he Eat Out to Help Out scheme caused a “significant rise” in new Covid-19 infections, a new study has claimed, as cases continue to surge across the country.
A spike in the number of newly infected detected clusters was detected a week after the scheme began in August, according to researchers at the University of Warwick.
From Monday more than 11 million people in England – nearly a fifth of the population – will be living under the toughest coronavirus restrictions, after it was announced that West Yorkshire would move into Tier 3 measures.
Halloween: Can I go trick or treating?
It seems to depend on where you live.
The Scottish Government has explicitly advised against trick or treating, or guising, as it “brings an additional and avoidable risk of spreading the virus”.
Bobbing for apples, trick or treating, and sweet-sharing have all been strongly discouraged by Northern Ireland’s public health agency because “these are not safe practices this year, as they increase the risk of infection.”
And in Wales, October 31 falls during a 17-day national “firebreak” lockdown, meaning meeting people from other households, either indoors or outdoors, is outlawed.
Public Health England (PHE) has ventured little advice on traditional Halloween practices beyond encouraging people to “follow the rules in your local area to stay safe whilst having fun”.
“However you choose to celebrate Halloween this year, please remember to wash your hands, cover your face and make space”, said medical director Yvonne Doyle.
In Tier 1 medium alert areas, this seems to leave open the possibility of some door-to-door Halloween activities, as people can meet indoors and outdoors in groups of up to six.
In Tier 2 high alert level areas, you can meet people outdoors in groups of up to six – but households should not mix indoors, while in Tier 3 household mixing is effectively banned in most cases.
In the US, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has made a guide advising on making Halloween activities as safe as possible.
It advises bringing hand sanitiser with you if going out, using it before eating any treats, and avoiding direct contact with trick or treaters.
This includes wearing a mask, handing out sweets outdoors if possible, setting up a table with individually bagged treats, and washing your hands before preparing it all.
It said safer activities include a spooky family movie night, pumpkin carving within your own households, and a Halloween-themed outdoor scavenger hunt.
This graph tracks the rising number of cases being confirmed in England’s households
This graph tracks how cases have increased in England’s homes since August
National measures needed to drive down infection rates – scientists
Around 570,000 people per week are becoming infected with coronavirus across England, new figures show, as senior scientists warned that a national lockdown is now needed.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey found cases “continued to rise steeply” in the week ending October 23, with an estimated 568,100 people in households becoming infected.
Scientific advisers at the top of Government believe it is now too late for a two-week national circuit-breaker to have enough of an effect and a longer national lockdown is needed to drive the reproduction number, or R value, of the virus below one.
All parts of England are on course to eventually end up in Tier 3 restrictions, they believe, while deaths could potentially hit 500 per day within weeks.
Government scientists are also confident that more than 50,000 new cases of coronavirus are now occurring every day in England.
The latest figures are in
More than 60% of Brits support full national lockdown
Action needed to turn tide on virus ‘sooner rather than later’
Andy Street, the Conservative West Midlands mayor, said he was “not proposing” a national lockdown but added it was clear more action was needed “to turn the tide”.
He claimed that blanket England-wide measures had the “greater economic and social impacts”.
However, he said the differences between the best and worst infection case rate areas in the country were “equalising”.
He added: “There is evidence delay in the best areas is actually counter-productive.
“So, whether it be a national four-week lockdown, I do not know, but what I do know is that the message is very clear: we have to take further action to turn this tide, and sooner rather than later.”
Covid patients double in South Yorkshire
The number of Covid-19 patients in South Yorkshire hospitals is nearly double the peak of the first wave of the virus, according to Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis.
Mr Jarvis said: “Over recent weeks there has been a steady rise in the number of patients admitted to hospitals across South Yorkshire who have tested positive for Covid-19.
“There are now 700 people in hospital with the virus, approaching double the peak of 414 during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.”
Mr Jarvis, who is also Labour MP for Barnsley Central, said planning for a second wave meant hospitals are “currently coping” but he added: “The situation remains precarious and if Covid cases continue to rise and hospitalisations increase, we risk our hospitals and the people who work in them being overwhelmed. “
Birmingham council leader calls for national circuit-breaker lockdown
Birmingham City Council leader councillor Ian Ward has called for the Government to “immediately” impose a four-week national “circuit-breaker” lockdown.
The city had been widely mooted for a move to Tier 3 measures as soon as the end of next week because of rising infection rates.
Cllr Ward said: “The problem is the tier system just isn’t working.
“Areas in Tier 3 are still seeing rising cases.”
He added: “I am of the opinion England needs to follow France, Germany and Wales with a national circuit-breaker as quickly as possible.
“We must not repeat the mistake of last March in not moving soon enough.”
Welsh travel ban could exist post-lockdown
A travel ban preventing people in areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus from entering Wales could continue following the country’s firebreak lockdown, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
“I will want to study, over this weekend and into next week, the comparative incidence rates between Wales and parts of England which are under Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions,” Mr Drakeford said.
“The point of asking people in those places not to travel into Wales was because the rate of virus circulation in those places was so much more than it is here and I’m afraid there is still a significant gap between those places and Wales.
“If that remains the same, then we will expect to have a similar regime after November 9 as we had prior to October 23 because it just doesn’t make sense to add to the difficulties we already face by the virus being imported from elsewhere.”