Schools may have to close to older pupils to curb virus spread, Prof Ferguson warns

Georgina Hayes
·62-min read
Older teenagers are able to transmit the virus as adults, Prof Ferguson said - Getty Images Europe
Older teenagers are able to transmit the virus as adults, Prof Ferguson said - Getty Images Europe
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Ministers may be forced to close schools to older children if coronavirus cases continue to increase at the current rate, a scientist has warned.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said the NHS would soon be unable to cope unless the spread of the disease was stemmed.

He said there were currently 8,000 people in hospital with coronavirus - around a third of the peak earlier this year - and that if the rate of growth continues as it is then in a month's time there will be more hospitalisations than in the peak during March.

"We are in a critical time right now. The health system will not be able to cope with this rate of growth for much longer," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Prof Ferguson said it would be another week or two before it became clear whether the stricter measures would have an impact on case numbers, and added that restrictions on households mixing may not be enough.

"If we go beyond that there is a limit to what we can do in terms of reducing contacts, short of starting to target, for instance, the older years in schools and sixth form colleges where we know older teenagers are able to transmit as adults.

"Of course, nobody wants to start moving to virtual education and closing schools even partially. The challenge may be that we are not able to get on top of the transmission otherwise."

04:27 PM

Today's top stories

Good evening. If you're just joining us, here are some of the top stories from around the world today:

  • Cases of Covid-19 in the UK are up by 23,012 as of 9am this morning.

  • More than a third of people say they will struggle to abide by Covid-19 restrictions if there is no sign of a vaccine in the next year, according to a poll.

  • Opposition leader Paul Davies has written to the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Parliament calling for members to be recalled to discuss the controversial ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items. A petition against the rule has already received over 17,000 signatures online as of this afternoon.

  • Armed police officers have dispersed large crowds of anti-lockdown protesters at Trafalgar Square following a march through central London.

  • School children are being denied access to water and toilet facilities, made to sit in cold classrooms and eat lunch standing outside, ministers have been told. The "basic welfare" of pupils is being overlooked by "overzealous" teachers who are taking measures which they believe will mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission, according to the parent campaign group Us For Them.

  • Three of the north of England’s most senior bishops have mounted a hard-hitting attack on the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, warning they risk creating a deep national divide and stoking “disillusion and unrest” amongst younger people.

  • Hundreds of protesters in Naples threw projectiles at police and set rubbish bins on fire late on Friday during a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions in the southern Italian city.

  • Italy has reported a new daily record of 19,644 new coronavirus infections as the government looked towards further measures to limit the surge in cases.

  • Joe Biden has promised to ensure that a vaccine will be made freely available to everyone as part of his plan to fight the virus.

  • The Czech Republic reported 15,252 new cases for 23 October, the highest daily tally. Deaths also rose by 126 to 1,971 in the country currently at the centre of Europe's biggest surge in cases.

04:13 PM

UK cases up by 23,012

The Government said that, as of 9am today, there had been a further 23,012 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 854,010.

Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - Cases default

04:11 PM

Italy reports record 19,644 daily cases

Italy has reported a new daily record of 19,644 new coronavirus infections as the government looked towards further measures to limit the surge in cases.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said he wants to avoid a nationwide lockdown like the one during spring. Several regions have imposed overnight curfews.

It follows clashes between protesters and police in Naples late on Friday night after a nighttime curfew was ordered in the Campania region.

04:05 PM

Opposition leader calls for Welsh Parliament to be recalled to discuss non-essential item ban

Opposition leader Paul Davies has written to the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Parliament calling for members to be recalled to discuss the ban.

In a statement alongside the letter, Mr Davies said: "It is madness that people have been banned from buying books, bins and baby clothes in local shops.

"The Welsh Labour-led Government may not think these items are essential, but many will beg to differ.

"The Wales-wide lockdown is disproportionate, unnecessary and biting our economy hard. I'd rather see people being able to buy items in shops in their communities that provide employment to local people than see millions spent at online internet giants."

A petition calling on the Welsh Government to allow supermarkets to sell non-essential items had received more than 17,000 signatures by this afternoon.

He said the petition is a "clear sign" that people want the rule to be "scrapped immediately and the Welsh Parliament must meet to resolve this matter as soon as possible".

Wales entered a national lockdown on Friday evening which will remain in place until November 9 - Getty Images Europe
Wales entered a national lockdown on Friday evening which will remain in place until November 9 - Getty Images Europe

04:01 PM

Welsh Government defends non-essential item supermarket ban

The Welsh Government has defended its ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items.

It tweeted on Saturday: "Supermarkets can keep selling items you can find in other essential shops - such as stationery/greeting cards.

"The purpose of selling essential items only during firebreak is to discourage spending more time than necessary in shops and to be fair to retailers who have to close.

"This is not for the sake of being difficult - we need to do everything we can to minimise the time we spend outside our homes. This will help save lives and protect the NHS."

03:58 PM

Spain braces for national emergency to allow curfews

Spain is bracing for a new national state of emergency to allow the imposition of curfews as its regions pushed for action to slow surging virus cases.

In the face of growing calls for a legal framework to allow regional chiefs to impose tougher restrictions, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's cabinet is to hold a special meeting on Sunday to decide on the matter.

The calls came just days after Spain registered more than one million virus cases, becoming the sixth country in the world to pass the grim milestone - and the first in the European Union.

So far, nine of Spain's 17 autonomous regions have formally requested that the government declare a national state of emergency which would enable them to impose a curfew - a measure increasingly applied across Europe.

Spain used such powers in the spring to enforce one of the world's tightest lockdowns, and a similar measure has been in force in Madrid for the past fortnight - although only to impose movement restrictions on the capital and various nearby towns.

03:54 PM

Pub owner 'fears for the future' after using house deposit to keep business going during yoyo year

In nearly two decades of working in pubs, Tom West has never found life as tough as it is now.

His family business survived the smoking ban of 2007 and the financial crisis of 2008, and he made a success of striking out on his own, taking over three establishments in the last eight years.

But now, even after ploughing in thousands of pounds he was saving for a house deposit, the future is still uncertain and the footfall is continuing to drop.

Speaking from his home in north Essex, the recently engaged Mr West says he is “fearful and frustrated,” and trying to navigate the myriad of new rules and regulations.

The 36-year-old’s business ventures fall under a difficult loophole.

Jamie Johnson has more here. 

Tom West runs pubs in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas and is 'frustrated' by the myriad of rules and regulations - Jeff Gilbert
Tom West runs pubs in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas and is 'frustrated' by the myriad of rules and regulations - Jeff Gilbert

03:46 PM

Armed police disperse anti-lockdown protest

Armed police officers have dispersed large crowds of anti-lockdown protesters at Trafalgar Square following a march through central London.

Demonstrators called for an end to the "tyranny" of pandemic restrictions and voiced their opposition to vaccines and paedophilia, playing Michael Jackson's greatest hits via a PA system as they marched.

At least two people were led away in handcuffs by officers at Trafalgar Square, and Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, also attended the protest.

The protesters in Trafalgar Square - PA
The protesters in Trafalgar Square - PA

03:36 PM

Not every charity can be saved, government minister admits as one in ten say they may close

Not every charity can be saved, a government minister has admitted as analysis found that one in ten could face closure.

Two in five voluntary sector groups have reported increasing financial difficulties due to coronavirus, and over half of charities (56 per cent)  say they are expecting an increase in demand for their services over the next month as the impact of local and regional lockdowns becomes more apparent.

Baroness Barran, the minister for civil society, admitted that some charities may be forced to close.

She told the Radio Four Today Programme: "I am absolutely worried, and as you may know I used to run a charity myself so I have walked in those shoes knowing how difficult it is to raise money at times, but obviously its doubly worrying at the moment because the services charities provides are so needed and demand has gone up as the same time their income has come under pressure.

"We really have done everything we can to support the sector this year, we won't sadly be able to save every organisation. 2021 will be a challenging year for the sector and the government is drawing up plans to finalise how we can support the sector going forwards."

Helena Horton has more here. 

03:18 PM

‘Pregnant, jobless and evicted: I missed out on furlough by two days and it ruined my life'

Single, heavily pregnant and recently served with an eviction notice: if anyone had told 31-year-old Emma Kiernan how her life would be turned upside down in the space of six months she would never have believed them.

The mother-to-be was made redundant in March after she missed the cut-off date for the furlough scheme by two days. She had only just been hired as a legal secretary, which meant she was not on the PAYE roll by Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s furlough deadline.

Ms Kiernan was one of the hundreds of thousands to fall between the cracks of the Government’s support schemes, sending her life into a tailspin.

She said a JobCentre Plus worker told her she could not receive Universal Credit as the business degree she was undertaking part-time in her evenings made her a student. However, Turn2us, a charity, said she was given wrong information and part-time students were eligible to claim.

Ms Kiernan unenrolled from her course to be able to access the benefits. It took three months, during which time she received no income. She had paid £9,000 in tuition fees but left with no refund and no degree. She soon fell behind on rent and bills.

Jessica Beard has more here. 

03:13 PM

Colombia set to surpass one million infections

Colombia is set to surpass one million infections today, becoming the eighth country globally to do so.

As scientists around the world race to find a coronavirus inoculation, Colombia says it is ready to distribute any vaccine which proves effective.

Its preparedness is thanks to decades of work on a free government immunization program which offers 21 vaccines to everyone in the South American nation - among the region’s most generous for vaccine provision.

“We have a really strong vaccination program that serves as a model and which will incorporate the new formula that will arrive against Covid,” Gerardo Burgos, secretary-general of the health ministry, told Reuters.

The program covers not just Colombia’s own population of about 50 million people but also more than 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants and includes everything from infant shots to human papillomavirus. The country distributes about 23 million doses per year.

02:58 PM

Petition challenges ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items in Wales

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to reverse a ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items during the firebreak lockdown in Wales.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the restriction was a "matter of fairness" as non-essential retail has to close during the two-week period, which began at 6pm on Friday and will last until November 9.

Guidance published by the Welsh Government says certain sections of supermarkets must be "cordoned off or emptied, and closed to the public".

A petition calling on the Welsh Government to allow supermarkets to sell non-essential items had received more than 17,000 signatures by this afternoon.

"We do not agree that this is a prudent or rational measure, and will create more harm than good," the petition states.

"We do not agree for example that parents should be barred from buying clothes for their children during lockdown while out shopping.

"This is disproportionate and cruel and we ask that the decision be reversed immediately."

Non-essential items are sealed off in a Tesco store in Pengam Green - Getty Images Europe
Non-essential items are sealed off in a Tesco store in Pengam Green - Getty Images Europe

02:43 PM

Japanese animated film smashes box office despite Covid

While cinemas around the world have been shut down for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, an animated Japanese movie is playing to full houses and is shattering domestic box office records. 

The film, “Demon Slayer: Mugen Train”, is based on a best-selling manga and its release had been eagerly awaited by fans as well as a movie industry keen to get people back into cinemas. 

The response, however, has come as something of a surprise - particularly given that the coronavirus is still very much on people’s minds. 

More than 3.4 million people - almost 3 per cent of the entire population of Japan - braved the possibility of being exposed to the virus over the opening weekend of the film. It took £33.78 million at the box office in its first three days, far beyond expectations, and more than double the previous record, for “Frozen 2”. 

Julian Ryall has more here. 

Those figures made it the biggest movie opening in the world last weekend, although the competition is thin at the moment as Hollywood studios continue to push back the release of their big-budget titles - Kyodo News
Those figures made it the biggest movie opening in the world last weekend, although the competition is thin at the moment as Hollywood studios continue to push back the release of their big-budget titles - Kyodo News

02:29 PM

Misery of the Covid-19 long-haulers: ‘We’re all guinea pigs, we don’t know what’s around the corner’

As science scrambles to make sense of Long Covid, its life-shattering consequences are only just being heard, writes Clare Thorp.

It has a plethora of symptoms, strikes the young and old, and lasts for months – maybe much longer. It’s also so new that scientists aren’t sure what they’re dealing with. For those whose lives have been deeply affected by long-term repercussions of Covid, the battle to be recognised is just the start...

When Rob Sanders developed a cough in the middle of March, he immediately thought the worst. A week earlier, he’d cut short a five-week trip to New York – a 50th birthday present to himself – after just five days, as the city became a coronavirus hotspot.

Soon, he also had shortness of breath and pain in his upper chest. Though Sanders was relatively fit and healthy – a gym-goer who rarely drank, never smoked and had a healthy BMI – he had diabetes, which had been flagged as a risk factor.

He also had first-hand experience of how serious the virus could be – his mother-in-law was already seriously ill with it at the time, in a nursing home, and would later die. "I was really petrified," he says. "As soon as I got ill, I updated my will, I transferred all my life savings into our joint bank account."

Read more here. 

02:15 PM

Watch: Concerns grow over impact on small businesses as 'firebreak' lockdown begins

02:02 PM

Schools may have to close to older pupils to curb virus spread, Prof Ferguson warns

Ministers may be forced to close schools to older children if coronavirus cases continue to increase at the current rate, a scientist has warned.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said the NHS would soon be unable to cope unless the spread of the disease was stemmed.

He said there were currently 8,000 people in hospital with coronavirus - around a third of the peak earlier this year - and that if the rate of growth continues as it is then in a month's time there will be more hospitalisations than in the peak during March.

"We are in a critical time right now. The health system will not be able to cope with this rate of growth for much longer," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Prof Ferguson said it would be another week or two before it became clear whether the stricter measures would have an impact on case numbers, and added that restrictions on households mixing may not be enough.

"If we go beyond that there is a limit to what we can do in terms of reducing contacts, short of starting to target, for instance, the older years in schools and sixth form colleges where we know older teenagers are able to transmit as adults.

"Of course, nobody wants to start moving to virtual education and closing schools even partially. The challenge may be that we are not able to get on top of the transmission otherwise."

01:58 PM

Comment: Government scientists have blown apart their own case for lockdown

The admission that even a vaccine won’t end this doom-loop ought to lead to a change of approach, writes Janet Daley.

Sir Patrick Vallance, who has until now been an avowed purveyor of the official Government doctrine that finding a vaccine will be the ultimate solution to the problem of Covid, made a statement to a Commons committee which blew that idea out of the water.

Appearing before the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy, the Chief Scientific Officer asserted that the notion “of eliminating Covid is not right”. Even if a vaccine was available by the spring, it “would not wipe out the virus” which would, in fact, become endemic in Britain. We will simply have to live with this disease, he said, and learn to manage it in the best possible way.

Excuse me? What are we arguing about then? As I understood it, the experts who were demanding repeated lockdowns of varying degrees in ever more numerous locations were basing their entire case on the promise of eventual deliverance by a vaccine.

When those of us who were protesting against these measures claimed that they were, in the literal sense of the word, inhuman, we were assured that they must persist Until We Have a Vaccine. Any case that was put forward for managing the virus in ways that did not involve the shutdown of life as we knew it was dismissed outright and, indeed, caricatured in outlandish terms, as if everyone opposed to lockdown was a callous fanatic.

Read the full piece here. 

01:48 PM

Thousands of anti-lockdown protesters descend on London

Thousands of anti-lockdown protesters are currently demonstrating in central London.

Louise Creffield, the founder of Save Our Rights UK, one of the groups behind the protest, told the crowd: “Today we are standing in our power and we are not abiding by their rules.

“It doesn’t matter what they say, it doesn’t matter what threats they bring, it doesn’t matter if they try and intimidate us, we are not going to accept it, because we don’t abide by their rules. We don’t listen because we do not consent.”

Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was in attendance and urged demonstrators to “stop new normal, save lives.”

01:46 PM

Wales: Cases up by 1,324 with 16 further deaths

A further 1,324 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 41,577.

Public Health Wales said 16 people with Covid-19 had died, with the total number of deaths in the pandemic rising to 1,772.

01:41 PM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

Eddie Izzard joins a large gathering of street performers in aid of a campaign that Westminster council are doing to try and make it harder to busk. On November 3, Westminster votes on passing their draconian busker crackdown into law - Paul Grover
Eddie Izzard joins a large gathering of street performers in aid of a campaign that Westminster council are doing to try and make it harder to busk. On November 3, Westminster votes on passing their draconian busker crackdown into law - Paul Grover
Police check stores still open after curfew in Marseille, France  - Getty Images Europe
Police check stores still open after curfew in Marseille, France - Getty Images Europe
A barman closes his establishment at 9pm as part of a city-wide night time curfew in Paris - Shutterstock
A barman closes his establishment at 9pm as part of a city-wide night time curfew in Paris - Shutterstock
An employee of a Rio funeral home wraps a casket containing the body of a person that died from Covid-19 - Reuters
An employee of a Rio funeral home wraps a casket containing the body of a person that died from Covid-19 - Reuters
Employees of the funeral home undergo sanitization after removing the body of a woman that died from the virus - Reuters
Employees of the funeral home undergo sanitization after removing the body of a woman that died from the virus - Reuters

01:28 PM

Iran's Supreme Leader calls for strict punishments for Covid rule breakers

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for strict punishments for violators of Covid-19 restrictions as the Middle East’s hardest-hit nation battled the third wave.

Latest officials figures showed virus-related deaths in Iran at 32,320 with infections at 562,705. There were 5,814 new cases and 335 fatalities in the previous 24 hours.

Taking a swipe at arch-foe the United States, Khamenei said Iran must enforce curbs better and end disputes between institutions over the pandemic.

01:17 PM

Organiser hit with £10,000 fine after 50-person party

The organiser of a party attended by more than 50 people has been handed a £10,000 fine for a "blatant disregard" of Covid-19 regulations.

Police were called to a flat in Simpson Street, Angel Meadows, Manchester, shortly after 11.20pm on Friday.

DJ mixing decks, industrial speakers and a buffet were found by officers, with around 50 people in attendance, Greater Manchester Police said.

The force said the party was closed down and the organiser given a £10,000 fixed penalty notice for breaching coronavirus legislation - one of the first issued since Greater Manchester entered Tier 3 restrictions.

GMP said 52 fines, for a range of rule breaches and of varying amounts, have been handed out since the area's new alert status came into force on Friday.

01:01 PM

Video emerges allegedly showing Barbarians squad out drinking before aborted match against England

Video footage has emerged on Twitter allegedly showing members of the Barbarians squad out drinking this week, an incident which resulted in Sunday's match between England and the invitational side being cancelled due to a breach of the Barbarians Covid-19 bubble.

Former England captain Chris Robshaw, Saracens lock Tim Swinson and Scotland wing Sean Maitland are among the group of at least 10 players seen drinking in the video. The alleged location is the Running Horse pub in Mayfair, Telegraph Sport understands, a 10-minute walk from the team's base at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House hotel. It is unclear whether the video footage is from the first or second breach of the Barbarians' Covid-19 bubble.

The Rugby Football Union announced on Friday that the game between England and the Barbarians was off after learning of the second breach. The RFU are currently investigating the video and made no comment on the matter on Saturday.

Ben Coles has more here. 

12:40 PM

The drug industry gets behind Fauci

A coalition of biotechnology company CEOs joined forces this week to defend the US Government's top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, who was assailed by President Donald Trump during campaign events.

“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong,” Trump said in a call intended to bolster morale among his campaign staff. The comments have fueled concerns that the president continues to undermine guidance from career scientists.

Bloomberg reports that in response, the chiefs of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Ovid Therapeutics and Global Blood Therapeutics, among others, expressed support for the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who they say has been subject to "politically motivated attacks.”

Writing in a letter published in the medical journal Nature Biotechnology on Thursday, the executives expressed worry that the US's foremost health agencies had also become political targets.

"Not only are these attacks completely unjustified, they risk intimidating and demoralizing the very people we all are relying on to help end the Covid-19 nightmare," the letter said. "As such, they are irresponsible and a pose danger to us all."

12:31 PM

Sunak has averted a Hallowe’en jobs scare, but other horrors are looming

"Good things come in small packages,” said one Tory backbencher as 5ft 6in Rishi Sunak unveiled his third economic support package in less than a month.

“My right honourable friend might be small, but he has delivered a huge package of job-saving, business-boosting support,” gushed Matt Vickers, the MP for Stockton South, on Thursday.

The Chancellor will hope his latest fiscal bazooka – to many a belated volte-face – can power the economy through a bleak winter, but forecasters warn the risk of a damaging double dip recession is rising fast.

The latest, and perhaps not final, draft of the Chancellor’s winter package beefed up measures aiming to prevent a Hallowe'en jobs bloodbath when the furlough scheme ends next Saturday. But is Sunak helpless to prevent a second Covid scare for the economy?

Tom Rees has the full analysis here.

12:15 PM

Comment: Why hasn’t there been a rescue package for the mental health crisis?

The Government will spend hundreds of millions to prop up the economy yet they only spend a fraction of that on wellbeing, writes Bryony Gordon.

As it stands, not much has since I started writing about my own experiences of mental illness back in 2014. The conversation about mental health may have got bigger – and thank goodness for that – but the funding has not. If anything, the situation has only worsened.

I wanted to write about something else this week – half term, perhaps – but I read too many reports of suicides that took place during lockdown to turn my gaze elsewhere. Let me be clear here: there is never one single factor that causes someone to take their own life, and it would be dangerous for me to simplify someone’s death by suicide by blaming it on the pandemic. But if mental health services were stretched before this year’s events, and they absolutely were, they have now gone beyond breaking point. 

Those in power speak often of the need for us to look out for one another during these tough times. But all the platitudes in the world cannot make up for a mental health system that is being paid for almost entirely by government lip service. To those in power, who can well afford the best private psychiatrist care available, the subject of mental health seems to be one of those fads they wish would go away. But for many people in Britain, it is literally a matter of life and death.

Read the full piece here. 

In numbers: how Covid-19 has impacted NHS treatment
In numbers: how Covid-19 has impacted NHS treatment

12:03 PM

Confused about the rules in your area?

If you aren't quite sure about what the rules are in your area, our reporters have put together some handy explainers that will answer all your questions:

11:51 AM

US coronavirus cases hit record high as Donald Trump promises to 'quickly end' the pandemic

A record daily high of coronavirus cases was reached in the United States on Friday while President Donald Trump was on the campaign trail promising voters a quick end to the pandemic.  

Nearly 80,000 new Covid-19 infections over the course of a day were reported, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, with 79,963 infections recorded between 8.30 pm Thursday and the same time Friday.

The pandemic has killed more than 224,000 and nearly 8.5 million cases have been recorded in the US.  It has also cost millions more their jobs and has become the dominant issue of the presidential campaign, with Mr Trump on the defensive over his administration's handling of the crisis.

Mr Trump told supporters in Florida that the pandemic would end soon and accused Democratic rival Joe Biden of overstating the health crisis to scare Americans into voting for him.

Meanwhile, Biden has promised to ensure that a vaccine will be made freely available to everyone as part of his plan to fight the virus.

Read more here. 

11:39 AM

Spain's regions urge government to impose state of emergency to allow curfews

Spanish regions are urging the central government to take measures that would give them legal backing to impose curfews as the country battles a resurgent coronavirus epidemic.

As of today, 10 of Spain's 17 regions, including Valencia, Asturias, Castilla-La Mancha and the Basque Country, had called on the government to decree a state of emergency, which would allow regions to limit people's movement.

Regions expect the government to call an extraordinary Council of Ministers on Sunday to approve the measure, Spanish media including El Pais reported.

While many regions favour some form of curfew, the powerful Madrid region opposes it, which has so far prevented a nationwide decision.

Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Spain Spotlight Chart - Cases default

11:29 AM

Bishops warn Boris Johnson against worsening the north-south divide over Covid-19

Three of the north of England’s most senior bishops have mounted a hard hitting attack on the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, warning they risk creating a deep national divide and stoking “disillusion and unrest” amongst younger people.

The churchmen, headed by the newly-enthroned Archbishop of York, warn that the social consequences of the way restrictions are being imposed on the North could be “more dangerous and de-stabilising” than the virus itself.

Writing in The Yorkshire Post, the Bishops of York, Manchester and Leeds urge Ministers to respect and work with regional leaders, or risk seeing social “cohesion disintegrate”.

Their intervention comes at the end of a week which has seen a bitter stand-off between Downing Street and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham over inadequate financial support for affected areas, forcing a defensive Prime Minister to say he was “not at war with the North”.

Patrick Sawer has more here.

 

11:21 AM

More than a third will struggle to abide by Covid restrictions if no vaccine in next year - poll

More than a third of people say they will struggle to abide by Covid-19 restrictions if there is no sign of a vaccine in the next year.

A poll by ORB International found that 35 per cent of people would find it difficult to follow social distancing rules if no vaccine becomes available for 12 months - with the figure rising to 44 per cent among 18-24 year olds and 47 per cent among those aged between 25 and 34.

Ministers have said that an effective vaccine is the best hope to combat coronavirus, with several candidates currently undergoing clinical trials. But the poll suggests that public adherence to government restrictions could slip further if a vaccine fails to appear in the coming months. 

The survey of 2,082 adults also found that 38 per cent of people report that they or members of their household are having problems coping mentally with the current restrictions - with the figure rising to 53 per cent among 18-24 year olds.

Edward Malnick has more here

11:10 AM

Comment: Poor Wales. This must be the most ridiculous lockdown rule yet

Politicians have no business interfering with people’s shopping lists... and their absurd plan is bound to backfire, writes Michael Deacon.

At first I couldn’t believe what I was reading. There had to be some mistake. The headline on the BBC website was bizarre. “Wales Lockdown,” it read. “Supermarkets Told to Sell Only Essential Items.”

I stared at the screen. Only allowed to sell essential items? Why? And what exactly were “non-essential” items? And how, in practice, could their sale be banned? Perhaps, before you were permitted to approach the checkout, a government official would root through your trolley, passing judgment on your intended purchases.

A disturbing thought. Then, however, I read the story. It turned out that, in reality, the Welsh Government had not recruited an army of trolley inspectors or basket police.

What it was doing, however, was no less bonkers. It was banning supermarkets from stocking “non-essential” items in the first place. For example: microwaves, hairdryers, birthday cards, books... and even clothes.

Read the full piece here. 

A view shows empty shelves in a supermarket during the first evening of the Welsh lockdown - Reuters
A view shows empty shelves in a supermarket during the first evening of the Welsh lockdown - Reuters
A notice informing customers of the ban on sales of non-essential products in a Morrison's store in Cardiff Bay, Wales - PA
A notice informing customers of the ban on sales of non-essential products in a Morrison's store in Cardiff Bay, Wales - PA
Pengam Green, Wales - PA
Pengam Green, Wales - PA

11:01 AM

The UK's Covid travel policy is blunt, inflexible – and could be doing more harm than good

In case you missed it earlier in the week, fresh analysis of the modelling that underpins the government's rigid quarantine policy makes a powerful case for change.

While more than 30 countries, including Germany and Italy, have made use of tests to avoid or shorten the period of quarantine for international arrivals, Britain has stuck rigidly with a policy of 14 days quarantine for anyone arriving from a high-risk destination. 

As things stand, that is much of the rest of the world, with the list of open “travel corridors” shrinking almost daily.

The UK policy is blunt and inflexible, and – with compliance estimated by some surveys at just 20 per cent – is almost certainly doing considerably more harm than good.

The new analysis is not independent (it was commissioned by a consortium of airlines, airports and industry organisations) but it has been conducted by reputable firms and academics and should be treated seriously.

It unpicks the modelling in the three principal pieces of research which underpin the government’s policy, unearthing “significant methodological concerns” and pointing up several glaring inconsistencies and oversights in the wider policy.

Paul Nuki has more here. 

10:51 AM

How our love lives will look in Lockdown 2.0

Six people share their experiences of Covid coupledom – and what they’ll do differently during a second wave.

"I moved in with Andy almost five years ago – and rather than just shifting furniture down the road, it meant a move 300 miles north, away from my family and friends, to his tiny cottage in the rural wilds of the West Highlands," says Flic Everett, 50.

"We both work from home, and even before lockdown, weeks could go by when we’d barely see anyone else. I coped by going back to Manchester regularly, to see my other loved ones, and planning lunches and dinners with new friends up here. Then lockdown happened, and there were no trips or visits on the horizon for the foreseeable. 

"Andy was shielded, due to a compromised immune system, and all the holiday bookings at the rental house he runs were cancelled, so we moved up the farm track to stay there.

"Every day I’d work, he’d take the dogs for long walks, and every night we’d chat over dinner or watch a Netflix series. Aside from the Sunday night Zoom quiz, we saw nobody else, for months. I was stressed about my parents’ safety, I missed my grown-up son desperately, Andy was worried sick about his business – but we consoled and amused each other through the toughest bits."

Read more stories here

10:39 AM

Tories accused over free school meals remarks as Rashford praises local response

Footballer Marcus Rashford has praised local communities for stepping in to provide free meals to children during the school holidays - but some Tory MPs have been accused over controversial comments on the subject.

But Tory MP for North Devon Selaine Saxby sparked anger after comments on local businesses giving free food away.

A screenshot of a since-removed post in her name on Facebook said: "I am delighted our local businesses have bounced back so much after lockdown they are able to give away food for free, and very much hope they will not be seeking any further government support."

The MP later claimed her comments were "out of context" and added: "I of course deeply regret any offence which may have been caused."

Her party colleague Ben Bradley also said a tweet he sent, which prompted accusations that he was stigmatising working class families, was "totally taken out of context".

There has been a call for an apology after the MP for Mansfield replied to a tweet in which another user described the free school meals programme as "£20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel", with the Tory writing: "That's what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did..."

10:23 AM

Some schools see access to laptops 'slashed' after Government changes approach

Access to Government-provided laptops has been "slashed" for some schools after a change in approach to focus orders on areas where pupils are more likely to be self-isolating, a headteacher has said.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it had bought an additional 96,000 devices for schools but was "updating our allocation process" amid "significant global demand".

Michael Tidd, headteacher at East Preston Junior School in Sussex, said it received an email on Friday night, just before the start of half-term, saying its expected allocation of laptops had been cut from 17 to three.

The notification came the day after a new legal duty on schools to provide immediate access to remote learning to pupils who are at home because of Covid-19 came into force.

Headteachers' unions previously described the legal direction as "unnecessary" and unhelpful at a time when schools are under pressure due to a rising number of coronavirus cases.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning, Mr Tidd said: "For us, actually, we don't have huge levels of deprivation at our school, but we were expecting to have 17 laptops available to us and as of yesterday, that's been reduced to three."

The timing of the changes to laptop allocation numbers "beggars belief", school leaders' union NAHT said.

10:10 AM

Comment: Fans sitting in cinemas but not stands is an absurdity

The Government prioritising optics over consistency is putting football clubs further down the leagues at risk, writes James Ducker.

There could be no greater symbol of Government inconsistencies around their continuing refusal to allow football fans back into grounds than the perverse situation which unfolded in London’s East End on Saturday. 

Apparently, it was not safe to watch West Ham United play Manchester City in the outdoor, 60,000 capacity London Stadium but it was fine to view the game in a darkened room at an indoor cinema 1,100 metres away at the Westfield Stratford centre.

Fine, too, it seems, for the former Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, to hold a Q&A at a packed London Palladium as he promotes a new autobiography but not for supporters of stricken League One and Two clubs to turn up in limited numbers on a matchday.

“This vividly illustrates the utter nonsense of the situation,” said an exasperated Lord Pendry, president of the Football Federation, doubtless to nods of agreement up and down the country from fans who, truth be told, have long been accustomed to the powers that be sticking up two fingers in their direction.

Read the full piece here. 

09:57 AM

Hundreds of protesters clash with police over coronavirus restrictions in Naples

Hundreds of protesters in Naples threw projectiles at police and set rubbish bins on fire late on Friday during a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions in the southern Italian city.

Calls were issued on social media to challenge a curfew that took effect in the Campania region ahead of the weekend, enacted in response to a spiralling second wave of infections that saw nearly 20,000 new cases detected in the last 24 hours.

A mostly young crowd marched through the streets of the regional capital and chanted as the curfew started at 11pm, with some lighting smoke bombs.

One carried a makeshift sign that read: "If you close, you pay."

Read more here

09:47 AM

Three ways to make your relationship thrive in lockdown

There are simple techniques to make things stronger but if you get off on the wrong foot you could head down the wrong path, writes Linda Blair. 

Why is it that when we need each other more than ever, some couples have thrived while others have floundered? The answer is simple: communication and attribution.

According to relationship expert John Gottman, who filmed 130 newlywed couples while they attempted to resolve an ongoing disagreement, those who begin conversations on a negative note, who reject attempts by the other person to de-escalate the tension between them, and who invoke what he calls “the four horsemen” – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling – will only put further stress on their relationship.

Couples who set aside regular times to listen nonjudgmentally to one another, who offer compliments and look for compromise, will thrive.

The other key predictor is attribution. Couples who blame one another when things go wrong will create distance and fuel distrust. Those who instead take responsibility and try to resolve a problem, will remain close.   

Read more about how to strengthen your bond during a second lockdown here

09:36 AM

Coronavirus around the world, in pictures

The Choir of St John's College, Cambridge as they rehearse ahead of evensong in St John's College Chapel, which fell silent for 207 days during the coronavirus lockdown - PA
The Choir of St John's College, Cambridge as they rehearse ahead of evensong in St John's College Chapel, which fell silent for 207 days during the coronavirus lockdown - PA
A health worker puts on personal protective equipment in the intensive care unit at the Ambroise Pare Clinic in Paris, France amid a resurgence of the virus - Bloomberg
A health worker puts on personal protective equipment in the intensive care unit at the Ambroise Pare Clinic in Paris, France amid a resurgence of the virus - Bloomberg
Chinese soldiers from the People's Liberation Army wear protective masks as they line up after a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of China's entry into the Korean War - Getty Images Asia
Chinese soldiers from the People's Liberation Army wear protective masks as they line up after a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of China's entry into the Korean War - Getty Images Asia
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden during a visit to the Design Museum, London, ahead of an announcement of the latest round of grants from the Culture Recovery Fund. The museum will be receiving a GBP 3 million grant - PA
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden during a visit to the Design Museum, London, ahead of an announcement of the latest round of grants from the Culture Recovery Fund. The museum will be receiving a GBP 3 million grant - PA
A man checks his mobile phone as he sits amid physical distancing markers prior to the start of a movie at CGV Cinemas theater in Jakarta, Indonesia - AP
A man checks his mobile phone as he sits amid physical distancing markers prior to the start of a movie at CGV Cinemas theater in Jakarta, Indonesia - AP

09:30 AM

Firebreak 'gives people best chance of seeing each other at Christmas'

Wales' firebreak lockdown will give people the "best chance" of seeing each other over Christmas, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.

The two-week series of measures, which include a ban on the sale of non-essential goods in shops allowed to remain open, came into force at 6pm on Friday and will last until November 9.

People can only leave their home for limited reasons, such as to buy food and medicine, provide care or take exercise, and they must work from home where possible.

On Saturday, Mr Gething told BBC Breakfast that scientists believed the lockdown would reduce the R value - the number of people each coronavirus case infects - to below one.

When asked about what Christmas would look like for families, Mr Gething told BBC Breakfast that he could not provide "certainty".

"We want to be able to get to Christmas with people able to see each other, but we have to look at where we are with the virus, how we're behaving in Wales, whether we're able to effectively suppress it after the firebreak.

"This gives us the best chance of doing that, but if I were to tell you what Christmas looks like today then I'd be making it up, I'd be giving people false hope, and that's absolutely what we should not be doing."

09:25 AM

Lockdown for over-60s discussed but dismissed, Sage paper shows

A strict lockdown for the over-60s was considered by Government scientists to allow Covid immunity to build up in the younger population but was dismissed as unworkable, a Sage paper reveals.  

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government's chief scientific adviser, asked experts to put together an advice document about the feasibility of letting the virus run rampant while shielding older people.

Such a plan has been backed by thousands of clinicians and scientists worldwide who have signed the Great Barrington declaration, which asks governments to allow herd immunity to build while protecting the most vulnerable.

However, Sage concluded that the plan was unfeasible and warned that locking away the over-60s for many months would have a negative impact on their lives as well as "substantial" legal and ethical ramifications.

Sarah Knapton has more here

09:14 AM

Watch: Joe Biden promises free Covid-19 vaccine for everyone under plan to fight virus

09:08 AM

Prof Ferguson: Restrictions being relaxed on Christmas a 'political decision'

Professor Neil Ferguson said it will be a "political judgment" whether restrictions on households mixing should be relaxed over Christmas.

"It risks some transmission and there will be consequences of that. Some people will die because of getting infected on that day," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"But if it is only one or two days the impact is likely to be limited. So that is really a political judgment about the cost versus the benefits."

​Read more: Boris Johnson 'hopeful' that families will be able to celebrate Christmas together

09:00 AM

Czech Republic records highest daily case tally

The Czech Republic reported 15,252 new cases for 23 October, the highest daily tally. Deaths rose by 126 to 1,971.

The country is currently the centre of Europe's biggest surge in new Covid cases, and the prime minister Andrej Babis said he regretted ruling out tougher lockdown measures earlier.

“I apologise even for the fact that I ruled out this option (lockdown measures) in the past because I was not able to imagine it might happen,” he said. 

08:54 AM

School children are being denied access to water and toilets, ministers told

School children are being denied access to water and toilet facilities, made to sit in cold classrooms and eat lunch standing outside, ministers have been told.

The "basic welfare" of pupils is being overlooked by "overzealous" teachers who are taking measures which they believe will mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission, according to the parent campaign group Us For Them.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, schools minister and children's minister, the group reported: "Some of the cases we are seeing are extreme and many involve alarming issues of child welfare and safeguarding.

"Many children are faced with an array of measures which are disproportionate both individually and which together add up to a regime which is deeply concerning".

Molly Kingsley, co-founder of Us For Them, said said the group have received hundreds of reports from parents about schools going above and beyond what is required in official guidance.

Camilla Turner has more here

08:48 AM

Russia reports 16,521 new cases

Russia has reported 16,521 new coronavirus cases and 296 deaths in the past 24 hours, up from 17,340 new cases and 283 deaths the previous day.

Coronavirus Russia Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Russia Spotlight Chart - Cases default

08:47 AM

Slovakia reports highest daily tally of cases

Slovakia has reported 2,890 new cases of coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily tally yet, as the country launched an experimental testing programme.

The country of 5.5 million has recorded 159 deaths connected to the virus so far.

Thousands of Slovaks lined up to be tested for the coronavirus in the country's worst-affected areas on Friday, taking part in a pilot programme that will eventually go nationwide.

08:42 AM

'Control freakery gone mad' as shops in Wales ordered to stop selling non-essential items

In case you missed it last night, children’s toys and clothes have been deemed "non-essential" and banned from sale in shops by the Welsh government, as the country entered a second national lockdown at 6pm on Friday.

Hundreds of businesses across the country have been ordered to shut, and those which can remain open told to sell only "essential" items, in a move described by Conservatives as “control freakery gone mad.”

Electrical goods, clothes, toys, furniture, bedding and products for the garden have been cordoned off or removed from superstores, but groceries, batteries, rubber gloves, light bulbs and alcohol are allowed to be sold. 

During the original lockdown, only shops deemed 'essential', such as supermarkets and hardware stores were allowed to open, but there was no regulation of what items could be bought. Heavy handed shopping basket snooping by some police forces was criticised by the government. 

Gloucestershire police said on Friday they would patrol the border to make sure people in Wales did not cross to buy contraband items. 

Jamie Johnson has more here

Non-essential items being covered up in supermarkets in Wales -  Grant Tucker
Non-essential items being covered up in supermarkets in Wales - Grant Tucker

08:35 AM

Two in five voluntary groups in financial trouble amid pandemic

Two in five voluntary sector groups have reported increasing financial difficulties due to coronavirus, and one in 10 may be forced to close, a study has found.

Over half of such services (56 per cent) - including charities and community groups - say they are expecting an increase in demand for their services over the next month as the impact of local and regional lockdowns becomes more apparent.

Charity bosses warn that the sector is in "serious trouble" following an estimated £10 billion funding gap over six months, and have urged the Government to "think creatively" about how it can be supported.

Research from the new Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer showed that many organisations had been forced to adapt operating practices to continue providing support.

The study also found that 80 per cent of voluntary sector organisations fear the pandemic will continue to disrupt their objectives in the year ahead, and that 60 per cent have already faced increasing costs to implement Covid-secure safety measures.

08:26 AM

Scottish hospitality industry to focus on forcing ministers to provide evidence for restrictions in legal action

Scotland's hospitality businesses plan to focus on the unfairness of the 10pm curfew and the lack of evidence provided by SNP ministers to justify blanket closures in a bid to win a quick victory in overturning restrictions.

The industry has taken the unprecedented step of launching legal action against the Scottish Government after they received a legal opinion by the prominent QC Aidan O’Neill, advising them a judicial review would be warranted.

Claiming that pubs and restaurants have been forced to “fight for their very survival”, the move came the day after Nicola Sturgeon extended what she said would be a temporary 16-day shutdown of Central Belt hospitality businesses.

Many have accused the Government of imposing the restrictions without publishing clear evidence that proves hospitality businesses are driving Covid-19 case numbers, raising questions over how proportionate the measures are. 

Caroline Loudon, partner at law firm TLT which is representing the trade bodies, said the action aims to challenge “the legal basis of recent restrictive regulations imposed on the hospitality sector”.

Georgina Hayes has more here

The letter sent by the group demands a response from the Government by 4pm next Wednesday, with the trade bodies warning that they are prepared to move forward with a petition for judicial review if they do not receive a satisfactory answer - PA
The letter sent by the group demands a response from the Government by 4pm next Wednesday, with the trade bodies warning that they are prepared to move forward with a petition for judicial review if they do not receive a satisfactory answer - PA

08:23 AM

Wales' firebreak lockdown should bring R value below one, says health minister

Wales' firebreak lockdown should bring the R value - the number of people each coronavirus case infects - below one, health minister Vaughan Gething has said.

Mr Gething told BBC Breakfast the 17-day period would be followed by a set of national measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

Asked about economists warning that the lockdown could cost the Welsh economy more than £500 million, Mr Gething said: "It's not just about the direct costs within the firebreak, when we know there will be a challenge and loss in economic activity.

"It's about saving a much greater loss if we need to have longer, deeper, more sustained measures."

Read more: Wales 'fire break' lockdown - what are the new rules?

08:19 AM

Prof Ferguson: Schools may have to close to older pupils

Professor Neil Ferguson has said that if restrictions on households mixing fail to stem the rise of coronavirus infections the Government may have to close schools to older pupils.

"That (banning households mixing) should have a significant effect but as yet we have been unable to see it definitively," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"If we go beyond that there is a limit to what we can do in terms of reducing contacts, short of starting to target, for instance, the older years in schools and sixth form colleges where we know older teenagers are able to transmit as adults.

"Of course nobody wants to start moving to virtual education and closing schools even partially. The challenge may be that we are not able to get on top of the transmission otherwise."

08:16 AM

UK a month away from hospitalisations topping March numbers, Prof Ferguson warns

The NHS will be unable to cope if coronavirus cases continue to increase at the present rate as the UK is a month away from hospitalisations topping the numbers seen during the peak in March, a leading scientist has warned.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said that while infections among 18 to 21-year-olds were falling, they were continuing to rise in other age groups.

"Unfortunately, in every other age group case numbers continue to rise at about the same rate they were. There are little hints of slowing, for instance in the North East of England, but we are not seeing the sort of slowing that we really need to to get on top of this," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"It is a worrying situation. We now have 8,000 people in hospital with Covid. That is about a third of the level we were at the peak of the pandemic in March.

"If the rate of growth continues as it is, it means that in a month's time we will above that peak level in March and that is probably unsustainable.

"We are in a critical time right now. The health system will not be able to cope with this rate of growth for much longer."

Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus UK Spotlight Chart - Cases default

08:02 AM

Scotland’s extension of restrictions suggests two-week circuit breaker does not work, say experts

Earlier this month Nicola Sturgeon promised her mini-circuit breaker would be a “short, sharp” shutdown of Scottish pubs and restaurants to bring coronavirus under control.

Little more than two weeks later, however, Ms Sturgeon announced a change of plan.

Although the pace of spread of the coronavirus is slowing, scientists have suggested a ban on household mixing may be largely responsible for this, rather than the forced shutdown of pubs and restaurants.

And they added Scotland’s approach may be a lesson to other nations: that once a country enters a so-called ‘circuit breaker’ shutdown, it may be difficult to escape.

Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor of Microbiology at Aberdeen University, said: "There's the old argument that if we hadn't done (the mini-circuit breaker), cases would have gone up faster. But that's a guess, and the figures haven't come tumbling down.

"They were always going to have difficulty in knowing how effective it was because the figures wouldn't have come through to really give them an indication as to whether it was having any effect at all."

Bill Gardner, Daniel Sanderson and Dominic Gilbert have more here

Scotland's hospitality industry has taken the unprecedented step of launching legal action against the Government  - PA
Scotland's hospitality industry has taken the unprecedented step of launching legal action against the Government - PA

07:55 AM

Covid power struggles will lead to 'disillusion and unrest', say church leaders

Three senior members of the Church of England have warned that struggles between Westminster and local leaders in the North over coronavirus restrictions will lead to "disillusion and unrest".

Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said the resulting social fallout will ultimately be "more dangerous and destabilising" than the virus itself.

Writing in the Yorkshire Post with Nick Baines, the Bishop of Leeds, and David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester, he called for greater collaboration between politicians to protect the vulnerable.

The bishops' letter highlighted the "terrible double whammy" of being poor: being more likely to contract Covid-19 and to be affected by newly imposed restrictions.

"If we are going to bring real equality and levelling up across the country, then people living in poverty need to be paid a sufficient wage that can enable them to feel secure by staying home," they said.

"Blaming them for not doing so is not an option. They simply don't have the cushion or the safety net that is there for people on higher wages, nor is the current benefits system the help that it should be."

07:45 AM

Tory MP accused of stigmatising working class families

Calls have been made for Ben Bradley to apologise after the Conservative MP was accused of "stigmatisation of working class families" in a tweet.

Mr Bradley, elected to become the first Tory MP for the area in 2017, replied to a tweet in which another user described the free school meals programme as "£20 cash direct to a crack den and a brothel".

In a post on Twitter which has since been removed, he wrote: "That's what FSM vouchers in the summer effectively did..."

Deputy leader of Labour Angela Rayner said: "A Conservative MP has said that free school meals are effectively a direct payment to brothels and drug dealers.

"Notwithstanding the fact that the vouchers in summer could only be used to purchase food, this stigmatisation of working class families is disgraceful and disgusting."

And shadow children's minister Tulip Siddiq has written to the co-chairwoman of the Conservative Party Amanda Milling requesting an apology from Mr Bradley.

07:38 AM

Government defends decision not to extend free school meals

A Government minister has defended the decision not to extend free school meals through the school holidays in England, saying there was a "better way" of dealing with the issue.

Some councils have said they will continue providing free meal vouchers through the break following a high profile campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford.

However civil society minister Baroness Barran told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "The Government has made over £200 billion available to protect people's incomes and people's livelihoods.

"We have worked very closely with charities who operate food banks across the country. There are different approaches to how we do this but we have used all the levers possible to try to make sure that people are safe and well as we go forward.

"We have provided more money through Universal Credit, we have provided more money to local authorities and we believe that is a better way of approaching this problem."

07:35 AM

Freelancers treated like ‘second-class citizens’ with a third less support than employees

The Government has been accused of treating the self-employed like second-class citizens after new analysis found freelancers have been given almost a third less in state support than employees.

Employees have received almost £5,000 more in salary subsidies during the pandemic, according to calculations research by accountant Blick Rothenberg.

Furlough and the Self-employed Income Support Scheme initially offered the same support of up to £2,500 per month, covering 80pc of wages or profits. However, handouts for freelancers have dropped off at a much faster rate.

An employee earning the national average of £30,000 a year would have received £16,200 in wage subsidies if they had been furloughed for the full eight months that the Job Retention Scheme has been running – some 85pc of the total £19,060 of support available.

Harry Brennan has more here

Government coronavirus job schemes compared
Government coronavirus job schemes compared

06:51 AM

Sheffield City Region mayor 'won't hesitate' to ask for more support

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis has said he will not hesitate to seek additional Government support for South Yorkshire after the region entered the strictest Tier 3 coronavirus controls.

Mr Jarvis said a £41 million funding package had been secured after a "tough" process of negotiation and he had won an agreement from ministers to keep the situation under review.

"The scale of the challenge is very significant," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme."We are acutely aware of the pressures our NHS is under, not least because winter hasn't bitten yet, so we are looking very carefully at what we need to do."But if there is a requirement for more resource - whether it is economic support or it is other measures of assistance from the Government - I won't hesitate to go back and ask for them."

Read more: South Yorkshire in Tier 3: latest local lockdown rules for Sheffield, Leeds and West Yorkshire

06:29 AM

Polish President Duda infected with Covid-19

Polish President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for coronavirus but is feeling good, presidential minister Blazej Spychalski announced on Twitter on Saturday.

"The president yesterday was tested for the presence of coronavirus. The result turned out to be positive. The president is fine. We are in constant contact with the relevant medical services," Mr Spychalski said.

06:28 AM

Australia closing two schools after cluster of cases

 All staff and students from two schools in northeast Melbourne in Australia have been told to immediately get tested for Covid-19 after the emergence of seven new cases on Saturday. There were no deaths.

Both schools will be closed for the next two weeks. Already about 800 residents in Melbourne's northern suburbs have been isolating because of the school outbreak. 

The state's death toll remained at 817 on Saturday and the national figure at 905, with only one death in the past week.

The updated figures follow the city's most significant anti-lockdown protest on Friday.

A "Freedom Day" rally began mid-afternoon and continued for several hours, erupting at times in violent scuffles between police and demonstrators, many of whom did not wear masks.

Read more: Australia's travel ban is inspiring city-dwellers to explore the Outback, with deadly consequences

Protesters and members of Victoria Police clash - Getty
Protesters and members of Victoria Police clash - Getty

05:32 AM

Europe, WHO sound alarm over resurgent virus crisis

The European Union's disease control agency has joined frantic health workers to sound the alarm over a coronavirus surge across the continent, as the World Health Organisation warned of an "exponential" rise in infections.

Even countries that avoided severe outbreaks during Europe's first wave of contagion in the spring have watched their case numbers surge, with Germany's death toll passing 10,000 on Saturday.

The continent was facing a major threat to public health and a "highly concerning epidemiological situation," said Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The agency said all EU countries except Cyprus, Estonia, Finland and Greece fell into a "serious concern" category, as did the United Kingdom, up from just seven a month ago.

Read more: Virus hitting hard in Central and Eastern European countries that rode out first wave

The deserted central pedestrian zone in Berchtesgaden, Germany - Getty
The deserted central pedestrian zone in Berchtesgaden, Germany - Getty

05:18 AM

Sri Lankan outbreak linked to fish market

Authorities in Sri Lanka on Saturday closed at least two fishery harbours and many stalls after a surge of 609 cases linked to the country's main fish market.

The government also widened the curfew in parts of Colombo. At least 11 villages were isolated in the densely populated Western province, which includes the capital.

Health authorities on Wednesday temporarily closed the fish market on Colombo's outskirts after 49 traders tested positive. By Saturday, the number of cases went up to 609.

Hundreds of traders and fishermen are being tested.

Authorities say the outbreak is related to a cluster in a garment factory early this month, which has grown to 3,426 cases, almost half the country's total of 6,287. It broke a two-month lull in infections.

People wait in a queue as health workers carry out Covid-19 swab tests at a bus terminal in Colombo - CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People wait in a queue as health workers carry out Covid-19 swab tests at a bus terminal in Colombo - CHAMILA KARUNARATHNE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

04:30 AM

North Korea warns dust from China might carry virus

North Korea has warned its citizens to stay indoors, saying seasonal yellow dust blowing in from China might carry the new coronavirus into the country.

"As the new coronavirus infections continue to spread around the world, the need to deal with the yellow dust and take thorough measures has become more critical," North Korea's official party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said on Thursday.

The claim that the virus that causes Covid-19 could spread to North Korea from the Gobi desert, 1,900 km (1,200 miles) away, appears unsupported. Two metres (6 feet) is a common social-distancing metric, although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says droplets containing the virus can sometimes linger in the air for hours.

Read the full story

04:01 AM

Protesters clash with police over restrictions in Naples

Hundreds of protesters in Naples threw projectiles at police and set rubbish bins on fire late on Friday during a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions in the southern Italian city.

Calls were issued on social media to challenge a curfew that took effect in the Campania region ahead of the weekend, enacted in response to a spiralling second wave of infections that saw nearly 20,000 new cases detected in the last 24 hours.

A mostly young crowd marched through the streets of the regional capital and chanted as the curfew started at 11pm, with some lighting smoke bombs.

Read the full story

Hundreds of people clash against police during the protest over the curfew and the prospect of lockdown in Naples - STRINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Hundreds of people clash against police during the protest over the curfew and the prospect of lockdown in Naples - STRINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

03:16 AM

South Korea's infections linked to hospitals and nursing homes

South Korea has reported 77 new cases of the coronavirus, mostly from the greater capital area where officials are scrambling to stem transmissions at hospitals and nursing homes.

Figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the country's caseload to 25,775, including 457 deaths. Among the 1,484 active cases, 60 are in serious condition.

Fifty-nine of the new cases were reported from densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak since summer.

Hundreds of cases have been linked to a handful of hospitals and nursing homes. Officials are testing thousands of medical workers to stem infections. 

Read more: How has China avoided a second wave?

People wearing face masks keep social distance at a lounge area within Incheon International Airport - JEON HEON-KYUN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People wearing face masks keep social distance at a lounge area within Incheon International Airport - JEON HEON-KYUN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

02:26 AM

Record US cases as Trump promises to end pandemic

A record daily high of coronavirus cases was reached in the United States on Friday while President Donald Trump was on the campaign trail promising voters a quick end to the pandemic.  

Nearly 80,000 new Covid-19 infections over the course of a day were reported, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The pandemic has killed more than 224,000 and nearly 8.5 million cases have been recorded in the US.  It has also cost millions more their jobs and has become the dominant issue of the presidential campaign, with Mr Trump on the defensive over his administration's handling of the crisis (see the video below).

Mr Trump told supporters in Florida that the pandemic would end soon and accused Democratic rival Joe Biden of overstating the health crisis to scare Americans into voting for him.

Read more: Trump says pandemic will be over 'quickly'

01:59 AM

Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine trial to resume

AstraZeneca has resumed the US trial of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine after approval by regulators, and Johnson & Johnson is preparing to resume its trial on Monday or Tuesday, the companies said on Friday.

AstraZeneca, one of the leading vaccine developers, paused its US trial on September 6 after a report of a serious neurological illness, believed to be transverse myelitis, in a participant in the company's UK trial. J&J paused its large, late-stage trial last week after a study participant became ill.

Both companies have contracts to provide vaccine to the United States and other governments if they are cleared by regulators.

AstraZeneca's vaccine is in partnership with Oxford University.

Here's how scientists develop a vaccine:

Vaccine for Coronavirus
Vaccine for Coronavirus

Read more: How close is a Covid-19 vaccine?

01:25 AM

Workers 'are less productive at home'

Senior Government ministers are increasingly concerned that working from home is leading to less productivity in the economy, The Telegraph understands.

There is growing Government alarm over the long-term effect on the economy of the prolonged shift to home working brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Business leaders have warned that it is harming productivity amid concerns that jobs will be relocated abroad if there is a long-term shift away from the office.

A quarter of companies have reported a downturn in productivity since the Covid restrictions began, putting the Government under pressure to find new ways of getting staff back to the workplace.

The warning comes as one million more people look set to be moved into the toughest Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions next week.

Read more: Government fears working from home is hitting UK economy hard

11:55 PM

South Yorkshire wakes up in lockdown

South Yorkshire has moved to the third and highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.

As well as Sheffield, the areas affected include Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster. The new restrictions took effect at 12.01am.

In a letter to colleagues, Sheffield's Mayor Dan Jarvis said: "This decision has not been taken lightly." A package of financial support has been agreed with the Government.

South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said the Government must realise people will only abide by the rules "as long as they feel that what is being proposed is not just reactive, but part of a longer term strategy to defeat the virus".

Read more: South Yorkshire moves to Tier 3 

Sheffield is in local lockdown - PA
Sheffield is in local lockdown - PA

11:06 PM

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