily rate of infection on par with neighbouring Germany, which has a population that is eight times larger.

The EU country of 10.7 million people reported on Thursday that it had confirmed 2,139 cases over the last 24 hours.

Ladislav Dusek, head of the Czech Institute of Health Information and Statistics, said the epidemic was no longer spreading within closed clusters. "We are facing a big risk of an exponential spread," Dusek said.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech announced that the government would further tighten measures against the virus - it will close bars and clubs between midnight and 6am and introduce face masks in classrooms for pupils and students over 11.

The recent spike has seen the Czech Republic cut from the so-called "safe countries" lists in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The country has had more than 41,000 confirmed cases since the March outbreak, including 482 deaths, with 35 deaths in the past week alone.

 The medieval Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic Credit: Petr David Josek / AP

Meanwhile in France: residents have an excuse to avoid their in-laws

Gatherings of family are a major source of Covid-19 infections, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday, adding the spread of the disease had accelerated in the last weeks.

"If everyone reduced his number of social contacts, this would help reduce the spread of the virus", he said during a press conference.

Five people out of 100 tested for Covid-19 are today positive, versus one in a 100 at start of summer, Veran also said. 

Unknown contacts a 'big gap' in tracing, Dido Harding admits

Dido Harding is then asked how many contacts are being reached in total, which she says is very hard to estimate because "one of the big gaps in our measurement is people who you have been in contact with who you don't know". 

That is why an app is so important, she says, saying app users will "significantly improve our effectiveness". 

Asked again to put a figure on it, Baroness Harding passes over to Susan Hopkins, CMA on Test and Trace, lists problems with tracing even known contacts, saying "all of this brings the app into sharp focus". 

It will tell another individual if they are at risk and what they should do next, she adds. 

Testing turnaround times just one of many metrics, Dido Harding insists 

Greg Clark then asks more questions, noting that the PM’s target was for 24-hour turnaround, but Dido Harding is quoting next day turnaround. What are the figures for 24-hour turnaround?

Baroness Harding says they focus on next day turnaround. Otherwise they would be giving people results in the middle of the next, she says.

Mr Clark says just a third of people are getting tests in 24 hours, which is an important time because Sage said test results had to be delivered quickly. The sooner they are delivered, the sooner those being tested, and their contacts, can be asked to self-isolate. 

Baroness Harding says she is judged by "quite a lot of metrics", not just turnaround time but how fast they reach contacts and the percentage of contacts reached. 

Dido Harding defends need for 'local and national' Test and Trace system

Asked what National Institute for Health Protection will do better than the agencies it is taking over from, including Public Health England. 

She says Test and Trace, the Joint Biosecurity Centre and PHE have worked well together but "in the space of a few weeks, by knowing our long term future is together it is encouraging professionals... simply to work together more closely."

Over the last few weeks, there has been more broad coverage of the country and more collaborative working, she says. 

She then defends Serco in the face of implied criticism over Test and Trace, saying they have done "a good job".

Prompted, she agrees to go back and find out what she can share in terms of the commercial contracts. 

Challenged over excess "centralised" systems, she says they need both a local and national system. Increasingly the team is seeing "real collaboration between local leadership teams and national testing", she adds. 

Dido Harding challenged over suitability to head up National Institute for Health Protection

Dido Harding is then asked how she became the acting chair of the new body that is taking over from the Public Health England. 

She says she didn't apply to head up the National Institute for Health Protectionbut she wanted to "serve my country". 

Asked if it is right to take the role without open competition, she stresses it is interim and unpaid, but says speed was of the essence. 

She emphasises it is "an enormous consumer, citizens service with huge logistics and data - data analytics and data flow". 

"This is a team effort," she adds

Why haven't all tests been turned around within 24 hours?

Greg Clark says the that the Prime Minister promised in June that there would be 100 per cent turn around within 24 hours.

Dido Harding says that they have mostly delivered 90 per cent next day turn around.

However, Mr Clarke points out that the figure for home test kits is 9 per cent.

Didio Harding says she is quoting figures for in-person tests. Home tests have always taken longer, because kits go into the post. She says they have been prioritising in-person tests because they can be processed more quickly.

Increase in test demand has caused delay in results, Dido Harding admits 

The increase in demand for tests has caused a delay in turnaround time for those who get one, Dido Harding has said. 

The Test and Trace chief told the Science and Tech Committee that there had been an increase in the time taken to get test results "in the last week or so". 

This is because "very consciously, where we have seen a significant increase in demand, we have made use of every single day of the seven days of lab capacity to maximise capacity," she said. 

"What that has meant is for some people turnaround times have gone out a bit."

But when capacity increases again that will go initially "not to more people being tested to actually to seeing those turnaround times reduced," she said. "It is a balancing act."

Government committed to weekly tests for care home workers, says Dido Harding

Challenged by Labour MP Dawn Butler about total tests not reaching capacity, Dido Harding suggests the labs have run at "more than 100 per cent" for the last couple of days, but she says she is concerned about this. 

Ms Butler then asks if taxpayers are charged for "voided tests". Baroness Harding says she can't confirm that because they are still "working through" the details with the company Randox. 

Asked what was wrong with the tests, Baroness Harding repeats that it is work that is still underway. Asked what Owen Paterson does for Randox, Baroness Harding says it is a question for him. 

Asked about the risk of asymptomatic transmission, she says that is "exactly why our second priority is care homes... because we have learned from the last nine months how this disease attacks the elderly."

"Care home workers receive tests once a week today... the Government is very committed to maintaining that programme," she adds. 

London tests being cut because of 'lower prevalence' in capital, says Dido Harding

Dido Harding is then quizzed by Mark Logan, Conservative MP Bolton North East, about testing in regions like his that are suffering outbreaks. 

She says that while the  average testing is being carried out at a level of 100 per 100,000 outbreak areas are two-to-three times that level. 

Capacity constraints aren't in the testing sites but in the lab which is tests have to be restricted in person. 

However she tells him Test and Trace is on track to have 500 different testing locations by end of October. 

Asked if redirecting resources to outbreak areas means a cut in London's capacity, she says the capital has had 10,000 tests a day, saying "over the last few weeks, London has seen the absolute number of tests come down precisely because London has a lower prevalence" than Bolton and other parts of the North. 

Dido Harding: No one expected current spike in demand for tests

Greg Clark asks if the second wave has come earlier than expected. 

Dido Harding says "I don't think anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand we have seen over the last few weeks - none of the modelling was that expected.

She says people should "think really hard" about whether they need a test, and refers back to the officially recognised symptoms. "We are all going to have to play a part," she adds. 

Mr Clark says soon people with symptoms won't be able to get a test, but Baroness Harding says Test and Trace is "very clear" on priorities list: firstly NHS patients, then care home residents who are being tested even without symptoms and NHS staff. 

Roughly half of the testing capacity goes to those three groups, she says. 

After that outbreak areas are given additional testing, and beyond that the "broad general public" where key workers, particularly teachers, will be prioritised. 

Dido Harding challenged over winter capacity

Dido Harding says more tests will be needed as we go past October, but says the new labs won't be on stream by that time. 

Greg Clark asks if the 500,000 target will be where demand is by that time, but she doesn't answer the question. Instead she says demand is already outstripping supply and says it must be "protected for those who most need it". 

Mr Clark then says the number of people who demonstrate Covid-like symptoms in a normal winter is 500,000 so the tests won't address the additional numbers. 

"We have plans to go beyond 500,000 a day, and announced new labs today that will address that," Baroness Harding says. 

This is based on "clinical and scientific modelling" of what is required in a winter season, she says. 

Dido Harding blames Sage model for testing capacity shortfall 

Greg Clark tells Dido Harding it is "dispiriting" that capacity hasn't been built sufficiently during the summer. 

The Test and Trace boss says it "has not been a quiet summer", arguing capacity has doubled and is on track to double again by the end of October. 

Mr Clark argues back that they have not prepared for the increase in demand that was required and asks why it wasn't done in time for September. 

Baroness Harding says she understands people's frustrations, "We built our testing capacity plans based on Sage modelling," she adds. "Today we have more tests per 100,000 population than any other country in Europe."

"We built our capacity plans based on Sage modelling, based on what we should be preparing for in the autumn," she adds. 

27 per cent of people booking tests without symptoms, claims Harding 

The UK's testing system has swamped by people booking coronavirus tests despite not having symptoms, Baroness Harding told MPs

A survey of 24,000 people across 25 regional and local testing sites between the September 1 to 4 found that around 27 per cent of people had booked in for a Covid-19 test because they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus, not because they had symptoms.

Greg Clark points out that in order to be allocated a test people must self-report one of three symptoms, does this mean 27 per cent of people are lying?

"I am not," says Baroness Harding. "Some people will just be booking tests and walking up because they are worried, because a family member or a colleague has tested positive and it is completely understandable."

"But we do have a significant amount of people coming forward for a test who do not have symptoms."

But Mr Clark argues this could have happened at any time, why has there been an increase now? 

Baroness Harding says there has been a doubling in seeking tests for children under 17, and more than that in children between five and nine years old. 

They planned for demand to rise, but "plainly we don't have enough testing capacity today and we are doing everything we can to increase that capacity."

Demand for tests 'three to four times' higher than capacity, Dido Harding says 

Greg Clark kicks off his session with Dido Harding asking her about test capacity, which she confirms is 242,817 tests per day. 

The data is being published 4pm today, she says. Data is being validated before being published, she adds,which is why . 

This is total capacity, she adds and breaks it down by NHS capacity - pillar one - which is 82,817 across the UK, while pillar two is 160,000. 

Mr Clark is trying to understand why data hasn't been published daily throughout the summer, which she says is just down to them trying to ensure it is accurate. 

Asked about current demand, Baroness Harding says there is "significantly more" than capacity. Based on calls and visits to website it is "three to four times" capacity, she adds, but stresses there are duplicates with people calling multiple times. 

The number of symptomatic people "will be significantly lower than that", she adds. 

Stories of testing centre chaos emerge from London

A Covid-19 testing centre in London was in a state of "absolute pandemonium", according to a patient who said he was turned away.

Henry Bull, 29, said he cycled around five miles from his home in Peckham to his nearest testing site in Lewisham after booking an appointment online because he had a cough.

"I biked down there for about 10, 15 minutes before my appointment time and there was just absolute pandemonium, chaos," he told the PA news agency.

"The entire junction is gridlocked with cars queuing to get into it, loads of car drivers getting out and shouting at each other to move out of the way. Meanwhile, once you actually get to the site, nobody has received the QR code that you have to have to get tested.

"Lots of very angry people, lots of exasperated people shouting at each other and shouting at the staff who are doing their best, but they don't really know what's happening either. A pretty horrible, stressful situation all round to be honest, lots of very upset people, presumably several of whom have Covid as well so exposing a lot of us to infection."

Mr Bull, who works in advertising, said one woman - who had a child in the back of her car and had been queuing for four hours - burst into tears when she was told they would not be seen.

More than 200 virus cases found at Lebanon's biggest prison

Lebanon's largest prison has more than 200 coronavirus cases, the head of the country's doctors' union warned Thursday, calling for speedy trials to ease overcrowding.

"There are more than 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Roumieh prison," Sharaf Abu Sharaf told journalists in Beirut, after authorities first announced 22 cases at the weekend.

Abu Sharaf did not specify whether the new cases were all inmates or if they also included prison guards.

But he blamed prisoners for the spike in infections, saying they were not abiding by health measures.

He also called on authorities to speed up trials to ease overcrowding, in a country where suspects can languish in jail for months without a hearing.

Roumieh prison houses more than 4,000 prisoners, around three times its intended capacity, and has long been infamous for its poor conditions.

A video leaked from the prison and shared widely across social media on Wednesday showed nearly 100 inmates demanding immediate measures to ease overcrowding in light of the virus outbreak.

Are coronavirus cases rising or falling in your area? 

Type in your postcode in the tool below to find out how many cases there have been in your local area.

Coming up: head of Test and Trace Baroness Harding faces questions from MPs

Dido Harding will shortly be giving evidence to the Science and Technology committee, chaired by Greg Clark - one of many Conservative MPs to grill Boris Johnson yesterday. 

Baroness Harding heads up Test and Trace, something Mr Clark, the former business secretary, has made a central pillar to his scrutiny of the response to the pandemic. 

She is likely to come under criticism for the failings in the system which has led to mass shortages in test capacity, while the tracing component of the system still has yet to take off. 

We'll bring you live updates here.

Patients will be asked to call NHS 111 to book A&E appointments

NHS 111 will be the new "front door" for Accident and Emergency in order to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed this winter, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary has said. 

Patients will be told to book appointments at casualty units in advance using the website and phone line in a bid to reduce the pressures on hospitals. They will be instructed to use the service as the "first point of call" for urgent medical care unless their situation is life-threatening.

A public communications campaign, called "Help Us Help You", will be launched later this year to direct people to the correct NHS service.

People will not be turned away if they go to A&E without contacting NHS 111, but will be warned that they may have to wait longer than other patients with similar health problems who had booked in via the 111 service.

More on this here.

Bahrain’s Crown Prince joins Covid-19 vaccine trial

Bahrain’s Crown Prince has become one of the first royal to join a vaccine trial for Covid-19.

Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa received a jab on Thursday as part of a clinical trial being run in conjunction with Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare.

The trial vaccine is being produced by Chinese company Sinopharm, which has started a third phase of its production. The trial involves injecting up to 6,000 volunteers to study the effectiveness of antibody production and whether any clinical protection against Covid 19 is produced.

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa volunteers in the phase lll clinical trial of the coronavirus disease Credit:  BAHRAIN NEW AGENCY / Reuters

Only 14 per cent of England Covid-19 tests results returned in 24 hours

Only 14 per cent of coronavirus test results in England came back within 24 hours last week, a sharp fall from the week before, according to data on Thursday that adds to pressure on a government fending off criticism that its strategy is collapsing.

The British government been dealt a slew of criticism over the buckling of its promised "world-beating" system to test and trace coronavirus cases, meant to protect the country from a second wave of infection as schools reopened this month.

Government ministers have acknowledged that families are unable to get tests or being offered them only at remote locations. The new data, revealed on Thursday, showed that the arrival of test results has also sharply slowed.

The Government's Test and Trace scheme said there had been a 167 per cent increase in the number of new people testing positive for Covid-19 in England since the end of August.

Only 14.3 per cent of test results from all sites were received within 24 hours, compared to 32 per cent the previous week.

More than 170 countries now part of WHO vaccine distribution plan

World Health Organization chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said there are now more than 170 countries participating in its plan to distribute vaccines fairly around the world.

Ahead of a Friday deadline for entry to its Covax vaccine facility, the WHO director-general said in remarks reported by Reuters that more than 170 countries had joined, “gaining guaranteed access to the world’s largest portfolio of vaccine candidates”.

“We already face challenges with vaccine acceptance for many proven vaccines,” he said. “We cannot risk having an effective vaccine for Covid-19 that people refuse because of the perception that it is unsafe.”

And he noted: “The first vaccine to be approved may not be the best. The more shots on goal we have, the higher the chances of having a very safe, very efficacious vaccine.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO chief Credit:  FABRICE COFFRINI  / AFP

14-day quarantine period should remain in place, warns WHO

The 14-day quarantine period is a “conservative estimate” of how long people may be infectious, a leading World Health Organization figure has said, as he warned European countries to follow the science when considering reducing it. 

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, cautioned that “the concept of quarantine must be protected”, and urged countries to use scientific due process as they explore “safe reduction options”. 

Europe has a “very serious situation unfolding”, he said, as weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first began in March.

Georgina Hayes has more on this here.

Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO's regional director for Europe Credit:  ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP

John Ashworth: It's become 'trace a test' not Test and Trace

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth challenged Matt Hancock over coronavirus testing, pointing out that Hancock did not cover testing in his statement. 

"Back in May he stood at the dispatch box and told this house that everyone aged five and over is now eligible for a test...yet four months later for the British people it has become not so much Test and Trace, but more like trace a test", said Ashworth.

He said in his Commons statement on Tuesday Hancock quoted many figures for the number of tests being carried out in MPs’ constituencies. But those figures were no comfort to people being asked to travel miles for a test.

D-Day for Ireland, Denmark and Slovenia as quarantine decision looms 

Rising case rates in Ireland, Denmark and Slovenia could see the three countries removed from the UK's quarantine-free travel list today.

The Government reviews its controversial policy every Thursday, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announcing any changes to the list of approved travel corridors at 5pm on Twitter.

Denmark, where the seven-day Covid case rate has reached 38.4 per 100,000 residents (higher than the UK figure of 32.6), appears most at risk, but holidaymakers in Slovenia, where the rate is 31, should also be on high alert. Ireland, where it is 30.3, could also be removed, although it is already forcing any UK arrivals to self-isolate for two weeks so few British holidaymakers are likely to be in the country right now. 

When a nation is removed from the travel corridors list, Britons are given until 4am the following Saturday to return to UK soil or face a 14-day quarantine. 

As a rule of thumb, the Government gets nervous when a country's seven-day case rate exceeds 20 per 100,000. However, with the UK rate rising above that in recent weeks, it appears to be showing a little more leniency. 

While we wait for the latest decisions to come through, check out our travel live blog for the latest updates.

Could Denmark be the next country to lose its travel corridor? Credit:  HAGENS WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY

We want to hear from you

Have you recently tried to get a Covid-19 test? Still waiting for results? We want to hear from you.

Get in touch with us at [email protected] and your response may be featured in a Telegraph article.

Credit:  DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS  /AFP

Dutch coronavirus cases hit record daily high

The number of new coronavirus cases in the Netherlands hit a record high for the third consecutive day on Thursday at 1,753, data released by national health authorities showed.

Total infections increased to 88,073. On Wednesday, 1,542 new infections were confirmed. 

NHS deputy chief 'deeply concerned' with rise in positive cases

Commenting on the rise in positive Covid-19 cases recorded in England, NHS Providers, which represents NHS trust leaders, said the country was "a long way off where we need to be with testing".

Deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said the 75 per cent jump in positive cases recorded in the week to September 9 left the organisation "deeply concerned".

"As not everyone is able to access a test, the actual number of cases may well be higher than the figures show," she warned.

She also expressed concerns over the drop in test result turnaround times and the Test and Trace system "falling well short" of reaching a target of 80 per cent of the close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19.

Ms Cordery added:

"Trust leaders are increasingly concerned with the current testing shortages impacting on NHS service recovery and winter preparations due to staff and their family members being unable to access a test resulting in increasing NHS staff absences."Additionally, with the number of positive Covid-19 cases increasing, but a reduction in the proportion being contact traced, we are looking at renewed pressure on the NHS. Trust leaders are concerned that they do not have the detail on why there are shortages, how widespread they are or how long they will last. We are a long way off where we need to be with testing."

Nicola Sturgeon devising different lockdown rules 'for the sake of it', says Scottish Secretary

Nicola Sturgeon should stop devising different lockdown rules from Boris Johnson "for the sake of it" as they have not led to lower Covid rates north of the Border, the Scottish Secretary has said.

Alister Jack told a Commons select committee that "we should have clear, simple messaging UK-wide" but Ms Sturgeon has persisted with a separate set of guidelines despite them sowing public confusion and failing to produce any better results.

Accusing her of undermining UK-wide efforts to tackle the virus, he said the First Minister's repeated claim that the virus was five times as prevalent in England than Scotland was "totally untrue, totally unhelpful."

Our Scottish editor Simon Johnson has more on this here.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Credit: Jeff J Mitchell / Getty 

Staff at overstretched French coronavirus testing centres strike over 'war-like' conditions

Staff at many of France’s overstretched coronavirus testing centres went on strike on Thursday in protest against low pay and working conditions that some compared to a war zone.

The one-day stoppage risked further disrupting a Covid-19 testing system already under severe stress.

Queues outside private laboratories, which carry out most of the 1.2 million tests currently being done weekly in France, stretched for several blocks from early morning.

The French health service covers the cost of tests and anyone is eligible to be tested, even without symptoms.   

David Chazan has more on the story here.

A French doctor holds a test tube after administering a nasal swab  Credit: Reuters

Testing failures aren't 'just chaotic, it is dangerous', says Labour MP

Senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper raised the case of a constituent, who works in the NHS, who was unable to get a test for her husband.

The Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford MP added:

"She's since developed symptoms herself. Neither of them has been tested, neither of them is therefore in the tracing system so there's no follow-up to prevent other people getting the virus as well."This isn't just chaotic, it is dangerous."The Government knew there would be a huge increase in demand for testing when the schools went back and when he was encouraging people to go back to work, yet since mid-July testing capacity has only gone up by 10% and the number of cases has gone up by 400 per cent."

Responding, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We are increasing that capacity and I said it's at record levels.

"When it comes to her constituents firstly those who work in the NHS are eligible to get tests through the NHS pillar one system but all those who have symptoms of coronavirus and think they may have symptoms of coronavirus, it's very important that they self-isolate."

No additional restrictions for London for now, says PM's spokesperson

Britain does not plan any additional restrictions for London at the moment.

But people should abide by the new "rule of six", a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said on Thursday, when asked whether a curfew might be brought in.

Military planners involved in setting up testing centres, Hancock says

Matt Hancock told MPs today that "military planners" are involved in setting up testing centres in areas with high infection rates.

Labour's Rachael Maskell said: "What discussions has the Health Secretary had with his colleague in Defence about strategic planning? Because it seems that his department are incapable of planning for this virus."

Mr Hancock replied: "We of course do have to ensure that the provision of the testing centres is where the virus is most virulent and so, actually, we do have military planners involved in that process and it is a very important process to get right."

Rees-Mogg criticises Labour for 'endless carping' about unavailability of tests

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, has taken a more confrontational approach to addressing complaints about the unavailability of tests.

In response criticism of testing from Labour’s Valerie Vaz, Rees-Mogg said:

We all have an obligation to try and stop the dangerous disease spreading, but the issue of testing is one where we have gone from a disease that nobody knew about a few months ago to one where nearly a quarter of a million people a day can be tested.And the prime minister is expecting that to go up to half a million people a day by the end of October.And instead of this endless carping, saying it is difficult to get them, we should actually celebrate the phenomenal success of the British nation in getting up to a quarter of a million tests of a disease that nobody knew about until earlier in the year.

In the Commons a few minutes ago the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, asked Hancock to condemn what Rees-Mogg said.

In his reply Hancock ignored the point about Rees-Mogg and just told Ms Lucas she should welcome the fact that testing capacity was increasing, and that 3,000 tests were carried out in Brighton last week.

Testing system facing challenges, says Downing Street

Downing Street has said the coronavirus testing system is facing "challenges" after the latest official figures showed a sharp fall in the levels of "in person" test results being returned within 24 hours.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "We accept there are challenges and we accept that we are seeing significant demand for tests at the moment.

"We are obviously working to address those challenges. We will continue to work to enhance testing capacity in the coming weeks."

The spokesman played down suggestions that a nationwide 10pm curfew could be imminent as cases continue to rise.

"We will keep the restrictions under review. We don't want to bring in these kind of measures which is why we have introduced the rule of six and are urging people to abide by it," the spokesman said.

Schools to be sent more testing kits

Back in the commons, Matt Hancock said the intention is to increase the number of testing kits at each school.

Conservative Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) said a school principal had suggested increasing the number of kits from 10 to 30 to better ensure children remain in the classroom.

He asked: "Can (Mr Hancock) confirm to the House whether his department is planning on increasing the number of testing kits which are distributed to educational settings?"

The Health Secretary replied: "Yes, we're looking at exactly that."

Number getting Covid within 24 hours results falls by half in a week, latest figs show

The number of people getting results of Covid tests within 24 hours has halved in just one week, with only one in three receiving them in this time. 

Official figures show that just 33 per cent of those having tests in person got results back within 24 hours, compared with 66.5 per cent in the previous week. 

The national figures showed a 75 per cent rise in positive tests on tests and trace in a week.

A total of 18,371 new people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in the week to September 9, according to the latest Test and Trace figures -  the highest number since the system was launched in May.

Cruise boss backs testing to save industry from 'impossible situation'

The “start-stop” approach to quarantine and travel restrictions is “completely unacceptable” and testing should be introduced, says the managing director of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines.

After voluntarily pausing all cruising in March as the world was grappling with the spread of coronavirus, the UK-based operator has now been forced to cancel all sailings until at least March 2021, hindered by the UK’s quarantine policy leading to a sputtering recovery of travel and government advice against all sea-going cruise travel.

Peter Deer, who has been in his role for just over a year, told The Telegraph that the “start-stop process” of travel corridors has put Fred Olsen in an “impossible situation”.

Benjamin Parker reports. Read more here.

New Zealand enters its worst recession since Great Depression

New Zealand has plunged into recession for the first time in a decade, forcing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to defend her pandemic response ahead of next month’s general election.

The national data agency Stats NZ said the 12.2pc contraction from April to June was “by far the largest” on record, with the country strictly locked down and its borders closed for almost two months. The construction and manufacturing sectors fell particularly sharply.

Ms Ardern rejected opposition accusations that the measures had pushed the economy “off a cliff”, adding that New Zealand’s Covid-19 death toll  – 25 out of a population of five million – compared favourably to other nations. Her aim has been to eliminate the virus altogether rather than only to contain its spread.

"Success for me is saving people's lives, supporting and saving people's businesses, coming out the other side faster, quicker and with more activity," she said. "I back our results."

Lizzie Burden has more on this story here.

Economists predict New Zealand's central bank will introduce negative interest rates in 2021 after GDP lost 12.2pc in the second quarter Credit: DAVID ROWLAND/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

SNP concern at Scottish postcodes used to get Covid tests in England

The Scottish National Party's Philippa Whitford asks if Health Secretary Matt Hancock accepts that cutting test appointments in parts of the UK causes a danger of new outbreaks not being detected at an early enough stage.

She also says there are reports of people in England being encouraged to enter an Aberdeen postcode in order to secure a test.

Does the health secretary accept this could undermine Scotland's contact tracing system?, she asks.

Hancock says the government has always had in place a series of safeguards to prevent this issue.

He says there are more tests in Scotland than the rest of the UK per head of population.

Hancock adds that in Scotland's NHS there is extra testing capacity that needs to be used.

Will private contractor face financial penalties if testing services fail?

Labour’s Stella Creasy asked if the private contractors providing testing services would face a financial penalty for tests being unavailable.

Hancock ignored the question, and just said it was the duty of everyone contributing to the test and trace service to make it work as effectively as possible.

Hancock responds to Ashworth's questions

The purpose of the 111 A&E booking system is to let the team know you are coming, replies Mr Hancock. 

He says there is a plan for care homes to get PPE. Details will be set out shortly in the winter plan for social care.

On testing, Hancock says “of course there’s a challenge in testing”. But capacity is at record levels. The problem is, demand has gone up faster, he says. The House hears clear objections from MPs on this comment.

He says the government has chosen to prioritise care home residents. Of the tests available, more than 100,000 a day are sent to care homes.

Labour should welcome prioritisation for testing, he says.

On contact tracing, Hancock criticises Ashworth for playing “a decisive card” because he was trying to differentiate between public and private. He says the two sides should work together.

Hancock faces grilling from shadow health secretary

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, says the capital investment for A&E departments and the new NHS 111 triage system will be welcome, but asks how the Government will make sure that this new system will not worsen known health inequalities.

 If the new system leads to more people going to GP surgeries, will they get more funding, he asks.

Can Mr Hancock guarantee that care homes will not face the same shortages of PPE that they faced at the start of the pandemic? And does the Health Secretary rule out reimposing nationwide rules on family visits to care homes?

Mr Ashworth points out that Hancock did not cover testing in his statement. Four months ago Hancock said testing for all was established. He promised test and trace. But instead we have ended up with trace a test, he says.

He says in his Commons statement on Tuesday Hancock quoted many figures for the number of tests being carried out in MPs’ constituencies. But those figures were no comfort to people being asked to travel miles for a test.

Who will get priority under the new system? Will care homes and the north east get all the mobile testing units that they request? What about university towns?

When will poor-performing outsourcing firms be stripped of their lucrative public sector contracts?

Ashworth says people made sacrifices during the lockdown. But the government did not honour its side of the bargain. It was meant to deliver a functioning test and trace system, but it failed.

Is the government ruling out a second national lockdown in all circumstances?

Care homes to receive more funding for infection control

The Government is set to extend the Adult Social Care Infections Control Fund for another six month, which will help protect care homes and elderly residents in long term living facilities, Matt Hancock has told MPs.

"One of the worst things we know about this virus is that he reserves its first impact for those who are physically weakest, especially the elderly, he tells MPs. "And so we must do everything in our power to protect residents in social care."

"In May we introduces the Adult Social Care Infections Control Fund, which has helped adults social care providers to reduce the rate of transmission. This was used to fund important measures like improving infection prevention and paying staff to self-isolate," he says.

The fund will now be expended for a further six months and be provided with a further £565 million in funding for providers.

This brings the Government's total funding for infection control in social care to more than £1 billion, he says.

An adult social care winter plan will also be published shortly, Mr Hancock tells MPs.

"We will do whatever is humanly possible to protect our carehomes from this virus so that they are a place of sanctuary this winter," he adds.

Hancock explains how the new A&E booking system will work

The role of NHS 111 will be expanded, he says.

He says people will not be turned away from emergency departments in serious situations. But the government is investing £24m in NHS 11 call handling capacity and it will build on trials to turn it into a gateway for emergency care.

People will be able to use it to make a booking with the appropriate care. That could be a booking with a GP, but it could be a booking for A&E, he says.

Hancock says he wants to improve access to the NHS and that the booking system will let A&E know when people are coming.

It will be rolled out to all Trusts from December, he says.

Winter will be challenging, Hancock tells MP, as he outlines new support for NHS

This winter presents particular challenges, Mr Hancock has told MPs. 

"People will be spending more time indoors than in the summer, where we know that the virus is more likely to spread and we know that we will need to deal with coronavirus along with the usual pressures that that season will bring," he says. 

In preparation, the Health Secretary has announced the following new plans to support the NHS through winter: 

  • A further £2.7 billion has been earmarked for the NHS to help fund additional PPE, testing and help clear the backlog of patients left over from lockdown.
  • In August £300m was announced for emergency upgrades. He says emergency units will be expanded to help hospitals treat more urgent care patients through an additional £150 million funding. The cash investment will target 25 of the most "constrained" departments in the country, including Worcester and the Royal Shrewsbury. 
  • Around £24 million will be invested to increase NHS 111 emergency call handling capacity to reduce the burden on A&E departments.

Health Secretary announces new restrictions for north east England

From tomorrow in residents in Northumberland, north Tyneside, south Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham will not be allowed to socialise with other people outside of their household or support bubble, Matt Hancock has announced. 

Hospitality for food and drink will be restricted to table service only and late night restrictions of operating hours will have a 10pm curfew. 

"I know that these decisions have a real impact on families, on businesses and local communities," says Mr Hancock. "And I can tell everyone effected that we do not take these decisions lightly."

"We agree with the local councils that we must follow the data and act. And the data says we must act now so we can control the virus and keep people safe." 

"I know that the people of the North East will come together to defeat this virus, as defeat it we must," he adds.

Continuing to see a concerning rise in cases, Hancock tells MPs

Matt Hancock opened his address to MPs today by saying: “We’re continuing to see a concerning rise in cases, with 3,991 new cases recorded yesterday. “

“This week the number of cases in mechanical ventilation beds has risen above 100 for the first time since July. 

“The battle against coronavirus is not over… with winter on the horizon we must prepare and bolster our defences against this common foe,” he says. 

Coming up: Hancock announces more Covid restrictions for England

We'll bring you live updates. Watch live here: 

150 million additional children plunged into poverty due to coronavirus

The number of children living in multidimensional poverty has soared to approximately 1.2 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Unicef and Save the Children analysis published today.

This is a 15 per cent increase in the number of children living in deprivation in low- and middle-income countries, or an additional 150 million children since the pandemic hit earlier this year.

The multidimensional poverty analysis uses data on access to education, healthcare, housing, nutrition, sanitation and water from more than 70 countries. It highlights that around 45 per cent of children were severely deprived of at least one of these critical needs in the countries analyzed before the pandemic.

Although the analysis paints a dire picture already, Unicef warns the situation will likely worsen in the months to come.

“Covid-19 and the lockdown measures imposed to prevent its spread have pushed millions of children deeper into poverty,” said Henrietta Fore, Unicef Executive Director. “Families on the cusp of escaping poverty have been pulled back in, while others are experiencing levels of deprivation they have never seen before. Most concerningly, we are closer to the beginning of this crisis than its end.”

New analysis reveals the number of children living in multidimensional poverty – without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water – has increased by 15 per cent since the start of the pandemic Credit: DIPTENDU DUTTA  / AFP

Covid-19 cases rise by more than 18,000 in England

A total of 18,371 new people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in the week to September 9, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

This is an increase of 75 per cent in positive cases on the previous week, and is the highest weekly number since Test and Trace was launched at the end of May.

Coronavirus 'major incident' declared in North Yorkshire

A "major incident" has been declared by officials in North Yorkshire following a "surge" in coronavirus cases in the past fortnight, the BBC has reported. 

North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (NYLRF) said it was reinstating "full emergency mode".

The body, which is made up of representatives from the police and local authorities, said Harrogate and Selby were of particular concern.

Parts of Craven and Scarborough have also seen a sharp rise in cases.

Dr Lincoln Sargeant, the county's director of public health, said there were one to two new cases per day at the end of July, but he told a meeting there were now about 20 new cases per day.

Richard Flinton, chair of NYLRF, said:

"We are seeing community transmission of the virus now and a worrying rise in cases in a number of areas.

"We know how quickly infection rates can change and we are calling on the whole county to act now with us in response," he added.

Measures to be introduced include people being encouraged to wear face masks whenever they leave home, and dedicated police patrols targeting those breaking social distancing rules.

'Our politicians didn't listen to pandemic warnings - then a devilish disease hit'

Professor Jeffrey Sachs is an economist, UN adviser and expert on sustainable development and the fight against poverty. He is now chair of the Lancet Covid-19 Commission - a wide ranging inquiry into the causes of the pandemic and future solutions.

Here he talks to The Telegraph about the failure of the West to respond to the pandemic, the politicalisation of the origins of the virus and why lockdown alone was never going to suppress Covid. An extract is below - you can read the full Q&A here.

How might we prevent future spillover events? 

The striking points in that regard are the following: first, experts have been saying for years that new epidemics were coming. 

This point is absolutely pertinent - our politicians don't listen very well, our systems don't listen very well to this kind of warning. We're going to have more of these events and that means being much more prepared on surveillance and early detection.

Second, we have learned that even though this is a devilish virus, it is controllable. Around two billion people live in countries that have substantially suppressed the virus. They've been able to do that, primarily because of public health means and especially non pharmaceutical interventions.

Labour MPs representing north-east England call for further information on new restrictions

Labour MPs representing north-east England seats called for further information from Matt Hancock on the measures being taken.

They requested "urgent clarification on a number of key issues" around interventions being planned in Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland and County Durham.

The letter, signed by 15 Labour MPs, asked whether household-level information and contact tracing data will be available to local authorities and what extra testing capacity would be put in to the region.

"We agree that restrictions must be put in place in order to protect public health, and prevent the further spread of Covid-19, and we support measures taken in order to save lives," the MPs said.

"We do, however, believe that this must be done in close collaboration with local authorities, who must have access to all appropriate information, data and support in order to make the best decisions for their areas."

The letter was sent by Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott and signed by colleagues including shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Bridget Phillipson and shadow science minister Chi Onwurah.

Covid-19 cases up 167 per cent in England since end of August

There has been an 167 per cent increase in the number of new people testing positive for Covid-19 in England, the National Health Service's test and trace scheme said on Thursday.

The scheme said positive cases have been rising since the start of July and are now double the number recorded when Test and Trace launched in May. 

More than 9.7m people in UK set to be under local restrictions

Restrictions reported to come into effect in the north-east tonight and those announced for Rhondda Cynon Taf in Wales will bring an additional 2.2m people under some form of local lockdown.

This adds to the 7.5m people already contending with regional lockdowns and means one in seven people in the UK - assuming no other areas have lockdowns restrictions removed - will be under local restrictions.

More than 7 million people in England - one in eight - will be under local lockdown by the week’s end as will 422,000 people in Wales or 13.4 per cent of people living in the country. 

Bill de Blasio furloughs himself

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has announced he will furlough almost 500 members of his staff, including himself and his wife, for one week in an effort to close a huge budget deficit that has emerged from the coronavirus lockdown.

All 495 people who work for Mr de Blasio at City Hall will take a week of unpaid leave at some point between October 2020 and March 2021, according to reporting from the New York Times.

The economic shutdown has led to the city suffering a $9bn (£6.9bn) loss of revenue, leading to a $7bn (£5.4bn) cut in the city’s annual budget. 

While the furlough scheme will only save about $860,000 (£663,000), Mr de Blasio says it has a symbolic purpose of demonstrating willingness to make personal sacrifices. The mayor is currently locked in negotiations with labour unions over payroll savings.

Marcus Parekh has the story here.

Mr de Blasio announced that all of his staff, including his wife and himself, must take a week of unpaid leave Credit:  John Minchillo  / AP

Public approval of Government's pandemic response falls to lowest level yet

Public approval of the Government's handling of the pandemic has fallen to the lowest level yet, amid a growing crisis over lack of coronavirus test capacity. 

The net approval score for Boris Johnson's team has dropped to -33, down from -18 last week, YouGov said. The previous lowest net approval was -21, recorded in mid-August. The highest ever score was +51, recorded at the end of March.

Last week some 63 per cent of people said the Government had done a bad job, up eight per cent on the previous week, while  just 30 said ministers have done a good job, down seven per cent. 

More than two-thirds of Britons - 70 per cent - say the national coronavirus situation is getting worse; just 14 per cent say it is getting better.

‘If people stick to the rules we don’t need to see a national lockdown’ says health minister

South Africa lifts ban on international travel as coronavirus cases plummet

South Africa is to open its borders to international travellers from the beginning of next month as the country’s coronavirus cases continue to fall. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa lifted bans on international travel late on Wednesday and said the three main airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban will re-open on October 1. 

But he said that incoming international travellers would have to carry Covid-19 test results that were no more than 72 hours old.

Peta Thornycroft has more on this story here.

London Mayor asks Health Secretary for action on testing 'chaos and confusion'

Sadiq Khan has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for action on the coronavirus testing "chaos and confusion".

The Labour mayor told London Assembly Members: "This is a critical moment in the fight against Covid-19. Many Londoners are being told there are no testing sites available in London.

"The delays are preventing frontline workers from being able to do their jobs, and children are being kept away from their classrooms unnecessarily.

"This failure is putting lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. We've known for months now that come the autumn demand for testing would increase. This crunch point should have been foreseen, and then avoided.

"And unless the Government massively ramps up testing capacity in London we'll be back to where we started: trying to halt the spread of the virus in the dark.

"Nothing is more important than a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system if we are to prevent a devastating second wave, and time is fast running out. "

John Lewis to axe staff bonus after slumping to loss

John Lewis Partnership is to axe its famous staff bonus for the first time in more than 60 years after slumping to a loss for the first half of the year. 

Dame Sharon White, boss of the employee-owned retailer, warned it was on course to make “a small loss or a small profit for the year” after coronavirus ravaged sales at its department store chain.

It is the first time since 1953 that John Lewis has not paid out a proportion of profits to staff. 

Read the full story here.

P&O Cruises extends suspension of sailings until early next year

The UK's largest cruise line said the decision was taken due to "evolving restrictions on travel". It had previously cancelled sailings until November 12.

President Paul Ludlow said: "With evolving restrictions on travel from the UK, unfortunately it is necessary to cancel these itineraries.

"These further cancellations vary according to ship as well as complexity and length of itineraries, advice and guidance regarding ports of call and current air availability for fly/cruises.

"We are continuing to monitor the overall situation closely and will certainly reintroduce cruises should the opportunity arise and it is feasible to do so."

Delusional Covid 'suppression' strategy has sent us into a downward spiral

"The experts are correct. Routine mass testing is the ideal way to prevent a second wave while keeping the economy going. But it is reckless to pretend that, as things stand, it is realistic," writes Telegraph columnist Sherelle Jacobs.

"In a perfect world, the Government would have stimulated the market for Covid detection right at the start of this crisis, allowing firms to stay open provided they rapidly identified cases. At the same time, ministers would have provided juicy subsidies to private testing companies.

"This could have triggered huge investment followed by huge innovation, with tests becoming faster and more accurate. We may then have been much closer to that sweet spot of routinely mass testing the entire population every five days to keep the R number stable."

Read the full column here.

Revenge porn helpline surge in calls during lockdown

The UK's revenge porn helpline has dealt with more cases so far this year than it did during the whole of 2019, amid fears of a post-lockdown "new normal".

Some 2,050 reports of so-called revenge porn had been made to the Government-funded helpline as of Monday.

This represents a 22% rise on the 1,685 reports over 2019 and its busiest year on record.

The helpline, run by the charity SWGfL, part of the UK Safer Internet Centre, saw cases almost double in April compared to the same month the previous year - from 122 to 242.

Advisers thought this spike may settle, but despite the coronavirus lockdown easing, cases have remained high through to August.

Face masks could be giving people Covid-19 immunity, researchers suggest

Face masks may be inadvertently giving people Covid-19 immunity and making them get less sick from the virus, academics have suggested in one of the most respected medical journals in the world. 

The commentary, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, advances the unproven but promising theory that universal face mask wearing might be helping to reduce the severity of the virus and ensuring that a greater proportion of new infections are asymptomatic. 

If this hypothesis is borne out, the academics argue, then universal mask-wearing could become a form of variolation (inoculation) that would generate immunity and “thereby slow the spread of the virus in the United States and elsewhere” as the world awaits a vaccine.

Read the full story here.

Southampton boat shows cancelled

Two boat shows in Southampton were cancelled at the last minute despite council officers only asking for one change to the site set-up, the organisers have said.

British Marine, which had organised the scaled-down version of the Southampton International Boat Show, has confirmed an appeal against the decision to shut down the event has been unsuccessful.

They had asked the Secretaries of State for Public Health and Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to review the decision made by Southampton City Council.

Staff put up screens after the event was cancelled Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

The Boats2020 event and accompanying Ocean Village Boat Show - both set to run from September 11 to 20 - were cancelled by order of the local authority on the eve of the event.

The annual Southampton International Boat Show, which has been held for more than 50 years and last year saw 100,000 visitors, was postponed because of the pandemic and replaced with the smaller events which were expected to pull in 20,000 people over the 10 days.

Health minister: Second national lockdown not necessary 

Edward Argar said the Government believes the rise in coronavirus cases can be controlled through local measures.

"We saw in Leicester it worked, we saw those rates come right down - it does work and it does control it at a local level," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"I don't think we are at a place where we would wish to see or need to see a national level of restrictions."

Mr Argar said that while the Government was "ramping up" testing capacity as cases rose, it would need to prioritise key workers.

"We will see this in the next few days, the official guidance coming out that will prioritise frontline NHS care workers, teachers and similar," he said.

"It is possible that there are people with symptoms who apply for a test who have to wait longer because we are prioritising those key frontline workers we need to keep our NHS and care system working."

Eating indoors without masks is not safe, claims US scientist

Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said eating and drinking indoors without wearing a mask is risky as the virus can travel through the air.

"Aerosol transmission is very real risk - this is why the six feet rule is not enough if rooms are not super ventilated," he said. 

He posted the below videos to his social media, which he says explains how the virus spreads indoors and how to keep air clear in rooms.

Second lockdown would be a mistake, says Oxford University professor

Dr Adam Kucharski, of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who advises Sage on modelling the virus, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think we're seeing some troubling early signals - we're obviously not at the point where that's translating into a substantial burden on healthcare, although we are seeing things creep up.

"I think we are getting to a point where we're potentially losing our ability to actively track the virus. That means we could have a situation where we start seeing more severe cases appear and we don't have good warning of that."

However, Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, argued that the key is knowing who is symptomatic and said a two-week lockdown would be a mistake as it "delays the inevitable" and pushes the emergence of cases into winter.

"The language of 'out of control', 'need more testing' and 'this is terrible' needs to be dialled back," he said.

"Our huge problem is we're losing the trust of the population. What we have to do is slow down our thinking, pause and start to be more analytical about the steps we take because as we're rushing, like with test and trace, we're falling over.

"At some point, the Government and its advisers are going to have to start to realise that this infection is endemic and set a clear objective, which is missing at the moment. If we don't accept it's endemic, we aren't protecting those who are most vulnerable."

‘Man-made’ antibody cuts risk of hospitalisation by 70pc

A single dose of a man-made antibody has been found to cut the risk of patients being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 by more than 70 per cent, a small study has found.

The therapy - called monoclonal or neutralising antibodies - is the first treatment to be specifically designed for Covid-19 and experts are excited about its potential.

The findings were released by drug firm Eli Lilly but were not published in a peer-reviewed journal and full trial data have not yet been released.

According to the US-based firm, 452 newly diagnosed patients received either the monoclonal antibody or a placebo infusion.

Some 1.7 per cent of those who received the monoclonal antibody were hospitalised compared to six per cent of those who received the placebo - a 72 per cent reduction in risk.

Read the full story here.

Office staff 'face work from home order if coronavirus cases keep rising'

Office staff will be given a "work from home" order within a fortnight if the "rule of six" fails to bring down coronavirus infection rates, ministers have been warned.

The current shortage of Covid-19 tests means employers will have no choice but to send more workers home, undermining the already weak economic recovery, business leaders said.

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.

Read the full story here.

Health Minister plays down second national lockdown 

Edward Argar has played down reports that the Government is considering a two-week national lockdown as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

"It is not something I have seen within the department," he told Sky News.

"The Prime Minister has been very clear on this. He doesn't want to see another national lockdown. He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work."

With further lockdowns expected to be announced in North East England, Mr Argar said the region was seeing a spike in cases similar to that in the North West.

"In the North East we are seeing a spike in infections. It is exactly what we have seen in the North West. We monitor that rate. Where we need to, we step in and take action," he said.

Symptom tracker app developer: Don't ask for test if you're sneezing and have runny nose

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, developed the Covid-19 symptom tracker app, which is being used by around four million people.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that 80 per cent of people in all age groups who reported their symptoms in the first week had severe headaches and tiredness or fatigue.

Losing sense of smell is quite uncommon in older people and children and the immune system can react differently in people of varying ages, he said.  

However, runny nose, congestion and sneezing are symptoms which are not associated with Covid-19 and are more likely to be a common cold, he said.  

"We have 6,500 new cases every day, which on a countrywide basis is still very small, so the chances are most people don't have Covid-19," he said.

"We have to start thinking about ways to exclude it rather than going on these standard criteria.  

"Don't overburden the system by trying to get a test. By all means keep your child at home, but don't rush around the country trying to get a test for something that is highly likely to be a cold and not Covid-19."

Schools draw up plans to go part-time if testing chaos continues

Headteachers have said that unless the Government can get a grip on the testing system, they will need to instigate rota systems where pupils are taught on two weeks on, two weeks off basis.

Education leaders warned the Prime Minister that nearly every school in the country is struggling to access tests for students and staff.

Secondary schools should only move to a rota system if cases are rising in a local area and “all other measures have been exhausted”, according to official contingency planning advice published by The Department for Education.

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said that teachers may be forced to put the rota plans in place sooner rather than later. 

Read the full story here.

'Tough' restrictions necessary to 'protect' Christmas, insists PM

Boris Johnson has warned actions to stop a second surge of coronavirus must be "tough now" in order to "protect" Christmas.

His words came as stricter new measures are expected to be announced for the North East of England, where cases are on the rise - including a reported curfew on pubs.

The PM said people have to be "both confident and cautious" and that it is "crucial" the country does not re-enter "some great lockdown again that stops business from functioning".

"Christmas we want to protect, and we want everyone to have a fantastic Christmas," he said.

"But the only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now.

"So if we can grip it now, stop the surge, arrest the spike, stop the second hump of the dromedary, flatten the second hump."

North East temporary restrictions to prevent full lockdown

The North East looks set to become the latest area in England to come under local restrictions as coronavirus cases rise.

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes said "additional, temporary" measures are being planned to prevent another full lockdown.

He said he expected Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make an announcement on Thursday morning.

The Chronicle Live website reported that measures would include a 10pm curfew on pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises.

It also said people will be banned from socialising with anyone outside their household

Other restrictions it said were due to be announced but had not yet been confirmed include people being told not to go on holiday with different households and spectators advised not to attend sporting venues.

It said care home visits will be restricted to essential visitors, and people will be advised to avoid public transport at peak times except for essential journeys, and to avoid car-shares.

Wales local lockdown after rise in cases

A local lockdown will be enforced in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area of south Wales following a "rapid rise" in Covid-19 cases, the Welsh Government has confirmed.

Under the new restrictions, which come into force at 6pm on Thursday, people must not enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse.

Meetings with other people indoors will not be allowed, including for extended households.

All licensed pubs, bars and restaurants in the area, which has a population of around 240,000, will have to close at 11pm.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said the lockdown followed two "significant" clusters of Covid-19 cases in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area.

 £546m care homes rescue package for winter

The Prime Minister has announced he will unveil a rescue package of £546 million to protect care homes from the threat of Covid-19 during the winter.

The funds will be used to ensure staff are limited to working in one home and compensated for any reduced hours, said Boris Johnson.

Care home workers will also be given financial support to ensure they have sufficient personal protective equipment and are able to minimise their use of public transport.

"Be in no doubt we're going to do absolutely all we can to stop the spread in care homes," he said.

"And I'm afraid it's an incredibly difficult thing, but we are going to have to place some restrictions on people, visitors being able to go into care homes."

Don't snitch on neighbours, says PM

Members of the public should not report their neighbours for breaching the the 'rule of six' unless they are having large parties, the Prime Minister has said.

Any social gathering of more than six people in England is against the law, with people facing fines of up to £3,200 if they do not abide by the new measure, which applies to both indoor and outdoor settings.

Boris Johnson urged people to speak with rulebreakers before notifying the authorities.

"I have never much been in favour of sneak culture, myself," he said.

"What people should do in the first instance is obviously if they are concerned is raise it with their friends and neighbours.

"But I think what is reasonable for anyone to do is if they think there is a serious threat to public health as a result of their neighbours' activities - if there is some huge kind of Animal House party taking place, as I am sure, hot tubs and so forth, and there is a serious threat to public health then its reasonable for the authorities to know."

India records nearly 100,000 infections in a day

India reported another record jump in daily coronavirus infections, with 97,894 cases in the past 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed on Thursday.

With 5.12 million cases in all, India is the world's second-worst affected country, and trails only the United States, which has a caseload of around 6.6 million.

Deaths, which have been relatively low so far, are showing an uptick, and the country has recorded more than 1,000 deaths every day for the past two weeks.

On Thursday, the federal health ministry said 1,132 people died of Covid in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities from the disease to 83,198.

Exclusive: Schools' part-time plans if testing chaos continues

Schools are drawing up plans to go part-time if the testing chaos continues, The Telegraph has learned.

Headteachers have said that unless the Government can get a grip on the testing system, they will need to instigate rota systems where pupils are taught on a two weeks on, two weeks off basis.

Education leaders warned the Prime Minister that nearly every school in the country is struggling to access tests for students and staff.

Read the full story here.

'Flights to nowhere' taking off in Asia and Australia

Qantas Airways will operate a seven-hour scenic flight over Australia next month, adding to a growing trend in Asia of "flights to nowhere" that take off and land at the same airport.

Tough border restrictions to keep coronavirus under control have led to a 97.5 per cent plunge in international travel in the region.

Many frequent flyers miss getting on planes. Airlines including Taiwan's EVA Airways Corp and Japan's ANA Holdings, desperate for revenue and to keep their pilots' licences current, have offered special sightseeing flights.

Qantas said it would use a Boeing 787 typically used for long-haul international flights for the flight from Sydney that will fly at low levels over Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour Credit: NitiChuysakul Photography

Just six months ago, it would have been unimaginable that Australians would be unable to hop on a plane and travel out of the country or even out of their own state due to border controls and quarantine requirements, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.

"While we may not be able to take you overseas right now, we can certainly provide inspiration for future trips to some of Australia's most beautiful destinations," he said.

Read the full story here.

Numbers drop in Australian hot-spot

The daily rise in coronavirus infections in Australia's state of Victoria eased further on Thursday, as the state began relaxing most restrictions outside its largest city of Melbourne after a steady drop in cases in recent days.

Residents in regional areas of the state can now have outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, and cafes will be able to seat up to 50 people outside.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, reported 28 new cases on Thursday, the lowest daily rise since June 24 and down from daily highs above 700 in early August.

The south-eastern state at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in the country reported eight deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours, the same as reported a day earlier.

Exclusive: Only select few to get rationed Covid tests

Large numbers of people will be refused coronavirus tests even if they have symptoms under Government plans to ration testing if the crisis deepens, The Telegraph can reveal. 

A prioritisation list drawn up by health officials suggests routine testing would no longer be offered to swathes of the public, with tests restricted to select groups of people. 

It comes as the UK recorded nearly 4,000 new Covid-19 cases in a day for the first time since the start of May, with a jump from 3,539 to 3,991 in one day. 

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson said the Government was doing everything in its power to avoid a second national lockdown, which he said would be financially "disastrous" (watch the video below).

Read our exclusive story in full here.

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