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

The Health Secretary told the Commons today that there will need to be prioritisation in testing - AFP
The Health Secretary told the Commons today that there will need to be prioritisation in testing – AFP

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.

It follows several days of thousands across the UK being unable to book a Covid-19 test, forcing NHS hospitals to cancel operations and turn away patients because staff are stuck at home. 

On the delays, Mr Hancock said that the problem should be solved “in a matter of weeks”. 

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon, Mr Hancock said: “France and Spain have both reported daily figures of over 10,000 positive cases, and increasing hospitalisations. 

“Here in the UK we saw yesterday around 2,600 new cases and last week medical advisers advised that R is above 1. 

“The epidemic is growing. There are signs that the number of cases in care homes and the number of hospitalisations is starting to rise again.”

The Health Secretary then added that as there has been a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, the service is “having to prioritise” who gets a test.

“The top priority is, and always has been, acute clinical care,” he said.

“The next priority is social care, where we’re now sending over 100,000 tests a day because we’ve all seen the risks this virus poses in care homes.

“We’ll set out in full an updated prioritisation and I do not rule out further steps to make sure tests are used according to those priorities. It is a choice that we must make.”

Follow the latest updates below.

02:02 PM

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

01:58 PM

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).

01:57 PM

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.

01:56 PM

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.

01:49 PM

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. 

01:43 PM

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.

01:35 PM

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.”

01:29 PM

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.

01:26 PM

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. 

01:21 PM

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.”

01:15 PM

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.

01:14 PM

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 - Shutterstock
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 – 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 - Reuters
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 – 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 - Shutterstock
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 – 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 - AP
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 – AP

12:59 PM

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.”

12:46 PM

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. 

12:42 PM

Testing is actually a Government success, says Rees-Mogg

12:34 PM

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.

12:25 PM

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.”

12:17 PM

Some attempting to ‘game the system’ by putting different postcodes in

11:59 AM

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”.

11:55 AM

Starmer: Government has let people down

11:54 AM

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”.

11:50 AM

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.

11:35 AM

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.

11:26 AM

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.

11:17 AM

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.

11:07 AM

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.

10:58 AM

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

10:53 AM

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. 

10:38 AM

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.”

10:34 AM

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.”

10:32 AM

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.”

10:23 AM

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.

10:16 AM

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.

10:08 AM

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:

10:05 AM

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. 

09:22 AM

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.

08:37 AM

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.”

07:55 AM

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.”

07:20 AM

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.”

06:51 AM

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.”

06:25 AM

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.”

06:07 AM

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 - Aamir Qureshi/AFP
Islamabad – Aamir Qureshi/AFP

05:46 AM

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.”

05:29 AM

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

People wait to enter a metro station in New Delhi, India - REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
People wait to enter a metro station in New Delhi, India – 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.

05:22 AM

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.

04:40 AM

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.

03:42 AM

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.

Read the full story here.

03:37 AM

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

03:33 AM

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

03:29 AM

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.

02:56 AM

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