UK coronavirus LIVE: Britain braced for further lockdowns after record Covid infection rate as Boris Johnson to address nation

The UK is on red alert for further local local measures after a record high in the number of daily coronavirus cases.

Merseyside is said to be one of the areas poised to join the north east under tougher restrictions which ban households mixing indoors. Four North Wales local authority areas – Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham – will go into lockdown from 6pm on Thursday.

Later on Wednesday, the Prime Minister will lead a Covid-19 press conference, alongside chief medical officer for England professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, for the first time since announcing the England-wide ban on gatherings of more than six people three weeks ago.

It comes after the UK recorded 7,143 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus as of 9am on Tuesday – the highest daily figure recorded since the outbreak began, although far more tests are being carried out than in the spring.

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2020-09-30T06:32:08.363Z

Steve Baker MP, one of more than 50 Tory rebels to back an amendment calling for more scrutiny of any future coronavirus restrictions, said the country was at a “fork in the road”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the former minister said even if Sir Graham Brady’s amendment was not put to a vote on Wednesday, disgruntled backbenchers would not be silenced without a concession from Government.

He said: “I don’t want to be in the business of forcing the Government but what I would say is this is a fork in the road.

“Either later today we will face a reasonable offer which we can accept, back down – and gladly – or we will end up that these members of parliament are not going to go away and we will keep battling on, as I say, with a fierce resolve to preserve the institutions of which we are proud of and which we wish to defend in the public interest.”

Mr Baker said the principles of the rule of law were “going out of the window with this virus”.

2020-09-30T06:21:34.733Z

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UK’s GDP plunges 19.8% between April and June, ONS figures show

The UK economy’s record contraction in the second quarter was less severe than first thought, with gross domestic product plunging 19.8% between April and June, the Office for National Statistics has said.

The ONS also revised first-quarter figures, which now show a steeper contraction of 2.5% between January and March. It previously estimated that GDP fell 2.2% in the first quarter and 20.4% in the following three months.

2020-09-30T06:19:10.443Z

The ONS also revised first-quarter figures, which now show a steeper contraction of 2.5% between January and March.

It previously estimated that GDP fell 2.2% in the first quarter and 20.4% in the following three months.

Despite the revisions, the UK economy still tumbled into the largest recession since current records began after two successive quarters of falling GDP due to the coronavirus crisis.

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2020-09-30T06:16:25.790Z

PM to address nation in 100th coronavirus press briefing since pandemic hit UK

The Prime Minister will lead a Covid-19 briefing later after the UK recorded the highest number of daily coronavirus cases since the outbreak began.

Boris Johnson will be joined at a Downing Street press conference by chief medical officer for England professor Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance in what will be the 100th coronavirus briefing since the pandemic hit the UK.

The last time the three men appeared together at the podiums was September 9 when Mr Johnson outlined the “rule of six” and urged people to limit their social contact “as much as possible”.

But three weeks on, the number of cases has risen, and The Times is reporting that a final decision will come on Wednesday on whether Merseyside will join the North East with tougher lockdown measures banning households mixing indoors.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson told The Daily Telegraph it was “only a matter of days” until a more severe lockdown was imposed on the city.

He said: “For me, it is only a matter of time because the virus isn’t able to be controlled in the city with the restrictions we have now.

“We need a circuit breaker or stricter lockdown to try to stop the virus spreading.

“If we can have the severest measures of lockdown now, we may arrest the increase and start to bring it down by the end of October, so that in the lead up to Christmas we can get some normality.”

2020-09-30T06:14:11.640Z

House prices increased by 5% annually in September, marking the highest growth rate in four years, according to an index.

Nationwide Building Society said the annual growth rate was the strongest since September 2016.

Prices increased by 0.9% month-on-month, pushing the average UK property value to £226,129.

2020-09-30T06:13:53.940Z

BREAKING: UK economy contraction less severe than first thought. 

The UK economy’s record contraction in the second quarter was less severe than first thought, with gross domestic product plunging 19.8% between April and June, the Office for National Statistics has said.

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2020-09-30T06:13:20.560Z

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2020-09-29T21:23:19.003Z

Outbreak of Covid-19 cases at Aberdeen University is linked to a local pub

Many students at the university had visited The Bobbin pub on King Street. There have been 62 positive cases in Aberdeen connected to the university.

A spokesman for NHS Grampian said: “A multi-agency investigation is ongoing into 62 cases of Covid-19 identified within the University of Aberdeen student population.

“This figure includes those living in various locations, including university halls of residents, private flats and private halls elsewhere.

“The cases are currently not being treated as a single cluster. Investigations are ongoing and efforts are being made to identify any linkages between them. We are aware of a number of cases who have attended at The Bobbin, on King Street, Aberdeen, on or after September 17.

“Aberdeen City Council officers have visited the premises and informed the IMT they are satisfied with the measures in place. The bar has provided full customer lists at the request of the IMT for Test & Protect tracing.

“There is currently no evidence of spread to the wider community and, working with the university, various control measures have been implemented in an effort to curb the risk of any further transmission.”

2020-09-29T21:04:05.146Z

Ireland will be dealing with Covid-19 for a long time even if a vaccine is developed, the country’s health chief has said

Paul Reid warned that the country should plan for subsequent waves of the pandemic. “Even with a vaccine, the reality is that we will be dealing with Covid-19 for a long time yet,” he said.

“We must all adapt our way of life through a combination of behavioural, societal, and healthcare delivery changes.”

The chief executive of the Health Service Executive (HSE) made the comments as he appeared before the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19 Response on Tuesday.

“It is increasingly evident that we can expect and should therefore plan for subsequent waves of Covid-19,” he said.

“A ‘community first’ approach to the delivery of care will be central to delivering safe, efficient and effective services through winter and beyond.”

He added it would be important to support people to receive care at home or close to home, particularly older people and those people with chronic diseases, and to enhance patient flow and patient experience in our acute hospitals.

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2020-09-29T20:30:36.610Z

Pubs and restaurants urge PM for more support to survive ‘bleakest of winters’

More than 100 hospitality businesses in the UK – including pubs, restaurants and hotels – have written to the Prime Minister warning that thousands of jobs will be lost if businesses do not survive “this bleakest of winters”.

In the letter to Boris Johnson, industry leaders say that even before the latest Covid-19 restrictions, half of all hospitality businesses did not believe they would survive beyond the middle of next year.

It comes as companies prepare for what to do when the Government’s furlough scheme ends on October 31. The letter, led by trade associations the British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping, states the latest restrictions, including the 10pm curfew, “have made this fight to survive even harder”.

Businesses are urging the Government to commit to reviewing the appropriateness of the latest restrictions at least every three weeks, and to remove them if they prove ineffective in halting the spread of the virus.

It states that the Government needs to provide more support and that the Chancellor’s winter support package “does not go nearly far enough for our imperilled sector”.

The letter calls on the Prime Minister to remove employer contributions for the hospitality sector to the Job Support Scheme and provide a package of grant funding for those businesses that face restrictions.

2020-09-29T19:55:15.560Z

Virus is ‘out of control’ in Knowsley, says council leader

Graham Morgan, leader of Knowsley Council, said: “The virus is out of control in Knowsley and we need to do something quickly to address the spread. ‘Lockdown light’ has been confusing and difficult to enforce.

“We need the Government to consider going further here as our virus rates are alarmingly high. Nobody wants to go back to a long-term lockdown like earlier this year, so the ‘circuit breaker’ option of a short lockdown, with clear rules, might disrupt the spread of the virus enough to help us regain some control.

“I know that this would be difficult for so many people but the consequences of not following the rules will be even more difficult for families and individuals to bear if the virus is allowed to go unchecked.”

Cllr Morgan, along with all other Liverpool City Region local authority leaders and chief executives, met with chief medical officer Chris Whitty on Monday evening to discuss the next steps in tackling the spread of the virus.

He added: “Taking away people’s freedom of choice or potentially closing down parts of the economy doesn’t come without a cost, and in Knowsley we are acutely aware of that. So we will also fight hard to ensure our residents do not suffer unfairly and that local businesses and jobs will be supported. We will need the Government’s support with this and we have made that clear in our conversations with them.”

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2020-09-29T19:09:31.860Z

Former chief executive of Sainsbury’s is to take over as testing director at NHS Test and Trace

Mike Coupe, who retired as chief executive officer of Sainsbury’s at the end of May, is set to replace Sarah-Jane Marsh who is returning to her post as chief executive of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

Baroness Dido Harding, who runs NHS Test and Trace and is interim executive chairwoman of the National Institute for Health Protection, said in an email to staff that Mr Coupe “will bring a wealth of experience in large scale supply chains, logistics and digital transformation”.

It is understood he will be in the role until Christmas. Baroness Harding said in the email, seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ): “We have been incredibly privileged to be able to ‘borrow’ Sarah-Jane for the last five months but it will soon be time for her to return to her substantive role as CEO of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.

“Sarah-Jane has led the team with unparalleled drive, compassion, and humour.”

She said Mr Coupe has “worked for 35 years in the food retail industry and will bring a wealth of experience in large scale supply chains, logistics and digital transformation.

“Mike will undertake a period of induction over the next month, working with Sarah-Jane and the team across Testing, initially focused on scaling new testing technologies, and will take over the Testing helm when Sarah-Jane leaves us at the end of October.”

(PA)
2020-09-29T18:05:24.000Z

84 per cent of local authorities in England record rises in weekly rate of coronavirus cases

In total, 265 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 26.

The rate fell in 48 areas and was unchanged in two areas.

New cases were recorded in all 315 local authority areas.

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2020-09-29T17:50:35.240Z

Four local authority areas in North Wales will be placed under local lockdowns following a rise in coronavirus cases, the country’s health minister has said

Restrictions will be introduced in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham from 6pm on Thursday to help control the spread of the virus.

Vaughan Gething said: “Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in coronavirus cases in four north Wales local authority areas – in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham and Conwy.

“These are largely linked to people socialising indoors and are the pattern of transmission similar to what we have seen in South Wales.

“We have worked closely with local authority leaders and the police in North Wales and we all agree about the need to take swift action to control the spread of the virus.”

2020-09-29T17:06:58.400Z

Key worker who was forced to take 100-mile round trip including boarding a ferry to the Isle of Wight for a coronavirus test has described the system as a “mockery”

The NHS Covid-19 app has been sending residents in Hampshire and Surrey to the Isle of Wight test centre – while directing islanders to take the same trip in the opposite direction.

Martin Baker, a technical trainer who lives 50 miles away from the Isle of Wight, in Farnham, Surrey, said he developed a cough and fever on Tuesday morning.

Mr Baker, 49, drove to his workplace in Southampton to pick up key items from a distance so he would be able to isolate and continue his job from home, while also knowing there was a new test centre “200 metres away”.

But the NHS Covid-19 app told him the nearest site where tests were available was on the Isle of Wight.

The Department of Health has since confirmed the app directs users to test centres using their home postcode, not their current location – though the Southampton Airport test centre is located between Mr Baker’s hometown and the Isle of Wight.

2020-09-29T16:50:00.000Z

Government urged to introduce “Nightingale classes” and increase teaching staff after new figures suggested around one in six state secondary schools were unable to fully open last week

According to the Department for Education (DfE)’s latest school attendance statistics, approximately 84 per cent of state-funded secondary schools were fully open on September 24 – down from 92 per cent a week earlier.

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

The cause of schools not being fully open was “mostly due to Covid-19 related reasons”, the DfE said. As a result, attendance in state-funded secondary schools fell from approximately 86 per cent on September 17 to 84 per cent on September 24, the department said.

Meanwhile, attendance remained stable in fully open state-funded secondary schools at 87 per cent.

The DfE statistics also suggested that 99.8 per cent of state schools were open on September 24, with the small proportion that were shut being closed “mostly due to Covid-19 related reasons”.

State-funded schools are primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision. About 88 per cent of all children on roll in all state-funded schools were in attendance on September 24, the DfE said, adding that this figure has remained “broadly stable for three weeks”.

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2020-09-29T16:40:00.000Z

The weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in Burnley has risen above 300 per 100,000 people, new data shows

A total of 279 new cases were recorded in Burnley in the seven days to September 26 – the equivalent of 313.8 cases per 100,000, up sharply from 164.2 in the previous week (the seven days to September 19).

Burnley currently has the highest weekly rate in England.

Eight areas of England have weekly rates that are now between 200 and 300 cases per 100,000 people, including Liverpool (265.6), Newcastle upon Tyne (258.2) and Manchester (217.1).

All figures are based on Public Health England data published on Tuesday.

2020-09-29T16:25:00.000Z

Greece says emergency docking order for cruise ship can be lifted after coronavirus scare

Health inspectors in Greece say an emergency docking order for a cruise ship near Athens can be lifted after crew members suspected of being infected with Covid-19 tested negative.

The Maltese-flagged Mein Schiff 6, carrying more than 1,500 people, was rerouted from a Greek island cruise and ordered to sail to the port of Piraeus after sample testing of the crew indicated that 12 ship staff were positive for coronavirus but asymptomatic.

Gkikas Magiorkinis, a member of the government’s pandemic expert committee, said all 12 crew members tested negative on Tuesday, using rapid and confirmatory tests, along with 24 other people they had come into contact with.

“So there is now no concern over this particular cruise ship. We also tested surfaces on the ship and all surfaces tested are negative,” Mr Magiorkinis told reporters.

Officials at the Merchant Marine Ministry said the cruise ship will remain overnight in Piraeus, near the Greek capital.

The German cruise liner “Mein Schiff 6” (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

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