Testing will take 'weeks' to sort amid 'enormous challenges', says Hancock

Today's top stories

Good evening. Here are some of the key developments from around the world today:

  • The UK is facing an “enormous challenge” with testing as the coronavirus “epidemic is growing” again, the Health Secretary has said, as he announced that tests are now having to be prioritised. Matt Hancock admitted that the testing chaos will take "weeks" to sort. 
  • The Government said that as of 9am today, there had been a further 3,105 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. Overall, 374,228 cases have been confirmed.
  • NHS hospitals are cancelling operations and turning away patients amid a deepening crisis over coronavirus testing, health chiefs have warned. 

  • The City regulator claimed a partial victory for small businesses in its groundbreaking legal action against insurers over their refusal to pay out on claims by businesses decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • Influenza and pneumonia has contributed to more weekly deaths than Covid-19 since the middle of June, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

  • Families will be in breach of the new “Rule of Six” ban on “mingling” if they stop to chat in the street or park, says Priti Patel, as police warned they risk being overwhelmed by “snitching.”

  • The pandemic has unleashed a cascade of “mutually exacerbating catastrophes” that will continue to pile up unless the world gets a firm grip on the coronavirus crisis, according to a stark analysis from the Gates Foundation.

  • As few as one-in-80 Covid-19 deaths are being reported in Syria, meaning the war-torn country is likely to be far deeper into a worse outbreak than previously understood, new analysis suggests.

  • Thailand is fighting its worst outbreak of mosquito-borne dengue fever in 20 years, with the tropical disease taking a far heavier toll on the population than the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Coronavirus pandemic is 'worse than any science fiction’, WHO envoy tells MPs

The coronavirus pandemic and its far reaching consequences are “much worse than any science fiction” and this is only the beginning, an expert told MPs today.

David Nabarro, who is one of the World Health Organization's (WHO) special envoys on Covid-19, told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the present situation is just the tip of the iceberg.

“This is really serious. We're not even in the middle of it yet,” he told MPs. “The virus is really  at the beginning of its troubles throughout our world and I personally believe that it is going to have a really negative impact.”

He said the outbreak is worse than any piece of science fiction, and appears to be getting “nastier” as cases reemerge in Europe.

His comments follow those of a similar vein made by the WHO chief on Monday.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that Europe is “not out of the woods”, and that while deaths remain at a "relatively low level", the average number of daily cases across the continent is now higher than during the first peak of the pandemic. 

Jordan Kelly-Linden has more here. 

How the pandemic set global development back '25 years in just 25 weeks'

The pandemic has unleashed a cascade of “mutually exacerbating catastrophes” that will continue to pile up unless the world gets a firm grip on the coronavirus crisis, according to a stark analysis from the Gates Foundation.

In the fourth iteration of the Goalkeepers report, an annual publication that tracks progress around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the organisation paints a grim picture, warning that 25 years of development progress have been wiped out in just 25 weeks. 

The 47-page analysis marks a notable contrast to previous versions of the report, which were largely upbeat about progress in fighting poverty, inequality and disease around the world.

According to the latest publication, the arrival of Covid-19 has seen this trend come to an abrupt halt. Drawing comparisons to the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, the report notes that no aspect of society is likely to escape unscathed. 

Sarah Newey and Paul Nuki have more here

Indian girl starves to death as lockdown meant family could not afford to buy food

A five-year-old girl has starved to death in a village seven kilometres from the iconic Taj Mahal, as her parents were unable to work due to the Covid-19 pandemic and didn’t receive government aid.

Sonia Kumari, who lived in the settlement of Nagla Vidhichand, near the city of Agra, with her parents and two siblings, died on August 25 after her parents could no longer afford to purchase food or medicines.

Her mother, Sheela, was the sole breadwinner for the impoverished family, labouring on construction sites before the pandemic.

Sonia’s father, Pappu, was unable to work because he suffers from a respiratory condition.

The International Labour Organisation has warned 400 million Indians will be pushed further into poverty by the Covid-19 pandemic, with unemployment soaring as the country surpasses 4.7 million cases.

​Read more here

France records over 7,800 new cases

France has recorded 7,852 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, rising from 6,158 new cases on Monday.

The French health ministry also reported the number of arrivals in hospitals for Covid-19 over the last seven days had risen to 2,713 compared with 2,561 recorded on Monday.

These included 479 admissions to intensive care units over the past seven days, up from 448 in Monday’s count, it said.

The number of people in France who have died from Covid-19 infections rose by 37 to 30,999.

The cumulative number of cases now totals 395,104.

Why Covid insurance ruling may mean more pain for small firms

The High Court’s decision in the closely watched Covid insurance test case could be the difference between going bust and surviving into next year for small businesses struggling to survive the lockdown and subsequent economic turmoil. 

Murray Pulman and his daughter Emily were among the 370,000 business owners hoping the court would help them win a payout and keep trading into 2021. 

The pair run the Posh Partridge Café in Dorchester, Dorset. They were denied a payout by their insurer, QBE, even though they had to shut from March 18 to July 4, cancelling £8,000 worth of orders in the first week alone and dumping food worth hundreds of pounds. 

Pulman, who set up the business four years ago after previous jobs including designing equipment for the 2012 Olympics, says he was “monumentally let down” by his insurer and was forced to claim benefits for the first time. 

After a fast-track legal process and an eight-day hearing in July, judges found that several sample business interruption policies provide coverage for pandemic-related losses suffered by firms. 

Michael O'Dwyer has more here

Government warned of legal action if teachers are put at risk in school

Gavin Williamson has been warned of the possibility of legal action if the Government fails to protect teachers working in schools which have fully reopened during the pandemic.

School staff are "deeply concerned" about an increased risk of Covid-19 transmission in schools amid a lack of safety measures, Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Dr Roach has demanded that stronger protections are put in place in schools which opened their doors to all pupils full-time this month.

He told Mr Williamson that the union was "expressly reserving our members' legal rights" in the case of a claim for breach of duty of care or personal injury due to foreseeable risks from reopening schools.

Schools in England have been hit with Covid-19 cases since it became compulsory for pupils to return.

Some have closed their doors days after reopening, while others have told year groups to self-isolate for two weeks following confirmed cases.

NASUWT members are reporting that depleted staff numbers in schools - due to illness or self-isolation - have led to "serious" difficulties in maintaining safe working practices at all times.

In the letter, Dr Roach said: "With rising numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the wider community, our members are deeply concerned that, in the absence of effective control measures, there is increased risk of Covid-19 transmission within schools.

"We further note with concern that your Department is unable to provide any evidence on the effectiveness of the risk control measures recommended in your guidance to schools."

Syria's Covid-19 death toll could be far higher than official records suggest

As few as one-in-80 Covid-19 deaths are being reported in Syria, meaning the war torn country is likely to be far deeper into a worse outbreak than previously understood, new analysis suggests.

Comparing reported fatalities with data from death certificates and government records of all deaths, researchers estimate only 1.25 per cent of coronavirus deaths were being counted in the capital, Damascus.

The modelling led by scientists at London's Imperial College may suggest other countries thought to have been “spared” the virus have instead failed to record Covid-19 deaths.

“This estimate significantly alters our understanding of the Covid-19 epidemic in Damascus, which is at a much later stage than suggested by surveillance reports,” said Dr Oliver Watson, from the university's school of public health.

Ben Farmer has more here

Sir Keir Starmer can't take part in PMQs tomorrow as still awaiting Covid test result

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will not take part in Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday as he is "still awaiting" a coronavirus test result for a member of his family, a spokesman said.

A spokesman for the Labour leader said today: "Keir Starmer is still awaiting the test result for a member of his family.

"He is therefore remaining in self-isolation and will not participate in Prime Minister's Questions tomorrow.

"Angela Rayner, deputy leader and shadow first secretary of state, will be taking his place. We have informed Number 10."

About 16,000 migrants being held in just one Saudi centre, Ethiopian official reveals

Details are beginning to emerge showing that the sheer scale of Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on African migrants is far greater than anyone imagined.

Last month a Sunday Telegraph investigation found that hundreds if not thousands of mainly Ethiopian migrants are being kept in appalling conditions in centres across the Gulf Kingdom as part of a drive to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

Using smuggled phones detainees detailed horrific accounts of disease, beatings and suicide.

But recent statements from Abdo Yassin, Ethiopia’s Consul General in Jeddah suggest that the centres highlighted by the Telegraph are just the tip of the iceberg.

Last week, Mr Yassin said that dozens of prisons are housing Ethiopians and that about 16,000 Ethiopian migrants are being held at just one detention centre at Al Shumasi, near the holy city of Mecca. 

Zecharias Zelalem and Will Brown have more here

Children are waiting up to a year to have rotting teeth pulled due to Covid-19 delays

Children are living with rotting teeth for up to a year before having them pulled due to coronavirus delays, the British Dental Association (BDA) has said.

“Significant” waiting times for extractions have resulted in children requiring “multiple courses of antibiotics” to fight infections, the group warned in a letter to the Health Secretary.

Data gathered by the BDA from across England suggests many community and hospital dental services are yet to resume extractions, which are performed under general anaesthetic, after they were paused at the beginning of lockdown.

Up to 50,000 elective procedures were postponed for under 18s between March and May, according to official statistics, and tooth decay remains the “number one reason” for admission among young children, the BDA said.

Lizzie Roberts has more here

Comment: Think we’ve got problems with testing now, Mr Hancock? Just wait till winter

The Health Secretary is a past master at putting a positive spin on bad news – but today he was assailed by MPs from all sides, writes Michael Deacon. 

As autumn wears on, however, temperatures will naturally fall – and more and more children will come home from school sneezing and coughing. Perfectly normal. Happens every year. Except this time, the children may be suspected of having Covid, so they’ll be forced to stay at home. Which will in turn mean their parents will be forced to stay at home. And they won’t get the all-clear until they’ve had a test for Covid. Which is fine – unless, that is, there are shortages of tests. 

Like, say, the shortages we’ve got at the moment. But much worse. Because in cold weather the shortages would affect far more children, and therefore far more parents, and therefore far more employers.

A cheery thought. Mr Hancock, of course, is a past master at positive spin, but today (Tuesday), even his reserves of optimism were put under strain. In the Commons the Health Secretary found himself deluged by complaints from MPs – and not just ones sitting opposite him. Members on both sides told of constituents who’d been unable to book a test, or had been forced to drive absurdly long distances to get one. Some constituents in England, for example, had been ordered to travel to the north of Scotland. 

Read the full piece here

Ireland reports highest daily case figure since May

Ireland has reported 357 new cases of Covid-19, the highest daily figure since mid-May and up from an average of 203 cases per day over the previous seven days, health department data showed.

What life is really like in lockdown-free Sweden

As a dual British-Swedish citizen living in Stockholm, I’m treating myself to a glass of fizz to celebrate Sweden finally joining the UK’s quarantine-free list, writes Maddy Savage.

The first thing any would-be tourist here will notice is the lack of face masks. They’re requested at Swedish airports but aren’t compulsory on transport, in shops, hairdressers or indeed any part of public life. A recent major poll found just 6 per cent of Swedes currently use them, despite 43 per cent believing they could stop the spread of infection and several prominent Swedish scientists lobbying the authorities to change their approach.

Anders Tegnell, the country’s state epidemiologist, has said he might reconsider things if there’s a renewed increase in cases, but he’s repeatedly argued that hand-washing and social distancing remain more effective barriers against the virus.

For now, the lack of this year’s must-have accessory means Stockholm – usually ahead of fashion trends – certainly looks and feels significantly more “normal” than most European capitals. Yet it’s a myth that life hasn’t changed in Sweden, which also stood almost alone in shunning a lockdown at the peak of the pandemic and has relied largely on voluntary recommendations.

At my rooftop location, there’s table-service only – ordering at bar counters stopped in March, in an effort to stop mingling. Social distancing between groups is guided by crosses of black and yellow plastic tape between the window seats, an incongruous clash with the venue’s plush leather and velvet seating. There is a DJ, but dancing’s not allowed. Major nightclubs have temporarily closed or, like the city’s hipster concrete mega-venue, Trädgården, pivoted into restaurants and maxed out their outdoor seating capacity. 

Read the full piece here

Greece tightens restrictions in Athens as virus spreads

Greek authorities have tightened restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the greater Athens area, saying the pandemic was showing “worrying signs of resilience”.

Health authorities reported 310 new confirmed Covid-19 infections today and three deaths, bringing the total number since the first coronavirus case was detected on February 25 to 13,730 and deaths to 313.

“The prefecture of Attica is now between a moderate to high epidemiological risk. There is an increase in the occupancy of intensive care beds,” Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias told reporters.

The new measures will suspend the operation of live music establishments for 14 days and make the wearing of masks mandatory in all closed work spaces, private and public.

Masks will also be required in open air spaces in the greater Athens area, where about one third of the country’s population lives, when the rule of a minimum 1.5 metres of social distancing cannot be observed.

For those older than 65, authorities urged the use of masks everywhere. In restaurants there will be a maximum limit of six people seated per table while cinemas and theatres will be allowed to seat only at 60 per cent capacity.

Open air produce markets will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, mask wearing will be mandatory for both consumers and producers and a minimum distance of three metres must separate benches.

Extra 5,000 beds to cope with Wales winter wave

There will be an extra 5,000 NHS beds - half in field hospitals - to cope with winter pressures, including a potential second wave of Covid-19 in hospitals, BBC reports.

Unveiling the winter plan for NHS Wales, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said it was "expected to be our most difficult yet".

The extra capacity is to deal with a worst-case scenario.

Meanwhile, the flu vaccine will be available to both people shielding and their families.

NHS Wales said without action taken in March, there could have been 100,000 hospital admissions as well as "very significant numbers of deaths".

Chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall said: "If there's a second peak, we have to have the NHS capacity in place."

India threatened by oxygen shortage as cases continue to rise

Several Indian states have sought to prohibit the movement of oxygen out of state as the country faces a national oxygen shortage while coronavirus cases surge, reports Marcus Parekh. 

According to the WHO, 15 per cent of Covid-19 patients will require help with breathing. India has so far registered 4.8 million coronavirus cases, adding 90,000 to the tally on last Saturday alone.

As a result, the demand for oxygen in hospitals has nearly quadrupled since April, with consumption rising from 750 tonnes per day to over 2,700 tonnes per day in September, according to the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association.

This has led to an inevitable rise in the price of oxygen. In the state of Karnataka, the price of a cubic metre has risen from ₹13 to ₹40. In the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, the price has more than trebled.

Prior to the pandemic, about 15 per cent of the oxygen manufactured in India was used in hospitals, with the remainder used in industries such as steel. Today, more than 50 per cent has been diverted towards healthcare. 

"The government is in a bit of a bind. If we cut supplies of industrial oxygen to factories, industry will get hurt. On the other hand, if we are not able to augment supplies of medical oxygen, then lives will be in danger," said Saket Tikku, the president of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association.

Coronation Street star tests positive for virus

One of the stars of Coronation Street has tested positive for coronavirus, it has emerged, as some filming for the ITV soap has had to be rescheduled and the actor is self-isolating at home.

A spokeswoman for the programme did not confirm the identity of the actor.

She said: "Although we do not believe anyone has been within two metres of the individual, as a precaution, the production team who were working with the individual have been notified.

"In keeping with health and safety guidance, we have also undertaken an intensive clean of touch points in the cohort area where the individual was working and areas of the building they visited.

"We believe the situation has been contained and filming continued on Monday."

Virus may have infected nearly a fifth of South Africans

An estimated 12 million people - nearly a fifth of the population - may have contracted coronavirus in South Africa, the health minister has said, as the country records significant declines in new infections.

South Africa has so far registered 650,749 cases - or 47.8 per cent - of the total numbers recorded in Africa. At least 15,499 of those infected have died.

But the actual numbers of people who have been infected could be much higher, possibly 18-fold more, based on estimates extrapolated from sample antibodies studies.

Revised models “currently predict that there are probably about 12 million” South Africans with detected or undetected Covid-19, health minister Zweli Mkhize said.

“This translates to about 20 per cent of the population.”

South Africa is conducting a national study aimed at providing accurate figures about the prevalence of coronavirus antibodies - a sign of infection - among its 58 million people.

More than half of English authorities recorded increase in Covid cases

In total, 184 of the 315 local authority areas in England recorded an increase in the weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in the seven days to September 12.

The rate fell in 123 areas and was unchanged in eight areas.

New cases were recorded in all but one of the 315 local authority areas, the exception being Babergh.

BREAKING: Entire Irish Cabinet self-isolating 

More on this as we have it.

Sunak: 'Extending the furlough scheme is not the right thing to do'

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has faced calls to extend the furlough scheme, or otherwise use a targeted approach to keep staff working for particularly hard-hit sectors on the payroll.

However, Mr Sunak has resisted these calls, arguing that the right thing to do is not to "endlessly extend furlough".

His comments follow the news that some 695,000 workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March.

First Minister of Wales only knew of Covid data breach on Monday

The First Minister of Wales has said he was first made aware of a data breach at Public Health Wales affecting 18,105 people on Monday.

In the breach, the personal data of every Welsh resident who tested positive for Covid-19 was accidentally uploaded to a public server, where it was searchable by anyone using the site.

Public Health Wales previously said it had informed the Welsh Government about the breach on September 2.

First Minister Mark Drakeford told the Welsh Parliament he had not known about it until Monday, when Public Health Wales issued a statement.

He said he did not "know the answer" to questions about when the Welsh Government was told, or which minister was first informed about the breach.

Welsh Conservative group leader Paul Davies called on Mr Drakeford to apologise to those affected by the breach.

Mr Drakeford replied: "I learnt of this data breach yesterday, and I learnt of it as a result of Public Health Wales's statement, which, as Paul Davies has said, drew attention to the data breach.

"It is a serious matter when data regulations are not properly observed, and I think Public Health Wales was right to apologise to those people whose data was inadvertently put into the public domain in this way."

Canada won't rule out another lockdown, says health minister 

Canada will not rule out another full lockdown if needed amid a surge in new Covid-19 cases, although its health minister has insisted the Government is significantly more prepared to manage the virus than during the first wave.

Patty Hajdu’s comments today followed a pledge she made on Monday to take a “surgical approach” to tackling outbreaks.

Canada reported 1,351 new cases on September 14, the highest single daily addition since May 1, amid school reopenings and flare-ups tied to group gatherings.

“We see those numbers rising, but a full economic shutdown would be very difficult for this country. Not to rule it out, because ... listen we will protect the health of Canadians and we will do what it takes,” Hajdu told reporters.

Hajdu added that Canada has made “significant improvements” in the healthcare system, and is better prepared with equipment and supplies than it was during the first wave in the spring. “That will allow us to manage this next stage,” she said.

Call for more UK aid to go on basic health services in world's poorest countries

The UK Government is being urged to spend more aid money on basic health services in the world’s poorest countries as charities fear that vital goals such as reducing child and maternal mortality are being neglected because of Covid-19. 

A report by Action for Global Health, a coalition of charities including Oxfam, Save the Children and Christian Aid, highlights how spending on global health as a proportion of the aid budget has fallen in recent years, with the amount going directly basic health services dropping by half since 2013. 

It also warns that health is no longer one of the priority areas for the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

In a letter announcing nearly £3 billion of funding cuts to the development budget in July, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the newly merged department would focus on poverty reduction, climate change, girls’ education, Covid-19 and media and religious freedom.

Missing from that list was a commitment to ending preventable deaths, a priority highlighted in the Conservative party manifesto and championed last year by Alok Sharma when he was international development secretary. 

Anne Gulland has more here

World still at beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, expert tells MPs

The world is still at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and it will take some time to work out how to deal with it, an expert has told MPs.

David Nabarro, who is one of the World Health Organisation's (WHO) special envoys on Covid-19, told the Foreign Affairs Committee the present situation is horrible and grotesque.

He said the outbreak is worse than any science fiction movie, and appears to be getting nastier as cases reemerge in Europe.

Dr Nabarro told MPs: "None of us find the present situation, anything other than horribly grotesque, really embarrassing.

"It's a terrible situation, a health issue has got so out of control it's knocking the world into, not just a recession, but a huge economic contraction which would probably double the number of poor people, double the number of malnourished, lead to hundreds of millions of small businesses going bankrupt."

He added there was also a risk of the pandemic ruining educational opportunities for a lot of children around the world.

UK cases up by 3,105 

The Government said that as of 9am today, there had been a further 3,105 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. Overall, 374,228 cases have been confirmed.

The Government also said a further 27 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday. This brings the UK total to 41,664.

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

Thailand hits record numbers in dengue fever outbreak

Thailand is fighting its worst outbreak of mosquito-borne dengue fever in 20 years, with the tropical disease taking a far heavier toll on the population than the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Southeast Asian nation has seen a record number of more than 136,000 cases and 126 fatalities from the disease which causes flu-like symptoms, including a fever, piercing headaches, muscle and joint pains and body rashes.

The surge in cases has eclipsed Thailand's coronavirus outbreak. The country has been a rare success story and so far has reported just 3,480 infections and 58 deaths. 

The highest concentration of dengue patients are located in and around the capital, Bangkok, and in the northern province of Chiang Mai. 

Nicola Smith has more here

Deaths in Northern Ireland up by one

There has been one further coronavirus death in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health there has announced in its latest daily update.

Flu and pneumonia have contributed to more deaths than Covid since June

Influenza and pneumonia has contributed to more weekly deaths than Covid-19 since the middle of June, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

Just 78 people died of coronavirus in the week ending September 4 - the latest for which death registrations are available - the first time the figure has fallen below 100 since lockdown began in March.

Just one per cent of deaths now mention coronavirus on the death certificate compared to 12.8 per cent which mention influenza and pneumonia, making those conditions nearly 13 times more deadly. 

The numbers of overall deaths has also plummeted well below the five-year average for England and Wales, with 1,443 fewer deaths in the most recent weekly figures. 

There were 23 fewer deaths than the previous week,  however the ONS warned that the significant fall in death registrations may partly be explained by the August bank holiday.

Sarah Knapton has more here

Comment: There will be no vaccine rescue this winter

It would be a mistake to believe it will be safe to wind down emergency economic support this winter, writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

Yes, there is much to celebrate. We will undoubtedly get several workable vaccines from the 200 trials currently going on across the world – with 14 more in Phase 2 and 25 in Phase 1 – even if some only offer partial protection. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has lowered the approval threshold to 50pc efficacy, enough to cut the ‘R’ infection rate to manageable levels and take the sting out of the pandemic.

But that does not get us through the next four or five months. Cases are bubbling across Europe, though thankfully clinical experience, contact tracing, and the lower viral loads – linked to the reductive effect of masks – have slashed the case fatality rate.

Global numbers crunched by Goldman Sachs suggest that generalised use of indoor masks is worth 5pc of GDP in positive reopening and confidence effects, so mask-resisters raise the likelihood of a second full lockdown and a double-dip recession. Pick your trade-off.

Pockets of the western world – London, Madrid, New York – may have reached Covid seroprevalence of 15-20pc but we do not know how long those antibodies offer protection. “I don’t think anywhere in the industrial world is even close to herd immunity,” said Prof Lipsitch.

Read the full piece here

Watch: Matt Hancock 'working hard to fix' operational challenges facing Covid testing

Manchester Mayor blasts testing chaos

Commenting on concerns about the availability of coronavirus tests, a spokesman for Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: "At a time when Greater Manchester is being hit harder by Covid than any other part of the country, it is not acceptable that people here cannot access a test locally.

"Our local authorities are doing all they can to increase capacity in places like Bolton but we are hamstrung by serious issues with the national booking system and nationally run sites.

"The Government must act immediately to get this sorted and work with us to establish a better long-term solution to this problem.

"We would ask people to try booking an appointment only if you have coronavirus symptoms or you have been asked to get tested."

Graffiti 'putting people off returning to railways after lockdown'

Railway graffiti is discouraging people from going back to the office after lockdown, Grant Shapps has claimed.

The Transport Secretary said graffiti can have "an impact on the confidence of passengers" returning to the railways as he launched a September blitz to scrub it from trains and stations.

His comments came as Network Rail has said it was putting an additional £1 million into its current £3.5 million graffiti cleaning budget to tackle the "blight".

Mr Shapps visited London Bridge on Monday to take part in graffiti removal efforts and launch a September campaign to clean up railways and roads, and has published a letter in which he calls on Network Rail to review its response times to reports of graffiti and bolster efforts to keep the railways free from vandalism.

Mike Wright has more here. 

Heart disease patients dealt double blow by Covid, says expert

Cardiovascular disease patients in the UK are being dealt a double blow by the Covid-19 epidemic, a leading cardiologist has said.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, told MPs that those with heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions are not only at increased risk of coronavirus-related death, they are also "dying in excess of expected numbers from their heart and circulatory disease unrelated directly to Covid-19".

Speaking at the Lords Science and Technology Committee, she said: "We are seeing the tragic effect of Covid-19 and statistics related to deaths.

"Whilst Covid-19 explains 80 per cent of the excess mortality you've seen during the peak of the pandemic, it does not explain all.

"And it does seem that some of this excess mortality is driven by patients with heart and circulation conditions."

She said that during the peak of the pandemic, there were more than 700 excess deaths from heart and circulatory diseases in just one week, including around 300 from coronary heart disease and nearly 200 from the stroke.

Reaction to testing chaos rolls in...

First coronavirus death may have occurred months earlier than previously thought

The first death involving Covid-19 in England and Wales occurred months earlier than previously thought after a coroner said a patient died with the virus in January.

A man aged in his early 80s, from Medway in Kent, died in hospital in the week ending January 31, according to the Office of National Statistics.

His death suggests the virus was circulating much earlier than the date of the first confirmed UK case of coronavirus, on January 31.

It was was not registered by the coroner until the first week of September. Until then, the earliest known death involving Covid-19 was thought to be on March 2.

The ONS said it was carrying out a review of the details registered by the coroner.

Comment: So much for our 'world-beating' testing plan, this crisis will cost us dearly

We need to know who has this wretched disease, yet bloated health chiefs have devoted so little energy to getting the public tested properly, writes Angela Epstein.

So much then for the "world-beating” testing strategy, offered by a posturing Boris early in the epidemic as he riffed on his beloved Churchill.

It all seems so typically British – the kind of slapstick scenario more suited to end of pier vaudeville than a nationwide health crisis.

The science may be there, but it's paralysed by poor protocol. It makes you wonder what else has diverted our middle management  - the bloated belly of our NHS – that so little energy has been devoted to getting the public bloody well tested?

Coronavirus is a disease of social interaction. Proximity is its greatest wingman. With cases rising and medics gloomily predicting a second wave, we need to know who has this wretched disease. We don't need a defensive Matt Hancock shielding himself from criticism with autopilot reminders that the UK has the biggest testing system per head of population of all major European countries.

Read the full piece here

Hancock: Cancer screening backlog has fallen by about half

The backlog of people waiting for cancer screening has fallen "by about half", the Health Secretary has said.

Tory MP Paul Bristow (Peterborough) asked for an update on the work the Department for Health and Social Care is doing to cut the numbers waiting for cancer screenings.

He said: "Cancer Research UK estimates that the backlog of people waiting for a screening due to Covid-19 might be as much as three million people.

"Will the minister give an update on the work he is doing to ensure that all areas of the NHS are able to carry out screening programmes, and the work he is doing to reassure people that it is safe to attend these screening tests?"

During health questions, Matt Hancock told the Commons: "Yes, this is an incredibly important subject to make sure that we get the screening available.

"In fact, it ties into the questions on testing, because prioritising testing for those who are about to have NHS procedures - whether that's diagnostic, like screening, or whether it's an operation of some sort - that prioritisation is so important, for instance, to make sure that we tackle the backlog in cancer cases that inevitably built up.

"Now we are tackling that backlog, it's down by about half and... I'm very happy to work with my honourable friend and all others in this House to make sure that people get the early diagnosis of cancer which can so often be life-saving."

It comes as doctors have told the Government it needs to be honest with the public about the scale of the NHS backlog caused by the pandemic and provide the cash needed to deal with it (see 12.35pm post).

Hospital deaths in England up by 14

A further 14 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital in England, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals to 29,676, NHS England said today.

Patients were aged between 62 and 94 and all had known underlying health conditions.

The dates of the deaths were between April 17 and September 13, with the majority over the weekend.

One other death was reported with no positive Covid-19 test result.

Cases in Wales up by 110

There have been a further 110 cases of Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 19,681.

Public Health Wales said no further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.

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

In case you missed it over the weekend, face masks may be inadvertently giving people Covid-19 immunity and making them get less sick from the virus, academics have suggested in one of the most respected medical journals in the world. 

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

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

It comes as increasing evidence suggests that the amount of virus someone is exposed to at the start of infection - the “infectious dose” - may determine the severity of their illness. Indeed, a large study published in the Lancet last month found that “viral load at diagnosis” was an “independent predictor of mortality” in hospital patients.

Wearing masks could therefore reduce the infectious dose that the wearer is exposed to and, subsequently, the impact of the disease, as masks filter out some virus-containing droplets.

Georgina Hayes has more here

Downing Street denies that tests aren't available in worst-hit parts of the country

Downing Street has denied that coronavirus tests are not available in the worst-hit parts of the country, despite widespread claims to the contrary.

A No 10 spokesman said: "We would say that it is wrong to say that testing is not available in these areas. Our capacity continues to be targeted to where it is most needed which is why booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for people with symptoms.

"Mobile testing units continue to be deployed to those areas with local outbreaks and high rates of transmission in the community."

The spokesman said that ministers had discussed the efforts to increase testing capacity at the weekly meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Boris Johnson.

"Capacity is the highest it has ever been but we are obviously seeing significant demands for tests. We continue to strive to increase capacity," the spokesman said.

Sturgeon has spoken to Hancock about backlog in testing 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she has spoken to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock about the backlog in testing processing in recent days and hopes to see an improvement in the next few days.

She said: "I have a concern about the capacity constraints right now with the UK-wide system and for Scotland in recent days this has not been an issue of access to testing slots at regional testing centres or mobile testing units but instead it has been one of access to sufficient Lighthouse laboratory processing and it is this that has led to a backlog in the system and longer turnaround times for tests than we we want to be the case.

"As this is a UK-wide system we are not able to resolve this on our own and the issues are impacted by demand elsewhere in the UK.

"To that end last night I had a constructive conference call with Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, and Dido Harding, head of the UK testing system, to seek assurances that Scotland will continue to get fair access to the UK-wide laboratory capacity and discuss how we can resolve these issues.

"So I hope to see improvement over the next few days but of course I will continue to provide updates."

Netherlands hits daily record of coronavirus cases

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands have hit a daily record of 1,379 in the past 24 hours, according to Dutch daily newspaper de Volkskrant.

It comes as the Dutch Government has said it will maintain heavy public spending in an effort to counter the losses from the pandemic, despite its finances worsening.

In his annual speech outlining the Government’s new budget today, King Willem-Alexander said:

"In these insecure times, the Government chooses not to cut spending, but to invest, in job security, social safety nets and a stronger economy.”

The Government’s deficit is set to balloon to 7 per cent of gross domestic product this year and 4 per cent in 2021, while national debt is expected to hit 60 per cent of GDP next year, as support for workers and companies struck by the pandemic is extended well into 2021.

Rishi Sunak hints at more jobs support as unemployment crisis deepens

Rishi Sunak has hinted at more help to battle the deepening unemployment crisis as the winding down of his furlough scheme was met with thousands more job losses.

The Chancellor promised ministers that replacing jobs lost to the pandemic was his “number one priority” after new figures revealed the UK has seen the fastest rise in redundancies since 2009.

Mr Sunak said he would be “creative” in finding ways to help workers but signalled he will not bow to mounting pressure to extend the current furlough scheme beyond October. He told Cabinet that “indefinitely keeping people out of work is not the answer”, according to several reports.

Economists warned the “worst is yet to come” after the Office for National Statistics revealed the number of workers on payrolls has plunged by almost 700,000 between March and August.

Tom Rees has more here

No return to 'normal' after virus crisis, unions urge

Unions are calling for a plan to rebuild public services to help recover from the coronavirus crisis, without a return to pay freezes and austerity.

The annual TUC Congress heard pleas from union leaders for the UK never to return to the days of cuts, outsourcing of services and low pay.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said many workers missed the weekly applause for the NHS as they were too busy mopping hospital floors, feeding and helping patients, or working through the night in mortuaries.

"Memories are short. Already there's talk of going back to normal, but we can never go back to normal.

"Normal meant a decade of pain and austerity, pay freezes and cuts. Key public services starved of resources and 700,000 jobs lost.

"Normal for public service workers was unsafe, and it meant stress and unfairness.

"Normal was being underappreciated, underpaid and undervalued. There must be a new deal to rebuild all public services, where funding is based on need, where services are run in-house, for the public good, not private greed.

"All that applause, rainbow pictures and heartfelt thanks won't pay the rent or put food on the table."

Nearly nine in ten pupils in England attended school since reopenings 

Nearly nine in 10 pupils have attended schools in England since their full reopening this month, Government figures show.

Approximately 88 per cent of state school students were back in class on September 10 - and around 92 per cent of schools were fully open on the same day, according to the Department for Education (DfE) statistics.

Schools are considered not fully open if they are unable to provide face-to-face teaching for all pupils on roll for the whole school day and they have asked a group of pupils to self-isolate.

For most schools that reported they were not fully open, this was due to non-Covid-19 related reasons, the DfE release suggests.

Of all schools that responded, one per cent said they were not fully open due to suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

An artificial intelligence (AI) serving robot from Korea Telecom carries food to customers during a demonstration event at Mad for Garlic restaurant in Seoul, South Korea, to ensure social distancing Credit: Shutterstock
Students demonstrate during a one day strike called by trade unions to protest the Basque regional government's response to the Covid 19 crisis in education Credit: Reuters
A man has a Covid test in Mumbai, India, which now has almost five million cases of the virus - the world's second-highest tally Credit: Shutterstock
Workers finalise arrangements for the reopening of a wedding hall in Pakistan that has been closed since March, after the country has seen a steady decline in deaths and infections  Credit: AP

Paul Rudd asks 'fellow millenials' to mask up in Covid public service film

Actor Paul Rudd has poked fun at himself in a public service film in which he asks "fellow millennials" to wear a mask in the fight against Covid-19.

In the clip released by YouTube channel First We Feast, Ant-Man star Rudd, 51, pastiches an older person trying to use slang to pretend to be younger than they are.

Dressed in a hoodie and holding a skateboard, Rudd, who is known for his youthful looks, says he has been asked by New York governor Andrew Cuomo to help spread the message of the importance of masks to young people.

He says: "Fam, let's real talk: masks, they're totally beast - so slide that into your DMs and twitch it.

"Yas queens like ourselves, we want to go to bars, we want to drink, hook up, do our TikToks - I get it."

And as he pretends to talk to singer Billie Eilish on the phone, he adds: "What's that? You're wearing your mask? Man, I wanna stan you. You're so my bae."

Face mask refuseniks in Indonesia forced to dig graves of coronavirus victims

Indonesia has turned to the ultimate shock tactic against citizens refusing to wear face masks in public spaces – ordering them to dig the graves of Covid-19 victims.

According to the Jakarta Post, the authorities in Cerme province, East Java, forced eight people to dig the graves in a public cemetery in the local village of Ngabetan as punishment for violating mask rules.

“There are only three available gravediggers at the moment, so I thought I might as well put these people to work with them,” said a local leader named as Suyono.

“Hopefully this can create a deterrent.” He added that the men would be kept away from the actual burials. Residents of Cerme currently face fines and community service as the authorities battle to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases.

Nicola Smith has more here

Testing is actually a Government success, says Rees-Mogg

Doctors call for action to tackle 'Long Covid'

A group of UK doctors who have been affected by persistent symptoms of Covid-19 - dubbed 'Long Covid' - are calling for action to tackle its effects.

In a letter to The BMJ today, the 39 doctors call for research and surveillance to capture the full spectrum of the virus, including in those not hospitalised and not tested, in order to build an accurate picture of Covid-19 characteristics.

They say that there is an emerging picture that prolonged symptoms are having a substantial impact on a significant minority of people and death is not the only outcome to measure. 

The action plan also calls for the establishment of one-stop clinics to help the rehabilitation of patients experiencing Long Covid.

They also warn against “a reliance on one-size fits all” online rehabilitation services, as they risk serious harm to patients if pathology goes undetected.

“As politicians, scientists, and doctors attempt to tackle this issue, these principles can act as a guide enabling the experiences of those with the condition to inform the efforts of experts and lead to improved research and clinical care, benefiting those affected and society as a whole,” they said.

Irish Government announces blueprint for living with Covid

The Irish Government has unveiled its medium-term blueprint for living with Covid-19, which includes different levels of restrictions ranging from one to five. 

Tighter restrictions have also been announced for Dublin, which has seen a continuous rise in cases in recent weeks.

The new plan for restrictions will come into effect from midnight on Tuesday, and the plan is broken into five alert levels and will be used for the next six months.

Irish Premier Micheal Martin said: "Through a collective effort, the virus and its impact was first controlled and then reduced significantly.

"The threat posed by the virus continued to change, and policies had to change in response.

"Our country has been able to change and make progress. Schools have reopened, we are all delighted our children are back playing in the school yards.

"We have been able to reconnect with families and friends and experience our own country. Until there is a collective vaccine, we must live with the reality that Covid-19 causes long-term illness."

Some attempting to 'game the system' by putting different postcodes in

Testing will be prioritised, suggests Hancock

Jeremy Hunt, the chair of the Commons health committee, said that a week ago Matt Hancock had claimed it would take two weeks to sort out the delays in testing.

He asked if Mr Hancock still thought he would be able to sort this out within a week from now.

The Health Secretary responded that he thought this could be sorted out "within a matter of weeks".

Mr Hancock also said that some people are getting tests when they do not need them. That is why prioritisation is important, he said.

People in clinical care should get priority, he said, and after that social care gets priority.

Mr Hancock said he will be publishing updated guidance on prioritisation, and will not “shirk from decisions on prioritisation”.

Starmer: Government has let people down

Labour: 'We are at a perilous moment'

Responding to the Health Secretary's urgent question, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said "extra demand" on the testing system was "inevitable".

Mr Ashworth said the Government failed to use the summer to prepare for that demand and it needs to fix what he described as a "mess".

"We are at a perilous moment," he told MPs, noting that Imperial College data suggests the virus is doubling "every seven to eight days".

"The Prime Minister promised us whack-a-mole, but instead his mallet is broken," he said.

Mr Ashworth also accused Mr Hancock of "losing control of this virus", adding that "he needs to fix testing now".

Epidemic is growing again, says Health Secretary 

Answering an urgent question in the House of Commons, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the the "epidemic is growing".

Mr Hancock told MPs that the number of cases in care homes and hospitals is rising again.

He acknowledged the disruption caused by the new "rule of six", but said that the "cost of doing nothing is much greater".

On testing, the Health Secretary said with a rising number of people coming forward for tests, the Government is having to prioritise certain groups.

Many people across the UK are currently unable to book a test despite showing coronavirus symptoms, or are otherwise being directed to test sites hundreds of miles away.

Government must be honest about NHS backlog caused by Covid, say doctors 

Doctors have told the Government it needs to be honest with the public about the scale of the NHS backlog caused by the pandemic and provide the cash needed to deal with it.

Delegates attending the British Medical Association's annual representative meeting passed a motion calling on the union to work with the Government to develop a public information campaign on the NHS backlog and likely timescale for returning to normal services.

The motion also called for the union to demand adequate funding for the NHS to increase its capacity to address the backlog of planned care.

BMA chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that at the height of the outbreak, services had needed to be overhauled to manage the influx of Covid-19 patients.

But this meant that many other patients were forced to have their treatments delayed, with more than three million people in England waiting for elective procedures, he added.

MPs raise complaints from constituents about being unable to get tests

Several MPs have taken to Twitter to raise complaints from their constituents of being unable to book a Covid-19 test, including Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Denmark's coronavirus reproduction rate at 1.5

Hospitality venues in Copenhagen have been ordered to limit their opening hours following a rise in Covid-19 cases in Denmark, a country that has largely been able to keep its outbreak under control so far.

Restaurants, bars and cafes will now have to close at 10pm in the capital, after health minister Magnus Heunicke said the country’s reproduction rate – which indicates the average number of people an infected person transmits the virus to – is currently at 1.5.

A total of 334 new coronavirus infections had been registered in the last 24 hours, he told a press conference.

Majority of Covid deaths in Damascus, Syria, not being reported

The majority of deaths due to Covid-19 in Damascus, Syria are not reported, according to a new report by the Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Syria team at the London School of Economics, Google, the European Institute of Peace, the Middle East Institute and partners in Syria.

To date, many low- and middle-income countries and/or conflict-affected settings in the Middle East and Africa have reported substantially lower mortality rates than seen in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

A possible reason for this is deaths have been under-reported, researchers argue.

The team sought to understand the evolving Covid-19 pandemic in Syria, a country that has been ravaged by war for nearly a decade.

Exploring a range of different assumptions about under-ascertainment of deaths, the researchers estimate that only 1.25 per cent of deaths (sensitivity range 1 per cent - 3 per cent) due to Covid-19 are reported in Damascus.

This level of under-ascertainment suggests that Damascus is at a much later stage in its epidemic than indicated by surveillance reports.

An estimated 4,380 deaths due to the virus may have been missed as of the September 2, they warn.

Given that Damascus is likely to have the most robust surveillance in Syria, these findings suggest that other regions of the country could have experienced similar or worse mortality rates due to the coronavirus.

Watch: Priti Patel says families will breach 'rule of six' if they mingle in the street

Blow for insurers in landmark case over Covid payouts

The City regulator has claimed a partial victory in its groundbreaking legal claim against eight insurers over their refusal to pay out on claims by businesses decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The High Court ruling will bring hope to up to 370,000 businesses starved of cash during the economic crisis triggered by the pandemic. 

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) brought the case against insurers on behalf of businesses that believed they should have received payouts under business interruption policies. 

The policies cover profits lost if businesses are forced to shut but insurers argued that losses caused by the pandemic were excluded in the majority of cases. 

The FCA said the judges found in favour of the watchdog “on the majority of the key issues”. 

Michael O'Dwyer has more here

Safety is 'top of the list' for Covid-19 vaccine, says Oxford scientist 

Safety is "top of the list" when it comes to developing a Covid-19 vaccine, the professor leading the Oxford vaccine group has said.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, who is leading the bid to find a jab, said no corners were being cut when it came to ensuring that a vaccine was safe.

It comes after the clinical trial into the Oxford jab was paused last week after a patient fell ill. It has since resumed.

Asked what message she wanted to give the millions of people waiting for a vaccine, Prof Gilbert told the BBC's The Life Scientific podcast: "I suppose what I'd like them to understand is there are a lot of people working very, very hard on this - and always putting safety at the top of the list.

"Safety is always paramount in the vaccine development that we do and we need to take our time to go through the process of testing the vaccine properly.

"I know people are impatient to know the results but we can't get the result without doing these very careful clinical studies.

"And then we will report on the results, and then hopefully we'll be able to move forward and start getting people vaccinated."

Testing: There's been a lack of foresight and planning, says expert

Prof McNally added that he had heard from friends working in labs that there were no issues with things such as access to reagents.

"The labs are still fully staffed, they are still churning through huge amounts of samples per day - the same number as they were a couple of months ago - so there are problems elsewhere in the chain," he said.

Prof McNally added: "Clearly what we have now is some underlying issues that no-one wants to tell us about.

"And a surge in demand, which was always going to happen at this time of year.

"Anyone with a child will tell you that respiratory infections peak as schools go back in September.

"The worry is that we are not getting clear information on where the problems are and it seems that there's been a lack of foresight and planning for this to occur."

Testing situation 'very worrying', says expert 

Professor Alan McNally, director of the institute of microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham, who helped set up the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, told BBC Breakfast there were "clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about", plus a surge in demand for tests.

Asked about the situation in Birmingham, he said: "I think the testing situation of Birmingham is the exact same as we're hearing in other parts of the country ... lots of people struggling to get tests and no real quantity of information on why that's the case.

"I think this is multi-factorial. I think you almost have a perfect storm of events that have come together to almost essentially crash the testing system.

"I think there is a surge in demand (and) I think our stated capacity is very different from actually how many tests can be run in a given day.

"It's very worrying that we seem to be in a situation before really we've come into autumn and winter where we've maxed out the number of tests we can do in the country, and that is very concerning."

UK: Over 57,500 deaths involving Covid now registered 

Over 57,500 deaths involving Covid-19 have now been registered in the UK.

Figures published today by the ONS show that 52,420 deaths involving Covid-19 had occurred in England and Wales up to September 4, and had been registered by September 12.

Figures published last week by the National Records for Scotland showed that 4,231 deaths involving Covid-19 had been registered in Scotland up to September 6, while 877 deaths had occurred in Northern Ireland up to September 4 (and had been registered up to September 9), according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Together, these figures mean that so far 57,528 deaths have been registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, including suspected cases.

Victoria, Australia, to relax tight pandemic restrictions

Australia’s virus hot spot, Victoria state, has said it will relax pandemic restrictions in most areas from Wednesday night.

Premier Daniel Andrews said today that people who live outside the state capital, Melbourne, would have no restrictions on leaving their homes and all shops will be able to reopen.

Andrews also urged Melbourne residents not to get discouraged about staying in lockdown as the rest of the state opens up.

People are not allowed to leave Australia’s second-largest city without approved reasons and police will tighten checkpoints on routes from Melbourne as the rest of the state opens up.

Australia recorded its first day without a single reported Covid-19 death since July 13 today.

New coronavirus podcast - Is Britain’s death toll about to jump?

Cases are rising and restrictions are being reimposed, but will an increase in UK infections lead to a spike in deaths?

As the WHO warns of a rise in coronavirus fatalities across Europe from October, the Telegraph's Theodora Louloudis and Global Health Security Correspondent Sarah Newey discuss how this could play out in Britain, and whether younger sufferers and breakthroughs in treatments are enough to stop a deadly second wave.

You can listen here:

Priti Patel: Families will breach 'rule of six' if they mingle in the street

Families will be in breach of the new “Rule of Six” ban on “mingling” if they stop to chat in the street or park, says Priti Patel, as police warned they risk being overwhelmed by “snitching.”

Asked if two families of four stopping for a chat on their way to the park would be in breach of the “Rule of Six,” the Home Secretary said: “It’s mingling, I think it is absolutely mingling but you have to put this into context of coronavirus, and keeping distance and wearing masks…

“The rule of six is about making sure people are being conscientious and are not putting other people’s health at risk. People can exercise their own judgement, wear masks, social distancing etcetera.”

College of Policing guidance issued on Monday night to police warned that mingling is only allowed within a single household or between two “linked” households where they have formed a support bubble.

Ms Patel added: "Mingling is people coming together. That is my definition of mingling."

Charles Hymas has more here

Doctor to receive posthumous fellowship

A "very special" doctor who died after contracting coronavirus is to receive what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind posthumous fellowship.

Dr Peter Tun was an associate specialist in neurological rehabilitation at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading for more than 21 years, and died in April after contracting Covid-19.

The Royal College of Physicians said it would honour him with a fellowship reserved for "some of the most inspiring and innovative physicians in the world".

Dr Tun, who died aged 62, first moved to the UK in 1994, having studied and worked as a GP in Myanmar.

He lived first in West Yorkshire before moving to London and later Reading, where he settled with his family.

Schoolgirl forced to quarantine due to lack of testing

Moz Bulbeck Reynolds, from West Berkshire, said she has been unable to send her nine-year-old daughter Matilda to school this week because she has been unable to get a coronavirus test.

Having stayed at home last Thursday and Friday with cold symptoms, Matilda was refused entry to the school on Monday until she received a test, as per the local council's rules.

Ms Bulbeck Reynolds said she had been unable to book a test despite trying "almost constantly" since 9.30am on Monday through the Government's website.

"I feel sorry for my daughter... rejected at the school gate. It made me feel like a failure as a parent," the 45-year-old said.

The school has said Matilda either needs to be tested or quarantined for 10 days.

"I'm personally furious with the school for not telling me she needed a test when she did not have a high temperature," added Ms Bulbeck Reynolds.

"I'm furious with the local council for moving the goalposts without informing the parents, and clearly I'm furious at the Government for their incompetence."

Oxford uni professor of medicine: Testing millions will come in stages

Sir John Bell told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's aim to test millions of people per day in rapid testing would come in stages.

A report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) said the UK has drawn up plans to eventually carry out up to 10 million Covid-19 tests a day by early next year.

Sir John said: "Let's back off the 10 million a day," adding: "It'll be two or three million I think, in the first instance."

Home Secretary defends Government's testing record

 Priti Patel told Times Radio: "Testing capacity is increasing. Our capacity is at the highest level it has been since coronavirus.

"I think we have to recognise this is challenging. There is no magic solution to say that it is all going to be perfect."

She said it was "wrong to say" that there were no tests available after she was quizzed about the long delays in trying to book a test in Bolton where the infection rate is the highest in England.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: "Tests are available, you've heard me say, particularly in local lockdown areas, I've seen this myself, I've seen the teams that have been working on this.

"Mobile testing is going in, capacity is going into local areas where lockdowns have been undertaken and are taking place.

"I think it is wrong to say tests are not available, new book-in slots are being made available every single day, mobile testing units are being made available.

"And on top of that home testing kits are being issued across the country but specifically in local lockdown areas."

Almost 700,000 UK workers removed from payroll since lockdown began

Around 695,000 UK workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since March when the coronavirus lockdown began, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate of unemployment increased as another 36,000 jobs fell off payrolls across the country.

Meanwhile, unemployment increased by 104,000 to 1.4 million for the three months to July.

It said the rate of unemployment therefore increased to 4.1%, in line with analyst expectations.

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: "Some effects of the pandemic on the labour market were beginning to unwind in July as parts of the economy reopened.

"Fewer workers were away on furlough and average hours rose. The number of job vacancies continued to recover into August, too.

"Nonetheless, with the number of employees on the payroll down again in August and both unemployment and redundancies sharply up in July, it is clear that coronavirus is still having a big impact on the world of work."

Policing leader calls for rule of six guidance

The national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales has called for guidance over enforcement of the rule of six.

In response to a question about having "more guidance" on Good Morning Britain, John Apter responded: "Maybe we should have 'guidance', because we haven't had any yet."

Mr Apter said he understood the Government faced a "very fast-moving" and complicated situation.

"But my colleagues who are on the front line trying to interpret this law, trying to educate and work with the public, are now being accused of asking (people) to snitch on their neighbours."

He also said the community needed to manage its expectations of police in enforcing the new rule.

"We do not have loads of extra police officers. We're already trying to manage increasing demand. We're not going to be able to attend every call."

Students return to college in Pakistan

A student walks through a disinfection tunnel at the entrance of the Islamabad Model College of Commerce for Girls in Islamabad.

It comes after educational institutes were reopened nearly six months after the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

Islamabad Credit: Aamir Qureshi/AFP

Test and trace: Health leaders urge Government to be more 'honest' over issues

It comes amid signs of strain on testing capabilities causing large queues, people reporting they have been unable to get tests and others being offered tests hundreds of miles from their homes.

NHS Providers said that trusts are "working in the dark" because they are not being told why the shortages are occurring or how long they are likely to last. Chief executive Chris Hopson urged the Government "to be honest and open" about what was going on.

The British Medical Association's council chairman said that despite the Government's ambitious Operation Moonshot plan for millions of UK tests to be carried out daily, the focus must be on the testing system currently in place.

In a speech to the doctors' union's annual meeting on Tuesday, Dr Chaand Nagpaul is expected to say: "The Government is now shooting for the moon promising to deliver mass continuous testing with a test that doesn't yet exist at a cost nearly as much as the total NHS budget.

"Down here on Planet Earth, we need a fit for purpose test and trace system in the here and now with capacity, agility and accessibility that doesn't require 100-mile journeys that disadvantage some of the most vulnerable."

More than 80,000 infections in 24 hours - just in India

People wait to enter a metro station in New Delhi, India Credit: REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

India has reported its lowest daily jump in new coronavirus infections in a week, logging another 83,809 infections in the past 24 hours.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday also reported 1,054 deaths, driving total fatalities up to 80,776 since the pandemic began.

With 4.93 million confirmed infections, India has reported the second-most cases in the world behind the United States.

India also has the highest number of recovered patients in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The country's recovery rate stands at 77.8 per cent and nearly 3.8 million people have recovered from the virus.

Whistleblower alleges abuse at US migrant centre

Human rights organisations have denounced the number of hysterectomies carried out at a migrant detention centre in the US after one detainee described it as like "an experimental concentration camp".

"When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp. It was like they're experimenting with our bodies," said one detainee interviewed by the Project South organisation, which filed a complaint to the government.

The complaint also alleged "jarring medical neglect" during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a refusal to test detainees with symptoms and fabricating medical records.

Read the full story here.

Chinese city in lockdown after new infections

China has locked down a city on the border with Myanmar and will launch a mass coronavirus testing programme, officials said on Tuesday after a handful of infections were detected.

The three cases were found in the city of Ruili in western Yunnan province, a major land border crossing point with neighbouring Myanmar.

Residents were being told to stay home and people had been forbidden from entering or leaving the city from Monday evening.

Officials said every resident would be tested for the virus in Ruili, which is home to more than 210,000 people.

Businesses have been closed except for supermarkets, pharmacies and food markets.

The infections were brought in from Myanmar and Chinese authorities would "crack down on illegal immigrants", the officials said.

Ruili is separated by a shallow river from the border town of Muse, Myanmar's main gateway to China known for sleazy streets, weapons, casinos and drugs.

Yang Bianqiang, vice mayor of Ruili, told a press conference on Monday that the city would repatriate those who cannot verify their time of arrival into China, "have no fixed residence and have no fixed place to work".

Seven other cases were reported around China on Tuesday - all brought in from other countries.

Police could challenge children who break new Covid laws

Scottish children are breaking the law if they play with two or more friends from different households in their free time, but they can mix in unlimited numbers in school, under SNP regulations that came into effect on Monday.

The regulations stipulated that all children must be counted towards the two-household limit Nicola Sturgeon has introduced for gatherings to try and stop the spread of coronavirus.

But they included a specific exemption for schools, which pupils are attending with no social distancing from each other in classrooms, corridors and playgrounds.

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Philanthropist Bill Gates warns deaths may spike again

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is “pessimistic” about the coming months and warned Covid-19 deaths could rise again to levels seen in the first wave of the pandemic unless governments take effective action.

“I'm pessimistic about what the fall in the northern hemisphere is likely to look like,” he said.

“If we don't have interventions, the death rate in a number of countries including the United States will go back up to the levels that we had in the spring.”

Talking to The Telegraph for the launch of the annual Goalkeepers report, which tracks the world’s progress against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Mr Gates said the pandemic could push the world back to the 1990s in terms of development.

READ MORE: Bill Gates warns of 'mutually exacerbating catastrophes' and calls for collaboration to defeat virus

Public may be able to access vaccine in China in November

Coronavirus vaccines being developed in China may be ready for use by the general public as early as November, an official with the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

China has four vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials. At least three of those have already been offered to essential workers under an emergency use programme.

Phase 3 clinical trials were proceeding smoothly and the vaccines could be ready for the general public in November or December, CDC chief biosafety expert Guizhen Wu said in an interview with state TV late on Monday.

She said she had experienced no abnormal symptoms in recent months after taking an experimental vaccine herself in April, but did not specify which vaccines she was referring to.

RELATED NEWS: Why China could be poised to win the race for a coronavirus vaccine

South Korea secures vaccine supply

South Korea will secure early supply of coronavirus vaccines for 30 million people, or 60 per cent of its population, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

While authorities would like to inoculate the country's entire population of 52 million, uncertainty around the vaccine's safety, efficacy and development was limiting South Korea's investment, Mr Chung said.

Mr Chung said the government would negotiate with the relevant international organisations and vaccine makers to secure the early supply of the vaccines and would buy more as the development proceeded.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 106 new coronavirus cases as of Monday midnight, which brought the total number of infections to 22,391, and the total death tally to 367.

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