Pub curfew set to be announced as Covid threat level raised

Boris Johnson reacts as he leaves 10 Downing Street as the government upgraded its coronavirus alert level
Boris Johnson reacts as he leaves 10 Downing Street as the government upgraded its coronavirus alert level Credit: BEN STANSALL/AFP

What happened today

Northern Irish urged to listen to scientists, not Van Morrison

Northern Ireland's leaders have urged the public not to be swayed by Sir Van Morrison's coronavirus protest songs and instead listen to scientific evidence.

First Minister Arlene Foster commented after the famous Belfast musician penned three songs denouncing lockdown.

In them, Sir Van accused the Government of taking people's freedom and alleged scientists were making up "crooked facts" to justify restrictions to "enslave" the population.

Mrs Foster said today: "We live in a free society. Van writes many songs about many issues. He's decided to write some protest songs around lockdown. I don't agree with his messaging, obviously.

"But we live in a free country and therefore it is his right to write those songs.

"What I'm asking people to do is to look at that in the context of art and entertainment, whereas we're giving you a message based on science and data and the best advice that we have, and I hope that people will listen to the first and deputy first ministers, and to the executive, when we say this is a real threat, we need to take action, and we're asking you to work with us on proportionate action."

Mrs Foster also announced a package of new coronavirus restrictions this afternoon - the video below has an overview.

Watch: Hancock announces £500 support for those self-isolating on low incomes

Gyms and leisure centres pushing to stay exempt from new lockdown

Physical activity has been identified as the best way to help the National Health Service during the Covid-19 pandemic, boosting gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres in their push to remain open amid a surge in new infections.

After being shut down between March and July - and then only coming back after pubs and restaurants - the leisure sector believes that it has proved that it can operate in a way that sufficiently mitigates the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Warnings, however, of a potential major second wave of Covid-19 infections has led to fears of further new measures. Details are not expected until Tuesday and there is concern within the sector that the recreational return of some sports and activities could be curtailed. Indoor sports are expected to be particularly scrutinised, as are outdoor activities that attract large numbers of participants and close contact.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston, however, specifically addressed the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s annual conference on Monday and stressed the importance of keeping the sector open:

“We need sport now more than ever - sport and physical activity are crucial to both our physical and mental health - both of which have been tested by this pandemic,” he said. “We need the country to get match-fit to beat Covid. Too many facilities have been unable to open. We need them to open.”

Jeremy Wilson has more on this story here.

Eight monks contract Covid-19 in a remote corner of Greece

Eight monks have tested positive for coronavirus and their monastery in a remote Orthodox Christian community in northern Greece has been quarantined, a Church official has said.

One of the monks was taken to hospital in Thessaloniki in a serious condition, the official added. 

It is not the first outbreak at the Mount Athos site - four monks tested positive in March after travelling to Britain, but all recovered quickly.

Mount Athos, a 1,000-year-old site and one of the Orthodox Church's most venerated places, has 20 monasteries and almost 1,700 monks.

The community, known for its austere rules, is almost most completely isolated in a mountainous nature reserve in the Macedonia region. The country's lockdown from March to May hit the Church hard, wrecking its Easter celebrations.

Church leaders disputed some of the science behind the confinement rules - agreeing to halt masses but refusing to ban communion.

Latest international developments

What's been happening around the world today? Here's your evening briefing - for a UK update, head to the post at 6:18pm.

  • In vaccine news, a total of 156 countries have joined the global Covax scheme, led by the World Health Organization, which is intended to ensure fair distribution of supplies of any future Covid-19 jab.
  • India reopened the Taj Mahal after six months, with the first visitors trickling into the famous monument as authorities reported 86,961 new infections across the country, with no signs of a peak yet.
  • The number of  infections in Iran has risen by 3,341 in the past 24 hours, the highest daily tally since early June, taking total cases to 425,481, according to the health ministry.
  • In Europe, the Czech prime minister nominated a top epidemiologist to become health minister after the previous minister quit over a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections. 
  • Greece reported a daily record in new cases, with 453 Covid-19 infections reported today - the most since the pandemic began. And more than 240 asylum seekers at a temporary camp on the Greek island of Lesbos have contracted the virus, authorities say. 
  • Tighter restrictions will be imposed in the French city of Lyon from Tuesday to counter a sharp increase in new cases and a surge in intensive care admissions, local authorities have announced.
  • The regional chief of Madrid has requested help from the Spanish army to fight a coronavirus surge in and around the Spanish capital.
  • Australia reported its smallest daily increase in new infections in more than three months, but authorities in the nation's virus hotspot of Victoria said they could not hasten the easing of curbs.
  • And finally, New Zealand lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the country, except in second-wave hotspot Auckland, as the number of new infections slowed to a trickle.

Recap: Tougher restrictions announced in four Welsh counties

US CDC takes down warning on airborne spread of Covid-19

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said it posted guidance on possible transmission of the coronavirus through airborne particles in error and it will be updating its recommendations.

"A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency's official website," the CDC said today. 

The now-withdrawn guidance, posted on the agency's website on Friday, recommended that people use air purifiers to reduce airborne germs indoors to avoid the disease from spreading.

The health agency had said that Covid-19 could spread through airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond six feet.

Presently, the agency's guidance says the virus mainly spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets, which can land in the mouth or nose of people nearby.

The U-turn comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is monitoring "emerging evidence" of possible airborne transmission. 

UK evening briefing 

Today has been a busy day for domestic Covid-19 news. In the UK there's been a growing sense of urgency around tackling the virus amid an uptick in cases - with growing reports that we're on the brink of new restrictions, including a pub curfew. 

Here's a roundup of the key headlines to be aware of this evening:   

  • Matt Hancock said the Chief Medical Officers' decision to raise the the Covid-19 alert level from three to four “reflects the significant shift in the current threat posed by coronavirus”. Level four signals that the epidemic is “in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially”.
  • The UK could see 49,000 daily new infections by mid-October and 200 or more deaths by mid-November if the current rate of infection is not halted, the Government's chief scientific adviser has warned. 
  • Boris Johnson is set to unveil a 10pm pub curfew tomorrow, according to The Sun. Restaurants and bars could also be shut completely in hard-hit areas, while there will be added patrols to ensure venues are obeying the "rule of six".
  • A local lockdown will be introduced in Wales in the areas of Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport and Blaenau Gwent, following an increase in coronavirus cases, the devolved Government has announced.
  • In Northern Ireland new coronavirus restrictions will be imposed across the country as of 6pm tomorrow evening. Multiple households will not be able to meet indoors, while no more than six people from two households will be allowed to meet in a garden. 

  • The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus in England is the highest it has been since the end of June, figures show.
  • This year's Lord Mayor's Show has been cancelled in the City of London for the first time since 1852 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Watch: Spanish Opera house cancels performance amid protests over lack of social distancing

Hancock: Alert level four 'reflects the significant shift' in Covid risk

Rising the UK alert level from three to four “reflects the significant shift in the current threat posed by coronavirus”, Matt Hancock has said. 

Commenting on the decision from the UK Chief Medical Officers’s (see 5:20pm), the Health Secretry reiterated the need to follow social distancing guidelines.

“This country now faces a tipping point in its response and it is vital everybody plays their part now to stop the spread of the virus and protect lives.

“The first line of defence has always been all of us playing our part, remembering hands, face and space, the rule of six and self-isolation of those who risk passing on the virus.”

Nigerian health workers end strike despite no coronavirus hazard pay

In Nigeria, health workers who went on strike in mid-September for a hazard allowance for treating coronavirus patients returned to work today without their demands being met.

The Joint Health Service Unions, which represent nurses, midwives, radiologists and others, had called for life insurance, full access to protective equipment and the hazard allowance.

It did not say why it had called off the strike if its demands had not been met.

Strikes by health workers are common in Nigeria.

Earlier this month, the National Association of Resident Doctors suspended a strike to allow the government time to meet its demands over pay and working conditions. It was the union's second strike of the year.

Nigeria has recorded a total of 57,242 confirmed coronavirus infections and 11,098 related deaths. Here's a look at the trajectory of the country's outbreak:

UK Joint Biosecurity Centre increases threat to level four

The Joint Biosecurity centre has recommended that the Covid-19 alert level rises to level four - meaning an epidemic is “in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

This contrasts to level three, which signals that an “epidemic is in general circulation”.

The decision was announced in a joint statement issued by the Chief Medical Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

“After a period of lower Covid cases and deaths, the number of cases are now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations,” the CMOs said. 

“If we are to avoid significant excess deaths and exceptional pressure in the NHS and other health services over the autumn and winter everyone has to follow the social distancing guidance, wear face coverings correctly and wash their hands regularly.

“We know this will be a concerning news for many people; please follow the rules, look after each other and together we will get through this.”

Northern Ireland extends coronavirus restrictions 

Extra restrictions on social gatherings are to be imposed across the entirety of Northern Ireland from tomorrow, First Minister Arlene Foster has announced.

There will be no mixing of two households indoors except for single-person household bubbles and certain other exemptions.

No more than six people from two households can meet in private gardens, the DUP leader said, adding:

"It is in an environment where we feel safe and relaxed that we drop our guard. The mixing of households indoors provides one of the best opportunities for the spread of the virus."

Previously the limitations were applied to greater Belfast and Ballymena in Co Antrim.

But First Minister Mrs Foster insisted "this is not returning to lockdown".

"Doing nothing was not an option but neither is returning to full lockdown. These are limited restrictions which I hope by taking action at this early stage means we can prevent the need for more draconian measures."

Between two and four per cent of tests are now positive and show increased community transmission, Stormont's chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young added.

The reproductive rate of the virus has risen to 1.4 and in some local districts would be about two.

In the last 48 hours nearly 400 new cases were reported and "substantial" increases have happened across Northern Ireland, the First Minister said.

Today in pictures

Here's a quick look at the pandemic across the globe - in photos.

Portsmouth, UK:

Stockpiling part two: depleted stocks and empty pallets in the toilet roll aisle at the Portsmouth North Harbour Tesco Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

 Taj Mahal, India:

The Taj Mahal in Agra reopened to visitors today in a symbolic business-as-usual gesture, even as India looks set to overtake the US as the global leader in coronavirus infections Credit: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP

 Madrid, Spain:

Protesters wearing protective masks shout slogans as one holds a placard reading 'Enough' during a demonstration against the measures imposed by the regional government on areas with the most Covid cases Credit: ablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

 Jerusalem, Israel:

Israeli police officers check cars at a checkpoint during a three-week lockdown as the country attempts to regain control of the virus Credit: AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

The Emmys:

And finally in lighter news - an amusing screen grab from the virtual Emmy awards last night, as host Jimmy Kimmel speaks surrounded by cardboard cutouts of actors Credit: The Television Academy and ABC Entertainment via AP

White House's Kudlow expresses concern about potential UK lockdown

White House adviser Larry Kudlow, in response to a question on stock market concerns, said on Monday there were worries that Britain might shut down over coronavirus.

"I do think however there's some worries that Britain might shut down. It's coming out of London, I can't verify it's not my job, but I read the reports like everybody else and I think that's a great concern," Kudlow told reporters at the White House.

He also insisted that the "USA is in much better position, thankfully" - a position many would disagree with. 

"We've regained control of the virus, both the cases and the fatalities. But I think people are worried about Britain and maybe the rest of Europe as well,"  he added. 

WHO live: Global vaccine distribution will accelerate economic recovery

There is currently a bumper World Health Organization press conference taking place, which you can watch live below. The briefing coincides with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations - a fitting moment to announce that  156 countries have signed up to the Covax initiative (see 16:19), said Dr Tedros.

"The fastest route to ending the Covid-19 pandemic and accelerating the global economic recovery is to ensure some people are vaccinated in all countries, not all people in some countries," the WHO chief added. 

Cross reactivity? Study suggests dengue may provide some Covid immunity 

A new study that analysed the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil has found a link between the spread of the virus and past outbreaks of dengue fever, suggesting exposure to the mosquito-transmitted illness may provide some level of immunity against Covid-19.

The not yet published study - led by Miguel Nicolelis, a professor at Duke University, and shared with Reuters - compared the geographic distribution of coronavirus cases with the spread of dengue in 2019 and 2020.

Places with lower coronavirus infection rates and slower case growth were locations that had suffered intense dengue outbreaks this year or last, Prof Nicolelis found.

"This striking finding raises the intriguing possibility of an immunological cross-reactivity between dengue's Flavivirus serotypes and SARS-CoV-2," the study said, referring to dengue virus antibodies and the novel coronavirus.

"If proven correct, this hypothesis could mean that dengue infection or immunization with an efficacious and safe dengue vaccine could produce some level of immunological protection" against the coronavirus, it added.

Prof Nicolelis said the results are particularly interesting because previous studies have shown that people with dengue antibodies in their blood can test falsely positive for Covid-19 antibodies even if they have never been infected by the coronavirus.

UK records additional 4,368 infections

The latest coronavirus figures have been published. As of 9am this morning, there had been a further 4,368 lab-confirmed cases in the UK, as infections continue to rise. In total, 398,625 people have now tested positive for Covid-19. 

The government also said a further 11 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the UK total to 41,788.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have now been 57,500 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Phillipines: Nurses allowed to resume jobs abroad

The Philippines' president has eased an overseas travel ban on Filipino nurses and other medical workers to allow more to take jobs abroad, his spokesman said today, as his government believes it has its coronavirus outbreak under control.

Thousands of health workers, who call themselves "priso-nurses", had appealed to the government to let them travel, Reuters reported last week. The nurses say they feel underpaid, under-appreciated and unprotected in the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the proposal of the labour ministry to expand exemptions from the ban to those who had overseas contracts and complete documents as of Aug. 31, spokesman Harry Roque told a regular briefing.

So far only those with contracts as of March 8 have been allowed to travel.

Matt Hancock signals that social bubbles will continue under new restrictions

Meanwhile in Westminster Simon Clarke, the well-liked communities minister who resigned a fortnight ago citing personal reasons, has urged Matt Hancock to allow "some social contact" under the next set of restrictions. 

Speaking from the backbenches, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP  said: "Whatever further measures are in contemplation for the days ahead, can I issue a plea for proportionately

"Human beings in a free society must have a right to some social contact as they go about their daily lives, even at this difficult time."

Mr Hancock said he agreed "100 per cent" pointing to the social bubbles for single households "which were created for precisely this reason". 

Vaccine news: UK among 156 countries to join global distribution scheme

Shifting away from the Commons for a moment, here's a snippet of significant international news. 

The World Health Organization and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have announced that a total of 156 countries have joined the global Covax scheme intended to ensure fair distribution of supplies of future vaccines against Covid-19.

The list includes 64 wealthier, self-financing countries, a statement issued by the WHO and Gavi vaccine alliance said, after a deadline of last Friday to make binding commitments.

The goal of Covax is by the end of 2021 to deliver 2 billion doses of safe, effective vaccines around the world.

The UK is among the countries who have joined the effort. But, as Georgina Hayes explains here, the United States refused to join - a major blow that will reignite fears of  “vaccine nationalism”.

But striking an optimistic note Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said:

“Covax is now in business: governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere... we now stand a far better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic once safe, effective vaccines become available.”

Greg Clark challenges Matt Hancock over seven-day test

Greg Clark, the chair of the Science and Technology Committee, challenges Matt Hancock on tests, saying "the evidence is that Covid is detectable within seven days of being infected". 

He asks why people cannot be tested at that point and be "released" then. 

But Mr Hancock says it is "still estimated to require a 14 day isolation - if we could reduce that time I would be the first to do so". 

"This is a point that is critical on which we must rely on the scientific evidence," the Health Secretary adds, although asks Mr Clark to show him any evidence that might prove him wrong. 

The case for national lockdown has not been made, says Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling, the former transport secretary, welcomes the measures announced today and says Matt Hancock is "getting the balance right". 

But he points to the fact that there is a "huge regional variations" across the country, and asks "given those regional variations... I do not believe the case for further national measures has been made". 

The Health Secretary says there is "an important balance" between the national restrictions and the "stronger" local lockdowns. He says those have had to be expanded, but "the balance between what we do nationally and what we do locally is as important as the balance overall". 

Hancock pledges to protect health workers

Jeremy Hunt says he supports the measures outlined by the Health Secretary, and asks if he will commit to a new WHO charter for health worker protection, that asks countries not just to sign up to supply adequate PPE and mental health support, but also a zero tolerance approach to violence towards workers. 

Matt Hancock says he will "happily sign up" to those proposals. 

He says: "We must make sure that in these difficult times, we protect our careworkers and frontline staff, including staff at the test centres.

Labour challenges Matt Hancock for blaming coronavirus surge on people breaking rules

Labour has challenged Matt Hancock over the "tone" of his previous remarks, for suggesting  coronavirus cases are rising because people have broken the rules.

"Neither he nor I came into politics to place upon individuals the heavy burden of curtailments on our freedoms," said Jon Ashworth, pledging to work constructively during the pandemic. 

"People have done what they were asked, in return ministers were supposed to fix test, trace and isolate so we could - in the words of the Government advert - get back to the things we love."

He highlighted the many failings with the test and trace system, including the outpaced demand, and the delay in getting results. "Test, trace and isolate should have been fixed - that failure has left us vulnerable and exposed."

Responding, the Health Secretary thanked Mr Ashworth for his "constructive approach", and the fact they both agree on the overriding strategy, but did not apologise for blaming the public. 

"The truth is, it is vital all people follow the rules that have been put in place - the vast majority have, but critically enough have not followed them that we need to make them mandatory in many places, rather than relying on civic duty," he said. 

Matt Hancock prepares the ground for Boris Johnson's statement tomorrow

Matt Hancock has laid the ground for Boris Johnson to unveil further restrictions during his statement to MPs tomorrow. 

The Health Secretary told the Commons: "The Prime Minister will update the House tomorrow with any more action we need to take.

"This is a moment where we once again must come together to tackle this deadly disease.

Childcare and adult care allowed to continue in lockdowns, Matt Hancock confirms

Matt Hancock then turns to local lockdowns, which are in place in huge swathes of the North and Midlands. 

He says there are some hugely concerning areas of outbreaks including Liverpool and Warrington. 

New measures are being put in place tomorrow, "to protect education and employment as much as possible while bearing down on the virus."

Hospitality will be kept open but table service only, and on a curfew basis. 

"I know how hard this is," he says. "I have heard the concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements". 

People looking after children  under the age of 14, or adults for caring purposes, in formal and informal arrangements, will now be allowed during lockdowns. Parties and playdates are not included, he says. 

Newcastle and Bracknell to get new lighthouse labs

Two regions of the UK will see a boost in coronavirus testing capacity, Matt Hancock has announced.

Two new lighthouse labs will be set up in Newcastle and Bracknell, he told MPs.

But this does not take away the need to priorise testing for those who need it most, as demand remains high, he says.

The Government is due to publish these guidelines tomorrow, but here he gives a general outline:

Firstly he says they will support acute clinical care, secondly people in social care and thirdly NHS staff including GPs and pharmacists.

Then it will be for targeted outbreak managament and surveillance studies. 

Schools are the fifth priority, he says, following the general public. 

"The system relies on people coming forward for tests, if and only if they have symptoms or have been specifically advised to by a health professional", Mr Hancock says. 

New enforcement measures introduced to police self-isolation measures

The vast majority of people have followed orders to self-isolate, however, any repeat offenders and those known to have performed serious breaches of the quarantine measures now face a fine of £10,000, Matt Hancock has told MPs.

New enforcement measures are now in place to hold people to account and authorities will now be able to crack down on employers known to prevent staff from self-isolating.

Hancock announces a new isolation support payment 

The Health Secretary has announced a £500 isolation support package, aimed at supporting people on low incomes who cannot work because they have tested positive or are asked to self-isolate by Test and Trace.

It will start next Monday for those in England, he says.

The UK Government will also be providing funding for the devolved nations through the Barnett Formula, so that similar support can be provided to people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Perugia airport boss: Boris Johnson was confused with Tony Blair 

The Telegraph's correspondent in Rome has the latest on "Perugia-gate", following Italian newspaper La Repubblica's claims that Boris Johnson had gone to Italy and an under-the-radar break earlier this month, where he is supposed to have had baby Wilfred baptised. 

According to Nick Squires, the airport whose statement the story is based on has backtracked, claiming he was "confused" with Tony Blair.

Lord Mayor's Show cancelled for first time in over 150 years

This year's Lord Mayor's Show in the City of London has been cancelled for the first time since 1852 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A scaled-back version of one of the capital's landmark annual events was due to be held on November 14, but organisers have abandoned plans in the interests of safety.

The City of London Corporation said this year's show, which traditionally features a three-mile-long procession through the streets, had previously aimed to go ahead as a "contained, televised spectacle" with restricted public access.

The governing body of the Square Mile said that according to historical records, the Lord Mayor's Show was last cancelled in 1852 to allow for a period of national mourning for the Duke of Wellington.

The decision to cancel was taken on Monday by organisers the Lord Mayor's Show Ltd.

The pageantmaster of the Lord Mayor's Show, Dominic Reid, said: "Today's decision to cancel this year's show is as inevitable as it is regrettable, but we are facing uncertain times and despite everyone's best efforts, we took the view that cancelling the event is the most appropriate and responsible action."

The Lord Mayor's Show in more usual times Credit:  Geoff Pugh

New Zealand: Prime minister lifts coronavirus restrictions

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the country, except in second-wave hotspot Auckland, as the number of new infections slowed to a trickle.

Some restrictions were also eased in Auckland to allow gatherings of up to 100 people, but the country's biggest city needed more time before all curbs could be lifted, Ms Ardern said.

"Our actions collectively have managed to get the virus under control," she told reporters in Auckland. "This was the centre of the outbreak and that's why that caution is needed here."

New Zealand, a nation of five million, appeared to have halted community transmission of Covid-19 earlier this year, but a fresh outbreak in Auckland in August prompted the government to place the city back in lockdown.

Correction: NHSx app will be able to trace contacts from launch, PMOS clarifies

Earlier today we were told by Downing Street that the NHSx app launching later this week would not be able to contact trace. 

However, the spokesman - who was self-isolating last week - admits he was mistaken. 

A statement from the Department for Health and Social Care confirms: "Contact tracing will be at the heat of the NHS Covid-19 app... it will log the time and distance a user has spent near anyone, even if they don't know them, so it can alert them if necessary if that person later tests positive for Covid-19, and help them self-isolate, book a free test if they develop symptoms, and get their results."

The official NHS Covid-19 "Test and Trace" contact tracing app launches on Thursday Credit:  Leon Neal / Getty

France:  Lyon tightens Covid restrictions

Tighter coronavirus restrictions will be imposed in the French city of Lyon from Tuesday to counter a sharp increase in new coronavirus cases and a surge in intensive care admissions, local authorities said.

Attendance at big events will be limited to 1,000 people from the 5,000 allowed currently, the sale and consumption of alcohol outdoors prohibited from 8 p.m. until the following day and visits to nursing home residents restricted to two per week. 

Scotland to face new restrictions in next 48 hours, says Sturgeon

Scotland will "almost certainly" face new restrictions across the entire country "in the next couple of days", Nicola Sturgeon has said. 

The First Minister is speaking with Boris Johnson this afternoon, and will join the virtual Cobra meeting tomorrow, as well as chairing a Scottish cabinet meeting "to take stock", she said. 

"I am very clear that it must be in a position to decide the way ahead for Scotland within the next 48 hours," Ms Sturgeon said during her regular press conference. "I need to be absolutely straight with people across Scotland that additional restrictions will almost certainly be put in place in Scotland over the next couple of days.

"If we move sharply now to get the virus back under control, we can minimise the time we all spend under any new restrictions. If we wait, it will take longer – potentially a lot longer – to come out of the other side.

"For that reason, as I indicated on Friday, we are preparing to introduce a package of additional measures with the intention of bringing the R number back below 1."

Ms Sturgeon said "ideally" some of those measures would be taken on a four nations basis, across the UK.

Nicola Sturgeon Credit: ANDY BUCHANAN /AFP

Welsh cases rise by 243 as three further people die

Three further people have died in Wales after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in the country since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,603.

Public Health Wales said the number of cases of Covid-19 increased by 234 on Friday, bringing the revised confirmed total to 20,878.

This is the largest daily increase in cases since April 22, according to Public Health Wales' data dashboard.

UK could 'realistically' face Italy-style scenario this winter, Sage scientist warns

The UK could "realistically" face the "catastrophic" scenarios seen by Italy and Wuhan this spring, when patients were turned away because there was not enough room in hospitals, a Sage scientist has warned. 

Professor Peter Horby, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told the BBC:

"If we look back to March this year, or if we look back even further to what was happening in northern Italy, or we look back to January to what was happening in Wuhan, these were fairly catastrophic events."There were ICUs ... absolutely rammed full of very sick patients. There were terrible decisions having to be made about turning people away or not putting people on ventilators."That's what we realistically could face again this winter," he added. "I think those who say that it's a milder disease now which changed in virulence, it's only flu, I think they're sorely mistaken."I think we are going to have to face the facts that the next six months are going to be very difficult. We really can't afford to have a replay of what we saw in March this year."

Further 10 people die with coronavirus in England

A further 10 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 29,757.

Patients were aged between 44 and 95 years old. All had known underlying health conditions.

Date of death ranges from 17 to 20 September 2020.

There were four deaths in the North East & Yorkshire, the worst-affected region, followed by the North West, which had three. There was one death recorded in the East of England, London and the Midlands while no deaths were reported in the South East and South West. 

Lebanon president warns of 'hell' without new cabinet

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun warned Monday the country was headed to "hell" if competing political forces did not step up and back a speedy cabinet formation to save the crisis-hit country.

Prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib is under pressure to form a fresh cabinet as soon as possible, so it can launch reforms required to unlock billions of dollars in foreign aid.

Lebanon was mired in its worst economic crisis in decades and battling the novel coronavirus pandemic even before a monster explosion at the Beirut port last month.

Lebanon's Adib earlier on Monday urged the country's myriad of political parties to rally together to rescue the country.

"Any further delay will exacerbate and deepen the crisis," Adib said in a statement, after a French-imposed deadline to form the cabinet passed last week.

"The Lebanese people's woes... require the cooperation of all sides," he said.

The August 4 explosion of hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate at the Beirut port killed more than 190 people, wounded thousands, and ravaged large parts of the capital, prompting the previous cabinet to step down.

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

Boris Johnson is expected to set out new national lockdown restrictions in a statement to Parliament on Tuesday, after he spent much of the last three days discussing possible next steps in the coronavirus crisis. 

And it's likely that a short "circuit break" to curb rising infections could be on the cards.

The details of what that may mean and what national restrictions are currently in place can be found here.

Credit: Richard Pohle / Times Newspapers Ltd

FTSE plunge gathers pace as lockdown fears mount

This is what our business team have to say on the FTSE 100 performance today: 

If the FTSE 100 locks in today’s poor performance, it would be the worst one-day session since June – narrowly worse than July’s biggest fall. Here’s how the change looks:

 It would also be the 16th time the FTSE 100 has fallen more than 3pc in a single session in 2020 – a tumultuous year by any standard.

Follow all the latest finance updates here.

Switzerland reports 1,000 new coronavirus cases

The number of people tested positive for Covid-19 has risen by 1,095, data from Switzerland's public health agency showed on Monday.

It has now reported 50,378 cases, up from 49,283 on Friday. The death toll increased to 1,770 from 1,765 people. The agency has stopped reporting new cases on weekends.

The country reported its first confirmed case in late February. New cases peaked at 1,464 on March 23 and had dwindled to as few as three on June 1.

Madrid asks for help from Spanish army against coronavirus surge

The regional chief of Madrid has requested help from the Spanish army to fight a coronavirus surge in and around the Spanish capital

At the height of the first wave of the epidemic in March-April, Spain deployed thousands of troops to help with the anti-coronavirus effort.

"We need help from the army for disinfection ... and to strengthen local police and law enforcement," Isabel Diaz Ayuso told a news briefing after meeting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in an attempt to reduce contagion in Spain's worst-hit region.

She also requested makeshift hospitals to be set up in the capital again.

Ms Ayuso's comments marks a new turning point in the country's fight against the virus and comes just three months after the same hospitals were decommissioned following the lifting of lockdown across Spain.

Eating a healthy diet is too expensive for many Britons, research finds

Too few people can afford to eat a healthy diet, a new report shining a light on Britain’s ‘broken food system’ has found.

The annual Broken Plate report, which was published by the Food Foundation on Monday, has found that healthier foods are much more expensive than those laden with unhealthy levels of fat, sugar and salt.

Levels of childhood obesity continue to worsen in Scotland and England, with the inequalities between the most and least deprived children widening.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated food poverty and increased the burden of nutrition-related chronic diseases, the report found.

Jordan Kelly-Linden has the full story here.

Freedom to chose between health and unhealthy food is a 'myth', report author says Credit:  Jonathan Knowles

NHS Covid-19 app falls short of original promises

The delayed NHS Covid-19 app being launched in England and Wales on Thursday will not provide the automatic contact-tracing ability that was first promised, Downing Street said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "It will be there to check and report symptoms, book a test, find out if you have tested positive or not and if you need to self-isolate.

"You will be able to check the risk level of your local area and it will provide for the QR code check-in on entry to various premises with your phones, instead of having to fill out a check-in box or anything else to provide your contact details."

It is "not the intention" to make downloading the app mandatory but "it will be backed by a social media campaign pointing out the role it can play in helping to check and report symptoms and to help keep yourself, your loved ones and your friends safe".

Asked if it would do automatic contact tracing, the spokesman said: "I have set out to you the functions which it will have when it has launched."

Manual contact tracing will continue to be carried out by the NHS Test and Trace operation.

Cobra to regroup tomorrow

No 10 has confirmed that Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of Cobra, the government’s emergency committee, tomorrow morning.

The fact that a meeting has now been scheduled suggests that Johnson will be announcing new restrictions at some point after after the meeting.

"Tomorrow morning is an opportunity for Cobra to discuss what next steps may be required in the coronavirus response," a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said.

Leaders of all four nation set to discuss response to evolving coronavirus epidemic

Boris Johnson will discuss the coronavirus response with the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland this afternoon before announcing any further restrictions.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "One thing he will do is reiterate his commitment to working together with the devolved administrations as one United Kingdom in response to the rising infection rates that we're seeing across the UK."

Mr Johnson will speak to Scotland's Nicola Sturgeon and Wales's Mark Drakeford separately, and will also speak to Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster and her deputy Michelle O'Neill together.

He did not say there were any plans to speak to London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The spokesman acknowledged the coming months would be difficult, describing it as "what is likely to be a challenging winter period".

Iran: daily case count returns to levels first recorded in early June

The number of novel coronavirus infections in Iran has risen by 3,341 in the past 24 hours, the highest daily tally since early June, taking total cases to 425,481, the health ministry spokeswoman told state TV on Monday.

Sima Sadat Lari said 177 people had died in the past day, pushing the official death toll to 24,478 in Iran, one of the hardest hit countries in the Middle East. Iran's deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said last week that the whole country was on coronavirus red alert as daily deaths and cases increased at an alarming rate.

Iranian health officials have warned about a third wave of the pandemic, while the government has blamed the spike in infections partly on decline in public adherence to health protocols.

Despite concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, schools re-opened on September 5 for 15 million students, although the education ministry said later that attending classes was not compulsory for children. 

Wales: Large parts of the country set to return to lockdown

Some breaking news: large parts of Wales will go into lockdown from 6pm tomorrow evening. 

Coronavirus laws are being tightened in four Welsh authorities – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport – following a sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has just said.

People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education, and people will only be able to meet others they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. 

Scotland: Sturgeon says tougher restrictions are on the way 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said today that additional restrictions aimed at tackling the growing spread of Covid-19 outbreak will almost certainly be imposed within days.

Speaking at a press conference, Sturgeon said urgent action was needed but she hoped to avoid a full-scale lockdown along the lines of the one imposed in March.

"I need to be absolutely straight with people, across Scotland additional restrictions will almost certainly be put in place ... over the next couple of days," she said.

Sturgeon said she had asked the British government for an emergency Cobra meeting to discussion the situation. 

Earlier today, Downing Street announced that Boris Johnson will be speaking to Sturgeon, as well as Mark Drakeford, the first minister of Wales, and Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, first minister and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland respectively, this afternoon. 

Greece: 243 positive Covid-19 cases among migrants in Lesbos

Greece's government spokesman has revealed that more than 200 people have tested positive for Covid-19  among thousands of asylum-seekers who were admitted to a new camp on the island of Lesbos, after the old camp burned down.

Speaking during a regular briefing Monday, Stelios Petsas said 7,064 people who entered the new camp at Kara Tepe had been tested, and 243 of them were found positive.

The average age of those confirmed positive was 24, and most were asymptomatic, Petsas said. A further 160 people, mainly police and administrative staff who had come into contact with the migrants, were tested and all were negative for the virus.

More than 12,000 asylum-seekers were left homeless nearly two weeks ago after fires on two successive nights destroyed the notoriously overcrowded Moria camp. Greek authorities have said the fires were deliberately set by a small group of Afghans angered by lockdown and isolation orders imposed after 35 people in the camp tested positive for Covid-19.

Authorities have constructed a new facility consisting of family tents erected on an old shooting range in a coastal area of the island. They launched a campaign over the weekend to persuade those who had been sleeping rough to go to the new camp, and thousands have complied.

Nationwide, Greece has been experiencing a resurgence of the virus, with the number of new daily cases often topping 300, and both deaths and the number of those in intensive care units rising.

Watch: Taj Mahal reopens to visitors after six months

Poorest countries left to 'sink or swim' in response to Covid, says David Miliband 

Former foreign secretary David Miliband has criticised the “striking lack” of global cooperation that has characterised the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying poorer countries had been left to “sink or swim”. 

In an interview with the Telegraph on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly – taking place virtually this year – Mr Miliband, president of the New-York based charity, International Rescue Committee, called on world leaders to recognise their “responsibilities beyond their own borders, as well as responsibilities within their own borders”.

And he added that multilateral cooperation has been absent during the pandemic.

“If you look at the global response to the previous crises, whether the 2008 financial crisis which led to the G20, or the oil crisis of 1973 which led to the creation of the G7 there has been a striking lack of institutional innovation, or international cooperation, in the wake of this crisis.”

Anne Gulland has the full story here

Global coronavirus summary

All eyes have been on Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Whitty in the UK this morning - but here’s a quick update of developments elsewhere around the world:

  • Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech resigned following criticism of his handling of the pandemic after a surge in cases.
  • Russia has reported 6,196 new cases, the most recorded over 24 hours since July 18.

  • India reopened the Taj Mahal after six months, with the first visitors trickling into the famous monument as authorities reported 86,961 new infections across the country, with no signs of a peak yet.

  • Meanwhile in South Korea, Schools in Seoul and nearby areas resumed in-person classes for the first time in almost a month, after daily cases dropped to the lowest levels since mid-August.

  • Australia reported its smallest daily increase in new infections in more than three months, but authorities in the nation's virus hotspot of Victoria said they could not hasten the easing of curbs.

  • New Zealands​ Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the country, except in second-wave hotspot Auckland, as the number of new infections slowed to a trickle.

  • Brazil and Argentina are seeking more time to commit to the global Covid-19 vaccine facility known as Covax. They said they intend to do so as soon as possible after missing Friday's deadline.

  • As the United States approaches the miserable mark of 200,000 deaths, the pandemic is smouldering across all states, raising fears that when colder weather forces more people inside, it could surpass the surge seen in the summer.

  • And finally in business news, European shares fell as rising infection rates in Europe prompted renewed lockdown measures in some countries, casting doubt over the economic recovery.

What does exponential growth look like?

During today’s briefing, warnings about the potential of exponential growth were front and center. 

Some of these conversations feel quite similar to those we had back in March - when our Global Health Security editor, Paul Nuki, wrote about the threat of exponential growth. Like now, experts at the time warned that the UK was just a couple of weeks behind our European neighbours:

To better picture just how quickly exponential growth happens, experts recommend we try the “wheat and chessboard” test. Imagine putting one grain of wheat on the first square of a chessboard, two on the second, four of the third and then continue doubling until all 64 squares of the board are covered.
Now, ask yourself, how many grains of wheat are there? The answer is 18,446,744,073,709,551,615 (18.4 quintillion) – much more than most of us would expect.

This principle is at the core of why Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty are so concerned about rising coronavirus numbers - if the current pace of new infections continues, we could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October (see chart below). 

The view from Spain: Madrid opera suspended after crowd protested lack of social distancing

Moving away from the UK, James Badcock reports that on chaotic scenes at an opera house in Madrid over the weekend:

A performance of Verdi’s A Masked Ball at Madrid’s Teatro Real royal opera house had to be halted almost immediately after starting on Sunday night due to noisy protests from some operagoers who complained that there was no safety distancing between seats.

According to some of those present and who had booked seats in the balconies, some rows were full with 15 people or more seated next to each other with no spaces in between different groups.

Current Covid-related restrictions in effect in Madrid mean that theatres must limit audiences to 75 per cent of capacity but a statement by Teatro Real claimed that only 51 per cent of the seats had been sold for Sunday’s performance.

When complaints began to be voiced before the scheduled start of the opera at 8pm, a delay was announced and those unsatisfied were urged to claim their money back and leave. However, when the conductor Nicola Luisotti finally got the overture underway, booing broke out again.

The conductor made two more attempts to continue the performance, “but a very small group insisted on continuing with their protests to boycott the performance, so it had to be suspended, around 9.10pm,” the Teatro Real said in a statement, adding that it would be investigating what went wrong.

Coronavirus briefing - what did we learn?

The briefing from Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty had one overall message: if we don't take action now, the UK will see a surge in cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

The pair attempted to encourage the war spirit that the UK embodied back in March and April. They urged everyone across the country to adopt a "collective" response to stem transmission and prevent an "exponential growth" of cases.

"This is not someone else's problem", Prof Whitty said, noting that the virus is now spreading in all age groups - not just young people.

Here are the key takeaways - scroll down for more detail. 

  • Sir Patrick said population surveys suggest 70,000 people are now infected in the UK, around 6,000 per day. The epidemic is now doubling roughly every seven days.
  • If that continues unabated, "there would be something like 50,000 cases per day by the middle of October," Sir Patrick warned. That could lead to "200-plus deaths per day" by November (see the second chart at 11:09am)
  • Prof Whitty warned that "the seasons are against us". Winter usually comes with an increase in respiratory viral infections, with influenza killing between 7,000 and 20,000 people each year. But "this virus is more virulent than flu." 
  • He added that there is no evidence that Covid-19 is becoming a weaker infection
  • Sir Patrick suggested that around 8 per cent of the UK has antibodies for Covid-19, rising to 17 per cent in London. This may be enough to slow the spread, but it is nowhere near herd immunity and will not prevent a major outbreak with a high death toll. Immunity may also diminish over time. 
  • He added that there has been "good progress" on vaccines and there may be limited access to a jab in the UK before the end of the year - but early 2021 is more likely. 
  • In the meantime, "we have to get control of this.. to make sure we can live with it."

Vallance: Still possible to have a limited supply of a vaccine this year

Sir Patrick Vallance then discussed progress around developing a vaccine. He says there has been "good progress" with several candidates in "very late stage of clinical testing".

He adds that the UK has put itself into a good position in terms of supply. 

He suggested that it is still possible that we could have some access to a vaccine later this year, but that it is more likely that a jab will be available early next year. He says there is no guarantee. 

"In the meantime we have to get control of this.. to make sure we can live with it," Sir Patrick adds. 

 And on that note the briefing comes to a close, without an opportunity for questions. 

Whitty: Covid poses four sorts of risks, urges 'collective' response

Prof Chris Whitty says that the coronavirus poses four risks: it can kill people, and if it caused the NHS to be overwhelmed this would also result in deaths. But he notes this did not happen in the spring.

Whitty also says that the virus can have indirect impacts on health, if operations are postponed etc, while an economic downturn would also negatively impact mental health.

He warns of "the chain" that everyone is in. "You cannot in an epidemic take on your own risk... it is important we see this as something we have to do collectively."

Prof Whitty adds that there are four things we can do to reduce risk and transmission: reduce our own risk by following "hands, face, space"; isolate if we have the virus; cut contacts at work and in social environments; address the virus through science. 

He says that if we do not change course, we may found ourselves in a difficult situation, particularly addressing the need to reduce social contact.

 "If we do too little, this virus will go out of control," he said.

Whitty: No evidence that the virus is becoming weaker

Prof Whitty has now shown a chart demonstrating that hospitalisations are increasing. He says this only just started in England. Echoing Sir Vallance, he says that the increase could be exponential, meaning numbers can eventually get very high.

"We have in a bad sense literally turned a corner," Prof Whitty says, adding "the seasons are against us". For the next six months we have to take this very seriously collectively.

He added that there is no evidence that the virus has become weaker. He says seasonal flu normally kills around 7,000 people a year - but this virus is more virulent. 

Prof Whitty also says that infections are not only among young people, but are increasing in all age groups. He said that there is no way of managing individual risk and ignoring our collective responsibility during a pandemic.

Striking a slightly more optimistic note, he says that treatments have improved - for instance doctors now have drugs including dexamethasone. But, he adds, this will not be enough to keep deaths at a "minimal level".

Whitty: This is not someone else's problem

Chris Whitty is now speaking, and he begins by showing two maps showing the rate of spread of Covid-19 infections, and the rate of increase. He says that there is a threat of picking up an infection everywhere.

"This is not someone else's problem, this is all of our problem," he adds. "We're seeing a rate of increase across the great majority of the country."

Vallance: Around 8 per cent of UK population have antibodies

Sir Patrick adds a note about herd immunity. He suggests that roughly eight per cent of the UK population have had Covid-19, judging by antibody tests. 

But even if an infection does result in temporary or long term immunity, that means that most people are not protected. 

He said that in London this figure could be as high as 17 per cent - but while this may slow the spread, it will not stop it, he adds.

Vallance: Could see 50,000 daily cases by the middle of October

Sir Patrick Vallance then turns to the UK, where we are seeing a rise in cases from July onwards. 

The slide shows a breakdown by age groups, and there has been an increase in every group - and not because of the rise in testing, he says. There is an increase in "test positivity" as well as the population survey, where it is now estimated 70,000 people are now infected, around 6,000 per day, Sir Patrick says. 

"Numbers are clearly increasing, they are increasing across all age groups. It is a little bit different in different areas... but this increase in numbers is also translating into an increase in hospital admissions," he says. 

At the moment we think that the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days, says Sir Vallance, as he issues a stark warning about how quickly cases and deaths could rise if this rate remains.

"If that continues unabated, then what you see of course... is by mid-October you would end up with something like 50,000 cases by the middle of October per day."

This could result in as many as 200 deaths every day, he says, warning that exponential growth happens very quickly. 

He says the chart below is not a prediction, but a demonstration of what we could see unless we get a handle on the virus. 

Vallance: We’re following the trajectory of France and Spain

The Downing street briefing has now began - with Sir Patrick Vallance starting by talking about how the virus spreads and reiterating that the way to stop transmission is to reduce social contacts and avoid crowded places. 

The Chief Scientific Officer then talked about the rise in cases elsewhere, particularly Europe, and what we can learn from it. He says that in France and Spain, the increased in cases started with an uptick in infections in young people, before spreading into the elderly. Hospitalisations and deaths then began to rise (see chart below).

"Theres a simple message here... we will see an increase in hospitalisations and sadly deaths," he said.

Coming up: Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance's briefing

The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser are due to start a briefing in the next few moments. 

We will be bringing you the latest - or you can watch live via the link at the top of the blog.

Tory MP apologises after he is pictured on a train without a mask 

A Conservative MP close to Boris Johnson has apologised after he was pictured on a train without a mask, less than two weeks after he urged his constituents to wear one on public transport.

Danny Kruger, who was elected last year after leaving his job as Boris Johnson’s political secretary, said he “forgot” to wear a face covering on a train from Hungerford to London.

A Twitter user posted a photo with the caption: “Don’t blame it on the young people Boris when your own party aren’t even following your rules.”

"I boarded an almost empty carriage at Hungerford and quite simply forgot to put on my mask,” Mr Kruger told the Telegraph. Read the full story here.

Schools and workplaces unlikely to be targeted

Matt Hancock suggested that any new restrictions would focus on social settings rather than schools or the workplace.

The Health Secretary said he wanted to avoid school closures, adding: "The evidence is ... schools aren't where a lot of the transmission happens, it's more about people socialising."

He pointed out that there were already parts of the country where "there are measures in place to say that you shouldn't socialise with people outside your household".

A weekend pint may be wishful thinking 

Back to Matt Hancock, who wouldn't say whether pubs would be open this weekend. 

Speaking on ITV's This Morning, the Health Secretary was asked whether landlords would be told to shut.

"We will be absolutely clear about the changes we need to make in the very, very near future," Mr Hancock said.

He said his answer on pubs was "not a no, and it's not a yes", adding: "We have been working on this all weekend, we haven't taken the final decisions about what we need to do in response to the surge that we have seen in the last few weeks."

The Health Secretary spoke to Mr Johnson on Monday morning and added: "He is as worried as we all are about the rise in the number of cases and we have to make a final decision about what's the best response to that."

What does it look like in France and Spain? 

Grant Shapps has said today that France and Spain are serving up advance warning of what's to come if Britain doesn't act, so what do their coronavirus cases look like? Here's our data team's daily update. 

Matt Hancock: We need to act now to save our Christmas 

The Health Secretary is still speaking to ITV and has just warned that Britain needs to control the coronavirus now or else Christmas might be a very different affair to normal. 

"The more we can control the virus now and stop the spread now, the easier it's going to be to have a Christmas that's as close to normal as possible," he said. "I really hope we can get there."

"If this runs out of control now, we'll have to take heavier measures in the future," he said 

Matt Hancock: I want schools to remain open 

Matt Hancock has said that he wants schools to remain open and avoid a return to mass home schooling, as the Government considers new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

"Schools aren't where a lot of the transmission happens, it's more about people socialising," the Health Secretary said during an interview on ITV.

He added that any steps taken to tackle the rise in cases would be different to the previous lockdown.

"If we do have to take action, it will be different to last time and we've learnt a huge amount about how to tackle the virus," he added.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan 'seriously concerned'

In a tweet this morning, he said: "Later today I'll meet with borough leaders and public health experts to discuss the spread of the virus in our city, which I'm seriously concerned about.

"I'll update Londoners as soon as I can about any measures that we believe may be required."

Mr Khan said, on September 18, he was "extremely concerned" by the latest evidence he has seen and was of the "firm view" that action should be taken before the virus spirals out of control.

In a statement Mr Khan said he had held an emergency meeting with London council leaders, the Government and Public Heath England to discuss the next steps.

He added: "The Prime Minister has said that we are now seeing the start of a second wave of Covid-19 across the UK.

"Londoners should also know that I am extremely concerned by the latest evidence I've seen today from public health experts about the accelerating speed at which Covid-19 is now spreading here in London.

"It is increasingly likely that, in London, additional measures will soon be required to slow the spread of the virus.

"We will be considering some of the measures which have already been imposed in other parts of the UK."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock to speak in the Commons today

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will update MPs on the latest coronavirus developments on Monday afternoon.

He will deliver an oral ministerial statement at around 3.30pm - after Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance address the nation this morning.

 

Local elections in Indonesia under threat

Indonesian religious groups and experts, including a former vice president, are urging authorities to delay regional elections set for December, as coronavirus infections surge in the world's fourth most populous country.

The Dec. 9 elections for hundreds of key local leadership posts are a huge logistical undertaking in an archipelago of more than 260 million people and have already been delayed once due to rising virus fears, Reuters reports.

Former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who now heads Indonesia's Red Cross, in a newspaper commentary on Monday said a December poll could be dangerous.

"Forcing something that clearly, rationally endangers the people isn't only reckless, but fatal. Every political process, the noblest goal is for the public's benefits. Not harm," he said.

Indonesia has nearly 10,000 confirmed deaths from the virus Credit: REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Indonesia has confirmed nearly 245,000 coronavirus infections and 9,553 fatalities, Asia's highest death toll outside of India. Its testing rates are among the world's lowest and epidemiologists are concerned that elections, for which there are 107 million eligible voters, will fuel the contagion.

Those infected include government and election commission officials and three cabinet ministers.

Presidential spokesman Fadjroel Rahman said the ballot must go ahead as planned, but with strict health protocols.

"President Joko Widodo reiterated that the elections cannot wait until the pandemic is over, because no countries know when COVID-19 is over," he said in a statement.

Taj Mahal reopens after six months in lockdown 

Selfies are back on the agenda at the Taj Mahal Credit: AFP

India reopened the Taj Mahal today, as its authorities reported 86,961 new coronavirus infections, with no signs of a peak yet.

A Chinese national and a visitor from Delhi were among the first to step into the white marble tomb when it opened at sunrise, ending six months of closure.

Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 5,000, versus an average of 20,000 before the pandemic. Tickets are only being sold online, with fewer than 300 bought on the first day.

Visitors will have their temperatures taken and must adhere to advice to keep a safe distance from each other.

"We are following all Covid-19 protocols," said Vasant Swarnkar, superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India, which oversees the Taj in the northern city of Agra.

India's coronavirus tally of 5.49 million infections lags only the United States with 6.79 million, a figure the South Asian nation could overtake in the next few weeks at its current rate of increase.

Planet Normal: more rules that make no sense, and an idea to save Christmas

The next episode of our Planet Normal podcast is out and, as the country slips back towards a lockdown, Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan chart a route through the mayhem.
There’s now widespread speculation the “rule of six” will still be in place this Christmas. “People have been compliant before, but this feels like a turning point,” says Allison, on our podcast (which you can listen to by clicking the player below). “These new rules aren’t respected – and a sense of the ridiculous is kicking in”.

Czech health minister quits after pandemic criticism 

The Czech health minister, Adam Vojtech, said on Monday he had submitted his resignation following criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as the country sees a surge in cases.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis thanked Vojtech for his work in a message on his Twitter account, saying he could have been remembered as the country's best health minister if he did not have to use all his energy to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Czech Republic has reported growth in coronavirus confirmed cases at Europe's second fastest pace in recent weeks, behind Spain, after the country lifted just before summer almost all measures taken during the first wave of the pandemic.

In the past 14 days, the Czechs had 193 cases per 100,000 people, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Will the Prime Minister be at this morning's conference?

No, says Grant Shapps.

Professor Chris Whitty, England's Chief Medical Officer is expected to say the country faces a "very challenging winter", with the current trend heading in "the wrong direction".

He will be joined on the podium by  the Government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance.

Boris Johnson will not appear at the conference this morning Credit: REUTERS/Simon Dawson/Pool

But when asked why the Prime Minister was not going to be part of their public address, Mr Shapps added: "What he wants to do, quite rightly, is allow without politicians there, to allow scientists to set out the picture to the country.

"He will come out very soon after that and speak to the country."

It is thought the Prime Minister could set out new measures in a press conference as early as Tuesday.

Will a two week 'circuit breaker' work?

Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia has told BBC Radio 4 that a two-week 'circuit breaker' probably won't have "much impact" on the overall trajectory of the coronavirus epidemic.

When it's over, the increase in infections is likely to resume, he said.

And he called for clarity from ministers, telling Today: "We've certainly seen a lot of confusion and a lot of mixed messages over the past few months and examples of people in authority who don't feel that they need to follow the rules themselves."

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

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

There is another problem with a two-week lockdown. The lag between cases falling and that showing up in the statistics is around three weeks, so it would be impossible to know whether it was working until it was already over.

 

UK 'at a critical moment'

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is doing the morning news rounds, and warns that we are just "a few weeks" behind Europe.

"We’re certainly at a critical moment this morning," he told Sky News

"It is clear we’re just a few weeks behind what we’re seeing elsewhere in Europe.

"You only have to look at what’s happening in France, particularly in Spain, and you can see that things have taken off there including, I’m afraid, deaths. So it is very important that we do everything we can to bear down on this.

"It’s absolutely vital that people do (follow restrictions) because otherwise we’re going to end up back in situations we don’t want to be in."

 

Good news for commuters

Emergency measures introduced to keep Britain's rail franchises operating after the coronavirus outbreak will be continued, the Department for Transport has announced.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working.

"Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will simplify people's journeys, ending the uncertainty and confusion about whether you are using the right ticket or the right train company.

"It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth - but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.

"Passengers will have reliable, safe services on a network totally built around them. It is time to get Britain back on track."

What to expect this morning

Professor Chris Whitty will appear alongside the Government's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance to explain how the virus is spreading in the UK and the potential scenarios that could unfold as winter approaches.

They will draw on data from other countries such as Spain and France, which are experiencing a second surge, to underline how their experience could be replicated in the UK.

Prof Whitty is expected to say: "The trend in the UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.

"We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period."

Ministers were reported to be split on how far any new restrictions should go, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak said to be resisting controls which could further damage the economy.

Ministers met with the scientific advisors this weekend Credit: Eddie Mulholland

During a series of broadcast interviews over the weekend, however, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out a second national lockdown in England, if people fail to follow the social distancing rules.

He said he feared cases could go "shooting through the roof" with more hospitalisations and more deaths.

Meanwhile London mayor Sadiq Khan is to meet council leaders in the city on Monday to discuss possible new restrictions in the capital, which they would then put to ministers.

"The situation is clearly worsening," a spokesman for the mayor said.

"The mayor wants fast action as we cannot risk a delay, as happened in March. It is better for both health and business to move too early than too late."

Another 3,899 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were announced on Sunday, while a further 18 people died within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the UK total to 41,777.

India easing restrictions despite increase in cases

India has recorded nearly 87,000 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with another 1,130 deaths.

With the Health Ministry announcement Monday, India now has more than 5.4 million reported cases since the pandemic began and within weeks is expected to surpass the United States, currently the country with the most reported cases.

India's total deaths in the pandemic now stand at 87,882.

Despite the steady increase in cases, the government has continued to relax virus restrictions in order to help an economy that contracted 24 per cent in the second quarter.

On Monday, the Taj Mahal will reopen after a six-month closure. There will be some restrictions such as compulsory mask-wearing, thermal screening of visitors and physical distancing at the monument.

The Taj Mahal reopened to visitors on September 21 in a symbolic business-as-usual gesture  Credit: AFP

‘Tsunami’ of job losses in pubs if lockdown rules are tightened

Pub and restaurant bosses have hit out at “dizzyingly complex” rules on socialising and urged ministers to maintain the latest guidelines or risk “a tsunami” of job losses.

Industry chiefs have grown frustrated with what they described as “mixed messages” from the Government regarding advice on socialising over recent weeks.

Last week, Boris Johnson warned that the UK could be heading for a second nationwide lockdown, a move which could force venues to shut down for a prolonged period.

It comes just days after people were told they were only allowed to socialise in groups of up to six at any one time.

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Read more: Britain braces for an unprecedented wave of insolvencies

Five players withdraw from French Open 

Five players have been withdrawn from the French Open qualifying tournament after two players and a coach tested positive, organisers have said.

The qualifiers will begin later on Monday, with the main draw set to commence on Sept. 27.

"The Roland Garros tournament directors can confirm that two players competing in the qualifying tournament have tested positive for Covid-19 and three others have confirmed close contact with a coach who has tested positive for Covid-19," the French Tennis Federation (FFT) said in a statement."In line with tournament health protocols, the five players will not compete in the qualifying tournament and will self isolate for a period of seven days. In total, some 900 tests have been carried out since Sept. 17."

Organisers did not reveal the names of those who had been pulled out but Damir Dzumhur said he had been withdrawn because his coach Petar Popović had returned a positive test.

South Korea's infection rate maintains slowing trend

South Korea's daily virus tally has stayed below 100 for a second consecutive day, maintaining a slowing trend in fresh infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Monday the 70 new cases added in the past 24 hours took the country's total to 23,045 with 385 deaths.

South Korea on Sunday counted 82 new cases, marking the first time for its daily jump to fall to double digits in about 40 days.

South Korea conducts fewer tests on weekends. But South Korea's recent virus resurgence has recently been on a downward trajectory amid strong social distancing rules since its daily tally surpassed 400 in late August.

Commuters ride on a travelator featuring an advertisement for K-pop boy band BTS at a subway station in Seoul Credit: Bloomberg

Restrictions to be eased in NZ's biggest city

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the coronavirus restrictions in its biggest city Auckland will be eased, while all restrictions will be lifted in the rest of the country.

Auckland will move to alert level 2 from Thursday, Ms Ardern said at a news conference on Monday, which will limit gatherings to 100 people.

The rest of the country will move to level 1 from midnight on Monday, she said. 

India's Nobel laureate fears upsurge in child labour

For four decades Indian Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi rescued thousands of children from the scourge of slavery and trafficking but he fears all his efforts could reverse as the coronavirus pandemic forces children into labour.

"The biggest threat is that millions of children may fall back into slavery, trafficking, child labour, child marriage," said Satyarthi who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his work to combat child labour and child trafficking in India.

As the pandemic pummels the Indian economy families are under pressure to put their children to work to make ends meet.

While rates of child labour have declined about 10.1 million children are still in some form of servitude in India, according to the United Nations children's agency UNICEF.

Children play at a park amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in Mumbai Credit: Reuters

China's infection rate remains steady

Mainland China reported 12 new Covid-19 cases on Sept. 20, up from 10 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Monday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement all new cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. It also reported 25 new asymptomatic infections, up from 21 a day earlier, though China does not classify these symptomless patients as confirmed Covid-19 cases.

The total number of confirmed infections in mainland China now stands at 85,291, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

A man rests on a barrier as he waits to cross a road in Beijing Credit: AP

Australia's hotspot continues to show downward trend in cases

Australia's coronavirus hotspot of Victoria reported on Monday a steady downward trend in daily cases, putting the state on course to ease more restrictions by next week.

The two-week average rise in cases in Melbourne, the state capital, dropped below 35 on Monday, on track to meet a target of below 50 cases by Sept. 28 when the authorities have said they may relax restrictions in the city.

 Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth urged the state's residents to strictly adhere to the social distancing rules despite cases slowing down significantly in recent days.

"When Victorians come out of restrictions, particularly in Melbourne, the complacency has to be avoided," Mr Coatsworth told the Australian Broadcasting Corp television on Monday.
Police prepare to patrol through a shopping centre after an anti-lockdown protest in the Melbourne Credit: AFP

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