Top story: 1.3m tests removed in ‘double counting’ error
Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories from home and abroad this morning.
Thousands of holiday makers face a race across France today if they want to avoid spending the next two weeks in quarantine after France was last night removed from the UK’s travel corridor list. From 4am tomorrow all arrivals from France will have to isolate for 14 days or face a fine, prompting the government in Paris to threaten “reciprocal measures”. Find out what you can do if you’ve already booked a break across the Channel. Meanwhile, the mayor of Calais has told Boris Johnson to “calm down” amid suggestions Britain could send warships to patrol French waters for illegal migrants.
More than 1.3m coronavirus tests have been removed from England’s official data because of double counting, raising concerns about the accuracy of the testing figures. The change was announced quietly in the government’s daily coronavirus update on Wednesday, saying that it had reduced the number of “tests made available” by 1,308,071, or about 10%. The changes were made after it was discovered fewer tests had been done outside hospitals than originally reported. Two top economists have warned that easing Covid-19 restrictions too early could trigger a higher death toll and a double-dip recession. Nearly 300 workers at a factory in Northampton that makes sandwiches for M&S have tested positive for the virus.
France and other European countries have seen a surge in coronavirus cases, especially among young people, prompting Airbnb to restrict lettings for people under 25. Spaniards fear the country could be plunged back into a full-blown outbreak, while the pandemic has tipped many poor Nigerians from struggle into crisis. You can follow all other developments at our live blog.
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Exam failure – The exams regulator “must remove bias” from the process used to standardise A-level results in England, the equalities watchdog has warned, after an outcry over figures showing that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were worst hit while private school pupils benefited the most. Ofequal has also been told to allow students to appeal if they feel their grades were unfairly reduced. Education secretary Gavin Williamson admitted that the effect of the algorithm used by Ofequal to assess grades in the absence of exams mean that an “exceptionally high-performing child in a low-performing school” would not get their expected grades. There was also concern that top universities were not being flexible enough in allowing for the impact of downgrades.
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Prisoner pledge – Belarus’s deputy interior minister has pledged to release all protesters by this morning as evidence about beatings and mistreatment by police inside detention centres grows. At least two protesters have died and thousands have been detained in a crackdown following president Alexander Lukashenko’s contested re-election.
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Israel/UAE deal – Israel has agreed to establish full diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates in a Washington-brokered deal under which the Jewish state will “suspend” its plans to annex parts of the Palestinian territories. Donald Trump hailed the deal as a major foreign policy victory but there were immediate doubts about how effective it would be after Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said there was “no change” to his annexation plans.
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Legal limbo – A British lawyer has been unable to bring his new wife to join him in the UK because the Home Office rejected a visa he did not apply for. Samir Pasha paid more than £3,000 to bring his new wife Zunab Fareha Pasha, a dyslexia specialist, to the UK with a partner visa. But they have been left in bureaucratic limbo in Pakistan after he was rejected for a simple visit visa and has no way of appealing or reviewing the decision.
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‘Do you regret your lying’ – There was drama at Donald Trump’s daily press briefing last night when a reporter asked the president if “you regret all the lying you’ve done to the American people?”. Trump appeared taken aback by SV Dáte’s question and quickly cut him off but the Huffington Post correspondent later said he had waited five years to pose his question. The president also revived his “birther” slurs to attack Democratic vice-president candidate Kamala Harris. Earlier, Trump admitted that he doesn’t want to provide the necessary funding to the US postal service to enable it to deal with the expected surge in demand for postal votes for the November presidential election. Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s now disgraced former lawyer, calls the US president a con man, a predator, a racist, a bully and a liar in a book titled Disloyal to be published in September.
Today in Focus podcast
Since Sunday, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Belarus to contest the claimed election victory of the president, Alexander Lukashenko, and met a violent police response. Hanna Lubakova, a Belarusian journalist, describes being on the ground, while the Guardian’s Andrew Roth looks at how Lukashenko has remained in power for 26 years.
Lunchtime read: ‘How British am I as a black man?’
The National Theatre in London is planning to reopen its post-shutdown programme with the “timely and explosive” sequel to the hit monologue about football and national identity, Death of England. The new play, Death of England: Delroy, also by black playwrights Roy Williams and Clint Dyer, is another monologue and will star Hamilton actor Giles Terera as the friend of the white protagonist of the original play. In one line he asks himself: “How British am I as a black man?” It will be staged for a socially distanced audience “as soon as possible”, the theatre said.
Premiership rugby players will be forbidden from hugging and celebrating tries within two metres of each other as part of a number of strict measures introduced for the league’s long-awaited restart on Friday. Players from three clubs will take a knee as part of the tournament’s new Rugby Against Racism campaign, which aims to increase the representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic players on coaching and refereeing courses. Sam Curran, still shocked by the suggestion of Jimmy Anderson’s retirement, was happy to use the senior player’s experience to help with tactics against Pakistan, who will resume on 126-5 on day two of the second Test against England at the Ageas Bowl.
American Tyler Adams’s deflected shot was enough to secure a victory over Atlético Madrid and carry RB Leipzig into their first Champions League semi-final. Novak Djokovic has announced he will travel to New York to contest the US Open this month but the reigning women’s champion, Bianca Andreescu, has withdrawn from the event. In the 31st edition of one of the greatest stories in sport, Serena Williams recovered from a set down to defeat her sister Venus 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in an intense contest to reach the quarter-finals of the Top Seed Open. And Mark Selby turned the tables on a frustrated Ronnie O’Sullivan as he fought back to take a 9-7 lead in the world snooker championship semi-finals at the Crucible.
Apple has reignited the debate over its grip on the tech industry after it removed the enormously popular video game Fortnite from its App Store for violating its payment guidelines. Fortnite’s maker, Epic Games, wanted users to circumvent Apple’s 30% fee and pay the company directly, and is now suing the US firm. The FTSE looks like opening flat this morning while the pound is buying $1.305 and €1.106.
The Guardian leads with the exam results fiasco, saying “Poorest hit hardest by A-level result downgrades”, while the FT says “Ministers face backlash and call to review downgraded A-level results”. The i is also concerned with the fallout – “‘Unfair A-level results must be reviewed’” – but the Telegraph has a different take: “Teachers handed out ‘implausibly high’ predicted grades, says exam regulator”.
The Times splashes on “Travellers to France sent into quarantine” and the Express says Boris Johnson is “Ruthless”, as he plans “tough” fines for mask refuseniks. The Scotsman leads with “House party warning amid fears of rising transmission”. The Mail goes with “Harry buys £11m home from abuse case oligarch”.
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