Don't panic about rising infections, says French PM, as fears grow of second wave

 In this file photo taken on May 11, 2020, a man and a woman wearing face masks walk on Trocadero Plaza as a French national flag flies on the Eiffel Tower in background in Paris on the first day of France's easing of lockdown measures in place for 55 days to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus. - Wearing a mask will be compulsory in parts of Paris and its wider region from August 10, 2020, to combat a rise in coronavirus infections in and around the French capital, the police said. The mask will be obligatory for all those aged 11 and over from 8:00 am (0600 GMT) on August 10 "in certain very crowded zones", the police said in a statement on August 8, without yet detailing which areas were affected. (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP)
Fears are growing of a second coronavirus wave in France. Credit: Philippe Lopez/AFP

 

What happened today

Good evening. We will be back tomorrow with all the latest global health security developments from across the UK and beyond - here is a round up of today's biggest stories:

Follow all the latest news in Thursday's live blog

Eat Out To Help Out: 'What I've learned while dining out with my daughter'

To me, a perfect evening is one spent in a restaurant, writes Daniel Davies-Luke.

going out for meals is our family’s guilty pleasure – and our biggest expenditure too.

Since the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, which was launched on the 3rd August, I’ve taken my hobby to a whole new level. Along with my six-year-old daughter Luna, I’ve eaten out in a restaurant every single day. In fact, on a family trip to Edinburgh, we ate out four times in one day (including an afternoon break for hot chocolate and red velvet cake).

Although this may sound extravagant, I’ve saved around £250 from the scheme (which allows diners to get 50 per cent off their bill, up to a total discount of £10, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and introduced my daughter to a whole world of new foods. It comes as no surprise to me that the scheme has been so successful; in the first three weeks, it was used more than 64 million times, according to figures from The Treasury.

Whereas before we tended to stick to restaurants with good ratings – or ones we knew Luna would like – the discount has given us the opportunity to be more adventurous with our restaurant choices. Earlier this month, I took Luna to a place called Lamp Room in Seaham.

I’d always wanted to try it, but with a breakfast costing £12 a head, I hadn’t been able to justify a meal there. But under the scheme I paid just £3 for Luna’s pancakes and waffles, so it didn’t matter too much whether she liked them or not.

Read Daniel's full piece here.

47,161 new cases and 1,086 further deaths confirmed in Brazil

Brazil reported 47,161 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 1,086 deaths from the disease caused by the virus in the past 24 hours.

This means that Brazil has now registered 3.71 million cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic, while the official death toll from Covid-19 has risen to 117,666.

Coronavirus has hit Brazil hard, and has resulted in the world's worst coronavirus outbreak outside the United States.

London and New York air bridge possible with top level talks held

An “air bridge” between London and New York to enable travellers to sidestep quarantine is being discussed in top-level UK-US Government talks, The Telegraph understands.

Ministers are studying plans for regional “air bridges” which would enable business and other travellers to come to the UK from “low-risk” areas like New York city within countries like the US which are “red listed” because of their continued overall high coronavirus rates.

Credit: Tim Ockenden/PA

New York, which introduced one of the toughest lockdowns, has brought its seven-day infection rate down to just 7.2 cases per 100,000, which is below England’s 11.3 yet remains “red listed” forcing any American visitors to the UK to automatically quarantine for 14 days.

“There are discussions going on at a very senior level around opening up London and New York. They are at a very early stage but it is vital to get business going with a major trading partner especially as we near Brexit,” said a source.

Our home affairs editor Charles Hymas has all the details.

Allister Heath: 'Can Boris rescue London from this nightmarish Corbynite death spiral?'

Instead of colluding with Sadiq Khan, No 10 needs a radical strategy to save the capital from itself, writes our columnist and Sunday Telegraph editor Allister Heath.

London is Boris Johnson’s true political love. His greatest achievement to date has been Brexit, a bitter, bloody and heroic contest, but it is his time as mayor that he recalls with the most fondness. Those were his “Heineken politician” days, when, almost uniquely, he was cheered wherever he went for embodying an uplifting, apolitical, unifying Britishness, a far cry from the polarising, sombre leader that circumstances have turned him into today.

With London facing its most severe crisis since the Eighties, Johnson is going to have to start being a lot more hands-on with his beloved city again if he wants to save it. The Blairite devolution settlement of 2000, as in Scotland, has failed disastrously: London’s finances are bankrupt, and the city is about to shift even further to the cultural Left.

Until now, London, like other great metropoles, had defied the logic of the internet revolution. Digitisation detaches economic activity from geography, place and physical structures, and has done so in every industry it has engulfed: we no longer need to go to a physical bank, a physical shop or buy a physical DVD.

There was, until now, a glaring exception to this trend towards “the death of distance": the office carried on almost entirely unaffected. Millions of commuters traveled daily to their desks, from which they conducted their work, as if nothing had changed since the Eighties.

On any given day, there will be fewer workers in central London, which will mean a large reduction in the demand for offices, the key engine of our capital’s economy and its only real route to regeneration. Train and bus services will need to be cut, reducing the system’s overall attractiveness, further chasing away commuters. The support staff eco-system – from coffee shops to cleaners – will be decimated.

Read Allister's full column here.

'Absurdly, I'm under house arrest for visiting an island with no Covid cases'

The UK government's quarantine regulations are illogical and highly damaging to the countries that need tourists, writes Annabel Fenwick Elliott.

I am writing this from under house arrest. My crime? Visiting an island that has recorded a grand total of zero coronavirus cases over the course of this pandemic. An isolated 778,000-square-mile landmass in the Indian Ocean on which not a single person has fallen ill from Covid-19. 

It would be riskier to go to my local supermarket in Essex (not that I'm allowed). Riskier for me, not other shoppers. I present a lower threat to them now, having been on a Covid-free island, than if I’d been mingling with fellow Britons for the last week. It's not me suffering though, it's the countries who depend on tourism.

If this was a logical scenario, I, a British citizen from an island nation with the sixth highest coronavirus-related death toll in the world, should have been the one required to quarantine before entering the Maldives, which is 77th on that list with only 28 deaths in total; and I repeat, no cases at all on the island I visited. I certainly shouldn’t be ordered into solitary confinement upon my return. 

Yes, I changed planes in Doha to get there, a country with one of the lowest Covid-19 death rates in the world, and where 97 per cent of recorded cases have recovered. But it’s an airport; what about all the other nationalities roaming its giant halls, you might ask? That would be too rational a point, given we’re allowed to transit through a number of other airports across Europe without needing to self-isolate afterwards; London Heathrow included, one of the world’s busiest airports for international traffic.

I’m not particularly cross about my house arrest, on a personal level. I live in the countryside alone anyway, and I’ve come to enjoy the perks of working from home. I'm an introvert; being by myself is no problem – enjoyable even. It was my choice to go on holiday and therefore my responsibility to pay for it with this 14-day stint.

What does make me angry is the fact that the FCO’s ludicrous entry rules are trashing the entire economies of other countries that rely so heavily on tourism, based on entirely nonsensical metrics. 

Read Annabel's full piece here.

Tomorrow's Daily Telegraph: Bob's cartoon for August 27

 

Phil Hogan resigns over golf dinner Covid rules breach

EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has resigned, saying controversy over his attendance at an Irish golf dinner during the pandemic would undermine his work for months to come.

Mr Hogan, who would have played a central role in negotiating the bloc's arrangements with Britain after Brexit, was among more than 80 people at the dinner last week amid a fresh spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

He said:

This evening I have tendered my resignation as EU Trade Commissioner to the President of the European Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen.

It was becoming increasingly clear that the controversy concerning my recent visit to Ireland was becoming a distraction from my work as an EU commissioner and would undermine my work in the key months ahead.

Japanese firms try to keep spluttering car industry on the road

Japan’s automotive industry has long been admired globally, our industry editor Alan Tovey writes.

Building up from a shattered post-war economy, it was at the forefront of the country becoming a manufacturing superpower and is worth 21 trillion yen (£150bn) a year.

Its annual production hovers at about nine million, making Japan the world’s third-largest producer, with half being exported. Millions more vehicles roll off factory lines at foreign plants owned by Japanese firms every year.

Credit: Diego Azubel/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

 

Marques such as Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda and Mitsubishi are all household names thanks to their clever engineering and reliability, obsession with efficient production processes and often ground-breaking design.

But there are increasing signs Japan’s car industry is spluttering, with some parts possibly headed for a crash as coronavirus exposes new problems or exacerbates existing ones as car sales tumble.

Smartphones have made Britain the laziest country in Europe

Laziness due to smartphones has worsened more rapidly in Britain than in any other major western European country, researchers have warned.

A study examining levels of sedentary behaviour among adults found a 22 per cent increase in the UK between 2002 and 2017.

Its authors say greater rates of inactivity among the 35 to 44 age group is partly driving the change, as well as a greater tendency among all adults to be sedentary during their leisure time due to the proliferation of handheld devices.The first iPhone went on sale in Europe in 2007.

Among near neighbours with large populations, France saw the next worse increase in sedentary behaviour - defined as spending four and half hours or more a day sitting down - with 17.8 per cent, followed by a 7.4 per cent increase in Germany, 3.9 per cent in Spain, and just 0.2 per cent in Italy.

Rates increased by around eight per cent across Europe as a whole.

Henry Bodkin has the story.

Europe will see more outbreaks this winter – but should avoid a second wave, says health chief

The lead expert at the body co-ordinating Europe’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic says he expects to see a “continued resurgence” of cases across the continent this winter but is “optimistic” that deaths will not spike again dramatically.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Sergio Brusin, principle expert at European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said the “horrible scenes” witnessed as the virus overwhelmed hospitals in March and April were unlikely to be repeated because of improved health care capacity and planning across Europe.

“The resurgence in cases will go for quite a few months. [But] it will probably never get to the same level as the first big wave in Spring”, said Mr Brusin.

Sergio Brusin, principal expert at the ECDC, pictured in Stockholm in March. Credit: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

“Although we've seen hospitalisations going up in some countries is not anywhere near to the situation in March and April. The ICUs are not clogged and our health services now have much better planning and response times.

“So, I am optimistic we will not see the big horrible scenes we saw in March and April, but we will see a lot more cases”. 

He added that widespread adoption of social distancing and the ability of countries to react to local outbreaks meant that there was unlikely to be a repeat “of the big national lockdowns” that have wreaked so much economic damage.

Our global health security editor Paul Nuki has the full exclusive interview.

Guidance narrowed on who will be tested for Covid in the US

The American health protection agency has narrowed its guidance on who should be tested for Covid-19, and said that people who were exposed but asymptomatic might not need to be tested.

The move from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) marks a departure from its previous position of recommending that all close contacts of those diagnosed with the virus should themselves get tested.

Government health officials said the guidelines should not be interpreted as “inhibiting” public health, and that the goal was “appropriate testing, rather than testing for its own sake”.

A coronavirus testing site set up for returning students in New York City. Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters

Brett Girior, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said testing asymptomatic people too early can lull people into a false sense of security. He insisted that the policy change was not prompted by testing shortages.

Dr Leana Wen, the former Baltimore health commissioner, said that the change in the guidance was “inexplicable” and reiterated calls for more testing instead of less, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that he would “disregard the CDC guidance totally”.

Girior said there was no political pressure from the administration behind the decision to change testing guidelines. The task force in question is led by the American Vice-President Mike Pence.

America has recorded the world’s highest caseload and death toll during the pandemic, having logged 5.97 million infections and 183,132 deaths, according to the latest figures.

Oliver Smith: UK quarantine policy 'pedantic and pointless'

Evidence has continued to grow that the UK’s ludicrous quarantine policy is not even being enforced, writes our digital travel editor Oliver Smith.

Back in March and April, when hundreds were dying with Covid on a daily basis, lockdown rules permitted us to leave our house to shop and to exercise. But now, when daily deaths have dwindled to single figures (far more are dying of flu right now than of Covid), returning travellers told to quarantine are not permitted to leave the house to shop unless they have run out of supplies and nobody else can go for them

 They are not permitted to leave for exercise, even a quick jog around the block. They can’t even walk the dog. Furthermore, there is no “reasonable excuse” clause, which Dominic Cummings notoriously used to his advantage. 

What kind of two-week quarantine begins with a journey on a crowded (well, not that crowded) Tube train? Yet it is possible that many arrivals, having promised to dutifully self-isolate, will board the first Piccadilly line train to central London. Furthermore, we have been told that a quick trip to the supermarket on the way home, to stock up on essentials, is also fine.

Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

If it’s safe to visit the supermarket on our first day back, why not a few days later? Far better are France’s rules for those returning from “high-risk” destinations. They are tested at the airport (free of charge) and the results are emailed to them 48 hours later, during which time they are advised to self-isolate. You know, treated like grown-ups, not disease carrying drones. 

Read Oliver's full piece here.

Coronavirus can invade heart muscle as well as heart tissue, researchers find

The novel coronavirus, which has previously been detected in some heart tissues, can also invade heart muscle cells, or myocytes, researchers have found.

In Brazil, doctors found the virus in cardiac myocytes of an 11-year-old with multisystem inflammatory syndrome related to Covid-19 who died of heart failure.

The report, which is currently awaiting peer review, is contained in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.

In Italy, six adults who died of Covid-19 respiratory failure had active coronavirus in cardiac myocytes, with varying degrees of myocyte injury and cell death, doctors reported on Wednesday. None of the Italian patients had cardiac symptoms or a history of heart disease.

The researchers say that the new findings suggest that recovered virus patients should be monitored for heart problems even when they do not appear to be at risk, "since the cardiovascular long-term outcome of Covid-19 patients may mirror SARS patients".

Work from home: Are you at risk of WFH burnout?

When Fiona Todd accepted a job in public relations 18 months ago, she asked to work from home twice a week. On a bad day, her commute from Farnham to Kingston was an hour and a half drive. So when Wildfire PR employees were sent home in March, she thought it would be easy.

Like many, she looked forward to doing her washing at lunchtime, saving money on flat whites, having more time to exercise, and constant access to fresh food. But three months into lockdown, the 28-year-old senior account manager started to yearn for office life.

As well as feeling claustrophobic, she says she even missed “getting in the car and having that time for myself.” Virtual communication was difficult and she was working for hours on end without a break. “It gets so tedious,” she says. “I was really tired in the morning. It was hard to get up because I had nowhere to go.”

This week, it was reported that almost half of the UK’s 50 biggest employers have no plans to return to the office in the foreseeable future.

For some workers this will be great news – a third of office workers are keen to continue working from home according to the Centre of Economic and Business Research. But for every one worker who is enjoying their newfound flexibility, there will be two others who will find this news hard to take.

Cara McGoogan has more here.

Face masks in schools introduced in France as debate in Italy continues

Children over 11 and teachers will have to wear face-masks when French schools reopen next week, David Chazan and Nick Squires write. 

Jean-Michel Blanquer said the government had been considering exempting primary school teachers, but had decided to enforce mask-wearing for adults in all schools.

Elsewhere, Italy is mired in a political row over whether children should have to wear face-masks in class when schools reopen next month.

Italy is currently mired in a debate about whether scenes like this should or will become the 'new normal'. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

The government appears minded to make mask wearing obligatory, not just in communal areas of schools but in classrooms too.

But some health experts and politicians disagree, and have said that it is unfair to make children wear masks all day.

Austria ski resort at heart of 'super-spreader event' to face first Covid lawsuits

Authorities in Austria are set to face the first legal challenges from people who claim they caught the coronavirus at a popular ski resort next month, Justin Huggler reports.

In what could become a class action lawsuit, hundreds of people are preparing to sue local authorities in the resort of Ischgl in the Tyrolean Alps.

Lawyers said on Wednesday they are ready to bring the first cases by the end of September.

The tiny resort was one of the main centres of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, and is now believed to have spread the virus to 45 countries as people returned home from skiing holidays.

Lawyers accuse local authorities of failing to take adequate precautions and allowing the resort to stay open after it was clear there was an outbreak.

“In individual cases we’re talking about claims of €100,000 (£90,000),” said Peter Kolba, one of Austria’s best-known consumer rights lawyers.

Face masks UK policy: Sir Desmond Swayne criticises Government for proceeding without parliamentary vote

Sir Desmond Swayne has criticised the Government for forcing people to wear face masks in enclosed spaces - and in his words, "go about like Darth Vader" - without there having been a parliamentary vote on the matter.

The Conservative MP for New Forest West told Channel 4 News:

I think it is frightful. I think it is awful having to cover your face and go about like Darth Vader. I mean, I just think it is horrible, many people do.

But that is not the point. The point is you told me that I must wear a mask and I've never had the democratic legitimate right to ask you the counter case and vote upon it in Parliament through my elected representatives.

On whether older students should be wearing masks at school, he added that "teachers should have the discretion to determine what happens at school", following the Government's confirmation that students and staff will be advised to wear face coverings in communal areas in schools that are affected by local lockdowns.

The general secretary of the National Education Union, Kevin Courtney, said in response to Sir Desmond's comments:

Sir Desmond Swayne says we shouldn't tell people what to do but it is right to have seat belts in cars and to make people wear them, it is right to have helmets on motorcycles.

And if the science says that mask-wearing will prevent the spread of the virus, prevent the cases going up, prevent more unnecessary deaths, then it is absolutely right for the Government to say that you should wear them.

It's good to talk about mental health amid the coronavirus pandemic, say WHO experts

Experts from the World Health Organisation have said that maintaining social distancing measures during the pandemic does not mean people that have to be “socially distant”, Jordan Kelly-Linden reports.

As people struggle to find ways to cope with rising levels of loneliness, anxiety and depression brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's Covid-19 technical lead, encouraged those who are struggling with poor mental health to reach out and talk to people they trust.

Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

“Find someone who you can talk to, who you trust and that you respect and you get good information from and who you can be vulnerable with,” Dr Van Kerkhove said. “I think all of us want to project a very strong and together persona, but it is important that we can express concern and express vulnerability and talk through that.”

“One of the most powerful tools we have in the mental health sector right now is talking,” agreed Dr Devora Kestel director of the WHO’s mental health and substance abuse programme. “And that can be done right now if you have access to even the old traditional phone.”

Phil Hogan latest: EU Trade Commissioner expected to resign

The European Union's Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan is understood by Sky News and the Irish Independent to resign tonight after he attended a golf dinner with around 80 other people in County Galway - a breach of the country's social distancing rules.

The Irish Government has said the commissioner breached its public health guidelines, although Mr Hogan maintains he broke no regulations while in Ireland.

But he admitted making a series of journeys around the country during the pandemic, and was among the 81 guests to have attended the controversial golf dinner in the west of Ireland.

Coronavirus and mental health: Uncertainty of pandemic having adverse effects, leading WHO figures say

Dr Devora Kestel, director of the WHO’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse department, and Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, have today spoken of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on mental health.

"We don’t know what is happening. We’re afraid of getting sick, of losing somebody or dying," Dr Kestel said. "All of this is uncertainty. All of this is not knowing what is going to happen tomorrow. 

"It’s every age group and every social group that will be affected from this perspective and of course it will depend on how you can manage that and overcome those challenges. It is not discriminatory"

Dr Kestel said that it is important to stay socially connected while maintaining social distancing, and urged people to avoid negative coping mechanisms.

Sir Elton John warns it is 'vital' that venues stay open

Sir Elton John has warned it is "absolutely vital" that struggling music venues survive the Covid-19 pandemic, with world-famous spots including Liverpool's The Cavern Club and the Troubadour in Los Angeles among those at risk.

Sir Elton played the Troubadour 50 years ago this week, a performance widely seen as launching the musician to rock super stardom.

 

Speaking on BBC Radio 6 Music, the 73-year-old expressed his hopes that the Troubadour will survive, before offering some more general comments on the effect of the pandemic on the industry:

I've heard that it might be closing but I think it's going to be OK. We have to preserve venues like this. I heard about it in the springtime before I returned to England and I made a few phone calls. There are a few irons in the fire.

If venues like that disappear then it's really grim stuff because they are so important for new people to go and I've seen so many new acts there that have come from Britain.

I saw Cat Stevens there when he did his first show in America. It's a great launchpad. It's a great room, it has atmosphere, it has everything going for it. If you can't play well at the Troubadour you can't play well anywhere.

Spain cases rise by more than 3,500, as country struggles to contain contagion

Spain reported 3,594 new coronavirus infections this afternoon, as it continues its struggle to contain a second wave that hit a peak of 8,000 cases last Friday (August 21).

Spanish health authorities have registered the largest number of cases in western Europe since the pandemic began six months ago - and the biggest resurgence after one of the world's most stringent lockdowns was lifted once the first wave of cases was brought under control.

The latest daily rise was below the 4,000 cases recorded a day earlier, according to updated health ministry data, and takes Spain's cumulative total to 419,849. The Madrid capital region has been the hardest hit by some distance, accounting for more than a third of new cases at 1,513 infections logged today.

Seven more deaths were recorded, pushing the overall toll to 28,971.

While officials have urged residents in some areas to stay at home, the Madrid region's deputy leader said there were no plans to use new powers granted by the central government to implement a state of emergency.

Ignacio Aguado said that he is "not in favour of more lockdowns", and cited the "economic ruin" brought about by the steps that were taken in March and April.

He also accused the central government's education ministry of leaving the responsibility of safe school reopenings in the hands of local authorities.

In the absence of national guidelines, Spain's 17 regions have been left to develop their own plans, which has led to mixed levels of success and failure in containing Covid-19 across the country.

Emergency funding for trains could be extended by Government after pressure from firms

Emergency contracts for train firms expire in two weeks with companies fearing that they will be unable to survive without ongoing support from the Government.

Even after the coronavirus pandemic, industry insiders are expecting a long-term reduction in passenger numbers of around a third as a result of an increase in home working.

Latest figures from the Department for Transport reveals that rail usage in Britain is at 33 per cent of pre-Covid levels, leaving many firms fearing they will not be able to survive without ongoing support.

Ministers have until September 20 to extend the emergency measures agreements (EMAs) which are believed to be costing taxpayers £900 million a month.

One rail industry source said: “The situation is fairly bleak. If we don’t continue to receive support it will be impossible to survive and it will basically reach the point where we will have to hand back the keys to the Government.”

Ministers hope to replace the current arrangements with “management contacts”, where rail companies are rewarded on the basis of performance.

Our political correspondent Amy Jones has the full story.

Mortgage holiday ruling will see them brought to an end after October

Millions could face a brutal autumn after the City watchdog announced an end to mortgage holidays at the same time as the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme is axed, report Lucy Burton and Russell Lynch.

Covid-hit workers will no longer be able to demand a break from mortgage payments beyond October 31, following a change to rules set out by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The furlough programme, which pays up to 80pc of wages for workers unable to do their jobs, will end on the same day - potentially triggering mass redundancies as firms sack staff who they can no longer afford.

Credit: Yui Mok/PA

It means November 1 could be the day when the true extent of the economic havoc wreaked by Covid is finally revealed.

Fears of a fresh blow are likely to be heightened after a survey by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) revealed savage job cuts are expected in the dominant service sector.

Consumer-facing companies have already slashed jobs at the fastest pace in the survey's 22-year history, as managers take drastic action in the face of the pandemic. Business and professional services companies are also shedding jobs at the quickest pace since the financial crisis in 2009.

Lasting immunity doubt as two more reinfection cases confirmed

Two European patients are confirmed to have been re-infected with the coronavirus, raising questions over how long immunity to the virus lasts, Anne Gulland writes.

The cases, in Belgium and the Netherlands, come a day after researchers in Hong Kong revealed that a 33-year-old man was re-infected with a different strain of the virus four and a half months after being declared recovered - the first such re-infection to be determined through genetic sequencing.

The cases have fuelled fears about the effectiveness of potential vaccines against the virus, as it would appear that immunity only lasts a short period of time. However, experts have warned against reading too much into isolated cases - in a pandemic that has infected more than 23 million people. 

Virologist Marc Van Ranst said the Belgian case was a woman who had contracted Covid-19 for the first time in March and then again in June. Further cases of re-infection were likely to surface, he said.

"We don't know if there will be a large number. I think probably not, but we will have to see," he told Reuters.

Read Anne's full piece here.

UK and EU eye jabs for at least 40pc of their populations

European Union nations, the UK, and EU partners have agreed on a Covid-19 vaccination plan that would involve at least 40 per cent of their populations being inoculated: a step that some believe could set back the World Health Organisation's own vaccine blueprint.

The EU target for early vaccinations is twice as high as the goal set by the WHO, which is aiming to buy vaccines initially for 20 per cent of the world's most vulnerable people through a global procurement scheme.

The EU estimates that the share of its population in need of initial vaccination, should a shot be developed, would be at least 40 per cent. In practice, this would reduce the availability of doses for less developed countries - which could also lead to friction with the WHO, which has warned against 'vaccine nationalism'.

The supply of any coronavirus vaccine that proves to be successful at a large scale is expected to be limited for a significant amount of time, as production capacity are limited.

"Adding (up) all risk groups presently known will designate probably 40 per cent of the population, depending on the situation and demography in countries," said the document, adopted in late July by health experts from EU member states as well as Britain, Switzerland, Norway and Balkan countries.

The document classifies over 200 million of the 450 million people living in EU countries as belonging to "priority groups", defined as people with chronic diseases, the elderly, and health workers and medical professionals.

Leicester lockdown was hampered by lack of ethnicity and workplace data

Leicester’s mayor has said the city was hampered in tackling its coronavirus outbreak because the Government refused to give it data on ethnicity and workplaces, Laura Donnelly reports. 

Sir Peter Soulsby claimed the Government had been "insufficiently trusting" of councils during the pandemic, who were still receiving "inconsistent" and "erratic" testing information.

He said local authorities need access to more detailed Covid-19 testing data, including people's addresses, ethnicity, and workplace, in order to help control the spread of Covid-19 in their area.

 The mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby  Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus on Wednesday, he said: “What we could very much benefit from having, certainly in cities such as Leicester but probably elsewhere as well, is details of ethnicity, and where appropriate, workplace.”

He said he raised the matter with Baroness Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace, when the prospect of a lockdown in Leicester was first raised, but was told the Government had decided not to seek this information of those being tested.

All the about-turns the Government has now made during the pandemic

The Government yesterday made its latest U-turn of the coronavirus pandemic - now advising that face masks should be worn by secondary pupils and staff in some areas of England.

It's the latest in a series of u-turns the government has taken in its dealing with the coronavirus pandemic:

Pubs closed in Northern Ireland for the foreseeable as theatre reopenings also delayed

Pubs that do not serve food will not be able to reopen next week, Stormont ministers have said, with the reopening of theatres also delayed in another pause in Northern Ireland's emergence from lockdown.

While wet pubs and theatres had been given a provisional date of next Tuesday to commence trade, ministers have said that the increased spread of Covid-19 means that they could not approve the move.

Another 72 people were today diagnosed with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, with a total of 384 having tested positive in the last seven days. No new fatalities in Northern Ireland have been recorded today.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster and representative of a large numbers of publicans, said that the delay marked "catastrophic news for hard-working publicans right across Northern Ireland", who had already made the "ultimate sacrifice" by closing their premises.

An Executive Office spokesman put the delay down to an increase in Northern Ireland's R rate:

With the increased transmission rate of the virus in the community and the R number at around 1.3, the Executive agreed that no further restrictions will be lifted at this time.

The indicative date of September 1 for the opening of wet pubs, private members' clubs and audiences returning to theatres has not been ratified by the Executive.

Officials have engaged with the different stakeholder bodies and no new indicative dates have been set.

'Spare a thought for holidaymakers in Ireland – we face a social media shaming if we dare leave the country'

At the moment, living in Ireland feels a lot like being forced to stay in the classroom at break time, while everyone else skips around the playground, writes Nicola Brady.

Half of my Instagram feed has decamped to Santorini, but it looks like I’m stuck here for the foreseeable future, my passport gathering dust in a drawer.  

Back in July, after weeks of delays and procrastination, the Irish green list was announced, followed swiftly by a wave of confusion. It featured a rag-tag collection of 15 countries, some of which we couldn’t even reach without flying through a “banned” destination, or travelling on a non-existent cruise ship (here’s looking at you, Greenland).

Irish tourists are free to visit Italy - but can face trial by Twitter and indictment on Instagram if they do so, says Nicola Brady. Credit: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

That list has since been reduced to just 10 countries, including Italy, Greece and Slovakia. This should be welcome news – after all, we finally have a list of countries to which we can travel, and I sure as hell wouldn’t say no to a few nights in Ischia, or a week of island-hopping in Greece. 

But unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Even with this green list in place, the overriding message from our government is that non-essential travel is still off the table – if we want a holiday, then we have to do it at home. To watch the rest of the world travel while we cannot is unendingly frustrating, particularly when other countries now have lower case rates than ours.

Read Nicola's full piece here.

Lionel Messi news: Sale could save Barcelona from a Covid-financial apocalypse

Both Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have been indiscriminate in their devastating effects on businesses of all shapes and sizes - with Spanish football titans FC Barcelona being no exception, Sam Wallace writes.

With a total wage-bill budget of €671m in the Covid era, the issue for Barcelona's club president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, and his fellow board members is their personal liability for the finances of the club under Spanish law that governs sports clubs owned by their membership.

Since the Covid outbreak, the club, one of four along with Real Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna released from the legal obligation to operate as PLCs, have lobbied government for a change to the rules on liability.

While the prospective departure of Lionel Messi might be a development disastrous for the club’s public face, behind the scenes at Barcelona it could be regarded as a necessary evil that saves the board in a potential Covid financial apocalypse. Like Neymar’s sale three years earlier, the club can argue it was against all their wishes. Yet even if Messi leaves for free, the lifting of his wage burden alone solves some of Barcelona’s pressing financial issues caused by the mistakes of Bartomeu and his board.

There has been no clear disclosure of Barcelona’s finances since the pre-Covid days of last October when the situation was precarious to say the least. The board has been bullish for a while about reaching a total annual revenue stream of €1 billion - “staggering financial growth” Bartomeu described it as in his preamble to the October results for the 2018-2019 season.

Even then, on a revenue of €990m, the operating expenditure was €973m with just €4.5m in profits after tax. The half-year accounts for July to December of last year were due in March and are yet to see the light of day. Covid will undoubtedly have made the situation grave – and it was serious before then.

The club president of FC Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu. Credit: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images Europe

 Amid lockdown loneliness, has the pandemic lost us friends?

After months of reduced social interaction, it's hard to shake the feeling that things just don't feel the same with some of our friendships.

And a new report suggests that's because they might not be.

The Oxford University psychologist behind the study, Professor Robin Dunbar joins our very own Theodora Louloudis to discuss the hindrances of virtual friendships, why physical contact strengthens relationships and the unwelcome side-effect of becoming friends with your neighbours over the lockdown.

Listen to the new episode of The Telegraph's podcast - Coronavirus: The Latest  - below.

Croatia reports new record high

Croatia has seen its highest number of daily coronavirus infections, with 358 new cases recorded today. 

It comes after the UK imposed 14-day self-isolation requirements on holidaymakers and arrivals from Croatia, after the country exceeded the 20 cases per 100,000 threshold used by the Foreign Office.

New cases have risen since Croatia opened its borders to tourists in time for the summer tourist season.

Blackburn with Darwen has highest case rate in the UK

Blackburn with Darwen currently has the highest rate of coronavirus cases in the UK, the latest case rate data from the Press Association - updated weekly - has shown, although the borough's caseload is down on the previous week.

In Blackburn with Darwen, 82 new cases were recorded in the seven days to August 23 - the equivalent of 54.8 per 100,000 people. This is the highest rate in England, but it is down from 78.2 in the seven days to August 16.

The rate in Oldham is 54.4, down from 86.9, with 129 new cases.

Pendle is third, where the rate has fallen from 93.4 to 51.0, with 47 new cases.

In Leicester, the rate continues to fall, down from 50.0 to 44.9, with 159 new cases.

Three other areas have rates above 40 per 100,000: Manchester (42.5), Bradford (42.1) and Rochdale (41.8).

Global stocks hit a record high amid trade and vaccine hopes

Global equities have touched a record high, as hopes on trade and vaccine progress outweigh fears over a second pandemic wave.

The MSCI All-Country World Index, the broadest measure of global equity prices, has topped the previous peak, which was reached in February before the markets went sharply into reverse.

Today's news has reflected a stunning comeback for global equities, with a storming performance by US tech giants perhaps the highlight.

 Here's what happened in the world of business today, courtesy of LaToya Harding and Louis Ashworth.

Covid-19 has ushered in a new era of digital activism – and global leaders are listening

The number of people calling for policy change online has sparked a new era of digital activism, according to petition website Change.org, which has seen  81 per cent more signatures this year than last, Harriet Barber reports. 

Findings from Change.org revealed that more than 110 million people worldwide have supported campaigns since the virus took hold of the world in January. In addition, 80 per cent more petitions were launched, and in 10 countries the number of petitions created in the past seven months doubled compared to the same period in 2019.

Preethi Herman, global executive director at Change.org Foundation, said the increase reflected many of the social, cultural and political challenges faced by millions around the world.  

From mid-March to mid-May 2020, six French government ministers responded to petitions related to the Covid-19 health crisis.  Credit: Michael Euler/AP

“The last few months have revealed that this world has entered a new era of civic engagement and digital activism and there are a number of non-traditional players who are leading the way to create a new wave of positive, people-driven change,” she said.

The report found decision makers were paying more attention to the issues raised online, too – more than 10,473,233 people signed at least one Covid-19 petition that was later declared a victory. 

In Spain, more than 90,000 people called on the government to provide clarity on the closure of hairdressers and beauty salons in the restrictive lockdown. The government provided more details the very next day.

And in France, 100,000 people signed a petition titled ‘Covid-19 testing for all’, and the minister of health, Olivier Veran, sent his response directly to the petitioners by email. 

Read more from Harriet here.

Polio eradication in Africa: Health workers continue to fight disease in two remaining hotspots

As Africa is declared free of polio, vaccinators in Pakistan and Afghanistan brave bullets and mistrust in a bid to defeat this scourge.

Shaheen Begum may have lost three colleagues to militant attacks just days earlier, but she was determined the killers would not frighten her into abandoning children to polio paralysis.

While she was understandably anxious about returning to door-to-door vaccination duties, she rejected any suggestion she would stop. One of her own nieces had been struck down by the virus and she knew all too well the cruel curse of the disease.

A health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a polio vaccination door-to-door campaign in Lahore.  Credit: Arif Ali/AFP

“I will continue to vaccinate children despite threats to our lives because of the future of the young generation needs to be secured,” she told me at the time in 2012.

“I consider every child as my nephew and niece.”

“I am still scared to be part of the campaign but it would be a sign of cowardice if I withdraw my support,” she said.

Eight years later her bravery still stands out in my mind. While Pakistan's security situation has improved greatly since then, the task for tens of thousands of health workers trying to stamp out the crippling virus remains neither easy nor totally safe.

Ben Farmer has the full story.

Face masks in schools could hinder speech development, Sage papers show

Government scientists warned ahead of the U-turn on face masks in schools that the coverings could hinder children's speech development, Sarah Knapton reports.  

New guidance will allow head teachers to ask pupils in Year 7 and above in England to wear coverings in corridors and communal areas, but not in classrooms.

In local lockdown areas, the guidance will become mandatory. 

Teaching unions have also called for mandatory masks for teachers and pupils within classrooms.

However, a report from the Children’s Task and Finish Group – which was endorsed by the Scientific Advisory Group or Emergencies (Sage) on July 9 – stated that the "detrimental development impacts may be greater than the potential protective benefit". 

Experts warned that the use of masks for children "is likely to be unfeasible for younger children" and argued that masks "may increase face touching among older children". 

They added: “The risks of affecting or damaging general speech and language development is far greater than any risks of children transmitting."

PHE scrapped: Plans for new body have 'little clarity' and laden with risk, MPs told

Controversial plans to scrap Public Health England (PHE) and replace it with a new body - as first revealed by the this newspaper - have "little clarity" and risk the loss of highly trained staff, MPs have heard.

Doctors criticised the Government's decision to launch the new National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and expressed concern over how it will affect efforts to improve the nation's health and the morale of "exhausted" workers.

The comments were made following questions from members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus earlier today.

Dr Isobel Braithwaite, an academic clinical fellow at University College London, who has been involved with PHE's London Coronavirus Response Cell, said: "People have been working incredibly hard and we're facing a very difficult winter. It doesn't feel like a good time for a distraction like this.

"And I think it's going to make recruitment more challenging and I think we risk losing a lot of very specialised and highly trained people."

From Bali Covid closure to Greece travel drive, summer holiday season highlights gulf between Asian and European strategies 

The Indonesian holiday island of Bali this week conceded defeat in its plan to welcome tourists back to its shores in September, postponing the re-entry for foreign visitors until 2021, writes our Asia correspondent Nicola Smith.

“The situation in Indonesia, including Bali, is not yet safe to welcome them," said Wayan Koster, Bali’s governor, in comments that will dishearten the local tourist industry, but which illustrate the vast gulf that has emerged between Asia and Europe when it comes to pandemic strategies and risk analysis. 

Bali is expected to remain closed to tourists until the start of 2021 at the earliest. Credit: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP

As the UK and European nations juggle a rapidly shifting landscape of travel and quarantine restrictions to try to give the summer holiday season a semblance of normality, Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand have opted for the more risk-averse approach of simply sealing off their borders. 

The differences highlight the complexity of finding the balance between economic and public health concerns and the long-term impact of the diverging outlooks is still impossible to assess.

Spain coronavirus latest: Study finds child-to-child Covid transmission six times lower

A Spanish study has suggested child-to-child Covid-19 transmission is six times lower than among the general community.

My colleague James Badcock has more from Madrid:

According to El País, the results of a study of children and teenagers who participated in summer camps in Barcelona showed that minors who developed an infection had an R rate of 0.3, when in the general community in the same areas of the city, rates were between 1.7 and 2.0.

Although the children spent a lot of their time in the open air and in groups of no more than 10 participants, the study may still suggest that the opening of schools is not as problematic as may have been feared.

A team from the Sant Joan de Déu children’s hospital in Barcelona took weekly saliva samples from more than 1,900 people, comprising children and their monitors from 22 summer camps over a five-week period. The researchers focused on 30 children who started their camps with a positive result for Covid-19, and found that only 12 more positives occurred among 258 other minors they had come into contact with.

The study, which has been shared with the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, also notes that children of 12 and under have the same capacity to transmit Covid-19 as adolescents of 13 to 17. The summer camps where children washed their hands more often also had lower transmission of the virus, with almost no cases arising where hands were washed more than five times a day.

Injectable microscopic robots promise 'dream' breakthrough in surgery

Microscopic robots, which could be injected into the brain to smother a tumour, are a step closer after researchers created the first moving microchips, opening up a wide range of scientific and health possibilities globally.

Cornell Universityproved it was possible to attach legs or swimming arms to tiny computer chips (smaller than the width of a human hair) which can then be programmed walk to a pre-set location.

It would allow surgeons of the future to access difficult tumours without damaging nearby tissue.

The tiny bots are five microns thick, the size of a single-celled organism, and so could travel through the bloodstream or into tissues.

Lead researcher Itai Cohen, Prof of Physics at Cornell, said: “It’s a tiny computer, and our group has been trying to figure out how to put legs on this computer and make it walk, in essence making a robot out of a computer chip.”

Our science editor Sarah Knapton has the story.

A-Level results fiasco aftermath sees second education official lose their job

A second official has lost their job in the wake of the exams debacle in the space of two days, with the Prime Minister saying there is "need for fresh official leadership".

Jonathan Slater, the permanent secretary at the Department for Education will leave his post from next week, the Government has confirmed.

Mr Slater, the most senior civil servant at the department, will step down from September 1, ahead of the end of his tenure next spring. 

He is being replaced by his deputy Susan Acland-Hood on an interim basis, with a permanent replacement being announced in the coming weeks. 

It follows chaos over this year's A-Level results, which initially saw about two-fifths of pupils' marks downgraded from teacher estimates in the absence of, although Government sources have claimed that the Prime Minister's decision dated back a month and was not a direct of the exam fiasco.

UK reports 16 more deaths 

A further 16 people in the UK have died with coronavirus, which brings the nation’s death toll to 41,465. Nine of the new deaths that have been recorded were in NHS England hospital settings, all of which happened in the last 10 days.

As of 9am today 1,048 new positive cases have been recorded, taking the total caseload in the UK to 328,846.

There are currently 782 patients in hospital with Covid-19.

Face masks in schools: Welsh head teacher association criticises 'unacceptable' policy change

Laura Doel, the director of the National Association for Head Teachers (NAHT) Cymru, has said leaving schools in Wales to decide if pupils should wear face coverings would create "confusion".

She said:

It is unacceptable that school leaders are expected to shoulder the responsibility of deciding if face coverings are required in schools.

Headteachers are not medical experts and the Welsh Government should not put them in this position.

If the Government leaves this decision-making to individual schools or local authorities we will once again see a mixed economy across Wales, with different schools having different measures in place which will be unsettling and potentially unsafe for pupils, parents and staff alike.

This will portray a message of confusion not confidence in returning to school.

Face masks in schools rolled out in Wales in line with Scotland and WHO advice

Pupils over the age of 11, college students and school staff in Wales will be advised to wear face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.

The new guidance which has been issued by the Welsh Government also applies to pupils who use school transport.

“The current advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is that face coverings are recommended for all members of the public over 11 years in indoor settings in which social distancing cannot be maintained,” health minister Vaughan Gething and education minister Kirsty Williams said in a statement.

Schools and local authorities will now be obliged to carry out risk assessments of their sites to determine whether or not the two-metre social distancing rule can be maintained.

Recently-updated guidance from the World Health Organisation stated that pupils aged 12 and over should wear masks “under the same conditions as adults”, meaning in indoor settings including secondary schools.

Coronavirus test data needs to be more granular, MPs told by Leicester mayor

Local authorities need access to more granular coronavirus testing data, including people's addresses, ethnicity, and workplace, in order to help control the spread of Covid-19 in their area, MPs have been told.

Leicester city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said that the Government had "insufficiently" trusting of local authorities during the coronavirus pandemic. He claimed councils were still receiving "inconsistent" and "erratic" testing information.

Speaking before the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on coronavirus on Wednesday, he said: "It certainly has been quite evident throughout that we have not been trusted with the data and we've not been trusted with the powers.

"And the combination of those two absences has... hindered our ability to respond as effectively as we would wish to and as we could."

Leicester was the first city in the UK to have lockdown measures reintroduced on a local level at the end of June, and it was among the first areas to pioneer national test-and-trace efforts.

Stockport and Bolton leaders to ask for restrictions to be lifted

Local authority figures in Stockport and Bolton are to ask the Government to lift coronavirus restrictions in their boroughs that came into place as part of the local lockdown measures in the Greater Manchester area.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, said "political consensus" had been reached to push for the removal of restriction in both boroughs on social gatherings at people's homes.

But council leaders across Greater Manchester agreed to request that restrictions remain in place in Oldham, Manchester, Rochdale, Bury, Tameside, Salford and Trafford.

Local authorities are convinced that restrictions should remain in place in Oldham, where testing efforts have been stepped up. Credit: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP

Mr Burnham told reporters:

While there is progress in many of our boroughs there are still high numbers of cases and of course we do now have to think about the imminent return of schools and planning safely for that.

The next announcement on restrictions in the "northern area of intervention" will take place tomorrow after a meeting of the Joint Biosecurity Centre, which is to be chaired by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty.

Vatican to resume audience with the Pope early next month

Pope Francis will restart limited public audiences early next month, the Vatican has announced.

There will be hygiene measures in place for those wishing to join in, with sessions to start at 9.30am from September 2 in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis has held his weekly general audience in splendid isolation during the last six months. Credit: Vatican Media Handout/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The Vatican said that tickets were not necessary for the event, but there will be a limit of 500 seats allocated.

Public audiences for the Pope's weekly general address were postponed from sixth months ago because of the pandemic.

Furlough scheme has covered up number of workless households in UK

The number of workless households in the UK actually fell by 133,000 during the deepest economic plunge in the country’s history, the Office for National Statistics claimed on Wednesday, our economics editor Russell Lynch reports.

Between April and June it estimated that 13.1 per cent of all households - 2.73 million - had nobody in work due to unemployment or economic activity, down from 2.86 million in the first quarter of the year.

But the figures have been badly skewed by the influence of the Government’s furlough scheme, which has protected more than 10 million jobs, as well as provided support for some 2.5 million self-employed workers.

Workers on furlough are not defined as unemployed, which has kept the jobless rate artificially low despite a record 20.4 per cent collapse in the economy due to an extended coronavirus shutdown. 

The share of working households remained virtually unchanged at 59.6 per cent or 12.5 million, the ONS added.

But analysts warned the respite from reality was unlikely to last much longer as the furlough scheme finally ends in October - threatening to accelerate the steady stream of redundancies from the UK’s biggest companies.

Care homes Covid-19 testing: Provider calls on Government to reverse 'extraordinary' decision

The National Care Forum (NCF) has called on the Government to reverse what it has described as an "extraordinary" decision to allow health inspectors into care homes without being regularly tested for Covid-19.

The NCF represents 120 social care charities in the UK, and wants Care Quality Commission inspectors to be included as part of weekly routine testing before they visit

Describing the existing policy as "very counter-productive", the group has expressed concerns that inspectors moving between different groups of care home staff and residents could lead to renewed outbreaks.

Vic Rayner, the executive director of the NCF, said:

For months central government and the regulator have been requiring care homes to essentially eradicate the movement of staff and the flow of people, including close family relatives, into homes.

Having done this, care homes are now being asked to let inspectors into homes without knowing whether or not they are Covid-positive.

Understandably they are both shocked and hugely concerned. If Inspectors are coming in, they need to be tested - there should be no further debate about this.

Men and women who contract virus may need to be treated differently, researchers find

Men and women who have contracted coroanvirus may need to be treated differently, researchers have said, after finding how the male and female immune response to the disease differs. 

Since the start of the pandemic it has been clear that men are more at risk of Covid-19 than women but the reasons for this are not properly understood. 

Researchers from Yale New Haven Hospital in the United States looked at 98 patients with moderate forms of the virus and found women mounted a more robust T cell - or immunity - response to the disease than men. 

But researchers also found that women who had higher levels of cytokines - proteins that spark the immune system - in their blood were more likely to have worse outcomes.

Writing in the journal Nature, researchers said men might benefit from therapies that elevate T cell responses whereas female patients may benefit from therapies that dampen early immune responses.

Gatwick set to axe hundreds of jobs

Gatwick airport is to cut up to 600 jobs in response to the “devastating impact” of Covid-19.

The redundancies, which represent almost a quarter of the airport’s workforce, come as passenger numbers fell 80 per cent in August.

Boss Stewart Wingate said: “If anyone is in any doubt about the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on the aviation and travel industry then today’s news we have shared with our staff, regarding the proposed job losses, is a stark reminder.”

Oliver Gill has more here

PM 'shamelessly' trying to 'avoid responsibility' for exam results fiasco, says Labour 

Shadow education secretary Kate Green has condemned Boris Johnson for "shamelessly trying to avoid responsibility" for the exam results fiasco.

She said: "Responsibility for this shambles lies squarely with Downing Street and the Department for Education, who set out how they wanted the algorithm to work and were warned weeks in advance of issues, but repeatedly refused to address the problems they had created.

"It is this Tory government's incompetence that is to blame for the exams fiasco."

Switzerland's World Economic Forum canceled in January, rescheduled for summer

The 2021 World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting of business leaders and politicians has been called off for January due to the coronavirus pandemic, with organizers planning to reschedule the event sometime early next summer.

"The advice from experts is that we cannot (host the event) safely in January," WEF said in a statement.

The meeting of global leaders has been held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos since the early 1970s.

How Uganda's tough approach to Covid-19 is hurting its citizens

The country has learned from its experience of Ebola to control coronavirus – but its harsh lockdown has disrupted health services, reports Evelyn Lirri.

Coronavirus killed Francis Balitamuto’s wife and newborn child. However it was not the infection itself that took their lives, but the restrictions imposed by the Ugandan government in a bid to contain the disease.

Flavia Nambi went into labour in a private medical facility in the eastern Uganda district of Kamuli on May 1.

“Being a midwife herself, she thought that she could push the baby out. However, her uterus got a tear, and the baby died shortly after birth. She also lost a lot of blood in the process,” says Mr Balitamuto. 

The clinic where she gave birth did not have any of the blood Mrs Nambi desperately needed to keep her alive. But the nationwide lockdown and overnight curfew that Uganda had introduced to prevent the spread of coronavirus meant that she could not be transferred to another facility fast enough to get the care and blood she needed. 

The 39-year-old died in the small hours of May 2. 

Uganda has been widely lauded by the World Health Organization and the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) for its decisive reaction against the pandemic. However, campaigners say enforcement measures to prevent Covid-19 have led to a surge in violations of human rights and knock-on effects on other health services. Citizens have been killed by local defence units for breaking curfews and expectant mothers, such as Mrs Nambi, have died while attempting to access health facilities. 

Read the full story here

Decision on face masks in schools will come later today, says Wales' First Minister

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said a decision on whether children in Wales will be required to wear face coverings in schools will be made later today.

Speaking at today's Welsh Parliament plenary, Mr Drakeford hinted that the power to require their use could be left to local authorities in the case of spikes in their areas.

He said: "We remain in discussions with a variety of important interests, local authorities, teaching unions, the Children's Commissioner, here in Wales."

He added: "There is a potential part to be played by face coverings in secondary schools in a local context where numbers rise above a certain threshold, where particular buildings don't allow the safe circulation of young people around the school.

"It is for a local determination in that set of particular circumstances, that those closest to them are best equipped to assess against guidance that we will provide to them."

Further nine hospital deaths in England

A further nine people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,524, NHS England said today.

The patients were aged between 39 and 84, and all had known underlying health conditions.

Another three deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

Czech Republic nears threshold for triggering UK quarantine rules

The Czech Republic could become another European country subject to quarantine measures for people returning to the UK, according to the latest figures.

A seven-day rate of 20 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people is the threshold above which the UK Government considers triggering quarantine conditions.

The Czech Republic is currently recording a seven-day rate of 19.4 cases per 100,000, up from 16 a week ago.

Switzerland is already over the threshold, with a seven-day rate of 21.2.

Last week, Scotland took Switzerland off its list of countries from which people do not need to self-isolate on arrival.

The rest of the UK could follow later this week.

Follow all the latest on our travel live blog here

Children's behaviour a factor in whether masks make them safer, says headteacher

Katharine Birbalsingh, founder and headteacher of Michaela Community School, a free school in London, said there was a "need to take into account children's behaviour when considering whether or not masks make them safer".

She told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "You need to take into account children's group behaviour in a school before you can then say they are safer with masks.

"What about the children who turn up to school with uniforms that aren't washed? They don't necessarily wash themselves, they come to school hungry, they will be wearing reused dirty masks. They'll swap them ... they'll wear them incorrectly, they'll lose them. When half of your children show up to school and aren't wearing masks, what to do you, do you exclude them?

"The girls will be in the loos checking their masks to make sure they look nice, they'll be touching their faces all the more. We need to take into account children's behaviour when considering whether or not masks make them safer and I would actually argue that they make them less safe."

Scotland: First deaths after positive test for six weeks

Two new deaths following a positive test for coronavirus have been reported in Scotland for the first time since 16 July.

It brings the total number of deaths in Scotland under this measure to 2,494.

Meanwhile, the National Records of Scotland (NRS) has also reported six deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate last week.

The deaths were registered between 17 and 23 August, bringing the total to 4,222 by this measure.

Four of the deaths were in a care home and two were in a hospital, according to the NRS.

Nicola Sturgeon also reported that there had been 67 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Scotland in the last 24 hours.

One further death in Wales

Public Health Wales said another person has died having tested positive for coronavirus, bringing its total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,594.

The number of cases of Covid-19 in Wales increased by 34, bringing the revised confirmed total to 17,808.

PM: Pupils have 'lost too much time' from learning due to pandemic 

The Prime Minister said pupils had "lost too much time" from their learning as a result of the pandemic and encouraged all youngsters to return to their classrooms when schools reopen for the autumn term.

He said: "School is safe, it is exciting, it is the place to learn, it is the place where people are going to be absorbing in the next few days and weeks, young people are going to be absorbing things they will never forget.

"This is an absolutely invaluable time for them - they must get back into school.

"They have lost too much time out of school and I hope they will (return), and I'm sure they will."

Boris Johnson admits face mask U-turn inspired by 'sensible' Scottish decision

Boris Johnson has admitted the Government's U-turn on face masks in schools was inspired by Scotland's "sensible" move to mandate their use in communal areas. 

Speaking during a visit to a school in the Midlands, the Prime Minister said the change in guidance, announced some hours after Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a similar move, would only affect "few and far between" schools in outbreak hotspots.

He added: "As they discovered in Scotland, where they've had the kids in for at least a couple of weeks now, what they found was that it was raining outside, people were coming in and they were congregating in the corridors and the move to face coverings they thought was sensible."

It comes after the U-turn was attacked by several Conservative backbenchers.

Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Tories, told Times Radio: "Thing now seems to be changing on a daily basis, and there is now growing concern that they tend to change about three days after Nicola Sturgeon makes a decision.

"I thought we were the United Kingdom, I thought the Prime Minister was the most powerful politician in the land, I thought we had great scientists who were supposed to be listened to - but none of this seems to count anymore."

Catherine Neilan has all the latest on our politics live blog here

Belgium revises down its death toll

Belgium has revised down its Covid-19 death toll, just as it was about to pass the milestone of 10,000 fatalities.

Health authorities reviewed figures from care homes in the northern region of Flanders and found some Covid-19 deaths not reported as such, some recorded twice and some not caused by the new coronavirus. The net effect is a reduction of 121.

The revision brought the total fatalities to 9,878 by today. Otherwise, it would have been 9,999.

The UK Government also lowered England’s death toll by more than 5,000 two weeks ago after the Government adopted a new method of counting fatalities.

Belgium’s Covid-19 deaths per capita are among the highest in the world and it reports a higher proportion of fatalities in care homes than other countries, including when the disease is suspected but not confirmed.

Ever-shifting nature of pandemic means changes may come with Plan B, says headteacher

Liam Powell, headteacher of Manor High School, in Oadby, Leicestershire, said the ever-shifting nature of the Covid-19 pandemic meant forecasting what changes may come and be ready with a "plan B".

The school, in the borough of Oadby and Wigston bordering Leicester, was initially in the Leicester local lockdown, but was removed during an easing of controls earlier this month, when infection rates dropped.

Now out of local lockdown, Mr Powell said mask-wearing at the school was not mandatory - but he had told parents the school was adopting a voluntary policy, in line with public health guidance.

He said: "I read the Secretary of State's announcement last night and he was quoting and responding to what the World Health Organisation were saying about masks.

"Again, we had looked beyond the horizon to what was happening in France and Germany and nearer to home, what was happening in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

"So it seemed a natural conclusion that England may well go in the same direction as well."

Teaching union advises all secondary school leaders to ask for masks to be worn

A school leaders' union has recommended all secondary schools ask pupils and staff to wear face coverings in communal spaces, despite Government advice that it is only required for those in local lockdown areas of England.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said ministers were following the "best scientific and medical advice", adding that it was not necessary for face coverings to be mandatory in all schools across the country.

But in a message to members of school leaders' union NAHT, general secretary Paul Whiteman said it would be "prudent" for masks to be used more widely.

He criticised the Government for "pass(ing) the buck" to secondary schools and colleges, who have been given the discretion to require masks if social distancing cannot be safely managed.

"Once again, many school leaders will feel as though the Government has passed the buck and handed the difficult decision over to them," he said.

"We will continue to lobby the Government to take a clear and unambiguous line on this.

"In the meantime, NAHT's advice is that it would be prudent for secondary schools to ask pupils and staff to wear face coverings in corridor and communal spaces unless there is a compelling reason not to.

"Erring on the side of caution would seem a sensible approach to take given the information coming out of the WHO (World Health Organisation)."

Kenya extends nationwide curfew

Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has extended a nationwide curfew by 30 days in a bid to contain the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Kenyatta said in a televised address he had also extended the closure of bars and nightclubs for 30 days, while he increased the number of people allowed to attend events such as weddings and funerals.

PM: No generation of pupils has ever done anything like this

Boris Johnson also thanked pupils for their efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19.

"We have the number of deaths way down, we have the number of hospital admissions way, way down and it's thanks to you and your sacrifice that we have protected the NHS and saved literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of lives," he said.

"No previous generation of pupils has ever done anything like this."

Now, he said, "the risk to your health is not from Covid because, after all, statistically speaking, your chances of suffering from that disease are very, very low".

"The greatest risk you face now is of continuing to be out of school."

PM blames 'mutant algorithm' for exam results fiasco 

Boris Johnson, addressing pupils at a school in the East Midlands, blamed a "mutant algorithm" for the A-level and GCSE results fiasco.

The Prime Minister - who was forced into a U-turn over the way results were awarded - said: "I'm afraid your grades were almost derailed by a mutant algorithm.

"I know how stressful that must have been for pupils up and down the country.

"I'm very, very glad that it has finally been sorted out."

Virgin media to launch budget broadband plan for struggling Britons

Virgin Media is to launch an essential broadband plan aimed at those facing financial difficulty sparked by the Covid-19 crisis.

The budget service, which will be offered to those receiving Universal Credit, will cost £15 per month and have no fixed-term contract length.

Customers will receive a limited speed of 15 Mbps, designed to help the most vulnerable stay online and apply for jobs during uncertain times.

People taking up the broadband-only plan will have to provide proof of their Universal Credit status.

Virgin Media Essential Broadband will be available from the autumn, initially for the company's existing customers.

When the account holder is no longer receiving Universal Credit they can continue using the service at £23 per month or move to another package, the firm said.

Ukraine imposes ban on foreigners entering country

Ukraine has imposed a temporary ban on most foreigners from entering the country until September 28 and extended lockdown measures until the end of October to contain a recent surge in coronavirus cases, Reuters reports.

Speaking at a televised cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal also said the government would need to take a decision on Thursday on whether to ban major public events in September.

Victoria govt under pressure after proposing 1 year extension to state of emergency powers

The premier of Australia’s hardest-hit state Daniel Andrews has come under fire for his attempts to extend the local State of Emergency by another 12 months, which would allow his government to prolong or reimpose lockdowns over that period, Marcus Parekh reports.

Victoria, currently in the middle of a strict six-week lockdown, has registered 438 of the country’s 549 deaths.

However, critics in Scott Morrison’s federal government say that extending the State of Emergency to September 2021 is “undemocratic”.

“They take away liberties, they take away the functioning of democracy in the state of Victoria,” federal Education Minister Dan Tehan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

State Premier Andrews responded to the criticism, saying that he would exercise restraint by not needlessly extending restrictions and he would use “the lightest touch possible – only what’s necessary and only for so long as it is necessary”.

The current powers, set to expire on September 13, provide the local authority with the legal mechanism to unilaterally introduce stay-at-home orders, alter mass gathering rules, enforce self-isolation for positive cases, and make the wearing of face masks compulsory.

The Victoria government is not looking to extend the State of Disaster powers, which cover the mandatory 8pm curfew and prevent citizens from travelling more than 5km away from their homes.

Product found in insect repellent could kill coronavirus, military study shows

A product found in insect repellent can kill the strain of coronavirus that causes Covid-19, research by Britain's defence laboratory has shown. 

Sky News is reporting that scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) are sharing their preliminary findings so others are able to conduct further research,

Britain's armed forces were issued with an insect repellent that contains a product called Citriodiol because it was believed it might offer a new layer of protection against Covid-19, Sky News revealed in April.

Citriodiol is already known to kill other types of coronavirus.

Defence scientists subsequently conducted research to see whether it would provide a protective layer against the virus, with those results being released today.

The company that produces Citriodiol also believed it could offer protection against the coronavirus.

Watch: Gavin Williamson questioned on government's latest U-turn over face masks in schools

Covid cases among American children up by a fifth 

The number of Covid-19 cases among American children has risen by a fifth in only a fortnight, as the country weighs how to bring millions back to school, reports Ben Farmer.

Almost 443,000 children have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, CNN reported, citing a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. But more than 74,000 of those, or 21 per cent, were detected in the past 14 days.

Schools across America and Europe are preparing to reopen, bringing relief to many parents, but also causing concerns about how the move will affect the spread of the disease.

“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to Covid-19 is rare among children," the report notes, but says detailed monitoring is still needed.

Berlin bans demonstrations planned for weekend

The city of Berlin has banned demonstrations planned for this weekend to oppose measures imposed to stem the coronavirus pandemic, after organisers of a rally earlier this month failed to ensure marchers wore masks and kept their distance.

Andreas Geisel, the Berlin interior senator, said the authorities had to strike a balance between the right to freedom of assembly and the need to protect people against infection.

He said: "We are still in the middle of a pandemic with rising infection figures."

Germany has managed to keep the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths relatively low compared with some other large European countries, but the number of new daily cases has been rising steadily since early July and has accelerated in recent weeks.

About 20,000 people, including libertarians, constitutional loyalists, far-right supporters and anti-vaccination activists, marched in Berlin on August 1.

Geisel said the organisers of that protest had deliberately broken the rules they had previously accepted in talks with police, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

“Such behaviour is not acceptable. The state cannot be given the runaround,” he said, adding he did not want Berlin to be a stage for conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists.

New probe into church which sold 'plague protection kits'

The Charity Commission has launched a new inquiry into a south London church which was found to be selling a coronavirus "plague protection kit".

Bishop Climate Wiseman, head of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell, claimed earlier this year that the £91 small bottle of oil and piece of red yarn would protect people against Covid-19.

Media reports about his claims led to an investigation by the charity watchdog in April, resulting in the link to buy the kits being removed.

But the commission has now launched a new inquiry into the church, which is registered as a charity, over concerns about its management and finances.

The commission said it had examined the charity's records, and was "concerned" about the accuracy of the information provided with regard to its income and expenditure.

The new probe, which was launched on August 7, will examine the charity trustees' compliance with their legal duties around its administration, governance and management.

Ex Formula One tycoon and Covid skeptic seriously ill with virus

Sweden withdraws advice against unnecessary travel to several countries 

Sweden has withdrawn its advise against unnecessary travel to the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania.

Sweden earlier withdrew advice against unnecessary trips to Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, the Vatican and Austria.

The foreign ministry in a statement on its website extended its advise against travel to other EU and Schengen countries and Britain through September 9, and to the rest of the world through November 15.

Rising numbers of confirmed cases in some countries are fuelling fears of a resurgence in the spread of Covid-19.

70pc of Britons do not find the news about Russia’s vaccine comforting

Russia's announcement of its first coronavirus has led to a lot of skepticism among Britons, according to a poll of 7,000 people by Piplsay.

A majority of respondents (57 per cent) believe Russia approved the "Sputnik V" hurriedly to outrace other countries, while only 16 per cent think they may have genuinely cracked the vaccine.

Another 39 per cent fear that Russia's announcement may force other governments to fast track and skip critical steps in their vaccine quest.

Perhaps most worryingly, just 66 per cent of Britons are interested in getting a Covid-19 vaccine if one becomes available, while 20 per cent are still unsure.

Education Select Committee chairman calls for Chris Witty to explain schools face mask change

Robert Halfon, Tory chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, has called for the chief medical officer Chris Whitty to explain the reason the face masks policy has changed in order to reassure parents and pupils.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: "I think the chief medical officer, just as he did last Sunday about the risk of school return, or low risks, should put out a letter about the mask policy.

"What exactly it is and why it is and the science behind it, but in a way that ordinary folk can understand it."

He added: "We just have to concentrate on getting our kids learning again. Whatever has gone on the priority must be to get our kids learning and deal with issues of attainment.

"The department and schools need to get data on how much the left-behind pupils during the coronavirus need to catch up and what the effect of the loss of learning has been.

Germany to intensify monitoring of returning travellers 

Germany wants to intensify its monitoring of returning travellers to make sure they are abiding by quarantine rules, health minister Jens Spahn said today, after data showed more than 40 per cent of new infections were contracted overseas.

Spahn said: "At a time when the number of new infections in Germany is low it is important to prevent that the virus is spread in the country through returning travellers."

Telegraph view: Masks in schools is a step too far

In the long term, face covering mission creep will destroy the recovery rather than save it.

Not so long ago, Government scientists were warning that widespread wearing of face coverings could increase the risk of Covid infection. Today, masks are compulsory in ever-greater parts of daily life.

First, they were mandated on public transport, in the anticipation of a crush back onto trains and buses that never materialised. Then, they were made a requirement for those entering shops and other enclosed public spaces, partly with the aim of boosting confidence that it was safe to go out. The rules were subsequently tightened further and extended to cinemas, this time because of fears that the virus was returning. Now it is schools.

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that children in secondary schools will have to wear masks in corridors and other communal spaces, but not in classrooms. Under pressure from the teaching unions and desperate to buttress parental confidence that schools are safe to reopen, England is poised to follow suit.

Read the full piece here. 

Teaching union questions if Government is following science on face coverings 

A teaching union has questioned if the Government is following scientific advice or "prioritising political expediency" after a U-turn on face-covering advice for schools in England.

Updated guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) issued on Tuesday said that in areas under local lockdown, face coverings should be worn when moving around corridors and communal areas.

Teaching unions had previously urged clarity on wearing masks and sought reassurance for pupils, staff and parents ahead of schools reopening next week.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: "It is deeply regrettable that the Government has failed to heed concerns until the last possible moment.

"The latest announcement on face coverings raises serious questions about whether the Government is seriously following the scientific advice or is simply prioritising political expediency in order to meet the Prime Minister's wish to ensure that every school reopens fully at the start of term come what may.

"This latest Government U-turn will raise questions about the statement issued by the UK's chief medical officers last Sunday that there is a low risk of coronavirus transmission in schools."

UK to 'lose £22 billion' from missing tourists

The UK tourism industry is set to lose over £20 billion amid the “devastating” quarantine policy, according to an industry body. 

Travel restrictions could see spending by international visitors fall by 78 per cent and the loss of up to three million jobs, based on the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) forecast. 

Each week sees new countries potentially added to the Government's "red list" if they reach the UK's safety threshold of 20 cases per 100,000. Switzerland (21.1 cases per 100,000 over the last seven days), the Czech Republic (18.6), Iceland (16.5) and Jamaica (16.5) are this week at risk of being added to the list of nations from which UK arrivals are required to self-isolate for 14 days. 

Gloria Guevara, chief executive of the WTTC, said that the UK's “stop-start” quarantine measures needed to be urgently replaced with “rapid, comprehensive and cost-effective test and trace programmes at departure points across the country” to avoid the self-isolation measures.   

Follow all the latest on our travel live blog here

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

Activists of the National Students Union of India take part in a demonstration in front of the NSUI headquarters in New Delhi demanding that the government postpones JEE and NEET, two of India's most competitive exams for entry to top national engineering and medical colleges Credit: AFP
Fans attend a heavy metal concert in Beijing, China, but things look a little different than before... Credit: Reuters
Residents from the Remei de Vic district wait in a queue to be tested for coronavirus during a massive PCR screening test being carried out in order to detect asymptomatic cases in Barcelona Credit: Shutterstock
An Orthodox Jewish man prays inside a dividing pen, set up to ensure social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, in Jerusalem's Old City Credit: AFP
Stage four coronavirus restrictions are in force across metropolitan Melbourne including an 8pm to 5am curfew, in which people must remain within a 5km radius of their homes and an hourly limit on exercise has been introduced Credit: Shutterstock

Thailand delays human testing for coronavirus vaccine

Thailand will delay human trials of its coronavirus vaccine due to limited production capacity at overseas facilities, a senior official said today, but it hopes to resume trials by the end of the year.

Thai health authorities had planned human testing of the vaccine by October, but must delay that by several months as factories abroad are at full capacity, said Kiat Ruxrungtham, director of the Chulalongkorn University vaccine development programme.

The delay will be a setback for Thailand's push to quickly create its own vaccine and comes as developers worldwide race to complete trials and secure regulatory approval.

A race is on among countries to guarantee a supply amid concern about competition for access, with Britain and the United States in the lead in securing six vaccine deals with drugmakers each.

Thailand's cabinet on Tuesday approved a budget of 1 billion baht ($31.8 million) for vaccines, 60 per cent of which would be invested in Oxford University's vaccine programme and the remainder in its domestic programme.

Thailand has reported 3,403 confirm cases of the coronavirus and 58 deaths. It has gone without a local transmission for more than three months. 

Iran's death toll surpasses 21,000

Iran's death toll from the coronavirus rose by 119 to 21,020, the health ministry's spokeswoman told state TV today, with the total number of identified cases rising to 365,606.

Sima Sadat Lari said that 2,243 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours in Iran, rising from 2,213 a day earlier.

How the pandemic has radically altered the flow of money

Covid-19 has upended the world. The New Normal is a 10-part series looking at the stunning ramifications for the world of economics and business. Part three looks at how the pandemic caused households to have lower debts and more cash. 

The shift in just a few months has been dramatic. Businesses stuck with bills to pay but no customers have racked up vast debts. The Government backed a series of lending schemes to keep firms alive. Now they have to work out how to repay the funds.

Meanwhile households – in aggregate, if not in every case – have generally racked up surplus cash. By and large jobs have either stayed safe or been rescued by the furlough scheme. Money kept coming in, even as they were denied the opportunity to spend.

The Bank of England has totted up the results: companies borrowed £32bn from banks in March alone, it found – 30 times their usual monthly borrowing. That was driven by big companies making use of credit facilities.

Since then, smaller companies ramped up borrowing, aided by Government-backed loans.

By contrast households are typically much better off. Deposits in bank accounts rose by £17bn per month on average from March to June, more than three times as fast as the usual rate of £5bn.

Read the full analysis by Tim Wallace here.

Police recorded crime figures during lockdown revealed

Police recorded crime during the coronavirus lockdown was 25 per cent lower in April and 20 per cent lower in May compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It also fell 5 per cent in March compared with February.

But reports of crime rose as lockdown restrictions began to ease, a report published today said.

In particular, reports of theft fell in April and May to "almost half the level recorded" during those months in the previous year.

However, records of drug offences rose by 22 per cent in April and 44 per cent in May compared with April and May 2019.

This is down to "proactive police activity in pursuing these crimes during lockdown", the ONS report said.

Labour urges key workers to stand as councillors at next year's elections

The Labour Party has issued a call for key workers to get involved in politics and stand for election s as communities rebuild from the coronavirus pandemic.

It is part of Labour's push to improve the diversity of its elected representatives by encouraging more female, black, Asian and minority ethnic, disabled and LGBTQ+ members to stand as candidates.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner insisted that key workers must be at the heart of decision-making across the country.

"Our key worker heroes have been on the frontline working round the clock to get us through this crisis," said Ms Rayner.

"They have risen to the challenge during this pandemic, putting their lives on the line to keep our country going and make sure we are all cared for, fed and connected.

"Now we need them to help lead the recovery from this crisis and rebuild our communities and our country in the months and years ahead.

"Our key workers must be at the heart of decision-making across the country, which is why Labour will be supporting key workers who want to get involved in politics and stand for election in the years ahead."

JP Morgan and Linklaters signal end of the daily commute for City workers

Two of the City's most powerful firms have called an end to the daily commute by allowing staff to permanently split their time between home and the office after the Covid crisis.

The world's biggest investment bank JP Morgan has told staff in London that they will be continuing to work remotely on a part-time basis.

Meanwhile Linklaters, one of London’s elite Magic Circle law firms, said employees will be free to work from home for up to half of the week.

The pair's decision to abandon the traditional nine-to-five shift will send a chill through the Square Mile, and is likely to spark a response from a raft of rivals keen not to be outdone. A raft of companies such as Britain's largest fund manager Schroders have already rewritten the rules on office use following the huge success of home working during lockdown.

Fears are growing that many workers will never return to their offices full time - putting the prosperity of central London and Canary Wharf at risk after decades as a global hub and massive investment in millions of square feet of world-class office space.

Michael O'Dwyer and Lucy Burton have more here. 

Japan researchers say ozone effective in neutralising coronavirus

Japanese researchers have said that low concentrations of ozone can neutralise coronavirus particles, potentially providing a way for hospitals to disinfect examination rooms and waiting areas.

Scientists at Fujita Health University told a news conference they had proven that ozone gas in concentrations of 0.05 to 0.1 parts per million (ppm), levels considered harmless to humans, could kill the virus.

The experiment used an ozone generator in a sealed chamber with a sample of coronavirus. The potency of the virus declined by more than 90 per cent when subjected to low level ozone for 10 hours.

"Transmission of the novel coronavirus may be reduced by continuous, low-concentration ozone treatment, even in environments where people are present, using this kind of system," said lead researcher Takayuki Murata.

"We found it to be particularly effective in high-humidity conditions."

Ozone, a type of oxygen molecule, is known to inactivate many pathogens, and previously experiments have shown that high concentrations, between 1-6 ppm, were effective against the coronavirus but potentially toxic to humans.

A recent study at the Georgia Institute of Technology showed that ozone may be effective in disinfecting gowns, goggles and other medical protective equipment.

Philippines reports another high daily case increase

The Philippines' health ministry has reported 5,277 additional Covid-19 infections, the highest daily increase in 12 days, and 99 more deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had risen to 202,361, more than 60 per cent of which were reported in the past month, while deaths had increased to 3,137.

The Philippines has the largest number of Covid-19 cases in Southeast Asia.

US rejects UN rights panel upholding access to abortions during pandemic

The United States has hit back at a UN women's rights panel that said some US states limited access to abortions during the Covid-19 pandemic, rejecting its interference and the notion of "an assumed right to abortion".

"The United States is disappointed by and categorically rejects this transparent attempt to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to assert the existence of such a right," the US mission in Geneva said in a release posted on Twitter.

"This is a perversion of the human rights system and the founding principles of the United Nations," it said, citing an August 11 letter it sent to the UN experts responding to the "spurious allegations".

The UN working group on discrimination against women and girls said on May 27 that some states "appear to be "manipulating the Covid-19 crisis to curb access to essential abortion care".

The panel of five independent UN experts said that states including Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Iowa, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee had issued Covid-19 emergency orders suspending procedures not deemed immediately medically necessary to restrict access to abortion.

"This situation is also the latest example illustrating a pattern of restrictions and retrogressions in access to legal abortion care across the country,” Elizabeth Broderick, panel vice-chair, said at the time.

Donald Trump, seeking re-election in November, works closely with evangelical Christians and puts their causes of restricting abortion and preserving gun ownership at the top of his policy agenda.

​Read more: US under fire after claiming UN is using the pandemic as an opportunity to 'advance abortion'

Government blasted for making U-turns 'three days after Nicola Sturgeon' by 1922 committee vice chair

The Government has been attacked for changing its policies "about three days after Nicola Sturgeon makes a decision", and without the scrutiny of Parliament by a senior Conservative. 

Charles Walker, vice chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs, told Times Radio that "increasing number of my colleagues are now very worried" by the way decisions were being taken without "democratic debate" by those who had been elected to represent constituents.  

"The common currency across the Conservative party is that most of us meant to be participating... just end up scratching our heads," he said. "Thing now seems to be changing on a daily basis, and there is now growing concern that they tend to change about three days after Nicola Sturgeon makes a decision.

"I thought we were the United Kingdom, I thought the Prime Minister was most powerful politician in the land, I thought we had great scientists who we were supposed to be listened to - but none of this seems to count anymore."

He added: "I am not against Government making big decisions, that is what they are elected to do. But big decisions need to be taken in conjunction with debate... this further shows how excluded we are."

Follow all the latest on our politics live blog here.

Myanmar expands Rakhine virus lockdown to cover one million

Myanmar has expanded a lockdown in conflict-wracked Rakhine state to cover four more townships, halting the movement of about one million people as the number of coronavirus cases climbs steadily.

One hundred new infections were confirmed across Myanmar in the last 24 hours - bringing the total to 574 - with the northwestern state registering the bulk.

State capital Sittwe has been under lockdown and an overnight curfew since the weekend, and today the order was extended to four townships elsewhere - Kyaukphyu, An, Taungup and Thandwe.

"People from the said four townships... are to stay only in their homes," said the order published in state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar, adding that only authorised vehicles would be allowed to provide transport.

Exceptions include civil servants and factory workers, and only one member of each household may step out for essential shopping.

The sharp jump in coronavirus cases comes as the country prepares for elections, raising concerns that the November 8 poll date could be impacted.

Williamson rules out face coverings in schools being extended further

Gavin Williamson ruled out mandatory requirements for face coverings in schools being extended further.

When asked if the measures could be extended, he told the BBC: "No, no, there's no intention of extending it beyond that because as both (Dr Jenny Harries) said and (Schools minister Nick Gibb) said is that actually that isn't what is required.

"But where you're seeing in local lockdown areas, we recognise the importance in making sure that we maintain education in every part of the country.

"The last thing that we ever want to see close is schools and we need to ensure that all schools are open so that children are able to access our world-class education that we all want to see them benefiting from."

Tory MP criticises decision for face coverings in schools

Merriman also criticised the decision requiring pupils to wear face coverings in schools, warning that it was a "slippery slope".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I don't think it's the right decision because I think we need to send the message out that our schools are safe with the measures that they've been taking and will be taking.

"I just absolutely fundamentally feel that young people just need to be able to get on with their education free of any encumbrance.

"Anything that sends a message out that it's not safe in the corridor means that it can't be safe in the classroom and we're on a slippery slope."

Mr Merriman added: "My concern is that we just keep making this up as we go along. So, the WHO (World Health Organisation) is not explicit about schools at all, it just states that they should reflect the national picture.

"Why is it that we're changing it right now when we haven't been talking about this before?"

Politicians should stop 'hiding behind the science', says Tory MP

Tory MP Huw Merriman told the BBC: "I think the Government needs to get a grip of our scientists. I'm sick and tired, and I think many people in the public are sick and tired, the science just changes.

"So that's fine and then we say, 'we're listening to the science', but why was the science saying something completely different beforehand?

"It's baffling for many people, it's causing uncertainty, it's causing worry. People don't know what the rules are any more. How can the science change from one day to the next?

"There comes a point in time where policy-makers have to get a grip on policy, decide what it is, be firm with it, be certain, give reassurance and say 'this is the way we're going to act'."

Mr Merriman added: "It's time we stopped hiding behind the science, which keeps changing, and we focus on the fact that we're in charge, we give people reassurance, we say to people that the school is a safe setting."

Government following 'best scientific advice' after schools face covering U-turn, says Williamson

The Education Secretary has insisted that the Government is following the "best scientific and medical advice" after announcing a U-turn on guidance in England for face coverings in schools.

Gavin Williamson said an "extra precautionary measure" had been put in place with the updated guidance - issued on Tuesday evening - which says face coverings should be worn in communal areas of schools in local lockdown areas.

It followed pressure from teaching unions, which urged clarity before pupils return to school next week, and an announcement from Scotland that all secondary pupils there will be required to wear masks in between lessons.

On Monday, England's deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, said the evidence on whether children over 12 should wear masks in schools is "not strong".

Mr Williamson later reiterated that masks were not required due to extra measures being adopted by schools, while a Number 10 spokesman said there were no plans to review the guidance.

When asked what had changed, Mr Williamson told Sky News on Wednesday: "We always follow and listen to the best scientific and medical advice, and that's why we're not recommending that face coverings should be mandatory right across the country in all schools.

"The best scientific and medical advice says that that isn't necessary."

Pupils in Leicester head back to school as lockdown eased

Pupils are returning to classes at some schools in Leicester - with travel safety measures in place to guard against Covid-19.

Around 20 schools in the city are reopening for some pupils today - with children at a further 92 returning to classes next Tuesday.

Extra buses will operate on busy public transport routes because fewer passengers are allowed on each vehicle due to social distancing measures, Leicester City Council said.

The authority has issued maps with "safe routes" for cycling and walking to encourage more pupils to travel on foot or by bike.

For many it will be their first time in class since March.

Social distancing reminders have been painted onto pavements near some schools to prevent crowds forming and signs with health advice have been put on lampposts.Marshals will also be present outside some schools.

Italy fears ‘catastrophe by October’ as tourists vanish

As Italians await a €209bn EU stimulus package next year, fears are rising that the recovery will come too late to save businesses.

On a ferry from the town of Palau in northern Sardinia to the island of La Maddalena, famed for its white sand beaches and turquoise bays, the young woman behind the onboard bar is bored witless. “We’ve got 80pc fewer tourists than normal. Look around – the boat is nearly empty,” she says, scanning hopefully for a customer.

A few hundreds of miles away, in Rome, it is a similar story. “Our takings are down by about 75pc compared with normal,” says the woman behind the till in a bakery and delicatessen close to the Trevi Fountain, one of the capital’s most celebrated sights.

From tourism to manufacturing and construction to food production, Italy’s economy has suffered a catastrophic blow from the Covid-19 pandemic.

First detected in late February, it has since killed more than 35,000 people and infected a quarter of a million.

Italy’s GDP dropped by 12.4pc between April and June, the second quarter of the year. The health emergency has wiped out about 30 years of growth.

Read the full report from Nick Squires in Rome here

French government advisor warns of second wave in November

 A second wave of the coronavirus pandemic could hit France in November, a government advisor told local media on Wednesday, as the city of Marseille tightened restrictions to fight the outbreak.

Authorities in Marseille said late on Tuesday that bars and restaurants would have shorter opening times, and they also broadened mandatory mask-wearing in the southern port city between Aug. 26 and Sept. 30.

"There are fears of a second wave in November," Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the pandemic, told France 2 television on Wednesday.

France has the seventh-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, and the government is monitoring the figures closely to see if fresh restrictions or lockdown are needed.

Marseille has been hit hard by the virus Credit: GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Under the new measures, Marseille's bars and restaurants will have to close from between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time (2100-0400 GMT), having previously been able to stay open until normal closing time at midnight or 1 a.m.

Mandatory mask-wearing will now be compulsory outdoors in public spaces in all districts of the city, having previously only been compulsory in some areas.

The French health ministry reported 3,304 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, well below daily highs seen last week, though greater numbers of young adults are testing positive.

The number of deaths in France from COVID-19 stands at 30,544 deaths, including 16 in the past 24 hours. 

Positive reaction to new school guidance

Headteachers and governors now have some flexibility on the use of face coverings in their schools, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders, has said.

He pointed out that schools differ in a range of areas from the size of the corridors to communal spaces, and in the safety plans that headteachers and governors have put in place.

It is known that among the range of safety measures, actions such as handwashing and keeping children separate are "much more important" than face coverings, he added.

Mr Barton told BBC Breakfast: "I think that ultimately to be able to say in a school - 'yes we will' or 'no we won't require you to wear face coverings' or 'if you want to wear one fine but you really don't need to because other things are more important'.

"I actually think that reflects the way the English education system traditionally has worked, giving more responsibility to headteachers who know their context and are trusted by their communities."

What are the new rules for face masks in schools?

Further guidance on face coverings in England's schools has been published by the Government, which sets out when they are required and pupils that are exempt.

It says that in local lockdown areas face coverings should be worn by staff and students moving around schools in communal areas and corridors from September 1.

Should new local restrictions be imposed, schools will need to communicate "quickly and clearly" the new arrangements to staff, parents and pupils.

In local lockdown areas face coverings should be worn by staff and students moving around schools in communal areas and corridors Credit: Vladimir Vladimirov 

It says that all schools and colleges will have the discretion to require face coverings in communal areas where social distancing cannot be safely managed - such as when the layout of a school makes it difficult to do so.

Where a student or staff member is struggling to access a mask, or if it soiled or unsafe, the guidance says that schools should take steps to have a "small contingency supply" available, adding no-one should excluded on the grounds that they are not wearing a face covering.

Exemptions to the new measures include those who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, or if a person is speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expression to communicate.

European patients reinfected in "worrying" sign

Two patients, in Belgium and the Netherlands, are confirmed to have been re-infected with COVID-19, following a report this week by Hong Kong researchers about a man who had contracted a different strain of the virus four-and-a-half months after being declared recovered, Reuters reports.

"Viruses mutate and that means that a potential vaccine is not going to be a vaccine that will last forever, for 10 years, probably not even five years. Just as for flu, this will have to be redesigned quite regularly," said Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst, adding that vaccine designers would not be surprised.

Dr David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter and chair of the British Medical Association's medical academic staff committee, said the cases were also worrying as it suggested that previous infection does not provide protection.

Antonio Banderas on the road to recovery 

Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas says he has overcome coronavirus after spending three weeks in confinement.

The Oscar-nominated star revealed the Covid-19 diagnosis on his 60th birthday earlier this month but has now fully recovered.

He shared the news on social media alongside a picture of him kicking giant coronaviruses.

"After 21 days of disciplinary confinement I can say now that today I overcame the Covid 19 infection," Banderas said. "I am cured. My thoughts go to those who weren't as fortunate as me, and to those who suffered more than I did.

"I also wish strength to the ones who are in the middle of the fight."

Announcing the diagnosis, the Spaniard said he felt "relatively well, only a little more tired than usual".

He said he would use the time in isolation to "read, write, relax and make some plans to give meaning to my 60 years which I reach full with desire and excitement".

Banderas, known for films including The Mask Of Zorro and Pain And Glory, previously told how he suffered a heart attack in January 2017.

However, it did not cause any lasting damage, the actor said.

Banderas is far from the only A-list star to publicly reveal a Covid-19 diagnosis.

Tom Hanks, Idris Elba, Bryan Cranston and the singer Pink have all fallen ill with the disease.

India records more than 60,000 cases for eighth day in a row

India recorded more than 60,000 cases for the eighth day in a row on Wednesday, as total cases crossed 3.2 million, data from the federal health ministry showed.

The world's second-most populous country is third behind the United States and Brazil in terms of total caseload, and has recorded the world's highest single-day caseload consistently since August 7, a Reuters tally showed.

Deaths in the last 24 hours stood at 1,059, taking the total number of fatalities from the infection to 59,449.

A paramedic takes a nasal swab sample from a woman in order to conduct a Rapid Antigen test as others stand in queue in Jammu, India Credit: JAIPAL SINGH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Australia hopes to start antibody clinical trials in early 2021

Australian researchers hope to start human trials of a coronavirus antibody therapy in early 2021, while a large-scale trial of a vaccine could begin by the end of this year, scientists said on Wednesday.

The research targets came as the country's virus hotspot, Victoria state, recorded its second-most deadly day of the pandemic with 24 deaths. Just 149 new cases were reported, well down from daily rises of more than 700 about three weeks ago.

Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has made good progress in identifying the most potent antibodies that could neutralise the spike protein on the virus that causes Covid-19, stopping it from being able to enter human cells, researcher Wai-Hong Tam said.

Antibody therapies would be most useful for the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, she said.

Almost 64 per cent of Australia's 549 deaths from Covid-19 have occurred among residents of aged-care homes, mostly in Victoria.

"If we're very hopeful, we are looking at clinical trials early next year," Ms Tam said.

Read more: Astrazeneca starts trial of Covid-19 antibody treatment

Get back to work, Seoul tells striking doctors

South Korea ordered doctors in the Seoul area to return to work on Wednesday as they began a three-day strike in protest of several government proposals, including one to boost the number of doctors to deal with health crises like the coronavirus.

Trainee doctors have been staging ongoing walkouts, and thousands of additional doctors were due to stage a three-day strike starting on Wednesday.

The strikes come as South Korea battles one of its worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, with 320 new cases reported in the 24 hours to midnight Tuesday, the latest in more than a week and a half of triple-digit increases.

The walkouts on Wednesday forced South Korea's five major general hospitals to limit their hours and delay scheduled surgeries, Yonhap news agency reported. Earlier in the week, the doctors reached an agreement with the government to continue to handle coronavirus patients, but failed to find a compromise on the broader issues.

Doctors oppose a government pledge to increase the number of medical students Credit: AP

Banderas recovers from virus after three weeks in isolation

Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas says he has overcome coronavirus after spending three weeks in confinement.

The Oscar-nominated star revealed the Covid-19 diagnosis on his 60th birthday earlier this month but has now fully recovered.

He shared the news on social media alongside a picture of him kicking giant coronaviruses.

"After 21 days of disciplinary confinement I can say now that today I overcame the Covid 19 infection," Banderas said. "I am cured. My thoughts go to those who weren't as fortunate as me, and to those who suffered more than I did.

"I also wish strength to the ones who are in the middle of the fight."

Every Government coronavirus U-turn

The Government has made its latest U-turn of the coronavirus pandemic - now advising that face masks should be worn by secondary pupils and staff in some areas of England.

It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson insisted measures being adopted by schools to limit the spread of the virus meant masks were not required and a day after a No 10 spokesman said there were no plans to review the guidance.

Here is every time the Government has missed a target or backtracked during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boris Johnson has had to break promises on care home testing and face masks Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Two-metre rule 'outdated'

Rules on physical distancing to curb the spread of coronavirus are based on "outdated science", a group of academics have said.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to social distancing, there should be "graded recommendations" for different distancing rules in different settings, researchers from Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Primary Care argued.

Writing in the BMJ, the team said this would provider greater protection for people in high risk settings and greater freedoms for people in lower risk settings.

They added that this would "potentially enable a return towards normality in some aspects of social and economic life".

Read more: When could social distancing end - and what are the UK rules?

Social distancing at the Bodleian Library in Oxford Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Kim Jong-un raises alarm over North Korea's coronavirus response

Kim Jong-un has called for prevention efforts against coronavirus and a typhoon, North Korean state media has reported.

An enlarged meeting of the politburo of the Workers Party took place amid a pandemic that is putting additional pressure on the North Korean economy, battered by recent border closures and flood damage.

The meeting assessed "some defects in the state emergency anti-epidemic work for checking the inroads of the malignant virus", news agency KCNA said in a statement.

North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but Mr Kim said last month that the virus "could be said to have entered" the country and imposed a lockdown after a man was reported to have symptoms. Later test results on the man were inconclusive, according to the World Health Organisation.

Kim had this month lifted a three-week lockdown in the city of Kaesong after a suspected case of the coronavirus there.

The meeting discussed state emergency measures on preventing crop damage and casualties from Typhoon Bavi, which is expected to hit the country within days, KCNA reported. Heavy rain and flooding have raised concern about food supplies in the isolated country.

Read more: Kim calls for help as Typhoon Bavi approaches

Kim chaired the Workers' Party meeting on Tuesday Credit: REUTERS

Today's top stories