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Today’s top stories
- Gavin Williamson blamed the exam regulator for the chaos surrounding coronavirus-hit A-level results as he announced a climbdown following a backlash from Tory MPs
- Covid-19 could cause Type One diabetes in children, scientists have warned following a spike in new cases at the height of the pandemic
- Britain's biggest airlines have written to Boris Johnson, urging him to introduce German-style Covid-19 tests at airports to enable passengers to bypass quarantine or risk losing lucrative trade routes
- Abolishing Public Health England (PHE) could usher in a second wave of coronavirus, a leading doctors' group has warned
- Scientists are growing increasingly confident about the human immune response to SARS-CoV-2 after studies showed antibodies provide “real-world” protection against the virus and cellular immunity may be long-lasting, even in mild cases
Turkey: Number of positive Covid cases passes 250,000
Turkey has recorded 1,233 new coronavirus cases within the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total caseload to more than 250,000.
A further 22 people have also died from coronavirus. The country’s Covid death toll now stands at 5,996.
Sturgeon refuses to set date for care home public inquiry despite Covid-positive admissions
Nicola Sturgeon has refused to set any deadline for a public inquiry to be staged into Scotland's Covid-19 care homes death scandal after it emerged they received dozens of hospital patients who had tested positive.
The First Minister rejected Scottish Tory calls to start the promised inquiry this week failed to provide any guarantee it would report back before next May's Holyrood election.
She argued that staging the investigation now would "take our eye off the ball" as "we may not even be halfway through this pandemic."
But Donald Cameron, the Scottish Tory Shadow Health Secretary, said there should be "no more delays and secrecy". He added: "No more hiding. Tell us what happened – and do it now.”
Read the full story by our Scottish Political Editor, Simon Johnson here.
Scrapping Public Health England risks second coronavirus wave, doctors warn
Abolishing Public Health England could usher in a second wave of coronavirus, a leading doctors' group has warned.
At least 280 specialist public health registrars are urging Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, to delay his reported shake-up until after the winter.
Last weekend, The Telegraph revealed Mr Hancock's plans to abolish PHE and merge its pandemic response function with NHS Test and Trace.
The move is understood to reflect a view among ministers that PHE has failed in its response to coronavirus, particularly to lay on enough testing and accurately report the number of deaths.
However, many in the medical and scientific communities have said the organisation is being used as a scapegoat for ministerial failings.
Now the group of public health experts, including Professor Maggie Rae, the president of the Faculty of Public Health, are warning that a major restructuring could distract from the task of keeping coronavirus at bay.
Read more here.
Nigeria to reopen airports for international flights
Nigeria will reopen its airports for international flights, the country’s aviation minister announced on Monday.
Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika posted on Twitter: “Glad to announce the resumption of international flights from the 29th of August, 2020.”
Glad to announce the resumption of international flights from the 29th of August, 2020. Beginning with Lagos and Abuja as we did with the domestic flight resumption. Protocols and procedures will be announced in due course. We thank you for your patience.🙏🏽🇳🇬🇳🇬🇳🇬🙏🏽— Hadi Sirika (@hadisirika) August 17, 2020
Airports within the country have been closed since March 23 to all but essential international flights.
Speaking at a briefing in Abuja, Mr Sirika said that passengers travelling on international flights would need to provide a negative coronavirus test in order to board and would have to pay for another test once they arrive in Nigeria.
Since the outbreak began, Nigeria has recorded 975 coronavirus deaths and 49,068 confirmed cases.
Analysis: Exams algorithm fiasco - where did it all go wrong for the Government?
Gavin Williamson was defiant on Friday, declaring there would be “no u-turn, no change” as he faced a growing storm over the A-level grading crisis.
Within four days, he was issuing an apology for the “unfairness” in this year’s exams as he was forced into a screeching u-turn after a furious backlash from at least 30 Tory MPs, pupils, parents and teachers.
Some MPs were privately speculating his position was no longer “tenable” as they voiced concern at the damage caused by the regulator Ofqual’s use of an algorithm to determine tens of thousands of students’ grades.
The debacle has also shredded the credibility of Ofqual, the exams’ regulator, in the eyes of many educational experts after maintaining that its algorithm was essential to prevent rampant grade inflation by relying on teachers predicting their students’ marks.
Backbenchers fear the shambles could have wider implications for public confidence in the Government’s competence.
One former minister said: "We have created at least two years' worth of school children who hate us, plus their parents and grandparents. This was not the time to be worried about the integrity of the grading system."
Read the full analysis here.
Exam regulator warns ministers not to 'scapegoat' the agency
The exam regulator fears it will become the next Public Health England as they warn ministers not to “scapegoat” the agency to “save political face”.
Last night a Tory MP branded the chair of the board at the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) “inarticulate” and “unconvincing”, amid a backlash against the watchdog.
The remark came after Roger Taylor apologised to students for the distress they have faced after an algorithm was used to calculate their A-level results.
He announced on Monday that the algorithm that was used to calculate A-level and GCSE grades would now be axed in favour of teachers’ predicted grades – also known as “centre assessed grades” or CAGs.
There had been “no easy solution” to the problem of awarding results after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus, Mr Taylor said, adding: “Our goal has always been to protect the trust that the public rightly has in educational qualifications.”
Following his televised address, Simon Hoare, the Tory MP for North Dorset, tweeted: "What an inarticulate and unconvincing advocate Roger Taylor of Ofqual is."
What an inarticulate and unconvincing advocate Roger Taylor of @ofqual is. We have been in “unprecedented circumstances “ for MONTHS not since last Thursday. They should have foreseen the chaos and anger. What planet does this quango live on?— Simon Hoare MP (@Simon4NDorset) August 17, 2020
Our Education Editor, Camilla Turner has the full story here.
Oman to reopen hotel swimming pools and restaurants
Oman has announced that from Tuesday, tourist and international restaurants as well as gyms and swimming pools located in hotels, will be able to reopen.
Oman’s ministry of tourism said the move was approved by the supreme committee for dealing with Covid-19.
The country has recorded 588 coronavirus deaths and 83,226 confirmed infections.
UK's major airlines call for airport coronavirus tests to open up transatlantic routes
Britain's biggest airlines have written to Boris Johnson, urging him to introduce German-style Covid-19 tests at airports to enable passengers to bypass quarantine or risk losing lucrative trade routes.
The chief executives of British Airways, TUI, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic said testing offered the best prospect for opening up transatlantic trade routes with the US by allowing passengers from "high risk" states to travel freely to the UK.
They warned that travel from the US for overseas and UK business and leisure travellers was otherwise untenable under 14-day quarantine when the average length of stay for US visitors was 6.47 nights.
They pointed out that many countries, including Germany, France, China, India, UAE and Iceland, had moved quickly to introduce tests and Britain risked falling behind if it did not follow suit.
"The UK and US should not be left behind and miss the opportunity to set the new global norms in air travel," the executives said.
Watch: Keir Starmer attacks 'incompetent' government over A-Level exams U-turn
US: Number of new cases falls, death toll rises
The US coronavirus death toll rose by around 7,400 last week, while the number of cases has fallen for the fourth week in a row, Reuters have reported.
According to Reuters analysis, Mississippi, Nevada, Florida and Idaho had the highest positive rates in the last week at over 16 per cent.
However, nationally the proportion of test results that came back positive had fallen to 7 per cent, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.
Louisiana led last week’s decline with cases falling by 44 per cent, while the number of new cases in South Carolina fell by 30 per cent.
Lebanon: Two week lockdown needed to halt new infections, health minister says
Lebanon must shut down for two weeks after a surge in Covid-19 infections, the caretaker health minister said on Monday.
Speaking on Voice of Lebanon radio, Mr Hamad Hassan said: “We declare today a state of general alert and we need a brave decision to close (the country) for two weeks”.
The country’s health ministry registered two deaths and 456 new infections on Monday.
Mr Hassan said: “We are all facing a real challenge and the numbers that were recorded in the last period are shocking. The matter requires decisive measures.”
Intensive care beds at state and private hospitals were now full, he added.
France to consider making masks compulsory at work
France is considering whether to make face-masks compulsory in shared workplaces such as open-plan offices, factories and conference rooms as it struggles to stem a spike in coronavirus infections.
The health authorities reported another record surge in new infections over the weekend, with 3,310 on Saturday.
The numbers of coronavirus patients in French hospitals and in intensive care remain relatively low. But the government fears the epidemic may spiral out of control as the French return to the cities from summer holidays across the country.
Up to a third of clusters of new cases have been linked to private-sector workplaces.
Elisabeth Borne, the employment minister, is to discuss the proposal with employers and union leaders on Tuesday.
She said scientists unanimously recommended wearing masks “when several people are in a confined space.” They will only be compulsory in individual offices when more than one person is present.
In charts: How the algorithm U-turn fails to fix grade inequality
Our data team have analysed how today's U-turn will impact A Level grades.
The share of A and A* grades will now rise by 12.4 percentage points on last year - over five times greater than the original rise of 2.4pp announced on Thursday - now that students will receive their teachers' predictions, known officially as Centre Assessment Grades (CAGs).
Yet Telegraph analysis also shows the U-turn only partly reverses the disparity between the most and least deprived students that drew the ire of critics last week.
Click here to read their full piece.
Majority of UK public believe Government has mishandled exam results, YouGov polling shows
According to the latest polling from YouGov, the majority of the British public believe that Gavin Williamson should resign and say that the Government has handled student exam results badly.
In polling conducted before today's U-turn, 75 per cent of participants surveyed said that the Government's handling of exam results had been handled badly.
Meanwhile, 64 per cent of Labour voters polled said that the Education Secretary should resign over the crisis, compared with just 28 per cent of Conservative voters.
2,384 adults were surveyed on August 17 and all results were collected before the Government’s U-turn.
Recovered coronavirus patients urged to donate plasma for major UK trial
British Covid-19 survivors have been urged to donate plasma for a major trial after research in the US showed "promising" results.
The study, led by the Mayo Clinic, indicated that patients treated early - within three days of diagnosis - with convalescent plasma which has high levels of antibodies had an improved chance of survival.
Research in the UK is assessing whether convalescent plasma donations can be transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response.
The plasma from former patients is hoped to be rich in the antibodies that develop as a person recovers from an illness.
NHS Blood and Transplant, which is collecting the plasma for the UK trial, said it is looking for Covid-19 survivors - particularly men.
Professor Dave Roberts, associate director for blood donation at NHSBT, and one of the investigators for the UK convalescent plasma trials, said:
"These are promising results that support the need for people to donate convalescent plasma in the UK.
"The results indicate a preliminary and encouraging significant reduction in mortality for people with Covid-19 treated with convalescent plasma."
School union: Why did it take so long for the Government to act?
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has also said that the cap on the number of university places will be lifted this year in light of the current crisis.
He said: "They (universities) won't be fined and we're removing those caps on every single university in the United Kingdom, so that they have the ability to expand the number of places, welcoming more students into those universities, as many as possible."
However, many within the education sector have voiced skepticism over the government's latest U-turn.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, has warned that delays will have made it harder for universities to find places for students.
He said: "The big question remains as to why this decision has taken so long to come, as it may already be too late for some A-level students who have already missed out on their first choice of university and course."
"Every day of delay is going to have loaded more and more difficulty onto universities and their capacity to meet all of the demand for places that will now inevitably come their way."
John Craven, chief executive of social mobility charity UpReach, added: "This seems the least worst option given where we'd got to - and will be welcome news to all those the algorithm disadvantaged."
"However, it has major implications for the university sector, and it is not yet clear that all will be able to honour their offers given capacity constraints - even if the student numbers cap at each university is indeed lifted."
Williamson: We were reassured that the A Level marking algorithm was going to be fair
In an interview with Sky News, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has clarified the reasoning behind the Government's U-turn, arguing that despite reassurances from Ofqual that the system would fair, it soon became apparent over the weekend that huge disparities in grading had emerged.
"All the way and running up to the exam series, we constantly asked for reassurance about the fairness of the system, fairness to make sure that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds didn't suffer, to make sure that children from ethnic minority backgrounds were not in a situation where they were unfairly downgraded - as we got the results we always understandably asked for that reassurance and that confirmation that this has been down fairly."
"But at the weekend as more evidence came in, it was clear that we needed to act - that's what we have done and that's why we are going to be moving to the process of centre assessed grades, making sure equally that those children who got a higher grade - that none of them will have that grade marked down."
"We had the constant reassurance that the system, the algorithm was the right algorithm in order to be able to deliver a fair distribution of grades within schools right across England. When it became apparent that there were challenges within that - the right thing to do is to act."
"I know that Ofqual at every single stage have worked incredibly hard to ensure that there was fairness in the system. We will work with Ofqual and the exam boards to ensure that the grades that youngsters have worked so hard towards are properly issued both of course for GCSE's and for A Levels."
Spain: Nearly 2,000 new infections recorded within 24 hour period
Spain recorded a further 1,833 new coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the country’s total caseload to 359,082.
Last week, Spain shuttered its nightlife and extended restrictions on smoking across the country amid fears of a major second wave of coronavirus.
The nation-wide measures were the first to be decreed since the country exited a state of emergency almost two months ago.
Japan loses nine years of economic growth to Covid-19
Japan tumbled further into recession in the three months to June as GDP plunged by 7.8pc.
It is the third consecutive quarterly fall in output and means the economy is more than 10pc smaller than at its peak at the end of the third quarter last year.
The series of drops has effectively wiped out all of the growth achieved since 2011, including the entire progress of the "Abenomics" policies implemented by prime minister Shinzo Abe since he took office at the end of 2012.
Consumer spending and exports both plunged as coronavirus took hold, although capital expenditure fell much more modestly, possibly because of extra spending on telecoms and IT to facilitate home working and online commerce.
Click here to read the full story.
Labour: U-turn a 'victory' for young people
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has labelled the Government's u-turn on A Level marking as a "victory" for thousands of young people.
In a series of statements posted on Twitter, he said: "This is a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week."
He also argued that the latest crisis was indicative of Boris Johnson's inability to lead, adding: "Incompetence has become this Government’s watchword, whether that is on schools, testing or care homes. Boris Johnson’s failure to lead is holding Britain back."
The Government has had months to sort out exams and has now been forced into a screeching U-turn after days of confusion.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) August 17, 2020
This is a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week.
Education Secretary: 'This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for young people'
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has apologised to students and parents affected by "significant inconsistencies" with the grading process.
Mr Williamson said in a statement: "This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for young people who were unable to take their exams.
"We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process."
He added: "We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results.
"I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve."
Ofqual boss apologises to students and confirms A Level U-turn
Roger Taylor, chair of Ofqual, has confirmed that A-levels and GCSEs will be teacher assessed, and apologised to students for distress caused by the row.
"We understand this has been a distressing time for students, who were awarded exam results last week for exams they never took," he said. "The pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for. We want to now take steps to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible - and to free up heads and teachers to work towards the important task of getting all schools open in two weeks."
The approach taken had "placed a burden on teachers when they need to be preparing for the new term and has created uncertainty and anxiety for students", adding: "For all of that, we are extremely sorry."
Students will now take whichever is higher of the grade their school or college estimated was the grade they would most likely have achieved in their exam or the moderated grade.
UK: Coronavirus death toll rises by 3
The Government have said 41,369 people have died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, as of 5pm on Sunday, an increase of three on the day before.
Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have been 56,800 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The Government also said that as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 713 lab-confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Overall, a total of 319,197 cases have been confirmed.
Today's news from around the world – in pictures
A Kashmiri Muslim prays inside a shrine in Srinagar, India after places of worship reopen.
Members of the Star Wars fan club deliver food and sodas to relatives of patients at the Hospital Ignacio Garcia of the Mexican Social Security Institute in Merida.
People sit at a sea-side bar in Little Venice on the Aegean Sea island of Mykonos, Greece, as the Government looks to impose local restrictions following a rise in Covid-19 cases.
In other worrying news: DRC's Ebola responders strike
Health workers responding to an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo have gone on strike over unpaid salaries, hurting the country's ability to identify and treat patients, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.
The Ebola epidemic in western Congo has spread steadily into remote villages across Equateur province since the first case was identified on June 1, infecting 88 people and killing 36.
On Saturday, local laboratory technicians, case management teams and contact tracers blocked access to the Ebola testing laboratory in the city of Mbandaka, the provincial capital, said Mory Keita, the WHO's Ebola incident manager.
They were protesting the health ministry's recent publication of their pay scales, which they thought were too low, and the government's failure to pay them since the start of the epidemic, Keita said.
"We have now some samples collected two days ago that are not tested," he said. "It means we are not very effective in terms of efficiency to the response."
Congo's health minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In June, Congo celebrated the end of a separate Ebola outbreak in the east of the country, the second-worst on record, which killed more than 2,200 people over two years.
The virus strain responsible for the more recent outbreak in Equateur is genetically distinct from the strain in the previous outbreak, and is believed to have originated from an animal source, according to the WHO.
Congo's health system has been crippled by decades of mismanagement, underfunding and war. Some health workers responding to the coronavirus outbreak cut back their services in July to protest against unpaid bonuses.
India's Covid-19 death toll passes 50,000
India's death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic has surged past 50,000 as the infection continues to rage and has spread from major cities to the countryside and smaller towns.
The country of 1.3bn people recorded nearly 58,000 new cases and 941 deaths in its latest daily figures.
The world's second most populous nation now has the fourth highest death toll in the world and the third highest number of cases behind America and Brazil. Its outbreak is growing so quickly that it is expected to rise up those grim rankings in the coming months.
Ben Farmer has more here.
Holidaymakers in quarantine are allowed "one shop"
Britons returning from France face one trip to the supermarket on the way home and should not walk their dogs, as the Government insisted there were very few exceptions to tough restrictions.
Under new guidance issued to those returning home, travellers are urged to arrange online food deliveries or ask friends to help them with their shopping.
A Government source said that if there is no possible way of getting food then people should go to the supermarket once on the way home from the airport.
However, the source stressed that this should only be done as a last resort, for people who have no other way of getting supplies.
Easyjet closures risk hundreds of jobs
Easyjet will close its bases at London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle starting August 31, said the group on Monday, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
It cited the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions compounded by quarantine measures in the UK. These rules have "created uncertainty for customers and an impact on demand for travel," said Easyjet in a statement.
The three bases employ 670 people, and Easyjet says it has reached an agreement on voluntary redundancy with staff. London Stansted and Newcastle will remain part of its network, and some domestic and international flights will continue to operate. The airline said it will inform customers of available refunds and transfer options in the coming days.
UK records 713 new cases
The United Kingdom recorded 713 new daily confirmed cases of Covid-19, official data showed on Monday, the first time it has dropped below 1,000 in six days.
Three more people have died within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus.
US authorises rapid spit test for Covid-19
Over the weekend, the United States' Food and Drug Administration cleared a new and inexpensive saliva test to detect Covid-19. The emergency use designation was granted in hopes of expanding testing capacity.
The test, called Saliva Direct, was developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health — and can run about 90 samples in less than three hours. In larger labs with automation capabilities, that sample size can be much higher.
Yale also has plans to open source its testing protocol, so that other laboratories around the country might use it. And, because the reagents cost less than $5 (£3,80), the thought is that labs can charge about $10 (£7.63) per sample — dramatically expanding access to rapid Covid-19 testing.
Williamson will announce a full U-turn on exams
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will announce a full U-turn on exams this afternoon, confirming that all A-level and GCSE grades will be based on teacher assessment, the Telegraph understands.
The Education Secretary has repeatedly rejected a Scotland-style U-turn, however he has been forced into an embarrassing climb down after widespread attacks from his colleagues, including frontbenchers. Mr Williamson is expected to make a statement at 4pm today.
Multiple backbenchers have called for his resignation, telling the Telegraph the exams debacle has shown up his "incompetence". However, others suggested the former chief whip's role in Mr Johnson's leadership campaign would save him, with one suggesting "some juniors may have to be the fall guy".
Further two Covid deaths recorded in English hospitals
Just two people died with coronavirus in English hospitals over the last 24 hours, official figures show.
The patients were aged between 81 and 86 years old and both had known underlying health conditions. The deaths were recorded in the South East and North East & Yorkshire.
It brings the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 29,460.
Wales reports no new deaths
There have been no further reported deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, health officials have said.
The total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remains at 1,589.
Public Health Wales said the total number of cases in the country had increased by 14, bringing the revised total of confirmed cases to 17,575.
Government to continue working closely with PHE
The Government will "continue to work closely" with Public Health England amid reports the body is to be scrapped, a spokesman has said.
"We believe PHE have played an important role in our response to this pandemic and have worked on important issues such as detection, surveillance, contact tracing and testing, and we'll continue to work closely with them," a No 10 spokesman said.
Asked whether the Government has asked any outside consultancies for advice on whether to shut down Public Health England, he added: "If you look at the road map and the wording, what we say around structures, we've been clear we must learn the right lessons from the crisis and act now to ensure structures are fit to cope with future epidemics."
Could Croatia and Greece be added to quarantine list?
The Government has refused to deny that Croatia and Greece could be added to the quarantine list.
A No 10 spokesman said: "We continue to keep these rules under constant review and we publish a list of the countries and territories that we are concerned about. You'll have seen the last update as of last week."
Asked whether Greece and its islands would count as one country for quarantine rule purposes, he added: "As I say, we will continue to keep data for all countries and territories under constant review. We update the list on a weekly basis."
Pushed on the limited time between new quarantine measures being announced and their implementation, the No 10 spokesman said: "We've always said that protecting public health remains our top priority, which is why it is important that when we make changes to the exemptions list we do so in a swift way.
"While these changes we understand can be disruptive, it is right that we take quick action to prevent cases being important into the UK."
Peru logs another 10,000 cases
Peru added 10,143 Covid-19 cases to its tally on Sunday evening, including 5,338 new cases in the last 24 hours and a further 4,805 confirmed in the last seven days, according to a statement released by the country’s Health Ministry.
The country has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Latin America, following Brazil, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The total number of Peru's confirmed infections now stands at 535,946 while the death toll has reached 26,281, according to the ministry.
Spanish authority pursues “brainless” citizens after anti-face mask protest breaches Covid safety rules
Madrid's regional security chief has promised to launch an investigation and take measures against the organisers of an anti-face mask protest in Madrid that attracted 2,500 people on Sunday.
Participants were accused of breaching social distancing rules and crowding together, as well as refusing to wear face coverings.
"There are always brainless people – in this case quite a few who, unfortunately, do not comply with the law,” José Manuel Franco, the Spanish government’s delegate in Madrid, told radio network Cadena SER.
“I want to make it clear that this will be punished with the full force of the law.”
James Badcock has more on this story here.
Today's key events
- In the UK the exam results fiasco is still dominating, with growing anger among pupils and teachers and warnings of unrest among Tory MPs. Reports are that a Government announcement will be made at 4pm today.
- Elsewhere in Europe, Italy is set to shut discos and clubs and make it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors in some areas during the night time in the first reimposition of restrictions as cases pick up across the country.
- And France is set to propose that face masks should be worn in shared workplaces.
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed New Zealand's elections by four weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in Auckland - it will now be held on October 17. Opposition parties supported the move.
- In Australia the leader of the New South Wales state apologised for failing to stop people carrying Covid-19 from disembarking from a cruise ship in Sydney in March.
- Japan has suffered its biggest economic contraction on record in the second quarter as the pandemic crushed consumption and exports.
- South Korea rushing to contain a new outbreak linked to a church. Thousands of Protestant church members in Seoul have been asked to quarantine, South Korean authorities said this morning, as the country battles virus clusters linked to religious groups.
- A citizen-led data science campaign in Indonesia has uncovered almost three times more deaths from coronavirus than the government tally.
- India's Covid-19 death toll topped the 50,000 mark today, while the total number of recorded cases neared 2.65 million, as the outbreak spread further into smaller towns and rural areas.
- China has begun administering vaccines early to volunteers before clinical trials have concluded, in particular focusing on business travellers going overseas. Businessmen receiving vaccines must agree to confidentiality, and in some cases are paying for the jabs.
- Lebanon's health minister has warned that hospitals are reaching maximum capacity to treat coronavirus patients after the deadly Beirut blast overwhelmed clinics and as Covid-19 cases have mounted.
French theme park sparks outrage
French theme park has caused an outcry by staging a show attended by 9,000 people, skirting a legal limit on gatherings of over 5,000 imposed to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
Puy du Fou, which organizes re-enactments of French historical events, was permitted to fill 9,000 of its 13,000 seats on Saturday by arranging its open-air stands into three separate blocks divided by Plexiglas screens.
Last week President Emmanuel Macron's government extended the ban on gatherings of more than 5,000 people to October 30 but said prefects - regional state administrators appointed by the president - could make exceptions.
The Puy du Fou event sparked a storm of protest on social media and from opposition politicians.
"There are social distancing rules and there are dispensations for the friends of the president. Macron had brought forward the (re-)opening of Puy du Fou (after coronavirus lockdown). Now they are allowed to create coronavirus clusters," Greens party national secretary Julien Bayou wrote on his Twitter feed.
Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot denied that Puy du Fou owner Philippe De Villiers, a conservative former cabinet minister who has made two presidential bids, had received special treatment. "No favours were given at Puy du Fou," Bachelot said on BFM television on Monday.
She said open-air events for more than 5,000 people could get the go-ahead provided they apply individual seating, strict social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing.
BREAKING: Announcement on A-levels 'imminent'
The Government will made an announcement on the exams situation this afternoon, it is understood.
Conservative MPs have been told by the whips to expect a statement from Gavin Williamson, in a bid to stave off a growing rebellion in the ranks.
The embattled Education Secretary ducked the broadcast round this morning, amid widespread criticism of his handling of the exams assessment.
One Tory backbencher said he was expecting a statement at 4pm today, and that it "feels like" a U-turn was imminent.
Lebanon says hospitals nearly at full capacity
Lebanon's health minister warned Monday that hospitals are reaching maximum capacity to treat coronavirus patients after the deadly Beirut blast overwhelmed clinics and as Covid-19 cases have mounted.
"Public and private hospitals in the capital in particular have a very limited capacity, whether in terms of beds in intensive care units or respirators," the minister, Hamad Hassan, told a press conference.
"We are on the brink, we don't have the luxury to take our time," he warned, calling for authorities to take the "hard decision" to impose a new two-week lockdown to stem the spread of the virus.
Lebanon has seen a spike in coronavirus-related cases and deaths in recent weeks, and they have hit a new record in the aftermath of the massive explosion that ripped through large parts of Beirut on August 4.
The disaster - which killed 177 people and wounded more than 6,500, many by falling debris and flying glass as windows shattered - caused pandemonium in the capital's already pandemic-stretched hospitals.
Lebanon reported a record 439 new infections on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 8,881, including 103 deaths since the start of the outbreak in February.
Church pastor at center of South Korea's latest Covid-19 cluster tests positive
Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon of Sarang-jeil church has tested positive for Covid-19, according to Seoul's Seongbuk District office.
The district office says the authorities are in the process of getting in touch with Jun and once he is reached, he will be transported to a designated hospital.
The pastor has been strongly criticised for leading thousands of followers to a rally in central Seoul on Saturday - a move which South Korea's President Moon Jae-in called "an unpardonable act" amid the sharpest rise in coronavirus cases in five months.
A further 240 people have tested positive after attending a congregation at his Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul.
Italy shuts down nightclubs as coronavirus cases rise among young
Italy has ordered the closure of all nightclubs and discos amid growing concerns that young people are catching and spreading the coronavirus, which has so far killed more than 35,000 Italians.
It was the first re-imposition of restrictions since Italy’s strict national lockdown began easing in May.
The decision comes as the number of new cases increases, rising from an average of around 300 a day last month to as high as 600 a day this month.
Nick Squires has the latest on this here.
Teen pregnancies soar as Kenya’s girls fall victim to ‘shadow pandemic’
Since late March fear of the coronavirus and a partial lockdown, including a curfew and restricted movement has crippled Kenya's economy.
Women and girls, who live precariously in normal times, are being pushed over the edge by the economic fallout of Covid-19. Their futures are being violently eroded by sexual abuse, forced marriages and unwanted pregnancies – widening existing chasms in Kenyan society.
Ed Ram reports on this harrowing development. Read more here.
China gives coronavirus vaccine to volunteers before clinical trials conclude
China has begun administering vaccines early to volunteers before clinical trials have concluded, in particular focusing on business travellers going overseas, Sophie Yan reports.
Businessmen receiving vaccines must agree to confidentiality, and in some cases are paying for the jabs. One man paid 1,000 yuan (£110) for two shots, reported state media.
In June, state media reported that vaccines would be offered to employees of China’s state-owned companies preparing to go abroad to countries where transmission rates were higher, such as Brazil.
The rush to offer and administer vaccines underscores the competitive global race to find a cure for the coronavirus pandemic which has infected 21.7 million people and killed 775,000.
Success could help Beijing deflect global anger over its cover-up of the pandemic and support the virus-ravaged economy. China has in recent weeks begun late-stage trials of vaccine candidates in other countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Brazil.
South Africa lifts ban on alcohol and cigarette sales
South Africa yesterday announced that its coronavirus-linked ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco will be lifted as of today, with President Cyril Ramaphosa also removing "nearly all restrictions" on economic activities.
The virus-related ban on the purchase of booze and cigarettes has been controversial, and no other country has introduced both measures together.
It came into effect when South Africa went into a strict nationwide lockdown on March 27 to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Alcohol sales were prohibited to ease pressure on hospitals, allowing doctors in emergency wards to focus on Covid-19 rather than road accidents and other booze-related injuries.
Tobacco products were restricted because of the health impacts of smoking as well as the risk of contamination between people sharing cigarettes.
The president also announced the sweeping removal of "nearly all restrictions" on economic activity and the resumption of inter-provincial leisure travel - find out more here.
Education latest: Penny Mordaunt seeks meeting with minister as she makes 'views known' on exams debacle
Penny Mordaunt, the Paymaster General, is seeking an "urgent meeting" with the education minister Nick Gibb and has written to the Department for Education over the exams debacle.
The Cabinet Office minister tweeted that she had "made my views on GCSE results known to DfE". She added:
"This group of young people have lost out on so much already, we must ensure that bright, capable students can progress on their next step. Delaying a year won’t be an option, and it shouldn’t be an option. For many it will mean falling out of education."
Other developments on this story include:
- The former sports minister Tracey Crouch has added her voice to the chorus of Conservative MPs calling for teacher assessments on A-levels to be reinstated, arguing the Ofqual algorithm is "flawed".
- An ex-minister from the Coalition days has has called for a delay to the publication of GCSE results warning that "England faces a crisis of confidence" in the system.
- Veteran Tory Sir Edward Leigh has written to education minister Nick Gibb about the "clear injustice" faced by some A-level students.
Catherine Neilan has more detail on these stories over on our politics liveblog.
Police break up wedding reception with more than 100 guests
A wedding reception with more than 100 guests has been broken up by police amid fears local lockdowns are being undermined by "blatant breaches" of coronavirus restrictions.
Officers in Blackburn found more than 100 guests attending a reception on Sunday evening and were forced to disperse the party.
The region is currently subject to local restrictions to prevent people socialising with other households after a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases. In a Facebook post, Blackburn and Darwen Police said:
"Disappointing incident in Blackburn this evening. Officers have attended a report of a significant breach of Covid restrictions, and found over 100 guests at a wedding reception.
"This is a clear breach of both local and national restrictions that puts everyone attending at risk. Officers have engaged with the attendees and at police instruction the gathering was dispersed without further issue.
"Please work with us to help keep everyone safe by following the guidelines and restrictions."
Jack Hardy has more details on this story here.
Localised restrictions may be reintroduced in parts of Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland the chief scientific adviser has warned that localised coronavirus restrictions in parts of the country where cases have surged may soon be required.
Professor Ian Young's comments come after Northern Ireland recorded 93 new Covid-19 cases over the weekend.
Prof Young said the rising numbers were of "considerable concern" and represented a tenfold increase on infection rates earlier in the summer.
He said two council areas - Antrim & Newtownabbey and Mid & East Antrim - were particularly affected by surges. Prof Young told BBC Radio Ulster:
"I think we're getting close to the point, certainly in those areas with the high numbers of cases, that we may have to consider whether any additional local measures are required.
"I don't think we're at the point where we'd be considering measures across the whole of Northern Ireland because there are still many parts of Northern Ireland where, as a result of public behaviours and other factors, the level of virus remains at a low level."
In numbers: Death toll tops 50,000 in India
India's Covid-19 death toll topped the 50,000 mark today, while the total number of recorded cases neared 2.65 million, as the outbreak spread further into smaller towns and rural areas
The world's second-most populous country recorded 57,981 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, according to government data, while an additional 941 deaths were reported (see chart below).
India is only the third country, behind Brazil and the United States, to record more than two million infections. But it has a relatively lower death rate of 1.9 per cent, compared to the world average of 3.5 per cent.
Experts have said India's testing rates are far too low, and this could obscure the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak.
India has been posting at least 50,000 new cases per day since July 30 as the disease has spread from major cities like Mumbai and Delhi into the impoverished hinterlands of densely populated states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Education debacle: Now read this
Boris Johnson is facing a growing backlash - including from his own backbenchers - over the deepening A-levels crisis in England as pupils and teachers continued to protest about the results awarded.
Our politics liveblog is following every twist and turn in this story, but here are five must-read articles on the debacle:
- First person: As a headteacher, I fear Thursday’s GCSE results will be a bigger disaster than the A-level fiasco
- Analysis: If the schools fiasco continues, Gavin Williamson will have to go
- Comment: Accepting all predicted grades may be our only way out of this mess
- News: Oxford urged by 15 former Student Union presidents to honour all offers
- Telegraph view: Whatever happens in the exams fiasco, the damage has been done
Vaccine news: Novavax begins trial in South Africa
US drug developer Novavax has today announced that it is starting a mid-stage study of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa, which is experiencing a surge in cases.
The Phase 2b trial study of NVX-CoV2373 will be conducted on about 2,665 healthy adults and will also evaluate the safety and efficacy in about 240 medically stable, HIV-positive adults, the company said in a statement.
"Because South Africa is experiencing a winter surge of Covid-19 disease, this important Phase 2b clinical trial has the potential to provide an early indication of efficacy, along with additional safety and immunogenicity data for NVX-CoV2373," said Novavax research chief Gregory Glenn.
South Africa is fifth worst affected country with 583,653 coronavirus cases and 11,677 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing a $15 million grant towards the clinical trial, the company said.
Novavax said it intends to initiate the Phase 2 portion of this trial in the United States and Australia in the near future and that it would include about 1,500 candidates.
Indonesia Covid-19 death toll three times higher than official tally
A citizen-led data science campaign in Indonesia has uncovered almost three times more deaths from coronavirus than the government tally.
Most experts say Indonesia’s official figure of more than 139,000 cases and around 6,100 deaths (see chart below) is a vast underestimate because of a lack of testing. The country has the second-highest number of infections and the highest number of fatalities in Southeast Asia.
Now, a citizen data science project using an open-source platform that allows people to report suspected Covid-19 deaths via WhatsApp and Telegram, has calculated that the true number Covid-related deaths was at least 15,183 as of 7 August, compared to the official tally of 5,593.
Dr Irma Hidayana, a public health consultant and co-founder of LaporCovid-19 or Report Covid-19, found there were “still many” areas of the country whose death tolls were not included in the official government total.
If these numbers were included the official death toll would be 2.5 to 4.2 times higher than the government’s figures show, Dr Hidayana’s team calculated.
Randy Mulyanto in Jakarta has the full story here.
Grade inflation better than 'intolerable strain' of algorithm, says private schools body
The head of a private schools association has joined growing calls for the Government to reassess the A-levels algorithm strategy this morning, urging the "less bad option" of teacher assessments to be adopted, despite inevitable grade inflation.
Dr Simon Hyde, incoming general secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents 296 leading private schools, said today that:
"The only way now to stop this intolerable strain on students and teachers is to award the teacher assessment grades or CAGs (Centre Assessment Grades).
"Whilst we accept that the unavoidable outcome is grade inflation, we believe this is the less bad option when tens of thousands of students are facing unfair grades, thousands of schools are facing an as yet undeveloped appeals process and most of us need to concentrate our energy on supporting the Prime Minister's desire to reopen our schools in a few weeks' time."
"It also allows GCSE grades to be published as planned; the last thing anyone needs is more delay and confusion."
Philippine minister tests positive for Covid-19 - again
An interesting report here from the AFP news agency: a Philippine government minister has tested positive for Covid-10 five months after an initial diagnosis, authorities said today, as experts investigate whether he had been re-infected.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano, who is helping to spearhead the country's virus response, said he returned a positive test on Saturday after experiencing flu-like symptoms last week.
He was first diagnosed with Covid-19 in March, but did not show any signs of the disease at the time.
People infected with coronavirus build up antibodies starting about a week after infection or the onset of symptoms, research has shown. But scientists are still unsure whether the body systematically builds up enough immunity to ward off a new attack by the virus or, if it does, how long such immunity lasts.
Some studies have shown that patients who recover from coronavirus may lose their immunity within months, or even weeks.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said experts were analysing Ano's symptoms, his previous positive test, and laboratory results to see if this is a second infection.
"Let's not call it a re-infection. The scientific community has not yet accepted that a re-infection occurs," Vergeire cautioned.
Ano was tested ahead of a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and other key cabinet members on today to decide whether to extend a two-week lockdown in Manila and four surrounding provinces that is due to expire this week.
The country's virus caseload has surged above 160,000 - the highest in Southeast Asia - with more than 2,600 deaths. More than a quarter of the infections remain active.
Taiwan: Transparent masks to hit the market before the end of the year
Taiwan has designed face masks with a transparent window around the mouth to help people who rely on lip-reading to communicate and to make communication in the service industry easier, Nicola Smith reports.
The Industrial Development Bureau and the Taiwan Textile Research Institute have developed a $340,000 machine to mass produce the masks after requests for help from a local hearing association which works with people with hearing and speech difficulties.
“The crux of the issue in developing [a transparent] mask was ensuring that the seam where the plastic film meets the non-woven fabric blocks viruses,” one of the mask designers told The Taipei Times.
Manufacture of the masks takes longer as the transparent shield must be added by hand.
There are five versions of the mask, and manufacturers hope they will be made for as little as about 20p each once mass production begins. The masks are expected to hit the market by the end of this year.
Gavin Williamson is 'loosing the dressing room', says former Ofsted head
As the A-level crisis deepens, the former head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has warned that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is "losing the dressing room".
Speaking on BBC Radio Four this morning Sir Michael called the situation regarding A-level results "a terrible farce". He added:
"There has to be political responsibility, like all things at the end of the day, and somebody has to carry the can, the politicians, the political leaders have to carry the can.
"And the great danger for Gavin Williamson at the moment is that he is losing confidence, he is losing the confidence of headteachers around the country who have seen this happen.
"He hasn't exactly covered himself in glory over the pandemic period with all sorts of changes of direction - saying that primary schools would be open when they obviously couldn't be under the social distancing rules, saying every poor child would receive a laptop and obviously that didn't happen, the school meals voucher system wasn't working.
"And so he's losing the dressing room, if you like. Headteachers have got to feel confident that they are being well-led by the Department for Education who are holding this agency, Ofqual, to account."
Tony Blair calls for mass testing to be rolled out before the end of 2020
In the last few weeks there have been growing calls from experts to roll out mass testing, even if the tests themselves are slightly less accurate. Now the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has joined these calls.
Speaking on BBC Radio Four this morning, he made the point that "if 70 per cent of the cases are asymptomatic, you are not testing those people, they are all false negatives at the moment". He added:
"The people out there who have got the disease but have got no symptoms yet can still spread the disease are in effect a false negative.
"So, yes, it is true that you will miss some people ... this is where I think the Government has got to change the way it calculates risk. In every single aspect of this, once you realise you're not going to eradicate the disease, you're going to have to contain it and live with it at least until a vaccine comes, then you've just got to have a sensible risk calculus in every area."
Mr Blair also said that he does not see how international travel can resume safely without "regular testing", suggesting that individuals should have bio-IDs to present the coronavirus tests they have had.
Watch: New Zealand election delayed due to a spike in coronavirus cases
Lebanon needs two week lockdown after 'shocking' Covid-19 rise, minister says
More bad news from Lebanon this morning, where the caretaker health minister said the country needs to shut down for two weeks after a surge in coroanvirus infections.
"We declare today a state of general alert and we need a brave decision to close (the country) for two weeks," Hamad Hassan told Voice of Lebanon radio.
Lebanon registered a record 439 new infections and six more coronavirus deaths yesterday.
The country, already deep in financial crisis, was struggling with a Covid-19 spike before the August 4 blast that killed at least 178 people, wrecked swathes of the capital and pushed the government to resign.
The warehouse explosion damaged many hospitals and overwhelmed them with more than 6,000 wounded. It put about half of 55 medical centres across Beirut out of service, the World Health Organization said last week.
"We are all facing a real challenge and the numbers that were recorded in the last period are shocking," Hassan said. "The matter requires decisive measures."
Intensive care beds at state and private hospitals were now full, he added.
- 'How can I rebuild my home?' Life-long Beirutis become displaced in their own city
- Lebanon reports biggest rise in Covid cases a week after explosion
- Economic collapse, hunger, a virus... now this: A terrible new twist in Lebanon's humanitarian crisis
Headteacher urges Ofqual: 'be brave enough to step back and say this hasn't worked'
Anger over exam results continues to grow, with the headteacher of a grammar school has said she has lost trust in Ofqual over its handling of the A-level grades crisis.
Kay Mountfield, head of Sir William Borlase's Grammar School in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the "our grades are significantly lower than any grades we've ever received in the history of the school". She added:
"I feel that what they have done is they have betrayed people who have gone into this system in good faith, approached the whole process of creating centre-assessed grades with integrity, and they've lost our trust by coming out with a set of results which have meant that bright, high-achieving students with aspirations and certainly the ability to go on and do all sorts of things at university have lost their places.
"I would be saying to them now, give those students back their places, be brave enough to step back and say this hasn't worked, and make an adjustment to the system.
"We have to move to centre-assessed grades because they have been too slow in organising a centralised appeals process."
Pandemic in pictures
Here's a look at the coronavirus pandemic across the globe:
A-level algorithm should be abandoned, says Ian Duncan Smith
Heading back to the A-level results fallout, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has said that the algorithm-awarded A-level grades should be abandoned, with teacher assessments or mocks used instead.
"No algorithm is going to sort our problem out, it's a human issue," he told LBC Radio.
He said concerns about "grade inflation" could be dealt with by accepting that 2020 would not be used as a benchmark for future years because some of the grades would have been "overcooked" by teachers. He added:
"I think we're left with the very simple position we have to go pretty much with the assessments or the mocks - and/or the mocks, you could do both depending when the assessments were done - and then get it over and done with.
"The idea that you have an algorithm to figure out what they might have done in an exam is really impossible and I think that's where the big mistakes will be made."
Meanwhile Bill Watkin, of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said that correcting and re-running the algorithm used to award students their A-level results would be a "national, institution level, automated single appeal".
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think the first thing to do is to recalibrate the algorithm and re-run it immediately."
And the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has said he will write to Ofqual (England's exams regulator) to initiate legal action over the A-levels results process.
Ireland: Currently no plans to introduce local lockdowns, says health minister
In Ireland, the health minister said he has had no conversations with his public health team about implementing more local lockdowns, adding that the government's intention remains to lift two-week restrictions in the counties of Kildare, Offaly and Laois.
The country's health officials will meet later today to decide if further measures are needed to slow a sharp increase in the spread of the coronavirus that the government and officials have described as deeply concerning.
"Nothing like that has been proposed at the moment... The plan is for the restrictions for the three affected counties to be lifted midnight on Sunday. That's still the intention," Stephen Donnelly told national broadcaster RTE.
South Korea rushing to contain a new outbreak linked to a church
Thousands of Protestant church members in Seoul have been asked to quarantine, South Korean authorities said this morning, as the country battles virus clusters linked to religious groups.
The country's "trace, test and treat" approach has been held up as a global model in how to curb the virus. But over the weekend the capital and neighbouring Gyeonggi province - between them home to nearly half the population - banned all religious gatherings and urged residents to avoid unnecessary travel after a burst of new cases sparked fears of a major second wave.
South Korea reported 197 new cases on today, taking its total to 15,515, its fourth consecutive day of triple-digit increases after several weeks with numbers generally in the 30s and 40s.
The largest current cluster is centred on the Sarang Jeil Church in Seoul, headed by a controversial conservative pastor who is a leading figure in protests against President Moon Jae-in.
A total of 315 cases linked to the church had been confirmed so far, officials have revealed, making it one of the biggest clusters so far, and around 3,400 members of the congregation had been asked to quarantine.
Around one in six of the church members tested so far had been positive, "requiring rapid testing and isolation," said vice health minister Kim Gang-lip.
But a list of members provided by the church was "inaccurate", he said, making the testing and isolation procedure "very difficult".
Deprived students won't have opportunity to study if forced to take year out, Tory MP warns
A Conservative MP has warned ministers to consider what disadvantaged A-level students will actually be doing if they are forced to take a year out to retake exams if they have been marked down during this year's chaotic assessment.
Sir Robert Syms argued he would be "happy" for GCSE students to be awarded their teacher-assessed grades and that "most Conservative MPs would be". The MP for Poole told Times Radio:
"My feeling is that we're going to have a fraught appeals process and then some students will have to do retakes because they won't be satisfied by the appeals process, and many will have to wait a further year before they go to university.
"Now, if you come from a deprived area of London, you can't afford to go on a safari in Kenya on your year off, you'll be working in Tesco and Sainsbury's, and probably not have the opportunity to continue studying to get your grades.
"I think in those circumstances there are many disadvantaged kids who are being put in a difficult position because their families can't afford them to have a year off and I just think the Government haven't looked at the whole picture here."
Your morning briefing
Here's a quick roundup of the key coronavirus news to be aware of this morning:
- In the UK the exam results fiasco is still dominating, with growing anger among pupils and teachers and warnings of unrest among Tory MPs. Boris Johnson is under pressure to intervene to end the deepening A-levels crisis in England amid reports that members of the Ofqual board now want to ditch their own algorithm (story here).
- Labour has called on the Government to consider awarding pupils their GCSE results based on teacher-assessed grades - it comes after Northern Ireland announced that GCSE students will receive the grades their teachers predicted (more about the exam results fallout is over on our politics liveblog).
- Elsewhere in Europe, Italy is set to shut discos and clubs and make it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors in some areas during the night time in the first reimposition of restrictions as cases pick up across the country.
- And France is set to propose that face masks should be worn in shared workplaces
- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed New Zealand's elections by four weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in Auckland - it will now be held on October 17. Opposition parties supported the move.
- In Australia the leader of the New South Wales state apologised for failing to stop people carrying Covid-19 from disembarking from a cruise ship in Sydney in March.
- Japan has suffered its biggest economic contraction on record in the second quarter as the pandemic crushed consumption and exports (more on this on our business liveblog).
Penang announces ban on medical tourists
Malaysia's northern state of Penang has barred entry by overseas visitors seeking medical treatment until it finalises new health and safety procedures in light of the coronavirus crisis, the chief minister said on Monday.
Authorities toughened curbs on movement in some parts of the island over the weekend, as new infections emerged after more than three months with no cases.
In a statement, the government said three Indonesian patients had arrived by special flights last Friday to be treated at private hospitals, two victims of cancer and one in need of immediate treatment.
"The state government deeply regrets that it was not informed of the 'sudden' arrival of the patients," Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said, announcing the ban.
The state did not say if the three had tested positive for the virus. But Penang authorities were told the patients had followed all the standard operating procedures, the chief minister said.
How to recession-proof your investment portfolio
The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on both the health and the wealth of people around the world.
With Britain having spent much of the year in lockdown and the economy still severely restricted, the country has now officially entered recession. This is defined as two successive quarters of negative economic growth.
There are fears that the financial situation could get worse before it gets better with the Government’s furlough scheme set to end in October and fears that unemployment will increase further.
What does this mean for your money? In a new four-part series, Telegraph Money looks at how consumers can try and protect themselves from the financial damage caused by recession, looking at investments, property, pensions and cash.
India's death toll surpasses 50,000
India's death toll hit 50,000 on Monday, with more than 900 new fatalities reported in 24 hours, health ministry data showed.
The country last week overtook Britain with the world's fourth-highest number of deaths, behind the US, Brazil and Mexico, and has recorded 2.6 million infections.
India's death toll from the pandemic now stands at 50,921, an increase of 941 from the previous day, according to the health ministry's website.
The world's second-most populated country, home to some of the world's biggest cities and largest slums, is already the third-most infected nation behind the US and Brazil.
Many experts however say the real numbers may be far higher due to low levels of testing and because deaths are often not properly recorded in India's chronically under-funded health system.
Australian state bans recorder recitals, school choirs
Children will be banned from playing the recorder and singing in school choirs across Australia's most populous state in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus, authorities said on Monday.
With infections hitting several Sydney schools, authorities in New South Wales moved to prohibit choirs and wind ensembles from Wednesday.
"All group singing and/or other chanting activities, as well as the use of wind instruments in group settings, are not permitted," the local education authority said.
That includes the recorder - a gateway to instrument playing for many small children - while dancing will also be off-limits.
"School formals, dances, graduation or other social events are not permitted," the New South Wales education department added.
Live audience performance raises £10,000 at charity comedy gig
The first indoor comedy gig to be performed in front of a live audience since lockdown has raised £10,000 to help support struggling comedy clubs, performers and promoters amid the pandemic.
Al Murray, Ed Gamble and Kerry Godliman were among the comedians who took to the stage in front of the socially-distanced crowd at The Clapham Grand in London on Sunday night for the second event in the Save Live Comedy series.
The venue live-streamed the first Save Live Comedy show as an online fundraiser last month without an audience present.
But a small crowd will also be allowed for the final show in the series on August 23.
The proceeds of the three shows will be split across a network of comedy clubs and promoters who are financially struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
South Koreans urged to stay home as cases climb
South Korea counted its fourth straight day of triple-digit increases in cases on Monday as the government urged people to stay home and curb travel.
The government had drawn up a special holiday on Monday with hopes of spurring domestic consumption. But as infections in the capital region increase, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo urged people to stay home and for residents in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province to avoid visiting other parts of the country for two weeks.
The 197 new cases announced by South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brought the nation's total to 15,515, including 305 deaths. The 279 new cases reported on Sunday was South Korea's biggest single-day jump since early May amid concerns about an outbreak in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.
The KCDC said 167 of the new cases came from the greater capital region, where about half of South Korea's 51 million people live. Health workers have been struggling to track infections, but churches have emerged as a major source.
Bolivia's surge in cases linked to protests
Bolivia surpassed 100,000 coronavirus cases on Sunday, the country's Ministry of Health reported, predicting that the virus would reach its peak there in September.
Bolivia's confirmed coronavirus infections reached 100,344, the ministry said, and there have been 4,058 deaths since the virus first emerged in the country in early March.
"Cases are climbing steadily, at least in the western side of the country. By the end of the month, we will reach ... 130,000 to 150,000," Rene Sahonero, the ministry's director general of hospitals, told state television.
Mr Sahonero said cases had accelerated among Bolivia's population of 11.6 million after recent protests linked to the postponement of general elections.
The Electoral Court decided in July to postpone the vote until Oct. 18 due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Japan's economy takes big hit from pandemic
Japan's economy shrank at annual rate of 27.8 per cent in April-June, the worst contraction on record, as the coronavirus pandemic slammed consumption and trade, according to government data released on Monday.
The Cabinet Office reported that Japan's preliminary seasonally adjusted real gross domestic product, or GDP, the sum of a nation's goods and services, fell 7.8 per cent quarter on quarter.
The annual rate shows what the number would have been if continued for a year.
Japanese media reported the latest drop was the worst since World War II. But the Cabinet Office said comparable records began in 1980. The previous worst contraction was during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.
The world's third largest economy was already ailing when the virus outbreak struck late last year.
Zero case count in China's region of Xinjiang
China reported no new cases in the western region of Xinjiang on Aug. 16, according to national data, marking the first time the area's case count was zero since mid-July.
On Monday, China reported 22 new cases in the mainland for Aug. 16, compared with 19 cases a day earlier, the health authority said.
All of the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement.
China also reported 37 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 16 a day earlier.
As of Aug. 16, mainland China had a total of 84,849 confirmed cases and the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
Summary of news from around the world
- Lebanon, still grappling with the aftermath of the Aug. 4 blast that killed 180 people and wounded thousands, has registered a record daily number of infections, with 439 people contracting the virus and six fatalities.
- Vacationers arriving in Italy from Croatia, Greece, Malta or Spain lined up with their suitcases at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome to be immediately tested for the new coronavirus on Sunday.
- Esther Morales, the 70-year-old sister of former Bolivian President Evo Morales, has died of Covid-19, the ex-leader said on Sunday.
- Michelle Bolsonaro, the wife of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, said on Sunday that she had tested negative following a July 30 announcement that she had tested positive.
- Bavarian authorities said on Sunday they're still haven't been able to contact 46 of more than 900 people who tested positiveupon entering Germany recently, but didn't receive the results.
- After France recorded its highest one-day rise in virus infections since May, the government is pushing for wider mask use and tighter protections for migrant workers and in slaughterhouses.
- Mexico's health ministry reported on Sunday 4,448 new confirmed cases and 214 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 522,162 cases and 56,757 deaths.
Australian state records deadliest day of pandemic
Australia's second-most populous state of Victoria on Monday reported the deadliest day of the pandemic with 25 fatalities from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 282 new cases.
The state recorded 16 deaths and 279 new cases a day earlier. It reported its previous one-day high of 21 deaths last week.
New Zealand election delayed due to a spike in cases
New Zealand’s general election has been delayed by a month after an abrupt reappearance of Covid-19 in the country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Sunday evening.
In a statement broadcast to the nation, Ms Arden said the vote will now take place on October 17, adding: “This decision gives all parties time over the next nine weeks to campaign and the Electoral Commission enough time to ensure an election can go ahead".
The vote was due to take place on September 19, but last week’s resurgence of cases in Auckland – after the country had been free of infections for 102 days – had put pressure on Ms Arden to postpone the vote.
Today's top stories
- Croatia passed the Government's travel quarantine threshold on Sunday, sparking fears it would soon be added to the UK’s 'red list' of nations.
- The Government has created a “diplomatic storm of its own making”, MPs have warned, after Priti Patel suggested migrants were making channel countries to escape France because it is "racist".
- Digital 'coronavirus-status passports' could be used to scrap blanket lockdown measures and free up vast swathes of the economy, a new report, backed by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, has urged.
- Britons returning from France face one trip to the supermarket on the way home and should not walk their dogs, as the Government insisted there were very few exceptions to tough restrictions.
- A controversial South Korean pastor has been strongly criticised for leading thousands of followers to a rally in central Seoul on Saturday - a move which President Moon Jae-in called "an unpardonable act" amid the sharpest rise in coronavirus cases in five months.
- France is considering whether to make face-masks compulsory in shared workplaces such as open-plan offices, factories and conference rooms as it struggles to stem a spike in coronavirus infections.
- South Africa will lift its coronavirus-linked ban on the sale of alcohol and tobacco products on Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said, announcing the removal of "nearly all restrictions" on economic activities.