UK is at coronavirus 'tipping point,' Matt Hancock says



What happened today

Here are the big developments from Sunday:

Follow all the latest news in Monday's live blog

Human trials of Oxford vaccine on hold in the US over spinal-cord disease fears 

Testing the jab has since been restarted in the UK, Brazil, India and South Africa, but is still on pause in America. Paul Nuki, our Global Health Security Editor, has more:

Trials of the Oxford vaccine have been paused twice after two participants, both British women, sequentially developed transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause paralysis.

The first pause, in July, was not publicly revealed and the trial was restarted after it was determined the volunteer had multiple sclerosis, a condition that can cause the same neurological reaction.

The second pause, widely reported two weeks ago, followed the second suspected case of the condition in a volunteer who is said to have been hospitalised but now recovered.

Trails of the vaccine have since been restarted in Britain, Brazil, India and South Africa, but are still on pause in the US where the legal and historical context means regulators tend to take a tougher stance.

On Saturday, AstraZenica released further data on its trial protocols, but US experts continued to raise concerns.

You can read the full story here.

US sets record with over 1 million coronavirus tests in a day 

The United States set a one-day record with over 1 million coronavirus diagnostic tests being performed, but the country needs 6 million to 10 million a day to bring outbreaks under control, according to various experts.

The country performed 1,061,411 tests on Saturday, according to data from The Covid Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak.

The record comes after testing has fallen for several weeks.

The United States tested on average 650,000 people a day in the week ended Sept. 13, down from a peak in late July of over 800,000 people a day.

Since the start of the pandemic, testing shortages have hampered efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

3,899 cases of Covid-19

There have been 3,899 new reported cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, compared to 4,422 the day before, the government reported on its website.

Overall, the number of cases has risen sharply in recent weeks, prompting tighter restrictions across the country and several local lockdowns. 

Many care homes to be 'extremely challenged' by taking in coronavirus patients

Many care homes are unprepared to accept Covid-19 positive patients from hospital and will struggle to effectively isolate them, the chairwoman of the National Care Association has warned.

Nadra Ahmed said care providers will be "extremely challenged" coping with elderly patients who have tested positive, even in homes with "very, very clear isolation units", which many do not possess.

The Government's new care home plan published on Friday says some patients can be discharged from hospital into care homes after a positive test, but makes clear no provider should be forced to accept an existing or new patient if they cannot deal with their coronavirus safely.

But Ms Ahmed told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday: "We are looking after some of the most vulnerable people who could succumb to this virus... a care home is a home, it's like your own home and if it's in the home, then you have got to protect everybody in it.

"So to introduce somebody into it, even if you have got isolation, you then have to make sure that the staff who are going to be looking after them, how they are protected.

"Providers are going to be extremely challenged with that unless they have got very, very clear isolation units, and not many homes have that."

Two weeks may not be long enough for Covid incubation

A New Zealand man who tested negative for Covid-19 twice while in isolation has tested positive several days after his quarantine period ended, raising concerns that two weeks may not be long enough for incubation in some cases of coronavirus.

Giovanni Torre has more from Perth:

The man returned to New Zealand from India on 27 August and completed his fortnight quarantine in Christchurch before flying home to Auckland. On September 16 he tested positive after developing symptoms.

The man self-isolated as soon as symptoms emerged, he had already passed the virus on to two people in his household, one a child at an Auckland primary school which underwent a “deep clean” on Sunday as a precaution.

New Zealand's ministry of health is now investigating whether the man was infected during his flight from India and the virus had an unusually long incubation period, or whether he caught it during his flight from Christchurch to Auckland after leaving managed isolation.

Genomic testing has linked his case to two others on the flight from India, indicating the former explanation is more likely.

Coronavirus found on imported squid packaging in China 

Authorities in China's northeastern Jilin province have found the novel coronavirus on the packaging of imported squid, health authorities in the city of Fuyu have said, urging anyone who may have bought it to get themselves tested.

One of the packages had arrived in the city via the provincial capital Changchun, Fuyu city's health office said on its official WeChat account.

It asked people who had bought and eaten imported squid at the local Sanjia Deda frozen seafood wholesale shop Aug 24-31 to report to neighbourhood authorities and seek a Covid test.

The Changchun Covid-19 prevention office said the squid had been imported from Russia by a company in Hunchun city and brought to the provincial capital.

Chinese customs said on Friday they would suspend imports from companies for a week if frozen food products tested positive for coronavirus and for a month if a supplier's products tested positive for a third time or more.

Reconvene Cobra, urges Mayor of Manchester

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has called on the Government to reconvene Cobra as a matter of urgency, with places for all the English regions.

He said more focus on the needs of northern communities and businesses was needed, with large parts of the North of England under local restrictions and a "north-south divide" on access to testing.

He said: "I am today calling on the Prime Minister to give a place for all of the English regions on a reconvened Cobra, alongside London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"The North of England is experiencing the highest number of cases but also the greatest difficulty in accessing tests.

"This north-south testing divide can't be right and is exactly the kind of issue that a reconvened Cobra needs to resolve. The North needs to be levelled up on testing without delay."

Selfless battle of Britain's heroes and NHS staff hailed at anniversary service

Parallels were drawn between the heroism of The Few and modern-day NHS staff and key workers who face a "fight against an invisible army" at a small and intimate service at Westminster Abbey marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The annual Sunday service usually attracts around 2,200 people to the London landmark as the UK commemorates the first battle in history fought entirely in the air during the Second World War.

This year's service, which is the venue's first since lockdown, saw attendance significantly reduced and social distancing measures in place for 79 invited guests.

Chairs for the guests, who were all wearing a face covering, were placed at the transepts of the church close to the altar.

12 die in hospitals from coronavirus in England

A further 12 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,747, NHS England said.

Patients were aged between 62 and 98 and all had known underlying health conditions.

The dates of the deaths were between April 30 and September 19, with the majority on or after September 18.

Three other deaths were reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

Madrid braces for partial lockdown as virus surges 

Nearly a million Madrid residents were bracing for a partial lockdown as Spanish authorities seek to put a brake on a second wave of Covid-19.

The restrictions, which kick off Monday for two weeks, affect 850,000 people living mainly in densely-populated, low-income neighbourhoods in the south - or 13 per cent of the population in and around the capital.

Like many countries in Europe, Spain is battling a coronavirus surge and, once again, Madrid is the worst-hit region.

"We're concerned with the data we're seeing, because the number of cases is double that of the national average and the number of hospital admissions... is triple the national average," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a television interview on Saturday.

But he stressed he was not contemplating a national lockdown.

Czech government could declare coronavirus state of emergency, says minister 

The Czech government could declare a state of emergency if a recent spike in coronavirus cases continues in the coming days, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said.

The Czech Republic's daily count of new coronavirus cases has reached record highs in recent days and the country of 10.7 million had reported a total of 48,306 cases as of Saturday, Health Ministry data showed.

"Should we need to have some deeper measures (against the epidemic), then the emergency state will be necessary," Vojtech said in a televised debate.

Keir Starmer says schoolchildren should be tested in same priority group as key workers  

Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer says the government should prioritise coronavirus tests for schoolchildren to minimise disruption to their education.

He also talks about his frustrations over the test and trace system, saying it's imperative to make it function properly for the health of the nation.

Thousands of renters at risk as eviction ban ends, campaigners warn

Tens of thousands of private renters could be at risk of losing their homes when the ban on evictions ends on Monday, campaign groups say.

Renters in England and Wales have been protected from eviction during the Covid-19 outbreak by a ban announced in March which was then extended, meaning anyone served with an eviction notice since August 29 has been given a six-month notice period.

But up to around 55,000 households in England who were served notices between March and August do not enjoy this protection and need further help, said campaign group Generation Rent.

The National Residential Landlord Association (NRLA) said it has encouraged landlords to "work with their tenants to sustain tenancies wherever possible".

Call the police on your neighbours, says Matt Hancock

The Health Secretary has told people to call the police on their neighbours if they refuse to self-isolate just days after the Prime Minister said he disliked "sneak culture".

Asked on Times Radio if the public should tell the authorities about people refusing to self-isolate, Mr Hancock said: "Yes, because if you think about it, the number of people asked to self-isolate as a proportion of the population as a whole is relatively small and it's so important.

"These are people who have been in close contact with somebody who had a positive result or themselves have had a positive test."

Asked by the BBC's Andrew Marr whether he would snitch on a neighbour to police himself, he said: Yes. And for the self-isolation part, that is absolutely necessary because that is how we break the chains of transmission."

We can't afford more delay, say London mayoral sources

Mayoral sources have told PA that the city was catching up with disease hotspots in the North West and North East of England, which have been placed under new controls.

They said: "It's clear that cases in London are only moving in one direction, we are now just days behind hotspots in the North West and North East. We can't afford more delay.

"Introducing new measures now will help slow the spread of the virus and potentially prevent the need for a fuller lockdown like we saw in March, which could seriously damage the economy once again."

Mapped: Covid-19 'increasing in every area of UK except these four locations' 

A team of researchers from Imperial College London used the latest infection and deaths data to estimate how the virus is spreading.

The stark predictions, which show huge swathes of the UK experiencing a rise in cases with more hotspots ­predicted, came as Professor Neil ­Ferguson, whose modelling helped shape Britain’s response to the virus, warned new restrictions needed to be imposed “sooner rather than later”.

The modelling shows a cluster in the Home Counties, with Windsor and Maidenhead, Spelthorne and Hertsmere most at risk. It predicts Redbridge could be London’s first hotspot.

"No evidence of second wave"

Professor Carl Heneghan said: "There's no evidence right now of what's called a second wave."

Asked if Prime Minister Boris Johnson was wrong in that assertion, he told Sky News: "I get for our ministers this is an incredibly complicated area, some of the issues we're talking about require five or six years of healthcare experience to really get your head around.

"This is about good advice, to the Prime Minister, to the Health Secretary, that allows a wider range of expertise to come on board, and if they did that they might look at the problem slightly different.

"I think over the next few weeks if we can see a slower, analytical approach to the data, and a different approach to the advice, the Prime Minister might see a subtle change in his language that reflects a need to normalise what's going on.

"This is a seasonal effect now, if it becomes worse and it impacts on disease, then, yes, that's the point when we have restrictive measures, but that time is not now."

Anyone with healthcare experience knows the return to schools leads to a rise in the common cold

Underpinning the chaos is a fundamental misunderstanding of the effects of seasonal viral pathogens, write Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson:

Cases of Covid are rising, and hospital admissions are creeping up; demand for testing has outstripped capacity ‘three to four times’, admitted Dido Harding, the head of the newly formed National Institute for Health Protection.She said the ‘sizeable’ rise in demand for tests had been unexpected. Testing capacity was based on modelling from the SAGE advisory group who didn’t anticipate the increase in infections.As a consequence, the testing system is falling over - only a third of people at walk-in centres get their test results within 24 hours, and the tracing system cannot function appropriately. Confusion reigns, and we are talking ourselves into a second national lockdown as the government is further panicked by its advisors and their fortune-tellers.Underpinning the chaos is a fundamental misunderstanding of the effects of seasonal viral pathogens.

You can read their full piece for the Telegraph here.

Back to home

Matt Hancock has suggested that London restrictions could include working from home, following its concerted effort to get more people back into the office.

Day-trippers head to Blackpool before Lancashire lockdown

Visitors have flocked to Blackpool this weekend, as the rest of Lancashire prepares for coronavirus restrictions to come into force.

Video footage from the resort on Saturday showed crowds of people on the promenade.

Visitors reported queues for attractions, gridlocked traffic, little social distancing and few people wearing masks indoors.

Gem Concannon, 36, from Northwich, Cheshire, said she had visited the resort on Saturday with her family.

She said: "It was heaving, hardly anyone was wearing masks or social distancing. It was shocking.

"I've never seen it that busy before."

Violent scenes at anti-vaccination and anti-lockdown protest in London 

Thousands of anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protesters gathered in London's Trafalgar Square to demonstrate against the latest coronavirus restrictions.

Scuffles broke out between activists and the police. The Met said 32 people were arrested.

Vaccine still possible by the end of the year, says Health Secretary

Matt Hancock has said it is still possible that there could be a coronavirus vaccine before the end of the year. "There is still hope that we will get one of the vaccines over the line this year. The Oxford vaccine is still at the front of the queue. More likely is next year, and probably the early part of next year," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"We have got the cavalry coming over the next few months - the vaccine, the mass testing and the improvements in treatments - but we have got to all follow the rules between now and then to keep people safe."

Top scientist says we shouldn't introduce harsh lockdown measures straight away

Professor Carl Heneghan, director for the centre of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, told Sky News the country cannot afford to introduce "harsh measures" immediately to curb the spread of Covid-19, adding: "What we have to do now is slow down, this is a long winter."

He said: "What we're seeing is that the virus is operating in a seasonal way.

"As we've gone back to schools, actually what's happened now is we've seen about a 60% increase in consultations for all the acute respiratory infections and that's what's driving the problems in the Test and Trace programme.

"All the young children who have coughs and colds and these infections, one is called rhinovirus.

"As we look at the data, Covid is operating in a similar seasonal way, and mirroring those respiratory infections, so what we have to do now is slow down, this is a long winter.

"We can't afford to go now with harsh measures ... the impact on the economy here is going to be significant.

"What happens is as soon as you pause and then open up again, it tends to come back.

"We still have to be vigilant about ensuring the infections stay manageable across the board."

"Follow the rules or infections will go through the roof"

Matt Hancock said there was a danger the infection rate could "shoot through the roof" if people did not follow the the Government's rules.

"We have seen in the data that some people who need to self-isolate are not doing so," the Health Secretary told Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

"If you have been asked to self-isolate then you either definitely have the coronavirus or you are highly likely to have coronavirus, and so it is mission critical that you isolate.

"I am very worried about this second wave. We have seen in other countries around Europe how it can absolutely shoot through the roof."

Britain is at Covid-19 tipping point, says Matt Hancock

Britain is at a tipping point on coronavirus, health minister Matt Hancock has said, warning that unless people follow the government rules, the virus will spread and further restrictions will be needed.

"The nation faces a tipping point and we have a choice," he told Sky News. "The choice is either that everybody follows the rules ... or we will have to take more measures."

Russia's new Covid-19 cases above 6,000 for second day in a row 

Russia has reported 6,148 new coronavirus cases, the second straight day when the daily number of cases exceeded 6,000, taking the national tally of infections to 1,103,399.

The country's coronavirus crisis centre said 79 people had died of the disease in the last 24 hours, bringing the Russian death toll to 19,418.

University town residents fear coronavirus spikes as students return

More than half of people living in university towns and cities fear the return of students will lead to coronavirus spikes and restrictions in their area, according to a survey.

Tens of thousands of students are due back on campus in the coming days, and earlier this month Government scientific advisers warned it is "highly likely" there will be significant coronavirus outbreaks linked to universities.

A new poll has now suggested 57% of people fear local restrictions will result, with nearly half (48%) indicating they will blame the Government.

The Survation poll, carried out for the University and College Union (UCU), also found half of respondents believe universities should cancel all face-to-face teaching, with 57% expressing a lack of confidence in local Test and Trace systems to control outbreaks.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said online learning needs to be the default position and the Government and universities must "stop selling the lie to students that they can have a full university experience in the current crisis".

She added: "Vice-chancellors are in denial and creating hygiene theatre to pretend institutions are safe. It cannot be business as normal at the moment and they need to stop pretending that is a credible option.

"People do not want to see local outbreaks on their doorstep.

Czech republic's daily count of new coronavirus hits weekend record

The Czech Republic's daily count of new coronavirus cases dropped to 2,046 on Saturday, still a record number for a weekend day when fewer tests are done, data from the health ministry showed.

The overall count of confirmed cases rose to 48,306 in the country of 10.7 million people.

The Czech Republic has been reporting new cases of the infection at one of Europe's fastest paces in recent weeks and the authorities have returned to some of the measures used in spring when the pandemic first reached the country.

Calls for airport testing to replace quarantine

An alliance of more than 5,000 travel and tourism companies across Europe have issued an unprecedented appeal for the introduction of airport testing to replace quarantine.  

An open letter sent to the European Commission calls for a testing regime to help save the jobs of 27 million people who work in the industry.  

The appeal comes as figures reveal that passenger traffic across Europe during September dipped to a new low, raising questions about the industry's long-term recovery. 

Airline chiefs forecast that flying will not return to pre-Covid levels for up to five years.  

Europe is wrestling with a resurgence of coronavirus, which has further damaged consumer confidence in travelling.

READ MORE: Alliance of 5,000 travel businesses back airport testing to replace quarantine

University students urged to 'eat in to help out'

Students have been urged to “eat in to help out” by Bolton University, which is offering £1 dinners delivered to their halls while the town is in lockdown.

The scheme, which will run while restaurants are closed as part of local lockdown measures, is aimed at helping students abide by the rules.

It comes amid rising concern among ministers that droves of students returning to university will ignore rules on large gatherings.

Bolton’s vice-Chancellor, Prof George Holmes, said the £1 dinner scheme would “keep students away from the local population”.

READ MORE: University students urged to 'eat in to help out' with £1 dinner deliveries to their halls

India on track to surpass US as infections reach 5.4 million

Patients watch a movie on a big screen at a makeshift Covid care centre set up in an indoor sports stadium, in New Delhi, India Credit: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

India has registered 92,605 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours and is expected to surpass the United States as the pandemic's worst-hit country within weeks.

The Health Ministry on Sunday reported 1,133 deaths for a total of 86,752.

Sunday's surge raised the country's virus tally to more than 5.4 million.

India has posted the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August, and lags behind only the United States, which has 6.7 million cases in terms of total infections.

India, however, also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. Its recovery rate stands at about 80 per cent.

More than 60 per cent of the active cases are concentrated in five of India's 28 states: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has faced scathing criticism for its handling of the pandemic amid a contracting economy that has left millions jobless.

Daily infections reach more than 13,000 in France

Parisians embrace the weekend in a packed bar Credit: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

Coronavirus infections tipped the scales again in France on Saturday with nearly 13,500 new infections in 24 hours. 

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire is among them - the fourth French minister to test positive since March.

It was the second day in a row that new cases in France were above 13,000. 

For health authorities, it is clear that France needs to worry about the spread of the virus, with more than 1,000 clusters detected. 

There have been 31,274 deaths since the start of the pandemic - among the highest death tolls in Europe - and 26 deaths in the past 24 hours.

In Paris, the Prefecture de Police warned in a tweet that there will be no more tolerance for bars and restaurants where rules to counter the virus are not respected, like standing at counters or failing to respect social distancing. 

Airlines slash fares to tempt winter holiday seekers

Eager travellers will be rewarded with record low airfares this winter with prices to sunny destinations falling by 92 per cent in some cases compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Those who missed their summer break can look forward to the colder months for a holiday, with prices starting at £14 for destinations in Europe.

A return flight from London to Morocco this December currently costs just £15, a 92 per cent discount from the average £192 it cost in the same month over the past two years, according to Skyscanner, a flight-comparison website.

Read the full story here.

Second wave ‘risks double-dip recession’

Local lockdowns have put the brakes on recoveries in Covid-hit areas, the latest data is signalling, prompting warnings from economists that a second wave risks causing a double-dip downturn.

Live economic signals tracking movement and spending indicate activity in certain cities has been dampened by new restrictions to tackle outbreaks.

Economists said there was now a “significant risk” of a W-shaped recovery - or double-dip recession - as a second wave threatened to combine with mounting Brexit worries and rising unemployment.

Read the full story here.

Downward trend in South Korea

South Korea's new coronavirus tally has fallen below 100 for the first time in more than a month.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Sunday that the 82 cases took the country's total to 22,975 with 383 deaths.

The drop is likely partly driven by the fact that authorities conduct fewer tests on weekends. But even before Sunday, South Korea's daily tally held in the hundreds for more than two weeks - down from 400 in late August.

Health officials say the downward trend is a result of stringent social distancing rules imposed on the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area. Those rules were recently relaxed.

The government is urging the public not to lower their guard, with small-scale clusters still being reported.

Melbourne numbers continue to improve in lockdown

Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne, has moved closer to easing severe lockdown restrictions after recording only 14 new Covid cases on Sunday.

It was the second day in a row that new infections fell below 30. Five deaths were recorded on Sunday.

Melbourne's lockdown restrictions are due to be eased next weekend when childcare centers will be allowed to reopen and gatherings of up to five people from two different households will be permitted. But that depends on the rolling 14-day average of new cases being below 50. It now stands at 36.2.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos praised residents for adhering to lockdown rules: "The huge sacrifices made by Victorians are saving many lives."

Rescue centres record more abandoned cats than dogs

Dogs really were man’s best friend during lockdown with the Government revealing that more cats than dogs were abandoned in the pandemic.

Figures from the Association of Dogs and Cats Homes, which were cited by ministers in Parliament, show that cats were far more likely to be abandoned than dogs.

The survey of more than 130 animal rescue homes during lockdown in April found that 15 per cent were reporting fewer dogs being abandoned than usual, with only eight per cent taking in more.

The association said this was a "a reassuring trend highlighting that dog owners are taking their responsibilities seriously despite the coronavirus restrictions".

However, the story was rather different for cats.

READ MORE: It was a cat and dog fight in the battle for human hearts during lockdown

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