UK records 6,634 cases - the highest daily total since pandemic began

Commuters at Waterloo Station, in London
Commuters at Waterloo Station, in London Credit: Victoria Jones / PA 

Today's coronavirus news

That's it for today. Here are your top headlines before we sign off: 

  • The UK has reported its highest single-day rise in coronavirus cases since the outbreak began. A total of  6,634 new positive cases where noted on Thursday 24 September, up from 6,178 on Wednesday.
  • Separate data shows that three times as many people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in latest weekly figures compared to the end of August.
  • The contact tracing app launched at a “tipping point” has been plagued with technical difficulties within hours of its rollout.
  • Meanwhile just 18 per cent of people in the UK self-isolated after developing symptoms of Covid-19 between May and August, new data on the number of people adhering to isolation and quarantine has found.
  • Students in the UK may be asked to stay at university over Christmas to prevent them spreading the virus when they return home.
  • Europe has now had more than 5m cases, and several countries have begun reimposing restrictions to head off uncontrolled spread.
  • The French health ministry reports that number of people in intensive care due to the virus jumped over 1,000 for the first time since June 8.
  • Signs that the number of new cases is rising in Sweden has been described as worrying by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.
  • Canada has entered a second wave of infections, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said as he warned the country was on the brink of a surge if people did not follow public health guidelines.

More than 40 Tory backbenchers back rebel bid to force vote on future lockdown measures

Dozens of Conservative backbenchers have backed a bid by rebels to force Boris Johnson to put all future lockdown measures to a vote of MPs.

More than 40 Tory MPs – enough to defeat the Government – backed an amendment tabled by the 1922 Committee chairman, Sir Graham Brady, to require a new Parliamentary vote on new powers "as soon as reasonably practicable" .

The MPs are hoping the amendment will be voted on next Wednesday, with the Government having, by law, to ask Parliament to approve its powers every six months.

Christopher Hope has more here.

Enough Conservative MPs to defeat the Government have backed an amendment tabled by the 1922 Committee chairman, Sir Graham Brady Credit: Victoria Jones / Pa

Help! I'm one of 500 university students in strict (and very boring) quarantine in Dundee

Hundreds of Abertay University students have been told to self-isolate. Here, one fresher recounts their experience:

I was on a group video call with my new uni friends when we got the email. “No! Why? Come on!” we were shouting when we read the news: our university accommodation in Abertay University was being locked down.As of yesterday, the 500 students in Parker House accommodation have been told we could have to self-isolate for two weeks after a confirmed case of Covid – the flatmate of someone I know, who had been self-isolating for a couple of days until he got the results. I’ve only been at university for two weeks. Last week was Freshers’ Week. My flatmates are more introverted – they don’t really go out much and, as there are no proper freshers events (everything is online). Instead, I’ve made my friends on Microsoft Teams – and a group of 20 of us from Parker House now have a group chat. We only ever meet up in groups of six because of the guidelines – if we don’t follow them, the police station is right outside the window! Being only able to meet in small groups means my uni experience has been different to previous years – my sister, who’s four years older and went clubbing all the time, told me how it was meant to be. But it’s been completely different.

Read more here.

If world handles climate like Covid-19, UN chief says: 'I fear the worst'

The United States, China and Russia fought on Thursday during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the coronavirus pandemic after UN chief Antonio Guterres had warned the body that if the climate crisis was approached with the "same disunity and disarray" of Covid-19, then: "I fear the worst."

Guterres said the coronavirus was out of control as the global death toll approaches 1 million, while more than 30 million have been infected. He blamed "a lack of global preparedness, cooperation, unity and solidarity."

"The pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation – a test we have essentially failed," he told the 15-member body.

While not naming any countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrovnoted that the pandemic had deepened differences between states.

"We see attempts on the part of individual countries to use the current situation in order to move forward their narrow interests of the moment, in order to settle the score with an undesirable government or geopolitical competitors," he said.

Fewer than 20 per cent of people in the UK self-isolated after developing symptoms, study finds 

Just 18 per cent of people in the UK self-isolated after developing symptoms of Covid-19 between May and August, new data on the number of people adhering to isolation and quarantine has found.

In addition to this, only 11 per cent of people quarantined after being told by NHS Test and Trace that they’ve been in contact with a confirmed case.

The preprint of the study, which was conducted in association with the Department of Health and Social Care and has not yet been peer reviewed, was shared on Twitter on Thursday evening.

Among a number of other conclusions, the study found that non-adherence to the measures was often associated with: men, younger age groups, having a dependent child in the household, lower socioeconomic grade, greater hardship during the pandemic, and working in a key sector.

Authors of the study also said the results suggest that financial constraints and caring responsibilities impeded adherence to self-isolation, intending to share details of close contacts, and quarantining of contacts. 

Boris Johnson warns against 'napping' on climate change

The world cannot be “caught napping” on climate change as it was with the coronavirus, Boris Johnson said yesterday, as he outlined plans for a green industrial recovery for the UK focused on new technology. 

“Humanity was caught napping by coronavirus,” the prime minister told a UN General Assembly climate roundtable. “We were woefully under prepared. But for climate change, nobody can say that we have not been warned.” 

He said the UK would “build back better” by pursuing a green industrial strategy that focused on “putting a big bet” on hydrogen to fuel vehicles including planes, and on wind power.

Mr Johnson said the UK would strive to become “the Saudi Arabia of wind” by developing its wind power capacity, already the biggest in the world. 

Emma Gatten has more here.

The prime minister was speaking at a UN climate event Credit:  AFP

Last call in Wales includes a 20 minute drink up period

Pub-goers in Wales will be given 20 minutes to drink up after last orders at 10pm, the country's latest coronavirus regulations state.

From Thursday at 6pm, premises licensed for the sale of alcohol - such as pubs, cafes and restaurants - will only be able to provide table service, with customers seated when consuming food or drink.

Alcohol must not be served or supplied by such premises after 10pm and not before 6am the following morning.

Licensed premises "must close at or before 10.20pm", the regulations state, and must not reopen before 6am.

A worker at Gin and Juice gin bar wears a face mask as she serves drinks in Cardiff, Wales Credit:  Matthew Horwood / Getty

Denmark and Iceland among four countries removed from quarantine-free list

Four more countries have been removed from Britain’s list of quarantine-free travel options: Denmark, Iceland, Slovakia and the Caribbean island of Curacao. 

From 4am on Saturday any arrivals from those destinations, including returning holidaymakers, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

The changes were announced on Twitter by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps following the Government’s weekly review of its controversial quarantine policy.

It means Britons now have just 10 holiday options that don’t include some form of restriction; both Greece (except for travellers from Scotland, or those visiting certain islands) and Italy survive, along with the likes of Turkey and Germany. 

Our travel live blog has the latest here.

Denmark looks set to be added to the UK's no-go list later today Credit: HAGENS WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY

UK daily count records new record high

The UK recorded 6,634 new positive cases on Thursday 24 September,  the highest single-day figure since the outbreak began

An additional 40 new deaths were also reported.

More than 1 in 10 people in England have now been tested for coronavirus

NHS Test and Trace has now reached almost half a million people, including those testing positive and their contacts, to slow the transmission of coronavirus in England.

Since the launch of NHS Test and Trace on 28 May, more than 11% of people living in England have been tested at least once.

This includes regular retesting of care home staff and residents, as the service sends out over 100,000 tests a day to care homes, the Government said.

Portugal extends measures to fight coronavirus until mid-October

Portugal has extended measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic until at least mid-October, the government announced on Thursday, at a time an increase in the number of daily cases in the country continues to worry authorities at home and abroad.

The whole country was put under a state of emergency on September 15 and it will remain under it until October 14, meaning gatherings continue to be limited to 10 people and commercial establishments must close between 8 pm and 11 pm.

Portugal, which has reported 71,156 cases so far, initially won praise for its response to the pandemic. Now, cases have crept back up, with the health authority reporting 802 cases on Wednesday, one the worst days since the beginning of the pandemic.

"Numbers (of cases) have been growing for around five weeks," Cabinet Affairs Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva told a news conference, adding the government would re-evaluate the situation in two weeks.

The government also decided on Thursday to extend the ban on festivals and similar events until the end of the year.

NHS staff took more than 500,000 sick days due to mental health issues in May

NHS staff took more than half a million sick days because of mental health issues in May, during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS Digital released data on Thursday that detailed sickness absence rates for May. It showed that the overall sickness absence rate for England was 4.7 per cent, down from 6.2 per cent in April but slightly higher than the May 2019 figure of four per cent.

The most commonly reported reasons for sick days during this period were anxiety, stress, depression or another psychiatric illness.

In total, absence for mental health reasons accounted for 510,281 full-time equivalent days lost and 28.3 per cent of all sickness absences in May, up from 20.9 per cent in April.

Gabriella Swerling has more on this story here.

A man wearing a face mask or covering due to the Covid-19 pandemic Credit:  DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

Kerala reports record number of daily Covid-19 infections and deaths 

The southern Indian state of Kerala, which was praised worldwide in the spring for controlling the spread of Covid-19, reported a record number of new daily infections and deaths on Wednesday. 

Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala, called on citizens to isolate at home after the state recorded more than 5,000 cases for the first time and 20 deaths. 

In comparison, by the last week of April, the state had only two dozen active infections and no community transmission. In particular, K K Shailaja, Kerala's Minister of Health, was lauded during the spring for implementing a vigorous test, trace, isolate and support programme. 

However, few Indian states are as dependent on migrant workers as Kerala, with remittances sent back from elsewhere in India and abroad accounting for at least 35 per cent of its total income.

Joe Wallen has the full story.

Kerala was lauded in the spring for implementing a vigorous test, trace, isolate and support programme Credit: Reuters

Market for coronavirus tests is 'Wild West', says expert

The market for new coronavirus tests is a 'Wild West' and better regulation is needed to adequately protect the public, a leading expert has said. 

Professor Jon Deeks, who leads the evaluation of coronavirus tests for the Cochrane collaboration - an independent network of medical researchers - told The Telegraph that the current system is not fit for purpose. 

Professor Deeks said: "We have changed the laws for drugs over the years - usually at the point when they have killed people by accident and when we realise that the legislation is not protecting the public. I think this is what we need to be doing right now for tests."

Jennifer Rigby has more here.

Members of the staff at a COvid-19 testing centre in Central London Credit:  WILL OLIVER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The five outstanding questions about the UK's contact-tracing app

The NHS’ long-awaited contact-tracing app for England and Wales is finally live in the app store for anyone to download. 

But with the release of the app come a series of questions about its functionality, as well as a more fundamental concern on whether digital contact tracing can really make a dent on stopping the spread of the pandemic.

James Cook reports.

Italian region makes masks obligatory in public

The southern Italian region of Campania, which includes Naples, made it obligatory from Thursday to wear masks in public in order to stem a resurgence in coronavirus cases.

The regional president of Campania, Vincenzo De Luca, said the rule would remain in force until October 4.

It comes as Italy logged 1,640 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with Campania reporting 248, the highest of any region.

"Responsible behaviour must be restored immediately, all the more so with the opening of schools," said De Luca. "If we want to avoid generalised closures, the maximum rigour is necessary."

On Wednesday, the city of Genoa in Italy's north also made masks obligatory in the historic centre, where crowds are more likely to gather.

Currently in Italy, masks must be worn inside shops and between 6pm and 6am in crowded public areas.

Nearly 36,000 people have died from coronavirus in Italy and 302,537 have been infected.

Credit:  CESARE ABBATE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Demand soars for automated device that disinfects doorknobs

A company which has invented technology that automatically disinfects doorknobs and other surfaces has seen a 900 per cent rise in monthly production as demand has soared during the pandemic. 

99Point9 is now producing 10,000 units a month and supplying schools, care homes and pubs around the world, including Young's pubs in Britain, as economies try to open up safely after lengthy lockdowns. 

Simon Sassoon, nephew of the hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, invented the technology 12 years ago but a lack of interest saw the product shelved. 

But things picked up as Covid-19 spread across the globe.  

"In the first week of February I started getting phone calls," he said. "Ohio State Medical Centre was the first call I got. Now we are producing again and selling to Australia, South Africa, Ireland, the Czech Republic, parts of Scandinavia. Demand has shot up like a helium balloon." 

The device, which looks like a soap dispenser, is fitted above the door handle and can be programmed to squirt disinfectant onto the surface at regular intervals. It can also be adjusted to disinfect other surfaces, like lift buttons. 

Jennifer Rigby has the full story.

Serious Covid-19 cases rising in younger people, European experts warn

Nearly half of severe cases of Covid-19 in Europe in recent weeks have been among younger age groups, as experts warn of a worrying rise in the number of new infections. 

The latest figures from the European Centres for Disease Control (ECDC) show that cases of Covid-19 have been increasing across the continent over the last month with the greatest rise in those aged 15 to 49 – 67 per cent of new cases have been among this cohort. 

While younger people are less likely to become seriously ill with the disease, 44 per cent of those who fell into the severe disease category in the last month are in this younger age group, Dr Andrea Ammon, director of the ECDC, told a press briefing. 

Anne Gulland reports.

Boris Johnson defends the new winter economy plan

Boris Johnson defended the Chancellor's new winter economy plan today, saying he "fully supports the package of measures we have jointly drawn up". 

Speaking during a visit to Northampton Police Headquarters, he urged everyone to "follow the guidance" and self-isolate if asked. 

The Prime Minister also defended the new NHS contacting tracing app. 

Watch below. 

New Sunak job scheme 'significantly less generous' than furlough

The Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank said the new Job Support Scheme was "significantly less generous" than the furlough system it replaces.

IFS director Paul Johnson said: "The new job support scheme represents a significant new intervention from Government to support jobs through the crisis.

"But it is significantly less generous than the furlough scheme it replaces, though remarkably the Chancellor provided no indication of the likely cost of the scheme.

"He is trying to plot a difficult path between supporting viable jobs while not keeping people in jobs that will not be there once we emerge from the crisis.

"With employers now having to pay at least 55% of the normal wages of their employees it is clear that many jobs will be lost over the coming months."

The IFS suggested that the end of the furlough scheme will translate into "sharply rising unemployment" as jobs which relied on the state funding will cease to exist.

Panic buying fears grow as Morrisons becomes first supermarket to limit toilet roll purchases

Panic buying fears have grown as Morrisons became the first supermarket to reintroduce limits on toilet rolls.

The grocer confirmed on Thursday morning it was putting a purchase limit of three items on a range of products including disinfectant and toilet roll.

The move will be seen as an attempt to stave off stockpiling and avoid a repeat of the scenes from March when panicked shoppers emptied supermarket shelves of staples including lavatory paper and dried pasta.

Sam Meadows reports.

Toilet roll shelves near empty at a supermarket in London Credit: Eddie Mulholland

Italy also freedom-loving, but serious, president says

The president of Italy has come up with a brief but cutting response to Boris Johnson when he said that unlike Italy and Germany, the UK was a freedom-loving country where it was hard to enforce anti-virus measures.

Sergio Mattarella, the head of state, was today asked about the remarks made by the Prime Minister during Question Time in the House of Commons.

"We Italians also love freedom, but we also take to heart seriousness," the president said on an official visit to Sardinia.

The prime minister’s comments were also poorly received by the Italian press.

La Repubblica, a national daily, accused Mr Johnson of “conceit” and said that he had suggested that health measures “work better for peoples of an inferior temperament – the Italians, for example”.

The prime minister had displayed “an Anglo-Saxon superiority complex,” the Left-leaning paper said.

Nick Squires reports from Rome.

Related: Britain and Italy's response to the coronavirus could not be more different, MPs told

England records 30 more fatalities

A further 30 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 29,838.

Patients were aged between 18 and 101 years old. All except two - aged between 53 and 82 - had known underlying health conditions.

The date of death ranges from 17 September to 23 September 2020.

The North West was the worst affected region, with 12 deaths, while the South West continues to see zero. 

Welsh cases rise by 348

There have been a further 348 cases of Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 21,896.

Public Health Wales said one further death had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic increasing to 1,606.

France reports more than 1,000 people in ICU due to coronavirus

The French health ministry reported on Thursday that number of people in intensive care due to the coronavirus jumped over 1,000 for the first time since June 8.

The ministry also said that the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital was up by 136 to 5,932. 

Beware the health dangers of 'doomscrolling'

Do you find yourself compulsively checking social media, drawn to bad news? The effect is equal to suffering blunt force trauma to the head, Miranda Levy finds:

Almost twelves weeks have passed since July 4, the Super Saturday unlocking of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers. But now, it seems, the brief window of optimism may be closed again and a gloomy uncertainty reigns.

Much of this is down to apocalyptic information spread by social media, and an internet full of contradictory advice. There’s even a new word for our addictive consumption of the above: “Doomscrolling”.

But the so-called “Google gamble” of online content can cause yet more anxiety, says Mike Ward the owner of the London and Hampshire Anxiety Clinic.

Read more here.

Do you doomscroll?

Afternoon summary

If you're just joining us here are your top headlines: 

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new wage subsidy scheme that will support "viable jobs" and see the government top up wages of employees who can work at least one third of their usual hours. 
  • Three times as many people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in latest weekly figures compared to the end of August, NHS Test and Trace said on Thursday
  • And Boris Johnson's "world beating" testing service has been dealt another blow after new data reveals fewer than one in three people who have an "in-person" Covid-19 test get their result within 24 hours.
  • The NHS contact tracing app launched at a “tipping point” in the fight against coronavirus has been plagued with technical difficulties within hours of its rollout.
  • Students in the UK may be asked to stay at university over Christmas to prevent them spreading the virus across the country when they return home.
  • Europe has now had more than five million coronavirus cases, and several countries have begun reimposing local lockdown rules to head off a return to uncontrolled spread.
  • Israel has announced a significant tightening of restrictions during its second general lockdown, as numbers of new coronavirus cases continue to rise, including strict limits on protests and prayer groups and a wider closure of places of work.
  • Canada has entered a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, warning that the country was on the brink of a surge if people did not follow public health guidelines.
  • Covid-19 may have become more contagious as it has mutated, the largest genetic study carried out in the US into the virus has suggested, as scientists warn it could be adapting to interventions such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

NHS coronavirus tracing app plagued with technical difficulties within hours of launching

The NHS contact tracing app launched at a “tipping point” in the fight against coronavirus has been plagued with technical difficulties within hours of its rollout.

The NHS Covid-19 app, designed to alert people if they have been in close contact with anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms, will only work on iPhones built on or after 2015, and Android devices built on or after 2017.

It has been claimed that people with Android phones who are not inside the pilot areas of the Isle of Wight and in the London borough of Newham are struggling to make use of the app.

Jame Johnson has more on this here.

A resident of the Isle of Wight poses with his smartphone showing the NHS Coronavirus contact tracing app Credit: AFP

Czech’s replacement health minister reintroduces slew of restrictions

The Czech Republic, a country hailed for its swift response to the coronavirus in March, has reintroduced sweeping restrictions as it nears a crisis point.

Roman Prymula, the nation’s new health minister, announced new limitations on bars and public events following the resignation of his predecessor after it emerged Covid-19 infections have doubled over the past three weeks.

Indoor gatherings are restricted to 10 people if they are standing and to 50 outdoors, whilst bars, pubs and restaurants will close at 10pm, starting on Thursday.

Infections across the Czech Republic are currently increasing at one of the highest rates in Europe, second only to Spain. A total of 2,394 new cases were recorded on Wednesday, the country’s second highest daily rise since the pandemic began, according to Health Ministry Data.

Verity Bowman spoke to the experts to find out what went wrong here.

In July, thousands of Czechs took to the streets to hold ‘farewell parties’ for the pandemic. Around 2,000 people knocked elbows as they ate, drank and celebrated seated at a 515-metre-long table on the medieval Charles Bridge in Prague Credit: MARTIN DIVISEK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Marseille and Paris fury over French government Covid clampdown

Marseille and Paris on Thursday reacted furiously to fresh restrictions due to rising Covid infections, with local leaders in both cities saying they had not been consulted by the government about the clampdown.

All bars and restaurants are to be shut for two weeks starting Saturday in Marseille, southern France after health minister Olivier Véran warned that swathes of the country, including Paris, risked reaching a “critical situation” within weeks without further restrictions.

Along with the bar closures, all establishments receiving the public will be shut except those with strict protocols in place.

Henry Samuel has the story here.

Benoit Payan, deputy mayor of Marseille, gestures during a press conference Credit:  CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP

New coronavirus mutation could be evolving to get around mask-wearing and hand-washing

Covid-19 may have become more contagious as it has mutated, the largest genetic study carried out in the US into the virus has suggested, as scientists warn it could be adapting to interventions such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

One variant of the novel coronavirus is now one of the most dominant in America, accounting for 99.9 per cent of cases in one area studied.

The paper concluded that a mutation that changes the structure of the “spike protein” on the surface of the virus may be driving the outsized spread of that particular strain.

Josie Ensor has more on this here.

Worry grows for Sweden as cases climb

Signs that the number of new cases is rising in Sweden has been described as worrying by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, who added that citizens had become too relaxed about following existing restrictions.

"The caution that existed in the spring has more and more been replaced by hugs, parties, bus trips in rush hour traffic, and an everyday life that, for many, seems to return to normal," Lofven told a news conference.

"What we do right now, we will be glad of later. What we do wrong now, we will suffer for later," he said

He called on Swedes to adhere to the guidelines of social distancing and good hygiene and said the government was ready to introduce new measures if needed to stop the spread of the virus.

New cases in Sweden are still relatively low in Sweden compared to Europe, with 320 reported on Wednesday, but Lofven said signs were still worrying.

"In Sweden, the situation is comparatively more stable, but we also see signs that the number of infections is increasing in certain areas in our country," Lofven said.

Sweden, which has shunned a strict lockdown, has reported close to 5,900 deaths since the start of the pandemic, many more per capita than its Nordic neighbours, but also lower than countries like Spain and Italy that opted for hard lockdowns.

Rishi Sunak's wage subsidy announcement - the key points at a glance

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new wage subsidy scheme that will support "viable jobs" and see the government top up wages of employees who can work at least one third of their usual hours. 

He said: "The furlough was the right policy at the time we introduced it...but as the econ reopens, it is fundamentally wrong to hold people in jobs that only exist inside the furlough". 

The Chancellor said the scheme will begin in November and last six months.

Here are the three key principles of his latest scheme: 

  • Mr Sunak said the scheme will only support "viable jobs". To ensure that, employees must work one-third of their hours and be paid by their employees for that time. For the remaining hours not worked, the Goverment and the employer will each pay one-third of the wages.
  • Secondly, support will be targeted at "firms that need it most". Therefore, all SMEs will be eligible for the scheme, but larger businesses will only be eligible if their turnover has fallen during the crisis. 
  • Thirdly, it will be open to all employers, even if they have not used the furlough scheme. 

Other measures in the announcement, include an extension of the 15pc VAT rate cut for the tourism and hospitality industries until March 31 and additional Coronavirus loan schemes. 

Read more here.

Engineer behind Covid-19 tracker honoured in Time 100

Johns Hopkins University professor Lauren Gardner has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME for her work in developing a free Covid-19 tracker.

The open website empowers the international community to track the Covid-19 pandemic in near-real time using reliable, independent data.

Professor Gardner led the team that built the Covid-19 Dashboard at the start of the pandemic in late January.

Since then, the dashboard has evolved into the leading source of centralized data on the pandemic, allowing governments, the media, and the public to visualize its rapid spread.

Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 tracker 

People are being forced to travel further to access coronavirus testing centres, figures show

As testing woes continue, new data shows that the distance people have been forced to travel to access coronavirus testing sites has only increased since the system was first launched.

The median distance to testing sites for Covid-19 tests booked at regional locations increased to 9.0 miles while mobile testing units went up to 7.7 miles in the week ending September 16. These are the longest distances recorded since the test and trace service was launched.

The figures also showed that the median distance to local test sites was around 2.9 miles, which was also the highest since the calculations began.

The median distance travelled to take a test between September 10 and 16 for all in-person tests was 5.2 miles, with 90 per cent of people who booked a test travelling 23.9 miles or less.

But 5 per cent of people travelled more than 38.3 miles to reach a testing site during that week, the figures show.

Rishi Sunak announces new jobs support scheme 

Rishi Sunak has announced a new jobs support scheme, supporting people who are in work "on shorter hours rather than making them redundant". 

Employees must work at least a third of their normal hours and be paid as normal. The Government will then top up, covering two-thirds of pay lost by reducing hours. 

The employee will then keep their job, he says.

Firms medium and small will be to access support, although larger ones will have to show turnover has fallen. 

Businesses who have  not yet used the furlough scheme can access it he, adds. It will not affect those who want to claim the furlough bonus. 

The self-employed grant whas been ill be extended on similar terms.

England reports threefold increase in positive cases since the end of August

Three times as many people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in latest weekly figures compared to the end of August, NHS Test and Trace said on Thursday, with more people being referred to the system, though the proportion reached fell.

NHS Test and Trace said 19,278 new people tested positive for Covid-19 in England between September 10 and September 16.

On Wednesday, Britain reported 6,178 new daily cases of coronavirus, the highest number of infections since May 1, but it has increased testing capacity since then.

Health Minister Matt Hancock said estimates suggested less than 10,000 cases a day at the moment, less than the estimated 100,000 daily cases during the pandemic's peak, even as numbers testing positive have returned to similar levels.

Some states have lifted restrictions too soon, EU warns

Europe has now had more than five million coronavirus cases, and several countries have begun reimposing local lockdown rules to head off a return to uncontrolled spread.

The death rate has not returned to the levels seen earlier this year, but cases of new infections are soaring once again in many areas.

But Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides, whose office has sought to coordinate the response across the 27 member states, warned that some areas had clearly begun to lift restrictions too soon.

"What this means, to be very clear, is that the control measures taken have simply not being effective enough or not being enforced or followed as they should have been," she said.

"We cannot lower our guard. This crisis is not behind us. Moreover, winter is the time of the year for more respiratory illnesses, including seasonal influenza."

EU urges new measures to head off virus second wave 

The European Commission urged EU members states Thursday to better explain and enforce social distancing and hygiene rules to halt a dangerous new wave of coronavirus infections.

Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: "In some member states, the situation is now even worse than during the peak in March. This is a real cause for concern.

"All member states need to roll out measures immediately and at the right time at the very first sign of potential new outbreaks."

European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides Credit: Francois Lenoir / Reuters

Russian cases reach a two month high

New cases of Covid-19 in Russia have risen to 6,595, official daily data showed on Thursday, the biggest rise in over two months, as new infections in Moscow surpassed 1,000 for the first time since late June.

Russia exited lockdown in early June, and many shops, businesses and the transport network in Moscow are now operating as usual, though office occupancy rates remain sharply lower.

Guidelines on social distancing remain in place, and people must wear face coverings in shops and public transport in the Russian capital, though some flout those rules that are not rigorously enforced.

Passengers on planes arriving from abroad have their temperatures checked by special infrared scanners and many bars and restaurants in Moscow carry out temperature checks too.

The Covid-19 crisis response centre said on Thursday that daily cases in Moscow had hit 1,050, higher than in any other city or region.

Officials in the capital have insisted there will not be another lockdown, however, and have played down the prospect of a second wave. New daily cases in Moscow have not fallen below 531 since June 23.

Vaccine developer will not deliberately infect trial volunteers with Covid-19

BioNTech, Pfizer's German development partner, and other leading Covid-19 vaccine developers have said they will not take part in British plans to test experimental inoculations by deliberately infecting trial volunteers.

"BioNTech's vaccine candidate is not part of this study," a spokeswoman said.

Britain is planning to host so-called "challenge trials", the Financial Times cited people involved in the project as saying. Britain said it was working with partners on the potential for human challenge trials without commenting on a specific plan.

AstraZeneca and Sanofi both have said their vaccine candidates were not involved in the programme.

Elsewhere other experts, including the The Lancet medical journal's editor, have expressed concern over the ethics of deliberately infecting volunteers with the virus when so little is known about the disease:

UK watchdog tells banks to improve remote working safeguards 

Banks and investment firms have to come up with more "creative solutions" to avoid misconduct as staff work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, Britain's Financial Conduct Authority said on Thursday.

Britain told people to work from home from Thursday if possible as new cases of Covid-19 grow again.

Megan Butler, executive director for wholesale supervision at the FCA, said firms have broadly managed conduct and other risks from remote working "pretty well so far".

"These are all difficult questions that get harder over time as it looks like no one is going to be back in the office anytime soon," she told the FCA's annual meeting.

"Industry has coped pretty well so far and we are now going to be looking to them to find perhaps some more creative, resilient solutions to these issues than perhaps some of the ones that have worked so well so far." 

Britain and Italy's response to the coronavirus could not be more different, MPs told

As Britain battles a second wave of coronavirus infections, MPs heard on Wednesday how Italy, the epicentre of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak back in February, managed to turn the tide on the disease.

Italy’s response to the coronavirus outbreak was once seen as too extreme, but tough measures have since helped keep infections down, a group of experts told the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Wednesday.

Britain, on the other hand, has been too complacent and even now, as the country is faced with a growing threat, measures are not strict enough.

The UK is now facing a second wave of the virus and more restrictions while in Italy seems to have so far escaped a huge resurgence of the disease. On Wednesday, the UK recorded nearly 5,000 cases, while Italy recorded 1,300. 

Jordan Kelly-Linden has the full story.

Anxiety levels soar among young girls, new research finds

New research from Plan International reveals that girls and young women are bearing the brunt of Covid-19’s secondary impacts, with 95 per cent saying the pandemic has negatively impacted their lives.

Nine in ten girls (88 per cent) say they are feeling high or medium levels of anxiety as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a landmark survey – involving over 7,000 girls in 14 countries – conducted by Plan International.

For the girls surveyed, aged 15-19, the most prevalent fears concerned their own health (33 per cent) and the wellbeing of their families (40 per cent). Nearly a third (26 per cent) were worried about the loss of household income due to the pandemic. 

The research shines a light on the complex challenges girls are facing across the world.

Related: Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on women

A young girl reacts as a medic performs a coronavirus test in Bagali near Kangra, India Credit:  SANJAY BAID/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Isreal tightens restrictions

Israel has announced a significant tightening of restrictions during its second general lockdown, as numbers of new coronavirus cases continue to rise, including strict limits on protests and prayer groups and a wider closure of places of work.

The tougher restrictions include: a general closure of businesses and workplaces, apart from those deemed necessary and essential services, such as food stores and pharmacies, which will remain open. Open-air markets will be closed.

Prayer and protest will be allowed only in open spaces within 1 km (0.6 miles) of home and with a limit of 20 people. However, synagogues will be allowed to open with certain restrictions on the upcoming one-day holiday of Yom Kippur, raising concerns that infections could increase if worshippers don’t abide by the regulations.

Public transportation will operate on a limited basis. A decision has not yet been made on whether to close Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv.

The new restrictions still require approval from the Knesset, which is expected later Thursday.

Bus drivers plead for help on mask enforcement

Bus drivers need more help to enforce the wearing of face coverings by passengers, as fines dished out for ignoring the law are "vanishingly rare", according to a leading union.

Unite warned that new penalties for people refusing to wear a mask may make "little difference" unless enforcement is properly resourced.

The union, which represents more than 70,000 bus drivers across the UK, said its research suggested that just 38 fines or fixed penalty notices were issued outside London in the three months to August, and 368 in the capital.

Unite has been pressing bus companies to utilise their own enforcement officers or work with Government-appointed Covid marshals to prevent passengers without face coverings from boarding buses.

Bus drivers need more help to enforce the wearing of face coverings by passengers, say Unite Credit: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Unite national officer Bobby Morton said: "Penalties for those who refuse to comply with the law on face coverings on public transport are vanishingly rare.

"So increasing the fines for not wearing a face covering will make little difference unless they are alongside stricter and more rigorous enforcement.

"While the vast majority of passengers are complying with the rules, a significant minority are not.

"It is no good introducing further restrictions in public life if the Government has not also resourced their enforcement.

"We are also calling on bus operators to work with the Government to ensure that passengers refusing to wear face coverings cannot board buses.

"What needs to be totally understood is that bus drivers cannot and will not enforce the wearing of masks. Their job is to get passengers to their destination safely, not to police public health."

BBC needs to do more to support older people, says minister

The BBC needs to do more to support older people during the pandemic by keeping free TV licences for the over 75s, a minister has said.

During a Culture Media and Sport select committee meeting, Labour's Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) said: "For many older and vulnerable residents, losing their free television licence not only means losing entertainment, losing a source of news, but also losing companionship which is hugely important as we go into winter and many people across the country are facing restrictions on movement.

"So will the minister do the right thing, stop hiding behind the BBC, take another look at this policy and stick to his manifesto commitment and keep free television licences for over 75s until 2022?"

John Whittingdale was asked to help protect the licence fee for older people  Credit: John Nguyen/JNVisuals 

Culture minister John Whittingdale replied: "Well can I say to (Mr Jones) that the Conservative manifesto did say that we believed that it should be funded by the BBC.

"It is the case that those on low incomes and eligible for pension credit will continue to receive a free licence and I hope that all those who may be eligible make sure that they are receiving pension credit.

"And the Government continues to believe that the BBC does need to do more to support older people."

New NHS sickness figures revealed for May

Nearly 350,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) days of work were lost in the NHS due to coronavirus-related sickness in England in May, new figures show.

Data from NHS Digital showed that 340,890 FTE days were lost during the month, out of a total of 1,800,709 - nearly 20% of all absences recorded.

This is compared to 30.6% during the peak of the virus in April and 15.9% recorded in March, NHS Digital said.

The London region reported the highest Covid 19-related sickness absences as a proportion of all FTE days lost through absence in both March at 26% and April at 40% but in May the highest Covid 19-related sickness absence was in the South East at 25.8% of all sickness absences

Do you have to self isolate if the app says to?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people could be asked multiple times to self-isolate by the new NHS tracing app - although he confirmed it would not be a legal requirement.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: "If the app tells you to self-isolate, then you should self-isolate. But if an NHS Test and Trace contact tracer tells you, then you must by law."

Asked whether that was complicated to understand, he said: "Not really, it is really straightforward."

Matt Hancock has asked people in England and Wales to download the app Credit: REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

Pushed on whether people could be told to self-isolate more than once by the app, Mr Hancock said: "If you didn't have symptoms first time round then you're just as susceptible to getting infected, so unfortunately yes, you have to."

He denied a report that issues with Bluetooth, the technology used by the app, around its ability to be interfered with by nearby objects meant one in three people told to self-isolate will have been given a "false positive".

"No, nobody who gets an alert saying they should self-isolate will have not been in close contact with someone else who has the app," the Cabinet minister said.

Welsh First Minister weighs in on University problem

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford told Good Morning Britain that his government will “certainly contemplate” forcing students to stay at university over Christmas to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

He added: “Students travelling across the country does bring an extra risk”.

The comments come after 124 students at Glasgow university tested positive for the virus.

When asked whether university students may be told not to go home at Christmas if the situation worsens, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We haven't reached that point yet".

Asked if it was something he would consider, he told BBC Breakfast: "I don't rule out anything.

"And if you have the last nine months that I've had, you'd understand why we don't rule out anything. It's not something that I want to do.

"But what's important is that we of course keep people safe and keep the virus under control."

 

 How do I download the app and what does it do?

With the UK emerging from lockdown, the Government has been trying to find a way to track down coronavirus cases and prevent a second wave.

 One solution is a contact-tracing app- the NHS Covid-19 app - which can enable digital contact-tracing using Bluetooth technology on a large scale. 

After months of delays, the NHS Covid-19 app has just been launched across the UK. It uses Bluetooth to anonymously warn people if they have come into contact with someone with coronavirus, and QR codes so people can check in at hospitality.

The Department of Health and Social Care said trials which began last month show the app is "highly effective when used alongside traditional contact tracing" to identify contacts of people who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Read our explainer, with a download link, here.

 

Problems already with the new contact tracing app

The Health Secretary has conceded that the app is not universal and will not work on older smartphones.

"The more people that download this app, the more useful it will be," said Mr Hancock.

"Only a very small proportion of people don’t have the latest version of ios software. It needs the latest version to make it possible.

"Of course there are technical requirements but the vast majority have the latest download of the apple software."

Already, some people who are trying to download the app are not able.

 

Students may be asked to stay at university over Christmas

"We haven’t reached that point yet, but I don’t rule out anything," said Matt Hancock on students being asked to stay at university over Christmas.

This story was trailed yesterday and the Health Secretary has not denied it.

"Its not something I’d want to do," he added. 

"What is important is that we keep people safe and keep the virus under control."

The idea of keeping students at university is so that they do not disperse across the country and potentially spread the virus.

Matt Hancock doing the news rounds this morning

The Health Secretary starts with Sky News, where said almost 10,000 people a day are contracting coronavirus - although still fewer than the "100,000 per day" estimated during the spring peak - and called on people to download the newly-released NHS tracing app to "make the country a safer place".

"The massive testing capability we've got helps to find where the virus is so, if you think about it, yesterday we had a figure that there is over 6,000 people who have tested positive in the previous 24 hours," he said.

"And that is comparable to the highest levels in the peak in terms of the number of people who were tested positive but back then we estimate through surveys that over 100,000 people a day were catching the disease, but we only found around 6,000 of them and they tested positive.

Matt Hancock is encouraging people to download the contact tracing app Credit: Leon Neal/PA

"Now we estimate that it is under 10,000 people a day getting the disease - that's too high but it is still much lower than in the peak - and through the mass testing we have and the quarter-of-a-million capacity, we found yesterday over 6,000 of them.

"That then allows us to do the contact tracing for everyone who has tested positive and find who they've been in contact with.

"In addition, today with the app, if you download the app you will also have that added protection for you and your loved ones."

How are other countries dealing with the second wave?

As Britain adapts to new restrictions designed to combat a second wave of the coronavirus, here is a look at how some other countries have handled resurgences of Covid-19.

FRANCE: Aiming to avoid a new national lockdown, the French government moved in July to make face masks compulsory in enclosed public spaces. In Paris, anyone aged 11 and older must wear a mask in public. Other cities have followed that lead, including Lille, Nice and Toulouse. Masks must also be worn in most workplaces.

SPAIN: The Spanish government has also cracked down on the use of masks, with face coverings mandatory for anyone older than six on all forms of public transport and in most indoor areas. Most parts of Spain have enforced the wearing of masks outside as well. Children are also being asked to wear masks at school.

ITALY: With the virus resurgence, authorities ordered all nightclubs and dance halls to close. A face mask rule has been brought in, but has drawn widespread criticism, if not ridicule. In all public spaces in Italy where social distancing is not possible, people must wear face coverings - but only between the hours of 6pm and 6am. Meanwhile, schools have reopened, despite officials in many regions calling the step premature.

Children in Italy have returned to school Credit: TINO ROMANO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

ISRAEL: After largely declaring the battle won, and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging people to "have fun", Israel has suffered an intense resurgence of Covid-19 which has triggered strict measures. The nation last week began a second country-wide lockdown, with schools, restaurants, malls, hotels and other businesses all ordered to shut. The lockdown is expected to last three weeks. Protests have been held against the measure, but new rules addressing these say they must be limited to groups of up to 20 people, with participants not allowed to travel more than one kilometre from their home to take part.

GERMANY: The country has extended its ban on large gatherings until the end of the year. Testing at airports is mandatory for all people arriving from high-risk countries. Fines starting from 50 euros (£46) have been brought in for anyone failing to wear a mask on public transport or in shops. The Bundesliga was able to start its new football season last weekend, but with no fans present.

What  to expect today

Rishi Sunak will outline his plans to protect jobs today as the opposition insisted more needed to be done to bolster the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

The Chancellor will address the Commons after cancelling this year's Budget.

With the furlough work scheme due to finish at the end of October, he will announce measures aimed at protecting millions of jobs in sectors hit by the latest Government guidance on Covid-19.

As the number of new cases rose by more than 6,000, new restrictions came into force in England on Thursday, and the much-delayed coronavirus contact tracing app was finally launched.

Mr Sunak's intervention comes after increasing pressure from business groups, MPs and unions to extend the furlough scheme amid fears the new restrictions will damage the economy.

Rishi Sunak will outline his plans to protect jobs today Credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP 

Number 11 said work on the scheme had been taking place in parallel with Budget preparations with a focus on jobs to avoid the expected three million unemployed.

The Treasury said: "We will always be honest with people about the difficult trade-offs that are involved here.

"Not between health and the economy, but between keeping people in jobs and helping them find new ones. And between help in the here and now and rebuilding in the future. That's what people deserve."

The Chancellor initially announced his move via Twitter, with a graphic titled "Winter Economy Plan".

Mr Rishi's initiative will include VAT cuts, loans for hard hit businesses and wage subsidies, according to reports.

The plans could see the Government and firms share the cost of topping up wages for employees only able to work part-time due to the pandemic.

The moves come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country could have to deal with up to another six months of coronavirus restrictions.

Positive signs for Australia

The Australian state of Victoria, the epicentre of the country's Covid outbreak, said on Thursday that the number of new daily infections was close to a three-month low, buoying hopes that restrictions will be eased sooner than expected.

The Victorian government said 12 people had been diagnosed in the past 24 hours, near a three-month low of 11 cases reported earlier this week.

Australia's second-most-populous state is on an extended hard lockdown until September 27, although some restrictions may be eased earlier if new infections continue to trend lower.

Victoria's outbreak has had a devastating impact on the national economy due to lockdown measures including the closure of non-essential businesses and a nightly curfew.

The state accounts for 90 per cent of Australia's total coronavirus deaths of 859. The country has reported nearly 27,000 cases, well below the numbers seen in many other developed nations.

Second wave hits Canada

Canada has entered a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, warning that the country was on the brink of a surge if people did not follow public health guidelines.

In a rare national address, Mr Trudeau said the country "is at a crossroads" as a second wave emerges in four large provinces, adding that the government would do whatever it took to help the country recover from the pandemic.

"We're on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring," he said.

Canada's Covid-19 cases have spiked in recent days, with an average of 1,123 new cases reported daily over the past week, compared with a daily average of 380 cases in mid-August.

"We have the power to get this second wave under control. I know we can do it, because we've already done it once before," Mr Trudeau added.

Canadians are now more worried about Covid than they have been since April, an Abacus Data poll showed.

Total infections have reached 147,753, while 9,243 people have died, according to latest government data.

'Traffic light' system to govern local lockdowns

Local coronavirus lockdowns are set to be automatically triggered by a three-tier "traffic light" system, with alerts sent directly to people's mobile phones, The Telegraph can disclose.

The planned new approach divides the country into different areas based on local infection rates, which will dictate the severity of local lockdowns.

It will work alongside the new NHS Test and Trace app, which sees people scanning a special QR code to enter and exit pubs, restaurants and bars. The app will then send a message to the user about lockdown conditions when the coronavirus risk profile changes.

The plan – signed off by Cabinet ministers at a meeting of a key Covid-19 cabinet committee last week – has been sent to Boris Johnson for approval.

Read the full story here.

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